Authors: Morris Fenris,Jasmine Bowen
He didn’t answer, and she knew that he hated it when she talked that way.
Tony was fully aware of her choice to remain mortal, as much as he hated it.
“I’m going to catch a nap,” she said, breaking the awkwardness. “I’ll text you later?”
“Please,” he replied, a growl in his voice. “And call me if there’s anything wrong.”
“You can’t get out of lessons, by the way,” she tried to interject some humor. “I’m emailing you guys a
PowerPoint I did on Facebook etiquette.”
“I’m sure we’ll get right to it,”
Tony replied, although she could hear sarcasm in his voice.
“I should go. Get it done,” she made a kissing noise into the
“Bye,” he said, and the line went dead. She put her phone
beside her, her homesickness worse than ever now as she lay alone in silence. She wanted to be back home, setting up the tree, exchanging presents with her friends, shopping for a dress for the Christmas party the Hevers were sure to throw. They may not be the most popular in school, but everyone always came to their expensive lavish parties.
rolled over onto her side, sleeping taking her without a shower or pajamas.
All she had to do was do her job, do it well, and perhaps have
a endless supply of candy to pacify the beast. Diana didn’t seem worried that she was a prisoner, and so Annalise tried to put it out of her mind. If Gregory was truly a good king and man of his word, than this should be easy, providing Arthur cooperated.
She fell asleep within five minutes, shivering without the
blanket, but sleeping all the same. Internally, her body was fighting a battle that it probably wouldn’t win, and while sleep was an aid, it wasn’t enough reinforcement. But she could try, for as long as she could.
When Diana left after three weeks, Annalise felt like she had lost her support system. At least with Diana in the room, translating without blinking, communication had actually flowed, although it wasn’t always positive. Arthur didn’t like Diana, that much was clear, and it made the conversations much more one sided. Diana however, didn’t seem to care. The girl worked hard, Annalise had to give her that, teaching them both as much Latin to English as she could cram into a few weeks. Annalise felt a twinge of jealousy when she finally declared she had done as much as she could.
simply nodded, and told her she could leave in the morning. Annalise half wondered if her own freedom would be so easy, or whether Diana was going to be slaughtered on the way to the airport.
The Initials still
frightened her, not because of what they did, but because of what they could do. Every movement, even calm and half awake, trembled with power beneath the surface. There was no mistaking their strength or their rule over the vampire world and Annalise had no idea how Rosa trusted them so much as to flop all over them any time there was a brother present.
was Gregory’s long-time girlfriend, although she declared often that it wasn’t love at all, just sex, which made her lover blush. Together for 10 years off and on, Rosa was a professional dancer, and a Guard, a supernatural creature that blocked magical powers from emerging with a simple touch.
Vampires lost their fangs, their smell and their hearts began to beat when
Rosa touched them. Guards were supposed to be enemies of all supernatural creatures, but this tall lanky redhead was a rebel, her often scantily clad body in contact with the vampire king, who thoroughly enjoyed feeling human at her touch. They were opposites in every way, and he often seemed embarrassed by her, although he never said a word against her. Annalise, however, had learned to shut the door to lessons as to not scandalize Arthur.
Today was the first day they were alone, she and
Arthur. Diana was gone and she needed to pick up the slack. As he sat reluctantly in the living room, she folded her legs under her on the couch, leaning her head back. She was exhausted today, despite ten or so hours of sleep, and the cup of coffee was doing her no good. Opening her binder that she was forever adding to with lessons she made - usually the night before - she glanced over her notes on Christmas decorations. It was a fairly simple concept and yet there was so much to explain.
Arthur,” she started, and he abruptly looked over at her. He looked tired today too, and she wondered what dark thoughts plagued his mind at all hours. “How are you?”
He paused at this, and she wanted to smile, despite herself, seeing the gears turning.
“Dark?” she shook her head. “Try again.”
This one she nodded at.
My alarm clock reset itself for midnight, just as I had fallen asleep. And then my friend back home called me to talk about nothing.”
This made her smirk.
“I know, right? Sometimes, people just
… do that. When they want company, they call to see what you are doing and how you are. You never did that? Went over to someone’s house just to visit?”
“Yes,” this one he understood fine. She was impressed with him, in the last few weeks and realized she had underestimated him. Despite the fact that getting him in a good mood was like pulling teeth, he was actually incredibly intelligent and had picked up more than he let on. “But not at midnight.”
“Some people stay up really late. My friend that called me was working on a school project,” she said, speaking at the slow pace that she had gotten used to, and then she yawned, looking at her book again. “So, Christmas decorations. Here,” she passed him the binder, reaching across the room. Used to this routine, he took it and glanced at the pages she had printed out. Normally, with the Hevers, she worked off a laptop and a projector, but seeing as the TV set still scared Arthur, she figured papers were easier. “That’s what people do to their houses on Christmas.”
She had printed out several pictures from the
absurd to reasonable decorations. She caught a small smile escape his lips as he flipped through them.
“Because it’s fun. Part of the Christmas season,” she replied, watching as he continued to look closely at every detail.
This,” Arthur suddenly held up a picture she had to print three times off the color printer to get all the detail. It was a house that was so covered in lights that the details of it were completely hidden. “How long? To light all the candles?”
“Not candles,” she replied, and pointed to the ceiling.
“Lights. A long string of lights. Although still pretty long. Hours, maybe, and lots of help.”
He gazed intently at it again, and
Annalise yawned, swallowing a cup of coffee in a giant gulp. She looked up as Gregory came into the room, looking around.
“Hi,” she said,
“Hello,” he replied, finally locating the car keys on the table and shaking his head. “
Brock has a tendency to leave things where they shouldn’t be.”
“Are you going out?”
“Yes, I have an errand to run.”
…” Annalise gathered up her courage with a sudden idea. “Can we go out? To the mall, I mean? I’m teaching Arthur about Christmas decorations and the pictures aren’t doing anything justice. Perhaps we can see things in reality? Is that ok?”
didn’t miss a beat, nodding.
Rosa needs some things brought to her at dance rehearsal, which is a mile down the road from there. I can allow you an hour or so there, if you think that’ll be enough.”
“It’ll be more than enough,”
Annalise replied, eager to wander the mall brain dead rather than do some actually teaching. She was feeling queasy today, and there was nothing like a soft pretzel at the mall and a ginger ale to settle one’s stomach. Arthur looked at her, questionably and she motioned for him to get up as well. “Come on, it will be an adventure.”
“It’s a market,
Arthur,” Gregory said, as they made their way to the door. “An indoor market, that’s all. You’ll enjoy it, I think.”
Arthur replied, although he didn’t sound too enthusiastic about the situation, especially when they approached the car. He had seen cars before from sitting outside and seeing his brothers in one, but he had not yet ridden in one. His eyes widened at the thought. “Where are the horses?”
gave his brother a look of sympathy as he held open the back door.
“Don’t worry about it, it’s a lesson for another time,” she replied, sliding into the back seat. To her surprise,
Arthur slid in beside her so she moved over while Gregory got into the driver’s seat.
“Now I’m the chauffe
ur?” he teased his brother, and that made Arthur nod.
To the market.”
All seemed well until
Gregory started the engine. To Annalise’s surprise, Arthur’s hands shot out, startled, and grabbed hers as Gregory backed down the driveway.
You okay, Arthur?” his brother glanced in the mirror, and Arthur nodded, although his eyes were screwed shut. Annalise didn’t let go of his hands, squeezing reassuringly. He was petrified and her heart went out to him.
Gregory kept up a steady stream of chatter as they drove, and it distracted her from her own nausea as well. She tried to get a word out of Arthur, but he merely nodded or shook his head, staring straight ahead and white as a sheet until they pulled into the mall parking lot.
“See, that wasn’t so bad,” she tried to say, but as soon as the car stopped moving,
Arthur was reaching for the door. Gregory sighed, turning to Annalise, who looked distraught.
“Don’t worry. You’re doing
well, He just has a long way to go.”
“I feel like I threw him into a death trap, for all he knew,” she said, watching
Arthur breathe the fresh air outside.
“He trusts me, remember?
Arthur and I were once co-rulers, really, more than a king and a regent. And even when we were children, he was my co-conspirator in all the torture we’d reign on our younger brothers.” A sad smile came over his face and he took a breath. “Here,” he reached into his suit jacket, and pulled out his wallet, handing her two hundred dollar bills, making her gape in surprise. “Perhaps you can use this as a lesson in economy as well. Purchase whatever his heart desires. It’ll do good to see him smile.”
“Wow, thank you,”
Annalise tucked the money into her back pocket. “I’ll see you soon then?”
“Less than an hour.
I think I’ll run a few other errands in town. Rosa and I will be here at noon.”
“Thank you,” she said again, and then slid out of the car, the money burning a hole in her pocket. Despite the fact that she now made a lot of money, she never got
rid of the feeling of being poor. The first 14 years of her life consisted of counting pennies for lunch money and wearing extra sweaters instead of having heat.
Arthur’s wrist, pulling him back a little as Gregory drove off. With Arthur along, she didn’t feel as much fear as the others. She was more worried about him harming himself than her, and it broke her heart. At Tony’s worse, she had seen him like this, but never for so long.
“So, let’s go in?” she tried to keep her smile bright, and he nodded, following her towards the
entrance. Her eyes were on the sign overhead, the names of stores in bright colorful letters. She had never seen such a big mall. Her own small town barely had a grocery store. Here, all the brands that they had to drive hours for were in one place, and it made her heart thud a bit in excitement. She knew the money Gregory had given her was for Arthur, and she didn’t dare spend it elsewhere. However, she had money of her own that she was eager to trade for a new dress or high heels at the first chance she got. The giant soft pretzel that was probably spinning in a display in the food court wouldn’t be a bad exchange either.
He held open the door for her, making her dip her head in a mock curtsey and they stepped inside, the blast of air conditioning hitting them.
Immediately he stopped, and his hand closed on her wrist, unconsciously. She understood why, looking forward. The hallway of the mall seemed to go on forever, and there were people milling everywhere of all shapes and sizes. Bright lights and neon signs flashed, advertisements for sales and discounts were everywhere. She could only imagine the multitude of smells, including an onslaught of human blood that was hitting his nostrils. Glancing up, she saw his eyes darken for just a moment, and she stepped closer, hoping the smell of her own infected blood would be enough to dissuade him.
hadn’t been eating much, his appetite nonexistent in the overwhelming whirlpool his mind was spinning. Gregory had been on edge about this, claiming that the more he starved, the more his cravings would increase, but Annalise didn’t see it that way. She had seen depression before, and she was pretty sure he was exhibiting classic symptoms, including no interest in food. She just hoped that interest didn’t return in the middle of a shopping extravaganza.