Grace Through Blood
By: A. Jay Lee
Welcome to the Nightlife of the Palmetto City.
With an Arch-Demon masking itself as a serial killer, a NCSI agent hounding a Navy SEAL for crimes he didn’t commit, a clan of lycanthropes living secretly among the masses, and overseeing it all a congregation of pious vampires believing that they have ‘Divine Right’ over the city, the nights were wild enough. Add in one young woman with special abilities and in possession of a holy relic that threatens the existence of all vampires, and the stage is set for a dangerous mix of action and steamy sex over the course of hot, humid nights in this ‘Holy City’.
Jamie Grace wants nothing more than to lead a normal life, but her ability to see a person’s soul through an aura that radiates through every living person makes this wish impossible. Soon after arriving in her new home of Charleston, South Carolina, she encounters what appear to be humans that have no aura.
Jamie soon learns that the mysterious creatures are vicars of the Sanctum Damnatus and unfortunately they are as troubled about her existence as she is with theirs. Complications ensue when the vampire that has been sent to kill Jamie falls in love with her. With her would-be assassin turned protector, Jamie finds herself on the run from both the Damnatus and an Arch-Demon from Hell. Tangled with Christian dogma and biblical lore and set in this historic coastal Southern city, Jamie must find out whom she can trust and begin the journey of learning what she truly is in this first novel of the Holy Damned Saga.
Read Chapter 1:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.
First Letter to the Corinthians 13:1-2
Charleston, South Carolina
Only a few customers had visited the tiny bookstore tonight so it was empty and quiet. Jamie Grace often questioned why the store owners didn’t close it earlier each night. She supposed she was lucky, because if they did she might be out of a job. The late hours were for the few tourists who sought an odd book on Charleston’s history, its antebellum homes, or even its ghosts.
Most evenings were quiet and uneventful, like tonight; but at least once every week, her favorite customer would usually come in. Jamie smiled to herself when Grant walked through the front door. He always looked as if he was finishing an evening run, wearing a sweat-soaked Citadel NROTC t-shirt and military-style workout shorts, allowing a nice view of his muscled toned body. He was too old to be a cadet, but too young to be one of the Citadel’s professors. Taller than average, he kept his light brown hair maintained in a short military cut; his eyes were dark brown set off by deeply-tanned skin. It looked like he spent plenty of time out in the sun, but not to work on his tan. He was in top physical form without looking like an overblown bodybuilder.
Jamie greeted him with a simple ‘hi’ and a flashed smile as he headed to the history section. She stopped pricing the new shipment of books and pulled a small mirror from under the counter to take a quick check of her appearance, hiding it just out of view so he wouldn’t see her primping. She never thought of herself as a stunner, but the truth was she was very attractive. The face she saw looking back at her was framed by long, thick dark hair that she usually kept swept back in a ponytail. The recent trips to the beach had given her a golden glow that she’d never had before which complimented her light green eyes. She replaced the mirror, grabbed a book she had set aside and walked over to Grant.
“Evenin’ Grant,” she said with a slow smile. “I was glad to see you come in tonight. We received a new paperback about Sherman in so I pulled a copy for you just in case we sold out. New Civil War books never last long in here.” She’d learned his name from the frequent swipes of his Amex Card, Grant S. Waggner, but she always had a hard time using it.
Grant didn’t smile at her but his eyes were warm as he took the book. “You always seem to know what I’m looking for Jamie, thanks.” He knew her name from her nametag and to her delight used it quite often.
Jamie could tell he was pleased, but it was more than that. From his aura she could see that he also enjoyed being near her. It changed when he talked to her. She had seen similar colored auras in the boys in high school and college who seemed attracted to her. A boy would try to ask her out, or she would catch them looking at her from across the room.
Reading auras was a skill she’d had from a very young age. Jamie knew her ability was different from most; where they saw a person’s character or persona, Jamie saw a changing spectrum of emotion. She didn’t have to concentrate or meditate to see someone’s aura; everybody had one. They were always there, like a shadow, showing her what was truly inside a person’s soul.
She always felt like the gift was something her mother had passed onto her, perhaps left over from all the drugs Anna Grace took in the 70’s and 80’s. Her mom was the only one who knew of her gift and had always told her to keep it their little secret. ‘Other people wouldn’t understand your special gift from God,’ her mom always told her.
Grant’s aura was different. She’d seen a similar tinted aura in very few people, almost wild, unchecked. Not that Grant’s moods were wild from what she had seen so far, but something inside him seemed to be. From experience, Jamie knew auras didn’t lie.
She watched as Grant scanned a few pages of the book. “I’m always interested in reading about one of my namesakes.”
“But I thought your name was Grant.”
“My middle name is Sherman. My father named me after his two favorite generals, hoping that I would follow in their footsteps. He graduated from West Point, like Grant and Sherman and wanted me to do the same. So,” he said with a wicked grin, “I joined the Navy right out of high school.”
“I bet your father loved that,” she returned with a laugh.
“I guess I was lucky. I was almost named Patton and I could never fit comfortably in a tank. My father, ‘The General,’ and I have a lot of differences,” he stated, shaking his head. “At first I joined the Navy just to hurt him, then 9-11 happened, and I knew I went into the military for a reason.”
“We can’t all live the lives our parents had planned for us,” Jamie sighed. “Look at me. I’m working nights at a bookstore.”
“There’s nothing wrong with working here.”
“I know. I enjoy it most of the time but this isn’t where I or my mom had planned for me to be,” she said.
“What would you rather be doing?”
“I was a teacher back in Arkansas, and as soon as I get my South Carolina teaching certificate, I can go back to that.”
Grant looked surprised. “You know, I just don’t see you as a teacher.”
Jamie never saw herself as anything but one; it was a job she dearly loved, and was a little taken aback. “What do you see me as?”
“Well, with a face like yours, you should be a model or an actress.”
Grant noticed and started to backtrack. “I didn’t mean that you were some kind of diva, I just, well, being a teacher is great… and . . .”
They had been playing this game for weeks. The flirting between them had been going on for a while and Jamie wish Grant asked her out on a date already. As time passed, Jamie grew impatient and had started hinting that she was interested in getting to know him better; so far her subtleties weren’t working on the man.
Now Jamie knew that Grant was embarrassed with what he had just revealed; she could choose to step in and save him, but decided instead to take her opportunities where she could. “So that’s what a pretty face is good for, huh? And a teacher has to be old with glasses and have a mole somewhere?” Jamie glared at him as if insulted.
“No! I had some good looking teachers when I was in high school.” Grant was trying to work his way out of this situation, but she wasn’t going to let him off that easy.
“Oh, now I’m a stereotype, the hot teacher that all the boys in the locker room talk about.”
“No, you’re not at all like that.”
“You just said that I was good-looking, now I’m not?!”
“You’re very cute.”
“Cute? Kittens are cute!” Jamie tried to act offended, while holding back a smile.
“No you’re more than just cute.” Grant put his head down. “Didn’t mean it that way. I just… I’ll shut up now. I’m sorry if I said anything to hurt your feelings.”
“You can make it up to me.” Jamie said just above a whisper. The words came out of her mouth before she could stop herself. “You could take me out to dinner after work one night.”
“I don’t really like seafood, if that helps.” All Jamie could think was ‘where was this man-chasing, can’t stop embarrassing myself attitude coming from? Stop it Jamie, you’re going to run him off.’
“No seafood… hmmm.” Grant mumbled. He looked her directly in the eyes. “Okay, what night is good for you?”
“You could pick me up after I close Saturday.”
“Alright… Saturday night it is,” he started for the exit.
“Oh, and Grant?”
He turned to look back at her, “Yes?”
“You forgot to pay for the book.”
When 9 p.m. rolled around, Jamie locked the door behind her and headed home. The heat of the day still hung in the air, rising as steam from the pavement. The streets were empty but for one couple, walking arm in arm. Oblivious to Jamie.
“Marcus, do we have to go back home?” Rosalind asked her new husband as they walked back to their hotel.
“We could spend another day or two here if you want.” He returned without missing a step.
“No, I meant forever. This has been the best week of my life and I don’t want it to end.”
“It been wonderful; I’ll miss it too. We can come back here on our 10th anniversary. How ’bout that?”
“No, you’re taking me and the kids to Africa for that!” Rosalind knew that would push his buttons.
“Kids? What kids?!?!” Marcus teased.
“Well, with the way we can’t keep our hands off of each other, we’ll have several of them by then.” Rosalind looked up at him with a smile.
“We’ll see.” He stopped to kiss her.
“Ouch, you caught me with your glasses!” She pulled away.
“I wouldn’t be wearing them if we hadn’t lost one of my contacts,” he said, grabbing her hand, and pulling her back toward him.
“We?!” snapped Rosalind, knowing full well it was her fault.
“When you said you wanted to take a swim after dinner last night, I didn’t know you meant right then in the ocean, with our clothes on!” They started walking down the sidewalk again, putting their arms around one another.
“They weren’t on for long.” Rosalind laughed as she patted him on his butt.
“Yeah, and you lost your underwear in the surf.”
“What underwear?” she added with a giggle.
“Ooohhh, you’re so bad.” He pulled her close as they walked into the mist. As they rounded a corner, Marcus began to get a funny feeling. He paused, stopping Rosalind and looking around. “I think we made a wrong turn. Our hotel is one more street down.”
“You’re sure? Maybe we should ask someone.” Rosalind started looking around but all the windows of the shops were dark and there was no one but them on the street. The only light came from streetlights and the full moon overhead.
“Honey, all the shops are closed. Let’s turn down this street and crossover. I know our hotel is over that way.” He turned, pulling her onto the side street behind him.
“I don’t think we should go this way.” She sounded alarmed.
“What? Are you scared? I am bigger and scarier than most things.” Marcus had played football for Georgia Tech as an outside linebacker. If it hadn’t been for a bad knee, he might have gone on to the NFL. “I’ll make the detour worth your while,” he cajoled as he held her hand tighter and headed farther down the side street.
“No, I don’t want to get even more lost!” she said as she tried to hold him back.
“We’re not lost!! We’re just blazing new trails in our love.” Marcus said sappily. He let go of her hand and jogged off into the fog.
Rosalind stopped and tried to focus on the environment around her. “Marcus, be quiet! I’m serious!” She lowered her voice. “I think I hear something.” Her eyes started darting around trying to find the source of the noise.
“I don’t hear anything.” Marcus walked backward trying to get Rosalind to follow.
“Would you just be quiet?!”
He started moving back toward his wife. “Honey? What do you hear?”
“Shhhh!” She turned to hear faint weeping in the distance. “There it is. Do you hear it? It sounds like… a child crying. Where is that coming from?”
Now he heard the noise. It was very low, but it did sound like crying. “I think it’s over here.” They both walked deeper down the side street, near where one of the streetlights was broken. There a small side alley away from all the storefronts, a service lane for the business out front. The sounds of a child in pain grew louder. “Is anyone down there?” Marcus’ deep voice echoed down the alley.
A small voice cried out, “I’m lost … hurt … Mommy?”
“It’s a child!” Rosalind jumped into action. “Baby, I’m coming to get you. Marcus, call 9-1-1!”
Marcus fumbled with his cell phone as Rosalind took off down the alley. The weeping ended and the only thing he could hear were her footsteps as she disappeared into the fog.
“Charleston 9-1-1. What is your emergency?” Marcus started to answer, but before he could say a word, his new bride screamed out from the shadows. He dropped his phone and ran towards her.
At the end of the alley, he saw his wife lying on the cold wet cobblestone with a small girl, no more than five or six years old, in a white nightgown and bare feet bending over her. The girl looked up with blood on her lips and before he could react, she jumped towards him and knocked him to the ground. His head hit the street hard and his glasses went flying, as the wind was knocked out of him. He had never been hit that hard when he was playing football. He lay dazed on the damp alley floor trying to catch his breath. The small girl crawled on top of him. He reached up to push her off and tried to get up, but her hold on him was like steel as she bit into his chest. The pain started as a burning sensation, then became numbness and he couldn’t move. Before he passed out, Marcus could hear his cell phone in the otherwise still night and the desperation in the voice of the operator as she repeated herself.
“Charleston 9-1-1. Hello?! … Is anyone there!?!”
A. Jay Lee is a native Nashvillian and is an alumnus of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He has always had great stories in his head, but having the learning disability commonly known has Dyslexia, A. Jay never believed he would be able to put them to pen. With the loving help of his wife, who is an accomplished technical writer in her own career, A. Jay has been able bring one of his stores to life. A. Jay’s curiosity of vampires and his knowledge of biblical lore, has made his debut novel is a mixed of the two. Because of the couple’s love of the city of Charleston, South Carolina, it seemed to be the perfect setting for this saga. Grace Through Blood is the first novel in ‘The Holy Damned’ series.