The echo of Ari’s pain was almost unbearable. How I was still walking and talking, I had no idea. Breathing alone was like breathing in fire. Shuddering, I glared at my computer screen and resisted the urge to fry my hard drives. “Tristy.” Jordana’s singsong voice reached me from down the hall. Oh… I silently growled. If anyone else other than Jordana called me that… Saliva surged into my mouth, and the taste of venom was not far behind. Claws sprang from my fingertips and at the same time, my lower set of fangs shot to their full length. I bared them, as they pulse and throbbed with the need to bite something or someone. I growled, digging my claws into my palms. “Tristan?” Jordana said from the doorway, her sanity back intact for the time being. I, on the other hand, was fast losing mine the longer Ari remained down for the count. “Can I come in?” Unable to answer her, I shook my head. “I’ll just go now and send Freya over,” she said slowly, and I nodded. I felt her leaving, and I didn’t move for the longest of times. Snarling, I launched myself out of my chair and flashed to the window. Hot blood dripped from my hands to the floor as I stared out into the water. My beast clawed at me, demanding to be freed. Oh, how he wanted out, now more so than ever. A cold hand rested on my arm, squeezing gently.
“Sire?” Freya’s calm, soft voice barely penetrated my fog of a mind. I slowly turned to her, inhaling the scent of eucalyptus and mint that was unique to her. With much more effort than was necessary, I willed my claws to retract and pulled my child to me. Her arms went around me as I nuzzled her neck. “Come outside with me,” she whispered. “It will do you some good.” She pulled from my arms, and I straightened, looking deeply into her eyes. She, too, hadn’t yet fed. Freya’s fingers wrapped around my wrist and tug, and she all but dragged me from my office, down the hall and to the back door. Opening it, we stepped outside, and I almost, almost let out a sigh as the cold air hit my heated skin. She led me to the pond and stopped, dropping her hand from my wrist. We both stared into the icy water, lost in our own thoughts. “How bad is it?” she asked quietly. “Can you still feel her pain?” I nodded, and in my peripheral vision I saw her wince. “What can I do? Tell me and I will do it.” I turned, reaching out and stroking her cheek.
“Sweet Freya,” I whispered. “I appreciate it, but there is nothing else you can do that you have not already done. What you have done so far is more than enough?”
“But she is still sleeping, and I do not like that she is not healing fast enough.”
“She will come around, and when she does…?” I didn’t finish the sentence. I didn’t have to.
Freya smiled, and she nodded. “The world will tremble in fear,” she said as I dropped my hand from her. “I cannot wait to see it.” She tilted her head to the side, studying me. “Are you all right?”
“I will be.”
She nodded. “Shall we head back inside? Or would you like to linger out here a little longer?”
I took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Come,” I growled and led her back inside.
“Thought you could do with a feeding or two,” Jesric said as the door slammed shut, blocking out what was left of the daylight hours.
“You thought right,” I hissed and grabbed the nearest human to me.
“I assure you, they won’t be missed,” he continued as I drove my fangs into the human’s throat, snarling as I tore it out and gulped down the hot, sweet blood gushing into my mouth. I didn’t stop until the last drop slid down my throat. Cursing, I tossed the lifeless body away, turning in time to get the full blast of Freya’s magic. The second human lay lifeless at her feet as I was lifted into the air and thrown across the entry hall, into the living room, to smash into the wall on the far side. Groaning, I hit the floor hard. “Hungry sons of bitches,” Jesric muttered.
“I take offense,” Freya said as she came toward me. I glared at her, and then cursed some more as an invisible force held me down. Jesric scowled at us before disappearing with the bodies.
“You know,” I growled, grimacing as Ari’s pain flared for the briefest of seconds. “This is quite unpleasant.”
“You have experienced worse I am sure,” she said and lifted the spell. Her magic crackled in the air around me as I slowly got to my feet.
“Was that necessary?” I asked and slowly walked toward her.
“Of course.” Stopping before her, I growled. “Oh,” she said dryly. “None of that now. It would not do you any good if I decide to put you to sleep.”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“Shall I demonstrate?” I sighed. “You know full well that I do not need to speak out loud to cast my spells. I am not like the other witches.” I resisted the urge to choke her, because she was right, me choking her wouldn’t do shit. She sighed. “We are ready to enter hell the moment Jailyn is ready.”
She scowled, apparently not happy with them. “Davina is in charge. I will not be held responsible for their deaths. She knows their strengths and weaknesses, I do not.” She put a hand up and glared at me. “And I will tell you now; I will not be a part of a coven or be their leader. Though I do not approve of Davina’s magical prowess in any given life or death situation, she is capable enough to lead them.”
“I was not going to suggest that you take over the covens.”
“Good, we are on the same page then,” she said quietly and turned from me.
Narrowing my eyes, I put a hand on her shoulder. “You have seen her in combat?”
Freya paused, glancing back at me. “I have, and she did not impress me in the slightest. If it were not for her adopted daughter’s unsuppressed magic, they would have been slaughtered by the rogue vampires. Every last one of them.” She eyed me thoughtfully. “And you have not?”
I scowled, releasing her. “I never paid much attention,” I growled.
“Too busy dealing with your inner demon?” she asked, smirking as she walked into the kitchen.
“Let’s see you try to focus on what the others are doing while trying not to unleash your beast on your enemies and friends,” I muttered under my breath.
“I heard that.”
“Of course you did.”
“I missed the fun,” Jordana said from the second floor landing. I glanced up at her, and she crossed her arms, pouting. “Can I come down?”
“You don’t need permission to come down,” I growled and winced. Damn, I silently cursed. If only I could kill Shilen Devoreau all over again… if only. Jordana grunted, jumping down the stairs and for the kitchen. I slowly followed her in, watching in amusement as she pulled Freya away from the refrigerator before sticking her head inside to look for… something. Shaking her head, Freya went over to the counter and leaned on it, eyeing me thoughtfully. “What?” Without a word, she straightened and came over to where I was and offered her wrist to me. I took it, putting my mouth over the rapid pulse and licking it.
“Have at it, and do not worry about me,” she said quietly as Jordana nibbled on a piece of cheese and watched us curiously.
I sighed. “I will always be worried when it comes to my children,” I said and bit, silently groaning as I swallowed the hot blood. You of all people should know that, I mentally said into her head, and she sighed, nodding.
“I only have one child to worry about. I cannot imagine worrying about…” She paused and arched an eyebrow. “How many children do you have?” I growled, and she yelped as I bit harder in a silent warning. With a couple more long pulls of her blood, I reluctantly withdrew my fangs and glared at her as I licked close the two punctured wounds.
“I lost count centuries ago,” I said and growled as she opened her mouth to say something. Tristan, Jailyn said into my mind, and I released Freya, straightening. We are ready to move whenever you get here.
“What is it?” Freya asked, going on sudden high alert.
“Jailyn is ready to open the portal.” At this, Jordana’s eyes lit up with excitement.
“Oh, I felt that,” Sven said and strode in from the living room.
“Felt what?” Jordana asked innocently as he stopped before her.
“You can’t come with us,” he said gently, taking the bottle of barbecue sauce from her hand. Freya glanced at me questioningly, and I shrugged.
“Kira,” I muttered.
“No,” Sven warned. “You will not throw a tantrum.”
She pouted. “I wasn’t going to.”
“And you will not—” He grunted as she drove her fist into his stomach, hard enough to double him over. “Damn it, Dana,” he snapped and straightened. Sighing, he put a hand on her shoulder, and they vanished into thin air.
“He took the barbecue sauce with him,” Freya said in amusement.
“Yes,” I said dryly. “Kira can blame someone else for once.”
She chuckled as she headed for the front door. “When will you be joining Jailyn?”
“I will see you at nightfall then,” she said as she opened the door and stepped out.
“See you then,” I said, sighing inwardly as the door shut behind her.
“Feeling down, are you?” Can I even get a break just for five minutes without any interruptions? I thought as my hand shot out, burying the halogen blade into Sathia’s stomach. She let out a hiss, gasping as I yanked it out. Oh, I was going to have fucking holes in my damn kitchen floor.
“The next one goes through your heart,” I growled as she covered the wound with a hand. “And you better have a good reason for coming here.”
She bared her fangs at me, grunting and cursing as smoke seeped from between her fingers. “You… fucking… bastard,” she growled and let out a loud groan of pain. Tristan! Jailyn yelled into my head, and I grunted as she mentally smacked me. Save your killing rage for the demons that do need killing. Stop hurting mine for fuck sake. Sathia held up her hand as I gave her a murderous look. “Oh no,” she hissed. “Don’t you dare aim that look my way you son of a bitch,” she snarled and spun around. “One day, I swear I’m going to fucking kill you.”
I barely heard her over the loud rush of blood in my ears. “I can hardly wait for that day to come,” I snarled, and glaring at me one last time, she disappeared in a flash of fire.
“You know, Tristan,” a low voice said from behind me. I swear I was going to rip someone’s head off before the day was over. “You haven’t changed since the last time I saw you. That was what…? A thousand years ago?” The rush of blood grew louder in my ears, and I stiffened. It was all I could do to keep myself from turning and killing the vampire behind me.
“Oh, I have to record this,” Jesric said as he stepped in front of me and pulled out his phone.
“If you call me dude again, I’ll use your head as a bowling ball, my friend.”
The vampire behind me let out a long sigh. “If I say I’m sorry, will I be forgiven?”
“No,” Jesric said dryly. Something nudged the halogen blade I was still holding, and I glanced down to find a shimmering blue sword. It turned purple as it absorbed the demon blood. When there was no blood left, the weapon was withdrawn, and I slowly sheathed the halogen blade. Stepping from between them, I turned and glared at them both. Taking a deep, deep shuddering breath that did nothing to ease the violent state of mood that I was in; I stared at the tall vampire with black hair and dark blue eyes, holding his beast-bound sword at his side.
“Before you go into kill-you mode and fang me, let me assure you that I just arrived a few hours ago. You know when your sire calls, you have to obey?” He nodded to himself, and that said sire put his hands on my shoulders as Jailyn appeared beside me.
“What is this?” Jesric asked. “A let’s-get-to-know-Tristan day?”
“I believe it is,” Allia said dryly from the second floor. My head began to pound, and I inwardly groaned as a nosebleed followed soon after. “Okay,” Allia said sharply. “Everyone leave.”
Jailyn held up her hand and waved. “Are you ordering me to leave? For the record, I’m staying, but the rest of you can go.” Casiar dropped his hands from me, and a second later, everyone was gone. Well, everyone except for Jailyn, Jesric, and an unseen presence that had yet to reveal herself. No one said anything as I walked to the sink and washed off the blood. Staring at the running water, I closed my eyes.
“I won’t kill you, Jesric,” I said wearily, hoping that today would just be done and over with. “It didn’t even cross my mind.” I slowly shut off the water, but remained as I was. “I know Elijah will be grateful for what you’ve done.”
“I didn’t do it for him,” Jesric said slowly, hesitantly. “Well, part of it was, but it’s not my main reason.”
“I know,” I said softly. Do you regret turning her? I silently asked him. No, Jesric replied into my mind. Not at all, I would protect her with my life. I mentally nodded. That is good to hear. “Aisley,” I said out loud. “Jesric’s shadow hiding you is so weak you could break through it with a straw.”
“Ow!” Jesric exclaimed, cursing as the air rippled around me. “Stop it.” The air stilled, and a second later, I could feel Aisley standing behind me.
“Hi, Tristan,” she said conversationally. “Having a bad day?” I grunted. She put a cool hand on my arm, and I opened my eyes, slowly turning around to face her. I stared into her multicolored eyes and silently grumbled. Why couldn’t I be a shifter and keep my natural eye color, too? It was so unfair on so many levels. She held up a bag of blood and arched an eyebrow in question. “Is that for me? Or are you asking permission to drink it?”
“I would drink it, but there is a problem.”
“And that is?”
“There are a few drops of demon blood mixed in it. I thought Freya would like to have it.”
“If you tell me that your sire allowed you to kill a demon for this, I will have to kill him.”
“And I will have to kill you in turn,” Jailyn said sweetly. “Aisley, please do tell him that you did kill a demon for his or her blood,” she finished with a hopeful look.
“Jailyn,” Aisley gasped. “You’re so mean.”
“What?” Jailyn asked innocently. “What did I say or do wrong?”
“I’ll take that,” I said and took the blood from Aisley’s hand.
She nodded. “And no, I didn’t kill a demon. Jesric got it for me.”
“And, why would you think Freya would be interested?”
“Because Kira talks too fucking much for her own good,” Jesric muttered. I sighed. I had no idea what the hell I was going to do with that damn child of mine, no idea whatsoever. I glanced out the window and again sighed. With one last glance at them, I teleported.
Alexander and Freya were the only two around when I appeared in Ari’s room. He glanced up, and I held up a hand, preventing him from rising from his chair. I looked down at Ari lying very still on the bed—an IV needle in her arm. Her skin was still an angry red—paling and healing here and there, but she was not healing fast enough for my liking. If I could, I would have sped up the healing process. I inwardly winced, because the thought of hurting her even more was just unacceptable. I slowly reached out and lightly touched her cheek, wincing as she moaned in pain. Sighing, I stepped back and nodded to Alexander. “Any sign of her waking up, call me,” I growled.
He nodded. “I’ll be sure to do that.”
“Is that for me?” Freya asked and sniffed the air like a dog. I scowled, handing her the bag of blood. Her eyes lit with mischievous intent as she took it from me. “I will be right back. Do not dare leave without me.” Opening the door leading to the hall, I followed her out, glancing back at Ari as the door snapped shut behind us.