“Why are you hiding in here?” Mae walked into the entryway to claim me. “I saw the boys go in the living room with those stupid games, and I couldn’t believe they left you stranded.”
“I wasn’t really stranded,” I said, but she looped her arm through mine, leading me on through the house.
“It’s just so strange not having you around all the time.”
“At least you don’t have to make so much food,” I said, and she laughed.
“I know I’m a horrible cook, but I still love baking!”
I thought she’d take me into the living room, where she’d harass the boys until they quit playing video games. Instead, she took me past the living room and down the hallway, to Ezra’s den at the far end of the house.
It was what I’d expected of a rich vampire’s den. The walls were lined with bookcases covered in books and antiquities. A massive mahogany desk sat in the center of the room with high end computer equipment on it. A reproduction of Rembrandt’s The Mill hung above the distressed leather sofa. Behind his desk, a massive window revealed the blackened lake behind the house.
Ezra sat at the desk, staring at the computer monitor. If Mae hadn’t been dragging me in, I never would’ve entered his den. I didn’t want to break his concentration, but Mae thought nothing of it.
“Hello, love!” Mae chirped, and Ezra looked up from the screen to smile at us. “And what, pray tell, has your attention?”
“Nothing of real importance.” He leaned back in his chair, giving the screen one last look, before turning his attention fully to us. “Just a stock tip someone told me to check into. I don’t think it’s going to be fruitful but…” He shook his head.
“Ezra doesn’t care what he’s looking up on the computer as long he’s looking it up,” Mae said with a bemused smile. “The other day I caught him watching a video of an elephant painting with his trunk.”
“It was an elephant painting,” Ezra said, but that only succeeded in making Mae giggle. “And I suppose you’ve seen an elephant paint?”
“No, but it’s just a weird thing for you to be interested in,” Mae said, and I concurred with her entirely.
“Technology fascinates me,” Ezra allowed, then rested his eyes on me. “I can watch an elephant paint live on the internet. That sounds like nothing to you, but when I was a younger man, the poor animal would’ve been dead by the time I heard about it. This right here – this is magic.”
“You’ll never cease to amaze me, darling.” Mae looked at him with complete adoration. It made me uncomfortable witnessing it, as if I were spying on some private moment.
“I should hope not,” Ezra smiled back at her. She left my side and walked over to him, giving him a small but passionate kiss on the lips.
“I never will,” she promised and headed out of the room. “Well, I’m sure you two have a lot to talk about.” Before shutting the door behind her, she smiled sadly at me.
“Mae’s never been one for subtlety,” Ezra sighed, staring at the closed door. “Go ahead. Have a seat.”
“Okay?” I carefully sat down on the sofa behind me. “You have something to tell me”
“It’s not something I need to tell you so much as a conversation we need to have.” Ezra moved his chair over so he wasn’t hiding behind the computer. He tried to look relaxed, but he was hesitant to meet my eyes. “Your brother’s turning was quite unexpected.”
“For both of us,” I agreed.
“In the end, I don’t think it’s a bad decision.” He looked at a spot on the Oriental rug on the floor, thinking. “Once everything is sorted out, he’ll be a very good fit. It’ll be a wonderful opportunity for you both. I know how important he is to you.”
“Yes, he is,” I swallowed hard.
“As you’re finding out, new vampires require a lot of time and energy,” Ezra went on. “All of us have spent hours with him, helping him transition.
“We had a plan for you to turn when you felt that Milo was ready.” He licked his lips, and my heart thudded painfully. “But his turning has changed your plan.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Milo needs too much right now, and you’d need just as much if you were to turn,” Ezra explained. “It would be impractical and unfair to both of you to have two very young, very new vampires in the house. Jack isn’t that old and wouldn’t be up for the responsibility of siring you both into this.”
“Oh.” I couldn’t think enough to argue against it. I just stared vacantly in front of me.
“It’s only temporary,” Ezra added quickly. “We’re only postponing things. Actually, we’re sticking to the original time frame.”
“Wait. The original timeline? You mean… you mean like one or two more years?”
“You can finish out high school this way,” Ezra said, like that was something that really mattered to me.
“I don’t care about high school!” I snapped.
“I know,” Ezra sighed. “But an education is important.”
“Why does this just keep getting harder and harder?” Tears brimmed in my eyes, but I didn’t even fight them off. He knew this would upset me, which is why he’d told me alone.
“I don’t know.” He came over and sat next to me on the couch. To comfort me, he put his hand on my back. “I am sorry this is so hard for you, Alice. I truly am. In the meantime, you can still stay here as much as you want.”
“Yeah, right. Like Milo could handle that right now. Or like Peter could, if he ever decides to come back.”
“Milo will settle down soon, enough where you can be around as much as you’d like,” Ezra assured me, but I noticed that he made no mention of Peter.
“Can I ask you something?” I looked at him directly. “Do you think… I’m ever going to turn? I mean, is it ever really going to make sense for me? Or would I be better off getting on with my life and pretending that I never met any of you?”
“I can’t answer that for you, Alice.” His deep voice sounded saddened by my question. “I’ve always told you that regardless of how we feel, you need to do what’s best for you. And if you don’t think that’s this life, then it isn’t.”