Blood on Roses

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Trouble in the Mist

“Red, like a rose. Beautiful, like a rose. Deadly, like a rose.”
~ Hazel Dawson


Kassandra and I waited in the living room of the headquarters. Roman was busy with his new mission in Russia, and Kass required a lift to travel to Mexico. Everybody was working. I decided to stay for a while to keep her company.

Eventually, the conversation steered to how much we missed human food. Kass stated that she’d give anything to get a taste of those French desserts again, and I wholeheartedly agreed.

“I heard bits and pieces of your past,” she started. “I know you didn’t choose the vampire life. Do you hate it?”

I recalled the night I spent with Zach and shook my head. “Not anymore.” None of what we did could’ve been possible had I still been a fragile human.

Kassandra beamed widely. “Ah, I see! That’s great!”

She was so innocent and easy to read. She was afraid that if I had pent-up hatred, I’d turn out like the traitorous member. She didn’t want to see Hailee being reminded once more of her heartbreak.

I finally couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I’d been dying to ask since the moment I met Kassandra. “Hey, Kass, why’d you voluntarily become a vampire?”

Her expression saddened, but she didn’t hesitate to speak, “My great grandpa was a vampire, though nothing powerful like a Pureblood or Elite. The rest of my family didn’t have any vampiristic traits. No thirst for blood, no enhanced senses, nothing. I had two adorable baby brothers and wonderful parents. We lived a simple and peaceful life.”

Her eyes showed such bliss as she spoke of her family, but I knew better than to get attached. Soon after, her smile dropped.

“I don’t know why the hunters came after us. I don’t understand why it was necessary to butcher my brothers like they were diseased animals.”

She choked back a sob, and I panicked. Crap, I’m insensitive! I hurriedly told her to stop, but she waved her hand. Pearl-like tears dripped from her eyes. “My mom hid me on a train. I don’t know if she or my dad survived. I was too afraid to get off the train. I sat in the storage cabinet until the last stop. I arrived here, and I was starving. Hailee was the one who found me. She treated me to dinner at a restaurant. The Ones helped me through those times. They even enrolled me in school. Until the very end, none of them ever asked if I wanted to abandon humanity. I was the one who requested to be turned two months ago.”

I kept quiet even after she finished. This girl was four years younger than me, yet so much stronger. I wasn’t much of a hugger, but I wrapped my arms around her shoulders and let her cry.

Zach, Hailee, Ashlynne, Kassandra, Roman, Ashton, and Harvick. Compared to all of them, my problems were minimal. Everyone had hardships in life. I was ignorant to ever think that any of them were pure evil.

I had grown a lot and seen a lot in the past month.

While the mortician spoke, my mind was entirely elsewhere. I tried not to think about it, but I relived the moment in the London Eye again and again.

Just as our capsule passed the highest point of the Ferris wheel, Zach’s lips slowly left mine. Still in a trance, my eyes fluttered open, only to smell the scent of fresh blood. I gasped when I saw that Zach had sunk his fangs into his bottom lip.

He mumbled softly under his breath, seemingly to himself.

My gaze followed the blood as it dripped down his chin.

Hailee once said that I wouldn’t transform into a Pureblood until I drank the blood of another powerful Pureblood. A Pureblood was the target of admiration and envy of every vampire. Of course, I was no exception. My body demanded a taste.

Zach was a powerful Pureblood.

“Are you...?” I started, but couldn’t bring myself to finish. Zach still had his arms on either side of me. He shook his head, stepped away from me and used his shirt to wipe the blood off. The garment rose and fell with his actions.

“Let’s get out of here.” Using his super strength, he forced the door open in mid-air. He leaped out and headed straight toward the rooftop of a nearby building without glancing back at me. After that, he simply went from structure to structure to meet up with the rest.

It was the first time Zach left me behind without a word.

Nonetheless, I made it to the hotel. Roman teleported Josephine, Zach, Hailee, and I back to the base, then disappeared again. So did Zach. He acted like when I first joined The Ones.

That kiss was just on a whim. He regretted it. That had to be it.

I ducked my head at the reminiscent.

Luckily, people seated around me mistook that for grief, which I should’ve been feeling. Alecx was in a much worse state. He legitimately appeared like he hadn’t slept in ages. His eyes were bloodshot, and his hair resembled a bird’s nest.

I hated to see him like this. I was terrible at consoling, and anything I said couldn’t have brought Jeremy back.

Kaydence didn’t attend the funeral, but Henrietta did.

As the ceremony reached an end, many people stayed around. After all, Jeremy had befriended many people over the two years that he was a trainee. I stood afar and watched the crowd with a glass of water.

I temporarily forgot about my rejuvenated taste buds and took a sip of the beverage. I immediately scrunched up my face and lowered the glass. Water wasn’t supposed to taste like melted metal and expired milk combined.

“Oh!” Just then, an unnaturally strong gust of wind blew from my side. It flung open my neat bun and knocked the glass right out of my hand. My black hair flowed around my shoulders and hovered above my waist.

Since I was far from the crowd, no one heard the glass breaking on the ground.

“Here.” I turned to the person who spoke to me and spotted a water bottle.

“Oh, thanks.” I instinctively received it to be polite. This time, I had no intention of actually drinking it.

I then shifted my gaze up to the person. A brunette male held a complex expression and an evaluating look in his gray eyes as he gave me a friendly smile. He looked a few years older than me. He had relatively deep eye sockets, which emphasized his nose bridge. His short brown hair was spiked up, and he rose one of his full eyebrows.

“Were you a friend of the deceased?” he asked, and I nodded.

He had the faint scent of a vampire, like all vampire hunters. I made sure to be cautious so I wouldn’t blow my cover.

“How rude of me.” He slipped his hand out of the pocket of his suit and reached it out. “I’m Grant; Elitist.”

If I recalled correctly, that was the third highest rank for a vampire hunter, and it was impressive to accomplish. But of course, Arthur was a Chief. He was on another level.

I mirrored Grant’s actions. “Hazel. Pleased to meet you.”

“Why are you all the way back here?”

I shifted my weight and tensed on purpose. “Um, I’d get too emotional if I were closer. I’m sorry if it seems like I’m detached or something.”

That made Grant apologize quickly and stop his not-so-subtle interrogation. I was glad that he was able to sense my tone. I sent him a message that I was uncomfortable with his questioning without appearing abnormal.

I suppose being suspicious of a stranger was second-nature to a lot of the hunters. Other than exterminating vampires, hunters were also tasked with investigations. The only reason why Alecx, Jaxson, and Arthur trusted me so much was because they’d known me for all my life.

I searched the ground and eventually found my hair tie. I swiftly put my hair back up into a bun while pretending not to notice the awkward silence between us.

Remaining still and quietly standing there, Grant showed no signs of leaving me alone. I leaned back in my black dress and adjusted my sunglasses. I pretended to be brushing a strand of my hair up and tilted my head, stealing a glance at him. His expression was unreadable as he merely stared out into space.

I clutched the water bottle in my hand. What the heck does he want?

“So, do you plan on ever becoming a vampire hunter?” Grant soon commenced once again. I supposed that as long as I chose my answers carefully, he wouldn’t pose a threat.

“I don’t think so. My stomach is weak. I can’t stand the sight of blood.”

“There are office jobs, too, you know.”

I shook my head. “It’s simply not a career choice for me.”

“You sure?” He turned to me, but I didn’t do the same. “Then, what’s your opinion on vampires?”

That does it. I might soon lose my damn mind if he kept this up. I was good at lying, but I’d stumble soon enough if he persisted like this. I whipped my entire body to faced him, then spoke in the most agitated voice I could muster, “Excuse me, Grant, but we’re at the funeral of a dear friend. I don’t believe it’s appropriate to talk about such things.”

“I deeply apologize for being so inconsiderate.” Grant lowered his head, then flashed me a mysterious smile. “I’ll be on my way now. See you around, Hazel.”

He bought it. I sighed after he was out of sight. Fortunately, I wouldn’t have to see him again in my life. I swallowed, unsettled. Then why’d he say he would see me around?

My thoughts were cut short when I caught sight of Alecx. He sat on a bench nearby and rested his head in his hands. He’d known Jeremy for the longest. This was probably harder on him than anyone else.

I took a seat beside Alecx and patted his shoulder softly. He seemed startled by my presence.

“Hazel? Oh, hi,” he mumbled.

“Hey,” I greeted back. For once, I couldn’t open my mouth. I had no idea what to say. When I was hurt, I wanted someone to tell me I’d be okay and treat me as usual. It helped me realize that life went on.

I instinctively thought of when Zach laced his fingers through my hair, and when he assured me that everything would be alright.

And when he kissed me.

“I’ve made up my mind,” Alecx suddenly stated.

Flusteredly, I hoped that my inner nervousness didn’t show, and I peered at him. He fixed his gaze straight ahead and knitted his eyebrows closer together.

“I’ll never forgive vampires.” He turned to me fiercely. “I’ve enrolled in the same specialized training course as Kaydence. Jer’s death won’t be in vain. Being a vampire hunter originated from my wish to protect you, Hazel, but I’ve become greedy. I want to protect the world, too.”

Speechless, I gaped at him as he ruffled his dirty blonde hair back into a quiff. Not a wink of the Alecx I’d known my whole life remained in his expression.

What if that isn’t what Jeremy wanted? I inwardly asked but couldn’t say aloud. I’d blow my entire cover if I did. Jeremy’s only wish was to find a way for the two species to coexist, so weak vampires like his sister would have a place in this world. His one motivation in life fell apart when his sister passed away. But Jeremy and I weren’t close friends; how could I explain all that without revealing the truth?

As Arthur drove me back home, my mind drifted to Alecx’s words. The way he trembled with rage as he stated that he’d never forgive vampires pierced directly through me.

A shaky breath escaped my lips. My worst fear finally came true; my best friend and childhood friend had become my worst enemies. Perhaps, if I played my lies right, they’d never find out.

Romeo and Juliet kept their secrets until the day they died, didn’t they?

Before Arthur left, he told me to take care, then added, “Also, you won’t be able to reach me the next few days. We have a large-scale operation coming up.”

I buried my nose in school work to distract myself. I wrote my history exam essay two months in advance and reread Hamlet. I drew my drapes when the morning sun rose. Just as I was about to proofread my essay for the fourth time, Hailee interrupted.

“Harv has decided last-minute that you’ll take part in a crucial mission on Monday night. You’re not naked or anything, right? Roman’s going over.”

Before I could reply, a dim light shone beside my desk, and Roman appeared with his usual calm demeanor.

“You’re right. I’m not naked, but I sure am in my tank top pajamas,” I replied sarcastically to Hailee, to which she snickered, then snapped the teleconnection.

Roman stepped out of my room and let me change. Afterward, he brought me to Harvick’s office. Several pairs of eyes instantaneously fixated themselves on me. I didn’t expect to see so many people gathered here.

Other than Hailee, Zach, Roman, and Josephine, there were also many unfamiliar faces. A girl with wavy purple cornrows was the first to huff and turn away from me.

“Alright, everyone’s present.”

Harvick grabbed all of the attention to him as soon as he spoke. I stayed in the corner of the room with Roman. My gaze naturally wandered to Zach, who sat on the edge of Harvick’s desk like nobody’s business. Among all of these people, he was the most relaxed, as if he was used to receiving mass-scale missions like these.

“On Monday night, we are to perform a raid on a branch base of the hunters. Some important members of ours are imprisoned there. I will divide you all into two teams. The first group will act as the distraction and keep most of the hunters busy while the second unit will sneak through the area and find our members. Beware of the guards inside.”

He proceeded to explain his plan in detail, then announced the names. I spaced out as I didn’t know most of these people. No one, except Zach and France, even knew that I was related to Harvick by blood.

Roman was in Team One, and Hailee, Zach, and I were in Team Two.

As the meeting came to an end, Zach zipped past everyone and headed out the door without sparing a glance at me.

Hailee came up behind me and hooked an arm around my shoulders roughly. “Welcome to how I felt twenty-five years ago.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. Everyone else gradually filed out of the office. Hailee and I followed behind.

“Zach can be so childish sometimes. I don’t know what happened to him, but he suddenly shut me out twenty-five years ago. He shut everybody out. I’m surprised he even got close to you in the first place. Feels bad, girl.” With another pat on my shoulder, she left me alone and zoomed down the hallway with the rest.

Twenty-five years ago? Isn’t that around the same time he avenged his parents?


I halted in my tracks and turned to Harvick. He gestured for me to go back inside his office. I made myself comfortable on one of the couches, and he sat down across from me.

He cut straight to the chase, “I heard your ability never activated again after the first time?”

“That’s right. I couldn’t walk through walls anymore after.”

Harvick was evidently puzzled. He brushed his finger against his chin in thought.

“How peculiar. I haven’t seen a case like yours before,” he hummed. “No matter. That doesn’t hinder your physical abilities. You’ll be perfectly suitable for this mission.”

The only thing relieving me was the fact that the location of this branch base was across the country, which meant that I definitely wouldn’t run into anyone I knew.

Sunday evening was gloomy and chilly. The cold no longer bothered me, but I wore a thick hoodie to appear like it did.

On my way to the bookstore nearby, I passed by what used to be my favorite ice cream parlor. The emitting scent was sweet, I could tell, but it no longer smelled appetizing to me nor did I ever want to have a taste. I’d rather let ice cream remain in my mind beautifully than have a taste now and utterly ruin it.

A few stores down was a pet shop. In there, I saw none other than Ashlynne, Zach’s older sister.

I hadn’t seen her in a while. Both times that I ran into her, she was around animals. It must break her heart to have to feed on animal blood to survive.

I entered the shop and approached Ashlynne. She was so busy ogling a gray British Shorthair that she didn’t notice me until I squatted down beside her.

“If it isn’t Hazel. Man, you look way different than the last time I saw you,” she greeted, as eccentric as I remembered her to be. She laid on her stomach. Her stylish leather ankle boots swung back and forth in the air, and she pointed with her finger-cut gloves at the cat. “Isn’t she just the cutest?”

“Yeah, she is,” I responded and mirrored her position. As she rubbed the feline, I got a good look at her tattoos. A small drop of blood was on her middle finger, and the Roman numeral ‘X’ was on her ring finger. The outline of a rose was tattooed on her index finger.

I guessed that the drop of blood symbolized her vampirism, and the number ten represented the ten seconds that her ability was adequate for, but I didn’t know about the rose. Perhaps the vase of white roses in Zach’s room had the same meaning.

“You know, you’re always around animals whenever I see you,” I commented.

Ashlynne looked me in the eye and said, “Animals are better than people; that’s the moral of life.”

I cracked a small smile as more cats and kittens gathered around Ashlynne.

“Excuse me, Miss. May I get a picture of you and the cats?” Both of us looked up to the sound of the shop owner’s voice. The old man smiled kindly at us with a camera in his hands. Alarmed, we stumbled to get to our feet.

Ashlynne politely declined, “No, I’m sorry. I’m incredibly camera shy.”

“I see. That’s a shame. You looked like you were having a lot of fun.”

Afterward, we felt too awkward to stay, so we left. That was a close one. Had the old man been already pointing his camera at us, we would’ve been doomed.

We turned into my neighborhood as there were much fewer people. We held a normal conversation and occasionally talked about vampires. I told her that I was now full-fledged. She shared details about her life as a veterinarian.

All of a sudden, a small boy nearly crashed into me on his scooter. Through all the excitement, he didn’t even see us. A group of other little boys followed speedily. All of them had huge grins on their faces as they yelled at each other.

I merely shook my head with a small smile and thought nothing of it, but when I noticed that Ashlynne stood in place, I asked her what was up.

“The boy at the front reminded me of my idiotic brother at that age,” Ashlynne murmured with a sorrowful gaze. “He was too reckless. He fell off trees, crashed his bike into a pole, and jumped into a river. It was like he didn’t fear death. After each of the incidents, he was always good as new with no scratches or bruises on him. That’s what raised the townspeople’s suspicions that we weren’t human.”

I recalled Zach telling me about his childhood where he moved from town to town. Although they apparently didn’t have an excellent relationship now, it seemed like Ashlynne deeply cared for Zach.

“If you think about him this much, you should talk to him,” I advised. These siblings had polar opposite lifestyle choices, but ultimately, they were brother and sister. How bad could things be?

Ashlynne lowered her head in sadness. Her long, dual-colored hair curtained her face. Soon, she sighed. “If your love wasn’t enough for them, how could words even matter?”

I was speechless. As I tried to find the right words to say, she desperately blinked at the sky. I nearly saw myself.

“Actions speak louder than words, but sometimes, a long conversation is all you need. If you truly want to resolve your strained relationship one day, you’d have to face each other. Nothing will change if the both of you continue to act like this. After all, he’s your only blood relative left. Even I could easily tell that you sincerely care about him. I’m sure that despite his attitude, he’s genuinely concerned about you, too.” I got more caught up in the moment as I spoke. “I think you really should find Zach and talk to him. You could be surprised by the results.”

Ashlynne’s eyes widened as I finished. Her pale blue orbs searched mine before slightly tilting her head and asking, “I never told you my brother’s name. How do you know it?”

It was at that moment I knew.

I screwed up.

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