September 17, 2010

Artwork by Lauren T. Hart

I woke in a simply decorated room with cream-colored walls and rosy accents. The first thing I did was reach for my neck. There was no wound, no tender spot, nothing. In fact I felt great. I stretched and moved amazed that nothing hurt. How was that possible? How long had I been sleeping?

Iona and Grace's journals sat on the nightstand. The line of lineage box sat open just behind them. But who had opened it? To my knowledge I was the only living person who knew how. Iona had left detailed instructions, but I had destroyed them as soon as I had the technique down.

As I sat up, I noticed the sapphire medallion sitting atop its satin bag on the windowsill at the far end of the room, as if someone were attempting to call the angel.

None of it made any sense.

Maybe I was dreaming. But I didn't feel like I was dreaming. Maybe I had been dreaming... An intruder after the Line of Lineage box beating me up in my apartment, a detective with arms too big for his body, Parker being a vampire - or angel - or whatever.

It sounded crazy, but didn't exactly explain where I was or how I had gotten here. The room did have a sort of clinical feel to it... Maybe I had gone crazy, hallucinated the entire thing and was now in some sort of half-way house style asylum. If this was the case, I hoped they had gotten my medications regulated.

There was a soft knocking then and the door opened. The girl who entered looked to be about my age. She had long dark hair and moody green eyes. She wore a lavender shirt and dark blue jeans. "Good afternoon Eden, I trust you're feeling better." Her tone suggested that she already knew the answer and was, for whatever reason, unhappy about it.

"Where am I?" I asked.

She didn't carry herself like the average person my age. She was much more formal, almost rigid. "You are at my house, in my guest room," she said. "My name is Anna. I'm sure you must have many questions, for now, know that you are safe. Ashe went to pick up Indian take out; he'll be back shortly. He brought some of your clothes and things," she said motioning toward a duffle bag near the door. "The bathroom is to the left, the kitchen is to the right. Please, make yourself at home and if there is anything you need, just let me know. I am more than happy to accommodate you."

The sincerity in her tone gave me reason to pause, as only a moment earlier she seemed bothered by the fact that I was feeling so well. "Okay. Thanks," I nodded. "You're his... sister?"

"No," Anna said, but didn't elaborate.

"Okay. Do you know how the box got opened?"

"I opened it. Iona showed me how," she said as a matter of fact.

This struck me as funny for some reason and I laughed.

"You have her smile." Anna said, the corners of her mouth lifting into a slight, almost sad smile.

I stopped laughing. "How long have I been out?"

"Almost nine hours," she said

"The medallion," I said. "I... don't understand."

She looked confused. "Its like a beacon," she began.

"Not that," I said. "I mean, I thought that Parker... that Ashe?" I corrected, "That he was the... uh... the, uh..." It's one thing to think someone you know is an angel who's really a vampire, but it is another thing entirely to say it out loud.

"No." Anna said, her tone was calm, but her jaw tense. "What made you think that?"

Her calm, sincere, yet firm and slightly agitated demeanor, juxtaposed with Parker's caring, concerned, yet ultimately unlikely friendship with me made me wonder if I could - or should - trust either of them.

'My life is in your hands,' Detective Carter had said.

"Uh..." I stalled then decided just to try and change the subject. "So, are you a... familiar?" I asked.

"No," she said. "Where did you hear that term?"

"The guy who broke into my apartment," I said. "He said he was a familiar"

"Meline," she huffed then shook her head.

Meline? I knew this name, from Iona's journal.

"I never should have trusted her with this," Anna said. "I'm sorry he hurt you. It's an unforgivable act."

"Not a big deal," I said. "I think he was mostly just fighting back."

"Good for you," Anna smiled.

"Meline," I started, then connected the names. "Anna and Meline. The twins." I still had no idea how Ashe fit into all of this, but she was the angel's daughter.

"I know this is a lot for you to take in," she said. "Give it time. I'm making tea," she said cocking her head toward the door, just seconds before the kettle started to whistle and she excused herself.

She was right, it was a lot to take in. I grabbed some clothes and my toothbrush from the duffle bag and headed for the bathroom. I was desperate to wash off the extra grime from having sat in a police station all night.

I pulled my hair back and examined my neck thoroughly in the bathroom mirror. Nothing. Not even a red mark. Could I have imagined it? The shower made me feel cleaner, but no more clear on what was actually going on.

As I was dropping off my dirty clothes back in the bedroom, I heard Ashe and Anna talking. I followed their voices toward the kitchen. I stopped in the hallway, just outside of the kitchen when I heard him say, "You disapprove."

"Of course I disapprove," Anna said. "I know the pain you're headed for."

"Disapprove of what? What pain was he headed for?

"Hello Eden," Anna said after a moment.

Awkward. I waved as I stepped around the corner.

"I'll leave you two to talk," Anna said. She picked up a plate of food and a glass of iced tea, gave me a nod then left the room toward some unknown part of the house.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

"I don't know," I said. "I feel like I don't really know you. You're not who I thought you were."

He nodded. "I'm sorry."

"I don't even know your name."

"My name is Ashe David Galen Parker Voll," he said, adding emphasis to Parker. Ashe comes from the ash of a phoenix. David Parker is my mo-" he stopped himself. "Anna's familiar. Galen Voll, at least biologically, is my father."

"Anna is your mother?"

"Meline gave birth to me, but yes, Anna is my mother."

"So what do I call you?" I asked.

"What would you like to call me?" he countered.

I shook my head. "I need you to tell me."

"Okay," he nodded. "I'd like it if you'd call me Ashe."

"Ashe," I nodded, pretending to ignore the solid stab of deceit that made me wonder what else he had lied to me about. Our entire friendship, for instance.

"I know you're hungry," Ashe said. "Come sit. Eat."

I started toward him then stopped. "Are you... hypnotizing me right now?"

Ashe smiled. "Not one of our abilities," he said.

"But earlier... after... you said "sleep" and..."

"It was my venom that put you to sleep, not my words."

"Venom?" I swallowed hard, my hand instinctively reaching for my neck. "When you... you bit me, right?"

"It's not poisonous," he assured. "I didn't turn you into one of us."

"But there's no bite mark," I started.

"Our saliva has remarkable healing powers," he offered. "Our venom, when injected relieves pain and causes a state of euphoria in mortals."

"Yes, I remember that."

"When it's ingested it induces sleep, but I needed to at least have the intention to bite you in order to produce the venom."

"The intention?" I shifted unsure from one foot to the other, "but you did bite me."

"I'm sorry," he said. "I shouldn't have."

"It felt like... like two sharp... like" I was hoping to come up with a better word, but couldn't. "Like fangs."

"They're retractable," Ashe offered. "I only bring them out when I need them."

"And you drink blood."

"Sometimes. Not all immortals do. Anna doesn't. She can be a bit of a snob about it sometimes, but I don't think she craves it the same way. She's more human than I am.

"So... you're a vampire." I said.

He stood and crossed the room toward me. I took a nervous step back and bumped into the wall.

"It's okay," he soothed. "I don't bi-, I'm not going to bite." He said quickly, shaking his head at his poor word choice. "Sorry." He said as he took hold of my hands and pulled me towards the table. "Try to avoid using the word 'vampire' around Anna." He said quietly. "She really hates it. Technically vampires are reanimated dead people... mindless and blood thirsty, kind of like zombies. Around here - around Anna - we use the term immortal."

Over the next few hours Ashe told me more about his life, his mother's life, the immortal world and the Line of Lineage than could fit into twenty journals. And as the day waned Ashe and I had settled on the bed in the guest room with our backs against the wall. There were times, as we talked that almost felt like old times.

"Do you really think it will work?" I asked. "According to the journals, he doesn't visit anymore."

"Marjory told Anna, about the last time Iona had contacted him. Someone came in his place, which means, he still watches over his line."

"But I live on the other side of the country."

"It doesn't matter," he said. "You could live on the other side of the moon, and he would keep watch."

"It sounds like magic." I said as I hopped off the bed a retrieved the amulet, enacting the instructions as I repeated them to Ashe. "Place the amulet in a window and then hold it to your chest and cover it with your hands every night at the same time for five minutes and wait. Repeating every night until he arrives." I shook my head. "How does it work? How does he know?"

"The stone looks different with our immortal vision. It emits a blue glow that can be seen for a hundred miles."

"So how does he know which sapphire is me?" I asked. "It's not like it's an ultra rare stone or anything."

"Cut stones don't look the same as polished ones," he explained. "Plus, each stone casts it's own unique light that makes it easier to recognize."

"With your immortal vision," I repeated his words. "Does that come and go to? Like your fangs?"

He nodded.

"Will you show me?" I asked.

He looked at me for a long moment, deciding, and then he closed his eyes. When he opened them again there was no pupil, just a green reflective orb.

"How?" I asked.

"Two lenses." He blinked, returning his eyes to their more familiar green. He blinked again and they became reflective once more.

It was beautiful. Magical. I already loved him, already wanted him, but there was something about the fact that he wasn't what I was, wasn't human, that made him even more attractive to me, as odd as that seems. Though in retrospect it could simply have been what Lizzie had said to Iona about what fantastic lovers immortals were skipping around in my subconscious.

"Eden we can't," he blinked his features back to normal, slid around me off the bed and crossed the room.

"Can't what?" I asked. "Oh, my god. Can you read my thoughts?"

"I can hear you're heartbeat. I can smell the increase in pheromones," he said.

"You can smell that?" I gasped, immediately wondering about the state of my breath. "What else can you smell?" I put my hand in front of my mouth for good measure.

"Eden," Ashe shook his head.

"Oh, my god," I said mortified. "Jessica was right wasn't she? You bring me chocolate when I'm on my period because you know I'm on my period, it's not just a coincidence is it?"

"Are you upset because of some perceived offense or because of the advantage it gives me?"

"I..." I wasn't sure how to answer that. "Both?"

"Being aware is not the same as being offended," he crossed to me and pulled my hand away from my face. "It's like a tree being embarrassed that it has no leaves in the winter. Just stop okay? It is what it is, and doesn't affect how I feel about you."

"How do you feel about me?" I asked.

He met my eyes, and took a breath. "I want to be more than just a passing part of your life. In order to have that, our relationship must always just be friends."

"So when you kissed me," I started.

"No," he sighed. "There are other ways. I shouldn't have kissed you. I'm sorry."

I didn't know what to say, but I didn't want him to be sorry for kissing me.

Anna entered the room just then, her hair pulled back in a lazy ponytail, a look of panic on her face. "You couldn't have given me a heads up?" she scowled at me. "He's here," she said. "A limousine just pulled up out front."

"He's here?" Ashe clarified.

"Yes," Anna said.

"I'm sorry, who's here?" I asked.

Anna pointed to the necklace in my hand. "Put it on," she said as she pulled a locket from behind her blouse and let it hang atop her shirt.

"He- he's here?" I stammered.

"Listen very carefully," Anna said. "Stay close, do exactly as I say and most importantly: tell him nothing of us. Not who we are, not what we are - especially Ashe. Do you understand?"

"But why?" I asked. "Iona said he would never-"

"Iona was unfamiliar with immortal laws," Anna said. "It doesn't matter who we are. If one of the Elite discovers the truth about Ashe his life is over. Do you understand?"

How could anyone understand something as horrible as that? "I won't say a word," I said.


Chapter 38 - In A Heartbeat

(c) copyright 2010-2016 Lauren T. Hart