Home > The Vampire Curse

The Vampire Curse
Author: Ali Winters

Chapter One






“Shall we go meet our guests?” Lawrence says, striding toward the door. Any lingering emotion over my refusal to mark Clara has vanished from his demeanor.

I clench my fists at my sides. The empty glass in my hand shatters and the shards fall to the floor at my feet, crunching underfoot as I turn.

I don’t even feel the sting of cuts along my palm, though they are healed before I’m halfway across the room.

From their perch on the mantle of the fireplace, Cherno lifts their small head and cocks it to the side in silent question. I jerk my chin in the direction of Clara’s room in answer, then I am out of the office and at the front door of the manor two seconds later, with Lawrence following at my heels.

Mr. Steward waits by the door for me to give him orders. Usually, he would greet any visitors and bring them into the drawing room to await my arrival. Tonight, I dismiss him. I’d rather not have these visitors get any ideas about his purpose in this household.

Once he is safely away, I open the door.

Three vampires stride from the black carriage, their attire is equally dark, and without a shred of any other color. The female—though the weakest of the lot—ascends the steps, preceding the two men.

“Della,” I say, infusing as much cheer into my voice as possible. “I was beginning to think you would never grace Windbury with your radiance.”

“You are full of demon shit, Mr. Devereaux,” she says, but a smile still graces her lips as she enters. Della runs a finger along the edge of my jaw, her long nail scratching at my skin. I feel small beads of blood well up before the cut knits itself back together.

Della’s eyes remain locked on Lawrence. She doesn’t slow until she stands before him, her chest pressed to his. She reaches up to the back of his head to pull him down to place a kiss on his mouth. He doesn’t return the kiss, but he doesn’t fight it either, he just allows it to happen.

A pale white and gold rat scurries from her shoulder to his, flicking Della’s chin length black hair with the pink whip-like tail.

Lawrence left his demon with Della. It was his way of keeping an eye on the others. His distrust in such a seemingly ordinary gesture tells me all I need to know.

“I missed you too, Arinah,” Lawrence whispers as the demon nuzzles him with their little pink nose.

I face the two vampires standing just outside the threshold.

Cassius wears his white blond hair loose as always. Though now it has grown more than halfway down his back from the shoulder length it was the last time we crossed paths.

The other man? Him, I do not know.

“It has been a long time, friend,” I say, greeting only Cassius, though he is anything but a friend.

“Are you not going to invite us in?” he asks. His expression is passive, the only hint of his true thoughts show in a singularly raised brow.

A breeze picks up, bringing with it the bite of an early winter chill—another reminder that in two months, Clara and I will venture north and face Elizabeth. But if I have any say in the matter, we will avoid it altogether.

The demons in the forest howl as they emerge for the night. They are louder than usual—closer.

I hold in a curse. Their presence has been an ever-increasing problem lately that demands more and more of my attention. And I must go out again soon to chase them back.

However, with my newly arrived guests to keep me occupied, I don’t know how or when I will be able to take care of the encroaching demons or find the cause, let alone keep any one of these vampires from draining every last drop of blood from Clara’s veins.

“Yes, please come in, Cassius… and,” I pause, finally turning to the unknown man.

Red rings his irises. It is not an uncommon sight for a vampire needing to feed, but he is the only one showing that trait at this moment. He would have fed with the others. Which only means one thing—his bloodlust is barely contained.

My blood boils. Upon hearing I claimed a human for the first time, Elizabeth has deemed fit to send a newly created vampire to my home.

“I don’t think we have had the pleasure of meeting yet,” I say with false pleasantries. “I am Alaric Devereaux.”

His hair is short and is a mix of blond and light brown. His clothes are neatly pressed without a single stitch out of place—exactly how Elizabeth prefers us. In his left, he carries a fat toad, thick with warts.


“Victor Connors.” He holds out his hand.

It takes a long moment to understand what the reptile’s presence means.

Rather than taking his hand, I step back and gesture for them to enter.

“Did you drive the horses with demons?” Lawrence asks. “I only arrived a few hours ago myself. You were a good two days behind me.”

The door clicks shut, silencing the night song of demons.

I walk through the manor, knowing they will all follow. I don’t trust the lot behind me with my life—or anyone else’s for that matter—but it would be a show of weakness to watch them. So I keep my head forward.

Cassius lets out a hearty laugh. “We did find some minor demons to possess them,” he admits with hubris. “We didn’t want to miss anything… interesting.”

Fifty years spent as Elizabeth’s lapdog has done nothing for his arrogance.

The next few days will be long and tedious.

Mrs. Westfield hurries out of the drawing room as we near, careful to keep her eyes downcast, and hands clasped before her.

Once we have all settled, I serve each a glass of blood. Not enough to be considered a meal. Being several hours old, it has lost its warmth and is not up to my standards. I do not pour myself a glass, but it’s enough to tell them—you are not welcome here.

Lawrence sits in one of the two wingback chairs, Della lies spread across the chaise lounge looking as though she awaits many servants to cater to her every whim and desire.

Victor glares down at his glass, wrinkling his nose in distaste. That doesn’t stop him from throwing his head back and drinking it in one swallow. His tongue darts out to lick up a stray drop lingering in the corner of his mouth. He runs a finger along the inside of his glass and sucks the last bits of blood.

I will need to test his weakness. How far can he be pushed before he gets close to his breaking point?

“We should have brought our own humans with us,” Della whispers to Lawrence loud enough for everyone to hear. She sips from her glass, the blood staining her lips. Everyone in the room can hear her, though no one acknowledges her words. She walks a thin line of disrespect for a lesser vampire.

Cassius stands stoically before the fire, drinking his glass like it was a finely aged brandy.

“Where is the fresh blood?” Victor asks.

Della and Lawrence stare at him in horror, or perhaps they are just surprised that anyone would voice such an insulting question to someone who could rip him apart with little effort. He is indeed newly sired if simple games are beyond him. Elizabeth was a fool to send him.

“If you are not pleased,” I say, straightening my cuffs and infusing as much disinterest into my voice as possible, “you are free to stay at one of the local inns instead, or leave and return to Nightwich.”

Cassius crosses the room to stand by my side and throws an arm over my shoulder. I want to push him off, but doing so would be a direct insult to Elizabeth, and she is already causing me enough of a headache all the way from her miserable castle in the Sunfall mountains. She is in everything that is said and done since Lawrence arrived on my doorstep.

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