Guest Blogger-Lauren Smith
Hi all! I’m Charly, Rebecca’s assistant. We thought it’d be fun to do a ‘Romance: The Good, the Bad, and the Disastrous’ theme with guest bloggers throughout the summer months. Every Monday and Thursday, we’ll have a guest blogger talk about fun stuff like horrible dates, good dates, etc. Some bloggers will have a contest, and some won’t – it’s totally up to them. If there is a contest, I’ll randomly draw a winner from the post comments, send the winner’s email address to the guest blogger, and they’ll take it from there. Rebecca will jump in and blog when she can. For now, enjoy as we play!
I don’t know about you, but I love vampires. LOVE them. Like I wish I had my own special sexy vampire to cuddle up with in bed at night. Tragically I don’t. However, I do have an amazing story to share about my experience with what is as close to a real vampire as I might ever get. To set the scene: I was studying at Trinity College in Dublin Ireland for a few weeks while I was in college. Jonathan, a fellow student in the study abroad program, convinced me to check out a church called St. Michans. It’s rumored that Bram Stoker grew up playing in the crypts as a child and that’s where his inspiration for Dracula came from. Why? Because they are MUMMIES, actual mummies in the crypts that are popping out of their broken coffins and due to the unique atmosphere of the earth, they haven’t decayed much, hence Stoker’s influential depiction of Dracula when he first rose from the grave. Now, as to my experience, I’ll let you be the judge about my experience with vampires…
The weather was unseasonably warm in Dublin that year. The rain bled through every nook and cranny of the city, misting on the hot earth. I had never been to Ireland before, but was beyond thrilled to go with a friend to the tiny yet haunting St. Michan’s church. Under a blanket of gray skies, pregnant with rain, my friend, Jonathan and I approached the church yard. Tombstones exploded out of the earth at unsettling angles, like a crooked Stonehenge. The carved names were faded, worn away by the wind and rain of centuries. Skulls and baby angels’ faces were etched on the particularly older grave markers, a sign of the permanence of death.
I was lost in thoughts of plague victims and the dead who’d perished before their time, when Jonathan drew me from my reverie.
“This is the church where Bram Stoker drew his inspiration for Dracula?”
“According to Wikipedia,” I chuckled at his astonished expression. “Yes, history majors do read wiki articles.”
Suddenly Jonathan’s face paled and he raised a hand to point at something beyond my left shoulder. Tingles of dread shot down my spine as I slowly looked to where he was pointing. A tiny tabby cat perched on a cracked marble tomb, watching us. Its eyes were a bright and unyielding yellow, the color of neon. Despite the lack of sun, its pupils were narrow slits. It continued to stare unblinking as another wave of rain passed through the graveyard. Mist curled up in slender tendrils around the cat, stroking the graves and grass as it engulfed the world beyond the dead. I shuddered as I realized I could not see past the churchyard. Jonathan reached for my hand, his handsome face contorted with fear.
“I didn’t know a cat could be so scary,” he muttered as he started to drag me around the edge of the gothic church. “Come on, we have to find the entrance to the crypt so we don’t miss the tour.”
It took us several minutes to find the crypt; it was actually concealed by a heavy metal storm door. It took the two of us to wedge our fingers under the heavy lip of the door and pull. It swung up and fell open with a thunderous clang, revealing a cavernous entrance below. Jonathan looked at me, his brown eyes dark and unreadable as he gestured for me to go first.
“Chivalry is dead,” I sighed, trying not to let my fear show at having to into that blackness. I felt like Persephone descending into Hades’ realm, and I couldn’t help but wonder what monsters waited below. The rain sluiced down the steps, making the old worn stones slippery. I dug my fingers into the sides of the wall, trying to steady myself as I began my decent. It was pitch black. Not one lantern, nor lightbulb to guide me. I cursed silently that I hadn’t brought a cell phone on the trip. Although I doubted its feeble light could penetrate the inky air around me.
The heavy smell of musty earth and decay invaded my nostrils, the smell sickly sweet, like the aroma of dying flowers, crushed and rotting after a heavy rainfall. It was a smell that charged the space around me, filling me with a strange desire to breathe, to live, to escape. I was never one to feel claustrophobic, but the fragrance of death battled against my sanity. Every instinct in my pleaded for mercy, to flee and save myself. But instincts and the mastering of them are what set humans apart from their animal brethren, and so I continued on, determined to ignore the primal fear of what the darkness held.
“What do you see?” Jonathan’s voice echoed down the stairs.
“Nothing,” I found myself whispering. I was among the dead, could sense them, their bodies all around me, suffocating, yet silent. I continued on, palms sliding over the rough stone of the crypt walls. And then the wall to my right gave way to empty air. I never even had time to scream. I plummeted to the ground, the cold earth giving way beneath my hands and knees. A pearl of faint light bloomed ahead of me. A drop of moonlight where there was no moon. And beneath its opaque glow lay the figure of a woman. The gilded edges of her coffin were laced with silver and black wood. Her gaunt features were delicate, those of a lady, her gown was made of gossamer fine threads spun like a delicate spider’s web. Fascination drew me closer, all thoughts of Jonathan and the world above the tomb were gone. The woman was dead, her skin tight on her bones, yet there was a macabre beauty to her.
Visions of a lovely lady, scorned by life which should have blessed her, danced before me. I could hear strains of faint music, the final notes of a melancholy tune. The whisper of slippers on a great hall floor, as she spun and twirled; her laughter was soft like bells on Christmas morning. A great ache welled within me, choking my throat as emotion clasped it tight. She had been robbed of life, this beautiful one and for that I was truly sorry.
“Touch her,” a silky voice teased my ear. I felt hot breath of someone just behind me.
Was I in the grasp of some haunting dream, where ghouls took hold of maidens fair and forced them to face the destiny of their last hours? I tried to shake my head, to wrestle free of the heavy spell the corpse wove around me. But the web clung tight, obscuring rationality.
“Go on, touch her hand, it will bring you luck, if you are brave enough.” A whisper of a laugh followed this.
Like sleeping beauty, unable to resist the temptation to touch the spindle that would bring her doom, I reached for the woman’s hand. Her skin was soft, not papery as I had expected. I stroked my fingertips down over the fine boned hand, until they bumped against the heavy emerald ring. The cold jewel drew me back to reality. I pulled away, disconnecting myself from the lady.
“I can’t believe you did that,” Jonathan’s voice forced me to turn. He stood against the wall, a pale beam of flashlight fixed on his face. His chest expanded rapidly with heavy breaths. His eyes were filled with silent confusion, as though he’d never seen me before. Had I changed so much in a few brief minutes. Another man stood aiming the light at him, and looking in my direction. Had he been standing there watching me? I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard him.
“Who are you?” I demanded of the man with the flashlight.
He flicked the beam onto his own face, making a mask of mock horror.
“Welcome to the tour. You’ve just touched a four hundred year old mummy. Now come, there’s a lot more to see.” The tour guide wandered off, a small herd of tourists following him.
Now I don’t know about you, but that was my best vampire experience ever, or close enough to it!
Lauren Smith is an attorney by day, author by night, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She’s a native Oklahoman who lives with her three pets: a feisty chinchilla, sophisticated cat and dapper little schnauzer. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including being an Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.
Passion that takes no prisoners, and love that tests the limits of ecstasy . . .
Fenn Lockwood comes alive in the shadows. Though he might have physically survived the kidnapping that stole his childhood, the trauma and pain he lived through have marked him forever. Now the only place where Fenn can be himself is within the walls of his private BDSM world—a place of erotic obsession, where desire isn’t just captured . . . it’s bound.
Hayden Thorne knows that behind Fenn’s hardened exterior is a man worth fighting for. Yet to save him from the past that still haunts him, Hayden will have to abandon every inhibition she’s ever had and venture into Fenn’s intoxicatingly sensual world. Each tantalizing second she spends in Fenn’s searing embrace is more delicious than the last and soon Hayden begins to think that she may never want to leave such torturous bliss . . .