FIFTY YEARS LATER
Izzy couldn’t believe that her parents actually allowed her to go on this trip by herself. For the first time in her entire life, they didn’t want to keep an eye on her, no helicopter parenting, no pressure, just herself. Granted, they had arranged for her to stay in one of the fanciest hotels in the French Quarter for her own safety, but other than that? She was on her own.
New Orleans just breathed culture, and as soon as Izzy had set foot on New Orleans soil, even if it was just at the airport, she could feel it in her bones. The excitement. The buzz. She took a taxi to her hotel to get her settled, but on her way there she saw something familiar, something she had been drawing over and over and over again over the past few years, and couldn’t wait to go and explore what the hell that building was.
She quickly dumped her bag at the hotel, took her sketching pad with her and headed straight to the building after getting some directions on how to get there on foot. It was amazing to look at the gated home up close. She had all the details right, tiny details even. Izzy was spectacularly surprised by the cracks on the walls that were the same on her up close drawing.
Upon further inspection, the gates weren’t actually locked, and it didn’t look like anybody was home. Who cared about a little breaking and entering? She wanted to be sure that the courtyard was the same as she thought it was, too. What was this sorcery? How could she draw something so similar – no, the same – and how could it be real? Should she call her parents to inform them of the bad decision she was about to make?
Taking a deep breath, Izzy leaned against the gates and slipped inside and was in awe of the courtyard. There were some white sheets over items, but the magnificence of the courtyard was awe-inspiring. And exactly as she’d imagined it to be. This was so strange. How?
“You’re trespassing,” a voice sounded and when Izzy looked around, she saw an older woman, likely in her 70’s, standing on one of the landings. “This is my home.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, ma’am,” Izzy apologized. “You have a very lovely home.”
“I do indeed,” the woman replied as she started to descend the stairs. “Now, what made you make this bad decision of trespassing in an old witch’ home?”
Izzy shrugged. “I didn’t know it was a witch’ home, ma’am, but I’m from outta town and when I passed this building in the taxi, it was familiar to me,” she said as she walked to the woman and showed her the drawings. “See?”
“May I?” the woman said after having looked at the drawing for a while and pointed at Izzy’s sketchbook.
“Sure,” she smiled as she handed it to her. “My name’s Izzy, ma’am, Izzy Whitlock.”
“Are you always this happy, Izzy?” the woman let out a chuckle as she shook her head. She then started to thumb through the sketchbook revealing drawings of people with familiar faces. Old faces. “You’re a witch?”
Izzy shrugged then. “I am what I am, my parents don’t really do labels, why?”
“No reason,” the woman then handed the sketchbook back and looked closer to what the person in front of her looked like. “Hmm… Well, Izzy Whitlock, I can tell you that those people you drew used to live here, but vampires left New Orleans long ago.”
“Vampires? Vampires aren’t real.”
“Oh, they are, just like witches,” the old lady smiled a knowing smile. “But I tell you what, why won’t you go to that little café around the corner and I’ll see what I can do for you. I bet you’d like to meet one of those people you drew so beautifully.”
“What? A vampire?”
The woman nodded as she started to push the girl out of her courtyard. “Have something to eat, something to drink and if I have any news, I’ll bring it to you.”
“You’re not pulling my leg, are you ma’am? Making fun of me?”
“Oh no, this is a serious matter, young lady. I don’t make light of serious situations like these.”
Izzy was basically pushed out of the courtyard and back through the gates and went to the café the woman told her to go to but she couldn’t help but feel she was in danger. Something didn’t feel right. After ordering her coffee and something to eat, she took out her phone and called her mother. In cases like these, she probably should have called her father, but he’d go into defense mode and they’d be on the first plane to New Orleans to come and get her.
“Hey! You made it!”
“I did,” Izzy smiled. “From what I’ve seen so far, New Orleans is amazing, I can’t wait to go and explore things, draw things. Enjoy the food, just like you said.”
“What’s wrong, bunny?”
She let out a sigh. “I don’t know, I usually go on holiday with you guys and now I’m alone…”
“You’re eighteen, it’s time you do things on your own. Fly away, like the beautiful little bird that you are.”
“What?” Izzy’s mother laughed. “Are you worried something might happen to you?”
“Well, you and dad did tell me that New Orleans wasn’t the most clean place to be, lots of evil people, criminals…” Izzy sighed as she ran a hand through her blonde locks and smiled at the waitress when she brought her her drink and her food. “I drove past by a building on my way to the hotel.”
“It’s the same building I’ve been drawing for years, mom, it’s making me nervous! What’s going on?”
“This is a journey you need to take on your own, bunny. Your dad says that everything will work out fine.”
“Trust the journey, even though you don’t yet understand it.”
Izzy rolled her eyes. She hated that quote. It was engraved in her skull. It was on a plaque in her room back home. “Fun.”
“We love you, bunny, have a great time in New Orleans.”
“So… you’re not worried? Like… at all?” Izzy then stared at her phone when her mother hung up on her. Now wasn’t the time for cryptic messages! She wanted to hear that everything was going to be alright and that she wasn’t going to get slaughtered by a serial killer for trespassing in a building!
Izzy angrily took a sip of her coffee before attacking her sandwich while she looked at her sketchbook. Would her parents have known all along about the building being real? It used to drive Izzy nuts that she just had the urge to draw it like that. Or draw the faces. This was ridiculous. But then again, she felt a curiosity as well. It was an adventure. Her adventure.
And it now scared the ever living shit out of her.
There was another coffee. And another one, and when the other one came round, Izzy had enough. She was clearly being played and if it was her duty to find out more about the building, she’d have to go to the library. But for now, it was enough. She was going to explore the French Quarter and hoped that she could put it behind her. For now.
Enough was enough.
She paid for her food and coffees and got to her feet and was surprised to see someone sitting in the chair in front of her after she blinked. She stumbled back into her chair and looked at him in silence. Such a familiar face, but where did he come from?
“I hear you have drawings, let me see,” he said as he took her sketchbook and looked through them. “Okay, so, you spent time in New Orleans and you saw these faces in some old newspapers. I’m clearly wasting my time.”
Izzy huffed as she crossed her arms over her chest after pushing her hair out of her face. “I arrived in New Orleans only a few hours ago and for the last eighteen years I haven’t left our farm in Texas, only to go on trips to Alaska and Illinois with my parents.”
“So you’re a witch,” he stated.
“Labels. I don’t think I am a witch, because I’m nothing like my mother. She’s a witch. With magic. And stupid quotes. My dad refused to be called a witch, but he’s a psychic knower. Me? I draw shit and they happen to be real and I never thought they’d be real,” Izzy countered. “Can I have my sketchbook back?”
He flipped to the page where his face was on. “You drew me.”
“I had to. With many of the drawings in there, I felt like I had to.”
“I don’t know!” Izzy shot at him before leaning over and grabbing her sketchbook. “Look, I thought that maybe I would find answers with that house or with you for why I would draw something like that, but if you’re only going to waste my time, I best be on my way.”
“Me wasting your time? Well, that’s rich,” he huffed. “Do you have any idea what I had to go through to get here? To meet with you? I had to be granted access to the Quarter just to see you, because us vampires have left a long time ago.”
“Vampire? You’re not a vampire, the sun’s out,” she huffed as she got to her feet. “Are you going to help me, or not?”
The boy sighed. Izzy thought he was maybe her age, or slightly older? She wasn’t sure. He looked sad and angry at the same time. Frustrated was perhaps a better word for it. “Yeah, I’ll help you. Come on, Bella, let’s go home.”
“My name is Izzy, and I’m not going anywhere with you. I have a room at the hotel.”
“Of course, why would things ever be easy?” he rolled his eyes at her and motioned for her to follow him. “Let’s go to my home. You’ve already been there, Davina told me. Don’t worry, the old bat cleared the house for us, she’ll move back in once we’re done… although… I could take you to my apartment… Yes. That’s a better idea,” he nodded as he turned a corner. “I still have it, you know. I couldn’t get rid of it. Myriam wouldn’t let me, despite all the memories that haunt that place. Your stuff is still there too.”
“Yeah, your clothes, your little trinkets… your laptop… although I doubt that survived the last five decades. But maybe it’ll do you some good, to see your old apartment.”
“You said it was yours.”
“It was ours, darling,” Kol winked at her as he opened the door leading to a staircase. “Up you go.”
Yep, this was definitely weird. This ‘vampire’ was insane and she was now in his house. Alone. With no way of defending herself or running away as he was walking behind her. Maybe she could find something in the apartment to defend herself with and run back out again. Yes. Okay. Surely apartments had knives? Heavy pots she could swing at his head?
As she stood in the middle of the room, there was a living room area to her right and a kitchen to her left. There was a loveseat and a couch and what looked like ancient controllers for a game box. She liked the kitchen, it was spacious and it looked like a great kitchen to cook in.
“You’re not getting anything?”
The boy looked like a hopeful, overeager puppy now as he bounced around the house trying to find something, and then he happily returned with a wrapped gift. “You bought me this. I think it’s time for me to unwrap it.”
Izzy shrugged as she found something heavy and in arms reach to throw at him so she could run out again. This was getting stranger by the minute. She kept her eyes on the boy as he unwrapped the gift and blinked when she saw what it was. A sex thing. Straps. What the actual fuck? She grabbed the spoon jar and threw it at him before turning around and running down the stairs.
He let out a sigh as he watched her flee. “Well, that didn’t exactly go as planned,” he muttered as he looked into the box. “What the hell kind of dirty mind did you have my dear Bella?”
Izzy tried to open the door but found it locked. She tried to kick it open before realizing the door swung inwards and then rattled the doorknob some more. “Hey, asshole, are you going to let me out or what?”
Coming to the top of the steps, he had his hands in his pockets and a pout on his face. “I could. Tell me, Bells. Do you have a headache? I mean, since you came within these walls. Feel any different?”
“No,” she said as she grabbed her phone. “And my name is Izzy, you moron,” she said as she dialed 9-1-1. “I’m calling the cops.”
He zipped down the steps and snatched the phone from her hands, turning it off and pocketing it. “I don’t think so, dollface. Maybe I should take you to see my brother and sister-in-law,” he muttered, narrowing his eyes on her. “Maybe Myriam knows what’s wrong.”
“What’s wrong is that you’re now holding my phone, and you’ve locked me inside your apartment with you. That’s kidnapping. And if I don’t call my parents in like… five minutes, they will call the cops to come and find me.”
The guy rolled his eyes and started back up the steps with her phone, opening it to scroll down her contacts. “Your parents you say? Mom, obvious. Who’s Jerk?” he asked as he opened a text message to start composing a message. “Dear Mom. This handsome asshole has me locked up in his apartment across from that house that I drew. Don’t worry. I am fine. Love you… There, done. Didn’t lie.”
Izzy smirked then. “Do you honestly think I have my parents under ‘mom’ and ‘jerk’ in my phone? You’re an idiot.”
After a minute, a reply came back and he looked at it with a smile. He held it up for her to see. “The world is a lot smaller than you think Princess. You ever hear of someone named Jasper Whitlock?”
Izzy let out a frustrated sigh as she moved past her kidnapper and went back upstairs. “Jasper Whitlock, the fucking hero who married into a wealthy family to save us all. Whoo! We’ve got money! He still died and never consummated his marriage.”
“True. He dodged a bullet with that crazy menacing midget,” he shrugged, tossing her phone on the sofa. “But I’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of meeting them all once upon a time, and I’m sure that he has been watching over the rest of his family since he was freed.”
Izzy huffed as she plopped herself in the loveseat. “Great story, you must have been watching that youtube vintage show with that medium called whatsherface.”
He gave her a sad smile. “I was there for it. I filmed it.”
She eyed him. “No, you weren’t.”
“Vampire, Darling. I thought we established that.”
“And like I told your friend across the street, vampires aren’t real.”
“She’s no friend,” he frowned. “Witches and vampires only get along when it necessitates, such as allowing me passage into the Quarter.”
“Fine, you were there, whatever. All of it looked like magic or mind fuckery to me anyway. My parents watched it and made me watch it with them,” Izzy shrugged. “Ghosts? Really?”
He let out a sigh, running a hand over his face. Sadness, despair, and disappointment beginning to consume him. “What can I do to convince you of the reality around you? Of who you are, or at least your past life that you clearly have no memory of that I could kill your original for fucking you over.”
“Is that what this is all about? I remind you of someone you used to know?”
“You don’t just remind me. I’ve been searching and waiting. Why do you think your parents sent you to New Orleans? Why you’ve been drawing what you have? A part of you deep down is seeking out a truth that you don’t know what it is.”
“I don’t know, that’s why I’m here and all I’m hearing is stuff that just can’t be real.”
“Because you aren’t letting yourself and if you let me into your mind to find Ylva, I can have a few choice words with the bloody bitch,” he sneered, trying his hardest to keep his temper under control. “Although I should probably get something to eat first…”
“Yeah, you do that, and I’ll go back to my hotel.”
He walked away, waving his hand over his head. “Yep, you try that. This place is spelled. Get some rest while I’m out. I’ll be back soon Bells.”
“This place is dusty! And my name is Izzy!”
“So clean it! You certainly loved to nag me about that before!”
“I’m not your fucking slave.”
He grumbled and shook his head. “No, you were going to be my wife,” he mumbled to himself as he walked out the door.
When she was certain he was out the door, she grabbed her phone from the couch and dialed her father’s number. Fine, no cops, but she was going to speak to the jerk who seemed to know everything. She was freaking out and this was not an adventure she’d signed up for.
“Well if it isn’t my adventurous young daughter on her own in New Orleans.”
“I need help,” she said in a small voice.
“Help? If I’m right, I believe you are in the safest place in New Orleans. What is the matter?”
“I’ve been kidnapped by someone who claims to be a vampire and he thinks I’m someone else and I can’t get out and he’s being adamant that I’m someone I’m not and he’s so sad, and I think he’s going to kill me,” she rambled as she anxiously paced the apartment.
Peter sighed and was quiet on the phone, as he thought about how to answer her. “Take a deep breath, Iz. Go to the fridge and grab a bottle of water and take a sip. Like right now.”
“This place hasn’t been cleaned for what looks like decades! If there’s anything left in the fucking fridge then it’s way past its sell-by date!”
Izzy grumbled as she stomped towards the fridge and opened it. Surprised to see that it was clean, working and everything had the dates on for this era. She opened one of the water bottles and blinked at the blood bags in the fridge. “Ew. Dad… there’s… ew.”
“Yeah…vampires tend to need those…” he quietly responded.
She spat out her water then. “Vampires are real? You’ve been holding back on me?”
“Not really holding back, but it was a feeling that you weren’t ready to hear it until you began drawing those sketches and then it never was quite the right time.”
“I’ve been drawing them for years!” she blurted. “Driving me nuts! Dad, you need to get me out of here.”
“Isabelle. You wanted answers and you are in the only place where you can get them. Let me guess. He told you something about a past life, right? I’m sure he’s upset about you not having some memories.”
“He calls me Bella and yes. It’s like he expects me to be her or something, but I’m not.”
Peter grumbled and whispered with Charlotte for a moment, asking a few questions and the name Jasper was dropped. “That vampire and Bella had released one of our ancestors from some imprisonment. What little your mother has been able to find out is that he has some severe anger management issues.”
“She’s the bitch from that youtube thing you guys tend to watch?” Izzy let out a dark chuckle. “Oh wow, this is gold, dad, great prank. Now, get me out of here. I’m done.”
“I can’t. Things are set in motion by you choosing to go there. Once you are able to get free, you need to go find some of the local witches and ask what happened to the previous version of you, that Bella.”
“I’m… for fuck’s sake. Reincarnation? Seriously? Great. Awesome. I’m totally not losing my mind,” she said as she started to pace again. “You know what? I shouldn’t have called. But do know that if I come home in a box it’s not my fault.”
“Iz, stop with the drama. You’re in a different world now. Let it happen.”
Izzy angrily threw her phone on the ground and stepped on it, breaking it on impact. She then took her bottle of water and sat back down in the love seat. So her future was to become a psychotic vampire’s slave. So not cool.