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Jack smiled at me from across the glass chessboard, and any thoughts I had about the game were completely lost. Since I made the transformation from seventeen-year-old girl to full-fledged vampire three weeks ago, the ability to focus on anything had become much harder.
My new senses made Jack even more amazing. When he moved his hand to touch a pawn, the light, tangy scent of him and his blood makes my mouth water. He’s even more attractive than I’d ever known, and I’ve spent far too many hours just gaping at him.
“Ahem,” Milo cleared his throat more loudly than necessary, considering he could grab my attention by just changing the way he breathed.
Every sound is so much more magnified than it was before. While I couldn’t hear a butterfly flapping its wings, my hearing had greatly improved. When it comes to heart beats and blood, I’m particularly sensitive.
“I thought you wanted to learn to play chess,” Milo said.
He sat behind us, perched in an over stuffed chair with one of his legs hanging over the arm. In human years, he was a year and a half younger than me, but he’d been a vampire longer than I had. With dark, wide eyes, he managed to look deep and mysterious, while as a human, he had just looked innocent and naive. The change sat with him immensely.
“I know, I know,” I said, and my embarrassment amused Jack. “Just go over what a rook is one more time.”
“You’re not even trying at all, Alice,” Milo sighed.
“Be serious,” Jack chimed in, his tone very dutiful.
Our relationship currently bordered on unhealthy obsession, but that had to do with me turning and our recent bonding. Everyone assured us that it would eventually lessen to an acceptable level.
Without any effort on my part, my body would automatically tilt towards him. Under the glass chess table, he had started brushing his foot against my leg, trying to get me to pay attention to him. His touch, even through a sock against my calf, did insane things to me. My heart fluttered unabashedly, but at least I could hear his for a change.
“Okay, I totally know what you’re doing.” Milo sounded disgusted.
“Sorry!” I pulled my leg back.
“You’re no fun,” Jack grumbled but made no attempt to touch me again.
Jack’s brother Ezra insisted we keep some distance for awhile. My emotions tended to get the best of me. Anything passionate, like hunger or lust, overpowered everything, and I could actually kill Jack if we got frisky. So, we almost constantly had baby-sitters, in the form of Milo, Ezra, or Ezra’s wife Mae.
Jack decided that he wasn’t the best one to teach me chess, so he bowed out and let Milo take his place. Milo explained the rules to me again while Jack made himself comfortable on the couch.
His giant white Great Pyrenees, Matilda, brought her rope over to him so he would play with her. Even though he had moved away from us, my attention remained fixed on him.
“Alice!” Milo snapped his fingers in front of my face, trying to draw my eyes away from Jack. “I’m going to send him out of the room if you don’t knock it off.”
“Sorry!” I repeated.
Jack laughed, and that did nothing to help the situation. With sandy, disheveled hair, dancing blue eyes, and flawless, tan skin, Jack was attractive in his own right, but it was his amazing laughter that always got me. It was the clearest, most perfect sound I had ever heard.
Milo stood up, preparing to make good on his threat, but Ezra walked into the living room.
Ezra’s presence was like no other. Handsome in a way that only a vampire could be, his blond hair fell across his forehead, and his warm, russet eyes were unnaturally anxious.
Mae followed close behind, and her usual happy demeanor vanished. She wrung her hands as they walked into the living room.
“There’s been some trouble,” Ezra said in his deep voice, edged with his faded British accent. “I’ve got to go take care of some things.”
“What trouble? What are you talking about?” Milo asked, and his voice raised an octave, the way it did when he was nervous. When he had first turned, I’d been afraid he would lose some of his human traits, but for the most part, they seemed intact.
Ezra exchanged a look with Mae, but she shook her head. Jack had dropped the rope, and Matilda kept pushing it against his hand to get him to play with her again, but he ignored her.
“Peter,” Ezra answered finally.
At the mention of his brother’s name, Jack’s entire body tensed so much he frightened Matilda away.
I was still surprised at how little I felt when the topic of Peter was brought up.. The painful bond I had with him no longer existed, but I doubted that I could ever entirely sever my feelings for him.
“Is he coming back?” Milo moved closer to me, as if I still needed protection.
Jack dropped his eyes to the floor, and he battled to keep his anger under control. He’d never forgive Peter for nearly killing me when I’d been mortal. Somehow, I had never really faulted Peter for that.
“No, he’s not coming back.” Ezra shook his head but kept his eyes on Jack, gauging his reaction to the news. “I don’t think he’ll ever come back.”
“He won’t if he knows what’s good for him,” Jack growled in a voice so low it barely sounded like his own.
“Jack, he’s still your brother,” Mae reminded him, her gentle accent trying to calm him.
“He was never my brother!” Jack rolled his eyes and leaned back in the chair.
Peter was 150 years older than Jack, so they weren’t related in the human sense of the word. Peter had been the one to turn Jack, so his blood had fused to Jack’s, creating a bond between them that was much stronger than any normal familial relation. Before that, Ezra had turned Peter, making a steadfast bond between the three of them. Until I came along.
“It doesn’t matter how you feel about him,” Ezra told Jack, but there was an underlying hurt. “He’s in very real danger, and I’ve got to go help him.”
“What kind of danger?” I asked, and I felt Jack’s eyes flit over to me but I refused to look back at him.
“He’s…” Ezra furrowed his brow. “He’s killing vampires.”
“Yeah, that sounds like Peter,” Jack muttered.
“I thought he’d gone off the grid,” I said, and Jack scoffed at me.
Three weeks ago, Jack turned me into a vampire, and Peter took off. Peter did that frequently, but usually Ezra had a way of getting in touch with him. This time, Peter disappeared, and despite his best attempts, Ezra had been unable to reach him.