The Wanderers

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chapter 22

We were both woken up bright and early by the sound of my mother clearing her throat from the bedroom doorway. I sat up so fast I knocked Tristan off the bed. Even though I was fully dressed and Tristan had pajama pants on, it didn’t bode well for my mom to catch us in bed together.

Tristan sprang up quickly from the floor and I caught my mother checking him out. Gross, I thought to myself. “Good morning Ella, Tristan,” she said, trying to hide her smile. “I suggest you two get dressed and meet us in the living room before your father arrives.” She turned on her heel and closed the door behind her. My cheeks burned bright red from embarrassment. I quickly got up and threw on a sweatshirt. I left Tristan in the bedroom and hurried out into the living room to meet my dad.

“I trust you slept well last night?” my mom teased and I blushed even more.

My dad opened the door to the suite and stopped to give the guards a few instructions before entering. “Ella, why is your face all red?” he asked.

“It’s just...um...really hot in here,” I said. I caught a glimpse of my mom smiling behind her tea cup.

“Then why don’t you take your sweatshirt off,” he suggested, like that should be the obvious answer to my problem. I just shrugged. “How’s my favorite daughter,” he said, arms wide waiting for a hug.

“I’m your only daughter dad,” I said, giving him the hug he was waiting for.

“And that’s why you’re my favorite,” he chuckled. When he pulled back, his head snapped up to the sound of a door clicking. I braced myself as I turned and watched Tristan step out of the bedroom. I could feel my dad’s body tense up instantly.

I dropped my arms and walked over to Tristan to stand next to him. “Dad, this is Tristan.” He looked him over, an intense stare in his eyes. When he didn’t say anything I started to get nervous.

“Hello, Mr. McCallister,” Tristan said, extending a hand, but my dad didn’t take it.

“Liam,” my mother chastised. Not wanting to hear her wrath, he took his hand and shook it. He gripped it so hard I could have sworn I heard bones break. Tristan flinched slightly and when my father let go Tristan wiggled his fingers at his side to make sure they still worked.

“So you’re the one who has been telling my daughter about us.”

“Yes sir,” Tristan stuttered.

“What gives you the right?”

“At least someone told me,” I snapped.

“Ella,” my mom warned.

“If you’ll excuse us, we need to talk to our daughter in private.”

“Of course,” Tristan said, taking a step forward.

I grabbed his hand and pulled him back to me. “No, anything you need to say you can say in front of him,” I said, putting my foot down. My father glared at me, not appreciating my tone.

“Ella, I think it’s best if I go,” Tristan said, a little scared. “Besides, I don’t really want to make him mad,” he whispered. I knew my dad heard him by the smile on his face. I glared at my father, turned back to Tristan and pulled him in for one hell of a kiss. His arms flailed at his sides refusing to touch me. Tristan managed to pry me off of him and he pulled back blushing. Tristan’s eyes were wide as he swallowed the lump as my father’s face turned deep red.

I crossed my arms and gave my dad a smug look. Tristan made a quick exit for the door only to have my dad stop him on the way out. He grabbed his arm and I was about to open my mouth when my mom put up her hand to silence me.

My dad didn’t say anything. He just stared at Tristan, eyes narrowed with rage, nostrils flaring, and that big vein in his neck bulging out like it always did when he was angry. Then in the same instant his shoulders sank, his eyes softened slightly, and then he let go and nodded at him. Tristan nodded back respectfully and left the room.

“Now that that’s taken care of,” my father said, joining my mom at the table as she poured him a cup of tea. They both sat there silently, sipping their tea as if it was just any other day. I stood there waiting impatiently, watching them act if nothing was wrong. My irritation was growing at their cavalier attitudes.

Tired of the silence I decided to speak first. “So what else are you hiding from me?”

“Ella, have a seat,” my mom said calmly, pulling out the chair next to her.

“No, not until you tell me what’s going on.”

“Sit!” my father yelled, making me jump.

Not wanting to piss him off any more than he already was I decided to take a seat. “So, I’m a vampire.”

“Half-vampire,” my mother corrected.

“And you felt the need to keep this from me, why?”

“For your protection,” my father said.

“Protection from what?”

“Ella, this is bigger than you will ever know.”

“Well that’s the problem. I don’t know, and apparently I’m the only one.”

“Honey, you have to understand we were going to tell you when we thought you were ready, when we thought it was necessary.”

“I think it’s pretty fucking necessary now.”

“Watch your mouth,” my father scolded.

“Ella, the reason we didn’t tell you was because we didn’t think you could handle it. After the accident, after all you went through, it was too much for you to deal with,” my mom said with sympathy in her voice.

“So you just waited for someone else to tell me.”

“No, that was not supposed to happen, and that boy will be dealt with,” my father growled.

“What do you mean dealt with?”

“That’s none of your concern.”

“Like hell it isn’t.”

“Ella, I’m warning you,” he said, narrowing his eyes at me.

“What are you going to do? Lie to me some more? Because I’ve had about enough of your lies.” I stood up.

“Sit! Down!” my father growled.

“No. You lied to me my whole life, about who I am and who you are. Tristan was the only one who was honest with me and had the guts to tell me the truth. I don’t even know who you are anymore. I don’t even know who I am? And until you can finally tell me the truth, I’m done”

“I am your father and you are my daughter!” he snapped.

“No you’re not. Fathers don’t lie to their daughters. You don’t exist to me anymore,” I said, stomping off and heading into the bedroom. I laid on the bed and stared up at the ceiling. I told myself I would not cry. I grabbed one of the pillows and squeezed it to my chest wanting so desperately for the day to be over.

“Ella, sweetie?” my mom called, opening the door slowly and peering inside. “Can you please come out and talk to us civilly?”

“Why should I?” I mumbled into the pillow.

“I understand you’re upset, but staying in here and pouting is not going to solve anything. I’ve talked to your father and he’s willing to try and answer any questions you have in a calmly manner.”

“I can ask anything and you won’t hold back?” I lifted my head to look at her.

“Anything,” she replied. I sat up and she gestured for me to follow her out to the table. I let my father know, with just a look that I wasn’t going to tolerate any bullshit.

“Why don’t we start with what you already know?” he said.

I let out a breath and started. “Well, it’s not much, but I know about the different types and how they’re created. I know we each possess a different power, we can all manipulate the mind, and our senses are better than humans.”

“Anything else?”

“We didn’t get very far. Tristan didn’t want to overwhelm me.”

I saw my mom eye my dad and he responded with a look saying, I know, I know’. “Where do you want me to start?” my dad asked.

“What are you?”

“A full vampire.”

“And Mom?”

“A half-breed.”

“And that picture at the sorority house, who is it…really?”

My dad looked to my mom for that one. “It’s your father, honey.”

“How old are you?” I asked my dad.

“Ninety-seven.”

“That’s it?”

“What were you expecting, over two hundred?”

“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “Will you like...live forever?”

“No. We do have a longer life span than humans though. We can live up to over three hundred years, some four hundred or longer, but I have yet to know any who has lived past five hundred.”

“Wow, five hundred years. Who would want to live that long?”

“It’s actually more beneficial than you think,” he said, looking at my mom and smiling. She smiled back coyly sharing some secret I was sure I was better off not knowing.

“Obviously we age, but how exactly does that work?”

“We age at a slower rate.”

“Do we like…sparkle?”

“No, that damn movie really did a number on us. Making it all seem glamorous. Damn kids everywhere wanting to be a vampire.” I had to try and hide my smile. “Forget everything you’ve seen in the movies or TV. Forget all of the myths you’ve heard about our people. Everything you will need to know you will learn at school.”

“Wait, school?” I was totally lost now.

“Yes, there is a special school for our kind where you can go and learn everything you need to know.”

“Why do I have to go there? Why can’t you just tell me?”

“Because there is so much more to it than what your mom and I can teach you. You need to know how to use your powers and how to control them. You need to learn about our society, the rules, and how everything works.”

“So you’re just going to pull me out of school and send me to a new one? No, no way, I just got here,” I protested.

“Ella, this is for the best,” my mom said, her voice sincere.

“No it’s not. I don’t have my powers yet so why can’t I stay here?” I begged.

My mom looked to my dad for the answer. “I don’t see why she couldn’t stay, at least until she got her powers.”

“This is nonnegotiable,” my dad said.

“Liam, I think we should at least talk about this,” she said, sticking up for me.

“We’ll discuss it later,” he said, which really meant I was going regardless of if I wanted to or not.

“What’s there to discuss? I’m staying whether you want me to or not. I’m an adult now I can do what I want.”

“Ha,” my dad laughed. I narrowed my eyes at him. “What are you going to do when we cut you off? When you have to find a way to pay your own tuition?”

“Liam!”

“I’ll figure it out. I’ll get a job,” I said, daring him to threaten me with something else.

“No, there is nothing to figure out. Ella is staying here until she comes into her powers and then she will attend Hamilton Hill,” my mom said, glaring at my dad.

“Jamila, you’re being unreasonable.”

“The only one being unreasonable around here is you,” she spat back at him. “So I suggest you listen to what your daughter has to say or you will have to deal with me,” she warned. I knew my dad was mean, but my mom was definitely not one to mess with when she put her foot down. Satisfied with my mom putting my dad in his place I couldn’t wipe the smug smile from my face. That was until my mom gave me a look that said if I didn’t she’d smack it right off of me.

“It’s because of this boy, isn’t it?” my dad asked with a bitter tone.

“No, dad. Not completely. Josie’s here too and I started to build a new life and...I like it here, it’s different. I like different,” I said honestly.

“Just so you know Josie’s parents are having the same conversation with her right now.” I knew he said that hoping that maybe I’d change my mind.

“Josie’s like me?” I perked up a little.

“I’m surprised your little boyfriend didn’t tell you,” my dad said grunting. I knew he was holding back, I could hear it in his voice.

“He said he wasn’t sure.”

“We’ll talk about him later.” I rolled my eyes. “Now to a more important matter, the real reason we’re here.” I looked between my dad and mom, confused. What could be bigger than finding out you’re half-vampire? “Ella, you need to listen to us, this is very important.” I gave him my full attention. There were certain things my dad didn’t mess around with so I knew when I needed to listen and when to tune him out. This was definitely one of those times I needed to listen.

“We believe the recent killings at your school were done by one of our kind,” he said. I sat up. That definitely grabbed my attention. “That’s why we hired a guardian for you and Josie. I know you think we’re over reacting and being over protective, but we’re not. We’re just concerned for your safety.”

“Okay, I get that, but you really think I’m in danger? I mean, enough to have a body guard? I’m not completely helpless; I can take care of myself.” I knew my dad wanted to comment, but my mom shot him a warning look.

He paused, taking a breath. My mom patted him on the hand and encouraged him to continue. I had a feeling from the look on his face what he was about to tell me was big. I gripped the edge of table for extra support, preparing myself for whatever catastrophic news they were about to tell me. “Ella,” he started. “You come from a long line of royalty. The highest actually. In fact you are next in line to take over.”

Okay, that, I was not prepared for. “Whoa, wait a minute...take over what?”

“Take over my seat on the royal court,” my dad said.

“You’re kidding, right?”

The look on my dad’s face said he hoped it was a joke. “I wish I was, but I’m not. This is part of the reason we have been so protective of you over the years and why it is so important you go to this special school, to help prepare you for when it’s your time.”

“Okay, but what’s the rush? It will be like a hundred years before that happens?”

“Five years.”

“Excuse me?” I said, making sure I heard him right.

“When you’re done with school, that’s when you will take over,” he said.

“Well not right away. We have to make sure you are prepared and there are several other things that will have to be done before she is sworn in,” my mom said, trying to make me feel better, but all it did was make me feel sick to my stomach. Tristan was right. My life was basically already planned out for me. I had no life of my own.

“What if I don’t want to?” I asked, trying not to panic.

“That is your choice, but we don’t want you to be too quick to dismiss it,” my mom said, jumping in before my father could say something to start another war.

“Having you take over will do great things for us, for our people. I know you’re the right person to do this,” my dad said, trying to encourage me to take the position - his idea of the right choice.

“This is just too much.” I got up from the table. “I find out I’m half-vampire and a royal one at that, and I’m supposed to take your place in five years? I can’t do this,” I freaked.

“I knew she wasn’t ready,” my dad said, making feel small.

“Ella honey, I know it’s a lot to take in and you don’t have to decide anything right now. We’re just letting you know what your options are.”

“What options?” I yelled. “Nobody has asked me what I thought, what I want!” I threw a scowl at my dad daring him to say something. “I want, I want to be normal. I don’t want any of this. I don’t care to be a princess or queen or whatever. I just want to be Ella. I want to be me. A normal girl who goes to a normal school where there are no vampires or witches or whatever.”

“I hate to break it to you, but that will never happen,” my dad said, angering me even more.

“Liam, you are not helping.”

“Would you prefer I lie? I will not do that and before you saying anything,” my dad said directing the comment at me, “I never lied to you about who you are. We just waited until the time was right.”

I bit my tongue on that one. Pick and choose your battles I told myself. “Ella, please, just have a seat. We still have much to discuss,” my mom said.

“Can I take a break? I just need a moment to process all of this.”

“Of course dear,” my mom said looking at my father.

“Take a few a minutes if you must,” my dad said.

I walked out on to the balcony to get some air. I really wished Tristan or Josie were here. I needed them now more than ever. I needed Josie’s optimism and her kind heart telling me everything would be okay. I needed Tristan’s arms around me, comforting me, telling me this world I’d been thrown into was a blessing in disguise. For once I actually wanted someone to lie to me. At the moment I felt better about being in the dark about everything and if I knew it would work I would had Tristan compel me to forget everything so I could go back to the way things were, before my whole life got turned upside down. I also would give anything to have Kyle here as well, to tell me there was nothing in this world that could destroy me. That he would beat up anyone who hurt me. He was always my protector.

I felt a chill and I shivered, wrapping my arms around me tightly. I felt like there was someone else here with me. I looked around. I was the only one. I leaned on the balcony and stared out into the starry night. I felt the warmth of strong arms wrap around me, but I was still alone. I suddenly felt warm, safe, and protected. I felt like I could take on anything and at that moment I knew Kyle was with me. If not in flesh he was in spirit. A part of him would always be with me. “Thank you,” I whispered to the air.

I felt a drop on my shoulder and looked up into the clear night sky. There wasn’t a cloud in sight. I wiped the drop from my shoulder and examined it on my finger. It shimmered, a bright gold before it completely evaporated. I took a step back not believing what I just saw. “Ella, are you okay?” my mom asked, stepping out onto the balcony.

I ran into her arms almost knocking her over. “Oh honey, everything will be okay. I promise,” she said, caressing my hair like she always did when I was little. I pulled back and looked up at her. “Ella, you are the strongest girl I know. You are brave, intelligent, beautiful, and more powerful than you know. I know you can handle whatever life throws at you and I believe in you. Whatever you choose to do I am certain you will know in your heart it is the right decision.” She placed a hand on my cheek. “Remember honey, I will always love you no matter what. Whatever you decide, do it because it’s what you want. Never make a decision based on what others think you should do, you understand me?”

I nodded, that was the best I could do without breaking down and crying. “Okay, sweetie,” she said, bringing me in for a hug again. “You think you’re ready to come back in?”

“Yeah, let’s get this over with.” I sat back down at the table and faced my dad. “Okay, let’s go back to you thinking one of our kind is killing people. We can deal with the other stuff later.”

My dad nodded, clearly approving of the conversation topic. “We’re not one hundred percent sure, but we will be here until we find out the whole truth.”

“Wait, you’re staying here, in Vermont?” They both nodded confirming. “But what about work?”

“My business partner is here and anything that needs to be taken care of back home Xander can deal with.”

This was not helping with my anxiety. “We’re just taking extra precautions to ensure your safety. We want to make sure nothing happens to you,” my mom said, patting my hand.

“What do any of the killings have to do with me?”

“We believe the killer is targeting our kind.”

“Wait, Skylar was a vampire?” That would totally explain a lot.

“Yes,” my dad confirmed.

“And Jack’s roommate?”

“That one has yet to be determined, but we believe he wasn’t. We want to be one hundred percent positive so that is why we had the dorms evacuated and classes canceled.”

“You did that?” I asked, shocked.

“Yes, we needed our people in there to do a thorough investigation. They can find things humans can’t.”

I hadn’t realized how much power my dad actually had. “Okay, so is your job real or is it just a cover story?”

“My job is legit. I am not a secret C.I.A. Agent,” he winked, getting a kick out of it. I rolled my eyes knowing he probably assumed I would think that was cool. “We’re getting off topic here,” he said, clearing his throat.

“Why do you think our kind is being targeted,” I said, getting back to the matter at hand.

“Because there were other killings, ones we’ve able to cover up until now.”

“Okay, this just got real serious,” I said, feeling the onset of a panic attack. I gripped my stomach, suddenly feeling sick.

“Maybe we should eat something?” my mom suggested. She always thought food was the solution to all our problems.

“I don’t think I could eat anything right now,” I said.

“How about some hot chocolate instead then?” she offered, getting up to make me a cup.

I ran my fingers through my hair trying to calm my nerves. Then I remembered something. “Why didn’t I think of this earlier,” I said, hitting myself in the head.

“What honey?” my mom asked.

“My friend Jack. I mean classmate, not friend. Definitely not friend anymore.”

“What about Jack?” my dad asked, annoyed with my ramblings.

“He’s a vampire, rogue, I think. Well that’s what Tristan said.”

“What does he have to do with any of this?” my mom asked, placing a hot steaming mug in front of me. I wrapped my cold fingers around the mug, it burned at the touched but I didn’t care.

“Well, he’s kind of what started all of this. There was an incident with him...” I hesitated, careful with my next words. I knew no matter how I said it this wasn’t going to end well. “Tristan compelled me so I would forget what happened, but then I remembered.” I looked up at both of them.

“Wait, what incident?” “Why did he compel you to forget?” “You remembered?” Both my mom and dad came at me with questions.

I had a hard time deciphering each one. So I thought I would just explain everything. “Jack...bit me and then threatened to kill me when Tristan showed up.”

“What!” my dad yelled, standing up abruptly and knocking over his chair. His fist slammed down on the table making me jump and spill some of my hot chocolate. His face was bright red with rage. He hurried over to one of the guards outside the door, shouting demands. From the coroner of my eye I saw at least four guards run off down the hall.

“Ella honey, why didn’t you tell us?” my mom asked, wiping up the spill.

“Because I didn’t know, I didn’t remember until the other night.”

My dad came back to the table demanding answers. “Why did he compel you to forget, what happened?” he growled, not happy with what Tristan had done. Adding another thing to include on the list of reasons of why my dad could hate Tristan.

“To protect me,” I said, hoping he’d understand.

“But you remembered?” my dad asked, puzzled.

“Yes.”

“How? That’s impossible, unless…his powers aren’t strong, but even then.”

I was not about let my dad in on Tristan’s little drinking habit. I didn’t need to give him another reason to dislike him. That list was long enough. “I don’t know,” I said, shrugging. “Something just triggered it.”

“What triggered it, honey?” my mom asked.

I swallowed. “Um, I’m not sure,” I said, my voice squeaking. My dad looked at me funny. I buried my face in my hot chocolate to hide my flushed cheeks. My sex life was not going to be a topic of conversation with my parents.

“Are you okay?” my mom said, feeling my forehead. “Your cheeks are all red.”

“It’s the cocoa, it’s hot,” I said, blowing on it and slumping down in my chair.

Two guards returned to the room escorting Tristan. “You,” my dad pointed. “Sit!”

“Dad, what are you doing?” I asked, sitting up.

“Tell me everything that happened the night my daughter was attacked,” my dad demanded.

Tristan sat down next to me. He took my hand and waited for my permission to proceed. “Go ahead, it’s okay.”

He leaned in closer to me. “You sure you want to hear this? We can go somewhere else and talk if you want?”

“It’s okay. As long as you’re here I’ll be fine.” My dad murmured something under his breath and I glared at him. Tristan smiled at me not bothered at all by my dad’s rudeness. Tristan held my hand in his lap under the table and I knew it was pissing off my dad. Just out of spite I moved in closer to Tristan. I knew my dad was holding it in and wanted to rip Tristan’s head off, but right now he needed him whether he wanted to admit it or not.

Tristan turned his attention to my dad and begun telling his version of the story. “The door was locked so Josie came to my room to get the key.”

“Why do you have a key?” my dad interrupted, not happy with this news.

“I’m the Resident Advisor. I have a key to everyone’s room in my dorm.” My dad nodded for him to continue. “When I came back with Josie I heard Ella scream. I busted down the door and found Jack with his arm around her throat.” I could feel Tristan tense up at the memory. I squeezed his hand letting him know it was okay.

After a few seconds he continued. “I acted on instinct and jumped him, but he was quicker and got away.” He looked away, ashamed he failed. “Ella was practically catatonic from the trauma so I compelled her to forget. I knew what happened to her with the accident,” he looked up at me. “I didn’t want her to suffer, to be afraid.” I kissed his hand and held it in my lap never taking my eyes off of his.

“I understand why you did what you did,” my dad said. “Thank you.” I almost fell over from shock. I thought for sure my dad would reach across the table and clobber him. “Josie was there, too?” he asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“Does she remember?”

“No, sir.”

“But Ella does.” he scratched his chin, deep in thought. “And you have no idea what triggered it?”

“Nope, none,” I said quickly while Tristan shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

My dad signaled for one of the guards. “Where is this Jack now?”

“I don’t know. The last I saw him was the other night,” I said.

“When you were alone with him?” Tristan asked, voice panicked.

“When we got back from the police station, he was in my room.” Both my dad and Tristan started yelling. “Relax, nothing happened. Besides, he doesn’t know that I know.”

“What do you mean?” my mom asked.

“Because at the time I didn’t. I still didn’t remember anything. I knew something was off with him because of how weird he was acting. I think he figured out that Tristan erased my memory.”

“That’s probably better,” my dad said.

“Ella, you have no idea how dangerous he is,” Tristan said with worry in his eyes.

“I know, no matter how many times you tell me. But if he wanted to kill me don’t you think he would have done it already? And didn’t you say you think he might have been after my powers?”

“What?” my dad yelled. He turned to the guards and started yelling demands again. “You and you,” he pointed, handing out numbers as they ran off. Then he took out his phone and started dialing fiercely. “You are not leaving this room until we find him,” he said to me.

“What? No way! I am not going to be held prisoner.”

“Ella, you are not going to argue with me on this,” he said, turning away from me.

I looked to my mom for help. “We have like, a zillion hired guards. I’ll be fine.”

“I’ll talk to him honey. Best not to push it now.”

I rested my chin in my hand. “Where’s Josie, I want to talk to her.”

“I’ll call Jade and see if it’s okay with her if you stay there for a while. At least until your father calms down.”

I turned to Tristan and he took both my hands in his. “Still want to be my boyfriend?” I joked.

“Of course I do,” he said, kissing my forehead, making me feel better.

“Ella, Jade said it was fine and Josie was asking for you, too.”

“Let’s go,” I said, grabbing Tristan and running out the door while my dad was too distracted to notice.

“Just take one of the guardians with you please!” my mom called out.

“Got it,” I said, grabbing Gabe on the way out. “Come on Gabe, you’re coming with us.” He nodded obediently and followed.

“How’d it go in there?” Tristan asked once we were out of the room.

“They want me to go to this special school,” I groaned.

“I think you should go,” Tristan agreed, surprising me.

“No, I’m not going.”

“Ella –”

“No, I just started school and you and Josie are here.”

“It’s not safe if you stay.”

“Tristan, I’m fine. I wish everyone would stop worrying about my safety and worry more about my sanity. Weren’t you the one who told me to make my own decisions?”

He stopped and stood in front of me, gripping my hands. “Ella, you know I love you and would die if anything happened to you.” I nodded. “Then please, just think about it.”

“I’ll think about it, no promises though,” I said, even though there was nothing to think about. I had already made up my mind about staying.

“That’s all I’m asking,” he said, kissing me on the forehead just before we got into the elevator. “What else did you talk about?”

“We didn’t get very far. As soon as my dad found out about Jack all hell broke loose.”

“The less you know right now the better.”

“How is that better?”

“Less information Jack can get from you.”

“I’m not worry about that. As long as I have you, I’ll be safe,” I smiled, kissing his hand. He smiled back, but I could tell he didn’t feel as confident. “Plus we have Gabe now,” I said, patting him on the back.

“Nothing bad will happen on my watch,” Gabe said. Tristan still didn’t look convinced. The elevator opened up and we moved back allowing room for the new passengers. A little boy, no older than five, stepped on with his mom. I smiled at him and he blushed moving closer to her. He was holding a small security blanket. I knew this much because I remember Jake had one and he would clench to it the way this little boy did. The blanket was old and dirty, but he didn’t care. Judging by the old juice stain on the corner I could tell it hadn’t been washed in a while.

Tristan tugged on my hand and I looked up at him smiling. He smiled back and gave me a kiss. The little boy hid his face when he saw us and I laughed. The boy and his mom got off the elevator before we did. When they departed the little boy dropped his blanket. I quickly picked it up and rushed off the elevator to hand it to him. The moment I touched it I had a flash from my date with Tristan. I slowly turned back to look at him. My expression gave everything away. Tristan knew I remembered.

I took a step back in disbelief and Gabe looked at me funny. The doors began to close and Tristan tried to leap out, but more people stepped on blocking his way. “Ella, wait!”

“Stay away from me!” I said, backing up. Gabe managed to break his way out of the crowd. I wasn’t surprised. His size was intimidating so I was sure everyone pretty much moved out of his way.

“Miss Ella, is everything okay?” Gabe asked, concerned.

“No. I mean I don’t know,” I said, shaking my head that was still reeling from this new information. I heard the elevator ding and looked up to see Tristan make his way out. “Don’t come near me,” I warned. Gabe, having no idea what was going on, stood in front of me blocking Tristan’s path.

“Ella, will you please let me explain? Yes there was blood on that blanket,” he said without waiting for a response. “It was Skylar’s but it’s not what you think.” He took a step closer. Gabe put a hand on his shoulder, stopping him. “She wanted me to bite her. I refused. I told her we were done. She didn’t want to accept it. She cut her wrist open trying to get me to drink, but I refused. I used the blanket to stop the bleeding. I compelled you because I didn’t know how else to explain it to you.”

Gabe dropped his hand and I looked up at Tristan. “Ella, you have to believe me. I would never lie to you.” I looked into his eyes and knew he was telling the truth, but was still hurt by all the lying and the secrets.

I was about to tell him when the little boy and mom came back around the corner. “My blankie!” the little boy cried. I handed him the blanket and the mom thanked me. Once they left I turned back around and walked over to Tristan.

“Tristan,” I said, taking his hands. “I believe you, but you need to stop hiding things from me. My parents did that to me and I –”

“I know, I’m so sorry,” he said, wrapping his arms around me. Gabe took a step forward but I put up my hand to stop him.

“I understand why you did it, but no more.”

“I promise, no more secrets,” he said, kissing my lips and making me melt.

The second we stepped into Josie’s room, she attacked me. “Ella, oh my God, can you believe it! We’re freakin’ vampires!” she shouted excitedly. Josie clearly took the news better than I did. Although, I was also told that not only was I a vampire, but a vampire princess who was next in line to rule and expected to go to some special school. I was just guessing that she was excited we were both creatures of the night now.

I looked over to see Billy sitting at the table with Josie’s mom. “What is Billy still doing here?” I asked.

“Well...” Tristan began.

“He’s a vamp too! How cool that I find out that my best friend and I, plus our boyfriends, are all vampires,” Josie cheered, pulling me over to the table, not giving me a chance to yell at Tristan for not telling me Billy was one, too.

“Hi Mr. and Mrs. McNaughton,” I said, greeting Josie’s parents.

“Ella, how are you?” Josie’s dad asked.

“I’ve been better.”

“I know it’s kind of difficult to digest at first, but soon you will see how great it is. I was actually surprised at Josie’s reaction and frankly quite scared,” he said, looking over at his daughter who was happier than ever.

“Don’t worry, you know how Josie is.”

He smiled at me and squeezed my shoulder. “We’ll leave you kids to catch up,” he said and signaled for Jade to follow. She stood up with drink in hand and walked out.

“Ella, aren’t you thrilled?” Josie squeaked.

“I guess.”

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s just...complicated. My parents want me to go to this school for vamps with a specialized curriculum.”

“Yeah, mine said something to me about it, but I told them I wouldn’t go unless you did.”

“See, you’ll have Josie,” Tristan said, trying to convince me.

“But you won’t be there.”

“Ella.”

“I don’t want to talk about it now. Besides you’re still not off the hook for the whole blanket thing and not telling me about Billy.”

“You’re going to hold that over me forever, aren’t you?”

“Not forever, just for a really long time.”

“You can punish me for it later,” he winked.

I hit him. “Nice try.”

“Let’s celebrate!” Josie said, jumping up and grabbing a bottle of liquor.

“You sure that’s a good idea?”

“Of course it is,” she said as if I was an idiot for doubting her.

“Go ahead. I won’t drink, I promise,” Tristan said. I looked at him skeptically. “Ella, you are too precious to risk. I won’t let myself be irresponsible,” he assured me.

“Okay,” I agreed. “But can we get some food first, I’m starving.” Josie threw one of menus at me as she began mixing drinks. After everyone decided what they wanted I called and placed the order. “Hey, where’s Dixon?”

“My parents stuck him in the next room until we were done talking. He said he was going to explore the hotel,” Josie shrugged, handing me a drink.

I ended up drinking more than I had anticipated. Tristan had to practically carry me back to our room. My dad called Gabe off – so Tristan and I were on our own. We didn’t really need an escort since no one could get past the lobby without clearance.

I stumbled and he caught me, putting an arm around my waist and throwing one of mine over his shoulder. “Shh,” I said, pressing my finger to Tristan’s lips. “Don’t let my parrots know I’m dunk,” I hiccupped and then started to giggle.

“Easier said than done,” he said.

I planted a big, fat, sloppy kiss on Tristan right before I fell backwards into the door causing a loud thump. My mom swung the door open causing me to almost fall flat on my butt. I would had if Tristan wasn’t holding me up. I straightened up quickly trying to act sober but my hiccups continued, sending me into a fit of giggles. “Oh, Ella,” my mom said, shaking her head. “Quickly, get her inside and into one of the bedrooms before her father sees.”

She helped Tristan carry me to the master bedroom. Luckily, the suite was crowded with people, which provided just enough distraction for my dad to not notice me stumble in. Once safely inside the bedroom, Tristan picked me up and carefully laid me down on the bed. “Thank you Tristan, I can take it from here.”

He nodded, ready to leave, but not before one more look at me. I knew it pained him to leave, to not be here to take care of me. “Liam and I both know how much you care about her and I thank you for taking care of her when we couldn’t,” my mom said, looking up at Tristan.

“I will always protect her,” he said, looking at me. I smiled back at him as he turned to walk away.

“One more thing, Tristan,” my mom called and he turned back around. “I apologize for taking over your room. I hope you don’t mind, but we set up a room for you boys, on us. I’m sure you can understand why. We just feel it’s more appropriate for the boys to stay in a separate room.”

I rolled my eyes which took more effort than I thought it would. I wanted to yell at her and say stop treating me like a kid, but considering the condition I was in I had no room to talk.

“Yes, ma’am. Thank you,” Tristan said to my mom and turned to leave even though I knew it was a struggle for him to go.

After he was gone I sat up, took one look at my mom, then keeled over and threw up all over the floor. “Let’s hope this is a phase you grow out of quickly,” she said as she got up to go get some clean towels.

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