“Shouldn’t we be heading in soon?” I asked after checking the time.
“Yes, I suppose you’re right, James.” replied Adelmar. “As much as I dislike their position on relocation, I must say these creatures are magnificent. Your little friend by herself could be the key to a better world. Her abilities are fascinating.”
“I find that she makes a better world simply by existing. She doesn’t need to do anything in particular.” stated Cosette.
Adelmar looked down at her, and I was surprised by how calm she remained under his gaze. Of course, he didn’t look angry, but I still would have found his interest uncomfortable given what I had seen of him so far.
“Boss-man, sir, upsy!” exclaimed Aaliyah, stretching her arms at me. “You know Marco is on time, so we need to hurry!”
I found myself smiling as I lifted her up. Aaliyah was vastly quicker than me and far more intelligent, but her insatiable love of food surpassed mine as well.
“Cosette, please set the pace.” commanded Adelmar with a smile.
I nodded when Cosette looked back at me, and followed easily behind her as she ran. Not long ago, I would have found such a pace impossibly quick. Now, I found it boring.
“She’s quick for her age, James, assuming she didn’t lie to us about it.” stated Alma.
She seemed amused as I looked back at her.
“She didn’t lie.” replied Aaliyah. “I promise.”
I caught Adelmar looking back at Aaliyah on those last two words, but he looked back ahead just as quickly.
“Did you notice she doesn’t use any spells to guard herself when she moves?” asked Alma.
“I honestly wasn’t paying attention.” I admitted.
“You should always pay attention, James.” stated Adelmar, under his breath.
“Protecting themselves while they move seems innate to vampires.” mused Alma. “You should see the speed of the older ones.”
We arrived at the door before Alma could continue further, and I was glad. I didn’t want to hear details of Alma killing vampires. I barely had stepped past the first door when Adelmar spoke, causing me to stop.
“Looks like I’ll be leaving you. My wife has noticed my absence.” announced Adelmar.
“You didn’t tell her you were going out again.” stated Alma flatly.
“She would have protested, and I wasn’t in the mood to deal with her at the time. I’ll sample some of Marco’s cooking in the kitchen first. My cousin has told me such great things about it.” he claimed, running into the house the moment he stopped speaking.
I was about to follow, not wanting to leave Marco alone with Adelmar, but Alma grabbed onto my arm. Before I had a chance to protest, Adelmar was already back.
“He is good. Cousin, please behave until I see you again.” ordered Adelmar before kissing Alma’s hand. Grasping my free hand, he said, “James, you have a wonderful home. Take care of my cousin and do try to survive.”
I wasn’t certain which part felt worse: being ordered again or the clear statement that I was in danger.
Nodding at the tiny girl I held, Adelmar simply said, “Aaliyah.”
He then moved over to Cosette, taking both of her hands in his and bending down close to stare in her eyes. “Please reconsider my offer. I would gladly have your bloodline back with us as you belong. There is much we could do for one another.” he told her.
I looked around warily, feeling magic forming nearby and realizing too late that Adelmar was watching me. He bore a knowing smile that made me feel distinctly uncomfortable, and his skin shone with residual energy. He took two steps backward and leaped far into the air. The feeling of magic grew vastly in intensity and numerous spells appeared around him. Then he flew off incredibly fast.
Alma sighed and said, “Shall we go inside? I would hate for Marco’s cooking to go to waste after forcing him to prepare something this late.”
“I was the one who asked him.” I told her. She seemed tense.
“You only did as my cousin asked, which I do appreciate James.” she assured me, taking my free hand and gazing up at me. “He would never have came here if I hadn’t buggered up. Now that wicked man’s still out there, I have this block keeping Adelmar out of my head, and Anwen will be annoyed with me.”
“Anwen?” I asked.
“Yes, Adelmar’s wife. She’s actually a sweet person. You would probably like her, but she hates when Adelmar leaves her behind.” she explained.
“Oh. Right. Aaliyah had mentioned her before.” I replied.
Smiling at me, Aaliyah exclaimed “Sure did!”
“He’ll blame everything on me, of course, and I actually deserve the blame this time.” muttered Alma, pulling me along as she went inside.
“There there, Alpy! Anwen will blame Adelmar no matter what he says.” claimed Aaliyah.
Sighing yet again, Alma said, “That’s hardly reassuring.”
“I think I’ll just head to my rooms if you’ll excuse me.” stated Cosette just before hurrying off.
Jumping out from my arm, Aaliyah chased after Cosette, yelling “Wait up! I have little legs!”
Staring after Aaliyah, Alma sighed again, and then she smiled as she said, “That one never really seems concerned. I wish I could be so relaxed about everything. That night of Brandon and Brenna’s birthday party, the night when you… changed, was probably the most serious I have seen her. Why must she be so frustrating, James? Why… Oh. What are you doing?”
I had grabbed Alma’s shoulders and spun her to face me. “You’re right. You need to relax.” I told her, gazing into the beautiful violet eyes of my girlfriend. I had a girlfriend. I was actually dating someone.
“Having nearly died tonight, I have a right to be bothered.” she told me, turning away from me.
I could hardly believe that this was official. We were dating now. Ever since my change, I had been doing my best not to think of how amazing Alma smelled. I had been getting fairly accustomed to the distinct odors people gave off, though I didn’t like thinking about them. Alma’s scent was intoxicating. Her skin was incredibly soft to the touch. I turned her back toward me again.
“What?” she asked, staring at me with a confused expression.
I… I wanted… I gave in to an urge I had always fought before, pulled her against me, and kissed her, completely unprepared to be thrown at the wall a moment later.
“James! What are you thinking!?’ demanded Alma.
I had managed to put a spell between me and the wall before impact, but hitting the spell still hurt. I took a moment to realize that the racing heart I was hearing was hers, not mine, though it raced as well.
“Aww.. he isn’t that bad of a kisser.” teased Mai.
“But we all can guess what James was thinking.” added Ai.
“Well, I’m still questioning if that is James. He’s never made the move on a girl, and to be shot down… is it really him?” asked Jarod
I hadn’t seen the three coming.
Standing up, I explained “I have never been in a relationship before, and that had seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Alma was glaring at me, so I obviously had made a mistake.
“Whoa. You two are finally dating? Congratulations, man!” exclaimed Jarod.
“You’re dating!?” exclaimed the twins in unison.
“Maybe. I don’t think he fully understands what that entails.” stated Alma.
Maybe? She was honestly uncertain still? I could feel the truth of it. “Maybe? Even Adelmar approved. What more needs to happen?” I asked, unable to keep the hurt from my voice.
Looking annoyed, she said, “James, you need to realize how dangerous this will be if we are to-”
I silenced her with a spell, dampening all noise around her. She dispelled it with ease.
Before she could speak, I insisted “I don’t care about the danger, Alma. We’re doing this.”
“Fine, but matters such as this should be dealt with in private, not with an audience.” she replied.
“Wait, so you threw him because you were embarrassed?” asked Jarod.
Ai and Mai each grabbed one of his arms and started running.
“Heading to eat!” called Ai.
Then Mai said, “See you there!”
I was thankful that the twins pulled Jarod away, since I felt Alma’s magic being used and the intensity was increasing.
I tried explaining “Alma, I didn’t mean to offend you. I know it was impulsive, but I didn’t realize we had an audience either. I just… I’ve been wanting to do that for so long, and-”
Having just casted the spell myself, I easily recognized the spell she placed around me and knew how to dismiss it.
“You’re a foolish git, James Michael Somerset.” she stated. Then she pulled me down by my jacket and kissed me.
The feeling was a little strange at first, awkward even. I didn’t really care, wrapping my arms around her and lifting her up as I kissed her back.
When our lips parted, all I could think to say was “the Third.”