“What the fuck?” I growled as I heard an explosion off into the distance.
“What was that?” Lorena hissed, tilting her head to the side and inhaling deeply. “It’s coming from the direction of that witch’s shop.”
“Fuck!” I exclaimed and wrapped my hand around her arm. A second later, we were standing several feet from Brulia’s shop, and her shop was engulfed in flames.
“Shit,” Lorena breathed. From the overwhelming scent of witch blood heavy and thick in the air, I knew that Brulia was caught in the explosion, and that she had not survived it. Tongues of flame leapt high into the oncoming dawn, lighting up the area as glass and debris flew in all directions. We ducked as a flaming piece of a door came at us. It flew over our heads to land in the street, smoking as it slowly disintegrated. “They really do love to blow up things,” Lorena muttered under her breath. My hand still around her arm, I teleported us a safe distance away from the flying debris. Grimacing, I pulled out my phone and reluctantly hit a name in my list of contacts.
“I swear to god,” Bridget mumbled sleepily in my ear. “If this is not an emergency, I’m going to cut off your testicles and feed them to you.”
I winced as Lorena smirked. “Please don’t,” I said. “I beg of you.”
Bridget let out a loud, loud aggravated groan, and she actually let out a whimper. “I was working all day, and then I had to watch Arvid while Astrid pulled an all-nighter at the ER,” she complained. “And he didn’t go to sleep until three hours ago.” Lorena and I both winced, and I felt a little bad for waking Bridget at the crack of dawn. “Do I have to get up?”
“I’m sorry for waking you,” I said, and she harrumphed. “Bring little Arvid along, I’m sure Natalia and Amaris would love to have him around.”
“Natalia would just eat him,” she muttered.
I chuckled. “She won’t, Ari will make sure that she doesn’t put a fang anywhere near your nephew.”
“Fine,” Bridget said with a dejected sigh. “Where?”
I smirked. “I’ll text you the location,” I said, and she grunted, hanging up on me. I chuckled as I texted her. “She didn’t even say bye to me,” I muttered.
“Runs in the family,” Lorena said as a couple of sirens could be heard off in the distance, and sadly, it was not Bridget. I hit send and pocketed my phone. “So, who is going to tell Tristan that there was another explosion?”
“You can,” I said. “He can fry your brain for a turn.” She sighed as I teleported us to HQ.
Tristan looked up from the computer screen and leaned back in his chair. He slowly put down the pen he was holding, waiting. I dropped my hand from Lorena and stepped back. There was a feather-like touch in my head, and then it was gone. To further shield my thoughts, I began to silently sing Bad Company’s version of ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’. This was all on Lorena, who still hadn’t said a thing. I mentally kicked her, and she winced, glaring at me. When silence continued to stretch on… and on, and on, Tristan let out a sigh. “If,” he said quietly, and I could hear the growl that just wanted to come out. “You don’t tell me why you two smell like smoke,” he warned.
“While out patrolling, we heard an explosion nearby. It was Brulia’s shop, and… she didn’t survive it.”
“I called Bridget,” I said. “So she and her partner can help with keeping the humans back.” I frowned. “Is Jadianne working with the firefighter’s response team today?” It wasn’t really working, more of… make-sure-no-media-gets-their-fingers-on-anything.
Tristan nodded. “Her and a few others.” He let out a snarl, and for a second I thought he was going to punch a hole right in the center of his computer screen. Shaking his head, he opened another window and began to type.
“Is Brynna another one of them?”
“She refuses to work with them.”
“She would protect them, but she won’t work with them.”
“Davina is going to be pissed as fuck.”
“Understatement of the year,” Lorena muttered.
“And… Jesric has found Callan’s body.”
Tristan nodded. “I will send word to Trynnadon,” he growled.
“Well,” I said. “I’m off to get the baby from Bridget. She should be at the scene by now.” He grunted. “Lorena, you coming?”
“She must feed before she leaves.”
“Oh.” I nodded. “Whenever you want to join me, just shout,” I said and teleported.
Appearing on the street a couple of blocks from the exploded shop, I launched myself into the sky. I flew over the fiery scene, scanning until I saw a tall, grumpy-looking blond in police uniform holding a sleeping baby wearing a white wooly hat and wrapped in a thick light blue blanket. She looked up as I dropped down next to her and leaned against her car. She glared at me, her nose and ears red from the cold. “Are you going to say hi to me?” I drawled.
“Dra åt helvete,” she muttered.
I blinked at her. “Now that is just not a nice way to greet someone this early in the day.” I reached out and slipped a finger under the blanket. Bridget eyed me warily as I lightly stroke the babe’s cheek.
“I need coffee,” she said with a heavy sigh. “Or I’m going to fall over dead within five minutes.”
“Give him to me, and I’ll grab you some coffee,” I said as I pulled my hand back. After a moment of hesitation, she kissed the baby on the forehead before holding him out to me. I took him from her, and she watched me intently as I cradled Arvid in my arm. “Bridget,” I said and reached out to lightly touch her hand in what I hope was a reassuring manner. “Nothing will happen to little Arvid. I give you my word.”
“Okay,” she said with another heavy sigh. She opened the driver’s side door and reached inside, pulling out a large baby bag and handing it to me along with the cradle.
I smirked, taking them from her. “I’ll be back with your coffee,” I said and teleported. I appeared on the residential floor of HQ, and the moment Natalia saw the babe in my arms, she came running.
“Baby!” she yelled, stopping in front of me.
“Shhh,” I said and silently laughed. “He’s sleeping.”
“Sorry,” she whispered as Ari appeared from one of the halls leading to several apartments.
“Sven,” Ari said and smiled. “Who do you have there?”
“I have Astrid’s son, Arvid.” I held him out to her. “Thought you can watch him for Bridget while she is working.”
“Of course,” she said, taking him from me.
“Is Amaris coming over today?” I asked as I set the cradle down on the couch.
“She is. Amanda is bringing her.”
I nodded as I walked into the kitchen. “We have any strong coffee around?” I asked. “I promised Bridget I’d bring her some.”
“I believe we do,” Ari said, going over to one of the cabinets and opening it. She took down a container, and I watched as she made the coffee while holding Arvid. “How does she like it?”
“I… have no idea.”
She laughed. “You better hope she likes it black.”
I shrugged. “It will at least wake her up some.” As the coffee brewed, she walked to the couch and put Arvid in his cradle. Natalia flopped down beside it, and Ari gave her a warning look.
“I won’t bite him,” the vampire child said with annoyance as she carefully folded back the blanket. “He’s so cuuuute,” she continued and poked his stomach.
“So,” Ari said, walking back into the kitchen. “What happened?”
“What makes you think something is wrong?” I asked.
“Sven,” she said dryly.
“You smell like smoke,” she said as Natalia continued to poke and talk to the sleeping baby, who stirred a couple of times but didn’t wake up.
“And your point is…?”
“Sven, I will slap you if you don’t tell me what’s going on,” she warned as she poured coffee into a traveling mug.
I let out a heavy sigh. “Brulia is dead.” Ari didn’t say anything as she finished up. Her expression remained neutral, but oh, the rage that radiated off of her… I inwardly shuddered. Natalia glanced nervously at her before returning her attention to the baby.
“How?” Ari asked conversationally as she handed me the mug along with a couple packets of sugar and cream.
Taking them from her, I took in a deep breath. “Explosion,” I said softly and got my ass out of there. An angry Ari was scary. Hell, any angry female was scary. Bridget was of course, not waiting by her car when I reappeared. By this point, the scene was crawling with humans. I looked around, spotting Bridget talking to one of the firefighters. Walking over, I silently handed her the coffee. She gratefully took it and shook her head at the packets in my hand. I nodded and pocketed them. From several yards off in the distance, Jadianne waved to me, and I flashed over to her.
“The witch is dead,” Jadianne said and grimaced, glancing down at the notepad in her hand.
“Along with four customers.”
“Damn,” I growled. “All witches?” She nodded. Oh, yeah, I thought grimly. Davina was going to have an aneurism all right.
“Did you inform Tristan?”
I grunted. “Are you writing up the report?”
Jadianne sighed. “I am. Once I’m done, I’ll hand it over to him.”
I nodded. “Who’s on the lookout for media vans?”
“Nehrya, Alexander, Trent, and Jade.”
“I see Jude coming our way, and he looks miserable.”
Jadianne chuckled. “We rather punch a rusty spoon between someone’s ribs over this boring shit any day.” She sighed. “But it must be done I suppose,” she muttered.
“Look on the bright side, you’re being paid double.” Jadianne growled something under her breath as I walked away.
I had no idea where I was headed, but I suddenly wasn’t alone as I felt a presence of another vampire behind me. “You look lost,” Sarisa said, keeping pace with me.
“I’m not,” I mumbled. “I’m just wandering aimlessly.”
“What are you doing, following me around to begin with?”
“I’m not following you,” she said and shrugged. “I just happened upon you and decided to follow you.”
“Uh huh. I’m supposed to believe that?”
“Believe what you like, but it’s the—” I grunted as she all of a sudden slammed into me, knocking me sideway and onto the ground, a split second before a soft pop of a gun went off. The bullet hit the signpost several feet ahead, and if Sarisa hadn’t reacted as she did, the bullet would have gone into her back. Rage, unlike anything I’ve felt in a very long time, surged up within me. Sarisa’s cool breath played across my neck, and I wrapped my arms around her and flipped us until she was under me. For the first time, fear flickered in her eyes, and I growled. For some reason, the necromancers or the demons wanted her dead, and that wasn’t going to fucking happen if I had anything to say about it. No one fucking kill off my hunters without going through me first, no one. I unsheathed my sword that was at my back and rose.
“Stay down,” I snarled. “Please Risa, this time listen to me.” Sarisa nodded, curling into herself and wrapping the darkness around her, until she was nothing more than a dark blob on the ground. That fucking imp was not getting away, I thought as I teleported behind the fleeing asshole. As it launched itself into the air, I drove the sword through its right wing and back out. It let out a pained squeal as it plummeted to the ground—black ichor pouring from the wound like tar. I sheathed my sword and grabbed the imp, snapping the wrist that was still holding the gun. I grabbed it and tossed it through the air toward Sarisa. Avoiding the black blood as best as I could, I turned the imp around and glared into his glowing red eyes. “I’m going to ask this once, and only once,” I growled. “Who sent you?” The imp continued to squeal, and if he kept this up, my ears were going to bleed. A tingle of magic brushed against me, and I frowned, because it wasn’t coming from the stupid imp. He was too busy squealing his head off and trying to break my hold on him. I feel it, too, Sarisa said into my mind. But it doesn’t feel like it’s directed at us. I think it’s directed at the imp. I scowled, unsheathing a blade. The imp finally stopped squealing and froze as I brought the tip of my blade just a mere millimeter from his right eye.
“No one,” the imp squealed. “No one sent me.”
“Is that so?” I asked dryly.
“Yes,” he hissed. “Yes.”
I glared at him as he continued to bleed, though at a slower rate than I would’ve liked. “There is a problem with that answer,” I growled. “I don’t believe you,” I finished as a surge of power washed over us, and it wasn’t death magic, though I could still feel some kind of magic in the air. Casiar stepped into view a second later, and he nodded to me as he closed in on us.
“I don’t believe you either, imp,” one of the most powerful vampire said, and I reluctantly lowered the imp to his feet, stepping back and sheathing my blade. The imp spun around, and I quickly took several more steps away as blood flew through the air.
“Release me,” the imp hissed.
“Oh, I’m not the one holding you here,” Casiar drawled. The imp’s eyes nearly popped from his head as panic set in.
“Then who is?” the imp squealed.
“It’s a witch,” Casiar said conversationally and crossed his arms.
“They can’t hold me here,” the imp spluttered.
“Oh, this one can. You see, imp, all she requires is demon blood to work the anchoring spell.”
“But she would need my blood,” the imp all but whine.
Casiar smirked. “Which she possesses as we speak. For an imp such as yourself, you’re not very observant, are you?” The imp continued to squeal and splutter as Sarisa came to stand next to me, a halogen blade in hand. “Who do you work for?”
“I don’t work for—” One second, Casiar was all casual-like, and the next, the imp’s sentence died off with a strangled sound at the back of his throat. That lovely sound turned into a whimper, because Casiar had a halogen blade in his hand, and the tip of it was pressed an inch or so into the imp’s chest. The wound began to smoke slightly, and the longer that blade was there, the pain seemed to get worse.
“You want to try that again?” Casiar asked, as if he hadn’t stuck anything into someone’s chest. “Tell me, and I’ll let you go. If you do not tell me who you work for, imp, I will drive this blade through your heart.”
“Teeros,” the imp squealed.
“Ah, there you go,” Casiar said and withdrew the blade, sheathing it. He straightened and shrugged. “Before you go,” Casiar continued. “I have a message for your master, and you would do well to deliver.”
“Anything,” the imp hissed, shifting and squirming.
“If Teeros want something, tell him to come and get it himself,” Casiar said softly, and the imp let out a gasp as a sudden surge of death magic washed over us. It was there and gone, but the imp looked even more horrified by whatever that was. “And not have his little minions do all his dirty work.” Casiar nodded to someone I couldn’t sense or see, and a second later, the feeling of magic was gone. The moment that it was, the imp gave Casiar one last terrified look before vanishing in a flash of fire.
“Do I even want to know?” I asked. Casiar looked at me. And said nothing.