“Everyone is gone.” Freya’s quiet voice penetrated my fog of a mind, and I looked up to find her standing behind Jailyn’s vacated chair, one of her pale hands gripping the back of it as she looked at me with concern. I nodded, having no idea of how long I sat there. “Are you all right?”
“I will be,” I said and stared at the doors that led out into the hall. “You need to feed, my dear child.”
“So do you.”
I pushed from the table and got to my feet. “Come,” I said and held out my hand to her. Freya hesitated for a moment, and then she put her cold one into my own, a split second before I teleported. She let out a sigh and groaned as the frigid wind of Rochester, New York slammed into us. Pulling her hand out of mine, she flopped down into the snow, shielding her eyes from the too-bright-for-comfort sky. I closed my eyes, inwardly wincing from the painful stabs of a thousand needles against my skin.
“Are we out in the middle of nowhere? I do not smell any life nearby.”
“We are,” I said and shoved my hands into my pockets. I felt the stir of the air as she got to her feet. Her wet, ice cold hand wrapped around my wrist, and I let her pull my own hand out of my pocket. Opening my eyes to slits, I looked at her and winced.
“Did you drain your blood for Lorena today?” she suddenly asked. I scowled, and when I couldn’t remember if I had or not, I teleported. “That would be a no,” Freya said, releasing my wrist as we appeared in Lorena’s darkened living room. Lorena herself was a blur as she lunged for me. Bracing myself for impact, I grunted as I caught her.
“Why did you not call for me?” I growled in irritation.
“I didn’t want to bother you,” Lorena wheezed and bit into my neck.
“Don’t spill,” I said as she struggled to swallow the blood down her throat. “If you are out of my blood, I don’t care what time of the day or night it is, you are to come when you need me or call. Is that understood?” I glared at Freya, who sighed and took hold of one of my wrists. Bringing it to her mouth, I winced as she sank her fangs in deep. Lorena paused in her feeding, and I growled in warning. “Stop now and I’ll stab you both.” Lorena growled, and I cursed as she bit down hard. After a long couple of minutes, they reluctantly withdrew their fangs and sealed the wounds before pulling away from me.
“You would not do such a thing,” Freya said and scowled at the floor.
“Wouldn’t I?” I asked as the red haze of hunger clouded my vision. Lorena walked into the kitchen as I went over to the couch and sat. She came back out a second later, holding a couple bags of blood in her hands. Dropping down beside me, she held them out. I took them, and silence fell, as I drained the cold contents of the bag, one after another. When I was done, I crushed them into one plastic ball and tossed it into the trashcan beside the round coffee table.
“I need to make another blood run,” Lorena muttered and glanced at the blacked out window.
“And what of you?” I asked and looked up at Freya.
She shrugged. “I still have quite a few left to get on with.” I grunted, and then snarled as I was suddenly yanked into complete darkness. I landed hard on my back, and I glared up at Jailyn as she waved to Lorena and Freya who were on the other side of the damn veil. Freya stepped forward, and a second later, she was yanked by some invisible force to land on her hands and knees beside me. Lorena shook her head, and the veil vanished just as silently as the dead. “It has been a while since I was here,” Freya said and got to her feet.
“You were last here about two thousand years ago if I remember correctly,” Jailyn said as I continue to glare up at her.
“It has been that long, I see.”
“It has.” Jailyn nudged me in the side with a foot. “Stop glaring at me.” She scowled. “I brought you here for a reason,” she said, grumbling under her breath. Freya held a hand out to me, and I took it, allowing her to pull me to my feet.
“That reason may be?” I growled.
“Cool your jets,” Jailyn said, snorting as she turned away from us. “This way.” When I didn’t move, Freya’s hand went to my arm, and I reluctantly let her pull me along. To me, everything in the abyss looked the same. It felt like I was walking in circles, and I wondered how in the hell Jailyn was finding her way around this cold, endless vast of nothing but crumbling buildings and pillars.
“Are you going to enlighten us to why we are here?” Freya asked after a few minutes of walking.
“Tabitha Henlie,” Jailyn replied simply. “And I want to talk to you about something else as well.” I grunted as we slowed to a stop. In the distance, I could see a flicker of movement, and then Tabitha’s spirit stepped out from behind one of the standing pillars. Blinking, she floated over to us and stopped in front of Jailyn. “Hello, Tabitha Henlie.” she said in greeting and paused. “Are you done running away from me?” Jailyn asked, amused. “I will have you know that chasing you all over the place was quite entertaining.”
“You could have caught me at any time,” Tabitha said with a frown.
“I could have,” Jailyn said and folded her arms, scowling at the gathering spirits hovering about a hundred feet away from where we were standing. “You ran every time I or one of my children drew near so… it made me curious.”
“I was wondering why no one was coming after me,” Tabitha said softly.
Jailyn smiled. “I called off the hunt temporarily.” Tabitha nodded. “May I inquire to why you ran?”
“My husband and daughter.” Freya’s hand tightened on my arm as I winced horribly.
“Ah,” Jailyn said quietly and dropped her arms. The wave of sadness that suddenly filled the air was so palpable it felt like I could touch it.
“How are they?”
“They are well,” Jailyn said softly, gently. “Both of them.” She hesitated, frowning as she thought of something. “Would you like to see them for yourself?”
Tabitha looked down at the ground for a long moment, and then she shook her head. “I would love to, but I rather not. I’ll take your word for it.”
Jailyn nodded. “I understand.”
Tabitha hesitated, and then shrugged, as if making up her mind on a decision she was fighting with. “Will you take care of Skyler?” She let out a heavy sigh. “I know that she is a vampire and can.” She made air quotes with her fingers. “Take care,” she said, drawing out the words. “Of herself. I still worry about her and for her safety. I may be dead, but that doesn’t change anything.” She paused. “Is her…” She frowned.
“Sire?” Jailyn provided helpfully. “That is what we call it when one of us creates another vampire.”
Tabitha nodded. “Yes, is her sire still around?”
I winced. “She is,” I said as Freya dropped her hand from me and took a step back.
Tabitha blinked as she turned to look at me. “I know you from somewhere,” she muttered.
“We’ve met once before,” I said and waited for her to remember. When she did, her eyes widened.
“Tristan,” she gasped, still blinking. “You made me go home that one day. I couldn’t resist no matter how hard I tried to turn back.” She scowled. “What did you do to me? I remember every word you said.”
I smirked. “I compelled you to go home.”
She scowled. “Anyone ever told you that it’s rude to control someone’s mind without permission?”
I chuckled. “Yes, many times in fact.”
“How old are you exactly?”
I scowled at her. “Anyone ever told you that it’s rude to ask for someone’s age?”
She huffed. “Just tell me.”
I shrugged. “I’m a little over five thousand years old.”
She gaped. “No wonder you don’t know how to be nice or respect someone’s privacy.”
“I take offense to that,” I growled and frowned at her.
“You can’t hurt me,” she said and shrugged.
I narrowed my eyes at her. “Physically, you’re right, but there are other ways of hurting someone.”
“Tristan,” Jailyn said in warning. “I will not have you hurt my spirits.”
“You have so little faith in me, Jailyn,” I said with a sigh.
“And you wonder why,” Jailyn said sweetly and wrapped her pale, cold fingers around my wrist. I hissed in pain, every muscle in my body locking together as I held back a scream. There was a sharp tug at the center of my being as my vision began to darken around the edges. I let out a strangled scream as I burned from the inside out. “Just remember what I and no one else can do to you.” I glanced down to find that her hand was glowing hot red and fiery around my wrist. I could feel Freya’s arms around me as I let out a pained snarl.
“I have not forgotten a thing,” I hissed through gritted teeth.
“Good,” she said and released me as she stepped in close. My eyes automatically went to the vein in her neck. “You would do best to not forget.” Lengthening a sharp silver-tipped, sapphire-blue claw that would reflect light if there was any here, she sliced into her neck. The scent of blood filled my nostrils, and everything did go dark a split second later as I attacked her.
“Wake up,” Freya said softly into my ear as she pressed a cold hand against my cheek. “Wake up now.” I blinked my eyes open to find Jailyn looking down at me.
“Welcome back to the living,” she said and smirked. “I must admit, Tristan. I haven’t had that much fun in quite some time.” With a grunt, Freya dropped her hand and lifted me into a sitting position.
“I now officially hate you,” I growled.
“I feel the love as well.”
I sighed. “What happened?”
“You lost it.” She arched an eyebrow in amusement. “Utterly and completely. It was quite the sight.” Muttering, I nodded to Tabitha who was staring blankly at nothing.
“Who is controlling mind now?” I asked dryly as I slowly got to my feet. Jailyn snorted and went to stand beside Tabitha, a hand on the spirit’s shoulder. “You do know that you could have been seen?”
She nodded. “Don’t worry, I took precautions.” She gestured around her, and I realized belatedly that all the spirits except for Tabitha were gone.
“Are you going to take her now?” I asked, nodding to the spirit at her side.
Jailyn glanced at Tabitha and nodded, sighing. “Yes, she’s ready to go. I have reassured her that Skyler will be looked after.” I nodded and glanced down at my wrist. I winced at the angry redness of it, and it was healing and fading, but not at my normal, regenerative speed. “Hellfire, love, remember?” I growled, and she chuckled, disappearing with Tabitha in a flash of blinding white light that left me blinking away spots and tearing up. I glared at her as she reappeared alone a few seconds later. “Next time,” she said, smirking. “I will be sure to warn you.” I stared down at the black ground and wondered how many times I can stab her before she could knock my ass unconscious, and this time, probably permanently. Jailyn laughed and stepped up to my side. “Okay,” she said, resigned as I looked up. “I’ll stop being an ass.”
“Thank the devil,” I muttered as she began to walk. Freya fell in step beside me as I followed Jailyn to wherever she was going. “Helagias.”
“I’m sorry?” I asked.
“That is what I want to talk to you about, or rather, who I want to talk to you about.”
“Go on?” I said slowly.
“Helagias is the imp who shot Tabitha.”
“I don’t think it will be a great idea for Skyler to seek out revenge for her mother’s demise. No matter how bad she wants to.”
“So do I,” Freya seconded. “It would also be wise if she is not left alone with any demons for a while.”
“I agree,” Jailyn said a minute later as we came to a stop. Glancing around, she nodded. “Jumping,” she said, a second before the ground fell away from me.
Night had just fallen as we appeared in the middle of a small clearing. Walking over to one of the surrounding trees, I leaned against it as Jesric and another vampire stepped from the shadows, another necromancer, another one of my creation. There weren’t many necromancers in the world, but damn, more of them seemed to pop out of nowhere all of a sudden. Freya came to stand beside me and put a hand on my shoulder as Jailyn walked to meet the two necromancers. “I have a job for you both. Are you interested?” They nodded. Jailyn nodded in turn as a scroll appeared in her hand. She handed this to Jesric, who took it and shoved it into his pocket. “I want you to track down Justine, and when you find her, do not kill her. I want you to bring her to me alive and unharmed.” Another scroll appeared in her hand, and she gave this to the second vampire. “Are these instructions I have given both of you clear?” They again nodded. “If you have any questions, now is the time to ask.”
“What do we tell her if she ask why we’re taking her?” Jesric asked.
She smirked. “Tell Justine that I would like to have a word with her.” He nodded and moved back into the shadows, his silent companion following. “Remember,” Jailyn said as they disappeared. “Do not be afraid to call out if the need arises.” Muttering, she turned to me. “Are you now off to see Ari?” she asked.
Straightening, I nodded. “There is something I have to do first,” I said as Freya dropped her hand from me.
Jailyn nodded. “Freya and I shall see you there then.” I nodded as they vanished into thin air. Sighing, I mentally reached out. Elijah, I silently said into his mind. Join me. With that, I teleported.
Standing in front of the ruin foundation of the old HQ, I looked around as Elijah appeared at my side. “I take it that you are ready to blow up what the demons have left untouched?” he asked and stared up at the moon.
“I’ve put it off long enough,” I said and reached into my pocket. Wrapping my hand around the small remote, I pulled it out. Elijah put a hand on my arm and teleported a good distance away.
“We got everything we needed out of there. Bridget is also on standby.” Nodding, I let out a heavy sigh and pushed a button on the remote, dropping it back into my pocket. Sixty seconds later, there was a deafening boom, and the ground shook underneath our feet. From the opening, orange flames shot high into the sky, illuminating Bridget as she walked out of the darkness and spoke into her radio. Nodding to us, she waved in greeting. Nodding to her, I once again teleported, reappearing in my apartment at Council HQ.
Sarisa glanced up from where she was sitting on the couch and nodded to me. “She hasn’t awakened,” the hunter said and frowned. I nodded as she got to her feet and followed me into the bedroom. Freya, Jailyn, Skyler, and Amaris in puppy form all looked up as I approached them. Plucking Amaris from the foot of the bed, I sat down and held the little shifter in my arms as I looked at Ari, no longer naked but dressed in a loose-fitting black shorts and an even looser sky-blue T-shirt that was big on her. “You can feed her,” Sarisa said quietly, and I glanced at the IV stand beside the bed. “When she wakes up.” I nodded, setting Amaris on the floor and moving into position, until I was able to pull Ari into my arms. Leaning against the headboard, I stroked her dark, dark red hair back, wincing as her skin burned me. Damn, I thought and stared up at the ceiling. There was a sudden burst of energy in the room, and we all froze, as if standing still in time. I didn’t even breathe as I felt the change in Ari’s own breathing. It was the barest slight of changes, but it was enough to catch even the dead’s attention. Not even daring myself to hope, I slowly looked down, and I let out a sharp breath as I stared into her unfocused, confused, hunger-filled, no longer white but black eyes. “Ariella?” I whispered, as everyone else in the room promptly faded into the background.
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