Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tainted Blood

Candace Cupardé was a ghost. Specifically, Cupid’s ghost. And being a ghost was no picnic. She longed to let loose her displeasure with a few choice words. But, unfortunately, as Cupid (ghost or not, withstanding) that was an impossibility. Choice words just would not form on her tongue. If she tried to say “damn” it came out as “dart.” “Bastard” formed as button on her disobedient tongue, and if she tried to say “hell”—you guessed it: the word “heart” spewed forth. And well, heart just lacked certain satisfactory elements. Like telling the devil to go to—heart? Most irritating.
Candace was almost certain her long-time friend Dracula (hereto referred as devil), also better known as creepy-scary-vampire-guy, had found some way to divest Candace of her one opportunity of transforming back into her former magical self. And she was furious.
“Honestly, Candi—” Drac started.
“Don’t call me that.”
“It’s your name. Besides, I like it. It makes me want chocolate.” Drac’s somewhat dramatic sigh was almost comical. “I wish chocolate sustained me like blood. It’s much more appetizing.”
“Some big bad vampire, you are,” she muttered.
“So what do you think of our party so far?”
Our party?” Candace hovered in the cobwebs next to Drac and looked out over a menacing array of monsters. She spotted Frankenstein, the Mummy, several ghouls. Igor was seen escorting an attractive young man carrying Mya through the hall to an empty chamber. She was a selkie.  Candace looked back at Drac situated on a long black chandelier bar, between two flaming sconces.
“Certainly. You and I are a team,” he said with a pointed gaze in her direction. “That was some miracle you worked on Ren and Wendy.”
Candace was down to four arrows. She needed to unite five couples in love. True love. A tricky business, as there had to be the sustenance for the love to take hold and stick. “I had to do that. You were about to sink your teeth into her pretty little neck,” she said glumly. His eyes twinkled with mischief, his grin cheeky. “Oh, go to—” She stopped, shook her head, exasperated. It just wouldn’t have the same impact.
Drac wasn’t a bad vampire as far as vampires went. In fact, most of the time she really liked him, adored him in fact. Her heart (when she’d had a heart) fluttered like a flock of butterflies when he was near. He was so dart attractive. So much so, that sometimes she found herself wishing . . .
Candace pushed away the notion, frustrated. There wasn’t anything she could do about longings far beyond her control. She had no substance any longer.
Drac laid his hand over hers . . . or tried. It passed through her hand, all the way to the bar he sat on. He frowned.
“What?” She laughed, though it was strained and awkward. “Are you saying you’re tired of blood?”
“Among other things.” Something in his voice caught.
Curious at this odd turn, she floated in front of him and looked him in the eye. “What do you mean?”
Avoiding her gaze, he shrugged. “The whole lifestyle is tiresome, if you must know.”
“You mean like being a filmy ghost where nothing and no one can latch onto you?” she teased, shooting through the chandelier and back proving her point.
He scowled. “I suppose that’s what I mean, in a sense.” Drac hesitated, lips pursed as if biting back a confession. He inhaled deeply, then said, “It’s more along the lines of living in a tomb, never seeing the light of day, or being able to check my appearance in the mirror.”
“Well, that I can certainly relate to,” she muttered.
He didn’t seem to hear her. “It was never my plan to become a vampire, you know. The idea was my father’s. He was the true Dracula. I fail to do the family name justice.”
“I don’t understand.” Concern filled her. She’d never seen this side of her longtime friend. Drac was always the confident, dart dastardly, demon. Occasionally, a fetching demon. One might even suggest dreamy demon.
“Father was the one into everlasting life or some such drivel. I guess he just never figured on being stabbed in the heart with a wooden cross by—” He cleared his throat with a cough. “Er, uh, on a night similar to this.”
Hmmm, fascinating. “Similar to this?”
He threw out his hand. “A night of the harvest moon.”
“Ah,” she said. Her senses trembled. Someone was in desperate need of her.  “Hold on.” Candace dashed from the ballroom, slipping through the door where she'd seen Mya carried. She tugged an arrow from the quiver on her back and set her bow. With a careful aim, she let it fly, stabbing the young man in the heart. His hand landed over his heart. Satisfied, Candace whizzed back to Drac and studied him, frowning. She’d never seen him like this before.
Wistful. Regretful.
And that was saying something. They’d known one another for years, hundreds of them. “If you weren’t a blood-sucking vampire, what do you suppose you would see yourself doing? You know? For a living.”
The question seemed to surprise him. She kept one eye out over the rambunctious monsters below. She still had three love connections to perform to fulfill her duty in gaining back her substance. Then she’d be able to vacate this cold, haunted manor.
“The blood is just for survival.”
Candace bit the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing at his haughty defense and murmured some placating nonsense.
His gaze turned distant, his voice grew soft. “Two hundred years ago, I yearned to serve under Wellington, help take down Napoleon. Instead, all I managed was a bite out of him.” Drac shuddered. “His blood was tainted. I was sick for months.”
 “Yeah, but—”
“A little over a hundred years later, I had an inkling that decorated veteran of World War I was trouble.” He scowled, furrowed his brows. “1923, I believe. His attempted coup in Munich failed with a little help from moi, and he went to prison. But as we learned later, that wasn’t near enough to deter him.”
Candace frowned. “Decorated veteran. Who?”
“Adolf Hitler.”
Candace colored at Drac’s appalled glance. “Oh.” He must think her a complete dunce. Hitler was a true devil.
Drac’s gaze shifted below. “I should have killed the bastard when I had the chance. But after that bout of illness with Napoleon . . . Well—”
Of course, words like button formed easily enough for Drac! Candace floated about, considering his words. “Yes, but what about now?” she insisted.
“Rid the world of terrorism.” His response was quick and succinct.
She swallowed a hard lump in her throat. A wave of intense longing, settled over her, and she turned quickly lest he read her emotions on her face.
Drac would have made a dart dashing hero. Heart! If she had the magic to fix that for him . . . well, it broke her (actual) heart. She turned back to him, fanning her face (to no avail). “Oh, Drac,” she said gently. “You want  . . . you want . . . world peace.
Candi’s insight startled, and burned, through him. “Don’t be ridiculous,” Drac said harshly. The emotions roiling through his cold veins made him feel hot enough to fear his father’s ashes reassembled in nothing flat, and dog him to the gates of hell.
“Ha!” Candi Cupardé fluttered about like a firefly, but with more spunk and guile than he’d ever witnessed in his six hundred and fifty-five years (give or take) life. In spite of her wispy presence, he admired her long, blond waves and startling, blue eyes that rarely missed a thing.
She thrust down through the air and pulled another arrow from her pouch and aimed. Smack! Right into the heart of Simza Nuri. Only two left.
Pouting was not a masculine trait, but Drac couldn’t help it. For a man doomed to the cellars during daylight, Candi was the one bright spot he counted on. Wasn’t it bad enough he was condemned to lie in a sarcophagus, day after day after day? Whoever said immortality was the end all had not had to live by that creed.
Although, Madame Mirela assured him the possibility of five couples attending this shindig and finding love together was impossible, he didn’t trust the fortune teller an inch. The woman had an agenda of her own. And if Candi did manage to do to join five couples to true love, Drac would be forever alone. She was his destiny. Air squeezed from his lungs like the vice of an iron bar.
Guilt swallowed him. Why couldn’t he just suck it up like a pint of blood, and tell her how he felt? Let her know how much he loved her company. How much he loved her. What kind of selfish bastard kept Cupid to himself?
Just the thought of letting her go nauseated him. He felt ill. More ill than after he’d sunk his fangs into Ivan the Terrible in 1547.
Drac couldn’t lose her. And with only one more pair to unite, she’d be gone from him. Forever.
 “Did you see that, Drac?” Her vivacious laugh pricked this heart like a thousand needles. “Sebastian refused to let me help him, but he didn’t say anything about my poking Natalie. The man is saved despite his protestations!”
Drac blinked, and she bobbed in front of him. Taunting him.
She giggled. “I’m going to make it. I have only one arrow left. Then I’ll be free of this cold, dank life.”
Red colored his vision in the depth of his fear. He covered it with rage. “You might as well give it up, Candace,” he growled. “You aren’t going to win this little battle. And there won’t be another Harvest Moon for two hundred years.” Two more centuries with her.
The fury in her expression would have made him laugh if it hadn’t been so frightening. In a flash, she jerked out the last arrow, set her bow and let go.
Tingles filled Drac’s vision, the red fading to spots of black and white. He wavered on his perch. “You shot me? Me? This was okay, he thought. Dead is okay. “I won’t have to live without you now, love,” he whispered.
His grip loosened and he fell. Free at last.
Love? Drac said love?
“Igor!” Candace yelled. “Igor, catch him.” And me, but the words to save herself caught in her throat. Candace struggled to fly, but her usual light reflexes were hampered by weight she hadn’t needed to account for since the last harvest moon as she tumbled through the air like a lead ball.
An eternity later, she landed on legs that refused to support her unexpected weight. She fell to her knees.
Igor lowered Drac’s unconscious form to the floor. Her throat burned as she tried to swallow. It hurt.
Everyone’s attention focused on Drac. He’d hate that. And now she’d killed him. Candace laid her hand on his warm face. Warm?—yes. To the touch. T.O.U.C.H!
How could that be? She gaped at a hand that should have gone through his cheek . . . completely to other side.
Slowly she raised her eyes to the surrounding crowd. Their united gazes moved from Drac to her. She swallowed again. But none of that mattered. She dropped her eyes back to Drac, clasped his hand in hers and held it to her chest. “Drac, Drac, I’m sorry. Please don’t die. I love you.”
An eerily silence filled the room. Candace raised her head to a parting crowd for the imposing figure of Madame Mirela. She sashayed through the makeshift isle, her full-hooped, Victorian, solid black dress sweeping the floor with each step. Venom dripped from her sooty lashes.
She tipped her elegantly coiffed head in Candace’s direction. “Mademoiselle Cupardé.”
“What are you doing here?” Candace demanded. An urge to protect Drac enveloped her. She scooted closer, tempted to throw her body over hims.
Lips tightened and disgust marring her brow, the woman seethed fury. “Your flimsy arrows are only good for striking at the heart of lovers already destined for one another or  . . . or building furniture.”
“What do you mean?” Candace prayed she understood Madame Mirela correctly. But one glance at Drac’s pale countenance. . .
“Only the hardest of wood can take out a vampire such as  Dracula. Tis how his father met his fate.” Hate shimmered in her gaze and Candace flinched.
Hope filled her despite the fortune teller’s censure. “I don’t understand.” Of course, Candace's arrows were for striking love into hearts not for killing vampires.
“His father drove me to madness and now I have lost his son.” Skirts rustled and bodies shifted at Madame Mirela’s shocking confession.
Horrified, Candace spoke without thinking. “You killed Drac’s father two hundred years ago?” A wisp of memory curdled her insides. “The last Harvest Moon. . .” her voice trailed. Candace had whisked through the ballroom, determined to help Drac’s unappreciative father. He’d been hell-bent on wreaking havoc throughout the region. Drac had been miserable, embarrassed by his father’s antics. The bloodthirsty bastard had shown no mercy to anyone in his path. Candace would have suffered as well, if Sebastian hadn’t already choked the life from her. She owed Sebastian for that at least.
Candace looked down at Drac. “He’s so pale,” she whispered.
But a night of the harvest moon promised miracles and to her relief Drac’s lashes fluttered then opened. He pinned her with a direct, unrelenting fix. “You love me?”
“Yes, of course. I’ve loved you for centuries.” She frowned, confusion filling her. “Why aren’t you dead?”
With Igor’s help, Drac rose to sitting. “I-I don’t know.”
Bonjour, Dracula.” Madame Mirela turned her viperous demeanor on Drac. “Much to your regret, you fool, your sweet Candi has fulfilled her bargain.” She laughed, but it resembled nothing like humor. “She is no longer just your ghost.”
“Oh.” Despite the throng of individuals (monsters and such) standing about, Drac’s desolation in that one tiny syllable reverberated throughout the ballroom. A thrill of excitement shot up Candace's spine. From the corner of her eye she spotted Wendy in her bright red gown, her lips moving with some incantation. Candace prayed it didn't backfire on them all.
“Alas, her final arrow was not for decimating vampires—the one through your heart—was not of the correct type of wood.” Madame Mirela hissed. “Ash, oak, alder, holly.”
Candace wrinkled her nose as her words penetrated. “Are you telling me that the arrow I shot through Drac did not make him call me ‘love’?”
“Bah.” Disdain pinched her haughty features, and she sniffed. “A ridiculous notion. You have no power over love.”
Drac leaped to his feet, seemingly fully recovered, anger radiating. Candace glanced quickly at Wendy now sporting a satisfied quirk on her face. “Don’t you speak to her like that, old woman,” he hissed. “She’s Cupid! She’s helped millions find their life’s mate. Perhaps millions more, if I hadn’t been so selfish keeping her for my own the last two centuries.”
Candace sat back on her heels, mesmerized by Drac’s dramatic display. He opened his mouth to expose his fangs. The crowd gasped, stepped back. But Candace didn’t see his fangs. Where were his fangs? Gone. Drac’s fangs were gone.
“Drac,” she whispered. “What have I done?”
Madame Mirela bristled. “You are nothing,” she said to Drac. Her shrill voice screeched through the ballroom, threatening the fragility of the champagne glasses. The old woman turned to Candace, piercing her with such loathing, she flinched. “This is all your fault. You’ve robbed him of his immortality. He belonged to me. And, now—I have nothing. You’ve ruined me, Mademoiselle Cupardé. But take heed. I shall have my revenge, two hundred years hence.” Madam Mirela morphed into a crow and soared across the ballroom through the opened French doors at the far end of the hall.
Drac straightened his shoulders and held out his hand to Candace. Candace was touched by the slight tremble he failed to hide. “Come, my love.”
Candace put her hand in his and rose to her feet on shaky legs.
“Please, resume your good time,” he announced to a stunned audience. He peered at Candace, eyes glittering with something undefined. “We’ve plans to make, a sunrise to witness. Our first of many, together.” The clock struck the witching hour as he touched his lips to hers. Warm. Delicious.
“Are you truly okay, Drac?” She glanced over her shoulder to the French doors.
“I am,” he said, tugging her to the balcony doors. Drac tucked her hand into his arm and said, “She’s gone, darling, for at least two hundred more years. Tell me. What sort of wooden arrows are those of yours?”
“Willow, I believe. A soft wood. They wouldn’t hurt a flea,” she promised. “Or a man no longer wishing to be a vampire.

Thank you for spending Halloween with the OKRWA Wildokie Writers. For information on OKRWA even joining, visit: our website.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Into the Light by Calisa Rhose

Into the Light

          Wendy Parson placed a hand over her pounding heart. If the crystals were right, Ren was in the ostentatious manor in front of her. She ogled the rock and mortar building in awe and a touch of fear. After all, this wasthe infamous Dracula’s castle and he would be the party host with his built in ghost, or so rumors claimed.

     Wendy wondered how true it was that Cupid’s ghost haunted those great halls within. Why not? She herself was a direct descendant of the modern-day cartooned Wendy the good witch. If people only knew the cute little witch in red that befriended Casper was actually real, would they believe it? Probably not. Perhaps Cupid’s ghost was only a wild rumor.

     Wendy lifted her skirt and made her way in, following a group of party-goers through the wide doors, immediately swept into the euphoric atmosphere. “Here goes nothing.”

     No sense guessing when she had a hand delivered invitation from Dracula to see firsthand. She wasn’t sure why the vampire wanted her there…probably to take a juicy bite. She almost hadn’t gone but the scrys called, so here she was, fighting a shiver of eerie anticipation.

     After ten long years she hoped to see her beloved once again. The fury that had driven her for so long tried to surface but she pushed it away. 
She needed answers. Why had Ren left, broken her heart without a word?

     Her goal was clear. Find Ren and get what she needed, then make him pay. That was the necessary order of this night. And pay, he would.

     If her magic cooperated.

     Igor greeted guests, his arms piled high with coats and hats nearly burying his head, making his hunched back seem more prominent than she suspected it actually was. Wendy added her cape with a sympathetic smile for the misshapen man.

     A footman offered drinks and she accepted a glass of something red. Not blood, thankfully, by its sweet aroma. Wendy mingled, slowly taking in each face one by one. After an hour she had not recognized a single face. Finding somewhere to conduct a little spell was critical. She gazed around and side-stepped another guest, then bumped into someone else.

     “Sorry,” a voice mumbled from behind.

     “Excuse me.” Her arm brushed the person again. Confused, she turned to move out of the way, but there was no one near her. The closest patron stood a good five feet from her. “Odd.”
* * * *
     Rengal Fisher stepped to one side as the lady whirled, an apology uttered from those lovely red lips. His darling, Wendy. The love of his heart. Once upon a time. In a time before the evil Tessa revealed her jealousy. Her malevolent intent as obvious as the bold white streak in Wendy’s raven locks.

     Ren studied the vision before him and his heart cracked open. How he’d missed her. Yes. She was his love. He’d recognize that unpigmented strip of hair anywhere. The scrys had spoken to her just as the gypsy promised they would.
     But now that Wendy stood before him, he hadn’t a clue how to reach out to her. She would never accept him as he was, as Tessa had cursed him to live. How could Wendy take him back when she couldn’t even see him? She’d probably believe it was some kind of cruel trick.
     Not that he’d blame her.

     Ren watched her swing one way then other trying to find the source of her apparent confusion. Wishing he could speak her name, knowing he shouldn’t until he had a face for her to see. Ren spun and bolted into the cold night.
     He’d been a fool to think the Harvest Moon Ball was the time or place to reclaim her. But having come this far…he stumbled to a standstill, gasping for air, and glared angrily back at the mansion.

     Suddenly, just talking to her seemed lame. He needed a better strategy. The pain, or perhaps anger on her face each time she suspected she’d seen him was unbearable. Of course every man she secretly stalked wasn’t him. He’d watched from a discreet distance. Had witnessed the hope, the deep anger that followed, and then the despair at her repeated mistakes.

    The pain of her emotions ate into Ren’s very soul. Still, he couldn’t give away his secret. Not yet. For ten years he’d been torn. Had Tessa’s words been truth or cloaked with another black lie? Had Wendy truly asked her cousin to curse Ren into nothingness, leaving him to walk the earth as a ghost?

     Not a ghost, for even spirits could be seen by those who believed. He was an invisible man without a ghost of a chance at happiness. He’d only drawn Wendy to Transylvania to see her one last time before taking his own life, ending both their misery. She wouldn’t even know he was there, that he’d smelled her lavender scent, touched her silky hair as she passed by. She would return to America none the wiser, if not a little less hopeful of ever seeing him again.

     Then again, if Wendy had set him up after that horrible argument Tessa had engineered so long ago…was she really as miserable as him? He found it hard to accept that she’d believed he’d ever touch her wicked witch of a cousin. That she could take Tessa’s word over his.

* * * *
     Another look around and Wendy decided to scry again. Using magic crystals was the unobtrusive way to search without being discovered. Perhaps she’d been mistaken? It wouldn’t be the first time. Magic seemed to have it in for her, never working right. Well, not “never” since there was that time nine years ago when she put that wart on Tessa’s nose. That was fun. Her evil cousin still hadn’t managed to override and remove the growth. It hadn’t taught the witch to keep her nose out of Wendy’s affairs though.

     Accepting another drink to replace the now-warm first one, she forced a smile as she wended her way through the raucous crowd. She’d barely avoided a nasty pass from Dracula and was searching for somewhere quiet to scry. If only the tingling in her chest would go away.

     Strange. About the time the vicious vampire nuzzled her neck, in the pretense of smelling her perfume, a sharp pain struck in her chest and spread like fire, pleasantly warm but slightly uncomfortable. It had finally eased into an annoying, almost pleasurable sizzle she tried to ignore. Dracula had also moved on without biting.

     Finding a quiet room to work in, she surveyed the dark corners, making sure she was alone. A cluster of black candles on a center table was the only light in the chilly room. Perfect. She reached into the air and retrieved her bag and set it on a stool. Lying out a silk scarf, she then set travel-size crystal ball in the center of the white cloth.

     "If he’s near, spare my heart,
     Reveal my love, if he’s far.
     Show me now whom I seek,
    Rengal Fisher, as I speak."

     Instant thick fog gathered within the crystal. Swirling, dancing before her eyes.

     The mist seemed confused, clearing here, then there around the inner globe. “Wonderful. Just dandy.” Of course magic failed her. Nothing new about that. Despair gripped her.

          At last the mist parted and cleared to reveal a room. The room she stood in right then. “Stupid ball. I know where I am.” She lifted the ball and shook it like an etch-a-sketch to clear it, then shoved it back into her bag and shook the bag. With a toss into the air,  the bag it faded to nothing. Of course inane magic cooperated. She spun toward the door to return to the party, then stalled.

          Before her, the mist from the crystal ball seemed to have escaped into the room, swirled in a hazy smoke. She blinked and rubbed her eyes, shook her head and still the mist drifted.

          With a gasp she watched as the outline of a man came into shimmering view. “Ren?” She was barely able to whisper as her throat constricted. The form altered and the mist dissipated. “That was weird.” And not Ren. “Stupid magic.”

          “My love.”

          The voice was faint and disembodied, eerie. Fighting off a shiver as the room suddenly chilled more, she wrenched open the door and slammed it behind her as sounds of the party consumed her, heat soaking into her. “I have nothing to feel remorse for. He left. I never should have come here.”

          She passed the wide French doors leading out to a patio as one door swung open and closed again. No one was there. Maybe it was Cupid. She was a ghost, right? Wendy stared at the door, waiting to see if it would open again. Minutes passed. Nothing.

          Determined to get out of the mansion as quickly as she could, Wendy searched for the cloak closet where Igor had stashed her cape. Coming back around to the grand ballroom she glanced back at the door to see a beautiful dark-haired woman in a long green gown hurry through. She pulled the door tight but it opened again only a minute later.

          A tall man stepped through and met her gaze instantly. Wendy glanced around and back to him. What there was of him. Wendy saw only a face—most of a face—hidden behind a black mask.

          Dark blue eyes peered through the mask at her. Familiar eyes. But there was nothing above or below the mask. No hair, no legs or feet, no hands. No body. And when he turned fully toward her…no lower part of a face. Where the three-quartered mask ended, so did he. He was nothing more than a floating mask.

          Except for the hazy mist outlining his invisible body. She trembled as recognition settled over her with the force of a hammer. He took a first step toward her.
* * * *
          Several witches had tried and none could reverse the spell set on him by Tessa. Hope was a dream. Ren had fought the urge to call to Wendy in that dark room he’d followed her into. But he’d failed. He’d given in and cried out with his very heart and she’d heard him.

          She was searching, calling to him and he shouldn’t have answered. Not until he could be seen and be able to convince her of his presence, to tell her he’d left in desperation to save them both. Whether saving them meant staying apart, or proving they belonged together, he couldn’t be certain. Not until he knew Wendy hadn’t sent Tessa after him. Ten years and it had been hopeless.

     Until he’d met up with the seer on the balcony, a woman running from demons of her own. Her soul mate was a wounded man as well. He’d understood Ren’s plight and graciously offered the magical mask. Ren knew it was working because Wendy stood not ten feet from him, staring through him…literally. Yet, she recognized him. It was in her hazel gaze.


     She whispered his name and a jolt shot through the short distance to pierce Ren’s chest like an electric charge. Not that she’d know, but he grabbed his chest and winced at the shocking pain his name on her lips caused.

     “Wendy.” He prayed she hadn’t had a part in her wicked cousin’s deed. 
     “Tell me it was a lie.”

     “What? Are…is it truly you?”

     “It is. A good man gave me this magic mask so you could see me.”

     “Why? What happened? Please tell me. Why did you leave?”

     Did she really not know? “Tessa said you’d sent her after me, that you believed we, she and I…had betrayed you.”

     Wendy moved closer and reached a hand out and cupped his face. Life filled him for the first time in all these years. “I never knew. She did this to you?”

     “She cursed me.”

     “I came here to get revenge. To make you pay for breaking my heart. Why haven’t you found someone to undo it and return to me?”

     Ren wanted to laugh. Did she actually think he’d gone merrily on with his life? Given up without a fight? “Five powerful witches couldn’t undo Tessa’s magic.”

     Wendy pressed her bow-shaped lips together in the determination he recalled in her spirit. “Well, I can.”
Ren smiled. He remembered her magic. How sweet her confidence in her powers was. Could it be possible she had finally mastered her wayward magic? “Set me free, my love.”

     She nodded and led Ren back into the dark room. “I came here looking for you not long ago. I swear I heard your voice. Was it you?”

     “Yes. I was afraid to reveal myself. I didn’t want to scare you off, so I let you leave.”

     “Now it makes sense. My calling mist showed you to me, or your outline, but I couldn’t see you so I thought the magic was misbehaving as usual.” She laughed then. The sound was magic to his lost soul.

     It had always been one of the things he’d loved about his little witch. Her ability to laugh at herself was amazing in a sorceress with her familial background of extreme powers. “Perhaps you’d like to take your time and say a prayer that something will work this time? I don’t relish the idea of being a frog for the next ten years.”

     “Look at the bright side, Ren. If my magic doesn’t work—at least no one will see you hopping around.” Wendy grinned with pure wicked mischief and held out her hands.

     “Not funny, my favorite little witch.”

     Her bag appeared in her hands. It impressed him that one thing had never failed since she’d learned how to vanish and retrieve the mystical bag from thin air. She dug in and pulled out a red candle and a batch of sage and lavender. He knew the routine. Cleanse the room first. She had skipped that step earlier in her haste. She suddenly seemed nervous and the emotion transferred to him. If she was worried…

     “Okay. Do you remember any of the words Tessa said that day?”

     He’d never forgotten them. “Poof of proof, go insane Forever aloof, time to wane.”

     Wendy arranged the candle on a silk scarf as he spoke and lit it. When he stopped speaking she turned to face him. “What else?”

     Wasn’t that enough? “That’s it.”

     “Are you certain?”


     “She said ‘go insane and time to wane?’”

     “Yes. Why?”

     “Because…if I know Tessa,” she grimaced. “And I do all too well, she did nothing more than put an insanity spell on everyone you come into contact with. What I mean is, you aren’t invisible. Others just can’t see you.”

     “Isn’t that the same thing? Wouldn’t I at least be able to see myself?” Her theory didn’t make sense.

     “You’d think so, but no. Tessa likes to complicate spells. That’s why no one has been able to undo it. The spell isn’t on you, but on everyone including you, that lays eyes on you. I mean, she just made it impossible for us to see you, but you’re really here. We…just can’t see you. Oh, Ren, if only you’d come to me years ago. I know it makes no sense, but I know how to undo what my terrible cousin has done.”


     Wendy smiled, and his heart surged. “She did it to me one time. After you left. She now sports a lovely wart on her perfect nose that plastic surgery can’t erase no matter how many times she has it taken off.”

     “Remind me not to cross you, my darling. Can we do this now?” The thought of his gentle Wendy pulling such vindictive magic on her ridiculously vain cousin made Ren realize what a dangerous foe she could be, and was glad she was on his side.

     “Absolutely. Stare into this.” Wendy held out a small object.

     He took the little square mirror and it faded to nothing. As expected. And he saw nothing, as expected. He hadn’t seen his reflection in ten years. Wendy laughed as he set the mirror down so it would reappear on the table. She lifted it to set it on a statue.

     “See if you can see into it now. Imagine yourself in it and don’t look away. Focus only on seeing you in there. Oh, are you wearing anything? Other than the mask, I mean.” Wendy touched the mask and frowned. “This has dark magic in it. I’ll need you to take it off before I start.”

     “I was warned it was bad. But the mask has served its purpose. I’m wearing clothes, not that we can see them. Once I put anything on it disappears too.”

     “Hmm. That’s the spell.” Wendy waved the sage around murmuring quietly for a moment. Next she pointed at the mirror and grabbed the blood red opal hanging around her neck. “Step into the light as it comes and look in there.”

     He obeyed, moving closer to her as the opal began to lighten in her grasp. The light grew to encompass them both. He turned his attention to the mirror, unable to ignore the doubt creeping in after so many failed attempts to heal him of this curse, but still hopeful.

     The opal glowed red as light escaped to brighten the room, and he imagined she released the stone to allow its brilliance to shine. I believe in Wendy. No matter what happens, I know she means well.
* * * *
     Wendy put the sage aside and shut her eyes as she sent a prayer for guidance and direction to the elements. With a breath of courage she began to recite the spell Tessa had put on Ren. It figured her cousin would use such a cheesy one for her dubious doings.

     "Poof of proof, go insane.
     Forever aloof, time to wane.
     Lapse in time, insanity restored.
     Forever ends, wane no more.”

     Three times she chanted the words, not daring to check on Ren. Failure was not an option. Yet, her magic had let her down so many times she was afraid this would be no different. It wasn’t that she didn’t know the right words, but they didn’t seem to go to the right corners of the wind. Or at least that was her reasoning. Wendy really didn’t know why her spells rarely worked.

     After a slow count to ten she inhaled deeply. It was now or never. Before she opened her eyes warm hands touched her shoulders. Then look, she did, and tears welled. “Oh!” Spinning, she stared into the most beautiful blue eyes. Tears filled and trickled from them and she reached and touched the moisture on his cheeks. Cheeks she could see, touch. “It worked. Ren, I see you!”

     “I see me too,” he whispered staring at his hands. “You did it, Wendy.”

     “I’m so glad. I love you so much. I’ve missed you.” Wendy didn’t fight the tears on her face as she smoothed her hands along his rough jaws. It seemed incredible he was here, in her arms again.

     “I’ve never loved another as I love you. Thank you, my Darling.”

     “Come home with me.” She had a certain cousin to go see.

* * * *

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013


By Alicia Dean

Sebastian Cordell left his dark, empty home and headed deep into the woods. As usual, he was restless, filled with too many memories and no longer able to stand his own company. The nighttime suited him. The darkness and density of the woods helped hide his disfigured face…his evil soul.
Light from a full moon sifted through spidery branches of the winter trees. In the distance, the howl of a werewolf filtered to him. He’d learned to recognize the difference between a true wolf and a Lycan. The sound of a Lycan was much more eerie… more haunted.
Frigid wind bit through his coat, but he welcomed the pain. Pain made him aware he was still human, that his heinous act from a year ago today hadn’t rendered him the demon he knew himself to be. The soft ground gave beneath his feet. Tree limbs whipped against him as he plodded through the thickets, scratching his exposed flesh. Again, welcome sensations. He was alive, although he had no right to be.
The sound of music and cheerful voices interrupted his self-recrimination. He peered between the trees where a faint light shone. As if he had no control of his own body, his feet took him toward the light…toward the sound. From the edge of the woods, he stood, staring at Dracula’s mansion. The vampire was apparently hosting a party tonight. Guests in colorful finery exited vehicles and made their way up the path to the door.
Sebastian was about the step back, to fade into obscurity when a particular guest caught his attention. His heartbeat sped up, and he nearly called out her name…but she wasn’t Jessica.  She only looked like his former fiancée. Dark hair framed her pale face, a face that was eerily similar to Jessica’s. She wore a black cloak and beneath it, the skirt of an emerald green gown floated around her. The woman paused for a moment and glanced in his direction. He slunk back behind a tree, pulse pounding. Had she seen him? He didn’t know, but he knew one thing, he had to see her. Had to get a closer look at the woman who resembled the she-devil who destroyed his life.
Natalie caught her breath and whirled toward the copse of trees at the edge of the property. Some…force compelled her to turn, though she hadn’t actually seen or heard anything. Her gaze sought out the source of the odd feeling. She squinted against the snow that drifted down and nearly obscured her vision. Nothing. She chuckled and shook her head. Just an overactive imagination. The search for her missing sister had made Natalie hyper-sensitive.  She’d conjured up a multitude of dire scenarios; Jessica had been involved in a horrible accident and had amnesia. Or, she’d been murdered, her body buried so deep, she would never be found. But the idea vying for first place in Natalie’s dire picture of her sister’s fate; Jessica’s cheating ways had caught up to her and some enraged, scorned man was keeping her hostage, torturing her little by little each day until she finally learned her lesson.
The truth was most likely something much simpler. Jessica, who had never been exactly loyal to her family, had decided to shut them out. Her refusal to answer Natalie’s calls and emails was just one of the self-centered ploys she used to punish her loved ones for some imaginary wrong. Whether or not Jessica’s disappearance was voluntary, Natalie was determined to get answers. A year with no contact from her sister was not so unusual, but something about this time felt…different…unsettling.
Taking a deep breath, Natalie turned away from the woods and back to the mansion. The home was a three-story monstrosity—she giggled, monstrosity was accurate since it belonged to Dracula, a real live—correction, not so ‘live’—vampire. She’d learned of the ball when she’d taken the key from the hotel clerk and touched the man’s hand. He hadn’t told her about the party, but thanks to her gift-slash-curse, she’d read his thoughts upon contact with him. A party such as this one was the perfect place to find her wayward sister. A hand shake here, a drink there, perhaps even a dance or two would be enough interaction to learn something. If not, she’d traveled thousands of miles for nothing. 
No...that wasn't going to happen. She refused to believe this trip was fruitless. She would not leave until she learned Jessica’s fate.
Natalie headed up the walk, casting one last glance over her shoulder to the woods. A shudder ran through her she couldn’t explain, any more than she could explain why she felt like she was on the brink of a precipice, one that would change her life forever.
Just over an hour later, Sebastian strode to the door of Dracula’s opulent manor wearing a black tux and pale blue shirt. His strategic black mask hid the top three quarters of his face. The event was not a costume party, but he’d be damned if he would show himself—his true self—in public. Which begged the question, what the hell was he doing here? He had called himself all kinds of a fool for coming tonight, but no matter how much he’d argued, his heart had won, and here he was.
When the door opened, Sebastian gave the butler a curt nod, then strode through the foyer into the ballroom. He scanned the crowd. Igor moved amongst the guests, holding a tray of champagne. Sebastian was surprised Dracula allowed the sadly repellent creature to be seen by his guests, but silently applauded the vampire. Perhaps Dracula saw past a person’s outer self. Although in Sebastian’s case, the inner self wasn’t any more appealing. He scowled away the thought
Weaving through the crowd, he ignored the curious glances cast at him. He rounded the room twice, but his mystery woman was nowhere to be seen. Debating whether to leave or give it a few minutes, Sebastian made his way toward the balcony for badly needed fresh air. He had been a recluse this past year and being around so many people stole his ability to draw a breath. He eagerly swept open the balcony doors and stepped out—and saw her. Her profile faced him. The full moon wrapped her in its glow, her features clearly defined. Smooth, pale skin and red, kissable lips.
He almost called out Jessica’s name, but stopped himself in time. He must have made a sound, though, because she turned an alarmed gaze on him. Her hand flew to her chest, and she gave a self-conscious laugh. “Oh my, you startled me.”
Her beauty stole his breath as effectively as the crowd had, and it took a few moments before he could speak. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
“You didn’t frighten me. I just thought I was alone.” She gestured to the opaque glass door that separated them from the partygoers. “I was feeling claustrophobic, so I came out here, relieved to find the balcony empty.”
He smiled. “It’s not all that surprising no one else is out here, considering the temperature is barely above zero.”
She laughed again—a dazzling sound that had his knees threatening to buckle. Her blue eyes sparkled, and her features alit with delight. She was a sight to behold. He experienced a brief, insane moment of wishing he could spend the rest of his life making her laugh, putting that glow on her face.
She did resemble Jessica but not as much as he’d first thought. She had Jessica’s coloring and her figure—without the cloak, every perfect curve was revealed—but in her face he saw kindness and intelligence that had been absent in Jessica. Funny how he just now realized it. He’d been so blinded by love for his fiancée it had taken seeing this woman—a version of what Jessica could have been, what he’d thought she was—for him to realize she hadn’t been worth the trouble. Hadn’t been worth carrying the guilt of murder around with him all these months.
Sebastian took off his coat and stepped toward the woman. The scent of vanilla and lilacs rose to his nostrils, sending heat rushing through his blood. He pushed back an urge to step closer, to sweep her up in his arms, taste those delectable lips. Instead, he draped the coat over her shoulders. “Here. Do you wish to freeze to death? I’m Sebastian, by the way.”
“Natalie,” she said, accepting the coat. “Thank you.”  She glanced to the doors. “I suppose I should go back inside.”
He bit his tongue to keep from begging her to stay. What in God’s name was happening?
In spite of her intent to go inside, Natalie remained rooted in place. There was something intriguing about this man. She wanted to know why he wore a mask, who he was, what would it feel like to touch him…
She shook her head. What an insanely inappropriate direction her mind had taken. This man was a stranger…a masked stranger. She should be afraid…or at least wary. But found she was neither.
“Music is playing.” His voice was deep, raspy. “No sense letting it go to waste.” He held out a hand. “Perhaps a dance will warm you?”
As if her heart tugged her forward, she was powerless to resist. Something unexpected and magical was taking place, and she had no idea why or what. But she wanted to explore it, to see what developed, hold onto the sensation as long as she could.
Sebastian took her hand and placed his on the small of her back. She moved across the snow-dusted balcony in his arms, lost in the strains of “Johann Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz,” lost in the dark eyes behind the mask.
He put his lips to her ear. “You feel like Heaven and smell like a floral garden.”
Goosebumps pricked her skin that had nothing to do with the cold. Her breath stalled in her chest. “Thank you,” she managed through a dry throat.
He didn’t move away. His face was so close that if she turned, ever so slightly… Before she could stop herself, her head tilted so that their eyes met and their lips were almost touching. His hold on her tightened, his ebony eyes glittered, and then he dipped his head, and his lips fused to hers with an explosion of desire that had her clinging to his broad shoulders. His mouth was firm and warm, and she moved closer to him, seeking a deeper connection, wanting more of this crazy beautiful feeling.
“Let me see your face,” she whispered against his mouth.
His muscles tensed beneath her hand and he drew back, shaking his head. “No, please don’t ask that of me.” His raspy tone took on a note of desperation. “Let me have this night. I’m certain there will never be another. I’ll never again feel the way I feel now.”
She studied the entreaty in his gaze, then nodded and rested her head on his chest, listened to his heartbeat. Seconds ticked by in their wintery cocoon. Natalie was so consumed by the strange and wonderful joy coursing through her, it took a moment to register what her gift was relaying. Then the images assaulted her…Jessica. This man knew Jessica…had been intimate with her… She felt his rage…felt his blind fury as his hands closed around the fragile neck…
With a cry, Natalie wrenched away, backing until she bumped the balcony railing.
Sebastian’s mouth turned down in a frown. “Natalie? What is it? What’s the matter?”
“You!” Grief and anger strangled her voice. Her heart plummeted into her stomach. She nearly went to her knees with the weight of her sorrow. “You killed her. Oh my God…Jessica.”
He’d been heading toward her, but he halted. “How do you know Jessica?”
She snorted a humorless laugh. “Because, she’s my sister.” Agony squeezed her chest. “You monster! You murdered my sister.”
“You—you’re Jessica’s sister?” He stepped back and shook his head. “I should have known this was too—” He cut off  in mid-sentence and stared at her, his eyes bleak. “I didn’t kill Jessica. She is very much alive, but regardless, you have a right to hate me. I am an evil man.”
A desire to believe him warred with the knowledge that her visions had never been wrong.  ”What happened to Jessica?”
After a brief hesitation, he said, “We were to be married. But she fell in love with another man and left me. Left the country.”
“I don’t believe you.”
The corner of his mouth quirked. “Apparently, you do not know your sister very well.”
Ignoring his sarcastic—yet accurate—statement, Natalie lifted her chin. “I’m calling the police.”
He gave a wry grin and reached inside the jacket of his tux, pulling out a cell phone. “Would you like me to dial for you?”
“Go to hell,” she bit out. She swept past him, trying to stem the flood of tears.
Just before she reached the door, a surge of anguish—of someone else’s anguish—washed over her. It was as if she’d touched someone, although she and Sebastian were the only ones on the terrace. “Who’s there?” The words trembled out of her.
“You can see me?” a man’s voice responded.
She looked around. No one. “No, I can feel you. Your pain. What’s the matter? Who are you?” She shook her head in disbelief. “You’re…invisible?”
“Natalie?” Sebastian spoke behind her. “What’s happening?”
Ignoring Sebastian, she searched the night for the source of the voice.
A deep, tortured chuckle carried to her. “My name is Rengal Fisher. I lost the love of my life a decade ago. She’s here tonight. It is our one last chance to be together. But if she can’t see me, we shall never connect.”
In spite of her own grief, sympathy for this poor soul gripped her. “I’m sorry. I wish I could help. I can talk to her. Let her know you’re here.”
“No, I’m afraid she still has to be able to see me. She’s a witch, and she can cast a spell, but in order to do so, she must see me.”
“What about this coat?” She realized she still wore Sebastian’s coat and she shrugged it from her shoulders. Sebastian had grown silent behind her, which suited her fine. “Wear this and she can locate you.”
“It doesn’t work that way. There needs to be at least a hint of magic to the object. Otherwise, it will disappear along with me.”
Impossible…his plight was impossible. “I wish there was something I could do.”
“I realize it’s quite hopeless,” he replied forlornly. “Thank you for your concern.”
With a quick nod, Natalie whispered, “Good luck,” then rushed through the balcony doors.
Sebastian’s contact with vampires and werewolves had made him immune to surprise at the existence of the unknown. Apparently, Natalie had encountered an invisible man. A man badly in need of assistance.
 ”I can help you,” Sebastian said. “I can’t see you, but I know a way for you to be seen.”
Summoning his courage, Sebastian gripped the edge of his mask. A gypsy had cursed it after the accident. She’d warned him he’d always remember his evil deed, always feel the effects of his horrendous act. For the remainder of his days, the spell she cast on the mask would fill his dreams with images of the life he’d stolen. It worked exceedingly well.
“This has a touch of magic,” he said, then chuckled. “Not exactly good magic, but magic is magic, right?”
The thought of parting with his crutch was as torturous as his dreams. He should have rid himself of the mask long ago, but he deserved its curse….and she deserved to be remembered.
His grip grew clammy. Could he really give up its protection? There was only one way out, and that was through the ballroom. People would see his repulsive countenance. But he’d done enough bad in his life. Perhaps it was time he did something good. He jerked the mask from his face and extended it outward. “Here, take this, let her find you.”
Sebastian waited a beat, thankful he couldn’t see the man’s expression of revulsion. His pulse rate accelerated when the mask was tugged from his hand, then rose in the air.
“Thank you,” the voice said.
Sebastian nodded. “Don’t screw this up. Sometimes one shot is all we get at love. You were lucky enough to be granted a second chance.”
Inhaling a deep breath, Sebastian stepped into the ballroom. Ignoring the stares, the gasps, the murmurs, he forged through bodies toward the exit.
He was unable to draw a full breath until he reached the night air. Was Natalie part of the crowd? Had she seen him? Was she now more disgusted, or had she already fled after a glimpse at his hideous soul? It didn’t matter. It was done. He would never see her again.
His heart hammered. At first, hope soared, but when he recognized the speaker, the weight of sorrow settled in his gut.
“Candi,” he said softly to her ghost. He’d robbed Candace Cupardé—Cupid—of her life. Since he’d been the one to kill her, he was the only human who could see her, hear her. And he’d done so daily in his dreams. “I’m so sorry. If I could switch places with you…”
The blonde pixie shocked him by smiling. “You were hurt, enraged, not in your right mind.” Her voice lowered. “You’re a good man, Sebastian. You deserve love.” She lifted her bow and nocked an arrow.
He held up a hand. “No need for that, but thank you. I’ve fallen deeply and irrevocably in love already. But I am afraid it is hopeless. She despises me.” He gave a self-deprecating grin. “And that’s without seeing what I really look like. Can you imagine her horror if she did?”
A soft grin touched her pink lips. “If she is worthy of your love, she won’t be horrified.”
“Well, I suppose we’ll never know.” He winked. “Thank you, Candi. And if it’s possible in your…realm…I hope you find the love you deserve.” He executed a slight bow. “Goodnight.” He turned and strode over the snow-covered lawn. As much of a prison as his home had become, he couldn’t wait to be back inside its four walls. Sometimes, a prison was also one’s sanctuary.
Natalie pressed against the wall of the alcove and sobbed. Her sister was dead. How could Natalie be romantically drawn to the man who murdered her? Now she must find Jessica’s body so she could take her home to her final resting place. But that fiend wouldn’t admit to his crime, so how was she to prove it? Tell the police she ‘sensed’ he’d committed murder? They would laugh her out of the country.
Natalie stopped, sucked in several breaths to calm herself. She needed to think. Sebastian claimed Jessica ran off with another man. Could that be true? Knowing Jessica as she did, it was a definite possibility. Natalie should have kept her touch on him a moment longer, rather than panicking. She should have looked at the full picture. He’d admitted to something horrible, but maybe his crime was not killing her sister…
Without warning, a jolt pinged her chest. A delicious ache, an undeniable, uncontrollable urge to find Sebastian enveloped her.
Natalie rushed to the front door and jerked it open. Dracula’s party lights illuminated the large yard. She peered through the falling snow and spotted Sebastian, striding across the lawn toward the woods. She lifted her skirts and flew down the steps.
Mindless of the deepening snow, she reached him and latched onto his arm. “Sebastian!”
He stopped but didn’t face her. She kept hold of him, and images once more assailed her. This time, she saw a blond, angelic female, adorned with wings and a bow shaped like a heart. Her throat was captured in Sebastian’s large hands.  
A stone of sadness settled in Natalie’s stomach. “Cupid? You killed Cupid.”
Without turning, he said, “How did you find out?”
“I have a—gift. I see pictures, sense things when I touch someone.”
He inclined his head forward. “Then you know how evil I am. Release my arm and leave me be. You’ll never have to see me again.”
“Look at me, Sebastian.”
He whirled to face her, and she gasped as the depth of his pain seared her.
His dark eyes blazed with anguish. “Perhaps your vision did not give you the entire story. Let me fill in the blanks. Cupid’s arrow pierced Jessica’s heart. My fiancée fell in love with another man.” A grim smile touched his firm lips. “Although Jessica likely would have done the same without Cupid’s help, I was out of my mind with pain, I acted without thought. I killed Candi…choked the life from her.” Tears strangled his voice. “Once I realized what I’d done, I was tormented by grief and guilt. I jumped into my car and sped away, over icy roads towards the cliff. My car plunged over. Unfortunately, it didn’t kill me. Instead, it made me what I am now.” He barked a sardonic laugh. “Although I am aware I deserve much, much worse.”
Sympathy and…love?...washed through her. His suffering tugged at her soul. “Everyone does things they’re not proud of. I know you’re sorry for what you did.”
His jaw clenched. “That doesn’t exactly erase it, though, does it?”
Her gaze roamed his face. Jagged white scars ran from the corner of his right eye, over his cheek bone to his jaw line. Puckered pink scars marred the flesh on his forehead. The left side of his face was oddly untouched…perfectly handsome. “What happened to your mask?”
He turned away. “Don’t look at me.”
She moved around to face him.  ”Tell me what happened to your mask.”
He let out a heavy breath. “I…lost it.”
Natalie gripped his arm. He tugged but she didn’t let go. Her mind flooded with images of his encounter on the balcony after she left. “No, you didn’t lose it. You gave it to Rengal so his true love could find him.”
She released him and lifted her chin. “Your face is not nearly as scarred as your soul. You need to forgive yourself. To find happiness…love.”
“Is that so?” A bitter laugh burst from him. He took hold of her shoulders and yanked her close to him, close to his damaged face. His dark eyes were tormented, his voice hoarse. “What if I told you that I love you? That the only way I can find happiness is in your arms? Preposterous, right? Someone as hideous as I with a beauty like you? So do me, and yourself, a favor. Just let me be.”  He shoved her away and turned, but she grabbed his arm and tugged him back, making him look at her.
She slid her fingers over the scarred side of his face. He flinched beneath her touch but didn’t pull away. “You’re beautiful,” she whispered. “And, I know it sounds crazy, since I met you no more than an hour ago, but I love you, too.”
He frowned at her for a moment, his disbelief apparent. Then a smile lifted the corners of his mouth, and he shook his head. “How could someone like you ever love someone like me?”
She gave him a saucy grin. “I’m just lucky I guess.”

 Thank you for visiting the OKRWA Halloween blog. We hope you enjoy the stories. For more information on me, visit my website at: You can follow me on twitter at: @Alicia_Dean_