The hallways are all lit, the food is perfect, the maids are lined up, the footmen are welcoming the line of arriving carriages, and the banquet hall is filling quickly. Everything is ready for the Hunter's Moon, but Master is still not present.
Morgan, the coordinator of the party, is stressing. She is short on hands with Morwenna attending to Alvena, London taking care of the guests, and Adrian directing the kitchen. Unable to order the experienced staff or anyone capable to find master, she is venting her anger at a new maid.
My ears twitch a little as I hear frantic footsteps tapping on the marble floor right outside. The maid must be off to find Master again. I hear a soft cry outside my room door. There should be no guests wandering on this floor so I crack the door open and recognize it is Irina.
I look down at her. "What are you doing?" I ask through the slit.
"Miss Morgan said she will whip all of us if we can't find Master," she mumbles. "Evelyn, help please. I don't want to be whipped." She nudges at my door, which doesn't budge.
Finding Master is her job. "You won't find Master if he doesn't want to be found," I respond. Irina breaks down in tears in front of me. "Stop crying," I order. She listens. She's the only maid that listens to me. She reminds me a little bit of Alvena with her small face and ash gray hair and I can't help but want to look out for her. "Tell Morgan that Master will arrive soon. Go to serve the guests afterwards." She looks up with her dark beady eyes ready to cry again. Did I not already tell her that I will find Master? "I will find Master," I finally say. She still lingers and cries. "Don't cry." This time, extending my arm through the door and patting her silky hair.
"Thank you Evelyn!!!" she mumbles in between hiccups.
I pat her tiny head one more time before saying more gently, "Go now. Morgan doesn't like waiting."
I wait for Irina to scurry back to the main hall before I peek my head out. Taking a breath, my ears shift into a pointy shape—its natural shape. No longer bound, I hear the patterns of at least one hundred fifty thumping hearts. Some are faint, others extremely animate, and a few exceptionally steady.
But the one I'm looking for isn't it this crowd, it's somewhere else. I close my eyes, picturing the target, imagining his actions, and recalling his even heartbeat that matches my own. His soft breathing. His light footsteps that barely even graze the floor. His very presence radiates throughout the castle. It may be strange to say, but I can almost feel him. My legs are bringing me up to the floor above my own and taking me through a few doors that I never knew existed. And with each step, I am more confident that I am heading the right way.
In front of a hidden door at the end of the hallway, I knock lightly. The door cracks open. I do not hesitate to accept the open invitation.
"You found me," my master's mellow voice echoes. I keep my head down, unsure whether he wants to be bothered. "No one has ever found me in here before," he murmurs and I feel his breath on my neck.
"Master, are you going to punish me?" I ask out of turn.
He chuckles before manifesting from the dark, dressed in an intricately sewn gold aristocrat vest over a white long sleeved tuxedo shirt. "Evelyn, do you want to be punished?"
"No." My red eyes stare straight into his blue golden ones. "I don't," I answer as my eyes follow his approaching shadow.
"Give me a reason why I shouldn't," he demands, a bit ironically.
"There is none." He nods, waiting for me to continue. "But Master should save it for later because the guests are awaiting your arrival."
Master softens with a sad smile. "How can I punish you any more?" he asks more to himself than to me as he grabs his coat from the rack by the corner. "I hope you're not still mad at me. If I could, I would let you attend, but your ey- "
"I am not mad," I clarify. "My family have me hide whenever guests are over. I am to stay in the kitchen when the Ayers host parties and not allowed to go out until the following morning. Master lets me serve him and his friends directly. I am to stay in my room during parties. I can not be mad."
I do not understand why, but I want Master to know this.
"So you are mad..." master sighs out. "I'm doing the same thing to you..."
"No." My tone is sharper this time. Master notices too, but does not lecture me. "My family has me stay in the tiny storage room in the kitchen. My room here is big." He doesn't respond, he probably needs more reasons. "The other maids must work, but I get to stay in my room. I do not have to serve others in my room. I will not have to be whipped by Morgan for being incompetent. I do not have to worry about acting appropriately in front of the nobles. I do-"
Master walks pass me. "I get it." Turning around, I realize Master is still holding the door open for me. "Stay out of trouble Evelyn," he whispers teasingly before his shadow disappears.
"I understand, Master," I reply.
But when I return and lock the door of my room, my ears jerk up. In the west wing of the castle near the garden area, I hear trouble. Two drunk noble vampires—their heart rates are escalating quickly, as opposed to the human heart that slows when intoxicated—and two other abnormally uneven heart beats. But I will ignore.
The two heartbeats—one is like a little hum. It is Morwenna. Morwenna is strong, she can take care of it. So I will ignore.
But the other, is pumping dangerously fast. It is none of my business. Master orders me to stay out of trouble so I obey.
I hear trembles. Now Morwenna's heartbeat is missing. A soft whimper echoes in my head as I stand up from my seat. The heartbeat is even quicker now, as if sprinting. I open the window and a passing breeze brings a pleasant metallic smell that fill my nostrils and cause my eyes to glow a shade redder.
I leap out, no further thoughts, completely disobeying Master.
9/6/17: Again, thank you all so much for reading/commenting/voting!!!
Isn't Evie such a bad girl?