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

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35 - Being Human

Elijah hesitated to step into the room. His hands clenched and released with anxiety. He couldn’t remember a time he ever felt so nervous. “Come on, Elijah! She’s in here!” Ava said, walking up behind him. She grabbed his hand and pulled him forward.

“Wait, Ava, I-” he started before she nudged him into the bedroom. Elijah stood frozen as he stared at the woman he loved sitting in bed holding the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. The small cooing noises the creature made caused him to blink furiously.

Nick sat next to Marshala, his arm wrapped around her waist as he stared lovingly at his baby boy. “Elijah,” Marshala said, looking up at him.

“How are you… h… h-him?” Elijah managed to choke out.

Marshala smiled. “Come see for yourself.”

Elijah found his feet were glued to the floor before Ava nudged him again. “Go on!” Ava urged.

Elijah cautiously stepped forward, walking to the other side of the bed. He leaned over and stared down at the creature with big grey-blue eyes and a head full of curly hair. “He’s... he’s beautiful,” Elijah said. Marshala and Nick looked up at him with a smile. “What did you name him?” Elijah asked.

“Nikolai,” Nick said, rubbing his finger against his son’s chest.

“After the first Volkov alpha. That’s a worthy name,” Elijah nodded.

Marshala looked up at him. “Would you like to hold him?”

Elijah immediately tensed up. “Oh no! I couldn’t, I-”

“Come on, Elijah. You’re family too,” Nick said, grabbing Nikolai from Marshala’s arms. Elijah watched as Nick rocked his son in his arms and walked around the bed until he stood in front of him. He hesitantly held out his arms as Nick carefully placed the baby boy in his embrace.

Elijah practically held his breath as he looked down at the small bundle of joy. “Oh my,” Elijah chuckled. “I... don’t think I’ve ever seen such a small creature in my life.” Everyone in the room laughed as Elijah gently rocked the baby boy in his arms. Nikolai looked up at Elijah in pure wonderment.

Suddenly Kiara came rushing into the room followed by Leo. “I’m here! Where’s the adorable little baby?!” she said frantically. Ava and Marshala chuckled as Kiara rushed into Marshala’s arms, hugging her tight. “Are you okay?” Kiara asked her.

“It was a quick birth,” Marshala nodded. “Thanks for picking her up, Leo.”

“No problem,” Leo said, smiling at the tiny baby in Elijah’s arms.

“You should hold him,” Elijah said quickly to Nick. Nick smirked as he grabbed his son from Elijah’s arms.

“He’s so cute! Oh my gosh! Lookit his lil ol’ baby cheeks!” Kiara squealed.

“He looks a lot like Nick when he was younger,” Ava said. “Check out this picture from Nick’s ceremony when he was officially recognized as Alpha.” Kiara looked at a picture Ava had on her phone of Nick a few years younger. His curly hair and light blue eyes were ever so reminiscent of Nikolai’s.

“Twins!” Kiara laughed. “Niko is gonna look just like his father.”

“She’s already giving him a nickname,” Leo shook his head with a smirk.

“Don’t judge me,” Kiara said hip-checking him.

“I’m going to let you guys get some rest,” Elijah said, looking at Nick and Marshala. “I know you’ve had a trying few days.”

Marshala gave Elijah a sympathetic and grateful look as Nick nodded at him. “You know you’re always welcomed here, Elijah,” Nick said. “You’re family.”

“Thank you, Nicholas,” Elijah said gratefully before heading for the door.

Kiara and Leo followed after him as Kiara walked next to him. “Alexander and Cole wanted to come, but... they were very adamant about not being anywhere near the baby for some reason,” she said, looking at Elijah.

Elijah sighed. “We’re vampires, Kiara.”

“But what does that have to do with-” she started.

“Just leave it alone, Angel,” Leo said, touching her arm.

She looked up at Leo before glancing at Elijah to see a somber expression on his face. “I’m sorry, Elijah...” she said softly, taking his hand. “I didn’t mean...”

Elijah looked at Kiara with a sad smile and wrapped her in his arms, hugging her tight.

~*~

Several weeks passed as Kiara spent her days at home. The Moreau sisters, Rhea and Ava, visited often to keep her company. “So, apparently Jenny recorded you with Leo and Alexander so she could send the video around campus showcasing you as a... well...” Rhea said, sitting on Kiara’s bed.

“Ugh! She’s such a little punk ass bitch, I swear!” Kiara muttered as she lay on her stomach eating popcorn.

“Just your luck that the Blackbournes start seeing their reflection just in time for that nasty hoe to record him,” Rhea said, shaking her head. “I hope her hair catches fire.”

“Rhea!” Ava said from the other side of the bed. She threw a popcorn kernel at her sister in disapproval.

“What?” Rhea laughed. “I’m only kidding... sorta... She’s a freaking bully. And she has some nerve to call Kiara a slut when she’s literally slept with every single athlete in school. Throwing stones from a glass house.”

“Shouldn’t she get in trouble for that?” Ava asked. “Surely administration-”

“They don’t know it’s her,” Rhea said. “No way to prove it originated from her either. The girl is a demon.”

“Well, the good thing about being banned from campus is that I don’t have to see her stupid face,” Kiara said, rolling her eyes. “I just miss spending time with Alexander and Leo. And I’m already sick of studying.”

“You’re almost done,” Rhea said. “You’ve been doing great on your assignments thus far. Just keep up the good work, and you’ll be done with this program in no time.”

“Plus, if you get bored, you can always head over to Marshala’s and play with baby Nikolai,” Ava added.

“Oh, that is definitely a plus,” Kiara laughed. “How is she doing anyway?”

“She’s doing alright,” Ava said. “She, Nick, and Elijah I think too will be traveling for quite a while to go visit some witches. Just to make sure everything is okay with Nikolai. It’s like a doctor’s visit but a magical one since Nikolai’s a witch-wolf hybrid.”

Kiara sighed. “I wanted to talk to Marshala about my powers. I’ve been working on staying in control, but... I’ve been having this fear of spiraling and... accidentally killing everyone...”

“You’re not that girl, Kiara,” Ava said. “As long as you work on staying composed. You’ll be okay. Besides, Marshala said she was going to find out some more information on phoenix witches for you. You’re in good hands.”

Kiara sighed relieved. “That and they want to try to get more information on these side effects that the Blackbournes are dealing with,” Rhea added. “Want to make sure there’s nothing they need to be alarmed about.”

“That would be nice. The guys still aren’t used to seeing their reflections in the mirror. Cole can’t stop staring at himself. Alexander can’t stand his hair even though I love it. And Peter is, well... grumpy as hell,” Kiara sighed.

“He just needs some time to adjust,” Rhea said.

“He needs a slap upside the head is what he needs,” Kiara smirked.

~*~

Kiara walked downstairs after spending several more hours studying upon Ava and Rhea’s departure. She was appreciative that they would at least visit her pretty often and keep her company. Studying was starting to drive her insane, but she was on a mission. She walked to the kitchen and grabbed a bowl, a box of apple jacks and some milk before she headed into the living room. She turned on the TV as she started pouring some cereal.

“What on earth are you eat-” Peter started, instantaneously appearing in front of her.

“HOLY POPSICLE STICKS!” Kiara screamed startled. She jumped, sending apple jacks flying everywhere. She put her hand to her chest, trying to calm her fast-beating heart.

“Aren’t you supposed to be some super-powerful witch?” Peter asked. “You should have detected my presence.”

“You caught me off guard,” she muttered as she picked up the cereal off of the floor.

“That’s foolish,” Peter snarked.

“I think I’m allowed to relax in my own home,” she said, sitting back on the couch.

Your home...” Peter mused. “Interesting… You’re still a bit of a stranger to me.”

Kiara looked at Peter mid-bite before she put the spoon down. “Listen, Peter. I’m not your brothers. Prior to you becoming Oscar the Grouch, you and I were actually really good friends,” she said.

Peter scoffed. “Yes, when I was a mindless child and easily amused by pathetic mortal activities. Tell me, witch, did we frolic in the gardens? Dance around the fire like your ancestors did whence before?” he mocked.

Kiara rolled her eyes. “You can’t keep up this act,” she said to him.

“What act?”

“This grumpy, ’I hate the world’ act. Not while I’m around,” she grinned at him. “We’re going to hang out, and we’re going to have fun.”

Peter gagged as if he tasted something grotesque. “Why on earth would you do that?”

“Because that’s what friends are for, Peter,” she insisted.

Peter quirked a brow. “The only thing I need you for, witch, is for what’s between your legs. Cole is convinced that-” Peter hadn’t finished his sentence before he went flying backward into a wall, smashing against a picture frame and cracking it.

“First of all, you little freak,” Kiara snarled at him. “I’m Alexander’s mate. Not yours. And secondly, I have formed way too much of a bond with you in your adorable sweeter form for you to speak to me like I’m some prostitute for you to use. I don’t care how much of a man you think you are. You will not talk about me like that. It’s creepy as hell and super disrespectful. So don’t!”

Peter looked at her surprised, noticing the jade green flicker in her eyes. He fixed his jacket and gave her a platonic look. “Very well...” he said. “I did not mean to... offend...”

Kiara raised her brows in surprise by his uncharacteristic apology before she gave him a warm smile. “Apology accepted. And for your first lesson on enjoying modern life, we should go to the park!”

“Good grief,” he groaned. “Pass.” He headed to the door and opened it just as Elijah was walking in.

“Peter,” Elijah said, looking at him and then at Kiara. “Kiara.”

“Hey, Elijah!” Kiara said, hopping off the couch. “Peter and I were about to go to the park.”

“No, we weren’t,” Peter said.

“Wanna come?” Kiara asked, ignoring Peter.

“The park sounds like a lovely idea,” Elijah said. “But I thought you had studying to do?”

“I’m taking a break,” she said, putting on her sneakers.

“I never agreed to this,” Peter groaned as Kiara grabbed his arm.

“Come on! It’ll be fun!” she said, nudging Peter and Elijah out the door.

~*~

Peter grumbled to himself as he sat on the bench next to Elijah watching Kiara order ice cream from a truck. “She’s too... happy...” Peter muttered.

Elijah chuckled. “There was a time you loved that about her.”

Peter groaned as he ran his fingers through his short brown hair. “Mortals are such... simple-minded creatures.”

“Peter...” Elijah sighed.

“And yet you’ve mated with one. You and Alexander both,” Peter said. “It seems foolish. Pointless. Will you turn her one day?”

“No!” Elijah said abruptly. “I would never turn Marshala. Neither would Alexander turn Kiara.”

“Then what is the point?” Peter said frustratingly. “Grow attached just to watch them eventually die?”

“There is beauty in being human, Peter. Yes, their lives are short and fragile, but it doesn’t detract from how unique and remarkable they truly are,” Elijah said. “The things they can do. What they can achieve-”

“Bollocks,” Peter huffed. Elijah sighed as he glanced at Kiara running back in their direction.

“So, Ava told me that Gina and Marshala are still working to figure out these side effects you guys have. Almost making you seem more human without actually... being human. I was thinking... try tasting food! Maybe that’s changed!” she said.

“Kiara, I don’t-” Elijah said, putting his hand up.

“CWOMON, ELIJAH!” she said, stuffing the ice cream in his face.

“Dear heavens,” Elijah said, grabbing the ice cream. He stuck out his tongue and licked it slightly.

“Sooooo?” Kiara said, watching him expectantly.

“It tastes... rather awful, Kiara. My apologies,” Elijah said, covering his mouth trying not to gag.

Kiara gasped as she snatched it out of his hand. “Blasphemy! Well... I tried.” She started licking the ice cream as she glanced around the park. “So, what do you think, Peter? It’s beautiful out here isn’t it?”

Peter was entranced, watching her lick the ice cream as he felt himself harden. “Peter?” she said, glancing at him. She saw the dark look in his gaze and immediately felt uncomfortable. “I’m... gonna get some napkins,” she said, standing up. She quickly walked off back to the ice cream truck.

Elijah roughly grabbed Peter by the shoulder. “You cannot look at her like that, Peter,” Elijah warned him. “She does not belong to you.”

“I know that!” Peter snapped. “But I don’t understand this carnal desire I feel. It doesn’t make sense.”

“It comes with the hunger,” Elijah explained. “The two often coincide. We’ll work on helping you control that.” Both of them quickly looked up when they heard a woman screaming in the distance.

By the time Kiara came walking back to the bench, they were both gone. “Elijah? Peter?” she said, looking around.

Peter and Elijah flashed in front of a woman screaming for her life as a vampire tore into her throat. Elijah immediately grabbed the vampire by his neck and tossed him to the side. “STAY DOWN!” Elijah ordered. The vampire looked up at him terrified. Elijah looked at the woman covered in her own blood. He knelt down next to her and tore a hole in his wrist before he put his wrist to her mouth.

“NO! NO! PLEASE!” she cried, trying to wriggle away from him.

“Calm down. You’ll be alright,” he said, petting her head as he looked into her eyes. The woman stared up at him as her eyes glazed over. “Drink,” he ordered her. She started drinking from his wrist as the large gash on her neck started to heal.

Elijah lifted her chin so that she was looking directly into her eyes. “You were in a hit and run, but you are okay. You are grateful you survived. Go home. Go to sleep,” he ordered her. She looked at him dazed before she scrambled to her feet and casually walked away.

“Will you teach me how to do that?” Peter asked. “I never learned.”

“When I can trust you’ll be responsible with such a power, then yes,” Elijah said, walking over to the vampire. He crouched down in front of the vampire trembling in the corner, his mouth coated in blood. Elijah’s nails elongated. “Vampires in my territory are not allowed to feed on mortals. The punishment for such disobedience is death,” Elijah said.

The vampire’s eyes widened in terror as Elijah shoved his claws into his chest. “Wait! Wait! Please!” the vampire begged. “It’s not my fault. I have been a feral for over 30 years. When I turned back, I had no idea where I was or even... who I was. I was terrified and hungry. How can you punish me for something I had no control over?!”

Elijah looked at the vampire confused before he glanced up at Peter. “He has a point...” Peter shrugged.

“I have no time for this,” Elijah said, looking at the vampire. “Leave town tonight, or I will find you and kill you. Understand?” The vampire nodded frantically as he scrambled to his feet and ran away.

“And I thought I was the cold one,” Peter snickered.

“Hush, Peter,” Elijah said annoyed as they walked away. By the time Peter and Elijah returned to Kiara, they spotted her sitting on the bench talking to...

“Ben?” Elijah asked. Ben turned around and gave Elijah a sly smirk.

“Hey, Elijah,” Kiara said. “I can’t believe you guys just ditched me like that. But, I’m guessing it was for something important.”

“Apologies, Kiara,” Elijah said, walking up to them. “Ben, what are you doing here?”

“We need to talk, Elijah,” Ben said, standing to his feet.

~*~

Elijah stood on top of the roof of an abandoned building. He watched Ben tap away at his cellphone, waiting for him to finish before speaking. “Honestly, Ben,” Elijah said impatiently.

“Patience, old friend. You are immortal after all,” Ben smirked. Elijah rolled his eyes as Ben tucked his phone away. “It seems we have a bit of a conundrum,” Ben said, turning to Elijah. Elijah raised a curious brow. “Ever since Kiara broke the spell, there’s been a wave of new vampires turning up in every city. Vampires who had roamed these grounds as ferals for as long as 80 years now find themselves displaced, lost, and with no leadership. Which is leading them to...”

“Feed and kill at will,” Elijah sighed.

“That vampire you found was not the first nor will he be the last,” Ben said. “I know how protective you are of your precious mortals, Elijah-”

“Don’t mock me, Ben,” Elijah said sharply.

“I would never,” Ben smirked. “But this is your responsibility. The treaty was created based on an agreement you made. You owe it to these vampires to help them reintegrate back into modernity.”

Elijah groaned. “I owe them nothing. Especially if they don’t listen to me.”

“Which leads you to kill them,” Ben said. “And where’s the diplomacy in that?”

Elijah scoffed. “Since when do you care about diplomacy?”

“Since you rid the world of your father, giving the rest of us a chance to live without fear,” Ben said.

Elijah looked at Ben surprised when it finally clicked. “Alice...”

Ben looked away. “I prefer a world where she is safe and... at peace.” He looked back at Elijah. “If you’re ready, there’s an entire clan of them downstairs.”

“What for?!” Elijah said startled.

“They need a leader, Elijah,” Ben insisted.

~

Elijah stood over the railing, looking over the large cluster of vampires below. There must have been hundreds of them. They were all chattering among themselves. Some of them were laughing, fighting, and making out in the large gathering. They seemed to be incredibly disgruntled and even worse, to Elijah’s fear... starving.

“They won’t listen to me,” Elijah said to Ben.

“Make them,” Ben insisted.

Elijah cleared his throat. “Can I get everyone’s attention?” Elijah asked. But they continued to speak among themselves. “Hellooo,” Elijah said again. Elijah looked at Ben who gestured with his head. Elijah looked over the crowd. “SILENCE!” he boomed. The room immediately quieted as they all looked up at him.

“The territory that you find yourselves in is under the dominion of me, Elijah Blackbourne. None of you have been authorized, thus you are all trespassing,” he said firmly.

The chatter rose again as vampires expressed their blatant disdain. “Oh, come on!” one vampire shouted. “Where are we supposed to go?!”

“If you want to stay,” Elijah said. “You must abide by my rules.”

“And what exactly are those rules?” another vampire asked.

“When in your vampiric form, you stay in the shadows. Keep yourselves unknown,” Elijah started. He was already met with booing and hissing as he continued. “Under my order, no witch is to be harmed,” Elijah said. “Stay away from the Volkov wolves. All hospitals, clinics, places of worship, and educational institutions, including Excalibur University, are off-limits to all vampires.”

The booing and hissing rose an octave higher. Elijah looked at Ben who quirked an amused brow. Elijah deeply exhaled as he knew his last order would be met with the most opposition. “And no feeding from humans without their consent,” Elijah said finally. “Under no circumstances whatsoever shall any mortal die by your hand.”

Everyone immediately started protesting as the noise level rose to higher levels. “YOU’VE GOTTA BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!”

“THAT’S WHAT VAMPIRES DO!! WHAT THE FUCK?!”

Elijah raised his hand to silence them. “You have been ferals for years. You cannot be trusted to feed from humans without draining them and killing them. But there are ways to learn self-control. There is a way to sustain this life without the need to feed on mortals. I can help you reintegrate only if you follow my rules. I am a leader who leads by example. I made a promise to have you freed from this curse, and I did. I would not lie to you now.”

There was more disgruntled rambling as vampires continued to protest his rules. “Any vampire who dares defy my rules while on my territory will be immediately killed without hesitation!” he barked at them. The groaning died down slightly as the protesting seemed to hit a low murmur. Elijah turned around as Ben grabbed his shoulder.

“Noble, Elijah. But you cannot discipline them on your own,” Ben warned him. “You’ll need help.”

~

“Damn, I look good,” Cole said, looking at himself in the mirror. He combed his fingers through his long ombre hair. “No wonder broads want to fuck me so badly.”

Alexander smirked as he shook his head, holding his phone to his ear. “I’ll talk to you later, Kiara. Call me when you’re done at the library. I’ll come pick you up. Love you too.”

“I’m still trying to figure out how she chose you over me,” Cole said, eyeing himself in the mirror. “I haven’t seen myself in a mirror in decades, but now that I do... shit! I mean I’d fuck me.”

“You’re so humble and charming. I often wonder too,” Alexander said sarcastically.

Cole grinned at Alexander and went to retort when Elijah walked through the door. “Bout time,” Cole said. “Elijah, riddle me this. How is it that Kiara chose Alexander over me? I mean look at me,” Cole chuckled. Alexander groaned as he rubbed his temples.

“That’s an illogical question, Cole. Kiara is Alexander’s mate. They are bound to each other by their love and emotional connection. Not merely physical and sexual attraction,” Elijah said distracted by his thoughts.

Alexander and Cole looked at him strangely. “I was just kidding, damn,” Cole muttered. “Why do I feel like I was just insulted?”

“Are you alright, Elijah?” Alexander asked.

“I need to speak to you both,” Elijah said, running his fingers through his hair. “Where is your brother?”

“Upstairs either sulking or beating his meat to a picture of Kiara,” Cole grinned.

“Can you shut the fuck up with those jokes already?!” Alexander snapped at him.

“We have a problem,” Elijah said firmly. “There are hundreds of displaced ferals-turned-vampires in our territory. They’re getting out of control.”

“So kick them out,” Cole shrugged. “Problem solved.”

“I cannot just ’kick them out’,” Elijah said. “I have offered them residency here on the condition that they abide by my rules.”

“That was... generous of you, I guess,” Alexander said hesitantly. “I’m sensing there’s a ‘but’...”

Elijah sighed with frustration. “But, I need you two to step up and take the lead on this. Marshala is rather vulnerable right now, and I need to keep careful watch of her. So, I may not be able to give this my undivided attention. You both hold the name Blackbourne, thus they will answer to you as they answer to me.”

“Fucking hell,” Cole groaned. “We gotta babysit a bunch of goddamn blood-deprived vampires?!”

“I’m really counting on you both,” Elijah said. “I trust that you can do this. Not just for these vampires, but for the safety of our families and every mortal under our domain.” Alexander sighed heavily as he ran his fingers through his long hair. “Can I count on you?” Elijah asked.

“On one condition,” Alexander said. “Vampires are defiant and take pleasure in causing conflict and opposition. If you want us to discipline them, you let us discipline them our way.”

Elijah nodded. “Just don’t kill them unless absolutely necessary,” Elijah said. “The lives of mortals must take precedent.”

“This should be fun...” Cole muttered.

~*~

“Hey, little wolf,” Leo said, rocking Nikolai in his arms. “Damn, look at those teeth.”

“You Volkovs are no joke,” Rhea laughed. She walked up to Leo and put a pacifier in Nikolai’s mouth.

“Shal, Elijah and I are heading out for a few months. Not sure when we’ll be back,” Nick said, walking into the Volkov living room holding a large baby bag. “We’ve got a couple of witches we’re going to visit just to make sure everything is good with Nikolai. And hopefully, find out a little bit more of what other changes this blood bond may have made to our connection. Want to make sure everyone is protected and that we take precaution.”

Nick walked up to Leo and took his son from his arms. “You guys got this while I’m gone?” he asked, looking at Leo and Levi.

“Don’t we always?” Levi smirked.

Marshala ran down the stairs carrying a bag as she rushed to Rhea with a small tin. “Give these to the new wolves every full moon, alright?” Marshala said, giving her a kiss on the cheek. “We’ll try to be back soon, but we’re not sure when. I’ll keep you updated.”

“Okay,” Rhea said, hugging her. “Be safe.”

Leo followed Marshala and his brother outside, helping them pack their things into Nick’s truck. Nick made a quick signal to his pack in the wide-open yard before he sped off.

“Leaving again to meet with that damn bloodsucker. Typical.”

Leo quickly spun around. “Who said that?!” he shouted. Everyone remained silent as Levi stepped out of the house. “Who the fuck said that?!” Leo snarled. “You wanna talk big shit? Say that shit to my face.”

Still, no one said anything as Levi walked up to him. “What’s the deal?” Levi asked him.

“I swear if one of you goddamn motherfuckers don’t step the fuck up-” Leo growled.

“I did,” a guy said, walking forward hesitantly. “But I didn’t mean nothing bad about it. I was just saying-”

“You’ve got some big fucking balls,” Leo said, striding up to him. He roughly grabbed him by the shirt. “Did you not see what happened to Liren for speaking that same shit to me. You think I’m gonna let that shit slide again?!”

“Come on, Leo. I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful,” the man said.

“Then what the fuck do you consider what you just said?!” Leo said, yanking him. “Would you have said that shit to his face?” The man looked down. “I asked you a question!” Leo snapped.

“No...”

“I fucking thought so,” Leo said, shoving him backward. Leo looked at the group of them staring at him a bit apprehensively. “Some of you need to get your shit together and learn some fucking respect. He has a son now. But that doesn’t change a damn thing. He’s still your Alpha!” Leo shouted.

“We know that, Leo. But sometimes we feel like he chooses those vampires over his own kind,” another said.

“Nick didn’t choose anyone over his own kind. He’s always put us first,” Leo said. “From before any of you motherfuckers were alive he’s been doing this. He’s the most loyal one there is. And I don’t really give a fuck how much you hate the damn vampires. Half of you wouldn’t even be alive if it weren’t for the Blackbournes. So shut the fuck up about it and don’t question his authority again. GOT IT?”

Leo didn’t wait for a response as he immediately stormed back into the house.

~*~

Significant time had flown by since Elijah, Nick, and Marshala’s departure. The Blackbourne brothers were hard at work disciplining the abundance of new vampires in their territory. The group was vastly unruly and the task had seemed so insurmountable that they were starting to lose their patience and what tolerance they had left.

“I’m sorry!” a blonde-haired vampire pleaded, cornered in an ally as Alexander approached him. “I didn’t think-”

“That you’d get caught?” Alexander said snidely. “First fucking mistake.” He grabbed the vampire by his shirt and yanked him up as he dragged him out of the alley.

“Please don’t kill me,” the vampire begged, trying to wriggle out of Alexander’s grasp.

“Shut up,” Alexander snapped. He dragged him into the warehouse where Cole was waiting for him with several other vampires. Alexander tossed the vampire into the crowd before leaping high into the air on top of the railing where Cole stood.

“You guys are pissing me the hell off!” Cole growled. “From now on, you get ONE CHANCE to get it right. Or I swear I’m ripping your goddamn heart out of your chest!”

“Let’s try this again,” Alexander said calmly. “Another one of you runs off like that again, and your head will hit the ground before your body does.” Alexander looked at Cole and nodded. “Start again,” he ordered.

They both looked up when they heard screaming in the distance. “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” Cole snarled.

“I got it. Just continue,” Alexander said, leaping down. In seconds, Alexander was outside and crouched down on top of the roof of a bar. He saw a woman being attacked by two vampires down below.

“Stop screaming, bitch. We just want a fucking taste,” one of them said, pinning her against the wall. He hiked up her skirt just as the other bit down on her shoulder. Blood poured down her back and she screamed out as the vampire rammed his member inside of her.

“The bitch is tight,” the first vampire said.

Alexander leaped down and grabbed the vampire biting down on her. Without hesitation, he tore the vampire’s head from his shoulders. The other vampire pulled out of the woman and went to attack Alexander. But he ducked, elongated his claws, and ripped off the vampire’s penis that was dangling from his pants.

The vampire screamed out in agony, clutching his bleeding crotch before he felt a hand go through his chest. Alexander snarled as he ripped his heart out and dropped it to the floor. “Piece of shit,” Alexander muttered.

He looked at the woman slide down to the floor, crying hysterically. Her entire dress was soaked with her blood. “I’m sorry,” Alexander said sadly. He punctured his wrist with his nail and forced her to drink from him. She fought him for just a few seconds before she started drinking hungrily from his wrist. Alexander waited until she stopped bleeding before he pulled his arm back.

“What are you?” she asked, looking at him terrified as her eyelids grew heavy.

“Just a dream,” he said, waiting until she passed out. He pulled her skirt back down and checked her purse for her driver’s license. He found her address and picked her up in his arms before he took off.

Alexander sneaked onto the patio of the woman’s apartment. He sucked his teeth in frustration when he realized he couldn’t get into her home. He laid her down on the bench outside her door and grabbed her phone. Using her finger to unlock her phone, he searched for the most recent family contact and texted them to come check up on her. He looked at her bloodied shirt and couldn’t find it in his heart to leave.

He quickly tore a piece of his shirt and wiped the blood away from her arms, neck, face, and chest. His phone went off and he rushed to silence it. He checked the caller ID to see it was Kiara. “Kiara?” he answered. “Are you okay?”

“I miss you!” she squeaked over the phone. “Where are you? I wanna go out!”

“I’m... kinda busy right now, iubita mea,” he said, looking at the woman stirring in her sleep.

“Will you be free later?” she asked. He saw a text alert from Cole.

Cole: WHAT THE FUCK IS TAKING YOU SO LONG?!

“I’m not sure,” he said. “But Kiara, I need you to stay home. It’s really not safe out here.”

“But why?”

“Just please don’t go anywhere,” he said. “I’ll get to you as soon as I’m done.”

She sighed on the other end. “...okay...”

“I love you, Kiara.”

“Love you too, Alexander,” she said before hanging up.

~

Kiara sat on her bed staring at her textbook. She truly felt she was going to lose her mind. The house felt so empty with Elijah on his trip with Marshala and Nick. Cole and Alexander were never home, and Peter refused to leave his room.

She picked up her phone and dialed Leo.

~

“KNOCK IT OFF!” Leo growled, breaking up a fight between members of his pack. He shoved one of the wolves off of the one he was pummeling.

“He started it!” the wolf said.

“I don’t fucking care! What are you? 5? Man the fuck up!” Leo barked at him. Leo flexed his biceps as he tried to rub out the tension in his shoulders. He was beyond exhausted trying to keep a rather unruly pack disciplined.

“Leo!”

Leo glanced behind over his shoulder to see Denis running towards him. “Some wolf not from around here is claiming that Nick owes him,” Denis said.

“Who is it?” Leo asked.

“Said his name is Rizzo. Some guy from up north,” Denis said.

Leo groaned as he followed Denis around the corner. He saw a strange man standing at the gate. “Can I help you?” Leo asked.

“Not unless your name is Nicholas Volkov,” Rizzo said coldly.

“Well, I’m a Volkov, so any issues you have with my brother, you have with me. What do you want?” Leo snapped.

“How about the fact that ever since your brother’s stupid little peace treaty went through and all those damn ferals turned back into vampires, we’ve got a bunch of damn bloodsuckers running around our parts,” Rizzo said.

“And just what does that have to do with us?” Leo asked.

“They were easier to kill when they were ferals. Now, they outnumber us 20 to 1. And they’re hostile. They attack anyone and everyone without regard for the basic rules we’ve laid down. We need backup,” Rizzo said.

Leo groaned as he rubbed at his temples. “Don’t you have witches to help with that?”

“Barely,” Rizzo scoffed. “They took out three of our best witches immediately upon turning.”

Leo shook his head. “Let me see what I can do.” He felt his phone buzzing in his pocket before he picked it up. “Yea, Angel?”

“Leo!” she said excitedly. “That movie about the cyborg in the future just came out! Think you have time to go to the movies tonight?”

“Volkov, this is fucking important!” Rizzo snarled.

“Just hold the fuck on!” Leo snapped before he put his phone back to his ear. “I don’t think tonight’s a good night, Angel. Things are a little crazy out here, and I don’t want you going outside. Just stay home. I’ll see you when I’m done here.”

“But, Leo-”

“I promise I’ll see you soon, Angel. I love you, but I gotta go, okay?” he said quickly.

“Okay...” she sighed.

~*~

“Everyone shut the fuck up!” Cole barked.

“This isn’t working!” a vampire shouted. “We can’t live by your fucking rules!”

“’No feeding on humans’? ’Stay in the bloody shadows’? You’re all fucking mad!” another one protested.

“The only way we’ve survived this long is by staying hidden and not drawing attention to ourselves,” Alexander said. “I know it seems difficult right now, but we’ve been living this way for years. If we can do it, so can you.”

“And what a standard to hold us by!” a voice said. “The great Blackbourne Brothers. Sons of the infamous William Blackbourne whom they killed all by themselves.” Cole and Alexander looked for the voice until they spotted a blonde-haired woman in the crowd. Alexander immediately tensed up as he swallowed hard. “You must be so proud,” she snarled.

Cole leaned over and whispered to Alexander. “Isn’t that...”

“Yes,” Alexander said tightly. He cleared his throat. “That has nothing to do with this,” he said.

“Doesn’t it?” she said squinting as she walked through the crowd. “I mean we were all turned into ferals because of some stupid vendetta that a witch had with your family.” Alexander cautiously watched the blonde woman as she walked through the crowd.

“We’re all victims of your fucking family drama. We had lives before this. Before we were unwillingly turned into those mindless creatures. Forced to leave those we loved and a lifestyle we had already been acclimated to. Now here you two fucking big shots are telling us how to live our damn lives less than a few months after returning to our old selves. You can’t make us become what we aren’t. A vampire needs to feed. A vampire needs to kill. And who the fuck are you to tell us otherwise?”

Several vampires hummed their agreement as the blond woman glared at Alexander with a challenge in her eyes. “There are rules to this,” Alexander warned. “If we all run around attacking and killing humans at will, we risk being exposed. And then what? We’d be hunted down and persecuted.”

“So let them fucking come!” she said, throwing her hands in the air as several vampires cheered her on. “Those pathetic pieces of shit don’t stand a chance against us if we actually stood together for once!” She turned from the crowd cheering her on as to face Alexander. “Unless... you’re not actually... on our side...” she said, cocking her head. “Are you, Alexander?” Alexander’s jaw tensed as he swallowed hard.

“Alright, you know what, Goldilocks, how ’bout you shut the fuck up before I skewer you with the TV antenna on top of this building,” Cole snarled. “Anyone else got shit to say?” A few vampires grumbled, but the blonde woman kept her eyes on Alexander.

~

“It takes a while to adjust to animal blood. The texture is a little different depending on the species, and the taste might take some getting used to. But the important thing is to catch them quickly and feed while they’re still warm. I promise it gets better,” Alexander said to a group of vampires that he escorted to the exit.

“When can I see my daughter again?” a vampire woman said, looking up at him.

Alexander sighed. “I would not suggest visiting her until you’ve gotten this part under control. The last thing you want is for your hunger to take control and you accidentally kill her. Join me on a hunt. I’ll assess your ability to stay controlled, and then we’ll go from there, alright?” he said, patting her on the back.

“Thanks, Alexander,” she said before the group left the building.

“So, you’re not even going to say ‘hi’?”

Alexander turned around to see the blond woman who was antagonizing him earlier leaning against the wall. She smirked and gave him a flirtatious wave.

“What do you want, Rose?” he said, walking past her.

She scoffed as she followed him. “Really? That’s all I get?”

“After that stunt you pulled, you’re lucky you get anything at all,” he said, closing the large shutters of the warehouse.

She grabbed his shoulder and spun him around. “15 years, Alexander! 15 fucking years I spent as that mindless creature!” she snarled.

“I’m sorry. That must have been hard,” he said, turning around and closing more shutters. She sped in front of him and turned him around, slamming him up against the wall. Her eyes bled a deep red as she snarled at him. What do you want, Rose?” he sighed. “I had no control over what happened to you.”

“How convenient for you,” she said mockingly, curling her upper lip. He gave her a defeated look, not knowing what else to say. Her eyes traced his muscular physique for just a moment before she leaped on him, quickly wrapping her legs around his waist. She grabbed his face between her hands and kissed him ferociously, trying to shove her tongue down his throat.

She suddenly went flying backward, skidding on the floor, as Alexander shoved her off of him. “What the hell is wrong with you?!” Alexander growled at her.

“What?” she said, standing up and dusting herself off. “15 years later and I’m no longer attractive to you?” she asked. She pushed up her large breasts and walked towards him. “I am loving this long hair on you, by the way. Totally fits that dark, mysterious look you’ve always had going on. Looking like a sexy vampire daddy. How the hell did your hair grow anyway? Last time I saw you, it was shorter. No matter. I like to have something to pull on when I’m-

“I’m with someone,” he cut her off.

“So?” she shrugged, reaching for him again.

“I mean I’m taken, Rose,” he said, slapping her hand away.

She looked at him startled. “Oh! Like... in a relationship?”

“Like a mate.”

She pulled back surprised. “Wow. Wasn’t expecting that one. Well, I mean, it has been 15 years...”

“There was nothing between us, Rose. It was just sex,” Alexander said, walking towards the exit.

“Uh... mind-blowing sex,” she said, following him. “I distinctly remember us fucking so hard we broke furniture at every hotel we met at,” she teased.

“That was over 20 years ago,” he said, not looking at her.

“What’s 20 years to an immortal?” she scoffed. But Alexander just continued to ignore her. “Are you telling me this girl’s pussy is so good that you’re willing to completely forego mine?” she teased, trying to get him to speak. “I mean seriously, Alexander. Your favorite place used to be between my legs. What’s so special about her? You and I used to have the most fun together before...”

Alexander stopped walking and looked at her. “The difference between you and her, Rose... is that I’m in love with her.”

Rose looked at him slightly offended. “Uh...ouch, Alexander.”

“I didn’t mean it to sound like that,” he sighed. “You knew I didn’t love you, Rose. And I knew you didn’t love me. We made that part of our agreement when we started sleeping with each other. But again... that was 20 years ago.”

“So, that’s it?” she asked. “No makeup sex. No kinky rough-housing? You’re just... done with me?”

Alexander turned around and looked at her. “Try not to think of it that way. It’s a new world, Rose. I think you’ll like it.”

“Not if I have to find a new fuck buddy let alone one that fucks as good as you,” she said, rolling her eyes.

Alexander smirked as he shook his head. “You’ll live,” he said before walking away.

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