I stretched and sat up in the bed I shared with Nicole in our one bedroom apartment in Santa Monica.
Nicole was my birth mother but she wasn’t really a mother, if you know what I mean.
Nicole had a mate that died, which is husband in immortal language. She hasn’t been the same since, drinking, doing drugs, and selling her body to make rent.
My father unfortunately, died before I was born. But I guess it’s better that you can’t miss someone you never knew. I wondered sometimes if I would be like Nicole if I knew him before he died.
The only Nicole I knew, is a druggy vampire. Yes. A vampire. She meets men every night to make money to keep our apartment.
Sometimes though, it isn’t enough. So every morning, I get dressed in an overgrown hoodie, left behind by one of the guys, tattered jeans, beat up tennis shoes and head out.
I have a route I take every day, passing by rich Santa Monica residents. Most of the time, I’m observing each person from the cover of my black hood.
A woman, with her arms full of groceries, walks out of Whole Foods heading to her car. She wasn’t paying attention as she made her way to pass me. So I purposely ran into her sliding my hand into her purse locating her wallet right away.
“Sorry!” She said as she moved away from me and kept going. Her car lights flickered as she pressed a button on her key fob to open her trunk.
I hurried out of sight and shoved her wallet in the front pocket of the hoodie.
I got back to our old and dirty apartment building. I clamored up the stairs and opened the door to our apartment, closing it before taking out the wallet.
“Good girl, Ava.” Nicole cooed from the dusty old couch like I was some kind of dog. She got up and walked over to me, snagging the wallet and pulling out all the money.
I glared at her exasperatedly and sighed. “That’s for rent, Nicole.”
“It’ll be fine.” She smiled and did a little dance. “I have a client coming.”
I sighed again but this time with relief. Hopefully the guy will pay enough to pay our rent for the next month considering we are already behind.
“Well, get out. He should be here soon.” He said shooing me out the door.
I turned and walked out to head to Sunrise. It’s a brewery with the best pizza around. I normally hung out at Sunrise until they closed. The guy that owned it is named Taylor Derwood. He always gave me free food whenever I came in.
He is a vampire like my mom and quite an attractive guy. The ladies always flock to him when they enter the place. He has this sparkly smile and chiseled features. If he wasn’t like a brother to me, maybe I would be attracted too.
As soon as I exited the complex, some trendy guy in nice jeans, plaid shirt, and tats walked past me to head inside. Must be the guy for Nicole.
I went to continue down the side walk when I saw a familiar black car roll up and park out front. The guy was in black pants and a black shirt with dark sunglasses.
Fuck. It’s Roman’s goon. Nicole sells drugs for Roman. The drugs they sell were made very strong for immortals. So strong, a single dose would kill a human. It was a nice side job and made good money if she didn’t waste it on herself.
I had a bad feeling as he entered the building but shrugged it off. Nicole got herself into a dangerous business with those guys.
I continued across the street to Sunrise and walked in. It was poppin’ today with lots of happy customers. Some of them turned to me with odd stares wondering why a thirteen year old would be in here.
“Ava!” Taylor waved from the bar. His dark brown hair was slightly tousled as his green eyes beamed. I smiled and waved before sitting in my usual spot by the windows. I purposely sat here so I could see when the guys left my apartment complex.
Taylor turned to one of the employees mentioning taking a break before he walked over with a fresh pizza and some buttery bread sticks placing them in front of me. His t-shirt let him show off his black braided tattoo on his forearm. Apparently, his only tattoo.
He sat across from me and watched me eat. “So, who is the doosh bag today?”
He used to look at me with sympathy but now that this has become a regular thing, he tried to boost my mood as much as possible.
“Some fuck boy.” I said before taking a big bite of pizza.
Taylor chuckled at my cursing. Nicole never held back her words when she talked to me. I had to grow up fast hence my adult mouth.
I glanced off to the side seeing a table of girls ogling Taylor. Not only was he good looking, hanging out with a kid like me made the ladies drool over him. It made him possible daddy material and girls loved that.
“Table six.” I muttered with a mouth full.
His green eyes shot from the window to my dark brown eyes with interest. “How many?”
“Three.” I said not looking back at them. “In their twenties. You up for it old man?”
He tilted his head back with a deep belly chuckle. Taylor had been twenty for sixty something years. Being immortal blessed him with the ability to never age. Just like Nicole.
He slid off the chair and we fist bumped. “I’ll be back.”
I watch him walk over to the girls at table six. They greeted him with bright alluring smiles and a flirty toss of their hair. I had no doubt he would sleep with all of them. If not all at once, then maybe one at a time. Vampires needed to feed.
I was almost finished with all my food when I noticed the goon walk out taking off a pair of disposable black gloves. My stomach sank with a horrible feeling.
Before I could think about it, I stood from my seat and ran out the door towards the goon about to get into his black car.
“Ava!” Taylor called out from behind me. Probably close on my heels but I couldn’t stop.
The goon opened the driver’s side door about to get in when I yelled. “Hey!”
He stopped and turned to me with a confused frown. I stood a few feet from him with my fists at my side. He was scary up close but I swallowed my nerves and continued. “What did you do to Nicole?”
He did something. I could feel it. He smiled smugly. He was a vampire like many of Roman’s men. “Don’t know what you are talking about kid.”
Taylor stopped behind me and growled. “Just tell her, asshole.”
The goon shook his head with a confident smile.
“Not afraid of you, Equalizer.” He said before getting into his car and driving away.
I didn’t watch him leave. I instead rushed into the complex and up to my apartment.
Taylor stomped up the stairs behind me. “Ava, wait!”
I ignored him as I slammed my shoulder against the door pushing it open. There on the ground was my mom. Her dark brown hair splayed around her face coated in dark red blood. A bullet hole through her temple. The fuck boy laid next to her with joined hands making it look like a suicide.
“Shit.” Taylor said looking at the mess. “Fuck. Ava. Go to Sunrise and wait for me.”
I didn’t budge as I stared at the blood. So much blood.
“Ava!” Taylor called pulling me from my trance. Numbly, I ran out the door and across to Sunrise. I didn’t stop until I was sitting in Taylor’s office sitting on the floor in the corner of the room.
My breathing hitched as my body went into shock. I felt nauseous and put my head against my knees. Blood. So much blood. Nicole is dead!
I didn’t cry. I couldn’t cry. Instead, I sank into the overwhelming darkness of my mind.
The door opened and there stood Taylor with that stupid sympathetic look on his face. Looking past him, the place was dim. All the people were gone.
What time was it? How much time had passed?
“Ava. I have someone who will take you to a safe place.” He said kneeling beside me. He pulled on one of my red locks that slipped out from the confines of my hoodie.
I pulled away and glared at him. ”No social services.”
His eyes dilated with my command. He shook his head trying to fight it and put his hands up. “No. They aren’t like that at all. They are vampires like me. They will take much better care of someone like you.”
“A freak?” I chuckled darkly. I was a freak. A human that could command immortals. Even Nicole fell under my command if I wanted to. Kept her from wasting our money on drugs all the time.
I hated using it though. It made me feel like a freak. A monster.
I could have used it on the goon if I wanted to but deep inside, I knew what he did. But I didn’t want it to be true. Nicole is dead.
“You’re not a freak.” He stood then offered a hand. “Come on.”
Reluctantly, I took it. I trusted Taylor. He was like a brother to me. If he said this place was safe, I believed him.
We walked out of his office hand and hand. A man stood with black hair and his hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans. His white t-shirt contrast against the darkened room.
It was already dark outside. The day had flown by while I had hid in Sunrise. Taylor must have closed the place early. I checked the clock on the far wall. It was only five in the evening.
Hearing us approach, the guy turned and looked me over. He was Korean, I think. From the looks of him, he seemed like a nice guy but I could sense he was quite dangerous.
He smiled softly as he held out his hand. His smile didn’t ease my nerves at all. I looked away from his face and down at his forearm. It had the same braided tattoo as Taylor. An Equalizer. Equivalent to human police just deadlier.
“Hi Ava, I’m Henry.” He was being patient with me, keeping his hand still outstretched. He waited with a smile not dropping his hand until I took it.
Without a word, I shook his hand. Unbeknownst to me, this meeting would seal my fate.
He let go of my hand and nodded toward the door. “Ready to go?”
I glanced at Taylor. He met my eyes and nodded. I released his hand and moved to follow Henry.
Henry turned and walked out the door to a black Lamborghini. Damn. This guy must be loaded.
He opened my door and I climbed in. Afraid to ruin anything with my dirty hands, I sat as still as I could in the black leather seats.
Henry got into the driver seat and noticed how I was tucked into myself.
He leaned over me and helped me with my seat belt before he drove us in silence.
I looked out the window watching as my old apartment disappeared from sight. My old life was gone in a blink of an eye.
We were not on the road for long. He drove up to a tall apartment building. It was modern with glass railings and large balconies. I was sure only rich people lived here.
He drove into the parking garage that twisted and turned several floors below the building.
I felt somewhat out of place being here. I was still in my three day old clothes that had seen better days.
Henry got out and I followed him like a dark shadow to the elevator.
Inside the elevator was all gold walls and sparkling marble floor. I stood in the middle to not touch anything with my dirty hands.
Henry leaned against one of the walls watching me. His gaze was observant and it left me feeling subconscious.
“Do you know what an alpha command is, Ava?” Henry asked.
I frowned and shook my head. He looked away, nodding cryptically, and didn’t ask anything else.
The elevator stopped on the top floor. Henry punched in a code on the panel and the doors opened revealing, not a hallway but the inside of an enormous luxurious apartment.
Henry urged me forward into the space where a family of four sat on a leather sectional watching TV.
The mother sat up and smiled at us before she removed herself from her husband’s embrace to greet us. She looked to be in her twenties like Nicole.
She had long light brown hair and striking blue eyes. Her long blue casual dress flowed behind her as she approached. She was a vampire from what I could tell. She was too young to have sons around my age.
Her mate stood. His broad shoulders and muscular build made him intimating but what made it worse was this aura about him. It screamed danger.
“You must be Ava.” The woman smiled as her mate took slow strides towards us. His blue eyes were on mine and narrowed slightly.
The woman took my hand and shook it. “I’m Daniella. Are you hungry? I can whip up something for you.”
“That’s...okay.” I was overwhelmed by her presence along with everyone else. Taylor said that people can sense how dangerous immortals are and tend to avoid contact with them or be drawn in. But I never felt anything like this. It was overwhelming.
Daniella nodded with understanding. Did she know about Nicole?
Henry moved away to speak to Daniella’s mate. All I heard from their hushed tones was ‘alpha command’ again.
“Well, lets at least get you cleaned up. Okay?” She said guiding me to the bathroom.
The bathroom was as big as Nicole’s small apartment. It was elaborate with gold trim and more marble.
Daniella closed the door behind us and tugged on my hoodie. “Let’s take this off first.”
I allowed her to remove it. I didn’t have anything on under it. Nicole couldn’t afford to buy me any clothes.
My hair fell around my shoulders in oily tousled waves.
“Red. So pretty.” Daniella beamed before she helped me removed my pants. If she noticed my lack of extra layers of clothing, she didn’t comment. She bundled up my clothes and tossed them into a laundry basket by the sink.
I turned on the shower feeling for the warm water before stepping in.
“Help yourself to the shampoos. I’ll be back with a change of clothes.”
I scrubbed away the dirt and grime from my body. It felt nice to be clean. Really clean. I felt almost renewed as the oil and dirt slid down the drain.
I smelled all the shampoos before choosing one and washing my hair. The smell of light lavender and shea butter made me sigh. This was heaven.
Daniella re-entered the bathroom. I finished up and stepped out grabbing a white fluffy towel and wrapping it around myself. She placed the clothes down and helped towel dry my hair.
She peered down at my face and smiled lightly. “You have light freckles. Very cute.”
I blushed at her compliment and stayed silent.
“I didn’t have undergarments that would fit you.” She started.
“That’s okay.” I interrupted. I looked at the clothes she offered me. They were soft to the touch. I put on the blue pullover sweater and black leggings. She then gave me fluffy Ugg boots that were soft and fluffy like a rabbit on the inside.
I noticed a gold necklace off to the side. It looked like it was worth a lot of money. So I swiped it into my closed fist. Daniella didn’t seem to notice.
We walked out back to the livingroom. I didn’t have any pockets to hide the necklace. I tried to conceal it in my hand as much as possible until a hand grabbed my sweater covered arm holding the necklace.
I was met with two sets of icy blue eyes and light brown hair. Their chiseled jaws clenched into a scowl as they crowded me.
One of the boys held my fist up to eye view and growled. “Give it back.”
“Kol! Let her go.” Daniella panicked.
“She took your necklace.” The other boy said in a deadly tone. They were the most attractive boys I have ever seen. I blushed bright red feeling embarrassed and ashamed under their gaze. They hated me and my heart ached. More so than the loss of Nicole or the loss of my home.
“It’s fine, Kaleb.” Daniella said then looked at me with sympathy. “Ava, you don’t have to steal. If you need anything, just ask and we will get it for you.”
That’s right. They are rich and I’m poor. They were probably blessed with mountains of money while I struggled to live. I pulled my arm away from Kol glancing at him and Kaleb before I dropped the necklace in Daniella’s hand.
I turned and headed to the elevator to leave.
“Ava?” Daniella called but I didn’t turn back. Instead I was met with her mate. His large muscular arms were folded as he leaned against the wall. Had he been waiting for me?
He nodded toward the elevator. “Come on. I’ll show you your apartment.”
“I can’t afford it.” I argued but followed nonetheless.
“I don’t need your money.” He said with a sigh. “If you go to school with the boys, then I won’t charge you for rent. How about that?”
What he was doing was really kind. It was weird that he would do so much for a stranger like me.
“What’s the catch?” I asked as we descended one floor.
“Immortals and their well being are my responsibility. Though you are not, you have an alpha gene which is allowing you to command other immortals. Being an alpha is quite rare. So, it is my duty to make sure you are protected.” He said with all seriousness. His posture had relaxed slightly and I could see his more laid back demeanor.
I simply nodded and followed him to my new permanent home and the beginning of my new life.