Chasing Shadows (A Shadow Chronicles Novel) (3 page)

BOOK: Chasing Shadows (A Shadow Chronicles Novel)
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“And what good will
that do
?”

“The bastard will be killed for betraying vampire kind,” she replied simply. “If not by one of us, certainly the Ancients will take care of him.”

I suppressed a shudder. The Council of Ancients, generally referred to as the Ancients (all of them vampires who were a thousand or more years old), was the equivalent of a governing body in the vampire world. They made—and enforced—all the laws of our society. We weren’t supposed to kill conspicuously, make immortal children, or tell a human the truth about our kind. Anyone who learned vampires were real either had to be made a vampire or made vampire food. Ask a vampire and he’d probably deny it, but I knew my people feared the persecution that would likely follow being exposed, so I understood why some of them might be incensed by my books. My stories were fiction laced with a liberal dose of the truth, and the most recent article in
Vampire
, written specifically for the October edition because of Halloween on the 31
st
, pretty much spelled it all out.

“Again, I have to wonder what good it will do when the damage has already been done,” I said. “Besides, has anyone ever stopped to think that maybe this Vivian Drake person is simply really imaginative? I mean, for goodness’ sake, she’s a writer—coming up with incredible stories is part of her job description, and as far as humans are concerned, that’s all her books are.
Just incredible stories.”

Vangie scoffed. “Are you actually defending the traitor who is feeding her information?” she asked.

“Of course not,” I said, grabbing the coffee mug from the table as I stood. “I just don’t see the point of raising such a fuss. Going after Vivian Drake is sure to draw the kind of attention none of our people want.”

“Which is precisely why we’re not going to kill
her
,” Vangie said. “But we do need her to tell us who she’s getting her information from, so the traitor can be dealt with.”

“Fine, whatever,” I muttered, walking into the kitchen and over to the sink, where I rinsed out the mug. I noticed I had left the bottle of blood on the counter and grabbed it, putting it back in the fridge.

Vangie had risen and followed me, so I turned to her and asked, “What does hunting down Vivian Drake have to do with me, anyway?”

She rolled her eyes at me as she crossed her arms under her ample breasts. “Surely you can figure that one out for yourself, dear sister. You’re the only person we know of who is even remotely capable of moving around during the daytime safely.”

Actually, that was only partially true. While my human genetics had gifted me with a normal pineal gland, thus allowing me to follow a human sleep cycle, even a full vampire could be up during the day as long as he was well fed and kept blood on hand for when he felt tired. But a little known secret amongst vampires was that they were notorious procrastinators when it came to feeding; a vampire could go as many days as years he’d been turned without blood—not that anyone ever went to that extreme, because a vampire who’d gone even a month without feeding was as ravenous as a newborn. Going an extended period without blood weakened a vampire physically and mentally, so to purposely abstain for years was something I couldn’t even imagine—it would take
incredible
discipline. Most of the vampires I’d known in my time would never wait longer than two weeks between feedings, and it was foolish to wait even that long in my opinion. While I didn’t have to consume blood nearly as often as vamps did, I’d long ago made a practice of having at least one mug full every morning with breakfast because drinking a little blood every day gave me extra energy.
Dhunphyr
, of course, had escaped the crutch of backward melatonin production as completely as they had the thirst for blood. They got some of the benefits and none of the weaknesses of becoming a vampire.

But we didn’t know any immortal humans.

This, in turn, explained why Diarmid wanted me to be the one to try and locate Vivian Drake’s whereabouts—because there were so few of my kind, too.

I sighed. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but tell him I’ll think about it. That’s as much as I can give you right now. I’m not sure I really like the idea of leading him to her informant, either. I’d as much as be killing him or her myself.”

Vangie emitted a disgusted noise as she turned back for the living room. “Please spare me your self-righteous bullshit, Saphrona. If you’d get over yourself and accept what you really are, you wouldn’t have that problem, now would you?”

As she spoke, she picked up her jacket and put it on, wrapped the scarf around her head, and picked up her gloves and oversized sunglasses. Turning to where I now stood in the arched doorway to the kitchen, she queried, “Should I give Father and Lochlan your love? Or should I give them your usual sentiments and tell them you said go to hell?”

Boy, my sister could be such a bitch, I mused silently. Another sign of my incredible self control was the evenness of my voice as I said, “Like I told you, you may tell Diarmid that I will take his request under consideration. As for our brother, if you speak to him before I do, you can tell him I’m looking forward to Friday night.”

Vangie’s eyebrows winged up. “Oh? You’re actually going to spend time with a member of your family? Doing what, may I ask?”

Lochlan—whom I affectionately called Loch or Loch Ness—was my older “sibling” (older by about a hundred years), and was the only member of the family I still spoke to
with any regularity. He didn’t exactly get my lifestyle either (the only time he ever drank animal blood was when he visited me), but he tolerated it as just another of my eccentricities. He liked having a sister who marched to the beat of her own drum, and he understood my need to get away from Diarmid, who was controlling, and Vangie, who was just a bitch.

“If you must know, we’re going to see a movie.
Zombieland
premieres Friday.”

A love of zombie movies was something Loch and I shared; he didn’t really share any interests with Vangie, which only served as another reason for her hatred of me.

I knew she wasn’t happy by the way she shoved her sunglasses onto her face and marched stiffly over to the front door. Oh well, she was just going to have to get over it.

“Not that my name is Western Union or anything, but I’ll give them the message. Good day, Saphrona.”

With that, Vangie yanked my front door open and walked through it, slamming it shut behind her. Moments later I heard her car start up and back down the driveway. Shaking my head, I turned back for the refrigerator. I might not like my younger sister, but I did hope she made it home before she passed out again—certainly the blood she had ingested would help her with that—because I so did
not
need Diarmid coming here pissed at me because she’d gotten injured. Not that it would be my fault. Evangeline was the fool who’d gone out during the day without feeding first. I knew our sire kept vessels, so certainly she could have called one of them and fed before leaving home.

With a sigh, I opened the refrigerator and grabbed the bottle of pig’s blood, unscrewing the cap and taking three long swallows. I’d had some that morning and I really didn’t care for it cold, but Vangie’s visit had rattled my nerves more than I realized. I still had three horses’ hooves to trim and stalls to clean out, so I was going to need the extra energy to get through the rest of the day.

Putting the cap back on, I returned the bottle to the fridge and started for the back door. Just as I was about to step outside again, my phone rang. I groaned and turned back around, heading for the cordless unit on the wall next to the refrigerator. The I.D. screen showed me a number I didn’t recognize, so I answered with a wary, “Hello?”

“Is this the Caldwell Farm?” said a husky make voice.

“It is,” I replied.

The caller cleared his throat. “My name’s Mark Singleton, ma’am. May I speak with Saphrona Caldwell please?”

“You are speaking with her, Mr. Singleton. How may I help you?”

“Well, I just read an ad in the
Dispatch
that you’re looking to hire a hand for your place, Mrs. Caldwell. Ad says to call to schedule an interview,” Mark Singleton said.

I face-palmed into my right hand.
Truthfully, I’d forgotten about placing that ad because no one had responded to it. Despite the fact that I’d said salary was negotiable, apparently no one was looking to work on a farm that required him or her to actually live there. Plus, I’d only put it in the newspaper because my publisher was hot for me to write another book, and I thought having some help around the farm, at least for a little while, might free my mind enough to actually come up with another story idea.

“It’s Ms. Caldwell, actually,” I corrected automatically. “When would be a good time for you, Mr. Singleton?”

“Is it alright if I come by today?” he asked.

I turned and looked at the antique clock on the wall, which had just turned to 2:30. Why the hell not? I mused, then said, “Sure,” and gave him the directions. “If I’m not out in the barn when you get here, knock on the back door of the house.”

“Yes ma’am,” Mark replied.

After each of us had said goodbye, I hung up the phone, then reached back into the fridge for the bottle of blood, taking another couple of chugs before heading back outside to reign in the three horses that still needed their hooves trimmed.

First Vangie shows up with that ridiculous request, now I have to interview a potential employee
, I thought.
This day just keeps getting better and better
.

 

 

Back to Top

T
wo

 

 

When I finally walked out of the house, I made sure to go over to Moe and Cissy’s kennel and pet them through the chain link, allowing them to sniff me and reassure themselves that I was alright. Dogs were among the few animals that—while recognizing something dangerous—did not actually fear
vampires,
and what they say about Chihuahuas and their apparent inability to recognize a fight they can’t possibly win is true. I had not the slightest doubt that had they had an opportunity to attack Evangeline, Moe and Cissy would have done so with a rabid Rottweiler’s determination, and would have tried their utmost to tear my sister limb from limb in defense of their beloved mistress.

After the dogs appeared satisfied no harm had come to me, they trotted off to their water bucket, and I took that as a sign that I could move on. Walking through the barn, I turned left and looked in on the chickens. They were clucking and moving around their pen same as always, so I about-faced to check on the pigs in their sty. They were all flopped over on their sides in the shade, so I left them be as well.

I walked over to the split-rail fence that opened into a paddock, walked across the paddock and over to the gate that led to the main pasture. My six cows and four horses were all out grazing, so I had to whistle to get their attention. The cows, of course, barely looked up, but the horses raised their heads. I whistled again and they started trotting over. As I waited for them I couldn’t help but shake my head, my mind drifting back to Vangie’s visit. Vampires had been on Earth pretty much since the beginning of Man, though the term wasn’t actually used until the 18
th
century. Certainly my people had learned fairly early on in their existence that by drinking blood every day, they could stay awake longer during the daytime. For that matter, they didn’t have to sleep at all during the day if they didn’t really want to.

I shooed Hasufeld away and allowed his brother and parents to pass into the paddock as my thoughts kept turning. Most vampires had taken to living the lifestyle myth and legend had painted for them because of the simple fact that they could walk around at night without the fear of falling asleep at an inopportune moment. Why should they put in the extra time and effort it would take to maintain a human sleep cycle? Why fight the nature of what they had become?

Still, I had once wondered, why not at least try it—especially if you kept vessels or knew someone who did who was willing to share? Sure, you might have to drink a lot of blood, or at least consume regular quantities throughout the day same as humans had mealtimes, but wasn’t it worth it to see the beauty of sunlight? To smell flowers, or hear birds chirping in the trees? My people had no idea how much they were missing by giving in to their biology.

After getting the three horses back into their stalls, I made quick work of trimming and filing the edges of their hooves before putting them back outside once more. I then had to tackle one of the most despised tasks of farming—mucking out stalls. I had ten that I had to clear, not including the pigs’ indoor habitat and the chicken coop, which also needed cleared out.

As I resigned myself to that task and got started, I found myself wondering about Mark Singleton and why he had all of a sudden called about interviewing for the job I had advertised. I also had to consider that while I would be hiring him (if I did) to help out around the farm while I started on another book, I wasn’t going to be able to simply ignore my animals. I’d have to work with him every day for a week or more just so they would get used to having a stranger around. And I wouldn’t be able to go about doing things the way I sometimes did when I was alone. Although most of the time I did the farm work just like humans did—slowly, without using any extra speed or strength—there were days when I just wanted to get it all done and I buzzed around like Clark Kent on
Smallville
, popping nails in boards with my fingers and pounding posts into the ground with my bare hands. I could lift whole hay bales with one hand and race around the entire perimeter of my land within minutes. I wasn’t going to be able to do any of that with a hired hand on the farm—

BOOK: Chasing Shadows (A Shadow Chronicles Novel)
9.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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