I stared out the stained-glass window. After the avalanche, the earth was still, and the air was silent. Everything was white, the sky, the land, and the horizon.
The moonlight shone through the thick clouds, making the fresh snow sparkle like a thousand diamonds encrusted onto the earth’s surface.
There was no movement across the barren land, no sound. Everything had been buried.
I moved away from the window, bending down to pull my thick brown boots on over my bare feet, tucking the ends of my cotton trousers in.
I tied the laces then straightened up, adjusting my black cotton blouse.
I walked toward the two large cathedral doors ornamented with gold and jewels. Brushing the strands of my long hair out of my eyes with one hand, I pushed on one of the doors lightly with the other.
It swung open, slamming against the side of the building. I heard voices of complaint from back inside.
I stepped outside onto the virgin snow. It crunched sweetly under my steps. The air was frigid, but the cold didn’t bother me.
I slipped into the night, closing the door behind me, and raced into the white landscape.
The land around me had been lashed with wind, and the trees were bent toward me, heavy with snow and broken branches.
“Hello, Mother.” I heard a deep voice.
I whipped around. Aric was standing behind me. A slight Arctic wind ruffled over his bare chest but didn’t raise any goosebumps.
He gave me a small smile.
“I’m an engineer,” he told me as he held out a paper diploma. “Actually, I’m a doctor.” His smile widened. I chuckled lightly, examining the diploma.
“Again,” I breathed, handing the diploma back to my son. “Well done.”
“Thanks.” He shoved it into his back pocket then glanced around the tundra. He sniffed the air, then frowned at me.
“It was a heavy avalanche. I can’t smell any sort of prey,” he told me.
“I know,” I glanced around with him, sniffing the air, sensing nothing but snow. “I’m going to have to go pretty far to find something that hasn’t been buried.”
“I can come with you if you like. I haven’t fed in a week,” he offered. His bright blue eyes sparkled. I smiled, shaking my head.
“No, you go show your diploma to your father and grandmother. I’m sure she’ll be proud. You know she has no idea what an engineer does this century. I’ll be back soon with lunch,” I answered.
Aric hesitated, then nodded obediently.
“Okay. Good hunting, Mother.” He gave me a small smile, then turned and disappeared into the white. I could only just hear the slamming of the heavy cathedral doors behind him.
Alone again, I slipped away, heading south through the small valley, sniffing the air for prey.
Every so often, I came across a rabbit or a moose cub, but they were frozen through. Their blood was too full of water to be any sort of nourishment.
I soon found myself by the highway. The scent of cold tar and gasoline lingered in the wind. As I approached, I noticed the road was covered by a thinner layer of snow, the end of the avalanche.
I stepped out onto the road, shuffling my feet through the snow. The high bluffs on each side of the road were coated in thick snow, and the trees had crashed down onto the road.
I peered into the distance and saw a large truck on its side in the middle of the road, perhaps a mile away—a tragedy for humans, possibly warm blood for me.
I was at the truck in seconds, ripping the yellow door off. I could smell warm blood, not yet frozen.
As I started digging through the snow filling the front seat, I heard a small thumping, a fluttering, and the distinct scent of fresh, young blood.
My throat burned, filling my body with heat. I felt my muscles tighten. I let the pounding heart fill my mind. My movements cleared the front seat in seconds.
Two corpses, a couple, young, frozen. The closest to me was a man. His brown eyes were wide, and his expression showed more worry than fear.
His blond hair was frozen against his sheet-white skin. The thudding wasn’t coming from him, but I could smell the blood in his body.
His head was split open; the blood had dried and frozen on his forehead. I picked up his wrist. There was no pulse. His blood was cold.
I moved my lips over his vein and slowly opened my mouth, pressing my fangs against his skin. It popped open, and I pushed my tongue into the wound, warming the blood and sucking it up into my body.
It tasted bitter and watery. I drank my fill, then slipped onto his lap to face the dead woman whose forehead was also cracked open with the impact.
Her face was cold, dark, her eyes squeezed shut. She was hunched over, wrapping her arms around a small shape. Curious, I pulled her arms away. They snapped off in my hands.
Scowling, I tossed them behind me and picked up the bundle that she’d been holding.
My throat burned as hunger ached throughout my body.
I stared at the baby in my arms. Its heart was thudding rapidly in its chest, pumping hot blood. It was still alive.
Despite the horrible crash, it looked unharmed. It wasn’t bleeding, only very cold. Its breath was wheezy.
It shivered in my arms, shaking through blankets that were thick with snow, soaking its frail body.
I held it up to my mouth, staring at it intensely, letting its heartbeat fill my mind and body. Its blood smelled sweet and refreshing. I closed my eyes, letting my hunter’s instincts take over.
It was such easy prey. I opened my mouth, hovering my fangs over its neck where I could hear its blood rushing through its veins.
I pressed my lips against the thudding vein on its neck. Before I could bite, I was caught off guard by a faint giggle. I opened my eyes and stared at the baby in my arms.
It stared back at me, and I felt a small spark in my chest, a spark of warmth I hadn’t felt since Aric was cut out of me, and I first saw his face.
I kept my eyes on the baby, letting the pain in my throat dull down, The small warmth the baby had put in my heart spread. I was suddenly overcome with an urge to protect it.
The baby blinked at me, then slowly its face scrunched up, and warm tears rushed down its cheeks. Its cry filled my head. It seemed to echo across the mountain range.
I hugged the baby to my bosom and smoothly slipped out of the car.
I stood in the middle of the road, staring at the child in my arms, letting the freezing wind play around with my feelings.
The crying baby fidgeted and shivered, its eyes scrunched up, its face turned red. I smelled the shock of blood under its crimson skin.
“I’m here. I’ve got you, baby. I’m here now. Will you stop crying for me, baby?” I asked the baby softly. I stoked my finger down her cheek lightly, breathing in her rich bloody scent.
I leaned down and pressed my lips to its forehead. When I drew back, it stopped crying suddenly.
The tears froze on its face, and its wide eyes stared up at me. Such a peculiar and unusual shade, forest green, flecked with blue and lined with black.
I didn’t see fear or sadness in them; I saw warmth.
The heat radiating from the baby seemed to glow like a bright flame, bright as the sun, but much softer and less lethal.
“If you had been any older.” I gave it a small hint of a smile. “You wouldn’t still be alive.”
The baby blinked at me again and shivered.
I licked my lips, finally deciding that I’d have to wait yet for lunch.
I hugged the bundle of baby against my chest, shielding it from the fierce wind that had started to pick up.
I moved back from the highway, keeping my eyes on the baby, listening to its steady, rapid heartbeat.
With the wind behind me, I moved faster. I rushed across the white valley, scanning the horizon for any movement of prey.
I stopped for a frozen rabbit. It tasted wet, so I chucked it back and moved on.
I was back at the cathedral soon after. I slowed my pace and stared down at the baby in my arms, who was looking around with its wide, beautiful eyes.
I pushed the thick wooden doors open and entered the main hall.
It was a long room lined with thick red marble columns and stained-glass windows depicting Jesus and his cross.
The arched ceiling above us was painted gold and carved with flowers. Four large gold chandeliers embedded with gems dangled on ten-meter length chains.
The thick beige stone walls were decorated with ancient tapestries and statues. The floor was made of antique red marble, scratched and dented.
On the second floor was a gigantic golden organ, blanketing the whole wall.
I walked across the room, my high heels clicking against the floor. To my right was a fireplace, big enough to fit four adults in standing up.
In its center was a large log that burned with a long, thick flame that flickered and warmed the room. I could feel the snow melting off my clothes and hair.
The bundle of blankets and the baby in my arms were soaked. Facing the fire was a long, thick wooden table surrounded by richly decorated chairs.
I paused by the fire, staring at the shadows as they danced across the baby’s face. A warm light glowed from its eyes, and I smiled.
“Soon you’ll be warm and cozy,” I told it, moving toward the end of the hall, directly under the organ where the floor sloped down into a large winding staircase illuminated by red candles.
I slipped down, following the staircase to the bottom. It led into a wide chamber, richly illuminated with candles and a large fireplace.
From the room were six winding tunnels that disappeared underground. I took the one furthest to my left. The tunnel wasn’t very long. It led into a larger chamber than before.
There was a rich fire blazing in the hearth, three long, comfortable sofas, a thick fuzzy rug, and a glass coffee table. On each side of the chamber were three large wooden doors.
I sat down in one of the sofas and set the baby on my lap. Inside, the chamber was warm, and the baby had stopped shivering. I unraveled the blankets and tossed the soaking heap to the ground.
“A girl,” I murmured to myself, brushing my finger against her cold stomach. “A light in all this darkness.” I held her up and pressed my lips against her cold cheeks.
“Let’s get you warm.” I smiled at her and stood up again.
The second I opened my bedroom door, my husband, Demetrius, pounced on me. He had been at the walk-in wardrobe choosing something to wear.
I just saw him turn his face to me, then suddenly he was towering over me, his arms winding around my waist.
His head lowered, and he pressed his lips against mine, running his fingers through my hair, pulling my face up to meet his, his hands grabbing my bottom.
In the heat of the moment, I almost forgot the baby girl in my arms.
Demetrius pulled away from me suddenly, his eyes blazing a brilliant crimson. He stared at the girl in my arms. His mouth hovered open, and I could see his fangs protruding.
“Is this breakfast in bed?” he asked, a sly grin spreading over his handsome features.
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