The kine doctor swallowed and glanced at Octavian, who sat in one of the nursery’s rocking chairs. “Yes, she is… exceptional. If you wish, I could test a sample of her blood, make sure she carries no human defects.”
“Defects?” Tatiana scowled. “What is that supposed to mean? The only spot on her is the birthmark on her hip.” She pulled down Lilith’s pantaloons enough to show off the perfect crescent moon shape.
The doctor inhaled and took a step back. “Nothing untoward, I promise you. It’s just that human children are immunized against human diseases. We have no way of knowing if Lilith needs these things or not.” He smoothed the pockets of his white coat. “I meant no disrespect of any kind. Clearly she is a… superior being.”
Tatiana kept her gaze on him, narrowing her eyes slightly and saying nothing until he squirmed a little more. Kine were so easy to control. “No blood tests.”
“My love,” Octavian said. “The tests might not be such a bad idea. We want the best for her. That includes the best care. You don’t know what she might have picked up from her mother.”
Tatiana turned toward the vampire who’d become inseparable from her since his recent turning. She’d come to rely on him far more than she’d ever relied on anyone else. It unnerved her, but she chose not to dwell on it. “You think she could be in danger from a human illness?”
He shrugged and pushed out of the rocker to stand beside her. He stroked his finger down Lilith’s pink cheek, his eyes sparking silver. “We don’t want to take any chances with our precious girl, do we?”
If only Tatiana’s own father had cared so much about his daughter. Lilith wasn’t even Octavian’s blood. “No,” she said softly, drinking in the fatherly affection he displayed toward her adopted child. “Only the best for her.”
Octavian smiled and gave her a wink. “Only the best for both of you.”
The doctor visibly relaxed. “So you would like to proceed with the tests?”
Octavian nodded, his face suddenly stern. “Harm this child in any way and I’ll kill you myself.”
“Yes, my lord.” The doctor paled. “I’ll just get my bag.” He shuffled away to rummage through his things.
Octavian guided Tatiana toward the divan. “Sit. You’ll both be more comfortable.” She did and he sat beside her. “Any word from Lord Edwin on this ball the House of Bathory is giving in your honor?”
She shook her head, unable to keep a slight smile off her lips. “You’re trying to distract me.”
He leaned back and crossed his legs. “Is it working?”
“Maybe.” She shifted Lilith from her arms to her lap. “He sent word earlier. I meant to tell you. The ball is a week from today. At Lord Syler’s mansion in achtice.”
Octavian wrinkled his nose. “Slovakia? Can’t say as I find that appealing.”
She laughed. “You’re such a snob. It’s lovely, I assure you. And in hosting this ball, Syler confirms his alliance with the House of Tepes.”
“Yes, but it means we have to travel.” His gaze lit upon Lilith. “We must be heavily guarded. Every precaution taken.”
A subtle throat clearing interrupted their conversation. The doctor stood before them, syringe in hand. “I’m ready whenever you are.”
Tatiana took a voluntary breath. “I want to know everything you’re going to do before you do it.”
“Of course, my lady. I’m simply going to do a heel stick and extract the blood from there. I doubt the child will like it, but in one so young, it’s the best way.”
“Very well.” She moved the blanket swaddling Lilith so that her little feet were exposed.
The doctor pulled a nearby chair closer and sat, then swabbed Lilith’s heel with antiseptic. “Keep her still as best you can.” He held her foot in his fingers and slid the needle in.
Lilith’s eyes flew open and a piercing wail erupted from her throat. The doctor winced. Tatiana raised her hand to shove him off her child, but Octavian caught her wrist before she could strike.
“What are you—”
“This must be done.” He shook his head, eyes bracketed with concern. “It hurts me to hear her cry, too, but it’s for the best.”
“For the best,” the doctor reiterated. “Almost done. There now.” He slid the needle out and twisted a cap over it to seal the vial. “There, there.” He patted Lilith’s stomach.
She caught his finger in her tiny, flailing fist and latched on. The doctor smiled. She brought his finger to her mouth and began to suck on it.
“She’s just hungry,” he said. “That’s all—What the…” He tried to yank his hand away, but Lilith held fast. He cursed. “She’s bitten me. The little beast has her teeth in me!”
Octavian leaped up. “How dare you!”
“Beast?” Tatiana snarled as her face shifted and her fangs descended. She clamped her hand over the doctor’s arm, holding him in place. “You took her blood. Now she’ll take some of yours.” She pulled him closer so she could aim her silver gaze into his mud-brown kine eyes. “Apologize for calling her such a horrible name or you’ll pay with more than blood.”
The doctor trembled, his eyes flicking from Tatiana to Lilith to Octavian. “I… I apologize for my disrespectful comment. It will not happen again.”