Vampires pressed around me on every side. The veil of mist was thick, slithering over my clammy skin with the fluttery touch of a ghostly apparition. Devon’s hand kept a firm hold on my waist as he guided my uncertain steps. My vampire protectors kept close. They were taking no chances, shielding me with their bodies, moving quickly.
The gate of the nunnery materialized so near, we almost bumped into it. Beyond it, the grounds were totally clear of mist, the floodlights and moonlight creating a virtual oasis of color, an island of light floating on an ocean of darkness. I felt its welcome, a haven promising safety and comfort.
“Do not be fooled,” murmured Devon. “There are dangers lurking there as well. Different kinds of danger but perilous all the same.”
I wanted to smack him for being so pessimistic and ruining my moment of delusion, but I knew he was right. I could not let my guard down. However, as long as I didn’t have to deal with any berserkers or raging-mad monks, I would be fine. Catty women and petty jealousies, I could handle.
The gate opened. Three women stood silently waiting for me to step into the grounds. I turned back to my companions, who watched me with grave eyes full of longing. Devon, Giles, and Kye: my lovers, my protectors, my vampires. I did not wish to part from them.
Once the gate closed behind me, I would not see them for a full year. The thought made me want to burst into tears. A few weeks ago, I’d no idea they existed. Now, I was tethered to them by my insecurities and passions. The fact they were blood-sucking, dark creatures whose loyalties were bound to a berserker vampire I feared worse than death, made little difference.
A small sob escaped my throat. I threw myself into Devon’s arms, clinging to him in misery. He might be a vampire, but he was all I had. They were all I had in this dark new world of blood and magic. My previous life was irretrievably lost to me.
“It will be all right, love. A year will pass quickly.”
He pulled me back to look into his intense, dark eyes. His long, straight black hair fell like a waterfall over his shoulder to brush mine. His impeccably trimmed Anchor beard framed lips made for kissing. He was my fantasy pirate made flesh.
“Remember all the things we talked about. Trust no one. Observe all. Reach out to me if you sense danger.” He kissed me deeply. His arms were strong, yet gentle. I longed to stay in his embrace, sensing his reluctance to let me go.
Giles, his beautiful, layered hair fluttering in the breeze, gazed down at me with a look of tenderness. “We have friends here too. Keep your wits about you and find them. You will not be alone.” He pulled me to him, held me tightly, then kissed me passionately before handing me over to Kye.
“There are no vamps in there. No males at all. Don’t go lesbian on us! I want you back exactly as you are.” He smiled at me in his mischievous, endearing way, and I could not help but break out in laughter. Kye, the youngest and least disciplined of my companions, always made me laugh. I would miss him so much.
I threw my arms around him and hugged him. He found my lips and kissed them hungrily. “In a year’s time, I will find my control. I promise,” he said. “We’ll have so much fun then!”
With one last hug and kiss for Kye, I turned my back on my vamps and stepped across the open gate, into the protected grounds. I know it was my overactive imagination, but I felt like Daniel Jackson entering the Stargate for the first time. I slipped into a watery, invisible barrier which disappeared as I stepped across. The Goa’uld awaited me; except in this case, they were called witches.
Witches, for God’s sake. All I knew about them could be summarized in one sentence: they were creatures of the devil, serving evil, and doing evil’s work. This was learned from my mother, who was devoutly religious and highly prejudiced against the subject.
Her beliefs were steeped in the deep superstitions of Spanish Catholicism. She feared witchcraft and held it as devil’s worship. My mother always crossed herself when the word was mentioned.
Mom attended what was likely the oldest Catholic capilla in Miami. Her priest was at least eighty and often rattled off in Latin, leaving his dwindling audience baffled. The ancient church still held Holy Week processions for the Virgin Mary.
There was a crucifix hanging above my mom’s bed. I found this totally disturbing. I could not imagine how she could ever have made love to my father with the thing hanging over her head. However, she never once said anything about vampires. I guess vampires were not mentioned in the Bible. It might explain why I’ve accepted them so easily. There is a great deal of my mother in me.
As the gate closed behind me, separating me from my powerful vampire guard, I felt vulnerable and afraid. The year loomed ahead, interminable and full of unimaginable dangers. The incredibly powerful witch, Ygraine, was one such peril. In her hands, I’d been as helpless as a puppet. Here, there may be a hundred witches, all powerful. All had personal agendas and unknown alliances.
I stepped forward into the unknown. Please, God, let me survive the next two days!
The young witch sprawled on his bed, naked and lush like a fresh, ripe, plump peach. He’d just finished making love to her, but being young and lusty, she would be ready for more in a few minutes. He straddled the old-fashioned porcelain basin and splashed water over his glistening manhood the same way he’d done it hundreds of years ago. He was a creature of habits.
“Why her? Am I not enough for you?” the girl asked, her words brimming with jealousy. It was a weakness all witches shared. It made them terribly annoying but easy to manipulate.
“My beauty,” he continued to dry his goods as he spoke in his most soothing and enticing voice. “You are the reason I live and breathe. I do not lust for this girl. She is a means to an end. She is a companion to vampires, specifically to Giancarlo De Medici’s powerful coven. I need her as a spy, not a lover. For that, I have you.” He stood to face her, his long, arching penis already hardening.
The girl rolled over to lean on her elbows, her wide, hungry eyes sliding over his impressive, hard body. Her small tongue darted out to slide seductively over her lush, rosy lips. Her milky-white breasts, oversized and heavy in proportion to her ribcage, poured forward, stretching her aureoles to a shine.
Yes, she will do nicely, he thought. “Come love, let’s splash some water between your lovely thighs. I like my playground clean and fresh.” The girl rose from the bed and approached him slowly, seductively, smiling her cat’s smile.
She was so young and so canny already, he observed. In his youth, girls her age were held closely guarded by jealous nannies and governesses, kept innocent as driven snow until marriage or the convent claimed them. In these modern times, hunting was so easy for him.
She straddled the porcelain basin like the Paris whores of decades past, and he took the scented soap and delved into the soft, bronze curls as his lips settled on her delicious mouth. He loved this modern world.
Later, as she dressed, he whispered a spell of persuasion to wrap around his words. “It will be simple for a girl with your skills. Mirror watching is child’s play.”
She pouted prettily, flashing him a petulant glance as she tucked her bountiful breasts into a lacy, too-delicate bra. “You are not just asking me to watch. You are asking me to report to you, to spy. If caught, I can be sent home. My family would disown me, or worse, marry me off to some decrepit, rich old man.”
He remained silent for a long moment as if mulling over her words. Then he played his best card. He went to her, head slightly tilted, dark eyes smoldering with desire. He placed his arms around her and pulled her tightly to him.
“You are right. I don’t know what I was thinking. You are too important to me. I cannot risk you. Forget about it. Forget I ever mentioned it. I am sure I can find another to do it.” It took only a moment for her to pull up and look into his eyes, her own glowing with determination.
“I will do it. There is no need to involve anyone else. I will do it for you.”
He bent to take her lips in a bruising, passionate kiss. “That’s my girl. Not only beautiful, but sexy, brave, daring, and true. And mine, all mine.”
A few moments later, the girl disappeared in the blink of an eye, returning to her quarters in the warded grounds. Grounds that he, the most powerful warlock in existence, could not enter. He bristled with fury.
“Why is such power wasted on women, the least worthy of all female creatures on the planet?” he murmured to himself. “Give them the most astounding powers, and a man could still seduce, bend them to his will, and destroy them by whispering a few sweet words in their ears and giving them a few meager crumbs of pleasure.”
Rose would not come so easily. She was not a witch, and she had the vampires to protect her. Curse her mother and grandmother for making things so difficult. But his plans were excellent; in the end, he would win. Centuries of waiting and planning were coming to fruition. She was the one. He was sure. The vampires sensed her potential; he was convinced it was the reason they chose her.
He went to the closet and spent more time than most men would, selecting his clothes for the day. What he wore to entice the little witch would not do for a gentleman’s day. He was fastidious to a fault and vain about his looks.
He abhorred the way many modern males took no pride in their appearance, eating to obesity and dressing in oversized, short pants like children. Unkempt hair and beards, he found especially offending and indicative of a weak, lazy character.
His glossy, dark, wavy hair was always meticulously cut and brushed close to his head. His smooth, olive skin was cleanly shaved. His teeth, all original, were strong and pearly white. His body, even after centuries of living, was strong and muscular. His life’s energy still thrummed potently through his body. Sexually, he was inexhaustible.
He was not beautiful, but he knew he was magnetic and charismatic. Without the use of any magical glamour, he could pass for a man in his prime. It was all, of course, bought with his sacrifice long ago. Centuries of youth, vigor, and power, paid for with an unspeakable act of betrayal.
In the end, all things are acquired in exchange for other things. The balance is in the give and take. The more valuable the take, the more expensive the give. He’d given his most loved and valuable treasure in exchange for power and life. No witch could do it. No witch would dare do what he’d done. No mere woman would be strong enough to pay the price.
A woman’s face came to his mind, a memory he kept away forcefully on most days. A flash of longing followed by glimmerings of guilt and pain were quickly squashed under the weight of his will. He pushed all unpleasant thoughts away and focused his thoughts on the plans at hand. He would see the girl soon.