Charles’ body had been found, his throat ripped out; Anna shuddered along with the other ladies who pressed their bodies against the door listening to the gentlemen on the other side.
“It’s an animal of some sort, no other explanation. The poor chap, he should never have been wandering across the moors on his own.”
“Come now Berty, there haven’t been wolves in England for years.”
“The point is something’s out there and we’re going to have to double the watches on the life stock, and tell the women they’re not to go out alone on the moors or anywhere else, they’re restricted to the grounds.”
Anna having heard enough slipped away only to instantly be faced with Thornton Worth, a rich and handsome man who paid her attentions daily. Her friends couldn’t understand Anna’s reluctance to be paid court by such an eligible bachelor and Anna couldn’t deny that Thornton fascinated her, excited her even, but there was also something dark about the man that frightened her. She caught him looking at her sometimes with hunger that went beyond the usual lust of a young man.
“Good day Miss Rivington.”
“Have you heard about Charles?” Anna replied without the usual formalities.
“Yes, sad news.”
Anna never had much to say to Thornton, she couldn’t explain it. She wanted to run from him but then felt unable to move. She wished she could avoid him but it anguished her when he turned and walked away. If this was the beginning of an attachment that would turn to marriage and love, then she didn’t like it much. Excusing herself she hurried along the corridor knowing that he would be watching her with that desperate look.
Nancy, a young French maid who was straining to learn English caught her arm and Anna was startled by the look in her eyes.
“Take care Miss.” she whispered in scattered English “He’s no good for you, c’est un monster.”
“Nancy, what on earth do you mean?”
“He’ll ruin you.” Nancy hurried off and Anna felt unsure what to make of the maids strange remarks.
Despite being nineteen Anna still found that she was scared enough by the day’s events to be unable to sleep. Wandering downstairs in the dark she hoped to put her mind at rest but instead found David, the groomsman dead on the floor half way in the open doorway. His neck was a gash of scarlet, his eyes rolled back. Anna screamed alerting the gentlemen who were still up playing cards, they came rushing in and cursing and calling out, ushered Anna away. Stumbling back up the stairs, Anna dashed across the corridor and flew into Thornton’s arms who came suddenly from the shadows.
“Oh Thornton, it’s awful. There’s another killing, right outside the door.”
“Alright calm down.” Thornton stroked Anna’s hair gently “The men will take care of it.” Quickly Thornton stashed his blood covered jacket away as he led Anna into an empty room. She was so upset she didn’t notice. Softly he soothed Anna’s nerves and she clung to his arms inhaling the scent of him. It was a while before Anna became conscience of her near naked state, her night dress was thin and wispy, the laces half unravelled. Thornton stared down at her with that same hunger and Anna found her pulse was thrumming a rapid beat. Hesitantly Thornton bent his head to kiss her. Anna kissed back with a passion she didn’t know existed and when Thornton lifted her skirts and her legs up around him she didn’t fight him. By the time Anna realised in a hazy state that her virtue would soon be lost it was too late to stop.
Anna was woken by the maids shuffling about outside and she sat up to find herself alone in the room. It wasn’t yet light and she quickly rose at first she didn’t notice the bloody jacket stuffed behind the arm chair, and it wasn’t until she heard the maids talk outside that fear lurched in Anna’s belly.
“They’re saying it was no animal what did it. That it was a man, a monster.”
“Well you know what Nancy says, and she’s psychic about these things. She’s saying that it’s obvious. Who turned up on twelfth night and when did the killings start. Who hasn’t got any living relatives and who’s got the eyes of a hundred year old man but the body of a young one? Who’s been stalking the masters daughter, looking at her like a piece of meat.”
“Mr Worth.” The other maid exclaimed
“Exactly! A man with no past and no alibi for the killings. A man who’s always out walking or riding in the middle of the night. Not afraid of nothing he aint.”
“but what of the masters daughter?”
“well she’s beautiful isn’t she, and from a real old family line. And Nancy says it’s breeding season. If he’s what she says, he’ll be wanting to spawn.”
“What does she think he is?”
“An old demon. A vampire.”
Anna tried to laugh at the maids talk but she couldn’t. She tried to cast it away from her mind but it lingered there. A hand on her flat belly she wandered if they’d made a child last night. Then she saw the blood stained jacket and almost fainted.
It wasn’t until that evening that Anna saw Thornton again. He rode into the courtyard looking immaculate and he smiled a secret smile at her. Anna had heard it from her mother that Thornton had asked fathers permission to marry her, and everyone had congratulated her. Nancy though had shook her head sadly and snatching a moment alone with Anna had begged her to see sense trying to shove a little book into Anna’s hands.
“He’ll ruin you. If he has not done already.” She gasped looking pointedly at Anna’s laced corset. “Indeed is that not a babe of a demon in your belly I sense growing.”
Anna retched herself away from Nancy and told her to mind her rotten tongue and know her place. Nancy had said a prayer a loud for her and ran off. Anna slammed the door angrily telling herself it was all silly superstitious lies. That was the last time she saw Nancy alive.
The little French maid was found dead and cold by the cook, near the gates clutching a little silver cross that was around her neck. The other servants wept and some prayed while others said God hadn’t saved her so there was little point in praying to him now. Anna cried too and then upon entering her room found a little black bible on her bed that wasn’t her own. Inside was an inscription written in French, Anna made it out from her school french: My Dear Nancy, let this be the one book that guides you as you make your way in life. Let the lord lead you. Your loving mother.
Inside the book was a folded piece of paper ripped from a book. It was handwritten as if from a journal and dated 1705,
The creatures are dying out now, starving to death. In the north of Scotland they were born from demons that mated with the villagers here. They survive in the cold and the bleak, feeding upon blood. Growing from babies into mature never ending beings. They live forever. They live among us, but we have singled them out. Few have escaped, one; still young a boy, named Thornton. He was faster than the others, stronger, we believed him to be the new alpha male, he’s escaped and we cannot track him.
Anna looked up with tears running down her face, she felt sick. Standing before her was Thornton half hidden in shadows, she hadn’t heard him come in.
“What is this?” Anna asked and Thornton sighed heavily
“I wanted to tell you myself, explain in gently after we were married. That’s a page from this journal. Nancy must have gotten a hold of it I found it in the servant’s room.”
“It belonged to a man named Gregory Evans, he specialised in studying, tracking and hunting my kind. When he died I took this, it’s contents is too dangerous.”
“It’s dated a hundred years ago.”
Anna shook her head disbelieving.
“You’re a monster. They’ll kill you when they know.”
Thornton smiled a little “They could try. Anna in time you’ll come to except this, and what you’ll become.”
“I’m not becoming anything!” Anna cried “especially not your wife.”
“You have no other choice. You’re already mine, and you carry my child.”
“You can’t be sure of that.”
“Oh but I can. I can sense it, just like you can.”
Anna flung herself past Thornton and called out to a passing maid
“Where’s my father?”
“Both your parents have set out back to town in the carriage madame.”
“What! Without me.”
“Mr Worth assured them you’d both be following in an hour or two after them.”
Anna wasted no time rushing down the stairs, Thornton leisurely followed her down as Anna threw on her cloak.
“Don’t act in haste Anna.” Thornton said “There’s no point in running from me.”
Anna ran out not listening to him and was upon her horse in minutes riding out at full speed. Thornton shook his head wishing she’d just listen to him. Instead now he had to follow her and change her before she found anyone and let the world believe she had ran mad.
It was like the darkness was against her, Anna quickly became lost on the forest path that her parent’s carriage had taken and the night fell. Dismounting Anna tried to find her bearings but the fear her horse sensed sent it bolting away through the trees. Finally she made her way onto a clearer path but sobbed in fear when she saw the blood. There was blood everywhere. It was splattered on the ground coating every dried leaf and twig in sight. It dripped from the branches of the haggard and warped trees that hung over one another, their leafy claws reaching out. Anna whipped around frantically looking for a means of escape. She stumbled on through the forest everything looking more daunting and sickly. She bumped into a tree, branches reached out for her and grabbed her hair as she tore away only to nearly trip over a dark object on the floor. White dead eyes stared up at her from a dead dear it’s throat cut and bleeding, deep claw marks in it’s back. Anna’s scream pierced the air and bounced off the trees travelling on the wind to another part of the wood where evil lurked.
His skin shone, his eyes black and at the echo of Anna’s voice his handsome head whipped around. Like a racing dog Thornton sprinted through the trees at an unnatural pace. Deliberately slowing down to savour the chase, give her time to run a bit further. He wouldn’t lose her now, the scent was hot in his nose. Fangs began developing inside his mouth and Thorn’s black eyes dilated to fill his eyes with pure darkness turning them into endless holes. Her scent was everywhere, her dress, the velvet bodice, her rose water perfume, her hair, natures imprint on her skin where she had touched the forest. The blood. As he got closer Thorn heard the hysterical beating of her heart, he smiled. The faster her heart the warmer her blood would feel as it gushed into his mouth. Just enough to change her that was all. Just so his venom could travel through her veins.
There she was shivering in the cold. She was beautiful, her hair swept up, ringlets tumbling down around her face as they escaped the pins that held it up. Soon she wouldn’t feel the cold, or pain, or death. Thorn knew she was scared but what he did now he did for love.
Anna spun around her face filled with terror.
“It was you again wasn’t it? You killed that animal, it’s blood was everywhere.”
“It was you again wasn’t it? You killed that animal, it’s blood was everywhere.”
“If you’ll just listen to me.”
“No!” she cried. “Stay away from me. I trusted you, but you killed Charles as well and the groom and Nancy. They were all found butchered they said, tossed aside.” Her hatred of him burned through her and he could feel it, but he’d have the rest of forever to make her love him.
“Anna I love you, what I am doesn’t matter, you’ll understand after.”
“I don’t even know what you are.” Anna began before staring wide eyed at him. “What do you mean after? After what? I’m not with child, I know I’m not.”
“It’s not just that. You’ll be one of my kind after a few seconds, it won’t even hurt. It will feel like last night.”
Thorn started towards her but she turned and ran. He was behind her in a second grabbing her wrists and holding her.
“Anna please” Thorn begged, his voice was pleading.
“No, help! Help me…”
“It wont hurt, you’re going to live for eternity. You’ll be with me. You said you loved me last night when you were sleeping, you will again.”
“No please, please…”
Holding her head in his hands, Thorn nuzzled into Anna’s neck as would a lover, he didn’t want to frighten her more so he kept his fangs in the shadow as they grew, she shuddered but her strength to push him away had sunk with her heart.
“I love you” Thorn whispered before sinking his fangs into her neck.
When Anna woke she found herself sprawled upon the forest ground, she was alone. Scrambling to get up she smelt a rabbit, a few feet away burrowed down in a hole near a tree. Up in the tree was a squirrel on a nest of birch twigs with it’s offspring. She couldn’t see any of this but Anna knew, she could smell it. What’s happened to me she thought desperately. Anna began walking through the forest, she found herself out of the trees and on the fields within seconds. The cruel wind slashed at her skin, Anna’s bare shoulders were hunched as she held herself and her long skirts whipped around. Poisonous tears ran down her face. Nothing was still, the very black heart within her was shaking, fingers numb with pain that was an agonizing pleasure. Every leaf on the trees screamed out diamond shattering cries for the cold to leave them alone. Anna had not even the comfort of warm red blood running through her veins, it was now tainted with venom and ran cold. I have nothing but the memories of the disgrace I have now become she thought solemnly the words of Gregorys diary haunting her, how he had described the beasts of the north. Nothing gives off the glow of love, nothing presents happiness, nothing is alive, nothing has the mercy of death. More tears trickled down her cheeks. And the reality is, I am nothing.
Thorn appeared from behind the trees, “One day she will understand” he murmured half to himself, half to the forest that bowed to him in sadness at what he had done, then Thorn walked towards Anna and took her hand.