Dark heirloom an ema mar.., p.8

Dark Heirloom (An Ema Marx Novel Book 1), page 8

 

Dark Heirloom (An Ema Marx Novel Book 1)
 



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  The cat looked over his shoulder at me. “Meow?”

  “Shh! We can’t go into the second wing, Jalmari and Leena are in there.”

  He rolled his eyes.

  I cocked an eyebrow and put my hands on my hips. “This is as far as I go, cat. I’m not looking for trouble, and they are trouble.”

  He shook his head and then disappeared around the corner.

  “No!” I smacked my palm against my forehead and slid my hand down my face. Great. I can’t go after him. If that dumb animal wants to get himself in trouble, he’s on his own.

  I turned and faced the stairs.

  I have enough problems as it is. No way am I going in there and risking my life for a cat! But I couldn’t just leave the little guy alone. He seemed to know exactly where he was going. Maybe he knew a secret way out. I sighed and faced the second wing. Crap. Fine, cat, I’m coming. I better not regret this.

  Tiptoeing down the hall and around the corner, I found the cat standing in front of a large door. As I crept over, the cat reached up and patted the door with his paws. I grasped the handle and glanced at the creature. He nodded. I opened the door. He ran inside and I followed, closing the door softly behind us.

  “Okay,” I whispered. “Now what?” I glanced around the room. Glass shelves, crowded with dusty books, lined the bleached limestone walls. White marble floors sparkled as I stepped farther into the room. The smell of old paper and worn leather encapsulated me as I went all the way to the edge of a balcony and leaned over the wooden handrail. The room was open and I could see all the way down to the ground floor, two levels below. I held my breath. I was in a three-story library.

  “Wow.”

  “Meow?”

  “Right. Lead the way.”

  The cat ran down an aisle and made his way to a set of stairs at the back of the room. We descended to the first floor of the library. Rococo Era paintings of pale men with onyx-colored eyes watched me from within brass picture frames and protective glass.

  Two red velvet armchairs graced a rectangular coffee table in front of a large, limestone mantle. Lush velvet curtains draped elegantly over a wall-sized window pane. I stepped forward to pull back the thick curtain and see what the forest looked like from down here.

  “Meow.”

  I turned, distracted by the damn cat. “What now?”

  He stood balanced on top of several large, ancient-looking books that sat atop a nearby shelf. With his paw, he tried to push one out.

  “Careful with those—” I spoke too late. Three large leather-bound novels crashed against the marble floor. “Oh, now you’ve done it. Jalmari would have heard that for sure.”

  The cat huffed at me, shaking his head. He leaped down and landed on a book with a blue cover. “Meow.” He pranced around and pawed at it.

  “What? You want me to read you a story?” I snickered. The cat nodded. I rolled my eyes. “I don’t have time for stories right now. This is getting ridiculous. I followed you all the way to this room, thinking you were in trouble, when you really just want a bedtime story.”

  Bending and lifting the massive novel to re-shelve it, I noticed the title. The Evolution of the Vampyre: A Practical Approach to the Anthropology of Man’s Other Cousin, by Dr. Gerald Flückinger.

  “What in the…?” I flipped through the pages and scanned the tiny script. It wasn’t a novel, it was a science journal. I raised my brow at the cat. “Are you for real?”

  “Meow?” He leaped onto another shelf and patted the spine of another book. Before he had a chance to dump it on the floor like the first one, I pulled it out. Another journal. This one was called, The Biology and Application of the Vampyre Diet, by Dr. Stanley Bedford.

  “Meow.” The cat was on a third pile of books, patting one with his paw.

  I gawked at him. “You want me to read all of these?” I pulled the third book out. It must have weighed ten pounds, but my arms didn’t strain as I pressed the books to my chest.

  The cat nodded.

  “Why?”

  He leaped on top of the stack in my arms. I staggered back a step to balance the weight, but found it much easier than I expected.

  “Huh. So, are we done?”

  He nodded.

  I rolled my eyes. “Are you sure you don’t want me to read that four-thousand page book bound in rubber bands over there?”

  He looked thoughtfully at the thick book he had dropped on the floor earlier, then nodded.

  “Whatever, you read it. I’m going back to my room. I want to get as far away from Jalmari and Leena as possible.”

  He jumped off and followed behind me as we made our way back to the fourth wing. As I stepped into my room, the cat zoomed past my feet and leaped onto the bed. I closed the door while the fur ball made himself comfortable.

  I set the journals on the nightstand, then made myself cozy on the bed, propping a pillow against the wall and leaning into it. My fuzzy friend rolled onto his back and stretched out. I looked down at the adorable, yet pain-in-the-butt, animal and smiled. “I wish I knew your name.”

  He looked at me with big bright eyes as I grabbed and positioned the first book against my legs, then opened the cover.

  “Whatever your name is, you sure have funny taste in reading material.” I scratched his belly as I began to read, and listened to him purr until he fell asleep.

  Chapter 9

  The first journal discussed the evolution of man. The author, Dr. Flückinger, seemed most interested in the missing link between man and ape. He argued that the Nephilim could be that missing piece, despite the complete lack of evidence. He stated that Nephilim skeletal remains could have already been found and mistaken for ape fossils.

  I skimmed through the rest and slowed down when I got to the fifth chapter. Dr. Flückinger discussed what the Nephilim might have looked like, and what their traits and living conditions might have been like. He compared these aspects to those of typical vampyres. None of it was far off from what Jesu told me. What I wanted to know was how the author knew vampyres even existed, and how the very idea of Nephilim started.

  I placed the book on the nightstand and stretched my arms over my head, being careful not to wake the cat. My fingers drummed on the mattress, craving motion. I was also thirsty. I stretched out my legs and then made my way to the kitchen, where I opened the mini-fridge sitting on the counter. Just as I suspected—medical bags of blood filled the inside.

  My mouth watered from the scarlet sight, and the urge to hunt ignited deep inside. Part of me, the sane part, was disgusted by the idea of drinking blood. But another part of me said not to fight the urge. Closing the refrigerator, I forced myself to listen to the sane part of my brain.

  I found the glasses, filled one with tap water, and I gulped it down. A bitter, ash taste coated my mouth. I coughed up the liquid into the sink like vomit. My throat thickened. A scratchy lump swelled in the center. I couldn’t swallow. Panic prickled under my skin, like static shock, as a dull ache coiled in my gut.

  My hands trembled as I opened the mini-fridge and grabbed two bags of the slushy liquid. Viciously grinding my teeth together to keep from savagely tearing into the bags, I reached for another glass. I was determined to at least drink the stuff like a civilized being.

  I sucked in a deep breath and held it as I tried to steady my hands enough to pour the contents of the first bag into the cup. A drop spilled over the edge of the glass. A groan escaped my lips as I refrained from licking it off the counter. My chest heaved in gulps of air by the time I had steadied my hands enough to bring the cup to my lips.

  I chugged the entire glass. My body relaxed instantly. Euphoria expanded my lungs and filled my every muscle with buzzing energy. While pouring out the second bag, the urge to hunt thickened in my gut, but it felt different this time. I no longer wanted to hunt to feed; I had all the blood I needed right next to me. No, I craved something else. The thrill of the chase, hunting for sport.

  A flash of green in the corner of m
y eye alerted me to Jesu’s presence. He watched me from just behind the corner. Again, I wondered how I hadn’t heard his approach, but my nostrils flared as they filled with the scent of spring rain, and a switch flipped in my mind. My lips curled back as I stepped in his direction, instinctively hooking my fingers around the glass. I sipped the drink while slowly circling him.

  The little remaining sanity I had left fought for control, but the animalistic urges were stronger and crushed any attempt at logic. I slithered next to Jesu’s right side, his left braced against the wall. My heart raced as the scent of his essence drove my inner passions to the edge. My free hand brushed against his fingers. Just the thought of our hands mingling together electrified my body. My pulse sped as I traced the top of his palm with my index finger and thumb. My being screamed out for him, all the while never taking my eyes off his. I had to have him. He would be mine.

  Jesu hesitated. His lips parted as desire flashed across his face. I was so close to him, so close, and yet my skin couldn’t feel him, couldn’t feel the flesh on his hand, couldn’t feel the heat radiating from his body, couldn’t feel the sweet breath from his lips as it caught in his throat. Damn my numb skin. Why couldn’t I feel anything?

  Frustrated, I reached up and brushed his jet black hair, letting my fingers tangle in the wispy layers while my thumb ran along his cheekbone.

  Nothing.

  Would I feel it if I pressed myself against him? What if I kissed him, would either of us feel it?

  His heart hammered like a drum in my ear as I pressed my chest against his. His breath came in short, quick gasps. I tilted my head and lifted onto my toes, my lips less than an inch from his. I leaned in, eager for the kill, but he turned away.

  “I think you have had enough blood,” he said, breathless, and pushed me a step back. He reached for my drink.

  An unnatural growl emanated from deep in my throat as I bore my fangs and drew the glass away. “Mine!”

  “Fine.” He lowered his hand. “But leave me out of your bloodlust.”

  His reaction sobered me. He could have taken advantage of the moment. Did blood have that effect on everyone? I wanted to ask, but Jesu had already retreated to his bedroom and closed the door.

  I marched back to the kitchen and poured the rest of the blood down the drain, even though the instinctual part of my brain screamed at me to stop. Sighing, I went to my room and blanketed myself in lonely silence. The cat wasn’t there. I looked under the bed and around, but there was no sign of him.

  Whatever.

  I suddenly wondered what Anthony was doing on the other side of the world. Did he know I was missing? Was he worried and looking for me, or was he preoccupied with his mistress?

  My fists clenched, my fingernails drew blood from my palms. I grabbed Dr. Flückinger’s journal and hurled it against the opposite wall. It fluttered to the floor—not quite the dramatic effect I’d wanted.

  Mustering all the anger and self-pity I could manage, I smashed my fist as hard as I could into the stone wall. The sound of crunching bones echoed in the room. I yelped out of habit, trying to pull my hand back, but it wouldn’t budge. It was stuck in the wall.

  Oh God, what do I do now? No one could hear me shout for help. Having a soundproof room was such a stupid idea. What was I thinking? A dull ache began throbbing in my broken joints and burned along my forearm. What a perfect time for my sense of touch to come back.

  The only thing I could do was try to pull it free. It could be hours before anyone decided to check on me again. If I healed as fast as Jesu claimed, my bones would set crookedly if left that long.

  I sucked in a deep breath. Okay. I can do this. After all, I’ve been through worse. I squeezed my eyes shut, took a breath, and yanked.

  “Ahhh!” Fire shot through my arm as all the bones in my hand cracked apart. I balled the comforter in my other hand and shoved the fabric into my mouth, biting down while screaming profanities. Funny how that seemed to hurt more than Jalmari kicking me in the ribs. And yet, my hand hadn’t moved from the wall.

  Think! I must be the most pathetic vampire ever. Okay, all right, it’s not so bad. My hand doesn’t hurt as long as I don’t move it. Maybe if I relax my muscles it will slide out?

  I found some comfort in sitting with my legs crossed. I closed my eyes again and tried breathing deeply and evenly, like people did when they practiced yoga.

  After a couple of minutes, my shoulders softened and my mind calmed. Like a veil covering me gently, peace washed over my entire body, removing all the fear and stress, leaving only a dark void. A tingling sensation started in my toes and worked its way up my calves and stomach, filling me with a thrumming pulse. The energy made me weightless, as though I could blow away in a breeze. The dull ache in my hand faded, replaced by tingly chills.

  What is going on?

  I tried to open my eyes, but couldn’t. Nausea knotted my stomach as I started to panic. I couldn’t see. I reached out with my other senses, but there was no smell, no sound, not even the taste of lingering blood from my meal.

  Instead, the buzzing sensation awakened my ability to feel like never before. I could feel… what?

  Air. That was the name my brain gave to the chill setting in my bones. It felt like fog surrounding me, thick and slow, in even ripples.

  Whatever it actually was, I didn’t like it. Even though my sense of touch felt stronger than ever, I’d trade it in a heartbeat for my other senses, if I could only figure out how.

  When I entered this coma-like zone, I was trying to relax, so logic dictated that I un-relax to get out of it. I clenched my jaw, tensed my arms, legs, hands, and feet, then tightly clenched my stomach and back muscles.

  My butt landed on the bed, causing the springs to bounce a bit, and my eyelids snapped open. I saw clear as day in the moonlit room, and smelled the strong stench of moldy stone walls and dry wood. My hand was no longer lodged in the wall and didn’t even hurt as the skin returned to its dull numbness. I would’ve thought the whole thing never happened, except for the evidence. One, I was now completely naked, my clothes laying in a pile beneath me. Two, there was a hole in the wall the size of my fist. Three, all the fingers on my right hand were bent at odd angles.

  Not good.

  Trembling and confused, I quickly redressed with my left hand, then ran into Jesu’s room without bothering to knock. He was painting swishing blobs of brown on a small canvas. I couldn’t help but glance at the painting in the corner covered by the dirty sheet.

  Jesu’s brow furrowed at my interruption. “Yes?”

  Without a word, I stuck my broken hand out. Jesu looked and cocked an eyebrow. He cleared a small corner on his desk and put down his paintbrush and palate. As he pushed his hair out of his face, his hand left a smudge of brown across his cheekbone.

  “What happened?” He closed the gap between us and gently took my broken hand into his palms.

  “I punched a hole in the wall and my fist got stuck.” That sounded crazy even though it was true. For a moment I worried Jesu wouldn’t believe me.

  He snickered and shook his head. “You didn’t.”

  I stared at my feet and nodded.

  Jesu barked out a laugh. “Ema, when I said you could punch holes in the walls, I did not mean it literally.”

  Of course I knew that, but I ground my teeth together to keep from snapping at him. My hand needed help first.

  “Does it hurt?”

  “No.”

  “It has probably healed. Maria will have to re-break the bones to set them straight.”

  I winced. “Isn’t there some other way?”

  Jesu chuckled. “You will hardly feel it and you will be good as new in an hour or so.”

  “I sure felt it break the first time.”

  “That is because you broke all your fingers at once. One at a time will feel like five little pinches.” He motioned for me to follow, and the two of us headed down the corridor toward the first wing.

  “Do you br
eak bones a lot?” I asked as we entered the pitch-black portion of the hallway. Jesu took my good hand in his and led the way.

  “Only once. I was twelve and I broke my leg.”

  “How?”

  “Jalmari dared me to climb a tree and jump off. I had a small fear of heights and did not want to, but he teased me, so I did.” He snorted. “We were just dumb boys back then.”

  “It must have been nice to heal so fast when you were a kid.” We emerged from the darkness, into the butchery-like kitchen. Jesu let go of my hand.

  “I could not heal rapidly when I was a child. I was born human and, well, Jalmari did not know at the time. He thought I was like him.”

  “Jalmari was born a vampire, I mean vampyre, and you were born a human?”

  Jesu nodded while offering me a stool behind the kitchen island. I sat and tried not to drool at the aroma of death that blanketed everything in the room.

  “So you’re half-brothers?”

  Jesu shook his head no, but didn’t bother to explain. “Cover your ears.”

  I did. He shouted Maria’s name. I could hear her muffled response the instant I unclasped my hands from my ears. Seconds later, she magically appeared near the refrigerator, smiling brightly. “Yes?”

  “There has been an accident.” Jesu pointed at my broken hand.

  “Oh, my. Lay it on the counter, darling, let me have a good look.” She floated through the table like a ghost, becoming solid again on the side directly across from me.

  “How do you do that?” I asked.

  “What, this?” She passed her left hand through mine, her fingers and palm becoming nothing more than black smoke as she did so.

  “Yes. Can I do that?”

  “Perhaps.” She laid my broken hand on the counter, palm down against the wood surface.

  “Perhaps?” I urged.

  “Your powers depend on what clan your sire is from.” She grasped my thumb and squeezed it until the bone cracked.

  “Ouch!” The sting was a bit more than the small pinch Jesu promised.

  “My apologies.” She pressed down on my index finger like she was performing CPR on my digit. I heard the crunch, but only felt a dull ache that time.

 
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