“– Anne RiceLet the flesh instruct the mind.”
Forgotten Hollow Vatore Park
With a sigh Colton dropped onto the bench, wondering why his young life was so riffed up.
Flashbacks of that life-altering night and him feeling so afraid all alone in that dark alley, knowing that if the sun were to rise on him, it would be the last thing he’d ever see, too weakened to even move anymore, unable to call for help, barely conscious and only through a veil of clouds vaguely registering passer-bys and their disgusted looks, clearly assuming he was either strung out or had drunk himself into a coma.
Then suddenly there were Chase and Hailey, like two visions of light in the darkest of nights. What he had told Chase the morning following that night had been the truth, in his delirium Colton really had mistaken them for angels.
Maybe they were. Real life angels.
He let out another huff of distress. Colton never wanted to die, had just been reckless, but had his friends not come looking for him when they did, he would not be sitting here to brood. He thought of his parents and sister whom he loved and what this would have done to them, adding to his guilt. Luckily would they never know, Chase and Hailey kept their word not to tell anyone anything about that traumatic night. A secret only the three of them would share. Colton was almost as grateful to them for that, as he was for them saving him in the first place. Especially to Hailey.
Oh, Hailey. Colton fought hard to not allow himself to fall for her, but she seemed like the epitome of the perfect girl to him. Colton admired Chase like an idol for being so lucky and lived vicariously through them, always secretly watching them just being a couple. They were his benchmark of what to strive for.
Sadly, despite several serious attempts it seemed next to impossible to find a girl like her. Hailey was sweet, but assertive, kind and gentle, but strong. And mortal. Like so many vampires, Colton preferred the company of mortals for romantic relationships. Yet, 99% of all mortals were blissfully unaware his kind even existed. So, if he ever found someone, who was to say she could be trusted with his secret? If he misjudged a girl, it could have dire consequences not only for him. Mission Impossible? Would he have to settle for someone of his own kind after all?
He closed his eyes with another deep sigh.
“My my, what have we here, cloudy with a chance of self pity. Even worse than the usual brooding and gloom.” he heard a female voice, then felt someone plop down on the bench next to him.
Opening his eyes again he turned his head and saw Leeora Latimer, Caelan’s illegitimate daughter with witch Seraphina. Another misunderstood soul. She was very close with her father, the crown prince of the vampires, and he treated her like a princess to the point that it was almost ridiculous, yet, by vampire law, she wasn’t officially recognized as his daughter since she was born a witch. Had she been born a vampire, not with magic powers, it may have been a different story, but laws were strict and not always pliable enough to bend them to your needs, even for the highest ranking members of the vampire society.
It was an open secret that Leeora preferred the company of vampires, and much rather would have grown up in Forgotten Hollow, at Vatore Castle as one of them, but beyond sneaking her in for prolonged visits, that was just out of reach for even powerful Caleb, her beloved grandfather. Witches could not be turned, if attempted it killed them on the spot, there were only a handful mentioned throughout millennia of history where this supposedly worked, but always resulted in the loss of their magical abilities. A risk too great, so Leeora was stuck with the cards fate had dealt her.
Instead she lived with her mother, who eventually married a witcher and had twins with him, both blessed with magic skill. Around the same time Leeora’s vampire father married a mortal whom he later turned into one of them and had a vampire son with her. In between all this, belonging everywhere and nowhere was Leeora.
“What are YOU doing here? Did you get lost? Glimmerbrook is several hundred miles that way.” Colton’s tone was unwelcoming.
He didn’t want company. Especially not Leeora’s. As sad as her story may be, she was not some pitiful wilted little wallflower battered into helplessness by unfortunate twists of fate. Quite the contrary. With confidence to boot and pretty as a dream, she could be your worst nightmare if crossed. Her default was testy, snarky, sarcastic and often mischievous, but with a very quick temper daring you to test her magic abilities and live to tell the tale, she was her parents’ daughter. Rumor had it her mother Seraphina once burned her own mother at the stake to protect Leeora from her and Colton wasn’t sure he would put such an act past Leeora.
To add oil into Leeora’s inner flames, once upon a time she had been next in line to the throne as the ruler over the Magic Realm, her mother Seraphina had been the highest mage for many years following her own mother Minerva’s dubious death, but after the birth of her twins had stepped down from her high post to dedicate herself to raising her children, leaving the leadership of the witchfolk solely in her brother Dorian’s hands, who would hand it down to his own son Lysander one day. Anyone who knew her could tell that Leeora was sore about missing out on her chance to one day ascent to the highest rank. Before she even reached high school age she had been more skilled than most witches in their old age and only grew more powerful with each passing year after. A force not to be underestimated.
“Lost? Me? OMG – are you going to tell me now this isn’t Glimmerbrook? That I am but a lonely maiden in distress, helpless among the scary vampires. Oh no, OH NO, I shall cry!” Leeora played out the part far beyond necessary.
“Cry elsewhere. You don’t need to be here. Just go away.” growled Colton, not in the mood for her antics.
“Go away? I live here, too, at least part time. Do you have some vampire form of dementia or what? And why the long face?” she now probed more.
“My default whenever you show up. And you do NOT live here, Leeora, neither full nor part time, this is vampire country and only vampires live here. Far as I am aware, you aren’t one. So, you are visiting, at best.”
“Awww Colton, such cruel words, my heart is broken, almost like you are not excited to see me. Besides, you, handsome, are only visiting as well. Far as I am aware, you are away at university, whatever for is beyond me. But, why so grumpy on such an auspicious night? Here I am with my crush on you, tall, dark, handsome and decomposing, and now this. A cold shoulder. Oh, that’s right, cold is all you got, my bad.” her theatrics did nothing for Colton’s mood and her flirting meant nothing. Another default all witchfolk, male or female, had in common.
“I am not decomposing! Vampires cannot decompose! You should know that! Didn’t your father teach you anything?” he snarled at her.
“Actually, no, he didn’t, thanks for asking. Turns out I am not privy to all your little vampire secrets, because I was born with a beating heart.” sarcasm dripped off her words.
“So was I. I was just like you once, until a certain age when my kind goes through the change.” remarked Colton dryly.
“You were never like me, nor will you ever be. But that’s right, my little brother, well HALF-brother, he’s still just like my other half-siblings. Little, loud, stinky, annoying and with a beating heart and healthy appetite for actual food, which he then almost instantly turns into dirty diapers or nasty potties. Funnily enough, I can actually say that I can’t wait for him to die so that stops and it’s not even mean. Pity it won’t be till puberty. I am over the toddlers everywhere already.” her way of talking and her overly animated hand gestures annoyed Colton to no end.
“We don’t DIE! Vampire children don’t just die. We just … transform, over time.”
“Right, whatever does it for you, you transformer. All I know is, one day you have a beating heart, a pulse and can eat, the next you – well – don’t and can’t. Anyway, so why are you out here, all alone, all sad and pouty? As cute as that makes you look, it’s also kinda laughable. Did your last neck get away?” her tone was probably intended to be teasing, but sounded only derogatory to Colton. All witches were masters at snarkiness and backhanded compliments were probably invented by one of theirs.
“I don’t feed on live victims. Only in rare emergencies. The only thing I hunt are plasma fruit if they roll off the table. And most of us can eat the food of the mortals. It just doesn’t do much for us other than help keep up appearances with the mortals. Do your homework, before throwing around accusations and prejudice. Only makes you sound stupid. Especially as the daughter of a vampire.”
“A whole lot of good being the daughter of one has done me. Sounds like I hit a nerve with you. I wouldn’t have pegged you as being so touchy, let alone one of the plasma fruit crowd, but seeing how goodie-two-shoes Riordan is your father, it makes sense. How wannabe-woke and pristine of you. And by pristine I mean boring. I mean, part of what makes vampires so sexy and dramatic is their animalistic instincts, their raw manlihood – and whatever the females of your kind may have going for them. That’s totally undone if you imagine your kind suckling on some stinky fruit while discussing a sustainable future. Dad always says plasma fruit are the vampire equivalent of veganism and those living off it are Hippies. Surprised you’re not head to toe in fair trade burlap with your fangs in a reusable shopping bag.” Leeora instigated more.
“You know VERY well it is one of your own grandfather’s requests that most of us choose the alternative ways to feed over live victims, so the mortals don’t get suspicious and we don’t end up on their radar. Being more than just a myth has never worked out well in our favor, anything that cannot be explained has to be evil, so we were demonized by the mortals and hunted to almost extinction. Your father should not defy his own father’s wishes and should not be telling you bullshit about those of us who try to do things right. So, asking again, what do you want from me, Leeora!? This park is big, so is Forgotten Hollow. Can’t you go bother someone else?”
“Big? You think this is big? You need to get out more. And I feel sorry for your next girlfriend already cos your idea of big clearly differs from mine. So, I am bothering you, am I? How so?”
Colton got up and started to walk off, but only made it one step before Leeora held on to his arm.
“What?!” he asked annoyed.
“Colton – Look up!”
“JUST DO IT!”
Colton did and noticed that while it was rather dark, it was a full moon that night, but it was red. Deep, dark red, like blood.
“A blood moon.” said Leeora.
“My kind calls it a Vampire Moon. Said to be magical, the preferred night for weddings and engagements, and for new couples to have firsts. I didn’t even notice that was tonight. So strange, usually everyone makes a big ado when one of these is coming up. Guess I had so much going on, I missed it.”
Suddenly, before he could react, Leeora’s lips met his, be it the surprise or the magical night, Colton didn’t push her off. At first he stood there and let it happen, when she stepped back, he stared at her, discombobulated.
Then, with super-human speed, he pulled her back into a tight embrace and pressed his lips onto hers, hard, longing, demanding more. And she gave. She responded in kind, parting his lips with her tongue while her entire body seemed to cling to him in a feral way.
When they parted, he stared at her, in complete awe.
What was that?
Who cares? It felt good. Different. He smiled faintly, until like a flash a somber realization wiped it off his face.
“Wait a minute. You are Caelan’s kid. Oh god, he will dissemble me into a 5000 piece puzzle if he finds out about this. Oh my god. His daughter. I kissed his daughter. Oh crap on a cracker!”
“What an unattractive and disappointing reaction for a vampire. How pedestrian. Your dark, rough boy packaging definitely doesn’t match the content. The big bad python turned out to be but a wiggly little worm. The roaring wolf but a cute little puppy. No wonder you can’t find a good girl to save your life, even though I’d say you bring a lot to the table.”
BAM! Another common denominator all witches shared, aside from an always slightly over-the-top theatric ways to underline their words, was the ability to find someone’s most vulnerable spot and dig their proverbial finger deep into the wound until it just oozed pain and discomfort. Almost like a reflex. All that was the reason why few of them lived among the mortals. They rarely were all too popular with their natural behavior and almost primal need to wreak havoc in some form.
“You are cruel!”
“If I am, then you are an easy victim. Chill, Colton, daddy won’t know. And even if were to find out, I can make him purr. He could be standing right here flying off the handle as he does, one bat of my eyelashes, a little pout maybe, and he’d just melt into a puddle and plan our wedding. If you look up now, you may notice there is no more moon. How did that happen I wonder?” she giggled devilish.
Colton didn’t have to look up to know he had fallen prey to her magic spells. She was skilled and she was manipulative. He had seen her effortlessly wrap Caelan around her skinny little fingers on many occasions, which was shocking, knowing how dangerous that vampire was. Unfortunately for Leeora though, even her charm and magic had limits, as none of this worked on someone as ancient as Caleb.
“Wow. You are … I don’t know what to call you. An evil witch.”
“Evil witch? Is that supposed to insult me? I am what my life cast me into. You know, lemons and lemonade. An the term evil witch is a misnomer, much like good vampire. Our kinds have that in common, we are neither. There are no good witches or bad, just witches, same with vampires. I would have much rather been like you, but this is what I got and I am wringing the last drop of potential from it. Above all, all witches are cunning and manipulative. How do you think we survived this long? Unfortunately for us, we don’t have your eternal life, so we need to make what we got count, can’t hardly fault us for that. You think your kind are the only ones that were hunted throughout history?”
“Thanks for the history lesson. May I remind you that most vampire hunters actually were YOUR kind? And you wonder why my kind isn’t too keen on your kind and won’t allow you to live among them.”
“You may, as long as you remind yourself that YOUR kind hunted everyone, including my kind. Sometimes for sport.”
“Fine, whatever, but this between us cannot happen again. I shouldn’t have kissed you. Or you me. We’ll blame it on the vampire moon. Even though there really wasn’t one. Maybe all this was just our imagination.”
“Yeah, the blood moon … or vampire moon … or our hormones … or – dare I say it – maybe it’s LOVE. We should not fight our true feelings, my Romeo, oh Romeo.” she annunciated the last part theatrically, then laughed, obviously messing with Colton.
“I don’t find that funny. There is no vampire moon, my hormones are curled up in a corner whenever you come around and all I feel around you is probably the opposite of love. All there is, is your gimmicks and magic and toxic behavior. Cruel witch!”
“Aww, I take that as a compliment. The cruel witch part, that is. I am heartbroken that my deep love for you is unrequited. I shall cry into my pillow until we meet again, my Romeo.”
“Take it as a goodbye.” Colton said, then vanished into a dark cloud.
Smiling, then giggling, Leeora turned on her heels to head back to the castle, an expression on her face of a cat who played with the mouse.