“Don’t go anywhere,” Alyssa said for the gazillionth times in the span of two minutes.
“I won’t,” I said through gritted teeth, forcing down the urge to punch her.
“What are you looking at?” Alyssa asked, frowning.
“That,” Lily said, and I turned slightly in my chair to see her pointing at something. We were in front of the ruin foundation that used to be Tronis Inc. Now it was nothing more than scorched earth with a gigantic hole in the center.
“I don’t see anything,” I said and scowled. “What are we looking at?”
“There,” Lily said hesitantly. “You don’t see it?”
“No,” Alyssa said slowly. “What do you see?”
“It looks like a bunch of symbols of some kind drawn into the ground.”
Alyssa went very still, not even breathing as she looked from me, to her, and back to me. “Wait here,” she said. “I’ll be right back.”
“Where are you going?” Lily and I asked in unison.
“I’m going to get Davina. Just wait here, I’ll be back.” Before we could protest, she was gone in a flash. Lily came around my chair, until she was standing in front of me.
“Why is she getting Davina?” she asked and frowned, her eyes flickering back to the hole where the symbols apparently were.
I shrugged. “No idea,” I said and sat back. She stood there, hovering over me and scanning our surroundings.
“Girls,” a low voice hissed. Lily let out a squeak as my heart began to pound. A vampire moved into view, the sunglasses hiding his eyes. With them on, I couldn’t tell if he was hungry or if he had already fed.
“Who are you?” I asked, staring up at him. It was barely five PM, and the sun was setting quickly.
“Casiar,” he said, stopping beside my chair. “Have we met?” he drawled.
“I don’t think we have,” I said slowly.
“Are you a Tronis?” Lily blurted out before clamping her mouth shut.
“What makes you ask such a thing?” When she didn’t answer, he chuckled. “I am, and what are you looking at?” Lily blushed and shifted on her feet as his gaze zeroed in on the spot she was staring at. A long minute past, and then Tristan along with Alyssa and Davina appeared out of thin air. “Is there a party that I don’t know about?” Casiar asked, not taking his eyes from whatever he was looking at. “If so, I didn’t get an invitation. I’m hurt.”
“You don’t need one,” Davina muttered. “You’ll just crash it.”
“Point taken, witch. Point taken.”
The witch let out a huff of annoyance. “You’re not the only one with a brain in your skull, vampire.”
“Yes,” he drawled, a notepad along with a pencil appearing in his hands. “And it’s withering away by the second.”
Davina’s eyes widened. “Is it? Are they still intact? Can I give you a premature death and study you?”
Casiar sighed, giving the notepad and pencil to Lily. “Put a hand on me or so much as utter a single syllable of a spell my way, I’ll use your skull as a serving bowl after Jordana scoops out your brain and paints her bedroom walls with it. I’ll make sure your spirit feels every blissful, painful second of it. I’m sure my mate has a way to keep your spirit self bound to a corporeal part of yourself.”
Davina shuddered. “Touched a nerve did I?”
“Fine, I’ll kill you and experiment on you. How does that sound? Maybe I’ll keep you alive.”
Anger flashed in the witch’s eyes. “How dare you,” she snarled.
He tisked at her. “Touched a nerve did I?” he asked, throwing the witch’s words back at her. She glared at him, and my skin prickled. After frowning at the stuff in her hands for the longest time, Lily sat on the ground and began to draw. Casiar stiffened, and then moved in a blur, so fast it gave me whiplash. Davina choked as his hands closed around her throat. I let out a yelp as a knife appeared in her hand. She drove it into Casiar’s side until only the hilt was showing. Alyssa, Lily and I froze, watching the blood drip onto the ground. Casiar didn’t let up his hold on the witch’s neck, if anything, he squeezed harder. “You witches really do love playing with fire,” he hissed. By this point, Davina was trying to remove his hands from around her neck. She was turning purple and on the verge of passing out. With a snarl, Casiar released her, and she doubled over, gasping in a huge amount of air. Rubbing her bruised neck, she straightened. I could practically see steam pouring from her ears.
“You are just as bad as your brother,” Davina spat, and then gasped in pain as Casiar stabbed her in the stomach with the same knife she used on him.
“And don’t you forget it,” he said softly before yanking it out. Tristan let out a hiss as Alyssa made a strangling sound at the back of her throat. Davina frowned as she watched the stab wound healed before her very eyes. Tristan grabbed the back of Alyssa’s shirt and pulled her to a stop, her eyes on the witch. Casiar stepped up beside Tristan and held the knife out to him, smirking. “Like a taste?” he asked. A small plastic cup appeared in his other hand. “I’ll even put it in a cup for you,” he said as blood slid from the blade. Tristan let out a growl of annoyance and snatched both cup and knife from him. Before Alyssa could go for the witch, Casiar’s hand shot out and yanked her to him. “Not today,” he said to her as she struggled against him. Tristan sheathed the knife, and Davina let out an angry curse.
“I want that back,” she snapped. Ignoring her, he tossed the drop of witch blood into his mouth. When he was done, the cup disappeared from his hand. “Tristan,” she snarled.
“Davina!” Casiar snarled. The witch stilled, her eyes flickering back and forth between him and Tristan. “Take off your ring,” he said softly, causing more chills to race up and down my spine. She opened her mouth, but a low growl from him kept her silent. “Take off your ring, because apparently, you cannot take the time to look around when we vampires are clouding your poor, poor mind.” He spun Alyssa around in his arms and glared down at her. “And you,” he snapped. “Stop.” When she continued to struggle, he let out another growl, his hand going to her neck.
“Don’t you dare!” Davina yelled, and then shot a fireball at him as we heard the unmistakable sound of bones being snapped. I grimaced but remained silent. If I hadn’t known Alyssa would survive, I might’ve thrown something at Casiar’s head and scream bloody murder. The necromancer shoved my unconscious sister at Tristan who caught her and snapped a pair of handcuffs around her wrists. I opened my mouth to say something, but a hand on my shoulder stopped me. Just a precaution, Jailyn said softly into my mind. I nodded and relaxed a little. Where in the hell did she come from? I thought and grumbled.
“Throw another fireball my way, I dare you,” Casiar whispered, and I gulped.
“What, going to combust me with a spell of your own?” Davina snapped. She sucked in a sharp breath, clutching her head and moaning. She turned green, and her throat worked as she swallowed.
“I,” Casiar said softly. “Don’t need magic for that, witch.” I rubbed my arms and shuddered as the air became charged. “I don’t even have to lift a finger to kill you. One hard mental twist and you’ll be bleeding brain from your eyes and stomach juice from your ears.” Tristan let out a chuckle, which earned him a sharp jab in the side from Jailyn. “Do we understand each other?” The witch nodded slowly, as if it took so much effort to do so. “Now, shut the fuck up and listen.” A few seconds later, Davina gulped in the cold air, her coloring returning back to normal. Casiar gestured to Lily. My sister had her mouth wide open, looking like she was going to eat the pencil she was holding. Jailyn bent and closed her mouth. Lily yelped, blinking rapidly.
“Here, sweetheart,” Jailyn said, a water bottle appearing in her hand. She handed it to Lily, who dropped the pencil and tried to open the bottle with trembling red fingers. Jailyn took it from her and opened it.
“Thanks,” Lily mumbled, taking the water back and downing it.
“What is that you’re drawing?” Davina rasped and cleared her throat. The witch moved closer and crouched beside my sister, staring at the half finished something. Lily shrugged. “Can you finish it?” She nodded, setting the almost empty water bottle down next to her.
“Finally,” Casiar said with a heavy sigh. Davina whipped her head around and glared at him. They locked eyes in a staring contest, and of course, Davina was the first to look away. “Have you heard the phrase, never look a vampire directly in the eye?” he drawled. One of Davina’s hands twitched, as if itching to raise it to cast a spell. Casiar gave a creepy ass smile she couldn’t see, and I shivered.
Alyssa let out a groaned, slowly sitting up and rubbing her neck. “The hell just happened?”
“I got the pleasure of snapping your neck, sweetheart,” Casiar said dryly.
Alyssa frowned and glared at the handcuffs around her wrists. “Why do I have these on?” she grumbled.
“For,” I said and made air quotes with my fingers. “Precaution,” I finished, imitating Jailyn’s singsong voice. It didn’t come out sounding as melodic as I’d like but whatever. I also got popped in the back of my head for my imitation effort. I smirked. “Sorry, I just had to.”
“You’re lucky I am not a rogue,” Jailyn said in amusement. “Or I’d rip into your pretty little neck.”
Tristan let out a heavy sigh, shaking his head and un-cuffing my sister. “Can we get going?” he muttered.
“Come,” Jailyn said, tapping my seatbelt. “Out the chair you go.” I unbuckled myself and pushed up and out. I would’ve fallen as my legs gave out from under me if Tristan hadn’t caught me. He didn’t release me; he simply picked me up and started walking down the steps and toward the gigantic hole.
“Hey,” I spluttered, punching his arm. “I can walk.”
“I know you can,” he growled, and I shuddered against him. “But you can’t fly or drop three hundred feet down.” I squeaked. “And teleporting is out of the question.”
“It has a no teleporting spell in place,” he said through gritted teeth.
“Am I annoying you?”
He bared his fangs, and I leaned away from him, or as far as I could with him holding me. “Yes.” He stopped and sighed. “Look behind you.” I did and squeezed my eyes shut at how far down we had to go. “I suggest you hold onto me tightly,” he drawled. I turned back around in his arms and buried my face against his chest, my own arms and legs going around him and squeezing. “Please, don’t scream,” he said and jumped. I didn’t scream out loud, but inside my head I was letting it rip. Then I silently curse up a storm as I tasted copper in my mouth. Tristan moved through the air, and I opened one eye, peering over his shoulder. He was dodging wires, beams, protruding floorboards, dangling light bulbs, and other stuff.
“Are we there yet?” I squeaked, my heart hammering against my chest. I opened my other eye and looked anywhere but down. Still holding him in a death grip, I glanced up at him. I broke out in a cold sweat when I didn’t see any hint of red in his white eyes. His throat worked furiously, remaining silent apart from the growls I could feel vibrating from him. His hand went to the back of my head, pushing it until my face was pressed against his chest. I closed my eyes again, and the next thing I knew, air whooshed past my ears. They popped a couple of times before he came to a slow stop. I could now make out loud banging, thumping, clanking or clinking noises coming from somewhere. Tristan moved his hand from my head to my shoulder, and when I remained as I was, he applied a little pressure, as if going to push me away.
“You might want to let him go now,” Ari said, a hint of laughter in her voice. I felt a small hand against my pant leg, tugging at it. “Even Natalia is agreeing with me.”
“You’re not tricking me, are you?” I asked.
“No trick,” Ari said reassuringly. “You’re here.” Since Tristan was still cupping my ass to prevent me from falling, I slowly released my strangling hold on him. My hands on his arms, he bent until my feet met solid ground. When my world stopped spinning around me, I slowly opened my eyes and looked around. A cold hand tugged at my own, and I glanced down to find Natalia giving the let-him-go-now-or-you’ll-regret-it look. I glanced back at Tristan and let out a yelp as I saw his eyes and fangs. I quickly stepped from his arms, and only Ari’s hand on his shoulder kept him from lunging for me. She let out a gasped as he turned on her, fangs going for her throat. I winced as curses flew from her mouth in several languages, one of which was Italian. Natalia and I both shuddered at Tristan’s low snarls. She tugged at my hand, and I let her lead me away from them and toward the others.
“Did you have to bite your tongue?” the little girl asked, almost groaning.
“I’m sorry,” I said with a heavy sigh.
“You’re lucky Ari took me hunting before coming here,” she said and grumbled. Not long after, Tristan and Ari joined us—him looking hungrier rather than sated, and her grimacing, rubbing her neck and looking annoyed.
“Why didn’t you give her a pleasure bite or a painless bite?” I asked conversationally. They both blinked at me. Tristan’s eyes lowered to my mouth, and then he let out a curse as Ari elbowed him hard in the side. My cheeks burned, and I mentally slapped myself for biting my tongue in the first place. It stopped bleeding, but I could still taste the lingering copper of blood in my mouth. I licked my lips nervously, and this time, Tristan jumped away from Ari before she could elbow him again. Beside me, Natalia let out a giggle. I couldn’t help it. I smiled, shaking my head as Ari continued to give Tristan a warning look. “So,” I said as we turned down another hall. “You still didn’t answer my question.”
“Kid,” Ari said dryly. “Trust me when I say this. You don’t want a show. No one here wants a show.” Tristan muttered something I couldn’t make out. Judging from the curses that flew from his mouth a second later, Ari must’ve given him another hard jab. We stopped outside a barely hanging door, and I once again looked around. Vampires were moving all over the place, totally not paying attention to us.
“Where are we?” I finally asked.
“This is the compound,” a female vampire with blond hair with bright red streaks said, stopping beside us. I wouldn’t have known she was a vampire if it wasn’t for her eyes or the flash of fangs I saw when she spoke. She held out her hand to me, and I reluctantly took it and shook. “Jadianne and you are?”
“Pleasure to meet you, Brianna.” She looked past me. “Has my sire given you any trouble? Or do I need to kick his ass?”
I smirked. “I think Ari already took care of that.”
“And Natalia,” she said, crouching before the girl so that they were eye level. “How are you on this night?”
“Good,” said Natalia.
“Have you had dinner yet?”
“I haven’t,” Tristan grumbled as she nodded. Jadianne straightened and looked at the ruined door.
“We haven’t been in any of the apartments yet,” she said to Tristan.
He nodded. “How is it going out here?”
“It’s going good so far. No one—” A pained yell came from somewhere, and Jadianne winced. “Never mind,” she said and ran off.
“The hell has Kira got herself into this time?” Ari asked with a sigh. “Honestly, that girl cannot stay out of trouble for a minute straight.”
“Stay here with the girls,” Tristan said and was gone.
“I love you, too!” she called out, and then gently pushed us forward while she sent the door careening out of the way. “Let’s have a drink and a snack,” she said, kicking broken furniture out of our way. She brought us to a stop and scowled, looking around the apartment. She cleared a spot and nodded to Natalia who lowered herself to the floor. Ari helped me moved into a sitting position next to her before moving to what looked like a ruined bedroom. Dust and rubble were all around us, and I made sure I stayed far away from the sharp edges of broken things and shards of glass. A moment later, Ari came back out with a couple of blood bags and a bottle of water in hand. Natalia blinked up at her as Ari handed her the blood and me the water. The water was room temperature, and I glanced at Natalia who was pouting down at the blood in her hands.
“They survived the explosion?” I asked in bewilderment.
“Yes and no,” she said and sat down on the huge pile of unrecognizable junk. “The mini refrigerator is spelled to withstand bullets, fire and such, but the electricity is another matter.” A large bag of cheeto puffs appeared in her hand, and Natalia and I made a grab for it. She moved it out of our reach and tapped Natalia on the top of her head. “Drink it,” she said. “Or you’ll go hungry, and I’ll give this to Brianna only.”
“And I’m off the menu,” I said. Still pouting, Natalia bit into the bag and grimaced.
“Don’t,” Ari warned. “Drink it all.” Satisfied that the girl was going to drink it all, she dropped the bag of chips in front of us. I took it and opened it. Natalia stopped drinking long enough to pop a chip into her mouth. While we sat there in silence, well silence in the apartment that was, I slowly drank my water and wondered what in the world I was doing here. Not that I minded being around supernaturals, but it was weird being the only human around.
“I have to pee,” I said a moment later. I had to pee like fifteen minutes ago, but I was too busy trying not to get bitten.
Ari glanced at another room that looked like a bathroom and grimaced. “I don’t think plumbing survived the explosion,” she said dryly.
“But I have to pee like right now,” I said, groaning as Alyssa, Sven, Brynna, Elijah, Evelyn, Allia, and Tristan holding a miserable-looking, limping Kira by the back of her neck appeared in the broken doorway. I swear he looked like he wanted to stake her and nail her to a wall. Alyssa broke from the group and came over to me.
“Can’t you hold it?” she asked, plopping her ass down beside Ari.
“No,” I said and resisted the urge to cup my crotch in an attempt to hold my pee in.
“Come on,” Evelyn said and plucked me from the floor. “Teleporting,” she said, a second before everything went dark. When it lifted, I found myself in a bathroom. Knowing that, I couldn’t drop my pants fast enough, and of course I need help. It was either that or falling on my face. Evelyn held me as I shoved my pants down and would’ve fallen into the toilet if she hadn’t been holding me. I almost groaned out loud as I finally relieved myself. When I was done, Evelyn held out her arm and I grabbed hold of it, pushing to my feet. The toilet flushed on its own as I struggled to pull my pants up. A few seconds later, I walked to the sink and washed my hands. “Would you like to go back?” Evelyn asked, her hand at the small of my back. I nodded. After drying my hands on one of the pale blue towels, she wrapped her arms around me, and everything once again went dark. I found myself back at the gigantic hole, and I shuddered. “Are you ready?” she asked, turning me until I was facing her. Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, I wrapped myself around her, squeezed my eyes shut, and nodded. “Please don’t scream or bite yourself this time.” At my nod, she jumped.