Kal leaned back in his La-Z-Boy recliner and mouthed the word fuck as his mother’s voice droned on and on from the other end ofhis cell phone. He had to hand it to her, she was getting damn good with a hammer. With each word uttered, she tried to bang another nail into his bachelor coffin.
But he held his own…sort of.
“Did you get the package I sent you?” his mother asked. Her rich French accent was thick. Her voice brought back memories of when she sang to him and his older brother when they were young, growing up in France.
“Oui," Kal replied back. "The cookies were good. Thanks.”He knew she didn’t give a shit about the cookies. What she wanted to know were his thoughts on the photos.
He glanced at his lap. Four glossy pictures of vampire women stared back at him. All head shots, all air brushed to perfection. Flipping them over, he almost laughed out loud when he saw they were complete with each woman’s stats. Just like all the rest his mother had sent him over the last three years.
“What about the sweater?” She asked. “Does it fit?”
Kal sighed and shoved the photos back in the manila envelope. “Mom, just ask me what you want to ask me.”
Silence met his ear before she cleared her throat. “Sweetheart, I’m only thinking of you and your future—the future of our house. You need an heir and I’d like to hold a grandchild before I leave this earth.”
Yep, here comes the guilt.
When he didn’t reply, she continued, “I’m already four hundred and thirty two.”
Shit. She’s pulling out all the stops this time.“You’re still young. And I will get married and give you grandchildren, just not right now.”
“You know how quickly life changes—how loved ones are here one day, and then gone the next.”
Pain knotted Kal’s gut. He knew exactly who she was referring to. His father and brother had been killed sixty years ago in a demon raid, but the ache was still fresh. And since he was a warrior, his days were numbered. For all he knew, he could be whacked tonight.
“You’re all I have left, Kal. I love you and want you to be happy. I also want to know you, your father, and brother will live on through your children. Is that too much to ask?”
Kal picked at the duct tape holding in the stuffing on the frayed armrest of his green and yellow recliner. What the hell could he say to that? He loved his mother dearly and knew she still suffered the loss of her mate and first born son.
And since he was the head of the household it was his duty to marry and produce not only an heir to his house, but sire future warriors for the war between vampires and demons.
The problem was he wanted more than the cold marriage of obligation which was the norm for vampires. Rarely did his kind marry for love—although if the couple were lucky, love could grow between them like it had between his squad leader, Roarik and his wife, Celeene.
“Kal? Are you still there?” His mother’s voice broke through his thoughts.
“Ah, yeah. I’m here.” The words duty and responsibility swirled through his mind. He stood, knocking the manila envelope to the floor. The pictures spilled out, mocking him further. Duty. Responsibility. Marriage. Pickme, No, pick me!
Kal rubbed the back of his tight neck, trying to relieve his tension. Fuck tension, more like panic. He needed to get off the phone and split from the base for awhile and think. “Hey, mom. I’ve gotta go. I’ll call you later.”
“All right, sweetheart, but can you do one thing for me?”
Now what? “Sure.”
“Can you at least give what we talked about serious consideration? The females I’ve picked out are all worthy of you. Their bloodlines are impeccable.”
Impeccable and beautiful, but he was in no hurry to be trapped in a loveless marriage with some snooty, high society female just for the sake of reproducing. He wanted a marriage based on love not necessity.
Fuck, he was such a chick.
Kal cleared his throat. “I will. I’ll seriously think about…” He swallowed. “Marriage.” Same answer he gave every time they had this discussion, except this time he meant it. He couldn’t put it off much longer. Better to get it over with.
“Thank you, son. I love you.”
“Love you too, mom. Au revoir.”
He closed his phone. His fingers curled around the warm plastic and he drew his arm back, ready to launch the thing against the wall. Watching it smash to a million pieces might help demolish his frustrations.
Then he’d have to buy a new phone.And programming all the numbers was a pain in the ass. Instead he dropped it into the back pocket of his jeans.
Kal grabbed his remote off the coffee table and aimed it at his TV. The video game he’d been playing before his mother called was still paused on the fifty-two inch screen. Without saving his progress, he shut off the gaming system and the television. He scooped up the scattered photos and shoved them back in the envelope. As they slid inside, the flash of long black hair caught his attention.
He slowly extracted the picture. Light green eyes, surrounded by dark lashes stared back at him. Pale skin. Pouty lips. The facial features, although perfect, were all wrong. But the hair was the same as hers.
Kal stroked the cheek of the vampire woman in the photo, but it wasn’t her soft skin he pretended to feel. It was a human woman he’d known years ago.