Authors: Rebecca Royce
Tags: #Paranormal Romance, #Vampire, #Vampire Romance, #Vampire Love
en years ago
“We want to talk to you about the vampires.”
Her mother slurred her words, and Adrienne looked up from her homework to stare.
“Are you drunk?”
God, her parents were so embarrassing. How much longer until she left for college? A year had never felt so long. Why did they want to talk about the vampires?
“Honey.” Her father spoke through gritted teeth. “How much do you really know about the vampires who live here?”
Like every person in her town, she’d known about the vampires her whole life. Vampires were not the stuff of legend. Others might believe them fabricated stories meant to scare children or warn young virgins to not stray out at night, but she and the residents of Vereen, Massachusetts had always known better. Vampires lived among them. The town itself, population 14,704, had been half vampire since the 1970s. Before then, perhaps only one-third of the residents were undead.
A flood in Michigan, which had taken out an entire town’s worth of homes, had brought more of the vampires in and the rest had been history. Perhaps the humans should have left at that point, but the symbiotic relationship between the vampires and the humans in Vereen had existed since the Revolutionary War. Vampires had an affinity for earning a lot of money and kept the humans who worked for them in luxury. Their butlers and maids were the richest domestic employees.
Her father, a member of the mayor’s gardening team, drove a car more expensive than most people’s college educations. Adrienne’s mother didn’t work outside the house at all. Although every adult member of the town shared the responsibility of feeding and caring for their vampire residents, the blood donations were left unacknowledged. Two puncture wounds on the neck ignored and the constant need for iron supplements in everyone’s diets accepted as a matter of course. There were no vegetarians in Vereen. Steak topped the menu at the local diner for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, anything to keep the protein flowing.
The vampires mostly kept to themselves. They homeschooled their children, kept the town free of crime, and discouraged new families not approved by the council from moving in. She’d had an idyllic childhood and had been prepared, when the time came, to supply the vampires with as much of her O negative as they required.
She’d heard vampires lived everywhere, with most people never aware of their presence. However, in the northeastern part of the United States, they preferred to reside in Vereen. Or maybe they didn’t. The humans of Vereen loved nothing more than to speculate on the workings of their undead employers.
Adrienne‘s father straightened his tie over and over again. Whatever they wanted, it was bound to be weird.
Her mother slurred again. “Vampires.”
“I know everything I need to know about them. Is there going to be some kind of test? A pop quiz? What’s going on?”
She snapped her gum. Thank God she always had some around. How was she to deal with her parents if she didn’t have stuff to chew on all the time? This was why her best friend had taken up smoking. Her parents wouldn’t give her a break.
“You know we love you.” The way her mother said the word “love,” it came out more like “lurve.”
“Right.” She rolled her eyes. “What’s the matter with the two of you tonight?”
Her father took her wrist, running his finger over the gross birthmark she’d had since she was a baby. It was shaped like a strawberry and pink to match the image. Most of the time she tried to hide it by wearing shirts which covered her wrists. Summer made it really hard not to notice, but, in autumn, right before Halloween, she started shielding it from view as much as she wanted.
“You know your birthmark. Well, it isn’t normal.” A tear dripped from her father’s eyes. What the hell? Was her father crying?
She waited, and, for a minute, she thought they were going to tell her she had cancer. What was wrong with her birthmark? How did they know it wasn’t normal?
Finally he kept going. “When you were born, one of the leaders of the town came to see. The Spectra family representative.” Adrienne knew who they were. The Spectras were the wealthiest vampires in the whole town. “They come to visit all new babies.”
“They do? Dad, seriously, what’s going on? Why tell me about something which happened seventeen years ago?”
“When he saw the birthmark he had the unfortunate task of telling us you had been born with the indication. We already knew what it was, of course. Your Aunt Flicka had it too, and we knew what happened with her.”
Adrienne’s voice croaked when she spoke. “She vanished.”
“They took her,” her mother shouted. “My sweet sister. They chased her all the way across the world, and we never saw her again.”
“Linda.” Her father yelled and Adrienne gasped. They never raised their voice with each other. “You’re not being helpful.” He redirected his attention to Adrienne. “The point is you have a special destiny.”
The blood rushed in her ears, half-muting his words. “So special you are
? What does my destiny, whatever, have to do with the vampires?”
“They have a royal bloodline. I don’t understand all of it. I’ve tried for so long to make my employers tell me, but they won’t. The point is, honey, you’re destined to marry a royal vampire—to bear his children. And then, eventually, become a vampire yourself.”
She jumped to her feet. What was his problem? She lived in America, for God’s sake. People didn’t have destinies, even in Vereen the community had a semblance of choice. “You’ve known about their plans for me for se;enteen years and you’re only telling me today?”
“Your mother and I felt it best to give you as normal a childhood as possible. Only you’re planning to go away for college and”—he held up an envelope, on the side an emblem she’d been searching for every day in the mail. It was a letter from her first choice college. What was he doing with it?—“We don’t want you to think things are going to go a certain way, then turn around and find you can’t do as you please.”
Adrienne didn’t know what was worse—that her father couldn’t make it through the destiny ridiculousness without crying or that her mother needed to get drunk to tell her at all.
“No.” She might be seventeen, but she didn’t need to hear about some “fated” crap they decided when she was a
. “Any vampire tries to come and take me, he’s going to find out my blood tastes of poison. Screw all of you.”
They could take their destiny and shove it where the sun didn’t shine.
“They don’t make girl babies and the only way they can procreate at all is with a woman who was once a human. They know you’re in the world. They’ll either come for you or you can go to them when the time comes.”
She paced the length of the kitchen. “Shouldn’t you be fighting for me Dad? I’m your daughter? Where is the moral outrage and the promises you’ll keep me safe?”
“What would you want me to do? Your aunt ran all the way to Tibet and they caught her. Maybe if you go willingly, we’ll be able to see you again. You won’t vanish as Flicka did.”
At the mention of the name, Adrienne’s mother sobbed loudly.
“So what you’re saying is I don’t have a choice?” She stomped her feet. “Getting sold off to a vampire won’t work.”
“Sometimes in life, things are what they are. There are worse things, sweetheart. Look at how well they live.”
Her father had really spoken those words? She’d really heard him say them?
“They don’t live at all Dad. Not as humans anyway. They’re really walking corpses who drink blood. We pretend otherwise because they pay you so well. Face the facts; if I go there at all, I’m a dead woman.”
Three flights followed by a train ride had brought her from her home in Massachusetts to the castle from hell in Hungary. She fidgeted in her seat, wishing she could sprout wings and fly away. The day had finally come. In two minutes, when the clock struck midnight, she would be twenty-seven years old. At any point after that, the vampire coming to claim her might very well waltz in.
Her spine stiffened. A decade had passed, and she couldn’t tolerate the thought she had no choice in her future any better as an adult than she did the day her parents had bumbled through the explanation.
Adrienne shuddered, taking a sip of her red wine and trying to relax in the too large recliner chair. It was hard to find peace, difficult to believe it possible that, after her birthday, she would no longer live as a human.
She finished her drink and pushed the glass away.. A servant in the castle where she waited for her doom—she meant fate, really she did—would bring her another if she asked. She intended to. Hell, he should bring the fucking bottle.
It was possible she would not be claimed. The royals wanted good girls. Pure humans who soothed their souls, damaged from living too long, from the toll their endless nights had taken.
Ten years earlier, after her parents bumbled through explaining her destiny, they’d laid out some rules. Drinking was fine; smoking not so much. Staying virginal seemed key. Adrienne had done everything in her power to erase the word “good” from “girl” as the term applied to her. She had partied hard and fucked when she wanted and as much as she desired. Hell, even the job she chose had been picked to make the vampires in Vereen scoff. No way was a royal vampire going to want an inked tattoo artist for a life mate. Not when a selection of other women were available. Two others, from what she understood.
She’d seen them both the night before as they made their way to their rooms. Perfect examples of femininity, available to be plucked by the creatures of the night.
Not her. If Adrienne was going out, she was doing so partying her ass off. Why did she have to sit in this castle, which was straight out of Dracula, and wait for someone she didn’t know to come and kill her?
Her parents said if she ran, the vampires would chase her. Adrienne’s Aunt Flicka had tried. She’d been caught in a Buddhist temple in the Himalayas. She’d become a vampire whom no one saw. Who knew what had happened to her, ultimately?
Well, if Flicka got caught two and a half miles in the sky, the vampire who was stupid enough to want her could come and find Adrienne at the local bar. The strange town below castle hell had to have some place to get drunk, didn’t it?
She made for the door of her assigned room. Adrienne had no sooner reached it than the butler, Jerome, was blocking her way. Did he have the place on video surveillance?
“You guys are really creepers, aren’t you?”
The old man who had been nothing except kind to her despite her best effort to make him hate her guts—as she wanted everyone she met here to do—furrowed his brow. “Miss?”
“Does this place have a bar? The town, I mean.” The town with a name she couldn’t pronounce.
It better have a fucking bar.
“I am happy to continue to provide you with alcoholic beverages as long as you wish.”
“Can you provide me with laughter? Cigarette smoke? A quick lay in the bathroom?”
His fast breathing and rapid eye movements told her she had shocked him. A twinge of conscience sneaked into her spine. The helpful man wasn’t responsible for any of her issues. Adrienne was really being a shit.
“There is a bar in town. Allow me to find you a ride there. It is several miles away and cold outside. I can’t stand to think of you walking.”
She wanted to argue. Adrienne had stomped through miles of snow for a drink when needed. Despite her nasty attitude, she didn’t want to get Jerome in trouble. Her father worked for the vamps. Jerome had a job to do, and she needed to let him do it. If she fell and got hurt, he would be held accountable for her injury.
“Thanks.” She managed to spit the words out. “I’ll take the help.”
“Of course.” He nodded to her and indicated she should precede him down the hallway.
“Hey Jerome.” She turned to look at him. With gray hair and wrinkles, he looked more someone’s grandfather than the harbinger of doom bringing her to the end of her life.
“What’s the trick? Surely some of the women before me have to gotten out of being brides. What do I need to do so whoever might be coming picks someone else?”
Jerome placed his hand on her arm. “I’ve done vampire meetings a very long time. More years than you imagine.”
She wondered what he meant by his remark? He couldn’t be more than sixty; she was more than capable of imagining how long he’d been matchmaking for the vamps. Whatever.
“Mistakes are not made. If you are chosen, it is because it is meant to be.”
Her throat clogged. When her mother had sobered up ten years ago, she’d started the same refrain too. Adrienne had been listening to the same crap for a decade.