I was hungry.
My throat was dry and hot, and the pit of my stomach burned. I could feel the heat spreading through my body, my muscles aching to move. I swayed on the ball of my feet, my fingers brushing against the wood of the door.
My senses were already in overdrive, I focused on the splintered wood, on the slight breathing of my family below. I was acutely aware of the last rays of sunshine, glinting through the stained-glass windows.
Finally, they disappeared. My fingers flicked against the doors and they swung open.
I stepped out of the cathedral and onto the fresh snow. It cracked sweetly under my steps. I breathed deeply. The air was frigid. Humidity crystallised against my skin in delicate spirals.
It was as if the world was muffled. The avalanche had destroyed everything in its path and buried everything under five feet of pure white snow. The slight moonlight shone through the thick clouds, making the fresh snow sparkle like a thousand diamonds encrusted onto the earth’s surface. There was no movement across the barren land, no sound.
My hunger raging, I plunged into the night, moving fast, so I didn’t sink into the powdery snow.
Every so often I came across a frozen rabbit or a moose cub, but they were frozen through, and their blood was crystallised and chunky. Barely satisfying for my hunger and decidedly unsatisfactory for my hunting urges.
I soon found myself by the highway, the warmth of human society, the scent of cold tar and petrol hovering on the wind. As I approached, I noticed the road was covered in a thinner layer of snow. On the edge of the avalanche’s destruction, the high bluffs on each side of the road had blocked the last of it, and the trees had crashed down onto the road. I peered into the distance. Several kilometres away, there was a large truck, on its side, in the middle of the road.
A tragedy for humans, possibly warm blood for me.
I was at the truck in seconds, ripping the yellow door off. I could smell fresh blood, not quite frozen through.
As I started digging through the snow filling the front seat, I heard a small thumping, a fluttering and the distinct scent of young blood. My throat burned, filling my body with heat, and I felt my muscles tighten. I let the pounding heart fill my mind. My movements cleared the front seat in seconds.
Two corpses, a couple, young, frozen.
The closest to me was a man. His brown eyes were wide, unseeing, and his expression showed worry, more than fear. The thudding wasn’t coming from him, but I could smell the blood in his body. His head was split open, the blood had dried and crystallised on his forehead. I picked up his wrist, there was no pulse, and his blood was cold. I moved my lips over his vein and slowly opened my mouth, pressing my fangs against his skin. It popped open, I pushed my tongue into the wound, attempting to warm the blood and suck it up into my body. It tasted bitter and watery. I drank my fill then slipped onto his lap facing the dead woman whose forehead was also cracked open with the impact.
Her face was cold, and dark, her eyes squeezed shut. She was hunched over, wrapping her arms around a small shape. Curiously, I pulled her arms away. They snapped off in my hands. Scowling, I tossed them behind me and picked up the bundle that she’d been holding.
My throat burned, aching throughout my body, and my ears echoed with the sound of a heartbeat.
I stared at the baby in my arms. It was still alive.
Despite the horrible crash, it looked unharmed. It wasn’t bleeding, only very cold, and its breath was wheezy. Its blankets were thick with snow, soaking the baby to the core. I held it up to my mouth, staring at it intensely, letting its heartbeat fill my mind and body. Its blood smelled sweet and refreshing. I closed my eyes, letting my hunter’s instincts take over completely. It was such easy prey, I opened my mouth, hovering my fangs over its neck where I could hear its blood rushing through its veins.
My lips pressed against the thudding vein on its neck. I was caught off guard by a very small giggle. I opened my eyes and stared at the baby in my arms. It stared back at me, and I felt a small spark in my chest, a spark of warmth I hadn’t felt since Aric was cut out of me and I first saw his face.
I kept my eyes on the baby, letting the pain in my throat dull down and the small warmth the baby had put in my heart, spread. I was suddenly overcome with an urge to protect it.
The baby blinked at me, then slowly its face scrunched up, and warm tears rushed down its cheeks. Its cry filled my head. It seemed to echo across the mountain range. I hugged the baby to my bosom and smoothly slipped out of the car.
My mind spun, trying to understand why I was horrified at the idea of draining it, why I wanted to protect it, my own prey.
Was it because it was alone? Cold? Parentless? It would die in a few more hours out here. Why did it remind me of Aric?
I stood in the middle of the road staring at the child in my arms, letting the freezing wind play around with my feelings. The crying baby fidgeted and shivered, its eyes scrunched up, its face going red. I smelled the shock of blood under its crimson skin.
“I’m here, I’ve got you, baby,” I leaned down and pressed my lips to its forehead, when I drew back, it stopped crying. Suddenly.
The tears froze on its face, and its wide eyes stared up at me. Such a peculiar and unusual shade, forest green, flecked with blue and lined with black. They were vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t remember where from. I didn’t see fear in them or sadness; I saw warmth. The heat radiating from the baby seemed to glow, like a bright flame, bright as the sun, but much softer and less lethal.
The baby blinked at me again and shivered. I licked my lips, finally deciding that I’d have to wait yet for lunch.
I hugged the bundle of baby against my chest, shielding it from the fierce wind that had started to pick up. Rapidly I moved back from the highway, keeping my eyes on the baby, listening to its steady, rapid heartbeat.
With the wind behind me, I moved faster. I rushed across the white valley, scanning the horizon for any movement of prey. I stopped for a frozen rabbit. It tasted dewy, so I chucked it back and moved on.
I was back at the cathedral soon after. I slowed my pace and stared down at the baby in my arms, who was looking around, with its wide, beautiful eyes. I pushed the doors open and entered the main hall, my heels snapping against the antique marble floor, the sound echoing loudly.
The ceiling, arched above us, was painted gold with carved gold flowers. Four large illuminated chandeliers embedded with gems dangled on ten-meter length chains, swaying slightly from the gust of wind that my entrance had created, casting shadows across the hall. The thick beige stone walls were decorated with ancient tapestries and statues. Ahead of me, on the second floor the golden organ, blanketing the whole wall, loomed into the shadows.
I passed the fireplace, big enough to fit four adults standing up. We never lit it, fire being one of the few things that could possibly kill us. The entire cathedral wasn’t much warmer than the glacial temperatures outside, and the baby was still trembling.
“Soon you’ll be warm,” I told the wide-eyed baby as I glided directly under the organ where the floor sloped down into a large winding staircase illuminated by red candles.
I stepped down, following the staircase to the bottom. It led into a wide chamber, richly illuminated with candles and a large fireplace. From the room were six winding tunnels that disappeared underground. I took the one furthest to my left, the tunnel wasn’t very long, and it led into a larger chamber than before. There were three long, comfortable sofas, a thick fuzzy rug and a glass coffee table. On each side of the chamber were three large wooden doors. Inside, the chamber was warmer, and the baby finally stopped shivering. I unravelled the blankets and tossed the soaking heap to the ground.
“A girl,” I smiled, brushing my finger against her cold stomach. “A light in all this darkness.” I continued, then held her up and pressed my lips against her cold cheeks. “Let’s get you warm.” She smiled back at me, her rosy cheeks bright and enticing.
For a moment I listened to her heart, her soft breathing, and the rich scent of her warm blood rushing through her veins. I could feel my throat contracting, hunger burning, but there was a strong urge to ignore it all and protect her. Protect her at any cost.
The second I opened my bedroom door, Demetrius pounced on me. He had been at the walk-in wardrobe choosing something to wear, I just saw him turn his face to me, and then suddenly he was towering over me, his arms winding around my waist.
His head lowered, and he pressed his lips against mine, running his fingers through my hair and pulling my face up to meet his, his hands grabbing my bottom. In the heat of the moment, I almost forgot the baby girl in my arms.
Demetrius pushed away from me suddenly, his eyes blazing a brilliant crimson. He stared at the girl in my arms. His mouth hovered open, and I could see his fangs protruding, resting against her full bottom lip.
“Is this breakfast in bed?” he asked me with a sly grin spreading over his striking features.
“Certainly not,” I scoffed. I leaned over our bed and placed the baby on a pillow. She sunk down, her little hands squeezed in tiny adorable fists.
Demetrius followed me, gazing hungrily at the baby.
“Then, what’s it doing here?” he asked.
I moved towards the wardrobe. “I’m not sure yet,” I admitted, kicking my soaking boots off and tossing them next to the door. Demetrius watched me with a frown. He stared at the baby, then back at me.
“Rose…” he chuckled, running his finger through his deep auburn hair. “I don’t understand, why is this human here?”
I tugged my soaking trousers off, then my blouse, and faced him.
“Because I couldn’t leave her where she was,” I paused, taking a deep breath and squaring my shoulders. “She would have died.”
Demetrius blinked at me for a second, then tossed his head back, howling with laughter. I scowled and turned away, slipping off my twenty-first-century lingerie.
I was pulling a white slip over my head when I felt Demetrius’s arms wind around my waist. He held me against his chest grinning, his large moss-green eyes were glowing.
“You brought it here because you were afraid it would die?” he chuckled, leaning down to nuzzle his face in the crook of my neck. I tried not to get lost in his soft kisses and wandering hands.
“Demetrius,” I paused. “I don’t know what I’m thinking, but I know that I’m not going to let that child die. I don’t know how to explain it, but this baby needs me.”
I glanced at the small girl, still on the pillow, shivering slightly, staring at us intently. Slowly, I moved my eyes up to meet Demetrius’s. He stared back at me in his amusement shifting to confusion, I could read it all over his face, his eyes, his scent even.
“But you’re the hunter, Rose, and it’s the prey. You can’t care about it,” he breathed, releasing me.
Seizing my opportunity, I grabbed a long, dark purple gown from a hanger and slipped it on over my head. Demetrius was watching me.
“This child is light,” I told him, tiptoeing and moving my hand across one of the many top shelves in our wardrobe. I pulled out a thick pink velvet blanket. One that I had used with the twins.
“What?” Demetrius turned to me.
“Light. I can’t explain it. She’s light.”
“That… it doesn’t make sense, Rose,” he murmured.
“Listen, I don’t understand it either my love, but I just have this feeling,” I answered simply, moving to pick up the baby. Demetrius slunk down in our armchair and watched me, scowling.
“Can’t you smell its blood? Doesn’t it make you thirsty? Are you feeling alright?” he questioned.
I picked the girl up in my arms and wrapped the velvet blanket around her small body tightly. She stopped shivering. I could see and smell the blood rushing to her face as she warmed up. I hugged her in my arms.
“I can smell her blood. But I will not drink it. There’s this hideous revolution at the idea of draining her,” I looked up and met my husband’s eyes, then smiled at him sweetly. “I am going to raise her!”
Before I could stop him, Demetrius was by my side snatching the child from my arms and spinning away from me, his eyes were bright scarlet as he bent down, ready to rip her throat out.
A jolt went through me and I leapt on him, wrapping my legs around his waist, and pressing my lips against his. His fangs sliced my lips open, I felt my cold blood against my skin.
Right on cue, my still heart started beating, pushing my cold blood through my body and pouring out of my wound.
For a second Demetrius was still, then his eyes blazed bright crimson and his tongue lashed out, lapping the blood from my chin. His hands moved quickly up my body, one hand cupping my breast, the other knotted in my hair, pushing my head back, so he could have better access to the blood trickling down my throat. He let out a throaty groan, I felt his fingers tighten in my hair.
As he rained kisses down my throat, I slowly pulled the baby back into my arms, locking her in an iron grasp.
Demetrius pulled back, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. My lip was already healed, and my heart stopped beating, he stared at me in wonder, his red eyes slowly dimming back to green. I watched his expression soften.
“I don’t understand, Rose,” he repeated.
“She needs me, and I feel I need her too,” I replied, Demetrius looked hurt, he looked away, behind me, at the closed door.
“If it’s children you want, we can have more,” he breathed, his eyes wide, he reached out to stroke my cheek lightly.
I bowed my head and moved away from him, cupping the girl’s head in my palm and gazing into her brilliant green eyes.
“No, how many more pregnancies do you think I’ll survive? I’ve already had three children and all three of them almost drained me. Especially the twins. No, I don’t want to have any more children, it’s her I require. She is warmth and light.”
“Then she is the opposite of us,” Demetrius summed.
“Demetrius, I know it’s difficult to understand. It’s confusing to me, too. But nothing inside me wants harm to come to this child,” I tried to explain.
“You go out hunting and come back with prey that you want to raise. How do I understand that? Can you imagine a wolf raising a rabbit? It’s absurd. It’s wrong Rose.”
“I’m not asking for your permission,” I answered. Demetrius turned around and hissed at me.
“How long do you expect it to survive? Here?”
“I will protect her!”
“Even when you’re out hunting?”
“She will come with me. I will not let her die.”
“Until she’ll die of old age,” he uttered.
“My mind is made up.”
“Rose, she will die. There is no way she could ever survive in a household of pureblood vampires.”
“Yes she will,” I lifted my chin to meet his gaze. “Because she’ll have me as a mother.”