Danny felt numb all the way back to the Manor. She barely made a sound as she changed from her gear to pajamas and made her way into her room. She slept uneasily on the soft mattress, dreaming of her old life.
She saw her brother drive off in his car to school. Danny always got a ride from him to school, but she had to stay home and finish a last minute homework assignment. She remembered the guilt she felt when she heard the news, how she knew she should have gone with him. But then she was transported to his funeral, a sea of people in black clothing with sad faces as they looked towards an open casket. They were in a church with beautiful stained glass windows that cast soft rainbows of color across the dimly lit fellowship hall. Danny was in the back standing in the middle of the center isle, walking with her father to the front of the church and slowly sitting down in the front. She was wearing a modest black dress, her father wore a black suit and tie while her mother wore the same dress as her daughter. Danny looked to the casket and saw her brother's face. His strong jaw and jet black hair looking just like they were the last time she saw him. But she knew, without any doubt even if she wanted to, that her beloved brother was gone forever. And it was all her fault.
Danny woke with a start, her heart going ten times as fast as it should. Her head ached and she felt someone watching her again. Tony stood in the doorway with the jacket from his gear on with a maroon shirt underneath it. He wore a knife on his left thigh, and dark jeans over combat boots. Danny sighed, rising from her soft bed onto the wooden floor of her room. She noticed it was the middle of the night, and her window looked like it was spray painted black because of the darkness outside. The moon hung just over the trees that surrounded the house.
"Training?" Danny asked.
He nodded. Danny sighed and walked to her closet and picked out some sweat pants and a tank top, and slipped them on quickly. Danny slid on her casual boots and tucked her sweat pants into them. Tony had turned his back to her while she changed, but she had a feeling he had sneaked a peak when her shirt had blocked her view as she took it off. Danny walked over to him and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned and nodded, then started down the hall to the stairs.
Danny followed Tony out the back door and into the sprawling backyard. It was flat and had lush green grass. Nick stood with arms crossed over his chest, a small smile on his face. Aaron stood in a similar stance, but he smirked more then smiled. They wore plain black shirts and dark jeans. They looked at Danny intently like instructors would, their breaths deep and strong.
"Hello, Danielle," Nick said in monotone, "Today marks the day your initiation begins. During this time we are going to be professional, seeing as that is what we are. Before we begin, I would like to ask you that you refer to us by our original names. You know mine, Aaron once went by the name 'John'. Tony was shortened from Antonio. You got that?"
"Yes, Nicholas," Danny said, trying it out, "I understand."
"Excellent," Aaron chimed in, "Then let's begin."
Four hours later...
Danny stood panting in the middle of the three vampires. She wielded her boot knife in a reverse grip since holding it normally wasn't as effective. They had taught her the basics of how to use her blade, and maybe two intermediate moves along with it, and she was supposed to demonstrate those moves before dawn.
Tony lunged for her, his fist sailing towards her face. But Danny sunk her blade into his forearm and dropped to the ground before he could land that blow. Tony's momentum caused him to lose his balance and fly into Aaron with incredible force, the two vampires crumbling to the ground. All that remained was Nick, who was already halfway to her with fangs extended and the veins under his eyes darkening. Danny hit Nick hard in the jaw with her free hand, stunning him. And in that moment, Danny used the elbow of the arm she'd just used, jerking Nick's head to the side and stunning him just long enough for Danny to grab his wrist and flip him onto his back. Nick blinked as Danny mounted him, pressing her blade to his neck.
"Excellent, Danielle," Nick smirked, "You are a fast learner."
"I try, Nicholas," Danny smirked back, offering her hand to him, "I would like to get a drink, if you don't mind."
Nick, vampire quick, grabbed her wrist and twisted, making Danny fall onto her back and Nick to mount her just as she had been. He was grinning, "I decide when we fed, got that initiate?"
Danny nodded, "Of course."
"I believe that concludes training, right?" Aaron asked shoving Tony off of him as he rose.
"Yeah," Tony said as he stood, scratching at the now semi-healed gash Danny had given him, "We're done for today."
Nick shrugged and headed in through the back door, the other three vampires on his heels just as the sun rose. They went to the kitchen and poured glasses of blood, making small talk as they emptied their glasses. Danny took her phone and logged into her old mom's e-mail account, and started to scroll through her moms messages. Most of them were responses of sympathy and encouragement, making a pang of guilt knot in her chest. Finally, she found it, the date and time of her funeral. It was in two days, at the church Danny use to go to volunteer. Danny sighed faintly and closed her phone before the guys could see her screen. They were talking about an assignment, and judging by how Aaron was laughing nervously, it was his first ever.
"Oh yeah," Nick was saying, stifling a laugh, "You remember his face when we asked him to snap his bones in half because he talked back?"
"I didn't think anyone could have been more confused!" Tony laughed along.
"It wasn't that bad!" Aaron rolled his eyes in exasperation.
"Oh, hell yeah it was, and you know it!" Tony said right before he downed the last of his drink.
"And, Miss Queen of Darkness over here," Nick pointed with his thumb to Danny, who was smirking broadly, "Didn't even flinch. And I think she didn't even need us to tell her what to do, while you just stood there like we'd Turned your mother before your eyes!"
"Wait, really?" Tony cocked an eyebrow, "Now that you say that, 'Danny' sounds too soft for her."
"Oh, shut up Tony," Danny rolled her eyes, "I don't need another nickname."
"On the contrary," Nick chimed in, "Your name is all you have, your old name belonged to a girl that died a week ago. So, you don't have a nickname...yet, anyway."
"What would I even be called?" Danny half smiled and raised an eyebrow questioningly, deciding to humor her new friends.
"Hmm," Danny turned to see Jake leaning in the doorway, stroking his beard, "How about 'Shadow'?"
"I like it," Aaron said, shrugging.
"You guys are ridiculous," Danny said, shaking her head and burying her face in her hands.
"I'll ask around and see if everyone likes it," Tony smiled, and turned to Danny before he left, "Cause if they all like it, it'll be your new name."
"Nick?" Danny said, ignoring Tony as he left.
"Can I get my own set of wheels?" Danny asked politely, reminiscing of her motorcycle that she had rode everywhere.
"Yeah, sure thing," Nick smiled, "You want to have the same one you used to have?"
"Well," Nick began, "What if I told you that it was brought in when you were in transition, and was sitting in the garage right now?"
Danny's eyes widened, "You stole my bike?"
"If you chose the other option, I would have taken it anyway," Nick smiled.
"And did you happen to take my riding gear with you when you took it?" Danny cocked an eyebrow.
"As a matter of fact, I did."
Danny used her vampire speed and dashed around the large table and gave Nick a huge hug, "You are the best, Nick."
"I try," He smiled.
"Ugh," Jake acted as if someone had spiked his drink with vervain, "Just kiss already!"
"Your just jealous I'm on her good side," Nick smirked.
"Whatever," Jake threw his hands up in defense and walked into the meeting room.
Danny gave Nick another squeeze and moved just as quickly as she had before into the garage. It was as large as a barn, filled with a vehicle for each vampire that lived there. There was Nick's Camero, Tony's van, and a truck that no doubt belonged to Jake. Next to the truck sat a pair of solid black convertible 60s Mustangs, which Danny was certain were owned by Mark and Adam. There was another truck that was such a dark red that it was on the verge of black, and the only one Danny could think of who'd own that was Aaron. Alex and Elsa's cars were pretty much the same, a pair of sedans, one black and the other maroon.
Then Danny saw it. Her motorcycle was at the far edge of the garage next to Alex's car, resting against the wall. Her riding jacket, gloves, and helmet sat in a pile on the seat. It was pitch black in color and had the crest of the family above the back wheel in gold. Her helmet was as black as the bike, but had a white picture of a hawk in mid flight in the back. Her gloves were tough and as black as everything else, and her riding jacket was the coolest thing ever, in her opinion. Black leather with a slanting zipper with a belt at her waist. Danny had loved riding up to school in her bike.
She patted her stuff lightly and recited to herself how to get home from here, checking the gas tank as she did so. She promised, as soon as night fell, she would be long gone. Nick and the others would know exactly where she would be going, they were too good not to. But Danny had no doubt that once she made it to the funeral, they wouldn't take her away until she did what she went there to do. Plus, by the time they would have found her, the service would almost be though anyway, and it would be in the middle of the day. Danny had looked at the schedule and had seen that it ended at twilight with a lantern send off, where everyone would light a flying lantern and release it into the sky. Then, the guys would drag her back home and scold her for leaving without anyone. But she knew that if she didn't go, she would regret it forever.
Danny left the garage and quietly went to her room. She had to study the history of vampires and her new family. Nick had told her of the records he had left on her desk before he taught her the combat techniques. He hadn't noticed them when she had been changing, but now she lay on her stomach with the records splayed out across her bed. The family was known formally as The Night Guardians. But they were never called that. Thanks to the founding members crest that Danny had seen above the front doors, they were known across the world as The Night Haunters, and that name stuck more thanks to their reputation of how they dealt out punishment. There were countless things that they had done that had sealed their image as ruthless, deadly punishers of rogues and Rippers. Danny read that they trained to be ten times as deadly as Rippers were, so that when they went to hunt them down, the Haunters could restrain them without difficulty.
Danny found records of the vampire Mark had told her about before the Salvatore brothers and their girlfriends had attacked them. His human name had been Ezekiel Matthews. He had been a true prodigy, making the same milestones Danny had, and then some. He learned in half the normal time other vampires took to learn the basic and intermediate techniques, finishing the combat training in two weeks instead of five. He was also a quick study, learning the histories of the Haunters so quickly and thoroughly that he corrected some of the vampires that had been there for five decades before him. Danny was curious about Ezekiel, seeing as he possessed the same ability she had, because she read of it in the debriefing of his first assignment, and the one after, and so on. Danny wanted to meet Ezekiel so he could maybe explain what was different about her then the others. Then she found his stats in the pile and scoffed in astonishment. His kill count was three to four times as high as the others were. It peaked her interest when she found the record of the wolf attack Mark had talked about. The clan had been captured and bound as they watched the werewolf pack of twenty-five take them one by one to be tortured for the things they'd done to the pack. Ezekiel had been frisked while he was unconscious from a vervain tranq dart, and the wolves had to make a separate pile for him because of the amount he had. Ezekiel had written how they had made jokes about him and his arsenal, how ridiculous they seemed to be and how impractical it was to have so many blades. That is, up until the point where they had daggers thrown into their backs.
Ezekiel had had written that he kept ten knives on him in hidden sheaths, and used them more in combat then any other Haunter, who averaged one to two. Danny wanted to meet him soon, since if he was this good, he'd still be around, even though the records were dated in the 20s.
"Well?" Nick said, entering without knocking, "I see your a good study. So far just the first chapter, right?"
Danny shook her head closing the book about Ezekiel, "Chapter 5 Section 8."
"Really?" Nicks eyebrows shot up, "How?"
"I dunno," Danny shrugged, "Still got down study habits from my old life, I guess."
"Either way, that's amazing Dan-Shadow," Nick stammered slightly, probably in purpose.
"They approved, didn't they?" Danny buried her head in her hands.
She heard Nick chuckle, "Yeah, they liked it. I'll still probably call you Danny in private, though. It's my nickname for you, anyway, since I knew you before all of this."
"You knew me before?" Danny raised her head.
Nick nodded, "Yeah, it was my turn to find a potential. I chose you since you were so strong when your brother passed. I didn't know about the other amazing things about you, though."
"Oh," Danny said shrugging, "Neither did I. Never considered myself anything other then normal. People tried to tell me I was pretty or strong, but I never listened."
"That's because you're beautiful and as tough as nails," Nick smiled.
"Lair," Danny accused, but she blushed slightly at the compliment.
Nick chuckled, turning to leave, "Later, Danny."
"See ya, Nick," Danny called as he closed the door behind him. She took the records and put them back onto her desk, then laid down on her bed. She ran through her plan in her head. It was simple, really. Just sneak out right before training and hop on to her bike and drive like Hell was chasing her. They wouldn't be far behind, but Danny was counting on the speed of her bike to outrun them long enough to evade them. They couldn't track her well if she wasn't even close to them, Danny figured. She didn't want to dare underestimate the Haunters. Her history lesson had taught her of the lengths they would go to to complete their mission, but she also knew exactly what plan they would take and what procedures they had to follow, what rules restrained them.
The rule that Danny was hoping would give her the edge was that they had to travel together on the road, no splitting up unless the mission called for it. And she knew it would be Tony's shift and his van wasn't the fastest around, defiantly not faster then Danny's bike. And Nick would surely be at the forefront of the search party, but Danny didn't think Mark had told them about her funeral. That meant she had thirty minutes, maybe, until Mark called Nick with the news. But that would be enough, Danny was sure of it.
"Better get some rest," Nick said over his glass of alcohol, "More training tomorrow."
Danny nodded, setting her empty glass on to the table and ridding from her chair. She had come down for a drink and had stated to talk about Ezekiel to the guys, asking them if they knew anything of the prodigy. She found out that he was with the West Branch, based in California near L.A. He was still alive and was currently inactive, except for the sparse activity that was common, much like what Danny was doing. Nick said that he could request an audience with him, though he didn't use the name 'Ezekiel', but 'Savage'. Danny scoffed at the name, when he mentioned it. Nick said that he knew one of Ezekiel's friends and that he could probably get an audience with him if she wanted it bad enough. Danny had nodded her thanks, as just then Aaron had butted in when he heard 'Savage' and started telling Danny tall tales about him, to which she nodded and paid attention only when a bit of information caught her interest. Finally, when Aaron had finished, she felt tired.
Danny face planted into her bed. She breathed in the strong scent of perfume residue and fabric softener, thinking of when she'd head to the garage. She decided after five minutes of inner debate that she would sneak in there ten minutes before sundown, since she guessed she would take five minutes to stealthily reach the barn like structure, and five more to change into her riding gear from the clothes she would wear. Danny had a small black backpack that held two of the four blood bags she had in her personal stash that she got the night she woke at the hospital. God, it seemed like years since that happened.
Danny remembered how terrified she was, how deep inside her she was having a class-one-freak-out. But what surprised her is how calm she acted on the outside, how she even fooled Nick, who must have seen so many vampires turn that he should've been able to see right through her. But she convinced even herself that it had been alright when she was transitioning. It must've been her freaky semi-emotion-switch ability. Danny didn't care anymore, and the last thing she did before slipping into a light sleep was setting her alarm for fifteen minutes before sundown.
Danny woke five minutes before the alarm sounded. Danny sighed with relief and turned it off before it could go off. She didn't want anyone knowing she was up. Danny slipped into black skinny jeans, and a black tank top. She tucked her pants into her boots as she slipped them on. She clipped her boot knife in between her boot and shin, and slipped another knife into her pocket as a back up. She took the small back pack checking it to make sure everything was there. Her phone, her blood bags, her thigh knife with it's sheath, and a sweater a size too big.
Danny shouldered the bag on and sneaked her way down the stairs. Elsa was cooking something in the kitchen that smelled amazing. It was making noise, which was loud enough to overpower the little sound Danny made. She snuck past the door to the back yard, where Nick stared out the window in anticipation along with Jake. They turned back to their drinks and Danny silently made her way to the garage, which was on the other side of the Manor from where everyone was. She slithered through the cars to the other side of the garage where her bike sat against the wall, gleaming with the last rays of sunlight as the sun ducked under the trees surrounding the house.
Danny put down her pack and picked up her jacket and gloves, slipping them on quickly. Her human scent, such a familiar thing that was now so foreign to her, was all over her riding gear. Danny put on her helmet and flipped the shaded visor down. Now she was completely covered from head to toe in black, her pale skin showing nowhere. Danny mounted her bike and turned the key in the ignition. The engine roared to life, then slowed quickly into a purr as Danny walked it out into the road.
With a small rev of the engine, Danny shot down the road in a flash, her body and bike blending perfectly with the shadows. She took the normal route through the dirt path until she reached the interstate. Some drivers looked at her in passive recognition, but some didn't even notice her because of how dark her gear and bike were. It amused her at how ignorant humans are at times. Some of these people, she knew, wouldn't even notice she was there until she spoke. Danny chuckled, remembering that not a week and a half ago, she was just as ignorant since Nick had been able to spy on here for God knew how long.
"I wonder how I'm gonna get myself out of this one," Danny muttered, thinking of what punishment her trip would cost her. Surely, it was going to hurt.
Within an hour and a half, Danny came upon the church, and the doors were open. Danny drove her bike behind some large bushes, and dismounted. She slipped off her gloves and helmet, leaving her jacket on, and put them onto the seat. Danny slowly made her way to the church's entrance and slipped in quietly. It was a grand church that had a choir balcony high and behind were the pulpit was standing erect before the wooden pews. She crept up to the choir loft and went over to the darkest corner, one that the sun's rays wouldn't touch. It was behind the seats and just under the the grand stained glass windows. She laid down, using her bag as a pillow, and bringing her knees up. She promised herself that she'd wake up at the slightest noise. And just as she saw the first rays of sun spill through the stained glass windows in a rainbow of color onto the carpeted floor, Danny felt herself drift into consciousness.
Danny jolted upright, immediately looking to the windows. The sun was starting to set, and barely shown through the windows, so Danny was safe as she crept to the edge of the choir loft. The far right edge of the balcony was cloaked in shadow. Danny quickly took off her jacket, slipped on her sweater, shrugged her jacket back on and flipped up her sweater's hood. She made her normally tucked away bangs cover her left eye while her right was in shadow from her hood.
Danny leaned against the wall in the shadows and watched her own funeral unfold before her. She saw her mom, handkerchief patting under her wet mocha eyes, sitting next to her grieving father. They both looked destroyed inside and out, her mother burying her face in her husband's shoulder, sobs racking her body. Her father stroked her mother's hair softly, whispering gibberish to comfort both himself and his wife.
"She's in a better place, Margret," her father, Johnathan, spoke softly so only her mother could hear, "She'd want us to move on, because she wouldn't want us to spend the rest of our lives in grief. It's okay, baby."
"I just can't believe she was killed," Margret whispered hoarsely, lifting her head slightly from his shoulder, "She was always strong for everyone else, why would anyone want to take my baby?"
Sobs broke anew from her dry lips as she buried her head into his shoulder again, softer this time. Johnathan's lip quivered and a tear silently fell from the corner of his green eyes. Danny watched as they sat there, folded into each other in a grievous embrace. A sob rose in Danny's throat at the sight of it. Every cell in her body wanted to jump from the thirty foot high balcony and run to her parents, so that they could see that she was alright. That she was still with them, that they weren't alone.
Danny's hand knotted over her heart, clutching a part of her jacket to keep from screaming to her lonely parents, it did just enough to restrain her. Then he saw her Uncle Johnny emerge from the small crowd in the parlor. He strode down the isle, his brown hair falling into his chocolate eyes. As soon as her mother saw him, her expression darkened. What was wrong? Danny hadn't seen him since her brother died. Her mother never looked at anyone that way. Margret slowly turned back to her husband, who looked stone cold at his wife's brother-in-law.
"What are you doing here, John?" Danny's dad said with a slight edge to his voice, like he would have liked it to be as cold as the South Pole, but he just didn't have the energy.
"I came to grieve my niece," Johnny said with a quick smile. Too quick to belong at a funeral.
"Please," Margret's voice broke slightly, her voice hoarse from her crying, "I don't want you here, not after what you've done."
"What?" Johnny looked hurt, "Accidents happen, dear sister. Why can't you forgive me?"
"Because," Her voice quivering, "I do not want to deal with the loss of my only remaining child in the presence of the one who killed my son."
Johnny looked shocked at the words that seemed to have ice sickles hanging off of them, despite the kind Margret breaking into a sob soon after. Never had Danny expected this, neither her mother's reaction or her uncle's behavior fully registered in her brain. Her uncle was the reason she had lost her beloved brother? How can that be?
"I'm sorry, Margret," John said softly, but Danny could tell there was no remorse in is voice, "I regret every day of my life because of what happened. I shouldn't have run that red light so fast. It's all my fault."
Danny growled like a mad wolf, feeling her fangs lengthen as the thought came immediately to her mind. What was it? Hatred? Disgust? No, it was both. It was the need to avenge her brother. To kill. It took all of Danny's will power to stay put as Johnny's sad excuse for a body left the chapel and into the parking lot. White hot anger burned within Danny, as she absently tossed her blade up an down like she always did now.
The funeral went on, the sympathizers flooded in slowly, filing into the pews of the church. Everyone, even people Danny had never even spoken a word to or met, had a genuine mask of sadness and pity for the family. Danny could see it etched into their faces. Of course, there were some who didn't care to be there, but the atmosphere was so depressive that it seemed complaining about being there would be the highest offense they could commit.
"Wait," one of Danny's friends whispered, confused and scared, "Is that her ghost? Look up there, see that girl in those shadows?"
"Is she tossing a knife?" A guy whispered after her glanced at Danny, "Wait, is she haunting us?"
"I don't know," Danny's friend said quietly, "But that's not what she wore at all. She never wore all black like that, and never even went near a knife. That can't be her."
"Yeah," The guy said, "But still that girl is giving me the creeps. Who stands in the shadows in head to toe black with a knife during a funeral?"
"Yeah," Danny heard the girl shiver, "Creepy."
Danny heard the stairs to the balcony creak under the weight of three foot falls. Two big and masculine, and one female. Danny crouched low, readying her blade. The stair case was in shadow, so Danny didn't see the silver dart rocketing towards her until it was too late. It sunk into her neck, and she could feel every iota of vervain enter her bloodstream. Black closed around her vision, an the last thing Danny could see and hear was Damon and Stefan Salvatore make their way to her.
Damon crouched down, smirking broadly, "When you wake up from your beauty sleep, it'll be your time to talk, Princess. And trust me, you will talk when I'm through with you."