Adrian pulls into an underground garage that happens to be hidden under an old, crumbling church.
“Come on,” he says, getting out of the car with a sigh.
Adrian’s shoulders are tight and there is a deep scowl set on his face; he is irritated to be here.
We enter an elevator and with a push of a button, we are riding down further into the ground.
“Stay here,” Adrian says as we walk into a lobby, “There are chairs over there, I shouldn’t be long.”
I nod my head and do as I’m told, but twenty minutes pass and I’ve read through all of the reading materials provided.
The woman behind the front desk doesn’t seem to pay attention to much of anything that is going on around her, so when I stand and walk through the doors Adrian did, she doesn’t say anything.
‘I hope I don’t get in trouble,’ I think to myself as I begin to wander around.
No one even looks at me, they are all preoccupied with whatever it is that they are doing. From the look of this place, there is a lot of paperwork attached to killing vampires.
The institute is clean with a burning smell of disinfectant lingering on every chrome polished surface. The institute is loud, the hunters mumble around, and they all seem to have the same eyes, dark and haunted by what they’ve seen over the years.
Some of the hunters are cleaned and polished, others are rather rugged and rough looking. On every hunter I can see at least one set of scars, some are neat and pinpoint, and others are dragged and violent.
Soft sobbing breaks through all the other sounds, my head turns towards the sound and I follow it through the institute’s halls to find a shut door.
I place my hand on the cool handle and the door opens, if I weren’t allowed in the room, surely it’d be locked?
When I open the door, I find a man curled in the corner of the room crying as he holds his broken and bruised body.
“Who are you?” I ask, stepping into the room, leaving the door open behind me.
The man flinches and then looks up to me, his eyes shining with thick tears. On the man’s neck are delicate scars, seemingly placed with gentle care.
“Who are you?” he asks, his eyes land on the cast that covers my arm and he seems to relax slightly, “did they do that to you?”
“I was attacked by vampires,” I say, “kept as a pet since I was a child.”
The man’s face twists into several emotions, anger and disgust the primary emotions.
“Are you like me too?” I ask, looking to the bruises and scars.
“No,” he says, “I wasn’t kept against my will, my friend was turned, and I helped her, kept her fed from my own neck because I loved her. She wasn’t evil.”
My mind thinks of Alec, of the vampire I know isn’t evil.
“I believe you,” I say, “What happened?”
“They killed her,” he says, a tear rolls down his cheek and I feel my heartbreaking for the poor man, “She never hurt anyone, she never killed, she was young and they killed her.”
“Why are you here?” I ask, curious about the man’s apparent imprisonment.
“They think I know something,” he says, not denying the fact that he may or may not know what ‘they’ assume.
“What do you know?” I ask, I feel a tingle up my spine and the man looks into my eyes and blinks back his tears.
“I know that my friend, my Lana, was invited to the king’s court,” he says, sniffling and wiping his nose with the back of his hand, “We were waiting for a vampire to take us. But they killed her.”
The man whimpers in the back of his throat and holds himself as his heart continues to break. The loss of his friend has impacted him so much that he is completely shutting down, he is suffocating on his grief and clawing at his sanity.
“It’s ok,” I soothe, “I have a friend, Adrian, I’ll talk to him, I’ll try and get you out.”
“Who do you think gave me these?” The man spits gesturing to the blackening bruises.
His voice echoes in my mind, and I move back as I realise that he is saying that Adrian is the one who beat and broke this man.
“Rowy,” Adrian’s voice is suddenly filling the silence, and as I turn to find him standing in the doorway, the man curls back into the corner, waiting for more hurt.
“What are you doing in here?” Adrian asks, his voice is dark and his eyes are like a storm.
“Go to the car,” Adrian says, his voice like rolling thunder.
My heart races as I scurry out of the room and flee.
I stand out by the car, picking at my nailbeds as I wait for Adrian. I can’t stop the tremble that races down my arm and into my hand, I feel as if I may puke.
“What were you doing in that room?” Adrian says, suddenly stalking towards me, “I told you to wait.”
“I know, but I... I went looking for you,” I say, “I got bored.”
“The institute is a dangerous place, Rowy,” Adrian snaps, “That man was a vampire sympathiser and would have killed you to escape.”
“I’m sorry,” I say, pressing back against the car, “I didn’t mean to worry you.”
Adrian sighs and lets his shoulders slump.
“Why didn’t you just listen?” he asks, staring down at me, “Rowy, when I tell you to do something, you need to listen. It’s for your own safety.”
“I forgive you,” he says, Adrian pulls me close and I can hear his heart beating erratically, he was really worried about me.
Adrian hugs me tightly, I wince at the pain in my shoulder but keep silent, so to not anger Adrian further.
“Come on, let’s go home.”
As Adrian helps me into the car, one word rolls around in my mind.
He was a vampire sympathiser, he was.
I look to Adrian as he drives, his knuckles are white and his jaw is tight, and there is a small stroke of red staining his cheek near his ear.
Once we’re back at the apartment, Adrian relaxes further and he helps me bring in the things that I’ve brought.
“I’m going to my room,” Adrian says, once all the bags are inside.
He walks off before I can say anything, so I unpack my bags and start to set up my new phone.
Adrian stays in his room, doing I don’t know what, as I try to settle into this new home.
Adrian talked me into buying new clothes and trinkets to put into the bedroom to make it more mine. So I go to my own room and start to redecorate.
As I am changing the sheets I can’t help but think of the poor man who was trapped in that small room at the institute; he didn’t seem dangerous, he was scared and hurting.
But Adrian must know better, he must have seen something I did not. If his vampire was invited to the king’s court, surely the vampiress could not have been good, she must have done something noteworthy to capture the king’s eye.
The bed sheet that Adrian picked out is exceptionally soft, made from Egyptian cotton, but it’s such an ugly, deep shade of red, with a black quilt which is, again, exceptionally soft, but not in my taste.
I strip out of my clothes, easily shedding the fabrics despite the cast on my arm. There isn’t much pain in my body anymore, my arm doesn’t throb with pain or even bother me as I move about the room, rearranging things to my liking.
Once I am satisfied with the new arrangement, I leave the room to wander down to the kitchen, my stomach rumbling. I find the fridge stocked with food, and decide that maybe a warm meal might help Adrian forgive me.
The smell of sautéing onions and garlic drift under the door, making my mouth water and my stomach growl.
I step out of my room and look down to where Rowaelin is drifting about the kitchen, chopping food and humming to herself.
Perhaps I was a little harsh with her, and perhaps I was a little rough in how I spoke, but she was standing in a room with a vampire sympathiser. When he was captured and his vampire was slain, he attacked those who were trying to help him, he knocked down one of the hunters and gave the other a bruised rib before he was apprehended.
He could have hurt Rowaelin, he could have used her as a shield and escaped. He was in the process of transitioning when we brought him in, we didn’t know it until right after Rowaelin was taken out of the room.
As she left, he turned towards me and sneered, I could see his fangs and there was no more reasoning with him.
If I had been a moment late, he could have killed Rowy, he could have eaten her, I don’t know what I would do without her.
“Are you hungry?” Rowaelin asks, looking up at me with wide green eyes.
I go downstairs and sit at the kitchen bench, as Rowy continues to cook I watch her and feel a pang of guilt in my chest.
“I was afraid that I’d lose you,” I say, Rowy stops what she’s doing and turns to look at me, “I told you to stay out for a reason, there are dangerous things in the institute, I don’t want you getting hurt.”
“I understand,” she says, bowing her head, “I’m sorry...”
Rowy finishes making dinner, which turns out to be a thick stew which is packed full of flavour.
Rowaelin’s cooking skills are phenomenal.
“Where did you learn to cook?” I ask as she starts to clean up from dinner.
“I experimented for a while back home,” Rowy says with a shrug, “watched videos, read recipes, that kind of thing.”
“You’re really good,” I compliment, “guess this means you can do all the cooking from now on.”
Rowaelin doesn’t get my joke, she just frowns, shrugs her shoulders, and says, “I guess I can.”
“I was kidding,” I clarify with a laugh, “I won’t be home most nights for dinner anyway.”
For the rest of the night, Rowy and I sit on the couch and watch a movie until the late hours.
When the movie finishes, she yawns and stretches her arm over her head, pulling her shirt up to reveal the soft skin of her stomach and under breast.
“I’m going to bed,” she announces, she stands and then leaves me alone in the lounge with a raging hard-on.