Genre: Gothic style historical romance
Summary: The year is 1835. Elizabeth Stanton is injured while fleeing from a forced marriage, but when she realises who her rescuer is she begins to think she may have jumped out of the frying pan into the fire. Are the tales about the golden - haired vampire who lives in the old dark house on the cliff, true? Or are they just stories made up to frighten children? She's about to find out.
This is an original adaptation of my all –human AU Spuffy fanfiction. All copyright belongs to moxie and proof of ownership of this story has been legally protected.
The day Lord Lucius of the dark house on the cliff died, it was said the devil himself drove the carriage that took him to hell. As he had for each of his children, in turn. Their souls being the price, for the terrible power that Lord Lucius wielded in life. He gave them willingly, all save one. The golden- haired child with the face of an angel, he would not part with. He hid him away and substituted another in his stead. The devil, was not pleased and came for the child, but the boy was protected by a spell so powerful he could not take him. So, in a terrible rage he brought hell to earth instead and cursed the child with pain and torment so dreadful that hell might seem like paradise in contrast.
And the devil waited. Waited for the child to beg to be allowed into hell, that his pain might be less, that his torment may be tolerable. But the child had learned from a master, and he laughed at the devil. Challenged him that there was nothing he could do that would ever make him his. And to this day they are locked in a battle that will go on till the end of time. Or until one of them wins the challenge.
Neither has won yet. They fight still.
Fifteen year old Elizabeth Stanton looked up from the daisy chain she was making, her yellow hair blowing about her face. "Oh Wendy. Where do you get such stories. I saw him once, and he looked perfectly normal to me."
"You saw him? " Wendy crossed her fingers and looked towards the dark mansion. "But when? They say he never leaves the house."
"When I was ten. I took a dare and sneaked into the grounds. He stood at the window and looked directly at me. And I am still here to tell the tale."
"You are so brave Elizabeth. Wendy leaned forward and whispered, as if he might hear her. "It is said he drinks the blood of, virgins." She blushed as she said it. "And that the merest shaft of sunlight would burn him to ashes."
Elizabeth looked towards the mansion on the cliff, then she leapt to her feet, dropping her daisy chain and smoothing down her long skirts.
"Those are tales told to frighten children Wendy, and best not repeated. All this nonsense about vampires." She offered her cousin a hand and pulled her up. "That's all it is. I'm going to America with Aunt Joan tomorrow, and I intend to meet and marry a rich young man who will keep me better than this," she said pointing to the drab, faded material of her dress. "Poor papa, he is such a fool with money, always investing in some scheme, that never pays. Mama is quite at her wit's end."
The two girls made their way along the cliff path that led to the Stanton family home, modest by some standards, grand by others. As they passed the old mansion, Elizabeth found her step becoming a little quicker and her fingers straying to the cross she wore on the chain around her neck. She didn't believe the tales whispered by the villagers about the golden haired monster who lived there, but it didn't hurt to be sure. She took Wendy's hand and they ran as fast as they could, unaware that they were being watched by someone with dark blue eyes, and white-blond hair who was neither a monster nor a vampire.
But who was perfectly happy to let anyone who cared, think he was.
Four years later
"Aunt Joan, it's so good to be back in England. Are you not happy?"
"Indeed I am, my child." The plump, middle aged woman leaned back against the padded carriage seat and fanned herself with her handkerchief. "What a journey though, I am quite exhausted. But you my dear. Are you not disappointed that you did not secure yourself a husband in America? You were quite the belle of the ball."
Elizabeth leaned out of the window, eager to get the first view of the Stanton's family home as the cliff path turned inland. "Quite the opposite, aunt. I've never met a duller group of young men as those. I had believed myself capable of marrying a fortune, but I know now I will only marry for love. Oh, there it is. I cannot wait to see Dana. She will be so grown up I'll not recognise her."
Her aunt smiled indulgently at her. "Ahh, youngsters today. A fortune will warm you better than any young buck you might take your fancy to. Mark my words."
Elizabeth blushed slightly at her aunt's words and sat down as the house disappeared from view. She should be used to her aunt's outspokenness by now, but she never knew what the woman was going to say next. "You are one to talk. Was your first marriage not for love, aunt?"
Her aunt chuckled as she remembered. "He ran off with a tavern wench, once he had spent my inheritance of course. Fine pair of legs, as I remember." She stopped and contemplated her young charge. "I have been indulgent with you, Elizabeth, you have always been my favourite, as you know. I do not believe you should be forced into a marriage not of your choice, but your father will not be quite so. He will expect you to make a good marriage. And soon. Why, you are nearly twenty years of age. Were it not for your beauty, one might consider you too old."
"Then I shall die an old maid. Look, the Lucius mansion." Elizabeth deftly changed the subject. "How scared we used to be of the place when we were children." It was four years since she'd last set eyes on it, and it still looked as grim and dark as it ever had.
"And with good reason." Her aunt crossed herself vigorously, nodding at Elizabeth to do the same. "Lord Lucius was a monster. Evil to the core." She crossed herself again just to make sure. "They say that when he died..."
"Yes aunt, I've heard this story many times. They say the devil himself came for him."
"It is true my dear, and you would do well not to mock."
Elizabeth laughed, leaning forward to touch her aunt's arm. "Calm yourself aunt. Surely you do not believe these stories. Did anybody see the devil when he came?"
"Several of the villagers claim to have seen the coach glowing in the dark, and cloven hoof-prints were found near the gate." Her aunt's hand covered hers. "You may laugh, Elizabeth, but what does one make of a family that never shows itself? Of children that never grow to manhood? And a wife that simply disappears? Such strange comings and goings."
"But there was a son who lived, was there not? I saw him, at the window once."
"There were rumours a child survived. They say he had the face of an angel, but that his soul was so black even the devil did not want it." Aunt Joan let go of Elizabeth's hand and retrieved her handkerchief. "Lord it is so hot, and we have arrived. How do I look, my dear?"
Elizabeth was already opening the door to the coach as it rattled to a stop on the gravelled drive. "You look like a woman who has just sold all her American estates and is returning a rich widow."
Her aunt smiled a satisfied smile. "A fortune part of which you will inherit one day, young lady. I have named a sum in trust for you on my death, as you know, but I intend to live for a good while yet."
"And so you will Aunt Joan. Look, there they are." Elizabeth jumped out of the carriage in a most unladylike fashion, and ran past the surprised groom who was waiting to put up the steps. "Dana," she cried to her delighted sister. "Look at you, why you are taller than me, and what a beauty you have become."
"Bethy." Dana ran to her sister in an equally unladylike fashion and squealed as she was engulfed in a hug. "You must tell me everything. What was it like? Did you have a beau? Oh Bethy, it's so good to have you back."
Elizabeth let go of her sister and stood back to look at her properly. "Look at us both. You are sixteen and I am nearly twenty. We are not Dana and Bethy any more, we are Miss Elizabeth and Miss Dana." They both dissolved into a fit of giggles, then she linked her arm with her sister's and turned. "Mama."
"Elizabeth." Her mother offered her a cheek to kiss. "You are looking well, my dear."
"And you mama." She kissed her mother's thin cheek, not surprised at the formality of the welcome. She could tell her mother's nervous disposition had not improved in her absence. She stepped back, dropping Dana's arm and stood demurely for inspection. Her mother gave her a slight nod, then turned her attention to Aunt Joan, who was huffing towards them. "I should have thought her married by now, Joan. After all, was that not the purpose of the visit?"
Aunt Joan stopped to recover her breath and waved her hand in a dismissive fashion. "I tried my best, but you know Elizabeth. She has vowed to marry for love, or die an old maid, or some such nonsense. Now where is that brother of mine. I need to talk with him."
Elizabeth blushed crimson at her aunt's words, suddenly feeling like a prize cow on display at the marketplace. She didn't miss her mother's small scowl of disapproval, or Dana's look of concern. Her little adventure was over, she realised with a sinking heart. She'd gone to America with high hopes of meeting a dashing, and of course, very rich man, and had been quite prepared to make a life in which her major concern would be which dress to wear to the next ball.
But the reality had not matched the dream. Dull as dishwater the lot of them. Her aunt had wheeled them out one after the other, but none had caught her fancy. There was always something missing, but she did'nt know what it was. She had even let one of them kiss her, unknown to her aunt, and it had been so horrible it had almost put her off men altogether. She shuddered as she remembered how his lips had crushed hers. And his tongue? She had no idea what he'd been trying to do with it, but she knew she would never let a man do that to her again.
She followed the little party into the house, only half listening to her mother's prattling. Now she was back her days of freedom were numbered. Despite her protestation to her aunt in the coach, she knew she would have no say in her inevitable marriage. All she could hope for was that her father would choose a half-way decent man who she could at least tolerate. And who knew? perhaps she would be lucky and he'd be handsome, and rich - the combination must exist somewhere, she reasoned. Perhaps she should have married in America after all? At least then, dull as they all were, it would have been to her choice.
She patted her hair and pinched at her cheeks to bring some colour into them. Meeting with her father always made her nervous and now more so than ever. He'd set great store by this trip to America and had more or less instructed her to marry the richest man she could find. He wasn't bothered that she returned, only that some of the fortune might filter its way back to England to finance his latest schemes. She wiped her hands on her skirt, and took a deep breath, stopping as she looked with trepidation down the corridor leading to his study.
"Come along Elizabeth," her mother chided. "Your father is anxious to talk with you.
She followed her mother until they were standing outside the door and she raised her hand to knock, looking at her mother as she did so. "How is he?"
Her mother reached forward and tucked a stray lock of hair back into place for her. "He is not pleased, Elizabeth. Not pleased at all."
From the journals of Lord Damien Lucius. Year of Our Lord Eighteen Thirty Five
I am not a monster, yet I cannot be a proper man, and this loneliness eats at my soul. I would that the tales were true and the devil would come for me, yet even he mocks me with his disdain and does not heed my call. And God abandoned me long ago. So, I shall once again find solace in my cups and lose myself in the forgetfulness of a drunken stupor. For it is my only friend.
Damien snapped the journal closed and threw the quill pen into the inkpot. A blot of ink splashed onto the front of the leather-bound book and, leaning his aching head carefully onto the desk, he watched it spread. It was by far the most interesting thing that had happened today, he thought miserably. He dipped his finger in the blot and stirred it around, wondering why he didn't seem to be able to get drunk enough tonight to reach the blissful state of oblivion that he craved. He'd reached the self pity stage, but had been unable to get any further. More wine, that's what he needed. Reaching for the cup was easy, but picking it up was quite another matter. He lifted his head and tried to decide which of the two cups now floating before his vision was the real cup, and then he knocked it over.
The red wine ran and dripped over the side of the desk and onto his lap. He sprang back in alarm, also knocking over his chair and staggered over to the bell-pull.
"Tara." The shouting was completely unnecessary since she couldn't have heard him from where she was, but he did it anyway. "Tara. Stupid woman, where are you?" Turning to the sound of footsteps behind him he tried to focus on the person who entered the room.
"You are not Tara," he observed with difficulty, screwing up his eyes and looking the young man up and down. "You don't have those...woman's things..." He clamped his hands over the front of his chest, letting out a giggle as he did so, then he staggered sideways again. The young man rushed forward, hooked him under the arms and hoisted him up.
"It's Alex, my lord. Mother will be here in a moment. Let's get you over to the bed shall we?"
"Al-ex-an-der." Damien said it slowly, almost mockingly. "Are you scared of me Al-ex-an-der?" He allowed the lad to manoeuvre him to the bed and flopped back, flinging his arms wide.
"Why not?" Damien stuck his lip out. "Am I not remotely scary to you?"
Alex got to work on Damien's trousers, undoing them and pulling them off. "No, my lord."
"Do you enjoy doing this, Alex?"
"No, I don't."
"God, you're boring." Damien sat up and pulled his shirt over his head himself. "Go light a fire or something, and get me Tara. Where is that bloody woman?"
"I'm here, Damien, don't you go fretting yourself now." A plump woman, of about fifty years hurried into the room. Damien's face lit up. "Where were you? I want to go to bed."
"And so you shall, so you shall." The woman finished knotting up her hair and secured it with a pin. Then she went over to the bed and started fussing with the bedclothes and plumping up the pillows. She turned to Alex who stood dumbly watching her. "I think the sleeping draught is in order tonight." She glared at him. "Don't just stand there, you know where it is."
Alex went for the draught, mumbling under his breath and Tara returned her attention to her charge. "Come here my sweet," she said with an indulgent smile. "Let me see if I can soothe that head of yours."
Damien leaned his head gratefully onto her ample lap and relaxed as her hand stroked his hair.
"I think that tomorrow I shall go stand in the sun again."
"No, you will not stand in the sun." She sighed and continued to stroke his head, as if she were used to having this conversation. "You know what it would do to you."
"But maybe I'm cured?" Damien lifted his head, a spark of hope in his eyes. "The ointment from Arabia. It worked a little, I could feel it."
"Tis but temporary, and look at your skin." She smoothed her hand over his sunburnt cheeks. "I will put more ointment on this tomorrow, but you must promise me to stay inside."
He flopped his head back down. "They say I'm a vampire."
"Idle gossip my lamb. Ahh, there you are." Tara took the sleeping draught from Alex and lifted it to Damien's lips. "There now, drink it all up," she said sliding an arm around his shoulders.
Damien tossed it back without protest and watched through half-closed eyes as she stood up.
"Now go to sleep," she instructed him, as if he were still five years old. "And tomorrow, perhaps less of the wine?"
"'Tis my only friend, apart from you." Damien threw an arm across his eyes to block out the flickering candle-light. "I wrote a poem, would you like to read it?"
"Tomorrow, sleep now Damien." Tara arranged herself in the rocking chair by the bed. "Would you like me to sing to you?"
"No. Am I cursed, Tara?"
"No you are not. Just an unfortunate accident of birth. 'tis very unfair, but you are not cursed."
"Was my father?"
"Sleep, my pet." She started singing softly. An old folk song she knew he liked.
"You never answer that question," he said drowsily, feeling the draught taking effect. This was the best part of the day. When oblivion overtook him and he didn't have to think about anything but the welcoming blackness that came with it. "I think I am cursed," he mumbled as sleep overtook him at last.
Tara stood stiffly and smoothed out her skirts. "Fetch a cloth and clean up that mess." She poked at Alex and indicated toward the wine stain. "I wish he would not talk about going out into the sun. It worries me quite to death." She started to bustle about, picking up Damien's discarded clothes and folding them neatly, then she stopped and thought for a moment. "I think his melancholy increases, do you not think so?" She held up the wine-stained trousers and bundled them up in her hand.
Alex looked up from his cleaning. "I think he's mad, if that's what you're asking. And you don't help, mother. You treat him like a baby. 'Tis nauseating."
"For twenty one years, I have sat and watched over him." She looked at Damien fondly as he slept, then reached down to pull the quilt over his bare shoulders. "And I will continue to do so while I have breath in my body. Make sure you extinguish the candle when you leave. Goodnight, Alex."
"Goodnight mother." Alex continued dabbing at the wine stain until his mother's footsteps faded, then he got up and reached for the candle-stick. He took a moment to look at Damien, shaking his head as he did so, then he opened the drawer to the desk and felt about at the back, for the slim volume he knew was kept there. He opened it and angled the pages toward the candle-light, unable to read a word, but fully appreciative of the illustrations therein. His eyes grew wide as saucers as he flicked through it, turning the book, and sometimes his head to get a better view. Then Damien stirred and started mumbling in his sleep so Alex snapped "The Gentleman's Book of Love" closed and hastily replaced it in its hiding place.
He extinguished the candle and made his way back to his room, rubbing at the front of his breeches. Damn, but he was going to have to visit a certain lady in the next village and get this itch scratched once and for all. Then Lord Damien would have to show him some respect. He would make sure his lordship knew about it, would taunt him with it because, along with going out into the sun, it was something Damien would never do. What woman would bed a vampire? Alex laughed softly and shook his head. Vampires indeed. If only people knew what really lurked within these walls, they'd be weak with laughter, not with fright.