In the years since she left Newcrest, Charlotte had died. Her resurrection remained a guarded secret. She began learning what she could from Caleb and his books. Vlad kept his distance, angry at Caleb’s reckless behaviour. He refused to meet Charlotte, fearing what reckoning they would face. Those sympathetic to their union provided plasma packs and assisted Charlotte’s development. What she lacked in speed, Charlotte made up in strength. An arm wrestle with Lilith had the sister-in-law embarrassed. Lilith prided herself on being superior to her brother. This same position she believed would apply to Charlotte. Underestimating the petite framed girl would be the undoing of several challengers. Honda, a former friend of her father, was their greatest ally, believing them to be a rival house for power. She confided this was Vlad’s fear. His reign was predicted to end by the mediums. He resented the idea they were the rising House that would take it from him.
The presence of Juliana and Cliff in their lives; made Charlotte miss her family. She found it difficult to concentrate on her training, to feel connected with the world. Listless, and restless, Charlotte flicks through books, unable to absorb the knowledge. During the day, Charlotte watches the park from the window, taking care to remain in the shadows. The fallen leaves dance in the light breeze, and the bird song drills her mind. The muscles in her neck tighten, and despite a recent feed, her stomach is heavy and empty. There is a lump in her throat. Tears well beneath blue eyes. She covered her mouth, suppressing the desire to open the gates. Charlotte wanted to scream, to let the pain out. Her mind recalled the two children she abandoned, their faces forever in her memories. As the tears broke the banks, she squeezed them tight as something moved within her.
The release would be temporary. A banging interrupted her thoughts. The sun was high in the sky, and two vampires were wary of answering the door. Caleb feared a lynching. Had Vlad decided to take them out with hired hunters dragging them into the sun? He imagined his skin blistering, flames licking. Would they let him hold Charlotte, a promise to find her in the afterlife? Or would they make him watch her burn, scared, alone? The banging continued with relief as a familiar, albeit angry voice hollered.
Eliza pushed her way in as Caleb shielded himself with the door, pointing to the living area. Charlotte brushes her clothes in an attempt to appear normal. Eliza launched her attack; how she used several private investigators. The majority she never heard from, missing from their position. Eliza later discovered they were in the hospital with neck trauma. A bitterness tinted Eliza’s voice as accusations of reckless behaviour flowed. Asking how she could abandon Daciana and Luliana seemed rhetorical. The twins needed their mother. Patrick struggled; he doted on them, nursed them when they were sick, and taught them to walk, talk and swim. These were all the things Charlotte should be doing. If she needed help, they would have come together as a family. How did Charlotte not learn from their father? Ignoring problems did not make them disappear. Charlotte needed to face the consequences of her actions.
The names cut through Charlotte. She gritted her teeth, as Eliza could never understand. Fists clenched at her sides. It did not anger Charlotte as Eliza chastised her. The thing that stirred within her had needs and desires beyond Charlotte’s control.
Caleb watched Eliza, her brow furrowed, breathing quick and shallow, cheeks flushed. It happened; in slow motion, the scream, the scent of blood filling his nostrils. He grabbed Charlotte’s hair as she latched on tighter. Speed was no match for her strength. Charlotte’s elbow collided with his chest snapping ribs. Caleb flew across the room, skidding over the kitchen counters. A weakening voice cut through. Eliza clawed at Charlotte, begging, her skin pale and mind dizzied. Charlotte regained control; her hand rested on her stomach, the other across her mouth.
Eliza collapsed unconscious on the sofa. Caleb held Charlotte back; her body trembled as she screamed. She reached for Eliza, apologising, pleading with her to wake up. Caleb kicked the rug, pulling Charlotte down as he yanked the trap door open. Charlotte descended, tormented and guilty.
Eliza had a weak pulse, but she was alive. He elevated her head, a compress to her neck and awaited Honda. Their friend was a nurse, or at least she had been. She brought pure plasma and gave several to Caleb to pacify Charlotte. They worked together, stemming the blood flow. Honda stitched the neck and gave her blood via a cannula. They shared a look, an understanding. Caleb would need to protect Charlotte should Vlad find out. Honda promised to watch Eliza and ensure she did not seek retribution with the Ministry.