What had happened? Why didn’t I chase after him? Where were they? All these questions raced through my head, but the answers were nowhere to be found. We went back to the hotel to warm up Ramsey before I asked her the inevitable. Riecher stood outside her door while Niall stayed in to try and comfort her. He moved to let me in, and she sat on the bed, looking drained of energy, with Niall next to her.
“Rams… I know you just went through so much in so short a time… but…”
“You want me to try to find Lenny,” she replied, giving me a determined look. I nodded. “I’ll do it… She’s my best friend and we can’t just leave her there to die by his hands… It’s not the best time right now, but we can’t wait. Niall… I hate to ask, but I need your help.”
“You got it, love,” he said, turning to face her. She slid a ring off her finger, an odd looking piece. She cupped her hands under them, and Niall did the same up to her hands. I could swear I felt a rush of wind past me, and the ring began to levitate. I wondered if she’d showed Noxx this, as the eye searched. Niall got a pained look on his face, and I moved to try and help him, but his eyes shot open and gave me a look that said “no”. He went back to concentrating and before long, the ring floated down to land in her palm.
“It’s a big forest,” Ramsey said, shaking her head. “It’s in the middle of nowhere… just tons of snow covered dead trees. He’s there, with some girl. They have me held still, I think tied to a tree. My wrists are burning. I feel really dizzy… can’t understand…” Ramsey trailed off, and Niall held her.
“So a big forest, with Braddock and a girl,” I muttered, grateful that we’d gotten that much at least, but upset that there wasn’t anything that could actually help. There were millions of miles of forest in Russia, which would take a league of vampires days to completely search.
“Elias… it smells salty here, like fish. I think they might be along the coastline,” was all Ramsey had a chance to say before passing out.
“Go. I’ll be right there,” Niall vowed, and I grabbed my father and booked it out of the hotel.
We didn’t have to go very far to find them. Just as Ramsey had said, they were deep in the woods by the coastline. We arrived to see Lennox tied to a tree, half frozen to death. I moved to try to free her, but Braddock stepped out into view before I could.
“One more step and it’ll be the last you take,” he threatened, and I could see in his eyes that he meant every word.
“You had a girl with you... where is she?” I asked, and Arina stepped out from behind a tree. I should have known she was the one in league with him, but it still caught me off guard.
“Can’t start the party without me,” she chuckled, a menacing look on her face.
“Let her go,” I demanded, pointing to Noxx. “Your issue lies with me, not her.”
“It’s with the both of you, actually. You’re the one who turned me, and she’s the one that had you do it. And neither of you are walking away today. It’s just a matter of who gets to watch who die.” Braddock pulled out a long machete, circling it with his wrist a few times before grasping it firmly and pointing it at me. “Please, no sudden movements. I’d like to wake her for this and it would be a shame if you ruined my plan.” I watched helplessly as Braddock moved to Lennox, slapping her hard enough in the face to make it ring throughout the woods. She awoke with a gasp as I snarled at his treatment of her. Her eyes teared as she saw him, and then got wide with fear when she saw me.
“RUN!” Lennox screamed as loud as she could, trying to struggle her way out of her bindings. I looked back at Riecher, who sent me a questioning look as if to say, ‘what now’.
“It’s time, my love. Ready to see your plaything die?” Braddock asked, turning from her to me with a wild gaze. Reicher and I moved to stand back to back as Braddock and Arina circled us as if we were fish and they were sharks. And as the snow fell around us, the battle began.
Braddock lunged for me, swinging the sword for my neck, while Arina aimed a punch for my father. We broke off to fight our respective partners, successfully avoiding the first blow. I tried to concentrate on my fighting as Braddock swiped again, this time barely nicking my cheek. He still managed to graze me, though, and the cold air stung the cut like he’d poured acid on it.
“Dipped in rosewater,” Braddock taunted. “Want to make sure you feel it when I cut you to bits.” I heard my father grunt and stupidly, I looked over to him. Arina had knocked him down, but before I could try to help, Braddock swung and sliced deep into my upper arm. I howled in pain, stepping backward to try to put distance between us.
“Why don’t you fight like a man?” I shouted, and Braddock got angry. “We’re unarmed. You’ve got an advantage. Fight me on an even playing field.” My tactic worked, because sure enough, he threw the sword down behind him. He lunged for me again and we traded blows back and forth for a while. I was surprised he had become so strong and quick over the years. He had me on the ropes in minutes this time, speed and anger on his side. He knocked me down to the ground and kicked my stomach as hard as he could, making me cough up blood. My vision began to blur as I heard Lennox crying and saw Braddock approaching. In my farsight, I could see Niall just arriving, and I looked past Braddock to the sword he’d thrown away, mentally begging my brother to grab it and free Lennox.
“I can’t believe she loves you,” Braddock sneered, rolling me on my back so he could straddle me to punch my face with forceful, livid blows. “Although she’s always had a thing for broken people.” Another punch sent me to the edge of oblivion, and I barely held on. “Say goodbye, Lennox!” Braddock screamed, wrapping his hands around my throat and pressing hard.
“Eli!” Lennox shouted, her voice piercing the forest. I gave her a sidelong glance and saw Braddock’s sword swinging through the air, chunking as it landed in the snow an inch from my hand. Braddock didn’t seem to notice, too consumed by his hatred and anger to stop trying to choke me to death. I met his gaze as my fingers scraped the sword itself, burning the tips. I struggled past the pain and finally got the handle, arcing it as fast and as hard as I could toward us, toward Braddock.
The machete connected with a sickening ease, slicing all the way through Braddock’s neck. Blood poured from it as his head rolled to the side, landing in the snow with a squish. I pushed his body off of me, struggling to see. Arina had apparently fled, leaving Niall to look after Riecher as Lennox ran to my side, tears streaming down her face. She looked so beautiful and sad at the same time that I didn’t know how to feel. Luckily, I didn’t have to do anything. As I sat up, she grabbed my face and pressed her lips firmly to mine, as if it were the last time we would ever kiss.
“I’m not going anywhere, love,” I assured as she pulled away, wiping the tears from her cheeks. “Not without you, at least,” I added, and she gave me a laugh. She helped me up and we went to check on my father and brother.
“You ok?” I asked them, and Niall nodded.
“She took off,” Riecher added, grimacing. “Don’t know where to. She put up a hell of a fight. You okay, boy?”
“Yeah,” I replied, my arm stinging. “The machete had rosewater on it. It’ll take weeks to heal the cut, but I’ll live.”
“Where is Rams?” Lennox questioned, her face twisting with worry.
“Safe,” Niall answered. “I left her in my room at the hotel. We should get back, just in case they knew where we were staying before we came to the house.” We hurried back as fast as we could, and I knew the feeling Niall got when he saw her waiting patiently for us. It was the same one I always got knowing Lennox was safe, a relief that couldn’t be held back. He wrapped her in a hug, squeezing until she protested. He let her down and when she locked eyes with Lennox, she burst into tears.
“I’m so sorry,” she apologized, rushing to hug Noxx. “I should have thought to look earlier… I should have known that he was there…” Lennox took Ramsey into her arms, smoothing her hair and comforting her.
“You couldn’t have known without looking, and it’s okay that we didn’t think of it before. We’re all safe and alive. We completed the final task, all thanks to you.” She gave Ramsey a small smile. Niall wrapped Ramsey in her arms, and the rest of us took it as a cue to leave. Riecher left for his room, and Lennox and I headed to mine.
As Elias shut the door behind me, I tried to gather myself. The day felt like it had lasted forever. I turned to face him and nearly burst into tears again at the sight. He was still covered in Braddock’s blood, and he looked like he was in pain. He gathered his things and headed for the bathroom, and he stopped when he saw the look on my face.
“Lennox…” He said softly, putting his things on the bathroom counter before coming back to pull me into his arms. I didn’t bother holding back the tears. He just stood there for a while with me, his arms a fortress I never wanted to leave. After I’d stopped crying, he looked down into my eyes.
“I’ve got to shower, love. You can join me if you want.” I nodded, and he led me to the bathroom, starting the water to warm it up. He helped me undress, and slowly took his ruined clothing off, the cut on his upper arm crusted with dried blood. It nearly marred his tattoo. His skin was tinted a reddish brown, from the blood of my former lover. We stepped into the shower, the warm water cascading between us. He slowly washed me, taking care to be gentle with my wrists where the rope had burned me. It was such an intimate act that I had to hold back the tears. When I was clean, Elias let me help wash him, and it became much harder to keep the crying at bay.
He winced as I tried to wash the gash. He watched my every move, a look in his eye I couldn’t place a name to, something between love and lust. I scrubbed the dried blood off of his shoulders, where it had soaked through his clothing, and moved to wash it off of his face. He moved his hand to cup mine over the sponge, staring deeply into my eyes. When his gaze became too intense for me, I looked instead at his cheek, where Braddock had nicked him with the machete. It wasn’t nearly as bad as his arm, but you could tell that he would have a scar, because of the rosewater that had coated the weapon. I washed it gently as Elias continued to watch me, and when I was finished, he quickly washed his hair and we got out to dry off and dress.
Finally settling into bed next to each other, I laid facing him, staring into his mysterious jade eyes. I reached up to softly trace the healing cut on his cheek, and he let me, still watching me. I started to tear up for the millionth time, and his look changed from serious to sad.
“Why are you crying, Formosus?” Elias asked, wiping at my cheeks to get rid of the wet streaks.
“This was all my fault,” I choked out, trying not to burst out in full out sobs. “If I’d just been a little less selfish and let him die instead of having him turned, we never would have had to go through all of this. You wouldn’t have gotten hurt, and-” He cut me off my pressing his lips gently to mine, before pulling back and making me look him in the eyes.
“This is not your fault. You wanted to save him, and that’s the kind of person you are. You look out for those you love, and it’s one of the many things that I adore about you. You made a split-second decision, and you truly thought it would work out. It’s not your fault it didn’t. Me getting hurt is not your fault either. If I had been more careful, that little whelp wouldn’t have touched me at all. We’ve come so far, Lennox,” he said, pulling me to his chest. “We’re so close, love. We can do this, together.” He stressed the last word, and something about that and the sound of his heart beating beneath my ear made me feel better.
I fell asleep in his arms, not wanting to be alone after everything that had happened. He held me all night, and I slept better than I had in a very, very long time.
I awoke the same way I’d fallen asleep, cuddled up next to Elias. I observed him for a few moments, and my heart ached at how beautiful and peaceful he looked. I wondered what he was dreaming about, but I didn’t get to ponder about it long because he woke up. He turned and regarded me with sleepy eyes, and I smiled.
“What time is it?” He asked groggily, and I adored the way he sounded.
“Must be ten or so,” I replied, squinting my eyes at the light that streamed in through the curtains. He groaned and pulled me into him, and I playfully struggled as he smothered me with his chest. He smelled magnificent, and his smooth skin was warm to the touch. He sighed, letting me go, and I looked at him curiously.
“We’ve got to talk to Rams about Camrina,” he explained, and I sighed. “We’ve completed all the tasks. So now… Now I guess we meet with her and perform the ritual. It won’t be long until I am free to love whoever I please… free to love you,” Elias murmured, lifting my face with a finger under my chin to plant a soft kiss on my lips. I wished I could spend all day with him in that bed, but we both knew there were more important things to deal with.
We got up and dressed for the day before heading to see Ramsey. She and Niall sat at the table in her room, talking animatedly. Elias grabbed his father before the discussion of Camrina began. Once we were all there, Elias started.
“Okay. So we’ve got all the things from the tasks here with us. I packed them, hoping that the meeting would be quickly set up, so we wouldn’t have to go back and face Valentina. Ramsey, have you contacted Camrina?”
“I have, last night,” she responded, giving us a smile. “She said she is prepared to meet us. We’ll need to fly to London to see her. There’s a hotel in the city that’s only half an hour away from her, so someone will need to make reservations for all of us.”
“All of you,” Riecher corrected. “This old man has had enough adventure to last him this century. We’ll fly back to Ireland, where I’ll be getting off. You can use my plane if you wish,” he added, and Niall shook his head no.
“We can use mine. It makes sense, kind of. We used it to get there anyway. If we used Dad’s, we’d have to fly to London, then back to Ireland, then home. If we take my plane, we can just go London to home.” Elias nodded, agreeing that Niall’s plan was smarter. “Thanks for the offer though, Dad.”
“Okay then,” Ramsey said. “So we pack, make reservations on the way to the airport, Fly to Ireland to drop Riecher off, fly to London, meet with Camrina, and then free Elias from the wicked witch of the world!” We all got a giggle out of that and left to our rooms to pack.
Putting my clothes into my bag, I felt at peace for the first time in years. We’d completed every task that had been put before us. Braddock was gone forever from my life, and I’d never have to look over my shoulder for him again. We were about to leave to make Elias a new heart, with which I hoped he would love me. It seemed like finally, the fates were on our side. I finished packing with a huge smile, dragging my stuff to the van to wait for the others. Elias came out first, and his face lit up when he saw me smiling.
He sauntered over to me, dropping his bags at my feet so he could wrap his arms around me tightly. I sighed happily in them, breathing in his scent, but the feeling didn’t last long. I wrapped my arms around him and brushed the scab on his arm, and I paused.
“Elias?” I murmured, not wanting to meet his gaze. He hummed in a questioning way, his body reverberating with the sound.
“When we get to London… will you train with me?” He pulled back at my question, forcing me to look at him. “It’s just that… you’re the oldest vampire I know besides Riecher, and Braddock got the better of both of us… and I want to be prepared. I need to be a better fighter if I’m going to survive to be your age. They trained me in the reformation program, but obviously not well enough…”
“I think you fight perfectly well, but if it will ease your worries, I am more than happy to oblige. Just don’t take it too personal when I give you the ass whooping of a lifetime,” he replied, giving me a wink. I hit his stomach lightly, and he faked like I’d knocked the wind out of him, causing me to giggle. Niall and Ramsey filed out of the inn, holding hands and exchanging a laugh. I wondered if that’s what Elias and I looked like; happy and like we were meant to be. Niall was good for Ramsey. He brought out a light in her that shone like a gem. They noticed me watching, and Rams blushed. We started packing the bags into the van as Riecher finally joined us. I was more than happy to be leaving Russia behind.
The flight to Ireland went smoothly, with no turbulence or hold ups. We said goodbye to Riecher at the airport, and I nearly shed a tear saying goodbye to him. He seemed to notice as he pulled me into a big hug.
“It’s not the last time we will ever see each other, so don’t look so grim, lass. I’ll come whenever you call if only just to see you.” I smiled in his arms and left to get back on the plane, feeling like I was already part of the family. We left for London right after our goodbyes, not wasting a second. I was so sick of flying that I swore to myself that after we were home in Canada for good, I wouldn’t fly for at least a year.
We landed in London in the evening, and headed straight for the hotel, exhausted and in dire need of rest. I, on the other hand, had different plans in mind. Even if we were all tired, that wasn’t an excuse for me to get out of training with Elias. I knew that even if he was drained from the flights, if I egged him on enough, he wouldn’t back down from the challenge. I unpacked my things the second I got to my room, and headed for Elias’s room shortly thereafter. He stood in his room, half unpacked, when I walked in.
“Wanna train?” I asked him, and he eyed me curiously.
“I’m not finished unpacking,” he replied, motioning to the half empty bag on his bed.
“If you have to make excuses just because you’re afraid to have your ass handed to you by a girl, I get it,” I said with a scoff, and his eyes narrowed. “I’d be afraid of me too. After all, I guard the king of all vampires.”
“You’re on. Where at?” Elias acquiesced, and I smiled, knowing I’d won.
“The gym room on the ground floor?” I asked, and he nodded, giving me a sideways glance.
“See you there,” Elias replied with a mischievous grin. I winked at him before exiting, knowing he was watching my every move as I left. I headed down the elevator and into the empty gym room, glad to be alone for a few minutes before Elias came down. I stretched for a bit, getting ready for the session. It felt good to move after sitting on planes for so long. Elias entered while I stretched, and he observed me with unrestrained admiration. I smiled at him as I straightened, and he gave me a tight smile.
“You ready?” I asked, bouncing on my toes. He chuckled before walking over to me.
“Ready to kick your ass? You bet, Formosus.” He gave me a sultry half grin, and I shot him a fake scowl. We assumed fighting stances and reached out to tap each other’s hand, to signal that we were ready. He assessed me with wary eyes, as I did the same to him. I decided to make the first move, trying a quick right jab. He blocked it effortlessly, smiling.
“If this is the best you’ve got, why bother?” He taunted, and I scowled. I threw a few punches, only landing one or two, and even those didn’t seem to affect him. He switched from defensive to offensive, throwing and landing a few good blows that staggered me. He went to go in for a shot, but I dodged it, punching him right in the face. I didn’t really mean to hit him that hard, but he stumbled backward, giving me a shocked look. I went to apologize, but I didn’t have a chance. He lunged for me and tackled me to the ground, pinning me to the ground with his body on top of mine.
“That was good,” he confessed, staring down at me with a smirk. “Too bad it’s the last one you’ll get on me.” He was so preoccupied with taunting me that he didn’t see my fist moving to his side. I hit hard, and he wheezed as it connected. I took the opportunity to catch his leg with mine, knocking him on top of me so I could roll him over to pin him the way he had pinned me.
“Is that so?” I asked, giving him the same smile he’d given me moments before. He scowled at me, and grabbed my wrists, twisting me so that I was beneath him, his hands securing mine above my head. He stared down into my eyes, and right then, I realized that we’d gone from an innocent training match to something much more heated and much less training focused. I could feel my face getting hot, and I knew he noticed, because he leaned down into me, hovering just inches from my face.
“Stay,” he growled, his emerald eyes dark with lust. I could barely breathe as he tightened his grip on my wrists, inching his lips closer to mine. He looked so amazing above me, his long hair messy and a little damp from the exercising. His body glistened with sweat, and I loved that he’d opted out of a shirt for training. I couldn’t take it any longer, and I moved as best I could to press my lips to his.
It was the same as it had been every other time. Fire lit me up and electricity coursed through my veins, searing every nerve ending. His body moved deliciously on top of mine, his lips making me dizzy. He pulled back just long enough to give me a stare that heated me to the core, before moving his lips to my neck. His mouth moved along my skin, and he freed my hands so he could move one to my waist. His hands felt so incredibly warm on me, making me breathe harder. His hand moved up my torso, skimming teasingly over my chest before it stopped to cup my neck opposite where his mouth still worked.
Elias stopped suddenly, jerking his head up toward the door. He was as still as a statue, listening. I heard footsteps coming down the hall, and our eyes met with a bit of panic. He stood quickly, helping me. We gathered our things just as a group of guys walked in. I paid no attention, pulling the band out of my hair to pull it back up neater. I grabbed the water I’d brought and opened it, taking a few gulps before heading for the door.
It wasn’t until we were almost to the elevator that I realized that Elias was brooding. I pressed the ‘up’ button and turned to face him. His mouth was downturned in a scowl, his eyebrows furrowed.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, genuinely curious.
“Those guys back in the gym room… they were practically undressing you with their eyes.” His eyes darkened, the scowl getting worse.
“So?” I asked, trying to get where he was going with this. I only ended up making him slightly angrier than he already was.
“So, I want to kill them for looking at you like you are a piece of meat. How are you not upset about this?”
“Because I wasn’t paying any attention. Are you jealous?”
“Why would I be jealous of those animals? They wouldn’t stand a chance against me. Besides, you’re mine.”