Ariel Landford realized she was about to enter a whole new life when Damian Vanburg suddenly appeared. Half Vampire/Half Man.
Surrounded by darkness and heartache, Ariel Landford felt like a ticking time bomb.
Behind closed eyes, Ariel could hear the busy streets of—of where? The busy streets of…. She didn't know. And the smell of—surely of her best friend’s bakery. ...Or was it? Where was she?
Ariel couldn't move her lower legs and although she wanted to open her eyes they would not. Was she even conscious? This must all be a dream. But she could hear cars, horns, buses, and people passing. Surely they must see her?
This was all Gabriel Stones’ fault!
Gabriel and Ariel were celebrating their wedding engagement in Kansas City. Being from Chicago, brought them closer to his family.
Ariel had them packed and ready to go after breakfast. There was little conversation, just the pleasantries. She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, and they were off to get showered and dressed.
It was a beautiful spring day. They talked, sang, and continued as though everything was normal on their drive. Gabriel even promised to fix the kitchen sink when they returned home. It meant a lot to her. He wanted to please her, but this concerned her too because he was no Mr. Fix It.
When they arrived, Gabriel kissed her hand before releasing it. Surprisingly, he held her hand for most of the ride. It was as if he couldn’t get enough of her, would not be seeing her for a while, and had already missed her. He was acting as a man in love should but a little out of his character. Regardless, there was no doubt that he still loved her.
The valet took their keys and once inside the party’s banquet room and foyer area Ariel could see it was huge and being catered by Tina Marias. The staff was dressed classy in white and black tuxedo style uniforms with black shiny shoes.
There were only supposed to be 100-150 in attendance. It appeared that many of the guests had already arrived and Ariel mingled but stayed by Gabriel’s side. She had no family here and knew no one. She had no surviving family. Gabriel was all she had.
The event turned out gorgeous as Tina decided on a vintage-themed wedding engagement party.
Everyone was dressed in light and breezy vintage wear. The room was adorned in red velvet, brick accents, and fully set tables of vintage to match but with white roses mixed in red. There was so much white too that it all appeared angelic.
Ariel wore a white vintage dress that made her feel like she was partying at the Gatsby’s House. Very nostalgic and taking one back in time. She received so much praise on her choice of dress and how much it brought out the green in her eyes, as well as the shine of her auburn red hair with blonde highlights.
Gabriel was tall and lean with deep brown eyes, dark short hair, and a smile to die for. He looked dashing in a vintage Sailsbury green suit with matching shoes.
They all sat down to a lovely dinner. They enjoyed New England Clam Chowder Soup, Antipasto, Salmon with Pilaf, and Broccoli. For dessert, they devoured hot Apple Pie with Ice Cream on top.
The icing on the cake was the timeless sounds of Anita Baker singing, Sweet Love, softly in the background.
“Ariel, would you like to dance?” Gabriel asked.
While beaming with a glow of happiness, Ariel responded, “Yes.”
Ariel always loved how just the touch of his hand could make her blush with thoughts of their lovemaking. His scent drove her to weakened knees. And when he placed his hand upon the small of her back she breathed in and released it slowly with contentment.
As they danced, Gabriel’s lips touched her ear, running shockwaves through her body and he whispered, “You look beautiful today. Just know that I will always love you, Ariel.”
He said it like a goodbye was coming.
Her contentment quickly and abruptly ended.
“Let’s step out onto the balcony, I need to speak with you,” said Gabriel. “It’s important.”
He chose what was to be an “us” moment and admitted to finding him another; he just didn’t love her anymore. Turning their moment into a goodbye. A very cold one. He couldn’t even look her in the eyes when he spoke. Almost robotic.
He just proclaimed his love for her and now there is another? No way.
How could he put her through a trip, party, and then dance with her as if all were well between them? This made no sense. He had never functioned as if there was another. Quite the opposite. His breakup sounded forced.
Ariel was so devastated; he was all she had in the world. Her eyes filled with tears and she was so embarrassed that she just ran off down Barley Avenue. She ran frantically onto a busy city street with blurred eyes; unable to see.
Screeeeeeech …. Everything went black.
While deeper into the woods, Ariel and Damian had their fair share of successful animals to feed upon. Ariel felt as though she was born naturally, as if she had always hunted. Always been a vampire.
“You’ve done amazingly well for not only your first hunt but your first day as a vampire. You’re in the newborn stage which is the hardest part of the change. Newborns crave blood nearly non-stop. But you’re a natural my love. Just remember to hunt often at this stage to avoid the hunger and urge for human blood,” said Damian.
Damian was about to call it a day and end the hunt when he saw Ariel lock eyes on a rare predator…. the werewolf. He shouted, “Ariel, No!”
Simultaneously, Ariel was in mid-air and came to an immediate standstill when she heard a whimpering sound followed by a voice, “No, Stop! I’m Ashford.”
This was no ordinary-sized wolf. He was huge and about three times the size of an average wolf. He was beautiful though with a coat of fur, in golden brown. His teeth looked as though they could rip anything to shreds in a split second.
Confused, Ariel looked to Damian for answers. “I can read the minds of animals?”
Damian let out just the slightest chuckle. “No Ariel. You can read his mind because he is a shapeshifter. A shapeshifter is when a person can change their physical form at will. This is Ashford from The Blue Thunder Tribe. We have an agreement with the tribe to share the land and hunt.
In the meantime, Ashford had shapeshifted back to his human form and approached them. He was a thin and tall teenager with long brown native hair and skin.
“Damian,” said Ashford. “We’ve been on the hunt for two vampires who are believed to be mates out on our land and in Kansas City killing humans. Several of our pack have gotten close enough to find out what they’re up to and you’re not going to like it. They get the fever to kill whenever a new half-vampire/half-man is born. They want them out of existence. They received word that a newborn baby was here. Your baby Damian.”
“Well, it would take more than an army of newborns to get through me!” Damian exclaimed.
“Where’s your pack Ash?” Damian asked.
Ashford answered, “We’ve split up in hopes to cover more ground.” Then to Ariel who must have looked a fright. “Don’t worry, we’ll find them and tear them to pieces. Your home is being watched as well.”
Fran was frantic over just the thought of any harm coming to her baby girl. Regardless of whether Alyssa is turning into an adult in a matter of months or not.
“How soon before he attacks?” Fran worriedly asked Damian.
Damian replied to everyone. “His attack can come at any given time. There may be a whole covenant involved now. There is no telling currently. We will all have to keep our vamp senses on high alert status and work together with the pack as we have been. It’s been our element of surprise whenever an enemy has appeared.” Then to Fran. “Alyssa will weather this storm just as Gabriel did.”
Damian suggested, “Let’s all go in and….”
Just then a little red Toyota pickup pulled in. It was Chief Little Wolf. He stepped out adorned in his beaded dressing, braided hair, and feather.
As if on cue, four werewolves came out of the tree line and shapeshifted into human form.
“Hey, guys!” said Ashford.
Star, Mike, and Paul chimed in, “Hey guys!”
Damian, Ariel, Gabriel, Fran, and Rex gathered around the Chief.
Chief had waited for everyone’s attention and began. “I’ve had visions about the vampire threat. There will not be just one. They are coming soon.”
“Who is coming, their covenant?” Damian asked.
“No, my son, newborns,” said Chief. “They’re building an army of newborns. They want all half breeds out of existence.”
Fran asked, “What are newborns?”
Damian answered, “A newborn or newborn vampire is a recently-transformed vampire. On average a newborn's physical strength, senses and speed greatly surpass that of an older vampire.”
Then to Chief, “The wolves need to be careful and not let them wrap their arms around them. They will crush and instantly kill them and any of us,” warned Damian.
On a positive note, Damian said, “Building a newborn army takes time to train and tame so we have time to work on battle plans.”
“You’ve been warned,” said the Chief as he hopped back into his Toyota and sped off.
“Alyyyyysaa!” Yelled Damian as he dropped his baggage on the living room floor.
Alyssa skipped her way over to Damian like a little child who had a secret to tell. “Yes, Damian?” she asked in the coyest way.
“Don’t play coy with me, young lady! You know exactly why I’m calling for you and why I ended my honeymoon early,” said an irritated Damian.
“Well, the honeymoon part is fine, it was almost over anyway,” said Damian. “Besides, our other honeymooners ended theirs much earlier for our family, so I’m not even really upset. I’m just annoyed that Alyssa is playing coy over something that could turn catastrophic.”
“I’m sorry Damian. I will take it more seriously from here on out.” Alyssa promised as she stepped up to Damian, placed her hand on his face, and let him see all that she saw in her vision.
Damian shared Alyssa’s visions aloud. “The vampire that we killed was from the Bodescu covenant. It turns out that they want revenge and to wipe my covenant out of existence. There is no telling how many are in their covenant. The vision shows they come for a battle from Virginia. A little way from Kansas City so this will give us time to prepare.”
Everyone just stood there and absorbed what Alyssa had envisioned. Ariel was by Damian’s side and the clan: Gabriel, Fran, Rex, Jules, Ash, Michael, and Lisa stood around them, somewhat in a circle.
Ariel was the first to speak. “My love, is there no one in control over the covenants? Someone who is the judge and jury? Someone who can stop this nonsense because it’s just that! We were protecting ourselves and had every right to take his and the mate's life.”
“Yes, darling,” answered Damian. “Which is why their distance gives us time to prepare. Alyssa will keep watch and when I see one of the werewolves from the pack, we’ll alert them.”
“Who are they and what makes them in charge?” Ariel asked.
Damian explained, “They are in New York City, and we call them counts and countesses. They are the Morachis. Count Elijah, Count Ethan, Count Stefan, and Countess Bianca. They are all gifted. Elijah is the Head Count and he is gifted in knowing the truth from a lie and all your conversations and activities by just the touch of your hand. Ethan’s gift is to blind you by making you see things that are not there. Stefan can set anything on fire and Bianca can drop you to the ground with one-touch causing uncontrollable pain until she releases her hold on you. They all have the gift of knowing when something major is going to happen and whether they need to intervene or not.”
Everyone appeared to be in complete awe.
Damian let out a very loud annoying sound, “Augh.” He was angry and annoyed over it all. “I’m so tired of being referred to as a half-breed! I’m a half-vampire or half-man and that’s what I prefer to be referred to as. Theoretically, one could just call me a vampire because I’m capable of all that they are.”
Damian did not take Rex and Dolly’s news about the two vampires' threat of taking all half breeds out of extinction very well.
Ariel was the first to dare speak first during Damian’s upset. “Damian, will you be calling Elijah? Maybe he has seen the future or where this is possibly leading us to? Ensure another covenant isn’t involved?”
“Yes,” said Damian. “I will call him in just a few moments. Plus, Paul FINALLY has a phone so I will call him too. He needs to track their scent back to where the two vampires came from.
“I need to check on Elijah,” said Dolly.
Oh great, Ariel thought, now she can tell her about his gift.
Ariel joined Dolly. Elijah was quiet and laying still when most vamp babies are moving about trying to be mischievous.
“Dolly,” said Ariel. “While you were pregnant and how I see Elijah behaving now, with my experience, I’ve discovered your son has the same gift as your husband. He has mood control so he can soothe himself.”
“Well, that explains why the pregnancy and carrying him was not as bad for me as I’ve heard it to be for others,” said Dolly.
“Thanks, Jules, I’ll feed him now and change him,” said Dolly as she took Elijah into her arms.
Rex joined them.
“Hey, Paul,” said Damian over the phone. “We just had another threat from two vampires who claim to be on the crusade of wiping my kind out of extinction or as they call us, half breeds. Can you track them back from which they came? Maybe you can discover a camp or see how many are on this crusade.”
“Sure, Damian, on our way. Their scent will still be there when we get there,” said Paul before he hung up.
Everyone was in the living room enjoying drinks. Michael, Lisa, Ash, Alyssa, Gabriel, Fran, and Jules.
If Damian was going to change John there was going to have to be a condition. He could not just change humans and release them into society. Once changed they become a part of the covenant and his responsibility.
“John,” called Damian.
Jenny was tending to their child.
“Yes, Damian?” responded John.
“Once I change a human into a vampire they become a part of my covenant and live their days out here as part of our family,” explained Damian. “I can’t just be changing humans and releasing them into society. They become my responsibility. Jenny and the child will stay here. This is their home now and her hunting grounds. Are you still sure you want me to change you?”
John replied, “I do, but what about all our stuff at our apartment?”
“You will pick up all your clothes and necessities and things of sentimental value and lock it up never to return. The landlord will eventually figure out that you have abandoned the property,” said Damian.
Damian ordered, “Go do that now. Jenny and the baby will be fine here. Be sure to get the baby stuff that you set up in the baby’s room. I will have Ash drive you back to your truck.”
“Ash, take Fran’s car,” Damian ordered.
“Will do!” said Ash.
“Follow John and lend him a hand. I’m sure he’ll need help with the baby’s crib and other things,” said Damian.
“Sure, no problem,” said Ash, and they were off.
“It’s time for Jenny to hunt and Jane too. Who else needs to hunt? I need someone to stay with the baby.” Damian asked.
Fran offered, “I’m good. I will stay.”
“Thanks, Fran. Let’s go family,” said Damian.
Gabriel, Alyssa, Ariel, Jane, Jenny, and Damian hunted. They flew through the treetops hooting and hollering while swooping down to grab their prey. They made an afternoon of it. They were just having way too much fun. Gabriel fed on six panthers. Alyssa, Ariel, Jane, and Jenny feasted on four deer. Damian feasted on five cougars and reached down for a sixth when he heard Paul’s telepathy “Lookout, vampires ahead. The pack is almost there. Be still and wait.”
Damian made his way over to Jenny and in a whispering voice asked, “Did you hear that?”
“Being a vampire comes with gifts like speed and strength but also telepathy. That was the wolf pack or shapeshifters if you’d rather call them that because they are a tribe of humans that shapeshift into very large wolves and just be glad they’re on our side,” explained Damian.
Just then Paul, Star, Michael, Marty, and Mark arrived.
“They’re getting closer,” said Paul. “But I do not know how many. I just picked up their scent and the strength tells me there’s more than one.”
“I smell them,” said Damian. “They are upon us. Form a perimeter. My newbies just follow suit. We’ll take the river's lower embankment, and the wolves will take the top.”
And they appeared, three vampires wearing jeans and polo shirts of green, red, and blue. All brunettes with ponytails.
Damian spoke first, “What brings you here to my covenant?
The vampire in the green polo shirt responded, “I am Jared of the Romano covenant. We have been watching your covenant’s movements for a long time and even though everyone thought you to be so innocent you’ve finally shown your true side. You’re growing your covenant by changing humans. Playing doctor to do so is a nice touch.”
The Morachis were sitting upon their thrones in the bare stone walled meeting room where Damian watched on as Elijah imprinted with Mary.
Elijah broke the silence. “Never have I thought that this could happen to me. I will not step down as Head Count. Mary will simply share my living quarters. We are modernized here so she will feel at home. Everything is decorated in Victorian Style and red velvet. We will marry at the Vanburgs. Damian, you will throw us a wedding since you and Ariel have become experts in this field. We will manage our dress attire. Victorian style. You just manage the party, flowers, and cake.”
Damian responded, “Sure, no problem. We’ll get our caterer on it right away. Congratulations!”
“We will come to retrieve our son and his blood for feedings. Are you all right with these arrangements Mary? Asked Elijah, realizing he was making all the plans without her input.
“Yes Elijah, I am very pleased with my destiny,” answered Mary.
Damian asked Elijah, “Did you mean to drive back with us and then have me bring you back home?”
“Yes, that is what I meant. We’ll go but first, let me read Mary for the vampire who raped her. Give me your hand again my love.”
Mary gave her hand over to Elijah. “Ahh Yes, one of the filths from the Rugger Bar. I’ve no doubt he is a frequent patron there. I will pass this vision onto my sons and daughter to torture and kill this vampire. I sentence him to death for more than just recklessness but the attempted murder of Mary by leaving her on the street with a vampire in her womb to fend for herself. It’s a miracle she made it full-term without blood to consume. It’s the child’s gift that partially saved her in knowing her means of living on the street with no blood.”
“Elijah, permission to speak my mind,” said Damian.
“Sure, you’re always welcome to speak freely with me.” Elijah offered.
“Well, today may be different because you imprinted and now do not want Mary to leave your side but it’s not sensible for her to be rushed over here before the wedding day. She’ll miss shopping with her bridesmaids and choosing their dresses together. It’s her special day and she’s not supposed to see the groom until her wedding day.”
“Oh, very well I will send her back with you to prepare. But I want a wedding in a week. My sons and you will be by my side. You will be my best man. Remember, Victorian style like we are dressed now under our robes with the ruffles. Then we will take baby Erick home with us from there.