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April 29, 2015




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Jackie Ivie's forsakingfirst place
The Vampire Assassin League #26
by Jackie Ivie
July 9, 2015

Available now at:
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-He's a vampire

The last thing he wants is company...


Bred by the western frontier, Bram Stark had been a cowboy. Gambler. Wanted man with a bounty on his head. He’s got a lot to atone for. Vampirism gave him eternity for it.


Marielle has an artistic soul. A lot of talent. A love of the paranormal. And a lot of baggage. She goes where fate takes her. Life is short. She’s not wasting any of it.


Exploration of a hidden tunnel leads to a man claiming to be a vampire - as if they really exist. She’s intrigued but skeptical. He’s challenging. The game is Stud Poker. The stakes are high.

...her soul.

(Warning - sexual content. Violence)



Chapter Nine

He was thankful he’d cleaned up in his big Victorian claw-foot tub and donned new store-bought underwear briefs before heading into the city last night. This could be worse. Bram shifted on the seat. The wood was hard. Unforgiving. Shoving deeper into it didn’t alleviate the throbbing pain overtaking his groin area. It felt like he was immersed in a fiery bath and someone kept adding boiling water.

Lady Luck was on Marielle’s side. And she was good. Not perfect, but damn close. The two times he’d had a better hand, he’d believed her bluff and folded. She now had over two million in chips in front of her. He’d lost his spurs, his boots, and both socks. She knew a whole lot about him, too.

More than any other person.


He’d told her how he’d run away from home - a farm back east. Hooked up with a herd leaving Texas. Learned how to ride. Rope. He’d been twelve. Big for his age. Raw-boned. Eager. Angry. Those traits helped when he’d been tossed from a mustang or had to race down a stampede and head it off.

After he lost the next hand, he’d told Marielle of those years. Six of them. Each summer the trail ended at Dodge City. That last year he’d gotten a little too drunk. Shot up a bit too much of the city. Had a nice overnight stay in the jail. Gotten off with a fine. That night altered him. He no longer cared for long days in the saddle with only his horse and the wind. He wanted more out of life.

So. With Marielle’s next win, he’d told her more. He’d spent his nineteenth year practicing guns and cards, got fitted for a couple of fancy suits, and took up life as a steamboat gambler. The Mississippi River was full of men just like him, all working the card rooms and anywhere else they could get into a game. Or a fight. Bram ran through a couple of small fortunes before deciding gambling wasn’t his calling, either.

A couple of wins later, and his mate knew more.

Bram had been twenty-seven then. He’d been in a few gunfights. He never lost. He had a reputation. Dobbin Creek, Nevada wanted that. They’d hired him as sheriff. And despite how he’d flushed and mumbled through it, Marielle got him to admit that he’d toyed with settling down then. He’d had his eye on a clapboard house and a very pretty girl. Fate sent him on another path, however. He didn’t tell her why. That was one secret nobody would ever hear. It had been bad enough he’d ditched a future and gone into Indian Territory for a spell. Bram joined a gang. Spent a summer and fall working the stage line, lightening drivers of their strongboxes. Getting his picture and name on wanted posters.

He’d learned from that experience. Not how to become an outlaw. That was the easy part. He’d learned that nobody could be trusted. And that any company was sometimes too much company.

Oh. Hell. His mate even knew how he’d been turned.

He’d been heading back to Dobbin Creek. Spring. 1883. Penance included paying for past sins, and remorse was a weight he’d tired of hefting. He suffered a thirst nothing quenched, a hunger nothing satisfied. He felt old beyond his years. Thirty-four. That’s why he’d surrendered to a posse. He hadn’t fought a neck-stretching from the first tree they’d come across, either. He still remembered the feeling of everything going dark before fate stepped in again. Akron Profit had materialized from behind him, tossed Chinese-made firecrackers like they were candy, scattered men and horses, and then he’d cut Bram down. That night Bramwell Stark got the choice: Vampirism or burial in an unmarked hole somewhere between Winnemucca and Carson City.

She didn’t look quite as skeptical when he’d finished, but he was only able to send a quick glance her way before looking elsewhere. He didn’t have a choice. The room had gotten warmer. The air even heavier. Each breath carried a sensual scent now, adding to his ills. He couldn’t quite place it. Warmed musk oil? A hint of cedar wood as it caught fire? All he could do was endure it and try to keep her in ignorance.

One more hand, and she’d have his gun. He’d also be out of chips. Unless she loaned him some. Or he managed to win. She started shuffling, losing more than one card as if she’d lost agility or something. Bram watched her hands. He didn’t dare look anywhere else.

Her heart was a ragged thump of motion. He knew because his matched it. Her breaths were short. Almost gasped. His own matched them perfectly, making him a bit light-headed. That was ridiculous. He didn’t need air. He hadn’t breathed for decades. The consequence of finding his mate shouldn’t change things this much. He had to focus. She hadn’t shed one piece of clothing, but he could swear he saw the outline of nipples through her shirt. Small. Pinched tight.

At the sight, he lost command of his canines. He’d been keeping them at half-length. That stricture was history. He clamped his lips shut. Fangs stabbed into his tongue. The taste sent fire shooting to his groin, scorching the area. The zipper fly was the temperature of a red-hot branding iron. This was worse than penance.

“So...what’s it like?”

Her voice was a husky whisper. His shoulders sagged momentarily before he caught the loss of control. Bram tightened everything again. Trembled for a bit. And then he tried to answer. He should have waited. The word was growled. And slurred, due to his teeth.


“Being a vampire. What’s it like?”

She looked sincere. Bram’s glance touched on her features before skittering away. The piano to one side of them was inanimate. Wood. Ivory. Strings. Totally safe.

“Pure hell at the moment,” he finally replied.

“Really? Why?”

“I can’t answer that.”

“I knew you weren’t a vampire.”

He shook his head.

“I have to win another hand first? Is that it?”


“Then, why can’t you answer it?”

He licked his lower lip. It was a wasted gesture. He didn’t have any spit and his fangs were in the way. “Becoming a vampire is being dead. I can walk. Talk. Exist. But I’m still dead.”

“I thought it was eternal life.”

“No. Uh...well. No.” He sounded like he’d been on a three day drunk. With bad whiskey.

“You don’t look dead.”

He cleared his throat. That didn’t do much for his voice, either. “We’re told when we go into this. We all get warned. Getting turned is not eternal life. It’s eternal death. Unless...uh.” He stopped. Choked down a swallow through a too-dry throat. Blinked. The piano wouldn’t even come into focus.

“Unless what?”

“There’s one, uh...event that alters undeath. Brings...things back.”

“What things?”

“Sensations. Emotions. Heartbeat. The ability to...uh. Yeah.”

Damn it to hell. And back. He was blushing. He felt it taking over his upper chest, throat, and then it stained cheeks. And his dick was joining in, slamming against the zipper with bruising efficiency.


She wasn’t going to let it go. He’d have to tell her. He’d just have to be strong enough to hold any response back. It felt like his entire afterlife had been spent readying for this one moment. The mate gift was everything Akron had promised. And then some. It was wonder. Awe. Amazement.

He was afraid of what it would feel like if she rejected him.

“So...are you going to tell me what it is? Or do I have to guess?”

He narrowed his eyes. Nope. Still couldn’t see the piano clearly. There was a red-colored wash of color in the way. Blood red. Thick. He spoke in that general direction. “You sure you want to know?”

“Oh. Yes. Most definitely.”

Bram turned his head. Lifted his chin so he could see around the hat brim. He didn’t even try and hide his teeth. Oddly, her image was the only thing he could make out. She was surrounded by a haze of red-tinted fog. And damn. She was incredibly beautiful. That long black hair. Those aqua-shaded eyes. The full, red-hued lips. He shook for long moments as he took in the view. The wooden chair kept accompaniment as it skittered along the floor, pulling rugs with it. One of the arms broke loose in a hand. He clenched his fist tighter around it, warping the wood.

“We find our mate.”


“I didn’t believe it. Thought it was so much hokum. Until...right now.”

“You have fangs.”

“I know. I’m a vampire. I told you.”

“Holy shit! You have fangs!”

Her eyes widened. Her voice rose. Both bad signs. Bram didn’t move his gaze.

“Marielle? I need an answer.”

“To what?”

“I just explained. I have been reanimated. It’s hell. Trust me. You don’t have much time. I don’t know what will happen if your answer is no. Heck. I don’t even know what will happen if the answer is yes.”


He didn’t actually hear the word. There was too much buzzing going through his ears. He saw her lips make the gesture and assigned the sound. And then she pointed to herself. His heart stopped.

“I’m your mate?”

He managed to nod. It seemed to be the only motion available to him. Everything else on his entire frame was locked in place. Held in check by the power of will alone. Just like his Colt 45 when he used it.

Hammer back. Loaded. Primed.

And cocked.





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