Highland Vampire Vengeance

an excerpt



Chapter One



A future Scotland



As he often did at this time of day, Aeden Mackay stood looking out of his study's French doors at the vast swath of green lawn in front of his mansion in Aberglen. It was his favorite part of the day, known in Scotland as the 'gloaming'. The time when the day slowly gives way to the night, the sky takes on a deeper shade of blue, and the shadows lengthen, before becoming one with the dark.

Aeden smiled as the last golden rays of the sunset dipped behind the snow capped peak of the mountain visible beyond the tall pine trees. He lifted the crystal glass of red wine and held it to his lips, sipping slowly, savoring the delicate bouquet. And now at this time of the year, the days were shorter, the nights longer. It was the time when he felt most energized, most alive. It had been so for many, many years...

"Daydreaming, brother?"

Aeden turned at the sound of the soft lilting voice behind him. "Nightdreaming, actually," he replied, his smile still in place. "Now that you're awake, would you care for a glass of Bordeaux?"

"Thank you." Lyall MacKay walked with a leisurely grace toward him, standing by his brother's side as Aeden poured the wine from a decanter. Had there been a third person in the room there would have been no doubt in their mind that the two were brothers. Both were tall men, broad shouldered, dark haired and blue eyed. The only significant difference was that Aeden, being originally older by five years, had a more mature appearance than Lyall, who had retained his boyish features, despite the years that had passed.

Lyall raised his glass briefly then drained it in one long swallow. "Very nice," he said, licking his full lower lip. "I'll have another."

Aeden chuckled and refilled his brother's glass. There was no danger of Lyall becoming inebriated. That could not happen. "I wish you would learn to enjoy the wine for its age and flavour," he remarked, raising his eyebrow in mock disapproval. "When it's all we have for the time being, you'd best savour it."

"Barnett slipping is he?"

"We'll have a fresh supply tomorrow, so no need to go hunting tonight."

"I love how you still refer to it as hunting. We haven't hunted in God knows how long." Lyall smiled ruefully. "Being legal does take some of the spark away, doesn't it?"

"Legal, but still not fully accepted, don't forget," Aeden said. "Some of the folk around here would have a fit if they knew the MacKay brothers were vampires."

Lyall chuckled. "I know it's uncivil of me, but sometimes I do get a sneaky feeling of delight when I think of those mortals who detest us, shivering with fear in their beds at night. Speaking of which..." Lyall paused to sip his wine more slowly this time. "Did you watch the news last night?"

"No, I try to avoid that lurid rubbish as much as I can. Why? Was there something of interest I should know about?"

"Mmm...The local news reported that a young couple was found dead in a field by the farmer a couple of days ago. The police, under the esteemed auspices of the handsome, charming Inspector Alistair MacFarlane, are being their usual diplomatic selves, of course, keeping it quiet until they had identified the bodies and notified the next of kin. But from what the reporter said, it sounded like they had been bitten...by an animal, he said. Could be sheer conjecture of course. I mean, what kind of animal around here is big enough to inflict that kind of lethal wound?"

Aeden frowned. "And what is your best guess as to the cause?"

"Well, I hate to be a worrywart, but doesn't it sound a wee bit suspicious to you, that this is the second incident of young people being 'attacked' by some supposed animal, when we both know that the chances of that happening in this part of Scotland are remote...extremely remote? I mean, Aeden, what kind of animal could possibly be roaming around the hills here? We havena' had wolves or bears in Scotland for, well, for a very long time."

Aeden grimaced. "That is very true. It could have been some kind of mad dog, but even that's unlikely. A stray dog would have been reported by this time, either by its owner or a neighbour, or some busybody, at the very least. Hmm... I hope you're not thinking what I'm thinking."

"Yes, I really am thinking what you're thinking."

"I knew you were... Damnation." Aeden poured himself another glass of Bordeaux then refilled his brother's glass without being asked. He pushed the French doors open and stepped outside onto the now darkened terrace. "I suppose I should call Inspector MacFarlane... Alistair, and ask him what his best guess is--or if he actually suspects what's going on."

Lyall joined him and the two stood side by side, enjoying the stillness and silence that surrounded them. "It's beautiful here," Lyall said finally. "What a shame evil lurks outside this estate."

"Some would say that evil lurks inside this estate."

"Yes, well...what they don't interfere with won't harm them, as Mother used to say."

"Good lord--how can you remember what Mother used to say?" Aeden glanced at his brother who had again finished his glass of wine. "You were three years of age when she died."

"I think that's just an expression, Aeden. I don't really remember her ever saying it."

"Ah..." Aeden pulled his cell phone from his trouser pocket and punched in a number, then pressed the speaker button. "Hello, Alistair. It's Aeden. How are you this evening?'

"I've been better, Aeden, as I'm sure you know after hearing about the latest murder." The police inspector's young voice sounded tired and frustrated. "The bloody press is driving me bloody mad with their bloody insisting that there's some kind of bloody monster on the prowl in Aberglen. I mean, yes, murder is a terrible thing, but I don't want the folk of Aberglen worried that there's some bloody supernatural being lurking about."

"That's a lot of 'bloodys' Alistair," Aeden said teasingly, while Lyall rolled his eyes. "You do know what that can do to a vampire, don't you?"

"What? Och...you know what I mean...but, I mean, bloody hell...sorry...there's none of that around here...I mean...uh, none that would do this kind of thing anyway. Sorry, Aeden, didn't mean to infer...um..."

"That's all right." Aeden smiled at Lyall, then said, "D'you think we could take a look at the bodies?"

"What? Are you telling me you think you might know what this is about? Now, I know it wasna' you or Lyall, but you know how folk are. If you get involved in this..."

"We have no intentions of getting involved, Alistair. We merely want to perhaps give you a push in the right direction. Lyall and I can verify if the attacks are by an animal--"

"They're not."

"They're not? You know this already?"

"Aye. Jamie Kintore, the coroner, did a rush job for me and confirmed that the saliva on the wounds of the previous victim is not from an animal, Aeden...or a...um, a human. And as the attacks are almost identical in nature, I'm going with his original autopsy report. "

"Damnation," Aeden muttered.

"My thought exactly," Alistair said, sighing. "Well, I'll not deny I could use some help on this, so if you like, I could pick you up and take you to the morgue. I have to warn you though, it's not a pretty sight."

"Don't worry about our sensibilities, Alistair. We've seen our share of horrors over the cen...the years."

"I'm sure y'have. Okay. Say, in about a half hour?"

"Fine. See you then." Aeden closed his phone and shrugged slightly. "Not an animal, and not human."

"We'd sense it if there was a vampire in the vicinity," Lyall said, quietly. "A werewolf, then?"

"The saliva would have traces of both animal and human in it. No, I'm thinking demon, or some aberrant creation we haven't yet encountered."

Lyall raised his eyebrows. "A demon...fascinating. We havena' run into one of those in some time. And what's this about an aberrant creation? Have you been reading the Biological Press again?"

Aeden chuckled. "No...just an article about some sort of creature sighting off the Shetlands' coast. One or two people had given the authorities eyewitness accounts, but so far they haven't been able to positively establish its existence. Could be another Big Foot or Abominable Snowman farce, of course, but the reporter seemed quite impressed by the eyewitness reports. One poor man was so deeply in shock it took several days before he could talk to the police."

"Interesting...did he say what it looked like?"

"Demon-like--with wings."

Lyall's interested expression changed to one of skepticism. "How would he know what a demon looks like?"

"Apparently from religious paintings. You know, depictions of the gates of Hell and the like, by Bosch and others of that era. Anyway, the man was lucky to escape unharmed, but his companion not so lucky. The body was badly bitten and mangled."

"From what Alistair just said, it sounds like the bodies in the morgue suffered the same fate."

"Yes. And if the description of the creature as having wings is correct, then it could presumably fly anywhere without too much trouble."Aeden paused, thinking. "Unlikely as it sounds," he said, "after so long without any sign of them...it could be that gargoyles are raising their ugly beaks again."

"Gargoyles, eh? Well, gargoyles, demons, and imps...all possible I suppose. We've seen some very peculiar things in our lifetime." Lyall grinned, briefly showing his fangs. "And I'm sure people could say the same thing about us."

"Hardly peculiar, Lyall. Unforgettable, perhaps..."

"Ah, but we can make them forget."

"Mmm...sometimes I think I should have used that gift on Alistair. Although he handles the knowledge of what we are quite well, it's obvious it does make him a wee bit uncomfortable from time to time."

Lyall smirked. "From the way he rambles on and stumbles over his words when he's talking to you, it's obvious, to me at any rate, that he's enchanted by you. Probably in love with you. He'd never give you away. I don't know why you didna' claim him when you had the chance."

Aeden shook his head. "I've never thought a vampire and mortal were a good match. Mortals have so much baggage."

"And we havena'?"

"Touche."

"What if you turned him?"

"Then I might have a companion with too much baggage and a deep resentment toward me."

"Not if you schooled him ahead of time...got his permission." Lyall huffed impatiently. "I swear to you Aeden, the man wants you in his life. I can see it every time you're together. And besides..." His brother gave him a knowing look, "you told me yourself he's an excellent kisser."

"Yes, that he is..." Aeden reflected on his and Alistair's first meeting, one week after the young policeman had been promoted to Inspector and transferred from Edinburgh to Aberglen. In his new official capacity he had felt obliged to call on the owners of the largest and oldest estate in Aberglen. If he'd heard the MacKay brothers were a bit on the reserved side with a tendency to be not very sociable, he'd given no sign of being deterred by it. After being introduced to Lyall, the three men had chatted amiably, sharing some vintage wine while Aeden had filled Alistair in on the local history. He'd intended it to be a boring conversation, encouraging Alistair to stay clear of any future visits, but the new police inspector seemed to hang on every word Aeden uttered, much to Lyall's amusement.

When Aeden was honest with himself, he had grown to enjoy Alistair's company. Once, while walking in the grounds they had moved closer to one another than was necessary. Their hands had touched, and to Aeden's surprise Alistair's warm fingers had lingered over Aeden's cool skin, nor had he resisted when Aeden had pulled him into his arms and kissed him. In fact, Alistair had responded with such eagerness, his light gray eyes warm with lust, that the sexual heat they'd created was almost enough to make Aeden forget the vow he'd made many years before.

The erection he could feel pressed to his own hadn't done anything to calm his libido either. Vampires had a reputation as intensely sensual beings and Aeden had never considered himself an exception to the rule. Alistair's blond good looks and his innocent, yet beguiling, smile were enough to stoke Aeden's desire. With a low growl he had nipped at the smooth tender skin of Alistair's throat, drawing blood, inflaming his senses. When Alistair had arched his neck into Aeden's unsheathed fangs, it had taken every ounce of his self-control not to devour the man, to drink him down until he was no more than a quivering, empty vessel. But he had long ago forsaken that practice, even with one so willing. Instead, he had taken only what the man could bear. Then he'd closed the wound with a kiss, infusing Alistair with a sense of rapture, but at a loss to remember just what had happened other than their shared kisses.