Under the Blood Moon

Under the Blood Moon

Tracie Provost

January 2018 $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-848-6

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A supernatural war is brewing in New Orleans, threatening to expose the existence of vampires, werewolves, and Gatekeepers to the wider world . . .

Ritually staked and hidden for two hundred years, Juliette de Grammont, voodoo priestess and vampire, is found and revived. Just days after she is freed, still coping with a world she could never have imagined, she loses her sire and vampire coven in a fire. Confused and alone, Juliette seeks the help of the city’s powerful Grand Master, but dark elements within the city are conspiring to topple that regime. Soon Juliette’s struggle for survival places her in the middle of a supernatural war for control of the city.

Josh Bouchard, former Texas Ranger now vampire and coven lieutenant, is drawn into the conflict and appoints himself Juliette’s protector over her objections. They must enlist the help of both the city’s werewolf pack and the Gatekeepers—a shadowy group dedicated to keeping the paranormal world secret from humans—to forge a coalition to save New Orleans from the powers that seek to destroy it.

After traveling extensively with wanderlust struck parents, Tracie Provost settled down to small town life in rural Georgia. There she teaches history at a small university and writes to keep her cats in the luxury to which they have become accustomed.


Coming Soon!


Chapter 1

IN MY DREAM I heard voices. One sounded masculine, familiar, while the other was higher, the voice of a boy not yet mature. It was pleasant to hear things that were not the howl of the wind, the lash of the storm.

"Juliette, my beautiful Juliette . . .”

And then I felt a pain like no other as the stake was pulled from my heart.

I gasped.

The hunger rose in me.

So weak, so terribly hungry.

Opening my eyes, I fought to focus them as someone lifted me into a sitting position. I hissed my need as I turned my head toward my savior. My fangs descended. My vision cleared. The metallic scent of fresh blood caressed my senses.

A very young, white man stood close to me in the dim light. He held his bleeding wrist out, saying, "Mistress, I am a gift for you. I am here to serve you.”

His words had barely left his lips when my mouth latched onto his proffered arm. The sweetness of untried youth filled my mouth. I heard a moan but was unsure whether it had come from me or the boy. I was stronger now, more in control—or so I thought. The boy wobbled. I put my arm around his waist and drew him closer.

Wanting his blood faster than his wrist could provide, I looked at his long neck. The slow, rhythmic thump of his heart beat in his throat like a siren’s song. I raised my lips from his wrist and used my tongue to close his wound. I drew his unresisting body onto my lap. His face was angelic; my mouth descended, and my fangs pierced soft, white flesh. The warmth of his blood delighted me. Like the sweetness of cherries at the height of summer.

I drank, and I drank, and I drank.

I knew I should stop. Killing is wrong. Killing leads to questions. Still, I drank.

The boy stopped moaning or even moving. His essence filled me and gave me strength. I felt his pulse slow and waver under my lips. As his heart gave its last beat, I ripped my lips from his throat in horror.

Mon Dieu! I have killed the boy.

I pushed the boy from my lap and stood abruptly. I wobbled a bit on unsteady legs. How long have I been in my enforced sleep? Where am I? This was not our bedroom in Andre’s house. I looked around: stone floors and walls, waist-high biers. How cliché. After staking me, the Hunters had placed me in a crypt. Not the Grammont Crypt; it was not this large. Perhaps this was a different crypt in the St. Louis Cemetery, although I could not recall any of this size. Have I been moved from New Orleans altogether?

"My sweet,” the masculine voice said as he placed a hand on my shoulder. "I am sure you have many questions, but we should leave.”

The voice from my dream. Andre, my sire. I recognized it now and turned to him.

I nodded, still a bit disoriented. "What about the boy? Will he be missed?”

Andre’s lips curled into a smile. "Always the worrier, concerned for the cattle. Don’t be. The boy was for you, as he said. A sacrifice, if you will.”

I flinched. I had never heard Andre refer to humans so callously. Nor had he ever denigrated the retention of my humanity. I wondered where his had gone.

I bent to pick up the boy and place him on the bier I had vacated. With my strength, the boy weighed almost nothing.

"Leave him, Juliette. He is unimportant.”

I ignored my sire. I placed the body gently on the stone platform, crossing the boy’s arms over his chest.

"Juliette . . .” Andre’s voice was laced with impatience.

"He deserves my respect, Andre. I will not just leave him in a heap.” The boy’s death worried me. Even as a newly turned vampire, I had never killed while feeding. One of the cardinal rules of vampire culture was to leave no evidence of our existence. I suspected that I had long lain in this tomb, so the discovery of his drained body was unlikely. But someone might miss him. He was too well fed and clean to be an urchin. His clothing was odd. I had never seen britches like these, and the fabric was unfamiliar. A shirt with no buttons or laces?

How much time had passed?

I said a quick prayer over the body. When I finished, I turned back toward Andre. He glowered at me. "You are too soft-hearted, Juliette. It will not serve you well in this era. Come. I dislike the dankness of this place.”

I followed without comment as he led me out of the crypt. Andre pushed the heavy, bronze doors open, and I stepped into the humid night air.

"Where are we?” I asked as Andre took my arm and led me through the maze of mausoleums and graves. None of this looked familiar to me.

"We are in Metairie Cemetery.”

"Metairie? We are no longer in New Orleans?”

"Actually we are still in New Orleans, but the city is much bigger than what you remember.”

"Andre, how long have I been gone?” I heard the panic in my voice.

He stopped and turned to face me. Because I was barefoot, I had to look up at him. Gently he caressed my cheek. "You have been gone a long time, my sweet.” He hesitated, and then said, "You have been in torpor for nearly two hundred and twelve years.”

I staggered, but he caught my arm, steadying me.

Two hundred and twelve years? Torpor was the vampire body’s mechanism for dealing with great strain. I had a vague memory of grappling with a Hunter before he had managed to drive a stake into my heart. I shuddered.

"I am sorry, my love,” Andre said. "I am a cad.” Gathering me in his arms, he pulled me to him and kissed me deeply. He tasted of brandy and blood. I was soon light headed again . . . but for a completely different reason. As he set me back on my feet, Andre’s voice was laced with regret. "We should leave. It is unsafe here. You are weak and there is evidence that Hunters are in the city again.”

I allowed him to lead me from the cemetery. I was stunned. How had I lost over two hundred years? I took no notice of my surroundings until Andre helped me into the low-slung, horseless carriage; an automobile, he called it. He fastened a harness across my chest and carefully folded my full skirts into the small passenger compartment before closing the door.

When he slid into what I assumed was the driver’s seat, I said, "I do not understand any of this.”

"I will explain it all in good time, my dear. Right now I need to inform our Grandmaster that, after these long years, I have finally found you.”

"There is a Grandmaster now?” Before my staking, the vampire population had been too small in New Orleans to warrant a Grandmaster. After all, we were but a colony, and only three of the five covens were repre­sented because the entire Salamand coven had been killed by Hunters.

"Is Claude the Grandmaster?” I asked. Claude Lefevre was master of the Gnome coven or at least had been. He and Frederique Deroche, Mistress of our coven, the Aether, jointly ran the city in the 1790s. Rela­tions between the covens were amiable because there was plenty of prey. Our concerns came from the outside. Human Hunters had followed us from the Old World, determined to kill us all.

"Claude is dead. He was killed soon after the city became American. The current Grandmaster is Marc Gautier. He is, of course, Gnome,” Andre sneered.

I was silent for a long time, looking out the window and trying to make sense of all that I saw. It amazed me. A raised roadway took us into the brightly lit city filled with buildings taller than I had ever seen. Once we arrived in the Vieux Carre, buildings began to look slightly more familiar, but so much had changed. The speed at which we traveled prohibited close examination, but it was obvious that little from my time remained. I felt the same trepidation I had when I first set foot in New Orleans after fleeing St. Domingue.

"Who from our coven is still here?” I asked.

"We’ll discuss that later. After I present you to Grandmaster Gautier, we will go and see Frederique. She will be greatly relieved to see you.” Andre exited the automobile and then came to let me out. Unable to unfasten the harness myself, Andre had to help me before extending a hand so I could exit the vehicle.

Andre led me to the front door and pushed a lighted button. Within a few moments, the door opened and a formidable man nodded to Andre. "Mr. de la Croix. I did not realize you had an appointment with Mr. Gautier tonight,” the man said in English.

"I don’t, but it’s a matter of some urgency. Might he have time for us?” Andre asked.

"Please, come in. I will see what Sophie can do with his schedule.”

We entered into a grand marble foyer. Directly in front of us, a sweep­ing staircase led to the second floor and reminded me of the one at L’Esperance, my childhood home. The butler gestured to an elegantly ap­pointed sitting room to the right. I entered the room, but Andre did not follow. While pretending to examine the room, I listened in on the conversation between my lover and the servant. I understood English, and could speak it with some proficiency, but French was my mother tongue and Andre and I had been conversing in a Creole patois.

"Who is she?” the man asked.

"My childe, Juliette de Grammont. She has been missing, staked since 1797. I have been searching for her since my own return.”

"Ah. I will explain this to Sophie and she can apprise the Grandmaster.”

Andre entered the parlor a moment later and crossed to an elegant mahogany bar. He poured himself a glass of red wine and walked to one of the room’s many windows.

The parlor was opulent. Countless oil paintings hung below intricate crown molding. I did not recognize any of the works, but they were quality. No expense had been spared. A cream settee was flanked by two rich, wine-colored, wingback chairs. Light from the crystal chandelier glinted off the highly polished mahogany coffee table.

As my toes sank into the deep pile of the priceless Persian rug, I realized how shabby I must have looked. The dark brown of my gown hid much of the dust and dirt, but I could clearly see the mud caked along the hem, as well as the water stain reaching halfway up the skirt. I shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other.

I noticed a sizable hole in the bodice of my dress, and the formerly white corset, now yellow with age, was clearly visible, but even that was dirt streak­ed and bloodied from the young man I drank from earlier. I hoped there was no blood on my chin.When did I become such a messy eater? Probably about the same time I killed my first human.

I ran a hand through my hair and encountered a veritable rat’s nest. For as long as I had lain in that crypt, rats may well have nested in my hair. I crossed my arms over my chest in an attempt to cover my torn dress as I stared daggers at Andre. He was cool and comfortable. The wine glass dangled carelessly from his elegant hand. He wore black leather pants and a crisp white shirt. He looked like the lord of the manor, while I appeared as the lowest of field slaves. The once fine velvet of my gown was crushed and matted; the delicate lace of my petticoat was in ribbons. I was not even wearing shoes. I shifted my weight again.

Andre turned to me, holding out the glass of red wine. "Here my sweet, have some wine.”

He stared at me for a moment as if seeing me for the first time. His gaze traveled the length of me, twice, and then I saw him draw a breath. His patrician nose wrinkled in distaste. "You’re a mess, and you smell like a wet dog. I did not think to take you somewhere to freshen up first. I am sorry. Perhaps the Grandmaster’s steward can help.”

Andre’s musing was cut short by the entrance of a beautiful blond woman in a scandalously short dress hurrying into the room. "Monsieur de la Croix, how good it is to see you again,” she said as she held out her hand.

Andre shook it and said, "It is always good to see you, Sophie. May I present my long lost progeny, Juliette de Grammont. Juliette, this is Sophie La Tellier. She is the Grandmaster’s steward.”

My curtsy demanded that I drop my arms, but there was no help for it. "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Madame La Tellier,” I said in halting English.

Sophie smiled, crossed the distance between us, and took my hands in hers. Raising me from my curtsy, she kissed both of my cheeks and said, "Please, call me Sophie.”

"Thank you,” I said, slightly bemused by the effusive greeting.

My hands still in hers, Sophie half turned to Andre and said, "I am afraid that it may be quite a while before Mr. Gautier can see you.” Then, turning to me, she asked, "Madame Grammont, would you care to come upstairs to freshen up?”

I dropped my eyes in embarrassment but nodded my head. Perhaps I could do something with myself before the audience. It was bad enough that the Grandmaster’s steward had seen me so disheveled, but to present myself to the city’s ruler in such a state was unthinkable.

"I’m an unthinking fool, bringing her here without any regard to her appearance. My only excuse is my excitement over finally having found her.”

"I’ll take good care of her, Monsieur de la Croix. There is nothing to worry about.” She whisked me from the room.

Sophie led me up the grand staircase to the family quarters. Once we were upstairs, she turned to me and said, "Forgive me if I overstepped back there, but I thought you might want a few minutes alone to compose your thoughts.”

I smiled. "If that is the polite way to say I look a sight and would I like to repair myself before seeing the Grandmaster, you are correct.”

Sophie laughed. "I know any lady of your stature would be uncom­fortable appearing in public in anything less than your best. Monsieur de la Croix might not think of such things, but it is my job to. Come, we will go to my suite and make you feel like yourself again.”

I found myself liking Sophie. There was no trace of condescension in her voice about my appearance. She led me through a maze-like series of corridors. Expensive paintings periodically dotted the walls. Finally Sophie paused and pulled a keychain from her pocket. She unlocked the door and ushered me inside. I stepped into an elegantly appointed sitting room decorated in cream and navy blue. An overstuffed settee sat in front of an unlit fireplace. It was flanked by two comfortable looking chairs. The floor was covered by a light Persian rug. I skirted the carpet as I entered the room, careful not to place my dirty feet on it.

"Don’t worry about the rug. It has had much worse than a little mud tracked over it,” Sophie said when she noticed my hesitation. "Come through to the bathroom.”

She led me through a bedroom and into another good-sized room. One wall was dominated by a long counter with dozens of small bottles of various shapes and sizes. Above the counter was a large mirror. A grand tub with a glass door next to it was along another wall. At least I assumed it was a tub; I had never seen one so large. Doors dotted the remaining wall.

Sophie walked to one of these doors and opened it. Drawing out several thick blue towels, she placed them on the counter. "Here are some fresh towels. Please make use of any combs, brushes, lotions, or other toiletries you can find in here. I will have some refreshments brought up and see if I have something to repair your bodice with.”

So marveled at the brilliance of a built-in closet, I nearly forgot my manners. "Thank you. I do not wish to be any trouble.”

"You aren’t,” she promised. Sophie turned to leave but thought better of it. "I nearly forgot that you have never used a modern bathroom.”

She walked to the counter and I noticed an inset basin with a spout and two handles above it. Sophie turned one of the knobs and water poured from the faucet. She turned it the other way and the flow stopped. "Right knob is cold water and left is hot. If you find straight hot too un­pleasant, just turn the right knob a bit. The hot and cold will mix auto­matically.”

"This is wonderful,” I said, more than slightly in awe.

Sophie laughed. "Modern conveniences make life much easier now. Everything from electric lights to indoor plumbing. There will be many things for you to explore and learn. I will leave you for a few minutes, but just call if you need anything. I will just be in the next room.” With that, she left, pulling the door shut behind her.

I walked to the mirror and saw that I looked as bad as I had expected. The creature staring back at me was gaunt and gray with matted hair and tattered clothes. Grimacing, I set about making myself more presentable. I had washed the grime from all visible skin and was trying to drag a comb through my hair when Sophie returned bearing a tray holding a wine glass and a decanter.

"I thought you might be hungry,” she said as she poured thick, red liquid from the decanter into the glass.

"You are very kind, but I could not possibly . . .” My refusal was abruptly cut off when my fangs descended at the smell of blood. I had not fed enough. I knew that even draining the boy dry, I was only half full. The incessant gnawing in my stomach that I tried to explain away as fear was really hunger. I clasped my hand over my mouth in embarrassment. I usually had more control, and it took more than the mere scent of blood for my canines to elongate. The automatic reaction was proof that I had not fed near enough tonight.

"Do not be embarrassed. You have been through a great trauma, Madame Grammont. It is not surprising that you are still hungry.”

My gauntness and gray pallor had given me away. I said, "Thank you,” as I took the goblet from her. I sipped the blood slowly, using every ounce of willpower not to gulp it down. In the meantime, Sophie had pulled a large towel from the stack and laid it on the floor. "Please, have more. The decanter is for you. After you refill your glass, come and stand on this towel and we’ll try to get most of this dirt off of your skirt.”

I was unsure what to make of this woman. She was friendly and open, not usual vampire traits. Generally we were only genial when we wanted something or could use someone. I was of little importance and had noth­ing to give. There was one way for me to know her motivations for sure. Con­centrating, I allowed my second sight to bleed into my consciousness. As I looked at Sophie, the colors of her aura became clear, and it was like reading a book. I saw compassion, sadness, and the thinnest trace of pity. I was amazed. This was not an act on her part. Sophie truly was kind.

I did as she bid and soon Sophie was kneeling in front of me, wire brush in one hand and the hem of my skirt in the other. With sure strokes, Sophie brushed the worst of the dirt and dried mud from my dress.

I was uncomfortable with Sophie performing such a menial job. "Madame La Tellier, it is unnecessary for you to do servant’s work.”

She laughed and smiled up at me. "Sophie, please. None of the female servants are old enough to know how to do this properly, and it would be far too difficult for you to do yourself. Besides, I don’t mind. There are far more unpleasant tasks that I must do as Marc’s steward.”

"You are too kind.”

"Oh, I’m a steel magnolia, no doubt about it.”

I did not understand the reference, but I did understand her meaning and smiled. Completing her task, Sophie stood and ushered me toward the long counter. Opening a drawer, she drew out several odd-looking objects that I assumed to be pins and tried to fix my bodice. Stepping back, Sophie shook her head. "It will hold together, but it isn’t very pretty. I will get you a shawl. It will hide a multitude of sins, but first, let’s see about your hair.”

I grimaced. "It is horrible.”

Sophie worked on my hair for quite a while, all the time filling me in on world events that had occurred while I was staked. She declared my hair to be presentable before I had the nerve to question her about New Orleans or vampire politics. Sophie found a beautiful cream-colored lace shawl for me to wear before leading me through the rabbit warren of halls to the grand staircase. Two men stood at the bottom engaged in an animated conversation.

They were a study in contrasts. The man with his back to me had short, black hair and was attired formally in finely tailored gray trousers and a matching jacket. The other’s sandy-blond hair was longer and shaggy. Casually dressed in the same sort of pants that the boy in the crypt had been wearing with scuffed boots and a long-sleeved, green shirt, he had a battered, brown hat in his left hand. Even their postures could not have been more different. Marc Gautier held himself regally, while his companion leaned nonchalantly against the banister.

"Ah, good. I see that Marc is wrapping up his meeting with Josh,” Sophie said. Even before she spoke, both men had turned and looked up the stairs. I saw that the blond man’s eyes matched the green of his shirt, and he broke into a wide, easy smile at the sight of us. The Grandmaster was slightly shorter than his companion, with entrancing pale-blue eyes. He nodded gravely to both Sophie and me.

Both men exuded a great deal of power. All vampires radiate power auras, but only the most powerful, those of Elders, Masters, Grand­mas­ters, and strong mages, are noticed by most. The specially gifted or magic­allyinclined could feel weaker auras and sometimes even tell them apart. I had such ability, and even had the men not been attired so differently, I would have known who the Grandmaster was instantly, so powerful was his aura. The other man was either an Elder or a Master, but I was too out of practice to discern which. He definitely did not carry a mage’s pungency.

I realized that my own shields had dropped, and my magic and power were leaking out. That was probably what caused the two men to look up when they did. Sophie emitted almost no power aura, and I had been too preoccupied to notice what she did project. Shielding was second nature to me, but lack of vitae had caused those shields to slip. I drew up the barriers now. My power aura was a fraction of what it had been a moment before. The Grandmaster regarded me for a moment and then turned his attention back to his companion. The other man continued to watch me.

I followed Sophie down the stairs, acutely aware of my tattered ap­pearance and bare feet. When we reached the landing, I saw and felt Andre emerge from the parlor. His power was a potent combination of mage and Elder, not unpleasant but strong and bold. The man, Josh, took a look at my maker’s glowering form, flicked his glance quickly up the stairs to me, and said, "Well, I can see you’ve got other business to attend, Marc, so I’ll take my leave. I’ll tell my sister what you said. Don’t think it’ll be a problem.”

The Grandmaster nodded, and the man quickly half-bowed to Mon­sieur Gautier and Andre. Looking up the stairs, he acknowledged us with a simple, "Ladies.”

Sophie called out, "Josh, could you stay for a moment? I need to speak with you.”

"Sure, Soph. I’ll be in the parlor when you’re ready.” He quickly disappeared into the other room, clearly not wishing to be in Andre’s presence.

Monsieur Gautier now focused his attention on my sire. "It is good to see you, Andre. I assume your visit has something to do with the beautiful woman accompanying Sophie.”

"Yes.” I had reached the bottom of the stairs now. "May I present to you my progeny, Juliette de Grammont.”

I sank into a low curtsy, murmuring, "Monsieur.”

Marc Gautier lifted my hand to his lips. "Enchanted, Madame. I have heard much about you. Please, come into my office, and we shall speak.”

Andre and I followed him through immense double doors. The Grandmaster indicated two leather chairs in front of his desk. Andre sat in one, I in the other. Marc Gautier took his seat behind the large mahogany desk. This room, like the others I had seen, was sumptuously but tastefully appointed.

Sophie appeared at my side and handed me another goblet of blood. She then withdrew, closing the double doors behind her. I thought it interesting that Andre was not offered a drink.

Marc Gautier nodded to me and said, "I understand that you have been missing for quite a while, Madame Grammont.”

"Since 1797,” Andre answered for me. I raised an eyebrow at this. He had never spoken for me before, and I wondered what game he was playing. The conversation went on like this for several minutes, where I would open my mouth to answer one of the Grandmaster’s questions, only to be cut off by my sire. I was confused and hurt by his actions. Never in my memory did I recall Andre being this domineering. I did not like this change. My anger rose as the conversation continued. My magic began to seep out of me toward Andre like tendrils of smoke. Realizing what I had unconsciously done, I called it back and hoped my sire had not noticed. If he had, Andre gave no indication. He continued pompously answering questions meant for me, while I worked to control my temper and magic. Finally, the Grandmaster looked directly at me and asked, "Are you willing to give fealty?”

"Of course she is,” Andre answered.

The city’s leader cast a cold glance at my sire. "I need to hear it from her, not you.”

"Yes, I am willing to swear fealty,” I said, hoping to avert a clash. I would deal with Andre later when we were alone.

Marc stood and indicated that I should as well.

"I, Juliette de Grammont, do freely swear to uphold the Traditions, be faithful to my coven, and render service to the Grandmaster of New Orleans, Marc Gautier. I will protect the city and its Grandmaster against all creatures, living or dead, until I meet final death. This is my solemn oath and promise.” I then knelt and kissed Marc’s ring of office.

Raising me from the floor, the Grandmaster kept my hands in his. "I, Marc Gautier, Grandmaster of New Orleans, do humbly accept your freely given oath of loyalty and promise to render all aid that you, Juliette de Grammont, may require.” He then bowed and kissed me on both cheeks.

Andre rose to leave, and I made to follow until Monsieur Gautier said, "Madame Grammont, if you would please stay a moment. I wish to speak with you privately. Andre, you may wait for her in the parlor.”

Andre was visibly taken aback by this abrupt dismissal but quickly shrugged it off. Nodding to the Grandmaster, he said to me, "I will await you outside, Juliette.” I did not care for his tone.

"Very well,” I said coldly.

Monsieur Gautier waited until Andre had closed the doors behind him to step out from behind his desk. "I believe we would be more com­fortable over there,” he said, indicating an intimate seating area around one of the room’s two fireplaces. I sat in a comfortable hunter-green wingback chair, while the Grandmaster retrieved a wine glass and decanter from inside a nearby sideboard. "Let me refill your drink. I believe you are looking much better than when you arrived this evening.”

I cast my eyes down. I knew he was referring to the gray pallor of my normally café au lait skin tone and the gauntness of my face. Forcing myself to look up and meet his gaze, I said, "Yes. You and your steward have been very kind. It is much appreciated.”

Marc Gautier smiled as he filled both of our glasses. "Please forgive my high-handedness in temporarily exiling your sire to the parlor. It was obvious that Andre did not wish you to speak for yourself. It angered you, didn’t it?”

He had felt my magic. "I beg your forgiveness for allowing my magic to manifest itself in your presence. It will not happen again unless you bid it,” I said quietly. Out of nervous habit, I began to play with my necklace.

Seating himself in a nearby chair, Gautier chuckled. "I did not mean that as a reprimand. It was so brief that I wondered if I had imagined it, but your magic, your power is . . . unusual. Very strong for one who has been in torpor all these years, and quite distinctive. Your mastery over it is quite astonishing; I don’t believe I have ever met anyone who could completely turn it off the way you did in the foyer and then again just now.”

I took a long sip of vitae and smiled sheepishly. "It has not taken you long to figure out my secret. My mother long ago taught me how to hide my power.”

Confusion clouded the Grandmaster’s face. "Your mother? Your human mother?”

"Yes. Only part of my magic is vampire magic.”

"Ah, you are also a mage.”

I nodded. That was close enough to the truth. In reality, I was a thaumaturge. Mages call magic to them in order to use it. Thaumaturges draw magic from inside ourselves. We have magic in our bone and blood. We can also call magic to us, but it is not as strong as what comes from inside. Thaumaturges are rare, with only one or two born in a generation. This was my true secret. Even Andre thought I was only a talented mage.

"I believe Andre once told me you were a midwife?” Monsieur Gautierasked.

"Oui, and a healer. My maman believed that the mistress of a plan­tation should be more than an ornament in her husband’s parlor. She made sure I had a practical education and could care for those in my charge.”

"You were born here?” he probed.

I took a sip from my glass and shook my head. "Not in Louisiana, no. I was born on St. Domingue. I fled here to New Orleans during the slave revolt in 1791.”

Monsieur Gautier looked thoughtful for a moment and then asked, "Why here? If I remember correctly, this was Spanish territory at that time.”

"My husband and father both had business interests here. I was sent ahead, but . . . the rest of the family perished.” I pushed the bad memories away and continued, "You are correct; Carondolet was governor then.”

"You must have missed the work after you were turned,” the Grand­master said.

"I never gave up the work. Andre tried to persuade me to do so, but I was adamant about continuing,” I answered.

"But the blood . . . didn’t it tempt you?” Monsieur Gautier asked, regarding me intently.

"I always made sure to feed before attending a patient, and normally, I have a great deal of control.” I had no doubt that Sophie would report what had transpired upstairs to him.

The Grandmaster looked pleased. "This is good to know. We have a number of human retainers, and while we employ several doctors, some cases cannot be taken to them or the physician’s memories must be wiped clean after he treats the patient.”

I nodded. "I will be happy to assist in any way I can.”

"And I am more than willing to help you in any matters you need. I am afraid that you will find New Orleans and the rest of the world much changed. Please do not hesitate to ask if you have questions or if you need something.”

"Thank you.”

"That is a very unusual pendant you are wearing. Very beautiful,” Monsieur Gautier remarked.

I traced the intricate pattern on the lavaliere, still amazed that it, as well as my rings, had not been stolen while I lay in torpor. "It is the veve of my patron Loa, Kadja Bossou.”

"I don’t believe I’ve ever seen one quite like that before. You’ll be happy to know that the voodoo community is thriving here in New Orleans. In fact, Frederique is the reigning voodoo queen. Have you seen her since you’ve been back?”

"No. We came here first. I believe Andre intends to take me to see her next,” I said and finished the last of my blood.

"Then I shouldn’t keep you any longer. As pleasant as our discussion has been, we both have other business to attend to this evening.”

We both stood, and he walked me to the door. As we stepped into the foyer, the front door burst open. Josh stumbled in, half-carrying, half-dragging a bloody young man. The Grandmaster immediately stepped forward to help them.

Taking up the other side, he said, "We’ll put him on the couch in my office. What happened?”

"Don’t rightly know, Marc. I left here heading back to the bar and heard a commotion in one of the ungated courtyards. I went to investigate and found Chris like this. I musta scared off whatever attacked him.”

The Grandmaster looked at me and asked, "Do you think you can tend to him?”

I nodded, very thankful for the extra blood they had served me earlier. I sensed Sophie hurrying down the hallway toward us. "What has hap­pened?” she asked.

"Chris has been hurt. Get Madame Grammont whatever she needs to treat him.”

I turned and asked, "Can you arrange some warm water, towels, and bandages? If you do not have bandages, old linens will do.” I then followed into the Grandmaster’s office to examine the young man.

No recommended products at the moment.