• Meg Sechrest

Bloodlines - Preview

Updated: Dec 3, 2020


Prologue

The year was 678BC and no one quite knew how the small events in one single nation were going to affect the rest of life for all of history. In Syria, they had just surrendered their territory to the Persians and had given up all they had been fighting to win for centuries, including their freedom from the wicked Persian ruler, King Corvis, who was a ruler like none other and was also a man of great power and great wealth. Even the people of Syria hadn't known what the actions and events of their nation would bring to the world and the surrender of their nation to King Corvis would do to all of mankind for all times to come. Had they known, perhaps something could have been done to prevent the events which had taken place.

“Your Majesty,” a poor, simple peasant said as he bowed to the King on a day when the people of the town were to present their requests to him in court.

“What is it you ask of your king? Corvis replied. “Go on, Peasant, speak.”

“Yes, Sire. I...we… I mean, me lady and meself are very poor and we come to offer a chicken for your table.” The man reached a chicken out to King Corvis and he motioned to the guard standing to their left to take it from the man.

“Continue with your request, peasant.”

“Well, Sire, you see. Ever since the order for the lower houses, which is where many of us poor townsfolk such as me lady and meself reside.”

“What fault do you find in my orders of the lower towns?”

“Well, you see, Sire, only that since the borders have been put up in our districts, it limits our waterflow and sunlight. My crops are turning brown; somes aren’t growing at all, and me livestock been going without the water hole.”

“I see. To amend this situation would mean to allow the merging of the districts again, would it not?”

“Well, yes, sire. I suppose it would. But our families are starving.”

“Let them starve. Next!”

Corvis’s lead advisor leaned in and whispered, “Your Majesty, certainly you must do something to help the poor or else you…”

“Or else what?!”

Pantsis backed away and mumbled, “Or surely you will pay for your sins against them.”

When King Corvis was at the height of his reign in Syria, seeking the destruction of many people all over the land, the time came for Corvis to choose a wife. At this point, he was still a relatively young man of 45 years or so with many attractive qualities, which caused his confidence to boast that any woman would want him, and his assurance overwhelmed him, making his attractive qualities seem far less appealing to any reasonable woman.

“Pantsis,” Corvis said to his lead advisor on a morning when he’d grown especially tired of his loneliness. “I’ve spent all my days lonely. I require a wife. You are my most trusted advisor. Find me a woman worthy of marriage. She must be beautiful and wise but also young. I also want her to be from Syria and not a Persian so the Syrians will not grow angry and think I have betrayed them.”

“Most certainly, Majesty. I will see to this immediately and will draft notice right away and will search all the kingdom to find the perfect woman.”

Pantsis studied hundreds of women until he found just the right one whose beauty surpassed all the other young maidens in Syria. Her name was Aeliana. She had hair that was darker than the night sky and her skin was not tarnished from working in the fields in the sun. Pantsis felt her eyes were like light browned chestnuts and knew King Corvis was partial to the darkened color of chestnut eyes.

When Pantsis reported back to the King the woman he had found, Corvis was pleased and commanded to see her and inspect her himself.

“I want to see this young rose that you say is to be my bride. What is her name and what is her age?”

“A young woman of 19. Aeliana Kattan from Syria.”

“Wonderful. She is to be my wife. Bring her to me at once.”

As the King was a man to be pleased with only his eyes and cared nothing for Aeliana’s disposition or manners, he spent little time getting to know Aeliana and merely saw that she was of lovely adornment and made arrangements for them to be wed at once, much to the young woman’s dismay. Aeliana was a woman of passion and excitement and was led by her heart, not her mind. When she was told she was to marry for obligation, she was devastated.

“My dearest, he is the King and you must obey orders. You must marry him,” said Aeliana’s aunt as they packed her very few belongings.

“I do not love him, nor could I ever.”

“Marriage isn’t about love, especially not to the king.” Aeliana's aunt kissed her and said goodbye as palace guards escorted her out.

When Aeliana arrived at the palace, King Corvis greeted her in the throne room, and she was surprised by how handsome she thought he was; nonetheless, she was turned off by his attitude when he spoke.

“Welcome to my palace. You will be pleased with your rooms as everyone who visits my palace is pleased with the measures taken. My palace is quite extraordinary.”

She gave no response to his arrogance but only curtsied and was shown out the side door and was escorted to her room. On her way past, her glance caught notice of a man she found particularly attractive and her eyes stayed fixated on his flowing dark hair and relaxed face.

“Hello,” she said and nodded.

His eyes followed her as she walked by but he said nothing in return as a conniving smile appeared on his face.

Later that evening, while the new queen was readying herself for bed, a knock came to her door.

“Your Highness,” her visitor whispered.

Unknowing of who it was and still nervous to be in this new and uninviting place, she slipped into her robe and cracked open the door, peeking her head around.

“Oh, good evening,” she said, seeing the face she’d been so drawn to earlier, who was also one of the king’s most loyal friends, Delino.

Delino took her hand and brought it to his lips as he studied her beauty. He looked into her eyes and brushed her long brown hair back from her face.

“Her Highness’s comfort is my highest priority,” he responded and entered her room.

After their affair had gone on for many months, Aeliana became with child. She did her best to hide her state the best she could and stayed away from the King as often as she could and was ashamed of her condition. When the King summoned the presence of his queen one day, she sent word that she was unavailable to him as she was unable to hide her condition from him any longer; The King was enraged.

“I demand to see my new queen at once!” he ordered from the palace servant who had given him word that the queen would not be joining him that morning.

“Your majesty,” the servant knocked. “The King demands your immediate presence in the throne room.”

“You may tell His Majesty that I am unwell this day and I shan’t be joining him.”

The servant curtsied and went away. The queen’s continued refusal to see the King caused King Corvis to go to her chambers himself.

“What is it that ails you, my queen?” Corvis asked as he stood outside Aeliana’s bedroom chambers and knocked.

“I have fallen ill. There’s no reason for alarm.”

“I shall send someone to assist you in your illness.”

“Truly, that is not necessary.”

“Someone will come to you first thing.”

Afraid he would find her condition, knowing they had not been together for some time and he would surely have her neck, she devised a plan to remove him from her life forever. Later that evening, when her lover made his usual visit, she explained everything that was happening.

“I do not want to be his queen anymore. When he finds out about the child, he will surely do away with us or send us away! This child belongs to you,” she whispered to Delino. “Will you help me find a way for us to be together?”

He leaned over her, bringing her lips to his. As they kissed, he said, “I will do whatever my Queen demands of me.”

“I have a plan to murder the king.”

“Murder? But he has not wronged us.”

Aeliana kissed Delino as she said, “Are you more faithful to him or me?”

“You.”

Unbeknownst to her, unfolding amid her plan was something more powerful than she. The King’s advisor, Pantsis, had a vision of the plan she was brewing and informed the King.

“Sire!” Pantsis called out as he rushed into the throne room the very next day.

King Corvis stood from the throne, taken aback at the state of his advisor, and he called out to him. “Pantsis, what ails you? Hurry at once.”

“I have seen the future.”

“Tell me, my most trusted one, what is it you see?”

“Your death.”



2019

“Delius? Why are you here?” Satan said and walked away from the Beast’s cage. “Don’t even think you’ve come back for my prized possession again.”

“No. I’ve come to strike a bargain with you.”

“Bargain? Me?” Satan laughed for a moment. “Actually, go on. I’ve been known to strike a deal now and then.”

“Good, because you have something I want.”

“And what would I get from this arrangement?”

“The Slayer.”

“Ooh, this does intrigue me. I had her once down here locked in a cage, but that didn’t last long. We all know Aldestine is calling dibs on her soul.”

Delius chuckled.

“Well, I can pretty much guarantee it this time.”

“Fabulous. What is it you want me to do?”

“Release Corvis.”

Satan groaned. “No can do.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t have the power.”

“Who does?”

Satan walked down the corridor and motioned for Delius to follow. He pointed to the Demortusmaros—the Sea of the Dead Souls.

“Demetrius?”

Satan nodded. “He’s the guardian of Hell’s souls. There’s only one being higher than him when it comes to releasing souls.”

“Patrick Barclay.”

“You got it.”

“Well, I know who I need to see now.” Delius began walking out of the lower Hell chamber to the main gates. Satan followed.

“Delius, what on earth do you want with that pain in the ass anyhow?”

Delius turned back to look at Satan and grinned.

“Big plans are in the making. Prepare to be amazed.”

Satan watched as he walked up the mile-long entrance to Hell and disappeared into the city streets above.

“What did he want?” Patrick asked as he approached from the darkness behind where Satan stood.

“He wants Corvis.”

“Why?”

Satan shrugged. “Like I know. Delius is always scheming. You know that.”

“Corvis is not to be released, under any circumstances. If I find that you have been involved with the release of Corvis, you will pay dearly. Have I made myself clear?”

“Absolutely.”





ONE- September 2019

“You can always come and stay with me, you know,” Lacy said as she handed Abbi another sweet tea. Lacy noticed her best friend still wasn’t acting herself and was very depressed and sad. Abbi wasn’t eating much and was wearing a loose t-shirt, baggy sweatpants, and had her hair pulled back in a messy bun.

“I appreciate your offer, but you know I’m staying with Arlington right now,” Abbi said, taking a bite of her fries just to appease Lacy. She pushed her plate away and Lacy looked down at Abbi’s unfinished food.

“I think you should consider it, Abs. Last I saw, you weren’t at Arlington’s, you were staying in that big brick house that sits opposite my road.”

“That’s true.”

Lacy took a fry from Abbi’s plate. “Why are you there?”

Abbi shrugged.

“Is that where your man-child lives? Are you living together?”

“It’s complicated.”

Lacy took a sip of Abbi’s tea. “Complicated? What’s so complicated? This guy is terrible for you. You look terrible. I’m your best friend and I’m concerned about you. You always finish your favorite,” Lacy said, removing Abbi’s half-eaten plate of fries and fried chicken tenders, turning to wait on the man next to Abbi.

“Jeez, thanks, Lace.”

Lacy glanced back to Abbi, and creased her eyebrows, giving her an annoyed expression. “I wasn’t trying to insult you, girl, just pointing out the obvious. When’s the last time you slept? Look at these dark rings.” Lacy pointed to the dark circles developing underneath Abbi’s puffy, swollen eyes. “What’s been with you, Abs? Are you ever gonna tell me about this guy who’s hurt my BFF’s heart?”

“I will. I’m just not ready to talk about it yet.”

“On second thought, maybe you shouldn’t.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because I’m gonna kill him.”

“Heh,” Abbi chuckled as her eyes started to tear up. “I wish you could. I’m mad at him too.” Abbi dripped a tear and Lacy’s usually tough interior turned soft, and she wondered what to say or if there was even anything to do to help Abbi. Lacy knew from her own experiences that breakups were hard to get over, and it seemed to her that this one was going to take some serious ice cream and retail therapy to help Abbi out of an unusually low slump.

“Abs, I hate seeing you this way. What can I do for you? How about I set us up on some dates? I have hot guys coming in here all the time and you know I can get us dates super fast.”

“I don’t know, Lace…”

“Oh, Abs, you have to move on from this guy.” Lacy grabbed the check from a man sitting a few spaces from Abbi and then she turned back to Abbi saying, “Please come to my house. You know I inherited all my dad’s money when he died and I want to use it to our advantage. We can have girl’s night every night and whoever this guy is…”

“I know, Lace. I want to stay with you,” Abbi interrupted, not wanting to think any more of Tom, “But Arlington has been treating me really good and I don’t want him to feel like I’m ungrateful.” She dropped her head onto her arms and sighed.

“Abbi, who are you kidding? You hate it there as would anyone. Admit it Abs, your dad is a freak. But that’s beside the point. This isn’t about Arlington. This is about that guy and wherever you’re staying right now. I know it is.”

Abbi knew Lacy was right about Arlington and also about Tom, but she wasn’t ready to admit it out loud. She also wasn’t ready to admit that the true reason she was prolonging her stay at Tom’s house was to see if he would get resurrected from Hell. However, her hopes for that were diminishing by the day—as it had already been about a year since she’d staked Tom and sent him to his eternity—and Abbi’s hurting heart needed to move on. Abbi peeked her eyes up over her arms to glance up at Lacy as she continued wiping up the bar and waited on other customers.

“I know,” Abbi said. “Arlington has always been…different. Somehow, since my mom died, he’s changed. He’s been treating me better. It’s almost like he’s trying to make up for it or something.”

“Well, okay. But my offer stands. It’s only me in that huge house and it gets lonely.”

“What happened to that guy you were dating?” Abbi asked, finally lifting her head and taking a sip of her tea.

Lacy paused in front of Abbi and leaned forward. As she pulled her shoulder-length black hair into a short ponytail and rested her elbows onto the bar, Lacy said, “I kicked him to the curb.”

Abbi laughed, shaking her head. “Lace, you are so funny about your boyfriends. What was the matter with him?”

Lacy turned and grabbed a bottle of vodka and filled a shot glass, handing it to someone a few places down from Abbi. “Nothing was wrong with him. His snoring sounded like a pen of pigs. I wasn’t getting any sleep and the dark circles under my eyes were not working out. He had to go.”

Abbi smiled and admired her sassy best friend. As Lacy bounced around the bar, Abbi thought about Lacy’s proposition and she swirled the straw around in her glass…

As much as Arlington has been treating me better, and as much as I am hoping Tom will get resurrected, it’s so lonely in his house, and the hopes that he will are diminishing by the day. If I was at Lacy’s. It would be girl’s night every night. Plus, she has that cozy guest room and a private bathroom not Tom’s man bathroom …

“Hey, Lace?” Abbi lifted her head as Lacy returned.

“Change your mind? It’s written all over your face, Abs. I’ve known you for a long time.” Lacy smiled as the man directly to Abbi’s left asked for a beer and Lacy turned to get it. “Why don’t you plan to move in tomorrow. I’ll ask if Jack can help us move your things. Since I’m covering today, I’m off the weekend. I get off at 6. What do you think?”

“Okay.” Abbi nodded. “I’m good with that.”

Lacy stopped in front of Abbi before moving on to another customer as she glanced down the length of the bar to the man on the end.

“You need to come to my house even if you don’t move in.”

“Why?”

“I have a surprise for you.”

“A surprise?”

Lacy stopped in front of Abbi only for a moment to say, “Abs, you are so sad and lonely. Trust me, you’ll appreciate this.”

“Um… okay.”

“Oh, that reminds me. Did you leave a package for me last week for my birthday?”

Lacy shook her head. “No. I already gave you that membership so you could stream unlimited movies. Best present ever.”

Abbi smiled. “Yeah. It was pretty great.”

“Why? Did you get a package?”

Abbi nodded and took a drink of her tea. “Yep. Someone left the most beautiful gold bracelet and diamond stud earrings for me on the porch with a note that said, “To a woman who deserves the world, Happy Birthday.”

Abbi pulled back her hair to show Lacy the diamond stud earrings and gold bar bracelet with some kind of engraving.

“Oh, wow. He gets my vote.”

“He?”

“Surely it’s a guy,” Lacy said.

“How do you figure?”

“Well, number one, he bought you diamonds. It’s obvious he wants to get laid, and also by the engraving.”

Abbi reached her hand up to touch the diamond earring as she glanced at her bracelet. “What do you mean?”

“Well, my dad was super into ancient writings and I recognize that writing.”

Abbi looked to the bracelet at the odd numbers. “What is it?”

“They’re Latin numbers.”

“And?”

“I think it says, ‘October 18, 2018.”

Abbi gasped and clutched her hand around the bracelet.

“Maybe it was Jack. You know he’s sweet like that and he’s sweet on you.”

“Yeah… maybe…”

“By the way, Jack was in here yesterday asking about you.”

“Oh? Why? What was he asking?”

“You know why, Abs. Jack is so in love with you he can’t handle it. Maybe you should stop in at the Sheriff’s department and at least say hi. You and Jack have been friends longer than we have. I’m sure he’d appreciate the thought.” Lacy tapped the counter and turned to hand another vodka to the man at the end of the bar, also handing him his bill. She paused there for a moment as he handed her a wad of cash and whispered to her in such a way that Abbi wouldn’t see behind the row of customers then stood to walk out. Abbi didn’t notice who was there as her thoughts were still distracted by both Tom and by worries about what to do about Jack. She had dropped her head onto her arms again in a depressed sort of manner.

When Lacy returned to Abbi, she said, “Well? Are you going to stop in and see Jack?”

Abbi didn’t lift her head but mumbled through her arms, “Maybe. Thanks for the food. Arlington’s cooking is… interesting. How much is my bill?”

“Your bill was already covered.”

Abbi lifted her head. “What?”

Lacy reached into her pocket and pulled out the wad of cash, handing it to Abbi. “This is for you.”

Abbi shuffled through the money. “This is $980!” When she looked around the bar—not seeing anyone she thought would be so generous—Abbi asked, “Who left this?! This is Grundy Hill for goodness sakes and no one except you has money like this!”

“Your dad does.”

“My dad doesn’t count unless he’s the one who left it. Is he?”

Lacy shook her head and looked for the man. “The guy left.”

“What did he say to you?”

“Nothing. He just said to give you that money after paying your bill. Well, I took my tip. I knew I should take my tip—he always tips well as he’s a regular—I took the cost of your meal, my tip, and then gave you that.”

“Who was he?”

Lacy shrugged. “Not sure. He keeps to himself, but he’s a regular and comes in all the time.”

“Lace! This is so much money! What did he look like?”

“Um…” Lacy thought for a moment and then gestured her hand over her head and tipped up on her toes to show Abbi how tall he was. “He’s tall with dark hair that’s kind of wavy and shaggy and falls past his ears a little, but not too shaggy or unkempt. I guess you could just say it’s just a little breezy? His face is very handsome and he has pretty good bone structure. I think you’d think he was attractive in spite of some of the similarities he has to Arlington—not that you’d think your dad is handsome… ew that’d be so gross!”

“Similarities? What do you mean?”

Lacy bit her lip to think as she reached for a rag and wiped the area around the guy next to Abbi.

“I just mean that he’s tall and lean but not too lean, and he’s mostly good looking but in a mysterious kind of way.”

“Lacy, just get to the point!”

“Alright, alright! I guess I just mean about their long hair—but this guy’s hair isn’t nearly as long as your dad’s—and how they both have dark eyes and how they both keep to themselves…”

“I think I get the picture. What else do you know about him?”

“Well, not much, but he comes in very late, almost close to closing, and drinks far too much vodka…”

By Lacy’s description, Abbi was having suspicions of either Tom or Henry.

“Tell me what he’s like. I mean, what’s his attitude like?”

Lacy contemplated for a moment on what to say, not sure what Abbi wanted to know.

“You mean like…”

“Is he rude or polite?”

“Oh, well, he doesn’t say enough for me to notice that not really. I suppose I can say he is polite because he’s never been rude. However, I don’t think he’s ever thanked me for a drink. As I said, he’s very quiet. He only walks in, sits on the same stool,” Lacy pointed to the stool on the far end, “And he orders his shots. That’s it. He never holds a conversation.”

Abbi’s thoughts immediately turned to Tom. Is it possible? I shouldn’t get my hopes up.

“I need to know more about him, Lace. Think of anything… anything at all. If he’s a regular, you must know something.”

Lacy deliberated more on the handsome stranger but didn’t know what else to tell Abbi.

“I’m not sure, Abs. He’s kind of a loner, but he’s never rude. He never eats anything and always drinks the same thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Straight shots of vodka. Not even with ice. He wants vodka neat every time.”

“Hm… That’s all you know?”

“Pretty much. Sometimes he comes in with an olive-skinned friend who is rougher in demeanor and usually has a pretty blonde-haired woman with him, but I don’t know anything other than that. Like I said, he does keep to himself, so much so that I’ve wondered if he’s gay.”

“What? Why is that?”

“Well, because when drunk women hit on him, he just ignores them and looks away. That’s mostly why I haven’t asked him out by now because I figured he was gay. Usually, when a guy as hot as him comes in, I’ve got him asked out by drink number two.”

When Lacy said that—trying to remain collected as she freaked internally—Abbi rolled her eyes at her friend’s flirtatious ways. Abbi didn’t see how it could be possible because of him having been staked by her, but her hopes were rising.

“Okay. Well, I’m off then. See you later.”

“Where are you going?”

“I’m heading to the gym and Arlington’s.”

“Abs, why don’t you wait until I close and you can come home with me?”

“Thanks, but I need to go work out, and then I told Arlington I’d do some shopping for him,” Abbi said. “I feel bad for him, ya know? I’m all he has. It’s kind of pathetic if you think about it. He really should date.”

“Date?” Lacy asked and paused in front of where Abbi dug through her bag to look for her keys.

“Yeah,” Abbi shrugged and pulled her keys out of her bag. “I suppose you’re right. Who in their right mind would date that?”

Lacy nodded. "But your mom procreated with it."

Abbi laughed and shook her head. "Why you gotta mess with me?"

"I'm your friend. It's what we do."

“Anywho, I’m out. See you tomorrow, girl,” Abbi said and walked to the door.

“Use my spare key if you decide to go to my house. I’ll text you later. There’s leftover pizza in the fridge and margarita mix in the cabinet!” Lacy hollered and waved but watched with concern as Abbi opened the door.

“Text me if you need anything at all. Don’t forget! I have a surprise for you! You’re looking like a hot mess these days!” Lacy hollered as Abbi left.

Abbi turned and waved as she walked out of Suds. Just as she was getting into her trusty old Ford, her phone buzzed.

Jack: Hey Abs. I was kind of hoping we could catch up soon. Missing our time together like crazy. I’m off tomorrow. Maybe I can take you out for lunch? Let me know. K.

Abbi sighed and dropped her head onto the steering wheel as she contemplated what she would say to Jack. Did she want to see Jack? Yeah, kind of. They’d been friends a long time and he would always be important to her. However, Jack would always want it to be something more than she did and that’s what made their relationship awkward. Nevertheless, she texted back.

Abbi: Hey, Jack. I’m free tomorrow. Suds? Or something different for a change? I’ll be at the big brick house at the end of the road that leads out to Lacy’s.

Before heading to the gym, Abbi stopped by the store and picked up some food and took it by Arlington’s house, also driving by Tom’s house since it was on the way out of town.

Without Tom around, Abbi had been taking precautionary measures to keep herself safe. Just about every day, she stopped by the only gym within miles of her to work on her fitness, which was where she was headed currently to go for a jog and a short weight lifting session. She arrived and grabbed her leggings out of the back seat of the car and walked inside.

Abbi always had the same routine since she’d started going to the gym: change, pick out a treadmill, put on her earbuds, jog 30 minutes, lift small weights for 20 minutes, then hit the shower. Today, began in relatively the same manner until she was interrupted during her jog.

“Haven’t seen you in here before,” a man said as he tossed a towel over his shoulder and paused in front of Abbi’s treadmill.

Abbi reached to her buds and hit pause, saying, “Excuse me?” in a long puff of air as she slowed her jog.

“Name’s Chad,” he replied and leaned forward, resting his elbows onto her treadmill.

Abbi didn’t even respond as she grabbed her water bottle and took a drink, stepping down and wiping the sweat off her forehead.

Can a girl not even go for a jog without being at risk for this nonsense anymore? Hasn’t he heard of Tinder?!

Abbi walked away and to the free weights, ignoring “Chad’s” efforts in hitting on her.

“You are?” he asked as he hurried to follow after her.

You don’t want to do this, Chad, Abbi thought as she imagined reaching out to shake his hand and watching him collapse to the floor, gasping for air. On second thought… maybe I will … her thoughts continued.

“A name?” he said as Abbi picked up two weights from the floor and began arm curls.

“Any name?” Abbi asked.

She knelt to re-tie her shoe and thought, How annoying! I wish I could just swipe left on you like Lacy does with her dates!

“Preferably yours, sweet thing. I see the A on your cell phone. Is that Amy? Or maybe Amanda? Perhaps…”

“Abigail, okay? Look, buddy, the gym isn’t a hookup sesh, okay? Now buzz off.”

“I see. A woman in command… very hot,” he said, raising one eyebrow. “Is there a last name to that, Abigail?”

Abbi picked up her weights again and really wanted him to go away. Desperate not to give him her name, the only name she could come up with at that moment was… “Barclay.”

The man’s eyes widened. “Your name is Barclay?”

Why would that matter to you? She wondered and dropped the weights, practically right onto her toes as she realized she just gave the man Tom’s name and she nodded, watching the man disappear from her sight without another word.

What is this reputation that you hold, Thomas Patrick? Does everyone hate you? Including humans?

Plopping down onto the nearest weight machine, Abbi let out a deep sigh and groaned, “Abbi, what is wrong with you? You can’t tell strange men you are married to Tom! Abigail Taylor, you have truly hit a new low!” After thinking another moment, she reasoned her way out of her panic. Technically, you didn’t say you were married to him, you only said you have his last name. You could have been his sister or a cousin…

A few moments later, her cell phone buzzed in her leggings pocket.

Lace: Hey, Abs! Have I got news for you! Some really hot guys came in and I got us dates for tomorrow at 8:00! I know you have this thing for dark hair, so you can have the dark-haired one; he is MMM!

Abbi pocketed her phone and sneaked back to the locker rooms, trying to avoid “Chad” as best she could while she devised a plan to get out of her arranged date with Mr. Dark Hair.

I know Lacy means well, but she knows I don’t date. The last time I dated, it did not end well at all for hot pants… I just want my Tom back.

Abbi took her time showering in the women’s lockers as she thought about all that was happening—Lacy and her mystery date, Jack and lunch tomorrow, how she was so desperate to have Tom back that she even gave some stranger his name as hers—Abbi felt her life had so quickly turned upside down ever since Tom left and her mom died; she just wanted to feel some semblance of normalcy that had nothing to do with dates or men or not even Jack and Lacy if she was being completely honest. Mostly, Abbi just wanted Tom out of Hell. She stood and let the water run over her face to think about the first thing to do.

Situation one: Get out of date with Mr. Dark Hair.

After dressing, she looked to the clock and saw that it was 5:00 already and decided to go over to Lacy’s house just to relax and then talk to her about the date.

On her way there, however, she was greeted with every reason why she needed her daily workout sessions.

“Please don’t conk out on me now, my baby,” Abbi said to her old Ford as she leaned her head to the steering wheel and patted the dash. Despite her coaxing, her beat-up old blue sputtered its way to the side of the road and spit out its last noise as Abbi saw puffy clouds of smoke coming from the engine.

“No, no, no!” she cried out and smacked the steering wheel a few times before getting out to lift the hood. “Ugh…” she groaned when she saw the clouds escape her engine. “I better call Jack. He’s good with this car stuff.”

Abbi pulled her cell from her jeans pocket and dialed, hoping to get through to Jack, though she knew Thursday was always his evening to be on-call.

She dialed but got no answer and decided to leave a message in case he was nearby.

“Hey Jack, it’s Abbi. My car crapped out on me and I’m in the middle of nowhere stranded on the side of the road on Highway 68 on the way to the Ridgeland Plaza. If you get this soon, it’s about…” She glanced at the smartwatch Tom had given her and then said, “It’s about 5:20 and it’s getting dark, so let me know if you can help me out. I know it’s only Logan County, but this side of the area always creeps me out at night. Thanks, like always.”

Abbi waited exactly three minutes for Jack’s eager text.

Jack: Abs! Hey! Of course, I can come! I would never leave you stranded. I was in the middle of something, but give me a few minutes to get over there and you know I’m there.

Abbi texted an emoji hug back and slipped her phone into her pocket as she slammed the hood of her car down.

“Boo!”

“Ah!” she shrieked when she saw her gym admirer standing next to the passenger side door, leaning against the mirror.

“Car trouble?” he asked and tapped the hood of Abbi’s car.

Abbi backed away and moved toward the driver’s side door.

“No,” she said and opened her door, sliding in.

When he slid into the passenger seat next to her, Abbi’s panic rose.

Do something! This creep is officially on stalker mode, Abbi! Act now!

She looked him over and located the closest skin to her—forearm!

When she reached her arm out and touched his skin, everything she expected to happen—the labored breathing, him pleading for life, and gasping for air, or even his pulse slowing—none of it became reality. Had she not seen the man’s face and knew before that it wasn’t Tom, she might’ve believed that’s who she was touching.

“Your name isn’t Barclay, is it?” he said and flashed his fangs when Abbi retracted her arm and jumped back. She turned her body just enough to reach for the door and began wiggling the handle that was fighting against her to open. Once it came loose, she fell to the dirt and began looking around for any stick worthy of a stake.

“You’re right,” she said as she continued crawling around on the ground, moving leaves, digging for anything that would send this vampire to Hell.

What is it with me now?! Do I have Vampire Slayer tattooed to my forehead for the whole underworld to see?!

Only seconds later, he had Abbi by her shirt and flipped her over, staring her in the eyes. “Now I know why I felt so entranced by you in the gym, Slayer.”

Abbi reached her hand up to pull him closer to her face and she whispered in his ear, “No. Believe me. That’s not why.” She grabbed a firm hold of the branch in her hand as his eyes encircled in a deep crimson and he leaned in to bite and whispered, “Yes, it is.”

Just as his fangs made contact with Abbi’s neck, she took that branch and plunged it through his back and into his heart.

“Believe me,” she said. “It’s not.”

Abbi watched as his face turned to sheer agony from the piercing blow as his heart burst like the water from a balloon, exploding blood all over Abbi, and then he withered away to dust right before her eyes.

“That’ll teach you,” she said and stood, watching the blood drip off her hands and face. “Ugh!” she complained when she saw the blood on her favorite jeans. “Another pair… ruined.”

Jack pulled up in the Sheriff’s SUV just then, and Abbi had no idea what she was going to tell him about the bloody mess.

“Hey!” he hollered as he jumped out and slammed his door closed.

Abbi waved but didn’t look up as she stood behind the driver’s side door, changing back into her workout clothes.

“Whoa!” Jack said as he saw her blood-soaked jeans and sweater but also her face that still had traces of blood on it. “What the hell happened to you?”

Abbi sighed and shrugged, contemplating what to say but ultimately knowing that the truth was impossible. “You wouldn’t believe me even if I tried.”

“Is that so?”

“Yeah,” she said, shoving the clothes into the backseat and grabbing her towel to wipe her face.

“Try me.”

“No.”

“You were covered in blood; are you injured?”

Abbi’s annoyed look didn’t convey enough for him to move off the subject and onto why he was there.

“Really, Abbi, are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Drop it.”

“Okay, then pop this hood so I can take a look.”

Abbi leaned forward and pulled the release for the hood and thought more about what she would say if Jack pushed the issue.

Jack started looking through Abbi’s engine and Abbi hurried to scooch the branch away with her foot.

“Well?” she asked.

“It’s not good,” he said and slammed the hood closed.

“What? Why?”

“Get your valuables and we’ll call a tow truck and I’ll take you by Arlington’s.”

“Jack! Tell me what’s wrong.”

“Your car is crap, Abs. That’s what. Do you have money for a rental?”

Abbi thought for a minute and shook her head, then thought seriously for a moment about going to Tom’s house and taking his Aston Martin; however, she knew she’d be in big trouble if he ever found out about it. Figuring she’d take the chance since he was stuck in Hell, she said, “Um… on second thought…”

“Yeah?”

“I have somewhere you can take me.”

“Hop in,” Jack said and he got in on his side of his SUV. Once Abbi was buckled, he said, “So, where are we headed?”

“You know the big brick house at the edge of town that sits opposite of the road that leads out to Lacy’s?”

The immediate pang of jealousy that became evident on Jack’s face Abbi would never forget, but to her, Jack was only her friend—Tom was in her heart and Jack by her side—she couldn’t help it. No one can help who they love.

Jack nodded and said, “That guy still lives there?”

“Um, yeah. Sort of. Take me there.”

Jack said nothing but his jealousy was obvious to Abbi who only stared out the window and stayed quiet until Jack pulled onto Tom’s gravel drive and saw no lights on.

“No one’s here, Abbi.”

“It’s fine,” she said, hurrying to get her things out of the back.

She thanked him and waved goodbye as he hollered, “Don’t forget, you promised me lunch tomorrow!”

Jack didn’t immediately pull away as Abbi dropped her things onto the front porch and searched for her key to Tom’s house inside her bag, realizing she must’ve left it in her car.

“Ugh!” she cried out. “Now I have to search for his spare, which is next to impossible.”

Abbi began her search and felt frustrated after a few minutes of searching but finding nothing.

“No one wants inside your 200-year-old house, Tom. Why can’t you just leave the key in the same place?” she said as she looked all over the porch and front stairs for the key, searching inside nooks and crannies and in the mailbox and under the plain black doormat.

“You okay, Abbi?” Jack hollered.

She waved and hollered back, “Yeah! I’m just looking for his spare key!”

Jack finally pulled away and Abbi received a text that said, “Sorry Abs, I had to get going. The station needed me. Let me know if you need anything.”

She slipped her phone back into her pocket and decided to walk into the garage and check Tom’s car glove box.

Tom Barclay! You think you are so sneaky! she thought when she found the front door key inside the glove compartment to the Aston Martin. She snatched it up and walked back to the front of the house to let herself inside. One inside, she began her search for the Aston Martin keys without much luck.

“If I were Tom, where would I keep the keys?” she said, tapping her chin as she stood at the foot of the long staircase.

A lightbulb turned on in her head and she said, “Aha! His dresser drawer!”

Abbi hurried up the stairs and into Tom’s bedroom.

“They’re not here.”

“Ah!” Abbi hollered out when she saw Henry laid out across Tom’s bed watching TV.

“Henry! What are you talking about and why are you here?!”

“You were looking for the keys to the Aston Martin, weren’t you?” he said with a smirk.

Abbi didn’t respond but only stared at the person identical to the one person she’d been hoping to see, touch, and talk to for the past year.

“If you still want them, you need to check the hallway table drawer. Otherwise…”

“Have you been driving Tom’s car? And how did you get in here?” Abbi asked, her arms crossed, eyes narrowed, clearly annoyed and frustrated.

“Don’t be the pot calling the kettle black, Miss I’m-coming-to-steal-my-boyfriend’s-car. He is my twin brother. I have more right to it than you do.”

“Uh! On what ground?”

“Only identical DNA.” Henry shrugged and pointed to the bedroom window. “Besides, it’s always open. Tom really shouldn’t do that when he has a human girlfriend, you know. You should lock that.”

“Ugh!” Abbi spewed, tossing her hands into the air, walking away and to the bedroom door. “You need to leave.”

“Okay. I’ll leave. By the way, Tom’s not in Hell. Thought you might want to know.”

Abbi froze in her tracks and her head snapped to Henry’s direction.

“What did you just say?”

“He got out, lucky bastard. Just thought you might like to know.” Henry shrugged as he opened the window.

“Wait!” Abbi called out, now wishing she hadn’t told him to leave.

“Later.” He jumped out the window and onto the porch roof, leaving Abigail standing in the bedroom doorway desperate to know about Tom and wondering what the hell had just happened.



SNEAK PEEK ***Here‘s a small snippet from a random place in the book to give you a little sense of what a SMALL part of the plot is about! Enjoy and follow me for updates on the release date!***


“Abigail?!” Tom hollered. “Are you alright?” He knocked on the bathroom door that was situated at the end of the hallway just outside the kitchen. He paced outside for several minutes, waiting to know why she’d left the room in such a hurry. Many minutes passed and she didn’t answer. His patience grew thin and he turned the knob a few times and tried to go in. “Abigail! Answer me or I’ll break it down!”

Knowing he would act on it, she finally surrendered.

“What?” she asked as she cracked open the door from where she sat on the bathroom floor, her back against the sink cabinet.

Tom tilted his head and kneeled, pushing the door open. “What are you doing here on the floor?”

She scooted away from the door and used her towel to wipe her mouth. “Isn’t it obvious? Were you never sick as a human, Tom?” Abbi reached her hand up and flushed the toilet. “You know I haven’t been feeling the greatest.”

Tom let out a soft growl. “I didn’t know you were this unwell.”

“I’m sorry if this inconveniences you,” Abbi said and rolled her eyes as she stood to wash her hands and splash water in her mouth.

“I’m not inconvenienced, Abigail. I’m worried for you. I’m taking care of this.”

“You’re ‘taking care of this’? What could you possibly mean?”

“Let’s go. We are going somewhere.”

Full of anger at his demands, she narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest, looking away.

“Abigail Taylor, I promise you, now is not the time for stubbornness.”

Shoving her finger into his muscular chest, she sassed, “I promise you, that I will not give in to your bossiness.”

Tom breathed deeply. He leaned into her ear and whispered, “You will give in because I will give you no choice. Let’s go.” Then he picked her up and cradled her in his arms against his chest as he walked out the back door.”

When he plopped her onto the front seat of the Aston in a hurry, she protested more.

“Where are you taking me and why are you being so rude?”

“There’s a woman that you need to see. She can fix your illness, I believe. I don’t mean to be rude. I’m just trying to hurry.”

Tom remained quiet as they drove through town toward the interstate which gave Abbi reason for worry.

“Tom, please tell me where we are going.”

“I already did.”

Abbi raised her head from where she had it rested against the window and stared at him until he gave her more details.

“Remember when I told you there was a world of eternal beings you had yet to meet?”

Abbi nodded and saw they were pulling up to a building Abbi knew very well. “I know this place. I used to work here. This is Susan’s shop.”

“Susan is the witch High Priestess for this area. She is a woman who is very powerful. In fact, in some ways, she is more powerful than my mother and Charlotte. Come. Let’s go inside.”

Tom knocked on Susan’s apartment door. After waiting more than five minutes for her to answer, he decided to take it a step further.

“That’s it. I have no more patience for this woman,” he said as he climbed onto the fire escape and began looking into the windows to find her.

“Thomas Patrick Barclay!” Abbi hollered to him up from where she stood next to the car, “You get down here this instant! That is an invasion of her privacy. You don’t even know that she’s home.”

Tom paused in his movements and dangled by one arm from the top of the fire escape to look down to Abbi. “Yes, I do. I can smell her. Someone is here.”

“Okay. What’s your plan, smart guy? You have to be invited.”

“I’ve been in her place already,” he replied as he found an unlocked window and motioned for Abbi to join him.

“Nu uh, no way.” She protested and stomped her foot, waving her hand. “It’s not going to happen. I’m not climbing up there. You get back down here!”

“No need,” he said and jumped down next to her. “I’ll just carry you up.”

“And if I’m stubborn?”

“You won’t be.”

“Ugh! I hate when you get all mind controlling on me!” she yelled and smacked his arm as he carried her up.

Tom laughed and kissed her cheek. “Don’t look down.”

“Oh my!” Abbi gasped as she glanced over the fire escape, reaching her arms to reach around his, gripping her fingers to his skin, gaining a slight reaction from him as she did. They entered through the unlocked window.

“Thomas Barclay. What an expected surprise,” Susan said from the chair across from a lit fireplace. “What can I do for you and The Slayer?”

Abbi raised her hand, waving at Susan—albeit her hesitation showed through—this was not the Susan she knew from the shop.

“Susolanus. I’m here on a matter of urgency.”

“Please, Tom, call me Susan. That Susolanus business is so second century.” She stood from her chair and approached Tom and Abbi, touching Abbi’s cheek as she said, “There’s nothing I can do for her.”

Tom gripped Susan’s arm, pulling her face to look directly at his.

“What are you saying?! You are the most powerful witch doctor there is!”

Susan snatched her arm away and shook herself off, regaining her calm composure. “Her fate has already been decided. This isn’t an illness.” Susan pointed to the window. “If you want healing, you know who to see. Good evening. It was nice to see you, Abbi.”

Susan returned to her chair and picked up a box filled with green steam, breathing it in.

“Are you saying this is my only option?”

Susan’s eyes glanced up to Tom and closed the wooden box shut.

“I’m telling you that what has overtaken her body is not an illness, at least not one that I have come across. If you want Abigail to live, you will do as I’ve said.”

“Goodbye Susan,” Abbi said.

Tom exited out the window and stood on the fire escape to digest her words and ran his fingers through his hair.

“Are you okay?”Abbi asked when she stepped out the window after him.

“No.”

“I mean, I figure I should be the one upset here. She just said I’m going to die…”

“I know!”

Abbi jumped back at his reaction.

“Yeesh, Tom.”

“Look, let’s just go,” he replied and motioned for her to come closer so they could climb back down the fire escape.

When they got in the car, Abbi said, “Tom, why is it wherever we go, no one is happy to see you? How many people have you pissed off in your lifetime before you met me?”

Aggravated with the situation or her—Abbi wasn’t sure which at this point—he said, “Let me think for a moment.” Tom sat rubbing his forehead while Abbi only stared at him, nervous about what he would say.

“Think? Think about something important or about how many people despise you?” She gave a slight laugh until he looked her way with reddened eyes.

“Sorry. Just trying to lighten the mood.”

“Don’t.”

Abbi turned to face the window and stayed quiet as he sat rubbing his forehead.

“We need to go see someone else,” he said after several minutes of contemplation.

“Tom, who did Susan mean? Who can help me feel better? Is that who we are going to see? What did she mean I’m not actually sick? She said I’m going to die! I feel so confused.”

He held his hand up. “Obviously, that’s what I’m trying to figure out. I don’t know what she meant about your illness. Try not to worry about that too much. However, I do know who you can see.”

“Can you take me there?”

“I would hope so. She is my sister.”

“Oh. Just…”

“No. Not Charlotte.”








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© 2018 Meg Sechrest All Rights Reserved.

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 © Meg Sechrest 2020

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