Thicker than Blood: Reckonings

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A kidnapping stokes ancient flames of war in the night. As both sides prepare for battle, the most essential players must decide where they stand. Mary seeks a means to harness her newly awakened gift in a more ancient part of the world, leaving Wes to face the shadows that haunt him. Mara finds herself drawn toward a world that should be foreign to her, but is the pain worth exploring such familiar warmth? The Sun Dwellers aren't the only ones caught up in the path of shadows either. Even the Countess' inner circle isn't safe from her wicked hands. The history of this archaic struggle might be the key to bringing it to an end, but can the Black sisters make right the wrongs committed over the millennia? Moreover, can the faults of the old way be overcome to clear a new path and save the light of hope? When a opens a door, one cannot deny what lies on the other side. Which side of the threshold are the Blacks on though?

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Wakey! Wakey!

The first thing Mitch was aware of when he awoke was the pain in his neck. A low grunt sounded from his nostrils in response. He tried to think of why he was in pain. His last moments in Wes’ apartment faded back to him. One of those behemoths had grabbed him from behind, digging its claws into the sides of his neck. The ache worsened as he recalled the moments leading into darkness. Maybe he should have listened to Wes...

“Oh good, he’s waking up! Finally, I was getting bored.”

What the...? Who was that? Was someone watching him? Instinctively, he tried to play dead, but something told him that wasn’t going to work out for him.

“Oh, come now,” the feminine voice said playfully, “don’t try to pretend you’re still asleep. I’ve been waiting nearly forever on you. Come on then, wakey, wakey!”

Feeling foolish for trying, Mitch slowly opened a gray eye to see who was giggling next to him. It took a moment for his vision to clear. Perhaps that was due to the way he’d been attacked. At first, he could see a blonde, young woman through a hazy filter, but as his vision cleared, he gaped back at Mary Black’s face, grinning like the Cheshire cat.

“Jesus!” The pizza cook cried as he jumped up with a start. Just as quickly as he’d moved, he froze to grab his neck. It was throbbing badly. “Smart move... dumb... ass...”

“Ahahaha!” The doppelganger laughed at his actions. “Hello there! I’m glad to see you’re full of vigor! Haha!”

Mitch looked back at the amused girl. His memory jogged once again, reminding him of where he’d met this young woman. She was the one that had been in the heat of the attack at Wes’ place. If she was still with him, where did that leave him? Most likely not Virginia...

“Um... Sorry if this sounds rude... but...” He grimaced a bit, as he tightened his grip on his neck. “Who are you...? Have we... met somewhere before...?”

“Aren’t we the curious type? Hm-hm!” She giggled with a wink. “Rude it may be, I’ll tell you. My name is Mara. Now, it’s only polite to return the favor by telling me who you are, sir. We can teach you manners yet. Hm!”

“Mara, huh...?” Mitch thought he’d heard Mary’s sister’s name was Mara. It seemed possible that he was speaking to the long-lost twin, unless twins had twins in the world. “It’s... nice to meet you... I’m Mitch...”

“Huh?” The young girl blinked back at him. She looked confused by what he had said. “What did you say your name was?”

“Mitch?” He replied, “Something wrong with my name...?” This chick was getting stranger by the minute.

“Well...” She gave him a suspicious look. Up and down, her crimson eyes examined him. “You don’t seem female, and you definitely don’t smell of dog.” The man’s lungs emptied from the shock.

Mitch had to hold his mind together. Where had she gotten ‘bitch’ out of ‘Mitch’? Mary was in for a shock when she realized how dumb her twin was. God, he hoped she had just misheard.

“No... No, not ‘bitch’...” He sighed heavily, gripping his neck. “My name is Mitch...”

“Your name is... niche...?” Mara raised an eyebrow at him. “What a strange name to be given...”

“No...” He ground his molars, trying not to loose his temper. “It’s Mitch...”

“It’s ditch?” Mara blinked. This was getting more confusing by the word.

“No...!” Mitch could feel his eyebrow twitching. Looking down, he took a deep breath before replying. “I’m Mitch...”

“Oh, you’re rich! Ahahaha!”

“Mitch, woman! I’m Mitch!”

“Wait...” She paused her celebrating. “You’re a witch?”

“God-damn-it! My name is Mitchel Johnson! It’s not Niche! It’s not Ditch! I’m not rich, and for Christ’s sake, I’m not a witch!”

His gray eyes glared back in frustration. Jesus, how much of a stereotype could a person be? His neck throbbed from the blood pumping through his veins, but he was too stressed to think about it. She may be Mary’s sister, but he was going to strangle her if she got his name wrong again!

Mara stared back at his odd expression. At first, she didn’t quite know what to think. He was certainly a passionate man, but she was not certain if that was a unique trait or a human norm. His eyes held so much emotion. She wasn’t used to hearing a raised, male voice. He was nothing like Michael, and then, there was the scent of hot blood seeping off of him. Finally, a smile grew on her lips. She even flashed her fangs with a light laugh.

“Mitchel Johnson... I like that name, Mitchel. I promise not to foul it up again. I really do like it.”

Mitch gaped back at her face. He seemed at a loss for words, which was more along the lines of not knowing what to do with his pent up rage. Her laughter killed off his drive and anger, leaving the cook dumbfounded. Perhaps she wasn’t as dumb as he’d thought. Maybe she was just simple.

“It’s been a while since someone said they liked my name. Usually, I’m in deep shit if I hear my full name,” Mitch muttered quietly. He was slightly embarrassed for losing his cool, but her crimson stare was more unnerving than his slip up. What was she staring at? Was it his neck bandages? No, her gaze was too high for that. Her eyes were on his face. It was maddening, especially since there was complete silence aside from the crackling flame lighting the room. “Is there a reason you’re staring at me like a piece of meat...?”

“Oh,” Mara blinked, finally, “this is my first time seeing a human. It’s so strange. You really can smell the blood flowing through your veins! Haha!” Mitch let out a noise that reminded the vixen of someone falling off a ladder, laughing harder.

“Never seen a human before? How can you have not seen a human being before?” Mitch gawked at the vixen who was still laughing at him. She looked like she was going to cry, too. He narrowed his eyes. Scratch to simple-minded theory, this girl was just a spoiled brat.

“I haven’t…! Really…!” Mara wheezed as she tried to talk as she giggled now. This man was funny. She was glad she’d found him before one of the vampires drank him up. “I’ve only known vampires my whole life… I’ve never ever bitten a human for a meal…”

“You serious? I thought vampires hunted humans down to bite ’em and shit,” Mitch was slightly disappointed that his Dracula fantasies were shattered. Everyone was a little sadomasochistic when it came to vampires, right? The idea of a being sinking their fangs into someone’s neck made him gulp, being slightly aroused and just awed. Hearing that they didn’t even see humans, the chef’s romantic vision popped like a bubble.

“Well, I’ve heard some still do…” Mara collected herself, feeling empowered by his ignorance and curiosity. “Michael told me that most vampires come together in communities to live away from humans. Some drink animals’ blood or have humans’ blood bottled and shipped to them. I don’t really know why though. It’s not like we have anything to fear from humans.”

“That’s pretty lame,” Mitch groaned.

“Lame? How can that be paralyzing?” She blinked in confusion. He said that most perplexing things sometimes. Humans were strange.

“Erm…” He scratched his scalp, thinking of a better word. “It sounds stupid. Does that make more sense…?”

“Oh! Stupid! Yes, being lame is quite stupid! Haha!” Mara laughed at her connection. How curious the human mind worked. “Why did you think it’s stupid though? It’s all I’ve ever known.”

“I guess it depends on where you’re from,” Mitch replied with a sigh. “I grew up in the rural areas around a city, but I met people at school and around town. Where did you grow up?”

“Why I grew up here in this castle, Mitchel!”

“Castle? What castle?” Mitch looked around, finally taking in his surroundings. There were torches lining the walls made of stone. A large hole rested in the center of the massive room, where a fire was barely burning. Despite all the flames, the room was chilly like a fall night. There was something cold about the place. Was he in the dungeon?

“This castle, silly,” Mara leaned forward, revealing a black, wooden coffin behind her. Mitch had a gut feeling it wasn’t hers, and it wasn’t good. “This is the castle of Lady Eve.”

“And just who is Lady Eve?” Mitch tore his eyes away from the coffin to look back at Mara. She was beaming with pride. Somehow, the pizza cook felt this was a bad thing. It didn’t help that the vixen was grinning a toothy smile either.

“Lady Eve is the ruler of the vampire race.”

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