The Official Website of Kelly Varesio | Author of Insperatus

Infectus Excerpt

Prologue


It was a beautiful light that blared from the tower. Turning around and around, shining through the England fog like a tiny, lambent star in the blackness. The waves crashed against the rock border that protected the little lighthouse. The ridge sloped down into a tiny beach near the back of the house, and it faded into the fog. The stars and moon were invisible that evening.

The old woman rocked silently in her parlor chair, floors below the light. Her eyes were shut, listening to the subtle squeaking of her chair. Her cat sat on her lap, purring. She stroked it over and over. She loved the cat—she’d named it Marble, because of the fascinating coloration of its beautiful coat.

A door that unlocked made her open her wrinkled eyes. It was the old man; the one whom she spent her life with by the sea. He had been up working with her dearest light in the tower, keeping the lamp lit to warn sailors on their way. It was their pride and joy.

“I see a man on the beach,” he uttered through his aged lips.

The old woman stood. “You see someone? Can you recognize him?”

He shook his head. “I don’t know him at all.”

Both of them left the warmth of the house and walked out into the windy, dark night, illuminated only by the shining of the light in the tower. The stranger was near to them, now, and the old woman could see him well as he approached.

He was a hunched, rather old man that was barely visible even through the tower light. His features were sunken in his face, and white hair curled out in a frizzy mass under a captain’s hat that sat firmly atop his head.

“I say, sir, are you lost?” the old man asked as the stranger came closer.

The stranger only nodded, slowly, his eyes closed.

“Come inside, dear,” the old woman said, putting her arm around the man. “I can make you something hot to drink, and you can rest here for the night if you choose.”

“Many thanks,” the stranger bellowed, starting to grin.

He followed the old couple into the lighthouse, and into their kitchen. It was dim in there; a candle flickered, the only glow given. Their shadows were stretched against the floorboards as they shuffled around.

The old woman took a teacup from the cupboard. “Do you drink tea?”

“Yes,” the stranger replied, standing tall behind her.

“Oh, Mortimer, feed the kitty, please?” the lady asked of her husband.

He nodded and shakily left the kitchen.

The old woman bent over her fire to retrieve the boiling pot of water. “What is your name, sir?” she asked softly.

“Dubré. Salvatore Dubré.” His words were cold and slurred.

Her mitt gently grasped the handle. “That’s nice, that’s nice,” she replied. Her little arm trembled slightly as she held up the boiling water out of the fire.

She turned to the stranger to see him standing directly over her, glaring.

She dropped the pot with a gasp. Boiling, sizzling water spilled everywhere.

She screamed when she saw his eyes. “Demon!” she shrieked, her mouth gaping. “Save me, Lord—save me, Lord—”

The strangers grin twisted up his sagging face. He lifted his palm in a swift, unassuming motion, not laying a finger on her. Yet the old woman fell backwards into the fire. Horrible screaming tore through the air as she tried to stand and escape the flames that were engulfing her, scorching her flesh—she was burning vehemently, yet death seemed late.

The old man ran in. Just as his mouth opened, knives shot through the air at him, burrowing into his forehead—his eye—his shoulder—his throat—his chest. His body collapsed to the floor into a position that no living person could. A grotesque, bloody heap.

The old woman was still alive.

The stranger, with only a gesture of his finger, lifted her from the fire to the floorboards next to her husband. Her body had melted like candle wax and her skin stuck to the wood floor. She could no longer scream. Her throat was burned through. She looked on her husband with terror.

The stranger smiled harder, and turned to see a small cat sitting straight in the corner, watching with bright green eyes, its head cocked. He laughed at the creature, patted it gently on the head, picked it up, and disappeared before her eyes.

Taking a breath in a slight inhale—her last—she managed to look upon the hideous eyes of the stranger once more as he and the world faded before her forever.

Hideous, white eyes

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Chapter 1


Taverin was finally home.

She opened the curtains to the beautiful French mansion, smiling as she felt the warmth

of the sun’s rays shine on her face. She opened the window and breathed in the cool, winter air. Her inhale felt wondrous, especially because she had been feeling so sick of late.

It was 1844—a new year. And she planned to make the most of it. William, the boy she’d loved since childhood, had proposed to her not a day ago. As she glanced down at the beautiful silver ring on her left hand, she couldn’t help but giggle. The fact that she was only sixteen marrying a near twenty-one-year-old really didn’t matter; she had no pompous family to mind about her age. Rein was her sister, the only person whose opinion meant anything, and she would want her to follow her heart. She hadn’t even told Rein of her engagement yet—she was on her honeymoon.

Wiping her hands on a napkin, Taverin turned from the parlor and headed back into the dining room, trying to shake the sickness in her stomach. A good two months had gone by since she had moved in with Catherine Treau, her best friend and William’s older sister. The estate was located in one of the nicest places she had ever been—also the place where she had grown up—Cherbourg.

Although during the Napoleonic battles Cherbourg was heavily damaged, France had taken the last thirty years to build it up to be one of the prettiest places in all the country. It was awkward for her to think about how her only family was from France’s rival country, England, and proud of it, yet she was the opposite: the French-raised daughter of an Englishman and a French gypsy. But she embraced that; she couldn’t hate England no matter how patriotic she was. England saved her, in the sense that her father took her there, saved her from life on the streets of France—a life she would’ve had after her horrid mother died…

Needless to say, she was more than happy to be back there. She had nearly forgotten the terror she’d been through within the past year. She was relieved to be living a normal life, with normal people. She wanted to forget about vampires as well as she could…though it was impossible to completely forget. She still had to tell William someday, somehow…

“Taverin, that feels so much better!” Marques, William’s older brother, proclaimed from the dining room table. “Feel the wind? Air circulation, so much better…”

They were in the middle of having dinner together: she and the four Treau siblings, who lived together in the massive estate left to them by their late parents. William, Catherine, Marques, and their younger sister Margarete occupied the house, which kept for a lively home.

Taverin took a seat next to William, who was intently cutting his roast. His auburn hair was tied back very neatly, and his hazel eyes were perfectly delighted at her return beside him.

“Only for a short while, though, Marqu,” Taverin said. “After all, no matter how stuffy it is in here, it is still winter, therefore cold.”

“And as ill as she’s been feeling, I doubt if too much is good for her,” Will said as he took a bite off his fork. “Are you all right, pet?”

She nodded with a smile. She adored that name he had for her. She adored him.

“So have you told your sister about your engagement, yet, Taverin?” Margarete, the more inquisitive of the two sisters, asked.

“I haven’t spoken with her yet,” she replied. “But I will as soon as I can, without doubt.”

“Where is she again?” Catherine asked. “Just gone for her honeymoon?”

Taverin nodded, taking her first bite of the delicious roast.

“I have yet to see Rein myself,” William said after taking a drink. “Or her new husband. But I can only imagine they’re very genuine, by word of Taverin. Although British.”

Indiscreet snickering ensued. William knew he was allowed to joke about the country, but Taverin made it clear that joking was as far as it could ever go. She had to make that clear, especially with a brother-in-law as patriotic as Traith. A laugh slipped out in thinking about that…

“So…is Rein’s husband blind, Taverin?” Marques asked, his dark, slicked-back hair falling slightly out of place as he leaned forward. “I mean, I did hear that from a flibbertigibbet.”

“Marques!” William declared, half laughing. “What sport have you in poking fun at dear Cat?”

“Oh, leave me alone, both of you, brutish brothers,” Catherine said, smiling as she took a sip of her wine. “I only repeated what I was told.”

“Well, is the man blind?” young Margarete reiterated her brother’s question.

“He was,” Taverin began, enjoying both the gossip and attention.

“Where would they go, then, for their honeymoon, if he couldn’t very well see it?” Marques asked, wiping his mouth of excess food.

“Why would she marry a blind man?” Margarete questioned under her breath.

Catherine elbowed her.

“He was blind,” Taverin stated, “but he’s regaining his sight. To everyone’s happiness, especially my sisters, he gained a dim fogginess back just during his wedding and saw her. So romantic, it all was…”

“An amazing feat in itself,” Will said, happily chewing on a piece of meat. “God-willing he gets all his vision returned him. It must be a terrible thing to deal with.”

“He wasn’t supposed to get his sight back at all until somewhere from one to ten years went by,” Taverin continued enthusiastically. “It is definitely a miracle.”

“My,” Margarete spoke in a daze, fork rested on her plate. “How do Doctor’s know these things? Numbers so precise as to count the years…”

“Does your sister or her husband have any family? Other than you?”

“Well, Traith has a sister named Ana,” Taverin answered. “That’s it.”

“My.”

“Only one sibling?”

“His name is what?”

Taverin laughed. “His name is Traith. Not sure where it’s from.”

“Where did they go for their honeymoon, by the way?” Marques asked.

“Oh, a place Rein’s always wanted to visit,” Taverin answered, sighing dreamily in thought of her sister. “America.”

She wondered what, at that moment, Rein was doing as a newlywed…