[From VBC: I'm so excited to be able to share with you this great short by E.S. Moore. His urban fantasy novel To Walk the Night is set to hit stores next month, and it looks good. In the meantime, get a taste of E.S. Moore's tone and then enter for your chance to win a copy of To Walk the Night.]
by E.S. Moore
“Best Christmas memory. Go!”
Ethan’s voice startled me from my reverie. I’d been sitting in the chair, staring into the dying embers of the fire, thinking about my next run. A rogue vampire had caught my eye and I was anxious to deal with him.
“What?” I said. I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right.
“Best Christmas memory,” he said. His hair was a mess and he had one leg thrown over the arm of his chair. He was wearing green pajama bottoms with elves frolicking on them.
I paused a moment to think about it. “I guess the year Thomas and I took down a werewolf torture house.”
“Seriously?” he said, sitting up. “That’s it?”
I shrugged. “Yeah.” It wasn’t like my family had ever really celebrated Christmas. Times had been hard back then and the holidays usually slipped our minds. “What about you?”
Ethan turned his face towards the faint glow of what used to be a warming fire.
He was holding his mug, but the hot cocoa had long ago cooled.
There was a long pause before he finally spoke. “I was maybe eight years old,” he said. “I knew the bad guys were out there in the dark, but was still young enough to feel like they wouldn’t touch me or my family. My parents were good in that way, always kept up hope even when things started crumbling around us.”
I nodded. Ethan’s parents were dead, like mine. Like a lot of people’s, really.
“Anyway, my dad went out late on Christmas eve to buy one last thing. It was a stupid thing to do, but I didn’t know that. Mom stayed up half the night waiting for him.” He fiddled with his mug before setting it down. “He didn’t come home that night.”
I shifted in my seat so I could better see him. This couldn’t be easy to talk about.
“So when Christmas day rolled around and he wasn’t there, mom did her best to make sure I didn’t know anything was wrong. I came downstairs and found the gifts on the couch and was excited like any kid would be.” He gave a wistful smile. “We didn’t have a tree. Mom thought the lights were too dangerous to leave on at night, even though everyone else on the block had them.”
He laughed, but it was strained. “I started opening my presents like I thought she might take them away if I didn’t hurry. Mom watched me, tears in her eyes. I figured she was just touched by how happy I was. It wasn’t until I stopped and looked around that I realized something was missing.
“‘Where’s dad?’ I said, all naïveté.
“Mom opened her mouth, probably to tell me some lie as not to ruin my Christmas, when the front door opened and there he was, snow head to foot, a big stupid grin on his face.” Ethan smiled. “He walked in and mom jumped up and ran to him. She hugged and kissed him despite the snow.”
“What happened to him?” I said.
Ethan glanced at me and rolled his eyes. “It’s stupid. Once mom was finished mauling him, he took us both outside. In the yard was a little tree. It couldn’t have been more than three feet tall, but to me, it was the biggest tree ever. He bought it so I could finally have a Christmas tree, though we didn’t light it at night.”
“He stayed out all night for a tree?” I couldn’t believe it. He’d risked everything for something he could have gotten anywhere, at a much safer time.
“In a way.” Ethan laughed. “It snowed pretty hard the night before. A truck overturned in the parking lot to the store and dad was stuck there while they took care of it. He waited in the bedding department and ended up falling asleep on a sample mattress. No one bothered to wake him up until morning.”
I shook my head in disbelief. He’d been lucky to come home alive.
“It was the best Christmas I ever had.” Some of the joy left his face and he stood. “I best get to bed. It’s going to be morning soon.” He punctuated that with a yawn and headed for the stairs.
“Ethan?” I called out to him just before he was out of sight.
He stopped and turned. “Yeah?”
“Merry Christmas.” It was the first time I’d said that in years. It sounded funny coming out of my mouth.
Ethan beamed. “Merry Christmas, Kat. Merry Christmas.”
He turned and walked upstairs. I sat alone for a few minutes more, watching the dying embers of the fire. When I rose, my skin was tingling from the coming sun.
I went upstairs to my room to wait out the long Christmas day. I thought about a tree.
Check out the synopsis below, then hit the Rafflecopter form to enter for your chance to win a copy of To Walk the Night. Open to U.S. and Canadian addresses. Enter by Dec. 26.
Kat Redding is the very thing she hunts: a vampire, thirsting for blood, capable of killing any creature unlucky enough to get in her path. The difference is, Kat kills her own kind in order to protect human Purebloods. She’s good at what she does. Good enough to earn the nickname Lady Death—and the enmity of every bloodthirsty being around. But now a vampire Count is intent on merging his House with a werewolf cult to create a force of terrifying power.
Kat can’t allow that to happen. Even if it means taking on a den of weres and a vampire more ruthless than any she’s encountered before. She has the weapons, the skill, and a few allies. But that may not be enough to eliminate the Count before her own dark nature rises to the surface—and costs her whatever is left of her humanity…