Fallen grace, p.10
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       Fallen Grace, p.10
 

           Jessica Cartwright
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~9~

  I immediately started making my way to the library. I heard Michael engaging Alex in conversation about their cricket team, obviously trying to distract from him from the mood of the house. I reached the door of the library quickly and gave a brief knock before entering. Lucas was by the fireplace staring into its flames. On Lucas’s desk there was a box lying open. I walked over and looked inside to see the source of stress and concern. The box was addressed to Katherine and appeared to have arrived today by messenger. Inside, laid an antique knife, it had a citron handle with filigree carvings and a smooth blade. I recognised the knife immediately. It was John’s. Lifting the knife from the box, I turned over the handle to see the etchings he had made to signify each duty he had safely completed. Under the knife, there was a card. The white paper was thick and inlaid with a gold border. I opened the card and read its contents.

  Katherine,

  I believe that this now belongs to you. Please accept it as a reminder that we always achieve our aim. Relinquish the boy and there will be no further bloodshed. Continue to have him guarded and we will wage war. You do not want your son to end up as your other half did. If you give him to us willingly we will spare his life.

  Benedict.

  I replaced the card in the box and held the knife for a moment longer. I knew I needed to focus on my assignment but seeing John’s knife again brought back memories of our time spent training together and the assignments we had completed. I knew that John would have wanted me to focus on Alex solely. Reminiscing would do little to protect Alex and right now, that was the best gift I could give John. Reluctantly, I replaced the knife in the box and walked over to Lucas.

  “When did this arrive?” I asked.

  “Katherine called me just after noon and stated that she had received a package. She thought it was from Stephan and opened it. As soon as she saw the knife, she called me. Katherine gave John that knife when she was just a young girl, as a token of her affection, after he completed an assignment when he was her charge. As you can imagine she is very distressed and has resigned herself to bed.” Lucas informed me of this wearily.

  “Was she expecting a package from Stephan?” I asked, trying to understand why she would let a delivery person onto the premises. Clearly, my conversation last night did little to correct her behaviour. Distress or no distress, I would be speaking with her again today.

  “Not to my knowledge.” Lucas appeared confused by my focus on Katherine’s movements.

  “Lucas, may I speak freely?” I asked not sure if Lucas would want to hear my thoughts given his current worried state.

  “Of course Grace. I defer to you completely on these matters.” Lucas granted me permission.

  “This has gone too far. I have accepted that Katherine is not accustomed to my way of life and she acts out of a desire to project the image of a perfect family but she is risking everyone through her actions. Last night she put Alex directly at risk, she disregarded my request to interview Stephan immediately upon his return to the manor. Now today, she allows an unknown person to enter the manor premises without expectation and accepts a package from an unknown source. It is not only Alex who is placed at risk by her actions but this entire family. You have good staff here Lucas and I know that you consider them family. So does Benedict. Please do not fool yourself into thinking that the Acelades will only come after Alex. He is their main target but given the opportunity they would annihilate everything you have here. I know that you of all people know the power of the Acelades and you do not want to lose the only family you have left.” I attempted to keep the emotion out of my voice and paused to assess Lucas’s reaction.

  “I appreciate your candour Grace and I feel that you have more to say to me,” Lucas replied.

  “I am concerned about my ability to complete this assignment when Katherine appears to be set on interfering, whether intentional or not. I know it is not her first instinct to question the actions and intent of others but if she is not able to follow simple procedures we have put in place to protect her son, then we may be forced to discuss more intrusive measures. I have tried to accommodate you and Katherine but I will not risk Alex’s life or my reputation. She needs to be brought into line Lucas and given my current feelings, it would be better done by you.” I completed my sentence through gritted teeth.

  “I accept your statements Grace and can only offer my promise that I will address this with Katherine. Clearly, my censure last night was not enough but believe me when I say she will adopt your recommendations,” Lucas offered firmly.

  “Thank you Lucas,” I said quietly pausing for a moment. “Now, let us discuss this new development,” I said, changing the focus of our conversation.

  “What do you make of it?” Lucas asked.

  “It is clear that Benedict has chosen Katherine as the weakest member of this family. He seeks to use her to gain access to Alex. I doubt Benedict honestly believes that Katherine would give up her son however, she may move him given this latest threat. That would provide the Acelades the best opportunity to strike when we are out in public and vulnerable.” I concluded.

  “I have come to the same conclusion Grace. No one, not even Benedict in his arrogance, could ever think a mother would give up her child so easily,” Lucas agreed.

  “Benedict obviously thought that he would succeed last night. The failure of his team to penetrate the manor and retrieve his cape or whatever their real purpose was has obviously caused him to act out. Benedict has never been the most rational person and uses the emotions of other people to achieve his aims. I am aware that I am telling you nothing you do not already know Lucas,” I surmised.

  “I appreciate your insights none the less Grace. You are an expert in this field and I want your opinions on how to proceed.” Lucas sought my action plan. I paused for a moment and returned to the heat of the fire. The flames licked the hearth and provided an intriguing display. I found myself drawn to them during times of stress and allowed myself to become lost for a moment, while I formulated my plan.

  “Clearly, Benedict and Scarlet want Alex moved. It is my belief that he is safest when he is here. I have conducted the necessary reconnaissance on this area and we know that the staff here are willing to risk personal injury and death to protect you and your family. Alex has an established routine here and his actions are predictable. If he were moved to another environment, his routine would be destroyed and his movements unpredictable. A further disruption would also leave questions that neither you nor Katherine are willing to answer.” I stopped briefly to allow Lucas to process my assertions. He nodded, permitting me to continue.

  “The new precautions endorsed last night must remain in place. Alex is not to travel outside without my protection. He may continue to move around the manor unguarded, however, I will need to engage in closer supervision of his conversations and interaction with the outside world. I am sure that Katherine will not agree with this invasion, so it may be best to leave her in her desired ignorance,” I continued.

  “We are clearly frustrating the efforts of Acelades. They would be well aware that time is short for them to fulfil the prophecy. If we can continue this high level of security, I strongly believe that they will not succeed. There are a few tasks I would like completed to increase my level of confidence in this assignment,” I admitted, honestly knowing that Lucas would provide for the fulfilment of any of my requests.

  “Tell me what you require and I will make it occur.” Lucas stated this with a permissive wave of his hand before it returned to its previous position rubbing his temples.

  “We are most vulnerable when we are travelling to and from school. I would like to drive my car, starting tonight. It has more security features and I have more confidence in my driving capabilities during an incident than in Alex’s. I also want more information about Stephan. I find it unreasonable that his supposed son is in mortal danger and he feels that his business is more important than his son’s protection.” I could feel
the poisonous edge to my words as I spoke of Stephan.

  “Allow me to interrupt you Grace. I agree that you need more information on Stephan and I will clear your access to the Council archives with Marius. As to his absence from the home, I must make a confession of my involvement in this process. I asked Stephan to engage in business during your arrival to allow you to have time to adjust to life at the manor and for you to deal with the revelations that Alex is John’s son. Stephan was already uncomfortable in my home. We have never really seen eye to eye on matters and he was more than happy to leave the home. Stephan is different from us. I know that perhaps I should have informed you of this on your arrival, however, Katherine does not know about our differences. She seeks to have her family cohesive and this would cause her no end of distress.” Lucas’s voice was soft but firm.

  “When you say he is different from us, what does that mean?” I asked.

  “Stephan was not born a vampire. He was, however, born a hunter. Stephan was a sniper in the Italian army and was fatally injured during the Second World War. Prior to being injured, Stephan had waged a bloody battle against his opponent, no matter the context. Stephan grew up in a hunting family and is very much a predator. He does not have the civilised manners of our family and lacks the graces that many social situations require. He does love my daughter, of that I am certain. He is very protective of Katherine and Alex even, if he does at times term them as his possessions. He is a ruthless businessman and in his short life he has acquired substantial wealth. This is where he is most comfortable. I do not think he would have accommodated your entrance into our home well. Stephan does not like to take orders from anyone, especially not a female. I am sure you have met others like this before, I think for the time being it is best not to have him present at the manor. He would act as he felt was best and this may not be commensurate with your assessment of the situation. It would undoubtedly end in disagreement and frankly I would fear for Stephan’s safety if he came up against you.” Lucas finished with a smirk creeping across his face. I looked at Lucas and accepted his omissions. I knew that above all, Lucas tried to protect his family and I was for all intents and purposes, his family. He was already concerned about my health and did not want to burden me with more information than necessary.

  “That does clear the situation up some.” I returned his smile. “And you are right to have feared for his safety, I am not known for my compromising skills.” Lucas laughed and moved over to the lounge, collecting a goblet of blood as he went. I joined him and drained the goblet at once.

  “Tell me Grace, how is Alex? I fear I do not get to spend as much time with him as I would like,” Lucas confessed and all at once he was a caring grandfather.

  “He is well, Lucas. He appears to like his school very much and has established some relationships there. I do not detect any unbearable sadness in him. I know that he misses his Olivia but I do not think she is his other half. As I am sure you already know, if she was, he would not still be here regardless of whether or not he knows about our mating process,” I reported to Lucas.

  “It makes me happy to know that he is settling in well here. I am sure you must find befriending him tedious; however I have noticed he has become quite fond of you. You must be completing your assignment admirably. He is not a boy who takes to liking easily.” Lucas complemented me. I could feel my breath quicken as he spoke of Alex’s fondness for me and tried to minimise my visible response.

  “Nothing about my assignment is tedious Lucas. Whilst I do not cherish the fact that I must complete high school at my age, I am happy to do so to protect Alex. This assignment has given me an insight into a world I would not otherwise be exposed to, so for that I am grateful. It can only assist me to integrate into the world for future assignments. The accommodations here are far more exquisite than in my previous assignments.” I directed the conversation away from Alex’s feelings towards me.

  “I would be quite distressed if you received better accommodations elsewhere. I do pride myself on my hospitality,” Lucas replied laughing softly. It was good to hear lightness in his tone and manner. Lucas carried the weight of the Vampire Council and the vampire world for that matter. He was without equal in his power, even to Benedict Acelades. It seemed that in recent years, his load was only increasing. We were interrupted by a soft knock at the door. I removed the goblets from the table and returned to my chair, the speed of my movements tousling my hair. I self consciously tidied it. Alex was waiting at the door. I could smell his scent even through the heavy oak of the door. I smiled as Lucas went to the door to welcome him. I had never seen Lucas answer a door before. I could hear whispering at the door and picked up on the conversation immediately.

  “I, just ah… wanted to check and make sure everything was ok. You know Grace’s grandfather is old and when you summoned her I thought maybe something had happened.” Alex whispered nervously, not wanting me to overhear his concerns. My heart swelled at the depth of his worry for me.

  “Everything is fine my wonderful grandson,” Lucas replied, pride evident in his voice. More loudly now he stated, “Please Alex, come and join us. I am sure Grace is bored with an old man like me and is merely humouring me by remaining.”

  I raised an eyebrow at Lucas as he walked past me and returned to his arm chair. I was immediately thankful that I had chosen the other arm chair and not the sofa as I was sure Alex would have chosen to sit with me. I was not sure I could control my reactions to a level that Lucas would not observe. Lucas winked at me as he took his seat. Alex looked at me intently as he took his seat.

  “Well, I hope you enjoyed your ride to school today Alex,” I stated smugly, preparing my story for the presence of my ‘new’ car.

  “I think my heart rate has just about returned to normal, why?” He eyed me suspiciously. Lucas was sitting back in his chair, watching the exchange with a smile on his face. He could tell I was planning an explanation and would be ready to provide support.

  “Well,” I paused for effect leaning forward. “The reason your grandfather wanted to see me involves transportation.” I teased, not really providing him an answer. I enjoyed this banter with Alex. It was easy and took my mind off the concerning events of this afternoon.

  “Grandfather,” Alex looked towards Lucas with mock fear on his face. “Please tell me she is joking. I am not sure my body can take another ride at mach 5.” Lucas laughed, shrugging his shoulders and waving for me to continue.

  “My grandfather had a present delivered for me today. A car. Apparently, he has been watching a little too much TV and thinks that America is a gangland. So, he had certain security functions put in place but regardless I now have wheels.” I smiled at Alex.

  “Maybe he hasn’t been watching too much TV but he has seen you drive and that’s why he thinks you need the security features,” Alex responded sarcastically. I laughed in spite of myself and shook my head.

  “And I was just about to invite you to check it out with me seeing as though I haven’t even seen it yet. Lucas told Alistair to bring it around so I could take it for a test drive. But now I’m not so sure I want your company,” I sighed, looking away from Alex, hoping that Alistair was listening.

  “Sure you don’t want me to come?” Alex replied refusing to feel guilty. “You would love nothing more than to show off your new car and if I don’t come, who else do you have?” Alex asked, daring me to find someone.

  I glared at Alex who pretended to be shocked by my contempt. My eyes strayed to Lucas, who appeared to be watching this interplay quite closely. I became immediately self conscious and wanted to be away from Lucas.

  “Come on then,” I said to Alex and tilted my head towards the door. I smiled and nodded at Lucas as Alex called out a salutation over his shoulder.

  Alistair was waiting next to my car when we arrived. Alex let out a whistle when he saw my car purring gently on the driveway. Alistair had clearly taken the time to clean it since I had arrived and it was looking i
ncredible. I didn’t realise how much I had missed my car until I realised that I would now get to drive it everyday. The car was one of the few luxuries I allowed myself when I was working. I knew that it provided protection for me and my charges but it was also state of the art in every way. I slid into the leather driver’s seat and flashed a smile at Alistair. If he had been worried this morning about my driving, he was now terrified. Alex climbed into the passenger seat and took in his surroundings. Thankfully most of the security features mimicked normal car functions. Provided Alex didn’t mess around with the dials, we wouldn’t face too much danger. The bullet proof glass might pose some questions but I was becoming quite a skilled story teller by now. I was sure I could find a plausible explanation.

  I eased up on the brake and lowered my foot on the accelerator. The car responded instantly and pulled away from the drive. I drove the car slowly and sensibly around the circle once before pulling up back beside Alistair. I cut the engine and stepped from the car.

  “Thanks Alistair,” I smiled, handing him the keys and heading up to the stairs.

  “That’s it?” Alex asked, scrambling up the stairs behind me.

  “For now,” I replied. I didn’t want to spend anymore time outside than absolutely necessary. I was still hoping that Katherine and Lucas would not permit us to attend the movies tonight but I did not like my chances. Lucas had complete faith in my ability to protect Alex. Katherine was unlikely to deny Alex anything he desired. I didn’t hesitate in the hall and continued up the stairs with Alex in tow.

  “Did you want to study?” he asked hopefully.

  “Sure,” I replied. My emotions were torn. I wanted to spend time alone with Alex and at the same time wanted to gain some distance from him.

  “I’ll just grab my books,” Alex said already heading into his room. I was grateful to be studying in my room. His scent permeated every fibre of his room and given my current hunger it may be more than I could bear.

  I continued to my room, leaving the door open, knowing that Alex would follow. I went straight into the bathroom and surveyed my appearance. I made some minor touches, adding lip gloss and re pinning a couple of sections in my hair. I took a deep breath and drained the pitcher of blood Martha had kindly left in my bathroom, without using a glass. Taking a final glance I ensured there was no blood remaining on my lips. Entering the bedroom I saw Alex was already sitting on the lounge and unpacking his bag. I crossed the room making sure that I stepped heavily so my presence was known. Alex looked up and smiled, I was encompassed by his scent. Intentionally taking an arm chair, I started to remove books from my satchel, ignoring Alex’s confused look at my decision not to sit next to him.

  “So I saw mom while you were with granddad,” Alex started and I gained my attention. “She said its fine for us to go tonight so that’s good. I’ll even let you drive,” Alex said in a teasing voice, clearly happy about our night’s plans.

  “Great,” I replied with false enthusiasm. We studied for the rest of the afternoon, making small talk about our various classes and homework. Finally, when the appropriate amount of time had passed, I excused myself, claiming that I wanted to freshen up before dinner and going out. Alex happily packed up his belongings, pleased that I shared his enthusiasm for our outing. I took a long hot shower trying to work out the knots that appeared to have taken up permanent residence in my back. Under the guise of stress relief, I used strawberry scented shampoo and conditioner and vanilla body polish. Eventually, I turned off the water and stepped from the shower and wrapped myself in a robe. There was a soft knock at bathroom door and I knew Martha was standing outside with another pitcher of blood. I granted her entry and she quietly entered the bathroom, placing the pitcher on the small table to the left of the vanity.

  “Thank you Martha,” I said grateful that she was so thoughtful of my needs.

  “You’re welcome Grace. I know it’s not my place and I’m sure it is of no significance to you but you look better now that you’ve been here a while, almost like the first time I saw you.” Martha commented, her eyes appraising my appearance.

  “Whilst I appreciate your compliment, Martha, you are correct. My appearance has little to do with my ability to complete my job and is therefore insignificant.” I replied, trying to sound convincing.

  “None the less, I know Alex appreciates it and that can only help you.” She smiled knowingly, as she left the room closing the door behind her.

  I quickly drained the four goblets of blood the pitcher held and returned to the vanity. I carefully applied my makeup, using soft greens on my eyes to pick up the green and topaz flecks. I applied a clear gloss to my lips that were a deep scarlet from my recent intake of blood. I decided to add a soft blush to my cheeks in the hopes of making my appearance less pale. Looking at my reflection, I was pleased with the results. I could have passed for human and looked much like I had when I was alive. Next, I worked on my hair, styling it so it fell in soft layers around my face. Still in my robe, I walked into the closet to select my outfit. I needed an outfit that I could fight in if it became necessary. But I knew that if I met Alex dressed in all black, he would have a lot of questions. Finally, I settled on a pair of dark denims, a charcoal scoop neck cashmere sweater and a cream silk and lace camisole. I completed my outfit with my black heeled boots and a black trench coat. I looked at myself in the mirror and was satisfied with my appearance. I transferred my purse and phone into a small black, patent leather clutch as the bell for dinner sounded.

  Alex was waiting for me on the landing, dressed in blue denims and a wheat coloured wool sweater over a white collared shirt. He had a soft, dark brown leather jacket slung over his arm. It matched his shoes. He smiled at me, his eyes roaming over my body as I approached. I could feel my emotions pulsing as I came closer to him. His scent was musky and spicy. It burnt down my throat as I inhaled. My teeth were dripping with poison and I could imagine myself leading Alex into his room, carefully opening his shirt and lowering my head to his neck.

  “Hey,” Alex interrupted my fantasy.

  “Ready?” I asked swallowing hard. I felt embarrassed by my lack of self control. I couldn’t believe that I could so easily give into fantasy. I had never taken human blood before and I found it disconcerting that I was constantly imagining taking Alex’s blood. His scent was so enticing. I could focus on little else but his taste and being close to him. It was a sacrament to take each others blood and was said to be more erotic than sex.

  “We’ll have dinner first. We don’t have to meet Lauren and Daniel until 8:00pm,” Alex said.

  “Of course,” I replied as I headed down the stairs. Katherine was still in bed and did not join us for dinner. Lucas was already seated when we arrived and welcomed us into the room. Martha and Sienna served risotto and salad for dinner, much to the delight of Alex.

  “So, where are you headed tonight?” Lucas asked observing our outfits.

  “We are going to see a movie with some of our friends from school,” Alex replied.

  “That sounds nice. I expect you to take care of Grace while you are out and have her back at a respectable time. I promised her grandfather I would take care of her,” Lucas warned Alex. However, I could see the sparkle in his eye as he looked at me.

  “Of course,” Alex ensured, taking his grandfather seriously.

  After dinner Alex and I collected our coats from the hall closet where Michael had hung them on our way to dinner. Alex held the door open for me as I walked out into the night. I hesitated on the landing, scanning the area. I didn’t detect the presence of any unknown vampires in the area and continued down the steps. Alex and I were greeted by Alistair, who was standing next to my car in his dark overcoat.

  “I guess I’m driving.” I smiled at Alex.

  “If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have eaten so much dinner,” he replied sarcastically.

  “Shut up and get in,” I said as I took the keys from Alistair. I slid into the driver’s seat and
started the engine. Alex looked at me from the passenger seat and smiled. I turned up the volume on the stereo and allowed the music to flow through me. It was a band I wasn’t familiar with but Alex seemed to know them and sang along with their songs. I enjoyed the rhythm of the music. It was so different from the music I had grown up with. But as with most things, I had learned to adapt as time moved on and I could appreciate the beauty of the modern world.

  We drove down the highway through light traffic. I was conscious of the speed limit and tried my best to keep the car within range. I constantly scanned the area for any vampires or threats. Without thinking, I drove straight to the cinema and parked the car. Alex looked at me a little confused.

  “How did you know how to get here?” he asked looking around.

  “Oh… I drove past here on the way from the airport. I’ve always been good with direction.” I tried to explain cursing myself for not realising that I should have asked for direction.

  “Okay,” Alex shrugged, already exiting the car. I took a deep breath and sat back into my seat. Keeping up this façade was a constant challenge, even the smallest slip made an impact. I wondered if Katherine was incorrect about Alex’s lack of interest in his surroundings or if he just paid extra attention to me. Part of me hoped that he was just noticing me, even though I knew I shouldn’t. Alex opened my door and held out his hand to help me from the car. I gave him my hand and my skin burned with sensation at his touch. Stepping out of the car I came face to face with him, our bodies brushing up against each other. My entire body was tingling and I could feel the electricity bouncing between us. My breath caught in my throat as my face was inches from Alex’s. His eyes were staring into mine, they were black and hungry. He didn’t move away from my body and he kept hold of my hand. I was enveloped by his scent and it burned as it entered my throat. I could hear his heart beating rapidly and his breath was shallow and sharp. I couldn’t tell how long we stood there, only inches from each other but I was entranced. I knew that I needed to pull away but I didn’t have the strength. My teeth were filled with poison and I could feel my body craving his blood.

  “Alex. Grace!” Lauren shouted, waving at us from the front of the cinema. The spell was broken and I turned to Lauren and Daniel who were standing near the ticket stand. Alex continued to hold my hand and was staring at me. I cleared my throat and pulled my hand from his hand.

  “Come on,” I said. My voice was raspy and I needed to get away from Alex to clear my head. I walked towards Lauren and Daniel, not waiting for Alex to recover. The cool air against my skin cleared my mind and allowed me to regain my focus. I stopped a few steps from Alex not wanting to allow too much space between us. Alex followed me and we soon met up with Daniel and Lauren. After our tickets were purchased, we went into the cinema. Alex and Daniel went to the concession stand whilst Lauren and I found seats.

  “You and Alex looked like you were getting close when we arrived,” Lauren said, raising an eyebrow as we walked down the aisle.

  “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I replied with as much confidence as possible, avoiding her eyes and taking a seat.

  “Well, I saw the way he was looking at you. And believe me he knows what I am talking about!” She continued and sat next to me, leaving a seat either side for the boys when they returned. Alex and Daniel came in a short time later. Daniel handed Lauren a box of skittles and soda. She repaid him with a kiss on the cheek, squealing with delight at him purchasing her favourite. Alex sat next to me, his arms loaded with goods. I smiled at him as he grinned sheepishly, shrugging.

  “I didn’t know what you’d like,” he said, taking his seat and showing me the assortment of treats he had bought. I felt a rush of warmth towards Alex who simply wanted to make me happy. I wanted to say something but I was aware that Lauren would be monitoring our every word. Thankfully, the cinema became dark and the movie started. Trying to be kind, I took a soda and a box of some sort of ghastly sugar filled substance from Alex. I saw him smile at me through the dark. I was highly aware of Alex sitting next to me. I could feel the heat radiating off his body as he moved next to me in the chair. I held my hands tightly around the box of candy I’d taken from Alex. I forced myself to concentrate on my surroundings and to scan for any threats. No matter how hard I tried, my focus kept being drawn to Alex. I could almost taste the scent of him whirling around me. Despite being a few inches apart, I could almost feel Alex against my skin. It caused a tingling sensation. I tried to control my breathing and keep my body rigid. I reprimanded myself for allowing Alex to have this affect on me. It was uncharacteristic of me to lose my sense of control especially, when I wasn’t even engaged in battle. I closed my eyes and gathered my strength.

  Eventually, the movie ended and I was able to release my grip from the box of candy that was now a crushed mess. I quickly disposed of it under my seat so Alex, Lauren and Daniel wouldn’t see the evidence. The lights came on and although I could still feel Alex next to me, the tingling sensation was gone. I seized the opportunity to move from my seat and rested my thighs against the seat in front of me, allowing me to face the other three.

  “So, what did you think of the movie?” I asked, hoping that their answers would provide me with a synopsis of the movie. I had no idea what it was about.

  “I loved it,” Lauren gushed. “It was so romantic. Two lovers torn apart by fate and misfortune but still swear to be together forever.”

  “I liked the fight scenes. You can never have too many guns!” Daniel joined in. I looked at Alex who was staring at me but had not answered my question.

  “Alex? What did you think?” I asked again, thankful that I couldn’t blush. With the intensity of his stare, I was sure I would have.

  “Yeah it was good,” he replied quickly. “Fight scenes are good.” Daniel then jumped in with his detailed analysis of the fight which Alex appeared very interested in. I couldn’t help but feel his interest in the fight scenes was disingenuous and he was really just trying to avoid giving his real opinion on the movie. Then again, I couldn’t talk. I had just sat through it for two hours and could not even name any of the characters. We made our way to the car after saying our goodbyes to Daniel and Lauren. I moved slightly more quickly than I should to ensure that I reached my car door first, opening it before Alex could offer. I did not want a repeat of earlier tonight. I had the strength to protect Alex from the Acelades but I was starting to doubt if I could protect him from myself.

  I was in my seat before Alex reached the car. He looked at me with slight confusion. He climbed into his seat but didn’t comment. I started the car and edged out into traffic. Being out on the freeway cleared my mind. I focused on driving and attempted to maintain the façade of being human, staying within 10 miles of the speed limit. We made it home quickly. I directed Alistair to meet us at the manor entrance in a low whisper as we turned off the freeway. Alex did not appear to hear my whisper and was staring out into the night. I wasted no time driving fast up the gravel drive. I did not want Alex to be outside on the grounds any longer than absolutely necessary. The manor wall had already been penetrated twice in the last 24 hours. I shuddered to think what the third might bring. Alistair was waiting as asked when I pulled up the car.

  “Home again,” I stated simply as I shut off the engine and exited the car. Alex and I had been silent the whole way home and a tense energy existed between us. I knew that Alex wanted to talk. I could see him shifting nervously in his seat and he stumbled as he tried to match my speed exiting the car. I took the stairs quickly, knowing that Alex would be right behind me. Once inside the manor, some of my anxiety dissipated. Michael greeted us at the door and offered to have Martha make us a supper. I refused the invitation and made my way up the stairs to my room.

  “Grace,” Alex called out after me as I made my way down the hall to my room. I could hear the hurt and fear in his voice. I spun around immediately expecting to see an Acelades vampire. Relief washed over me when I saw Al
ex standing there alone.

  “Yes Alex,” I replied.

  “Is everything ok?” he asked unsure as he started to walk towards me slowly.

  “Everything’s fine.” I lied. Obviously, I had not hidden my behaviour as well as I had hoped.

  “Are you sure? Because you seemed really distant after the movie. I haven’t done anything to upset you, have I?” He looked into my eyes searching for answers.

  “Of course not Alex,” I replied honestly. “It’s got nothing to do with you. I am just tired that’s all.” In truth, I was tired. Maintaining a lie on top of my other protection duties was draining. I would need to feed again tonight and tomorrow before school.

  “Well, as long as you’re ok,” he said not sounding convinced. Alex lightly touched my arm. It felt like my skin was on fire. Warmth spread through my body like molten lava. I inhaled sharply and looked directly into Alex’s eyes. His stare was intense and I felt our bodies moving closer together. Almost immediately I caught myself and pulled back, turning to open my door.

  “Well, I better get some sleep. I’ll see you in the morning.” I said quickly closing my door not waiting for his reply. Once inside, I leaned up against the door and sild down to the ground, breathing hard. My body was full of emotions I had never felt before. I had heard of other vampires becoming obsessed with human prey. I was terrified that this was happening to me. I could feel my heart racing and my breath was shallow. Even through the door, I could still taste Alex’s scent when I inhaled. I knew he remained standing outside my door, probably as confused by my behaviour as I was. I remained on the floor for a few minutes until I heard Alex walking down to his room.

  Slowly, I made my way across the room to the sofa where a pitcher of blood had been placed next to my laptop. On top of my laptop was a note from Lucas informing me that I had been cleared to access information about Stephan from the Vampire Council archives. I poured myself a glass and drank it quickly, refilling it again. I spent the better part of the night researching the archives for information about Stephan but there was little to be found. Most of the information concerned his various business dealings. I was unable to find any records before 1948. It appeared that in 1948, Stephan attended a vampire ball with Ms Vanessa Chelanto. He was a full fledged vampire at this time, despite never having been seen in our society before. From that time, he began to amass his considerable wealth and make friends with people in all of the right places. His friendship with John appeared tenuous. However, there were some photos of the two together. It was not until 17 years ago, when he and Katherine became involved, that the information recorded increased dramatically. None of this information was particularly useful to me; especially considering Ms Chelanto was killed in 1951 by villagers in Bulgaria. I could not believe that there was no record of his creator or his date of transformation.

  Frustrated by the futility of my search, I opened my email account and found several messages from Marius. I quickly replied, providing him a sanitised update of my current assignment in case any of the other Council members gained access to this email. Logging into another account, I sent correspondence to my house staff in Ireland, my business managers and several acquaintances who lay outside of the Vampire Council. I realised as I returned the laptop to the table that my body had retuned to calm. My breathing was regulated, my heartbeat was steady and my body no longer felt overrun by emotion. I was glad that focusing on my assignment had allowed my body and emotions to focus. There was no time for losing control, not when Lucas’s family was at stake. I scanned the area subconsciously as I moved about readying myself for bed.

  The house staff were all on the third level expect for Alistair, Michael and George who were playing poker in the garage. Lucas was in his study feeding and going over documents for his upcoming Council meeting. Katherine was still in bed but was watching a soap opera on her television. Alex was in his room on his phone, no doubt to Olivia. I listened in on the conversation, more than professionally curious to hear its contents.

  “I was at a movie.” Alex sounded exasperated.

  “I don’t care. It’s not just the movie. I’ve hardly heard from you all week.” Olivia said sounding sulky on the other end.

  “I already said I’m sorry for not calling you this afternoon but I came home and Grace got a new car so we went for a ride. Then we had plans for a movie. I thought you told me to try and enjoy my time here. It’s not like you are just waiting at home for me.” Alex responded, anger beginning to show in his voice.

  “Oh, so you were out with Grace. It seems you’ve been spending a lot of time with Grace this week.” She sniffed. I smiled in spite of myself. It gave me a small thrill to think that Olivia was jealous of me. I’d seen her picture in Alex’s room and she was gorgeous.

  “Leave off it Olivia! You don’t even know her. She is new here and doesn’t know anyone,” Alex said sternly.

  “Whatever. Maybe you would prefer it if you could spend even more time with her!” Olivia said, fury building in her voice.

  “You know what Olivia. Right now I would rather be with her. At least she doesn’t bitch at me!” Alex said harshly.

  “Well, by all means, don’t let me stop you. It’ll just give me more time to ‘hang out’ with Matthew,” Olivia spat. I didn’t know who Matthew was but judging by the way that Alex drew his breath; it was obvious he was not impressed.

  “You know what Olivia? I think we need a break. I am so sick of having to be at your beck and call. Why don’t you just let Matthew do it for a while!” Alex hung up the phone and swore.

 
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