Sprawled on a chaisse-lounge, Nicolucci folded an arm behind his head and leaned back. He took a long draw off of a clove cigarette and exhaled, carefully forming little circles with the smoke. He practiced rings one more time before snuffing the smoke and checking his phone. Waiting, while part of his job, rarely bothered him, but tonight, he felt off, and he knew the reason stemmed from hitting the blood too hard over the past three nights. And so he’d wait, and he wouldn’t complain. Complaining wouldn’t matter anyway, when his main duty involved the capo-re, the leader of their bloodlines. M’Rhal had the strength of her maker, Dante, even if she didn’t have his years. Nico smiled. For other reasons, she was more important to him than Dante had ever been, even when he had been Dante’s right hand man and head of his Elite.
The door opened. Nico dropped his smoke in an ashtray, swung his feet to the floor, and stood at attention in one fluid motion. The vampire who entered was not the one he expected, but still demanded the same respect as she did. Angelo strode past him and into the expansive apartment beyond the next door. Nico waited. After less than a minute’s time, Angelo reappeared, scowling. “Where is she?” he demanded.
Nico, humming with extra energy, struggled to maintain composure. “She went to the library,” Nico said with a deferential dip of his chin. “She asked that I wait here for her.”
Angelo studied Nico, and Nico worried that he had missed something when he crawled home, ragged and worn just before dawn. He’d scrubbed his flesh, burned his clothing, and spent a good, solid hour detangling his normally straight, neat hair.
Angelo startled Nico out of his thoughts with his next question. “Where have you been the past two nights?”
Lowering his eyes, Nico whispered, “The pazzia.”
“I’m happy to see you back then.” When Nico looked up at his liege, Angelo added, “Do not be surprised, Nicolucci. You are a valuable member of this family. M’Ral considers you indispensible.”
Angelo nodded briskly and left, leaving Nico to breathe a sigh of relief. It had been within his right to inquire further, at which, Nico could not lie. He could not remember all the details of the pazzia. In fact, most of it was no more than blurred snapshots, like fading memories of nightmares he hadn’t had in centuries.
Nico snatched up his cigarettes but then dropped the pack and hurried to the opulent bathroom in the back of the suite. His capo-re would not return immediately, and now he knew, neither would Angelo. He stood in front of a ten-by-six mirror along one wall, designed to make the room bigger than it already was. His clothes were clean and neat, freshly pressed and tailored to his frame, his blond-brown hair straight and sleek, restrained in a tight ponytail at the nape of his neck, and his face flush with fresh blood. His eyes gave him away. Darkly hazel, they were almost brown, the color of dying moss in the winter, and they look haunted, sunken into his face as if escaping the memories hidden behind them.
Turning away from his reflection, Nico hurried back to the front room where he would wait until told otherwise. He assumed his own guilt plagued him. If he truly looked as uncomfortable as he felt, M’Rhal or Angelo would’ve pursued more details. Still, he thought, he couldn’t help but wonder what may still come to light from his three night rampage under the bloodlust. Pazzia didn’t hit often, but when it did, it always rattled him. An immortale could be the most careful of his kin and still fail at basic methods of cover when the sickness hit.
Up Next: Once Bonded, Never Enough