Exclusive Short Story + Giveaway: “The Dead Do Not Tempt Us” by Freda Warrington (The Dark Arts of Blood)

I’ve got a special treat today from the lovely folks at Titan and Freda Warrington. The new edition of The Dark Arts of Blood will be out this week, and Freda has written a brand new short story, featured here. Also, we’ve got a copy of The Dark Arts of Blood to give away to one lucky US winner, so be sure to fill out the widget at the bottom of the post. Read on, and enjoy!

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The Dead Do Not Tempt Us

by Freda Warrington

“You are arrogant, insufferable, self-centred, vain, ignorant and conceited,” said Ilona. “Only you could make a long journey seem literally endless. All you think about is your own pleasure.”

Pierre gave a huff of outrage. His breath plumed on the wintry air. “That’s rich, coming from you. My pleasure? You are one who must have everything her own way. You also are arrogant, selfish, vain and… all the rest. If I’m in the gutter, you’re there with me.”

“I carry my vices with style,” she said with a smirk. “That’s the difference.”

“You make a show of despising me, yet you know we’re just the same. That must burn.”

“Mm. At least I’m not an idiot.”

“How am I an idiot, to long for a little glamour, grand balls and easy pickings in St. Petersburg?”

“Because that glamour is all gone, dear.” Ilona slipped her hand through his elbow. “Don’t you read the papers? It’s Leningrad now. Since the Bolsheviks took over, everything is grey and the aristocrats must flee for their lives, or join the party and pretend they were never aristocrats at all. No more grand balls.”

Pierre swallowed and looked away into the vast dark forest that crawled past on either side as they walked. He remembered the French Revolution’s aftermath. The fact that he’d been part of the peasant class did not make the memory any more palatable.

“That’s not the point,” he said. “How does it make me an idiot to dream of romance? The jingle of troika bells. Our sleigh flying through the landscape of a winter folk-tale, with snow swirling around us, forests and mountains on every side. You, wrapped in white furs… the two of us, holding hands, flying through the Russian night…”

“What on earth are you babbling about?”

Pierre sighed. “I wanted to give you the fairy tale. Yes, we’ve done nothing but bicker since we left Prague, and we’re agreed that this enterprise has been a disaster so far, but I still wanted to give you the fairy tale.”

Ilona went quiet for a few seconds. The only sounds in the wilderness were the crunch of their boots and the whisper of snow falling onto their overcoats. The sun had not quite set, but the forest path already lay deep in blue dusk. Around them the immense landscape rolled on and on into the half-light: wilderness on a scale that made France or Switzerland seem picture-book tiny in comparison. You could imagine, feel the land sweeping onwards through forest, up towards the Arctic Circle, across the vastness of Siberia and east towards the rim of the Pacific Ocean.

“Well, that is almost… quite… sweet,” she said. “Especially for you, Pierre. But I want to see the real Russia.”

“In all its fresh brutality? That’s the sort of thing Karl would do. Haunting battlefields like the Grim Reaper. You take after your father more than I realised.”

She shrugged. “Perhaps. Once, I would have knocked you down for saying that… but now, I think Karl is not so terrible a father after all. I must be going soft in the head.”

What a strange couple we make, Pierre thought. Not even a couple in any conventional sense; just a pair of vampires, thrown together by circumstance. Pierre, a gleeful predator without conscience, had been Karl’s friend, enemy and a thorn in his side for over a century. Ilona – turned by Karl when she reached adulthood because he couldn’t bear to lose her to mortality – was even more ruthless than Pierre. Sometimes they were casual lovers, for the hell of it. Much of the time they couldn’t stand each other, and did nothing but argue and goad each other…

But.

Something had happened, a whirlwind named Violette who’d torn them to pieces, leaving them both in their different ways exposed and humiliated and stripped back to their naked essence before she’d shown them how to heal. They’d found themselves doing things they’d never thought possible: horrors such as admitting to terror, weakness, or love. Such soul-deep injury left scars.

That was why they’d decided to go away for a year or so. Away from Violette and all the others. Just the two of them, Pierre and Ilona, who cordially loathed each other but were bonded together like reflections in a distorting mirror.

Pierre knew he’d never get the better of her. She knew it too. She looked like Karl, feminised: beautiful pale face with the bone structure of an angel, softly glowing irresistible eyes, and a core of steel. Unlike Karl, Ilona was cruel and pleasure-addicted. Pierre had that in common with her, but unlike her he was weak-willed, and didn’t really care who knew it. He rather gloried in his failings.

“Is this it, then?” he said. “Just walking until we fall off the edge of the world? We could at least have stolen that broken-down cart and donkey we passed four hours ago.”

“I like the nothingness,” she said dreamily. “And there’ll be something, dear. Victims. The blood fountain of youth to slake our thirst.”

Just her mention of the word, blood, was enough to make his fangs tingle in their sockets. He felt his mouth bend into fierce smile, his eyebrows forming a demonic V. He could even smell blood on the air, a rich savoury smell threading through the numbing cold of the air. Wishful thinking.

“Wait,” said Ilona. “Look!”

Not wishful thinking.

A small heap of darkness lay on the track ahead. Vampire eyesight saw deep into the invisible spectrum, perceiving colour where humans saw only black and white. Against the snow-glow, he saw a trail of blood spattered like a red comma around the fallen man’s head.

His hunger leapt, like a chameleon’s tongue. He gripped Ilona’s arm.

“Oh. God. What luck. Hadn’t realised how hungry I am…”

He started forward, but she pulled him back. “Don’t pounce on him like an animal! He’s alive. Can’t you feel his warmth, hear his breathing?”

Even at some distance, the life signs were distinct.

“Of course I can,” Pierre snapped. “Obviously he’s alive. The dead don’t tempt us, do they?”

“Well, don’t leap in and kill him. I want to know who he is.”

“Why?”

They walked cautiously closer as they spoke.

“Because people don’t lie around in the snow unless they’ve been attacked.” Her eyes glinted beneath the brim of her thick leather hat. “There’s something about him. I’m curious.”

The man groaned as they approached, as if he sensed them but couldn’t move.

“Looks like just another peasant in those drab clothes.” Pierre sniffed. “Still, all the Russians dress like that nowadays. So dull.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Ilona said softly. “They’re still people underneath, with their own stories. The real Russia.”

#

Pierre watched as she bent over the man, swallowing his own blood-thirst as if suppressing a surge of inconvenient lust. The fallen man lay curled on his side, dressed in trousers of rough greyish cloth, boots, a shabby overcoat. His breath was laboured, wheezing. One gloved hand lay outstretched and loose on the snow, as if describing the arc of blood-drops that lay scattered around him.

He looked young. The face was unlined, pale and smooth as the snow. His hat was askew, revealing a bristle of red-blond hair. So young, so troubled and in pain. Dying. Ilona investigated all this with rapt care.

Pierre didn’t know what had got into her.

“Well? Is his blood good? Can we take him, or are you going to play doctor all night?”

“Shut up,” she hissed. “Look at this.”

She showed Pierre the inside of his left wrist between coat sleeve and glove. The skin was a mess of cuts, still welling. That was the source of the blood on the snow. Drops had flown out as he’d collapsed.

“So?”

“He’s done this to himself, you idiot. Tried to kill himself.” She bent her head, lapped the crimson fluid from the wrist and stifled a small moan of pleasure. Licked the skin clean, then stopped herself going any further.

The man groaned. The whites of his eyes showed, flickering.

“Hello?” Ilona said gently in Russian. “Can you hear me? I’m Ilona. What has happened to you?”

“No. Go away. Nothing.”

“He’s not made a very good job of it,” said Pierre, squatting down on the other side of him. “Listen to his heart. Good and strong.”

“Perhaps he does not really want to die.”

“That’s bad luck, then.” Pierre ran his tongue over his lips. He needed to feed. Ilona’s stalling was an annoyance.

“What’s your name?” she asked, holding out a palm to keep Pierre away.

“Vasily.”

Now she drew his head onto her lap and leaned over him as if cradling a sick child. “And what are you doing out in the snow? Night’s falling. It’s freezing.”

“Don’t care. Let me die. Let me…” He began to sob, pressing the fingertips of his right hand to his forehead. He shivered.

“Why do you want to die, Vasily?” Ilona held his chin and tilted his head so he was looking straight into her eyes. She had him then. Pierre saw the instant connection, saw the youth’s soul melt and flow towards her.

“Why do you care?”

“Do you see anyone else ready and willing to listen, aside from me and my friend? This might be your last chance to be heard. You may as well tell us.”

“Angel,” he whispered, reaching up to touch her cheek.

“Not quite,” said Ilona.

His hand fell. “You look like her. Like my Katya.”

“Who was she? Dear, tell us quickly, for we need to take you somewhere warm where you may rest and recover.”

“Great God Almighty,” Pierre said under his breath, now convinced there would be no chance to feed tonight. Ilona was on a mission. Somehow she could do that: switch off her appetite when it suited her.

“My wife,” said Vasily. “That bastard! My father-in-law, Dmitri…” In hesitant, coughed-out words, his tale emerged. A tragedy. A struggling artist, he lived in a nearby farm, so happy with his wife and baby daughter until a sudden cruel fever had killed them both. Since then, it had been just him and his father-in-law, cooped up in mutual grief and hatred. For months the old man had been growing drunker and angrier, while Vasily battled to go on painting. He couldn’t make a living. He was depressed, desperate.

“Yesterday we had a big row and the old bastard said he’d reported me to the authorities.” Vasily was sitting up now, propped against Ilona, his head drooping.

“For what?”

“Degeneracy. My paintings don’t fit the regime’s vision of what art should be. What Stalin wants. There’s a purge coming… Artists must paint what the state demands, or we pay the price. But I cannot – cannot work against what’s in my heart. What true artist can do that? I won’t sell my soul.”

“Quite right too,” said Pierre. He was now rather interested, despite himself. Once, very long ago, he’d dreamed of becoming an artist.

“So old Dmitri says the state police are coming for me. I fled, but I have nowhere to go, not a rouble to my name. I have nothing. No wife or child, no home, not even my art.”

He began to weep again.

“That is a terrible story,” crooned Ilona. “I quite see why you’d want to end your life. However, I don’t think you really want to die. You didn’t cut your painting hand, did you?”

“No.”

“So I don’t think there’s any need for you to die, Vasily dear. First, let us take you somewhere safe.”

“There’s nowhere. Only the farm, and I can’t go back there.”

“Oh, can’t you?” Ilona gave Pierre a burning, meaningful look. “We’ll see about that.”

“I can’t – I beg you…”

“Don’t worry. Everything will be different now that we’re here.”

“What the hell are you doing?” Pierre began, but she tutted.

“And we are going to help you. Aren’t we, Pierre?”

#

The scene looked to Ilona like a painting. The farmhouse resembled a low barn with slatted walls and snow-covered roof, surrounded by broken-down fencing. Behind it were a couple of outbuildings incongruously adorned with onion domes, rickety turrets and spires. A brilliant orange sunset flamed on the horizon. The sky began fading to grey and lemon even as they reached the place, but just for a few moments all the windows reflected flame as if the cottage were on fire. The landscape around it, thick with snow, looked blue, cold and shadowy. So bleak.

Vasily lay over Pierre’s shoulder like a sack of cabbages. Rousing, he saw where they were and moaned.

“No, I can’t go back in there. I’d rather die than see his ugly old face again.”

“You don’t have to,” said Ilona. “Is there a back door?” He shook his head. “More than one room inside?”

“Three rooms.”

“Pierre, take him in through the back. Use a window if you must. I’ll knock on the front door and… distract the farmer.”

“Then what am I meant to do with him?” Pierre’s expression was exasperated, verging on furious.

“Make him warm and comfortable. Bandage his wound. Stay quiet. And no feeding.”

Ilona waited until he’d tramped around the side of the building with Vasily hanging over his shoulder before she stepped towards the front door, soundless in the snow. Ten seconds of silence followed her knock. Then came the sound of boots stomping on a wooden floor, someone grunting and breathing heavily like a bear woken from hibernation.

The door opened, releasing a slab of light and the thick stench of animals, smoke, stored vegetables and human sweat. The farmer was dressed in thick dark cloth, baggy breeches with boots to the knee, a shirt with no collar and an ancient waistcoat. He was well into his fifties, with straggling grey hair and a red face. He glared.

“Not another of his tarts! He’s not here.”

The man shoved the door towards her face, but she wedged her foot and shoulder in the gap. The door bounced off her, shuddering as if it had hit a wall. His stare widened.

“I’ll wait,” she said.

“What?” He lurched back as she pushed her way in. She hooked his gaze with hers: not easy, because he was unsteady and struggling to focus. She reeled him in anyway. Her serene brown velvet eyes caught his red-rimmed pin-point pupils, and her hand rested along his sleeve. He went still, his mouth slack.

“I said I’ll wait. May I come in?”

He waved the vessel he was holding, a jug of vodka, she assumed from the sharp medicinal smell. “Sure. What the hell. You’re already in, aren’t you?”

The room was a kind of kitchen cum parlour with a wooden table, oil lamps burning, a big square stove bellowing heat. Ceiling and walls bristled with wooden pans, implements, strings of vegetables.

Distantly she heard Pierre and Vasily entering a room elsewhere in the cottage, scrambling in through a window judging by the row they made. But her hearing was sensitive, and the old farmer’s was not. He appeared to notice nothing, except her.

“My name’s Ilona. Yours?”

“As if he didn’t tell you.” Dmitri waved at the table, indicating her to sit down on a bench. He sat facing her, swigged from the jug and clumsily slammed it down, pushing it towards her. “You want a drink?”

She eyed the jug with distaste. “No, thank you. You seem upset, Dmitri.”

He huffed. “They say I am kulak.”

“What does that mean?”

Dmitri blinked, as if he found Ilona far more fascinating than her question. “Where are you from? Your accent is strange. You don’t look right.”

“Vienna, once. A very long time ago.”

“Vienna? What the devil are you doing here?” His body swayed, giving off sour smells of sweat, farmyard animals, alcohol. His very aura whirled around him like a tornado, messy and uncontrolled. Even the unkempt wisps of his hair and beard danced like white fire. His eyes, though, were still. Fixed on hers. She could make him believe anything. Do anything.

“I like to travel.”

“Into the wastes of hell? Vasily has picked up some crazy strays in his time, but you beat them all.”

“As models?”

A gruff laugh. “That’s what he calls them.”

“I’m not a stray dog,” Ilona said icily. “Nor am I a ‘tart’. You don’t think being an artist’s model is a respectable occupation?”

“I don’t give a shit what you do,” he growled, leaning towards her. He waved at an inner door, as if indicating some evidence of horror she couldn’t see. “It’s what he does. Calls it art! Obscenity. He’ll get us arrested. Damn him, damn the very day he met my daughter!”

From her calm centre – the vampire studying the mortal – Ilona watched this man spilling his raging energy and she knew that he was near the end. She put her hand on his and said, “You’re obviously in distress, Dmitri. Please tell me.”

Because he was in her thrall – although he didn’t realise it – and because he was drunk, the words came easily from him.

“We were content, my daughter and me, until she met this rogue. She’s at market, he’s slumming it from Leningrad, looking for pretty girls to paint. The next I know, they’re married, and he’s moved in! Brought all his paints and canvasses, because what he doesn’t tell us is he’s penniless, he has nowhere else to go, so he’ll make my farmhouse his studio! I can refuse my Katya nothing. She loves him. So like a fool I let them stay.” He dropped his head and began to sob. Ilona regarded his falling tears without emotion. “Last year she had a beautiful baby girl. But a fever came and took them both. So fast! Just like I lost my wife ten years ago… Both times, before it happened, a crow pecked the window. I knew that was a bad omen. Why could not he die, instead of them?”

He wept and drank for quite some time, until he was such a mess that Ilona passed him a cloth to wipe his dripping face. Then he shuddered and sighed and drank again.

“So he does nothing to help on the farm?” she said. “You don’t want him here? Why not ask him to leave?”

“Oh, he’s going, all right. The authorities come for me, they’re damn well going to come for him first.”

“I don’t understand.”

“It’s already started. This Stalin, he’s coming for people like me. Kulak.”

“What does that mean?”

“I am a wealthy landowner, apparently!” Dmitri spread his arms wide and gave a hollow laugh. “Kulak is what they call the ‘rich’ farmers. They say we are the class enemies of the poorer peasants. Bloodsuckers, they call us. Vampires, plunderers of the people, profiteers who fatten on famine. Their words, not mine.”

“You don’t look very wealthy to me,” she said softly.

“I’m not. But possession of a single cow is too rich for them. Anyway, rumour is that the authorities are coming to take our farms. It’s already happening. The OGPU, the state police, they’re sweeping towards us like a locust plague, to steal our land and throw us out of our homes.”

“I’m sorry. That is terrible.”

“So, what is the point of living? He’s the vampire, that good-for-nothing artist I have supported for two years. Let them take him. By the time they come back for me – I’ll be dead.”

“Is that what you want?”

“I don’t care. It’s over. Without my Katya, all is pointless.”

“I am so sorry,” said Ilona, sounding as if she meant it, secretly thinking that it was time to end the encounter. The sounds from the rear of the house had ceased. All was deathly still. Did that mean Pierre had defied her, and fed on Vasily after all?

“Well, I’m not gone yet. May have a few months yet.” Dmitri laughed in a bitter, resigned way. He leaned across the table, breathing fumes into her face. “Hey, you any good at farm work? You looking for a husband?”

She laughed coldly. “I am not going to marry your son-in-law.”

“Not him. Me!”

He roared with laughter. The noise made the wooden walls shake. Something in the atmosphere broke, and Ilona heard footsteps pounding towards the parlour.

Vasily burst through an inner door, wide-eyed with fury.

“The old man dares laughs at me?” he yelled. Pierre was just behind him in a dark passageway, shrugging helplessly as Ilona glared at him. “You old bastard! My wife’s dead, and you laugh?”

“Hey, you piece of shit. I thought you were gone for good!”

Dmitri rose and stepped over the bench, turning around as he did so. In the same movement he swung the jug at the younger man’s head. Stoneware and bone connected with a thud. Vasily went down on one knee. Then his father-in-law kicked him, catching him in the thigh so he toppled over, aiming the next kick at his kidneys. He was a big man. Vasily looked small and defenceless under the attack.

Ilona grabbed the farmer from behind as if he were a child, almost lifted him off his feet. His fists and booted feet flailed comically in the air. Then she snapped his head roughly to one side and bit deep into his neck.

Dmitri sank to the floor and she fell with him. A rushing red ocean washed away reality. Their two heartbeats joined and she spread along the floor with him as he reached out blindly for… help? A vision of heaven?

She was only bringing what he had sought from his vodka. Oblivion.

Ten years later – so it seemed – she opened her eyes to see Vasily on his feet, staring at her. He stepped back, only to collide with Pierre who was right behind him. Pierre glared over his shoulder, his blue eyes on fire with blood-thirst from witnessing her feast.

“What?” said Ilona. She rose, straightening her coat and dishevelled hair. Without haste she licked the blood from her lips. “Isn’t this what you wanted, Vasily? I’ve set you free. The old man’s dead. The farm is yours now, if you want it.”

He went on blinking at her, bewildered. Breathing too fast. She saw all the questions in his eyes – what are you, what have you done, are you going to kill me too? – but he couldn’t voice them. Didn’t need to.

“Since you’ve dined,” said Pierre, “May I…?”

His fingers crept spider-like onto Vasily’s shoulders. The young man froze.

“Pierre, patience,” said Ilona. “I want to spare him.”

“Why?” Pierre snarled at her, but he still obeyed. In their battle of wills, she always won. She knew he hated it, yet he kept coming back for more.

“I don’t know. Call it one of my whims.”

“You don’t understand.” Vasily found his voice at last. He rubbed his forehead, leaving blue and black smears from his fingers. Paint. He’d been… painting? “I can’t live here. The police are coming for me. And the state is going to confiscate the farm in any case. I have nothing left, nothing.”

“When are they coming?”

“I don’t know. Tomorrow, probably. Before dawn. If you’re going to kill me, do it quickly.”

“No need for that,” Ilona said, meeting Pierre’s cold blue gaze.

“Very well,” said Pierre. “Because I once dreamed of being an artist, I’ll give him a chance.” He beckoned. “But Ilona, you really must come and see this.”

#

The air was dense with the smell of fresh oil paint, underlain by a revolting rank stench: homemade pigments at best, more likely dead rats. Canvasses were propped all around the bedroom, most of them on the floor, a few on easels. The surfaces looked wet in the dancing candlelight, full of jarring colours. The room was full of paintings, as if a mad insomniac had been at work here.

Boris and his comrade looked around the room in a stupor of disgust and contempt. They were OGPU agents, state police, as proud and nonchalant as soldiers in their dark jackets with red collars, blue breeches, their peaked red and blue caps. Pistols by their sides. They looked at each other, then at the supposed art once more. God, that smell. Most of the images were obscene: naked women, contorted in sexual poses. Even the landscapes were wrong, impressionistic, painted with manic fury. The work was not even good. It was grotesque.

Definitely an offence against the state.

“Gods, look at this.” His comrade pulled an easel aside and pressed his hand over his mouth. The farmer’s body they’d found in the parlour was fresh, but the corpse in the bed was decaying. A young woman… Boris flung back the covers. Christ, she had a baby in her arms. Mother and child lay there, slowly mummifying.

That was the source of the stomach-turning smell.

“Well, we have more than a crime of artistic expression here,” said Boris. “We have murder, and we have the apparent concealment of two deaths.”

His comrade turned for the door, breathing hard while he controlled the urge to retch. Boris, however, was spellbound by the delicious horror of it all. He stared from the two sad corpses to a portrait of a couple. The canvas stood on an easel in the centre of the room, surrounded by a mess of palettes and rags, so new that the paint was still wet. A man with curly brown hair, fierce expression, hypnotic blue eyes spaced a little too wide. Standing close at his side was a woman with an angel’s face, dark red hair cut short but soft in the European fashion, plum red lips and dark eyes to swallow you. The brushwork was messy with haste, dancing with dark energy, yet the faces were clear. They both were so beautiful, so sinister. Boris couldn’t look away.

“But where’s the culprit?” he said.

“Fled, obviously.” His comrade moved beside him, also staring into those mesmeric, painted eyes. Carefully not looking back at the bed. “He’s deranged, dangerous.”

“Can’t have been gone long. This looks like he only finished it last night. Look, the brushes are still wet.”

“We’ll find him.”

“Not if I find you first,” said a voice from the darkness.

Both agents jumped, turning to stare as the man from the portrait moved out of the shadows. Faster than they could lay hands on their guns, he was on them, all claws and fangs like a ravenous wolf.

#

The troika flew at breathtaking speed across the snow: three magnificent grey horses drawing their sleigh so fast they seemed to fly along the forest path. The greys’ harness was heavily decorated, and a carved wooden arch rose like a bright arc over the central horse, gleaming blue and red and gold like a stained-glass sculpture against the snow-filled sky, or a huge triumphal garland. Ilona was wrapped in thick white furs, Pierre in brown like a bear.

Vasily sat squeezed in between them, his face patched red with cold and white with terror.

In front of them was the hunched back of their driver. His pockets were stuffed with roubles, his mind blank. Amazing what a mixture of money and vampiric glamour could achieve. Even in these austere times, a troika could be had from party officials who’d ousted some aristocrat from his mansion.

Presently they would send Vasily on to a suitable border, where he could slip across and flee to Europe and paint whatever rubbish he wanted, starving romantically in a garret. They had spared his life, she and Pierre, just because they could. Ilona smiled to herself, feeling rather virtuous.

Whether they’d spared his sanity was another matter. Vasily was hardly stable to begin with, and the vampire’s kiss brought madness and delusions. Some mortals recovered; others never did. Perhaps he’d stay like this forever: staring, hands trembling as he pushed his paintbrush over the canvas in his garret, obsessively creating portraits of Ilona and Pierre over and over again, as if to exorcise them… Or perhaps he’d remember them with a smile and a dark, secret rush of pleasure.

For now, though, she lost herself in the rush of speed, the racing hoof beats and stinging snow.

“See, I saved the best for you, Pierre,” she said. “Two soldiers. Your favourite.”

“You did indeed. Five corpses for the authorities to puzzle over! Quite the haul for one night, cherie.”

“Monsters,” Vasily whispered. “You’re both insane.”

“Oh, that’s fine coming from you,” said Pierre. “The husband who kept the bodies of his wife and child in his bed?”

“I didn’t want them to… I couldn’t…” Vasily trailed off, went back into his silent trance.

“Where shall we go, once we’ve dropped our friend here?” asked Ilona.

“Wherever you wish, my lady,” said Pierre. He was in a very good humour now. “My troika is at your service.”

“Well, it’s been fun so far,” murmured Ilona. “Thank you for the sleigh ride.”

She bent her face into the young man’s neck and took a small delicious sip of his blood. He gasped, pressing his eyes shut. His lips moved as if he were praying.

Carefree, Ilona and Pierre held hands across Vasily’s lap, the fur of their thick gloves and coat-sleeves entwined, brown and white. Around them snowflakes swirled and rushed past in great flurries, and the three magnificent grey horses leapt onwards through the snowstorm, pulling their sleigh at wild speed, harness bells jingling.

“My pleasure,” said Pierre. “I promised you the fairy tale.”

*****

Copyright © Freda Warrington 2015. All rights reserved.

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About The Dark Arts of Blood:

In 1920s Switzerland, vampire lovers Charlotte and Karl are drawn into turmoil as Godric Reiniger, a local filmmaker and activist with sinister ambitions, begins his rise to power.

Meanwhile, fiery dancer Emil achieves his dream to partner the legendary ballerina and vampire Violette Lenoir – until his forbidden desire for her becomes an obsession. Rejected, spiralling towards madness, he seeks solace with a mysterious beauty, Fadiya. But she too is a vampire, with a hidden agenda.

When Karl and Charlotte undertake the perilous journey to rescue Emil, they unearth secrets that threaten the very existence of vampire-kind.

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