The Carpathian Curse (Preview)
“I’m fine,” Ali wasn’t slurring her words, but it was taking a lot of focus. She had been drinking for a while. She was trying to keep the party going, and no one was helping her in the slightest. “You guys all need to relax.”
Carrie was worried about the investigation, and Raven was fully consumed by her new boyfriend Matthias. The bloodthirsty vampire that had brought all of them to Romania. The girls were brought in to stop him; Raven had taken it a little too far. Matthias didn’t have time to slaughter millions because he never spent more than three seconds away from Raven. Unless you counted the 12 hours a day when he was literally dead. Ali’s friends were being no fun at all.
Which is why Ali couldn’t believe the way everyone was coming down on her. They were the ones being so utterly boring that she needed to drink just to be around them. Spring break had ended but Helga wasn’t letting them come home. The 700-year-old coven leader needed the girls to stay in Romania and clean up the messes she had left for them during her long and tumultuous time in the mystically charged country.
“See, see!” Ali yelled as she touched her nose repeatedly. “I am fine, and you guys need to relax.” Ali stormed out of the train compartment. She was headed to the dining car. She had just left the dining car, but the five minutes she had subsequently spent in a small room with her friends was enough to keep her in the dining car all night.
“We do close,” the bartender shouted as he tried to keep Ali out of the bar area. He really wanted to close the doors and get to bed, but Ali wasn’t just going to leave without a fight. “You have to leave!”
“And I will,” Ali said as she spun off the bartender’s block and charged forward. She got her hands on the stool and the broad shoulders of the young Romanian sunk. “Two drinks at the most.”
Ali took her seat and tapped her fingers on the bar. “I want a vodka cran, but I want something special for it.” Ali added a touch of her baby voice, “Can you make my drink special?”
The bartender groaned and tried to control his hatred for the situation. That’s when Ali locked eyes with him. She needs our help. We gotta do this, buddy. She’s had a rough day.
“Okay, you look like you’ve had a rough day,” the bartender sighed as he turned around and started looking through his fancy drink accessories.
Ali had been using the eye contact telepathy spell for years. It was always a last resort, but tonight she was in a hurry. They were going to reach the station soon. “Something that you don’t use often,” Ali added as she pulled out her wand. With a quick flick she shrunk three bottles of vodka from behind the bar. She walked over and grabbed them, quickly slipping the bottles into her purse.
“What are doing?” The bartender was stunned.
“I just thought you needed help,” Ali shrugged as she turned around and went back to her seat.
“The fanciest thing I have is an umbrella,” the bartender said as he turned back holding three different colors of umbrella.
The bartender’s shoulders dropped.
“I’m just kidding, red is great,” Ali smiled warmly. “It all worked out just perfect.”
“We made it,” Raven was trying to keep the peace.
“We didn’t get arrested!” Carrie’s sarcasm wasn’t lost on Ali. She was choosing not to respond because she was feeling a bit hung over and opening her mouth wasn’t going to be a good idea. Ali closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She needed all of her composure to maintain the contents of her stomach.
“She was a little unruly,” Raven smiled at Ali. There was a shrug though. It stuck with Ali. The shrug suggested that Raven was struggling to find the will to defend Ali. It was one incident. People trash dining cars all the time. It wasn’t like the bartender was really injured.
“I only bit his finger,” Ali spat the words out quickly and then sealed her mouth again. She tried to look at the ground, but the paisley carpet pattern wasn’t helping the nausea. Ali looked up at the wood grains. It was no good, the motion of the train was too much.
“Just knock it off,” Carrie waved her wand and Ali stopped immediately.
“What did you do?”
“I fixed your…issue,” Carrie dismissed her actions with a huff. Ali couldn’t believe what was going on inside of her. She had been fighting for an hour to control her gag reflex and everything had dissipated in seconds.
“How long have you known how to do that?” Ali gasped. Carrie had been her friend for over a decade. They had met in grade school. How long had she known? How many times could she have fixed this problem for Ali?
“I looked it up a while ago.” Carrie was acting incredibly smug. “I knew there would be a time that I needed you and you were too out of it to help.”
“Well, the joke’s on you, ‘cause I’m headed into town to get smashed,” Ali sneered at her snooty friend. “You thought I was drunk before. The next time you see me I will be smashed.”
“You can’t,” Carrie sighed.
“What do you mean?”
“You can’t drink for the next 24 hours,” Carrie explained without looking Ali in the eyes. She knew that Ali was going to be pissed. Carrie didn’t need to look at her friend to know that Ali was losing her mind. “You will die.”
“Okay,” Ali sighed.
“What do you mean?”
“What’s wrong, Carrie?”
“Nothing Ali, I’m not saying anything is wrong,” Carrie tried to smile. “I just thought that there was going to be a problem. I mean when is the—“
“We don’t need to finish that thought,” Raven knew what was coming, but she hadn’t stopped Carrie soon enough. The tension in the room was running high.
“Finish the sentence,” Ali was staring daggers at Carrie.
“I don’t need to,” Carrie sighed, and for a minute Ali looked away. “But I was just going to mention that you haven’t stayed sober for 6 hours in a row since we landed in Europe.”
Ali couldn’t even look at Carrie as they walked through the busy train station. She was just glad to be done travelling for the day. Ali needed to get to the hotel, get a shower, and get into a bed of some kind. The spell had taken the nausea away, and sobered her up, but it left her feeling a bit hollow. It was like her insides were struggling to hold her body upright.
“You look green,” Raven said as she tried to get Ali to eat a granola bar. Ali needed something more substantial. She was holding out for a restaurant, or room service. Raven kept waving the cardboard posing as food in Ali’s face.
“Where are we?” Ali asked, pushing past her friend to the large map on the wall of the train station. “This isn’t Sinaia.”
“I told you that already,” Carrie didn’t even look up from her phone. She was checking the itinerary, and didn’t seem to care that Ali was on the verge of another meltdown. Carrie always looked so put together. Her white blazer transitioned her jeans and tank top travel look into upscale tourist chic. The blazer had the opposite effect on Ali’s travel sweatsuit. Somehow, Carrie looking put together made Ali seem even more broken.
“I told you that already,” Ali mocked. She needed to find a bathroom and a mirror. She just hoped that she didn’t look as bad as she felt. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
“Finish that sentence and I’ll kill you!” Ali yelled over her shoulder. “Oof!”
“Did you seriously just walk into me?” the man yelled as he shook the coffee off of his sleeves. He didn’t even offer to help Ali off the cold, cement floor.
Ali grunted and moaned to herself as she got up off the floor. She was hurt and covered in cold coffee. She was about to ask who carries around a full cup of cold coffee, when the answer hit her like a ton of bricks, just like the hit that had taken her to the ground. The vampire had barely been jostled by the blow.
Ali felt around to make sure nothing was broken. Everything had happened so fast, she couldn’t tell how she felt. Ali and her friends were still getting over their last brutal encounter with a vampire. Ali felt in her pocket, and then realized that her wand was still in her backpack. She didn’t have it on her. Raven was carrying it.
“Are you okay?” The vampire sounded like it hurt him to try and be considerate.
“She’s fine,” Carrie said as she offered her hand to the vampire.
“Where is Raven?” Ali tried to speak under her breath, but Carrie didn’t pick up on what Ali was trying to do.
“Raven is going to get Matthias from the baggage claim.” Carrie had to know Ali’s thought as she straightened up and tried to pull herself together. “This has got to be Anatolie, he’s our contact.” The vampire rolled his eyes at Ali as she looked up.
He was tall, and his jet-black hair stood out against his pale skin and icy blue eyes. His jaw line was firm, and he was good-looking, but he was literally looking down his nose at them. Ali could feel her blood boiling as she watched him stand there beside them without saying a word.
“What is your problem?” Ali would’ve normally been screaming at Anatolie, but she didn’t have the energy. It wasn’t just the spell. Ali was in dumpy clothes, and there was coffee dripping from her hair and her sweatshirt. The sticky brown liquid had managed to run just about everywhere.
As they waited for Raven and Matthias, Carrie was doing most of the talking. Anatolie was offering condescending one-word answers to all of her questions. Ali was pissed at Carrie, but that rage was slowly being overwhelmed by Ali’s hatred for the new guy. She could already tell that they weren’t going to get along.
“We are heading to Sinaia tonight.” It was the longest response that Anatolie had offered, and the only one that caught Ali’s attention.
“Leaving now?” Ali snapped at Carrie. “I need a shower, food, a bed—“
“Now,” Anatolie interrupted. “There is no way for us to get there unless we start moving now. We can get food on the way.”
“And a shower on the way?” Ali hissed at the vampire. “I don’t know if you know this, but some jack ass threw coffee all over me.”
“You walked into me!”
“You added cream and sugar to a coffee that you knew you were never going to drink!” Ali whisper yelled the last part. She didn’t want to give the vampire away. There had to be a reason that Helga had sent the girls a guide. The coven elder didn’t do things without a reason behind them.
“I didn’t intend to wear it,” Anatolie turned and walked off.
“Where’s he going?”
“He’s pulling the car around,” Carrie sighed as she looked over Ali’s outfit and general appearance.
“You need to work on your poker face,” Ali snapped as she looked around for the bathrooms she had been trying to find. “I can feel the judgement in your eyes. It’s like, literally burning my skin.”
Carrie didn’t say a word, and Ali stomped off to a door marked with a stick figure in a skirt. She was going to have to take a quick, public washroom wipe down, or suffer through the rest of the night covered in coffee. Both thoughts made her cringe, so she went for the option that made her cringe less.
Her hair was the worst; the coffee seemed to have stained her light blonde hair. “I guess I won’t need to add low lights any time soon,” Ali moaned as she stuck her head under the sink. Trying to dry her hair with paper towels bordered on futile.
Ali unzipped her sweatshirt and took it off. The coffee had also stained her white tank top. Ali pushed her breasts together, watching in the mirror. “Let’s see Anatolie ignore these,” she laughed to herself as she got more paper towel and dabbed at the stain.
“Hey, I brought your clothes,” Raven said as she walked into the room. She was the dark and pale counterpart to the tanned, blonde Ali. “You aren’t getting that out.”
“I know,” Ali almost broke down in tears.
“I just mean…uh,” Raven wasn’t sure what to say next. She hadn’t expected this reaction.
“Sorry, this is just the worst trip ever.”
“Why me?” he asked his reflection in the rear view mirror. He looked to the coffee stain on the sleeve of his white dress shirt. It had dried, but his suit jacket that now lined his trunk was likely ruined. “Why me?”
The vampire had been dreading this day, from the moment he was asked to take a group of witches through the Carpathian Mountains. These mountains were long known to be a source of power for the mystical realm. Bringing novice witches into this realm seemed like a terrible idea. Even worse when you considered the event that was approaching.
“I know about the treatise,” Helga had dismissed Anatolie’s concerns. “They may be just what you need.” Helga had a bad history of stoking the flames of conflict among supernatural groups. She had changed a great deal over the last few centuries. It really didn’t matter, Anatolie didn’t have the option to refuse this job.
“Are you the one taking us to Sinaia?” He was clearly a vampire, but Anatolie wasn’t aware that there was going to be another vampire on the trip.
“I’m taking a group of witches through the mountains,” Anatolie got out of the car and stepped up on the new vampire. “I don’t know who you are.” Their faces were only inches apart as Anatolie let a low growl escape his throat.
“You will,” Matthias growled in return as he threw his shoulder into Anatolie. The younger vampire could feel the power of the stranger. Anatolie wasn’t about to back away. He knew that the older vampire wouldn’t risk exposing himself.
“Matthias is coming with us,” Carrie, the only witch he had yet to learn the name of said as she walked up and waited for one of the vampires to open the car door. They both took a step back and Matthias opened the door.
Anatolie got into his seat and stared like he was trying to put a hole through the steering wheel. He was too upset for words at the moment. He hadn’t been warned about the vampire, and he had a feeling that his job had just become a thousand times more difficult.
“Are we all ready to go?” Anatolie turned, recognizing the voice, but barely recognizing the woman walking up to his car. She was wearing a black cocktail dress and sandals. She couldn’t have looked more different from the girl in the coffee-stained sweatsuit than if she had come out dressed as Santa Claus.
“We are running late,” Anatolie snapped as the girls stood around admiring the change of wardrobe. He only had the night to get them into the village and settled at their motel.
Matthias loaded the trunk and then he opened the front door for coffee girl. She sat down in the seat and Anatolie groaned. He knew this was going to be a long ride. This girl already hated him, and now they were going to sit beside each other for the next two hours.
“Do you spend much time in Sinaia?” Carrie asked from the back seat.
“Less and less,” Anatolie admitted, “but I was raised there. My sister is buried there. I guess it still feels like home.”
“The castle looks like something from a little girl’s dream,” Carrie gushed as she went on to describe the turrets and walls of the great stone structure. Anatolie hadn’t thought about the castle in a long time. It had been an amazing sight to him, at first.
“Do you like castles too?” Anatolie asked the girl in the front seat. She had been silent so far on the trip. He was surprised to hear himself ask the question, but he was trying to be a tour guide after all.
“Ali!” Carrie laughed from the back seat. “She’s still upset that we ruined her spring break by coming to Romania. She hates architecture and, well, anything that isn’t drinking.”
“I like to have fun, you don’t,” Ali snapped. “Let’s move on.”
The car fell silent for the next several miles. Anatolie decided to keep his eyes on the road and his mouth shut. He had clearly touched on a sensitive topic and he wasn’t going to get involved in this fight. Anatolie didn’t want to get too close to these girls anyway. There were reasons he was spending less time in Sinaia.
The others started to talk in the back seat, but the front seat stayed silent. Ali looked out the window. She was barely breathing, and she only looked over once. Anatolie turned to her immediately, only to see her turn back to the window.
The moon was high in the sky, and the mountains were rising out of the distance. In daylight they would’ve been visible throughout the trip, but on a dark, partly cloudy night they had taken longer to appear. The image of them had been looming large in Anatolie’s mind. The winding mountain road was a dangerous place for two vampires and three witches.
Anatolie touched the hula girl on his dashboard. She was glued to the dashboard of the car because Anatolie didn’t want to make any trips without her. The way things were going, he couldn’t risk making a trip without any good luck on hand.
“Stop the car!” Matthias yelled.
“We can’t stop here,” Anatolie said as he looked around at the faces in the car. “Fine, but if we all die that is on you.”
Anatolie pulled the car over, but then he could smell what Matthias was smelling. “We need to keep moving.”
“This is what we’re here for,” Carrie explained as she got the door open and started getting out of the car before Anatolie could get the car started again. “We know what’s been going on here, and we want to help.”
“We want to” Ali mocked Carrie’s tone. “That is a very loose use of that phrase. That is something you say when all the members of the team have a say in what’s happening.”
“Helga has given us a mission,” Carrie snapped as she stomped her feet in the gravel at the side of the road. Ali got out of the car and headed off into the thicket that lined the road. There was a very narrow path through the bramble. Gnarled branches, sticking out at odd angles, recently broken by some unknown trauma.
Anatolie didn’t want to follow her, but he didn’t want Ali to find the creature who made that path. The vampire covered the space between them in a second. The wind created by his approach pushed Ali forward. The others were starting down the path as well.
Anatolie could tell that the smell was getting stronger. It wasn’t a smell that a vampire wanted to run toward. It was the gases that were released when a vampire was ripped apart. The smell was so strong that it had to be a very bad injury. Anatolie wasn’t sure there was any point to getting out and trying to save the vampire.
“Why not destroy the body?’ Anatolie asked as he looked at the headless vampire in front of him. Ali was speechless as she stared at the finely dressed corpse. “This had to be wolves. Only they would be this sloppy.”
“It’s hard to say,” Carrie and the others were just getting to the body now. Anatolie stepped back to let them get a closer look. “If we can find the head, we may be able to bury the pieces and restore his life.”
Anatolie started to look around him. He didn’t move too far, but he did check the ferns in his immediate area. He knew that the head could be reattached. It was one of the best parts of being a vampire. Any injury could be fixed by a day in the dirt.
The dirt of the Carpathian Mountains was especially powerful, and it was often said that you could become even more powerful than before if you were to sever your limbs and spend a day in this mystically charged soil. Anatolie had never tried it, but he had heard about it his entire undead life.
“I don’t think the dirt will fix this,” Ali said as she used her phone’s flashlight to illuminate the pile of red and blue goo. “I don’t think any amount of time can fix all of that mess.”
“Yeah, that’ll do it,” Matthias sighed as he pulled a stake out of the rotting pile. “Stake to the brain, the head is dead.”
“Are you saying that the body is alive?” Carrie sounded more fascinated than disgusted. She was staring at the mound like she wanted to put the lumps of dead vampire brains under a microscope. “Do you think the dirt could put it all back together?”
“It would put back together a brain-dead monster, and not a fully functioning vampire.” Matthias bent down over the body. “We just have to destroy the body.”
“We can’t even try?”
“Why are we going to try to create a vampire Frankenstein mashup?” Raven seemed upset that Carrie would even try to stop Matthias. Anatolie wasn’t about to get in the older vampire’s way. Not just because he was holding a stake, but the thought of bringing a new type of monster into the world was horrifying.
“I’m just curious,” Carrie moaned as she watched the stake go through the heart of the body on the ground. The splatter went everywhere. “Ewwww!”
“That was so gross!” Raven sounded more excited than grossed out. She was playing and pulling at the long strings of sticky goo on her finger tips. “Why does it do this?”
“This man’s insides have been decomposing for centuries,” Matthias explained.
Anatolie had never seen a vampire explode like that. It was weird to think that he was filled with this same goo. His human organs had all but disappeared. Anatolie had only been to one other staking, and it wasn’t nearly as messy.
“We have to check into a motel,” Carrie shrieked as she wiped the goo out of her eye. “We can’t walk into the front office looking like this, I think they’ll have a few questions for us.”
“I can do it,” Ali said as she stepped out from behind Carrie. She had a little bit of vampire in her hair, but that was it. Anatolie couldn’t help but be impressed. “Let’s get out of here.”
Anatolie followed Ali, with Carrie trailing behind them. Matthias and Raven stayed to burn the goo. The stake was enough to kill the vampire, but unless you burned the body there was no guarantee that some random sorcerer couldn’t use the flesh to create an army of zombies. Anatolie had only heard stories about this, but it was said to be the reason that all dead vampires were burned.
Back in the car the group was still processing everything that had just happened. “So, we were meant to see that, right?” Carrie asked.
“There was a reason that the body was still alive, that’s all I can say for sure.” Matthias seemed very troubled by the discovery. Anatolie was relieved that he wasn’t the only vampire who was upset by that sight.
Anatolie was still relatively young. He had been alive for the last 120 years. There were humans who lived that long. The young Romanian man had been working as a mercenary in the Ottoman army in 1917 when he was attacked and bitten. This vampire was older than even Matthias. He had been alive for a millennium at this point.
“What’ve you done to me?!” Anatolie had cried at the monster. His maker only laughed and tossed a young soldier to him. Anatolie couldn’t understand the urge to bite the young man in front of him. The newly turned vampire was tasting the soldier’s blood before he even had time to question his own actions.
Anatolie could still feel the fear coursing through that young man’s body. It made the blood taste sour, but the new vampire didn’t know the difference at the time. He had since learned the tricks of drinking a meal from a calm and relaxed human. The young soldier was the first and last kill for Anatolie. He had decided that he didn’t want to end lives just to live.
He wanted to be different from his maker. The bloodthirsty murderer who turned him was always trying to amass treasure, power, and people. It only took a week in his service to convince Anatolie that he needed to find another way.
“We need to be careful,” Matthias’s voice brought Anatolie back to the moment, and the car he was driving through the winding Carpathian roads. “Someone knows we’re coming.”
The words shot through Anatolie. He couldn’t say anything as they drove into the town. He had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He knew that these people were in trouble, but there was no way to tell them. It was likely too late anyway.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Ali asked. Anatolie looked up to see that Ali was looking right at him. He could feel the panic on his face. He tried to swallow the fear and smile. “That is terrifying, never smile like that again.”
“How should I smile?” Anatolie growled as he turned back to the road.
“Like someone who isn’t a sociopath,” Ali smirked as she delivered the blow. Anatolie could hear some giggling from the back. He was done talking for the rest of the trip.
He pulled the car into the motel and Ali hopped out. She was headed for the main office, and Anatolie found himself watching her. He wanted to turn away, and continue to pout, but he was transfixed. He let his head drop to the steering wheel. Why did he have to become attached?
“You have rooms available?” Ali said to the clerk behind the cluttered desk. It wasn’t just papers. There were a lot of parts from ceiling fans, air conditioners, and mini-fridges all over the office. The heaviest concentration was right between Ali and the clerk. She was tempted to knock it all over. She just wanted to know how he would react to something happening to this very fragile ecosystem.
Ali was expecting to see an overweight, old man in glasses, but as he turned the boy who looked over to her was nothing like what she thought. Nor was he dressed as she expected the manager of a motel to be dressed. “Is that a sumo suit?”
“Yeah,” the young man laughed as he held up his arms and let Ali get a good look at the puffy yellow suit. “Sorry about the suit, it’s a theme night tonight at the club.”
“Really?” Ali hadn’t expected to find any night life in the sleepy little town. “What kind of club?”
The room was beige, the sheets were beige, and the dresser and two end tables used to be brown, but they had been repainted, beige. The room was offensively neutral and Ali almost walked right back out, but she was tired and she needed a real shower.
She could still feel the sticky coffee residue on her arm. The public bathroom wash-up had provided an efficient bandage, but it hadn’t remedied the problem. Ali needed to step into a real shower. A warm shower followed by a soft bed.
“I need to get this coffee off of me,” Ali whined as Carrie got in her way.
“Coffee?” Carrie snapped. “The rest of us have dead vampire all over us, and you think you get to complain about coffee.” Ali had gotten a little of the goo in her hair, but it had slid out fairly easily, and she couldn’t even feel the spot where it landed anymore.
She sat down on the bed. Ali was going to have to wait for Carrie to get out of the shower. It was a disappointing prospect, but as she sat on the bed, Ali’s mind drifted back to her conversation with the motel manager.
“Do you want to go check out this club?” Ali called through the door. The water hadn’t started yet, and she didn’t want to wait another minute to ask. She was getting excited thinking about a theme night at a small town club in Romania.
The theme was Halloween, and Ali knew that she could throw something together. Last-minute Halloween costumes were kind of her thing. Ali was great at whipping up such costumes, and when all else failed she was great at doing zombie makeup on herself.
“You can’t drink.” Ali turned to see Carrie standing over her. “You will die,” Carrie repeated her earlier warning. “You get that, right?”
Ali summoned up all of her strength; she was going to need it to respond to Carrie’s condescending tone. Ali took a breath and tried to take the glare out of her eyes, and the hatred out of her voice. She tried to remember that Carrie had been a friend, a best friend, and this was her special way of caring coming out right now.
“I can go to a party and not drink,” Ali said the words stiffly and then added a very forced smile. Carrie’s eyebrow went up on one side. “You put that down!”
“I can’t take that look right now,” Ali muttered as she rolled over on the bed and covered her head.
“Well, I’m not going to a strange club when there’s been a vampire murdered just outside of town,” Carrie said as she sat down on the edge of the bed. “Why can’t you just watch a movie with me? Or we could play card games, right? That could be cool.”
“Yeah, cards…okay,” Ali’s voice was muffled by the pillow over her head. Carrie patted Ali’s leg and left to take her shower.
“We’re going to have a blast!” Carrie shouted through the bathroom door.
The water started and Ali rolled over to look at the clock. It was midnight, and she didn’t need to go out. “I will be fine, a few hands of cards and then bed,” Ali told the clock. She grabbed the large, awkward remote for the TV. She was about to turn on the older model electronic when Ali heard moaning coming through the walls.
“Matthias!” Raven and Matthias were in the other room, but the walls were very thin. Ali turned on the TV and turned the volume to ‘max.’ There was nothing on in English. All of the stations were playing things in Romanian. It made sense, they were in Romania after all. It didn’t help Ali distract herself from the party and the fact that she wanted to get out to the club.
Ali flipped through channel after channel, until a news item caught her attention. “That’s our fire,” Ali laughed to herself as she watched the fire burning by the side of the mountain road. They were off to a great start. She just wished Helga had been more transparent about their mission here in Sinaia. Ali truly felt lost here.
“Your turn!” Carrie shouted as she rushed to shut off the TV. “Why was that up so loud? Oh, God,” Carrie said as the sounds from the other room started to filter through. “Okay,” Carrie grumbled as she turned the TV back on.
Ali got into the shower. The pressure left a lot to be desired, but it felt so good to be under the hot water. She had been waiting for it all day, and there it was finally flowing down her body. She felt clean for the first time all day, and it felt good. The hot water was cooling off fast, and Ali knew that she had to be quick. “Please, let the hot water hold!” she begged the shower head.
Ali made it out of the shower as the final traces of heat left the shower’s flow. She got dressed and headed back out into the very beige room. “Are you ready to play?” Ali said as she entered the room, but there was no response.
Carrie was sleeping hard. Her mouth wide open, Carrie was snoring loudly. It was just barely audible over the blaring TV, but Ali knew that she would hear nothing but snoring if she turned the TV down. The neighbors were still likely going at it anyway. There was no way that Ali was getting to sleep.
Ali headed out the door, not even worrying about a costume. She was ready to have fun and needed a distraction from the trip, from the judgey friends, and from everything. “I don’t have to drink,” Ali said to herself as she walked down the street. The motel manager had given her the directions and it was less than a ten-minute walk.
“Where are you headed?”
“Good fucking lord!” Ali screamed as she jumped back, and saw that it was Anatolie standing beside her. She slapped him hard on the shoulder and then punched him in the gut. It hurt, but it made her feel better for a second. “Why would you do that? You’re such a creep!”
“Sorry, I just wanted to know what you had planned for the evening,” Anatolie seemed taken aback by the reaction from Ali, but she was not about to apologize for reacting violently to a creepy approach. There was just something about the guy that rubbed her the wrong way.
Anatolie was tall, dark, and handsome, but he had this attitude about him that was off-putting. Ali didn’t know what it was that bothered her so much. Was it the way he casually dismissed her after tossing a coffee on her, or maybe it was the way he ignored her in the car? She just had a very strong reaction to almost everything that he did.
“I am heading to a club—“
“The shed?” Anatolie snapped. “You’re headed to a tin shed in the middle of a small town infested by vampires?”
“Is that a problem?”
“If you don’t want to be someone’s supper, it really is,” the vampire growled in frustration. “Aren’t you diurnal? Go to sleep.”
“I don’t really sleep that much anyway, but I certainly don’t have a bed time, okay Daddy.” Ali started to walk away and then she spun around quickly. “Or is it a curfew? Do you think you’re in charge of this little mission? I can guarantee you that you’re not.”
“I didn’t say anything like that,” Anatolie looked up to the sky as he finished his thought. He turned back to Ali, brooding over her lack of obedience. “I will take you to the…‘club,’ and I will show you how crazy it is to be out this late. Then will you come back to the motel with me?”
“I’ll agree to anything right now, if it means that you’ll shut up.” Ali walked on, and she smiled as she heard Anatolie cursing in Romanian.
“You realize that I have my wand on me, right?” Ali said. She was looking straight ahead. She didn’t even turn to the vampire as he came up alongside her. “No vampire is going to hurt me with this in my pocket…uh…where did it go?”
“You mean this?” Anatolie held up the wand for Ali to see.
Ali growled and swung her fist wildly as she went for the wand. Anatolie pulled the wand away and caught Ali in his arms. She was trying to get away, but he had her pinned. “Give it back!” Ali struggled to get free for another second, and then she let her arms and legs go limp. “I give up.”
“I should just take you back to the motel like this,” Anatolie said as he looked back at the short distance it would take to get to the motel. “It would be a lot easier for me.”
“And then I would get out and go later,” Ali pouted. It was hard to sound like a fully developed adult when someone was carrying you like a fussy toddler. “Just take me to the shed, and let me see it for myself.”
“Fine, but then we head back to the room,” Anatolie used his firmest voice, and Ali agreed to the terms. She wasn’t going to do it, but she needed Anatolie to take her there, and once they were there, she would think of a reason to stay. “Good, I appreciate you seeing this my way.”
They got to the shed, and Ali was surprised to see that it was a tin shed. The music had seemed very loud until the club came into view, and then it made perfect sense. The thin walls let all of the sound through. It was a theme that had been haunting Ali all night.
“It seems fine,” Ali sighed as they got into the club. “There’s music playing and people are dancing. What is so wrong about this place?”
Ali followed Anatolie’s finger as he pointed over to a huge group of vampires on the dance floor. They were dancing and pretending to drink, but they were definitely hunting. Ali had watched millions of nature documentaries, and she knew the behaviors they were exhibiting.
“What are they going to do with them?” Ali asked as she watched a woman being led off the dance floor and out a back door. “She looks really drunk.”
“She’s been hypnotized,” Anatolie explained. “She doesn’t know what’s going on, and she won’t remember a thing.”
“That’s nice, I guess,” Ali shrugged as she watched the girl disappear behind the tin door. They were headed outside. Ali thought that was a bad plan, but then again if the girl wasn’t going to scream then the outside offered many secluded places to feed.
“In case you need it.” Ali felt Anatolie slide her wand back into her back pocket. “Be a little quicker with it next time.”
“Thanks,” Ali rolled her eyes as she started heading further into the club.
“Where are you going?” Anatolie grabbed her arm and stopped Ali dead in her tracks. “We need to leave. That girl won’t feel any pain, but she may not live through the night. Controlling hunger is a dangerous game. You have to truly care about the life to stop the thirst from taking over.”
“I want to hit the bar,” Ali said and then she heard it. It was Carrie’s voice. It was clear as day, and twice as judgey as the real Carrie had sounded. “I can’t, can I? No I can’t,” Ali answered her own question and then, as Anatolie tried to process the statement, she moved out to the dance floor.
“What are you doing?” Anatolie took Ali by the arms, and tried to lead her off the floor, but she screamed and everyone looked.
“Dance with me,” Ali teased as she started to shake and move. As soon as Anatolie let her go, he moved off the dance floor. Ali was disappointed that she didn’t get to see the man dance. The other vampires all seemed to dance. There was something about the way they moved.
Ali decided it would be for the best if she took precautions. She touched her wand, leaving it in the pocket, and put a protection spell on herself. She wanted to be ready in case the vampires got her wand. This way they wouldn’t be able to hypnotize her. She could feel the spell work right away. It was as if someone had flipped a switch and suddenly the vampires couldn’t dance.
Their movements had looked smooth and graceful, and yet it was all magic. Their hypnotization powers were making it seem as though they were good dancers. The dancing had seemed like a siren’s call only a moment before.
Ali started to laugh as one made his way over to her. “How are you doing tonight?” The vampire was thrusting his hips at Ali, but he was well off the beat. He didn’t seem to notice, smiling and pointing at Ali. “I want to dance with you, do you want to dance outside?”
The vampire stared at Ali. She could feel a slight tingling in her ears, and then she turned away, and she could feel him invading her mind from behind. He was trying to search for information, but she wasn’t giving him anything.
“Who…what are you?” The vampire sounded shocked and upset. He backed away, and his unrhythmic movements lost any sense of timing. It was like he was fighting to keep his balance more than dancing. “Why?” That was the last thing he said as he went back to his friends.
Ali was feeling pretty good about herself as she watched the vampires talk about her. They all looked very upset, but she felt protected. She couldn’t be hypnotized, and therefore she couldn’t be hurt. The vampires would move on to an easier target. Ali was so sure about this that she turned her back on the vampires and just kept dancing.
A girl from the village was dancing next to Ali. They danced and swayed to the beat of the song. Ali was impressed by the girl’s moves and they moved closer together. The girl tapped her friends on the shoulder and they all moved together around Ali.
This was something that Ali missed about being home. Carrie was her best friend. They shared secrets, and they talked about their futures. Carrie and Ali were the only ones until very recently who knew about witchcraft. Raven had just discovered her powers when she met Matthias.
Carrie was not one of the friends that Ali took when she went out clubbing. Carrie wasn’t a dancer, or a partier, or someone who went out at night really. Carrie was born 80 years old, and that’s where she stayed. She had hard candies in her purse. Ali missed her clubbing friends, and as the women danced around her she realized just how much she missed those friends.
“We need to go now,” Anatolie was grabbing her arm and pulling Ali out of the circle.
“Why are you doing this?” Ali yelled. “I’m going to scream!” Ali realized she was already screaming when the young vampire let go and disappeared. She looked around to see that there were about a thousand eyes on her. Ali waved to the crowd, and that’s when she noticed the vampires were moving on her.
The girls dancing around her had all moved on, and the crowded dance floor was dispersing as the vampires closed in. Ali hadn’t really noticed. The music was pumping and she was feeling the groove. Ali had always danced more with her heart than any other part of her body. When she was feeling the song, the rest of the world seemed to disappear.
“We need to go,” Anatolie’s hand clamped down on Ali’s shoulder, jolting her out of her dance trance. She opened her eyes and spun on the vampire with rage in her eyes. “There’s no time for this!” Anatolie didn’t care that she was upset. They needed to leave.
“I’m not going anywhere with you,” Ali yelled.
“You need to—“
“You heard her, pal,” a stocky, bald man in a flowery, button-up shirt barked at Anatolie. The younger vampire knew that he was way outnumbered and there was nothing he could do to stop these guys.
Ali realized too late that Anatolie was trying to help her. “Hi,” Ali waved as the man moved in closer. Ali went to grab for Anatolie’s hand, but he had walked off. Ali was a bit hurt, but really she understood why he did it. This was her fault and she deserved to be abandoned. Ali put her hand on her wand, but she didn’t have enough space to use her wand right there.
“I want you to come with me,” the stocky man said. He was staring into Ali’s eyes, and she realized that he was trying to hypnotize her. She was supposed to be hypnotized.
“Oh, yes, I will go with you,” Ali was doing a terrible acting job, but the man kept staring. He wasn’t giving up until Ali broke. Ali dropped her head and tried again. Instead of speaking, she just looked up with a blank expression on her face.
“You see, I told you people cannot resist it,” the stocky man laughed as he took his prize out into the parking lot and started leading her to a woodlot at the back of the lot. The trees were short and scrubby-looking, but they provided a lot of cover.
Ali wanted to grab her wand, but there were three vampires following behind them. They were keeping an eye on the two of them. Ali figured she could handle either the stocky man, or his three friends, but not both.
Is she the key to his happiness, is he the solution to her mystery?
“The Carpathian Curse” is a paranormal romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.
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