I always believed a little piece of heaven would have my name on it when I died. I wasn’t so sure anymore. I was only sixteen on the day I became a vampire, and I hadn’t imagined my life as one of the undead. I didn’t want that life, but destiny had pulled me to the edge, where one step, one word, and one person had erased my humanity, changing my life forever.
It had been two weeks since I made the change. I sat on the chaise lounge in my dad’s suite on the Navy SEAL compound, staring out the window. I’d dubbed it a penthouse, though it was far from being the Ritz Carlton. My father, Steven Mason, was the commander of a vampire SEAL team within the Navy known as the Jupiter Sentinels, so he had the largest living quarters on the military base.
Yep, not only was I the daughter of the most powerful of all vampires, but my dear old dad was in charge of some badass secret military vampire unit. Go figure. While my human life had hardly been heavenly, the window to my new world was in question, but it was too early to tell whether it would be better or worse.
From where I sat, I had a picture-perfect view of the prison building, where the SEALs kept vampire convicts behind bars. Given their superhuman strength, my curiosity beckoned me to visit the creepy place and see how they kept them locked up. My father had said it was off-limits. In fact, my brother Sam, who was also a vampire, and I weren’t allowed out of the open-plan apartment because of some vampire law about newborns and their bloodlust, which my father had yet to explain. The legal side of it was a mystery, but I understood the bloodlust. My throat burned with the need for the sticky red liquid almost all the time.
For the fourteenth straight day, I had nothing to do. My routine was the same. I drank my fill of Dad’s blood, which he had stored in stainless containers, slept, and brooded. While the world outside of my prison was alive, I was dying inside. My thoughts were my enemy. I pined to see Ben, my friend who was my last link to the human world. I was uncertain what he thought of me as a vampire—he hadn’t wanted me to change. He believed in mortality, the human race. The last time I saw him was the day Sam woke up as a vampire and attacked him, sinking his fangs into his best friend.
I sighed for the umpteenth time. I had an inkling that talking to Ben would have to wait a bit longer, especially since Sam’s action had rattled my father. Hell, it scared the bejesus out of me too. I wanted to do exactly what Sam had done.
“Jo?” The familiar voice was low and soft.
I tore away from gazing out at the dreary day. It had been raining nonstop for over a week. I’d always thought April was the month for rain and May was the month for flowers, but Mother Nature was a little late.
“Everything okay?” My father strode over and sat down next to me, kicking out his feet on the chaise lounge.
It was the first time in two weeks that Dad had spent more than an hour in the apartment. He’d said he wanted more time with Sam and me to discuss topics he felt were important as we began our new life as vampires, but the events surrounding our change and the new prisoners on-site had meant a ton of paperwork to complete and countless phone calls to make, thanks to both military and vampire protocols.
I nodded. “Why are you asking? You mean you’re not reading my mind today?”
My father’s mind-reading abilities usually only worked when he touched someone, but for whatever reason, he could read mine without physical contact. He’d probably read my thoughts as he walked into the room, which would only have reinforced his decision to keep me away from humans, especially Ben.
He put his arm around me. “Sweetie. I don’t do it all the time.”
I wanted to believe him, but I was on edge whenever he walked into the room—we had relationship issues even beyond the mind reading to work out. We were still getting to know each other as father and daughter.
“You know they aren’t getting out.” He nodded toward the prison. “That building is heavily guarded.”
The past two weeks had been tense for a whole host of reasons, including worrying that my Uncle Patrick would escape. My father tried to assure me I didn’t have anything to worry about, but he’d seemed nervous the past few days. Not only was his brother responsible for trying to kill Sam and me, but also my dad’s ex-best friend, Edmund Rain, was now his outright enemy and in charge of the Plutariums, a rogue team of vampire ex-SEALs. Edmund was locked up, too, though I imagined them in separate cells—Patrick was human, though he had threatened he wouldn’t be for much longer.
“Patrick and Edmund aren’t going anywhere,” he whispered.
I glared at him. “You’re doing it again, Dad!”
I relaxed against his chest. His heart beat slowly, thudding in my ear. “Dad?”
“Hmm?” he muttered.
“You mentioned something the other day about my organs not being completely developed yet as a vampire. What did you mean?”
He kissed my hair. “You have so much to learn. And I want to be there when you experience everything.”
His tone intimated that he might not be around to see me do much. Dad and his team were concerned about the Plutariums. After all, his ex-best friend was trying to build an army of vampires to overthrow the government and to get back at Dad for personal reasons.
“You’ll learn about our species in more depth once you’re in school, but like humans, we have evolved over many centuries.” He took a breath. “There was a time in our existence that we were creatures of the dark. All those myths that humans believe to be true of vampires were actually real.
“Now, we can go out in the sun. Our hearts do beat. Our organs do function. Sure, we’re not human in the sense that we don’t age, and our diets are different, but we still breathe. Our heart rate is very slow, much slower than a human athlete in great shape. As vampires, we have even better endurance and strength, which means we can run faster and longer than any human. So, when I say your organs haven’t yet developed, I mean your heart muscle and other organs are still adjusting to the change. Over time, they will become stronger. Your heart rate will be hard to detect. If a human were to check your pulse, they would be hard-pressed to find one. You can only hear mine because of your acute hearing.”
I placed my right hand over my heart. It definitely beat faster than my father’s. I glanced up at him, searching every inch of his fairly young features. “You never told me and Sam how old you are.”
“I’m not sure you’re ready to hear my story or know how old I am,” he replied.
“You said there’s a lot to learn. And I want to learn more about you.”
He wasn’t getting away that easily. I had signed up for a life of eternity, and if I was going to build a relationship with my father, I wasn’t waiting any longer to start on either the road to a life of bliss or one of hell. Regardless, I needed to know who I was traveling with.
“You’re right, sweetie,” he said. “I was twenty-two when I became a vampire. That was over a hundred years—”
A low whistle filled the air. I sat up to see my twin brother, Sam, sauntering toward us. His inky-black hair grazed his bare shoulders, and his forest-green eyes had a sparkle to them.
A smile ghosted across my face. It had been a while since his eyes sparkled.
As he approached in jeans that hung low on his hips, dimples dented his cheeks. “Pops, how come you don’t have gray hair? Shouldn’t you be walking with a cane?” He snorted.
My father ignored his comment. “Do you want to hear the story or not? I’m not repeating myself.”
Dad and Sam had a volatile relationship. My brother still doubted that Steven Mason was our father, but Dad had promised he would provide written proof. He was waiting for our birth certificates to be delivered from the vampire government. According to Dad, the vampire government wasn’t any better than the human one.
The one thing that had me perplexed was why Sam called him “Pops” if he didn’t believe he was our father. When I’d asked, Sam had said that it slipped out the first day they met and just stuck, but that didn’t make sense. When I probed him even more, he just said he didn’t want to talk about it.
Sam sat on the floor with his bare back against the windowed wall, his long legs extended. His normal attire since turning vamp was jeans and no shirt. He said it was too hot to wear any clothes.
I adjusted slightly in my seat while Dad shifted his arms encircling my waist.
He released a sigh. “It was the early nineteen-hundreds. My father—your grandfather—was a vampire, an immensely powerful one. Far more than me. He wanted me to change, to become immortal for the sole purpose of continuing our family heritage. I valued my humanity, so I decided against immortality. But fate or destiny has a funny way of changing your life.” He paused.
He was correct about fate. It sure did have a way of disrupting things.
“I was a rising baseball star in 1905. We didn’t wear batting helmets back then. Anyway, I was at bat, and the pitcher threw a fastball that hit me just above my left earlobe. It knocked me out completely. I was rushed to the hospital. My brain was swelling, and I had internal bleeding. A week later, I woke up as a vampire. My mother told me afterward that she had to beg my father to turn me.” My father’s bottom jaw dug into my scalp as he swallowed.
I glanced at Sam, whose mouth hung open. Sam loved baseball and had even played for the high school team before he lost his humanity. He and Dad had something in common. I hoped that would bring them closer together. Sam’s eyes suddenly lost their brilliant green color. As vampires, our eye color shifted when our emotions changed, which meant that Sam might have had a connection with Dad.
I’d felt mine shift when my father’s heartbeat sped. My skin prickled with his power, which floated in the air like a thousand bolts of lightning peppering the room. I still wasn’t used to the electrical charge—or magic—vampires emitted.
The three of us sat there, not saying a word.
Dad’s voice finally broke the silence. “My mother was extremely happy, and my father, well… he got his wish of me carrying on the family heritage. Now, here I am, over a hundred years later.”
“So, you were twenty-two in 1905?” Sam asked.
My father nodded.
“Whoa!” Sam shook his head, rolling his eyes around. “That means you were born in 1883! No freaking way. You’re old as crap, Pops.”
I was just as shocked. While he looked young, there were signs that made him seem older. The area around his eyes had a smattering of creases. Nothing too deep or pronounced, but the lines were still there. His forehead also had a few worry lines. But aside from his physical appearance, it was his mannerisms that really gave away his age, with his prim-and-proper nature and how he was a stickler for manners.
“Are all the Sentinels your age?” Sam asked.
Great question. I’d been wondering how old they were. They all looked around our age, including the drop-dead-gorgeous Webb London, Dad’s second-in-command.
“Well, let me put it this way. All the Sentinels turned vampire between the ages of seventeen and nineteen. It’s a requirement for the vampire SEAL program. We like them young so that we can mold them into good soldiers.”
“Didn’t you tell me that Webb was twenty?” I asked.
“I might have, but he was nineteen when he turned. I recruited him a year or so later.”
“What does it matter, Jo?” Sam asked. “They all look as young as we do.”
“Not Dr. Vieira,” I replied.
“You’re right, sweetie,” Dad said. “Dr. Vieira turned in his twenties. But… he is a doctor and not a Sentinel.”
“Pops? Did you start the vampire SEAL program?” Sam asked.
Dad’s cell phone rang. “I did, with the help of a few people with the human military.” He slipped out from behind me. “I’ll explain it to you someday.” He dug his phone out of his pocket.
I sat there thinking about age. There were only a few ways natural-born vampires could die and growing old wasn’t one of them. As I’d learned recently, I could die if someone beheaded me, burned me to death, or drove a cobalt blade through my heart. None of those options sounded like a party.
“Go,” Dad said into his phone, walking toward the kitchen. Halfway there, he stopped mid-stride. “They can’t be. They’re not expected for a few more days. I thought I had time to explain it to them. Merda!” His tone dropped to a low growl.
Uh-oh—my father sounded irritated. I didn’t recognize the last word, but I imagined it was a curse. I opened my mouth to speak.
“Sam? Jo?” Dad said.
We jerked our heads in his direction.
“Why don’t both of you come and sit at the bar? I need to talk to you about a few things.”
I didn’t like the sound of that. Sam and I glanced at each other, and he shrugged as if he could read my mind. We made our way to the bar and pulled out two high-backed chairs. Dad stood on the other side of the counter, biting the inside of his cheek, confirming my suspicions. He did that whenever he was irritated or worried about something.
Sam slid onto the stool with ease, given his six-foot height. I had to step up on the bottom rail to climb onto mine.
“First, I know I haven’t spent time with you like I wanted to. As you know, I’ve been busy with all the government bureaucracy. I wanted to discuss school and other things, but it seems I won’t have time today either.” He let out a sigh. “There are a few reasons, which I’ve mentioned, why you’ve been confined to this apartment. The critical reason is your bloodlust phase. As the two of you have experienced, the bloodlust period is difficult. You cannot be around humans while trying to get your hunger under control.”
I thought of Ben as he mentioned humans. I could still smell his burned-sugar scent, which seemed to be glued to my brain. My mouth watered at the thought.
Dad quirked an eyebrow my way. “Problem, Jo?”
I shook my head vigorously. I had to remind myself that Dad and my brain didn’t mesh well. His mind-reading talent was trouble with a capital T.
“To continue,” he said, “our world has laws and a process that governs who can make the change. It’s not like you decide one day you want to be a vampire and then you are.”
“I didn’t decide anything,” Sam said bitterly. “And you didn’t give Jo much of a choice, either, did you?”
Dad stared at the counter. It seemed my brother had hit a nerve.
“I’m sorry about that, son,” Dad said, lifting his gaze to Sam. “I truly am.”
“Dad, are you trying to tell us something?” I asked before the two of them got into it.
Dad blinked. “Yes. I thought I had more time to explain a few of our laws, but…” He placed both hands on the counter. “I don’t know what’s going to happen or what they have in mind, but I want you to listen and obey.”
I had no idea what he was saying. My heart picked up an extra beat, and I started tapping my foot on the bottom chair rail.
“You’re not making any sense,” Sam said. “Why are you so nervous?”
Dad closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. “Like humans, our laws are in place to protect our society, our people.” He opened his eyes. “If we didn’t, vampires would run rampant around the globe, doing whatever they wanted. There are some laws you’ll learn soon enough, but I was hoping to at least have the opportunity to explain the Eternal Protection Law. It governs the rules and regulations involved when natural-born vampire children decide to become full-fledged vampires.” He glanced at Sam then at me.
My nerves were doing some kind of tap dance in my stomach. I’d seen my father extremely pissed once before, but he didn’t look as mad as irritated, as if whatever he was about to explain was out of his control.
“The Council of Eternal Affairs mandates the laws within our world,” he said.
A choked laugh hung in the back of my throat. As I deciphered Dad’s words, Sam snorted.
“What the fuck are you trying to tell us?”
“Son, I’ve warned you about your language. I don’t want any swearing under my roof,” he said, glowering.
The room became quiet as a church. They both stared at each other again. Black threaded through Sam’s green eyes, and silver dominated Dad’s emerald orbs. I had yet to get used to their ego-trip staring contests. They were so much alike in many ways, yet so different in others. Their relationship reminded me of pouring oil in water. It just never mixed well. I prayed every day that they would work out their differences. I guess I shouldn’t have expected miracles, since we’d only been together as a family for fourteen days.
“Dad? Council of Eternal Affairs. Remember?” I asked, trying to prevent an argument.
He broke eye contact with Sam. “Because I didn’t get prior written consent from the council for both of you to become vampires, we have to explain and justify what happened.”
I didn’t like his reference to “we.”
“So? That should be easy, right?” Sam asked.
“Well… yes and no.” Dad raked his hands through his jet-black hair. “The Eternal Protection Law is a law that the vampire government is extremely strict about. There’s a lot of paperwork followed by a hearing, then a board of vampires analyzes each case. If all goes well and they approve someone to become a full-fledged vampire, then you’re admitted to Grayson Manor to make the change. Afterward, there are restrictions and steps you must follow during the bloodlust period before they will allow you around humans.”
A knock sounded at the door. As always, Sam grabbed my hand, stood, and planted his body in front of mine. I adored his protectiveness, but his smothering love was getting a little out of hand. We were in a secure facility and in Dad’s apartment, no less.
I glanced at Dad, who was looking at his watch with his eyebrows drawn together.
Before I could ask him if everything was okay, he strode to the door then opened it.
I peered around Sam to find Webb standing in the doorway. I had to keep my mind from wandering—Dad would surely have had a cow if he read my thoughts about Webb. But every time I saw that gorgeous vampire, I couldn’t control the racing of my heart. My body had a mind of its own. I gave myself a stern lecture to keep my thoughts G-rated.
He looked handsome as ever, with his wavy brown hair tied in a low ponytail. His SEAL uniform fitted his body to perfection, especially the black T-shirt that stretched across his toned chest. But what always had my belly fluttering were his cobalt-blue eyes. He looked past Dad, searching the room. When he found me, he slanted his head and gave me a captivating smile that caused instant goose bumps.
Sam growled as though staking his territory.
“What’re you doing?” I asked in a tone only Sam could hear.
“Nothing,” he replied.
“Bull crap. You don’t have to protect me from Webb.”
“Oh, yes I do. There’s fire between you two,” he shot back.
I laughed then pushed him. “What’s that supposed to mean?” I was beginning to think that maybe it wasn’t my father I had to worry about.
“Enter, Lieutenant London,” Dad commanded.
Webb followed Dad’s order. “Sir, they’re here. We should go.”
“Why are they here two days early?” Dad asked.
“The council has a pressing matter with Lord James that suddenly came up.”
My father’s eyes widened as both he and Webb walked over to the bar.
“Christ. I can’t even take one day off without something happening.” Dad looked at Webb. “What’s going on?”
“Sir, I’m not sure. Regardless, we must take care of this matter with the twins today, if at all possible.”
My gaze volleyed back and forth between Webb and Dad. “Lord James” didn’t sound like military personnel.
As Webb placed his hands on the bar, Sam stood, blocking me from Webb.
“Son, stand down. Webb isn’t going to hurt your sister.”
“See, I told you.” I pushed Sam out of my way.
My brother’s relationship with Webb—well, it was nonexistent. A couple of times during the past two weeks, Webb had visited Dad for his signature on military papers. Each time was the same. If Sam was in the room, he would hover around me, watching every move Webb made. When I asked Sam why he kept trying to protect me, his answer was always, “There’s something about him. I can’t put my finger on it. Until I figure it out, I don’t want him near you.”
If I ever went out on a date, I would be in serious trouble—no, scratch that. My date would be in serious trouble. Between Dad and Sam, any future boyfriend didn’t stand a chance. Nevertheless, that would probably be a very long time in the future. Most boys never liked me as a human. As a vampire, it would snow in hell for anyone to like me.
“I barely scratched the surface of the Eternal Protection Law when you knocked. I guess we’ll see what they have to say.”
“What’s so urgent?” Sam leaned back against the chair.
“The Council of Eternal Affairs is on the premises,” Webb said. “They’re here to meet with your father and both of you.”
“Why are they here now?” I glanced at Dad.
“When I filled out the paperwork last week,” Dad said, “they set a date for the hearing, which was six months out. When I explained the situation and that you’d already become vampires without their written consent, they moved us to the top of the list.”
I bit my lip. “And why do you seem worried?”
“Because we didn’t follow protocol, and I’m not sure what they’re going to do.” Dad ran his hand through his hair.
I didn’t get it. “We’re already vampires, Dad. Why would any of this matter now?”
“Well… they can rule to have both of you sent to Grayson Manor for the duration of your bloodlust quarantine.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“In simple terms, it’s our vampire hospital,” Webb said. “All new vampires spend six weeks there, between the change and getting through the bloodlust period. As you know from your time in the apartment here, it’s critical in the first few weeks.”
Sam blurted out, “I’m not going down there and meeting with them. And I’m not going to any vampire hospital. This wasn’t my choice.”
My father’s eyes silvered again as he glared at Sam.
“You will meet with the Council.” Dad’s tone hadn’t left any room for arguing.
My brother had issues with authority and especially the law.
“And if I don’t?” Sam argued.
I cringed. Here we go again. Anger dripped from Dad, spilling into the air.
“Then I’m afraid they’ll take you into custody,” Webb offered.
“You’re going with me, Sam.” I punched his arm. “We’re family. I know this wasn’t your choice, and I’m sorry. But you’re not leaving this place without me.”
“We didn’t do anything wrong.” Sam’s voice dropped an octave.
“You’re right, son. You didn’t.”
“But you didn’t follow the law by changing us into vampires now, did you?” Sam taunted.
Dad reached over the counter.
“Sir.” Webb lightly touched Dad’s arm before he made contact with Sam.
“Stop it, Sam. We’ve been through this.” My tone was soft, trying to calm him. “Why are you so worried about us going to Grayson Manor?” I asked Dad.
He was leaning against the counter, eyes liquid silver and a snarl etched on his face.
“You’re safe as long as you’re on this base,” Webb responded as he guarded the raging vampire.
“The Plutariums are locked up,” Sam countered.
“There are more Plutariums than those we captured. They could use both of you as leverage to get their leader out of prison. The council doesn’t care about our problems. They follow the law and our traditions with no exceptions.” Webb held out an arm, still keeping Dad at a distance.
“Grayson Manor or any place outside this base is not safe for you,” Dad added, his vampire eyes slowly changing from silver back to green, indicating that his anger was dissipating.
“Look, Sam, let’s just listen to what they have to say,” I told him. “I lost you once. I’m not going to lose you again.”
I had no idea of the full details of the Eternal Protection Law or what the restrictions were for new vampires. I loved my brother, but his resistance to authority and his anger often clouded his vision. Regardless, we were in it together, and I would do anything to make sure we stayed together.
Copyright © 2021 by S.B. Alexander.