Chapter 12 Royal Blood
It seemed as if it took an hour for Jameson to drive me to the Mansion. I was afraid by the time we reached its gates, dinner would be stone cold.
We parked in front of theMansion, It was quite the celestial sight. Candles flickered inside the house like a festive holiday party.
Jameson opened the car door for me.
I reached the top of the crumbling stairs, and, as if on cue, the front door creaked open. On the other side were the first adult vampires I would ever meet. At first I didn't see anyone.Then out stepped Alexander, stunning in an oversized blue silk shirt and black jeans.
"Wow! You are beautiful." He offered his hand to me and kissed me on the cheek.
Somber violin music faintly filled the Mansion.A pewter umbrella stand containing at least half a dozen parasols sat by the front door.
"Miss Raven is here," Jameson called to the second floor, and retreated to the kitchen.
"My mom takes forever."
The Mansion's air was unusually chilly, and I was shivering.
"Are you nervous?"
"My mom likes the thermostat set to freezing. I'll fix that."
"That's okay-," I started to say.
But Alexander had already taken off.
A ghoulish and magnetically morbid woman descended the red velvet staircase like an apparition. Her perfectly straight jet black hair, streaked with a vivid violet, cascaded over her bony and beautiful shoulders.
She continued to come down the stairs, with the confidence of Cleopatra but the attire of Elvira. Deep eggplant-hued lipstick and nails were ghastly and gorgeous against her corpse-white skin.
Strong black eyeliner intensified her blue catlike eyes, and her long, purple, flirty eyelashes sparkled. A tattoo of a black rose crept out from her dark velvet corset, which shaped her chest like a heart. Her small cinched-in waist was accentuated with a fabric belt and a long, flowing black mermaid skirt. Her frame was petite but curvy in all the important places.
I was mesmerized by her beauty.
At the end of the staircase a man appeared out of the shadows. He was tall, with broad shoulders and blazing black and gray shoulder-length hair. He was utterly handsome, as striking as any fifties film star. His dark eyebrows were in sharp contrast to his frost-toned skin. He wore a dark silk suit with a bloodred tie and a matching cape. He had a sharp antique wood walking stick, capped with an ivory skull. Alexander's father formally took his wife's hand and led her toward me.
I froze. I was standing in front of Alexander's parents. I didn't know if I should bow or salute. To me, they were the most normal-looking parents I'd ever seen.
Mrs. Sterling extended her hand to me. In the most lyrical Romanian accent, she said, "It is our pleasure to meet you, Raven."
I couldn't help but notice the two purple bite marks on her neck.
I tried to speak, but I was so in awe. My words stuck in my throat.
Just then Alexander returned.
"This is Raven," he said proudly,
"We were just introducing ourselves," his mother stated.
"I'm so happy to meet you, Mrs. Sterling," I finally said.
Her hand was cold but firm. "Call me Cassandra."
"And this ismy father, Constantine," Alexander said.
Mr. Sterling extended his hand to me. "It is lovely to meet you, Raven." His voice was deep, causing shivers to flow through my body. His dark eyes were intense and hypnotic.
"You are just as beautiful as Alexander described," the dashing seniorSterling complimented. "And he has exquisite taste." He grinned, and the candlelight caught the edge of his icicle-sharp fangs.
I wasn't sure if he meant "taste" literally. I was, after all, being greeted by a vampire.
"Alexander has told us so much about you," Mrs. Sterling said.
"Come, we'll be dining outside tonight. I'm bloodthirsty and starved to the bone."
We walked to a side door, where an umbrella was leaning against the wall.
"The moonlight can be so strong." Mrs. Sterling opened her umbrella and went down the back stairs. The violin music grew louder.
The backyard was grimly festive. Awaiting us was a grand gothic affair. A long black runner ran along the grass from the bottom of the steps to a morbid dinner party under the stars. Four torches burned, presumably to repel insects (but in this case, more likely, to attract them) several yards away from a long, dark wooden table. On closer inspection, I could see that a coffin lid had been transformed into a dining-room table. Several floor-length candelabras surrounded the table, wax dripping like trickling blood. Alexander offered me a chair and gently pushed it in for me as Mr. Sterling did the same for his wife. Mrs. Sterling sat at the head of the casket and Alexander's father at the end, while Alexander and I sat at the other sides.
I was surprised to see a string trio in the gazebo-two men dressed in tuxedos and a woman in an evening dress- playing ina minor key unmelodious funeral-type music. I didn't recognize the musicians as being from Dullsville. I had assumed the music was coming from an entertainment center, I had no idea it was being played live.Or rather� undead.
This was unbelievable. It was as if they had transformed the backyard into a cryptic dining hall- All that was missing was a china cabinet.
If Becky and my parents could see me now, they'd never believe I was at the center of this macabre dinner celebration. If only I could immortalize it with a photograph-but then again, most of the diners wouldn't come out,
Jameson quickly tended to Mrs. Sterling. He poured her a glass that appeared to be champagne mixed with blood.
"I like mine bubbly," she said with a laugh.
Jameson approached me with hisUnderworldly concoction. "I'll have a Coke," I said.
"Of course, Miss Raven."
Then Jameson attempted to serve Alexander, but my boyfriend covered his glass with his hand. "I'll have what Raven is having."
He finished by pouring Mr. Sterling a tall glass and, from a neighboring chest, retrieved two sodas.
"Let's toast," Mrs. Sterling said, raising her drink. "To Raven and Alexander-may your friendship last an eternity."
Friendship?I wondered. Hadn't Alexander told them we were dating? Or was she just being polite? I gazed at myboyfriend, who seemed distracted. Our glasses clinked underneath the twinkling stars.
"So how did you and Alexander meet exactly? You know men can be so vague when it conies to details."
I snuck into your house and found him standing behindme,I wanted to say,Or do I count Becky almost running your son over in the road outside the Mansion ?
"I saw Raven several times before I had the courage to invite her here for dinner," Alexander answered for me.
"How romantic,"Mrs ,Sterling remarked, "A private dinner date.Mr. Sterling and I met at the cemetery."
"Wow- that's romantic, too," I said truthfully.
"We are so happy Alexander has found someone to keep company with," she said fondly.
"Mrs. Sterling and I understand that Alexander has told you about our family," Mr. Sterling said. "We'd expect a far different reaction from a girl in your situation and find not only your tolerance but your enthusiasm refreshing."
I didn't know what to say, so I remained silent,
"We find it very intriguing that you have the same passion for certain things that my mother did," he continued, gesturing toward his family. It seemed as if he was alluding to the Underworld without actually saying it. "Alexander shared her interest in painting, while you seem to share her other passion."
Vampires?They waited for my reaction. How was I supposed to respond? I turned to Alexander for help. His normally soulful eyes appeared to be red.
"I think we should talk about something else-," Alexander said to his father.
"I must say, it does concern Mrs. Sterling and me," Mr. Sterling continued. "My mother was a very lonely woman isolated in a town very different from her own family. I wouldn't want you to suffer that Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter,same fate."
Alexander was fuming. "We've invited Raven over for dinner, not a dissertation."
"Constantine, Alexander's tight," Mrs. Sterling interjected. "There is plenty of time for such matters."
"Let's just say we appreciate your acceptance of our lifestyle and leave it at that," he said.
"So what do you enjoy doing?" he asked politely, changing the subject.
"I love to go to the cemetery, watch TV, and listen to music."
"How about school?Do you enjoy your studies?" Mr. Sterling wondered.
"Not much. I'd rather be homeschooled, like Alexander."
"Is there a subject you are attracted to?Something that you fancy becoming?" Mr. Sterling asked.
A vampire,I was dying to say.Like all of you. But I didn't have the guts.
"Raven has plenty of time for questioning," Mrs. Sterling said. "Let her eat."
Jameson came in with a tray of almost too fresh meat. It was about as unappetizing as it could be. I was really too nervous to eat anyway and figured I'd get my calories from the veggies.
Jameson handed me a special plate-a quarter chicken fully cooked.
"Are you sure you wouldn't prefer some of ours?"Mrs. Sterlingasked. "There is plenty here."
"Raven prefers hers well done," Alexander responded. "Be sure to try it this way, It's very addicting," Mrs.Sterling added.
It was then the candlelight caught the wounds of her bite marks.
Was being vampires something Alexander's parents had wanted? Or would they resist bringing me further into the vampire world than I already was?
We retired from the crisp night air of our backyard party to the chilly living room of the Mansion, Jameson brought in our desserts.
Above a small fireplace was a portrait of a dashing gentleman,
"That was my father," Mr. Sterling offered, noticing my stares.
"He was very handsome," I said.
Mr. Sterling laughed.
"He would have been pleased to know you thought so."
"This Mansion was built in honor of him,"Mrs ,Sterling began."And used to its fullest. It's been a Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter,wonderful place for Alexander, too. He has accomplished a lot here."
" I'llsay," I remarked. "He has painted so many paintings,You could decorate the Mansion with them," I went on.
"You've seen his artwork?" Mr. Sterling asked.
"Yes. He won an annual arts fair contest. Didn't Alexander tell you?"
"No, we didn't know that," Mr. Sterling said.
"Alexander, you are holding back on us," Mrs. Sterling said.
"It was a picture of me," I gloated, "and people said it was dead-on."
"Interesting," Mr. Sterling said. "So that is what you've been doing with your spare time?"
"He paints all the time. He's made dozens. Have you seen them?"
Alexander shook his head and signaled me to cut off this discussion.
"No, Alexander doesn't share his work with us," said Mr. Sterling,
"Well, why don't we bring some down?" I offered.
Suddenly there was ice in the air.
"Later," Alexander said. "Constantineis a very busy man. He's too preoccupied with professional artists. I'd rather not waste his time."
Constantine?Alexander called his father Constantine? "But-"
"So,Raven ," Mr. Sterling said, changing the subject, "Tell me about your parents."
"They are just like everyone else here in town." Then I realized I could be accentuating their mortality. "But they really like staying up late and they love the night. And my dad likes his steaks really rare. Growing up we watched Dracula movies together. He loves vampires."
The three vampires looked straight at me. I had rambled on too far.
"I've finished my dessert now, Alexander," I said.
"It's time I take you home," Alexander responded right away.
Alexander held my hand as theSterlings accompanied me to the door.
The ghoulish, couple stood statuesque and imposing, yet mannerly.
"It was great to meet you," I said sincerely. "And thanks for dinner."
"Please give our regards to your parents," Mr. Sterling said, and gave me a polite kiss on the cheek. It Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter,was enough to make my frozen heart melt.
" Yes, we must meet them," Mrs. Sterling said. "We'll have Jameson set something up immediately."
Bad idea,I wanted to say. "I know they'd be honored," Iuttered instead.
"What a sweet girl,"Mrs ,Sterling said. "I'd like to get to know you better, Raven," she remarked before I stepped out the door.
My eyes lit up."Absolutely. I'm free any time." The sight of Mrs. Sterling and I hanging out at the mall together would be sure to turn the town ofDullsville on its head. We'd probably show up on the local news.