Vampire in the Woods (Merlin's Hoods Book 2)

Vampire in the Woods
Merlin’s Hoods Series
Vampire in the Woods
Merlin’s Hoods Series
Carl Waters

© 2016 by Carl Waters

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

ISBN: 978-1-939805-11-9

or my grandmother
, Evelyn

he phenomenon
of vampires has always appealed to me. Everyone kind of likes a vampire story because it almost could be true.

Bill Nighy


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France, 1171

edric stared
at the creatures around him, shocked nearly beyond comprehension. In all of his thirteen hundred years—had it truly been that long?—he could not remember having seen the like.

Still, he’d hailed from Rome when he was alive and since then had sought out situations that suited his upbringing. Civilized locations. People—even humans—who catered to him, and showed the proper respect. In life, he had been one of the highest generals in the Roman army, and as such was still an important man. A man to whom others had come with their problems. A man who had been given a wide berth when he was on the streets. His life as a vampire had been much the same.

All of which made this dark, rowdy, and quite dirty tavern a shock to his senses. He gazed around, attempting to come to terms with this. The room was filthy, the floor coated with layer upon layer of grime, and the people within the room were little better. Warriors, knights, drunkards, and loose women wandered around, shouting and even fighting when one drew too close to another or caused some imaginary offense.

Cedric drew closer to his underlings, taking some comfort in their presence. Two males and a female, they had become his closest allies—the ones he trusted above all others. And now, they’d been traveling with him for some time. Helena, the sole female, was mated to Brom. Hadrian … well. Young, but showed promise at least. They were well-trained and knew how to be quiet and pay attention. But the men around him? He had never enjoyed humanity, and the big men in this tavern would do better as food. If only he had the time.

The women, on the other hand … he sighed. He’d found, in his time, that women tended to have a second sense for things that didn’t belong, and were more inclined to notice a vampire in their midst than any warrior or knight. These particular women were, however, too busy flirting with the men and attempting to negotiate contracts to notice anything amiss. For which he was immensely grateful. Tonight was not the time for distractions.

Tonight was the night for planning.

“We are sure the Green Hood is dead?” Hadrian asked suddenly, counting on his master’s reassurance.

“We are,” Cedric answered sharply. “I removed his head from his body myself. What a beautiful sight. He will be killing no more of our kind.”

Cedric smiled grimly to himself. The Green Hood—tasked with hunting and slaying the vampires of the world—had been a thorn in his side for many years. More than he cared to remember, in fact, because the Green Hood was not a single, very mortal man, but a string of men chosen by that devil Merlin. Chosen for their bravery, he’d heard, and their ability to face vampires without fear.

Well, this particular Green Hood
, in fact, shown fear at the end. Johann had begged for his life, just as any other man would have done. He’d screamed, cried, even talked about his family. Begged for mercy. And little good had it done him. Cedric had ripped his throat out for crimes against vampires and then cut his head off to prevent any miraculous resurrections.

But there were other Hoods out there. Others whose responsibilities were death and destruction of his kind, or those like him. And now that he was sure they were mortal, they had become his targets. He’d done his research, searching the oldest texts he could find, in the most established vampire libraries. And now he knew everything ever written about them.

“Six Hoods,” he murmured to his small coven. “Each has a different responsibility. And each a man, just like any other. But for one.”

“Angeline, the Red Hood,” Helena hissed, taking up the refrain they’d been singing for some days now. “A woman. The smallest of the Hoods.”

“But not the one who killed your wife,” Hadrian added quickly, frowning. “Why is it that we go after her when it was the Green Hood who sinned against you?”

Cedric grimaced and turned to bare his fangs at this, the stupidest of his vampires. Hadrian was the youngest of the group, and had ever been the slowest to catch on. “What one has done, others might do, Hadrian,” he snapped. “And we cannot take that chance. We must ensure that our kind are safe. From everyone. Ellyn’s murder proved that none of us is safe from the Hoods. So we must protect ourselves. Eliminating the Hoods is the correct step.”

“But the Brown Hood,” Hadrian pressed on, failing to see the anger in his leader’s eyes. “Merlin. He will hunt us down for these crimes.”

“I agree with Hadrian,” Brom added, his voice low and respectful. “It is not a good thing, killing these Hoods. We have gained revenge for Ellyn, but a new Green Hood will rise. And when Merlin realizes what we have done, he will hunt us. Things will be worse.”

Cedric snarled, whirled on Brom, and grabbed him, his fangs exposed a moment before his hands made contact. “You dare to question me?” he hissed. “I am your master, and far older than any of you. That gives me the right to do as I will. You are my underlings, and you will do as I say!” He threw Brom back, furious at this small rebellion, and rounded on the others. “I do not fear Merlin. I am older and more powerful than he, and I invite him to come after me. The Green Hood killed my wife, and I am due my retribution!”

He didn’t add the rest of what he knew: that though Merlin had once been strong—stronger perhaps than Cedric himself—he’d been displeased with his own existence, his manner of birth, and had, in fact, weakened himself to create the other Hoods. And now, having given so much of his power to those others, he left himself vulnerable. Open to attack. A target.

No, Merlin didn’t frighten him.

“My wife was over one thousand years old,” he said quietly. “One thousand years on this earth. The life of one human could never equate to that. We will have our revenge on the Hoods, and through them, Merlin himself. And you will not speak to me of fearing Merlin again.”

The other vampires were quiet for a moment, considering. Finally, Helena—the spokesman of this trio, and the one Cedric knew would mate with him if she could—spoke again. “How will we find Angeline?” she asked softly. “We have not been able to discern her location. Johann knew nothing of her home.”

At this, Cedric smiled. Now they were thinking, these vampires of his. “Angeline is meant to protect the weak, is she not? It is very simple then: We will kill the weak until she comes to stop us. And when she arrives, we will kill

Suddenly, the tavern owner was at their side—the man who had shown them to their table in the first place. And he was frowning mightily.

“Ye’s haven’t ordered a thing since ye been here,” he said gruffly, his voice and language uneducated. “If ye’re goin’ to stay, ye must order some food or drink.”

Stupid human,
Cedric thought, smiling to himself. The creatures were always sticking their noses where they didn’t belong. Still, he was a large man—almost formidable. He would do.

“Very well,” he said smoothly. He reached quickly toward his hip—where he kept his sword—and noted that the tavern owner jumped. As he should. Instead of the weapon, though, Cedric offered up a large bag of gold. He pulled out a gold coin and slid it across the table toward the bar’s owner. He watched the man carefully. It was more money than the small tavern would make in a week, he knew, and would be too much for the owner to turn away.

After a moment of consideration, the man snatched the coin off the table and shoved it into his pocket, his eyes gleaming with avarice.

“What’ll ye have, then?” he whined.

“We want nothing now, but when we have requirements, we shall let you know immediately,” Cedric replied, his voice still silky and smooth. Without meaning to, he injected a bit of charm into the words—just enough to encourage the man to surrender. And agree.

The man, happy now, nodded quickly at the suggestion then turned and bustled away.

Cedric watched him go then turned back to his group. “It appears that we have our first volunteer,” he said. “That man requires that we eat and drink. And when the time comes, he will provide the blood of our meal. He will also be the first bait in our trap.”


ngeline watched
her oldest daughter dashing through the woods during another round of running and sighed. The girl was talented—there was no mistaking that—and her mind was second to none when it came to solving problems or seeing her way through trouble. Angeline had never met anyone so determined in her life.

But she was a full head shorter than her younger sister. A full head. And weaker, to boot. Could Adela actually become the Red Hood? Did Angeline want her to?

She turned back toward the cottage, leaving Adela to her running, which would take her at least half an hour. After that, they would go on to weapons training. For now, however, she had some time to be alone. At the thought, she made a quick left turn and walked to the other side of the clearing—the quieter, more shadowed side, where the girls very rarely went, and never trained.

There, stuck in the ground and boasting a few numbers, and several very loving words, was the headstone she’d erected years earlier over the grave of her husband. Her breath caught at the sight, just as it always did, and for a moment she didn’t think she would be able to breathe. It had been four years—enough time for their girls to grow into young women, and start defending themselves—but the wound was still fresh. And very, very deep.

Losing one’s husband to a werewolf, after all, wasn’t something easily forgotten. She could still hear his screams on some nights. If only she could have got to him quicker. If only there hadn’t been so many werewolves between them.

She cut the thought off and dropped to her knees, ready for her customary greeting to her husband. “Well, Gavin, and a good morning to you,” she said quietly, reaching out to brush her fingers gently along the moss that grew over his grave. It was a deep, beautiful green, unlike anything else she’d ever seen in the forest, and she often wondered if it took its color from his eyes. They’d been special, those eyes. The first thing she’d noticed about the quiet boy that would one day become her husband. And the thing she still remembered best.

A sudden crash—followed by rough, breathless laughter—brought her back to reality, and she smiled. “Our girls are growing fast, Gavin. Teenagers already, if you can believe it.” She paused for a moment, thinking, and then continued. “I know what you would tell me. That they’re old enough to defend themselves now, and that it means I must choose one. Or the other. But I will not. Not yet.” Sighing, she rose from her knees and began walking back toward the cottage.

Then she stopped and turned again, her eyes going to the gently mounded earth before the headstone. “For I do not yet know which of them will make the best Red Hood,” she finished. “And I will not choose until I have discovered that.”

She walked quickly back to the clearing, her morning tradition finished. Gavin would have hated her indecision, she knew, but he wasn’t the Red Hood. He had no idea how much responsibility came with it, or the terrible burden that fell on her shoulders every time she considered which of her daughters she’d choose to follow her. They were so different, and there was no clear choice.

Worst of all, she knew that whichever she chose, she’d be cursing them to a lifetime of losing their loved ones, fighting hand and fist every day, and living with the very fear and doubt with which she currently struggled. Which of her girls could handle that? Which would she put in that position?

Before she could complete the thought, Adela shot past her, her small arms and legs pumping as she sprinted across the clearing, jumped, connected with a tree, and launched off it again, landing with a bump and folding into the very roll that Angeline had taught her. She came up to her feet again smiling, her cheeks blooming with both effort and joy.

“Did you see that, Mother?” she asked breathlessly. “A perfect move off the tree, and right into a roll! If a werewolf had been … ” She looked around, narrowing her eyes, and finally settled on a grin. “Well, if there’d been a werewolf anywhere in this clearing, I would have confused him with my actions, looked to be in one place one moment, and then come up in a completely different one. If I’d seen him before I jumped, I would have been able to aim my roll and come up behind him. He wouldn’t have had a chance.”

Angeline laughed at this bit of logic and drew Adela toward her into a rough embrace.

“Always using your head, my darling, and that’s what will keep you out of trouble. No one else I know would have put that much thought into the move. That makes you special. And different. Now, where’s your sister?”

Adela pulled back and made a moue of distaste. “Still abed, I suspect,” she grumbled. “I’ve been up since before dawn, training, while she sleeps, and still she’ll be faster and stronger than me. It’s unfair, Mother.”

Angeline sighed. Here, then, was the core of the problem: Alison was so physically talented that it was impossible to discount her. Taller and stronger than Adela, she often won their contests of physical skills. But the older girl was cleverer, and more focused. She wanted to be Red Hood more than Angeline herself ever had … and her actions proved it. She trained hard, thought more quickly, and inevitably outdid her sister in contests of effort or logic.

Which was more important? Angeline still didn’t know.

And where had Adela come by this determination and courage? She was wiser than a fourteen-year-old girl should be. Older in her soul. More sophisticated in her thought process. In the end, Angeline wondered, would there be any choice for her to make? Or would the hood itself choose Adela, as it had a right to? It was, after all, a power of its own. She’d discovered that early on. She slept in the hood—lived in it, if the truth be told—and knew better than anyone how powerful it was.

She’d even taken to speaking to it as if it were human. Certainly, in the end, the hood itself would have a preference for one of the girls or the other. It would work better with one than it did with the other, give more of its power during a fight. Angeline would have little to no say in the matter.

Putting this thought to the side, she glanced back at Adela. “Please go and get your sister out of her bed, if you would. It’s early, but she should be up by now, and ready to train.”

“She’ll just tell me that she’s still tired,” Adela snapped, obviously impatient with her younger sister.

Angeline laughed. “She will. And you will tell her that I have commanded it, and that she will rise if she wants to avoid extra chores tonight, before dinner.”

Adela grinned at that and darted toward the house. Angeline listened to her feet pounding up the stairs toward the bedrooms and then heard the two girls speaking, their voices gradually growing louder as Alison protested being roused from bed in this manner. She’d just heard Adela informing Alison of Angeline’s own words—that there would be additional chores to be done if Alison didn’t rise, and that a true Red Hood didn’t complain about getting out of bed and doing her job—when a sudden breath of air brushed the back of her neck.

She whirled, sensing immediately that something was wrong in the clearing, and gasped. A tall man in a brown cloak stood before her—far closer than he should have been, and she reprimanded herself for failing to pay attention.

“Good morning, Red Hood,” he said, his voice low and mysterious.

Angeline’s muscles tensed, making themselves ready for movement, and she gripped her staff more firmly.

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