Dark heirloom an ema mar.., p.14

Dark Heirloom (An Ema Marx Novel Book 1), page 14

 

Dark Heirloom (An Ema Marx Novel Book 1)
 


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  She waved a hand. “Oh nonsense, we love working for your brother.”

  “I am sure you do.” Jesu smiled. “You get to live in a castle while Naamah works in the city.”

  “Well, I can’t say I don’t miss him, but you boys are so sweet. I don’t mind looking out for you.” She winked at him and then took my hands in hers. “I’ll get you something to drink, darling.”

  Jesu spoke up. “That won’t be necessary. She has a drink right here.” He held up the glass.

  “Well, all right, I’ll be on my way then.”

  “It’s great seeing you again, Maria,” I added.

  She paused just inside the hallway. “You too, dear. By the way, did you come up with a name for the cat?”

  I smiled and shook my head. “Actually, I haven’t seen him in a while. I hope he’s okay.”

  “I’m sure he’s just hunting mice in the forest. He’ll be back.” She smiled at us before leaving.

  I closed the door and then sat on the bed next to Jesu. “Are you okay? You’re all flushed.”

  He blinked, his complexion brightening. “I am? How can you tell?”

  I laughed. “Your cheeks turn bright blue when you blush. Maria’s really sweet, isn’t she?”

  “Yes.” Jesu rubbed his cheeks as if trying to erase the color in them. “Her husband, Naamah, used to work for my father. He was the vampyre equivalent of a lieutenant for my father’s warriors. Maria stayed with us when Jalmari and I were young. She became good friends with our mother. When Jalmari inherited the throne, he promoted Naamah to Second.”

  “Second?”

  “It’s like being Prime Minister, only without as much authority or power. Basically, the only person Naamah has to answer to is Jalmari. He also made Maria his Third.”

  “I see,” I mumbled, but my attention was really on the glass of blood in Jesu’s hand. “Jesu, I really need a drink.” I licked my lips to keep from drooling. My face twitched as I ground my teeth together and balled my fists.

  He followed my gaze to the glass and smiled. “All right, here.”

  I reached for it, but Jesu wouldn’t let go. “What, I can’t hold the cup on my own?”

  “I do not want you to gulp it all. Just sip it.”

  “Fine, just a sip, no problem.”

  He let go of the glass. I breathed in the sweet scent of salt and metal. Delight tingled along every fiber of my body. I wanted to chug it. Instead, I quickly took a taste and then shoved it toward Jesu, who took the glass from me.

  “There, see? Easy.”

  I spoke too soon. Instead of fulfilling, or even curbing my thirst, the sip teased my insides, leaving me restless and irritated. I twitched while tapping my fingernails against my thigh. “I… I need more.”

  “Wait a minute.” Jesu narrowed his eyes.

  I tapped my toes. My throat dried until a dull ach throbbed against my tonsils. Rage flared beneath my skin. I could just take it from him. There’s no reason for this. I’m a Goddamn vampyre, this is what I do. I should kill him and drink his blood. I shook my head.

  “Jesu, please. I think I might try to hurt you if—”

  “Just one minute. You can do this. You can control your urge for one little minute, Ema.”

  I shut my eyes, pressed my fingers to my temples, and shook my head. “Talk to me, please.”

  “What would you like to talk about?”

  “Anything. I just need… sitting here in silence… all I can think about is… ” I eyed the glass. Jesu reached back and set it on the nightstand. It took all of my strength to keep from lunging at it. I hugged my knees to my chest, but couldn’t take my eyes off the blood.

  Jesu held my hands. “Ema, look at me.” He placed his thumb and index finger on my chin and gently tilted it up so that I faced him. “Look at me.”

  My eyes soon followed, and I peered at him.

  “Tell me about Chicago. They have a lake there, right? The third largest lake in the world?” He lightly kissed the top of my right hand, his lips nothing more than a feather against my skin. I wasn’t sure I was comfortable with the gesture, but my head was too far gone to care.

  “Yes… Lake Michigan… but it’s not as beautiful as Lake Inari.”

  Jesu grinned and sighed in relief.

  With his help, I was able to sip the entire glass of blood like a civil person. However, neither of us knew what to do about the high which followed. Instead of hitting me all at once, the euphoria grew stronger with each sip, until the full effect took over. My mind soared and my body tingled with energy.

  I lay on my back with my eyes closed, trying to control myself. The bloodlust wanted to turn to the man lying next to me, but I knew that was a bad idea. Besides, I was sure Jesu didn’t want to… and I wouldn’t anyway. He was my only friend here. I wouldn’t spoil that just to satisfy carnal urges.

  Instead, I thought about Anthony. I realized my mistake the instant my heart plummeted into my stomach. To keep from drowning in depression, I turned my thoughts back to Jesu. Though he didn’t speak, his body was not silent. His even breathing and steady heartbeat played a calming lullaby. I phased my right hand, the one farthest from him so he wouldn’t see, and felt his body heat roll forth in waves. The corners of my mouth crept upward. I loved my new way of feeling.

  “What are you smiling about?” Jesu asked.

  “Nothing.” I quickly unphased my hand.

  “Are the effects wearing off some?”

  I frowned and opened my eyes. “Not yet.”

  “What does it feel like?”

  “It feels a little like being drunk, only…” I tried to find the words to describe it. “It’s a stimulant, not a depressant.”

  “Let’s exercise your powers some more. Physical work might help you sober up, or at least, take your mind off it.”

  I sat up. “All right.”

  “You have wolf-form down pretty well,” he teased. “How about bat-form?”

  I cringed. “I hate flying as a bat. It’s so much easier to fly Neo-Draugrian style.”

  “All the more reason to practice it. Like I said before, it would be much easier to feed off large animals in bat-form. You would not even have to kill them.”

  I shrugged. “If you say so. Are all vampire bats actually vampyres?” I transformed my arms first. The limbs shortened to stubs, and my fingers grew long, webbed, taking on the shape of demonic wings.

  “No, and not all bat-shifting vampyres shift into that specific species, either. Only the Stragoian do.”

  I shrugged and finished the transformation. Joints popped, bones bent, and cartilage shifted as fur covered my skin. The room more than tripled as I shrank in size. My clothes pooled around me. My sight blurred, then died altogether. I thought about what little I knew about flying with wings. As a vampyre, flying was automatic. As a bat, it was manual and required a great deal of coordinated work. The hardest part was lifting off and getting into the air to begin with.

  It didn’t help that I was blind in this state. My brain was slowly getting used to deciphering sound waves, but the sudden change took some adjustment. Using the hook-like claw on my wings, I tried to make sense of the layers of fabric I was tangled in, and pulled myself out of my clothes onto the bed’s padded surface. I felt around for the edge of the mattress. Finding it, I flapped my wings and hopped over the brink only to flitter to the floor, landing on my belly.

  “Here,” Jesu offered. I followed the sound of his voice until I felt the warmth of his fingers near the ground, then climbed into his cupped hands. “I am going to place you on top of the wardrobe. It might be easier if you start with some height.”

  As an animal I had no way to speak, so I nodded my furry head as best I could. I felt the solid wood of the wardrobe as Jesu let go. I stretched my wings as wide as possible and jumped from the ledge. This time I was able to glide around the room twice before hitting a wall and fluttering to the floor.

  “Are you okay?” He scooped me into his hands and ge
ntly placed me on the bed. “I think the problem is lack of space. Change back and meet me in the hall.”

  I waited until the door latch clicked, signaling his exit. Then I transformed back into a vampyre and scampered to redress. I raised an eyebrow as we met in the hallway. “Where are we going?”

  “Outside. I bet you can fly better with open space.”

  “What if someone sees?”

  Jesu bit his lip and glanced away. “We will go to the clearing in the woods. It is more important that you learn to handle your abilities than it is to keep them from the others.”

  We made our way to the first wing. If the castle had a back door, Jesu never bothered to use it. I had gotten used to the pitch-black section of the corridor. Memorizing the turns, I was able to glide through it without Jesu’s help.

  Outside, I followed Jesu through the forest to the small clearing where we’d gone the night before. The ground crunched beneath my feet, frozen at this late hour. The wind whipped my hair across my face and rustled the tree branches.

  Jesu stood in the center of the clearing and faced me. “This is good,” he said as strands of jet black hair flapped against his powder blue complexion.

  “It’s pretty windy out here,” I stated.

  He grinned at the sky and held out his arms. The air stilled. He smiled at me. “I won’t let you blow away.”

  Glancing up, I levitated to the highest tree branch and then transformed in the air. I landed clumsily on the wooden limb, some twenty feet above the ground. My clothes drifted away, landing somewhere below. Pine scent filled my nostrils and sap rubbed onto the fur on my belly. Bark and needles scratched the delicate underside of my wings as I carefully worked my way to the end of the branch and then leaped like a flying squirrel, stretching my wings wide. I glided easily through the air, riding the currents as I swooped toward Jesu.

  The real challenge would be regaining height, while trying to turn around at the same time, before running into another tree. Beating my wings, I leaned slightly to the left while maneuvering my feet. It worked a little. I was able to loop around Jesu, but lost altitude fast. Seconds later, my belly scraped against the ground until I came to a stop.

  Jesu scooped me into his warm, masculine hands. “Are you all right?”

  The lightness of his voice told me he’d been laughing at my pathetic attempt to fly. I nodded my head. I wasn’t hurt, but I was cold from the condensation on the grass that had soaked into my fur when I crash-landed. Apparently even my nervous system shifted when I became an animal. I shivered in Jesu’s hands. He cradled me close to his chest, his body heat quickly warming me.

  “Try again,” he coaxed.

  I shook my head.

  “Oh come on. You can do it.” He held me at arm’s length, opening his hands.

  I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t transform either, not wanting to be naked in front of him. Sighing, I tried again.

  Jalmari

  Leena barged into my office. I addressed her without looking up.

  “I am working.”

  “Tell me something new,” she snapped.

  I glanced at her without raising my head. Her pretty face was sour, her hands on her hips. I sighed loudly. “So, you are still angry with me.”

  “Of course I am. How dare you leave me here, alone, and then take this attitude with me.”

  “I do not have time for this, my love, and I will not have you shout at me.” I returned my attention to the stack of paperwork on my desk. She was quiet for a moment, but I knew the storm was just beginning.

  “Jesu took the girl out yesterday night,” she started. I wished I didn’t care. She went on. “They were gone all day and only just returned a few hours ago.”

  Sucking in a deep breath, I folded my hands over the papers, straightened my spine, and looked into her eyes. “You have my attention, dearest, now what is it you want?”

  She scowled. “This is how you greet me after a trip away? So nice to see you again too, master.” She curtsied, bowing her head low.

  Guilt ripped at my chest. “Get up.”

  She did. “Why is it you only wish to speak with me when the topic is about her?”

  I stood and floated to her side. “Forgive me, my queen. Work has been stressful.” I breathed in the scent of her hair while wrapping my arms around her tight waist. The truth was that I missed her very much, yet other more urgent matters persisted in my mind. I leaned in to kiss her, but she resisted, jerking her face away.

  “I am not your queen. I am nothing but a lap dog to you.”

  “You know that isn’t true. You will always be my queen. I’ve missed you very much.”

  She huffed. “Me or my bed? Lately I can’t tell.”

  A growl pushed past my throat. “I really can’t play games right now, Leena.”

  “Humph!” She pushed away and strolled to the window behind my desk. She looked out at the forest, sadness apparent in her reflection.

  I kept my voice low. “After all these years, it pains my heart to know you still question my devotion to you.”

  She faced me. “How can I not question it?”

  “What do you mean?”

  “You still deny me your mind.”

  I narrowed my eyes. So it is about that.

  “Damn it, Jalmari, what are you hiding from me? What is it you don’t want me to see?” She hugged herself as her gaze fell to the floor. “I know it’s about her.”

  My fists clenched as strings tugged at my heart. “I wish you would trust me.”

  “I wish you would say it wasn’t her.” She turned her back to me as she gazed out the window again. “I’m not stupid, Jalmari. I know you’ve grown tired of me.”

  “Leena, please don’t start this right now. I have not grown tired of you.”

  “Oh really? Tell me what I’m supposed to think, Jalmari. You’ve never denied me your mind before, not in two-thousand years, and then you bring her into our lives—”

  “That’s not fair. I only brought her here because she was turning. What was I supposed to do, leave one of our own to die in an alley?”

  “She’s not one of us!”

  I opened my mouth to speak, but stopped as I realized the error of my words. I started over, forcing myself to speak calmly. “You’re right, she’s not. But until I know what she is, I cannot just toss her out. Believe me, I want nothing more than to rid our home of her, but I cannot. Not yet.”

  “Why?”

  I hesitated, not really sure what the answer to that question was myself. “I need to make sure she wasn’t created by a rebel group.” Lying made me feel lower than dirt. I didn’t deserve Leena, not when I could so easily keep her in the dark.

  “Then let me help you,” she whined.

  I was about to object, but paused to ponder the suggestion. “You can help me.”

  Her emerald eyes brightened. “How?”

  “You can listen to them.”

  “What?”

  “The girl, and Jesu, too. Find out what they know.”

  “I know what you meant, but that’s not what I—”

  “That’s all. I must be getting back to work now.” I gave her a quick kiss before returning to my desk, hoping she wouldn’t press me further.

  “Ugh!” Her fists clenched as she flew out of the room.

  I sighed. I hated giving her orders, but I would make it up to her in the morning. After a few minutes of trying, I found I could no longer concentrate on my tasks. My mind wandered. What was Jesu thinking, taking the girl out?

  “You should have stayed.”

  I sighed at the unwelcome essence. Go away.

  “Do not take that tone with me.”

  I don’t need this now.

  “You are going to keep a closer eye on her, do you hear me?”

  Silence, you.

  “Ungrateful boy.”

  Ignorant nuisance! You are going to cost me everything, starting with my beloved.

  “She is only a companion.”


  She is the love of my life!

  “She is not fit to be queen.”

  Because of you.

  The voice laughed. “Nay, that one could never have been queen and you know it. I gave you what you wanted.”

  Bullshit! I never wanted to turn Leena into a vampire. I love her. I never wanted to steal her life and degrade her.

  “Turning a human into a vampire is hardly degrading. Besides, you hadn’t the balls to watch her grow old and die. I did you a favor.”

  Go to hell, old man.

  The voice seethed, but recoiled to the back of my consciousness.

  “You will observe the girl. You will keep her in your sight at all times.”

  Frustrated, I lifted my desk and threw it across the room. Papers flew everywhere as it crashed into a bookshelf and the wood splintered. Panting, I whispered. “Yes, master.”

  A clatter came from my office window. I turned just as a small brown mammal fell from the glass pane.

  A bat?

  My eyes narrowed. Bats weren’t common in Lapland, especially during the harsh weather. I went to the window and watched as the animal fluttered into the sky, circled around, and then fell.

  My brother emerged from the forest, laughing as he rushed to the animal’s side. He carried a bundle of clothes in his hands and set them down near the bat. He turned away from the animal, and the bat morphed into a young woman.

  Her.

  The phone rang on the floor, where it landed after I had destroyed my desk. I couldn’t answer it. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the sight below. My brother and the girl stood right outside, four stories below me. Neither of them noticed as I watched from behind the velvet curtains.

  When she finished dressing, Jesu took her hand and led her quickly into the woods again. My brow furrowed as I cast out my senses, following them. They stopped at a clearing and then continued to exercise her powers, which were quite numerous. Bat-form, wolf-form, the ability to levitate, and the ability to phase. My breath caught each time she transformed her body. Though visibly weak and slow, her mixture of talents made my head spin with worry.

  The phone continued to ring. My muscles tensed to move, to pick it up, but I couldn’t so much as glance at it. Though I was curious, it was the voice in my head which demanded that I wait by the window. He wanted to study the girl, but since he didn’t have eyes, he used mine.

 
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