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A Vial of Life(A Shade of Vampire,Book 21)(3) by Bella Forrest

I’d expressed myself that evening in stumbling words, hoping that he would understand what I meant. From the look in his eyes, he did. He kissed my lips tenderly and held me closer. “Then stay with me,” he’d whispered into my ear. “Be mine.”

And so I did.

At least, until fate tore us apart.

It happened one Sunday evening, six months after I first moved into Hans’ bedroom. Soon after the sun set, there was a knock at the door. Hans and I had been sitting together in the living room. I couldn’t miss the way his face tensed up. In my years of living with him, the middle-aged maid had been his only visitor.

Hans told me to wait in the room while he went to see who it was. But as he left, I couldn’t help but peer through the crack of the door.

Hans opened the front door, and I could just about see who was standing in front of him—a tall, slender Chinese woman with short-cropped hair. Strangely, her complexion was only slightly darker than Hans’. She wore a cloak draped around her shoulders, and two robed men stood behind her with their hoods pulled down so low over their faces, I could barely make out their features.

Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what happened next.

Hans whirled around, his eyes wide with panic as he caught sight of me peering around the door. “Run, Julie!” he hissed.

I barely had time to move before the woman and two men leapt forward and grabbed Hans. Wrestling him to the ground, the three strangers overpowered him. A crack pierced the air as one of the men forced Hans’ head to one side and disjointed his neck. I screamed, my whole body shaking as I rushed forward. They’d broken his neck. They’d killed him.

Before I could reach them, the two men had already hauled Hans’ body off the floor and raced out through the door. They moved with such speed, speed that I’d never witnessed before in man nor animal. They were almost a blur to me.

The woman, still standing by the doorway, set her focus on me even as the two men dashed off into the dark woods carrying my beloved.

“Y-You killed him!” I gasped.

She approached me and gripped the back of my neck. Her hands were so cold, like Hans’.

“And who are you exactly?” she asked.

“Who are you?” I screamed.

“Ah, it seems Hans found a lover to fill his lonely heart. How sweet. Well, fear not. Your man is not dead, only paralyzed. Do you wish to be reunited with him?”

“Take me to him!” I breathed, barely daring to believe her words.

“Come with me,” she said, sliding one hand down my arm and gripping it. I was expecting her to lead me out of the door, but instead she held the back of my neck. She bared her teeth, fangs protruding. Her head shot down to my neck and I barely had a chance to cry out before her fangs sank deep into my flesh.

I wasn’t sure exactly what happened next. It was just a blur in my memory. Perhaps I even passed out from the shock. All I knew was that when I woke up, I was somewhere very different. Somewhere cold and damp. And my insides felt like someone had doused them in acid. They burned so badly, I was convinced I was dying. The next hours were spent in agony until finally, as I looked into the cracked mirror in one corner of the dingy chamber, I found myself staring back at a monster.

Either Satan had possessed me, or I’d gone mad.

The woman came back and informed me that I was now a vampire, just like herself. She handed me a pitcher of blood and told me to drink it—which I did without question, hungrily, despite its bitter taste. She told me that I’d been brought to a coven in a different part of China. The vampire led me out of the dark room and along a narrow corridor. We entered another room, where I found Hans sitting in one corner. Then the woman left me. Hans sprang up and, realizing what I’d become, he staggered back, a devastated look in his eyes.

All I could think about was the fact that Hans wasn’t dead. That he was standing right in front of me. I threw myself at him, reveling in his embrace as he showered my face with kisses. I’d seen those people snap his neck, even heard the crack of bone. Yet here he was. He pulled me down on his bed and, cradling me in his arms, began to reveal his full history to me for the first time. Everything he’d been holding back since the day we’d met. He told me first that, indeed, there were such things as vampires. He was one, and now I was one too.

He told me that he and his wife had been turned almost two hundred years before, along with his four siblings. They’d all been taken to the coven where we were now, deep in the Taihang Mountains. His wife had been murdered by another vampire over a dispute while living there, and after he’d lost her, Hans couldn’t bear to remain in the coven any longer. He and his siblings had tried to escape together, and while the latter had failed, Hans had managed to. He’d been in hiding ever since, in that old castle buried in the woods in the middle of nowhere, and he’d hoped that they would never find him.

He clutched my head in his hands, kissing me again and again even as he repeated how sorry he was, how he loved me and how dragging me into all of this was the last thing he’d wanted.

I told him that I didn’t care, that I was just grateful that he was alive and that we were together. I told him that, vampire or not, I would follow him anywhere. Because I was his. He held my heart and every part of me.

We spent the next four decades of our lives together in that Chinese coven. Or as together as we could be. Sometimes we were forced to split up and travel with different groups on nighttime excursions. But we were given a small apartment where we could live together and during the day, for the most part, we had each other. The vampires promised Hans that if he attempted to escape again, they would track us down and stake me through the heart in front of his eyes. Even though I suggested that we try it, it was for my sake that he refused. They’d already managed to track him down once, and he wouldn’t take the risk of that happening again.