A/N: It's been so long, but I'm back! I know, I know, I am deeply ashamed for my absence but I had a wicked case of writer's block and I've been working really hard on trying to finish my book. Plus, life, ya know? That being said, I had to break this chapter into two parts because otherwise, it would be another week before I got it out to you. I figured at least you get some of it now, right? The good news is you WILL have another chapter in a week and it's going to have all the goodies. I promise :) It's written but it needs a lot of editing.
Thank you for your patience, and to everyone who has read, reviewed and/or messaged me. There are about ten more chapters in this story (don't worry, their bonding happens in the next chapter, but then there is the entire reason WHY Godric gets a Fated Mate and why the AP and the Old God needed to manipulate Fate and Destiny so that the future is less bleak), and I hope to finish it in the next three to four months. That means a good number of updates will be happening rather quickly because I want to get this story done, lol.
This is kinda angsty, sorry, but things are about to get real.
Previously: Alex goes to check up on Godric and they almost have sex. Eric shows up, tells Alex some home truths about what will happen if she doesn't go back to her nest. Alex left Godric, and its now only a few days before her birthday.
Alex stared out the window, wishing she could see the stars and the moon. The light pollution in Quebec made it impossible, and she leaned her forehead against the cold glass. They were at her family's penthouse in the center of the city, and she had never felt more alone in her entire life.
The knock on the door had her sighing. "Bennet, I don't want to go shopping, see a movie, or eat. Just leave me alone."
The door opened and she wanted to feel anger that they were disregarding her wishes yet again, but she was numb. It had started in Dallas, and every day she grew more and more emotionally dead. What happened haunted her, the grief and loneliness so great that she felt like she was dying. The only way to survive was to completely cut everything off. Her eyes felt hot and tight, the skin aching, but she wouldn't let herself cry.
She couldn't afford tears, or the questions they would bring when her family heard or smelled them.
Her skin ached, and she leaned her hot forehead against the cool window. Shadows licked at the corner of her eyes, and she flinched as a soft hint of song echoed in her ears. It had started a week ago and was growing stronger and more frequent with every passing hour.
She wondered if she was going crazy. Maybe it would be best if she was. Frankly, she didn't have enough energy to care.
"I," said a rather flamboyant voice behind her, "am not Bennet. For one, I have much better taste in clothing and men."
She turned so quickly she stumbled and half-fell against a nearby chair. In the doorway stood two vampires she had not seen in years outside of the occasional Skype chat.
Her voice was a hoarse croak. "Talbot?"
He smirked, rubbing his hands down his sapphire shirt. "Did your nest not tell you I was comi—UMPH!"
He caught her easily, her arms wrapping tightly around his neck. He glanced at his silent husband, the worry in his eyes only increasing when the girl began to tremble, her heart pounding alarmingly fast. Her scent was sour with distress, and he grimaced.
"Shh, little cousin" he crooned, rocking them gently back and forth. "It will be okay."
Several minutes went by and she still did not release her tight grip.
He grimaced. "Darling, if nothing else perhaps loosen your fists? I do believe you are wrinkling my very expensive shirt. Silk should never be treated so cavalierly."
She leaned back, her face dry even though her eyes were shadowed. "S-Sorry."
His smile was gentle, and one he normally only gifted his husband. For once he dropped his over-the-top accent. "I was teasing. Feel free to use me as a hanky."
She stepped back, rubbing at her eyes with the heels of her palms. "I won't cry. It's just … you feel …"
"Like family, right?" he said with a graceful nod of agreement. "It has been the case each time I've met another of our kind. We are one and the same in a way that transcends species and age."
"I believe I shall leave you two alone," Russell said from behind them.
Alex abruptly stiffened before stepping back with a bow that caused a curtain of red hair to shield her flushed face. "I apologize, King Russell, for my rudeness. Welcome to the Makhaira nest."
He smiled, and even though they had only met once and years ago, she still felt that there was something familiar about him. For some reason, the image of a large Sequoia tree flashed in her mind.
"You are a sort of kin to my Mate. As such we can forget The Code so long as we are not amongst others."
She caught herself bowing again and merely thanked him, aware of the honor he bestowed.
"So," the king continued, "I believe I should go speak with Theron."
After he left, she turned back to Talbot, her face falling and her misery readily apparent.
"Ask me your questions," he said gently, guiding her to a chair.
She hesitated, her eyes flicking behind him to the door.
He smiled, pulling a stone from his pocket and with a snick, his fangs descended and he easily pierced his thumb, rubbing a small drop of his blood onto the stone so that it glowed.
"There," he said conspiratorially. "This will keep anyone from hearing us. Vampires are so nosy."
She stared at the milky grey rock. "Wow, I've only ever seen one in Japan at the Eternal Empress' Court. She told me she would cut off my hand if I touched it."
She turned suddenly shrewd eyes on him. "You call me blood-kin," she said formally in the ancient tongue of The Code. "Can I trust you to keep our words between us?"
Talbot nodded. "As long as it will not harm my Line."
The words exploded from her as she jumped to her feet and paced the small room. "How did you feel when you found out your choice was taken away from you? That you were going to be given to some stranger and that everyone expected you to be happy about it?"
"Times were different when I was a human. Things like free will and choosing one's own partner were not as romanticized as they are today. Such choices were more about surviving and uniting bloodlines and kingdoms. Love mattered little in those days."
She scrubbed harshly at her face. "I hate this. I feel like a stupid little girl. My family lied to me for years before they were ordered to keep silent. They want me to forgive them and seem to think I should be happy. I was their daughter, their sister, and nestmate, but now I feel like I was just an obligation. Or worse, a pet. I feel betrayed. How can I trust them? Everywhere I turn it feels like my life is breaking apart around me and I am alone."
She shook her head, flinching again as shadows twisted in the corner of her eyes, looking like wings. When she turned to look, there was nothing but the window and the dark of night.
Talbot frowned, watching the young woman as she curled in on herself. She looked pale and unwell and her misery turned her scent sour. He wished that the old god had not shown up the previous evening, once more stating that she had to be kept unaware of her future Mate's identity. He even placed a geas on them to keep them silent.
Talbot fucking hated nosy gods.
She suddenly spun and reached for his hand, gripping so tightly she would have broken human bones. "Talbot," she whispered so softly it was only the barest brush of air. "I think I'm going crazy."
He frowned, his eyes furrowing. He leaned towards her throat, scenting her deeply. Her Fated Mate scent burned his nostrils it had grown so strong, but there was no other indication of madness or hormonal instability within her. "You smell only of a very unhappy Fated Mate," he said soothingly. "I have scented madness before, oddly enough it reminds me of periwinkle and burnt rye bread. What makes you think you are losing your mind?"
"I keep seeing things. Shadows like wings at the edge of my vision, but when I turn nothing is there. I keep hearing the faintest sound of music, but when I concentrate it slips away on a breeze that doesn't exist. I feel like there is something wrapping around my skin, but when I look down there is nothing. I'm itchy. Like I want to run but I don't know where. No, not want. I need to run."
Talbot hid his surprise. "Your birthday is in two days, right?"
She nodded jerkily.
"You're fine, even though its a bit early for this. I felt much the same, but only the morning of my birth. As it approached the actual hour I entered this world, it became all I could think of until I could not have refused to follow The Pull. It led me to my Russell. Of course, I didn't hear it as music. To me, it was a smell that was so delicious I had to follow. I think for every Fated Mate it's different. I don't know why you would be seeing shadows, but I'm sure it's connected."
"I don't want to be led to anyone," Alex said coldly. "It feels wrong. Like I'm—" she clamped her mouth shut and turned away. She wouldn't even tell Talbot that she felt like she was cheating on Godric.
No one could ever know how much she loved him.
Talbot waited, but when she kept silent he said, "To answer your previous questions, no, I did not resent or regret my status. I was human a long time ago when values were different, and I was a prince in my human life. As such, I knew I would more than likely never marry even my preferred gender as I would be expected to provide heirs. At the most, I could perhaps keep one or two lovers on the side. When I met Russell …"
He gave a dreamy smile and the soft look made him even more beautiful. "When I met Russell I just knew. We bonded and claimed each other that night in front of the entire Court before taking me away to continue to deepen and cement the bond over the following three days. It takes much the pattern as Turning, but instead of sleeping beneath the earth you will have the best sex of your entire life. Russell was almost feral, his vampire side fully in control, and the things that man can do with his mouth are-"
Alex politely coughed.
Talbot jerked and ruefully laughed. "Sorry, darling. Anyway, after a few years, he Turned me. He wished me to grow into full manhood and appear closer to his own age," he said at her obvious confusion. "Besides, its best to Turn a Fated Mate once the bond has grounded and taken firm root, and that takes years even though the initial connection is deep and instant. It makes the Child-Maker bond stronger, and also ensures that you can each feed off the other even once Turned. No blood will ever taste as good as each other's. It's part of the magic of what makes us so unique."
"Great," Alex muttered sourly. "I get to be a snack for my entire life. Whoopie"
"You'll enjoy it," he said with a secret smile. "Anyway, it took several years for our bond to grow thick and sturdy, and we had our ups and downs like any other relationship. We're soulmates, and I adore my husband, but we're still people. He saved me from an existence where I would have eventually grown old and died if disease did not get me first. Instead, I will be young and beautiful forever."
"What was it like?" she said hesitantly. "The bonding, I mean."
His lips curled, his dark eyes growing soft. "It was like I had spent my entire life waiting for him. Like I had been half-blind and half-complete, looking for him in the face and eyes of every man I had ever seen without realizing what I was doing. The Pull readied me for the bond we share, and so many things made sense after I met my Russell. I had always felt separate from other humans, but I had attributed that to being royal. You will meet your Mate, and everything else will fall to the side."
She snorted, her face tight with disgust. "You know I don't believe in love at first sight."
"I still find that hilarious. I thought all teenage females believed in such a thing?"
This debate between them was years old. "What does a soulmate matter compared to someone who chooses to be at your side? Someone you know you can completely trust because your relationship has been built with time and small moments that create an unbreakable bond. Someone that looks at the world but decides that you are the one they want. No," she said softly with a distant look on her face. "I would never choose even a soulmate over someone who had proven themselves and loved me even though they didn't have to."
Talbot watched her for several quiet minutes, his face unreadable. "Alex, is there something you want to tell me?"
She shook her head as if coming out of a trance, and she shot him a quick, nervous look. "No, I'm fine."
"Hm. Well, this isn't something that you should be afraid of. The bond is instant and deep, but it takes years to reach full maturity. Its similar to a Maker-Child bond in that way. What is a decade or two when you have eternity? It doesn't force you to love your mate but at the same time, it's unavoidable. You're worrying for no reason because you truly are made for each other. You will be happy, I promise."
Her lips twisted in a grimace and then she obviously changed the subject. "I still don't get why they are so sure my mate is an Ancient."
Talbot waved his hand at her body. "Darling, you are too petite to sustain a vampire less than a thousand years of age, and your mate will not wish to feed on anyone but you for several years as it will strengthen your connection. Besides, baby vamps have done little to merit the gods giving them a Fated Mate. At least you'll only have to worry about forty-two Ancients vying for your attention. Since you're disinclined towards the fairer sex- not that I blame you!- then that leaves only thirty-six."
"And when thirty-five Ancient vampires are pissed that I'm not theirs? Or the younger ones who decide that it wasn't fair? The young ones don't have the control to think about the repercussions to their Line once The Council got their revenge."
Talbot sighed and sat on the couch, neatly crossing his legs at the knees. "You know our history, but I suppose Theron would not have told you about why we are cursed to never see sunlight? Our legends say that long ago we were as gods amongst men, able to walk under the sun as well as the moonlight. It all changed when a Fated Mate was killed by a jealous vampire, and in their grief, the vampire whose Mate was slain went on a killing spree that decimated thousands of humans and Supernaturals alike. There was no stopping their madness and no one was safe. Supposedly, the Gods themselves had to interfere. They were so furious that they cursed all vampires to eternal darkness as retribution, and as a warning to never harm another of our kind."
"That's horrible," she said numbly.
"I personally think it was also a gift to the Mate left behind. They gave the vampire a way to meet their beloved once more in the afterlife. That time and every time since that a Fated Mate has died first, the other immediately met the sun. They go up in a blue flame instead of turning into goo. Some believe it's just a fairytale, but long ago The Council decreed that if any went against a Fated Mate in any way, that their Bloodline would pay the price. They would kill every vampire within four generations of the offender, with that vampire left to spend an eternity in torture to The Guardians."
"Holy shit." She swallowed harshly, her mouth suddenly bone dry. Even the Makhaira Line was only two generations deep as Theron's Maker died long ago in one of the Fae wars and none of her brothers had created progeny yet.
"As if that wasn't enough, the Gods put a geas within our kind's blood. As soon as a baby vamp is made they are bound to never harm a Fated Mate, whether they believe the stories or not. It would take a true Ancient to even attempt to overcome said magic, and none of them would risk it."
She sighed. It felt like she had spent the last weeks of her life sighing and she wanted so badly to rebel. To raise so much hell that the gods themselves would be forced to bend to her will.
Alex snorted, amused by her arrogance. The feeling quickly faded, the numb grief once more growing dominant.
Without thinking, she opened her mouth to ask him if he or Russell had loved someone before their mating, but she paused. She couldn't trust even Talbot with this question or have him wonder why she would ask such a thing. Talbot was of a different Bloodline and beholden to The Council and she would not trust anyone with Godric's life.
"Alex?" he said again and placed a cold hand on her arm.
She flinched, pulling away. "It's nothing."
"Liar, liar pants on fire."
Shrugging, she got up and went to look out the window. Uncaring, she fell back into her thoughts, standing almost as still as a vampire.
Talbot watched, his eyes taking in her pallor and lackluster attitude. He was unsurprised to see that she automatically looked to the south, towards Texas. It almost appeared like she was experiencing bonding separation sickness, but it had been many months since she had left Godric in Spain.
"In a few hours, we will leave for Mississippi. The Ancients are gathering there for your birthday."
She stayed silent.
"Apparently the gossip is that many wanted this to happen in Europe." Talbot sniffed, looking down at his nails. "You would not believe the snark and backroom politicking that has occurred over the last fifteen years between the American Vampire League and the European Union, although Brexit definitely did not help their economic solvency. I really think someone glamoured a few too many politicians for that to pass. Let's not even get into The African Nation, The Pacific Triad, or the Australian Conference groups … as if they even had a chance. I mean, there are only two Ancients living in Australia, and they're barely old enough to even get a seat at the table. Besides, you were born in North America and even the Ancient Pythoness finally had to say that it made probable sense for you to meet your Mate in the land of your birth. There was some discussion on who would be the host, but my husband convinced The Council that because of our status as the last Mated pair, that we should hold the honor. I've been redecorating the house for the last year in preparation."
His words washed over her, flowing around her like she was a stone in a river. A glint from the nearby dark building caught her attention and she idly turned her gaze towards it. She leaned closer to the glass, frowning as her human eyes were unable to pierce the darkness.
The scraps of a song she had been hearing for the last few days grew louder, and she shifted uneasily. The flash of light came again and it reminded her of something … something she had seen in Barcelona before her accident …
"—and the bed in one of the least important guest rooms was one that a countess used and supposedly sacrificed virgins in and bathed in their blood—"
Uneasiness made her shift on her feet. "Talbot?"
"—I also bought the loveliest chaise lounge to go in the fourth receiving room."
The glint of light on metal came again. "Talbot?"
The window shattered and Talbot moved, hitting the switch so the light-tight shutters descended with a crash and slamming into her and covering her body with his own. Another bullet hit, pinging off the metal.
Alex hit the floor hard, Talbot on top of her. Her head bounced off the rug and her shoulder burned. When she reached up she felt the slick warmth of blood, and she hurriedly applied pressure.
She couldn't breathe with Talbot crushing her and she desperately squirmed. She tried to expand her chest, desperate to get air. Her head started to spin and all she could hear were vampiric snarls and growls above her.
Suddenly, the weight was gone and she took desperate gasps of air. She sat up, hot blood trickling through her fingers. She watched as Russell desperately ran his hands over the younger male, her chest aching. The Ancient's fangs were down and his eyes were wild.
Gods, she was so jealous. She wanted her Godric here, wanted him so badly that her eyes blurred with tears and the pain in her chest throbbed hard enough to break through her numbness.
She kept her face turned away when her nest crowded the door, letting Russell take charge.
"The shot had to come from one of the opposite buildings. Go," the Ancient ordered.
All but Theron left, her father keeping a careful distance from the furious and possessive elder who wouldn't think twice at seperating Theron's head from his shoulders if he got too close. He only relaxed when he saw Alex was only grazed by the bullet.
Her voice was flat. "It's barely a scratch."
She ignored her dad, watching the two Mated vampires out of the corner of her eyes. She wanted her vampire here and looking at her with such obvious love and devotion. Wanted him to hold her, tease her, and make her smile. Wanted his power wrapped so tightly around her she knew she would always be ok. The shadows were back and she flinched, clenching her eyes tightly closed as she once more heard the soft sounds of music. Her head throbbed and she bit back a pained whimper.
"Alex," Talbot said finally breaking away from his anxious Mate. "Are you okay?"
"Thanks to you." Her eyes briefly met his. "I owe you a debt."
"I will take it in the form of a favor. We can talk about it after your mating."
Alex nodded. "Of course."
Theron moved closer and she dropped her gaze, not wanting to deal with the man she both loved and felt betrayed. Her mind understood, but her heart still hurt.
"I called Dr. Ludwig and she should be here soon."
Alex sighed and rose to her feet. "If you insist, but I'm fine."
"I would think you would be more concerned that someone just tried to kill you," Theron said.
She shrugged. Frankly, she couldn't muster up the energy to care. What did it matter?
"Alexandra," Theron said roughly, "don't you value your life at all?"
For the first time, her eyes met his and he froze. "Oh, Daughter," he said softly and reached to soothe.
She pulled away, once more turning her face towards the ground, letting her hair hide her expression. "Don't. I'll do my duty by our Line, isn't that enough for you?"
Theon flinched as if struck, and before anyone could say anything to break the awkward moment, Bennet poked his head in the doorway. "Josiah, Gabriel, and the guards are trying to track down the shooter but so far they haven't been able to pick up a scent. Dr. Ludwig just showed up and she's pretty pissy."
Alex hastily stepped around her father, moving towards the door. "I'll go see her. Thanks."
Theron watched his daughter's back, feeling old. "Will she ever forgive me?" he asked Talbot.
The other vampire shrugged, his fingers entwined with his husband's. "She is young, and you both will have eternity. Give it time."
Eric hung up the phone, his face blank. Talbot had called him to let him know about the attempt on Alex's life and her relatively minor wound. He was furious that someone had tried to kill the one he saw as a little sister, and also for once in his long life he felt unsure.
Should he tell Godric?
He waited outside the office door, sending a query to his Maker that bounced off the steel wall his father had erected within their bond. Godric had not taken Alex leaving well, although at least this time he hadn't destroyed his nest. No, this time he had so completely shut down that Nora had called Eric's cell phone in a panic, convinced their Maker had died.
Eric would have preferred the fire of destruction versus this cold indifference. He had tried to talk to his Maker dozens of times since that night and even been denied speaking to him on the phone. Isabel had been apologetic, but it was obvious Godric blamed him for Alex's disappearance.
He opened the door, nodding to a silent Pierre. Godric sat at his desk, working diligently on paperwork.
Pierre's gaze met his, and the look made Eric's heart sink.
"Child," his Maker said calmly. "Why are you here?"
Eric took a moment to study the older vampire who looked so young. He was pale, paler than any vampire should be and there was a crackling sense of contained power that made every instinct scream. Getting within a few feet of him was deeply uncomfortable, even for those of his Line. Damn, even the cat on the desk seemed tense and watched the room with narrowed green eyes.
"I just received a call from Talbot," Eric finally said after taking a seat. He spoke in an old form of Swedish to cut down on any eavesdropping even though the office was heavily soundproofed.
Godric ignored him, continuing to write on his iPad with a stylus.
"Someone tried to shoot Alex. She's fine, but—"
The stylus snapped in half, and the iPad shattered.
Eric and Pierre's knees hit the ground as Godric's power swelled, so cold they expected icicles to form. The papers on the desk fluttered, the thick bullet-and-bomb-proof windows becoming a spiderweb of cracks. Eric cringed at the wild look in his Maker's black eyes, one that promised pain and annihilation. Death's fangs descended, his lips curling in a feral snarl.
"Father," he said desperately. "She's fine, it barely grazed her shoulder. I swear to you on our blood that she's alive."
The Ancient gripped the arms of his chair, the wood crumbling into dust under his palms. His eyes were completely black, his rage spilling out in thick, rolling waves across the entire city.
Eric could hear some of the younger vampires in the nest falling over themselves and screaming. "She's alive. Please, Father, pull it back. You'll kill the younger vampires, and the Authority will punish you."
It was several minutes before the low growling stopped, the raw power receding and leaving a void in its wake. Even his bond with his Maker was blank and terrifyingly empty.
Isabel knocked on the door and when she was bidden to enter, her face was pale and lined with blood. "Sheriff?"
"Everything is fine," Godric said calmly. His eyes met his Second's, and Isabel flinched.
"Several of the younger vampires were unable to control themselves, and I've called our cleaning service. They'll be here in forty minutes. The living room looks like a bloodbath."
"Take them to Hotel Camilla. I will pay for their accommodations and for two donors per youngling. Please close the nest after they are gone. I wish to be alone."
Isabel opened her mouth to say something, but at Godric's steady look she bowed. "Yes, Sheriff." She turned, giving Eric a hard look before leaving.
The silence in the room was deafening.
Eric's phone rang, and both he and Pierre jumped at the unexpected sound. He looked down at the screen and kept his face carefully blank. Casually, he tried to slide the phone back into his pocket when his Maker's hand wrapped around his wrist. Even though Godric was shorter, he managed to loom over Eric.
"Who is it?"
"A wrong number."
His Maker's eyes narrowed and their bond pulsed. "Do you recall," he said softly, ominously, "your punishment the last time you lied to me in the fifth century?"
Eric shuddered at the memory, feeling his wrist bones crack under his Maker's hand. "It's her."
Something shifted in his Maker's eyes, a hint of grey bleeding through the soulless black. "Answer it."
"Maker, perhaps—" Pierre tried to say but snapped his mouth closed at the Ancient's rumble.
Godric's grip tightened further, the bones creaking. "Do not make me Command you."
"Father, please, this isn't wise—"
Eric gasped when a harsh hand gripped his hair, yanking his head back and exposing his vulnerable throat. The low, feral growl from the shorter vampire made him swallow harshly. This was not his Maker, but Death.
He answered the phone. "What?"
The voice was a hoarse whisper. "E-Eric?"
Fuck his unlife, she had to have the worst timing on the planet. "Alexandra."
A pause. "A-Are you alone?"
His Maker's Will crushed his, forcing his answer. "Yes. What do you want?"
Tension mounted as all any of them could hear was her rough breathing. "Dr. Ludwig just left a-and Talbot lent me his secrecy stone. Nobody can hear me."
"Why are you calling me?" The hand in his hair tightened and threatened to pull out the roots, his Maker's fangs barred at his tone.
"Eric," she said and her voice cracked. "I-I know I deserved what you said to me and that you probably hoped to never talk to me again. I was stupid and thoughtless, b-but there is no one else. Please, brother."
Her pain made him hurt. Fucking soft human emotions were infecting his entire Line. "What's wrong, Little Valkyrie?"
For a moment she said nothing and then the words spilled in a torrent. "I'm scared, Eric. I don't want this," she said and to his horror, he could hear the tears she tried to suppress. "I love him so much and it makes me sick that I had to leave him again. I swore to never hurt him, but that's all I seem to do. My birthday is tomorrow and I can feel something shifting inside of me, and I hate it. Whoever walks into that room tomorrow, it won't be me. I don't want this. I don't want a mate, I just want him. I've always just wanted him."
Helplessness was a bitter taste and the look on his Maker's face made it even worse. "Alex—"
"T-They're going to make me go into a room like some type of virgin sacrifice, and Godric is going to be there and have to watch me get ... and I don't want them to touch me. The thought of it makes me sick, and I can't eat or sleep and my chest hurts so much."
Her words were barely understandable past her tears, and he closed his eyes. "Alex," he said gently. "Breathe." Harsh sobs answered him and he couldn't bear to look up at his Maker.
"Shh, little one," he crooned and ignored Pierre's gobsmacked look at his tone. "Breathe."
Eric wasn't good with emotions, but there was no way he could not feel her heartbreak.
Godric let go of his hair as if burned and slowly backed away. His expression as he listened to Alex cry was unbearably open.
"You love her," Pierre said quietly to the Ancient with dawning horror. "And she loves you, too. She loves you so much that she willingly went back to her nest to keep us all safe. To keep you safe."
Godric's eyes slid towards Pierre, and the younger vampire flinched lowered his gaze. The Gaul turned towards the window, keeping his back towards his two Children.
Alex regained control, and they could hear the sound of cloth wiping across damp skin. "I've only ever wanted to be with Godric, and now I'm supposed to … and I don't want it to be in front of so many people. They don't know me, they don't care about me, and just want what they can get from being my mate. I'm scared that I'll fail, that somehow they'll find out about him and what you said will become reality. I'll have killed him because I'm just a silly, mortal girl. I'll have k-killed all of you."
Godric swung around, a furious expression on his face, and Eric winced. It had been centuries since his Maker had been this pissed with him.
Alex took a deep, shuddering breath. "I'm sorry to bother you. You told me the truth, once, when nobody else would. I hate to ask you for another favor, but there's no one else."
"What do you need?"
She took a deep breath, and her voice changed, becoming formal as she spoke a line inherent to The Code. "I wish to ask a boon from you, First Child of Godric. It shouldn't be too hard, and it's something even you wouldn't mind doing."
Her words came in a rush. "I'm worried about Godric. He works so hard and takes care of so many people, but he's alone and barely eats. He was acting weird when I saw him last time, and I think he's hiding something."
He saw in the window's reflection his Maker's eyes close, his face set and pale. For a brief moment, despair radiated across their bond before it once more closed tight.
"I don't care if you have to leave your position in Shreveport. You stick to your Maker like glue and you find him a"— her breath hitched— "human that is so yummy and gorgeous he can't refuse."
He was surprised, and his eyes flickered towards his listening Maker. "You willingly suggest this?"
"He's my heart," she said simply. "I would do anything to keep him safe, even if it meant wrapping a bow around the human that took my place. What I so wanted to be my place."
Her voice went soft and wistful and Eric almost squirmed at the raw truth she shared with him. "I've wanted to bond to him so badly, and I remember how nervous I was when I learned that it was up to me as the younger one to prove myself. I was so relieved that I thought that he had already told me he would welcome my proposal when I turned eighteen. He's so amazing, and I knew that I had to have a lot of competition. I was so proud and excited."
Godric's hands rested lightly against the one remaining unbroken bomb proof window, larger cracks moving outwards from his palms.
Eric cleared his throat, keeping his wary gaze on the older vampire. "I will always protect my Maker, Little Valkyrie. You have my word."
She sighed, the sound heavy over the phone. "Okay. Good. That's … good."
"Are you able to eat anything?" Eric suddenly asked, Godric's lips moved fast, his voice so low that no human would be able to hear the questions he Commanded him to ask. "Josiah has told me that you barely speak to them, and rarely come out of your room."
Her laugh was a twisted mockery of happiness. "I don't want to talk to them. What if they ask me about Godric? I can't control my heartbeat or my body chemistry and they'll smell it. Besides, they know me and my temper. If I suddenly acted like everything was fine, they would be suspicious. I don't need that from anyone." She sniffed. "I hate stupid romance movies, and now I feel like I'm in some crappy vampire version of one."
Eric heard a door opening in the background, and Alex hastily said her goodbye and hung up. He took his time putting his phone away, but eventually, he had to look up to meet his Maker's cold gaze.
"What did you say to her when I left you two alone?" Godric asked quietly. He carefully removed his palms from the glass, uncaring at the damage he left behind.
Godric's head tilted, his face falling into shadow. "Do not make me ask again."
Eric exploded to his feet, gesturing wildly. "I told her the truth, Godric. Something you should have done as soon as she told you her fucking feelings. No, you should have kept your distance years ago! Chicago was almost a fucking disaster and I still don't know how we managed to keep everything quiet. Yet it didn't end there. Phone calls? Gifts? What did you think would happen if it was discovered? We all would have been given the True Death, and for what? Love?"
Eric sneered the last word, his distaste obvious.
Godric growled, his fangs falling with a snick. "You forget yourself, Child."
"No, Godric. I'm your firstborn, and it's my job to guard our Line in cases where you can't. Or won't."
Eric shook his head, falling to his knee. "Please, Master. I only thought to protect you. She's not a child anymore, and she needed to know the truth of what would happen if people found about her running away from her nest, and about you. I will not and cannot, let you die. You can't ask that of me. I'm very fond of her, but you are my Maker."
Godric closed his eyes, huffing out a deep breath. "No," he said softly, "I suppose your nature would not allow that."
He opened his eyes and smiled, but it did not reach his eyes. "You, both of you," he added including the silent Pierre, "have grown into vampires that I am not only proud of, but deeply respect. It has truly been an honor watching my Line come into their own."
Eric stayed on his knees, and he and his brother shared a flabbergasted look.
Godric still had that same, strange smile on his face. "Everything will be fine, I promise. Now, I wish to be alone to finish my work. We will travel to Mississippi tomorrow night."
Eric rose to his feet, still in shock at his Maker's abrupt about-face. He found himself outside the office, staring at the closed door.
Pierre shook his head. "What the fuck just happened?"
The following day
Alexandra … Alexandra …
Alex woke abruptly, sitting up with a gasp in her bed, her head pounding. For a moment she didn't recognize the hotel room, and then she remembered they had to stop early the day before, three separate car breakdowns and a tornado stopping them on the Mississippi border about fifty miles from Russel and Talbot's nest.
"Oh god," she moaned, rubbing her prickling eyes. The music was back, louder than before, making her ears ring. Some sort of tribal drum and flute combo whispering in her ears and making her head hurt.
Something was calling her and demanding she follow. She screwed her eyes shut, denying the feeling and putting her proverbial head in the sand.
After several minutes, she huffed and sat up. The blanket fell to her waist, urgency hovering at the edge of awareness, growing stronger with every beat of her heart. She glanced at the clock, surprised to see it was only noon. Her birth certificate said she was born at 5:23 pm and this felt nothing like Talbot had described of his own experience. To him, it had struck the moment of his birth and was just a need to walk in a certain direction.
Alexandra … come …
She was on her feet before she realized it, the door handle an icy shock against her palm, bringing her back to herself.
"What the hell?" she asked the empty room, moving as far from the door as possible until her back hit the wall.
She gritted her teeth, glaring at the offending door. She moved, reaching for the nearby phone when all of a sudden her chest pulsed and brought her to her knees.
Oh, gods, she was on fire!
She keened, pressing hard against her sternum. Her vision went white as the music swelled, pressure growing in her mind and chest.
The ache built with every breath, the hot spark burning like a star and throbbing in growing waves out to her fingers and toes. What the fire touched, it altered and changed, leaving behind an emptiness that was waiting to be filled.
Sweat broke out on her forehead until her entire body was drenched with sweat.
"Help," she called too softly even for a vampire to hear. The sun blazed through the window, the light searing her eyes.
She shuddered, sobbing when she saw a flashing image of an oak reaching towards the night sky.
The image gave her a surge of strength, and she fought back, refusing to give in to the seductive music that was swelling louder and louder out of the emptiness within her mind and soul. It promised her the end of pain if only she could find the one whose presence and bond would fill the void.
She ignored its lies, frantically guarding the most precious of her memories. Soft grey eyes in a beautiful face, gentle hands cupping her chin, wisdom, and kindness enough for a thousand men. A protective fury that would always keep her safe. A noble heart, and a sense of humor that made her laugh. Consistency, comfort, trust, and a love that had been a pillar of certainty for her entire life. She envisioned it like a light held protectively in her hand, kept safe and cherished from the invading onslaught.
Still, the music swelled louder and louder, the need growing, her legs twitching as she fought her body to stay still. To keep from running towards wherever the music was coming from.
An ancient voice boomed loudly from that need, its tone demanding.
It is time. Come.
She felt helplessly small, insignificant before a power that dwarfed her in every way.
Even still, her answer was immediate, bolstered by the precious light in her hands and by her memories. Her heart sang it, her mind screamed it, and her soul stood firm.
For a moment everything stopped, and she breathed a trembling sigh of relief.
The world exploded, fire expanding outwards like a star gone supernova and leaving ashes in its wake.
She felt what was happening to her body from a great distance, curled firmly around the light in her hand. She could feel her body's pain as the pull increased, could feel the bruises blooming as she convulsed, her hands and feet drumming the floor. Still, she refused to submit. The agony continued, pummeling her from all directions, the music so loud that it threatened to deafen her.
The knowledge was distant and was felt more than understood. She was dying.
She dimly recognized the feeling, remembered it from her car accident months before, and part of her was happy.
"I won't let you go," she whispered to the light. Cradling it close, she hurled herself towards the void, racing to escape her fate.
There was a tunnel before her, the light welcoming as figures stood in the distance. She went to step foot on the path when she was jerked back.
"What?" she said and tried to take another step, but was once more pulled to a standstill.
She looked down, shocked to see that the light in her hand had grown, wrapping around her wrist and fingers.
Her mind felt fuzzy and she had a hard time thinking. Where did the light come from? What did it mean? She couldn't remember, only that it was precious. The most important thing in her world. It pulsed softly, so pale she could barely make it out in the growing darkness.
She stroked it, marveling at its intricate beauty. The ghostly line glowed brighter, tightening its grip. Suddenly, it became solid, tugging ruthlessly until she flew backward through the dark air, away from the tunnel that promised safety and comfort.
She fell back into her body, the wave of painful need hitting her so hard that she immediately fainted.
Slowly, she came back to herself, blinking blurry eyes. The fire had banked, but every cell in her body screamed and cried out for her to follow the pull to her other half. South. She needed to go south.
Weakened, she retched and gagged, acid burning her lips and tongue. Blinking dazed eyes, for a moment she swore that she saw two angels standing over her, wings outstretched and blood dripping from their swords. Another blink and they were gone as the room came back into focus.
On a wave of intense effort, she managed to roll away from the bile, curling up in a ball on the roughly woven rug. She felt like she was bleeding internally, her soul and mind continually reaching for something that wasn't there. There were people near her, but they were wrong. They were sandpaper on her skin, and she wanted nothing to do with them.
South. She had to go south. She ached with the knowledge, desperate to get up and go go go and run and follow the music to the one whose bond she needed. Every minute she refused was like she was being dipped in acid, the emptiness within her echoing, echoing, echoing …
No human was supposed to have this, she realized. No human should ever survive this.
Hours passed as she fell into a waking nightmare of growing desperation and incompleteness. She struggled to reopen gummy eyes, surprised at how much time had passed. The sun had moved, the light now only warming the tops of her feet.
Her thoughts skittered and fell away, dancing just out of reach. Brief images flashed too quickly for her to make out, but a softly accented male voice whispered across her mind one word.
The light in her hand trembled, the comfort it gave her only refuge. It pulsed with a strength that was as deep and as far-reaching as the ocean, and it helped sooth the need.
It wasn't enough to fill the void, but it was all she had. She stroked a finger across it, feeling each individual line within the woven cord, some of them years old and as thick as her thumb.
She brought the light to her cheek, pressing a soft kiss on the thickest line. Her lips burned, and for a moment, she knew peace. Warmth. Love.
Come, the ancient voice demanded again, the word echoing through her body.
Her lips moved soundlessly. "No."
Come, it repeated, the word resonating until it sang with the might of a thousand voices.
"Stop, please," she begged hoarsely. Angels fought over her, twisting and turning in the air, their blades singing as they sliced and parried. She knew they weren't real, that she was hallucinating. They looked so real, though.
She could feel the clock ticking down, and when it reached the moment of her birth a shockwave moved through her body, ten times stronger than before.
It decimated everything in its path, tossing her about like a boat on a stormy sea.
Her back hit the floor, her head cracking painfully against the wood. The need to go go go howled and burned with the force of the call, pulling her to leave her room.
She clawed at the floor, and in her mind the cord of light grew brighter, bringing with it a brief moment of rational thought.
Talbot. Fated Mate. Alex.
She was Alex. She was Alex and she didn't want this. Because … because she already loved … she loved …
Ancient eyes. Sad eyes. Beautiful grey eyes.
Who was that?
The answer came, whispered on a breath of air that made the light in her cupped palm shimmer. They were her memories of him. Of the one she loved.
'Come. Now. Obey before it's too late,' the voice demanded, growing strident.
She was beyond the voice, memories flowing like a movie that finally paused on one scene. She remembered the expression in his eyes when he saw her at the state fair a few weeks ago. A profound look of such disbelieving hope, as if she were a dream he could scarcely believe to be true,
"No," her lips whispered soundlessly. "No."
Warm liquid dripped onto her lips, and she tasted the rusty copper of blood. Her blood.
An angel landed with feet on either side of her, hunching protectively over her body. The others stopped their fighting, their shocked gazes landing on her bloody face.
She clung to the strand of light, concentrating on its low purr. She would not betray him. The internal war waged, and she gripped the rug, refusing to move.
A knock came on the door, the voices coming from far away, the angels disappearing.
"Fuck, Bennet, call Ludwig!"
"Talbot, this can't be normal?"
"How can she even resist The Pull?"
Her father was suddenly next to her, but his touch was agony as he carefully cleaned her bloody face with a damp cloth.
She whined, the sound rough from her sore throat, flinching from his touch.
"Alex," Theron whispered into her ear. "Please. Stop. You're killing yourself. I love you, daughter. I don't want you to die. Please."
A faint memory emerged. A cold voice and icy Viking eyes set in a hard face. You will be Godric's death.
Her breathing was slow, and her sob was barely puffs of air. Another knelt next to her, his touch not as painful as her father's but still not right. He was kin, but he was not what she needed. Who she needed.
"Alex, you need to stop fighting," Talbot said softly. "It will be okay, young one, I promise."
Tears trickled down her cheeks as a rush of memories assaulted her mind. A blood-oath made and accepted. She had to keep him secret, keep him safe. No one could ever know.
She looked down at the cord, realizing that it was her love for him. Slowly, reluctantly, she loosened her grip one finger at a time.
The pull increased, the music now jubilant as it beckoned her south. Memories that had been guarded so zealously grew dim, falling away beneath the maelstrom of need.
I'm sorry, she thought and wondered if somehow he would know.
And, with a broken heart, she let go.
A few minutes later she opened her eyes and sat up, unaware of the vampires backing hastily away from the pulsing aura that surrounded her body.
Warm hands and a sharp tone— Dr. Ludwig— lifted her to her feet and towards the bathroom. Helped clean her up and changed her clothes. The doctor whispered hasty words in her ear, the sound a buzz that Alex couldn't make out.
There was only one thing on her mind. She needed to go. To move south as fast as she could.
Finally, the short doctor huffed and turned her towards the door, giving her a small push.
When she passed the full-length mirror, she didn't notice that her eyes now gleamed liquid silver.