Lori Devoti is the author of paranormal and contemporary romance, urban fantasy, young adult and amateur sleuth mysteries. She is also the owner of this web site. Thanks for stopping by!
On the surface, a vampire seems a very unlikely hero of any type, much less a Christmas story hero, but if you go just a tiny bit deeper, it is easy to see that not only is a vampire a great hero for any Christmas tale. He/she may just be the perfect one.
In the past vampires were seen as incapable of representing anything except pure evil. (Alex Bledsoe did a post here last week somewhat lamenting the loss of that depiction.) To me this relegated vampires to little more than a bogey man. A potential Old Testament punishment for the evils of mankind.
Today though, vampires are more complex than this. There are still unrepentant evil vampires, but there are also vampires driven to do what could be (and is) interpreted as evil because they have been shunned by society and rejected by everyone they thought had loved them. They are seen as evil and feared, but deep inside there is still a flicker of humanity, still that lost son or forgotten husband who is now so filled with self-loathing he can’t bring himself to do anything besides be the monster others would cast him as.
Vampires are now much more than they were in the past. They are not just a cold force blowing against the real characters in the story, forcing those “real” characters to act and react. Now they are fully dimensional characters of their own—characters that love, feel pain and rejection, who make mistakes, have fears and who, if we (romance readers in particular) are lucky find redemption through love and self-acceptance.
In my newest release, Trust Me, first in my new Vampire Hearts series, I have both kinds of vampires. The main villain, Marie Jean, asked to be made into a vampire. She lived in a time when women had few rights and found herself married to a man who beat her. Not being a person who liked feeling powerless, she sought out what power she could in the form of a half-Osage half-French vampire by the name of Rodrigue. Marie Jean is focused on her goal (power) and relentlessly pursues that goal throughout the book.
Rodrigue, however, is a completely different type of vampire. He, misguided as he knows the emotion is, loves Marie Jean and longs for her to be what he knows she can never be.
Here is a snippet from a scene that I think shows Rodrigue and his pain well.
It is told from the point of view of the hero of Trust Me, Harry Bisson, a dhamphir whose own goal is to find and kill Marie Jean.
The half-Osage, half-French vampire looked every bit the bronzed savage today. He was naked from the waist up, and his long hair was unbound. The style wasn’t traditional with the Osage, but as long as Harry had known of Rodrigue, the vampire had sported long hair. Perhaps, he guessed, in revolt against a people who had held his French half against him or deserted him once he was turned.
“What do you wait for, dhamphir? You need no invitation to enter here.”
Raising a brow, Harry accepted both the statement and Rodrigue’s obvious offer.
The vampire immediately turned, leaving Harry to shut the door or leave it open as he felt comfortable.
He pushed it closed. He had no need of an open door, no plans to race from this place. And he wanted Rodrigue to know it.
But if the vampire noticed, he gave no sign. He had already traveled across the marble floors of the entryway and made his way into a formal parlor which lay to Harry’s right. He stood in front of the fireplace, a tall glass of amber liquid in his hand.
“Indians shouldn’t drink. Did you know that, dhamphir?” Rodrigue downed the contents of the glass in one swallow and walked to a side table where a crystal decanter filled with more of the alcohol sat. He refilled his glass and walked back to the fireplace, this time choosing to stare out one of the windows which flanked it.
“Where did you find her?” he asked.
Harry didn’t have to ask who the vampire meant. (note from Lori: they are referring to the heroine here, not Marie Jean)
“You should have left her there.” Rodrigue took another drink, this one smaller, but tension showed in the muscles of his back.
“Nonsense.” He spun, his arm rising as he did. The glass left his hand and crashed into the wall behind Harry.
Rodrigue’s face was dark, and his features twisted with rage. His fangs hung low and fully visible in his mouth.
“You should not have brought her here.”
Harry’s own vampire half reacted. His muscles tightened, and a hiss left his lips. He clenched his fists, fighting for control.
He didn’t come here to fight with Rodrigue. A war with the ancient vampire, even one Harry won, would only get in the way of his goal.
“You know why I had to,” he replied, his body stiff and the words stilted.
“Why?” The vampire flew forward, moving so quickly a human wouldn’t have even noticed the shift in his position before the vampire was on him, would have lacked the time to register that death was coming.
Harry, however, wasn’t human, not fully.
He stepped to the side, and Rodrigue flew past, knocking into the same wall his drink had splattered seconds earlier.
He spun again. “If I kill you, she (Marie Jean) will be safe.”
“And is that what you want?” Harry had wondered about the answer to this question for decades, since Rodrigue had started making the occasional visit to his bar.
Rodrigue froze, and his face paled. The rage left him as quickly as air from a punctured balloon. He walked past Harry, looking defeated and lost.
“Do not ask me that.” He ran his fingers through his hair.
“She isn’t whatever memory you have in your mind,” Harry murmured, afraid to push the vampire too hard, too quickly. “I’ve heard rumors. I’m sure you have too. She is building a following. She will challenge you.”
His eyes sad, Rodrigue shook his head. “She hasn’t the strength.”
“But she will.”
“Only if you give her this gift.” Anger flashed in Rodrigue’s blue gaze once again.
“Lindsey is not a gift.” She was a trap, one Marie Jean, Rodrigue’s lover turned enemy and Harry’s reason to exist, would not be able to resist.
“And if you fail? If mon oiseau is stronger than you? If she takes this gift? Then what, dhamphir?”
Rodrigue laughed, then murmured words that were neither French nor English. Were instead, Harry guessed, his mother’s tongue, Osage.
“I don’t ask that you help me. I never have.” It was true; Harry had never approached the vampire like this before. “I only ask that you don’t work against me.”
“And how would I do that?” The vampire raised one brow, looking, despite his bare chest, 100 percent the French gentleman again.
There were many ways Rodrigue could try to stop Harry. He could order Harry’s death or try to kill him himself. But he could have done either of those a century before—Harry had been hunting Marie Jean that long—and the prince hadn’t.
Which made Harry guess Rodrigue wouldn’t try to kill him now either. But he also guessed that Marie Jean had escaped him in the past because Rodrigue was in some way helping her, warning her. That, despite whatever she had done to the prince before and threatened to do to him now, he still protected her.
So his request was simple. “Don’t help her. Don’t send your lieutenants to watch over her. Don’t hide that I’ve found what she wants most; don’t keep her from coming to get that thing.”
“And the lamb? The one you would sacrifice on the altar of your revenge? How does she feel about this?” The vampire’s voice was regal and judging.
Harry’s jaw tightened. He wasn’t here to be judged by a vampire, and he didn’t want to talk about Lindsey, not with Rodrigue, not with anyone. “She will be fine.”
“Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps she will die. And then, dhamphir, who will you blame? Who will you hunt to avenge that death? There will be only one place to look…the reflecting glass.” He motioned to a huge gold-framed mirror that hung over the couch.
Harry felt his own anger flare, knew the emotion showed on his face. “That will be my worry, won’t it?”
Rodrigue smiled. “Yes, dhamphir, it will—yours and the lamb’s.”
“Do you agree?” Harry asked. The words came out hard, harsh. The vampire had no right to question Harry’s choices. No right at all.
Rodrigue moved back to the table and picked up a fresh glass. After filling it, he took a sip. The muscles of his neck moved as he swallowed; his Adam’s apple bobbed, reminding Harry what else he drank. Making Harry question the unspoken treaty which had lain between them for so many years.
“I will not help her. I will not send my lieutenants to her side. I will not warn her of your plan. I will do nothing to stop her from coming to wherever you leave your little lamb—tied up ready for slaughter. I will let mon oiseau do as she will; let her kill this final relative too. Let her gain the power that would make her strong—stronger than me.” He turned, the glass still in his hand. “Is that what you want, dhamphir? Will that get you to leave my home—happy?”
Happy. It was a ridiculous word. Harry could never be happy, but he could be revenged. He lifted his gaze and met the vampire’s. “Yes, Rodrigue. That it will.”
With a sniff fitting of Rodrigue’s vampire title—prince—Rodrigue lifted his glass and took another drink.
Harry could feel his dismissal, but if the change in energy wasn’t enough, the appearance of two vampires dressed head to toe in black was. He walked toward the door.
Two steps past the parlor’s entrance, Rodrigue’s voice stopped him.
“You were wrong, dhamphir. It is not my mind that holds my memories. It is my heart. When this is over, if you succeed, you will have taken that too.”
The vampires beside Harry motioned ahead to the now wide-open door. As his foot cleared the entry, the door closed quietly but distinctly behind him.
He stood on the front porch, hands fisted, heart pounding, the vampire’s final words ringing in his ears.
So, there you have it, one vampire who isn’t pure evil and still, I think, takes his role and decisions in life pretty seriously. I don’t know about you, but I find him a lot more intriguing than something that just goes bump in the night…well, depending on your definition of bump.
And in honor of Christmas, today we are giving away TWO prizes, one from me and one from fellow Nocturne author, Cynthia Cooke. Leave a comment, telling me the name of the vampire in Cynthia’s upcoming book, Playing With Vampires–or just leave a comment, and you’ll be entered to win not just the grand prize, but also either a copy of my Nocturne anthology, Holiday with a Vampire II with stories by Merline Lovelace and me, or The Vampire’s Seduction by Cynthia.
(U.S. mailing addresses only.)