I wonder about the speed a vampire alpha might have, when I glimpse an orange on the table. The reddish tint to it and the sweet, familiar scent in the air reminds me how quickly that orange went missing in front of the cemetery.
And I never even caught a glimpse of anyone taking it.
That window seems a lot farther away all of the sudden.
“He’s my favorite monster ever!” Anna says as she starts dancing around the dead bodies she thinks are having sex. “And he’s almost as hot as Damien. Maybe equal with the sexy savage, even though the savage has slightly harder abs. But still, the vampire is just a peg down from the gay Van Helsing,” she adds. Then, in an assuring tone, she looks at Arion. “You’re still super hot. Just not as hot as them. And your personality makes up for what you lack in abs. The other guys have eight. You barely have six. Is that because you’ve been buried a while. Is that why you’re so pale, or is it the vampire thing?”
She continues rambling, but I tune her out.
I’m stuck in a room with a psychotic vampire and an insane ghost, and no one will kill me so I can pass out for a little while and reboot.
“Do you see, Violet?” he asks me seriously as he tosses salt over his left shoulder.
Anna is unceremoniously kicked out of the room, either because she’s annoying him, or because she ranked him too low on her hot-monster tier.
My one piece of security is ripped out with her ejection, and the chill settles deeper into my bones.
He steeples his hands in front of his face, studying me like he’s trying to figure out which angle is best to crack me from. My hands have taken a white-knuckle grip on the edge of the counter I’ve been backed against, as I continuously flick my gaze to the window closest to me.
My breath rushes out again when I find myself sitting atop the counter once more, and the vampire is magically missing from in front of me.
It’s when the music cuts out that I look back over at him, seeing him lowering a remote that he’s apparently got no trouble using. I guess he spent time stalking the twenty-first century’s new amenities.
He starts singing, distracting me with an old song I can remember my mother singing while we did double-dutch jump-roping with my father.
I barely even hear him singing the words, because my mother’s voice rises up in my head with the dusty, old memory, and I feel that lyrical charm wash over me with remembered feelings of laughter and me tripping over the rope every single time I reached thirteen.
No true gypsy can jump the rope more than thirteen times. It’s how you know you’re a gypsy, according to Mom. I was so excited I was going to be a gypsy when I turned thirteen.
“The tea leaves warned of blood and death. Four gypsy first-borns breathed the last breath. War! War! Beyond the double-dutch doors. Sing, sweet gypsies, who will be mistaken no more...”
Arion stands in front of me as my mother’s voice trails off in my head, and I see the knowing smirk on his lips.
“Strike a memory, love?”
He backs up and starts singing again as violin music starts playing in the background to the same tune my mother sang.
“Six gypsy families all stood nigh. Five gypsy families for one sacrifice. Four gypsy families broken apart. Three gypsy families turned cold of heart. Two gypsy families couldn’t back down. One gypsy family went underground.”
He moves toward me, his intense eyes trained on mine as he resumes singing, and I hear his voice over my mother’s when he continues on his slow approach to me.
“Forever is such a long time to bleed. Worst are the gypsies brought to their knees. Sing, gypsies, sing of your lies. Never trust a gypsy with no gypsy pride. Sing, gypsies, sing of your truths.”
He pauses, caging me in as his lips move to be too close to mine, eyes locked and waiting expectantly. “What’s the last line, Violet?” he asks me.
Swallowing thickly, it takes my lips moving a few times before words will come out.
“The apples have all rotted; the oranges just bruised,” I say on a rasp whisper.
A sinister, slow grin crawls across his lips like I’ve said the magic words.
“I have no idea what any of that means. It was just a twisted song that my mother would sing on occasion, and we turned it into a double-dutch chant.”
“You’ve missed the story is all I’m telling you, which is such a good thing, sweet gypsy girl. You don’t bear the scars of the past. That horrific tale has already been written. No one ever hears what happens next—after they finish a tale. No one sings songs of a brighter future. Everything is always about the bloody war, no matter what story is told. You’re the chapter just after the epilogue…the part where life actually begins…again.”
I’m sure he finds that not at all confusing and very much poetic, given the look in his eyes. I’m worried he thinks this is a date, and I’m not sure how those signals got so crossed.
When he just continues staring at me expectantly, like he’s waiting on my permission to kiss me, I turn my head. I’d love to push him away and get a little space between us, but I keep my grip safely on the edge of the counter.
“So,” I say while clearing my throat and staring blankly at the wall across the room where five bodies are piled up, “you want me to be your chapter after the epilogue, after tricking me into getting you out of the ground—”
“Ah, love, don’t be so sore about that. It was only another two or so years that I was going to have to remain in that hell hole,” he says dismissively as he leans over, running his nose along the side of my throat as I continue to stare at the wall.
“And,” I go on, undeterred, “you think I’m destined to be shared between the four of you—”
“Not destiny. Destiny turned its back on us long ago when we went against the natural order,” he interrupts. “You’re just the perfect hiccup in the universe because you can change everything. Life debts can be paid, pain can stop, vengeance can finally be over…”
He lets his confusing sentence trail off.
“And you sing a double-dutch song that makes no sense, yet expect me to just do…what exactly?”
His lips twitch as his eyes narrow. “All I want to do is feel your touch right now, sweet gypsy. I’ve been stuck underground and you’re the only one who saw my projection—”
“Projection?” I ask on a shaky breath as his hands move to my hips and drag me back to the edge again, just as I’d finally gotten myself pushed back.
“You’re the only one who saw me,” he says quieter. “And I haven’t felt any sort of touch in over a century.”
It’s understandable that he’s completely insane, and since he seems moderately obsessed with just touching me in non-sexual places and not trying to eat me, I decide to keep him happy. Like any good captive.
“How could I see you if other gypsies couldn’t?”
“Maybe because you have so much gypsy pride,” he points out, feeling my relaxing body and groaning against my throat when I ease my hands up his chest.
A rumble of appreciation sounds from his chest as he adds, “You have so much gypsy pride that any prideless gypsy would happily bare their soul to you. I’ve been resisting since I got my hands on you, because my soul would terrify such an innocent gypsy.”
Well…that’s far less poetic and very much a reminder of the dangerous game at hand.
He told me how to play Damien, and it’s the only lesson I have to fall back on with aggressive monsters.
A sound of pleasure seems to vibrate from him as I simply let my hands glide over his chest and up to his shoulders. I even give a little massaging squeeze to his shoulders that has him shuddering against me.
“If I were Emit, my tail would be wagging right now,” he says, his grin spreading against my neck.
I blink a few times, stopping myself from smiling, so that I don’t actually end up with Stockholm’s. It seems like laughing at your captor’s unexpected jokes is the first step down the dark road.
I’m still hoping the lying gypsy monster hunter shows up.
A door crashes somewhere in the house, and Arion’s head pops up as he looks over my shoulder, a slow, calculated, dark grin tugging at his lips as he cups my chin.
Someone shouts and something else crashes, and I actually end up leaning into my captor, because he, unfortunately, seems like the safest option at the moment.
“It’s going to get ugly, love. You should probably go home,” he says like simply leaving has been an option all along. “I’ll take that kiss later.”
My head turns when I hear someone throw open the double doors to the room, and a full body sigh of relief crashes through me when I see Vance stepping inside.
His eyes widen, and Damien comes to the same wide-eyed, abrupt halt beside him as they both stare in shock and anger at the man I’m essentially pressed fully against.
“Would you boys like to warm yourself by the fire?” Arion drawls. “It’s rather cold outside.”
Vance takes a step forward, jaw grinding as a sword slides free from the little handle tucked in his hand.
Arion’s grin only grows as he leans over to whisper in my ear. I don’t even really hear what he says, but I feel a warmness in my chest and a little dazed just before he releases me and steps to the side.
“How exactly did you get out?” Damien asks him as he slowly moves toward me. “Vampires can’t walk those grounds.”
Arion just smirks and moves toward the fireplace, as though this is all casual. “Yes, well, I’m an alpha vampire. You know what that means.”
I don’t, so I wish he’d elaborate.
“How did you get out?” Vance asks in that voice he’s used on me before, and the urge to confess bubbles out of me.
“It’s my fault,” I blurt out.
All the gazes in the room swing to me, and Arion’s grin only grows larger.
“Van Helsings aren’t the only ones who can walk consecrated grounds,” Arion drawls. “But don’t blame her. Obviously she had no choice in the matter,” he easily lies.
I open my mouth to argue, but no words come out in my defense.
“That casket of yours will be quite pointless, though, so it looks like I’m here to stay,” Arion states as he lifts the remote, turns on some more upbeat music, and starts dancing back around the bodies.
Vance’s gaze darts to me for a brief second before returning to Arion, but Damien has disappeared.
The scent of cigar smoke has me turning back around to see Arion finishing up lighting one, waving a match until the fire turns to smoke once he’s finished.
He puffs the cigar and dances carelessly while saying, “It’s a wicked new century, don’t you think?”
Vance doesn’t answer, and I keep my gaze trained on the vampire in the room.
He lifts a knife from the table, flips it over in his hand, and I tense as he smirks over at me.