Reading Dracula at the age of twelve ignited Margaret L. Carter’s interest in a wide range of speculative fiction and inspired her to become a writer. Vampires, however, have always remained close to her heart. Her work on vampirism in literature includes four books and numerous articles. She holds a PhD in English from the University of California (Irvine), and her dissertation contained a chapter on Dracula. In fiction, she has written horror, fantasy, and paranormal romance, as well as sword-and-sorcery fantasy in collaboration with her husband, a retired naval officer. Her short stories have appeared in various anthologies, including the Darkover and Sword and Sorceress series. She and her husband live in Maryland and have four children, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, a St. Bernard, and two cats. Please visit Carter’s Crypt: http://www.margaretlcarter.com
At the age of forty, psychiatrist Roger Darvell discovered vampires are real, a nonhuman species living secretly among the ordinary mortals who vastly outnumber them, and he himself is a hybrid, with a vampire mother and a human father. After learning the truth about the craving for blood that had plagued him all his adult life, he came to terms with his “monstrous” side and found love with his human professional partner, Dr. Britt Loren. In between treating their mundane patients, Roger and Britt occasionally venture into problems of the paranormal. They deal with three extraordinary cases in these stories, as they counsel a neurotic young vampire, a guilt-ridden werewolf, and a woman who owns a haunted antique desk.
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Excerpt: Over the next week, Franz’s therapy progressed from gazing upon the crucifix at shorter and shorter distances, to the point where his fingertips could graze the rosary beads without his flying into a panic. He managed brief contact with the cover of Britt’s copy of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. Confronted with two shot glasses of plain water, he acknowledged that he couldn’t identify which one came from the font at Roger’s church, Saint Mary’s, and which from the office water cooler. On the following Sunday night, he finally touched the crucifix with minimal anxiety and without psychosomatic burns.
“I did it! You really can work miracles, Doctor—doctors, I should say, both of you.”
Britt rewarded him with a smile and a fleeting touch on the arm. “Your unconscious mind performed the miracle. We just facilitated it.”
“Now for the critical step,” Roger said. “Your ultimate goal is to be able to walk into Saint Anne’s and sit through the concert. We’ll start working on that tomorrow night.”
Franz’s pulse accelerated. At a stern look from Roger, he reined in his reaction until his heartbeat settled to normal. “Meet us there at eight p.m. tomorrow,” Roger said. “Considering the progress you’ve already made, you shouldn’t have much trouble.”
Britt did a credible job of reinforcing that statement with a façade of optimism, whether or not she harbored doubts. “We’ll both be with you the whole time. There’s nothing to worry about.”
Accordingly, on the following night, a breezy, pleasantly cool September evening, the two of them strolled from Britt’s condo apartment near the Naval Academy to Church Circle at the top of the half-mile, brick-paved Main Street in the heart of the historic district. They found Franz waiting outside the wrought-iron gates opening onto the grounds of Saint Anne’s, which occupied the entire circle. At least he showed up, Roger thought. That’s hopeful. “Shall we proceed?” He held the gate ajar. The nave of the church would be open, even if the rest of the building was locked. He strode up the walk to the three steps leading to the double doors of the red-brick, nineteenth-century structure. Franz, with Britt falling in behind him, had little choice but to follow.
The young man stepped inside the foyer and froze, clutching the door frame. Roger paused halfway to the inner door and cast an annoyed glance over his shoulder. “Come, now, do I have to pry your fingers loose and pull you along like a dog on a leash? You’ve touched a crucifix. Simply entering a room should be easy by now.”
“Suppose I hold your hand?” Britt said. “This building is open to the public, so you don’t need an invitation. If your unconscious mind insists you do, I’m a member here, and I invite you.”
“Okay.” Despite the strain in his voice, he managed to take a step forward and accept her offered hand. Together they walked across the foyer.
Roger opened the door to the main worship space, dim, cool, and smelling faintly dusty. The only light came from low-wattage lamps above the altar. “Gaze into my eyes and believe what I tell you. Nothing here will harm you. It’s safe and peaceful.”
Franz’s breathing and pulse slowed. “Yes, Doctor.”
“You’ll take one step inside, then return to this spot. I have confidence you can do that.”
Clasping Britt’s hand, the young vampire did as commanded.
“Well done,” she said. “Next, try two paces.”
They worked their way up, advancing and retreating step by step, until the three of them stood in the back of the church behind the last row of pews. Roger blocked Franz’s path when the patient would have withdrawn again. “Enough of that. We’ve demonstrated you can come inside with no problem. Now we’re going to walk all the way to the front.”
Franz took one more pace and froze. “What do you think is going to happen?” Roger asked, struggling to rein in his impatience. “Do you expect to crumble into a pile of ashes?”
“Of course not.” With a tremulous laugh, Franz stepped forward again, then halted. His head whipped from side to side as he took in his surroundings. His heartbeat thundered in Roger’s ears. Sounding half strangled, he whispered, “But they’re everywhere.”
“What?” Britt said.
“The pictures. Staring at me.” He squeezed her hand.