Fate, p.13
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       Fate, p.13

         Part #2 of My Blood Approves series by Amanda Hocking
 
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“But we’re all here!” Jack insisted growing frustrated. “There’s three of us here to the two of them. We’d be fine!”

  “You say that because this is what you were born into,” Ezra said with a mixture of affection and fatigue. “We were always stable and supportive and calm. You don’t know what it’s like when there are too many vampires and not enough leadership. You’ve led a very privileged life, and you’re taking that for granted. ”

  “It’s just two more vampires,” Jack said indignantly.

  “It just takes one, Jack!” Ezra raised his voice, and I winced. “I’ve seen what it does, and I don’t want that for us. ”

  “But…” I said meekly, peering at him from over the top of the blankets. “Just because it happened somewhere else doesn’t mean it’ll happen here. ”

  “I’m sure Mae has told you of the unique position you are in. ” Ezra rested his deep brown eyes on me. “You are one of the few that has a choice in this life. The rest of us were forced into it. ”

  “She did tell me that, yes,” I said.

  “She also told you of the family she left behind, and how difficult that was. ” Ezra rested his elbow on the arm of his chair and propped his head up. “But she told you nothing of my family or where I came from. Correct?”

  “I think she said you were from England, but that’s it. ” I looked to Jack for help, but he just watched Ezra intently as he spoke. There was something very captivating in the way Ezra talked, even to other vampires.

  “I was born just outside of London in 1674,” Ezra said. “By the time I was fifteen, both my parents and two of my brothers had already died, leaving me in charge of my seven-year-old sister and the family farm. We managed to do quite well for ourselves, and I was able to support a family. I married at seventeen and went on to have four children of my own. ”

  “You had kids?” I asked. It never occurred to me that he would be married or have kids.

  “Two boys and two girls. ” His lips touched on a smile that quickly faded. “We lived a quiet happy life, but unfortunately, the skills that made my family thrive made me appealing to others. I was strong, hard-working, and diligent.

  “A man called upon our house one night asking for dinner and board for the evening in exchange for money. Because of where we lived in the country, it wasn’t uncommon for weary travelers to take respite with us. My sister especially enjoyed it. She was at the marrying age and had yet to find a suitor.

  “The man introduced himself as Willem, and he appeared wealthy and attractive, so I sent my sister to tend to him, in hopes that he would consider her. ” He lowered his eyes, thinking heavily on the memory, and then shook his head.

  “He stayed in the back room of the house, and he mentioned he was hungry. I sent my sister back with a bowl of soup, and when she didn’t return, I went back to check on her. ” Ezra paused. “Willem stood in front of the window, staring at the black night, while my sister lay motionless on the floor. He drained all the life from her.

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  “I meant to attack him in some way, but he was much stronger than me and over took me. He commended me on my bravery and strength, and then forced me to drink his blood,” Ezra grimaced.

  “Before I could really understand what was happening, his blood ripped through me, and he drug me off into the night. Once I had turned and had my power back, I fought him, trying to kill him or at least demanding that he let me go. He refused, saying that he had needed a worker and companion, and I suited his desires perfectly.

  “I continued fighting him, but he grew tired of it. He shackled me in the cellar of his castle. He did not feed me for three weeks, and I was a new vampire, so I was mad with hunger. ” Ezra’s face had become an emotionless mask. “Then, he took me to my home, and released me.

  “In my desperate thirst, I bit my own wife. My children managed to escape before I got to them, but not before they witnessed me killing their mother.

  “When I realized what I had done, I went back to Willem. ” His expression changed as he shifted in his chair, and he tried to put that memory behind him. “I let him enslave me under the condition that he never let me go. I did not trust the monster I had become, and I didn’t know how to destroy myself.

  “Over time, Willem would bring in other vampires, turned the same way as I had for the same reasons, in hopes of helping me work. He was always expanding on the castle and traveling, and he liked to live a life of complete leisure. I did absolutely everything for him, even things you wouldn’t think a man would dare request. ” He repressed a shudder.

  “These other vampires he brought in, they were always a mess,” Ezra went on. “They were rabid monsters, and it was only a matter of time before they would have to be destroyed. Without any guidance, they resorted to their own primal state, relying solely on hunger and instinct. They had to be constantly chained to keep them from hurting themselves and other vampires.

  “Only I seemed to have humanity. I stayed with Willem for nearly a hundred years, traveling all across Europe and Asia. Most of other vampires we encountered had some sense of decency and control. Most tended to be cold and cruel, like Willem, but not animals, like the slaves Willem made. As time went on, the other vampires would comment on how wonderful and amazing it was that Willem had managed to create a slave as civil as me.

  “That’s when it finally occurred to me that I wasn’t like them. What had happened with my wife had been a direct result of Willem’s manipulation. I could control myself, and I had openly wept for my wife and my children. I was not a monster, although I was capable of being one if I let myself. ” He exhaled deeply and looked on me for a moment.

  “What happened?” I asked when he didn’t speak.

  “One night, I simply killed Willem, and I left to start a life of my own,” Ezra said. “I had made some acquaintances through him that I thought were compassionate, and with them, I managed to learn things about myself and other vampires. They were impressed that I had been able to do what I had done without instruction.

  “When you first turn, it is so easy to let emotion and instinct rule your life. It’s a constant battle for years that’s nearly impossible without another vampire coaching you along. ”

  “I know how hard all of that was for you,” Jack said carefully, and then shook his head. “Okay, no. I don’t. I can’t even imagine all the things you went through. But what happened to you isn’t anything like what’s happening here. Nobody’s going to throw Milo or Alice in the basement and tell them to just figure it out. ”

  “It’s not a risk I am willing to take,” Ezra said. “I have seen vampires gnaw at their own arms because they haven’t fed in days. I’ve seen them slaughter children. Alice and Milo might never be that extreme, but they could turn out like Willem. He was in complete control of himself, but he was cruel and merciless. ”

  “Don’t you think Willem was probably like that before he turned?” Jack asked. “I mean, Mae was all love and maternal instinct before she turned, and she still is. And I was a clumsy idiot, and I still am. Milo and Alice aren’t tyrannical or malicious. ”

  “Left unchecked, Milo’s jealousy could’ve gotten out of control. He could’ve killed her by now. But because you were able to devote all your time to his cause, look,” Ezra nodded at us. “You’re completely safe to kill her yourself. ”

  “Haha,” Jack said dryly.

  “You will have all the time in the world,” Ezra said. “What are a few more years in comparison with eternity? I’m asking that we err on the side of caution. Wouldn’t you rather wait then have something go terribly awry?”

  “But there’s nothing to be cautious about!” Jack was growing exasperated.

  “I’m sorry, but the plane ride has exhausted me, as has this conversation. ” Ezra stood up, blithely stretching his limbs. “I’m going to turn in for the night, and I suggest you do the same. ”

  When he left, we sat in silence. I th
ought of everything he had said, and Ezra had a point. But so did Jack. The odds of me or Milo turning into crazed fiends seemed unlikely, but waiting wouldn’t really hurt anything either.

  Eventually, Jack pulled back on his tee shirt, and I excused myself, heading to his room for a night of sleeping alone.

  Of course, it wouldn’t be an easy sleep, not after everything the night had held. It was full of endless dreams of Ezra and his lovely wife and small, towheaded children that looked like small versions of him. Then I would see their faces, contorting with fear, as they were splashed with their mother’s blood.

  Ezra, the most contained person I had ever met, had been so out of control that he had nearly murdered his own children. What hope did that leave for any of us?

  Jack took me home just after midnight the next night, citing that I needed to start getting to bed at a reasonable time for school. With less than a week to fix my sleep cycle, it didn’t seem possible, but that’s not why he really took me home.

  After the kiss, and then Ezra’s rather unfortunate story, Jack had seemed oddly distant. He still talked to me, but when he put in a movie, he made sure to sit on the far side of the room.

  Without Milo constantly straightening up combined with me spending more time at home, the apartment was rather messy. Not enough where Mom would scream at me about it, but enough where I noticed it and decided to do something about it.

  I put Fall Out Boy on the stereo and went about picking things up. After that, I took a long shower and crawled into bed. It was still much too early to sleep, at least for me, so I pulled out A Brief History of Vampyres, the biography supposedly written by Peter.

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  After detailing his own experiences with turning, including graphic descriptions of watching other vampires turn, the next chapter was entitled “Vampyres and the Earth. ” I was glad to be done with talk of turning. He wrote one particularly disturbing passage where he recalled seeing a young man’s stomach bubble and move as he screamed.

  The following chapter opened with a beautiful description of a sunrise and a poem called “Sunrise on the Hills” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In his youth, Peter was apparently obsessed with the sun.

  It appeared to be a vampire’s one true weakness, and he struggled to understand it. He would spend hours out in the bright afternoon light, trying to discover what exactly it did to him.

  “I would bask in the sun, like an afternoon cat, leaving as much of my flesh uncovered as modesty would allow. The rays of light burned heavy on my skin and my muscles started to drain. My energy weakened, my thoughts muddled, but in complete contrast with that, my heart beat grew stronger and faster.

  “When I returned to the darkness and proceeded to slumber, once I awoke, all of the effects would be erased. My skin never even changed its hue.

  “What precisely did the sun do to me, then? When I asked my fellow vampyres, they speculated very little on the subject. The most informed answer came from my mentor, who said, ‘It does a man well to stay in the light, and a vampyre to stay out of it. ’ The anatomy of a vampyre remains such a mystery that the best we can come up with is merely that the light weakens us.

  “But what if I were to stay in the sun always? If I were to exist as a normal man would, sleeping during the night and awaking during the day, what would the outcome be? The sun only seems to dull all our senses, lessening them to the point of mere humans.

  “Would that surmise that living a life in the sun could reduce us to mortality? Would we then begin to age and grow old and eventually perish?

  “Which leads me to an entirely different thought. Does our immortality, our exotic power, then come from the moon? Are the tales of lycanthrope embellished stories of vampyre?”

  For being a document that’s meant to answer questions, it faired better at raising them. Peter could find little in the way of scientific reasons for the sun’s effect on vampires. He did conduct his own study on whether the sun could return him to a mortal, or at least to aging him some.

  He spent a month living during the day and sleeping at night, but all he found was that he was very tired, weak, and inordinately hungry. As a result, he had to eat at least once a day, and it led him to nearly kill three people.

  At the end of a month, he decided that was enough and finished his study without any real change to himself.

  Lying in my bed, I rolled over and peeked out my curtains at the bluing sky. The sun hadn’t risen yet, but it was well on its way, meaning I had failed at following through with Jack’s suggested bedtime. I set the book aside and decided that I had better try to get some sleep.

  I managed to sleep all day, even through the baking heat of the afternoon. When I finally got up and turned on the TV, the weatherman announced it had peaked over ninety degrees. I was tempted to lie around in my underwear all day long, but Mom was still around, complaining about the heat and her job and life in general.

  After she left, I stared at my phone, hoping that someone would hurry and call me and rescue me from the insane heat. There would be no such luck.

  As the day moved onto night, I resigned myself to spending the evening parked in front of a fan, sprawled out on the couch watching Arsenic and Old Lace on AMC until I died of heatstroke.

  - 16 -

  “This building needs central air!” Milo threw open the apartment door.

  I sat up and looked over the back of the couch at him. His arms overflowed with bags of groceries. His face looked flushed, presumably from the heat.

  “What are you doing here?” I asked, surprised by his random appearance.

  I got up off the couch and went over to help him with the groceries, until I realized how silly that sounded. Normally, when Milo carried things in, I’d be stuck with the brunt of the load since I was stronger. It was hard to shake the image of him as being my little brother, even though he was clearly so much stronger and better than I was.

  “What? You’re not happy to see me?” He set the bags on the table and smirked at me.

  “No, it’s not that. I just…” I stopped and looked over the bags on the table. “What is all this? And what are you doing here?”

  “I figured you hadn’t eaten a good meal since I moved out, and I thought you’d be bored and dying of heat stroke. ” Milo dug through the bags and pulled out frozen things, like ice cream and Popsicles, and put them in the freezer. “I know you and Mom don’t do any grocery shopping, so you’d waste away without me. ”

  “That’s maybe true,” I admitted, eyeing him skeptically.

  He continued going through the bags to put things away, while I went over to the freezer and pulled an orange Popsicle out. He was actually dead-on about the lack of food and heat stroke.

  “Aren’t you afraid Mom’ll catch you?”

  “She’s at work,” Milo shrugged. “And so is Jack. So it’s very quiet at the house and I needed to get out. ”

  “Jack’s at work?” I hopped on the counter to watch Milo put the groceries away. “I thought Ezra just came back. ”

  “He did, and he’s still at home. ” With ease, he reached over me to put away cereal on the very top shelf, something that used to require the aid of a chair for him to reach. “Jack went on his own. He’s really getting the hang of the business. ”

  “What do you mean? Jack’s in charge of stuff all by himself?” I slurped at my Popsicle, trying to keep orange drips of juice from spilling on my legs, but it wasn’t working.

  “Yeah. Why is that so shocking?” Milo laughed at my apparent surprise.

  “It’s not. ” Wiping at the spot of orange on my thigh, I shrugged. “I just didn’t realize he was doing that good or whatever. I don’t know. I mean, I don’t even know what he does really. ”

  “Neither do I. They’re keeping me out of the loop for now, but Jack says that once I get more settled in, I’ll definitely be able to do it. He says it’s actually kind of fun when you
get into it, but a lot of the work is already done anyway.

  “Ezra has tons and tons of patents on things, and he has to do a lot of legal shuffling around so people don’t catch onto the fact that he’s the same guy that’s been collecting money for the past hundred years or so. ” Milo said it all matter-of-factly like I would completely follow what that meant.

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  “So, what? Pretty soon you’re gonna be a millionaire?” I bit off the last chunk of Popsicle, even though my gums didn’t necessarily appreciate the cold.

  “Alice, I hate to break it to you, but I already kind of am. ” Milo looked rather sheepish as he put away the last of the groceries in the fridge, and then turned to face me.

  “Well, they’re super rich or whatever, but you just live with them,” I said.

  “Yeah, but…” He shifted, fearing the worst from my reaction. “I’m like part of the family now. So, Ezra set up credit cards and an expense account for me the other day, and Ezra’s working on documents to legally change my name to Milo Townsend.

  “Once that’s through, I’m going to get a driver’s license, but it’s going to say that I’m 18, since I can pass for it now and it’ll be easier to get things done that way. ”

  “Nah ah,” I gaped at him. “You have an expense account?”

  “Yeah, I mean, it’s just easier that way. So I can buy my own things. ” He shrugged, then added, “And groceries for you too. I’m spreading it around. ”

  “But…” My face crinkled. “But that’s their money. Don’t you feel bad about taking it?”

  “Not really,” Milo admitted. “I didn’t really feel bad about taking Mom’s money. As soon as I’m able to, and as soon as they’ll let me, I’m gonna start working. I’ll pull my own share. I’m kind of a kid right now, and they just adopted me. ”

  “They are adopting you, aren’t they?” It hit me in a weird way that Milo wasn’t really my brother anymore. He was, and he always would be, but at the same time, he wasn’t. “Milo Townsend?”

  “Yeah, it sounds weird, right?” He wrinkled his nose, and I felt a little better knowing it was strange for him too.

  “Whose last name is that anyway?” I chewed on the wooden Popsicle stick and tried to seem casual about Milo’s news.

  “I think its Ezra’s. Jack’s is really Hobbs, and Mae’s is Everly, but I don’t really know what Peter’s was. ” He leaned back against the refrigerator, watching me swing my feet and chew on the stick. “They don’t really talk much about Peter. ”

  “That’s not surprising. ” The wood splintered so I tossed the stick in the garbage can and looked over at him. “What do they say about him?”

  “Mae told me about you guys being bonded and about how Peter nearly killed you before. ” A shudder ran over him at that. “Why didn’t you tell me about that?”

 
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