Vampire Romance (Book 1), page 1
Copyright 2017 P. L. KURUP
The book is a work of fiction. All characters are fictitious, any similarity to any person living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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In the early hours of the morning, Count Samuel d’Orleans and his wife Alexandra lay in bed, entwined in each other’s arms. The castle and its grounds were serene and reverted back to how they were before the raucous wedding. A crash jolted the couple awake, and Samuel sat up, looking for an explanation.
“What’s happening?” asked Alexandra.
Glass smashed all over the chateau, and he jumped from bed and peeked through the window to find hundreds of peasants running across the garden. They brandished weapons and screamed obscenities at both he and Alexandra. Samuel scanned the mob, trying to find a reason for the rampage, and caught sight of Henri speaking with a member of the horde. The servant laughing and joking with the individual, made it clear that he was part of the disruption.
Samuel’s head shook, not understanding the reasons for such animosity. It was not the time to determine why they hated him. So he skulked back to bed and kissed a quivering Alexandra on the lips.
“We must leave straight away. Put on your coat and shoes,” he told her.
“Why? What’s going on?” she asked, about to look out the window.
Samuel clasped his hands around her shoulders, stopping her from seeing the upheaval.
“If we don’t leave this minute, we will not survive. So please do as I say,” he repeated.
Alexandra and Samuel got down from their luxurious bed and put on their coats and shoes. He clutched her hand, feeling the warmth of her skin against his, and rushed out of the room. The mob entered the house through every door and window leaving the couple no choice but to head toward the turmoil. They raced downstairs and were about to walk into the mirrored hall, when dozens of intruders stormed the room. Samuel lurched against the wall, thrusting Alexandra back with his arm, and they sidled back into the foyer.
“What are we going to do? They’ll find us,” she whispered.
“I’ll think of something.”
Ava rushed into the house from outside and came into contact with the terrified couple. Samuel let out a grateful breath on seeing his friend.
“Thank God, you’re here. You have to help us,” Samuel told her.
The maid’s eyes were cold, resembling those of a doll’s. Samuel’s forehead creased, knowing something was amiss.
“They count and countess are in the foyer!” Ava screeched.
In a matter of seconds, dozens of marauding thugs spilled into the foyer from all directions, trapping Samuel and Alexandra at the foot of the stairs.
“I love you, my darling,” Alexandra said sadly.
The posse charged at the couple, and were seconds from obliterating them, when Hugo and Azure raced downstairs and lunged at the gang. The once gentle beasts barked and snarled at the attackers, biting into their flesh, and inducing screams of terror.
Samuel held Alexandra’s hand again and dragged her through the house while the hounds kept the mob at bay. He opened the wooden gate at the back, and they travelled down the confining stairs to reach the chateau kitchen. The pungency of the spices compelled him to sneeze though he managed to stifle it. Weaving through the premises, they heard the thud of heavy footsteps as another set of pursuers followed them into the room. Samuel saw their silhouettes creep closer and yanked a weary Alexandra through a backdoor and out into the garden.
“I can’t go any further. I-I did something to my ankle when we raced downstairs,” she said, grimacing while keeping the weight off her left foot.
Samuel lifted her into his arms and strode sturdily across the grounds without pausing once. He headed to the coach house, a solitary building on the edge of the estate. The hike was a quarter mile across uneven land, and his arms ached whilst carrying her. He knew he mustn’t stop as doing so would mean death. At last, they entered the building, and he placed her gently on the floor. She guided back a strand of hair that had drifted over his eyes and said, “You need to rest.”
“There’s no time to rest. We have to get out of here.”
The vast space was filled with shiny carriages, each a different size and colour. A shimmering coach on the right was exactly what they needed. Marching over to it and looking through the window, he saw upholstered seats and comfortable cushions.
“This will do. Get inside,” he said, opening its door. Alexandra limped to the vehicle and climbed in, and he shut the door after her. “I will come back with horses.”
Alexandra’s anxious face willed him not to leave, but he had no choice but to do so. He ran through a partition and arrived at the stables next door. The sleek and slender horses watched him with a calmness that eluded him. Samuel walked passed them, plucked two harnesses from the side, and approached two brown mares standing in their stalls.
“You are going to take us far away from our troubles,” he told them.
The animals shifted back, refusing to be shackled.
“Don’t be obstinate. I need you to be compliant,” Samuel said, approaching them again. Once more, the creatures withdrew. “You rotten beasts will be the death of us.”
“Perhaps I can help?” he heard someone say.
Samuel spun round and saw Arthur Bellard standing before him. The smell of horse manure radiating from Arthur’s body tempted Samuel to cover his mouth.
“I would appreciate your help very much,” Samuel babbled.
“Then wait with your wife in the next room until I come back,” Arthur ordered.
“Come back from where?” Samuel enquired.
Arthur left the stables without a reply. Samuel paused, then straggled back to the carriage hold where a thankful Alexandra jumped from the vehicle and hobbled over to him.
“I thought something happened to you,” she said, touching his face. “Where are the horses?”
“Arthur’s getting them ready,” he replied.
“Arthur? He’s probably one of them. You can’t trust him.”
“He is the only one who can harness the horses to the carriage. We have no choice but to trust him.”
“We don’t need a carriage. We can escape on horses,” she bartered.
“I won’t risk having you exposed to the elements. If we end up in a storm like the one on our wedding day, the lightning will be the death of us.”
They heard the mob yelling at each other, and he held her hand, fearing the worst.
One minute turned to seventeen, yet there was still no sign of Arthur.
“I pray that he isn’t one of them,” Alexandra muttered.
Samuel stared at the partition and hoped that her prayers were answered. Just then, Arthur glimpsed at them from the doorway and said, “Follow me.”
He disappeared back into the stables. Samuel and Alexandra shuffled to the partition, not knowing if the horde waited for them there.
Inching into the stables, they saw the two brown horses harnessed to a rickety wooden carriage with rotten doors and frayed wheels.
“You can’t expect us to ride in that.” Samuel laughed. “It won’t last two miles.”
“Also, it looks filthy,” added Alexandra.
“The countryside is crawling with peasants vying for your blood. To have any chance of escape, you must become one of them,” Arthur said, opening the rusty carriage door.
Samuel and Alexandra walked to the carriage, their pace slowed by Alexandra’s limp, and took their time boarding it. Once they were inside, Arthur slammed the door shut.
The interior stank of cigar smoke and a
“I would advise you to wear those clothes if you want to stay invisible,” Arthur said.
Alexandra lifted the dress and a centipede crawled out from inside. She hurled the gown to the floor, and Samuel picked up the outfit and handed it back to her.
“You have to wear it,” he said. Alexandra shook her head and was almost in tears. “Then do it for me.”
Swallowing hard, she changed into the filthy gown while Samuel put on the ragged shirt and trousers.
The stable doors flew open, and she screeched as twenty peasants wielding weapons barged in.
“Get this thing out of here!” Samuel bellowed.
Arthur climbed onto the driver’s perch, grabbed the reins, and spurred the horses against the mob, parting them without any problem. He steered the coach through the garden, and onto a rocky trail at the rear not accustomed to taking carriages. The vehicle swayed from side to side, and Samuel glanced at the joints, hoping the contraption wouldn’t break.
“We will be all right,” he reassured Alexandra, half trusting his words.
The countless potholes rattled the device to no end shattering its already fragile windows. The roof caved in, and it seemed like the vehicle wouldn’t go any further, when, the relentless shudder ceased, and the drive became smoother.
“It’s stopped jarring. We’re safe,” cried Alexandra.
“We’re no longer on the jagged path,” Samuel explained.
Arthur brought the carriage to a stop, thrusting Samuel forward and slicing his palm on a piece of protruding metal.
“We have to bind it,” she said, taking hold of his injured hand.
Samuel was more interested in the twelve intruders blocking the exit, eight of whom were on horseback. The carriage remained hidden because of a serendipitous covering of branches that would disappear as soon as the wind blew.
“What shall we do, sir?” asked Arthur.
“Hope that they leave the exit,” Samuel replied.
An hour went by and the sky turned lighter, which made their escape more unlikely.
“I think we should leave now,” Alexandra prompted.
“We can’t,” Samuel said. “If we move, they will come after us.”
He fixed on the twelve unwanted guests lingering at the gate. The men squabbled with each other and showed no signs of departing. To make things worse, the mares nudged forward and threatened to bolt at any second.
A tall, lanky man on horseback broke away from the group, and seven of the riders followed him.
“Only four left. Now. Go now,” Samuel shouted.
Arthur drove the horses to speed, and the carriage careened toward the exit. Three of the men leapt to the side, but one did not, and the unfortunate soul was trampled by the horses.
Samuel looked back and saw the three chasing after the carriage, yelling at them to stop. It was a vain effort since the coach soon left them far behind. Turning to the chateau, his heart sank when he saw its many windows shattered, the drawing room engulfed in flames. He sat back in his seat and Alexandra pressed down on the cut in his hand, stemming the flow of blood. Samuel, however, stared ahead, aghast at how quickly his world had crumbled. Most of all, he thought about his selfless, courageous dogs who sacrificed themselves to save them both.
The coach stopped a few miles down the road and Alexandra looked at him with worry. Samuel peered out the window and noticed a number of cows blocking the road, and several farmers trying to herd the animals without success. One of the men walked to the carriage and spoke to Samuel.
“Could you and your driver help us? We’re desperate,” he said.
“Yes, of course. My driver and I would be happy to help,” Samuel replied.
Samuel was about to get out when Alexandra grabbed his arm.
“I don’t want you to go,” she said.
“Unless we clear the road we can’t go anywhere.” He kissed her on the lips and stepped down from the coach.
He and Arthur walked alongside one another and reached the unruly cattle and exhausted farmers trying to control them. Samuel, Arthur, and the others herded five animals back to the field. One obstinate animal refused to budge, and it took all the men to encourage the creature back onto the meadow.
“Thank you so much. Your help was much appreciated,” said one of the men.
“It was our pleasure,” Samuel replied.
It seemed he worried needlessly about helping them and walked back to the carriage with Arthur, with a grin on his face.
“Don’t I know you?” yelled one farmer. They kept walking. “I am speaking to the man who stepped out of the carriage.”
Samuel had noticed one of them tilting his head this way and that to get a better view of Samuel’s face. It was now obvious the gentleman knew who Samuel was, which made their departure all the more pressing.
“Where are you off to, Count d’Orleans?” the man yelled out.
“My name is Dubois,” Samuel shouted back.
The farmer, a man with missing teeth and tangled hair, ran in front of Samuel and stopped him in his tracks.
“I know they planned a raid on your chateau this morning. So what I’m wondering is, how on earth did you escape?”
Samuel sidestepped the man, but the farmer mimicked his movements and blocked him again.
“You’re not going anywhere, you worm-ridden piece of filth,” the man exclaimed.
Arthur punched the farmer in the face, and he fell to the floor. Noticing the altercation, his three friends tore up to Samuel and Arthur in a fit of rage.
“Get inside the coach. Whatever you hear, don’t get out,” Arthur ordered.
“You can’t fight them all by yourself,” Samuel reasoned.
“Just do as I say.”
As Samuel jogged back to the coach and boarded it, Arthur headed back to the men. Alexandra hugged Samuel and he held her close. It wasn’t long before he heard punches being thrown and a man cry out in agony. Samuel stared at the broken window, certain they were about to be captured. Instead, the carriage shook as someone climbed on to the driver’s perch, and the coach trundled on. As it did so, Samuel saw the three farmers lying on the ground. Two were unconscious, and the third lifted his head and reached out as the carriage passed him by. Poking his head out the window, Samuel saw Arthur coax the horses to go faster. All was not well since the servant’s face was bloody and he held his stomach as if in pain.
“You need to rest a while. You’re hurt,” Samuel said.
“We have to get out of here before someone else recognises you,” Arthur replied.
Samuel knew Arthur wouldn’t listen and huddled back inside.
The carriage continued through a region that was familiar to the count. First, they passed the brook where he and his cousins sailed toy boats, and then, the field where he raced with Ava. His face dipped when he thought about her betrayal.
They parked the horses by a river, giving them a well-earned rest. Arthur made a fire out of twigs and cooked a fish he caught. They ate until they couldn’t eat anymore and settled for the night. As Alexandra slept inside the carriage, Samuel approached Arthur, who rested by the dying fire.
“I want to thank you for fighting those men,” Samuel said. “I misjudged you. I have been doing that a lot lately.”
“Why are you helping us? I’m sure you’ve been treated badly by the likes of us.”
“I don’t agree with what they’re doing. Rounding up people like animals, imprisoning them. It’s disgraceful,” Arthur explained.
“How long till we reach the border?” Samuel asked, changing the subject.
“Sometime tomorrow night. You’ll know we’v
“You’re a remarkable person. I could never do what you did,” Samuel gushed.
“Isn’t that why you hire servants? You should get some sleep. We have a long journey ahead of us.”
Samuel nodded and joined Alexandra in the carriage, though he stayed awake for most of the night.
They re-started the journey when the sun rose. Arthur drove the carriage passed fields scattered with wildflowers and rivers with gushing waterfalls. The scenery was so spectacular that Samuel almost forgot that they were fleeing for their lives. They took regular breaks to rest the horses and consumed fruits and berries to quell their hunger. Arthur bypassed the villages in case anyone recognised Samuel or Alexandra, and kept to the backroads.
The second day ended, and the last remnants of light peeked between the clouds to give the surroundings an ethereal glow. Rotting leaves carpeted the narrow roads, their heady scent shrouding the region like toxic gas. The only noises they could hear were the bushes swaying in the wind and the occasional owl’s hoot.
The broken-down carriage ripped through the path, its left wheel rearing up as it negotiated a tight bend. Samuel sensed Arthur force the horses to go even faster.
“Come on now. You need to gather pace,” he yelled.
Inside the carriage, Samuel clung to Alexandra, wishing that the next turn would carry them over the border. His request was delayed time and time again as freedom never came.
“Do you think we will be all right?” she asked meekly.
“I have no doubt that all three of us will,” he answered.
He sat up suddenly and sniffed the air.
“What’s the matter?” she asked.
“Juniper trees. I smell juniper trees.”
He embraced his wife unable to contain his smiles, and thought to himself, we will be all right.
The couple was unaware that they only need travel another mile before crossing the border. The coach spun round the final turning, and the horses came to an abrupt halt, thrusting the couple to the floor.