Author's Note: Thank you so much, everyone, for all your kind and supporting words in the reviews. I try to respond to each and every one of my reviews (and review at least one of their stories if they have any) so if I missed anyone, I'm so sorry! My readers really are everything and I would be no where without them! Here is the next chapter in the story and I'm glad to say, things are heating up a little and moving along in the world I'm creating. This will probably be the last chapter before the New Year, so I hope you enjoy, and please don't forget to review!
Before I knew it, I had lunged at the man like a wild cat. I tossed Gwendolen to the side like a ragdoll before leaping on top of his body, my hands securely wrapped around his throat. I didn't know if vampires could suffocate or not, but I was going to try with all my might. Gwendolen picked herself up from the ground before straightening herself up. Daintily, she stepped over me and the man before entering his apartment.
"Get her off of me, Gwen," he gurgled as my grip around his throat grew tighter.
"I'm quite sure you can to that yourself, Cormac," Gwendolen said as she made her way to the bar, pouring herself a glass of what looked like scotch. Not that I had experience with alcohol. "Besides, it's kind of like watching one of those 'When Animals Attack' videos. You just can't look away."
We struggled for a few moments more before Cormac exclaimed, "GWEN!"
"Oh, fine, edagito," she said with a quick flick of her wrist. We were both separated, and flung into the air. I collided with one of the walls, while he slid across the marble floor. I was beginning to understand what Gwendolen might be, and she was right: I never thought I would have believed it until now. I felt anger boil in me as I lay on my back, heaving heavily in a feeling of desperation, grief and indignation all rolled into one feeling.
Gwendolen had brought me to the very apartment of the person who hadn't even attempted to save Chloe and me from our attackers. Instead, he had chastised them for doing it so publicly without any attempt to even help us. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. Most of all, I wanted some kind of revenge. I felt pinned by something heavy, like it was crushing my chest. At first, I thought my anger was so great that I felt it physically, until I realized that Gwen was the one who was restraining me, but how?
"If you promise to play nice, I'll let you up," Gwen said. "Agreed?"
Reluctantly, I nodded in agreement. Quickly, the heavy feeling on my chest disappeared, and I was finally able to lift myself and once again look into the face of the person I hated the most at the moment.
He seemed so much skinnier and lanky when I had last seen him, but now he was much more muscular. However, the face was the same. His face, just like the faces of Sergei and Luca, would be burnt into my memory forever. His head was covered in deep chestnut brown hair and his face was inset with dramatic gray eyes. I hated his stupid, attractive face already.
Cormac had already risen from the floor and was sulking towards Gwendolen.
"Just help yourself," Cormac said, rubbing the back of his neck the waving Gwendolen off.
Gwendolen only smiled seductively.
"Stop that, I'm your cousin," he said, removing the glass for himself. "Are you even old enough to be drinking this?"
"I'm older than I look," she responded.
"Yeah, well, so am I," he said sarcastically before plopping down in a large arm chair that faced a fireplace.
I still felt like I was fuming, like smoke was billowing from my body as I looked at Cormac. I hadn't even realized that I was pacing the floor in front of them, resisting the urge to lunge at him once more and rip his throat out. Wait a minute—did I really want to rip someone's throat out? I almost felt disgusted with myself, but it felt OK at the same time. It was OK to want to tear him to shreds. I could tear him limb from limb if I wanted to; I was surely strong enough.
Once again, I became conflicted with myself. My instincts made me want to do violent, horrible things to Cormac, but my heart and the sane part of my mind told me they were wrong. My head became clouded with confusion. This whole vampire thing was getting much more complicated than I thought it ever would.
"What's her problem?" Gwendolen whispered to Cormac, becoming concerned about my pacing.
"Hell if I know," Cormac said, taking a swig of his glass.
Finally I found my voice. "I'll tell you what my problem is: when that vampire attacked me, all he did was telling them to not do it in front of everyone!"
You could hear a pin drop in the room as Gwen slowly looked at Cormac, and Cormac looked at me intently, like he was trying to picture my face.
"It's your fault I'm like this!" I screamed at Cormac, accusing him with my finger.
"You refused to save her that night?" Gwen asked, taking a seat at the bar.
"Not in so many words," Cormac responded.
"Oh, this just got so much more entertaining," Gwen smiled, giggling impishly as she laid her head on her palms, watching us intently from the bar.
"I'm sorry-," he looked at me, obviously looking for my name.
"Charlotte," I responded curtly.
"Charlotte. Clearly, you are new at the way things work in the vampire world so I'll give you a pass on attacking me in my own home." His arrogance made my anger grow even stronger. It grew so strong, in fact, my fangs appeared. I didn't even feel embarrassed enough to cover my mouth.
"Excuse me?" I heard myself say, venom dripping from my words. It was a little less convincing than I had planned, because it came out muffled. I still needed to learn how to speak with these fangs. I felt that crazy vampire rage mixed with my human guilt and despair begin to rise again. I held the tears at bay while I fought with my urge to detach Cormac's head from his body.
"You're only two days old, so I'll let you in on a few important things you'll need to know. One, you do not ever attack a vampire in his own home. Two, you do not ever stand between a vampire and his dinner." Cormac took another sip of his scotch, finishing the entire glass and placing it carefully at the table beside him.
The silence grew between us again, making the room feel like any noise in the apartment had been completely sucked out. You could no longer hear the sounds of the bustling street below but were only able to bask in the horribly awkward silence that pursued. None of us could find the courage or desire to look at the other.
"May I ask why you brought her here?" Cormac finally asked Gwendolen in annoyance.
"You owe me a favor, or a few. She is my favor," Gwendolen responded, pointing at me with her perfectly manicured finger.
Cormac looked at her in complete disbelief. "She's two days old."
"So? Have you ever been around a newborn vampire? First, there's the complete inability to control any sort of emotion. Imagine thirty pregnant women trapped in the body of a teenager. Second, they don't know how to do anything. I'm not a teacher and most definitely not a parent," he said.
"Well, you need to do something productive with your life now. You weren't a very good politician, otherwise you wouldn't be in your current afterlife predicament," Gwendolen smirked.
Cormac looked at her with displeasure. The ability to control my feeling of wanting to burst into tears was growing weaker and weaker by the minute. I wanted to show him that I was just fine at controlling my own emotions, but was starting to fail miserably. Cormac and Gwendolen stared at each other intently as the moments passed in silence between the three of us.
"Fine!" Cormac said in defeat, getting up to pour himself another glass of scotch as he took a seat at the bar. He looked at the bottle and continued, "I'm going to need a lot more of this, then."
The agony of the few minutes finally did its work—no fewer than thirty seconds after Cormac agreed to Gwendolen's demands, I burst out into tears. The weight of everything suddenly seemed too much; I had to have Gwendolen use a favor to even have someone take me in, I was technically dead, my best friend was killed right in front of me and there were at least four other vampires out there looking for me to do God knows what anymore. The hunger was becoming insatiable, already I was hungry again.
Being a vampire really sucked so far.
"That would be the out of control emotions you were talking about," Gwen said while Cormac nodded in awed agreement.
For a few moments the two watched me as I continued to cry, the blood pouring down my cheeks. From instinct, I continued to rub my face trying to free it from the never-ending tears, but it only made the crying worse. If I was still human, I might have passed out from hyperventilation at this point.
"Gross," I heard Gwen mutter to herself.
Cormac slapped his hands down on his knees as he took a deep, frustrated breath and glanced back at Gwen.
"Well, this is going to be fun," he said. "I am so happy for this gift you have felt so gracious to give me."
"That's what family is for," Gwen said, patting him on the cheek.
"Don't remind me," he responded, running his hand through his dark brown hair.
Gwen looked down at her watch. "Oh, will you look at the time," she said, faking surprise.
"Oh, no you don't. You're going to stay right here with me and get this-" he pointed towards me dramatically, "-situation under control."
"What do you expect me to do? I'm a witch, not a miracle worker," Gwen said. "Besides, you understand all that vampiric pubescence, or whatever it is you things are calling it these days, much better than I ever could, surely."
"You can't just leave me here with her!" Cormac complained.
"Just because you haven't had contact with more than the likes of me, or that Charles Greymalkin, let alone an appropriate member of the opposite sex, doesn't mean you can't handle this on your own," she said sweetly, almost sickeningly. She continued to walk towards the door, with Cormac on her coattails. I felt myself sink into the plush armchair, folding my arms across my chest and staring at the empty fireplace.
"But I only have one bedroom!" He called out.
Gwendolen didn't even turn around. "Oh, you'll be perfectly fine," she said, waving at him weakly. Quickly, she threw open the door and briskly walked over the threshold, slamming the door behind her. It was like the slink of a prison door, and Cormac looked at it like he had just been delivered a life sentence.
He turned back to look at me. We spent moments upon moments in agonizing silence. I spent the time mostly trying to pretend I was very interested in the marble floor below us, which was quite extraordinary.
"So, Cormac... do you have a last name?" I asked, trying to break the silence.
"I don't need a last name," he responded.
"Oh, so you're like Cher then?"
"Are you even old enough to know who Cher is?" He retorted in annoyance.
"I caught an episode of Sonny and Cher once on TV Land when I was eight," I said. "Why don't you have a last name?"
"Just... because," he said, like he were talking to a frustrating kindergartener.
"Where am I going to sleep?" I asked. I imagined a room with only a coffin in it, shuddering a little. At least that would be better than sleeping in an alleyway.
"My bedroom, I guess," he said.
"But where will you sleep?"
"I'll manage on the couch," he said in annoyance.
The silence grew between us as I began to tap my foot on the floor to combat the boredom and the noiselessness of the room. Cormac was not a very good conversationalist.
"So-" I began to speak, trying to start a conversation again. If I was going to be stuck with him, I at least wanted to get to know him.
"Do you only know how to speak in questions?" He interrupted, rubbing his temples like he had an oncoming migraine.
I let my mouth hang open slightly, agape in surprise. Quickly, I found my composure. I was getting much better that, it seemed. "Excuse me; I'm pretty sure it's your fault that we're in this situation. This seems like a pretty fitting punishment, if you ask me," I said boldly.
"Punishment?" He laughed. "Listen, princess, this whole arrangement ends as soon as my cousin, who seems to be temporarily channeling the graces of Mother Theresa in taking you under her wing, reverts back to her weaseling, extortionist ways that we have all painstakingly decided to look the other way about as a family."
"You're definitely making her look like a saint," I tried to mumble under my breath, but failed miserably.
Cormac must have decided to ignore my comment, because he continued. "It's that friend of your's fault anyway, I don't know why you're mad at me," Cormac said nonchalantly.
"That isn't even funny," I said, rising from my seat. The burning anger was starting to rise again, and the more and more hungry I got, the less I was able to control it. This conversation was not going to end very amicably. "She was murdered and I was created into-into this thing! This abomination!"
"Please, save the hellfire speak for someone who actually has anything to fear," Cormac said.
I started to walk towards him, my fist clenching in outrage. He could see the fire begin to burn in my eyes as my glare became harsh. Before I knew it, Cormac had risen from his seat and stood in front of me, forcing me down into my chair. He gripped onto the arms of the chair so tightly; I thought they might shatter beneath his hold. I sank as far back into the chair as I possibly could without falling through it completely. He drew his face closer to me to the point that he was barely a few inches from my face.
"I don't think you understand," Cormac said. "That friend of yours was what we call a blood bank. She knew what she was walking you into; I've seen her frequent that place for weeks. She brought you there knowing she'd probably eventually get you killed. What a great friend, right?"
"I hate you," was my response. It came out like the hiss of a cat.
"You're acting like an idiot right now," he countered, stepping back and freeing me from my chair prison. He picked up his glass and continued back to the bar to pour himself another glass.
"You're acting like an alcoholic," I shot back.
"It's going to be hard to be an alcoholic when vampires cannot even get drunk," he said with sigh, emptying what little remained of the bottle into his glass.
"Then why do you bother drinking that stuff?"
"Because it reminds me a little bit of what being human used to be like," he admitted, and then quickly turned away from me like he had made a dire mistake. He downed what alcohol remained in the glass before replacing the glass on the bar.
"Well, I still hate you," I said, crossing my arms and falling into one of the plush armchairs in the living room, huffing and puffing like a toddler.
Cormac leaned over me from behind the chair and brought his lips close to my ear. I could smell the alcohol on his breath and it made me want to gag. "Unfortunately, sweetheart, we're temporarily attached at the hip so deal with it," he said in a low voice. "I would recommend getting that anger of yours in check before you start accusing me in my own home."
"I need some air," I said, rising again from my seat.
"Where are you going?" He asked.
"Out," I said shortly.
"You can't leave," Cormac said. "It's too dangerous and I don't feel like babysitting."
"I can take care of myself," I responded, beginning to walk towards the door.
"So you're going to walk out into the street wearing jeans and a t-shirt in forty-degree weather and no one is going to think that's strange?" Cormac said.
I stopped in my tracks and turned to face him. He was leaning casually on the couch with a smirk on his face. I wanted to slap the smirk right off of his face.
"There's a lot you need to learn about being a vampire. The first thing is learning how to pretend to be human. Everything that came naturally now you have to think about. Like breathing, for one. Second, you don't go out into the public if the police are posting your picture all over the television."
The television? "What do you mean?" I asked.
Cormac turned to the large television and picked up a complicated-looking remote to turn the TV on. I looked up at the screen wise-eyed as the news anchor showed my picture on half of the screen.
"Charlotte Alders is currently unaccounted for and has potentially important information related to the murder of Chloe Marsden. If you have any information pertaining to the whereabouts of Charlotte Alders, please contact-"
"That can't be," I whispered.
"It probably doesn't help that they're being fed by people that work for Renaud and Violette. They're looking for you and they're going to try to draw you out of hiding."
"But what could they want with me?"
"I don't know. Maybe the same thing as my cousin?" Cormac responded.
"So I am just supposed to stay here until this all mulls over?" I asked in disbelief.
"Well, to be frank, this isn't going to mull over," Cormac said very matter-of-factly.
I rolled my eyes at him. "You are so indifferent that I can't stand it!" I exclaimed, throwing my hands into the air in exasperation.
"Maybe, but for now, you can enjoy all the fresh air you want on the balcony in the bedroom," he said.
"How will I feed? I only fed a couple hours ago and I'm already hungry again!" My thoughts lingered momentarily to the couple that had the misfortune of meeting me, but I quickly pushed them to the back of my mind. I felt it was better not to dwell. It seemed that their fate would not be the last.
"You're hungry already?" He asked. He seemed to almost be in disbelief.
"Isn't that what I just said?" I responded.
"You shouldn't—never mind," he said. "There are some bags of blood in the refrigerator. It tastes horrible with all the chemicals they put in it, but it'll do the trick. It costs a lot of money to keep that blood stocked, so don't go on a frenzy or anything. "
"I think I have a little more self-control than that," I countered.
"We'll see," he laughed, sitting down in front of the television and surfing through probably the thousands of channels he had.
I held my head high, attempting to show that I wasn't completely incompetent. I was already beginning to hate how much he treated me like a child, and I had only known him for less than a day. I walked past the bar into a grand kitchen covered in marble, but it was extremely empty. I guess vampires really didn't have a use for mixers, silverware and plates. A low hum emitted from the large, two-door chrome refrigerator. I gingerly opened the door on the right, expecting to see shelves full of food. I was greeted only by shelves packed with bags full of red liquid—blood. It seemed so morose, and something you would see out of some demented horror film, but I found myself licking my lips. What the sight of blood actually making me salivate?
Reluctantly, I grabbed one bag from the piles and held it in my hands. I had never donated blood, let alone seen a bag of blood except in movies and on television. Somehow, it seemed so much more real. This was the only way I was going to survive, and for some reason, I was ok with that.
I examined the bag for a few moments, flipping it over and over. How was I supposed to do this? My hunger was growing stronger and stronger the more I looked at the red liquid. It beckoned to me, all I could see what the blood sloshing within the bag as I moved it. I no longer heard the lingering sound of the television, or the hum of the refrigerator.
My instincts came over me and I quickly bit into the bag in desperation, greedily drinking as much as I could. I could hear the slurping in the back of my mind and it should have disgusted me, but I didn't care. I just wanted it more than I had ever wanted it before. The bag jostled in my hand as I drank violently but I lost control. The bag quickly plummeted to the ground, splashing what precious amount that remained in the bag over the pristine marble of the kitchen floor. I heard a distressed gasp escape me.
I attempted to hide my surprise at the pool of blood that piled around the emptying bag.
"You dropped the bag, didn't you?" I heard Cormac yell from the living room as he watched the television. I could hear the satisfaction dripping from his voice.
I felt myself slump down the cabinets, watching the pool grow bigger and bigger. I wrestled with myself—desperately I wanted to fall to the floor and suck up every last drop. I felt like an animal. I let my hunger control me so much that I was willing to lick the blood off of the kitchen floor. I stifled a cry as I started to desperately clean the blood up with my hands, replacing it back into the deflated bag.
"Charlotte," I heard Cormac call from behind me.
I ignored him, desperate to clean up my own mess—to save it somehow. The liquid seeped through my fingers as the pool grew bigger and bigger. I tried harder and harder to corral the liquid, but to no avail. I knew Cormac was standing next to me, watching me as I tried to salvage what remained of the blood. I thought I heard him try to speak to me, but I was too focused.
"Stop," Cormac said, holding onto my shoulders and shaking me from my trance. He bent down to try to help me, but I stopped him.
"I can do it myself," I said, once again holding back the frustrated tears that were sure to appear. Cormac bent down to my level, letting his hand linger on my shoulder. Oddly, it comforted me.
"Charlotte, stop," Cormac said. His voice was softer than it had been the entire night as he put his hand over mine, forcing me to drop what remained of the bag. "Let me help you."
I looked up at him, surely looking like a wreck, and was greeted by a face that was much more welcoming than the face I had seen only moments before in the living room. Cormac looked at me with gray eyes that seemed so much older than he looked. He was slim but athletic with an angular face. He reminded me of many of the guys you would see girls fawning over in movies, but I suspected a lot of vampires looked like that. His skin was as pale as mine, but he had a noticeable scar above his right eye. I guess vampirism couldn't fix everything. It seemed so odd that of all the imperfections he could have kept, a lone scar above his eye was all the remained of his human life.
He held his hand to me, motioning for me to stand up with him. He walked to a small closet on the other side of the kitchen and pulled out a mop with a small bucket. Handing me the mop, which was heavily stained red, he began to fill the small bucket with hot water. Looking at the stained mop I imagine that this was not the first accident involving blood in this apartment.
Cormac handed me the bucket. "Here," he said. "Clean this up and I'll show you the proper way to drink blood out of a bag."
As I began to clean the mess I had made, I heard the clinking of metal pans as Cormac began to prepare a pot of water. He placed it on the stove, setting it on high, while I worked quickly on the floor. Cormac pulled something from below the sink.
He handed me a large jug of bleach.
"What's this for?" I asked, examining the jug.
"The smell," he said.
"I don't understand," I said quizzically.
"Water isn't going to do the trick; you'll smell the blood for days if you don't bleach it," he responded, returning to the other side of the kitchen to fetch another bag of blood from the refrigerator.
I poured a little bit of the bleach into the bucket, but was immediately accosted by the horrible clean smell of the chemical. It seemed so much more pungent now than I ever remembered. After a few moments, what had once been a large pool of blood now looked like nothing remotely glum had ever happened.
I turned to look at Cormac and he was busying himself by the stove. I couldn't imagine what a vampire could be doing using a stove so I walked over to him curiously, trying to catch a glimpse of his handiwork. On the stove he had placed the bag into the pot of warm water.
"Isn't it just easier to microwave it?" I asked.
"No, the radiation would kill the cells leaving it nutritionally void. It would kind of be like switching coke for diet coke," he explained.
Swiftly he removed the bag from the pot and cut a small bit of the corner. He reached up and grabbed a crystal glass from the cabinet and began pouring from the bag generously.
He handed me the glass and I looked at him curiously. "A glass?" I asked.
"We're vampires, not barbarians," he responded.
Gingerly I took the glass from him and began sipping daintily. It was much easier this time to govern the uncontrollable urge to chug the entire glass. Cormac turned around to return to the living room, prompting me to greedily chug the rest of the glass. So much for control, Charlotte.
Before I followed him into the living room, I poured myself one more glass hoping I would be able to drink it like a civilized person. When I reached the living room Cormac was sitting casually as he watched CNN. They were covering hostilities in a far off country and were detailing all the effects on their civilians.
"Sometimes I don't understand the way things happen in this world," I said.
"There are a lot of things in this world that you won't understand for a very, very long time, I assure you," Cormac said. "Why Gwendolen has decided to take you under her wing is one of them."
"Maybe she's just a nice person?" I responded.
"You didn't grow up with her. Gwendolen is not a nice person."
"If she's not a nice person then why did she save me?"
"Gwendolen is a very good politician and plays the game well. She's too much like her father," he sighed.
"You're saying I'm a pawn?" I asked.
"The vampire that made you—your Sire—is a pretty big deal in our world. Perhaps she intends to use your for some unforeseeable purpose or perhaps she just felt like doing her good deed for the day. Who knows?"
"I don't agree—I think there is good in her!" I said defensively. Cormac was making it hard to trust anyone anymore.
"Suit yourself," Cormac shrugged, barely taking his eyes off the screen of the television.
I turned to face Cormac, wondering how he had decided to become so forthcoming with me all of a sudden. He said the vampire that created me was important, that I could be used as a pawn… I felt it bother me, but I didn't know why.
"The vampire who created me… if-if he doesn't know I even exist, how could someone use me against him?" I asked innocently.
"Most likely, Luca is well aware that you exist. It would be almost impossible without some sort of magical interference for him to not feel it," Cormac said.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Every time one vampire creates another, there's a bond whether it's willing or unwilling. At times the bond can be so strong that you can feel what the other feels; other times the bond can be as thin as a piece of thread and can be severed just as easily."
"What about your creator?"
Cormac paused. "I would rather not speak on that matter."
The silence grew once again. It seemed that with all the progess I had made with Cormac in the last few minutes, trying to discuss how he became a vampire was an endgame. It made him seem so much more enigmatic now.
"I hope I never see him again," I said.
"Unfortunately, you don't get that choice," was all he responded.