Blood & Curses

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Chapter 6: Antiquing

Victoria woke up around three in the afternoon. She had yet to get those damn black out curtains so the sunlight poured in as the sun finally hit her side of the house. At first, she felt a slight tingling sensation and then she became itchy. When she scratched, she felt small bumps forming across her skin as she had been unknowingly baking in the sun as it shone across her bed as she slept.

She leapt up from the bed and headed into the bathroom to escape the harshness of the sun’s rays. She must’ve been sunbathing in the light for at least half an hour before the bumps had formed. Glancing into the mirror, she saw her reflection as the bumps began to fade from her skin. As a vampire, she had the ability to heal herself rather quickly.

“Too much sun, darling?” a voice said from behind her.

“My God,” Victoria said startled. “Don’t you fucking knock?”

“It’s my room,” Mary stated as she leaned against the bathroom door.

“Look,” Victoria said exasperated. “I actually need the rest. You don’t. There are plenty of other rooms in this house. Can’t you just let me have this one and call it a day?”

“I suppose I could,” she began, “but what would be the fun in that?”

“Come on,” Victoria said annoyed. “If you’ve been there this whole time, why didn’t you wake me up before the sun started cooking my face?”

“I’m not your keeper. How is it that you have a reflection?” she asked.

“Not all the lore you hear is true,” Victoria said.

“Except for the part about sunlight, I see,” she snickered.

“What is your problem?” Victoria was growing frustrated with her.

“I’m just teasing you,” Mary explained. “You don’t have to get so bent out of shape. But seriously, I don’t need this room. There are a lot of memories attached to it that are just…depressing.”

“Like what?” Victoria asked. She began brushing her teeth as Mary watched.

“Well, there was this boy once…”

Victoria spit the paste into the sink. “And?”

“He was one of our stable boys. Very tall, lean, and handsome. He was the help so I was worried what everyone would think. My parents weren’t as hard on me as my brothers were. I guess they wanted something better for me,” she said dreamily.

“Who cares what they think? What happened to him?” Victoria asked as she wiped her face to apply a minute amount of makeup.

“It was a cold winter and he grew ill. He died in my arms,” Mary stated.

“That’s terrible,” Victoria said.

“It was in that bed.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Victoria turned to look at Mary. “Is that story even true?”

“It’s true. He did die right there,” Mary said sullenly.

“Well, I guess it’s not like I’ve never slept in a dead person’s bed before.” Victoria breezed past Mary and headed over to the chest of drawers to grab some clothes for the day. “I got up way too late today. I should’ve been up sooner so I can get this business up online.”

“The antique business?” Mary asked as she plopped down on the foot of the bed.

“How did you know?” Victoria asked.

“I’m a ghost. I hear and see everything in this house. Your life is much more amusing than mine is,” she answered.

“Did that guy have a name?” Victoria inquired as she threw a black tank top over her head and wriggled into some jeans.

“Not one that I’d care to tell you,” Mary answered. “But he was champion rider. He certainly knew how to ride a horse.”

Victoria glanced over her shoulder and gave Mary a knowing look. “Just the horse?”

Mary blushed a vibrant pink. Her skin was snowy white and she had long platinum blonde hair. It was the kind of hair that everyone in Hollywood would kill to have. Petite in stature, her frail appearance would have made her an easy target for the hunt back in the day. Victoria shook the thought from her mind as she fluffed her hair in front of the mirror on the vanity table.

“You’re hungry, aren’t you?” Mary commented.

“How do you know?” Victoria asked as she turned to face her.

“I’ve been around vampires long enough to know that when they’re hungry they appear more pale and sallow. Your eyes also give you away. It’s a deep hunger that resembles a carnal desire.” Mary lifted herself from the bed and sauntered toward Victoria slowly. “You can’t feast off of us.”

Victoria swallowed hard. “How do you know all of that?”

“These walls talk quite enough,” Mary answered as she waved off Victoria and headed toward the bedroom door. “I know that your brother has slimmed down your pickings by banishing you from Adrian’s feeding grounds. Word of advice? Don’t let Adrian bully you and your family around, otherwise you may end up like us.”

With that, Mary left Victoria’s presence to contemplate her words. It was true. As ravenous as Victoria was, she had to wait till nightfall to feed from the streets. She couldn’t wait till Eleanor or Matthew opened their new business fronts so she could take her feedings to a much nicer and upscale location.

“Knock, knock,” Henry said through a smile from her doorway.

“Who’s there?” Victoria played along.

“Boo.”

Victoria rolled her eyes. “Has no one told you that joke went stale about half a century ago?”

“Really? I was quite unaware of that. Thank you for correcting me lest I use it and embarrass myself in front of a stunning woman,” Henry replied, sarcasm dripping from his words.

“Is there something I can do for you, Mr. Ashford?” Her mouth curled at the corners slightly. He amused her.

“I was just taking a stroll as I normally do,” he said as he approached her closely. She backed up slightly, bumping against her vanity table. “And you, Ms. Elderidge?”

Victoria could smell his musky scent as he inched closer. His white collared shirt separated at the top to reveal the beginning of a chiseled chest. She imagined herself running her hands over his chest and tracing the peaks and valleys with her fingers.

“You seem prepared for something,” Victoria commented as she noticed his black riding pants and boots.

“Nice of you to notice. I thought I’d take a couple of horses from the stables out today,” he explained.

“Horses?” Victoria scoffed. “These grounds don’t house horses, at least, not anymore.”

“And that’s where you’re wrong,” Henry said with a smile. “We weren’t the only souls that seemed to have been trapped here. Some of our horses stayed behind as well.”

“And what else decided to stay behind after your dabbling in voodoo?” Victoria inquired skeptically.

“Just us and the horses,” Henry confirmed. “Would you like to join me for a ride?”

Victoria glanced at the window where a stream of sunlight flooded the room. “It’s a little bright outside at the moment.”

“Ah.” Henry stepped closer and brushed a lock of hair from her cheek and gently pushed it behind her ear as he stroked her cheek with his thumb. “We wouldn’t want to blemish that porcelain skin of yours. I was thinking more along the lines of under the cover of darkness.”

“So you’re attracted to the darkness?” Victoria asked playfully.

Henry gave her a sideways smile. “Very.”

She felt little jolts of electricity dance upon her skin creating waves of tingles that seemed to ebb and flow. Her breath became shallow as his scent intoxicated her, the closeness sending heat throughout her body. The feeling was overwhelming, something she hadn’t experienced in what seemed like an eternity.

“Where should I meet you?” she managed to say as her breath caught in her throat.

Henry’s sly smile told her everything she needed to know. She knew that he had a power over her and so did he. The feeling intensified as he leaned closer and placed his mouth near her ear.

“Sundown,” he whispered softly. “By the stables in the orchard.”

She sucked in a sharp breath as he slid his hand down her arm to rest at her hand. The warmth of his skin against hers seemed to radiate throughout her being. It had been such a long time since she had felt the warmth of another. His fire to her ice. Or maybe she was just imagining the heat between them.

Henry pulled his face back from her to stare into her eyes as he clutched her hand. He backed away, breaking the connection. Victoria blinked a few times trying to dispel the emotions that racked her body. Shaking, she inhaled deeply to center herself and regain control.

“I’ll see you shortly,” Henry said as he disappeared in front of her eyes. Mist swirled over the spot where he vanished for a brief moment before dissipating completely.

Speechless, Victoria decided to grab her laptop and head downstairs to the dining room to continue her research. She took a chair from the long dining room table and opened her laptop. She sat facing the large window that overlooked the front courtyard. Eleanor walked into the room from the kitchen with a glass of Merlot in her hand and sat down at the head of the table near Victoria. Sipping her wine, she licked her lips and stared at her sister.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Eleanor said dryly.

Victoria glared at her sister. “You must think you’re hilarious.”

“A natural comic,” Eleanor corrected.

“What do you know about the Ashfords?” Victoria asked suddenly.

Eleanor took a long sip of her wine. “I know just as much as anyone here and that’s not much. Why? Have you learned something new?”

Victoria typed away on her computer as Eleanor spoke. “No, nothing. Everything Ebele said to us last night has checked out, at least the facts that I was able to check. Do you think there could be more that has remained unspoken?”

“We’ve been living with them for the past couple of days. I’m sure there are things that we don’t know. It would be foolish to believe otherwise,” Eleanor explained. “You like him, don’t you?”

“What? Who?”

“Victoria, don’t act like you don’t know. I find that offensive that you believe me so naïve,” Eleanor said with a smile.

Victoria pursed her lips as she ceased her typing. “I find him attractive, yes.”

“Well, that’s a start.” Eleanor had a wide smile on her face as she took another sip of her wine. “Are we going hunting together tonight?”

“Later, yes. I’ve got an appointment.”

“Oh,” Eleanor said with a brow raised. “With whom?”

“Henry. We’re going horseback riding,” Victoria answered dully. She didn’t want to elaborate further in case her expectations weren’t met.

“Horses? That real estate agent didn’t say anything about horses on this property.”

“That’s because there aren’t,” Victoria answered. “They’re the Ashford horses.”

“Ghost horses? You’re going horseback riding in the moonlight on a phantom horse? Well, that sounds like a fun ride.” Eleanor gave her a wink.

“It certainly is the most unique date I’ve ever been on,” Victoria laughed. “Could you imagine Daniel ever courting me in such a way?”

“He was never a good match for you. You’re too wild and father always knew that. His efforts to tame you were in vain.” Eleanor finished her glass of wine.

“Thank God that didn’t work out for any of us.” Victoria paused for a moment. “When will you and Matthew have your businesses up and running? I’d like to feed in a safe haven rather than from the streets. They’ve gotten a little more dangerous since William decided to piss off a vampire king pin.”

“I don’t know but for now, I agree with William,” Eleanor spoke.

“You always agree with William.” Victoria rolled her eyes.

“That’s because he’s usually right as much as you may hate it. He was right about sticking to the streets, now wasn’t he?” Eleanor eyed Victoria.

“So, okay. He was right but you were the one who suggested it when we were out. Now, when will you have your stuff up and running?” Victoria pushed.

“Soon. Hopefully, in the next week. Matthew and I are looking at store fronts on Canal Street. I figured our businesses were closely related so we can promote each other.”

“Smart,” Victoria commented. “I’m almost finished setting up my online store. I have a couple of really good pieces being shipped over from Europe that will be up for grabs soon. I think they’ll sell well. They’re very ripe with history and intrigue.”

“As long as they’re not haunted objects, I’m good. We have enough ghosts as it is,” Eleanor teased.

Eleanor stood up from her chair and walked towards the archway leading towards the kitchen. She paused and looked over her shoulder at Victoria.

“Would you like some wine, Vic?” Eleanor asked.

“No, thanks. I have some work to finish that I’m very behind on before I meet with Henry.” Victoria continued to type as she heard Eleanor’s footsteps disappear in the kitchen.

She continued to work on piecing together her business website for her antique shop. She had decided to call it Crown Vic’s Antiques. Her search for historical knickknacks with undeniable evidence fascinated her. She absolutely loved discovering hand mirrors that once held the reflection of duchesses, jewelry that once adorned crowns, and weapons used in long lost battles. Her imagination ran rampant as she studied all the objects before her and added them to her inventory for resell.

The auction sites and estate sells were chock full of mysterious items with intriguing histories. One of her many talents was making an item sound enticing to buyers, so devising their descriptions was the fun part for her. However, she prided herself on being genuine about her items and their origins. That’s what would set her apart as a top notch antique dealer versus a garage sale enthusiast.

She decided to look at items sold locally to see if anything popped out at her. While browsing, she stumbled upon a store called Kalfou. It appeared to be a slightly unknown store that housed sacred artifacts that belonged to African cultures.

“What are you looking at?”

Thomas peered over her shoulder as she slammed her laptop. He backed away and leaned against the table.

“Just stuff for my business. Everyone seems to be so interested in what I’m doing at the moment. Isn’t there something better you could be doing?” she asked exasperated.

“Not really. You seemed to be up to something much more interesting than I was. I figured I’d just come bother you for a little while,” he said with a smile.

“Sure. You want to talk about something? How about your sister hates me?” Victoria said.

He frowned. “Well, that’s not too hard for me to believe.”

“And why’s that?” Victoria asked.

“Probably because, in a way, you remind her of herself,” he said. “She’s stubborn and hot headed too.”

“Gee, thanks,” Victoria said as she stood up from the table to go back to her room.

“She’ll come around,” he answered.

Victoria walked away as she muttered to herself, “I won’t hold my breath.”

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