Behind us was one of the servants, elegantly strolling with my bulging duffel bag. He was extremely tall and had an Egyptian look about him. Occasionally as we walked I’d see a small sitting area branching off the corridor. Everything gleamed and reflected. Even with clean hands I’d be frightened to touch anything in case I dirtied it.
Sebastian finally stopped at another sitting area which had a huge sofa-slash-bench in front of a set of extravagant patio doors. “I’ll be back momentarily,” was all he said. The servant placed my bag near the bench, nodded once and then strode off. Too restless to sit down – being in strange places made me restless – I strolled over to the patio doors. The small balcony overlooked a large swimming pool which was, uniquely, the shape of a bat with its wings outstretched. It was nice to know that the Big Man wasn’t without a sense of humour. Unless your vampiric gift was shape-shifting, morphing into bats didn’t come with vampirism.
Noticing that one of the doors was slightly ajar, I quietly stepped out and absorbed the night-time. Beyond the pool was a beautiful beach decorated by palm trees. So he really did live in the Caribbean. I imagined that the place would look all the more inviting in the sun. Although sunlight didn’t affect us in any way, we were nocturnal and naturally preferred the cover of darkness for hunting.
A lover of swimming, I was unable to resist a trip down the small set of steps to go to the pool where the water twinkled in the moonlight. I was just about to dip my fingers in when there was a huge splash and the water began lapping against the edges. My gaze found a delicious sight that sparked a rush in my blood. Burly shoulders and arms seemed to glide across the surface of the water as the swimmer moved with such ease. Even from the opposite end of the pool his gorgeousness was apparent. His chiselled facial features and perfect bone structure made me think of the statues inside the mansion. The way his jaw was set gave him a very determined look. His hair was short but not so short that I couldn’t run my hands through it. Bloody hell, where had that sleazy thought come from?
And now he’s caught me staring.
And I can’t think of anything to say to excuse myself.
He didn’t speak as he climbed out of the pool, all the while glaring at me suspiciously, probably contemplating the idea that I could be some kind of stalker. As he approached me, dabbing himself with a towel, I tried to concentrate on his intense hazel eyes rather than his alluring pale skin or his mostly naked body that was as defined as they came. Heat blast throughout my body as a heavy throb of desire settled low in my stomach. Up close I could see that not only did he have a red tint to his irises, marking him as a Pagori vampire, but that those irises were glowing. He was either a pissed, horny or thirsty Pagori vampire. Not good.
“What’re you doing out here?”
What a welcome. Not that I would expect a Pagori to ever be anything but moody. They were naturally irritable and easily became aggressive. So would I be if my irises flashed red. The Pagori strength came with a price. So did the Keja beauty; they had fangs. “I’m just -”
“Are you a friend of Joy’s?” He was appraising me from head to toe now, making me feel self-conscious. His nostrils flared as he took in my scent. “Or a servant?”
“No, I -”
“Only a select number of servants are permitted to have access to this section of the house.”
“Well that’s great for them but I’m -”
“This pool is especially off limits.”
I huffed. “Do you always interrupt people mid-sentence?”
His mouth curved up on one side. “British,” he observed in an approving tone. I quite liked the South Californian twang to his American accent too. After a short pause, made uncomfortable by how much he was staring, he said, “You’re new here. Who is it you’re working for?”
“Depends how the tryout goes.”
“For the legion.”
He looked taken aback but didn’t miss a beat. “Tell me you’re kidding.” His grin was mocking. “Tell me you’re not here hoping to try for a place in the legion.” When I didn’t say anything he laughed. “Let me give you some advice: run along home.”
“Why? Because I’m a girl?”
What an arrogant little sod. I folded my arms across my chest and snorted. “Are you for real?”
“Listen, this isn’t a cheerleading squad. You don’t get points for being pretty. It’s some serious shit which is why a girl has never been accepted, and never will be. There’s no place for a female in the legion.”
Sebastian had failed to mention the past lack of success for females. I had to wonder just how widespread this misogynistic view was in this place. “You do know it’s not 1735, don’t you?”
“I’m just stating a fact.”
“No, you’re blurting out a prejudiced opinion.”
He shook his head. “Even if you were a guy, I’d be telling you to go home right now. For one thing, going by the fact that your skin-tone isn’t very pale, I’d say you’re only a few years old and that’s just not enough experience as a vampire for you to have a chance at landing a spot in the legion. Plus, no Sventé vampire has ever had any success with the tryouts.”
Sebastian had failed to mention that as well. A man of few words, apparently. “So you’re prejudiced against women, young vampires, and against another breed of vampire. I bet you’re a delight to have around.”
“Take my advice; don’t put yourself through the embarrassment of going to the tryout, just go home.”
Before I could yell at him for being a sexist sod, he had shrugged past me and disappeared through the patio doors. A little shocked, I slowly returned inside just as Sebastian was coming to summon me.
I considered telling him to stuff it, that it wasn’t worth it. But I knew I could handle myself and my gift well. It was too tempting to attend the tryout just to irritate the bigot Pagori. “Ready.”
I marched behind Sebastian down the corridor again until we reached another set of patio doors, much more extravagant than the last set. We then walked along a narrow cobbled path that zigzagged throughout the well-maintained garden en-route to an outbuilding which, I soon realised, was actually an enclosed arena. Inside, the ground resembled a large horse paddock; a sandy floor with the letters A – D representing North, East, South and West.