Out On The Town With A Vampire
The snow cleared in the quarter hour it took the buggy to reach the town center. We arrived to bright sunlight that glinted off the snow, offering the faint promise of spring. Day found the town much altered: gone were the dark shadows and cold fog, the streets that had been so empty the previous night were now thronged with other buggies. Street vendors called out on each corner, their shouts frosting on the cold air. The sharp wind carried the smells of their wares and snatched at the steam rising from the factory chimneys. Small children ran about, pelting each other with snowballs.
One exploded into white powder on Jefferson’s back as he stood in the street, one hand outstretched to aid me from the buggy. His expression did not change as he turned. A gaggle of urchins pushed and shoved, none wanting to take the blame for the stray shot. He brushed the snow off his shoulder, then bent to the curb. Silent horror turned to whoops of laughter as he returned fire, a large grin on his face. I chuckled at this display of good humor and reconsidered my opinion of him — perhaps he was not as straitlaced as I’d imagined.
The children were sent off with a penny to buy themselves hot chocolate and then Jefferson offered me his hand once more. I accepted it and stepped onto the pavement, immediately becoming aware of the curious stares cast in my direction. Unused to such attention, or being out in broad daylight, I pulled my hood further over my head.
It then occurred to me that Jefferson was also out in sun. I arched my eyebrows at him. “I presume the myth that Vampires cannot go out in the day is merely that,” I said as he tucked my hand into the crook of his elbow.
He grinned at me. “Indeed it is. Also, did a mirror not cast my reflection, I doubt that I would have managed such a close shave without accident. While we are on the subject, I happen to quite like garlic, crucifixes, and I must admit to not having a single coffin in my house. Were you expecting some version of Dracula, I’m afraid I shall have to disappoint.”
“You don’t disappoint me,” I said without thinking. His smile widened and I flushed at how those words could be misconstrued. Hoping to distract him from that careless statement, I asked, “Should we not be making our purchases?”
Jefferson checked his pocket watch. “Yes, we don’t have time to dawdle.”
We entered a dressmaker’s store, kept by a dark-haired woman in her early forties and dressed in widow’s weeds. Her smile of greeting did not reach her brown eyes. She showed us to several dresses already made and displayed on tailors’ dummies. Fashion was something I had never paid much attention to — as long as I was decently dressed then that was enough! — so I was rather lost amongst the skirts and gowns. However, Jefferson moved along the line with purpose. I trailed after him as he dismissed garment after garment.
“This one,” he announced, motioning to a blouse and skirt combination. “Though I wish the skirt adapted into riding style.”
“Of course, Lord Park,” the dressmaker said. I wasn’t terribly surprised that she knew Jefferson; I had the impression that his fame was rather broad. “When do you wish it ready?”
“On the hour, if possible, Mrs. Winchurch. We have a train to catch.”
“Certainly, sir. Does anything else take your fancy?”
“Hmm.” He wandered along the display, a thoughtful expression on his face. I was curious to know if my opinion counted for anything, but then it was his money that was being spent. “This traveling outfit for one. What else have you ready that would be suitable for a journey?”
Mrs. Winchurch smiled and bustled into a back room, returning after a moment with her arms full of clothing. Jefferson went through it with a sharp eye that bordered on brusque, but the dressmaker didn’t bat an eyelid. I stood to one side and watched him choose my wardrobe. At no point did he ask for my opinion and I wondered why I’d come at all. Then Mrs. Winchurch took me into the back room, picked up a tape measure, and all was made clear.
As she measured me, the dressmaker made small conversation: commenting on the turn in the weather and how it was better than the fog, mentioning a picket at the cotton mill over workers’ conditions, and asking me where Mr. Park and I were going. I heard the unasked ‘why’ and spun a story about pilgrimage that she accepted without question. She finished taking her measurements, and I hastened to re-join Jefferson before my tongue accidentally betrayed us.
“I think that should be everything,” he said, motioning to a rather disconcerting pile of clothing. I swallowed and reminded myself that I in no way owed him for any of his purchases. “Miss Franklin and I are going to lunch and should be back on the hour, if you can have everything ready by then.”
I thought it was too much to ask, but Mrs. Winchurch nodded, not at all fazed by the work she had to do. “Of course, Lord Park. Should I send the invoice to your house as usual?”
“Yes, please, but address it to Mrs. Gallagher. She shall ensure payment will be made in my absence.”
“Indeed, sir. I hear the Abbey is quite something to see.”
Confusion crossed his face. “I beg your pardon?”
“I’m sorry, Jefferson,” I interrupted, schooling my features into a contrite expression. “I know you wished the pilgrimage to be kept quiet. You must forgive my foolish womanly tongue.”
He stared at me for a moment, then the corner of his mouth twitched. “I see.”
“If anyone should ask me,” said Mrs. Winchurch in a tone of superiority, “I shall merely say that you are away on business.”
“You are very kind, Mrs. Winchurch,” he said with a nod, then extended his arm to me. “Come, Miss Franklin. I believe you and I should discuss the virtue of silence.”
Fighting the urge to roll my eyes, I lowered my head and took his arm. If my grip was a little too tight, that was purely happenstance. Jefferson arched an eyebrow at me, laughter lines crinkling the corners of his eyes. Somehow we made it out of the shop without giving into our shared amusement.
Dying of a rare blood disease, Eleanor Franklin needs laudanum to ease the pain, often driven to steal in order to buy more. But when she steals a ruby she has no idea that the gem will tip her into the midst of a deadly species war.
Saved by Jefferson Park, she discovers a man with an even darker past than her own: he is one of the last true Vampires fighting to stop the eradication of his kind.
But the Sanguine aren’t the only problem as Eleanor finds herself falling in love with Jefferson. It is a relationship she cannot commit to, as she knows her time is limited, and she will not risk breaking his heart.
Misa Buckley is a sci fi geek who escapes the crazy of raising five children by creating imaginary characters who experience adventure, romance and really hot sex on their way to a happily-ever-after. You can keep up to date with Misa’s latest news by following her on Twitter or at her website.