They are untouched by time, and ravaged only by silver, the sun, and decapitation. They travel where they will and take to themselves humans to be their eternal companions.
One such creature, a vampire with the appearance of a young man, finds himself in a small, dusty town in Ohio in 1837. There the Blood Moon, an ancient force spoken only in legends, forces him to take an unwilling young woman as his eternal companion. They are bound by their blood relationship, and he must now protect her as her Blood Guardian against those who seek to do them harm.
The first part to the four-part Young Adult paranormal adventure Blood Guardians series. The first book is set in the western United States of the 1830s.
The town was a dust bowl of broken dreams and faded memories.
Or at least that’s what one stranger thought as he walked among the dark, dingy streets. Overhead was a clear night sky, and down below not even a cool breeze disturbed the dusty ground. He would have been glad for one. It would have made the air that much less stagnant.
The young man looked to be about twenty-five years old, but he walked with an air of one possessed in knowledge beyond his years. This small town out west had no theater to amuse him, so his footsteps were taking him to the nearest saloon. There maybe he could pass the time in some base amusement or be entertained by some other man’s foolish antics.
And then there was the watching.
He always had a purpose in watching everyone in every town he traveled through now. He’d ran out of his supply of food a few weeks back, and was forced to scrounge up a meal where he could.
That meant watching to see who was stupid enough to stumble out of one of these rough and tumble saloons only to pass out in some alley close by. Then he would get what he needed.
The town he was in right now wasn’t big, maybe a thousand people counting the farms just outside. It’d been settled within memory and built up around the stage that passed through town every few days. That meant there was only one business street to attract the visitors of the coach, and the town made the best of it by stretching out for a good mile along the vehicle route. Houses spread out from the important road, and farmhouses lay beyond, closer to the river. There was also a nice school there taught by one of the local girls. He’d heard some whisperings about it earlier at the hotel he was staying, a gathering place for the old men when the general store shut down, but he didn’t think much of those talks. Everyone around him had such short stories that he never bothered to learn them anymore.
The town had about four saloons, and the young man chose the first one he came upon. It turned out to be one of the most popular for locals and travelers alike, and he was fortunate to find a seat in the far back. There he was partially hidden by the shadow of the overhang of the balcony upstairs. That hall led to the rooms where prostitutes worked their wares and men literally paid for their sins. His eyes swept across the crowd as they gambled and drank away their earnings for the day, and sometimes for the month. The young man had no interest in those affairs, though. He was out for his prey.
However, one boisterous table caught his attention. The men, four of them, were surrounded by some of the more well-endowed women of the brothel upstairs. Those men were well-dressed, even handsomely clothed, in the case of one prominent individual, and they appeared to be gambling quite large sums, if the gasps from their lady friends were any indication.
“Don’t bet that much, Hank,” one of the women cooed. She was wrapped around a swarthy gentleman who looked rather perturbed at her presence.
“Don’t tell me what to do, woman,” he angrily shot back. He slammed a fifty dollar gold eagle on top of the pile already laying in the center of the table, and then he scowled at his opponent across the table. It was the best-dressed gentleman. “Now what you got in your hand, Simeon,” he demanded to know.
His opponent, apparently Simeon, smirked and laid out his hand. It was a straight flush. The portly gentleman was very displeased and threw his cards down on the table.
“You bastard,” the unknown man swore. “You were just stringing me along.”
“Perhaps,” Simeon smoothly agreed. He had a voice that could charm a saint, but the young man sitting in the shadows didn’t trust that. He’d met too many vipers hidden beneath those slick silk tones. “But no need to throw your cards. We’re all friends here,” he scolded as he swept his winnings toward him.
“Friends don’t fool friends…” the portly man mumbled.
“Well, just think of it as an early wedding present to me,” Simeon pointed out. The young man noticed a few of the saloon’s patrons stiffened. He figured they were locals who were acquainted with this affair. “My bride-to-be will appreciate it.”
“You don’t have a bride until she says yes,” one of their other companions at the table commented.
“She’ll come to her senses soon,” Simeon argued. There was a strain in his voice that hadn’t been there before. Apparently matrimony wasn’t suiting the woman he sought as a bride. “Besides, what other choice does she have?” he asked with a laugh.
Suddenly one of the listeners along the bar loudly pushed back his stool. His face was red and his hands were clenched into tight fists at his sides. He stalked up to the table of the wealthy men and glared at Simeon.
“Violet’s too good for you,” the man sputtered out. “Even if you were twice the man you are, she’d still be too good for you.”
“So I’m not a perfect man, Jeb,” Simeon agreed. He still had a smirk on his face. “But I can still support her better than this town can, unless you want to give her the life I can offer.”
“She deserves to go to college,” Jeb insisted. “But you ain’t caring enough about what she wants to do to send her there.”
“I don’t see how sending a woman to college will help anyone,” Simeon argued. “Besides, marriage fits her better,” he added. He leaned forward across the table and the grin on his face was one filled with lechery. “She’ll make a pretty little wife.”
Jeb’s face went from red to pale, and he lunged at the man. Simeon, though, was at the ready and pulled out a brand new pepper-box pistol. The room grew deathly quiet as he aimed six small barrels straight into the man’s face. They would fire off a bullet with each pull of the trigger without him needing to reload.
“I wouldn’t be making that kind of trouble for me, neighbor Jeb,” Simeon calmly scolded. “Especially since I’ve as much a claim to her as any other man in this town.”
“It ain’t right,” Jeb continued to protest. “She’s too good for staying in a town like this.”
“She’s not too good for me,” Simeon snapped back. He was getting angry now and he cocked his gun. “Now you just get out of here before I decide to plead self-defense in your trying to attack me.”
Jeb glared at the man, but there wasn’t anything else he could to but shuffle out the saloon doors.
“All right, folks, the show’s over,” Simeon announced to the room. He put away his gun and smiled at everyone “You just get back to making your ruckus.”
Everyone obeyed his orders, for he was one of the richest men in the county. No one but a few brave souls dared stand up against him for even a moment, and most then just ended up like Jeb. Threatened and beaten, and not willing to risk another confrontation for a long while.
The man in the corner, however, didn’t worry about such matters. This story of human evil intrigued him, mostly because it reinforced his view of mankind as a blight upon itself. He must have been staring a little too intently, though, or the shadows weren’t as deep as he had guessed, because Simeon turned his eyes on the stranger.
“Something I can do for you, boy?” the man rudely questioned.
“I doubt someone like you could ever help me,” the stranger deftly shot back, apparently unperturbed by the insulting tone.
“A quick wit, that’s rare for you young folks,” Simeon smiled. He liked a challenge, and after that uneventful showdown with Jeb he was wanting to show off some of his moves with the gun. “Maybe I can teach you a lesson about respect for your elders.”
“Again I have doubt that you would know enough about respect to learn a toddler,” the young man argued.
“I’ve got enough learning to teach you something.” Simeon noisily slid back his chair and stood up. That got everyone attention again. He still held his gun in his hand, though the barrel was pointed at the floor. “You want the easy lesson or the hard lesson?”
“Mr. Durn, could you please take this outside?” the saloon owner pleaded. He didn’t want enough trouble to cause him some property damage.
“Have a little more faith in my aim,” Simeon countered. He cocked the hammer again. “So if this boy doesn’t know what’s good for him and apologize to his elder, he’ll just get a nick of a bullet across his skin.” He cocked his head to the side and his grin was maniacal. “Maybe across that nice face of yours.”
The stranger smiled and slowly stood up. He held up his hands to show he was defenseless, but most of the crowd could see he had his own pistol at his waist. Apparently he had no intention of using the weapon to defend himself.
“You wouldn’t shoot a man unwilling to defend himself, would you?” he challenged.
“If he insults me without apology, I’m liable to give him a lesson he won’t soon forget,” Simeon explained. He lifted his arm and pointed the pepper-box pistol at the young man. “Care to apologize now?”
“I’m afraid I don’t care to,” the stranger refused.
“Then hold still, boy, because this is gonna hurt a lot more if you move,” Simeon advised.
Some of the ladies covered their eyes when the shot rang out, but the customers had seen enough of such things not to be bothered. However, even these world-weary gentlemen sat in shock and awe after the noise had settled. As far as anyone could see the young man had stood perfectly still, and yet there was no sign of his having been hit. Everyone in that saloon knew how well Durn handled a gun, especially at so short a range. For him to have missed was a statistical impossibility. Those closest to the young man could see the bullets lodged into the wall. They were almost directly behind where the young man stood. There was no way they could have been perfectly behind him without shooting through the boy.
“I guess your aim isn’t really as perfect as you’d boasted,” the stranger teased.
“What the hell…” Simeon muttered as he partially lowered the gun in amazement. “You fooling me?” he questioned.
“I’m not hit, if that’s what you want to know,” the young man informed him.
“Then I’m going to have to try again,” his enemy suggested. He raised his gun again, and this time two bullets shot out of the chamber. The young man impassively stood there as though the other man had never taken shot. Simeon’s mouth fell open. “What in the world…” he was heard to mutter.
Everyone else for their part sidled away from both the stranger and Simeon. The local still had three bullets left, and they didn’t want to be near when his temper got the better of him. It certainly was doing that, from the way his body was shaking in fury.
“It this some sort of a trick, boy?” Simeon shouted. His shooting arm was still raised and the barrel still aimed at the young man. “Nobody can dodge bullets.”
“Perhaps you have a bad aim,” the stranger recklessly suggested.
“We’ll just test that out again, shall we?” Simeon challenged. Everyone watched as he shot off another bullet, and it stuck into the wall with the others. His teeth clenched together. He wasn’t used to being made the fool, and here was this young jackanape ridiculing him by doing nothing more than standing there. “All right, boy,” he spat out. “You’ve carved your own headstone.”
Simeon aimed at the young man’s head. Several of the women screamed and the men shouted for him to stop. The angered man didn’t heed any of them as he shot off the last two bullets.
Then the riotous saloon grew eerily silent. The stranger stood there still smiling without a scratch on him. Simeon’s gun was empty, and all the bullets were stuck fast in the wall behind the young man. Somehow the crack-shot man had missed on every account.
The stranger picked up his hat and nodded at his flustered and shocked opponent. Without another word the young man walked through the tables of shocked cowboys and out of the saloon. As soon as the entrance flaps stopped fluttering behind him the murmurs arose among the group. They spoke of the devilry or some cheap magic trick the boy had pulled to make their resident bully look foolish. Some glanced over to where Simeon still stood dumbfounded.
Then Simeon’s confused face twisted into one of fury when he heard the talks of the saloon’s customers. In a rage the rich man angrily tossed down his gun and marched through the tables to the corner. He looked around for the source of the boy’s trickery, for mirrors and smoke, but he noticed nothing unusual. His eyes glanced over to the wall, and the bullets glistened against the overhead gas lamps. He practically jumped at them and dug one out. There was nothing imperfect about its design save for the smashed tip.
“He’s gone mad,” someone whispered behind him.
Simeon swirled around and glared at the crowd. Without his gun or his pride, however, he was a less intimidating character. Some of the local patrons even glared back. The man felt as though his grip on the town was slipping before his eye, all because of some strange boy who had pulled a fast one on him. He’d get his hands on that jackanape, but not tonight. Tonight he’d be licking his wounds and planning his next attack on the boy. With thoughts of revenge filling his mind, he pushed passed the tables, picked up his gun and left the saloon with his earnings for the night. He wasn’t so angry that his stinginess was forgotten.
For his part the stranger swiftly led himself away from the saloon. He wanted no more trouble than what he’d already caused back there. There was already a dangerous enough task he had to perform this night, and as he strode along the boardwalk he spotted his target. A young prostitute was standing outside another of the town’s saloons, greeting the customers. From the way she swayed from side to side, she’d apparently been partaking too much of the house liquor. The young man stepped up to her and smiled. She gave him a lopsided grin in return.
“I was wondering if you could help me for a moment,” he pleaded. “I’m looking for a friend of mine, but I can’t seem to find where he lives.”
“You that lost in a one-horse town like this?” she hiccuped.
“Yes, there’s just enough buildings for me to become lost.” She couldn’t tell through her alcohol-induced stupor that he wasn’t telling the truth. “But I think it’s supposed to be down this way,” he intimated as he gestured to his left. Not far off was the end of the boardwalk and an alley where the light from the fire lamps along the street didn’t shine. “If you would just show me the roads for a moment, I can find my way.”
“Well, let’s just step over there then,” she invited with a toothy smile.
The stranger gently led her away from the door and down the steps of the boardwalk. She stared straight ahead, but his eyes were carefully watching her. They got as far as the entrance to the dark alley when the girl started getting scared. The alcohol in her blood wasn’t strong enough to induce her into going any farther from the door, and most importantly the light.
“I don’t think I should go any farther,” she slurred. There was a hint of fear in her voice. “The boss’ll get angry at me.”
“That’s fine, this is far enough,” the stranger agreed.
The prostitute glanced at his face and she jerked back when she noticed his strange eyes looking at her so intently. She tried to back up but his arm that had guided her this far wouldn’t let her go. Not until he got what he’d come for. She felt herself growing drowsy, far more drowsy than the drink had made her. Her eyes grew heavy as he guided her back into the dark alley. There was an inaudible gasp from the shadowed path, and then quiet. A short time later only the stranger emerged from the alley. He paused only for a moment to look back.
The young woman lay against the back of the wooden building. Her eyes were closed and her skin was deathly pale, but she was breathing. Two small punctures on her neck were the only signs he ever left. The young man turned away, and he happened to catch something out of the corner of his eye. He lifted his gaze upward to the moon, but there was nothing unusual about the shining orb.
A few minutes later found the stranger walking into the small lobby of his hotel. Though the night was young, he figured he would perform the ruse of retiring to his room and then escape out the window to where his true resting place temporarily lay. The proprietor was standing at the desk, which worked well for the young man’s plans. He’d hoped for a witness to his return. However, it appeared the man was waiting for someone to come in, and the stranger was curious to know for what purpose the man leaned over the desk at such an hour watching the door. The stage coaches didn’t run at this hour, though, so the young man guessed he must have been waiting for a friend.
“Hey, feller,” the owner called out just as the stranger passed him.
“Yes?” He wondered if perhaps there wasn’t a letter for him.
“Mind if I talk to you about something?” the proprietor requested. The young man was surprised, and that surprise intrigued him.
“All right,” he readily agreed.
“We’ll talk privately in my office,” he suggested, and he nodded to the back room.