I felt a strange prickling sensation across my skin. The hairs on my neck stood on end as if electrically charged. The air around me felt as if it were growing colder, like someone had set the thermostat to zero. A shiver danced its way up my spine, causing gooseflesh to erupt and spread down my arm.
My kind can always feel another vampire’s presence. This eerily cold hair-raising sensation felt very similar, yet somehow amplified.
I turned to find Nicholas looking over my shoulder. It was if he had appeared out of nowhere. I jumped in place, startled by his sudden appearance, and bit back a curse. His scruffy face was mere inches from my neck, though his blue-gray eyes, a trademark of the vampire race, were locked on the box in Fallon’s hand.
“What have we here?” he asked. “Been ordering junk from those websites again, little human?” He folded his arms in front of his chest. Nicholas wasn’t a tall man, but he was muscular and looked very formidable and menacing when he wanted to.
Fallon finished sweeping the ash back into the box and replaced the lid. “No, the human has not been ordering junk.” She shot him a taunting glare.
Human or not, Fallon didn’t take Nicholas’s crap. Once she learned he wasn’t going to kill her, it became almost a game between those two: an ongoing battle to see who could annoy whom the most. It was fun to watch the two of them go at it, though somewhere in the back of my mind, I wondered if it might one day go too far.
“Someone dropped this on our doorstep.” Fallon set the wooden box on the futon and picked up the corner of the cardboard box it came in, showing Nicholas the big red symbol on the bottom. “You’re older than dirt, right? Maybe you can read this.”
He opened his mouth as if to make another snarky comment and then closed it immediately. His eyes narrowed and his brows pulled together in deep concentration.
That startled me more than the odd chill in the air. Nicholas was always quick with an answer or some kind of quip. For him to be silent meant that this, whatever it was, was not the innocuous present I had hoped it would be, and further confirmed my feelings of unease.
“Thanatos?” Nicholas whispered under his breath, as if asking a question rather than making a statement.
Fallon and I exchanged confused looks. I shrugged at her and after a moment of awkward silence, decided to ask the obvious question. “Who is Thanatos?”
“When did you receive this?” he asked curtly.
“It was on the doorstep when I got home from the store,” Fallon replied. “I dunno, probably about seven o’clock or so.”
“What was inside the package?”
“Just this.” Fallon dropped the cardboard box and handed the smaller wooden one to Nicholas.
He took it gingerly, as if he feared to touch the ancient-looking thing.
“Who is Thanatos?” I asked a bit louder this time.
“Death personified.” Nicholas’s voice warbled, hinting at his own worry.