Blood on Roses

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First

“I will eliminate all vampires from this world, even if it’d kill me to do it.”
~ Henrietta King

TWENTY

Zach and I dashed down the alleyways at vampire speed. Police sirens resonated within the narrow paths from where we just escaped.

We crashed out from a high window after slaughtering the whole room. It was a lot easier to get over this time since I used methods that didn’t involve splashing blood on me.

I finally got the sense to ask, “By the way, who exactly were those people?”

“Vampire abductors,” Zach replied. “Henrietta provides them with weapons and buys vamps off of them. She does this to rid of day-to-day less famous ones. It’s illegal; that’s why she’s secretive about it.”

“Oh, my.” If I fell to my kidnappers, I would’ve ended up face-to-face with Henrietta King. Then everything would be over. No secrets, no nothing.

Eventually, we halted and reclined against a wall. I panted, not in exhaustion, but in excitement. I suppose the vampire species demanded a higher supply of exhilaration.

My fangs were practically aching for a bite, and I almost gave in, but as I thought about the metallic taste of it, I controlled myself.

I stood against the wall while Zach slid down and sat with one of his legs up. We had the same look of satisfaction in our eyes. I thought I’d never be able to understand his mindset, but it wasn’t so laborious once I spent some time with him. I sat down next to him.

“We’re partners in crime, now. You can’t escape.” Chuckling, Zach raised his arms for a quick stretch. His shoulder brushed against mine, and it was like my brain did an air-flip. I peered at the side of his face as he spoke.

He always had a fluttering physical effect on me. His simple presence used to make my heart beat faster. Now that I didn’t even have a heart, how come I was affected by him even more than before?

“Thanks, Zach,” I mumbled. If I had been left in my house, I would’ve moped all night.

He began to deny, but stopped in the middle of his sentence and grew quiet. Something changed his mind. “You’re welcome.”

“You see, if you’ve always been this honest, I wouldn’t have needed to try to read your body language.” Truthfully, it was amusing to see his reactions, but once in a while, I’d prefer to hear him say it.

“If I tell you the truth from now on, could you stop? I don’t like feeling transparent.”

“Transparent? I’m not a God. I can barely figure out what you’re thinking.”

“Hazel,” he warned.

“Fine. I’ll only pay attention to your voice, not your gestures.”

Zach leaned beside my ear and whispered, “Isn’t that how you like it?”

What a tease. I flinched and covered my ear. I turned to yell at him, but he got me right where he wanted. Under his bewitching pale blues, I fell effortlessly.

He didn’t even need his mind control to capture me.

After many failed attempts, I squeezed my eyes shut and scooted a few inches away from him. I tossed him a glare, but he only returned a charming wink. I cleared my throat and attempted to change the subject.

“Listen, you can’t come pick me up at school anymore.”

“Hm? How come?”

“Girls almost tried to take pictures of you last time. You won’t want to get exposed.”

Zach blinked innocently and asked, “Why would they want to take pictures of me?”

I bit my lip and hesitated to continue, but there was no way around it. I mumbled, “Because, you’re exceptionally good-looking.”

I shot up and dusted off my pants so I wouldn’t have to see the smug expression that had to be plastered on his face. The alley was starting to smell foul, so I made my way up to the top of a building. Zach followed easily. I glanced behind my shoulder. Sure enough, he was grinning.

“Don’t get too arrogant, boy. A pretty face isn’t everything.”

Zach strolled past me and purred, “Say that to your blushing face, darling.”

I whipped around and burned a hole in the back of his head. I pressed the back of my hand to my cheek, but it was cool. I clicked my tongue but went up to him.

“Here we are.” Zach nodded up to the modern tower in front of us. He turned to me with a smirk full of mischief. “Want to jump from it?”

“You’re insane,” I plainly stated. I didn’t want to risk having my bones shattered. I was still unfamiliar with this whole vampire business, and I didn’t know my limits.

“What’s the point in life if you’re not having fun? Allow me to help.” I yelped when, without my permission, Zach scooped me up and began darting up the tower in the fastest speed I’d ever seen him go.

I could plainly see the buildings zooming out at my feet. In a few seconds, Zach leaped to the tip-top of the tower, and he showed no signs of putting me down. I had no choice but to clasp onto his neck so I wouldn’t fall.

“Don’t. I’m scared,” I admitted. I disliked the feeling of weightlessness, which was why I refused to ride roller coasters.

Zach chuckled. “I was kidding about hurling you down there. You were so busy being scared that you didn’t notice the view.”

He gently set me down, then turned me around by my shoulders. My breath was taken away by the stunning night view of the sleepless city. I had only ever been around my neighborhood at night. I didn’t know the busy lives of many at four in the morning.

Zach was just one surprise after another. He was genuinely a good person, yet he always deliberately chose the least thoughtful approach to deliver his message.

“You seem to have gotten over your first kill,” Zach mumbled from behind me. I rested my hands on the glass panels that prevented people from falling off the tower. I could faintly see our reflections in the glass.

He went through all of this to help me recover? Our eyes locked in the reflection, but he averted his gaze.

After a little while, I climbed the glass and dangled my legs off the edge of the tower.

“What are you doing? You’ll fall. Wait, Hazel!”

I slid off the edge and let myself free fall.

“Woohoo!” I cheered. My body twisted around about halfway, and I saw Zach coming my way at full speed. He eventually caught up. Without a second thought, he tucked me in his chest and shielded my head with his arm.

“Dumbass, you were going to crash head-first into the pavement. That’s a bad idea, even for vampires.”

“You came for me, didn’t you?” My voice was muffled through his jacket.

“I’ll bite you, I swear,” Zach scolded, then held my head in his chest so I couldn’t get a glimpse of his face.

It was too difficult to maintain balance for two, so his back collided with the parking lot pavement. I was glad his spine sustained no damage whatsoever. Compared to vampires, humans were such fragile life forces.

“You owe me your fucking life,” Zach mumbled in a low voice with a dash of humor.

“Thank you, oh knight in shining armor.” Smiling, I tumbled off of him, and we both got up.

“Since you insist on being a little rebel, you better be ready.” Not giving me a single moment of recovery, Zach dragged me off to our next adventure.

We didn’t have any particular goals or destinations in mind. We wandered the city and experienced the true meaning of a night stroll, all the while keeping an eye out for ourselves. Even as the sun began to peek over the horizon, neither of us complained about the risk of being seen.

I hadn’t had that much fun in my whole life.


Arthur informed me that the funeral would take place on Sunday. He’d pick me up first thing in the morning. But before that, I had a new mission from The Ones.

“Have you found it, yet?” Hailee asked once more. Her patience was wearing thin, but so was mine. This mission had been such a drag.

“No. Stop rushing me. I’d like to see you crawl inside these tiny air vents,” I irked.

Zach, Hailee, Harvick’s assistant, Josephine, and I were sent to London, England. We were searching for critical documents about the vampire hunters in the nation. My job was to find the control room and open all of the electronic doors in the building. Afterward, Zach and Hailee would serve as a distraction, making people think they were the raiders. Meanwhile, Josephine’s invisibility will aid her in speedily searching the building.

Hailee didn’t give up and argued back, “This would’ve been a lot easier like we calculated if you could pass through matter. Who knew you couldn’t do it anymore.”

Josephine, to my surprise, was an Elite. Her ability’s weakness was that if she touched anything, she would reappear, then she couldn't turn invisible again in thirty seconds. In a mission where efficiency needed to be maximized, we couldn’t risk it.

“Shush, I think I’m here.” Silently, I crept out of the vent. Two hunters sat in the control room, monitoring the entire building. It was a shame that vampires didn’t show up in cameras.

I chopped both of them on the base of their necks. A few more seconds later, all of the doors slammed wide open.

“Good work. Meet us in the West Wing.”

What? Which way is west? I tried calling out to Hailee again, but she had already snapped the connection. Do I look like a freaking compass to you?!

I first wrongly went to the south wing, but after several moments of struggle, I found Zach and Hailee. Now we just needed to wait until Josephine returned with the documents.

Naturally, I stood closer to Zach. After the previous night, we got much more intimate, and we were more of ourselves around each other. Hailee eyed us up and down. Before she could say something embarrassing, Josephine zoomed into our vision with a thick folder in her hand. The four of us rolled out.

We gathered on the roof of a designated hotel. Hailee stepped off to the side to contact Roman to get us. Josephine flipped through the papers at lightning speed. “Even London knows of Kaydence Samuels, now. These document their plans about requesting for her to reside here as an intern.”

As she proceeded to talk about it, I tuned her out. Kaydence was going somewhere in life, whether or not it was what she wanted. I mean, it must be. She spoke of ridding all vampires with such determination.

Ridding the world of all vampires. That includes me, huh?

I hadn’t seen Kaydence for nearly a week. She wouldn’t respond to my messages. Was she doing alright?

“She’s okay. She went for specialized training, didn’t she?” Zach consoled suddenly. How he could consistently address my thoughts was beyond me, but his voice calmed me.

Hailee groaned loudly, making the three of us look to her at once. She huffed, “Ashton answered. Roman is asleep again. We’ll need to stay here for a couple of hours. Well, we have some time to waste. I’m going shopping. Let’s meet back here in two hours or less.”

“I’m staying here,” Josephine announced while making herself comfortable on the floor.

Zach turned to me for my opinion, and I assumed that he was coming with me. I told him to follow me. I’d wanted to visit London for a long time. Kaydence and I were planning on traveling here for our grad trip, but that seemed unlikely now.

“Have you been feeding these last few days?” I asked hushedly while we walked amongst scattered people on the streets.

“Of course.”

“Then how come I don’t see reports on the news anymore?”

“It won’t make it to the headlines unless someone died,” Zach explained, which means he doesn’t kill all of his victims? “Vampires won’t drink until all that’s left of the human is a desiccated corpse. They would’ve gotten enough by the time the person fainted.”

“Then why do you do it sometimes?”

“To send a message,” he said, staring straight ahead. “Years ago, I killed Henrietta’s family by sucking them dry. Now, each time there’s a desiccated corpse, it would remind her of it. I need to make sure she never forgets.”

I was delighted that Zach now trusted me with many of his confidences, but every time he mentioned Henrietta, his entire body emanated hatred. I wasn’t sure that was good for him. After all, hate was an element that slowly ate away your soul.

He’d murder me if I said it out loud, but at times, Zach was very much human. And humans often get consumed by their emotions. By hatred.

“Why haven’t you killed her yet?” I asked so he wouldn’t figure out what I was thinking.

“She’s crafty. She’s always either inside, heavily armed, or wearing eye protection. I couldn’t gain the upper hand. We’ve never met, and I doubt she knows my face, but we’re mutual enemies. The last time we even crossed paths was five years ago.”

I suddenly remembered something. “Is it alright for you to be out like this among people?”

He thought momentarily, then shook his head. “The old generation of hunters all either died or retired. No one in modern days will recognize me.”

“You caused havoc in London in the past?!”

“I caused havoc in most of the world,” Zach corrected as if proudly presenting an achievement. He then looked up. “Is that where you wanted to go?”

I followed his gaze. “Yes, it is. The London Eye.”

Zach cheated the system with his mind control, so we reserved an entire private capsule to ourselves, which meant thirty minutes of alone time.

I’d never been this hyper-aware of Zach’s presence. I frequently brushed my hair behind my ear, and I paid attention to some of the most trivial actions of mine.

What am I doing?

“Look,” he reminded. I focused on the city dawn view. The Ferris wheel overlooked the Big Ben Clock Tower illuminated by royal and warm golden lights. The waving water reflected the glowing lights, and cars busied about on the Westminster Bridge. It was 5:30 in the morning.

The Ferris wheel rotated slowly. An awkward atmosphere hung in the air shortly after we both fell silent. Zach seemed to enjoy the temporary tranquility, but I couldn’t calm myself. I was absorbed in the town view mostly because I was too self-conscious to do anything else.

Just a month ago, I would’ve dreaded the thought of being alone with Zach for even five minutes. Now, here we were, comfortable enough with each other to share a slow ride.

“Aren’t you going to take any pictures?” Zach questioned when I stared out the glass panes blankly for a while. I frantically fumbled out my new phone, which was the one Zach gave me. I had all my contacts and photos backed up, so thankfully, nothing was lost.

Quit acting like a dumb idiot! I inwardly told myself.

I whipped around to snap more shots of the other side, and Zach stood behind me. The camera pointed at his torso, and it was kind of creepy to plainly see that the lens didn’t pick him up at all.

I put my phone away and mumbled, “You know, I think it’s completely sunk in.”

“What has?”

“That I’m a vampire.”

“Thanks to me.”

“Yeah.” I rolled my eyes. “Thank you for dropping me off a building three times.”

“Two times. You jumped off that tower all on your own.”

I scrunched up my face at him, and he returned an angelic smile. I went to the other side of the capsule. The sun had yet to rise, making the city view that much more alluring and classy.

“Zach? Hazel? Where are you guys?” Hailee suddenly interrupted in our heads. We turned to each other, confirming that she was speaking to both of us at once.

“We’re on the giant Ferris wheel thing,” Zach responded.

“What? Well, Roman woke up early. Hurry back.”

“Can’t he come get us here?” I inquired aloud.

“He’d have to know exactly which capsule we’re in,” Zach answered me, then replied to Hailee, “We’ll be back in about 20 minutes.”

“Fine. Twenty more minutes of shoe-shopping for me.”

Zach and I exchanged a complicated smile. Hailee could sometimes seem like she took extra bitchy pills in the morning, but other times, she was just as lovable as a best friend.

At the thought of my best friend, I tapped open my messages. She still hadn’t responded.

“You humans are way too dependent on technology.” Zach snatched the phone right out of my hand and back into the pocket of my sweatpants. “Just enjoy the view and live in the moment. It’s only going to last for another twenty minutes.”

I nodded. “You’re right.”

We were nearing the top. I waited expectantly until my phone rang again. And again. Three text tones in a row. I couldn’t resist.

“Alecx?” I read. Before I could slide open to see the messages, my phone was once again seized from me. I faced Zach. “Hey, that could be important!”

I froze like a deer in headlights. Zach’s lips were pressed into a thin line curving downward. He wouldn’t display irritation that obviously on his face unless he was at his limit; however, another emotion lurked behind that. I couldn’t quite grasp it. Zach was good at hiding his real sentiments if he made an effort.

As I tried to ask, he silenced me.

Zach kissed me. Full on the lips.

My wrists and back were bound to the glass. In a second, my eyelids dropped. Our lips moved in synchronization. I knew that this wasn’t supposed to happen, yet I couldn’t stop myself. My mind clouded over and time halted for us.

Nothing demanded to be said. One kiss was all I needed. His gentle caress on my cheek was all I needed. The feeling of tingling and booming fireworks was all I needed.

I didn’t resist; that was to be expected.

There goes my first kiss. In the tippy top of the London Eye. At six in the morning.

With a vampire.

In that split second, I knew. I recognized a new emotion blossoming in my non-existent heart.

Love.

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