With the gates to the upper world being few and far between, only echoing rumors of vampires have touched the land of the living. But as wars shake the underworld, the disturbance is bound to bubble up to the surface. Gothic Ash must do everything he can to protect his friends and family as hell rains on earth...and to keep his romance with the literally bloodthirsty Kumiko a secret.

Chapter 1: Colorblind

It was a horribly congested day in the mall. Congested. Though the word is commonly used to describe a tight, stopped up feeling in the sinuses, it perfectly described the blocked entrances to every store in the shopping center. Outside of the stores were even more crowded. It was Christmas Eve's eve, and it seemed that fifty percent of the American nation was made up of procrastinators and/or forgetful people.

However, seeing as a greater seventy percent of people in America didn't ask for books for Christmas, the small bookstore tucked in between Victoria's Secret and The Limited was virtually forgotten. Perhaps it was the placement rather than the time of year, as many people would probably find thongs and clothes more interesting, not to mention distracting, than the written word. It was a possibility that this was some well devised trap for college students bound for books, tempting them to instead blow their income on more appealing items. Either way, the store was all but abandoned.

Beneath the neatly stacked shelves, quietly flipping through novels, magazines, and comics were many lonely people. You could simply tell by the wistful looks on their faces that they would be spending Christmas with no one but themselves this year. Except, that is, for a small group huddled in the corner.

Black clad, heavily tattooed and pierced, the group had yet to be approached by the elderly sales clerk. They somehow managed to be distracting without making any noise; their racket was enormous, yet silent. There were three of them.

The girl, small and Asian, had her eyes narrowed in an annoyed manner. Her long, fake eyelashes made it hard to tell exactly what she was staring at with such disdain. Bright pink hair clashed somewhat with her deep purple eyeliner. Her clothes consisted simply of some obscure band t-shirt, a plaid purple, green, and black skirt, and purple leggings to match. The shoes she wore were a pair of the dirty, all-American converse, untied and unkempt.

The Asian girl was standing close to a stocky, pumpkin orange haired boy. Though not one piercing could be spotted on the girl, the boy had numerous spikes pushed below his lip, a small ring in his nose, and several studs glinting on his brow. On his forehead he wore a white headband with black Japanese lettering. Compared to the girl, he had been a bit less creative when picking out his outfit that morning. He wore some old blue jeans with a studded belt, and his black jacket covered whatever shirt he was wearing.

In his right hand he held a box of Count Chocula, the children's cereal, and occasionally he'd take out a fistful of the contents and stuff it into his mouth, crunching loudly. There was a sign near him that requested that no one eat in the store, but no one stopped him.

The last of the three was the tallest. His hair was a shock white with black tips, and in the back was also a deep black. His intense blue eyes were brought out further by a ring of black liner, and gave him an eternally angry look. He had a strange air about him that immediately stated that he was the one in command. His lip had a ring in the side, his nose a stud, and his left brow sported two rings. His ears were also heavily pierced, a quality that the orange haired boy didn't possess. He wore a nice jacket, something that belonged with a suit, not the baggy black jeans he wore, adorned in chains and straps. His neck was wrapped in a dog collar. The shirt he wore was a simple white tank covered in signatures.

"Look at that clerk," the pink haired girl suddenly snickered, "she's trying not to stare at us."

The boys slowly turned their heads, the stocky boy quickly, the tall boy gracefully.

"Hey Mix, we've been looking for your book for an hour. It's either here or it's not," the tall boy said in an annoyed manner, addressing the orange haired boy, who then stuffed another handful of cereal in his mouth.

"Mmm...I like it in here. Not many people. I mean, come on, if we go out there, the only thing I have to look forward to is getting run over again. At least as long as we're in here there's a small chance I'll find something I want," Mix said, still staring at the sales clerk. The poor elderly woman quickly turned away and hastily began stacking books on a shelf that they didn't belong to.

"You mean you don't even know what you want?" the girl sighed, rubbing her temples. She grabbed a book at random from the shelf and shoved it into Mix's hands. "There. Now let's go."

"But Koko...I don't wanna read a dictionary..." Mix whined, nearly dropping his cereal box. Koko rolled her almond shaped eyes.

"If you don't wanna go home, Mix, than you can just stay at my house," the tall boy said. As his eyes met with Mix, an immediate rush of understanding filled the air. It obviously baffled Koko, who glanced at both of them in intervals. A quirky smile broke Mix's lips.

"Alright, alright. Let's go. Onward and Outward!" With a strange enthusiasm and a sadistic cackle, Mix skipped for the exit of the store, cereal box rattling. Koko shook her head and followed, graceful and serious to acutely follow her stereotype. The tall boy sighed, and began to trail after them until he heard something crunching underfoot. He bent down to see a trail breakfast cereal leading out the door. He rolled his eyes, and began to pick it up.

He dumped a handful of the stuff into a small wastebasket in the corner of the store. He dusted off his hands and was about to leave when his eyes caught sight of something. In a dim corner of the store, towards the back where the shelves were piled with classics, stood a strangely dressed girl who had her back turned to him.

She looked extremely old fashioned with her long black dress that trailed the floor. There was little detail in the gown, save for the ruffled sleeves and lace-up back. A small Victorian hat was perched gracefully on her head, and beneath it was her shiny black hair, most likely braided into a neat bun.

As the tall boy stood there, so still he couldn't breathe, and though he could only see the back of her, a strange sense of unnatural beauty radiated from her. Her tiny waist belled out into fairly sized hips hugged neatly by her dress. Her back, long and muscled, practically glowed through the lace-up of her dress with its pale pallor. As if she felt his eyes on her, she took a graceful step around, skirt twirling.

Beneath the black fishnet that fell from the front of her hat, glorious black eyes shined out from her pale face. Like Koko, she was Asian, yet her beauty was unrivaled even by the cute, pink haired girl. Her tiny lips were slightly parted and deep red, giving her the image of being one of the exotic and beautiful geisha of Japan. Long lashes and deep liner gave her eyes a sharp, awake look.

Her dress, though slightly modest in the back, was low cut in the front. The tops of her breasts were peaking out from the fabric of her gown. The way they were positioned suggested that the woman was wearing a corset. In her slender hands covered with long leather gloves she held a collector's copy of the popular classic, Dracula.

The tall boy quickly turned away as soon as his thoughts returned to him, as they were not good, and he had the strangest feeling that the woman knew exactly what he was thinking. He could just see himself tearing off that Victorian gown, his hands and mouth touching, tasting every inch of her. He could see her moaning, begging him to stop, but wanting more. Wanting so much more, just like the rest of them. He could do it. Girls were fascinated with him. His whole image drew them in, and his commanding personality kept them there. But he would never make that mistake again. A year ago was when he realized that girls weren't just his to play with. They were people, and touch them too much and they would break.

This thought stung him so harshly that he immediately stomped out the store, not giving the woman a second glance. He didn't want to get dragged into another mess like that again. Never again. He would never hurt anyone ever again.

But those eyes...

Out in the parking lot, the wind was cold and the sky uninviting, fortelling a snowstorm. Koko shivered in her short sleeved shirt.

"Want my jacket?"

"Y-yes."

"Too bad. It's mine," Mix cackled at the freezing girl. Koko glared, and turned to the tall boy.

"Ash?"

The tall boy immediately surrendered his suit jacket. He unlocked the door to his car, and slid inside. Koko took the seat beside him, teeth chattering, and Mix slunk into the back. For a moment there was silence; Ash started the car. Through the foggy windshield, he could barely even make out the glowing letters that spelled out the name of the mall. He turned on the wipers.

Waiting for the car to warm up and the windshield to clear, he could see through his window the woman from the bookstore. Even from a distance, from her posture, she had a down and beaten look about her. Depressed. Ash wondered if maybe her boyfriend had kicked her out of the car, as he had done so many times before. A wave of sympathy washed over him, but tiny strings of memories held him back. It seemed that there was something inside of him screaming, "Warning! Warning! Danger!" He pulled the car around toward her anyways.

He rolled down his window upon approaching her.

"Need a ride?"

Her eyes caught his once more, and Ash felt as if he were being helplessly reeled in to another mess. His breath made pale clouds in the icy air. A close-mouthed smile melted her stoic expression. As cold as it was outside, her face was not in the slightest bit flushed.

"If you don't mind..."

Her voice was soft and sultry, and she spoke with a bent head. Perfect voice. Respectful, maybe even submissive. Her mouth, so small and feminine, barely opened. Her words had the lightest touch of an Asian accent. She had all of the occupants in the car mesmerized. Mix opened the door without a word.

Danger! Danger! Warning!

She set her bag in the car. Ash wouldn't even gamble a glance at her. His fingers tapped on the steering wheel.

Caution!

She gracefully slid into the seat and shut the door quietly behind her. Ignoring Mix and Koko, her eyes raised beneath her lashes to the rear view mirror to Ash. A seductive smile met him through the glassy reflection.

WARNING!

Ash didn't know that the warning going off in his head was not to protect her from himself, but for him to keep away from her.