Chapter 11: Secrets
Matthew pulled the case of Lust out of the trunk of the car to carry inside to the rest of their family. Eleanor noticed a white envelope underneath the case he had picked up. She took it and opened it. Pulling out a card with elegant handwriting, she quickly read the note.
“What’s that?” Victoria asked as she approached her sister. Eleanor hid the paper behind her quickly.
“It’s just an invoice for the case of wine. Adrian gave us a free sample and this just explains how much he’s selling it for,” she lied.
“Uh huh,” Victoria replied skeptically. “So Adrian now sells wine? Well, he’s definitely a business man.”
“It’s not just any wine,” Eleanor began as they made their way up the stairs to the front door. “It’s a special wine that’s been infused with human blood specifically for vampire consumption. He says that it’s supposed to satiate the hunger and allow for fewer feedings.”
They made their way into the foyer and towards the kitchen where the rest of the family had gathered around the wooden crate containing the beverage. Matthew had already taken the lid off and was admiring their packaging.
“And does it?” Victoria asked, curiously. She knew that if anyone needed help satiating hunger, it was her sister.
“I had a glass while we were in conference with Adrian. I haven’t felt the need to feed since,” Eleanor admitted. “I know we’re all skeptical when it comes to that man, but it appears he’s doing some good in the community. Human and vampire alike.”
“Where is he getting his resources from?” William questioned as Matthew poured him a glass. “The blood has to come from somewhere.”
“It’s donated,” Matthew chimed in. Eleanor released a small sigh of relief.
“Right, and we’re supposed to believe that?” James said as he inspected the wine under the hanging lights over the kitchen island.
“I agree with James on that one,” Thomas commented as he appeared nearby. “Adrian was a killer back then and he’s a killer now. I bet my soul on it that blood came from murder.”
“You want us to throw it out then?” Eleanor asked, slightly frustrated. She didn’t understand why she was the only one in the family who understood what it was like to go insane with bloodlust. They all felt the hunger she did but never spoke about it.
“No,” Victoria said. “It was a gift and regardless of where it came from, it helps us maintain a low profile around here.”
Victoria gave Eleanor’s arm a little squeeze. It was a kind gesture that reassured her that she had an ally. Martha and Ebele approached the case and peered inside at the bottles.
“He’s still a monster, I see,” Martha remarked.
“Come on, Martha. Let’s get back to our sewing,” Ebele said as she pulled Martha away from the box.
“Can I see that?” Thomas asked. James handed him his glass as he sniffed the drink.
“You’re not thinking about trying that out, are you?” Henry chuckled as he appeared next to his brother. His eyes shifted over to Victoria seductively as she put her hand up to her hair to smooth the side of her bun.
“So what’s the verdict?” William asked in regards to the agreement Eleanor and Matthew had managed to procure.
As Eleanor and Matthew explained the situation to him, his face grew grave. Victoria could tell that William was not happy about this business agreement at all, especially since he didn’t know how Lust was manufactured.
She knew that he didn’t want to draw the eyes of Hunters and something like this would definitely catch their utmost attention. Victoria took a glass of the wine for herself and took a sip. The liquid coursed down her throat and into the pit of her stomach. The taste was smooth and rich with the undeniable hint of blood that she craved.
Taking another taste, she closed her eyes to savor the flavor. Henry walked over to her and stood by her side, placing his hand on the small of her back as he leaned down to whisper in her ear.
“How is it?” he asked curiously.
Without giving it a thought, she turned and melded her body against his, pressing her lips insistently upon his mouth. Henry backed away suddenly as the whole room shifted their gaze over to them.
“That was quite unexpected,” Thomas said, as shocked as the rest of the room. “Is there something we don’t know about here?”
Matthew picked up his glass and stared at it. “I don’t remember having that reaction when I drank this stuff with Eleanor.”
“It’s possible it could have different effects on certain vampires,” James muttered. “An infusion of blood does have arousing affects.”
“Are you going to tell them or should I?” Mary interjected as she crossed over to the party.
“Mary, this isn’t your place...” Henry pleaded.
“They’re fucking each other,” Mary said. “There. Now you don’t have to hide it anymore.”
“We weren’t hiding anything,” Victoria stated. “As for who I’m fucking, that’s none of your damn business.”
“I’m going to go play some billiards. Anyone up for a game?” Thomas asked as he headed off in the direction of the gentlemen’s parlor. The rest quickly followed, leaving Victoria, Henry, and his sister alone in the kitchen.
“Really, Henry? A vampire? Have you lost your mind?” Mary continued.
“Mary, watch your tongue,” he warned.
“Or what? I’m dead, Henry. What could you possibly do? And now you’re sleeping with our enemy. Our whole reason for being in this mess, trapped here. It’s because of her kind,” Mary pointed towards Victoria.
“Mary, this is between you and me. Leave Henry out of it. How did you even know about this?” Victoria questioned.
“I have my ways,” she answered.
“You were spying on us?” Henry asked, betrayed. “What is wrong with you?”
“No! What is wrong with you? Mother would be rolling over in her grave right now if she knew what kind of a traitor you were to your own family,” Mary yelled as she stormed off, disappearing without a trace.
Victoria grabbed Henry’s arm as he started to take off after his sister. He looked back at her as she shook her head.
“Let her go, Henry. She needs the space right now,” Victoria said. “I know what that kind of anger feels like. She and I are more alike than she thinks.”
Henry relaxed and cupped Victoria’s face in his hands. “I don’t want you to blame yourself for any of this.”
“Oh, I don’t,” Victoria assured as she took his hands away from her face. “I’m not the one she’s mad at. I know that your family has had a rough history with my kind and I can only imagine how she feels. I’m not expecting you to choose sides or anything. Family is always more important and I would choose them over anyone. Maybe we should just call this what it was. It was fun and that was it.”
Victoria walked away and into the parlor where an intense game was already underway. As much as she liked Henry, her family still had to live with the Ashfords under the same roof for who knew how long. Drama was not what she was looking for in a relationship, especially during a time like this. It was easier for her to cut off their fling before anyone got their heart broken.
Henry slowly sauntered into the gentlemen’s parlor and leaned against the door frame overseeing the boys at the billiards table. Victoria couldn’t bring herself to look him in the eye and Eleanor could sense the tension between them.
Eleanor grabbed Victoria’s arm and led her to the far side of the room. While the other vampires may have been able to hear their conversation, Henry and his family couldn’t.
“What are you doing?” Eleanor whispered, too low for a human ear to detect.
“What I thought was right,” Victoria admitted.
“Just because he has a jealous sister thinking that her big brother is being taken away from her, doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel on a relationship that obviously means more to you than just some fling,” Eleanor pointed out. “Who gives a fuck what Mary thinks? Obviously, he didn’t.”
“How do you know he didn’t?” Victoria snapped.
“Did you even give him the chance to tell you? You’re running scared like you always do,” Eleanor replied.
“You want to talk about me? What about you?” Victoria stated, anger rising in her voice. “You really expect all of us to believe that Adrian is—“
Eleanor covered Victoria’s mouth with her hand and dragged her out of the room and up the stairs. They went into Eleanor’s room and she slammed the door shut, locking it as she barricaded it, preventing Victoria from leaving.
“Okay, I see how it is. We can talk about my problems but not about the one you and Matthew got us into? May I remind you that you were the one who suggested to go into Blush in the first place getting us into this mess!” Victoria shouted.
“Shh!” Eleanor insisted. “Look, I know that things are tense right now but I’m going to take care of it. Don’t let my mistakes turn into yours. Henry likes you and you like him. What if I said there may be a way to help him and his family?”
Victoria paused for a moment, the anger subsiding slightly. “Help him how?”
“Now this may sound a little crazy but…what if we turned them?” Eleanor suggested.
“Turned what? They’re trapped souls, not humans. How would that even help?” Victoria inquired.
“Just think about it. They’re cursed because they tried to drive out Adrian, a vampire. What if we found their human forms and turned them into the very thing they were cursed trying to prevent? It could break the bond over them and this place,” Eleanor explained.
“I don’t think they want to be vampires. You heard Mary in the kitchen. She thinks we’re abominations and I’m pretty sure Ebele and Martha would agree with her. There’s no way they would do that,” Victoria pointed out.
“Do you really care if their whole family wants to or not? This is about Henry. Wouldn’t you think he’d at least want to be given the option?” Eleanor said. “They would have a choice, Victoria. We wouldn’t be tricking them like that peddler did to us years ago preaching a cure for the plague.”
Victoria mulled the words of her sister over. She knew that they would be horrified by the idea but it was something to be considered. Ebele had said it herself that she hadn’t found the answer in over 200 years. Perhaps, this was their only salvation. However, it was a severe commitment, one that couldn’t be taken lightly by either parties.
“Say they agreed. Would we allow them to stay here or send then away?” Victoria questioned.
“Of course they could stay here. We couldn’t make some vamplings and then send then out into the city to wreak havoc without being properly trained. Adrian and his Clan would be all over us for that,” Eleanor assured.
“What about William?” Victoria argued. “He’s our leader. I’m not so sure he’d want to expand our Clan like that.”
“Leave William to me,” Eleanor said. “I’ll talk to him about it. Besides, it’s not like we couldn’t use some more numbers in our ranks. Adrian has plenty of those and had no problems turning vampires out around this city.”
A slow clapping sound came from the corner of the room. Ebele and Mary appeared from the corner as they floated towards the sisters.
“I’m glad I never told you where our bodies were,” Ebele commented as she sat down in a nearby chair. Mary stood just behind her. “Thank you, Mary, for warning me.”
“Ebele, this isn’t what you think—”
“Oh, really? I think I just heard two vampires conspiring to turn my human form into one of their selfish kind,” Ebele snarled.
“No, we would give you the choice. You wouldn’t have to—”
“Save it, Eleanor. I heard all I needed to. My purpose isn’t to return to my body anymore. It’s to get rid of the likes of you and your conniving family,” Ebele raged. Mary smiled from behind her.
“If you would just let us explain,” Victoria pleaded. “We want to help your family, not destroy it.”
“By turning us into monsters, you mean. I knew there was something I didn’t like about you,” Mary stated, taking a step forward. “I’m going to make sure my brother never sees you again.”
“Is that a threat?” Eleanor growled. Victoria held her sister back as she unlocked the door behind them and scooted out into the hallway, never taking her eyes off the pair. Closing the door, she turned to Eleanor.
“This isn’t good,” Victoria said. “We have to warn the others. Thomas and Henry can help us.”
“That bitch just threatened us,” Eleanor muttered, seething with rage. “She better not let me find her body otherwise I’m going to chop it up and set it on fire!”
“Shh! That’s not helping anything, Eleanor,” Victoria rushed to say as she took her sister and dashed down the stairs towards the parlor. “We just need to talk to Thomas and Henry before…fuck.”
Ebele and Mary were already in the parlor behind Thomas and Henry. Martha was seated in a chair near them as the boys were on the other side of the table. Thomas had his fists clenched and stared at the ground, his jaw tight. Henry refused to look at any of them, his eyes somber.
“We didn’t know anything about this,” William admitted. “This is news to us as well. We can talk this out like civilized beings.”
“You’re not civilized. You’re all monsters,” Mary said as she threw a glass of Adrian’s wine on the floor. “You see that? That’s my blood. That’s my mother’s blood! That barrier was supposed to keep your kind out of here!”
“And now you want to tear it down to let all those beasts onto our land?” Martha said. “Simply unbelievable!”
“You people said it yourself that maybe we’re meant to be here for a reason,” James pointed out. “Perhaps, this is the reason, to help you.”
“By turning us into you?” Thomas asked. “Just because we’re friendly with you, James, doesn’t mean that we dream of one day being anything like you.”
“But this could be your chance to return to your bodies,” Victoria spoke out as she stepped between the Ashfords and her family. “We could teach you. You wouldn’t have to do this alone.”
“That’s not the point,” Mary said. “I’m not going to be some bloodsucking whore like you.”
Victoria swallowed her fury and turned to Henry. “Henry…”
Henry continued to look away and she knew it was because he did want to live but he didn’t want to betray his family. She felt like she was caught between a rock and hard place, not knowing if she should make a different offer.
“Thomas…I’ll help you,” Victoria offered.
Henry snapped his attention towards his brother as the others in their family had puzzled expressions.
“What?” William asked from behind Victoria.
“Thomas came to me and asked if I could help search for relics that possess any magical properties that might help them return to their bodies. I thought the point mute at the time, but if it eases their fears towards us then I’ll help him and his family. We don’t have to turn anyone,” Victoria stated.
“Why would you do that for us?” Mary asked, skeptically.
“Because…” Her gaze shifted over to Henry who finally looked her in the eye. “We’re not monsters and I’m going to prove it to you.”