THE CRIMSON FLOW

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Chapter 5.2 - A MEANS TO AN END

“Why are you so nervous, Riley?” Luke asked. The vampire stood in front of the human who sat, agitated, on the edge of the bed.

Riley knew to choose his words carefully. “I appreciate my usefulness is on a ‘need to know only’ basis, but I genuinely do not know what it is you want me to achieve.”

Luke cupped Riley’s chin, coercing him to look up. “You have a distinct advantage,” Luke said, his tongue coating his lips. The vampire knelt and started to unbutton Riley’s shirt.

Riley swallowed, nervous. His eyes darted to Tony, Luke’s elder brother, who was stuffing a change of clothing into a rucksack. The sibling glanced over, his face impassive.

Luke’s fingers stroked Riley’s chest, lingering over some of the bite marks. Riley shuddered, his inner dread rising at a rate of knots keeping him pinned, immobile. “You are practically where this Becky wishes to be,” Luke said, salacious.

“H - here?” Riley asked, confused and trying to block out Luke’s touch.

The vampire laughed trenchantly. “I do not mean in this house, fool!” He tweaked Riley’s nipple causing the human to yelp.

Luke’s eyes flared, and he stood up, abrupt, then started pacing. “In her journal, the woman confesses her desire for Cain. She follows him around like a lovesick puppy and imagines being with him forever. But, she can only achieve that one way, can’t she? The father of vampires refuses to grant her wish.”

“I’m still unclear...” stammered Riley, although hugely relieved the vampire had lost interest in his body.

“I want Cain to know that I will follow where he leads. If this woman is a nuisance to him - as I suspect she is - then she will need ‘re-programmed’.”

“You’re going to kill her?”

Luke guffawed, but there was an element of impatience in its timbre. “And induce the wrath of Cain? I saw first-hand how he deals with those who ‘defile’ the human race. No! Distractions such as Becky, are to be discouraged only. Cain is on a crusade - seeking his redemption. I aim to assist him and in so doing, earn his favour.”

“You seek sanctification?”

“My dear Riley, even vampires look toward divinity. I think you have misunderstood my desire to find Cain and his angelic companions. Forget not; angels are killers too; they were God’s soldiers. Cain’s companions, while Fallen, are not evil. They, according to Becky’s notes, remain faithful to God.”

Riley nodded, although he did not believe what Luke implied. From what he had witnessed thus far, the coven was greedy and lustful. He played along, nonetheless. “And as Cain is Nephilim, a hybrid with angel blood in his veins, you want to rise on high with him, join in his crusade, is that it?” He fought to contain his recalcitrance.

Luke smiled tight. “We all do; it is our ultimate goal. Is that not right, Tony?” Luke glanced at his brother.

Tony remained impartial and dumped the rucksack on the bed beside Riley. “We need to get moving, hurry up.” Then he left the room.

While Luke sounded genuine, Riley knew deep down there was an ulterior motive. The vampires in whose company he was subjected, were devious; he believed there was nothing good about them - no intention of righting wrongs, seeking redemption or embarking on some Holy Crusade. Riley found it equally hard to believe Cain was any better - only perhaps more compelling, lethal.

Luke continued. “We have wandered this earth a little aimless, I admit. I have strived to lead my disciples in cleansing the human race of those unfit to breathe, in honour of Cain’s example. Alas, not all have followed my teachings.”

“You mean the likes of Barnett and his accomplices?”

“Precisely. We do have traits which need refined, as you have bore witness - we are not without sins ourselves. But some sins, Riley, are necessary to achieve one’s goal and required for survival.”

The vampire tugged his jacket, straightening the collar and cuffs. Then he wrapped a scarf around his neck - all purely for an aesthetic look, he did not feel temperatures after all. He looked askance at Riley, who was now re-fastening his shirt. He noted how the human’s hands trembled as he struggled to co-ordinate the buttons.

“Your distaste for our way of life becomes more obvious every day, Riley,” Luke said, selecting a woollen overcoat from the wardrobe. “Nonetheless, you chose to join our ranks, even though I can see you regret it now.”

Riley did not answer. Self-loathing was simmering under the surface, emotions he had to contain. If he managed to survive this preternatural encounter - which he sincerely doubted - never again would he be so foolish as to think the grass was greener on the other side. There was nothing wrong with humdrum.

Luke suddenly grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him close. “But, you still belong to me! Do not forget it! You are more useful to me as a human -” He pointed to the bite marks on Riley’s chest.

Stepping back, the human shakily fastened the last button on his shirt. “I am a vending machine,” Riley whispered, resigned, gingerly tucking his shirt into the waistband of his jeans.

Luke grinned, releasing him and handing over the winter coat. “Yes, and you are a means to an end - we all are to a degree. I need you to deter Becky from wanting to be Cain’s ‘mate’.”

It was apparent Luke admired this ‘father of vampires’, but Riley suspected his host’s reasoning behind disrupting Becky’s interest in Cain was not without malice aforethought. Regardless, he also felt obligated to warn this woman of the hideous mistake she was inviting. It may be the last decent thing he could do.

“So, you require me to talk her out of trying to become one of you, is that it?” Riley shouldered on the coat, momentarily surprised by the luxurious quality. His appreciation was soon dulled.

Luke sniggered, inspecting Riley in his winter attire. With a note of envy in his voice, the vampire said, “After seeing you with Christine in the shower this morning, I’m sure you can do better than just talk to her.”

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