1 The Bite
“On the floor,” Sebastian firmly said in his deep southern drawl. He whipped his cane on his desk, the wind of the action making papers fly about, annoying him further.
I jerked with a start, then quickly dropped to my knees, ignoring the sharp pain from the sudden fall, spreading my thighs apart and touching my head to the cold concrete floor, just as I was taught to do by him just months ago. It's a common occurrence now, being put in this stance. It's a reflex; an automatic response my body just does when he gives the command. I fought it at first, but soon learned fighting him was pointless. The asshole would just get angrier and it would result in more pain for me.
“A little bird informed me that you had a guest today, Mariana dear. Mind telling me who he was?”
“Guest?” I risked looking up at him, confused.
His red eyes are cold and menacing, very unlike the boy I once played with as a kid.
“Don’t be coy, now. Charlene told me all about your visit you had with your friend,” he muses, his designer shoes tapping on the ground sharply as he walks.
Of course she did. The old b***h.
I quickly bowed my head back to the ground as I wracked my brain, trying to come up with some idea of what he could be talking about.
“The only people I saw today besides the ones working in this mansion were Rachel with the floral delivery and then the linen delivery with Joshua-”
Sebastian’s eyes narrowed, and his cane came down on the chair next to me.
“You dare to say another man’s name? In my presence?!”
“But you just ask-”
My vision blurs and my face crunches painfully against the concrete as I feel the sharp burning of the cane on the back of my head.
My ears are ringing, and I think I’m screaming, but can’t think or hear straight to tell.
The ringing fades as blackness overtakes me, the last sensation my body clings to is the feeling of something wet dragging across my skin before a piercing feeling in the back of my neck. My feelings of rage and hate for my former childhood friend erupt inside me, and that's what I’m clinging to as a pass out.
It hurts. My head feels as if it was cracked in half. Like an egg. My brain feels as if it was scrambled and fried. The conversation around me is making the pain worse, and I’m unable to cling to the words to tell what is being said. When I open my eyes, the muddled voices around me stop. My blurry vision is made worse by the pounding in the back of my head.
A mewling sound echoes in my ears. After a few seconds, I realized it was me. I’m whimpering in pain.
“Mari, can you hear me? You’re going to be okay,” Tara worried from somewhere above me. She is pushing my hair to the side. I feel another set of hands lift my arm and check my pulse.
“She’s better now that she’s awake,” Bruce, the head butler, said. “Her heart rate is already going back up to normal.”
“Thank goodness,” Tara cried. “I was so scared. I thought he killed you.”
“Who?” I manage to croak out, struggling to sit up on the cot I’ve been sleeping on for the past several months. I used to have a bed, but that was one of the first things to go once Sebastian returned to the mansion with his older cousin. She said that it was gracious enough of them to be providing us with a warm home to share. Luxuries like beds and pillows were more than we humans deserved.
She deserves a f*****g punch in the fanny flap if you ask me, but no one has, so I’ve been struggling to keep that thought to myself. Not very well. The old b***h knows I hate her and everything her family stands for. She took Sebastian to raise him in her father’s territory after his parents died with mine when we were still kids; just out of puberty. When I heard he was returning, I was excited to see my old friend again, thinking we could return to being each other's family in the absence of our parents.
Charlene killed that dream. She brainwashed my dear childhood friend to hate humans as much as she does. We are of little more value than cattle or pigs to her. If vampires didn’t need our blood, I think she would have us all exterminated.
I held out hope for months, searching for some flickering recognition of my old friend, but there is none now. He’s a monster. He’s evil. I once loved him, but all he wants now is my fear and obedience.
And my blood.
I gasp, remembering what happened.
“Sebastian?” I looked at Tara, then at Bruce, both looking saddened and cringing slightly at the familiar way I addressed him.
He doesn’t go by Sebastian any longer. Not by us. That’s too informal for him. Even coming from a girl that used to be closer to him than a sister. We were once everything to each other. Now, he is Lord Ettoreheart, the vampiric ruler of the 3rd district in the united vampiric colonies of the west. We are no longer allowed to call him anything else.
It doesn't stop me from doing so. I do a lot I'm not allowed to do now. I'm not the type of girl that likes being ordered around like livestock; something that pisses the rulers of this house off to no end.
The former Ettoreheart rulers were kind, fair and treated the humans residing in their district with respect and care. They were of the idea that humans and vampires had to find a way to co-exist, working together for a better future. They treated their servants like family, especially me and my parents. Sebastian and I grew up together, sleeping in the same crib, then often sharing the same bed as toddlers and young children too. Up until our parents died, Sebastian and I were inseparable. Their deaths changed that.
Charlene Teivel and her father don’t hold the same beliefs as the former Lord and Lady of district 3. In district 7 at the other end of the country, humans are property and subordinates. Nothing more, nothing less. She would have us all tagged and branded if she could. I hate her, and enjoy tormenting her in little ways. I would mix laxatives in her coffee grinds, knowing she was the only one in the house that drank her particular bitter brand she paid far too much for. I replaced all the toilet paper in her room and the common bathrooms she frequented (that the staff were no longer privy to without the excuse of cleaning them) with rolls of nightshade infused fancy toilet paper. It could kill a human, and I had to be careful about getting it, but for a vampire, it would just give them the worst case of hemorrhoids in their life.
Yesterday, I filled all the water pitchers in Charlene's room and office with toilet water. I bet she caught on and that’s why she ratted me out to her younger cousin about something as silly as talking to Joshua. I speak to the man every other day when receiving the linen deliveries. Why would it just now be a problem? It's not like I'm sleeping with the man, though I entertained the thought in the past. I made out with him once or twice, but that's none of Sebastian's business.
“That bastard hit me,” I grit my teeth. “Mother fucker. I’m hiding his cane in the manure pile tomorrow,” I muttered.
“He did more than that,” Tara said solemnly.
“What do you mean?” I asked, reaching back to rub a sore spot on my neck. That’s when I feel it. Two puncture wounds on the back of my neck. My eyes went wide in disbelief. “He didn’t,” I gasped.
“He did,” Tara teared up. “I thought I was going to lose you. Thankfully, you were resistant to the venom. It slowed your heart, but you didn’t turn.”
“Thank f**k,” I gasp. I did not want to be a sire to that bastard. Being changed and eternally tied to him would have been hell. I would rather kill myself than suffer like that. Well, no…. I wouldn’t kill myself. I might kill him though. We might end up killing each other.
“Mariana,” Bruce whispers hoarsely. “You can’t stay here. Your father,” he closes his eyes and turns his head. He was close to my father. They were best friends before the accident took him and my mother, along with the Ettorehearts, Sebastian’s parents. My mom was Silvia’s assistant and my father was their driver. They were attending a gala in the next district over when they were driven off the road and into a tree by a semi. The truck driver was arrested for driving drunk, but that didn’t bring back my or Sebastian’s parents from the dead.
“Your parents wouldn’t want this for you, Mariana. They wouldn’t want you to suffer like this. I know you said you thought he was still in there, but your old friend is no longer residing in that man’s body. He is like them,” he says coldly, referring to Charlene’s family. “Leave. Take Tara and both of you flee to the 2nd district tonight.”
Tara looked up at her father with tear-filled eyes. “You want me to leave you?”
He smiles sadly at her. “I want you to be happy. I can’t leave with you, or I would. I have a blood contract to the mansion, one they will never let me break. You both don’t have a contract yet. Leave. Before one is forced on you and you’re stuck here forever. I fear you, Mariana, will not survive. They seem hell bent on ruining you more than anything. Leave while you can.”
“How?” I gasp, clutching Tara’s hands as I try to stand on weak legs. “He monitors the cameras. Him or one of the sires. They know everything going on in the mansion.”
“The garbage will be picked up in a few hours,” he grimaces. “I know it isn’t ideal, but it will get you out. They won’t search the dumpsters. I had already called Frank and asked him not to crush the garbage in after it's dumped, and told him of the situation. He will drive straight to the landfill between the districts and help you out. Here,” he hands Tara a pouch. She opens it and gasps. It’s filled with gold coins, the ones the former Ettorehearts would award the staff with on every holiday or birthday. Each one is worth nearly a grand, and the pouch has at least 50.
“I thought they took them all back?”
Charlene had all the servants' rooms searched upon their return, and all personal possessions of any value and all our money was taken back as payment for rent and boarding during the years Sebastian spent away. Charlene said we had the mansion to ourselves and needed to compensate him for his generosity.
Generosity my ass. The fucker helped himself to my blood, potentially trying to infect me in the process. Thank gawd he didn't. I should generously repay him by pulling out the fangs from his too handsome face.
“This was your parents',” Bruce whispered, pulling a second pouch out from his inside pocket. “I was able to hide them in the floorboards out in the barn, along with other valuables. Use it. Both of you. With this, you will never have to sign a blood contract with any Lord or Lady. You can start over and live freely.” He grabs his daughter’s face, both of them crying softly. “I love you, my Tara Bee. Do this. For me. I can’t watch my girls suffer any longer.”
He held his arm open for me. I stumble against him, gripping my arms around his waist as Tara does the same to his other side. Both of us were sobbing against the man who raised us together in my parent’s absence for the last 10 years. I’m not his daughter like Tara, but he is still precious to me.
“Okay, daddy,” Tara chokes out. “We will try to get you out. Maybe the Lord in district 2 can buy out your contract?”
“Maybe,” Bruce smiles weakly, like he doesn’t hold much faith in the idea. He then smiles down at me, tears still spilling from the corner of his eyes. “Take care of her, Mari. She is soft, but you are not. Never have been. You have too much of your mom in you. You get both of you to safety, and stay there. Live happily. For your parents, and for me.”
I grinned up at him, my eyes running like faucets, making my head hurt more, but I ignored the pain. “I will, Bruce. Thank you.”