10 - Bad Apples
“I can’t! I can’t do this, Evangeline!”
“Come on, Mellie! You have to! We don’t have much time! They’re coming! I promise I won’t leave you! Just jump!”
Mellie looked around the pillar she was clinging to for dear life and saw the mob of people turn the corner with torches and pitchforks waving in the air. A shot rang out, piercing the night and startled her as she nearly slipped off the ledge looking out over the lake.
She looked down to see Evangeline staring up at her fearfully. Her eyes were glowing red and her fangs glistened. Her mouth still stained with dried blood. She stood in the boat rocking in the water, her dress soaked, with her arms up, waiting. “Jump, Mellie! For crying out loud! Please, just jump!!” Evangeline pleaded.
Mellie closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and stepped off the ledge as she plunged into the water below. The impact of the water hitting her body sent her into a panic attack as she frantically tried to grab at anything. Soon she felt hands grab at her as she was pulled up out of the water, gasping for breath. Evangeline pulled her into the boat and held her tightly close to her. Mellie’s body shivered from the cold night air against her drenched skin. “I told you. I told you I wouldn’t leave you,” Evangeline said as she held her tightly.
Mellie clung to Evangeline as the boat rocked soundly on the water. They could hear the angry mob of people above passing right over them.
Kiara jumped startled when she felt Alexander touch her shoulder. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare you,” he said.
“It’s okay,” she smiled at him. “I am the one standing here like a weirdo.”
“Are you alright?” he asked her.
She looked back out over the lake, trying to remember her daydream before she looked back at Alexander. “Yea just... got lost in my thoughts again...”
She wrapped her arms around his torso as he returned the embrace. His thumb ran gently along the soft skin on her arm and it calmed her anxious mind. Kiara loved being in Alexander’s presence and in his arms. He made her feel so at peace. The mix of his cologne with his own masculine scent soothed her senses. She looked up into his sparkling bright blue eyes and raised her head to kiss him. Alexander leaned in and pressed his lips against hers, reveling in the softness of her lips. His arms tightened around her as he felt her melt against him.
Suddenly, he felt his brother’s authoritative presence. He reluctantly removed his lips from hers and dropped his arms. He glanced at Elijah standing behind her, his face showing signs of disappointment. Kiara looked at Alexander confused as he begrudgingly distanced himself from her out of pure frustration.
“How are you enjoying the Apple-Fest,” Elijah asked. He wedged himself between them and led her away from Alexander. If it weren’t for Kiara, Alexander would have cussed his brother out.
“I love it! It’s so much fun. I’m really glad I was able to share this with you guys,” she beamed at him.
“Well, we rarely go on... family outings... so this was a nice change,” Elijah said with his hands folded behind his back. “I haven’t seen Peter this joyful in a while.” They both glanced over at Peter who was getting a piggyback ride from Cole.
Kiara glanced back at Alexander who was walking a few steps behind them. His hands were stuffed in his pockets, and his face was contorted with somber frustration. His eyes were downcast as if he were lost in his own thoughts until he looked up at her. She gave him a sad look knowing that Elijah had to do with his change in attitude. She turned her attention back in front of her.
“Apple cider donuts here! 3 for 1 dollar!” a vendor called out.
“Oh, hell yes. You guys have to try these,” she said. She pulled money out of her pocket and grabbed a pack from the vendor. She turned to the brothers, offering up a taste.
“Er... no thank you, Kiara. We’re saving our appetite,” Elijah said politely.
“You guys seriously don’t love yourselves,” she said, biting into the sugary dough.
“Why the fuck are these people so damn obsessed with apples...” Cole said irritably.
“Because they’re sweet and versatile. You can use them in almost anything. And who doesn’t love apples?” Kiara said.
“Probably people who are allergic...” Alexander mused.
“Don’t tell me you guys are allergic,” she said, looking at them bewildered.
“If I said yes, would you stop trying to force those things down our throats,” Cole said flippantly.
“Cole, I’m pretty sure you’re just allergic to fun,” she teased.
“Oh, little thing, if you only knew my idea of fun...” Cole smirked. Alexander elbowed him in the ribs as Kiara rolled her eyes.
She had spent the majority of the day exploring the apple orchards with the brothers. Alexander offered to carry her basket full of apples as Peter walked between the two of them. He held Kiara’s hand and grabbed an apple from the basket. He inspected it like it was a rare specimen.
“Take a bite, Peter,” she urged. “They’re sweet.” Peter eyed it curiously before making a pained face and tossing it over his shoulder.
“Peter!” Elijah scolded.
“This kid is so picky,” she chuckled. “So, you guys don’t drink milk. You don’t eat apples. We’re gonna have to make a list of things you CAN eat before Thanksgiving so I’m not eating by myself,” she teased. The three of them looked at each other uneasily as Peter groaned his frustrations.
“Come gather ‘round Grandpa Joe Dillard’s famous oak tree!” Kiara heard someone shouting in a thick Scottish accent and noticed a crowd of people surrounding a man dressed in 18th-century clothing. He stood in front of an unusually large oak tree. Feeling curious, she casually strolled over to hear what he had to say. “This tree was first planted by Grandpa Joe Dillard in 1782. He hailed from Rosemarkie, Scotland before settlin’ right here in New England. The Dillard family, famously known for their signature apple blossoms, fought for the Union in the American Civil War of 1861. It is said that Union soldiers would see the large oak tree from afar and found refuge at the Dillard estate during battle. Those beautiful apple blossoms paved a road to safety and ultimate victory in the war.”
“It’s pretty cool that this tree has such a prominent role in history,” Kiara said. She looked at the three brothers and was startled by how tense they looked. “You guys okay?” she asked.
Elijah was the first to glance at her and tried to give her a reassuring smile. “Quite. It’s just… amusing to hear how drastically different one story can sound, depending on who’s telling it,” he said ironically.
“The Dillard’s are also famously known not just for fighting the wars in our country but supernatural wars,” the man continued. “The people of the town were grateful to them for warding off evil spirits with this very tree. What was seen as a symbol of safety and peace for the townspeople was a warning to the demons of the night.”
“Well, that took a rather dark turn,” she said.
“A dark and phony turn,” Cole grunted. “He failed to mention that the Dillards were a shit family responsible for the wrongful execution of many innocents.”
Kiara’s eyes widened. “Wait, what?”
Elijah gave Cole a sharp sideways look before quickly smiling at Kiara. “Nevermind Cole. He’s a bit of a stickler for history as well. Runs in the family.”
Kiara looked at them curiously before looking at the man. She couldn’t help but ask and walked right up to the speaker. “Are the Dillards still in New England?” she asked the man.
“I’m afraid the last generation of the Dillards passed away a few years ago from an unfortunate... er... animal attack,” the man said. He noticed the three men standing behind her and immediately went completely pale. “Uh, if there are no further questions, let’s continue,” he said. He quickly hurried along as the crowd of people followed. Elijah’s eyes followed him cautiously until he disappeared in the great crowd of the festival.
“You’re an inquisitive one, aren’t you?” Elijah smirked at her.
She shrugged. “I love learning about great moments captured in time. Oh, that reminds me. We should take a picture so we can capture this fun family moment.” She took out her cell phone and quickly snapped a picture of the four of them before any of them could stop her. But when she checked the image, it was completely blurred and nothing was recognizable. “What the...” she said, tapping her phone on her leg. “I think my phone froze. I swear I need a new one. This thing is freaking awful.”
“No need for a picture,” Elijah said. He quickly approached her and pushed her phone down. “We should check out some of the other events before it gets too late.”
She looked at him curiously and then smiled. “You’re right. There’s so much more to see.” Kiara spent the greater portion of the day picking out an assortment of apples from the orchards. And although the guys continuously denied her offer to try all the treats she bought, she had a great time exploring the festival with them.
Elijah and Cole found themselves in a competitive game of archery in which they had to shoot arrows into a row of apples. Kiara laughed in amusement at how angry Cole would get whenever Elijah would best him during each round.
While the two of them were distracted, she giggled and pulled Alexander to the side, hiding behind Grandpa Dillard’s large oak tree. “What are you giggling about?” he smirked.
“I’ve been trying to get us away from Elijah like... all day,” she teased.
Alexander could barely hide his provocative grin. “Is that so? And why’s that?”
Kiara smirked. “So I can do this.” She wrapped her hands around his neck, pulling him down towards her and firmly planted her lips against his. Kiara didn’t understand why she was so hooked on Alexander. She barely knew the guy. Yet, he still took up a lot of space in her mind. Maybe it was because she didn’t know enough about him. The mystery was part of the sex appeal. All she knew was that she absolutely loved kissing him. And when she wasn’t kissing him she was dreaming of kissing him. She tried to rationalize that one of the reasons he was afraid to go further with her is because he didn’t want to be affectionate with her in front of his brothers. It was pretty obvious that Elijah did not approve for reasons she did not know. Thus, she resorted to secret make-out sessions whenever the opportunity presented itself.
She broke their kiss and smiled up at him. “Better? Away from prying eyes?” she asked.
He gazed at her, and she could see his usual conflict warring in his head. Like he was debating with himself if he should kiss her or not. A decision clearly won out over the other as he impatiently grabbed her by her waist and roughly pulled her against him. He kissed her fervently and grasped the back of her neck. He felt her go slightly limp in his embrace as she usually did whenever he took her breath away.
“Much better...” he breathed against her lips as he allowed her to catch her breath. She smiled against his lips as her tongue pried into his mouth to dance with his. She backed up against the tree behind her, pulling him against her as her hands drifted underneath his shirt. Her skin against his already exciting him as his body completely enveloped hers. Alexander’s hands strayed from her narrow waist to her wide hips before they reached around and hungrily grabbed two handfuls of her ass. His tongue moved furiously against hers as she moaned helplessly into his mouth from his passionate, domineering kiss.
Alexander was drawn to Kiara from the moment he first started keeping tabs on her years ago. Elijah instructed him and Cole to only make sure she was safe and out of harm’s way. But Alexander soon found himself becoming obsessed with her as his midnight check-ups prolonged till dawn when he would watch her sleep. He had imagined what it would be like to taste her lips, feel her skin, and hear her moans...
And now that she was finally in his arms, coming undone in his very hands, he felt another uncontrollable desire that he had not accounted for. It was overtaking him. His fear spiked the moment he felt the sharp point of his fangs. “Kiara,” he said, abruptly stepping back from her. She nearly stumbled as he quickly removed his arms from around her.
“Are you okay?” she said, trying to catch her breath.
“Yea, um... we should go back. Find the others,” he said, trying to maintain some distance. She looked at him worriedly, feeling slightly offended by the way he pulled away from her. “I just figured it’s a bit too bright out and crowded for... this,” he said quickly, noting the look on her face. “I don’t want to put you in a compromising position.”
“Look at you trying to protect my dignity. I imagine people would go around calling me a hussy if they caught me making out with you at a family event behind Grandpa Dillard’s famous oak tree,” she smirked.
He chuckled lightly as he kicked a rock while stuffing his hands into his pockets. He raised his light blue eyes to meet hers and stared upon her tenderly. “I just don’t want you to think that... that I don’t want you,” he said softly.
She pondered him for a moment before dramatically shrugging. “You’re not very convincing, I’ll admit,” she smirked.
“It’s okay, Alexander, you don’t need to explain yourself,” she said. She held his hand and continued to explore the festival with him. As Cole cursed up a storm from losing to Elijah for the 9th time, Elijah eyed Kiara and Alexander walking together hand in hand. He sighed in frustration. Trying to keep the two of them apart was starting to become even more difficult.
“What about volleyball?”
“I value my face. No thanks.”
“I couldn’t swing a bat to save my life...”
Rhea snickered as she looked over the list of extracurricular activities. “Drama Club?”
“Unless it’s Korean Drama, I want no part of it.”
“Oh my gosh, Kiara, you’re impossible!”
“No! No! Keep going, I just haven’t found the right one yet,” Kiara said, sitting up on Rhea’s bed.
Rhea rolled her eyes as she looked back down at the list. “Art Club?”
“Well, I actually already go... but it’s mainly to make out with Alexander...”
“OH MY GOSH! I GIVE UP WITH YOU!” Rhea said, tossing her notebook to the side.
“Come on, Rhea,” Kiara pleaded.
“Marshala said to look for an extracurricular so you can get better acclimated to university life. You’ve literally turned down every single one,” Rhea said annoyed.
“That can’t be all of it,” Kiara said. She reached over Rhea and grabbed the notebook. She quickly scanned the page as Rhea groaned in her pillow. “What about cheerleading?”
Rhea looked up at her with a flat face. “Are you kidding me?! Hell no!”
“Why not? The outfits are kinda cute and we get priority access to the recreational center.”
“Did you forget who’s the cheer captain?” Rhea asked dryly.
“Oh... that little fake ass troll,” Kiara said, rolling her eyes. “Whatever. I refuse to let that turd get in the way. Besides, we’d probably show her up. I’ve seen you dance. You’re really good. And I’ve got a few moves of my own.”
Kiara got off the bed and put her hands on her knees, then proceeded to awkwardly twerk. Rhea burst into hysterical laughter. “It’s the Tina Belcher,” Kiara laughed.
Rhea’s eyes started to tear up with how hard she was laughing. “I hope you’re not serious!” Rhea said, wiping her eyes.
“No, of course not... well... sorta,” Kiara smiled. “Come on, Rhea. It’ll be fun. We’ll cheer each other on during tryouts. I’ve never been to university before. My prior nursing program was at a community college where I literally just did coursework and part-timing at the hospital. I wanna do all that cliche university crap I missed out on,” she grinned.
Rhea rolled her eyes. “Fine... But if Jenny gives me lip, I’mma rip her hair out.”
Kiara laughed as she packed her bag with her books. “I’ll see you for tryouts. It’s right before Leo’s practice, right?” Kiara asked.
“Yea. We can chill on the bleachers while he practices and grab some lunch after.”
“That sounds good,” Kiara said. “I haven’t hung out with Leo in a while. It’d be nice if he and I caught up.”
“Why don’t you stick around? He and Levi are coming by a little later?” Rhea said.
“I can’t. I have to catch up on studying after spending the whole day with the guys. Guess where they had offered to take me.”
“To an early grave?” Rhea said with heavy snark.
“Rhea, you’re so dang dramatic,” Kiara laughed as she rolled her eyes. “No. They took me to... wait for it...”
“Oh my gosh, Kiara, just say it already!”
“Apple picking! It was one of my favorite fall activities I did as a kid. Didn’t think it was something they’d be into,” she said, pulling her bag over her shoulder. “But it was just so much fun. We’re actually thinking of going again closer to Thanksgiving. You should come with.” Rhea frowned, failing to hide her disdain. “Jeez...sorry I asked...” Kiara muttered.
“Ugh... I’m sorry, it’s just... I don’t think it’s fair that you’re not giving Leo any time,” Rhea said sharply.
Kiara looked at her surprised. “I wasn’t aware I owed him any.”
Rhea groaned as she rubbed her hand over her face. “Don’t you want to spend more time with him? I thought he was like your childhood best friend or something.”
“Well, yea of course. I love Leo. But it’s not like we’ve had many opportunities to hang out.”
Rhea thought for a minute. “There’s a campus party happening tomorrow night to recruit for Greek life. Why don’t you, me and Leo go. It’ll be fun.”
“Oh no, please,” Kiara whined. “Can I spend time with Leo without having to join a sorority?”
“I didn’t say you had to join, Kiara! Many of them are Leo’s friends. And some are on the cheer squad. Might give us a bit of an in.”
“Eh...good point...I mean I guess that is what young college kids do, right?” Kiara smirked sarcastically. Rhea grinned at her sarcasm as she walked her friend out of her house.
As Kiara walked up the stairs back at the manor, she looked at the door to Alexander’s bedroom and hesitated. She had been feeling less and less sure about their “relationship.” She wasn’t even sure if she could call it that as Alexander was constantly throwing her for a loop.
She heard the strumming of a guitar and a male voice drifting in the air. She approached Cole’s door and lightly knocked. The music immediately stopped. “Cole?” she asked softly.
The door suddenly opened and he looked down at her with an amused smirk. “Finally succumbing to your desires, little thing,” he joked.
She rolled her eyes. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
He raised a curious brow before letting her in. She stepped into his room and was a bit surprised by how neat it was. There were musical instruments all over the room and a large shelf with tons of books. Quite different from Alexander’s cluttered artsy room with tons of paintings and sculptures decorating his walls. She eyed an old black and white picture on the wall that seemed very aged with Cole and 3 other men surrounding him. They looked to be at a concert.
“So, what do you want me to do to you, little thing.”
She widened her eyes and snapped her head to look at him. “Nothing!”
He smirked at her before snickering as he sat back on his bed. She felt flustered. She was starting to get used to Cole’s teasing, but it still unnerved her. “It’s Alexander...” she said, leaning against his door.
A knowing grin came to his face. “Set my sights on my brother, have you?”
She flushed over a bit, feeling embarrassed. “Kinda yea. It’s just... he says he’s into me, but... he’s so hard to read. He plays hot and cold. His actions are constantly contradicting his words. There’s like a wall there... I don’t know what I’m doing wrong...”
Cole pondered her before sighing. “Alexander doesn’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to women.”
She looked at him curiously. “How so?”
“Let’s just say... things usually end up... messy...”
“Well, I’m not like other women,” she said.
“They all say that, little thing. It still ends up messy...”
She slouched with a pout, feeling a bit discouraged. Cole could see this was weighing a bit heavy on her. “My brother has a bit of an... old soul. He’s the ‘most softhearted’ of the three of us. He feels more. He’s more sensitive. More empathetic. More... thoughtful. But he’s had a bit of a rough, kinda painful life so it’s not going to be that easy to get through that...’wall.’“
“Painful? What kind of life has he had?” Kiara asked.
“You’ll have to learn that from him...”
Kiara bit her lip as she tried to think. She knew virtually nothing about Alexander. Knowing he’s had a bit of a rough life would explain his shy and quiet demeanor. “If you want to get through to him, try opening up more about yourself. Encourage him to hang out with you more. Not sure how successful you’ll be, but Alexander often needs prodding to get him to do anything that requires him to be... social,” Cole added.
Kiara nodded. “Thanks, Cole.”
“Anytime, little thing. Of course... if you get bored with him...”
“Don’t even try it,” she smirked. She opened his door and walked out of his room.
Kiara chewed on the back of her pencil before scribbling notes on the pad on her lap. She looked up to see Alexander sitting on his dresser. He faced her as he drew on his easel. She shifted herself on his bed as she sat with her legs folded beneath her. Her eyes wandered over his muscular arms that flexed with every movement he made. He wore a plain white t-shirt that clung to his chest. She bit her lip nervously as her eyes continued to roam over his body before landing on his pink lips. She saw his lips turn upward into a smirk. She lifted her eyes to meet his gaze and felt herself get hot all over when she realized he was watching her watch him.
“Shouldn’t you be studying,” he smirked at her.
“I’m all studied out,” she pouted. “If I read one more chapter on differential centrifugation I’m gonna lose my mind!” Alexander chuckled as he shook his head and went back to his easel. “What are you working on?” she asked, sitting on her knees.
“Can you sketch ‘anything’?” she asked.
“What about people?”
“I don’t usually...”
She looked at him and bit her lip. “Can you sketch me?” He stopped moving his pencil and looked up at her. “I’m just curio-”
“Yes,” he answered quickly. She slid off the bed and stood in front of him. He watched her as she brought her fingers to her blouse and started to unbutton her shirt. “... Kiara...”
“Aren’t sketches of people usually nude?” she asked.
Alexander sucked in his breath before slowly exhaling. “Sometimes...” She quickly discarded her shirt as she stood in front of him in her bra. His eyes lingered on her chest as he swallowed hard. She went for her belt and started to unbuckle her pants. “Kiara, you really don’t-”
“I’m trying to stay true to the art of sketching the human form,” she teased him. She pulled her jeans down and left them on his floor. “Do you want me on your bed?” she asked him innocently. Alexander thought he was going to explode as his fingers tensed around his pencil. She didn’t wait for a response as she slid back onto his bed. “Ready when you are,” she smiled at him.
Alexander’s eyes couldn’t roam over her body fast enough. He turned to his easel and his mind went completely blank. He had already drawn so many pictures of Kiara even before she officially met him. And now that she was practically naked in front of him the only thing he could think of was taking her right there.
Kiara waited for Alexander to at least react but his face was completely blank. She was still working on trying to seduce him and she was running out of options. She huffed, slightly frustrated by his lack of movement as she decided to push further. She reached for the waistband of her panties. “Is it better if I-”
“Kiara, wait! No,” he said, quickly standing from his dresser. She watched him pace his room as he had an argument in his head. His eyes frequently darted to look at her before he finally sat down on the bed next to her. “What are you trying to do to me?” he said, looking at her.
“I thought it was obvious,” she chuckled.
Alexander slowly exhaled his sexual tension. “... Kiara...”
She sat up on his bed and looked at him. “Honestly, Alexander, I feel like you’re giving me mixed signals here. First, you say you want me and then you distance yourself from me. I know what I want. I want you. But every time I try to get close to you, you push me away.”
Alexander ran his fingers through his hair as he deeply exhaled. “I know. I’m sorry I’m just... not good at relationships.”
She looked at him tenderly before touching his hand. “I’m willing to work through it if you are...” As if her practically naked form didn’t do enough to him, her touch deeply stirred him, almost making him ravenous. He wanted desperately to devour her and yet at the same time push her away, but he didn’t want her to think the worst of him. “How about this,” she said finally. “Rhea invited me to this... campus party tomorrow night. You should come.”
Alexander groaned. “I’m not good with parties...”
“Too many drunk idiots?” she smirked.
“Too many people in general...”
“Come on, Alexander. We’re young and we only have one life. We should try going out and having a little bit of fun instead of working and studying all the time. And also... maybe you’ll feel more comfortable with the idea of “us” if we’re around other people.”
Alexander pondered her for a moment. He knew it was a bad idea. Elijah would have his head on a platter. But resisting Kiara was starting to become an impossibility. “Okay...”
“You did what?!”
Kiara cringed as she held the phone away from her ear.
“Yes? Please stop yelling. My poor eardrums,” Kiara said, putting the phone back to her ear.
“How could you invite him?! This wasn’t an open invitation, Kiara! You can’t just invite random people!” Rhea said annoyed.
“You invited Levi.”
“Wha-! Bu-! That’s different,” Rhea said flustered.
“How is it different? Levi doesn’t even attend university. Alexander is an actual student.”
“Nobody likes the Blackbournes, Kiara! For a reason!”
“Reasons you refuse to tell me,” Kiara said with exasperation. “And it’s just Alexander. He’s so sweet and kind and he’s really shy. I think this will help him get out of his shell a little. Also... I really like him, Rhea. Like... REALLY like him. But he’s so hesitant with me sometimes. I’m hoping the party can at least help loosen him up a little.” Kiara could hear Rhea grumbling in frustration on the other end of the line. “Rhea?”
“Thank you, Rhea! This means so much to me!”
Rhea hung up the phone and looked at Levi who was sitting in front of her, massaging her feet. “So she invited the bloodsucker...” Levi said with a raised brow. “I’m sure Leo will love that...”
“UGH!” Rhea groaned as she plopped backward on the bed in exasperation.