New Kingdom: European Court Ch. 04byMicKay©
Thanks again to WorldHistoryBuff for her editorial skills and patience in working through my writing.
Emma woke hours later stretching in the luxury of the dark silk sheets. A bedside lamp softly illuminated the room in a way that would be romantic for two people but eerie for one. The corners of the room remained in darkness while the bed was bathed in a circle light. Looking to her right, she noticed a doorway leading to a bathroom which was also dimly lit. Sitting up, she could see light shining under another door that appeared to be the exit from the room.
When the sheet fell from her shoulders, Emma realized that she was completely naked. Trying to determine if she was dreaming, she was too preoccupied to notice the dark figure moving in the corner. When she heard the sound of a man clearing his throat, she quickly pulled the sheet to her neck and fell back to the pillow.
"Who's there? Where am I? What have you done to me? Where are my clothes?" she rapidly demanded.
"Antony Melchiorre," he said walking into the light. "You are in my home. Specifically, you are in my bed. I brought you here from the club. Your clothes were torn and stained so I thought you might be more comfortable without them."
"Oh my god, it wasn't a dream."
"I'm afraid not," he agreed. "The club was being used by rouges for, uh, criminal purposes."
"I was talking about you. It wasn't a dream. You really are a ... this can't be happening."
"I am what is known today as a vampire."
"Are you going to kill me?"
"Why would I do that?"
"For my blood."
"To my shame and my brothers' disappointment, I have been enjoying your blood all week and have managed to not kill you."
Staring at him for several minutes in silence, Emma finally gave one hysterical laugh and started climbing from the bed. She wrapped the sheet tightly around her dragging the coverlet from the bed to the floor and walk around the room in search of something.
"What are you looking for?"
"My clothes. I'm getting dressed and getting out. Your little joke on the new girl is very funny. Young, shy American in Italy. We'll pull a hell of a trick on her. Funny. I hope you recorded it so you can get a lot of money."
"I already have a lot of money. There is no joke. And your clothes are destroyed," he said while quickly moving behind her.
"Destroyed?" she asked turning around.
When she saw him standing so close to her, she screamed and took an impulsive step back. Twisted in the sheet, she lost her footing and began to fall. As Antony reached for her, she loosened her grip on the sheet and soon found herself lying on the floor, very naked, and in the arms of Antony Melchiorre.
"Let me go!"
"I was trying to stop your fall," he snapped.
"Well it didn't work."
Pushing him from her, Emma groped for the sheet until she was able to wrap it around her body again. Looking at Antony, she found him still sitting on the floor wearing a confused expression. She finally stood and when she turned to speak, she found him standing directly behind her again.
"I'm sorry!" he shouted back. "You need to calm down."
"I have every right to be hysterical."
"That may be true but it will solve nothing," he replied walking to a closet.
When he returned, he was carrying a man's black robe indicating for her to use it as immediate cover. As she slipped her arms into the garment, Emma dropped the sheet to tie the belt at her waist. Finishing the task, she put her hands on her hips and stared at him.
"What?" he asked.
"What?" she repeated. "Are you serious?"
"I am completely serious and thoroughly confused."
"What the hell is going on here?"
"I brought you here from the club. Your life is in danger."
"Thank you for saving me at the club. I was in danger, but now I'm fine and I won't make that mistake again," she said sweeping past him and walking to the door.
"Where are you going?"
"Home," she responded without slowing her exit. "To my apartment," she added and reached for the door knob.
"No!" he shouted and slammed shut the door as she opened it.
"Signor Melchiorre, I don't understand what is happening here but I know that I don't belong here."
"You are not safe out there."
"Are you ok, sir?" she said looking at him strangely.
"No. I'm trying to explain why you are here."
"Here in your bedroom."
"Fine," he said in obvious frustration. "If being in this room makes you uncomfortable, we will go to the library. I imagine you must be hungry."
"I guess I missed dinner," she agreed following him from the room.
"Emma," he said continuing to walk through a hall past a living room and dining room, "You almost slept through breakfast."
As they exited the main door to his suite, Emma stopped looked around the corridor.
"Uh," she said quietly, "If we are going out in public, then I should put some real clothes on."
"We are not leaving the house."
"The house?" she asked in confusion remaining still.
"My house," he said turning to look at her and then realized her confusion. "We just exited from my private suite. Please follow me to the library."
By the time they approached the grand staircase, Emma was convinced that she truly was dreaming. The structure of the building resembled a castle but the amenities were very modern. Decorated in rich colors, the furnishings confirmed that Antony Melchiorre was a very wealthy man who enjoyed living in luxury.
Descending the stairs, Emma stroked her fingers down the banister appreciating the smooth texture of the polished mahogany. When she noticed Antony look at her clinching his jaw, she pulled her hand away. Apparently she would be wise to not touch anything but follow his lead.
Just as Emma was taking the last step, her foot caught in the hem of the long robe causing her to lose her balance. When she squealed in surprise, Antony turned and caught her with one arm around her waist and another between her scissoring legs. He stepped on the cool marble floor and turned her in his arms.
Shaken from the near fall, Emma soon realized that her host was holding her against his very large warm body with one of his arms around her back allowing his hand access to cupping her breast. His other arm was still wrapped over her hip with his arm cradling her bottom close to his groin. To her shock, she realized that both of her arms were around his neck and one of her legs was snaked around the back of his leg while her other leg was bent at the knee and wrapped around his waist.
"Let me go!" she demanded.
As he released her, Emma removed her grasp on his body and was suddenly airborne. This time, Antony let her fall unceremoniously on the floor.
"Why did you do that?" she demanded.
"You told me to let go. It's odd how difficult you are this morning. You don't want my assistance, demand I quit assisting you and then get angry when I do."
Before Emma could untangle her legs and stand again, Antony moved over her body and pressed her back to the floor. Mesmerized she stared at his eyes, knowing that she had ignited his temper. She gazed at him as he moved closer until her vision was blurred forcing her eyes closed.
Gently he pressed his lips against hers waiting for her reaction. He was relieved when she inhaled and parted her lips. Deepening the kiss, he moved his hand from cupping her face into the folds of robe reaching for her breasts. Suddenly, Antony pulled away from her wiping at the bloody scratches on his arm.
"Damn it, woman! You are truly insane."
"I told you to let me go!" she shrieked.
"You may wish you didn't want this but your response, just now and every night this past week, tells me differently."
Mortified at his arrogance, she kicked at him missing him when he quickly moved from her reach. Realizing that she was no match for his superior strength or speed, Emma braced herself on her hands and knees and tried to crawl away from him. When he grabbed her ankle, she shrieked loudly and then lost her breath as she was quickly flipped to her back.
Staring at Antony in silence, she was not surprised to see his angry expression but was shocked to hear the angelic voice talking to her. As she caught her breath, she realized that the childish sound had not come from his lips but from someone standing behind her. Tilting her head, she saw the most beautiful little girl smiling at her. Scrambling to her knees, she blocked the child behind her back in a feeble protective stance.
"Are you serious?" Antony growled. "You think the child is in danger? From me?"
"I'm sure Emma is trying to adjust to everything," the child said while stroking Emma's hair. "It's a lot to understand."
"What?" Emma asked spinning around and then suddenly understood. "Oh god! You're one too!"
"Welcome to the monster club, kiddo."
"Emma," the child said ignoring Antony's jibe, "my name is Abigail. Come to the library where the cook has delivered your breakfast. If you eat first, then you will be stronger to handle the explanation."
Antony watched as Emma took the child's offered hand and rose from the floor. As the two females walked away, he wondered if he should try to redeem his absurd behavior with Emma or be thankful that she was ready to leave. He may not want her dead but he had no desire to bring her into his dysfunctional life. And he definitely did not want to analyze his feeling about the matter.
Stepping into the background he watched little Abigail lead Emma to a couch and gesture to the table spread with a variety of sweetbreads, meats, and egg dishes. In retrospect, he guessed that the volume of food prepared was a bit ridiculous but he wanted to make sure that she would find something to her liking.
"Thank you so much," Emma said to the child. "I didn't realize how hungry I was." Looking at the bright sunlight shining through the balcony doors, she continued. "And I didn't realize how long I slept. What time is it?"
"Almost noon," the child answered pouring a glass of orange juice for her guest.
Anthony remained motionless in the shadows of the doorway watching Emma relax under Abigail's spell. He was mystified knowing that Emma now understood that the child was the same species as him. If she did not fear the vampire in him then she must just fear him as a man. More confused than ever, he decided to remain hidden in the doorway and learn more of this woman.
After several minutes of eating a portion of everything, Emma rested back on the couch and placed her hands on her stomach. That was the best food she had eaten in a very long time. Actually, she reminded herself, it was the best food she had ever eaten. And there was no denying that it was the most that she had ever eaten in one sitting.
"Thank you ....," Emma paused. "I'm sorry. What is your name?"
"Abigail Philandros," the beautiful child replied.
"Beautiful name," Emma murmured looking at the dark haired child. "Almost as beautiful as you."
"Thank you, Emma," Abigail replied. "It is ok if I call you Emma?"
"Oh, sure," she answered with a smile. "So now that I'm fed, I'm supposed to be able to handle the truth?" At the child's nod, Emma added, "Cause I gotta tell you, I feel like I'm caught somewhere between a dream, insanity, nightmare and ... I don't really know."
"Oh, Emma, I'm so sorry you have been dragged into this. My mother wishes that she would have refused having a human help us but her experience was so different that she thought it would be best this way."
"Ok, I wasn't nearly as confused a minute ago as I am now. You have a ... mother?"
"Oh sure. And I have a father and a brother."
"Antony ... I mean, Signor Melchiorre ..."
"Antony," Abigail corrected. "You're family now," she added with a very mature gesture of placing a hand on Emma's arm.
Watching Emma shake her head, Abigail asked, "Does it bother you that we consider you part of our family, now that you know what we are?"
"No," Emma started and then was quiet for a minute before adding, "I've never been part of a family. I was an orphan, you see, a kid that grew up in the system, as we say in America."
"I know what that means. I was born in America and, I guess, that some would say that I was an orphan too although my mother and father claimed me when I was only a few weeks old."
"That's wonderful. Do you have any idea how lucky you are?"
"Yes. Because no one else wanted me and I now belong to the best two people in the world."
"How old are you? About eight or nine?"
"Because of what I am, I age differently than others. I was born a little more than a year ago," Abigail answered watching Emma's reaction.
When the older woman appeared to be more interested than traumatized, Abigail continued, "My father believes that the portion of my body that was created by a human egg and the addition of my mother's blood, when she was human, altered my development. But then, he's just guessing because there's never been a vampire born before my brother and me," she finished and grabbed a cinnamon twist from the buffet.
"This is a joke," Emma stated flatly.
"What makes you say that?" Abigail asked tearing the pastry into small pieces and popping them into her mouth.
"Because vampires die in the sun," Emma answered gesturing to the bright light pouring into the window.
"They only drink blood," Emma added watching the child reach for another sweet.
"All, except me and my brother," Abigail agreed with a smile. "Much to my father's chagrin but in the man's defense, he's never experienced," she paused giving a dramatic look around the room and then added in a whisper, "chocolate!"
Laughing at the child's banter, Emma furthered relaxed on the couch. She looked around the room in appreciation of the décor of the room. The library was a two-story room with stairs and a platform available to access the books on the upper level. When she looked down at herself, she realized that not only was she grossly underdressed but the robe was nearly hanging from her shoulders.
Quickly standing so she could pull the material closer to her body, she glanced up and caught her reflection in the mirror. Her hair was a matted mess, desperately needing to be brushed. The dark color of the robe accented her pale features making her appear ghostly.
"I'm in a house full of vampires and I'm the only one that looks the part," she murmured.
"I have a brush, if you'd like to use it," Abigail said reaching into the small bag she had in her hand.
"Yes, thank you," Emma answered grabbing the brush and running it through her hair until it was hung straight and shining. "You've been a life savior today Abby," she said handing it back to the child.
"Abby?" the child asked.
"Sorry," Emma said. "It's just a nickname that slipped out."
"No, I like it," she offered. "Emma, do you know to French braid hair? I was supposed to meet my mother in the library so she could do it for me but she has been outside with my father all morning."
"Uh," Emma started, "I used to french braid my Barbie's hair, or I should say, my knock- off Barbie's hair."
"What's a knock- off Barbie?"
"It the very cheap version of a blond plastic doll that poor kids got for Christmas. Anyway, would you like for me to try to braid yours?"
"Yes, please," Abigail answered turning on the couch so her back was to Emma.
"Have you ever had a real Barbie?"
"No," Emma answered brushing the girl's dark curls. "I hate to sound so pathetic, but the truth is, I was pretty pathetic. The system moves kids into different homes and while the foster parents are briefed and paid for their service, sometimes the kids just have the bed, food and bare necessities they need to get through life. I was one of those kids."
"I'm sorry, Emma," Abigail whispered.
"Why are you sorry?"
"You deserve better," Abigail answered and turned in the middle of the styling process and added, "If you let us help, you will have everything you deserve."
"Who is 'us'?"
"My parents, my uncles Antony and Edward and my aunt, Iona. She's fun," she explained and then looked to the balcony. "There are my parents now."
Looking through the balcony doors, Emma watched the most beautiful couple approach the doors and then stop, continuing their conversation. The man was tall with an extremely broad chest. Although he was dressed in a business suit, which seemed odd on a Saturday morning, his stature reminded Emma of the fabled Atlas who could carry the weight of the world on his shoulders.
There was no doubt in Emma's mind that the woman was not human. No woman could have lived or worked a day in her life and be that beautiful. While she wanted to envy the dark haired beauty, Emma had to admit that her beauty was more than on the surface. She admired this woman who stood with the posture of a queen but the smile of a friend.
As they talked, the man stroked the woman's back in a way that made Emma smile. The physical attraction was definitely there but these two had a lot more than sex. Their love was publically displayed but not in an offensive manner.
After a few minutes, the man turned to lean his hip against the cement banister and watched his wife as she talked. He smiled easily which seemed like a contradiction to his large, strong features. Moving his hands to her neck, he moved her hair to reveal the soft white skin hidden underneath. When he softly kissed the woman's neck, Emma turned away embarrassed that she had been watching the lovers.
"Don't be upset," Abigail said. "They do that all the time. The only way to avoid seeing them is to be on another planet."
On the balcony Gabriel watched Alena, looking for any new signs of her recent adjustments. Her change last year had begun with a delay, which he still believed was his fault somehow. Then the death of her human body had given him one last chance to give her his blood, now laced with all the blood of the Third Creation. When she awakened, she had rapidly changed from human to vampire and had seemed to adjust to the new lifestyle with no problems.
Since their arrival in Europe only a few days earlier, Alena had become withdrawn, blocking her thoughts from him and saying that he did not need to hear her shopping lists along with everything else. While he appreciated her consideration, he resented being removed from her everyday thought. Many days, the sound of her voice in his head had given him the strength and purpose to continue fighting this war.
As she continued talking, he had moved her hair and sneaked a kiss to the warm skin underneath. When she turned and looked at him, he saw the bright eyes of his mate that he had always adored. Pulling her close, Gabriel held her smaller body against the hard planes of his, wishing he could share his strength with her.
"We are making out in front of people," Alena mumbled against his chest.
"It's nothing Abigail hasn't seen a million times already and I'm sure Antony appreciates the free lesson that we are giving to his, uh, woman?"
"Let's call her Emma for now," Alena answered with a chuckle.
"Are you ok, baby?"
"Sure. Why wouldn't I be?"
"You seem to have withdrawn from me since we arrived. I can't fight for the world if I have to lose you."
"I'm just trying to find my place right now," she explained. "And it's a little frustrating to find enemies camped out at the base."
"Are you sure that only one person knew about your plans?"
"Yes. Well, Alesso was the only person I told but the children were there. Maybe they told someone or Alesso told another staff member."
"I'll find Edward and Antony. We'll inspect the maze together and see if others are still here."