A lone, bloody hand-print was smeared across the stainless-steel, and inside the metal walls were painted red. Dom stepped closer and the chewing sound stopped. One more step and a large rat scurried out into the light running as fast as it could. And the cell? It lay bare of any other life form, including the bloody human body on the ground.
A part of Dom wanted to laugh. Upstairs that bastard had got him good, played on his shock, and now he was probably laughing it up somewhere, all the while watching the freak-show rack up a body count.
All the bullshit built up and came rolling out in one wave. He picked up a small wooden table off to the side and slung it into the cement wall across from him.
“Fuck!” his rough voice echoed through the bare room.
Aidyn barreled inside. “What the—” He stopped half-way down the steps. The color draining from his face.
“Congratulations. Your wish came true.” Dom gestured a hand toward the cell. “The fuckin’ leech is out his chains.”
“I . . . I was just down here—he was just . . .” Aidyn trailed off and fisted his hair with both hands. “Goddammit, Thorne.”
Dom cut his eyes at the mention of the parasite’s name. “Save the bullshit, Aidyn. If it were up to you, you would’ve left him alone the last time he got out.”
His brother’s eyes widened and his voice dropped low. “Oh, no, you’re not pinning this shit on me. You saw Lu—” with a shake of his head, Dom faced the cell again, “—and you didn’t even warn us. You knew he’d be coming for him.” Aidyn passed him and peeked inside the blood splattered room. He chuckled and scratched his forehead, “You hate him, but you’re both one and the same.”
Dom was a lot of things. An asshole. Selfish. Volatile and calculating even. Coldblooded, though—it didn’t make the list. And he be damned if anybody put his name in the same sentence as the apex predator this generation of mortals hadn’t had the pleasure to know.
He pointed a finger at himself as he walked to Aidyn, looking him square in the eye. “You think I’m the monster?” With a hard palm to the chest, Dom shoved him. “Let me tell you something, kid, you missed the last party he attended. You haven’t seen what that fucker can do. He’ll clear a town in a day—a city in two.”
His brother glared but kept his mouth shut.
“I get you gotta soft spot for the freak, but he’s not our brother.”
Aidyn hung his head low. “Yeah . . . he is.”
Every ounce of energy left him. “Go check all the rooms. Make sure the asshole’s actually gone.”
As his brother left, Dom blew out a breath and stepped into the cell. Blood ran down the stone walls and covered the concrete floor, and looked more like a slaughterhouse than a basement.
Goddammit. The bastard had a habit of making a mess of his meal, but this one really took the cake.
The body lay contorted on the floor, a chunk missing from the man’s throat, his face nearly smashed in. Dom kicked a pair of glasses and a black leather wallet out his way, and then reached for a broken leg.
The tips of his fingers grazed the dead guy’s shoe and a thousand different images flooded into his head—the victims, all of them women. All of them dead.
“Shit.” He jerked away, backing out the cell and trying to regain control over himself.
It was too late, though. Sweat beaded on his forehead as his blood boiled beneath his skin, the need to kill suddenly springing forth like a brutal thirst that needed quenching.
Pairs of feet came down the steps and suddenly the basement was swarming with everyone. Their voices overlapped one another, each becoming louder. And fuck, his ears began to ring, a steady dial-tone humming in his head.
Then came the tunnel vision.
With a shaking hand, he faced the concrete wall and pinched the bridge of his nose as a fire swept through his bones, the ink spreading further than it had in a while. A sickening crack hushed the room and in an instant, he felt all eyes on him. Grimacing, he put a hand to his side and popped the rib back into place. Only for his shoulder blade to distort next with a pop. As his throat tightened and the rest of his muscles tensed, he squeezed his eyes closed, the struggle to find a middle-ground becoming a battle between the beast and sanity.
A bead of sweat rolled off his brow.
His eyes snapped open.
“Jade . . . back off,” Zeke warned.
But Dom still felt her coming closer, the hairs of his arms raising with electricity. Her fingers curled over his forearm, but instead of quelling the creature like before, she summoned the fucker higher. And in the worst way.
“Jade, let go of him.”
Another rib shifted.
“Get out,” Dom’s voice came out gravelly. As Jade’s hand pulled from his skin though, he caught her wrist. “Not you.”
Her sister and Zeke seemed hesitant, which he guessed he couldn’t blame them. He finally looked back at them, and Erica’s eyes widened to the size of saucers. His brother, on the other hand, only glowered at him.
“Go ahead, Dom. Show her who you really are,” Zeke said as he let Erica pull him away.
The air in the room lightened as the door to the basement slammed shut. Letting out a held breath, Dom released Jade from his grip
“Your fingertips are black.”
A strange emotion he hadn’t felt in a while shook him as he glanced at her wrist, studying the skin he’d been touching. But no black soot marked her. He swallowed hard and blinked before looking down at his hands and watched their color return to normal.
“What—what did that?”
He looked up and saw her staring at the body in shock. Her eyes watered a fraction and Dom’s heart twinged just the tiniest bit.
A loud sigh sounded through the room as Aidyn walked over to them. “Well, if it makes you feel any better—”
“Shut up,” Dom bit out.
But Aidyn couldn’t help himself, “this wasn’t a good dude if our brother bled him dry.”
Jade blinked a few times before looking to Dom. “Your brother?”
“He’s not my brother,” Dom growled.
Aidyn shrugged. “We have a lot of family issues.”
“Mm, yeah, I can see that.” She nodded and rubbed her forehead. “Uh, so is he gone?”
His brother nodded. “Yeah, house is clear. He’s miles away by now hunting for his next bite.”
Jade started to walk away. “If I didn’t have class in the morning, I would totally ask more questions, but uh, I’m gonna crawl back in my bed and pretend that there’s not a dead body down here and all is right in the world.”
“That’s not a healthy mental state. You shouldn’t push everything to the back of your mind, face reality head on—”
“Aidyn. There’s a dead body rotting on my basement floor. Shut up and clean up your brother’s mess.”
With hesitance, Jade looked over to the man next to her. His black hair shined in the sunlight as he sat next to the window, his attention drawn elsewhere. She took a deep breath, telling herself to open her mouth and demand answers—and at the same time, fear willed her mouth shut.
Curiosity was the only reason she sat next to him. And curiosity always killed the cat.
Huffing, she scooted her chair back, about to leave.
Until those silver eyes slid over. “I’m afraid your teacher won’t be coming in today.”
She glanced at the clock on the wall above the classroom door, noting it was already thirty minutes after three. Most of the class had already left except for three others, but still she stayed.
She hadn’t even bothered to bring her sketchbook.
“In fact, you won’t be having anymore classes.” Michael gave a soft smile.
Her eyes widened. “What’d you do to him?”
“Nothing he didn’t deserve, sweetheart.”
A chill shot through her as a flick of honesty appeared in his strange eyes.
The smile dropped from his lips and he leaned toward her, and out of reflex, she shrank against her seat. “Are you going to thank me?”
“Your drawing, I helped you finish it.” He tapped his fingers along the desk as if he were annoyed, and once again, looked out the window. “Not to mention, I did burn down a house full of vampires for you. I think a small thank-you is warranted.”
He switched subjects fast. “You know you whimper in your sleep. Sad, soft moans, they fill your room like a haunting song at night.”
Numbness sprouted from the tips of Jade’s fingers and carried onward up her arms, until her entire body felt like pins and needles as she stared at him wide eyed.
“Do you dream of him killing you often?”
The dream came flooding back—the woods, the mud, and Dom standing over her covered in blood. She’d been having the same nightmare for a week.
“You’ve been making me dream that.”
The man gave a guttural laugh. “No, that’s a warning from a higher power. You should heed it.”
She swallowed the hard lump in her throat. “Who are you?”
He smirked but it didn’t reach his eyes. “No one.” And then he stood and shoved his chair under the desk. “Tell Dom to meet me outside that little cafe on main street around 5pm. I’ll be waiting for him. It’s been a pleasure, Jade.”
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