Heart racing, Damian quieted his breath inside the stuffy cupboard. Fortunately, Governor Ivan Biel kept the full-sized cabinet in his dining hall from which Damian could observe the banquet table through the cracked doors. The stifling fire flickered, illuminating a slice of Damian, but for only the most observant to see.
“It’s a good thing your power can nullify the Governor’s heightened senses, or he’d smell us the second he walks in the room.” Issa rested her head on Damian’s shoulder and hugged his arm, maximizing use of the cramped space. She wrinkled her nose with a sniff. “Even over this pinewood.”
Damian silenced her with a glare and resumed his watch, ignoring the vampire girl’s proximity. For the sake of secrecy, he refrained from extricating himself from her grip, unwilling to risk any unnecessary noise. It wouldn’t do to get caught after all Constable York’s trouble hiding them inside the manor.
The hours dragged on waiting for the governor’s dinner date, but compared to the years spent dreaming of justice, Damian had the patience of old Father Mirren. If it hadn’t been for the Father so many years ago, Damian would have died an orphan on the streets. Of course, if the church orphanage hadn’t raised him, he’d never have met Issa.
“What? You wanted me to be quiet.” Issa pouted and narrowed her eyes, suspicious of Damian’s sudden, affectionate smile. She may have attached herself to him, a mere mortal, but he’d never shared his care for her. Maybe one day, after his family’s murderer faced justice.
A maid in a frilly black and white dress entered, balancing ornate plates and silverware in her arms. Issa’s grip tightened as they watched the maid set the table with meticulous precision. Damian held his breath until the door shut behind her. While able to hide himself and Issa from the governor’s abilities, any human could discover them.
Issa took a deep sniff as Damian exhaled, giggling to herself and squeezing his arm. “I might not have to breathe, but I love the smell of your breath.”
Damian rolled his eyes. “Remind me why you aren’t in your spectral form? I wouldn’t mind the extra room in here.”
She growled softly in her throat. “You never let me get this close.” Vampires can’t blush, but her small voice said it all.
Damian loosened the restraint on his power, sending a current into his arm and shocking Issa. She yelped quietly and evaporated into her spectral form. “Fine.” She snapped, floating over his shoulder, halfway in the cupboard. Mortals wouldn’t see her lower half protruding into the hall, Damian being the only exception.
A butler led a young woman into the dining hall and seated her at the close end of the banquet table just in front of the cupboard. Then the maid returned with another butler, both carrying trays and platters of food. The savory smell of roast chicken wafted into the cabinet as they uncovered the main courses. The clattering dishes drowned out Damian’s growling stomach.
Once all the food adorned the table, the governor strode into the far end of the room, dressed in his finest suit, and plopped his rotund derriere into the furthest chair. A lone butler stood over his shoulder by the door, ready to serve, while the rest of the staff poured wine into their goblets before leaving.
“Thank you for joining me for dinner this evening, Miss Fairfax.” The governor raised his wine, though he refrained from sipping. “I hope the spread is to your liking. I had the chef procure his best delicacies.”
“Yes, thank you, Governor.” Miss Fairfax’ voice barely reached Damian in the cupboard. If the governor weren’t a vampire with heightened hearing, he couldn’t have heard her.
“Please, call me Ivan. You are here as my personal guest. Let us be comfortably casual.” His tight-lipped smile stretched across his face, careful not to reveal his fangs.
“You may call me ‘Lily’ then.” The woman smiled and raised her own wine before taking a long swig.
“Lily.” Ivan savored her name on his lips and interlocked his fingers beneath his chin. He stared dreamily into her eyes as she ate.
“When I saw you in town, I immediately sent my servant to find and invite you.”
“And why is that?” Lily asked, lifting a shoulder coyly.
“There’s something . . . delicious about you. I just had to have you for dinner.” Lily blushed and looked down into her wine as Ivan’s eyes sparkled at her. Damian’s hair stood on end.
“Do you have any family in town? I’m sure they’re missing you at their table right now.” Ivan played with his goblet, watching the blood red wine swirl.
“Why do you ask?” Lily furrowed her brow with suspicion as she cut her chicken and gracefully plucked the bite from her silver.
“Tell me, Lily.” Ivan demanded with greater authority, all hints of decorum gone.
Lily’s demeanor changed. She sat stiffly in her seat and replied in a monotone voice. “My fiancé and his family live near the markets, and my sister lives on the far side of town, though we haven’t spoken in years.”
“Good, good.” Ivan nodded and smiled widely, fangs bared. “I hate sharing.”
The vampire stood, dismissed the butler, and stalked along the side of the table toward Lily, who was now completely frozen under his spell.
Damian knew what came next. His heart threatened to jump out of his mouth as fear’s icy claw slowly constricted around his windpipe. The firelight glistened on Ivan’s pale skin just as it had years ago when he stood over Damian’s family. Though he couldn’t see Lily’s face, he knew her expression, her eyes no doubt reflecting the firelight blankly, just as his baby sister’s had. He’d never forget Sasha’s blank eyes accusing him as he hid, watching his family’s murder in horror.
Guilt churned Damian’s empty stomach and squeezed out cold sweat. If he waited, he’d have the evidence to prove the governor a murderer, as well as a vampire, but he’d have to watch an innocent woman die. If he stopped Ivan, he might save Lily. But then, what about evidence?
“Pull down your dress, Lily.” Ivan’s command jerked Damian into the present. She complied, and Ivan unhinged his jaw, fangs glistening.
Damian burst out of the cupboard, unable to withhold the light inside. Ivan recoiled with a hiss and held a hand over his eyes, blocking the blinding light emanating from Damian. Lily jumped to her feet with a shriek, no longer under the vampire’s spell, and stared at the boy as she backed toward Ivan.
“Don’t move!” Damian shouted with a pleading hand outstretched. His light dimmed as he gained control.
“Who are you? How did you get in here?” Ivan demanded as he quickly composed himself, realizing Lily had broken free. Damian watched in pained silence as Lily retreated beside Ivan.
“Get away from him!” Damian’s petition came too late. Ivan seized Lily by the throat and wrenched her into a headlock, holding her neck exposed.
“I’ll assume you’ve seen enough. Now answer me,” demanded Ivan.
Damian glared in return, causing Ivan’s scowl to deepen. The vampire’s fingers clenched Lily’s throat, making her face grow rosy as she struggled to breathe.
“Let her go!”
“Why aren’t you obeying?” Ivan stared at Damian confused, ignoring Lily’s hands clawing at his impassive grip. “What are you, boy?”
Lily looked at Damian, desperate for help. Had his family likewise searched his eyes, he might have found the courage to die with them.
Rage hooked its talons into Damian’s soul and exploded out of him. Ivan screeched and covered his face, dropping Lily to the floor, where she gasped for life. Issa appeared and collapsed beside Lily with a protective embrace. Ivan clawed at his milky eyes, his nails shredding his own face into bloody ribbons. Even Issa kept her eyes averted from Damian to avoid being blinded.
“What are you?” Ivan roared, crouched in a defensive stance, twisting his head around, searching. The fog from his eyes dissipating as they quickly healed.
“Get her out of here and find Constable York.” Damian shouted at Issa, who helped Lily to her feet.
The women froze. Panic washed over Issa’s face.
Ivan sighed as his sight returned. When he finally saw Issa beside Lily, he smirked. “Here to steal my meal?”
Issa grimaced as she fought Ivan’s control, her copper hair cascading over her face. Ivan inspected her with fascination and shook his head. He nodded toward Damian. “He’s not one of us. So what is he?”
“He’s . . . mortal.” She tried to bite back her words, but Ivan forced an answer through her clenched teeth.
Ivan nodded, but couldn’t look at Damian, so he spoke facing Issa. “You’re a strange mortal, but now that your surprise is over, let’s get something straight. I’m going to finish my dinner, and then I’m going to kill you.”
Ivan chuckled to himself until Damian stepped forward. “Stop there, boy. I have them under my control. If you don’t do exactly what I say, I’ll have the vampire girl throw herself into the fire.”
Damian clenched his teeth and glared. If he focused, perhaps he could restrain Ivan. As the vampire waltzed toward the women, Damian visualized dark tethers linking Ivan to his prey. He imagined strangling each tendril like a hose, pinching off the flow.
“Now, Lily and I have unfinished business. You two wait until we’re through.”
As Ivan beckoned Lily forward, Damian focused on Issa, feeling an extrasensory grip on her connection. Issa’s brow furrowed, her fingers wiggled under her own control, and then her wrists and neck freed.
“Sorry for the interruption, Lily. Where were we?” Oblivious, Ivan tucked Lily’s dark hair behind her delicate ear and unhinged his jaw again. Lily flushed, unable to scream.
Damian darted his eyes to Ivan, and to his surprise, saw the dark tethers connected to the vampire, including one sinking into the ground. Changing focus, Damian attacked the anchor beneath Ivan.
The vampire gasped and fell to his knee, eyes wide as he made weak fists. “What are you doing?” He checked his hold on Issa and Lily, but the source of his immortal life and power from below dwindled, snapping his control over the women. “No!”
Lily ran to the far corner and collapsed while Issa leaped over the table and stood over Damian’s shoulder. “Do it.” She murmured in his ear. He looked at her, surprised, but maintained his grip on Ivan’s life-force.
Damian reflected on the reversed roles. For years, he wished he could go back and save his family. Now, revenge burned within his grasp.
“If you know me at all, you know I can’t kill.” He replied, grimacing in pain. “I should want to. But I won’t be a murderer like him.”
“If you don’t, he’ll get away free.” Issa held a hand on his shoulder and peered into his tearful eyes. “We can’t hand him over to mortals. He’ll escape, and you’ll never have your revenge.”
Damian pinched the source of Ivan’s power in a flash of anger and watched the vampire collapse, his forehead smacking the floor and his face falling slack. He searched the vampire’s eyes for fear, but found only hate.
“I don’t want revenge. I want justice.” Damian loosened his hold slightly. “But not by my hand.” Issa stared at him, admiring his integrity.
“You pathetic mortal.” Ivan chimed in from the floor, panting as a dying thing should. “I will kill you. And everyone you care about. First chance I get.”
Damian scoffed. “You did once.” He caught Issa’s eye and smiled. Though a being of darkness herself, only a gray tether connected her to Damian’s chest. He turned to Ivan. “Now I’ll stop you.”
“The mortals can’t hold him!” Issa panicked.
“Until there’s justice . . . I can.”
About the author
I love stories in all their forms. When I'm not writing I enjoy books, movies, shows, games, and music.
Stories give us a break from reality and insight into life. I hope you enjoy my stories and find something meaningful.