Fallen grace, p.2
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       Fallen Grace, p.2

           Jessica Cartwright
 
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  I was running. Searching for the house, a servant, anything that could help me but I could not see my way through the fog. The fog was thick and the shadows menacing. I called out for my father hoping that it had been a mistake that he had been too quick to act, that he would return me to the carriage and mother would chastise him for his actions when we returned to the house. I called and called but all I could hear were the horses whining in the night. I continued to run. I was searching for the house. Father had told me to make for the house and wake the servants but then we had been separated. Here I was running in the middle of the night looking for a house that I could not find screaming for my father, a servant, anyone.

  The fog was enveloping me. I could hardly breathe and my body was tired. My foot caught on something and I fell to the ground. My ankle began to throb immediately and I knew it was twisted. I grabbed my ankle, lifting up my dress to see the damage. It was already starting to swell. I knew I would not be able to make it to the house. I could hear the horses crying in the distance. Through my tears, I began to scream for help but I knew no one could hear me. I felt a presence behind me and I turned to see a figure materialising in the fog. I saw a woman walking towards me, her midnight blue cape flowing behind her. Her face was strikingly beautiful and terrifying at the same time. Her skin was the colour of snow and was framed by golden brown hair that formed curls around her face, softening her hard features. She had ebony black eyes that appeared to bore holes right through me and scarlet red lips which she moistened with her tongue. I looked past her and noticed the man. His skin too was pale but he had a softer appearance than she did. His hair was a deep brown and his eyes were hazel with flecks of gold. He looked at the woman as he walked past her towards me.

  “She’s perfect,” gushed the woman as they circled me. I felt fear grip and my stomach lurch.

  I woke up in a cold sweat. No matter how frequently I had this dream it always had the same effect, waking up in a cold sweat feeling panicked and more tired then when I had gone to sleep. Rolling over in bed and stared at my clock. It was 7:00pm and I would be due for the meeting soon. I sat up and observed my new room. I had arrived at the manor house early in the morning for my new assignment. I had been so tired I had taken little notice of my room apart from the large four posted bed which lay in the centre. I had fallen into bed almost the moment I had arrived allowing the thick white sheets and buttercup and gold quilt to surround me in a cocoon of warmth. It had been a trying month and I was in need of sleep and cared little for the other furnishings around me. Now, only slightly more, rested I began to take in my new surroundings.

  I knew that my room was one of the larger of the manor house, an indication of Lucas’s gratitude for my assistance. My bay windows overlooked the estate grounds and gave me a view of the forest. Both windows had seats that another person may have used to sit and admire the grounds. There was a lounge suite to the left of the bed with wing backed chairs and an ornate coffee table in front of the sofa. I looked to my right and saw an immense wardrobe leading through to a bathroom complete with a corner spa.

  I pushed back my bed covers and rose from the bed. The plush cream carpet was soft under my feet. My black satin nightgown reached to the ground brushing my ankles. I stretched my tired and battered body inhaling deeply. I walked over to the wardrobe smiling as I saw that all of my belongings had been packed away as if they always belonged there. Lucas had obviously sent his servants in after I was asleep to unpack my trunk. I inspected my belongings and noticed that there were several new items of clothing that I did not recognise. The tags told me these items were designer and appeared to have been bought especially for me. As I looked over the wardrobe, I noticed shoes, tops, pants and dresses all of which had not come from my trunk. I laughed to myself as I saw the array of colours, these new clothes came in none of which were my usual preference for black or charcoal. Lucas was always saying that I looked like I was in mourning and I guess this was his less than subtle way of making a change.

  Not wanting to offend my host, I selected a new pair of denims and matched it with a purple v-neck cashmere sweater. I walked into the bathroom and saw that like the wardrobe, it too had been prepared. Fresh towels lay next to the vanity and various beauty products lined the shelves. I wondered why Lucas had gone to all this trouble. Protection duty does not generally allow for a lot of personal indulgence or require expensive clothing. I shrugged off the thought knowing that Lucas was aware of my last assignment and was trying to provide some recuperation in return for calling me back to duty so soon. I placed my new clothes on the seat next to the vanity and noticed a crystal goblet on the side table. The crystal goblet was frosted from its cool contents which was thick and red in appearance. My body was reminded that it had been sometime since I had last fed and I was grateful for Lucas’s thoughtfulness. I picked up the goblet and drained its contents greedily. I could tell instantly it was deer blood probably from the estate grounds. I was happy to know that at least feeding would be easy during this assignment, even if I was still unclear about the rest of the details.

  I had no more idea about my assignment now than I did two days ago. I was thinking about this encounter as I stepped out of my nightgown and into the shower. The warm water was refreshing after my troubled sleep. I allowed myself to remain in the shower much longer than necessary enjoying the water raining down on me. When I finally stepped out of the shower, I felt clean and revived. I allowed myself the indulgence of using the various products that lined the shelves of my bathroom until I smelt of jasmine, lily, rose and strawberry. I enjoyed the way these smells made me feel, taking me back to my human days when I wandered around the grounds of my family home on a spring day.

  I put on my new clothes and took a final look at myself in the mirror before leaving to go the meeting. Despite the new clothes, lotions and makeup I still looked tired. My eyes were dark; they had lost the topaz and green flecks that were usually present. My skin looked paler than ever accenting the darkness of my eyes. My dark brown hair fell down around my face in layers softening the edges of my face which appeared to have hardened. My lips still retained their scarlet red colour and provided my face with some femininity. I sighed at the face looking back at me in the mirror. There was a time when I was considered a great beauty. I had many suitors both human and vampire alike, but the centuries had been difficult for me and since William I had lost the softness that had been the object of affection for so many.

  My duties had kept me busy after his death however, they could not take away my grief or my guilt. I knew I had only allowed myself to heal and carrying out my duties so that one day, I might meet the ones responsible for his death and bring them to justice. My brother had been taken and those responsible would pay. I looked away from the mirror, perhaps being at the manor with regular food and rest would allow my body to be revived a little and I would regain my former self.

  I walked through the bedroom and noticed another goblet sitting on the coffee table next to an envelope addressed to me. I walked over and sat on the sofa whilst I read the letter and savoured the goblets contents. The letter was from Lucas;

  Dear Grace,

  I trust you rested well. I took the liberty of having my servants prepare your room whilst you slept and took the opportunity to make some amendments to your wardrobe with the assistance of Katherine. I look forward to meeting you in the library at 8:00pm so that we can discuss the duties of your new assignment.

  Once again my deepest gratitude for your acceptance of this new assignment I know it must come at great personal cost to you.

  Kind Regards

  Lucas

  I returned the letter to its envelope and replaced it and the goblet on the tray. I looked at the clock on the wall which informed me the meeting was to commence in ten minutes. I wondered why Lucas would have called his daughter Katherine for assistance. I was sure she was living in London and had far better things to do than purchase clothes for me. I stood up fro
m the sofa and made my way to the door. I took a final glance around the room and wondered what this new assignment was going to bring.

  I thought back to when Lucas had approached me about this assignment. I had been in Paris after just completing my last assignment. Marius and Lucas had come to inspect the bodies the Acelades assassins sent to kill the Trobe family. I had been their protector for the past five months and it had taken its toll on me. The threat had been high and the family was particularly needy which did not help. Being in the centre of Paris I had found it difficult to feed and remain inconspicuous but the family had refused to move. Eventually, their assassin had grown tired of making indirect attempts to kill the family and had conducted a strike attack. Seven assassins had stormed the home and I had killed all of them without losing a protective detail. Mr Trobe had suffered some minor injuries as a result of his attempts to help, causing him more harm than if he had remained silent and still as I had requested. Still, it was a successful assignment and I was looking forward to returning to my secret retreat. I was at the end of my decade of service and was scheduled to have six months rest.

  Marius and Lucas had come to survey the bodies before the clean up squad arrived. The Trobe family had temporarily moved to a hotel whilst their house was restored. They may not have been injured, but the same could not be said for their house. Both Marius and Lucas congratulated me on my success. I took the compliments with grace but wondered why they had come. It had been decades since Marius had felt it necessary to observe my assignments and Lucas had never seen me on assignment or any other protector for that matter unless it was a Council event. After some small talk I cut them short.

  “Why have you come here?” I asked knowing I was overstepping my boundaries questioning my boss and the Council leader about their actions. Marius and Lucas looked at each other and Marius nodded. I would not be sanctioned for my candour they knew I was no fool.

  “Marius informs me that your decade is up,” Lucas replied.

  “That’s correct. I’m due to go to my retreat tomorrow,” I stated regarding Lucas suspiciously.

  “I have a favour to ask of you,” Lucas continued hesitantly. I had never seen Lucas like this before. He was always strong and sure of himself.

  “What is it that you need Lucas? You know I will do whatever is necessary,” I replied. Lucas had never asked anything of me before and yet he had given me so much. I knew that whatever he asked, I would do.

  “I would like for you to come to the Manor and meet with me about an assignment. I know that you are due for leave but this is a delicate matter and I need someone I can trust,” Lucas finished gravely staring at me intensely.

  “Of course,” I replied. The thoughts of my home in Ireland vanished immediately. “I will be at the manor as soon as I can. Do you have a brief of the assignment for me?” I asked holding out my hand.

  “No, this assignment will be strictly off the record,” he stated looking knowingly between myself and Marius who nodded at Lucas.

  “Oh,” I remarked.

  “I will make preparations for your arrival. Alistair will meet you at the airport tomorrow.”

  “Fine. Make sure he retrieves my car I left it in New York after my last assignment,” I replied.

  As I now prepared to hear about my assignment, I walked through the halls of the manor and it was just as I had remembered it. I had been a guest here many years ago before I became a protector. The walls were filled with portraits of Lucas’s family and masterpieces of artwork that he had collected over his many years. The manor had been restored to its original state with many of the modern conveniences including central heating, bathrooms and a modern kitchen. Lucas had carried out these renovations when he had ‘bought’ the manor house five years ago. In reality, Lucas had owned the home since it was built and he resold it to himself whenever he wanted to move back. Lucas had accumulated his wealth over many centuries and was probably the richest man in the world. Not that he would admit this fact. Ever the gentleman Lucas never talked business and kept his finances private. This allowed him to remain in one place for longer periods of time because people never really knew what he did. Lucas had moved to the United States after ‘buying’ the property five years ago. It had been vacant for over 20 years in his absence and the community was happy to see it lived in again. Lucas returned their kindness by investing in the community and hosting events in his home when he could. Lucas was still required to be away for long periods of time for business but he had an attachment to the manor. He had built it for his wife.

  I came to the library door and hesitated briefly before entering, I could hear voices in the room. I detected Lucas’s voice first but the other voice was more difficult to identify. It was female and both parties appeared to be involved in a serious discussion. I knocked on the door and waited to be granted entry.

  “Come in,” Lucas called out. I pushed open the carved wooden door and entered the library.

  The library was exactly that, a large room with three of the four walls covered with ceiling to floor book shelves, crammed with books on every imaginable topic. There was a fireplace in the corner which was providing warmth for the room. The windows in this room like those of mine looked out over the estate grounds and into the forest. In the middle of the room was Lucas’s desk. A large wooden desk with a high backed leather chair sat in front of the book selves to the left. It was covered with the usual papers and a computer which appeared to be showing Lucas’s current stock prices. To the right of the room there was a sitting area which contained two large plush lounges, and two large armchairs. A glass coffee table sat in the middle and placed on a tray in its centre were three crystal goblets filled with blood. Their red liquid was thick and inviting, it was the life force of our people. I walked over to the sitting area where Lucas was seated in an arm chair.

  Lucas was dressed in a black suit with a white shirt. Lucas looked like a gentleman from another time. His thick silver coloured hair was combed back and his olive eyes appeared kind and inviting. Lucas smiled at me as I walked over to his chair and beckoned me to sit on the sofa next to him. I took my seat and noticed the other person in the room. On the sofa opposite me, sat Katherine. I smiled at Katherine and she gave a small smile back. Katherine looked worried but as elegant as ever. Katherine took after her mother and had long fiery red hair which was pinned up in a French twist. Her skin was pale and her eyes a striking blue. She was slender and tall and positioned herself with poise on the sofa opposite me. I wondered why Katherine was here and what had given her that cause for concern. I looked to Lucas for answers.

  “Thank you for coming Grace I know that you were supposed to be resting after completing your last assignment but I knew you were the only one that could help me, help us,” Lucas began looking from me to Katherine. “I am sure you are anxious to know why we asked you to come here but firstly I wanted to ensure that you found everything to your liking in your room. I see you found the new clothing I purchased,” Lucas’s eyes smiled as he looked at my new clothes.

  “Everything was perfect thank you Lucas but you really did not have to go to all of this trouble. It is my honour to help you,” I replied.

  Lucas sat back in his chair and looked from Katherine to me. “As you can see my daughter Katherine has returned from London to visit me here at the manor.” I looked at Katherine who shifted in her seat and appeared to be more anxious than when I had entered the room. “What you are not aware of is that whilst my Katherine has been living in London she met a man”. Lucas paused and I looked at Katherine whose eyes shifted to her father and then to the ground.

  “Lucas I am aware that Katherine and John were in a relationship and I also know that it occurred far before she moved to London,” I assured them both.

  “Grace, I am not talking about her relationship with John. This was another man and as a result of this relationship Katherine became pregnant with a child.” At this I sat forward in my chair, I could not believe t
hat I had not known of this before. Children were rare in our kind and they were celebrated. The fact that Katherine had given birth and no one had been informed not even the protectors made me wonder. I looked at Katherine who nodded confirming what Lucas had said.

  “Katherine and her husband, Stephan had their child, my grandchild and have been residing in London ever since,” Lucas continued not bothering to answer the questions I was sure he knew I wanted to ask.

  My mind was failing to process the information I was being given. I wondered why I had not heard of this before. I looked at Lucas who appeared to be waiting for me before he continued. “Go on,” I encouraged.

  “My grandson, Alex, is now 17 years old and Katherine and Stephan have moved here to be closer to me and the protection that brings. Alex is special and not only because he is the child of vampires.” Lucas stopped.

  I looked at Katherine, she was sitting on the edge of her seat staring at me. I looked to Lucas who appeared to be gauging my response. “What makes him special?” I asked beginning to become suspicious of the reason for him being kept hidden.

  Lucas took a deep breath and looked to Katherine before replying. “Alex is not one of us, he is human. He does not possess any vampire powers and ages as a normal human does.” I looked at Lucas incredulously sure that he must be joking. Lucas continued “We are not certain how this happened but Alex appears to have no vampiric attributes apart from being the son of two vampires.”

  I could not believe what Lucas was saying and I looked to Katherine. “Katherine, is this true?”

  “Yes, I don’t know how it happened but it’s a miracle. Our son is human. We felt so blessed to have him and have cared for him all these years with no thought to what this could mean until recently.” Katherine stopped. She appeared unsure of whether or not she should go on. She looked to Lucas who nodded his permission for her to continue.

  “As you can imagine,” she said, “when Alex was born we kept him secret for fear that the Acelades would find out and try to harm him. As he grew and we realised that he was human we had more reason to protect him because of his weakness and we feared that the Acelades would find him and kill him so we remained in London and faded into the oblivion of the city. Last week Stephan was returning home and he found a package on the front door step addressed to Alex. The postage stamp on the package was from Italy and knowing that we did not know anyone in Italy he kept the package from Alex. Later that night, when Alex was asleep, we opened the package and it was from Benedict Acelades himself. The package was a present to Alex and it contained a cape bearing the Acelades crest, a vile of blood and a copy of the prophecy. We left London immediately and came here”.

  The prophecy, what prophecy were they talking about? I looked from Katherine to Lucas questioningly.

  “She does not know about the prophecy?” Katherine asked her father.

  “Hardly any of our kind does now Katherine,” Lucas replied kindly. “It was so long ago that the prophecy was made that most vampires have thought it false and failed to pass it on and the centuries progressed. I would be surprised if anyone outside of the Acelades and Sempre families knows of the prophecy today.”

  “What does the prophecy say?” I interrupted anxious to find out how this related to my new assignment. Anything to do with the Acelades family caused my adrenaline to build and my thoughts to turn poisonous.

  Lucas looked at me and answered “The prophecy states that a time will come when a child is born of vampires but is not a vampire. This child will grow and age with the sun. At this time another child will be born of vampires with powers beyond compare. If these two should meet and their souls be found to be the other’s half, they will form a union unlike the world has ever seen. This union will cause the death and destruction of the human world and allow one family to rule all vampires and humans alike.”

  Lucas and Katherine remained quiet as I attempted to process this information. After a few minutes Lucas continued “As you are now aware, Katherine and Stephan kept the birth of their child quiet and I believe that it was not until last year, when the home of Katherine and Stephan was invaded, that the Acelades became aware that they had a son. Once this occurred I began to investigate the Acelades more closely to understand why they would be interested in breaking into the home of Katherine and Stephan when they appeared to take nothing. As a result of these enquiries, I found out that Benedict’s daughter Lillian gave birth to a girl at the same time as Katherine. This child has incredible powers. She can read the mind of any being after drinking their blood, vampire and human alike. Little is known of her other powers, but she appears able to control and manipulate those around her to fulfil her every wish. Benedict’s men had been sent looking for her mate. They had searched many houses before Katherine and Stephan’s but were alerted to Alex’s condition by the presence of food in the home. It is our understanding that Benedict wishes for Alex and his granddaughter Scarlet to meet hoping that they will fulfil the prophecy.”

  “What is it you need for me to do? I am more than happy to take care of this child Scarlet, however I do not understand why it was necessary for me to be brought here? I was already in Paris you could have simply told me about this when you came to see me there and I would have gone to Italy and the whole situation would have already been taken care of.”

  A look of horror filled Katherine’s face. She had never been able to understand our protection duties and found violence reprehensible, which in other circumstances had always made me laugh considering she was a vampire, but now I could not understand why she did not want to protect her son. “No, that is not what I want. Father that is not what we agreed, I will not take another woman’s child from her no matter how repulsive I find her!” Katherine looked to Lucas whose face was grave.

  “Whilst I appreciate the offer Grace, Katherine will not consent for me to give those orders and as it is her son, I have allowed her to decide on the best course of action. For Alex and Scarlet to fulfil the prophecy they must consummate their relationship before their eighteenth year. Our intelligence tells us that Scarlet has the power to read and control minds and she could easily get into Alex’s mind and make him nothing more than a puppet to her will. Alex needs to be kept safe and as far away from Scarlet as possible. As I said, Scarlet’s powers have not yet reached their full capacity and she can only use her powers on vampires and humans if she has been able to drink their blood. That is how she found out about Alex. Katherine’s housekeeper Mischa turned against the family and allowed Scarlet to read all of the information she possessed about Alex and our family.”

  At this point Katherine interrupted Lucas, “If she can’t drink Alex’s blood then she won’t be able to trick him into becoming her mate and he will be safe. If Alex is kept away from Scarlet then he will be safe. We want you to protect Alex until he reaches the age of 18.”

  I looked from Lucas to Katherine sure that I had heard them wrong. “You want me to baby-sit Alex and keep him away from a girl until he reaches eighteen?”

  “Protect not baby-sit,” Lucas replied “I know that your protection duties normally involve eliminating threats to our way of life and keeping the Acelades at bay but this is an unusual circumstance. Benedict Acelades and his granddaughter Scarlet cannot get to Alex. It is clear from their package that they wish to make Alex part of their family. Why else would they send him the cape with their family crest?”

  I shook my head at Lucas. I did not have a reason why Benedict would do this but it did not make me anymore willing to take on baby sitting duties when I was supposed to be on a break.

  “The blood is also a sign. He clearly thinks that Alex and Scarlet will be each other’s half, or at least that Scarlet will be able to convince Alex for long enough that this is the case and afterwards it will no longer matter as Alex will need her to survive as badly as she needs him.” Lucas continued.

  “Could you not just tell Alex about this?” I asked.

  “Katherine and
Stephan want Alex to have a normal life for as long as possible. They want him to make his own choices and feel that he is able to have control over who he loves and when and if he wants to become a vampire,” Lucas replied.

  I went to speak but Lucas raised his hand to stop my response. “Grace,” Lucas spoke quietly “Alex is my only grandchild and he is special even for our race. He deserves the chance to live his life with out the Acelades interfering. You know I would not ask for your assistance unless I felt there was no other option. Alex is at risk and I cannot protect him. You are the best at what you do Grace. I need someone who has your expertise and can be with him all the time without spiking interest. I do not want his life disrupted any more than it already has been. Alex does not know of our ways and we would like to keep his innocence for as long as possible.”

  I looked at Lucas and he suddenly appeared every one of his 637 years.

  “I am at your service for as long as you require. It will be my honour to protect your grandson Lucas.” With that, Katherine jumped from the lounge and threw her arms around me.

  “Thank you, thank you!” she sobbed into my shoulder. I looked to Lucas whose face expressed his gratitude.

  “I will give you anything you need whilst you are here Grace and make your time as pleasant as possible,” Lucas assured me as he sat back in his chair.

 
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