“I know all of this probably sounds crazy--”
“Really?” With her painted lips curled back in a snarl, Nikki placed a hand against her popped hip before looking towards Dominic. “Cause I was actually curious to know which part you thought sounded more insane. You claiming that I died, or that my brother’s a werewolf.”
With a heavy sigh, Dominic shook his head as Hailee tried once again to explain to Nikki that all of this was real. It was the most lucid he had seen his sister in months, which he assumed was due to her rebirth as a vampire. But she refused to be reasoned with. Even after Hailee had whipped a mirror out of her purse and shown Nikki how the healing properties in Big Dragon’s blood had reversed the after effects from years of abuse.
He had often suspected she was into the more heavier shit, supplementing her addiction with steroids so she could fool the rest of the world. He knew she was hurting inside, hell, he had too when their parents first died. But there comes a point in time where you need to realize that death is a part of life. In Dominic’s opinion, she should have bucked up years ago when her son was born and quit this selfish behavior. Deep down, he knew everyone grieved in their own way, but this-- this all just seemed a bit too much.
“Oh, right!” Nikki screeched. “And let’s not forget. Not only did I die, but now I’m supposedly a vampire too?”
Her voice was like nails on a chalkboard or maybe it was more like a couple of cats in heat. Whichever it was, Dominic swore his patience was wearing thin.
“I wondered how you finally found someone to love you,” she smiled sardonically before jabbing her thumb back over her shoulder at his mate. “I just didn’t realize you’d stoop so low as to get one out of the psych ward--”
“That’s enough!” Dominic roared, taking a step in front of Hailee in hopes of shielding her from his sister’s words. “And if anyone standing in this room is in need of psychiatric help, its you,” he growled. “Do you even know what you overdosed on? Or is a constant state of being strung out so common for you, you just don’t give a fuck.”
“Fuck you,” Nikki cursed back. “You don’t know a thing about me.”
“I know enough.” The big weremale squared his shoulders, his tone equal parts accusatory and lethal. “Has it even occurred to you yet that you forgot to pick Henry up from school again today?”
“Damit,” Nikki’s eyes widened in realization. “Why didn’t you--”
“Don’t worry,” The officer interrupted, throwing up a hand. “Apparently the boy is responsible enough for the both of you. A friend’s mom brought him home and then he called me.”
As she flopped herself down on the couch, Dominic could see actual tears form in her eyes.
“You couldn’t possibly know what it’s like--” she sniffed. “--to be a single mom.”
“Maybe not,” he countered, his voice softening as he took a seat next to her. “But this--” Dominic shuddered slightly as he gestured to the ramshackled interior of what was left of their childhood home. “You can’t expect me to believe that this is the way you envisioned raising your son.”
After a few moments, Dominic watched Hailee eye his sister warily before she moved over to sit on the arm of the couch beside him. “You really did overdose, Nikki.”
“And I really am a werewolf,” Dominic added.
He couldn’t help the gentle purr that sprung from him as he pulled his mate down into his lap. As he clasped both of his large hands around Hailee’s waist, he noticed how Nikki’s gaze on them seemed to suggest that she yearned for a mate too.
“So then that means I’m a-- I’m a--”
The flimsy, metal screen door suddenly shrieked as Henry flung it wide open before rushing in.
“Mom!” His smile could have melted even the most frozen of hearts as his brown curls bounced up and down as he ran.
With his hand tightly gripping the golden handle of his happy meal, Dominic and Hailee watched in horror as the boy tripped with excitement over his own two feet. As he crashed head first into the corner of the coffee table, Nikki immediately stood. A trickle of blood dripping down Henry’s face. But it wasn’t motherly concern that graced her features.
Henry’s scream was nearly blood curdling as the bridge along the top of his mother’s nose morphed into that of a monster. Not unlike Big Dragon himself, her eyes glowed with an unnatural yellow as hundreds of tiny black veins jutted out underneath. Her hands that had elongated into black talons grasped for her son, if her brain could even recognize him as such. By now the blood lust had completely taken over.
“Grab Henry!” Dominic ordered as both he and Hailee jumped to their feet. With his massive arms wrapped around Nikki, he was easily able to subdue his sister while Hailee drug the terrified boy off towards the kitchen.
“And where the hell have you been?” Dominic yelled over the snarls of his crazed sister as Wes finally strolled in. He swore the grin plastered across the other man’s face looked like he had ate shit for breakfast.
“I knew a big man like yourself could handle all of this.” Wes’s hands waved about the room as he watched Nikki attempt to shred through Dominic with her razor-sharp claws. “Plus I figured with everything going on here, that sweet little piece of ass you got yourself in the kitchen was needed here instead.”
Dominic could feel his body flush with anger, his blood pressure climbing to impossible heights.
“You’re welcome, by the way,” Wes continued with a sarcastic note. “I just got off the phone with Big Dragon and he says yo girl can take the night off.”
With a huff in response, Dominic decided he might have been more grateful if it had been anyone but Wes. Thankfully, manners weren’t exactly on his top list of priorities right now. Nikki looked like a wild animal thrashing against him as she snapped at him with her elongated fangs. He was pretty sure if her arms hadn’t been pinned to her sides, she would have even fed off of him right about now.
It took a few more moments for Nikki to finally calm down, and when she did, Hailee emerged from the kitchen-- alone.
“Where is he?” Nikki asked, her voice small and distant.
“In the kitchen.” Hailee nodded behind her before stooping to pick up Henry’s discarded happy meal. The red box had been nearly flattened with all the commotion. “He needs another minute or so to calm down.”
Hailee paused as she fingered the handle nervously. “And for right now, he doesn’t want to be left alone with you.”
Dominic moved to Hailee’s side as Nikki flopped herself down on the edge of the coffee table. The same table her son had just knocked his skull on moments ago. With his arm draped possessively around his mate, Dominic quickly glared at Wes before turning his attention back towards his sister.
“How did this happen?” He pressed. “And what did you overdose on?” He asked again.
As she looked up from the safety of her arms, Nikki’s mascara tear-stained face also glanced towards Wes before answering Dom.
“They said it would be better than anything I’d ever tried before. The high was supposed to be instant and it would help me get some sleep. It was a lot cheaper than regular heroin too. I think they called it tamiflu?”
As Nikki rambled on, Dominic could feel Hailee stiffen under his touch. “You mean Theraflu,” she corrected. “It’s actually heroin laced with fentanyl.”
Abruptly removing his arm from around her, Dominic looked down at Hailee, his forehead creasing together in confusion and shock. How in the hell did she know about this? He didn’t have a chance to question her though. The sound of splintering wood had his head snapping back towards Nikki.
“I’ve never been a good mom.” His sister was standing now, the jagged end of a wooden coffee table leg aimed towards her heart. “I won’t hurt him anymore.”
At her words, both Dominic and surprisingly even Wes took a step forward.
“Whoa-- easy. Easy there,” Wes spoke as though he were talking down a scared filly. As he circled her, he glanced over towards Dom and proceeded to hold up his hands in the same non-threatening manner as the larger man.
“Henry will be just fine,” Hailee assured the skittish vampire.
“That’s right,” Wes was quick to add. “We’ll help--”
Dominic lunged forward as he watched his sister’s eyes widen ever so slightly. His hands reached out to her, but it was too late. As her body fell into his arms, he watched his sister turn a white ashen color as black veins surfaced all over her skin.
With his own body shaking uncontrollably, Dominic looked up at Wes.
“You better fuckin’ run, boy.”
“But I don’t want to go with him,” Henry whined. “Why can’t I just stay here with Wes?”
Dominic’s heart broke even more, if possible.
“Because he’s not your real dad,” Dominic replied.
“So? I haven’t even seen my real dad since Easter!”
“Henry,” the large weremale sighed. His strong fingers dug relentlessly into his temples as a dull ache began to form. “I know you’re not going to understand this, but you have to go with your dad. He’s a good guy.”
It was the truth too. Dominic had always known Jeremy to be an upstanding individual. He often wondered why the boy’s father hadn’t fought Nikki for custody. When he rang Jeremy to let him know about Nikki’s passing, he found out that apparently his sister had threatened Jeremy’s very pregnant wife shortly after being served. Jeremy admitted that at the time, it was just easier to turn a blind eye.
“Wes is a good guy.” Dominic heard his nephew mumble. “And I know he would take care of me if you just called him!”
“Wes was there when your mother died,” Dominic seethed. “He could have stuck around but he didn’t! Wes isn’t the man you think he is!”
“He is too!” Henry screamed. “He’s a cop--”
“That doesn’t mean shit!” Dominic cursed.
“He’s just a little boy, Dominic.” Hailee scolded him as she finally stepped out onto the front porch where both he and Henry sat.
“And the sooner he learns that you can’t trust everyone, the better,” Dominic spat. He refused to feel any remorse as he met Hailee’s disapproving glare.
“I know you’re hurting--”
“You don’t know shit,” Dominic snapped.
There was a slight pang in his heart as Hailee flinched back at his words. But he choose to ignore it, instead focusing on the rage he felt instead.
“How did you know what my sister had overdose on?” He challenged.
Hailee’s jaw bobbed up and down for a moment as she tried to form words. With her gaze finally settling on Henry, she quickly sent him up to his room before moving down the stairs in front of Dom.
“I couldn’t see before you marked me how controlling Bojing’s sire bond was,” Hailee began. “He even compelled me to forget things and forbid me from telling you about his plan.”
“And what is his plan?” The muscles in Dominic’s jaw ticked at the thought. He feared more than anything that he wouldn’t be able to handle what she was about to say. If Hailee was complicit in all of this, so help him--
“Big Dragon’s drug distribution has nothing to do with money.”
Dominic watched Hailee’s arms settle over her chest as the raw December air sent a chill up her spine.
“Nearly one hundred percent of the time, when heroin and fentanyl are combined it produces a deadly outcome for the user. While ‘Theraflu’ causes the entire body to overheat, it specifically targets the cerebrum resulting in a persistent vegetative state.”
“You mean brain death.” Dominic stated.
“Yes and no.”
“But how does Bojing benefit from all of this?” Dominic asked. “What can he possibly gain from a bunch of brain-dead drug addicts?”
“You didn’t let me finish,” Hailee continued. “While the brain’s cerebral cortex may no longer function, the human body is amazing, able to sustain oxygen in the lungs along with blood flow to the heart. This can continue on for a few hours to a few days.”
“Ok, so--” Dominic’s head was reeling as he reared back in confusion.
“So if Bojing can collect the users in enough time, he can keep them in a persistent vegetative state. Hooking them up to basic life support and harvesting them for their blood.”
“So that bastard was planning to turn my sister into his own personal blood bag?”
“I guess so.” Hailee licked her lips nervously as she averted her gaze from Dominic. “But baby, you’ve got to believe me when I say I had no idea. At least, not until a few days ago.”
“And how convenient you waited until now to tell me,” Dominic sneered.
“I didn’t have a choice!” Hailee argued. “You think I wanted this to happen?”
“You did before you met me.”
Hailee’s eyes filled with tears as she met his cold, hard stare.
“Tell me Hailee, what exactly was your relationship like with Big Dragon before you met me?” Were you two a thing?" Dominic’s sarcastic snarl made sure to put emphasis on the last word. “Maybe you’d prefer to go back to the way things were? Go back to your vampire lover,” he growled. “Hell, you know if I’d never met you I’d still have a family!”
As the tears fell from Hailee’s cheeks, Dominic suddenly began to regret his words.
“No, Hailee. Wait--” the hulking officer called after her as he stood up from the concrete porch. “I swear I didn’t mean it!” He yelled, but Hailee was fast as she quickly darted down the street. “Hailee, please!” He tried again, but a black Toyota Tundra suddenly pulled into the drive blocking his path.
Hanging his head in defeat, Dominic tugged on the ends of his hair.
“Damn. I fucked up.''