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The Ghoul Who Loved Me: Little Ava's Rite of Passage: (Companion Piece - A Paranormal Romance Short Story)

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"Monsters…Murder…Baby Formula?" Little Ava is now a happy, pretty, well-adjusted one year old. As per Hilderbrant' custom, she must go through the traditional rite of passage. It is a time of celebration which will once more bring the entire clan together. However, this is all new to Ian Volkov, Ava’s human dad, and once again he breaks Hilderbrant' protocol…dropping yet another unprecedented bombshell on Boston and his family. A bombshell so massive it’ll forever change the inner dynamic of the Hilderbrant familial makeup. Nina Hobson’s Ghoul ‘verse containing all manner of classic horror monsters, from zombies to vampires to succubi, will have you chuckling one moment and gasping in the next. High school drama transcends species and this paranormal romance will take you through your paces.

Fantasy / Horror
4.0 1 review
Age Rating:

Little Ava, Ghouman of Everyone’s Eyes

“Is my granddaughter not the sweetest thing ever?” Eliza Hilderbrant simply crows over the little girl. Dressed in pink coveralls, tiny purple high tops and brown, chin-length hair done up in two ponytails with frilly bows, the toddler projects adorableness.

“Boston, my baby’s thirsty, did you bring her sippy cup?” Before he could direct her to his daughter’s diaper bag, Eliza answers for him complete with a frown, “You didn’t, did you?”

Boston’s mother takes the fussy child from her other father. “Don’t worry, Ava, Grandma stocked up on princess cups for you. I’ve even got them in different sizes.” She carries the girl across the graveyard and into the house while Ava’s parents look on.

Boston rolls his eyes (though not until his mother is behind closed doors) and gazes apologetically at his boyfriend.

“I thought only humans acted so possessive of their grandchildren,” Ian notes.

Boston sighs. “I’m sorry. In my defense, I did tell her she had to share Ava with your parents. I guess the message didn’t get through.” He slings an arm over the other boy’s shoulders, pulls him close to press a gentle kiss onto his temple. Ian wraps both arms around Boston’s muscled middle in a tight hug.

It was going to be a disaster! Both sets of grandparents were going to be under the same roof for three days. The only saving grace was that the attendees on Ian’s side of the family know about the Hilderbrants. Though as far as Boston is concerned, that wasn’t gonna make this weekend any more pleasant!

A backfire catches the teens’ attention as a luxury sedan – followed by some type of old automobile roll to a stop in the mansion’s driveway.

Ian sighs, reaches to interlace his fingers with his boyfriend’s. “My parents are here.” Boston squints out of human habit at the last person exiting the Volkuv’s luxury car. He gasps, “Who’s that man? Is he a relative of yours, too?”

“Um, yeah.” Ian hesitates, tugging Boston closer to massage his neck. “I only just found out he was coming this morning. You remember when my dad called the house earlier? I didn’t want to tell you because of well…this.” He digs a thumb into a knotted muscle.

Boston continues to eye the adults filing out of the car, he visually relaxes. “Wait, what do I have to worry about? All your people know about my family by now - that we’re ghouls, right?” He raises a questioning eyebrow at the father of his child.

“They do…but Boston, there’s something I need to tell you.”

Ian’s mother spots him, hurries over to squish him in a hug. After he pats her on the back signifying he can’t breathe, his mom gently pushes him back, and acknowledges Boston before asking, “Ian…where’s my granddaughter?”

“Here she is.” Boston’s aunt, Gianna, walks up and hefts his daughter over to her grandmother. “Oh, she’s beautiful. Sylvester, come see her, she’s a doll.” Ian’s father hurries over, nods to both the boys before making faces at the unamused child.

Boston’s mother, standing on the porch with his father behind her, calls him to her. He excuses himself and jogs to the woman. “Tell your guests I’ve got their rooms made up.”

The teen sighs. “Mom, they have names. You can tell them yourself, they’re right…” Without looking, he throws his hand outward toward the boneyard, smacking hard against something in the process. Boston slowly turns to face the unknown relative of his boyfriend and his twin cousins, Tavien and Trenton, belly-laughing at his expense.

Seeming to shrivel under the man’s icy stare, Boston tongue trips over a hasty apology. “Not to worry, boy. Accidents happen.” The man blows off the boy’s amends. He addresses the adults without taking his eyes off of Boston. “I’m Athanasius, Ian’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather.”

Michael, Boston’s father, introduces himself and his family. “So, Ian tells us your family is from Russia?”

“We are.” He lays eyes on the woman on the porch. “The Colonel is attending the ceremony as well, is he not?”

Taken aback by the blunt change of subject, Eliza simply studies the man for a few moments before her lips take over, “He is. My father is away on business at the moment but he will be here to see Ava’s big day. I’m sure -”

“May I be shown to my room now? I have traveled far to meet my granddaughter and the trip has exhausted me.” Eliza glances at her husband, a bit put off by their guest’s rude behavior but gestures for him to follow her inside.

Boston’s dad sighs. “Something tells me this is not going to go well.”


That night as she got ready for bed, Eliza thought back over the day. It had truly not gone the way she had planned.

It was a spread, no doubt – fresh from the graveyard. The Volkovs didn’t seem to mind them eating the dead in front of them. In fact, Sylvester had even asked to taste the some of the fresh flesh…cooked, of course. That the Hilderbrants were what they were didn’t seem to faze them at all, it was Ava’s surname that raised the hackles of her human grandparents.

“It’s just that, ‘Volkov’ is a family name. It’s been in our family ever since my descendants moved to Scotland. It has history and meaning,” rallied Sylvester.

Eliza declared, “It means ‘wolf’, yes, Ian told us. However, Ava’s name – first and last - was their decision. We had nothing to do with it.” Marisol focused on the kid’s table taking in the various zombie, ghoul and vampire children seated, talking and laughing loudly amongst themselves.

“You have a lot of little ones here, are they all related to you? Do they share your last name?”

Out of the corner of his eye, Michael saw his wife tense up. Oh oh, he could see where this was headed. He subtly tapped her wrist to avert the brewing inner storm from reaching her words. Time to take the field. “They are and the majority of them do. We are a large, close family but like you, Ava is Liza’s and my only grandchild.”

The woman opened her mouth to speak again but her son interrupted her. “Boston, Ava should be waking up from her nap right about now, why don’t you go get her? I’ll set up her highchair between us.” Boston graced his boyfriend with a grateful smile before heading off for their daughter while Ian set about making an exaggerated show of performing his task. Bringing the antsy toddler back, both fathers began the business of wrangling the small bundle of energy into her seat.

“When will your father arrive?” Athanasius questioned Eliza.

All heads swiveled in his direction. Even the young dads stilled in their headway with their daughter, losing ground momentarily as she freed a foot from the leg rest before remembering and getting back to their mission.

The old man had been so quiet during the discussion everyone had forgotten he was even there.

Eliza’s sister, Gianna, gulped down her wine and threw in her two cents, “He’ll get her when he gets here. What’s it to you, anyway?”

“Anna,” cautioned Eliza. Gianna gave her sister a narrowed eyed, huffy pout.

At the children’s table, a pint-sized vampire gesturing wildly, upset her glass of blood, and sent it spraying across the short table and floor, some landing on Ian’s mother’s white linen pants. She jumped up, knocking an elbow into her husband’s face, catching him in the eye. “Ow!”

“Oh honey, I’m sorry. Here, let me see.” Pulling him, she excused them both and dragged him out of the dining room, an adult werewolf herded the youngsters away not far behind them.

Ian slumped down in his chair as his daughter sniffled at being confined to one place. Boston’s hand flitted around under the table until it came in contact with his then he grabbed it and held on tight.

The doorbell rang. Marisol called out, “I’ll get it!”

“She’s answering our door now?” Eliza gawked at her husband, dumbfounded.

The sound of muffled voices drifted around the wall, which got louder and angrier as a man pushed his way pass Marisol into the room.

“Howdy, everybody! I’m Nikita Volkov…Ian’s great-great-great-great-great-great uncle.” Gianna laughed, her husband nudged her quiet. The newcomer took in Ava, and then grinned. “Howdy, cutie!” Her high pitched, happy squeals at the unexpected guest nearly deafened those within ten feet of her.

He grabbed a plate from the sideboard and began to fill it from the buffet. “Mind if I eat?” He comfortably asked around a mouthful of rare kidney to the faces of his bewildered hosts. Apparently he was going to be there as well as at the food table for a while.

“Another great-great-great-great…,” Boston’s father sputtered and turned to Ian. “Ian, is your family -”

“Yeah, Mr. Hilderbrant.” He changed his focus to his co-parent. “It’s what I was about to tell you outside…some members of my family are immortal.” The ghoul’s jaw almost hit his chest.

Everyone, except the uncle, ogled Ava as she happily slung peas from her spoon onto the floor.

Turning out the light after, Eliza climbs into bed. Michael tugs his woman into a deep kiss to thank her for keeping her cool with their most-likely-to-be-sometime-in-the-very near future in-laws. “So,” he said, “our granddaughter may live forever thanks to a curse on her other grandfather’s side. Your feelings on the subject, dear?”

“What can we say? That would be like us nonhumans calling the kettle black.” He agrees. She snuggles up to her husband, it was the best way she found over the years to broach an uncomfortable subject with him.

“Michael, does something seem off about the Volkovs to you? I mean beyond the bombshell Ian dropped?”

He beams at her, asks amused, “With whom shall we start?” Relieved she was not alone, she chuckles and kisses him goodnight, hunkering down for sleep.

She and her sister were going to have a full day tomorrow.


“Girl’s day out?”

“Yes. You, my sister and myself. We’ll leave the men here to get acquainted.”

Marisol appears uneasy. “What about Ava?”

Eliza smiles – hopefully convincingly – at the woman. “She’ll stay with her fathers. It’ll be just us girls today.”

“All right, I guess that’ll be okay.” She grabs her purse from the kitchen counter. “Where are we going?” Gianna gulps down her coffee, cuts in, “Hey, I think massages, manicures and pedicures sound pretty good. We deserve it.”

“Let me just tell Syl–”

The older Hilderbrant sister hustles her out the door. “We’ve already told our hubbies and they’ll tell yours. Gotta go now or we’ll miss our appointments.”

Steam billows from the heat rocks as the women lounge at the highest point of the private sauna, sipping glasses of high-priced wine. Marisol drunkenly continues on with her story, “…and what did he do? He killed him is what!” She doesn’t notice herself sloshing the liquid onto the wooden bench. Eying the bottle, the woman reaches out, her depth perception off and nearly tumbles down the elevated bench seats. Eliza catches her just in time.

“Whoa there, you might wanna slow down a little. You humans don’t handle your juice well.”

Marisol jabs her in the bicep, slurs, “You slow down! You monster…monster that eats…um…off the ground!” Gianna sniggers, earning a death glare from her younger sibling.

“We’ll see if you’re still laughing when this happens to one of the twins.”

“Not on my watch, big sis,” she proclaims, although she does make a conscious effort to tone it down a bit. One truly doesn’t know what the future holds with such devastatingly handsome sons as hers.

Eliza tops off Marisol’s drink, helps her steer it toward her lips. “So, Marisol, you never did finish telling us why you want Ava to have your last name so badly.” The wine dribbles down the intoxicated woman’s chin, she pulls the towel from her head, swipes haphazardly at the mess. Marisol squints at the stain. “Am I bleeding?”

“No,” says Gianna, “you’re talking.”

“I can’t tell you why.” Eliza slumps back on her butt. She was so sure this was going to work. “Why not?”

Marisol waggles her fingers until she gets one of them (guess which one) to move in a ‘come here’ motion. “I can’t.” She shakes her head violently. “I can’t tell you that Sylvester’s grand-grand-grand -”

“Great,” Eliza interjects.

“Yeah,” Her inebriated co-grandparent answers. She liquors up more. “So, I was telling that lady -”

Gianna rolls her eyes toward her sister, amused. Eliza ignores her determined to get whatever information she can out of Ian’s mother, fast.

“Marisol, please concentrate,” Eliza begs.

“And when that hussy started talking crap about your family – your granddaughter – what did you say to her?” Gianna asks.

“I told that wench that my husband’s people were hunters. They helped when no one else could.” She peered closely at Eliza. “Sylvester’s grea…you know, the one that came here yesterday, he used to kill your kind. He’s been thinking about getting back into hunting. Nikita wants to rid the world of monsters. He’s probably gonna want to kill all of you.” She takes a big gulp of her drink. “And you know what else… Athanasius is not even human. Nope. He’s like you but different. And not only that but he’s here to finish something between him and your father.”

“What?!” Yells Gianna.

“You…your father, too.” Still facing Eliza, Marisol flings a hand behind her in the voice’s direction. Unfortunately it’s the one holding her near-full glass and it goes flying toward Gianna, which she can’t quite dodge. Wine seeps through her white towel, drips down her thighs. She doesn’t acknowledge it. Instead she throws her only sibling an incredulous stare.

Eliza grabs the pickled woman’s arm, uncaringly yanking her out of her covering exposing her goodies for the world to see. “Come on, we’ve gotta go, Anna!”


“Liza, your dad’s home, he went to his room to take a nap.” Michael informs his wife after she and her sister unceremoniously dump the sleeping lump of a woman on her bed with his help.

Gianna rushes out of the bedroom shouting for her spouse, Waylon. He shuffles a bit slowly up the stairs, as zombies are wrought to do, and opens his arms just in time to catch his frantic woman. “Anna, what’s wrong?”

Further down the hall, cast in the evening shadow, Eliza abruptly ends her conversation with her partner, beckons the rest of her family to her. “We’ve got a problem…I think Dad – all of us – are in danger from Ian’s older relatives.”

“What do you mean?” Waylon asks, confused.

Gianna jumps in bringing her man up to speed, “It means those men are going to try to kill him.” She looks back over her shoulder at Marisol’s closed door. “I say we eat them both. Immortal or not, they’ll never survive being digested.”

“Honey, as you very well know, I, for one, am always up for partaking of fresh flesh but we can’t do that…they’re Ian’s family.”

“Hey, he knew what he was getting into when he got involved with our nephew.”

Frustrated at the turn of conversation, Eliza scowls at her sister. “Anna, be serious.” She turns to her demon husband. “Michael, have you got any ideas?”

Her husband steps back, a frown of concentration plastered over his features. The sound of children running downstairs works its way up to them. “Are you definitely sure? Neither Nikita nor Athanasius have made one violent gesture toward anyone in the family since they’ve been here.”

“If you’re asking me if I would bet my life on it, then no. We only know what Marisol told us – a sloshed Marisol at that…but still…” He paces to the wide hall window. “Is it just the Colonel they supposedly want?”

“Yes,” states Gianna.

Michael pauses, back straight. “This is our home, I say we confront them, get it all out in the open before Ava’s event.”

Eliza nods. “When?”

The love of her life bores each of them firmly in the eye, says authoritatively, “There’s no time like the present. We’ll bring them both out to the graveyard, find out what’s what out there away from the house. If we need to take of them, then that’s where we’ll do it. We’ll deal with Ian and his parents later if necessary.”

Waylon gasps, covering his mouth with a mottled hand while Gianna rubs soothing circles on his back. A muffled, “You don’t mean…”

Talk to them, Waylon.” An exasperated Michael rolls his eyes at the zombie’s antics. Despite the seriousness of it all, Eliza chuckles. She loves her vast and highly unorthodox family dearly.

It doesn’t take long nor is it any hassle to get both Volkovs out to the cemetery under the pretense of getting their feedback on the altar to be used in the little girl’s rite of passage. Away in the deep, dark, dank, hardly visited section, no one would hear them scream…if it came to that.

“It is good and sturdy, Comrade. My granddaughter will be done justice. Elisha, your father–”

“It’s Eliza and we already know why you two are here, Athanasius.” Her sister and their men crowd around the outsiders. “We know you want to kill the Colonel and us.”

Athanasius laughs, deep and friendly-like. “Kill you? We are family, why would I want to kill you? I merely want to thank your father for helping me many, many years ago in Russia.”

“How?” Michael queries.

The old man tilts his head toward the altar; Michael gives him permission to sit. From the way he hikes his butt up onto the stone, one would not be able to tell of his ancientness.

“It was just before the First World War, I was in a dreary little village not far from Moscow – very isolated, very religious. They had been finding the carcasses of farm animals and the bodies of dead children out in the forest, all horribly mutilated. I was new there. I had gotten in just before the elders shut the place down to outsiders. And to make matters worse, I was not a soldier, just a traveler stopped over for a night or two.”

Athanasius stares out into the expanse of the neglected headstones and tombs, his eyes shadowed by the ghosts of his past.

“The murmurs began amongst the town folk during supper my first evening, no one yet had come forth with information as to the murders. It seemed the townsfolk had sized me up as the killer so I had planned to leave early that next morning. I was asleep on my cot when about twenty men with torches and pitchforks burst into my room and dragged me outside. I was brutally beaten and thrown in jail without a trial, set to be hanged in the town square at first light,” the Russian continued.

“That is when I met the Colonel…he volunteered to stand guard over me in my jail cell that night, and sent everyone else home to rest up for the execution.

Once alone, he told me he could smell my true essence – as I could with him – that he knew I was indeed a killer. I could not argue with him for I had sent many from this world – some deserving some not, I was not one to judge. But he was a good man even back then and since I had killed no one in that village – it had been the blacksmith’s doing all along - not only did he help me escape, he fled with me. I believe by us working together, keeping a tight rein on one another, many lives in my homeland were spared.”

Stopping to take a breath, Athanasius finishes the story. “We parted ways once we got out of Russia and have not seen each other since.”

He smiles for the first time since arriving and nobly proclaims, “Judging by the various ‘species’ flowing through your bloodline, it seems your father still holds fast to the ideology of ‘to each his own.’ It is a true honor to share kin with such a worthy comrade. Fate has smiled on me once more by joining our families as one.”

Everyone stands silent, basking in the glow of such praise for their patriarch – all except Gianna who meanders over to stand eye-to-eye with the man, unafraid. “Marisol told us you’re a monster.” She points to Nikita. “And that you plan to murder us all in our sleep.”

“Anna! She didn’t say it quite like that,” Eliza weakly objects. Her sister grumbles, “Well, that’s what it sounded like to me.”

“Ah, dear Marisol.” Chortles Athanasius. “Her perception of reality shall always outweigh reality itself. Are you aware she deeply desires baby Ava to carry our last name?”

Waylon rolls his lively, dead eyes; joins in, “Sounds like she’d say anything to get her way. So, are you a ghoul, sir?”

“Perhaps, I do not know. I have lived so many centuries, I no longer know what I truly am. I just am.”

All heads turn to Nikita, leaning lankly against a broken crypt, and before anyone can ask anything, he straightens up and gives them the rundown. “Yes, I am immortal. No, I’m not here to kill anybody. In fact, I gave up hunting a long time ago…I met too many good ones like yourselves over the years. It didn’t sit right with me anymore. I just need a place to hide out for a bit.”

The man clams up quits talking like the group is actually going to let him let it go. He grins, sheepishly runs his right palm across the back of his neck. “There’s a human woman I’d been seeing – long story short – I made a mistake and told her the family secret. She wants me to marry her and if I don’t she says she’ll out us to the tabloids.”

Athanasius glares at his nephew. “What?” Nikita shrugs one shoulder. “I’ve got needs like any other man.”

The sound of music blaring down the private road announces another visitor to the Hilderbrant home, shrill lyrics are cut short only to be followed up with intermittent honking punctuated by shouts of, “I know you’re in there, Nikita!”

“Speak of the devil.” The hunter tries for levity.

No one laughs.


The Colonel and Athanasius stand regally in the festively-lit dusk, watching their granddaughter bounce in Boston’s arms in anticipation of engaging with the living sacrifice lying gagged and bound to the stone shrine.

Nikita had schmoozed her and won his skeptical fiancé over with his southern charm while the others, and then some, prepared. He then lured her to the cemetery under the guise of making up for his leaving her at the altar.

What better way of proving his love than having sex on someone’s final resting place?

To her credit, she laughed when the ‘monsters’ appeared from behind several headstones…the woman thought she was being pranked! Only when a zombie – not Waylon! – had bitten a chunk out of her upper arm and shared it with a werewolf did the direness of her situation dawn on her.

By then it was too late.

“You had my children very worried, my friend.” The Colonel gently reprimands his associate while nodding pointedly toward his daughters and their husbands.

“I know and I am sorry. I should have just told them about our history when I first arrived but I was so excited between seeing you again and news of our shared grandchild.”

An amicable ‘hmm’ was the only answer. They observe quietly as Ian takes the babbling baby from her other father and sits his daughter on the terrified woman’s chest. They beam as the child crawls up to her head and with her human father’s assistance, picks up the heavy hacksaw and cut messily through her scalp, her frantic kicking and muffled wails eventually wind down to a last shuddering breath then death.

Immediately after the Colonel’s ritualistic blessing, Ava tastes her first ever raw brain, smacking her spit-bloody lips in appreciation amongst cheers from her entire family. Gianna and Waylon, playfully bickering, section and serve up the remains of the corpse to the rest of their extensive relations.

Inching her way over to the other set of grandparents, Elisha holds out a hand. “Truce?”

“Truce,” agrees a proud Marisol, shaking the ghoul’s offered extremity easily.

Nikita lopes about the burial ground grinning, chatting up various relatives, clutching a sturdy paper plate laden with his ex’s body parts.

It is indeed an illustrious occasion for the Hilderbrant clan and Volkov family.

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