Korinna watched as Isaac’s form appeared from the shadows of the forest. Blood splattered his newly bought pants, soaked his shirt, and decorated his face like war paint. She almost nagged him for creating a mess until she saw the pleasurable gleam in his eyes.
He enjoyed whatever creatures he slaughtered.
A shiver crawled down Korinna’s back as she stood up from her crouched position against a tree. He came to stand before her, dropped the duffel bag, and wiped at his face, making ugly smears of the blood that coated his skin.
“What happened?” Korinna swallowed.
Isaac idly surveyed the area around them and shrugged. “First battle of the night. It feels good.” He rolled his shoulders and cracked a smile at her. “You should join, succubus.”
“No thank you.” She grimaced.
“Did they not teach you how to battle? That’s surprising.”
“I didn’t want to learn,” Korinna said. “I have my own skill sets to protect me.”
Isaac nodded with deliberation. His eyes raked over her figure rather heatedly and Korinna couldn’t tell if it was lust or something else entirely. She felt miniscule under that stare and shuffled around.
“Your skill sets won’t save you with me.”
Korinna froze. What did that mean? Was he going to attack her?
He turned back to the forest, releasing her from the torture of his murderous gaze. “I’m immune to you.”
“What, do you plan on killing me?” She threw up what little defenses she had left, adding a tone of bitchiness to her terrified question.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I could easily end up killing you, but I don’t plan on it.” Isaac grinned at her, baring his razor fangs. “I would protect yourself with more than your glamor and scents, girl.”
Korinna turned to the bag he dumped at her feet and didn’t think twice. She dug through it, grabbing a ruggedly made stake and a chef’s knife, swallowing back a clump of bile that built in her throat.
Isaac watched her. When she lifted her gaze up to him, he nodded and turned his attention once again to the forest.
He halted and a small, wicked smile crept onto his face. “I let a rodent slink away and now his brothers are joining him.”
Korinna stopped to catch whatever sounds Isaac had picked up. All she heard was the wind rustling through the trees and bushes, the soft pattering of the wood’s animals, and cars on far-off roads. While her senses were enhanced due to her succubae blood, it didn’t amount to Isaac’s senses, and she couldn’t imagine what all he experienced that she couldn’t.
She did smell the blood though. Not his, but the vampires he slaughtered before returning to her. It was potent and the least desirable of smells, and made her stomach churn.
“You should’ve stayed in the house, succubus,” Isaac said as he grabbed the duffel bag and slung it over his shoulder. He cast a look at her with hooded, disinterested eyes. “I’m not protecting you.”
Before she could retort, he disappeared into the darkness of the woods, following after the sounds he heard.
Once again, Korinna was left in the shadowed forest, clutching both the knife and stake close to her chest. She breathed heavily with panic.
Maybe he was right.
Korinna looked in the direction he left and then the direction from where they entered the forest. In the distance, she saw the dim light of Independence, and dared the chance of making her way out of the forest.
● ● ●
Isaac approached the next group with much more caution than the last. There were at most double the vampires as before. One look caused a small sliver of uncertainty through his rather ravenous bloodlust. He stayed in the trees, creeping onto each branch with deliberation.
He saw the little rat he let go in the middle of the group, darting around as if Isaac was going to jump out from the shadows any second and slaughter them all.
Which he was – just not so impulsive.
One of the vampires had a small device held up to her ear, which she spoke into.
“We’ve got a member from scout group three,” she said to it.
The vampire from the old scout group kept by her and held onto her arm, muttering, “That vampire is fucking crazy, Aly.”
Aly nodded and relied the message through the device. A voice replied and though it was muffled, Isaac was able to pick up on the sound.
It sounded like that one henchman of Dante. Isaac scowled and dropped down silently into the bushes a few yards behind the group.
A vampire whipped around to the sound and scrunched his face.
“Probably an animal, Mark,” someone muttered to him and continued with the roaming group.
Mark stared at the spot where Isaac hid, still unseen, then walked toward the bush. On his way, the vampire withdrew a dagger, holding it out in front of him in defense.
Isaac grinned as the group walked farther away from them. He lunged once the vampire was close enough, swatting the dagger aside within the second it took to close the distance. Isaac slapped a hand over the vampire’s mouth before he could yell and locked his neck in his arms.
The vampire wiggled in Isaac’s hold as they sunk into the bushes. He tightened his vice grip around the vampire, choking the air out of his lungs to quiet him down.
The vampire’s group went on, unknowing to their missing member.
Isaac’s fangs flashed in the moonlight a second before they sunk into the vampire’s throat, shredding the jugular wide open.
Something grew thicker in Isaac as he downed this vampire’s life essence. It was jet fuel for Isaac, causing the blood magic in his own veins to turn into something more, something darker, something dangerous.
Isaac untangled himself from the vampire once he ran dry and laid in the bushes for a moment, savoring the moment of pure bliss.
Would he be considered a cannibal now?
He wondered if Dante had thought that when he turned Isaac, he would become some obedient lap dog.
Now, the Turned sorcerer who was trained to murder vampires still did just that – murdered vampires; now considered his own kind.
But the blood high…such warmth filled his body. For once, he had a false sense of hope, of happiness, which slowly faded as the warmth leveled out with his body temperature.
Isaac shoved himself to his feet. The dizziness of the momentary high caused him to fall against the tree behind the bush he previously laid in.
He blinked away the blurriness and clutched his head. Maybe Isaac drank too much, too quickly, he thought. Just within the hour, he had devoured four vampires.
Isaac stayed there against the tree for a few more minutes as the dizziness subsided, then moved from the tree.
The vampire group was long out of sight, but Isaac could still hear their mutterings and footsteps in the otherwise quiet forest.
He could feel the pumping of the magical blood running through his veins and looked down to his hands, forming fists and tightening his muscles. His veins bulged on the surface of his skin and a lines of pulsing red threaded through them, illuminated with the blood magic.
Isaac dropped his hands and grinned.
Tonight was going to be fun and by the end of it, Isaac would have Dante’s head.
● ● ●
Conner ended the phone call with his scout party four and cursed. That damn psychotic vampire made things a lot harder now that he was draining every clan member that he came across. Cannibalism was one of the worst atrocities in the vampire world, just like terrorism, rape, or murdering children were for humans.
He sunk back into his office chair, swiveling toward the windows behind him. The moon hung directly over the forest, where the action happened. Conner couldn’t imagine how many vampires Isaac took out yet.
It was a fool’s decision to send out so many scouts. The majority of the coven that was left from the first hunt of Isaac was all younger than fifty years old; only strong by virtue of being vampire, but not strong enough.
Conner would have to visit Dante – which was the last resort. Dante wanted an extermination and wanted no part in doing it, especially with Isaac’s sister on the brink of death.
He couldn’t understand the appeal of that woman. A hundred years passed since Valeria was Dante’s lover and yet Dante would sacrifice everything for the little thing.
Vampires were supposed to be the shadows of their human selves. Emotions and personalities were expected to be mutilated upon the Turning.
And yet Dante’s passion still burned for the withering flower.
Conner wiped a hand over his face and sighed. There was no way around approaching Dante.
He stood and exited his office, slamming the door shut behind him. The halls were empty of vampires, except for the few newborns that were still too weak to hunt. They watched in silence when Conner stormed past them, then cleared out of the hallways, shutting themselves away in the protection of their bedrooms.
Conner headed up several flights of stairs until he found himself approaching Valeria’s designated room. He hesitated upon reaching it; his fist inches away from knocking on the wooden door.
Dante must’ve heard Conner approach the room. Within the second he knocked, the door drew open, and Dante looked at him with a shrunken expression.
Conner studied his Master, catching the downcast of his eyes as he sighed and stepped aside to let his secondhand in.
The only light was from the moon, which shined through the window, but Conner had no problem taking in the details of the room. It was like most of their guest rooms, except for the frail blonde that laid in the thick covers of the bed.
Conner could hear the raspy breaths from the woman as she slumbered and her scent was laced with decay. Her heartbeat stuttered often.
Dante closed the door behind them and leaned against it.
“I called the woman,” he muttered. “She’s supposed to be here soon.”
Conner thought for a moment. The woman his Master referred to had to be the only sorceress left from Independence.
“What can she do?”
Conner nodded and stared at the sorceress. She tossed to her other side, facing the windows, and sighed in her sleep.
“What are you doing here?” Dante asked.
“Reporting.” Conner turned to Dante and grimaced. “It’s not good.”
“Isaac is draining any vampire that he approaches.”
A look of disgust crossed into Dante’s features as he stiffened with shock. He lifted a hand to his face.
Isaac…a cannibal? His old friend must really have gone insane. There was no turning back from cannibalism in vampire society.
“I have to kill him.” Dante lifted his head to stare at Conner. “I have to do it. No one else is strong enough anymore.”
“I can do it—”
“No,” Dante hissed. “No. You must stay here. We can’t leave this place unattended. Especially with her here.” He turned to Valeria, who was unaware of the situations outside of this room. “I…I can’t let her die.”
“Has she refused to join us?”
“Yes.” Dante sighed. “I can’t do it against her will. She’d hate me more than she did before if I did that.”
They watched Valeria for a moment longer before Conner laid a hand on his Master’s shoulder. “Please…let me go instead of you. I can take him out. I’m the eldest of the coven.”
“I can’t let you do that. It must be me.”
Dante shrugged. “I have to finish what I started. It’s my fault that he’s still around. I turned him in the first place.”
“And if you die?” Conner asked, hesitant. He didn’t want to know the answer and panicked to think of losing his Master.
“You take my place,” Dante said. “And take care of her for me.”
Conner stepped closer to Dante and muttered, “She won’t last long, Dante. Her heart seems to slow each minute.”
“If the woman gets here in time and can save her, then watch over her for me,” Dante said.
“Please let me go in your stead,” Conner insisted again. He held onto Dante’s shoulder, begging him. He was willing to sacrifice himself to keep the Duke in power in Independence.
Any other vampire leader would be okay with letting someone else die in their place. Vampires were greedy by nature and yet Dante would rather he be the martyr than any of his coven members.
“No – and that’s an order,” Dante growled, then moved toward the bed. “Let me say good night to her before I go.”
“Okay.” Conner was reluctant, but he turned to leave his Master and the sorceress alone.
“Wait,” Dante said. He stood by the woman’s side of the bed with his arms crossed over his chest. “I want you to text all scout groups and tell them to withdraw, then message the sorceress I contacted earlier about when she will be here. Then wait outside this door. When I leave, come in here and watch her.”
“Yes, Master.” Conner left the room with clenched fists, gritting his teeth. His Master was stubborn.
If Dante had it his way, he would go to kill Isaac and die instead, leaving Conner and the rest of the clan to fend for themselves.