Blood on Roses

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Bloodlust - Zachary Nolan

Hazel couldn’t read this problem child’s mind. What was going on in that twisted mind of his when Hazel gradually became more and more important to him? How did he come to hurt those around him to protect them?

Crazy to think that I was shopping for cellphones half an hour ago. Now, I stood in an abandoned factory, watching Hazel giggle amidst dead bodies on the ground. She had just killed her seven kidnappers. Even for me, it was a bit of a gory scene.

Stumbling, she then fixed her gaze on us. It suddenly hardened again. I glanced behind me, realizing that she hadn’t met Vivian. I quickly gestured for her to leave. Turning back to Hazel, I slowly walked toward her while she stared at her blood-soaked hands.

All of a sudden, she jumped, as if terrified of the pools of blood that she created. Her face almost mirrored mine from so long ago. So, so long ago, when I made my first kill. The first time I didn’t faint at the sight of blood.

Immediately, I held her shoulders and drew her attention to me. “Look at me, Hazel, don’t look down.”

“I killed them…,” she whispered like a ghost. I let her grab and stain my shirt until her vampire irises settled down. I knew only one gesture to calm someone down. It was what my mother always did for me.

I stroked the back of her head but decided against an embrace. I said, “Let’s go home.”

I knew she’d definitely mope over it for the next week if I didn’t do something, so it was the perfect moment to show her what I found. I led her across buildings, bridges, trees, and people. All the way to the secret garden.

I couldn’t admit that I was nervous. Worrying she shouldn’t like it, I glanced at Hazel several times while she squinted to see the rose field. The corners of my lips involuntarily drew up before I forced them down. Stupid, we have night vision. Why are you squinting?

The elation in her eyes and beam on her face was enough of an answer for me. I then realized that I’d been staring at her for the past minute. My smile disappeared as she turned toward me, moon-eyed with glee.

“Why don’t I have the heart to hurt you? Why was I so panicked when you went missing?” I mumbled. “Maybe you have a psychological-based ability, after all? How else could my strange behavior be explained?”

What scared me next was that the glee in her eyes seemed to amplify. She was happy. Why would she possibly be happy?! I turned away.

No, I didn’t want her to suffer like I did so many years ago. But I also had to maintain my distance. I got way too comfortable just now. In a panic, I pulled up my vengeance story.

“Do you remember the girl I sucked dry the first time you met me?” I said, noting her confused expression. “She was Henrietta King’s most talented apprentice, but she was so weak. So easy. Henrietta and her family took away my everything, so I’ll simply take away all of hers.”

Just as I was relieved by the encompassing silence, she suddenly spoke up, “You can’t push me away, yet. You promised that you’d watch me avenge my parents.”

I turned to her in shock. “I don’t remember making such a promise.”

“Will you promise now?”

I looked at her held-up pinkie finger. The thought of saying no to her churned my insides. I loved the fire and light in her eyes; I didn’t want to diminish them. But I was at the top of the hunters’ wanted list. If she got involved with my mess, how would she face her family and friends?

Hazel nudged her hand forward again. Before I knew it, I told myself that I was helping her get over her first kill. And we weren’t getting close; she liked someone else. I linked my pinkie with hers. “I promise I’ll be there when you kill whoever it is that messed your life up.”

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

Ouch. “Even I wouldn’t do that.”

“So, you better not break it!”

“Whatever you say.” I finally chuckled, but I couldn’t repress the endless worries in my head.

To prevent her from reading my goddamn mind again, I told her to follow me and hopped off the gazebo. I showed her to the Osiria. As I watched her excitedly snap pictures, I recalled a conversation I had with that idiot, Ashton.

“I don’t know if it’s her hybrid-ness, but something about her feels off. She has this… aura? Temperament? Maybe I’m feeling the invisible pressure of her bloodline, but I feel like she’s super high up there even though she’s so nice!” Ashton had said, then he pretended to be poetic. “Ah, amongst a field of wildflowers, she is a rose.”

By conversation, I meant that Ashton spoke to himself, and I kind of listened. I just felt it unfitting to compare her to wildflowers.

Even amongst a field of elegant roses, she’d be an osiria.

I fucked up. I royally fucked up. I had to bite my lip to stop myself. I kissed her. Why the fuck did I kiss her? The lights illuminated her beautiful ass face, and that little bastard had to fucking text at that exact moment!

What alarmed me the most was the look on her face.

No, no, no, no, nope, nope. Nope. Not happening. I could not let history repeat itself. Since I left Ashlynne alone, she finally started to live the pathetic life she wanted. Hazel also had so many human relationships; she couldn’t be associated with me.

There was only one thing to do. I had to push her away.

I shot up from the bed that I laid unproductively on for the past couple of days. The more I thought, the messier my head got. I zipped to my desk and began drafting. Soon after, I headed to her house and delivered the message.

I put my arms on either side of my vase of white roses and stared down at them. It’d been days since I last spoke to Hazel. On the Monday night mission, I exposed my identity to Arthur Carrington so he’d grow even more protective of Hazel. I set up forces on both sides to ensure I’d see her as less as possible.

My chest began to ache. Even as I acted like I was threatening her life, all she could think about was the time we spent together. Our little conversations and banters. Our time together at her house. Our technology lessons. Our night outside in the city. Our promise.

Oh, the promise. I had to stick a needle in my eye now.

I tried to chase her shadows away from my head. For most of my life, I prided myself in my ability over minds, yet I couldn’t even block one person out of my own.

Once again, I resorted to sinking my fangs into my lip, hoping the pain could numb me. When I opened my eyes, I noticed that the rose petals caught the droplets of blood. The mix of red and white reminded me of the Osiria rose that I showed Hazel a while back.

Holy shit, I had to get out of here. Everything reminded me of her.

“Zach, go to Harv’s office,” Hailee said to my head. Perfect distraction.

When I arrived, I was greeted by Harv and his son, France. I hadn’t seen France since he took off for his investigation.

“We’ve hit a wall,” said France. “I think I got the gist of what happened to aunty Mihaela, but any other details are unfortunately beyond me.”

Harv then spoke, “This is where your ability comes in, Zachary. Your memory-reading.”

I sat down. From them, I learned that France had found the people involved in the murder of Hazel’s parents. It seemed like a group vampire ambush took both their lives, but something was strange. It simply didn’t make sense that Devyn Dawson, the legend himself, and Mihaela Ceallakánn, a powerful Pureblood, succumbed to a standard vampire attack. It was up to me to read memories and hunt down the people who were involved that day.

“You can count on me,” I stated without a second thought.

After I got out of the meeting, I headed to the kitchen to grab some juice boxes. I had to lay low for a while, so no hunting. I must deal with the stale blood in a box. As I got to the bottom of the staircase, my ears picked up on someone saying Hazel’s name. I halted to conceal my footsteps. A group of vamps gathered in the kitchen, probably taking a break. I recognized one of the voices as Celia.

“Who does that fucking half-human think she is?”

“Yeah, she was absolutely useless in the mission. Harvick hit his head on a door or something. We pros carried that goddamn mission.”

“Have you guys seen how much she sticks herself to Zach, though? Like, know your place!”

“I know! That bitch reeks of human blood and desperation.”

“Probably sleeping around as we speak for others to protect her useless ass!”

How dare you.

I turned the corner and faced them as their ugly laughs filled the room. As soon as they spotted me, the glasses slipped from their hands and crashed on the floor.

Celia instantly tried to play it cool. “Hey, Zach! Why didn’t you say something? Come drink with us! We’re celebrating a successful mission. You were amazing in it, by the way. You carried everyone.”

These insects deserved retribution for their words. Locking eyes with them, I stepped forward and tapped each of them on their shoulders. I then strolled to the fridge and grabbed ten juice boxes. I’d bring these with me on my mission.

As I closed the fridge door and turned back to the three pathetic pieces of shits, I broke my mind control, and they immediately collapsed to their knees.

“I’m so sorry, Zach. I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll never talk about Hazel ever again,” one of them begged, becoming a sobbing mess.

The other one had a meltdown on the spot and crashed on the ground. Only Celia remained head down, unmoving.

“Three of you better shut your damn mouths and know your place from now on,” I warned.

For the next week, I entirely disregarded that little episode and focused on my investigation. I tracked down witnesses one by one. The only annoying thing was that it’d been twelve years since the incident, so many died or relocated. I pieced together the story little by little with each witness’s memories.

More than a week later, I returned to the base to discuss my findings with Harv. I built nearly half of a coherent story, but I needed Roman’s teleportation to get to the farther countries now. As the elevator doors opened to Harv’s floor, someone stopped me.

“I’m Laurie. You don’t know me, but I think you should know what Celia did. It’s about Hazel,” she started, capturing my full attention. “She rounded up a few people and tried to assault Hazel. I got tricked into it, but she revealed her true intentions after. I think Celia’s in love with you, but she knows you’re with Hazel a lot, so she attacked her for it.”

My jaw fell. The same Celia that I briefly psychologically tortured the other day? The one I warned not to do anything more?

“Not just her,” Laurie added. “I’ve seen some others target Hazel, too. I don’t know why.”

“...Thanks,” I muttered.

She kept her gaze on the ground. “Hazel’s the first one who treated me like a friend even after knowing I’m just an ordinary vampire. I’m ashamed I got tricked into turning on her. I hope this makes up for it a little. Sorry, I’ll go now.”

As she hurried out of my sight, I could barely think. Celia attacked Hazel because of me. Everyone was fine back when I kept a distance from everyone. But some foolish, deranged people targeted Hazel because they were too pathetic to say things to my face. This was further proof that I brought Hazel nothing but pain. Further proof that I made the right decision to drive her away.

Just then, Hailee’s voice entered my muddled brain. “You there? Hazel really needs to talk to you. I don’t know what kinda hot mess this is, but I’ll be nice and stay out of it.”

Talk to me? Why? Why, why, why?! Was I not firm enough the last time? I tried really hard to be cold, but maybe it wasn’t enough? She had to stay the hell away from me.

“Hey! I know damn well you can hear me! Answer!”

I quickly came up with a new plan and dialogue.

“Sure, I’ll be at the place where we first met. I won’t wait an extra minute, so she’d better hurry.”

“Good, you replied. I’ll let her know.”

Hazel showed up to our spot less than a minute after I did. I spoke even harsher than last time, but she ended up pouring her feelings to me.

“I can’t just watch you walk right out of my life like this,” she finished.

Seeing streams of tears roll down her soft cheeks almost made me cry. She was just as attached to me as I were to her. I didn’t expect her to be this hurt. I thought I was cutting ties before the development of anything serious.

I briskly schooled my expression when she looked back up at me. “If it’s what you really want, I’ll stop bothering you. But before that, may I ask for one truth? Just one. That’s all I need.”

I love you.

“I’m a vampire. I kill. That’s the only truth there is.”

In that instant, I forced myself to turn and leave as fast as I could. I blinked rapidly to rid my eyes of a stinging sensation that I hadn’t felt since I was a teen. I convinced myself that I did what was best.

I spent the next week going around the world, searching for witnesses, and collecting memory evidence. I found and killed all the vampires that aided the attack. I sat on a park bench somewhere in Australia and arranged all the memories in my head. Arms crossed and eyes closed, I focused on piecing the scenes in an order that showed the full story.

Just as I moved the last piece into place, an annoying voice penetrated my ears.

“Found you, stupid little brother.”

I opened my eyes. “Oh, you. How’d you find me all the way here?”

Ashlynne sat down beside me on the bench. “I got help from your friends. So, what are you doing here?”

“None of your business,” I replied curtly. I stood up, but in the next second, I found myself seated again. I glared at this dumb sister of mine. She froze me as I tried to leave and repositioned me down on the bench. “What do you want?”

“We haven’t seen each other in years, dummy. I want to talk. We care about each other, so I don’t want us to cut each other out for the rest of our lives.”

I flinched, then scoffed. “Don’t get ahead of your damn self. I can’t care less about you.”

“You little shit….”

“If this is what you came for, leave. I don’t have time for you.” I stood up again, only to be seated a second later again.

She took a deep breath to calm her temper. “Hazel and I talked a lot. I really like her. And she really likes you. But I heard you two are in a massive fight, and now she’s missing.”

“She’s missing?” I inadvertently blurted.

Ashlynne’s lips curved up. “You care that she’s missing. Yes, nobody has seen her for over a week. She keeps telling Hailee not to look for her.”

And since the hunters now knew her identity, she couldn’t go home either. Where’d she go, then? Maybe Harv transferred her to a new location?

“Do you know about her real power?” Ashlynne suddenly asked.

“You mean going through walls?”

“Shit, you don’t know. That means you definitely don’t know that you sacrificed your life to help her escape.”

“The fuck are you on?”

“The last time I spoke to Hazel, she sounded hopeful. She wanted to talk things through with you.” She glanced at me. “But evidently, you made things worse.”

“It’s her own fault. I made myself clear already.”

“You’re wrong.” She told me everything. I learned that Hazel could grant her own wishes, which was how she lived the Monday night mission thrice, saving everyone from the hunters’ ambush. It went so smoothly all because of Hazel.

And the first two times, I gave my life for her. I wasn’t surprised that I did.

“And, to fix things, she nearly killed herself twice,” Ashlynne added. “She overexerted her power so much that she faints every time she makes a big wish. After all that, you decided once again to ‘protect her by hurting her’ like some dumbass.”

That snapped any other excuses I had saved up. I stared straight ahead at the ground. Had I been hurting people to hurt them? No, but I caused her so much pain. I couldn’t just forget about it.

As if reading my thoughts, Ashlynne leaned down to peer at my face. “Which do you think is safer, keeping a treasure close by or throwing the treasure somewhere and hoping others won’t find it?”

“Well, pirates do tend to bury treasure elsewhere…”

“Right, bad example. Still, when has a person ever been safer alone than with a group?”

“You’re really bad at this.”

“Shut up! I’m trying my best!” she hollered. I laughed out loud. Neither of us had matured at all. Our banters seemed more childish than they were when we were kids.

She punched me in the shoulder. “Point is, who do you think is stronger than you?”

“Psh, no one.”

“Yet, you don’t think you’re strong enough to stand by her side.”

I sighed. “You don’t understand,” I explained what Laurie told me to prove my point. People had been targeting Hazel because of her association with me.

“Honey, the only sad part of that entire story is that you heard about it, not from Hazel, but from a random person you didn’t even know.” She reached out and pulled on my cheeks. “Whether or not you cause her trouble is for her to decide, got it? We’re not weak, Hazel and I. Stop getting ahead of yourself and come back to us. That is, if she’s still willing to talk to you.”

I quickly pulled away and again tried to sprint away from this monster, only to find myself right back on the bench. I couldn’t even get away from her.

“Stop running away from me, Zach. We’re each other’s only blood relatives left.”

I looked at her. Her ridiculous hair and outfit didn’t compliment her watering eyes. In my entire memory, Ashlynne had only cried twice. The first time, when the hunters ambushed our house. The second time, when we escaped that torch-holding village and left dad behind. Now, I was the reason for the third time.

“We’re supposed to be there for each other. Cut the ‘I’ll bring you trouble’ bullshit.”

I finally hung down my head. “Okay, I’ll listen.”

Just like that, I spent time and conversed with my sister for the first time in over eighty years.

od relatives left.”

I looked at her. Her ridiculous hair and outfit didn’t compliment her watering eyes. In my entire memory, Ashlynne had only cried twice. The first time, when the hunters ambushed our house. The second time, when we escaped that torch-holding village and left dad behind. Now, I was the reason for the third time.

“We’re supposed to be there for each other. Cut the ‘I’ll bring you trouble’ bullshit.”

I finally hung down my head. “Okay, I’ll listen.”

Just like that, I spent time and conversed with my sister for the first time in over eighty years.

I gently knocked my forehead against Hazel’s. We had just deduced that her mother might still be alive. We sat on the edge of the bed in my room, and Roman paced around the room.

“It’s okay,” I whispered. “I can’t believe I never saw that detail. I’ll investigate deeper.”

Hazel immediately said, “You and me both. Please, I have to be a part of this.”

My first instinct was to say no, but I quickly bit my tongue. Hazel was powerful; she could take care of herself. If anything, she’d be an asset. I had no reason to worry.

“Alright. Let’s do this together.”

A smile broke through her tear-stained face. Roman turned to us and pointed out, “Where can we start? We have zero leads.”

“I’ll talk to Harvick and Arthur. They could help,” Hazel said, standing up. She joined Roman in pacing around the room. “But Henrietta, the only eye-witness, already died. What to do, what to do…?”

I stared into nothingness while Roman and Hazel hypothesized possible theories. I replayed all of the memories that I read. I rewinded, then played, then rewinded, then paused.

I looked up. “One interesting thing.”


“All of the vampires whose memories I read. They all started with the same vampire leader that gave them instructions, but I never found this leader, and I never saw this leader during the attack. I also never found those two vampires that pulled your mother away.”

Hazel sucked in a breath. “So we have a target. Neither of us even noticed this little leader.”

I nodded. “I’ll reach out to every vampire I know, and you go ask Carrington to search the hunters’ database. Maybe there’s a clue somewhere.”

“I’ll help you, Zachary. Show me what those vampires look like,” Roman chipped in.

Just like that, before the old storm even abated, we rose up to a new mission.

No one knew where it led us.

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