• The home stood silent in the mountains surrounding my present city. I hadn’t been born here. To tell the truth, I couldn’t remember my home city. After three hundred years, I’d lost track of my early and pointless past. I’d been removed from my mother’s care at a young age to be raised as a Tilani the “right way”. I was taken to all the right instructors, all the expensive teachers, anyone qualified enough to teach me anything from how to use a sword to how to cook. Though I’d spent little time (relatively) learning these skills, the time had seemed to drag on forever at the time. I was glad to be back amongst my kind, ruling over them as a Pureblood and directing my specie’s future. Speaking of our future, it was in extreme jeopardy if the hunters had desired to go rogue on us.
    “Amy? Frank?” I called into the dark entrance hall.
    Only my voice answered back as it echoed down the countless halls. Antique chairs, sofas, book shelves, tables, and nameless other extravagances blocked my path towards the stairs, yet I weaved through them with the grace of someone accustomed to the clutter. My mother had never been one to throw things away, especially things that held fond memories like the glass, ruby, and sapphire roses my father had given her on her birthday, just days after giving birth to me. I stared at the sparkling false flowers as they glimmered in their porcelain blue and white vase from the Ming dynasty (it’d belonged to my great, great grandmother) and had to draw my eyes away. Far too many open wounds attached to those flowers. Why Lavinia wouldn’t let me throw them away, I’d never know.
    “Amy? Hello?” I called out once more as I rose up the stairs.
    “Good morning, Miss Ruth.” I leapt at the voice rising behind me and turned to see our butler, Marcus Dashwood.
    “Ah, Marcus. You scared me.” I descended a few steps and handed him my jacket. He took it with a bow of his black haired head. A quick look over revealed that I’d need to get him a new tuxedo. The one we’d bought him a few years ago was worn and a little too short.
    “Please forgive me miss.” He said confidently and sincerely. He respected me and my family. He didn’t fear us.
    Marcus was within ten years of my age, but had been our family’s butler for the last century. His own family had died long ago during the witch and vampire wars and he’d been left with us. Though it would have been improper to have him in our home as simply a permanent guest as he was a Common vampire, having him remain here as our butler was quite acceptable.
    “It’s quite all right, Marcus.” I shook my head. “No need to apologize. Do you happen to know where Amy and Frank are?”
    “Amy went to school and Frank has left for work at the firm as well, miss.”
    I nodded. I should have realized. With everything that had happened, I’d lost track of the hour. Returning my focus to Marcus, I caught his eyes focused on my hand. Looking down, I quickly realized why. Burn marks from my run back to the car after the hunter incident still throbbed even in the dim light. You think I’d have known by now that Marcus lit the candles as he walked past them. The entire room was flickering in the flame light.
    “It’s nothing. Really. Just a mild run in with some rogue hunters. Not a problem.”
    “If you say so, miss. You look rather parched. Would you like me to prepare you something?” I smiled down at him.
    “Do I really? That sounds fabulous. Thank you.” How odd that even after drinking hunter’s blood, I still was thirsty. It had been a few days since my last meal. I should have known one hunter wouldn’t satisfy me. “I’d like to go change first. I’ll be down in a minute.” I turned to ascend once more.
    “Would you not prefer me to bring it up to you, miss?”
    “That’s quite all right. I’d like to drink with you tonight if you don’t mind.” He blinked at me, taken aback. “Please don’t look at me that way. I had a very trying day and would like to speak with someone who doesn’t constantly look at me and treat me like I’m a Pureblood, like it’s something that makes me amazing and unapproachable. You’ve always been one to just speak with me.”
    “You asked me to, miss, and I complied, as a servant should.”
    “You must know by now that we’ve never thought of you as a servant.”
    “Though that is true, it doesn’t change the facts, miss. I am your servant and do as you command.”
    We stared at each other for a moment. Marcus’s eyes were as unrevealing as ever. He was good company when he opened up and allowed you to open up as well, but there still remained times when he made me feel more lonely and secluded then I’ve ever felt. I nodded, surrendering.
    “Fine, if you only do as I command, then I’ll ask you. You’re not obligated to obey a request. I’d be very pleased if you’d join me for a drink before bed.” He bowed his head once more, my arm gauntlets folded over one arm and the other held tightly at his side.
    “I’d be more then happy to acquiesce your desire, miss.”
    “Then I’ll only be a minute. I just want to change out of these clothes.”
    “Miss-” I stopped, one foot on the step above me.
    “Yes?” I peaked over my shoulder.
    “I recommend taking a quick shower as well. The scent of hunter’s blood is still rather potent on your skin.” The corners of my mouth rose in a chuckling laugh.
    “As observant as ever, Marcus, but thank you. I will be sure to do that.”
    With our conversation concluded, I proceeded up the stairs and slipped into my room, happily shutting the door behind me and breathing in the vanilla scent of my sanctuary. Shedding my blood stained clothes, I eyed the complete oddness of my room compared to the ancient, retro feel I found downstairs. I sincerely couldn’t help being different from my mother. While she reveled in the past and prayed for it’s return, I urged time forwards and welcomed anything that hid my memories of the moments slipping past. I didn’t like looking back.
    I pressed the on button the laptop resting open on the golden tablecloth covered desk. Four vanilla scented candles erupted into life as I began to remove my boots, having taken rest on the cream comforter of my queen bed. The see through white canopy swayed in the wind blowing in through the open window before the desk and the sunflowers I’d placed on it shook slightly. A small clumps of petals began their slow descent onto the floor. The white and silver outlined tiles felt cold beneath my feet as I stood and, removing my skirt caked with blood as I went, disappeared into the bathroom.
    Running a steady hand through my hair as I sat on the toilet lid and waited for the steam from the shower to fully encompass me didn’t appear to help. Thoughts dove in and out of my mind, uncontrolled and rampant. The world before me blurred long before the steam took over. Lianell. How dare he ever even think of saying those things to me. Agatha. The poor girl, driven to madness by a corrupted society and a cruel sister. Rina. What was she up to? What had she been planning? How many others were in on it? Frank. Did he know how much danger he was in by simply living in this house? Lavinia. Helen thought she was dead, thought I and Lianell were the only Purebloods left in this country. Amy. She was going to get herself killed if she kept up these foolish attempts to spite me. I’d told her to stay at home! I’d warned her that the last member of the Ash family had fallen extremely ill and the blood lust during one of his weakest episodes had led him to kill a human, which led to his name being placed on the hunter’s extermination list! I told her the city wasn’t safe for her last night and then she just ignored me, went to the party, and nearly got herself killed on the way back! No thank you or anything though of course! Maybe Helen was right and I should just let her get turned into lunch. It’d certainly save me a great deal of stress. Like I didn’t have enough with the COV meeting in a week.
    I lowered my head onto my knee and took a deep breath. Long scorned lungs ached and yelled at me for the amount of use they’d been forced to undergo today, but I ignored them. The water vapor passing down my throat helped to calm my roaring head and I doubted I’d be able to survive much longer without the warmth and comfort of the nearly boiling water rushing over me. A water proof stereo illuminated to life as I passed into the water, pulling the the creme shower curtain shut behind me and glancing mildly at the green palm trees painted onto it.
    Ancient classical music filtered into the secluded bath tub and the violins reached my ears through the water. A soprano’s voice began to sing long, smooth notes which calmed my head. I focused only on her singing as I ran soap over my skin, the water beneath my feet swirling with red stains. Melodious words gained intensity as a drum started up in the background and the violins took a sinister turn. A high note caused my ears to tingle and I opened my mouth, allowing the words to fly from my throat. My voice mingled with that of the girls as the song reached it’s climax. Our voices combined into one filled the bathroom eliminating even the sound of the water. I lifter my hands as we continued allowing the music to completely surround me. The sweet song felt amazing and the room nearly shook as we reached the end, finishing off on a note that almost reached higher then I could grasp. The drums concluded the song and for a moment, the room was still save for the sound of water pushing it’s way through the shower’s hose. Then the song began again and I joined in immediately. Something about this song always calmed me down and, as I stepped out with a towel wrapped loosely around me, I found myself still singing for the tenth run through. The volume grew louder as I just stood before the curtain, hair dripping onto my shoulders, unable to move for fear of my mind unsettling itself. Too many thoughts.
    I sung louder, still singing perfectly, but with a fire and intensity that didn’t fit the song. A passion filtered into my voice and goose bumps ran up my legs. My arms dropped the towel as they rose to shoulder height to assist my voice. Eyes closed tight as I nearly screamed the lyrics, the drums pounded in the distance. Violins urged me on and angry tears filled my eyes. My throat ached as the end neared, unwillingly to push itself this far. I forced it onward, matching the girl’s notes with flawless perfection. Once again, the world seemed to shatter as I reached the final note and my knees gave way.
    My arms shivered beneath me, but still held me up as I tried to still my chattering mouth. The song repeated itself above me. I refused to sing, frightened of loosing control once more. The tears blended with the steam and my skin itched with the water vapor collecting on it. Again the climax danced past my ears, but I held firm, my mouth tightly shut. No, I needed to relax. My elbow jerked as the end was neared, begging me to sing, just once more. I shook it off and waited. The last word passed by in a blast of vocal perfection and the stereo fell dead, all energy drained from it. Still unsteady, I stood and ran a hand through my hair. My ears rung in the silence and my throat screamed in protest. Turning, my favorite black dress made itself visible through the steam fog and I smiled. Marcus. Reaching into the clouds before me, I pulled the dress over my head and thankfully opened the door, allowing a rush of cold air to infiltrate the bathroom, pushing the steam past the opened window.
    The calming scent of vanilla bombarded me as I exited the bathroom and caught my reflection in the mirror placed thoughtfully over my bed. My hair hung limply on my shoulders, all life extinguished from it by the pounding water and the scars running along my shoulders from far too many pointless brawls made themselves shockingly apparent in the dress with it’s absent shoulders. The sleeves ballooned out around my wrists, making them appear if thinner and bonier, but coupled with the skin tight fit and the knee length hem, it created an all together beautiful look and more importantly, it had been my mothers. The mirror flipped itself over as that thought entered my mind and I hurried back to the stairwell, managing, despite my eagerness to get something in my stomach and then get to bed, to hold my composure.
    Marcus smiled at me and quickly rose from his seat as I entered one of the mansions many completely pointless rooms. This one had been furnished to please any guest over for a cup of blood and a chat. The bookshelf, fireplace, elegant and comfortable chairs, and thoughtful and elegant table arrangements had all been selected with the intention of making company feel just at home. A steaming tea pot sat on a tray on the table beside two tall, rounded wine glasses. I returned his sweet, benevolent smile and inhaled the intoxicating aroma happily. Warm blood with a wonderful friend. I doubt the world got much better then that for my kind.
    “Good morning. Hmmm, it smells delicious. Sit down, sit down. You know I hate it when you do that.”
    He joined me as we descended into our seats. The cushion seemed to swallow me whole as Marcus reached out for the teapot. I swatted his hand away and began to pour our glasses. Watching me with eyes filled with brotherly concern, he leaned back and with a thank you, took the glass I offered him.
    “So,” He began running a finger in a circle along the edge of his glass and a kidding smirk curling the corners of his mouth, “are you going to explain the hunter’s blood you had all over you?”
    “Curious?” I teased, raising an eyebrow.
    “Shouldn’t I be?” Marcus teased right back, all thoughts of propriety forgotten. We were just two friends, talking and enjoying a quick cup before calling it a night.
    “How do you think I got the blood?” I took a sip, letting the sweet nectar soothe my throat.
    “With you, there’s no chance I’ll guess.” I laughed.
    “Am I that unpredictable?”
    “No, but you seem to find yourself drawn, constantly, into complicated and odd situations. I gave up long ago attempting to reason out where you might be.” Marcus smiled sideways at me, still staring at the red liquid in his glass.
    “Yes, well.” My smile faded smoother then it’d come. “Being a Pureblood means I have to deal with even the most bizarre things.”
    “I’m under the distinct impression you’d attract them regardless of your blood status.” He took another quick sip and I followed suit, eye balling him carefully as he relaxed more and more. “You almost seem to go looking for odd.”
    “Maybe it just likes me.” He shrugged, chuckling, making fun of me. Had it been anyone else, I would have told them to shut up, but this was Marcus. Blood status didn’t exist when we spoke. I wondered if this was how Amy felt talking with her friends, her human friends who weren’t bound by regulations and codes of conduct.
    “I guess it’s possible, but if you ask me, I think you like it.” He pointed out and I smirked.
    “Why would I like odd things? All they ever do is cause confusion and misunderstanding.”
    “Because, you’re bored miss Tilani.” I frowned.
    “Bored?” I smirked once more. “With all these things going on?”
    “Yes, very, if I may say so, even chronically. So bored, in fact, that even the tiniest sign of chaos or something veering from the set plan immediately attracts you attention.”
    “But if it’s disturbing the original plan, then surely everyone else would notice it and be attracted to it, if only to stop it from messing up the plan.”
    “Generally, but I don’t think that’s why odd attracts you.”
    “Am I being analyzed this morning? Isn’t it a little late for that?” I chuckled and took a deep gulp.
    “Maybe, but I see no reason to tell you later instead of now about my ‘observations’, as it were.” He was teasing me again. Our conversation never drifted from light and friendly, but he knew my personality confused even me and that I’d leap at the opportunity to figure myself out.
    “Might as well continue, we’re already so deep into my psychoanalysis.”
    “Are you sure? I might insult you accidentally.” Our smiles mirrored one another.
    “I’m positive I’ve heard worse then whatever you’ll tell me.”
    “All right. I did warn you, Ruth. I think odd attracts you because odd has been your life, at least for the past twenty years or so. It was odd for the Congress to suddenly gain an interest in you. It was odd for them to shove you so quickly into their ranks without any justification. It was odd for your mother, whose husband she lost only a century ago, to fall for a human of all things. It is odd for him to accept what you and your mother are. It was odd that all of this wooing and seduction occurred while you were far from it, off on business across the Atlantic. It was odd that upon your return, you discovered what your mother had done and yet did not abandon her or shun her like most would have. It was odd, nearly unexplainably so, for your mother to give birth to a purely human child considering your undeniable Pureblood heritage. It was odd that your mother suddenly fell ill shortly after this and has never risen from her bed since. And finally, it is odd that you, a Pureblood with all the right heritage and training, all the right friends and all the right suitors, a Pureblood with the world at her feet and an insurmountable amount of power held in her hand, took all of this in stride, didn’t falter a single step, and didn’t take any measures besides vocal to defend her family against the slander Amy’s existence has brought about it.
    “To put it simply, your life has been odd. I guess most would assume that means you’d be attracted to normal, average things, but you’re not. Odd attracts you like the scent of a bug zapper attracts a wasp. You’re drawn to the one thing most would assume you’d avoid, if only to protect your reputation. It doesn’t matter what odd actually is. A night at the zoo crouched beside the sleeping lions, just watching them sleep like an overly protective mother, or following a human you’ve never met travel home strictly because she’s in dangerous territory, or trailing a false witch who claims to be able to look into the future and sense our kind or forcing yourself into a situation with rogue hunters that you knew would end badly. It doesn’t matter. Compared to the rest of us, your life has been far more interesting, but it’s not what you want or so you believe.
    “You’d like a normal life, one where you’re not constantly under the impression that your title is being challenged. You always feel like you need to defend yourself and your mother from people like Lianell. They haunt your sleep, your dreams. You toss and turn at night, mumbling their names, begging your demons to stay back just a while longer.”
    I gazed up at him. His eyes had glassed over as he spoke. His gentle voice filled the room, blocking out every other noise until I wasn’t sure if other sounds existed. He was the only one who’d ever seen this part of me. The only one who knew enough about me to make these observations. He knew a lot. I was vulnerable to him, but I wasn’t scared. Our relationship went beyond the general tug-of-war that encircled my kind. He wouldn’t use what he knew against me. I looked away as I allowed his voice to swallow me once more.
    “But they never do. You wake up coated in sweat in the dead of night, eyes scanning the room for something, anything out of the ordinary. You wake looking for odd. During the scaldingly hot shower you take still shaking from your nightmares, you jump at the smallest noises. As you descend the stairs for a quick drink before hurrying out the door, despite the defiant and powerful look you have and the strength nearly radiating from you, your eyes still jump around the room, looking, begging it’s not there, but pleading it is. Odd. You want something to snap you out of the doldrums of night to night life. Something to free you from the expectations and the plans you and those who know you have laid down before you. You’d kill for the chance for none of it to matter, for it to all go away, but you know it won’t and that killing every creature on the surface of the planet wouldn’t save you from the fate they’ve planned for you.
    “You know you’ll get married to some Pureblood you’ve never met and even though you don’t love him or really even care for him, you’ll bear his children and you’ll raise your blossoming Purebloods to be exactly what society expects of them and through it all you’ll be wondering why you don’t give them the tools they need to break free like you wanted to, but were unequipped to. But you won’t. They’ll grow up to be everything a mother could have hoped for and you’ll watch them grow with tears of rage in your eyes because they’re everything they should be and everything you were and you hate them for just accepting it because you just accepted it when your mother told you the same sweet lies you whisper to them as they sleep. You’ll grow old like your mother. You’ll eventually lye on your deathbed like your mother does this very moment, and, though you hate her for causing you so much strife and chaos, you’ll die knowing she died happier because she did what you could never do....” He broke off, staring at me with a near insanity in his eyes. I couldn’t bring myself to meet his star and instead lowered my eyes to look at my reflection in the shallow pool of blood filling the bottom of my wine glass. My grim face looked solemnly back at me.
    “And what is it I can never do?” I asked, my voice sounding weak compared to the passion and caring reflected in his. The insanity vanished replaced with sadness and despair. He took a quick drink and proceeded, tone formal as he finished off his glass and reached out for mine. I polished it off and handed the glass to him.
    “Love, Ms. Tilani.” He answered as he rose, the tray held in his white hands and eyes focused on me unblinking. “You can never love because your heart is incapable of opening itself that fully to anyone and, to be quite honest, because you have no desire or need to open your heart to any individual that has ever lived or will. You find love to be an excuse to break rules, but in the end you are not attracted to the concept or the emotion. You find it all rather ludicrous. After all, it was love that caused your mother to give birth to Amy with a human. It was love that took you from your high point of un-argued privilege amongst other vampires and thrust you into the light for all of vampirety to look upon you and question your heritage, your blood status, everything you held dear. It was love that pushed your mother to her death bed. It was love that led you to defend your name at every accusation when, before love, you could have easily ignored the comments without the threat of them gaining acceptance and credibility. It was love that caused you to detach from your old friends. It was love that pushed you away from anyone who may have cared about you through this all. And it is all of these things coupled with a million more I cannot name that have led you to be incapable of love, Ms. Tilani...”
    I looked up at him, jaw clenched in an attempt to keep it from falling open in amazement at what he’d just told me. He stared at me as calmly as if he’d just answered my question about the weather. No emotions slipped through his face and his mind stayed blocked to my intrusion. But if it’d been open, I wouldn’t have dared dip inside, fearful of what other things it had to tell me about the person I’d become over the past twenty years. Finally, he bowed, the tray held out to his side and remaining motionless as he rose back up.
    “May your sleep prove restful, Miss Tilani.”
    And with that, he left me there, awestruck and unable to move for many more minutes. He disappeared into the other room leading to the kitchen where I knew he’d spend the next half hour tidying up and organizing before descending himself into sleep, peaceful knowing his mistress had returned home safely, even if she was coated in blood. He’d left me there to think, but my mind simply swirled around what it’d heard, unable to latch onto any one point or idea. There were too many to sort through. Too many odd views I wasn’t able to comprehend immediately. Too many I’d never understand. My head swirled from lack of sleep and I rose, heading for my room, praying a good sleep would ease the confused thoughts reaching from my tingling ears into my restless mind.