The Vampire’s Mark
Copyrighted by Terry Spear
Misty Wellington stared at the shop, the windows dark and dreary, tendrils of smoke drifting in the air from incense, flickering flames of candles—a Goth hangout. So why was she here?
Ever since one of her hunter girlfriends dragged her here, she couldn’t stay away. And yet, she hated the strange exotic fragrances, the dusty bottles claiming love potions and cures for any and every ailment, the darkness. Even the woman who ran the shop added to the gloomy atmosphere. Emaciated, she dressed in long black gowns like she was stuck in an earlier time, still in mourning for a loved one, except for the twelve silver balls piercing her ears and the one in the right brow. Her hair—black spiked with gray streaks—looked like she was prematurely graying. Her face, though gaunt, had an ageless beauty.
Her fathomless black eyes affected Misty the most. The way they seemed ancient and all knowing. The woman wasn’t a vampiress, but something else, Misty would bet her life savings. Something else that was as old as time, evil, or just fed up with living. Misty wasn’t sure. The woman seemed as unhappy and dark and moody as the store.
Misty rubbed her shoulder where the vampire had marked her as a child, the scar burning whenever she felt uncomfortable. And right now it felt as if a sword was slicing right through it. But if she drove off and didn’t enter the store, she’d return later, before it closed. She couldn’t help it. Something drew her back, day after day. She didn’t know what she was looking for. The woman’s shop was always full of new items—that looked just as old as anything else that had sat on the shelf for years—but Misty knew the thing she needed was here.
Letting out her breath in exasperation, Misty threw open her car door, and climbed out. Today, maybe she’d find what she was looking for, and then she’d never return here again.
Two Goths stared at Misty as she pulled the squeaking door open to the shop, an old bell jingling her entrance. In her old blue jeans and T-shirt proclaiming, “Save the Frog, Forget the Prince!”—her long blonde hair curling about her shoulders, and not a piercing anywhere, she figured they thought she looked pretty strange, coming in here.
The owner was running an adding machine in the back office, the way she always did at first, allowing the customers to look their fill before she greeted them in her somber way. Misty figured nobody would dare steal from her, or she’d cast a curse on them, or something.
The Goths whispered behind her back, but with her enhanced huntress hearing, she caught the conversation.
“What does she think she’s doing in here?” the girl with the shaved head said. “I mean, look at that getup! It screams boring.”
The guy snorted. “She’s a wannabe. But too scared to take the first step. Plain uncool, if you ask me.”
Yeah, but if Misty jerked down her T-shirt and exposed the vampire’s jagged white scar across her shoulder, would that impress them? She bet they didn’t have any cuttings that looked that wicked and lived to tell the tale.
She glanced at a shelf of dusty jars filled with liquids, streaks of colors blending and shifting as if they had a life of their own, mesmerizing the viewer, their ancient labels blurred, unreadable. She imagined the contents weren’t FDA approved. But she was curious what they claimed to do for the customer.
Incense and burners covered several shelves and one wall was filled with racks of clothes, black, black, and more black. The Goths were rifling through them. The guy pulled out one featuring a skull with a nose ring and showed it to Misty, raising his brows as if asking her opinion. She wanted to shake her head, her real opinion—it looked too comical to be sinister enough, if that was the look he was going for.
She shrugged. He snickered. She smiled inwardly.
She saw an antique looking jewel box, the jewels encrusted in dust and she opened it up to see a red velvet lining and a place to insert a ring. And then she saw it—a gold ring with a ruby on top, calling to her to put it on, begging, luring. Heart beating rapidly, she set the box on the shelf and closed it.
“Special today only,” the owner said, coming up behind Misty so quietly, she hadn’t noticed her there before. Chills swept down her spine and goosebumps dotted her skin.
Misty shook her head. “No, thanks. Don’t need rings. Never wear them.” She lifted her hands to show her unadorned fingers, two showing a band of white where she’d worn two different rings—one from her fiancé and the other from her mother. Both stolen from her a year ago while she was sleeping, her fiancé and mother both dead from an encounter with a vampire.
She swallowed the lump in her throat. She knew vampire hunters were at risk, just as cops and firefighters were in their line of work. Yet, she’d never thought he and her mother would die. Never thought he wouldn’t be there to protect her, just like she never thought she wouldn’t be there to protect him or her mother either.
She looked at the box again, the jewels on top fake, but simulated to look like emeralds, amethyst, and blood red rubies. And dusty, she reminded herself. She didn’t need any more dust collectors. So why did she turn to ask the woman how much the box was?
“For you, ten dollars.”
She hadn’t even asked the price yet!
“Thanks, don’t need it. I don’t wear rings.” She thought she’d made the point already. She didn’t want the ring in the box. It was huge and gaudy. Pretentious. Fake. And the ring box, silver, jeweled, not her style. She preferred ordinary, plain, contemporary.
Misty perused the shop some more, looking for who knew what, amazed at how few customers the woman had, but she also had new merchandise to fill in the dusty spots where old merchandise had disappeared. Misty didn’t see anything she wanted, like usual, glanced back at the ring box again, and she swore it was as if everything around it vanished and a soft glow surrounded it.
She should just leave. No way was she taking that ugly thing home with her. Ten dollars was a total waste of money. She’d see it sitting next to her blue glass vase of fresh lilies and the current book she was reading, Forbidden Love, about a vampire who loved a huntress but they were star-crossed lovers forever unless they could break a curse.
How many times had she wished she had someone to love her like that? Not a vampire though. She was a huntress like the heroine in the story, but still, she loved how much they loved each other all the way back to the Highlands of Scotland and for all eternity.
Misty stalked back to the jewelry box and lifted the top. The ring wasn’t there.
Okay, so this was too weird. She closed the box, opened the box. No ring.
She set it on the shelf, turned, and walked out of the store as the owner called out, “Come back anytime.”
It made Misty think of the lyrics from the song “Hotel California,” that the person could check into the hotel anytime he liked, but he could never leave.
Her hand on the door handle of her car, she stopped in place. She had never been interested in anything in the store before. She had never felt anything like the compelling urge she had to hold the jewel box, to see the contents inside. And what was up with the ring and then it just vanished?
She let out her breath and stalked back inside. So she was going to waste her money on one stupid jewelry box, but maybe this would end the morbid fascination she had with the store.
She grabbed the box up and went to the counter.
“You will not be disappointed,” the woman said.
Misty was already disappointed that she would shell out her hard-earned money for something she truly didn’t need and most likely would get rid of at the first opportunity. Working as a library clerk barely paid the bills.
“You will love the emerald. It’s very old, but worn by Lady Desmond centuries ago.”
“Emerald? It had a fake ruby stone. Well, I mean, I thought I saw a ring, but then it wasn’t really there.”
“Ruby?” the woman said frowning as if that was not a good sign at all. She quickly wrapped it up. “That is odd.” But then she pasted on a sinister smile. “Enjoy. May you find what you’re looking for.”
Misty stared at the woman in disbelief. That’s what she’d hope this was. The item she’d been looking for and that would end this bizarre obsession to come here. Ugh. She took the black bag and headed out the door.
Emerald? Ruby? Yeah, whatever.
She got into her car and meant to go straight home, put away the groceries she’d picked up, and do some laundry. She stuck her key in the ignition and couldn’t start the engine, not with wanting to see if there truly was a ring in the box and she had imagined it wasn’t there. She glanced at the black bag sitting on the passenger’s seat. There was no ring in the box.
She pulled the wrapped jewelry box out of the bag and unwrapped it. Then she opened the lid. Inside was the “ruby” ring.
She reached in to touch it, to prove to herself it wasn’t there. But when her fingers touched it, the gold was solid and warm. She slipped it on her finger to prove to herself it was real and not just her imagination.
And then she was standing in woods, misty, dark, spooky. A startled raven flew out of the brush right in front of her, making her scream. An omen of impending death, or a messenger of life.
The shop and the rest of the town had vanished. Her car. Everything gone but the woods. A raven cawing unseen.
The ring. She tried to pull it off, but it wouldn’t budge.
The sound of fighting off in the distance, swords clashing, made her look in that direction. And then horse’s hoof beats pounded the ground headed straight for her.
She expected to see the headless horseman. Or the vampire wearing a cloak and riding like the wind, the one who had marked her that he was coming for her.
Not a brawny Highlander wearing a kilt, shirt, and padded leather vest, and a fierce scowl enough to frighten anyone into their grave. If that wasn’t enough, he was wielding a targe and sword, as if he was ready to cut her in two.
She dropped the stupid jewelry box, threw up her hands in defense, yes, yes, she should have run off. Right. From a man on horseback? Come on. She knew that wouldn’t do any good.
Instead of cutting her down, he scooped her up and muttered in some ancient language, held her tight, and kissed her. “Lady Everline, you have returned to me. You are mine once again.”
Now this, she could live with!
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Huntress Alena MacLeod is given a mission: work undercover to discover a rogue vampire’s secretive work, then terminate him.Ephraim MacNeill, aka Sutton Bastrop, knows Alena is his Elizabeth MacLeod from an earlier time, and he’s determined to return to the past and right all the wrongs to end the curse placed on the love of his life before it’s too late—again.Together, they must risk all to stop a war between a newly formed Brotherhood of rogue vampires, tired of the status quo, and the League of Hunters, who have ruled for centuries over the vampires—both changed during the Black Death—some of the survivors becoming vampires, and others hunters of the same.
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