Once upon a time, I had known nothing about my family. But then I went to Europe and discovered who I really was. And my new life…well, it was like something right out of a fairy tale. I was a member of the royal family of Dobrenica, a tiny, obscure European country with some very unusual attributes. Like magic. And ghosts. And vampires.
But for the first time in my life I was truly happy. I was engaged to be married to the heir apparent to the throne, and we were in love. So my mood was high as I walked under the triumphal arch in the center of the capital city and passed the off little painting of a door that had intrigued me ever since I first came to Dobrenica.
It was rendered so realistically that on first glance it seemed three dimensional, and I always ran my fingers over the amazing painting as I passed. But this time, my fingers closed on an actual cold metal doorknob, and the door swung inward, revealing a sun-drenched landscape and a teenage girl with honey-colored braids.
As I stepped over the magical threshold, she spoke.
“You are called to guide the child Aurelie,”she said. “But that is only half your task: to save Dobrenica, you must bring her here.”
And with that, she disappeared, leaving me floating like a spirit in a strange world, two hundred years in the past.
Before last summer, I was just a normal grad student from California, but then I went to Europe to track down my grandmother’s family and my life changed forever.
Mistaken for Ruli, a runaway princess who, it turned out, was actually my cousin, I was drugged, abducted, and taken to Dobrenica, a tiny and very unusual little kingdom in Eastern Europe.
The handsome man who kidnapped me was Alec, Ruli’s fiance, the man who was slated to rule Dobrenica. Like so many things in this odd little kingdom, their marriage would have a magical component―for when certain members of two royal lines married at a particular point in time, Dobrenica…vanished.
The solution should have been simple, right? Find Ruli and bring her home. Except Ruli didn’t want to come home. Alec and Ruli disliked each other, and to complicate matters further, Alec and I…well, I’ve always been a romantic at heart.
In the end we all did the “right thing.” Brokenhearted yet resolute, I returned to America, but I just couldn’t seem to forget Alec or Dobrenica.
But then I learned that though Ruli and Alec had married, Dobrenica was still in our world. Still in my world. The magic had failed, and no one knew why.
So back I went, but my trip became even more dangerous than it was the first time. I expected personal conflict and politics, even sword fighting. I was also prepared for Dobrenica’s ever-present specters. But I was not prepared for murder, mystery, or the chillingly real presence of the undead.
Too much imagination was tantamount to lying―that’s what my grandmother taught me. So when I first got the sense that someone was following me, I ignored it. Who’d waste time following me?
Me, being Aurelia Kim Murray, a grad student from California with a passion for ballet and fencing, and a hopelessly romantic vision of the world. I had some to Europe to track down my grandparents’ families, but so far I’d had no luck.
I couldn’t explain the sense of urgency that drove me, even to myself. It has begun that day four months ago when my grandmother lay restlessly in her bed, her eyes glittering with fever as she gripped my hand. “Your mother is too gentle,” she’s whispered in her aristocratic Parisian French. “I cannot send her to steal the breach.”
Breach? What breach? With her family? With my grandfather’s family? Neither Mom nor I knew anything about Grandmother’s family or the handsome man in the silver-framed photo that Gran always kept on her bedside table.
“She wouldn’t talk about her life before California,” my mom has said, as we waited in yet another specialist’s office, hoping to find out why, though Gran had recovered from her fever, she had not spoken since.
Nothing had come of my search in Paris, or Vienna, and no matter how fast I walked along the grand boulevards, I knew I couldn’t outpace my sense of failure.
And that’s when I met my first ghost.
But seeing ghosts wasn’t my biggest problem. I was being followed, and I was about to find out more about my lineage than I had ever imagined possible in my wildest, most fanciful dreams…or nightmares.