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Blood Magic

By Aspasia S. Bissas

Copyright 2018 by Aspasia S. Bissas

All rights reserved under international and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

Bissas, Aspasia S.

Blood Magic/ Aspasia S. Bissas

ISBN 978-1-3117526-7-3

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Blood Magic

The sun was almost down so Mara sat up front in the van, next to Lee. It was getting dark earlier these days, which was better for her. For predators. They didn’t talk as Lee drove and the miles passed, putting distance between them and her home for the last century. A home that was infested now, no longer a place of safety. Dominic stalked it, waiting to snatch her back. Nigel threatened it with his Knights, vampire killers he set on those who displeased him, defied him. Mara and Lee had dared to do both, and now they fled.

It didn’t sit right with Mara, this running away. And not just because she’d tried it before and still got caught. How could you outrun something that had eternity to find you? But more than that, what they were doing now—it felt temporary. Pointless. Her feet were already pointing back the way they’d come. No matter how convincing Lee’s arguments for leaving were, she knew they’d be turning around before long. This entire move was an exercise in impermanence.

A sudden low growl to her left and her head whipped round to face the threat that had inexplicably appeared in the vehicle with them.

Lee glanced at her, holding back a smile. “Sorry. I think I should probably stop and get something to eat.”

Her tension smoothed, muscles and bones and nerves easing out of the taut state of anticipation where they were ready to snap into action. But she didn’t completely relax. She never did. “That’s probably wise. Before I accidentally disembowel you in self-defence.”

“That too.”

He took the next exit to a town that seemed little more than a rest stop: motel, gas station, restaurant, and a shop hawking souvenirs and cigarettes all stood within a few feet of one another. A scraggly-haired mutt ran loose in front of the restaurant, sniffing around the garbage can near the door. It looked up at the crunch of gravel as the van pulled into the parking lot, staring at them for a long moment before turning and trotting off toward the gas station.

Mara got out of the van and looked over the building in front of her. It seemed to be all roof, the high peak falling in a drawn-out slope, faded brown shingles extending onto the façade, emphasizing the effect. A row of windows revealed vinyl booths the shade of pumpkins, amber lighting, and few people. It was the kind of place that didn’t belong in the modern world, a dying breed. She could relate.

A hand-written sign inside the door informed them there was no WiFi and that the daily special was a hot turkey platter.

“I think we got caught in a time warp,” Lee muttered.

“Enjoy it while you can.”

They sat in the farthest booth and didn’t have to wait long before the waitress arrived. She took Lee’s order and turned to Mara:

“What can I get you, hon?”

“I’m fine, thanks.”

“You sure you don’t want anything? You’re just a slip of a thing.”

“What does my size have to do with it?”

“You look like you could stand to put on a few pounds, dear. If you don’t mind me saying.”

“I do mind, as it happens. Do you advise larger people to eat less?”

The waitress opened and closed her mouth a few times before stuttering out nonsensical syllables.

“It’s her job to get people to eat,” Lee broke in. “Don’t take it personally.” Please. The last word hung in the air, unspoken. His plea for the insufferable waitress’s life. Mara leaned back against the booth and he exhaled.

“That’s right. You should listen to your brother, dear.”

Mara cocked an eyebrow. “He is most definitely not my brother.”

The waitress, apparently incapable of learning from her mistakes, made a clicking sound with her teeth. “Do your parents know where you are?”

“Is that also part of her job?” Mara asked Lee. He rolled his eyes.

“I’m only concerned, a young lady like yourself—”

“My parents are long dead. And you can stuff your concern.”

“I’ll just go put your order in,” she said to Lee and left.

“Meddlesome cow,” Mara snapped.

“Yeah, but did you catch that?” Lee asked.

“What, precisely?”

“That noise she made when you told her I wasn’t your brother. And then she asked about your parents.”

“As I said—meddlesome.”

“Am I the creepy dude going out with a girl who’s obviously way too young for him?”

Mara laughed. “Do I need to remind you how many centuries there are between us? If anything, I’m the creepy one.”

“The optics aren’t on my side, though. And it’s only going to get worse.”

Mara now made a sound with her teeth not unlike the waitress’s. “Since when do you care what people think?”

“Since I realized I’m going to be wrinkled and grey and you’re still going to be this.”

“I’m not bothered.”

“I am.”

She let the silence expand to fill the space between them before finally asking, “Do you want me to turn you?”

They stared at each other. The waitress returned with Lee’s food.

“Here you go, hon. Let me know if I can get you anything else.” She didn’t acknowledge Mara.

Lee stared down at his plate, waiting until she left again. “No,” he finally said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be turned.”

Mara did her best to ignore the sting his words caused. “That’s settled, then.”

“I just can’t, not after everything I’ve been through with Nigel. With vamps in general. I can’t let myself end up like that.”

“I understand. Believe me.”

“I’m sorry. You know it’s not you, right?”

Wasn’t it, though? What made her different to any of the other monsters in his life? But she didn’t say it. “I would’ve been surprised if you had wanted to be turned. You don’t owe me any explanations, Lee.”


“Are you?” She looked at his furrowed brow and saw the strain of the months with her.

“Yeah, I’m good. I just can’t get the image of future us out of my head.”

“We already have enough on our minds, don’t you think? Maybe future us can wait.”

He nodded and started on his dinner. Mara occupied herself by observing the others in the room.

There weren’t many people there that evening. It was still early but she doubted it ever got very crowded. Aside from their waitress, she could see another woman at the grill through the large window into the kitchen. A couple with two young children sat by the door; the father was trying to convince one of them to eat, while the mother half-heartedly wiped a spill down the front of the other one. At the counter was a young woman with black hair pulled into a high ponytail with a Bettie Page fringe. She was sipping coffee and trying to read the newspaper, a fact ignored by the man perched two seats down who wouldn’t stop talking to her.

“Come on, Trina; what’s the problem, babe?”

“I’m not your babe; don’t call me that.”

“Why are you being like this?” His voice took on a high-pitched whining tone that made Mara’s skin crawl. She smiled as she imagined cutting off his droning with a quick slash across his throat. In truth, it seemed as if nothing less would quiet him. He went on, “I was always good to you, babe, you know I was. You’ll never find anyone who’ll treat you better.”

“Guess I’ll have to take care of myself, then.”

“Why are you acting like such a bitch?”

Trina turned away so that her back was to him. She stared at the newspaper, her eyes unmoving. The waitress and cook had been watching the entire exchange, but neither stepped in. Trina was on her own.

“We’re getting back together,” the clueless man spoke louder. “You’re gonna take me back. You’re lucky I even want you back.”

Mara stood and walked over, sliding between Trina and the man. She stared at him.

“What do you want?”

She stayed silent, kept staring, her face calm and her eyes cold.

“Seriously, what is your problem?”

The place had gone quiet, even the kids. Mara didn’t move.

“Freak.” He stepped away from the counter and headed toward the exit. “I’ll see you later, Trina.” The door slammed shut behind him.

Trina turned to Mara. “Thanks for that.”

Mara nodded and returned to the booth.

Lee was already grinning. “You’re kind of a badass, you know that?”

“I ran out of patience, that’s all.”

“Either way.”

He finished his food. “I guess we should get back on the road.” He followed his statement with a yawn. Then another.

“Or we could get a room for the night,” she suggested.

“It’s not even late. I can keep going.”

“You’ve been driving nonstop for nearly two days. You need a break.”

He slumped into the corner of the booth, resting his head against the window ledge. His eyelids sank under their own weight. “Maybe you’re right.”

They paid for the food and headed to the motel next door. The sign out front boasted rooms featuring color televisions. Besides this marvel of modern technology, their room also offered two beds draped in goldenrod-yellow polyester coverlets that Mara remembered being quite fashionable in the 1970s, threadbare wall-to-wall carpeting, and a desk made of pressboard. The entire place reeked of bleach, mildew, and stale human.

“Let’s not linger, shall we?” she said, wrinkling her nose.

“No arguments here; I’m getting a definite Bates Motel vibe.” Lee sat on the edge of the bed. “You hungry?” He pushed up his sleeve, revealing an inner arm dotted with puncture marks and scars.

“I’m all right.”

“You sure?”

She nodded. It wasn’t so much that she didn’t want to eat, but it seemed prudent not to make the driver lightheaded in the middle of a cross-country trip. At least, that’s what she told herself. In truth, she didn’t want to admit that she was becoming increasingly reluctant to feed from Lee. Something nagged at the back of her mind, fed on her even as she fed on him. But for now it suited her to call it concern for the driver’s well-being and leave it at that.

“I think I’m going to just relax, then,” Lee said, stretching out on the garish blanket. “Maybe watch some TV. I’m way behind on Dinner Party Wars.”

He started flipping through channels. Mara only half paid attention, lost in her own thoughts. A sudden blaring voice brought the room back into sharp focus. Lee had stopped on an investment program and the host was shouting at them through the screen to stop hesitating and sign up for the foolproof system he was offering for two easy payments.

“This is your idea of relaxing?” she asked as the host demanded to know what she was waiting for. Both their questions were met with silence. “Lee?” She turned to look at him—he was fast asleep. She shook her head. Humans.

Seeing as there was no point hanging about the room, Mara decided to go out again. Maybe she’d get to eat tonight, after all.

She took her time walking back to the restaurant. Night had properly fallen now and it was far different from the night of the city. Deeper. More complete. It smelled different here too. The city smelled of metal, brick, dust, and blood. Here, there weren’t as many people but there were trees, a forest of them surrounding the road. It smelled of dirt, boredom, and green with an undercurrent of decay. She missed the city.

The restaurant was a little busier than it had been earlier. Tractor trailers were now parked outside, their owners filling the room with a cacophony of talk, chewing, and clanking cutlery. Mara slipped into the booth she and Lee had occupied earlier. She noticed a man wearing a soiled baseball cap nudge his friend and nod over at her. They stared, snickering to each other. She smiled to herself and thought about how easy it was for people to go missing at night on these quiet back roads.

“Welcome back. What can I get you?”

She looked up at the sunny voice and was caught off guard to see Trina instead of the waitress from earlier. “You work here?” She realized how silly the question was. “Never mind—obviously you do.”

“My shift just started.”

“Fortunate timing. I didn’t much care for the service before.”

“Yeah, sorry about that—she’s the owner’s sister. You don’t have to get anything, if you don’t want. But you might have to give up the booth if it gets busier.”

“I’ll have chamomile tea, if you’ve got it.” She wasn’t interested in drinking it—not that she could even if she wanted to—but she longed for the smell of something herbal. Maybe for a moment she could feel like she was home.

Trina smiled. “Coming right up.”

She returned a minute later with a pot of tea and a dessert. Mara looked at her, questioning.

“Pear crumble—homemade. It’s nice with chamomile. And don’t worry—it’s on me. To say thanks, you know, for what you did.”

“It was nothing; I was tired of listening to him.”

“Tell me about it.” Trina went slightly red, possibly remembering that Mara was a customer and not her friend. “I mean—”

“I hope he didn’t come back.”

“No, but he will. He always does.”

“I suppose there’s no getting away in a town this size.”

“That’s why I’m trying to save up. I want to go to school, as far away as I can get.”

“Seems like a good plan.”

“I guess.”

“But not one you’re excited about?”

“I don’t know. School is good. I’ll study something practical, accounting maybe—I’m good with numbers. But then what?”

“What do most people do? Home, work, family.”

“Not exactly exciting, is it?”

Mara thought back over her own less-than-conventional existence. “That’s not always a bad thing.”

“I know. It’s just…I always thought—”

“Some of us are still waiting over here, sweetheart.” The man in the soiled cap called out to Trina. She flushed.

“Sorry, I have to go,” she apologized to Mara before approaching the man.

“It’s not nice keeping people waiting,” he said.

“Sorry about that. What can I get you?”

He and his friend placed their orders. As Trina turned to go, he grabbed her arm. “It wouldn’t hurt you to smile.”

Trina pulled away and hurried into the kitchen, where a hushed conversation began between her and the cook. Hushed, but Mara could hear it perfectly well, and had no qualms about eavesdropping as she pretended to eat. There was nothing to read—she had to entertain herself somehow.

“Can we please do something about some of the guys that come in here?” Trina asked.

“What’s the problem?”

“The grabbing, for a start. It’s bad enough when they ask for my number or tell me to smile, but putting their hands on me is crossing a damn line.”

“Is it?”

“Isn’t it?”

“He only touched your arm. It wasn’t like he grabbed your behind.”

“Yeah, but—”

“Trina, you need to grow up. Those guys work hard—they deserve a nice, friendly meal. And you aren’t getting paid to give attitude.”

Mara hissed softly to herself.

“Are you serious?” Trina asked.

“Table two’s order is ready. I’d better not hear any more complaints about you not smiling.”

No one could say Trina didn’t try. When she returned from the kitchen, she was all smiles. Painful grins etched across her face, not quite reaching her eyes. She bustled from table to table, checking on everyone, refilling drinks, laughing at unfunny jokes. Mara could feel the tension rolling off her. No one else seemed to notice.

She stopped to check on Mara. “How are you doing? Can I get you anything else?”

Mara had been careful to make it look like she was eating and drinking, hiding bits of food in her napkin and pouring spoonfuls of tea into the artificial plant on the windowsill. Humans didn’t notice much, but they noticed when you didn’t eat. “Still working on it.”

“Okay, well…” The door opened and Trina’s ex sidled in. He didn’t look at her but walked straight over to the counter and sat down. “Great,” she muttered to herself. “Perfect.”

“What were you saying earlier,” Mara asked, distracting Trina, “before we were interrupted? Something about what you always thought.…”

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