Do you know what it’s like to feel so in the dark?
To dream about a life where you’re the shining star
Even though it seems like it’s too far away
I have to believe in myself, it’s the only way
This is real, this is me, I’m exactly where I’m suppose to be now
Gonna let the light shine on me
Now I’ve found, who I am there’s no way to hold it in
No more hiding who I want to be, this is me
~ This is Me, Demi Lovato
Our small group moved through the Casino with ease, emerging from the hubbub of glamorous men and women into the lobby of the building. Taking a left we wandered down a few more marble corridors until eventually, we reached a large dome. The dome consisted of two floors and we stood on the upper level. I noted that this level contained up-market restaurants and the level below consisted of casual diners and cafés.
Entering Rao’s, the Italian restaurant, we were immediately shown to a private booth, tucked away in a corner from prying eyes and unwanted visitors. Eric allowed me to slide in first, and then took his seat next to me. Godric mimicked us with Ata, letting her get in first.
A waiter came over and handed Ata and me golden menus while Eric and Godric were given menus bound in thick leather. Our waiter disappeared to give us a moment to choose. “Whatever you want is on me for the whole of your stay, so indulge yourselves,” Ata declared happily, folding her menu up and placing it before her, already knowing what she wanted. I felt bad, spending all her money. I’d already gambled a lot of it, all right so I’d won it all back and then made some but that wasn’t the point. If I couldn’t take Eric’s money, then I sure as hell couldn’t take Ata’s.
I opened my mouth to protest and ask to pay for my own meal but Eric knew me well and nudged my foot under the table, causing me to close my mouth against my will. I would find some way to repay Ata later.
Both Eric and Godric placed their menus down too, neither of them was hungry and I could understand why. Ata and I were on tap for them and due to our fae heritage, we were probably considered the equivalent of caviar in the vampire world. Why drink something that tasted bland and vile when you could have something fresh and sweet?
Finally, the waiter returned and took our orders, I frowned at the menu for a moment, uncertain with my pronunciation. Leaning over the table, Ata glanced at my menu before turning to the waiter and addressing him in perfect Italian. “Could we please have two Marinara Sauce and Tomato Rigatoni Filet’s with a pitcher of sweet tea too?” she asked the waiter who scribbled down our order before nodding, taking the menus from us and disappearing from sight.
Looking at Ata I couldn’t keep the awe off my face, she was full of surprises. “What did you order and how on earth did you learn Italian?”
“I ordered your pasta and mine along with a pitcher of sweet tea. I find it to be my vice of choice lately! And I learned Italian in the 16th century, I travelled to Venice with my boys for a holiday and during the daylight hours, I kept the company of an elderly glass blower. He taught me the language every day for three years until he sadly passed away from a heart attack. He had no children and no wife so he left his business to me as thanks for the companionship I gave him. I still have his business now and have employed others to manage it for me, with tourism on the increase in Venice it makes me a pretty penny,” she explained with a shrug of her shoulders.
“How many languages do you speak?” Eric inquired, his intrigue echoing in the bond. I glanced to Godric who was holding Ata’s hand tightly, looking at her with nothing short of adoration.
“Eight in total, 2000 years is a long time and I needed something to fill it. I speak English, of course, along with Italian, French, German, Russian, Arabic, Latin and Swedish.”
“Ah, my mother tongue!” Eric spoke happily in what I could only guess as being Swedish.
“Yes Viking, your native language” Ata shot back in the same language. She was intelligent, pretty and kind. If we hadn’t been related I would have hated her, but she was growing on me and seemed sincere in her emotions.
“You speak of your boys a lot, my sweet. Who are they?” Godric asked, and even I could sense the tension within him.
Ata noticed how uncomfortable Godric seemed to be with the mention of ‘her boys’ and pressed a reassuring kiss to the corner of Godric’s mouth. “You know you’re the only one for me, okay?” she whispered, nuzzling his jaw as he smiled at her.
“When I learned of what I am and discovered that I would live an awfully long time some of the most trusted men in the palace vowed to stand by my side forever, they sought out your kind and had themselves turned so they could protect me until my death. They all have their own roles. Ari is my guardian, Khai is my head of security, Oeri is my doctor and shaman and Riei makes sure my home and myself are in order. I have two other boys, both of whom were Vikings in their days,” Ata explained, glancing at Eric and laughing gently.
“Egor and Agmund stand guard by my room all night, they follow me wherever I go and run errands for me if I don’t have the time. Egor was the blonde vampire you spotted up in the penthouse,” she explained.
“I recognise Egor,” Eric mused.
“That wouldn’t surprise me. Before I managed to tie him down he was a bit of a wild card, liked to travel a lot and steal other men’s women,” Ata rolled her eyes and a deep growl radiated from Godric, causing all three of us to look at him in complete surprise.
“He’s not having you, you’re mine,” he stated firmly, his pale eyes focused on Ata. With another roll of her eyes, she rubbed her free hand over his arm in a soothing gesture.
“I’d forgotten how frustrating the whole ‘mine’ thing is,” she commented.
“You’re fucking telling me!,” I muttered under my breath, not expecting everyone else at the table to hear but of course they did.
Ata barked out a laugh. “Oh, we’re going to get along fabulously! I promise we’ll start your training tomorrow afternoon. Take your time in the morning and have a lie-in, we’ll lounge by the pool over lunch when it’s nice and hot out and then I’ll start teaching you some new tricks.”
“I’m only an eighth, what are you? And what kind of things can you do?” I asked, suddenly curious about what I would be able to do as well.
“I’m a third, but can thankfully suppress my scent and the toxicity of my blood. Being coveted and drained doesn’t sound too good to me. We live for around 2500 years without our mates, and indefinitely once we have them. I have photokinesis, I can cast illusions to trick others, I can teleport, create oaths with my light and can infiltrate dreams, I’ll explain all of those in more detail tomorrow. Oh and of course I can hear everyone all the time,” she explained and I felt my jaw drop a little. Not an attractive look I know but even if I only get half of those powers they could come in mighty useful given the number of Supes wanting me.
Ata’s eyes found mine and she smiled reassuringly before I felt her mind open up. “And when I say I can hear everyone, I mean EVERYONE.” I heard her loud and clear, her eyes moving between Eric and Godric in a casual manner before returning to mine, of course, I knew she was letting me in on her secret.
Our meals and drinks arrived at that moment and the silence was blissful, it allowed Ata and me to continue our conversation in the privacy of our own minds.
“Why can’t I hear them?” I started off.
“I don’t know, want me to do some digging in some of my ancient textbooks and see what I can find? I might even be able to free up your mind to accept their thoughts, how would you feel about that?”
Chewing my pasta slowly, I pretended like nothing was happening. “How many people know that you can hear vampire thoughts? Surely that’d get you killed!”
“My boys know, it’s how I communicate with them across busy rooms or when they’re out of state on business. Other than that, no one else knows, though I fully intend on telling Godric this evening. I know how big vampires are on privacy but let’s face it, we’re so far in vampire shit right now that it would be advantageous for us to know what they’re thinking,” she explained.
“I suppose that makes sense, I’ve always been worried they’d kill me for it. What’s Eric thinking right now?” I quizzed, wanting to see what he was musing over in the silence.
“His mind is wide open. He has this strange urge to take your fork from you and feed you himself and is currently battling with himself about how you would take that. He’s also thinking about, and I quote, “how great her breasts look in that top’ – typical Viking.” She told me.
I couldn’t help but laugh out loud and ended up snorting, one of my hands flying up to cover my mouth to stifle the giggles. Ata joined in my laughter a second later and our vampires looked over to us with matching quirked eyebrows, which did nothing to ease our laughter.
A moment later we’d calmed ourselves down and resumed eating. Nibbling the inside of my lip, I offered my fork to Eric. Stunned at my gesture, he took it from me, gently stabbing a few pieces of pasta before bringing them up to my mouth for me to take. Chewing the Italian goodness, I decided it was time to speak up, we’d been quite for too long and I had a feeling Eric was starting to get suspicious that we were having silent conversations.
“I kinda wish I was normal sometimes, do you ever feel like that?” I asked, breaking the silence as I caught Ata’s eye, finally having someone to talk to who understood my predicament. Godric had mimicked Eric’s actions, stabbing some of Ata’s pasta with her fork and offering it to her.
Swallowing her mouthful, Ata shook her head and sighed. “No, I could never be normal because I don’t know what normal is. I’ve grown up with all these abilities, perfected them over two millennia and it’s embedded in me. It’s who I am and I’m happy about that. Besides we could never be normal anyway, we’re sitting in an Italian restaurant in the bright lights of Vegas, we’re descendants of fae royalty, I’m over 2000 years old, you’re being spoon-fed by a 1000-year-old Viking and I’m being spoon-fed by a 2000-year-old Gaul. Shit doesn’t get weirder than that,” she summarised and everyone at the table burst into laughter.
She reached out, taking one of my hands with her own and giving it a gentle squeeze of reassurance, “You’re wonderful as you are Sook, and everyone here loves you in their own way. You need to start loving yourself too.”