ZM_CH4: In Which Nickie Nick Learns Some Moves

NickieCVR4WebContinuing in the Victorian tradition, enjoy today’s installment of The Zombies of Mesmer: A Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter Novel.  Every Friday a new installment of this YA Steampunk ParaRomance is published free for your enjoyment. Leave a comment and be entered to win an author-signed copy of the sequel, released Summer 2013. The more you comment, the more times your name is entered.

Follow Nicole Knickerbocker Hawthorn (Nickie Nick) as she discovers her destiny as The Protector, a powerful vampire hunter. Ashe, a dark and mysterious stranger, helps Nickie and her friends solve the mystery behind several bizarre disappearances. Suitable for teens, enjoyed by adults, the story is full of interesting steampunk gadgets, mad scientists, bloodthirsty vampires, and mesmerized zombies. This paranormal adventure is sure to appeal to fans of Boneshaker, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Vampire Diaries.

The Zombies of Mesmer is a Gothic Young Adult Paranormal Romance novel set in Victorian London. Appropriate for teens.

Get your very own copy of The Zombies of Mesmer in paperback or for your Kindle (FREE for Prime Members)! Don’t have a Kindle? Kindle apps are available for smart phones, PCs, and tablets. Have another eReader? Email me about other formats.


Chapter 4: In Which Nickie Nick Learns Some Moves

“You could have been killed!” Fanny yelled in a whispery voice, for we certainly couldn’t risk my parents overhearing, not even in our big house. My father’s office was just down the hall after all, and he was probably there. He was always there. Always working, unless he was at the factory.

“What were you thinking?” she continued.

“I was not thinking, Fanny.” I sat at my dressing table and brushed my nose with some powder. “I went with my feeling, just like you said. My entire being was urging me to go out last night. It was like I needed to hunt, so I followed my instincts.” I put some color on my cheeks and checked to see if they were evenly rosy in my dressing table mirror. Even, but subtle.

“I should have better prepared you, lassie,” Fanny said, getting all teary-eyed as she fixed my hair for the day. After braiding it down my back, she twisted it around itself into a high bun. Her sleek red hair was pulled back into a tight bun at the nape of her neck, as usual, but her cheeks were more rosy than normal. Naturally rosy, no added color there. “I should have told you years ago, Nick. How could I have been so foolish?”

“That’s not doing us any good now, Fanny.” My tone sounded little more harsh than I had intended. I took a deep breath and smoothed some stray hairs back along the side behind my ear. My hair need not be perfect, after all. We were just going to train, whatever that meant.

She looked up at me shocked at my tone, but she got the message. “You are right,” she said, moving across the room. “What’s done is done. We shall train today. All day. Make up for lost time and all that. You shan’t go out unprepared again.”

“And where are we going to do this training, Fanny? In the garden for all of London to see me in my knickers? Or do you expect me to wear a corset and bustle and carry a parasol as well as a stake?”

“In the attic, actually,” she responded, ignoring my quip about the bustle. “I had Wilfred start on clearing a space to train last night. He worked through the night, as I impressed upon him the importance of it.”

“You told Wilfred?” I asked incredulously. Wilfred was one of the lower butlers of the household. He was around Fanny’s age, and I had always suspected he was sweet on her. Now I knew for sure.

Really. A woman of her age. She was so old, like forty-something. How unseemly.

“We can trust Wilfred.” Each time she said his name, her voice softened just a little. “He follows the old ways as well. Just you leave him to me.” She blushed, as if she knew what I had been thinking. “Let’s get you dressed,” she continued, holding up a day skirt and corset. “I got one of your mother’s corsets for the time being. I sent Judith out today to get you a larger one of your own. If last night proved anything, it is that you cannot wear a corset that tight anymore. Not only can I not cinch it properly, but you were lucky you didn’t bust the seams simply by breathing. No, you must still wear one, of course.” She likely saw the joy on my face at the thought of not wearing one. “Just not quite so tight. It might make you less desirable for your potential husbands, however, adding a few inches to your waist.”

“Good!” I exclaimed without hesitation. “Perhaps it will deter The Most Annoying One, too. Can we just make me look downright frumpy? I shall eat many more apple tarts with great pleasure.” I smirked, waiting for Fanny’s response.

“Let us not go overboard, my dear. You will lose your figure soon enough, no need to rush it.” She patted her own waistline as an example.

Fanny was not fat by any means, but she was on the plump side. I liked it. It was so much more freeing that watching every little thing one ate, as mother insisted. Mother likely would not be too happy about this waistline increase, but it was all so trivial after all. It was my waist regardless, nothing actually changed there. The only difference was how much we forced it into being reduced in a corset. So now instead of reducing it five inches, it will only be two or three. Fine by me. I rather liked to breathe.

“Take hold of the bedpost.” She indicated the one that was not the broomstick tied with twine. “Just not too tightly,” she added through a wide grin.

She began to put me into mother’s corset, which was not all that much larger than my old ones. After all, she was still a fine-looking woman, nearly as old as Fanny. But after giving birth to me, her waist would never be reduced to fourteen inches again. My waist had never been fourteen inches, since I stood a few inches taller than her. Mother was a very tiny woman, a full head shorter than me. She would tell stories of how father used to be able to encircle her waist with his hands back when they first met. Now she settled for twenty inches, which was a dream for me, as I usually was forced into a corset that made my waist eighteen inches. But only reduced to twenty inches? Only a three inch reduction!

I might even be able to fight vampires in a corset like that.

Lacing the larger corset was far more successful. No more broken bedposts. After putting me in an under bustle, meant to hold out the ruffles on the back of a walking skirt, and a simple day skirt and blouse, she led me up to the fourth floor.

No one ever went up to the fourth floor, certainly not my parents. It had been used mostly for storage, and we called it an attic. The third floor was mostly for servant rooms and the like. The second is where my family lived and where father’s office was. The library, dining room, and parlor were all on the first floor, street level. Then the kitchen, pantry, laundry, and more was on the basement level. It was quite a large house, and I got a little nauseous every time I thought about how much unused space we had and how little space my four misfortunate friends had.

“Wow,” I said as we reached the fourth floor. Granted, I had not been up there for quite some time, but it had been completely transformed.

Wilfred swept up the last bit of dust and dirt into a bin.

“Miss Hawthorn.” He bowed formally. “I hope it is to your liking.” His eyes twinkled at Fanny, and she blushed again.

“It is amazing, Wilfred! You did all this in one night?”

Boxes upon boxes were piled neatly in the corners. Some of my old toys and a faded rocking horse were there. Old dolls with missing eyes and torn dresses sat primly along the tops of the crates in a neat row. More trunks and old furniture were piled in other corners and along the walls. Most of the interior walls had been removed on this half of the house by the former owners, so it was a large, open space with few supporting beams here and there. In the center of the room was a heavy wooden stand, padded with old pillows and tied around the middle with some twine that looked suspiciously like the kind holding my bed together.

“That’s to practice your–um–scrappin’ skills.” He pointed to the padded wooden stand. He demonstrated by throwing a punch right into the heart of the pillow. “See? Practice dummy. Protects yer hands,” he continued.

I wanted to run and hug him, but that would not be proper, so I just folded my hands over my skirt and with a courteous nod said, “Thank you, Wilfred. Thank you so much for this.”

“Yes. You did a wonderful job.” Fanny’s voice had a softness to it that I rarely heard other than when she spoke of him. They exchanged another smile, like it was a secret.

“Well,” Wilfred said. “I shall leave you ladies to it. Let me know if I can be of any more service.” With a tip of his cap, he left the room.

Fanny didn’t speak until we heard his footfalls start down the stairs.

“This will most certainly do.” She spoke to no one in particular. After surveying the room again, she turned to me and continued, “Now, tell me again of your encounter last night.”

“Like I said, it was over quite quickly. He was not there, then he was. I reacted. He deflected. I hit the cobblestones. He was gone,” I summarized. “That’s about it, and it happened just about that fast, too.”

“Show me.” She indicated that I should demonstrate on the practice dummy Wilfred had made.

“Are you serious?”


I pulled out the stake which I had put down the front of my corset, as I couldn’t be seen walking through the house with a stake (although, I would have to find a better way to carry it), and lunged at the dummy.

“Yes,” Fanny said. “I see your mistake. Your balance was off. The sheer force of you lunging forward swinging the stake thus gave the creature much time to react. Indeed. You are quite lucky to be alive.”

“Much time? It all happened in an instant!”

“Yes, an instant in your perception, but the creature can move at a different speed. This is why he seemed to just ‘appear,’ as you said.”

“Well, how can I kill a vampire who moves faster than I can even see?”

“You cannot see it yet,” she said. “Yet is the key word there, my dear. Your strength came upon you quickly and you were unable to control it, but you are already adjusting to that, no?”

“Yes. I’m getting better already.” I demonstrated by lunging toward the practice dummy again, paying close attention to how my body felt. “I can use the extra strength when I need to, but I can adjust my actions to fit normal life as well. Or, at least, door handles are no longer coming off in my hand. That’s progress, isn’t it?”

“Perfect. Your other senses and abilities will need rather more concentration to tap into and to control, Nicole. They will not be as apparently easy as the strength. The Protector has many abilities, and you have not even scratched the surface of yours. You had a taste of heightened senses when you first transformed, remember? But now you must learn to hone those. With some practice, you will be as fast as a vampire when you need to be. That’s why we are here, training. To learn. Now again, only this time, try to remember what you felt, not only what you saw.”

I thought for a moment, replaying last night’s brief encounter again in my mind. I slowed it down, trying to analyze every moment. There was something.

“I felt nauseous, then something moved me to action. It was like my body knew what to do, although, I guess it really didn’t after all.”

Perhaps I was lucky to be alive.

“That feeling is the essence of your power.” Fanny put a clenched fist to her stomach for emphasis. “You feel the urge, and it may feel like nausea now, but that’s only because you have nothing else to compare it to. It might also feel similar to nervousness or excitement, but you must hone your attention to this feeling to differentiate between the subtleties of it.”

“How do you know all this, Fanny?” She’d been a governess for seventeen years, how could she possibly know about the subtleties of The Protector’s powers?

“As I told you, I was chosen among those in my coven to care for you, in case you were the Hawthorn to fulfill The Legacy, but there were other possibilities for The Protector as well. I was trained to guide The Protector since I was a girl, knowledge and skills handed down through generations. It is why I used to fight vampires to learn how so I could teach you. You, my dear, will be the strongest of all the Protectors, however, because of your heritage. Because of the blessing the witches put upon your family.”


“Some would say curse, but it depends on one’s perspective, doesn’t it? After what your ancestor did at the Salem Witch Trials, condemning so many women to horrible deaths, the coven demanded retribution, but not in the way of punishment, in the way of service. You see?”

“So I’m cursed.” I felt rather angry.

“Do you feel cursed?” Fanny asked wisely. She folded her hands over her belly and waited for my answer.

“No,” I said after a few moments of checking in with my body. “I feel magnificent, like I could do anything. Like I never even have to sleep again. The energy surging through me is without end. Power without limits.”

“Well, my dear. There are limits, as there should be. You will also need to sleep, although likely not as much as most, which will certainly facilitate you leading a double life. Which you, of course, will have to lead, my dear. And no one will be able to know your identity.”

“Well….” I looked down, embarrassed. “I–I already told someone.”

Fanny sighed and shook her head. “Let me guess. Conrad. You told Conrad already?”

“He was there, Fanny,” I protested. “The vampire tried to bite him on the neck.” I thrust two fingers in the shape of a “v” towards my throat to dramatize my point. “What was I supposed to tell him happened?”


“And…” I started.

Fanny looked at me sharply, crossing her arms the way she did when she was rather cross with me.

“The other boys know, too.” Before she could scold me, and I saw that she was about to with the deep breath she had just taken, I continued, “But just those four, I promise. No one else knows, well except Wilfred. Ah ha!” I pointed the wooden stake at her, feeling justified. “You told Wilfred, so obviously people can know.”

“Yes, well, Wilfred is”–Fanny blushed again–“a very good friend.” She relaxed her arms and rubbed her neck.

“Is that what you call it?”

I was lucky she didn’t take me over her knee for being so cheeky. But she just smiled. I guess I was all grown up now.

“Enough, little mite,” she snickered. That was what she has called me since I was a girl. I guess I was not all that grown up in her eyes, nor would I ever be. “No one else, all right?”

“All right. As if anyone would believe me anyway.”

“Back to training, my dear girl. Stand before the beast as you did last night.”

I did as she asked, but then she pushed me and I stumbled to catch my balance.


“Point proven? Here, stand like this.” She positioned me in a way that my legs were spread and knees bent. My arms out before me, protecting my torso. Stake out. “Feel the strength here.” She put her hand just below my navel. “Feel the floor beneath you, Nick. Feel how your feet are one with the floor. With the house. With the earth. Can you feel that?”

It sounded all rather silly, but I just suspended my skepticism for a moment, and I really could feel it. For lack of a better word, it felt all tingly. Like tiny bits of light and strength was coming up through the soles of my shoes into my feet and running up through my body. It felt much as the fire that coursed through my body last night, when the change had come upon me.

I didn’t realize I had closed my eyes to concentrate until Fanny had pushed me again, but this time I didn’t budge.

“This is the difference,” she said. “Now from this position of stability and power, you move.”

I tried the move again and thrust the stake at the stationary dummy, driving into his fluffy, feathered breast. It splintered the wood behind the pillow with a loud crack.

“I can certainly feel the difference, Nanny, but how will this help if the vampire is moving at lightening speed?”

“Trust the process, my dear. It will become evident.”


Thank you for reading this week’s installment of The Zombies of Mesmer: A Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter Novel. Join me every Friday for a new installment of this YA Steampunk ParaRomance. Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win an author-signed copy of the sequel, released Summer 2013. The more comments you leave, week after week, the more times you’ll be entered!

~ by omgrey on June 7, 2013.

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