Much Ado About Vampires
(The ninth book in the Dark Ones series)
A novel by Katie MacAlister
For eight years, the editorial hand guiding my books belonged to Laura Cifelli, a charming woman with a wickedly funny sense of humor that frequently had me snorting beverages out of my nose (I quickly learned never to drink when on the phone with her). Although Laura decided to leave publishing, I am truly grateful for all her help, support, and shared admiration of dishy guys. I am blessed to have known her, and happily dedicate Alec to her. Er . . . Alec’s book. She already got grabby with Baltic. She doesn’t really need Alec, too....
Thanks for everything, Laura!
Hello, and welcome to Alec and Cora’s book!
“Who’s Alec?” I hear some of you asking. Others of you might be familiar with Alec, but have no clue who Cora is. Since this book features characters from previous books, a novella, and a short story, I thought I’d make sure everyone was on the same page—ha! author humor!—before you get started.
Alec Darwin was introduced in Zen and the Art of Vampires, along with his buddy Kristoff and Kristoff’s Beloved, Pia. That story was larger than could be reasonably put into one book, so the story spilled over into a sequel, Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang.
I always intended to write Alec’s story, since he was a man who suffered greatly during his long life, but didn’t see a way to do that until I sat down to write a short story to explain the loss of his Beloved so many centuries ago. That story, “My Heart Will Go On and On”, tells the tale of Corazon Ferreira’s evening to remember, and led to Cora being a secondary character in the novella Unleashed (found in the Cupid Cats anthology).
Still with me? If not, you can find the “My Heart Will Go On and On” short story at the back of this book. You don’t have to read it in order to understand what happens in Much Ado About Vampires, but the good folks at New American Library and I thought it might be nice to include it, since until now it’s only been available online.
I hope you enjoy seeing Alec and Cora finally get together after all that groundwork!
Alec Darwin was dying, or as close to it as one could be without having that last little spark of life flitter away into nothingness.
He closed his eyes and lay back, shifting slightly when a rock dug into the small of his back. Should he go to the trouble of trying to remove it, he wondered absently, so he could lie for eternity in comfort? Or was such a trivial thing worth the effort? Did he even have the strength to do it? It had been all he could do to stagger to the area he had the previous day cleared of small, pointed rocks, his final resting place.
His shoulder shifted in mild irritation. The rock ground into his kidney, the pain of it distracting him from his plan. Dammit, he hadn’t seen a rock when he fell to the ground, his strength draining from him as his body squeezed the last morsel of energy from the remaining teaspoon or two of blood that was slowly absorbed into his dying flesh.
He was supposed to be cherishing his martyrdom as he lay dying in the Akasha, not thinking about a damned rock the size of a watermelon digging into his back. He was supposed to be thinking of the pathetic tragedy of a life that he had been forced to live, unenlivened with any sort of joy or happiness, or even hope. He shouldn’t be wondering whether if he rolled over onto his side, the damned rock would let him die in peace.
If only his Beloved hadn’t died. If only he’d come to her a few minutes earlier, he could have been there when that idiot reaper lost control. If only he’d bedded her and Joined the minute he knew she was his Beloved, rather than allowing her to give in to her mortal sensibilities, demanding he court her.
A last breath passed his lips as he tried to hold on to the image of her face, his one true love, the woman who had been put on the earth to save him, and who had died the victim of a senseless accident that was directly responsible for his death at that moment.
Awareness slid away from him, the rock ceasing to be an annoyance, the last few sparks between his brain cells providing not the image of his Beloved, as he so desperately wanted, but that of a woman who had lain in a faint at his feet a few months previously.
The dream started the way it always started.
“What do you see, Corazon?”
The voice that spoke so calmly belonged to Barbara, the hypnotherapist whom Patsy had hired for our “Girls’ Night In” semiannual party.
“Mud. I see mud. Well, mud and grass and stuff like that. But mostly just mud.”
“Are you sure she’s under?” Patsy asked, her voice filled with suspicion. Pats was always a doubter. “She doesn’t look hypnotized to me. CORA! Can you hear me?”
“I’d have to be five miles away not to hear you. I’m hypnotized, you idiot, not deaf.” I glared at her. She glared at me glaring at her.
“Wait just one second. . . .” Patsy stopped glaring and pointed dramatically at where I lay prone on the couch. “You’re not supposed to hear me!”
“Is she supposed to know she’s hypnotized?”
That was Terri, the third member of our little trio of terror, as my ex-husband used to call us.
“Her knowing doesn’t negate the regression, does it?” Terri asked Barbara.
“Hypnotism isn’t a magical state of unknowing,” Barbara said calmly. “She is simply relaxed, in touch with her true inner spirit, and has opened up her mind to the many memories of lifetimes past. I assure you that she is properly hypnotized.”
“Let me get a pin and poke her with it,” Patsy said, bustling over to a bookcase crammed full of books and various other items. “If she reacts, we’ll know she’s faking it.”
“No one is poking me with anything!” I sat up, prepared to sprint to safety if she so much as came near me with anything sharp and pointy.
“Please, ladies.” I didn’t see Barbara show any signs of rushing, but I knew she wanted to hurry us along so she could leave. “We have limited time. Corazon is in a light trance, also referred to as an alpha state. Through that, she has tapped into her higher self, her true Infinite Being, a state in which she is free to bypass the boundaries of time.”
“Yeah. Bypassing all that stuff,” I said, lying back down on the couch. Even though it was a dream, and I knew it was a dream, my stomach started to tighten at what was to come. “So sit back and watch the show. What do I do now, Barbara?”
“Look around you. Examine your surroundings. Tell us what you see, what you feel.”
“I see mud. I feel mud. I am the mud.”
“There has to be more to her past life than mud, surely,” Terri said, munching on popcorn.
My stomach turned over. It was coming. He was coming. I felt it, felt the horror just on the edges of my consciousness.
“Are there any buildings or other structures around to give you an idea of what year you are reliving?” Barbara asked.
“Um . . . nothing on the left side other than forest. I seem to be standing on a dirt path of some sort. Let me walk to the top of this little hill—oh! Wow! There’s a town down below. And it looks like there’s a castle way up on a tall cliff in the distance. Lots of tiny little people are running around in some fields outside of the town. Cool! It’s like a medieval village or something. Think I’ll go down to say hi.”
“Excellent,” Barbara said. “Now tell me, how do you feel? ”