Until the Sun Falls from the Sky(2)

By: Kristen Ashley

“Avery,” she greeted and smiled up at him.

“Lydia.” He took her hand, bent low and brushed it against his lips. “It’s always a pleasure,” he went on after dropping her hand. “I hear our Lana is faring well.”

He knew my sister, Lana. And he knew she was faring well.

This was true. Lana had been to her Selection three years ago. She’d been selected, according to my mother, within minutes of arrival. She’d done very well for the Buchanans; a vampire of some status had chosen her. She was still in her Arrangement with the vampire who selected her without any hint she’d be released.

This was unusual. I’d been told after I received my invitation which heralded the time new secrets could be shared that Arrangements lasted on average two to three years before the vampire released his or her concubine and moved on. Any Arrangement that lasted longer than that was known to be particularly successful.

The Buchanan women for five hundred years had made a habit of such accomplishments. My mother’s Arrangement had lasted seven years. She was practically a legend. At least that was what my Aunt Millicent told me with some envy, her Arrangement had lasted four and three quarter years. The “and three quarters” was a very important addition to Aunt Millicent.

I’d never met Lana’s vampire. As an Uninitiated, I wasn’t allowed. I didn’t even know his name. I had seen Lana countless times since her Selection. She was ecstatically happy though she couldn’t tell me why, it was plain to see she was.

“And this is Leah,” Avery said, his words low, giving me the strange impression there was some meaning to them outside of the fact that I was, indeed, Leah.

He’d taken me out of my thoughts and my eyes focused on him to see he was studying me and had his large hand extended toward me, palm up.

My mother nudged me.

I put my hand in his and he brought it up, brushed his lips against it and then his grip tightened. He didn’t let go as he looked in my eyes.

“I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”

Again, there was more meaning to this. More than me being a Buchanan, the first concubine family that put their name to the Immortal and Mortal Agreement five hundred years ago. More than me being the Legendary Lydia’s daughter. More than just common courtesy.

“Thank you,” I whispered, my voice soft and not my own mainly because he was freaking me out even more.

He smiled at me, dropped my hand and looked at my mother. “Lucien will be very pleased.”

My mother dipped her head down and looked at Avery under her lashes before she murmured, “I hope so.”

What was this? Who was Lucien and why would he be pleased?

“Who’s…?” I started but Avery’s long arm swept out, cutting off my question.

He caught both me and my mother in its length and turned. He opened the wide heavy door with no apparent effort and gently led us through.

I blinked at the sudden light.

“Lydia Buchanan, Distinguished,” Avery bellowed from behind us, “and Leah Buchanan, Uninitiated!”

The soft murmur of party conversation suddenly silenced at his words. Everyone turned to stare.

I stared back.

There was a lot to stare at. Too much. I couldn’t take it all in.

The room was oval. It was opulent. I’d never seen anything like its simple finery.

Rich, blood red walls, again with the white cornices and ceilings, no windows as we were well below the earth’s surface. No paintings, no mirrors, just lots and lots of deep, blood red. An enormous oval chandelier illuminated the room, its millions of crystals dancing prisms of light everywhere. There was a plush, blood red, oval carpet on the floor that didn’t reach the edges of the room and you could see the dark, gleaming wood at the sides.

There were people there, maybe a hundred, maybe more. Even with that many people the room was far from filled it was so large. Everyone was wearing black, like my mother. The men in black evening dress with sparkling white shirts. The distinguished ex-concubines (or mothers, aunts or grandmothers of the Uninitiated) in glamorous black gowns. The female vampires, appearing much younger than the males but no less elegant, also in black gowns.

There were maybe only a dozen women wearing blood red gowns amongst the group and I noticed that my gown was different.

This, I realized instantly, was a tactical error on my part. Even though I was one in only a few who wore blood red, I was going to stand out.

I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t want to be selected.

Damn it all to hell.

I’d put my foot down about the gown. Not that my mother wanted me to wear what some of the other Uninitiated were wearing. However she’d wanted a little more dazzle, which I thought would bring unwanted attention to myself not to mention, I wasn’t a dazzle type of person.

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