Monday, April 6, 2015

Chapter #teaser from my #backlist title Under the Harvest Moon - Castle de Sânge

I have to say, writing Vasili was really a treat. I enjoyed being in his head a little bit, or rather, him being in mine. Out of the three short stories in UTHM, Castle de Sânge was my favorite.

Under the Harvest Moon
Castle de Sânge

Castle de Sânge

Chapter One
Romania, 1729

Vasili Acros sipped the unappetizing wine, studying the others milling about the grand palace ballroom, watching the lovely young women as they danced. He considered them with the lethal attention an animal might look upon its prey before taking the lunge to kill.
He had never killed, though. He prided himself on being precise and never leaving behind so much as a scant memory of what he had taken from them. Of course, the punctures of his bite would remain for a while. That couldn’t be helped. Although, even in that he had gotten better over the last two hundred years since he'd become a vampire.
Turning was an awful thing. There was only one way he might ever be convinced to do that to a human, and that was if he fell in love with one. Over two hundred years and such a thing had never come close to happening, so he held no close intentions of finding a soulmate in whichever girl he took home to his Romanian castle tonight. There was only one requirement, and that was simple.
She had to have warm, thick blood pumping through her veins.
Vasili remembered himself and shook the beast inside him down, forcing his fangs to retreat.
He was hungry.
Very hungry.
He hadn’t allowed himself human blood in a month, and as the harvest moon swelled in the night, his hunger brought him to a point near madness. He could sustain himself on the blood of other creatures, but not for long.
He imagined if his heart could beat, it would be thumping in his chest as he speculated on which female would taste best. Drinking from them was always so much sweeter if he made love to them first. The blood flowed more freely.
"Voivode," a man's heavy voice distracted Vasili and he turned to him. "Might I introduce my eldest daughter, Tamara Dobre," he said, looking to the young woman at his side. "You and I met several months ago and I promised the next time I would introduce you to my family. How fare thee, my prince?" he asked.
Vasili recognized the man, another noble from the surrounding area. He was sure if he really tried, he could probably recite the man's lineage. There were so many faces swimming in his long memory, he sometimes found it hard to place such a bland-looking man. His daughter, she on the other hand was everything but bland, and he was certain they had never met.
"I am very well," Vasili said, handing off his glass as a servant walked by.
He reached and lifted her slender fingers to his lips. Vasili breathed in her scent. He closed his eyes as the aura filled him. She was happy, near bursting with it. Her heart raced just slightly. She might be the one, he thought, pressing his lips to her knuckles. His fangs threatened to emerge as her pulse beat against his touch.
Vasili glanced up to meet her stare as he erected himself and clasped his hands behind his back, controlling the beast. The music ended in the background and Vasili heard the orchestrator instructing the others to perform a waltz. "Might I have this dance?" he asked.
Tamara gave him a heavenly smile. "You may," she said, taking his arm.
Vasili led her, and as they started, he pulled her a little closer, tripling her pulse. Yes, this might be the one.
"Do you enjoy yourself, Prince Vasili?" she asked.
Vasili raked his eyes over her dark hair, pinned prettily and seeded with tiny jewel-tipped pins. Her rose-colored gown was low and pressed her breasts high.
"Immensely," he said low, near her ear as he turned them. The girl was pliant in his arms. She had the potential to be a good feast for him.
Tamara looked up in a pouty way. "Why is it you never throw grand balls at your palace?" she asked, absently. "Everyone has heard so much about it. As a Voivode, you really should. Is it that you have no wife to arrange or play hostess?"
Her eyes skimmed his face then, running along the old wound. A long gash marred through his brow and down over his eye, to his jaw. Her stare trailed down to his chin where there was also another scar below the left corner of his lower lip. He knew she wondered if his absence from society might have something more to do with those scars than the absence of a wife. He could see it in the curious way she perused him. Tamara was soft, and even her gaze seemed soft when she looked upon him. He'd never thought his scars disfigured him in a way that made him unattractive to the gentler sex. Like Tamara, they always seemed avid enough to seek his attention.
"Do you wish to see my home?" Vasili asked. "My castle sits high in the mountains and I doubt anyone would wish to travel so far for a ball. Such a shame, for the ballroom is very grand." He met her stare. "You would like it." He imagined them in a private dance, one in which he would end by sinking his fangs into her lovely neck.
She beamed at him, bravely meeting his gaze in a very coy way. "You should allow me to introduce you to some of my friends. I understand that you do not come down from those mountains often. I wished to meet you, months ago. You see, my sister and myself only just returned from visiting our Bunicuta in Austria. We were with our grandmother several months."
Indeed, he did not come often, for his own reasons. "For such a long trip, I would imagine," he said, slightly bored by the topic, though he remembered her father now. They had discussed his daughters' travel earlier at the beginning of summer, as he had told the man he too had once traveled to Austria. It was a very long time ago, however.
Vasili removed those memories of days gone, studying the olive-skinned girl in his arms. Her brows were neatly arched and her complexion clear. Tamara was a vision of artful beauty.
Not rare, though.
He had dipped his fangs into some more lovely.
Yet, beauty was not his requirement.
The music stopped and Vasili offered a bow. He led her from the floor, and just at the side, she paused.
"Look, here is my sister now," she said, sweetly. Turning, she brushed his front no doubt on purpose. Vasili did not miss the bold look she tossed over her shoulder. "Katia, come here," Tamara said.
When the other young woman glided to a stop before them, Katia lifted her head over a lace fan, quietly studying Vasili.
She riveted him for a moment.
There was true beauty, and he couldn’t quite help himself from staring.
This sister wore a similar gown as Tamara, but the sea-foam green silk appeared altered to fit a smaller bosom. Her waist was smaller, hips rounder, and her hair slightly lighter in a richer red-brown. Her natural beauty without aid of artifice struck him. That and the small freckle at the top of her right cheek. A blemish, yet he found the innocuous mark attractive.
"This is the Voivode Vasili Acros," Tamara said in way of introduction.
"I know," Katia said, looking away dismissively. "The Prince of the Castle de Sânge." She cut him a disapproving look from the corner of her eye and fanned herself with the lace-trimmed fan.
Vasili cocked his head to the side, cringing a little under her censure. Not many knew the old name for his palace, the Castle of Blood, left over from the rougher years of war the voivodeship had suffered, nothing in relation to himself. He feared one day that some might begin to speculate, but in defense of his castle, on the inside not an inch reflected the crude name.
Katia's rejection bemused him.
Another dance began, a traditional dance to a different tune. Dancing was not his favorite thing to do when he had to socialize with mortals, but he was curious about Katia and how she might have learned of his castle.
He lifted his arm to her and she looked between him and the dance floor for a moment. He couldn’t believe it, but the young woman looked as though she might actually refuse him.
After another moment, she flicked her fan shut and handed the article to her sister as she took his hand. Tamara's deflation was obvious as Vasili led Katia away.
He picked up his step to the quick paces and as he met Katia again, lifting and twirling her, he asked, "How is it you know the name for my castle?"
The steps forced them apart, but a moment later, she was in his arms again. "Studying. I make a point to learn everything I can."
She parted from him and Vasili raked her with his gaze, moving along with the other dancers. "Don’t you know it is unbecoming of a woman to learn?" he teased. He was only kidding, but he received a scoff and a glare from her. He imagined her sister would have agreed with him wholeheartedly.
"Why shouldn’t a woman learn, Prince?" she asked.
He had no idea, nor any opinion, really. "I was not serious," he said, lifting her again, this time he let her slide back down his body with much more contact than necessary. Her pulse flinched and her amber eyes widened a degree when she turned on him, stepping on his toe.
She grimaced. "I am sorry."
Vasili shook his head, unsure if she meant it with the unabashed look she cast him and continued in the dance.
He frowned. "I have to ask, have I wronged you in some way?"
She paused, her fingertips lighting on his as he lifted her again. She blinked innocently. "No."
Her simple answer bothered him more than it would have had she said yes. He wondered at her demeanor as they continued, and then the dance ended and he took a bow.
Katia offered a curtsey. "You are not as bad a dancer as I might have suspected." She winked, backing away. "But then what can I say, it was I who stepped on your toes."
"Why would you have thought me a bad dancer?" he asked as they exited into the crowd.
She looked over her shoulder and gave him a blunt look. "You are so tall. Every tall man I have ever danced with has blundered about without the least bit of expertise." She said this as though he should have known it.
Vasili frowned at her slender back as he followed her away to an opening in the crowd. Tiny pearls trailed down her spine leading to perfectly curved hips and at the moment he wanted nothing more than to see them all come clashing to the polished floor at his feet.
His hunger swelled immensely.
"Wait," he called out as she continued to walk away. "You are aware of who I am?" he asked, confused.
She turned to look over her shoulder again, uninterested, and sighed. She turned to face him fully. Although there was no sound, her look scoffed at him well enough. "I am."
Vasili's brow tightened. "I have never had a woman dismiss me so."
"Then I fear it may have done you some good." She smiled tightly and began to turn away again. Vasili stepped closer, closing his fingers around her arm gently.
"No, wait. I wish to know why it is you dislike me so."
"You wish to know why I treat you differently than any other woman does? Unlike my empty-headed sister, I know what your voivodeship is responsible for. That is why."
He stilled, waiting for her to out him as a vampire.
She shook her head, exasperated that she must explain herself. "Your uncle did not defend the people during his rule, when his power was most needed. I read over our histories during my recent travels. My grandmother relived tales to me of your uncle. His rule is why she lives in Austria."
Vasili's look turned dark at the mention of the man. "I am not my uncle," he said. He distinctly felt that if he and this young woman related at all, it was in agreement that his uncle was a despicable being. Only difference was, he knew exactly how despicable.
As Vasili was about to speak again, Tamara appeared at her sister's side. "Did you enjoy the dance?" she asked with a slight giggle.
Katia straightened and pursed her lips.
"Very much," Vasili lied. He had forgotten how tiresome young women could be when they were in search of a husband.
Katia was obviously not.
Tamara looked between him and the newest set of dancers, but her efforts failed. When she realized that he would not dance again, her gaze stuck somewhere over his shoulder. "Come, Katia, I have spotted someone else I wish to introduce you to." Tamara began to pull Katia along and gave Vasili one last smile under her lashes.
As the two young women walked away from him, Vasili watched them intently. This was the strangest night for him. Picking a girl was usually an easy task, but the Dobre sisters had left him feeling somewhat confused.
"Do you wish to have them both brought back to the castle, my prince?" his man asked, disturbing him.
Vasili stood a little straighter and turned to Serle, his manservant. He never went anywhere without Serle, as sometimes his special circumstances called on the man to help keep his secret.
Serle looked up at him. "You wished to have me fetch you at midnight and the hour has arrived."
"Very well," Vasili said. He started for the foyer with Serle following close behind. When a footman went for his gloves and coat, which Vasili only bothered with for sake of appearance, he turned to look sidelong in the direction of the ballroom.
"Fetch me the one wearing green. The one with a freckle on her cheek." Vasili allowed Serle to help him into his coat. He turned to the man and took his gloves. "Do not take the wrong woman," he instructed sternly. "Her name is Katia Dobre."
"Have I ever disappointed you, Your Highness?"

"No, you haven’t." Vasili only hoped his choice was not disappointing.

©2013 Kerri M. Patterson