The Vampire

"Thirst tells you when to go, where to go, how to go and even who to go with... This is the most exciting and scary time in any vampire's existence, and it's where I'll begin my story."

Cia craves for blood in the streets of New York, under cover of the darkness she's forced to live in. She's perfectly clear on what she is and how she must take care of her own needs. And to help her, she has her Mentor, the grumpy Lacien. The two of them exist together, do everything together, and it's driving Cia crazy. Until she meets a human, who seems to pop up out of nowhere, knowing all there is to know about what she is and how she manages to remain undead.

And for a while, everything's good. Until things start twisting in directions Cia had never foreseen, which forces her to reconsider everything.

WARNING: Due to request of some readers, there is no age line. However, the story does contain certain elements that younger readers might consider offensive.

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12. The Meeting

The start of January brought even more cold and snow, and I couldn’t bring myself to drag Aleksander outside into the cold nights for much longer. He was freezing when we met, and his shivering seemed endless, even if he didn’t complain in words. His body spoke a different language, and I knew that eventually I would have to go home with him and see how he lived. I owed him as much, since I was the one deciding all other terms.

What was worse was the fact that I knew how much it was killing him to date me. In truth he loved me - so he’d said multiple times, and I believed him - but he needed a girlfriend he could present to his parents at home. Not a vampire, who was indirectly the most likely cause of his brother’s disappearance months ago. That would’ve been a nice meeting: Hi, I’m a creature of the night, which your son has devoted his life to killing. How very awkward.

Besides, Aleksander was working hard on his designs, and he needed a girlfriend he could go out with during daytime so he’d be able to get some sleep. As it was now, he slept maximum four hours out of twenty-four, and it was taking its toll on him. But I wasn’t quite willing to let him go, because what else would I have to do? Lacien was his usual self, even though he had behaved a little strangely since the incident with the pig’s blood.

I’d been extra careful to hunt before seeing Aleksander since the night in the zoo. I would never have him looking at me like that again, and I’d never behave like that in front of him, either. He didn’t deserve that. No one did, no matter how bad they were.

“I know other vampires,” Aleksander told me as we sat on a bench in Central Park and watched the city. His teeth were chattering.

“You do?” I sounded much more surprised than I should’ve been.

If I expected Lacien and myself to be the only permanent nocturnal residents of New York City, that would really make me stupid. Of course others weren’t willing to let the possibility of endless prey slip away easily.

“Yeah. You’d like them,” he promised me. “One day I’ll introduce you.”

“Really?”

“Of course.”

“Lacien can’t know,” I told myself quietly. Out loud I said, “I’d like to meet other vampires. Lacien is not exactly the kindest person to be around.”

“He certainly did make a special first impression,” Aleksander laughed. “How are things between you guys? Is he still into you?”

“He never was!” I protested. “I don’t know. I guess things are pretty normal. We don’t talk much.”

“I had a roommate once,” he said cheekily. “He wouldn’t shut up about his girlfriends’ cat.”

“What a sad life he must’ve had,” I shared my opinion. “At least my roommate has a life of his own, which he doesn’t really seem to care to share with me.”

“Does it matter to you?”

“Not really.” But I wouldn’t have minded still having my hunting partner.

Since I’d started seeing Aleksander, Lacien and I hadn’t been out together, not even for a short while. Usually he would pretend to be asleep when I left, and I’d come home before he was done preying. The past few days he had returned just moments before the sun crept above the horizon, only just avoiding another burn. What he’d been doing he never told me, but surely he couldn’t have been hunting all night for a week straight.

“C’mon. Let’s go introduce you to those nocturnal friends of mine,” he said energetically and jumped to his feet, offering me a hand in a true gentleman fashion.

“Now?”

“Why not?”

I let out a breath and went after him. Aleksander was swift and sure-footed for a human being. Most humans have an awkward way of moving, which you’d notice if you’d had as much time around as many people as I’ve had. Women tend to swing their hips a little too much, and men tend to stride more stiffly than needed, even if they look like they’re hunchbacked and wearing large sweat shirts. And a common feature for all humans is that they bounce too much. Their heads go up and down with every step, and when you’ve been watching it for long enough, it’ll make you laugh because you’ll know it’s true.

Vampires don’t bounce as much. We glide across the surface, keeping our heads almost in a straight horizontal line from nature’s hand. Aleksander had a little bit of that, though not enough to make me consider whether he was entirely human or not. More than once I’d concluded that he was as ordinary as the mothers carrying their complaining children home from daycare during the dark January evening.

“Would it be okay?” I asked my handsome human date as he led me out of the park and down onto a metro platform, paying for me as we went.

“Of course,” he said enthusiastically. “They’re really kind. Nothing to worry about.”

“Except they could kill you in the blink of an eye,” I mumbled to myself, feeling oddly pessimistic toward his brilliant idea. Or maybe I was just nervous.

“So there’s that,” he agreed, not taking offense in my dark tone. “Cheer up. You’ll be glad you came.”

“I am glad I came,” I said hurriedly, eager to make sure that he didn’t think I was complaining or needy. “It’s just… Lacien will probably have my head rolling if he finds out.”

“Charming image,” he commented a bit dryly. “Look at it this way, then. You’ll be making new friends. Powerful friends, more of them than just one old, dusty vampire. If it comes to that, they can protect you from Lacien.”

I followed him into the train, wondering to myself whether I’d need protection from Lacien. Only once had he slapped me, and lately he’d been very careful when he touched me. And he only touched me when it was absolutely necessary. Besides, I didn’t think he would kill me for real. That he would get angry was not to be questioned. And maybe even disappointed - though I thought that was my mind projecting my own feelings in such a situation onto my Mentor.

“Thanks,” I said quietly.

Aleksander turned his head toward me and smiled gently.

“Is he really that bad?” he asked, grinning. “I mean, you seem like you’re afraid of him, but I can’t imagine he appreciates our meetings.”

“I’m not afraid of him. He’s not the most comfortable person to be around, of course, but I don’t think he’d actually hurt me.” Actually, coming to think of it, I thought he would rather hurt himself than me. At least that’s what he’d done when he wanted to clarify his point about the danger of the sun.

“I heard he’s really old.”

“Only some three thousand years or so,” I whispered. “Not that he thinks it matters.”

“He doesn’t look a day older than twenty-five.”

“I guess that’s good for him.”

“Probably. Unless being forever young doesn’t make him attractive,” he said, a little too loudly.

A woman was eyeing us suspiciously from the closest seat, and I couldn’t blame her. If it were me, I would’ve kept staring down the inhumanly beautiful girl and her companion on the train as well. Especially if the companion was as handsome as Aleksander. Of course, I knew I had to keep my back turned to her so she wouldn’t make eye contact, just to make sure she wouldn’t recognize my eye color.

Somehow, even though the train was full workaholics and young people going anywhere, Aleksander and I had plenty of room, standing in what seemed to be the only spot that wasn’t crowded with feet. People stood closer to Aleksander than to me, as if they wanted to give me room to breathe.

And then it occurred to me why, and I kept my gaze down for the rest of the trip. Instincts bid them keep their distance from me. Something in their DNA told them I was dangerous, and the DNA wasn’t lying, even if I didn’t intend on feeding on any of them. Getting too close might just set me off. I was a ticking bomb, just waiting to explode. And none of them wanted to be the one nearest me when that happened.

Two more stops and then Aleksander moved smoothly toward the exit, calling out to me, “C’mon, love.”

I went out after him, wondering if “love” was what he was going to call me from now on. Somehow I hoped it was, but another part of me was very conscious about what that would mean. It meant I’d be obligated to become his girlfriend for real, and even though I was willing to make that commitment with my heart, my brains told me otherwise. Or maybe it was the little Lacien-imitation on my shoulder reminding me that I was still an immortal and Aleksander wasn’t.

Our fingers intertwined as he led me upstairs to ground level again. We weaved through streets until we found an alley with a few steps that would take us below street level again. For some reason I hated everything that brought me just inches closer to the boiling hot inferno inside Earth. It reminded me a little too much of the hell I would end up in should I ever come to truly die.

“Relax,” Aleksander told me as he opened a door and gave me a gentle shove through it. “They won’t bite you.”

I sighed. Not that it would matter entirely if they did, so long as they didn’t drain me. I was trying to shake the tension out of my bones when it struck me. The scent of someone familiar. Images started dancing in the back of my mind. Roses, pale faces, dark hair. Not Lacien, I told myself. This would be the first time I encountered anyone for the first time without Lacien turning up some time during the meeting.

My worries were silly, of course. I had Aleksander’s assurance that no harm would come to me. And even if he was just human, I knew I could count on him, no matter what. At least it hadn’t been a trap. If he wanted, I realized, he could’ve taken me straight to a Hunter and gotten well-paid for it, and I wouldn’t have thought to question our location any further.

At the sound of voices I turned my head. Aleksander didn’t. Which probably meant that he couldn’t hear them. They were keeping it low and very fast, and even I could only make out a few words at a distance. But if we went through the door right ahead, I would be able to hear every little bit of conversation, rather than fragments and muffled sounds.

Aleksander went ahead a few steps to knock on the door. Only then did I realize that the hallway we’d just walked through as pitch black. It lay in the way he was picking his way over the slightly uneven floors. It almost looked as though we were walking on compacted dirt. The sound of his knuckles seemed way too loud in the long, dark tunnel with the low voices on the other side of the door. The conversation stopped abruptly when the speakers realized they weren’t alone.

As the door swung open in a large, inviting gesture, the smell of roses came rushing into my nostrils, and I was thankful that it wasn’t anywhere near as appealing to me as human blood. Otherwise I would’ve needed to check my breath, even though I could stand being near Aleksander. Aitor stood on the threshold, smiling lazily as he leaned against the frame.

“Alec!” he exclaimed in surprise, grinning. “I almost didn’t hear you coming.” His red eyes swept over the dark behind Aleksander before coming to a stop when they met mine. “I see you’ve brought a friend. This one we know.”

This one? I thought to myself, though I dare not ask the question. Instead I let my gaze drop and smiled faintly, saying, “Hello.”

“Good to see that you haven’t been killed by the old grumpy man yet,” Aitor exclaimed excitedly, in a way that made me smile and ease up a little.

“I don’t think Lacien is likely to kill me,” I told him with a smile.

“No? Well, I know for a fact that he is cutting you a lot more slack than any other vampire he has ever Mentored.”

“He was a Mentor to others as well?” Aleksander sounded curious, and his eyes were wide.

Aitor made a sound that was almost impatient. Then he stepped backwards into the room and made a swift gesture for his guests to follow. Louie and Cécile were sitting on a soft looking velvet couch, their entire bodies radiating curiosity, even if none of them had said a word. Their postures were stiff and composed, as though somebody had told them to straighten their backs and look presentable.

I couldn’t imagine Aitor was that somebody.

“Of course,” Aitor said, smiling as he took a seat in a chair opposite the sofa. “Ten… Maybe twenty. Including me.”

My eyes opened up wide.

“He was your Mentor?”

“How else would I know him?” The older vampire flashed a white, wide grin at me, and I moved further into the room, almost forgetting that Aleksander was there as well. “It’s not like he goes out a lot.”

“Maybe he was a little… different before,” I suggested, knowing exactly what he was thinking; that I was trying to see the good in even my cruel Mentor.

“Not when it comes to that. If you want to meet Lacien, you’re going to have to seek him out,” Aitor told me, but I already knew that.

Even if that wasn’t my experience. Meeting him for the first time hadn’t been my intention, yet there he was clear as day, looking down on me, scolding me for preying on children. If he wanted, he could’ve stayed far away from me. Instead he had showed his full figure to me, and I had followed him in the same way a lost puppy might follow a random bitch it sees in the street. I couldn’t count the times when he’d come to me after he’d satisfied his own Thirst, and the way he’d saved my sorry ass from that Hunter with the whip was still fresh in my memory.

“Why aren’t you two still friends?” I asked quietly.

“Oh, sweet child! Your Mentor has no friends. He keeps his enemies at a distance, and his worst enemies worlds away,” he explained rather matter-of-factly.

I wanted to see through his horrible lie. I wanted to tell him that, despite everything, Lacien and I were friends and would remain so for all eternity. I wanted to explain to him how well Lacien had protected me. Only thing wrong with that idea was that if I did it, I would sound disillusioned and hysteric, not in any way cool. And then there was the fact that I could tell he meant it.

“You don’t believe me?” Aitor seemed to have noticed, despite my best efforts to hide my thoughts from him. “Luciana, I have no intentions of lying to you. I would spare you the harsh truth if I didn’t think you’d get hurt if I kept quiet. That Mentor of yours is poison to your mind, to your confidence. One moment he will act like he doesn’t have a care in the world. The next he’ll be all angry and start spitting venom over little things you do.”

Sadly, I could see the truth in those words. Some days Lacien would say nothing. He would hide away in the world inside his head and shut the door to anyone who might try to enter. Other days he would follow me around, watching my every step much like a teacher looking for mistakes to point out to his careless, dumb pupil.

The realization that I wanted to oppose Aitor’s very truthful explanations shocked me. Since when had I gone soft towards my Mentor? I knew perfectly well that Lacien didn’t care what I did to myself, as long as it didn’t reflect badly on him in any way. He would let me starve had he not thought I would be a pain to be around if I didn’t feed on humans.

When I didn’t reply, Aitor shook his head with the kindest of smiles and waved a hand at Aleksander.

“It’s about time the two of you left,” he proclaimed casually. “But we’ll talk again soon, won’t we?”

“Yeah,” I said slowly. “We will.”

Aleksander took me by the hand and led me outside again, back the same way we’d come. Outside the streets were dark as usual, but the time until sunrise was shorter than before, and he had an important job that following morning, he explained. So we would have to say our goodbyes there, and I’d be forced to go back to my Mentor sooner than I’d liked.

Before we parted, Aleksander hugged me tightly and kissed my forehead before whispering something softly in my ear. Asking something of me that I had never, ever even contemplated. 

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