RomanceScience Fiction & Fantasy

Seeing Scarlett

L. E. Bridgstock

Scarlett Evans is no ordinary vampire. Nick Dahlman is no ordinary vampire hunter. When Scarlett is pursued by the powerful leader of a local coven and Nick’s reckless younger brother goes missing, the pair—natural enemies—will be forced to rely on each other’s unique expertise if they hope to restore balance to their worlds. But along their quest from eerily innocent coffeehouses to remote castles with dark histories, it becomes abundantly clear that that same expertise has as much chance of getting them killed as keeping them alive...

Age Rating: 18+

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Seeing Scarlett - Book cover
RomanceScience Fiction & Fantasy

Seeing Scarlett

L. E. Bridgstock

Scarlett Evans is no ordinary vampire. Nick Dahlman is no ordinary vampire hunter. When Scarlett is pursued by the powerful leader of a local coven and Nick’s reckless younger brother goes missing, the pair—natural enemies—will be forced to rely on each other’s unique expertise if they hope to restore balance to their worlds. But along their quest from eerily innocent coffeehouses to remote castles with dark histories, it becomes abundantly clear that that same expertise has as much chance of getting them killed as keeping them alive...

Age Rating: 18+

1: On the Prowl

SCARLETT

I began to shake in anticipation as the neon sign of Club du Sang came into view.

It had been weeks since I’d had a fix, and my body was screaming.

I couldn’t ignore its cries any more.

I need it.

Tonight.

I approached the front door, my high heels clicking loudly against the concrete with every step I took.

This club was the only one of its kind in the area.

I didn’t want to risk getting turned away, so I always dressed according to its ridiculous, completely demeaning dress code.

The bouncer eyed me up and down, judging every inch of my form:

Skintight leather trousers, a dangerously low-cut top, and a slick of red lipstick that matched my long, tousled hair.

As he stared down at me, I stared right back, trying to contain my desperation.

He was impressively built, but I could undoubtedly kick his ass if he tried to deny me entry.

Fortunately for him, it didn’t come to that.

After a long, agonizing moment, he moved out of the door-frame and led me into the dark room, which was illuminated only by strobe lights.

Immediately, the scent of sweat and alcohol filled my nostrils.

The sound of heartbeats and the thumping of electronic music were practically indistinguishable.

I shouldered my way to the bar.

The alcohol would not affect me, of course, but I wanted to blend in as best I could.

With a drink in hand, I slipped back into the crowd.

My hips moved with the techno beat as I weaved through the dance floor, scanning for a suitable target.

And thankfully, it didn’t take me long to find the perfect one.

Blond male.

Early twenties.

Absolutely delicious.

With a well-practised wink, I caught his eye.

Hook, line, and sinker.

The sea of smoke and swirling bodies parted as he made his way towards me, and I shuddered.

Wow.

He smells as good as he looks.

Finally, he was standing right in front of me.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” he replied. “You look…hungry.”

I nodded slowly. “Starved.” His eyes lit up. He was fiending as much as I was.

“Good,” he said. “I’m—”

“Let’s not waste time with names,” I replied. “This is purely transactional.”

He seemed like a sweet kid, barely older than eighteen. The more I knew about him, the harder this would be.

I could barely make out his face amidst the flashing lights and that’s exactly how I wanted it.

He gave me a sly smile. “Fine. Let’s get out of here,” he said, taking my hand.

But instead of pulling me towards the front door, he led me deeper into the club, pushing aside a velvet curtain and motioning for me to join him inside a small, dimly lit room.

We stood face to face.

I was practically salivating.

“So,” he said, “what are you in the mood for?”

“What are you offering?”

He unbuttoned the sleeve of his shirt and pulled it up, revealing the golden, supple flesh of his wrist.

Perfect.

I leaned in, but he pulled his arm back.

“Wait,” he said.

I can’t wait any more.

“Tell me your name first.”

If I must…

“I’m Scarlett,” I said, baring my sharp fangs. “May I?”

“Please do.”

Without wasting another second, I plunged my teeth into his wrist, sucking out the warm, delicious nectar.

Blood.

The only substance in the world that quenched my thirst and sated my hunger.

The only thing I needed to stay alive…or, at least, to stay undead.

Once I’d had my fill, relishing the taste, I pulled away from him and wiped my mouth.

“Heal me, Scarlett,” he said, with bated breath.

It was time for me to complete the transaction; to give him something in exchange for what he had given me.

I leaned in again and licked delicately over the wound that I had inflicted.

His eyes rolled back into his head as he succumbed to the pure, narcotic ecstasy of my healing saliva.

The puncture marks began to disappear, until the only proof of the feeding was an imprint of my bright red lipstick on his unmarked skin.

“When can I see you again?” he asked as he regained consciousness.

“Don’t get attached,” I replied, patting him gently on the shoulder. “Vampires don’t make for very good company.”

And then I turned on my heel and walked out of the club before any of the other bloodsuckers noticed that I was there.

***

I returned home to my flat on the ground floor of a converted Victorian home, completely satiated by a successful night at the club.

“Lillian!” I called out as I entered the spartan living room, but my roommate was nowhere to be found.

“LIL!” I said, louder. “Where are—”

I did not have to finish my question because she suddenly materialized in front of me.

“Well!” she exclaimed. “Look at you, all gussied up in those leather gas pipes!”

“I told you. Nobody calls them gas pipes any more.”

Lillian had died in 1805, so I could not expect her ghost to be up to date on current fashion lingo.

“Well, you look much healthier,” she said. “You should not leave so much time between feedings.”

“I just hate going to that place. It is a playground for Rowland and his followers.”

Rowland was the most powerful coven leader in the area.

He wasn’t thrilled that I had denied his invitation to join a while back, which had made for some uncomfortable run-ins at the club.

But I could not bear to give up my freedom for the illusion of security and community.

“I know you hate them all,” Lillian said, “but it is the best option you have around here to satisfy your hunger.”

“What have you been up to?” I asked, changing the subject.

Her only reply was a quick, wicked smile.

I know exactly what that means…

“You went to his flat again?” I asked incredulously.

Lillian had got into the habit of “haunting” our upstairs neighbour Amir.

She sat with him at the kitchen table while he ate dinner alone, read over his shoulder as he poured over medical textbooks, and watched the evening news with him.

She did everything short of getting in the shower with him…I hope.

“Lillian,” I said firmly. “Stop wasting your time on a guy you can’t have.”

“You do not understand our bond! We have so much in common!”

“And one huge thing not in common. He’s alive and you’re dead.”

“Do not death-shame me.”

I stifled a chuckle, trying to contain my amusement at Lillian’s usage of modern vernacular.

“I just do not want you to get hurt,” I said, easing my tone. “There are plenty of nice immortal beings in the world.”

“Look who’s talking…”

Just then, I saw the morning light start to creep through the living room window.

The sun always sent me into a deep state of exhaustion.

Desperate for any excuse to avoid another conversation about my love-less life, I yawned and started towards the staircase to my basement bedroom.

“Good night, Lillian.”

“Fine, then. Be an immortal spinster,” I heard her say.

“Will do,” I replied. I crawled under the covers and shut my eyes.

Apart from Lillian, I had been more or less alone for the past 1,200 years, and quite honestly, I preferred it that way.

It was easier than trying to justify why I had so many unexplained powers…when I didn’t even know the reason myself.

***

The sun was still setting over the horizon when I left my flat at 6 p.m. the next day.

I frowned and pushed my dark glasses securely up my nose.

Unlike other vampires I had met, I did not burst into flames in the light of day.

I was not sure why I was different, but I had been alive so long that I’d stopped trying to figure it out.

But I could still get one hell of a headache and an impressive sunburn.

So I wore a long duster coat over my uniform for the short walk between my house and the diner where I worked the night shift.

The night shift was perfect for my nocturnal schedule.

The imaginatively named Coffee Stop was a quaint establishment in town that apparently served the world’s best cup of coffee.

I didn’t drink human beverages, but I still had a hard time believing that was true.

The owner, Bernadette, had hired me after I’d moved into town three years ago with a new persona.

Scarlett Evans.

A twenty-two-year-old from Northamptonshire.

Like every day, she greeted me with a cheerful smile, her blonde bun bobbing as she loaded glasses into the dishwasher.

I returned her smile as I hung up my coat and tied on my grey apron.

While I had experienced every kind of life imaginable over the past millennium, I really did enjoy this job the most.

It was just so wonderfully…normal.

Bernadette left for the day after I took my post behind the counter. I went about business as usual.

By around 10 p.m. the diner clientele had thinned out considerably, leaving only the odd student using the free Wi-Fi.

But as I wiped down the tables, a burst of cold air made me glance towards the door.

The young man who entered brushed his dark hair out of his face as he looked around the diner.

He approached me, and I marvelled at his height. He was extremely tall, even by present-day standards.

“Can I sit anywhere?” he asked.

“Yes, of course, anywhere you like.”

“Thanks,” he said, slipping into the booth closest to the door.

“Can I get you something?” I asked him.

“Coffee.”

“Any food?”

“No thanks”—his eyes flicked to my name tag—“Scarlett.”

I watched a small smirk form on his lips as he took in the colour of my hair, which was slowly escaping from its band.

“Creative parents, right?” I quipped, despite the fact that I had picked the name myself.

I had actually been born with bright blonde hair, like many in Scandinavia—my ancestral home.

It had turned red, strand by strand, after I’d become a vampire.

“And you are…?”

“Nick,” he said. “Creative parents, right?”

I chuckled as I served him coffee from a steaming jug.

But he didn’t.

He took a sip of the coffee before fixing his eyes firmly on the door he had just entered from, like someone dangerous was about to come storming in.

If that was the case, why could I not shake the feeling that he~ was the dangerous one?~

***

By the time I finished wiping all the tables and mopping the floor, Nick was the only customer left, and he had given up on his staring contest with the door.

Instead, he had his nose buried in a big, hardback book.

He was so consumed by it that he didn’t even notice when I walked up to his booth to refill his mug for the third time.

“We’re closing in ten minutes, by the way,” I said.

At the sound of my voice, he slammed the book shut.

That is when I saw the title…and immediately froze in shock.

Lamia et de Superno.

My Latin was a little rusty, but I knew what that phrase meant:

Vampires and the Supernatural.

The last time I had seen someone holding that book, they had tried to drive a stake through my heart moments later.

It was essentially a manifesto against my kind.

My breath quickened.

I tried to keep my cool, but a blaring siren was going off in my brain, telling me to prepare for a fight…

Telling me that I could be standing inches away from a bona fide vampire hunter.

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