After that fateful night a hundred years ago, where Isaac and Dante unknowingly signed their enmity, Valeria and Isaac ceased to see any sign of Dante.
Which was something that terrified Valeria as each day came and went. The day she decided to tell Isaac about her concerns was the day they went to the village, only a few miles away from their family home.
Valeria and Isaac sat inside the coach of their automobile as it jugged down the gravel road to Independence.
Isaac sighed and resituated his body in his seat as he held onto the wheel. “Okay, tell me what’s going on in that blonde head of yours.”
Valeria’s teeth worried on her lower lip. “I…”
“You’re worried about Dante.”
“Well, yes,” Valeria responded with a flick of her hands. “I…I haven’t heard anything from him.”
“And you haven’t either.” Valeria moved her attention from picking her skirt to twisting her blonde curls around her fingers. “Aren’t you worried?”
“But—” Her hands dropped from her hair.
Isaac’s eyes darted to her, but he held his tongue as she stuttered beside him, trying to find the right words.
“How can you not be worried about the man you called your best friend for years?” She asked with tears pooled at the corner of her eyes.
“Simple. The cause is greater than my emotions.”
A few minutes went by as they came closer to town before she said, “So you’re willing to let go of someone who probably would’ve died for you, just for a cause that hasn’t even started.”
“But…” Valeria’s teeth worried on her lip again and a taste of rust began to bleed on her tongue. “But, how? If he died, would you even be sad?”
“Of course, I would, Val.” Isaac huffed. “Look, you can’t assume I’m a bad person, a stranger, just because of how I’m treating the situation. It doesn’t matter how I feel—the cause is greater than him, than us, and we’re the key to beginning it.”
“What if he could help?”
“And how could that happen?” Isaac scoffed. “He has no idea what is going on and all he wants is to wed you. That completely disrupts the plan. You are to marry Thomas, not him.”
Valeria paused, once again contemplating another strategy of argument.
The amount of people they passed grew as they neared the village square, where several stands of produce, meats, and other goods were set up to be sold. Isaac pulled up to the curb in front of the pharmacy and climbed off of the vehicle.
She stared ahead, avoiding his gaze, as Isaac rounded the automobile and offered his hand for her to step down. She ignored it for second before he sighed.
“Come, darling. We have chores to do for Ma and Pa.” Isaac’s eyes flashed as she raised her chin to him and gripped his hand tightly.
“This discussion isn’t over,” Valeria muttered as she dropped down beside him.
“Of course.” Isaac pursed his lips and escorted her to the pharmacy, where several people waited in line just inside the doorway. He looked in, debated the wait, and then turned them both to the town square. “Nevermind that, we’ll come back when the line is shorter.”
They crossed the street to the grass of the square.
Then Isaac froze as heat spread up his neck. Valeria looked around, wondering what he saw, until she caught wind of a creature sitting yards across from them, under the shadows of the two food stands that it sat between.
Its eyes beckoned the brother and sister closer, and just as the two began to approach, its entire presence vanished from the seat. No human saw the creature.
Valeria blinked, unsure if the shadow was real, until Isaac swore under his breath and grabbed her by the arm.
“Forget chores,” he hissed. “We’ve got to get back home.”
“What the hell was that?” Valeria asked as Isaac dragged her to the carriage.
“A bad omen,” Isaac said. “Something that has come at a very inconvenient and suspicious time.”
An hour later, the two siblings exited the automobile in front of their family home. Their younger brother Maddox ran out onto the front porch and waved.
“Did you get me my candies?” He asked, running in between Isaac and Valeria as they made it to the front door, and checked their hands and pockets.
Of course, they came up short, as they had left in haste. Isaac shrugged Maddox off and slammed the front door behind him, heading straight for the kitchen where Mrs. Castro stood before the stove, humming to herself.
“Ma,” Isaac said as he approached. Both Valeria and Maddox followed behind, watching in solemn interest.
Their mother turned toward her children. Mrs. Castro was graced with beauty even at her elder age of fifty. All three of her children had her curly blonde hair and even though Valeria’s eyes were blue, Isaac and Maddox had their mother’s green eyes. Her arms were elbow-deep in the soapy water in the sink, but her attention was drawn to the three and her eyebrows were raised.
“A vampire showed their face in public today.” Isaac crossed his arms and raised his own eyebrows, waiting for a reply as his mother flicked her fingers of bubbles and grabbed a towel.
She sighed. “How could they have done that, Isaac? The sun has yet to set.”
“How do you know that?”
“I could see it—smell it.” And it had been disgusting. Vampires by their nature dealt with blood magic, as their blood was potent with that type of energy, but pure black magic was usually out of their reach. Isaac’s coven had watched the local vampire clan for such things.
Now, the vampires were just begging for a fight.
And at the oddest of times. Just when Dante disappeared, leaving Isaac to wonder if the two events correlated.
“Hm.” His mother usually was the most readable person in the world and Isaac wondered why she wasn’t responding as he suspected. Then he caught a glance of Maddox, who clung to the skirts of Valeria, and knew why.
“Val, how about you take Maddox to the den?” He asked, gesturing for them to leave. “Teach him a new song or something.”
“I saw it, too,” Valeria replied with a shake of her head. “We need to speak of this.”
“Maddox,” their mother piped in. “Go outside and find Tully.” Tully, the Castro’s family gardener, who loved Maddox like her own son. “She will have things for you to plant and take care of, I’m sure.”
The little boy nodded, speculative, but hurried out the open back door, following the scent of roses and daffodils to the servant.
Their mother sighed and set aside the towel she held. “Why would a vampire use such magic?”
“For power over us, of course.” Isaac leaned against a counter. “Why else? They’re just dying to get us out of this town so they could take over.”
“And why would they taunt you?” Their mother huffed. “Silly boy. They have something of yours.”
“How would you know?” Isaac’s eyes flashed, giving away Isaac’s and Valeria’s secret. He glanced at Valeria, who paled.
Their mother was a sorceress for more than twice as long as either Valeria and Isaac were alive. Her skills were far more superior than Isaac’s, no matter how much he gloated about his powers.
It was no surprise to Valeria that their mother had more of an idea of what was happening than he did.
“When was the last time you spoke to Dante?” Mrs. Castro asked.
“Weeks ago,” Valeria said.
“And what happened?”
Isaac and Valeria exchanged looks.
“Dante found out and was pissed,” Isaac hissed. Whether or not their mother knew before, it didn’t matter. Now, they had to not worry about reaction and deal with the consequences.
Their mother still asked the question, “What exactly did he find out?” Even though she seemed to already know, from the way she stared down her two eldest children.
“He found out about Thomas and the coven,” Valeria whispered.
Their mother blinked. “And what did you do about this?”
Valeria glanced at Isaac, who threaded his fingers through his hair.
“We told him to leave and never speak to us or about us again,” Isaac replied, though hesitantly.
“You didn’t wipe his memories?” Mrs. Castro crossed her arms. “You let him leave, knowing that such things exist? Humans are supposed to stay blind to us—to all of this—and you let him leave knowing things like us exist?”
The two siblings averted their eyes as their mother paced in front of them.
“Your father and the others will have to know,” she finally said. “And I want you, Isaac, to be the one to tell them.”
Isaac’s mouth dropped. “W-what? Why me?”
“Leading means dealing with the consequences of not just your own mistakes, but of the ones that follow you.” Her eyes cut to Valeria. “And you, Valeria, are to not leave our family’s sight. Whether you are with me, your father, or with your brother – you do not leave.”
Valeria nodded and averted her eyes. She twiddled her fingers with anxiety as her brother began to pace.
“Why must I tell them? It was not my fault! It was Val’s—”
“I just told you why,” their mother asserted.
Isaac stopped pacing and turned to her with a deep scowl.
“If you are to lead, you must learn to take the consequences of your lesser. Even if means to lie in their bed beside them.” Mrs. Castro turned away from them then ad continued her kitchen chores with so much as a wave of her hand as a dismissal.
Isaac stared at her for a long minute, his rage growing with each passing second, before he stormed out of the kitchen, leaving his mother and his sister to talk among themselves.
Valeria moved to the counter space beside her mother and began drying the dishes.
“I cannot believe you led that boy so deep,” her mother muttered. “Now, we must hunt him down and wipe his mind, you know.”
Valeria pursed her lips, but didn’t say anything, as her mother continued washing dishes aggressively and muttering.
“We have no idea what he is doing now.”
“No,” Valeria whispered.
“For all we know, he could be turned by now.”
A sob caught in Valeria’s throat. She turned away, hiding her face as she tried to compose herself. Her mother didn’t comfort her, but continued to rummage around in the sink.
“You must prepare yourself, my dear.” Mrs. Castro held out a dish to her, waiting for her daughter to turn around, before she settled a hand on Valeria’s shoulder. The soapy wetness soaked into Valeria’s shirt, but that was left unnoticed as she stared into her mother’s less sympathetic gaze. “You must prepare yourself to do the worst. We do not let the vampires take the village we protect. Not even one life.”
Valeria remembered how scared she was, how much her chest throbbed with a hollow pain, and how distrusting she was toward her family. No matter how much she loved her family, she loved Dante just as much, and maybe more. Knowing that her family had the capabilities to kill those who threatened their coven and the unknowing humans they protected left her thinking of alternatives.
No matter what, she needed to see Dante before the Castro’s could wipe his mind – or worse, kill him.
Somehow, Valeria escaped her family’s watchful eyes to see her lover one last time, and somehow, that still wasn’t enough.