I waited until I knew for sure she was asleep. I looked over my shoulder where we could barely see the skeletons of the homes. She was right. This place made my skin crawl. She began to cry in her sleep and, instinctively, I held her tighter.
I hadn't told the men this, but I had began to suspect that these night terrors had nothing to do with lack of sleep, but they had everything to do with this village. The closer we had gotten, the worse her nightmares had been and the paler she was. Last night I could barely hang onto her as she tried to escape my grip. I had to cover her mouth when she started to scream; I didn't want her to wake the men up.
Her cries got louder and, once again, I put my hand over her mouth. I tried to remember what my mother did when I would have nightmares after my father turned me. I thought hard. She would whisper things in my ear. But what would she say?
"It's okay," I whispered, frantically trying to remember as she started to thrash again. Damn this girl is strong. "It's okay, Viveka. You're safe. It's me, Cian. Er... it's just a nightmare. There aren't any grey creatures or lakes. Uh...." I swore as she elbowed me in the gut. "Damn minx," I snapped. "Stop thrashing!"
She stopped and I frowned. She was still trying to scream, though. My mother would use my nickname she had for me. I bit my lip. It was worth a shot.
"Calm down, minx," I said softly. Her tears stopped. "Enough screaming. You will hurt your throat. Come on, minx." It wasn't working and I sighed. "Calm yourself, my little minx."
Her body went limp and quiet in my arms. She was breathing deeply and I studied her. Had she grown fond of the name I had given her?
My eyes started to close and I fell asleep, my hand sliding from her mouth to her stomach gently.
The sun rose but that wasn't what woke me. Viveka was gone. I looked around frantically but she was quietly making herself some breakfast. The wind had picked up and she kept glancing nervously at the village. The blanket was wrapped tightly around her again.
"How'd you get out of my arms?" I asked and she jumped.
"Good morning," she whispered. "Honestly, it took forever but I got hungry. Would you like some eggs?" I nodded and sat beside her, looking around at the men. "I tried waking them up." She chuckled. "You should've heard the names they called me before falling back asleep."
"They were rude to you?" I asked. "That is unlike them."
"It's the village, Cian," she said quietly. "I know you've picked up on it."
"I didn't want to tell anyone," I admitted, taking the eggs with a word of thanks. "Have they picked up on it?"
"I don't think so. Can't you read their minds?"
"No," I said. "Vampires can't read each other's minds."
"That's strange." She looked at me. "Why can't you read my mind?"
I tilted my head to the side. "I don't know. I mean, there's one way but it's too painful for the both of us." Her curiosity only increased so I sighed. "You have a wall.... I don't know where it came from. I could read your mind the day we were in our village."
"When did you realize you couldn't read my mind anymore?"
"When I was trying to find out why you're really taking lessons with my mother."
"You're never going to let that go, are you?"
I smirked at her which made her smile. "No so you might as well tell me."
She shook her head. "You'll just laugh at me like the others."
"The others? What others?"
"You asked me why I'm not married," she whispered and I nodded. She took a deep breath and looked at the fire. "I can't read."
I stared at her. "You can't read?" She shook her head in shame. "So that's what my mother has been teaching you to do." She hung her head and I saw her wipe a tear away. "It's nothing to be ashamed of," I said quickly. "I mean, I heard a lot of women can't."
"That's not true," she sighed. "All the women in my village can read. My father was teaching me before he died. The fact that I can't read makes me an unworthy wife."
"That's ridiculous," I frowned. "Why should it matter?"
She shrugged. "It's the way of the village, Cian. Men do the physical work, women do the mental."
I felt pity for her. To be shunned just because her father couldn't finish teaching her....
"What about your mother or Chester? Why haven't they taught you?"
"They offered but I declined."
She looked at me with a determined look on her face. "I'm not going to learn just so a man will want to be with me. I wanted to do farming but Chester... persuaded me to pick something else. He and my mother have been wanting me to learn even if it's just for me. Your mother found out and offered so I accepted."
I was about to speak but the men woke up.
"I smell eggs," one of them grumbled. "Make me some, woman."
She arched a brow. "With or without dirt?" she snapped and I smiled at her.
There's the Viveka I know.
The men were all surly when we got ready to enter the village. They gripped their swords tightly. I was getting a sense of unease around them but convinced myself it was just the aura from the village. Viveka leaned against the gate leading to the village.
"I'm telling you, something bad is in there," she whispered.
"I agree," I nodded.
"Why aren't you affected like they are?"
I frowned at the men who had changed moods quickly. They were now talking excitedly about killing creatures.
Because of you.
"I don't know," I said, shaking my head.
"Well, here we go," she sighed.
"Viveka," I said and she looked at me. "Stay with me."
She looked back at the men. They were brandishing their swords with laughter and she nodded. I opened the gate and we walked in. She laughed a little when I stepped to the side for her to walk ahead of me.
"Okay men," I said. "What are the name of the twins?" I whispered.
"Daray and Dany," she whispered back.
"Right. Daray and Dany, you go north. Er... Clemente, you go south. Brone go west and Abel go east."
"What about us?" she asked.
"We're going to search the buildings," I answered.
"Why? Did the woman say she saw something in them?"
I led her to the nearest building which looked like it may have been a shop. I put my hand on the hilt of my sword.
"Not exactly," I answered. The door was burned down. "She said she saw one coming for her."
"What do they look like?"
I hesitated. "Just black," I lied. "Everything about them, even their faces."
"Well, what are we waiting for?" Viveka asked.
She led the way in.