She Dies at the End (November Snow #1) (4 page)

BOOK: She Dies at the End (November Snow #1)
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Were
you hiding money?” Zinnia asked, appalled.

“Of course I was.  She can't be trusted with it.  Winter is coming, and I’ve worn out my shoes.”  She paused.  “I hate being cold.”

“Did you tell her where it was?” William asked in a soft voice.

She turned to look him in the eye.  "No," she answered firmly.

Knox gave her a sad but approving look.  “Good girl.” 

November smiled slightly at that, surprising herself and the vampire both.  She looked back toward Zinnia.  “So, how does this healing thing work?”

“Fairies can heal injuries by laying on of hands.  See, to eat, we use physical contact to feed on the life energy of other living creatures.  When we heal, we’re basically giving some of it back.  But it only works during the day,” she concluded with a shrug of apology, then turning back around and leaving November alone with William in the back seat.  

After a somewhat awkward silence, November ventured, “So, where are we going?”

“We’ll stop briefly at a ranch I own in Livermore.  I keep a variety of animals there, for hunting,” William explained.  “From there, we’ll go to my house in the Oakland hills.  We’ve set up a room for you there.  We should probably do one at the ranch as well, but we haven’t yet had time.”  The vampire’s smartphone buzzed.  “Excuse me, I need to take this.”

November turned to gaze out the window as her host conducted his business.  She tried not to eavesdrop as her kidnapper/rescuer/pall bearer discussed the stock options of some tech company he was involved with down in Silicon Valley.  She looked around the car with calmer eyes, and what she saw was money, money everywhere: designer clothes, state-of-the-art phones, expensive haircuts, manicured hands.  Whatever these creatures did for a living, it was lucrative.

She looked down self-consciously at her own hands: her broken, dirty nails and dry skin and rough cuticles.  She looked at her clothes: ill-fitting and worn and someone else’s before they were hers.  She wasn’t ashamed of herself; she didn't consider poverty a sin.  It was just one more reason for her to feel off-balance and out-of-place.  Her new companions weren’t just from an alien world— they were also from a very different class.

November returned her gaze to the window.  They were speeding along the curving interstate through the Altamont Pass.  During the day, the arms of the windmills spin their welcome as the same wind that turns them ruffles the grass, tall and brown and ready to burn after the long, dry summer.  At night, it is a bit eerie, the unlit hills rising black on each side, the road curving out of sight into the dark.  She smiled as they came out of the pass above the Livermore Valley, looking down at all the lights as they began descending the long hill down into Livermore.  When the wind is high, drivers feel like they are going to be blown off the road, but this night was calm.  The valley below had a busy sort of beauty to it.  It was hard to believe that amongst all that frantic development, alongside national laboratories and strip malls and subdivisions, there were still working farms, still people tending vineyards and raising cattle and sheep and horses.  It was even harder to believe that a vampire lord kept a ranch as a snack bar amongst all the scientists, commuters, ranchers, vintners, and suburban families.

They soon exited the highway, as empty at this time of night as it was gridlocked during rush hour.  The roads became smaller, and soon the luxury sedan approached the gated entrance to William’s ranch.  It seemed likely to be the best-fenced property in the area, national labs included.  November looked up at the ten-foot-high electric fences topped with razor wire and her body gave an involuntary shiver. 

“It’s just to keep the neighbors safe, November,” William explained, noting her discomfort.  “We don’t want animals or humans or, God forbid, children wandering onto the property while we’re hunting.  If a vampire in pursuit caught scent of a human . . . there are very few of us who would be able to resist.”

“I don’t think I find that as reassuring as you intend it to be, given my, um, humanness,” November replied as the main house came into view.  Automatic floodlights came on as they drove down the driveway.  It was quite a lovely house, all timber and stone and large windows.  It was well-landscaped, with drought-resistant trees and shrubs scattered artistically about.  November wondered what it would look like during the day.  It looked like there was a garden in the back, perhaps a gazebo.

“You will be perfectly safe in the house, I promise you.  Zinnia and my sister will keep you company.  She spends most of her time out here, with her wife and a few of our staff who take care of the land and the animals.  The city doesn’t suit her,” William explained as he helped her out of the car and into the cool night air.  November wrapped her arms around herself against the chill, prompting William to remove his jacket and place it around her shoulders.

“Thank you,” the young woman said, touched by the gesture in spite of herself.  An Indian girl appeared at the door as the four of them climbed up to the porch.  She was wearing a cotton
salwar kameez
.

“You are most welcome,” she said in greeting, smiling at November.  “My brother has told me about you.  My name is Savita.  I’m afraid I can offer you nothing but water.  We are not accustomed to having human visitors here.”

“Hey, Savu
akka
,” he greeted his sister with a kiss.  “You’re actually one of the first humans to set foot on the property since the construction was completed,” William added cheerily.

“How . . . um . . . flattering,” November responded uncertainly, drowning in the large coat that had been made for a blacksmith’s shoulders.  She caught a glimpse of Knox sitting at a large desk in a very well-appointed office.

“We’ll be back in 30,
akka
,” William called to his sister as he descended the steps.  He smiled back at them, and the two hungry vampires disappeared in a blur of speed.

“Wow,” breathed November.

“One of our more useful tricks,” Savita replied.  “Into the house with you.”

They sat in a homey room full of comfortable furniture facing a large fireplace.  Zinnia pulled out what looked like homework and settled down on the floor to study.  As November sank into the leather couch, she saw her binder of drawings sitting on the coffee table.

“William came straight here after meeting you, to show me your drawings and to tell me of the reading you conducted with him.  He was amazed, and believe me when I tell you he is very rarely impressed by a human,” Savita began.  “It seems that you are a very powerful seer.”

“I don’t know about that,” November replied, looking at her hands.  Powerful was not a word that she associated with herself. 

“We do.  Young one, my brother has been alive for nearly 900 years, and I have 50 more years than he.  Seers, wise women, healers, mind-readers – they are extremely rare among the humans.  And visions of the future are rare even amongst our people, the vampires and fairies.  You may well be the most powerful soothsayer to fall into vampire hands in centuries.  You are extremely valuable.”  Savita watched the human carefully, sensing her trepidation.  “I am frightening you with this talk.”

“I don’t understand what you want with me.  I thought your brother was taking me mostly because I found out the secret of your existence, but you seem to have very high expectations of my abilities.  All I am is a crazy teenage girl with a power she can barely control.  What if I’m not what you want me to be?”

“All we want is for you to help us as best you can with certain problems we face.  We will not hurt you if you fail, November, and we will do everything we can to protect you from those who would,” Savita reassured her earnestly.  She reached out to touch November’s knee but pulled up short when the human flinched.

“Those who would what?” November asked softly, thinking of her bloody corpse lying in the dirt.  

“When your gift becomes known in our community, a day we will do our best to forestall, there will be others who covet you, others who have less respect for humans and who would deal with you more harshly, others who would do whatever is necessary to stop you from helping us,” Savita explained with somewhat brutal honesty.

November took a deep breath, trying to steady her heart and her voice.  “Other vampires?” she finally asked.

“Vampires, fairies, even werewolves.  You are a rare jewel.  It’s a lucky thing we found you before anyone else did,” Savita added.

“Lucky for me, or lucky for you?” November ventured boldly.

“Both, I hope,” said the vampire with a twitch of a smile.

“You’ve endangered me.  You’ve brought me into a fight that isn’t mine.”  November was circling back towards anger again.

“Yes.  But the truth is, you would have been dragged into it by someone.  You don’t seem to understand the reputation you’ve built travelling with this carnival.  We did some research after we heard about you.  You have quite the internet fan base, November.  You're all over Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube.  Some powerful creature was going to find you and use you.  It was inevitable.  You were never going to be left alone to live a normal life in the human world, if your gift would even allow you to do so.” 

“Here, show her,” Zinnia chimed in, passing her laptop to Savita.

November looked at the screen, stunned into silence.  There was a picture of her, presumably taken with someone’s phone.  It was in black-and-white, part of her face obscured by her hair, which had the effect of making her look mysterious and exotic.  There were testimonials from clients singing her praises, a few complaints from others, sketches that had been scanned and uploaded, and the carnival’s projected schedule for this year and next.  There were even audio and video files of readings, probably also taken surreptitiously with a phone.  November felt naked.

“You really didn’t know, did you?” Savita said, reading the look on her face.  November shook her head.  “In this modern world, nothing stays secret or anonymous for long.  Besides – you told William yourself that you knew this was fate, for you to wind up with us.”  November nodded.

Suddenly, November was sucked from the comfortable room out into the grassland behind the garden.

A deer is running for his life, but his death is running faster.  The hunter is exhilarated and hungry; the prey is desperate and afraid.  William leaps onto his quarry’s back and sinks his teeth into his neck; the deer stumbles and falls to his knees, surrendering to the inevitable.  The animal gives no cry of pain; he does not thrash or fight.  He slowly weakens as the vampire feeds until his breathing stops.  William pats his dinner’s neck, whispers, “Thanks,” and begins striding back to the house.

November came back to herself with a gasp, looking into Savita’s concerned face.  “Are you alright, November?” the vampire asked with concern.

November nodded.  “Just caught sight of your brother, ah . . . eating breakfast,” she answered.  “Sometimes visions come upon me like that, without warning.  I wonder why . . . oh, the coat, of course!  Personal objects, especially when they are often worn -- they can give me very vivid sightings.”

“That is as it was for my sister, as well,” Savita replied with a sad smile.

“You have a sister like me?” November asked excitedly.  She’d never met anyone else with a gift like hers.

“Had.  When I was human.  She was so beautiful.  She couldn’t bear her gift.  She took her own life when we were teenagers, shortly before I was made a vampire.”  Savita looked across the room and shook her head.

“I can certainly understand why she would.  I tried more than once,” November confessed quietly.  “I finally gained some control over the visions, but I had to learn to harden my heart.  I’m sorry for your loss,” she finished weakly, reaching her hand tentatively toward the vampire, not knowing what to say.

“It was a very long time ago,” she said.  “Your strength will be an asset to you now.  It sounds like you’re half vampire already,” she said with a weak smile.

“May I ask, how old were you when you were, um, changed?” November was curious because William had said she herself was too young to turn, but Savita looked to be barely more than a child.

“I was 15.  We have since decided that is far too young.  The world was different then.  I was an adult by our standards, already married and widowed when I died.  But going through eternity looking like what is now considered a child is a bit of a burden, and many people your age are not mature enough to handle the transition from a human life to a vampire one.  We lose a lot of young vampires.  And a disappearing minor tends to attract police attention.  So, about a century ago we made a law that humans must be 21 to be turned.”

At that, William strode in, seeming more relaxed than he had in the car, and with a bit of color in his ivory face.

“By the way, where’s Noemi?” he asked his sister.

“My wife is still in Las Vegas, helping Father install his new artwork,” she replied before adding, “It seems you gave our new psychic friend quite a show.”

“You saw me feeding?” he asked, concerned that he had frightened the human.  “Are you . . . upset?” he asked gingerly.

“No, it was fine.  I’ve had much worse, believe me.  It was actually kind of beautiful and exciting, to be honest,” she admitted, coloring slightly.  “And he didn’t seem to suffer or fight.  It looked as if he was falling asleep,” the seer finished.

BOOK: She Dies at the End (November Snow #1)
11.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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