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The Worthy: Wildest Dreams

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UNEDITED excerpt
The Worthy: Wildest Dreams
Copyright 2005
Chapter One

Of all the hokey things she’d ever participated in, and as a reporter she’d been involved in her fair share of doozies, this one had to take the cake.  Here she was on a red eye flight to Europe, but was she heading somewhere romantic like France or Italy, hell she’d even take Amsterdam.  No, she was bound for Eastern Europe or more precisely Transylvania, and why, because her superiors thought it would be a great idea for her to do a Halloween feature on the history of vampires.  Where better to get first hand knowledge than the motherland for all vampires?   She would be staying in a fully functioning castle, with several-invited guest who eagerly awaited a view of the famed castle of Vilhelm Dracul.  According to local superstition Vilhelm, not his cousin Vlad the Impaler was in fact the man behind the Dracula legends. 

He’d lived some 526 years ago in the historic castle with his family and several servants, all of who mysteriously vanished.  For years the castle remained vacant and the memory of the Dracul family faded until almost a century later when random murders began to ravage a nearby village.  Suspicious that the killers had hidden in the abandoned relic the local constable, along with several angry villagers, reopened the long forgotten monument.  Despite its outward appearance, it was reported that the castles interior remained in pristine condition as if it were still maintained by the large number of servants.  A thorough investigation of it however failed to reveal anyone in residence.

Unsatisfied with his findings, the constable and a smaller band of men began a nightly vigil of the castle to determine if their murderers had found a secret entrance into fortress that had been overlooked by them.  Each night a group would go out, but would return one or two men shy.  Frightened, the town’s people took matters into their own hands by torching the castle in a mid-afternoon celebration.  For nearly two centuries, ruins lay as a reminder of the atrocities visited on the small community.  In 1781, construction began over the ashes of the old castle much to the surprise of the locals who watched in silent awe as an exact replica was erected.   Although generations had passed since the murders and subsequent destruction, many people in the now thriving town felt a sense of unease at having the gruesome historical reminder looming over their homes.

The years to come proved that history didn’t always repeat itself.  The castle would change hands to various descendants of the Dracul family, eventually employing many people from the town once again to handle the day-to-day maintenance required for its upkeep.  While its present owner was rumored to reside the majority of his time in various parts of Europe, over the last two years he’d spent an unprecedented amount of it in Transylvania while he completed a project rumored to spark tourist into the forgotten community.

            “Stop being such a Grumpy Gus about it, do you know how many people would like an all expenses paid trip to somewhere exotic.”  Sheila had said from behind her large desk after dropping the bombshell in Kyra’s lap. 

            “If you want to send me somewhere exotic how about Morocco or Turkey, I’m sure I can find all types of wonderful stories there.”  She pretended to pick a piece of lint off her immaculate linen suit, avoiding the black eyes of the Japanese-Austrian woman who was her friend and editor.

            “You’re missing the point, we want something in time for our Halloween edition, and not just your run of the mill reports on trick-o-treaters, we want something that will make readers stand up and take notice of the holiday.”

            “Why?” Kyra wanted to know.  “Did the paper buy stock in some major candy manufacturer?”  She half joked.

“Not exactly.”  Sheila started. This time Kyra made a point of meeting the shifty gaze of her friend, who nervously ran fingers through her glossy jet-black hair.  Sheila O’Neil was a short stocky woman in her early forties who’d been an editor for the high profile paper for the past fifteen years.  She loved her job and did it quite well, but when she wasn’t at her office she spent her time with a husband of twenty years and their four children.  Kyra had become a part of that picture over the last five years, the displaced Idaho native instantly taking a liking to her new boss after being recruited for the position as journalist some six years prior. 

Sheila had immediately taken the young African-American woman under her wing, enjoying the spunk and tenacity that the small town girl maintained in spite of her sheltered upbringing.  She’d made sure that the young woman became acclimated to her new life in the fast paced Chicago environment without too much culture shock, and in the process found both herself and her family adopting the Boise woman.  There was even a time when she’d hope that something would develop between her new friend and brother-in-law, whom she tried to pair up.  After several ignominious attempts at dating, it was finally obvious to Sheila that the two were ill suited for each other.

“What is it Sheila?”  Kyra pressed.

“Well you know about the buy out?”

“As much as any other low level employee, regardless of the fact that my best friend is the editor-in-chief.”  She jibbed.

“Hey, I’ve told you all that I can without risk of loosing my job.”

Kyra knew she told the truth and wouldn’t dream of putting her in a compromising position.  “I know, but what does the buy out have to do with my trip?”.”

“I’m not suppose to be telling you this but the new owner is Dumitri Dracul.”

“Great, so our new boss is using the paper to drum up business for his dilapidated castle?”  Kyra rolled whiskey colored eyes skyward.  “Ok, so why me?  I’m sure that anyone else can do this, would probably even want to do this assignment.  Why now when I’ve met the man who could quite possibly be the one.  For God’s sake, I don’t even write tourism columns.”  She rambled on.

It was Sheila’s turn to roll her eyes at her friend’s dramatics.  Although she’d been dating the football player for the past three months she knew Kyra wasn’t as enamored as he or others thought she should be.

“Number one, you’re a damned good reporter.  Two, you’re not working on anything right now that can’t take a back burner, besides he doesn’t want your traditional tourist piece, he wants something fresh and new from a novice traveler.  Three, Mr. Dracul requested you personally.”

“Why would he request me?” 

            She shrugged.  “I guess he’s a fan of your work.  The bottom line is I need you on that flight by the end of the week, will you do it?”

                                                       *  *  *

            Like I had much of a choice, Kyra muttered to herself as she squeezed her way into the plane’s narrow aisle enroute to the bathroom.  Not only was she on her way across the ocean to a city whose name was synonymous with cult like murders but she’d also had a fight with William over the whole trip.

            “It’s pre-season, you should be there with me.”  He pouted like a child, a veritable  6’2, and three hundred pound baby.

            “It’s not what I want sweetie.”  She tried not to be annoyed by his spoiled declaration, resisting the urge to remind him that this was for her job.

            “If it’s not what you want then don’t go, I’m sure they can’t fire you over it.”  He said as if that were the end of it. 

            She wanted to be mad at him, to tell him that just because he was some hot shot football star didn’t mean that the whole world had to do his bidding, but she couldn’t.  Not when he sat there looking so adorable with his hazel eyes, closely cropped curly hair and caramel complexion.  God but the man was finer than anyone had a right to be. 

            Nothing more had been mentioned about her eminent flight until the night before her trip when William phoned to ask if she would be free for dinner the next night.

            “I told you I’m going out of the country for a week.”  She reminded while thumbing through her closet, balancing the cordless phone between her cheek and shoulder.

            “I thought we’d settle that, you said you would tell Sheila you can’t do it.”

            “No.”  She started slowly.  “You said you didn’t want me to do it, that didn’t mean that I would stay.”

            “So it’s like that.”  He huffed.

            “Like what?  I have a job to do the same as you.”

            “You know all the other players will have their women there.”  He continued ignoring her last statement. 

            “I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation.”  The check she had on her temper was slipping slowly.

            “You know, my mother warned me about women like you.  Is that how it’s always going to be, you and your career without any thought for my needs.”

            “You’re not even making sense now.”  She didn’t need this at the moment.

            “I see, well its obvious that my feelings don’t count for anything.”  He continued his child like tirade.

            “You’re being irrational.”

            “Irrational, irrational.”  He yelled, causing her to pull the phone away from her ear.  “Why don’t I come over there and show you how irrational I can be.”

            “You wouldn’t… look I’m not going to do this tonight, I’ll talk to you when I get back.”  She disconnected the call before she said something that couldn’t be taken back later.  Part of her half expected him to show up at her high rise apartment, but as the night waned she realized the last thing William would want was negative press under his name which is what he would certainly get if he showed up at her complex acting a fool.  He was known for his excellent conduct both on and off the field and he wouldn’t risk that for anyone.

                                                        *  *  *

            She sent up a silent thank you to the powers that be at finding the bathroom vacant.  They were on the last leg of their journey and she was definitely developing cabin fever from the lengthy flight and her space hording seatmate.  She stared at her slightly darker than caramel reflection in the mirror, noting that she looked just as tired as she felt.  She could only hope that her new boss would be kind enough to wait until his guests had a good nights rest before requiring them to be social.   The braid she’d secured in her tight curly tendrils looked as if she’d slept on it, several strands of hair managing to escape regardless of the amount of gel she’d used earlier.  Coffee colored, almond shaped eyes did a slow assessment of her face.  Maybe she should have packed make-up for her trip.  A little color to her plump lips, perhaps a bit of eyeliner, several swipes from her brush and she could look human again.  She sighed heavily, wondering what William was doing and questioning why she didn’t care that he hadn’t bothered to call and apologize.  A week wouldn’t be too long, would pass in a heartbeat if she loosened up and allowed herself to have a bit of fun, she told herself.  When she got back to Chicago she would reevaluate her relationship with William.