Becca let out a hearty yawn as she got out of her car and headed up her driveway. The living room curtains twitched and by the time she had grabbed her keys from her coat pocket, Maeve was standing in the doorway.
“Where the hell have you been?” Maeve demanded.
Becca furrowed her brows and followed Maeve’s eyes as they scanned the road erratically.
“I was at work, like I am every day.” Becca pushed passed her and headed into the kitchen. Maeve followed, a very close step behind her.
“You’re usually back by seven. It’s nearly eight.”
“I had to stay behind. Some people in the office are refusing to go to work because of what’s going on so we’re short staffed.”
“And rightly so! You shouldn’t be going to work, either!”
Becca inhaled and exhaled a slow, calming breath as she dropped her lunch container into the sink. Not only was she now overworked in the office, she had to come home to her frantic, paranoid, overdramatic friend judging everything she did.
“Maeve, we’ve talked about this. If you want to work from home, that’s your decision. But I’m still going to work. I’m still going to see my grandad. I’m still trying to cling to some form of normality.”
Maeve scoffed. “Normality? Seriously? You’re dating a vampire.”
Becca spun to her, anger now sizzling deep in her chest. “Yes, who you are refusing to let me see.”
She blinked, dumbfounded, and pressed her fingertips to her forehead as if trying to contain a headache. A headache caused by Becca’s stupidity. “Because he’s a vampire.” She dropped her arms and her narrow shoulders wilted. Genuine concern filled her eyes and the anger in Becca diminished.
“Becca, please. You really don’t see it? There’s a reason you’re so chill about Gabriel. He’s done that compelling thing to you. How else would you be fine with all this vampire stuff?” Maeve’s voice was calm, with a hint of pity. Becca suddenly felt like she was at an intervention.
Becca smiled softly and closed the distance between them. “I appreciate your concern, I really do. But you’ve got it all wrong. Gabriel promised he’d never compel me. He has no reason to. I fell for him when he was taking care of my grandad and my feelings haven’t changed since finding out the truth.”
Maeve rolled her eyes to the fridge, her lips a thin line of silent disapproval. She paused for a moment, thinking. Really thinking. Becca could see her mental cogs turning. Worry tightened her features and Becca gulped. She hated how afraid Maeve was. She didn’t like being annoyed at her. But Becca hated it when other people acted like they knew what was best for her when she’d done a pretty good job at looking after herself.
“How do you know you can trust him?” Maeve finally asked, her voice a broken whisper.
Becca shrugged. “I just do.”
“I still don’t want you seeing him.”
“I know.” Their eyes met. “But I hope you’ll find it in you to trust him, too.”
Maeve scoffed, but it wasn’t vicious. “He’s a man. I’ll never trust him.”
Becca smiled. “Fair enough.”
She crossed the kitchen and opened the fridge. “I’ve got one bottle of wine left. And you’re drinking with me. I’m not taking no for an answer. You’re not leaving me in the lurch like last time.”
Becca grabbed two wine glasses from the drying rack. “Well, I guess if I don’t have a choice…”
Gabriel had retreated into his bedroom and had his TV on for background noise as he flicked through new memes between replying to texts from Becca. Just because they couldn’t see each other, didn’t mean they couldn’t stay in contact.
The memes, as stupid and nonsensical as some of them were, eased his trepidation somewhat. If people could laugh and make jokes, their discovery couldn’t be that doomed, could it? And after drinking the animal blood to find that it actually was pretty decent, things weren’t looking as dismal as he had first thought.
But leaving the house? He hadn’t gotten that comfortable with the new normal just yet.
A tentative knock on his door had him looking up from his phone.
“Come in,” he said.
The door opened and Lillian appeared sheepishly. “Am I interrupting?”
Gabriel sat up, shoving his pillow between his back and the headrest. “Like there’s anything to do.”
She came in, shut the door behind her, and perched on the edge of his bed. “Can I talk to you about something?”
She sighed heavily, playing with the cuffs of her dressing gown. “I wanna see Ben.”
The ache in her voice made Gabriel’s eyebrows pinch with sorrow.
“I know you do,” he said. “I miss Becca, too.”
“Will you talk to Ezra? I know I’m his progeny but you’re his best friend.”
Despite knowing Ezra for centuries, Gabriel was still surprised by how taken aback he was whenever they were described as being best friends. The term was so… human. There should be a whole other label allocated to what Ezra and Gabriel were to each other.
“But he’s right, Lil.”
“But they’ve already seen me with him! They know we’re dating! What’s the point in being apart now? This is when I need him the most.” She hugged herself tightly.
“Have you spoken to Ben lately?”
“Yeah, a little. On the phone.”
“And what’re things like on his end?”
She shrugged. “He’s had a few death threats.”
Gabriel’s jaw clenched. Has Becca had death threats? If she had, would she even tell me or pretend like it’s nothing so I don’t worry?
Lillian squeezed her eyes shut and winced. “I know it’s selfish of me to wanna see him but this is a lot, and he makes me feel safe.”
“Safe?” Gabriel huffed a laugh. “The safest place you can be is under this roof with Ezra. You heard him that night when they attacked. If anyone caused you harm, he would not hesitate to rip them apart. Especially now.”
She peered at him. “You’ve noticed it, too? How he’s changed?”
The sudden severity in her tone took him off guard. He’d predicted they would have skated around the subject, not for her to hit it head on.
Gabriel nodded and grabbed his other pillow to hug to his chest.
“He’d told me about what Silas would make him do,” said Gabriel. “I know he’d spared me most of the gory details. But I was never able to picture it. Ezra’s so… collected. He’s so methodical and protective and just… not a killer. But that night, faced with our taunting neighbours. Just being so overwhelmed with their hate. He had this look… and everything he’d told me; I could see it then.”
Lillian nodded down at her lap. “I saw it, too. And I’ve felt it. In our bond. Like a rust.” A heavy pause followed. “It’s part of the reason I wanna leave. Get out of this house. This shift in him, I don’t know how to take it. And every time I look at that boarded up window, I hear their threats and see the hate in their eyes.
I love being a vampire, but not right now. Right now, I just want to pretend. I want to be with my human boyfriend and cook him meals and play the housewife.”
Gabriel watched her for a moment. He felt for her, he really did. She had looked so lost these past few nights. And being the third wheel when Ezra and Lillian were on good terms was one thing, but being the third wheel when there was tension between them? That was something else entirely.
“I’m sorry, Lil, I really am. But I’m on his side on this.”
Lillian was still a new-born, meaning she was a lot more unstable than himself and Ezra. Who’s to say she wouldn’t snap if provoked? And Ben was getting death threats, the two of them seeing each other was far too risky.
Gabriel’s phone vibrated on the duvet and they both looked to it. He smiled at the screen.
“Becca?” Lillian asked.
Gabriel instantly regretted the smile.
“I’m glad you’re back together. She really likes you, Gabe. And I can see she makes you happy.”
Gabriel met her eyes. “This is all just temporary. Things will calm down soon.”
She smiled wistfully and stood up. “I hope so.”
Around midnight, Gabriel felt a little peckish and so he headed to the kitchen for another mug. He met Ezra in the hallway, throwing on a zip-up hoodie and heading for the front door.
“Where you going?” Gabriel asked.
Ezra was patting all his jeans pockets, looking harried. “To see Silas.”
He paused and finally looked at Gabriel. “What do you mean, why?”
“I mean, why are you going to see Silas? Because it can’t be for more blood.”
“No. I’m going to get updated on what’s going on.” He looked confused. “Like always.”
“I’m coming with you.”
He looked even more confused. “And why’s that?”
“Because I’ve been cooped up in this house for too long and I’m bored, that’s why.” And also, I want to know what the hell is going on with you.
“Oh, so when you’re bored you can follow me around but when I do it, I’m in the way?”
“You followed me to work. I could have been fired.”
“And you got fired anyway without my help.” Ezra arched a dark eyebrow. “And me meeting Silas is also basically work.”
“I’ll be well behaved. You won’t even know I’m there.” Gabriel started heading to the kitchen backwards. “I’m gonna put some blood in my thermos and I’m coming with you. Don’t go anywhere.”
Ezra sighed heavily and sank onto the stairs, pulling out his phone.
Afraid Ezra might dart off, Gabriel just poured a bottle of blood from the fridge straight into his thermos and then met Ezra back in the hallway.
Ezra stood and eyed Gabriel warily as he shoved on his wax jacket and boots. Luckily, he had changed from his scruffy house wear to his slightly less scruffy home attire – a simply black t-shirt and some scuffed up jeans.
“You don’t even like Silas,” said Ezra.
“It’s not that I don’t like him.” Gabriel paused to wriggle his foot into his boot with a little extra force. “I just don’t really get him.”
“You don’t get him?” Ezra followed him as he opened the door and headed down their path. Gabriel paused on the pavement, waiting for Ezra to lock up. “What does that mean?”
“He may look all crisp and proper, but he’s kind of a brute. You think he has your best interest at heart then makes you do unspeakable things.”
“Well.” Ezra jogged to catch up and they both headed to the car that was parked a few spots down. “He hasn’t made me do said unspeakable things for a long time. And with that in mind, no talking about how you used to chew your patients.”
Ezra unlocked the car and they both got in, Ezra in the driver’s seat.
“Oh yeah, because that would be the first thing I’d bring up,” said Gabriel sarcastically.
Ezra started the engine and double-triple checked the road in silence before inching out of the tight parking spot, as if there were actually going to be any cars driving past. Gabriel chugged down a few gulps of his thermos before slotting it into the cup holder. Once they were on the empty main road out of the village, he piped up again.
“Silas’ ways may not be kosher, but sometimes you’ve got to be tough and teach the hard way,” said Ezra.
Gabriel shook his head. “It’s just – for someone who hates killing, he sure kills a lot. And makes you kill.”
“Killing killers,” Ezra stated simply, not looking from the road. “Vampires are always one step away from being the monsters that humans think we are. It’s why I was so pissed at your antics. Silas knows this, and he just wants his progenies to play by the rules. It’s fine if you don’t get it. I mean, I don’t expect you to. You don’t have a-” Ezra’s words seemed to turn to dust on his tongue. He cleared his throat and narrowed his eyes at the darkness ahead.
“Because I don’t have a Maker? Is that what you were going to say?” Gabriel asked, eyeing his profile.
Ezra’s pale fingers wrung the steering wheel but he said nothing.
“Because you don’t need to remind me, Ezra. I’m well aware.” There was a venom in his words that only seeped into his tone when discussing this particular topic.
“I’m sorry,” Ezra said in a small voice, his eyes still forward.
Gabriel wasn’t finished. “Just because I was Released doesn’t mean I can’t see when someone is taking advantage of their authority.”
“Do I need to turn this car around?” Ezra finally looked at him. The steeliness in his big, dark eyes took Gabriel by surprise. “Because you’re not coming to the meeting with this attitude.”
“I’m just saying he-”
“Well, don’t,” Ezra cut in, gripping the wheel hard. “I am who I am because of him. And if you insult Silas, you insult me. So, either shut up, or get out.” His jaw worked as his eyes flitted between the road and Gabriel. “Do I need to pull over?”
Gabriel shook his head and sank lower into his seat.
The car then plummeted into a stiff, uncomfortable silence.
Gabriel’s wariness and -okay- slight dislike for Silas came from a good place. Usually he could push it back and it was replaced by mild irritation and jealousy that Ezra was kept when he was tossed aside, despite them both being Turned in the same way. Randomly in the night when they were minding their own business.
But the dislike had resurfaced since Ezra’s weird shift in personality. Even the argument they had just had didn’t feel like their usual type. There was usually an element of comradery in their jibes. But that look Ezra had just sent him, it was cold and hard and fierce. Gabriel knew that Ezra would never hurt him physically. He’d never end him the way he’d ended his murderous brothers and sisters. If he had it in him, he would have done it already.
But the way he’d looked at him just then… Gabriel was damn sure he’d have pulled the car over and dumped him on the side of the road like an empty beer can.