A white-haired man informed, staring at the sliced bottom lip with worry. He inched forward and took out a handkerchief from his jacket in the hopes of wiping the dripping blood from the Master’s chin but he only waved him off.
“No, leave it, ” the Master answered as if he saw his right-hand’s intent. Blood continued to trickle down his chin and because of that, he swiped a finger along it and licked clean the sticking liquid with his tongue. “My fangs are behaving badly. Shit, it wants to sink in that woman’s flesh.”
“Hmm, you had already restrained yourself for many a year, why break that now? What changed?” the man stepped down the dais, tucked back his handkerchief inside his jacket and lowered his body to sit in a sofa provided for him.
“What changed is that woman’s blood, Calvin. She is the owner of those blood bags I crave so much, ” Cord’s tongue darted out and swept the wounded lip in one go.
The one named Calvin lifted a brow. “How can you be so sure?” he asked, enjoying the sight before him. It was not always that he gets to see the Vitalis Master agitated and hassled. He had perfected a poker face for over a millennium, to see a little bit of unraveling was a rare sight to say the least.
“Her scent and how I feel our blood boils in sync, that’s how sure I am, ” Cord replied. “Even now...” he trailed off, lifting his chin and inhaling deeply, “with her this near me.”
The throne-like hall was located in the same floor as where Noman and Amanda stayed. A few twists and turns of the hallways maybe present, but it was still close enough for him to catch her honeysuckle scent of blood. It was intoxicating his sense of smell.
“Woah, now those are words I hadn’t heard from you ever. Do you feel a strong connection with her?” Calvin dug deeper, lighting a cheroot already secured in between his lips with his personal lighter.
“No. Why would I?” Cord immediately replied with his brows knitted. “But her blood, fuck, it sings to me.” He clenched his fists against the armrest and controlled the fangs from extending even longer.
Calvin grinned. “From the looks of things, you really are restraining yourself cousin.”
“True, ” Cord nodded once. “I almost crawled on her last night... Almost tasted her flesh.”
The latter shrugged his shoulders. “Sounds like a typical vampire dilemma.”
“I am no vampire, ” Cord corrected.
“In denial again? Huh!” Calvin puffed out smoke from his nostrils and shook his head. “How many times have I heard those words?”
The Master clenched his jaw, irked. “Why do you use that wretched name anyway? Vampires are mere imaginative creations of humans based on an inconsistent bloody tale. We are nothing like them.”
Calvin shrugged his shoulders and crossed his leg on the other. “I use that word because it’s cool and because humans got at least two about us right, ” he answered initially. “And those are that we drink blood and we fear the sun. Well, except a certain someone that is, ” he hinted. “And oh! Don’t forget about humans calling us beautiful creatures, ha!”
The smugness in Calvin’s voice produced a twitch in the Master’s cheek.
“Calvin, you better return to your coffin now. It is almost dawn, ” he reminded, daring him. It was after all every vampire’s fear - to be greeted by the sun and die - but to Cord, he was immune to it. One of the many reasons why he still denied his dark nature.
“Ugh, I don’t sleep in a coffin, you know that, ” Calvin scrunched up his nose, the thought of even lying in one repulsed him.
“Neither do I, my cousin, ” Cord smirked.
And so, the latter stood up. He dusted the cigar ashes that had clung in his stylish coat and raised his head up. “You know what, a piece of advice, ” he started, “if you don’t want to revert back into your old self, get that woman away from you as soon as possible.”
Unconsciously, the image of Amanda flashed before Cord: her soul-searching brown-violet eyes, her long, sun-kissed beach hair, and the slenderness of her limbs and neck - most especially her neck. It got him on edge, but he cleared his throat and stated without missing a beat, “I will. That’s not a problem at all.”
Calvin grinned, believing him without hesitation. “Have a great day, cousin, ” he said and left the hall and its Master with bored strides.
On his way out of the double doors, he met another ‘vampire’ he knew so well: Trace, not because he was a cousin of Cord in the father’s side, but because he spelled of everyday trouble.
They acknowledged each other eye-to-eye, but neither of them dipped their heads or made a smile.
The double doors closed and Trace approached the dais.
“It is almost dawn, do you really have to call for me?” he stressed when he stopped near the sofa. He looked disheveled: his black shaggy hair tousled in every direction, kissmarks blotting his porcelain skin and his dapper clothes uneven from partying the whole night in the courtyard.
Of course, Cord couldn’t see those, but Trace’s voice was enough to crack a look of displeasure from him. At least with his cousin’s arrival, his fangs have retracted and allowed the bleeding of his lip to stop and the wound to heal.
“Trace, do I have to clean up every mess you make?” Cord stated, his voice a little more of a growl.
“I don’t make a mess, ” was the other’s nonchalant answer.
“Oh, and what of that gay human?” the Master rebutted.
Trace let out an amused burst of laughter, remembering Noman. “Hmft! The squealer?”
Cord’s expression remained neutral, unreadable, but in truth, he was fuming inside. “You know that was not just a case of drunkenness. Do you really have to harm that man?” he asked, keeping acid in his words in the safe limits.
“He struggled when I bit him, ” Trace flipped a hand midair. “Almost alarmed the other guests. I couldn’t stand it so I had to do drastic measures.”
Though Trace couldn’t see, under the blindfold, Cord pressed his eyelids a little harder, angered by his words.
“I permitted you and your family a party. If you want to wallow in mortal blood, fine with me, but do your fucking business elsewhere! I can’t have a corpse in my estate. It raises suspicions which I - no - we can’t afford!”
And then it happened, Trace’s shadow and the nearby ones in the dais and sofa created by the excessive candle-lit chandeliers reacted in an unearthly way. Looking like blank ink with a consistency of oil, they crawled up to Trace’s legs and incapacitated him. Electric shocks like lightning severed his veins and this made him kneel on the marbled ground like a repentant sinner.
“Shit, argh!” he cried out, a sound, which for a greater part, Cord had delighted once upon a long time. He heaved and struggled to put air into his lungs, not because he wanted the life-sustaining oxygen, but because he wanted to block the pain.
Yes, pain. Dark creatures like him actually experience pain amidst a walking corpse.
And yes, air. Dark creatures like him actually still required to breathe.
In a heartbeat, the shadows disappeared along with the torturous sensation. Cord lifted it, remembering this one simpleton of a man as still his relative.
“Lucky for you, Calvin was there to stop you. Otherwise, I won’t take your transgression lightly, ” he said.
“I know! Fuck, I get it!” Trace strongly spat out, lifting his face up and giving the Master of the House unconcealed murderous glares.
“Get out, ” Cord ordered through clenched teeth to which Trace immediately did but not without shouting in his head.
“Tsk, fucking blind bastard!”
To stop his palms from trembling, he clenched them full and hurried out of the hall without ever looking back.
In the throne-like chair, Cord released a deep breath to free all the pent up stress his cousin had caused. Such punishments were bound to happen, he knew that for a fact, but all this time, he had refrained from doing that. Since he had thrown his old self aside, he had taken upon himself to be as indifferent as possible... for his benefit and for the others.
The welfare of that woman’s friend didn’t matter to him really. Heck, not one bit of care sparked in him towards that gay human.
But the woman...
Throw her into the equation and his carefully-erected mask cracks.
“You really know how to cause a ruckus, my cousin, ” Cord whispered to himself. He heard the double doors tightly shut and then followed by another one opening on his far left - the servant’s door particularly.
“But then again, actually, I should be thanking you for doing what you did last night.”
He then pressed his index finger on his bottom lip and ghosted a dark smile knowing that his wine flute full of Amanda’s donated blood was on the way, brought by his most loyal butler.
“Otherwise, I wouldn’t have found that woman.”
The blind Vitalis Master really intrigued Amanda, but to dig deeper on that wasn’t in her list when she had a best friend to take care of.
She had had a very good sleep the entire night, well... much lesser if she had to count the gnawing feeling that she was being scrutinized inside out while asleep. She tossed and turned and almost hit Noman in the groin for being so damn uncomfortable for the first few hours of shutting her eyes.
Noman’s incessant complain first thing in the morning was what woke her up.
“Shit my head.” Still closing his eyes, he massaged his temple and groaned audibly.
Amanda blinked twice and adjusted to the dots of morning light that came through the thick curtains.
“Hmm, Dom? You’re awake?” she turned to the other side with her left elbow supporting her weight and caught sight of her best friend in still the same clothes he wore last night. She had hers too, minus the brown leather coat and dark blue jeans, only wearing her V-neck tee and a gray boyshort panty.
Noman popped one eye on her way. “Yeah, I am, and I would have squealed after seeing you with me in this bed if not for this hangover headache.”
He winced again, clenched his teeth and hardened his temple massages. “Urgh, hey, we didn’t have sex last night right?”
Although beet red, Amanda’s expression turned one of exasperation.
“Idiot! Of course we didn’t!”
She pulled a nearby pillow from the headboard and hit Noman with it.
The latter timely blocked it and commented with a gagging action in his mouth, “Oh good, because I’d surely vomit if we did.”
“Do you remember what happened to you last night?” Amanda, after rolling her eyes, changed the subject completely.
Still sleepy, Noman looked at her and grinned. “Pshhh, well, yeah! I joined the flippin’ greatest party of my life!”
Amanda straightened and sat against the headboard and stacked pillows, acting confident amidst her lack of clothing in front of Noman. The duvet stayed low, covering her ankles and toes.
“Yeah, I know that already, ” she said and then twisted to pull his right wrist, “but this?” she held it up, “and those?” she pointed her eyes towards the visible bruises in his chest and neck with suspicion and continued, “What do you make of it?”
Noman, now fully wide awake, examined the telltale signs of his escapade last night and awarded her a sloppy smile, “Uhh, these are nasty kissmarks? And this...” he wriggled his wrist and went from being sure to confused, “I...really don’t know.”
Amanda narrowed her eyes at him and released his wrist. “That’s weird, ” she said, her suspicion increasing, “but you do feel fine right?”
Noman slumped back on his side of the mattress, closed his eyes and massaged his head again. “Give me Advil and a glass of orange juice and I’ll be fine.”
“Hmph, you know I can’t bring you those right?” Amanda questioned, crossing her arms over her chest.
“Huh? Why so?”
“Because, my dear Professor, we are still in the Vitalis Mansion, ” she informed.
“Oh my God, what!?” The surprised Noman shot up with an open mouth and wide eyes. He scanned the room, from the mattress they were in to the intricately designed walls and furniture.
Amanda giggled. “Huh, you really are still disoriented if you can’t even notice the differences between your room back in the apartment and this...princess chamber, ” she remarked haughtily.
“Oh goodness Cait! What are you waiting for?! Take a picture of me in this bed now!” Noman hurriedly grabbed his cellphone protruding in his pants pocket and shoved it in her chest.
Amanda lazily took it and swiped the screen.
He righted his garments, poised like the Vogue model, Candice Swanepoel, and puckered his lips.
Click. Click. She photographed in an angle like how he taught her months ago.
“And there, take a picture of me there!”
Noman jumped out of bed and posed, doing a leg split in the chaise lounge a few feet away from Amanda.
But before she could capture a photo, his eyes popped, sprang to his feet and ran all the way from the chaise to the other side of the room where it led to the closed balcony area.
“What? This room has a balcony too?” he exclaimed, shoving the thick curtains to the side. Light instantly spilled from the outside, dispersing some of the shadows of the room.
Amanda winced from the sudden light change.
“Take a picture of me there too, Cait!” Noman pointed outside and then left the glass door towards where Amanda sat, snickering, and pulled her right hand up to his cheeks.
“Oh God! Pinch me! I am not dreaming am I?” he asked with hopeful eyes.
Amanda tried to hide her laughter. “No, you aren’t Dom. Not at all.”
“Ohh...” his eyes, if it was possible, even widened with that fact. “Oh yes!”
“Hmmm, I see that you are well and good, Mr. Asghar?” that molten-hot voice that Amanda knew so well even in just overnight sounded through the door.
Swiftly, both she and Noman turned to the source and saw the Master of the House already one step inside from the threshold of the bedroom door; a step closer than he had been last night, but a safe distance still. And once again, he had his pet with him.
How? How could they have not noticed him? How could they have not noticed the opening of the door? Or was it even closed in the first place?
“I...I...” Noman stammered, looking rather ashen. He shot Amanda a silent plea and then quick as a wink, jumped behind her.
Amanda understood Noman’s cowering state. Although an animal lover, she was well aware he was afraid of the Master’s pet panther looking every inch a predator.
But this wasn’t her main concern at all.
She, who was still sitting in bed, felt cognizant of her state since after all she was still in her boyshorts. Her slender legs looked mighty fine against the sheets; her fair skin complementing the fabric like she was meant to stay there.
Although she felt the beginnings of a blush, she blinked fast and inhaled deeply, realizing her feeling of embarrassment unnecessary when in fact the man was blind. He wouldn’t be able to see just how sexy she looked in her morning hair and lack of clothing.
“He is Mr. Vitalis, ” came her courageous voice, “but you are scaring him.”
Cord lifted a brow, taken aback. “I am?”
“Yes, you are, standing suddenly in that opening without even so much as a knock on the door or a sound of your boot. And of course, with your pet beside you.”
Not to mention your eye-catching blindfold and wearing your ominous black trench coat so early in the morning, she wanted to add those but refrained. To test the patience and hospitality of the host wouldn’t be a good attribute.
Cord this time lifted his chin and curved a little smile directly on her way. “I am the Master here, I do as I please.”
“So it looks, ” Amanda rebutted, flushed.
Just as she did last night, she oddly felt he was looking right through that bloody hell of a blindfold, straight to her... straight to her inviting form in a mattress that needed a blessing of moans, grunts and mixed heavy breaths.
“Excuse my interruption Master Cord. I have what you ordered, ” and cue in the butler. As always, he perfected a low bow, clad in his well-ironed suit.
Amanda, realizing another man, though old, had entered the chamber, clutched the duvet immediately and hid her waist and legs under.
“Give it to Mr. Asghar, ” ordered the Master, his face still locked on Amanda.
“As you wish, ” Jerome answered in a soft voice and then gestured for an old maid in his side to hand over the silver tray.
“What is that?” asked Amanda when he entered the room and approached the still-silent but observant Noman.
“It is Advil and a glass of orange juice, Madame O’Malley, ” informed he.
“Wow, amazing, exactly just as what I said earlier, ” Noman stated just as he reached for the two objects in the tray. He looked at his bestfriend and sent her silent eye signals of surprise. “Uh, thank you, Mister...”
“My apologies, ” the butler cut in, “I hadn’t introduced myself. I am Jerome Gagllaher, Head Majordomo of this castle, and the personal butler of the Master of the House.”
He moved his right hand sideways and gestured for the blindfolded man.
“The one standing near the threshold is Master Rexco—”
“Pleasantries is not needed Jerome, ” Cord interjected swiftly. “Bring in their breakfast so that they can get on their way.”
Without a thought, Jerome bowed his head and left after saying, “As you wish, Sire.”
Amanda didn’t know where the courage came from, but this made her strike a blow. “You in a hurry to kick us out of your mansion, Milord? We are commoners after all. Too much of a bother to you. I don’t mind leaving without breakfast, and I think Dom has the same sentiment. You, accommodating us for the night is already enough.”
Noman’s mouth dropped.
Cord’s neutral lips curved upward again. “Hmm, such a spitfire you are.” He succeeded a step closer with his cane wanting to bask in her scent more, but halted. Abruptly. He clenched the gold handle of his cane with a quarter of his unnatural strength and continued, “But yes, I am in a hurry to kick you out of my house, but not for the reasons you think.”
Amanda clutched the duvet even more. This time, now, she felt herself naked in front of him.
What was he saying anyway?
“You’re presence...torments me Amanda, ” he confessed.
Her heartbeat double worked making her furrow her brows. She disliked such reaction he had aroused in her.
“Ho-how so...?” despite her boldness, her voice stammered.
“Crimson red, ” was the only words he could make before turning around to face the door and pausing, “Goodbye and have a pleasant day ahead.”
Frowning, Amanda watched him leave with the stride of a man born with unquestionable command and power. She didn’t answer anymore. She stayed silent until he and his panther were no longer in sight. If they were playing charades, she would have accepted his vague words, but shit, it left her hanging. Empty in the end.
Again. What the fuck was he talking about anyway?
Jerome entered the bedroom again with two maids in tow. In their hands they held two silver trays full of food and drinks. In a nearby coffee table, they set those up while Jerome stood at the foot of the bed.
“Any other things you need Madame? Mr. Asghar?” he asked, mindful of their needs.
“No, we are good Sir Jerome, thank you, ” was Amanda’s composed answer. She glanced at Noman who in turn nodded at her.
“Master Cord has arranged for a vehicle to drive the two of you to your destination. It will wait in the front portico, ” he informed.
“That isn’t really necessary, we can always call Uber, but tell your Master that we are grateful, ” she answered again, gone was her spunk earlier. Why would she stay on guard when her source of threat had left?
“I will Madame O’Malley. Enjoy your breakfast, ” Jerome replied, made another bow, and turned around to leave.
The moment the bedroom was vacated, Noman jumped out of the mattress again and approached the coffee table. He placed the half-finished glass of orange juice in one of the trays and sat on a square-shaped sofa.
“Damn, I’m hungry, ” he declared whilst picking a silver fork to pierce a generous-sized Hungarian sausage.
Once done, he narrowed his eyes at the silent Amanda and bobbed his head. “Uhh, what was that just now?”
Amanda arched her brow at him. “What? The butler?” she asked, genuinely innocent.
“No! The butler’s Master!” Noman shouted. “That hot male specimen!”
“Hmm, what about him?” She stood up and joined him, sitting opposite in another square-shaped sofa.
“Uh, hello Cait? Short-term memory again?” he flagged the half-eaten Hungarian sausage in her front. “Your presence torments me. Crimson red, ” he echoed, mimicking the rich voice of the Master. “Does that ring a bloody virgin bell?”
“Oh, that, ” Amanda dipped her eyes on the large piece of bacon and buttered baguette, hiding the brief red hue in her face.
“Yes, that!” Noman proclaimed. “There is something going on between the two of you. I need details. Now.”
“Nothing is going on between the two of us, ” she replied pointblank, now chewing on the bacon. “I just met the rude guy last night because of you.”
Noman pursed his lip and lifted a diva brow. “Spill the beans, Cait, or I’ll stuff this Hungarian sausage in your mouth, full!”
No one could ever calm a thrashing Noman and Amanda knew that. She knew that he would never drop the subject, ever, so she raised her hands up in surrender.
“Okay! Okay! Not the Hungarian please.” She gave him pleading eyes.
“Talk. Now, ” dictated Noman.
“He is blind, ” she started, bringing her attention back on the baguette.
“It looks to be so with that cane and blindfold, but what’s your point?” Noman decapitated on his poor sausage again, all ears on her.
“It feels that...he keeps on looking at me even with his disability, ” she continued. “I have never felt this observed so much in my entire life, even with those men who have perfectly healthy pair of eyes.”
“Even with Matteo, ” Noman chimed in, giving her a cheeky grin.
“Psh, yeah, even with him, ” Amanda confirmed. She knew of Matteo’s apparent infatuation with her. She knew he was slowly making his move however subtle it maybe. She liked the man, but not in a way he desired from her.
“Wow, that’s weird. What else?” Noman remained reserved of his comments.
“My body boils whenever he is nearby, and I tell you, we just met twice, last night and this morning, yet I feel so strongly towards him, ” Amanda poured out.
“Explain thoroughly, ” was what Noman directed just as he drank his fill of orange juice.
Amanda inhaled again and closed her eyes. It would have been better to forget those feelings for good, but for her best friend’s sake, she will have to relive it again.
“I hate the man, ” she started, keeping her eyes downward on her plate. “I hate how he makes my insides clench. I hate how he brings the soles of my feet cold. I hate how he curves his mouth into a smirk. But I am fascinated with him too. I... Shit, this is all messed up.” She shook her head. Silently, she wished the walls of the Vitalis Castle possessed no ears. Oh how embarrassing would it be if they do have spies and report this to that difficult man.
Noman seemed unaffected with her predicament though.
“Other women must feel the same way when in front of that kind of man. Heck, I even feel my testicles tingle every time I gaze at his blindfold, ” he remarked and this made Amanda cringe.
“Ewww, Dom, your disgusting.”
The latter laughed and wiped a rogue tear from his eye.
“Seriously though. You’re just experiencing the normal responses of attraction. This is new to you since you basically have zero experiences with men in your abundant lifetime.” He swept a thumb under his clean-shaven chin and smiled. “Think of it as sort of an incentive for being my bestest friend. Oh! What am I saying? I haven’t thanked you yet for coming to my rescue!”
He stood up, reached across the table and gave her a tight hug. Amanda welcomed it.
“But next time, when you’re drunk, please make sure you remember what happened to you, ” she stated, happy that her best friend was well and good with no side effects from last night’s partying.
“I will, pinky promise, ” Noman replied, showing her his pinky finger.