I SLEEP LATE and when I wake up, I look at the couch opposite mine. Amanda, as always, is already up and I get up to go and look for her.
She is inspecting the restoration jobs Callum and his friends have been doing during the last week. I see her smiling appreciatively while she looks at their work. When she notices me, though, her smile disappears.
I laugh softly. “Amanda, when are you going to stop being so angry? I was watching you and I know you think they are doing a great job. There is nothing wrong in acknowledging it.”
She sighs. “I don’t want them here, although I agree they will be a great help because a construction company would not be able to recall from memory what it is supposed to look like.”
“Why don’t you want them here? I think it is nice to be so many of us together. It does not seem so isolated any more.”
“I am scared. They are savages and when they get desperate, they might notice you are not like them. They will notice your skin is softer and they will realise you are half-human. In a moment of uncontrolled hunger, they could kill you.”
I say determinedly, “No, they wouldn’t.”
“Just be careful.” She looks at me worriedly. “I am serious, Susanna.”
“Yes, Mum.” I smile.
She grins. “Go on. Get started on the ballroom. The cornices need scraping. That should keep you busy and your cheeky mouth quiet.”
I walk to her and I hug her tightly to me. I say softly, “You know, I love you?”
She says, barely audible, “I know and I love you too.” I pull away from her and she says, “Thank you for doing this. If I did not have this to keep my mind occupied, I do not know what I would have done. I doubt I would have wanted to continue living and like the mother you accuse me of being, you are now my only purpose.”
I smile, but I suddenly feel nervous having such a huge burden on me. “I am glad you are so concerned about me, where would I be if you did not look after me?”
She laughs. “Exactly. Now off with you, time is a-wasting.”
I turn away from her and say across my shoulder, “See you later.”
“I will come and help you just as soon as I see what has been done here already.”
“Kay,” I call from the passage.
The ballroom is the biggest room in the château and I have always imagined the parties which were once held here. Francois never held any social gatherings when I was little, so I have never experienced the true splendour. I can imagine the French women with their hair piled high onto their heads, their powdered faces and arms. In my mind, I can see them dance and twirl to the music. It must have been spectacular.
I start scraping at the cornice from one end of the room so I can work myself around. My mind is blank and I am focused on what I am doing.
As the room gets darker, I look up at the large windows. The sun is touching the tops of the trees and I still wanted to go to my mother’s grave, before it got dark, because when it is dark, I want to spend every moment until midnight with Callum.
Dropping the scraper, I rush out of the house. Walking into the conservatory, I look for a hand shovel and shears because I want to clean up the two graves a little as well while I am there. I find the tools in a corner under a lot of rubble.
When I reach the graveyard, I greet my mother as if she can hear me, as I have always done. I kneel down onto her grave.
I start cutting the long grass with the shears and I do a good job. Half the grass on the grave is already neatly cut and I did not notice the sun settle behind the horizon, as my eyes adjusted to the change of light.
Startled I look up when Edward says my name. I turn around and see him smile down at me. “William really loved Susanna.”
Shocked I ask, “You really knew him?”
He laughs and sits down across from me in the grass. “I knew him very well. He used to captain the pirate ship I was a crew member on.”
“He did?” I ask surprised.
“We never knew he had your mother hidden in his cabin after we attacked The Majestic because we never took anybody alive. We always killed everybody on the boat and only taking the gold, silver and jewels. We were surprised when he announced we were going to our secret island.” He grins mischievously. “You will forgive me if I do not tell you exactly where it is?”
I chuckle. He is such an easy person to like. “What happened next?” It is nice to have someone tell me about William, the man who is my biological father.
“We sailed to our island and stashed our loot. We could not understand why he wanted to leave the row-boat on the island, but he was the captain and in those days, you did not question the captain of a pirate ship, unless you wanted to meet your end. Days later, he ordered us to sail to Calais. We only found out decades later he actually left the row-boat for your mother, so she would be able to get off the island.”
I interrupt him, “That is where we went the other night, to feed?”
“Correct. William disappeared and Charlotte was very agitated. Charlotte was your dad’s partner before he met your mother. You could not even speak to the woman, never mind look at her or she would growl and attack. She sat in the mast every night. The rest of the crew enjoyed the short reprieve from pirating and we pillaged Europe for a time.”
“Did William come back?”
“We started talking about mutiny and leaving France without him and Charlotte. By then Charlotte had left to go after him. Then one night he just climbed over the hull of the ship and we sailed away from France. William was never the same though after that and at first, I thought it was because Charlotte did not return with him. Years later, he made me captain of the pirate ship and he left us. He was running away from his feelings for your mother, but little did he know you could not run away from love, it follows you like a dark shadow.”
“How do you know he loved my mother?”
“Francois set fire to this house after he locked your mother in her room. He had decided if he could not have her, then no one could. William came to save her even though it was during the day. He saved her, but in the process, he sacrificed himself.”
“But I know Francois loved my mother a lot. I lived with him and for sixteen years I witnessed his sadness and despair.”
Edward smirks. “I am sure he was suffering from despair. Your mother chose him, but he treated her badly and he thought she was his possession. The love he felt for her, he never showed.”
“Some people find it difficult to wear their hearts on their sleeves,” I insist.
“No, Susanna. If you truly love another, you cannot help but show that person they are indeed the most important person in your life.”
I insist, “I know he loved her.”
“I am sure he did, but she was his third wife and he was a pompous, arrogant man.” I start to interrupt him, to defend Francois, but Edward holds up his hand to still me and he continues, “I am sure after Susanna and William died, your father did feel remorse for the hand he had in her eventual death. She mourned William until the night you were born.”
Sadly, I ask, “Are you saying she chose to die, rather than stay with me?”
Callum steps from the shadows surrounding us and I hear him say softly, “No, she did not choose to leave you. How could she? She must have loved you very much because you were created in a moment of absolute love. It is an unfortunate event, but when a mortal woman gives birth to a child fathered by a vampire, the mother dies.”
I suddenly realise they know I am a half-breed and not because of the softness of my skin or anything else, but because of my legacy. Because of the lost love between my mother and father, and the death of a man who is considered to be a legend. A vampire pirate named William.
I feel a moment of apprehension, but then Callum softly takes me by the hand and pulls me up from the ground gently.
I smile down at Edward. “Thank you for telling me about my mum and my dad.”
Edward looks amused while he watches me walk away with Callum.
When we are a distance away from Edward, Callum says, glancing at me sideways, “I wish I could take you to a place where we can dance and I would not feel like killing every human there.” He pauses for a moment. “I would like to hold you close to me and to taste your sweet lips.”
He stops talking abruptly when I stop walking and my hand pulls him back. He turns to me, frowning.
I look up at him. “You are not supposed to say these things so casually; you are supposed to …”
He steps closer to me and I feel his hands fold around my waist tentatively. I move into him and his arms around me tighten. He bends his head and I close my eyes. He whispers, “I want to lay you down amongst the heather, and then I want to make you mine.” I feel air whisper above my lips and then I feel his lips softly brush over mine. He rests his forehead against mine, and he says, “But I can’t.”
I want to ask why he cannot, but I feel too inhibited to be so forward. I want to ask if he already loves another because I thought he liked me, because of the way he made me feel when I was with him. The shock on his face is greater than mine, when I hear the words, “Why can’t you?” rush over my lips.
His stunned surprise is quickly replaced by a smile of mischief, and I look down embarrassed. He brings his hand up to my head and he buries his hand in my hair, holding my head tightly to his silent chest. We stand there for the longest time when he suddenly says, “First impressions about people usually prove to be the truest because of your essence, that thing which makes you who you are, is the first to react. From the moment I saw you, I felt comfortable with you. There is something about you that pulls me in, something that makes me want to be with you all the time.”
I pull my head away from his chest and I look up at him. The sincerity on his face makes me hesitate.
He says seriously, “You have had time to adapt to the different world, to live in sunlight and to integrate with people, to control your inner demon, whereas I have not. I cannot make you mine until I have experienced life in the sunshine myself. I cannot expect you to wait here for me while I might be gone for years.” Softly he adds, “And that is why I can’t.”