I struggle against the body I’m pressed to and the hand that is silencing me. The guy holding me is strong. I can’t pull away.
Stupid human weakness! I think to myself, wishing I hadn’t wished that wish again.
“Don’t scream,” I hear the voice say quietly in my ear.
A shiver makes its way down my back at the deep, flawless voice. It’s as smooth as velvet and pleasant to my ears. And, suddenly, I know what fate has befallen me.
He pulls his hand away slightly, and my voice starts to escape. He clamps it back over my lips.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” he whispers. “Please don’t scream.”
I gulp. I can’t protect myself if he’s lying. My human body is too weak to fight off anything or anyone.
He lifts his hand away and I stand there, motionless and stiff. My breathing is ragged and my mouth was dry. What is he going to do with me?
“See?” he asks, walking around in front of me. “I told you I wasn’t going to hurt you.”
Red eyes. Red eyes glowing through the darkness and staring back at me.
My heart races at the sight.
“I know you from somewhere...” he speaks quietly as he looks me over slowly.
“That’s what you do to people you think you know…?” I whisper, my voice stiff. “Kidnap them?”
I see him smile in the moonlight.
“I didn’t kidnap you,” he chuckles. “I just pulled you aside—”
“Forcefully,” I snap, and then I draw back into myself. I know what they could do to someone. I’ve done it myself.
He steps closer and searches at my face, looking at every detail.
“I swear, I know you from somewhere...” he whispers again, and I feel another shiver slide down my spine.
A good shiver…
I see his fangs glimmer in the moonlight, and envy bubbles up inside of me. I miss my fangs...
His head snaps around in the direction of the carnival, away from me.
“Sh,” he barks and pulls me to him, wrapping me in his arms. His smell makes my head swim, and I have to tell myself to snap out of it, that everything about a vampire is to deceive to lure their prey in, even their attractive attitude.
A man walks by, tipping his hat at an old couple passing by. He turns, and I catch a glimpse of his profile.
The Ring Leader.
My blood goes cold, and Hilda’s warning plays in my head.
Don’t let the Ring Leader see you... he has too much power...
His figure disappears behind the tent to my right, and the vampire lets go of me. I take a few steps back to create distance between us.
He chuckles and runs a hand through his hair, unconsciously making him even more attractive in the moonlight.
“What?” I say defensively.
He shakes his head. “You’re afraid.”
“Says who?” I spit.
“Me,” he says quietly and glances behind him again. “You shouldn’t have been afraid that man would see you.”
I look at him, my heart pounding in my chest.
“I made us invisible.”
I look down slightly. “Oh.”
I try to control my breathing. He’s one of those vampires, the ones with gifts. I never had a gift.
He looks at me again and shakes his head. “Maybe I’m just being stupid...”
He walks out of the space between the tents and into the carnival area.
I run to catch up with him, but by the time I’m out in the open, he’s gone.
The night ends with the Ring Leader shouting that it was time for everyone to leave, midnight upon us. I drag my feet back to the white tent. I couldn’t find the vampire anywhere, even though I looked everywhere I could think of, except for in the woods near where he pulled me aside.
I pass by the flaps of the main tent, and I hear voices coming from within. I slow to listen.
“She’s going to ruin my show!”
The Ring Leader.
“Maybe she was just having a rough night, sir—oh!”
A slap. Hilda whimpers. My heart hurts for her.
“Don’t act stupid with me, Hilda!” I hear him growl. “You know what I could do to her if she fails to meet my standards. You know what I could do to you, considering you’re her caretaker. And I won’t be afraid to rid of either of you, as you learned yesterday.”
“Yes sir,” Hilda draws a ragged breath.
I realize I had stopped walking, and my hand had floated over my mouth to silence my breathing.
“Now get out of my sight!” he commands.
I leap behind the edge of the tent as she scurries out, sniffling. The Ring Leader steps from the flaps of the tent and I watch as he takes a breath and straightens his black and white coat with the tails.
He starts to walk quickly away from me, and I follow him.
What’s your secret, Ring Leader?
His footsteps are noisy and his walk is proud. I follow him to the edge of the carnival, where I step on a bag of popcorn.
He stops and sniffs the air. I freeze and hold my breath, my hands shaking. A fear I’d never felt before creeps into my bones as he turns around slowly.
I hide behind the square tent I stand by, hoping he won’t come my way. Hoping that if he did, I would hear him, and I’d be able to get away.
But I didn’t hear him.
Before I know it, he’s standing before me and I am backing up, my heart beating out of my chest and whimpers unwillingly leaping from my mouth as I breathe shallowly.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t the little orphan,” he chuckles. “You’ve been acting so strange lately, Rochelle. What’s the matter? Someone swipe your brain?
I shake underneath his powerful voice. His black eyes. His wide mouth. His greasy hair. His strong figure. He could easily overpower me and I wouldn’t be strong enough to defend myself. Not with this body.
He laughs again.
I trip and fall to the ground, crawling on my hands and moving along backwards to get away from him.
“You’re just looking for a death-wish,” he smiles, pulling back the right side of his coat to reveal a whip. “Do you want that wish now?”
My back hits something hard and I sit, frozen, staring up at him.
“Yes? Is that a yes?” he taunts, pulling the whip from his belt and letting the end fall to the ground. “Please tell me if I’m wrong.”
I try to swallow, to breathe, to speak, but nothing comes out.
A smile forms on his lips and his hat creates an eerie shadow on his face, hiding half of it from view.
“If you insist,” he laughs, and lifts the whip above his head.
“AGHHHH!!” I cry as it splits the skin on my arm. I roll in the dirt, the pain amazingly treacherous.
He brings it down again on my back and I scream. Flickering lights of candles glow in tents and carriages as people step out.
Another lash across the side of my legs. Tears fall from my eyes and my breath comes out as a wheeze. Pain like this... I’ve never experienced. Not even in my human life.
Another lash. Another. Then another before he finally stops. My body shakes with sobs, and pain ripples everywhere, even where the whip hadn’t laid its wicked fingers on.
“I’m sure you’ve learned your lesson. Go to your carriage, now!” he barks with a tone that makes me sound like a slave.
I struggle getting up. I fall to the ground, dust and dirt swirling around me. I feel hands on my arms and I cry out, broken, bloody and bruised.
The arms walk me to a small house on wheels and lay me on my stomach. I feel my clothes rip and a cool cloth run over my wounds.
Hilda’s soothing voice as she sings calms me down and I relax a bit as she tends to bites of the whip.
“He’s a terrible man,” she whispers to me. “I’m sorry...”
“It’s not your fault...” I say quietly, wincing as she tends to the wounds. “I followed him...”
We’re silent as she finishes up, and she lets me lay there until I was almost asleep.
“He hit you today,” I whisper, half asleep. “He shouldn’t hit you...”
“I can’t control that—”
“Yes you can,” I say softly, closing my eyes. “You could run away.”
“And leave you, dear? Never.”
I start to feel my body prepare for sleep. I relax and my brain starts to slow down.
“I can take care of myself... I always have...”
And, suddenly, I’m asleep and dreaming, something that was taken from me when I turned into a vampire.