Chapter 4: The Ashford Family
“You went against my orders,” William said in an eerily calm voice.
“It was my fault. Eleanor had nothing to do with this,” Victoria said, trying to protect her sister.
“And now I’m being summoned by a Clan leader to speak with him directly about my family trespassing on his feeding grounds. Haven’t I done enough?” William’s voice was rising. “I have had to uproot this family from our home of over a century due to a careless mistake and now it appears that we may have to move yet again due to another one!”
“Don’t!” William shouted. “I am doing everything in my power to keep this family together. I will continue to do so. I will meet with Adrian and I will do it alone.”
“You’re not going alone, cousin,” James spoke up.
William rubbed his forehead with his thumb and forefinger as he sat upon one of the leather chairs in the gentlemen’s parlor. James poured some brandy from the crystal snifter into a goblet before handing it to William. He took it and drank the amber liquid before setting it down on the side table.
“Did Adrian say anything else?” William asked after calming himself down.
“Yes,” Eleanor began slowly. “He said the estate is haunted.”
“I already knew that,” William answered.
“What?” Victoria and the others were in shock.
“I’ve researched this estate. I knew what I was getting into before I bought it. I already assumed there may be restless spirits here considering the cemetery out back. However, in my research I also found that the estate was protected by Haitian magic. The locals thought the estate was cursed due to the many disappearances and unexplained activities here so they locked everything and everyone inside these walls. No way out and no way in,” William explained.
“So you’re saying Hunters wouldn’t be able to use their psychic abilities in any way upon these grounds?” Matthew asked from the doorway.
“That is correct. We have nothing to fear here,” William said.
“I didn’t find that in my research,” Victoria said skeptically.
“That’s because I researched the ancestry of the original owners and their servants. I found a descendant that had an extensive background in Voodoo and claimed her ancestor was one of the people to help place the curse upon this estate.”
“It’s a curse?” Victoria asked interested.
“More or less,” a voice from the other side of the room answered.
A woman stepped out of the shadows by the bookcase in the corner of the room. She materialized as a light fog settled around her feet and disappeared. Her hair was wrapped in a white and blue gele and she was dressed in a maid’s full length skirt and apron from another time. Her skin was the color of coffee and unblemished. Her eyes were a rich brown.
“You must have heard me talking about you, Ebele,” William said nonchalantly.
“To answer your question, Victoria, our ritual was to keep our secrets and discourage prying eyes,” Ebele explained.
“How many of you are here?” Matthew asked.
Ebele smiled. “See for yourselves.”
At that moment, two men appeared near Matthew. A young woman appeared on the couch next to Victoria and an older woman appeared near Ebele.
“I know you,” Victoria said to the young woman. “You were in my room.”
“My room,” the girl said. “At least it once was. My name is Mary. These are my older brothers, Thomas and Henry. That is my grandmother, Martha. You’ve already met our maid, Ebele.”
“She seems like a lot more than a maid,” Matthew commented.
Mary gave him a sideways smile. “She is.”
“Perhaps you can fill in the gaps that history has failed to do,” William motioned to Ebele with his hand to sit.
She took a seat near the window, the moonlight shining upon her, encasing her in a soft glow. It was evident to everyone that they were all creatures of the night here.
“My ancestors arrived in this land by the slave trade. My parents were bought by the Ashford’s to help construct this magnificent mansion you see before you. Once the mansion was completed, they worked as plantation workers with the rest of the bought slaves. I was born on these grounds and Martha took very good care of me as a child. I grew up alongside her son, Peter. The Ashford family was kind to all their employed. They didn’t treat us like slaves but like human beings. We had our own houses, we earned wages, we were fed, and we were free to leave whenever we wanted. This was something that was unheard of in that time.
“Peter married and had these three children over here with his wife, Rose. I helped raise them as if they were my own. When the Civil War started, Peter was called to duty. He fought for the South to keep up pretenses but he was a spy for the North. He was killed in battle, leaving the estate and plantation to Rose and her children. The plantations were burned during the war and we lost a lot of our own in the fire. When Rose passed away to illness a few years later, Thomas took over the estate with Henry. This is where the unexplained murders began to occur.
“It was like people were disappearing during the night and no one could figure out why. It got to the point where Thomas had to impose a curfew on us to make sure that no one got hurt. We found the first body within a cabin near the outskirts of the estate grounds, her throat cut open as if she was mauled by some sort of animal. The workers became afraid and started leaving the estate saying that it was cursed and that’s when we all decided to take action.
“My parents raised me, instilling the knowledge of Voodoo within me. One night, one of the other maid's crashed through the front door terrified of what she had witnessed. She had told me that she saw a man crouched over one of the workers with blood dripping from his mouth. That was the night we decided to work some magic and get rid of this creature once and for all. The spell created a protective barrier around the mansion keeping the creature outside the estate walls. But with all magic, there comes a price. We didn’t know what that price was until it was too late. Our souls are trapped here. I can only presume we are meant to be protectors of these grounds since we were the ones to cast the spell. No evil can come in but we can also never leave.”
“What do you mean?” Victoria asked.
“What she means is that you don’t have to worry about your Hunters coming after you through us. Their power won’t work through the barrier unless they figure out how to lift it somehow,” Henry explained, irritation in his voice.
Victoria narrowed her eyes at him. He was tall, with black hair and green eyes. He was wearing a white button shirt and black trousers with straps. His sleeves were rolled up over his forearms that were crossed over his broad chest.
“If this curse is common knowledge and can easily be accessed with a little research, then why is Adrian afraid of this place?” Eleanor inquired.
Thomas chuckled next to his brother. “That’s because he’s the son of a bitch that the curse was intended for.”
“And this is the person you want to meet tomorrow night alone?” Eleanor asked of her brother.
“We all know the hardship of being a vampling. He didn’t have family like we did when we first transitioned. We’ve murdered in the past so I don’t think it’s fair to judge someone for past mistakes,” William said.
“Wait…if the curse is meant to be a barrier against evil, then how come we've been able to cross that barrier?” Matthew asked.
“Your hearts are purer than you give them credit for. It takes someone with a strong will and a strong heart to refrain from killing their feeders,” Ebele answered. “Magic works in mysterious ways. Perhaps, you were meant to be here.”
“So now what? We all live together like one big happy family?” James chimed in.
“We must learn to cohabitate. We can’t afford to move again, not this soon at least. We have a lot of work to do in the morning with our assigned positions. We need to meet with the banks and look into rental spaces. All these things need to be taken care of swiftly.” William was already forming a list within his mind.
“We won’t be bothering you. We tend to our chores around the estates and we don’t particularly wish for the company,” Martha said.
“Well damn, here I thought we could maybe hang out and have a glass of brandy. That last couple to own this place wasn’t too fond of the idea but this century is starting to grow on me.” Thomas walked over to the crystal snifter and poured himself a glass.
“Can you even taste that?” Victoria asked intrigued. It had been a long time since she had encountered spirits. They tried to avoid them as much as possible due to the Hunters but if they were going to be living together, it would be nice to get to know them.
“No, we can't. Simple pleasures are somewhat lost to us,” Henry answered. “It’s been a very long time.”
Victoria felt a sense of overwhelming sadness waft over her. She knew exactly how he felt and in that moment she would have given anything to be human again.
“You play?” James asked Thomas as he motioned over to the billiards table.
“I think I’ll take another glass,” James said. Thomas poured him a drink
“Cheers,” Thomas said as he clinked his glass on the rim of the one in James's hand.
The pair walked over to the table and started racking the balls. Victoria stood up from her seat and stood by the pool sticks to watch the men play. Eleanor approached her with a bottle of Merlot and two wines glasses.
“You know, I don’t think we ever paid for that tab,” Eleanor said.
Victoria laughed. “I really don’t give a damn. Bill me later.”
Henry moseyed over to where they were and stood beside Victoria.
“Merlot,” Victoria turned to say.
“What about it?”
“It’s the only thing I can taste in addition to blood. It’s the only thing any vampire can taste,” Victoria answered Henry.
“At least you have that,” Henry said coldly.
“I thought I was the one who was supposed to be cold and brooding,” Victoria said with a smile. “It seems to me we’ve got our roles reversed.”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Henry said backtracking. “It’s been awhile since we’ve revealed ourselves to others in such a casual way. I haven’t exactly…been around vampires before.”
“I’m sure we aren’t exactly your cup of tea considering we’re the same creature you were trying to prevent from entering your estate,” Victoria said.
Henry gave her a sly smile. “That may be true but it’s nice to talk to someone who kind of understands our situation. We’ve been keeping people away from this property for years. The last owners were a little harder to get rid of. They put a lot of money into this place updating it to their standards. I quite fancy the game room downstairs.”
“Why were you running them off?” Victoria was interested to know.
“The spell didn’t work exactly as planned. We’re not even sure how long it will last. We are dead after all and usually a spell ends with the death of the caster but as you can see,” Henry motioned towards his family members, “we are very much dead.”
“But you’re spiritually present. Maybe there was a stipulation within the spell that placed all of you as protectors of the estate for a certain amount of time until the evil has passed?” Victoria asked.
“I’m not sure,” Henry said. He moved closer to Victoria noticing her wine was almost gone. “Would you like a refill?”
Victoria grinned. “That would be lovely.”
“Ever think about a ghost boy for a play thing?” Eleanor whispered to Victoria. “No commitments, just pure adult fun?”
“Seriously? Have you?” Victoria raised an eyebrow.
“It happened once for me. Remember that spirit we met at that tavern in London? He played the piano for me and then he played on me,” Eleanor said with a smirk and a wink.
“That’s where you ran off to that night?” Victoria asked.
“Mm-hmm,” Eleanor purred. “It’s not like you can hurt them, after all.”
Victoria looked over her shoulder as Henry came back up with a glass of wine for her. She admired his confident stature and his broad shoulders. There was a darkness about him that attracted her. She mulled over Eleanor’s words as he handed her the glass. Their hands briefly touched, a small spark of static electricity bounced off of them. Henry smiled warmly at her, the initial coldness melting away.
She swirled the dark red liquid as she peered into it as if to divine some sort of answer for what she was feeling. She took a sip and licked her lips. Henry watched, mesmerized by her actions.
“Henry, you want to get in on this next game?” Thomas asked.
“Yeah. Want to play?” Henry asked Victoria.
“I understand you’re pretty old but you seem to know modern times pretty well. How did you manage that with being stuck on these grounds?” she asked as the balls were being racked.
“Ah well, people move in and people move out. I particularly liked the 70s,” Thomas replied.
“What was so great about the 70s?” James asked intrigued by the conversation.
“The woman that moved in,” Mary answered for him as she sauntered over to where they were playing.
“She was a babe,” Thomas continued. “Long blonde hair, blue eyes, tight ass. She had amazing upper body strength. She could do this thing where—”
“We get it,” Mary cut him off. “So, Victoria. What are we going to do about the room situation?”
“Well, since my things are already in there and yours are…not, I thought that I would just keep that as my room,” Victoria smiled sweetly.
“Uh huh,” Mary said slowly. “I see.”
Mary left it at that which Victoria was grateful for. She wasn’t trying to get on a spirit’s bad side, but she didn’t see any reason to move her thing’s for someone who technically didn’t need sleep in the first place. She may have been undead, but she did have to rest.
As the night waned, the dead talked among themselves. They knew that the upcoming days would be exhausting for them as they learned to live together and settle down. Victoria was more worried about William meeting Adrian and she knew there was no way in hell he would be doing it alone.