The scream rang in my ears.
It took me a few moments to comprehend what had exactly just happened. Merely moments ago, Nikolai’s frozen lips were on mine, my knees buckling in his hold, his bloody eyes firm on my trembling frame. It was like he was sucking the life out of me, drinking in all of my energy with every kiss, every nip, every bite.
And then it came.
The ear-shattering, heart-pounding wail that ripped Nikolai and me away from each other, both of our eyes widening. At first, I thought that someone had caught us, just like Paris had been caught at school. I was ready to bury myself in Nikolai’s shirt, my cheeks already burning.
But then, it happened again.
Another cry, a shrill scream that sent chills down my spine. It was just like when I was waiting for Nikolai by the ticket line, like a hand caressed the back of my neck, a knife poised at my throat.
The Ferris wheel shook, continuing its circle, but now, all the carts were shaking, passengers rocking in their seats and clawing at the doors, attempting to escape. In the distance, I could hear the alarms of police sirens and firetrucks. God, what was happening?
I glanced up at Nikolai, and his fiery eyes met mine, his pupils swallowed by the glowing red of his eyes. He was looking at me, his arms wrapped around my waist. His gaze softened when our eyes connected, but his grip on me didn’t loosen. In fact, it only tightened.
His gaze was firm, steady on the pandemonium beneath us. Something sharp poked his pale lips, pressing against his bottom lip. His fingers dug into my back, like claws ripping through my dress.
And then, I realized.
Nikolai wasn’t a human.
“Nikolai!” My voice was shrill now, and I didn’t dare to look below us, or out of the window. I wanted to let go of him, but in the rocking cart, I also didn’t want to take a tumble.
Nikolai’s eyes swiveled to mine, drinking in the fear emanating from my eyes. He reached over to cup my cheek, a reassuance, but I flinched, and he looked away, still not speaking.
“Nikolai,” I attempted to control the tremour in my voice. “Nikolai, what’s going on? W-What are...you?”
“A monster,” Nikolai replied after a few moments, his voice soft, but bitter. The Ferris wheel rocked again, tumbling forward, and with a loud crash, we tumbled to the dirt ground, clothes soiled, but bodies intact.
“A monster?” I repeated. A man brushed past me, screaming, but I reached over to run my fingers over his stong jaw, noting the gleam of his...fangs in the moonlight.
“You don’t look like a monster,” I said.
“But I act like one,” Nikolai answered gruffly. Gone was the sweet, suave man from before. This one was fierce, possessive, and angry.
I could feel my heart galloping in my chest, my mind screaming at me to run away, but I stayed put, allowing him to help me up. Somehow, I felt as though I were in the eye of the storm, safe in Nikolai’s arms while everyone ran and screamed around us.
“I don’t understand what’s happening,” I had to yell over the noise. “What’s going on, Nikolai? Are you doing this?”
“Do you think I would interrupt something I have been craving for years?” Nikolai asked harshly, baring his fangs at me. I didn’t flinch, though, not again, and he leveled his eyes with mine. “No, I am not the cause of this, Varsha. But I know who is.”
“Who?” Around us, the wind howled, the dark black clouds covering the eyes of the moon. Dark figures ran through the woods, crows crying into the sky. Black and orange feathers fell onto my shoulder, and a different howl sounded in the woods, something more...wolfish.
“Someone,” Nikolai said. He looked around wildly, his eyes reflecting like pools of blood on the ground. He bit his lip, then gripped my shoulders, steering me towards a thicket of trees and bushes, away from the destroyed carnival.
“Stay here,” he ordered. “Amara will come watch you, and whatever you do, DO NOT leave this spot, do you hear me?”
I clenched my jaw, shrugging his hand off my shoulder. “What do you mean? I don’t know what’s going on, Nikolai! Why do you want me to stay here? What if you get hurt?”
“I won’t,” Nikolai said stoically. “And I don’t have time to answer these questions right now, Varsha, but I promise, when this is finished, I will answer whatever it is that you need to ask.”
We both grimaced when a tree crashed into a stall, bats and crows flying around the debris.
I looked back at Nikolai again, his glowing red eyes and pearly white fangs. His pale skin and suddenly very sharp nails. I knew what he was—I already had one answer.
A roar shattered through the forest, followed by a plethora of howls and a gust of wind. Time was running thin. I needed to answer quickly.
“Okay,” I said, seeing the fires erupting by the stands. “But when you come back, I want answers.”
Nikolai nodded, glancing behind me and kissing my temple quickly. “I will be at your command then,” he said. Cigarette scent washed over me, and I wasn’t sure if it was coming from Nikolai, the flames, or Amara’s looming shadow.
He pecked my lips, nodding to Amara and dashing back into the war zone in front of me.
And when I say dashing, I mean faster than fucking Usian Bolt!
I felt like I was frozen, watching him shift from bat, to lion, to tiger, to any other animal with pale skin and glowing red eyes.
Blood red eyes.
Everything clicked into place with each roar and howl. Bats flocked the area, some of them getting too close for comfort, but Amara was able to swipe them to the ground before they could reach me.
And speaking of Amara...
She had two large, wolfish ears atop a mass of curly, unruly blonde hair. Her eyes were pitch black, morphing over her irises, just like Nikolai’s. Claws jutted from her fingertips, and her legs were replaced with tan, wolfish hind legs.
“I think I’m going mental,” I grumbled, holding my head in my hands. What had my night become? What started out as a romantic, first date, became a hot and heavy make-out session, which then became a war between bats, wolves, and birds.
...Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m going mental.
“You aren’t crazy, Varsha,” Amara said, her voice booming through the forest, thick with authority. She put her clawed hands on my shoulders, her eyes swiping over my blood red lips before speaking again. “We’ll explain it to you later, but all of this...Nikolai...me, we’re—”
“Not human,” I finished monotonously, crossing my hands over my chest. Behind me, I could hear the once crackling flames dousing, but I didn’t dare to look. I didn’t want to see the amount of corpses littered on the ground.
Amara sighed. “Yes, not human. We aren’t human, but that doesn’t mean we will hurt you.” She squeezed my shoulders. “You’re our friend. You don’t have to fear us, least of all, Nikolai.”
My mouth opened, and then it closed. “H-How did you know...?”
Smirking, Amara tapped her nose. “I’m a wolf, after all. I can smell your fear, and I can smell him all over you, but that’s a story for a different day.” I blushed, looking at my sandals, and Amara cackled. “I’m teasing you, Varsha. But in all seriousness, you don’t have to fear us. We aren’t monsters. We won’t hurt you.”
“Then why did Nikolai say he was a monster?”
Amara’s breath hitched. “That’s...not my place to say. Each of us have had our own, different experiences with immortality and our...well, who we are, I guess.”
I nodded, although I was still a little confused. “I’m not afraid of you guys. I was just...startled, I guess? I don’t know.” I laughed awkwardly. “It’s not every day that you discover than vampires and werewolves are real, you know?”
“And demons,” Amara added. “That would be Omen, but yeah, we do exist. A lot of us, actually.”
“How many in Bloodhill?”
" Just enough.”
Nikolai’s rough voice answered before Amara could, his clothes ripped and blood dripping from his fangs and staining his clothes. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve, brushing his shirt. From the gaps in the rips,I could see his muscles, beads of sweat dribbling down the valleys and mountains of his chest.
God damn, I thought, biting my lip.
He ran a hand through his hair, dropping the body he had been dragging. It was of another pale man, but hs fangs were crooked, and his neck was dangling at a funny angle.
Nikolai snapped his neck, I realized, a chill kissing down my spine.
“Omen got the rest of them. They came from a coven close by.” He spoke, and I assumed that he was speaking to Amara.
“Were they newborns?” Amara asked.
Nikolai nodded. “Yes. All of them. They were hungry, too. They fed on many of the humans here, specifically children.”
I winced. Those poor kids...
“Were the children turned?” She questioned.
“I caught a few of them transforming, yes. Many of them escaped before Omen and I could do anything.”
“What about my pack?”
“Corey was able to get the humans to safety,” Nikolai continued. “Jocelyn wiped their memories. They won’t remember a thing from today.”
Amara grunted. “Good. I’ll get my pack to start picking the debris up. Nikolai, you take Varsha to Devil Diner.” She turned to me. “Omen’s family owns to place, so they’ll know what happened. Nikolai will be with you, so they won’t hurt you. They wouldn’t, anyway. From what I’ve heard, they like hearing about you.” She smiled at me. “Don’t be afraid. We’re going to solve this.”
I tried for a smile, even though it was difficult. “O-Okay. I’ll try.”
The crunch of bones made my teeth grate, and Amara’s large, tan wolf bounded into the clearing, barking orders in a language only werewolves could ever understand.
I turned back to Nikolai, and immediately, his lips were on mine, crushing into me. His arms trapped me against him, but I wasn’t looking for a struggle.
Sighing into his embrace, I let his icy lips mold with mine, his mouth tasting like iron and blood. I could feel some dribbling down onto my throat, but I could have cared less. He was alright. That was all that mattered to me at the moment.
Nikolai pulled away from me, cupping the back of my head, searching over my body with his eyes. “You weren’t hurt, right? Fuck, I should have stayed with you. Look, you have a few bruises here...”
I shook my head, pressing my palms to his chest, feeling the dips and curves of his muscles underneath. “I’m fine, Nikolai. Just..startled, I guess. I...I wasn’t expecting our date to end like this...”
“I know, and I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I never expected there to be a coven of vampires here, much less newborns. If I had known, I never would have brought you here...”
The glow in his eyes evaporated slowly, his fangs receeding into his mouth. The clear claws on his hands molded into his nails, and the large, black wings sprouting from his back folded and disappeared, leaving me with the Nikolai I once thought I knew.
“I’m sorry,” his voice cracked. “I—I just wanted a change...a chance to be happy, you know? You...You can reject me now. It’s fine.”
My eyes widened. “Reject you? Why do you think I would do that?”
Nikolai frowned. “Weren’t you afraid of me? I’m a monster, you should be.”
I stared at him for a couple of seconds, then, moving on my own accord, I stood on my toes, pressing my lips to his again. He still tasted like iron, but now, a little of his old cigarette scent burned on my tongue, igniting the fire in my stomach once again.
Pulling away, I gazed hazily into his unfocused eyes. “Does that answer your question?” I murmured.
“I may need a verbal answer,” Nikolai replied huskily, his fingers digging into my hips. It wasn’t painful, though. It was pleasure.
“I want you, Nikolai,” I managed. “I—Will you...be my boyfriend?”
Nikolai was quiet for a few moments, his eyes never wavering from mine, but then he smiled, his fangs now easily visible to me. “I would love to, my rainstorm.”
I giggled, and Nikolai swooped down to kiss me again, both our bodies shrouded in the darkness around us. It was just us, alone—
“We should be going, now,” Nikolai mumbled, pulling away from me. He still clutched my body against him, warmth emanating from his once icy skin. “You have questions, we have answers.”
“I do,” I said. “But, can I ask you something?”
“Are you Russian, Nikolai? Or am I making a racist assumption?” I asked, biting my lip.
Nikolai chuckled. “No, it is not a racist assumption. Yes, I am Russian. My...” he swallowed. “My family was born in Russia.”
“Must be nice to have a family, huh?” I asked.
Nikolai looked away, not meeting my eyes. He let out a deep exhale.
“Yes, it was.”
I guess I should’ve expected Devil Diner to be a strip club.
I queasily followed Nikolai and Amara through the plethora of men with the stench of alcohol and marijuana waving money in the air at the women in barely anything, or some even completely naked.
The entire aesthetic of the club was red. Red lights, red seats, red drinks, red poles. Everything was in a different shade, from light red, to full on lust red.
I wanted to throw up.
Granted, I had never been to a strip club before, but it was never in my plans to go to a place as graphic and as...horrendiously bare as this one, but I was still kinda intrigued.
Nikolai’s arm hadn’t moved from my waist, keeping me tucked into his side as we passed potbellied men and frat boys. They all looked at me or Amara, some of them attempting to touch me, but not before Nikolai shot them a murderous glare, and with blood smeared on his lips and his eyes already glowing, all the men took the hint to back off.
“Omen got a room in the back. His parents are out of town,” Amara said, brushing roughly past the men trying to grope at her. I giggled when she scowled.
“This is why I don’t like men,” she grumbled. “Except you and Omen, of course.”
Nikolai smirked, snickering. “Of course.”
From the back of the room, Omen’s echoing voice brought us towards where he was standing, a bottle of liquor hanging from his hand. He winked at me when he saw us, whistling.
“How was your date?” He teased, pushing the door open. “I heard some different variations, one of them including some...kissing?”
Nikolai’s throat rumbled, a warning, and I looked away. It wasn’t something I was embarrassed about, and if I could go back in time, I definitely wouldn’t change a thing about our night (except maybe the whole attack), but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to reveal to Omen what exactly conspired between us.
“Shut up, Omen,” Amara growled, her golden eyes vibrantly glowing in the darkness. “We have more important things to discuss.”
Omen yawned, lounging on the dark red couch. “Let me guess. Date goes wrong, coven attacks, you two reveal your powers to a human and I’m roped into this...how?”
“Well, you were there,” Nikolai said. He pulled a cigarette out of his pocket, wisps of smoke collecting in his palm. A lighter manifested through the haze, and he lit the tip, smoke burning throughout the room.
“Yeah, but I didn’t shift,” Omen said, making grabby fingers at Nikolai. The latter sighed, handing him a cigarette and a lighter to use. Amara took one, too.
“I can see you looking,” Nikolai said, catching my eyes as I averted them. “Since we’re all immortal, smoking, drinking, or anything that threatens the human health does nothing to us.”
“I didn’t think werewolves were immortal,” I said, having to yell over the pounding music.
“Not all of us are,” Amara explained. “But I came from the Alpha King’s pack. He’s immortal, a curse, you could say. He and his pack were cursed with immortality, and I was part of his pack when it happened.”
“Anyway, Varsha, you have free reign to ask us anything you’d like,” Amara continued, glaring at Omen when he opened his mouth, as if to argue.
“But before that,” Nikolai stood, blowing a puff of smoke from his pale lips. “What about the coven? The newborns? Where did they come from?”
“My pack wasn’t able to find anything,” Amara answered. “After cleaning the debris and wiping everyone’s minds, it was difficult to trace any scent.” She faltered. “T-The only thing we got, actually, was a scent of an elder vampire.”
“An elder vampire...?” Nikolai mused. His eyes darkened for a second, but just as quickly as they did so, they returned to their normal color. “I’ll take a look at it. Whoever this vampire is, he must know that there’s a town of humans here.”
“Pure humans, too,” Omen added. “And...of course, other monsters...”
“Wait.” I interjected. “There’s more of you?”
Both Amara and Nikolai shot glares at Omen, who only blew a puff of smoke in their direction, ignorant.
“Is there?” I prodded.
Nikolai sighed. “Yes, there is. Maybe half the town, possibly more, I’m not sure.”
“Some are covenless vampires, my pack members, and other monsters littered here and there,” Amara added.
I looked between both of them. “So...why are you guys in Bloodhill? I thought werewolves lived in packs, vampires in covens, and demons in hell?”
“We do...well, most of us,” Omen said. “But we can live on Earth, too. Not all vampires have to be in covens. Unfortunately, it’s harder for werewolves, what with the rogue thing and all.”
Amara nodded. “Yes, it is, but the Alpha King is lenient on those who show respect to the crown.” She must’ve noticed my frown, for she let out a loud laugh. “Don’t worry! He’s actually really nice if you meet him. Tall, but nice. He’s no dictator...at least, not like his father was.”
I raised my eyebrow, but nodded, agreeing silently. “Are you going to wipe my memories?” I asked.
“That’s up to you,” Nikolai said. He took the drug out of his mouth briefly. “Do you want to forget everything that you just saw?”
“Do you want to get caught in our world?” Omen added. “It’s not an easy one, Varsha. We’re attacked on a regular basis, as are our loved ones.”
“It’s a battle for living every day,” Amara warned. “But, you’ll have all of us with you. We won’t let anything happen to you, especially Nikolai.” She winked at him, and he rolled his eyes.
They all were quiet after speaking, but their eyes remained on me, unmoving. I have to admit, it was kind of unnerving, like there was pressure on my shoulders for me to choose.
I looked at Amara and her golden eyes; her wolfish ears, legs and tail. I looked at Omen, his blazing orange eyes and dark black wings, talons sharper than a sword.
I looked at Nikolai.
Looked at the dangling cigarette from his pale, plush lips, lips that had fiercly claimed mine merely hours ago. Looked at the pleading, glowing ruby eyes and the droplets of blood on his neck and splattered on his shirt. His hands were clenched together, but I knew if they weren’t, they would be begging me to stay.
I took a deep breath, prayed to the gods that I was making the right decision.
And gave my answer.