Author notes: I freely acknowledge that the basis of the idea came from a movie called The Hamiltons, and that the beginning of this novel is based off a roleplay I once ran as well; however all plot ideas, all characters, and this entire story is written by me and owned by me.
It wasn't exactly the time of the day where people commonly could get away with sneaking into the house without being caught, considering that it was past 7 am, the first strains of light beginning to break across the morning sky. But that, of course, did not stop Regina Stewart and her twin, Ryan, from entering their family's home from the kitchen window rather than through the front door, as if they had been locked out and had to find an alternate, more stealthy way to re-enter than to knock on the door.
No matter that as it was a work and school day, everyone in the house should be up by now and would certainly hear them knocking. No matter that at least one of their four other siblings was probably in the kitchen at that very moment and would see them, so "stealthy" was fairly impossible to accomplish. No matter that the front door most likely wasn't even locked, and that even if it were, both Regina and Ryan owned keys; Regina in fact had one in the pocket of her very short skirt. None of this was the point.
The point was that watching Jeremy lose his cool was always an amusing way to start the day, and Regina was counting down the seconds until she could see his face go lobster red.
Regina let Ryan hold her hand and one shoulder to help guide her through the window's opening, though she was perfectly capable of getting through on her own, and as she slid through, feet first, she knew her skirt was riding up her thighs, possibly flashing whoever happened to be in the kitchen. That was a matter of absolutely no consequence to her, and in fact, if it were Jeremy or Veronica present, it would amuse her that much more. As irritating as Veronica's high-pitched squeal and frequent whining tone were to hear, Regina couldn't deny that she relished making her demonstrate them.
As she had hoped, Jeremy was standing in front of their fridge and loudly and pointedly cleared his throat as Regina straightened, looking to make sure Ryan was following her inside, then turned to face him. She grinned, her blackly lipsticked lips revealing teeth stained red from blood as she gave her older brother a broad, sarcastic wave.
Figures he would be so anal as to not even LEAN against the fridge, but instead to stand up perfectly straight in front of it, like he had a steel rod running down the length of his spine- probably starting at his ass.
"Morning, big brother," she greeted him, blowing him a mocking kiss, before turning back to Ryan, linking her arm through his. "Nice to see you standing watch over the house in our absence. I know I feel way safer, thanks to your loyal services."
Jeremy's jaw was already clinched, his knuckles whitening from where he gripped his own upper arms, and his voice came out very strained and terse when he responded.
"It is seven in the morning. You both have work and school in an hour, and you've been out all night?"
"Not all night, just the past few hours of it," was Regina's unruffled reply as she continued forward. "Gonna let me by, or do you just like to have a reason for me to press up against you? Well, we ARE a rather close family around here."
She attempted to squeeze by where Jeremy was half blocking the entrance into the kitchen area, which was located near one of their smaller bathrooms, and managed to brush her chest lightly against his before Jeremy leapt back from her as if fearing infection, sputtering.
"Regina! You…you can't…" he decides halfway through the sentence to ignore her semi-sexual baiting and instead to focus on something equally as obvious, and every bit as disturbing. "You're covered in blood!"
"Don't worry, it's not mine. Just a messy dining experience," she laughed, cutting her eyes at Ryan slyly. "That's why we need the bathroom, obviously it's not the mark of a normal, well-adjusted family to show up to work with blood, what WOULD the neighbors think? If anyone's in there, tell them to get the hell out…come on, Ryan." She snickered again as she said to Jeremy with ridiculously feigned innocence, "It will save time AND water for us to shower together, you should be proud, Jeremy. We're being very conservative, isn't that one of the ten thousand things you like to lecture us about?"
"You just ran all around town when it's getting to be broad daylight, covered in BLOOD?!" Jeremy almost yelped, his eyes bulging with a combination of both anger and unbelief, his nails digging into his skin almost hard enough to draw blood. "Who did you kill?! Where, when? What did you do with the body, you better have gotten rid of it! How many times have I told you, you can't just go around killing for FUN, do you WANT to be caught?"
"Lighten up, Jeremy, if anyone saw us, we'd kill them too. So what?" Regina shrugged, and with an elaborate eye roll, opened the door to the bathroom. Regardless of whether anyone was present or not, and with the door still wide open, she stepped closer to the tub and started stripping off her badly stained clothing, causing Jeremy to immediately turn his back, shaking his head vehemently.
"You…you two…just get ready! And…don't you DARE go out again tonight!"
"Oh Jeremy, like you could stop us from doing anything we felt like doing," Regina said almost with affection as she waited for Ryan to join her. "You really are a funny guy."
She slammed the door shut then, leaving Jeremy actually shaking with suppressed fury, arms now down rigidly at his sides. One day, he would show those two…one day he would…
What? Regina was right…what exactly was he ever going to do?
It hadn't always been like this. Of course, the twins had always been a handful, and there was always drama and fighting in a family of six kids. But when their parents had been here, everything had been different. When their parents had been around, everything had been so much more settled. The twins had been mostly under control, if typically rebellious and still unnaturally close by most of the world's standards, and their parents could sometimes actually manage to shame or silence them. Their parents had been empathetic yet firm with Veronica, keeping her melodramatics to a minimum, and Mark and Margaretta had been happier too. The stress on Jeremy had been more minimal than he had ever realized. Their parents had made it clear to them that they were different, unlike any other families, and rules were different for them too- and that much more important to keep.
They had been right about that, about their difference…what other family in America needed to drink blood to survive? What other family in America not only knew and accepted that two of its siblings were involved in a romantic relationship, but also hoped that some of the others might eventually pair up as well?
Only the Stewarts, Jeremy was almost certain…and those crucial differences in their genetic makeup, in the way they were forced to lead their lives, made all the difference in the world.
Their parents had provided well for them, financially, emotionally, and with their physical needs, always providing them with the blood they needed. Any accidental killings of other humans had been dealt with, and their parents kept them well fed enough that they were rare. Their parents had kept them centered and connected to each other, always emphasizing that they operated as one unit rather than as individuals, that family as a whole came first and always would.
But their parents had died almost a year ago, killed in a hunt for their family's meal that had gone drastically wrong when they chose the wrong couple of humans to prey upon…and ever since their death, the family had been falling apart, spinning rapidly out of the carefully maintained control their parents had managed to build for them.
They had inherited a good deal of money from their parents' death, but this had already been mostly eaten up by the fact that they had twice had to move in the year since their death. Jeremy and Regina were both struggling to raise enough money in their jobs to support all six of them, and with Ryan and Mark about to start college, Veronica and Margaretta still in school, and Regina's job being minimum wage, it was a very tight budget, and they were all having to do without. Veronica was more emotional than ever, and Jeremy had no idea what to do about the dramatics of a teenage girl, much less Veronica. The twins were wilder than ever, the "accidents" much more frequent, and it didn't seem to matter to them how often Jeremy brought back blood from his job at the blood donation center, they killed purely because they enjoyed it, rather than out of need.
Regina in particular drove Jeremy up the wall. It seemed to him that she had only gotten more violent, both with physical violence and verbal aggression, since their parents' deaths. Their parents had been able to temper her rougher tendencies somewhat, but without that influence, there was no stopping her now from doing and saying exactly what she wanted- and she seemed to relish this new power, with Riley only egging her on. Jeremy had seen her cry or show any kind of genuine vulnerability only once since their parents' death, and that had been at the funeral. Sometimes he was sure she was deliberately trying to see how far she could push, how much she could goad him until he finally snapped and showed just as much violence as she did.
It was up to him, as the oldest, to be the father figure now, even to the twins. But he wasn't their father, and he would never be able, as they all so frequently reminded him, to even begin to fill those shoes. He didn't want to in the first place. Jeremy was 22 years old and should have been starting his own life, but it could never happen now. So all he could hope for, all he could really want was to keep them safe, from their own recklessness as much as anything else, because what normal person could understand what they had to do to survive? If anyone were to find out their secret, they would kill them out of fear and ignorance, and maybe they would be right to do it. Because around the Stewarts, other humans were all potential prey.
They could not go more than a couple of days without feeding, and if excited, or if they had no other source of blood on hand, then accidents could and would happen. For that reason, having romantic relationships or even close friendships was playing with fire and very much discouraged. Family was what was important- and family, in fact, within the context of the Stewarts, was who was encouraged to be potential mates. It seemed disgusting to any outsiders, who of course it had to be concealed from, and even Jeremy was somewhat disturbed by it, but he did have to admit it was logical. If they could not safely breed with those who lacked their particular gene, what Jeremy privately thought of as a curse, and if they wanted to continue their own line of heritage, then breeding with those who shared their gene- who of course, were almost certainly related- was the only thing that made sense. Their parents, in fact, had been siblings as well, and now the twins seemed to be the next to carry on the line. If they did not, then eventually their kind would die out.
Maybe this was part of the reason that Jeremy found their existence to be so unbearable, why he was so much more infuriated by actions of the twins than his other siblings…maybe because, if he admitted it to himself, he was jealous. It was a lonely life they lead, and he would likely never be able to have what they had with each other. Any hope of his for a normal life, a normal relationship with a woman, was almost certainly a pipe dream.
It was getting more difficult over time to keep everything in order, to keep everyone safe, and the twins were clearly determined to make it that much more difficult. In the end, all they had was each other, and Jeremy could not fathom losing any of them, even the twins…but it was a constant stress for him to even try to force everyone to be sensible.
Shaking his head again, he called out to his siblings in large, his voice rougher than usual. "It's 7:15, everyone get moving! You're all going to be late!
As Susannah rinsed off a particularly long and sharp knife at the kitchen sink, being careful not to cut herself, she felt her father's hand on her backside, the touch quick, nervous, but deliberate…and with this sensation, and the knife still held in her hand, she reacted without further thought.
Whipping around to face Harry, the knife still clinched tightly in her fist, Susannah brought its point to her father's throat, tightly seizing his shoulder with her other hand, and her dark eyes bore into his with deadly serious intent as she spoke tersely, ignoring the gasps of her other family members.
"Do not EVER touch me again."
"Whoa…Suzy, whoa, now see here, there's no call for that!" Harry sputtered, going very still as his eyes darted between the knife at his throat and the apparent intent of his daughter to use it. "You just-"
"Say it," Susannah repeated, her expression not softening, her voice hissing, fierce, and the knife at her father's throat did not budge. "Say you will never touch me again…or I will kill you."
Her father swallowed, eyes focused on the knife, muscles tensed, and sweat began to bead on his forehead. Nearby Laurel and Isabella Pallis were watching in shock, mouths open, eyes wide, but Susannah paid them no attention. She had eyes only for her father's, and she did not let him pull away.
"Suzy, "he began again, his voice less steady than before. "Suzy, there's no need for this-"
"Say it," Susannah cut him off, hand tightening on his shoulder, the knife moving a fraction of an inch closer, nearly touching his throat. Behind her Laurel and Isabella finally found their voices.
"Susannah…Susannah, stop, no," her mother whispered, her hand drifting to cover her mouth, the baking goods forgotten. " Susannah, stop…"
"You're crazy, Suzy! Stop it!" Isabella yelled over her, her voice sharp and shrill. "Put that down, get away from him!"
"Say it," Susannah repeated, ignoring them all, disregarding any reply but that she was searching for as she continued to stare her father down. "Say it. Now."
"Suzy-" her father began, and it was the new cunning in this tone, his new attempt to turn around the situation, to manipulate her, that only heightened Susannah's anger. "Suzy, let's try to talk about this-"
She pricked him with the knife, just enough for the pain to be felt, for the first drop of blood to bead up on its blade, and her mother gasped, her sister screamed.
"Susannah, stop it, Susannah, you crazy bitch!"
"Okay, okay, Suzy, just stop this, just calm down. ..we don't need to be like this. Just…just calm down…" Harry backed off hurriedly, his eyes shimmering with fear and what looked like submission…but still, something in his tone, in a quiet flicker of his eyes, did not lower her guard, and she did not move her knife away.
With good reason, it turned out. Less than a half minute after he spoke Harry roughly shot out his arm, attempting to strike Susannah in the solar plexus. But Susannah was ready, and even as he hit out at her, she slashed the knife across his throat, cutting deeply. Staring into her father's bulging, anguished eyes, almost relishing the feel of the hot, sticky blood dripping down her cheeks, soaking into her blouse and drying on her skin from the spray of the wound's opening, she ignored the guttural gurglings of his attempt to speak, stepping back from his grasping hand.
"My name, "she said softly, deliberately, "is not Suzy."
Rikarah Pallaton, formerly Susannah Pallis, had no such problems of keeping herself to a schedule. Living as she did, in a student housing development, located only five minutes from her college campus, she was able to be at her classes and her workplace, the college cafeteria, by walking if she chose- which, not owning a car, she did. Even if this were not the case, Rikarah was an organized person who maintained as much control over herself, her actions, and how her day would unfold itself to the max of her ability.
It had been because of her efforts and her control that she had managed to move herself across the country, without a car, to lose herself in a mass of undistinguished faces and a bland place, to lose the identity of Susannah Pallis and to take up the new identity of Rikarah Pallaton. It had been because of her own manipulations that she had managed to secure fake documentation, school records, and a fake identity of her own choice, impressive enough to get herself into college, line up enough financial aid to get herself an almost full scholarship, and also to line up a job there as well.
Granted, at any moment all of this could fall apart, and the lies of her own identity could be revealed. She could lose her job, her housing, her scholarship, her education, and even her freedom as a citizen in one fell swoop. But Rikarah was not concerned. If her true identity were to be found out, it would be easy enough for her to disappear again, and it is not as though she has not become skilled at making others disappear as well.
She had discovered, upon completing the murder of her family members, that bringing death, when richly deserved, upon others was a source of strength and power to her that she had craved all her life, that she felt better about herself and her life than she ever had afterward. Seeking out those who committed what Rikarah considered to be unforgivable acts and bringing justice upon them, by way of their own death, was exactly what she now felt to be her purpose in life. Ridding the world of perverted abusers, like her father, of sneering co-conspirators, like her sister, of those who sat back in silence and did nothing, like her mother…she was performing an act of good will more than anything, making the world a better and brighter place. Why else would she, an eighteen-year-old girl, be so good at it?
Not to mention, it was simply fun.
As Rikarah began her walk to the Hamilton University, she was smiling faintly, ready to start her day.