“Hey!” I elbow her as her red eyes twinkle and she pulls at the candy necklace, bringing it just to her lips then releasing the elastic to settle back around her neck. “My dress is blood red, so it wouldn’t show.” I smile for a moment forgetting the weight that seems stacked on my shoulders.
Anna’s been a friendly acquaintance of my father for a couple of centuries. She’s my godmother of sorts, there when I was born to help protect me, but she’s a rogue sort. She has no family, doesn’t take much to alliances, and she’s so old, she’s earned enough respect from most other covens to be left alone, which is exactly what she wants.
As I grew up, she was my only friend, and by whatever magic, we formed a bond she says she hasn’t had in more than a thousand years.
She laughs. “Anyway, I’m hardly someone you should see as a threat. I’m just old. There are much more powerful vampires than me. Your fiancé, for instance.”
I straighten my dress, the stiff bodice keeping me sitting up straight and straining for a full breath. I’m forced to think about Alberto again. Anna’s lying when she says she’s not powerful, but different vampire families have powers that manifest in different ways. She can control fire, as can my father, and influence human thoughts among other things.
Others are shape shifters, of sorts. Able to age themselves or regress themselves at their whim.
Many of the Messinas have almost unbelievable physical strength and speed, and Alberto has won every one of their contests since he was ten years old — and that was many centuries ago. My family’s powers, on the other hand, tend to be more subtle. Like my heightened senses, which are diminished only by running water.
Right now, I wish there was even a trickle of a stream between me and our new neighbor because at least it would dull this throbbing between my legs.
What other powers will I possess after my birthday? That remains to be seen.
“Are you coming tonight?” I ask, trying to change the subject.
She pulls her deep burgundy lips to the side, flashing sharpened incisors. “Maybe. You know I don’t like parties.”
“It’s a children’s party, Anna, how scary can it be?”
“Children are scary. And it’s a kids’ party hosted by vampires,” she counters. “Hollywood should make a horror movie out of it.”
“You’re a vampire,” I remind her.
“I might come later, when the games have finished and most of the people have gone home. Only to look at what you’ve carved this year without having to wade through the crowds.”
The sound of my father’s voice cuts into our conversation, booming through the stone halls of the mansion. “Seleme! Time to go, darling!” There’s no need to raise his voice, since I can hear a pin drop from across the other side of the sprawling house, but that’s fathers for you.
“And that’s my cue to leave.” Anna stands, and I follow suit. Then she wraps her cool arms around my shoulders in a genuine embrace. “You look lovely. Your dress is very fetching. Enjoy tonight, and try not to worry about anything else. I’ll read some more. Maybe there’s something I missed.”
“Thank you. Hopefully I’ll see you again before I go full creature of the night.”
“I’ll try. Lots of nastiness in the news the last couple days. There was a report about a brothel in India. Young girls. Young. I’m going to pay the family that ran it a visit. I’ll try to be back in time, but you know me and time. After living this long, a month can feel like a minute.”
I roll my eyes and she laughs, then turns and walks through the exterior wall of my bedroom. It’s something you never really get used to seeing.
With a deep breath, I ready myself to go out, beginning to smile as I think about the night ahead. It’s my favorite time of the year, and I intend to enjoy it. I glance over at Maltese, my cat, as I open the door to my bedroom suite, which is more like its own apartment.
“You’ll be good while I’m out, won’t you?”
He stretches out along my bed and flicks his tail but doesn’t follow me. He’s already been fed, we took our run earlier on the treadmill, and plan on taking our one AM run later, so it’s doubtful he’ll move from that spot until I get back.
As I descend the stairs, the cold air chills my shoulders and I shiver, wrapping my hands over my bare arms. The first floor is kept a good thirty degrees cooler by design because while I occupy the upper floors, my vampire parents generally occupy the lower.
Pinching the iridescent red silk and sequins of my gown in my fingers, I swish it back and forth, enjoying the way it catches the candlelight and casts twinkling red stars over the hand-cut stone walls of the mansion. The house is designed to emulate the Ardelean family’s traditional home, a castle in Eastern Romania, and from what I can remember from the one time I visited, it’s nearly a perfect replica.