Humans can't inherit vampire covens...or can they?
Despite being from an aristocratic family, all I wanted was a normal life. I was more saddened by my grandfather's ill health than I was by the knowledge that my father would get the family title. Having been raised by my grandfather for almost my entire life, I felt as if I was losing more than my grandfather. I was losing my best friend.
When my grandfather made a deathbed request, I couldn't say no. I flew to Italy to deliver a message to an old friend of his. I had no idea my little trip would lead me to a world I never knew existed or to a man I couldn't forget.
Between my grandfather's death and dodging my money-grubbing father's spiteful manipulations, learning vampires are real doesn't faze me much. Inheriting a vampire coven is another thing altogether. I never wanted to have a title, but the threats against my life leave me no choice. In order to stay alive, I'll have to accept being a vampire prince.
"Chance, get me that photograph of your grandmother off my dresser."
I stood up and walked over to the dresser. I smiled as I grabbed the picture my grandfather had asked for. It was taken right before my grandmother passed away some ten years previous. The silver frame was heavy and thick, but ornately carved.
I'd always loved this picture. I'd only had fifteen years with my grandmother before she passed, but this was how I remembered her. She'd been the perfect grandmother, a mix of stern and loving.
There had been a bond between my grandparents I'd never seen in another couple. They had been best friends besides being husband and wife. Theirs was the kind of relationship I hoped to have one day, assuming I could find a guy who was interested in me for more than five minutes. Good guys seemed few and far between in my world.
Or maybe it was just me.
My grandmother always told me that I needed to be true to myself. My grandfather always told me I needed to have standards. Being true to myself andhaving standards didn't seem to mesh well in the wide world of dating.
I carried the picture back over to my grandfather's bedside and sat down before handing it to him. "She looked so happy in that photograph."
My grandfather smiled as he stroked his finger down the surface of the glass. "I miss her, Chance. She was my best friend."
I tried to smile back, but I knew it wouldn't be long before my grandparents were together again. My grandfather's health was flagging. I was actually kind of surprised he'd held out this long.
"I need you to do something for me, Chance."
"Of course, Grandfather." I couldn't think of a thing I wouldn't do for him.
Both of my grandparents had been there for me from the moment I took my first breath. After my mother died giving birth to me and my father flaked out on me, they had raised me as their own. There was no way to repay that, not in my lifetime.
Grandfather's hands trembled as he fiddled with the bottom of the frame. My jaw dropped when the bottom of the frame slid away, revealing a small black silk bag.
"Here, hold this for a moment." He held out the bag. After I took it, he slid the bottom of the frame back into place then held out his hand for the bag. "Now, go put this back on the dresser."
I quickly did as my grandfather requested, putting Grandmother's picture back exactly where it had been before. My grandfather was always peculiar about having things put back where they belonged.
When I got back to the bed and sat down, my grandfather opened the bag and upended it. A silver ring fell out into the palm of his hand. I gasped when my grandfather picked it up and held it up to the light.
"Is that a real ruby?"
"It is, my boy. This is what is called a blood ruby due to its dark color. It's one of the rarest gems on the planet. I have only seen two others in my lifetime."
"There's something etched in the sides." I squinted to try and get a better looked. "Are those words?"
"They are. It's Latin. In sanguinem, invenire vires. It means 'In blood, we find strength'."
"What does it mean?"
My grandfather shook his head. "It doesn't matter."
"How did you get it?"
My grandfather smiled. "It was a gift from an old friend."
It felt as if there was more to the story, but my grandfather didn't elaborate, and I didn't ask. It seemed wrong to pry into what was obviously an old memory.
"His name is Giovanni Visconti, and I need you to return this ring to him."
"Me?" I looked at my grandfather in surprise. "Why?"
"Because I will not let your father get his hands on it." Grandfather let out a snort. "Your father thinks I'm stupid and do not see the things he does, but I see all. If he ever learned that I had this ring, he'd take it and sell it in a hot minute. Why do you think I had it hidden?"
Grandfather grabbed my hand and squeezed tighter than I thought a man of his advanced age and ill health could do. "When you see Giovanni, you tell him it's time. Do you understand? You tell him it's time. This is very important, my boy."
"It's time." I nodded. It was weird, but whatever. "I understand."
"Go now, Chance."
"What? Now? No!" My grandfather was practically on his death bed. I didn't want to leave him at a time like this.
"You must," Grandfather insisted. "I do not have much time left and I wish to see Giovanni one last time."
"You take this ring and return it to Giovanni, and you tell him what I said." He pointed to an envelope on the nightstand. "I've already booked you a flight. It leaves in a couple of hours. You just need to pack a bag and get to the airport."
I frowned as I grabbed the envelope and opened it. There was a round trip airline ticket inside for tonight to take me to the Brescia-Montichiari Airport Gabriele D'Annunzio in Italy.
"A car will be waiting for you when you land to take you to Giovanni's family estate outside of Salò. Once you give the ring to him and tell him what I said, he'll know what to do."
"Are you sure about this, Grandfather?"
My grandfather slumped back against the pillows, almost as if a huge weight had been taken off his shoulders. He patted my hand. "I'm sure, Chance."
I shrugged. "Okay."
"Go pack a bag. I'll have Jenson bring the car around so he can drive you to the airport. Take the ring with you, but don't let anyone see it. It's worth a lot of money. I don't want anything to happen to you if someone tries to steal it from you."
"Won't they go through my bag at customs?" It wasn't like I traveled all that much, just a couple of times in my entire life and only as far as Paris, France, but my bag had been checked each time.
Grandfather's lips tightened.
"I could put it on my necklace." I reached inside my shirt and pulled out the black corded necklace I always wore. It hung down to the middle of my pectoral muscles. It would be easy to hide the ring under my shirt.
"That's a good idea." My grandfather smiled again. "Such a smart boy."
"I'm hardly a boy anymore, Grandfather. I turn twenty-five in three days."
"You'll always be a boy to me, but you're a good boy, so age hardly matters. You're more mature at your age than your father is at his."
I knew it gutted my grandfather to admit that about his only child, but he wasn't lying. My father had never really grown up and being born as the only child of Lord Albert Sutton, Earl of Cambridgeshire, he'd been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He thought he was better than pretty much everyone on the planet.
He wasn't much of a father either. Sadly, I only saw him once or twice a year. It could be worse, though. He could come around more often.
Still, I had my grandfather. Both my grandparents had been there for since I was just a few days old. Losing my grandmother ten years ago tore a bigger hole in my heart than losing my own mother when I was born. I hadn't known my mother. I adored my grandmother.
"No time to dawdle, Chance."
I pulled the clasp of my necklace around until I could unhook it and then I threaded the end through the ring and closed the hook back up. I let the ring dangle for a moment before tucking it under my shirt.
I smiled up at my grandfather. "See, no one will know it's there."
"Just be careful, Chance. Don't trust anyone. If someone found out that you had that ring before you can get it back to Giovanni, I don't know what would happen. I shudder to even think about it."
"I'll be careful, Grandfather."
I grabbed the ticket and stuffed it into my pocket before leaning over and pressing a kiss to my grandfather's cheek. "Be back soon."
"Stay safe, son."
I nodded as I stood and then headed for the door. I closed it quietly behind me before hurrying down the hallway to my room. I didn't really need to pack much. I didn't plan on being gone that long. I grabbed a change of clothes, my passport, tablet, cell phone, and wallet.
I didn't think I'd need anything more.
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