I woke suddenly, jolting to a seated position as my eyes fought to regain normal sight. As my vision cleared, I felt my body give against something soft, realizing I was lying in a bed. My eyes fluttered wildly, trying to see where I was. A large four-poster bed towered over me and the room was dimly lit. My eyes slowly began to adjust and I saw that it was dark outside. The room was traditional, and beautifully decorated in heirloom furniture, with lightly draped panels hanging from the bed in a canopy.
I looked down to see that I was still dressed in the nurse’s uniform and gasped.
So, it wasn’t a dream. Where the hell am I?
I stood to see a cotton dress folded neatly in a chair in the corner and stood to inspect it. It was similar style to the nurse’s uniform and I noted that it also fell just past her knees. Beneath the dress was a long sleep shirt and shorts and I gladly took that instead. I quickly changed and looked in the mirror. My long blonde hair fell in messy waves down the sides of my face and I was sore at her shoulders, remembering Alexander’s hard grip.
This can’t be real. I can’t be in a strange place, wearing strange clothes, with a man claiming to be a vampire. What am I going to do?
I steeled my nerves and left the room. I heard low voices coming from down the hall and I quietly made my way toward them.
As I came around the corner I heard Kit’s voice hissing. “What are you going to do with her? We can’t be tied down by some girl who knows about us. And we can’t compel her to forget, so that only leaves one choice.”
I shivered hearing him so easily contemplate killing me.
Xander’s voice immediately answered. “I am not killing her. And neither are you. When was the last time you’ve heard of a human not being able to be compelled, if ever? I can’t read her thoughts either. Something’s going on, and I plan to find out what.”
I suddenly remembered his confused look when he’d leaned up to search my eyes.
He can read minds too? What is going on? This can’t be real. I have to get out of here.
I felt my heart rate rising and struggled to maintain my breathing, remembering I had no idea where here was, or where I could go. I realized I could not outrun them, and had no choice but to stay put for now.
In a blink, Xander was standing in front of me, inches away. I let out a loud cry and flew back instinctively against the wall.
“Eavesdropping are we? Come join us. We have some questions.”
I shook my head and felt glued against my spot on the wall.
He reached his hand out, looking seriously at me. “I can assure you that you’re in no danger here. We will not hurt you.”
I took his hand hesitantly and he led me into the sitting area slowly. Kit stared intensely at me and I fought against my instinct to run. Alexander placed me gently into a seat before sitting just across from me. Kit remained standing, staring down at me, intimidating in stature as he crossed his arms.
“Where am I?” My voice stuttered more than intended and I silently cursed at my nervousness.
Xander hesitated and spoke slowly. “We have brought you to a safe place. We are about two hours outside of London.”
How could I be in London? I was just in New York. What the hell happened when I touched that tree?
“What did you mean you could not read my mind?”
His face grew strained and he struggled with how to answer. “It is a trait that some vampires are gifted to have. I was born with the ability to search people’s minds, and even control them. But it did not work on you. We also have the ability to compel humans to remember or do what we want. That was not effective on you either, hence why you are sitting here now.”
He spoke calmly and I felt myself relaxing slightly listening to his smooth accent. I could see his face for the first time now that he was cleaned up and took in his chiseled features and strong stubbled jawline. His hair was a dark mahogany and brushed back away from his face, a few pieces escaping to hang at his temples. They’d both changed and Xander was wearing jeans with a slim fitting t-shirt. His strong shoulders showed through the cotton shirt and his muscular arms leaned sturdy against the tops of his knees. A tattoo peeked out from the inside of his upper right arm and I caught myself wondering what the rest of it looked like. My eyes shot down to his chest, and I remembered all too well the horrible injury that had been there only hours earlier.
Anticipating my question, Xander spoke. “We have accelerated healing. That’s why we had to get out. We didn’t want to risk someone seeing us after we were thought to be dead.”
Kit hissed and paced in frustration. “Why not just tell her our weaknesses too and how to kill us while you’re at it. My God, Xander. Just kill her already. This is a waste of time.”
I tensed and glared daggers at him. Opening my mouth to speak, Xander jumped in, raising a calming hand to me. “Kit, we will not be killing her. I need to figure out why she’s repelling any type of mind control, and I think she’s more valuable to us alive right now. Do not question my decision again.”
I sat rigid and his eyes flashed to me. I felt his reassurance, and understood, relaxing slightly.
He doesn’t mean to hurt me. I don’t know why, but I believe him. I shouldn’t, but I do.
Kit threw his hands up and stormed away from us, growling angrily as he walked out of the room. “Then you deal with her. I’m going to hunt. After this hellish day, I need to sink my teeth into something.”
I flinched and realized he obviously meant a human. Xander leaned across and placed his hand on mine, squeezing gently. “Don’t worry about him. He knows his place and he will not lay a hand on you. You are safe here Emma.”
My eyes looked up to meet his, realizing that he meant what he said. I felt my body slowly relax. I released the breath I had not realized I was holding and sat back in my seat.
“Now, why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself. How did you end up in the middle of London during this war.” He looked genuinely interested.
I wanted so badly to ask him, but I feared I already knew the answer. Judging from their uniforms and the clothing seen on the men and women around me, I thought I had an idea. Mixed with the bombing of the city around me, I felt I had my impossible answer. I had to be in the 40′s, right in the middle of WWII. “I’m honestly not sure. It’s been a bit crazy up to this point.”
He leaned in, eager for me to continue.
I wasn’t sure if I should tell him just yet, and decided it best to lie. “I came from New York City and just kind of fell into the field hospital in London. It was my first day today.”
He let out a quiet laugh and ran his fingers through his hair. “Well, I’d say that was a hell of a first day. You have impeccable timing to have been in the room they brought me into. I’m sorry you’re in the middle of this now, but I cannot let you go. Not yet.”
I nodded and he leaned further forward, searching my face. “This truly is a unique feeling. I have never met someone I could not read. You have to tell me what you’re thinking right now.”
My mind raced as it went over the events leading up to today. He could not know that I was not from this time. He would think I’d lost my mind. “I just can’t believe I’m sitting here talking to a vampire. You’re nothing like I would have expected.”
He let out a laugh in response. “What did you expect? Me to sleep in a coffin or turn into a bat?”
I giggled and realized how ridiculous that sounded. “Well now that you say it out loud, I guess not. It does sound ridiculous, but so does this whole day.”
“You may ask me anything you’d like to know. I promise to answer honestly.” His eyes held mine. His face was relaxed and patient.
I thought for a moment and leaned in, curious. “Can you walk in the daylight?”
He nodded. “Most can’t, but yes I can walk in the sunlight.”
He sighed and shrugged. “I was born with the ability. Just like mind reading and control. It’s just something I can do.”
I leaned in further, edging to the end of my seat, hinging on the words he’d spoken. “You keep saying born. How do you mean?”
“Well, I was born a vampire. I’ve been one my entire life,” he answered clearly.
My eyes went wide in confusion as I tried to absorb what he’d said. “How can a vampire be born? Don’t you have to be bitten or something like that?”
He shook his head and smirked, his eyes playfully meeting mine. “First of all, I think it’s safe to say, don’t believe what you’ve seen or read of us. Most of it is complete fiction.”
I smiled and settled back in to listen, waiting patiently for him to continue.
“Yes, to create a vampire, you must turn a human. To do so, we do have to bite you but it’s more than that. Just a simple bite won’t do it. We have to drain you of your blood, down to the last drop until your heart is within a beat of stopping. Then, you have to drink our blood, and to complete the transition, you then have to feed.”
My eyebrows rose as I listened curiously. I knew I should be afraid of what he was telling me, but I was intrigued. “Feed?”
He nodded and looked knowingly into my eyes. He could sense my curiosity. “Yes. You would have to drink from a human to complete the transition once you’ve replaced your blood with blood from a vampire.”
“So, how is a vampire born then? I thought your bodies were frozen or dead.”
Again, he smirked and shook his head at my unblinking curiosity. “A vampire is born when two elder vampires join to create a bloodline.”
I blinked at him in confusion. “What the hell does that mean?”
His eyebrows rose at my profanity but continued. “Our society is guided by a group of elder vampires, the original families. If they join, they can choose to add to their bloodline by having natural born children. If two vampires from any of the other edlers’ descendants join, they can also choose to add to the bloodlines, birthing new vampires rather than creating them. Our bodies are frozen at a certain biological age, but it functions much as it did before.”
“So you were born from one of those original families?”
He paused and looked at me, assessing how much to tell me. He nodded and proceeded. “Yes, in fact I am heir to the joining of the oldest bloodline elders. I was not the first born, but I am their selected heir of their children.”
My eyes shot up in surprise and my jaw dropped. I quickly remembered to close it before composing my thoughts. “So you’re some kind of vampire prince?”
Xander laughed and ran a hand through his now loosened mahogany brown hair. “I am. Each bloodline has a chosen heir of their natural born children, and my bloodline is the oldest, and considered the leading family of all of the families.”
I shook my head as I tried to absorb the insane information I had received throughout the evening. “Is there anything else you can do?”
He thought for a moment, inventorying my questions and his answers.
“Well, you’ve already seen the speed, and I’m sure you can guess that we’re strong. The only other thing that comes to mind right now is that our blood has certain healing powers, but it cannot heal everything. There are some things even we can’t reverse.”
I nodded, listening and without noticing myself being pulled up gently by Xander’s hands on my shoulders. I winced as his hands rested on my aching muscles. He pulled away instantly and dropped his hands to his sides. His shoulders tensed and I could see regret on his face.
“I’m ok. It’s just a little sore. That’s all.” I instantly felt the need to comfort him, and my hand reached up to land on his chest.
He jolted at my touch, and I felt it course through me as well, increasing my heart rate. My eyes shot up to see his once piercing blue eyes were beginning to turn a dark stormy indigo, nearly black. I inhaled sharply as they peered deep into my own eyes.
I dropped my hand away, but he caught it, thumbing my knuckles softly as he spoke. “I am truly sorry for hurting you Emma. It will never happen again, I promise you.”
I spoke breathily, quietly trying to keep my mind fixed on anything other than his hand on mine. “It’s ok really. It’s just a little sore. Nothing a good night’s rest won’t fix. I’m fine.”
I gripped his hand back instinctively, feeling my pulse begin to jump erratically. He seemed to attempt to steel himself and closed his eyes, straining and breathing shortly. He let go of my hand as if it burned him and walked away, leaving me standing in the room flushed and alone.
What the hell was that? What just happened? Why did I have to touch him like an idiot? Note to self: don’t touch the vampire Hastings.
I shook my head trying to come out of the cloud of electricity and information surrounding my thoughts and headed back to my room for a night restless sleep.