Fallen grace, p.13
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       Fallen Grace, p.13

           Jessica Cartwright
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  I had allowed Alex to be outside at night, within metres of the dark forest that would be perfect for an attack. To make matters worse, I had completely let my guard down and had no idea of our surroundings. Instantly my body and mind were refocused. I scanned the area and could detect no presence other than Alistair in the car. I could hear rustling from edge of the forest and spun around to the direction from where the noise was originating. Alex looked slightly confused and hurt about my sudden retraction until his gaze turned to the same direction.

  Tristan and his friends were stumbling out of the forest looking dishevelled and animated. He stopped dead when he saw Alex and me, his eyes narrowing and a dark look crept across his face.

  “Well, what do we have here?” he said, as he started strutting over to where Alex and I were sitting. I could smell the alcohol seeping from his pores and observed the stagger in his step. His friends seemed to follow his lead and began to walk towards us menacingly.

  “Good evening Tristan. Enjoying the ball?” I asked, already assessing our exit strategy. I could tell they were here to cause trouble and I did not want to be responsible for having to control my reaction. Tristan had already tested my patience three times this week.

  “Clearly not as much as you!” He spat standing over us.

  “What’s that supposed to mean?” Alex demanded, coming face to face with Tristan, attempting to be chivalrous no doubt.

  “I’m talking about your little harlot getting her groove on,” Tristan replied, slurring his speech slightly. His friends appeared to find this hilarious, laughing and jeering behind him.

  “You better apologise, Tristan.” Alex warned, firming up his stance and preparing to fight.

  “Sit down Alex.” Tristan shoved Alex backward and he stumbled against the bench. My reflexes kicked in and I grabbed Alex guiding him safely to his seat.

  “Maybe it’s my turn to take you for a spin?” Tristan said as he grabbed my arm. Alex reacted as I expected and attempted to throw Tristan backwards. Tristan yelled out and his friends advanced towards Alex. This had gone on long enough. Alex was in danger of being hurt. Tristan and his friends were intoxicated and were unlikely to know their own strength or when to stop.

  “Tristan, this is your last chance to leave,” I said. My voice was flat as I could feel myself changing into a protector.

  “If it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll hang around.” He smirked as his two friends circled us. It was only then that I realised there was a small mark on Tristan’s neck. It looked several days old but I knew instantly what it meant. Scarlet was using Tristan as a puppet in her sick attempt to get Alex. It also meant that she was no longer in Italy and the risk to Alex had increased immensely. Alex moved to place himself in between me and Tristan. Tristan laughed humourlessly.

  “If you think you’re going to stop me having your little girlfriend you’re wrong!” he said cruelly, his eyes looking over me like a prize. Tristan moved forward to strike Alex and I reacted quickly. I grabbed his arm and twisted it backward so that it slammed into his back, pushing away him from Alex. One of his friends attempted to grab me. I threw off his arms, before spinning around my leg knocking his out from under him. As he fell, I pushed my palms into his chest and sent him flying into a nearby tree. He hit the trunk with a sicking thud, groaned and fell into unconsciousness. By this time Tristan had recovered. His other friend grabbed Alex’s arms so he couldn’t defend himself. Alex struggled against him trying to free himself. I could see the terror in his eyes, mixed with a look of confusion.

  Tristan raised his fist again but I was faster. I grabbed his fist mid punch and felt the bones in his hand crack. He let out a cry and stumbled backwards. I took advantage of his distraction and landed a punch across his face. His head flew backwards and its momentum took his body with him. He landed on the ground and gasped for air, clearly winded. Finally, I turned to the final opponent. He looked from Tristan to his other friend and back to me. He released Alex and took a step back holding, his hands up in surrender. I knew that I couldn’t let him go. He had seen too much and I was not yet sated.

  “Too late to give up,” I snarled, stepping past Alex. I could not look him in the eye. I had never imagined him seeing me like this and I could only imagine the fear he felt, seeing me so dangerous. I remembered my first vision of Francesca. I made quick work of the boy, with two quick taps to his head. His drunken stupor aided his dive into unconsciousness. I stood for a moment, centring myself, taking deep breaths. I swallowed the poison that had built up in my mouth before I turned to face Alex. He was looking at me with disbelief but I did not have time to waste on giving him an explanation.

  “Alistair,” I called out. He was at my side almost instantly. He surveyed the area and saw the three males splayed out across the lawns and gardens bed.

  “What happened?” he asked.

  “Scarlet has turned Tristan into a radio receiver. She bit him which means that she has likely been able to hear and see everything Tristan has heard and seen including Alex’s routines. Now we need to make this believable, Alistair. I need some marks,” I informed him. Alex stood silent still not comprehending the situation. Alistair obliging landed a solid blow to my face and grabbed my arm roughly, both of which left red marks that could pass for possible bruising. I dishevelled my hair and ripped my gown to perfect the alibi.

  “Alex,” I said quietly, turning and facing him, taking his hands in mine and trying to ignore the tingling sensation it caused.

  “Alex,” I repeated, trying to gain his attention

  “What… I…”

  “Alex, I promise I will explain everything but for now I need your help. You need to follow my lead, ok. You can’t let anyone know I did this. It needs to be you.” I pleaded with him, staring in his eyes, hoping for some sort of commitment. He took a deep breath and evaluated me. He seemed to believe me and nodded.

  I let out a loud cry and soon students and teachers started to file out of the auditorium to see what had caused the noise. We were soon surrounded by a large group of students. I could hear whispers questioning what had happened. Lauren and Daniel broke through the crowd and rushed to us, their faces full of concern and worry.

  “What happened?” Lauren asked, looking from me to Alex.

  “I… ah…” Alex stuttered.

  “Tristan attacked us! I can’t believe it. We were just sitting here and he came and attacked us. We just… we were just sitting there and Tristan came out of the forest with his friends. They came over to us and were standing all over us and then he just… Tristan grabbed me and tried to make me dance with him. He was gripping me so tight and his friends were all leering at me. Of course, Alex tried to stop them and then the most awful fight broke out. I was screaming out and Alistair must have been having a smoke and heard the fight. He ran over and helped Alex. I mean Alex already had those two on the ground but Tristan was still coming at me. If Alex hadn’t been there I just don’t know what would have happened. They were in high or something. It was just awful!” I shivered, trying to insinuate what might have happened. From the looks of Lauren and Daniel, they bought the story.

  “Thank God you were there Alex. I always thought Tristan was a loose cannon but I never thought he’d do something like that,” Daniel said, shooting a dark look in Tristan’s direction.

  Teachers were attending to the boys. They all had returned to consciousness. They all appeared dazed and still very much intoxicated. I was almost positive they would follow our story, not wanting to admit being beaten up by a girl. Alistair was standing behind us talking with the principal. Obviously he was providing the same story I had. I could hear the principal’s shocked reaction followed by questions about my well being. He moved towards me, informing the other teachers not to let the boys out of their sight.

  “Miss Kennedy I have just heard what happened. Are you ok?” he asked kindly.

  “She’ll be fine but I think she’s in a bit of shock. I wou
ld like to get her home if that’s ok with you? I am sure any further information you need can be obtained on Monday,” Alex answered for me. He placed his coat around my arms and his arm around my waist. With that, Alex said a brief goodbye to Lauren and Daniel and led me to the car. Alistair followed silently. I was in a state of shock. The scent of Alex was all around me from his coat and his arm around my waist was burning my skin. We got to the car and Alistair passed me the keys and entered the back with Alex. I started the car and sped out of the car park. I knew Alex wanted answers but I needed him to be safe first. I drove much faster than I normally would have with Alex but there appeared little need to put on a front now.

  The cars flew past us in the other direction as I weaved in out of the light traffic on the freeway. I was on constant guard, scanning the area for any activity. I knew it was unlikely that Scarlet would remain in the area but I could not be sure she wouldn’t leave any of her henchmen behind.

  “Grace,” Alex said quietly from the back seat.

  “Yes Alex,” I replied, my voice flat as I struggled for control.

  “What is going on?” he asked his voice shaking.

  “I really can’t explain it right now Alex. I just need to get you back to Katherine and Lucas. They can tell you everything,” I answered him, my eyes flicking momentarily to meet Alistair’s in the rear view mirror. His face was dead pan, his eyes scanning the area. I knew he was worried about what had happened and probably more worried about what would happen when we returned to the manor.

  “I don’t want to hear it from Mom or Grandfather. I want you to tell me!” he refuted my attempts to dodge his questions. Thankfully, I could see the manor rising in the distance and increased my speed. I didn’t hesitate as I drove through the gates, spinning the car 180 degrees at the doors of the manor. Alistair covered Alex as he exited the car. I felt a stab of jealousy as he directed Alex into the manor.

  “Michael, George! I need you both to do a perimeter check on the house and the alarm system. I want to make sure that no one has accessed the estate grounds. Everyone else in the kitchen. If any of you have been traitors, consider this your head start,” I said as I entered the house. I could see Alex staring at me incredulously as my voice did not increase in volume above my normal level. Despite the fact that none of the house staff except Alistair were anywhere nearby, he couldn’t believe I expected them to hear me.

  “How exactly, do you think they are going to hear you? And what do you mean a head start?” He asked struggling to keep up with me as I headed towards the library. Unhappy with my lack of response, Alex grabbed my arm to stop me. I knew I could shrug off his arm and continue, but I could also sense the urgency and desperation in his touch. My skin still tingled and I had to force myself to concentrate and not return to that moment in garden.

  “Grace, you have to tell me what’s going on?” Alex begged, his eyes searching mine. “Please, I need to know,” he begged.

  “Alex, I can’t tell you what happened. I wish I could but I can’t. We need to go and speak to Lucas and Katherine.” I sighed wishing I could offer him more. We stood for a moment in silence staring at each other. The tension was thick in the air. I felt myself losing control. All I could see was Alex and my body was crying out for him to kiss me again. When we stood this close, it was easy to forget the danger he was in and lose myself in simply being with him. Alex leaned in closer to me, his lips only inches from mine. I was surrounded by his scent and was starting to feel light headed.

  “Grace,” he whispered. His eyes were deep pools that I felt myself falling into.

  Lucas opened the door, snapping me back to attention. Instinctively, I stepped away from Alex shaking my head to clear my thoughts. Alex’s hand was still wrapped around my arm and a dark crimson was climbing onto his face. Lucas was clearly surprised but he quickly recovered, a peaceful calm settled over his face.

  “Grace. Alex. I didn’t expect to see you home so soon,” he said and stood awaiting an explanation.

  “We ran into a problem at the ball.” I said, looking from Alex to Lucas.

  “A problem?” Lucas looked quizzically from Alex to me.

  “Not this,” I said coolly, increasing the space between Alex and I. “Scarlet.” That word was enough to startle Lucas. He stepped back from the door, allowing us entry. I could see Alex’s expression was confused. Katherine was sitting on the lounge when we entered, the smile immediately draining from her face.

  “Grace, Grace what happened!” she demanded, rushing to Alex and returning with him to the lounge.

  I took the armchair facing the door so that I could watch for Alistair or George approaching. Lucas sat opposite me, his face grave with concern. I took a deep breath and sat forward in my chair.

  “Scarlet has been in the area. She has bitten Tristan and was no doubt using him to get information about Alex. He and two of his friends tried to attack us tonight. I had no option, I had to react.” I stated this like I would any other incident report.

  “You did what?” Katherine shouted. “You just couldn’t wait to show Alex the truth could you!” She continued, on the verge of hysteria.

  “Katherine,” Lucas said quietly, but she paid him no mind.

  “I bet you have already told him all of our secrets. Seventeen years we kept him safe and you ruin it in a week!” she shouted.

  “Mind your tongue Katherine. I will not tolerate your hysteria or accusations!” I growled. Alex’s head snapped towards me, shocked by my tone.

  “I have followed the instructions that you gave me upon my arrival here. I have protected your secrets despite my better judgement but I will not risk Alex’s safety or my reputation for your fantasy. Do you understand that Alex could have been killed tonight had I not acted? Those boys were intoxicated and out of control not to mention providing a first hand insight into Alex’s movements and vulnerabilities. I will not apologise for doing my job and protecting your son.” I continued in a harsh tone that I normally reserved for Acelades members. There was a light knock on the door which brought a tense silence.

  “Come in,” Lucas permitted. Alistair entered and gave me a quick nod. I returned a small nod and he exited.

  “The boys that attacked us were knocked unconscious and a plausible and concrete explanation was formed, Alex was seen as the hero. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to see the staff and assess the damage. Alex has a lot of questions that I am sure will be better answered by you two than me.” I concluded and rose to leave.

  “Grace!” Alex shouted standing to meet me.

  “Alex, you need to wait here,” I said sternly, not wanting to cause a larger scene than the one that was already unfolding.

  “So do you,” he replied just as sternly. “You owe me answers.”

  “Alex as I said before, I am not the one to give you those answers. Your Mom and Grandfather have the answers,” I replied. Alex’s face fell and I faltered momentarily.

  “Listen Alex,” I said more kindly. “I need to go and take care of some things but I will return. That will give you a chance to ask your questions. If you still have more questions and if I can answer them, I will.” I promised, not waiting for a reply or daring to look at Lucas or Katherine.

  Leaving the room, I made my way quickly to the kitchen where the staff were assembled. A quick head count told me they were all there which meant that either they were all innocent or someone thought far too much of themselves. I eyed them carefully, looking for any signs of disloyalty. All of the staff looked concerned, but given my warning, I could not be surprised. Sienna and Martha looked harried and even George had lost his reserved demeanour, his eyes shifting around constantly.

  “There has been an attack and Scarlet has decided to use a human to get more information on Alex. Obviously she has penetrated the school and she could have just as easily penetrated here. None of you have abandoned the manor so I take it that you are either all faithful or very mislead,” I stated flatly, watching for
any changes in the expressions of Lucas’s staff.

  “At this point, the estate does not appear to have been infiltrated. Is that correct?” I asked Alistair and George. They both nodded much to the relief of the staff.

  “Scarlet is very cunning and I cannot guarantee that she will not attempt to come into the estate. You must all be vigilant of yourselves and of each other. If you notice any changes, inform me immediately. As for security, no one outside of this room except for Lucas, Alex, Katherine and Stephan are to enter the estate grounds. When Stephan returns, I am to be notified the moment he arrives. I know this sounds paranoid but the Acelades will stop at nothing to destroy us.”

  I was met by nods and a sense of determination. I knew that Lucas’s staff were intensely loyal and would protect his fortress with their life. That was why it was so important for them to know how serious this situation was. There was nothing further for me to add so I dismissed the staff and took a few moments to gather myself. George remained behind until we were alone in the kitchen.

  “Miss,” he asked tentatively. I stopped rubbing my temples and opened my eyes to meet his.

  “I know that had it not been for you Alex would not still be here tonight. Do not let Katherine deter you. That boy was going to find out one day and better he know the danger he is in,” he remarked, before taking his leave and heading out into the night. I knew how hard it must have been for him to speak out against the Sempre family. He had always looked after me, even when I was only young and still could not control my powers.

  It didn’t matter how long I waited in the kitchen, I knew eventually that I would have to return to library and face Alex. There was silence in the library. I couldn’t understand why there was no yelling or crying and that made me even more nervous. Taking a deep breath I walked out of the kitchen and returned to the library. I hesitated briefly outside of the door before knocking and awaiting entry.

  Alex met me at the door, his face set in stone. I could not read him. He stood aside and let me enter I felt a sense of apprehension in the air as I looked at Lucas and Katherine. Their faces both conveyed a look of concern and worry. Alex shut the door and turned to face us. I noticed a shift in the room. Alex had taken the seat previously occupied Lucas.

  “Now, I want you to tell me what is going on.” Alex directed this to me at the exclusion of Lucas and Katherine.

  “Alex… I…ah…I am sure that Katherine and Lucas are better suited to answer your questions than I am,” I replied, stalling for time to find out what Alex had already been told.

  “No!” Alex replied fiercely, putting his hand out to stop Lucas and Katherine both of whom wanted to answer.

  “Alex has decided that he would rather hear the reasons for the incident tonight from you than from his mother or I.” Lucas spoke to me softly, his eyes filled with emotion unlike I had ever seen in them before.

  “Alex, I am not sure what I can tell you,” I replied honestly looking from Alex to Lucas and Katherine. Lucas looked at Katherine who appeared to be crumbling.

  “I believe it is time that my grandson was told the truth Grace. He has clearly decided that he would like to hear it from you so please speak with ease.” Lucas granted me permission, in effect shifting the burden of explanation to me.

  Taking a deep breath I turned to face Alex. His eyes were deep pools, pleading for information. I was about to give him the information he was so desperately seeking, the information that would change his life forever.

  “Alex, I’m a protector. I was assigned to protect you from the Acelades family who are trying to abduct you to fulfil a prophecy and obtain more power than the world has ever known,” I said staring directly into his eyes. I could see the look of confusion and incredulity on his face.

  “What are you talking about? Damn it Grace! I want the truth!” he shouted.

  “I am telling you the truth Alex,” I replied quietly.

  “No you’re not! You’re giving me half answers that don’t make sense,” he replied exasperated.

  “You are not giving me a chance to explain. This is complicated and will take some understanding on your part. I am a protector. I was assigned to ensure your safety from the Acelades and to ensure that the prophecy was not fulfilled.” I continued, holding my hand up to silence Alex as he began to interrupt.

  “Alex, I’m a vampire,” I said. Even as the words left my mouth, I could not believe that I was telling him this. It wasn’t right. I was shattering his whole life. Katherine was right. It was better that he didn’t know, his happiness should come first. Even as I thought this, a vague idea was forming in the back of my mind. I pushed it aside so I could focus on Alex. He was all that mattered.

  “What?” he shouted, looking at me as if I had lost my mind. He turned his head to Lucas and Katherine. Katherine’s face was set in stone.

  “Just let her finish,” Lucas said softly. However, the command was clear in his voice.

  “Thank you Lucas,” I said, returning to Alex. “I know how crazy this sounds. Please believe me. I did not want you to find out like this but it’s true. I am vampire and so are Katherine and Lucas. I belong to a secret society that protects other vampires and our way of life. At this moment, you are in danger and I was asked by Lucas to ensure that nothing happened to you. That’s what happened tonight. Tristan and his friends would have attacked you,” I said, hearing my voice trembling. I had no idea how Alex would react and that frightened me.

  “I don’t believe you. I’ve seen you out in the day and eating food. There is no way you are a vampire. Don’t you think I would know if my mother was a vampire?” he said defiantly.

  “No. You wouldn’t. Real vampires aren’t like what you see in the movies. We can go out in the sun, eat food if we have to and we are masters at deception. There is a reason that the world doesn’t believe in vampires. It is because they are kept hidden. Your mother has gone to extreme lengths to keep her identity from you and protect you until you were ready.” I attempted to explain but I could tell from Alex’s expression that he still did not believe me.

  “She is telling you the truth Alex,” Katherine said quietly. “I never wanted you to find out like this. I always hoped that you would never have to find out.”

  “But if you are a vampire, how come I’m not?” Alex asked. I could see the impact that Katherine’s words had on him.

  “I honestly have no idea. You were born human and there does not appear to be a clear explanation for it. You don’t seem to be making a transition into a vampire,” she said turning her body towards Alex and taking his hand.

  “How could you not have told me?” he asked.

  “Because I wanted you to have a choice” she said her voice thick with emotion.

  “I can’t deal with this,” Alex said, standing up. His eyes filled with anger. He cast a dark look in my direction and stormed out of the library. Katherine started to sob and collapsed in Lucas’s arms. I felt awkward intruding on her pain and wanted some time alone to think. My head was swimming with the nights events. I gave Lucas a brief nod and left the room.

  As I climbed the stairs I could hear Alex raging in his bedroom. He was throwing things around in a fit of anger and I can’t say I blamed him. His whole world was crashing down and everyone he knew had lied to him. My heart ached to comfort him and I found myself hesitating in front of his door. I knew that I needed to let him be. It was not my place to force myself on him. I was his protector and I could not let myself become anything more. He did not need me in his life and he could not become dependent on me. I would be out of his life soon, but even as I thought it, I didn’t believe it. Eventually I gathered enough strength to force myself away from his door.

  Once I was in my bedroom, I took a long hot shower and tried to clear my head. I kept running the events of the night over in my mind, continually straying back to when Alex and I were in the garden. Remembering his lips on mine made the butterflies in my stomach ignite and my knees feel week. T
he flashes of our future together played in my mind. I felt confused and disorientated by what was happening. The future was not something that I had ever considered and suddenly it hit me. A cold chill ran through my body. I didn’t want to believe it. It couldn’t be happening to me and certainly not with Alex. I turned off the water and wrapped myself in a robe. Walking in a daze, I made my way to my bed. All of the pieces fell into place. The strange urges to attack Alex, my loss of control, blacking out, the flashes of our future together. Alex was my other half.

  I had read stories about vampires who met their other halves in humans and their stories were consistent with my experience. I couldn’t believe I had missed the signs. I never believed that this would happen to me. Meeting my other half was not part of this assignment. My life was only about tracking down the Acelades who were responsible for the death of my family. Stumbling, I managed to dress myself in forest green satin lace trimmed shorts and a matching camisole. I replayed over in my mind all of the events that confirmed Alex was my other half. I had no idea how I was going to explain this to Lucas. He couldn’t find out about this. It would ruin me.

  The pitcher of blood was drained before I even realised I was drinking. Wiping away the blood that trickled down my chin, I felt my system recharge and my thoughts calm. Collapsing onto the sofa, I was overcome with exhaustion. I closed my eyes and felt myself slipping into unconsciousness. A light knock brought me back to the room. It took me a second to orientate myself before I started my way to the door, subconsciously fixing my hair and straightening my camisole.

  Alex was waiting at my door. His face was filled with anguish, his appearance dishevelled. He was still wearing his suit pants and shirt but his jacket, tie and shoes had been removed. I could see he had run his fingers through his hair and it was pointing in several different directions. Looking at his socks brought a smile to my face. Only Alex would wear cartoon socks with a suit. I stood back from the door to let Alex enter. My nerves were on edge. I didn’t know how to react or what to expect from him. His eyes were searching mine, his face torn.

  “Just tell me,” he said finally. “Was any of it real?”

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