Chapter 7 - Fire
It has been a month since I arrived at the vampire kingdom. A week after Asher had shown me the library, he left when he received word that the witch had been spotted in the northern part of city. I go through the same routine every day; wake up, have breakfast, read or wander around the castle and go back to sleep. Grace, the castle’s cook prepares food for me every day and always sends up treats.
Some guards are friendly, but most of them choose to silently roam around the castle with expressionless faces and respond with short answers. Most maids refuse to speak either, whispering to themselves when they catch sight of me walking down the hallways.
Sighing, I push away the curtain and rest my head against the window pane. I’m back in the library yet again and although I have not run out of books to read, I wish to do something different to occupy my time. It’s night time now, I can tell by the moon hanging high in the sky. I spent the whole day cooped up in here, either reading books, drawing or taking naps.
I jump out of my skin, turning towards the door of the library. Standing there are two tall yet broad men, evidently muscular. They are around the same height and are dressed in black gear, weapons strapped on them that glint in the light whenever they move.
One of them has red hair with green eyes, flawless skin but sharp features like all vampires have. He’s the cheerful looking of the two as they walk towards me. The other man has blonde hair that touches his shoulders, a long scar running from his temple to his jawline which makes me wonder who did that to him. His bright blue eyes look over me, but it doesn’t make me uncomfortable. He seems to be assessing rather than scrutinizing. This man’s features are soft instead of sharp and angular, which seems like a contradiction to his icy demeanor.
“Hi, can I help you?” I smile, stepping towards them.
“Actually, that’s our job.” The red-haired man laughs at my confused expression.
“I don’t understand.”
“We are your personal guards, I’m Corbin.” He grins down at me before gesturing to the blonde. “And this is Vito.”
“Guards? Why do I need guards?” I frown, wondering what had happened for Asher to assign Vito and Corbin to me.
“Blithe, the psychotic bitch, is getting closer to the castle. With you here and Sage on the way, Asher doesn’t want to risk anything. He’s increasing security and since we are the best, we get to protect his beloved.” Corbin grins cheekily as he boasts, my cheeks coloring when I realize that they know Asher and I are mates.
“Sage is coming?”
“Unfortunately, yes.” Vito explains, taking a seat on the chaise lounge. My brows arch in surprise when he takes out a dagger and starts polishing it. “Little brat.”
“She’s great, you’ll love her.” Corbin rolls his eyes at him, shooting me a smile.
I chuckle, taking a seat opposite them. “Have you two been working for Asher a long time?”
“Yes, about twenty-five years now.” He replies, propping his legs on the coffee table which I push away with a playful glare. “Vito and I know each other since we were children. Asher found us together after one of the wars and wanted us to work at the castle.”
We continue to talk until my yawns become much too frequent, both telling me that they’ll escort me to my bedroom. I walk with them and it’s kind of weird, back at home Dad would usually have a lot of guards on us but they were all hidden. Vito walks silently but Corbin continues to chatter away until we reach my room, both taking up their positions outside my door.
“Goodnight guys.” I smile sleepily, walking inside as I hear them say the same.
Unfortunately, I wake up in the middle of the night because of a nightmare. Corbin had let it slip earlier that Blithe had attacked and destroyed many buildings when Asher arrived at the scene. I’m worried for his safety and wish that he would just come back, feeling restless as I overthink scenarios that hopefully will not happen.
Sighing, I fling the covers off me and decide to take a walk or something to tire my mind. I grab a robe and put it on, moving my hair to cover my chest since I’m not wearing a bra. Making my way to the door, I open it and step out.
“Ayla.” I yelp in fright before groaning when I meet Vito’s eyes. I completely forgot that my room is to be guarded every night from now on.
“Sorry, I-I forgot...” I sigh, looking around in confusion. “Where’s Corbin?”
“Sulking.” He rolls his eyes, a dark scowl on his lips. “Another guard pissed him off. I don’t know why Asher doesn’t get rid of him.”
“You don’t like Corbin?” I blink in surprise, remembering how they told me they’ve been friends since childhood.
He chuckles, a smirk on his lips as he turns to me. “He’s...tolerable. Sometimes, he forgets that he’s a guard and has a duty to our king.”
“But aren’t you two close friends of Asher’s?”
“We are.” He nods, turning serious. “But I doubt we would be if someone were to hurt you because we weren’t doing our jobs properly.”
I nod in understanding, smiling at him sheepishly. He smiles fleetingly before staring at me in confusion. “Where were you going?”
“Just for a walk, I can’t sleep.” I sigh in frustration, my eyes are tired and begging for sleep but my mind is wide awake.
“Come on.” He nods towards the hallway, closing the door behind us. “Are you from this kingdom?”
“No, I...ended up here. I’m from the United States, the Renascence pack.” I explain as we turn a corner.
“Ah yes, the pack ruled by a monster that destroyed countless villages and murdered innocents.” He laughs coldly, making me stop.
“And you’ve never killed an innocent?” I ask, watching him stiffen before turning to me.
“What I do is not the same as what he did.” He retorts, crossing his arms.
“Grow up, Vito.” I snarl, glaring up at him in anger. “The world we live in isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. You call him a monster, yet you kill whoever you’re ordered to kill; innocent or guilty. Stop being a goddamn hypocrite.”
“What’s with all the anger?” His eyes narrow in suspicion.
“I’m Ayla Romanov, Vulcan Romanov’s daughter.”
His eyes widen in surprise, flickering to my hands when my body starts to tremble. “Being a hybrid doesn’t mean we can always control both parts of us; just like my Dad wasn’t in control when he started ruling this kingdom; just like I lose control of my vampire. We didn’t ask to be hybrids, but we are not monsters who don’t feel guilt over the pain and destruction we cause.”
“Some clans joined together to kill my grandparents just because they were from different species, did you know that? It was vampires who mercilessly tortured them, and for what? For falling in love?” I laugh humorlessly, stepping closer to him as I murmur. “It was murder. By you people. Maybe I should blame you, Vito? Maybe I should call you a monster for something that wasn’t your fault?”
He remains silent, staring at me with guarded eyes yet something lurks within them. I feel so much anger within me, wanting to protect my father. I keep talking, not knowing how to stop the hurt from spilling out of me.
“My Dad killed because he can’t control his vampire. Blithe is out there killing people because she wants petty revenge. You kill people because you must follow orders. Asher kills people otherwise his status as a fair and just king will be questioned. How are we not all monsters? Why is my dad the only one?”
He doesn’t answer, not that I expect him to. We stare at each other and I force myself to calm down. I never agreed with nor understood my father senselessly killing people but when I met Zoya and realized that she is just as unstable as my father’s vampire, I understand what happened. Controlling her is a nightmare and I have experienced her taking over whenever I became angry. She rages to the point of killing and I’m grateful for my father always being there to lock me in a cell when I lose control. Otherwise I would be living with the same guilt.
“I relieve you of your duties towards me, you can go.” I state, making my way back towards my room.
“You can’t do that.”
“Last I checked, I’m a hybrid.” I turn to face him, gazing at him coolly. “We never need protection. Your hatred for my father runs deep, a man who I would give my life for. You don’t respect who we are and I have just lost all respect for you. Now, leave before I show you just how easy it is for me to lose control.”
I start walking back to my room, hearing nothing but silence behind me. Pain blossoms in my chest, my heart hurting for my father. I miss him terribly and to hear someone judge him without knowing him makes me upset. He’s done so much for me, he’s a good man and an even better father. I know how much it hurts him; what Vladimir did when he forcefully took control from my dad. He’s never forgiven him for that – for putting blood on his hands that he didn’t want.
“He...He killed my best friend and his pregnant wife.” He whispers just as I’m about to turn the corner.
“I’m sorry for your loss, Vito. Rest assured that my father has been punished mercilessly for his actions.” I reply, my heart aching with hurt as I remember the story my dad told mom and I happened to be passing by their room at the time.
“What?” He frowns, walking up to me.
“My father was killed multiple times a day.” I smile sadly when his head snaps up, eyes widening in horror. “Vampires captured him after he stepped down from the throne, they wanted to punish him for being a hybrid and for what he did. They treated him like a lab rat, didn’t know how to kill him. They tried everything; from multiple knife wounds to electrocution to burning him alive –”
“Stop.” He mutters hoarsely, I can tell that he feels sickened.
“Or tying weights to his body and drowning him, trapping him in a freezer until his body turned to ice, poisoning him –”
“Stop, Ayla!” He cries, holding his head in his hands as he stumbles back.
For a moment we remain silent, his harsh pants the only sound in the room. I step closer, making him look up at me with pained eyes. There’s so much more that people don’t know, that they need to hear. Dad doesn’t like to talk about his past, hates anything to do with it. Instead he chooses to improve as a leader of his pack and never make the same mistakes again. And for that, I admire him.
“Do you think that if he told people of what happened to him would anyone believe him?” I ask, tears brimming my eyes as I watch him shake his head. “He’s been punished for his actions Vito, more times than you know. I know for a fact that his guilt plagues him every night, I’ve heard him.”
“I’m sorry...” He breathes, holding my hands tightly. “I didn’t know.”
“It’s okay. Just know that if he could control his vampire he would never have done what he did.” I whisper, wiping away a traitorous tear. “My dad’s not a bad person, Vito.”
“I believe you.” He murmurs, understanding in his gaze.