Fated (Chapter 3)
I asked nervously, hoping that diversion would work with Stefan. His eyes narrowed and he raised a single eyebrow in amused disapproval at my attempt to deflect his questions. I should have known I'd be wasting my time. Obviously he had planned on how this conversation was going to work and I just needed to get with the program.
"That is an easy question for me to answer. To get away from vampire bullshit. Along with other reasons," Stefan answered, his jaw tensing with annoyance. "I find it unfair that I am answering your questions, yet I asked you first. Let me ask you again, Josephine. Why are you here?"
Shifting anxiously, I tried for nonchalance as I blurted out my standard bullshit line. "I'm a writer and I needed to get away. Why does it matter to you why I'm here?"
Stefan released his grip on my arms and moved his large frame to sit against the headboard of my bed, crossing his arms and silently appraising me. I shifted under the weight of his stare and hoped that if I didn't answer, his questions would stop. I wasn't accustomed to answering to anyone, let alone a 975 year old vampire.
I had a sinking feeling those days were over.
"That sounds like the rehearsed version of why you're here. Let us try another avenue. Tell me what you are and I will tell you why it is important that I know," Stefan paused, his face unreadable. "I had no problem telling you what I am and answering your questions. Can you not do the same for me?"
Pulling my legs up on the bed so my chin was resting on my knees, I let my hair fall around my face, shielding me from the scrutiny of his eyes. Logically, I knew he was right but fear gripped my chest like a vice. A tear escaped from my eye and ran down my cheek.
Stefan leaned forward, gently wiping the tear away with the pad of his thumb. "Tell me, Josephine. You can trust me."
I pulled in a shaky breath. He'd answered every question I'd thrown at him without any hesitation. My closely guarded secret about my abilities paled in comparison to his own confession about being a mythical creature.
I could already tell I was going to hate it when he was right.
"I am a writer. And I did need to get away. From people," I said quietly. My eyes drifted to the bamboo floor before looking at him again. "I'm a psychic empath, Stefan. Being around a lot of people drain me. You're the only other person that knows about this in Bali besides Anna and I'd like to keep it that way."
"Can you read me?" He asked, motioning with his hand for me to continue. His face was still a stony mask.
"No, you're a blank," I replied, pulling my legs closer to my body. "Georgia doesn't even know. Usually when people find out, I'm either treated like a Magic 8-Ball or looked at like a freak. I know how someone feels and I know things about people I don't want to know. I have visions that play out in my mind like a movie. You were different though. You came to me in my dreams."
Stefan's eyebrow raised again and he leaned forward in interest. "You had dreams about me? Explain."
Sighing heavily, I lifted my head up from my knees to meet his curious stare. I could thank my verbal diarrhea for this slip since I hadn't wanted to mention my dreams to him. "I had a few dreams about a man that looked like you. They seemed real and in them you spoke to me. Don't be mad…I can't help what pops into my head."
His face relaxed into a dazzling smile. "Josephine, I am anything but angry. Let me tell you my story, the best I can remember it," Stefan paused, running his tongue over his bottom lip and patting the bed beside of him with his large hand. I scooted to sit next to him, putting my head on his shoulder and laying my legs across his lap so I could look at him while he spoke.
He wrapped his arm around me and his eyes took on a far away quality as he searched through his memories, his fingers absently trailing over my tops of my thighs. "I was much like you during my human life. I had visions of events that had not yet happened and like you, I told few of my ability. After my human death my gift remained intact. Instead of seeing the futures of humans I can see the futures of other vampires. The ability has gotten stronger as I age. I have also gained the ability to control my gift and can turn it off when needed. At times a vision will leak through. It is not an exact science."
I snorted sarcastically at his last statement and Stefan laughed dryly in response. The corners of his mouth lifted in a slight smile as he continued with his story.
"It was approximately 200 years ago that I had a vision of a beautiful human woman on a beach. She would be a kindred spirit and her voice would call to me. I did not understand what that meant at the time, nor had I ever had a vision of a human after becoming a vampire. You can probably imagine the confusion I felt, knowing my destiny was to find her but having no idea where to begin looking for her or how to do it. After two centuries of searching, I found her. You," Stefan paused and his face broke into a glorious smile. "I had to wait over 200 years to find you, Josephine. Now I have to convince you to remain by my side."
He was worried about convincing me to stay? As scared as I was of having any kind of romantic relationship, there was something about him that drew me to him. The attraction between us was so profound it was almost magnetic. My mind drifted over our conversation and I had more questions for him.
"You mentioned 'vampire bullshit.' What exactly does that mean?" I questioned. Was there a network of vampires? And if so, I wondered if they were as annoying as humans that networked? I tried to envision vampires logging on to 'VampBook,' posting status updates and sending out friend requests. I inwardly laughed at the thought of vampires starting groups and 'liking' pages.
"Yes to both. They are as annoying as humans that network and we do network. There is no 'VampBook,' yet I am sure the board would find the idea interesting." Stefan hesitated, taking an unnecessary breath. "There are five members that sit on a Council. The Council answers to an Administrative Board of three. I assure you, it is boring and tedious." Stefan rolled his eyes, his lips frowning slightly. "I work mainly with the Board, because of both my age and ability. The Board sends their requests for me through the Council. Their requests are non-negotiable."
My eyes widened in alarm as he talked. I hadn't asked him about networking vampires out loud, I'd thought about it! He's also a mind-reader?! I buried my head in my hands for a moment, trying to hide the blush that was quickly spreading. He'd been reading every thought that had I'd had about him and he hadn't bothered to share that information with me? I was so furious I could hardly put a coherent thought together.
"Back up the train, Romeo. You can read minds?" I screeched loudly, feeling the burn of anger flush across my face.
Stefan cringed and placed his long index finger over my lips. "We are in the same room, there is no reason to scream like a banshee. I can assure you my hearing is perfect. In fact, I can hear Georgia at her villa next door," Stefan smirked, his eyes twinkling and his nose wrinkled in distaste. "Apparently she likes reggae."
"Quit avoiding my question. Can you read minds?" I asked through clenched teeth. Stefan's smirk deepened and I could feel my blood pressure rising. He needed to start talking and stop the sexy smirking before I exploded. I felt myself begin to tremble in anger and my heart was hammering in my chest as I waited for him to answer me.
The amusement quickly faded from his eyes and he regarded me with a cautious smile. He took my hand in his, rubbing the top of my hand with his thumb. I watched him warily as he absently stroked my hand.
"I cannot read all minds. Just yours and I cannot do that consistently. If your thought is strong enough or there is enough emotion behind the thought, then yes, I can read your mind. Some of your thoughts are quite amusing." Stefan grinned widely. "Your thoughts about 'spontaneous combustion' was actually quite funny, Josephine. I promise I will try to avoid reading your mind if it makes you that uncomfortable. It could be quite valuable if we could learn to communicate this way."
My jaw dropped and I looked at him like he'd suddenly sprouted two heads. My mind was whirling as I replayed our conversation in my mind. He was a vampire, we shared a similar ability and he could read my mind? He's making comments like we're going to be some kind of super power couple, mind-reading and conquering the world together? Would we wear matching capes or costumes?
"Josephine, I cannot read your mind right now but I can tell that it is going a million miles a minute." Stefan got up from the bed and extended his large hand to me. I looked up at him, my mouth still agape. "It is still early enough to go out. Shower, dress and I will be waiting for you in the living room."
Brushing Stefan's extended hand aside, I jumped up from the bed and stomped to the bathroom. I didn't look back at him. I knew if I did and saw that smirk on his face, I'd explode. I slammed the door closed and turned on the shower, stepping under the hot spray. Showering quickly, I dried myself off and pulled a comb rapidly through my hair. Wiping off the mirror with the towel, I rubbed moisturizer on my face and dabbed on lip gloss.
I found that the more I went through my routine, the less angry was at him. I wasn't sure how I felt about this instant relationship I could feel myself sinking into with him. Was he assuming I'd give up everything to follow him around the world on his 'vampire missions?!' The more I considered it, the more I realized I probably would do just that. There was some sort of invisible bond I felt to the vampire that was waiting for me in the other room.
Angrily stomping my foot in a very Georgia-like fashion at my thoughts, I opened the door to head back to my bedroom. I pulled out a pair of dark blue jeans and an aqua sequined tank top, picking out a matching bra and panties and quickly dressed. Slipping my feet into a pair of low-heeled sandals, I walked over to the full length mirror on my closet door and stopped briefly to put gold hoops through my ear lobes. Even though I was irritated, I had to admit that I'd never looked better. My skin was glowing, my cheeks flushed a soft pink. If this was the side effect of hot sex with a vampire Adonis, I'd gladly sign on for more.
Looking at my reflection for a final time in the mirror, I took several deep breaths and slowly walked down the hallway to see him sitting cross-legged on my couch. He was flipping through my first published book, 'Harnessing your Inner Psychic'. I stopped to take in the sight before me, feeling a giggle rise in my chest and deflating my remaining anger. It was funny enough trying to figure out how he'd managed to get his six-foot-four body in a cross-legged position on my couch. Seeing him reading a metaphysical self-help book was icing on the proverbial cake.
I felt my face relax into a large smile and I cleared my throat loudly. "Feeling the need for some metaphysical self-help?" I questioned innocently, still fighting my internal giggles.
Stefan looked up at me, his eyes twinkling. "I am happy that I amuse you." His gaze moved appreciatively over me, not missing one inch of my body. "You look beautiful, Josephine. Mouth-watering."
Stefan had changed into another pair of jeans and had paired them with a dark gray t-shirt that was as thin as tissue, the muscles of his chest outlined through the transparent material. A shiver moved down my spine as my eyes traced his torso longingly. I wanted to explore his chest with my hands and rip the shirt from him since I knew what was underneath. Shaking my head, I tried to clear my muddled thoughts and stomp down my growing, needy libido.
"Are you ready, Romeo?" I questioned as casually as I could manage, focusing on grabbing my purse and keys from the table. Stefan effortlessly unfolded himself from the couch and walked over join me by the door. He pulled me against the hardness of his body, his lips in my still-damp hair.
I felt him inhale slightly against me. Was he smelling me?! My body temperature rose when I realized that not only was he smelling me that I liked it. I knew it was time to change direction before dinner and our clothes became a distant memory.
"So, where are we going?" I asked curiously, pulling slightly away from him and tugging at his hand to follow me. We left the house and I stopped long enough for me to lock the door behind us.
"A restaurant called 'Deus.' I hear it has acceptable food." Stefan wrinkled his nose again. I had to admit that was one of his more adorable facial expressions. A six-foot plus vampire wrinkling his nose was not anything I ever expected to see.
"And what are you going to do while I eat? Can you eat?" I asked as he opened the car door for me, patiently waiting to close it until I'd pulled my legs inside of the small, expensive car. I was amazed that someone his size could squeeze in a car this small. I heard the driver's side door close and I realized just how fast he could move. It took him less than two seconds to make it around the car and get inside. My face must have reflected my shock because he grinned smugly at me.
"I cannot eat food. I will send most of my time pushing food on my plate and enjoying your company. Do not worry about me. I plan on eating later, vackra." His eyes burned into mine as the double meaning of his words sank in, causing me to squirm uncomfortably in my seat.
Reaching behind me for the seat belt, I clicked it into place. I tried to arrange my face into something that resembled a smirk, but I probably failed miserably. "I told you that you need to translate. I don't speak Swedish."
He laughed loudly at my statement and started the car, the engine a quiet purr. "Soon, vackra. Until then, you will just have to wonder. Du ?r vacker n?r du ?r arg."
I angrily crossed my arms under my chest. He was still laughing as he pulled out of my driveway onto the main road, heading into town.
We were sitting on the patio at Deus. It was nearly nine o'clock at night and the restaurant/bar was crowded with locals and tourists alike. It was artsy with surf boards and motorcycles on display throughout the building. I picked at my duck salad and greedily sucked down mojitos. Stefan moved chicken wontons around his plate while twisting his mouth in distaste, switching glasses with me when mine would empty, which was quite frequently.
"I think you're trying to get me drunk. Is that what you're trying to do?" I giggled as I downed my second drink, slamming the glass on the table. He smoothly switched drink glasses with me, so quickly that I almost didn't catch the movement of his hand.
"Explain what the purpose would be for me to do that, Josephine? We are already well acquainted and I have no need to try to get into your pants," Stefan teased, his eyebrows waggling seductively. "In fact, there are numerous parts of you I would like to revisit." He seemed to be distracted by watching me eat and drink, his eyes tracing over the curve of throat as I ate my dinner.
"Interesting. Care to share what places you'd like to revisit?" Biting my lip, I slipped my foot out of my shoe and slowly rubbed my foot up the inside of his leg. Stefan rested his elbows on the table and tented his fingers under his chin, grinning cockily. The alcohol was making me feel very bold and uninhibited. I was just getting ready to lean across the table when a tap on my shoulder interrupted my plans.
"Josie Anderson is out two nights in a row? Should I alert the media?"
Glancing up, I was stunned to see Anna and her companion of the evening standing at the edge of our table. I rose unsteadily to my feet and hugged Anna briefly, wondering why I hadn't been able to see this happening. This was at least the second time I'd been caught off guard by not having a mental vision to forewarn me. Anna patted me on the shoulder and pushed me back down in my chair, interrupting my inner thoughts. She flipped her dark brown curls over her shoulder, grabbing her date by the arm.
"Do you mind if we join you?" Anna asked, her brown eyes wide as she took in our table. I took a moment to focus on her date, noticing the similarities between Stefan and Mr. No Name that stood beside her.
He wasn't the kind of man Anna usually chose to date. She normally went for the blond surfer type, the kind of man that was all action and not much of a mental challenge. Her date tonight wasn't as tall or handsome as Stefan and looked to be a few years older, but he had the same iridescent quality to his ivory skin. His short hair was black and his ice blue eyes had a familiar sparkle to them.
Glancing across the table at Stefan, it was obvious by the look on his face that he knew the mystery man. A tiny smile lifted the corners of his lips and he winked at me.
"Please sit down. Josephine and I would love for you to join us. Lukas, it's good to see you," Stefan said, motioning to our table. Anna took the seat next to me and Lukas sat down across from Anna, next to Stefan. I had no idea my night out was going to include watching 'VampBook' in action.
"My manners are shitty, Josie. This is Lukas Meijer. He came in to look at properties two weeks ago and we struck up a friendship. Yada yada yada, he stopped in today before I left work and asked me to dinner. So, Josie this is Lukas. Lukas, my good friend Josie Anderson that I told you about. And Lukas, it's obvious you know Josie's friend. " Anna gave Lukas one of her patented death stares. I'd been on the receiving end of one of those looks once and I shivered involuntarily at the memory.
"Put that look away, bitch. It won't work on me," Lukas lisped in a loud voice. My eyes widened in surprise as I realized that not only was this vampire not Anna's date, he was flamboyantly gay. Lukas grabbed menus from the server that been silently standing by, watching the whole display with wide eyes.
He handed one to Anna and looked at the server. "She'll have an Amaretto Sour. And make it a big one so Ms. Bitch here will untighten the knot in her panties," Lukas paused for a dramatic effect. "And I'll have a Cosmopolitan."
"Of course you'd have a Cosmo. You're gayer than a unicorn farting out a rainbow." Anna rolled her eyes at Lukas. I felt another giggle escape from my lips as I looked across the table at Stefan in disbelief. His broad chest was shaking with silent laughter at Anna's cutting remarks. I was beginning to wonder if I was in some sort of Twilight Zone episode. I'm intimately involved with the sexy beast of a vampire seated across from me and now I'm in the presence of a vampire version of a much prettier Rupert Everett. Shaking my head in amused disbelief, I downed the rest of my third mojito in one swallow.
Anna shot Lukas another black look before opening her menu. "If I hadn't had to listen to you whine like a little bitch for the last hour and a half I wouldn't be in this mood, Lukas."
Lukas cocked his head to the side and sniffed, busying himself in studying his menu. I put my chin in the palm of my hand that rested on the table, my eyes darting back and forth as they bickered. I swallowed another giggle, deciding it was time to enter the conversation.
"So how do you know Stefan, Lukas?" I asked him, watching as Stefan's smile disappeared and he sent Lukas a look of caution.
He shot Stefan a pointed look, then focused on me after he closed his menu and placed in on the table in front of him. "Stefan and I worked on a project together many years ago. We struck up a friendship and the rest is history." He puckered his lips at Stefan. "I'm hurt that you didn't mention me to Josie. I thought we were better friends, Stefan." Lukas made a production of pulling his napkin out and wiping a non-existent tear away from his eye.
Stefan sighed heavily and rubbed his hand over his face in response to Lukas' theatrics, leaving me to wonder if I was in the presence of the gayest man, or should I say vampire, in the world.
Anna didn't try to hide her very visible eye roll. "Lukas. Take it down 15 notches on the Drama Queen scale. I still need to be able to eat tonight."
The server returned with their drinks and Stefan pointed to his empty drink glass, silently requesting another drink. I shook my head at Stefan, picking up my glass and taking a tiny sip.
Lukas and Anna ordered appetizers, and after the server left Anna turned to face me in her chair. She'd known me for quite some time and she had never known of me to even give the time of day to any man in Bali. Her curiosity and confusion was so strong that I had to slam my shield into place to block her.
"I see Georgia didn't have to kick Stefan's ass this morning. I'm assuming all hair was accounted for?" Anna asked snarkily, stirring her drink with the tiny straw and raising it to take a deep swallow.
"Yes. Georgia was overjoyed to see that Josephine was in good hands when she used her key and entered Josephine's villa this morning. Uninvited," Stefan replied dryly. He stared at me intensely and I could feel the heat and lust rushing through that one burning look. My stomach did a flip flop as I thought of different ways to undress him later, uncomfortably crossing my legs under the table.
"That's Georgia. Accept it now, it'll be easier for you than fighting it," Anna said as she finished her drink. She started looking around for the server to get a refill. "Lukas, I'm going to the bathroom. If our server comes around, get me another drink please." She slid away from the table and disappeared inside the restaurant. Lukas waited for Anna to get out of hearing range and then turned to Stefan.
"So this is the mystery woman." Lukas looked at me critically. He was quiet for a moment as he focused on me and turned his head from side to side, making me feel like I was under a microscope. I realized that this "dinner date" was no surprise by his comments and obvious scrutiny. "She's as stunning as you described she'd be. I'm assuming she knows."
"Yes. She knows of what we are. She is extremely perceptive. And beautiful," Stefan responded in a low voice, reaching across the table to take my hand. I shot Stefan a look filled with ire, a flush creeping across my cheeks. I hated being talked about as if I wasn't there, like I was a child that was incapable of keeping up with the conversation. Stefan raised an eyebrow, seemingly surprised at my sudden irritation.
"Hello, I'm sitting right here! You don't have to talk about me like I'm not here!" I exclaimed loudly. Stefan's thumb rubbed a calming circle on the palm of the hand he was holding and Lukas observed my display with an excited giggle, his eyes twinkling.
"I like her. She passes," Lukas said as he clasped his hands together. "Oh, Josie. I thought he'd never find you. I was starting to think he was crazy."
Letting out a muffled laugh, my mouth twitched in response to Lukas' statement. Stefan was the crazy one?!? I'd witnessed more drama and craziness from Lukas in the last 30 minutes than I had all day.
The server approached with Anna's food and Stefan's drink and Lukas took the opportunity to place a new drink order for Anna. After the server left, he leaned around Stefan to pour half of his drink onto the patio. He picked up a few of the wontons gingerly with his fingers and placed them into his napkin, wadding it up and tossing it under the table. He placed one on his plate and then turned to Stefan again. It was apparent that I was getting a crash course in Vampire Eating 101.
"The Council will want to meet her," Lukas advised simply as he turned his attention to me. "Has he explained the Council to you?"
Stefan's face darkened. "I have only known her for a day, Lukas. I mentioned the Council. There is no reason to scare her. Enough," Stefan muttered, his handsome face becoming severe and frightening.
For the first time, he looked like a vampire to me.
Lukas bowed his head and sat back in his chair. I was scared about whatever this 'Council' was, but I was turned on by the sense of power that Stefan had over Lukas. Stefan's nostrils flared, smelling my arousal. I sighed and self-consciously pressed my legs together, wondering if I was the human equivalent of a plug-in for him.
Stefan must have read my thoughts because his face lightened and he chuckled quietly in response.
I looked up to see Anna approaching the table, the server behind her with her drink. "It's about fucking time. I was wondering what a girl had to do to get a refill," Anna announced to the table. "And I see you started eating without me, Lukas. Don't you need to watch your girlish figure?"
Anna was one of those people that made you either laugh or cry with her biting sarcasm. She took no mercy on anyone.
"I'm sure it would be nothing you haven't already done. Sit your bitchy ass down and drink your drink," Lukas retorted loudly, causing her to shoot Lukas another look. Vampires must be immune to Anna's death stare because Lukas simply rolled his eyes and pushed the drink closer to her.
Stefan and I stayed for another hour, mainly to laugh at Lukas and Anna. I soaked up Anna's happiness like a sponge. She was thrilled to have finally found her gay friend here in Bali. Lukas alternated between lamenting over his lack of love life and exchanging snarky barbs with Anna. Finally calling it a night, we paid the bill and made our way to our respective vehicles.
Anna pulled me into a hug. "Stop by the office. We can chat about sex on a stick over there." She jerked her head towards Stefan as she whispered in my ear.
Hugging her back, I pulled away to give her a non-committal smile. "I'll do that."
Stefan came up behind me and wrapped his long arms around my shoulders, resting his chin on the top of my head. I leaned back against him, enjoying his cool embrace.
"No you won't. But I still love you like a sister."
I shrugged and smiled weakly. Anna knew me too well.
"Anna. It was a pleasant surprise seeing you again this evening. Lukas, be safe getting her home," Stefan said, tugging me towards his Audi and opening the door for me. I waved goodbye to Anna as Stefan to slide into the driver's seat. He started the car and headed down the road to my villa. We had barely been driving for a minute when I started asking questions.
"Explain why I would need to meet the Council?" I wasn't waiting for Stefan to explain this to me in a smooth, sugar coated version. I needed more information and I didn't want to wait for him to decide when he wanted to explain it to me.
"They know of you, of course. Other vampires have talents, Josephine. A telepathic vampire was able to see my vision of you many years ago," Stefan murmured, his voice quiet. I silently scanned his face, illuminated by the interior lights on the dashboard. "You would be a powerful ally for us to have. You have the ability to see what I cannot, which is the future of humans."
I swallowed back a gasp, a mixture of anger and fear making my blood run cold. I was going to be used to read the futures of humans for vampires? My stomach churned and I felt like I was going to vomit.
"Is this the real reason you found me? You and your 'Council' need me to read humans?" I spat, feeling my eyes fill with angry tears. Without thinking, I went into panic mode. I knew it was too good to be true. I'd been lied to once again. Stefan and his vampires would use me like a toy, only to be thrown away when my usefulness had run its course. When I felt the car come to a stop and pull slightly off the road, my jaw was clenched in anger.
"It is nothing like that," Stefan said, his voice strained. I ignored him and stared straight ahead, refusing to meet his eyes. "Josephine, please look at me."
I turned my head slightly to look at him, my expression hard. Stefan's handsome face was pained, his eyes fearful. I felt my resolve soften slightly as I took in his appearance.
"You must believe me when I tell you that was never my intention. I have loved you for over two centuries. I never searched for you just to find you and use you," Stefan hesitated for a moment, his voice thick with emotion. "Josephine, you have to believe me. What can I do to make you to trust me?"
Hot tears leaked from my eyes in earnest. I may not be able to read Stefan's emotions but I could see them as if they were written on his face. He was tense and worry flashed in his eyes. He was possibly more afraid than I was at the moment.
"Prove to me that you're telling me the truth and give me time to trust you," I whispered in the darkness of the car.
Stefan smiled, the stress leaving his face. "I can do both. I have all the time in the world, vackra."
The car began to move again and I let my head fall back against the head rest. I sighed softly when I felt his hand take mine, intertwining our fingers together.
A small smile broke across my face as he squeezed my hand gently. My heart skipped a beat as I my mind drifted back over the only part of our conversation that really mattered to me. He had said he had loved me for over 200 years.
He loved me.