Chapter 9: In Black and White
“Here less than a week, and I already heard more complaints to deal with than in the past decade.” The corners of Lys’ mouth twitched as he observed an enraged Ali behind the glass doors pacing up and down as if she was an agitated predator stuck in a cage too small to be considered humane. She had already waisted the whole round of bullets onto the double shower doors, and they, completely laced with cracks, were still unyielding and somewhat whole. The fast-paced verbal Russian language that was accompanied by vulgar gestures made it obvious what Ali was trying to convey even through the language barrier.
Reflecting on my life, I now can say it was very uneventful and somewhat tedious before I became a Donor. I slept, ate, worked, visited Jeremy and paid the bills on time. That was it; the only difference was the constant shuffling and repetition of these events: no drama, massive capital offences, things chasing me around, mummies disappearing or significant treachery plots. Especially no accusations of me being a traitor.
Glaring at the man that got me in this messy situation, I crossed my arms while my teeth were clenched tight. It was better that my mouth stayed shut; they were doing too much talking most of the time anyway. Emotions were flying around in me like carrier pigeons, swooping in and out with haste so that I could barely register one when another was already there, demanding my attention.
Ali and Ly had their secret alliance, while Will, Rosa, Gus-Gus and Matteo were God knows where; shut away in the manors of their Stainless. I was considered a traitor because of the attack that I had no clue happened and just might die soon. Great.
I saw Ly lift his brow almost unnoticeably as he glanced at my loosely tied bathrobe. My chest area was barely covered, and the belt was coming undone due to the vigorous movement I had done to put Ali in the shower. Gripping the bathrobe together at my chest, I did not answer the provocative gaze he was giving me. It was not like I was expecting the company to entertain in a bathroom.
The Created were starring daggers in my direction. One vampire, in particular, was grinning with mischief while drawing a thumb across his neck; I recognized him immediately since he received most of the golden shower under my window.
“This is proof!” Richard shouted from behind Lys’ back with his index finger shakily pointing at me while addressing the Created. “She must be the traitor; otherwise, she would never be able to have the upper hand over a human skilled in combat!”
A few grumbles of the agreement were heard; however, the majority of Lys’ entourage looked speculatively at me, not convinced I was the ominous death machine which Richard labelled me as.
Ly pinched the bridge of his nose as if ashamed and frustrated with my accuser. “Tell me, Richard, have you somehow learned the ability to turn invisible and were present during their conversation, to see the events firsthand?”
“No, Sire.” Richard blushed with embarrassment as other Created chuckled at his expense.
“Then your accusations are nothing more than observations of a biased party.”
“But Sire!” The objection Richard made was full of despair, of a wish to be heard.
“Richard, do me a favour and be quiet,” Ly growled in warning, making everyone shiver and take a precautionary step back. “As for the rest of you, why are you even here?” The heir of Varshawsky line snidely stated as he turned toward the vampiric audience behind him. “Perhaps I seem that feeble to you all that I cannot even defend myself against a single human.”
That got their undivided attention, and some Created quickly dispersed while others went toward Ali too free her from her caged misery.
Ly ignored the commotion and extended his hand. “Dess, come with me.”
What? No pleasant bite to accompany the order.
I looked at the palm in disgust as if it were a nasty nine-headed serpent with wings and hairy spider legs. Squinting my eyes into slits, I glanced upwards to its’ owner and pointedly crossed mine.
Sighing in defeat, Ly, with the bored expression, gave a tiny, icy smile that didn’t have anything to do with civility. “Shall we try this again or do we really need to do this the hard way?”
Jerking my chin upwards with the air of stubbornness, I defiantly proclaimed with dignity. “I am not afraid of pain.” I experienced the bite without aphrodisiac twice and was not pleading for mercy. If that doesn’t speak of the strength of my character, then nothing does.
Ly frustratedly pushed his short silvery hair back and with exasperation leaned on the door frame. His palm was still upward and extended in my direction. “What about your brothers’ life? Would you like to cut it short?”
Damn him for using Jeremy as an extortion tool.
My nostrils flared, and my tongue was kissing my teeth with irritation. When I trusted myself enough not to say something I would later regret, I calmly demanded as I put my palm in Lys’ “I want to see him.”
“And you shall,” Ly amiably assured, then looking me up and down with reserve, he quickly remarked as he closed his bigger, more robust palm over mine, “Although I think it would be a good idea to change first.”
Pulling me into the corridor with the strength that I could never break out off, Ly marched with me while Ali walked the other way without a word or glance toward us, obviously insulted.
If anyone should act haughtily by being wronged, it should be me.
Richard was following us at a respectful distance; however, I had not a shred of doubt that he was intently listening to our conversation. Probably even recording it so he could play it to papa Andrey later like a faithful little solder he was.
“What’s this? I thought you would enjoy letting me embarrass myself in front of everyone, Lysander.”
Ly flinched slightly when I used his full name, and his grasp tightened. Retaliation came swiftly and with style. “I just don’t wish to traumatize a child with his half-naked sister.”
“But you don’t mind distressing me with my medieval utilities.” I yanked at his hand to slow down while hoping his head would magically combust on its’ own from the heat of my laser-like glare.
“If they were medieval you wouldn’t even get a chamber pot. Just a pile straw in the corner.” Ly only shrugged and pulled me along so that I had to almost power walk beside him.
“Oh, thank you for educating me on the subject.” My sarcasm was needling Ly, hoping to prick a sore spot or a nerve that would permanently contort Lys’ features in a grimace.
“I don’t want you to live in error.” Giving a lopsided mean grin in my direction, Lys’ eyes twinkled with delight. The bastard was enjoying the bickering.
My stomach clenched with nostalgia; this was the smirk I loved most on him, glowing with confidence and cleverness. Yet now it was without the warmth I etched into my memory. I remembered when he and I were this snarky with each other. Then it was more of a flirty fore-play. Now it was hostile banter that could soon erupt into yelling at any second. It was incredible how we could maintain this passive-aggressive conversation without either of us tearing each other to bloodied shreds. I was jabbing with words at Ly repeatedly, yet he eluded my sharp tongue with the skill of an overly agile acrobat, which made me want to hurt him even more.
“You are the embodiment of kindness. Such generosity.” I buried my fingernails into the flesh of his palm. The sass and cynicism of my remark made Richard gasp behind us.
“When I feel like it.” Ly squeezed my palm to the point it felt as if my knuckles were gangbanging each other. He lifted his brow in silent question as his eyes gazed into mine silently asking: ’Do you wish to go down this road again?’
I returned his provocation without a change in my expression. I felt warmth trickling underneath my fingertips as I pushed my nails even deeper, wounding his palm hard enough to drew blood. “Ah, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” With a sigh, I rearranged my features into apparent fake innocence when Ly looked at his palm.
After a quick inspection, he just irritatingly smirked like me injuring him was just a love tap of a playful, overexcited kitten to him and Ly let my nails be precisely where I imbedded them. Richard, who could clearly smell Lys’ blood, grumbled under his breath but remained where he was. He knew that if he intervened, he would regret it later.
Our palms stayed in the aggressive lock as we walked in silence, toward an unknown destination. I started to recognize the hallway as we walked on; the artwork was familiar as was the furniture which I had passed lots of times in my months living here. As the well-known cherubs smiled down on me from a fresco on the ceiling, there was no doubt where I was or where Ly was headed.
Before I could object, Ly opened the door. “Get dressed.” With a tug forward and a push between my shoulder blades, he pushed me into the bedroom. I staggered inside and almost face-planted into the floor because of Lys’ roughness. The room was mine, and it was still wholly untouched as if I never left. The only indication that time also affected this place was the bouquet of dried, somewhat wilted flowers on the mantle over the fireplace.
My hands were shaking as I balled them into fists and with a closed throat, I croaked. “Why Ly, you are giving me the freedom to choose my own clothing? Aren’t you afraid I will betray the fashion industry with my inability to know which colours and cuts are suitable?”
“As if you would recognize or care about being fashionable. And don’t even think of trying any funny business, I will be outside listening so intently that I will hear your bowel movement.” Ly grumbled and closed the double door with a bang.
Shame I hadn’t eaten anything that makes me extremely gassy; I would love to fart so loudly that his ears would hurt.
I decided that I would dress up with such slowness that it would seem I was making a ritualistic offering instead. I sat for about ten minutes on the floor in front of the massive wardrobe pondering my options. Then it was time to look over the clothes, which took about half an hour. In the end, I smiled as I pulled on sweatpants and a T-shirt. The wet hair that was starting to frizz, I pulled in a bun on top of my head. The gentlemen outside will be very annoyed when they saw how I dressed, not because the clothes were offending them, but; how much time I needed to put on this hot mess, that will earn me some glares.
In the very back of the massive closet, I found a box of new snickers which were quickly put on. It was very uncomfortable walking barefoot on the cold floor of the house. I quietly approached on the plush carpeting toward the closed doors when I heard raised voices from behind them.
“Sire, Might I suggest-” Richard began ever so carefully.
“We have been through this not once but three times already.” Ly sternly interrupted. “My answer is still no.”
“But Sire! We have the perfect leverage over the traitor. She will sing like a nightingale if the boy is treated harshly. We just need to exploit-”
“We do not harm children.”
“It’s that traitor-”
The bang made me jump, and I took a step back as the door shook on their hinges as something was pushed against it violently.
The wood barely muffled a deep, menacing growling that came from Ly. “We. Do. NOT. Harm. Innocent. Children.” Each word was spoken slowly, accompanied by low, vibrating snarls. “If the boy is harmed in any way, Richard, I will personally see to it that you dig your own grave which will later hold your decaying severed body parts.”
A strained voice that was Richards’ replied something to Ly; however, I didn’t catch his words. The squashed vocal cords were only making weird high-pitched whispery sounds.
“I had already done the interrogation under the compulsion; she knows nothing.” Answering curtly, Ly let Richard go, and something robust slid down the wooden surface of the door.
“There could be another compulsion blocking her memory, Sire.” The Created vampire wheezed as if he were an old man.
I inched closer to the door, to hear better their conversation, which was starting to get quieter. Leaning toward a keyhole, I listened intently to catch the words.
“I checked, there was none put on her.” Ly shut down the topic immediately his voice utterly inattentive. I could see his porcelain-like face, which he always had on when he wished to end the conversation in a courteous yet stern way. If the conversation was pushed onwards against Lys’ wishes, the opposite party might end with their dignity shattered. And that was if they were lucky.
“There is a possibility that compulsion is of an older vampire-” Richard did not learn his lesson and pressed forth on his conversationist.
“I’m growing tired of your constant doubt in me, Richard.”
“Our brethren had died, and she must have done it, there is no other suspect with such incriminating-”
“And if she is innocent?” Ly calmly posed the question. “What then?”
“Sire, surely you don’t believe it. The timing-” Richard rambled on for a minute, but I tuned his voice out not wishing to hear the reasons Ali already presented that implicated me.
Tensing instinctively, I froze in wait for Lys’ words. It seemed weird that still, his opinion of my supposed guilt mattered to me. It shouldn’t be necessary to me, have no importance whatsoever, heck I shouldn’t give a flying fuckity fuck about it. And yet here I was waiting for his answer, nervously by the door as if it mattered the world.
“I said if.” Punctuating the last word, Lys’ calm demeanour remained even after listening to accusations.
“She still ran. The Donor that breaks the contract-”
Stopping another rant that Richard was about to give, Ly with cold indifference to the words, interrupted. “Is to be punished as I see fit. I am her Stainless, not you. You keep forgetting that part very conveniently, Richard.” I heard the steps moving toward the door, and I quickly jumped back, happily thanking the heavens for the rug underneath to help me eavesdrop.
“My apologies, I have only wished to help.” I heard Richard mumble in a very displeased voice.
“Jumping to conclusions is not helpful; bothersome is more like it.” Ly bluntly corrected his subordinate. Then in a gentler voice that sounded full of fakeness, he added. “I understand your resentment, but being rash is never the answer.”
There was a bit of silence then I heard a yelp of pain as Ly continued, “However, touch a hair on that childs’ head, and I will not be just making threats but enacting them as well. Remember that well.”
With a violent swing, the door abruptly opened only to reveal me trying to find a hole for the head in the sweatshirt while in the garment. If Ly wanted to catch me in an embarrassing moment of dropping ears by the lock, I was one step ahead of him.
“I see you decided on a lazy, shapeless, couch-potato style today.” Ly merrily announced very loudly.
With a yank, I pushed my head through the hole and adjusted the overly sized hoodie. “Got a problem with that?”
“Don’t give a damn. It’s your image, not mine.”
“I am not stupid enough to dress to impress while being held, prisoner. Why would I piss in a pot while wearing a designer outfit? Seems a bit counterproductive to me, I won’t feel less mistreated if I wear expensive clothes, I still will need to squat over a chamber pot at the end of the day while the rest have a fully functioning, flushing toilet.”
“I thought you weren’t thick enough to break the contract, yet here we are.” The apparent taunt with which he wanted to rub in, didn’t go over my head, but I decided that silence was the best policy. Putting his palm in the crook of my elbow, Ly in a not so gentle manner, reeled me into him. “Nothing to say?”
The familiar, wonderful scent of amber, frost and pines assaulted my nostrils and memories. I always despised books with heroines who immediately forgave their love interest in the name of love even when the said person has done some brutal acts that would never get forgiveness if it was me in their place. I had always believed that those girls were soft in the head and had no backbone whatsoever. Now with Ly so close I needed to begrudgingly admit that I could somewhat understand the predicament the female lead found herself in wasn’t so black and white. It was a whole spectrum of grey shades. As were my emotions, on the one hand, I desperately wished to scratch Lys’ eyes out, on the other side there was my primal, carnal self who wanted to bone his bones while putting my nails to work.
That can’t be healthy, right?
Glancing at Lys’ face with an indifference that I hadn’t felt in me, I tried to free my elbow. “I have many things to say, but I rather not since it will take longer for me to see Jeremy if I fight with you.”
Even if I overheard Ly not completely believing and somewhat not acknowledging my ‘guilt’, I was still wary and anxious. That was what lies did to me. I questioned everything and anything he had done and was doing now. Perhaps Ly was sincere when he spoke with Richard about not wanting and allowing to hurting children. Maybe I had nothing to fear of happening to Jeremy with Ly valiantly protecting him. Or perhaps he knew I was listening in, and it was another ploy to gain my trust.
Ugh, my brain is frying to the point of turning to charcoal! Then Ly will use my darkened brain, crush it and use it for a charcoal facial mask.
With a shrug of his shoulders, Ly avoided my tries to jab him with the captured elbow and lead me to the other side of the house. Naturally, even with a guide, I knew that I would never be able to find this place again. Ly was counting on it as he was leading me while adding many turns, twists and detours, I was so sure I would bet my little pinky finger.
If Ly hadn't stopped suddenly I would have missed the door. There was boisterous laughter coming from the room. Mixed in it was, to me, a very well-known thrilled shrieks of Jeremy’s amusement. As Ly opened the door, I thought I had travelled through space and time into another dimension; because I have never, ever saw something like this before.
On the floor sat Jeremy with many puzzle pieces surrounding him; however, that was not what stunned me speechless. It was the person sitting on the floor with a smile and a burst of tinkling laughter beside my little brother that flabbergasted me. Angelica, her royal highness of Bitchdom, was playing with my brother. Her cold eyes were shinning with warmth and affection while she intently listened to Jeremy.
It was… unnatural.
I have a strong urge to cross myself repeatedly at this ungodly sight of Angelica smiling.
Feeling the tightness around my elbow increase, I spared a glance at Ly who has had a bright grin on his face since the moment the door opened; however, it didn’t reach his eyes.
“Try to be a good sport, otherwise,” His low murmured sentence didn’t need to be finished, I know what came after the otherwise. Usually, it was a threat to Jeremy’s well-being, and it was getting old.
“You meaning to tell me, you are worried I will snitch to my baby brother?” Inquiring in the same whisper with a humourless smile, while anger wafted of off me.
“Oh, I know you won’t. But don’t go sour on Jeremy, he is having the time of his life, and I would hate for you to ruin his fun.”
If I had a reply, Ly wouldn’t know because the occupants of the room finally noticed us.
“Ly!” Shouted Jeremy in absolute delight. When he saw me, he poked his tongue at me, still stewing at me, hiding the information.
Not seeing me for four days, and this is the welcome I get? Wait till I get you alone you little brat.
There was a giant boulder lifted off my chest, seeing Jeremy happy, but I was quite insulted with his response to me being here. For all, he knew I could be dead, yet here he was happily stuck in a room full of creatures that could kill him in a millisecond.
With a jump to his feet, Jeremy ran and hugged Ly by the feet. Ly needed to grab Jeremy; otherwise, he would bounce off his rock-like body and to the floor. From the dark look Angelica gave by the sight of me, she was definitely not pleased I had popped in and ruined her playdate.
But she was not the only Created here. G was standing in the shadows without his ever-present polite smile, looking rather uncomfortable while in the same room as Jeremy. It seemed as if he was terrified of the child that started to chatter with full speed at Ly.
“Angelica knows so much! Way more than my teachers at the school, I think Billy would love to be here too!” Jeremy exclaimed, and I shrunk at that sentence, knowing that he will, most likely, never again lay eyes on his best friend.
The colour had returned to Jeremy’s cheeks, and I saw his hair started to regrow in the bald patch. It was as if the hospitalization hadn’t happened. He was back to his old, cheery, incessant talking self. Jeremy was treating the vampires completely as if they were as human as him with incredible superpowers.
The healing power of the Stainless is impressive.
“I am more than delighted to teach you things, Jeremy.” Angelica warmly exclaimed as she lifted herself from the floor and dusted her black pants suit. “If your sister allows it and the sire approves it I will be your private tutor.” As she said those words, her gaze never met mine. Angelica flatly ignored me and waited for Lys’ decision while she smiled serenely at my brother.
“What will you be teaching him?” I carefully asked, dreading her answer but needing to know if she would be filling his head with supernatural nonsense.
“Languages, science, history, art-” The list of subject Angelica planned to teach was longer than those of a college student. The longer she chatted, the happier she became as if forgetting she was talking to me.
I shuddered then flatly reminded her something fundamental before she started to fantasize about the curriculum. “He is eight.”
“And very bright for his age, he will catch up in no time at all. Eight hours a day for a few months should do it! I can hardly believe it he is related to you.” The way she gazed at Jeremy was making me irritated; as if he was her little DIY project, she needed to mould into perfection. “Through games and playtime, Jeremy could learn so much. We already started on philosophy while putting puzzles together.”
I was lost for words, not knowing if I should smack her or observe her way of teaching. The way she talked excitedly was making me lose my footing. When I was supposed to study Angelica displayed no mercy; I was even threatened to be tied to a chair if I wanted to take a break and leave the room. Now she was gushing over what colour books for children she should order off of Amazon and which music was most stimulating for learning.
Had I actually died in my solitary room because of the piss fumes and had gone to the ulterior universe?