Ryan comes face to face with the mysterious vampire.
I didn’t answer, just stood there, not even breathing, and there were three more knocks, louder this time. I shuffled silently over to the door, shaking, and peeked through the little hole. Standing on my doorstep was the dark-haired vampire, the one I had tried to help. I kept the chain on the door and cracked it open.
I tried to speak, but only mustered up a very un-confident “um.”
“I’m not here to hurt you,” he said, looking up into my eyes. He had a smooth, clear voice, and this time he had big brown irises framed by white, in place of the cold black eyes I’d seen earlier.
I paused, then closed the door, removed the chain, and opened it fully, stepping out the way so he could come inside. He didn’t, and I looked at him, puzzled.
“You have to invite me in,” the vampire said with a half-smile, amusement in his voice.
“I thought that was just a myth,” I mumbled. “Um, come in.”
“Thanks.” He smiled and walked in, and I shut the door and locked it behind me. Standing silently, I tried to get a good look at him. He wore tight dark wash jeans and a striped shirt, and a lavender hoodie. His dark hair was unruly, and although his look was overall very casual, there was something timeless and strangely elegant about the way he moved and the cadence of his voice. “My name is Brendon.”
“Ryan. … You look better,” I said, not really knowing how to start the conversation or why he was even here.
“You mean now that I don’t have a huge piece of wood sticking out of my side?” He laughed and turned to face me.
“Yeah.” I smiled in response, and it was weird, how easy it was to feel safe around him, this dangerous….thing.
“I feel better too. Not dying feels great.”
“Brilliant.” I rocked back and forth on my heels.
“Anyway,” he started. “I know you got my note, but I thought I should come in person to explain a few things.”
“Yeah, I mean, it’d be pretty nice to know why the freaking vampire mafia or whatever wants to kill me.”
That made him laugh again. Apparently he thought I was pretty funny. “It’s not the ‘vampire mafia’. The ones who want to kill you are part of one of the oldest families, in my society. They’re the ones who kill without method, without a single thought. They’ve lost the title of hunters and gained those of murderers.” His face, which had been relatively bright until now, turned grim. “Instead of peacefully coexisting with humans and only feeding when we need to, as we have for thousands of years, they wish to rule over them. Make humans fear them. That isn’t the way to live.”
He scuffed the heel of his shoe against the carpet and sighed. “My family believed the opposite. As an older family we had more say than them, and kept them in check. I don’t really expect you to understand my culture’s family hierarchy. But, lately…they’ve become more violent. Suffice it to say I’m the last of my line.”
“Oh.” I frowned. “I’m sorry.”
He merely shrugged in response. “They want to kill you now because you tried to help me. In their eyes, any human willing to help a vampire is a threat.”
“But…why are you telling me all this? Warning me?”
He looked up at me, into my eyes, and I got the vague and disconcerting feeling that he was looking into my soul or something. “You were the first human I ever met who didn’t run away. Who wasn’t terrified of me. Who actually made an attempt to help me. I think y-“ He cut off mid-sentence and suddenly he wasn’t looking at me, but past me, his eyes set just millimeters to my right. “Oh, shit,” he murmured, and I turned to look behind me. There was nothing.
“What?” I asked him, confused.
“I was followed.”
My eyes widened, and I turned to the window, intent on walking over to look through the blinds. I didn’t get that far, though, because suddenly I was being pushed to the ground, and there was a freaking car crashing through my wall, missing me by inches. Stunned, and not quite believing what was happening in my living room, I could only lay on the ground with my arms curled around my head, half pinned by Brendon’s arm. A loud snarl ripped through the air above me, and it sent chills down my spine. When I felt Brendon’s arm move I peeked up at him. It was terrifying, the way his eyes went coal black and he was shifted into a feral position. I had the notion that I should probably get the fuck away from him, good guy or not, because he was still a fucking vampire and holy shit there was a car in my living room. I scrambled off to the side and ducked behind the counter of my kitchen, praying that some piece of shrapnel wasn’t going to embed itself into my head, or that I wasn’t about to be ripped to shreds by some inhuman thing. And God, Spencer was going to have a fit when he found out what happened. He’d probably murder me if I wasn’t already dead by then.
I heard another crash and I could only assume that Brendon had thrown the car back at whoever was outside. Fuck, fucking shit fuck. This was so bad.
I was in the middle of having a mental breakdown when I felt someone grab my arm, and then I was surrounded by black, not in my living room and not anywhere, and I couldn’t breathe, and there was nothing, just black. And suddenly it was all lifted and I found myself in a very large, very ornate room.
Breathing hard, I whirled around, trying to figure out where I was and what had happened. It was a library, with floor to ceiling shelves and a fireplace and cushy chairs, the whole deal. How the hell did I get here? And where was here, anyway? In an instant, Brendon had appeared beside me. He was dressed differently now, his whole demeanor changed into something more elegant and refined. He wore dark trousers in place of his jeans. Instead of the t-shirt and hoodie, he now wore a white collared shirt and a jacket made of an expensive looking deep burgundy material. His hair, too, was different, transformed from an unruly mess into a very tidy, sleek side comb. He smiled a little.
“Those modern clothes you all insist on wearing are so very uncomfortable,” he told me, addressing the clothing change. “How do you manage in those pants? They’re dreadfully restricting.”
I just looked at him, bewildered. Was he seriously talking about jeans right now?
“Where the hell am I?” I finally managed to ask. My brain was running on overdrive, trying unsuccessfully to take in everything that had happened.
“My home,” he replied. “More specifically, my library. I had to get you out of the line of fire, and I thought this would be the safest place to bring you.
“It is simply one of my abilities. It is best for you not to think too long on it.”
I ran my hand through my hair, and it took a moment to realize I was shaking. “I think you need to explain a little more about what the hell just happened.”
“I will, at a later time. Now, I think, is a better time to get you relaxed and more familiar with where you are.”
He laid a gloved hand on my back (Gloves? Seriously, what time period was this guy from?) and led me through the house, showing me all the important rooms as well as where I would be staying. It was huge, with a four-poster bed and lush carpeting and majestic mahogany furniture. The room, as he explained, came fully equipped with anything I might need, from clothes to toiletries. Anything, really.
I managed to sort out my jumbled brain long enough to stop him there, and tell him, “This place really is amazing, honestly, but you know I can’t stay here. For one night or for longer. I have to get back to my place, it’s trashed. And Spencer, holy shit Spencer. He’ll be back in the morning and I’ll be gone and he’ll absolutely freak out. Or I mean, what if they come back and hurt him? I mean, I don’t even know who that was!” I could feel myself tensing up again, my brain gearing up for another panic attack.
“You cannot go back there, it isn’t safe.”
“And how is here any safer!”
“They cannot find us here. It’s cloaked.”
I didn’t understand that, but I decided it was probably easier not to question it.
“What about Spencer?”
“I am not entirely sure who this Spencer is, but you seem to be worried about him, so tomorrow I will go and check to make sure he is alright.”
I still wasn’t happy about it, but it seemed like the best that I was going to get. I still had no idea why a fucking car had been thrown through my apartment, why I was in this vampire’s house or how I had even gotten there, or why he was being so nice to me. None of it made any sense to me, and I found myself wishing I’d never tried to help him in the first place.
“So tell me something,” I said.
“What makes me so special? What made you warn me, protect me? I mean, I’m just a human, right? Why are you so interested?”
He paused, then spoke. “I’ll show you.”
He led me back into the library, going to a tall shelf and climbing the ladder to retrieve a thick book from the top shelf. He climbed back down and set it on a nearby table. It was a huge, bound volume with yellowed pages. It looked like a book from medieval times, and judging from his old fashioned ways I guess it could have been. Brendon leafed through the pages until he got to a specific one, then jabbed at the paper with one finger.
“This is why.”
“And this is…?”
“This is one of the oldest legends of my kind,” he told me. “Many regard it as a type of prophecy. It tells of two families fighting. They fight a war so grand that it affects everyone. Vampires and humans alike are wiped out and everything turns to chaos.” He looked up into my eyes, an unnerving and cold stare. “But it also tells of one with no fear, who will be the key to ending the war. One with compassion.”
I frowned. “And… you think that’s me?”
He turned the page and pointed at it. When I looked, I almost didn’t believe it. The drawing there was me to a T, down to the deathly hallows shirt I wore and everything.
“No way, no freaking way,” I said, disbelieving.
“Now you see why you’re so important,” he told me. “You could be the key to ending this war. It could save both of our species.”
“But… I, I mean, that can’t be me! I can’t even keep up with my half of the chores, let alone save two freaking species!” I ran my fingers through my hair and turned, taking a few steps away, letting out a deep breath. What the fuck was happening. This was all crazy. I must be out with my friends in a bar somewhere tripping balls.
Then, quietly, from behind, “You’re our last chance, Ryan.”
I sighed, reaching up to rub at the back of my neck before turning back to him. “Just. Gimmie a night to process all this. It’s a lot. Plus, I’m not entirely convinced that I’m not just having a bad trip.”
“I understand. We can speak more about it tomorrow.”
“Are you hungry, Ryan?”
As soon as he mentioned it, my stomach growled, and I realized that I hadn’t eaten in hours. I was starving. “Yeah, actually,” I said.
He smiled, and responded, “I’ll be happy to make something for you.”
“Oh, you don’t have to, it’s-“
He led me out of the library, through the foyer and down a long hallway until we reached the living room, which opened up into a huge kitchen. He got busy pulling things out of this pantry or that, and I took a seat at the bar.
“Any preference?” He asked.
“Just no meat, I’m a vegetarian,” I told him. “Hey, why do you have two fridges?”
“One is for human food,” he responded. Then, somewhat sheepishly, “and the other is for, well, human food.”
When I realized what he meant, I could feel the color drain from my face. Gross. To take my mind off of it, I instead watched him cook. He actually seemed to know what he was doing, which was unexpected and frankly pretty impressive. He moved quickly, just slightly faster than a normal human would when cooking, and it gave him a very smooth and knowledgeable aura.
“So,” I started, when the silence grew too long. “What about you?”
He glanced up at me, then back down at what he was doing. “What about me?”
“You know, what’s your story?” I shrugged.
“My story?” The corner of his mouth turned up.
“Yeah, I mean, to start with, how the hell old are you?” I knew he was from an old family, but the old fashioned clothes and too-elegant style told me he was probably older than I knew.
“I’m stuck permanently at around twenty,” he said. When I looked at him expectantly, he continued. “I was born in what is now England, in the year 6230. Before Christ.”
“Holy shit. That makes you…”
“Eight thousand two hundred and forty three,” he finished, still smiling softly. “I’m still young, for my family. My kind has always been around. We were the first to show the monkeys fire, the first to bring culture and art and religion to the teeming masses. They named the gods after us, you know.” He laughed. “You humans progress so slowly, but it makes our jobs easier.”
I stared at him, in awe that he could possibly be that old. He simply continued chopping vegetables. “So like,” I paused, not knowing how to continue. “Were you like. Changed? Or born like this?”
“I didn’t realize vampires could have children.”
“Oh, yes. There is a difference between a pure blooded vampire and one created from a human.” He sighed. “I had a child, once. A daughter.”
He looked away. “I told you, the Beckett clan is not taking nicely to any of my allies.”
He stabbed the knife into the wood cutting board, suddenly, gripping the handle with white knuckles. I chewed on my lip.
“What was her name?” I asked quietly after a few moments.
“Juliette,” he told me, softly as well. “She was so young. Not even 300. And so beautiful. It was my parents that pressured me to have her. It was like what you would know as an arranged marriage. I despised my betrothed,” he said. “But I loved my daughter.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, frowning, feeling deep sympathy for him. “When did she pass?”
“They took her,” he said, forcefully pulling the knife back out of the cutting board, “ten years ago.”
I didn’t know what to say, could only watch as he recomposed his face into a calm mask and finished chopping the vegetables. We were silent for the next hour as he finished preparing my meal, setting out an array of dishes on the kitchen table. I took one seat, and he took the one directly across after setting two dark glass bottles and two glasses on the table as well. One, he slid towards me, and the other he took for himself.
“I’m assuming one of those isn’t wine,” I said, fighting to suppress my disgust. He smiled sheepishly.
“I hope you don’t mind that I eat as well.” He filled his glass halfway with a deep red liquid. It wasn’t quite as gross as I imagined, and kind of had the appearance of a dark wine. “I have a very refined palate,” he said, obviously noticing that I was watching. “Of course I don’t drink straight blood, think of how unsanitary that would be. This has been sanitized, distilled, and refined.” He took a sip. “Of course, I could drink normal blood, but do you know how much bacteria lives in human blood? It’s simply awful. This doesn’t taste nearly as good,” he said. “But sacrifices must always be made.”
He smiled at me, and I just kind of nodded uneasily as if I knew what he was talking about before helping myself to the food in front of me. He’d prepared an arugula salad with apples and cranberries and goat cheese and some type of vinaigrette, along with caprese and pita and a pasta with tomatoes and parmesan. It was all delicious. How the hell did he learn to cook like that?
“Where’d you learn to cook? This is amazing.”
“I’ve had time to practice,” he laughed.
By the time we were finished he’d gone through three bottles and I’d cleared almost the entire table, it was that good. I’d also finished off my bottle of wine, which turned out to be some extremely fancy aged merlot. God, it was good.
“It is late, you should probably get to sleep,” he said as we stood, and I swayed a little. “Especially after drinking that whole bottle of wine. I’m sure you are about ready to have a nice rest.” I agreed, and he led me, by the elbow to help steady me a little, to my bedroom. “There are still a few hours until sunrise. I’ll find your friend and make sure he does not return to the apartment.”
“Wait, but don’t like, tell him what happened, and don’t like, like, freak him out or hurt him, ya know?” I had trouble keeping my sentences smooth and was vaguely aware that I was half-slurring, and made a mental note to go out with some friends and try and rid myself of this lightweight status.
“Don’t worry,” he replied. “He won’t even know I was there. Now, you’ve got pajamas in the drawers there,” he said, gesturing to the dresser. “Please, help yourself to anything. If you need me in the morning when you wake up, my bedroom is off the library.” He smiled and walked out of the room, leaving me to crawl up into the bed (way too lazy for pajamas), kick out of my jeans, and promptly fall asleep wrapped in the fluffy comforter.
to be continued
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