What if a vampire got saved?
Calandra, an evangelist’s daughter, is amazed to watch as Raven, a century-old vampire, develops faith. As Raven ceases to drink blood and becomes more human with each passing day, Calandra cannot deny her growing attraction to him even though she is being courted by another man.
Raven’s newfound salvation is both a relief and a burden, as he encounters multiple vampire taboos and must overcome them. Just when Raven begins to get the hang of his new lifestyle, Calandra is attacked by bandits.
Will Raven revert to his old vampiric ways to save Calandra from certain death? Or will he rely on his faith in God to help him ransom Calandra from a new brand of evil more horrifying than he ever was as a vampire?
June of 1850
“I don’t care what you think you saw, Duke. I’m doin’ this, and you’re not gonna stop me.” Uncle Murray unsheathed his military-issue officer’s saber and raised it over his balding head.
“Move and I’ll shoot you dead.” Duke pulled the hammer back on his revolver and pointed it at his uncle’s chest. Tears streamed down his face.
Uncle Murray froze, then glared at Duke. “As dead as she was just last night? Earlier today?”
“We obviously made a mistake.” Duke’s voice quavered, but he couldn’t help it.
He glanced down at Eleanor, still alive, now at his feet next to their overturned dinner table. Her white burial dress was covered in blood. Her blood.
A wooden leg from that very table, broken in half, protruded from her chest, and her long blonde hair, now stained red, lay in a mass by her face. “She was fine before you stormed in here and stabbed her!”
“See? She’s still alive. We can save her if we get her to a doctor before—”
“No, Duke. You can’t save her. That’s what I’m tryin’ to explain to you.” Uncle Murray lowered his saber, but didn’t sheathe it. “She’s not human anymore, son. She’s somethin’ else. Somethin’ dark. Evil.”
Duke tightened his grip on the revolver. “She’s my wife!”
“Not anymore, she ain’t,” Uncle Murray yelled back. “She tried to kill me not two minutes before you walked in. Don’t you see my left arm, boy? She mangled it with her bare hands.”
Duke gawked at his uncle’s arm. In the heat of the moment he hadn’t noticed how it bent in several places where it shouldn’t have, and red splotches tainted his otherwise cream-colored shirt all up and down his left sleeve.
“How else do you think this happened?” Uncle Murray pointed the saber’s tip down at Eleanor. “She did this to me, and she would’ve done far worse had I not put that table leg through her chest. I’ve seen this before, once, in Romania. You have to stake them with wood and cut off their heads or they won’t die.”
“She barely weighs a hundred pounds. You expect me to believe she did that to you?” Sweat snaked down Duke’s forehead and onto his nose and cheeks.
“She’s not human, anymore, Duke. How many times do I have to say it?”
“Put the sword down.” The revolver trembled in Duke’s hand. “Now.”
“Not a chance.” Uncle Murray raised it over his head again.
“Uncle Murray!” Duke yelled. “Put it down!”
“I’m sorry, son. You’ll understand someday.” Uncle Murray lunged toward Eleanor.
Duke pulled the trigger. The revolver flashed.
A geyser of red erupted from Uncle Murray’s bulging gut and he staggered back, wide-eyed. “Duke, don’t—”
Duke fired again.
Uncle Murray dropped the sword, clutched his chest, and gasped.
Duke shot him two more times, once more in the leg, and once in his neck. His shakiness had thrown off his aim, but it was enough to finish the job. Uncle Murray hit the floor next to Eleanor with a thud, and a pool of blood collected under his body.
Duke didn’t lower his gun until Uncle Murray stopped moving altogether. Eleanor wasn’t moving either. She lay on her side facing Uncle Murray’s body, motionless.
The gun dropped from Duke’s grip, and he dove down next to Eleanor and grabbed her shoulders—she was still breathing, but on her side, facing away from him. “Elly?”
A gurgle caught his attention, followed by a faint sucking, slurping noise. Tears rolled down Duke’s cheeks.
Eleanor’s eyes cracked open. Her skin was frigid, as if she’d been standing out in the cold for an hour, despite the heat wave they’d had all June.
She moaned at first, then said in a weak voice, “Pull it out.”
“Pull—what? That table leg?”
Duke reached for the table leg and got ahold of it, but stopped. “It’ll…it’ll kill you. We need to get you to a doctor.”
Duke marshaled all his fortitude and yanked the table leg from her chest.
Eleanor convulsed and howled, then exhaled a raspy breath. “Thank you.”
Duke dropped the table leg and touched her shoulder. “Elly, darling, I’m going to pick you up. I’m taking you to a doctor.”
She shook her head and turned away from him, toward the floor. “I don’t need a doctor.”
“I’m not giving up on you.” Duke scooped her into his arms, but she writhed out of his grasp and back onto the floor.
“Stop.” Eleanor’s voice hardened. “I’m already dead, Duke.”
Yes, she had died. He’d been certain of it. He’d seen it happen.
A man, a phantom of a man with black hair, dark, sunken brown eyes, elongated canine teeth, and pale skin—skin the color of Eleanor’s now—had attacked her in the night. Duke found the two of them in the parlor of their small house and he’d chased the man away.
At first he’d thought Eleanor had been unfaithful, but when he noticed she wasn’t moving and found the two bloody holes on her neck, that thought dissipated.
She’d died in his arms, and they buried her the next day.
But now she lay before him, next to his dead uncle, whom he’d killed because of her.
And she was alive.
“Elly, what are you—”
Her head spun toward him and for the first time since he’d found her atop of Uncle Murray not ten minutes earlier, Duke saw her face.
Blood coated the left side of her chin, her cheek, and caked in the hair on the side of her head by her ear. More of it tainted her full lips, and her blue eyes had a cloudy quality about them that Duke had never seen before. More disturbing still, her canine teeth now extended well beyond their original length.
Elongated teeth. Just like the man who had attacked her.
She shoved him back and stood to her feet, towering over him.
He sat and stared up at her.
She tilted her head and grinned at him, but those teeth protruded from behind her lips nonetheless. As Eleanor stalked toward him, the hole in her chest sealed up.
Duke’s eyes widened. “Elly, what in God’s name is going on?”
Her fingernails bared like claws, she flung herself down at him. Duke rolled away and her nails embedded in the floor.
He scrambled to his feet and backed away from her.
She hurtled toward him again, but he sidestepped her and she clung to the wall, her fangs bared, her eyes wild with murder. This was not the Elly he’d married, not the woman with whom he’d lived for the last three years.
She lunged toward him again and he tried to get away, but he tripped over Uncle Murray’s body and landed on his back.
Eleanor, also on the floor, smiled and crawled toward him. She purred, “Where are you going, Duke? You have me back. You made a vow at the altar. Man and wife. Mr. and Mrs. Duke Flax. Remember? Don’t you want me anymore?”
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