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Rafael - Suspense Writer

Fiction Expanding the Imagination

Available Novels

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The 6th Ape Cover

The Sixth Ape

Preeminent biologist, Philippe Krause, only wants to share his discovery with the world, but the world has forced him to become a killer. The day he looked up from a microscope knowing DNA had revealed the secret to genetic immortality, he began plans for announcing the discovery and his desire for all humanity to have it at no cost. No future generation would ever know old age or disease.

His naivete lasts ten minutes. The moment he makes such an announcement a veil of secrecy will descend so black light cannot escape. The government that controls mankind’s DNA, controls the world. They will move mountains to possess the technology.

But Philippe will not be denied his dream and so begins thirty years of preparation. He will de-fang the world’s major powers from moving against him by destroying their clandestine strike forces. The stage is set. For the first time in history, the most powerful humans ever to exist are about to appear: four genetically altered assassins.

The Sixth Ape - Opening Chapters

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As part of an advance marketing campaign, I would like to offer those who either will or have purchased any one of my novels the opportunity to obtain the eFile version of 'The Sixth Ape' at no charge.

Simply email me a picture of your eReader displaying the Copyright page of either 'They Cried Wolf', 'United States of Africa' or 'The Huntsman', showing the ISBN and ASIN numbers. In return, I will send you an attached copy of 'The Sixth Ape'. If you buy or have bought all three I will include the eFile version of 'Seraphim'. Also at no charge.

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They Cried Wolf Book Cover

They Cried Wolf

Along with a stunned nation, Diego Constance gapes at the newscast. A frantic evacuation escalates as a virulent contagion dissolves Midwesterners by the tens of thousands. It confirms the staggering betrayal he’s uncovered. His boss, the President of the United States, is responsible. Masked by an engineered calamity, the President has maneuvered a panicked congress into granting him dictatorial powers. A psychopath has slipped past the American electorate.

Despite legal constraints, Diego remains the Commander in Chief’s weapon of choice against national security threats. Killing however makes for a lonely life and Diego longs for an end to his solitary existence. But first his scarred soul must once more descend into a violent darkness.

A despot grips freedom’s throat. With each passing hour the stranglehold tightens. Whatever the cost, tyranny cannot stand. Diego steels himself. The bloodlust swells. He will confront the most powerful, the most guarded man on earth. Diego’s cunning, hardened by a brutal lifetime, guarantees nothing.

What no one knows, not even the President…the Executive Assassin is a werewolf.

♦♦ Reviews & Posts ♦♦

They Cried Wolf - Opening Chapters

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USA Book Cover

United States of Africa

Lauren Danielle Carson’s hours old Presidency has just crashed and burned. A classified report details what many have long conjectured. During her first term, a unified Africa will surpass the United States as the world’s preeminent superpower. Her legacy will be the President on whose watch America joined history’s also-rans.

Desperate to reverse a decades-long decline, committees, panels, experts, meetings, storm sessions fill her days and nights. Every effort to forestall the inevitable reaches a dead end. Slowly, inexorably, options diminish. When one remains, she faces the horrific, the unthinkable.

Fate has intertwined two mirrored lives. She is white. He is black. She leads a nation. He conquered a continent. Her story is the present, his lies in the past. He begins as a brutal warlord and ends up beloved and cheered. She begins beloved and cheered and ends up a despised outcast. She will destroy his achievements and in the act, destroy herself.

♦♦ Reviews & Posts ♦♦

United States of Africa - Opening Chapters

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The Huntsman Book Cover

The Huntsman

Millennia ago, Sorkens desperate to escape the Milky Way’s savagery, settled into our nondescript, out-of-the-way star group. Unaware of Earth, a shockwave spreads across their planet when humanity ignites its first wormhole. Led by a brutal crime lord, vicious warfare erupts among factions determined to control mankind’s gateway to the stars. All are oblivious to what an electro-magnetic beacon blaring across the galaxy implies.

Panicked, the Sorken Council meets to re-authorize a long-forbidden technology. Through their own wormhole, they send a Warrior Priestess. Before galactic wolves track the scent, she must destroy the device and everyone possessed of its knowledge.

Fate however, has its own designs. The Huntsman too seeks the device.

♦♦ Reviews & Posts ♦♦

The Huntsman - Opening Chapters

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Seraphim Book Cover


No one associates the Vatican with assassins. That their allies dwell in Western China's remote Kunlun Mountains makes it an easier secret to keep. Still, the tiny village of Yíncándí is not immune to the vagaries of fate. Little does a lost mountaineer imagine what will become of the infant he leaves with the villagers. Nor can Trajan, an orphan of Christian missionaries, imagine the true nature of the Buddhist monks raising him. Until the moment arrives when he must choose between Buddha and Christ.

Seraphim, Mujahedeen-like madmen of the Catholic world, have reignited their centuries-old war against the Church. Continuing slaughter has placed Middle East Christians on extinction's edge and the Seraphim blame the Pope's cowardice. Their Cardinals marked for assassination and trapped by their own secrecy, the Vatican must place their hope Trajan will stand between them and a religious war foreshadowing the apocalypse.

But things will become far more complicated than anyone can imagine. As the battle lines harden between Muslim and Jew, Buddhist and Christian, a woman appears astounding the world with miraculous abilities and declaring herself the successor to the prophets and the Servant of the One Lord.

♦♦ Currently Under Beta-Read ♦♦

Seraphim - Opening Chapters

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an illustrated novelette


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This is a story that continues the tale of Little Red Riding Hood as told through the eyes of Little Red's daughter, Crimson Ryder. She struggles to understand why a wolf plagues her family such that beginning with the great-grandmother, her grandmother and mother have succumbed to the same horror. The adventure begins for answers to save herself but more importantly, her future daughter. This is not a children's fable.

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On large screens, clicking any image (except book cover images) will display a larger version. Click again to close it. The left and right arrows will cycle through the pictures carousel style. Clicking the book icon will open the full, scrollable novelette (13 chapters plus a prologue) with imagery. For greater reading convenience, clicking the arrow icon will permit downloading the entire PDF (1.5mb) novelette in zip format to the download folder your browser is configured for. And, oh yeah. At no charge.


an illustrated novelette


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Simone Stanton never imagined capping a brilliant career with promotion to admiral would bring such heartache and grief. Solona Stanton, rejecting her family's military traditions, disappears into a hellish pit of anguish and despair. One wants to end the pain. The other sinks deeper into its agony.

But something has entered the Milky Way's outer boundaries and Earth rallies its defenses. It forms an Expeditionary Force to investigate and needs a Stanton to lead it. Mother and daughter must conquer the demons plaguing their psyches if they are to have any hope of conquering the demons awaiting them.

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On large screens, clicking any image (except book cover images) will display a larger version. Click again to close it. The left and right arrows will cycle through the pictures carousel style. Clicking the book icon will open the full, scrollable novelette (15 chapters plus a prologue and epilogue) with imagery. For greater reading convenience, clicking the down arrow icon will permit downloading the entire PDF (2.26mb) novelette in zip format to the download folder your browser is configured for. And, as before, at no charge.

Some Flash Fiction

The Track

A cold gust blew the rose off her tombstone. Blew them off the other two, the smaller ones. Laying in the snow, they seemed redder. Like blood. My hand came out its glove to wipe my nose. Cold made it run. The kind of cold that blasted down from the mountain. Three days ago it had run and hadn't reminded me of anything. Hadn't warned me either. Not out among the pines chopping kindling.

My axe chunked into that wood. Chunk, chunk. The sound echoed off the trees broken only by snorts the cold forced my nose to make. I paused and turned, stopped and stared. My hand tightened, felt the wood's grain along the haft. Four paw marks marred the snow. A wolf's. The tracks shone in the cold sun. Huge, still. Cold as the air. I followed them. Why will haunt my eternity. I will stand before the Lord, head bowed. Hear His damnation. I followed them, unaware of now's end.

The track became a puzzle I refused to understand. It dared me to. Four paw marks became two. Ice stabbed my heart and froze my soul. They had turned. Back toward the cabin. I ran and plowed, plowed and ran. Screamed and warned. Only the door, banged by the wind against the wood house, answered.

A laugh, cold, distant, mocked me. I stood, framed by the doorway. Inside, eternity had arrived. Blood, scattered like rose petals, had already frozen. Pieces. Broken, strewn. Nothing moved.

The Trail

I never had trouble finding her. She always left a trail. Inside the door, shoes lay where she had kicked them off. Ear rings, necklaces on the table by the sofa. The recliner didn't escape. Dropped scarves, hurled sweaters, thrown tops. Often I'd pick them off the floor where she just let them fall. She'd greet me at the trail's end, arms outstretched, her expression a mix of impatience and relief, annoyance and joy. It spoke without a word. "What took you so long?"

Light adored her face. Made it glow and gleam. Emerald eyes that penetrated through me, sparkled and danced. When she laughed, angels smiled. Sometimes dainty crumbs led to the bedroom. Skirt, nylons, panties, bra. I never thought of her as my mate or my partner. She was my wizard. Oh, how her caress enchanted me. A look could bewitch me. We never made love. We made magic. Her body melted against mine. Her limbs and hands became unbreakable bonds. Her tongue pierced my soul. Heat that ignited flames never burned or charred. Around me the room, the world, the universe... vanished.

I can still feel her two arms entwined around mine. They tightened when the doctor entered, x-rays in hand.

I come home now. The key hesitates, slow to turn. I'd give my life to see her shoes, her jewelry, her clothes. Anything to pick up. One more time.

and Illustrated Flash Fiction

Queen and Lycan Pets


Two things greeted him every morning: pre-dawn stillness and the laundress standing by his bed. Hands clasped before her, she stared expressionless at the floor and wore a sheer, floor-length robe hinting at the complete nudity underneath. It symbolized their relationship and remained the only item he had given her. Had two years gone by since acquiring her at fourteen?

Fault lay with her parents' inability to pay the land rent. He had no control over heat and drought ruining the harvest. But he did control the rent, and their daughter provided adequate compensation. Still, she lacked ardor and passion, an inaminate vessel he simply emptied into. He had become bored. A dismissive flick waved her away. "You may continue your duties. I am not in need today."

He rose just as the chamberlain entered. "I will be inspecting the lower estates during the afternoon before my first audience this evening with the Queen and don't want to change again. Choose my attire with that in mind."

Morning victuals complete, William exited the room, clicking heels echoing off the high-gloss floor. Servants and maids paused their labors as he passed, standing aside and bowing to the Lord High Steward. Head high, eyes forward, he neither nodded nor acknowledged those whose very employment relied on William's whims.

His day passed pleasantly enough, something the staff noted in whispers among themselves, as only the grooms and candle makers had fallen victim to his habitual tongue-lashings. He even noted a young female who held great promise in a year or so to replace the laundress.

Soon enough, he stood before the throne room's entrance wrinkling his nose at the animal stench oozing from within. Who knew what this immature strumpet might be up to. Her mother's untimely death had left no time for her fruit to properly ripen. The young nymph knew nothing of statecraft or the management of her own inheritance. Without him, everything would fall apart.

Inside, the usual retinue of courtiers and assorted hangers on did not greet him. Indeed, only one man stood to the throne's side. The Queen's attire prompted a visual shock matched only by the two snarling Lycanthropes, chained to either hand. If this 19 year-old, royal twit thought she would entrust them to his care, William would put his foot down. Where could he place them? In the stables? Chaos would ensue.

William marched toward the throne, bowed, and in a tone that belied his fierce disapproval, opened the conversation. "My Queen. The Lord High Steward places himself at your disposal." She held his gaze, letting the silence build. Slowly, her head swiveled toward the other man.

"For the longest time, I and the staff have endured this man's insufferable arrogance. Even now, he continues to steal and enrich himself at my family's expense. The verbal", her eyes shifted back to the Steward, "and physical abuse", she shifted back again, "he metes out on a daily basis confirms he considers everyone his inferior. It would be unspeakably vile to allow the continuance of this debauchery. " Again she paused, giving the other man a fixed look. "I will not tolerate such impudence. You are the new Lord High Steward."

Her gaze returned to a shocked and speechless William. "I will enjoy immensely watching you devoured."

A Dragon Holds Court


Sharp, stinging, paralyzing pain snapped me awake. I lifted my head to see a rat's hindquarters jutting out from a hole in my pants. Head buried inside, I felt it's teeth sawing into my shin. Others strained to dislodge the feeder aside and take their turn. With all the fury I could muster, my fist slammed down crushing the rat's hip. Its forelegs still functioning, it emerged with useless rear legs twitching and trembling. Blood and viscera dripped from its whiskers. I watched its strained crawl to follow the ones scattering into the dark.

I stood up in the moonlit alley feeling blood ooze into threadbare socks. Pain chased away sleep's cobwebs. I did not want to look. Still, the wound's continued ache heartened me. Once the rot began to set in, I would feel nothing. I needed to find another place for sleep but first my leg needed tending.

Emerging onto a side lane, I turned and hobbled toward the village's main road. Beneath my cloth shoes, wagon-churned mud squished. Cold water seeping in did nothing to ease the now throbbing ache. Around me nothing moved, everyone slept.

I remember the last time I slept in a bed. My mother roused me in the middle of the night, dragging me away by the arm. My father, standing in the doorway, turned to look over one shoulder, "Out the back. Go! I'll delay them here." I stared wide-eyed at the sword in his hand.

Still clutching my arm, we ran toward the woods she never allowed me to enter alone but had made my playground. She taught me how to climb trees and her face glowed with pride when I would wave down to her. Half way there, she stopped to bend down on one knee and hug me. When she pulled away, I never saw her look as fierce. "Run. Run as fast as you can. Climb a tree, and stay there." Without another word, she turned and sprinted back toward the house. I stood frozen in place. "Mama!"
"Run! Run now! Go!" I never saw her again.

I don't know how long I stayed in that tree. Hunger drives you to many things. Even disobedience. I climbed down walking back home wondering what my punishment would be. When I reached the village, a few others picked among the ruins. I recognized nothing. Later I learned Mongols had destroyed everything, including my parents.

I ate by following dogs, fighting them for whatever scraps they found. Luckily, they did not know how to fight with sticks. I turned onto the main road. At this hour, the tavern might still be open. Alcohol would disinfect my wound. I would exchange any labor they might ask for. Otherwise, I would fight.

I don't know what my parents would think of my life. Beyond my tattered clothing, I had nothing. But I did live life on my own terms. I took nothing from no one and let no one take from me. Still, in the back of my mind, I never escaped the feeling they would be ashamed of me.

As I neared the tavern, the sound of galloping horses swelled. Out of the darkness, three horsemen thundered. They pulled short before the tavern, leaping from their saddles, not bothering to hitch them. One carried a sack. Movement inside made it clear something struggled within. The three burst into the saloon.

I walked past the horses, their foam-flecked sides panted and heaved evidencing a long, hard ride. Expanded nostrils blasted steam plumes into the chilled night air. Pain stabbed my shin as I stepped onto the porch.

Inside, the riders had cleared one end of patrons. No one noted my entrance as I slowly made my way to an empty corner. Protests against the intrusion ceased when one rider plunked the sack on the table and dropped the sides to reveal a dragon.

Shaking itself dog-like from snout to tail, a reptilian head did a slow swivel taking in its captors. Clear as a bell, the dragon's voice broke the tomb-like silence. "You will pay a price for this vile, unspeakable outrage. Even now, my Elder flies to the rescue. When he arrives, all that you see will be burned to the ground. I will soar on the screams of your roasting."
"You know full well that will not happen." retorted the rider. "Capturing you rewards a boon. I demand its fulfillment."

Silence deepened. Not even a cough disturbed it. I and everyone else remained rooted in place. Seconds lengthened. The dragon stood as if turned to stone. "Name your request."
"Mongols camp three days ride from here. They have pillaged, destroyed, raped, and murdered all before them. I demand your Elder guard our province."
"A boon requires a sacrifice. A human sacrifice."
"I will fulfill the sacrifice."

His two brethren stared aghast. Shaking their heads, both moved to restrain him.


The strength and timbre of my voice surprised me. It rebounded off the walls. Command quieted the room. Everyone turned to stare. Never in my life had such clarity and conviction filled my soul.

"Take me."

Heiress FF Illustration


I grieve and ache. No day passes that does not blister my heart and shred my soul. Every moment devours my being but not my mind. That remains sharp, vivid, unforgetting. A constant reminder.

Excitement for my best friend's birthday filled me that night. I had even bought a new dress and put on my lucky red hat. After all, the night might bring 'him' to me. My bestie's birthday and future husband on the same night? Yeah. Lucky hats can do that.

I had never reflected much on fate. Nothing about my life touched it. Born, raised, school, graduation, career. My future stood as certain as my past. Him, marriage, family, with retirement and grandchildren inevitable but far in the distance.

We ate, we drank, we danced, then drank some more. And at the table next to ours, a man arrived to take a seat. I stared and refused to believe it might be 'him'. He wore a red hat. We giggled and whispered, our fiercely hushed tones causing us to giggle harder. When he looked at me and gave a broad, gleaming smile, the air left my lungs.

His eyes hinted of mystery, secrecy, daring, and yes, a tinge of danger. Laughing, my girlfriend snatched the hat off my head, gave a goofy pose, and we snapped pictures, her last moment frozen forever in our phones.

I remember sitting, eyes fixed on my hat, not comprehending the next moment. Her head exploded, splattering us with brains and gore. In the moment's silence and shocked disbelief, another shot crashed through the window overlooking the street outside. My future husband slammed face first onto the table, the back of his head missing. Pandemonium erupted. Screaming, shouting patrons dashed out. Others ducked beneath tables, crying, frantically dialing police. I stared at my friend, sunk into her chair, arms hanging lifeless. Her goofy expression now a hideous mess. My mouth opened and screamed but I didn't hear it.

Later, police identified the other victim as a member of the underworld with a penchant for red hats. Everything indicated a professional hit. The killer, probably brought in from out of town and told the target would be wearing a red hat, shot both leaving nothing to chance.

That phone sits in a drawer. I've never looked at the photo it contains. I don't wear hats, I don't have a husband, and I don't have any more luck.

InnKeeper FF Illustration


Bedlam erupted. I bolted upright, sleep's cobwebs gone. A thunderous crash against my Inn's wall below shook the building. Feet shuffled as wooden benches and stools splintered and shattered. Fabric ripped and body thuds forced grunts and groans. And all the while a growl - savage, primordial - filled the air.

My head snapped toward my wife who could sleep next to marching musicians and now through this. A part of me marveled at her comatose state, another wanted to protect my life's work, another wanted to protect my life, paralyzing me in place. Crash/thud. Fine plaster dust floated down from the ceiling. I rose toward a table where my trembling hand refused to light the lamp. Boom/smash. Paint chips cracked off the walls.

The bravest thing I ever did in my life was to step down those stairs. My still shivering hand infected my entire body as it pushed the door open.

A horned thing, in the shape of a woman, stared back at me. Two winged creatures began where her hands ended, one broken and crushed, the other made gurgling sounds then stilled. The female thing's mouth opened. A voice deeper than the Pit that spawned it bellowed, "Get out."

Behind me the door slammed shut when I raced up the stairs. I left the lamp on and sat in bed, eyes wide open, ears on full alert, lungs barely breathing. Beside me, my wife's snoring paused for a grunt before resuming.

Pale sunlight peeked through the curtains when she woke rubbing her eyes. She smiled at me. "Couldn't sleep again, darling? Nightmares?"

What could I say? I barely believed it myself. She put on a robe and descended the stairs with me leading the way. I did not know what to expect when I opened that door. Maybe I had dreamt everything. Maybe.

As I entered, the Inn appeared neat and tidy. No broken tables or benches, no blood stains, nothing. I stood staring wide-eyed, unmoving, questioning reality. My wife stepped past me, angling for the kitchen. "Still asleep, dear? I'll start the coff...oh look."

She stooped, turning around with a huge white feather twirling in her hand. "Have you ever seen a bird big enough for this feather?"

Paradise FF Illustration


This is Gabriella posing before the Gate to Paradise. More on her in a moment.

Paradise is not how you imagine it. No clouds or wispy contrails. No people in long, shapeless robes floating about, gazing upwards, singing in chorus, playing harps. In fact, if you ask an angel if they can play the harp, they just laugh.

Paradise looks very much like here: towns, cities, roads, trees, houses, apartments, stores, neighborhoods. You have good neighbors and not so good neighbors. It's just that nothing bad ever happens there.

No one needs to drive. In Paradise you can be anywhere you want in an instant. But often just for fun people conjure up all kinds of cars and head out for a spin. As you can imagine, they drive at breakneck speeds. Horrific pileups happen all the time. But everybody walks away laughing. As I said, nothing bad happens in Paradise.

Which brings us to Gabriella, who is the daughter of the Archangel Gabriel, guardian of the gates to Paradise. Wait a minute, you say. Archangels have children? Are they having sex? Yeah and they are, but that's another story.

So what do you do with eternity before you and nothing bad ever happens? Well, the latest craze is dressing up and pretending to be badasses. Hold on now. You mean the people in Paradise are spending their time cosplaying?! Yup. Like Gabriella here. She doesn't normally dress like this. But in her case, it's not much of a pretense. She really is a badass, as many a knucklehead who tried to sneak into Paradise has found out the hard way.

What does the Big Guy think of all this? He loves it! After all, besides Lucifer, He's the ultimate badass. And the Seraphim along with the Cherubs are hard at it trying to get Him to dress the part.

How do I know all this? Well, as you might have already guessed, that's another story 😊

Heiress FF Illustration


In May of 2021, I posted the titled "Paradise", which detailed the cosplay fad raging across Heaven. Many wondered what they did when not in costume. Well, nothing. Read on.

The woman playing cards is 27,384 years old. More accurately, that's how much time has passed since she died. But in Paradise, where everyone faces eternity, time passes a little differently.

Her home has no walls. After all, people can pop in and out all the time. But if you ask her when she last had a visitor, she would say yesterday. "Yesterday" was 643 days ago. And since bad people don't exist in Paradise, why have walls? Indeed, when she first arrived she took great delight in decorating the place. She hung pictures, painted rooms, added a garden. But after 2,000 years it became boring. How many times can you rearrange the furniture? That spiral staircase is all that remains of the house. A few more centuries and it too will be gone.

She has no kitchen. No one gets hungry. Often though, friends and family get together with complete strangers, conjure up a restaurant of whatever specialty, send requests for waiters and waitresses, which brings no shortage of volunteers, and have a great time swapping stories of their days on Earth. And as you can imagine, the food and service is impeccable. More remarkably, the eating plays out over months and dessert can last for weeks.

So I'm sure you can imagine 1,000 things you would love to do in Paradise. But what do you do after doing each of them 1,000 times? Play solitaire?

Vampyr Ravages Victim


Over the past seven nights, I crouched atop storage rooms on a rooftop, watching the area. Twenty-seven stories below, sat a popular gay dance club. Every night, all manner of men left with just-met hotties. Crowded and packed, no one remembered who walked out with whom, but a list began to grow with missing patrons. Months-long investigations stumped the police.

Nine days ago my doorbell rang with two men asking to enter, identifying themselves as Special Investigators and identifying me as a Vampyr Huntress. Neither asked if I had a name.

"Local police have asked for our help thinking we just track down criminals. A rogue Vampyr is loose among homosexual men and converting victims into blood-sucking gays. Panic is spreading among the homosexuals and many have resumed hiding in closets. We came to let you know if you hunt it down and kill it, we'll keep the police away from you. A few police undercovers will patrol the gay club so we don't give you away."

Dense fog rolled in blanketing the city. Seeing anything became difficult but alert ears heard the rooftop door open followed by lowered laughs and giggles. Kissing sounds rose and so too a demanding voice. "Take your clothes off." Shoes kicked away, pants zippering, shirt unbuttoning, confirmed a willfull stripping. Moans resumed but a throat ripping open cut them off. I leaped to the rooftop.

The sound of my swords unsheathing into a cross turned the Vampyr to the sight of my emerging out of the fog. Its nose wrinkled to the smell of dried Holy Water on my blades. The victim had to be beyond help. Previous generations left bite punctures to drink from. Modern tactics gashed throats open as faucets.

"Put him down. He will not be a buffer to slicing you apart." With the gay man's throat gurgling, the Vampyr gripped him tighter and leaped off the roof.

Bright club lights spilled onto the sidewalk, illuminating a crushed body. The Vampyr raced down a street with two police women in hot pursuit. Bullets could not stop him and he disappeared into the night.

I walked away from the edge with the scent of that victim memorized. If it turned in a few hours, it would spread more terror. I also had the Vampyr's scent. Without being close, I could detect it. The fog's swirls closed around me. The hunt was on.

Heiress FF Illustration


Despite continuing chores and duties, an uncustomary hush blanketed the castle. Not because the much beloved Queen Regnant lay dying. Her age and frailty had made that long expected. But of late, the Heiress, her daughter, had acquired behaviors deemed...unnatural.

Nightly sounds swelled and echoed throughout halls and corridors, doing nothing to quell the rising alarm. Chambermaids, minstrels, clerks, grooms, and even Knights exchanged nods and glances, whispers and looks at the cacophany emanating from the Princess' room. Howls, grunts, moans, barks. And screams. Screams that continued long into the nights. They spoke of dark arts, depraved acts, and no one felt safe.

Tension mounted when a group of Lords arrived to inquire after the Queen. Princess Noshara entered the throne room with four impossibly handsome men no one had ever seen before or knew. Restrained gasps arose when the courtiers saw the Princess' eyes had changed to a hue insinuating debauchery and devilry.

She suffered the Lords no courtesies, refused to answer their questions, then, with a wave of her hand, dismissed them. Thereafter began the nightly forays she and her male retinue pursued. They returned through the castle's little used entrance deep within its bowels. Grooms collecting their horses spoke of the men's blood-stained lips and still dripping mouths.

A fortnight passed into a glorious morning witnessing the castle's staff falling to their knees and singing in praise. The Queen emerged from her room hail and hearty, fit and young. Vibrant and smiling. All rushed to kiss her hand and pronounce their undying love. Indeed, the much beloved Queen was loved by none greater than the daughter who had bequeathed her mother youth by sacrificing her soul.