Blaze is on the run for being caught with another man, and the posse on his trail will never give up. Not that Blaze cares, half dead as he is from thirst and a near hanging.
Vampire Edmund is long past being interested in human affairs, but when he finds Blaze in his barn, he feels a deep connection that goes beyond sight. Can he save this young man and teach Blaze that their love is nothing to be ashamed of?
This story is also included in Eternally Dark Anthology.
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He’d done walked for days, hiding when he saw folks, knowing his mark of shame would be enough to send folks running for their rifles, and God knew he weren’t in no shape to outrun a bullet.
He’d done used up every ounce of luck he’d ever earned himself.
Blaze Vernon swallowed, the fire in his throat bigger than the hunger that gnawed at him. Wasn’t going to be the hunger that killed him, though. No sir.
That was going to be the thirst. He’d managed a few drinks, the first days after the hanging rope broke on him, but not since. His throat was closed tighter than a nun’s business and the bubbling creek laughed at him, all that clean mountain water a taunt he couldn’t take in.
He leaned against a good-sized aspen, sucking air.
Three days he’d been up among the gray-barked trunks, the leaves shaking in the breeze and making him watch his back trail. He had a feeling he was going in circles.
Maybe tonight would be the night he froze. He prayed it would be painless.
The trees moaned, a heavy gust of wind signaling the coming night. The mountains got downright mean at dusk.
Please God. He just needed somewhere safe to sleep, pray that he could heal enough to drink, to have a bite of food. Then he could head for California. A man could begin again there, he heard.
Blaze staggered, then righted himself, hand on a tree trunk. He couldn’t stay right where he was, so he turned in a full circle, squinting into the gathering dark.
Whoa, now. Was that a light?
Okay. That was a tiny sliver of flickering fire. A lamp, perhaps.
He forced himself to follow it, to stumble forward, shamble along. His feet dragged through the fallen leaves, his toes cold from the holes in his boots.
There was a light. A house, even, although his eyes couldn’t believe the size of it. How had he not seen this before now? The place looked like a storybook castle, one his momma might have talked about from the old country, her Irish lilt dearly missed.
Anything this size would have barns, outbuildings, yes? He stayed to the heaviest shelter of the trees, the snow beginning to fall as he searched. Yes. Hidden away behind the huge stone edifice were smaller, neatly kept outbuildings. A place to sleep.
He crept across the clearing, staying low, nearly crawling as he wheezed and grunted each painful step out. His hands started to bleed, his skin so dry it began to crack. If he didn’t freeze, he’d blow away.
Please God, he prayed again. I just need to sleep.
The barn door opened when he tugged, the rollers well-oiled so no sound came from it. Hallelujah.
He closed the snow and the wind out, finding an empty stall, clean straw. He collapsed into it with a soft sob. The sound tore his throat, choking him a bit.
Thank you, he thought. Better to die here than frozen in woods to not be found ‘til spring. He didn’t have the energy to dig into the straw or to try and find a blanket.
He wasn’t sure it would make a difference, anyhow. Death was a’comin’. It was just a matter of time.