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All that was missing was a flash of lightning and crash of thunder as Lindsay followed her headlights up the winding drive. She felt a frisson of excitement  just at the thought of it.


An honest-to-goodness castle, she thought. I knew getting in good with these... people... was maybe a way to a better life, but this...?


She made her way up the wide granite stairway between the car park and the huge front entrance. It deserved to be called an entrance; it was far too grand to go by the simple appellation ‘door’.


“My Lord,” she whispered, reaching for the brass knocker, a snarling wolf’s head mounted on the hinged slab of oak. “It’s just like the movies!”


Nerves strung drum-tight, she nearly shrieked when, before she even touched the knocker, the door swung silently open to reveal a man. At least... it looked like a man. Black hair hung nearly to his collar, framing a wide, high-cheeked face. Dark eyes, large and so deep she wanted to fall into them vied for her attention with lips so sensuous she had to fight the urge to reach out and touch them, just to feel their softness. His white silk shirt, open at the throat, did nothing to hide his powerful body. She considered her suddenly weakened knees, wondering if, should she fall, he might catch her.


She sincerely hoped so.


His mouth twisted into a smile both cruel and captivating as he stepped back, inviting her in with a sweeping bow from another century entirely.


“Lindsay Forham?”


His tone was rich and dark: aural chocolate. She nodded, not trusting her own voice.


“Good evening. Welcome to my home.”


“Lord Ramson”


Her dry throat produced naught but a whisper, though he appeared to have no trouble hearing her. His smile widened as he nodded in response.


“Just so. Please.”


He bowed, gesturing for her to enter once more. Lindsay dropped a small, self-conscious curtsey as she stepped across the threshold, his courtly manners throwing her even more off her stride than did his dark, masculine beauty. The door closed and then he was leading her deeper into the ancient structure. Though Lord Ramson moved through the halls with a silent, feral grace, Lindsay’s heels clacked on hardwood floors, the sound echoing through the large, empty space. Further flustered by this boorish evidence of her humanity, Lindsay spoke nervously, trying to fill the space with the first thing that popped into her head.


“I was surprised, Lord Ramson. I never would have expected you to answer the door yourself.”


“I usually do not,” he said, “but I gave the staff the night off.”


“You did? Why?”


His dark eyes bored into hers, though his half-smile remained.


“It is not every evening Father meets his new bride, nor I my future step-mother.”


Hot blood rushed into her cheeks in embarrassment. His eyes grew amused, and she knew he could tell.


Of course he can tell, she thought. It’s blood. They can all sense that, can’t they?


A thought struck her.


I guess I’ll know all about that soon enough...


Mention of the upcoming ceremony emboldened her, and she licked her lips.


“Your father,” she said as they stepped into an antique lift, a modern addition to the castle, surely, though still ancient by any standard. “There was no photo included in the packet you sent. Does he... does he resemble you?”


“There are no photos of Father. He is the oldest of us all, and as far as we can tell can  not be recorded by any mechanical means. But he is my sire. You would expect some family resemblance.”


She glanced at his handsome profile and felt a slight tingle in her stomach at the thought.


“And he’ll... he’ll turn me? Into one of you?”


Black eyes regarded her.


“You will be his bride. In every way. You will receive his bite, and you will give up your mortal life.”


The tingle became a thrill at the thought of immortality, mistress of this castle, this land... and a nagging thought penetrated her quick reverie.


“We’ve been going down in this lift for quite some time. Where, exactly, are we going?”


“Father’s chamber,” he said, eyes fixed on the lift doors. “As I said, he is the oldest of us all —  the blood from which we all sprang. He must be protected.”


The lift opened onto a corridor carved from the living stone beneath the castle, seamless in the light of torches guttering in wall brackets. The short, straight passage ended in a door of iron, thick and strong. Lord Ramson held up a large key.


“Here we are.”


“Okay...” Lindsay said. “Oh —  wait! I don’t even know his name —  is it Ramson?”


“Ramson was my mother’s name.”


The key turned with a click.


“Father has no name. You see, he predates language.”


His hand at the small of her back urged her into the chamber, where she froze with a gasp.


The creature before her was squat and powerful-looking, with wide shoulders and thick, muscular limbs. It’s beard was thick, as was the hair covering its naked body. It scuttled forward, head lifted to sniff the air, obviously taking in her scent.


She spun back to Lord Ramson in horror.


“What is it?”


“This is Father, your groom, and the eldest of us all. Were you not listening? Oh, look, he likes you!”


She spun back to find the creature had stepped closer, still sniffing the air. Her eyes were drawn to its erection, huge and misshapen, bobbing before it as it crept still closer. It noted the direction of her gaze and its mouth split in a wide, hungry grin, revealing thick, oversized fangs, like some sort of saber-toothed man. Behind her the iron door closed with a thud, dropping the chamber into total blackness.


“Welcome to the family, Mother,” Ramson called over the click of the lock.


Blind in the blackness, Lindsay screamed as Father pounced.


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