Okay so here goes, I’m going to post another, completely contextless, excerpt from my ‘big story’ project. This is still very much in the first draft state, so disregard any typos, this is purely an exercise to help me work through some imposter-syndrome and finally start sharing this story.

Random except with no context begins here:

Holly emerged from her room as soon as they left that morning, she’d had weird, vivid dreams all night that drove her from sleep early, resorting to pacing restlessly around the room waiting for them to leave. She was relieved to discover that the food he’d promised would be here had already been delivered, although the sight of the spread laid out before her with all her favourite foods caused anger to burn though her. It suddenly occurred to Holly, that these people, these vampires, had been ‘guarding’ her since she was a one year old. They had the playbook to her entire life, had been watching every moment since then. They knew every dark secret. It made Holly so incredibly uneasy. Since she had been kicked out of her house at sixteen, she’d been so careful to keep the friends she’d made at arms length. The friendships were shallow, convenient and easy. Holly wondered if her flat mate had even realised she was missing yet, it wasn’t unusual for her to ghost out for days at a time and Paige had long since stopped questioning it. She begrudgingly poured herself some coffee and began eating the food they’d laid out, barely restraining the moan of pleasure as she bit into one of the croissants. She guessed it made sense that immortality would lend itself to being a good cook. 

Immortality. 

The thought stopped her dead. She hadn’t asked. Hadn’t asked if it was true that vampires were actually immortal. Hadn’t asked about the ‘gifts’ Alvin had alluded to, nor how the fire in her veins she could feel burning gently within her would change once she ‘transformed’. Holly slumped in the luxurious arm chair, sighing restlessly. What the hell was she supposed to do while they were out? Watch tv? It was a little… anti- climatic if she was being honest, isn’t this the part where there’s a montage of her being trained and prepared for her immortal life? Or the part where the heroin would make a daring escape? 

She should want to escape… Holly was restless and antsy, yes, but she was surprised how little desire she had to run. The electric energy that had awoken within her was undeniable, nor was the way it had seared through her. So she would stay, until a better option presented itself besides escaping, which would apparently result in her losing herself to that fire and dying anyway.  Holly ignored the tendrils of excitement in her gut, begrudgingly picking her way through the delicious pastries. She sprang up as soon as she swallowed the last dregs of the coffee and began to look around the room. It was as tastefully decorated as the room she had awoken in, apparently ‘the fey’ they had stolen this place from were quite the interior designers. A plush, olive green sofa faced a golden fire place, above which was an enormous tv fixed against the wall. In front of the sofa was the coffee table where her breakfast had been left, two enormous arm chairs were either side of the coffee table, framing the little seating area. The door to the room they’d put her in was to the left of the tv, with two other doors on the right, presumably Alvis and James’s bedrooms. The room was a bizarre shape, like a hexagon bent out of shape, the tv and fireplace faced a slightly grander looking door on the opposite wall that clearly lead to the rest of the house. The only other furniture in the room was a small table and chairs, tucked into the corner of the side that had the door to out of the ‘apartment’. Besides that was tasteful little cabinet, which, after some investigating turned out to be a fully stocked mini fridge, full of expensive looking wines and spirits and a snack cupboard.

Holly had circled the room a couple times before concluding there wasn’t much more to look at. So she tried the door to one room, which was locked. Then she tried the door closest to the tv next, which was, surprisingly, open and Holly strode right in. Purposeful steps fast losing momentum as she looked around, not knowing what she had intended to do. A quick snoop in the drawers told her nothing about whose room this was. There were no personal items in it, besides the clothes in the closet and she didn’t know them well enough to know who it was the just by that. There was a copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula on the bedside table, Holly reached for it, smiling wryly against her will. On the first page there was a note, written in very fancy cursive ‘Dear Alvis, hopefully your new guest shares our sense of humour, so please pass on this welcome gift from the fey.’ Then, on the line below, it said ‘Welcome to the supernatural Holly, you will always find friendship within my court, no matter what you choose. Yours sincerely, Anya, sovereign to the fey people and Alvis’s longstanding besty (please do report if he rolled his eyes at that part).

Holly wondered when Alvis had been sent this, did it predate their supposed invasion of this ‘manor’ and the breaking of their alliance? Was Alvis friends with the fey? How was that possible? She placed the book back on his bedside table, hoping she’d put it in the same spot as before and retreated from his room. She sighed, glancing at the clock that sat atop the mini fridge cabinet thing. It was only ten and there was no way in hell she was going to sit here sedately the whole day. Holly faced down the door to the rest of the house like it had issued her a personal challenge, wrenching it open, only to stop on the threshold.

“Holy shit.” She exclaimed, the sound echoing through the cavernous hall she now found herself in. The rooms they were keeping her in lead directly into the enormous space, there were doors on her right that were taller than her house had been, they faced an equally expansive staircase, which swept up into a sort of balcony or mezzanine that overlooked the hall before her. Beyond the staircase she could see the cathedral like space continued as one long room, branching off into different corridors, whose ceilings were just as high and ridiculous as this one. 

It was like she’d been dropped into a fairy tale. Once she had adjusted to the size of the space, Holly took a few tentative steps inside, not knowing where to look first. She stood on white marbled floor, whose pattern undulated and waved in a way that felt like standing on the edge of a rising tide. Iron vines, painted in intricate hues of green twirled up pinky, earth toned columns, these vines also spread from the base of the staircase, twining up the bannisters and blooming into indistinct flowers. Holly’s breath caught, even with her limited knowledge she understood that this place had recently been taken from the fey and caught herself wishing that she could meet the kinds of people who could create beauty like this. On the walls were beautifully detailed paintings, spanning areas larger than her entire flat. They depicted wild, vast, awe inspiring scenery, which were so lovely to look at Holly spent several moments just staring up at them, a tight ache in her chest. It occurred to her, not for the first time, how utterly insignificant she was, in the grand scheme of things.

Her reverence was broken by a group of people appearing on the mezzanine, moving to the staircase directly towards her. Holly froze for just a second, before reacting on instinct and retreating into the doorway but that was still too slow for the preternatural gaze that ensnared her. It was the man from her dream. Except, now he moved with predatory fluidity that made goosebumps erupt up her arms. Silently, Holly cursed herself for not listening to Alvis. She was in the presence of something eminently supernatural and Holly was suddenly painfully aware of her heart beating, of her fragility. He was surrounded by six other men, whose faces were expressionless as they followed his line of sight. Each one bore an insignia on a chain around their necks, the pattern wasn’t clear to her from where she stood but it felt oddly familiar. Flanking them at a respectful distance were men and women of different ages, all gazing with unwavering adoration at the man she had recognised. His face split into a wide grin, eyes crinkling, transforming his face into something so inhumanly beautiful that Holly suddenly became painfully aware of what she must look like.

“Holly!” He exclaimed, gesturing for her to approach his group as they cleared the stairs. Arranging behind him in an intimidating formation. “Delightful to meet you properly, in the flesh, as it were.”

“You were in my dreams.” Was all she could blurt, drawing derisive giggles from the onlookers. He smiled easily again, eyes twinkling, despite their dark depths.

“Yes, you’ll have to forgive me that little trick, Alvis was keen for me to give you time to settle in before we met but I couldn’t resist a peek. Although, your dream self was decidedly… brighter looking.” Holly shifted uncomfortably, she had changed into a baggy pair of joggers and a loose t-shirt before she had gone to sleep and hadn’t bothered to change once she woke up. Her hair was a tangled mess and her eyes were still puffy from the poor night’s sleep, all the crying probably hadn’t helped either. He seemed to be taking all of this in, his eyes flashing with something like anger. “I do hope Alvis has been making you feel welcome?”

“That’s kind of hard to do when he’s been sent on some task my first day here isn’t it?” Holly didn’t want to think about why she was defending Alvis but it made the golden haired man before her raise his eyebrows. The crowd behind him seemed to think she had spoken too boldly and they shifted and muttered but he only nodded.

“A fair statement and a careless oversight on my part. Alvis is my best soldier,” this drew another derisive laugh from someone in the crowd “and I was keen to put him to work now that you were finally under our roof. I did not think about how that would feel to you and I apologise. I promise you will have his full attention from now on.” Taken aback, she thanked him, causing his mouth to turn up into another charming grin. “I don’t suppose you know precisely who I am? You may recognise the name my people choose to call me, I am the Master. I did have another name once but no one uses it anymore, so you can stick with that one.” Holly blanched, her internal monologue spiralling as she understood she was in front of the person who controlled all of the vampires, who, apparently, was winning a war against all supernatural things A war he intended to use her in. He then gestured to the men wearing the insignias. “These are my fellow council members, who were all part of the original seven alongside myself.” Noting her confusion his expression darkened. “He hasn’t even told you about those who leads your soon to be fellow vampires? Well, no wonder you feel so utterly lost at sea.” He said all this without pausing to let her speak. His voice was melodic, lulling Holly into a state of calm, at complete odds with situation, he felt like a lazy summer afternoon and her body relaxed against her will. “I am sorry your welcome hasn’t been everything I hoped it would be. I wanted nothing but ease as you transitioned into your true life with us.” Holly wanted to argue against that last point but it died as those eyes captured hers. “As soon as Alvis returns, I will inform him that he is acquitted of all his usual duties and impress upon him that you are our only priority. In the meantime, why don’t you enjoy an afternoon inside the suite relaxing and recharging, maybe taken advantage of the luxurious bath I happen to know your room holds.” 

Holly felt the distant feeling of embarrassment as she said her goodbyes and retreated sedately back into their apartment. Flopping back down on the sofa, the only rebellious thought that lingered was that she would go to hell before she would go wash at his command.

*

Hours later the door crashed open and James strode into the room, coming to a stop facing her on the sofa, his whole body tense with rage he was clearly only just keeping control of.

“Hello?” She asked, nonplussed. “Did whatever it is you left to do not go well or something?” He scoffed like that was some kind of clever insult.

“Unlike you, Alvis and I are capable of doing as we are told.” Holly blinked.

“Sorry, am I supposed to know what’s gotten your knickers in a twist?” Anger to match his flared in her chest, sharp and weighty. James gestured wildly.

“Of course you have no fucking idea. Why break a habit of a lifetime of doing stupid reckless shit?”

“Is because I went out of here? Because Alvis didn’t say that I couldn’t. What did you expect me to do? Sit here like a good little human and wait for the people who kidnapped me? Just sit here placidly while my future is literally taken away from me?” 

“I expected you to have some sense of self preservation, but I should know better. Alvis, as usual, put too much faith in you.” 

“If you’re mad about anything that happened over the time you’ve been secretly spying on my life, you can fuck right off.” Holly was standing now too, her body displaying the self preservation she supposedly lacked. Recognising she was in the room with a caged animal on the edge, in spite of the anger coursing through her, she moved so that the sofa was between them, ready to make a break for the door if she had too.

“You have no idea what he has done for you. Twenty years of hell, keeping your pathetic human life intact.” He closed the distance between them, backing her into the empty corner. “No matter what it cost him, no matter the risk to himself, all to keep you alive, even when you didn’t want to be.” 

Without thinking Holly slapped him. “Don’t you dare talk about my life as if you have a right to it.” Instantly, she knew it had been a mistake. His face transformed into something feral, his incisors lengthening into sharp fangs as he slammed her against the wall.  Holly cried out as those teeth sank into her neck, the feeling nothing like what she had experienced in the alley when Alvis had bit her. No sense of euphoria swept over her, instead she was engulfed by undiluted terror. She struggled against him, scratching his bare forearms and kicking his shins but she was powerless. Holly closed her eyes against the pain when suddenly his grip on her went slack.

“James. Let her go.” She opened her eyes to see Alvis with a pincer like grip on James’s neck, his eyes flashing with deathly calm. As soon as James’s teeth were no longer gripping Holly’s neck, Alvis threw him clear across the room to crash against his door. James was pale, his face full of regret and horror but he said nothing as he fumbled for the key to his door, shutting it swiftly behind him. Alvis turned back to Holly, palms up to show he was not going to approach her. She felt tears burning in her eyes, so without giving him the chance to speak, she darted around him and ran to her door, bursting through to the bathroom to grab a wad of toilet roll to press against the wound that was bleeding profusely now. Holly caught a glimpse of her pale, disheveled reflection before turning away, breathing deeply and willing to the tears to stop. Alvis cleared his throat quietly at the threshold, watching her with an air of infuriating calm. 

“Oh, fuck off will you. I’m not interested in hearing you defend your pal.” Holly turned her back to him, under the pretence of getting more tissue, knowing that if she kept looking at him she would crumble, pathetic tears were already blurring her vision and spilling over.

“There’s nothing to defend.” He spoke quietly and calmly. “He had no right to be angry with you and he had no right to hurt you.” Holly turned to look at him, almost against her will. “For some vampires, humanity is just a little further out of reach but that is his burden to bear and not yours. Believe me when I say that was the last thing I wanted to happen.” Holly wiped away a tear and began rooting through the cupboard under the sink of something to clean the throbbing incisions on her neck, discarding the wad of bloody tissue carelessly. 

“Just get out, okay? You’ve rescued the damsel in distress, yet again.” Half the products under the sink came tumbling onto her feet and Holly swore, slamming the jammed door only for it to bounce back uselessly into her shin.

 “As I recall, we are now even when it comes to the damsel-in-distress- rescue tally. We would have died in the alley were it not for you.” One side of his mouth was ticked up in a half grin in a blatant attempt to distract her. Holly slumped in front of the cupboard, cutting a pretty pathetic image. She asked the question the burned at the forefront of her mind.

“How many times in my life did you intervene?”

“Ah.” he said softly.  He locked eyes with her for a moment before turning to the room to grab the chair by the dressing table, Holly frowned, confused until he bought the chair back into the bathroom and plonked it in front of the mirror. Then, he leaned over her to open the left side of the cupboard, where he retrieved a neat little case marked ‘first aid kit’. “Will you allow me to tend to your wound while I answer your questions?” Not trusting her voice, Holly nodded and sat in the chair, keeping her eyes averted from her mirror image. Alvis sprayed something that smelled antiseptic onto a cotton pad and began gently dabbing it against the marks on her neck. Gingerly peeling away bloodied bits of toilet tissue that had clung to it.

“You remember what I said about vampires being bound to the one that made them?” Holly nodded. “I was given very specific rules around the conditions that allowed you to remain with your human family. I could not interfere against anything other than a supernatural threat, or something that would cause imminent danger to your life.” He paused as he searched through the box for something to dress the two gaping holes in her neck. “Over my long life, I have gotten very good at exploiting loopholes in those commands, any phrasing that is open to interpretation, is open to being bent a little.”

“And in the context of my life? How much is a little?” His mahogany brown eyes met her green ones in the mirror. 

“How often was danger to your life on the horizon? However distantly?” Holly broke the eye contact, although she could still feel his gaze in her reflection. She ran her hands through her hair, pushing it off her face.

“Well, yeah, my mum sure could pick them, I guess.” Her brows lifted as realisation dawned on her. “Is that why they always left before it went too far? Apart from that one time my arm was broken?” Alvis said nothing but Holly noted the way his jaw clenched and he swallowed furiously, as though the words were stuck in his throat. The next question tumbled unbidden from her again. “Why?” Their eyes met in the mirror again. “Why bother? Why make your life more difficult?” He resumed fussing with the gauze. For a moment Holly thought he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, answer. 

Then, in that soft, steady way he had of speaking in said. “Because I am not heartless. Even though we were going to end up here one day, I just wanted to help you arrive here as whole as possible.” He looked up to find her studying him and grinned sheepishly. “Besides, it won’t be long before you will never need protection again. You will be the most powerful being on this planet.” He spoke like he knew what was at the heart of her anger and tears. Holly frowned. Suddenly recalled to what had just happen as Alvis finished smoothing the tape to keep the gauze in place, his fingers trailing across her skin with soft, impossibly gentle touches. 

“Why was James so mad? Did I get you in trouble because I bumped into ‘the Master’ outside?”

He began packing up the first aid kit. “Don’t worry about it, James overreacted, that’s all. He’s very loyal. He was not turned using the master’s blood, he is the one and only person who I have Made, the only one bound to me and not the master. It does not excuse his actions; however, you cannot be held accountable for what you did not know and decisions you did not make.” Holly wasn’t sure if he was talking about her accidentally meeting the master, or about all the times he may have ‘intervened’. Alvis came around her chair and bent to pick up the things she had knocked over earlier. Holly let out a hiss at the sight of his back, to which he swore softly under his breath, not meeting her eyes.

“What the fuck is that?” He finished tidying and swiftly straightened, making for the bathroom doorway. Holly hand shot out, blocking his exit. Even though he could have easily removed her arm, instead he sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“It’s nothing, Holly. It is left over from the task we were asked to perform today and it has already healed.”

“If it’s nothing why hide it?” She asked, scrutinising his face and moving closer. Holly could see it the mirror now, his t-shirt was ripped in sharp lines across his back, the jagged outlines of which were covered in blood. 

“You would not have known at all if I had not had to deal with James. We heal fast Holly, see for yourself.” She raised her eyebrows, waiting for permission, which came in the form of a slight nod before ducking around him, gently lifting the hem of his shirt. Beneath the jagged rips were thin pink lines, fading even as she looked at them. A small part of her was astonished at her own nerve as she softly traced over the white lines of old, many layered scars on his skin. He went utterly still under touch, his breath hitching. Alvis was watching her in the mirror and she could feel the tension in his back.

Holly was surprised at the anger that coursed through her; most likely he would be prevented from her telling her what this was by that insidious bond but she couldn’t stop herself from saying through gritted teeth. “This looks like you’ve been whipped or something. Who did this to you?” He took her hand from his back and turned around, not meeting her eyes.

“The what and the who doesn’t really matter, we heal in seconds, so there’s no cause for alarm.” He tried for a reassuring smile but it did not meet his eyes. They were colour of honey under the bright bathroom lights. People always made such a big deal about Holly’s green eyes but she often thought brown eyes were underrated and Alvis’s eyes went a long towards proving her point. Holly gave herself a mental shake, retreating a step away from him.

“You want me to trust you? Don’t ask me to enter into this blindly. I’m screwed either way, I don’t see a way out of me becoming one of you, so you’re not doing me any favours by protecting me from things.” The words ‘like this’ hung unspoken in the air as she retreated into the bedroom. Alvis followed her, the half grin quirking up one side of his mouth, as though he recognised that he’d only been given a temporary reprieve from this line of questioning.

“On the subject of going into things with eyes open, I had planned a surprise for you. Would you still be up for it?”

“Depends what this surprise entails?”

A full wide grin filled his features then and Holly had to give herself another little mental shake as her heart sped up at the sight of it. “It’s a surprise. I’m taking you somewhere to show you how beautiful a supernatural life can be, what these gifts can mean for you.” The excitement on his face was infectious and Holly smiled in return. “Good. Be ready at 7, dress nice.” He practically bounced over to the door, the change from the serious, steady person was fascinating.

“Dress nice? I have nothing to wear!”

He swept his hand towards the door to her walk in cupboard. “You should really take a closer look in there then.” Grinning at her mischievously, he left the room. Giving a sigh of frustration Holly wrenched open the cupboard door and gaped. The two times she had been in here, she hadn’t really paid attention. Practically half of one wall was taken up with dresses and other nice looking things, the other with shoes, a quick glance at the other side of the room told her it held more everyday things but Holly was drawn to those beautiful dresses. Every one of them was perfect. The right size and exactly to her taste, limited though that was. The idea of Alvis picking this out for her should have been creepy but Holly felt the traitorous grin crawl across her face all the same.

*

I chose quite a long section, so if you made it to the end, thank you! I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into my book.