“You want to know why I left Italy?
I left it for you. For my future children. I knew I wanted my sons to grow and marry and have children on land I owned and land I loved. And I do love this land, and I will not watch it be destroyed by demons,” Father said, flinging his hands wildly.
I stepped back, and Mezzanotte whinnied a long, plaintive note. “Demons,” he repeated, as if to prove his point.
“Demons?” Damon snorted. “More like big dogs. Don’t you see it’s talk like this that will make you lose everything? You say you want a good life for us, but you’re always deciding how we’ll live that life. You made me go to war and made Stefan get engaged, and now you’re making us believe your fairy tales,” Damon yelled in frustration.
I glanced at Father guiltily. I didn’t want him to know I hadn’t loved Rosalyn. But Father didn’t look at me. He was too busy glowering at Damon.
“All I wanted was for my boys to have the best.
I know what we’re facing, and I do not have time for your schoolboy arguments. I am not telling tales right now.” Father glanced back at me, and I forced myself to look into his dark eyes. “Please understand. There are demons who walk among us. They existed in the old country, too. They walked the same earth, talked like humans. But they wouldn’t drink like humans.”
“Well, if they don’t drink wine, that would be a blessing, wouldn’t it?” Damon asked sarcastically.
blessing, wouldn’t it?” Damon asked sarcastically.
I stiffened. I remembered all the times after Mother had died that Father would drink too much wine or whiskey, lock himself in the study, then mumble late into the night about ghosts or demons.
“Damon!” Father said, his voice even sharper than my brother’s. “I will ignore your impudence.
But I will not have you ignore me. Listen to me, Stefan.” Father turned toward me. “What you saw happen to your young Rosalyn wasn’t natural. It wasn’t one of Damon’s coyotes, ” Father said, practically spitting out the word. “It was un vampiro . They were in the old country, and now they’re here,” Father said, screwing up his florid face. “And they are doing harm. They’re feeding on us. And we need to stop it.”
“What do you mean?” I asked nervously, any trace of exhaustion or dizziness gone. All I felt was fear. I thought back to Rosalyn, but this time, instead of remembering her eyes, I remembered the blood on her throat, having flowed from the two precise circles on the side of her neck. I touched my own neck, feeling the pulse of blood beneath my skin. The rush below my fingers sped up as I felt my heart skip a beat. Could Father be …
“Father means that he’s been spending too much time listening to the church ladies tell their tales. Father, this is a story that would be told to scare a child. And not a very clever one.
Everything you’re saying is nonsense.” Damon shook his head and angrily stood from his perch on the tree stump. “I will not sit around and be told ghost stories.” With that, he turned on his gold-buttoned boot and swung his foot up over Jake’s back, gazing down at Father, as if daring him to say one more thing.
“Mark my words,” Father said, taking a step closer to me. “Vampires are among us. They look like us and can live among us, but they are not who we are. They drink blood. It is their elixir of life. They do not have souls, and they never die.
They are forever immortal.”
The word immortal made me suck in my breath. The wind changed, and the leaves began rustling. I shivered. “Vampires,” I repeated slowly.
I’d heard the word once before, when Damon and I were schoolchildren and used to gather on the Wickery Bridge, trying to scare our friends. One boy had told us of seeing a figure kneeling down in the woods, feasting on the neck of a deer. The boy told us he had screamed and the figure had turned to him with hell red eyes, blood dripping from