“Nunca sufrir nunca habría sido bendecido.” – Edgar Allen Poe
“Numquam numquam benedictionem.”
Adrasteia felt nothing, yet everything. Had she known what would happen when she left the house that morning, she would have never left her parents alone.
She might have been murdered with them, and a part of her, the guilt-ridden side, wished she had been. She knew her parents were the victims in all this, but she felt like all the pain and all the hurt were hers and hers alone.
Unlike other children, she was close to her parents. Her father was always less stern than her mother. Often, he knew she’d sneak out, but told her to be safe and to make sure she came home.
He said that the only reason they kept her so protected during the day was that they couldn’t go out in the light as she could. It worried them, but her father understood why she felt such a need.
Eventually, the sun would irritate her skin and burn her and become the thing that hurt her the most.
Her mother was far stricter, but Adrasteia found it entertaining to mess with her. Mom would freak if she caught her leaving the house unescorted. Maybe it was because they knew they had secrets that could hurt her.
Her mother was a kind person but reserved. She hardly spoke about the Ceremony or the Coupling, but when she had, Adrasteia remembered feeling like she was invading a private moment.
“When you taste the blood of your beloved, my precious, you’ll finally understand.”
“Understand what?” she’d ask.
“What it means to truly live.”
Her parents never had another fledgling. Vampyre births were often difficult and dangerous for both the babies and the mothers. It was why many vampyres elected not to have children but brought in humans.
Adrasteia never understood why they’d had her. They shouldn’t have.
She looked up from her thoughts as someone came to shake her hand.
“They were great elders, Adrasteia.”
She smiled, although it didn’t reach her eyes. “The greatest.”
It felt like she was stuck in a never-ending loop of time. Over and over, people came up to her, shaking her hand or electing to hug her, mourning the loss of their elites.
It was three in the morning now, still dark, and every vampyre was awake, crying or lamenting. When a vampyre died in your community, it was felt in the very depths of your core.
It didn’t often happen when you were as well situated as her parents.
Funerals for their kind occurred in the house, their coffins decorated with black flowers or candles. Friends and family would enter, and they would surround the deceased, chanting or singing.
And then, after the sad congregation, they’d drink past dawn and into the following evening. She’d ask for privacy. She didn’t want to be happy. She didn’t want to celebrate their lives. Their lives shouldn’t have ended.
The house and their bedroom were cleaned by professionals. She was bestowed their wealth and estate, which in turn made her an elite. If she could, she would exchange all of it for her parents to be alive.
As soon as she could, she planned on selling the home and moving. Somewhere. Anywhere else.
“I’m truly sorry for your loss,” another elite said. It was Misandra, a friend of her parents that she had met on multiple occasions.
“Your transition is arriving, child. Your parents made arrangements for my son—Drake, come here, please—to help you through it.”
The young man came over. It was apparent that he’d recently gone through his transition. His eyes were a deep violet, indicating his furious hunger.
She could see him eye her up, not from sexual desire, but from the desire to take her vein.
“Thank you, but I’ve made my own arrangements.” No, she hadn’t. In fact, she was anticipating not surviving her transition. There was no male vampyre she wanted to drink from. She excused herself quickly.
About an hour later, the house cleared out and a hearse came to drive their coffins to their burial sites. When the hearse came to a full stop, she’d gotten out. Two vampyres helped carry the coffins to the already-dug hole.
They laid the coffins down and covered them in accelerant before throwing a match in. They burned quickly, and she stood there for so long, the other vamps left, leaving her alone to mourn her loss.
The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. She turned, seeing two black cars come up the road. Seven men got out, and she instantly recognized them.
She’d never known who they were, nor had she seen them, but it was a demonstration of respect that the Council visited the deceased. She sighed softly.
She turned, seeing a tall man handing her a single dark rose. She took it.
“We are truly sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you. I take it you’re the Council. My parents spoke a lot about you.”
“I’m Demedicus. These are my brothers, Kieran, Caine, Quillian, Zanthus, and Athanasius.”
“I thought there were seven in the Council?”
“Yes.” Demedicus cleared his throat. “Our other brother was…busy. We came to give our condolences.”
“They would have appreciated it.”
“I must also admit that Misandra contacted the Council about you disregarding her offer of her son. Clearly, if you do not want him, you cannot be forced, but you must soon find a willing male.”
Demedicus took out his card. He handed it to her as his brothers surrounded the hole. She took it and turned around, staying near her parents. When the sun was about to rise, they left her alone.
Lycidas put in his headphones as he laced his sneakers. When they were tied, and his hands were wrapped, he started his usual training regimen. When he was about to finish, his brother came in, and took out his headphones.
“What the fuck, Demedicus?”
“Go check on the Brown daughter.”
“In case you didn’t realize, I’m not exactly a people person.”
“You skipped out on the funeral—this is the consequence. Go check on her. She’s supposed to be transitioning any day, and I need you to make sure she has chosen a male.”
“Send Quillian. He loves newly transitioned vamps.”
“No, your ass is going whether you like it or not.”
“I’ll go later—”
“No, take a shower and get your ass over there.”
“The only reason you’re sending me is that I skipped out on an elite funeral. All the other brothers have skipped more important events. It’s not a good idea to send me, you know that.”
“No, what I know is that you push yourself away from everyone and make yourself a recluse because of your gift—”
“It’s not a gift.”
“Yes, it is. You have worked really hard on controlling yourself. You can go see this girl and be fine.”
“I liked you better when you were dead.”
Demedicus laughed as he left the gym.
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