Sneak Peeks & Reveals, The Indie Spotlight

Sneak Peek: Sunrise to Sunset by Laurie Bowler

As part of her monthly feature for October, Laurie is going to share an excerpt from one of her various novels. This week’s special is Sunrise to Sunset (Moon Rising #2). Enjoy….

 

 


 
 

Sunrise to Sunset (Moon Rising #2)


 

 
 

Overview from Goodreads:

Nessy wakes from her unconscious state to find she can no longer remember who she is or her purpose in life. Charles battles to try and tell her as much information as he can about her former life, and eventually submits to telling Nessy her true immortal state.
Hera takes Nessy back to the past in the form of the Gulon, where she meets the other Gulon packs who have come to aid them while the covens have gathered hoping to glimpse their new queen and ruler of the underworld, little does Nessy realise that person is her!
The continuing threat from the detested sinister Tellis coven fight back with the remaining members and they join forces with another coven that have long since been known for their massacres and barbaric ways for feeding.
Nessy has to battle to protect the human race from extinction and to protect her title for the good of races, the immortal race and the mortals that surround her, with Charles and the Gulon they must succeed.

 
 

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Chapter One

 
 

I allowed Charles to lead me outside to the garden; the moon had already set and cast its shadows everywhere my eyes could see. I waited until Charles walked us away from the house and we sat together on the nearby bench under the moonlight.

“So tell me, please? I need to know what’s happening around me; you’re all acting very weird for people who are supposed to be my family,” I said.

“Nessy, for a while you were only half human and half vampire. But then things changed, I mean, you changed into something that hasn’t happened before,” Charles began, and looked around the gardens, his face creased over with the thoughts and words that he had to tell me.  I watched the many emotions pass over his features, wondering why, this once; he was allowing me to see.

“Your body accepted the changes and then flourished, almost as if it was glad you had made the right decision. I have been studying your blood and DNA for a while now.  I don’t know if you remember, but I am a scientist and its quite fascinating to me to find how your DNA has accepted and evolved itself around the changes that have happened to you,” he said, as he took my hands in his own and held them tightly.

“Go on. What changes?” I asked.

“There is a creature other than us, called a Gulon. It resembles a huge cat and is a vampire’s biggest enemy and greatest threat. You’re one of them, as well as a vampire. That’s how you managed to change your DNA, but that was before you became a full vampire.”

“So before I was unconscious, I was a part Gulon, part human and part vampire? Some kind of weird cross breed?” I asked in amazement.

“That’s exactly right, I don’t know if you can still transform into a Gulon, you will have to ask Hera to help you, if you wish to follow down that path to try it,” he explained.

“Hera? What’s does he have to do with this? I thought he was human.” My confused mind seemed to be opening small tiny holes in my memory, allowing me glimpses of my past and former self before I had become a vampire.

For some reason unknown to me, the thought of my cousin Hera being something other than human was comforting, because now I knew at least one member of my family was as weird as I was.

“He is a Gulon as well, the leader of the pack,” Charles stated flatly.

The holes began to join in my mind as I sat quietly next to Charles, his hands holding both of my own and oddly comforting. I didn’t know this man who sat next to me, and I had woken up to find the most startling discoveries about myself.  I was a vampire, full blooded and evil through to my bones. The thirst would never leave me, that’s basically the idea I got from him earlier, but this coven had their own ways and means of sustaining themselves against the thirst and against the unholy grail of taking a human’s life for their own. A human, the only human whom they all trusted and respected not to give away their secret existence in this crazy world I had woken up into, delivered their food.

“I remember.” I gasped suddenly; I squeezed Charles’s hand tightly.

The memories came flooding back into my mind, me standing in the garden with Hera as I tried to transform under his direction, as he laughed hysterically at me on my first attempt. I saw myself standing and concentrating, my faced creased with concentration when I was attempting again to transform.  It was my birthright to be the leader of the Gulon, and I remembered handing that back over to Hera; it was his rightful place, and he’d been their leader for some time now and had already gained their respect and loyalty. Eventually, I saw myself as the Gulon, big and strong with fangs on my jaws to represent the vampire within me, my claws looked sharpened and ready to attack.

My vision shifted to show me something else, only I couldn’t quite see what it was trying to tell me, only that I had been running away from something and I was with Charles. His love and loyalty towards me had shone through the vision, almost blinding in its reality, exactly the same love and devotion he had shown me since I had woken up today.

“What is it, Nessy?” he asked gently, his face showing the concern I am sure must be real, even for vampires.

“I was running away from something with you, what were we running from?” I asked, stunned by the magical visions, they seemed to be flowing unstoppable now.

“I cannot answer that one; you have to be able to reveal that for yourself. Don’t push yourself, in time it will come, and then you will know all there is to know about yourself and this world we live in,” Charles said gently.

“I want to know, though,” I moaned.

I could feel the frustration building up inside me, knowing he held all the answers to this giant riddle, called ‘my life,’ but that he was unwilling, because of my precious so-called mind, to tell me of my origin and my past. What was so scary about it? I began to wonder, what on earth I’d done wrong for him to be so unwilling to explain anything to me.

“I guess you’re not going to tell me,” I mumbled.

“It’s really for your own good, Nessy. You have to believe that I am doing everything in my power to protect you.”

Charles took me in his arms for the first time, and held me close. All the feelings of being home rapidly built up inside of me. I was sure I hadn’t felt this way before until now and that my life must have been empty without him. I was so happy to become a vampire, even though it meant I had to drink blood to survive; at least it was from a glass and not from the veins of some poor unsuspecting human.

“Come on, I’ll take you to Hera.” Charles said and stood, his arm remaining around me.

I allowed him to lead me forward; the dazed expression must have shown in my eyes when I glanced at Charles, because he held me closer to him and kissed the top of my forehead reassuringly. His arm never left its place from around me, and the security was overwhelming.  I watched the grounds rapidly changing to hillside whenever he guided me in the right direction; I felt my feet stumble along the way a few times when the ground began to get uneven in places with the large stones that seemed to strut out, waiting to snare someone.

“Stop, Nessy, I can’t go any further. We’re not allowed over the rocks, you’ll be fine from here,” he said. “Can you hear anything?” Charles gestured to the direction of the noise.

I stood listening intently, the swashing of the trees and the breaking of branches and stones rolling hit my ears. I had never heard such loud noises before. It was deafening, but I managed to contain myself before Charles could become worried.

“What is that?” I asked, wondering why I was hearing the world around me, almost as if the world had grown an amplifier and I was listening to the stereo playing.

“That’s Hera, he’s on his way and running mighty fast to come and see you.” Charles explained patiently.

Just as he spoke, he turned his head in the direction of the noise and sure enough, Hera came round the bend, in his full, I suppose, Gulon form. His coat was magnificent, I had never seen such a coat of fur on an animal before, it had me fascinated and mesmerised.  I stared, while Hera pranced around behind the great stones for a while, his tail swinging around in the wind, and his tongue draping the side of his catlike jaw.

“Hera?” I asked gently. “Is that you?”

To my surprise and bewilderment, the response from Hera was the loudest snarling, cracking growl I’d ever heard, his way of welcoming me, I supposed. Since I had woken up, the world had begun to collect its own magical weirdness, everything seemed to fit, but then it didn’t seem to fit at all, completely confusing me.

I laughed when Hera stepped over the rocks and transformed into his human self; he stood in front of me grinning.

“Are you ready?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered.

Charles stood aside; making no move to let me go, he still kept his hold on my arm and didn’t seem in any hurry to release me. His face had turned into a blank mask, no emotion showed itself, not even a twitch!

“Charles, what’s wrong?”I asked gently.

“Nothing, I just remembered the last time you went over there,” he responded, at the same time changing his expression to one of gentleness.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Nothing, don’t worry.”

“Oh!”

That was it. ‘Nothing, don’t worry’ was all I was going to get. His mask had returned in full force, like a body shield.

“Take care of her.” Charles directed himself at Hera and promptly dropped his hold on me and walked away.

Hera stood next to me and watched me as I watched Charles walk away. He was the moodiest vampire; I’m sure in books they aren’t all that moody, but something a little scarier than he is.

“Come on, then,” Hera said and took my hand.

I followed Hera, matching my footsteps with his own to keep up the pace he insisted on treading across the hills. The trees that passed swayed in the wind, I felt the wind blow through my hair, teasing and pulling it in many directions, just the way my life seemed to be.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“To meet some people, they are all expecting you,” he answered. “Nessy, we don’t normally bring vampires to this side of the rocks, but you’re also one of our own, you’re a Gulon.”

“I remember something to do with that,” I said. “Can you tell me more?” I had this need to know my origin, to know why I was so different from all the other vampires.

“Where to start? That’s the question, I don’t even know how to begin to explain,” Hera said, we walked hand in hand.

“Is it much further,” I asked.

“No, not much, and who knows, when we get there you might remember something, maybe a little snippet of your memory might come back to you. It would certainly help, at least then I wouldn’t have to try to explain something impossible from the beginning,” he said, “Explaining someone’s life to them, sounds a little complicated.”

“I guess it does,” I agreed.

The bend in the hills began to reveal a settlement of buildings, each one had people milling about outside. A small community, they all looked so contented with each other and didn’t seem to mind Hera and me walking on by. When I eventually managed to disentangle my hand from Hera’s and walk by myself, I could turn freely to look around. The grandeur of the place, even though from the outside it looked shabby to some, but the way the people who lived here seemed to brighten it all up had left its mark, creating the grandeur in itself.

“Hera, it’s lovely,” I remarked.

“This is the property that I own; all these people belong to the Gulon clan. We are all one big family, and we have been waiting for your return,” he said. “Everyone here has gathered outside to catch a small glimpse of you.  I asked them all not to overwhelm you; you’ve only woken up this morning. And although you are a vampire of some kind, I’m still your cousin and therefore allowed to worry about you,” he finished the sentence with something a little unexpected.

“What do you mean ‘a vampire of some sort’?” I asked.

“Nessy, how many vampires do you know can transform into a Gulon?” he asked seriously.

“I didn’t know anything until I woke up today.”

Hera laughed loudly, his laugh echoing off the trees and around us, the people stood by watched with their own smiles, like they were all sharing a joke and I wasn’t privy to it. My mind scrambled to make sense of what was funny, because to my own knowledge, I hadn’t said anything funny at all. I’d only mentioned about myself waking up this morning, and as for vampires, I was convinced they were just something to do with folklore and unreal.

“Sorry,” he apologised. “I didn’t mean to seem like I was making fun of you, the situation just seems ironic, that’s all. Come on, there’s two people I am very keen for you to meet.” He once again took my hand; my feet walked with his once more across the grass and around the small houses placed here.

All of the small buildings looked the same; none of them seemed to look anything different. At last, Hera stopped outside and called out.

“Avid, Daisy, you home?” he shouted.

“Who are they?” I asked.

“Shh…” he admonished. “Wait and see.”

I waited patiently until a small child shyly peeped out from behind the door; followed closely by a woman who I presumed must be the child’s mother. The child seemed to know me and smiled, her face lighting angelically, she came running headfast into my arms. I bent down, my body making up its own mind against the will of my thoughts, and I captured the child into my arms.

“Nessy, you came back. Hera said you have been asleep, did you have a nice sleep?” she asked, “It must have been nice, because you were asleep for a long time; I waited ages for you to wake up.”

The innocence of the child struck me, and when I eventually looked up into her eyes, the expression of one so young and readily accepting me for what and who I was, shocked me.

“Daisy, steady,” Hera said, “Didn’t we already have a talk about when you meet Nessy?”

“Sorry,” she grumbled.

“It’s nice to have you with us again, Nessy. You’re most welcome,” Avid said, her arms folded and her facial expression one that looked to be happiness tinged with sadness when I looked at her.

“Thank you, you must be Avid,” I said.

I stood and formally shook her hand, and felt the surprise when she replied warmly with her fingers enclosing around mine. The gentleness in her eyes when I looked into them had me taken aback, and the feelings of being here before began to become a little more than just a snippet in my memory. The blanket of darkness unravelled itself; I could finally see the truth of my life, of how it had been before I had been unconscious. I wasn’t sure if I was seeing everything, because the images and words passing through my mind were scrambled. Finally, I knew exactly what was being hidden from me, and I knew this time, I wouldn’t tell them until they were ready to tell me what had happened since and during my sleep.

“Nessy, are you alright?” Hera asked, gently laying his hand on my shoulder.

“Yes,” I answered, “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“You looked a little pale just now. I see Daisy has missed you, not to mention the warm reception you got from Avid,” he remarked. “It was nice to see.”

“I gather Avid knows what has happened to me?”

“If you mean that you’re a vampire, then yes, she does,” he said. “But Nessy, you are also part of the Gulon clan; do you remember your father at all?”

With the hope that had risen in his eyes when I looked at him, both of us stopped simultaneously and looked at each other. There was something he wanted to tell me, it was in his eyes, with the gentleness of my dear cousin when he looked at me. The fear to tell me too much was plain to see, the same fear that I felt myself, knowing I was now the ruler of the underworld since I’d killed Hervidor.  His coven had long since banished its members, but I knew they would be finding others to join them so they could come back to defeat and destroy me. I couldn’t, wouldn’t let that happen.

“I do a little, I know that he was the Gulon leader while I was still a full human,” I answered. “And I remember how you came to join my family, and that you’re my cousin.”

“So, you remember quite a lot.” He gave his answer while he was watching the children playing in front of us, their squeals of laughter reminding us both of how free their world of innocence was, and our own world was full of scary monsters and giant cats!

“Tell me, Nessy,” he cleared his throat to make his voice clearer. “When were you going to tell me that you remember most things?”

“Excuse me?” I asked, dumbfounded.

“I didn’t ever tell you about Avid, did I?” he asked.

“Tell me what?”

“That she holds certain power, mainly she is a healer. I asked her to see what she could do to help you remember, to regain your memory,” he said. “Charles wouldn’t agree with any of this, his own sense of pride, but still I needed to be able to see if it worked. Avid is more than certain that it has worked. Can you remember everything, Nessy?”

I sighed deeply, I was foolish to think I could retain the information for myself, I thought it had just been a lapse, that seeing Avid and Daisy had flung my memory back to me. I would never have thought that Avid would be some kind of healing witch, one that could give me back my memory and my life before my unconscious state.

“So?” he asked again.

“I was going to say something eventually, but I wanted to see when someone might tell me something, how long it would take? You know, it’s not been easy waking up to find your entire life is one big blur. Then to find you’re a vampire, further more than that, to find out you’re also a Gulon, something that has never been heard of,” I explained. “I only ever wanted to be a part of something, you know, like I was once fully human. I wanted to be just a vampire, or just a Gulon, not a bit of both with my human feelings still intact. It makes me feel freakish; I didn’t want to be made to feel a freak.”

When I risked a glance at Hera because he hadn’t answered me straight away after my emotional speech, it was to find he was creased up, laughing at me. His smile lit his eyes and his laugh bubbled out of him and filled the silence that had begun between us. I smiled, despite feeling completely confused; it was good to see someone laugh and no one had laughed since I had woken up.

“What’s funny?” I asked.

“Oh, Nessy,” he said, between bursts of laughter. “Your emotional speech!  Anyone would think you were the only person who had a say in the world. I’ve never heard such babble in all my life, it was funny.”

I thought back to my speech and laughed as well. He was right; it was a little too emotional, even for me.

“You’re right,” I agreed. “But hey…at least I’m the ruler of the underworld, so my final word is the one that matters.  Is that right?”

“Of course,” he said. “Your highness.” And just when he said that, he bowed down in front of me, making me giggle even more. The absurdity of being the ruler of the underworld was something I had never envisioned in my life, and now everything seemed to be a little strange around me.

“Get up! You’re making everyone stare,” I giggled and tried to admonish him.

Everyone around us had stopped and had begun to stare, the expressions bewildered and amused at the scene Hera had created in front of them. We both stopped, and our smiles remained broadly written across our faces.

“It’s ok Nessy; they know what’s happened.”

“Which part?” I asked hesitantly.

“All of it, they know you’re the ruler of the underworld, but that you’re not any threat to us or to any other human,” he said. “They also know you’re a Gulon, and you’ve been a Gulon for a while, way before you were a vampire.”

“Oh!” I answered.

The Gulon and their families surrounded me, and I hadn’t even noticed them approaching when I was speaking to Hera; they just seemed to appear from nowhere. Each person smiled at me, their eyes mirroring the kindness in Hera’s words, putting me at ease with them and the knowledge that I was someone higher up the ladder in the vampire world, the forbidden combination of vampire and Gulon had begun, starting with me.

Hera stood proudly beside me, and when I looked at his face shining with amusement at the situation, I could still tell he felt proud of his remaining family member for being the ruler of vampires, but not in the least as evil as the covens that still remained in our midst. Each person had taken to dropping down and bowing before me, their eyes fixed upon my face as they showed their respect to the new leader that was different to the one that had been ruler before.

“See, you’re being welcomed, even as the ruler of the underworld. The Gulon people welcome you, you are one of us, after all,” Hera whispered from beside me.

My hand clutched his and held tightly, I felt his fingers squeeze around my own with the heat and the emotions of the moment. This one moment in time that we were both caught up in the middle of, seemed like it would last forever.

“Thank you,” I whispered, finally the tears gradually built in my eyes.

Every person began to rise and walk towards me, their hands stretched out to touch me in some way; it felt both exhilarating and exciting all at once. By far, the most amazing feeling I’d felt since I’d woken up. Now, all the pieces of the puzzle seemed to fit themselves together, and with thanks to Avid and her healing of my mind, I finally knew who I was and where I was supposed to fit in this world that I had awakened to.

“They want to show you their faith and honesty; when each person decides to touch you in some way, they are showing you that they honour you, and will protect you. It’s an ancient service we used to do, before my time of being the Gulon leader, but these people have been around for as long as I can remember,” Hera whispered into my ear from beside me.

While I waited patiently beside Hera for the crowd to disperse and for all the people to finish honouring me and welcoming me into their clan, I felt the hissing in my ear gradually build. Charles’s voice met my ears and he sounded distant, yet he felt like he was standing beside me.

“Be still and do not move. Don’t allow anyone to know you can hear me, our connection goes deeper than any of us would have guessed. There is trouble here at the house– stay away for as long as you can, word has got out that you have woken.” Then he said into my ear, his hissing sounding louder than it had before, “You’re in danger my love, stay away.”

“Nessy, what is it?” Hera asked from beside me, his arms capturing me around the waist.

“Nothing, just a little weak, I only woke up this morning, maybe I have done too much,” I answered, and allowed Hera to lead me away.

Everyone seemed to have finished anyway, so no harm would be done.  Not that it was expected for any of this to happen today: the honouring service that had been decided, or the ways of being enveloped into a new family that would protect me.

“Tell me.” he demanded.

“There’s nothing, honestly,” I said.

“Liar! What happened?  I need to know so I can make sure you’re looked after properly,” he answered.

Hera’s face seemed furious to me, his eyes had narrowed and before me stood a man in place of my loving and teasing cousin, the one I could remember him to be. And he had become this way since I had given him full power and leadership over the pack, his own rightful and deserving place.

“I heard Charles; he said there’s danger at the house. Something about word had got out about me waking up,” I muttered.

“I thought so, I knew there was little chance he would leave you alone here, let alone allow you to return with danger there,” his face looked thoughtful for a fraction of a second and stared ahead of us. “Did he say how many there were?”

“No, just not to return back to the house.” I stated the facts that Charles had told me, as best as I could, and I still couldn’t fathom how Charles could speak to me in the way that he had.  It would seem the connection between us both ran deeper than we anticipated which might come in handy one day if ever I found myself in trouble, or in need of anything.

“He can’t possibly want you to hide away, it would be impossible to do that now you’re the ruler. You should be protected and waiting to greet every coven and every vampire in the underworld, so you can get an idea of what and who you’re facing,” he said. “I don’t agree with his decision.  What would you say if I had an idea that would help you to stamp your mark on the covens to show your leadership and the power that you hold over each and every one of them?” he asked me gently.

“I don’t know, Hera, Charles wouldn’t be happy if I turned up and threw his own plans out to sea, you know what he can be like,” I muttered through clenched teeth, thinking of how Charles would react and the way it would make me feel.

“He’ll thank you in the end, it will work. Trust me?” he asked, his eyes gleaming with the mischief that he felt for the plan he’d created in seconds.

“You know I do.  What are you planning?” I asked.

“Well, I thought if you changed your clothes to something a little more regal than the ones you’re wearing and we turned up in Gulon form, all of us, the whole pack running together.  Then you could transform in front of them to the vampire they have come all this way to see, that way they will see the power that you hold and will hopefully think twice about attacking you or trying to take your life,” he explained, his eyes lighting with the idea he’d represented.

“It sounds good, but Hera, there is one problem,” I started, and felt a little uncomfortable to admit the second part, even though it would be met without any criticism.

“What’s the problem?” he asked gently.

“Although I have my memory back intact, I can’t remember how to transform. I remember how I did it before, but what if it doesn’t work this time, now that I am a full vampire?” I asked.

“Don’t know until we try, now do we!” was all he said, and marched away in the direction of the other Gulon that stood waiting patiently at the edge of the houses.

Their deep conversation signalled that something had happened to rise and gather them all into the tight knit group they looked to be, while Hera marched on forwards and I walked silently behind him. The Gulon were their own powerful force and could take out the vampire world if they chose to, but they wanted to remain peaceful in their own world.  And as long as the vampires didn’t attack upon their grounds, or take any humans from the little village that lay beneath us all, then they wouldn’t attack any vampire.

“Hera, nice to see you,” Bostin said.  He looked just as my memory recalled when it had been healed.

“What’s happened?” Hera demanded when he got close enough.  Their voices carried over to me, and because of my vampire traits, I did have the extraordinary hearing and I could hear them all from where I was.

“We’re overrun with the bloodsuckers, they have arrived to pay tribute to Nessy,” Bostin explained. “Hera, there’s too many of them.”

“I have a plan, don’t worry,” I heard Hera say when I approached.

The Gulon smiled in my direction and all the previous hostility towards me had vaporised.  It felt comfortable being around them and they all seemed to treat me as their own, without any ridicule for the vampire that I had become. Spark and Val stood on the right side of Bostin, their faces watching curiously in my direction, like they were waiting for me to do something that would indicate my leadership.  But I had given that role to Hera; it was his rightful place and not mine to take away from him.

“So, what’s your plan?” Val asked.

“I think if Nessy appears before the bloodsuckers, sorry about the naming Nessy,” Hera apologised when he realized the name he had labelled in front of me.

“It’s alright,” I answered, and smiled bravely at them all to show them that it hadn’t affected me at all.

“Right, as I was saying, if Nessy turns up in her Gulon form with all of us beside her and behind, to show a united front to the blood…eh…vampires!” Hera managed to stop himself from saying the name ‘bloodsuckers’ for the second time.

“What if Nessy can’t change into Gulon anymore? Have you considered that now she is a full vampire, she may not be able to?” Spark asked, her curiosity at my situation now getting the better of her, and she managed to ask the same question that I had asked earlier.

“We’re going to work on that. Right now, I want you all to be ready, listen out for me. When we all arrive and make our entrance, it will show something the vampires have never seen before, and their reaction might not be something that we want to see, but it’s a chance we have to take.” Hera commanded, “Bostin, Galick will be at the right side of me, Spark and Val, you’ll be at the other side of Nessy. Finally, listen out for me calling you when we’re ready.”

The Gulon stood in their formation they had become accustomed to when taking orders from Hera, his own stance changed from friend to leader, the powerful voice he used when he spoke to them, allowed no argument from the others.

“Nessy, come with me,” Hera turned and spoke to me and took my hand, when we passed the Gulon pack, his short nod in their direction was the signal they’d been waiting for to end the conversation.

“Hera, wait. There’s something else,” Val shouted from behind us.

Hera turned around and faced her, his face a mixture of impatience and the desire to learn what else was new, I felt the tension in his hand because he was still holding onto me.

“Well?” He asked.

“It’s the other packs, well…they’re heading this way. They’ve sensed we are in danger and have taken to the road to help us,” Val said.

“Other packs?” I whispered.

“Yes, there are more than just us Nessy, they protect the other parts of the world where the vampires are,” he whispered back.

“Well, just wait until they arrive, then. We have everything in hand and there isn’t any cause for concern, not right now, anyway,” he said, and began speaking to the whole pack. Their expressions mirrored their disbelief at his words, they hadn’t expected for Hera to brush of the fact that more Gulon were heading in our direction. The giant cats would surely swarm around all the vampires and try to defeat them, thinking they were in danger. But would I be included in the vampire realm?

“Hera, I think you have to face the Gulon when they arrive, if they try to fight their way with the vampires, they might take me down with them,” I explained when the thought had entered my own mind. “If they do, they could kill me. You know that as well as I do, I am the ruler of the underworld and the one they will hunt.”

Hera sighed, his face turning away from me again and he faced his pack.

“Val and Bostin will meet the packs and make sure they have everything they would need, Spark and Galick will come and find me, we’ll be at the house,” Hera commanded.

We walked away from the pack, and I heard them talking among themselves about the actions Hera was about to take. They struggled with their own disbelief at the prospects of facing the many covens, which had turned up in my honour and were waiting for me at Charles’s house.

“I can’t believe what he just ordered us to do, has he lost his mind?” I heard Val asking.

“Val, he is our leader and hasn’t ever put in any danger before. Trust his judgement, and do as he has asked,” Galick spoke and admonished Val.

“Galick’s right, Val, calm down, you know that Hera always does what’s best for the pack and the people we protect. I think we ought to go and meet the other packs and invite them,” Spark said. “Like we were asked to do.” She finished her sentence and the sounds of footsteps walking away carried to my own ears, letting me know that she had walked away.

“Come on Val, it’s not that bad. Trust Hera,” Bostin said.

“I know I should, it’s just the thought of being faced with all the bloodsuckers and not doing anything at all to them,” she sighed. “It means I have to stand there and watch them, without taking any of them out of this world; that’s going to be the hardest.”

“We will all be fine. It will be hard, but Nessy was one of our own kind before she was vampire and we have promised to protect her,” Galick said gently. “You even promised to do that as well, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I know I did. I don’t have a problem with Nessy; she isn’t any threat to us at all. But she is the ruler of the underworld and the one we should be destroying, but we can’t,” Val said. “It’s so complicated, all the time,” she fumed.

“Come on, we better make a start at the meet and greet,” Bostin said.

It was then I heard all of them start to disperse and leave the gathering area.  We were still walking away and I couldn’t believe that they thought I couldn’t hear them. Surely, they remembered about the hearing abilities of vampires?

“What’s wrong?” Hera asked.

“Nothing much, Val isn’t happy, though. She thinks you’re making the wrong decisions and wants to fight the vampires that have arrived,” I said.

Hera laughed and smiled widely. “She always wants to fight, what’s new?” he said.

“Well, one thing is for certain, none of them want to take me down,” I mused. “How come I have been accepted so readily, whereas before, they weren’t quite ready to accept any of this?” I asked.

“Mainly since you transformed into one of us, we’re a pack, and we don’t turn on our own kind, we are loyal to each other and will pay with our lives to defend each other,” he explained. “I just hope you can still transform, because I don’t know what will happen if you can’t.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Just that while we still believe that you can, if it appears that you can’t, it might change how they feel. I doubt that it would, but it’s still a worry that I have.”

“Well then, let’s hope that we can,” I said.

We walked a little further on the familiar trail that led to our house. It was still grand and the last memory I had, it needed some work done to it.

At the last bend in the trail, I began to see the roof, and an odd feeling stole itself around me.  Whether it was because the night was drawing in fast and the shadows had begun to spring out and cascade around us, I wasn’t sure.  But there was something not right about the house.

“Hera, I don’t know about going in there,” I said.

“Why? What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I feel something odd,” I said. “It’s hard to explain, but there’s something different and I don’t know what it is.”

Hera laughed and carried on, his hand in mine and he pulled me along behind him.  The sounds of the animals scurrying around as they went about their business met my ears, and the wind softly blowing the branches and leaves of the trees surrounding us started to sound deafening.

“Here we are,” he proudly announced.

I stood still, with the shock that I felt; the house looked amazing beyond my expectations, and the memory of a rundown house in need of work vanished rapidly from my mind.  In front of me stood the house I had always dreamt of, the one where my mother and father had spent many happy years bringing me safely into the world.  The grand doors were painted, ivy that had once crept up the walls had been cut back, the gardens around the front had been cut and preened with great care and the flowers had started to grow back. Their colours made everything look picturesque, almost like I was looking at an oil painting and not the real thing.

“Hera, did you do this?” I asked breathlessly.

“Sure did, do you like it?” He asked. “Is it how you remember?”

“It is, and more, it’s beautiful.  I remember how my parents spent many hours in the garden, they didn’t like the gardeners doing everything and weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.” I replied.

My hand left his and I walked away, dazed and breathless with the grandeur of my house, it stood beautiful and proud like it had once been.