Thorn Ridge was a small town, surrounded by miles of thick forest on all sides, in the middle of nowhere. With less than a hundred residents, it was one of those communities where everyone knew everyone. It was seldom that anyone new graced the streets. So when the stranger rode onto Mainstreet on his Black motercylce, it was quite the buzz.
Not used to newcomers, there was a certain wariness that settled over everyone. But that wariness never lasted long. The excitement from something new quickly overtook it. News travels fast in Thorn Ridge, so it didn’t take long for the strangers name to start circling.
Thomas Kert was a handsome man— like the male lead in a romance novel. He was tall, at least six feet, with a chisled jaw. Chocolate skin stretched over a lean, strong physique. It was obvious the man took care of himself. His eyes were greener than the foliage in the trees, glittering with hints of gold as they caught the sunlight. He oozed charm and wore his pride like a snug jacket.
People were drawn to him. Women would giggle and gawk as he walked about the grocery store, whispering fantasies amongst their inner circles. Men would flock to him in the gym, seeking tips on how to get in shape. But it was just the physical aspects that drew them to him. He was kind and helpful, willing to lend a hand to anyone who asked. He became the handyman all the wives called to fix their sinks, the tutor to all the teens having trouble in Calculus, the extra set of hands needed to clean up the community.
Thomas Kert was perfect.
A little too perfect.
To the point that no one realized the way his eyes would scan every corner of the room when he entered. Or that he never invited anyone into his home. The way he would look at everyone, as if he was categorizing them. Too wrapped up in his charm, no one paid attention.
No one except Kimberly Wright.
Kimberly knew there was something wrong with the stranger the second he stepped into town; she could feel the shift in the air. Though a bit weird to the rest of the town, Kimberley had a sixth sense. Small feelings about the world around her that usually turned out true. She’d known when her dog was going to die days before it happened, a wave of sadness washed over her. Whenever bad storms were near, she’d feel her bones grow heavy.
The moment she saw Thomas Kert, cold fingers seemed to wrap tightly around her throat, stealing both her breath and her warmth. She had never felt like that before. No matter what she did, she couldn’t shake the feeling of dread that filled her.
“There’s something about him that feels wrong,” Kimberly told her aunt Elane, watching the man across the street. Even now, a month after he’s settled, Kimberly can’t help but watch him with wariness. Her eyes follow him everywhere, trying to figure him out.
“What does he feel like?” Elane asks, following her niece’s gaze. Thomas is laughing about the Mr. Wimms, the owner of the hardware store. His laughter can be heard across the street. To everyone else, it seems like he’s enjoying himself. But to Kimberly, his laugh seems fake— forced even.
“He feels like death,” she answers, eyes still locked on the man.
Suddenly, his eyes are locked on hers. Green to hazel. A small smirk settles on his face as they continue to look at each other. Kimberly tries to hold his stare, but looks away.
“I’m gonna head home,” she tells her aunt.
“Are you sure? I don’t have to get much more.”
“It’s fine, I’ll walk. I need to clear my head.” Kimberly reassures her before leaving the store. She looks across the street once more, but there’s no one there.
“Good afternoon. Kimberly, right?” a gruff voice asks. Kimberly jumps in surprise. She looks up, feeling like her heart is about to jump out of her chest, to see Thomas Kert standing in front of her. A warm smile graces his face, but his eyes are hard. Kimberly can feel them scan her head to toe.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” he tells her, waiting for her to calm. “I couldn’t help but notice you staring at me a few minutes ago. Actually, I couldn’t help noticing you staring at me since I arrived. Is there something wrong?”
Kimberly Wright is a blunt person. She always says exactly what she means, and hates when others don’t. So being the blunt person that she is, she looks him directly in the eyes and speaks.
“I don’t trust you.”
Thomas stares at the raven haired woman with shock, not quite believing his ears. This is the first time someone has ever said something like this to his face.
“KIMBERLY!” a voice admonishes. They both turn to see Mrs. Blaine, the mayor’s wife, walking towards them swiftly. “I’m terribly sorry Mr. Kert,” she states, giving Kimberly a dark glare before smiling sweetly at the handsome man.
“It’s quite alright,” he answers, turning on the charm. You could practically see the cartoon hearts in Mrs. Blaine’s eyes. “It’s refreshing to meet someone so… honest.” Genuine joy fills his eyes this time. Kimberly can see why everyone is so taken with him.
“That is one thing we can count on our Kimberly to do.” Mrs. Blaine laughs dramatically, causing the shudders to come down once again.
“Well then ladies, if you’ll excuse me,” he states, turning to head off.
“Oh! Before I forget,” Mrs. Blaine rushes out, stopping him in his tracks. “My husband and I would like you to have dinner with us— to welcome you. We meant to invite you earlier, but it slipped our minds.”
A small smile appears on his face. “I would love to join you,” he answers. That familiar feeling of dread washes over Kimberly at his answer.
“We’ll see you at seven then.”
He nods in agreement before crossing the street. Kimberly tries to sneak away, but the woman quickly grabs her arm. She keeps the fake smile on her face until Thomas drives away. Her grip becomes tight enough to bruise as she turns.
“It’s been six months since the last time we had a newcomer in Thorn Ridge. I will not let you run this one off as well.” Harsh iced blue eyes glare down at Kimberly. “You will not ruin this. Do I make myself clear?”
“Crystal,” she replies harshly. Mrs. Blaine glares for a bit more, before letting go.
Kimberly spends the next few hours in a terrible mood. Between Cruella de Blaine and trying to figure out Mr. Perfect, she hasn’t had any peace. Before she realizes, the moon is high in the sky.
“Are you participating this time?” Elane asks, curling up on the couch. She watches as her niece paces back and forth.
“I don’t really have a choice. That witch gave me an ultimatum. Properly become a member of this ‘community’, or I’m done.” Kimberly answers with a sigh.
“She can’t do that.”
“Yes she can. She’s the mayor’s wife… their word is law.”
Kimberly still can’t shake the dread as she makes her way to the Blaine’s house. As usual, she’s the last one to arrive. Anticipation fills the air like a storm cloud ready to rain down.
The Blaine’s make their way outside, hands locked together. Mr. Blaine steps foward, his deep voice stretching across the yard. “You guys know the rules. Mr. Kert has been placed somewhere in town. He’s unconscious at the moment, but he should wake up soon. You have until dawn to find him. If you fail, he automatically belongs to us,” he states, motioning to his wife. “Any questions?”
Kimberly raises her hand, causing all eyes to snap to her. The mayor sighs before nodding at her.
“Something doesn’t feel right. I don’t believe we should-”
“As I told you earlier today. You are not going to ruin this with your ‘gut feelings’. We will carry on as planned. If you have a problem with it, I already gave you a solution.” Mrs. Blaine snarls outs. Kimberly knows saying anything further will do more harm than good.
“Well, if ther are no other issues.” A sinister smile stretches across his face.
“Let The Hunt… BEGIN!”
Groans of pain fill the air as blunt teeth give way to razor sharp fangs that fill the mouth. Claws burst through nail beds, already stained red with blood. Black pupils expand across eyes, engulfing colored irises. Excited shouts fill the air as the townsfolk begin their hunt for the poor human who unknowingly stumbled into a vampires nest.
Thorn Ridge is a small town, in the middle of nowhere. The perfect place for people to go missing. For years, the vampires of Thorn Ridge have lured prey without family, friends, and those that would miss them, into the town. For years they’ve done The Hunt; a twisted game of cat and mouse.
As Kimberly walks the streets, unease fills her. “It’s too quiet,” she whispers to herself. The smell of blood hits her nose first. It’s folllowed the sound of shoes rapidly hitting the pavement.
Kimberly turns just in time to catch someone running towards her. Familiar pink hair blocks her vision. “Sherry?”
The pink haired woman turns to Kimberly, blood staining her face. Relief fills her terrified face as she sees someone familiar.
“Kimberly,” she sobs out.
Sherry grips her arms tightly. “W-we have to l-leave. W-we have to g-get out of here.” Kimberly can barely understand the woman through her tears.
“Sherry, I can’t understand you.”
“We should have listened to you. He.. he killed them. He killed them all. That man isn’t normal— he’s not huma-” The sound of whistling causes Sherry to freeze. Her sobs become louder as her frame shakes. Before Kimberly can say anything, Sherry gets pulled into the darkness of the alley. Her screams quiet as soon as they start.
Slow footsteps fill her ears as she stands frozen in spot. She doesn’t have to turn to know who it is, but she does anyway. Blood paints his face and clothes. The moon creates a glint on the wickedly curved dagger in his hand. There’s no fake smile this time; there’s no smile at all.
“Wh-what are you?” Kimberly asks, unable to stop the shaking of her voice.
“I’m a Hunter,” he answers calmly. “My job is to hunt down supernaturals that break the law.”
“A-are you going to kill me?”
“…no.” Relief plunges down over her as she falls to her knees. Her heart is beating rapidly. “Why?”
That name is as familiar as her own. The only human prey to ever make it out of Thorn Ridge, thanks to Kimberly. She’d always hated The Hunt. She thought it was barbaric and unnecessary. Vampires had evolved from their ancestors; evolved to the point of no longer needing human blood to survive.
For years, Kimberly had tried to save those that had been caught, but she had only been successful once. Andre Taylor. He survived with Kimberly’s help.
“We found him wandering around dozens of miles from here. I could feel the magic whirling around his mind, so I took a look.” The man squats down, tilting his head as he takes her in. “I saw you. You helped him escape. Told him to run and to never look back. And I heard your screams.”
Kimberly shudders as she remembers that day. Minutes after he got away, she was attacked by Mrs. Blaine. Screams from her punishment could be heard all over town. It was a miracle she didn’t die that day. Her only saving grace was the she had wiped his memory. It took a long time for the townsfolk not to look at her like they wanted to kill her.
“What happens now?” she asks, bringing herself back. Thomas stands up with a sigh, giving himself a stretch.
“Now, I finish out punishment. I would suggest you find somewhere else to live,” he tells her. He starts to walk away before stopping. Kimberly stands up, waiting for him to speak. Turning around, he looks at her curiously.
“What?” she asks.
“Would you have tried to save me?”
“… I don’t know,” she answers honestly. That genuine smile from earlier appears again as a small laugh comes out.
Without another word, he walks away, whistling as he goes.