ZM_CH5: In Which Nickie Nick Meets Him

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.

-_Q

Chapter 5: In Which Nickie Nick Meets Him

The crackling fire both illuminated my book and warmed my skirts. I sat curled up on my father’s favorite comfy reading chair with a book. It was an adventure story about a woman cadet in the Royal Air Navy, and I dreamed I was her. Just last week the Times had a drawing of such a woman, dressed smartly with spats and trousers. Her waist was cinched with a utility corset and she had on a tiny bustle, as that was the uniform for women, but she was powerful. Her strong stance in the drawing showed that. She looked proudly out from under her flight cap, goggles perched on her forehead. As I read, I dreamed of joining the RAN instead of living this frivolous life. If mother forced me to marry Lord Fouffypants Godwyn, I would.

But for now, it was enough just to dream of grand adventures while reading about them in front of the fire. It was the best way to spend a cold December evening, especially when my parents were out, as they were tonight. They went to another Christmas dinner, then a party afterwards. Fortunately for me, Fanny convinced them I was unwell, so I got to stay home. No doubt His Most Insolent and Annoying would be there, and I was in no mood for talking marriage with him or any other beau. Reginald Godwyn would do well to find himself a wife who would obey and serve him, and I would do well to be left alone.

My legs were rather sore from the day of training. Fanny had really surprised me with her knowledge of hand-to-hand combat. She not only taught me how to focus and center myself, but she also showed me some amazing moves. However, every time I had kicked the pillow-padded dummy, my skirt would get all tangled up around my legs. And that skirt had been a simple one. How would I ever fight vampires efficiently in a proper skirt, not to mention bustle and petticoats as well.

“What are you doing?” Fanny queried from behind me as she entered the library. The top of her skirt was balled up in her fists, and she rushed over to me, heels clunking on the hardwood floor. A few stray red hairs framed her rosy cheeks.

I held up my book. “Reading.”

“You don’t have the luxury of reading anymore, girl. You need to be out there, especially now they know you exist. And, with your blunder last night, they think The Protector is an inept and foolish girl.”

“Tonight? But it is the day before Christmas Eve, and I have trained all day. Surely the vampires can wait until after Christmas.”

“The vampires will not wait, and neither shall you. You must find and kill a vampire tonight, dear girl. If you don’t, there is no telling what kind of Christmas it will be. Up! Up with you. Go change. You are going out. Why do you think I lied to your parents for you? The Protector does not get a night off, my dear. Go up and change.”

I slammed the book shut and dropped it on the floor with a thud. “This is so unfair! I didn’t ask for this!” I shouted, standing up with balled, angry fists at my side. I knew I sounded childish, and at the moment, I just didn’t care.

Fanny picked up the book from the floor and patted my bustle with it. “Upstairs with you to change. It is your duty now.”

“Fine.” I stormed out of the room and up the stairs. There in my chamber my boy’s clothes were laid out, clean for a change. The clumpy boots lay next to my bed. I dressed quickly, trading my blouse and skirt for a shirt, waistcoat, and trousers. I twisted my hair up into my cap, put on the boots and overcoat, and stomped back out of the room just as Fanny was coming in.

“Forgetting something?” she asked, picking up the wooden stake from my bed. “You would not want to be caught without that tonight,” she said, softer now.

I rolled my eyes and snatched the stake from her, but Fanny had some speed of her own. She caught my arm before I could pull it away. There was strength in her as well. She looked at me with fierce, but kind, eyes. I immediately felt more calm.

“I know this is all rather new and quite the change in your life, my dear.” Her words soothed me. I felt inexplicably serene. “You see,” she continued, noticing my change in countenance, “I have some power of my own.”

“But the necklace…I thought…”

“It does protect you against mind control, my lamb, but I’m appealing to your emotions. To your heart.”

“What else can you do?”

With a wave of her hand, she mended the bedpost. The broom handle floated off to the side and the broken post that had been shoved under the bed rose up to take its place. Purple steam swirled around it, and it was like new. She flicked her hand toward the broken doorknob, and repaired it, too.

“You really are a witch!” I gaped at her. My sweet, Scottish nanny. She had hid all this power from me and worked as a servant all these years.

“We must work together as a team, my dear. You must go out there tonight with a clear head, focused. Otherwise, it could be the end of you. As I told you, that vampire normally would not have let you go last night. You had the element of surprise on your side, but you no longer have that. Tonight, they might be hunting you.” She paused for a moment and her eyes turned sad. “And your friends.”

“What? But they are just children. They have nothing to do with any of this.”

“Do you think vampires care about that? Get out there. Stay hidden. Move fast, Nick.”

Before she even finished her thought, I had pulled out of her grasp and was halfway down the back stairs. Once in the street, I pulled my scarf and gloves out of the pockets of my brown overcoat. The cold bit into my cheeks and stung my nose, but I moved so quickly that I warmed up soon enough. I had to get to the boys. They had to move. Tonight.

Nothing happened on the trip to the boys’ shelter. I went in the secret passage way behind the crates and made my way into their cellar chamber. All but Conrad were there.

“Where is Conrad?” I asked, startling the three younger boys who had not seen me enter. “He is usually not out this late, is he? It is dangerous out there, doesn’t he know that?”

“He’ll be back soon,” Rufus answered. “He said he wouldn’t be long.”

“Where did he go, Rufus?”

“I dunno. To find some food for us,” he responded with a shrug, and I cursed myself for forgetting to bring them food again.

Franklin was in the corner, working on something with metal. I looked over at Conrad’s bedroll, and there were about a dozen or so wooden stakes.

“Did he go to hunt vampires?” I pointed to the stakes on the floor.

“No.” Edwin had been quiet until now, and looking at him, I could see why. My tales of vampires yesterday mixed with my current agitated state had frightened the poor boy. He was sitting against the wall with his arms tightly wrapped around his legs. “He made those for you.”

Taking a deep breath, I forced myself to relax. “Come here.”

Edwin got up and walked over to me, never taking his eyes off the dirt floor. I stooped down to his height and lifted his chin. “It is all right, dear boy. I’m here now, and I shan’t let anything happen to you.” My reassurances did little to convince myself of my supposed ability to keep them safe, but Edwin seemed to believe me. He threw his arms around my neck and hugged me.

I thought it best to change the subject away from vampires until Conrad returned. No need to scare these boys into thinking he was in danger, although he likely was. The call deep within my core swelled, telling me to get outside and guard the perimeter of the building, but I had to soothe them first, especially since my heated entrance had just done more to upset them.

Franklin worked feverishly in the corner, so I went over to him with Edwin under my arm. Rufus followed and sat down near Franklin. “What are you working on today?”

“It’s something for you, too,” he said. “Conrad and I decided last night after you left, that we were gonna help you. We all will help, however we can.”

My heart warmed at this, but something else crept up my throat. Fear. I had put all these boys in danger. Now I must deter them from this task without alarming them, but I didn’t know how.

“What is it?” I tried to think of what else to say, knowing that I had to get upstairs and keep watch. The call in my gut pulled at me to leave, but I remained.

“It is a surprise, a birthday surprise,” he said with a smile. I looked over a Rufus who was now sitting with his hand around Edwin.

“Rufus, get out your cards and deal a game for you and Edwin. I’m going to go up and wait for Conrad for a bit. You two play a game, and when I get back, I shall play, too. Deal?” I smiled, and hoped they couldn’t sense the growing dread in my belly.

“Deal!” Edwin loved when I played cards with them, so perhaps that will keep their mind off things while I go upstairs. “Franklin, you all right?”

Franklin didn’t answer with words. He just nodded and continued working away. He didn’t like to be disturbed from his work.

When I was out of their sight, I broke into a run up the stairs, my belly screaming at me now. As soon as I poked my head through the secret passageway opening, I heard it. A scuffle. Right here in the alley. I jumped out, grabbing the stake out of my belt, and I saw Conrad fighting with one vampire and someone else fighting with another. Conrad reared back and clocked the vampire on the jaw with the fist grasping one of his stakes. I heard Conrad’s sharp intake of breath at the pain, then smelled the blood at the same moment the vampire did. It was an awful, strong and sickly copper smell that undesirably mixed with my growing nauseous Protector senses, and I suppressed a retch.

The vampire had the opposite reaction. Its face became feral and he lunged at Conrad.

I moved, but my feet got tripped up on my oversized boy’s boots. Recovering quickly, I rushed forward, stake at the ready and tackled the vampire, who already had Conrad pinned to the ground. Its teeth sunk into his skin just before I reached them. Rolling the vampire off Conrad, I miraculously ended up on top after the tumble and, without hesitation, thrust the stake right through the heart. It was if my body acted on its own again. My conscious mind had not caught up until all that was beneath me was a body-shaped pile of brown dust. I looked up at Conrad who was against the stone wall, holding his neck. Blood was oozing between his fingers and the look on his face was one of sheer terror.

The other man was still fighting the other vampire. It was mostly a blur, but after one rather fierce kick to the chest that sent the vampire flying back against the opposite alley wall, the man looked at me with his hand out and said, “Stake, please?”

For a moment, I was caught by his dark eyes, which looked familiar somehow, and couldn’t move, but fortunately my body reacted again where my mind couldn’t. My arm tossed him the stake. Not a moment after he caught it, he rammed it into the chest of the charging vampire.

Dust.

The young man looked at me crossly and tossed the stake aside. It stuck in the snow piled in the corner of the alley, making it look as if a large wooden-nosed snowman had wilted there. What a curious thought.

“Are you all right,” the man said to Conrad, kneeling beside the both of us.

Conrad tried to speak, but only gurgling noises came out. He was getting paler by the moment.

The man ripped off the ascot from around his neck and put it over Conrad’s throat wound. I could see (and smell) that the blood had already started to slow. There were two perfectly round puncture wounds.

“Keep pressure on it,” the man commanded. His eyes were dark, like coal, and it matched his black hair. Long black sideburns came down and barely touched his strong jaw. Soot was smeared over his face, but even so, he was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. He was the man from the window last night. The excitement mounting in my stomach confirmed it.

I reached out to hold the ascot in place, and as I touched his hand a thrill went through my core and I literally caught my breath. He pulled his hand from mine and backed away, wiping his mouth and smearing some of the soot away from his lips. They were the color of cinnamon, and the surrounding flesh was fair. I couldn’t take my eyes from him.

“What are you playing at?” He looked down at me.

I blinked, rather taken aback from his tone.

“Look, boy, this is no place for children,” he scolded. “Get your friend and get inside. Don’t come out again at night.” He pointed his finger at me as if he was my father and I a petulant child. Anger replaced the dreamy desire quite quickly. Who was he to call me ‘boy’? He couldn’t be but a year or so older than I was.

“No you look, sir. I held my own.” I pointed to the body-shaped pile of dust.

“You got lucky.”

“Lucky! I’m The–.” I almost said Protector, but Fanny’s words came back to me how no one else could know.

“Nick.” Conrad’s voice sounded so weak. “Are they gone?”

My attention turned back to Conrad. “Yes. Gone.” When I turned back to face my handsome stranger, he was gone. “Let’s get you inside.”

Conrad got up with my help. He must have lost more blood than I thought, as his shirt was soaked with it and he leaned heavily on me in his weakness. The smell was horrible. No doubt due to my new super power senses, I suppose. After all, I had been around blood before, but it never smelled like this. Perhaps it was to facilitate the recognition of danger or the presence of vampires feeding. The thought made me shudder. Seeing Conrad pinned beneath that vampire had been truly frightening, and rather disgusting. These creatures were repulsive parasites, and I suddenly felt quite proud that I was chosen to help rid the world of them. They deserved to die, and I looked forward to dusting as many of them as I could.

-_Q

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 14, 2013.

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