• Meg Sechrest

Bloodlines - Preview


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 fought 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.

Five years later, when King Corvis was in the height of his reign in Syria and seeking the destruction of many people all over the lands—but the time came for Corvis to choose a wife. At this point, he was still a relatively young man 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’m in need of 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. I will search all the kingdom to find the perfect woman.”

Pantsis studied hundreds of women until he found just the right one whose name was Aeliana. Her hair was the perfect color—not too dark but not too light—and whose skin was not tarnished from the sun and whose eyes were like light browned chestnuts.

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?”

“She is Aeliana Kattan from…”

“No matter now. 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 much 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.” Her aunt kissed her and said goodbye as Aeliana was escorted 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.

“I am glad you are here. You will be pleased with your rooms as everyone who visits my palace is pleased with the measures taken. My palace is quite extraordinary.”

What arrogance! I am not just some visitor! I am to be his wife! She thought as she curtsied and was shown out the side door to be escorted to her room. On her way past, her glance caught notice of a man she found especially attractive and her eyes stayed fixated on him as she walked past.

“Hello,” she said and nodded her head.

His eyes followed her as she went past but he said nothing in return as a crooked smile appeared on his face.

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

“Your majesty,” her visitor whispered.

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

“Is there something I can help you with?” she asked one of the king’s most loyal friends, Andino.

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

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

After their affair had gone on for many months, Aeliana fell pregnant and was ashamed at her condition when the King summoned the presence of his queen. She sent word that she was unavailable to him, as she was unable to hide her condition from him any longer. In turn, enraging the King.

“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.”

Yet, Aeliana persisted and refused to see her King. Instead, she devised a plan to remove him from her life forever.

“I do not want to be his queen. This child belongs to you,” she whispered to Andino. “Will you help me in my plan?”

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

Little did the new queen know that unfolding in the midst of her plan was something more powerful than she. The King’s advisor, Pantsis, had a vision of this 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? Come quickly.”

“I have seen the future.”

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

“Your death.”

ONE

OCTOBER 2018


“I’ll see you tomorrow night, Lace,” Abbi said as she slipped on her jacket and stood off her barstool after having dinner with Lacy at Suds.

“Hey, Abs, why don’t you wait until I close and you can come home with me?” Lacy said as Abbi handed left money on the bar and turned to leave.

“Thanks anyway, but I need to go work out and then I promised Arlington I’d do some shopping for him,” Abbi said. “I feel bad for him, ya know? I’m all he has, really. 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 purse to look for her keys.

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

Lacy nodded and widened her eyes in agreement. "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.

“Well, girl, behave and I’ll see you tomorrow. Text me if you need anything at all. You’re looking like a hot mess these days!” Lacy hollered as Abbi neared the door.

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. It’s been a long time. 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. -Jack

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? Let me know. K. Abs.

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 earbuds, jog 30 minutes, lift small weights 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 run 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, the more he persisted in his efforts to hit on her.

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

“Any name?” Abbi said as she knelt down to retie 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 hook up 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 and really wanted him to go away and desperately didn’t want 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 tonight at 8:00! I know you have this thing for dark hair, so you can have the dark-haired one; he is MMM! Come over to my place this evening and we will get ready together.

Abbi pocketed her phone and sneaked back to the locker rooms, trying to avoid “Chad” as best she could while she tried to figure out a plan to get out of her arranged date with Lacy and 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 the guy… 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 her 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 and 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 on the first thing to do.

Situation one: Get out of date with Mr. Dar 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 early 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. In spite of her coaxing, her beat-up old blue sputtered its way to the side of the road and crackled 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 steam. “I better call Jack. He’s really 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 night 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 Abs. My car crapped out on me and I’m in the middle of nowhere over by the Ridgeland Plaza and Summit Place Apartments for those Seniors. If you get this soon, it’s about…” she glanced to 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 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 to that side of town 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 room 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 become 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 slightly and began wiggling her door handle that was fighting against her to open. Once it came loose, she fell to the dirt and began looking around for a 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 stake this vampire.

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, looking 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 and 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 absolutely no idea what she was going to tell him.

“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.

“Woah!” 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 knew that the truth was impossible. “You wouldn’t believe me even if I tried.”

“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 stake-made-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.”

“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 and thought seriously for a moment about going to Tom’s house and taking his Aston Martin, but then she knew she’d be in big trouble if he ever found out about it.

“Um… on second thought…” she said.

“Yeah?” he asked.

“I have somewhere you can take me.”

“Hop in,” Jack said and he got in on his side. 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 the leads out to Lacy’s?”

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

Abbi rolled her eyes. “Yeah. Take me there.”

Jack said nothing but his jealousy was evident to Abbi who only stared out the window and stayed quiet until Jack pulled into 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 she hollered, “Don’t forget, you promised me lunch tomorrow!”

Jack didn’t immediately pull away as Abbi dropped her things on the front porch and searched for Tom’s spare key.

“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 driveway for the key, searching inside nooks and crannies and in the mailbox and under the doormat that was plain black.

“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 it 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.

“You were looking for the keys to the Aston Martin, weren’t you?” he said and looked her way 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 last eight weeks.

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

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

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

“Tom’s not in Hell, by the way. Thought you should know that.”

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

“What did just you say?”

“He got out, lucky bastard. Just thought you might like to know.” Henry shrugged and moved to the window. “Later.” He jumped out the window and onto the porch roof, leaving Abigail standing in the bedroom doorway wondering what the hell had just happened.

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© 2018 Meg Sechrest All Rights Reserved.

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 © Meg Sechrest 2020

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