Deeper than the Night - By Amanda Ashley

Chapter One

"I'm looking for the vampire."

Alexander Claybourne stared down at the young girl standing on his front porch. She was a cute little thing, maybe nine years old, with curly blonde hair, brown eyes, and a sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of her nose.

"Excuse me," he said, "but did I hear you right?"

"I need to see the vampire," the girl said impatiently. "The one who lives here."

Alexander fought the urge to laugh. "Who told you a vampire lives here?"

The girl looked up at him as if he were slow-witted. "Everyone knows a vampire lives here."

"I see. And why do you want him?"

"My sister, Kara, is in the hospital. She was in a car accident." The girl sniffed noisily. "Nana says she's going to die."

Alexander frowned as he tried to follow the child's line of reasoning.

The girl stamped her foot. "Vampires live forever," she said, speaking each word slowly and distinctly, as if he were very young, or very stupid. "If the vampire would come to the hospital and bite my sister, she would live forever, too."

"Ah," Alexander exclaimed, comprehending at last.

"So, is he here?"

"You're quite a brave girl, to come here alone, in the dark of night. Aren't you afraid?"

"N . . . no."

"What's your name, child?"

"Gail Crawford."

"How old are you, Gail?"

"Nine and a half."

"And does your Nana know where you are?"

Gail shook her head. "No. She's at the hospital. They won't let me visit Kara, so Nana made me stay with Mrs. Zimmermann. I snuck out the back door when she wasn't looking."

Gail stared up at the man. Was he the vampire? He was very tall, with long black hair. He stood in the deep shadows of the house so that she couldn't see his face clearly, but she thought he had dark eyes. He didn't look like any of the vampires she had seen in the movies. They always wore black suits and frilly white shirts and long capes; this man wore a black sweater and a pair of faded Levi's. Still, everyone in Moulton Bay knew that a vampire lived in the old Kendall house. . . .

Shivering, Gail wrapped her arms around her waist. She had come up here lots of times with her friends, trying to peek in the windows to catch sight of the vampire's coffin. She'd never really been scared in the daylight; after all, everyone knew vampires were harmless during the day. But now it was night.

Leaning to the side a little, she slid a glance past the man. The interior of the house looked dark and gloomy, just the kind of place where a vampire would live.

Feeling suddenly very much alone and more than a little afraid, she took a step backward. The porch creaked under her weight. It was a creepy sound.

Gail summoned her rapidly waning courage. "Will you come and save my sister?"

"I'm sorry, Gail," Alexander said with genuine regret, "but I'm afraid I can't help you."

The girl lifted her shoulders and let them fall in an exaggerated gesture of disappointment.

"I didn't reallythink you were a vampire," she confessed, "but it was worth a try."

Alexander watched the girl as she ran down the stairs, headed for the narrow dirt path that meandered through the woods. The path was a shortcut that led to the main road.

Courageous little thing, he mused, to come out here all alone.

Looking for a vampire.

He watched her until she was out of sight, until even his keen hearing could no longer discern the sound of her flight, and then he closed the door and leaned back against it.

So, everyone knew a vampire lived here.

Perhaps it was time to move on. And yet. . . Pushing away from the door, he walked through the dark house. It was a big place, old and creaky, with vaulted ceilings and wooden floors and leaded windowpanes. The house sat alone on a small rise surrounded by trees and brambles. His nearest neighbor was almost a mile away. It was, he thought, exactly the sort of place a vampire might choose to live. It was exactly the reason he had chosen it. He had been comfortable here, content here, for the past five years.

But perhaps it was time to move on. One thing he didn't want to do was draw attention to himself. Until now, he'd had no idea people speculated on who, or what, lived in this house.

Going into the parlor, he rested one hand on the high mantel and gazed into the hearth. There was Copyright 2016 - 2024