Vampire Kisses - Royal Blood Part 1

Ellen Schreiber.

Royal Blood.

A Vampire Kisses Novel.

1.

The letter arrived mysteriously. I imagined the deliverer was an enigmatic figure masked in a centuries-old black hooded cloak, slipping undetected through the darkness past the Mansion's wrought-iron gate. He may have approached theSterlings ' haunted-looking house in a hea.r.s.e. Or perhaps he'd flown over the menacing fence in the form of a bat.

By nightfall, the Mansion's mailbox was usually as I hollow as an empty coffin, sitting lonely at the bottom of Benson Hill, at the end of a long and windy driveway. So the letter would go unnoticed for several hours as I was stolen away in Alexander's attic room, pressed against my vampire boyfriend's deathly pale, but full of life, lips.

Several weeks had pa.s.sed since Alexander and I had returned from our adventure inHipsterville , and though Alexander hadn't bitten me, he did make this mortal feel a part of the Underworld. During that time, we began to experience the vampire life without distractions. There was no school to interrupt my daytime sleep, no Trevor Mitch.e.l.l to be a thorn in my side, and no Dullsville High students to ridicule my dark attire. There were no teen vampires lurking in the cemetery, disrupting Alexander's and my Stardust dates. No threat of a preteenNosferatu attempting to turn my younger brother and his nerd-mate immortal. Free of the feudingMaxwells , Alexander and I were now able to unite our mortal and immortal worlds as one.

I was also beginning to do something I'd never had the opportunity to do before-make the Mansion my home. And why shouldn't I? On a dare, in my youth, I'd snuck into it by squeezing through the abandoned estate's broken bas.e.m.e.nt window. Now, invited, I could confidently walk right up its splintered stone path and through its creaky unlocked front door.

I had never been so happy in my life.

I transformed the Mansion into Alexander's and my private vampire castle. I felt like a medieval queen and Alexander was my handsome king. Instead of spending the rest of summer break in my tiny bedroom, I suddenly had full reign over a palatial estate. I replaced Alexander's torn and aged bedroom curtain with a brand-new black lace one. I added some candelabras I'd found at a rummage sale to the ones his grandmother had brought fromRomania . I placed black roses in pewter vases and lavender-scented votives androse petals on all the empty antique end tables.

Jameson, Alexander's butler, didn't seem to mind. In Tact, he even appeared to delight in a woman's (or, in my case, teen girl's touch around the barren estate.

It even seemed like the Mansion itself was amused by my presence. The floors appeared to give an extra squeak when I ran over them, as if the uneven boards were greeting my stay. The wind sounded louder than I'd remembered as it whistled through the cracked windowpanes. The creaking in the foundation warmly echoed off the hollow wails at a higher volume than it had before.

The ma.s.sive house glistened with candles and cobwebs, During the day I nestled in Alexander's corpse-cold arms, cuddling in his coffin. At night we cranked Rob Zombie and had midnight showings ofFright Night.

Alexander gave me the next best thing to a sparkling diamond ring-a dresser drawer. His dresser was as ancient as Dracula himself,A family-owned chipped oak bureau with gla.s.s k.n.o.bs held his clothes in five three-foot-long drawers. Alexander emptied the middle one for me, to be filled with anything I liked. One of the gla.s.s handles had broken and he replaced it with a wooden raven. There was even a lock on the dresser. At first I thought it was a facade, but on closer inspection it was revealed to be realWhereas everything in my bedroom-clothes, magazines, hair products-was cast about in an unorganized mess, my drawer at the Mansion was in perfect order. Alexander brought out the best in me. It held a pair of socks, my Emily the Strangehoodie , a few T-s.h.i.+rts, and a bat-shaped sachet. I often felt jealous of the accessories I left there, which got to call the Mansion their home, while I returned to my house onDullsville Drive .

I even managed to bake at the Mansion. I prepared ghost-shaped cookies, cupcakes with witch hats, and chocolate RiceKrispie treats. With my new independence I found a side of me that I didn't know existed.

My parents were pleased, too, as long as I returned home for dinner and didn't stay out after midnight. My spirits were high, and they were content that I wasn't hiding under the covers all summer long.

Alexander seemed happier, too-and inspired. When we weren't roaming the cemetery at night, he painted landscapes and portraits of me. He began to churn out one beauty after another. Many of them were upbeat pictures of places around town we'd visited. The golf course, Dullsville High,OakleyPark , Hatsy's Diner, the swings atEvansPark , and the historic library. These paintings were bright and vivid and sweet and reflected his fondness for the town. I knew he had truly found his home here.

But unbeknownst to Alexander and me, all that was about to be changed by the letter that awaited him under the glow of the Mansion's lights.

Alexander took my hand in his as we left the Mansion and strolled down its drive. When we reached the gate, he drew me close.

"These last few weeks have been great. This is how it should always be.Just youand me."

"For eternity?"I asked and stared up at him.

His hair hung s.e.xily over his soulful eyes. There was a contentment I hadn't seen in Alexander. He gave me a long, breathtaking, weak-knee-making kiss. When we finally broke apart, something alongside the mailbox caught a reflection from the streetlight. The mailbox flag was sticking up.

"Funny. Does the mailman deliver your post at night? I thought only I knew your true ident.i.ty."

Alexander appeared puzzled, too.

"Jameson is diligent about bringing the mail in as soon as it arrives."

"Well, that couldn't have been later than noon," I said. "Maybe they made a special delivery."

"I'll get it later," Alexander resolved with a shrug andput his arm around my shoulder. "I'll walk you home first."

"Forget that," I said before he could lead me away. "Maybe it's an invite to a party. Or notification that you won a trip toLondon ."

"Or it could be a batch of coupons for pizza."

I glared up at him.

"Well, we'll never know unless you open it," I saidcoyly.

Alexander paused. Then he reluctantly leaned againsti lie rickety box. He reached his pale fingers out to open the lid when we were struck with a few drops of rain.

"That's funny. It's not supposed to rain until tomorrow," I said.

Alexander drew back the metal door. "Be my guest."

I stared into the rusty mailbox, which was as dark as any tomb.

I half expected to see a detached hand holding out a letter. This was, after all, a vampire's mailbox. But I saw nothing, "Are you afraid? It won't bite. But I might", he said, tickling me in the side.

"You promise?" I giggled as a few more drops of rain tapped me on the head. I imagined I could get snapped by a bird protecting its young or a field mouse hoping for a snack, I took a deep breath and reached my black chipped finger-nailed hand into the dark box but felt only aspiderweb . I reached in farther, allowing my ashen palm to disappear until I couldn't even see my Eve L wristband. Then I felt something pointy.

"It's not a package", I said, yanking it out. I had grasped a single standard-size black envelope.

I held it toward the streetlight. The letter lookedodd, First of all, there wasn't a stamp, or even a postmark. Perhaps I had been right about a fang-toothed flying mailman. In perfect beautiful silver calligraphy it read: MR. Alexander STERLING.

As I handed the envelope to my boyfriend, a few sprinkles of rain hit the letter and the ink began to run.

"Looks like I'll have to drive you home," he said resignedly.

Alexander tucked the letter into his jacket and took my hand and we raced up the mile-long driveway, escaping into the Mansion. I stood in the foyer of the magnificent Mansion. Lavender wafted through the estate,A new portrait of me stared back, a subst.i.tute for one of the original portraits that once lined the hallway.

"There's no return address", I remarked, smoothing out my hair.

"I recognize the handwriting."

"Really?Then who is it from?A long-lost girlfriend?"

"No."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure."

"I bet you get millions of love letters from old girlfriends."

Alexander placed the envelope on a hallway table. "Wait here while I ask Jameson for his car keys."

"Aren't you going to open the letter?"

"Eventually."

Alexander was patient and disinterested. I was neither.

"You must tell me who it's from," I said, s.n.a.t.c.hing his mail. "OrI'll open it," I teased.

Alexander paused. "It's from my parents."

"Really?"I asked, surprised.

It had been ages since Alexander's parents had been to Dullsville, and Alexander rarely spoke of

them. Most of the time, I forgot they existed."Well, open it up," I pushed, handing it back to him. "Maybe they sent you a check."Alexander took a white gold S-shaped letter opener lying on the hall table. Unlike me, who ripped open mail like a wild animal, Alexander carefully severed the envelope. He opened the black letter, which had abloodred border. A check didn't fall out. Not even a Romanianleu .Alexander began to read the letter to himself."What does it say?" I asked, bouncing around him and desperately trying to take a peek. But all I could make out was regal-looking letterhead with an inscription I couldn't decipher.Alexander playfully held the letter out of my sight. But when he finished reading, he turned serious."What does it say?" I asked again.Without answering, he put the letter in the envelope and returned it to the table. "I'll take you home now.""What does it say?" I repeated. "Nothing really.""Your parents wrote to tell you nothing?"

"Uh-huh.""Is everyone okay?""Yes.""So why aren't you smiling?"Then I thought maybe reading a handwritten note from them made him homesick. A creepy but kind butler wasn't a subst.i.tute for parents in a lonely old estate."I'm sure you miss them. I bet you wish you could see them soon.""I will," he said. "They're arriving tomorrow." "Tomorrow?"I asked, shocked.

"Yes," Alexander said, almost melancholy. That means things are about to change.

I glanced around the Mansion. We felt like two teenswho'd trashed the house with a party only to find

their parents were returning from their vacation early.

"Our 'coffin clutches' will have to end," I said.

Alexander nodded reluctantly.

"And my decorations will have to be removed."

"It looks that way."

"What about my drawer?"

"I found the dresser key," he said with a smile.

As Alexander closed the door behind us, I managed to catch a last glimpse of the black rose petals lying on the hallway table. The painting of me would have to be shelved and the original ones returned. The votives would have to be stored away.

One thing was for sure: This time Alexander, not Jameson, would have to clean up the Mansion.

2.

That night, I was torn as I sat cross-legged on my beanbag chair watching reruns ofTheMunsters , ThoughI was anxious to finally meet Alexander's parents, I wa.s.sad the black lace curtains were being closed on ourindependence.

I'd never felt more at home than I did hanging out in the Mansion with Alexander over the summer. It was a dream come true to get a taste of the vampire lifestyle.Waking up at sunset, celebrating the darkness, living by candlelight. I was certain I could exist that way for an eternity.

But our summer of love was about to end.

Alexander was right. Things were about to change. His parents would be arriving shortly, and I'd be returning to school in a few days. No more late nights, no more remodeling the Mansion. Studying would replace painting, and I'd be home with my parents, Alexander with his.

I switched off my TV and joined my own odd relatives downstairs in our family room. My mom was foldinglaun -dry, and my dad was filing work papers.Typical suburban parents. The exact opposite, I was sure, of Alexander's. I wondered what Alexander's parents were like. Were they ghoulishly great like Herman and Lily Munster? I recalled storiesofDullsvillian sightings of theSterlings when theyfirst moved to town, but I'd never caught a glimpse.

I was sure they had to be fantastic-everything myparents were not. Reading theTransylvanian Times instead ofDullsville'sLedger.Changing into bats instead of plaid golfpants.Resting in a coffin instead of a sleigh bed.I bet theywere the coolest parents in the world-or Underworld.

"I'm finally going to meet Alexander's parents!" I burst out to Becky the next day atHatsy's Diner. When I slunk into the booth, Becky was flipping through the tabletop jukebox and sippinga strawberry malt. A chocolate one was kindly waiting for me.

Since summer began, Becky and I had both spent time with our true loves and not as much with each other. Though I did see her occasionally, we weren't as glued together as we'd been during past summers. I would have resented our separation if I didn't have a boyfriend, too. But since we were both guilty of trading lipstick for lip locks, it made it all right. I still missed my best friend and was excited to make up for lost time. I was in desperate need of some girl talk.

"Since I met Alexander, he's been parent-free. I'm notsurehow this will change our relations.h.i.+p", I explained to Becky.

"Maybe it will make it better."

"How?We had the whole run of the Mansion. I'm sure his mother wouldn't have approved of me being its interior designer."

"I'm sure they will be just fine."

"What if they're really strict and Alexander can't go out at night?"

"I can't imagine that," Becky said. "He lives for the night!"

"He'll probably have to do family things now."

"And ch.o.r.es," she added. "Matt has to constantly cut the gra.s.s. I grew up on a farm-obviously I know way more than he does about a lawn mower. But I act dumb as I watch him try to figure out how to put gas in it. Then I jump in and I'm all Bob Vila."

"Jameson does the ch.o.r.es. But cutting the gra.s.s? I think they add poison to the soil." We both laughed. "Besides, Alexander is responsible. He isn't like me in that way; he doesn't need to be nagged."

"I think you're worrying for nothing. I'm sure you'll all get along,"

I slurped on my chocolate malt and stared off. "I wonder if Alexander looks like his mother or his father."

"Haven't you seen a picture?"

No. They are vampires!I wanted to say. In fact, the only images I'd seen were a few portraits Alexander had painted.

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