Dark Heirloom (An Ema Marx Novel Book 1), page 17
He rushed to the door.
“Wait. Is it because I can’t feel anything? I’m sure we can fix that… um… somehow?”
He hesitated in the doorway, then glanced over his shoulder. “I do not want to take advantage of you.”
I snickered. “Jesu, you don’t have to worry about strings. We’re both adults.”
“It’s not that. I do not mind the… strings, as you say… but I know this is not really you speaking. It is the bloodlust.”
He exited the room, closing the door behind him. I sat speechless on the bed.
How…? What just…? Ugh.
I felt like such a schmuck.
Later that night, I graduated from keeping my clothes in place while phasing, to flying through solid objects. I zipped past the frosty tree trunks of the forest, racing against Jalmari. I struggled to keep up. Every time I thought I might catch up to him, he’d blast ten feet ahead faster than I could blink. Channeling every last drop of brain power, I forced myself to concentrate on everything and nothing at the same time.
Remember to stay weightless. Remember to hold the molecules of my clothing. Ignore the sub-zero temperature. Ignore the wiggly gelatin feel of the trees as they pass through me. Ignore the pulsating leaves blowing in the wind, the rippling moonlight, the thunderous tide…
Unlike in my physical form, I felt too much when I phased. Everything rippled, pulsed, thumped, and pushed against me. Jalmari told me to read the ripples like Morse code, since our senses vanished in full phase-form. Heck, my eyes were nothing more than a million microscopic atoms loosely connected in a gaseous state. Reading the waves of motion, light, and sound was all we had to rely on for orientation.
I couldn’t help but cheat a little. I unphased my head so I could see where I was going. However, being solid meant I had to dodge a multitude of equally solid tree trunks with thickly needled branches. My speed faltered. Jalmari ricocheted back and flew beside me, unphased, so he could speak.
“No cheating,” he barked, all the while effortlessly dodging obstacles without looking.
“But, I’m freezing. This sucks.” In phase-form, the cold night air assaulted every individual atom of my body. My molecules shivered, threatening to solidify.
“No cheating. Come on.” Jalmari zipped past me and turned invisible in an instant.
Oh fine. I phased my head and propelled myself forward.
I shuddered as trees passed through me. Flying through solid objects was like having Jell-O pumped through my veins. I tried to use the sounds of the waves crashing against the cliffs and the feel of the moonlight to guide me.
We were on an island, the tidal noise came from all around, and the moon only signaled which way was up. I could’ve been going in circles for all the help they provided.
I took one more quick, physical look around, but didn’t see a thing. Instead, I heard a very loud crunch. Pain flamed from my nose to the back of my skull. My mind turned to molasses, but I managed to get my underwear and bra in place before my body condensed and fell. My back hit the ground, and a burning heat incinerated my spine as I rolled over and gasped for air.
Jalmari and Jesu rushed to my side.
“Are you all right?” Jesu blushed all shades of blue when I met his gaze. He focused hard on my face, trying to ignore my mostly exposed body. I wished he would forget about our make-out session. If I’d known he was going to act so immature, I wouldn’t have done it.
Well, probably not, anyway.
“She’s fine,” Jalmari huffed before I could find my voice. My lungs longed for the oxygen required to speak. Jesu glowered at his brother.
“Training is over for the night. Her nose is bleeding, she is not fine.” He gathered my remaining clothes from wherever they landed.
Jalmari gnashed his teeth together. “I am her teacher, I say the lesson continues.”
“I do not care what you say.” Jesu took my hand and pulled my arm around his shoulders, helping me stand. I winced as pain shot from my face to my back.
“See, she is not fine.”
Jalmari growled. “She needs to learn to take it. She needs to learn her lesson. She hasn’t even flown all the way across the island yet, and if she had kept herself phased like I told her to, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“Enough, Jalmari. I am taking her inside.”
Jalmari growled and flew away. We followed at a much slower pace.
“He really is… a horrible teacher,” I coughed as Jesu helped me through the castle door.
He glanced at me, then looked straight ahead as we made our way to the kitchen. “You seem to learn faster with him than with me.”
“Everyone learns faster with a strict teacher, but no one enjoys it.” I cringed as Jesu helped me sit on a stool. Lava coursed through my spinal cord.
Maria whisked into the room with a warm smile and a bag of O-Negative. Jesu eyed the blood. His face flushed navy blue.
“I think I will work on my painting while Maria takes care of you.” He laid my clothing in a heap on the counter.
I rolled my eyes. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to hit on you again.”
Maria choked back a snicker.
Jesu nodded. “That is probably for the best.” He turned and disappeared into the hall heading to the fourth wing. I grumbled nonsense while Mari poured the blood into a chalice and set it on the counter.
“Maria, what’s wrong with me?”
She gently inspected my back. “Just some bad bruising, darling, nothing major. Your nose might be broken though.”
I laughed. “No, I mean, do I just have terrible luck with men, or is something actually wrong with me?”
“What do you mean, dear?” She probed the bridge of my nose.
“My apologies.” She smiled. “It’s a little swollen, but it’s not crooked. It should mend fine on its own and be good as new in an hour. Here, drink. It will speed up the process.”
She pushed the glass closer. I took it and guzzled the liquid. A drop trickled down the side of my chin. I wiped it with the back of my hand, then licked it clean.
“Now, what is this about bad luck?” Maria sat next to me with her own glass of blood. She crossed her ankles and adjusted her long skirt to cover her feet in a very lady-like fashion. I cocked my head, wondering which generation she was from. A few strands of silver-black hair came loose from the bun at the nape of her neck and splayed lazily across her collarbone. Maria’s hair reminded me of my mother’s.
“Well…” I paused to pull my T-shirt over my head, not feeling comfortable carrying a conversation in my underwear. “Before this, I was having some trouble with a boyfriend. He… well… he cheated on me, even though we’d been together for four years.” I carefully maneuvered my legs into my jeans. My stiff, raw back muscles didn’t allow me to bend fully. “I thought we were going to be together forever, you know? I never thought… Well, I guess it doesn’t matter anymore anyway.”
Maria placed a hand on my shoulder. “I’m sorry, darling.”
I bit my lip as emotion gripped my chest. My own mother and I never had a conversation like this. If I opened up to Mom, she would just find some way to make the situation about her, and tell me it was my fault she was miserable. Maria was the kind of mother I had always wished for.
“And now,” I continued. “Jesu…” I shook my head as my voice trailed off.
Maria grinned. “What about Jesu?”
Good question. I didn’t know the answer. He had some interest in me, that much was certain, but I didn’t understand it. It clearly wasn’t sexual interest. I sighed.
“I don’t know.”
“Come now, darling, you can tell me.” She cupped my face in her hands and smiled warmly. The bloodlust clouded my thoughts, but I fought it and concentrated.
Maria pursed her lips in a puzzled expression. “What do you mean?”
“Well, he says stuff. Protective stuff, like what a boyfriend would say, so I know he cares. But when I try to get close to him, he always says no.”
Maria’s smile stretched from ear to ear, and she began to idly braid my hair. I didn’t mind. “Jesu is just shy. He doesn’t have much experience with young ladies.”
I glanced at my hands. “Are you implying he’s a virgin?”
“Well, I don’t know about that,” Maria laughed. “But he is very careful. He’s not one to flirt with loose women.”
I cringed and wondered if Jesu thought I was loose. How many times have I thrown myself at him?
“He saw the things his parents went through, and he sees the stress between Jalmari and Leena. He’s just cautious with his heart, is all.” When I stayed silent, Maria continued. “Vampire pairing is quite different from the human way. Vampire bonds run much deeper. They have to, to last as long as our life spans do. To break a vampire’s heart is far worse an agony than you can imagine. It doesn’t happen often, like it does for humans, but there is still that fear, which looms over any lover’s heart.”
I couldn’t imagine a feeling worse than the one my heart bore when my ex had cheated. “So, are you saying Jesu’s afraid I will hurt him?”
Maria squeezed my hand. “I think we all fear that possibility.”
I nodded. “Yeah, that’s true, but I still don’t get it. Does Jesu like me, or what?”
“Do you like him?”
“I… I don’t know. I like him as a friend. I just… I don’t know what his intentions are. I don’t know if I should like him as anything more than a friend. And… and I still miss my ex.”
Maria patted my shoulder. “Don’t worry so much, darling. Fate has a way of putting people together, whether they want it or not. I know Jesu is fond of you, but what his intentions are, I cannot say, because he has not spoken of them to me. But I think a nice vampyre girl like you would be good for him.”
I pricked up in alarm. “Maria, did you just call me a vampyre?”
“Well sure. That’s what you are, right?”
“But, how did you know?”
Maria stood. “Honey, I’m over four thousand years old. I’ve known Jalmari and Jesu since they were wee things, and I’ve learned a thing or two about the world. Now if you will excuse me, it’s getting late, and I need to make sure Jalmari has finished his reports.” She winked, and then vanished.
A million questions filled my head. I wanted to talk to Jesu, but forced myself to stay in the kitchen for a moment longer to make sure the bloodlust was completely gone. Besides, it wouldn’t do any good to talk to Jesu if my own feelings weren’t in order. I didn’t want to lead him on if what I felt wasn’t real. After all, it could have just been the blood talking.
A month passed since I woke as a vampyre. Everyone’s daytime routine stayed the same morning after morning. I spent most of my time reading books borrowed from Jalmari’s library. Raven spent increasing amounts of time lounging on my bed, falling asleep next to me while I scratched his belly.
Each night, Raven left to hunt mice, or do whatever it is cats do, and Jalmari, Jesu, and I met outside the castle grounds for further training. My powers got a little better each day. I could now keep up with Jalmari as we zipped across the island and back.
Things were increasingly awkward between Jesu and me. Still unsure of where we stood with each other, I never knew how to act around him. I think he struggled with the same dilemma, because we both blushed whenever our eyes accidentally met.
My training was the only part of the day that the three of us spent any time together. Tonight, I waited for them at our usual spot, to the side of the castle, under the stars, where the forest was thinnest. The two brothers appeared together, as different as night and day.
Jalmari glided over the earth with the grace of a sinister angel, dressed in Versace. His chin length bangs fell over his emerald eyes, gel holding every strand perfectly in place.
Jesu walked with an air of indifference and surefootedness, the earth his slave, as he paved a smooth path before himself. His scuffed denim pants were topped by a black T-shirt. Black leather adorned his wrists and neck as his long, jet black hair blew untamed in the wind. I could only assume Jesu liked the wind—he could turn it off with a flick of his finger if he wanted to.
Jalmari cocked a brow at me. “You ready?”
“You know it.” I crouched low, ready to push off at the cue.
“On your mark…” Jalmari lowered into a similar position, foot back, ready to push forward at lightning speed. “Get set…”
“Go,” I shouted and sprinted into the air, levitating and phasing my body at the same time. I propelled myself forward as fast as I could, and became nothing more than a wisp.
After a few seconds, I searched the air for Jalmari’s energy. It took me a minute to locate him because he was behind me. I was ahead! I was beating him! Woo-hoo! I propelled myself harder, pushing my limits as much as possible. Ignoring the odd Jell-O sensation of the trees as I passed them, I easily zipped to the end of the island like a bullet, turning around just past the cliff. Heat rolled off Jalmari as I passed him on the way back to the castle. I laughed internally. I was actually, truly, beating him.
I felt the coldness of the castle walls drawing closer. I detected Jesu’s energy and unphased before him, crash landing on the frozen ground and tumbling to a halt at his feet. I sat up, shook my head, and then looked around for Jalmari. “Did I win?”
“I believe so.” Jesu nodded at something behind me. I turned as Jalmari appeared and landed a few feet behind us.
I leaped up and shrieked. “I beat you, I won, yes! I won, I won!” I did a little victory dance around them.
“Silence. You got lucky that time because you cheated. And you still have a lot to learn. Your landings are horrid.”
I scowled and crossed my arms. “Why can’t you ever be happy for me? Every time I fail at something, you get mad. When I succeed, you still get mad. Is there no pleasing you?”
“Speed means nothing if it hinders your ability to land properly,” Jalmari growled.
“What is this, a military camp?” I fought back. “It’s not like you’re preparing me for battle, are you?”
Jalmari’s jaw dropped. The little tinge of color left in his pallid face drained away. He snapped his mouth shut and glared at his brother. The two shared a meaningful glance. Jesu hesitated for a moment, then shrugged.
“Maybe I am.” Jalmari glowered at his brother a moment longer before flying toward the castle.
“What does he mean ‘maybe I am’?” I looked at Jesu as he watched his brother disappear into the castle walls. “Jesu, what does he mean?”
“Nothing.” Jesu began walking toward the door.
I scampered after him, feeling like I was being lied to. “Jesu, what did he mean? What battle is he talking about?”
“Nothing, forget about it. Training is over for the night.”
I muttered profanities under my breath.
God-damned lying no-good vampires!
“This is inexcusable!” I hollered at myself while pacing my office. “Unforgivable. Intolerable. I won’t be a part of it any longer.”
“You know you do not have a choice,” said the voice.
“I don’t care! I won’t tea— I won’t te—” I stumbled over the words, not able to talk back to my demon. I clenched my fists, cleared my throat, and tried again. “I won’t help her le—”
The voice laughed as I struggled. “Fool. You cannot disobey me. Quit embarrassing yourself.”
“No!” I might not have been able to sass him out loud, but I could think it. I will not help you anymore. I will not teach her how t
“Yes, is it not grand? She is quite talented, that girl. Quite powerful, indeed. Very strong spirit.” The voice conjured up images of the girl’s body, the way she used to unphase half-naked before she knew how to hold her clothes.
“Suppose all the gypsies were as special. I should have created an army of gypsy vampyres a long time ago. Why did I not see it before?”
I rolled my eyes and scoffed.
“It is a pity we do not know what triggered the gene in her, otherwise we could turn them all into vampyres.”
I laughed out loud. This isn’t Babylonia. It’s the twenty-first century; no one’s going to bow down to you anymore.
The voice growled. “Sometimes I think you forget who I am, and what I am capable of, boy.”
No, I shook my head. I remember very well what you are capable of. But right now you are stuck in my head, with only me as your vessel. If she kills me, you die too. Remember that.
“I do not plan on dwelling inside your pathetic skull much longer. I have finally thought of a way out.”
I froze mid-stride. No… he couldn’t have… he must be bluffing. How?
“It will take a few more commands out of you, I am sure, but you will thank me in the end.”
Just tell me how.
“The girl,” he said. “She would make a very fine queen, don’t you agree?”
I don’t understand. You want me to marry her? Why?
“Yes, marriage, but more importantly, mating. I admire that girl. I was blind before, to kill such beautiful creatures, but now I see the way. If a man could choose a queen for his people, and a mother for himself, I’d choose her. Her womb will give me a fresh new body, her powers, strength, and then I will be your heir.”
My fists clenched and I scrunched my nose in disgust. That’s the most rotten plan you’ve come up with in over two-thousand years, old man, and I will not abide by it.
“You speak as if you have a choice, which you do not.”