Blood on Roses

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The End

“Even if you were bound to hell, I’d give anything to join you.”
~ Hazel Dawson

THIRTY-SIX

The rest of May flew by after Henrietta’s death. A few days into June and most matters resolved.

I dangled my weapon key in front of my face. The chains that used to run down the stem turned into beautiful vines. The bland silver rose was now red and shiny, and the shape of a heart was carved into the bit.

Zach said he slaughtered the vampires who attacked my parents after he read their memories. I wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Zach’s brutal and murderous side was something that would never change, but it was a side of him that I nonetheless love.

I met up with Arthur, Alecx, and Kaydence the day after the incident and confessed everything. My experience was something I thought they should know.

I spoke with Sophi, who had woken up afterward. She described her attacker as “a lady with really nice hair.” Sophi was about to ask where the woman had her hair done when she attacked her. Typical Sophi.

Kaydence and I went back to school last week. We already missed way too many classes to be customarily enrolled. We were still thinking about taking up summer school.

Hailee also visited. She came clean as a Pureblood vampire. And guess what?

I was absolutely correct. The girls crowded around her, and the boys who had crushes on her, which was practically a third of the school’s male population, got even more head over heels.

Kaydence and I kept our identities a secret and made up excuses as to why we were absent for so long. We quickly slipped away while Hailee attracted everyone’s attention.

As for Zach and I, we stayed chill. I had a lot of cleaning up work to do, and he spent time with Ashlynne to catch up.

I laid on my bed for the past hour, waiting for him. Zach promised he’d come over today.

Kaydence had put being a vampire hunter her second priority and reestablished music as her first. Alecx flew to Italy a while back. I wouldn’t be seeing him for the next few months. As for Jaxson, he’d never stop traveling the world.

I had just sailed past a significant milestone in my life. After everything cleanly wrapped up, I’d begin striving toward my goal. I was slowly but surely altering the mindsets of both humans and vampires. It wouldn’t be easy, but change was progressive.

A soft tap on the window snapped me out of my thoughts. I jumped out of bed and rolled open the window. It was still mid-afternoon.

“Make sure it’s me before you open it next time,” Zach said as he hopped in. Despite his commanding tone, he took me in his arms right away.

“Okay,” I murmured.

For a moment, we stayed like that. He pressed his lips into my hair. We were both cold-blooded creatures, yet we continually warmed each other’s hearts.

“How’d it go?” I asked, knowing that he visited Ashlynne’s workplace today.

Zach scoffed. “She’s a total dumbass. She may be good with those small knives and scissors, but she can’t socialize with anyone except animals.”

“So, exactly like you, except the animal part?”

“Shut up. We don’t talk about that.” He pressed my face into his chest. “For a few years, all I had to talk to were walls. I got used to it.”

“Poor baby,” I hummed, then tilted my head and gave him a peck. “Is that enough for you?”

“Of course not.” His voice suddenly dropped an octave, and his lips lowered onto mine. His aggressiveness reminded me of the day he turned me into a Pureblood.

Ever since then, I followed Hailee’s lifestyle and grabbed a juice box whenever I needed one. I subconsciously swallowed when we parted. That action reminded Zach of the same event, and he bared his fangs.

I covered my neck. “No! It’ll hurt.”

Zach pouted as if I just stole candy away from a child. I almost gave in until I recalled the excruciating pain from the first time he bit me.

“Do you want to hurt me that badly?” I muttered, then inwardly cackled when he averted his gaze.

He gave in, “Fine.” I was about to meet his lips halfway when my phone rang loudly.

Zach’s hand, which was resting on the bedpost, clenched in irritation so tightly that he crushed the bedpost. Startled, his eyes darted to the flimsy wood.

“Jeez!” I exclaimed. “My furniture wasn’t designed to sustain super-strength!”

I complained, but as soon as I turned around to find my phone, a grin bloomed on my face. Zach became so used to letting his guard down around me that the masks he used to wear had faltered completely. The split second after he broke the bedpost, his eyebrows rose as if a kid being afraid of getting into trouble.

I picked up my phone, expecting Kaydence, but Sophi’s voice rang on the other end.

“Hey! I ran into Kaydence at the mall. We haven’t hung out in a while. Wanna join us?”

“Oh, maybe another time. I’m with my boyfriend right now.”

I glanced back at Zach. His head was lowered, and the tips of his ears tinted with color. I hadn’t addressed him as my boyfriend before.

Sophi remained silent for a solid ten seconds. My instincts told me to move the phone a few inches away from my ear.

“Did you just say ‘boyfriend’?!”

I was a freaking genius for holding the phone away from my ear.

“Yeah. Do you remember...”

“That super cute guy who picked you up one day after school? I saw you guys out the photography club window. You left before I could pick up my camera!”

I was a bit startled when Zach’s arms slid around my waist from behind. He rested his head on my shoulder. I tilted my head the other way to make room for him.

Sophi chattered with Kaydence for a little bit on the other end. They were probably scheming, but I had no idea what they planned to do.

Much to Zach’s reluctance, the four of us met up together at the mall twenty minutes later.

Zach trailed a little ways behind the girls and me. Sophi whispered to me, thinking that he couldn’t hear. But Kaydence and I knew full well that Zach’s vampire hearing could pick up everything.

“Can we stop by here real quick?” Sophi led us into a store known for sophisticated business clothing.

I watched Sophi rake through the racks. Just then, Kaydence poked me on the shoulder and gestured to the entrance of the store. Zach stood there, his eyes downcast. He was spacing out. That was fine, but two girls were checking out the mannequins at the storefront, and they were getting closer and closer to him.

“Aren’t you going to do anything about that?” Kaydence asked, grabbing Sophi’s attention, as well.

I was amused. “I want to see how he’d deal with it.”

“What about this one?” one of the girls asked, pointing.

“I don’t know. He already has three leather jackets.” The other girl reached out and tugged at Zach’s jacket. He snapped out of it and instinctively raised his hand.

I seized his arm just in time and brought it back down, smoothly making it seem like he was only startled.

The two girls grew beet red in the face. “Oh gosh. I’m so sorry! I thought you were one of the models!”

I beamed and reassured them that it was alright. At the same time, I locked my arm around his to clarify that he was taken.

“What the hell was that?” he muttered right after the two girls left.

I jokingly asked, “Could you please try to tone down your handsomeness?”

Zach flashed me his side-cocked grin that I adored. “I don’t think that’s possible.”

“Cocky bastard.”

“Whose cocky bastard?”

“Mine, of course.”

“Never forget that.” He touched his lips to my forehead softly.

For a minute, it once again felt like we were the only ones in the world. His touch on the side of my head lingered even as he retracted his hand.

I looked at Kaydence and Sophi, who stood with their jaws wide open, and asked, “We’re still heading to the café, right?”

Sophi robotically nodded her head.

For the rest of the way there, Zach and I took the lead and walked ahead while Sophie and Kaydence followed.

I swayed our intertwined hands back and forth. There was a bounce in my steps, and I wouldn’t stop smiling like an idiot. Zach told me to wipe the giddy grin off my face, but he held my hand the entire way.

The four of us sat down at a table in the café. Zach only answered questions that were directed to him; otherwise, he remained a silent listener. Sophi acted like a strict dad interrogating his daughter’s new boyfriend.

“Speaking of which,” Kaydence mentioned. “Your anniversary is tomorrow.”

Zach and I simultaneously blinked. “What anniversary?”

“Um, your one-month anniversary.”

Zach tilted his head in my direction and inquired, “Anything in particular that you want?”

“Not really. I saw a novel the other day that seemed pretty interesting, though.”

“Cool.”

“What about you?” I mirrored his actions.

“You can always just stick a bow on your head and say ‘happy anniversary.’”

“I’m not going to do that.”

“How come?”

“I’d have to buy an entire bag of bows, and I’ll only use one. It’s a waste.”

While Zach and I went back and forth with our weird casual conversation, Kaydence smiled and rolled her eyes. She was mostly used to our relationship. Sophi’s head darted left and right as if following a tennis match.

Zach abruptly stopped speaking. His expression became more rigid and business-like. I reckoned that Hailee must’ve contacted him for mission-related details.

Just as I thought, Zach leaned in and whispered that he needed to attend an emergency meeting regarding a mission the week after. I nodded back, and he stood up. He didn’t bid goodbye to Kaydence or Sophi.

He was a special one.

“Well?” I asked, smiling.

Sophi downed the rest of her latte in one go. “I haven’t had so many mixed feelings about one person in my whole life.”

“Yeah?” I expected as much.

“At first, he appeared indifferent to everything. I wasn’t sure what to think when he chose to stand outside the store and wait, but it became a bit clearer when the girls mistook him for a model.” Sophi rested her chin on her hand. “He didn’t even look at those girls. As soon as you went up, his attention was given solely to you. Just now, you are ‘Hazel,’ and we’re just ‘Hazel’s friends.’ I love how candid you are with each other. It’s way better than those girls who fuss over their boyfriend forgetting their three and a half month anniversary or whatever. And that forehead kiss was totally adorable!”

I chuckled, agreeing but also a little embarrassed. Zach wouldn’t even try to conceal his likes and dislikes, much like a child. If he were disinterested in someone or something, he wouldn’t give it a minute of his time.

I ended up spending four more hours with my two friends. By the time I got home, it was well past eight.

“You didn’t think I forgot our anniversary thing, did you?” Zach asked when I opened the door to my room.

I was surprised. “I didn’t take you for the type to care about these things.”

“It got harder and harder not to when Hailee wouldn’t stop buzzing about it as soon as we reached two weeks.”

I laughed out loud. If anyone could have the guts to bother Zach for two entire weeks about one thing, it’d be Hailee.

“So, what’d you do about it?” I asked while bouncing on my bed.

“Where did I first kiss you?”

“London Eye.” The words rolled out of my mouth as if I was giving my name.

“I made a reservation.”

“Oh.”

Zach frowned. “Act happier.”

I giggled. “I am happy. Is this a date?”

“Obviously.”

I asked between giggles, “So, how many days did it take you to book that reservation?”

He knew I was teasing him, but I also wasn’t wrong. He clicked his tongue in annoyance and mumbled, “Three.”

I fell off the bed, laughing.

Zach sighed. I quickly got back up. “I didn’t mean to sound ungrateful.” I kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you, Zach.”

~ ~ ~

Zach and I traveled to London the next evening via a portal.

We had a private capsule again on the Ferris wheel. It was a shame we couldn’t enjoy any of the food, and we barely paid attention to the scenery.

Unlike the last time we were here, I had no doubts about my feelings, and Zach didn’t need to hold anything back.

“What are you thinking about?” he questioned when I mindlessly stared at the city.

“Everything,” I mumbled. “It seems like such a long time ago that my only worries were tests and assignments.”

Zach was quiet for a few seconds, then asked, “Do you regret these past few months?”

Without hesitation, I shook my head.

If I never experienced what I did, I’d remain as the way I was before; a cynical and self-centered person who knew nothing of the real world. I believed I had everything figured out when in truth, I stayed in my bubble.

“Not even all of those painful times?”

I thought for a moment before shifting my gaze from the city to Zach. He was already looking at me.

“I don’t regret a thing. I grew as a person,” I stated firmly. I smiled. “Besides, if all of that didn’t happen, you wouldn’t have happened.”

Zach mirrored my body language and turned to me. He shifted his weight to one leg. His usual languid demeanor was back.

“You accept this fate,” he concluded, then displayed a warm expression. “We’re literally going to spend eternity together. This life could be heaven or hell. I hope you’re ready.”

“Even if you were bound to hell, I’d give anything to join you.”

I realized what tumbled out of my mouth a second after I spoke. I quickly grew flustered. The tables have turned; it was now Zach’s turn to double over in laughter.

“Hazel fucking Dawson, that was the cheesiest shit I’ve ever heard in my fucking life!”

“Stop laughing!” I covered my face, though I couldn’t quit cracking up, myself.

After what seemed like minutes, we both calmed down. We sat side-by-side against the glass.

Zach turned to me. “Laughter aside, I’d give anything to join you in hell, too.”

“Aww,” I hummed, content.

“I mean, not like I could go anywhere else.”

As our lips drew together in a passionate kiss, our capsule reached the top of the Ferris wheel.

When the ride completed three quarters, we pulled apart.

“I’m bored,” I mumbled.

Zach threw his head back in relief. “Same, but I thought you’d shank me if I said it.”

“Heh.” I chuckled and stood up. “Let’s do something fun.”

I urged Zach to stand up and held his hand. My irises swirled crimson in response to my power’s activation. This would take a lot of energy, but it’d be worth it.

“I wish we can pass through this glass and fly. Just for the night.” I added a time restriction so it wouldn’t continuously consume my stamina.

As soon as I made my request, I sprang toward the glass wall of the capsule. I passed through it like it was air. Zach caught on quick and followed suit. We let gravity do the work as we free fell.

“The last time we dropped such a distance, I almost broke my spine,” Zach remarked, referring to our first night out together.

“Then, allow me to protect you this time.” I beamed.

“No fucking way.” He sped up to get closer to me, then scooped me up right before I could touch the water. He darted upward and led us through the city night.

“I was going to swoop up above the water surface dramatically,” I murmured in protest.

As he floated up to a higher altitude, the moonlight filled my vision. I turned my head to avoid the bright glare, only to get caught in Zach’s face. The moon illuminated all of his best angles.

Zach eventually noticed my staring. A smirk tugged at his lips. The wind that blew through his locks completed the look. I forced myself to squeeze my eyes shut.

I felt the rumbling in his chest as he silently chuckled.

I searched for a conversation topic to change the subject. I poked my head up and asked, “By the way, how are we getting home?”

“I haven’t planned that far,” Zach admitted, making me facepalm.

“I can wish to teleport us back later,” I suggested, though it would be somewhat draining since I needed to apply it to the two of us.

“Or, a better idea,” Zach whispered directly into my ear. “Stay the night here.”

My face went on fire. I searched for a response, but nothing but gibberish tumbled out of my mouth. I tilted my head down and weakly pushed my face into his chest.

Zach let out a deep laugh. “I can probably find a tomato that’s the same shade as your face right now.”

I warmed up on the inside as we weaved through the cold night air. There was no particular destination, and we barely said a word to each other, but it was comfortable. Serene, even.

“Look,” Zach said, then proceeded to let me down from his arms. We floated in mid-air. I glanced up as he told me to.

Bursts of birthstone blue, sequin silver, polar white, and solar gold twinkled and dazzled in the endless arch of void-black, resembling scattered diamond dust. Brilliant stars winked gloriously at me. The moon, being the center of it all, gleamed a soft, white light onto our faces.

I felt immense privilege in witnessing such heavenly finery up close.

“This is….” I struggled to find the right words. So many adjectives flew before my eyes.

Zach’s arms snaked around my waist and brought us to a lying position.

All the fanciest words wouldn’t be able to express it. I snuggled closer to him and rested my arms on top of his. “It’s beautiful.”

“Surprise.”

“You are one surprise after another,” I admitted.

“Don’t get used to it,” he muttered. When I tried to glance at him, he covered my eyes with his large hand and turned my head away from him.

He grumbled. “Focus on the stars.”

“But you’re prettier.”

“Fuck you.”

Amused, I snorted in response to his fuming.

Afterward, we sat side-by-side on the top of a building to watch the sunrise. I pulled my knees up to my chest. Zach leaned back with both his arms supporting his weight. As the fireball peeked over the horizon, I shaded my eyes with my hand.

Immaculate sunlight filled the land, its glow ambitiously illuminating each inch of the city. Below it, early birds busied about with their lives, paying scant attention to the everyday phenomenon.

I twisted around to the London Eye. It glimmered under the soft, orange rays of the sun as if each capsule was decorated with golden rims.

I then peered at Zach’s side profile. Happiness and bliss coursed through my veins. The sun bathed us in the same loving care as all the other creatures of this land.

Tranquil as it was, my skin was beginning to burn.

Zach seemed to think the same as he opened his mouth. He stopped when he noticed that my gaze was already fixed on him. A smile as gentle and loving as the morning sun rays bloomed on his face.

We simultaneously closed the space between us. Just as the tips of our noses brushed together, he, at last, said the words I’d been longing to hear.

“I love you.”

“I love you.” I barely got to fit in those words.

Zach’s actions had always been aggressive, but this time, a lot more emotion was conveyed. There was a certain yearning in his littered kisses. It was becoming difficult to control myself until we both hissed in pain.

“Ouch.” I retracted my leg. Reality was, vampires couldn’t stay under the sun for long.

“Let’s get out of here.” Zach got on his feet, then gingerly hopped off the building. I was right behind him. Jumping off of a thirty-story building now felt as normal as skipping past the last two steps of a staircase.

It gradually got harder to escape the blinding sunlight. Zach and I hid in an alleyway while I texted Hailee, who could then contact Roman. I reminisced while I waited for Hailee to reply.

“Hey, remember that rose garden you brought me to a while back?” I asked.

I took Zach by surprise. “Yeah, why?”

“Can we go there again sometime?”

“Of course.”

I rested my head on Zach’s shoulder quietly. All of the events of the past three months played in my head like a movie.

I stumbled upon Henrietta’s memories. I instantly felt repulsed. Before I could swipe it away, though, I suddenly noticed something.

After other vampires attacked my mother due to her emotions overriding her perception, the vampires bit her and caused her to lose consciousness speedily. Henrietta was too focused on panicking about my father’s bleeding to see it, but in the corner of her sight, the vampires had dragged my mother’s fainted body away.

I tensed from head to toe and shot upright.

“What’s wrong?” Zach asked.

Genuine horror was present in my eyes as I shakily said, “Go through Henrietta’s memories again. Focus on my mother.”

Zach frowned in concern. Before he could voice anything, I interrupted, “Do it.”

Zach’s eyes fixed on the side for a few seconds. His frown deepened as he probably didn’t notice it the first time. Eventually, his knitted eyebrows flew up.

“How did I miss that?” he murmured to himself.

I drew in a deep breath. I pushed out the words, “My mom could still be alive.”

Just when we all thought everything was over.

“I’ve never seen those vampires before,” Zach remarked, referring to the ones who attacked my mother.

The light-hearted atmosphere that settled on us quickly grew dark and heavy.

I barely noticed the dim light flash beside me.

“There you guys are.” Roman spun around. “I need something more specific than a street name, you know?”

Roman then noticed my grave expression. He glanced at Zach and me.

“What’s the matter?”

Everything.

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