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"Shoot!" I muttered under my breath as I slipped once more in the slick undergrowth of the little trail I had been walking on for seemingly endless hours. The red of my heels was almost completely covered in dark brown mud, only little splotches here and there showing through. It was almost midnight and an eerie sheen over the trees transforming each shadow into a different, and more terrifying shape. Any normal human would have been terrified by then, by I was perfectly fine, except for the slipping and sliding. I could break a heel for Christ's sake! Every few feet there was a little bit of light from the full moon, at its peak now, peeking through the thick canopy of trees overhead.
"Which weather." I muttered, glancing up at the beautiful moon hanging contentedly over me. A few more steps and the narrow trail joined with another, slightly wider trail that lead to the Mayfield City Cemetery. Just as I began to step onto the trail, there was an odd rustling sound in one of the bushes that ran alongside the trail to my left. I stopped and tried to pinpoint the noise but was met by a stunning silence. Shrugging thoughtlessly, I kept walking. A few steps later, however, the rustling sound came once more, this time much closer to my left side. I cocked my head to one side to better hear the noises all around me and, hearing nothing, I turned curiously to investigate.
As I leaned over to look under the bush, I little gray rabbit jumped out of the bush, hopped forward a few feet, stopped between my legs, looked up into my eyes, blinked, then turned and hopped off, completely unaware and uncaring. I relaxed my tense muscles and stepped back from the bush.
Moments later, a cool gust of wind blew an odd scent my way and I stepped closer to the bush once more, my legs and arms tensing preparing for a fight. Within milliseconds of stepping up to the bush to investigate, I was attacked; strong, hairy hands clamping around my upper arms in a painful vice grip before I could even grasp what was going on. I kicked out with powerful force, striking out at every inch of body before me. A pain filled grunt sounded moments later and one of the hands fell, freeing my left arm to scratch at what I thought was my attacker's face. What seemed like an eternity later, I was grabbed around the neck, the hand that had once been gripping my arm now squeezing the life out of me with a steel hard grip. I lashed out with one foot with every ounce of my slowly fading strength, smiling faintly as my heel connected with my attacker's groin. With a throaty holler, the attacker hurled me to the ground, falling backwards against a nearby tree. I hit the hard, wet ground with a thump, bruising my entire left side as I did. I gasped for air, each gasp helping me to gain my strength back. After a few heaving breaths, I tilted my head up slightly to get a look at my attacker. His face was twisted with hatred and his eyes were a terrifying black; two glistening fangs hanging down from his pale gums. Just as he began to reach down to grab me once more, I screamed. The sound echoed off the trees surrounding us, bouncing back and forth, getting louder and louder until it finally began to fade.
My attacker stumbled back, shock filling his face for a moment before he was able to regain his footing. He took a step towards me, but that was as far as he got. A large, dark shape came flying down the trail hitting my attacker just about waist level and knocking him to the ground. They fell to the ground, the new shape on top, hissing and clawing at the monster. With a start, I realized my attacker was a human, obviously male by his stature and strength, but a human just the same. Just as this realization hit me and I began to worry about my savior, the monster pushed up with his legs, having gained some leverage in the struggle, and the man went flying off into the woods. The monster jumped up, blood streaming from so many different parts of his face I couldn't tell where he was cut. Slowly, he began to take a step towards me, but a twig breaking to our right, had the creature, vampire?, freezing in his tracks. I glanced to the side as well, my position on the ground not helping my view. An intake of breath turned my attention back to the monster and I noticed, with some shock, the terrified look on his face. He glanced down at me, barely seeming to realize my presence, then turned and ran into the woods.
I watched the vampire's retreating back for a moment, shock coloring every one of my features. Another twig snapping, much much closer this time, caught my attention. I turned slowly to my right, afraid of what I would see. A man's hand hung a few inches from my face, fingers outstretched. Automatically, I reached up and took it, almost smiling at its warmth. His hands were pale but warm, his arms very muscular under his tight red shirt. My eyes traveled up his body as I stood, taking in every aspect of his perfect stomach and chest. Even in my own life, I had never met a human being so seemingly perfect. As I came to stand before him, fully on my own two feet, my mind froze as my eye met his. A small gasp escaped my lips as I took in the gray-blue pools before me. The color filled my vision. The eyes were beautiful, though sad, almost as if they were hiding something. Though I knew it had to be a mistake, I could almost feel the lost centuries in those eyes, but he was clearly human. For some reason, I couldn't look away, couldn't even blink. After what seemed like an eternity had passed, he cocked his head to one side and his gaze wandered over my own body, breaking the spell his eyes had cast. I could feel my cheeks fill with color as his eyes danced lazily over my body, a smile playing over his ruby colored lips.
"Are you okay?" he asked, genuine concern in his voice. I almost sighed out loud at the deep, throaty voice coming from this gorgeous man. He had a slight accent, one that I couldn't place but sounded tinted with Scottish. It took me a moment to process that he had asked me a question. I forced myself to look up into his eyes once more as I answered.
"Yes, thank you. I was trying to get back to the town and decided to take a short cut through here. Everything was fine until I heard a noise in those bushes. When I looked, a rabbit ran out. I told myself I was just being silly, brushed it off, and started walking again. Then that terrible man jumped out and attacked me. He was going to kill me." I said in a rush, unthinkingly throwing my arms around his waist. As soon as it happened, I had the sense to be embarrassed about it and I stepped back, a new blush coloring my cheeks a deep scarlet.
"I'm very sorry, I've forgotten my manners. I'm Lacy, Lacy Diane." I said and reached out, holding my hand cordially between us for a proper greeting.
"I'm Beaux, Beaux White. Most people call me Beaux. I'm sorry I couldn't have gotten here faster. I wouldn't have been able to forgive myself if something would have happened to such a beautiful woman." He said, smiling as his gaze dipped over my body once more. Without releasing my hand, he took a small step closer to me, his body heat mingling with mine in the small space now between us. He looked down at me. He was a full head taller, if not more. He leaned down, raising my hand to his mouth as he held my eyes with his. His lips brushed the back of my hand and a pang of longing rushed through my body and he straightened and stepped back a small step. He laughed as I blushed, a throaty chuckle that forced an amused smile to my own lips. "Would you like to come with me? I live just over by the graveyard and I think you could use a drink. You look pale."
I nodded and smiled. "Yes, I would like that very much."
"Do you have a place to stay here in Mayfield? If not I have a few friends I could speak to that would more than likely gladly take you in for a little while." He said as we turned and traveled further down the path towards the cemetery. His gaze filled with interest as he glanced at me, reminding me of a look one might give an open book.
I blushed again before answering, "I don't have any particular place that I stay. I don't really have a home anywhere come to think of it. I just travel the world looking for somewhere I feel at home. Or someone that makes me feel at home. I haven't found either yet." I looked at him through veil of long red and black hair and smiled. He smiled, I was really beginning to like that smile, before turning his attention back to the trail.
"Well, if you need me, I'll be glad to help." He avoided my eyes for a few moments then turned his face to look at mine. I smiled at him and he blushed, quickly turning away once again. I gave up on talking to him and turned, quickening my pace to get out of the dark forest and into the town faster. A few minutes later I could make out a break in the trees and the dim outline of a pointed metal fence with a gap in it. Beaux hopped the fence easily turning then to help me over behind him. He held my hand a moment longer after helping me over the fence, then turned and began to walk towards the largest crypt in the massive graveyard.CHAPTER 2
The crypt we stopped in front of was very large and beautiful, made of elegant black marble. It had to be at least fifteen feet tall and probably twice as wide. Though it was obviously a family crypt, the clean smell and newness of the marble told me it did not in fact hold any of its owners. There were green vines covered in dark purple blooms crawling up two sides and a few lovely stained glass windows on opposite sides just above head height, both holding twin images of the Madonna. A heavy metal door that was easily four feet wide and seven feet tall stood before us, closed tight. There was a beautiful rose design made out of wrought iron at the very top that had a stem that made its way to the bottom in a curling, twisting fashion I had never seen before. The handle and lock on the door also had the same rose pattern engraved into it, I noticed. Beaux walked up to the door and knocked twice, the echo of the noise booming around us in the seemingly empty graveyard. The soft reply that came from the crypt was odd considering the time and place. "Come in. I'm decent. Is that you Beaux?" a female's voice said from the other side of the door.
"Yes, Trinity, it's me." Beaux answered, his voice softening noticeably. Jealousy settled, uncomfortable and strong, in the bottom of my stomach as he continued to speak with that Beaux tone to this faceless woman. "I found a woman in the woods; I think she was attacked by a vampire."
His casual use of the term vampire shocked me a little. I had never been comfortable with the word, calling us that was something few did, if not simply to avoid attracting attention. I smiled up at him, an innocent smile and allowed a little shock to pass over my face just to be careful. He looked into my eyes, the same open book look as before, and smiled back. I was forced to turn away at the warmth, the openness, the trust, of his expression.
A few moments later I heard the sounds of a chair scooting across a concrete floor and then bare feet slapping the ground as what I assumed to be the owner of the female voice came to the door. The door ground against the concrete floor, groaning as it was pushed open from the inside and a beautiful young woman stepped into the doorway. Her waist length, straight-as-a-board, dark brown hair flowed around her bare tan shoulders. Her light green eyes darted around almost imperceptibly as she took in her surroundings within seconds of opening the door. Her short black strapless shirt was tight around her chest and flat stomach. The dark red velvet pants were skin tight and clung to every curve on her long legs before meeting her bare feet. Any information I needed I gathered in the split second it took me to take in her physical features. My immediate impression of her was pure, raw power trapped into a taut little body. There was also extreme anger shown not only in her face but also in her aura. Her aura was bright gold, flawed only by almost imperceptible streaks of red and purple, the colors of loss and deception. This girl, Trinity, was a deceiver who hid her deception behind a façade of good and helpfulness. She was someone not to be trusted, though there was no way for me to be able to tell who that deception was pointed towards. And, even worse, she was a Hunter, given away by the single band of twisted silver imbedded in the skin of her left wrist.
"Oh, well, let her in and she can tell me what happened." She said with a flick of her hair and a forced smile. These last few decades I had been perfecting my art of reading people, their emotions and other aspects of their emotional self. Because of that, even if I had missed the thin band of silver, I would have known her true identity just by watching her lean body as she looked me over; the slight twitch of her middle finger of her right hand; the way her neck tensed as her gaze ran over the scars on my neck, the way every muscle in her body seemed to tense as she let me walk into the massive crypt. Her kind, the Hunters, always had the exact same reaction to me. They didn't know what I was, but that simply scared them more, their instincts pushing them to kill kicking into overdrive any time I was near.
The Hunter was a legend among all vampires. They were the murderers of our kind. The first of their kind was a demon who, after being scorned by his fellow demons for falling in love with a human princess, decided to make two 'super fighters' to kill his enemies. He asked a witch to place a curse his two surviving children, both vampires, one boy and one girl. He asked that they have a spell cast on them, that they would have extra scenes, ones to help them fight and destroy his enemies. But the spell had a cost, it took away his children's immortality. But, when they did die, they were reincarnated into new bodies, of children being born, and their powers were passed on to them. As the years went by, the Hunters became less disciplined, eventually becoming completely wild, allowing no one could control them. Each one was killed but each one had someone trained to take their place, someone waiting to take on the souls of the Hunters; as such the true Hunters of today were born, the ones most vampires now called 'The Wild Ones'. There were always two Hunters, one male and one female, though there were a few recorded mistakes made by the original souls, when they would enter the wrong body and be reincarnated into the wrong sex, giving the world either two male or two female Hunters. When one died another was waiting take his/her place. With my history of murdering Hunters, somewhere numbering in the hundreds, this meeting was going to be very interesting.
As Trinity invisibly fought her every instinct and stepped aside to let me in, I took in the inside of the crypt, ignoring the Hunter at my side for a few moments. A large wooden framed, 0 four poster bed in the back was piled high with thick black blankets, typical of a male home. The black lace that hung from the delicately made banister was pulled to one side. Someone had definitely just gotten out of the bed, and, by the look of it, in a hurry. Between the bed and the door was a curtain of the same black lace that acted as a barrier to block off the bedroom from the sitting room part of the crypt. The five small windows-one on each wall with two on the main entrance wall-hung high on the walls, covered in a thick red material, velvet more than likely, overlaid with more of the black lace. A little black leather loveseat was positioned against one wall with a dark red, well-worn, leather recliner and a rocking chair sitting a few feet in front of it, separated by a sturdy looking glass and wrought iron table. The black marble walls were bare of any decoration but surprisingly clean. The candles lit and placed around the room-some on the floor, some on the table-were the only source of light.
Trinity had moved over to the red recliner and was motioning for me to sit across from her on the loveseat, her smile forced, each movement jerky and tight. I smiled and walked over to the loveseat, sitting down as I took in more of the crypt. "This is a lovely place you have here Beaux. It's very homey." I looked over at Beaux and gave him a genuine smile, which he returned without pause.
Trinity chose to ignore my comment and jumped straight to business. "What happened? You were attacked?" She moved to the edge of the seat to be able to see me better in the dim light. Beaux came over and pulled the rocking chair forward and closer to me before sitting down. I looked at him, asking silently if I could trust her, keeping the innocent façade going. He placed one warm hand over mine sitting in my lap and gave me a reassuring smile and nod.
I took a deep breath and began slowly, keeping my eyes on Beaux's. "This human-ish, thing jumped out of a bush on the side of one of the trails and attacked me. It was suffocating me. Its hands were cold and clammy. I didn't even have the breath to scream. Just when I thought I was dead for sure, Beaux showed up and fought it and it ran away." I smiled at Beaux in genuine thanks. He smiled back at me, then turned to look at Trinity. I looked back to Trinity to get her reaction to the story.
Excerpted from The Lonely One by Lindsey Duncan. Copyright © 2014 Lindsey Duncan. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
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