Someone is there, watching me. I can feel their presence. I’ve felt it for the past few days, but I haven’t caught even a glimpse of anyone. I should be scared, but I’m not. I don’t understand. Am I losing my mind? Has the disease that has ravaged my body made its way to my head?

I can’t think anymore. I need some air. God, this place is beautiful. There’s something wild and untouched…what was that? I could have sworn I heard a noise, but there’s nothing there. My mind is playing tricks on me again. Or is it?

There are hands around me…strong hands…comforting hands. I look down. Yet again, there is nothing there. But the feeling remains. I feel safe. I feel loved. I feel a hot breath on my neck. I arch into it and warm lips are pressed against my skin. I feel a shudder run through my body. I want more. I start to turn and…….

I was jolted awake by the sudden stop of the carriage and may have fallen from my seat had it not been for my father’s steadying hand. I waved off his look of concern with a smile that did not reach my eyes. I did not want to be here. I was a child of London and I missed the noise and the bustle. Since the onset of my illness there had been what seemed like an endless parade of worried aunts and other well-wishers. At the time they had done nothing but irritate me. At this moment, I even missed them.

I blamed my father, as I did for so many other things. He did not approve of my wild ways, as he put it, and I did not approve of his stern disapproval. Do not think of me as spoiled or ungrateful. A part of me understood that he was doing all of this because he loved me, but a bigger part resented being uprooted from the only life I had ever known. I had traded busy streets and busier days for an interminable procession of trees in a country I knew nothing of. Was it any wonder that I had sought solace in the land of dreams?

My father exited the carriage first and reached his hand out to me. I did not want to take it but, truth be told, our journey had left me exhausted. The bumpy, winding road up the hillside had drained whatever reserves of energy I had left and all I longed for was a warm bed. I prayed that I would remember some of the social graces my mother taught me ages ago so I would not make an inhospitable fool of myself.

As I descended the carriage, I saw the look of worry in my father’s eyes and I was struck by how much he had aged. He still held himself as all soldiers did, even when they were no longer at war, but his face was that of an old man. I felt a twinge of guilt. Taking care of a dying daughter, especially one such as me, could not be an easy task. Very well then. My father’s friend thought this place could be my salvation. I resolved to at least give it a chance.

I admit that I had been reading this new work by an Irish gentleman and I had half-expected to be accosted by frightened villagers urging us to flee for our lives. Needless to say, my father did not care for my literary choices. There had of course been no admonitions, nor gypsies materializing out the shadows to curse us. The villagers had, in spite of the language barrier, been nothing but welcoming. Perhaps I simply needed to give my preconceived notions a rest.

I looked around me and, for the first time, I felt a sense of wonder. Darkness was fast approaching but I could still discern a magnificent castle before us, its spires reaching towards the sky. It was like nothing I had ever seen before outside of books. Mountains covered with dense forest rose up behind it but there were two clearly marked trails and I could hear the trickle of water from a nearby stream. If I squinted, I could just make out the top of some ruined building off to the left, perhaps a church. To the right stretched out what was once a meticulously landscaped garden, now slipping into disrepair. Before us were great stone steps, flanked by fading statues on both sides, and standing at the top was an older gentleman of obvious aristocratic bearing. He started down towards us with great difficulty, leaning heavily on his cane, and my father rushed to greet him.

“Nikolai, you wily old fox! It is good to see you again.” As the men embraced, it was the first time I could remember seeing my father genuinely smile in ages.

“You too my friend, you too. It has been much too long.”

“Indeed, but we are here now.”

“And this must be Katherine.” He turned to me and I was immediately drawn to his kind eyes. I have vague memories of my grandfather and the white-haired man before me reminded me of him. “Come child, do not be afraid.” He embraced me, as was the custom of this land, and I caught the faint hint of spices.

“Bring their bags in, Pietr.” He nodded to the coachman and then ushered us into the castle. I tried not to look around like a little child in a candy store, but I was unsuccessful. The doctor caught me and laughed. “It is impressive, is it not? We are a very old family. This has been ours for generations.” He stopped as friendly looking, middle-aged woman approached. “Ah, there you are Marta. These are our guests, General Peter Thomas and his daughter Katherine.”

“Pleased to meet you.” She bowed to us and I warmed to her immediately. There was a twinkle in her eyes that told me I might have found a kindred spirit for my mischievous adventures. “Will you come this way?”

“Please, follow Marta. She will show you to your rooms. We will have an early dinner shortly. I am sure you must be tired after your long journey, especially you Katherine. You shall eat, and you shall rest. Tomorrow we shall see if our mountain air agrees with you.” With that, the doctor took his leave and we followed Marta, who assumed served as a housekeeper.

I was surprised to find that my father and I were not to be settled in adjacent rooms, as I had expected. Instead, his room was just off the dining area, close to the doctor, while mine was all the way down the great hallway. There was another room opposite mine and Marta explained that it belonged to Doctor Antonescu’s daughter. She was close to my age and the doctor had apparently presumed that my father would rather not be kept awake by the incessant chattering of two young females.

I did not take the time to unpack much other than my sleeping gown. As curious as I was about my surroundings, it was my exhaustion that was winning the battle. A lamp had been lit and a basin of warm water had been graciously laid out in my room. I used it to refresh myself before heading to the dining area. I was alone so I took the opportunity to steal a quick look at the huge library I had passed a short while before. I resolved to ask the doctor if he would mind me using it now and then. My passion was reading, something I had inherited from my mother, and I was practically foaming at the mouth at the thought of all those full shelves. But there were people waiting for me so I would have to indulge in my guilty pleasures later.

The dining hall, when I got to it, was amazing. It was as though I had been transported into a different time. The furniture was dark and regal, a throwback to centuries past. A massive tapestry lined one wall, with creatures and hunters alike frolicking in that dark dance of predator and prey. The fireplace remained unlit but there were more than enough candles to suit our purposes. As I took my seat at the table, I realized two things: I was the last one there, and there was an extra person at the dining table.

So this was the doctor’s daughter? She didn’t look a day over twenty-five, and she was beautiful. Even though she was sitting, I could tell that she was at least a foot taller than me, and the purple evening gown draping her thin frame matched her eyes. Waves of inky black hair cascaded down strong shoulders. Her lips were full and red, and a little bit cruel.

“My dear,” said the doctor, “this is my daughter, Evelina. Eva, this is Katherine.”

“Hello.” My voice sounded entirely too high pitched for my liking. I could tell by her wry smile that she was fully aware of my open appraisal and I felt my cheeks burn.

“Hello Katherine. You must be starved. Come, enjoy our hospitality.”

Her voice was deep and smoky, and made all the more exotic by the inflection of her native tongue. I chose to ignore the effect it had on me and instead eyed the simple but delicious looking meal with hunger. I fervently hoped that no one heard my stomach growl. I set about devouring the food Marta had undoubtedly prepared, oblivious to the small talk between my father and the doctor. I was more used to the bland fare of my home country and the spices made me cough at first, but I thoroughly enjoyed the stew and stuffed cabbage. As I ate, I stole glances at the mysterious Eva. She picked at her food and seemed to prefer the strong wine that my father forbade me to consume.

When the meal was over, we bid our hosts goodnight and retired to our rooms. My father walked me to my door and kissed my cheek before leaving me. Strangely, he looked troubled. I had the distinct impression that he was not fond of Evelina, but surely I was wrong. After all, we had only been there a few hours. Still, something was definitely on his mind. I knew better than to ask though. My father was a man of few words. If he felt the need to confide in me, he would.

I went to bed but I could not sleep. It was one of the more annoying aspects of my condition. I was infamous for falling asleep during conversations before but now it seemed the consumption had consumed my ability to get a good night’s rest. Many a night would find me wandering the corridors, unable to find respite. Tonight was clearly destined to be such a night. I did not relish the thought of spending my time staring at the ceiling and I thought back to the doctor’s invitation to partake of his extensive library at any time. I doubt this was what he had in mind, but an invitation was an invitation after all. I lit my lamp but it was unnecessary since the torches had not been doused. As I made my way to the library, I realized that I was not alone. I heard low voices and my curiosity got the better of me. I crept as close to the slightly open door as I could.

“Why are they here, Father? Why is she here?”

It was Eva’s voice. I still didn’t understand how she looked so youthful. I wasn’t some shy wallflower, ignorant of the ways of the world. I knew that men were capable of producing children far longer than women. Still, it seemed scandalous that a man of the doctor’s advanced age should have a child so young. Perhaps there had been some scandal involved. Maybe an illicit love affair with a village maiden?

“You have been alone for too long my child. It grieves me to see you so lonely. You need a companion.”

“I need no one.” Eva’s voice was defiant and, in truth, I could not imagine her needing anyone.

“Not even me?”

“Of course I need you, Father.” Her voice softened, the fondness obvious in her tone.

“I won’t always be here. I am already an old man. I do not wish to die knowing that my daughter is alone in this world.”

“I will always be alone father. No one could love me as I am.” No one could love the stunningly attractive creature I had seen earlier that evening? I imagined that there was any number of village men who would give their right arm, perhaps literally, for a glance from Eva. And I was tremendously confused. What did all of this have to do with me?

“Hush child. Love is a strange beast. It has a magic all its own.”

“Father, you are a doctor not a poet, and I have never believed in magic.”

“You should, my child. You, of all people, should believe in magic. I am going to bed. I do not have your youth.”

“Goodnight father. I shall stay and read a little longer.”

“As you wish.”

I hid in the shadows until the doctor disappeared in the direction of his room. So Eva was as happy about our being here as I was to be here? I couldn’t blame her. If I were in her place I would resent the intrusion too, but that resentment made me unhappy. Eva intrigued me, with her aloofness and her quiet ways. She was so unlike my usual crowd. I wanted to know more about her, and I couldn’t do that if she chose to avoid us. I took a deep breath and entered the library. Eva was sitting close to the fireplace, a book laid out in her lap. She looked up at my approach but didn’t seem particularly surprised at my presence.

“I don’t really want to be here either you know.”

“Do you usually eavesdrop on other people’s conversations?”

“Only the ones worth listening to.” That earned me an inkling of a smile. “My father thinks that the mountain air will magically cure me. So one morning he tells me to start packing…that we’ll be moving out here for an unspecified length of time. I left my friends, my family…my life…back home. I can assure you that I am just as unhappy about being here as you are about having us here.”

“And my father tells me one day that we are to have company for an unspecified length of time as you put it.” She sighed and closed the book she was reading. “You must forgive me. I have gotten used to my life here. The solitude suits me and I value my privacy above all else. To have that disturbed is unsettling.”

“I understand. I can’t speak for my father, although he has never been the most sociable of men, but I promise not to get in your way too much.”

“Very well.” She seemed to pause and think. “I believe we have come to a truce?”

I laughed at that. “I wasn’t aware we were at war but yes, I’d say we have a truce.”

*****

That night in the library was the start of my friendship with Eva. At first we did not see much of her. The doctor explained that she had inherited an illness from her mother’s bloodline that made her allergic to sunlight so she could not be with us during the day. My father did not seem to take this news well, in fact the very next day he disappeared to the village below and did not return until late, but I sympathised. How could anyone survive without seeing the beauty of the sunrise? Still, she was with us most nights at dinner.

It was one of those nights that my father thoroughly shocked me. I have said that he never truly warmed up to Eva. He was polite enough to her, and she to him, but I got the feeling that the cordiality was forced. I could never discern a reason, and Eva always discounted it as my imagination when I brought it up. He seemed content enough to spend hours in discussion with the doctor about current affairs and other such boring fare, so I left it alone. That night though, he interrupted us with a pronouncement.

“Eva, my dear, I have something for you.”

Eva looked at him askance and he produced a small, black box from his pocket. He got up, presented it to Eva with a bow, and took to his seat. Eva fiddled with it idly before opening it and looking sharply at my father, her eyes narrowing.

“General, I couldn’t possibly accept this.”

“Nonsense my dear. I would be deeply offended if you did not accept it. You and your father have been so kind to have us here. It is the least I could do.”

Eva lifted something out of the box and I gasped. It was a gold chain holding up an intricately beautiful crucifix. My father must have had it specially made, although I had no idea how. Perhaps that was why he had been down to the village so often. No doubt he had made a contact there.

“In that case, I must accept it. I would not want to offend. Thank you General. I shall cherish it.”

“You should put in on right now, so that I can see if I made the right choice.” His voice sounded oddly excited, as though he was eagerly awaiting something. He was so focused on Eva that he missed the look which passed between Eva and her father. Something more was at play here, but I did not know what it was.

“As you wish. Katherine, would you assist me?”

“Of course.”

I left my seat and went to her, accepting the trinket she placed in my hand. She reached up and brushed her hair back, exposing a creamy expanse of skin. I tried to hide the shaking in my hands as I clasped the necklace around her perfect neck, and returned to my chair.

“How does it look father?” Eva asked.

“It is perfect, my child.”

Indeed it was, nestled in the swell of her breast. I glanced at my father and noted that he looked visibly relieved. Perhaps he had just been nervous that his gift would not have been well received. The rest of our dinner was uneventful, as were the many dinners after. Days turned into weeks and, as my health improved, so did my relationship with Eva. We grew closer every day and I chose not to explore my feelings about that. I missed her company when she was not there.

We went on walks every evening, sometimes in the garden, sometimes along the many paths in the woods. Eva’s company was enough for me, but I wondered if mine was enough for her. I asked her once about her stay in England as we strolled hand in hand.

“But surely you must miss the company?”

“Company?” Eva looked confused.
“You know. The balls and the dances? The attention of young men? Do you not long for such things?” I admit that I merely wanted to see her reaction. I had long since realized that I did not care for the attention of young men myself.

“I have no desire for the attentions of young men and, as for the rest, I am a solitary creature. I have lived my life, such as it is, on my own. It is all I know and all I wish to know. You long for the bright lights of the city, for what you have left behind. Your heart is there, but mine is here, in the darkness.”

“My heart is with you.” I meant it, but I had not meant to be so bold.

She seemed faintly surprised at first, then a sad smile came to her face and she embraced me. I could feel her lips against my neck as she softly whispered. “I wish I could believe that beloved, but you do not know me. One day the real world will take you away.”

“Never.” It was the first time she called me her beloved and I did not know what it meant. Sometimes this land and its customs were still strange to me. Eva bent her head to kiss my forehead and we continued our walk in silence.

That night I dreamt that Eva had left me and I woke up in tears.

*****

I heard a knock on my door and I answered it, expecting it to be Marta. It was my father and I was a bit shocked. He had never come to my room before.

“Come in Father.” I stood aside so he could enter. He took a seat on the single chair and I sat on the edge of the bed. I could not fathom what he could possibly have to say.

“We must leave soon Katherine.” I was not expecting that and he must have seen it on my face. “Nikolai has been a most gracious host and he was right, the mountain air has done wonders for you. I hope it has done enough. But something is not right here. He is hiding something. And Evelina. I have heard rumours in the village…”

“What kind of rumours?”

“That does not concern you.” He looked at me with grim determination and my heart fell. He had made up his mind and I knew from experience that nothing could sway him. He had that in common with my brother, William. “Suffice to say that I must get you out of here. I do not how long it will take, but it will be soon.”

With that he left, and my mind was in turmoil. I did not want to leave, but how could I convince him to stay? I could not even find solace with Eva since she had told me she would be spending the night in the village. Perhaps the cool night air would help. Eva had warned me not to venture out alone but nothing had ever happened on our walks before. Why should tonight be any different?

The sky was so beautiful here. I sat on one of the stone benches in the garden and spent what seemed like an eternity admiring the starry heavens. Nights like this were a rare commodity in London. I felt myself drifting off and decided it was time to head back into the house when I heard the sound of a branch breaking off to my right.

“Eva?”

Why did I call out to her? Eva wasn’t there. It was just my over-active imagination playing tricks on me. I stood, and the noise came again, followed by a growl. I was thoroughly frightened now and turned to run when out of the corner of my eye I saw a shape materialising from the edge of the forest. It was a huge wolf, its eyes shining in the moonlight. It attacked before I could manage to move and I screamed when it sunk its teeth into my calf, and then it was gone.

My mind registered a yelp and I opened my eyes to a hideous sight. Eva was there; at least I thought it was Eva. It was her body, but the fanged face was that of a nightmare. As the two beasts faced off, I felt sorry for the wolf. The thing that was Eva glanced at me and motioned its head towards the castle where I could see lights coming on. My scream must have woken up its occupants. I ran as best as I could, hopping on one leg at times, until I collapsed in my father’s arm. It was then that I fainted.

I remembered bits and pieces. I remembered my leg being cleaned and bandaged by Marta. I remembered the doctor giving orders to Pietr to hunt down the wolf. I remembered Eva, my precious Eva, my precious monster.

*****

I woke with a start, convinced that the lingering remnants of my dream were real. My eyes cast about the room wildly, my heart pounding in the near total darkness. I heard a rustling off to my right and jumped as someone lit a match. Soon I could make out Eva’s lithe form as she bent over the lamp. I gasped as it all came back to me…the snarling wolf…the pain as its jaws sunk into me flesh…the fear, and the relief, when a monster had saved my life. Eva.

I wondered briefly why Eva hadn’t yet made a move to come to me. I also wondered why I wasn’t afraid of that very same thing. I had seen this beautiful woman transform into a creature of nightmares before my very eyes. Why wasn’t I afraid? I thought back to my interactions with the Eva. Granted she hadn’t been happy to have us there in the beginning. I hadn’t exactly been thrilled either. But Eva had never been threatening towards me and, given what I had seen, she was quite capable of hurting me. No, Eva had treated me with nothing but a love I had never experienced before. I didn’t want to let that go. I couldn’t.

“Eva?”

“Are you alright beloved?”

“I’ll live, thanks to you. Come.” I patted the side of the bed. “Sit with me.”

“I should go. I will send Marta in.”

“No!” I shifted on the bed, the movement causing a sharp stab of pain in my leg, but not as much as I had expected. “Eva, I need you.”

“How can you?” Eva’s voice broke with anguish. “You know what I am now. You should chase me away, not draw me closer.”

“I know what you are. I know that you’re a woman who’s kind and gentle, not to mention stunning. I know that you’re a woman who has been hiding a terrible secret for a long time. I know you’re a woman who saved my life. Is there anything else I need to know?”

“You’re such an innocent, Katherine.” Eva finally sat on the edge of the bed. “I survive on the blood of others. I have killed for this in the past. I cannot guarantee that I won’t kill again.”

I thought about this for a while. “And would you kill me?”

“Never!” Eva appeared shocked by the very idea. “I could never hurt you.”

“Why not?”

“What?”

“Why not. Why would you not hurt me?” I needed to hear her say what I suspected.

“I…” Eva faltered. “I am quite fond of you.”

“Is that all it is then? Fondness?”

“I don’t understand.”

“I am not fond of you Eva. I was, in the beginning, but I believe I am quite beyond that point now. I believe that I have fallen in love with you and, unless I am very much mistaken, I believe that you love me too.” I had been gently stroking Eva’s hand as I spoke and I was well aware of the fine tremor running through her body. I knew I was right. I knew that the attraction I felt wasn’t one-sided. Now I needed to get Eva to admit it. I needed to break through the defences she had so obviously built.

“Eva,” I whispered, pulling myself up so I could be face to face with her. Eva refused to hold my gaze so I pulled back her head with my fingers. “Eva, look at me.”

I could feel the heat from Eva’s body, and I felt an answering heat stirring within me. While I had never experienced that final barrier with anyone, I was far from inexperienced. My crowd had rebelled from the sexual repression that marred much of England. I knew the pleasure of a kiss, and a touch. I wanted more than anything to feel that pleasure with Eva.

“Eva, I may not know exactly what it is that I want, but I want it with you.”

“What are you saying Katherine?” Eva’s hand rose to cover mine.

“Make love to me Eva. Please. I need your touch. I need you.”

“You cannot know what you’re asking. You cannot know what it would mean.”

“I know exactly what I am asking, and I would not ask it if I were not sure. No one else has touched my heart the way you have. No one else has touched my body the way I want you to. Please. Do not deny me.” I whispered in a voice husky with desire.

“I can deny you nothing.”

The last bits of Eva’s resolve crumbled and she closed the gap between us. I felt soft lips on mine, so different from the ones I had felt before. Eva did not demand. She took what I was offering, and gave just as much in return. I had never felt a kiss so sweet and my fingers curled into Eva’s hair. Our lips danced with each other and soon that dance was not enough. I broke away, panting and crazed with need.

“Eva…oh God…please…I need your touch.”

Eva shifted and pushed me down on the bed, moving to lie on top of me. I could feel every curve of her body through the thin night dresses we both wore. My legs opened of their own volition, allowing Eva to settle between them. I felt my hips rise as Eva lowered her mouth to my earlobe and pulled ever so gently. A moan escaped me as the feather light kisses made their way lower, down my neck to the pulsing vein underneath. I was losing focus as the ache within me grew. I felt the laces on my gown being undone and I arched my body as I felt a warm tongue on my straining nipple for the first time.

Eva was gentle, almost too gentle for my spiralling needs, and I roughly pulled her closer. I felt Eva smile against my heated flesh. Soft touches were replaced by nips and scratches. It was all I could do to not cry out, knowing that if I did someone would undoubtedly find us like this. Eva pulled back and I was about to protest the loss until I realized that she was standing before me in all her naked glory. It was a sight to behold and I felt myself growing wet. With a speed that surprised even me, I had removed my own clothing as Eva moved to turn the key in the door.

As she returned, I welcomed my soon-to-be lover into my arms. Eva descended to me with a force that took my breath away. I could do nothing but hold on and surrender myself to the power of Eva’s passion. Her hands were everywhere. Her mouth made paths that were never made before. Her fingers sought the warmth that lay between my legs and I whimpered as she found it. Slick fingers rubbed against the sensitive bundle of nerves and I nearly became undone then and there, but I wanted more. I reached down and guided Eva’s hand to my entrance. I felt Eva’s hesitance and prayed that my eyes could sufficiently say what my words could not. Eva kissed me once, and then slid into my silken depths. My body tensed at the pain and Eva stilled, allowing me to adjust to feeling of being filled.

Slowly she began to move and the pain was soon replaced by the faint stirring of something I could not describe. Eva’s lips bruised my own and she thrust into me, taking a little piece of my soul each time. I needed to share this with Eva and I reached down into her wetness, gratified to hear the strangled cry as I did. My fingers slid over a hard bundle of nerves and picked up a rhythm as Eva rocked against me.

“Oh God, Eva.” My senses were inflamed.

“Katherine…oh Katherine…I’m so close.”

So was I, but to what I did not know. I felt as though my body was poised at the edge of a cliff and, with one hard thrust of Eva’s fingers, I fell into the abyss. I was vaguely aware of an answering tensing of Eva’s body and a sharp stab of pain in my neck, and then I knew no more.

I opened my eyes to dark ones looking down at me and lips curled into a wry smile. I was very aware of my own nakedness, and that of the body lying against mine.

“I seem to have worn you out.” Eva pressed a gentle kiss against my forehead. “You should rest. You need to be well to heal.”

I pressed closer to her, whispering, “Stay with me, please.”

“Always,” Eva murmured as I drifted into sleep, unaware of what was to befall us.

*****

I should have been happy the next day, but the spectre of my father lingered over me. Now that I had known Eva’s body, how could I leave? Eva had sensed my melancholy but I had dismissed it as pain in my leg. I could tell she didn’t fully believe me, but daylight was coming and she had to hide from the sun’s rays. I resolved to spend my day in the library but I wasn’t careful when I sought Marta at the lunch hour and ran into my father.

“Katherine! What is that?” My father took my face in his hand and roughly turned me so he could get a better look at my neck. I hadn’t realized that Eva had bitten me. I don’t think she meant to, but she did, and the scars were the first thing my father saw.

“I….I…..” My mind was blank. I could not think of a single thing to say.

“Eva.” He said her name as though it was curse, “So what I heard is true.”

“I don’t…it happened when I fell.” It sounded lame to my ears and my father say through it in an instant.

“Lies!” For the first time, I was genuinely afraid of him. He looked like a man possessed. “That creature has corrupted you. I made a mistake coming here. I will not make another. I know how to deal with her kind!”

With that he stormed from the room. I felt a sense of foreboding and I tried to run after him, but it was no good with my injured leg. All I could do was call out. My shouts brought the doctor out of his room to see what the commotion was about. When I explained it to him, he sat heavily on the nearest chair.

“I pray that he does not know where she is but I fear that he does. Someone in the village has told him where the vampire lies. I shall find that person and they will be dealt with.” He looked old, every year of his 80 odd years. “Yes my child. I know what my daughter is…what she has become. Tell me, has my daughter ever spoken to you of her mother?”

I shook my head “No.”

“She was a beautiful woman, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. I didn’t want to return here, but I could deny her nothing. I convinced myself that it would be for the best. After all, hadn’t I always been complaining of wanting peace and quiet after the war? I had my fair share of monsters, but I couldn’t imagine the monsters that awaited us here. Not at first. At first everything was wonderful. Our daughter grew and flourished. But then he came, and he brought his darkness with him. My wife succumbed to his evil, but something of her remained. She begged me to kill her after that monster was slain. I couldn’t bring myself to do it and she took our daughter before I buried a stake in her heart.

What could I do? I couldn’t kill my own child, dead as she already was. We hid away here, far from the people who might seek to destroy her. But my child grew lonelier, shut away as she was from companionship. When your father contacted me, it was as if hope grew in my heart again. You were already dying. Perhaps you could be the one to save my child.”

“But…”

“Your father loves you Katherine. He believes he is doing what he has to protect you.”

“She will kill him”

“She will not. She loves you. She knows that would hurt you.”

“Losing her would hurt me! I must find them. I must stop him.”

“Then go child. Go as fast as your feet can take you, as injured as you are. But I fear it is already too late.”

I did just as he said. I ran. I ran as though my life depended on it. I fell when my injured foot could not take my weight, and I forced myself up and ran some more. Eva was my life. I could not live without her. But I was indeed too late. I arrived just in time to see my beloved, defiant till the end, as my father emptied his gun into her body. A scream like none I had ever heard rendered the air. It shook the very core of the ruins. The room began to shake around us. We had no choice to flee as the walls crumbled. I chanced a look back and my final glimpse was of Eva’s face contorted with pain.

*****

The doctor was waiting on the steps. He watched our approach, his eyes searching, and he turned away when he saw it was only us. My father was the first to reach him. He placed his hand on his shoulder.

“She was a monster Nikolai.”

“No Peter. I know you did what you thought was right but she was my daughter.” The doctor shrugged off his hand and turned to face us, his eyes softening when he beheld me. “You will leave this place, as soon as possible. I will make the arrangements.”

“Of course.” My father’s eyes held pity, but he truly believed he had been right. I never hated him more than I did in that one moment.

“You will come and see me in the library before you leave child.”

I could only nod. I was numb. I packed as quickly as I could and bid farewell to the sobbing Marta, then I went to meet the doctor. I didn’t know what to say to him. He held his arms out to me and I went to him gladly.

“What happened is not your fault child.”

“I hate him.” I didn’t care that I sounded like a petulant child.

“I know you do.”

He let go of me and picked up an envelope from the desk. “Eva wanted you to have this.”

I tore it open and inside was a letter and several gold coins.

My dearest beloved,

If you are reading this then I am gone, where I do not know. Loving you was a balm to my soul. I will never regret it. Please, take this, go back to the life you loved, and live.

Eva.

“I cannot take this.” I threw down the coins and turned away. I didn’t want her money. All the money in the world couldn’t buy back her life.

“It is yours. There is much more where that came from, and my Eva wanted you to have it. It is more than enough to keep you until she returns.”

“What?!” I spun around so quickly that I nearly lost my balance. “She is dead.” I did not mean to be so blunt but I had seen it all myself. No one could survive those bullets.

“No. It would take much more than mere bullets to kill my child. Your father was a fool for thinking he could stop the inevitable. He has only succeeded in delaying it. I have let him play his childish games. I did not think he would go so far. No doubt she has fled. You father’s actions would have left her very weak. She will need time to recuperate. I do not know how much. I will not know until I find her. It may be weeks, or it may be years.”

“Then I must stay.” My mind reeled. Perhaps he was a nothing more than a delirious old man, but I had to know.

“No child. You must leave.” He raised his hand to silence my protests. “I have spent years here experimenting. I know that my Eva can never have a normal life, but I want her to at least experience some semblance of it. It has taken all my skills as a doctor, but I am close. She is not yet immune to all that is holy, but she is tolerant, as you saw when she accepted the crucifix from your father and did not burn. She cannot come to you until she is tolerant of the sunlight as well.”

“But…”

“Think of it Katherine! Your father believes that she has left us. He will take you back to England and, if he should tell his tale, they will think that he is mad. But what if she returns? He will go after her again. Perhaps some will believe if he can show that she burns in the daylight, but if she does not? He shall remain a madman.”

“I can’t just leave.”

“You must. Go back to England. Live. When she is well, and the time is right, she will find you.”

The tears came then. I could hold them back no longer. I cried for all that I had found, and all that I had lost.

*****

We returned to England in near silence. Every time I looked at my father, I saw her bleeding body. He took everything from me and I did not know if I could ever forgive him, whatever his motivations had been. I certainly did not need him anymore. He never asked where I had gotten the money. I never volunteered the information. I rented a small apartment on the outskirts of London and made my intentions very clear. I was not leaving, and I did not require company. My friends welcomed me back with open arms and I had company enough. He ordered me to come with him, but I think he knew deep down that he could order me no more.

He has gone to America now, to be with William and his wife. She was with child and I hear that she has given birth to a healthy baby boy. Perhaps that life may suit him more than taking care of his errant daughter ever did. I need no-one to take care of me now. My books have become quite popular, even though no-one knows I am behind them. I have married, although it is a marriage in name only. My husband Oscar, who I have known since we were children, is quite well aware of this and it suits both of our needs. No-one needs to know of the gentlemen Oscar spends his nights with, and no one needs to know that I sit alone in my room, waiting for a lover who has yet to return. Three years have passed and still I wait for her.

Tonight is no different. I will wait and in the morning I will shed a tear when I wake up alone once more. I sit by the vanity, combing my hair and wondering if this is really what is to become of my life. There have been many suitors but I can accept no touch but hers. I ache for her. There is no breeze, but I hear a rustling from the balcony. My hand freezes in mid stroke and my heart races in my chest. No mere mortal could traverse that height unaided. There is silence, and then comes the click of the door handle being turned.

Eva?

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