In the Shadows of Dryden

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CHAPTER 19 - Unnoticed Time

Caio’s POV

The sun had long disappeared from the sky, leaving its place for the moon to take over. I had been barely able to concentrate on my patrol in the last few days. Fang ran beside me, keeping a close eye on me. I kept on running, stopping only when I got home, into my solitude. There was so much confusion in my head that the only thing I wanted was to isolate myself so I could try to understand this storm raging inside me.

Soon, we entered the most dangerous part of the forest where people didn’t dare trespass. The forest here had such thick vegetation that it was almost impossible to walk through it. To complete it, there was a permanent heavy fog making it impossible for humans or normal animals to see a hand in front of them. It was also where the grizzly werebears lived. They were a stronger, more aggressive version of their cousins. It was all due to the fact that they were the first bread of werebears. They were considered royal by their kind, although more often than not, they tended to be a bit towards the crazy side from having too much of the wild blood in them.

Usually, I wouldn’t mind running into a grizzly werebear, but today I hoped not to cross paths with them. I must admit that I wasn’t in the best of moods lately, and definitely didn’t feel like entertaining their mood swings either. Luckily, I didn’t pick up any of their awful smells in the air, sure sign that I wouldn’t have to confront them today.

I jumped high, landing over the first platform of my castle, with Fang landing right beside me as usual. No human or werecreature would have managed a jump this high. Obviously, Fang wasn’t human nor a werecreature but he had his own methods in getting up here. The access to my castle was only accessible through those platforms or through a secret passage, having no specific front gate. Either you could fly to one of those elongated platforms or you went through the passage. Either way, it wasn’t easy to get inside it, I made sure of it when I built it.

I walked over the gravel pathway to the wooden door, entering through it with Fang following behind me. We headed up several corridors and staircases to the top tower, heading straight into my room. A deep sigh left my mouth as soon as I came inside.

My mind was brainstorming over those new feelings this human girl had awakened in me. I removed my coat, throwing it over the reclining chair near the barely lit fireplace, and headed to the twin tower next to my room.

Fang went to lay down over a bear hide carpet as he watched me putting the several stone carving tools inside my tool belt before wrapping it around my waist. I approached the wall I had last worked on and took a chisel and hammer out of my tool belt to start my work.

Time passed as I kept on hammering using different sizes of chisels on the stone wall without stopping. I had already done most of the internal wall and or ceiling decoration of the castle over the centuries. It’s been my hobby over the years, something that I could do when my brain wouldn’t stop overthinking.

Soft footsteps reached my ears, coming to a halt right behind me but I didn’t care to look when I already knew who it belonged to. A hand gently touched my shoulder, giving a light squeeze to get my attention.

“What’s wrong with you, brother?” My face turned just enough to regard her for a couple of seconds before looking over at the already carved wall. Her left hand poised on her waist while she stared at me. I didn’t answer, my mind was still working on deciphering these feelings.

“When did you last eat?”

I looked back at her as soon as I heard her question.

“I… don’t know…” My eyes scanned around the room. Only a small part of the ceiling was left to be worked now. My eyes went back to look at her filled with confusion.

“It’s been a week!!! Erik, Fang, and everybody else is worried about you. You haven’t stopped working and didn’t answer any of their calls.” She had a worried expression on her beautiful face. “Aren’t you hungry?”

Immediately after she said that my eyes went to where I last saw Fang laying down, just to find out that he wasn’t there anymore. ‘Has it really been a week?’ I closed my eyes, trying to get back to my senses, ignoring the time frame that passed totally unnoticed.

“Gabriella… Why… What IS this unknown feeling? I can’t wrap my mind around it.”

She gently grabbed my arm, pulling me along as I followed her without objection. My eyes were downcast, not focusing on anything specific while we walked the many corridors of my castle. When we finally arrived at our destination, she made me sit down on the recliner by the fireplace as she pulled a round footstool to sit on near me. Only then I seemed to note that we were back in my room.

“Describe this feeling to me.”

My vision focused on the low fire stubbornly burning the last remaining log in the fireplace.

“I’m not exactly sure how to describe it.” I saw her mouth begin to open to reply when I continued. “I feel a heavy emptiness in my heart and it’s painful.” I went silent, the red fire liking on the log reminded me of her red hair blowing in the wind.

“Am I guessing right if I say that those feelings have something to do with the girl you met?” It took me another moment to answer her, although it came as a slight nod.

“Do you feel like you have to protect her?” I nodded again, still not taking my eyes from the fire.

“Since when?” I shrugged, still watching the languish movements of that dancing fire.

“Ever since I first saw her, there is this urge to protect her. I… care for… her.” My gaze went to my sister, who was watching me. The hesitation in my voice didn’t pass unperceived and I had no doubt that it didn’t go unnoticed by her.

“How do you feel when you’re with her?” I let out a sigh, averting my face back to look into the fireplace without answering anything. In fact, I didn’t know what I felt. That’s exactly what I’ve asked her to begin with.

She watched me patiently, waiting for an answer but after several minutes, I shook my head, not knowing what to say.

“That’s not really a hard question, you know?! Do you feel happy, anxious, nervous, strong, sad, weak?”

I turned my head just enough so I could give a sideways glance at her, however, in the end, I closed my eyes and let my head slump in between my hands.

“It’s… maddening… how she makes me feel. Her smile, her silky goldish-red hair…” A low sigh escaped me as I pulled my face from my hands, looking at them as if my face itself had been imprinted there. “I’ve been doing my best to keep a stoic face, a front when with her…”

“Why do you act so indifferent with her then?” Gabi tilted her head, lifting an eyebrow in question.

“You know the reason better than anyone else.” My eyebrows knitted together in a frown. “I wasn’t made to love, you know that! I was made to hold and endure my power, to be its vessel. The thought of me one-day feeling such feelings never occurred to me.” I stood, walking to the big window of my room to peer outside. The wind was in full force tonight. So strong that made the big tree outside dance to it, shaking it’s full leaf branches in a way that reminded me of a sensual dancer. “It’s pretty much like feeling something completely opposite to the power I hold.”

Gaby turned in her seat to look at my back.

“I see what you mean but… You never opened your heart to anybody, and yet she seems to have easily broken through your many barriers, brother.”

I pinched the bridge of my nose as I closed my eyes, thinking.

“This… thing I’m feeling is strong, intense… crazy even.”

“Of course it is! You’re totally head over heels for her!” I snapped my face toward her with the coldest face I could muster.

“I am NOT in love with her!” I shouted, glaring at her as she stood up with wide eyes.

“Why can’t you be happy and accept that you love her? She seems to return your feelings.”

“I can’t be happy or accept that because it just cannot be love. It’s impossible!”

“Why not? And don’t tell me the bullshit that your power doesn’t allow you because you clearly are in love with her!” I looked away, stoic faced, and slightly annoyed.

“Because it can lead her into her death.” My voice was firm but lacked strength, coming out more like a whisper than anything else. “I’m a freakin vampire now, Gabriella. A monster! Adding to that, her blood is like an intoxicating drug to me.”

“Have you bitten her?” Her eyes opened wide.

“No! We kissed and…” Gabi tilted her head with a half smirk on her face. I sighed, giving up. “She cut her tongue on my fang. I almost lost total control but I did not bite her.”

I rested my arms over the window frame, letting my head rest on the window itself.

“You’re in love, brother!” Gabi had a mix of concern and happiness on her fair face.

“Maybe, maybe not. Either way, it doesn’t help me come to a decision.”

“A decision? What decision?” I could hear her move a few footsteps toward me, probably unsure of what to do.

“I can’t see into her future. I cannot see her death. There has never been a living creature that I couldn’t see, but with her…” Finally, I let out one of my many concerns.

“You mean, you cannot see when she’s gonna die? That’s interesting.” My eyes involuntarily looked at her. She had crossed her arms in a way that she could hold an elbow as her other hand thoughtfully caressed her chin.

“INTERESTING? Is that all you have to say? You know I’ve always hated my power. The one time I expected it to give me an answer, it utterly failed me!” Anger. That’s all I can feel raising inside me, making my eyes turn red and my canines elongate as I glared at her.

Gabi ignored my anger with a wave of a hand.

“I’m gonna look into it, no need to aggravate yourself. Meanwhile, your feelings for her do sound like love, brother.” I couldn’t help but to avert my gaze, my canines already receding yet my eyes kept shining red, still reflecting the anger within me.

“Time will tell.” That’s all I manage to say, letting it come out with an uncertain whisper.

“I know you haven’t figured out if you will keep seeing her or not but, if what you feel for her is really love, it will be hard to stay away.” She added thoughtfully.

A frown formed over my eyes as I looked back at her.

“Don’t you have work to do? Like, messages to deliver, pregnant ladies to check out or child deliveries to attend to?” I asked her annoyedly.

Gabi shrugged before getting up.

“There is always something to do but taking a little pause to check on my favorite brother can be nice sometimes.” She winked, walking a few steps before turning with a more serious expression on her face. “Please, call me if you need to talk.”

I nodded, finally feeling like I needed to go hunting and maybe go to the priest’s place.

Ronah was sitting in his old rocking chair reading his bible and holding a glass of wine. His eyes lifted from his reading as soon as he noticed me.

“Caio! I was worried about you. You never came!”

Ronah placed his bible on the nearby table together with his wine. He was about to get up when he saw me sitting down at the stairs of his porch, quietly looking at the stars. He watched me for an instant before asking me again.

“What happened to get you so pensive like this?”

I leaned my back on one of his house pillars looking straight in his eyes. After a couple of minutes, I confessed.

“I had my first kiss…”

Ronah’s eyes and mouth opened wide as he stared at me, flabbergasted. After seeing his reaction, I averted my gaze from him.

“What? When? Wait! Who exactly DID you kiss?

“Claire…” I said calmly, without bothering to look back at him.

“What? How did that happen? You two had just met and…” He blurted out before I interrupted him by telling everything that happened. From when we met till now. He listened quietly to me until the end, just to shake his head in disbelief.

“So, you two already knew each other.” He concluded a little irritated. Probably from us having lied without needing to or maybe, because we had met before and didn’t tell him. Either way, I didn’t care. “Why DID you kiss her? Do you like her? I thought you weren’t ‘made to love’?” His sarcastic comment didn’t pass unnoticed to me.

“I’m not! It’s dangerous for her to be with me.”

“You can’t be afraid of that. Do you think you will end up killing her by sucking her blood dry?”

My eyes moved towards my left side to glance at the cemetery.

“I’ve started to develop a taste for blood. I could have killed her that day.”

“But you didn’t! You didn’t even bite her. At least, I hope you haven’t.”

My eyes closed for a second as I shook my head slightly, looking back at him.

“I didn’t bite her, no, but her blood is like a drug to me. I struggled to control myself. The worst part is that I cannot see her death. I’m not sure if I should be happy or scared about that.”

“I see but… has that happened before? I thought you could always see…” The priest seemed genuinely worried, although my eyes turned towards the forest and the light cold winter breeze carrying snow down the trees.

“Yes and no! I can’t see Erik’s death either but Claire’s different from him. She’s human.”

“Are you going to avoid meeting her then?”

His question fell on deaf ears as my mind tried to comprehend my internal turmoil.

Ronah stared at me thoughtfully trying to read me.

“Do you know how she feels?”

“She kissed me back so I’m pretty sure of how she feels. I wish her feelings for me were different, that would make things so much easier right now.” I answered plainly, hiding behind my cold wall.

“You’re always so calm, Caio.” Ronah went to sit down on his recliner again.

“It has affected me more than you could guess, old man.” I walked down the small staircase of his porch so I could glance up to the stars again. It had snowed quite a bit the last few days but tonight, the sky was clear.

I heard when the priest walked to his porch railing, probably studying me.

“Do you have feelings for her or are you just trying to detach yourself from her without hurting her feelings?”

My eyes peeked a glance his way, a frown visible over my eyes.

“I cannot answer that, priest. Those feelings are not really my forte.”

“Well, try not to hurt her, even if it’s just for Thia’s sake.” His words made me chuckle for a second. That’s right, I left that part out of the story when I was telling him everything.

“Don’t worry about that. Thia has already made things pretty clear to me. That old witch...” He gave me a curious inquisitive look but didn’t ask anything, already knowing how Thia handled things.

“You just need time to understand it, something you have plenty of. Do you want me to talk with her? I could try to explain that you are not interested in any romantic involvement.” He asked coyly, trying to get a love confession from me, but I just ignored.

“She will be alright.”

“Caio...” He had moved away from his porch, to walk towards me. When he was right in front of me, he pointed a finger at my heart.” Follow your heart whenever you’re unsure or confused of what to do.”

I kept looking at him for a few seconds before turning to the forest.

“Me and her… we’re part of different worlds, different times and completely different ways of living. How could I ever hope for it to work? She is better off without me.”

“That’s something for you two to figure out together. Don’t you think?”

I didn’t face him again, instead I let his words sink in, concluding with a long heavy sigh.

“No! She’s the only mortal that I cannot see her end. I’m one hundred percent sure that I shouldn’t get involved in her life.” Without giving him room to reply anything back to me, I let my tattoo come out, sprouting my wings through the two holes in my leather coat, taking flight. The priest watched me in pure surprise, as I took off flying into the darkness of night.

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