He is the eldest brother of three orphaned dark vampire waifs, bound by a lifetime vow of service to protect the offspring of the Golden Vampire Monteleone family. This is a debt that Lionel Jett can never discharge.
Phoebe Monteleone is a nineteen year old virgin, a Golden who has not taken the turning and who appears identical to her ancient great-great-grandmother, Maria Monteleone. Lionel Jett once harbored a secret and platonic love for Maria, who died as a mortal over three centuries ago.
The two vampire races are forbidden to mate, yet Phoebe and Lionel’s attraction risks their very souls. In addition, the war brewing between the two species threatens the entire vampire society. When the two worlds collide, who will win out? Will their brief affair be worth an eternity of damnation? Or, can duty and honor leave room for love or the possibility of a happily ever after?
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Lionel Jett had always thought Christmastime was more about angels, than the celebration of vampires and their vampire society. But the emotional responses within his soul were ticking like a timebomb. On the one hand, the beautiful candlelit services, held at night, so he could attend, were striking and revived in him his higher calling to protect the innocent and all things good and pure. To eliminate evil.
It was the celebration of the birth of an innocent, after all—a birth that would forever change humanity. Mortals believed that a woman gave birth to a child without having sex. Well, Lionel had seen many things in his three hundred years of life, and he couldn’t rule out that this legend was actually fact. For if that occurred, then there was the possibility of redemption for himself, and perhaps the chance for peace amongst the two vampire species.
His thick frame was forced to hunch a bit, his shoulders rounded so he could fit into the pews that were made for much smaller beings, mostly mortal. The wooden hand-carved benches weren’t constructed for huge dark coven vampires, unless they were designed to say, “you are not welcome.”
The Gregorian chants reverberated throughout the halls of the chapel where Marcus had first met his fated mate, Ann. Lionel watched a woman and her children light tiny red votive candles in the alcove at the side. The light made their faces glow with that effect only mortals had. It was as if the goodness in them showed through their transparent skin, laced with the life-giving blood of their species, an elixir to some, and the highly prized substance others would die to protect.
Of all their traits, mortals’ gift to the world was that of love and innocence. Though some of their race claimed to be warriors, they would never be matches for the evil likes of some of the strongest dark covens.
But their God had told them they could achieve anything if they had faith. They had the gift of belief because their lives were so short. Of course they believed in miracles. They’d never live long enough to see true miracles, after all. Or the way the world really was.
He could sign on to protect those ideas. It was something that spoke to him as a true warrior. He’d be able to protect those who had no clue they needed protecting. And he might die doing so, without any observance on their part.
Mortals were a strange combination of emotions and traits. They scared easily. They sometimes maintained a bravado like a David and Goliath story from their bible. They were underdogs, but like in the cartoon story, they never stopped fighting though the odds were against them. They sometimes allowed anger to interrupt their lifeline, or justified its benefits when it really never helped them.
But their most stunning quality was that of compassion. On that, they could teach the world. They had the gift of living a life untainted, if they so chose. Trusting in their God, when in actuality, their unseen vampire brethren were responsible for much of their safety. They believed in the laws of nature more than the laws of vampire. Lionel found this humerous.
The delicate children’s choir made their way down the center aisle, each child with an inverted paper cup with a white candle stuck into the base, so their little hands would be protected from any dripping wax. Their voices were soothing. He could make out every one of them, and it left him gentled, like listening to a babbling brook with water flowing over pebbles beneath the current. Each child had a distinctive series of tones, sometimes with thoughts laced in there, if the mind read was strong with them.
He remembered the night they said mass for Maria Monteleone, the only woman in Lionel’s life he ever loved. He’d have gladly foregone any chance at having any type of sexual relationship with her just to be in her presence, and had begged her to live on after the death of her mortal husband, taking the turning late in her life. But she refused, smiled, touched his cheek with her dainty lavender scented palm, and shared a tear with him.
“Lionel, my trusted protector, I know what’s in your heart. I am given life enough with the knowledge that it’s there. No need for us to speak of it or demonstrate it to anyone but ourselves. Our eternal secret.”
He’d wanted to take her in his arms, but he would never shatter what they had. He was the only one she would take on as a protector, and the family knew Lionel would die doing so, if necessary. It was wonderful, beautiful Maria who had saved his life by asking he be made vampire when she found all three brothers left for dead after an attack by a dark coven lord.
The family had decided a trusted dark would do the turning, so that there would always be distance between Maria and her dear Lionel. He always wondered if she’d argued for another choice.
He was there when she married Marcus and Paolo’s father, was there as she bore him the dozen children, and as she continually turned down her husband’s request to turn with him. And he was with her as her mortal life left her, on a starlit evening when the real stars were in her eyes, until they became fixed on him and then floated away. Like a piece of tissue paper, her spirit was gone, to become one with her God of Humans and her Mother Nature.
The hole in his heart was still the largest pain in his life. There wasn’t a day that went by when he didn’t wonder what would have happened if he’d chosen to take a more active role in that relationship with her, or could have fought stronger for what he knew was some kind of fating that never could be consumed.
He looked up at the bleeding figure of Christ nailed to a wooden cross, and he understood the man’s pain, the regrets he might have had, his need to protect and love his flock, and to die for them. The miracle had been sent, only to have the evil factions of the mortal crowd kill him off. He walked amongst his people understanding this, all the while he remained on earth.
Lionel hoped that he still lived somewhere they called Heaven. For he and his vampire brothers and sister, death was just the end of a long, long life, usually. There was no Heaven. There was no happily ever after in the clouds that sent rain and wind and sometimes covered the sun and the moon. It was just death, with nothing beyond.
And yet, as he listened to the beautiful chanting and allowed the scents of mortals to envelop him, felt the heat of their bodies, some of their thoughts and worries, and glow from the candles, he’d like to pretend he believed in a time that would never last, where everything would be perfect and not end. Where love, like the love he had for Maria, would never end.
He was hopeful. It was a silly thought, but it was something that warmed him from the inside, as if he was a mortal again, as if he still held that innocent light inside.
© 2018 Sharon Hamilton