I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
— Pablo Neruda
“I’ll let you have the donut for free if you bite me,” the man at the register says.
He’s married according to the ring on his finger, but that doesn’t seem to matter to him as he stares at everything but my face, licking his lips like some rabid animal. The name tag on his shirt says “Nick,” but I’m having a hard time not reading it as “Dick.”
Nick has muscles that are so big, the ugly polo he’s wearing is practically bursting. I can actually see an outline of the defined six-pack under the pathetic fabric, like he’s somehow managed to smuggle paint-rollers under his skin, and it makes me want to gag.
And then I see the white band with that stupid rune on it wrapped around his wrist, and I gag anyway.
A member of the Faith. Wonderful.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I say, tucking a strand of purple hair behind my ear, “but I can pay, so don’t worry.”
He smirks and leans in, getting dangerously close to my face. I try not to focus too much on the pulse beneath his skin, especially when my teeth start to ache, fangs coming out without permission. “Think you can fool me just ’cuz you dyed your hair?”
“Vampires don’t dye their hair,” I point out, rigid. Which is true—even if they can, it’s well-known that vampires are too proud to alter their appearance. The amount of times my older brother, Ares, practically preened about his black hair and green eyes is enough to prove that. “Besides,” I continue, forcing myself to relax and not think about how long it’s been since the last time I’ve drank, “my eyes are blue, not green.”
“Contacts,” he says simply, shrugging, like scientists haven’t already proven that the venom vampires carry causes contacts to dissolve as soon as they get near a vampire’s eye. “You’re too perfect to be like other girls anyway,” he tacks on, winking.
I actually throw up in my mouth, any thoughts of being thirsty completely gone.
“C’mon. I’m a member of the Faith,” he says, holding up his wrist to show off the white band, like it’d somehow make me more likely to do it.
Too bad for him, though, because the sight of that damned Eihwaz on it makes me want to tear the bracelet apart along with him.
“Pretty sure it’s sacreligious to annoy your deity,” I mutter lowly, making Di—Rick tilt his head.
“Look, just one bite,” he continues nonchalantly. “If you’d just do it, I’m sure I’ll make it. I’m different,” he says, winking again.
I roll my eyes, ignoring the impulse to rip off his eyelids to keep him from winking at me.
They always say this. Despite the amount of evidence scientists have gathered, some humans, especially those in the Faith, believe that they can be turned anyway because they’re “different.” Sometimes, they’re different because they’re more heartless; sometimes, they’re different because they’re more caring. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Vampires are venomous. If you get bitten, you die. Whether they drink you dry or not.
Besides, even if they could turn humans, Ares wouldn’t bother. He hates them too much, especially this kind—the ones that refused to give up—and Ceres, Ares’s twin, would think it was too much effort to take care of a teething fledgling.
The cashier is clearly unhappy that I rolled my eyes because he’s rambling heatedly—something about being so heartless, he could leave his wife of three years and two-year-old to be a part of my ‘clan’—and I can feel the headache coming back.
I really need a drink.
With a sigh, I glance around the store. A group of teenagers are near the energy drinks, laughing as they pick through various flavors of RedBull and Full Throttle, while an older woman is staring at the cappuccino machine with an almost evil eye. All of them are clearly human. Even the man in the back, who’s howling like a werewolf about something on the TV, is human.
“I’ve even tried blood once, and it wasn’t that bad, so—”
“Stop,” I say softly.
The air practically stings with electricity as Dick, and everyone else in the convenience store, freezes. The TV in the back room is the only thing that’s still moving, a talk show flickering on the screen.
Huffing, I pop open the cash register, put the money for the donut in, and close it before walking out.
As soon as the bell on the door dings, everything starts again, but I don’t pay any attention to it as I walk towards the main intersection, munching.
“That was disgusting,” someone next to me chimes.
Despite what she says, Ceres looks more thoughtful than disgusted. Her cropped black hair is perpetually wind-blown, barely contained by the terrible Bite Me hat she’s wearing that’s covering her bright green eyes. For some reason, she’s wearing an oversized t-shirt and black leggings without shoes: a favorite outfit when she’s at home, but something she’d never usually wear outside.
“Which part?” I wonder, taking another bite.
She snorts. “All of it,” she says easily, “You should’ve just taken a sip and moved on.”
“Of him? He’d probably taste stale,” I grumble softly, keeping passersby from hearing me. “I’d rather turn into a raisin.”
She scoffs again. “It’s not as if blood goes stale, Athena.”
“It coagulates,” I argue absently, stopping at a crosswalk to press the little red button as I finish off the creme-filled donut.
“Yes, when they die,” she says, shaking her head.
I sigh but say nothing else as I wait for the walk sign to flash. People are already staring at us too intensely, trying to figure out if she’s who she looks like—even dressed down, Ceres is hard to mistake for anyone else, honestly, except maybe her twin—so I’m trying to keep them from hearing what we’re talking about.
Ceres pouts a little when I don’t try to fight her, puffing out her bottom lip as she puts her hands on her hips. It makes her look ridiculously young even though she’s a solid 5’9.
“What’re you doing here anyway?” I ask after we cross the road and the crowd behind us disperses more. There are a few lingerers, but they probably won’t leave until she does.
“I wanted to see how you were doing with your… experiment,” she explains.
I stiffen. “I’m doing fine.”
“Yes, well, clearly if you managed to keep from snacking on the cashier,” she says derisively, sniffing. “Though, I thought I saw you falter for a moment.”
“And how do you know that?” I demand, getting agitated.
“Relax, Ena,” she says quickly, both of her hands up in surrender. “I’m not here to spy this time.”
I eye her. “Uh-huh. Then why are you here?”
She sighs. “Because Hunters have requested permission to enter the States,” she says. “Specifically here.”
“What? Why would they want in the Vampire Capital?” I wonder. “We don’t have enough werewolves for them.”
In fact, the werewolf population in Kyrolis is nearly nonexistent. The only Pack within a thousand miles is the Cold Moon Pack, and they’re a small Pack, made up of only, like, 20 wolves.
“I’m not sure, but Ares and I agree that it’s not for anything good,” she says, “which means you need to give up the experiment for this quarter and drink in case something happens.”
It’s my turn to scoff as I start walking again. “Why would they bother me? Everyone thinks I’m human.”
“Yes, I know, but there’s something off about this visit, so it won’t hurt to be completely sated when the Hunters get here.”
“They don’t hunt vampires anymore,” I point out. “At least, they’re not allowed to, especially without a license.”
She groans. “Athena, I know this. You know this. The entire world knows this. But that doesn’t mean they’ll listen, and there’s no guarantee they’ll listen when Ares doesn’t give them the license they expect.”
That stops me short. “Why wouldn’t he?”
“Because I asked him not to,” she says simply.
She shrugs. “One, I like having a variety of races in Kyrolis. It keeps things interesting.”
‘Interesting’ is never a good thing when Ceres says it.
“Two, they’re better than the soulless crones that infect this Earth.”
I nod, hoping to stop the tangent before it starts.
Despite the fact that everyone still believes werewolves are vampires’ natural enemy, it’s actually witches that are the bane of our existence. Technically, they’re the bane of everyone’s existence since they revealed themselves 28 years ago.
Unlike humanity’s initial reaction to vampires, which had been a healthy mix of excitement and disbelief thanks to Father and his friends ‘accidentally’ dragging our existence out of the dark on national TV, the witches decided to come out with a bang—literally. They had set a bomb in our manor, resulting in not only the loss of our home but also the surrounding houses. The death toll for humans was so high, it almost sparked the second Burning Time.
Of course, even if humans and vampires hate them, that doesn’t mean werewolves do. Actually, now that I think about it…
“Don’t werewolves like witches?” I ask. “Well, I guess ‘like’ isn’t the right word, but don’t they tolerate them? At least more than us?”
“Normally, yes,” she agrees, “but you remember that attack on the Cold Moon Pack twelve years ago?”
I tilt my head, thinking. I vaguely remember Ares being in a worse mood than usual, muttering things about ‘crones getting too close to mutts.’ “I think so.”
“That was a witch.”
“Oh. Well, that makes sense. I was wondering who could wipe out half a pack in a day.”
“Yes, it was a witch. A kindling witch, for sure, but a witch nonetheless. And Draven, the Alpha, has hated them ever since.”
“I never knew that,” I muse. It makes sense, though. Why else would a pack of wolves stay so close to us?
“Either way, Ena, you need to drink. I don’t care if it’s from one of your acolytes or one of your classmates, you—”
“Wait a minute!” Someone shouts, interrupting her.
We stop in our tracks, looking behind us, and I try not to groan at the familiar, desperate stench I haven’t managed to get rid of yet.
“I’m glad I caught up!” Nick/Rick/Dick says, panting like a dog as he puts his hands on his knees.
Ceres’ expression goes purposely blank as she locks eyes with the cashier who clearly forgot what boundaries are.
To his credit, Nick/Rick/Dick doesn’t even flinch at the green doe eyes set on him, even though I know how unnervingly lifeless Ceres’ eyes look when she gets irritated.
“Are you Ceres Kyrkos?” he asks in wonder.
She stares at him without blinking like a snake, and I inwardly groan as I feel her slip in my head while Nick/Rick/Dick rambles.
“I just wanted to—ah—introduce myself,” he trudges on. Clearing his throat, he sticks out a hand. “Name’s Nick. I tried talking to your—um—clan member, but she—well—she pulled a fast one on me.”
I don’t miss his accusing glance even though I’m not really looking at him anymore.
He has to die, she hums.
I sigh. I knew you’d say that.
He’s the first one to notice you were something more than human, she points out lightly, justifying it. Besides, his wife and child deserve so much more.
I mentally scoff. As if you weren’t planning on killing him either way.
I thought about letting him live if he didn’t insist on following you.
Liar. I can feel your bloodlust from here.
She answers with a shrug, which throws Nick off and makes him ramble more.
“I just didn’t want you to think it was half-hearted,” he continues, completely oblivious as he turns to me with his hand out. “I’ve thought about this since I joined the Faith.”
“How can I be sure?” Ceres asks, tilting her head.
“This is life or death for me,” he says strongly, swelling with unjustified pride.
“Oh, I’m sure it is,” she murmurs, that snake-like look in her eyes sharpening.
His arrogant face looks more confused than scared, which tells me he’s let the Faith completely override his natural instincts.
“I think we should give Nick a chance,” Ceres says sweetly, smiling just enough to show the faintest impression of fangs.
His eyes widen at the sight, the smell of musk in the air making me gag, and Ceres’ grin widens.
All for a donut.
“Why don’t you come with me, Nick?” Ceres offers, holding out her hand. “Athena was just telling me how dedicated you are, and I can tell by how fast you overcame her gift that it’s true.”
The confusion is wiped away as his eyes light up from the false compliment, happy to be praised, and the mental image of a wagging tail makes my heart ache for him.
“You’ll bite me?” he asks, hopeful.
Ceres grabs his hands forcefully, feigning a worried look. Despite the strength, Nick doesn’t flinch. “Well, I will try, dear Teethling, but you know that no one’s survived the Bite before, right? Aside from Athena, of course, but that was thanks to her faith. Is yours as strong as hers?”
I snort, earning a look from Ceres.
Nick doesn’t notice, of course, too entranced by the power rolling off of Ceres. “My faith is even stronger!”
He bobs his head up and down, so excited. “I knew she was a vampire,” he breathes. “I could tell.”
“Oh, yes, pet, but she’s rare, so we can’t talk about her until we return to our home. Okay?”
“Our home,” he repeats breathlessly.
She nods. “Yes. You will stay with me, won’t you?”
“Yes! I’ll stay with you forever!”
“Splendid,” she hums softly. “We’ll have to talk later, Athena—after Nick has been given his ultimate test of faith.”
With a resigned breath, I nod. “Don’t torment him too much, okay?”
“It’ll be over before he can even pray,” she assures me.
And then she and Nick are gone.
Are you enjoying my ongoing story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, MorbidCupcakeWrite a Review