I’m really not sure anymore.
I meet my father’s eyes, and see the same anguish reflected in them as I know he sees in mine. Different reasons, same result. “Anna will—”
“Anna.” He laughs. “That’s not even her real name. Aperanat will look after herself, the way she’s always done. You don’t reach that age by getting involved with other people’s fights.”
I fall silent. The argument hasn’t changed in the last four nights, and I doubt it’s about to change now. My father already presented me with the “evidence” of Maxim’s crimes. Naturally, I was shocked to begin with. But I wasn’t going to take it at face value. I had to research it further.
Even the jury in his trial wasn’t willing to convict on the crimes he was charged with. He was sent to prison, sure, but not for treason, or he’d still be there now. The only crime he was actually convicted of was assault on his commanding officer.
Then there’s what happened in the prison. A few of the other prisoners trapped Maxim’s cell mate in the showers and tried to give him a beatdown. Apparently, they didn’t like that he was more interested in men than women.
Maxim stepped in and stood between them. He took a beating, but he didn’t let them touch his cell mate.
“If this was just about you living your own life, things would be different. You know that. But this is life or death, Seleme. It’s my job to keep you safe, even if you can’t see it. This arrangement keeps us all safe.”
“But if she loves him—” my mother tries, but we all know it’s pointless.
“How can she love him?” my father barks, looking at me for a split second then back to my mother. “She knew the man less than three hours. No.” He turns and stomps to the door. “It’s hormones, that’s all. The car will be here in thirty minutes. The plans are in place. I’m sorry, Seleme. It’s for your own good. You’ll thank me one day, even if you hate me right now. Marriages have been arranged like this for millennia, even your precious Anna will tell you that.”
“That didn’t stop you from marrying Mama. From falling in love.”
“And you are not in love.”
I look at my father for a long moment and see pain in his eyes. His skin is nearly gray, and his voice shakes as he extends his fingers then grips his hands into fists and releases them over and over as though they ache.
My parents both need to feed. They are weak. Weaker than usual. They haven’t fed in days, preferring to stay near me and keep me safe. In my world, vampires that choose animals over humans are never as strong. They have to feed twice as often just to keep themselves healthy. But my mother has never faltered in her refusal to hurt humans, and my father has kept his promise to her.
Feeding on animals keeps them alive, but they are no match for more traditional vampires like the Messinas — or even the Hasanovs. There’s nothing more to say. No new revelations will fix this.
With that, he’s out the door of my office, my stomach in knots and my mother’s soft eyes on me telling me there’s no easy solution.
“What do you want?” She asks again, and I spin my chair, crossing and uncrossing my legs as I stare down at my black patent Louboutins before scanning the horizon over the tops of the other office buildings for answers.
“Honestly? I want everything to go back to the way it was before. I want everyone to be safe. I want—” I halt, drawing in a breath.
What I want to say is, I want to forget I ever met Maxim. I want the feelings he lit inside of me to go away.
But I can’t.
And they won’t.
Even now that my hormones are fading and my cooler vampire side is starting to take over, all I want is him.
I’ve watched him in his office since my father chased him out of our home. He’s stood there, paced there, his eyes on our mansion as I watched him from the darkness of the upper rooms, the twisting in my core growing stronger, knowing the best thing for everyone is for me to forget all about him.
My vision is growing even more acute with each passing day allowing me to even detect the deepening furrows in his brow.
The errant tear I say him wiping away just this morning. How he runs his hand back and forth over his head then looks at the ceiling for minutes at a time before sitting at his desk, hands clasped behind his neck…
I lean forward in my chair, my arms wrapping around my belly, knowing the time is nearing for me to become what my destiny has held for me all these years. My human side is wavering, and the other part of me is growing stronger, my need to finally taste human blood surging through me like wildfire.