The Reluctant Miss Van Helsing

BOOK: The Reluctant Miss Van Helsing
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The Reluctant Miss Van Helsing

Minda Webber

 

LOVE SPELL®

 

January 2006

 

Published by

Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.

200 Madison Avenue

New York, NY 10016

 

Copyright © 2006 by Minda Webber

 

ISBN 0-505-52638-7

 

The name “Love Spell” and its logo are trademarks of Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.

 

Printed in the United States of America.

 

Visit us on the web at
www.dorchesterpub.com.

 

Contents

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
.
3

AUTHOR’S NOTE
.
6

The Mask
.
7

Every Vampire Tells a Story
.
12

Who Was that Masked Woman?
.
21

The Best Laid Plans of Van Helsings on Vampires
.
27

Things that Go Bump in the Night
.
32

The Battlefield Is Earth
.
37

The Lady Is a Trap
.
41

Time Waits for No Man, But a Vampire Can Hold It Hostage
.
47

To Build a Better Vampire Trap
.
53

If the Coffin Fits, Bury It
.
55

Duty, Honor, Dracul
.
57

Cool Hand Neil
.
61

Everything at Stake
.
65

Some Like It Not
.
71

Much I-Do’s about Nothing
.
75

A Van Helsing by Any Other Name…
...
81

Father of the Vampire’s Bride
.
87

Married to the Monster
.
92

It Didn’t Happen One Night
.
99

Waking Neil, Divine
.
105

The Prime of the Ancient Mariner
.
109

The Prime of Miss Jane’s Body
.
113

Fighting Tooth and Neil
.
122

Snow White, the Vampire
.
127

The Cemetery Club
.
131

Birds of a Feather
.
136

Flocking Awesome
.
142

Count Dracul, I Presume
.
148

You Only Live Twice
.
153

The Grass Is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Graveyard
.
157

Wanted Undead or Alive
.
161

The Barbarians at the Gate
.
170

So Many Vampire Ashes Gone with the Wind
.
175

Epilogue
.
178

 

 

To my father, George Webber, who always believed that I could reach the stars, and to my mother, Maxine Webber, who picked me back up when I didn’t quite reach them. I miss you, Dad, but I know you are smiling down on me from Heaven.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

To
my sister, Marilyn Webber, for being the best sister a gal can have, and to my son, Jake Bohannon, for being the best son in the world, with no prejudice attached; Christopher K., my humorous editor, and Helen B., my agent, with great taste in humor; Ryan Faltisek for being the great guy that he is; Karla, Mary Alice, Tony and Esther for their help and comments; Yolanda, Marilyn and Karla for their always enthusiastic help and being the world’s best bosses—or at least San Antonio’s; Terry for being the computer whiz she is and helping me, the computer dummy that I am; the corner gang—Ron, Diann, Bill, Angie and Israel; Dan for being a great guy in spite of his stuffed-cat-abusing dog, Waggs; Mary, Christine and Missy—the cover girls; Louise and Dale, for going beyond the call of friendship, along with Shirley, for the car thing, and Alice. Debbie Lorz, my old high school chum, who drove over a hundred miles in the blistering heat of summer to pick up six copies of my book—what a friend. And for T.J.—I miss you very much, too. No one brings me police line-up tapes or stuffed animals anymore.

AUTHOR’S NOTE

No
good vampires were actually staked, no good werewolves were shot with silver bullets, and no good or bad ostriches were plucked of their feathers during the writing of this book, although I’m not sure about the soiled doves. However, many enormous liberties were taken with historical dates, events and people, making this book a hardcore fiction of the quirky, fun kind. Forgive me and I’ll do it again for the third book in the series.

The Mask

The
trouble with being a Van Helsing was that one was expected to be a vampire hunter whether male or female, and whether or not one was up to the job. This message was drummed into all little Van Helsings from the cradle. When other children were out playing marbles and hopscotch, Van Helsings were playing hide-and-seek in crypts, pin the stake into the vampire, and “Tag, you’re bit.” Where other young children were frightened of monsters under the bed, in the wardrobe or in the cellars, the Van Helsing progeny were told that not only were there monsters under the bed, but behind doors, in crypts and in the shadows of the night. And it was the Van Helsing family duty to stake those blood-sipping fiends known in the ancient language as the Nosferatu.

“At least tonight I won’t get blood on my gown,” Jane muttered to herself, her mood dark.

It didn’t matter that she, Ethel Jane Van Helsing, daughter of Major Edward Van Helsing, got nauseated at the sight of blood. It didn’t matter that a life of digging up graves and dodging drops of gore was forever ruining her gowns. It didn’t matter that she had heart palpitations over hairy-legged, beady-eyed spiders—most especially those tricky web-spinning little monsters that crawled all over her while she was out hunting the undead in the dead of night, and in the cold black hearts of various crypts and mausoleums. No, none of her feelings mattered in the day-is-night world of the Van Helsing clan; Jane was expected to do her duty in the most splendid and spectacular manner that befitted her grand heritage.

Worse, no one in the Van Helsing clan besides Jane’s brother, Brandon, could understand her reluctance at hunting vampires and then driving a Van Helsing-brand stake through their cold-blooded hearts.

Unfortunately, Brandon was away right now in the Carpathian Mountains. She could use her brother’s help right now in putting an end to an amoral immortal vampire.

Instead Jane was left to do the despised deed alone, which was why she was standing here with her grandfather at the top of the stairs at the Stewart Masquerade Ball, her stomach in knots.

In the foyer below Jane and her grandfather lay a magical, sparkling kingdom, with large marble columns decorated by large gold masks and brightly colored ribbons. Candles in Venetian chandeliers illuminated the alabaster columns, their light reflected from large gilt-framed mirrors hanging on cream pin-striped walls. Servants dressed in blue livery scurried back and forth between the jewel-bedecked and costumed guests in the ballroom.

“Why wasn’t I born a Smith or Doe?” Jane sighed quietly as she observed flirtatious young ladies and gentlemen of the ton dancing their mating dance, jewels glittering brightly from costumes re-created from days of old. She clearly understood that tonight many a young lady was setting her cap for a member of the aristocracy, marriage her only goal. Jane herself was not so fortunate. She was doffing her cap and taking up her holy water. While others were enjoying the night and its promise of young love, Jane was dreading it.

“Heh? What was that about a doe? This isn’t a hunting party, Jane—is it?” Colonel Ebenezer Van Helsing asked. “I thought we were in London and not the country, girl.”

“Nothing, Grandfather, just wishful thinking,” Jane replied, patting the man’s arm and staring up at him. Her grandfather was a tall, thin specimen with a long face. It was not a handsome face, for Van Helsings were rarely attractive people. Yet it was a kind face, filled with the wrinkles and lines of a long and well-lived life.

“Fishing, who’s fishing? I thought we were going to a ball!”

Jane couldn’t help but smile. Her crusty old grandfather was seventy-two and a little hard of hearing. What he heard was oftentimes erroneous, and sometimes rather funny.

“We are at a masquerade ball.” Normally Jane loved balls, routs and musicals—any kind of social gathering. She loved London’s massive residences, with their glittering decors, and the exquisite clothes worn by the Peers of the realm. Jane even enjoyed the insipid conversations about the weather and about who was seeing whom (or what). Although the ton’s gossip could be malicious or trivial, it was still a nice change from her usual family conversation, which was generally about saving the world from the undead.

“Of all social events, I think masquerades are my favorite,” she related to her grandfather. In such a glittering world of make-believe, the green could pretend experience beyond their years; the more mature could regain a portion of their lost youth for a few precious hours, and the less fortunate in looks could cater to their lovers’ fondest wishes.

For Jane, whose face was remarkable in its unremarkability, masquerading as someone else was a dream come true. She was an astute and intelligent female, and thus well knew her faults. Her skin was marred with freckles, her nose was too snub and her hair was a shade of brown that reflected neither gold nor red highlights. But at a masquerade ball, anything could happen. Even an ugly ducking could be a swan until the stroke of midnight.

“And yet, tonight I wish we were anywhere else in the world—even a dusty old mausoleum,” she told her grandfather. For she had been reluctantly recruited—a dainty, bird-loving lady made to masquerade as a vampire hunter, as a temptress.

“Duty is duty, my child,” her grandfather commented gruffly. “You have your marching orders from your father. Remember Operation Petticoat. It’s a grand scheme. I never would have thought to use your mother’s last name as a disguise, as well as this masked costume. Of course, you’ve been in the country so long that I doubt anyone besides your friends the Frankensteins would recognize you.”

Jane frowned, her brow creased with worry. “I hope so. Father will be quite displeased if anything goes wrong.” At his command, she was attending this ball as Miss Paine. The subterfuge was to help her stalk the Earl of Wolverton, a surprising powerful member of the nefarious Nosferatu. With all her previous failed attempts at vampire-slaying, she knew she needed all the help she could get, for the earl was an intelligent predator and the kind of man capable of silencing a room full of people by simply walking through the door.

BOOK: The Reluctant Miss Van Helsing
8.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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