Dante Rising: the Birth of a Venator (A Dark Brethren short story)

Dante Rising: the Birth of a Venator (A Dark Brethren short story) by Tracey O'Hara

Book: Dante Rising: the Birth of a Venator (A Dark Brethren short story) by Tracey O'Hara Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tracey O'Hara
Rural France 16 years ago
    Antoinette sat up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she look around the darkened bedroom. She tilted her head and listened carefully for the noise that woke her. But there was nothing above the gentle spring rain pitter-pattering against the bedroom window and her little brother, Nici’s, soft, steady breathing beside her. He was such a pain when awake, but looked so sweet asleep. With arms thrown above his head and his left leg sticking out from under the covers, pajama bottoms pushed up just above the knee. She smiled and pulled the quilt up to cover him.
    Down the hall, Grammie’s snores rattled through the house. She was used to the snorting gargle her grandmother made. It wouldn’t have woken her.
    Then it came again—a distinct knocking from downstairs. The front door.
    Someone’s here .
    Suddenly she was fully awake. Little bubbles of happiness tickled the inside of her tummy as the old clock downstairs chimed two. Today was her birthday. Her sixth birthday. And Papa had promised her a new puppy.
    The knocking noise came again.
    Papa’s home. But why would he knock on the door?
    Excitement pushed the doubt out of her head. It had to be Papa, It just had to be. 
    The trick would be reaching him before Mama caught her out of bed. Papa would let her have the puppy now. She knew he would. And he’d let her stay up—maybe even share a cup of warm milk or even cocoa. After all, it was her birthday.
    She quickly clamped her hand over her mouth to catch the giggle before it escaped, but only managed to muffle it. Nici murmured something in his sleep, and kicked off the covers again. He lay sprawled on his back, arms and legs everywhere.
    Should I wake him? Another excited giggle rose up her throat and she tightened her hand over her mouth.
    No - he’ll just get us caught. Besides she wanted Papa all to herself. Especially if he had the new puppy.  
    Antoinette crept out from under the covers and froze when Nici moaned. Then he rolled over and stuck his thumb back in his mouth, still asleep.
    Her bare feet hit the floor and landed on something soft. The fabric body of Dolly lay under her foot and she gathered the toy baby into her arms.
    “Poor Dolly,” she whispered, smoothing down the tangle of blonde curls so like her own before kissing the cold plastic face. She tucked the doll to her chest as she tiptoed across the icy wooden floor and out into the hall.
    Mama will be so cross if she catches me out of bed. But it was worth the risk. Smiling, Antoinette could just hear her father, “ Marianna, my love, don’t be mad. Come Lishka ” he’d say, using her pet name. “ Come sit on Papa’s knee and have some milk .”
    And Mama would smile that special smile—the one she kept just for Papa. It was Antoinette’s favorite. Mama was always looked more beautiful when Papa was around.
    As she passed by her grandmother’s room, the bedsprings squeaked and the snoring stopped. Antoinette held her breath, praying for Grammie not to wake. Finally, after strangled gargling snort, the snoring began again. Antoinette let out a huge sigh and continued along the hall. 
    Her mother’s voice carried to the top of the stairs. “ Oui, Monsieur , please come in.”
    Her heart sank.
    Not Papa.
    She sat down in the shadows at the top of the stairs, tucking her nightgown around her goose-bumped bare legs and hugged Dolly to her chest. It was late—too late for visitors.
    Who could it be?
    Her mother stood by the front door, speaking to someone Antoinette couldn’t make out.
    Then, a man she’d never seen before crossed the threshold and shook out his coat on the front step. Not that it helped. Water and mud still dripped all over the stone floor in the entry hall. Antoinette sucked back her breath in horror. Grammie would have a fit. She’d click her tongue and shake her head as she looked down at the mess. The man would be in so much trouble. But Grammie was asleep and the little girl’s

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