Blood on Roses
“Your species do not belong on Earth. As such, you must die.”
~ Kaydence Samuels
I expected only Arthur on Friday evening, but he showed up with Alecx at 7 o’clock sharp.
I grabbed another teacup from the cupboard and set it down in front of Alecx, who still looked like he hadn’t slept for days.
I tried to understand that it was his comrade and close friend who died, and he required more time than two weeks to recover.
Seeing Alecx like that pained me. After all, he’d always hold a significant place in my heart.
Once again, I made myself comfortable on the bean bag while Alecx and Arthur sat on opposing ends of the sofa across from me.
I forced myself to take a sip of the Earl Grey tea that I used to love. I could still smell the bergamot aroma, but it was no longer appetizing to my mind nor my tongue. My hand flew to my lips as soon as I tasted the tea.
Man, it was like urine and shredded sponge mixed into an appalling smoothie.
I quickly repositioned my hand to fan my tongue, acting as if the beverage was hotter than I expected.
Both Arthur and Alecx were too distraught to notice my series of actions. Arthur appeared even more stressed than the day he confessed to me that practically all of my close ones were vampire hunters or in-training.
He didn’t take long to begin. He provided me with a detailed explanation as to how he found out that Zach was a vampire and why I should cut all ties with him at all costs.
“Are you sure?” I asked while my hand froze with the teacup in the air.
“I’m sorry to say so, but yes.” Arthur’s unwavering gaze stared straight at me. “He admitted to being the ‘Dracul’ vampire that we have been hunting down for so long. He didn’t do any harm to you, did he?”
I shook my head slowly.
“I’m sorry, I know you like him, but this is how it is.”
Alecx’s eyes flew wide, and I could feel the heat rise in my cold cheeks. I frantically waved my hand left and right and insisted that he was mistaken for making such an assumption.
“No, no! How many times do I have to tell you? We were friends!” I flusteredly explained, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell Arthur that I didn’t like him. I questioned Arthur’s information to distract him. “Are you sure he’s Dracul, though? What if he just claimed to be Dracul?”
“A vampire has tried to impersonate him before. It didn’t end well for the imposter. The day after he announced in public to be ‘Dracul,’ he was murdered. It appeared that he suffered a lot before taking his own life. A bloodied note beside him read ‘Don’t impersonate me.’ After that incident was broadcasted, I honestly doubt anyone would dare make the same mistake.”
Sounds like Zach, I remarked. Zach tended to leave notes, and his approach to solving problems had always been extreme. I guessed that Zach controlled the imposter’s daydreams and made him hallucinate enough to the point that he’d rather die. If Zach felt like it, he might’ve also altered the imposter’s memories to the brink of insanity.
I was astounded that I didn’t find those thoughts disturbing in the least.
“Besides, Dracul is the only vampire I know of that’s as fast as he was,” Arthur added.
I fixed my gaze back in front and made eye contact with Alecx. He lowered his gaze.
“So, Alecx, what are you doing here? How’s your specialized training?”
He seemed startled before an awkward smile crossed his lips. “That course only lasted for a week. It was hardcore. I didn’t have a minute to breathe. We woke up at five thirty every morning and slept at nine with only twenty minutes each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
I stared at Alecx as he rambled on. I’d never seen him like this before. Whenever Alecx lied, he would either stutter relentlessly or fall silent, but not become an opened box of babble.
Alecx finally caught himself and shut up after he told me his training schedule. He hid into the sofa and hugged a cushion.
I hesitantly inquired again, “Does that mean Kaydence is back, too?”
“Yeah. She didn’t tell you?”
I bit the inside of my lip. I couldn’t ignore the sour hurt twisting inside of me. Kaydence had apparently changed a lot in the past few weeks.
Just then, my thoughts were interrupted by a tinge of stinging in my stomach. It was only for a second or two, but I almost shrieked at the sudden strange prickling sensation. Luckily, Alecx and Arthur took my pained expression as feeling betrayed by Kaydence.
“Kaydence is going through some tough times. Since her training was compressed into less than a month, she wasn’t trained to see death,” said Arthur.
Kaydence probably saw more than she should have. Whether it was humans or vampires, death was death. As a vampire hunter, it wasn’t possible for her to stay sheltered forever.
“Anyways,” Arthur said again. “Please keep my words today in mind. For the time being, forgive me, but you’re not safe alone.”
I groaned. “Arthur, I don’t need a bulky bodyguard following me around everywhere.”
“That’s why I appointed this one.” Arthur pointed to Alecx. My eyebrows flew up. Before I could utter a word, Arthur continued, “Alecx has undergone extensive combat training, and he’s seen Dracul’s face. Plus, he just got his customized weapon yesterday.”
When I turned to Alecx in surprise, he had a proud smile on his face. I urged him to show me.
Upon Arthur’s nod of approval, Alecx reached into his shirt and pulled out his necklace. Attached to the end was no longer a silver cross pendant, but a medium-sized silver key.
It was elegantly simple and polished. The bow of it was almond-shaped, and the long thin shank connected the bow to the pin. The bit had no wards. Though, in the center of the bit, there was a heart-shaped engraving.
I suddenly recalled that Arthur always spun out his scythe out of nothing but a key similar to this one.
Arthur saw my confusion and promptly explained, “Since all of our weapons contain vampire blood, it makes them have certain properties of a vampire. Morphing a weapon into a key isn’t difficult. Though, if you want to know the exact process, you’ll have to ask one of the technicians.”
As he spoke, Arthur pulled out his key. It was bigger than Alecx’s, perhaps because his scythe was huge. It had a meticulous design, unlike Alecx’s. Arthur stuffed the necklace back into his collar shirt before I could get a better look.
Alecx stood up and spun the key in his fingers like a pen. A green light shone from the object as it went from a key to an oddly-shaped large axe that was about his height.
The bright silver blade had a feathery appearance to it, much like the opened tail of a peacock. The cutting-edge was razor-sharp, and a hole gaped through the shining metallic silver poll. Many emerald jewels embedded the poll, lug, and knob, giving the weapon a chic look. The handlebar was comprised of a design that resembled dragon scales, and the back of the head had a hook. Other than those touches of emerald, the entire weapon was made of silver and glittered a platinum white from top to bottom.
Alecx waved it around. My eyes followed his weapon as he showed off. I was disappointed in myself for acting so damn impressed with his fancy axe.
Before I knew it, I walked right up to the weapon to satisfy my eyes. I was about to hold it to test its weight, but I stopped myself just in time and asked, “Is this whole thing made of pure silver?”
“Yeah, it’s designed this way so vampires can’t wield it. Want to try holding it?” Alecx innocently held the axe horizontally to hand it to me.
I quickly shook my head and returned to the beanbag. “No, thanks. I’m a humble person. I don’t want to flaunt my noodle arms too much.”
They both chuckled. When I was still human, I never worked out, and I was weak as heck. Lifting a bag of plumes probably required effort for me.
Arthur, being the way he was, brought our child’s play back to business. He provided brief instructions for Alecx and warned me once more before putting on his jacket. It had gotten pretty late.
Once Arthur left, Alecx turned to me with a boyish grin. “This feels like fifth grade all over again.”
I mirrored his grin when I recalled the time when we used to sleep over at each other’s houses every weekend. Things were never awkward back then, since I didn’t have a crush on Alecx yet.
And now, things weren’t awkward again, because I no longer had a crush on Alecx.
Within the past month, I gradually grew out of this childhood crush. Was it because my vampire blood demanded more exhilaration than the average human could bring, or was it because Zach genuinely caught my interest more? I suppose I’d never know. It all just happened.
“Come sit.” I sat down cross-legged on the couch. I was as comfortable as ever around Alecx. I waved him over, and he took a seat on the other end. The furniture was intended for three, so there was a bit of distance between us.
While I was casual, Alecx maintained a perfect posture. I noted that Alecx had always been this way. After all these years, he never once called Arthur anything other than “Mr. Carrington.”
Perhaps Zach’s occasional impertinence was exactly what I needed. My whole life had been boringly ordinary. I liked the way Zach dragged me out of all those frames I set for myself.
At the thought of Zach, my mind drifted to how we left things. I jolted up and gasped when I remembered that I was supposed to text Ashlynne sometime tonight, but since Alecx was going to be here the whole time, that plan must be cancelled.
“I was supposed to text someone about a project today,” I lied to cover up my gasp, and Alecx poked fun at me. I allowed myself to laugh freely at what he said while apologizing to Ashlynne.
I told her exactly what was happening. I already spilled everything to Ashlynne; there was no point in being secretive.
‘That’s alright. Anytime tomorrow night or Sunday night is fine, too. Have fun, but not too much. You still like Zach, right?’
‘Don’t make me type it, devil.’
She replied a grinning devil emoji.
After that, I tossed everything else to the back of my mind and conversed with Alecx until late at night. When the clock struck midnight, he began to feel drowsy. He settled into one of the guest rooms on the second floor. Telling him that I’d be going to bed as well, I bid him goodnight before going to my bedroom.
I suddenly realized that I could’ve just met up with Hailee and Ashlynne elsewhere while Alecx slept. Too late now.
I, for some inexplicable reason, didn’t desire reading that night. I rolled open the window and hopped right out, as Zach taught me to. Sure enough, I softly landed on my feet. I was getting better at vampiring.
The moment I peered around with night vision, the same sting stabbed my stomach.
“Ow...,” I muttered and crossed my arms. It only lasted for a second, but it got more painful than last time.
I should ask what was wrong with me. For all I knew, it could be something serious.
I found my way to the patch of woods with ease. As the elevator doors revealed the second floor, the first face I saw was Josephine’s as she sped down the otherwise empty hallway.
Before I could call out to her, she braked and turned to me. “Hazel? I didn’t expect you at this hour. Who are you looking for?”
“Anyone’s fine. I just have a question about a change in me.”
“What’s up?” Josephine pushed up her black framed glasses. She had her body half-turned to me.
“I’ve been feeling a short, sharp stinging pain in my stomach today. Is that normal?”
Josephine finally turned her whole body to me. Her cocoa skin glistened under the hall lights as she stated, “You’re getting thirsty. You need blood.”
I was only hungry?
“How long has it been since you turned?”
I counted my fingers. “About ten days.”
“I’m presuming that your hunger limit is fifteen to eighteen days. I doubt your body could endure your bloodless diet within the next three to five days. The pain will worsen tomorrow and the day after. If you insist on not drinking after your limit is passed, you’ll lose your mind and go on a killing rampage.”
I blinked several times at the mass information that Josephine shot at me as if she’d been repeating the same instructions for decades. She was shorter than me, but I felt like a child under her schooling gaze.
“If you don’t want to go insane and murder a bunch of random people on the street, have a juice box, preferably this instant.”
I turned my head and scowled. “I’m not going to drink another person’s blood.”
She facepalmed. “Newbies like you have always been a pain in the butt. Suit yourself. If it starts to get out of control, I’ll knock you out if I have to. We’re not getting exposed because of your stupidity and stubbornness.”
“Jeez, I’m sorry. I never expected to have a thirst for blood.”
Josephine countered without hesitation, “There are a lot of things that we don’t expect in life. I also never expected my mother to abandon me, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”
I couldn’t respond to that.
“I suppose it would be more hurtful to lose your parents when they love you compared to when they hate you.” Josephine sighed, then frowned. “Stop looking like you know how I feel. You grew up in a honey jar, surrounded by people who loved you. Go down to the kitchen; you know what to do. I still have work.”
With that, she sped down the hallway without a glance back. I sourly pursed up my lips. This place was full of sassy people. I honestly didn’t stand a chance.
I leaned against the empty kitchen counter and contemplated while playing with a box of blood from the fridge. I heard many stories of vampires being robbed of everything by vampire hunters, but it seemed that not all vampire families were all flowers and hearts.
Wasn’t that just like human society?
I thought back to when Zach and I had a horror movie marathon. I hated to admit it, but he breezed past even the scariest films. I, on the other hand, practically killed all of my cushions with my startled scratches.
While we watched gory ones, Zach said a lot of things that surprised me. He stated that vampires and humans were similar; both would kill ones of their own, whether it be for personal benefits or plain entertainment. I was too busy jumping to consider his words.
“Why do all vampires have to die? Lots of us aren’t even capable of killing,” Zach had said while the ending credits played. “There are extreme cases like mine, but also others. Believe it or not, Hailee has never taken a single life with her hands. She’s too afraid.”
As the next movie played, I couldn’t focus on it at all. My eyes were glued to Zach. He glanced at me, knowing my curious nature.
“When we both joined at roughly the same time, The Ones was still a relatively small group. We were the only vamps around the same age, so we used to talk a lot. She said that whenever she tried to go beyond just having a drink, her hands began to shake, and all she could envision was her mother’s headless body. She didn’t want anyone else to experience the same thing.”
A wry smile had appeared on Zach’s lips as he looked at me. “I’m envious of Hailee’s mentality, but I can’t do the same.”
I had then sensed a foreign emotion behind his complicated eyes. I barely noticed that he stroked my hair. “History would only repeat itself if I allow things to remain the same.” He pulled his hand away and turned back to the screen. His expression grew grim and distant. I didn’t try to say anything more afterward.
Zach’s a tough nut to crack, I repeated the thought in my head from when I first met him. He said he found me interesting and amusing; how was I any different? Zach was as complicated as one could get, yet sometimes, he was as innocent as a ten-year-old. He was beyond riveting; I’d never met anyone like him.
I twisted my features into a weird frown to prevent a smile from rising.
“Excuse me,” someone mumbled. I quickly apologized and moved to the side while the stranger took something from the cabinet that I was leaning over.
Once the stranger left, I sat up on the counter in the same spot where Zach and I conversed before. I shouldn’t linger around for too long. Everything here brought back memories.
I whacked myself on the side of my head. I was already here. I might as well see if Zach was in his room. I couldn’t expose the location of the base to Ashlynne, but if I were lucky, Zach might listen and go out with me.
I zoomed up the stairs and headed down the familiar hallway. I found Zach’s room quickly. It still baffled me how gorgeous his handwriting was. I admired the letter “Z” drawn on his door for longer than I’d like to admit. It was no wonder that he had a habit of leaving notes; he had to show off that stunning writing somehow.
After a series of unanswered knocks, I announced, “I’m coming in.”
I was expecting Zach’s deep voice to tell me off and that he was only ignoring me, but the room was empty. I noted that it was colder than usual.
His bed was neatly made, and the bathroom was unoccupied. Many mystery novels scattered on his desk, as usual. A wine red quill stood, in its ink bottle, on the side of the bureau.
I then turned my gaze to the window sill. The view outside of the glass remained pitch black. The first thing that caught my eye was the Osiria roses postured proudly in a porcelain vase. What happened to his white roses?
I couldn’t help myself and slipped out my phone. As I snapped a picture, I realized these roses emitted an odd fragrance. My sense of smell had never been as keen as a Pureblood’s should be. I studied the flowers more closely.
I finally noticed that some of the Osiria roses had droplets of blood on them. It took me a few seconds to identify it, but it was Zach’s blood.
“What the hell?” I muttered to myself.
Before my mind had any time to process, my phone rang loudly. I panicked and darted straight out of Zach’s room, closing the door behind me. I read my screen while rushing down the hallway toward the elevators. Alecx was calling.
It’s two in the morning!
I realized that I still had the juice box in my hand and that I couldn’t go home with it. The mansion was quiet. I didn’t want to receive a phone call here and disturb the others. I fabricated a lie in my mind and declined the call.
After I rode the elevator back up to the patch of woods, I called Alecx back.
“Hey, I was passing by a neighborhood, sorry about that,” I mumbled lamely. I sounded so suspicious, but Alecx trusted me too much to doubt anything I said, even though he knew I was a good liar.
Alecx’s worried voice filled my eardrums. “Did you go out for a walk again? After everything Mr. Carrington told you? Sometimes I wonder if you have a death wish.”
I chuckled guiltily. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’ll head back right now.”
“Where are you? I’ll go get you.”
“Near the public library.”
“You went out that far?”
“Yeah,” I hummed, having nothing else to say. He told me to stay put. It would take someone twenty minutes to walk from my house to the library, perhaps ten if they ran. I went back to the base and made a beeline for the kitchen.
I returned the juice box to the refrigerator and searched the drawers and cabinets. Sure enough, I found an entire package of those sugar packets. They contained granulated sugar-like tiny red cubes.
Hailee had explained to me that these didn’t contain blood, but it made human beverages drinkable for us and temporarily held back our hunger.
I found a cup, filled it halfway with tap water, and poured the solute into the solvent. It was indeed much better to drink and tasted like regular water.
For now, I’d rely on these to survive.
After I downed the glass, I headed toward the library. A little while later, I met Alecx at the front door.
The short time indicated that he jogged this whole way, but he was barely tired. The training he underwent these past two years must’ve been intense.
“Don’t do that again, alright?” he lectured, but we both knew he couldn’t stay mad at me.
“How’d you know I went out?”
“I couldn’t sleep, so I went to check on you.”
I immediately knew that he was lying. Alecx was just too easy.
I inwardly huffed, if only I could read Zach as easily as I could Alecx. But I scratched that thought. Zach as the way he was intrigued me. I liked that he was a challenge.
What other reason could Alecx be awake at this hour, though? Perhaps he had a nightmare but was too embarrassed to admit?
I let the thought slip my mind as we strolled back to my house.