When I woke up, I knew something was different.
Hazel was using her magic.
Even before I cracked my eyes open, I knew it. I could feel it in the air—a side effect of her blood, probably.
Since the magic in her blood would protect me from her powers, it made sense I’d be able to feel it.
However, for a second, it put me on edge.
Why was she using her powers? We were locked in a saferoom. There was no reason for her to be flinging magic around…unless?
She’s practicing, you paranoid numbskull, I realized, relaxing again.
I trusted Hazel with my life, but I wasn’t going to overcome years of guarding myself in just a few days. Besides, this was the first time I could actually remember feeding. I’d been on bagged and bottled blood for so long I couldn’t even remember what it was like previously.
The first public and successful blood transfusion was done in 1840, but vampires had long figured out ways to extract blood even before then. It was safe to say I hadn’t fed on a human in centuries.
Enough. It’s fine. I trust her, and she’s probably…
I opened my eyes, and everything in me ground to a halt.
Hazel was standing a few feet away from the room’s entrance, her fists engulfed in blue flames as she stared at the door, which she had fortified with a massive blue shield forged of magic.
She peered up and down the wall, her wizard mark a stark black flourish on her skin as blue pulses of magic rippled from her as she stood watch.
That’s what she was doing, guarding me.
Even though she didn’t agree with my paranoia, even though she believed better in everyone…she knew that feeding like this preyed upon my worst fears, and so she was protecting me even when I wasn’t awake to see it.
Her magic heated my body, and I could feel in my bones that she was using it as a sort of rudimentary warning system. If someone attacked the room, she’d feel it, and she was ready for them.
And in that instant, I knew she was the one.
The one that came rarely in a vampire’s lifetime, and sometimes not at all. The one who I would love for all of my existence, and trust to guard my back, fight at my side, and laugh with me during the day.
She was more than I imagined, a dream I hadn’t thought could exist for me.
And as I stared at her, she turned around, a smile brightening her face.
“You’re up!” Instead of coming over to my couch, she grabbed the shiny silver plate her fruit and water had been placed on.
“Yes.” I cautiously sat up, blinking as I tried to adjust.
Hazel’s blood had been a daydream to drink. But now that it was actually flowing through my system, I felt…alive again.
“You’re feeling okay?” Hazel flipped the plate a time or two in her hands.
“I feel wonderful,” I admitted. “Everything seems…brighter. Do you live like this all the time? With your magic, I mean.”
Hazel tapped her chin with the plate. “Maybe? I can’t say what living like a vampire is like, so it might just be a side effect from drinking fresh blood.”
I shook my head. “I don’t think so. I don’t recall feeling quite this…alive. And I can tell I feel stronger—not just physically, but there’s something about the magic in your blood. It’s amazing.” I eyed her in concern. “I can see, now, why your temperamental blood is a necessary survival technique. We’re going to have to take special care of the rest of your House to make sure no one goes around getting any ideas…”
“It’ll be fine,” Hazel said. “My people won’t trust just anyone. The stink of their blood will drive away any vampires who get any bright ideas.”
“Perhaps,” I said, unconvinced. “Regardless, Queen Nyte and Consort Ira will regret the day they crossed the Drake Family and House Medeis.”
“Funny you should mention that.” Hazel laughed nervously. “We need to make a slight adjustment to our battle plan. I’m not going to be able to use any magic until it’s time to fry Nyte and Ira.”
I rubbed my jaw, and rested a hand on Hazel’s hip when she drew close enough. “Why is that?”
Hazel handed me the reflective plate. I glanced down at it and did a double take.
Spreading up my forehead, down my cheek, and crawling down my neck was a black wizard mark. It had the same flourishes and swirls as Hazel’s, a perfect twin.
“I’m pretty sure they’re going to figure out fast what our secret is if they see your new decoration.” Hazel extinguished her magic.
It took a while, but our marks faded at approximately the same time. I pressed my lips together, thinking, and passed her back the plate. “We can deal with it.”
Hazel tapped the plate on her thigh. “You think so? It means I can’t fight at all until we get the monarchs.”
“I half expected something to happen,” I admitted. “Not this exactly, but something. A vampire hasn’t fed off a wizard for so long, it’s only natural that there would be side effects that were lost in history. I had prepared for worse.”
Hazel exhaled. “Good. I think we’ll be okay, too. But I didn’t know how much it would mess stuff up.”
“Hardly at all.”
“Great.” She looked down at me, then hesitantly reached out and pushed a bit of my hair off my forehead in a sweet gesture that simultaneously warmed me and caught me a little off guard. “Are you ready to head out? We’ll need to tell everyone about this change in plans.”
I stared up at her.
No, I wasn’t ready at all to leave.
Hazel was the one. There was so much I wanted to talk to her about, so much I needed to tell her…including the fact that as a vampire feeding off her, I could significantly extend the length of her life if I wanted. (And oh, did I want to.)
Since I’d be drinking her blood, it wouldn’t be too difficult to flip the magic switch for a chemical compound I could secrete in my spit to give her a longer life.
In the past century—and even before then—we vampires hadn’t often used this particular ability of ours. The last thing we wanted was people chasing us down in the search for eternal youth. But I’d bend the rules for Hazel.
I didn’t want to tell her about my plans, though.
It would be ideal if she didn’t realize what I was doing until she was forty and was still getting carded.
But…with the warmth of her blood pushing its way through my cold body, and remembering how she had stood guard in front of the door, I knew I needed to tell her. And sooner as opposed to later.
However, I was going to stack the deck in my favor. I could drop the near-eternal-youth bomb at a time when she was so happy she wouldn’t be able to refuse. Or maybe I could use it as a bargaining chip?
Either way, I’d have to come up with a way to tell her. But I didn’t think it was necessary to do so right now. Particularly since I’d need to do a little more research to figure it out, first.
So I smiled. “Yes, I’m ready to leave.” I stood, and it again took a moment to adjust to the subtle difference in the world.
“Great. I hope you remember the knock we’re supposed to use to warn them we’re coming out. Josh made it overly difficult, so I had no hope of memorizing it,” Hazel grumbled.
I took her hand, moving at more of an amble so she didn’t have to hurry to keep up as we made for the door.
“No need to fret. I remember it.” We reached the door and I paused, my knuckles hovering over the door as I recalled a very important detail I’d almost forgotten in the high of drinking her blood. “Oh, yes. Hazel?”
“Hmm?” Hazel looked innocently up at me.
I couldn’t help the roguish smirk that took over my lips. “I love you, too.”
“You were awake?” she shrieked, her voice possibly piercing enough to be heard through the solid door.
“You, you, you sea cucumber!” She blushed bright red as she puffed up like an angry cat.
“Did you miss the part where I said I also love you?” I asked.
Hazel made one of those amusing noises she emitted when she was so embarrassed she couldn’t speak.
Yep. She’s going to have a very long, very full life, I thought with satisfaction.
“Since you love me as well, I assume that is the long-awaited permission to touch your rear without getting stabbed?” I asked.
Hazel recovered enough to snap, “Open the door!”
“Fine, fine,” I agreed. “Just one more thing.”
I swept Hazel up in a tight embrace as I kissed her.
She didn’t step on my foot like I thought she might. Rather, she stood on her tiptoes and grabbed the front of my shirt for balance.
I’d always known together we could trounce Queen Nyte and Consort Ira. But it was then that I knew we’d be fine. No matter what I had to do to appease her House, and what we had to tell everyone.
Or at least, we’d be fine until I had to tell her about her lengthened life. That was going to be a brand-new breed of fun.
“As you can see, our founder has successfully built intermingled apartment buildings throughout America. By encouraging various supernaturals to take up residence and rent there, it fosters a comradery between races normally not seen, and gives the supernatural community a rally point to gather around.”
I listened with great interest as the presenter switched to a new slide in his powerpoint presentation, appearing only a little intimidated as the four members of the Midwest Regional Committee of Magic stared him down.
I was pretty sure he was a wizard and not a regular human, but he wasn’t wearing anything that put him with a particular House, and he hadn’t used magic so I couldn’t be sure. “We believe Magiford would be the best choice for our next building project, and the perfect location so we can expand into the Midwest as it succeeds.” He gestured to the map on his slide for emphasis, then flipped to a new cue card on the podium he very strategically hid behind.