The woman looked like a modern new-age hippie, with bead bracelets decorating her arms and several necklaces hanging from her neck. Her greying hair sat in a lumpy mess on top of her head.
Her eyes were possibly the only peculiar thing about her, with bright violet hues that glinted each time she moved.
“Dante.” The sorceress smiled as he and Conner approached. “What a pleasure.”
“Yes, it is.”
“How is my ancestor doing?”
“About dead,” Conner responded. “We have a schedule to keep, Dot. Enough pleasantries.”
Dante nodded, a little impressed by the sternness in Conner’s attitude. He was used to be the stoic leader.
Though in the last few days, he was probably the opposite of stoic, with everything going on.
“Let’s head up, then,” Dot said with another soft smile.
Conner led the way, followed by Dante and Dot walking side by side. Dot had always liked Dante, even when he was a massive prick to her and everyone else.
But now he was emotionally exhausted and distant. He wanted to be with Valeria, but was the only one that could confront Isaac.
They went up two flights of stairs before reaching Valeria’s floor. Her bedroom sat at the end of the hallway. One of Korinna’s vampire friends stood, watching and listening for Valeria through the door.
Lottie noticed the three walking toward her and said, “Nothing’s changed, luckily.”
“Thank you, Charlotte,” Dante muttered. He then dismissed her before opening the door.
Valeria’s breathing, which was one of two sounds in the room, was heavy and raspy, as if her throat was scorching dry and her lungs could barely hold any breath. Her heart was the only other noise in the room, so faint that even Dante could hardly pick up on it.
Dante and Conner could see well in the darkened room, but Dot blinked and rubbed her eyes as all three of them entered.
“Oh dear,” Dot muttered. “She is almost gone, isn’t she?”
“Yes,” Dante whispered and rushed to Valeria’s side, sitting down on the edge of the bed beside her. Unconscious still, Valeria was covered in a sheet of sweat.
Dot came up behind him and touch Valeria’s wrist, then moved her fingers to press against the crease in between her neck and jaw, feeling for her heartbeat. Unlike the vampires, her senses were not nearly as heightened.
“I don’t know exactly what you want me to do here,” she said. “Do you want me to rewind her body? Tie her soul to you? Turn her into something else entirely?”
“She doesn’t want to be turned,” Dante said. “And her soul’s already tied to Isaac.”
“If that was true, then she would be just fine,” Dot said. “The tie must’ve broken once the spell was released.”
“What?” Dante started and gritted his teeth. His eyes darted between the two sorceresses. “She told me that she was still tied to him.”
“Maybe she thought she was? It’s been so long since she’s been awake, she might just be rusty.”
“But to her, all she did was go to sleep and then wake up,” Dante said. “There was no sense of time for her.”
Dot hummed to herself and tapped her chin. “Everything must’ve been foggy for her still. Her magic is dormant. There is barely any left inside of her. Maybe that’s why she’s fading.”
“How do you restore magic in a sorcerer, then?”
Dante stood from the bed. He gritted his teeth as a low growl reverberated through his chest. “What do you mean ‘you don’t’?”
“The magic essence that is in every sorcerer multiplies on itself,” Dot replied, uninterested in Dante’s show of aggression, and sighed. “Which means that if the magic is all burnt out in the sorcerer, then there’s nothing to multiply.”
“Is there any way to speed up the process?”
“No. It’s purely all on the sorcerer’s body and will.”
Dante turned his attention back to Valeria. She hadn’t moved from her position since they entered the room and Dante didn’t think she could. Her chest was the only thing moving, and even then, it barely did so.
“Can you tie her soul to mine? Would that heal her?”
“I don’t know.” Dot mulled. “I’ve never tied someone to a vampire before.”
“She did it—”
“By trapping her brother and falling into a magical coma?” Dot snorted. “Yeah, I know. But that’s not the same thing that we’re talking about. That wasn’t the main purpose for the spell.”
Dante gulped and began to pace and fidget. “Look, I just want to save her. I can’t lose her again.”
“Calm down, vamp.” Dot waved off his anxiety. “You plan on doing a suicide mission while she’s out cold, anyway. What if you die and leave her alone?”
“At least she would be safe and alive.”
“Doesn’t she want to die? She never wanted to live this long, anyway, did she?” Dot crossed her arms and sighed. “Look, you’re thinking rather selfishly. You would just be prolonging her misery by doing this – especially if you die.”
“If they were tied together, wouldn’t she die if he did?” Conner asked, piping into the conversation. He had stayed by the door the entire time, watching his Master pace in panic and keeping his eye on Dot with caution.
“That is very likely,” Dot said. “I’m ninety percent sure that would happen.”
“What about the other ten percent?” Conner asked.
“He’s a vampire.” Dot shrugged. “Like I said, I haven’t done this before with a vampire.”
“What do I do?” Dante raked his hands through his hair, pulling. “I can’t let her die. Not like this.”
“You don’t want her to die for yourself, Dante.” Dot shook her head at him. “Think about it. Think about what you would do to her if you died and she lived.”
“What if I lived? What if I turned her and—”
“No.” Dot stopped him in his tracks, put her hands on his shoulders, and turned him to look at Valeria. “Look at her. She said she didn’t want to be turned. Don’t go against that. She would hate you for the rest of her existence, especially if you died and left her like this.”
Dante paled. He took several deep breathes and studied the woman he loved for over a century.
She was a wraith lying in the luxurious bed. Everything about her paled in comparison to what she was before Dante destroyed her life.
He had done that to her and though he groveled while she was conscious, he still hadn’t made it up to her – and never would.
A shaky sigh escaped him as he shoved Dot away from him and dropped to his knees by Valeria’s bed. Tears threatened to fall, but he fought them off as he grabbed Valeria’s hands and held them tight.
“You’re right,” he whispered. “I can’t do that to her. I’ve already fucked her life up so much already.”
“It is best to let her go,” Dot muttered. “I’m sorry. I wish I could’ve been more help.”
Conner opened the door for Dot, who studied Dante and Valeria for a moment before turning on her heels and rushing out of the room.
She only stopped by Conner to whisper, “When Dante doesn’t come back, contact me. You’ll need my help.”
Dot disappeared out of the door before Conner could reply, hurrying down the hallway. Conner watched her flee the floor before shutting the door.
Dante caressed Valeria’s clammy cheek with tears now rolling down his own, muttering soft words to her. She stopped reacting to his touch, fallen way too deeply into her sleep.
“I don’t want to leave her, Conner,” Dante whispered.
Conner came up behind him. His arms were crossed against his chest. He stared down at the tragic scene before him with an emotionless mask, watching his Master grow closer to his inevitable end.
“I don’t want you to die, Master,” Conner muttered.
“I must kill him, Conner. That’s the final decision,” Dante hissed and threw a glare over his shoulder. “Don’t you care about this? She’s dying.”
“I care about your feelings, of course,” Conner said. “But she wasn’t supposed to live this long. It would be different if she wanted to be turned, but she didn’t. This is inevitable.”
Dante stood in a fast fury and came close to Conner. Their noses nearly touched as Dante hissed in Conner’s face, “How dare you?”
“Don’t lose yourself, Dante,” Conner said, unwavering. “Our clan is down to fifteen vampires, not including the possible ones that got away from Isaac. We’re nearing extinction in Independence because you let Isaac escape and didn’t kill him when you had the chance. Now, you’re going to go sacrifice yourself and destroy everything you’ve built up, and all you’re worrying about is this woman you loved a hundred years ago?”
Dante roared and threw a fist at Conner’s face, nearly hitting him before Conner ducked and moved away from his Master.
“You’re walking to your death because of this woman and an old friend of yours, and leaving me to handle all the shit you’ll be leaving behind. You know what will happen when the Prince gets a hold of this?” Conner asked. “He’ll have my head. The clan will be disbanded. I’ll be kicked out of Independence. Everything you built will die.”
Dante lunged at him again, now filled with blinding rage. “How dare you?” He screamed with claws outstretched.
Conner once again dodged Dante’s attack, ducking under his arms and moving to the other side of the room.
“Don’t blame and attack me for your own mess-ups, Master,” Conner growled. “I’m just telling you how it is. I want you to succeed, so everything doesn’t die.”
“And how am I to do that? Isaac’s running on vampire blood now.” Dante faced him. His chest heaved as the rage continued to course through him. He wanted to stop the anger, the inevitable deaths of both him and Valeria, and the downfall of the clan, but how could he? They were all doomed. The best thing he could do was go down destroying Isaac.
“You’re blinded by your humanity, Dante,” Conner said. “That’s why all of this is happening. You never let go of it, because you never let yourself give up on Valeria.”
Dante blinked in surprise. Realization flooded over him like an icy bath. His jaw worked as he tried to respond, but no words came out.
It was true. This was all his fault – and he had to make it right.
“You think I didn’t notice how you went down to her room every week – if not every night?” Conner asked with a scoff. “When it all finally happened, you lost whatever control you had over your humanity. Now, it’s destroyed not only you and her, but everyone else that has ever followed you.”
“Then it’s best that I go kill him and face the consequences, isn’t it?”
“I told you that I wanted you to succeed.”
Conner paused. His eyes darted to Valeria.
Dante clutched his head and turned away from Conner, screeching, “No. No, I can’t.”
Conner rushed to his Master’s side. “Yes, you can. Don’t you see? Her soul’s already gone. It’s just a matter of time when her body stops. Isaac needs to be stopped, Dante, and if it means drinking her blood to even the odds of killing him and saving the clan, then it must be done.”
“I…I can’t.” Dante squeezed his eyes shut. His mind exploded as the panic seized and ran rampant throughout his body. Memories of Valeria lying beside him, under him, kissing him, touching him, smiling, whispering, laughing…he couldn’t destroy that. He couldn’t.
Conner nudged him again. Dante turned to the bed, stared at the body lying in it, and swallowed. All those memories that ran through his head showed nothing of that woman lying there.
His sired was right. Valeria was gone. There was nothing in that body but a heartbeat and breaths.
“God.” Dante clutched his head and sobbed into his hands. “God, she’s gone.”
Conner touched Dante’s shoulder in a shred of comfort. His face was a continuous mask. He at least had to be the voice of reason and logic, while his Master lost his mind over this woman.
“We must do this before Isaac goes on to kill humans,” Conner muttered to Dante. “And it is almost dawn.”
Dante shrugged Conner off, nodded, and wiped a hand over his face, clearing the wetness of his tears. He took a deep breath and dropped down on his knees by Valeria, grabbing her small, frail hands into his own. Her whole body was limp, reminding him that her soul was indeed gone.
He scowled at Conner, hissing, “Leave the room.”
Conner nodded and ducked out of the room, shutting the door behind him. The room fell into darkness again, leaving Dante and Valeria’s body in deep silence.
Dante caressed Valeria’s cheek with the back of his hand, taking deep breaths. He was unsure that he could bite her and consume the life out of her body, but Conner was right. All Dante could do now that her soul left was use her essence to save what he had built.
He shut his eyes briefly, hoping it would all disappear and he would suddenly appear back in his throne room, where everything was back to normal and he was surrounded by his clan in its fullness. He imagined Valeria being there, a vampire, hanging off the edge of his knees as a meeting of the clan raged on for hours. He could see her leaning to his ear, saying she was bored and would rather be in his bed than there, and him getting excited.
Dante wondered if that could’ve ever happened.
Then opened his eyes and knew that it was a fantasy drifting somewhere in some other universe.
He crawled on the bed and pulled her body into his arms. His fangs were withdrawn, poking through his lips, waiting to sink into the flesh of her neck.
Dante shook with anticipation and guilt as he pulled her head to lay on his shoulder.
The blood running through her veins was thick and slow. Her heart was just about to stop.
Dante latched his lips to the artery in her neck, tasting her for the first time in over a century. While her taste was heavy with sweat, it was also sweet, like vanilla, and made him moan.
Tears escaped out of the corner of his eyes as his fangs poked through her skin and fresh blood flooded his mouth. The taste was sweeter than her skin. His moan turned heavy as his mouth pulled on her skin, drawing more and more blood with larger gulps.
More tears cascaded down his face as a sob caught in his throat. He sputtered, pulling for more blood while shoving down the torrent of emotions that crashed into him.
The dull spark of life in Valeria’s body sputtered only for a second before it was blown out.
Dante shoved her away once the blood ran dry, roaring in anguish and clutching his head. He moved off of the bed and onto the floor on his knees, sobbing.
Valeria was gone – once and for all – and her very essence fueled the vicious heat in his body. Dante could feel what magic she had left in his veins, pumping his blood at a heightened speed than normal human’s blood.
It could’ve easily been addictive if he hadn’t gone insane with the agony of the loss.
Minutes later, the door to the bedroom swung open.
Conner stood in the doorway with light pouring into the room behind him. He saw the dead body on the bed and Dante’s back. Dante shot him a terrifying look from over his shoulder, hissing; his whole front covered with Valeria’s escaped blood.
He looked ravenous and pissed off, Conner noted.
Maybe it would be just enough for Dante to kill Isaac.
“Come on, Master,” Conner muttered. “Isaac’s waiting.”