Published By Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery
Published: July 20, 2013
Category: Paranormal romance/vampire/short story
Words: 11,00 (approximate)
Print: Not Available E-book: $.99
~ This story of romance, with a Christmas setting, is exciting reading year round. ~
What’s a hunter to do when she’s fallen for the vampire she’s been sent to stake? Cassandra Hayes has been dating Tremayne Graystone, the vampire she’s been sent to eliminate.
To stake or not to stake is the least of their problems when masked men kidnap them and hold them hostage. They realize all they want for Christmas is a chance to make their relationship work. Kisses under the mistletoe may not make this holiday merry, but they’re willing to give it a shot.
Present day, near the coast…
"Dammit, Cassandra." Tremayne yanked the arrow from his shoulder with a series of curses, both in Gaelic and in English. Born an Oiche Sith, a vampire to the modern world, the wound would heal in a matter of minutes, but that didn't mean it didn't hurt like hell.
"Stay away from me!" Her voice was a shrill demand.
"Stay away— You're the one traipsing through the forest – adjacent to my house, I might add – and with the medieval contraption you call a weapon. You could have shot Shakespeare."
With the mention of his name, his mutt tilted his head and whined in agreement.
"Shakespeare is with you?" Cassandra's voice held a note of concern.
She may hate him at this moment, and was ready to stake him, but she loved his dog. The big guy was seventy pounds of happy, especially when someone scratched him behind his floppy ears. His mutt was black, brown, and white, some kind of hound dog mix. He was impressive and looked like he'd make a great watchdog, however Shakespeare would sooner lick a thief than bite him ... or her.
This was why they were out here. Cassandra probably promised Shakespeare treats as she entered through his study window to hunt for incriminating evidence to prove he was a vampire. All she had to do was open his refrigerator and see the bottles of A-negative blood – the synthetic kind – lining his shelves. His cousin Sheerin created the substance and it was sold by the cases now.
"I'm rescuing a Chihuahua next time from the pound," he grumbled. "I heard those dogs are vicious on the ankles."
Shakespeare snorted with a huff.
"Yeah, well, keep that in mind the next time you let someone rummage through my things."
"I have nothing against, Shakespeare, blood drinker," Cassandra shouted. She had moved to the right of him. She wore night gear so she could see in the dark as well as he could.
The forest backed up to his property, leaving him secluded from prying eyes. It wasn't like he had anything to hide, but being a vampire and keeping late hours tended to draw attention. He liked his privacy. "Now that just hurts," he threw back. "Name calling, really?"
"It's what you are," she tossed back.
"It's what I drink to survive. It is not who I am." He moved quickly to the next tree, intending to circle around to her.
"You should have told me." The raw hurt in her voice made him cringe. "Omitting the information is as good as lying."
She was right, but there was not an easy way of saying ...Oh, by the way, I'm a vampire... especially when face-to-face with a hunter.
He'd known the moment she sauntered into the Eternal Bliss – the pub he owned near the wharf – that she was a hunter, even with her pretense of saying she was in town to visit a few friends. That night and the following nights, she'd always ventured in alone, searching for prey.
However, this wasn't the only reason he spotted her as a hunter. He'd run into members of the Hayes family now and again when he was out hunting a rogue Oiche Sith who chose to embrace the bloodlust. These rogues were the vampires that caused villagers to pick up pitchforks and stakes. Cassandra looked every bit a Hayes with her dark mahogany tresses and light green eyes with no other colors marring the pattern. The strong family resemblance couldn't be missed, but the real cincher was the family's crest etched into the medallion she wore, dangling from a chain around her neck. Yeah, she might as well have just stood on a barstool and shouted: I'm a hunter so all preternatural beings run!
The Hayes family could trace their roots back to the fourteenth century. Each member was trained to take down demons, werewolves, and of course, their real passion was hunting down vampire septs. Cassandra most likely received her vampire kit on her fifth birthday, stocked full of wooden stakes and holy water. A stake might do some damage, but holy water? Really? Unless the hunter wanted to give the vampire a bath, nothing else would happen. No sizzle and pop, just a pissed off vampire. Hell, no one liked water thrown in his or her face.
"Did you expect me to introduce myself as Tremayne Graystone, vampire extraordinaire?"
"Let's not get carried away. I'm a blood drinker would have sufficed."
He rolled his eyes. He could see she hadn't lost her wicked sense of humor. "Now you're being ridiculous. I didn't see you handing me your vampire hunter business card."
She snorted, but he could see her lips twitch before she bristled with irritation.
He moved a few steps closer, making sure to keep a tree trunk between them as a shield. Shakespeare kept pace. When need be, his mutt could be as stealthy as a preternatural being. "Tell me truthfully, Cassandra. Did you come into the pub specifically to hunt me – because I knew from the beginning you weren't in town to visit friends?"
Her slight hesitation spoke volumes. "I didn't know it was you I was sent to—"
"Kill," he finished for her. "Because, dear hunter, that is what you were sent to do."
"Dammit. You weren't supposed to be so charming, but then it's all about the glamour, isn't it?"
He had a hunch she wanted him to admit he glamoured her into liking him, but too bad for her. "You know I didn't influence you."
She lowered her weapon a fraction and he took it as a good sign.
"Why don't we go back to the house and talk about this like two normal adults?"
"Normal?" her voice rose another octave.
Wrong word choice, but wasn't normal relative?
"Normal?" she repeated in a shrill tone banshees would be proud to accomplish. "There's nothing normal about you."
"Says the ninja dressed woman holding a medieval bow and arrow, but I'm willing to forget all this if you are?" He was about to move again, but he heard her sniffle. Was she crying? He regarded her quizzically, his eyes narrowing. What the heck?
"It's Christmas Eve," she choked.
He knew what day it was, but what did this have to do with her wanting to stake him? He leaned against the tree trunk and waited for her to explain.
"I expected chocolates … flowers … maybe dinner with my boyfriend. I did not expect to find out that not only does he believe Christmas is a frivolous pass-time," she continued without taking a breath, "but he's the blood sucker I've been hunting for, and he's been under my nose the whole time."
"Your family has nothing to fear from me. I've been minding my own business for centuries before such a job as preternatural hunters existed. I work, pay my taxes, and I don't go around killing innocents."
He looked above his head where the arrow lodged into the tree trunk. When had she moved? "That was damn close, Cassandra. Now cut it out."
"You've been alive for centuries. Just how many women have you seduced down the line?"
It sounded like she was jealous, but that was ridiculous. Wasn't it? "I don't go around seducing women."
"You're blooded. Don't deny it. You have the warrior physique. You aren't a hybrid. So, who was the woman you married to complete the ritual?"
The Oiche Sith went through a change around their twentieth year which involved draining of blood and taking a mate. Drinking from the female triggered their transformation. The males would grow larger and stronger, but since their race no longer produced young, they chose human females. In the beginning, most didn't survive the blooding ritual. "You want to know about the woman, who I took as my mate?"
"To death do us part ... well, death to her anyway, isn't that right? Yeah, I want to know what happened to her."
He didn't have to tell her. It was obvious she knew the answer.
He'd been young and arrogant when his body demanded he choose a mate. Changing a human had been a new concept back then, and he foolishly believed he knew how the process worked. He didn't wait for instructions. No, he performed the ritual, draining the woman of her blood and having her sip his as if his blood proved a cure-all – even for death. He found out death came in many forms. The woman who trusted him had paid the price. She became a fiend, losing all her humanity with his final bite.
"Well?" Cassandra snapped.
"I took a mate as was expected of me."
She let out a harsh laugh. "In all the centuries you've lived, you expect me to believe you only had one marriage."
He let out a tired sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Shakespeare plopped down at his feet, obviously expecting this explanation to be drawn out. "I only took a mate once. Since then I have kept to myself."
"Until now? With me?"
"Aye, until you." What could he say? The first night she sauntered into his pub, she wore jeans, a button down blouse, and cowboy boots. He was a sucker for boots and she wore the sexy boots with a purpose. Now he knew the purpose was to stomp on his face after she staked him, but at the time thoughts of who she was and what she did, after she left her nine to five job, hadn't entered his mind. Even when he spotted the pendent, he still had been drawn to her. Only then, it had nothing to do with her clothing style. It was all about the strong and determined woman. Her laughter, her whole persona drew him in as if she possessed the capability of glamour.
Cassandra was quiet, but he could hear her breathing, her heart thumping and he knew her mind whirled with questions. "What happened to her – this wife of yours?" she finally asked.
He sighed with resignation. "In the end, I had to kill her."