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Dark Embrace
By: W. R. Frady

Night had long since settled over the small town of Whispery Hollow, bringing with it a chill that now contaminated the air. The usually busy streets were empty and lifeless, save for a stray dog that ran down the road. It stopped only long enough to bark at something only its eyes could see in an overshadowed alleyway before scampering off into the darkness. A frigid midnight breeze swept through the town, snatching some of the remaining leaves from the trees and rattling the branches like old bones disturbed from their eternal rest.

Shelley drifted down the empty main street as if she were unable to control her own feet. She could feel the pull, the call that compelled her onward, summoning her to the central fountain. The vacant eyelike windows of the various shops and other buildings seemed to stare blankly at her as she passed them by. Their unfeeling gaze offered no comfort to her. The icy breath of the mid-autumn’s night chilled her through her nightgown, inducing a shiver that quickly washed over the rest of her body. Somewhere clock tower bells tolled, announcing the turning of the hour. The cobblestone road beneath her feet was cold and hurt with every step. Though she strode at an even pace, following the main street toward the town square, Shelley, in her mind could see herself back in the warm comforts of her bedroom, where the gentle glow of the fireplace would soothe her as she slept.

She rounded a corner that fully exposed her to the evening breeze, blowing her nightgown behind her as she walked. The linen folds danced in the night like ghostly arms reaching out to grasp at the shadows. In the distance, she could see the town square. By the central fountain stood a dark figure, set apart from the shadows only by the glow of the iridescent of the lamplight. There was an unsettling familiarity about him, a grim recognition, though; she was still to far away to be sure. Her heart pounded against her chest like a fist, forcing the blood to course through her veins at a deafening roar.

The solitary figure watched evenly as Shelley approached. When she had grown close enough, he extended his hand, as would a gentleman who was welcoming the arrival of his lady. His eyes were cold, intense and seemed to pierce her soul with a razor’s edge. A grim smile formed upon his lips, as if to ease the tension that welled up inside of her. A lump formed in her throat that she tried futilely to swallow but to no avail. Unable to resist, she reluctantly offered her own hand to meet his. Her eyes grew wide as they came to recognize the stranger who stood before her.

"Jacob Barclay." She muttered, remembering the enigmatic businessman that she had met at the town dance just nights before. He was relatively new to Whispery Hollow, having moved here just over a couple of months ago. Although Shelley found him strangely attractive, the dismally somber hues of his clothing, as well as the demure, but not rude manner in which he presented himself, made her wary of him.

"Ah, Lady Shelley," he said gently grasping her hand, enclosing it within his own. His sepulchral voice lulled her even closer with its warm and inviting tones. "It is too chilly a night to be wondering out by yourself."

Shelly nodded, unable to find her voice. "Why can’t I speak?” She thought, her mind racing. She drew near to him, the clammy touch of his cold hand made her shudder involuntarily.

"Pardon the chill of my hands, my dear." He explained. "I’m not quite the fiery youth that I was once, and my circulation isn’t what it used to be, particularly in my extremities." His eyes seemed to stare through her, making her feel like a helpless child staring into the dark for the first time. She wanted to run, wanted to flee from the cold streets and the presence of Jacob Barclay, and hide her face in the arms of her loving if overprotective father.

"My child, why are you trembling?” Jacob inquired sensing her fear. "Are you frightened?" His voice changed to a more soothing tone to ease Shelley’s nerves.

"Y…yes…" She stammered, surprised at being able to speak for the first time. "And cold." She used her remaining hand to gather her nightgown around her.

"Why are you frightened?" He asked in a low gentle tone.

"I… I don’t know, really." She said shakily, finding her voice once more. Her eyes were lost in the timeless void behind Jacobs stone gray orbs. "I was in my bedroom sleeping, when I felt the call of someone or something calling me here." Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion, though she couldn’t tear her gaze away from his.

"Do you think that it was I who summoned you here?" He questioned her, raising an eyebrow. "After all, my dear girl, as you can see, I am the only one here, other than yourself." He smiled wryly exposing a quartet of long, dagger-like teeth, which slightly overlapped his bottom lip. At the sight of this, an icy chill ran down her spine. "If you think this," he whispered hoarsely, drawing her closer, "what else could I be possibly capable of?" His gentle embrace became as a steel vice, crushing her fragile form against him. Shelley fought futilely, attempting to pull away from this monster who had the face of a man, but she may as well had been a small child struggling to pull away from a grown man.

Jacob’s warm smile became a grin of sadistic pleasure as he held her against him. He breathed in deeply, his nostrils filled with the burning, sweet scent of the lifeblood, which now thundered through her body like a wild river. The sound of her heart pounding from the immense fear that wracked her body, echoed like a drum in his ears. The sensation was almost intoxicating, and he basked in the heat of the moment, savoring the tantalizing allure it offered. "Yes," he thought, "he would drink tonight, but he wanted it to last." Jacob reached up with his left hand, gently nestling her chin between his thumb and forefinger, lifting it as a man would his lover, of whom he is about to deliver a most passionate kiss. He lowered his head allowing his lips to brush Shelley’s, as if to mock that intimate of moments. She shuddered in revulsion of this personal invasion, as well as the horror of what was to come. He deftly tilted her head to the side, exposing the milky white skin of her neck. Her pulse racing through the artery beneath her left ear brought a slight twitch with every heartbeat. Without another moment’s hesitation, he began kissing passionately at the tender skin above her shoulders.

Though she was disgusted with Jacob’s invasion of her personal being, Shelley fought back a moan of desire as his lips roved over her neck and shoulder. Torn between the sickening distaste of her violation, and the passion of the moment, she found herself unable to give into either. She gasped heavily, feeling the sharp points of Jacob’s teeth scrape lightly over her exposed skin. With this grim reminder of what he was, she tried to struggle once more. "No…" she groaned pushing her hands against his chest.

Jacob knew that he didn’t have long before she would snap out of her waking dream. With a final crushing embrace, he pulled her close once more, using the momentum and grace of the motion to penetrate the tender flesh beneath her ear with his razor sharp fangs. A carnal grunt escaped Shelley’s lips that straddled the boundary between pain and ecstasy.

Jacob allowed the rich, hot fluid to fill his mouth before drinking deeply. The sweet coppery taste washed over his tongue, urging him to gorge himself on he life fluids until there was nothing more to take, but to Jacob Barclay, there was an intimacy here, raw and passionate, baring the most chaotic of human emotions in a single moment, and he wanted it for his own. He worried his teeth around in the holes allowing the young woman’s blood to flow more freely. Her body jerked in shallow spasms with each motion of the vampire’s head. Tonight, he would only take what he needed to slake his thirst. The time to drain her would come soon enough, but for now, he wanted to savor the sensation that nearly intoxicated his very being.

Shelley lay all but lifeless, held in Jacob’s dark embrace. She could feel her body pulsate as her life slowly drained away. A heaviness weighed upon her eyelids as though sleep were threatening to overcome her. She felt numb save for the icy burn that coursed through her every time Jacob adjusted his bite. The empty square began to spin as her consciousness started to fade. Even the babbling water of the fountain grew more distant with each leaden second that passed. At some point, she was sure that a tear ran down her cheek, but it was hard to know for certain. Shelley’s hold on the world soon gave away, allowing everything to fade to black.

Once Jacob had satisfied his hunger, he gracefully lifted Shelley into his arms as a groom would his bride and began carrying her home. She still lived, though her breath was shallow and labored. "Do not worry girl," he whispered softly to her, "for now, I shall take you home to your family." The bell tolled ringing the dawning of a new hour behind them. "Morning shall soon come, and with it another night. We will be together soon my dear." The shadows seemed to follow them as they traveled the windswept road. Only they could see the wicked smile that had formed upon his face.

Moments later, Shelley lay, snugly tucked, into the billowing blankets of her bed. Jacob stoked the fire to beat back the chill of the pre-dawn hours. The old pine log the he had placed on top of the hot coals had begun to crackle and pop, sending a shower of sparks up the chimney as the fire caught on. He rose to his feet and walked solemnly back over to Shelley’s prone form. He sat gently on the bed beside of her, leaning over until his lips were next to her ear.

"Tonight, Lady Shelley, was no more than a waking dream, a fleeting fantasy that you will discuss by the light of day, but know this, my child, I shall come for you again in the waxing hours of the night. When I come for my last visit, you and I shall be together, as one, eternally." He spoke softly, a haunting melody enriching his voice. "After all, my dear, your father has invited me to come anytime I wish, so sleep now, and dream your dreams in the safety of your home." He chuckled mockingly as the last words left his mouth.

With that, he rose and walked to her window. Outside, the waning night beckoned to him, its somber hues eager to embrace him again. He spared a glance back to his chosen mistress before opening the window enough for him to slip through unheard. A cold breeze whisked through the room, stirring up another gossamer of sparks and blowing them up the chimney. Shelley stirred from the frigid draft; however, she did not waken. In a swift graceful motion, Jacob slid out of the window, stopping only long enough to close the windowpane. He relished in the cold air, allowing its fingertips to caress his face. After a moment, he let go of the windowsill, his form disappearing into the shadows long before his feet would ever touch the ground. In the distance, a bell tolled, announcing the coming of another hour.