Count Dario Giovanni swore he would do anything to save his sister from the evil countess who enslaved her. He couldn't have imagined in his most depraved nightmare just how hellish "anything" would become. Damned to walk the earth alone, his only comfort the dream woman who haunts him during slumber, he is the guardian between hell and earth.
Four hundred years later, the evil vampire rises again. Dario vows to kill her at any cost. And to hunt down the human female who turns out to be more than an elusive dream.
Reader advisory: The legend of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, the "Blood Countess", is not for the weak of stomach or faint of heart.
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from The Hunger by Jaid Black
Dario closed his eyes and took a deep breath. One vampire dead, two hundred and nine left to vanquish.
Thankfully, mercifully, killing the undead became easier with each rotting corpse the two men left behind. Indeed, they all but had their system down to an art. Dario opened the coffins, Hans moved their positioned hands and Dario struck.
When three hours and some minutes had passed and they'd killed nigh unto two hundred vampires, the count began to worry that they might not find Elizabeth's resting place until 'twas far too late. There were two tombs left--fourteen undead creatures.
And mere minutes until sunset.
"We must work fast," Dario instructed, entering the next crypt with Hans. "Time works against us now."
"It always has, milord."
As sunset approached, Dario grew stronger, more powerful. Unfortunately, he knew the same would be true of Elizabeth. The count wielded but two advantages over the countess--his ability to walk in the sun and his dogged determination to save his sister.
He prayed to the saints 'twould be enough.
They killed another vampire. And another. And another. She was everywhere and she was nowhere. Dario could feel her, could smell her, and yet she continued to elude him.
The men alighted from the second to the last tomb and back up into the dark, cold underground cemetery. Their gazes both wandered to the final crypt. The countess of Bathory had to be in one of the coffins deep below it. There was nowhere else left for the vampiress to lie in wait.
Hans clutched a crucifix and, holding it to his lips, kissed the feet of his God. Pocketing the religious symbol, the butler pulled out the skeleton key and prepared to open the vault.
The key sank in. The door did not open.
The old man fumbled with the key, eyes rounding. "It won't unlock," he gasped, his terror tangible.
Dario checked his pocket watch. Eleven minutes to sunset.
The count could feel the queen vampiress pushing against the door to the crypt with her mind. 'Twas as if she possessed an ethereal key on the other side of it, quickly locking it every time Hans unlocked it.
Nine minutes to sunset.
"Nay!" Dario bellowed, muscles tensing, fury erupting. They could not have come this far only to lose now. "You will not win!" he roared, hammering against the sealed tomb door with his fists. He kicked at it, beat it with his shoulder. "Damn you to hell!"
The door to the crypt flew open, slapping Hans in the face with its brute force. The old man slumped over, eyes rolling to the back of his head, his body falling to the ground. Elizabeth Bathory stood over him, eyes lit up green, pike-like teeth revealed.
"When I go to hell," the countess vowed, "I take you with me."
"Do not be afraid, little one. I will allow no harm to come to you."
"I wish you were real. I need you."
His powerful arms drew her in close to his chest. She could hear the steady beat of his heart, feel the security that only his embrace could provide.
Why couldn't he be real?
"I am real," he said softly. "You are the phantom, bella..."
Dawn blinked. She blinked again. Bella. The word was Italian for "beautiful".
Her daydreams were crazy. She was crazy.
On a deep sigh, Dawn plopped down onto her bed in Hotel Sacher and stared at the ceiling. Why had she come to Vienna? She had never possessed even the tiniest desire to see it, yet for unfathomable reasons had been irresistibly drawn to it.
Her gaze flicked to the nightstand beside her bed, and to a bunch of tour brochures that lay there. Sitting up, she plunked the pile of pamphlets onto her lap and leafed through them.
Freud's house--boring. Vienna coffeehouse tour. Huh. Just what she needed--more caffeine to keep her impossibly more awake than she already was. Vienna Zoo. Sch?nbrunn Palace tour. Haunted mansion of the Blood Countess. Opera House. The--
Dawn's gaze flew back to the tour of the haunted mansion. Her pulse picked up for inexplicable reasons as she thumbed over to page nine for an in-depth description.
Countess Elizabeth Bathory, known to antiquity as the "Blood Countess", was murdered in the early 1600s by unknown persons who believed her to be a vampire. Whether human or monster, Countess Bathory was undeniably responsible for the torture and murder of hundreds of servant girls and perhaps a dozen or more children of the noble class. Rumored to be obsessed with eternal youth, she purportedly believed she could obtain it by drinking her victims' blood. Was she a vampire or merely a twisted sociopath? Come see the house of horrors that is the Bathory estate and draw your own conclusion.
We provide tours in many languages, including English, Japanese...
Dawn stopped reading the description and quickly scanned the page for when the next English-speaking tour was scheduled. Her heartbeat quickened as she located the information she sought.
"Tonight," she whispered to the walls.
Maybe she was crazy. Maybe she was trying to put together a puzzle that didn't exist. Maybe Dr. Andrews--and everyone else, for that matter--was right.
And maybe, Dawn thought as she fell back onto the bed with a sigh, maybe she could let her obsessions go after she visited this Blood Countess' home...and realized once and for all that vampires didn't exist.