Blood on Roses

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Promise Me

“History would only repeat itself if I let things remain the same.”
~ Zachary Nolan

NINETEEN

“I’m sorry I keep giving you guys trouble,” I mumbled, mostly because I didn’t want them to hear my voice cracking. The five of us leaped from roof to roof under the cover of night.

Hailee sighed. “You should’ve known better than to lurk around outside after dark.”

“Agreed,” said Harvick. “Your newborn scent attracts a lot of trouble. If Zachary hadn’t noticed in time that you weren’t home, you could’ve gone on a killing rampage.”

The blonde girl smiled at me, then introduced herself as Vivian, an Elite who could locate any face that she could recall. Her ability was incomplete because she was an Elite, not a Pureblood. She didn’t say anything else to me, but I knew that she had better things to do than tracking down a reckless hybrid.

Zach, carrying me in his arms, stayed silent the whole time. He focused his gaze straight ahead and didn’t even glance at me. I ducked my head in shame.

“Next time, those people could be rogue vampires. You could be in grave danger,” Hailee added. I curled up even more.

“Stop lecturing her. This wasn’t her fault to begin with,” Zach cut in, surprising everyone.

“Aren’t you annoyed, Zach?” Hailee asked.

“If anything, I was the one who failed to protect her as I was expected to.”

Nobody spoke afterward. The others went ahead back to the base while Zach landed on the roof of my house.

He set me down on the couch and examined my hand. The wound closed and was healing at a moderate pace.

A fuzzy feeling coursed through me. I no longer had a heartbeat, but my emotions were as vivid as ever. He carefully cleaned the blood off my hands with a moist towelette. I kept a package of them on my coffee table. I peered at his side profile, unable to look away.

“What happened to not being a nice guy?” I asked in the midst of the comfortable silence.

“Shut up, or I’ll leave,” he replied in a tone far softer than the one I was used to despite his choice of words. I could feel his fingers through the towelette. They were cold to the touch, but his actions were warmer than anything.

At last, I brought myself to avert my gaze when he finished cleaning my hands. Zach tossed the dirty towelette into the trash. “Go ahead and take a shower. Give me your clothes.”

“What?” I asked, shocked.

Zach gave me a weird look and clarified, “You’d want to get rid of those, right? They’re soaked in blood.”

“Right,” I stuttered and mentally slapped myself. After undressing in the bathroom, I handed the bloodied clothes to him out the door. Telling me that he’d be right back, he quickly jumped out a window.

I stared at myself in the mirror. Splattered blood spots covered my arms, neck, and parts of my face. Not a single piece of my hair was out of place, yet I couldn’t appear more disheveled. I could still taste the lingering blood in my mouth from when I bit out the woman’s larynx. My throat instantly grew dry, and my stomach demanded more. I ignored it and quickly stepped into the shower.

Half an hour later, I changed into fresh clothes and dried my hair. Zach waited for me in my room. He was flipping through my history books when I entered. He put it back on the shelf when he noticed me.

“Hand. I want to see what happened,” Zach commanded.

There we go. Now that’s the jerk I know and love, I thought sarcastically.

“What’s the magic word?”

“Now.” Zach humorlessly grabbed hold of my wrist, making me stumble forward. After a few seconds, that familiar side-cocked grin appeared on his face.

I swiped seven lives with such little effort in such short time. I could only imagine what the other vampires had done in their eternal existence.

“Pretty good moves,” he remarked.

“All I could think about was getting the hell out of there. Everything else just happened,” I recalled. As soon as I wanted the mentality of a vampire, even for just a moment, my fear vanished, and I slaughtered them.

Vampire blood was more dangerous than I expected.

“I’m sorry for causing trouble,” I said once more guiltily.

He frowned at me. “Stop. I’m glad you made it out. You need to learn how to do this without unlocking some sadistic alter-ego.”

I cringed at the memory of my behavior during my first kill.

What the hell was that giggle? And the thoughts about it being rude to interrupt someone’s meal? Why did I go the extra mile to stab a knife into a corpse’s eye?

I nodded my head firmly in agreement with Zach.

Zach super sped over to my opened window and lifted one of his legs onto the ledge. He turned back to me with a confident smirk. “Well then, ready for your first lesson?”

I was a tad tired, but it was nothing I needed to worry about. A vampire’s stamina was hundreds of times better than that of a human. I threw my towel onto the bed and brushed my hair a bit with my fingers while walking up to his outstretched hand. He dragged me straight down with him.

I clung on Zach’s shoulders for dear life as gravity pulled us down. We landed on the pavement without a scratch. He said, “No matter what height, never be afraid of falling. As long as you focus on landing on your feet, you won’t fail.”

It was just past midnight. We soared above the busy traffic and people, hands tightly locked. We blended in perfectly with the night.

“Come on!” Zach laughed. I couldn’t bring myself to walk on a clothing line between two buildings. He did his best to encourage me from the other end. I spread my arms out and took the first step, but I was a wobbling mess.

“I’m going to fall and become meatloaf, Zach!”

“Hazel,” he called out, causing me look at him. At that moment, I knew I screwed up. My body was then Zach’s to control. As much as I wanted to scream, my legs kept going. Then, when I got to the middle of the line, Zach snapped the control with an evil grin.

“I freaking hate you!” I shouted. I struggled to balance and nearly fell off so many times. Zach took pure entertainment in watching me suffer, but he never once took his eyes off of me.

I’ve never seen him laugh so much. I thought as I approached the end.

Suddenly, nothing supported my weight. The line snapped, but I was still a few steps away from the other building. Zach reacted fast and grabbed my arm. I glanced down and realized that I was approximately twenty stories away from the ground, and two point five inches from death’s door.

“The purpose of tonight is to drill it through your thick skull that you’re a damn vampire,” Zach said, then loosened his grip. “Now here comes your first pop quiz. Fall, what is this? Two hundred feet?”

“Don’t you dare drop me!”

An attractive smirk crept on his lips as he scoffed. “Try me.”

I fell. I realized that panicking was no use, so I tried to do what Zach told me. I focused on landing on my feet, but my body flailed around without control. Pretty soon, I was speeding headfirst into the pavement.

I protested, “You can’t just expect someone who’s always been unathletic to suddenly be able to drop two hundred feet and score a perfect landing!”

“Troublesome woman. Somersault!” Zach instructed. His voice came from right behind me. I did so, and by the time I peeked open my eyes, I was safely on the ground. I heard landing behind me.

Did I actually do it? I glanced up at the tall building. Never in my life had I ever dreamt of pulling such a stunt.

I met Zach’s eyes, and we exchanged a smile. That was kind of fun.

“Malevolent,” I noted as I strode past Zach, to which he mirrored my playful expression. We were at the back of the building, facing a garden and gazebo.

“Please, you’re too kind,” Zach fired back. He zoomed up to the gazebo. With his hands languidly in his pockets, Zach stepped up onto the roof of it. He turned to me, nodding his head up, telling me to follow.

I chewed on my bottom lip. Might as well put this everlasting life to use. I imitated his actions. Though not as smooth, I successfully steadied myself beside him.

“Look.” Zach fixed his sight in a direction. I followed his gaze and beamed when I saw a vast rose field. Under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t be visible in such darkness, but we had night vision. We saw everything as clear as day.

Did he plan this?

I didn’t think he paid attention to the rose vase in my room. It was normal for anyone to own a few plants. I basked in the glory of the proud roses. I turned my head toward Zach, only to find him already looking at me.

“Why don’t I have the heart to hurt you?” he mumbled suddenly. “Why was I so panicked when you went missing? Is your power really just passing through walls? Maybe you have a psychological-based ability, after all? How else could my strange behavior be explained?”

I stared at him with wide eyes. Seconds passed, and before I could muster up something to say, Zach turned away. A stiff breeze blew from behind us, bringing my long locks in front of my face.

“Do you remember the girl I sucked dry the first time you met me?” he asked again while maintaining his usual composure. I hummed in affirmation. “She was Henrietta King’s most talented apprentice, but she was so weak. So easy.”

At the sight of his cold, steady gaze, I didn’t know what to think. “Henrietta and her family took away my everything, so I’ll simply take away all of hers.”

The Zachary just ten minutes ago was so playful and humorously wicked, but in mere minutes, he succeeded in reminding me of the monster within him.

But was I any better? I had the blood of seven people on my hands.

I couldn’t break the silence. Once again, Zach’s hot and cold personality rendered me confused. Every time I felt that we had gotten a bit closer, he ended up doing something that pushed me out of his circle.

“You can’t push me away, yet. You promised that you would watch me avenge my parents,” I stated plainly, surprising him.

He seemed to search his memory. “I don’t remember making such a promise.”

“Will you promise now?”

His raised eyebrows eventually lowered, and a small, warm smile crossed his lips. He scoffed softly and held up his pinkie. “Fine. I promise I’ll be there when you kill whoever it is that messed your life up.”

I grinned. “You’ll have to stick a needle in your eye if you break this promise.”

His face scrunched up. “Even I wouldn’t do that.”

“So you better not break it.”

“Whatever you say.” Zach looked much more handsome with that gentle and sheepish smile on his face, but he couldn’t hide the hesitation in his eyes. His mind was entirely elsewhere, but I doubt he’d tell me if I asked.

“Come with me.” He tugged at my pinkie, then hopped off the gazebo. Feeling brave, I leaped and caught up.

He led me into the rose field. Both of us were extra careful not to step on any of them.

I recalled the vase of white roses in his room. I still didn’t know the reason for their existence. Was it to remember and recover? Was it to mourn?

My thinking was interrupted when I bumped into Zach’s back. I stepped aside to see what he stopped at.

“It’s beautiful!” I gasped and slowly squatted down to get a better look. There was one single osiria rose in the middle of the field. Its petals were a stunning blend of hot pink and white. I patted my pockets for my phone, only then to realize that the kidnappers probably took it.

“Here.” Zach nudged my shoulder with a brand new phone. “I’m sorry I didn’t return sooner. I tried taking your advice and got a phone. It’s too much work for me. I’d rather run around to look for someone. Take it.”

“Whoa.” It was the newest release of a brand that I always wanted. “Thank you.”

“By the way, I saw Henrietta, and that hunter you said had the gift. Henrietta was feeding her some pretty damn hardcore biased information. Almost like...”

“Propaganda?” I finished with a grin.

“Exactly,” Zach confirmed.

I tapped on the camera. Nothing but the sky showed up in selfie mode, and I received a bitter reminder. I snapped some artsy angles of the osiria.

“Let’s go. Don’t forget that we’re not out to play today.” With that, Zach began stepping out of the field. He kept at a moderate pace, lifting his foot above the roses.

“What a softie,” I remarked aloud.

He tossed me a glare over his shoulder. “Want me to prove you wrong?”

“I don’t know. Your smile earlier was too adorable for that,” I replied with a teasing grin.

He growled. Using the wall space between the windows on a building, he ran up the wall until he landed on the top. Naturally, he expected me to keep up. Imitating his movements helped a lot. I landed with a small thud.

“Lean forward a bit while you run. It helps maintain your balance.”

I resisted the urge to call him an old man.

“Now, for the main course.” Zach turned to me with his usual calm and confident expressionless face. “You can’t be afraid to kill.”

How can I not? I’m only human. I quickly caught myself before voicing my thoughts. Zach would shank me if he heard me say that. Instead, I asked, “How do I do that?”

“Practice makes perfect.”

“No!”

“I’m kidding. Looks like I do have a dry sense of humor,” Zach mumbled to himself. “Just don’t look at their faces and tune out their screams. That helped me get by in my early years.”

Wait, you weren’t born as a brutal, menacing, lethal, cruel beast?

Zach met my questioning gaze, and he hesitated to clarify, “I used to faint at the sight of blood.”

My jaw dropped.

“When I was fourteen and first had to live on the streets with my sister, no one was there to give me a juice box. I had to get over my fear,” Zach elaborated. “As you know, there was no way I’d let the same tragic fate replay the third time, so I left the household of goodie-two-shoes vampires at age sixteen. I was rash and inexperienced; I got ambushed in five short months, then I spent the next two years of my life in that prison. Those hunters took my blood for weapons and experiments; it was disgusting.”

His eyebrows grimly knitted closer together. It was no wonder he was always brimming with hatred whenever we conversed about hunters or humans. When he heard a half-human was joining The Ones, he must not have been pleased.

“Fortunately for me, one day, one of the patrolling guards didn’t wear eye protection. I kept my mouth shut tight, making it be known to no one that I had mind control abilities. Once I got out of my cell, everything else was a breeze.” Zach’s eyes practically froze over as he reminisced. He glanced at me. “I massacred all of the facility staff and freed the vampires there.”

So that was why Ashton said there were vampires fiercely loyal to Zach.

“It was two months after I broke out that Harvick found me. A few months after that, he and Josephine went to investigate a burnt down household and discovered Hailee. That’s how the story goes.”

I wanted to say something, but I knew that Zach’s pride wouldn’t allow sympathetic gestures. I was the same. But it seemed that Zach didn’t have anyone to help him out of that shadow as I did.

Perhaps I can be that person. No, that’s crazy talk.

“I didn’t bring you out here for a sob story,” Zach said, getting back to his senses. “We need to get everything done before dawn.”

“Where are we going now?” I asked while following beside him from roof to roof. He didn’t answer me. I pouted a bit for being ignored. He asked instead, “You know that sympathetic look on people’s faces, right?”

“Yeah, I can’t take it. When people feel sorry for you, they’re putting themselves above you.” I could feel his gaze linger on the side of my face.

A couple of seconds later, he spoke, “Precisely. That’s why I didn’t like talking about myself. My situation was usually worse than anyone else’s, and as soon as I told anyone what happened, they immediately sympathize.”

Zach turned himself until he was in front of me and leaping backward. His eyes held a new emotion to them. “You. Whenever I speak about my past, for some reason, you always seemed like you were relating, like you understand what I was going through instead of just feeling pity and sorrow, even though you didn’t experience situations even remotely similar to mine. I’m comfortable around you.”

He finally stood still on a tall building. I stopped a meter in front of him. My emotions were bubbling; I didn’t think someone like him would ever understand my logic. But, there he was, voicing everything I had been subconsciously feeling.

“The same goes for me.” I smiled and returned the favor. Zach avoided my gaze and turned his head.

We arrived at the outskirts of the city. A gathering was taking place in one of the buildings; many cars parked around the area.

“I thought that killing a nest of wanted convicts would be better on your conscience,” Zach said, then brought me to the edge of the building.

I questioned his source of information, and he replied that his last victim was supposed to be present at this meeting. It was a good thing that Zach couldn’t read my memories whenever he liked.

He led us to the back of the building. Security guards patrolled the area, but none spotted us so far. At this rate, it wasn’t possible for us to zoom past the stack of guards at the entrance without alarming the people inside.

“Why are we doing the police’s job?” I asked in an inaudible whisper, but since vampires had enhanced hearing, he caught my question.

“The police won’t be able to sneak in like this,” he replied. “You can go through the wall, can’t you?”

“I’ve never redone it after the first time,” I revealed, making him frown.

“Oh, well. I guess I’ll have to do this the hard way.”

Before I knew what he had planned, Zach tapped the shoulder of a coming guard. Right away, the guard was putty in Zach’s hands. He anxiously bowed to us and apologized over and over again, saying, “Please, Mr. and Mrs. Nolan, come this way.”

What the fudge?

Zach put his index finger on his lips secretively. I caught the mischievous glint in his eyes. I reaffirmed that I wouldn’t want to make an enemy out of Zach.

“Is Nolan your last name?” I murmured once more, and he nodded. He explained that he created the illusion that we were incredibly essential and dangerous guests of the gathering.

I watched as the guard under Zach’s influence told the others that we could have them all beheaded if they didn’t let us in. Fear indeed could manipulate any human being. Three seconds later, Zach and I headed down the fancy hallway into the main ballroom.

I just realized that Zach made us a married couple in his illusion.

“Are you uncomfortable?” he questioned when he saw my flustered expression. I waved it off and responded, “I’m worried. What if the guards outside find out?”

Zach flashed me a malicious smirk. “In ten more seconds, the compassionate guard who showed us in will hallucinate that his fellow patrollers were members of the FBI and shoot them all. Then, he’ll kill himself.”

Psychological-based abilities are truly terrifying. You won’t even know how it can mess with your head until it’s far too late.

Zach locked the only entrance to the atrium after we entered. The loud sound of the lock being turned caught the attention of the chattering people. A tall man with a scar over his right eye stood up.

“Don’t let anyone out, okay?” Zach whispered, seemingly at no one. I glanced at him, and a tremor of unease traveled down my spine in sheer terror. His murderous eyes locked on the tall man, and a chilling smile crept on his lips.

For some inexplicable reason, my mind went completely blank as Zach blazed out of my vision. The next thing I knew, screams filled the room, and many people fought each other to the exit. I instantly took a hostile stance and blinked out my crimson orbs. I hissed at the fleeing people, and they all halted their sprinting. Someone fainted and hit the ground, but no one helped her.

I wasn’t confident that I could contain this crowd. It was plain as day that Zach was eliminating people from the inside fairly quickly. The trapped people were getting desperate.

All of a sudden, a man charged at me with a knife in his hand that I recognized as the anti-vampire ones. My thoughts darkened when my mind registered that I was about to get attacked.

I caught his wrist and twisted it. He hollered in pain at his broken arm. I then landed a kick square in his stomach, sending him flying to the back of the room. That should leave him with several fractured bones, if not death.

Left with no other choice, many people charged at me all at once, each of them with weapons in their hands that only hunters were supposed to possess, yet these people were unmistakably not vampire hunters. Their movements were slow and inexperienced. They wouldn’t be able to land a finger on me.

I can do this.

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