Fallen grace, p.5
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       Fallen Grace, p.5

           Jessica Cartwright
 
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~4~

  I rose early the next morning. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I looked out the window at the rising sun. The day would be clear once the sun had burnt off the morning fog, which was now covering the grounds. I showered and began readying myself for my first day at Creswick Academy. Whilst most myths about vampires stated that they would burn in the sun, this was obviously not the truth. We were able to move in the sun the same as humans; however, it took years for our eyes to adjust to the sun’s rays. In the early years, I had found it difficult to tolerate the brightness of the sun and had avoided it as much as possible, coming out only at night. Otherwise, I required special glasses to dim the sun during the day. Nowadays, new vampires were able to have specialised contact lenses to assist them. Over time our eyes would adjust until we no longer felt the burning of the sun any more than we had when we were human.

  Entering my wardrobe, I looked at my new uniform. It was comprised of a blue and burgundy plaid skirt with box pleats that came to my knees, a white blouse, burgundy vest and blue blazer. The outfit was completed by black Mary Jane shoes and opaque stockings. I looked at myself in the mirror and judged myself to look the part of a seventeen year old school girl. Returning to the bathroom, I fixed my hair, pinning it back from my face. I applied light makeup to cover the dark circles under my eyes. Returning to the wardrobe, I picked up my new black satchel and looked inside to see the new text books and school supplies I would need to pull off the role of new school student.

  I glanced at the clock on the wall and saw it was now 7:00am. I sat on the lounge in my room and went through my new identity to ensure that it was clear in my head. I was Grace Kennedy from Ireland and I had transferred here after receiving a scholarship to attend Creswick. I was staying with Lucas Sempre and his family as he was an old family friend of my grandfather. My cover had never been blown on a mission, but I always liked to rehearse it to make sure it stayed that way, especially on this mission, when my new identity was also being given to my mark. I heard a knock at the door and Lucas announced himself. I invited him to enter and he made his way over to the lounge where I was seated.

  “How are you feeling?” he asked.

  “Fine,” I replied.

  “I received your report and you’re right, I don’t agree with your recommendations about Alex but I will ensure that Stephan makes himself available to you the moment he returns. Are you prepared for today?” Lucas asked.

  “As much as I can be I guess. I did some reconnaissance work at Creswick last night. I can make it to Alex within 30 seconds of any attack, provided that we are no more than 15 classrooms away from each other. This could only occur if he is taking Gym whilst I’m in language class. If this happens, I will simply ask to change classes.” I informed Lucas.

  “I appreciate you taking this assignment so seriously Grace. I know it must be difficult for you to be in this house with its memories and now to be reminded of John every time you look at Alex.” Lucas stared at me to gauge my response.

  “It’s my job Lucas. I take every assignment seriously. If I don’t, then people die. You know this, that’s why you asked for me. What is your real reason for coming here today?” I was sure that Lucas had something more to discuss with me.

  Lucas looked at me for a moment and sighed. “You know me too well, or perhaps you have just become a master at reading people,” Lucas started. “I am concerned about you Grace and I just want to make sure that you are up to this assignment. I would hate to lose our best squad member because I allowed her to be worked too hard.” Lucas looked worried and I could tell that he would not allow me to dismiss his concerns.

  “Lucas, I have been honest with you since you requested my presence at your home. I have completed my decade service, but I feel confident that I can complete this new assignment. I am able to feed regularly here and that is helping. I am also able to have frequent rest and I am not engaged in battle. You do not need to worry about me. I will complete this assignment as though I was fresh from a break. Then, I will disappear for a while. Allow my body to recuperate completely before returning to duty.” I stated this smiling at Lucas’s fatherly concern.

  With this, Lucas nodded at me, accepting my response and rose to leave the room. He stopped briefly at the door, placing a photo of William and I on the side table before leaving the room closing the door behind him. I recognised the photo as one that was taken on our first visit at the manor. I could not believe that Lucas had kept it all this time. I moved the photo to my bedside table and grabbed my satchel. I could hear Alex leaving his room; he was talking on the phone to Olivia. I waited until he had made his way down the stairs, allowing him some privacy for his conversation. It was bad enough that I could hear every conversation occurring in the manor, I could at least provide him some false privacy.

  Extra sensitivity was a trait that most vampires had and I would not be surprised if Lucas, Katherine and all of the staff members could hear Alex talking on the phone when he was in the room next to them. My hearing had developed above the normal level and I could hear every conversation occurring in the manor and in fact, every conversation that occurred on the estate grounds if I tried. I blocked out other people’s conversations most of the time only monitoring the dull murmurs for any threats that I could distinguish. Alex should be no different, but I did need to monitor him more closely so I allowed myself to check in on his conversations every now and then to make sure that he wasn’t planning anything risky. Their conversation this morning consisted of Olivia updating Alex on her movements last evening in excruciating detail. Alex seemed to be enjoying it. I did not think I would ever understand young love.

  I walked down the stairs and met Alex in the hall. He was just finishing his conversation and smiled at me as I entered the hall. “Nice uniform,” he greeted me smiling as he snapped his phone shut and put it in his pocket.

  “Urgh!” I replied. “I have never had to wear a uniform before.”

  “Don’t they have uniforms in Ireland?” Alex asked looking confused.

  “Um,” I stalled. Damn it my first mistake. I slipped up thinking that I had never worn a uniform I had no idea if they wore uniforms in Ireland. “I didn’t wear a uniform at my school,” I added as I shrugged trying to act nonchalantly.

  “Cool! Well at least your uniform looks good on you. Wait until you see some of the other girls.” Alex looked me up and down and smiled as he caught my eye.

  Clearing my throat and looking away I answered “Well, we should head off.”

  “Yeah. We don’t want to be late on your first day,” Alex agreed as he headed to the door holding it open for me as I walked outside. I saw his car waiting out the front with Alistair standing next to it. He handed the keys to Alex and opened my door allowing me to climb into Alex’s midnight blue Mercedes.

  We drove to Creswick with the radio playing in a comfortable silence. The ride to school was much slower than the one I had made last night. Alex’s slow driving allowed his scent to permeate the car, making the air intoxicating and almost impossible to resist. I could feel my incisors lengthening as Alex’s inviting scent gave me a preview to what his blood would taste like. I rolled the window down as Alex pulled into the school driveway and found a spot near the administration building. The parking lot was beginning to fill up with luxury cars from Mercedes to Alfa Romeos. It was clear that there was a great deal of wealth here at Creswick and despite Alex’s early comment the students at Creswick were beautiful people. All of the girls were perfectly manicured and looked as if they stepped out of a magazine and the boys had over styled hair and designer sneakers. I took a deep breath and sat back in my seat, I could feel the poison rising in my teeth as I watched them laughing and walking into the school. Alex walked around and opened my car door, leaning down to smile at me.

  “How about I walk you to the office?” Alex offered mistaking my efforts to control my urges for nerves. I smiled at Alex as I got out of the car and grabbed my bag.

  “T
hanks that would be great,” I replied.

  Alex and I walked towards the Administration building, earning glances from the students we passed. I could hear the murmurs about the new girl, a possible sister of Alex, his girlfriend from England, a cousin. How amusing, I thought, to be the source of such intrigue by just arriving at the school. Imagine if they really knew anything about me. We entered the building and I walked up to the counter.

  “Hi I’m Grace Kennedy I’m supposed to be starting today,” I said. The administration lady looked up from her paperwork annoyed and surveyed me then allowed her attention to be drawn to Alex, who remained in the room leaning against the wall. She returned her gaze to the pile of papers sitting in front of her, shuffling through them until she found the bundle bearing my name.

  “Miss Kennedy. A late starter I see,” she commented looking over her glasses at me disapprovingly. “Here is your class schedule and a map. I assume that Mr Sempre has given you all of the books he purchased for you prior to your late arrival?”

  “Yes he did,” I replied swallowing hard. I had the urge to lean over the counter and slam this middle aged woman’s head into the table, sitting there with her disapproval when she had no idea of my reasons for ‘starting late’. Taking the papers from her, I turned to leave and rolled my eyes at Alex on my way out.

  Once outside, I reviewed my schedule and was relieved to see that I had English with Alex first up. He was excited at this prospect and took pride in showing me around campus. For my part, I played along pretending as though I had not seen the campus before. When we reached the English classroom, Alex held the door open and led me to a set of desks near the window. I wished it were open to clear the air but unfortunately there was no relief. Thankfully, Alex sat down and offered me the seat behind him. At least I was able to sit back from him, lessening the tension and his scent to some extent. Next to Alex sat a dark looking boy with black hair that fell into his eyes and a moody look on his face. His sweater was oversized and he was sketching into a notebook that was already covered in various drawings. He looked up and smiled at Alex as he sat down.

  “Hey man, how you going?” he nodded at Alex.

  “Alright. You?” Alex replied.

  “Good. Who’s your friend?” he asked looking in my direction.

  “This is Grace. She’s staying with my uncle.”

  “Cool. I’m Daniel” He introduced himself holding his hand out to me.

  “Nice to meet you,” I replied shaking his hand briefly before taking my seat.

  “This is Lauren.” Daniel pointed to the girl sitting behind him. She looked up at me and smiled. Lauren was a petite girl with curly auburn hair pulled back into a ponytail. She had brown eyes and light skin sprinkled with freckles.

  “Hi Lauren.” I said.

  “Hi, it’s nice to meet you,” Lauren replied.

  The teacher walked in and I turned to face the front of the classroom happy not to have to answer any questions about why I had started at Creswick just now. The lesson went quickly and I spent most of it surveying the other students looking for any hint that anyone of them may have been a vampire, but there was none to be found. At the sound of the bell, I checked my schedule and found that I had biology and Alex had math. We organised to meet up in the cafeteria for lunch and Alex gave me detailed instructions of how to get to my next class.

  I headed across the school to the biology lab and took a seat at the back of the classroom, near the exit, in case I needed to leave in a hurry. The buzz of conversation was beginning to blend together and created a dull ache in my head. Nearly every conversation centred on my arrival and my connection to Alex. I hoped that the novelty of my arrival would wear off soon, but at least the overwhelming blood lust was receding. The further away from Alex I became the less his scent intoxicated me. It was a strange phenomenon I had never experienced before. At least this would help me track him if I needed to and that could be useful in the future.

  I spent most of the biology lesson profiling my fellow classmates into their respective groups and watched their interactions with amusement. I noticed that the group of four boys sitting to my right looked over to me frequently. Listening in on their conversation, it appeared that the one sitting closest to me was going to make it his mission to take me to the Fire and Ice Ball, whatever that was. This was not an event I was looking forward to. As the lesson drew to a close, I prepared myself for the inevitable. Packing up my belongings I made my way out of the door as he sidled up next to me, with a dopey look on his face.

  “Hey, I’m Tristan,” he started.

  “Grace,” I replied, walking past him to the door, hoping he would pick up my cue.

  “So, you’re new huh,” he attempted following me out of the door.

  “Looks that way.” I returned, continuing to walk towards the cafeteria, scanning the crowd for Alex.

  “Where are you from?” Tristan asked moving in front of me, blocking my path.

  “Ireland.” I responded, trying my best to make it clear to Tristan that I was not interested in standing around talking. I spotted Alex at the entrance to the cafeteria looking at the interaction between Tristan and me.

  Tristan looked as though he was about to say something when I cut him off.

  “Listen, I have people waiting for me so if you don’t mind?” I said motioning for him to move out of my way.

  “Oh. Ok.” Tristan replied looking disappointed. I ducked past Tristan and made my way over to Alex.

  “Making friends already I see,” he greeted me smugly.

  “Not exactly,” I replied looking back at Tristan who was staring darkly at Alex.

  Alex, Lauren, Daniel and I headed into the cafeteria where they got their lunch and I was able to pass on having lunch due to my encounter with Tristan causing me to lose my appetite. I wondered how long I could go until I was forced to eat some of the revolting food that was on offer. The smell alone was nauseating and I could only imagine that attempting to stomach it was going to be a task. I spent the rest of lunch surveying the students in the cafeteria and answering questions from Lauren and Daniel about my reasons for coming to Creswick. From what I could gain, they appeared to be a couple and had been for sometime now. Alex had become friends with them when he started at Creswick due to their similar tastes in music and movies.

  During lunch, I noticed that Tristan and his table of friends appeared to be watching our table at intermittent intervals spending most of their time staring at me. I smiled in spite of myself thinking about what could happen if I did take Tristan up on his yet to be asked offer. He would just as likely end up dead if he caught me at a weak moment. It was hard enough trying to keep myself in check with Alex constantly raising a new sense of hunger in me which was confusing enough without adding the temptation of human blood to the mix. Shaking my head to clear my thoughts, I attempted to rejoin the conversation that Alex, Lauren and Daniel were currently engaged in but they were debating the latest album of a band I did not know so I simply sat back and listened to the conversation for the rest of the lunch period.

  The rest of the day’s classes consisted of French and History, both of which I had with Alex. The day passed fairly quickly with most of my attention directed at assessing both students and staff for any possible threat they might pose to Alex. My lack of attention to the class prompted my history teacher to call on me to give a brief summary of the Bubonic Plague outbreak in England. She suspected I had not been listening to her and she was right. However, thankfully I had lived in England at the time, and was able to provide an answer which she reluctantly accepted before moving on with the rest of the lesson. Alex smiled at me and I could barely control the urge to taste his blood. Returning his smile weakly, I turned away to look out the window and return my body to its normal state. I would need to feed again tonight. I put it down to the fact that I was not used to being around so many humans.

  Finally, the bell rang for the end of the day. Alex and I walked to his ca
r with Lauren and Daniel, who had parked near us. We said our goodbyes and Alex and I got into our car and drove out of Creswick Academy. Once we were outside Alex turned to me smiling and said “Well congratulations, you made it through your first day.” I looked at Alex and laughed. As we turned onto the freeway, I put my window down and allowed the cold air to rush against my face, taking in all of the smells that surrounded me and diluting Alex’s. He turned up the volume and began singing to a song on the radio. We drove home in a comfortable silence, Alex singing at the top of his lungs and me allowing the world to flash past.

  Alex pulled into the driveway and Alistair was waiting to collect the car. He opened my door and I stepped out grabbing my bag from the back seat. We made our way up the front steps where Michael greeted us.

  “Miss Olivia is on the phone for you.” he stated to Alex.

  “Of course,” Alex said shaking his head as if briefly confused “She always calls when I get home.” He said to me explaining the reason for her call. I nodded and he began to walk to the stairs stopping at the bottom to turn to me. “I’ll be doing my homework in my room after I speak with Liv if you want to join me in say 30 minutes?” he asked.

  “Sure.” I replied.

  Once Alex had gone up the stairs I turned to Michael “I expect Lucas and Katherine are in the library waiting for me?” I asked.

  “You are correct Miss Grace. Miss Katherine has been wearing down the carpet for the last hour,” Michael replied raising an eyebrow.

  I made my way down to the library and knocked briefly before entering. Lucas was seated behind his desk completing some paperwork and Katherine was standing by the fire place apparently watching the door for my arrival. I nodded to them both and made my way to the sofas we had occupied during our last meeting. Set out on the table was a crystal goblet and a pitcher of blood. I filled the goblet and drained it within seconds. I refilled my glass and sat it down next to me.

  “There does not appear to be any threat at the school and I could not detect any scent of a vampire, other than those in this house, between here and Creswick Academy.” I stated. I observed the relief on Lucas and Katherine faces’ as I informed them of the news.

  “From the conversations I monitored today it does not appear that anyone at the school suspects anything of Alex, other than he is a transfer from London due to his family relocating. No one spoke about the Acelades or Sempre family and apart from discussing Alex’s transfer and my arrival at the school, there does not appear to be any unwarranted attention being paid to Alex.” I completed my report and again drained my goblet of its contents.

  “So he should be safe?” Katherine asked seeking reassurance.

  “I can’t foresee any threat to him at the school and I will be there with him every day until he turns 18, so he is as safe as he can be,” I replied.

  With Alex’s safety guaranteed, Lucas turned his attentions to me. “And what about you?” he stated “How did you cope today? I see the hunger is back.” I looked at Lucas and saw the concern in his eyes.

  “Today took a greater toll than I expected,” I conceded. “Who knew my arrival would cause such an expanse of conversation, but I am sure it will calm down. I am able to feed regularly so it won’t be a problem,” I stated hoping to alleviate some of Lucas’s concern to no avail.

  “I know what I am doing Lucas.” I continued. “You wanted me for this assignment and I will complete it as required. You need to stop worrying about me. I am trained for this and there is nothing that I can’t handle.” I looked at Lucas sternly and he nodded understanding that I did not wish to be questioned about my health and wellbeing anymore.

  “So, what is the plan for the next three months?” Lucas asked changing the topic swiftly.

  “I will continue to attend school with Alex and any other events as required. If I identify any threats, I will forward these on to you immediately. I will monitor the surrounding areas for any new vampire activity and I expect that the staff will also be on the look out for any changes. Hopefully, I will just continue in a protection detail capacity until Alex turns 18, if anything changes then we will have to revise our plan.” I concluded.

  Lucas and Katherine both agreed with my overview and I left the library. I started up the stairs to Alex’s room listening to him finishing his conversation with Olivia. I waited outside the door until I heard them finish then knocked.

  “Come in,” Alex called out.

  “Hi, ready for a fun filled afternoon of homework?” I joked as I entered Alex’s room. I walked over to the lounge area which was similar to the one in my room, only with deep red upholstery covering the sofa and arm chairs. Taking a seat on the arm chair opposite Alex I took out my books and placed them on the table. I noticed that there were two sandwiches and sodas sitting on the table. Alex noticed me looking at them.

  “I thought perhaps your appetite might have returned since lunch so I got Sienna to make us a snack,” he stated.

  “Thanks,” I replied forcing a smile to my face as I picked up a sandwich and took a bite. It tasted like dirt and ash. I swallowed it as quickly as I could and placed the remainder of the sandwich on the plate. The next two hours were spent with Alex completing his homework and me pretending to take the same amount of time to finish work I actually had done in 15 minutes. I watched Alex as he studied. He furrowed his brow and bit on his left bottom lip when he was concentrating. He smiled to himself when he found the answer he was looking for and had a habit of twisting his pen in his hand aimlessly when his mind began to wander.

  When the bell rang for dinner, both Alex and I jumped slightly startled. Alex had been concentrating on a math problem and I had become absorbed in watching him work. Smiling at each other with mild embarrassment, I returned my books to my bag and made my way to the door. I returned my bag to my room and changed quickly before dinner into jeans and an aqua blouse. I hurried down the stairs and met Alex in the hall.

  “Wow!” Alex said looking me up and down.

  “What?” I asked running my hands down my outfit suddenly self conscious.

  “Uh nothing,” Alex replied his face turning a shade of red I was fast becoming familiar with. “You just got changed really fast.”

  “Oh yeah, well, I used to sleep in every morning,” I replied as I stepped past him into the dining room holding my breath as I passed. I felt as though I was losing control. I was never self conscious and I certainly didn’t allow myself to spend hours on end watching humans. I needed to focus on the job at hand and get through this next three months so that I could return to my retreat in Ireland away from people and allow my body to rest.

  Katherine and Lucas were already seated at the table when I entered with Alex in tow. Dinner progressed without incident. Katherine and Lucas asked us questions about our day at school and Katherine spoke about her conversation with Stephan who was hoping to return from his business trip in New York this weekend. I managed to eat most of the roast beef I was served and was excused from eating dessert, voicing a dislike for cheesecake. When dinner was complete, Lucas retired to his library to complete some work and Katherine stated she was going to watch her favourite English serials and complete her embroidery in the parlour. I was about to excuse myself for the evening and hunt, when Alex invited me to watch television in his room. Katherine smiled at me as she left, obviously happy that Alex was finally warming to me. I didn’t think it appropriate to refuse the offer plus, I was actually looking forward to the prospect of getting to spend some more time with Alex. I found him intriguing.

  Alex and I spent the rest of the evening watching various crime shows, sharing the sofa in his room. I found myself willing to experience the unpleasant sensation of poison in my mouth to spend time with Alex. He had a comfortable air about him as he sat back on the sofa with his feet up on the table. His arm bushed against mine as we sat on the lounge and a bolt of lightening ran through my body. I could feel myself holding my breath and my body become alert. Alex’s heart
rate had increased and I noticed his cheeks blush. We both continued to look straight ahead, focusing on the screen. Although breathing was not necessary, it was a comfortable habit and I soon realised I was still holding my breath and quickly exhaled. Alex shifted his body on the sofa and I became very aware of his presence around me. It had been a long time since I’d been this close to a human. I could feel my body urging me to taste his blood. Alex settled himself on the lounge with his knees just lightly touching mine. I could feel the electricity running through my body, like a circuit. I forced myself to move my legs and curled them under me on the lounge to ensure there was a space between Alex and me.I found myself staring at Alex, watching his face change as he watched the screen. He caught me staring and smiled. I swallowed a mouthful of poison and reminded myself that I was the one who needed to be in control. I turned away and focused on the screen, willing my body to relax.

  Alex eventually fell asleep on the sofa and I slipped out of his room through the balcony, landing on the ground silently. I needed to feed and quickly to rid myself of the poison that had built up whilst I was with Alex. Entering the forest, I quickly picked up on the scent of a pack of wolves then dismissed them just as quickly. I was not in the mood for a chase. Instead, I followed the trail of some deer located near the edge of the forest. I took down three of the deer before they realised there was an enemy within their midst. I took another as they began to scatter. I felt the poison recede in my body as the blood flowed through my veins.

  Leaning up against a rock face, I allowed myself to enjoy the feeling of my latest hunt. I was usually required to feed every 2-3 days due to my special diet and my higher than normal need for blood, but daily feeding was not something I had encountered since my first days of being a vampire. I felt weak having to give into my hunger so often and I could not shake the feeling that Alex was the cause. Of course, I knew rationally that being around humans so often would cause an increase in hunger, but that did not seem to account for my behaviour. The constant thoughts of tasting Alex’s blood were new to me and I was not comfortable with their appearance in my life. I vowed to try harder to stop these thoughts and increase my feeding if necessary to morning and evening.

 
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