“Falling in love with someone, sharing yourselves and experiences together creates the most powerful memories.”
University of Britchester On-Campus Housing
Walking back into the on-campus house, the same one his father Blaine had once stayed in while attending college here, and Chase’s oldest sister Vivien after him long ago now, two heads popped up, then Hailey immediately came to him and hugged him, held him, before releasing him with a brief kiss, for Colton to apply his bro-hug.
“You okay man?” he asked, patting Chase’s back, his answer was just a half-hearted nod.
It was still a lie, even if an unspoken one. Within just a few months Chase’s life had completely changed, all their lives had, but especially his. He felt furthest from anything that could pass as ‘okay’ having just returned from a funeral in Windenburg. No, okay was not even remotely how he felt.
It all had started out great. First his 18th birthday, celebrated together with Hailey and Colton’s, who both had their 18th birthdays within some weeks of his. Everyone had been flown in by Chase’s parents to celebrate at the Cameron Mansion in Del Sol Valley, literally everyone, and no expenses had been spared for the event. Every single member of all the families, his, Colton’s and Hailey’s had been there. So many people, Chase had never seen their sprawling mansion so crowded before, on every floor, in almost every room there were pools of people, talking, eating, drinking, laughing, dancing, singing and just having fun. All there to celebrate that landmark of their lives.
But that wasn’t all, far from it. Just a few weeks before, he had been notified that he was getting his own dedicated tile on the Walk of Fame as the youngest artist ever at only 17, for his music that had been used in movies and TV series. Not the kind of on-stage fame he was ultimately going for, but still an incredible achievement. He still hadn’t received one measly Accolade award, the committee making that decision was known to be stingy with those for anyone under the age of 18. Maybe soon, now that he was finally old enough? They better! Even though finding time to write and compose while studying proved harder than Chase had expected it to be, but he’d drop something big, something so amazing that his fans would revolt if he still didn’t get his fucking award then at long last, as would he. He wanted one so badly and dammit, he would get one. And when he would have that, he would try to get more until he matched the impressive numbers his father, grandparents, sister and brother had by now. Just you all watch, world.
High school graduation had been a blur, all he really remembered was him and his classmates being totally out-of-control crazy excited, screaming and cheering, then the graduation dinner with his family, his little sister Caitlin idolizing him more than usual, even though she was very distracted by their latest foster kid, Heath, who had latched on to her so much, it looked like more like stalking to Chase most of the time. Cait didn’t seem to mind, and she wasn’t the type to deal with things that rubbed her wrong, so if it were to get too much, she would most definitely put a damper on Heath. Cait was the personification of self-confidence, and already had at least 2, if not 3 boys fighting for her undivided attention now, only a short time till they all would hit puberty and Chase felt sorry for his parents already. Even as her brother, Chase could see what a beauty his little sister would grow into before long.
Then the graduation trip to Selvadorada followed, something that had been planned and dreamed of with Colton when they were both still young teens, later, Hailey was added to the dream by Chase.
And it had been so much fun. At least initially. Three teens alone in the jungle? Two of them immortal. Oh, it was a feast of excitement and joy, so many new sights and sounds and just them being together for it all was uber-special.
Until the call came in.
The kind of call everyone dreads.
The three of them were in an ancient temple they had found, exploring, when Chase’s phone rang, it was his dad Blaine calling to tell him his great-uncle Declan had died. It were the most devastating words Chase had ever heard. Declan was his grandpa Everett’s older brother, they had always been close, they saw each other all the time, so the rest of the family was close to him and his wife Rory as well, even though they lived far away. Declan and Rory had just been there for a visit for Chase’s birthday only weeks ago. And now he was gone? Just like that?
Fast forward a few days, here Chase was, standing by the grave, it felt so unnatural to him, knowing his beloved great-uncle was down there, all alone under 6 feet of dirt, surrounded by all the stone statues that were supposed to bring comfort but only seemed cold, when he had always been such a warm, kind and fun person with the hearty, contagious belly laugh that would put Santa to shame. Occasionally, Declan’s overflowing love for his and his brother’s family had been a bit much at times, especially for a teen boy of the brooding sort like Chase had always been.
But he knew that Declan had always known it was just phases and that all kids, grandkids, great-grandkids and great-nieces and nephews adored and loved him dearly, not only because they all often told him so. Suddenly overwhelmed by many happy memories and the realization there would never be any new ones with Declan, Chase fell apart and it took days for him to recover, once he did, he immediately started feeling guilty realizing he should have been there for his beloved grandpa Everett, since he had been so close to his older brother and was especially miserable, even more so than all the rest of them.
Needless to mention that the Selvadorada trip had ended for Chase with that call, mixing guilt into the sadness about ruining it for Colton and Hailey, even though he had told them to stay, which neither wanted.
Instead, the three of them had spent the summer together, as the summers before, visiting each other a lot, and then – just like that – it had been time to go off to college.
Before classes even officially started, both boys had joined the university soccer team and both excelled, since they obviously rarely got tired. Hailey still had her part-time barista job, but had transferred to an on-campus branch of the coffee shop chain she had been working for all along. They soon settled into a routine.
Despite his success in college, as confusing as it had been to the three of them in the beginning, Chase often worried about the mortal family members now, especially his elder grandparents, which made him melancholic and left him feeling helpless. His grandma Maeve had lost her older sister Cordelia just weeks before Declan had passed. His grandpa Everett was only two years younger than Declan, his grandma five. But did that mean they would live that much longer? Or would the calls just keep rolling in now? Everyone was very concerned about Declan’s widow Rory, she seemed lost without her ‘Decs’.
To Chase it was painfully obvious that they were now on borrowed time and it scared him.
Before he was so harshly confronted with the reality of death, he never really noticed much of a difference between vampires and his mortal family, except the obvious, but now he had been made painfully aware of some of the undeniable ways they weren’t the same, and couldn’t help but look at it through very different eyes.
His oldest sister Vivien and her husband Liam were both mortal. His older half-brother Blake and Mila were mortal. And what about Hailey? Even at their young age the mere thought of living in a world without Hailey one day frightened Chase. He could not recall his life before he met her, nor did he really care to. Why did mortals have to be mortal in the first place anyway?! Idiotic concept!
To Chase it became clearer why so many vampires categorically refused to date mortals for serious relationships, rather than just brief flings and one-night-stands. Chase had always wondered about it, since most of them clearly preferred the touch and feel of warm skin, enjoyed the sound of a heartbeat when snuggled up, the feeling of breath on one’s skin, none of which a vampire partner could ever offer, while many mortals found vampires mysterious and enticing and were just intrigued by the concept of their existence alone. But raunchy nights were not the same as a life together, which was usually out of the question for both sides. Few mortals were willing to put up with the many ways vampires couldn’t help just being different and the vampires didn’t want to get invested in a partner which seemed so weak and frail in comparison and who would age and die on them.
Chase had always wondered why his uncle Caelan had been granted special authorization to turn his then still mortal wife Rhiannon on the day of their wedding about 4 or 5 years ago.
Now he knew why that had been so very important to Caelan that he would make that part of his wedding night. Caelan had lost a lot before meeting Rhiannon and evidently, had enough of it. Judging by the comfortable routine those two had settled into, Rhiannon wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon and neither was Caelan. He had changed quite a bit since meeting his wife, for the better this time.
Chase looked at Hailey, watched her go about her tasks, wondering if and how he could get such an authorization from his grandpa Caleb. But even if he were to grant it, which was doubtful, would she even want this life? She had always been more than accepting of him being what he was, but being accepting was still a far cry from wanting to be like that oneself. Hailey wasn’t the type that came to mind when people thought of the epitome of a vampire and there was always the risk of vampires losing their human emotions, making them cold and calculating, like it had happened to his great-aunt Lilith, and even one of her daughters was like that from birth, while her twin sister seemed almost like a mortal, even though she wasn’t. Was that a risk worth taking, on the off-chance Hailey would even want that? What about her family? Like Chase was with his family, she was very close with her parents and siblings. No way would Caleb allow them all to be turned so … Hailey would have to choose to watch them die one day. Would she? Could she? Could he even ask that of her?
As stupid as it may sound, ever since Chase had first met her, ironically here on the U-Brite campus, he had known he wanted to marry her one day. He didn’t even realize it then, not initially, but once they had gotten closer, he just knew.
Which was why he just proposed to her on his birthday, shocking everyone, including her, but she had said yes right away anyway. Everyone had thought he was nuts for getting engaged at barely 18, but to Chase there wasn’t a shadow of a doubt. It was Hailey for him and only ever her.
“When you know, you know. And I just know. I want to be with Hailz forever.” he had repeated more often than a broken record when people asked why the rush, as they clearly assumed an unplanned pregnancy was behind all of it. It wasn’t.
But how long exactly was forever in mortal?
He had family members who had lost loved ones to diseases and accidents well before their time. Vampires never really bothered to think about something as banal to them as death, until they had gotten close to a mortal. Chase wasn’t an exception. Now he couldn’t stop thinking about death. 80 years, the average lifespan of a mortal may seem like a lot to mortals, but to a vampire it sounded more like the blink of an eye.
So what was the solution?
Turn everyone he cared about now and in future and maybe everyone they cared about too? Hardly possible, nor practicable, since eventually the entire population would probably have to be turned by that logic, and his kind still needed mortals for blood. Be it bagged, offered or taken, the majority of his kind refused to live on plasma fruit and synthetic blood, some ancient ones couldn’t even digest it at all. And he had to admit, it was always best fresh from the source.
Man, hers had tasted like every good emotion known to mankind all at once and still gave him goosebumps whenever he remembered that moment. He had never planned to ever feed on her, but during the trip – a day or two before the fateful call about Declan had come in – Chase had made a mistake and forgotten to pack nourishment during one of the excursions into the Selvadorian jungle, and naturally, then he ended up needing it most.
While exploring the temple, Chase had misjudged a trap set by the ancients, and gotten singed bad all over his front and arms, his skin bubbling with heat blisters.
The only way for a vampire to recover quickly and stop the pain, was to drink blood, the medicine of the mortals didn’t work on his kind. Colton had already consumed his pack to counteract his exhaustion and didn’t have an extra to share, porting to camp was too risky as successful porting required you to be very familiar with the area, which none of them were yet, plus Chase was now too weakened to port himself.
So Hailey had offered him to drink from her. Staring at her wrist, a safe spot, even if he ever were to make a mistake or get carried away a little, she couldn’t be accidentally turned that way, like it had happened to his originally mortal dad, during some extra kinky love-making thing when Chase’s mom Scarlett was evidently drinking from his neck during them doing the naughty. As appalling as this may sound to some, combining feeding and love-making when a vampire and a mortal engaged in intimacy was quite the thing and part of what had always made that kind of interaction interesting and exciting for both sides.
While it was very rare, sometimes accidents happened during such kinky moments, but also very rarely during regular feeding, especially when a vampire was under a form of stress, very excited or weakened already, like Chase was now, so he didn’t dare feed from Hailey’s neck, which would bring much quicker results for him and probably would be less painful for her.
The strict and plentiful rules for vampires about feeding and turning literally filled volumes of large tomes, violations were punished severely and rarely stayed secret for long since the vampire network seemed to have eyes and ears everywhere. Between that worry and fear of scaring or hurting Hailey, while knowing he had little other choice, he was trembling when he rubbed her wrist to find the bloodline, when he felt her tremble as well.
“Let’s not do this, Patches. I’ll be fine … eventually.” he said, letting go, gently running the back of his hand against her cheek.
“You are NOT fine! You are VERY burned, Chase. You are clearly hurt and seeing you like that hurts me. So, it’s either gonna be you feeding on me or I will call the emergency helicopter to take you to a field station for treatment!”
“Patches, that doesn’t work for me. They can’t help … Oh, I get it … you’re making a point.”
“I am. Chase, we’re engaged to be married. For better or worse. THIS is what you do then for someone you love. So either drink from me, or I am gonna have to assume your ring is a farce and there is a chance you’ll probably dump me after college.”
“WHAT?! Bullshit! I love you, baby! You know that.”
Her face stopped inches from his, she kissed him, then whispered near his ear.
“Prove it. I always wondered how this would feel anyway …”
“It’s gonna hurt, Hailz, what do you think? No matter how careful I am, I will have to break skin and …” he couldn’t go on as she kissed him with increasing intensity, which got his emotions and desire up. Hers too, which was romantic, but also good for him as it increased her blood flow, making drinking easier and quicker.
“Do it.” she whispered into his ear.
So he pulled her close against himself, holding her wrist with a gentle, yet iron grip, then with a swift fluid movement split open her sleeve near the buttons by the wrist, bared his fangs and bit down. He felt many sensations all at once. The one thing he never wanted to do for fear of repelling her became one of the most special moments they had ever shared.
Chase was overwhelmed by the cornucopia of sensations, her soft skin, her scent, followed by the taste of her life essence, sweet, tasty medicine, her slight twitch and light moan from the sudden flash of pain, quickly replaced by some sort of pleasure sound by them both. Then it felt similar to a climax for him, and like they were suspended in time and space, even though it only lasted barely over a minute until he forced himself to let go, sealing her bite wound with a kiss.
She watched him, intensely, with a sense of amazement and wonder written all over her face as right before her very eyes his skin was healing itself and within seconds Chase looked like nothing had ever happened, as if someone had hit the ‘back’ button on a photo editing software.
“Blood helps restore vampires and our saliva has the ability to seal the wound of the … donor.” Chase mumbled apologetic.
“Out of everything you could have said, you went with the most unromantic lesson on vampires you could think of …” she smiled, teasing him to gloss over his guilty feelings.
“Sorry. I meant to say thank you for this. You okay, Patches? I didn’t hurt you too bad, did I?” Chase looked and sounded every bit as awkward as he felt.
“Barely felt a thing …” she said, then kissed him, when a voice from behind them startled them both.
“Ouch, Chase’s joystick not doing the trick anymore for you Hailz? But enough about last night, you two love birds. Here’s a wet rag, kinda like you were climbing up here, Chasenator. Let’s get your wiped down, then this buttoned up so we can make camp somewhere. It’s getting dark and as much as I personally like the darkness, there are a bunch of big animals who do as well, and I am not in the mood to play Jungle Jim while fighting off big, hungry carnivores, especially not after watching my best friend get toasted on the extra-crispy setting here today. Good thing you’re immortal or we’d be sweeping you into a Ziploc baggy right now.”
“Really Colton? Couldn’t have given us ONE SINGLE MINUTE? Chase and I were having a moment and you have to burst into it all insensitive and all?! He got really hurt bad, you klutz! And for the record, no complaints from me about ANY body parts of his. Everything meets or exceeds expectations.” Hailey reamed him.
“Okay, okay, keep your panties on and retract claws, kitty. You guys have moments all the time. Besides, I figured if I let you two go on, you’d be doing it on the floor here and I respect ancient cultures enough to not desecrate their temples with bare butts, especially not those of my two best friends. Plus, nobody here aside from you wants to see THAT.”
“Do I look like I care about your prude eyeballs? If Chase and I wanted to do it right here, we would, and you would have to deal. Pretty sure you can find the door you left and came back through one more time. Besides, jealous much?!” Hailey challenged him.
She and Colton had bonded too and were close, which was surprising, knowing Colton. He rarely let anyone new into his well sealed off world, especially not mortals. Maybe it was because he grew up in Forgotten Hollow among vampires, while Chase grew up among mortals, so almost all of his friends were mortals. Or maybe it was just how Colton was. But he had let Hailey in, even considered her a best friend, and their bickering was always friendly, just like the two boys had always done, Hailey was one of them now.
“Me? Why would I be jealous, huh, Hailz? Chase gets to have his girlfriend – sorry – wifey-to-be, with him everywhere, here, at college, while my fucking whore of an ex dumped me for reasons I cannot even try to compete with, since I cannot suddenly grow a beating heart, functional GI tract and be warm to the touch and all mortal and shit. But to put the cherry atop that steaming bowl of shit that dumb bitch didn’t even have the mind to not let herself get knocked up by her decaying pile of flesh replacement lover. No winning her back now, he can have her for sure. I am not doing THAT soap opera BS to myself!” Colton nearly spat the words out, without any effort to hide how much all that affected him.
“WHAT?!” it echoed from both Hailey and Chase.
“Oh, sorry, did I forget to tell you guys the most humiliating part, which I found out through the high school friends grapevine just before we left? Yeah, I ran into several people who almost fell over themselves to tell me that she is preggers. At barely 18. She always told me she never wanted kids. I even decided at some point neither did I then, for her, just so she and I could be together … well. Guess it is, what it is. Whatever, right?” Colton’s words were purposely spoken casual, while the pain was dripping from them and visible in his face. His nonchalance was a rouse.
“Oh no, Cole! That is … so … come here!” Hailey said, then pulled Colton into a hug, which he accepted frowning, then melted into it, which flared up Chase’s jealous side. He trusted both of them, knew for a fact Colton would NEVER take his girl from him any more than Chase would do something like that to him. But if this were ANY other guy than Colton, that guy would find himself eating Chase’s fists and feet right about now and he wouldn’t stop until that guy were in a puddle of blood. Yes, Chase had always been extremely jealous and it hadn’t gotten better after he entered a long-distance relationship with someone as beautiful as Hailey.
“It hurt bad, Hailz. Still does.” Colton mumbled into Hailey’s shoulder, much to Chase’s surprise. Colton rarely ever spoke about feelings, let alone open up to someone he hadn’t known all his life. Proof again that Hailey really wasn’t your average girl. And Chase also knew that Colton was far from over Nadia, which was why the news must burn like acid.
“I know. But you have us. You’ll ALWAYS have us and we got your back. We’ll never leave you. Promise. No matter how much of a douche you sometimes are – and you are, Colton.” she said, as she released Colton.
It seemed to have worked, Colton looked better now, even smirked at Hailey as he nudged her for her comment, to which she stuck her tongue out at him. ‘What do you know?’ Chase thought, as those very moments at that ancient temple had left him with a new feeling, as he couldn’t help but imagine her comforting a future child they may have one day maybe ten years down the line, just the way she just handled a complex and complicated, withdrawn person like Colton with such ease.