WARNING: This chapter contains strong language and sexual innuendos.
“Aren’t you going to do anything?” Lupe demanded of Darius. “It’s been four months now since we’ve seen our daughter, and you’re just sitting on your ass, doing nothing!”
“Lupe, I told you,” Darius said tiredly, “I’m not signing that damn treaty. Even if I did, they wouldn’t give Allanna back to us. Those bastards are using her as leverage to drive us out of Duskwood, and as soon as they have that piece of paper, they’ll rip it up to void it and kill her.”
Lupe just shook her head. “I don’t believe you. You’ve just been sitting at this table for the past four months trying to come up with some sort of elaborate scheme to rescue her, and it’s gotten you nowhere!”
“Will you shut your damn mouth? I’m trying to concentrate!”
“Darius, let me tell you something. If you don’t find our daughter, then I will!”
“Good luck. You’ll never get past the fog. There are probably traps and guards and all sorts of fancy shit to keep us out.”
“You act like you don’t even care!”
“Don’t say I don’t fucking care!” Darius stood up, angry now. “Instead of nagging me all day, why don’t you tend to the other three kids? Who knows what they’re getting into? Raquel’s starting to morph into a wolf more and more, and you know kids aren’t supposed to be in that form without an adult with them. I don’t want them running into traps or trying to hunt without supervision.”
“You are absolutely impossible.”
“Lupe, face facts. Eventually, there will be a war. But it’s been too long for Allanna. She’s probably…gone by now.”
Darius looked down as he said this. He remembered when Allanna was born, and then she was a child, then a teenager, and now a 20-year-old. In fact, she was going to turn 21 in a matter of days. Darius was beginning to accept that he wouldn't be able to see it.
“How dare you say that?” Lupe asked as she tried to fight back tears. “Allanna’s strong, and she’s a fighter. She won’t let some mother fucking leech get the best of her.”
She stormed off in a huff. Darius looked down at the table at his schematics. He knew that Allanna was strong, but was she strong enough?
“I am sick of living like this!” Allanna screamed. “For four months, I’ve been cooped up in some sort of small space! All I’ve had to look at are four walls and a ceiling! I need some fresh air! I want out!”
“Will you put a sock in it?” Xavier demanded. “You’ll piss off the neighbors.”
“Fuck the neighbors! They haven’t had to live in isolation for four months!"
"Then at least calm down so you don't transform into a wolf! The last thing we need is a wild animal running around a Vegas hotel!"
"Do you realize I’ll be turning 21 in two days? Cynthia and I have looked forward to our 21st birthdays since we turned 13, and I won’t even get to see her for it! I’ll still be stuck with you!”
Xavier sighed and looked heavenward. Allanna had been having several mood swings lately, both inside and outside her head. They mostly consisted of frustrations of not being able to run freely.
But a few other things swirled around in her mind too. Even now, as she was screaming like a banshee, Xavier could see some of Allanna’s dirty fantasies. He chuckled despite himself.
“What could possibly be funny?” she barked.
“I find it highly amusing that you find me sexy and wonder what I’m like in bed, and how big my…”
Allanna covered her ears as Xavier started laughing. It was becoming one of his few pastimes, teasing her. She was so cute when she was mad.
“Stay the fuck out of my head!” she shrieked. “I can’t even think privately! Why do you still have me here, anyway? Why don’t you just take me home and leave?”
Xavier had to think about that one. He’d been debating doing just that for quite some time, but he could just never bring himself to do it. He tried to keep telling himself that there was no way he’d be able to safely return her home without being detected, or without her getting caught by any potentially lurking vampires. It was possible that neither one of them would get out alive.
He said as much to Allanna, but now that he really thought about it, he also realized that he didn’t want to be away from her. He was actually enjoying having her around.
“And in all honesty,” he added, “I really enjoy your company.”
Allanna stopped pacing and her mouth fell open. He could hear her thoughts, thinking things like, “Is he serious? He won’t take me home because he likes me? That can’t be!”
“I can’t explain it,” Xavier said as he sat down on the couch. “We’re natural enemies, born and raised to kill each other, and yet here we are, basically living together for four months, and the only damage that’s come to either of us was when I broke your wrist. Which, by the way, I’m sorry about.”
Allanna collapsed onto a chair. He had to be making this up, right? He didn’t really mean any of this, did he?
“I promise that I’m speaking nothing but the truth,” he affirmed, much to her annoyance. “I’m sorry about reading your thoughts, but I can’t help it. It doesn’t come with an on and off switch.”
“Why do you enjoy having me around?”
“I…well, it’s hard to explain. I feel…intrigued by you. I’ve felt fascinated with you, and your kind, for some inexplicable reason. The last time I was this mystified was…”
Xavier stopped to think and realized that he hadn’t felt this way since Scarlet. And that had been almost a century ago.
“To put it bluntly,” he continued, wondering what he was thinking, “I think the old saying is true. Opposites attract.”
Allanna’s heart skipped a beat. Was he admitting that he was…attracted to her? No way. She refused to believe it.
“You don’t have to believe it, but I truly mean it when I say that you’re very beautiful.”
Allanna just slumped down in her chair. Things were going to be even more awkward now.
Two days later, Allanna was glumly lying on the bed of the hotel suite. Today, she turned 21 years old. She was of legal drinking age and couldn’t even enjoy it. She didn’t have her family or friends to share the occasion with. Ironically, the only one she could share it with was her arch enemy.
Her sexy arch enemy who’d called her beautiful.
Xavier had said that he had to run errands and had left about a half hour earlier. They were past the point of him having to make sure she didn’t escape. Where would she go, anyway? Not that it would matter; he’d just pick up on her scent, find her, and bring her back.
Still, it was hard to look out the window at the city lights knowing that Cynthia was working tonight and they couldn’t go out drinking afterward. Sure, Cynthia wasn’t of legal age, but she had a fake ID, and her looks alone could get her past any bouncer.
Allanna felt tears begin to well up behind her eyes. She forced them back into her head. She would not give Xavier Deitrech the satisfaction of seeing her cry.
Just then, she heard the suite door open. A few bags rustled before Xavier knocked on the bedroom door.
“What do you want?” she asked miserably.
“I’ve got a surprise for you.”
“Oh, what? You’re going to strip for my birthday and give me a very happy ending?”
Not that she’d mind. Oh dear, why did she think that?!
She heard Xavier chuckle behind the door before he replied, “No, that’s not what I had planned. You turn 21 today, and that’s a big occasion. I realize you’d rather spend it with your friends and family, but I’m going to make sure it’s more fun that my 21st birthday was.”
“How? You could drink all you wanted and not get alcohol poisoning. You’re a vampire, remember?”
“When I turned 21, it was during the prohibition. Some friends and I ended up getting arrested.”
“Indeed. Now come on, let me in.”
Allanna sighed and finally gave in. She opened the door to see Xavier standing there, looking pretty good in a dress shirt that was unbuttoned from his neck down to the middle of his chest. She got a good view of the start of his rock-hard abs but didn't notice any chest hair. She wondered what lay underneath that shirt, particularly south of his belly button. Was there hair there instead of on his chest? She and Cynthia always referred to this as a man’s happy trail. And Allanna couldn’t help wondering what Xavier’s happy trail led to…
“You’re quite adventurous, aren’t you?” he said smugly.
“Damn it!” Allanna grabbed her head in a misguided attempt to thwart any thoughts from entering Xavier’s head. “I wish you could stop that!”
“Sometimes I do too. But I do find your imagination highly amusing.”
“What do you want?”
“I think it’s time we properly celebrate your birthday.”
With that, Xavier withdrew a bottle of wine and two glasses. He poured some of the red liquid into each glass and raised his in a toast.
“To you,” he said as Allanna raised hers as well. “Happy birthday.”
They clinked glasses and took a sip. Allanna was deeply touched. This wasn’t the ideal birthday she’d been hoping for, but it was better than sitting around moping.
“One more thing,” Xavier added. “I hope you have something slightly formal in your wardrobe, because we’re going out tonight for your birthday.”
“That’s a surprise. Do you have something to wear, or do you need to buy a new outfit?”
“No, I have something. But…why are you being so nice to me? Why do you even care that this is my birthday?”
“As I’ve told you, I’ve grown quite fond of you. I haven’t had a real birthday celebration in years. I’d like to rectify that situation.”
Allanna looked down before finally agreeing to Xavier’s request. But it wasn’t a date. No, it wasn’t a date at all. It was just two…friends? Could they even be classified as friends?
She didn’t even care. She was surprisingly feeling superbly excited. She dashed to the closet after Xavier had left and began searching for the perfect dress.
Her 21st birthday. It didn’t have her friends, it didn’t have her family, and it didn’t have a male stripper. But at least it was something.