Below is the first full chapter of book. Enjoy!!!!
The peevish voice jolted Zofia out of the dream she was having. She sat bolt upright and gulped in air. The gray of pre-dawn on First World met her eyes. She was in her own four-poster bed. Thank goddess, just a bad dream.
“What? Who’s sick?” She expected to see her sixteen-year-old daughter, Blanche, or her eleven-year-old son, Elton, or her Aunt Tillie, standing over her. But as Zofia’s vision cleared, she saw no one was in the room with her. Whose voice had pulled her out of deep slumber?
Looking beyond the pencil posts of her bed, Zofia spied the highboy where a large brown fur-ball lay on top. Turquoise eyes scrutinized her. It was Argyll, one of her two guardian cats. Argyll sent Zofia a disgruntled look, but then her eyes fell shut and her head sank back down. So, it wasn’t either of her cats calling to her.
“Someone’s at the front door ringing the bell, and it’s giving me a h-h-headache,” the detached, slightly willowy male voice moaned.
“Oh, all right, Biddle. Really!” Zofia grumbled. Throwing off the covers, she swung her long legs over the edge of the bed. She had to shake the cobwebs from her head before straightening to her full, barefooted height of five-seven.
Her gaze cut to the clock on her nightstand. A quarter past five in the morning. No wonder she couldn’t get her eyes open all the way. Who would be ringing her doorbell at this hour? Damn Ugwump salesman probably. If they couldn’t snag you via the phone, they came to your door. Well, she’d take care of him. One little zap to his ass would make him take off. Or better yet, maybe a good scare would keep him from coming back, and she wouldn’t have to open the door at all.
“You’re a Ghogal, Biddle,” she snarled. “You should’ve at least seen who it was before bothering me.”
“I don’t do doors,” the detached voice retorted haughtily. No wonder she hadn’t seen anyone there. It had been Biddle, her Ghogal, and he was very much invisible.
Grabbing the silky powder-blue robe at the end of the bed, Zofia pulled it on hastily as she charged into the hallway. The peal of the door chimes grated her ears as much as it did anyone's. Biddle was her servant, a returned invisible spirit, and was capable of carrying out many physical tasks for their chosen masters. Nearly every wizarding family had one on Euphoria, and Biddle had been in her family for generations, so naturally he had come with her when she had made her exodus from Euphoria to First World. Many of the Ugwump inventions here either stumped or frightened him—including the dishwasher. But the doorbell aggravated him.
Zofia swiped a wild veil of wavy sienna hair out of her face. Probably look like someone has taken an egg beater to my hair. She Transvected—levitated—out of her bedroom and down the hall toward the staircase. Darting out from beneath her dangling feet, two large, tawny, furry bodies surged ahead of her. Perth and Argyll dashed down the steps and waited at the entry, meowing impatiently before she could land barefooted on the cool slate floor.
A chill plunged down Zofia's spine as she approached the door. The memory of her dream crashed through her mind like a poltergeist in a glass shop. Why did she have this dream again after five long years of it abating? She now had dreamt it a sixth time in a fortnight. Was Vesselvod Blood near? Had he found her?
Heavy pounding on the door made her jump out of her thoughts.
“Just a moment,” she said, and looked through the small wedge of glass in the door. The shadow of a tall, square-shouldered man stood there. But with his back toward her she couldn’t identify him. He wasn’t wearing a suit, so she knew he wasn’t a stupid Ugwump salesman. It certainly wasn’t Richard Keys, who was much taller, and more robust. Besides, this man had shoulder-length black hair. Whoever he was, from this angle, the guy looked interesting.
“Who’s there?” she asked.
The man turned to face the door. He shook the wild mane out of his dark, brooding, sapphire eyes and Zofia stared into a handsome face. She pulled in a gasp as instant recognition hit her hard like a troll’s fist to the noggin. He looked almost like he had the day he’d left her to go on assignment, five First World years ago; longish hair, and sideburns needed trimming. Even in this light she could see the slight bump on the bridge of his nose where it had been broken in a fight in his youth.
“Zofia? It’s me, Dorian,” he said in a distinctive Ogenthow accent with a mellow, almost crooning voice. “Let me in, darling.”
Her heart gave a lurch. A multitude of emotions zipped through Zofia. She twisted the locks and yanked the heavy oak door open so frantically she broke a fingernail—oh hell... I'll mend it later. Their eyes met for the first time in five years. Zofia couldn’t believe he was standing there looking alive and fit as a Troll who'd eaten a whole village. Even so, she held off pulling him into a tight embrace. Mostly because all the warning bells were clanging in her head.
“Zofia, I—” His gaze took in every inch of her like a man who’d not set eyes on a woman in a thousand Euphoria years. “How wonderful you look in that—” his hands gestured toward her. “You look like one of those women in a lingerie ad on Ugwump TV.”
Zofia had been holding her breath since opening the door, and now exhaled with her words, “I thought you were dead! I thought Blood had killed you!” She crossed her arms and glared at him, waiting for an explanation.
“Well, yes he did—”
“I saw it all in my dream the night you disappeared. That’s why I fled with the children.” The same dream I've been having, like last night.
“I know,” Dorian said. He glanced over his shoulder, turned back to her and said, “I’ve not much time. Could you just invite me in? I’ll explain everything—”
“I mourned for one hundred days, as required by the Code of Ethics. The children—” her voice broke with an emotional chirp. She averted her gaze. Embarrassed to show her emotions in front of Dorian she went on. “We couldn’t find your-your body so as to sever the head, a-and then burn the body so that a demon couldn’t take it over,” she strove on matter-of-factly, trying to regain control over those wild emotions, but it proved nearly impossible with the memories of what she'd gone through thinking he was dead.
“That would’ve been a mistake,” he said low.
“And now here you are!” Marshalling her emotions she said in a low, dangerous voice, “How dare you make us all go through that, and now here you are at my door after five years of nothing!”
“I’m guessing you’re upset—”
“Upset? Me?” she said, voice going up an octave. “If I were upset, you wouldn’t still be standing there.”
“But, darling, you didn’t stay in Ogenthow long after that night. And I wasn’t myself, believe me, after what Blood did to me. Not only did I forget the attack, but once I remembered what had happened, you’d already left Euphoria. I learned you’d come here to First World in order to escape Blood. I then followed you to this low-brow burg called Gladstone ill.”
“It’s not ill, it’s Illinois,” she corrected.
“What? Oh—whatever,” he said, swiping the air dismissively with his hand. “Just let me in and I’ll explain everything.” Again he looked over his shoulder. “I don’t have much time, darling. Please?”
“Why? Is someone following you?”
“No. Not a who exactly. But the sun’s about up. Just let me in before I turn to dust.”
His words gave her pause. The dream. Blood had turned Dorian to dust in the dream. How odd he would use such a turn of phrase.
Finally giving him a dubious look she said, “You’d better have a good explanation for not being able to find us sooner than this.”
“I do. I promise. Really.”
Gazing down at her cats she said, “What d’you think, girls? Should we let the lout in?”
A pair of slightly crossed aqua eyes gazed up at her. They both meowed. But Zofia was the only one able to hear them speak—a blessing from the Immortals.
“It would make things interesting, wouldn’t it, sister?” Perth said.
“Aye, it would, sister.” Argyll replied. “In a delicious way, I'm sure.”
Zofia looked up at Dorian and said, “Well, it’s unanimous.”
She stepped aside. But Dorian paused at the threshold without entering.
“Well? Didn’t you just beg me to come in?”
“Just indulge me for a second and ask me in,” he said, his voice going tight with agitation. Maybe a tinge of fear to it, too.
“I can’t enter your house unless you invite me in.” His voice had phased back to its normal coolish note.
She rolled her eyes. “Okay, Dorian Grandier, come in.”
He rushed into the house, slammed the door behind himself, sprinted over to the windows, threw the thick curtains closed, then backed away from them.
Zofia frowned at his strange behavior. “What’re you afraid of?”
Panting, he turned. The white tips of his incisors peeked just below his upper lip. She studied his deep-set eyes, almost straight nose, and the strong jaw line. He looked blanched, as if he’d been living in a cave for years. Smudges beneath the eyes—which Zofia had not seen before this—made him look a little spooky. He seemed frightened. She could not remember a time when Dorian had ever been frightened of anything. After all, he was a Knight of the Witenagemont who went after wizards who walked on the dark side, Ogres with illegal stashes, demons, dangerous imps, illegal shape-shifters, vampires and Werewolves who stepped one toe out of the Oblast into the Province, all of them were thrown out, put into rehab, or incarcerated in Hamparzum’s, mostly thanks to him. His appearance both horrified and saddened her. This was not the Dorian and husband she knew.
Suddenly, both cats hissed vehemently. Backs arched, fur straight out, they both darted into the next room.
“Dorian!” she said, backing away a few steps. The hairs on the nape of her neck prickled. She now wished she’d brought the Stone of Irdisi-loaded scepter with her for more protection. But, she hadn’t seen it in weeks and couldn’t remember what she’d done with the darn thing. “Dorian, explain yourself, before I put a hex on you!”
Bringing his hands up in a defensive move he said, “I—uh—” He cleared his throat. “I’ve been turned into a vampire.”
©2008 Lorelei Bell