Family Ties - (Book 3 of the Marvelous 3 Saga)

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27 - Old Friends, New Enemies

“MATTHEW! You put too much!”

“Ai, sœur! So, you tell me what to do now, eh? I am older than you.”

“Older but not smarter. Look what you did!” Marshala smirked. She tapped her older brother on the head as he continued to mix the contents within the bowl.

Matthew sucked his teeth in annoyance. “This is nonsense,” he said in a thick Senegalese accent.

“This is necessary,” Marshala said as she dropped more herbs into the bowl. “I know you’re a master at weaponized magic, mon frère, but I can’t be the only one who knows this stuff.”

“My magic will protect you from our enemies. What will your potions do? Make them smell nice?”

“MATTHEW!” Marshala said, slapping him in the chest as he laughed.

“I kid, I kid, sœur,” he smirked. “You have to learn too, Marshala. Your stance needs work.”

“You sound like Papa,” Marshala teased.

“Good. Means I am doing something right. Keeping you safe,” Matthew said, giving his sister a kiss on the forehead. Marshala smiled as she walked back to the kitchen sink and cleaned off a few utensils. Matthew eyed her peculiarly before speaking. “Sœur...”

“Oui?”

“Who was that man you were speaking to coming out of the museum?”

Marshala froze as her words got stuck in her throat. “It was... a friend... from university.”

Matthew sighed as he stopped stirring and leaned back against the counter with his arms folded across his chest. “I thought we promised we would never lie to each other,” he said with disappointment in his voice.

Marshala swallowed hard before she turned around to face him. “...Matthew...”

“I told you I don’t want you talking to him!”

“Matthew, he’s... he’s harmless-”

“MERDE! HE’S A VAMPIRE, MARSHALA! THEY ARE NOT HARMLESS!” Marshala immediately shrunk back as she closed her mouth. Matthew sucked his teeth as he angrily started pacing. “Years we have kept Papa’s legacy to protect our people from their kind. And here you are speaking to him as if he is your lover.”

“Matthew, we’re just friends!”

“You cannot be friends with a vampire!” Matthew snapped. “They are evil! Monsters! You know what they did to Papa! To Uncle Jean! How could you call him ‘friend’?!”

“You don’t even know him!” Marshala said defensively.

“Elijah Blackbourne.” Marshala looked at her brother startled. “I know all about him,” Matthew seethed. “How many people he’s killed. Do you know he still feeds on human blood? “

“He doesn’t,” Marshala said with uncertainty.

Matthew scoffed. “So naive, sœur. You have been blinded by his charm. I don’t like this one. I don’t like the way he looks at you. I want you to stay away from him, tu comprends? I better not catch you around him again.”

“Matthew-”

“Do you understand, sœur?!” he demanded.

Marshala swallowed her words as she lowered her head. “Oui...”

Matthew looked at his sister for a second before he approached her and rubbed her arms comfortingly. “I love you so much, sœur. I only want to protect you. We have lost too much to them. Too much. I will not lose you too.”

~

“Mon coeur?”

Marshala snapped out of her thoughts as she looked up to meet Elijah’s bright blue eyes filled with concern. “Yes?” she asked.

“Are you alright?”

“Yes,” she said. She quickly looked around the campus library, remembering they were still on the search for clues to Sarah’s death. The school had been closed temporarily until cleared by the Dean. It took serious convincing on her part to ask Nick to allow Elijah onto the campus. Since it was temporarily closed down, this was the best time to have Elijah help them find the vampire responsible for the death of their student. “Sorry. What were you saying?” she asked.

“I said their soul bond is complete,” Elijah said.

“How do you know?” she asked.

Elijah closed his eyes and breathed deeply. “I can feel it. I can feel the shift in Alexander...” He opened his eyes to look at her and smiled. “I know my brother...”

Marshala took out her phone and tried calling Kiara, but it went straight to voicemail. “Shoot. I know there’s no reception where they are, but dammit... I wish I knew if Kiara was okay,” she sighed.

“Why wouldn’t she be okay?” Elijah asked her curiously.

Marshala looked up at him and tried to mask her emotions. “I’m always concerned for her safety,” Marshala said quickly.

Elijah’s sharp blue eyes peered at her before he became tight-lipped. “Alexander would never hurt her, Marshala. Especially with the soul bond. He loves her more than anything,” he said sharply.

“I didn’t say he would...” Marshala said, averting her eyes.

“But you were thinking it,” Elijah snapped.

Marshala exhaled as she kept her eyes focused on something else. She could tell he was offended by the assumption. “Elijah... Alexander has struggled with his hunger before. Can you blame me for being... concerned?”

“Don’t worry. The Blackbourne didn’t kill Kiara. She’s fine,” Nick said, walking into the library, dragging a bloodied man in his grasp. Marshala looked at Nick startled.

“I don’t remember her asking you,” Elijah said coldly.

“I’m squelching Shal’s fears since you like to speak in riddles,” Nick said, throwing the man on the floor in front of them. “Leo is a protective, impulsive hothead who would sooner rip Alexander’s heart out before he gave your brother the chance to hurt her. In which case, they’d all be dead. And we’d all feel it. Thus, Kiara is fine.” Nick looked at Elijah and gave a sarcastic look. “I know my brother.” Elijah raised his head unamused.

“Umm... thanks for that, but are you going to explain the half-dead man you just dragged in here?!” Marshala blurted.

“It’s not a mortal, it’s a bloodsucker,” Nick said. He stalked towards the vampire who was trying to crawl away. He grabbed him by the collar and pulled him back towards Elijah and Marshala. “Could smell this piece of shit a mile away,” Nick scoffed. “Didn’t take but a second to maul his ass down. Something’s not right about his smell though.”

“This... this isn’t the vampire that attacked Sarah is it?” Marshala asked.

“No,” Elijah said. He crouched down in front of the vampire who was shaking fearfully. “But the vampire who attacked the mortal girl is his maker. Isn’t that right?”

“Please, leave me alone. I don’t know anything!” the vampire shrieked.

Marshala looked at him confused. “Is he... newly turned?”

“Yup, he’s a baby vamp,” Nick said, scratching his beard. “Which means his daddy vamp is probably still around.”

“Must you use that terminology?” Elijah said irritably.

“‘Papa vamp’ better for you, you damn princess?” Nick chided.

Elijah looked at Nick coldly before he looked back down at the vampire trembling before him. “Who is your creator?” Elijah said, peering into his eyes.

The vampire suddenly stopped trembling as his eyes glazed over. “Andrew,” he said simply.

Marshala scrounged her eyebrows up in confusion. “Andrew?” she asked. “Andrew what? Is that a new vampire?”

“New to this territory... and a trespasser. I do not allow any vampires to turn mortals in my domain,” Elijah said angrily as he stood to his feet. Elijah looked at Marshala. “I must put an end to this,” he said firmly.

“Isn’t that what we’ve been trying to do?” Nick said, quirking up an eyebrow.

“I mean I need to get to the source. Face him head-on,” Elijah said.

Marshala’s eyes widened. “William?! Elijah, you can’t-” she started.

“This is all his doing. He’s taken far too many lives in his quest to end the LaFleur bloodline. And I will not allow him to drive my brothers and me out of another home. I refuse to put them through that again,” Elijah said.

“Then we’re going with you,” Marshala said quickly.

“We?” Nick asked, surprised.

“Yes, WE, Nicholas!” she said, facing him. “Whether you like it or not, our fates are tied together. William is a threat to us all.”

Nick sighed with exhaustion. “And once again we find ourselves at the center of their family drama. The Immortal and The Restless. Many Lives to Live. Generally in the Hospital. You vampires are one big exhausting soap opera.”

“Nicholas...” Marshala said, shaking her head.

“I’ll begrudgingly take the wolf if I have to. But you absolutely cannot come along,” Elijah said to Marshala.

“This high-class asshole is right, Shal. It’s too dangerous for you,” Nick added.

Marshala looked at them incredulously. Suddenly, the lights flickered on and off, all of the windows flew open, and tons of books went flying through the air smacking both men in the head with large textbooks. “Did you forget who I am?!” she said angrily.

“Shit, Shal... damn...” Nick said, rubbing his head.

Elijah sighed. “What about the curse?”

“Kiara is taking care of it. It’s in her hands now,” Marshala said as she headed towards the door. “Let’s go!”

“So, you’re just gonna leave all these books on the floor, huh?” Nick said with a raised brow. Marshala turned around and made a face once she realized how much she wrecked the library. She delicately moved her fingers as books flew back onto the shelves and the windows closed shut. Nick smirked as he followed after her. He stopped and looked back at Elijah and then at the vampire trembling in the corner.

“Are you gonna...” Nick said, leading.

“I will take care of this...” Elijah said. He waited for Nick to leave before he crouched down and grabbed the vampire by his chin.

“Please don’t hurt me! I didn’t do anything wrong!” the vampire panicked.

“I know... I apologize for the misfortune that has befallen you... Hush now... It will be alright,” Elijah said softly as he stared into his eyes. The vampire started to calm down as his eyes glazed over again. Suddenly, his eyes widened in shock as he felt Elijah’s hand go through his chest. Elijah quickly pulled out his bloody beating heart and held it in his hand.

“I cannot allow new vampires in my territory. Surely you understand...” Elijah said. The vampire looked at him in shock before collapsing on the floor.

~*~

“How long are you leaving for?”

“Hopefully, not very long,” Nick said, pulling on his leather jacket. “Going after some old ass deadbeat vampire, you know how it is.”

“Why are we always caught up in this damn Blackbourne shit?” Levi sucked his teeth. “These assholes are nothing but fucking trouble.”

“It is what it is. We gotta deal with what we’re dealt with. Better than a war. Besides, Marshala basically volunteered my ass,” Nick said.

“Not like you were going to let her go alone with him anyway,” Levi smirked.

“Of course not,” Nick said, walking around Levi and out of his house. He stepped outside to see his pack had gathered, waiting for him. Nick noticed the peculiar looks on their faces and narrowed his eyes in suspicion. “You all got something to say?” he said loudly. No one said anything as they all looked away from him. “If any of you got something to say to me, now’s the time to say it!” he said again.

One of them finally hesitantly stepped forward. Nick eyed him as he folded his arms across his chest. “Denis?” Nick asked.

“...We just wanna know why the fuck you’re helping those damn bloodsuckers again. They’re our enemies,” Denis said annoyed.

“I’m not helping them. I’m helping us. Or did you forget about the war in which we lost nearly half of our pack?” Nick said snidely.

“Never that...” Denis said frustratingly as he rubbed the back of his neck. “We just feel like you give some of these witches too much say sometimes. I mean shit. Two of them are always around the bloodsuckers anyway. Can we really trust what they say? I feel like you would have gone about this another way if not for Marshal-”

Denis wasn’t able to finish his sentence before Nick jumped in front of him and grabbed him by the throat. Denis’s eyes bulged as he looked at Nick fearfully. “The only thing I tolerate less than questioning my fucking judgment is questioning hers. Do you understand?” Nick growled. Denis quickly nodded.

“She is the only reason any of our asses are still alive. So you dare mention her again, it better be with some fucking respect. Do I make myself clear?” Nick snapped.

“Y-yes, sir,” Denis choked out.

Nick let him go as he fell to the ground. Levi stood behind Nick with a smirk on his face as he watched Nick walk in front of the pack again. “Anyone else having doubts?? Please do not hesitate to speak your mind! I’m all ears to other options since you all clearly know better than me!” Nick shouted loudly.

There was silence as they all just stared at him. Nick turned around to face Levi. “Look at that. Now no one has shit to say,” Nick smirked as he headed towards his bike. “You’re in charge. Do me a favor and try not to fuck my shit up,” Nick said, starting the ignition.

Levi smirked amused. “And Leo?” he asked. “You heard from him?”

“No. But I’m not worried about him. He’s our fiercest warrior and he’ll protect Kiara with his life. I know they’ll be fine,” Nick said. “I’ll call you if anything.” Levi nodded as he watched Nick take off.

~

“Come here, little one,” Elijah said, picking Peter up in his arms.

“Why are you doing this, Elijah?” Peter said, looking at his brother. “You said you wouldn’t face him alone.”

Elijah looked at Peter blankly, not knowing what to say. Despite having a repressed mind, Peter was no fool. “I’m not... facing him, Peter,” Elijah said.

“Liar,” Peter pouted.

“Call him for what he is, Peter,” Cole chided as he leaned back against the living room wall. “Liar, Liar-”

“Pants on fire,” Peter finished.

“Yup,” Cole nodded. “And stupid. Incredibly stupid.”

“Very stupid,” Peter said.

“Are you both quite done?” Elijah said irritably as he put Peter back down.

“Not at all,” Cole said, looking at Elijah annoyed. “This is Alexander’s level of stupid. I never thought you’d stoop so low.”

“He has sent 4 senior vampires after Kiara, killed one of your classmates, and turned a mortal on our territory. What would you have me do? Run? Turn a blind eye? I refuse,” Elijah said frustratingly.

“Oh, no, sure. Just get yourself killed instead. That’s cool. A far better solution. Great plan, Elijah,” Cole said sarcastically.

“He hasn’t killed any of us yet,” Elijah said.

“Our mother would beg to differ- OW!” Cole screeched from Peter, kicking him hard in the shin.

“SHE’S NOT DEAD!” Peter shouted up at him angrily.

“Damn... shit... sorry, Peter,” Cole muttered.

Elijah sighed as he looked out the window. “I promise to contact you both if things get... hairy...”

“And what about Alexander?” Cole asked. “You left our brother with a damn Volkov.”

“I left our brother with the only person who can finally bring us some peace... and the love of his life. I have faith in Alexander and in Kiara as well,” Elijah said.

Cole shook his head annoyed. “You should have sent me with Kiara, instead of-”

“She has a soul bond with both Alexander and Leo. She needs to be with both of them,” Elijah said, cutting Cole off. Cole grumbled to himself, feeling agitated.

“Like you, Shala and the puppy,” Peter smiled. Cole immediately burst out laughing as Elijah smirked amused.

“I need to go,” Elijah said, heading to the door. “Call me if there are any changes with Evangeline.”

“Then I guess you won’t be hearing from me,” Cole said, heading back upstairs.

“COLE!” Peter shouted, tackling him on the stairs.

“DAMMIT, PETER!” Cole said, falling to the ground. Elijah shook his head as he walked out.

~*~

Midday...

It was rare for Marshala to leave the town that she loved, and she felt more than uncomfortable doing so. As she waited for Nick and Elijah, she stood by the pond that she had become so fond of and let the wind caress her face.

“Having second thoughts?” Marshala turned around to see Elijah walking towards her.

“No,” she said. “Are you?”

“I never wanted you to come in the first place, mon coeur,” Elijah sighed. “I don’t want to put your life in danger. And it’s not that I doubt your power, but rather the creatures we will be dealing with.” Elijah stepped in front of her as he looked her in the eyes. “I will not hesitate to tear anyone and everyone apart if any harm comes to you,” he said.

Marshala twisted her mouth with uncertainty. “I’d rather not have a repeat of Toulouse,” she said flatly.

Elijah smirked mischievously. “And why not? I thought you enjoyed Toulouse. Especially with how many times I made you-”

“That’s not what I meant, Elijah,” she said quickly.

“Isn’t it?” he said, moving closer. “Tell me you don’t miss it, Marshala... How I made you feel... How I made you quiver... All you need to do is say the word and we can relive those moments together again.”

“Elijah...” she sighed as she took a tentative step back and rubbed her arms.

“We were happy, mon coeur,” he insisted. “We made each other happy.”

Temporarily,” she said. “And then people started... dying...”

Elijah’s jaw tensed. He wanted to touch her. Hold her. To reassure her. But he knew there was nothing he could do to take away the pain of their past. “Marshala...” Elijah said apprehensively. “I can never apologize enough for-”

“Don’t, Elijah, please...” she said meekly, trying to hold back her tears. “Not now, okay?”

He shoved his hands back into his pockets just to keep them from reaching for her. He felt his chest hollow from the anxiety he felt. He quickly walked away from her to put some distance between them just to calm his raging emotions. The pain between them was still too palpable.

“Sorry, I’m late,” Nick said, walking up to her. “I stopped by the school to speak to the Dean. Advised him to keep the university closed until we’ve... sorted everything.”

“Thanks, Nicholas,” she said, trying to muster a smile.

Nick looked at her curiously, noticing the sadness and apprehension in her eyes and gently grabbed her shoulders. “Shal, you alright, baby?” he asked.

“Yea, I’m fine...” she said. Nick looked from her to Elijah who was facing away from them. His brows furrowed in frustration, wondering what the vampire did now to upset her. “Don’t,” Marshala said quickly with her hand on his chest. “Don’t start anything. Let’s just go.”

~

It had been a few hours before the trio arrived in a city well-known to vampires. Marshala had booked a room in a motel on the outskirts of the city where they could not be sensed or found. They set up shop while they started their investigation for William Blackbourne. The goal to stop him before he could do any more harm.

“Take your shirt off,” Marshala ordered.

“Shit, babe, you don’t have to tell me twice,” Nick smirked. He removed his leather jacket before pulling his shirt over his head.

“Idiot,” Marshala smirked, rolling her eyes. “I need to do a masking spell. That city is swarming with vampires. We don’t want to draw any unwanted attention.”

“Mmhmm...” Nick hummed teasingly. He sat back on the bed and watched Marshala cross the room to sit in front of him on the bed. She held a jar of a creamy substance that she spread across his chest as she whispered an incantation. “I’m sorry, Shal, but this is only turning me on right now,” Nick teased. “Do I get to rub you down next?”

She smirked as she playfully slapped him on the chest before getting off the bed. “When Elijah returns, we need to figure out a strategy. You know I hate going in blind,” she said. She took off her sweater to rub some of the cream on her neck and shoulders.

“We’ll figure it out...” Nick said. He walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. He grabbed the jar from her hand and took some of the cream before gently rubbing it across her skin. Marshala stared at the mirror, watching Nick rub the cream over her stomach as he inched up to her chest.

“Nich-” she started only to end up gasping as he grabbed two handfuls of her breasts within his hands. He growled slightly irritated by the thin barrier of her bra blocking him from what he wanted to feel.

“Shal...” he whispered in her ear as he kissed her neck, trying to tug her bra down. But she quickly slapped his hands away and pushed him back.

“We need to stay focused,” she said to him.

“That’s rather difficult because you’re very distracting,” he smirked. “Besides, you should stay here. Just let us handle this.”

“No,” she said, grabbing her sweater and pulling it over her head. “We do this together.” Nick deeply exhaled and looked out the window to see Elijah walking back towards them. Elijah walked through the door and immediately locked eyes with a shirtless Nick before looking at Marshala. His face instantly fell in disapproval and Nick could barely contain his grin. “Did you find what you were looking for?” Marshala asked, breaking them out of their staredown.

“...Yes...” Elijah said. “There are a few vampires here who are aware of my father, but it will take time to find them as a few only come out at night. Some of the mortals work for the vampires in the daytime either by choice or by charm. We’ll need to split up. Try different tactics to get the information we need.”

“I get to knock around a couple of bloodsuckers? Sounds fun,” Nick said, pulling his shirt and jacket back on.

Elijah took a whiff of the air before he looked at Marshala. “Masking spell?” Elijah asked.

“Yes,” she said. “Why? Is it not working?”

Elijah shrugged. “It will have to do.”

~*~

Late Afternoon...

“Does this man look familiar to you?” Marshala showed a bar patron sitting at the counter with a beer in his hand, a detailed drawing of William Blackbourne.

“Never seen him before in my life,” the man said, shaking his head.

Marshala eyed the small puncture wounds in his neck and continued. “Are you sure? Please try to think back. He’d have an English accent. May have possibly been traveling with a Caucasian blonde woman and two other men,” Marshala persisted.

“Listen, lady,” the man groaned in frustration. “I been on the damn road for 11 hours. This is my one stop before I have to make this delivery by midnight. So give me a fucking break, will ya?”

Marshala sighed as she sat back. She glanced over at Nick drinking a beer next to Elijah who was leaning against the wall near the exit. She subtly shook her head at them and Nick smirked. “My turn,” Nick said, walking outside.

~

After finishing his beer, the man walked out of the bar and headed for his truck. He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw a strange man leaning against the side of his truck with his hands tucked into his pockets.

“... can I help you?” the man asked irritably.

“As a matter of fact... you can,” Nick smirked. He grabbed the man by his shirt and swung the back door of the truck open before tossing him inside. Nick leaped inside the truck, closing the door shut behind them.

Marshala walked outside of the bar. She looked around the street and noticed a few people walking around with their heads down and their shoulders hunched. No laughter. No talking. It felt eerie. The atmosphere of the city felt... oppressive.

“It’s a bit too early for them to be around.” Marshala turned around to see Elijah behind her. “Not many vampires of this town have amulets to protect them from the sun,” Elijah said, playing with his ring. “But in a few hours...”

“I assumed that would be the case,” Marshala said, eyeing the ring on his finger.

“Does it bother you that I still wear it?” he asked.

Marshala looked up at him and shook her head. “No, of course not. You need it.”

“I need you,” he said almost on reflex.

Marshala looked away from him. “Is Nicholas done yet?”

Elijah sighed in frustration. He was growing tired of how frequently she would avoid their conversations. “Nearly,” he said, gesturing with his head.

Marshala looked to see a truck rocking back and forth before Nick stepped out, wiping blood off of his hands. “Please tell me you didn’t kill him,” Marshala said exasperated. “That’s not how we do thing-”

“Of course, I didn’t kill him,” Nick cut her off. “What the hell do you take me for, Shal?” Nick looked at Elijah. “The prick hasn’t seen your asshole of a father. But he does work for the shitty bloodsucker that runs this town and a few other towns over. He definitely has witches working for him as some of these bloodsuckers can drink from mortals without turning into ferals. His truck is full of blood bags. Even a few bodies. This town is merely a snack stop for your kind.”

Elijah looked at Nick curiously. “Does the name ‘Ben’ sound familiar?” Nick said snidely. Marshala felt her blood run cold as Elijah’s face tensed up.

~*~

Evening...

Marshala found herself frequently arguing with both Nick and Elijah who insisted she stay at the motel, as nighttime came upon them. But she wasn’t a master negotiator for nothing. They both eventually gave up. Marshala continued to lead the investigation in piecing together who worked for William and what they could do to intercept and counteract him before he got to Kiara.

“You’ve done enough work for tonight,” Elijah insisted, blocking Marshala from walking into the bar. “The number of vampires out tonight is exponential. I can do this alone.”

“Come off it, Elijah. You need me. Isn’t that what you said?” she queried with a raised brow.

“You know that’s not how I meant it...” Elijah said annoyed.

Marshala shrugged as she pushed him aside and walked into the bar. Elijah looked at Nick who looked just as frustrated. “Her stubborn ass,” Nick said annoyed as he followed her inside.

Marshala scoped out the bar and noticed the demographic of people was drastically different from earlier that day. It was densely populated with vampires. A few of them were feeding on the same townspeople she had gotten acquainted with only moments prior. As if the people were the product and the vampires were merely indulging.

“This is wrong...” she muttered as Elijah walked next to her.

“This is their way of life,” Elijah responded. At his presence, multiple vampires turned their heads to look at Elijah and the strange entourage that accompanied him. Nick immediately went on the defensive as he grabbed Marshala’s waist and pulled her back against him.

“I got you, Shal,” Nick whispered. “But you being here is a bad fucking idea.”

“Elijah Blackbourne,” a thick English accent floated in the air as Elijah’s eyes met a man at the counter. Elijah could sense the growing tension in the bar and quickly turned around to face Marshala and Nick.

“Take her back outside and get her as far away from here as possible. Her masking spell isn’t enough. This is no place for a NOLA witch,” Elijah said lowly.

Nick went to grab Marshala’s arm when she looked at Elijah worriedly. “Elijah,” she said apprehensively, not wanting to leave him alone.

Elijah smiled warmly. “I’ll be fine, mon coeur,” he said reassuringly. She chewed on her bottom lip before she followed Nick back outside. Elijah approached the man as all heads turned to look at him.

“A vampire, a witch, and a wolf walk into a bar,” the man smirked. “It’s the start of a great joke.”

Elijah looked at him warily. “... and you are?” Elijah asked.

“Forgive me. Where are my manners?” the man said, pulling his hand out of his coat pocket. “The name is Edward. But you can call me Eddie if you prefer.”

“Edward...” Elijah said, looking him up and down.

Eddie grinned. “It’s not common to see a head vampire such as yourself around these parts. Let alone with a wolf and a witch. Was it your intent to bring them to their death?” he chuckled.

Elijah’s eyes flickered and Eddie immediately stopped laughing. “You forget yourself,” Elijah said coldly.

“I meant no offense. Only that... there isn’t a spell in the world that can mask the stench of a wolf,” he chuckled. “And your witch, well... let’s just say the scent of a NOLA witch is always rather... potent.”

“That witch is none of your concern,” Elijah said quickly.

“Then why bring her here?” Eddie asked with a raised brow.

Elijah paused for a moment. “... I need to see Ben.”

~

Elijah followed Eddie into a dark room below the bar where soft jazz music played. Several vampires sat relaxing as a thick cloud of smoke filled the air and the metallic smell of blood lingered in the room. Elijah walked forward as several vampires turned in his direction, eyeing him cautiously. He came to stand in front of a chair that was tilted back with a man getting his facial hair groomed.

“Elijah...” the man’s Irish-accented voice was deep and foreboding. “It’s been years since I’ve seen you... what do you want?”

Elijah looked from Eddie to Ben. “I need to speak with you.”

“You could have called,” Ben said.

“This is not a conversation to be held over the technological contraptions of man,” Elijah quipped.

“‘Technological contraptions of man.’ And I thought I was the old vampire,” Ben chuckled.

“It is important, Ben,” Elijah said sharply.

“What could possibly be so important that you’d risk bringing your little witch with you,” Ben scoffed.

“... William.”

Suddenly, the room abruptly grew quiet. Ben shooed away the person grooming his facial hair as he sat up in his chair. He looked at Elijah curiously. “... Your father...?”

~*~

“Should we really be leaving him alone?” Marshala asked as Nick dragged her away from the bar.

“Elijah can take care of himself. He doesn’t need us,” Nick said.

Marshala sighed deeply, feeling tight anguish in her chest. She shook slightly from a strange presence and quickly looked up. “Wait,” Marshala said, ripping her hand out of Nick’s grasp. Nick watched her jog over to a young, light-skinned black woman with long braids who was being harassed by two men.

“Shal! Dammit!” Nick groaned as he followed after her.

“Hey!” Marshala shouted angrily. The two men looked up at her from the woman trembling on the ground. She instantly noticed their eyes were blood red and their fangs sharp. One of them grabbed the woman while the other stalked towards Marshala. She immediately raised her hands and blew one of them back as he flew into a car, denting it. She said a quick incantation and his body immediately lit up on fire.

“Get away from her!” Marshala growled. She turned to the other vampire who was holding the woman by her neck. Marshala flicked her hands and his body went flying in the air before landing hard on the ground. She again spoke and his body lit up on fire as well. “Are you okay?” Marshala said, running up to the woman.

The woman looked up at her fearfully. “Y-yes. Th-thank you!” she stammered.

“What the hell are you doing out here by yourself?” Marshala said, helping her stand to her feet.

“I... I don’t know. I don’t know how I got here. I don’t even know where I am,” the woman said. Marshala furrowed her brow as she eyed the puncture wounds on her neck.

“Are you far from home?” Marshala asked.

“I’m from New York...?” the woman said confused.

“Yea... you’re pretty far from home, hun,” Marshala sighed. The woman immediately started crying and Marshala went to comfort her. Suddenly, the woman’s eyes got big as she watched another pair of vampires charge at them. But before they could reach them a large black wolf pounced on top of one of them. The wolf bit one’s head clean off of his shoulders before quickly wrangling the other one in his mouth and ripping him to shreds.

The woman looked on in shock as the large wolf quickly turned back into a large naked man. “What the hell?!” she screeched.

“This place is swarming with vampires and that girl is going to get you both killed!” Nick shouted angrily. “Both of you get the fuck out of here!”

“Nicho-” Marshala started.

“Just go, Shal!” Nick shouted as more vampires headed in their direction. Marshala knew she could help Nick take on those vampires, but not when there was an innocent woman being targeted. She grabbed the woman’s hand and started running as she used her magic to send vampires heading in their direction flying in the air and out of their path.

As they hopped into a car, two vampires jumped on top of the hood and one clawed at the back trunk. Marshala started the car, making her sole priority to get the girl to safety. She said an incantation that made the two on the hood light on fire. Putting the car in reverse she drove backward until their burning corpses fell off. She then rammed the car into a tree, pinning the other vampire behind them until he snapped in half.

“Are you okay?!” she shouted at the woman. The woman was crouched in the fetal position, terrified for her life, and completely confused by what was going on. Marshala glanced over at Nick. He was in his wolf form fighting off a swarm of vampires. She was terrified for him and had no idea if Elijah was okay.

But they were both the best of their kind, so she sped off in the car and didn’t look back.

~

When Marshala got back to the motel, she found out the young woman’s name was Shae Nichols, and she was a long way from home. The girl seemed absolutely terrified and had no idea how she got to where she was or why.

She told Marshala that she was attacked by two strange men with red eyes. Shae didn’t seem to understand that they were vampires or what she herself was that attracted them to her. Marshala used discretion in only giving her so much information as the poor girl seemed to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She would let her know in time.

Marshala rented another motel room for Shae to stay in until she figured out how to get her back home safely. She allowed Shae to borrow her phone to call home and let her parents and best friend know she was okay. She stayed with Shae in her motel room until the young woman fell asleep.

Then she felt him.

Marshala stood up from the recliner and looked outside to see Nicholas walking back towards the motel, barefoot in only a pair of pants. She ran outside to meet him, but he was fuming. “Nicholas?” she asked.

He aggressively grabbed her by the shoulders and looked at her with bright amber eyes. “Are you alright?” he gritted.

“Yes, I-” she started but he didn’t let her finish before he stormed back into the motel. She followed after him, but he seemed to be ignoring her. “Nicholas,” she called him. But he didn’t respond. “Nicholas, talk to me,” she pleaded. But he just stood in the middle of the room, wiping his chest down with a towel.

A knock came at the door. Nick growled as he flung the door open and tackled the poor unsuspecting person to the ground. “WHAT DO YOU WANT?!” Nick threatened.

“I-I was j-just making r-rounds to tell you ch-check out was at 11am!” the motel rep said terrified as he looked into Nick’s bright amber eyes. He choked as Nick held a tight grip on his neck and struggled to breathe.

“Nicholas! Get off of him!” Marshala said, pulling Nick off of the poor man. The man gasped, trying to catch his breath as he scrambled to his feet and quickly ran away. “What the hell is wrong with you?!” Marshala yelled as Nick stormed to the bathroom and slammed the door shut. “Nicholas!” she yelled.

“Just leave it the fuck alone, Shal!”

A strong wind picked up as papers went flying in the air and the bathroom door swung open. She saw Nick sitting on the lid of the toilet with his head in his hands. His body was heaving, and then it occurred to her... that he was crying. He turned his head to look up at her. She could see his face was flushed red and his eyes were filled to the brim with tears.

“Nicholas...” she said softly.

Nick scoffed as he shook his head, wiping his eyes and his nose. “Fuckin’ hell, Shal. I told you to leave it alone!” he grumbled angrily. She stepped inside and stood in front of him, trying to give him a moment to collect himself. “After the war, I had nightmares every fucking night. About losing you. Losing Leo. Losing Levi. I went weeks without sleeping just so I didn’t have to dream about seeing your lifeless bodies on the ground,” Nick said.

Marshala swallowed hard. She remembered all too well how badly she had suffered from PTSD when the fighting finally stopped. “I love you, Shal...” he said with his head lowered. “I love you more than anything else in this entire world. And I will never... never stop loving you.” He rubbed his hands together as he tried to find the right words.

“I have never doubted your power, your intellect, your skill. Shal... you are the most incredible being I have ever met. But I... I will never not be protective of you. It is in my nature to protect what I love. And every goddamn minute you’re around these fucking bloodsuckers, I risk losing you. And I’ll be damned if I let that happen!”

Nick rubbed his hands against the back of his neck, trying to contain his raging emotions. He flinched when he felt Marshala’s fingers gently stroke through his hair. “Nicholas...”

He looked up at her to see her looking back at him tenderly, vulnerability dancing in her eyes. “Fuck, Shal, don’t look at me like that...” he sighed.

“...I love you too, Nicholas… I always have...”

Nick stared into her eyes for a moment, getting lost in her dark chocolate orbs. He firmly grabbed her hips and pulled her towards him. He gently kissed her stomach as his hand slid to her backside and caressed it before hungrily massaging her in his grasp. Marshala closed her eyes as he slowly lifted her shirt and his lips scoured her bare stomach. His tongue tasted her skin as it dipped into her navel. He tugged at her pants, pulling them down off of her feet as his nose nuzzled the front of her panties. His lips kissed hers through the thin cloth, begging to feel her nub against his tongue.

“God, baby...” he breathed out. He felt he was teasing himself for too long and eagerly pulled her panties down before his mouth was latched onto her. Marshala jumped as she instinctively grabbed his hair. Her gyrating pelvis matched the rhythm of his tongue. Nick grabbed her bare ass cheeks, pulling her in further as his tongue licked every crease within her folds. Marshala gripped onto one of the bathroom shelves to keep her balance as she felt her climax rising.

“Nicholas!” she breathed out. He gripped her more firmly and increased his pressure on her clit as his tongue left no part of her core untouched. His entire mouth latched onto her, sucking hard as she trembled in his grip and released herself in his mouth.

She barely had a minute to catch her breath before Nick was standing to his feet. He pushed her back against the bathroom wall as he grabbed the back of her neck and firmly planted his lips against hers, letting her taste herself. Marshala fumbled with his pants, trying to unbutton them and he quickly pulled them down. He impatiently wrapped his hands around her thighs and lifted her onto his waist, immediately plunging balls deep into her cunt. She screamed out loud and grabbed onto his shoulders as Nick held her body flushed against his. Taking deep breaths, she panted as Nick buried his face into her neck making long, deep strokes as they slammed back against the wall.

“I love you so much, Shal,” Nick moaned into her neck. “I love you so goddamn much. Don’t you ever forget that.” Marshala tightened her legs around his waist as her nails dug deeper into his skin with each thrust. She had never felt Nick make love to her like this before. There was so much raw emotion in his movements, and his hold on her was teetering on fear of letting go. His body heat was off the charts as it scorched her own skin. And from her lips, she spoke a language she hadn’t spoken in years.

“Я люблю тебя, Nicholas,” she breathed out as her body rocked against the wall. Nick pulled his head back and looked into her eyes, his mouth parted in shock. His eyes flickered amber and his heart swole to hear his mate confess her love for him in his native tongue.

She grabbed his face between her hands and covered his mouth with hers as she felt his shaft tense up inside her. “Nicholas!” she cried out. She shook from another orgasm. Her body grew tired as his lips tickled her neck, leaving soft kisses along her shoulder and chest. He gripped her backside and increased his pace, letting out a loud growl as he came deep inside her, their bodies nearly one.

Nick felt Marshala’s body go limp in his arms. He loosened his grip and carried her to the bed, laying her down as he pulled out of her. Marshala tried to catch her breath as her eyes glazed over. She felt the crisp bed sheets being pulled over her naked body before she felt a kiss to her temple.

She heard Nick whisper something in Russian in her ear as his hand gently slid over his mark on the back of her thigh, making her tingle. In seconds, she was out like a light.

~*~

“There is absolutely no realistic scenario in which you would have been able to accomplish that without me,” Elijah smirked as he walked alongside his friend.

“I don’t know what’s more irritating Elijah: the fact that you’re indubitably arrogant or quintessentially precise,” Ben scoffed.

Elijah chuckled. “Well, thank you.”

“Only you would take that as a compliment,” Ben smirked. “We’ve made great progress in the past weeks. We’re ahead of schedule. Tell me, what did you make of the new recruits?” Elijah stopped listening to Ben as something else had caught his attention.

Noticing Elijah’s lack of response, Ben followed Elijah’s gaze to a beautiful dark-skinned black woman sitting on a bench. She held a book in one hand while writing on a pad with the other. Ben looked at Elijah to see an expression on his face that he had never seen before. “Hungry already?” Ben asked.

Elijah quickly looked up at Ben. “What? No. I’m quite satisfied, thank you.”

“Then she’s for play...?” Ben inquired.

Elijah looked at Ben confused. “I’m sorry?”

“The mortal woman on the bench who is apparently far more interesting than what I have to say,” Ben quipped.

“Oh...” Elijah said, looking back at her. “Forgive me. I... she just seems... familiar...”

Ben raised an inquisitive brow. “Perhaps a taste of her might jog your memory.”

Elijah sighed as he shook his head. He knew Ben was just mocking him at this point. “Nevermind her. What were you saying? You have my full undivided attention.”

“Do I, Elijah? You know how I feel about distractions. No mortal should come in the way of our plans.”

“Yes, of course. I understand,” Elijah said quickly. He redirected Ben away from the woman on the bench.

~

Elijah couldn’t help but go down memory lane when it came to Ben. Their relationship was complicated and they were both angry when they parted ways. He was concerned this visit was futile.

“So, is that supposed to be my replacement?” Elijah asked as he looked at the trinkets on Ben’s shelf.

“Hmm?” Ben said, turning around as he wiped blood from the corners of his mouth. “Oh... you mean Edward. He’s young... loyal... unlike others.”

Elijah sighed. “When are you going to let that go?”

“What?” Ben asked. “That you abandoned me and a centuries-long friendship for a witch?”

“I didn’t abandon you, Ben. I... I fell in lo-”

“In love, yes, yes, we’ve been over this,” Ben said impatiently. “Except you fell in love with a witch, Elijah. A mortal witch!” Elijah held his hands behind his back as he stared at Ben, conflict dancing in his blue eyes as he remained silent. “Are you sure this witch hasn’t cast some spell... some hex on you? You know how tricky they can be.”

“One of these days you’ll have to accept that she has my heart,” Elijah said.

“Nonsense. Utter nonsense,” Ben scowled. “And what will you do when her fragile body starts to decay and she perishes? Will you roam the earth mourning the loss of your love,” Ben said sarcastically. Elijah looked at Ben as if he were actually considering answering. Ben could see the emotion in Elijah’s eyes and scoffed loudly. “My god, Elijah! Many things I took you for, but never a lovesick fool. You are one of the most powerful and influential vampires, and yet you’ve allowed yourself to be neutered by a mortal!”

“I will hear no more of this!” Elijah snapped. Ben looked at Elijah startled and Elijah quickly averted his eyes. “My apologies,” Elijah said quickly. “But... I did not come to speak on matters of the heart.”

“No, I suppose not...” Ben said, sitting down. “You came to speak to me about your father. I know nothing of his whereabouts nor do I plan on getting involved.”

Elijah looked at Ben incredulously before he shook his head and scoffed. “Typical.”

“Excuse me?”

“You haven’t changed at all, Ben. Selfish. Arrogant. Heartless as usual. Coming here was a waste of time,” Elijah said, heading to the door. Ben instantly flashed in front of him.

“Honestly, Elijah, do you truly think so little of me,” Ben said, blocking him. “It’s been years since we’ve seen each other and your only reason to visit is of course about your witch... Are we not friends?”

“I don’t know, Ben. Are we?”

“How could you even-”

“Friends don’t leave friends to fight alone,” Elijah said sharply.

“It was not our war to fight,” Ben said quickly. “The witches are not our responsibility. We had no obligation to help them.”

“And what about me, hmm?” Elijah asked. “What about fighting for me?”

“Again, Elijah, I would not fight a war that is-”

“I FOUGHT FOR YOU!” Elijah shouted. Ben looked at Elijah startled to see the anger and hurt in Elijah’s eyes. “I have followed you into battle countless times! Despite my better judgment! Despite my disagreements! I had never left your side! Even when the witches were first persecuted, we didn’t talk for decades because you abandoned me! And yet I still came to your side when you needed me! And all I asked was for you to help me save the woman I love! AND WHERE WERE YOU?!” Elijah shouted angrily.

Edward came rushing into the room, but Ben quickly put his hand up to stop him as he looked at Elijah. “I... I am sorry, Elijah... if you feel that I... abandoned you...” Ben said softly.

Elijah scoffed, shaking his head. “IF I feel?! You did! You left me and my brothers to fight alone!” Elijah angrily grabbed the lapel of Ben’s jacket. “Do you know how many more innocent people died to the senseless, brutal rage of OUR KIND?!”

Ben shoved Elijah’s hands off of him. “When did you become so emotionally unstable? So weak in the heart and mind for our food supply,” Ben said. “What would the others think if they were to see you like this?”

Elijah chuckled condescendingly as he wiped his mouth. “Frankly, old friend? I don’t give a shit what the others think.”

Elijah headed towards the door when Ben flashed in front of him again. “You barely gave us a chance to work things out,” Ben insisted. “Your emotional unbalance has made you rather pathetic.”

Elijah scoffed. “I came to you now as I came to you then, and still you turned me away. Decades go by, people learn and they grow, and yet you seem to be complacent in remaining the same. So, I ask, old friend... who’s really pathetic,” Elijah said coldly as he walked around Ben.

~*~

Marshala’s eyes fluttered open from the bright sun that was shining in her face. She looked down to see she was still naked underneath the sheets and immediately remembered her passionate night with Nick. Both Nick and Elijah were missing. She eyed a piece of paper on the dresser and got up from the bed, wrapping the sheet around her body to read it.

Doing more investigating. Get some rest. There’s food in the fridge. DO NOT LEAVE UNTIL I RETURN! Love you - Nick

Marshala sighed as she dropped the note on the dresser. She jumped when she heard the jingle of the doorknob to the room and raised her hand ready to strike when Elijah walked in. “Oh! Elijah,” she said relieved.

“Mon coeur... are you alright?” he asked, eyeing her.

She nodded. “Yes, I just woke up. Sorry...”

“It’s probably for the best that you rest...” Elijah trailed off as his eyes roamed over her body. His jaw tensed from anger from what he already knew.

“Elijah, don’t be-”

“It’s fine, Marshala,” he said, cutting her off sharply. He slammed the door shut and walked up to her. He looked into her eyes and she immediately shrunk back from his intimidating gaze. “Who am I to tell you who you can and cannot... bed...” he said with strain in his voice. Marshala looked at him conflicted as he walked past her to the bathroom.

“How did... your meeting with Ben go?” she asked hesitantly.

“Fine,” he said curtly. He looked around the bathroom as if trying to imagine how they did it. “And where is Nicholas?”

“He went out to do more... investigating. Decided to probe some more potentials,” she said.

“Oh?” Elijah said, looking at her. “Probing you wasn’t enough?”

Marshala looked at him surprised. “Elijah!”

Elijah scowled as he turned his head. “Ignore me. I’ve had a bad night,” he said sharply. “I have a few people I must talk to who may know of William’s whereabouts.”

“Well, just let me get dressed and I’ll go with you,” she said, searching for her clothes.

“To be quite honest, mon coeur? I’m a bit infuriated. Your presence would only worsen how I feel,” he said, heading towards the door. “Stay here. I’ll be back shortly.” Elijah didn’t give her a chance to respond before he walked out.

~

Marshala slowly put on her clothes feeling horrible about their mission so far. Elijah was angry. Nick was reverting back to old mannerisms, and neither seemed okay with her being around. She stepped outside into the warmth of the sun, soaking in the rays before she headed over to Shae’s room. “Shae?” she said, opening the door. She immediately noticed the room was empty. “SHAE?!” she said, frantically looking around.

Suddenly, she heard a loud scream. Marshala immediately ran outside to see Shae being held up by her neck by someone all too familiar. Several other vampires surrounded them. “Hugo...” she muttered. “Put. Her. DOWN!” she demanded. A violent strong wind picked up around her, whipping leaves everywhere.

Hugo smirked at her mockingly. “If you want her... come and claim her, witch,” he seethed.

Marshala ran at full speed as the vampires walked in her direction. She shouted multiple incantations that sent a full blast of wind, sending them flying backward before they could reach her. She moved her arms quickly, yelling out incantations setting multiple vampires on fire.

Shae looked at Marshala in shock to see how seamlessly she was cutting through so many vampires. She looked like a goddess among demons who couldn’t lay one finger on her. Shae tried to kick at the vampire that was holding her up, but he looked at her as if she were insignificant. His fangs elongated and he pulled her face to him when he abruptly went flying backward and she fell from his grasp. She looked at him and saw his body immediately light on fire.

Shae looked up to see Marshala breathing angrily as leaves fluttered about her. “Let’s go!” Marshala ordered, grabbing Shae’s hand. They ran towards the car as Marshala sent more vampires flying, lighting them on fire, midair. But Shae screamed as she was quickly snatched up before she could open the door. Marshala forced the vampire off of Shae and lit him on fire. “Get up, Shae! Get up!” Marshala went to help Shae to her feet when she felt something sharp pierce her side. The pain was other-worldly.

Shae looked at Marshala with wide eyes full of fear before she looked down to see an aged dagger wedged deep in the side of Marshala’s abdomen. “No! No, wait!” Shae screamed as another vampire snatched her and pulled her away from Marshala. Marshala fell to her knees in agony with the dagger still in her side. She struggled to breathe as she watched them pull a screaming Shae away. “Marshala! Marshala!” Shae screamed, struggling in the vampires’ grasp as tears streamed down her face.

A half-finished incantation fell from Marshala’s lips in a last attempt to save Shae before her body hit the ground and everything went dark.

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