I knew before I even reached the doorstep of the building that someone was in my flat. I knew that they were unfamiliar. I knew that their mood was calm, cool. And I knew that they were a vampire. Like me.
When I reached the top level of the building I found my Sire’s two dull-looking vampire guards stood outside my door as usual, seemingly unaware of the vampire inside. I thought about alerting them, but then curiosity came to call. The strange vampire in there had to be powerful in order to remain off the radar of the guards and yet he/she apparently had no interest in concealing their presence from me. Okay, they had me intrigued.
Just as calm and collected as the intruder, I unlocked the door and headed straight for the tiny, out-dated kitchen. While rooting through my plastic shopping bag for the carton of milk, I called out, “I don’t have all night so I’d appreciate it if you told me what you want.”
At this point I had established by their scent that they were male seen as females tended to have sweeter scents. I was also able to tell, going by the fizzing feeling in the flat, that this particular vampire was extremely powerful. A master vampire for sure.
The footsteps behind me were soft, slow, non-threatening. Whatever this vampire wanted, it wasn’t a brawl. “Evening Miss Parker,” he said politely, “I’ve been waiting for you.” It was rare that I heard such a well-spoken voice around this area of London. My neighbours – most of whom were drug addicts, poverty stricken, or criminals – would be more than tempted to try to mug the bloke. Well they would be in for one hell of a surprise if they did.
Milk carton in hand, I finally turned to look him. “So I see.”
As with all vampires, he had incredible sexual appeal, but this particular bloke’s allure was even more intense because he was a Keja vampire – something I knew just by the slight tint of amber in his irises. That amber would glow whenever he was angry, thirsty or horny. Luckily enough, they weren’t glowing now. All Keja vampires had hypnotic beauty and females were often called Enchantresses. Why couldn’t I have been a Keja? Instead I was a Sventé vampire; a breed that was the dullest of all three breeds.
Three breeds? Well you see, basically, you know how there are varying accounts of vampires? Some humans report us to be terribly aggressive with hulk-like strength, some report us to be entrancingly beautiful and charming, and others believe that we are actually more human-like than the stories say. Well the reason for all the confusion is that there are actually different breeds. Sventés like me don’t have hypnotic beauty like Kejas or have super-super-super strength and speed like Pagori vampires, though we are stronger and faster than any human. But our bloodlust isn’t overpowering which means that we can walk amongst humans without becoming overwhelmed and tempted to cling to someone’s artery.
This particular Keja in front of me had the most penetrating set of eyes, his lips were full, and his peppery black hair perfectly framed the upper part of his face, tickling his high cheekbones. His black shirt and black trousers had to be made to fit; they were snug enough to hint at his athletic build. Armani, I’d bet. He obviously wasn’t some rogue vampire.
So what was a posh, rich, master vamp doing here? I folded my arms across my not-so-flat chest. “Make it quick.”
“My name is Sebastian. I’ve been following you around for the past week.”
I hadn’t expected that. I thought he was here for Victor, my Sire – or as I like to think of him, the spawn of the Devil. Studying this Keja’s expression with my aquamarine eyes, I knew that he wasn’t lying, but how could I not have noticed him? I considered myself a pretty alert, aware person. Either I was losing my touch or this bloke was good. “Who exactly are you?”
He mirrored my posture. “I work directly for the Grand High Master.”
The Grand High Master? Ooh, this couldn’t be good. He was the vampire of all vampires. I’d never met him as it was a matter of invitation only. All I knew was that he lived somewhere in the Caribbean on an off-the-map private island which he very rarely left. “What is it I’m supposed to have done?”
Sebastian smiled. “As a Tracker, it is my job to hunt and seize felons as directed by our Grand High Master. However, my main role for the past two weeks has been to scout in search of any suitable candidates.”
“Suitable for what?”
“To keep it brief, His Grandness wishes to replace an exterminated squad in his private army, his legion. I spotted you when I attended your Sire’s gathering last week. He had you duel with a vampire of another bloodline and I have to say you are, indeed, a tremendous fighter. Very strong for a Sventé, but also very controlled. And your gift is very substantial. I was most entertained. I believe you would make an excellent addition to the legion.”
“Hang on a minute…You want me to fight for the Grand High Master?” He had to be blowing smoke up my arse. In terms of hierarchy, my Sire was low, low, low, low down which was why he persistently duelled for more territory and had used me for the past three years to help with his pursuit of it. Add to that the fact that Sventés were considered lower class by the other vampire breeds because we were considered ‘too tame’ and this whole thing felt surreal. My being noticed by Sebastian was the equivalent of a homeless person being singled out by the Royal Family. “You want to recruit me?”
He nodded. “I will take you to the location where our Grand High Master resides and you will partake in a test along with the other potential candidates that have been selected by other scouts. If you are chosen, you will then join the legion.”
A short laugh of incredulity popped out. “Thanks for the offer but I must respectfully decline. You can let yourself out, seen as you let yourself in.” I filled my kettle with water and switched it on to boil.
“You wish to decline?” he said disbelievingly, slowly walking toward the kitchenette.
“If the guards overhear this conversation -”
“They will not hear a thing just as they cannot sense me. I placed a mental shield over the flat.”
Oh. Handy gift. That explained why I hadn’t sensed him following me around. “Well my Sire could walk in any second -”
“And we would sense him well in advance.” Sebastian clasped his hands together. “Now, tell me why you are rejecting my offer.”
“I don’t have the luxury of a choice,” I said sulkily as I prepared my cup of coffee. “Victor would never let me go.” The prick.
“Yes, I find Victor particularly territorial, even for a vampire. When did he Turn you?”
“Three years ago. He found me when I was dying and told me that he could heal me, but that I would have to agree to serve him until he freed me from his hold. I didn’t know what the bloody hell any of that meant, I just didn’t want to die so I said ‘yes’. If I’d known what he’d meant by it then I wouldn’t be standing here now.”
Sebastian narrowed his eyes as he spoke, “Miss Parker -”
“Sam,” I offered.
“Sam, do you realise that by joining the Grand High Master’s legion your freedom of Victor would instantly come into effect?”
That made my head snap up.
“I’ve got your attention now, haven’t I,” he said, smirking. “He would not be able to override the decision of the Grand High Master.”
I leant against the counter as I sipped my coffee. “Yeah, well, I don’t see the point. I loathe Victor but from what I’ve heard once you sign up to run around after the Big Man, it’s a life-long position. If I took you up on your offer and was chosen to join the legion I’d still be serving someone. What’s the difference?”
Sebastian seized my gaze; his tone was all seriousness and assurance. “That is true, any immediate employees of his are required to serve him for the entirety of their immortal lives. But I can assure you now that being in the service of his Grandness would be very different from your current circumstances. He is very fair, very principled and will value your service and reward you rather than exploit you and your gift the way your Sire does.”
“My gift,” I echoed. “That’s what got your attention, isn’t it?” It got everyone’s attention. Typically Sventé gifts were only ever defensive rather than offensive. Or ‘boring’, as most complained. My individual gift, however, was far from it. Sebastian wasn’t the first vampire to try to coax me to leave Victor, but he was the first vampire to ever offer me a position that seemed worth risking Victor’s wrath for.
“As it happens, you had my attention well before you used it in the duel. But, yes, I do believe that your gift would make you an excellent addition to the legion. Wouldn’t you consider serving your Grand High Master as an honour?”