Dance of the Spirits

Chapter 3

Blood From the Moonflower

by Ivaliny

Junia didn't know what happened right after she had lost consciousness, but there were a few very fuzzy things that she remembered. After her world went totally black, and her body went numb, she remembered hearing voices. She did not know what they were saying, but she remembered voices. Were they real? She could not tell you, but she definitely remembered voices. Another thing that she fuzzily remembered was someone picking her up, and putting her in a chair or car. When she tried to look around at her surroundings in the very dimly lit place, she saw the mysterious man from the library sitting slumped in the seat next to her. Her body set out alarms, and before her consciousness could react with her body, she blacked out again.

She didn't know how long she had been passed out, but her left side of her head throbbed with pain when she awoke in her house, in her room. Actually, she didn't even know how she got there, or why she was there. Every time that she tried to remember what happened, her head would send out warning stabs of pain. Her heart was beginning to panic, because it was starting to become difficult to remember what happened exactly. She could remember a few things: she was going home, she was attacked, she was saved, she heard voices, and she was somewhere sitting next to the mysterious man from the library that evening. She looked at her bedroom window, and noted that the sun was shining through, so it was definitely yesterday evening and not "this evening." Slowly she brought her hand up to her head where she saw the finger shaped bruises covering them. She looked at them with shock and horror, and remembered then that the person who had attacked her had grabbed her wrist. When her fingers very lightly touched the side of her head that was throbbing, she felt rough bandages there, and knew that someone must have bandaged them up. The only question lingering in her head at that moment was "Who?" and as if to answer this question, someone walked into her bedroom and let out a grateful sigh.

"Junia, I'm glad to see you're awake. I was getting worried."

Junia looked over at Merrick Hahn who was now sitting in an old wooden chair that she used to throw her dirty clothes on. His face was even more covered in stubble than before. She stared at him for a while with squinty eyes, because the light coming through her blinds was unbearable for her pounding head.

"How are you feeling? You hurt yourself pretty badly," he asked.

She cranked her head to the side a little away from Merrick. "I did? I hurt myself?" She was confused. She didn't remember hurting herself. "Wh-what happened? Why am I here at home? What time is it?"

Merrick cleared his throat and leaned over in his chair with his elbows on his knees. "You've been asleep for almost a day. Don't you remember? You fell down the stairs at the library after closing. Mrs. Finkel was worried about you for not coming in for work today, and I told her that you fell down the stairs. She said that it was a typical 'Junia' thing to do, and told me to tell you to not worry about coming in for work today. Also, to answer your last question," he looked at his watch, "it's 4 in the afternoon."

"I…fell down stairs?"She breathed even more confused than before. Junia really didn't know what to think at this point. She wondered if she had a concussion, and if her head injury was worse than she thought it was. She definitely didn't remember falling down stairs, but she also wasn't for sure if the other incidents that flashed in her mind were true either. However, Merrick had been known to lie to her numerously yesterday, and this definitely wouldn't have been the first. Maybe it was her head injury and her ability to not focus, but she didn't recognize any signs that he was lying. His left eye did not twitch, and he looked at her straight in the face.

Junia tried to sit up a little in bed, but her head sent racing throbs of pain from her head through her back and to her limbs. "I don't remember falling down stairs. How bad is my head?"

He shrugged and leaned back in the chair again. "Not too bad. You probably had a concussion, but you'll be fine." He paused," What do you remember about last night?"

"Not much really. I don't even know if it's for real now. I'm so confused. I was walking home after closing, and then…" she thought harder," and then someone attacked me." She decided to leave out the idea that she thought he was the one who had saved her from the attacker.

His face grew more serious. "Ah, that's pretty interesting," he replied quietly. "I'm sure your head injury made that up, because you 'Oh, Memorizer of Shelved Books' fell down the stairs." He got up from the chair and walked out of the room and moments later returned with a glass of water and an aspirin. She gladly took the aspirin, and propped herself against the wall where her bed was set up against. He sat back down in the chair.

"Hopefully that will help with some of the pain," he offered unenthusiastically. He looked out the window with a slight hint of uneasiness, and then he looked back at her with the bored eyes she was used to seeing him with. "I tried to make some food, but you haven't an ounce of food in here but piles of chocolate. Geez, what do you eat, and please do not tell me it is just chocolate."

Junia laughed softly, trying very hard not to make the pounding in her head worse. "I'm a very bad cook, so I just gave up trying to cook things for myself. I just eat at the café everyday. I get good food, and I don't have to buy groceries."

Merrick yawned, "Your sister must have been the one who cooked then." He looked around the room. "I hope this is your room. I carried you around the house trying to figure out which room was yours. I figured this one was yours, because it was the only one that looked," he paused noting the clothes on the floor, "lived in."

She blushed, and smiled. "Yeah, this is my room." Her eyes narrowed at him with uncertainty. "Why are you here, Merrick?"

It was his turn to blush. He rubbed his long stubble and ran a hand through his greasy blonde hair. It was obvious to Junia that he hadn't showered in a couple of days, and wondered if he had stayed at her house all night and day. "I took you home after you passed out at the library."He stuttered.

"How?" she asked. "As far as I knew, you didn't know where I lived."

He ran his hand through his hair again nervously; his blue eyes not looking at her. "I called Mrs. Finkel to ask where you lived, which was then when I told her what happened to you. She told me where you lived, and helped me get you situated a littler after I found your room."

Again, Junia couldn't tell if he was lying or not, and from his very short past with her, he seemed to lie to her a lot. "Did you stay here all night and day?"

"Uh, yeah,"he replied with a nervous laugh. "But I wasn't alone the whole time. Your friend Melanie was here as well and Mrs. Finkel came by to check up on you when she realized that you may not be coming into work today. Your friend Melanie is a talker."

Junia shook her head slowly. "I don't understand. You don't know me, and I don't know you. You have no reason to stay here with me."

He nodded knowingly and stood up. "You're right. I don't know you, and you don't me. I'm sorry if I have caused you any discomfort, but I couldn't help but feel a little bit of protectiveness over you." His eyes went back to a stony gray color, the color that she noticed when she had first met him yesterday. "I will leave you now, Ms. Junia," he stated coldly as if all warmth he had showed her earlier had disappeared. "Get better." And with that he walked out of her room stiffly. She got out of bed quickly, ignoring her head screaming at her to slow down her movements. She swayed in the hallway trying to gain her balance, and caught him putting on his coat in the living room.

"Merrick, it was just a question. You don't have to leave," she almost pleaded. For some reason she liked him company, and the thought of him leaving in such a cold manor made her heart ache for him. She didn't want to offend him. He seemed to be a nice person despite his random coldness.

"I need to get back to my research." He stated as he opened the door and walked out. "Again, get better soon, Junia." He shut the door and he was gone. She took a deep breath, and put her hand up to her head. It was pounding even harder than before, and she winced her way over to the couch where she plopped down and stared at the blank TV. She thought about turning it on, but the thought of moving to bend over and get the remote from the coffee table felt like too much work. She sat their sprawled out for a while when she started to move her hands around on the couch absentmindedly for something to do. Her left hand stopped when she felt something on the couch. Slowly she looked over at an envelope now in her hand, thinking that if Aurora could see her now, how she'd make some joke about how Junia looked like a zombie. She picked up the envelope and looked at it for a while again absentmindedly, until she realized what she was looking at it. It was a golden broken seal, exactly like the one that she had received in her Von Lohengrien wedding invitation. She flipped it over and saw that in the same beautiful script as the wedding invitation were the name "Mr. Merrick Rhyne Hahn."She figured that Merrick must have left this here on accident and considered putting it on the coffee table as she mentally noted that she'd give it back to him when she went to the library next. She sighed, still holding the letter in her hand, but she knew that she wouldn't be able to contain herself and had to open it. Ignoring her throbbing head she bent over the letter as if trying to hide it from her empty house, looked at the front door cautiously and slowly opened it up.

Mr. Hahn,

How long has it been since we have last spoken to each other? I heard that you were back in town and I was deeply offended that you did not come to visit us. Hasn't it been long enough to let bygones be bygones? You're always welcome in our family, Merrick. I know your sister would be ashamed of how rudely you are treating us. With that said, come visit us, so that we can all catch up. It really has been far too long.

Affectionately your brother,

Adal Von Lohengrien

Junia gasped. So many questions spun around in her head as she read the letter over and over again. Brother? Affectionately your brother? Family? Was Merrick somehow related to the Von Lohengriens? She wondered if he was apparently a close relative of some kind, then why was he researching so much about them. She wanted to know the answers to so many questions now, like how was he related to the Von Lohengriens? Was he really Adal's brother? Suddenly, the mysterious Mr. Hahn became more mysterious to Junia.

Her heart began to pound even harder as memories of last night began to come back. She remembered there was some kind of struggle; otherwise she wouldn't have had the bruises on her hands. Merrick had lied to her and to her friends, but why? What secrets did he know that he had to keep from her? They were both right, they knew nothing about each other. They were total strangers, but the incident from the night before somehow convinced Junia that she had a right to know what the truth about last night was. Also, the fact that he somehow seemed to have a tie to the Von Lohengriens made her more interested him than before. Then a thought came to her mind, what if Merrick knew something about this wedding that was being held in a month? She thought longer, and decided that maybe the fact that he came into town at around the same time that the Von Lohengriens seemed to have returned to the town meant that he knew something that the rest of the town didn't.

Junia laughed at herself suddenly. She was really starting to sound like her sister again; formulating insane theories that may have nothing related to each other. However, Junia knew that she'd have to see Merrick sooner or later, because she knew she had to return this letter to him. Or maybe, the thought came to her, that he would return to her house again to get it back himself. She kind of hoped it would be that, because she really didn't want to go to library today. Her headache was beginning to subside, but her head was still throbbing. It was just low pounding throbs rather than sharp ones. Somehow, as much as she hoped he would come back to get the letter himself, she knew it wasn't going to happen. He seemed like he put the wall of rudeness around him again, and he seemed like a prideful man, so she knew he definitely would not come back. That only left her with one thing to do, and that was to go to the library and give him his letter.

Quickly she got up from the couch and went to the bathroom. It was then that she saw the full extent of her injury. The left side of her face was bruised, and at her temple was a nasty gash. She almost didn't recognize herself. Tenderly she touched the bruises, noticing the other bruises on her arms including the hand prints on her wrists. She had other bruises on her neck as well. These definitely weren't from falling down stairs. Now Junia was mad at Merrick for lying to her again, and she was even more aggravated that she had almost believed him. All he did was lie to her, and she didn't take kindly to people lying to her, even if they were strangers.

She took her shower and got dressed. When she came out of her room, she looked down the hall at the room on the left, and noticed that the door was open. She always kept that door closed, because the memories of her sister were sometimes too heard to bear. Cautiously, not wanting to rip open new wounds of grief in her seemingly fragile heart, she walked to the room. Her sister had specifically chosen that room because it was the best for writing. Most of the room was lit by windows, and it was actually the brightest room in the house. Her grandmother had used it before for painting, but when the girls moved in with her, her arthritis was already so bad that she had quit painting by then. She was glad to see one of us like it.

Junia had kept Aurora's room the way it was after she went missing, because she knew her sister would return. She didn't touch anything in there, because she was scared of ruining something. She walked into Aurora's room and took a deep breath, taking in the scent of Aurora that still lingered in her room. Her scent was fainter now and it made Junia sigh. She walked around the room lightly touching things on shelves and on Aurora's desk like music boxes, CDs, and books hoping to capture slight memories of her sister. Her fingers came to rest on a book that lay on the desk that had been left open. Junia wondered if the book had been open this whole time, and knew that if it was, it couldn't be good for the binding to be in this position for so long, especially since the book looked old. From years of working at the library, she knew how to treat books, especially old ones. Carefully she closed the book and read the title: The Blood of the Moonflower. She took a sharp intake of breath, The Blood of the Moonflower sounded so familiar to her. She looked at the author and quickly picked up the book. This was the book that Merrick had been looking for by Aloisia Schutltheiss.

She laughed at the first thought that came to her mind, which was how large this overdue fine was going to be. Junia sat down on her sister's bed and opened up the book and in the inside of the cover were a beautiful, very lady-like script addressed to her grandmother, Rosaline.

My dearest Rosaline,

This entire book was written for you, my dear, even though I know you did not want me to write it. We have gone through a lot these past few years, and I know that our experiences have only made us stronger. I love you with all of my heart, and I miss you so much.

Your Loving sister,

Aloisia

Another shocker for Junia. She re-read the short note over and over again, wondering what the next shock of the day will be. First, there was Merrick being a brother to Adal Von Lohengrien, and now she found out for the first time that her grandmother had a sister. She searched her memories desperately for any mention of her grandmother having a sister or anyone named Aloisia, but nothing came to mind. She cursed out loud, because again she wished she had paid more attention to the stories her grandmother had told them. The more she thought of this book and read the first few pages; she had no reason why Merrick had wanted this book. He had mentioned that he wanted it, because his mentor had read it, but she knew that when he told her that he was lying. He seemed to really want this book, and that gave Junia an idea.

To her surprise, her car was in her driveway. She wondered who had driven it home, because she remembered that she had left it at the café. The more she thought about whom drove her car home, the more she really didn't care. It was home, and that made it easier on Junia, because she didn't have to walk all the way to the library with her head throbbing, instead she could get there faster but be more of a menace to the road while her head throbbed. She liked the fastness idea over the walking idea. When she arrived at the library, Mrs. Finkel covered her with motherly hugs and exclamations at how worried she was about her sweet fraulien.

"Mrs. Finkel, I really don't feel up to working tonight."

Mrs. Finkel nodded, and stroked Junia's hair motherly, "Of course, dear. I'd hate for you to work tonight. I'm just so thankful that Mr. Hahn was there when you fell. Dear, you can be such a clumsy person. I really wish you'd be more careful."

Junia couldn't help but smile at Mrs. Finkel's concern. "Thank you, but I really came here to see Merrick. I have something to return to him."

Mrs. Finkel frowned and huffed. "He's upstairs, and rather cranky. I think he may be very tired, dear. I tried to get him to quit early and come home, but he wouldn't listen to me. I hope he doesn't make himself sick." Junia rolled her eyes, and thought how wonderful it was going to be to talk to a rude, cold hearted and now a very cranky Mr. Hahn. The idea did not appeal to her, but maybe she could use it to her advantage some how. She was determined to get some truthful answers before the end of the day was over with, and she had many questions that needed answered.

She found him hunkered over his laptop as he glared at the screen, eyebrows furrowed and lips pursed. When she walked over to him, he ignored her presence, and kept typing. She was going to stand until he stopped typing or until he looked at her, no matter what kind of a death glare he was going to send her. He stiffened and let out a long heavy sigh, and grudgingly looked up from his work sending a deathly cold glare at Junia.

"What is it now? I'm slightly busy."

Junia raised her chin higher, even though her head screamed that she shouldn't. "I don't care, Mr. Hahn. I have something of yours, and I'm not going to give it to you until you answer some questions truthfully." She pulled out the letter from her purse. "I am a good judge of character when it comes to whether or not someone has been truthful, and honestly, Mr. Hahn, you have done nothing buy lie to me ever since we first met, and I'm tired of it."

His glare became more hard and edgy. "You have no business knowing anything about me or my affairs."

She gave her best cynical laugh," Oh no? You know, you can be as cold as you want to me, Mr. Hahn, but I can be just as cold. Give me your best defense, and I will break it." She played with the letter in her hand. "This was very interesting to me."

"You didn't read it, did you?" he growled as he reached for it, but she pulled it away just in time.

"Of course, I did. You left it at my house."She strummed her good side of the face with her fingers. "If you're good and answer my questions truthfully, I'll give you this letter and something else of interest to you."

"What else is there?" he asked not taking his eyes off of the letter.

She shook her finger from side to side, "Ah, ah, ah. I won't tell you until you give me the truthful answers that I want."

His fists knuckles began to grow white in the fist that he was making. He closed his eyes, and gave out a big sigh, trying to obviously calm his nerves. He did this a few times before he let go of his clenched fists, set them in his lap, stood up straight and stared at Junia with stony eyes. "What are your questions?" he asked slowly and thoughtfully. "I'm assuming they are about the letter?"

She nodded. "And other things."

"Ask away," he sighed, preparing for the worst.

"First, why are you researching the Von Lohengrein's when you seem to already know them—personally it seems."

He stared at her blankly. "Yes, I know the personally, but I know very little about them. I wish I had done my research on them years ago," he answered half absentmindedly.

"Are you related?" she asked quietly.

He looked at her in shock and almost horror, as if the very thought made him physically ill. "Oh, God, no! I will never be apart of their family, and I never was to begin with. That family is monstrous. I would rather be dead than to be considered apart of their family." He leaned closer to her in his chair, and the cold stony glare was now gone and replaced with a look of worry. "Listen to me, Junia, you need to stop researching the Von Lohengrien's. Only horrible, unimaginable things could happen to you, if you keep going along this path that you are taking. My advice is to forget about them."

"Why?"

He sighed; obviously frustrated that she didn't take warning in his warning. "They play with your mind. That's what they do. They twist you around your fingers, and play you like a puppet so that they could get whatever they want accomplished. They are not good people." She looked at him blankly, not really knowing what to think of his little rant.

"He called you 'brother' though."

Merrick laughed. "He's a delusional old bat. I'm serious, Junia, do not think you can get involved with the Von Lohengrien's."He began to close his laptop and pick up his things and put them in his messenger bag. "C'mon, I don't want to talk about this here. Let's go somewhere more private."

"We could go back to my place," Junia offered, forgetting about the letter in her hand until Merrick took it back from her. "Hey! That was my bargaining chip."

He laughed," Too late now. You don't have to worry about it, I'll talk more as soon as we go more private. Did you bring your car?" She nodded and he shook his head. "I can't believe you drove here in your condition. Are you stupid?"

She followed him downstairs. "I'm not stupid! My head doesn't hurt that bad," she pouted. She didn't know why she was pouting, because it wasn't like her. She decided it was the high amounts of aspirin that she took earlier that was making her act a little out of character.

"Mrs. Finkel," Merrick announced when he walked to the circulation desk, "I am going over to Junia's, and I don't know how long I will be. Since its past 5 you might as well close up the library. I have a feeling I won't be able to research anymore tonight in peace." He glared at Junia and Mrs. Finkel glared at her as well. "Do not worry about supper either, because I'll be making Ms. Junia some tonight. Thank you for the use of your library. I will see you later."

He held out his hand toward Junia, and she looked at it in confusion. She didn't know what he was thinking or if he wanted to hold her hand. She cursed silently in her head at the confusion her head pain was giving her. She just wished it would stop throbbing so she could think properly.

"Your keys?" he asked as they exited the library.

The both got into Junia's car, and he drove to the grocery store and picked up some food for the supper he was going to make. Neither of them spoke a word while they were in the grocery store or the car. She couldn't help but stare at his greasy hair though, and wondered when the last time he bathed was. It was a weird thing to be preoccupied about, but it was at least something to her that wasn't awkward, like the whole situation they were in—him driving her car around. He seemed to ignore her the whole time, which made the situation even more awkward.

When they arrived at her house, he made her sit down in the living room and watch TV while he prepared whatever he was making. She asked what he was making, but he only answered "food," as a reply. She had rolled her eyes at that, because it was the same bull crap of an answer she would have said too. As she sat in the living room, wondering what was going through Merrick's mind, she realized that he seemed to be a lot like her in a lot of ways. He seemed to be reserved when it came to personal matters, and he was cynical yet caring in his own way. When she had walked into the kitchen to see what his progress on his culinary creation was, he shooed her out and said he would only finish answering questions after they had eaten, because he was cranky and starving. Some part of his mood swings seemed to make sense to Junia now, he was mostly cranky because he was hungry and tired, which is exactly what happens to her when she would be hungry and tired—cranky.

Soon the smell of food wafted throughout the house, and she felt a lot more at ease and for some reason the smell of his cooking made her throbbing head ease up more, but it also could have been because of the aspirin he had given her when they came home. Merrick came out of the kitchen and told her that food is now being served at the dining table. She looked at him strangely, and he only smiled. The thought of using the dining table hadn't ever occurred to her since her grandmother had passed away. She just always ate at the counters in the kitchen. When she walked in, the places were set so beautifully, and the food was already steaming in their plates. She sat down at a chair in the 8 chair dining table, and he sat across from her.

"My mother always made us sit at the table," he mumbled to her seemingly embarrassed.

She smiled awkwardly," That's nice. I haven't sat here in years, to be honest. There's no point."

He picked up a fork, "Then it would be good for a new change then. You have to admit that eating here is a little bit relaxing."

She shrugged and picked up her fork as well. She poked at her food with it, and come to the conclusion that it was chicken with some kind of cream sauce and vegetables. Slowly she cut into the chicken and took a bite. It had a perfect crust on the outside and so soft and tender. It fell apart in her mouth, and I'm sure she made some kind of childish humming noise when she savored it. She took another bite and swirled it around in the cream sauce, smiling a little at decadence she was partaking in.

"Is that some kind of a wine sauce?" she asked with some food in her mouth.

He laughed loudly and took another bite of his. "Mmm hmm, "he answered. "There's nothing like a little bit of alcohol in your meal." She laughed as well. "I don't know about you, but food to me is an art form in itself. It's so relaxing and just puts me in a better mood."

She shrugged. "I don't know, it's just food to me, but then again I've never made anything this divine. My sister did, but not me."

"Was she a good little chef?" he asked lightly after taking a swig of his wine.

Junia smiled. "Oh yeah, and where did you learn to cook like this?"

"My sister," he replied a little sadly.

"Uh oh, did I hit a sad spot?" she asked quietly.

He nodded and began to eat again, but this time not savoring each mouthful. His mind seemed to be somewhere else. "She disappeared as well," he finally spoke up. "I'll never see her again, and she might as well be dead to me now," he said rather coldly, quickly finishing off his glass of wine and refilling it.

Junia was in shock. He seemed to care so much about his sister before, yet now he says something as cold as he did. It made her heart ache, and her blood boil with anger. "Don't say something like that! Your sister may come back. I know my sister will."

His eyes glazed over so that it made it unrecognizable to read. "I doubt that," he whispered. "I'm sorry, Junia. Please, let's change the subject. I really don't know if I can stand talking about this any longer. I want to enjoy the first good meal that I've had in days, and I don't want it ruined by your voice."

Junia threw her fork on her plate. "My voice bothers you so much that it would ruin your supper?" she hissed through clenched teeth. "So says the person that jumps around at answering questions, which for your information annoys me so much." She stuttered," You, Merrick Hahn, are an-an ass!"

He looked at her blinking, and gave a roaring laugh. He laughed like this for quite a while, slamming his hand on the table a few times. When he finally looked at her again he smirked. "I didn't mean that your voice—eh, uh," he laughed again, "I don't even know what I'm saying anymore. Let's just eat in quiet and enjoy the meal. I told you I would answer your questions after supper."

They were quiet for a moment when he broke the silence," By the way, I like your voice," and that was all he said until they were both full and happy with their meals. He cleared away her plates and silverware and started doing the dishes for her. She was too full and content to think of anything horrible about him, because he was after all acting like a gentleman at that moment. She sat in the living room waiting for him to finish the dishes and the shower he said he needed, trying to remember all of the questions that she was going to ask him. She held The Blood of the Moonflower in her hands, staring absentmindedly at the words of Aloisia again. When Merrick returned he noticed the book in her hands and asked what it was. She quickly pushed it behind a pillow that she was leaning against and smiled up at him.

"You may have the letter, Merrick, but I have that little thing that would interest you greatly right here," she said as she patted the pillow.

He sat down in the chair by the fireplace and rolled his eyes. "Oh, I see that thing."

"Thank you for supper. It was really nice," she said softly.

"You're welcome," he said gruffly, preparing for the unknown questions that he was going to have to answer. "I'm ready whenever you are."

"You promise you'll tell the truth?"She asked.

He sighed heavily. "Yes."

Junia didn't want to waste any time, she was ready to ask the questions. "Why do you want to read the book by Aloisia Schultheiss?"

He looked at her in surprise," You're going to ask me about that?"

She nodded noticing how nice his hair looked when it was clean.

Merrick ran his fingers through his hair, "It's only a fiction book, like I told you."

"I know, but I just want to know why you want to read it. Why else would you read that book for 'fun' when you're in the middle of your 'big research project'?"

"Do you know of the story of a village girl who got kidnapped by vampires?"

She raised an unenthused eyebrow. Vampires were her sister's thing, not hers. "No."

He leaned back in the chair, "Every town has their own legends and stories, as you very well know, but this book is about this certain village girl who had been kidnapped by vampires. I'm really surprised you haven't heard of it."

Shrugging, she replied, "I'm sure my sister has heard of it. My sister and my grandmother were big into that sort of nonsense. I always thought it was pretty ridiculous. Vampires are ridiculous and overrated. I mean come on, the seductive undead making unsuspecting beautiful, stupid women fall madly in love with them to drink their blood is just a lame idea." She scoffed," I blame that stupid Dracula book. Everyone's obsessed with it." She laughed, "Vampires. So stupid."

He looked at her unimpressed, "How did I know you were going to say something like that?"

Her jaw dropped, "Merrick, please do not tell me that you, a graduate student devoted to research and books, believe in that stupid stuff."

"That's not the point."He sighed, frustrated with the interruption," Anyways, I wanted to read the book, because I believe that The Blood of the Moonflower has a link to the Von Lohengrien's. Actually, I believe the author of the book does as well, but sadly there is nothing on Aloisia in your library."

Junia was silent for a long while, "Why do you think the Von Lohengrien's have something to do with the book?"

He leaned forward in his chair," You see, I believe that either Aloisia or the village girl mentioned in the book somehow broke the hold on the power the Von Lohengrien's held upon them and the town. I believe that the book may hold secrets of how to do this."

"Broke the hold?" Junia asked.

"Do you remember how I told you how manipulative the Von Lohengrien's are? I believe that book may hold the secrets on how to 'defeat' them so to say." He took a deep breath, and looked at her with pain in his eyes. "Junia," he said softly, "the Von Lohengrien's have my sister, and I want her back, even if she is dead to me. I think as her brother, she deserves to be with her family, the ones who love her, even in death."

"Merrick," she looked at him sadly, "your sister is dead?"

He nodded.

Her hand flew to her mouth in surprise. "Oh, I'm so terribly sorry to hear that."

"So is your sister as well."

"What?"Junia hissed. "Now what are you saying?"

"I'm saying that the Von Lohengrien's have your sister as well."

Junia's lower lip began to tremble as she tried to hold back the sobs that were beginning to well up inside of her. "You can't know that…"

He got up from the chair, sat next to her, and put a comforting arm around her. "I am sure of it. I'm sorry to tell you this. I really am, but I believe that she was also taken by the Von Lohengrien's."

Junia shook her head. "That can't be, Merrick. You have to be lying! The Von Lohengrien's weren't here when she disappeared. It's just not possible."

"Junia, they never left Wuttenhold. They've always been here in hiding and watching and waiting. They're clever."

All she could was shake her head. She didn't want to believe him, but as he promised, he was telling the truth. Either he was completely insane and believed every word he was saying whether or not it was real, or he really did know what he was talking, she just didn't want to believe him. He was telling her that her sister was dead, just like his sister and it's all the fault of the Von Lohengrien's. She just couldn't believe it. Nothing was adding up at all. There seemed to be loose ends that still needed to be pieced together.

"I would like to also get your sister back as well, if it's all right with you." His body tensed as he leaned back on the couch with his hand still on her back. "Well, now you know what I've been up to. I hope this answers your questions."

They just sat there in silence as he was kind enough to let her collect her thoughts that were now running wild with her. Her head was beginning to pound again, and the bruises ached.

"Merrick, you said that you were protective of me after I woke up this afternoon, why?" He said nothing. "I was attacked wasn't I? I know I didn't fall down any stairs. I remember being attacked. Was it a Von Lohengrien? Is that it?"

"No, it wasn't a Von Lohengrien. They wouldn't soil themselves like that. They think they're too high and mighty to do dirty work. That was one of their lackeys, I'm sure."

"Why are they after me? What did I do?"

He shook his head, "That's what I've been trying to tell you. You were snooping around, they found out, and they don't want you to learn anything. Let me take care of the Von Lohengrien's. I don't want to see you get hurt again. They're constantly watching you, and me, and maybe even watching you even more now that we've been seen together."

She was silent for a while again. "I don't know if I believe you, but I have an urge to help you anyways. Even though, years later when my sister comes back I'll laugh at this and think 'Oh wow, I really helped a crazy person back then. Ha ha. That guy was such a crazy.'" She pulled out the book behind the pillow. "Here you go. The bargaining chip. I found it in my sister's room after you had left. It's been in there since she's gone missing. The book was even open, and I can only imagine that it had been open for the two years my sister had been missing. Aurora must have been reading it when she went missing, but like I said, she read this book a lot."

He took the book in his hands in silence, just staring at the cover as if this was the moment he had been waiting for since he started this research. He seemed to look at the book with a hunger that she had never seen him hold before; it was a ravenous hunger like he wanted to tear open the book and absorb every single word inside of it at that very instant.

"The Blood of the Moonflower," he spoke slowly, as if not wanting to taint the words in the title. "Aloisia Schultheiss."

She cleared her throat softly, "There's another thing," she added. "I just found this out when I noticed the book, but on the inside cover, Aloisia left a note for my grandmother." He opened the book and read the note. "I did not know this before, but this Aloisia person is my great aunt."

He almost gasped. "You're a Schultheiss?"

She nodded. "I suppose I am. I guess I never thought about researching my grandmother's maiden name. I had always known her as a Neustadt. I never imagined a maiden name."

He looked at her excitedly. "Do you know anything about Aloisia or your grandmother or anything about your family history?"

She blushed and replied. "No, I, uh, never really was into the whole family history stuff. It was always kind of boring to me, so I never paid any attention. Aurora on the other hand, she lived for the family history stuff." Junia sighed. "I'm sure she knew who Aloisia was."

Merrick slumped into the couch, obviously dejected at her incompetence when it came to history. "Are you sure you know nothing?"

"Hey, you're talking to the person who just found out today that her grandmother had a sister."

He groaned, "I guess I have some reading to do tonight. I should probably go and get started on that. I guess I'll never know anything about her."

Rising from the couch he walked over to his coat and began to put it on. While he was doing this, Junia was quickly replaying their conversation in her mind, when suddenly a new question entered her consciousness.

"Wait, Merrick, I have one last question."

He looked at her with a very tired expression. "What is it?"

"Who are the Von Lohengrien's exactly? You talk to them as if they're powerful beings and nothing can stop them."

He finished putting the book in his messenger bag and put his hands in his pockets. "Do you want my honest opinion?"

"Of course," she nodded.

"They are the blood from the moonflower," he said simply.

She raised an eyebrow, and before she could ask something else, he had left the house. For the second time that day, she watched him leave her house, and for the second time that day, the house felt big and even lonelier than before. Frustrated, she plopped down on the couch, and suddenly wishing she hadn't as her throbbing head cursed at her again.

"What's that supposed to mean?"