Thunder reverberated through the ancient stone castle rattling pane glass. Tracy couldn't sleep through the racket of the summer storm. Highland tempests were strong and fierce but quickly spent, and the land would explode in color following in the passing storm's path. Pushing back the heavy quilts, she managed to pull herself out of her warm cocoon, heading to the bathroom. A modern convenience Tracy insisted on being built in the 15th-century monstrosity she called home.
Trying to bring Castle Sinclair into the new century had been like pulling teeth, but it was slowly getting there. The rewiring was almost complete. The plumping needed to completed first as Tracy refused to continue using a garderobe. She loved the shower and savored the heat of the water cascading down her body.
Drying off, pulled on a pair of soft denim jeans, a Sapphire blue T-shirt glancing in the mirror at her disheveled raven hair framing brilliant blue eyes that matched the color of the T-shirt. Quickly brushing out the thick mass, another glance at the mirror and Tracy felt ready to greet the day. Leaving her bedroom crossed the long hallway to the head of the staircase, she noticed Ms. Langston waiting downstairs for her. She looked up and caught Tracy standing at the top of the stairs.
Their eyes locked, and Tracy felt the punch of the unspoken accusations. Mrs. Langston was the housekeeper and head of the entire house staff. Tracy knew what they wanted. The guilt she felt weighed her down, but there was nothing Tracy could do for them. Duncan Sinclair was Lord and master of the land and castle. His word was law, and disobedience came at a terrible price. The entire staff knew this and had agreed to the terms.
Changing those terms now because they were uncertain of their future was not part of the original contract. Tracy tried to ignore the silent plea in Ms. Langston's usually smiling Hazel green eyes. She glided down the stairs, still keeping eye contact with the housekeeper, holding her eyes prisoner until Tracy finally reached the foyer.
"What is it, Mrs. Langston?" As if Tracy didn't know already.
Hesitantly. "The house staff has asked me to speak for them, Mrs. Sinclair." The tip of Mrs. Langston's tongue wetting her lips. A sign of nervousness speaking to Tracy. She couldn't blame the house staff or Mrs. Langston. As the lady of the manor, it was her responsibility to look out for them and keep them safe even it was from the Lord himself. It wasn't their fault that Tracy didn't have the strength to defy Duncan Sinclair.
Darting quick, nervous peaks around the foyer, Mrs. Langston continued. "We have served the Sinclair family loyally and faithfully for many years, Mrs. Sinclair, and we want Lord Sinclair to terminate our contract. The contract didn't signify we were expected to serve his family this many years. We've earned the right to be free.
Softly, Tracy told her. "Then take your case to Lord Sinclair directly and tell him that."
That response had the elderly housekeeper backing away quickly, shaking her head in the negative. "No, Mrs. Sinclair, you must ask him for us. Please, Ma'am, ask him to let us go. Please." Her dark, pleading eyes nearly broke her heart. Tracy knew they thought she carried weight with Duncan, and it almost killed her to have to tell her that Tracy had no know more power in this castle than Mrs. Langston did.
Breathing in a fortifying breath, Tracy tried to find the right words to explain to this nice lady and her staff that Tracy was as much a prisoner as they were. Except, she didn't have to as Tracy saw awareness seep into those older eyes along with surrender before the elder lady turned away heading into the kitchen. Shoulders bent under the weight of knowledge, knowing what will happen next.
Not able to stand the broken look of despair in Mrs. Langston's gaze, Tracy turned away herself flooded with shame and humiliation. In a sudden spurt of rage, Tracy was will filled with determination and hurriedly before she lost the newfound courage ripped the lit torch from its holder. Not thinking about any ramifications from her actions, Tracy released the hidden metal latch that swung open a section of the stone wall outward. Quickly, walked through the darkness of the musty corridor. Tall shadows wavered wildly on the wall as Tracy continue walking briskly through the damp passage.
At the end of the tunnel, a small room opened into a much larger one with no windows and no light filtering in. Empty except for the elegantly carved Cherrywood casket mounted upon a stone pedestal dead center in the otherwise vacant room. Reaching for a curved wooden stake lying on the stand next to the container, she pulled the stake towards her and reached for the casket's lid. Tracy flinched at the grating noise as she raised the cover to reveal the seemingly dead body of her husband.
Shaking uncontrollably, Tracy placed the sharp wooden tip directly over Duncan's heart and pressed. Reaching with her other hand, she grabbed the mallet and poised it over the stake. One…maybe two whacks, and they would all be free. Choking back the sob that threatened to escape, she dropped the mallet and tossed the stake away. She couldn't. Slammed the coffin lid shut, sealing her fate for all eternity.
He came to her always cloaked in darkness, the warmth of the sun never touching his face. Lying in bed in their chamber, she heard him coming for her—each footstep like the sound of a Brass gong announcing her impending doom. Tracy remembered when she first met Duncan. It was at the Beltane festival held at Inverness. Raven-haired, unusual silvery eyes centered in a ruggedly handsome face. Tracy felt like she was in a dream when they exchanged vows a short six months later.
Another step closer to the bed-chamber echoing in the hall outside her room, the danger was fast approaching. Tracy tried not to think about what was coming ever so closer to her. Instead, she decided to pull the better memories of her happiness with Duncan. They had so many beautiful years together, until him. The tall, pale stranger Duncan befriended.
It was little things at first. They were staying out late drinking or gambling. Then came dying servants with strange marks on their necks. Soon spread whispers about that Sinclair castle was cursed. The devil himself walked upon Sinclair land. Vampire!
The wretched word spreading like the plague throughout the countryside, and the serf's crossed their fingers as Duncan rode through their village. Tracy didn't believe in Vampires at the time but knew if she didn't deal with the unwanted guest, the villagers would rise against them.
One morning Tracy rose early while Duncan and his foul friend slept off the ravages of their last night outing. She went to the guest room to have a word with Duncan's companion, but when Tracy opened the door, she saw him lying there in the middle of the bed with dirt. Dark brown soil acting like a coverlet over his sleeping body. She knew then that rumors were fact; he was a Vampire!
Tracy quickly searched for a stake, and before having second thoughts, she rammed it into the fiend's chest. The human-looking monster jerked upright, screaming in pain before bursting into flames, but that wasn't what frightened her. At the same time, he shrieked, so did her husband, Duncan.
The horrible sound galvanized her, and she ran to their bedroom only to see trails of crimson trailing down his reddened eyes. Duncan was crying tears of blood. Looking up, he saw her frozen in the doorway.
"What mischief have your wroth, my sweet?" Embers of flame burning in those silvery orbs.
Tracy wasn't sure what was going on, but it seemed as if Duncan had felt the demons' death. "I know not of what you speak, husband." The lie heavy on her tongue.
She saw the answering response flame within those pale orbs. He knew. Oh god, he knew. What had she done? She thought she was freeing them of that thing's foul touch. Had she instead cursed them even more?
"Come here wife," holding his hand towards her. Willing her to move towards the bed. Tracy fought the impulse but stilled when she saw the Scarlet glow in his eyes when she resisted.
She tried not to think about how chilly his hands felt upon her skin or the sharp pain of incisors piercing her tender neck. Nay, instead, Tracy wanted to remember him as the man she married. The man she would always love even after the darkness had claimed him back when he was still human.
So, when the door finally opened. When he walked to the side of the bed and reached for her, she didn't resist. Tracy didn't pull away when Duncan's hand began to caress her soft curves, and as the heat builds, she felt the sharp pain of his teeth blend with the passion as her life's blood flowed into his veins.
Her last coherent thought she should have killed him back when she was still human and hated herself because she couldn't. Alive or dead, Duncan still did things to her heart.