James’ speed and strength were on a vastly different level than me. Ai and Mai were no more dangerous to him than a kitten to a human, and that’s if he allowed them to be willing to fight. I could hardly believe the overwhelming desire to be near him which had affected me until Alma had included me in her protections. Even now that I was protected, I still could hardly take my eyes off him. Given the vampiric resistance to charms I was fortunate enough to possess, I was surprised the others were holding back at all.
“Umm…. Right. Things I cannot explain happened, but we need to get our morning exercises done before we lose anymore time. Aaliyah, cake and ice cream still don’t count as a meal. Sorry. Alma, Ai, Mai… Feel free to stay and watch if you wish.”
Sighing, Alma said, “Don’t you think you should burn off some of that energy first, James. Though I could manage to keep shielding everyone as I work, it would be tedious.”
“Oh. Sorry.” he replied, looking thoughtful. “Care to show me that spell again? If I can manage to do something similar to what you’re doing, I could kill two birds with one stone. It was something like this, right?”
I almost frowned but caught myself. I wished I knew what they were doing.
“That’s… about right, actually. You need to modify these parts like this.” she told him, pointing in the air and presumably demonstrating something. “Unfortunately, this sort of thing isn’t very well perfected yet, since no one has discovered precisely why variations of the spell work better for different people. This seems to suffice if you provide ample amounts of energy for it.”
“Let me try on Aaliyah for starters, and then we’ll go from there.” he suggested, turning his attention to my tiny friend.
“How did you remember that?” asked the twins in unison, adding to my suspicion that James was continuing to be impressive.
Alma had most certainly been surprised when she said James had nearly gotten the spell right. Brenna and Emma seemed entranced by what he was doing, but that could be his magic affecting them still.
Turning to Ai and Mai, Alma said, “Shush.” Then she looked back to James and told him to proceed. “Ah. Yes. You have to start the energy flow slightly before you release the spell. Your natural magic tends to overwhelm protections rather quickly, especially at the moment.” she commented seconds later. “Perfect. I trust you can handle the rest then while I get back to work.
As she moved to sit, a chair flew in and landed behind her. Shortly later, numerous laptops positioned themselves around her. Given James’ abilities and his deference to her magical knowledge, she was a very, very dangerous person.
James gave instructions for people to split off and begin practicing different forms from varying schools of martial arts. Then he turned to me and asked “Ready to start?”
“I suppose. Aaliyah did convince me to dress for it.” I replied. Glancing back at my friend, she was grinning again. I never was quite certain how to interpret them, but I believed she was legitimately enthusiastic at the moment.
“Did your father happen to teach you anything about fighting?” he asked.
I shrugged, not wanting to lie to him but unwilling to admit knowing more in current company.
“Right then.” he started. “Do you have any fighting experience?”
“I’m a vampire, so I can handle myself against humans. I wouldn’t be a match for you no matter what I tried.” I replied.
He rolled his eyes and moved as if he was going to punch my shoulder, keeping his movements at a much more human pace. I dodged in the most awkward manner I could imagine in the time I had, allowing him to trip me as he stepped forward. I was surprised when he caught me instead of letting me fall. I considered how easily I could kiss him like this, with his arm wrapped behind me and his face so close. I didn’t think he’d be amused, so I restrained myself.
James continued to test me through a series of attacks as he gauged my reactions, and then he started teaching me some basic principles of general fighting, things I had learned as a toddler.
“Ai. Mai. Go take over for James, so he can attend to the others.” stated Alma without looking up from her computers.
“I suppose that will work, but please go more easy on her than you did with me.” insisted James as the girls approached us.
The idea that James had learned from these two was surprising, given how easily he could beat them. As the twins instructed me, I observed James’ instruction for the others. He seemed like a master rather than a recent student. I’d guess that he could learn far more quickly than even I could, given his speed, but I was still surprised. I probably could take either of these girls in a fight if I didn’t hold back.
When James ended the martial arts exercises, he immediately went into lessons of magic. Ai and Mai insisted that I try as well. To my surprise, I eventually did see the energy in the air just as they described it. Papa had spoken of there being numerous types of magic from our heritage, but he never performed any other than our blood magic, claiming that to use other types would bring the attention of those stronger than us.
“I see it!” I admitted, wanting to know more despite Papa’s words of caution echoing in my head.
“Could your parents use magic?” inquired Alma, still working at her laptops.
“No. At least, I never saw them using anything other than vampire magic.” I replied.
:Interesting. Greetings, Cosette.: came a voice in my head.
“Who was that?” I asked, staring around.
“Who was what?” questioned James as he motioned for Brenna and Emma to cease their practice.
“That voice…” I told him. :Hello?:
“His name is Adelmar. When you saw residual energy, he decided to try touching your mind.” explained Alma.
Alma, daughter of a Slayer, had reported me to the head of the Slayers. Adelmar Slayer could get inside my head. Papa, I’m so sorry. I’ve failed you already.
“She is our cousin?” demanded Ai and Mai.
“No idea. This is interesting though.” replied Alma. “Letting one of us be turned has always been considered an abomination, but having a spy inside the vampire ranks could prove quite useful.”
“No. Absolutely not.” I told her. “Father didn’t want me involved with vampire politics anymore than he wanted me involved with your family.”
She finally looked up, smiling at me as she said, “Don’t you mean our family?” Her wall of laptops floated off to the side as she stood. “You don’t have to decide right away. Consider this though: Adelmar can be very generous to his family.”
“And his children? Theirs? I plan to live for a very long time.” I replied, staring her down.
She stepped slowly toward me and said, “There are risks. I won’t lie. Just consider joining us. If you care to join me for a chat sometime, I’ll gladly tell you more about our family.”
I felt trapped and uncertain, but I wasn’t giving into the Slayers, even if they could get inside my head. I’d fight those butchers as long as I lived. I didn’t believe Alma felt I was family. Her face was a mask again the moment the smile left it.
A hand touched my shoulder, and I jumped slightly, startled by it.
“I’ll talk with you about them too. I am, after all, part of that family as well.” explained Emma, sounding soothing.
Was she part of a second ploy to win me over? If so, she was the safer gamble. I told her “James hadn’t mentioned that.”
There could also be a reason James left her out when he talked of that family. My mind searched through the possibilities for a clear course in navigating this dangerous trap. If they decided I wasn’t useful, they might kill me. If I became too useful, I could easily fall prey to one of their games and get others hurt as well. Worst yet, not even my thoughts were necessarily safe now that Adelmar was aware of me.
“Is telepathy common among Slayers then?” inquired Jarod. He had sat through both the martial arts and magical lessons. Other than his connection with Ai and Mai, I knew too little about him. He had seemed to argue in favor of my presence at breakfast, offering to help clear a second room for our practice.
“No comment.” replied Alma with a smile. Then her face took on a look of concern as she said, “James, is something wrong?”
If she didn’t legitimately feel attraction to James, she certainly was possessive of him. I was fairly certain she had offered Ai and Mai’s assistance in my training to get James away from me. Assuming she did have true feelings for him, he might be able to help steer me clear of her traps. As I turned to see his reaction to her concern, he seemed only thoughtful to me.
“Ah. Well, that can be discussed in private later if you wish.” stated Alma as if vocally replying to telepathy.
“What are you talking about?” asked Brenna. “Is there a spell to communicate at range?”
“Yes, actually, but it’s exceedingly difficult. I can try to teach you eventually, but you’re not ready yet.” explained Alma.
“Let’s stop here for today. We’ve become sidetracked enough that we might as well move along.” insisted James.
No one argued with him, gathering their things as if his word was a decree in unbreakable stone. Whatever his position with Alma, he certainly was master of this house.
“Upsy!” exclaimed Aaliyah as she stretched her arms toward me.
I obliged her, lifting her up.
“To your room with haste! We must prepare!” she exclaimed.
“Prepare? Prepare for what?” I asked, jogging out of the gym and down the hall. I could tell by her grin that I was in for quite a day.