By Crymsyn Hart
Amara dreams about a man who leaves her breathless. Everything in her yearns to discover who he is. Is he real? Or is she in love with a ghost? Her body aches from the memory of his caresses, but his name always eludes her.
Andrew feels the same longing, as his heart has never completely healed since he was separated from his lover lifetimes ago. In Amara, he discovers his lost love reborn. Will the sorrow of his soul be eased with their reunion? Or will his longings go unfulfilled?
Panic doused Jacquelyn’s brain as she scanned the grove. Even in the darkness her eyes picked up the splashes of gold, burnt orange, and cranberry intermixed with the emerald green pines. The leaves still provided plenty of cover for any creature wanting to hide among the branches. The sun had set a few hours ago, but she and Crimson had planned the hunt for days. Now she and her friend were the only ones left strong enough to take on their foe.
Jacquelyn searched the shadows with well-trained eyes for any sign of Simon. He was a powerful vampire, controlled by a darkness that had driven him mad. Only with Crimson was he still lucid. It didn’t mean anything now. Not after all the horror he had caused. They’d tracked him to this isolated place after Jacquelyn had discovered a mutilated corpse in the center of the Great Hall. She had gone to her friend, demanding that Simon be stopped. His killing spree had taken too many friends and loved ones from them both. Finally, Crimson acknowledged what needed to be done, knowing Jacquelyn was right. Simon had been a danger to their kind for far too long.
Friends for over eight centuries, Crimson had been there the night Jacquelyn had died and was reborn as a vampire. For two centuries, Jacquelyn had despised the night, the moon, and Andrew, the one who had sired her. Eventually, her maker washed his hands of her, letting her find her own destiny. Only then did she realize there was more to live for in the shadows than she had ever dreamed. However, freedom had come with a great sacrifice. Years away from Andrew had made her heart pine for him. He’d been taken from her before she could ever reconcile her feelings. Time and loneliness had drawn Crimson and her together until they were night-sisters. Through the ages they had lived together, cried together, and watched as their comrades were slaughtered.
Now Jacquelyn stood at the edge of the clearing with Crimson at her side. Loneliness and hatred filled her soul. Precious moments had been stolen from her, Andrew, and her child who had died in her arms. It was time for the hunter to pay for his crimes.
Jacquelyn’s lips were dry from running her tongue over them and then her fangs. She nicked her cheek to draw blood, trying to still her human-beating heart. Even though she feared the worst, there were no others to aid Crimson. Many of the vampires had gone into hiding, cutting themselves off from the web that connected all their kind. Others had fallen into deep hibernation to sleep away the impending millennium, until hunger called them from their rest. With the dawn of the twentieth century, vampires were spread thin throughout the world because of Simon’s killings. Now the only ones strong enough were standing at the edge of the meadow waiting for him to appear.
Leaves rattled like skeletal bones in the slight breeze that had kicked up. Instinct hardened Jacquelyn’s nails into razor-claws. She had to be prepared. Simon was over fifteen hundred years old and his madness gave him even greater strength. Jacquelyn was barely over eight hundred and, when she was created, she had never imagined a day when she would be fighting one of her own kind. Granted, she was strong, but not powerful enough to take on the hunter alone. Her companion was twenty years older and stronger. Crimson had the added advantage of being Record Keeper among their kind. A great mental spider web linked Crimson to all vampires, allowing her knowledge of them as they were born and awareness of their deaths. It was a privilege passed down from the Mother of them all every nine hundred years. Jacquelyn was next in line. She was learning from Crimson a little at a time, taking in some of her blood to gain the power. Jacquelyn could also divine the future and manipulate fire when it was lit. Now she needed all of her strength against Simon. This was to be her final test.
Crimson glanced over at her. Her friend’s mahogany hair blazed red when the moonlight caught the highlights woven in her long braid. Her porcelain skin was bleached bone white in the light of the full moon that peeked out from behind ominous clouds. Rain was in the air. The atmosphere swelled and weighed on their skins. Jacquelyn gave her friend a small smile, but she saw the hurt in the other vampire’s eyes. It would break Crimson’s heart to destroy the one she loved, but Jacquelyn had already had so many stolen from her that her heart had been hardened for centuries.
“You ready to do this?” asked Crimson.
“As I’ll ever be.”
“My, my, two birds with one stone. Won’t this be fun?” Laughter echoed in the hollow as Simon’s voice blew through on the wind of the upcoming storm.
Jacquelyn stepped into the clearing, letting her anger and hunger bolster her strength. “Show yourself! Or are you too much of a coward to face us?”
Crimson kept her eyes locked on the trees, hunting for her lover. A thunder crack shattered the silence. Jacquelyn found herself knocked to the ground. Jacquelyn stirred and saw her friend had been thrown into a massive oak. She raced to Crimson to be sure she was all right.
“He broke a couple of my ribs. Distract him for me for a minute.”
Jacquelyn nodded. Crimson grimaced against the pain and pulled herself up along the tree trunk. Blood moved to the broken bones mending the breaks.
“I’m no coward, little vampire. You shouldn’t have come looking for me. You were warned to flee to the New World. You would have been safe.” A dark shape sailed through the trees.
“You can’t force us out of our home. Someone has to stop you from killing your own kind. You stole Andrew from me. You took my child. Haven’t you figured it out yet? Your dead bitch-master isn’t pulling your strings anymore.” Jacquelyn searched the branches. There was no movement anywhere. All the animals were hushed. She looked toward Crimson, who shrugged that she didn’t know where he had gone. The wind blew up again. Wetness dampened her skin from the fine mist blanketing the clearing. Jacquelyn shivered. The night was not going the way she planned.
“Aren’t we perceptive?” Simon’s velvet voice purred in her ear. “But I kill for power. And yes, Kathryn might be dead, but who says that death is the end? Sometimes we move through the cracks.”
She spun around to find Simon standing before her. He was almost seven feet tall with long, curly black hair and piercing dark eyes tinged purple which held Jacquelyn enthralled. His face was angular with sharp cheekbones. A thin mustache lined his upper lip and made his ivory fangs more pronounced.
They stared at one another, moments ticking by like hours. The moon moved silently behind dark clouds. The fragrance of the rain, the pine, and the musk from the fox hunting for his nightly prey filled the air and heightened her senses. Lightning lit the sky, striking a nearby tree. Fire erupted from the dried bark, inflaming the copse with its warmth. Jacquelyn’s gaze slid toward Crimson, who was on her feet, her nails curled in readiness. Simon followed her gaze and smiled. Heat flickered against Jacquelyn’s flesh. The flames were yards away and slowly being eaten by the sudden downpour, but one instant was all she needed. Energy built within her mind, moving into the center of her palms. She threw the heat at Simon, seeing the illumination in her thoughts. His clothes ignited and a shocked expression passed over his face. His scream pierced the sky. He tore at his shirt with nothing more than his hair and skin charred, but it was enough. Crimson pounced. Her fist punched into his exposed flesh to find his heart. Crimson’s nails only made it halfway into his chest before he threw her off and set his eyes on Jacquelyn. Blood trickled out of the dent above his heart. Strings of flesh and muscle dangled from the open wound, reweaving themselves into his body. Simon had underestimated her once, but not again. The wound was already healing. His smile widened and his fangs extended to full length. Jacquelyn looked around and saw her friend sprawled on the grass unmoving. She focused her attention back on Simon, but he was gone.
She turned and started toward Crimson, but she found herself in mid-air. Great pain seized her back and everything went numb. Her breath stopped and the thud in her chest was silent. Death called Jacquelyn, had its hold on her, as she found herself above the meadow looking down. She wasn’t ready to depart life. She tried screaming to Crimson that Simon was about to impale her, but Crimson came up quick enough and grabbed Simon around the throat, slamming him into the nearest tree.
Jacquelyn smiled. The clearing grew faint and the chill of rain didn’t concern her anymore. In her last moment, the vampire witnessed her friend’s hand plunge into Simon’s chest and come out dripping with blood. In that instant, all of Jacquelyn’s woes fell away. A peace she never knew in life infused her soul. The task they had set for themselves was done. She could rest knowing no more of her kind would fall victim to Simon’s hands. Satisfied, Jacquelyn surrendered herself to the awaiting light.