Complete chapter from the novel:
"I found myself standing inside a great hall, which smelled of dust and decay. A tall stained glass window drew my eye. It would have looked beautiful had it not been shattered in places. That mar was characteristic of the all-pervading gloom.
Suddenly, my host moved to stand in front of me. If I had thought him distinguished looking before, I now found he looked so horrible, I nearly cried out. I am certain I backed away. How had I not seen that his ears were pointed?
He raised one hand as if to comfort me. That was when I noticed his fingernails looked like talons.
He spoke I think to distract me for I am certain my face gave me away. “Miss Dia, permit me to show you to your room for you must be weary.”
I was not clear in my thinking. If I had been confused for most of my journey, I was still feeling dazed because I followed obediently behind him.
As we climbed the staircase, I watched the light from his lamp flicker along the wall as his tall slender shadow moved along with it.
“It is this way,” he said as he motioned me onward. The corridor was long and there were many doors. On we went until he at last opened one. The room was well lit and a welcome change from the cold, fireless hall below. “I have had a supper laid out for you. I hope it is to your liking. Come,” he motioned. “You will sleep through here...”
We passed through a small room and emerged into the bedchamber. It was handsomely furnished and I was relieved to see a fire burned within the great stone hearth.
“Please, refresh yourself and then dine...” I hesitated and he smiled. “Perhaps you are too tired to eat?”
Before I could answer, he turned quickly and said he would be back. He wasn’t gone long. When he returned I nearly gasped for he looked so different. His lips were red and his eyes shone.
“I have taken some tonic. I did not wish to look tired for you.”
I was amazed at the difference in him, for now his ears no longer looked pointed. Nor did his fingernails seem long!
He was staring so intently at me. “My looks please you now,” he said.
That quite embarrassed me. “No, you looked fine before...!”
He smiled. “I will always endeavor to look my very best for you, young lady.”
I didn’t reply, for I had other, more pressing things on my mind. I was confused. “Count...please. I am at a loss to understand what I am doing here as I recall so little. Everything seems muddled. I cannot remember much of anything. I know my name but little else.”
He nodded sympathetically. “Perhaps we can discover what is wrong. Tell me, my child, what can you remember?”
I thought a moment but it was difficult. I found there was little I could make sense of.
“A young aide of mine brought you here, do you remember?”
Yes, the coach and the trip...but from where?!
I nodded. “The man; yes, I remember him...and some of the journey, but that is all I can recall.”
“You are tired. Do not be hard on yourself. I think it is food you require.” He uncovered a great silver tray. “It is aromatic, is it not?”
It was and I nodded.
“It is freshly prepared chicken made with paprika in the way the people of this region enjoy their food. Pali’s mother prepared it.”
“The young man who escorted you here.”
I smiled as I began to remember. “Yes! Pali.”
“He is a Gypsy, you know.”
Something clicked in my head. Gypsies were strange beings, clannish and not to be trusted, or so they said. Dracula looked to be measuring my response. “I have never known Gypsies ... but then again...”
“Many people hate and fear them. I do not, however; I have found them to be good and loyal servants and friends of mine. In fact, I entrust them with my very existence.” He gestured toward the food. “Please…”
I did not wish to appear rude so I took a bite of the chicken. “It is good. Very good.”
Dracula looked pleased. “I knew you would like it. And now...what is food without wine?” He reached over and picked up a beautiful cask from which he poured some wine. He handed me the goblet. “Please.”
I hesitated, expecting him to pour some for himself. Dracula smiled. “No, I do not drink...wine. Do not mind about me, please.”
He was waiting for me to drink it, so I did. The taste was rich and heavy, and spiced too. I did know eastern tastes differed from western. Spiced wines were popular throughout Hungry and Romania.
“It is good, different.”
He looked very pleased. I hadn’t taken that much but I started to feel funny and by the time my meal was finished, my eyelids felt heavy. Sleep beckoned.
Dracula rose. “You are to retire now. That is good. I will leave you in peace.” He smiled and I smiled too because now he looked almost handsome to me. So handsome, in fact, it quite touched my heart.
I stared at the closed door for the longest time, wishing him to return. That is the last thing I recall for in the next moment I heard a wolf. What a haunting sound it made.
I hurried to the window to see if I could see it, but could not. But then, suddenly, I saw a flash of something white dart across the grounds. Then, it turned and sat on its haunches to look at me! I called to it, but it made no sound; instead, it disappeared as quickly as it had come.
A slant of sunlight woke me, just a slant reaching out from the heavy drapes. If I felt less tired, I did not yet feel fully awake either—I felt as though I was dreaming and could not stir myself from the dream.
It wasn’t until I rose that I saw a dress laid out upon a chair. It was burgundy in color and quite pretty, if a little old fashioned.
It wasn’t one of mine I knew for I had no luggage with me. Had my host brought it for me to wear? Perhaps a servant had; after all, I didn’t think the count would have entered the chamber while I slept, though I did suspect he had brought it himself and watched me sleep. I think it thrilled me to believe he had done this. I know now I was already falling in love with him.
I dressed quickly because I was hungry. I hoped there might be a tray outside my door but as it turned out, I did not have to open my door at all because a lovely breakfast had been laid out in the next room. There were rolls and coarse grain breads I had never seen before. And pots of jam, as well as coffee in a great silver carafe.
The china was exquisite, the tray arranged artfully. When I was finished, I washed my face and left my room, intent on thanking my host. He was however nowhere to be seen. In fact, the castle seemed eerily silent.
I walked along the great stone floored passageway, heading toward the stairs. The doors along the corridor were still closed and though I did gently knock on a few of them, I soon stopped for I didn’t wish to disturb anyone.
Down the stairs I went, certain I would see someone: my host or possibly a servant. “Is anyone there?” I called. But there was no answer.
I searched in barren cupboards full of cobwebs and dust, as well as ancient looking disused kitchens, but found nothing.
At last I came upon a stairway leading down to what I assumed was the cellar. Rather than go there, I went back up to my room. For some reason, the downstairs had quite unsettled me and I wished to go no further. I would simply stay and wait for my host.
The dishes were still on the table, as no servant had cleared them. What a strange place, I thought, little realizing the oddity of my own actions, stumbling around in a strange castle.
I retreated finally to the bed. I think I fell asleep, unsure for how long. All I recall was waking to the sound of knocking.
Before I could answer the summons the door swung open and Dracula stepped inside. “I trust you have slept well and eaten? I took the liberty...”
He explained how he had provided my breakfast for me. “As for your evening meal, I was hoping to join you while you dined.”
I assumed he would be dining with me, but when I saw there was only one dish I asked: “Have you dined already, Count?”
He smiled. “Yes, I have consumed my sustenance, dear young lady.”
Although I’d have preferred it if he joined me, I began. I asked him about the wolf.
“Yes, there are wolves. They are such beautiful creatures… Were you troubled by their presence?”
“Not at all, I was rather delighted by it.”
I explained then that I had never heard or seen a wolf. Dracula nodded. “You saw only one?”
“Yes, a beautiful white one. I hope I see it again.”
He smiled and sighed. “I am certain if you wish it, you will.”
Not long after this little interchange, I suddenly begun to remember things, bits and pieces of things, many of them indecipherable but then Edward’s face flashed before me. I trembled so that I dropped my fork.
Dracula looked concerned. “Are you not well?” he asked.
I saw his eyes widen with alarm. “Who did you say?”
I began to cry. “I don’t know. I am beginning to remember things now.”
Dracula encouraged me to tell him what I could.
“I was just married... We eloped and he sickened and died!”
I rushed from the table. Dracula came after me. “Perhaps if you lie down you will feel better. You have had a fright.”
“Fright nothing! I am at last remembering.”
He suggested I lie down, which I did. He left me then but returned quickly. “I have brought you something…” He held an ornate goblet. “Have this; it is a tonic of sorts, just herbs and tea. It is good for most things that ail a person.”
He was staring at me and though I didn’t wish it, I took the goblet from him. It was as though I had no will of my own!
“That is right. Drink it, my dear. It will soothe you.”
I found myself bringing it closer to my lips, all the while thinking, No! I will not! The inability to control my own movements was terrifying. The more I tried to gain control, the more powerless I felt. When I tried to walk it was worse. The room began to spin and I fell down. “Help me,” I cried, for no matter what I did I could not raise myself up.
Dracula smiled down at me. “There, child. You will be alright.”
Why did his voice sound so far away?
He didn’t answer at first. When he did, his voice was but a whisper. “Accept thy gifts for you will be loved forever and ever…!”
(End of chapter 3)
99 cents Promo!
This is book 4 of The Blackstone Vampires Series but may be read as a stand alone.
99 cents Promo!
This is book 4 of The Blackstone Vampires Series but may be read as a stand alone.