post-July 4th! It was such a drag waking up and going to work this morning, but I did it. How about you? Were you able to sleep in? Or did you have to work? Thank you for the follows and the favorites - if you have a chance, I'd love your feedback! Please review! Have a great day! :)


Chapter 2

The train ride to the Dragulia castle was only a forty-five minute trip outside of Somerset, but Lizzie felt like it took forever to get there. She spent the entire time taking notes on wrinkled napkins about how to successfully babysit a royal vampire. Though, to be honest, she wasn't happy about the prospect whatsoever. This vampire was not only a royal, but he was also supposed to be hundreds of years old. Nikolai Dragulia was the eldest son of the infamous vampire brought to humanity's attention by vampire slayer Bram Stocker. Stocker wrote a factual account of the king, Vladislaus, known today simply as Dracula. Nikolai was next in line to take over his father's place as king of the vampires. Lizzie didn't know exactly how everything worked when it came to vampire royalty besides what they taught her at the academy. She wondered if vampires really could step down from the throne since they were, in fact, immortal. Regardless, by 'retiring' from the throne, Vladislaus had caused an uproar among his colony when he announced the passing of the crown in a few months' time.

The vampires seemed to fall into one of two categories regarding the entire situation. One group thought it was an excellent decision because, while Vladislaus was a strong, admirable leader, they thought a new ruler with new beliefs and a relatable nature to the younger generation of vampires might bring a new perspective to them that they hadn't been a part of for a long time. However, the other half was more old-fashioned. They either disapproved of Vladislaus resigning or they thought the crown should go to someone else, namely Vladislaus' youngest son, Lewis. Lizzie wasn't exactly sure why some people preferred the younger brother over the older one, but apparently, some did. Lizzie had found this interesting when she had researched them earlier during her excursion, learning that Vladislaus chose his heir not based on the age of his sons or who was better liked by the colony, but by whom he felt would be most capable of ruling.)

Lizzie frowned, realizing that she felt a tad sorry for Lewis. However, based on her extensive knowledge of history and societal structure, every kingdom was usually passed down to the first son, so it shouldn't have been that surprising. Oddly enough, that was really all she could find on the subject of the royal vampires, besides a basic profile of the family. Hell, she couldn't even find pictures of them no matter what data base she searched through. Luckily, Jackson managed to snag her two photos for his best assassin, and they were currently in the manila folder on the table she was currently occupying in her private suite. She wasn't exactly sure how Jackson came up with these, and didn't plan on asking him. He had his way and that's all she needed – wanted – to know.

Before looking over the pictures, her eyes glanced out one of the many windows occupying the suite. Trees and sky painted the glass – the sun was dipping low so it wouldn't be long before the vampire colony woke up. Her stomach rumbled even though she devoured the complimentary finger sandwiches and pastries. She had even drunk the tea they always offered – even though she didn't like the taste – and made sure to drench it with cream and sugar. The furniture was soft and relaxed; her body melded to her chair, and there was a pull-out couch with the most comfortable bed she had ever slept on a few feet away. The furniture was all a smooth deep oak, and made the already grand train car appear even bigger. There was a flat screen television hanging in the corner of the screen with digital cable, but because the train ride was so quick and because Lizzie had a lot of work to do, she wasn't able to enjoy it.

The first picture was a full-body shot of Lewis Vladislaus, who took after his mother – or so everyone said. He was younger than Nikolai by a few hundred years which, in vampire time, was not that much. He wasn't really tall, maybe five foot ten, and he had long strawberry blond that was pulled into a casual ponytail. His eyes were a sapphire blue that highlighted his alabaster skin quite beautifully. His body was toned and well-kept, and he was wearing on outfit that was predominantly black. His hooked nose only enhanced the enigmatic smirk on his face, and something about him caused Lizzie to shift uneasily as she regarded the picture. It wasn't because she was afraid of him; something about this man rubbed her the wrong way and she just couldn't explain why.

The second picture was another full-body shot, this one of the vampire she was supposed to be protecting. His height was the first thing she noticed about him. If she had to give his height a number, she would guess it was about six foot four, maybe six foot five. He was leaner than his brother was, but his body still contained some muscle mass and Lizzie could tell that if need be, he could protect himself when the time called for it (but apparently he still needed a babysitter). For some odd reason, he, too, was wearing black, but it only highlighted his own blue eyes, more transparent than his brother's, thanks to his jet-black hair. It was styled gracefully, combed back from his face and held back with gel. Snow was falling in the background, and she wondered just how long ago this candid had been taken. A small indent crowded his chin, and his hooked nose gave his face more of an interesting story than a smaller, straighter one might.

"He looks like his father," Lizzie murmured aloud, and her eyes went wide at the realization.

Lizzie could tell why some vampires didn't exactly approve of him being their next king. He looked too wrapped up in his thoughts to give others any consideration. Stoic. Brooding. But there was something warm about him, something friendly that didn't show in Lewis's picture, and Lizzie had a feeling it had to do with Nikolai's mother Elise. He looked like his father, certainly, but he had his mother's skin tone.

Elise was a human, and that was why many humans were familiar with her story. People might not know a lot about vampires – the species was incredibly private – but everyone who had taken any kind of history class knew the story of Elise. She had met Vladislaus, then Vlad Tepes, one hundred years after he had sold his soul to the devil in exchange for immortality. Despite the fact that his heart was unable to beat, it would seem it was still capable of love. Soon, the couple was married and Elise got pregnant with Nikolai. After he was born, Vladislaus decided to turn Elise into a vampire so she, too, would live forever. Two hundred years later, Lewis was born.

The only thing people outside vampire society really knew about the royals was the controversy between the two brothers. Nikolai, who was that the half-human, half-vampire was getting the throne while Lewis, the full-blooded vampire was not. But after significant DNA tests, doctors proved that Nikolai was predominantly vampire, with only a physical resemblance of his mother being human. Vampire genes were dominant, it would seem.

By the time the train rolled into the station, Lizzie could feel a headache coming on, but luckily for her, she knew of a way to alleviate it. She would go running once she settled into her temporary residence. Though her contact at the castle had offered to pick her up, she politely refused and instead requested that a nineteen sixty-nine cherry apple red convertible Ford Mustang was waiting for her with a GPS system programmed, carrying directions to the castle.

And there it was; the most beautiful thing she had ever seen was sitting in the parking lot. The train station and the attached parking lot were the only rural things around. Tall trees and bushes surrounded the isolated building, so tall they blocked out the dark blue sky. She knew there was a quaint town east of the castle, but other than that, it was completely deserted.

Lizzie traveled light, and therefore only had one bag with her, so instead of opening the trunk, she set the bag in the backseat. The keys were in the ignition, and she found it odd that nobody had tried to steal it. But then again, people might have known just who the car belonged to and decided it wasn't worth the risk.

The drive took another hour due to just how deep into the woods the castle was. The terrain was the same – same woodsy surrounding. There were no trails here, no place for people to camp. She could probably be killed out here, and no one would hear her scream.

Unlike werewolves, vampires integrated into city life without a problem – except the royal family. They preferred the peace, quiet, and privacy the forestry surrounding Somerset provided, and had settled there around the same time the city was founded, in the early seventeen hundreds, having immigrated for Romania. The tall, thick trees gave them protection from prying eyes and any attacks on themselves or their territory. Coming from Eastern Europe – Elise was originally from Russia before moving to Romania to study at a university – the family was used to the cold, and therefore had no problem with the snow, fog, and wind that prevailed Somerset's winter months.

When she arrived, she parked the car in the driveway, and for a moment, she simply stared. The castle was styled as gothic, built out of dark grey stone, and she was certain that it had been constructed with the time of Vladislaus' transformation – or Rebirth, as the history textbooks called it – in mind. It was tall, dark and imposing, with pointed roves and square balconies. There were no guards marching on the balconies, no guards in front of the heavy, stone entranceway. Weren't they supposed to be heavily guarded? Or did it not matter, since they were capable of defending themselves against most attacks? The windows were all pointed and closed – probably because of the bitter wind currently tousling her hair around - and she wondered how a family of four could live in such a big space without feeling isolated.

"Miss Grant?" a soft, tenor voice inquired.

Lizzie tore her eyes away from her temporary new home to regard who had spoken her name. And there he was, the man from the picture. It was Lewis Dragulia, wearing all black, and looking just as he did in the photo. However, he didn't seem all that intimidating, but then again, it wasn't as though he saw her as a threat or anything.

"May I take your bags?" he asked her as he descended from the doorway and approached her as she exited her vehicle. The door was stone and appeared to be three times as tall as he was and heavier than the car she would be driving for however long this mission would last, with had an intricate design carved into it; a dragon breathing out fire, from the looks of it.

"I only have the bag," she told him, indicating the backpack sitting in the backseat.

Without waiting for permission, Lewis reached down to grab it, and then turned back around, indicating that Lizzie should follow. She hated just how obviously awed she was by this place, but she couldn't help it. When they reached the interior of it, butlers shut the large doors behind them, and again, she could only stare. The ceiling was so high – so incredibly high she had to bend her neck back to see the top of it – with Turkish artwork dating back to the late thirteen hundreds painted into it. There were various staircases and balconies covered in rich crimson carpet, and on the walls was more art. Lizzie was certain she'd get lost in the maze no matter how long she spent here. The floor beneath her feet was stone, just like the door, and she knew if she didn't wear at least socks, her feet would get extremely cold.

It took her a minute, but she suddenly realized something was missing.

"Where, exactly, is this blood-sucker in dire need of a babysitter?" she asked, her voice laced with dryness as she placed her hands on her hips. Shouldn't he have met her at the door instead of his younger brother? Already she felt herself develop a small dislike for the guy.

"By blood-sucker, I'm sure you mean prince," a voice just as dry as hers said. She didn't need to turn around to know that it was Nikolai. "You forget your place, Miss Grant. Despite your inferior humanity, you are speaking of a royal and you should address me, as well as my brother, with respect."

Both brothers had thick, Russian accents with a hint of Romanian sprinkled in for flare. While Lewis' was soft and warm, Nikolai's was cold and deep, like cold velvet sheets.

Forget small, she could feel herself develop a big dislike for this vampire, royalty or not. Even though he was right.