Annie Nicholas

Writing Romances with Bite

Angler Pointed Questions

I didn’t come from a normal family. My friends didn’t have werewolf bodyguards, learn weapons craft, or have a vampire for an adopted father. Or have two fathers, for that matter. Yep, every teenage girl’s nightmare. I’d be a virgin forever.

My parents’ biggest rule was not to keep secrets, yet my life was filled with them. Things I couldn’t share with anyone except my family. Vampires existing was not common knowledge and my adopted father was their king. I understood not telling others our secrets but I always assumed they didn’t hide things from me until now.

I knelt by the trashcan holding an empty box of hair dye. So what? A lot of people dyed their hair, except the color this box had contained was grey. Why would my human dad dye his hair grey? I knew it wasn’t my mom. Hers had a touch of white in her curls and at the temples. Or did she dye her hair white? I shook my head. I’ve been hanging out with my vampire father, Papa Tane, too much and seeing conspiracies in every corner.

I returned the box in the trash and picked up the earring that had fallen in the can. This shouldn’t bother me. So my parents wanted to look older. Maybe it was a fashion statement…or maybe they were keeping something from me. Did I really want to know the truth? For a thirteen year old, I sure felt like I knew too much already.

Vampires and werewolves were real. The fact they allowed me to know this should ease my worry about their trust, but it only made me feel more vulnerable. Like I’d accidently let the cat out of the bag by telling a friend. Though, I’d have to admit, they probably would never believe me.

“Maggie!” Rurik, my human dad, my blood related dad, shouted from outside. He still spoke with a hint of Hungarian accent. When he was tired or angry it got thicker to the point I could barely understand his English.

“Coming,” I shouted back and set my earring on the counter with its partner. No jewelry during sword practice. It increased the chances of accidently having the tip snag on something. Wouldn’t want my earlobes torn.

Dad paced around the hard-packed dirt ring he’d created in the yard. He held his sword, the bright morning sunlight glinting off the sharp steel edge.

I pulled mine out of its scabbard and gave a practice swing. My parents’ gift on my tenth birthday. All my friends received Barbie or ponies while I learned the finer points of killing a man. My gaze traveled to the grey highlighting my dad’s sideburns and the streak in his bangs. He joked I was responsible for his greys, but it was all a lie. Clairol gave him those. Scowling, I stepped into the ring.

“Wake up on the wrong side of the bed?” He took position across from me. No instructions today. We only sparred on school mornings before classes. Weekend mornings he would teach me new skills. This weekend we would work with knives. Yay…

I took a ready stance, ignoring his question. Secrets upon secrets. I sacrificed so much—sleepovers, parties, days at the beach with my friends—to keep our family safe. I did this without question.

My gaze darted back to his grey hairs.

Dad raised his sword.

Before he grounded his weight, I struck. Whip fast the swords rung in the silence as he parried each of my attacks. I moved forward, pushing him toward the edge of the ring. I ground my teeth, determined…to what? Strike him? I didn’t want to hurt him. I retreated, breathing hard, and ran the back of my hand over my forehead while glaring at him.

Sweat beaded his forehead, but he breathed normally. For a man with a thirteen year old daughter, he didn’t show any signs of tiring. If anything, Dad seemed leaner and faster than other fathers I had met.

He returned the sword to his scabbard. “What’s up?”

“Nothing.” I turned my back on him so he wouldn’t see the tears flooding my eyes. Mom I could forgive. She still treated me like I was five, but Dad? He was my best friend. He understood me. He had even told me the story of how he and mom had met. How their secrets had almost killed them both. He had been working for Papa Tane as a blood slave and mom for a vampire slayer. They’d been pitted against each other until he won her over. If he could trust me with that, why secretly change his hair color? It made me doubt everything.

“That means something. Don’t forget I’m well versed in pissed-woman speak. I’ve been with your mother for a very long time.”

“Don’t compare me to her!” I loved mom, but we were so not alike. We may as well be different species.

He held up his hands in surrender. “I think we’ll skip practice this morning.”

“No.” I held up my sword.

“I’d rather not be stabbed. I have lunch plans with a pretty blonde.” He meant my mom, but the quip only tossed fuel on my temper.

I tossed my sword to the ground. “You want to know what’s wrong?” I raced inside our home and pulled the empty box of dye from the trash. Upon returning to the yard, I tossed it at him.

The box bounced off his chest and landed at his feet. He toed it. “Why were you digging in the trash?”

“I dropped my earring inside. Why do you dye your hair?”

He ran his fingers through his thick raven locks that matched my own. My friend’s fathers were balding or grey naturally. “It makes me look more distinguished.”

I approached him and touched the grey strand that fell over his eyes. “That makes no sense. You always tell me secrets are the root of all evil.”

He closed his eyes. “You wouldn’t want to talk about the birds and bees instead?”

“Mom covered that a few years ago. She even drew pictures. Some things just can’t be unseen.”

Dad’s eyes popped open. “That must have been scarring.” He sighed and gestured to the shade under our orange tree. He sat on the grass and waited for me to join him. He gave me a sad smile. “You’re growing up so fast.”

A flood of anxiety washed away my anger. What if the secret would change everything? Maybe I really didn’t want to know. I glanced at the box lying in the dirt. There would be no rest until I knew. My imagination was ten times worse than reality.

“You’ve heard me use the term blood slave before?”

I nodded and fiddled with a blade of grass I had plucked from our lawn. “It means a human affiliated to a certain vampire.” I wasn’t sure how it all worked just that both my parents were blood slaves to Papa Tane.

“Simply put, yes, but it’s more than a title. There’s a process that makes a human a blood slave. Changes us.”

I gave him a slow blink. “So you and mom are not human.”

“We’re human, just different. Have you ever seen either of us sick?”

I shook my head. Thinking about it, I’d never been sick either. It never occurred to me as strange. We were just healthy.

He touched his hair. “We don’t age either.”

My eyebrows rose. “Ever?”

“Ever.”

“You won’t die?” My heart raced as an ancient weight lifted. Every child feared the day their parents would die. Apparently, mine wouldn’t. They’d be around to take care of me.

“I can’t promise that. We heal fast and stay healthy, but a car accident could kill us like any other person.”

“Oh…” My balloon of joy popped. I tossed the blade of grass into the wind and watched it twirl to the ground. “How come I age? Doesn’t this make me a blood slave too?”

He scratched his chin. “I don’t know. There aren’t many blood slaves. You have to be a strong vampire to make one. I’ve never heard of any having kids with another blood slave. It’s a touchy situation mixing blood slaves with different loyalties.”

“Politics.” I knew a lot about that as well. I spent my summers with Papa at his court in Rio. He taught me about ruling people. How to listen to what’s not being said as well as what is spoken. “Papa made both of you?”

“Yes, he’s very powerful.”

“So, he could make me one.”

He smiled softly. “That’s our hope. We have to see if he’s strong enough. Worst case scenario, we find another vampire for you.”

I made a revolted face. “No. I don’t like any of the others I’ve met.” They made my skin crawl and eyed me like a prize cow. Their human princess.

He quirked an eyebrow. “The vampire doesn’t need to be from your father’s court.” He waved his hand as if dismissing the idea. “Anyways, we have years before that day comes.” He slung an arm around my shoulders and hugged me close. “Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up.”

I leaned against him and kept my opinion of vampires to myself. Excluding Papa, I think the world would be a better place without them. “You were pretending to grow old for me?”

“Well, not just for you. We’ve lived here all your life. Someone was bound to notice we weren’t aging. Dying our hair seemed the easiest solution.”

Sadness weighed heavy on my heart. My parents wouldn’t age like others. They wouldn’t grow old together in this villa where I could visit with their future grandchildren. My gaze wandered over the familiar yard. My children wouldn’t know this place because my parents would have to leave to avoid discovery. Grey or white hair wouldn’t hide the lack of wrinkles or their youthful gait. They’d have to leave once I finished school.

“Wait, if you don’t age, how old are you really?”

He tilted his head and gave me a piercing stare. “How old do you think I am?”

“Dad.”

“Let’s go wake your mother and ask.” He jumped to his feet. “I know she’d love to be part of this conversation.”

“Dad!”

He ignored me and slipped inside the villa.

I didn’t follow. Instead, I stared over the Mediterranean Sea westward, toward Rio. I opened my mind to Papa and poked his busy thoughts. Dad told me about him and mom not aging.

Hmm…that’s nice. Being so old, he didn’t need to sleep like most vampires during the day, but it should be evening in Rio by now.

What secrets are you keeping from me?

The vampire king chuckled. So many, but one day I promise to tell all of them to you.

Not today?

You’ll be late for school and your mother would be very cross.

You’re her king.

I’d like to see you tell her that.

I snorted. I’ll pass.

You are wise beyond your years. Have a good day, princess.

You too, papa.