THE SECRET LIFE OF ZURRIE DRESDEN

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Chapter Four: Azurah- The Beginning

I haven’t fed in days. The burn deep within the lining of my throat is close to unbearable at this point. Nothing but a fresh kill will douse this flame. The last three days have been nothing but chaos within the coven. It’s not every day that the body of the coven’s headmaster is found on the front step of the main entry door. Not only was he drained of every ounce of blood, but he was decapitated. Alongside his body was a blood-spattered note with a single word- “War”. Whoever did this must be a complete fucking idiot to think that it would be anything other than a declaration of such.

It didn’t take me long to realize this was more, much more than a simple act of bloodshed. This is a message to all members of the Nemurire Council. The fact that this rival, rouge, clan got as far as they did with no detection, signifies that this is a game of cat and mouse. The body of the headmaster in clear view for all to see, minus his head, is a bold and reckless act that speaks volumes.

Since the moment he was discovered, every member has been on high alert and hasn’t left the security of our sanctuary. Most of the elders retreated to their chambers and haven’t been seen since.

I need to clear my head and the only way for me to do so is to ensure I can focus, but at this time, focus isn’t a luxury I have. The only thing I can think of is the warm blood of a human upon my lips and the smooth liquid running down the back of my throat.

Pushing the current situation that’s deep in the throes of madness into the back of my mind, I focus on my task at hand, feeding. With my attention diverted elsewhere, I hadn’t noticed the crispness in the evening air. Refreshing. A cool breeze swirls around my body, caressing my back and arms. Delicate snowflakes rain kisses upon my cheeks every so often. This is my favorite time of year, as the blood of both humans and other worldly animals’ hearts pump harder to push their blood through their veins. The narrowing of the blood vessels and arteries causes their hearts to instinctively work harder to protect them from the harsh elements. This, of course, makes for an easier mark, and an easier mark means an easy kill.

On most days, I’d want to take my time and enjoy the hunt, but knowing I must return to ensure that order is restored to my members, there’s simply no time for being lackadaisical. Responsibility and duty await me.

I quicken my pace and move through the downtown streets and alleys at a pace that’s undetectable to humans. Nothing. There’s not a single human out.

Not to worry, just two towns over offer an array of “fast food” opportunities. Not my choice to feed on the drunken, drug-induced homeless and prostitutes, as their blood is polluted with the shit they take to numb the pain of their very existence. Beggars can’t be choosers. My pace slows as I head into the thick brush of the wooded land owned by the Draven’s. Just the thought of the old man stiffens my spine. The last time I stepped foot into his territory, the bastard almost took me out. Literally.

Vampires rarely have many threats to their existence. In most cases, we have one, and that’s the Nephilim. Nephilim are creatures created in the heavens that have two jobs: eliminating my kind and protecting man. That was it, one threat; at least that’s what we thought until I came face to face with old man Draven. The memory of that night still haunts me.

I remember the smell of his sweet blood pumping through his veins. I could hear it the moment I entered the thick brush that outlines and borders his property. Weaving in and out of the trees at speeds undetectable to the human eye, it was only seconds before I stood face to face with him. Chills run down my spine as the image of that day replays in my mind.

I flew through the door with my target in sight. Being faster than the blink of an eye, he shouldn’t have even known I was coming. As if in slow motion, he fearlessly lifted his head from his bowl of soup, locked eyes with me, and lifted the handmade firearm he had tucked at his side. Without a moment’s hesitation, he fired off a single round. His eyes were like gray steel as they penetrated mine with an icy stare. His finger, already poised on the trigger, clicked the moment I entered. Hitting me straight in the abdomen, just under the ribcage, the blow to my body tossed me out the door I had just entered.

The moment the fragmented pellets contacted my skin, there was no doubt in my mind who and what he was. Unable to stand, and almost completely immobilized, I used my ability to connect with the minds of my coven members for help. Attempting to get away from him, I scooted backward. Everything seemed to move in slow motion that night.

The legs of the chair upon which he sat scrapped along the rough wooden floorboards as he quickly rose from his position and shadowed me as I tried to put as much distance as I could between the two of us. He kept a slow and steady pace with each step he took in my direction. Those cold gray eyes never broke their unsympathetic executioner glare. Using what little remaining strength I had left in my arms and legs, I drug myself just outside of the property line; all the while keeping my eyes locked on his.

Although not one that falls prey to fear, it was an emotion I felt when I took a moment to assess my injuries. Blood continued to pour out through the open wound in my torso. Under normal circumstances, I would have healed within a few seconds, but the damage was too significant. Pain had a firm hold on my entire body; inflicted from the silver fragments which were embedded not only into vital organs but into my interior and exterior flesh. A small stream of smoke continued to rise from the gaping hole and into the cool evening air.

I shudder, knowing it’s a miracle I’m still here, still in existence. Over the last decade or two, I’ve thought of what it would be like to have vengeance on the old man for what he did to me that night, but the head elders have forbidden it. To deny this demand would be a death sentence, even for me, as the coven’s Queen.

I’m not sure why he’s been protected all this time, but it’s been made clear that no harm shall ever come to him or his family. The old bastard isn’t worth the wrath of Marcus, one of the highest-ranking members of the council body. Marcus is an old-school rule follower, with no exceptions and no mercy.

Ruminating thoughts are put to an abrupt halt at the sound of a thudding heartbeat. It’s close. Really close. With a few leaps and bounds, I’m able to locate the source. Keeping off to the side and well hidden, I set my eyes on the magnificent creature. She is beautiful! Although I may be a vampire, I still appreciate the things in life that are easy on the eyes. Because of her milky shade, she almost blends into the backdrop. Taking a slow step out from behind the large oak tree I’ve been using as my camouflage, I attempt to gather a better look at her.

The moment I do so, she jerks her head around and looks in my direction. Her ears go back as she intently listens for any sound coming from the heavily wooded area. Although she doesn’t see me, she knows I’m here. Her heart rate increases as she arches her neck and snorts. Each time her chest heaves up and down, I can hear the free-flowing blood that circulates throughout her vascular system. By instinct alone, my mouth begins to water.

The mesmerizing trance she has me under breaks, as reality sets in, and my mind questions as to whether this could be a setup by that bastard Draven. Why would his horse be roaming freely?

My answer comes within a split second as the door to his beat-up old hovel creeps open. Not taking any chances, I dash behind the large oak once again. Snow crystals that have accumulated on the trunk stick to my exposed back as I lean against it. To gather in his scent, I close my eyes and inhale the surrounding air. Having the ability to track, I have his physical aroma now locked in the recesses of my mind forever.

To my surprise, he’s an unknown; at least from this distance. What a pleasant surprise. My luck may have just turned. Do I hear the dinner bell ringing?


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