If you haven't read Chapter 1, PRESS HERE
A RAINA KIRKLAND NOVEL
By Diana Graves
Copyright © 2011 Diana Graves
All rights reserved.
Book cover & format by Diana Graves, www.dianagraves.org
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This book is a work of pure fiction. Characters, places and incidents are creations of the author’s imagination, and any similarity to people, living or dead, businesses, events or places is purely coincidental.
To my family and friends, thank you.
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WHEN I GOT home it seemed like a good idea to escape into a book for a while, so I spent the rest of the day in my room reading a Wanda Winks novel. My room was my sanctuary from the crazy hateful world outside. With soothing green walls smothered with inspiring and artful photos and the pleasant aroma of vanilla incense heavy in the air. Just sitting in it had an extraordinary calming effect on me.
I owned all of Wanda’s great works. She was renowned for her many detailed adventures as a witch private detective, and for producing books thick enough to use as a short stool. She died only five years ago and I was reading her last book. It was written just months before her untimely death at the hands of her town’s local werewolf pack. I was actually reading her last days on earth. I didn’t understand at first how Wanda’s beloved local pack could ever attack her, but as I read on I discovered that she had been deeply in love with their wolf king, Raymond. When she asked his favor another woman of the pack challenged her. They set up the fight and there was a terrific battle. Reading it made my heart race. I gripped the book tightly, hanging on every word. I tasted the pain and fear and my heart raced for it. In the end, Wanda’s superior magic won out as it usually did. However, when werewolves die they change back to their human form, and the werewolf in question had not been the woman who had challenged Wanda, but the wolf king’s own sister. She had loved the woman who had challenged Wanda and had tricked Wanda into coming early. She was in wolf form when Wanda arrived. The two women looked identical in the wolf form. Wanda had killed the sister of the man she loved, and the sister had died for the love of friendship.
Despite the king’s love for Wanda he sent orders out to his wolves. Wanda imagined him standing in the den of the vampire stronghold, The Killing Castle of Detroit Michigan, “Kill her on sight!” he might have shouted out over a crowd of at least seventy werewolves.
Right now in the book, Wanda’s hiding out. Goddess, how scared she must have been. I didn’t need to read the rest of the book to know how it ended. Eventually, they must have found her because she disappeared. All the police found of her were body parts, and when they put the pieces together they didn’t make a whole person. The king was prosecuted for murder and sentenced. He was given a MARK, mandated right to kill. A MARK gives anyone the authority to kill the marked individual on sight for a sizable reward. Any non-human can be marked, which wasn’t a terribly comforting thought.
With Raymond marked, Wanda’s partner, Sen, had the pleasure of hunting down and killing him. Sen hacked him into little bits with a silver sword. It had been all over the media for months. The headlines read, “Famous writer and detective eaten alive. Partner brings murdering werewolf to justice with his blade.” A Shakespearean romantic drama if ever there was one.
It was dark outside, and even though I had only a few more chapters to go, I needed to stop. I needed a break finally. I had read through Mom coming home. She had called me for dinner but I declined it. I could still hear the television, which meant Mom was awake.
“Hey, Mom,” I said as I walked into the living room. The living room was spacious, and walking into it was like walking back in time to Victorian England—with a flat screen and a computer. In the center of the room sat a long blue Victorian sofa, and a highly polished coffee table. Sitting directly behind the sofa was an antique desk. Mom was sitting on the sofa with a bowl of homemade mint ice cream and watching the local news. She was wearing her gold nightgown. Her hair was braided loosely and hanging over her shoulder. She matched the décor, a classic beauty.
“I didn’t think you were coming out tonight,” she said without turning her head to see me standing behind her.
“I just needed to get out of my own life for a while.”
She nodded and I got the impression that she didn’t really hear me at all, that she really didn’t care. “Are you going to be okay coming to work tomorrow?”
I plopped down beside her on the sofa and curled my feet into the throw pillows to warm them. Snuggling in against her I said, “Yes, I’ll be okay.”
“I want you to tell me if it becomes too much for you, Ray.” Her words were full of care but her eyes never left the TV. I let it go. Mom always seemed to be in her own little world.
“How was work?” I asked. I didn’t care, but I wanted her to pay attention to me, more than she was. I thought that if I made the conversation about her that she might show interest, but this tactic never worked before. Why would it work now?
“Budgeting, sending out invoices and preparing for the shipment of the two giant mandrakes. They arrive Tuesday morning and I’ve only finished one pot,” she said it with a spoon full of ice cream in her mouth, eyes on the TV and absolutely no interest.
“You should have let me come with you,” I said, always willing to give a full on conversation with my mom one more shot before giving up entirely and sitting like a zombie until bedtime.
She actually looked at me then and my eyes went wide with hope. “You needed this day to yourself. What kind of mother would I be if I asked my daughter to come to work the day after being attacked by a—.” She let the last part go inaudible and turned back to her TV program. And, just like that, awkward regularity was back.
“Alicia and I will prepare the other pot tomorrow,” I assured her before I got up and made myself a plate of leftovers. I sat back down with a freshly reheated plate of baked tofu and garlic bread with steamed veggies.
“What’s going on?” I questioned, motioning to the television with a mouth full of bread. There was a young man being interviewed. He had a dark tan, short brown hair, and perfectly straight big white teeth.
“Oh, um, he’s part of a group of students who think they’ve found a way to manipulate the vampiric virus in some way.”
I listened in on the interview. The sun was in his eyes and the news camera was too close to his face. It was a very unflattering shot.
“How close is your research team to creating your miracle cure?” asked the interviewer off camera. The man listened to the interviewer with thin pursed lips and then nodded knowingly.
“We are very close to unraveling the mysteries of the vampire. How does the disease alter almost every cell in the body; rewrite the DNA? Why does the body die but seemingly live at the same time? We aren’t the first scientists to ask these questions, but we are the first to come this close to the answer, Stacy,” he said. He looked at the unseen interviewer as if that had answered the question. It didn’t…he should go into politics. The camera moved from him to Stacy, a beautiful Asian woman with flowing sandy brown hair in an elegant red blouse.
“This has been a lovely interview with University of Washington grad student, Mark Press. It’s been a privilege talking with you, Mark,” she said while shaking his hand before she turned back to the camera. “Back to you, Steve.”
“Thanks, Stacy. Well, that’s just fascinating isn’t it?”
“Oh shit!” I shouted as a thought came to mind. Mom sat up straight and looked at me, “Nicholas!”
“Yeah,” she said, thoroughly uninterested as she relaxed back into her seat.
“He’s being moved tonight.”
“He was moved. Tristan called about an hour ago to tell me everything went fine. He’s at Bastion Fatal, safe and sound.”
“Oh,” I said. I sunk back into my seat. If I had remembered sooner I would have been there when they moved him—maybe. I cuddled into the throw pillows on the other side of the sofa and ate my dinner.
MY JOB AT the Natural Kitchen was in the plant nursery. Though, my responsibilities were rather limited due to my black thumb in gardening. I helped with the plants in small ways, like filling the pots and turning on the irrigation system. You know, stuff where I didn’t actually have to touch the plants. So, why did my mom put me in the nursery if I’m so horrible with plants? Because, I’m worse with people; easy to anger and quite unforgiving.
I was on a platform preparing the last pot for the shipment of mandrakes. My gloved hands smelled like fertilizer because I’d been digging in it all morning. I arched my back to stretch before bending back down to the ten-foot pot. The mandrake’s roots look like humans, and they come in female and male form, but giant mandrakes are also human-sized, hence the twin ten-foot pots.
We needed the giant mandrakes for a recipe Mom had designed that required its leaf juice. Mom demanded the freshest ingredients for her work, so ordering the juice alone wasn’t an option. She loved her plants as well. Mom will no doubt spend many hours singing to her new plants. Sometimes I felt like she loved her plants more than her children.
“Okay, I’m done!” I yelled down to Alicia, who was waiting at the bottom of the platform with a long watering hose.
Alicia climbed up the platform vigorously, “Can you turn on the water?” she asked.
I slid down the ladder like a pro and dashed to the water knob.
“Okay, okay!” Alicia yelled down to me and I stopped turning the knob.
With our job almost done, I looked down at myself. I was wearing old holey jeans and a pink undershirt, which I wouldn’t wear in public because it shows way too much cleavage and side boob. The greenhouse that Mom and Fauna had built against the back of their shop was humid and hot, and eventually, I had to take off my cream colored top in spite of my poor choice in undershirt.
“How did Mom get the other pot done yesterday?” I shook my head. “I mean, there are two of us and we took the same amount of time as her?”
Alicia shrugged, “I don’t know. Turn off the water.” I did.
Alicia climbed down the ladder, wrapped up the hose and laid it on the floor. “Lunch?” she asked. “Or, would that be dinner?”
I looked up at the clock hanging over the door, which led to the storage room, and beyond that, the store. We worked all day, straight through lunch.
“It’s about five. I have some time before class.”
“You’re going to that vamp class, aren’t you?” she asked with bright eyes.
I smiled at her. I was in a much better mood today. I credited that to working. It helped me get my mind off of everything that was going wrong.
“You sound like you want to go.”
“Well, yeah, I mean, it’s held at the compound of Bastion Fatal!”
“Do you want to come with me? I didn’t see anything on the pamphlet that said I couldn’t bring someone for support.”
“Yeah, I mean, I’ll have to ask my dad.”
“That means no.” I couldn’t keep the disapproval out of my voice. Alicia was a college graduate in her early twenties, and she still let her dad run her life. “Your dad would never allow you to go anywhere near Bastion Fatal.”
“Just let me call him. You never know,” she said, before disappearing to the stockroom to use the phone. It didn’t take long for her to come back with a frown on her face.
“Is an ‘I told you so,’ in order?”
She nodded. “I can’t go, and I’m not coming to work—anymore,” Alicia said quietly. I looked at her for a moment, unsure what she just said. I replayed it in my mind. She’s not coming to work anymore, as in never again.
“I asked him if I could go with you to the Bastion. He asked why, so I told him about your condition.” She was turned away from me, so she didn’t see my immediate scowl.
“And let me guess. He doesn’t want you around me? He thinks I’m a worse person because I’m a living vampire!” I shouted. “Or, maybe he thinks I’m not a person at all anymore!” And just like that, all the fear I had bottled up inside came spilling out. I didn’t want another reason for the world to hate me. I didn’t want to lose one of the few people I loved. I was glad Alicia wouldn’t look at me because I couldn’t help the tears streaming hot down my face.
“No, it’s just that he is afraid you might turn or something stupid like that.”
“If that was meant to comfort me you failed miserably. What difference does it make why I’m losing my only and best friend.”
“You’re not losing me.” Alicia looked at me with pity in her eyes, and I had to look away.
“I have to lose my best friend and my soul all at once. Is that it?” I shook my head. “You don’t have to do what Daddy says anymore!” I shouted. My voice had never sounded so fierce, so full of rage, so chilling.
She froze. For the first time ever Alicia looked scared of me. With her ogre temper, that was certainly a switch. Looking at her damn near cowering before me, I wanted to apologize, but I couldn’t. It’s not like me to admit fault easily.
Aunt Fauna slammed the stockroom door open. She was short and full figured with black eyes and red hair that dragged on the floor.
“Damn it, child, we have a business to run,” she said.
My mind was an inferno of outrage, but I smiled sweetly at my aunt. Through tight lips, I said, “I’m sorry.”
Her eyes were wary, but she nodded and left us alone without another word. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. I was trying to let go of the rage, to cleanse it from my mind like I was taught in meditation. I imagined my anger as feathers clinging to my clothes. I shook and the feathers and my anger fell from me, drifting out and away.
“Alicia,” I began to say but was interrupted by yelling. It was coming from the front of the shop. I looked at Alicia and she looked pissed.
“No!” Fauna screamed from inside the shop. And on that note, we both ran through the door, through the storage room, and into the store.
The store was small, with dark shelves against the walls and three long shelves running the length of the store. The goods ranged from the freshly baked and brewed to the pricy exotic. It was lit by many wall sconces made to look like torches, and long beautiful rugs ran down every aisle. Normally customers quietly shopped while soft music played, but not today. Today you couldn’t hear the music at all. Today it was a madhouse. Fauna was holding a woman away from a man, who was red with anger. The woman kept yelling “I’m going to kill you!” over and over again as she squirmed in Fauna’s arms. Other customers were fighting each other near the front of the store.
“What happened?” Alicia shouted angrily.
Mom came around the corner with another customer in her sights, and her wand out. The customer she was aiming for was beating a child ruthlessly.
“Everyone’s gone mad!” shouted Fauna, her own eyes looking a bit too wild.
Alicia ran for the customers fighting in the front and dove into their fight with punches flying freely.
“Shit!” I yelled.
Mom finally managed to get the customer away from the child, and had her wand pointed at the woman’s chin. The kid wrapped himself around a man’s leg and started biting him! I didn’t know what to do.
I grabbed the little boy by his shirt and tried to pull him away.
“Stop!” I yelled at the top of my lungs, and everyone stopped and looked directly at me. Some came around shelves so that they could see me. They didn’t speak. They just looked at me, long-faced and limp.
Mom, Fauna and one man seemed to be the only people who were as perplexed as me about what just happened. The man took advantage and punched the man he had been fighting square in the face. “Jerk off!” he said, as the other man hit the floor.
“Mom?” I asked. She was looking at me, her mouth open in shock. “Mom what should I do?”
“What the hell’s going on!” shouted the man.
“Sir, we’re trying to figure that out,” said Fauna in a reassuring voice.
“Mom?” I was feeling restless under their stares.
“Go to the back room,” Mom said between heavy breaths.
“Okay,” I said. I slowly walked to the back room, though I kept my eyes on the people. Once the door closed behind me I almost wanted to lock it. I couldn’t get the picture of the zombies from Dawn of the Dead out of my head. “Brains,” I imagined the customers chanting as they came through the door.
I sat on a box in the dark. I could hear a lot of apologies from a lot of different people. Eventually, the door opened wide, letting in light. It was Mom who walked through. She paced the storage room for a bit, her gorgeous blue robe trailing after each elegant movement.
“How did that happen?” she eventually asked.
I looked down, searching for the right words. “I don’t know.” I just shook my head. I couldn’t meet her eyes.
“No one seems to remember the fight, except for Fauna and one customer and myself. His family wasn’t hurt so he’s willing to keep quiet for a sizable lifelong discount,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“You think this is your fault?” she asked softly, sitting on the box next to me.
“Maybe,” I said with my head in my hands. I was almost in tears. “I was angry, so angry, but I let it go. I sent it out.”
“You’re an empath, Raina. You sense emotion, you don’t create it in people,” Mom said, but she looked scared.
“But it felt like I did, create emotion I mean, in them. Their anger felt like mine.”
Mom hugged me tightly, “Maybe you couldn’t tell the difference between what you were feeling and what they were feeling.” I gave Mom a raised eyebrow. Did she even know how empathy worked?
“What if my empathic abilities have changed because of the vampirism?” I asked.
Mom looked sad. “Maybe,” she said, but she didn’t look like she thought that could be the case at all. “Just go to the vampire class tonight and ask the instructor. You might feel better once you have some answers. You never know.” She clapped her hands on her legs.
“I don’t want to go alone, Mom.”
“You’re a witch, get used to being alone.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I don’t know. It’s just something my mom told me once when I said something similar before heading to Mythos University. I’ve been alone since your dad left, so I guess she was right.”
I didn’t agree with that. Mom was alone because she wanted to be alone, because no man was ever good enough for her, or could take her ultra-feminist lifestyle. I admired that about her, her unrelenting demand for just the right man. I guess she learned her lesson with Dan. Never settle for less.
We looked toward the door. The talking had stopped, and all I could hear were light footsteps.
“I guess Fauna closed shop for the day. No matter, it’s five anyway. Why don’t you go help your aunt clean up?”
“I’m so sorry, Mom.”
CHAPTER 14 will be posted soon, or you can buy the book for $3.99 PRESS HERE