“Could you put a shirt on?”
Seth flashes me a wide grin, his green swim trunks the only piece of clothing he has conceded to wear. “We’re on vacation, Gideon.”
Vacation. I’ve never taken a vacation. I’m here on business.
“We’re looking for investors.”
Seth shrugs. “We could have a little fun on the way.”
We shuffle along with the rest of the crowd leaving the boat. A plane would’ve gotten us here faster. A plane is more likely to crash. I have enough government scrutiny riding on this mission. I can’t destroy our chances by surviving a deadly crash and walking away with little more than already healing scratches.
The beach ahead of us doesn’t boast the autumnal colors of our home. Palm trees retain their green shades. A thin mist creeps along the sand. Further out, scuba divers swim away from the shore, their bodies ceasing to exist once they duck under the shifting water.
We make it to the front of the boat and a man steps into my way. Dark skin. Dark eyes. Naturally thick, spiraling hair pulled into a bun at the top of his head. Black tattoos swirl over his upper arms and what I can see of his chest around the tank top covering his mid drift. This is definitely our associate.
“May I take your bags, Monsieur Carter?”
I cock my head to the side, looking over the man standing a few inches taller than myself. His accent isn’t as obvious as his appearance. Proper English pronunciation and he managed to hit the French accent perfectly. Regardless of his origins or any places he has lived during what can only be a long life, it seems somebody studied me.
Since my brother hasn’t been fluent in French in at least a decade, I opt to continue the conversation in English. “Thank you, Sir, but I think I have this handled. Will you be showing us to the palace?”
The corners of his lips tweak upwards. “To your room in the hotel?”
“I believe your princess is waiting in the pink palace for me.”
His smile widens. “Yes, it’s the largest hotel in Honolulu, Monseuir. Tourism is incredibly popular here. The Princess requests that you are on your best behavior.”
Of course. As much as I try to avoid seeing the news, I know vampire attacks on are on the rise. Too many humans are being affected. The genetically modified virus that created me has evolved into something difficult to contain and even more impossible for an individual to master on their own. It’s why I’m here. To propose my project to someone of authority and gain the backing I need to buy and develop the space needed to help these people.
“We will be.”
I watch his gaze flick over Seth, but he doesn’t say anything else before turning to lead us to the hotel. It’s a short stroll to our destination through lush paths and past hoards of humans with cameras roped around their necks. There’s so much more here than I anticipated after reading about the small islands. Of course, the France I knew as a young adult isn’t what stands today. Not everything we read can be trusted.
On our way, we pass small makeshift stalls filled with handcrafted items. People native to the land boast their shell necklaces and beautiful art. Most of the area is too full of tourists to get a great view. I do catch sight of a small girl crouched down under one of the tables, her thin arms wrapped around the neck of a plush penguin. There was a time I dreamed of seeing zebras on the African plain after my father came home with the news of the wild beasts. Time has moved forward, but some things stay the same. We’re all searching for more than simply what is set before us.
“This way, please,” our guide prompts, leading us towards the pink building dominating this stretch of beach.
Seth kicks off his shoes, moving further down the sandy bank. His pale skin stands out against the blue sky. My brother smiles over at me. He could be happy here. He’s promised to follow me wherever I may go, but I could leave him here and he would thrive.
The other man leads us up the path to the hotel. We pass under an archway bracketed by potted palms. The Royal Hawaiian. Of course Princess Nabil would stay in such a luxurious resort. She’s protected from outside forces from the sheer exclusivity of this place while still pampered as the sole heir to the throne. There’s no force or invasion that could overtake this island. Mr. Raeleigh sent me out here to make friends with the old world, to convince them that there is a place for a new breed of vampires, but he had no idea what awaited us.
Hotel staff members straighten up and bow as the man leading us enters the lobby. Silence overtakes the space. I pause, holding my hand out for Seth to do the same. The sweet scent of strawberries wafts over me. There’s a buzzing at the back of my mind I’ve learned to accept as the sixth sense gifted to me through my transition into something more than human. Strawberries aren’t native to Hawaii. This is something else, something insidious and moving quickly for me.
I step in front of Seth and hold my hands out on either side of my head, my eyes searching the room but finding nothing. “Tell your princess I just want to talk.”
“You could speak directly to her,” a female voice hisses into my left ear.
I don’t move. I can’t. To flinch or flail or fight is a death’s wish. Instead, I take a slow breath and try to ignore the bite of the blade pressing into my throat. Seth is a few steps behind me. No amount of speed or strength can win our situation now. I have to trust he won’t do anything foolish. This isn’t the first time my life has been threatened and it certainly will not be the last.
“My apologies, Princess Nabil. I had read about your powers of invisibility, but never understood just how profound they are.” I speak slowly and clearly, my eyes forward and my hands unwavering.
“Profound?” Her accented word is a purr in my ear. “What an interesting word to describe royalty, Gideon Carter.”
Her hold doesn’t loosen. She’s thin, the edges of her body pressed into my back. Far older than me, something not entirely of this world, she and I may be more equally matched in skill than she has considered.
Of course. I don’t want to test that theory. I came here on invitation. I’m here to ask for a favor. It’s my duty to play nice.
“Should I be granted the ability to see you, I might speak of your incredible beauty and woo you with colorful descriptions, Princess.” I don’t hide the twist to my lips as I grin. “For now, you have a rather tight grip and a magnificent hold on your knife.”
She lets out a bark of laughter, causing most of the staff to jolt and fidget. It seems they haven’t gotten used to the Princess’ antics. “Lead them to my chambers, Seymour. It seems Gideon Carter is worthy of a moment of my time.”
Her hold vanishes as suddenly as it appeared. The sweet strawberry scent dissipates, leaving me breathing in long pulls of the natural flora and the salty sea. Step one is done. We’ve arrived on the island and might even make it to see dinner tonight. Mr. Raeleigh would be pleased. Not impressed, but pleased.
Our guide waves us forward, his own mischievous grin making his dark eyes shine. “Welcome to Honolulu, Monsieur Carter.”
Staff members take our bags, leaving us with glasses of bubbling champagne to hold while we wait to be escorted into the Princess’ chambers. “Bet you wish you’d worn a shirt now.” I murmur to my brother.
His eyes are wide. Still on alert, still unable to comprehend all of what just happened. I knew this wasn’t the right mission for him. Raeleigh insisted. He’s convinced that he won’t be around to see the new world and wants me to invest in my own people. Seth is good. He’ll learn and adapt and stay by my side.
I have to believe that or the guilt of walking him into a viper’s nest is going to eat me from the inside out.
“I didn’t work hard to get these abs not to show them off,” he whispers back, his expression void of the humor he’s trying to express.
I understand. It’s been decades since I started learning about all of this. Conspiracies and creatures that fairytales didn’t prepare me for. It’s a lot.
“You didn’t work for those abs at all. The virus did all of the work.” I tease, trying to get him to loosen up before we head back into danger.
He shakes his head. “You’re just jealous.”
That’s a little better. I bump my shoulder into his. The doors ahead of us start to open. Time for talking is over.
We’re going to get through this. We’re going to walk back out of here. Seth is going to be okay.
I repeat the sentences over and over in my head. I’ve done enough damage to my family. I won’t let Seth get hurt for me. We’re going to be okay.
We have to be okay. The entire fate of the world relies on my plans for vampire rehabilitation. Without it, the next world war is coming and humans won’t stand a chance.
Seth walks by my side as we follow the pink carpet leading to a gold throne. Erisa Nabil is lounging, her legs hooked around one armrest while she rests her cheek in her palm and balances all of her slender weight on that dainty elbow pressed into the other armrest. Dark makeup frames her eyes, daring any man to meet her gaze and fall captive to her beauty. Multiple gold earrings line the edges of her ears and dangle from her lobes. Rings adorn her thin fingers. A slit in her pink robe shows off a knife strapped to her upper thigh. Her entire pose is a delicate combination of beauty and danger.
Touch me, she seems to tempt, all too ready to sever the hand of any man that does.
I keep my hold loose on my champagne, my other hand resting by my side. “You’re far more interesting than any written piece could capture, Princess Nabil.”
“And you’re only here because you’re charming, Gideon Carter,” she spits out the syllables of my name like they’re sharpened seeds from a spoiled fruit. “What is it you want from me?”
“Help,” I state plainly. “The world is changing. Your people are not the only enhanced individuals anymore and I want assistance in carving out space for those that are being changed today. Money can be found anywhere, Princess. What I’m looking for is an open mind and your word to help those that will need it.”
“My word?” She lets out another harsh laugh. “You traveled land and sea to get my word?”
I let myself shrug. “I’m a very thorough business partner.”
One sharpened canine curls around her bottom lip as she thinks over what I’ve said. “Why come to me and not my parents? It would have been far easier to see them in Egypt, would it not?”
“You, Princess, are the future. Not them. I will gladly accept help from anyone who is willing, but my plan rests in the hands of those who will take over this world, not those still grasping at a single continent.”
She clicks her tongue against the roof of her mouth and unwraps her form from the throne, standing at her full height in front of me as she looks me over. “Is it brave or stupid to comment on my parents, Gideon Carter?”
I’m ready for this question. Back straight, shoulders even, I don’t let my eyes drift from her powerful gaze. “Is it bravery that keeps you from creating an heir, Princess?”
Irritation falls over her features like a veil being brought down over the face of a woman undevoted to the man demanding her hand. “Charm is easily proven as arrogance, Carter. Watch your next words carefully or you’ll watch me remove your tongue.”
Seth stiffens. If I do something wrong, he’ll jump in front of me. He’s a good brother. He’s a stupid man, though.
Here’s to hoping my research pays off.
“I believe you should be allowed to live in a world that sees you with love at your side, Princess. You are worthy of power without a child to secure your hold on a throne. To be yourself is terrifying and rewarding.” I take a slow breath, watching my words sink into her stern expression, smoothing out the tension in her forehead and making her nostrils flare. “You, Erisa Nabil, are the kind of person that will be good for the new world.”
Silence rings through the room. I can just barely hear the soft curls of the ocean. This is it. I’ll have to be faster than Seth if she decides to strike.
Princess Nabil drops her gaze from me to look over at the man who led us into this pink palace. “How could he possibly know?”
Relief floods my system. I let myself take a small sip of the champagne, smiling at the smooth burn of alcohol at the back of my throat. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will our world be. This is only the beginning.
Two Frenchmen and a queer princess.
Who knows what will come next?
I’m having a lot of fun twisting these prompts to fit my wide cast. Erisa Nabil will eventually be a very close associate of Lucy Lore from my first blog post. Thanks again to everyone who stops by to read these personal fan fictions of my future novels.
Also be sure to read Bridgette and Anna’s take on this vacation prompt: