Called by the Vampire - Part 6, страница 1часть #6 серии Called by the Vampire
Called by the Vampire - Part 6
Copyright © 2017 by V. Vaughn
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Editing by Jodi Henley, Red Adept Publishing and Angie Ramey
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About The Book
When Sebastian brings Maggie’s mother to the mansion, Maggie worries that she won’t be able to hide her medical issues from her Mom. But she fears for more than her plan to die a peaceful death. She must keep the Hart brothers’ secrets to save her mother from being caught up in the dangers of the vampire world.
Lyndsey meets her long-lost father and experiences the luxuries of her new role as vampire royalty on his island kingdom. But being Princess Lyndsey O’Kelly isn’t just a life of glamour and privilege. It also comes with responsibilities Lyndsey doesn’t want but can’t ignore.
“Mom.” I automatically snuggle into my mother’s embrace as an ice-cold burst of fear rushes through my body. I specifically told Sebastian I didn’t want my mother to be pulled into his world when we were talking earlier, but apparently he’d already brought her to the Hart mansion when he suggested she come for a visit. I take a deep breath and inhale the floral scent of my mom’s lotion as I muster up all the acting skills I’ve honed as Kitty Kane. “I can’t believe you’re here,” I say as I pull back with a smile.
“Mr.—” She glances over my shoulder to where Sebastian is standing behind me in the study. “Sebastian and Alexander thought it would be a nice surprise.” She lifts a strand of my hair and curls it around her finger, and a tiny shiver runs down my spine as if it reminds me of something evil. The gesture shouldn’t affect me that way, though, because she’s been doing it since I was a little girl. She frowns. “You look tired, dear.”
“I’m fine.” My mother is observant, and she’s well trained in recognizing my danger signs, so I say, “I’m run-down from overdoing it. But it’s nothing a little rest and some new meds won’t fix.”
She morphs into nurse mode, and her voice is stern when she asks, “What did they give you?”
I glance at Alexander, whom I wish I could hug too, and find he’s smiling as if he gave me a wonderful gift. The last time I saw him, he got up from having sex with me and said sleeping together was a mistake. A mix of pain and uncertainty about our relationship threatens to make me cry. I push it away, because I have to remain strong. The last thing I want him or anyone else to know is that my body is rejecting my heart and I checked myself out of the hospital against medical orders to die on my own terms. I wave my hand as I walk over to the wet bar. “The usual. It was just a tweak of the dosages. Can I get you something to drink?”
“No. Alexander got me something earlier,” she says.
My mind is racing as I recall my reaction to the Hart mansion when I first arrived. I found it creepy. At home, my mother keeps windows open for fresh air and makes the most of the daylight by pulling back curtains. She has to be wondering why we’re in such a dark room. Fortunately, she’s too polite to ask, and I try to figure out how I’m going to get her up to my quarters, which will be bright and sunny.
Ice cubes clink in my glass before I pour myself some water. As much as I’d like to get Mom away from the Hart brothers, I need them to hear the version of our story I tell her, so they can back it up. I walk over to the couch. “Would you like to know about the book tour I was on?”
“Book tour?” Mom asks as she walks over and seats herself on the couch across from me. Alexander joins her as Sebastian sits next to me.
“Yes,” says Sebastian. “Margaret is the public face for the pen name my brother and I write under.”
“I’m Kitty Kane,” I say as I sit up taller and splay my manicured fingers out on the base of my neck. “I write romance novels.”
“Oh my,” says Mom. “That’s quite impressive. So I guess a cute young woman is a better visual than two men.”
“Exactly,” says Alexander. He smiles at me. “And Maggie does a wonderful job promoting us. But—” He lowers his voice as if someone might overhear us. “You do understand this is a secret we can’t risk getting out.”
Mom leans toward him. “Of course. Thank you for trusting me with it. I won’t breathe a word.”
“We appreciate that,” says Sebastian.
I say, “Kitty just had her first release, and I’ve been visiting bookstores, doing readings and signing books. Yesterday, I was at the cutest shop, Mom. The woman who owns it was adorable. Remember Ellie? The nurse at Maine Med who made me the afghan?”
“Yes.” She chuckles. “She had crazy hair like yours.”
“Right. Joan could be her sister. Curls and all. And her office was a mess the way I imagine Ellie’s house would be. Her shop has one of those cool library ladders that slides along a rail.”
“Oh my gosh,” she says. “I love those. I always wanted a library with one.”
“I know. I thought of you when I saw it. She has first-edition books too. I opened one up, and the smell reminded me of—”
We both chuckle, and Sebastian cuts in. “I’m sure you two have a lot to catch up on. Would you like to get out of this dreary office and go to the solarium? Bertha will have lunch ready for you soon.”
“That sounds wonderful,” I say as I hope he remembers I have no idea where it is. I just learned there was one this morning when he was talking about my mother visiting.
Sebastian stands up, “Follow me.”
He brings us up to the second floor, and my mother drags her hand along the polished wooden rail as we climb the stairs, before glancing back at me with wide eyes. We walk down the hall I remember exploring when I first got here. After getting caught by Bertha, who told me to stay where I belonged, I never ventured down this way again. Sebastian takes us to a location I imagine is off the ballroom the brothers brought me to when we played pool one night, and he leaves us at the door instead of entering.
Mom and I step into a room full of sunlight. The three walls are mostly windows, as is the ceiling of the two-story space. There are Victorian-style couches and a glass table with ornate wrought-iron legs that appears large enough for dining. There are eight matching chairs and place settings for two set out at one end. A wide array of small palms and other plants adorn the room, and I imagine poor Bertha had to scramble to get them in time for our charade.
“This is amazing,” says Mom. She turns around slowly in a circle. “You’re living quite the life, Maggie.”
“I know.” I sink into the cushions of a couch. “It’s a little overwhelming at times.”
“I can imagine. The brothers are… interesting. I noticed Sebastian calls you Margaret.”
I roll my eyes. “I tried to get him to call me Maggie, but he’s set in his ways.”
“Is he that stuffy about everything?”
I smile as I flash to the night we played pool and he was wearing jeans. “Pretty much, but he’s been known to loosen up once in a while.”
Now my smile turns to a grin. “He is.”
“Uh-oh.” My mother’s green eyes twinkle with amusement. “Do you have a crush on your boss?”
I sigh. I want to tell her everything, because I always have. But I’m not sure she’d be impressed that I’m sleeping with one of the Hart brothers, so I say, “I do. Bad idea. Right?”
Mom sits next to me and places a hand on my knee. “No, honey. Crushes are fun as long as you keep them in the right place. Getting involved with him? That’s a bad idea.”
I nod and ask, “How long are you staying?”
Three days. I hope I can keep the fact Sebastian and Alexander are vampires a secret that long. And my health. I’m distracted by Bertha when she enters the room, and when I turn to face her, I almost die from shock. She’s smiling.
“Maggie, it’s so nice to have you back with us.” A tray rattles as she sets it down on the table. “And look at you,” she says as she gazes at my mother. “I see where Maggie gets her good looks.”
I blink with confusion as Mom stands up and holds out her hand. “Hi. I’m Cathy.”
Bertha takes her hand between both of hers. “We are so lucky to have your daughter here. She’s such a joy.”
Mom turns to look back at me, and I snap my jaw shut. I take advantage of Bertha’s act and return the love. “Wait until you taste Bertha’s food, Mom.” I chuckle. “You’ll see why I’ve put on a few pounds.”
“Tell me you like lobster,” Bertha says to Mom. “Lunch is field greens with lobster, avocado, and a citrus-champagne dressing.”
“That sounds delicious,” gushes Mom. She sniffs the air. “Did you make yeast rolls too? They smell like the ones my grandmother used to bake.”
Bertha gives her a look of surprise. “You’ve got a very good nose. It’s one of my family recipes. So simple, but so good.”
“They’re perfect. This is such a treat.”
Bertha glances at me. “I hope you don’t mind. Lord knows it’s not heart healthy, but I included some farm-fresh butter for your mother to use on her rolls.”
Wow. I had no idea the nasty old woman had it in her, because Bertha is being downright charming. “I don’t mind at all. Thank you for being so considerate.”
She waves her hand at me. “It’s nothing. It’s not every day we have such a lovely guest.”
I think she’s making a dig at me since she couldn’t have been ruder when I arrived. “I appreciate this just the same,” I say, and I’m being sincere. I wish she had acted this way from the beginning, and I wonder if I can keep her from returning to her crotchety self once my mother leaves.
Plates clatter onto the table as Bertha sets out our meal, and Mom and I sit to eat. After everything is ready, Bertha places a bell next to me. This time when she smiles, I see a bit of the old devil in her eyes as she says, “Ring if you need me.”
I can’t help myself and offer her a mischievous look of my own. “I sure will. Thanks.”
Once Bertha is gone, my mother says, “She’s wonderful.” Mom takes a bite of lobster and lets out a moan as she closes her eyes and enjoys the flavor. “What an exciting life you’re leading now, honey. You really hit the jackpot with this job, didn’t you?”
If only I could tell her the truth. I did get lucky with my job in some ways, but my luck for living just ran out. I resist the urge to sigh. “I know.” I think about how short my time left with my mother will be, and as I fight tears, I reach over and take her hand. “I’m so glad you’re here, Mom.”
I remember one of my bucket-list items before I die was to live life in a large way. Working for the Harts in a glamorous position and living in the dangerous world of vampires certainly qualifies. And it’s happened just in time, because in a few weeks, I’ll be dead. Sadness fills my heart as I gaze at my mother and know how much my death is going to hurt her. I recall the other big item on my list of things to accomplish and think maybe I will tell her I fell in love with Alexander so she’ll know I lived the life I’d always dreamed of.
When I step off Alexander’s boat, the ancient-looking dock creaks under my feet, and I feel a little like an eight-year-old who has gone off to summer camp for the first time. Alexander has brought me to my family’s island, and I want to hold on to him and beg him not to leave me. But I don’t think Alexander Hart has an invitation to stay. The two vampires who are here to meet us on the dock are in vampire form and glaring at us. The shorter one of them says, “Princess Lyndsey. This way.”
I hug my friend quickly when I realize the two vampires aren’t waiting around for tearful goodbyes. Alexander says, “I’ll see you soon,” and the look in his eyes makes me think he’s worried too.
Damp air wraps its cool embrace around me as my feet crunch over stones, sand, and broken shells along a path that leads up a steep hill. The whine of Alexander’s motorboat engine fades away as I glance around with my vampire eyesight that lets me see in the dark. The barren landscape before me isn’t what I expected. I had visions of an opulent lawn with flower gardens, marble statues, and a fountain. Instead, the hillside is rocky and has low, patchy weeds that poke up from the cracks, and there’s a smattering of scruffy-looking bushes.
My muscles burn as I rush to keep up with the vampires, who are scrambling up the steep face of a cliff no human would dare try to climb without gear. I fear when we get where we’re going, I might find my palace is an old cabin with rotting wood held together by rusty nails. It’s not as if vampires need heat to survive, but running water would be nice.
My escorts are not chatty, and from the way they’re moving at top speed, I wonder if they’re trying to lose me. When you wait on people for a living, you learn to read them quickly, and it’s clear these two are not impressed with my royal status.
Not that I’m the kind of girl who wants to flaunt that sort of thing, but a little hospitality for the daughter of their king might be nice. Once we clear the first steep rock face, I see there’s another. Fortunately, I’m in good shape and no stranger to keeping up with the guys, so I plod on and keep them in my sight. When they get to the top, they stop to wait for me.
One surprises me when he extends his hand to help me onto the summit. When I’m by his side, I gasp at the scene before me. His tone is taunting as he says, “Welcome to your new home, Princess. Like it?”
I gaze down into a valley to see a magnificent castle that is beyond what I imagined. It looks as if it came out of a medieval history book. It’s built of stone and has turrets and archways, and I half expect a knight in armor to come riding toward me on a horse. The only thing that appears to be missing is a moat, but when I glance around, I notice that the steep rock cliffs I climbed to get here surround the valley, and I expect that’s sufficient to keep humans from exploring. “Impressive,” I say.
“It should be. To you.” The other vampire chuckles like a mean girl. “I heard you didn’t leave much behind.”
I’m tempted to snark back but hold my tongue when it occurs to me I have no idea who these guys are to my father. I start moving toward the castle. Running downhill is much easier than our climb, especially since it’s a version of the cliff hopping I learned from Adly back at the Harts’ mansion. As we get closer, I wonder if we’re being watched, because a crawling sensation travels down my spine. I’m curious about the surveillance on a place like this.
The castle is much bigger up close, and I gaze up at the curved doorway that appears to be almost two stories high. Two large doors with heavy brass rings stand shut, but they open automatically as we approach. Walking through here with my surfboard would be a breeze if I had it. Alexander mentioned he was going to call my father to let him know I was now a vampire, and the next thing I knew, I was being whisked away in the middle of the night to my family’s island, with my things to follow. Not that I have much, but my wetsuit is worn in perf
We enter into a large space that I assume is a courtyard. Finally, I notice the marble benches and fountain I’d imagined. There are also gardens, which would seem strange in a vampire’s castle except for the fact some are daywalkers. It’s a trait associated with the royal O’Kelly bloodline and the reason Alexander figured out who I am.
The short vampire says, “You’re to wait for the king here.” He glances nervously at the sky, and I notice the faint light of dawn approaching.
I shrug at my taller escort, who seems just as anxious. I’ve never seen what sunlight can do to a vampire, but I bet it’s not pretty. Not so tough now, are you guys? I say, “Okay.” I realize that’s probably not what they expect from royalty and quickly add, “Thank you. You may go.”
The two scurry off through the next set of doors, and I wander over toward the fountain. In the garden surrounding the circular pool, I find daisies, purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, and bee balm. I pinch a leaf of the bee balm and sniff the familiar strong aroma. A wave of nostalgia washes over me because these are the flowers my mother keeps in her gardens. It makes me wonder if my father had them planted because of her.
Water trickles in the fountain as I sit on a bench and gaze up at the sky. It’s nice to be outside, and I inhale the sea air, happy that I’ve come to a place where I don’t have the threat of people around making me struggle with bloodlust.
The heavy inner doors creak open, and I turn to see a man approaching me. I recognize him immediately as my father, and when he smiles, it’s as though he’s walking out of one of the photographs I grew up seeing around my house. “Lyndsey.” He’s carrying two big mugs, and the scent of coffee floats my way as he gets closer.