“Elijah,” I said as I crouched beside his unconscious form. His bloodcurdling scream still rang in my ears as I tried to poke him awake.
“Aisley,” Kidian said from behind me. “We must move. The building is going to collapse on top of us at any moment.”
“Shit,” I said, taking Elijah into my arms and getting to my feet. “What happened?”
“No idea, but if we don’t move, we’re all going to die.”
“Right,” I said and ran. I glanced over my shoulder, in time to see the remaining rogue vampires propelled into the air by an invisible force and back into the collapsing building. “Good luck in getting back out, guys,” I muttered.
“Is he all right?” Cadan asked as he ran beside me.
“No idea,” I said, grunting as we crossed several more streets. As we did, I noticed a couple of vampires standing as still as statues on every corner. No cars or people came this way; it was like a vampire’s version of a roadblock. One of them flashed over to us, forcing me to stop or run into her.
“Who are you?” she growled.
“Aisley,” I said and winced as recognition entered her pitched black eyes.
“Oh,” she said and relaxed, if only the slightest bit. She sheathed her blade and glanced at Elijah. “I’m Iris,” she said and reached for him. “What has happened to my sire?”
“I have no idea,” I said, letting her take him from me. “He screamed for a very long time before he collapsed and fell unconscious.”
“Fuck,” she exclaimed. “Do you know where the Council HQ is?” We shook our heads, but I pulled out my phone and rang Ari.
“What?” Ari shouted into my ear. Thankfully I was still holding the phone and looking at it when she answered. Vampires weren’t the only ones with sensitive hearing, after all.
“Elijah is out,” I said. “Thought you should know.” She appeared beside Iris, and I quickly hung up, shoving the phone back into my pocket.
“What happened?” Iris asked, turning to her. She didn’t answer, and I could practically hear Ari grinding her teeth together. There was a loud explosion, and we all winced, because a second later, screams could be heard. Iris opened her mouth to speak, but the abrupt darkness prevented her as we were teleported. When we arrived to wherever, I stumbled as the floor tilted under my feet. I quickly caught my balance and looked around. We were standing in the middle of a room with nothing more than a table with silver chains in the center. I instinctively let out a yelp, stepping away until my back hit the wall that was behind me. The silver chains flew into the air and hit the floor with a loud clang. Curses spewed from Cadan and Kidian as they quickly got out of the way. Ari didn’t look our way as she gently placed Elijah onto the Table. Iris, who was shifting from one foot to another beside her, was cursing under her breath. Ari straightened, and Iris froze as Tristan, holding a tall female vampire with ice-blond hair in his arms, appeared on the other side of the table. They were both covered in blood, and my skin all but burned as their auras slammed into me. Tristan whispered something into her ear, and when she pulled back and walked into what looked like a bathroom, I stiffened, groaning as her magic washed over me. My skin prickled with the urge to shift, but I ignored it, because this much power they were giving off weren’t directed at me. Something was wrong, very wrong. I winced as I heard the glass shattering. Tristan’s head snapped in the direction of the bathroom, and then he was gone. The scent of blood filled the room, followed by grunts and snarls. Ari glanced at us before walking to the bathroom.
“Feel free to explore,” the redheaded vampire said conversationally. “Don’t go anywhere you are not allowed.”
“If the doors are locked,” I said to clarify. “Don’t break in.” She nodded, and I winced, wondering what in the hell was going on in there as the unknown female vampire let out a muffled shriek. Tristan let rip a snarl as the sound of banging, thumping, and more shattering glass could be heard.
“Freya!” Ari yelled, stopping just inside the door. “We need your help!” She glanced back at us. “Damn,” she muttered. “This isn’t working.” She flashed out of the way as Tristan was tossed through the doorway. He cursed, righting himself in midair as Freya came after him. Ari launched herself into the air, and Freya screamed as they collided into her, sending her to the floor. “Freya,” Ari repeated softly.
“What?” Freya snarled and tried to bite Tristan’s hand off. Iris flashed over to them, adding her strength to theirs. Ari let out a strangled scream as blue fire engulfed Freya’s hands, but she didn’t let up on her hold, even as she began to burn. Tristan stiffened as pain entered his eyes. He put a hand on Freya’s cheek, and it looked like a silent conversation was passing between them. A moment later, Freya’s entire body trembled as the fire slowly died down. “Right,” she said, her voice raspy and almost a whisper. Tristan grunted, nodding to Ari and Iris. They released her, watching intently as she took in several deep breaths.
“Go into the refrigerator and take as much blood you need to tie you over for a few,” Ari said quietly. “Just… don’t break the shelves.” They continued to watch her as she slowly got to her feet and headed through another door. After a few seconds, Tristan followed her inside, and Iris cleared her throat.
“Now will you tell me what is wrong with Elijah?”
Ari sighed and ran her hand through her dark red hair. “The demons have Brynna.”
“What?” Iris spluttered.
“She was sucked into a vortex,” Ari said as she continued to splutter. “And it’s… very painful.”
“Fuck!” Iris finally yelled. “And the explosion? The rogues?”
“The explosion was Tristan’s doing.”
“Yes,” Tristan said, reentering the room with two bags of blood in his hands. “Blame everything on me.”
Ari scowled at him. “Well, it’s true,” she said, eyeing the blood. He glanced at it, and then sank his fangs into one while holding out the other bag to her. She took it and bit into it. “We need to wake Elijah.” Ari said a minute later, crumpling up the empty bag. Tristan tugged the ball of plastic from her clenched fist and disappeared into the other room. When he reappeared, Freya was with him. She walked over to the table and peered down at Elijah thoughtfully. A cold hand landed on my arm, and I looked up into Ari’s pitched black eyes. “Please,” she said. “Come with me for a moment.” When both Cadan and Kidian stiffened, Ari gave them a chilling smile. “If,” she said softly. “I wanted to kill your friend here, I would have done it the moment I met her.” My skin tingled as her aura wrapped around us. She stared at my friends for so long my stomach began to churn with dread.
“Ariella,” Tristan said in warning, shaking his head.
Ari blinked, tearing her gaze from my friends and squeezing my arm lightly. “Please, step out into the hall with me.” I nodded and allowed her to lead me out of the room. “We’ll go to my office,” she said as the door closed behind us.
“Did I do something wrong?” I asked.
“No,” she replied as everything went dark.
When the darkness lifted, we were standing in her office. She released my arm, and she nodded to a chair. I glanced at it and hesitated, because like all the others, I was covered in blood. “Have a seat,” she said and dropped into the one behind her desk. She leaned back as I slowly sat. “So,” she said and looked at me. I resisted the urge to squirm as she all but studied me. “Are you and Elijah together?” I blinked, completely caught off guard by the question. For a moment, I was speechless. Her lips twitched, as if she was restraining herself from smirking. “I know for a fact that he likes you, but do you?”
“I do,” I said slowly as my cheeks grew warm. I was over five hundred years old, and I was still blushing.
“Would you consider him as a mate one day?” she asked gently. I stiffened, forcing back the wave of grief trying to swamp me. “I know this is the worst possible time to be talking about this but…”
“I understand,” I said and relaxed in my chair. “You want to know if I’ll be able to deal with all of him.”
She shrugged. “Mating for a vampire is a once in a lifetime thing,” she replied softly. “The bond is permanent.”
I winced. “What if the mate loses the other? They can’t find someone else?”
Ari shuddered as something flickered in her eyes. “The surviving mate usually go rogue and have to be hunted,” she whispered.
My stomach clenched painfully as a chill ran through me. “Usually?”
She nodded. “Some commit suicide, some go insane, some go into torpor… a very few can cope with the loss, but they are forever changed, if you know what I mean.”
I nodded. “Suicide?”
“Well, it’s mostly suicide by cops, but every now and then, one or two manages to take their own head.” She suddenly stiffened, wincing as the office door opened. I stared at the vampire standing in the doorway. What was his name again? I thought and frowned. The newcomer looked from Ari, to me, and back to her. “Can I help you with something?” she asked him.
“What an awkward topic of conversation,” he said a minute later as pain clouded his unblinking black eyes.
“I’m sorry, Jesric,” Ari said as he stepped inside and slowly closed the door behind him.
“I actually came here to ask for a copy of the list of new arrivals, but I think I will stay a little longer.” A silent conversation past between them, and then Ari nodded.
“Aisley,” she said and gestured to Jesric. “This is Jesric.” I held out my hand to him, and he hesitated before taking mine into his cold one and briefly shook. “He lost his mate not too long ago.”
“I… I’m sorry,” I said softly. He nodded as something cold washed over me.
“He can answer all the questions that are swirling around in your head better than I can.” Damn mind reading, I thought and wondered if I could get a witch to make me a mind shield of some kind, because my own natural shield fucking suck. At least around these vampires.ARI
Letting out a heavy sigh, I walked down the hall and reentered the room where Elijah was still lying unconscious on the table. This time, he was restrained by the chains. I walked over to Tristan, frowning as I realized that Freya wasn’t in the room. “Did he wake up at all?”
“No,” he muttered and pulled me to him.
“Where is Freya?”
“She went hunting.”
“Mmm, she will tell me when she is done.”
I nodded. “She couldn’t focus?”
“Sweetheart,” he said admonishingly.
I leaned against him and rested my head on his chest, grimacing at the dried blood on our clothes. “Yes?”
He took hold of a few strands of my hair and tugged gently, until I could see his glare aimed at me. “Have you been around me at all these past…?” He paused, frowning as he did some mental calculation in his head. “Nine hundred and eighteen years?”
I shrugged. “Not 24-7.” He scowled, releasing my hair as a surge of energy wrapped around me. A second later, Freya appeared, and she had apparently cleaned herself up before calling for Tristan.
“He has not awakened?” she asked and stepped up to the table.
“He has not,” Tristan said as I pulled away from him. I blinked at Freya, because she was holding a paper plate. On it was a huge sandwich, and the smell of bread and meat over whelmed by the scent of blood in the room registered a second later. She turned to me, holding back a laugh as she held it out to me. “This is for you I believe.”
“Um,” I said slowly and took it from her.
“Your daughter,” she said dryly. “Demanded that I give that to you, and she insist that you eat it.” I stared down at the sandwich. Apart from the occasional consumption of crackers, chips, cookies and other snack things humans well… snacked on, I didn’t really have an appetite for human food. Behind me, Tristan let out a cough, which sounded suspiciously like a laugh than anything. “It is lamb sandwich and… according to her, delicious.” I grunted and held out the plate to Tristan. He grimaced, taking several steps away from me. Muttering and retracting my fangs, I picked up the sandwich and bit into it. I walked through a door that looked more like an observation room and mentally grabbed a chair, taking it back with me. I dropped it beside the door that led out into the hall and lowered myself into it as I continued to chew and swallow.
“Would you like a coke with that?” Tristan asked, amusement in his voice. The sandwich was good, but it probably wouldn’t be in my list of things to eat. I shrugged, and a split second later, a can of coke appeared in his hand. I almost choked, unable to believe that he had actually ported something so much as a coke. He handed it to me, and I took the ice cold drink from him, popping the tab with my will alone. Here I was, covered in dried blood, and I was eating a fucking sandwich. Truth be told, it would have been laughable under any other circumstances. I watched, as Freya studied the chains intently. Then she began to chant. A blue glow sparked from the chains before the sparks became tendrils and slowly stretched, intertwining until they created a net around Elijah. Fascinated, I continued to watch, as the blue tendrils pulsed, seeming to suck the blood that was all over him and into the spell, darkening them until they were no longer a bright glow, but a dark, dark shade of blue. The door opened, and I glanced over to see Aisley entering with Jailyn right behind her. Aisley looked around, and when her gaze landed on me, she eyed the half eaten sandwich in my hand. I set it back onto the plate and handed it to her. She took it and devoured it in four big bites. Shaking my head at her, I took a long swig before passing her my coke as well. Sarisa, Sergei, Iris and more vampires crowded the doorway, and I stiffened. Freya stopped her chanting and turned to the opened doorway. Her aura whipped around the room, causing my skin to tingle and crawl. I glanced to Tristan, inwardly wincing. He looked like he was about to eat every single vampire here.
“Those of you who do not need to be here,” Freya said softly. “Leave.” Iris stepped into the room and parked herself on the other side of the door, crossing her arms. When the vampires outside the door didn’t so much as move, the temperature in the room dropped into the freezing zone, and this time, it wasn’t Tristan’s doing. Aisley cleared her throat loudly and glanced nervously between the crowd and Freya. Kidian and Cadan squeezed their way into the room, and both Freya and Tristan let out a low growl. Aisley went over to her friends, and she practically dragged them from the room. Silently cursing, I rose from my chair and turned to the crowd of hunters, spies, watchers and protectors.
“Leave,” I snapped. “Not all of you need to be here.” Most of them finally left, but a handful still remained. The rage that I was doing so well in containing for the past two hours or so snapped. My fangs shot to their full length, and I saw red as I launched myself through the door. They scattered as I grabbed a hunter by the throat and slammed him into the wall. My spine tingled as I felt a presence behind me, but I didn’t release my hold on the hunter. I didn’t know who he was, but he didn’t struggle; he just stared into my eyes as my fingers dug their way into his neck. Tristan’s cold hands wrapped around my wrists and slowly squeezed. The hunter silently grunted as I tightened my grip. I yelped as Tristan’s hold on me became painful, and my fingers flexed, as if trying to release the hunter. I struggled, but it was like playing a game of tug-of-war, and I was losing. Tristan released me, but his energy still remained, tingling as if I stuck my fingers into a socket. Slowly, and one by one, I released the hunter. He sucked in air, gasping and coughing as he walked away from us. Tristan grabbed me and pulled me to him as I made to follow.
“That is enough,” he said quietly as I struggled to break free. He all but dragged me back into the room and slammed the door. He dropped into my chair and turned me around in his arm, his legs trapping me before I got the great idea of kneeing him in the balls.
“Well then,” Freya said with a heavy sigh. “May I continue now?”
“No!” I yelled.
“Yes,” Tristan said, and his hand blurred, catching my wrist before I could punch him. I grunted as he yanked me against him and nuzzled my hair. “Breathe,” he warned. I gritted my teeth and let out a strangled scream. “Just breathe,” he whispered in my ear. “Freya is going to wake Elijah.” I took in a deep, deep breath and let it out slowly as his fangs grazed the side of my neck.
“Don’t bite me,” I muttered, my rage morphing into gloom and doom. Tristan growled something, one of his hands moving to the back of my head. I grumbled as I felt his tongue circling the pulse in my neck. Stiffening, I let out a curse, jabbing my fist into his gut as he sank his fangs in deep and pulled hard. He gave an annoyed growl as I continued to jab at him. Stop it, he silently growled, and I let out a gasp as he bit harder in warning. The magic in the room suddenly rose, and Tristan reluctantly pulled back, licking at the punctured holes and wrapping his arms around me.
“He is coming around,” Freya said, and Tristan nodded, getting to his feet. With me still in his arms, he walked over to her. Jailyn, Iris, Sarisa and Aisley also stepped up to the table, but the shifter wisely stood out of grabbing range. A few seconds later, Elijah sucked in a breath, and the room spun as his aura slammed into us. Tristan’s snarl sounded in my ear as we were thrown across the room. I cringed as I heard multiple bones snapping as we hit the wall—Tristan taking the full brunt of the impact. After a moment, I lifted my head and glanced around. The only one upright and conscious was Freya, who stood in a blue transparent-like shield.
“Thanks for shielding the rest of us,” I said dryly as I looked at the knocked out vampires and Aisley. Sarisa had apparently grabbed the shifter, but it wasn’t enough as they both hit the floor. While everyone apart from me and Freya suffered from broken bones and lights out, the shifter only got a hard blow to the head.
“My apologies,” Freya said as Elijah let out a groan. He bared his fangs as she muttered a spell under her breath. I let out a yelp and jumped off of Tristan as his aura jolted into me.
“Fuck,” I snapped. “What am I, a fucking outlet?” Tristan rolled onto his hands and knees, twisting, grunting and cursing as I heard the unmistakable sound of bones scraping together as they realign themselves. Still cursing, he pushed to his feet and glared at Elijah who looked half out of it. Ignoring my glare aimed his way; he closed in and stuck his hand into the net, pressing his wrist to Elijah’s fangs. With a snarl, his head jerked up, and he clamped his mouth onto Tristan’s wrist, pulling fast and hard. After a long minute, Tristan jerked his wrist away, watching as the spell dimmed even more. Elijah growled; breathing harshly as he blinked, pain and confusion clouding his eyes.
“Elijah,” Tristan said and grimaced. Freya dropped her shield as the others slowly came around. “Do you remember what happened?” Elijah’s eyes went white, and he let out a feral snarl.
“Is she still with us?” Freya asked softly and Tristan glared at her.
“Yes,” Elijah hissed.
“But?” she asked and muttered another spell.
“I can’t reach her,” he snarled and slammed against his chains. He let out an enraged scream as the spell holding him did… something to him. His body arched off the table as a zapping sound reached my ears.
“Do you know where she is?” Freya asked as he gasped for air and glared daggers at her. “Apart from the obvious, of course.”
“She is blocking me,” he growled. “Or, something else is interfering.”
“I am betting it is the latter,” she said thoughtfully and scowled. “But know this, Elijah. We will find your child. If they are wise, they will not kill her.” She paused. “Or touch her,” she whispered. “Because there will be no mercy for those who are foolish enough to stand in our way. Do you hear me?” After a long moment, Elijah slowly nodded. I smiled evilly as anger slowly rose, burning a hot path through me. As the saying goes, no one fucks with a Tronis and gets away with it. No. Fucking. One.