The Vampire Laird (A Ravynne Sisters Paranormal Mystery/Romance)

The Vampire Laird (A Ravynne Sisters Paranormal Mystery/Romance)
Ravynne Sisters [2]
Merabeth James
Unknown (2011)

This book is entirely a work of fiction. All characters are entirely fictitious and do not represent any persons living or dead. Product-business-location names used remain the property of any and all trademark holders and do not represent an endorsement or association of any kind, either expressed or implied.

copyright 2011 Elizabeth Repka all rights reserved

 

THE VAMPIRE LAIRD

by

MERABETH JAMES

Prologue

Allyn leaned back against the granite tombstone and let the night wind cool him. A full moon veiled by feathery black clouds rimmed with silver, rode the sky. It was the witching hour and she would be here soon. When he was away from her, waiting out the hours till she came for him, he could almost remember who he was…or had been… before he danced with the Baobhan Sith. He had been Allyn Ravynne and not some thrall of a dark being no matter how beautiful…how sensual…she was. And she was all of that and more. He sighed. Somewhere close by a night bird hunted and he heard the squeal of its captured prey. His mouth twisted in a bitter smile. Mercifully, its end came swiftly. He would not be so fortunate.

Far off in the distance, he heard a long drawn out howl. It sounded like a wolf, but it wasn’t. It was the all too familiar howl of the beast, Cerberus. She was coming for him. He could feel the thud of his heart quicken. She was coming. Fleetingly, he wondered how he had come to this end and then he remembered. It was the white stag…the one who had blocked the road on his driving tour of Scotland and led him to this village of the damned.

***

It had all begun so innocently. He had rented a car and was driving along the west coast of Scotland, more than a little irritated at the time, as he let his thoughts return to his last call home for a little ‘financial reinforcement’. His parents had blatantly told him they would no longer support him “in a life of idleness”. Imagine that! His
idleness
as
they
called it, was damned hard work! He chose to think of it as a voyage of discovery…the discovery of himself…what made him tick…his place in the world, which he was documenting for posterity and possible future publication, since literary talent seemed to run in the family.

But he had been “finding himself quite long enough” his mother had told him with more than a touch of sarcasm, which was quite surprising coming from her. His father, on the other hand, had been muttering “get a job’ or something equally mundane for some time now, though he had learned to tune him out, as he had the words of wisdom from his other siblings. His oldest sister, Charlie, was the worst. She should have been the most sympathetic, since she was a travel writer and must understand how that sort of thing got into your blood.

A fox scurried across the road in front of him and he was forced to turn his attention back to his driving just as the road ‘T’d’ in two directions. After a brief moment of indecision, he decided to take the narrow road to the right that seemed to head due north. Yes, he was certain of it. That was another thing he had going for him…an unfailing sense of direction. He smiled wryly. If for some reason, he was wrong, as unlikely as that ever was, he could always stop at the next village and ask for directions. Unlike most guys, he didn’t mind asking and sometimes met some really hot locals that way who were more than happy to show him around. A touch of male ‘helplessness’ often worked to his advantage.

He laughed and let his thoughts continue. A job! And what exactly could he do? He could play the piano and sing just well enough to be entertaining. He was a pretty good dancer…no…he was being modest…he was a damn good dancer. He could ride a horse, was great at tennis, and could write pretty damn well, as his journal would prove when he got back to the States. And on top of all that, his mirror didn’t lie. He was quite a stud or so he’d been told often enough, though he never tired of hearing it

He’d show them all, including Charlie, who had bailed him out of trouble just last year, was it? Not that he had needed it. She was always sticking her nose into everyone’s business, though she probably meant well, he conceded with a shrug.

Since introspection had never been his thing, he turned his thoughts elsewhere. No use wasting a perfectly good morning thinking about all that crap, he decided, when there was a view to look at and adventure up the road of one kind or another. He smiled and turned his attention to the steep slope along the left side of the road, where a stream meandered through the deep tree-lined glen. It was a damned nuisance driving on the wrong side of the road and he still found himself wandering into the other lane unless he paid careful attention to what he was doing. Especially on a blind curve…like now! Suddenly, just ahead, a giant white stag stood in the middle of the road, seemingly unconcerned by the speeding car coming straight at him.

Cursing under his breath, he slid sideways around the corner and tapped his brakes, then slammed them hard, forcing him to fight for control of his rental as the back end fishtailed dangerously close to the edge of the drop off. His pulse was racing wildly, when he finally managed to bring the small compact to a complete stop. The stag watched him calmly, then lifted his massive head and stared off into the distance, as though he was listening to something only he could hear. He was a twelve pointer and regal. A king of the glen. His unusual white color caught the morning sun and he seemed lit from within.

He couldn’t believe his luck. Hadn’t he read somewhere that a white stag was supposed to be a guide to the Otherworld? A photo of him could be worth serious Ka-ching. He looked around for his camera, which he kept on the seat next to him and cursed loudly. It had slid off when he made the turn and now lay just out of reach. Still cursing, he unhooked his seatbelt and retrieved it, fully expecting the stag to have vanished by the time he was ready, but he wasn’t. He had moved much closer and was staring at him through the windshield. Their eyes locked and he had felt a strange awareness tingle along his spine and set the hairs on the back of his neck bristling. It truly was uncanny…the stag’s eyes seemed both bottomless and strangely knowing. He laughed then. He was beginning to sound like his wacky sisters with their haunted house crap.

He focused his camera and took three pix in rapid succession, wishing the stag would move back into the sunlight, where the lighting had been perfect, but, instead, the stag snorted, tossed his head, and moved away from the car. Looking back over his shoulder, he pawed the ground three times and headed down a narrow side trail Allyn hadn’t even noticed. He seemed to ask, “Coming?” And so he did.

Heading his rental down the road, he followed the white stag that trotted slowly in front of him. Rounding a corner, he was surprised to see his guide had vanished…most likely into the thick stand of pines that edged both sides of the road that was little more than a sheep path. He stopped the car and looked around for him, but he was gone. “If you
are
a guide to the Otherworld?” he called, “maybe you just pointed me to a really interesting chapter for my journal, old friend.” The wind soughing through the pines was his only answer. Not that he really expected one. But it must have been fate who had brought the stag to him, he decided and whatever lay ahead down the narrow, rutted trail was his destiny. How cool was that?

It was too overcast to get a fix on which direction he was headed, but his
almost
infallible sense of direction told him ‘north’. Of course, he could fish out his compass and check, but it didn’t really matter. He had made his decision. He restarted the engine and headed up the trail. Alongside, a burn, tumbled in a froth of white as it worked its way among large granite boulders. It looked like a good trout stream, he thought, though he was no expert. He had meant to try fly-fishing while up here in the Highlands, not because his interest was strong, but just so he could say he’d done it. Good journal material.

Just then, the burn veered off into the pines, where a man with a gun slung over his shoulder emerged, eying him coldly, as he drove past. Maybe they didn’t like tourists in these parts? Not that he considered himself one of that ilk. He was more of a ‘world observer’ or something along those lines. He made a point of waving as he moved on.

About ten miles up the trail, the pines thinned and he pulled off the road to look around. It had become the perfect day. The sky had finally cleared and the undulating low hills, now virtually treeless, stretched for miles in a patchwork of purple, green and beige with rocky outcroppings. The position of the sun confirmed his sense of direction and he guessed that the Atlantic would be just on the other side of the moor that stretched along the left side of the trail. He was sure he could smell the salt tang on the wind.

Continuing down the trail, avoiding the deep ruts that threatened to jar his teeth loose, he passed a scattering of white cottages surrounded by rich green pastures that contrasted, sharply, with the barrenness of the surrounding moor. He rounded a sharp bend and found himself stopping again, as a small village lay sprawled before him.

It was little more than a cluster of white buildings surrounding a shabby village green. Dominating the scene was a ancient stone church that sat like a broody hen among her tombstones, which was a strange metaphor, he thought with a smile, even for him.

He drove slowly through the village. There was no public inn that he could see, but there was the “Blue Grouse” pub and a one-pump petrol station. There were other buildings whose purpose was unclear and he smiled wryly. Obviously, nobody in whatever this place was called seemed interested in the tourist trade.

A few old men, lounging in the morning sun, watched him with mixture of curiosity and wariness, as he stopped the car and leaned out the window. “Hello there! Anyone know of a place I can spend the night?”

One man spit on the ground and growled in a thick Scottish brogue, “Awa’ an’ bile yer heid!”

Which hadn’t sounded at all hospitable to him, but he let it pass. “And good morning to you, too! I could use a place to stay for the night. Anyone speak comprehensible English?”

The only one wearing a kilt…faded and patched though it was… stood and looked him slowly up and down before he replied, “Quit yer bletherin’. Thare issnae room to be had ‘cept meybe at the manse iffn’ yer nae feart to be stayin’. Ah wad be goin’ elsewhere, Sassenach, if ah war ye.” His tone was far from friendly and Allyn couldn’t help but wonder why. Everyone he had met so far on his travels through the UK had been civil and most had been quite friendly.

“And I would be finding this ‘manse’ just where exactly?” he asked as politely as he could manage in the face of their obvious hostility.

They all laughed. “Dinnae be sech an eejit. Behind the kirk…war else?” the Scotsman in the kilt answered for everyone’s entertainment.

He smiled brightly and made a point of thanking them profusely if sarcastically. “Behind the church,” he translated to himself, which should be pretty easy to find since he’d just passed it. “If I am supposed to find my destiny here, my fate’s not looking like something I will overly enjoy judging from the reception I just had,” he muttered to himself, as he turned around and headed back the way he’d come.

The church was little more than a ruin…maybe 12th century…he thought, as he parked outside the gray stonewall that embraced the church and the graveyard surrounding it. Sliding out, he, he circled the car and opened the rusty wrought iron gate, then paused to take in the scene. Scattered among a few twisted yew trees, were rows of ancient moss covered stones, some in the shape of a Celtic cross, that tilted in all directions. In the middle, loomed a large granite mausoleum with heavily paneled wooden doors and stone fretwork that must have dated back many centuries. He looked around and smiled. He’d love to do some sketches for his journal here and hike out to explore the area.

Shading his eyes, he slowly scanned the distant panorama before him. Blue and purple tinted mountains rose up behind the broad sweep of almost barren upland that was dotted with black-faced sheep. The ruins of a castle stood on a high dark rise not more than a mile or two away, while some distance below it sprawled a large manor house. Maybe 18th century, he thought, but he was no expert. If nothing else, it was a beautiful spot…very photogenic…romantic even…not that he was that kind of guy. Maybe the villagers were just being cautious with a stranger and he could court them with a few pints at the pub later? He smiled and found himself whistling, as he skirted the church to the stone manse hidden behind it. “Tis bad luck to be whistlin’ in a graveyard, laddie,” the old woman told him, when she opened the door to his knock. “Wat be ye wantin’ hare?”

“I was told I might find a room?”

She looked him slowly up and down, then seemed to be trying to make up her mind. “Ah dinnae ken…well, why not…but then….” It was several long moments before she finally said, “Come in if ye must. Ye’ll have to be askin’ the Meenister if ye can stay. He’m in the kitchen havin’ a wee bite. Follow me.”

And he did. She was small and as lively as a brown sparrow. All the way down the dark hall, she kept muttering to herself. It was about him. That was as much as he wanted to know.

They found the minister leaning over his soup. He lifted his brightly inquisitive blue eyes and managed a wry smile. “Wat be ye needin’, lad?” he asked in his heavy brogue.

“A room…for the night…maybe longer.”

“Ye look like a likely one tae me. Wat be ye doin’ comin’ here?”

“My name’s Allyn Ravynne. My mother’s people, the Farleys, are Scots so I guess you could say I’m tracing my roots,” he lied not wanting to tell him about the ‘fate’ thing, which would clearly make him look like a lunatic.

“Ah see. No Farleys in these parts but, if ye be needin’ a room for the nicht tis a room ye’ll be havin’. I’m Angus McFarland an’ the meenister hare aboot. Tilda, show him up. Gae him the one with the view and bring him back doun fer a wee bite to eat. Ye’re welcome, lad. Ah hope ye’ll be enjoyin’ yer stay wi’ us.”

But it didn’t take him long to have his doubts. His room was sparsely furnished. A dented table lamp on a rickety table separated twin iron beds, while a black painted armoire graced one corner. There was nothing on the walls and the wide planked floor was just as bare. It was both cold and utterly comfortless. “Be it ‘ever so humble’,
etc.
etc.,” he told himself as he dropped one bag on the floor and tossed the other on the thin lumpy mattress.

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