Heart of the Vampire (Vanderlind Castle)

Heart of the Vampire

 

 

Gayla Twist

 

Copyright © 2013 Adrianne Ambrose

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 1490920692

ISBN-13:
978-1490920696

 

 

DEDICATION

 

 

As always, to my darling Q

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

“Aurora, I think I’m falling in love with you,” he whispered, his lips brushing against the flesh of my throat.

I froze, then silently cursed myself for it because he’d obviously noticed. “Um...” I managed, trying desperately to think of a response that didn’t make me come off as a complete jerk. “That’s really sweet of you to say.”

Fred pulled away from where he’d been kissing my neck. “Sweet? That
’s not exactly what I was hoping to hear.” It was dark out, and Fred had parked on a quiet street a few blocks away from my house. We were in the backseat of his car, a Toyota Camry, so there wasn’t a lot of room for him to create distance between us. But he did his best.

“Sorry,” I mumbled.

I didn’t know what my problem was with Fred. He was tall and good looking. Plus he had blond hair and brown eyes, which is a pretty rare combination. He was popular at our school—one of the stars of Tiburon High’s football team. As his girlfriend, I probably should have known what position he played, but I just couldn’t seem to keep it in my head. I finally figured out that no one ever bothered to ask me much about football, so I gave up trying.

If I was being honest, I wasn’t even sure why Fred was dating me, much less professing that he was falling in love. He’d asked me out a little over a month earlier. I should have just said, “No,” but instead I
’d said, “I’ll think about it.”

My best friend, Blossom, kept hounding me, insisting, “You’re an idiot if you say no to Fred Lighton. He’s one of the most popular boys in this school.”

A few days later, I finally said to Fred, “Sure, I guess,” when he asked me out again. But I didn’t say yes because I liked Fred or because he was popular or anything like that. I said it because I needed something, anything, to distract me from my broken heart.

At the time, I was already studying my brains out at school plus taking on extra credit and working extra shifts at Cup of Joe’s, the cafe where I had a part-time job. It still wasn’t enough. I needed more chatter in my life to fight off the misery. Dating a hunky football player sounded like as good of a plan as any.

Contrary to what I expected from a guy on the football team, Fred was pretty nice on our first date. We went to the movies, and I tried not to immediately pull away when the lights went low and he put his arm around me. It was just so hard to keep from remembering how even the slightest touch from another boy had made me tremble. But that boy and I couldn’t be together. I had to keep reminding myself of that. It was better, safer, for me to be with someone like Fred. Even if his kisses did very little for me besides chap my lips.

On our third date, Fred was unusually keyed up. He kept bouncing his right leg under the table and grinning at me in a way that I couldn’t decipher. Finally, I just asked him, “What’s up with you? Why are you so excited?”

“It’s our third date,” he said, waggling his eyebrows at me.

“Um, yeah?”

“Well, you know...” His face reddened.

I was mystified. “No, I don’t know.”

“You know,” he said again, clearing his throat. “The third date rule.”

“The what?” I knew perfectly well what he was talking about, but I was incredulous that he had brought it up.

“The third date rule,” he said more quietly. We were in public, and he was growing quite embarrassed.

“What’s that?”

“It’s a rule, you know, when you’re dating someone,” he hedged, not wanting to come straight out with it. I said nothing, just gave him an expectant stare, so he continued with, “You know, when it’s the third date that means you get to, you know...”

I shook my head and shrugged my shoulders, wondering if he was actually going to explain his expectations.

Fred sighed and said, “It’s a rule that when you’re dating someone, on the third date, the two of you, you know.” He couldn’t meet my eye but kept going. “You get together.”

“You mean sex?” I said in a slightly elevated voice. We were sitting in a booth at Darlene’s Diner. My question made a few of the patrons glance in our direction.

“Yes,” Fred said in a quiet, clenched voice, giving me a significant look. He obviously didn’t want anyone to overhear our conversation.

“Are you kidding?” I couldn’t help but laugh. “You mean, we’ve gone to the movies, we’ve studied together after school once
, and now we’re at this diner so you think that means we know each other well enough that we’re going to have sex?”

It was Fred’s turn to shrug. “Yeah, I mean, why not? It’s the rule.”

“Whose rule?” I wanted to know.

“I don’t know. It’s just the rule,” he told me, shrinking down in the booth a little and glancing around the room to see if anyone was listening.

I couldn’t believe guys. Three dates in and I was expected to hand over my virginity just because somewhere at some time in the past fifty years some stupid guy probably made a joke about it. The joke somehow spread along the guy grapevine, and suddenly they all acted like it was relationship law. As long as it suited their desires, of course. I was positive that if there was a joke about no sex until after thirty dates, guys would have said it was a bunch of made-up crap.

“It’s not my rule,” I told him.

He seemed a little perplexed by that. “I think it’s everybody’s rule,” he said.

I shook my head. “Not for kids in high school.”

Then he went into guy mode, which I’d been expecting since he brought the whole thing up. His head got all loose on his neck and started bobbing around, which was something guys did when they were being defensive about manhood issues although  I wasn’t sure why. “Listen,” he said, leaning back. “I’m on the football team. There are plenty of girls in school that would be happy to date me.”

“Okay,” I said simply.

His eyes grew wide for a moment, thinking that I’d just agreed to sex, but then they narrowed as he had a bit longer to assess my response. “Okay, what?”

“Okay, you should go date one of them,” I said. “We’re not engaged or anything. I mean, we’re barely even dating. If you’re focus is on getting laid and you think there’s a girl out there that’s willing to accommodate you, then I think you should ask her out.” My mom was a therapist specializing in girls who had been through trauma. Since I was old enough to talk, she’d raised me not to tolerate any nonsense from boys.

Fred just sat there staring at me, confounded. Finally, he said, “You mean, like, not date anymore?”

“Exactly.” I reached into my bag and pulled out three dollars. I’d only ordered an ice
d tea, so I figured the money would cover my bill plus tip. “No hard feelings, though,” I told him as I scooted out of the booth. “I hope we can still be friends.”

Fred had driven, but I was within walking distance of Blossom’s house
, and I was pretty sure she was home. There was also always the fallback option of Mervin, Tiburon’s lone taxi driver. He was super cranky and took forever, but he was on call 24/7 as long as your trip didn’t go too far outside of town.

“Hey,” Blossom said, frowning at me when she opened the front door after I rang the bell. “What are you doing here? I thought you had a date with Fred.”

“I did,” I told her as I walked into the Costers’ house. “But Fred and I decided it was better if we’re just friends.”

“Seriously? What the hell happened?” Blossom wanted to know.

It only took a few minutes for me to give Blossom the blow by blow.

“You’re kidding?” she said when I was finished. “Three dates in and he wants to introduce you to his penis? Even Jimmy wasn’t that bad.”

Jimmy Stevens was Blossom’s recently dumped boyfriend. He was also on the football team, which was something Blossom usually found appealing, but he had been such a jerk the previous month when I thought Blossom had been kidnapped by some creep that she actually decided it was better not to date anybody than to date him. I had to admit, I was impressed by her firm stance about the whole thing. Jimmy had made a couple of attempts to win her back, and she wasn’t having any of it.

“The funniest part,” I told her, “was that he was so incredulous that I wasn’t willing to go along with ‘the three date rule
.’ I mean, three dates? Who makes up this crap?”

Blossom snorted. “The next thing you know
, it’ll be the thirty-second rule. ‘Decide right now if you’re going to sleep with me because I’ve got things to do.’ Like guys are so busy it would kill them if they had to put some effort into being romantic.”

“Yeah, well, Fred drove
, and I thought it probably wasn’t the best idea to have him take me home, so...”

“I can give you a ride,” Blossom said. “No problem.”

“Thanks.”

“Are you upset about Fred?” she asked. “Do you need ice cream or something?”

One of the qualities I appreciated about Blossom as my best friend was that she understood the judicious application of ice cream. This was one of the rare occasions from my interactions with boys where a triple fudge sundae wasn’t required. I wouldn’t admit it to Blossom, but I actually felt relieved that Fred and I were no longer dating. “I’m okay,” I assured her.

“Well, I’m not,” she said, frowning and shaking her head. “Who would have thought that a boy in high school would try to pressure a girl into sex before she was ready?” She feigned shock and disgust. “It’s very upsetting. I need a sundae. Stat!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

On Monday morning, it came as a complete surprise when Fred ambled over to where I was standing in front of my locker. “
Can we talk?” he asked.

“Sure,” I told him, grabbing the books I needed for my first three classes.

“I mean somewhere private,” he explained.

“Oh.” I had been expecting Fred to ask if he’d left his letterman jacket at my house or something lame like that. He actually sounded a bit more serious. “I guess so. I could meet you at Cup of Joe’s. I’m working after school, but my shift doesn’t start until four.”

“Okay.” He nodded a few times. “See you then.”

“What, did Fred lose his letterman jacket or something?” Blossom asked
, sauntering over with her arms full of books.

“No
.” I laughed. “That’s what I thought, but it wasn’t it.”

“What did he want?”

“I don’t know.” I threw a suspicious look at the departing Fred. “Said he wanted to talk in private.”

“Maybe he’s pregnant,” Blossom suggested with a smirk. “Wouldn’t that be a
fun switch?”

 

If I was being honest, I kind of forgot about meeting Fred until the end of the day. When you are living in misery, a lot slips your mind. I was too busy trying to keep my brain focused on my studies and not allow any other thoughts to creep into my head to worry about why Fred Lighton wanted to talk to me. I remembered when he waved at me in the school parking lot. I nodded in return, and we both hopped into our cars. As I started up my ancient VW bug, I chewed on my lip, trying to figure out why Fred wanted to meet me. I really couldn’t imagine what there was to talk about, but I was definitely not looking forward to it, whatever it was. Four of the most uncomfortable words in the English language have got to be,
We need to talk
.

“You’re early,” Joe informed me, automatically glancing at the clock on the wall when I entered the cafe.

“Yeah, well, I’m meeting a friend for a little bit before my shift starts,” I told him, stashing my purse behind the counter.

Just then, the bells that hung over the door chimed
, and Fred walked in. He smiled at me.

Joe’s eyes shifted from Fred to me. He frowned then nodded. “Don’t let your friend fill up on too much free biscotti.”

As a rule, staff was not allowed to hand out free cappuccinos to friends and family. We could have a drink if on shift, but as Joe frequently said, “I’m here to sell coffee, not give it away to a bunch of teenagers.” His comment about the biscotti was his way of telling me I could be exempt from the rule that one time.

Fred didn’t drink coffee, which surprised me. Most guys acted like they couldn’t put two sentences together unless they had a triple espresso laced with Red Bull. When I asked Fred about his reason for abstaining, he said, “It gives me the shakes.”
So instead, I made him an Italian lime soda, and we grabbed a booth toward the back. Cup of Joe’s was unusually empty for that time of day. Mornings were the busiest, but many business people would stop by for an afternoon pick-me-up, and high schoolers would swarm the shop in waves if they couldn’t think of anything better to do.

We sat there for a few minutes, me waiting for him to say something, Fred looking awkward. Finally, I got things started with, “So... You wanted to talk to me?”

“Yeah, um...” Fred’s complexion grew a few shades pinker. “I thought a lot about what you said the other day in the diner, and I talked to my dad about it...”

“You talked to your dad about it?” I interrupted, a bit incredulous.

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I?” Fred was confused. “I mean, he’s my dad.”

“Okay,” was all I could thin
k to reply. Dads were kind of an alien concept to me. My dad had left us to marry some younger woman he’d been having an affair with, and we didn’t hear from him very often unless he was complaining about having to pay child support. He was pretty much the last person on the planet I would turn to with boy troubles, or any kind of troubles, actually.

“So,” Fred continued, “my dad explained to me that guys my age want to have sex because, you know...” He cleared his throat. “It feels good. We don’t necessarily connect it to any other emotions besides, you know,” his voice dropped in volume and his face grew as red as a beet, “pleasure.”

I was feeling pretty embarrassed myself, so I just nodded.

“And he says that girls have sex because they want to feel close to someone. You know, like it’s a way to create intimacy.”

I nodded again, wondering which teen sex-talk books Mr. Lighton had been reading.

“Anyway, he said that I was expecting stuff way too soon and that you weren’t ready to go along with it because you weren’t feeling like you could trust me and be, you know, close. So he said I should just back off and enjoy dating for a
while and not get all pressurey about the physical stuff.”

“That was the advice your dad gave you?” I couldn’t help but be amazed.

“Yeah, well that, and to always use a condom.”

Mr. Lighton definitely had my nomination for father of the year.

“So, I wanted to apologize for acting like a tool on Saturday, and I wanted to know if maybe you want to try dating again. But this time without any time limits or pressure or anything.” Fred gave me a hopeful smile.

Like I said, I hadn’t been all that interested in Fred when he’d initially asked me out, but he was being so understanding and considerate that it made me rethink things. If I hadn’t been pining away for someone I would never see again, I would probably have really liked Fred after the heartfelt speech he’d just made. I didn’t even know high school boys could act so mature.

“Sure,” I told him. “As long as you realize I might never get there, as far as having sex and stuff.”

“Okay.” Fred reached over and squeezed my hand, a big smile breaking across his face. I hadn’t realized before then that he actually had dimples.

I returned his squeeze and forced myself to smile, mentally telling myself, “You have to move on with your life.” Plus I didn’t want to be a jerk. I was all for Fred being sweet to me, and the least I could do was try to be nice in return.

That was why the whole, “I think I’m falling in love with you” thing was so awkward. Fred had been true to his word about not pressuring me and just trying to have fun. And after several dates, we had progressed from heavy kissing to light petting. I didn’t get the same electric thrill that I’d experienced when kissing the boy who had broken my heart, but it wasn’t horrible. In a way
, it was kind of comforting. I just hadn’t realized that Fred’s emotions had progressed so quickly from “It’s our third date so you need to put out” to “I’m falling in love with you.”

Fred let out a long sigh, leaned back
, and closed his eyes. “You’re a very hard girl to understand,” he said quietly.

I leaned back, too, adjusting my clothes from our rumpling. Fred had left the car’s sunroof open a crack to keep the car from getting too steamy
, and through it I could glimpse the moon hanging in the sky. It was almost full.

Had it really been a month since the boy who broke my heart had said goodbye? My chest began to ache like it always did when I had an idle mo
ment and thoughts of him crept in. My hand automatically sought the Pools of Light pendant that hung around my neck. It was a round and perfectly clear natural crystal held in place by a belt of silver. The pendant was the only token I had from him, my only memento of Jessie Vanderlind.

Through the sunroof, I glimpsed a
large, black shadow passing in front of the moon, briefly eclipsing it. The dark mass wasn’t a bird in flight or some errant paper bag caught up in the wind. It was the size and shape of a human.

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