Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Romance ~ Never tell a vampire, 'bite me'.

Flash Fiction by Savanna Kougar

“Damn, no. Not what I need.” Karoline scowled as the traffic light turned red.

She nearly uttered a quick spell to change it. But, instead hit the brakes hard. There’d been a rain shower earlier in the evening and her tires skidded a bit.

Once Karoline came to a full stop, she glared at the ticket camera. “I’m making it my business to fry your circuits. Tomorrow.” Gripping her steering wheel mercilessly, she muttered, “I should have been speeding, I would have made the effing – “

Smack! Crunch. The loud dull sound that meant another vehicle had struck her bumper charged through her an instant before her car rocked back and forth like a boat.

“What the freaking crap now?” With anger streaking down to her toes and blazing out the top of her head, Karoline threw open the door.

Blown by the strong gusting winds, wet autumn leaves struck her face, and glued themselves to her black velvet cape. Hiking her gown’s voluminous skirt, she launched outward. Her loose hair danced wildly, the strands slapping her cheeks. Heedless of any danger, Karoline marched toward the back of her car.

“Oh, wonderful, some prize idiot thinks he really is Batman.”

For a split second, Karoline hesitated taking in the futuristic, sleekly styled, black-as-midnight car. “At least, whoever, might be rich enough to pay for the damage. If not, I’ll add his ‘bat wings’ to my cauldron, and throw some gasoline on the flames.”

“Please, beautiful witch, not my bat wings.”

Startled that he’d heard her since he appeared to be coffin-sealed inside his bat car, Karoline was even more taken aback by the rich-as-dark-chocolate timbre of the man's voice.

Still, propelled by pure fire, she firmed her chin and approached as he rose upward. Good Goddess did he ever quit? Apparently not. He had to be well over six feet. Agile as a ballroom dancer, he stepped from behind the door’s long gleaming curve, and closed it with an elegant flick of his wrist.

Her head tilted backwards at a ridiculous angle just to see his face, and Karoline stopped in her tracks. Not that she could see his features since they were shadowed by the large cowl of his vampire costume. “What?” she snapped. “No bat wings springing up. Just a regular door.”

“I must apologize for our abrupt meeting. However, it seemed the only certain way to gain your attention.”

“Attention!” Karoline sputtered, burning at the stake of her own fury. “You run into my car to get my attention. Unbelievable.” Letting go of her skirts, she balled her fists. “One good aim,” she derisively muttered.

“Ah, yes, your athletic spunk is quite renowned within my circle.” He took a courtly step toward her. The unusual glitter of his pale eyes had her taking a mental step back. “I recall,” he suavely continued, “betting on you to win the cage match – “

“How did you...?” she interrupted. “No one knows about my fights.” Jerking in several breaths, Karoline assessed him. “Except my manager...because...”

“Yes, Jahrundi. Because he is your kind.”

Once she’d absorbed the shock, Karoline countered by narrowing her eyes. “What do you want, bat boy?”

She caught the hint of a smile before he lowered his head. He swept downward, and bowed in some sort of French, old-fashioned manner. At least, from the period epic movies she’d seen, that’s how it appeared.

Rising with more elegance than any man had a right to, he extended a card. When she didn’t take it, he deftly slipped it inside a vest pocket. “Ah, yes. One never knows the sorcery that could imbue a card of introduction. Is that not so, my beautiful Egyptian cat?”

A growl rumbled up from her belly, but with practiced ease, Karoline stopped her shift and kept her cat from clawing its way out, then leaping for his oh-so debonair throat.

“I am Viscount Zavoyon Dicarlo, recently of Vhulferth Court.”

Ignoring his sinfully sexy voice, Karoline arched her brows high. “Not Count Dracula?”

“Would you like me to be Count Dracula on this All Hallow’s Eve?”

Her heart stopped and started, all while it felt like bats flapped their wings in the belfry of her loins. Damn! That was so not a good sign.

“I have a date. And I’m late. No thanks to you.” Noticing she stood on the balls of her feet, Karoline clicked down on the moderate heels of her witch shoes, as she called them. “I asked you a question. Viscount,” she enunciated snarkily.

“Indeed, may I address you as Karoline?”

He leaned forward ever so slightly, and Karoline suddenly had a full view of his face. She swallowed, hiding her gasp of appreciation. He certainly looked like some otherworldly immortal designed to excite a woman’s deepest passions.

“Oh, great, the tall, dark and mysterious Viscount, knows my name.” Shaking her head vigorously, Karoline sought to fling her hair back, now plastered to her face by a blast of wind.

“I must insist on escorting you out of the arriving storm.” He offered his arm.

Gripping a swathe of her hair, Karoline stared at him as both of their capes billowed and whipped around them.

“Insist all you want. You know what. I’m leaving now.” She took several steps backward and prepared to dash to her car. Already drops of rain pelted her. Worse, he pelted her with those eyes that reminded her of perfectly cut peridot.

“I am in need of your assistance in removing a particularly vile curse from my sister.” His arm remained in position.

Karoline heaved in a breath, then shoved it out as fast. He didn’t lie. Not that she could tell, and she was good at knowing lies. Very good.

“Find another witch. I promised to help a friend tonight. I don’t break promises.”

Thinking she’d convinced him since he remained silent, Karoline pivoted toward her car door.


The name of the warlock shapeshifter who had almost possessed her own sister’s soul caused Karoline to spin around. With her heart tripping painfully, she gazed at him. Keeping his arm in position, he approached her with the arrogant assumption that he had won her over.

“There is no need to break your promise. I will act as your date. Then we will depart for Vhulfeth Court.”

“I told you, Viscount. I already have a date.”

“Shall I use my powers of persuasion to dismiss him?”

Karoline gaped for a moment. Then, the force of a bonfire filled her, and livid, she snarled, “Bite me.”

“Never tell a vampire, ‘bite me’.”

He hauled her against him, his mouth crushing hers with such bold passion, Karoline didn’t fight. And, even as his fang slid down the side of her neck in a long slow caress, she clung to him.

“A small taste only, beautiful witch,” he rasped.

Dazed, almost delirious with desire, Karoline felt the needle-sharp prick of his fangs as they sank into her tender flesh, where her neck met her shoulder. As quick, the point of his tongue laved her wound, sensual and warm.

Have a Magickal Halloween!


Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pumpkins and Jack O'-Lanterns

What's Halloween without pumpkins?

Ah, pumpkins, those usually orange squash piled high in grocery stores and farm stands this time of year. Large, small, rounded, not-so-round, orange, yellow, white and striped. There are all kinds of pumpkins. Some you can eat, some are for show, but they're all pumpkins, and they all say fall. In the form of jack o'-lanterns, they also say Halloween.

Although pumpkins are native to the Americas, their usage in Halloween traditions originated in Great Britain. Lighted vegetable lanterns have long been part of Britain's harvest festivals. The vegetables most often used were turnips and mangelwurzels, which are relatively small, solid and hard to cut. Columbus introduced to Europe many of the Americas' plants and animals, pumpkins among them. Called pompions in Tudor England, pumpkins made their way to Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Since pumpkins are hollow and easy to carve, they replaced the turnips and mangelwurzels as the vegetable of choice for harvest lanterns.

"Jack o'-lantern" itself is an English term originating in East Anglia in the 1660's, and meant a night watchman or a man who carried a lantern. Later the phrase attached itself to the ignis fatuus, or will-o'-the-wisp, a bobbing sphere of marsh gas ignited by spontaneous combustion. Not until 1837 did its modern usage of "vegetable lantern" arise.

The Irish legend of Shifty Jack adds a layer of Halloween evil to the various meanings of jack o'-lantern. Shifty, or Stingy, Jack was an Irish blacksmith who used a cross to trap the Devil up a tree. Jack refused to let him down until the Devil promised not to take him to Hell. Secure in the knowledge he would never burn in Hell, Jack wasted his life in evil. But when he died, God denied him entrance to Heaven. With nowhere else to go, Jack implored the Devil to take him in. The Devil, abiding by his promise, refused, condemning Jack forever to walk the earth. But the Devil gave him a hell-coal to light his way, which Jack secured in a vegetable lantern. Jack's bobbing light as he wanders is a Halloween reminder of the wages of sin.

Pumpkinnapper, my Regency Halloween comedy, incorporates pumpkins, bobbing lights and things that go bump in the night into the story. Blurb and excerpt here. Pumpkinnapper is available at The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Romance eBooks and other places eBooks are sold.

Thank you all and Happy Halloween,
Linda Banche
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Romance or Death by His Fangs

While not the heroine and hero of this Flash Scene, this picture sets some of the mood.

Romance or Death by His Fangs
by Savanna Kougar

‘Why did I ever agree to this?” Shandra cracked the door of her sporty, low-slung Mazda. Mist hugged the ground and the Victorian-style mansion, while festively lit, was starkly etched against the midnight sky.

Streaming banks of silvery and charcoal colored clouds played hide and seek with the snowy-white quarter moon, heightening the Halloween moodiness of the scene before her.

“I don’t do spooky,” Shandra muttered. Mentally, she frowned at her friend, Liza.

Yesterday, Shandra had reluctantly agreed to cover the Vampire wine-tasting party for Liza’s online magazine. Her long-time friend, and their staff of four, covered the local events of their small but spread-out, eclectic community, located southwest of Portland, Oregon.

Spooky-ooky or not, what else could she have done? Since Liza’s young daughter had come down with a bad case of the flu.

A shudder slid through Shandra as she slowly widened the car door, then placed her feet, encased in black lace-up Victorian boots, onto the estate’s semi-circular drive. Drawing in a deep breath to calm herself, Shandra stood.

Once she’d eased the door shut listening to the click of the locks, Shandra tightened her grip on her evening bag. Half-expecting a lurking ghost to pop up and fly at her with a demonic grin distorting it’s incorporeal features, she hesitated.

Good lord help her! Already chills goosebumped her arms.

As she’d been told, the elite were out tonight judging by the lineup of BMWs and other high-end cars. Shandra had arrived late on purpose. No valet to deal with, and hopefully, there would be no formal introduction as she’d been told occurred at the Rathbone’s social events.

Not to mention, throughout the day, she’d had to keep convincing herself to attend. As she now convinced herself to stay.

Feeling the night’s cool breeze on her bared bosom, Shandra drew her white velvet cape closed. She’d worn her burgundy velvet gown, a favorite for Halloween parties. The tight, sweetheart bodice laced up the back, and the bias-cut skirt draped beautifully over the flare of her hips. Even now, the gentle swing caressed her calves.

As Shandra forced her steps toward the mansion’s glistening sweep of steps, she caught a whiff of night-blooming gardenia, yet saw no evidence of a flower garden. Other than the wide expanse of lawn, illuminated by gaslights, the only landscaping she observed were the neatly trimmed hedgerows lining a pathway near the front of the mansion.

Carried by moist breezes off the Pacific ocean, a symphony of lush fragrances now wafted around her. Heady, a promise of passion...the descriptive words wrote themselves inside Shandra’s head for tomorrow’s article.

Once she reached the steps, Shandra’s steps faltered. Icy pricks stabbed up her spine as she watched a Goth couple in full Vampire regalia move inside the mansion.

“May I be of assistance?”

The man’s rich baritone voice, his slight foreign accent, replaced the cold fingers seizing her middle. Shandra whirled around. Her breathing halted for seconds.

He seemed familiar, yet not. However, way beyond that, the tall man was a feast for all of her feminine senses.

Shandra reeled inside, and tried not to stare. She’d never felt comfortable around overly handsome men, and now her tongue felt like a wad of cotton.

“I am Z’Pollo Vhettanini,” he introduced himself. His gentleman’s manner compelled her to respond in kind, while the pale glint of his eyes caused her to feel weirdly spellbound.

“Shandra Windgate,” she answered automatically. “, thank you. I’m fine.” She’d meant to turn away, mount the steps, but his riveted gaze on her face immobilized her.

Shandra couldn’t help noticing the vintage top hat he held at his side. His Victorian-inspired waistcoat and trousers were obviously tailored, and enhanced his elegant frame -- his athletic build.

“Sorry for staring,” she mumbled, and took a step back.

That proved to be disastrous. Her boot heel caught the bottom step, then slid off propelling her forward. Her caught her as if she’d been thrown at him like a passed football. Muscular and strong, his arms wrapped around her, then trapped her only enough to steady her. Simultaneously, his top hat landed on her butt.

“I don’t usually throw myself at men,” she cracked as a sort of joke, then shoved against his chest.

Another damn mistake. Hell, she’d never felt such boldly carved strength -- even beneath his brocade vest and what appeared to be a linen shirt. And double hell, her two brothers had been college football players.

In moments, he’d loosened his hold, but kept her in the circle of his arms. A blush stole over Shandra’s cheeks as she tried to remove her hands. The traitorous things wanted to explore his chest. Thoroughly.

“Miss Shandra, I simply cannot allow you to throw yourself at another man.” His tone teased, yet there was an undercurrent that sizzled the pit of her stomach, and other regions she preferred to ignore.

An instant later, Z’Pollo Vhettanini deftly placed her beside him. With his hand firmly cupping her elbow, he moved them up the steps.

So, he was the take-charge type. A place inside Shandra swooned with excitement. Another side of her shied away. She’d had enough of guys who didn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground, and tried telling her what do. Worse, acting like they owned her.

Of course, who was she to think Mr. Z’Pollo Vhettanini had any real interest in her? Okay, she couldn’t deny he kept her closer to his side than necessary. Whatever... Shandra mentally shrugged. She was far better off without a man in her life.

Once they reached the imposing double doors, ornate affairs with large brass handles, they were opened, and a man dressed as a liveried servant gestured them inside. Immediately, several pairs of eyes swung toward Z’Pollo as they walked through a grand-sized archway, then into the main-floor ballroom.

Shandra recognized Mr. Rathbone, his son, and their immediate social group. When their gazes didn’t retreat, and remained focused solely on Z’Pollo, she withered inside. Wanting only to disappear, sip some wine, enjoy the atmosphere, then get her story, Shandra halted in her tracks. She tugged against his grip.

Not relinquishing her elbow, he pivoted before her. “I’m fine,” she announced to his chest. Goddess... god, she didn’t want look directly at him. Not and meet his mesmerizing gaze.

“Miss Shandra, I must attend to several business matters. However, I will join you shortly.”

Before she could utter one word against him ‘joining’ her, Z’Pollo’s palm caressed her forearm, and she felt him enfold her hand. As he lifted her hand, warmth sparked through her, zapping her like electricity.

Shandra’s gaze flew to his face. His features -- what she hadn’t seen outside -- slammed a place inside her she didn’t want to awaken or arouse. Ruggedly handsome wasn’t an apt description for Z’Pollo Vhettanini. He reminded her of a bygone-era nobleman.

And his eyes -- piercing as a hawk, but the color of aquamarine -- a paler shade than her own, and probably more green-hued.

“I don’t believe it,” she murmured, startled because his hair, a lion’s mane, was a rich shade of burnt sienna -- several shades darker than her own red sorrel tresses.

“We are similar in coloring. However, my skin could be called a light teak. While yours, Miss Shandra, is pearl that has been dusted with gold.”

Shandra frowned, despite the poetic praise of his words. “Are you a mind reader?”

“Perhaps. In this instance, I followed your eyes.”

Before Shandra knew it, his lips were brushing the top of her hand. He lingered a kiss, one that tingled all too deliciously -- all too wickedly. For an instant, his eyes seemed to blaze, and Shandra glimpsed the point of a white fang.

Her heart tripped a mile a minute. Despite the warning bells clanging inside her mind, her feet refused to budge. “Vampire,” burst past her lips.

Without a word, he languidly caressed his lips where he’d kissed her. Then, as he traveled his mouth back again, the side of his fang lightly slid against her flesh.

With his gaze radiant, fiercely passionate, he lowered her hand. Shandra trembled briefly, violently. Her blood rushed so fast she thought she might faint.

Worse than that, desire now consumed her. An overwhelming feeling of ‘want’ flamed her insides, then coursed through her entire body.

Shocked, Shandra felt raw heat flood her sex. Her inner thighs moistened. Then her mind went blank.

Still, she felt Z’Pollo gently release her hand. In moments, bolts of energy surged into her limbs, and Shandra felt renewed. Confused, she imagined fiery stars were filling her bloodstream.

A moment later, she blinked and awakened as if she’d been in a trance. “Are you a vampire?”

How damn crazed was she to ask that? To her advantage if Z’Pollo thought she was crazy, he wouldn’t want anything to do with her.

Plus, Shandra had the distinct feeling once she was no longer in his presence, this terrible and amazing state of lust would vanish. So she hoped.

“It is a Vampire-themed wine tasting.” His lips quirked a small secretive smile.

Since he hadn’t taken the opportunity to politely escape, Shandra ventured, “Costume? Dental work?”

“I am in costume.” With a step back, Z’Pollo indicated his attire. His eyes darkened, and Shandra felt his gaze stroke her. “I suggest enjoying the selection of regional organic wines, Miss Shandra.”

After an old-world bow of his head, he pivoted from her. Unmoving as a damn stupid statue, Shandra watched him move with a powerful yet light stride until he shook hands with the elder Rathbone.

“Okay, that was my adventure for the week. For the year,” she whispered to herself. I need to get the story and get out of here.

Shandra flung back her cape, and lifting her gown, she decisively whirled toward the area of the ballroom where the wine-tasting was in progress. Feeling embarrassed and frustrated, she tamped down the desire that still raged.

How could she be so turned on by a fake vampire fang?

As Shandra moved through the room, a fantasy enchantment lit by candelabras, she realized there were very few of the splendidly costumed guests she knew. But hey, at least, she’d worn something that fit in reasonably well -- if not quite as elaborate and bedazzling as most of the guests.

Comforted by the nods of acknowledgment from Vance and his girlfriend, Shandra gave them a small wave, then followed Renee’s point to their table where she could leave her cape and evening bag.

She’d known Vance since high school, had even dated him briefly. Since Renee had become the head librarian, they’d come to know each other, gabbing whenever Shandra looked up historical documents for her online articles.

Some thirty or so minutes later, after speaking with the couples she did know, Shandra strolled along the perimeter of the ballroom. She cradled her ruby red wine as she made mental notes about her surroundings and all those in attendance.

Unlike a typical wine-tasting event, she’d been offered several different wines to sample, along with a selection of creamy gourmet cheeses -- the very kinds she adored but rarely purchased.

Her wine choice, likely an organic Pinot Noir -- there had been no labels -- had been poured with a flourish by a personable young man. Most probably in his early twenties, he resembled Lestat from “Interview With a Vampire”.

As Shandra wandered, enjoying the classic elegance of the ballroom combined with Victorian design elements, she felt a sense of relief. Likely it was the affect of the superb, richly aromatic wine.

For a time, her gaze remained on a small group of guests. They were fabulously and uniquely dressed. Most fascinating to her, they possessed the type of charisma that invited notice and appreciation.

After several more sips of the wine, Shandra felt her tension melt away. For the last five years, she’d taken on the responsibility of managing her mother and father’s financial affairs. It had saved their marriage and brought harmony to the family, but of late, the burden had become super heavy.

Hearing a violin, then the strains of lovely chamber music, Shandra moved toward what appeared to be an anteroom. Suddenly, Z’Pollo appeared at her side. He cupped her elbow, and her heart thumped rapidly at his stealth, then thumped from the caressing touch of his fingers on her arm.

“Miss Shandra, I have frightened you. My apologies. In my world silence of step is an advantage, and has become second nature.”

Halting her steps, Shandra snapped, “What are you? An international spy? The consummate corporate spy?” she added a split second later, as the thought struck her.

Holy damn, the compulsion tidal-waved inside her. But, Shandra knew better than to look up, meet his unusual aquamarine eyes. She’d be lost, and already, his very nearness spun desire through her like a whirlwind.

“Spy.” He poured the word inside her ear, a masculine purr that further undid her. “No, I am not a spy except as my eyes seek you.”

“I’m off the market,” Shandra blurted out. How, or why that quaint phrase... well, maybe because she’d come across it doing historical research.

“That is good to hear. I need not concern myself with rivals.”

Shandra considered lying about having a boyfriend, but that thought was fleeting since she lied poorly. Besides, her sense of Z’Pollo told her he would know the truth regardless. Now the hell what?

“The music charms the soul, does it not?” Grasping her elbow firmly, Z’Pollo gently propelled her toward the anteroom.

“Okay, I give. Where are you from? I can’t place your accent.”

“Currently I reside on the Greek Island of Santorini. However, I was raised in the Basque region of Spain. Exporting foods, wine, and herbs is the family business. And you, Miss Shandra, I understand from the Rathbones, you are an internet journalist, and are here to write about our wine tasting.”

“Yes,” she answered softly. They’d entered the anteroom through a half-moon archway.

Six musicians, dressed in formal Victorian attire, played to a small audience. Lyrical music, rich and graceful in tone, filled the elaborately decorated room. Shandra glanced around, and her breath flew inward with appreciation. Ice blue brocade drapes glimmered and framed the delicately flickering candlelight. A cascade of small taper candles were held by four silver wall sconces.

“Enchanting,” Shandra murmured, then noticed her hand now touched her throat.

“Mrs. Rathbone will be pleased. She enjoys bringing about such pleasure.” Pivoting toward her, Z’Pollo reached for her nearly empty wineglass. “Shall I pour you another glass?”

Their fingers brushed, and Shandra nearly jerked her hand back from the sensation of being burned alive by passion. In the next moment, she found herself facing him. “No, thank you,” she breathy managed. “That’s my limit, especially since I’ll be driving home.”

Oh god, no! Why did she crave the feeling of his fake fang on her skin again? It’s not like she’d ever been a Goth girl. Or been drawn to the Vampire scene.

In slow motion, Shandra raised her face to meet his gaze. Her heart raced too ridiculously fast. She flushed as if the heat had been switched to high, all while her pulse rapidly thrummed.

What was wrong with her?

“Shandra.” Z’Pollo languidly threaded his fingers through her hair. His thumbs caressed beneath her chin, and he tilted her face so their gazes immersed into each other. “You are an irresistible force, my beautiful woman.”

“I should be saying that about you... not the woman part.” The words freed themselves from her lips. Yet, how could she have ever stopped them? Compelling her past any resistance, his eyes flared with jewel-like brilliance -- flaring with a power Shandra didn’t understand.

“A glimpse of heaven,” he rasped. “Your eyes.”

Shandra couldn’t doubt his sincerity. She heard only truth. Of their own volition her palms pressed against his chest, and she leaned closer until their breaths touched and mingled.

Z’Pollo stroked his hands down her back with finesse and strength. And all Shandra wanted to do was to throw herself against him like a wanton. So desperately, she wanted to seize his mouth with hers. Kiss him. And never stop.

He brought her closer, his arms claiming her waist. The hard sculpted length of his body only fanned the flames of her clearly out-of-control desire.

Shandra raised to her toes, molding her body against his. “What are you doing to me?”

His eyes flashed and blazed for a bare instant. “I have decided upon you.”

As if she weighed nothing, he swept her into his arms. Z’Pollo carried her with long rapid strides, his manner utterly dominant.

Stunned to her core, all Shandra could do was cling to his neck. A strange dizziness possessed her head. Yet, she knew when he stepped onto a balcony.

Cool night air washed over her face and arms, and the sweet potent fragrance of gardenia swirled around her. Z’Pollo placed her on her feet, and immediately his tender embrace steadied her.

Once Shandra raised her gaze, she stiffened and couldn’t move a muscle. Appearing all too real, his vampire fangs gleamed in the gauzy moonlight.

In the next moment, a force that felt like warm, slow-moving honey surged through her. Utterly helpless, unable to do anything but yield to his will, Shandra whispered, “Why... why?”

“Time is short now, my beautiful one. Before the world explodes into hellfire and brimstone our community, our new families must be formed. Must be kept safe. Now, I must --”

Z’Pollo didn’t finish. Instead his needle-like fangs lengthened and glinted, reflecting the fragile moonbeams as he sought her neck.

Freaked out to the max, Shandra opened her mouth to scream. But it lodged in her throat and refused to move.

His fang slipped down the side of her neck with agonizing slowness, and with a seductiveness Shandra had only fantasized about. Despite her shock, her fear, Shandra languished against him. Wanting.

If this was the end for her... if death loomed... she felt the stabbing-prick of his fangs, and welcomed it.

Have a Magickal Season of the Witch!


Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Medieval vampires - dead or alive...

Philip Burne Jones, 'The Vampire' (1897), sourced from Wikimedia CommonsDid people in the Middle Ages really believe in vampires? They certainly believed in ghosts, which they called revenants, from the Latin meaning ‘to return’. It was believed that the unquiet dead, particularly those who had died by violence or by reason of a grudge, would return to haunt the living and try to take revenge on them. These revenants might haunt a graveyard or a particular area, known to them in life, and terrorize the living.

They also believed that the dead could be commanded to rise again and spirits or demons compelled to do a wizard’s bidding, through the dark art of necromancy. A surprising number of priests were interested in these dubious practices as a means of gaining power or knowledge. Priests might also seek to exorcise spirits possessing people, by means of prayer or sacred herbs or charms.

Vampires, however, do not really make an appearance until the fourteenth century. Why then?

In 1348 the Black Death struck Europe. Thousands died and thousands of rotting corpses had to be buried, often in mass graves. Sights of these bodies was often grisly and bloody, and so the idea of the vampire, feeding on the blood of the living, came into force.

Recently a body in a medieval Italian mass grave on the Venetian island of Lazzaretto Nuovo was found with a slab of rock slammed between its jaws – a crude anti-vampire measure. The dead woman was suspected by the grave-diggers of being a vampire, possibly because of gruesome sights around her decomposing body when they had re-opened the mass grave to bury more plague victims. So the frightened grave-diggers put a brick in her mouth to stop her chewing through her shroud and escaping the grave to infect others. A very grisly measure!

In my forthcoming medieval historical romance, The Snow Bride (due out Jan 2012), I don’t mention medieval vampires but I do deal with witchcraft and necromancers. My heroine, red-haired Elfrida, is a witch and wise-woman and through the ‘magic’ of love she helps my scarred hero Magnus. Both Elfrida and Magnus must battle against an evil necromancer – a medieval wizard who summoned spirits and demons – and, in a desperate race against time, recover Elfrida’s younger sister. In The Snow Bride I show medieval magic and beliefs, but not medieval vampires. Maybe in another story?

Happy Halloween!

Lindsay Townsend

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Lighthouse Keeper - paranormal flash fiction by Stephanie Burkhart

Audrina knocked on the wooden door. "Mr. Edwards?"

Nothing. A cool breeze blew in from the Atlantic Ocean and Audrina tugged on the shawl around her shoulders. Where was Mr. Edwards?

She twisted the knob to the lighthouse door. It turned, but stuck. Glancing up, she noticed rust on the hinges. Leaning her shoulder against the door, she pushed it open. Built in the early 1800's, the lighthouse captured the ambience of the past, standing proud against the Maine coastline.

"Mr. Edwards?" Her voice rattled throughout the lighthouse. Audrina tucked a stray tendril of her auburn hair behind her ear, pausing near the entrance. He had to be here. Her aunt's diary related that he rarely ventured from the antiquated lighthouse. Fishermen and cruise liners depended on the light and audible signals from this building – especially when the weather became foggy.

Looking around, she spied a set of metallic steps in the middle of the building which led up to the Frenzel lens and fog signal. Across the entrance, to the right, was another door partially opened.

The autumn wind whipped around the windows, making a high pitched whistle. A wave of uncertainty coursed through her bones. Was Mr. Edwards in that room? What would she find? She crossed the floor, hesitating next to the opening. Oh, she was being ridiculous. What did she expect to find? A ghost?

Audrina eased the door open, revealing a compact room. A single bed rested next to the curved wall. A young man lay clasping a picture frame next to his chest.

She ran to his side. Sweat dripped down his temples. Gently, she removed the frame, putting it on the nightstand, and placed her hand on his forehead. Hot. He had a fever. How long had he been sick?

"Mr. Edwards?" She shook his shoulders.

The young man's lids snapped open, but his eyes were glazed over from fever. "Esther?"

"No, I'm Audrina, Esther's niece. You're sick."

"Esther – where's Esther?"

"She passed away two weeks ago."

"No." The man's voice faded away. Had he lost hope? Her heart went out to him. She squeezed one of his hands between hers, studying him. His hair was thick and curly, framing his ruggedly handsome face. His square jaw and broad shoulders exuded a raw masculinity and vitality, despite his fever. Audrina found him appealing. Despite his illness, his muscles were hard. Stubble grew around his chin. God, there was no denying the attractiveness of his feral looks.

Departing the room, she discovered a kitchen, but the food was bad. She needed to make a trip to the grocery store. She also needed to treat the fever. Turning her attention to the sink, she found a washrag and dampened it. Who knew how long he'd been ill. She returned to his bedside and wiped the rag over his face.

"I think I should call for the paramedics."

"No!" His eyes snapped open, fierce and adamant none be spent. His voice was rough with anxiety.

"A paramedic can treat you better than I—"

"No. I don't want doctors. I hate them. None of them can help me."

Audrina crossed her arms. Her expression stilled and grew serious. Mixed feelings surged within her. He had to know that a doctor could help him. Why didn't he want to see one? What was he hiding? Should she be worried?

He opened his eyes, staring at her. She couldn't look away, spellbound by his expression. He possessed such unusual eyes – deep malachite green surrounded by a golden ring hugging his irises.

"No…you're not Esther. You smell different. Perfect," he rasped.

His comment raised her curiosity, but she ignored it for now. "I'm Audrina."

"Esther's dead, you said?"

"Yes. I'm sorry."

"Why did you come?"

"She left me her manor in her will. I arrived a few days ago, but only found her diary today."

He struggled to sit up in the bed, his expression a mix of pain and pleasant surprise. "You're beautiful."


"My name is Damian."

"Damian." She squeezed his hand again. "Lie back down. I'll return shortly."

He returned the pressure from her grasp, then collapsed onto the bed. "Please…"

"I promise." Audrina stood.

He nodded and closed his eyes.

Audrina drove her car up the dirt access road and parked next to the lighthouse. Twilight darkened the clouds over the ocean, casting deep orange and red shadows over the horizon. A waxing gibbous moon crested over the stormy waves. She hadn't explored her aunt's manor to the extent she would have liked, and had only partially read her aunt's diary – specifically the last couple of pages which expressed concern for Mr. Edwards – Damian.

Her aunt knew she was dying, she had cancer, but she believed Mr. Edwards would become inconsolable and possibly lose his mind if she revealed the nature of her illness and therefore she hadn't confided in him. Audrina believed her aunt didn't want to break Damian's heart. What Audrina found odd was that Damian was a young man. Her aunt was eighty-two when she passed.
Grabbing her bag with the food and medication, she walked through the brisk New England chill and entered the lighthouse. Quickly, she prepared a bowl of soup and a light meal.

Damian still lay in the bed, clutching the washcloth. God, he looked so vulnerable – and oh, so handsome. Her heart constricted in her chest.


He mustered a smile. "You returned." His voice ached with longing.

"Take these." She handed him some antibiotics she hadn't used from a recent prescription and a glass of water. He swallowed them and sat up. Audrina spoon fed him the soup. He ate the crackers, never taking his eyes off her.

"Thank you. I was hungry."

"You need to rest."

"I'm cold, then hot, then cold."

"It's the fever. Do you have any extra blankets?"

"No. Can you lay beside me?" His gaze fell to the creamy expanse of her neck.

Audrina bit her lower lip with her teeth. Her heart ached under her breast. His eyes mesmerized her. Something intense flared between them – a spark. Desire? Mutual attraction? Fascination? His eyes drew her to him, despite only having just met him.
She said nothing, but lay down next to him, resting her head against his chest.

He kissed her temple. "Thank you."

Closing her eyes, she drifted off to sleep.

The rain struck the window in a rhythmic fashion, waking Audrina. She left the bed, found a candle on the nightstand, and lit it. The inky shadows faded away and the candle cast a soft light over the bed. The picture frame she'd taken from his hand earlier rested next to the pewter candleholder. Curious, she picked it up and turned it over.

The photo was black and white. Damian appeared the same with a head full of curls. A vibrant grin curved his lips. He stood next to a young woman who possessed long brown hair and a passionate smile. Audrina wrinkled her brow, confused. From the clothes she would date the photo in the late forties or early fifties. Who was the woman? Why did her features look familiar?


She clutched the frame to her breast and looked at Damian, uncertainty splayed across her face. Who was he?

He pointed toward the picture. "That's Esther and I years ago. I loved her very much, but…" his voice trailed off.

"But what?"

"She didn't want to be my lover, choosing to remain my friend."

"Lover?" Audrina arched an eyebrow.

Damian stood and held out his hand. "I've lived for over one hundred and fifty years, but Esther's loss almost destroyed me."
The flame flickered, casting stark eerie shadows over his cheekbones, giving him a feral appearance.

"What are you?"

He snared her eyes with his intense gaze. "I am a werewolf. Stay with me."

Attraction tumbled next to apprehension. "Why?"

"Because you feel the attraction between us, like I do." He paused. "I've been waiting lifetimes for you. I thought Esther might be my mate, but she was not."

"I don't understand."

"Esther's scent was close, but you, your scent, it's driving me wild, giving me hope. No one else has ever made me feel like this. You're my soulmate. Please stay."

Audrina couldn't deny the ache that thrummed throughout her body, despite the tension that coursed through her. What should she do? Dare she believe his claim? After several long minutes, she remained in her seat.

Word Count: 1376





Monday, October 24, 2011

What Pumps Your Blood?


Welcome to our week of Halloween Fest.

What I love about Halloween are the movies: the slasher, the zombie, the gore. Some channels have thirty-one days of movies, others have fifteen days, and then there's the obscure movie you might find on other channels. How do I choose what to watch? Sometimes it's a real nail-biter. Now that we have Netflix, we check to see which one is not available and that's what we watch.

And yeah, we know most horror films are not the best. Either they have lousy scripts, lousy actors or both. Still we watch. We love the blood pumping feeling, the unexpected, even the expected. I jump and my sons laughs.

So why do so many people gravitate towards what I consider B movies? Why do we? The darkness, the shadows, the chilling screams. Yes, it's part of it.

Mostly, I think it's the music. The video and audio guys are pure genius when it comes to selecting the tone and temple. Music affects a part of us in so many ways, sadness, that ooie-gooey feeling, and the heart pumping expectancy of danger. We're thrill seekers.

A favorite of mine is Halloween, the orignial 1978 version. As many times as I see it, it never gets old, it never fails to draw the fear, the jumps, and get the blood pumping. The music is amazing, considering the composer couldn't read a note.

What are some of your favorite Halloween movies? What creeps you out?


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jenny Twist: 'Take One at Bedtime'

Nobody ever goes upstairs in Margaret’s house. So what is making the strange thumping noises up there? And why is there a toy rabbit under the kitchen table?

Margaret’s Ghost is just one of a collection of short stories consisting mainly of horror and science fiction, ranging from a classic gothic tale – Jack Trevellyn – to the Wyndhamesque Victim of Fortune, and the modern Waiting for Daddy, with its spine-chilling twist.

There is also the occasional excursion into romance with A Castle in Spain and Jess’s Girl.

But most of these tales take you to a place which is not quite as it seems.

It’s bedtime now. Time to go upstairs. Time to take a look.

Just one look.

WARNING: Do not exceed the stated dose.

Published by Melange Books 23rd April – Editors’ Pick.

Available on Amazon and Kindle

ISBN: 978-1-61235-064-6

Hi everyone. Here is an excerpt from one of the tales in Take One At Bedtime:

EXCERPT from The Apple Tree:

When I was four years old, my mother took me and my brother and sister to go and live in Yorkshire. It is, I think, my earliest memory.

I remember the enormous station with the great iron trains clanking and snorting clouds of steam. And I remember being frightened by the crowds of people and clutching tight to my mother for fear that I would get lost in that forest of legs. I remember the train leaving London and seeing the open countryside for the first time, marvelling at all that space.

My sister Mary chattered excitedly throughout the journey, but my brother Jim stared morosely out of the window, angry at being made to leave his friends and miss the excitement of the war.

It had been arranged that we would stay the night with my mother’s aunts near Liverpool, before continuing our journey the next day. She referred to them as the ‘maiden aunts’ and I expected them to look like the maidens in my fairytale book, with long frocks and pointy hats. I was rather disappointed, therefore, when I met them, to find they were just two ordinary old ladies.

The house seemed to me to be very big and I was particularly impressed with an enormous fireplace, made out of some kind of white stone and carved with a picture of some dogs and a lady with hardly any clothes on.

And I remember the apple.

As we were leaving the following day, one of the maidens took me into the garden and there was a very tall tree standing by a little gate, laden with red-gold fruit.

“Would you like one, Johnny?” asked the maiden. I nodded and she held me up so I could reach the fruit. I remember cupping it in my hand and feeling the soft, silky texture of its skin.

“It’s all right, Johnny,” said the maiden. “You can eat it.”

I’m not entirely sure that I had realised up to then that it was something to eat. I bit into it and the flavour flooded into my mouth. I was overwhelmed by it. I am sure I had never tasted anything like it before. I suppose that fruit of any kind must have been fairly scarce in wartime London. So it was possible that I had never tasted an apple before. And fruit always tastes best when it is plucked straight from the tree. But even allowing for the novelty and the freshness, I think that apple was something special. I can still remember the flavour now, after all these years - crisp, sharp and sweet all at the same time.

I don’t remember the rest of the journey. I suppose we got another train. But I remember the fuss when we arrived at grandma’s, the kissing and hugging and exclamations about how much we had grown. And then I was sitting on granddad’s knee and he was teaching me how to make a cat’s cradle. I was so fascinated by this, that I did not immediately realise that something was wrong. Then granddad’s fingers stopped moving and he looked up. So did I.

Grandma seemed to be upset. “But you can’t have done,” she shouted. “You can’t have stayed at Celia and Maude’s. They’re dead. They died six weeks ago. I wrote to you.”

My mother flinched, but didn’t say a word.

“I had a letter from the government.” Grandma cried. “The house was bombed. They’re both dead.”

“There must have been a mistake,” said my mother. “They’re all right, Mum. We saw them this morn-”

“Judith!” My grandmother’s voice cut across my mother’s like a knife. “We went to the funeral.” She glanced across at Granddad, who nodded sadly. “We saw the house. There was nothing there. Just rubble.” And Grandma burst into tears.

My mother put her hand to her forehead and sat down suddenly, as if her strings had been cut. But she didn’t say another word. In fact, as far as I know, nobody ever mentioned it again. Not until the day of the funeral.


Jenny Twist

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Shadow Love - A Ghost Hunter Romance

What a fun short story to write!

When I volunteered to write a strange story for an anthology, I had no clue what I was going to do. I sat down and played around with a couple of ideas and Shadow Love evolved from those. And maybe the fact that at the time I was watching Ghost Hunter shows on television, so that probably gave the story a boost in the making.

I still may work one of the initial ideas into something, who knows. I like ghosts and believe in them.

I hope you'll check out the story. If I had to pick a secondary character who deserved honorary mention, Zack would be it. I think he gave the story life.


Carla Kingston claimed to have been accosted by a ghost when she was seventeen years old. In confidence, she told her best friend, who dropped her like hot coals. Ten years later, Bobby Whitten returns with a change of heart, but can he handle watching her enjoy being made love to by a shadow of a person who was murdered more than a hundred years ago?

Small Excerpt:

“Maybe. Zack, I have a strange feel about what's to come.”

“I told you, it’s the two of you together that is stirring them up,” Zack told her.

“You’re being redundant.”

“Stop sucking face and things will quiet.”

“Ha, ha.”

“What?” Bobby asked.

“Zack says they’re jealous and trying to get my attention, so we need to stop sucking face.” His eyes narrowed, and she found it amusing to watch him look around the place. “He can’t see us.” She tapped the headset. “Hearing.”

“Oh,” he said before a grin crept across his face.

“Zack, while the troops feel they need to gather, I’m going in to do some fishing.”

“Not a good idea. Too many.”

“I’ll be fine. They love me, you said so yourself.”

“Right now, it may not be unanimous if you get my drift.”

“Yeah, I get it.” It would definitely be worth it if her infatuated ghost was jealous enough to take things to a new level.

“I think it’d be interesting to take Bobby in the house with you and see what happens.”

She laughed. “You’re ornery.”

“Well, go have fun. I’ve got your back.”

“Appreciated. Switching to wireless.” She set the headset down and turned it off. “Remember what I said. Don’t interfere,” she reminded Bobby while putting on a wireless headset and attached the battery pack to the back of her jeans.

“What’re you doing?”

“My job. You can watch and listen, but you won’t be able to talk to me. Nor will I be able to hear you.” Flipping on the speaker nestled between the monitors near a receiver, she informed him, “Only Zack will be able to talk to me.” Carla pulled a jacket on, grabbed her kit, put the file of photos in it and turned at the door. “I’ll be back,” she said in the gruffest tone she could manage. He didn’t smile. She walked up to him and kissed him. “Relax.”

Carla left and crossed the street to enter the property. Her heart pounded against her chest cavity. She latched the gate behind her, took out her handheld thermal meter along with the K2 meter, turned them on and went up the walk to the porch steps and up to the front door. She shivered when she entered a cold spot. “I’ve entered coldness, fifty-one degrees.”

“Daybreak temps been steady at fifty-seven.”

“No visuals, but you,” Bobby added.

She pulled the keys from her pocket. “Going in.”

Available at Smashwords and Amazon
I'm hoping by Halloween, the story will be up at other venues.