Serafina and the Silent Vampire - By Marie Treanor

Chapter One

Serafina was having a blast.

Not only had she strung smelly garlic bulbs all over Ferdinand Bell’s large, beautiful house on the outskirts of Edinburgh and defaced every single room with rough wooden crosses, she now got to swagger through his evening party guests like Buffy the Vampire Slayer on patrol and drink old Ferdy Bell’s vintage champagne while she was at it.

And she got paid.

Work didn’t get much better than this.

On the whole, Bell’s guests were taking the bizarre ornamentation in their stride. They were here to celebrate the promotion of his son Jason to a partnership in a major financial investment company and so were drawn from a wide age group. However, they were all, clearly, stinking rich, and whether they wore traditional evening dress, kilts, trews, formal gowns, or stylish designer outfits, they shrieked money from every pore. Well, money and manners, Serafina supposed, since no one had actually laughed in old Ferdy Bell’s face yet. Or in hers, unless you counted Jilly, whose eyes gleamed in answering delight whenever they encountered hers across the room.

The guests gave odd surreptitious glances at the garlic strung across the doorways and windows, and at the somewhat ugly wooden cross nailed to the wall above the fireplace and upstaging a hideous, abstract oil painting. Serafina guessed that most present were already aware of old Ferdy’s unique theory that a vampire was stalking his family. They might have considered him senile, though what they imagined her excuse was, she’d no idea. It wasn’t as if she’d tried to blend in: she wore jeans and a short, leather jacket with its pockets blatantly full of sharp sticks.

Realizing that one of the catering staff was passing her with a bottle in either hand, she stuck out her glass with alacrity and received a grudging refill. She toasted the back of the waiter’s head before knocking half the contents down her throat.

Jack, one of her three regular, underpaid employees, materialized in front of her. Although an actual guest at the party through his own and his family’s connections, he looked much as he always did: all wild curly brown hair and a harassed expression.

“That’s no way to treat champers of that quality,” he murmured in his English public school accent, twitching the glass from her hand.

“Oy!” she protested, snatching it back.

“Are you pissed?” Jack asked under his breath.

“I hope to be very soon.”

“Can we do the job first, Sera?”

“Spoilsport,” she grumbled, although she did start to walk toward the french doors, where Jilly, displaying a sexy expanse of thigh, was halfway up a ladder, rehanging a fallen string of garlic while guests squeezed past her to make the most of the surprisingly warm late summer evening in Ferdy Bell’s beautiful garden.

“Is this stuff meant to be on the outside or the inside?” Jilly demanded.

“Both,” Sera said vaguely. It was definitely dusk, and in another few minutes, there would probably be enough darkness to carry out her plan.

Jilly lifted one eyebrow. “Then you’d better give me a hand, hadn’t you?”

“Fair play,” Sera allowed. She turned to Jack, murmuring, “Make sure Tam’s all set. I’ll be along soon to give you the nod. And Jack,” she added, picking another string of garlic bulbs from the basket under Jilly’s ladder. “Try to look as if you’re having fun?”

Whatever retort he’d been about to make vanished into a smile as someone he knew paused to speak to him amid much back slapping.

“He’s in his element,” Jilly muttered, clambering back down the ladder. Sera shifted it through the doorway with her foot, politely excusing herself to Jack and his friend, who stood in the way.

“Good thing too,” Sera replied, arranging the ladder outside with one hand while the other held valiantly on to her glass of champagne. “Plan wouldn’t work, otherwise, would it?”

Jilly grunted, a sound spectacularly at odds with her angelically beautiful appearance. She was Sera’s best friend as well as her first employee, and fierce intelligence lurked behind her baby-blue eyes, stylish, golden-blonde bob, and perfect makeup. Brought up in one of Edinburgh’s roughest housing schemes, which she’d worked damned hard to escape, Jilly refused to forgive Jack his privileged background, even when having him here as a guest made their own job easier.

“What is all this?” Jack’s friend asked, riveting his gaze to Jilly’s long, slender leg halfway up the ladder as she stretched above the french door. “Seems an odd theme for a party.”

Jilly and Sera made brief, sparkling eye contact.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Jack said,