Chasing Shadows (A Shadow Chronicles Novel) (7 page)

BOOK: Chasing Shadows (A Shadow Chronicles Novel)
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Digging into the food, Mark declared that my omelet was indeed delicious, and when I asked him if it compared to his mother’s, he told me that he was going to plead the Fifth—he didn’t want to get in trouble with her or me, so he was calling it a draw. I had to laugh at the comical expression on his face as he feigned innocence, and I wondered about the whine and huff Angel emitted from her place by the back door.

As we ate, we talked some more, and I learned that the mother he spoke of so fondly was indeed a stepmother. Though I was surprised he revealed the information so soon, I was also glad to have one of my questions about his past so quickly answered. He told me that his biological mother, Patricia, had been attacked while she was pregnant with him and that she had died in the emergency room—there’d barely been time to save him by cesarean. Monica, his stepmother, had been a nurse in the ER,
a very sympathetic one who had offered to help the devastated Daniel Singleton take care of his newborn son. After some time, the deep gratitude he felt for Monica’s assistance turned into love, and two years after the loss of his first wife, he married again. After another three years, they gave Mark a little sister named Juliette.

Because he had been so forthcoming with his own painful past, I felt it my obligation to share mine. I told him that my own mother had also died giving birth to me, and that my father had been through a string of mistresses ever since, never staying with any one woman for very long—although I did have a younger sister. I told him how I did not get along very well with my father or my sister, who was deeply jealous of me, but that I adored my older brother. When Mark asked about my mother’s side of the family, whom I had earlier claimed the farm had come from, I told him that I honestly did not know if any more of them were living. The truth, of course, was that I had some distant cousins, descendants of my mother’s twin brother Clarence, but I did not have any contact with them. I thought that was for the best even though I did keep track of some of them, and when my cousin Kendra (fourth or fifth cousin, I’m not sure which) had wanted to go to UC San Diego as a visual arts major, I used my various contacts to make sure she got a full-ride scholarship.

It was well past full dark by the time we finished our meal. Mark offered to stay and help me wash the dishes, but I let him off the hook, saying he needed to get plenty of sleep for his first full day of work. I could tell that while he wouldn’t have minded helping out with the cleanup, he was also glad to get out of doing it like men usually were. I shook my head and smiled as he bid me good night and left for his new apartment, making sure to give his ‘dog’ a pointed stare behind his back. Her I was definitely
not
letting off the hook—and I hoped the shapeshifter understood that I wanted her to come back for a little chat as soon as she was able to get away.

Having the dishes to do and the kitchen to clean up after the late dinner was a good distraction, but I was still finished in about half an hour. I began to pace, wondering if Angel was going to come back tonight, wondering if she’d even understood my silent message. I then sat back down and chided myself for being ridiculous—I was a
dhampyr
, for goodness sake! I should
not
be nervous!

Except I
was
nervous—anxious, to be more specific.
I was worried as well, wondering what in the world Angel knew about Mark and what she was up to. She was a supernatural and so was he—obviously not a coincidence. So what was the story there? Could I trust her to tell me the truth when Mark didn’t even know?

Or so it appeared. It occurred to me as I sat in my kitchen spinning my mental wheels that it was entirely possible Mark knew all about the supernatural world, that he knew what Angel really was, and that they were both putting on a show for my benefit.
But to what purpose?
What could they hope to gain by lying to me and going through the charade of his needing the job on my farm? Was it possible someone from my father’s world already knew I was Vivian Drake, or suspected I knew who she was? Was he simply sent to keep an eye on me to make sure I actually looked for her?

So many questions spun through my mind. I hated not knowing, I hated the “what ifs?” I was not one to give myself over to paranoia, but the introduction of my other half into my life had obviously thrown me off my axis. I also hated the fact that I
was
doubting
Mark. If he really was my soulmate, and I knew there could be no denying that, then I shouldn’t doubt him at all—trust in him should be implicit. There were just too many unknown variables right now for me to be completely comfortable. I
had
to get answers, and soon.

A light knock at the back door made me jump. I felt ridiculous, and chastised myself accordingly. The knock came again as I was crossing the worn rug over the wood flooring, somehow sounding more insistent even though it had not changed in volume. I opened the door to find a nude young woman, probably mid-twenties, standing on the small stoop. She looked oddly familiar, yet I knew that I had never met her before—at least, not in this form.

“Are you going to let me in, or do you really want Mark to look out the French doors to see his sister standing naked on his new boss’s back porch?”


Sister?

I hissed, though I still stepped back to give her room to come inside.

Juliette Singleton nodded as she turned around to face me. “May I please borrow a robe? I’m no prude, but I certainly don’t like talking to strangers in naught but my skin.”

I nodded as I pushed the door shut again. Moe and Cissy came trotting into the kitchen then, and of course they barked until Juliette knelt and let them sniff her. They stopped yapping almost instantly; I knew that while their little minds wouldn’t be able to place where they knew her from, she would still smell somewhat familiar to them.

Because to all three of us, Juliette still smelled like a dog.

I ran to my bedroom and grabbed one of my long terry-cloth robes, and returned to the kitchen seconds later, just in time to find Juliette reaching into the refrigerator.

“Oh, go right ahead—help yourself,” I said sardonically, holding out the robe.

She offered me an apologetic smile. “Sorry, but I’ve never been able to stomach eating dog food, or hunting and eating raw meat. Mom and I made sure Mark understood that Angel was a picky dog that would only eat what he ate, but as you saw tonight, that didn’t happen.”

I relaxed just a little, and offered to make her a sandwich as she stepped back and put the robe on. She had chugged down nearly the whole can of Mt. Dew she’d grabbed from the fridge by the time I turned around and handed her a plate, on which was a thick turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato. I pulled a butter knife from the silverware drawer and the mayonnaise from the fridge, as well as another can of soda, and carried them over to the table.

“So your mother knows about you?” I asked as I set the items down and then sat across from her. “Does your dad?”

Juliette shook her head. After slathering on a generous helping of mayo, she put the sandwich back together, chewing and swallowing a huge bite before she answered. “Daddy doesn’t. But Mom knows, because she’s a shifter, too.”

“Your father doesn’t know anything?” I
asked,
a tinge of incredulity in my voice. “Don’t you think that’s being unfair to him?”

She looked at me. “Ms. Caldwell—”

“Saphrona, please.
It’s going to be hard enough to break Mark of that habit,” I couldn’t help interjecting.

“Fine, Saphrona. I actually asked my mother that question once, when I first began shifting. Why didn’t we tell Daddy and Mark what we could do? And do you know what she told me? She said that my father had been completely devastated by the attack on Mark’s birth mother—so much so that she was surprised he had found the capacity to love again—and she honestly did not think he was capable of handling the shock of finding out what we are, too. Sometimes I wonder if she’s underestimating my dad, but then I see how he still gets around the anniversary of the attack, even after all these years, and I don’t wonder anymore. I’m not sure he could handle it either.”

I conceded her point with a nod.
“But what about Mark?
Don’t you think he has the right to know? Not just that his dog is actually his sister, or that his stepmother also turns into a dog, but about what he is? Does he even have a clue?”

Juliette took another bite of the sandwich, swallowed it after two chews, and then cracked open the second can of pop, which she chugged two good swallows of before she answered. “Obviously you have a lot of questions—I have a few of my own for you, but maybe I should start at the beginning.”

I sat back in my chair and crossed my arms. “Yeah, you just do that.”

Juliette took another bite of the sandwich and another swig of Dew. “Patricia Singleton, Mark’s mother, was attacked by a vampire during her eighth month of pregnancy—the vampire part you obviously already know. The vamp was a rogue newborn, one some other vamp had drained and left for dead, or thought he’d killed. Or maybe he’d been unbalanced before he’d been turned. Mom just said that by the time the shifters found him after the attack, he was completely unglued.”

“Why were the shifters going after him? Why not leave it to the vampire community to take care of him like you usually do?”

Mark’s sister scoffed, then polished off the sandwich I had made her and the second can of Mt. Dew. She sat forward with her hands together on the table. “For a half-breed, you seem to know so very little about your own kind. Vampires wouldn’t have acted unless he became a real menace to society.”

“I haven’t lived as
a vampire since I was fifty and I hardly associate
with anyone from that world,” I retorted.

“Really now?”
Juliette asked, raising an eyebrow. “Then how come I can smell another vampire’s scent in this house?”

“I said ‘hardly,’ Juliette
, not ‘never
.’ I have a younger sister and an older brother. Both created, not born. Evangeline paid me a visit today, not that her doing so is any concern of yours.”

Juliette’s eyes blazed for a moment as she stood, leaning across my table at me. “It is
every
concern of mine now that my brother is living here. I am Mark’s guardian, and I will
not
allow you to put him at risk.”

I stood as well, slowly, and stepped closer. My proximity forced Juliette to stand upright, and so I moved even closer, until we were nose to nose. I could feel my canines descending, my sudden anger kicking up my adrenaline.

“Let’s get one thing clear right away,
dog
,” I
seethed,
my voice dangerously low so that she knew I meant business. “You
will
watch your tone when you speak to me in my own house—or didn’t your mommy ever tell you it was a bad idea to piss off a
vampire?”

“Now you look here—”

“I told you before that Mark
is
very important to me. As such, I am not about to knowingly put his life at risk, and I
am
a
dhampyr
, so I daresay I can take care of him myself. I would even go so far as to say that your services as guardian, whatever the hell that means, are no longer required.”

Juliette surprised me then by laughing. She turned and dropped back into the chair she had vacated, throwing one arm over the back with an air of nonchalance. “I am astounded by your arrogance, half-breed. But please, tell me why my brother is so important to you, when you’ve obviously just met him today.”

“That’s where you’d be wrong, at least in part. Mark just met me today, but I met
him
over two hundred years ago.”

She scoffed again. “That’s impossible; he’s only thirty years old. The only way that could be is if…”

Juliette’s eyes widened when she looked up at me. “You mean vampires imprint too?! How can that be—you’re all dead!”

 

 

Back to Top

F
our

 

 

It was my turn to laugh sardonically as I retracted my fangs and returned to my seat.

“For someone who claims to know so much about vampires, you sure don’t know a lot,” I said. “Don’t you read Vivian Drake novels?
Vampire
magazine, maybe?”

Juliette scoffed. “Please,” she lamented. “You’re not going to tell me that all that crap is
true,
are you?”

I grinned slightly. “Most of what she’s written about vampire biology is true. We don’t know the origin of vampires—that’s too steeped in myth—but we do know that no human ever became a vampire after dying. Dead blood is like poison to vampires because it lacks the life-sustaining properties of the living. And take me for instance: I’m half vampire, half human. How could I and others like me possibly exist if vampires are dead? Everyone knows that a dead man can’t conceive a child with a living woman—because he’s dead, for crying out loud.”

She sat up straighter. “So vampires really are like the X-Men? They’re mutants?”

BOOK: Chasing Shadows (A Shadow Chronicles Novel)
8.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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