Home > After Darkness Falls (After Darkness Falls #1)(15)

After Darkness Falls (After Darkness Falls #1)(15)
Author: May Sage

"We will resume the lesson where we ended it last Monday, after one of you reminds us of the precise point where I stopped."

Behind her, Chloe glanced to see twenty-four hands lift in the air as one. There were twenty-four students in the room.

"Armand."

"Yes, sir. We were talking of the human revolt of 1476, sir. Against the Drakes of Transylvania. We stopped at the matriarch's death, sir."

"Very well. I see you were paying some attention. And so, Prince Dracul's wife was brutally assassinated in his own keep. Works of fiction have broached the subject, but none have been quite fair to his immortal grief. In his sorrow, the prince took his life, leaving two sons and one daughter behind…"

Being a tyrant didn't change the fact that Fin Varra was the very best narrator to ever tell a story—she had to give him that. In no time, they were engrossed, practically seeing the events he recounted in front of their eyes.

Chloe saw Gwen write down a few notes, but she couldn't bring herself to claw her attention away for long enough to get out her notepad. She'd have to copy her notes later.

Two hours flew by at the speed of light, and in no time, they were told that they'd see him again on Monday.

Chloe left as fast as her feet could carry her.

"That was something," Gwen said, stunned.

"Yeah. Something…"

Part of her wanted to bow out of the course; she didn't need it, and this class would likely take up a lot of her attention. But she knew she'd be there on Monday.

She wondered if that was because she liked the class, or if something else was at work.

"You will attend this class for a year and a day."

"Hey, what's a fledgling?" she asked Gwen. The question had edged her mind when the professor had called her that.

"Oh, a kid, I guess? Like a teenager, not quite grown up yet. I think that’s also what they call birds when they can't fly yet. It's mostly used about vampires in this world. A fledgling is a young vampire, not quite in control of their power yet."

Oh. So he'd called her a little girl. Nice.

"Can we make a voodoo doll of Fin Varra or something?"

Gwen laughed. "Didn't you hear? 'No power can affect my sexy ass,'" she grumbled in a poor—and hilarious—imitation of the professor's voice.

They laughed until they reached the great entry hall.

"I'm starving. You?"

Chloe almost followed Gwen, who was edging toward the cafeteria, but she caught herself at the last moment. "You go ahead. I have something to do first. I shouldn't be too long."

She headed back to the dorm, took the white box from her bedside table, and walked right back to the Institute, heading straight to the red-doored tower.

She half-expected someone to appear in front of her the moment she crossed the threshold, but the curving staircase was empty. Determined, she walked up each flight of stairs, ignoring the little voice whispering that being here wasn't quite wise.

Irritated

By the time she reached the top of the tower, Chloe was out of breath and her legs were screaming at her.

The door of a large, tower-wide circular study was open, and five vampires were watching it, like they'd been expecting her. Four among them seemed amused. The fifth was glaring at her.

Yeah? Well, get in line, Levi. She was pissed too.

Ignoring everyone else, she walked straight to him and placed the box on the desk in front of him.

"Thanks, but no thanks. I can't take random, outrageously expensive presents from strangers."

It wasn't who she was.

Chloe considered retreating now that she'd said her piece, but that might have seemed cowardly. Instead, she glared at him, waiting for his retort.

"And you were under the impression that coming here to tell me that was necessary?"

She shrugged. "You invaded my place without an invitation. That's called payback."

"Feel free to come by mine any time, Chloe. This is work. I don't care for interruptions."

"Well, tough luck, asshole."

One of the vampires in the room disguised a laugh with a cough.

Levi sighed and closed his leather-bound journal.

"You're the protégée of an acquaintance. You came to Scotland in January with a spring jacket. I don't particularly want to explain to Charles that the student he sponsored died of pneumonia. If the coat was ‘outrageously expensive,’ blame my assistant. He likes spending my money."

"Guilty," said a man behind her.

She turned to glance at a striking dark-skinned guy who had pulled out a bag of popcorn and was shamelessly watching them.

"You bought it?"

"Yes, girl. I have great taste, right?"

"Yes, it's very…look, that's not the point. I'm a functioning adult, not a charity case. If I need a damn coat, I'll buy a damn coat. I have a credit card for that."

"You tell him!" a woman added encouragingly.

Chloe was feeling more and more foolish at every moment. She'd made a bigger deal of this than it was, hadn't she?

"Well, if I offended you, I apologize. May I go back to work now?"

It was probably past time she left.

"Yeah, sure. Thanks for the sleeping draught, by the way."

"Wait, how does that work?" the assistant asked. "He can give you draughts, but not coats?"

"Because draughts don't cost an arm and a leg," she mumbled.

She didn't think they did, in any case.

The assistant snorted. "Girl, no offense, but the draught, the coat? Same difference. It's peanuts to him anyway. He accumulated billions before billionaires were a thing."

Oh. Well, that certainly explained why he thought it was okay to send her coats that cost four figures.

"Look, in my world, people don't give expensive shit for nothing, and I don't like having that sort of dynamic with anyone."

"And what, pray tell," said Levi, very slowly, enunciating each word, "do you believe I'd want from you, Chloe?"

She avoided his eyes. "It's not okay on principle, all right?"

Every time she opened her mouth, she felt like remaining silent might have been a wiser idea.

"Sweetie," said a tall, beautiful blonde, joining them and opening the box. "Ancients don't really understand human interactions. For thousands of years, it was quite all right for Levi to buy anything he liked for anyone, male or female. Society has changed quite a bit over the last two centuries or so, but it can take the old ones a while to adapt."

Shit, that made a lot of sense.

"All right. Sorry I flew off the handle."

"Good to see you can be reasonable,” Levi said. “Take the damn coat and go. I have work to do."

Chloe almost heeled like a good little girl. His tone accepted no argument, but that tone was bugging her nearly as much as his smug, annoying grin.

Instead, she did it again. Let her mouth do its thing without using her brain first.

"Have you ever thought of getting that broomstick removed from your posterior?"

What. Was. Wrong. With. Her.

Blair had clearly told her who—what—Levi was. She really shouldn't have been talking to him like this, as though he were just a random guy in the street.

Maybe she had a death wish.

The others weren't even trying to hide their laughter.

"Seriously, you're just so tense and high-handed. Sounds like you need…"

The next instant, she was hit by a tornado that pushed her against the wall. Chloe questioned why her bones hadn't shattered in the process. Levi was caging her with his arms, teeth bared. His dark eyes were glowing blue.

"You will not question my authority, child. You will not dismiss me. You will behave."

Each word echoed around the room, amplified, sounding like a growl.

And for some strange reason, Chloe was…amused. Like this was what she'd wanted all along. To piss him off. And she’d been looking forward to doing it all day.

She had no fucking idea why, but poking the bear was…fun.

"So that's what you look like without the broomstick," she said.

Maybe she had hit her head.

Levi took a step back and pointed to the door. "Go. Just go."

"I will. As long as you promise me you understand that I will not be bought."

"Chloe, I am so very close to snapping your neck like a twig."

Do it.

What the fuck? She had never, until this day, exhibited any sort of suicidal tendency, so the thought popping out of her clouded, deranged mind shocked her. So much so that she finally did what she was told and headed out the door.

She'd just started down the flight of stairs when her coat flew out of the study, falling right on her head. The next instant, the door was closed.

Damn him. He definitely had a thing for having the last word. She walked down, feeling like she hadn't entirely lost today's argument.

Although it did look like she had a new coat.

Blades and Fangs

Chloe couldn't decide whether she was giddy or horrified at her conduct. She hadn’t just acted like an immature, spoiled brat; what shocked her was not feeling like she was in control. She hadn't consciously chosen to say any of the crap that had spewed out of her mouth. Chloe had wished she could blame someone else, something else inside her. Her symptoms sounded too much like schizophrenia. Should she speak to someone about it?

She reached the hall and found it mostly empty; one lesson had ended twenty minutes ago, and the next bell had already rung. She stilled. There was no one around her at all, but it truly felt as if someone was watching her. She glanced outside at the already dark sky; night fell at four-thirty in this part of the world.

She could see the courtyard littered with training witches and sparring huntsmen. Chloe surprised herself, realizing how much she envied them.

She loved practically everything about this place, and part of her wished she truly belonged here. But she didn't. As soon as she finished her studies, she'd leave it behind. Join a finance firm somewhere. Maybe a bank. A week ago, that would have sounded like a considerable improvement over her situation. Now, she couldn't imagine a more boring fate.

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