27 of March 2021 – 10:10 PM
I had spent the better part of the past hour and a half on the dance floor with Gal, Nini, and Lilly. It’s not like I was much of a dancer–in fact, I’m sure I was downright terrible. But I was having fun, and that was what mattered the most.
Even so, my thoughts continued to fly to the vampire who was nowhere in sight.
It was a few minutes before ten o’clock when Galiana and I headed upstairs to what was being called the tearoom. We mingled with Cari and a few others who were all either exhausted from being on their feet or drained from being in a crowded space. A nearby room within the flat had music blaring as its handful of occupants held a karaoke contest.
On a nearby dinette table was quite the assortment of food; a couple wide bowls of crisps, a few small ones of sauces, shrimp cocktail, a charcuterie board with an assortment of nuts, cheeses, pretzels, and jam, a tower of sweets like raspberry chocolate truffles, brie cream puffs, biscuits, miniature muffins, buttercream bonbons, and so on. Plastic plates, utensils, and napkins were stacked behind the cheeseboard, and I’d piled my plate full of delicious snacks and had my fill by the time my phone dinged.
Oh? Intrigued, I retrieved my phone from my pocket and swiped at the touch screen until I was in Enchat, viewing my new message.
(Sent at 10:06 PM) jettsondanvers: Ayo saw your bf 😉 (Sent at 10:06 PM) jettsondanvers: Hes in his room
My face flushed at the werewolf’s insinuation. Shit, am I that obvious? Does everyone know how I feel?
Gal barely had to glimpse at my phone before she snickered and signed, Ax is here? Are you going to go see him?
I shrugged and signed back, I don’t know. Do you think I should?
Yes! She gestured, her enthusiasm making me chuckle. You like him, and we both know he likes you. He’s just really bad at showing it.
I let out a sigh as I nodded. I wasn’t some oblivious, anxious, hormonal teenager constantly wondering if the guy I liked was into me. Axel could be surprisingly obvious in his reactions and responses, so I wasn’t concerned in that aspect. At the end of the day, I knew that Axel de Ardo liked me…
What worried me was that he wouldn’t give us a chance out of some misguided attempt to punish himself. Over what, I wasn’t entirely sure.
I swiped through my phone again until my camera application opened, and I checked my appearance through the front-facing camera. After flattening a few stray silver hairs here and running my hand over my smooth chin, I plucked up the courage to cross the hall.
Axel’s flat was filled with gaming enthusiasts; most of the crowd had formed a semi-circle around the television, watching four players at a time. Jett had just passed his controller to Arden, one of Axel’s vampire friends, when he caught sight of me and waved me down. By the time I closed the distance between us, Zander had joined our little meeting.
“So? You gonna go see him?” asked Jett, wagging his eyebrows in an exaggerated manner.
I rolled my eyes at his question in spite of the smirk playing on my lips, but Zander chimed in before I could offer an ambiguous response.
“Go for it, dude,” the alpha encouraged me, before backpedalling. “If you feel comfortable enough to make a move, I mean.”
We exchanged a few more words and quips before I headed off down the corridor. I nodded at a couple of vampires who were emerging from the poker room as I passed, and I nearly missed the sounds of a secret rendezvous in the neighbouring bathroom.
My eyebrows rose as I continued per Cari’s previous instructions. I wonder who’s having fun in there…
When I reached the bedroom at the end of the hall, I wasn’t surprised to find the door shut. After all, it made sense Axel would want to freshen up after his shift at the petrol station, right?
With that in mind, I lifted my fist to the knock on the door, ready to rap my knuckles against the wooden barrier between me and my crush–
The door swung inward before I even made contact, and I was faced with a man I had never seen before.
His hair was a light hazelnut, brushed haphazardly over the deep lines of his tawny forehead. Pewter eyes widened slightly as they studied my face, and the straight nose between them led my gaze down to find thin lips twisting into a friendly smile. I could see a hint of canines peeking out from amongst his teeth, piquing my interest. Axel doesn’t really hang out with any vampires outside of class–he’s basically an outcast to the other undead.
I could see the sophomore in question standing less than a metre behind this mystery man, a worried expression tugging at his features. A hint of fear had taken residence in his icy blue stare, and that was when it clicked.
I feel like I stumbled upon a meeting I wasn’t supposed to see…
“Sorry, guess I’m interrupting,” I nodded and began to turn–only for the man to hold his arm out and stop me.
“Sage, right?” he asked, still smiling. He offered his hand out to me, and I took it partially out of impulse, and partially to avoid an awkward moment with this stranger. His fingers gripped mine tightly, almost uncomfortably, as if he were testing my strength. What grabbed my attention the most was the beaded bracelet he wore consisting of smoky grey crystal fragments and small, shiny stones. “I’m Jesse. I’ve gotta admit, it’s surreal to actually meet you. I’ve learned a lot about you from Axel.”
I fought the urge to cock an eyebrow as my eyes darted over to Axel. “Is that so? Well, I can’t say the same–”
My words caught in my throat as my friend made a motion with his hands, signing a simple word that every deaf child was taught: run.
My heart began to race. Is he in trouble? Who is this guy?
I noticed “Jesse” had furrowed his brow slightly at my incomplete sentence, and the only recovery I could think of was to plant a wide smile on my face.
“Sorry, I think I have heard of you,” I offered, surprising them both. Jesse still had a grip on my hand, so I tightened my own hold on him and stepped forward, forcing him to look up at me. There were few times in my life when I used my above average height to intimidate others, but I could tell that something was off.
“Is that so?” asked Jesse. He released my hand and stepped aside as if to invite me in, but his stone grey pools never left mine as we spoke. I maintained eye contact with him as well, eager to keep him in my sight. “And what’s our boy said about me?”
The tension between the three of us was mounting. The nearest person was down the hall, but I knew no one would come if I called–there was too much noise, an overwhelming amount of music and voices and activity to account for. I couldn’t count on someone to come to our rescue… And hell, I wasn’t even sure that either of us needed to be rescued. All I could think of was the look in Axel’s eyes as he silently pleaded with me to leave from behind this man’s back.
My eyebrows rose as I feigned ignorance. “Axel’s mentor, right? You’re here to make sure he’s safe, what with the trapper warning.”
There was a brief moment of silence before Jesse huffed out a relieved laugh. “Am I that transparent? I must seem like an old man, worried over this kid…”
He gestured briefly in Axel’s direction–hardly the degree of affection one would see between an older vampire and their charge. That bond was similar to that of a parent and child–if genuine.
And by the distance Ax has put between them, I really doubt it is. “I apologise for interrupting, sir. I just wanted to make sure Axel was joining the party.”
I kept my left hand low as I reached out toward the young vampire, pleased when he got the hint and took hold of me. His palm felt as it always had; cool and somewhat calloused, with none of the typical signs of distress. A vampire never had to worry about clammy hands or a racing heart.
And yet, one of his fingers twitched just as it joined the others in interlocking with mine, and he squeezed me appreciatively, fueling my desire to look him in the eye.
Not yet, I reminded myself. Not while this guy is here.
It made my decision to bring my pocket knife all the more worth it. The fingers of my right hand gripped the tiny blade from the confines of my trouser pocket, ready for the slightest hint of danger.
Jesse nodded and took a step outside the room, seemingly distracted. “I’m sure he’d love that. You kids have fun–!”
“Oh, are you using the front door?” I inquired curiously. “Does that mean Clarence knew you were stopping by?”
He grinned back at me. “Yes, he did.”
“Then why are you wearing a charm that allows you to sneak past security barriers?”
Jesse froze beneath the door frame. He was still glancing over his shoulder at me, and his expression was unreadable. Not even his eyes betrayed him as he held that same creepy calm smile on his relaxed face.
Axel, who had tensed up at my side, squeezed my hand as if to warn me. He was less of a mystery than the elder vampire; anger rolled off of him in waves as his shoulders quaked slightly with almost indiscernible rage.
“Well…” Jess sighed. He slowly stepped back into the room, his expression unchanging. “Looks like we need to have a little talk.”
It was as he moved to shut the door behind him that time seemed to slow down. Axel released his hold on me, Jesse bared his fangs, I squeezed the knife in my pocket until I felt my life essence drip from my fresh wound–
Then two figures burst into the room, and the entire world sped up until the next several seconds were a massive blur.