My Love Lies Bleeding Page 28

“No, Madame.”

“You know the prophecy, of course.”

I nodded.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for a girl to be born to us.” Great, no pressure.

“Your bloodchange is fast approaching. I can smell it on you. Even frightened as you are, your heart beats slower than it ought to.” I wondered if that was why I felt like I might pass out. I lifted my chin. I was not going to embarrass myself or my family.

“I would have you strong enough to survive, little Solange. I may not want the royal courts for my own, but I won’t have them taken from our family as if we are nothing.”

She picked up a long silver chain from the small table beside her. The vial on the end was clear, capped with silver and held with more silver work, curled to look like ivy leaves.“Do you know what this is?”

“No, I don’t.” She held it up. From this angle I could see the vial held a dark red liquid inside. “Oh. It’s blood.”

“My own, to be precise.” She twirled it once. I watched it, mesmerized despite myself. “I do not share my blood lightly—only in extreme circumstances, you understand.”

I didn’t understand actually. But if she made me drink that, I really would throw up on her.

“I am prepared to give this to you. When your birthday arrives, drink it and it will give you the strength you need to claim your legacy.” This probably wasn’t a good time to tell her I didn’t want to be queen.

“Your brothers didn’t need it; the Drake men have been turning for centuries. But you’re different. I am curious to see how this will play out, and precious little incites my curiosity these days.”

So maybe being the bearded lady at the carnival wasn’t so bad after all.

“You will, of course, have to prove yourself worthy.”

“Of . . . course.” Because just handing it over would be too easy. “How do I do that?”

“There are skills every Drake woman should know, to honor her heritage. We will begin with embroidery.”

My mouth hung open. “Embroidery?” I sucked at embroidery. Aunt Hyacinth had tried to teach me, but we’d both given it up as a lost cause. Lucy, strangely, had picked it up really quickly and embroidered a tapestry of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow for my last birthday. Somehow, I didn’t think that was going to help me right now. “I’m afraid I’m not very good at embroidery.” Her lips pursed. My palms went damp. Her fangs were out, as pointed and delicate as little bone daggers. “That’s disappointing, Solange.” I was going to die because I couldn’t embroider roses on a pillow.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered.

“Can you draw?”

“A little. I can throw pots. I don’t suppose you have a kiln?”

“No, but duly noted.” She waved her hand and suddenly Marguerite was back. I hadn’t seen her leave, and I hadn’t seen her return. She was carrying a small table like it weighed nothing and a chair. She set them down in front of me, then produced a sketchpad and pencils. “Go on,” Veronique murmured. “Draw me something.” I wiped my hands and reached for a pencil, eyes racing over my surroundings for a subject. If she asked me to draw her, I might as well kill myself right now. I noticed a clay vase in the corner, holding a bouquet of stakes. I drew vases and pots all the time, getting ideas for my work at the pottery wheel.

I broke the tip of the first pencil. I took another one but had to wait until the tremor in my fingers subsided before trying again. This time I drew lightly, trying to pretend that my future didn’t actually depend on it. Veronique glanced at my page.

“Passable.”

I let out a breath in a big whoosh. She was like the scariest teacher ever. It made me glad I’d never gone to a regular school.

“And now for music. The harp? Piano?”

The harp? Was she serious? My mother taught me how to avoid hunters, shoot a crossbow, and stake a rabid vampire at twenty paces, not how to play

“Greensleeves.”

“I . . .”

She rose from her chair with the speed of an ancient vampire and the grace and posture of a prima ballerina.

A prima ballerina who was about to pass judgment on me.

“No music at all?” She did not sound pleased. I stumbled back a step before deciding to hold my ground. I’d been telling Lucy for years not to run because it only made vampires chase you. “Tell me, what can you do?” I felt useless and insignificant. And I couldn’t think of a single thing I could do that might impress her. How did you impress a nine- hundred-year- old vampire matriarch?

“Math?” she snapped.

“Yes,” I replied, relieved. “I’m good at math.”

“History?”

“Yes.”

“When was the Battle of Hastings?”

“1066.”

“Who was Eleanor of Aquitaine’s first son to rule?”

“Richard the Lionheart.”

“What year were my twins born?”

“1149.”

“Can you fight?”

“Yes.”

“With a sword?”

“Yes.”

“Show me.”

She clapped her hands once and another woman walked in, wearing the traditional white fencing uniform and face guard. I could tell by her eyes, which were light green, that she was a vampire. I had no idea if she was a Drake. And though I was pretty good at fencing, how was I supposed to beat a vampire? I was still human, and it was late enough that I would have been yawning by now if I’d been any less scared. My opponent gave me a mask and a vest and a foil.

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