Vampires, Romance, and dark Celtic Mysticism fuse and blaze
in this epic tale set in New York City, Yorkshire, England — and time itself.
Listen to or Read Chapter 1
Listen to Chapter 1
Read Chapter 1
Sunlight sparkled off a thousand different New York windows as Robin Dashwood sat out on his terrace, pretending to sip a morning cup of coffee.
There were just so many pointless misconceptions about vampires, he reflected, and the forever nocturnal bit had to be one of the silliest.
He’d been a vampire for more than three hundred years and he still found his morning coffee a high point in his waking hours.
Of course, the ritual of breathing in the rich fumes of the brew and remembering what it was like to enjoy actually drinking the stuff had changed dramatically over three centuries. It had been coffee in spectacular bone china served on heavy silver by doting valets once. Now he grabbed a cup in his own kitchen before heading off to teach his classes at nearby NYU.
Unlike other vampires who truly hated this new egalitarian era with its self-service mandate and constant industrial noise, Robin quite liked the 21stcentury. He could lose himself in all the self-absorbed hubbub. He seldom yearned for the grace and grandeur of earlier times anymore.
“Morning, professor,” said the voice of his current girlfriend, Kate Ashby.
She was a young actress. Exceptionally pretty in a waifish sort of way and even moderately successful with a role on a television soap opera. They had a comfortable and flexible relationship that neither of them had ever expected to last as long as it already had. But then, he had a weakness for stalwart denizens of the theatre. What others mightthink of as shallow narcissism Robin saw as a valiant belief in themselves and their talent despite utter rejection. He found their dedication to their work and giddy belief in better futures completely disarming. The company of artists always gave him an all too brief sensation of being human. In keeping with the restless human spirit of actors,Robin had begun to sense Kate’s growing boredom with her former history teacher and her growing interest in Los Angeles and its beguiling film community.
Robin glanced up from his newspaper and smiled slightly.
“Don’t call me professor. It makes me feel so old.” His voice was soft but rather hoarse around the edges, still imbued with the upper class English accent that betrayed the country of his human birth.
“You aresonot old.”She came across the little balcony to plunk her own mug of coffee on the wrought iron table.
“Morethan three hundred years old, actually.” He smiled again as Kate dropped a kiss on his forehead.
She was a thin, gangly thing; he thought affectionately, all legs, elbows and long blond hair. It was an effect exaggerated by a plaid mini skirt and black leggings that disappeared into thick hobnail boots favored by the college-aged. He had a moment to remember how breathtaking women once were in their mysterious confections of velvet and silks, their dainty feet shod in whimsical satin slippers.
Robin breathed in one of the last drafts of rapidly cooling coffee. Women had seemed to float in clouds of quietly rustling layers of taffeta.
“Robin,” Kate broke into his memories impatiently, “you will meet me there at eight o’clock? You heard what I said, right?”
He shook his head to clear the last vestiges of his memory. “I’m sorry, love. What about eight o’clock tonight?”
Kate made a sour face. “You’re such a space case! Opening night reception at the Glockner,remember? I promised my PR lady I’d go. Some boring historical thing. You’ll probably love it. I left the invitation on the kitchen counter.”
“A boring historical thing?” Robin frowned. “And why would a PR firm want its soap opera actresses at such a tedious event?”
“Important English people with titleswill be there. Makes us actresses look respectable.” Kate swallowed a long drink of her coffee. “I’ve got to run, Robin. I’ve got an audition for that new Taylor Mac thingbefore script run-throughs.”
“Good luck then.”
“Won’t get it. I’m too mainstream pretty,”she replied matter-of-factly as she rose from her chair. “Put this message in your head: Glockner Gallery, eight o’clock tonight.”
“I believe I have it now. Thank you.” He returned his attention to the Eastern European situation in the paper.
“It’s black tie, Robin, and I know you have a faculty meeting.”
Robin let out a short breath to cool his rising temper. “I will be at theGlocknerat eight o’clock tonight, gorgeously attired in my finest dinner suit and you, my love, can stop worrying about it.”
“Okay. I trust you.” Kate bent over and slid her arms down around his neck. She kissed his cheek. “It’s just that you disappear sometimes and I can never find you.”
“In my secret life,” he said with a small yawn, “I kill people.”
Kate giggled. “Yeah, right.”
Robin put the boring historical thingout of his mind until he returned from rather a long day at the university.
“Martini time, young Professor Dashwood,” announced his neighbor Arthur Silver, a spry 80-year-old who had once swallowed swords and fire in the Borscht Belt era.
“If only that were true,” Robin said as he unlocked his mailbox in the foyer and retrieved its meager contents. “What’s up, Arthur?”
Arthur put on his showman’s barker voice. “Tonight, in the Bailey’s main floor lounge, Daisy Meadows and the Fawcett Triplets will be performing torch song classics of the 30’s.” He lost the artificial tone. “You coming, Robin?”
Dashwood shook his head. “As much as I would prefer listening to Daisy and the Fawcett sisters, I have to squire Kate around a cocktail party.”
“Well, if Daisy doesn’t have her dentures refitted, they’ll be doing a Sunday matinee.”
“I wouldn’t dream of missing that one.”
He currently lived a dull life for a vampire Robin mused as he rode the old cage elevator up to the fifth floor. But its unremarkable qualities were what made it a private art piece.
It would have been easy to be like the handful of other vampires he had met over the last three hundred odd years; living out lives of world weary jet setters, flitting about in the guise of artists and rock singers. He too could be using his accumulated wealth to languish about trendy watering holes, drinking the chic dry and secretly pining for yesteryear when no one complained much when the odd serving wench or two went missing.
Instead he owned a colorful old five story building in Greenwich Village called The Bailey. The still elegant Bailey had always housed the theatre trade, from the days of Victorian music hall to vaudeville to Broadway. It remained a haven for retired stage personalities and young hopefuls. None of the Bailey’s roster of theatre folk knew Robin Dashwood for their landlord and he never revealed, even to the oldest performer, how he’d caught most of their acts in their heydays.
He loved the theatre and its people. Surrounding himself with their peculiar brand of humor and survival instincts kept him in touch with his human past. Since buying the Bailey in 1908, he had found it a fascinating way of measuring the passage of time.
Robin shoved open the elevator cage door with his elbow as he struggled to hang onto his unwieldy stack of student essays.
He’d cried last week when Mabel Fierson had finally succumbed to the cancer in her lungs. She had been a beautiful creature in her time. Mabel the Etherealwas how they billed her in 1940s. He remembered her Isadora style of Greek dancing well. Of course, Isadora hadn’t finished her performances by shedding her scarves one by one but then Isadora had never been the toast of the state fair circuit. Mabel the Ethereal had enchanted wide-eyed farm boys throughout the country and had undoubtedly broadened appreciation of the dance considerably during her long career.
Robin unlocked his flat and unceremoniously dumped his students’ mid-term essays on the foyer table. He had little more than an hour to change clothes and dash over to the Art Institute.
Besides his history courses at NYU and his relationship with Kate, there wasn’t much else. He still saw a little theatre and worked on his fourth scholarly book for his editor at Mercury Press. Of course, about once a week he had to feed.
Most vampires fed more often for the sheer hedonism of it but in true aesthetic spirit, Robin had learned to quell the powerful urge to steal human blood for nearly seven days. He was literally starving by then so he usually killed, rather than deploying the more refined small drink favored by really skillful vampires.
He hunted among drug addicts, vagrants, pan handlers, pimps and hard core criminals. A particular favorite being drug dealers who could be counted on to be fairly clean of narcotics themselves and well-nourished in comparison to their clientele. It was fortunate that he was starving when he found one of his victims. It was the only way he could stomach the sour effects of their badly depleted blood.
Robin bent to pick up a note that had fallen from one of the student papers. It was a love struck message from Maria, one of his eleven o’clock lecture attendees. She had developed a major attachment to him and had just started to send him little notes full of promises to do wonderful things for and to him. It was far from the first time a student had fallen into such a trap.
Vampires were magnetic creatures. It was helpful in gaining quick confidences that led inevitably to feeding. And like most vampires, Robin Dashwood was beyond beautiful. He tried to hide his tall, imperially slender frame in baggy suits and his luminous green eyes behind round bookish tortoiseshell spectacles with fake lenses. He wore his gleaming chestnut-colored hair quite long in a severe blunt cut that nearly brushed his thin shoulders and hoped it would conceal his features. It only enhanced the flawless planes of his angular face and the cool pale of his skin.
Robin hated to waste the evening at a society reception. He was in the mood to sit at his desk and work on the next segment of his biography of William Pitt. He loved the relative quiet of the flat when Kate wasn’t home running over her deplorable dialogue for the next day’s shoot or watching moronic comedies on the television or talking too loudly to her soap opera comrades on the phone.
It really was time to send her off to Hollywood and into the arms of some deserving young man out there. Kate wouldn’t even mind very much. She was sufficiently armored with titanium self-regard that his vampire magnetism – a survival tool designed for making quick connections with prey – failed to make much of a dent once Kate had gotten used to him. In fact, it was what had held them together so long. Passionately in love with herself and her career, Kate remained oblivious to his occasionally odd schedule, never noticing with any genuine clarity that he never really ate or ever made any headway with a glass of wine. She provided him with plausible cover, enabling him to gracefully step around possible entanglements with other women and to exist with minimal complication.
A dark voice in his head reminded him he had another very tempting option for ridding himself of Kate Ashby.
He pushed the idea away with a shudder. It must be nearly time to go in search of a target. Tonight, after Kate was asleep, he’d find somebody.
Robin emerged from the Bailey impeccably turned out in his favorite dinner suit. Made for him in the 1930’s, it possessed superb lines almost extinct in modern versions. It was a perfect spring evening — he even had little trouble flagging down a taxi. Perhaps going out wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
“Where it be, mister?” asked the driver as he slid into the back seat.
“The Glockner Gallery, please.”
The driver nodded jovially. “Yep, opening night party, right? I’m old school – remember when cabbies used to know what was happening anywhere in the city?”
“Would you happen to know what the opening is for? I honestly don’t know myself.” Robin reached into his breast pocket for the invitation as the cab pulled away from the curb. It would probably say something about the event. He hoped it wasn’t another tiresome retrospective on the impact of fashion.
“Some English display of old furniture.” The cabbie thought for a second. “From some castle. Hawk something Castle.”
Robin froze. Surely he had heard the man incorrectly.
“Hawkesmoor Castle?” he asked in a low voice.
The driver beamed. “Yeah, that’s it! Hawkesmoor Castle. Couldn’t forget that name.”
With trembling hands, Robin tore open the cream-colored envelope and read the engraved card inside. Lady Caroline DeBarry would be present to open an exhibit of fine English antiques from Hawkesmoor. All to benefit the current refurbishment project at the castle itself in Yorkshire, England.
He let out a small, strangled cry. The cabbie looked back in the rear view mirror in real concern.
“You okay back there, mister?”
Hawkesmoor Castle. The words swam in front of his face. Hawkesmoor Castle, his keep, his abandoned responsibility, his Earldom. The place where he should be buried next to the woman who should have been his Countess who would have had his sons. Elizabeth — her name still had the power to hurt him like a blow to the body.
“You want I should pull over?” The cabbie began slowing the yellow cab down a fraction. “Hey, mister!”
The hunger began to pound in his temples like a migraine. His joints ached with it. His horror at the sudden reemergence of Hawkesmoor Castle — the place of his birth and human death — had caused the blood hunger to accelerate.
This was a disaster. His head reeled at the possible ruination of the careful, predictable life he had so pointedly devised for himself. He had always been meticulous – hunting in the smallest hours of the night in black corners of New York where even angels dared not alight. But now, in the middle of bustling SoHo, he was a vampire rising.
“Hey, mister,” repeated the worried cab driver. “What should I do?”
Robin felt his eyes dilate – a targeting system booting up. His unique revenant chemistry was reconfiguring for attack. He inhaled desperately, trying to reroute the impulses to what was left of his humanity. The relentless migraine narrowed, focused and became a laser – a razor blade – ripping through his veins.
“Yes,” Robin hissed, “pull over.”
“I’ll radio for an ambulance,”the driver offered as he edged the vehicle off the main thoroughfare and double parked on a quiet side street. “Hang on, buddy!”
Robin was in a deadlock. Frantic attempts to defuse his vampire system were failing, lost in the hypersonic pulse in his veins that ignited every nerve ending. He felt his entire frame light up like a Roman candle – the pain was exhilarating. Robin Dashwood was offline. What remained was a devastating weapon.
“Please help me.”
“Sure thing, mister.” The cabbie jumped out and came around to the rear door. He held out a strong hand for Robin to grasp.
“I’m sorry,” the vampire said hoarsely as he accepted the hand. It was the last flickering remnant of Robin Dashwood
“What the hell?” the cabbie began.
His superior vampire strength had the cabdriver in the back seat and neatly pinned with a crushed larynx before the man could finish his sentence.
Photo: Erin Judd
Anne Merino grew up in Arizona, devoted to horses, hounds, and books. The daughter of an American classical philosopher and a Welsh mother who loved to tell her eerie tales of ghosts, elemental beings and mortals who built bonfires to Ceres, it is, perhaps, unsurprising that story and theatre became her passion. Anne went on to become a professional ballerina and choreographer for notable companies in the US and abroad. Now happily retired from the stage, she writes novels and plays. Married to a filmmaker, she also has two fascinating sons and a retired working dog named Hector.
INTERVIEWS WITH THE AUTHOR
Part 1: Anne Merino talks about her novel, Hawkesmoor
Part 2: Anne Merino talks about writing and her background.
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR HAWKESMOOR
“The paranormal features are refreshingly unconventional and well handled. Fans of romantic fantasy will be interested to see where the series goes.”
— Publisher’s Weekly
New York Times best-selling author of
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls
“Breathing new life into vampires isn’t easy — after all, they’re dead — but Anne Merino has managed it with aplomb. Like the vampire at its center, Robin Dashwood, Merino’s Hawkesmoor is both erudite and full of passion, witty and tragic, attuned to the classics yet utterly modern. If you’re in the market for a new, fresh vampire saga or just a bloody good time, look no further.”
Award-winning author of A Lady in Disguise, Nine Ladies Dancingand Miss Fortescue’s Protector in Paris
“Delightfully well-crafted, intricate and enchantingly imaginative, I was drawn deep into this enjoyable read with its complex world and fascinating characters. It actually makes me feel excited for vampires again! Romance and adventure, with an odd charm all its own, and fully realized world-building. Highly recommended!”
Sanjay R. Singhal
Author of Tales of the Night Watchman
“Anne Merino’s sweeping new novel, Hawkesmoor, invites the reader upon a vampiric journey from Georgian England to the French Revolution to modern-day New York. Robin Dashwood — tall, elegant, and beautifully dressed — makes his way through the world of men, seeking solace from his past, present and future. Hawkesmoor is beautifully written, crafted, and conceived; it is a vampire story unlike any other, offered by a writer unlike any other.”
Author of Bowie’s Piano Man: The Life of Mike Garson
“In Hawkesmoor, Anne Merino has created a finely crafted tale which is both elegant and erotic. Its gothic wit propels us grippingly through a vast historical panorama, steeped in vampiric lore, towards something almost cosmic and strangely timeless. Paradoxically, this thoroughly entertaining vampire chronicle casts a light on what it actually means to be human, which makes this a superbly rewarding read.”
Author of Soul Rescuers: A 21st Century Guide to the Spirit World and The Ancestral Continuum
“My life has been devoted to the study of the esoteric and paranormal so I sat down to read Hawkesmoor with genuine interest. This exquisitely written novel weaves an elegiac tale through time and alternate dimensions that is absolutely impossible to put down. A must read for lovers of the mysterious and beautiful.”
Author of the SEEK Team Investigations series and owner of “Ghosthunting Theories,” the second largest paranormal blog in the world.
“Just the magic readers need to believe again in heroes! Instantly, I took to the hero and heroine, unable to set Hawkesmoor: A Novel of Vampire and Faerie down until I reached the brilliantly executed ending. Like a gracious hostess, author Anne Merino invited us into a most exciting world to be part of a titled family lineage with secrets to keep. When I set the book down, I felt as if I had been a willing participant in this romantic thriller.”
Journalist and author of Psychedelic Suburbia: David Bowie and the Beckenham Arts Lab
“Hawkesmoor is an irresistible yarn from the first paragraph onwards. It zips along, paced to hold the reader’s attention, with liberal doses of shock, plus a twist that explains the title and sets the scene for the action that unfolds. I truly love this book — from me that’s a meaningful statement because I hardly ever read fiction.”
Oxford poet and contributor to Children of Albion: Poetry of the Underground in Britain
“By the time you’re two pages into Hawkesmoor, you know you’re in the hands of a master storyteller. Already you’ve gently polished the surface of the vampire genre, and revealed some of its true and authentic nature, quite apart from the commonly held conceptions of our day. But you’ve yet to encounter the Welsh supernatural that storms in some centuries and pages later — a completely fresh and brilliant form of the gothic imagination. And what of Anne Merino’s characters? So well drawn, and with such attention to the fall of a phrase. Robin Dashwood — you may well fall for him, dashing as he is — or his centuries-long love. Oh, reader, read on!”
Georgetown University, Futurist, and author of “Blogging Dracula since 2005”
“Hawkesmoor is a delightful ride through vampires and time. Its mysteries draw in the reader irresistibly. And it’s more fun than Anne Rice!”