Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion

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There’s a fragile truce between warring factors of the Damned, the vampires of Georgian England, in the peaceful village of Chawton. But that peace is about to be destroyed when Jane discovers her beloved niece Anna has been seduced bu the vampire Richard Duval. Meanwhile she must fight off her own imminent metamorphosis (her transition into one of the Damned again).

Jane placed her hand on Anna’s wrist. She stank of Duval, of blood—Jane tried to ignore her sudden pang of hunger—and her face held the sated, foolish look of pleasure of one who had been thoroughly dined upon. She removed her hand as she received Anna’s half-forgotten memories, pleasure and wonder and confusion; this was all too intrusive.

Arousing, too. But she forced that unworthy thought from her mind and considered practical matters. If Jane were to persuade her to come home, Anna must be revived with a drop of vampire blood in wine. But Duval might not oblige, and in that case Jane must and would carry her across the fields.

“Why are you wearing men’s clothes, Aunt Jane? I know it is wicked and against all that the Bible says, but you look very well.”

“Thank you, my dear. I try and look upon it as the sartorial equivalent of eating roast pork.”

Anna gave a faint smile. “Would you like some tea, Aunt Jane?”

“I think not. You and I should get back to our cottage in time for breakfast, I think. We’ll be there in a few minutes and drink our own tea. You may help me make toast.”

Anna’s expression of gentle amusement did not change. “I don’t believe, so, ma’am.”

“But I thought making toast was an occupation to which you were most partial,” Jane said. “And there is Martha’s jam, remember.”

“No.”

Jane gazed at Anna, wondering how to reach her. She had no doubt Duval mastered her; her instinct was to grasp the young woman’s shoulders and shake sense into her, but she doubted it would do any good. But she needed something to shock sense into her niece, to make her aware of the danger and impropriety of her situation.

“This is a very comfortable house,” Jane said, keeping her voice gentle. “I am glad they have been kind to you. You remember its usual occupants, Mr. Prowting and Miss Lizzie Prowting, of course; they always ask after you. Now, that china shepherdess on the mantelpiece is one of Lizzie’s favorites.”

“It is pretty,” Anna agreed.

Jane, with a silent apology to Lizzie Prowting, drew a pistol, cocked it, and aimed. The shot was tremendously loud in the room, echoing from the high ceiling.

Anna screamed and leaped out of the chair, fragments of china tumbling from her gown.

Jane, the pistol tucked into her coat again, grasped Anna’s shoulders, and saw, with a guilty shock, that a splinter of porcelain as sharp as glass had pierced her niece’s cheek. She made her voice firm and kind. “I am sorry to injure you, my dear. I did not intend that to happen. You must come home with me now!”

“You hurt me!” Anna whimpered, but her eyes were clearer. Some of that dazed, pleasured expression had faded.

“Come.” Jane tugged at her arm, but was far too aware of the trickle of blood on her niece’s pale cheek, its slow bloom and slide toward her neck.

“Delicious, isn’t she?” Duval said. He stood at the doorway, en sanglant. He too stared at Anna’s blood.

“Don’t touch her!” Jane moved to block his path.

His action was so fast she barely registered his blow until she landed with an ungainly thump a few yards away, the side of her face stinging and tender and one eye already swelling closed. She stood in time to see Anna in Duval’s arms, his slow lick to cleanse the blood, his breath to close the wound.

“Well?” Duval said. “You are not needed here, Miss Austen.”

Her teeth stung and hunger stirred within her. “Anna,” she said. “Oh, Anna, my dear, come home with me.”

But Anna stood within Duval’s arms, her head resting on his shoulder, a look of immense satisfaction and peace on her face, her eyes fluttering closed.

“Go,” Duval said. “Go, or I shall create her as you watch.”

“You would not dare,” Jane said. “Besides, as her Creator, you could not also be her lover.”

“Times are changing, my dear Miss Austen.”

Jane drew her other pistol. “Release her.”

“You won’t fire. You know I can move faster than you and you wouldn’t want to shoot your beloved niece. Your carelessness with your first shot would have scarred her beauty had I not healed her. You may thank me for that. Leave, Miss Austen.”

“You are unmannerly, sir.” She hoped her comment would wound him—after all, the Damned revered good manners—but Duval merely laughed.

“It’s unmannerly to point a loaded pistol at your host, Miss Austen.” He released Anna back into her chair and lunged at Jane. She saw him coming and fired, but her shot went wide. He pinned her to the floor, his face close to hers, and sent the pistol spinning away, smoke still rising from the barrel.

“You fear metamorphosis,” he whispered. “You’d sacrifice your own niece to save your precious soul. Or maybe not. What say I hasten the process?”

She tried to twist away from him, but his strength and weight overwhelmed her; how soon before his scent and beauty seduced her and she succumbed to his power?

“Do we have a bargain? You or her, Jane?”

Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion

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