An extra scene from ‘Haunted’, book 3 of the Turning Moon series.
From Alexander Durand’s journal. July 7th 1904. London.
Releasing a low sigh, Alexander closed his journal and set his pencil down. Hunger had his mood black. He longed for the comforts of his New York home and Victoria by his side. Leaving her in the care of his brother, Johann, for such a protracted length of time had rendered him impatient and intolerable. “I should hunt the younglings myself,” he muttered, sliding his journal inside a leather satchel. “It might satiate my own increasing wildness.”
With an hour before the Angelica was due to sail, Alexander sent his man ahead to have his luggage stowed. All he kept upon his person was the soft satchel, and he settled its strap upon his shoulder as he left his accommodations. Death poisoned the evening air as he emerged onto the streets, following the path that ran alongside the Thames. Here, a light breeze provided some relief from the putrid curse of cholera and he walked with a careful pace, only glancing behind once when a cry echoed from a distant alleyway. The sun had barely dipped below the horizon and the younglings were already attacking. Rage against this audacity rose in him, burning raw alongside the ache in his throat as the tang of fresh blood swept across the street to tempt his nostrils. For his sanity and the safety of those aboard the Angelica, it would be more favourable for him to sail with a full stomach, but with Hunters as prevalent as cholera, it would be a foolish risk to chance.
London Bridge was drawing closer when Alexander heard raised voices from a doorway on the street further ahead. A young man had the arm of his lady friend, urging her to step out with him for the evening. She was refusing however, citing her fear of the blood demons. Alexander listened to the mocking response of her beau, the fool’s laugh curling his lip in distaste. The girl was wise to remain indoors, the boy was the ignorant one to believe he could safely wander London once the sun went down. Warm candlelight glowed in the windows of the narrow house as Alexander grew closer. The scent of cooking mutton curled under his nostrils and by the time the doorway was in a direct line with Alexander, the raven-haired beauty was alone, scowling at the retreating form of her beau. Alexander kept his attention directed ahead, reminding himself of how he must board and leave this wretched city without allowing any further distractions. One stifled sob at the retreat of her gentleman friend was the lure he was unable to ignore however, and before she could slam her door shut with another sniff of upset, Alexander had crossed the street. She took his assurances of her suspicions with more calm than he would have expected, and with her guard lowered and his compulsion suggesting she should allow him enter her home, he stepped across the threshold, his mouth already watering in anticipation of his meal.
The young lady was not home alone. No sooner had Alexander drawn in three mouthfuls of her sweet, clean blood, than a stake whistled through the air towards him. He spun aside, but without the haste necessary. The stake’s tip pierced his back, shooting through flesh to graze the membrane of his heart.
Alexander staggered forward, his hand blindly flailing for the weapon as screaming began. The Hunter lunged, but Alexander flung him to his back and swiftly leapt before the boy could scramble upright and attack again. When Alexander crashed through the door of the house, his strength ripped it clean off its hinges. The dull crash of wood against pavement rattled out behind him as he shot towards the shadows of London Bridge
Under protection of the bridge’s blanketing gloom, Alexander eased the stake free from his back. The scald of wood against his heart failed to ease with its departure however, and when his vision wavered enough to make his feet stumble and his legs buckle, he understood the weapon had been soaked in vervain. With the satchel clutched to his chest, he sank to the ground and threw the stake into the water below. Time was suddenly against him. The Angelica would raise anchor soon, but he was too weak to stand and walk to her safety. His meagre indulgence of the woman’s blood would nullify the vervain in time, but until then, his safety required he sit in the depthless shadows and wait.
Threaded through the hum of Thames industry, the urgent murmurs of the tracking Hunters drifted towards Alexander. He discerned three young voices moving along the river path, their intent for his fate urging him to his feet. Pressing his body tight into the shadows he swallowed against the discomfort of his poisoned blood and aching limbs. He would fight if necessary, but against three Hunters it would be a challenge. Moments passed with Alexander listening as the voices faded into the distance, and once sure of his solitude, he slipped out of the shadows, resting one palm against the abutment for support as he peered ahead. The Angelica’s lanterns swung in the gentle evening breeze. Her crew shouted to each other as they prepared for departure, and hearing the cry for ropes to be untied, Alexander took a step back onto the river’s path.
Vervain had dulled his senses for more than he had given it credit. From his left, a force barrelled into Alexander and before he could retaliate he was jettisoned back into the shade from which he had just crept, his assailant knocking him to the cold ground. A single Hunter loomed over him, one hand raised to attack, but as he swung, the action momentarily edged him into the light. Alexander cried out as Victoria’s eyes locked with his. “No! Victoria!” His cry stalled the attack and in that ghastly moment of Victoria’s murderous intent, Alexander could do no more than raise one trembling hand in defence.
“What did you say?”
The voice was not Victoria’s. Disorientation swallowed Alexander whole. He stared up, unable to comprehend how the figure before him was Victoria, and yet, was clearly not. “Victoria?” he whispered against his tight throat. “I—what is this?”
“What do you know of my sister?” The bellow held as much strength as the physical blow the Hunter had already landed, and Alexander scrambled back as hands snatched at his coat lapels. “How do you know of my sister?”
“Edwin,” he finally understood, limp in the Hunter’s clutches. “Her twin.” His words ignited a pain that twisted the man’s features. His eyes—Victoria’s green eyes—although already creased with age, slanted with a despair so base Alexander surrendered to the moment. He understood this pain and loss, and although he should have been taking the man’s suffering as an opportunity to pull his heart through his chest and flee, he held still.
“Is she . . . still alive?” he choked out.
Edwin’s breath rushed free, but instead of his body loosening with relief, he tensed, his expression hardening once more. “Tell me what you know of her!”
Alexander was airborne and in control of Edwin before his blade could make contact. The serrated knife skittered across the ground as Alexander slammed him against the hulking abutment, driving Edwin’s breath from his body with a loud grunt. “I will tell you whatever you wish to know,” Alexander promised in a low warning, “but in turn, you will allow me to depart this city unharmed.”
Edwin fought against the suggestion, his spittle hitting Alexander’s cheek as he hissed refusal. “Never, you filthy parasite!”
“Then you condemn your sister, too. Without my protection she will not survive.” Edwin’s turmoil erupted in a roar and Alexander clamped one hand over his mouth. “Hold silent, or I will take your heart before you can draw your next breath!”
Edwin stilled. Hatred and conflict flashed across his expression. Hunters did not bargain with their prey, but learning of his sister’s well-being was as sweet an offer to Edwin as was Alexander’s opportunity to learn about Victoria’s twin. With Edwin’s breath rushing in a pained hiss through his nostrils, Alexander waited. Concession came with a nod of surrender and Alexander lowered his hand.
“Is she with you?” Edwin asked in a hoarse whisper, “here, in London?” As if Victoria might appear from air, he sent a desperate glance to the empty path behind Alexander.
Alexander’s hand palmed the point where Edwin’s heart galloped under his skin. If he was foolish enough to try his luck at killing a vampire as old and strong as Alexander, the beating organ would be free of his body before he could blink. “Victoria is in New York.”
“New York? So . . . so far away?”
Edwin swallowed a cry.
Alexander knew what the next question was even as the words spilled up the man’s throat and cascaded out his lips as if vomit.
“Is she like you—a vampire?”
Victoria’s twin wailed again. It came to a strangled stop as Alexander’s nails bit through cloth and skin, the talons promising to slice through Edwin’s flesh like a knife through butter.
“Please!” he begged. “Just tell me one thing before I die—is she happy?”
In the first few years of Victoria’s new life she had asked the same of her brother over and over. “I wonder is he happy?” she mused, twice, if not three times a day. The wistful question always came with a sentiment Edwin now mirrored; infinite love. The bond of these twins fascinated Alexander. He had lost all memory of every being human and was unable to appreciate how two beings could be so entwined when not mated. When Alexander allowed Victoria to speak of her brother, she would reminisce for hours, her eyes drifting beyond their time, back to her old life. After a few years Alexander tired of it, aware of how her affection for a man other than him roused spiteful jealousy. Victoria was sired to him, and while she professed her love with gushing sentiment, it did not, and never would, hold the depth of emotion she felt for her twin. Believing his death was imminent, Edwin’s dying wish was to have nothing more than the knowledge of his sister’s happiness. Would Victoria cry out for the same in her moment?
Alexander removed his nails from Edwin’s flesh. “Victoria is happy. She lives a comfortable life. I give her all she desires.” Except for you.
Edwin’s breaths staggered across Alexander’s face as a volley of questions exploded from his mouth. “Why did you take her? Why did you turn her? And why not Henry? He was the one you wanted! It was a ruse—his debt—all my father wanted was to draw you out! And instead you took Vicky! Why?”
“For reasons you will never comprehend, or accept. And knowing will not change the fact.”
“Does she speak of us, of her family?”
“Does she wish to return home?”
“No. Her life is with me now. She has passed beyond the restrictions of your human existence. Her world and yours will never meet.” Alexander glanced over Edwin’s face. It was truly fascinating to see Victoria in another. But beyond their outward appearance, what else did they share? “When did you turn to Hunting?”
Edwin’s pained green stare turned cold. “After you took my sister from me.”
“How soon after? Weeks, months?”
Shock parted Alexander’s lips.
“The Hunter gene activated the moment you took my sister’s mortal life. Which means she carries the gene too,” Edwin told him, the smirk thinning his lips confirming what Alexander was already fearing. “And when it awakens,” he murmured, leaving the unspoken terror hanging in the air between them.
A shout for final boarding on the Angelica reached Alexander’s ears. “I will leave this city of death,” he announced. “And you will not follow. Is that understood?”
“You are never to return here.”
“There is nothing to bring me back.” With a pointed glare, Alexander lifted his forearm from where it had been pinning Edwin to the abutment wall. “Do not make me regret my leniency,” he warned.
“Wait.” Edwin did not reach out, but his plea snatched at Alexander’s attention as effectively. “Could you—please, give her a message from me.”
“Tell her. . .” Edwin stared in despair at his boots. “I don’t know what to say. Tell her,” he tried again, holding out his two palms as if begging for assistance, “that I love her. That not a day passes when I don’t mourn her absence.” Edwin lowered his hands to hug himself against the cooling air, his head now shaking as he stared beyond Alexander’s shoulder. “I don’t hate her,” he whispered. “She must know this truth. Tell her my hate lies with one only. . .”
In the second it took for Edwin’s sorrowful eyes to meet with Alexander’s, his pitiful tone souring to menace, Alexander realised he had been duped. With his guard lowered, he had failed to see how Edwin shielding himself from the cold evening was so he could slide one hand inside his coat to
retrieve a syringe. His lips curved around the word ‘you!’ as he lunged. The syringe’s content was plunged into Alexander’s bloodstream before he could react.
The vervain disabled him immediately. Alexander collapsed to the ground, his throat constricting under the poison, his eyes bulging against the hellish fire raging beneath his skin. Edwin was on him in a moment, his arm raised to strike. “I beg you!” Alexander choked out. “Don’t take me from her!”
“I will protect her until my last breath!” he pleaded, the sight of Edwin’s glinting blade widening his eyes. “Please, I love her, don’t kill me!”
“You killed her!” Edwin roared, grabbing at where his coat bunched around his neck. “That is not love. And what does a blood demon like you even know of love! You’re a murderer! Nothing more!”
Fear roused enough strength in Alexander to throw a swipe at Edwin, but he easily avoided the powerless swing.
“I will end you now, here, where you lie in the dirt, you filthy murderous fiend!”
“You will end her too!” Alexander pleaded. “Without me she will flounder! She will perish! Think of your sister, think of Victoria!”
“Don’t you speak her name!” Edwin’s blade bit into the fine skin of Alexander’s throat. “For what you have done, I will take this head clean from its neck.”
The blade moved and Alexander gasped against the sting of parting skin and muscle. “My darling girl,” he whispered from behind closed eyes. “I have failed you. Please, forgive me.”
The final cut never came. Paralysed in the clutches of vervain and Edwin’s grasp, thoughts of only Victoria in his mind, his blood continued to scream as Edwin’s breaths rasped loudly above him.
“Find another way to protect my sister.” Edwin’s warning paired a vicious shove that released Alexander from his hold. The back of his head met the ground with a hard crack. “And soon. Because I vow that one day you will meet your end at my hand. And if not mine, by my son’s. Or his.”
Alexander dared to open his eyes. Edwin still stood over him, the blade now hanging by his side.
“Through every succeeding generation of Walker Hunter we will hunt you until your death. And for my sister,” Edwin said, allowing Alexander to drag himself out of reach. “I swear another vow. The Walker line will never harm her. She will have our protection. I will love her until the day I die, and she must always keep this truth in her heart.”
“Leave this city tonight, murderous demon. And know that if you return, I will finish what I began.”
In a flap of coattails, Edwin was gone. Alexander stared after him, his body only capable of dragging itself into shadow again. In the distance, the Angelica’s horn blasted a mournful farewell. He had missed his passage home to Victoria.
Thirteen days later Alexander watched the London skyline vanish behind sunset as he stood on the deck of the Sea Star. His satchel was his only possession, its width bulked by his recent acquisition. Victoria’s home had been as pleasant as she had described. Her family were reasonably wealthy, and he had admired the tasteful furniture and fittings of each room as he had wandered her human home. Edwin had neither exaggerated nor hidden the truths of his lineage. The Walkers were indeed borne from a long line of Hunters. As Edwin slept in oblivion to his presence, he sat at what had once been his father’s desk, studying the texts amassed for generations. His darling girl held the Hunter gene. Of that there was no doubt. And if she had not had her human life ended by his hand, her destiny would have had her fighting alongside her brother on London’s grimy streets. Edwin had also been right to warn Alexander find another way to protect her. Nothing in the books had suggested what might occur should a vampire possess the Hunter gene, no doubt the idea had never even been considered, but the power certainly lay dormant in Victoria. For how much longer, however? And how might it be activated?
Alexander rested one palm on the satchel’s fastenings as he abandoned the view to go below deck. He had absorbed what he could from her father’s records, and more investigation was required into how the gene may affect Victoria, but at that moment, his attention lay with the book in his satchel. He had found the album of photographs by Edwin’s bedside. The images detailing Victoria’s human life were too precious to merely glance through once and leave behind for time to ravage. They told the story of her early life, and standing in the dark bedroom, he could not decide if it pleased or troubled him to know she had been content in a world where he did not exist.
In the gloom of his cramped ship’s cabin, Alexander lit the single lantern by his bed and set the album on his knee. A hellish ten-day journey dragged out before him, but he had the distraction of Victoria’s short human life to study while he ignored hunger and the concern of what lay ahead for both of them. Opening the cover he turned to the image he had already decided was his favourite. “My darling girl,” he murmured resting his fingertips on her cheek. “You are mine, and I am yours. Always.”