New Kingdom: Australian Court Ch. 03byMicKay©
Once again, special thanks to Willie for correcting my Aussie references. Thanks to TaFace for editing spelling, grammar and content and returning the chapter so quickly.
Nola sat in her room. Alone. Joshua was a gentleman and she was not sure if that was a good thing or not. She was accustomed to being alone. Although Lord Melchiorre had treated her as well as he had all of his employees, Nola knew that she was a second class citizen in his world.
The New Kingdom had admirable rules regarding humans. No human was to be assaulted by a vampire and blood could only be taken by a willing donor over the age of twenty-one years old. Because she was only eighteen, she had never been asked to share her personal stock of O-Negative.
Once again, she had been reminded that she was not quite up to the vampires' skills. When Abigail was taken, Nola had been escorted to her rooms and placed under guarded watch. Not to be ungrateful, she appreciated the protection but she resented the fact that she was not able to assist the others in finding Abigail. There was something to be said for immortality and inhuman strength.
Since the others had left, Joshua had only visited her once to make sure that she had everything she needed. He had instructed her to call the staff for food or anything else she desired.
"So, should I call the staff if I desire you?" she smiled at the thought.
Immediately she scolded herself. Joshua had been so distraught when he had seen his sister taken. Now he was angry because he was not able to join the search parties. When he had checked on Nola earlier, he had barely contained the worry evident on his face. His eyes were dark with deep circles beneath. She had wanted to comfort him but he had immediately withdrawn returning to his room.
More than twenty four hours had passed since Abigail had been taken. Nola could only imagine how worried Joshua would be. Maybe he just needed a friend right now. Wrapping her robe close to her body, she stepped from her room and told the guards where she was going. Since Joshua's room was just across the hall, they would still be able to guard her.
She opened the door to the suite he shared with his sister and stopped. The room was in shambles. Cushions that had once graced the sofa and chairs were now shredded throughout the living room. Several empty bottles and glasses were discarded as though left from a wild party. She had worked for Lord Melchiorre long enough to recognize the scarlet liquid as blood. Had Joshua drank this much since she had seen him?
"Josh?" she asked hesitantly. "It's Nola. Are you ok?"
"Nola, please go to your room," his horse voice replied from another room.
She slowly walked towards the sound of his voice and found a door separating them.
"Please let me in," she said. "You don't sound well."
"Please," he said breaking into a sob, "please leave. I don't want to hurt you."
"Hurt me?" she asked with a nervous laugh and reached for the door knob. "You would never hurt me."
"Not intentionally," he said from the dark room. "But I'm losing control."
Nola barely suppressed her shriek when he stepped toward her. She had witnessed his radical growth spurt but had always felt safe with the guy who had quickly grown from boy to man. Sometime during the last few hours, he had changed again.
"J...Josh," she stammered, "What happened?"
"I broke a promise to my father," he answered quietly. "I thought it would help. It had made me stronger but now I thought it might numb the pain."
"Abby. It feels different when she's gone. We've never been separated."
"Come to my room. Stay with me," she offered and then stopped when he stepped into the lit room.
The last time she had seen him, he was the average height of an adult man. But now he stood as tall as his father and his hair and eyes were darker. He resembled the boy she knew. He was just an older version of him.
"What do you need, Josh?"
"You," he answered and pulled her close.
She was either dreaming or remembering. Emma had no way of knowing. She could see things that she thought were true but were impossible for an infant to remember. Nevertheless, throughout her dreams one thing remained constant.
She felt the care given to her at birth; the blood that had nurtured her in those first days; and the special delivery to her aunt's home. Questions from her past were finally answered as she felt her direction being steered towards classical arts even as a young girl. There was a piano. Where did that come from? She became agitated with her blurred memories but calmed when she felt the gentle stroke of familiar fingers. Her one constant had always been Antony.
"Quiet, love," he whispered near her temple. "You have so much to understand and a lifetime to do that."
Alex put the final touches to his makeshift shelter and crawled beneath the barricade to join Abigail. She was still sleeping. He had lost consciousness sometime while she fed from his wrist but not due to blood loss. He was more than a little uncomfortable with the reaction he had felt when her lips touched his skin.
He had woken to find her sleeping snuggled against his body. Her eyes were no longer shadowed by blue circles but she had drastically changed. Her body was slightly longer with more curves. Softer curves he reminded himself. The sun was moving fast across the sky and he knew they would be easy prey.
When he had lifted her body, determined to struggle with her weight, he was surprised to find he was mostly healed. It was better than healed. It was renewed. Old scars were gone and his muscles were strong. For a fleeting moment, Alex feared that he had been changed.
Lifting Abigail in his arms, he was able to carry her and search for a suitable shelter for them. The lean-to was hardly comfortable but it was dry and easy to exit. He had managed to build an area secluded behind small saplings obscuring them as easy targets.
His next move had not been enjoyable but had proven to have a dual purpose. The carcass of the animal lay outside of their shelter decomposing in the afternoon sun. The stench would evade the hunters and the meat that had been roasted in a distance would serve as their dinner.
Alex stretch out beside Abigail and waited. He alternated his glance between the temporary structure and her sleeping face. His body might feel great but his mind was struggling with everything. When Abigail moaned, he turned to watch her face. He prayed his girl was ok.
Groaning, Alex wondered when she had become his girl.
"Gabriel," Edward said, "I've given Antony an update. Everyone is here waiting for your orders."
Gabriel turned to look at his brother and the others that had joined his search team to find Abigail. They were tired, frustrated and growing weak from hunger. Showing his hand would not be a wise tactic because everyone expected him to be in control and have all the answers. All the correct answers.
Before Edward could continue, Gabriel asked, "How is Emma?"
"Good. Progressing as normal which is almost abnormal for any of our mates, but what the hell, it's good news."
"Did you tell him that he doesn't need to join us?"
"Yes," Edward answered and waited silently.
"I don't know."
"I don't know what the hell is happening. Isn't that the question you were about to ask?"
Edward laughed and shook his head. Turning toward the growing number of vampires in the search party, he quickly sought his mate and willed her to turn to him. With a suggestive wink, he sent her a smile and then turned back to Gabriel.
"We are beyond that, Gabe. I just want this to be over. It's amazing how well we've adjusted to our lot. I only want to know if we pursue them and drag her back against her will or move ahead with her crazy plan."
"I'm sorry. I just don't know. I honestly don't understand her motives and why she's so passionate while Josh seems to not care."
"I have no advice so I'll support your decision."
"Then we camp here tonight," Gabriel stated flatly. "Tell the others to spread out around the base of the mountain but be on guard. Can you feel them?"
"Oh yeah. I wonder if they have any clue who is waiting for them when they wake. Taking prisoners?"
"How about any who surrender?"
"Definitely not," Gabriel answered and added, "Abigail will just need to deal with it later."
"Somehow, I don't think she would disagree with you," Edward said before walking to the others.
Gabriel closed his eyes and reached out with his mind searching for anything he could find. The vampires hiding in the caves were obvious to everyone in his group. Alex's blood left a trail to Abigail that disappeared several miles to the east. Joshua's emotions had surged through him momentarily screaming for help but now were silence in sated bliss. Gabriel contemplated the reasons for his children's erratic behavior and the people who had satisfied their cravings. Once again, he regretted that he had never trained them properly.
He knew Alena had approached him before she wrapped her arms around his waist. Pulling her close, he rested his cheek against her hair and savored the fact that she was his mate. He could feel her love for their children and the trust she had in his judgment. Her strength strengthened him.
"Have you found this other child?" she mumbled against his chest.
"No and I'm not sure he's a child. Remember that he was raised by the Panthralges so he may be young but not a child."
"Gabe, are you sure that everyone has shared everything they know about this?"
"Yes, Conlaoch was honest and, now that Alex is out here, he is extremely anxious that we succeed."
"I, uh, wasn't talking about Conlaoch," she said hesitating.
"I'm sorry, Gabe, but Heron knew about Abigail and Joshua and how they were being used. I thought maybe he would know something about ...."
She stopped when he abruptly pulled away and approached the brother in question. Heron had deceived them once and although he had repented of that deception, Alena had no confidence that he had been completely honest with his brothers.
Emma moaned in her sleep. She had been restless for the past several hours causing Anthony concern over his mate's change. He could hear her heart, smell her blood, and feel their link. Certainly she would be healthy.
If so, then why was he worried? He had witnessed many changes but he had never known one to occur like Emma's. There were no signs of failure. Her human body had died and her vampire body had rapidly grabbed on to its new life. Her heart raced to the unique rhythm of his own. Her face, body and hair had altered to a magnificent form of perfection. Emma's perfection. He stretched out beside her and watched closely. Her eyelids continued fluttering as she apparently dreamed. When she moaned again, Antony wondered what thoughts or memories were holding on to his mate during her change.
"Hey," Abigail murmured.
"Hey," Alex returned.
"How long have I been asleep?" she asked sitting up from the makeshift pallet. "Where are we? Oh my god, Alex, are you ok?"
"About ten hours. It will be dark soon. In a cave where I hope we will be safe for the night. And I'm fine. Better than fine, actually."
"I mean...did I, uh, when I....why are you laughing?"
"You're cute when you're nervous."
"Then I must be cute the entire time I'm with you!" she snapped. "I'm only trying to find out if I hurt you."
"You didn't," he answered seriously. "Actually, I hope we can talk about it sometime."
"Talk about it? Alex, it's simple. I am what you hate most and the first time I feed from a person, you were the only one available. I can't begin to explain how sorry I ..."
"The first time?" he asked staring at her.
"Yes. I'm so sorry."
"Don't worry about it."
"Thanks for that but I know how much you hate us and I really don't want...."
"I don't want you to hate me," she said as her eyes filled with tears.
"First of all," he said as he moved close, "I do not hate all vampires. Remember that my mother is one and a vampire saved her. At my request. "
"Long story but second thing is, I don't hate you. Seriously doubt I ever could."
Abigail wiped at the tears that had escaped her eyes and looked away. Her confidence had wavered so many times in the last few days and now she could find nothing sensible to say.
"Abby," Alex finally said, "Tell me why I was the first."
"I haven't had the urge to feed other than the times we drink blood. From a glass. From a donor. A willing ..."
"I know. I understand," he interrupted. "I was just wondering ...never mind."
"I've only felt the ... need...the ability to feed in the last few days with my, uh, fangs."
"Ah! Our little girl is all grown up," he teased playfully tugging at her hair.
"Funny," she complained swatting his hand away. "Do you think of me as a little girl?"
"Hell no! Phillip told me that you were young but, no, you look very, uh..."
He burst out laughing and shook his head. "Man, this is fucked up."
"Alex," she said quietly. "I'm sorry. Wait, let me finish. I'm sorry that I deceived everyone and especially sorry that I manipulated Josh to deceive you. But most of all, I'm sorry for what I am. I've always felt fortunate that my parents saved me but now, when I see the difference, maybe ..."
"What? We're different. We'll adjust."
"We will? We, as in you and I, will adjust?" she asked hopefully.
"Man, this is fucked up," was all he could say.
"Nola," Joshua murmured against the soft skin of her shoulder. "Are you ok?"
"I thought I might have scared you."
"Why? Because you've changed in the last three hours? Because I had no idea what you meant when you said you needed me?"
"Sorry. I just need to be near you," he explained. "I drank some of my father's whiskey because, well, I'll explain later, and then I forgot how I would appear to you. Sorry." After a few seconds, he chuckled and asked, "Did you think I was going to eat you alive?"
"No," she answered quickly. "Josh, I understand what you are. I know what you need to live. I was scared because I had heard your voice but wasn't expecting the, uh, physical changes."
"But you're ok with them now?"
"Yeah. Oh, yeah."
Joshua twisted in the bed until he was braced on his arms hovering over Nola. He stared at her eyes until he thought his emotions would overwhelm him. Gently kissing her lips, he then traced a path across her jaw and to her neck. When he had first seen Nola, her Italian features had appealed to his eyes. When he had built the nerve to speak to her, his blood had raced through his veins. Soon, after tasting her lips, he had become addicted to her.
He kissed her neck tenderly wondering how he should continue their conversation. If she accepted him, he was concerned about her future. If she rejected him, then he could care less about any future.
"Nola," he said bracing himself to see her face, "I understand how my people have valued their relationship with humans and not just for blood. But we also have a different type of relationship. More personal. One on one."
"Are you talking about mates?"
"Yeah, I am," he answered encouraged by her response. "The only mated couples I know have started from a vampire male and a human female, like my parents."
After a few moment of silence, Nola asked, "Was a question in there somewhere?"
"Have you ever considered changing?"
"Only recently. Since I met you."
"I can't imagine a life without you in it," he confessed quickly kissing her lips.
"I'd hoped that was why you kept me with you but can you do it?"
"You know, change me?" she asked with confusion. "I didn't think you had, your, uh, fangs yet."
"Why would you say that?"
"Because Abby has fangs and you don't. Don't worry, Josh, she was upset at Lord Melchiorre's house and just needed to talk with someone. So we tried to find anything that explained her changes and found that, uh..."
"Girls mature quicker than guys," she answered quickly.
"So you think she matured before me?"
"Hmmm...I wonder," he said lowering himself to rest on top of her, "Have you ever heard that guys are a bit deceiving?" Joshua smiled revealing his elongated fangs.
Nola inhaled sharply. "Josh, does this mean I'm getting more than a kiss?"
Scenes flashed behind Emma's closed eyes. Struggling to see and remember every scene, she watched memories swim past at lightning speed. She held on to that one constant that had been her silent guide for so long. As the memories raced to their current secluded retreat, Emma moaned reliving her last human hours with Antony. She had been surprised, excited, aroused, and then satisfied. Finally, after so many years of wandering through life, she was now exactly where she should be.
When the scenes faded to black, she instantly felt the warmth of his nearness. Even now, she was aware of the changes that had occurred to her body and the new craving that was burning in her throat. Inhaling deeply, she found the only source that could satisfy her. So close.
"Emma, love, I 'm here," she heard his voice whisper. "You are so beautiful. Soon, we will begin the rest of our lives together."
Happiness surged through her. She could hear him, feel him and know that he was there waiting. Her mind snuggled close to her mate's. Tentatively, she listened for his words and then tried to form her own.
"Soon," she responded silently to him. "Forever."
She smiled as his joy surged through her.
"Alena," Gabriel called to his mate. "Why have you moved so far from the others?"
"This is hardly the time, woman," he answered walking close to her. "But I love your new uninhibited passion."
"You're in a good mood."
"I could say the same for you," he added and caught her hand before she could playfully swat at his shoulder. "Seriously, I need to be alone with you too."
"Does this mean Heron knows nothing about the boy?" she asked.
"No, but I don't think he knows much. He is weak but not necessarily deceitful, and the Panthralges probably knew that, so he wasn't given any crucial secrets only used as a weapon against us."
"I found a spot where we can rest," Alena said motioning to a flat stone under the shade trees. "The shade will cool us."
"And hide us," he commented with a wink. "You found this?"
"Well, I found the trees and the rock was a few yards over so I moved it to my satisfaction," she explained as she directed him to sit so she could straddle his lap.
"And your satisfaction is so important to me," he murmured against her neck.
"Which is why you insisted that I and the other mates join the search team" she replied with a calculated grin.
"Apparently I can hide nothing from you," he answered. "While your safety is always my number one priority, I did think we would need our mates to survive this fight."
"I know. And you still block me fairly often," Alena responded pulling her black t-shirt over her head. "Like if you ever think of other women, I'm totally clueless."
"Baby, I lost you once. I'm not planning on losing you again," he replied while unbuttoning his own shirt. "You go first."
Instead of pouncing on her mate, she just watched him. Large and powerful, Gabriel evoked fear in all humans and most vampires. But with her, he had never treated her with less than absolute tenderness and respect.
Alena raised her hips from his lap until her face was level with his. She leaned close and gently pressed her lips against his mouth loving the feel and taste of him. Passion was always near whenever she heard his voice or caught a glimpse of him. It soared when she touched him. But when she was able to taste him, Alena lost control. Unlike humans who could only sate their passion through sex, vampires were gifted with another venue.