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James stared at his uncle like a crazy person.
The craziness did not stem from his uncle or from what he had said, but from the initial excitement at hearing the word vampire. That feeling was slowly displaced by curiosity.
“Vampires. Like full on, blood sucking fiends?”
“Nyota actually.” Elisa was in the doorway.
“What the heck is a Nyota?”
“Basically the basis for vampiric lore. Maybe if you read a book instead of getting your butt kicked all the time.”
“Not the time old man.”
“I would hate to think you were disrespecting your elder.” Elisa was suddenly at James’ side with a well-manicured nail pressing against his carotid artery.
“Finally some respect for the man that pays the bills.”
“I’m just playing,” James said, throwing his hands in the air in defeat. “I love him like a father.”
“Gentlemen, if I may.”
Elisa took the seat next to James and he fought the sense of dread that made it hard to swallow.
“James, a very dangerous man will be coming for one of you school mates this week. Because we hold your uncle in high regard, we wanted to keep you as safe as possible.”
“Which school mate?”
“That is not your concern. He is coming and the easier the acquisition, the less chance there is anyone gets hurt.”
“You’re okay with this?” He directed the query at his uncle.
“It’s not ideal, but my primary concern is to keep you safe. There are some powerful forces at play.”
“We offer you this courtesy out of respect for your uncle. Please do not speak of this meeting and for your own safety do not interfere.”
James watched Elisa stand and shake hands with his uncle.
“A pleasure as always Mr. Martin.”
“Likewise Ms. De La Luna. Remind your father of our arrangement please.”
“Consider it done. Farewell James. I hope we can meet again under better circumstances.”
The two men escorted her to the door and watched her seemingly disappear into the darkness. Once the door was closed, James turned to face this man he suddenly did not know.
“What the hell, unc?”
Another steak eaten much slower later, James had the gist of their situation.
Nyota were basically vampires but with subtle differences. Their durability, strength, and speed increased with age. Senses were heightened beyond many predatory animals. They did bite people but the bite alone did not create new Nyota.
A new Nyota was created by injecting a symbiotic organism into the new host. Blood was necessary for survival but the plasma was the important component to feed the symbiote.
They had reflections, but they possessed a form of mimicry camouflage that could distort people’s visual perception of them if they chose. Sunlight was painful but not deadly. They were deathly allergic to the bark of Dragon’s Blood Trees which is where the myth of staking vampires arose.
“Okay, so what’s the deal you have with her dad?”
“It’s complicated. But basically we don’t get in each other’s way.”
“Sounds like some old gangsta stuff.”
“Trust me, these so call gangstas would piss themselves if they ever came up against the stuff I’ve seen.”
Before he could say another word, James’ tablet began playing music.
“I gotta go. But we need to talk about this some more.”
“Yeah. Be careful James.”
“Aren’t I always?”
“For real. Keep your head low for a couple days until this blows over.”
“I gotcha unc. Don’t worry. I’ll see you in a bit.”
Forty minutes later, James smiled as Johari approached him.
“Hi. Sorry I’m late.”
“It’s cool. I just got here.”
“I just wanted to tell you I’m sorry.”
“You don’t need to apologize.”
“I do. I’m sorry for a lot of things. Jabari. This.”
Before he realized it, Johari had pulled him into a kiss.
As his rational mind burned away from the passion of the kiss, he realized a moment too late that they weren’t alone.
The wonderful sensation of her kiss was replaced with one of falling. He managed to keep his head from hitting the pavement but before his next breath, he felt a powerful arm around his neck. Seconds later, he felt nothing.
James reluctantly ended his dream about being able to defeat several armed opponents effortlessly.
As he attempted to stretch the sleep from his joints, he felt the weight of someone’s arm on his bare chest. He turned onto his side and looked into the serene face of easily the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. James ran his fingers through Johari's curls.
“Hey sleepy head,” she said without opening her eyes.
“How do you feel?” She opened her eyes and he saw that they were much lighter than when he first met her. They were stormy sky gray and absolutely mesmerizing. “James?”
“Oh. I feel great. Better than I’ve ever felt actually. I just can’t remember anything after kissing you.” She smiled. “Speaking of which.”
He leaned in to kiss her. Just as their lips touched, they were interrupted by the last voice he wanted to hear in this situation.
“Sorry to break up the make out session, but I need your full attention.”
James instinctively pulled the sheets to his neck.
“Why are you here?”
“Because I love you.”
“I love you too unc, Please tell me I’m dreaming. Please tell me I’m dreaming.” Uncle June pinched him. “You are a terrible, terrible person. Why are you in Johari’s bedroom?”
“He says he was worried about you.”
“You knew he was here?”
“He got here a couple of hours ago. I tried to ignore him.”
“Ok, what's going on?”
“I’ll tell you after you put on some pants.”
Uncle June turned his back and let James slip on his pants.
“Ok. Please tell me what’s going on?”
“Remember our visitor last night? Johari is the school mate.”
“That actually makes a lot of sense. I hang out with like five people.” He turned to the beautiful woman who he just realized was fully dressed. “You knew about this?”
She shrugged her shoulders.
“Now nephew, you know I hate making you feel bad.”
“I’m pretty sure there’s a photo album dedicated to that very thing, but no, please continue.”
“Always interrupting me. Anyway. Think about what Elisa said and use your head for something other than blocking punches.”
“Are you trying to tell me Johari's a Nyota too?”
Before Uncle June or James could react, James was on the bedroom floor. He touched his face then slowly sat up and stared up at his attacker’s apologetic face.
“Oh God! James, I'm so sorry. It's just...” She hauled him to his feet effortlessly.
“Rukia,” Uncle June corrected with a shake of his head.
“Roo, what?” He had fought Jabari twice now and had never felt a single blow as hard as Johari's slap. It felt as if his jaw had come unhinged.
“Roo-key-ah. They hate being called Nyota.”
“Yeah, tell me that after she breaks my jaw. I think she knocked one of my wisdom teeth loose.”
“She also may have bitten you.”
"You bit me?”
“I had a really good reason.”
“She needs your help so she tried to turn you into her Servant.”
“In my defense, the first time was to save his life.”
“You bit me more than once?”
"I didn't hear you complain."
"That's because I didn't know you were putting holes in my neck with your teeth. Is that why I like her so much? Because she turned me into a slave?”
“Whatever. I knew someone like you couldn’t be into a guy like me.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself. You are a sweet guy.”
“Oh my God.”
“Johari, if you don’t mind, may I take a shower?”
“He seems polite enough to me. Of course you may.”
“Don’t use up all her hot water.”
Ten minutes later, James’ shower was completed.
He reached in the general direction of where his towel should have been but felt nothing. A second attempt was met by the wall. Thinking it must have fallen off the rack he wiped the excess water from his eyes and stepped out of the tub.
“Is my Servant all fresh and clean?” Her voice was sickeningly sweet and he nearly slipped on the water that had since formed a puddle on the slick tile.
“Hurry up and get dressed.”
James felt his stomach clenched and he took the towel from her. He noted the way she lifted her eyebrows slightly, considered addressing the gesture, but ignored that impulse in favor of a different remark.
“I know the world has gone crazy and I’m supposed to be your Servant, but could we wait until I'm dry before you start ordering me around?”
“You don't have to be so unreasonable about it.” She folded her arms over her chest and momentarily drew his eyes to it.
“Unreasonable? Says the woman standing in my bathroom calling me her Servant. You’re right, I’m the bad guy here and I deserve to be punished.”
“That you do.” She gave him a wicked grin that faded as quickly as it had appeared. "Your uncle is ready to start talking to us again. He thinks you might be defective."
"I don't have words. Can I at least get dressed first?”
“I don’t mind.”
“Do I make you uncomfortable?”
"If I told you yes, would you leave?”
“Yeah, I thought so.”
“Kidding. I’ll see you in a bit. Don’t take too long.”
Another ten minutes and James reluctantly joined the woman he was still very attracted to and the uncle living a double life in Johari’s living room.
“So. Let’s talk.”
“I’ve been in the game a while. So, I’m not saying this as his uncle. You need to find a different guy.”
“Are you saying I can’t keep him?” Johari rested her chin on James’ shoulder.
“He’s okay. I make fun of him, but he’s reliable and pretty tough. But he can’t protect you. Not from the guy that’s coming. I know about Jabari. I don’t think he could beat Fox but he’s far more prepared for that fight than James is.”
“Somebody stronger than Jabari?”
“Yes. Jabari is still a normal human. No augmentation. With the proper weaponry, he might stand a chance. You would die.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence. Why does Johari need a Servant or Jabari anyway? She’s pretty strong.”
“She is. Stronger than Fox most days. But she needs to feed off her Servant to maintain that level. It’s in flux. New moon and all that.”
“So how do you feel about all of this?” Her breath felt warm against his ear and smelled like cinnamon.
“I feel like I want to fight Fox.”
“Do you want to die?”
“No. I want to have beautiful half Rukia kids with Johari. But I can’t do that if some super strong Nyota kidnapper kidnaps her.”
“As sweet a proposal as that is, I think we need to focus on the ‘you not getting killed in the near future’ part of this discussion.” She gave him a quick squeeze around the neck.
“I’m all ears.”
“If the two of you are serious about this, I can make some calls. But James. Look at me. I need you to understand what’s going on. This isn’t just about you being outclassed as a fighter. If that were the case, I know ways around that. Johari bit you. Multiple times. The bond needs to be completed before Fox gets here.”
“Ok. So how do we complete the bond?”
“She has to bite you ten more times.”
“That’s a lot.”
“Yes. It is. The problem is that you need time to recover after each bite. Usually a day or so. I don’t think we have that kind of time. And rushing the recovery could kill you.”
“Question; if it doesn’t kill me, will it make me stronger?”
“You both will.”
“Let’s do that then. I’m down if Johari is.”
“Like four flats on a Cadillac.”
“I like this girl. That settles it. Obviously, you can’t stay here. Or go to school for a while.”
“So what’s next?”
“You pack up some essentials. I need to make some calls. No turning back after this.”
James nodded. Regardless of what lied ahead the next few days, he was ready to face it.