Bound by Night
The vampires were behaving weird today. Not that anyone believed Nicole when she told them.
No, all the adults simply smiled, patted her on the head, and told her to go upstairs to play until her older brother arrived to take her to the zoo.
Half brother, she’d told them, and again, they’d smiled and shooed her away. She never reminded her mother about the half-brother thing, though. Chuck had a different mom, and although Nicole didn’t understand what an “affair” was, talking about Chuck always brought up that word, and it made her mom and dad fight.
One of the household vampires, Anthony, grinned as he passed her in the foyer with a tray of decadent hors d’oeuvres, but something about his smile made goose bumps prickle her arms. Like all the servants, he’d always kept his eyes downcast—“secured his gaze,” as her father called it—in the presence of humans, but not this time. This time, he looked at her the way her dad looked at the Thanksgiving turkey.
Barefoot and wearing the pink princess dress she was never supposed to wear outside, she darted out the back door reserved for the servants and ran as fast as she could, squinting against the bright summer sunlight. She slipped unnoticed past the wet bar and the food-laden tables, through the crowds of people partying around the pool, until she reached the hedges designed to conceal the gardening shed and equipment. Laughter and the clinking of glasses followed her through the dense brush. She scurried like a little animal, not caring that the branches were scratching her skin and catching on her dress.
Panting, she crouched in the very spot where, just six months before, her vampire nanny had died, her unborn baby with her. Nicole shivered at the memory.
She’d been so excited about Terese’s baby. Terese had been the best nanny ever, always teaching Nicole new things, reading to her, asking her opinion on things as if Nicole were a grown-up. Terese would have been a great mommy to the baby. Secretly, Nicole had sometimes wished Terese were her mommy, too.
Tears stung Nicole’s eyes as she reached up and wrapped her necklace around her fingers, bringing the ring Terese had given her to her lips.
It’s a secret ring, Terese had said as she pressed it into her small hand. You can hide things inside it. I want you to have it. And remember what I said. Be a good girl and a good adult. You’ll have a lot of power someday. Use it well.
I love you, Nikki.
Terese had been killed half an hour later . . . by her own mate.
The very name struck fear into Nicole’s heart.
Terese had loved him, trusted him. And he’d driven a blade into her throat.
Nicole would never forget Terese’s broken voice as she pleaded with him. She’d definitely never forget his face. His glittering silver eyes. His sandy hair that Terese said was silky-soft. His fangs that had been longer than Nicole’s finger.
All of it haunted her nightmares.
Nicole jumped at her father’s angry voice. He stood a few feet away in the dappled shade from the huge oak tree, his lips pressed together in a forbi from the shed? It’s not healthy for you to hang out here like a damned dog mourning the loss of his master.
Terese was just a vampire. We got you a hamster and a new nanny. It’s time to get over it.”
“But I don’t like my new nanny! Chelsea’s grumpy, and she doesn’t read to me before bed—”
“We didn’t purchase her to be your best friend,” he snapped. “And look what you’ve done to your dress.
Your mother is going to have Chelsea spank you.”
Terese would never have spanked Nicole. Hand shaking, Nicole automatically reached for the comfort of the ring Terese had given her, but in an instant, her father fisted the chain and yanked, snapping the necklace and sending the ring tumbling into the grass.
“Enough with the ring! You were supposed to throw it away. It’s beneath you to wear a slave’s jewelry.
And frankly, it’s disturbing.” He flung the destroyed chain into the bushes. “Go to your room and—”
A shrill scream interrupted him. Maybe it was weird, but her first thought was that Daddy hated to be interrupted. Whoever did that would be in big trouble.
Her father spun around as another scream joined the first. And then another. And another, until suddenly, all Nicole could hear were cries for help and shrieks of terror.
“Stay here, Nicole.” Her father turned to her for a just a second, but in that moment, she saw something in his face she’d never seen in him before: fear. “Hide. No matter what happens, don’t come out.”
She nodded, but he was already gone, running for the main house. Frightened and confused, she wedged herself between the storage shed and a bush and listened to the screams and pleas, the groans, and the wet, horrible crunching sounds punctuated by maniacal laughter. On the ground, the ring Terese had given her lay in a tangle of trampled grass, and Nicole found that if she focused on the shiny oval ruby, she could pretend the noises all around her weren’t real.