But Killian fully trusted me to the point where I no longer smelled bad, or even just neutral, but “amazing”? I was happy to hear it, but it was so unexpected…
“Really?” I slowly said. “Celestina said I don’t have a scent to her.”
Killian’s voice was a little raspy. “I imagine it’s not the same for me, because I trust you more. Your scent is…”
I could sense Killian needed a lighthearted moment since he seemed to be having trouble talking—another thing I hadn’t really experienced before—so I made suspicion line my voice so thickly it was obviously an act. “If you say I smell like dinner I will pull your tie so it’s lopsided the next time I see you.”
I got my desired result, and Killian chuckled. “You don’t smell like food, at all. Your scent is more evocative of feelings. It’s very warm and welcoming and…” There was another long pause. “I think it reminds me how sunlight used to feel before I turned. I didn’t know I even remembered the feeling until the day your scent switched.”
I wriggled in my bed, feeling oddly bashful. “And when was that?”
“After you fought Solene at the Curia Cloisters.”
I stretched my memory to that time. I only dimly remembered the first few days after the fight because I was so hopped up on fae potions, but I did recall that around then Killian suddenly seemed inclined to sniff me occasionally, and continued to do so until he kicked me out.
It supported his claim—he’d take the chance to sniff my wrist or neck whenever possible, which are pretty definitive actions, and certainly not something he’d planned months in advance. (There was no point to it. Even if he did swindle me into believing he trusted me, if he ever tried to take a bite out of me my magic would make him throw up if the trust wasn’t mutual.) I didn’t think he was lying about it, but it was still pretty surprising.
“Can you believe my claim?” Killian asked, his voice cutting through the silence.
“Yeah, it’s so…unexpected. If you were lying to manipulate me you’d come up with something more believable,” I admitted.
“I’m aware that this doesn’t exactly support my case, given that you’ve smelled this way to me for some time,” Killian said. “You want assurance that I will always act on that trust.”
“Killian…” I stretched my toes out under my bed covers until the arches of my feet ached. “I know you’re a vampire, and you’ve had lots of time to solidify your thoughts and actions. I know how you got into the position you currently have. I’m not asking you to change overnight. I just…expected better of you. And I hoped that you trusted me as a person enough to know you didn’t have to screen your actions from me, because I’m not in this for the politics of it.”
He was silent for so long I actually had to pull my phone back and make sure the call hadn’t been disconnected.
“Killian? Are you there?”
“Yes.” He exhaled deeply. “It’s just that I perhaps see a little of what you’ve been complaining about. Your scent is proof, but I don’t think it offers the assurance you want.”
I opened my mouth to tell him that actually, I was pretty convinced, but his next sentence made all activity in my mind halt.
“So instead I will tell you my species’ greatest weakness.”
Weakness? Wasn’t it magic? That was the only real way to take vampires down in battle…it’s why fae stood a better chance of killing them than a werewolf. But that’s common knowledge…
“…What?” I asked, more than a little confused.
Killian must have been in his office—I could hear the unique creak of his chair through the phone line. “Although human blood taken directly from a donor offers greater nutritional value, a boosted amount of energy, and increased powers, feeding is a very dangerous process for a vampire.”
“Huh?” I said in my continued intellectual greatness. “Don’t you just have to…bite them?”
“Actually, drinking fresh blood is quite easy,” Killian assured me. “But after we’ve eaten, we fall into a catatonic state. We’re completely helpless, and at the mercy of whomever we fed off.”
Hold up, hold up, hold up…WHAT?!
“It’s the only time in our lives in which we are truly helpless,” Killian said. “When we sleep it is only fleeting, and it is nearly impossible to get us drunk or addled with drugs because we will naturally wake if we feel or sense something. We cannot do that when we feed off a human—our senses are dulled and our muscle control is shot as our bodies process the rush of nutrients. Because blood pouches and packs don’t give us the same rich nutrients, they don’t produce the…contentment we experience after taking blood from a blood donor. If we are injured and near death of course our reactions are slowed then, but the stretch of time after we’ve fed is the only instance in which we are truly comatose.”
I was shocked. If Killian was being honest, he’d just told me the most effective way to kill his kind. Not him, of course—he only drank from pouches anyway.
“How have you been able to hide this from the rest of us supernaturals?” I asked. “Or am I really just that out of touch?”
“It’s not something we advertise,” Killian said. “And previously it was why we often killed or imprisoned those we fed from—a horrible reflection on us, but the honest truth.” He sighed. “We’ve learned to cover it to a certain extent by limiting how much a blood donor sees. After a vampire feeds, in most Families the blood donor is immediately removed by other vampires. But…”
“That still leaves you open to attack from other vampires,” I realized in a flash of insight. “Because even if the blood donors don’t know, the vampires involved will, which means planning a rebellion or war is a lot easier to pull off if you can get a feeding schedule.”
Slowly, my brain restarted, booting up like an ancient computer. “So…that’s why you don’t feed off blood donors.” I could almost hear the “turning on” noise in my mind. “The vulnerability?”
“Correct,” Killian said. “A number of ancient and great vampires throughout history were killed after feeding. It’s one of the most common ways for a truly powerful vampire to die.”
“Huh.” I picked at a fuzzy on my bedcover. “And that’s why you say you don’t trust Celestina or Josh like I thought. Because you don’t trust them enough to stand guard for you while you drink.”
I stared blankly at the wall, struggling with the immensity of what Killian had just shared with me.
“You’re quiet,” Killian said.
“I’m sorry, I’m just trying to process this. It’s…this is huge.”
“It’s satisfactory proof, then?”
“Yeah, for sure.” Guilt prickled at my conscience as I slouched in my bed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to tear such an important secret about your whole race from you.”
“It’s fine.” Killian’s voice was surprisingly calm. “You’re a virtuous idiot after all. You won’t even share this information with your House, and I’m aware you’ll die before you share the news—your honor is too overwhelming for you to do anything else.”
I was silent for a few moments. “You really don’t trust Celestina or Josh to guard you?”
“They would never betray me,” Killian said with confidence. “But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t accidentally reveal a detail that could eventually spark my downfall. I have a lot of enemies—and some of them are vampires. It’s natural that I have many who would love to kill me if given the chance, so it is better not to.”
“It’s still pretty sad,” I said. “I hope one day you’ll feel differently about this.”
“It is what it is.”
“Well, I’ll call us even,” I said. “Thanks for trusting me, Killian. I won’t tell anyone. And I hope this means next time you’ll tell me when you have a plan that involves my participation?”
I nodded, even though he couldn’t see. “Good,” I said. “That’s all I really wanted.”
“You are a simultaneously complex but simplistic creature.”
“I’m a wizard, it’s in my nature.” I glanced at the clock—it was a little after six. I was officially late for practice. “Are you going to be okay?”
“You seem to be under the illusion that telling you this has somehow wounded me.” His voice was amused. “Does that mean now is a suitable time to bargain?”
“Bargain for what?”
“Okay, and we’re done,” I interrupted him, guessing where he was going to take the conversation in an effort to prove just how fine he really was. “I get the picture. Thanks for calling, Killian. I’ll see you at our next practice session in three days?”
“Perhaps sooner,” Killian said.
I pulled the phone back to stare at it for a moment again. “Huh?” I said. “What do you mean?”
“Good morning, Hazel,” Killian said before he hung up on me.
I stared at my phone some more, then shook my head. “I guess he wouldn’t be a vampire if he wasn’t so mysterious,” I grumbled.
I clawed my way out of my bed and almost skidded out as I hurriedly threw on workout clothes. Although I rushed into a normal morning, I was well aware of the warm feeling that cushioned my heart.
Killian really did trust me. And I was pretty sure this was going to be a turning point for his Family, and my House.
The following day, we House Medeis wizards had just finished our early evening practice and were in the process of getting cleaned up for dinner when the doorbell rang.