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Crimson

By Rory Jade Grantaire All Rights Reserved ©

Action / Humor

Chapter 1: Welcome To Crimson

The car drove slowly down the road, following the slow speed limit to a tee. The engine hummed almost inaudibly to the couple so used to the sound; it was practically a lullaby. The man and woman in the two front seats both struggled to keep their drooping eyes open. The man concentrated hard, with the cool air from the vents blowing on his face. Being behind the wheel of a car was always a challenge after driving for hours.

The twig of a girl curled up next to him rested her black and teal hair against the window, peering out into the jet-black night. She watched the city lights pass by, so much brighter than usual against the dark sky. She read the sign that passed by ever so slowly, and smiled slightly.

“Welcome to the town of Crimson,” she mumbled in a scratchy voice. She wasn’t so excited, but at least that meant she could stretch her cramped legs soon.

“I know you don’t like the idea of moving, but you’ll get used to it. I promise, in a couple of weeks you’ll like it here,” the man’s deep voice said, crackling with fatigue.

“I hope so,” she mumbled.

“Hey, I promise,” he assured her.

“Alright,” she said, passively. She glanced over at him and gave him a small smile, taking in his details. His hair was naturally black, and the tips were red, thanks to her suggestion, and it reached down to his jaw. His sleepy eyes were green, contrasting with his pale skin. His nose was thin and rounded, but not too thin, and his chin came to a smooth point. His lips were plump and decorated with snakebite piercings. She eyed the rest of him, then, from his beautiful face, down his thin frame, over the black clothes he wore, to his thin wrists; the left covered in a tribal tattoo.

He smiled back, and caressed her smooth, pale cheek lightly with his thumb. She smiled again, and looked out the window once more. She watched the town pass by agonizingly slow. At least she could take in the details.

The town looked like it had come straight from the Renaissance, but modernized. Instead of candles, they of course had light bulbs. She found it kind of eerie, yet nice. The town was so active, and alive. Everyone was out, and going about their business. They seemed friendly, too. Some of them waved as the car passed by. She smiled, amused, and looked at the clock.

“Wow, this town is so active, for being 3 in the morning! You would think they’d all be sleeping,” she said.

“We’re not,” he told her.

“They didn’t travel hours to get here,” she replied.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said in defeat.

“We’re almost there,” he added, with an ear-to-ear grin. She knew he was excited, and suddenly she was too. She hadn’t been, but she suddenly felt like she was on an adventure, and was totally psyched. She sat up with a grin almost as big as her husband’s, and peered out the window into the night. He let out a soft laugh.

“You’re cute,” he told her, eyeing her up and down. She was more pale than he was, but it suited her well. Her entire frame was thin, and her face was oval. Her eyes were blue and held the look of excitement. Her eyebrows were naturally thin and the right one was pierced. Her nose was small and pointed, and she had a shiny ring through her septum. He found her the most beautiful creature in the world.

“Am not,” she said, pouting her plump, smooth, and shapely lips.

“Oh, yes you are!” he argued with a smile.

“Neverrr!” she said, smiling as well.

“Someone’s finally excited,” he pointed out, his smile growing.

“Well, the people seem nice, how can I not be? That and I finally get to see this place, and stretch my legs! They’re killing me!” she exclaimed.

“Do you want to stop at Bucky’s to stretch, and maybe get a quick bite?” he asked.

“Bucky’s? What’s Bucky’s?” she asked. She hated the fact that he had already visited the town. He knew everything, and she knew nothing. In a way though, she liked it. At least she knew he wouldn’t get them lost. He chuckled.

“It’s a fast food restaurant. Bucky’s Burgers. It’s pretty good,” he informed her.

“Oh, yeah. Sure, I’m kind of hungry anyway,” she said, poking her flat, empty stomach. She watched as he turned left onto Main Street. After a few moments, he pulled into the parking lot of Bucky’s. As they walked into the restaurant, she grabbed a town map. She studied it as she walked to an empty table. When she actually looked away from it, she noticed that the restaurant was pretty full. There were 3 people in line, and almost every other table was in use.

“Wow!” she whispered to herself. She was amazed by how booming this town was at night… or early morning. She walked over to her husband, who was just getting onto the line, and wrapped her arms around his waist, giving him a hug from behind.

“Hi baby!” he exclaimed. “What’s up?”

“I love you, Jacoby,” she said, smiling wide. She was truly happy.

“I love you too, Laci,” he said, chuckling.

“Hey, I’m gonna go have a smoke while you order. I wanna stretch my legs more, and get some air,” she said.

“Alright, be careful,” he told her, kissing her forehead. She bent her head backwards, and stretched to kiss his lips. Sometimes, she hated how much taller he was. He was an average height, and she was short, but they made it work rather easily most days.

“I will,” she said, and dashed outside. She reached into her hoodie pocket and got out a pack of cigarettes, and a black lighter with a white skull on it. She took a cigarette, and put the pack back into her pocket. She lit the cigarette and took a puff, then walked circles around a random piece of snow on the sidewalk. It felt good to stretch her legs.

“ ’Ey, you got a smoke?” someone behind her asked with a thick English accent. She turned to look at them. There was a tall, skinny woman standing there, wearing a spaghetti strap tank top, and a short skirt. Her brown, wavy hair was in her pale face, and she was smiling. She had cold blue eyes and a small nose. Her jaw was strong, but smooth and feminine.

“Yeah, here,” Laci said, getting the pack of cigarettes back out, and handing the woman a cigarette. She put her pack away, and grabbed her lighter, holding it out for the lady.

“Thanks. I’ve been wantin’ one all night,” she said, lighting the cigarette.

“No problem. Do you know where I can get more?” Laci asked.

“Awen’s ’as ’Em cheap” the lady answered.

“Where’s that?” Laci asked.

“Jus’ follow Main Street toward town. Go past the intersection. You can’t miss it! It’s the only gas station ’ere,” the woman said.

“Oh, thanks,” Laci said.

“You’re new ’round ’ere, eh?” the lady asked.

“Yeah. Moving in tonight,” Laci replied.

“At night? That’s different,” the lady said.

“We had a long drive.”

“Oh, where ya from?”

“Pennsylvania.”

“Pennsylvania? I ’ave a brother in Pennsylvania,” the lady replied. “Where ya movin’ into?”

“I’m not really sure. My husband knows.”

“I see. I’m Guinevere,” the woman said, holding her hand out for Laci to shake. “But you can call me Gwen. It seems to be the easiest. You don’t ’ave to, but you can.”

“I’m Laci,” Laci replied, shaking the woman’s hand. The wind blew fiercely, messing up their hair. Laci quickly brushed it out of her face, and looked at Gwen. “Aren’t you cold?” she asked, finally realizing the woman was wearing summer clothing during winter.

“No. Not really,” Gwen answered. “Why, are you?”

“Kind of,” Laci replied, shivering a little.

“So go inside. It’s warm in there.”

“I will in a bit. Just wanna finish my smoke. You going in?”

“Yeah. I’m meeting my ’usband for dinner.”

“Dinner?”

“Yeah. I know, it’s strange. Dinner at 3 in the morning. It’s just ’ow we are,” Gwen said, smiling.

“Who am I to say anything? I haven’t eaten yet either. We’ve been on the road for hours,” Laci said. Gwen chortled.

“Yes, well now you can stretch your legs, and eat,” she said.

“Yeah. I couldn’t wait for that. So does this place have good food?”

“Yeah, it’s the best fast food around, and it isn’t too un’ealthy either.”

“That’s good. Can’t wait to try it,” Laci said, taking the last drag of her cigarette. She tossed it onto the concrete and stomped it out with her foot. Gwen mimicked, and followed Laci in.

“Would you and yer ’usband like to join my ’usband and I?” Gwen asked.

“That sounds nice, but I’ll have to ask him,” Laci answered.

“Alright, well you go ask. You can find me in the darkest corner.”

“Okay,” Laci said, looking around the restaurant for her husband.

“Lace!” Jacoby called from the darkest corner. Laci was a little confused, but walked over to him anyway.

“Hi baby, what’s up?” Laci asked.

“Oh, the food should be ready soon. I want you to meet someone. He lives just down the road from us,” Jacoby said.

“Oh, okay,” Laci said. She was excited, though she couldn’t quite show it. Just then, a tall, thin, pale man stood from the dark corner, and took a few steps over to her and Jacoby. He had a squared, prominent chin with black stubble, and matching black scraggly hair.

“Lace, this is Nikolai,” Jacoby said as Nikolai took Laci’s hand, kissing it softly with icy lips.

“Nice to meet you,” Laci said with a smile.

“I live down road from you, by camp,” Nikolai said, with a subtle Russian accent.

“I don’t really know the area,” Laci said.

“You would pass their house to get to ours, baby,” Jacoby said.

“Oh, okay,”

“Yes. I’m sure my wife would love to meet you. Join us!” Nikolai said.

“That would be nice, but… I met a woman outside who invited us to sit with her and her husband,” Laci said.

“Well, at least come meet my wife. She’s in bathroom,” Nikolai said.

“Okay, that works,” Laci said. A lady at the register called a number.

“Honey, can you get our food?” Jacoby asked.

“Sure, Jake,” Laci said, walking to the front. She returned with a tray of food, to see Gwen standing around with Nikolai and Jake.

“Laci, meet Guinevere, my wife,” Nikolai said with a smile. Laci smiled wide, and laughed.

“Well, isn’t this a small world. I met Gwen outside. So I guess we’ll be joining both of you then,” Laci said.

“Isn’t that funny?” Jake said.

“Sweetheart, Jacoby and Laci live down road at old Peril house,” Nikolai said.

“Oh! Jake’s your ’usband?! We met when ’e got the ’ouse!” Gwen said, lighting up with excitement.

“Oh! Wow. This really is a small world!” Laci said, showing her excitement finally.

“So I guess now you don’t have to worry about who to sit with. You’ll be joining all of us!” Nikolai said.

“Awesome!” Laci exclaimed. The four of them sat in the booth in the darkest corner of the restaurant. They chatted until Nikolai and Guinevere’s food was ready. Gwen fetched the food, and returned moments later. They began talking again, right where they had left off.

“So you say there’s a camp around here?” Laci asked, taking a bite of her cheeseburger.

“Yes. Camp Petrik. Is our camp,” Nikolai answered. He took a bite of his burger now.

“Oh, wow. You own a camp! What’s it like?” Laci asked.

Nikolai held up a finger as he finished chewing, swallowed his food, then asked, “The camp, or owning it?”

Laci chuckled. “Both really, but what is the camp like?”

“Is nice in summer. Is old camp but we keep it together. The kids come visit in summer and have good time,” he answered.

“That’s nice. Is it just for kids, or do people from all over stay?” she asked.

“In the summer, everyone comes to visit. Some rent cabins, and some bring their own RV’s. We don’t ’ave camp counselors or anything. It’s more of a campground than a summer camp, but we do ’ave activities for the kids, and some family things like contests and parties. You should come visit it!” Gwen replied.

“Wow, it sounds fun. We’ll definitely check it out! How did you come to own it?” Jake replied.

“It was built by the townsfolk back in the 1300’s. Nikolai’s p- great grandparents contributed a lot, and so it was given to them to run and pass down, just as they ’ave,” Gwen answered.

“1300’s? How? America wasn’t known of back that far!” Jacoby announced.

Gwen and Nikolai exchanged looks of worry, as if Gwen had made a mistake. “It was. Just not many people knew of it. The settlers you knew of took the glory from our ancestors. This town is older than you could imagine,” she said, placing her words carefully. Jacoby and Laci nodded in understanding, not wanting to push the matter. The pair had looked upset enough.

“Well, that was an interesting history lesson!” Laci said, trying to break the awkward silence.

“Yes, well anyway, stop over the camp tomorrow,” Gwen said. Nikolai arose, and walked away. He returned later with a map of the town, and set it out on the table.

“What are you doing, Nik?” Gwen asked.

“I’m going to show Laci where she’s moving into,” Nikolai answered.

“Good idea,” Gwen said.

“I completely forgot! I grabbed a map on the way in!” Laci exclaimed, looking on the map and munching on a french fry. Nik chuckled, and pointed to a place on the map.

“This is where we are now,” he said, then dragged his finger to another spot. “This is where we live, and this is camp,” he said, then dragged his finger once more. “This is your house. Is old Peril place. As old as Crimson itself,” he explained.

“Peril?” Laci asked. “As in trouble, hazard, danger?” She dropped her half-eaten fry on the table, leaving her mouth gaping, and her eyes wide.

Nik and Gwen looked at her with astonishment written all over their faces.

“Well…That isn’t why. It’s named after the family that built it. Their last name was Peril,” Gwen explained after a moment of awkward silence. It took a moment for Laci to snap out of it.

“Oh… what an unusual name,” Laci said, looking down at her food tray.

“Yes, and such a curse,” Gwen said, getting nudged by Nikolai.

“Go on,” Laci said.

“Nothing,” Gwen said, looking at Nikolai with an apologetic look.

“What happened?” Laci pushed.

“Nothing happened,” Nikolai said. “We must go. Is getting late. Stop by camp tomorrow if you want,” he rushed, pushing Gwen out of the booth.

“Take care guys. We’ll see you tomorrow,” Jake said, while Laci sat there, confused and curious. The two waved goodbye nervously, and left. Jake and Laci sat in awkwardness for a moment, then finished their food quietly, without even looking at each other.

“Ready to see the house?” Jake asked.

“Not really, babe. I’m not comfortable with the name,” Laci admitted.

“Honey, stop worrying. The house doesn’t have a name. That’s just what the townsfolk call it because of the family that made it. It’s a beautiful house. You’ll love it.”

“I’m not sure. They seemed to be hiding something.”

“You’re just sleepy. Things seem weird when you need to sleep. Come on, we’ll get some rest. All of our stuff is already set up,” Jake said. Laci sighed.

“I guess so,” she replied in a hushed voice. She sounded disappointed.

“It’ll be fine. We’ll get home, I’ll give you the grand tour, and we’ll curl up in our bed and cuddle. Does that sound good?” said Jake, smiling at his wife, trying to get a smile back.

Laci smiled slightly, with only one side of her mouth. “Yeah,” she said, though she didn’t feel like talking. The two of them headed to the car and got situated. She watched out the window into the black, starless sky as Jake drove on. She knew deep down that Gwen and Nikolai were hiding something, though she tried to shrug off the feeling of danger.

The car pulled to a quiet stop, void the crunching of the pebbles settling under the tires. Laci was in her own little world, and didn’t even notice that the city lights had faded from her sight. She hadn’t even heard Jake’s door open and close. She was knocked back into reality, as the door she had been leaning on was no longer supporting her elbow. She looked up to see Jake standing next to her, leaning on the open door, and smiling at her.

“Good daydream?” Jake asked.

“Sorry, just tired,” Laci lied.

“Well, we’re home so we can finally get some rest,” Jake assured her, his smile growing slightly. He extended his pale hand to her. She smiled back slightly and took his hand gently in her own. “Yeah, sounds good,” she said softly. She looked at the large building in front of her, amazed with its beauty. She followed her husband up the black marble steps, between two towering white marble columns, and through the delicately designed golden doorway, past the gold-embellished rosewood doors. She smoothed her hand over the engraved golden doorknob as she closed the thick and heavy doors with an echoing thud.

Jake flicked on a light switch, illuminating the large room with the chandelier above. He smiled, seeing the movers did a wonderful job at filling the old abandoned mansion with their belongings.

Laci’s eyes glanced around the enormous room, taking in every detail. The first thing she noticed was the red carpeting that formed a path around the room. Toward the back of the room, it split in three, leading to a crescent staircase on either side, and an archway in the middle. Her fatigue stopped her from taking in details greater than the layout at this point. There was a door on the left wall, and a symmetrical door on the right wall.

“You like?” Jake asked, coming up behind her and wrapping his stick-like arms around her thin waist.

She looked around once more, and smiled slightly. “For now,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“There’s something they’re hiding. I know it.”

“Honey, relax. You’re just sleepy, and you’re letting your horror-writing imagination get to you,” Jake assured her.

“I guess you’re right,” Laci sighed. She decided to feign agreement for now, though she wasn’t giving up on what she was sure she knew. “The place is gorgeous, but it’s so huge. I’m going to get lost in it!”

Jake chuckled. “Well, that’s why you have me,” he said, taking her hand and leading her through the arch on the back wall.

Laci noticed that through the archway was their new living room. Their couch, TV, and other assorted belongings were already set up very stylishly in the room.

“Oh, I forgot,” Jake said, letting go of her hand for a moment. He ran to the archway, and flicked two switches. The lobby light went off, and the living room light went on. He took her hand once more, and led her to the door on the left wall of the living room. He opened the door, and flicked the switch to the right. He walked into the room and turned on the light, then led her inside the room.

She peered around the large, lavish bedroom, smiling widely. It was extremely spacious, and very romantically designed. She noticed that on the back wall, which was to the right as she walked into the room, was a very discreet door. She watched as her husband opened the door, smiling widely.

“This is our room, and this is our own private bathroom, equipped with a vanity mirror, and a garden tub and Jacuzzi,” he explained.

“You’re kidding,” she said, with a shocked look on her face.

“Nope. It’s one of the reasons I knew I had to get this house and surprise you,” he said, knowing that this house was her dream house, no matter what she said.

“I love you, Jacoby! How the hell did you find this place?” Laci squealed.

“Well, remember when I came here to audition for the movie? They filmed our auditions here, and after I got the part, they informed me it was for sale. They gave me a tour, and since I’d be acting here quite a bit, I figured it would be perfect,” he explained. He had kept it all a secret until they moved, simply because he knew how much Laci loved surprises.

Laci was speechless. She simply looked at him and smiled softly. After a moment, her warm smile turned into a slightly devious smile as she tackled him onto the bed. She held him close and kissed him sweetly on the lips.

Jacoby smiled and returned the kiss, stroking her hair. “Let’s get some rest. We have a busy day tomorrow.”

She nodded, and the two got ready for bed. Jacoby held her close, gently running his hand up and down her arm until she fell asleep.

“Did you sleep okay?” Jacoby asked the next morning, as he opened the blood red curtains to let some light in. Laci groaned and rolled over, hiding her eyes from the sunlight.

“Yeah, why?” she asked.

“You were tossing a lot. You kicked me a few times,” he told her.

“Hmm… I don’t remember that.”

“You also said something about vampires.”

“Oh. Did I? Damn,” she said, sounding disappointed all of a sudden.

“Why? What’s up?” he asked, concerned.

“Oh, well you’ll figure it out anyway… that’s what the new book is about. I was trying to keep it a secret. I guess I let it slip,” she said.

“Oh. Vampires, eh? That sounds cool. I love me some vampire novels.”

“I know… you were the inspiration, hon.”

“How so?”

“Well… you love vampires. We watch vampire movies all the time… you’re playing a vampire in the new movie… and you make the sexiest vampire I have ever seen,” she said with a sly smile.

“Oh, I see,” he chuckled, blushing slightly. She stood up and wrapped her arms around him from behind, kissing his neck.

“And besides, I’m your little vampire,” she added, seductively.

“Oh really?” Jake asked, an almost lusting tone in his voice. She kissed his neck again, licking it ever so slightly, then backed away. As he turned to face her, she dared to give him a provocative glare, and shook her hips. She blew him a kiss and winked at him, then licked her lips.

“Well, I guess you are… You’ve sure got me under your spell,” he said, tackling her onto the bed and kissing her neck.

“No, No! Jacobyyy!” she rasped, giggling. “We’ve got to get ready! We’re going to see Nikolai and Gwen! And then you promised to give me a tour of Crimson!” she added. Of course, she wouldn’t have minded a morning quickie.

“Alright, alright… but I’ll get you later,” he winked, kissing her neck a few more times. He helped her up and hugged her.

“I’m holding you to that,” she whispered in his ear and kissed his jaw. He slapped her butt playfully as she walked into the bathroom. She got washed up, and went back into the room, wrapped in a ruby towel.

“I love the décor! Did you pick it out, or did it come with everything?” Laci asked.

“Would you believe that it came with everything, except the towels?” Jacoby replied.

“Well then, you did a great job with the towels… and picking out the perfect house!” she told him.

“I know,” he chuckled, kissing her forehead. “I’m going to get washed up. You get dressed. The kitchen is across the hall and the fridge is already full if you’d rather eat something other than fast food.”

“Okay. I’ll make us some breakfast,” Laci said. “What would you like?”

“Eggs and bacon are fine,” Jake replied.

“Alright. I love you,” she said, kissing him again.

“I love you, too,” he said, returning the kiss and heading into the bathroom.

Laci approached the rosewood dresser in awe. She opened the top drawer and pulled out black lace panties and a matching bra. She tossed them on the bed, then opened the sock drawer. She pulled out a pair of black socks and tossed them on the bed too. She walked over to the closet, flipped a switch, then stepped inside. It was huge. It was almost as large as the bedroom, and was already fully stocked with her clothes. She decided on a red tunic and grey skinny jeans. She grabbed her favourite pair of black heels and set everything on the bed. She dried off better, then got dressed. She entered the vanity section of the bathroom and set to work on beautifying herself. Her hair was straight, and still damp, so she simply combed it. She drew on some eyeliner and painted her lips red, then went into the living room.

It wasn’t as hard to figure out the layout of the house as she thought it would be. She immediately saw the two doors across the living room. Her only mistake was that she had entered the grandiose dining hall. She didn’t really see a point in having such a long table and so many chairs. It was only the two of them. Even with some guests over, the room was still over-sized. She was sure they could fit each side of each of their families, and all of their friends, and still have enough elbow room to enjoy the meal. She certainly wouldn’t mind entertaining for that much company every now and again, as long as she had other people helping her cook. She figured this would be a good house for when they got settled. Both of them were pretty well-known, him being an actor, while she wrote best-selling horrors. She smiled to herself as she found the door to the kitchen.

She was shocked to see that it was almost as big as the hall. She smiled though, when she noticed a small table and four chairs. She knew that they would be spending quite a lot of meals eating in the kitchen. She quickly set to work on cooking breakfast, having no trouble maneuvering through the refrigerator. She loved the space she had to work with, and already was enjoying her new kitchen. She had enough counter space to prepare ten meals at once, and even had enough room to cook them. She was excited now, despite Gwen’s hushed warning. She had almost forgotten about it, due to the charm of the house. She didn’t see how anything could be bad about it.

Jacoby strolled into the kitchen, wearing ripped jeans and a black tee shirt. He sniffed the air and smiled at his wife, taking a seat in the ornate chair, across from Laci.

“Smells wonderful, babe,” he said. He looked down at the plate of eggs, bacon, and toast in front of him. “Looks it, too,” he added with a smile.

“Thanks love. This kitchen is amazing!” she informed him, taking a bite of her breakfast.

“See? I knew you’d love it!”

“Well, you were right. This place is the best! It’s like… exactly like the house I’d dreamed of as a child. So perfect.”

“Well, after breakfast, I have a few more surprises to show you before we head over to Nik and Gwen’s.”

“Oh, really? What kind of surprises?”

“Well, if I told you… they wouldn’t be surprises,” he said, shooting her a sly smile before cramming a piece of toast in his mouth.

“Yeah, yeah. I just wanted to know what they had to do with,” she said, rolling her eyes.

“Alright… they have to do with this house,” he told her.

“Ohhh, you have to tell me!” she exclaimed, suddenly impatient.

“Nope. You’ll have to finish your breakfast like a good girl,” he joked.

“Fine,” she grumbled, folding her arms and shooting him a fake pout. They both laughed and ate their breakfast.

“So, did you have any trouble finding the kitchen?” he asked, after a moment of silence.

“Not really… but I did end up in the dining room first,” she admitted.

“Ah. What do you think?”

“Why is it so… big?” she asked, with lack of a better word.

“It was made that way… to my understanding, the Perils were the richest family in Crimson… but they were generous folk. They invited the entire town over for parties and dinners very often. Sometimes, they even invited less fortunate people from the neighbouring towns,” Jacoby informed her.

“Oh… well, that’s very nice. Maybe, with some help… we can do the same,” she said. She wouldn’t mind helping people out, and maybe even being fortunate enough to make some new friends. She left her lifelong friends back in Pennsylvania.

“Well, I’m sure I’d be busy a lot of the time… but when I’m not, I’ll definitely help. Next week, we should have some of the cast over… maybe for lunch instead of dinner.”

“That sounds great, actually. Just not the entire cast. I’m not quite ready for a lot of people,” said Laci, standing and taking their plates to the sink.

“We have a dishwasher.”

“I know. I’ve seen it. I’m still getting used to having… well… everything. I think I’ll be just fine washing them myself,” she said with a smile.

“Okay,” he said, hugging her from behind. “Do you really like it?”

“Sweetheart, I love it. I’m so sorry I made you think I would hate it… I didn’t really want to move, but this is great. It’s kind of nice having a new experience… and the house makes everything worth it… of course, it wouldn’t be awesome at all without you.”

“It would so be awesome… but it would be so damn empty,” he corrected. They laughed.

“I guess you’re right,” she agreed. She finished up the dishes and turned, and hugged him. “So about those surprises…”

“Close your eyes… actually, never mind. I want you to learn this place,” he said, taking her hand. “Just come with me.” He led her into the living room, then to a discrete door on the left, by their room.

“Wow, I never noticed this door,” she said.

“I didn’t really show it to you. It’s pretty well hidden to give you privacy,” he said.

“I see,” she said. He opened the door and let her peer in.

Laci’s jaw dropped in awe as she peered over the desk and computer station. She eyed the different horror book and movie posters pinned to the walls. She looked up to see a gorgeous and ornate chandelier… something she recognized immediately. It was the one from the set of a movie that was based off of one of her earlier books. She couldn’t believe it. “How did you … ?” she asked softly. She couldn’t even finish her question.

“I’m awesome,” Jake chuckled.

“Obviously… but… wow!”

“One of the cast members was in that movie… he got to keep it, and when he found out that you were my wife, he handed it over… of course, I promised him a signed book.”

“Seriously? That’s fricken wicked, Jake! Definitely!” she exclaimed, her eyes practically glued to the chandelier. “Which book?”

“ ‘Vile’,” he told her.

“Well, that makes sense… that was the book they based it off of.”

“I know. He agreed to do the movie immediately. He said it’s his favourite book.”

“Wow. You’re kidding, right?”

“Of course not. You’re his favourite writer. ‘Vile’ is his favourite book, and he loved being in the movie.” He noticed now that she was blushing.

“When are you going to see him again?”

“In a few days, when I go back to work. He plays the leading vampire.”

“Oh. Well then, you should invite him over! I’ll sign it in person. I’d like to meet him, actually. He may be my biggest fan,” she said. She had never heard of such a thing before. She knew she wrote best-sellers a lot, but she hadn’t done a book signing in a long time.

Second biggest fan,” Jacoby corrected. He laughed as she raised an eyebrow. “I’m your biggest fan.” She sniggered. “Why else would I make sure you have such an awesome office?”

“Hmmm… because you love me!” she said, kissing his cheek.

“Of course I do. I love you more than life itself. Don’t you forget it,” he said, kissing her lips. She returned the kiss, a bit more passionately, letting him know that she loved him just as much.

“Come on! There’s more!” he said, pulling her away from the office.

“There’s more?”

“Yes!” he exclaimed, leading her through the living room, back to the lobby.

“Alright, alright!” she exclaimed, giggling.

“Okay… so upstairs are a few bedrooms. There’s a library, and a ballroom, and a bathroom,” he rushed. It was obvious he didn’t care much about that at the moment. They weren’t the surprise. She followed carefully. He dragged her to a door on the left of the lobby.

“What’s this?” she asked. It looked like a regular sized living room.

“Well, this is… whatever you want it to be. It used to be a meeting room. Apparently, they held town meetings and such here. The Perils gave so much to this town,” he said.

“Sure sounds like it,” Laci said. The house was definitely growing on her.

“From what I hear, they had quite a bit to do with the town, and its development,” Jacoby said. “So I wasn’t sure what we could use the room for, and I decided to leave it up to you.”

“Well, I’m not sure. I think it’ll come to us,” she said.

“Probably,” he agreed. He perked up then, and pulled her across the lobby to another fairly discrete door. He had her close her eyes, and led her carefully into the room.

“Smells like chlorine in here… and it’s really warm,” Laci said.

“Open your eyes,” he told her. He stood behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. She opened her eyes and gasped.

“Oh my God! It has a pool!” she exclaimed, and chuckled in disbelief, and he joined her.

“Yes, it does. It has a game room too. This way,” he said, leading her down a carpeted path, away from the glass doors that led to the pool.

“Wow. This place is really amazing!”

“I knew you’d love it. I know how you’d enjoy a swim when you wake up and before bed,” he said. She smiled wide and nodded with excitement.

“You’ll never get bored here. Between working on your book, and hosting parties, and exploring the town, and spending evenings here with me…”

“Yes! It’s perfect! I love it, Jacoby! And I love you!” she exclaimed, throwing her arms around his neck and planting a deep kiss on his lips. She pulled away and gazed happily into his deep green eyes. “Thank you so much,” she whispered. “And speaking of exploring the town, let’s get over to the camp.”

“Alright. You go start the car. I’ll give them a call.”

“When did you get their number?”

“When I bought the house, honey.”

“Right. Sorry. Do you really need to call? I thought they were just down the road.”

“Of course. It’s rude not to. I wouldn’t want to just show up. They might still be sleeping, or busy.”

“Good point. Alright. I’ll go warm the car,” Laci said. “I need a cup of coffee and a smoke anyway,” she added. She walked away as he nodded, and headed to the kitchen. She poured a travel mug of coffee, added sugar and creamer and left the kitchen. She grabbed the keys off the hook on the lobby wall by the front door, and went outside, throwing on a hoodie. She hugged herself and shivered as the winter cold bit at her. She took a sip of coffee and set it on the hood of the car. She opened the door and started the car, then turned up the heat. She took another sip of coffee and lit a cigarette. She sat on the front step, watching the exhaust pipe exhale about as much smoke as she did. Of course, with how cold it was, she had expected to see the exhaust. She took a drag, and exhaled, flicking her ashes to the rock hard, frozen ground. She looked to the surrounding mountains, almost sure it would snow soon. It was certainly cold enough. The sky was a bluish grey, with hints of pinks and purples, and the sun was hidden behind the haze. She finished her cigarette and put it out on a rock, then tossed it into the woods. She climbed into the car, facing the blowers on her and huddling close to the steering wheel. She was freezing, and wanted so desperately to warm up. Once she was warm, Jacoby had locked up the house and climbed into the passenger’s seat.

“Hey honey. We have to stop at Awen’s. I know it’s out of the way, but while I was on the phone, Demitri called. He needed to talk to me about something so I told him I’d meet him there. Gwen said you could stay with her and Nik if you wanted to, or they would just wait for us to get back,” he said.

“Wait. Who’s Demitri?” Laci asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Your biggest fan,” Jake answered with a cheesy grin.

“Oh. Are Gwen and Nik mad?” she asked.

“Of course not. Gwen and Nik don’t get mad easily. They’re very patient people,” he answered.

“Oh. That’s good. I think I’ll go with you. It would be nice to meet a fan. Besides, it’ll be very relieving to be able to picture the face of at least one person you speak of,” she said, half smiling.

“Okay. Do you want me to drive, or would you like to give it a try?”

“I’d like to try… but you have to tell me where to go.”

“Can do,” he said. “Go down the mountain. Peril Road turns into Ashen Road. Follow Ashen until you get to the main road. That’s Bloominggrove. Turn left onto it, and then at the intersection, take another left onto Main Street. On the right is Sanguine Court. There are two roads, so don’t worry if you miss the first one. Just follow that and you’re there.”

“That’s oddly simple! It sounds ridiculously confusing, but I don’t think it will be,” she said. She drove off down the mountain; smiling as they drove over a gorgeous, frozen lake, and came to an awkward intersection. Straight was Ashen, and then there was a sharper right turn.

“Right takes us to Petrik Lake,” he told her.

“Oh! That’s cool!” she exclaimed.

“The one we drove over… that’s ours.”

“Ours? We own a lake?” she asked in surprise.

“Yeah. It’s Peril Lake,” he replied. She grimaced at the name.

“That’s… interesting,” she said. They were on Ashen Road now, and passing a large house on the right.

“That’s Gwen and Nik’s house,” Jacoby said, pointing out the window.

“How do you get to it?” she asked, peering down the semi-steep hill to the mansion below.

“Up further is a road. I think it’s Hickory Road or something. That takes you to the camp and their house.”

“Wow. Cool,” she said. “This place doesn’t seem as complicated as I thought it would be,” she admitted.

“It’s a very nice town.”

“Is that the road?” she asked, pointing to a sign on the right that said ’Hickory Ln’.

“Yeah. But keep going straight.”

“I think I actually remember. It’s a left onto… Blooming Road.”

“Close. Bloominggrove Road.”

“But it’s a left?”

“Yes.”

“Ha! I remembered!” she exclaimed, dancing a little in her seat.

They pulled up to Awen’s without an issue, and Laci did a small dance of success. It was obvious she was proud of herself. Jacoby helped her out of the car, and led her into the shop.

“We’ll fill up the tank before we leave,” Jacoby said. Laci nodded. He approached a table, with his wife close behind.

“I’m going to look around, babe,” she told him.

“Okay. Demitri isn’t here yet, so just meet me here when you’re done,” he said. She nodded and walked off to explore the shelves.

Jacoby sat down, drumming his hands on the wooden table. He looked around for his friend and heard the bell on the door ring.

“Hey! Demitri, over here!” he called, raising his hand for the man to see.

“Hey, Jakey! Good to see you. You guys are all moved in already?” a tall, slender man with jet black, straight hair to his jaw asked in a soft, cool voice, as he approached. He was wearing all black. He walked swiftly, his trench coat flowing behind him gracefully. The pale man took a seat across from Jacoby, smiling from ear to ear. He was clean-shaven and his skin was smooth, and had light blue eyes that almost seemed to glow, outlined in a thin line of black eyeliner. His nose fit his face, and his jaw was strong but rounded. He was handsome, and had an air of class and mystery to him.

“Yeah. We had the movers put everything in. It’s fantastic,” Jake said.

“Did your wife see the chandelier?” Demitri asked.

“Yes, yes she did. She loves it, Mitri.”

“Good to hear. Where is she?”

“She’s around here somewhere.”

“I’d like to meet her… Anyway, listen man. We’re gonna need you at work sooner. Something about the order of the scenes. Mike said he doesn’t mind if Laci stops by. He said they wouldn’t even mind casting her as an extra if she was up for it.”

“Shit, man. I was really hoping to have some time with my wife in the new house. I wanted her to get used to things before going back. Honestly, it’s up to her. I won’t abandon her, and Mike knew that. That’s why he gave me the time off,” Jake said, looking suddenly worried.

“Sorry, Jake. I just figured I’d let you know. Mike said he couldn’t get through to you,” said Demitri.

“Alright. Like I said, I’ll talk to Laci,” Jake said. Demitri nodded.

Laci ran up to her husband with a bag of doughnuts. “Hey, baby! I got us some sweets. I got some for Gwen and Nik, too… and one for Demitri,” she said. She eyed the pale man in the trench coat, and sat down next to Jacoby as he scooted over.

“Oh, thanks love!” Jake said, wrapping an arm around his wife. “Honey, this is Demitri. Demitri, this is my wife, Laci.”

“Hi, Demitri. Nice to meet you,” Laci said, holding her hand out. Demitri shook it gently but firmly, bowing his head.

“Nice to meet you, Laci. You may call me ‘Mitri’, if you’d like,” Demitri said.

“I’m fine with saying ‘Demitri’ for now. Doughnut?” she replied, holding out a bag of baked goods.

“Thank you,” Demitri said, taking one carefully.

“Honey, I have some bad news,” Jake said.

“Oh, no. What?” she asked, somewhat afraid to hear it.

“They want me back to work early,” Jake said. “I won’t go if you’re not ready.”

“Oh… well, we only just moved in!” she rasped.

“I know. I would have today off. I have to go back tomorrow… but then I have the weekend off,” he explained.

“Well, I guess so…” she said.

“If you’re not okay to be alone just yet, you can come with me to work. Mike said that you can be an extra if you want to,” he said.

“Oh. Sure. That sounds pretty cool. I’ve never been in a movie before… well, one that wasn’t based off of one of my books, anyway,” she said. She looked pretty happy about it.

“All the cabins look pretty much the same as this. When you came in, is where the RV’s usually go. Sometimes they go by our lake. We’ve never ’ad a problem with them going to your lake,” Gwen said.

“Yeah, we saw the lakes on the way out,” Laci said, nodding in acknowledgment.

“Ah, good. They’re very nice, really. This is a great town,” Gwen said.

“It seems it. Everyone seems so nice, too.”

“They can be,” Gwen said. She seemed to be hiding something again. Laci didn’t like it.

“So ’ow did that meeting with Demitri go?” Gwen asked, changing the subject quickly.

“Oh, it was just like any other. I have to go back to work tomorrow,” Jake said.

“Such a shame. You jus’ moved in,” Guinevere said.

“I know. But Laci is going to join me,” Jake said. “She’s going to be an extra in the movie.”

“Ah. That’s wonderful! ’ow is Demitri, anyway? ’Aven’t seen ’im in ages!” Gwen said.

“He keeps to himself a lot. Strange man… Very strange. But very nice,” Jake said.

“Hey, Gwen? Where’s Nikolai?” Laci asked out of the blue.

“Oh, ’e’s out ‘untin’ fer dinner,” Gwen replied.

“Will he be joining us?” Jake asked.

“If the catch is good, ’e might.”

They toured the rest of the camp, then sat and relaxed in the large living room in front of the grand fireplace. They discussed many things, until the sun set through the ruby stained, curtain-framed bay windows. The moon shone brightly, creating shadows that even the crackling fire couldn’t create. Nikolai had returned, stained with blood.

“Dinner is in shed, draining,” he said. He bowed to his guests, then excused himself for a shower. He returned a while later, and joined his wife on a plush chocolate sofa. Jake and Laci had grimaced at the idea of the kill bleeding into a bucket, and cringed into each other on the matching love seat.

“Would you like to join us for dinner?” Gwen asked, crossing her legs. Laci and Jacoby exchanged nervous glances. Laci stammered for a moment, then replied.

“N-uh… No thanks, Gwen,” Laci said, grimacing. “We… uh, we’d rather spend tonight in the new house.”

“Oh, okay. Some other time, then,” Gwen said. They nodded politely.

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