Though I had very busy with everything at hand, as well as adjusting to my new self, which was still ongoing, there was one thing had been putting off.
I hadn’t seen or spoken to her since it happened. I was at a point now that I wanted to know. No, that’s not a strong enough word. I needed to know in the worst way, what her involvement was. Though Bili and Theo didn’t think she was a danger, that didn’t mean she was completely innocent of everything.
I spoke to Theo about this and he suggested that I leave her alone. It wasn’t till much later that I understood why. He wasn’t aware of how deep I had fallen for her before all of this happened, but that being said, there were other reasons he didn’t want me reconnecting with her.
One night in the early evening I told Bili I had an errand to run. She suggested that she should come with me, but I assured her it wouldn’t take that long and I would be right back. I’m sure she could tell I wasn’t being entirely forthcoming, but she didn’t press the issue.
I was happy to see that one of the windows was left open. Making my way up the side of the building and into her loft was as easy as walking a flight of steps. No one was home so I walked around the place looking for clues to anything that might give some insight as to Viki’s involvement.
Her place was neat as a pin and her computer was locked down with several passwords. Not that she would write down that she was working for an underground werewolf pack that was attempting to start a war, but it was worth trying. At the time I was secretly hoping she kept a diary like a thirteen old girl from the sixties and I would find it lying on her dresser.
No such luck.
What I did find was one memory after another. The book we talked about, the kitchen where we ate together, the couch…the bedroom. The mixed emotions were fighting for space in my head.
I decided not to dwell too much on the what ifs and took a seat in one of her chairs near the corner where it was darkest. The only light on in the whole place was the small kitchen sink light that barely lit the counter. I knew I would only have seconds before I was discovered, but that was enough.
I heard the metal sound of the key hitting the door lock.
As soon as she started walking up the steps I noticed a difference in her walk the closer she got the top. Once she was in her flat she threw her keys on the kitchen counter then hung her purse over the chair slowly and deliberately. She knew someone was inside, but trying not to tip her hand until I’m sure she felt ready to defend herself.
“Show yourself, or I promise you it will not be pleasant when I find you.” She said in a calm voice.
I sat up from the chair and the sound of leather brought her attention fully on me. I walked toward her slowly and I could see she was ready for an attack, or to be the attacker. I got to a point where the light was just bright enough that she could make out her would-be attacker. Her posture and expression changed in a blink.
“Jack?” She whispered.
“What happened? I tried to…” She trailed off as she looked at me closer, obviously seeing the changes. Though the room was dark, there was no denying it.
“What happened? That’s a good question.” I said as I walked past her to the other side of the room.
I took her scent in as I never had before. Memories flooded my mind, but I pushed them away. I didn’t want to think of those things now.
“Here’s another.” I said as I turned to face her again, still keeping my distance. “Was the plan for Kristov to kill me or did you have something else in mind?”
Even though I didn’t think she was working with Kristov, I felt that her motives regarding me were less than truthful. She was hiding plenty and I doubted that she was sent to be my bodyguard, so the alternative seemed bleak at best. That’s why I accused her of more, hoping to see a reaction.
“Did he do this...no, he couldn’t have.” She said.
She wore a confused look, obviously trying to make sense of something.
I ignored her question and asked one of my own.
“Was everything a goddamn farce?” I said with more vigor than I intended. I felt my canines sharpen as I said this. My face flushed with anger, but I controlled it.
I was furious thinking that she could possibly be in league with whoever was behind all of this, no matter how trivial her involvement.
“No.” She said softly.
She said this without a hint of hesitation or dishonesty that I could detect.
“Are you willing to hear my side or did you come here for some other reason?”
I knew what she meant. Even now the thought of hurting Viki was unthinkable. Being here again, in her presence, was harder than I thought it would be. My feelings were swirling like the wind.
“By all means.” I said, still trying to control the heat building in my gut.
She took a step closer and I in turn took a step back. She stopped, respecting my need for distance.
“A friend of mine contacted me and said he was looking for someone. A human someone. He didn’t say who, or why, just that I would know him if I got close enough. He assured me it was for informational purposes, and that he meant that person no harm. He knew I wouldn’t help him if it meant an innocent person would be hurt.”
“Who’s this friend of yours?” I said
“I guess he would be the same as the person who is responsible for your...new look. It was Bili, wasn’t it?” She said.
The tone in her voice caught me off guard.
“Go on.” I said.
“I asked how I would know, and he explained that the person he was looking for was an anomaly, and it would be obvious. I had heard of such a person, but never thought I would meet one in a million years. There are only stories and legends of such individuals. He had information that such person may live in this city. That’s why he contacted me.”
“Anomaly?” I said.
“You still don’t know do you?”
“I was told I’m different. Something about my family tree. I think one of ancestors was a vampire, but I still don’t know why it’s such a big deal.” I said.
“That’s true, you are different, but that’s hardly the extent of it.” She said.
I thought she was going to elaborate on what she meant, but she didn’t. I was going to come back to that later.
“Anyway, after I relayed the message that I found something, gave him what little information I had at time, I was told to stay away from you and if he needed anything else he would be in touch. I did just that, but it never sat right with me. Then I saw you again at the coffee shop. I was looking for you, like I said at the time, but for other reasons.”
“I had to understand why I was attracted to you, when I shouldn’t have been. I should have been repulsed, but I was drawn to you like no other before. It wasn’t normal. I don’t know if you know this…”
“I got the cliff notes, but yes, I know such a thing is rare.” I said.
“Then you understand my curiosity. After our talk it became more evident that something was there, but I thought I might be making a mistake so I kept my distance again.”
“Then you came to the store.” I said.
“I did. I couldn’t stop thinking about you.” She said.
She got a solemn look on her face before she spoke again.
“Did Kristov hurt you? I know his reputation.” she asked as she took a step forward.
I didn’t move.
“It was his friend, Franklin, who took the pleasure, but at Kristov’s orders.”
I went on to tell her the short version of the story and as I did I could see the emotion in her eyes.
“I’m so sorry Jack.” She said.
Her sincerity appeared to be authentic. I was new to this life, and trusted my new abilities, but I didn’t know if were able to be fooled by others like us. Was it possible? I hadn’t been around long enough to know for sure.
“That pain was nothing compared to the thought that you could’ve been involved. But as you can see, I’m much better now.”
I was trying to change the subject and appear unaffected. The fact that I detected no deception when she said she was attracted to me only made this more difficult. I don’t know what I thought was going to happen when I came here, but this was not it.
“You have to believe that I had nothing to do with the attack on you and Bili. I’m glad she was there to save you. She will never know how grateful I am.” She said.
“What we had, was any of it real? Or was I just a job?” I finally asked. I had to know
She moved closer again, and I let her get within arms-reach this time.
“Very real. I know I didn’t tell you the whole truth, but now you can understand why. The more I got to know you the more I wanted to tell you everything. I came close once, if you remember, but I knew you wouldn’t believe any of it?” She said.
Her eyes were pleading for forgiveness. I could feel it to my core. It was the first time I had heard raw emotion in her voice. Every new sense I had said she was being truthful.
Her eyes were now tear-filled to the point of spilling over. I came here completely intent on hearing the worst, for whatever reason, and I was mentally prepared for that. This made the situation far more complicated. Either she was the best liar in the world or it was something else. I was not ready for the something else.
Viktoria’s tears were at a constant drip now. I had never seen her so vulnerable, and beautiful. I was crumbling inside. I didn’t know how to deal with this.
“I want to believe you.” I said.
My walls were crumbling and it was obvious to anyone with eyes. She didn’t hesitate.
“I know you know I’m telling the truth.” She pleaded.
She took a deep breath and wiped the tears from her cheeks before she spoke again. This time it was slower and more sincere.
“I’ve been by myself a long time before I met you. I didn’t think my match was out there. Then a silly human came along.” She said looking down, then back up after the silly human part.
Her eyes were red and still dripping tears.
When I didn’t say anything she took one more step closer, almost within arm’s reach, and looked me in the eyes.
“Even if you can never forgive me, leave here knowing that my feelings for you were...are...” She said lightly shaking her head, unable to finish her sentence.
She partially covered her face with one hand as she sobbed
I couldn’t let this go on. I had never known love, but it had to be something like this. Seeing her cry was too much for me.
I moved forward, took her in my arms, and held her tight. She returned my embrace and we held each other motionless. I didn’t know if this was going to work, but I felt she was worth the try. My feelings for her had not diminished one bit after my transformation. If anything they have intensified.
“Please forgive me Jack.” She said with her head was on my shoulder. I could feel the worm tears soak through my shirt.
I lifted her chin up with a light finger and kissed her. It was passionate and the taste and smell of her was just as I remembered it. I did believe her. I had to believe her. I never felt this way about another person in my life. She made me feel like I was good enough and deserved her.
She finally relaxed, wiped her eyes on her shirt sleeve, and pulled back just far enough to look into my eyes. It was still very dark, but I could see her forcing a smile.
When she moved her head slightly a partially ray of light from the kitchen illuminated my face. She looked at me and I saw her smile turn to a look of concern. She noticed something peculiar.
“What is it?” I asked
“Your eyes. I thought it was unusual that you had put on some weight, but now that I see your eyes.” She said looking confused.
“I assumed it had something to do with my transformation.” I said, not sure what she was getting at.
“It does, but...” She stopped mid-sentence.
Just as she stopped talking I heard a faint sound of glass breaking.
I looked up just as a small piece of glass fell from her front room window and hit the floor with a soft crackle.
“What the hell was that?” I said momentarily distracted.
Viktoria didn’t answer. When I returned to look at her face it faded from a bleak smile to a blank unfocused stare. She started to drop and I raised my arms to catch her before she fell. When I grabbed her I could feel the warm drops of liquid hitting the backs of my hands.
I looked at my hands as blood was spilling faster by the second.
My previous self would have been in complete shock and probably been unable to move. I was not my old self. I picked her up in my arms and carried her out of sight to her bedroom as fast as I could. I laid her on her bed as the blood continued to pour from the back of her head. I tore a large piece of her quilt, rolled it up and used it to put pressure on the wound. The void was immediate and horrific. From what little I knew about us as a group she had to have been shot by a very large and powerful weapon.
“Viktoria!” I said again as I shook her.
I still did not know the full extent of the healing powers of the wolves and clung to an irrational hope that she would heal and wake up. The burning rage within me was starting again as it did before when I became angry.
I wrapped Viktoria’s head as tightly as I could with the sheet from her bed and gently laid her down.
I was tired of losing people I loved and I will be damned if this Son of Bitch was going to get away with it, like the murderer that killed my mother. Knowing that there was nothing I could do to help Viktoria other than wait, I bolted out the door faster than I had ever moved before.
I ran as fast as I could down the steps, outside, and across the street where I thought the direction of the bullet may have come from. There was a Fire Escape that led to the roof of the four story building directly across from Viki’s apartment. I was up the ladder in a blink and when I reached the top I knew I was in the right area. I could still smell the gun residue from a spent shell casing in the air, but there was also another unmistakable smell.
I was irate that the killer had got away, but I couldn’t waste time looking all over the city. I had to get back to Viki and do what I could to help her. As I ran back I envisioned her sitting on the couch complaining of a mild headache.
When I did get back there I couldn’t believe what I saw.
She was gone.
There wasn’t a trace of blood on the floor and everything was cleaned up as if nothing had happened. The only thing that appeared missing from the home, were the bed sheets I had set her on.
What the hell?
I took out my phone and made a call. It rang once before it connected.
“It’s me. I need your help.”