London, 1897

            This side of the world was undergoing, as it was called, the Industrial Revolution. London town was shrouded in grey—the ashen gloominess of fog intermingled with the sooty blackness of smokestacks, continuously coughing out more curls of darkness against the dismal sky.

            The slums were crowded with dirty street urchins, begging for just a scrap of bread or a single copper; orphans in frayed clothes, darting between pedestrians and picking pockets; tired factory workers—men, women, and solemn children—shuffling home from work in a trance; and men so desperate for food that they would steal or kill to get it. The air made one cough and splutter with the smell of smoke, sweat, and dirt.

           As the streets continued on, they grew less and less shabby, the buildings less crowded together and covered in soot, and more embellished with unbroken street lamps and gardens between houses. There even came a street lined with smart-looking houses: neat, tidy, and fashionable, with windows like snobbish eyes that disdained the filthier riffraff of town—when they even acknowledged them. These streets were quieter, lined with trees, and had the occasional child playing with a rolling hoop, or lady strolling with a baby carriage. A team of horses with a buggy paraded these streets with the proud clip-clop of their hooves and rattling carriage wheels.

           Even the urchins—certainly not the upper class—could not have imagined the horrors lurking underneath the streets. Fantastical to imagine though they were, these shadows, these beings of the night, were very real, every bit as real as the crying impoverished and oblivious rich in the open air above.
Chapter 1

            In a cheerful middle-class district of shops, a previously empty space was being moved into—sandwiched between a drug store and a dressmaker’s, the slenderest sliver of a shop. A pale young man was changing out the sign in the window from For Sale to Blackwell Watchmaker, Inc.

            His next-door-neighbor, the grizzled old druggist, helped the young man move his furniture into the apartment above the shop—just a brass bedstead, one trunk of clothes, and a washstand—and his products for sale into the store: an assortment of clocks, from grandfather clocks to mantle clocks, cuckoo clocks to pocket watches, all whirring and chiming cheerfully.

            “Thank you very much, Mr. Carnegie,” said the young man as they set down the last heavy clock

            “Of course,” nodded the old man, “welcome to London.”

            “Much obliged, sir,” he said, shaking Mr. Carnegie’s hand before the druggist returned to his store.

            The pale young man looked around at the clocks ticking in unison with fond eyes—almost like one regarding his dearest friends—and smiled.



            That same autumn that Victor Blackwell first moved into his London shop, the Doyle family—one of the elite upper-class families—decided to hold a private ball.

            The grandest house on the street, the Doyle Mansion was located in the middle of the city, for everyone to admire. The house itself took up an entire block and seemed to push the street aside—even the cobblestones would move out of the way for this house.  Its swollen stone exterior seemed to say, Look at me! I’m extremely important—more than you, surely.

            However, no one who looked at the house with its velvet drapes, floor-to-ceiling windows, and crystal chandeliers visible even from the outside would have imagined the flurry of activity going on inside.

            “Margaret, would you put this someplace else?” cried a harried Mrs. Doyle to one of the maids, pointing to a potted plant in the ballroom.

            “Ma’am, that’s where you told me to put it,” the maid said timidly.

            “Well I don’t care—it looks horrible there!” said the mistress of the house, mopping her forehead with a handkerchief. “Really, I give you such a simple task, and yet you bungle it again…”

            Servants in black-and-white uniforms were rushing around the house preparing the feast, scouring every inch of the floor, polishing every brass or silver item in the house, dusting the enormous chandelier (electric, the very latest technology—the Doyles spared no expense), directing the live string orchestra where to set their music stands, and setting out refreshment tables with glasses of champagne. But it was Mrs. Doyle, dithering about the room and barking at the maids to move faster, who was the most agitated.

            “Would someone please bring me a brandy?” she called in the general direction of the butler. “Oh, my poor nerves just can’t take all this excitement…”


            Meanwhile, in the East wing of the house, Mr. Doyle’s study was comparatively quiet.

            “Where should I put it, Mr. Doyle?” asked the pale gentleman with a large mantle clock in his arms.

            “How about right there above the fireplace?” suggested Mr. Doyle. “Thank you, by the way—not every clockmaker would make home deliveries.”

            Mr. Doyle was a rotund man with a triangular moustache and a blotchy nose. He watched Mr. Blackwell set the clock carefully on the mantle and step back to admire the effect. Doyle smiled at the young man approvingly.

            “Here’s for the clock,” he said, handing him a small stack of pound-notes. Mr. Blackwell took them with a grateful smile.

            “Thank you, sir,” he said politely, “I do hope you like it. Tell me if you ever have problems with it, and I’ll fix it—no charge for repairs.”

            “Well now, you’ll be wanting a nice tip for delivering, I’m sure?” said Doyle, reaching into his pockets willingly.

            “Oh no sir,” he said quickly, “delivery is free, too. I should be thanking you, for being my first customer in London town.”

            Mr. Doyle blinked, surprised. The youth spoke earnestly; there could be no deception in his manner. There was a kind of courteous but energetic air about the gentleman that Doyle couldn’t help but like. This boy’s eager to please, but he won’t be walked all over, thought Doyle.

            “I’ll tell you what,” Doyle said on a whim, “how about instead of a tip, you’ll be invited to the ball tonight? That is, if you don’t have other plans.”

            Mr. Blackwell blinked. “Here?” he asked incredulously. “At this house, you mean?”

            Doyle laughed boisterously. “Well of course! Bring your wife if you’d like. We’ve got plenty of room for you.”

            “Oh—sir, I’m not married,” he said timidly.

            Doyle clapped him on the back. “Even better!” he chuckled. “Young ladies at these balls are always looking for bachelors. Don’t worry, you’ll find a dancing partner with ease.”

            “Well—thank you, sir,” said Mr. Blackwell, his pale, sunken cheeks flushing the tiniest bit.

Chapter 2

            That very night, as the mantle clock was about to strike eight o’clock, Miss Rose Doyle was pinning her burgundy hair up in front of a mirror. At the moment, her full lips were pursed in irritation.

            “For heaven’s sakes, I told you to leave it how I did it,” her mother sighed.

            Rose threw down her ivory comb and whirled to face her mother.

            “You picked out my dress, Mother,” she began, smoothing the gold skirt, “and you’ve picked out my fiancé. What more do you want?”

            Mrs. Doyle scowled—it made her already wrinkled face look all the more pinched.

            “How dare you speak to me like that?” she fumed, scandalized. “Why, if your father were here—well, we’ll talk about it later. The guests will be here any moment.”

            With one last malevolent glare at her daughter, Mrs. Doyle swept from the room.

            Rose faced the mirror again and frowned—but then she stopped, because it made her look like her mother. Glancing back at the doorframe to make sure her mother was out of sight, she pinned up her deep red tresses the way she wanted.


            At just five minutes past eight, as the guests had begun to arrive, Mr. Blackwell rang the Doyle’s bell nervously. He was ushered in graciously by the butler, who took his coat and top hat, and was brought into the warmth and relief of the crowded entry hall. Once in the midst of a crowd, the young man felt less apprehensive. He looked over the heads of arriving guests, of ladies with expensive furs, silk gowns, feathers trembling in their hair, and diamonds glistening on their necks; and of gentlemen in fine suits, smoking cigars and discussing their oil empires in low, gravelly voices.

            Then he saw her.

            Above the warm, pressing throng of guests, she slowly descended the marble staircase—the lady of the house, making a dramatic entrance. The crowd hushed somewhat at her approach, but many of the women began to whisper conspiratorially to each other. Mr. Blackwell caught a few words.

            “That’s Rose Doyle, yes—,”

            “Oh, would you look at that gown! Must have cost a fortune.”

            “Doesn’t she look stunning, though?”

            Mr. Blackwell wasn’t listening to the gossips. His eyes were trained on Rose—and he couldn’t look away. His hand went to his pocket watch, like it always did when he was nervous, and his knuckles clenched around the cold metal until they turned white.

            The young lady descending the stairs was beautiful: graceful, even swanlike in her walk and stature, in the arch of her neck; her lustrous scarlet hair was piled on her head, a few curls escaping the knot; her full lips twisted into the smallest hint of a coy smile.

            His mouth had fallen open infinitesimally.

            At that moment—whether Divine Providence had intervened, or it was sheer coincidence—Rose Doyle’s hazel eyes swept the room and met his. For an instant, her smile seemed shyer, less alluring and more genuine.

            But then, from across the entrance hall, a tall man in an expensive suit called, “Darling, there you are! I was wondering where you were.”

            Rose’s face fell. The man took her hand with a satisfied smile. “Let’s be off, dear Rose,” he said, grinning with her on his arm.

            Victor Blackwell felt like he was shriveling inside. The tall gentleman had streaks of grey in his hair, but despite his age he was handsome, debonair, and moved with the self-assurance of money—heaps and heaps of money. He kept his hand under Rose’s elbow almost possessively, but her face had become grey and bleak.

            Mr. Blackwell sighed heavily. It was not even worth dreaming.

            “There you are, Mr. Blackwell! I was hoping you’d come,” Mr. Doyle chuckled heartily. “That’s my daughter over there, you know. Pretty little thing, isn’t she?”

            He cleared his throat timidly. “Er, yes sir, she is lovely,” he said nervously.

            “Oho, don’t you be getting any ideas, though! She’s engaged to that man, Lord Herbert Stanley—you’ve heard of his family, I’m sure. Her mother’s quite pleased about it.”

            Victor could think of nothing to say.

            “Perhaps I should introduce you,” Doyle said thoughtfully.

            “Oh, no sir, you needn’t trouble yourself,” he said quickly. Better to quash this admiration now, before it became any stronger.

            “Well, get inside and mingle, why don’t you? Almost everyone is here now,” Doyle suggested.

            “Thank you, sir, I will.” He quickly ducked into the ballroom, intending to melt against the wall like a chameleon.

            But as he watched the dancers, his eyes kept coming back to Rose Doyle.

            Fool! Imbecile! He berated himself silently. You know full well not to get involved with a human. Don’t let your emotions overcome your morality!

            But surely it couldn’t hurt to say hello?

Chapter 3

            Lord Herbert Stanley had his arm clenched around Rose’s so tightly that her circulation was getting cut off. Not that he even noticed; he only glanced at her carelessly to look her up and down, like property he’d bargained shrewdly for—assessing her worth by her exquisite beauty, and assessing his own success by having won her.

            “Mr. Ghent, good to see you, old chap,” he said through his cigar, clapping another man on the shoulder. “How’s the coal mining business?”

            The businessman grinned unpleasantly, “Oh, it’s thriving. And what’s this you’ve got here?”

            Stanley thrust Rose further into the smoky circle proudly. “This is my fiancée, Miss Rose Doyle. Rose, I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Albert Ghent. He’s an old friend.”

            Rose tried to smile pleasantly and lent the man her hand to kiss, but she did not like the way Ghent leered at her.

            “Pleased to make you acquaintance, madam,” he said. She returned the statement faintly.

            “Evening, gentlemen,” came a rich voice. “I hope you’re enjoying the party.”

            Rose felt her unease lessen as her father joined the gentlemen. Doyle winked at her indulgently—he had quite a soft spot for his daughter.

            “It’s quite extravagant, Mr. Doyle,” said Ghent.

            “I’d like you to meet a new acquaintance of mine,” said Doyle, pulling a slight young gentleman into the circle. “This is Mr. Victor Blackwell. He’s new to London.”

           Inexplicably, Rose felt her disquiet and anxiety melt away as she studied the newcomer. The man was tall and skinny, and clearly shy—he twisted his hands together as he stammered how delighted he was to meet everyone. Rose wondered if perhaps he was ill: he was ghostly pale, with dark circles under his eyes, as though he hadn't slept in days. Nevertheless, something about his thin face, prominent cheekbones and deep brown eyes was strangely attractive, though she couldn’t put her finger on the right word.

            Finally, she came back to earth at the sound of her name.

            “Rose,” Doyle was saying, “This is Mr. Blackwell.”

            “How do you do,” she said faintly. The pale gentleman was studying her curiously too, with just as intense of scrutiny as she was.

            As Blackwell took her hand and kissed it, Rose felt the tiniest hint of a smile tug at her lips. He smiled at her so timidly, touched her so hesitantly.

            Charming, she realized—that was the word for him. He was endearing.

            “A pleasure to meet you, Miss Doyle,” he said quietly.

            “So, Blackwell,” said Lord Stanley loudly. Rose started; she had all but forgotten he was there. “What’s your business?”

            “Oh, er,” fidgeted Blackwell, “I own a clock shop.”

            Rose saw the light of amusement touch Stanley’s face as his eyes widened. “A clockmaker, eh?” he said. His voice was only subtly derisive. “How very charming.”

            Blackwell seemed to catch the insult, but could not openly acknowledge it. “I suppose it doesn’t bring in a profuse amount of revenue, but I get by alright,” he said.

            No one else knew what to say, so the conversation veered immediately towards the flourishing industry of meatpacking, and Mr. Blackwell fell silent. Rose felt like something was burning inside her: she had to get away from the smothering grip of Lord Stanley, as soon as possible.

            “Darling?” she asked delicately. “I see a few friends of mine—would you mind very much if I went…?”

            “Oh, of course not, dear, go ahead,” he shrugged.

            Free! She wriggled out of his arm and strode as far through the crowd from him as possible. She didn’t care where she went, so long as she was without Herbert Stanley.



            The dance floor was packed, hot, and noisy with waltzing couples. Gilded candlelight danced off the diamonds, gold, satin, lace, and gossamer, sending spots of light bouncing through the crowd. Yet Rose felt lost, and could not join in the merriment. She felt like a spotlight was trained on her: everyone counted on her to be Rose Doyle, soon to be Lady Stanley, the outgoing, elegant young lady who had it all. But it was exhausting to be her all the time, when that persona was just that—a character, an act.

            “Excuse me—Miss Doyle?”

            She turned. And heat suddenly rushed through her face and neck.

            It was the pale young man, the newcomer. His smile was pleasant, albeit shy.

            “Yes, Mr. Blackwell?” she managed in scarcely a whisper.

            His smile seemed to strengthen in confidence.

            “Would you honor me with a dance?” he offered, extending a tentative hand.

            She took the thin, white hand—and the world seemed to disappear around them. No more pressing crowds. No more chattering and giggling. No more swirling gowns, laughing girls, bubbling champagne or lively music. They were alone. And time had stopped.

            All sounds but the soft violin and their own heartbeats seemed to be coming from far away, as if through a tunnel.

            He took her waist, and off they waltzed.

Chapter 4

            Meanwhile, in the streets, dusk had settled over London like an oppressive cloud; the darkness felt heavy. Slowly, the factory workers began to trudge home. Streetlights began to illuminate—the unbroken ones, at least.

            As darkness fell, they felt it: the creatures of the night that lurked beneath. They began to stir. Darkness was their friend.

            The first to emerge was a male—in all appearances, a middle-aged man, unshaven and filthy, wrapped in a tattered overcoat. He lifted the manhole cover and crept out of his sanctuary in the sewer and into the street. A cold fog was rising.

            Now, he thought, where would this evening’s meal come from? He had plenty to choose from, of course. A tired old woman heading home from the textile mill; a sooty chimney sweep; a beggar trying to guilt coppers out of pedestrians; an orphan boy prowling the streets—what good were these creatures doing, really? The phantom of the night almost laughed. These were not even worth being called “people,” really. They led meaningless lives; they merely occupied space and cluttered up the world with their whining brood. Ha! It was as though their homes were baby factories, the way the poor mass-produced them!

            He wrapped his coat about him more firmly, scanning the streets. Bile rose up in his throat at the very thought of them, these dregs of society who didn’t deserve to breathe.

            A young woman stumbled out of an alley, clad in a threadbare shawl.

            He licked his lips.


            His eyes focused on her. It was just nature taking its course now—survival of the fittest. And she, this worthless pauper woman, was not fit to survive.

            His mouth began to water. It had been too long since he had last fed. He would feast all night tonight, he decided.

            He slid, stealthier than a shadow, right behind the haggard woman. She paused momentarily in her steps, seeming to hear the slightest sound. She trembled, too afraid in the dark to turn around and see what was behind her.


            With one crushing movement, he had his hand clasped over her mouth. To stop her from screaming or struggling, he broke her neck in an instant with a sickening crack!

            He dragged her now-limp body into the alley to feast.

            Before he plunged his fangs into her flesh and felt the blissfully hot gush of blood through his lips, he had only one thought.

            No one will ever notice she’s gone. Or care, for that matter.

Chapter 5

            Rose and Victor danced for the rest of the night.

            True, Rose had intended to go back to her fiancé after the first dance or so—and Victor had even suggested that she attempt to find Lord Stanley again—but she lacked the motivation. She found herself completely and utterly unwilling to detach herself from her new dance partner.


            They had waltzed in silence at first—almost like they were both out of breath. The pale gentleman just smiled at her, so very shyly; his hand around her waist was trembling slightly.

            But Rose eventually recovered herself and remembered the basic rules of etiquette. She forced her unreasonably racing heart to slow with a few deep breaths.

            “How do you like London so far?” she asked him as nonchalantly as she could manage.

            “It’s a wonderful city,” he said enthusiastically. “I grew up here, actually; I went abroad for my education and then came back here.” He looked around the room and sighed. “London’s changed so very much.”

            Rose laughed. “Changed how?”

            Victor shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know. So many technological advances—it’s staggering,” he said. “To think, just twenty years ago, no one had a phonograph or a telephone.”

            Rose chuckled, “I’ve never really given it that much thought. But I suppose you’re right. The world is changing rather a lot.”

            “So, Miss Doyle—” he began, but she cut him off.

            “Call me Rose,” she said firmly.

            It was worth it just to see that genuine smile spread across his face. Why did that give her a fleeting but fluttery feeling in her stomach, like moths beating against her chest?

            “So Rose,” he corrected, “tell me about yourself.”

            She shrugged. “There isn’t much to tell,” she said. “I grew up here, in this very house, went to finishing school, came back here, got engaged…”

            She trailed off miserably.

            Victor seemed to understand. “It wasn’t your choice?” he asked gently.

            Part of Rose knew that the question was completely inappropriate for a stranger to ask, especially of a lady in as high a status as herself, but she couldn’t feel properly miffed.

            “That’s correct,” she sighed.

Chapter 6

            A pale young woman peered in the window of an upper-class home—a French chateau-style mansion. The half-moon illuminated the scowl twisting her white face. A party was going on inside.

            Just look at that extravagance—sickening. This party alone must have cost more than the entire working class’s annual salary, put together. Finest silver place settings for all the guests—not to mention that fine wine and brandy! And was the new solid gold chandelier in any way necessary?

            And look at these people! Do those silly girls have anything better to do than giggle and flirt? Is there any thought in their empty, trivial minds apart from new dresses, jewelry, and handsome men? And the men are no better! Look at them, puffing away shrewdly on tobacco, their eyes gazing at the women in a businesslike fashion. Nothing was personal to them—everything was business. Even if they trampled the working class underfoot, stepped on everyone in their way (including friends) to get to the top, it was never anything personal—just business.

            Their lives were one big polo match, one continuous dinner party, one endless string of parties—Was there ever a moment of substance, of value, of actual thought?

            Those empty-headed fools! She hated them passionately; her stomach writhed at the very thought of their petty, mindless lives. So shallow, she thought. When they stand before their Judgment, will they have anything to say at all?

            The pale young woman clenched her jaw, infuriated. Half her face was obscured by a curtain of dark hair, but the visible half was murderous.

            She was thirsty. She would need all the sustenance she could get her hands on. Her throat ached so; her hands tore at the windowsill like claws, itching for the fire to be quenched. She was quicker and stronger than all of them combined—so fast that she could get the job done before any witnesses heard the screaming.

            It was going to be so easy—pry open the window with her fingernail, slink inside, bolt their exits…

            Massacre them all.

Chapter 8

            A pale young woman slunk through the deserted London streets. The familiar thirst plagued her, too—the parched throat and gnawing, nervous feeling, as if she were famished. No matter, she thought; she was scouring the seediest neighborhoods in the city for some sustenance.

            All manner of evil and immorality lurked in the alleys at this hour: thieves and scoundrels, prostitutes and their customers, smugglers, drunkards, and murderers. It was almost like she had a buffet to choose from.

            I’m not a monster, she thought savagely, they are. The number of criminals I stop from harming people can’t compare to the multitude of innocent lives I protect.

            As she strode along, her shimmering blonde hair streamed out behind her, and she was filled with a content—but determined—sense of purpose. This was her mission.

            But whom to pick tonight? She had to figure out where she was most needed. All she had to do was flatten against a wall and wait—her kind could always melt into the shadows when they wanted to.

            She didn’t have to wait long. Not twenty minutes later, a sound caught her attention—a muffled cry from a nearby alley. She crept around to peer inside.

            A ruffian, filthy and burly, had a frail-looking young lady pinned against a wall. One of his hands was clapped over her mouth as she alternately whimpered and tried to scream. His other hand was trying to lift up the girl’s skirt and petticoats.

            “Now, now, pretty, don’t fight me and there’ll be no problem,” he muttered, laughing.

            Rage burned in the pale woman, but it was coupled with a surge of pity for the human girl. She, too, had been a young lady once, just as innocent and defenseless.

            Oh, how things had changed.

            She darted into the alley and yanked the man off the poor girl. Even his brute human strength was no match for a vampire at work.

            “Not so strong now, are you?” she sneered.

            She slammed his head against the brick wall so fast he didn’t have time to scream. His skull made a horrible crunching sound as it cracked. His body went limp, and she dropped him.

            The human girl, meanwhile, had slid to the ground, her face white and her eyes wild. The vampire looked up from the body in the street, trying desperately to ignore the blood pooling around her feet.

           “Go,” she told the girl. “Run. You’re safe now. I don’t want to hurt you, but in a minute I might not be able to help it.”

            The girl was trembling so violently that her knees shook and she struggled to rise.

            “Go home!” repeated the vampire, more urgently. The blood was making her head swim with craving. In a moment, her judgment would be severely clouded.

            The human girl stumbled to her feet and staggered out of the alley.

            Relieved, the vampire turned to her prey.

            But for an instant, a thought flickered in her mind: that girl had looked so frightened, even with her enemy dead. She had looked upon her rescuer with terror, as though she were a monster. Was her killing really all that different from murder, then?

            She shook herself. This fiend deserved it. She was justified.

            She succumbed and allowed the bloodlust to consume her.



            Victor bent over the half-completed watch, scrutinizing each cog and spring through his eyeglass. Somewhere, a bell tinkled in the shop.

            “I’ll be right there,” he called, still piecing the fog watch’s insides together carefully.

            Stately footsteps, graceful and slow, came from the door around to the back room.

            “This is quite a fascinating shop,” mused a familiar voice.

            He dropped the delicate metal cogs—half of them clattering and bouncing to the floor, scattering into every corner of the room.

            “Miss Doyle,” he exclaimed in a strange mixture of anxiety and delight. He stood quickly, knocking the table askew as he did so. “What a p-pleasant surprise.”

            The young lady smiled. He couldn’t help but think how utterly beautiful she looked, with her silky red hair tucked neatly under her wide-brimmed black hat, and her soft hazel eyes regarding him with gentle confidence and composure. She must never have to worry about embarrassment, he thought enviously.

            “I hope you’re doing a fairly steady business here,” she said, glancing around at the pleasant, ticking clocks.

            “Y-yes I am,” he said. “I hope you’re doing well, miss?”

            She bit her lip almost shyly, stepping towards him. “I thought I’d told you to call me Rose,” she said softly, extending one hand.

            He took it slowly and kissed it.

            “And how are you this fine Tuesday morning, Rose?”

            She smiled. “Never better, I think.”

            After a moment, Victor shook himself, seeming to recover his wits. “I’m sorry, can I show you something?” he asked, gesturing to the clocks.

            “No, no,” she laughed. “This is a purely social visit. I hope you don’t mind?”

            “I could never mind your company, Rose,” he said quickly.


Chapter Something

            Yet another vampire was searching for sustenance by the light of the crescent moon. However, he had fled London on horseback and was already racing through the countryside. The night air on his face felt cool and refreshing, especially after being in the cramped, dirty city. He closed his eyes for a moment, just thinking as his horse galloped onward.

            It didn’t really matter what he found first; he simply needed to find a living creature that no one would miss. It was safe here, away from the city, away from any human beings that he might harm accidentally.

            For a moment, a face swam before his eyes. So many centuries had passed, and yet he could never get that face out of his mind: a twelve-year-old girl, very pretty, with glassy, dead eyes, a trickle of blood still running down her forehead. It tormented him. If only he had controlled himself better back then, the poor girl would have been just fine…

            Forgive me, he pleaded for the umpteenth time. Though he prayed for absolution every day, he could never forget her.

            He sniffed back the tears and refocused on the present.

            A farm lay up ahead. Though he preferred to find wild animals—which no one would notice were gone—he probably wouldn’t find many for miles, and he needed to be back in London by dawn, pretending to have slept. A chicken coop sat quietly next to the barn.

            He dismounted his horse and lithely vaulted over the fence.

            I’m sorry for stealing, he prayed silently. It’s better than having to murder people, isn’t it? People have souls. Animals can be replaced—but people are irreplaceable.

             I hate having to kill…even though people eat animals all the time. The difference is, most of them can get meat from the butcher’s, instead of having to kill it themselves and drink its blood…

            “If only I could be a vegetarian,” he sighed under his breath.

            The vampire snatched a chicken from the coop in a flurry of white feathers—to silence its squawk, he twisted its neck and strangled it in an instant.

            It never failed to frighten him, his own strength. After all this time, he’d never gotten used to it. He was physically capable of doing terrible things, he knew, and that thought repulsed him. His own nature repulsed him.

            The vampire tore open the creature’s skin and began to drink. He sighed with relief when the blood touched his lips and soothed his parched throat. Though it was dangerous to let himself get thirsty, especially when he lived in close proximity of people, it was risky to steal animals too often, or the farmers would start to wonder.

            It was not, perhaps, as satisfying as human blood would have been, and the small creature didn’t give yield nearly enough to quench his thirst for the night; however, it was sufficient to his conscience to have successfully found an alternative to murder. He slurped greedily—his civilized mind disgusted by the necessary task; his id relishing in the long-awaited nourishment.

            For a moment, that civilized part of his mind became the passenger, and his instincts the driver. He hated that part, too—that he couldn’t hold onto his judgment as strongly while he actually drank blood. The lust for it consumed his psyche for a few minutes as he drained the creature with his uncontrollable need.

            But then he was finished, and his mind became his own again. His thoughts cleared.

            He threw the chicken on the ground. The farmers would think a fox had gotten to it.

            As he climbed onto his horse and rode back towards London, he wiped his mouth ashamedly, making sure there were no bloodstains on his clothes. His stomach squirmed anxiously.

            It was a good thing he was so used to keeping secrets.

            Another girl’s face swam before his eyes, one that made him swallow hard just thinking about her.

            If Rose knew the truth about me, how horrified she would be, thought Victor with shame.


            Rose stood awkwardly in the doorway, looking, for the first time since Victor had known her, uncomfortable.

            “Victor,” she whispered, “I hate to seem…utterly forward and…far too bold for a young lady, especially one of my upbringing, but…”

            “What is it?” he asked, so gently that Rose almost smiled.

            “I need to tell you how much I—admire and love you. Most ardently.”

            Victor stared at her in wonder.

            “I know it’s foolish and ridiculous to say such things, especially when I’ve only been acquainted with you for a few months,” she said, her face pale with anxiety. “And I know it’s terribly, terribly brash for me to acquaint you with all these sentiments, but—,”

            He cut off her babbling by drawing her to him and silencing her with a kiss.




Chapter Something

            “Would you kindly watch the shop for me for just a moment, Rose?” Victor asked, a package in his hands. “I have to make a delivery.”

            “Certainly,” she replied, leaning against the back counter, “so long as I don’t have to explain clocks to anyone.”

            He chuckled. “You can tell any customers that I’ll be back shortly.” He left.

            Rose studied all the wall clocks, listened to them ticking in unison. It was almost like having the room filled with restful people—it was no wonder Victor liked to surround himself with clocks, being so socially awkward. He must feel like he had quiet, peaceful friends around him all the time.

             The tiny bell tinkled somewhere in the shop as the door opened. Rose looked up with a friendly smile as a young woman sauntered inside.

            She was almost catlike, this woman—she had high arched eyebrows and narrow eyes, and she carried herself with grace yet with haughtiness.

            “Welcome,” said Rose, “may I help you, miss?”

            The customer smiled almost mockingly, raising one of her eyebrows. “Surely, Miss Doyle, you’re not the proprietor of this store?” she asked in a tone of false surprise.

            Rose couldn’t imagine how the woman could know her name, or how she could be so rude, but she attempted to stay pleasant. “No, miss,” she said, “but Mr. Blackwell should be back in just a few minutes, if you don’t mind waiting—unless there’s something I can show you.”

            “Actually, Miss Doyle,” said the woman, “I came in here because I knew dear old Victor was out—I wanted to speak with you, and I knew he’d probably try and prevent that.”

            She put her elbows on the counter and leaned forward.

            “Miss, I…I don’t think we’ve been introduced. How is it you know me?”

            The woman’s lips—the curiously dark color of blood—twisted in amusement. “Oh, how rude I’ve been!” she laughed. “My name is Lydia, and I’m a dear friend of Victor’s.”

            “Really?” said Rose coldly. “He’s never mentioned you.”

            Lydia threw back her head and laughed.

            “Well,” she said, recovering herself but still grinning, “That’s not why I’m here, of course. I came to speak to you about—well—more delicate matters.”

            “I beg your pardon?”

            “I’ve watched you and Victor curiously from a distance, Miss Doyle. I know you’re in love with him—anyone can see it. And, assuming you plan to be with him for any length of time, I’m guessing you’re planning to become one of us.”

            Rose blinked. “I…I have no idea what you’re talking about, miss. I think you must have the wrong Rose Doyle. And if I can’t show you any merchandise, I’m going to have to ask you to leave this store.”

            “Come now, Rose,” said Lydia impatiently, almost chiding her. “Let’s stop with the pretenses. I know everything—of course I do, for heaven’s sakes, I’m one too.”

            Rose’s brow furrowed deeply. “What are you talking about?” She was completely nonplussed.

            For a moment, Lydia just looked at her. But then her eyes widened and glowed with the light of a kind of savage humor.

            “Wait a moment,” she said slowly. “You honestly don’t know, do you?”

            “Know what?” Rose demanded.

            Lydia laughed. “Oh dear me,” she said, shaking her head with glee, “he didn’t tell you! My, my, I would never have thought he’d be able to keep it from you so well.”

            Rose felt like the blood had drained from her face completely. “Victor’s kept something from me?” she asked faintly, in spite of herself.

            “I’m afraid Victor has kept a secret from you, Rose,” said Lydia dryly, “And a very dark one at that.”

            “What do you mean?” she breathed.

            “I’m afraid Victor’s not who he says he is—well, more accurately, he’s not what he seems.”

            Just then, the bell rang again as Victor reentered the shop. When he saw who was in the store with Rose, the little color in his face drained.

            “Lydia,” he said, his voice thick with disapproval, “what are you doing here?”

            “Oh, your precious Rose and I were having a little chat,” she said coyly. She paused. “About your little secret.”

            Victor’s eyes were huge.

            “Get out,” he spat.

            Rose was shocked—she had never seen Victor so much as discourteous, let alone angry, towards a lady.

            Lydia didn’t even seem slightly abashed. She still smirked.

            “Just remember what I said, Rose,” she said. “He’s not what he seems.”

            She sauntered out the way she had come.

            Victor turned to Rose in horror. She crossed her arms over her chest.

            “What was that woman rambling about?” she demanded.

            “What did she say to you?” he asked weakly.


            Rose looked down at her hands, feeling suddenly cold.

            “I have to ask,” she said finally. “Have you ever killed anyone?”

            She heard his sharp intake of breath at her question, but she still couldn’t look up at him. If this question caused him pain, that made her all the more apprehensive about his answer. She had convinced herself so thoroughly that he couldn’t be bad; the Victor she knew was a decent man, but what if he had not always been so?

            “I…” he began, and she was startled to hear a choked tone to his voice, like he was holding back tears.  He hesitated a long moment.

            “Once,” he said at last, “centuries ago, when I first…changed. I didn’t know how to stop myself back then—I didn’t mean to—I didn’t even realize what I’d done until I came to my senses…and her blood was all over my hands…”

            She looked up at him in shock and saw that tears were running steadily down his face, his eyes anguished.

            “She couldn’t have been more than twelve or thirteen,” he continued, his voice thick. “That little girl, heading home from wherever she had been…I don’t even know what her name was. Not a day goes by that I don’t beg God’s mercy for what I did—that I don’t plead forgiveness from that little girl’s soul—but I know I’ll never forgive myself.”

            Rose was quiet for a moment, imagining it. Victor was still crying silently to himself, obviously distressed with the memory.

            “The only thing that keeps me living the way I do,” he cried, “is the thought that we cannot possibly be inherently evil. We must be every bit as capable of good. We have to have a choice. It takes an act of mercy to create us—how could we be only evil to the core?”


            “How did…how did it happen, Victor? How did you get like this?”

            He looked out at the Thames for a long moment, and at first Rose thought he wasn’t going to respond. His eyes were so far away that she wasn’t even certain he remembered she was there.

            “I grew up in London, too, Rose,” he said finally, in a very soft voice, “but the London I knew was very, very different from yours.”

            She raised an eyebrow, intrigued. “Different how?” she wondered.

            “There were no railroads or trains, no streetcars or telephones or factories. The Tower of London still held prisoners waiting to be beheaded for treason. The skyline wasn’t broken up with smokestacks and billows of black smoke—but then, there was the stench of garbage piled in the streets to rot, and the rats scurrying about the road scavenging for it. There were no cobblestones on most of the roads; it was mud everywhere. Most people still believed they could turn lead into gold if they found the right alchemical process.”

            Rose stared at him in wonder. “How long have you been around?”

            He chuckled wryly. “To give you an idea, when I was a young man living in London, the Bard was still producing As You Like It across the Thames in the Globe Theater, and Good Queen Bess was still reigning over the land.”

            Rose’s eyes nearly fell out of her sockets. “You’re that old?” she breathed.

            He nodded, biting his lip. “Maybe I shouldn’t have told you that,” he said in a small voice.

            Rose ran her fingers through her hair, dazed. “No, no…it’s far better that I know everything, the whole truth. That’s what I want.”

            “Are you certain of that, Rose? Sometimes truth is harder to bear than lies.”

            “I know that. You’ve already told me the worst—you killed a girl, you’re sorry for it, and it was a tragic mistake. Anything you tell me after that cannot possibly be more difficult to hear.”

            He flinched at the reminder of his past deeds, but said, “If you change your mind and don’t want to hear any more, tell me. I won’t be offended.”

            Rose nodded and waited primly for him to speak—keeping her face as blank and unafraid as she knew how.

            “My father was a cobbler, with a shop not far from where my clock shop is now,” he began. “He was training my older brother Robert and I as apprentices, and I was grateful to be learning a useful trade. It’s strange, looking back on those times—so many things I never gave any thought at all were more vitally important than I realized. The Reformation was still causing an upheaval throughout Europe, so hunts for Catholics and any non-Anglicans were commonplace. People were both suspicious and superstitious. It was even common to hunt for witches, werewolves, and vampires—and burn them at the stake. Often, I would hear the townspeople gathering their torches and pitchforks, collecting themselves into a mob and murdering one of their neighbors—but I never pondered it for long myself.

            “I was twenty years old. It was a full moon that October night, but I ignored my brother’s warning to stay indoors. I had no patience for superstitions, and I wanted to take a walk in the night air. If not for my foolish whims and assurance that only the good supernatural things existed, I would never have been changed into the monster I loathe.

            “I began to feel uneasy when the breeze picked up and made my neck prickle. The streets were very dark—though I knew I was capable of taking care of myself, I did not like the dark. How things have changed…now I fear the light…”

            Victor stared into space hazily for a minute. But then he recovered and continued the story.

            “It happened so fast, I wasn’t really sure what occurred until it was all over. Something grabbed me from behind—and I felt something sharp cutting my neck—and that was the last thing I remembered. Darkness swallowed me in minutes.

            “When I came to, it was the strangest feeling, like I was being…reborn. Of course, that’s exactly what did happen; I just didn’t understand it at the time. I was in someone’s cottage, with a roaring fire across from the cot I was lying on. My eyes focused on a man sitting at my bedside with a very worried expression.

            “He was a small, bald man in a priest’s robes. When he saw that I was awake, he shifted nervously in his seat.

            “‘Are you feeling alright?’ he asked me uncomfortably.

            “I was still in a daze. ‘What happened to me?’ I asked, sitting up. As I did, I noticed how…different everything was. It was like I was seeing the world with someone else’s eyes now. And I felt so cold all of a sudden, despite the heat of the fire. And my hands were so white.

            “And I felt so thirsty suddenly. That part I couldn’t understand—it was unlike anything I’d felt before.

            “The priest looked at me with pity and something else—remorse, perhaps? ‘My son,’ he said, his voice strangled, ‘I’m so sorry for what I did to you. It was an accident—my own folly, letting myself get too thirsty, far too thirsty to be around human beings, and when you walked by I couldn’t stop myself. It was only after I’d begun that I realized what I was doing—and I couldn’t continue and let you die. Only…I’m so sorry, but this means you are one of my kind now; there wasn’t anything I could do to reverse that.’

            “Obviously, I had no idea what he meant. I stared at him completely nonplussed.

            “But he went on to explain that his name was Father Joseph, he was a Catholic priest—or had been, before it had become illegal—and that he had never meant to hurt me. He kept begging for my forgiveness every other sentence, yet I didn’t know what I was supposed to forgive him for. Finally, he told me.

            “‘I’m a vampire, Victor. I wish I could put it less bluntly, but I’m afraid you are one now, too.’

            “Strangely enough, I believed him now. As soon as he said the words, it was like that new part of me identified with it. I was a vampire. There was nothing I could do about it.

            “I begged him to make me a human—he said it was impossible; it was irreversible, and I had actually been dead for three days, awaiting being risen to this new life. I begged him to kill me—he said I was already undead.”

            “Hold it, Victor,” Rose interrupted at last. “Are you telling me there’s nothing that can kill you? You’re just going to keep on existing…forever?”

            He sighed. “Not necessarily. We can be killed…but only with a stake through the heart. It’s the only thing that will leave us permanently dead. I didn’t realize until later that Father Joseph was unwilling to kill me, even if it was to put me out of my misery, because he hated violence so much. And now that people don’t believe in that kind of superstitious nonsense anymore, I’m not really in danger of getting attacked by a mob, am I?”

            “I suppose not,” she shivered. “So…what happened after that?




            Making up her mind to simply be blunt, Rose marched into the parlor.

            “Mother, I have some good news,” she announced. “I’m engaged to be married.”

            A moment of confusion flitted across her mother’s face, but it was quickly overridden by tentative joy.

            “Your father didn’t tell me—oh, but this is splendid, Rose!” She rose from her seat and clasped her daughter’s hand. “I knew you would come to your senses eventually! You’ll have such a wonderful future with Lord Stanley—such a grand estate! Think of all the fine clothes and jewels—the gardens of the Stanley Estate are superb…”

            Her mother’s excitement seemed to be building as she spoke, her eyes getting that obsessive glow again, her words nearly feverish. Finally Rose decided she could no longer let this delusion persist any longer.

            “Mother,” she overrode her calmly, “I’m not marrying Lord Stanley. I’m engaged to Victor.”

            Her mother stopped, frozen in her happy rhapsodizing.

            “What did you say, dear?”

            “I am marrying Victor Blackwell, as soon as possible,” she repeated.

            A crease appeared between Mrs. Doyle’s eyebrows.

            “What sort of nonsense is this?” her mother asked faintly.

           Rose blinked. “I didn’t realize it was nonsense,” she said coolly. “I want to marry Victor and he wishes to marry me.”

            As the words finally seemed to sink in as reality to her mother, her face twisted in incredulous fury.

            “The little clockmaker?” she asked scornfully. “Rose, are you utterly out of your senses?”

            “No, Mother. I love him.”

            “Have you lost all sense of propriety?” Mrs. Doyle demanded. “Have you considered your place compared with his? You have all the potential in the world to marry into money you silly, foolish girl—no, I won’t stand for this nonsense!”

            This finally sparked Rose’s temper. “So it’s nonsense, is it, to want something more out of life than money? It’s nonsense to want a more suitable marriage than yours and Father’s?”

            Mrs. Doyle looked scandalized. “You impudent girl,” she breathed, “after all we’ve given you, all the opportunities we’ve provided you with—you want to throw it all away.”

            “Mother, I love him! I’ll be happy with him.”

            “Well you can’t live off love, or pay rent with it, or buy food or nice clothes with it—and when cold, hard reality finally wakes you up, you won’t be happy together, believe me.”


            “That’s all the discussion there will be,” her mother snapped. “Your father and I have been far too soft with you. It’s time you learned what’s good for you.”

            Rose gave a hard, ironic laugh. “Father’s already given Victor and I permission to be married! He gave a wholehearted consent.”

            Her mother’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t believe you.”

            “Then ask him yourself.”