I wasn't sure why, but I seemed somehow stunned.
"I didn't think vampires could die." I stated, my brow furrowed in deep thought.
"Not easily, anyway. Not just like that."
"We don't die easily. Which is why there are only two things that can happen after you break: one, you become reckless and get yourself killed, or two, you do the same thing everyone else does when they want life to end."
His smirk faded, but the darkness only intensified.
"You cheat God and take it yourself."
My breathing slowed as I spoke the word I knew he was hinting at.
"Suicide." my voice came out much higher than I had hoped. I had to swallow to keep it even.
"That's the second one."
"So you are paying attention!" he answered, a wry smile playing on those perfect lips.
"Unless someone else gets to you first, you don't have much of a choice...it's hard to understand unless you've been there, at the breaking point...when everything is falling apart...and you'd do anything just to make it all stop..."
Once again, the story reopened- and from those dark-encircled eyes spilled more unspoken stories soaked in sorrow.
He looked even more unreal than usual when he looked sad...and I couldn't tear my eyes away.
"Vampire slayers are a lot more common than one would think..."
He continued, eyes still fixated on something that didn't seem to be there.
"They're also commissioned and paid for by a strong higher power. The government, the president...they're above all of them.
They own them. And they'll do anything to make sure vampires are erased from existence..."
His shadow-bordered eyes snapped to mine, making me shift my position on the desk.
"Bet you didn't know that, did you?"
I cocked my head to look at him questioningly.
"No, no I didn't. So...they're not just random people who run around with holy water and wooden stakes, then?"
Dante laughed, that enticing, vampiric laugh that seemed so mysterious, and flipped carelessly through another random book.
"Not even close. They work in groups, for one, and all those groups are part of one big organization...it's a lot like the military, I suppose you could say. Organized and powerful, with hoards of people with weapons who do what they're told without question...over all, not someone you want trying to kill you.”
"But they do."
He frowned, traces of annoyed anger now replacing the sorrow.
"Yeah. They do. Which is why if you were to leave and tell anyone...if the wrong person were to hear...we'd all be dead in a matter of hours."
My face turned ashy.
"What? What do you mean? They couldn't find you like that!"
"But that's the thing," he continued, tipping another book off the shelf.
"They do, and they would. They're everywhere, Savanah. They live like normal people..."
He trailed off, trying to think of some possible way to convey the seriousness of the issue.
"Vampirism is an epidemic." He said finally, his voice quiet.
"It's a horrible, horrible disease...it turns people into walking corpses; decaying minds matched with inhumanly healthy bodies. It feeds off of life...until there's no life left. Slayers were created to get rid of it before it sucks the world dry. We can't blame them...not really. Vampires are just like normal people- some are good, and some are bad.”
Dante laughed and brushed his light brunette hair back so it was out of his eyes.
“Take Kale, for example. It seems as if there is no conscience in him; no sense of right and wrong...and that's what we all turn into at some point, whether we like it or not. We're nearly impossible to kill; any normal human being wouldn't have a chance against us. But slayers...they're specially trained to kill vampires. They keep us from gaining too much control. And I guess...I guess that's good, but..."
He stopped again, something in his voice saying more than his words.
"But what happens when you kill off an entire race because of it? It's not fair...it makes it so the rest of us have to live what's left of our broken lives running and hiding. It's just...not fair..."
My gaze dropped. I shifted, folding my knees beneath me.
"It's really hard, isn't it? Staying good, I mean."
The vampire smirked, his eyes still carrying that sorrow that seemed almost touchable.
"Of course it is. The taste of blood alone could send us over the edge. But you have to be broken already before that can happen...you have to be at the breaking point..."
"And you're not there yet?"
I asked when he stopped.
It took a minute before he answered,
"No. Not for now, at least."
Then came the inevitable question, the one that I wanted so badly not to ask, but knew I had to.
"...but you will?"
He shrugged, taking it as if it was no big deal.
"Yeah, probably. But not for a while. I'll give in when I want to, and I don't want to yet."
"You seem a little too sure about that,"
I commented, frowning.
"Xander didn't seem so sure."
Dante rolled his eyes, that same arrogant air taking back over him as he slipped another book from the shelf to page through before dropping it for another.
"Well, I'm better at it than he is."
He answered smugly.
"Besides, Xander's crazy."
"He's not crazy."
"Yes he is. Trust me, I've known him longer than you have..."
"Whatever," I said teasingly, rolling my eyes.
"By the way...yesterday, Kale said I reminded him of someone because of something I said...he just sort of stopped, like something was wrong..."
Dante stopped paging through the book he was holding and looked up.
"What did you say?"
"I don't know. Nothing seriously weird or anything, but I kind of felt like...I don't know, like he wasn't telling me the whole story about something."
"That's because he's not."
The casualness to his voice caught me off-guard.
"What is it?" I asked, curious.
Dante replied lightly,
"You probably reminded him of something she said; made him think about her...he hates that."
"Who's 'her'?" I was leaning forward now, threatening to tip head-first off the desk where I was perched.
"A girl." He answered simply, seeming to find interest in another book.
"Check it out, an English one! About time..."
"What girl?" I was persistent.
"And stop changing the subject."
Dante sighed, annoyed, as if I was bringing up something incredibly simple.
"A girl he knew."
"Like a girlfriend?"
"Yeah, like that."
"Well what happened with her?!"
I asked incredulously, gripping the edge of the desk in frustration
With a frown, he shoved the book at me and pointed to a page.
"This is what happened to her." He said flatly.
Annoyed, I was about to yell at him what on earth a stupid book was supposed to tell me and why he wouldn't just tell me his own goddamn self, but then I began to read the page he had specified...
"Vampire termination is to be severe and final," I read aloud, my eyes fixed on the small-printed passage.
"Torture and/or inflicted suffering should be used accordingly to fit standards of area and secrecy, and are recommended to take place inside a V.C.C.”
“Dante, what is this?"
"Just keep reading."
He commanded, leaning back against the bookcase as he waved me on.
Nodding, I returned to the script.
"Relations and/or Family: all relations and family of a vampire are to be kept under careful observation. If it is found that said relations know of information of or pertaining to Vampirism, they are to be..."
My eyes halted on the next line, and my words caught in my throat.
Dante prodded, waiting.
"...are to be destroyed."
I finally choked.
"So if any of your family and friends found out you were a vampire, then the slayers would have them killed as well."
My eyes stayed glued to the page.
I must have read it wrong...that just couldn't be right. Was it?
"That's the other reason why we have to make sure you don't tell anyone." Dante said softly, his lean body resting against the bookcase.
"It would start a whole new chain of killings. Starting with you and me."
"But that's not fair!" I gasped, scanning the page over again.
"They'd actually kill a FAMILY? A family of innocent people? For what? That doesn't even make sense!"
"It's to keep the plague from spreading." The vampire answered, running a hand through his smooth hair.
"To keep the world oblivious of it all...knowledge is power to them, and the less the world knows, the more power they have to control them with. Slayers don't play fair. Remember that."
"...and so Kale's girlfriend..."
"Lily." Dante corrected.
"So Lily, she..."
"She got too close..." The vampire sighed, trying to think of a quick way to explain it without getting caught up in the messy details and entrails of it.
"...she's not around anymore." He finished finally.
His eyes lifted and he stared at me, his expression pleading.
"Please don't ask him about her. Don't mention her name, don't bring her up, nothing. Please. It's a long story that no one likes to talk about...especially him. Just do me a favor and don't bring it up around him...alright?"
Nodding grimly, I swallowed all the questions that had risen in my mind, and moved on to re-read the page again, scanning over each word once more in hopes I had missed something.
"...a V.C.C..." I murmured, backtracking to read it over again.
"I've heard that before.”
"It stands for 'Vampire Containment Center'."
Dante said resentfully.
"It's where they put vampires to die. It's hell on earth."
My eyes snapped up to meet his.
"Where did you get this book?" I demanded.
Dante nodded towards the bookcase, answering simply,
"The old owner...he was a slayer. Retired, of course. Long retired. Lately he's been teaching classes in some collage a few miles from here. He hasn't been a slayer for years... Which is why I'm a little surprised he still has this book...once you're decommissioned, they strip you of all vampire-related possessions."
"A SLAYER used to live here?" I asked in disbelief.
"...what the hell?! Then how did YOU get it! ...and why?!"
"We didn’t'- Kale did. And we don't ask how he gets things. As for why..."
He trailed off, shooting a glare at the library door.
"We all thank Taro for that. He's the perfect example of why vampires don't normally associate too often with other vampires..."
"Because if one of you gets caught, you all get caught." I stated, eyes wide.
I could barely believe it; a whole part of life that I had previously been oblivious to...how could that happen?
How could all of this go on right under my nose without me ever realizing it? That's freaking' insane.
The vampire smiled, snickering.
"Exactly. And once a slayer starts trailing you, you're as good as dead; along with everyone you come in contact with along the way. But if you can manage to lose them...you're home free."
"How do you lose them?"
I asked, eyebrows drawn into a worried frown.
Dante didn't even have time to answer my question before it dawned on me.
"That's why you're all here, isn't it?"
"We needed a place to crash for a while." Dante answered simply, shrugging.
"Just for a few days...find somewhere to lay low until all the chaos passed...and this is the perfect place. The home of a retired slayer. And if it's only for a short time, why not save time and effort and just share it?
But even though it's safe...the longer we stay here, the more dangerous it becomes. It's the same for all places...never in one place for too long, you know? Always running..."
His voice sounded tired as he spoke.
He was broken.
It was plain to see that he had suffered a terrible tragedy, although what it was that plagued him I still wasn't sure.
I wasn't about to ask, though.
Not yet at least.
The vampire smirked, tearing a page out of yet another old book.
"Don't worry about me; I'm fine. It's going to take a lot more than all of this to get rid of me."
He laughed mockingly, ripping another page out.
"Please, as if... No WAY I'm going to die before Xander does."
Okay, I rephrase: broken and arrogant.
For someone who's most likely gone through some kind of unbelievably hellish situation, he sure was cocky about it.
I raised an eye brow wondering why he had only mentioned Xander and not Taro and Kale.
" What about Taro and.......Kale?"
Dante tensed and turned away from.
He didn't really want to talk about it I could tell.
But I seriously wanted to know.
" Taro and even more so Kale.... They are different from Xander and I."
I walked closer to him. I wanted to know.
Dante sighed and picked a book up off the shelf and begun to flip through the pages.
" Xander and I grew up together. Same kindergarten - high school."
His eyes glances towards mine and I nodded for him to go on.
" One night Xander was being stupid. He always is."
" Xander has this thing about fire. You know, burning things or that night, blowing stuff up. Well that night Xander burned himself, the dumbass. We were on the way to the hospital when we found Taro and this girl making out by the side of the road."
Dante took a deep breath.
I knew that he was getting to the important part.
" The girl was bleeding. Blood was everywhere. We were stupid and pulled over to try and help."
Dante closed the book and looked me in the eyes.
" She was the one that turned Xander and I into Vampires. Maybe now you understand why we hold resentment towards Taro."
He was sad. I could tell.
"So Taro was already a vampire?"
Dante chuckled and tucked the book back into the book case without making a sound.
" That's the thing. Taro was born a vampire."
" But wait a minute so Taro--"
" So Taro and Kale were both born vampires? They weren't bitten?"
Dante shook his head and sat down.
I guess he was tired of standing.
" Haha yeah. But there is a difference between the two."
My eyes widened... How could there be a difference?
" Taro and his twin sister Tatiana...."
He growled at Tatiana's name and I shrunk back a little.
"They are Nobel Vampires. Basically vampires unable to turn humans."
He let out a breath of relief. I was sure he was thinking about how glad he was that Taro couldn't change people into vampires.
I had a feeling that if he could there would be a million of them around.
"The last type of vampire is a Pure blood, they have authority over bittens and nobles, they are the only vampires that can turn people into vampires."
Dante let out a grunt before finishing what he had to say.
" Kale, is a Pure blood."
My eyes widened. The bastard..........
"So spill," Dante said, turning back to me with a wry smile. "I know you have some kind of fucked up story behind you."
With a sigh and a rush of words, my story escaped in a release of oxygen. My school, Hailey, moving, my new life, my parents, everything.
And he listened to every word.
Every rambling side-story that veered off into reminiscence of my long-dead dog Marley, every heated rant about insignificant topics such as airline peanuts, and every over-dramatized detail about my life...I let it all spill, and he listened.
"So, ultimately, it was Jenna that got you into this whole situation." He said, tilting his head to the side in curiosity.
"...you're a very strange kid, you know that?"
I shoved him in mock-anger, answering with a shrill,
"Shut up! At least I'm human!"
"Hey, I'm not saying it's a bad thing!" he defended with a smug grin.
"I think it's cute."
I turned, grumbling angrily under my breath about how stupid vampires were.
In reality, I was turning away so as not to let him see me blush.
"Damn you, blushing!" I silently cursed.
"I swear, you'll be the death of me..."
"You're an interesting person, Savanah." Dante stated. He tilted his head to examine me.
"It makes me wish we had met under better circumstances. Remember, never trust a vampire."
The sudden and sharp sound of a door opening made me stop and stare at the library entrance.
"So this is where you've been."
Taro stated, peering into the lightened study.
"...what the hell have you been doing?"
Caught off guard by his sudden appearance,
I snapped a pair of panicked eyes back to Dante
"Talking to Savanah." Dante replied coolly, not bothering to explain any further than that.
Taro shot him a questioning glance, then looked back at me skeptically.
Snickering, he disappeared just as quickly as he had appeared.
Dante cringed slightly but quickly spoke up before I got a chance to ask why.
"So...you were saying?"
I looked back at the door doubtfully, dangling my legs over the edge of the desk.
"Kale, I don't think he likes me very much."
"No, but don't take it personally. He doesn't like a lot of people. Particularly about 99.9 percent of the world's population.”
“But hey, whatever. When he does like you, he's pretty cool. A little scary sometimes, but cool. Anyway, where did we leave off? Oh, that's right, you were telling me what a stalker you are..."
"I am not!” I screamed as I blushed harder.
The conversation continued on like that for a little while more... Bickering and teasing and joking like normal people instead of one not-so-normal vampire and a human.
We avoided bringing up any more serious topics:
I out of fear for what other horrible things I would find out, and Dante for reasons unknown.
But either way, it was kind of...fun.
Wait, was fun really the right word?
After I had left the library, I kept myself busy exploring the invisible boarders I had set up in my mind within the roomy house
I had just been about to open a particularly sinister bedroom door when a familiar, venomous voice called out clearly,
I had nearly toppled over at the sudden break of silence, and quickly balanced myself long enough to spin around and glare at him.
"Don't DO that! God, can't you people give me a warning now and then before you just pop up? ...and yes, I'm having loads of fun. Thanks for asking."
With another dark glare, I turned my attention back to the menacing bedroom door.
Kale just shrugged. He looked incredibly smug at the moment, and I couldn't help but feel the urge to hit him.
Oh yes, I'm sure he just got a KICK out of scaring me.
Evil, sadistic bastard... Dante hated being a vampire, but from what I could tell, Kale enjoyed every minute of it.
"What do you want, anyway?" I asked sharply.
The vampire seemed almost instantly annoyed by my voice, which fed my desire to smack that smug smile off his face even more.
"Making sure you don't do something stupid." He answered simply, rolling his eyes.
"God knows you just love getting yourself in trouble."
"Go away." Okay, sure, so it wasn't the most witty come-back I had ever said. It pretty much summed up my feelings, though.
"I'll probably be out of here soon anyway, so suck it up and get used to it."
The vampire cocked an eyebrow curiously.
"And how do you figure that?"
With a haughty smile, I answered teasingly,
"Because I'm way smarter than you give me credit for.”
The smugness vanished, leaving Kale's expression purely pissed off now.
Score one for me.
“In fact”,with a flash of an innocent smile, I added,
"Dante said you're gay."
"...you're making this up, aren't you?"
I just laughed.
“ Don't you worry, I will get out of here quickly.”
"Yeah, that's what you think..." Kale smirked. "Just don't get too confident. After all, you're not out of here yet."
I groaned and turned my head back to the door.
It was almost scary how much pissing off Kale entertained me.
Honestly, it must have inflated my ego to eight times its normal size just at seeing how much he couldn't stand me and oh it made me so happy.
Xander slipped into the hallway for a split-second to ask desperately,
"Savanah, have you seen a lighter? Or matches? Or anything even remotely flammable?"
"...no...why are you looking for them...?"
"Dante did something with them. Damn him. And I could really use some stress-relief right now..."
Stopping suddenly, he turned his attention to me,
“ I think it is in the kitchen.”
He muttered to himself before he rushed down the stairs.