“What has gotten into you lately Caleb? You’re somehow even more miserable than usual.” Lilith turned on the lights and crossed the room to sit beside her brother.
She took in his silence and his downcast features. “Are you hungry?” She didn’t wait for him to reply. “Good, because you just wait, you are in for such a treat.”
He very much doubted this, even with his acquired tastes.
Lilith had barely reached the kitchen before it sounded like someone was trying to kick the door in.
“Don’t answer it, Lilith,” Caleb hissed as she stepped towards the door. “Who would be out here at this time of night?” It could be hunters.
She shook her head. Unlikely. “I need to answer it – it could be someone who’s lost or in trouble…” Her smile flickered at the idea. “You wait here,” she instructed, even though he’d made no effort to follow her.
Melinda ceased her knocking as a figure appeared, the porch light flickered to life above her head and the door slowly opened.
She hugely regretted her rash decision as she locked eyes with this woman. A woman with no pulse, she realised immediately.
She hadn’t considered that Caleb might not be existing alone. This woman appeared glacial, there was an edge to her. Something about her unsettled Melinda, reminded where she was, the foolishness of what she was doing.
The woman’s voice was a slick purr. She did not seem surprised to see Melinda but she also didn’t seem especially pleased. “Can I help you?”
Melinda suddenly felt like her mind was being invaded, her thoughts seemed so much louder than usual. What am I doing?! Should I run away? Can I even out-run a vampire? Wait, I am a vampire. Maybe I can turn into a bat and fly away. Does that only happen in movies? Oh poo, what if this isn’t even Caleb’s house? Oh my gosh, there could be hundreds of vampires in there. I’m toast.
Lilith looked suspiciously at her visitor, listening to this erratic stream of thought. “Caleb? Does he know you?”
“Who is it Lilith?” Caleb called from inside the house.
“Hey!” Lilith shouted as Melinda slipped past her. “How?”
Melinda found herself in the living room, face-to-face with a startled looking man.
“What? You can’t just come in uninvited!” Lilith exclaimed, losing her cool demeanour as she tried to grab for this remarkably nimble creature. “Caleb! This… girl. Do you know her?”
Melinda took a step forward, hoping that if she acted like she wasn’t terrified, she wouldn’t be.
“No, you don’t. I’m a friend of April. You remember her? That girl you attacked? Or do you just attack so many that you can’t keep track?” Oh my gosh, he probably does do just that. What am I doing?!
Lilith’s eyes were wide. “Attacked a girl? What ever do you mean-“
“Don’t play dumb with me, I know what you guys are.” Melinda jabbed a finger at Caleb’s face. “You’ve ruined our lives with your ways and now we’re taking random men off the street and drinking them dry because of you. I am here to… to…” Balls! Why am I here?
Lilith reached for Melinda’s arm. She tried to keep her voice even. “It’s time for you to leave-“
“I’m not going anywhere!” The rage that rushed through Melinda could have ignited every candle in the world as she turned on Lilith. “He drained April and turned her into a vampire! She attacked her own mother!”
Caleb, what the actual hell is going on here?!
Caleb lowered his chin as he heard Lilith’s silent question. He had known from the very second that he had sunk his teeth into April Moss that he would regret it. He knew one day someone would hunt him down, call him out. He just didn’t expect it to be so soon, right in his living room and by such a cute little vampire. It amused him to see her stand up to Lilith. He wondered why Lilith hadn’t ripped her head off yet.
He was careful to keep his thoughts guarded against his sister’s prying mind. “I can explain.”
Melinda took in the miserable expression of the man before her and the confusion on the woman’s face. This was not the situation she had imagined it would be when she had started imagining it two minutes prior. She could feel her anger ebbing as she looked at him. He certainly didn’t have the face of a monster. He just looked… pathetic.
“OK,” she said, wondering if she had completely lost her mind. “Explain.”
She tentatively perched on the seat she was offered as Caleb took a chair opposite her. Lilith lingered in the archway, still silently asking her brother what had happened but with much stronger language.
Caleb tried to zone Lilith out while he looked at Melinda, wondering how best to start.
“What’s your name?”
“Melinda,” he repeated smoothly. “Pretty.”
She rolled her eyes.
Oh? he thought to himself. That’s interesting. “You’re April’s friend?”
“I’ve already told you that. Look, are you going to explain yourself or should I just stake you now?”
“Stake me?” His mouth twitched at the corner. Melinda didn’t even flinch.
He could see that his charm offensive wasn’t working here; he couldn’t focus over the barrage of questions that resounded in his head. “Lilith can you just… will you excuse us a moment?”
“No way in hell.” Lilith took the seat beside Melinda. “If you’ve been out attacking humans you can explain it to me, too.”
Melinda felt herself instantly warm to Lilith. But that statement had her wondering: if they didn’t usually go out attacking people, how did they survive? She didn’t want to ask. For all she knew they could be keeping a few human prisoners in their basement. Or maybe they fed off all the disgruntled young vampires who came looking for them. Best not give them any ideas.
Caleb was still studying Melinda’s face. “How is April?”
“Traumatised. By you.”
“And for what? To teach her a lesson! Is your ego really so fragile that you’d attack a defenceless girl just because she called you a vampire?”
Caleb raised an eyebrow. “Is that genuinely what April told you? That I attacked her – turned her, no less – to teach her a lesson?”
“Well, isn’t that the reason?”
“No. That would be… incomprehensible.” Yes, even for me, he thought loud enough for Lilith to hear.
Lilith broke her silence. “Turning someone is a big deal, Melinda. I assume it was April who turned you?” She flashed an enquiring look at Caleb, who shrugged. That one’s not on me.
Melinda shifted in her seat, the memory uncomfortable. “She did. I offered her my wrist to drink from. It all went a bit… it was a bit of a mess. But she didn’t mean to turn me. That part was an accident.” She looked down at her lap.
Melinda nodded. “She didn’t know what she was doing. How could she? I think the same thing must have happened with Faith, my other friend, too.” She looked towards Caleb. “Why then, if not a lesson? Did something go wrong when you attacked her?”
Caleb opened his mouth to answer, but clamped his lips together as Lilith’s furious voice echoed in his head. You’ve fucked up again?! I swear Caleb, I will end you.
Frustrated with the silence, Melinda’s anger returned with a vengeance. “I’ve had to leave my family, my whole life, all my dreams behind and you can’t even give me a reason why? You monster! You’ve ruined our lives! How can you sit there and not even care? Is there no compassion left in you at all?!”
She realised, too late, that a lack of compassion might indeed be the problem but she was already on her feet, heading towards him.
He froze. Lilith took a step forward, placing herself between her brother and this little vampiric fireball. Poised to fight, fangs bared. But to her surprise, Melinda only fell into her open arms, her body shaking with sobs. Lilith was dumbfounded. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d held someone.
“Why did you do it?” Melinda hiccuped, hating herself for even asking this next question. “What did April do?”
Caleb allowed himself to remember April’s soft gaze, the sweetness of her voice, her warm skin. Melinda deserved an answer but he didn’t think she was going to like it. And Lilith would like it even less if her onslaught of mental threats were anything to go by. He gathered his thoughts, lifted his chin and forced himself to look at Melinda’s tear-stained, little face.
Compassion. Right. He could do that. He could be compassionate.
“She made me do it.”