Authors: Vanessa Redmoon
Blood Legacy, Book #1
Blood Legacy is © Vanessa Redmoon, 2013
Velvet Pony Press
Table of Contents
I remember the first time
I saw the Bressov family, the way you remember your first funeral or first Donation. It was my last day of Secondary, when all the wealthiest Families turned up to comb through us trembling, doe-eyed graduates for prospects. We stood on the stage, hair wrangled back into buns to display our soft, sunless necks, and answered the examiners’ questions in clipped, rehearsed paragraphs.
I didn’t know much then, but I knew enough not to long for the glamorous life of one of the Families’
Donors. My best friend, Lark, didn’t. As soon as the first Family assistant showed up, she plastered a sultry grin on her blood-red lips and moved like she was auditioning for a Spectacle in Uptown—all loose, languid limbs and swaying curves. Lots of my classmates did, girls and boys, those originally slated for Labor and Administrative vocations both. Everyone wanted to think one of the Families would come along and pluck them out of our miserable lot in life and offer them the brief, decadent ride of a Donor.
Not me. When the first assistant started asking me questions, assessing my intelligence, hygiene, and temperament,
her smooth chocolate skin perfectly buffed and supple the way few humans’ can afford to be, I said to myself:
Not the Donor’s work, gilded in gold but gone in a blink. The quiet, behind-the-scenes work of a Family’s administrative personnel—I’d have access to all of their business ventures, their finances, and, most of all, their secrets. Secrets we humans could use.
So when she frowned her pretty frown and passed me up
as a potential Donor—I’ll admit, I was acne-prone back then, and too skinny from my family’s meager human rations—I heaved a sigh of relief and let my shoulders slump forward. I saved my dazzle and wit for the Administrative interviewer, determined to prove that I, Raven Meadows, might be just the thing the Faudre Family was looking for—
And then the auditorium held its collective breath as the doors flew open.
The assistants came first, in tight tweed dresses and suits, hair tamed severely on men and women both. Rather than yammering on comms and toying about with tablets, like the other Families’ assistants did, the Bressov assistants were hawk-like in their focus—fluffing the Bressovs’ skirt trains, fetching them drinks, taking down orders and relaying messages with all the choreographed precision of a military operation. If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t even have guessed these assistants for human.
But once the Bressovs entered, there was no pulling my eyes from them. Most Families favor yards and yards of silk and velvet and satin, tufted and billowing and gaudily trimmed. Not the Bressovs.
One does not become one the oldest and most powerful Vampyr Family by succumbing to every trend and indulgence. They were refined in sleek suits, restrained jewelry, tamed hair (no scraggly-locked, vested men to be found), and only a dash of ornamentation—a waistcoast or a corset or a tasteful hat, but never all three.
a Bressov demanded your attention without moving a muscle, of course. She’d been alive longer than the Republic itself, longer than most of the old human countries that wrecked our world to begin with—she was part of the first Coven of Families who seized control from humans when the Vampyrs first made their existence known. She could still pass for a particularly well-preserved fifty-year old. My children’s house mother was shy of forty, and looked a dozen times more haggard, but that’s what being a human Laborer will do to you. As she studied the graduates on display, Dame Bressov’s gaze slithered off of me in a hurry, but I marked that it lingered on Lark for a split second longer than it should; Lark stood even straighter than she already did and grinned so fiercely it looked painful.
Councilor Lucio Bressov came next, his dignified mask only letting his boredom slip around its edges occasionally. He looked upon us, and I remember distinctly feeling that he cared little for this annual charade; what importance was it to one of the most powerful men in the world whether the newest crop of human children were shuffled off to be Laborers, Administratives, or Donors? He had no need to peer into the gears of the Empire’s clockwork; it was enough for him to know that it continued to tick.
He did not know that day, I’m sure, how little time was left on his own clock.
When Victor Bressov entered, however, for a moment I knew exactly what pulled my friend Lark and all the other children, boys and girls alike, to clamor for Donor status.
His hair was dark, but not the dyed, flat black of many Vampyrs; it curled at the edges, a little longer than Dame Bressov might have liked, but just the right length for tousling, and tousling it he did. While he spoke, while he surveyed the stage, while stared off at no one in particular, lost in whatever machinations he was orchestrating at that time—for we all knew he was up to something, behind that boyish grin.
Victor Bressov maintained his appearance right on the cusp of thirty, unlike most of the Family princelings, who favored their early twenties and moaned if they went too long without a Donation, aging by even a day. His dark blue eyes twinkled with mischief—a promise that every girl and many boys amongst us humans longed for him to deliver.
Until we noticed Violetta at his side, of course, her blood-red hair, unnaturally milky skin, and elaborate coif marking her as an outsider amongst the Bressovs. Not that anyone would dare to treat her as such. Even when she and Victor are on the outs—as they frequently are—the Bressovs would never cross a child of the Stregazzi Family. Any time Victor’s gaze lingered for too long on a potential Donor, she would press one lacquered nail into his (strong, well-chiseled) jaw and turn his head toward her.
The assistants for all the Families continued with their questioning, but even their well-practiced carriage wilted under the knowledge of the Bressovs’ presence.
The Bressov assistant interviewed me for a position in the family’s manufacturing business—typing summaries, managing sales figures for the annual reports, dealing with public relations snafus on the Stream—work that, while directly beneficial to a Vampyr family, requires very little interaction with the Vampyrs themselves. I was thrilled with the sound of it, but the poor girl’s fingers shook as she typed notes on my responses on her tablet, and I could see through the transparent screen that she was frequently having to correct what she’d written.
“We’ll notify you by the end of the day if you’ve been selected, Miss Meadows,” she said, all in a rush, then moved on to speak to Lark.
And in her wake, Victor Bressov appeared, Violetta nowhere to be seen.
“Hello,” he said. The word was somehow both sultry and resentful, coming from his thin bow-shaped lips.
“Raven Meadows, my lord.” I inclined my head in as much of a bow as I dared. “I’m very interested in pursuing an Administrative vocation with your family.”
“You don’t dream of being a Donor? I find that hard to believe.” His slender fingers tugged at the crisp edge of his blazer
’s sleeves; a nervous habit, or just part of the spectacle? “Everyone dreams of being a Donor.”
Of course, I couldn’t tell him the real reason I wanted to be an Administrative worker for his family, but I feared he could read it in my face all the same. I adopted the most unimpressed look I could manage and raised one brow. “I guess I’m more realistic about where my talents lie.”
His hand shot forward like a gun firing. Everything in the auditorium disappeared from my sight—all but me and Victor Bressov, playfulness drained from his face until there was nothing left but the ferocious stare of a killer. His grip tightened around my throat. Though his lips were closed, I was certain that if he opened them, I would see his fangs extending; I could already see bloodlust in the vanishing whites of his eyes, his indigo irises turning to black.
He would kill me right here. I was certain of it. Eighteen years old, and he’d drink me dry—not even a truncated Donor’s life for me. He’d done it before, to make an example of servants and assistants and even laborers in his factories. Why should I deserve more than they received?
Then his grip loosened, and his fingers trailed down my neck, across my bared shoulder until they reached the resistance of my plain gray shift dress’s neckline. I could feel my pulse freezing in my veins. With two fingers, he followed the curve of one breast, the inward dip of my waist, and finally lingered to draw a slow circle at the jut of my hip. It was too familiar a gesture—ignoring even the lewd implications, the mere fact that he saw no error in treating me as his property, saw me as nothing more than an object for him to touch—burned at me like nothing else I imagined could.
So I tried not to think of that smolder behind his eyes as I stared up at him, shaking with anger. “How dare you,” I whispered. Before I even had a chance to remember who
m I was speaking to. Embarrassment scalded my cheeks as soon as the words left my mouth.
But it was nothing compared to the pain that blossomed, sharp and stringent, across my face as he slapped me. The edge of his ring caught my lip. Blood bubbled from the corner of my mouth, smelling like molten metal, but I barely noticed. The pain was lost in the fierce splash of yearning I felt at that crisp, fleeting moment—I suddenly wanted nothing so much as I wanted to freeze that slap and stretch it out for all eternity, feeling it connect again and again, tasting the rising blood.
Victor laughed to himself. His face had softened again, all traces of sternness overwritten. “I suspect you have no idea what your true talents are, do you?” he murmured. He wiped the fleck of blood from the corner of my mouth and—rather than bring it to his lips, as I’d expect a Vampyr to do, he dabbed it away with a kerchief.
And then he was gone.
My tongue worried at the corner of my mouth, where moments ago, his finger brushed. I still felt the sting of the ring as it tore through flesh, and it felt alive. Incredible, that some unliving monster should be the first thing to shake me from my eighteen-year stupor like that. But that’s what the Vampyrs did to us, isn’t it? They stripped away every last vestige of humanity, bit by bit, until we needed them. Depended on them for guidance, for sustenance, for our livelihoods and our thoughts, just as they depended on us for our blood.
I hated that pain, even as a small part of it
begged me to seek it out once again.
The Bressov family didn’t choose Lark as a Donor that day—
not Lark nor anyone else, that I’m aware of, though Lark did find employment with the Mordrigs as a Donor. She’s still alive, for now. She wears the cost of her profession along her arms and throat, along with the priceless bangles and necklaces that are a small part of her pay. I meet with her from time to time to gather intelligence, and nothing more. The pain in seeing a friend reduced to such a hollow-eyed husk, hastening herself along her well-heeled walk to the grave, is not one I crave. Not like Victor Bressov’s pain.
Lucio Bressov has not been so fortunate. Last summer, the Coven of Families arrived for their first meeting of the season to find his head nailed to the high metal doors of the Capitol. His decapitated body, staked through the heart,
was sprawled in the Grand Master’s throne within, black viscous blood oozing down the steps to the throne. Dame Evrana Bressov offered his seat to Victor, but rumor amongst the Bressov Industries halls is that Victor means to decline.
As for me, I was picked for an Administrative vocation with Bressov Industries. My every dreams come true, for such dreams as us lowly human girls are afforded. Not because I longed to orbit the Bressov family’s gravity, mind you—and not because I adore massaging spreadsheets all day long.