Chasing Shadows (A Shadow Chronicles Novel) (8 page)

BOOK: Chasing Shadows (A Shadow Chronicles Novel)
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I shrugged. “That’s the closest analogy, yeah. Same could be said for shifters, if you think about it. We’re all of us mutated forms of the human animal.”

“How does Vivian Drake know all that stuff?” Juliette wondered. “I would think that vampires would want to keep that stuff secret.”

“They do,” I replied as I rose and fetched myself something to drink. As I poured myself a glass of iced tea I went on. “The belief is that she’s getting her information from a vampire.”

“Or she is one.”

I turned around slowly with the glass of tea in my hand. “There is that possibility, yes,” I conceded. Shaking myself mentally, I set my glass on the table and then returned the pitcher to the fridge before I rejoined my guest.

“Anyway,” I said, “to answer your earlier question, yes. We call it pair bonding, though—possibly another indicator that vampires are alive, because they almost always bond with humans.”

“And why would they bond to a human if they were dead,” Juliette broke in. “Yeah, I get it now. Still weird to think of it, so you’ll excuse me if I’m having a hard time accepting it.”

She shook her head and leaned forward on the table again, her hands clasped together in front of her. “Patricia was found by my father. She was already near death, and when she was brought into the ER, my mother was on duty and she immediately smelled vampire. She also knew that if they were going to save her baby, they had to get him out quickly, or he’d be miscarried as she died.”

“Did his mother go through the change?” I asked cautiously.

“No,” Juliette answered solemnly. “The vampire that broke into their house nearly ripped her throat clean off, and she’d lost too much blood for that stuff—draculin, I think you call it—to save her, though it was the only thing that kept her alive as long as it did. The draculin was trying to do its job, but there just wasn’t enough blood left in
her system. Mother knew as soon as Mark was born that most of it had gone toward altering his DNA.”

I nodded as I sipped my tea—it sounded very much like the stories I’d heard when I was younger. “It is called draculin, you are correct. You said that the shifters went after the vampire that killed her. Why?”

Juliette smiled lightly. “Mother’s not the Alpha Female in our pack, but she carries some authority. Or maybe she’s just very charismatic—when she described the brutality of the vampire’s attack to the rest of her
pack,
they took it upon themselves to hunt him down so he didn’t have the chance to do that to anyone else.”

Mark hadn’t told me that his father had found his mother—how horrible it must have been for him to see his wife like that. I knew that such a sight had been known to crack even the strongest of men, and I felt so sorry for him, and for Mark.

“Why did your mother volunteer to help take care of Mark after he was born?” I asked after a moment.

She looked at me. “Partly it was because Daddy was broken by the loss of his first wife, and he was so consumed with grief he simply couldn’t think, or do anything. He could barely take care of himself for a while, let alone a newborn infant. He hired her as a private nurse to take care of Mark, but she ended up having to take care of him, too.”

“And the other part?”

Juliette cocked her head to the side. “You said you ‘met’ Mark over two hundred years ago—I assume through dreams, right?” she asked me.

“Yes, that’s how it works, apparently. Why?” I wondered.

“Didn’t you have one of those Coming of Age ceremonies where you drink the blood of your sire to gain his memories?”

My eyes narrowed. So she really had been reading my Vivian Drake novels, I noted. Otherwise she would not have known that particular truth, because I’d never written about it in the articles I wrote for
Vampire
.

“My ceremony was, shall we say, interrupted,” I said slowly.

“Why? What happened?”

“I found out what a bastard my father really was,” I confessed. “He never loved my mother like he said he did, wasn’t devastated by her death as he had claimed. He knew what the pregnancy was doing to her, how my strength was basically tearing her apart from the inside out, and he could have saved her by turning her after I was born. But he didn’t do that. He picked me up and walked away without a single look back, while she died screaming his name.”

I realized then that it was the first time I had told anyone the whole story of my mother’s death. I found that I was breathing heavily and shaking. I could feel my fangs dropping again, and a slight popping sound made me look down at the glass in my hand—I’d cracked it. Standing, I went to the sink and poured the rest of the tea down the drain, then walked over and dropped the glass into the trash. I stood with my back to Juliette as I spoke again, trying hard to control my emotions.

“The way it works is that the memories go backward. I saw every memory he’d ever had of my life, from the day of the ceremony back until the point of my birth. When I saw his memories of
that
day…”

Shuddering, I took a deep breath. “I stopped drinking, I was so horrified. He tried to get me to take his wrist again, said the more I drank, the better I would understand. I told him I would never understand how he could have lied to me, how he could have let my mother die in agony like she did. I left his house and I have not been back since. It was also the day I stopped drinking human blood, because it made me realize I was a monster, and I didn’t want to be a monster anymore.”

Believing I was in firm control of my fangs and my feelings, I turned around then, a curious expression on my face as I asked, “Why did you want to know if I’d had a Coming of Age ceremony? What has that to do with why your mother volunteered to take care of Mark?”

Juliette shook her head again. “Maybe you should have kept drinking, Saphrona. Haven’t you ever wondered why
dhunphyr
are even rarer than your own kind? Why there are no known
dhunphyr
alive today? Do you really think it’s because of the supposed mortality rates among mothers who didn’t receive enough draculin for their babies to be transformed?”

I stepped closer. “What are you getting at, Juliette?”

She stood so that we were eye-to-eye, or almost—she was about an inch shorter than me. “The reason immortal humans are so rare as to not exist at all is because most of them were killed in their infancy.
Dhunphyr
blood is to a vampire like ambrosia was to the Greek gods: it increases all their senses, increases their strength—makes a vampire invincible for however long the blood is in his system.”

“So it’s like a drug? Like cocaine?” I asked
,
shocked by what she had just told me.

Juliette nodded. “I really am surprised you didn’t know this, but given what you just told me about your father, I guess I can see how the information would have slipped past you. Shifters know about this; my mother volunteered to help Daddy take care of Mark because she wanted to protect him. He was innocent, just a baby, and she didn’t want him to be killed because his blood is a powerful narcotic to vampires.”

A sudden thought dawned on me then. “And the real reason your mother’s pack went after the vampire that killed Mark’s mother and turned him into a
dhunphyr
was because they didn’t want the vampire community to find him. If they knew he existed…”

I returned to my chair and dropped into it heavily. Juliette returned to hers as well. “Every dog my family has ever had has been a member of my pack,” she said. “I’m sure my mother had a hard time coming up with stories as to why they took off or disappeared over the years.”

“And you?”

She shrugged. “While he was an active Marine, we weren’t too worried about him. Marines definitely take care
of their own
. But when he got out I was drafted into keeping an eye on him.”

“But Mark’s a grown man. Don’t you think he’s capable of taking care of himself?”

“Perhaps.
But considering he doesn’t know anything about what he really is…” she said with another shrug.

“Then why not tell him?” I pressed. “Mark is my bondmate—I am not lying to you about that. If I know it, he has to know it too, on some level. And I’m telling you right
now, I am
not
going to lie to him about what I really am; as soon as I feel the time is right I plan to tell him everything. That includes the truth about what he is. I think he deserves to know.”

Juliette huffed in much the same manner she did as a dog. “Believe it or not, I agree with you. I’ve always thought that Mark, at least, should know the truth. But Mother insisted on keeping him in the dark. She thought it was in his best interests, because if he didn’t know he was a
dhunphyr
, he wouldn’t go looking for vampires and putting his life at risk. There’s a chance that his blood would be even more powerful now that he’s older.”

“Or it could have lost its potency, like a prescription does,” I countered.

She conceded my point with a nod. “I’ve also just realized that his working here alone puts him at risk, as does his being bonded to you—not that I’m saying it’s your fault,” she added quickly. “I’m just beginning to realize that his finding out is inevitable. Probably always has been.”

Looking at the clock on the wall, Juliette stood. “I better go before Mark gets suspicious,” she said, then looked down at me. “Thank you for the food—and for your honesty.”

I stood as well. “Thank you for yours. I can’t believe I never knew that about
dhunphyr
blood. I’m glad you told me. I’ll be keeping an even closer eye on Mark now, but other than my brother, I rarely get vampire visitors. My sister hates me, so she only comes if Diarmid makes her.”

“What about this brother of yours? Can he be trusted to keep Mark’s secret?” she asked.

“Lochlan is a good guy, for a vampire,” I replied. “I think once I tell him that Mark is my bondmate, he’ll keep his secret. He loves me as if I really was his sister, and he’d know that anything happening to Mark would hurt me.”

Juliette looked at me. “I hope you’re right,” she said, then shucked the robe and handed it to me. In the next instant, she was dropping down to the floor in her dog form.

“Come on, I’ll let you out the front door so he doesn’t see you,” I said, and when she nodded, I led her into the living room. Moe and Cissy, of course, wanted to play with their new friend, but I shooed them away from her as I opened the door to let her out. Angel looked up at me, nodded once, and trotted out onto the porch.

I went to bed that night with my mind whirling. How could I possibly
not
have known that
dhunphyr
blood was a narcotic to vampires? Was it really just because I had not completed my Coming of Age ceremony? Would I have learned this information from Diarmid had I the stomach to keep drinking after having seen the truth about his feelings for my mother? Could I have learned it some other way had I not been so foolish as to sever all but a few ties to that world?

I wondered as I settled between the sheets of my bed whether or not Lochlan knew what
dhunphyr
blood did to vampires. I wondered if he would tell me if I were to ask. I wondered how he would react to Mark’s scent—would it be so powerful to a full vampire that it would be impossible to
resist?
Would I have to fight my brother to save my future lover? Though I truly loved Lochlan as my brother and wanted to believe so,
I even wondered if—were he able to control himself—he really would keep Mark’s secret for me. I felt pretty confident that he would not go blabbing the information to other vampires, but would he be able to keep from telling Diarmid or Evangeline, who were family?

As I struggled in vain to go to sleep, I also could not help but wonder if Mark’s coming here meant that his life was in danger. Sure, as I’d told Juliette, I didn’t really associate with vampires—but as Vangie’s visit was proof of, it didn’t mean never. I might not seek them out, but vampires did occasionally seek me out. I had a small handful of associates of the vampire persuasion who had done as I did and sworn off human blood. Though it wasn’t often, they did come by to visit, and it was usually during these visits that we ventured into my woods for large game to hunt. Would my friends be able to resist the draw of Mark’s blood?

Did my being bonded to an immortal human mean that I was being drawn once again into the vampire world? Did it mean that they would become a larger part of my life now because I would see more of them? And would I be seeing more of them because of Mark’s presence in my life, or was that just a coincidence? Did being bonded to a half-vampire mean that Mark was being drawn into the supernatural world? Would he be pursued relentlessly because of the narcotic properties of his blood?

An almost hysterical giggle escaped me as I suddenly realized that I had the premise for my next book right in front of me.

 

*****

 

It felt like I had just fallen asleep when my alarm woke me the next morning. With a groan, I rose and went into the bathroom, took care of my personal business, and rinsed my sticky mouth out. Moe and Cissy were already dancing around my feet wanting to be fed.

BOOK: Chasing Shadows (A Shadow Chronicles Novel)
6.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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