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Blood & Juniper (A Vampire Tale)

Author: VPSugarRush

© Webnovel

Chapter 1: Reapers & Ashes (Part 1)

End of Summer, year 2017.

Call it a hunch, but I knew today was going to end like this. Just like I knew I was going to be let go of my cushy, dream job I traveled miles away from home for. It's been half a year now, but I still have that bitter taste in my mouth from being let go.

Just like how I know my landlord is planning to kick me out next Friday. He's at the end of his rope with my favors and I can't blame him. I'm always short on rent, since my minuscule paycheck at the hole in the wall restaurant isn't cutting it. Let's just say I'm not looking forward to it.

And just this last week, going into an old church, I knew someone was going to give me something the second I stepped through the double doors. I hadn't set foot in a church in years, it was a move of desperation with the way my life has been falling apart at the seams. And just as expected, an item was presented to me, although I didn't know it would be a priest approaching me with this "gift".

It is a rather unusual piece. A simple but beautiful necklace with a long, delicate gold chain. The pendant is made of thin glass rounded and hollow, filled with what seems to be water, seeing how it's clear. "For your protection," his earnest words echo in my head.

It's a pretty good sized pendant, fitting in my palm but surprisingly light. "It looks like a mini snow globe," my co worker commented earlier. When the light hit it just right, it sparkled and swirled magically. I don't know what this necklace means, some kind of symbolic thing? I didn't exactly go into that church for "protection".

Regardless, I'm still wearing it today, though it doesn't appear to be protecting me from what's happening right now.

I'm being followed.

I've just finished my long shift at the crappy diner. The night sky is in full swing, the last of the sun's red glow had disappeared behind the horizon line hours ago. And I *knew* this would happen, almost like déjà vu, it's spelled out so clearly.

The question is, if I knew I was going to be followed, why did I basically walk straight into danger? This isn't a great part of town and you don't have to have my remarkably accurate hunches to know I shouldn't have been walking home alone after sunset.

Usually, I take the bus home but I got off later than usual, I would have had to wait an hour or so for the next one. Still, I could have asked for a ride or waited until I felt it was safe, anything that wasn't so stupid!

I suppose with everything crashing down around me, I let go of all of my cares for the sake of my sanity. Even my self preservation didn't seem to matter a while ago.

Now, I'm seriously regretting my momentary disregard for my own safety. The way my luck is going lately, I'm going to end up paying dearly for my bad judgement. I'm a fairly small girl after all. I'm not naive enough to think a man couldn't overpower me, and I have not one but three men following me.

I take a few turns that are not my usual route home, in hopes that it's just coincidence. 'They are just headed in my direction, my hunch is wrong and I'm just working myself up.' I try to reassure myself I'm over reacting.

Nope, I feel panic rise higher into my throat with each turn I take, the men are still tailing me.

'Ok, I'm definitely in trouble.' I shove the panic back down and start to think hard on what I need to do to get out of this.

Reaching into my half apron pocket, I blindly feel around for my phone. The screen doesn't light up when I press my thumb to the power button and I want to smack myself. Oh, of course! I had drained the battery listening to podcasts and music while at work even though I technically wasn't even supposed to. This was either Murphy's law at work or a cruel karma for breaking workplace rules.

My face scrunches in frustration. Why did my old battery have to lose juice so quickly, today of all days? I should have upgraded this piece of crap a long time ago...

I catch a few glances of these men but don't turn to look at them completely. I don't want to make my uneasiness too obvious.

Two of the men are chatting with each other as they follow. Actually, one seems to be doing all the talking, while the other is only acknowledging what he's saying, occasionally adding something in. From what I can see the other is lagging farther behind. I wasn't sure if he was a part of the group at first but my few random test turns have confirmed that he's with the other two.

I can't make out what they are talking about but the chatty one has a strong, baritone voice that carries. He sounds oddly carefree but I could see him being pretty intimidating, especially given his large and robust stature that I can make out from his silhouette.

Unfortunately, I'm on the outskirts of the city, the podunk diner is far behind me now, and the few other stores are closed, locked up tight. There's no chance of me taking refuge in one of those.

The buildings are thinning out into a sparse residential area. The houses are super spread out here with forest on the other side of the road thickening the father I go. 'Great! How did I get here? This area looks unfamiliar, not to mention deserted!'

I see one house close by and think about walking into it as if it were mine, calling the cops, hopefully someone can help me inside.

My damn intuition wells up inside me. 'There's no one home, the doors are locked.' I'm certain of this as if I had checked the door myself. The darkened windows seem to confirm my intrusive hunch.

At that moment a crazy thought bubbles up into my brain. 'I need to go into the forest. I need to leave the road, now.' That sounds like a terrible idea.

Well, if it were an idea I wouldn't pay it any mind, but it's my trusty psychic-like thought.

I didn't heed my first hunch back at the diner and, as crazy as this is, it may be my only shot of getting out of this.

I make the mistake of unconsciously looking back at the men, while my thoughts are swirling.

The talkative, strong one catches my glance and calls out to me with a chuckle, "Where you 'eaded, sweetheart? It's not safe ta be wanderin' alone out 'ere."

His words are nonchalant and a little suggestive, he also has a strange accent that I can't place. Under other circumstances, I probably wouldn't even suspect this guy of malice. I can still hear the devious intentions emanating from the undertones of his words.

My eyes dart over to the trees, I lose my cool and make a sprint for my life into the brush. I hear an amused burst of laughter erupt from one of the men. It probably came from the scrawier one next to the big guy.

"Come on, honey, where do you think you're going?"

This one is less discreet about his motives, revealing his true intentions even stronger through every word. Some horrible images flood my mind of what they could possibly want from me. It gives me a boost to my speed and I lunge into the off road woods.

I'm crashing through the trees and bushes. The low branches and overgrown shrubs seem to reach for me like the hooked fingers of demons and imps trying to drag me down. The rubber band holding my ponytail gets caught on something and snaps. My hair is twisting wildly as branches grab and comb through it.

They continue to claw like boney hands trying to pull me back to my demise. I sprint full force ahead, trying not to trip on the uneven ground.

Thick branches swat and slash as my hair is yanked in every direction. The discomfort and pain of it is numbed by the terrifying thought of these men catching up to me.

Air stings my dry throat as I gulp it down, the ground whizzes past. I would have collapsed out of breath by now if it weren't for the adrenaline propelling me forward.

I can't hear the stalkers crushing leaves beneath their feet or crashing through trees behind me, however the occasional chatter from the men makes me realize they are gaining on me, and they are eerily close.

My heart is pounding ridiculously fast, trying to beat it's way out of my ribcage with each lurge. I can't seem to get enough air with each erratic suck. I start to wish I'd never left my family and friends back home.

Maybe I'll never see them again.

Tears creep into my eyes but I blink them out as I keep running. I can't give up, I need to push myself to run even faster, just a little further. My heart feels like it's going to burst.

"She's getting too close to the edge," A voice just behind me warns his friends, "Stop fooling around before we lose her."

Startled by how close the voice is, I urge myself to go impossibly faster.

It's too late, my heart sinks to the pit of my stomach as I'm abruptly grabbed by the arm. I lose my balance and expect to crash to the ground with the attacker, but he catches me like I weigh that of a feather, even my momentum doesn't seem to stifle him.

I scream a hoarse, desperate scream that's incredibly short lived as another strong hand grips uncomfortably tight around my mouth and jaw. I kick, flail, and swing my free arm around wildly. I'll do anything just to get out of this man's grip.

"A fighter, are ya, love?"

My eyes snap forward to see the talkative, built one standing casually in front of me. He looks entertained and doesn't seem out of breath in the slightest. He says it so nonchalantly like we're talking over a nice cup of tea.

What is with these guys? Are they going to hurt me, violate me, *murder* me? I have to find a way out of this! I don't want to know what the hell they're up to.

I squirm harder though it seems to do absolutely nothing but thoroughly annoy the man holding me.

"This is going to be very unpleasant for you if you don't settle the fuck down!" the man's fingers wrapping tighter around my mouth as he hisses in my ear.

His tone set off all sorts of alarm bells, being downright dangerous. I think it best to comply for the time being, struggling doesn't seem to have any effect on him, anyhow. I need to out wit them or take them off guard if I can manage it.

I show my submission breathing heavily under his large palm from over exerting myself.

"Wise decision," he says coldly, slowly removing his hand from my mouth and placing it on my free shoulder.

Great… Now he has a better grip on each side. I hope I made the right choice cooperating.

"This is too far..."

I glance over to locate the utterance full of chagrin to see the guy I think was lagging behind in the group, seeing how he is standing away from us even now.

He looks unhappy with his arms folded as he leans against a nearby tree. It's pretty dim, but I can make out a troubled grimace on his face, his body language comes off conflicted.

He looks young and fit but not as robust as the gabby one. I also can't help but notice he's actually very good looking. They all are, which only adds to my confusion. 'Why are they doing this? These men aren't scummy looking or visibly drunk.'

I ponder their reasoning and supposed motives to myself, bouncing my eyes from each one, lastly on the one keeping me captive.

When I look up at him a chill runs down my spine as I see him staring right at me, burning holes into my sockets as our eyes lock.

His wild gray eyes look deadly and intense. I can't help but let out a sharp, small gasp. I want to turn away but I'm too afraid to take my eyes off of his, as if he'll surely kill me then and there.

He narrows his eyes and slightly smirks as he shakes the disheveled, loose pieces of blonde hair from his face that aren't ties back.

He seems to enjoy my obvious terror. His gaze makes its way down, giving me elevator eyes as they reach my thighs and returning to my face. I break out in cold sweat, the look he's giving me makes all the warmth leave my body.

I wish I could slip out of his iron grip and run for the hills. I've never been so terrified.

I finally rip away from his leer. My eyes frantically flick around to see if there's anything to help me escape.

"Aww, come on Sammy, lighten up. It's nothin' personal, ya kno' tha'," I overhear the Brawny one try to cheer up the guy by the tree, as if nothing's wrong.

'Just a normal situation, grabbing and terrorizing a girl in the woods… Yeah, everyday stuff,' I think sarcastically. They continue their back and forth as I search for a way out. There's nothing, just forest.

I repeatedly look in every direction in a vain attempt that something will appear to save me, something I missed before, but it's just trees, bushes and dirt. Wait… bushes?

It wouldn't have even crossed my mind as something useful or peculiar if I didn't get another pang of intuition shooting into my brain as if it were common knowledge.

I need to cross these bushes over my shoulder. I don't know why and it doesn't make sense at all. I scan the area only lit by the thin but surprisingly bright sliver of moon shining above us.

They're ordinary bushes, nothing special about them other than some wild berries clinging to the branches but they do seem to be planted in a line almost like a barrier or wall, albeit not perfectly straight.

The guy jerks me back slightly. I glance up to see he's suspiciously examining the same area. He makes a short laugh in his throat and mutters, "Closer than I thought."

'What's closer than he thought?' It's apparent he was talking to himself but it seems to affirm there *is* something in that direction. Maybe, I really will be safe if I cross over, though, it's probably wishful thinking.

One thing's for certain, I'm definitely not safe here with these men. I'm feeling more at risk by the second. Especially since the blonde one is back to looking me over as if he wants to devour me.

He clutches me tighter, his restlessness becoming more obvious. The grip on my arm is painfully tight, almost cutting off circulation.

He must be waiting for the go ahead from the brawny one to finish their plans with me but the other two are still bickering about something. I'm currently not focused on what they are talking about, I'm waiting for the right moment.

He breathes out impatiently with obvious irritation as he turns his whole head to stare at his buddies.

Now's my chance.

While he's looking away, I kick with all my might as fast can, aiming straight for his balls.

I either missed or it had no effect because I wasn't able to tear myself away from his grip.

He spins me around lightning fast burrowing his horrible eyes into mine once more. They are even more terrifying this time as if I'm looking into the eyes of the devil himself.

'Shit, bad move.'

"You're not as smart as I thought," he says through a twisted smile filled with anger and rancor.

He throws me down hard on my back. My vision cuts for a second as I hit my head on the unforgiving dirt. I hear a thud in my ears as it hits, and a headache rapidly swallows my skull. My body soon follows, I wince from the sharp pain that shoots into my shoulder blade and the middle of my back.

I don't even have time to move, he's already on top of me, pinning my wrists to the ground. I try to blink the double vision away.

As my eyes refocus I see he's blatantly staring at my cleavage. I'm wearing my work shirt, one of those V necks that has 3 buttons at the top but no one ever buttons more than one.

I really wish I *had* buttoned it up to my neck at this point. My heart pounds as I realize I may have just made this situation a lot worse for myself.

"Wait," I utter weakly, my voice is hoarse from all the running and too soft from fear.

His fierce irises move up to meet mine showing that he heard me but otherwise ignores my plea. He focuses back on my heaving chest. He takes a hand off of one of my trembling wrists and reaches for a loose piece of my tousled hair near my jaw.

My eyes widen and I can feel a horrified expression stretching across my face. His cold fingers make their way down from my neck to my collar bone.

"No, STOP!" I cry out before he can go any further and grab his hand trying to pry it away.

His hand doesn't budge. I panic letting out a pathetic battle screech and flail around. Hitting him, scratching, pulling and trying to get away. It's like hitting a massive rock, useless.

I'm struck across the face and my head snaps to the side. I exhale sharply. He struck me with an open hand but the unbelievable force of it was like an unrestrained full fist punch. It was ridiculously quick!

My face feels numb and my temples throb. He grabs my cheeks, squeezing them, coaxing me to look into his evil gaze once again.

I'm dazed with spotty vision but those eyes burn into mine once more, getting progressively more alarming and irate.

I'm not in my right mind, I weakly try to pull his hand off my face.

He back hands me again. I swear it's instantaneous, I don't even feel his grip release my cheeks to strike me.

This one splits my lip. My cheek feels hard and puffy from massive welt forming. Spit and blood fly to the side as air rushes out of my lungs, I take a weak, long breath in trying to stay conscious.

He takes my tender face in his hand again and jerks it to face him. Everything is blurry.

Supposedly, the arguing from the other two stopped as soon as things got physical between me and gray eyes. A deep voice tries to appeal to the enraged man on top of me.

"Now, now Derek, there's no need fer tha'."

The one apparently called Derek won't be reasoned with. His crazed eyes widen and clenched teeth stretch into a tight lipped smile. The hand gripping my jaw is slowly squeezing tighter, it starts to become more than uncomfortable.

I make a painful grunt as my free hand latches on to his arm. I dig my nails into his flesh, though it doesn't seem to faze him at all. He looks like an insane man now and his hand is convulsing against my skin.

I feel light headed and my ears start to ring. I hear a muffled deep voiced chatter but can't make it out.

Without a change in his expression Derek rips his hand roughly from my face. He's shaking slightly with a soundless laugh, my agony and helplessness seem to enthrall him.

'Is that it? Are they wanting to torture and toy with me?' I feel a flare of anger overpower my disoriented state. He seems to be smiling through that deranged expression and it pisses me off even more.

'Why me? Why did they come after me? Screw them! Screw the world! Screw you, *Derek*!' I'm riled shouting in my head. I can feel my brows furrow and nose scrunch as I aggressively spit in his face.

Bloodied spit splats on his cheek near his nose. Tonight has been full of bad decisions, but this one is probably my worst yet.

He doesn't flinch, completely still like a statue. His face slowly contorts into something horrifying, his teeth grind together as he bares them.

His eyes darken as furious brows crease. Worst are his eyes that I swear are glowing with pure fury. The glaring fusion of insanity and rage, I'm damn near pissing myself.

He pulls his hand away from my captive wrist. The next action is uncanny, abrupt and completely unreal as that same hand guns for my neck. Long fingers wrap, locking like a snap bracelet.

Both of my hands fly up instinctively trying to release the pressure. I'm gasping for oxygen that is cut off from my lungs. He's only holding me with one hand, how is he so strong? He's the scrawniest one in the group too!

I squirm under him trying to breathe. I see a hand appear on his shoulder to try to stop him but he swats it away, never taking his wretched glare off of me.

He grits his teeth into a melting grimace as his face distorts into something more devilish and his gaze drifts downward to my chest again.

His free hand snatches the collar of my shirt. He rips my top as if it were paper. My body lifts slightly before the cheap fabric tears down the center, turning my shirt into a tattered open jacket. The force of my shirt being torn from my body causes my breasts to jiggle violently in my exposed bra.

I feel the pendant of the long chained necklace fling to the side from the forceful tear, it bounces off my limp hand that gave up fighting. His grip on my throat eases up slightly and I'm immediately choking down air in awful, low pitched wheezes.

"That's Enough, Derek!" I hear a firm, intimidating yell directed at us.

That voice wasn't gruff enough to come from the brawny guy, it rings clear and strong.

Derek clenches his jaw. He slides his choking hand to my collar bone, still pressing me firmly into the dirt. I sputter, cough and heaving in more air.

Derek's face twists into some new kind of anger. Something more irritated and less demented looking. His teeth grind in contemplation, trying to figure out the best way to silence the detractor.

I turn my head defeated and look at my necklace. It has a small crack but the liquid is still swishing around inside it. I reach over weakly, holding it in my palm.

"You were supposed to protect me," I mouth feebly.

The voice makes another stabbing remark at a fuming Derek, "I never thought your impulsiveness would have you sink this low!"

Derek whirls his head around to face the one pestering him.

Derek spits, "You've got to be kidding me, Sam! You have no right to be so self righteous!"

I've made a lot of stupid decisions today, what's the harm in one more? As Derek turns back to finish me off or torture me more, I take the pendant with every ounce of strength I have left and smash it into his face.

Thin cracked glass shatters much easier than expected. I can feel shards stabbing into me as the orb implodes. The liquid comes rushing out, bursting like a water balloon.

A deafening screech startles me to my senses. Derek topples off of my body howling and writhing in pain.

Wide eyed I see his skin bubble like a chemical reaction. The liquid is sizzling and foaming while melting his skin. I can see a mist or steam rolling off of his face as if it's boiling! 'What the hell was in there, acid?'

The scene is more than frightening but I have no time to gawk. Remembering the bush wall I scramble my aching body up on my feet, staggering across the line of shrubs. I'm still dizzy from the beating and tumble when crossing over.

I try to recover, scurrying further away on my hands and knees in a wobbly fashion. I feel light headed and I can't crawl in a straight line, eventually losing my balance, flopping to my side. The trees are swimming against the sky. I roll onto my back and try to reestablish myself.

Dread washes over me as a gray block turns into the bulky man standing in my view.

I hastily grab the chain of my necklace and fumble for the jagged remains of my pendant, holding it out like a pocket knife as my pitiful defense.

My stomach does flips and all my limbs lock up from the sight of the nameless one's massive figure. It's almost as if he doesn't even notice, he doesn't budge one bit.

He's standing right on the opposite side of the bush barrier, in fact, he doesn't seem to be paying attention to me at all. His eyes are shifting back and forth scanning over the area behind me.

I flip my head around in response, after a quick check revealing nothing I focus my attention on the group once again.

I breathe out a small sigh of relief and try to will more energy into my body while clearing my mind. I examine my foes, determining my next move.

Derek is on his arms and knees now, he's not screaming anymore just taking deep breaths to regain his strength.

My gaze veers over and I'm startled to see the one they call Sam staring at me intently. I jump slightly and gape at his fearsome stature.

He's closer than before but still away from the line of bushes. His vivid, green eyes shine beneath his thick mess of black hair framing his face.

The eyes are reminiscent of a predator's, like a great cat or a wolf. His strong jaw is tense and his expression is a mixture of emotion making it indecipherable.

I can't help but be entranced but also scared out of my wits. He looks just as dangerous as the other two. However, just like his brawny friend, he doesn't move an inch from his spot.

They're very quiet and focused, it's unsettling. I'm not quite sure what I should do now.

My heart beats erratically again as Derek picks himself up from off the ground. I automatically shuffle backwards, shaking uncontrollably.

His aggressive figure looks diabolical, as he slowly stalks my way, seething with every step.

The side of his face where I assaulted him looks awful. Exposed raw flesh, blistered and somewhat stringy. His eye is half closed from the damaged edge where the folds of skin are wrinkled and eroded. It makes the expression all the more heinous.

Still scanning the forest behind me, the nameless one puts a firm hand to Derek's chest as he approaches the bush line.

"Let me pass."

I shuddered hearing the animosity in Derek's voice through his teeth.

"Ya can't go in 'dere, ya know tha'," the big one states in a serious tone, still searching out in the distance like he's looking for something specific.

'What on earth is over here, is there something worse waiting for me on this side?' I clench my teeth in worriment. I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place.

"Let me pass, Cooper," he raises his voice a bit, putting sharp emphasis on every word. His eyes are glued on me, an overwhelming aura of hatred and hostility emitting from him shakes me to my core.

Decision made. I scurry to my feet and start booking it deeper into this mysterious part of the woods. I catch a glimpse of Cooper holding Derek back just before I bolt. It looked like Derek was going to lunge for me like a dog intent on ripping an animal's throat out.

"Tha Reap'r took ou' three jus' this year, Derek! Not count'n the usual. I knew one of 'em, 'e was...." Cooper's desperate words start to fade into unintelligible speech as I heave my sore body and heavy limbs onward in an awkward run. My eyes dart around, I wind around a few trees in hopes it will make me harder to track.

It's certainly unnerving that something out here is making those men reluctant to pursue me but Derek will definitely kill me if he gets his hands on me a second time. The look on his face was unmistakable, I'll take my chances on the unknown.

'But a reaper, did I hear that right? What does that even mean!' A shiver wracks my spine and I shoot a glance behind me. I can't see the group anymore through the maze of trees I've weaved through.

'I'll deal with whatever is out here as it comes, let's hope we don't run into anything at all.'

My little pep talk seems to jinx me as a blur shoots past the trees in my peripheral vision.

My eyes widen, snapping to attention but I see nothing. Distracted, I run right into something hard while trying to locate the eerie shadow that spooked me.

I bounce off of it, landing on my butt with a thud. I swallow hard, it wasn't a tree. I can't breathe, I'm petrified. My eyes creep up to meet the impossible...

VPSugarRush VPSugarRush

Thanks for taking the time to read. Please let me know your thoughts and if you'd like more of this story. I'm new to this and a bit nervous. Sorry about any spelling or grammar mistakes but I hope the story is interesting enough to overlook it. Any critique, suggestions or praise are appreciated! Thanks again!

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