Walking along the shoreline, with white foam fizzing around her toes, Anna’s footprints were deep and precise. She’d needed time alone—time to digest what these people were saying to her. That they are vampires—did they really think she was that gullible? That she could possibly believe such utter bull? But as much as she didn’t want to…she did.
Subconsciously she rubbed the side of her neck, and then glanced at her hand. Blood was smeared, tarnishing the tips of her fingers, but the sight didn’t disgust her—it simply confirmed it.
Glancing back along the beach, fire rose out of the ground in a fountain of flames. Figures milled around and even from that distance she could tell which silhouette belonged to Joel. Sitting on the sand, she hitched her knees up and wrapped her arms around them. The tide seemed to lap at the shore in slow motion. Each time, swirling foam drew back and disappeared forever into the blackness. I don’t believe it—I don’t believe it—I don’t believe it… She tried hard to convince herself, but knew she was failing.
As she shivered, one by one the hairs on her arms stood up and she pulled her knees in tighter. A glance at her watch told her it was two forty a.m. Her friends would either be back in their apartment or waist high in foam by now. A large sigh escaped her lips and she bowed her head. The plane ride home was not going to be fun. How could she speak to them now? Anything could have happened, and they clearly didn’t give a damn. She could’ve been picked up by some psychopathic serial killer for all they knew…for all they cared. No this time she was through with them.
As the image of her friends faded, in its place manifested a clear picture of Joel and she wondered how well matched they could possibly be. Anna had always considered herself to be a bit of a hippy-chick a far cry from the biker-chick type she assumed Joel would be more suited to. Joel…a vampire—a vampire—a vampire… The words spun around in her mind. This is crazy…but I can’t get on that plane tomorrow.
Scanning the shoreline, her eyes fell upon Kelly. With a look of excitement lighting her features, it seemed she couldn’t hold herself back much longer. So in an attempt to put her out of her misery, Anna let her grin signal her invitation. And, it seemed Kelly needed no further persuasion. Already bounding across the sand, Anna stood to greet her.
“Are you okay?” Kelly asked. “I realise how tactless I must have sounded. It’s only that I just love seeing Joel like this. He deserves to meet someone like you—someone with depth and understanding. The twins…they are very special, and it takes a certain type of person to understand them.”
“I think I get that. But why me?”
“Because you haven’t questioned. You seem to accept him for who he is, and I can’t tell you how much that means to him.”
“Are you like them…are you one of them?”
“A vampire—me?” Kelly exploded with laughter and Anna could feel her embarrassment spilling out.
“Don’t be. It’s me who should be apologising. No, I’m not a vampire. Neither are the others. We are Véradó. We are the ones they rely on to help them maintain a normal existence in this world.”
“Véradó? I’ve never heard that word before.”
“I’m not surprised. It is Hungarian. It means we give them our blood.”
“Oh.” As Anna’s mouth stuck in the shape of an ‘O’, her breathing hitched and she physically felt the colour drain from her face.
Acknowledging Anna’s sudden fear, Kelly responded, “Honestly, Anna, it’s no big deal. Vampires need to feed, and this is the best way for them. It’s how they control themselves.” She lowered her voice, and a huge grin moulded her features. “And to be completely honest, it feels mmm…amazing.”
“And what’s in it for me?”
“Well, for a start, you get to be with Joel. You will become a part of something very special. Something most can only dream of. Marshall and the boys, they will be there for you, protecting you and welcoming you into their world. I’ve been a part of it for a few years now, and I’ve never looked back.”
“Tell me this is above board. No drugs, and no…well, you know what I’m asking. Jesus, do you realise how dodgy this whole thing sounds?”
“Yes I do, and no there is nothing like that going on here. These are good people, who just happen to be immortal. They would never do you any harm, and if you are not happy, you can leave at any time. All I can tell you is that they’ve given me something worth living for. My life before—back home was pretty awful. All I ever wanted was to be loved, and now—here, I am.”
“I don’t need rescuing, Kelly.”
“I’m not saying you do. You will still live your own life here, but they can find you legitimate work, and joining us each evening will give you a purpose and sense of belonging. This is a family—and that’s what is being offered to you. It’s your call.”
Anna fell silent. Staring out into the night, she contemplated the situation. It was hard not to believe Kelly. Although a stranger to Anna, and despite her appearance, there was something uniquely innocent about her. Unable to deny her need for the warmth of family, she could feel herself caving, and just at that moment, Joel came up behind her and rested his head on her shoulder. As his calming aura penetrated her, her lips automatically formed the words.
“Yes, I think…I’d like to be a part of this.”
Kelly literally bounced with joy. “Woo-hoo,” she screamed.
Wrapping his cool arms around her, for the first time in a very long time Anna felt warm and wanted.