I carried the child to our chamber of antiquities. It was all the furniture, paintings, and clothing we’d once worn, and we didn’t know what to do with centuries later.
Holding the baby in one hand, I found the crib. It was a little over four hundred fifty years old, Demetrius had made it in five seconds flat when I first announced to him that I was carrying his son. It was made of thick branches of solid oak and cherry wood and covered in carvings of winding veins and roses. Its rosy colour was due more to the stains of blood than the cherry wood. I picked it up with one hand and with one breath cleared it of all the dust.
Pushing through the large trunks of clothes, I discovered, with a smile, the twins’ clothes when they were ten, they had been the size of the child in my arms. I picked out all the small dresses, underwear, socks, and shoes and put them all in the crib. I put the baby in the crib too and continued searching through the trunks for warm blankets.
The baby gurgled something. I felt my heart tighten. I picked her up gently and dumped the blankets in the crib after her. Carrying her with one hand and the crib with the other, I moved out of the tunnel.
I heard the hiss of voices above me. I tried to hear what they were saying, but they were all whispering. I proceeded up the stairs, listening as the voices grew louder. I gripped the child closer to my chest when I heard my name being spoken.
When I made the last turn of the staircase, I was faced with the whole family. All of them were under the organ, standing or sitting. They all stopped speaking when I appeared. I scanned their expressions slowly.
Demetrius stood closest to the fireplace, his expression was hard, planted by his side was his elder brother, Angus, with his thick arms crossed over his chest. Beside him stood Aleesha, his wife, wearing a delicate red sari that floated around her curvy body like lava.
I turned my head slightly to the long table where my children sat. The twins, Phoenix and Venus, were both sitting in chairs, watching my every move with obvious distaste. Aric was sitting on the table, his expression curious, he was trying to figure out my motives. Next to him sat my niece and nephew, Eloise and Jude, both wore expressions of pure boredom.
I finished moving up the stairs more slowly, meeting all of their gazes. I pushed my hair back smoothly and walked past them all, feeling their stares on my back, I set the crib down in front of the fireplace and knelt next to it to light the fire.
As usual, Angus was the first one to explode.
“Rose, what the fuck is going on?” he hissed, storming over towards me and leaning over me, staring at the child in my arms. “What are you thinking?” he grabbed at the child, but I spun away, leaping to my feet and hugging her to my chest.
“Back off Angus. This child is under my protection,” I replied.
“Not under my roof,” he snapped back.
“Angus,” Demetrius warned.
“Look, I understand, you’re confused. But, I’m not asking for your permission,” I reminded them all coldly. “I’m not asking for help, either. For all I care, you can never speak to her. But I will raise this child as my own because right now, I need her.”
They all stared at me with horrified expressions.
“Mother,” my head snapped up, Aric slipped off the table smoothly and gracefully walked towards me.
“She is a human Mother. Not a pureblood baby, but a human. In two years, she’ll be twice her size now. In eighteen years, she’ll be your size. Eighteen years,” he winced slightly. “Mother, what will happen when she turns fifty and looks like she could be your mother? Or when she turns eighty and could be your grandmother? What about when she dies, Mother? In only one hundred years?” his gaze met mine calmly. “I think that you’re making a mistake. She is not one of us, she cannot live here, she will break your heart,” there was a long silence in the room.
I blinked at my son then stepped back.
“I’m sure you can all suck it up for twenty years while I raise her, then I’ll send her off into the world, where she can get married, find and job and have children of her own.”
“And be killed by a vampire,” Angus hissed, I glared at him.
Aric turned away from me, slowly shrugging one shoulder. The only sound in the room was the slight pumping of the baby’s heart, the only scent was her overwhelming sweet blood. I knelt by the crib again, facing the fireplace.
“She is a beacon,” I spoke calmly. “I will name her Eleanor,” I smiled and hugged her to my chest. “My beautiful human daughter,” I breathed, pressing my lips to her forehead.
I could feel Aleesha behind me. Shadows from the fire played against her dark skin as she leaned over my shoulder to gaze down at Eleanor.
“Her blood smells so sweet,” she murmured. “Her skin looks so soft, it would just tear away,” she continued. I could feel the vampires in the room tensing, their hunger growing at her words. I felt my rage peak, my senses on alert.
“Step back, Aleesha,” I breathed.
She leaned back slightly.
“But, Rose, let’s be honest with each other. As sister-in-law should be. You know as well as me that she’s not going to live very long here,” she continued.
“We’ll take our chances,” I answered. Behind me, I heard Angus scoff.
“She will die here, Rose,” Aleesha hissed, flipping her thick raven locks over her shoulder. Her blue eyes were blazing, I watched them move from mine to Eleanor, wide awake in my arms.
“Back off,” I growled at her, standing to turn towards her.
Aleesha lashed out violently, her hand gripping my hair and pulling my head back. I fell back against the hard marble while she ripped Eleanor out of my arms.
I didn’t even have time to hesitate, Aleesha’s eyes had turned bright scarlet, and her fangs were bared and descending on Eleanor’s wrist. I pounced, wrapping my arms around her neck and tackling her to the ground. Eleanor let out a shrill cry as Aleesha dropped her on the marble floor. I didn’t have time to go to my daughter, tasting the air I could tell she hadn’t been hurt, just shocked.
Aleesha rolled on top of me, her fangs bared, her eyes bright crimson, she dug her hand into my hair and tugged. I let out a cry and whipped back, scratching my nails down her cheek. The smell of her blood filled the room, she hissed, I rolled over knocking her off my body. She scrambled back against the wall, hissing, her face covered in her blood.
“This is too far, Rose,” she snarled.
“I told you to back off,” I snapped back, she pounced again, I raised my arms, and she landed on my body scratching my face and arms. The scratches stung, I felt my cold blood pour out, and my heart started to beat furiously in my chest. Fighting through her long red nails, I shoved my arms up, gripping her shoulders and pulling her closer to me. Baring my teeth, I sunk my fangs into the cold flesh of her neck. The blood in my mouth was a burst of pleasure, rich and perfumed, but it was blood for sex, and not for nourishment. I ripped my head away, spitting out the piece of her neck in my mouth. Her scream echoed throughout the cathedral, and her blood flowed freely from her wound, quickly covering her quite naked neckline and staining her already red dress. Her blood dripped against my face and collarbone. My chin was covered in her blood, and my mouth was full.
Aleesha didn’t have time to bite me, two strong arms ripped her off me, screaming and still bleeding freely. Jude wrapped his arms around his mother’s body tightly, holding her in an iron grip she couldn’t break. I glanced around, Demetrius was kneeling next to me, looking angry and a little proud. Aric and the twins were hovering above me. Demetrius slipped his arms under my body and picked me up in his arms. I was still bleeding, my heart still racing in my chest. I scanned the room, looking for Eleanor.
“Where’s Eleanor?” I whispered, my eyes widening.
“Gone to hell,” Aleesha spat, her red eyes slowly dimming to their normal bright blue.
My body jerked in Demetrius’ arms, he held me tighter, in a grip I couldn’t break. My eyes flew across the room, panic rising in my throat.
“She’s here,” I heard a muffled voice answer, Angus straightened up, behind his wife, carrying Eleanor in his arms. The whole room tensed, staring at him, waiting for his next move.
“Give her to me Angus,” I said, my voice deep and threatening, he glanced at me and then at his bleeding wife.
“Kill it,” she hissed at him, and he stared at Eleanor.
“Don’t do it, Angus. Please,” I begged. Demetrius pulled me down slowly, placing one hand on my hip.
“Kill it Angus, or I will,” Aleesha continued spitting her blood out of her mouth.
“Let’s all calm down. Mother, calm down, so you can heal,” Jude breathed in his soft voice, he never spoke above a whisper. I glanced up at his young dark blue eyes boring into mine. Aleesha relaxed in his arms slightly, I watched as the tear in her neck healed. My heartbeat stopped, and I knew I was completely healed, but still soaked in blood, both mine and Aleesha’s.
“The young are always so wise. Aren’t they, Rose?” Demetrius breathed, rubbing his hand over my shoulder.
“Angus, please. Hand Eleanor to me,” I reached one arm out, meeting his blue gaze, not letting his eyes slide from mine.
“Just kill it, Angus. Kill it, and get all this over with,” Aleesha purred sweetly, her wound healed completely.
“No! No, please, Angus,” I stepped towards him shadowed by Demetrius who I couldn’t tell if he was trying to protect me, or stop me from getting into another brawl. I saw Eleanor’s curious rich blue-green eyes looked around slowly, she looked so small and helpless in his strong pale arms. Her small head turned, and her eyes met mine. I stared deep into her eyes, she blinked back at me, and then I saw her smile. I felt her warm gaze fill me up, making my still heart feel warm. She was smiling at me, with her two small teeth. My human daughter, so beautiful, so small and fragile. I needed to protect her.
Angus was still hesitating, then his eyes flashed bright red.
“She’s all yours, my dear!” he hissed suddenly throwing Eleanor’s up into the air towards Aleesha, at that second Jude let go of his mother who leapt in the air towards Eleanor her fangs bared.
Demetrius didn’t hesitate to release me.
I kept my eyes on Eleanor flying through the air, my fangs bared, my arms reaching out. Aleesha was so close to Eleanor, I lashed out with my nails, catching her on the side of the face, and reopening her cheek. The impact was enough to knock her down to the ground. Eleanor fell into my arms. I wrapped myself around her tightly, closing my eyes and breathing in her thick, bloody scent.
Aleesha was hissing on the floor, her sari torn from our fighting. “Mark my words, Rose,” she snarled. “That baby won’t live to see her adulthood.”
She turned to glare at her husband, then stalked out of the room, flipping her raven black locks back elegantly. Angus moved out after her, and Jude and Eloise slipped away silently.
Aric and the twins were grinning at me. I held Eleanor in my arms tightly and turned towards Demetrius. He was beaming.
“At least you proved how far you’d go to protect the blood bag,” he chuckled.
“Aleesha’s no a match for Mother,” Aric replied simply.
“No one is,” Demetrius answered as he pressed his lips against my forehead. “You should probably take a shower. You’re covered in blood,” he recommended, I nodded once, then frowned when I saw Eleanor’s blanket already tainted with our blood. I leaned down and placed her in her crib.
“Besides, uh, Eleanor, did you bring any lunch home?” Aric knelt next to me, a small hint of humour playing in his voice.
“No, sorry. You’ll have to go hunting,” I replied, he turned his face to me and then leaned towards Eleanor. He breathed in her thick bloody scent. I saw his eyes flash bright red.
“This is not going to be easy,” he warned me, taking a big step back, I could tell he was fighting not to pounce on Eleanor. “I have to go,” his voice was strained, I could smell his hunger. He disappeared in front of me, the heavy doors slamming in his wake.
I picked out all the clothes and the blanket from the crib and lay them on the stone floor.
“Hmm, I was given this for my tenth birthday,” I heard a smooth voice say next to me. The twins knelt on either side of me, fishing through their old clothes.
“You aren’t going to give these to the human, are you?” Venus asked me, staring at me with her soft moss-green eyes.
“But they’re ours,” Phoenix snapped.
“Can you still fit into them?” I asked, smoothly poking the mattress into the side of the crib. It was still as soft as it had been four hundred years ago. I stood up and put Eleanor inside and placed a blanket over her small body.
“How old is it?” Phoenix asked, leaning over the crib.
“I don’t know, about six months old I’d say, maybe less. She’s very small,” I answered.
“She could just be short,” Venus smiled, tucking her long slender legs under her. I placed my hands on their shoulders before they could pull back and squeezed them.
“I’m not asking for your support, but, you can if you want to consider Eleanor as your sister,” I told my daughters. They snorted, drawing back at the same time.
“A sister for twenty years who’ll look twice our age,” Phoenix chuckled.
“If she’s not father’s daughter, she’s not our sister,” Venus replied.
“Aric can do what he wants, but she’ll never be part of this family Mother,” Phoenix continued. I stared at her, then nodded my head once.
“I hope that one day, I don’t care if I have to wait a millennium, you’ll understand,” I said, I held her gaze and then moved to Venus slowly. They kept quiet, watching me caress Eleanor’s soft cheek.
“I’m afraid she’s going to hurt you, Mother,” Venus said, finally running her finger through her long wavy strawberry blond hair. I smiled at her.
“A human couldn’t hurt me,” I answered.
“With all the love you’re giving her, this one could,” Phoenix replied curtly, tossing her rich red hair back, then she got up slowly brushing the pleats out of her long dress. I watched Venus stand up on my other side, the twins stared down at the child, in their eyes I could only read confusion.
“Mother,” Venus moved towards the fire and leaned against the marble fireplace. She faced me, digging her moss-green eyes deep into mine. Phoenix went to hovered next to her, cocking her head to one side.
“You said this was not about children, but…” Venus trailed off.
“Were we that bad?” Phoenix finished for her, they nodded in agreement. A wave of compassion rushed through me and I stood up and cross the small space between us in a split second. I wrapped my arms around both of them and drew them against me.
“My daughters, you are wonderful, gracious creatures and I love you so much. Eleanor may also be my daughter, but I will never feel about her like I feel for you,” I pressed my lips to both their foreheads then drew back, keeping my hands on their upper arms. The twins both smiled and nodded.
“We need to feed,” Venus said.
“We haven’t fed in three days,” Phoenix replied. “And we were expecting to eat the human you brought home.”
“We should go before we eat, her,” Venus jutted her chin towards Eleanor.
“Of course,” I stepped back, then smiled at them. “You wouldn’t mind bringing me back something, would you? I uh, wouldn’t want to hurt her either,” when I thought of Eleanor’s blood my throat tightened, and I was fighting the thirst away. I realised that raising her was going to take a lot of control.
The twins grinned at each other and nodded.
“We’ll be back soon,” Phoenix told me just before she and her twin disappeared through the cathedral doors.
Demetrius leaned against the wall watching them leave.
I turned back to the fireplace, and tossed a couple of logs in, igniting the flames with a box of matches. As the fire caught, I glanced at my human daughter. I hadn’t even noticed her fall asleep, but there she was, her breathing heavy and clear, her heart beating in rhythm. When I touched her cheek, her skin was warm, she was warm, and she was going to be fine.
I just had to find a way to keep everyone from draining her blood.