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Of Fangs And Fury

Updated: Oct 2



Cover © Rosalie Thorne

Editor – Z. V. Ezell


Of Fangs And Fury

By Rosalie Thorne


To Z,

who wanted me to call this ‘50 Scales Of Gold’,

I love you.


OF FANGS AND FURY


a Legacy Of The Seven Families novel

part of the Zeniphel Universe


All Italian will be translated at the end of the novel.


“People like to invent monsters and monstrosities.

Then, they seem less monstrous themselves.”

- Geralt Of Rivia




Prologue

Caderyn


Large wool hood over my head, I roll my shoulders to loosen the jacket across my back. Dripping leather boots flat on the stool’s rungs, the warmth of the tavern is wonderful compared to the freezing rain I had to trudge through. One last drink for one last week….

Tankard handle hard in my palm; I swallow as much as I can as quickly as possible. Soon enough the Scholar Mother hired would be here, soon enough I will be poked and prodded, gawked at and they will try to fix me. But isn’t that my life?

The life of the cursed one, the life of the mutated. The life of a Dragon-born. And right on queue…

“Hey, Draco,” a drunk male spits.

I knew I should have worn a different coat. Eyes closed, I don’t move, whispering, “Lasciami solo….”

“Hey, Drakey-drakey-draco,” he calls, his buddies laughing.

The bartender is a veteran of this. “You lot need to be respectful; this is your Prince you’re talking to. Now if you don’t apologize, I’ll throw you out!”

My eyes catch his and he tries to smile. I finish my drink and leave my coin. “Thanks.”

Eye on the door, I make a straight line for it. Halfway there, I fill a hard yank of fabric by my neck. Caught mid-step, my hood falls, and a mix of booing and laughter erupts from the pub.

The fucking idiot starts calling out, “See? Look at this hideous excuse for a Vampire! He’s no Prince of mine, that’s for sure.”

There’re a few ‘hear, hear’s in response and as I pull my hood back up, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. The problem is… he’s right.

Out of respect to the owner, I let the men follow me out. Once the wooden door hits its frame with a final thwack, I turn around. Hood down, fangs bare, fists poised, I stare the idiot down. “You couldn’t just leave it alone, huh? Just let me have one drink in peace.”

“The likes of you shouldn’t be allowed in there.”

I throw a left hook. He goes down but his buddies rally. Knowing better than to do this, it still fits my reputation to a t. I could kill a guy, and no one would bat an eye. ‘It’s the dragon blood,’ they would say, ‘he’s more beast than man’. And maybe… maybe for just one more week they’d be right.


Delara


Tea poured, silent kettle back on the cooling burner, I ease out a long breath. Hot cup warming my palms, I absently look across the kitchen into the dreadfully dark night beyond the window. How am I so tired? Working at The University library is not taxing whatsoever. Helping students with papers, filing books, and keeping lamps lit, is not all that difficult, mentally, or physically.

But maybe that’s the problem. Ever since I took the position, I haven’t been challenged. Which more or less led me to accept the offer from Her Majesty without hesitance…. Well, that and knowing I couldn’t pass up such an opportunity. The research alone…, I shake my head.

Moving through my little cabin, the combination of the fireplace and the rain leaves me so utterly soothed. Just me and Catarina, living a little life; it hasn’t been so bad. But now – a week from now, everything will change.

If it hadn’t been for the Scholars taking me in as a Foundling, I wouldn’t have learned as much as I have, wouldn’t be as skilled as I am. However… all of that does not take away from the fact I’m a Half-blood. I was worried at first that Her Majesty didn’t know and as soon as I arrive, I’d be sent home. But! My Advisor assured me that that was mentioned when she reached out to The University.

Catarina hops in my lap and I start to pet her slowly. “Just you and me girly… one week from now and we’re moving into the Palace Of Onyx. Working for Queen Lilith, trying to help her son.”

When she mews, I nod and think, what have we gotten ourselves into?




Chapter One

Caderyn


“Brother! I thought I’d find you here,” Tahir claps his hands together.

I don’t look away from my punching bag, I don’t stop fighting either. “What do you want?”

“Scholarra Dyad is to arrive tomorrow morning and Mother would like to speak to us both.”

Picturing his face, I give one last fucking punch with all my goddamn strength. Jumping back, I crack my neck and try to loosen up. “When?”

He smiles his perfect smile with that little tilt of his head, “About ten minutes.”

Energy still seizing through me, I close my eyes. Skin buzzing, heart racing, muscles twitching… this is what it feels like to be alive, damn.

When I don’t ask where, my prim and proper brother answers anyway, “In the library.”

“Fine.”

“Lovely, I’ll see you there,” then he turns on his heels and leaves the training room.

Instead of cleaning up, instead of trying to find a shirt, I throw a couple more punches. Anyway, this is something I’m supposed to be embracing, right? Not hiding? Because the Scholar isn’t going to be able to do anything if I’m covered up.

Mother and Tahir are already conversing when I slip into the library. It takes them a moment to notice I’m there, as usual. Then Mother lets out a soft, (she would say an unintentional), gasp, “Caderyn, please.”

I plop down on the sofa, knees apart, arms wide across the back. “What?”

But she would never tell me to cover up because she’s a ‘good Mother’. She very purposefully doesn’t look at me, “Never mind.” She smiles at her favored son, “Won’t you take a seat, as well?”

Before she speaks again, she adjusts herself just so, as if she’s in a meeting with some diplomat or general or someone not famiglia. Softly folding her long, pin-straight, black hair over her shoulder, she sits that much taller. She curls her thin legs, crossing the ankles. Then, she blinks a few times, clears her throat, and her slate eyes look between me and my brother. “So, as you both are well aware, Scholarra Dyad is arriving tomorrow morning. Dyad will be here for an extended stay, and I do hope the both of you will not just be cordial,” her eyes land on me, “but as if famiglia has come to stay.”

I scratch my thumbnail across my nose, “I still don’t understand what this Scholar could possibly do any differently than all the other persons you’ve brought in.”

“You are correct that magiks haven’t been sufficient, so, I am hoping her science will do the trick.”

I raise my head, “Her?”

Tahir looks at me, amused, “Yes. Scholar-ra,” he emphasizes. “What was her first name again, Mother?”

“Delara, I believe. Scholarra Delara Dyad.”

My heart kicks against my ribs. I frown. “And we think this is wise?”

Mother gives me the same look she’d given me when I was young, “She is a glorified Scholar, her gender will not affect her work.”

I make a face, “That’s not what I meant.”

Tahir leans forward slightly, “I believe what Caderyn is trying to say is that we don’t want to offend her feminine sensibilities.”

“I will have to be shirtless,” I agree.

Mother adjust the thin silver chain on her wrist. “Let us not forget what I have done, shall we? Gone to war just weeks after you were born, Caderyn. It is… polite of you to have such concerns, but, again, she is a Scholar, this is her job.”

I throw up my hands, “All right. Sounds good. I’ll be on my best behavior.”

“How about better than your best?” Mother hopes.

I stand up, “We done here?”

Exasperated, she sighs, “One last thing.”

Already on my way out, I ask, “What?”

“She’s a Half-blood.”

In the doorframe I stop, brows together, I dip my chin over my shoulder, “What?”

“Half-Vampire, Half-Human.”

I smirk. “Perfect.” Another freak is joining the famiglia.


Delara


“Oh!” I reach out to my glass equipment. “Please be careful with those! They are fragile and one of a kind.”

The servitore nods, “Yes, Madame.” A second male comes to help him with the small trunk, and I feel a bit better.

One of the servitore turns to me, “Madame, is this your entire wardrobe?”

Wearing my best dress, coat, and boots today, that hadn’t left a lot of other options to bring outside of my lab clothes. Feeling slightly embarrassed, I flatten the edge of my bodice. “Yes.”

The second, younger female smiles, “We’ll have to go to market then, once you’re all unpacked.”

I smile weakly, “Thank you.”

Wanting to keep watch of my things being unloaded, I stand off to the side of the gravel drive, Catarina in her case by my feet. I’d brought everything but the kitchen sink, as the saying goes. My whole little world, a single cabin being unloaded from a not-so-large carriage, going to sparingly fill the two rooms I’m said to have. Just about finished and I hear a new voice enter the courtyard, “Scholarra Dyad?” a male asks.

I look to the source and see a male; from his description, I assume to be the Prince. Tall, broad shoulders, pitch-black hair, graphite eyes (like everyone else in this royal famiglia), and extremely finely dressed. One hand behind his back, his other is outstretched for me to take.

I quickly grasp it and shake, “You can call me Delara.”

He smiles, showing a perfectly straight smile, the tips of his fangs touching his bottom lip. He tilts his head ever so slightly, “Madame Delara, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

When we retract hands, I realize I should have curtsied, right? I clear my throat, “I apologize for…” but then can’t think of what to say, so I raise my hand gesturing to everything awkwardly. Trying to stand straight, I clasp my hands in front of my waist, “Training as a Scholar is quite different than finishing school.”

His face relaxes, becoming more personable, he gestures for us to head inside. I quickly pick up Catarina and try to keep pace. Unfortunately, the skirt is not at all what I’m used to, and I almost trip a few times. I can see Prince Tahir try not to laugh when he asks, “Shall I carry that so you can pick up your skirt? To keep it from getting too dirty, of course,” he adds, to save me from embarrassment.

It doesn’t work. I hand him the case without looking, trying to keep my cool. “I hope it won’t be a problem that most of my wardrobe consists of pants.”

“We hope for you to be as comfortable as possible,” he answers.

I hear a soft hiss and see he’d looked into the wired front. “I’m sorry! Catarina isn’t fond of others.”

But he’s still smiling, “Well, that’s quite all right. I remember our feline when I was a young boy, mean ol’ coot who only liked my mother.”

Gods, he’s pretty. The way the Sun falls through the courtyard causes a pearlescent effect off his skin. He must have fed recently because there’s a deep blush on his lips. The contrast of his long, black as night hair causes an ethereal effect. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen someone from one of The Seven Pure Families.

The palace door is open for us while we’re still a few steps away. I carefully take the stairs, having to lift the skirt even higher. When we are successfully inside, Prince Tahir turns to me, holding the case out. “I imagine she’d feel much better in her new home.” He then waves a hand to a servitore, “Jasper, here, will show you the way to your rooms. If there are any problems, let him know. Take however long you need setting up, but if you’d like, we’re meeting in the greenhouse for breakfast.”

I dip my head, “Thank you.”

Our eyes meet and his expression softens. There’s a kindness in his smile, his voice lowering, “I really hope you like it here.”




Chapter Two

Caderyn


With Mother and Tahir having their usual breakfast in the greenhouse, I assumed Delara was taken there after she arrived. Curious of her, of all she brought, and how science may look different from magik, I found myself down the hall from the library where Mother said she’d be staying. She would be needing one of the studies and the attached room was remodeled into a bedroom. With the bedroom door closed, but the study open, I slowly enter.

I halt as soon as a see her by the windows. Tall for a female, curvier too, there’s more than just her warm tinted skin that tells the Half-blood difference. In the doorframe, I eye her… I don’t know if I should be surprised to see her in pants, though maybe for a pair that fitted. And as her hands push through her hair, her blouse lifts up her arched back. One hand holds at the nape of her neck, the other following the long length of bronze, chestnut hair. Her delicate wrist twirls as she twists the ends, then her arm reaches up before she starts making a bun. She tucks the ends and then pulls at a ribbon under her sleeve. After tying it, her hands drop to her hips. I see her shoulders rise and fall with her breath. Gli dei, per favore abbi pietà di me.

I come into the room slowly, forcing myself to look past her and through the window. “Beautiful view, don’t you think?”

Thankfully, she doesn’t turn around. “Oh, yes. It’s lovely.”

I look around the mostly unpacked room. “Not too distracting, I hope?”

She glances at her desk, too. “Oh, no… I think I’ll rather enjoy it.”

As she turns her head right, I slide to the left. She points to a trunk next to a bookcase. Mistaking me for a servitore, she asks, “Would you mind unpacking those books?” she waves her hand before turning back to her desk, “Alphabetical order by title will be fine.”

I shrug and head over to it. Crouching, I open what looks to be the largest chest in the room. Filled beyond the brim, I have to catch a book that falls out. While doing as asked, I try to keep up the conversation. “So, what exactly are you hoping to achieve here?”

At my quick glance, she’s rearranging all these glass things that look like odd cookware. “Well, Her Majesty has asked that I try and find a cure for the blood disorder commonly called the Dragon Mutation. If I can figure out what exactly makes the blood different from a normal Vampire – well, I guess I should say, a Pure-blood Vampire, then maybe I can find a way to reverse or mutate it back or… something,” she sighs.

“Is blood work your specialty?”

Her head tips side to side, “I guess you could say that. What I actually do is understand things at a micro level.”

I stand up with a few books starting to place them, “Micro?”

“Oh, sorry, it means very small – so small that they are or almost too small for the Vampire eye to see.”

I nod. “Do you use magik to see things that small?”

She laughs a sweet, carefree laugh that makes me smile too. “Nope! We are able to combine certain types of glass and rays of lights to be able to magnify small things to make them visible to the Vampire's eye.” Holding a sort of tube up, she examines it, “You can try it if you’d like, I have a few slides.”

Caught up in the situation, I don’t think. “Sure.”

As I walk over to the desk, she holds a glass cube in one hand and the tube out in the other. “Have a look.”

Her eyes are on the slide in her hand, making sure it matches with the edge of the tube. I use one eye to look through the tube and see a blade of grass as if it’s the size of my finger. I back up, “How cool.”

With a huge smile on her face, she turns to me. Then her eyes go wide and her hand limp. The glass cube falls to the floor and shatters. I quickly put the tube down on the desk and back up, “I’m sorry.”

Her head is shaking. “N-no, I’m sorry.” Her expression contorts and she puts a hand in front of her mouth. “You’re….”

My eyes drop to the floor, feeling contrite for scaring her. I finish her sentence, “Leaving.” and I exit before another word can be said.


Delara


Not knowing what else to do with my life since I’ve royally fucked myself, I am guided to breakfast. Maybe if I can just make a good impression with Her Majesty, then I’ll be forgiven for the Prince Caderyn fiasco. Oh Gods, but what if he’s there too? Nothing in my stomach yet I feel as if I’m going to vomit.

I try to admire the palace as we go. The monochromatic scheme is of black, silver metal, with greys, and dark woods. Their tapestries depicting night skies and The Festival Delle Luci, the tables are covered in moss and night-blooming jasmine.

Then, the greenhouse door is opened for me and with my first step in, I’m instantly in awe. Flora is one of the biggest reasons I chose the field of study I did and is one of the most useful tools in the work I do. Looking around, I realize everything I could possibly need is here and I am presented with more options to work with than I originally guessed.

Cupping the lip of a calla lily, I get a wee bit distracted. I hear Prince Tahir’s voice. “Oh, Madame Delara, I thought that was you!”

I drop the flower and face him, “I’m sorry, I was thinking how useful this might be.”

I notice him give me a once over, then his eyes stay on my face and his cheeks go pink. Knowing better than he might be attracted to me, surely, he was just not prepared to see me in pants, I walk towards him. “So, breakfast?” even though I’m back to feeling queasy.

He offers his arm, like a true gentleman, to which I softly place my hand on the crook of his elbow. He nods, “We have quite a lot to choose from and Linus, the chef, can make sure to make your blood however you like it.”

“Oh, I drank last week, but thank you.”

“Ah, yes… that’s a,” and I know he’s searching for a nicer term for Half-blood.

There isn’t one, “Yes, a Half-blood thing. I have to drink much less often than a Pure-blood or I’ll get sick.”

He nods once, “Interesting.”

At the long iron garden table, I notice only three place settings. “Is Prince Caderyn not joining us?”

Prince Tahir pulls out my chair for me and helps guide me in closer to the table, then he takes his seat across from his mother. I bow my head to her quickly, “Your Majesty.”

Her smile is regal, her expression polite but reserved. “Scholarra Dyad, how lovely you could join us… and no, my other son tends to eat on his own.”

So, it’s not just me. “He was very nice when I spoke to him in the study,” I try to compliment.

Prince Tahir snorts, “Nice? Are you sure you were talking to my brother?” When I look confused, he continues, “Yellow hair, golden eyes, a permanent scowl on his face?”

Knowing no other Vampire to have that description, knowing no other Vampire could physically have that description, I nod. “He was asking about my work, he helped put some of my books away.” I glance between the Prince and his mother, my heart pounding. “I’m afraid I may have offended him, though, I didn’t realize it was him at first. I wasn’t -”

But Her Majesty gestures to me softly, in a motherly way. “My other son has a habit of winding persons up; you are fine, my dear.”

I nod and turn my focus to food. Maybe some bread or fruit would be okay on my tumbling stomach. But it’s in mid-chew Her Majesty asks a question, “Scholarra Dyad, when would be an appropriate time for your first appointment with my son? I would like you both to be prepared for whatever may need to happen.”

Trying to chew and swallow as quickly as possible, I end up coughing a little. “Well, the first step will be a physical. Which, I can perform; however, I assumed you would want to call -”

But she cuts me off again, “We trust your work, no male will need to be called.” But then she examines my face, “Unless that is something you wish.”

Be professional, com’on Lara. Just because he’s one of the most handsome males you’ve ever seen doesn’t mean you can’t do your work. Just because you want him to push you up against the wall and kiss you doesn’t mean show weakness. “Wonderful. Thank you. I will be ready by the afternoon if he is available.”

Prince Tahir chimes in, “He usually doesn’t run off to that seedy pub until nightfall.”

Her Majesty waves for a servitore. When the female arrives, bending slightly, the Queen’s voice is soft. “Please have Jasper inform Prince Caderyn that Scholarra Dyad will be ready to see him at three o’clock for a physical.”




Chapter Three

Caderyn


Without knocking, I stroll into Tahir’s bedroom. He looks up from the book he’s reading for a moment, then does a double-take. “Oh, Caderyn, I’m surprised to see you.”

I shrug. Brows together, jaw tight, I have my fits shoved in my pant pockets. “So… Delara.”

He closes the book and places it on his lap. “She’s really lovely, isn’t she?”

I move farther into his room. “I have to meet her in ten minutes or so.”

He squints, “Right. For the physical.”

My shoulders twitch and I frown. “Right.”

After a length of silence, he comments “Well, you look nice,” offhandedly.

I look down, if I wanted to look nice, this wasn’t it. My black cotton shirt has buttons from the collar down… I thought the buttons would be better, she could look one shoulder at a time. Then I just tucked it into black suede pants because I figured I’d be sitting for a while.

“She’s a professional,” I think he’s trying to be helpful.

“Maybe you should be there.”

“She said you were nice,” he replies slowly.

My eyes shoot to him, “What?”

“At breakfast. She said you were nice. That and, well, that she thought she offended you.”

I shake my head and push a hand through my hair. The rippling nervousness turning into that normal prickle of agitation. “Offended me because she became afraid? No… of course not.”

I grunt. “Maybe you should check up on her after this whole stupid thing is done, she might be shaken,” and I walk out of his room, slamming the door closed behind me.

‘She said you were nice’ replays in my head. Right, nice, when she thought I was a servitore. Cursing, I knock on her study door, even though it’s cracked open.

I see her by the window again, this time drawing the curtains. Her extended body shows her curves off differently and more of her skin. Her smooth and delicate skin, feminine and warm… I can imagine my hands gently caressing her, fingertips light as if I were holding a blooming flower.

She is everything I’m not. No, I am too hard, too course, too strong…. The definition of my muscles too obvious, my voice too rough, I am a warrior through and through. Too much like my father, I suppose. I take a deep breath to calm myself, but it works against me as I smell her unique blood and floral soap.

Struggling with the last curtain pane, she looks back. “Oh, hello! Can you…,” but her voice drops as her eyes linger on my face.

I know she’s supposed to examine me, but does she have to stare? As I walk into the room, I feel my jaw tighten as I try not to say something rude. Being a bit of a hypocrite, I mentally trace the curve of her chin, the small lift of her nose, the arch of her brow….

She clears her throat, “Prince Caderyn, can you please help me?”

My eyes flick to hers, the color an unusual green. Like the stem of a Summer rose or the glimmer of peridot, the Human in her. “Sorry?”

She gestures to the last curtain, “It’s caught, I think.”

I’m careful as I cross the room and try not to take notice as she steps away when I reach her. I quickly tug the curtain closed. “I would have thought you’d needed sunlight for this.”

Down the wall, she lights a lamp. She crosses me to light another. Back at my side, she lights a hand-held one on the desktop. “Sun can be too bright at times, washing things out. I need a more concentrated light, something I can control.”

She pulls on the chair and turns it at an angle. “If you could sit here, please, Prince Caderyn, this should work.”

I sit, careful to keep my legs wide. I close my eyes and try not to breathe through my nose. “You can call me Cade….”

I hear her stop mid-step. “Call me Lara, then.”

“I’m sorry about this morning, Lara,” her name falling from my tongue like honey.

I hear her breath catch, “Oh, Gods, no. I’m sorry, Cade, I didn’t – I thought you were another servitore.”

When she’d said my name, my heart kicks against my ribs. I try to focus on that… and of the scent of her skin, instead of the odd clinks and clanks as she moves her equipment. “Ah… this might be easier if you talk me through it?”

I feel her hand lightly touch my bicep for a moment, “Of course, whatever you need.” Her soft voice… so sweet yet intimate. Listening to her… her voice, her breathing, the prickliness of my agitation melds into rolling nervousness.

“I have a few things here that are going to help me give you a physical. It seems that you are in perfect health, and I’d like to double-check. If the blood disease only affects you in the known ways, that’s one thing, but if it attacks any other area of your body, that could mean something else entirely.”

Not really listening to the words, my heart takes her voice as music. In response, my muscles ease and my breathing slows.

“I’ll have to check your heart rate, the clarity of your lungs, how well you see, your ears, nose, and throat. The usual things, I’m sure you’re used to.”

Usually done with magik, so probably not. I nod anyway.

I hear her foot slide slightly and can feel her standing behind me. “After that comes the next part,” her redundancy showing insecurity.

I try to act like Tahir, try to act charming, “And what’s that?” but my voice is naturally too severe.

She clears her throat; I can feel the wind she creates as she turns to her desk. “Remember the micro-scope? Well, not only do I need to take a blood sample, but I think it might be extremely beneficial if I can… well, take a scale.”

My hands that had been flat on the arms of the chair fist as my whole-body twitches, my nails digging into my palms. Trying not to think of all the others who’ve torn into my body, I nod once. “Right.”

Focus on her voice, Cade. “My shoulders….” But then I feel something brush against my legs and I jump. Looking down, it’s a furry thing. “Uh…” then it mews.

“Oh! Sorry, that’s Catarina,” but then I see her hesitate from picking up the feline.

Her head tilts as the feline rubs against my leg again, “What?”

She smiles and looks at me. “She usually doesn’t like others.”

Her smile closes but doesn’t leave her face as she looks me up and down. Her face is so close to mine, I can smell… strawberries on her tongue. Brain losing all function, I somehow come to ask “Catarina?”

This sets her back in motion, picking up the feline. “Humans call them cats. I spell it c a t a r i n a.”

I give a ‘hmph’ of a laugh, “Punny.”

She giggles. The same carefree giggle as the morning, “I thought so. But I should probably put her in the bedroom for the time being.”

Oh, the sway of her hips…. When she slips back behind the chair, I close my eyes again. “So, what first?”

“Heart rate is fine, I’m going to apply two fingers to your neck, all right?”

I nod.

I can feel my pulse against her. She has a surprising amount of strength in her two soft, thin fingers. Too soon, her fingers are gone. “It’s a little fast, but I’m assuming this isn’t too fun.”

There’s a pause, then her palm holds against my forehead for a moment, then I feel smooth skin. “Are you always so warm?”

“Yes…”

“Good to know.”

I look behind me to see her using a metal object to write. “What’s that?”

She lifts it, “It’s a pen. It writes like a quill, but the ink is kept inside the metal tube.”

I nod once, “Hmm.” Once she’s done writing I ask, “Now what?”

“I’m going to listen to your lungs.”

But then nothing happens. “Is everything okay?”

“Yes,” she responds a little too quickly. “I just… well, let me try through your shirt fabric.” Then I feel something almost flat go against my back. “Breathe in slowly,” she instructs. “Then out slowly.”

I do and I do.

The thing moves to the other side, “And again.”

I do and I do.

“Sounds good.”

More pen scratches. “Now what?”

“I’m going to have you turn around and I’m going to check your ears, nose, and throat.”

I stand up and turn the chair around. Sitting back down, I realize I need to scoot closer to her because of the lamp light. Gods, save me, her blouse is only buttoned halfway, the curve of her chest right at eye level. Attento ora .... Cade don’t fuck this up, too. I try to focus on the silver thing in her hand. “What’s that?”

She looks down, “Oh, it just helps reflect light where I need it.”

“Hmm.”

As she leans down to look in my ear, I have to close my eyes. Not because I’m anxious but because if I look, my arousal will be impossible to hide. I feel her touch the tip of my nose. Then she asks, “Open wide, please?”

When her fingers leave my cheeks, I open my eyes. She smiles reassuringly before turning to the desk, “Everything looks good. Have you had any issues with hearing, smelling, or tasting recently or in the past?”

“No.”

“Any illnesses you can recall?”

“No.”

“Which is normal for Vampires,” she comments more to herself. “And you’re how old?”

Surely that’s in my file, “Seventy-five.”

She looks over me again, “Really?”

I nod. “What about you?”

“Oh, I’m only thirty-seven.”

I look her up and down very slowly. “Did the Half-Human affect your age halt at all? Vampires Mature at twenty-seven.”

I notice a flutter in her chest. “Luckily, that part worked out for me. I Matured – as they say – at twenty-seven as well, only ten years ago.”

“Aside from physically, how has being Half-Human affected you?” I genuinely wonder.

But she shrinks, pulling her notebook close to her chest. “Maybe we can save that conversation for another time.”