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  • Writer's pictureAoibh Wood

A Draft Chapter from 'The Book of the Queen' coming in 2025

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

It suddenly occurred to me one day, not long after I'd finished the edits for Blood Rituals, that Marcella's story was untold. There were things that happened in the background that Cait never saw. Who was this woman, and how could she live for 1,500 years and still be so human? I think perhaps it's time to tell this tale. Let me provide you with a tidbit.

I ran a hand through my hair and answered the burner phone I’d bought on the first ring. “Elizabeth,” I said flatly and Absently picked up her dark blue passport from my desk, fingering the gold lettering and the UK seal on the cover.

“I’m boarding the plane. Are you sure this is the way you want to go with this?” There was a bit of tension in her voice. She didn’t like this, I knew, but what was there to like? Schmidt was getting close, and Hideyoshi had already told us that Nas was working with him. I couldn’t afford the distraction of trying to reign in a rogue. I propped my head in my hand, elbow resting on the desk, and stared miserably at the rubbish bin full of pink tissues next to my desk. I’d been crying a lot lately.

“I don’t see much choice,” I answered finally. “We don’t really have time to get him back under control.”

There was a long pause on the line. “I know. And, for what it’s worth, M. I’m sorry.”

“Yes,” I agreed, more tears budding in my eyes. “Me too. I’ll see you when you get here.”

She hung up, and I gave another deep sigh filled with disappointment, anger, and sorrow. “Ninetta!”

Ninetta appeared in the doorway moments later. “Yes, Ms. Carson?”

“I’m sorry. There’s nothing else I can do. Could you please make yourself scarce, maybe go to the sub-basement and dust something? I don’t want you up here alone with him.”

“Yes, ma’am,” she answered and disappeared with a turn of her brown skirt.

I stayed in the office until just before sundown, then took the elevator up to my room. The soft music in the entryway sounded more maudlin than relaxing. I glanced at my watch. I had another twenty minutes before Jessvin would be waking up, giving me enough time to grab a shower, get dressed, and leave. I kept the shower short, though stepping out of it, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was still dirty.

When had I gotten like this? I wondered. There had been a time when I would have happily depopulated an entire country to get what I wanted—now, though, I was wracked with guilt.

I thought, perhaps, It had happened when she’d come back from Iraq. I’d stopped into the hospital with her mother to see how she was. Róisín had read me the riot act over her condition.

“You promised to protect her,” she had said. “Where were you?”

I had no answer. She was right, and when I glanced down at Cait, the worm of guilt slid into my chest and stayed put, never leaving. She was so young then, barely twenty, and so beautiful, even drugged up and unconscious, her arm a mass of bandages. She and her sister had always had an almost unearthly beauty to them, a draw of sorts. I’d seen the X-Rays. Inside were a jumble of pins in her wrist and two titanium rods where portions of her left ulna and radius had been. It had been then. Just four years after I’d glamoured away her past, it had hit me. And I still didn’t know why. It was maddening.

Snapping from my musings, I laid everything out on the bed next to the shoebox containing my stolen footwear.

The phone rang once more. It was Robert.

“Go ahead,” I answered, voice flat, emotionless.

“They’re meeting for dinner at nine. You were right. Schmidt’s turned him.”

I closed my eyes. Just what I needed, I thought. More bad news.

“Marcella?” Robert prodded. “Are you still there?”

“Yes. That will work to our advantage for now. I’m still worried he’ll get to her though.”

“Not to worry,” he replied, his voice sounding far more optimistic than I felt. “She’s at home. It’s her day off, and he just arrived. We probably have a day or two. I just overheard that he and Mr. Parkman are meeting at the Capitol Grille in Chestnut Hill tonight. So the window of opportunity couldn’t be better.”

“I’m sorry I got you wrapped up in this, Robert,” I told him, my voice tight.

Robert’s response was quiet and exactly what I expected him to say. “Marcella, you know better than that. You called. I came. I owe you my life a hundred times over. I take it you got the box I sent over.”

“I did. Thank you for that.”

“Well, bring them to me, and I’ll put them in the appropriate spot when you’re done.”

“I will, but it will probably be a few days. Acacia Rodriguez has turned.”

The line was quiet for a long time before Robert spoke again. “I’m sorry. That’s awful news. I assume you have what you need otherwise?”

I stared down at the black suit, shirt, wooden stake and Katana resting on the bed. “Yes. I have everything. After I’m done, why don’t you take some time for yourself? Go to Fiji—on me.”

“Let’s just see how it goes, okay?” Robert said, non-committal.

“Okay, Robert. Thank you again for this.”

“Have you seen her?”

I felt a slight flutter in my chest. Something I hadn’t felt in a long time, probably since I met Liz, and the corners of my mouth turned up in a slight smile. I truly couldn’t help it. “Yes, I caught a glimpse of her yesterday as she left the gym. She’s grown up to be a beautiful woman. And good Goddess, she is fit.”

The line was quiet once more as Robert Paused. “Marcella,” Robert warned finally.

“I know. I know. I just want to get to know her. All I have is what you’ve told me. Besides, with Schmidt poking around, I need to keep her close.”

“Yes, I’m sure that’s it.” Robert sounded skeptical. Then he added in a mildly scolding tone that I didn’t like. “Marcella, don’t do this again. You know how it goes.”

I nodded to myself. Yes, indeed, I did. But I was so tired of being alone. Three hundred fifty years without a companion was a long time. I’d tried a few times, but it had always ended disastrously, many of them going the way of Jessvin, wracked with guilt and misery.


“Yes, Robert, I know. I’ll do my best to maintain my distance.”

“See that you do. Let’s not have a repeat of London, yes?”

I thought about that and about Cait. From what I’d seen of her, she had a strength to her that my last lover had not. But she was a cop, and I didn’t need another run-in with the police. The brush with the Met had been close enough, and I was about to do something that would certainly put me further on their radar if the FBI hadn’t already tipped them off after what Jesse had given them. “I don’t think she’d go that way, even if she became interested.”

“She’s quite fragile—the war, her injuries—she has a lot going on. And there’s something else. Something that happened when she first got to Iraq that you don’t know. I pulled some strings and got her file, and—”

I stopped him. “I don’t need to know about that right now, Robert. I don’t want to invade her privacy any more than I already have. Let’s just get this done and hopefully stall Schmidt for a bit.”

“This could blow up in your face, you know,” Robert said, a soft, cautionary tone to his words.

“It likely will, but I have to solve my current problem, and I need a patsy, as the Americans say. It solves three problems at once, four really.”

“Best of luck,” Robert said and hung up.

Staring back at the outfit, I wished I could be human for just a few minutes so that a deep cleansing breath might feel, well, cleansing. But there was nothing for it.

I changed into the clothes, put up my hair, and slid the dark black wig over my head. Then I reached into the small shoebox that Robert had left and slid my feet into my stolen shoes.

It was hours later, well after dark, when I found myself back in Monument Park. I watched as the door to my building opened, and Jessvin strode out. Swiftly and silently, I moved to the edge of the exhibit lodge and slipped on my gloves. The sound of his shoes on the pavement gave me a moment of pause. I could always back out. Try to find another way to do this. No, I told myself. I have to deal with this before he kills someone else. If I could pin it on Blackman, great, that would help. I looked down at my watch. Jesse had stayed later than usual.

I listened carefully to his steps and stayed quiet, waiting. He stopped and a cold hand scrabbled at my chest. Had he heard me moving? But then Jessvin started walking again. I gripped the stake tightly. Waiting. Waiting. Now.

I sprung from behind the monument and slammed the stake home before Jessvin could react. I only had a split second to register his accusing eyes before I drew the blade and took his head from his shoulders, but it was enough. He’d been shocked. I told myself it was just the surprise at being attacked and staked, not that he’d recognized me. I clamped my eyes shut for just a second, then knelt down and pulled out the stake. With a gloved hand, I reached in and pulled out his heart, placing it in the small plastic bag I had in my pocket.

Despite how gruesome and awful this was, there was a moment of excitement. I tried to tell myself that it was just the thrill of the hunt, a vampiric instinct, but it was an absolute lie. I’d set things in motion. She would be coming, assuming Bill did what I asked of him. With Jessvin’s heart in the bag, I took off down to Camp Two.

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