Nightmareland

Happy Halloween Horror Lovers!

From the creators of the #1 bestseller The Box Under The Bed horror anthology and its #1 bestseller sequel Dark Visions, comes Nightmareland . . .

A horror anthology with 23 stories from 14 authors!

In a rundown shack deep in the woods, a high school girl dares herself to try the strange new drug all the kids are talking about. One injection of “Nightmareland” is all it takes to unleash a person’s biggest fears to them – and then they are on their own! But rebellious Jessica thinks she will prove herself to her peers and parents.
Tremble along as she is strapped into the chair and becomes a lost child on a Florida party island, an investigator looking into a circus’ bizarre side shows, an abused prisoner locked away in a desolate concrete cell, and much more as Jessica faces the most terrifying ride of her young life.
Compiled by USA Today bestselling author Dan Alatorre, this anthology of horror once again unites the minds and pens of more than a dozen amazing authors.

Nightmareland will send you into the foggy twilight of the eerie and macabre, with heart stopping stories from:

USA Today bestselling author Dan Alatorre (The Navigators),

award-winning bestselling author Robbie Cheadle

award-winning bestselling author Ellen Best

award-winning author Kaye Booth

award-winning bestselling author Betty Valentine

award-winning bestselling author Alana Turner

award-winning bestselling author Christine Valentor

award-winning bestselling author Nick Vossen

award-winning bestselling author Alana Turner

award-winning bestselling author Victoria Clapton

award-winning bestselling author Anne Marie Andrus

award-winning bestselling author Adele Marie Park

award-winning bestselling author Barbara Anne Helberg

award-winning bestselling author MD Walker

award-winning bestselling author Dabney Farmer

award-winning bestselling author M J Mallon

Perfect for Halloween or any time, these stories will make you think twice before spending the night alone, watching TV with family, or even going on a casual boat ride.

 

CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED!!

Read Now!

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Short Story Friday Night

Under The Square

by
Anne Marie Andrus

chicory, humidity, decadence

 

Trickles of murky water danced between shadows and fractures on the underground wall. Flickering candles twisted wilted blooms and innocent stone angels into a jungle of goblins.

“If you’re still fussing, you should have started earlier.” A redheaded vampire flashed through the arched doorway and scowled at his watch. “This space will never be anything but a tomb disguised as a fancy courtyard.”

“Like the desolate streets above us, masquerading as our city?” A man in a tuxedo slicked his mohawk straight up and adjusted his bow tie. “I thought you said rebirth was near, Mister Steven.”

“It’s so close, I can taste it. You’ve followed my instructions to the final detail?”

“Haven’t I always, sir?”

“As much as humanly possible, I guess.” Steven pointed to a steaming carafe. “Pour.”

The man’s shoulders slumped. “What am I now, your waiter?”

“I didn’t mean…that came out all wrong. Pour me a taste, Zachary. Pretty please.” Silence and a smirk followed his lingering sip. “Ah, silky smooth with a viper’s bite.”

“One coffee blunder was humiliating enough.” Zachary tipped his chin in the air. “That other swill tasted like it was blended with the ashes of the dead.”

“Sure wasn’t chicory.” Steven shuddered. “Ick.”

“Don’t worry. The tool who sold it to me, is at the bottom of the river.”

Steven planted one hand on his hip. “So, where did this brew come from?”

“Cross’ the lake.”

“Hope you’re taking my bodyguards when you leave the French Quarter.”

“So much gloom, even your soldiers can’t tell where the safe zone ends and enemy territory begins anymore. Sun hasn’t come out in years.”

“Yet, the dreadful humidity remains. Just to remind us we’re home.” Steven snapped the cuffs of his dress shirt. He inspected the linen tablecloths, uncovered serving dishes, smiled at the scent of peppermint and turned his nose up at licorice. “My chocolate?”

“All your favorites.” Zachary bowed in front of the dessert tower. “Amaretto, raspberry, almond hazelnut…but, the hazelnut still sucks.” He tapped the artery in his neck. “How bout’ a taste of this?”

“Later. Be available,” Steven said. “Eat a little cinnamon.”

“You…are damn bossy.”

Steven waggled his finger. “Leaders delegate, Zach.”

“Oh well, excuse me.” Zachary plucked a sugar cube from the pristine buffet and dropped it on his tongue. “Will it be the usual guest list tonight?”

“Yes, and I’m sure you’ll hate them all.”

“They turn the room frigid. Swear I can see my breath.” Zachary pointed to the fountain. “Your snooty, light-up water feature was frozen solid after last week’s festivities.”

“There’s a method to my madness. We’ll need the allegiance of all the coven leaders, from every corner of the globe—even the villains—to take back New Orleans.”

“Hmph.” Zachary crossed his arms. “Bastards do seem impressed. You’re still the king of decadence, like in the old days.”

“Just wait for the new days.” Steven leaned over the pastel bubbles and watched glittery fish spinning in circles. “When our family is back in power, all this melancholy will be a distant memory.”

“What about that man with the sapphire eyes?”

“You mean the warrior?” Steven sighed dramatically.

“He’s more than politics to you, isn’t he?”

“Is that a hint of green demon I hear in your voice?”

“After so many years of us…” Zachary shuffled his feet and stared at the fish. “Never mind.”

“His fire, his army—that blood.” Steven spun and pumped his fists. “The warrior is our savior. He holds the keys to an empire.”

Zachary stepped back, but not in time to avoid Steven patting his cheek as if he were a petulant child.

“My empire.” Steven flashed back through the arch. “All mine.”

♦♦♦

This story was originally written for the “3 Word Challenge” on the blog Bonnywood Manor, home of fabulous writer and friend Brian Lageose.

Check him out!

Short Story Friday

OFFICE INTRIGUE IN THE FUTURE

a short story by Elizabeth Lemons

5 JULY 2019

WORDS TO USE:
time travel, trousers, supervise, identity,
mustard, kitchen, successfully, law, fly, tooth

Picture, if you will, a futuristic hub of legal counseling and representation. It is the year 2050, and our scene begins in a very posh, upscale law office that is located in the Plutonian Upper Galaxy, inside the central super dome which holds inside the prestigious legal firm known as DEWEY, SCREWEM, and HOWE.

If you are equipped with just a bit of imagination and I-GGPS (inter-galactic GPS) for precise time travel expedience, perhaps you can imagine true masters of the Universe as they daily gather around the water cooler-tablet dispenser, wearing the latest in expensive spacesuits, trendily colored in purples, cobalt blues, or mustard golds. They are complete boring-ass clones of one another, there is no speck of personal identity amongst their entire gathering.

The notion of doing one’s own individual “thing” unfortunately died tragically over thirty years ago in an Earthly city called New Orleans when a priestly dude called Dr. John exited human existence and vacated the great Blue Ball, taking with him all his mystical and voodoo-y powers of human exclusiveness. Since earth is no more, he and all other musicians, artists of all types, chefs, and writers (now eternally converted to their astral mo-jo selves) have been sent to daily rule in the Misfit Realm on Planet Funky. Untouched, unbothered and still unaccountable, these artistic Uniques, to this very day, continue to create amongst mellow hippie vibes, bathed forever in the scents of patchouli, surrounded by fresh icedrop sky flowers, and are forever content in a secreted place located remotely far from the Galactic Daily Grind.

So, the unspoken rule of the Undulating Universe these days is to simply fit it and make no intrusive waves of any kind. Unseen and unheard is the accepted best policy. Aloft here in the Galaxy, making fortunes off the misfortunes of others, are each of our attorneys, who dress and accessorize his or her own ensembles with prerequisite “men-in-black” sunglasses which hide emotion and permit planetary apperation. Heartless, blood-sucking attorneys, just the same in today’s time, as in days of old. Only concerned with the bottom line and filling their pockets. These lawful gods and goddesses of destruction daily wake inside their personal pristine monotone and meteoric dwelling pods, and stare into stardust mirrors, purchased illegally, (they “know” someone) on the bootleg market, completely enthralled with how their own “personal flare for justice” will surely successfully save the solar system from foreboding doom that is sure to come. Then, just before they fly from home dome back to another work day, they usually flash a fake smile at themselves as a gold tooth sparkles back at them from the looking glass. “Ding!”

They have forgotten what happened on Earth when their precedents attempted to do the same.

Between the dull-roar hours of 10am and 11am SST (Stardust Standard Time), a daily work meeting convenes in the Conference Room/Kitchen at this place of prestige on weekdays other than Friday. On this particular morning, a Tuesday, several of the lawyers have grabbed a bagel tablet or two, cream cheese tablets, with coffee pastilles, and some of the younger suits chose Taco tablets because Taco Tuesday still remains a thing, even in modern times. It is more than fine to consume a couple of jumbo Margarita tablets for the purpose of washing down the combo pills of chips and salsa. Alcoholism and DUI’s are a thing of the long-ago past, and now a person can consume anything without fear of disease, weight-gain or other stigma. They sit in an oval circle, around a pellucid table, with an actual live view of the Aurora Borealis surrounding them through the crystal-clear outer wall. Many an intended thought has been forever lost in that kaleidoscopic abyss of starry gas and neon colour.

A particular tall attorney whose job it is to supervise the group (some think he resembles the earthly actor known as Will Smith) calls the work meeting to order. Beside him sits his assistant, Atreya. He clears his throat and begins, “Good morning, team. Glad you all found some nourishment. I know you all have a busy day ahead, so we will jump right into things on our agenda.” Felbar gestures towards the pad of notation known by today’s techies as a Warrior Z that lay on the floating invisible table before him.

“Atreya has just completed our evidence room inventory and she has reported back to me that a sensitive object is missing from its secure housing. Is there any reason that one of you might have relocated the evidence ID’ed as item # ERTH-69-VMP for an ongoing case? I can’t imagine what that might be.”

Not a sound can be heard in the room. Felbar continues with a smirk. “OK, alright…or possibly maybe one of you has borrowed it for your own personal naughty role-playing use (he winks) and are now afraid of reprimand should you get caught returning this item?” Non-response continues to prevail, except for the shuffling of one of the attorneys boots on the floor. Each of the legal eagles who sit gathered around the stardeck table begin to look everywhere but at their leader, Felbar. Some fidget, some pretend to be thinking, some look from one lawyer to the next or at their fingernails, desperately trying to guess who is to blame.

After what seems like light years of uncomfortable silence, one of the younger and newest attorneys (normally they ignore her at all cost) raises her left hand up in an acknowledgment wave. “Look, I know I am new here and I admit, I have just begun to take my “better-than-human” conversion meds which I agreed to do upon hiring, and so you may or may not believe me when I tell you about something that I have witnessed. But, I swear, it is absolutely true.” Felbar casts his intense gaze onto the woman who looks both eager and simultaneously scared.

“Do tell”, Felbar encourages her.

“Well, a few weeks ago, I was assigned a pro-bono case with one of the FUNKS, from Planet Funky, the artsy types. It was not a greatly desired case, you know, but I agreed to listen, due, naturally to my inexperience, and also, you know, with being expected to learn and work my way up (you know, without standard pay, as all entry-levels do who are learning the legal ropes),” she stammers.

Felbar interjects, “yes, yes, we know.”

“Well, yes,” Aurora continues, “and so I spent some time one afternoon discussing this rather weak case which, to me, sounded like something unfounded, as if it were from a long-lost memory from Earth. A middle-aged couple came to me, wanting me to somehow help their daughter. They claimed she had been kidnapped, been violated and then, subsequently had a child. Because of this vicious accosting. I know we are to forward any of these old-school crime cases down to Legal Aid for Ancient Grieviances. Rape, kidnapping and children being born outside of ideal two-partner marriages are forbidden here in our modern world, I know this, but, well…as I said, they came here from Planet Funk. And, well, ugh, you know, they still have IDEAS about ways and means from older times on that planet. You know what I am speaking of… Basically, I just listened, recorded their concerns, and told them I would investigate and get back with them.” Aurora is practically out of breath after venting her tale.

Felbar holds his face with the fingers of his right hand as he thoughtfully responds. “And this has to do exactly WHAT with the missing evidence?”

Aurora sighs. “I don’t exactly know.”

Felbar rolls his eyes. “Please don’t waste our time, Aurora.”

“Look, all I can say is they came, and they said they thought a..,um…well, sir, they actually believed that a vampire had taken their daughter, the father was absolutely convinced that this was true. He thought someone had to be protecting this vampire and any others, and was vehement in that he would do whatever he could to stop this from ever happening again to any other young woman, or man, I guess. I suppose, under these horrific circumstances, that any father would. I am not saying this so-called vampire-person took the evidence for sure, but doesn’t it seem like it’s possible he might be the one who did?”

“Alright, Aurora.”, Feldar says soothingly. “Thank you for your …,” he smiled, “insight.” “Since we have no actual proof at this time, let’s table this for now, and move onto the next item on our agen—”

Actual giggles are heard around the table. No one believes that any of the past-known supposed fictional “mythical monsters” have outlived the downfall of Earth. Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, even mermaids have not been seen nor heard of in over half a century and are now, by most intelligent beings, deemed extinct. There have been absolutely no sightings, nor reportings or any reason at all to believe that they have somehow followed humans into the future, into space. It is believed that they all remained and consequently perished long ago on the vast, empty, lifeless, dry and brown tundra…Earth.

A lawyer called Taurean speaks with a bemused tone. “Where would they be hiding, the bloodsuckers? Here we have no cemeteries, certainly no coffins! We have no haunted houses, we have no blood banks any more. This is laughable, just so archaic!” No sympathy appears from anyone towards the possibility of Aurora’s sincere supposition.

“But, wait! Please listen, Sir! Even I know what # ERTH-69-VMP is! It is a vampire hunting box, a kit complete with holy water and stakes! Who else would want it, for that matter, how in the world would this client who came to see me even KNOW about this kit’s survival? If these and other creatures don’t exist, sir, then why in the stars would we have retained such an exhibit as evidence? Sir, why are you not taking this seriously? We need to call in experts, we need to try to find this father, before he snaps! He might remove his monitoring collar and attempt to capture this violator all on his own! What if he IS right? And what if he has decided to take things into his own hands, to hunt and kill? Sir, what if there really IS a vampire situation in the current Plutonian Galaxy?” Aurora practically shouts in her enthusiasm to help solve the case of the missing evidence.

Feldar, always the fearless leader, looks at Aurora, He slowly makes visual eye contact with each of his look-alike attorneys still sitting around the floating table. They express nothing, reveal nothing, and basically are just drones of protocol, now filled up and sanctified with salsa and coffee. Feldar turns to his ever-by-his-side assistant Atreya and he asks, “tell us, Atreya, exactly why do you think the missing item that was contained in this forever hidden-away trove has our Aurora so unhinged with fear?”

He looks at Atreya, then he turns his eyes towards the room full of attorneys, whose eyes were now like lasers, glowing a bright red. Feldar charmingly smiles. It is at that precise moment two very prominent, sharp fangs are revealed from inside Feldar’s mouth. You can hear the clicking..first from Atreya’s mouth, then from each lawyer as each of their fangs dropped and popped and who now hungrily stare at this tender young solicitor.

Aurora faints.

And thus, another daily gathering of the Inter-Galactic Plutonian Upper Galaxy law firm known as DEWEY, SCREWEM and HOWE dismisses their morning legal duties and proceeds to convene into their favorite activity of the day. What some people might call a Power Lunch.

THE END

 

Monsters & Angels: The Series

 

A lone soldier on night watch. A single bullet through the heart. Every light in Paris flickers—the city’s thundering silent scream.
When Commander Raimond Banitierre was assassinated, French Revolutionaries lost their gallant leader. After a villain’s offer of eternal life condemned him to slavery, Raimond rebelled again, driving his vampire comrades to freedom.
Raimond escapes to Savannah, Georgia where his dream of becoming a doctor comes true. During his trial-by-fire residency on the Civil War’s battlefields, he discovers his true calling—the power to preserve memories and dignity in the face of death. His chance meeting with a beguiling mortal nurse ignites passionate nights and a long overdue crack in the door to paradise.
Vicious flames and an unholy miscalculation deliver Raimond back to the depths of hell. Being arrested for treason makes him wish for death and the arrival of Prince Draven Norman appears to be the final nail in Raimond’s coffin. Will the prince’s eccentric judgement grant Raimond a true reprieve? Is Draven’s invitation to join New Orleans mystical royalty an extension of his own treachery, or the next step in Raimond’s miraculous journey?
Has the legendary Crescent City found a spirit noble enough to protect her future?

♦♦♦♦♦

 

Fledgling nurse Sorcha Alden knew she had the skills to save lives, but she never dreamed that her own life would be the one in danger.

Driven by tragedy to honor her family name, Sorcha embarks on a journey that takes her from the bleak but familiar streets of New York, through the sultry and seductive city of New Orleans, and into the brutal jungles of Nepal. Forging friendships and carrying on her mother’s mission of healing was her dream. Plunging into a love affair with the mysterious Dr. Ashayle, could have been a fairytale.

Being murdered and waking up as a blood-thirsty monster—became her living nightmare.

Torn away from a life that had just begun, Sorcha returns to New Orleans as a newborn vampire, forced to start over in a cutthroat underworld of devilry and decadence. Complicated politics, bitter rivals and jealous ancestors stand between her and the promises she’s still determined to keep.

In a realm where the boundary between good and evil is as murky as the Mississippi River and immortal does not mean invincible, will Sorcha ever risk her shattered heart and love again? Can the magical harmony of the Crescent City give her enough courage to fulfill her eternal destiny?

Sorcha’s final word will make your jaw drop!

 

AnneMarieAndrus.com

 

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Short Story Friday

New Orleans Tripping

by

Christian Terry

 

A snore awoke George as he rolled over on the cold concrete ground in an New Orleans alley. The sweet after taste of raspberry pie that he had many hours ago lingered in his dried mouth. His head throbbed. The chirping birds and the rising sun signaling the new day didn’t make it any better. “Ugh,” He groaned as he turned on his side. “What did she slip me?” He asked to the man that awoke him perched on the wall in front of him.

Instead of getting an answer the man gave him a shrug and drank out of a wrinkly brown paper bag before falling asleep. George peeled himself off of the ground to his feet then made himself leave the alleyway. Once he left he had found himself in the middle of a busy street corner where a multitude of people marched down the streets and sidewalks. While gathering his bearings a gang of musicians rushed behind him.

Each of them carrying instruments from saxophones to snare drums. This concerned George as he cleared his throat. “Can I help y’all?” He asked. The band immediately began to play “When the Saints Go Marching In” causing a scene in the center of the very busy street. George was aghast at the scene. People never did things like this in Atlanta, only in New Orleans.

He looked at his watch, it was just seven thirty in the morning. Way too early for this, he thought. George took off into the middle of the street dodging several cars as he weaved through the traffic. He made it across the street and continued to run until he could not hear any music behind him. George ducked around the corner of a building to catch his breath. At this moment he saw the flashing lights of a neon sign that read twenty four hour fortune teller. This was familiar, he thought as he brushed through the wooden door.

A very pale woman that sat behind a purple clothed round table jumped to her feet. ” Oh no, no,no, you need to leave right now!” She yelled as George looked on in confusion. In the distance a microwave timer chimed.

“Excuse me ma’am, I think I was in here last night and you put something in my drink. You said it was a magic elixir. After I drank it I awoke on a side street with a bum. I think you owe me an apology.” He said.

The woman’s eyes almost bulged out of her head. “An apology?” She screeched. “You owe me one!”

“How so?”

“Sir you barged in here yelling, ‘Who Dat?’, went into my kitchen and ate almost all of my raspberry pie by hand without cutting it. Asked me for a healing elixir. When I said I didn’t know what you were talking about you took the bottle of vinegar that sat on my counter and drank from it. Then you broke the bottle on my floor and began to dance with the band you had following behind you.” The fortune teller said almost in a single breath.

“Impossible.” George said to himself.

The woman handed him her smartphone where there was video of George clear as day doing what she had depicted in high definition video. Guilt had struck him. It was all coming back to him. George had hired a band to follow him around the French Quarter. It just cost a total of a hundred bucks to have an mini parade at the courthouse. Two hundred for the police escort which he didn’t think he needed. At the time it was the best hundred bucks he could spend. He must’ve been really wasted that he couldn’t recognize his own actions on the video. “Did…did I choose to leave?” He asked.

“No, I showed you my baseball bat and threatened to call the cops, you took off like an Olympic sprinter.” The pale lady said.

A doorbell rang and the marching band appeared, surrounded the two, and began to play. George flashed the store’s matriarch an awkward smile.


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Short Story Friday

A Lunch Date Gone Wrong

By:

Victoria Clapton

2019

 

The bright orange glow from tonight’s full moon glowed over the mostly empty benches on Jackson Square. It was a cool, autumn evening in the French Quarter. Most of the tourists and artisans headed home over an hour ago and were now missing the magical ambience that situated on the old cobblestones.

“Are you ready, Sybella Rose?” I shivered as Demien’s hand came to rest in the small of my back, reassuring me that this idea of a date, a date with a vampire, wasn’t crazy.

I held up a heavy picnic basket my friend Aloysius had filled and smiled. “Sure.”

Like me, Demien loved to go down to the river at night, to watch the waters of the Mississippi roll by in rippling shimmers, so I didn’t even ask him where we were heading for our lunch date at 2:00 a.m. Over the levee, towards the moonwalk, we had a spot.

He made no sound as he moved, guiding through shadows. Only his long dark hair, ruffled lightly in the breeze. The sweet, citrusy scent of bergamot assaulted my senses with every step he took, and I fought the irrational urge to reach out for him, to pull him into a kiss that he may not even want.

Recently, I’ve made a career at throwing myself at the almost five hundred year old vampire walking gracefully beside me. I physically could not stop myself. I needed to touch him, to consume him, to be consumed by him.

As he showed no signs of insatiable attraction, I can only assume he is not afflicted by the malady, a curse known as The Binding, as I was. This, too, his ability to ignore the urges pressed upon us, drove me even more insane.

Someone listened to Trombone Shorty in one of the cars that pass by on Decatur Street. This town, my beloved New Orleans, embraced its culture like no other place.

“Where are your thoughts?”

I hadn’t realized that Demien had paused at the crosswalk, waiting for the signal to cross over Decatur, and now scrutinized my temporary silence.

“I was just thinking about New Orleans and its artists. Such a special place.”

The walk light flickered, and we crossed the street. I did not even bother with why a vampire cares about crosswalk procedures at two in the morning. Demien was filled with so many conundrums, keeping up with them was impossible.

“That’s why we locals fight so hard to keep outsiders from ruining it.”

I panicked for a moment, right in the middle of the road, when it occurred to me I no longer held the heavy picnic basket. Demien urged me along, shaking the picnic basket he must have grabbed from me at some point as he guided me towards our lunch destination.

Nerves assaulted me. No matter how long this went on, I continued to find myself baffled at the way Demien’s presence both calmed me and shot my nerves to frazzled. I could never predict what he would do next. His actions caught me off guard.

So, I stood there on a grassy patch near the moonwalk and the river, watching him spread out a checkered picnic blanket for me to sit upon while we dined…well, while I dined.

His movements held my attention as he carefully unloaded the basket–a bowl of fruit salad, a po’ boy dressed, a few bottles of Abita Amber. The snacks kept coming, more food than I could eat.

My mouth draped open as Demien opened each item of food, arranging it beautifully before me, and then held his hand out to help me sit in the Victorian skirt I had chosen to wear tonight.

This man, this vampire, was ruthless. Terrifying. I had seen him kill. I’d felt his violent rage against me, and I could not reconcile the horror with his heart.

“How was your day?” He motioned for me to begin eating as he stretched out his impossibly long legs and leaned back on his hands.

“You’re beautiful.” I murmured, then cursed. I hated this curse. I took a breath, then I answered his original question like a normal person. “JoJo taught me how to draw a few veves today, but I had to promise not to catch anything else in the shoppe on fire.”

“Again?” There was a smile in his tone. I could not control the magick inside of me, everyone knew it. Asking me to not let my emotions take over, to not magickly ignite the voodoo shoppe or anything else into roaring flames was almost a joke.

“Look, Mr. Vampy-Pants, this is your fault.” I was teasing, but his dead body lost whatever semblance of pretend mortality he acted out as it froze into complete stillness and his gaze settled onto the water.

He had slipped back into the dark place where he resided, and I had to do something before my stupid comment ruined our lunch date.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way, you know. Believe it or not, even though you are a huge pain in my ass…I enjoy your company.”

“You’re not eating.”

“Jerk!” I whispered under my breath but picked up the po’ boy and took a huge bite.

He scoffed but relaxes somewhat, and I focused on my food to keep from crawling into his lap and begging him to take me right there in public.

The moment between us was peaceful, enjoyable even, until a whirring sound and a warning yell pulled me from my happy place.

“Watch out!”

Demien scooped me up in a blur, and the eruption of thuds and thwacks in the place where we’d just been sitting took me by surprise.

“What the bloody hell?” I declared, though I’m less concerned with what interrupted our moment than the loss of Demien’s arms when he released me.

I took in the tenseness in Demien’s shoulders, the way he ever-so-slightly crouched, and looked beyond him to see that some punk had been out on the Moonwalk in the middle of the night in roller skates and had lost control, careening through the grass straight on top of our picnic.

Demien’s anger froze the kid into place. Having let his guard down with me, he’d slipped straight into predator mode at the first hint of me being in danger.

I stepped around my solid hunk of vampire and offered a hand to the kid who’d plummeted upon our lunch. “Here, let me help you up. Are you hurt?”

He stuttered and stammered, “N…no. I’m fine. I’m so-sorry.”

“Okay,” I said calmly. “You should go.”

Like any rational person, I thought that if anyone should get bitten here, it damned well better be me, but I kept my thoughts to myself and aided the kid to his feet.

“Sorry, again. I didn’t mean to…” The kid’s preservation instinct kicked in and he took off into the night.

I took a deep breath and began picking up the remnants of our lunch date gone wrong, and then pulled on the bond between us. “Demien, come to me.”

I didn’t know if he’d succumb to my request. He was just as likely to disappear into the night. I packed everything away except the blanket, which I flipped over.

“Demien, come and sit.”

He didn’t look at me. Deep down, I knew he couldn’t. He was fighting the demon inside of him, the predator that had wanted to kill, that still wanted to kill. But he once more found a place on the blanket.

Relief rushed through me…then insanity. Without any hesitation, I maneuvered my body until I was sitting between his two legs with my back up against his chest. My bare neck waiting, beckoning just below his mouth.

“Sybella,” he growled in warning.

His fangs brushed against my skin.

“What? Didn’t we come here for lunch?”

 

 

 

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Short Story Friday

Chasing The Enemy

by

Anne Marie Andrus

 

June 17, 1970
On the Eve of Graduation…

Thunderclouds raced east, leaving the Augusta air sparkling and ready for the biggest weekend of the year. Clear horizons sparked the campus bustle back to life as the noise of saws and hammers bounced off stately columns and rang past ancient oaks.

In a cluttered dormitory room a mile away, Stori shoved moving boxes around enough to find the corner of a mirror to check the hemline of her brightly flowered dress. “Stellar.”

“Too short.” A voice squawked from the corner.

Stori yanked the fabric lower. “It’s fine.”

“Nope, nope. Too short.”

“Jett, zip your beak.” Stori waved him off. “Tomorrow will be all high heels and graduation gowns, but tonight is the senior class party.”

“Bad weather.”

“Shush, the storms are over.” She rummaged through a pile of paperwork on the nightstand. “I hope.”

“Need coffee.” Jett flapped his bright blue wings. “Storytime!”

“I have to deliver this stuff to the office before they close. Are you going to be quiet?”

“No, hell, no.”

Stori’s shoulders slumped. “Then get in the cage.” She opened a miniature bamboo door. “Now, bird.”

“Parakeet, please.”

Stori held papers in her teeth and hauled Jett’s bulky cage to the car.

“I’m in jail.”

“You deserve it.” She wrestled the antique into the passenger seat and climbed in next to it. Ten minutes of majestic curves on gravels roads brought them to a rolling stop under the shade of a massive tree. “I wish you wouldn’t yell bonjour at every person you see.”

“Perfect manners.” Jett preened himself in the side view mirror. “Junky car.”

“It was a gift from my uncle.”

“Stuffy in here.”

“Quit complaining.” Stori gathered up her documents and jumped out. “I’ll be right back.”

“Storytime!”

“You little demon.” Stori pointed at Jett’s beak. “Who taught you to say that? Never mind.” She crossed her arms. “I’ll take it up with Uncle Steven tomorrow night. Why couldn’t he teach you to sing like all the other birds?”

“Parakeet, pretty please.” Jett leaned back and screeched. “Ha, ha!”

Stori walked backward and held up two fingers in the shape of a V.

“No peace. Ha, ha!”

She spun, drew a cleansing breath and smoothed her skirt before stepping into the oldest building on campus.

The receptionist peered over her glasses and broke into a wide grin. “Miss Stori, is your ear-piercing bird in the parking lot?”

“Unfortunately,” She rubbed her forehead. “That’s Jett, howling like he’s escaped from an asylum.”

“With the door shut, I almost can’t hear him and I do believe congratulations are in order. I always knew you’d graduate…but at the top of your class?”

“Sister Gilda, four years ago, you didn’t think I’d last a week.”

“Well, you were just so young even for a legacy student, but I didn’t mean…”

“No, no.” Stori waved both hands in front of her face. “You were right. I was so young, wasn’t I?”

“We all were, once upon a time.” Gilda sighed and pointed to the papers. “Are those for me?”

“My name change.” Stori tried to flatten the documents and gave up. “All legal and finalized.”

“And you’re positive about giving up your father’s name?”

“I am. His side of the family is in ashes…he started the fire.” Stori swiped a tear with the back of her hand. “But my mother and grandfather will be at the ceremony. They’re both Aldens and they’ll be thrilled, so I want to make sure it’s correct—”

“Don’t you worry, dear. Tomorrow night, the Medical College of Georgia’s president will announce you as Doctor Stori B Alden.”

“And then I walk across the stage?”

“That’s how it works, dear. Give me a moment to put this in order.”

Stori pressed her trembling hands into her skirt and wandered to the soaring wall of pictures. She read the name of each honored alumni, from the most recent years on lowest row, all the way to the top. She tipped her head back to read the plaque below the highest centered photograph and waved at a familiar face in the ornate silver frame.

“Wish I’d had the chance to meet him.”

Stori jumped and grabbed her chest. “I’m sorry, my nerves.”

“I’ll say.” Gilda shook her head and pointed to the picture. “I just meant, a very distinguished gentleman.”

“He’s my legacy connection here. The B in my name is in his honor.”

“Wait.” Gilda craned her neck to look in Stori’s face. “You’re related to him…the legendary battlefield surgeon?”

Stori nodded. “Raimond Baniterre.”

“Honestly, I don’t say this often. Or ever.” Gilda flopped on a bench in front of the pictures. “You’ve knocked me off my feet.”

Stori settled down next to her. “I’ve never said it out loud.”

“The secret is safe with me.” Gilda tapped her chin. “The residency you accepted? That’s the busiest Emergency Room in the country.”

“It’s New Orleans, so…probably destiny. This time next week, I’ll be in St. Louis Cathedral, lighting candles for the all the souls we’ve lost.”

“That’s your dream job…Emergency Medicine?”

“I’ll tell you another secret. My true passion has become defeating Alzheimer’s Disease. I won’t be a bystander while an invisible monster steals life and dignity from my patients.”

“Chasing the cruelest enemy.” Gilda smiled and stared at Dr. Banitierre’s picture. “You’ll make him and all of us proud.”

Minutes passed in heavy silence until Jett’s distant voice broke the trance.

“I hear bonjour and coffee.” Gilda covered her mouth to hide a laugh. “What else is he saying?”

“Storytime.” Stori tossed her hands up. “What am I going to do with that fool during graduation?”

“Drop him off in my office. He’ll be safe and far enough away that nobody will hear him—much.”

“Thank you, for everything.”

“Give the poor bird credit though, he’s got a stroke of genius.” Gilda squeezed her hand. “It’s Stori time.”

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