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© 2016 by the SIDE HUSTLE

The Vampire Duke: A Vampire Blood Short

May 18, 2017

 

________________________________________

Brennalyn smiled as she walked from one child to the next. At the end of the day, she’d spread

old scrap cloth on the schoolroom floor to catch paint drippings. They’d each claimed a spot and

now worked in contented silence. The first snow of the season hadn’t fallen yet and the northerly

wind was mild, so it was the perfect afternoon to prop the door open for ventilation and let the

children enjoy some creative expression.

They needed a break. And so did she. She'd spent too many hours on her special project in the basement at home recently, draining her both physically and emotionally.

Brenna stopped and leaned over with her back to the door, admiring a simple painting of a pretty

girl walking in a field of flowers. “That’s quite lovely, Helena,” she told her eldest adopted

daughter, now sixteen.

“Quite lovely,” agreed the deep, sonorous voice of a man standing behind her.

Brennalyn started and spun to scold the intruder in her schoolhouse only to find herself face to

face with the most alarmingly handsome man she’d ever seen. No, not a man. Vampire.

In nobleman’s attire, his chestnut-brown hair brushed his shoulders, his perfectly formed lips and

the sharp cut of his cheekbones, jaw, and nose, all denoted the trappings of a noble vampire lord.

His eyes—deep sapphire—were the eyes of a man who saw too much and tempted helpless

females too often. Good thing she wasn’t one of those. Even if she could hardly form words

while staring up at his towering figure.

“P-pardon me? You are?”

“Forgive me.” He smiled with the devil in his eyes then politely bowed. “I am Friedrich Volya,

Duke of Winter Hill.”

Stars above! She dipped a quick curtsy and wiped her paint-stained hands on her dirty apron.

“Your Grace. What an unexpected visit.”

She’d been the schoolteacher of Terrington for three years and had only glimpsed the duke from

afar. He’d never shown up at the schoolhouse till now.

“I apologize for my neglect, Miss Snow.” He knew her name. Of course he did. He was the duke,

for heaven’s sake. “But I thought it time I finally meet you and see how the local children were

doing in their studies.”

Tucking a wayward lock that had fallen from her bun back behind her ear, his all-seeing gaze

following her movement with keen scrutiny, she licked dry lips and gestured toward the children.

“Well, you’ve caught us enjoying our time for the arts, Your Grace. Soon enough, we won’t be

able to keep the door open for painting when winter settles in. Please, come and see their work.”

Two red-and- black clad Legionnaires stood on the porch, facing away from the schoolhouse.

This only raised her awareness of his importance and of her disheveled state at the end of a long

day.

He paced slowly. “I approve of young minds enjoying the finer pursuits of art and drawing.”

He appeared genuinely engaged in what the children were doing. Puzzled, Brenna watched him,

unable to keep from admiring the way his dark suit perfectly fit his tall and broad frame.

Shouldn’t a duke be riding his horses, hunting with hounds, or pursuing some fine noble lady?

Brenna had heard some ladies whispering about him at the haberdashery last month. One of them

had been selected as his bleeder the week before. Brenna couldn’t help but lean close, catching

phrases like toes curled, wicked tongue, and died of ecstasy. The episode had made her scoff at

the types of women who offered themselves as bleeders, and apparently as open lovers, to the

Duke of Winter Hill. Now that she’d finally seen him up close, she understood the allure. And

yet, his sincere interest in the children’s artwork made him even more beguiling.

He crouched down next to Denny, the most recent orphan she’d taken into her home. Denny

hadn’t spoken a word since he was found on the back of a farmer’s cart who’d stopped for

delivery here in Terrington.

The duke pointed to Denny’s drawing in charcoal. “You know, if you darken this tree in the

foreground, it will add dimension to the rest of the painting.”

Denny turned an inquisitive look up to the duke before shading darker as he suggested. Then he

paused and smiled up at him.

Brenna followed him, keeping her distance but close enough should he have inquiries for her. He

moved on and stopped above Izzy whose golden curls were wild as ever after their afternoon

break in the schoolyard.

“You have fine talent for one so young,” he commented, staring down. “But I wonder what kind

of black flower you’re painting?”

Brennalyn’s heart plummeted into her stomach when she saw what Izzy had painted. Izzy’s

favorite subject since Brenna had been giving speeches at home. Speeches she might have kept

from her extremely brave and vocal youngest child.

“That’s the black lily.” Izzy’s sky-blue eyes beamed up at the duke. “She’s coming to save us.

She says there is always darkness before the light.”

Panic shot through Brenna. With a nervous laugh, she said, “Oh, Izzy. What an imagination you

have, darling.” Before Izzy could open her mouth and incriminate them more, Brenna clapped

twice. “That’s enough for today, children. Please put your artwork on the sideboard.”

She knelt and snatched up the condemning picture of the black lily and ushered Izzy to her feet.

Heaven help her if he decided to interrogate Izzy more on her unusual response. Best get them all

out the door as quickly as possible.

“We’re dismissed early?” asked Simon, the butcher’s son.

“Yes, you’ve all worked very hard. I believe you deserve a reward,” she said loud and strong.

“Don’t forget to put your brushes in the pail and your palettes in the washbasin.”

Children scuttled at once, putting things away at the sideboard and at their desks in orderly

chaos. Brenna busied herself emptying their tin cups of dirty paint water in a washbasin and

stacking on the sideboard, all the while trying to ignore the intense scrutiny of the still and silent

Duke of Winter Hill.

 

******

 

Friedrich tried to steady his own racing pulse, his predatory senses coming alive the moment

he’d stepped into the schoolhouse and gotten a whiff of her rose-in- winter scent.

Why in all the heavens had he never paid a visit to the new schoolteacher of Terrington? Well,

not so new anymore. After the elderly Ms. Crumb had resigned and moved to the south to live

with her niece a few years ago, he had his manager hire a replacement as was the normal routine.

He’d never thought this sable-haired, red-lipped beauty lived within his midst. Though she tried

to diminish her lush curves beneath a drab gray frock, it was no use. His fangs elongated while

he stood there and watched her bustle around the room, ushering the children on their way.

Her heartrate tripled the moment he spoke to the little girl about her painting. There was

something more there. Right now, he couldn’t get his mind off her winter-white skin that looked

as silky as the sheets on his bed. He had to fist his hands at his sides to keep from reaching out to

test his theory. And from picturing her twined in those sheets in his bed.

The eldest girl asked Miss Snow something, which he didn’t hear because he was too busy

staring at the svelte line of her slender neck and her pulse thrumming fast at the base of her

throat.

“Yes, Helena, thank you. I’ll clean up on my own.” As Helena exited with a hand on the little

blonde’s shoulder, Brenna called out, “You may leave the door open.” Miss Snow’s gaze darted

to him then away.

Smart woman. She sensed danger, as most humans did in his presence, keeping an escape route

available should she need it. Not that it mattered, he could overpower her if he wanted with little

effort. But that was never his way. Or his intent. His uncle, King Dominik, enjoyed violent

pleasures, but Friedrich was the black sheep of the family—never having developed a taste for

instilling fear in lesser mortals. In this way, he and Prince Marius were quite similar.

He’d be heading to Marius’s Blood Ball at the Glass Tower in a week for the prince to choose a

new blood concubine. Another practice Friedrich had never cared for. He preferred the company

of a variety of ladies and didn’t keep a blood harem like most royals. At the moment, he’d like

nothing better than the intimate company of the black-haired beauty folding up the last cloth

scrap and placing it in the cupboard.

He wandered to her desk and lifted a book of poetry.

“Do you read Kalphus, Your Grace?”

He noted an air of arrogance to her question as she finally stopped moving about the room and

stood before him, keeping a large space between, one hand lightly clasping her other like a

demure lady.

He stared down at the unopen book in his hand, tapping his forefinger bearing his signet ring

emblazoned with a lion. Then he recited, “Careless creatures often fall too fast, thoughtless

words move them on perilous paths.”

She arched a delicate and challenging brow at him. His cock hardened at once. Thankfully, she

didn’t notice, glancing upward in thought. “The north wind blows and the wolf must howl, like

noble lords hunger…for the hunt and the prowl.”

He arched a brow as well, pulling from memory the poet’s more obscure, earlier works. “Ladies

are divine in mien and air; therefore, the cleverest in deceit. So best beware.”

Dark eyes widened then narrowed. Her rosebud lips pursed in defiance, and his cock got harder.

“A man is a pillar of strength and power, protector of home against the stranger at the door. But

idolize him not, ladies. For they are not gods; flesh and blood, nothing more.”

He couldn’t contain his smile, noting her widened gaze to his extended canines. Dark, rich brown

eyes he yearned to examine up close. “A woman who knows her Kalphus is an extraordinary

woman indeed.”

She scoffed, barely restraining from rolling those pretty eyes to the heavens. “I am an educated

woman, Your Grace.”

“And a beautiful one.”

Silence. Stillness. They were both locked and caught for he knew not how long, till he could

taste the steady thrumming of her birdlike pulse on his tongue.

“I’d better go.” He was sure she understood the urgency of him leaving. And still, she challenged

him with her saucy tongue.

“It was a pleasure finally meeting you, Your Grace.” She dipped a curtsy. “Perhaps it won’t take

you three years before the next time.”

In a blur of speed, he was inches away, holding her hand, grazing his lips against her knuckles.

Her intake of breath and the slight dilation of her pupils summoned his beast to the forefront. He

must leave before the monster within beckoned him to bend her over the desk and taste her

sweet, rebellious blood. He knew without a doubt she would taste good…so good.

“No. I will see you again,” he promised. “Much sooner.” He swept his lips once more, holding

her gaze as he did, letting his voice rumble low. “Till then, Miss Snow.”

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