Not So Happy Birthday
The white ceiling of her room stared back at Helena. She gingerly lifted the sheets and rolled up her tank top. Blood-red bandages spanned from her ribcage to her lower abdomen. Lazarus had gone too far this time.
“I guess it wasn’t a dream.”
She lowered the covers and scanned the room. Whoever was taking care of her had been kind enough to leave her phone on the bedside table. She reached for it and muttered an array of curses as the movement tugged at her raw wound. Instead of pursuing the idea further, she relaxed and glanced at the window. Light filtered in through the gaps in the curtains. She couldn’t be certain how much time had passed, but she had to know what day it was and if she had missed dinner with her parents.
The door opened, and Perri peered inside. She beamed at Helena and shuffled over. Her brown eyes shimmered with what Helena guessed were unshed tears. Perri’s short blonde hair was tied into a short ponytail with a few loose locks tucked behind her ears, curving around them.
“You’re finally awake,” Perri said.
“How long was I asleep for?”
Perri sat next to her on the bed, her smile fading. “Since yesterday. I tried to get Hans and that strange woman to take you to a hospital, but they assured me you would be fine after their blood was absorbed into your system.”
Helena paled. “What do you mean?”
“I know what they are. I prefer not to speak about it in case it causes Master Vincent trouble.”
Helena nodded. “You had me fooled. I don’t know how many times the words nearly spilt out of my mouth. Hans warned me not to tell—Wait. Does he know?”
“Yes, for some time now.”
“And Laura? Where is she?”
“She called last night and said she couldn’t make it. She’ll be back tonight to congratulate you.”
Helena tried summoning memories from the previous night. After Lazarus left, Michael became strange. Her frown deepened at his final words. “Did Hans notice anything strange about me?”
Perri seemed to struggle keeping a straight face. “Aside from the gaping hole in your stomach?”
“Am I interrupting something?” Lucious’ deep voice came from the doorway.
Helena glared at him. “What are you doing here?”
He sauntered over and glared at Perri. “Leave us.”
Helena grabbed Perri’s wrist. “Don’t tell her what to do!”
“I don’t know if I should get involved,” Perri said.
“Indeed, you mustn’t. Now get out.”
Helena tried to sit up. Torturous pain exploded in her abdomen, and she cried out.
He was immediately at her side, pressing her back against the mattress. “Don’t move. You could reopen your wound.”
“Don’t…touch me,” she said through gritted teeth.
“Relax,” he said softly, and the soul-string between them stilled. Calm washed over her, loosening her muscles.
“I’ll go get you something to eat,” Perri mumbled, rising.
Helena shot her a pleading look. “You don’t…have to.”
“Take care of her until I return,” Perri added and scurried out of the room.
Lucious took the seat where Perri sat before him and tugged the sheets away from her body.
Helena grabbed at them the best she could and missed. “What are you doing?”
He held her down with one hand clasped around her shoulder and lifted her tank top with the other. “Nothing sexual, I assure you. I am merely curious about the damage you took. Your shields have become so weak that your pain and emotions are seeping through the link.”
Her cheeks heated, and she turned her face away. “I’m sorry it’s become an inconvenience to you.”
Lucious’ fingers traced the outline of the bandages, sending shivers down her body. She couldn’t understand why his touch was warm and every other vampire’s remained cold. Could our link be affecting him this much?
He found the bandage clips and unhooked them, one at a time.
Helena watched as he lifted her back off the mattress with great care and began undoing her dressing.
“Try to not move. If anything hurts, tell me,” he said.
She lowered her arms to her sides, giving her enough support to not require his help to stay upright.
“Lucious,” she began in a shaky voice, “can you feel something different about me?”
He paused on the last stretch of her bandages. “Anything, in particular, I should be on the lookout for?”
“My string, Michael said it was grey.” Her voice trembled, but she went on, “He can’t guard me anymore because of it.”
Lucious undid the last of the bandages and peeled off the bloody gauze, revealing a new layer of fresh pink skin where the wound was last night. How much blood did the vampires give me?
“You are healing well. In a day or two, you can get out of bed.”
She grabbed his hand. “I need to go out tonight. I have plans.”
“Any plans can wait. Your well-being is more important.”
“My mother will kill me if I miss dinner.” She gritted her teeth as she propped her back up against the headboard. The cool oak surface sent an unpleasant shiver through her. “Ask Perri to get me some painkillers.”
He pressed his palm to her wound, and she cried out in agony. Tears rushed to the surface and spilt over when her stomach started to burn and her head pulsated.
“You will not leave until you have healed,” he said, removing his hand.
Her vision blurred and her tears kept on falling. “Get out and stay away from me!”
Perri burst into the room. Her eyes darted from Helena to Lucious. “Are you alright?”
“Please get me some painkillers. I have to get ready,” Helena pleaded.
Lucious stood. “You are not leaving this place unguarded.”
Ignoring him, she shifted her legs to the edge of the bed until they were no longer on the mattress. “It would be odd for me to go to my birthday party with a stranger in tow.”
“I can influence your parents and make certain they believe your celebration is tomorrow.”
Helena’s voice rose along with the drumming of her heart in her head. “You are not brainwashing my parents. You hear me?”
“Helena, he’s right. You can’t go alone or in the state you’re in,” Perri said.
“Perri, I beg you. Get me some painkillers, please…”
Perri didn’t wait long and scrambled out of the room.
It hurt to sit. Her body was not going along with what her mind wanted. The pain changed from sharp to dull, but it didn’t stop. Her stomach clenched and nausea took over. She swallowed a couple of times in an attempt to trample the sick sensation.
Lucious knelt in front of her. “I can feel your struggle, your pain, yet you persist on this course of action. Why?”
She planted her hands firmly on either side of her for support. “I don’t know how much time I have left with them. Lazarus may appear at any time and finish what he started. I don’t want to have any regrets in my life. I won’t.”
He grasped her shoulders, forcing her to look into his mesmerising blue-brown eyes that hid too many secrets behind them. “If I feed you my blood now, I am certain you will get better. But, after consuming a lot of vampire blood, I fear there may be side effects.”
“What side effects?”
“As I have heard, Zafira and the Council’s spy both gave you their blood. Adding more to the mixture in such a short amount of time could kill you.”
Helena snorted. “That’s a side effect? I was under the impression it only healed people?”
“Like with any medicine, the quantity remains important. It is why they didn’t give you enough to be fully healed. They simply couldn’t. And, if you died with their blood in your system, you’d become a ghoul.”
“I’ll be fine with a few painkillers.” She set her feet on the ground and slowly stood. The room began to swim around her.
Lucious’ fingers dug into her shoulders. His powerful arms were the only things keeping her vertical. When the wave of dizziness dissipated, she pushed him away.
“I’m alright,” she whispered.
“Tonight, I will go with you.”
She peeked at his stern face which told her that any of her complaints would be shot down. Lowering her head, she staggered towards the door. For every step she made, Lucious did the same. Past her discomfort, a faint smile managed to escape her. This vampire sure was stubborn.