Eastern Europe, 1885—a brutal, unforgiving region.
Painful memories and an irresistible pull west finally make the decision for Russian beauty Magda Golya. With a ticket provided by a mysterious benefactor, she soon finds herself on a ship headed for the New World along with a companion she hadn’t expected. America…a land with the promise of new life in the form of a Carolina plantation owned by a reputable southern gentleman.
Despite the grandeur of the place, she soon discovers there are even worse things in the world than what she’d already experienced. Brutality is not confined to the Old Country alone, savagery not the sole domain of wild animals, and evil not a trait unique to the minions of Hell.
But Magda has the means to make a difference, and what’s more—she wants to. A rather strong realization for a vampire.
“Quite the gentleman, isn’t he?” the blonde Volaria whispered in her own eastern dialect as they swung their bags up into the straw and climbed in after.
“He’s not that bad,” Magda whispered back in the same language as they settled into the hay. “Better than my disgusting uncle. At least this one seems willing to provide more than drunken breath and unwanted visits in the night.”
Guillermo snapped the reins and the wagon began to move.
“What was that?” Anatoly called out from his place up front.
“I say ‘you are most generous man’,” Magda shouted in English over the sound of horse hooves on cobblestone.
He smiled his approval and faced front again. Magda winked at Volaria, bringing a giggle from her more bashful companion. Not for the first time she wondered about the girl with the golden hair. How could such a beautiful young woman be so delicate and so timid, she thought, and yet brave enough to make the trip to America?
Far too many girls like Volaria were nothing but meat for the wolves of the world. They were the dreamers, full of false security, and convinced of their ultimate happiness. Fools.
Magda herself had been a journalist; something unheard of in the male-dominated societies of Eastern Europe. But the owners of newspapers from Istanbul to Budapest saw great value in the attractive redhead who could speak, read, write—and especially type-set—in many languages. Every single editor had vied for her affections, but even when rebuffed, the smarter newspapermen found her too valuable an asset to let go. She built the reputations of every paper she worked for.
Her preference to work nights was always seen as a bonus.
“You are prostitute?” Volaria said in English as she slid closer.
The unexpected question brought Magda back to the moment, but the blonde misread her confused look as taking offense.
“I do not mean to…what is word?” Volaria said with a sympathetic look.
“Embarrass me?” Magda guessed. She thought for a second and nodded. Prostitute was as good a word as any. Newspapermen in America would likely prove just as accommodating as the ones in Europe to attain her services as an assistant editor, but none would pay to bring a new employee from across the Atlantic, especially a woman. So, she’d found a more acceptable occupation to cross the ocean. Bride, prostitute, journalist, she thought. Either way, I’m selling myself.
“You didn’t embarrass me,” Magda said. “We women do what we must in a man’s world, do we not?”
“I am…apology,” her petite companion said, blue eyes glistening with sincerity.
Magda smiled at her. “No need.”
Volaria took her hand and flinched at what she felt. “You—your hand is so cold.”
Without another word, the younger woman retrieved one of her shawls from the bag beside her. She flung it around Magda’s shoulders. It didn’t seem to suit the blonde to be so bold, but Magda figured the girl merely wanted to be her friend. They were, after all, alone in a new country and needed all the friends they could get.
“Please take,” Volaria said, pulling the wrap closer around Magda’s throat as the wind picked up. “You could catch death.”
Magda chewed her lip to keep from laughing out loud. No shawl ever made could effectively raise her temperature a single degree, but the gesture was genuine and sweet. Instead she thanked her companion, huddling close to her amongst the piled straw in the back of the wagon. She mused over the girl’s choice of words, wondering how Volaria would feel if she knew the woman beside her had indeed succeeded in catching death long ago.
And made friends with it.