“I’m going to be sick,” Zaida—the only fledgling here—moaned, as if she was in pain. Maybe she was, because she hunched into herself, gagging and groaning as black smoke puffed from her mouth every thirty to sixty seconds. Her long black hair was plastered to her head as sweat all but poured from her in rivulets. Starved out of her mind, Zaida straightened and stood in the middle of the darkened room, her arms crossed and her eyes darting back and forth between the closed door, window, the two rogue vampires, and the ceiling where I was currently stretched from corner to corner—a dark mass of shadow with eyes and ears. It was too damn easy getting into the room. Hell, it was too damn easy entering the house for that matter, because no one got the good sense to buy the property. To them, the house was only their base of operation and nothing more. Some vampires were just that fucking stupid, even the ones who practice necromancy and should’ve known better.
“Sit down,” one of the rogues snapped. “Nothing will happen until nightfall.” The fledgling dropped to the floor, glaring at him as she folded her arms around her knees.
“I want blood,” Zaida growled.
“What’s the point when you’re going to throw it all up?” Zaida said nothing more out loud, but mentally, she was cursing him out. Judging by the fact she wasn’t slapped, stabbed, throttled, or thrown across the room, her sire didn’t hear the silent threats she was shouting. Seeing what I needed to see, I morphed into nothing more than a tendril of darkness and slid to one corner of the ceiling before sliding down the wall, across the floor and under the door.
Out in the living room, I watched as the others growled accusations at Kindri, trying to attack her. The problem was that they were all bound by shadows, including the witches. Freya stood slightly behind Kindri, her fangs bared and eyes no longer black but white. Kindri slowly turned, reaching out a hand to rest on Freya’s forearm. I slithered up behind one of the witches as she spoke gently to the enraged vampire. The witch raised a hand to cast a spell, and I wrapped myself around her leg. She let out a shriek as I bit her—a thousand tiny sharp teeth sinking into flesh and injecting a lethal amount of venom. Releasing her, I slithered over to Kindri and morphed into a hellhound, watching the witch as my venom quickly worked its way into her bloodstream. She let out a bloodcurdling scream before it died off with a gurgle. She would have fallen to the floor, if the thick tendril of shadow hadn’t held her so tightly. Freya let out a choking sound, and I glanced up at her, wincing. Kindri’s cool fingers dug into my fur as we watched the rogues struggle against their bonds, trying to reach the dead witch’s blood. “This is very… entertaining,” Riordan said from the archway that separated the living room from the kitchen. He sighed and glared down at me. What? I mentally asked indignantly. She deserved it. In answer, he pointed to Freya, to Kindri, to the rogues, and then to himself. I snorted—flames shooting from my nose as I ducked from under Kindri’s hand and patted over to him. Stopping in front of him, I sat and stared up at him. “Why a hellhound?” he asked curiously. I shrugged. So I can pretend to be a dog, I said conversationally. “Zyn,” he said dryly. Riordan? “Go into the bathroom and stare at yourself in the mirror. You do not look like an ordinary dog.” Shrugging, I went back to Kindri, glancing down the hall where the fledgling and the other two rogues were.
“Why aren’t the other three coming out?” Kindri asked. “I know for a fact that they wouldn’t be able to ignore it.” No one answered as Riordan went over to the remaining witches who were cursing and screaming threats. He held out his hand to them expectantly, and when they continued to scream at him, he growled, snatching a bracelet off the one standing directly in front of him.
“Hand them over,” he said over the snarls of the rogues. “Now.” One of the witches pointed a finger at him, and I smirked as her eyes widened, her hands flying to her neck, clawing as if trying to remove a rope that wasn’t there.”Give them to me,” he growled. One by one, they reluctantly handed over their rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. Not a second sooner, he released the witch as the living room was plunged into almost complete silence. A long minute past, and then he came over to us, nodding to Kindri. Putting a hand on Freya's shoulder, he teleported, taking us with him.FREYA
Blinded by rage and starved beyond coherent thoughts, I flashed from between Riordan and Kindri, snarling as my head struck the unyielding stone wall. Arms came around me, lifting me up as everything went dark. My stomach dropped, churning as the ice cold air of the abyss hit me. “No biting,” Zynzaulatris hissed in my ear, a split second before the world spun around me. She released her hold on me, and I landed hard on my hands and knees, heaving for breaths and trying not to throw up. The gritty roof under my palms was cold, and I dug my fingers in, creating grooves as I stared at the rusty colored surface. The building shook under me, for the briefest of seconds, my vision darkened. I blinked, baring my fangs as pain shot down my arm. I glanced to my right, and the sight of blood almost sent me tumbling into darkness. Crimson talons dug deeper into my shoulder, and I grimaced, shaking my head vigorously to try and focus. It was useless as hunger continued to claw at me. Blinking through the red haze as best as I could, I slowly got to my feet and looked down at the fierce battle going on below me. Zynzaulatris removed her claws from my shoulder and nodded to Sathia. “I believe she could use your help,” the Kreeto demon drawled as Sathia fought to keep Tristan’s fangs from her throat. Wincing, I jumped from the roof, Zynzaulatris at my side as I fought my way to my sire and Sathia. The Ahzeeki demon did not need my help to subdue Tristan, but that did not stop me from creating paths of destruction in my effort to reach them. Snarling, I grabbed the hellhound lunging for me and slammed it to the ground. Unsheathing my halogen blade, I stabbed it into its skull, smiling as it convulsed under me. It did not die that easily, however, as claws raked down my left side. Out the corner of my eye, I could see Zynzaulatris giving me a dubious look as I yanked the blade out.
“It is the feeling of satisfaction I get when driving something sharp into one’s vital organs,” I growled to the demon standing over me. “It is quite… invigorating. Do you not agree?” Zynzaulatris shrugged and smirked as I drove my blade into the hellhound’s ear. Yanking it back out, I got up and kicked the unconscious hellhound toward Jailyn and Casiar.
“You’re not going to kill it?” she asked as her scales changed from crimson to black.
I shrugged. “They need something to do.”
Zynzaulatris snorted and launched herself into the reddish-yellow sky. “See you around, hunter,” she hissed, and the sky went completely black for a few seconds as she disappeared. The sound of screeches could be heard as several demons were sucked into a black hole that appeared out of nowhere. It hovered in the sky—a twenty feet circumference around the combatants. Jailyn glared at it as more demons disappeared into it. Sheathing my blade, I kept my distance as I continued making my way to Tristan. Zynzaulatris snatched a dying vampire up, and my ears rang as Tristan let out a bloodcurdling scream. Sathia paused in her staking as I reached them. She glanced at the black hole and smiled evilly.
“She does like to show off when she gets the chance,” the Ahzeeki demon drawled. Tristan’s eyes rolled to the back of his head, and Sathia scowled at the silver stake in her hand.
“Look out!” Amaya yelled. Sathia ducked as a ball of shadows came at her. Instead of hitting her, it struck Tristan in the back of the head. He was ripped from Sathia and was propelled several feet into the air, crashing into the river that was just yards away from us.
“Did you kill him?” Sathia asked and straightened from her crouch. “Tell me you killed him.” Another ball of darkness came at her, and she cursed, grabbing a nearly decapitated vampire and thrusting her in its path. “Be a good friend and die in my place,” she hissed as I ran to the river and dived into the dark depths of the water.SKYLER
My hands were drenched in my sire’s blood as I tried to stop the gushing crimson liquid pouring from her eyes, ears, and nose. It was a fruitless effort, because nothing was working. Cursing, I disconnected the tube that was feeding Tristan’s blood into her and screamed both mentally and out loud for Cailin. She appeared beside me a split second later and growled at the sight of so much blood. Alexander muttered something under his breath and removed his wrist from Ari’s mouth. “Something has happened to Tristan,” Cailin growled and was gone before I could ask anything of her.
“Maybe my blood will help?” Aisley stepped into the room, closing the door behind her with a snap. She came over and dropped into a chair that was beside the bed. Leaning forward, she put her elbows on the blood-soaked mattress and cupped her chin with her hands. Frowning, she studied Ari intently, as if deciding the best way to give blood.
“Worth a shot I suppose,” I said with a heavy sigh. Aisley reached out, touching Ari’s cheek with a finger. “Don’t worry. She won’t bite off your hand. You’re not Kira,” I said and hit the floor as a cup sailed through the air to shatter against the far wall. Hands on her hips, Kira glared at me as I got to my feet. “Not in a good mood yourself?” I asked. Growling, she stomped into the room; coming to a stop on Ari’s other side.
“I feel helpless,” she complained. “Blood is no longer healing her. Why?” Before I could respond, Riordan appeared out of thin air, a very, very bloody Sarisa in his arms.
“What am I, a traveling service agency?” the necromancer growled in annoyance as Sarisa pulled away and flashed into the bathroom. Sighing, he looked at Ari. Aisley sat back in her chair and stared up at the ceiling in thought.
“You’re just pissed that you are not with the others in hell,” Allia growled from the doorway. Riordan said nothing as she walked over to us. I let out a startled yelp as her cold fingers wrapped around my wrist. Taking the tube and the bag of blood from my hands, she set them on the tray that was sitting on the small table beside the bed. No one said anything as she wiped away the blood from Ari’s face and neck with a wet towel she took from Sarisa. The hunter stood motionless, freed of blood and in clean pair of black jeans and a blue T-shirt—her hair still dripping water from her quick but thorough shower. “Go ahead and feed her,” Allia said to Alexander, who nodded before ripping into his wrist and pressing the bleeding wound to Ari’s parted mouth. She still bled, but it was more of a trickle rather than a gush. “Did you see Tristan?” she asked no one in particular.
“Yes,” said Riordan. “I did.”
“Did you inform him of her condition?” she asked, nodding to Ari.
“Oh, hell no.” Allia smirked but said nothing. Alexander pulled back from Ari and got to his feet.
“I know what you’re going to say,” he said to Allia as he walked reluctantly to the door, opening it and stepping out.
“I have not the slightest idea of what you speak of.”
Alexander scowled at her. “You were going to tell me to go hunt, and if I don’t, you’ll most likely gut me.”
Allia chuckled. “Accurate enough.” Grumbling under his breath, he disappeared down the hall. The sound of chains clinking together was loud as Sarisa unchained Ari. Aisley scooted her chair out of grabbing range, and I almost laughed out loud.
“Silver doesn’t hurt you anymore, does it?” Sarisa asked curiously.
“It’s not the silver I’m worried about,” Aisley said slowly. I suddenly realized that Allia and Riordan were as still as the dead, like two predators sensing a third that was lying and waiting to strike. Kira put up her hands and slowly backed away from Ari, stopping when she reached the door that led from the room. On the outside, Ari was fully healed—her skin no longer an angry red. On the inside, no one knew, and no one would until she was fully awake and aware of her surroundings.
“Oh,” Sarisa said slowly. “Shit,” she finished and dropped the chains on the counter. “Ari,” she said, coming over and putting a hand on her shoulder. “Can you hear me? Open your eyes.” Of course, there was no response, not even a twitch of a finger. Sarisa winced, bending down and sliding her arms under Ari. “I’m going to clean you up. If you have the urge to attack me, a warning would be nice.”
“She won’t bite,” Allia said as Sarisa moved to the bathroom. “She is awake, but it is like she’s stuck between dreaming and waking.”
“Good to know,” Sarisa said as the sound of water came on. I bit my lower lip, making sure that my fangs didn’t pop out as I stared into the bathroom. The need to help Ari was so strong within me that I couldn’t even think straight. The need to do violence was growing stronger by the minute, and to be honest, I now had an idea of how Kira felt when it came to protecting Tristan. I couldn’t save my mother from death’s doorstep, and I was not about to watch Ari die. Not if I had anything to say about it. While Tabitha’s death was quick; Ari’s would be slow and agonizing. On top of everything, I could not bring myself to lose my sire, too. “Skyler?” I blinked, pulling away from my thoughts and stared at Sarisa. For once, her eyes were not the bright red I was so used to seeing from her.
“Sorry,” I muttered. “Did you say something?” I glanced around the room, realizing that everyone but Kira had left. The other fledgling apart from me leaned against the cabinets, her body twitching as she forced herself to remain in place and not run out the door to do something heroic… or irrational. If she did and gotten herself hurt, Tristan’s head probably would very well just explode for real. “Is she really awake?” I asked softly.
She hesitated, frowning. “Yes… and no.” She scowled. “She shouldn’t have been able to wake up at all.”
“She’s going to feel my sire’s every single pain now, isn’t she?” Kira asked.
“She is,” Sarisa said quietly. I stilled, a numbing sensation creeping over me and leaving me feeling cold, as Kira went paler than pale if that was even possible.
“How are we not feeling any pain from them?” I asked, not sure if I wanted to know the answer.
“Because Allia is blocking you from it. Normally, the pain wouldn’t be debilitating, but since Ari is in enough pain of her own—more so than Tristan if you ask me—the pain thresh level just went out the window.
“Couldn’t you compel her to sleep?” I frowned. “Wait, can you even compel other vampires?” She opened her mouth to reply, but in the next instant, she was gone. The sound of water splashing onto the floor might as well be gunshots to my ears.
“Fuck,” Kira breathed. “Part of me wants to go in there, but part of me doesn’t.”
“Afraid she’s going to bite you?”
She snorted and straightened. “Hardly,” she said and shoved her hands into her pockets. Shaking my head, I walked to the bathroom and stepped inside. Kira followed more slowly, stopping in the doorway and leaning against the doorframe, all while muttering obscenities under her breath. Sarisa struggling with Ari would have been funny if this was any other situation. More water splashed onto the floor, slowly flooding the bathroom and the room beyond. A hand came down on my shoulder, gently moving me aside as Cailin went to Sarisa’s aid.
“Come,” Allia said from behind me. “Let’s give Sarisa space before she stabs one of you with a needle.” Kira and I looked at each other, and then followed her out into the hall.
“She wouldn’t stab us with a needle,” Kira spluttered as Allia led us to the elevator.
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” I said, grimacing at the dry blood coating my hands.
“Because she’s a healer?”
“Careful, child,” Allia warned as we stepped from the elevator and onto the main floor. “Ignorance can get you killed. You would be wise not to make the mistake of underestimating her.” Kira scowled, walking into the HQ’s kitchen and yanking one of the drawers open. She grabbed up a few pixy stix before slamming it shut. Going over to the sink, I willed the water on and stuck my hands under the cold tap.
“She’s pissed, because she was pulled from the battle?” I asked after shutting off the water and drying off my hands. Turning, I leaned against the counter, my senses on high alert.
“No hunter wishes to be pulled from a battle,” Allia said and grabbed a couple bags of blood from the refrigerator with a scowl. “She may be a healer, but never forget that she is also a hunter,” she finished and stabbed her fangs into the bag.
“I didn’t forget,” Kira mumbled and stepped from the kitchen. I followed her out, going over to one of the couches and sitting down.
“So,” I said and let out a startled sound as a cat appeared out of nowhere.
“Aisley!” Kira exclaimed. The kitten that was Aisley meowed and jumped onto the table before lying down.
“Did you go see Elijah?” I asked. In response, she purred. “I’ll take that as a yes,” I said in amusement.
“Allia,” Kira said, taking a step toward the kitchen. She stopped as Allia held up a hand, groaning.
“Are you okay?” I asked and leaned forward.
“I will be fine in a minute,” Allia hissed. Kira’s hands clenched into fists, and I could hear the growls she was trying to hold back. We didn’t have to ask what was wrong. It was pointless when we already knew the answer. Because somewhere in hell, more vampires were dying, and I prayed that one of them… wasn’t someone I knew.