I sat on my bed, hands clenched together. I could feel them turn moist with anticipation. Only Julianne could make me feel so out of my element.
It wasn’t difficult for me to imagine her quiet advance, her attempt to make her way to my room unbeknownst to the other servants. Her long dark locks fell around her heart shaped face, her plain dark servant’s robes made her blend in with the dimly lit manor halls as she hurriedly, yet hesitantly, drew closer to my room. But try as she might, she could never go unnoticed in my presence. I felt so attuned to her that I could lose all my senses and still feel her near like a burning flame.
Not surprisingly, I heard Julianne’s light steps long before she lingered silently at the threshold of my quarters. I was both eager to see her as well as afraid—not a feeling I was accustomed to.
I jumped up from my bed quickly. Adrenaline coursed suddenly within me. I ran my fingers through my light brown hair with a quick gesture and brushed the wrinkles from my clothes. I didn’t breathe as I waited for the sound of her at my door.
The knock on the door seemed reluctant. As if she wasn’t sure she really wanted her presence to be known.
“Prince Noel?” Julianne asked barely above a whisper.
“Please, come in,” I answered, attempting to keep my voice flat, emotionless, and regal.
She opened the door quietly, her slender fingers brushing the grain of the heavy wooden door so delicately, it looked like a caress. Of course, everything she did looked particularly elegant to me. I felt quite certain she could clean a chamber pot and make it look like an art.
Julianne pushed against the heavy door earnestly making just enough of an opening for her slim figure to slip through.
She was a vision, even in her modest servant robes. So small—she was almost child-like, but her beauty shone like that of a woman. Her long chocolate hair hung loose around her shoulders, and fell into her eyes. She appeared to be painfully self-conscious, although I couldn’t fathom why.
Even in a potato sack, Julianne could stir up the embers of my soul into a raging fire. Her skin was pure silk and the color of honey. I could only imagine how she would feel to the touch. She hunched her petite shoulders, hugging her arms and looked to the ground as if afraid of a lashing.
I winced inwardly. I felt disgusted that Julianne lived in constant fear and my family treated her like a dog. She should be waited on like a princess. I promised myself she wouldn’t have to live like this forever.
She shook her hair nervously and I smiled as her scent caressed my nostrils. Even from a distance I could smell her fragrance but it was like no perfume. Completely her own and entirely specific to her, it was light and sweet like a berry of some kind, with hints of lily, but tinged with the tangy electrical aroma of fear. Julianne smelled so intensely alive. I felt sad that she feared me, but still, I found myself breathing her in almost subconsciously as though it was second nature for me.
It seemed like an eternity as I took it all in, but it had been only a few short moments since she entered the room. I approached her slowly, my hands at my sides, each step slow and deliberate, as if dealing with an easily startled animal. I kept a smile on my face, in hopes that it would put some of her fear aside. To say that I could sense her anxiety, was an understatement. It poured from her like tidal waves, but underneath there I sensed an energy. It was a warm tingling; an attraction that vibrated stronger the closer I came.
I let that knowledge reassure me. There had been moments before when I wasn’t sure that Julianne could feel anything for me. I didn’t know if this would go well. I decided not to get my hopes up. However, I allowed myself to calm significantly as I felt the subtle energies of magnetism flow toward me.
I forgot to breathe, she was so absorbing. I couldn’t tear my eyes away as I side-stepped her huddled form and shut the solid wooden door with one hand. She was a human servant, one of many employed by my family. To them, servants were nothing more than tame cattle and treated as such, much to my chagrin. But Julianne was so much more. She was lovely and kind, sweet and smart, not to mention ridiculously sexy. I knew her so well, though I doubt she had any idea.
We had a connection, something intangible but real. A draw—a pull like a tightening cord that linked us together, silent but powerful. As the days went on I felt its power grow, the tension of the cord getting tighter and tighter to the point that being away from her caused me physical distress. I was drawn to her like a moth to a flame. Attracted to such an extent that it hurt. I needed for her to be mine. In some ways I knew she already was. It was our destiny. I would stake my soul on it.
The familiar buzz of power tingled within me, reminding me of the temptation to use my gifts on Julianne. I swallowed the sensation, burying it deep within. Much like the other feelings and instincts that came with my heritage.
The Obyri came from a long line of powerful vampires, our line being the beginning of all vampires. Of course, only the purest royalty had the power to rule our people. Or should I say powers. Those who survived our encounters were those who turned. Our gift left them powerless but for the strength, thirst for blood, and immortality that came with being a vampire. A curse really.
We were far more fortunate as our gifts came in many forms, manifesting themselves in adulthood, the least of which being immortality. I was gifted with the power of the mind. Obryi didn’t need blood to survive, but we craved it. It fuels our gifts, the blood magic that gives us immortality, and enhances what we were born with.
It seemed so intrusive to me to read someone’s mind. It felt bad enough that I could sense all emotion, always. I felt everything of those around me. Sometimes it swallowed me whole. I had spent years trying to push it down, it had been so hard trying to stop feeling. I knew my power would get stronger with blood, the ability to read minds not far from my grasp, but I didn’t want it to.
My mother called me an Empath. She said it made it difficult to walk in both worlds, having the power to sense the pain and joy physically of those around you.
Perhaps that’s why she had been so understanding, patient even, with me. As I struggled to turn, to finally commit to the throne. To finally drink that first drop of human blood, to continue the cycle of blood magic forever more. But how could I? Knowing, no-feeling the fear, loathing, and pain of my first victim?
I was content, if you could call it that, being what I was. Aging, but alive. I couldn’t imagine a life like my bored immortal parents or my power hungry twin. They were just existing. I wanted to live as humanly as possible.
Even still, the powers I’d developed had been too much temptation to resist entirely. A power I had discovered more recently proved to be particularly useful as of late. I had found that if I concentrated on one person enough, I could transcend consciousness to join with their mind. Of course being that I was weak compared to a vampire with blood magic, it only worked on a mind that was already unguarded by sleep. But the simple dream walking proved to be more than enough to satiate me.
In Julianne’s mind I found such a tantalizing escape that every night I joined her without fail. In her sleep I dreamed with her and was gifted to know what she knew and feel what she felt. I doubt there was anyone else in the world that knew her like I did. As a quiet spectator of her dreams, I saw myself. Many times in fact, something that never ceased to make me blush. She felt for me what I felt for her. She longed for me, but I also sensed a deep fear that ran deep in the rivers of her subconscious. I knew she felt the same connection. Something more than love, she felt the need. I could feel it flowing through her veins when she slept. But it scared her.
My family brought servants from far away villages to work under the pretext that we were a rich royal family. But Julianne was no fool, she knew what we really were and believed that it was evil. It frightened her to the core.
I prayed I could change that.
Dream walking aside, I would come into many different powers—at the cost of my humanity. My only purpose; to turn, gain the true potential of my gifts and become immortal so I could take the throne and rule, constantly resounded in my mind. King of the Vampires? I had no interest in being a vampire at all, let alone king of them.
Julianne had a serious impact on my feelings. When I looked into her mind and saw how she saw us, it made me cringe. But even without that knowledge, I never felt at peace with the idea of killing innocent humans—especially when it was not necessary for our survival.
I feared I would never escape. I would drink an innocent’s blood and I would be king, as was our law. As soon as that blood touched my lips I would no longer age. When it was time, I would replace my father as ruler, or else forsake my family and all that I am, to be mortal.
I stalled as long as I possibly could, but time was running out. Even now at twenty-two, I was already physically older than my entire family. My father and mother stopped aging at the age of twenty-one, and my twin brother, Kael, stopped aging at eighteen. However, they were losing patience. I wasn’t sure how much longer they would allow me to forgo my obligations. They were bound to become suspicious of my reasoning before too long.
Julianne interrupted me from my reverie with a slight movement. She tilted her head up just enough to gaze at my chest. Whether it was out of respect, or for fear of catching my eye, I didn’t know.
“You summoned me?” she asked, her voice stronger than I expected, I could feel her need to not come across weak.
I could see the fear in her heavily-lashed leaf green eyes, but she seemed to be trying her best to conceal it.
“Yes, I did.” I paused for a moment. I hadn’t really considered how I would go about this. “I just wanted to…talk.”
Technically, talking was the last thing on my mind. I wanted to rip the robes from her heavenly body and ravage her beyond comprehension. I wanted to take her, mind, body and soul—merging with her essence, becoming one entity forever. Leaving her spent and breathless with my name on her tongue. But to say that wasn’t appropriate. I might be a vampire, but I was raised a gentleman.
Julianne blinked and looked up suddenly, “Talk? To me?”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t I want to talk to you?” I asked, dumbfounded.
“Well, because…I’m no one.” She said.
I took her small hand in mine, and she tensed, but I ignored it. “You’re definitely someone, Julianne.” I could feel the sparks of our connection flaring with delight at our slight contact. It sent tingles up my spine, and I could only imagine what touching her elsewhere would do to me.
I felt her relax minutely, but confusion spread across her delicate features.
She shook her head. “I don’t think I understand.”
I reached out with my free hand, placed it under her chin, and tilted it ever so slightly. Julianne tried to look away, as a rose color bloomed in her cheeks. I gently turned her to look into my eyes. Her eyes widened and her full lips parted as a strange look crossed her face. Was she finally aware of how I felt about her?
I smiled down at her. I hoped she could sense my deep longing and affection for her. If only Julianne knew how I truly felt, maybe everything would be different.
Suddenly, without hesitation, I closed the gap between us and pressed my lips to hers. She was motionless at first, but I felt her come alive against me, her lips moving against mine. I felt sure sparks flew off of us as we kissed. The connection burned bright as white hot fire.
I started it slow, sensual and teasing, innocent, until the soft brush of my tongue swiped against her bottom lip, urging her mouth to open. She obliged with the sweetest of moans and I felt immediately overcome with the taste of her delicious mouth. It was more than I could have ever dreamed.
Her tongue bravely darted into my mouth, caressing mine. I suppressed the urge to throw her onto my bed as she became more brazen, our kissing more heated and passionate. I settled for pulling her tiny frame tightly against my torso, not wanting to leave even the minutest space between us.
Julianne’s hands wove through my hair and I was surprised to discover that my own hands roamed the contours of her body with an insatiable hunger.
Even with her writhing compliantly against me, her mouth eager and willing against my own, it occurred to me that since I was a prince, she would never have resisted my kiss, even if she hated it. She would have submitted to any action I had in mind.
She was mine to possess if I had the urge. Believe me, it was a thought I had pondered—after all, it wasn’t uncommon for such an act to occur here. My brother Kael had his share of human women in his bed. After he had his fill of them, they were discarded, lucky if they survived—but that was beside the point.
A small part of me wondered why I didn’t act on such urges, but the answer was clear as crystal and left little to speculate. I could never take her innocence. It was hers to give. It was that much more satisfying to know that she gave her kisses to me now so willingly. Her soft body pressed so ardently against mine said everything I needed to know.
I slid my hands down Julianne’s body, feeling the way it curved. I rested my hand on the small of her back, pressing her stomach into my hips. I wove my other hand through her luxurious hair, running the silky strands through my fingers.
It took some mental convincing, but I managed to tear myself away from her kiss. My eyes traveled from her swollen mouth to look deep into her green eyes, they were lusty and dazed. They seemed to plead for me to continue as they peered coyly from beneath onyx-colored lashes.
I quickly bowed my head, eager to feel her hot silken flesh on my mouth. I began to leave a trail of kisses along her jaw and down her neck. She tilted her head back as I went, more than willing it seemed. The skin of her throat was tight as I made my way slowly, searingly, to the hollow of her clavicle, and laved my tongue against it. Julianne tossed her head back, a cry of longing escaping her lips .
I grazed my sharpened canines against the tissue thin membrane of her skin. She was so delicate, so fragile. It actually frightened me, knowing that I could take her life before she even knew what I was doing. She allowed me to kiss her in the most dangerous of spots, almost as though she dared me to prove her right. I could never be trusted with her life, I was after all a vampire.
Instead, I simply kissed her throat with fervor, leaving the stain of her succulent blood under her skin. I pulled back from her and looked deep into her eyes. They were a brighter green than I’d ever seen them and shining, tears threatening to fall.
“You wouldn’t hurt me, would you.” It wasn’t a question, it was a statement. Her voice thick with emotion, Julianne looked me dead in the eyes. I didn’t answer right away. My hand left her hair to brush the crimson-colored bruise on her neck with my thumb, as I felt her life force pulsate beneath it.
“Never,” I finally said, finding my voice.
She nodded slightly and then pushed me down on the bed, holding me in place. She leaned forward until her head rested against my chest. I felt her two small arms wrap themselves securely around my midsection. She clutched me fiercely, her fingers dug into the skin of my back, but why I didn’t understand.
“Shh...” She cut me off with a fierce whisper, her voice wavering. She clutched tighter still. I felt her hold her breath in her chest. As we waited, I felt compelled to do the same. We lay like that for a few moments. Her ear pressed hard against my heart, she listened and waited.
Julianne suddenly let out a chestful of air and laughed. The tension in her body vanished, but she still held me tightly.
“I hear it!”
“Hear what?” I asked and raised my eyebrows in confusion. But suddenly it occurred to me how dim I was. “My heart? Well, of course you heard it.” I chuckled once and smiled, not trying to make fun of her announcement. “I am alive, Julianne.” I reminded her, tilting her head up to look at me. I smiled and kissed her luscious lips once more. “And I want to stay that way, for you. Until the last beat of my mortal heart, I want to be with you.”
She shook her head suddenly in disbelief. “But you can’t be with me forever. I know what you are—what you’ll become.”
The words were harsh, foreign and bitter from lips so sweet. They stung like the prick of thousands of tiny needles. I felt ashamed, more so then I allowed myself to portray.
“It’s not enough, Noel.” Julianne pulled away from me, her eyes clouded with dark realization. “To be with me until your last mortal heart beat?” she asked incredulously. “You’ll leave me.” Her face was grim, her normally bright green eyes dark and glistening with unshed tears. “I know it in my heart and it will break and wither away in my chest, leaving me as good as dead inside.”
She didn’t hold back any longer. Her hands clutched emptily at her sides as the tears raged down her face. She turned away and hid her face in her hands, weeping silently.
I couldn’t stand the thought that I could cause her such torment. The pain on her face struck deep cords in my very soul. It hurt just to look at her in her state.
“Julianne, look at me.” My voice was strong, though it took all of my will to compose myself. I wrapped my arms around her waist and pulled her to me. She struggled weakly, but I held on. “Nothing in this world or otherwise could keep me from you. We are meant to be. You feel that don’t you?”
I felt her nod softly, but it didn’t stop her tears. I turned her around and looked her in the eyes again. I was prepared to do anything for her. She was the love of my life, I felt sure of it. The first day I saw her I knew she was more than just a young woman; she was my soulmate.
An idea crossed my mind suddenly. The powers I had been developing could help me see into her mind. I knew of her love for me, but she knew not of mine for her. I knew the only way I could convince her of my sincerity would be allowing her a peek into my mind. Maybe there she could see the truth. I would bare my soul for her to see. What she could see frightened me, but it was the real me and it was only the beginning of what I was willing to do for her love.
I made the decision and bent my head to hers, kissing her tender lips softly and gently as I opened the connection between us like a door. With my guard down, it allowed my thoughts to meld with hers, revealing the truths of our love. I felt her energy in my mind. It was a strange feeling, knowing someone else was in my head. Anyone other than Julianne would have felt unnerving, as though I was being invaded. Instead, I felt her familiar warmth spread through my consciousness, the very essence of Julianne inside me. It was a feeling of such intimacy it made my knees weak.
I felt whole as her mind touched my memories and thoughts. I sensed her becoming aware of what was going on and I tried to send her feelings of reassurance through our connected minds as well as our kiss. Her feelings of confusion were quickly replaced by awe and understanding.
I saw visions of memories past, as she quickly absorbed what made me who I am. She saw herself through my eyes. Beautiful beyond reason. The One. My soulmate. I felt her essence blush with modesty. She saw as we both relieved the many occasions I dream walked with her. A wave of heated embarrassment rolled through her, and I sent back feelings of love and understanding. She saw how I see myself and what I am and frightened of what my family wanted me to become. The desire I had to run away and remain mortal. To be with Julianne forever. These facts could not be obscured with deceit. They were truer than anything that could be spoken. I felt her flooded with a medley of emotions: sadness, love, trust and understanding.
Although I wished I could stay just like that forever, I pulled away slowly, breaking the connection. It was time to face the real world. I felt considerably unbalanced, so I held her tightly to help ease the sudden sensation of emptiness.
“I can’t believe that just happened,” Julianne spoke suddenly, as a small smile crossed her face. “I had no idea you could do that…” She looked awestruck. “It was amazing. I’m at a loss for words,” she stated simply.
I couldn’t help but grin. I felt the same. It was indescribable. I gave her a peck on the lips. I felt the sensation of a heavy weight lifted off my shoulders. Now that she knew the truth there was nothing that could keep us apart. It was an unspoken vow I could feel in my bones.
“I don’t want to become what you fear,” I reassured her as I caressed the soft skin of her cheek. “I would rather die than become that.”
“I believe you, Noel, but how can we stop what is already in motion?” Her voice held a note of defeat.
“If we leave, if I abandon my family, I can choose to continue to age. It has always been my choice and I choose you.”
“Are you sure you are willing to give this up? What about your family? What if they find us?” I could hear the fear creeping into her voice. I squeezed her small hand gently.
“My family…” I pondered aloud. In truth, I wasn’t entirely sure, but I had a good enough guess. “I don’t think they would pursue us. They are a very proud people. If I abandon what I am, they would think me as good as dead, as though I had never breathed at all.”
It was a sad thought that my own flesh and blood would treat me in such a fashion. They were a lot of things, but I loved them all the same. They were all I knew. It would be a bigger sacrifice then I realized, but this lifestyle was not worth losing the only thing that now mattered to me in this world, Julianne.
She simply nodded. Closing her eyes, she rested her head against my chest. I think she sensed that I was more saddened by leaving then I let on. She comforted me, rubbing my back in slow circles. I gave in quickly and clutched her, feeling the sting of her tears.
“It’s worth it for you,” I whispered into her ear as we comforted each other, so in love, and ready to dive into the abyss, a world where we were both equally out of our element. But it was the only world we could live in together—that, I knew.
Into the night, we discussed the finer details of our escape, knowing it must be done soon as the others might notice a change in our behavior. Vampires were very perceptive. I wondered if we would be able to go unnoticed at all. I stressed to her the importance of acting completely normal.
I would make the arrangements, gather money and other items necessary to make a getaway, but it might take some time. Time was the only thing we didn’t have. One slip and I shuddered to think what my family might do to the woman who ‘convinced’ me to leave my family for her. If they discovered us, we might be as good as dead. But it was our only chance.