Vampires don’t sleep. Well, they don’t need sleep anyway. So many of them had lived in a state of eternal awakening for so long that they had forgotten what it was like to sleep, or to dream. But some, like Elliot, had trained themselves to rest in a deep hibernation that was very similar to human sleep. Dreams were possible in this state, if he permitted them. He had conscious control over his thoughts while in a semi-conscious state. It made for a strange mix because he could alter the course of dreams without disrupting their river-like mental flow. Pamela was a frequent visitor when he was in this state of odd suspension between worlds. He permitted her there. He cherished her there.
What he never allowed were the painful memories of her leaving with Caleb. His mind often seemed to stand in the opening to the fuzzy border world that separated the good from the horrific. He could never close the door completely to the thoughts he didn’t want to think about, but he could prevent himself from going through it, and into things that hurt him bone-deep; deep enough to make a vampire consider staking his own heart.
Yet, even in this suspended state, he was fully aware of everything in his surroundings. Every sound, every scent, every movement in the dark was acknowledged and analyzed for possible threats. He’d already committed the sound of Martha’s car to memory. But when he heard the car door close, something was different—something was wrong. This wasn’t Martha! This person had a different gait, and she was nervous—damn nervous. Shit!
He heard her unlock his front door so whoever this was she had Martha’s house key. The scent of clean, youthful, female skin raked through his nostrils like the smell of fresh cut grass or an early morning rain. He shivered unintentionally. His mouth was suddenly dry—desert dry. He could smell the blood coursing through her veins—blood like pure sweet nectar from heaven. His cock instantly hardened.
He licked his lips and considered that he’d been without nourishment, decadent nourishment, for far too long. She was an earthly woman, he was certain of that much, but her blood was as potent to his senses as Lou’s had been. A human with a lycan bloodline? Possible, he guessed. Many children were born to lycans that never became lycans themselves. Yet, he felt she wasn’t of werewolf lineage; she was delectable for other reasons—reasons that his brain found to be profoundly confusing.
She moved quickly and silently through the house, yet the only thoughts he picked up were her wondering where the kitchen was and where he was.
When she found the kitchen at the back of the house, he heard her working. She was focused and determined as she began filling a bucket with hot water. The scent of bleach reached his sensitive nostrils. He recoiled slightly. He didn’t like it. It wasn’t because of its irritating aroma, but more so because it interferred with smelling her scent.
The first thought that gave him a clue as to this woman’s identity, and the reason for her being in his house, finally came through loud and clear. She was angry—furious actually—at Aunt Martha. She was mad as hell over the condition of the house. She was grumbling softly under her breath, wondering what the hell had Martha done all day yesterday? It sure as hell wasn’t cleaning, he overheard.
He knew she was right. When Martha left yesterday and twilight gave way to night, he was free from his imprisonment. He wandered the house for a time, considered boarding up a few more windows, but decided it would be easier to explain if he did it over the weekend and told Martha he’d had a handyman come in. He noticed the extent of her ‘housekeeping’ had been to wipe the dust from the kitchen counters. She spent the remainder of her time watching the small television that was built into the kitchen cabinets. Martha was lazy; Elliot wasn’t surprised.
He rose and dressed quickly. He had no fear of being caught out of his wheelchair because he knew her exact location. The problem was he couldn’t wheel himself to the kitchen and confront her because he hadn’t covered up those windows—damn sunlight! It would take less than a minute for severe burns to appear on his skin, and then it would be several days before those burns would heal.
He sat in his wheelchair and opened his bedroom door. He could see the light spectrum filtering into the darkness of the hallway. He would stay out of the particles. “Hello? Martha?”
He heard her pause and felt her panic as she considered explaining to a stranger why she was in his house. His skin pricked with anticipation as her body blocked part of the light stream. She had stepped into the far end of the hallway.
“No, I’m Martha’s niece. She was sick but didn’t want to leave you without help. I hope it’s okay.”
He could feel her hesitation; she didn’t want to meet him.
“Please come back here,” he stated carefully. “I’d like to know who’s in my house.”
He felt her shivering with fright.
She began walking slowly toward his room. Her thoughts were jumbled and hard to decipher simply because she was so angry about Martha putting her in this situation.
Her scent became stronger, more powerful, more tempting.
He hadn’t felt this kind of anticipation since Pamela walked into his life. He backed his chair from the doorway all the way to stop beside his bed. He didn’t want to see her coming down the hall. He wanted this anticipation to last a little longer, savoring the tingling sensation. When she turned the corner into his room, he was not disappointed—he was enthralled by the innocent, young beauty.
She was of a slight build, yet he knew she was strong and unafraid of manual work. She was about 5’7” and he guessed about 110 pounds. Her mid-length hair was a soft, shimmery, wheat-colored blonde/brown and scented like strawberries, and her eyes were a rich cerulean blue with what appeared to be a vivid ring of brownish amber around the pupil. His fangs protracted without mental provocation. His mouth was closed, so there was no chance that she saw them, but he quickly retracted them into their sockets.
Her first thought stunned him.
He moved on instinct, gripping the armrests on the wheelchair and preparing to rise before he remembered he was supposed to be crippled. This wasn’t good. She was gorgeous. She was young. She was able to affect his mental abilities and self-control. This girl had to leave. She was a mistake waiting to happen.
“No more mistakes,” he breathed quietly.
“Nothing. I’m sorry, but this won’t work. I hired your Aunt, not you.”
He could feel her fighting back the tears. My God, he thought, she’s so desperate! He felt a tsunami of pent up pain rolling from her as she silently nodded then turned to walk out the door.
“Wait,” he called out, but she was still moving. “Please.”
She turned back around and he felt her emotions crush into him again.
“I’m sorry; I don’t mean to be cruel or rude. Please, tell me what happened to Martha?”
“She had to go to the hospital last night,” she choked out.
He didn’t need to read her mind for the next question, “Was it her drinking?”
The young woman nodded, unable to speak.
He was completely overwhelmed by her emotions. This girl had been hurt terribly in her lifetime and all she wanted was some means to escape; escape from him, his house, her aunt, this town, these people, even the state of Kentucky. Then he sensed how imprisoned and trapped she felt. He’d never met a human with emotional cuts and scars this deep. He realized that by telling her she would have to leave, he added to her pain.
“I was concerned something like this might happen when I gave her the advance on her pay, but I never dreamed she wouldn’t even make it past the first day without some sort of binge. Is she going to be all right?”
She shrugged weakly, “I don’t know. I haven’t called the hospital this morning, but she was in pretty bad shape last night. They said she’d be in there for a day or two.” She paused and looked down at her worn sneakers, “The EMT said she really should be in a 21 day detox program, but we don’t have the money for that.”
She was still looking at her shoes, “No.”
“What’s your name?”
Her eyes rose slowly, locking onto his, “Genesis.”
He would never have imagined that a single word could set off an avalanche of thoughts; a new beginning, life from lifelessness, perfection, beauty, peace, new birth, rising from desolation, dawn, provenience, nurturing, Eden—the avalanche halted as if he’d poured liquid nitrogen into his thoughts—the fall of man. This girl could easily be his downfall.
But what a resplendent ending! That thought seemed to hit him from nowhere and then hung in his mind as he stared at her.
He took a moment to glance at her hand; no ring. She was young, perhaps not even 20 yet, but he knew women in this area married early. Red flags of warning were swirling in his mind, but he needed someone, at least for today until the horses were delivered and stalled. He still hadn’t found a suitable horse-handler nor farm hand.
“Your aunt has certainly put me in a bad position. I have horses being delivered in an hour, and six interviews set for the day. I need you,” he finished, the words sticking to his tongue like honey. God yes, he needed her. He’d give her the fortune he’d amassed if she’d simply bare her throat and tell him she’d be his blood servant—and mate. The danger level was increasing every second she was in his presence—and, damn it all, he was enjoying it. “Would you please stay, at least for today and perhaps tomorrow.”
She’d already tasted his rejection from the first moment they met and he could tell she wanted to say, ‘Hell no!’ but she was too tender-hearted and kind. She was actually concerned about him and how he’d fare without assistance. His heart was melting, and he feared she might somehow see it.
“I’ll stay. Besides cleaning the house, is there anything I can do for you?”
The avalanche broke free and the thoughts tumbled once again into a luscious free-fall. He could think of so many things she could do for him.
“Can I fix you some coffee?” she continued. “There isn’t much in your kitchen, but I could run to Kroger’s if you want something to eat.”
She shyly returned the smile.
More heart melting.
“I take most of my fluids intravenously,” he stated pointing at the port he’d placed in his arm the night he arrived.
“Why?” she asked quickly, “Can’t you swallow?”
“I can swallow,” he responded, swallowing immediately after his answer because he was thinking about her blood. “It just makes things easier for me. Eliminating solids can create some problems for a paraplegic, and I don’t have a colostomy bag—thank God. If you’ll forgive me for my knee-jerk reaction to you being Martha’s replacement, I would appreciate you staying. Is a hundred dollars a day sufficient?”
She didn’t answer at first, but he heard the ‘Hell yeah!’ so clearly from her thoughts that he wondered if her mouth had moved and he’d somehow missed it. She was thinking something about a truck, three-hundred-seventy-five dollars saved, fifteen-hundred dollars, and then calculating that she’d have enough money if he kept her on for twelve days.
“Sure, yeah that would be fine.”
“Thank you. I assume, since you arrived on time this morning, that Martha told you the hours?”
“Yes, sir. She said seven to six.”
“Genesis,” he said, allowing her name to roll off his tongue as smoothly as a perfect French kiss, “my name is Elliot, not sir.”
“Oh. Yes, sir—I mean, Elliot.”
“My appointments are written down on the pad in the kitchen. The horses will be delivered by eight and I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to handle the delivery. I wasn’t able to hire someone yesterday. Hopefully at least one of the six men being interviewed today won’t be so hard-headed.”
“Horsemen in Kentucky are all hard-headed,” she stated, “But I don’t have a problem with horses.” Her cheeks pinked and she smiled, “if Martha comes back tomorrow or the next day, I could be your horse handler.”
His eyebrows rose, “Do you have experience?”
Her exuberance dimmed, “Not really, but I’ve been around a few handlers. I think I could do what they do.”
He didn’t want to turn her down. He didn’t want to be the cause of any further pain for her. “We’ll see.”
He was impressed with Genesis when the trucks pulled up with his stock. She was afraid—not of the horses, but of the men—yet, no one would ever know it by the way she acted. The deliverymen unloaded the ten mares into a corral near the barn. Two stallions were in separate trailers. Their ear-piercing, shrill whistles cut through the morning air as they challenged each other over the mares; each male wanting to show his dominance over the herd of fertile females. They couldn’t be turned loose into the corral nor penned together; they would have to be stalled.
Elliot heard the driver tell Genesis that it wasn’t his job to stable the stallions. He said his job was to deliver them. This man was being an ass—feeling big by intimidating a young woman. He knew the horse he brought was too wild for her to handle, and the other two delivery drivers seemed content to watch her fail miserably at unloading a head-strong stallion.
It wouldn’t have been difficult for him to mentally control the men and force them to do their jobs, but he was more intent on the emotions that were rushing through Genesis. She needed a bolster for her confidence. She feared men, although he didn’t understand why. Whatever it was she refused to think about it.
Elliot couldn’t physically see what was happening outside as he stood by his boarded up bedroom window, but he could read the thoughts and feel every emotion, including the emotions of the animals.
Genesis took a lead rope and was preparing to get into the trailer with the first stallion. She was wisely alert to the agitated state of the seventeen-hand, unruly male, but it didn’t stop her. He could sense that she felt this would be a test of sorts to prove herself as being not only capable to work for him, but to also show the men outside the trailer that she was tougher than she looked.
The thousand pound horse was aggressive, frightened, and hurt. Elliot sensed in the animal’s memory an incident of being shocked in the hind quarter by an angry handler who had difficulty getting him into the trailer. He was ready to take out his frustrations on the first human who approached him—that human was Genesis.
Elliot heard the horse blowing hard through its nostrils, its front legs tapping and prancing on the trailer floor, preparing to strike out at the tiny human entering into the front of the trailer. Elliot wasn’t about to let the most stunning woman he’d met in over fifty years be killed by this animal. He took control.
The horse’s mind was simple for him, the same as the moose had been. Genesis spoke softly to the horse, entering its space with slow, deliberate movements. She had no idea that the animal she thought she calmed wasn’t under her control. She clipped on the lead rope to the halter, petting and caressing the animal. Elliot could feel that the horse was actually responding to her gentle treatment, but he didn’t dare pull his influence from the animal’s mind.
When the delivery person lowered the ramp, Genesis backed the stallion out of the trailer then led him to the barn. The horse was oblivious to the screams from the other stallion and the whinnies from the mares.
She walked the quiet animal to the first stall and stalled him without incident.
Evidently, the driver with the second stallion didn’t like the idea of this ‘girl’ showing them up. He decided to bring the other stallion out himself. Once again, Elliot felt the animal’s agitation and fright, but this time he did nothing to sequester the horse’s mental state.
The man was having an awful time. When he managed to get the horse down the ramp, Genesis had returned.
The horse reared, jerking the man into the air. The other drivers quickly grabbed onto the lead rope, but that only served to enrage the horse. It pulled all three men off their feet to flop on their bellies in a cloud of dust. The rope pulled from their hands, and the horse was suddenly free in the main yard. He bolted toward the mares, and the only thing standing in his way was Genesis.
“Whoa, boy. Whoa,” she said, extending her arms out to make herself appear larger to the animal. Once more, Elliot assisted.
The stallion stopped just short of running her over. He snorted and backed slightly when she approached, but was calm as she reached for the rope. “It’s okay, boy—it’s okay. Yeah, shhh,” she crooned, “You’re fine. Settle down.”
For some reason, even with Elliot’s help, the horse stubbornly refused to move when she tugged him toward the barn. It was the scent of the mares that had him distracted.
Elliot closed his eyes in concentration. He had to be careful with what he was doing so that the horse didn’t get too excited, but he began to transfer the way Genesis’s aroma had affected him to the animal’s mind. Suddenly, she became more interesting—and he began to follow.
The men stood in wide-eyed wonder and watched as she stalled the horse and returned to where they stood like a bunch of dusty, dirty, fools—fools that had all been shown up by a girl!
“Who the hell are you?” Elliot heard the first delivery man ask her. “You some kind of horse whisperer?”
He felt Genesis’s confidence growing and swelling as she removed the clipboard from the man’s hand, signed the receipt then thrust it back at him.
He chuckled when he heard her surly reply to the driver.
“No, I’m fucking Cinderella, asshole.”
She turned and walked away.