Vampires and Mistletoe, page 5
Tessa obviously hated her father; but she appeared to be safe, so he decided to leave. There wasn't much he could do for her at this point.
"You are welcome to Christmas dinner. You saved her life and brought her home. Please be our guest." The Grand Master's words made Gideon frown in bafflement. Why would he invite a vampire to come back?
Gideon looked at Tessa, and she looked back. With a grimace and an exasperated noise in the back of his throat, he nodded briskly and then left.
* * * *
Tessa had lost her Christmas spirit. Her father had given her the curse of eternal damnation. Old age and death wouldn't even save her from the place; she wouldn't age here in Other World. Her younger sisters tried to get her to sing, tease, and joke with them as she usually did. She just couldn't muster enough spirit even to fake it. Ebenezer Scrooge had nothing on her for the 'bah, humbugs!'
The thought of seeing Gideon again left her nervous and agitated. Gideon had been invited, but coming from her father it really was more of an order. He wouldn't be coming to see her if he showed up. The man had done what vampires do; enjoyed promiscuous sex and nothing more. She meant nothing to him. If it hadn't been for the threat she would never have come back so easily. When she thought about him, her emotions were all muddled and twisted. Keeping his part in her imprisonment at the forefront of her mind would serve her best if he did actually show up for Christmas dinner. He had saved her life, and for that she at least owed him dinner; although her return had spared his species' extinction. Did that make them even?
Tessa questioned her strange connection to the man while she helped her sisters decorate and bake; they hadn't done any of it before her return. Tabitha had insisted they wait, because "without Tessa Christmas lost its meaning." She was touched, but annoyed. If she'd had her way, she'd just have found a nice quiet spot to sulk.
Tessa was helping Tonia string popcorn and cranberries when Victor walked into the room. He stopped and just watched Tessa for a long moment before he continued on his way. His attitude irritated her. She was the one being punished; if he didn't want her there he could easily let her leave. Joy and happiness would fill her heart as she skipped away from Other World for good.
A little green woman with big pink eyes came into the room holding a tray of hot chocolate. Tessa took a cup and thanked her quietly. She just wanted to go home, to what felt normal.
Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is reality!
Sipping her chocolate, she let the bitter thought fade.
A tall, thin reed of a woman came in. From her pointed ears it was obvious that she was a were-creature of some type; probably a panther judging from her shiny black hair. Tessa knew her father trusted weres and employed them often. When the woman spoke, the rolled r's confirmed her race.
"Come with me; your father commands it."
Tessa resisted the urge to stick out her tongue at the woman and mimic her words. She knew she was scowling at the woman, and she tried to rein in her anger. It wasn't this woman's fault that her father was forcing her to remain. However, the wording used couldn't have been worse. Dragging her feet, Tessa got up and trudged behind the woman. Whatever he wanted, she was sure she wouldn't like it.
When they got to the top of the stairs, the woman opened a door for Tessa. "This is your room. The Grand Master arranged it especially to your liking. It's very… human. Your suitcase is here already." The woman then left; closing the door behind her.
Tessa stood in the large bedroom, fuming. She might be a prisoner in Other World; but that didn't mean she would be living in the castle. There were plenty of apartments for rent and jobs she was qualified to do. Stomping toward the door she stopped when something caught her eye.
Slowly, she walked to the dresser where there was a photo she'd never seen. It was a picture of her mother, but it looked… wrong. Squinting, she picked up the photo and studied it closely. Her mother looked far too old; much older than she had been when she died. Tessa touched the face in the picture through the glass tenderly before setting the photo back down on the dresser. The gilded frame had been sitting on a piece of paper. She picked up the age-yellowed paper. What she read on it made her ill and she had to sit down on the lavish king-sized bed.
I cannot live with what you are. I know you hoped I would join you, but you were wrong. You have betrayed me in the worst possible way. You messed with my mind and I've been in love with an illusion. I gave birth to abominations. You are no better than a rapist. I want nothing to do with you or the children. My friend Lilith has agreed to take the girls and tell them that I am dead. Looking at them, knowing what they are, makes me sick. God forgive me, but I am leaving all of you. Don't look for me.
It was her mother's handwriting. Even after so many years she was positive it was the same she had seen on her notes to school. Was her mother alive? Why had her father left such devastating news on her dresser? How did he have a picture that obviously didn't exist when she wrote the Dear John letter? The questions swirled in her brain, making her dizzy. Tears fell from her eyes and Tessa crumpled onto the carpet.
How could a mother leave six small daughters with a friend and abandon them, never to look back? Had Hannah even known Victor planned to take them the night he brought them to Other World? Did she know that they were in Other World? Did she care?
Slowly, the realization of the time shook her out of her misery. She rose from the floor and went to the ensuite bathroom to wash her face. Choosing her clothing, she became disgusted with herself when she realized she was dressing for Gideon. Putting the letter in her pocket, she left the room to find Victor.
As usual, he was in his study lost in concentration. Tessa stood for a moment, watching him. If she let her imagination run wild he looked almost like a normal father. She'd gotten her black hair from him. He wore a tailored suite. His human form was always pale, but when he was a demon his skin was a deep burgundy. He was tall and gaunt in his human form, but when he morphed into the demon he was much bigger. Her step on a squeaky floorboard caused him to glance up in surprise. When a red flicker appeared in his eyes the illusion of normalcy faded. Tessa took the letter out of her pocket, and with a few angry strides she was before his desk, slamming the paper in front of him.
"What the hell is this all about? You told us our mother was dead! She left us, and you just let her? Why tell me now? She has to be at least forty-five in that picture! How did you get it?"
He was silent for a moment. "Sit!"
"You have been holding on to some idealized version of the woman. I never had the heart to tell you the truth, but if I don't you'll get yourself killed. You, more than your sisters, love her. You remember a life without Other World. I want you to be happy, but that requires you to be alive."
Tessa didn't know what to say. Her father had never opened up to her like this before.
"I know I failed you. You needed a human softness that I don't possess; but I love you as my kind loves, Tessa. You have always challenged me more, and maybe that is why you are so special to me.
"I will never be human, but I am your father. I could have left the lot of you with that human who thought your father was just a talented psychic. Believe me, the first few weeks I considered returning you all; but I couldn't do it. Even when you looked at me with those big scared blue eyes, I wanted you here. I loved your mother so much that I fooled myself into believing her feelings were deeper than the glamour I used on her.
You have suffered because I was wrong. It was wrong to trick her and also to lie to you. The human had already told you that she died; I honestly believe she loved you; after all, she didn't want you to know she was leaving by choice. I just let the lie stand because none of you ever asked me if she was alive. Now, the truth must come out. The human who tried to kill you was not the first, and the reason they know what you are is because your mother told them. There has always been an organization of humans t
Her mother loved her. She was dead. He had to be wrong. Tessa refused to let the moisture in her eyes become tears. Staring at his blurry form, she continued to listen.
"I only saw her one more time. Hannah wanted to know if I had you. I told her I did and she muttered something about it being harder to kill you now. She never asked if you were happy or how you had been, and my love for her died that day. She told me she would spend her life seeing my kind dead; even my abominations, as she called the six of you.
I had the picture taken so that your bodyguards would know to protect you from her. I never wanted you to know any of this, but you are hell bent on living as a human. You need to know the full truth in order to make good decisions. I want you to stay in Other World; at least until I can get this threat under control. Too many years I ignored it because they can't cross into Other World; but as they grow in power, their threat grows too.
I know holding onto being human has been like holding onto your mother, but it is time you let her go."
His plea made Tessa hiccup on her caged tears. Could any of it be true? "You lie! I don't know why it's so important that you keep me here, keep me miserable!"
"Tessa, child; I'm not lying to you. I hate the pain your mother has caused you; but I can't change the past. I've hoped you would come to want this life on your own. Embrace the world that you have rejected, use your compassion and gentleness to help make it a better place. You are my heir and you are the future of Other World and I am sorry my secrets have caused you this anguish."
For a moment she just sat looking at her demon father. All of the new information was too much. "Do you want me to tell your sisters about your mother?"
Without thinking she answered, "Not on Christmas."
He nodded. "Now you understand the dilemma I have lived with for the past twenty-two years, there's always an excuse." Victor's quiet words made her see him in a new light.
Nodding, she pulled herself up by her pride and stood, then turned to leave. Glancing back at her father from the door, he appeared to have returned to his work; but she caught sight of his hand tenderly rubbing against the letter. Obviously, he still felt something for its author; even after the horrible rejection. Quietly, she closed the door and went to find her sisters.
Christmas dinner was in less than an hour. Everything was beautiful; and guilt over her lack of assistance didn't dim the wonder of gazing at her sisters' hard work. They enveloped her in a warm loving hug. Something inside of her cracked and she wept as she shed some of the hatred in her heart. They all held each other and no one spoke until Talia began to laugh. "Hurry, get Tessa to my room. We have to make her pretty for her boyfriend."
Huffing, she protested Talia's statement. They rushed her up the stairs to Talia's room. Her sisters attacked her with cosmetics. Helpless against the onslaught she let them work. Giggling, Tara handed her a mirror. They'd done excellent work. Trista laughed as she teased her sister.
"You are going look so cute kissing that vampire under the mistletoe."
"Stop it! I should hate him. Because of him, I'm stuck here." So why don't I? she thought to herself. Why does he draw me so?
Tabitha pouted when she replied, "If it wasn't for him we wouldn't have you for Christmas. He's our hero! Is it so bad being here with us?"
Hugging the younger woman, Tessa spoke comfortingly. "It is wonderful being with you, just not being here. You'll be seeing so much of me you're going to get sick of it. Now, let's go eat; I'm starving." It was a lie. She doubted she'd ever get her appetite back; but she decided to make her loving sisters happy. Just because her Christmas was ruined didn't mean theirs had to be.
The joviality and life immediately return to them. Smiling through her pain she gave them her best happy act so as not to spoil their Christmas. With her concentration focused on making her sisters happy she forgot about Gideon until she reached the bottom of the stairs and looked across the room. Standing casually near the fireplace, he looked so delicious it took her breath away.
Suddenly, she was very hungry… for him. His grin let her know that he knew exactly what she was thinking. Blushing, she grinned back. Her sisters rounded on him, and Tessa didn't need to be a mind reader to read his terror. No man —demon, human, or vampire— wanted a pack of curious sisters surrounding him and issuing probing questions.
When Victor entered the room, they all took their seats. Gideon sat between Tessa and Victor. Smiling, Tessa remembered the saying about a rock and a hard place. Victor gave him numerous dark looks throughout the meal, and she had to wonder why her father had invited the vampire if he didn't want him there.
* * * *
Every time Gideon tried to put a bite into his mouth, one of the sisters would interrupt him. Contrary to human mythology, vampires ate; but they required fresh blood daily in addition to normal food. Other World doctors called the condition dietary anemia. He had fed the night before on Tessa, but he knew he needed blood again soon. Gideon had known he should feed before coming, but he only wanted Tessa. He also knew he couldn't feed on her again. Even if she wasn't a well guarded daughter of the Grand Master, she was still part human. Feeding on her again so soon wouldn't be good for her. She couldn't die, but he didn't want to weaken her. He'd taken more than he should have already; but she'd been so responsive that he'd been unable to resist a second bite. Judging from the looks the Grand Master was giving him, he felt reasonably sure the doctor had reported the suspected blood loss.
Tessa looked beautiful; but her glowing smiles were all an act. Thanks to the blood link he felt her emotions. When he gazed into her thoughts —something he usually didn't do, but with Tessa, he found he couldn't help his curiosity— he saw that Victor had dropped a bomb on her.
Merry Fucking Christmas. How in the hell does the man sleep at night? His irritation with the Grand Master grew.
Opening his senses up a bit more to the emotional residue that vampires couldn't help but feel, it surprised him that he couldn't even accidentally glean emotion from the man. Unusual. Even the most powerful usually let things slip now and then. He obviously worked very hard to keep his every thought and feeling private. Considering his position it made sense. Whatever secrets the Grand Master hid, Gideon was sure they were important. He didn't try to invade the man's mind; he knew that with barriers that rigid the man would feel any attempted invasion.
His daughters all exuded their feelings like waterfalls gushing them out at him. They held nothing back. Tessa was the most guarded of the bunch, and her mental barriers were all a natural result of her aloof personality.
All of Tessa's sisters hoped for something to spark between him and their sister so that she would be around more often. It made him smile. He hoped for something more than one fabulous sexual encounter too.
Of all the women he'd enjoyed, Tessa had been the most delightful and surprising. He felt her freedom when they were together, and he knew she relished his body and welcomed anything he wanted to do with her. It made him hard just imagining the possibilities. If she allowed him to be with her again he had very definite ideas of what he would like to do with her. She seemed to be a bit vanilla in her tastes, and the idea of opening her sexually to a bit of kink made aroused him so much he had to bite his lip to keep a groan from escaping.
He could just see her now; bound with black silk scarves and waiting for him, the black silk against her milky pale flesh. Her wide eyes taking in his body as he readied himself to take a bite of her; Tessa would scream his name as he gave her orgasm after orgasm. Quickly, he brought his thoughts away from her body and what he wanted to do with it. This was certainly not the time and place to get hard.
The meal was delicious; he had expected no less dining with the ruling family. After they ate and the dishes had been cleared, the tall plump girl — he'd forgotten her name— began to be
"Please sing for us, Tessa. I look forward to hearing your carols all year. Please; Tonia can play the piano while you sing."
Tessa blushed and glanced at him. Finally, after the rest began to beg too, she stood and went over to the piano. She whispered to Tonia, the tall plump girl, and music began to flow from the piano. Gideon glanced at the stoic Grand Master, and he noticed a subtle softening in his face when Tessa began to sing.
Softly, she began on a classic, "Winter Wonderland." As she sang, Gideon felt her magic. Even her voice held the magic and he knew she didn't even realize it. Somehow, that fact charmed him even as she entranced him. She sang a few more songs before she and her accompanist sat back down at the table.
Someone suggested games, and he followed the family from the table. It surprised him when the Grand Master sat down across from one of his daughters and started to deal a deck of cards. This was a side of the man he doubted very many had ever seen; it made the fearfully powerful man seem almost approachable, until he remembered what he'd been told about the Grand Master being different only with his family.
While the family was distracted choosing activities, Tessa approached him slyly. She took his hand and all but ran with him from the room; yanking him out the door. When she finally stopped dragging him he noticed that she had taken him into a beautiful atrium. It held so many plants it looked like a forest. The room was almost entirely composed of glass, and with the subtle lighting it felt as if they were walking in a summer garden.
Looking out a window at the snow made a striking contrast. The snow in Other World wasn't like the snow in the human world; it was less soft and fluffy, yet as she glanced out the glass with a wistful expression, he could tell it made her homesick. When Tessa turned to him and spoke, he had to clench his hands into fists to keep from grabbing her and taking her right in the middle of the room.
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