Authors: Shannon Bell
I watched the internal battle on his face. I wanted to know what these options were since they obviously concerned me. “And?” I finally asked, hoping they wouldn’t be too horrible.
“Oh Dylan, I’m so sorry.” There was silence for a long time before he spoke again. “None of this was supposed to happen. It was supposed to be simple, and I let it get out of control.”
“I guess I should be thankful for that,” I remarked under my breath. He was going to kill me that evening. Thankfully, I had said something to the shop owner in passing or Nico would never have stopped and then….
It was too much to process.
Nico rested his face in his hands and shook his head. “Don’t be thankful yet.”
“Just tell me.” I was hoping it could be like a bandage – just rip it off and get it out of the way.
“I can either make you my pet or kill you.” I felt like there was an echo as what he said reverberated and beat through the sides of my skull.
“Your pet? What does that even
I’m not sure if it even really mattered because obviously whatever a pet was had to be better than death. Right?
He wouldn’t make eye contact with me and I knew it was bad. Really bad. “It’s what we call someone we groom before turning them. If it’s what you choose, you’ll be a vampire within the next year, or – they’ll see to it that you die.”
My eyes felt like they were on fire, the burning was so bad. “I’m – I’m going to be groomed to be a vampire?” I asked, hardly able to say the words out loud. I raised a hand to wipe tears beginning to trickle down my cheek. I didn’t know how to get myself out of this one. To dream about immortality was one thing, yet to be forced into it was another. I could only choose vampire because death was not something I was ready for. Though, vampire was not at the top of my “to do” list.
“Then you’ve decided? That simply?” He asked, sounding surprised which option I had chosen.
I looked at him, bewildered. “Do I really have a choice? Of course I’d pick that over death.”
I couldn’t get the idea he was keeping this from me out of my head. There had actually been a meeting about whether I should be allowed to live or not. I had goose bumps across my skin and it had nothing to do with the temperature. “When were you going to tell me about all of this?”
“Tonight.” He shrugged. “It was just a matter of privacy.”
“It’s clear why you’ve been so honest tonight,” I countered, filling in the missing pieces.
Nico nodded slowly. “That’s the reason I was willing to answer all of your questions. No one can ever actually know what we are and what we do. As soon as you left Transylvania and didn’t return home, you were a target.” He moved in closer and wrapped his arms around me and pulled me against his chest. “Tell me I did the right thing, Dylan. Tell me saving you was the right thing.”
His breath was cool on my ear.
I knew he had to have felt as torn as I was. Killing me that night would have been a lot easier than putting me through this. Now things were complicated and he had people watching what he was doing. I imagine it was probably better to fly under the radar with this hierarchy he had spoken of. He had risked his place with the other vampires to save me. But there were consequences for his actions and I would be the one to face them.
He watched me intently and waited for me to say something and let him know that he
done the right thing. I felt like I was going to hyperventilate. I had known him less than twenty four hours and yet no matter what he did around me, I ended up breathless.
…I’m so sorry,” he whispered as he kissed the top of my head.
“No, I mean…I didn’t
to die in the alley. Of course I didn’t. I don’t know what I was thinking looking for vampires. I was bored with my life. And now,” I choked on a sob. “And now?”
SEVERAL DAYS HAD passed before I saw Nico again. I had asked for some alone time to soak in everything that had just transpired and he had given it to me, too. Maybe it was even a little too much time.
I had spent the first night crying myself to sleep with uncontrollable sobbing that forced me to get a new pillowcase out of the closet.
On the second night, I thought of every different possibility to get me out of this situation. I could go to the police. The idea ended quickly when I remembered the other vampires and the whole mind reading thing. They’d kill me before I even made it to the station. I could run screaming back to Florida. It sounded like a bad idea, though. First, I wouldn’t give my friends the satisfaction. Also, I didn’t want to run.
The third night I wrote a list of pros and cons of being alive. I didn’t get very far, which didn’t help matters. As depression set in, I got hungry and called room service. I ordered almost everything on the menu. I spent the rest of the night sick to my stomach and shredding my list. Leaving Florida was something I was glad I did. Saying goodbye to my friends was hard, but I’d get over that, too, in time. Leaving mortality behind? It was something a little more difficult to swallow. I knew there was a danger to seeking the truth when I departed for this trip, but nothing ever happened to the other truth seekers, so why me? The reasonable part of me felt certain that I wouldn’t find a vampire. It was just something to do. I was sure that vampires didn’t exist, but they do and I still can’t believe it.
This whole time, I hardly stepped out of the hotel room. I was scared of too many things. Of seeing Nico and not seeing him and the idea of running into another vampire who maybe
have killed me in the alley. How many times had I passed by one of them during my walks in the city and not known it? I would have to ask Nico about that, though I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know the answer.
I left the room three times in total.
The first was to talk to Matt down at Yankee Bar, which I made sure to visit in the brightest part of the day. The position was mine if I wanted it. I was scheduled to start next Tuesday and would be paid in cash tips, so we didn’t have to worry about reporting anything. I had told him that it was only temporary because I needed some extra cash to extend my vacation. He understood; apparently, he’s used to it.
The second place I went was the little grocery store around the corner to get some groceries. I wanted to make sure there was enough to eat while holed up in the little hotel room. Thank goodness for my mini fridge and the little microwave.
Finally, I left the room one last time to talk to the hotel manager down in the lobby. It was time to negotiate some sort of weekly rate. He wanted to know how long I’d be staying but I didn’t have an answer. I told him it was yet to be determined but it was easier to figure out in weeks instead of days anymore. He cut me a good deal and I was thankful because it saved me over a hundred Euros a week.
It was Saturday by the time I finally met up with Nico and I was willing to go along with whatever he had in mind. The idea of becoming immortal had its benefits, though whether I was thinking sane or not was undetermined. It was better than anything waiting for me back in Florida. It’s not like I had some plan of what I was going to do once I was done traipsing across Europe. My bank account was beyond depleted and I knew it was time to head back. Hopefully the bartending was going to help soften the blow to my finances. I wasn’t ready to let it all end and go back to stress and suffering. Immortality had its upsides. I was always complaining that I didn’t have enough time to do things I wanted to. It’s funny how things work out.
Nico also awakened feelings inside of me I thought had died with my wedding bouquet. As much as I hated being forced into immortality, I couldn’t get the feel of his lips on my skin out of my head. I just wished we had actually kissed again before he told me about the plan. I didn’t want him to change his mind about what we both wanted to happen, or at least I
he wanted the same thing. No matter how delusional I was, a vampire boyfriend isn’t exactly what I was expecting when I arrived in Italy. I’m not even sure how it works, but I’m too involved to turn back now. What was so great about being a plain old mortal anyways? I had a year to decide.
“So, a year?” I asked as we strolled along. It was just after one in the morning when we sat down on the stairs inside Boboli Gardens. “What goes on during this year?”
The statue of Neptune stood before us, spewing water into the pond. Nico positioned me so I sat on a step just below him with his legs on either side of me. His arms wrapped around the tops of my shoulders. Despite the temperature dropping outside, I found myself getting warmer as his fingertips danced across my shoulders. “Well, I explain to you the history which will become yours. You will watch me hunt so you know what it is that you will become.”
“I will watch you hunt?” The visual that popped into my head left me aghast.
“Yes. You’ll need to know what to do so you can feed your thirst. And so there are no surprises.”
“Well, we will meet some of the other vampires around so you can ask questions of them, as well.”
It didn’t sound too exciting. Actually, I wasn’t looking forward to meeting any other vampires. I had a feeling Nico was different than them and I didn’t want to find out exactly what those differences were until I was on a level playing field with them and had some sort of self-defense.
“And?” I questioned, turning to watch his facial expressions.
He smiled. “You want more? Well, there’s the vampire law and you learn about the hierarchy I spoke of before. We are free to move about, but there are rules to be followed at all times.”
“And?” I grinned, enjoying the game. These were good things to know, but I wanted something more interesting to focus on.
“And, we enjoy each other’s company,” he sighed as he tightened his hold around me.
And make love over and over and over
, I added silently. As soon as I let the thought float into my head, I regretted it, feeling my cheeks burning with a furious flush, knowing he was reading my thoughts.
“Yes, we could do that, too.” Nico moved so quickly that he was on the same step as I was before I could blink. His fingers held my chin ever so delicately and his eyes stared into mine, as if asking for permission.
I licked my lips unconsciously, which he took as the sign he needed for our first consensual kiss. His lips hesitated over mine for several seconds. I reached up slowly and took the back of his neck with both of my hands as my fingers danced along his hairline. He met the gap and our lips melted together. His tongue traced my lip and I opened my mouth, inviting him deeper. The intensity strengthened as he accepted and continued the kiss. My heart felt like it was going to beat right out of my chest and I pulled back, gasping for air.
“Wow,” I managed while backing up to another step to balance myself. My whole body was trembling uncontrollably.
Nico moved up the same step to stay close to me. He leaned in for another kiss, seeming to be equally pulled to me as I was to him. I just didn’t know if my body could handle it. When he was touching me, I felt like every cell in my body was going to burst.
“We need some privacy,” I said quietly, looking around, becoming very aware that we were completely exposed to any curious visitors of the gardens.
“Not tonight, I’m afraid,” he frowned, looking up at the night sky.
“Why?” My eagerness surprised me. I was offering myself to him without hesitation.
“The sun will be coming up before I can get you somewhere private and….” He trailed off.
I nodded. It was beginning to make sense. “Soon, perhaps?”
He smiled at my voracity. “Yes, perhaps soon. Until then, let me at least take you back to your hotel.”
I nodded. “You know, I’m supposed to fly back to Florida tomorrow. My three weeks are up.” I had seen the plane ticket on my desk earlier today and had spent entirely too much time staring at it, trying to figure out what it all meant.
Nico looked at me with a sullen expression. “You know you can’t, right?”
“I know. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, though. My best friend has my itinerary. She’s going to expect me back.” Not getting on that plane to go home wouldn’t be something easy for me. Had I known I wasn’t ever going to see her or any of my other friends again, I would have spent longer saying goodbye or something.
“You’ve made this choice. It won’t be easy right away, but after a while, she and everyone you know will have passed.”
Wow, how morbid. I knew he was right, but this might actually be harder than I expected. “What about some sort of contact?”
“How do you mean? Calling them?” He shook his head and avoided making eye contact with me. I saw him frown and knew it was hard for him to tell me. “Think about it – what could you possibly say?” He squeezed my shoulder to try offering me some sort of comfort. I looked away from him and stood up from the step. I went down a few stairs and ran my hand along the railing. In the distance, the city lights twinkled, just beyond the trees and the outline of Palazzo Pitti.
I knew he was right, but I didn’t want to leave my friends hanging, either. I had roots in Florida and not returning would be strange. Like Nico said, maybe it wouldn’t bother me after a few decades, once everyone I knew was gone.
I stood awkwardly, realizing my feet were sore from walking around the city. Maybe he didn’t get tired, but I was only human, after all.
Something else hit me. “What about my clothes? My things?”
He scratched the bridge of his nose. “What?”
“All of my belongings. I only have a limited amount of clothes here. All my belongings…my entire life…it’s all in Florida.” My mind swam with the contents of my apartment, my books, my collection of shoes, my everything. Leaving that for someone to dig through was unacceptable.
Nico sighed and took a few steps in front of me. His slim physique was a dark shadow in front of me as he peered in the direction of the Duomo, its rounded rooftop peaking up over the trees.
“Nico?” I asked again.
He turned to face me and stared at my boots instead of my face. I shifted and realized that he was avoiding answering my concern.
My head dropped and I sat down on the bench in front of me. “It’s gone, isn’t it? I have to rebuild everything here.”
Nico glanced up at me and took a step forward. “Yes. I feel like I keep apologizing to you since I’ve met you, but again, I’m sorry.”
I stood up again and grimaced, my boots digging into my ankles.
“What’s the matter?” He asked, seeing the hint of pain shoot across my face.
“I could say
. But to start with, these boots are killing me.”
Nico scooped me off my feet. “Allow me.” Before I could ask what he was doing, he bounded up the stairs and jumped onto the roof. I fought the urge to scream because I knew it wouldn’t be a good idea. He sensed my nervousness and brushed my lips with his own. We were suddenly flying across the rooftops of Florence.
He set me down around the corner from the hotel and it was hard for me to catch my breath. He, on the other hand, hadn’t even broken a sweat.
“That only solves one problem,” I said dryly. “My life? My clothes? My everything?”
“Dylan, I don’t know what to say. We can rebuild together, but you cannot go back. Not only would it be too dangerous, it could never be allowed. In time, you will overcome the issue.
“Hmmmph.” I knew he was right, but I could still be pissed off about it for a little while longer.
He took my hand and we walked down the sidewalk. We turned the corner like any normal couple, holding hands and staying in stride. He lowered his head and his lips brushed mine in a farewell kiss. Then he was gone before I could ask him when I’d see him again.