“It was a delicious dinner!” Nate calls out as he cleans the table while I do the dishes.
Humming to myself as I clean each dish in soothing soapy water. Without moving a muscle, I stare at the running water, frozen in place. The warmth of the kitchen radiates around me, and the smell of home-cooked food still lingers in the air.
As I take a deep breath, I let my mind wander aimlessly. I remember that little girl, Rena, from the hospital years ago. I noticed how she was experiencing Valprya after her mother’s murder, and I can remember her sadness. My memory of her is still fresh, and I wonder if I could have done more to help her.
I stand there holding a dish in my hand until I feel a tap on my shoulder. As I place the last plate on the rack, I turn off the faucet, then pat my hands dry on my pants.
Nate’s eyes lock with mine as I spin around to face him. His gaze is deep, and the air between us has changed. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest as I wait for him to speak.
“Darling, what’s wrong? Why are you staring off into space?” The sound of his voice warms my ear while he hugs me.
“You won’t believe... who called me?” I quietly confide back.
“Who?” He asks, leaning away from me while holding my face in his hands.
On the phone earlier.
“Hi... it’s Rena,” a painful and quiet voice responded on the other end.
I gathered myself to avoid being overjoyed. “It’s been a long time. How are you doing?”
“Dahlia. I need your help... something’s wrong. I don’t know... what to do.” Rena’s voice faded into a soft murmur.
There was a chill running down my spine like something serious had happened. I took a deep breath and responded, “Tell me what’s going on. I’ll help you however I can.”
Rena was silent for a moment before stammering, “I-I think I-I think something’s wrong with me.”
Rena appeared scared, and I was determined to help her. “It’s okay. We’ll figure this out together, Rena.”
When she didn’t respond, there was a loud thud over the phone. Unsure of what was happening, I held my breath and was more determined to help her.
“... Rena?” I asked again.
Another low breathing was audible beside her breathing. A man’s voice suddenly erupted amidst rustling in the background.
“Hey, this kitten isn’t doing well. What’s your address?” A deep voice asked.
“No, don’t touch her! Who are you?” I screamed out.
“I promise I’ll bring her to you. So, mind telling me where you are?” he said in between breaths.
I gave him our manor address, and he hung up.
I’m not sure if I can trust this stranger. But I must try for her. There’s no denying that it was her voice, and she needs help now.
Taking a deep breath and steel myself for what lies ahead. Despite knowing it won’t be easy, I can’t bring myself to turn away. I’ve been willing to help her since that day at the hospital.
After telling Nate about the phone call, I wrapped my arms around him. I confide a warning in his ear, “Darling, I think we’re going to have some company.” Nate’s face became serious, and he nodded in acknowledgment.
My gaze shifts to the front door. I’m impatiently waiting... to see her.
Driving up to the manor, I park my car at the front gate and step onto the snow-covered pavement. I walk to the passenger side and open the door, revealing the sleeping woman.
I position one of my arms under her legs while another under her shoulders. As soon as I had a firm grip on her, I lifted her out of the car. A short walk later, I pause by the stairs to re-adjust my grip.
While observing her shallow breathing and pale skin, she also radiates an incredible amount of heat.
She’s burning up. Why won’t she heal?
However, I am more worried about how she doesn’t recognize me.
Something’s wrong. Does she think this is a game? It won’t do her any good to play with fire.
A rush of adrenaline fills my body as she grasps the front of my shirt.
Damn, am I easily tempted by her?
The closer she got to my chest, the more interested I became.
Before I could knock, the door cracked open, revealing a woman standing with her hands clinging to the door edge, her red eyes staring at me. Originally, I thought she was covering herself to avoid getting cold or to protect herself.
“Come in,” she says, gesturing towards the living room.
As I walk past her, we enter a room filled with bookshelves, dusty candles, and two old-fashioned sofas. I placed the woman on the smaller sofa, which was a perfect fit.
“Sir, who are you?” says a man in the corner, his glowing eyes watching my every move.
“And you are?” I snarl back.
“You both can relax. No need to be tense. Let me introduce myself. I’m Dahlia, Nate is my husband, and this is...” she says, getting down on her knees before the couch.
Dahlia touches the woman’s face and whispers, “It’s actually her. What happened? Don’t lie, I know you’re one of us, umm-”
“It’s Carter. She caught me while I was feeding on a mundane. I offered her a bite, but she hesitated. Strangely, her gray eyes turned red.”
“Okay, I see. Darling, can you get me some blood type M from the cellar?” She asks in a panic, and Nate sprints off to the kitchen.
Dahlia turns to me with watering eyes. “Carter, thanks for bringing her here. But why?”
“It’s more out of boredom if I’m being honest. I’ve got nothing better to do.” I snicker as I sit on the opposite couch.
“Despite your questioning intentions, we cannot thank you enough,” she says, perking up as Nate reappears from the kitchen.
He hands her a dark bag that has an intense scent, one I’m all too familiar with.
As Dahlia squeezes the bag, a small stream of blood runs into the woman’s mouth.
Abruptly, the woman’s eyes flickered from gray to red, and she tore Dahlia’s blood bag out of her hands.
She drinks like a ravenous animal who has eaten nothing in years. As she swallows, her eyes intensify into crimson.
Like before, she’s in a trance. As we watched, it became clear she didn’t want to talk or look at us. In her mind, there is only one thing she wants: blood. Taming the beast inside her by drinking.
“What’s up with her? I’ve never seen a Dhampir in this condition.” I ask.
“Clearly, she has not consumed human blood. It’s obvious from her breathing, scorching skin, and spider-like veins. I’m surprised she made it this far and glad she did. It’s a long story. It was ten years ago. After a murder occurred at her home, Rena came to my hospital. When we first met, I offered to help, but only if she wanted it. As years passed, I figured she didn’t want my help. She never reached out until...”
In the middle of Dahlia’s story, a soft sound interrupts us, causing us to focus on the woman. She was sound asleep, and an empty blood bag lay beside her.
“Darling, she needs to rest, and we should too,” Nate says, standing behind Dahlia and wrapping his arms around her.
My thoughts wander to something unusual. Not my thing, but I ask anyway, “I can watch her for the night. If you like?”
Dahlia takes a moment to think before responding, “We barely know you, but because you helped Rena, I accept your offer. If you act shady, we will track you down.”
Soon after saying that, Nate and Dahlia smile at me while their faces bear signs of distress.
I sat in the dim room with the woman as they made their way upstairs, their footsteps fading into silence.
With my legs propped up on the couch, I sank deeper into the cushions. The woman caught my eye as I got comfortable.
“Hmm... Rena. Fuck me,” I yawn.
I can’t resist looking at her again before I drift to sleep.