“You need to confront him!”
I'm sitting in the room. I go to the only two people I know to talk to about the fact that last night Nero confessed his love for Coco. As usual Camille is being blunt and direct telling me that I need to confront him.
“I think you need to confront her,” Lucca is saying, “Think about it. You never confront the man. Especially not when the man is a king. I mean. You still have a fighting chance.”
“We need you to get him back,” Camille responds.
“It's ok,” I reply crossing my arms, “I know why you two are here. I know what why you two are friends with me. You thought Nero and I would end up together and that I'd help raise your reputation in Eden. I get it. I also understand if you go back to Coco.”
“Oh please, Coco won't take us back,” Camille responds.
Lucca elbows her at that moment, “What Camille means to say is that in the beginning that might have been our motivation but believe it or not...we care about you Santos. We love you. This isn't about social climbing...not anymore.”
“Is isn't?” Camille asks, before fixing her mouth quickly to add, “No, it isn't.”
Lucca puts his arm over me at that moment, “We are here for you Santos. And I have no motivation when I tell you this shit is heartbreaking.”
Camille grabs onto the other arm. It is bittersweet that they are admitting that they honestly do care. A part of me liked hanging around with them because I felt like they didn't. I felt like it was all business with them. Now that I knew they actually did like me things just seemed to go into that uncomfortable zone. How could they give me honest advice if they had their emotions involved in this?
Why now that I have real friends do I feel the most alone than I've ever felt in Eden?
“We should get to Combat. We're running late,” I say.
“Santos...what are you going to do about Nero?”
“Nothing. He's made his choice. I want him to be happy.”
How could he be happy with me? I was a monster. I walk out of the room feeling the pain. I should have known this was going to happen. Armando warned me. Aiden warned me.
When Nero found out who I really was and what I was really about he wouldn't want anything to do with me.
And they were right.
Constantine makes a long speech in the beginning of combat class. The 2nd half of the semester has started. It's mid January but luckily it doesn't get cold in Eden. It stays the same lukewarm perfect ideal weather. This really was paradise. I miss most of what Constantine is saying because I see that Nero is on the mat next to Coco. They're talking...yet again. My heart is racing yet again. I hate the fact that Nero doesn't even have the balls to break up with me before moving on first...but maybe he's scared that I'll snap.
Maybe I will snap...
I can't imagine doing to Nero what I did to Raul.
I catch the end of what Constantine is telling the class, “It's time to prepare. The Rogue threat is getting stronger behind these gates. Everywhere in the city the vampires of Eden are preparing for another attack against the forces of darkness. Children are made to believe that the monsters are hiding under their beds or in their closets. They are made to believe that monsters are hiding in the darkness. We vampires know better. The monsters are outside our garden, getting ready to come in!”
Monsters. That's what Constantine calls the rogues and I wonder if he is referring to me. Am I the monster hiding in the darkness. The rogues seem to think so.
Nero seems to think so...
Constantine's voice echoes across the gym, “What will we do!”
The scream rattles the nearby bleachers as Constantine instructs us quickly, “Pair up and do your stretches before you spar.”
I usually do my stretches alone but Aiden comes up to me. It's hard to shake him. A part of me is tempted to entertain him knowing that Nero has moved on and is back with Coco. Aiden has always been there. Still...I can't help but to blame him for all the bad news. Without him I would have been living in my little bubble not knowing all the things that Nero did.
“Give me your leg,” Aiden instructs.
“I don't need your help...” I respond.
Aiden gives me a look that lets me know that he doesn't give a fuck if I want his help or not. I roll my eyes and allow Aiden to do his thing. I am sitting on the mat and I lay flat on my back. He takes my left leg and bend it up all the way over my head. He uses his chest to keep my leg up as he positions himself up and down releasing my leg in quick gestures.
“Can we do a stretch that doesn't look like we're fucking?” I ask him.
“You worried about being in a compromising position with me?” Aiden asks with a smiling gesture, “Don't worry. Your boyfriend isn't paying attention.”
Aiden is right. Nero is stretching with Coco. They aren't touching one another but it doesn't matter. They are stretching together and he doesn't even seem to notice like he usually would that Aiden put me in this weird ass clearly sexual position.
“Not now Aiden.”
“Of course I'm not gonna fuck you now,” Aiden responds, “You're all sweaty. I'm going to save that until after we shower.”
I push Aiden off of me and start to stretch by myself. I'm not in the mood to joke right now especially with what's going on. Aiden seems to notice I'm not in a good mood. He moves next to me and sits on the mat. Usually Constantine would be on our ass about not doing the right stretches and staying active but Constantine is working with Lucca on his boxing stance.
“I don't belong here,” I finally say after a couple moments of silence.
“In Combat class?”
“In Eden, Aiden,” I explain, “Did my father tell you? I'm her...heir...I'm”
Aiden clears his throat. I know why he's doing it. Camille is somersaulting past like a goddam vampire gymnast ninja. She somersaults high in the sky. I have to admit I'm impressed. Looking around I'm impressed by all of them. They all are getting better. They are all becoming these tough ass warriors that would make amazing King's Guards.
Then there is me. I'm either not dangerous at all or dangerous to the point that I black out and wake up to the complete obliteration of my enemies.
No middle ground.
“You going to keep playing the fucking victim?” Aiden asks me, “Because you have a choice. If you don't want to be here then leave.”
I'm not expecting him to say that. Honestly I don't.
Aiden backpedals just as harshly, “I'm not saying I want you to, but fuck it man. You have a choice of what you become. Look at Nero. He spends all his time trying to kiss the King's ass but he'll never be what Arie wants him to be. Sometimes you have to walk your own path.”
For a moment it makes me feel better. The moment doesn't last that long though.
“But what if my path is the path of darkness?” I ask.
“Is that what you want?” he asks me.
I shake my head, “I hope not. But there is something in me Aiden. There's something dark and you can't bury alive everyone who finds out about it forever. You and my father can't hide this thing growing in me forever. It's too big. It's too dark...”
Aiden shrugs, “You're right. Then maybe you have to find a way to add some light in your life.”
Aiden says it as though it's so easy. All I've ever known was pain and despair. I got angry to the poitn that I blacked out and I did the scariest shit imaginable. I can hardly close my eyes and not think about what I did to Raul.
This isn't easy. This is never going to be easy.
The weekend comes before I know it. I have a scarf around my head. I am borrowing one of Lucca's bookbags and I have my golden outfits in it. Camille is already complaining about something or another. Aiden is standing to my right looking annoyed that she decided to come along just to complain. Nero is the only one who seems to be smiling and in a decent mood besides Coco. Yes...Coco is happy.
“I'm glad you all decided to come along!” Coco is telling me.
I smile weakly. Camille and Lucca literally had to drag me along to come to this camping trip. We've been walking for what seems like an hour and a half. The way out of Eden is a straight shot down a paved road. Now we aren't on the roads. We've wandered off into what was known as the Garden of Eden. The Garden was a thick forest with amber trees, thick soil and a humidity that caused you to sweat in places you didn't know existed.
“Look how close she is to him,” Camille whispers in my ear.
I look over at Coco. Camille isn't being the least bit discreet about her dislike about Coco and Nero. It's not like they are holding hands or anything like that but they are definitely talking a lot more than they were. It's hard to imagine Coco liking something like this but she's putting on a decent face.
“Is everything ok you guys?” Coco asks Camille, Lucca and I.
Camille and I give her stone faces and luckily Lucca is a little bit more civilized, “Great. We're glad you invited us along.”
“Good. I wanted to introduce you to Antwon Gibson and Tina Matthews. Antwon is an A Blood and Tina is a B type. They're going to be our guides out here.”
Antwon was dark skin and I admit is handsome. He has dreadlocks that fall all the way to his ass and looks like the football player Larry Fitzgerald in the face if you ask me. It's rare to see another guy almost the height of Milan but he's up there. Unlike Milan though he seems to have more a thicker frame and not slim. He's not really muscular like Nero but he's more on the bulky side as though maybe he used to be muscular but he stopped going to the gym as much. It still looks good on him. The girl Tina is a really skinny girl...looking almost anorexic and honestly she isn't pretty at all. I can tell Camille getting annoyed at Tina's presence when she starts to sing loudly.
“Can't we just camp here?” Camille asks, “I'm tired of walking...”
“Maybe if you didn't wear Louboutin flats and wore combat boots like the rest of us, you'd be ok,” Nero tells Camille clearly annoyed.
“Amen,” Aiden responds.
I elbow Aiden, not so much for criticizing Camille but for agreeing with Nero. I think Nero notices it because he turns towards me. He waits for me to catch up to him and he hands me a bottle. The bottle has blood in it.
“You thirsty?” he asks.
I shake my head, “I'm fine. Coco looks thirsty though.”
I'm not sure if Coco recognizes the shade at that moment because she stops and says, “Aw how considerate. I am thirsty...”
“Very parched,” Camille adds in.
Coco grabs the bottle out of Nero's hands. Coco may not recognize the attitude I have but Nero definitely does. He gives me a hard look and I give him one right the fuck back.
It's as that moment that I realize this is going to be a really interesting camping trip.
We arrive at the camp grounds late but of course you can't tell in Eden because the sky is always the dim red color. A part of me wonders how I am going to go to sleep like this but honestly it's all a little easy.
“Anyone want to sing a song...” Tina asks.
“We'll pass...” Camille tells her.
I feel anti-social when Camille, Lucca and I sit away from everyone else. Nero and Aiden are setting up two tens. One for girls and one for guys. Tina is singing as she and Coco are seasoning some shish kabobs.
Everyone is at work except for my little crew. We are sitting there mean mugging.
“Hey any of you guys know anything about starting a fire?” Antwon asks.
Lucca, Camille and I exchange looks.
“You can start my fire any time daddy,” Camille flirts.
It probably goes way over his head, but Lucca brings him back to reality while closing his best friend's legs, “No actually we can't start a fire. We're vampires not park rangers.”
Camille and Lucca don't now what to do. They seem completely out of it and I know they want to sit around and complain about what's going on with Coco and Nero. A part me wants to sit around and complain about it too.
“I can try,” I respond getting up.
I follow Antwon to see that he has going on. He has hands me some flint and has some dry wood pressed up.
“Can't believe the AB is helping me build a fire right now,” Antwon explains, “Can't wait to tell all my homeboys.”
“I'm not really that special,” I tell him.
He's looking down at me. The guys eyes are lighting up. I notice it now that Tina is the same way when she was looking at me. They have this look as though they are expecting me to break out into a dance where my skin dusts of gold sprinkles and I summon rainbows. I don't get why they think I'm something amazing.
If only they knew what I really were they'd probably go running through this forest like a scene from the Blair Witch Project.
“Of course you are,” He explains.
“How so? Explain one way I'm different.”
“Rumor has it that you can turn into a bat...”
I look at this guy and realize he's not joking. I start smacking at the flint and getting a slight spark as he watches on.
“I don't turn into a bat. I can't hypnotize people. I can't read minds,” I explain to him, “I'm a basic vampire just like you.”
“I don't believe that,” Antwon responds, “No one does...I mean you're the only one with AB blood. There has to be a reason.”
There was a reason alright.
I look at this guy and it's making me nervous with him being around me. Luckily I hit the flint one good time and a fire starts. The others are starting to make their way over to the fire once they see me blowing at it and getting it going.
“See you can do anything,” he responds, “I can't wait until you and the Prince get married. You know when Raul went on television and said you were sleeping with Armando, no one really believed it. No one...”
I know he doesn't mean it but just the mention of Raul makes me so fucking uncomfortable.
I'm glaring at him at that moment, “What the fuck are you talking about?”
The others are around us at that moment. They may not have heard what happened before but they were listening now.
“I'm sorry. I was just giving a compliment. You guys look great together. I see you on TV. My whole vampire coven are big fans. We all knew you weren't that type of person.”
I feel myself getting angry for some reason. The anger comes from deep within. It's everything about this situation. It's being here with Nero and Coco and the others. Everything seems wrong and right now I don't feel like being looked up to by this guy.
“You don't know what the fuck you're talking about,” I tell Antwon, “You don't know what the fuck I'm capable of.”
The smile on Antwon's face fades away quickly.
“Is everything OK here?” Nero asks.
The hostility that spews out of my mouth is immediate. I try to calm down and think about apologizing but feel like maybe I should just let it go. Antwon immediately looks extremely uncomfortable as he sits on a log near the fire.
When I ignore Nero, Nero grabs onto my arm.
I pull back at that moment, “Get off.”
“We need to talk. NOW!”
Nero was being forceful. Right now I didn't have the fucking energy to deal with this. I shake my head and turn away.
“I'm good,” I reply.
“He says he's good,” Aiden comes to my defense and lays out a blanket before telling me, “Santos why don't you just come sit over here.”
I don't know if I'm doing it to spite Nero. I don't think I am. Honestly I go sit by Aiden just because it's close to the fire and I can feel the flames flickering against my skin. Nero stands there for a minute staring at me like he wants to say something else. He decides against it though and sits on the stool next to Antwon.
“How about we go skinny dipping! There's the river close to hear,” Coco suggests clearly trying to break the tension.
She'd probably love to see Nero's big dick swinging around in a river.
“She is really trying it...” Camille says as though Coco isn't two feet away from her.
Lucca immediately suggests something else before Coco catches on to how annoyed Camille is, “How about instead of getting naked in front of one another and jumping in a pool...we play a game, eat a little bit. Do shit that camping people do.”
Coco is forcing her smile, “I'm down for a game.”
She's being so fake. She's being so nice. We all know that Coco isn't like this. She is trying so goddam hard to be nice to everyone that it's making me stick.
“Me too,” Aiden says.
“Truth or dare,” Lucca suggests.
I know Lucca. He's staring directly at Nero when he says that. I know him enough to know that Lucca doesn't just say shit without having a reason. He was a thinker. He's not like Camille who just walks into the room and vomits everywhere with the shit she says. Lucca was different. He suggested this game for a reason.
“What? I think it's a good idea.”
Surprisingly it's Nero who opens his mouth and agrees, “I think that'll actually be fun. Bring us all on the same page a little bit more.”
“How about you go first Nero?” Coco suggests.
I roll my eyes.
Nero looks around the fireplace. He stops all of a sudden at Aiden.
“Milan...truth or dare?”
“Are you honestly upset that Raul is dead?” Nero asks.
It comes out of left field and Lucca pulls out a paper bag from his backpack, “I got a bottle of Hennessy that I brought. I'm going to need it if we are starting off the game like this.”
Aiden is looking at Nero with suspicious eyes.
“I thought this game was light hearted.”
“If you can't handle it you are more than welcome to drop out,” Nero counters, “I am asking what everyone else here is really wondering. You were close as hell with Raul. And when Geneva killed him you didn't mourn him...not one little bit. Coco spent more time upset over Raul's death than you did.”
I hadn't been paying much attention to Aiden's reaction. He was just pretending to be Milan. Aiden was never close to Raul. He was in love with me.
“No,” Aiden answers.
“No?” Nero raises an eyebrow.
The only thing more shocking than Nero's question is Aiden's blunt answer.
Aiden shrugs his shoulder grabs a shishkabob and puts it over the fire, “No. I don't miss him. I don't think about him. I was never really in love with him.”
“Why not?” Nero asks.
I stop Nero right there, “Actually I think it's only supposed to be one question for truth or dare.”
“It's ok. I don't mind,” Aiden responds before staring directly at Nero, “I'm in love with Santos. Always have been. Always will be. So no. I never loved Raul. He was just a distraction.”
Jesus Christ. The tension is definitely on fire right now. It is more than on fire. I grab the Hennessy bottle out of Lucca's hands and take a long swig of it. I can see Nero staring at Aiden then staring at me. This is definitely the most awkward thing in the world and I have a feeling the night is only going to get worse.
No one knows what to say after that.
Aiden is the one who smiles slyly, takes bite of a bloody raw shishkabob and says, “Guess it's my turn. Camille truth or dare.”
“Think I'll go with a dare.”
“I dare you to kiss Coco.”
I know he does it on purpose trying to lighten the mood to what a truth or dare should be. After dropping a bomb like that in front of everyone it seems like he has to. The next couple of rounds luckily are stupid things like that.
That is when we all are starting to get drunk and honestly we all are starting to laugh and have a good time. Everyone except Nero. He is quiet. He's quiet as fuck sitting by the fire. Since Aiden told him the answer to his question he hadn't said a single word. Lucca is dared to strip but naked and do a raindance. Nero doesn't laugh. Coco admits to having had Syphillis 4 times and Nero doesn't seem bothered. Soon his attention is coming onto me.
“Santos...truth or dare,” Coco says.
“I dare you to kiss the person you are most attracted to.”
She's being a smart ass. I don't care what anyone says. Why the fuck would she do that after what Aiden just admitted to and knowing that Nero is there. I look at Aiden and then look at Nero. Nero is looking down. Aiden gives a slight little snicker as though knowing what I'm about to do.
I can't fake it. I know I'm hurting Aiden's feelings but I get up and walk over to Nero. I bend down to kiss him on the lips but just when I get to his lips Nero moves away.
“No,” Nero states.
“Are you serious?” I ask.
I'm beyond embarrassed. Camille and Lucca let out a little bit of a gasp. Aiden snickers. Coco looks on with wide set eyes. Nero literally just turned away from me and dissed me in front of everyone. I have no idea what to do so I just sit there.
“Fine whatever...” he changes his mind.
“Don't make this a big thing between us,” Nero explains, “I'm mad that little FAGGOT that I called my best friend at one point just fucking confessed his love to you and disrespected me to my fucking face!”
Nero explodes at that moment pointing directly at Aiden and then tossing a stick of raw meat at Aiden. Aiden hops up off his feet at that moment.
A part of me knew he was steaming this entire time. A part of me knew that Nero was in his feelings. I don't know though if this is a good thing that he's in his feelings or not. He dissed me with the kiss but it's because he cared about what Aiden said.
Aiden doesn't hop on his feet and attack Nero. He's way too 'cool' for that. Instead he smirks and says, “It was the truth. What you going to challenge me to a Combat Sanglant? We know your history with those...”
Nero doesn't have as much cool as Aiden. I see his temper as he jumps up to his feet. It takes me and Antwon to stop Nero from running arcross the fire and getting at Aiden. Aiden doesn't even react to that as he's sitting on the ground with a smirk on his face.
I am holding onto Nero, “He doesn't mean it.”
Nero is shaking his head, walking off, “Why are you defending Milan? I don't get it. I'm your man. How the fuck would you feel if someone is admitting their love for me in front of you? I'd hope you'd feel some type of way. But instead of checking him you're making excuses for the fact that he can't get over you...”
I'm confused as fuck by Nero. Clearly I'm not the only one.
“Nero you got some nerve...honestly,” Camille adds.
“Nero you know what you did to my friend.”
“I didn't do shit to your friend,” Nero is arguing at that moment, “You two need to mind your fucking business. I'm not for the shit right now. NOT RIGHT NOW!”
Nero is about to snap. I do want Camille and Lucca to mind their business but right now I can't take this.
“EVERYONE SHUT THE FUCK UP!”
I scream at the top of my lungs. Nero is standing up. Camille and Lucca are pissed off. Everyone is on edge. I'm stressed but I need to get to the bottom of this once and for all.
That's when Coco tries to keep the peace, “Santos is right. We all need to be fine. We came here to have fun...remember?”
“Exactly,” I respond, “And it's my turn. Coco. Truth or dare.”
“I dare you to explain to me why the fuck you have gone behind my back to have an affair with my boyfriend.”
Coco's mouth drops open at that moment. It is something amazing to see her like that. I swear I think Lucca and Camille start clapping at the fact that I finally confronted them. Nero is surprised as well standing there dumbfounded.
“Don't lie to me Coco. You don't want to see me mad.”
“I'm not having an affair with Nero.”
Nero looks over at me, “Santos what are you talking about...”
I can't take it. The anger is coming out at that moment. The darkness. Yes there is so much darkness coming out at that moment. I feel the claws coming out. I am approaching Coco. I feel the power all around me. It is almost as though the sky in Eden gets just a little bit darker as I start to approach Coco. I know they can all feel it. Even Lucca and Camille have taken a few steps away from me at that moment.
I grab Coco by her throat. She's light as a feather. It'd be so easy to take her neck off.
“There's nothing in his eyes...she's saying...darkness...darkness...!”
I was fully aware this time but the power in me was something that I couldn't explain. The grass underneath my feet in Eden was dying. The grass was withering away.
“Stop!” I hear Nero say.
“Admit it!” I tell Coco, “I saw you two. I saw you two that night.”
“We were rehearsing! WE WERE REHEARSING FOR YOU!” Coco screams.
I drop her.
She hits the floor with a thud. She looks up at me scared. I can't take this back. She's seen my true self and for that moment I think about running away. There is no turning back now. She's seen the scoched ground underneath me. She's seen my strength. They all have. They are all scared right now.
So I turn.
I am about to make a run for it. I am about to leave Eden but right when I turn Nero is standing there.
He only stands for a second though...
Then he's kneeling.
“I was going to wait to do this,” Nero explains, “I've been practicing with Coco...every night. I told you I wasn't much of a speaker and she said she'd help me...to make up for the past.”
My heart is beating.
What's going on?
“Nero...I'm leaving. I have to go...”
She'll be too suspicious of me now. Coco will tell her father. He's already too suspicious of me. I had revealed myself. They know now I'm no normal vampire. They've seem something darker than they've ever seen before. I'd seen the look of fear in Coco's eyes.
But then I remember what Aiden said.
He said I needed to let some light in my life.
And if this Nero kneeling in front of me now wasn't light---then I don't know what is.
Nero has a box in his hand. With that box is a diamond ring.
His eyes look up at me, “I'm not letting you go. Ok. Well here it goes. Ever since I met you I loved you. Ever since I met you I knew you were the one that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. And even through the ups and downs I realize that I always will come back to you. Nothing else and no one else matters. And I needed some time away from you to really appreciate what I had. I want to tell you that I love you and I want you to be mine forever. Santos...will you marry me?”
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