Dark Heirloom (An Ema Marx Novel Book 1), page 16
I nodded. I feared he would answer this way, but now I understood. Leena was wrong. My brother was not smitten, he was cursed. He was not a free man. He was our mother’s victim, just as Leena was mine. If only she were still alive, she could fix all of this with a simple utterance of words. If only she hadn’t ordered Jesu to protect the girl before her death.
The following evening, with the black cat sprawled beside me on my bed, I waited for the sun to sink below the horizon. I lay on my stomach, supporting my chin in my palm. The cat purred as I stroked his belly with my free hand. I began thinking of a name for him while admiring his raven colored fur as it shone in the harsh light of dusk.
“Hey, I think I found your name, little guy.”
He opened one eye and cocked his head. “Meow?”
“How does Raven sound? I think it suits you. Raven, the cat.”
He closed his eye and snuggled deeper into the covers. I couldn’t tell if he liked the name or just didn’t care.
“Well, I like Raven, so it’s settled.” I scratched his belly until he purred. I couldn’t feel the soft vibration, but the sound was soothing, like a baby rattle. The yellow haze of daylight eventually vanished, and I was able to take off Jesu’s sunglasses for another night.
“Come on,” I said while getting out of bed. Raven rolled onto his belly and blinked at me, cocking his little head to the right. “Jesu will probably want to get an early start on my training today.”
“I didn’t do so well last night,” I explained. “Come on, Raven, you’ll get a kick out of watching this.”
Raven didn’t budge from the bed. Instead, he yawned, licked his paws and began cleaning himself.
“Suit yourself. See you later.” I gave him a final pat on the head before exiting the room.
I knocked on Jesu’s bedroom door. He didn’t answer. After a couple more knocks, I opened the door and glanced around the room, but he wasn’t there.
Maybe he’s waiting outside.
I glided through the castle, to the main door. In the foyer, Jesu’s footsteps filled my ears as he approached from the stairs. I faced him and smiled. “There you are.”
He ran a hand through his jet black hair. “Yes. Ready for practice?”
I nodded. “Yeah, all ready to go. I saw this show about avian flight on TV earlier, and I think I might be able to apply the same principles.” Though I hadn’t been able to understand the Finnish narrator, the camera shots were very detailed and easy to follow. Jesu nodded but avoided my gaze.
“Sounds good,” he said. I narrowed my eyes, feeling like something wasn’t quite right. He blushed. “What?”
I decided it was probably nothing and smiled at him. “Let’s go.”
We made our way outside. The air was noticeably calm. Not a single pine needle ruffled in the forest, yet the thin layer of ice that coated the ground warned of the true chill of the night. Even though I wore jeans and a T-shirt, my skin didn’t notice the temperature. I continued toward the gate, but Jesu grabbed my hand, forcing me to wait. I faced him. He wet his lips and glanced at the ground, but didn’t say anything.
I opened my mouth to ask what was going on, but I stopped cold as my senses pricked up. Jalmari? What is he doing here? I couldn’t hear, see, or smell him, but I could feel his presence nearby like a tingle in the back of my mind.
And he was getting closer.
I glanced at Jesu to ask if he felt it too, but the nervous expression on his face told me he did. His green eyes hid behind his long curtain of hair, and he shoved his hands hastily into his pants pockets.
I glared at him for a moment before facing the woods. Phasing my right hand, I tested the air, and felt Jalmari’s energy ripple in burning waves. Gasping, I unphased my hand.
“I know you’re here,” I stated. “Show yourself.”
Jalmari appeared not more than eight feet in front of me, and the scent of nitrogen flooded his wake.
I hissed at Jesu. “Why is he here?”
“Relax,” Jesu whispered. “He is here to help.”
“Help? Yeah, right.” I faced Jalmari. He stared intensely as a grin curled the corners of his lips. He looked good, dressed head to toe in black Armani. His chin-length black hair was gelled in thick strands that loosely framed his pallid face. I reminded myself that I despised everything about him, and wrinkled my nose.
Jalmari snickered. “Does my presence make you uncomfortable, little one?”
“Pissed-off is more like it,” I snapped.
Jesu touched my wrist. “Ema, don’t. He has come to help.”
“What help can he possibly provide?” I yanked my arm away. I was angry that Jesu had obviously known about this, but didn’t mention it to me before.
Jalmari came closer, hovering across the ground instead of walking. “Since you do not have a sire to teach you how to master your powers, I’ve chosen to rise to the occasion.”
I glanced at Jesu, then back at Jalmari, clenching my fists tight. “Jesu’s been teaching me. We don’t need you.”
Jalmari rolled his eyes. “I beg to differ. I’ve been watching you, and you are sorely lacking in knowledge and skill.”
My gaze narrowed. Not everything I did was his business. “Jesu is a great teacher, and we’re getting on just fine without you.”
Jalmari glared at me. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears my brother’s powers are nothing like yours. Mine, however, are quite similar.” He demonstrated by phasing his right hand and waving it through the air. “I can teach you things my brother cannot. I’ve taught Leena, I can teach you. I can also show you what it means to be a vampyre, something my brother has no experience with.” Jalmari tilted his head to Jesu. “No offense, brother.”
Jesu blushed, his face taking on a navy blue color.
I crossed my arms over my chest. “What if I don’t want to learn from you?”
“Ema,” Jesu whispered. “You need to know these things.”
“Why must I learn them from him? I like practicing with you.”
His eyes shone in the starlight as a smile stretched along the left side of his face. “You do?”
“Yeah. Besides, how do you know he’s not going to try to kill me again?”
Jalmari spoke up, his voice a low growl. “I assure you, you are safe.”
I ignored Jalmari’s comment and raised my brow at Jesu.
“Do not worry,” he said. “I will be watching, and giving what advice I can.”
Defeated, I whined. “Do I really have to?”
“Please? It is in your best interest.”
I glanced at Jalmari. He cringed, as if my friendship with Jesu disgusted him. I glowered at Jalmari, and spoke softly to Jesu. “Promise you won’t leave me alone with him.”
Jesu breathed a sigh of relief. “I promise.”
Jalmari came closer. “Let us begin, then, I don’t have all night.”
I rolled my eyes.
He looked me over. “We will start by teaching you to phase while keeping your clothes on, lest you keep reappearing in your birth suit.”
Heat rushed to my face and I huffed with anger. “I know privacy is rare in this estate, but don’t you have any decency at all?”
Jalmari grinned. “I have the right to know when a young lady is parading herself nude in my backyard. It’s my home, and you are my guest.”
I gasped and crossed my arms over my chest. “I was not parading!”
Jalmari shrugged. “Do you wish to learn, or do you prefer appearing naked for all the world to see?”
I swung my hand at his face, but missed as he ducked just inches out of my reach.
“I hate you,” I spat.
“Likewise,” he growled.
“Jalmari, that is enough.” Jesu’s face was a shade of bright blue. “I can see this was a mistake.”
“A mistake. You think?” I couldn’t help having an attitude. Jesu had too mu
Jesu sighed and spoke some words in Finnish to his brother. From the sound of it, he was dismissing Jalmari. I expected him to go willingly, but his expression showed the opposite. His gaze widened as he begged.
“Ei, ei, minä voin opettaa häntä,” Jalmari whispered to Jesu. Then he faced me. “I apologize for my rudeness. Please, allow me to instruct you.” He searched my face, his lips pressed into a thin line.
I glanced at Jesu, who looked hopeful. I grunted. “Oh all right, but only because I’m sick of having to redress each time.”
I phased my torso for the umpteenth time that night. Again, my clothes fell in a pool on the ground. Sighing, I unphased my arms and shoulders so I could pull my clothes on without flashing the two disappointed men in front of me.
“Try again,” Jalmari commanded.
“This is impossible,” I whined.
“Is it?” Jalmari turned invisible, his clothes vanishing into thin air with him. Then he reappeared, fully clothed. “It’s simply a matter of concentration. Anything you touch can be phased and carried with you.”
He broke off a tree branch and held it out for me to see. He phased his right hand and the branch vanished as well, only to reappear when he unphased his hand.
“Well, obviously it’s impossible for me.” I pouted. “I don’t know how to do it.”
“Concentration. Discipline yourself. It’s all in the mind.”
“I know, you keep screaming these things at me, but it means nothing if you don’t explain it.” I crossed my arms, tired of his shouting.
“You are too stubborn. Do not think, just act.”
I laughed. Jesu had told me the same thing countless times before, but I didn’t see how anyone could accomplish anything without giving it thought. Surely, even involuntary motion required some prior knowing.
Jalmari scowled. “Are you mocking me?”
“No. It’s just that you’ve been doing this for thousands of years. It might seem automatic to you, but it’s not, okay? So just be patient.”
“There is a difference between being patient, and being hopeless. You, dear girl, are completely hopeless. I had Leena zipping around the diameter of this island in milliseconds, but you can’t even keep your clothes on.”
“Well I didn’t ask for your help, did I? Clearly, you’d rather be with miss perfect Leena, so what are you doing here?”
Jalmari’s lips snapped shut. He narrowed his eyes, and when he spoke, it was through clenched fangs. “You are a rude, ungrateful brat.”
“Like I care. Go suck someone’s blood, you leech.”
“I’d love to. I wouldn’t stay one more minute with you if you begged me,” he growled and stomped away.
“Good, because spending time with you makes me sick!” I turned, fuming, to find Jesu sitting on a stump with his face in his hands. I crossed my arms and sat next to him. “How could you tell Jalmari about me, after you made me promise not to say anything?”
“I didn’t. He saw us and figured it out on his own.” Jesu stood and stormed off in the direction of the castle.
“Hey, where are you going?” I hopped up and followed him, gliding over the ground so I could catch up.
Jesu kept his eyes focused ahead. “You just had to ruin that. Why can’t you accept his help? You do realize he is an important man, and he does not stall running the clan for just anyone.”
I stopped, taken by surprise, my feet landing on the ground. “Excuse me? I’m the one who should be angry. You should have asked me if I wanted his help, which I don’t, in case you were wondering.”
Jesu stopped and faced me. “He offered to help. He was trying to be nice.”
“Bullshit! All Jalmari wants to do is sink a knife into my chest. Or did you conveniently forget that?”
Jesu shook his head and continued toward the castle. I scrambled to catch up. He was incredibly fast when he wanted to be. I caught the door just before it could slam shut.
Inside the foyer, I called out in spite. “I don’t think you know Jalmari as well as you think you do. Are you aware he’s a serial killer?”
Jesu froze in his tracks. “What are you talking about?”
“I know his dirty little secret. He’s Jack the Ripper. He’s killed innocent women, Jesu.”
He faced me. Green flames burned in his eyes. His brow pulled tight, and his lips curled back as he bared his sharp fangs.
I swallowed and took a step back.
“You think you have it all figured out, but in truth, you do not know anything.” His voice bellowed through the halls. I clasped my hands over my ears. “My brother is not a serial killer.”
My back hit the wall. While my fight or flight reflexes argued amongst each other, all I could do was stand frozen in fear.
Jesu noticed my lip quiver. His expression softened. “Ema, I’m sorry—”
“Both of you are monsters,” I whispered. “Just leave me alone.”
I ran to my room and slammed the door. Outside, the wind rattled my bedroom window, howling like the captured animal I was.
The sun’s unforgiving light flooded the room, dousing everything in a yellow haze, and that was with the sunglasses on. I didn’t dare allow them to slip down my nose.
I lay alone on the bed, surrounded by black stone walls. I didn’t belong here. I’d been stupid to think Jesu was my friend, and even though I looked like them, I wasn’t one of them. That was the only thing I knew for certain. Even Raven refused to stick around now. Well, screw him. I’ll get a puppy, and name it Raven-Two.
A light knock interrupted my thoughts. I cursed under my breath and opened the door. Jesu stood in the hall with a glass of red liquid in his hand. I rolled my eyes.
“Haven’t you tortured me enough for one day?” Leaving the door open, I returned to the bed and slumped facedown into the pillows.
He kept his voice low. “It is not for practice. It is all yours, if you want it.”
I glanced at him, disbelieving his words. He hesitated, then held the glass out. I took it and chugged the entire drink in one large gulp. I’d wanted to do that all day. A warm tingle coated my insides, filling me with an euphotic glee. I lay on my back and welcomed the euphoria as it kissed every inch of my mind and body. I didn’t fight it. Screw it, let it have control of me.
“I came to apologize.”
Damn, I forgot Jesu was still in the room.
“I did not mean to snap at you, or to scare you.”
I scoffed. “Uh huh.”
He sighed. The end of the mattress sank as he sat on the edge of the bed and took my hand. “Ema, I would never, ever hurt you. You know that, don’t you?”
I removed my hand and propped myself up with my elbows so that I faced him. “What?”
“I do not want you to fear me. I would never hurt you.”
“How sweet.” My head plopped against the pillow and I closed my eyes.
“I spoke to Jalmari. He has agreed to continue training you. If you want to learn from him, that is.”
I laughed. The bloodlust made me too giddy to be angry.
“You must’ve lost your mind, Jesu. Can I have some more of this?” I extended my arm, holding out the glass. He silently took it and set it aside.
Then, he reached out and gently push a strand of loose hair behind my ear. The scent of his flesh reminded me of spring; the freshness of grass after a light rainfall kissed by sunshine. My eyes snapped open as I caught his hand and held it against my cheek, letting it linger while my pallid fingers entwined with his. The bloodlusty me enjoyed this very much, and wanted to go further. But did sober me want to?
Jesu frowned as he whispered. “I will do everything in my power to protect you, but I cannot always be where you are. I need you to learn how to defend yourself.”
I grimaced. He was such a buzz-kill. “Why are you always so depressing? Lie next to me while I enjoy the
His gaze darted around the room like he wanted to say more, but he bit his lip and nodded instead. He leaned over me to climb to the other side of the bed. His face hovered just above mine for a moment, and I couldn’t help but push upwards and crush my lips against his.
He pulled back and looked at me, his mouth slack in surprise. I couldn’t tell if it was a good shock, or bad shock, and thinking about it was exhausting, so I gave in and let my body do as it pleased. I reached up and ran my fingers through Jesu’s long, black locks, and wrapped my hands behind his neck. Gently, I pulled him closer. His breath caught as our lips met again.
Slowly, gently, I kissed him until he finally relaxed and opened his mouth a little more. Our tongues met and slid over each other as our lips meshed harder together. His masculine hands cupped my face while his body relaxed and sighed against mine.
I felt his weight on top of me, felt the pressure of his hands and face—but not much else. I couldn’t feel his breath, even though he breathed in shallow gasps. I couldn’t feel if his skin was smooth or rough, even though I ran my palms along his neck, arms, and back. I couldn’t feel the heat. I tried harder. I kissed him harder, pressed against him harder, held him tighter.
But I couldn’t feel a single thing.
Jesu gasped and pushed away. His gaze went everywhere except to me. “I am sorry, I did not mean—”
“No, it’s my fault. I didn’t mean to go so fast, it’s just that I wasn’t feeling anything, and—”
“You did not feel anything?” He glanced at me from the corner of his eye.
I winced. “It’s not you. I’m sure you’re wonderful, it’s just… I’m still so numb, you know?” Oh yeah, that’s good. I probably just stomped all over his mojo. I wanted to ask how much he could feel, but the bulge in his pants suggested he’d felt more than enough.
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