Chapter Thirteen: Brothers
"Where are we going, Nicholas?" Caroline asked as she practically ran to keep up with his long, swift strides.
"Just do what I asked and be ready to leave in half an hour," he snapped as he slammed the door to his personal chambers shut in Caroline's face. She heard a series of metallic clicks and concluded that he had most definitely locked her out.
She hit the door with an open palm and let out a loud sigh. Walking hurriedly to her own chambers, she swiftly collected her most important possessions. She didn't have much, she realized as she looked at the small pile of belongings. It was enough to fit in a good sized purse and for some reason, that fact was very pathetic and depressing to Caroline. Her whole life had been devoted to collecting things and now all that she had was a battered copy of Pride and Prejudice, a scarf her sister had crocheted, and a box of pictures from her childhood.
"All things human perish. It is not vampire to cling to trivial idols," came a voice from her open door and Caroline whirled around to face Zed. He looked into her defiant eyes for several seconds before saying, "you're going with him even though you have no idea where he would take you?"
"Yes," Caroline said without hesitation, eyeing the old man warily.
"You have nothing to fear from me, Caroline," the man said slowly. "It seems you are more than just a passing fancy. I expected Nicholas to tire of you within a day. However, I was wrong."
"Do you even give a damn about him?" Caroline snarled and Zed's eyes narrowed.
"You would know nothing about it," Zed said, barely controlling his tone. "So, I will be patient with you and let you know some things."
"I already know all about you, Zed," Caroline said triumphantly, placing her hands on her hips.
"Is that so?" He asked with a crooked smile that revealed his yellowed teeth.
"Nicholas has told me the history of the clan," she explained.
"We were like brothers once," Zed said sadly. "Before Mikhail."
"You mean before you betrayed your clan—before you betrayed Nicholas—to join him?" She asked and his smile widened.
"You may be immortal, but your heart is still human and you are so very, very stupid," Zed said, his voice low and filled with menace. "Do you not wonder why I was spared at all?"
"Nicholas explained that to me as well. He said the council spared you because your daughter was kidnapped and turned by Mikhail to lure you in," Caroline replied.
"Yes, that is the story he would tell you," Zed said with a small laugh. "It is the kinder, less pathetic one."
"What do you mean?"
"I was sentenced to death, Caroline," Zed said. "And I meant to die. I couldn't stand what I had let myself become." Zed looked away as he continued. "But, Nicholas refused to let me die. He begged the council—pleaded with them to give me pardon. In the end he succeeded—no one could deny Nicholas, you know," he said and Caroline smiled. "They granted me my life in exchange for Nicholas' exile." He paused, enjoying Caroline's tumultuous confusion. "Do you think these walls could keep me here if I did not want to stay?" He asked and Caroline shook her head. "I stay because I owe Nicholas Brooks my life and because he needs me."
"But you two always—"
"Fight like cats and dogs?" Zed laughed again. "When there is something to be fought over, brothers can be the fiercest of enemies… But when there is something to be fought against, brothers are the fiercest of allies." He then turned and left her to ponder all that he had said.
Twenty minutes later, Caroline found herself in the mansion's garage with a small backpack slung over her shoulder. Nicholas opened the passenger door of his Camaro and she slid gracefully into the leather seat. He closed it behind her and a second later, the car was started and they were on their way out.
The engine groaned as he gunned it and he barely slowed as he turned out of the driveway and onto the main road. Caroline's heart was racing but she refused to show her fear.
"You're quiet," he observed, pointedly look at her. Caroline shrugged and looked out the window, watching as the green of the forest swept by them at a phenomenal speed. "Is something the matter?" He asked. "Have I done something?"
"As a matter of fact, yes, you have," she said, turning to look at him. "You lied to me," Caroline said.
"I'm sorry?" He asked confusedly.
"You lied to me about Zed."
"I didn't lie," Nicholas replied in a low tone.
"You twisted the facts," Caroline snapped. "Same difference."
"Zed spoke with you," Nicholas said, his lip curling in anger. "That bastard."
"Don't think you're fooling me with that "I-hate-his-guts act" anymore," Caroline said, crossing her arms over her chest. "Call him all the names you want, but I know the truth—however twisted it is."
Caroline saw Nicholas smile out of the corner of her eye and barely suppressed one of her own. "It is pretty twisted," he said. "He was so mad when I brought you home."
"Jealous?" Caroline asked and Nicholas guffawed.
"It would take more than a girl to make Zed jealous," Nicholas said. "No… He was scared. What I did is punishable by death in our clan. He wanted me to get rid of you before anyone else knew what I had done."
"Why didn't you listen to him?"
"For the same reason I couldn't let you die in that alley at La Vien," he said quietly. Caroline wanted to ask him why, but felt a very palpable line there that neither of them were ready to cross.
"I'm glad you have Zed," Caroline said after a few minutes of silence.
"Oh?" Nicholas asked. "Why is that?"
"Because if you didn't have Zed, you'd have been all alone here…" She said, her voice trailing off. "And that would have been really sad… and creepy."
"Agreed," Nicholas said.
"So, are you ready to tell me where we're going?" she asked.
"We're going to Henley Hall where Margaret and Pete will teach you how to act like a real vampire."
"I am a real vampire!" Caroline said indignantly.
"You're a baby vampire."
"You can't be serious," Caroline guffawed.
"I'm very serious. Margaret is quite insistent on the training and I'm not sure I disagree," Nicholas replied. "In exactly two weeks, Henley Hall will be crawling with some of the oldest and most respected vampires from our clan and some others. They may not realize your infancy when they first see you, but the second they are in range of your very loud and very colorful thoughts…" Nicholas allowed his voice to trail off into nothingness. "Well, let's just say this event will be a death sentence for us both if you don't learn these things."
"Why do we have to go to this party at all then?"
Nicholas cracked a half-smile as he replied. "First of all, it's not a party… It's more of a meeting," he said ironically. "And second of all, attendance is mandatory. These events are rare and it gives us a chance to mingle. To… reconnect as a clan and remind us that we still have others to answer to that are much more powerful."
There was silence for several seconds before Caroline ventured an amused, "attendance is mandatory… and if we don't show up, they'll what?" Caroline felt a jolt in her stomach as Nicholas punched the gas and they hit 90.
"Honestly, I don't know. I've never missed one. Considering, would you really like to find out?" He asked, giving her a stare that said everything.
Caroline shook her head and looked out her window. "What if… what if we do all this training and I still fail?"
"Don't think like that," he snapped. She could sense his nervousness and as a result, Caroline's feeling of uneasiness increased. "But…" He forced himself to begin calmly. "If worse comes to worse, there's always a way out."
Caroline gulped in a dry throat. "I'm a liability," she said.
"You're my liability," Nicholas replied fiercely and Caroline started when she felt his cool, smooth hand take hold of hers. She felt a flutter in her stomach, but pushed it far out of her mind. Whatever her feelings at the moment, they were far overshadowed by her anxiety at their approaching trial.
"Do you think it's possible to fool them all?" She asked and he sighed.
"If I were to be one hundred percent honest with you right now, I would say no." Caroline groaned softly and he squeezed her hand more tightly. "But if you're anywhere near as smart as I think you are, then we have a shot in hell and that's more than enough for me. Whatever fate we face in two weeks, we face it together so it can't be too bad, can it?"
She shook her head no and was surprised to discover that she meant it wholeheartedly. "Why can't you train me?" She asked some time later. His hand had left hers by now and was resting unnecessarily on the steering wheel.
"I wouldn't know where to begin," he said. "I've spent so much time away from my own kind over the last few decades that I couldn't tell you the first thing about acting vampire."
"But you could teach me how to block off my mind," she said.
"I thought I could," he said. "But, after some thought, I've realized that I'm not the best person to build your mental skills," he said. "Margaret brought up a good point when I spoke to her on the phone. My skills are developed well beyond those of the rest of my clan except for the very ancient ones like Margaret and Pete—and even their control slips from time to time… I would expect too much from you and you would fail. You need a teacher that will be able to show you the very basics of mind and thought control."
"Don't sound so worried," he said lightly.
"You just told me we could be dead in two weeks," Caroline said. "Sorry if I can't pretend like it doesn't matter…"
A/N: Yay! finally a new chapter. Sorry it's taken so long. Most of my stories have been on a hiatus for a while but it seems I have my inspiration back. Please read and review. Thank you all so much for the feedbacks, the favorites, and the alerts. You ARE the reason I keep going!