THE NEW NEIGHBOR’S scent is stronger tonight.
It’s making my stomach flutter and my heart beat faster than it has these past two weeks. I can’t seem to get him out of my head and I’ve yet to lay eyes on him.
And Anna isn’t helping.
“All I’m saying is, you haven’t even really lived. And now you’re going to…” She makes air quotes. “Do your duty. Joining the ranks of the undead is enough—marrying some douche canoe because of an arrangement between some old white dudes is another.” She looks around in mock panic. “Where’s my rape whistle? You’re going to need it.”
“Stop,” I snap back. “You know how this works. You’ve been around more than a few centuries.”
She rolls her glowing red eyes, completely in character as a twenty-five-year-old. “And for what? Some pact you had no hand in whatsoever. I’m just trying to establish what you want. You. My best friend, Seleme. Not what your father wants. Vampires are idiots, just like humans.”
She crosses the room to my dollhouse, picking up the latest addition and examining it. The little grandfather clock, an exact replica of the full-size one in the foyer of our mansion, is perfect in every way. It even chimes on the hour. It’s also worth more than most people make in a year.
“This is quite exquisite,” she comments with a shrug.
“Thank you. Papa gave it to me.” I draw in a breath through my nose.
“Of course he did. Your clock is ticking, as it were.” She laughs, taking a long sniff of the open box of Cheez-Its on the table next to the doolhouse before putting it down with a disgusted look. “How do you eat these things? They smell like feet.”
“Half human, half vampire, remember? I have to feed both.” Her disgust for my favorite food is nothing new, but I’m not in the mood to be called out on it right now. Besides, my own small kitchenette is stocked with plenty of healthy foods as well, and I get raw beef and blood when I’m hungry, while my parents usually go out to eat. So to speak. Half human, half vampire, keeping both healthy like a boss. “Look, it doesn’t matter what I want. You say it like my father is some sort of monster. He isn’t. He cares about us, my mother and me, which is the only reason he made this pact in the first place. He didn’t think my mother would actually get pregnant as a human. It wasn’t his plan for me to be born when I was. That my birthday would fall on the trifecta of vampire holy days or whatever you want to call it. The Messina family has protected us since I was born. Now it’s time for me to repay that debt. They think it’s likely, since my mother was able to conceive with a vampire, that I will as well. Simple.”
“No, not simple.” She meets my eyes and I catch my breath, my human side literally stunned for a moment by her glamor. Human men practically fall to their knees when she walks by, and most would believe it was just her voluptuous curves, or the silky black hair that hangs to the middle of her back. They don’t know it’s her otherworldly power of mind control that crumples them before her. “I mean, this isn’t a game. Alberto Messina is going to put his cock inside—”
She falls silent. It’s not that I’m particularly embarrassed by talk of sex, but honestly, if you knew Alberto, you’d know why I don’t want to talk about it. He’s just…icky. I don’t know how else to describe him. Not necessarily bad looking by human standards, there is just…something off about him.
Makes me shudder. Besides, the Messinas are pure-bloods and proud of it.
No intermingling with humans as far back in their bloodline as anyone remembers but mating with me is a risk they are willing to take because of my unique potential.
“I know how sex works,” I mutter.
“Do you? Because you’ve spent nearly twenty-one years in near isolation.” She turns my way, still holding the tiny grandfather clock. The electric lighting glints in her golden eyes and makes her dark hair shine. “And I know for a fact that if a boy so much as looked at you your father would rip him a new one.”
Rip him a new one.
Typical Anna. Old as she is, she’s somehow able to soak up culture like a sponge, although it sometimes leads to some odd combinations…
Right now, for instance, she’s wearing a ‘Go Vegan’ tank top with worn, vintage Levi’s from the eighteen-hundreds three sizes too big, held up by some ridiculous belt with a silver buckle nearly half the width of her waist.
That particular item came to her from a rodeo champion who was abusing his horses. The details of what happened to him are sketchy, but put it this way: he didn’t hand over the buckle willingly. The legs of her jeans are rolled up to mid-calf and on her feet are six-inch, red patent-leather Valentino stilettos. Around her neck, she’s wearing one of those kid’s candy heart necklaces — she will never taste, but she likes the way it looks.