“Hurry up Kiari!” My father grit from a few steps ahead of me, pushing away a branch so that he could pass through, “The vampires only gave me so much time to make this work.”
I only glared daggers into the silhouette of his body at the memory of what he traded for that information. For that promise of safety they gave us that I didn’t trust one damn bit.
It was the dead of night, and not even the full moon could cut through the thick foliage of Bronwyn’s bordering forest enough for me to see where I was going.
Instead, I was getting snapped at for tripping and forcing my way through every bush that scraped my ankle through my pants.
Still, I pushed and trudged ahead. I didn’t have any other choice.
This was the night he’d been planning for years. The one he’d put my uncle and his family through a few years prior and now it was up to us to follow in their footsteps.
Our great escape as he called it. To the other side of the border to a place unclaimed by any vampiric Lord.
A little hidden town vacant of all vampires. Free of them entirely. At least that’s how dad obsesses over it.
He says his brother, Lewis, was successful in his escape. He’s kept the letter he sent saying so in his pocket ever since. Using it as a morale booster if anything else while he rushed the business he attended to before having us follow in their lead.
Which by now was almost six years ago.
The only thing holding him back? Me.
He’d made it a goal to figure out and cure the illness I was born with. The one I was convinced was the universe’s own little way of spitting in my face the second I left the womb.
In a world full of bloodsucking vampires, I was born with something that made me produce too much of it. Continuously. Agonizingly.
He’d said that it was fixed- that I was ‘done’, and yet my symptoms were the same.
The countless serums he made by hand and injected me with over the years with not a hint of improvement.
The side effects were still there, the haunting symptoms whenever my body would tell me that I had too much to deal with.
I still had to somehow empty myself of blood every other week if dad didn’t have one of the vampires he snagged into his inner circle do it for me.
And yet here we were, inching closer and closer to the border of this territory with nothing except the clothes on our backs.
‘Lewis will have everything ready for us,’ he says, ‘and your aunt and cousins will make it a welcoming celebration.’
He’s fucking delusional.
One letter six years ago and he treats it like a drug.
I’ve tried telling him, but he doesn’t listen.
Had it not been for the fact that he was trying to fix me, I would have left him a long time ago like my mother did.
The crunch of rocks beneath our boots was the only thing to be heard in this forest.
No brush of wind, chirping of insects, or skittering of any creature.
It made my stomach knot with more than just the frustration and unease I’ve carried ever since we left our house.
I hated this. Something hasn’t been sitting right with me ever since he came into my room celebrating that we finally had a date for our leave.
I tried convincing myself once a long time ago that maybe he was right, but I couldn’t fool myself with that for long.
Too much didn’t add up. Too much didn’t make sense.
Now all I had was hope... Hope that as soon as we cross the border and don’t see anything, we can just turn around and go home.
That was the only thing that kept this frustration from turning into a panic. The knowledge that this idea was and will always be insane.
I had things to get back to. A boyfriend I never told these plans to.
I always tried to keep him from my dad. Never mentioned either one to the other.
I always figured that if there turned out to be nothing after the border, and my dad insisted on continuing, I could always just go and live with Gabe until I can get a place of my own.
After dad’s faulty claim of my cure, the thought that I was just going to have to live with it became more and more clear in my mind.
I could live with it and without him.
I could just crawl into Gabe’s bed tonight and all will be good.
“We’re almost there, keep going!” He pressed.
Now I wanted to go slower just to piss him off.
But I was also tired and wanted to get back into my bed as soon as possible.
So I battled the uphill trek with nothing more than a begrudging sigh, stumbling over yet another rock.
Dad’s pace sped up in probable excitement, disappearing from my immediate view for a few moments towards the forest’s edge.
When I did finally catch up to him he was just... standing. Standing between the trees at the clearing that was up ahead.
Oh thank god. No more tripping over every little thing.
I went to walk past him and into the grassy plain, but he stopped me with an extended arm.
I didn’t get to question his action until I too spotted what he was staring at with the aid of the light from the moon.
My stomach turned to lead at the sight of two figures only about thirty feet ahead of us, both staring at us with eyes that cut through the darkness.
I took an instinctive step back as the creeping fear washed over me. The same one that would show whenever he let them into our house. Whenever he traded my ample amount of fresh blood for their answers and silence.
He didn’t turn, he didn’t step back, they all just stared at each other for what felt like an hour but couldn’t have been more than two minutes.
Come on dad just turn around. Let’s just go home now.
My silent pleads, of course, did nothing, and he instead stepped carefully into the clearing.
“Cass. Reyner,” He greeted with a nod of his head.
I knew those names. I knew those faces. Both with dark eyes a different colors, and relatively long hair.
These two would come by frequently. I’ve had their fangs in my arm more than a few times.
I didn’t know if that fact put me more or less on edge.
Either way, I kept to the trees while my dad and the vampires casually approached each other.
“Elliot!” the one on the right cheered, though I could hear the facade over hidden malice, “I didn’t think you’d really make it this far.”
He finished his sentence, eyes glazing over towards me with a crooked, hungry smile.
“Why wouldn’t I?” Dad asked, “It was your direction that took me this route. What are you doing here? Come to guide us the rest of the way?”
Cass focused now purely on my father, meanwhile, the other one kept his gaze solely on where I hid in the shadows.
“Not exactly. You see, I’m actually here to finish what an old buddy of ours started.”
I barely noticed the sudden absence of Reyner before a hard force knocked me forward.
My stumbling did me no good, pebbles and pine needles biting at my palms. A sacrifice that saved my face from being subject to the same fate.
I couldn’t even attempt to get up before a weight pressed hard into the center of my back, and a large hand wrapped tightly around the back of my neck, holding me down.
Pain rang out from every contact, even more so when I pressed my palms flat in a useless attempt to get up.
All my failing only hand the knee pressing harder into my back
Holy shit wait- No this can’t be happening.
“What the hell are you doing?!”
I could just barely turn my head enough to see my father, staring at me with horror in his eyes and a posture as stiff as could be.
“Oh come on now Elliot, there’s no way you actually thought we’d let you succeed. Turn our backs on our Lord’s most favored rule. Especially not for a family he hates.”
I knew it... Dammit, I knew it!
My throat dried in a matter of seconds, my breaths growing heavier.
Devastation hit me like a brick with the realization that I couldn’t even turn back at this point. Not with the vampire on top of me.
“What do you mean? Yes! That was the deal!”
“I’m nothing more than words, may I point out. You truly believed that we were on your side?”
No. I never did!
“After all, I’ve done for you.”
“Traded blood I could have gotten anywhere else,” He barked out a laugh, “Her’s may be something special, but not special enough to let your Traitorous family walk out of here unscathed.”
Tears bit at my eyes the more this sunk in.
We got caught. We got caught trying to escape.
God, why did I follow him out this far?!
“You trust too easily, Cardinal,” He spoke, thrusting a firm step into my dad’s personal space, “The same goes for your brother and his little family.”
Dad wobbled a step backward, eyes wide.
“My brother? No, my brother-”
“Has been dead for years, Elliot. Same with his wife and those two little girls. Good job on that one by the way. My buddy that did it said they all went quite quickly if that makes you feel any better.”
His words, despite the fact that I felt I already knew it, stung deep in my chest.
The memories I had as a child with my cousins...
Was I about to meet the same end?
“No... No, he couldn’t have. He sent me a letter stating that he was safe!”
Another laugh. This one being much more one of actual entertainment.
“Written by the same one that killed them if I really had to guess. That man is absolutely dead. You two can chat about where you both went wrong in hell here soon. It’s about time we got rid of the last of the Cardinals.”
I bit my lip to keep from audibly sobbing.
The absolute lack of hope, of anything being able to save me from this. It was gut-wrenching.
“Oh don’t you worry sweetie, you won’t be following him. Not yet anyway.” The vampire on top of me spoke.
My eyes widened, and the sudden need to puke at the purr in his voice made itself known.
He allowed me to slowly turn my head to see the sick grin he wore before licking his lips.
A low chuckle, one that felt like it rattled my bones.
“Do you know how much those rich fucks will pay for a specimen like you? I’d end you here and now for the Lord, or keep ya for myself if the money wasn’t more appetizing.”
It hit me later than it should have.
My blood... my condition! They know about it!
They were going to sell me for it?!
No. No no, absolutely not!
“You’d be surprised by the amount of underground organizations there are for distributing little freaks of pets like you,” Cass spoke, adding to his friend.
No. I couldn’t- I’d rather they just take my life here and now!
Make it quick. Quicker than what any other vampire that owned me would make it.
I don’t know why I looked to my father as if his death bell hadn’t already been rung, but I did.
I expected to see fear, devastation, anything to reflect the fact that his daughter was about to be sold off like glorified livestock.
But this man, the damn fucker only looked to ponder what had just been said, only to then look elated.
Like that was the best night of his life. The night he gets caught and killed by vampires had just become the best night of his life.
It was enough- it was more than enough to temporarily let anger bubble over the fear of dying. Especially now that death wasn’t in their plans for me.
Blind rage swept over me, making me temporarily forget about the body on top of me.
“You sick, demented son of a bitch! This is all your goddamn fault! First your brother’s family and now this? and you have the gall to just stand there in the remains of the mess you created with so much blood on your hands and look proud! I hope you suffer! I hope when he kills you he draws it out as long as possible to make up for all the bullshit you’ve done!”
I barely process the vampires howling laughter and cheers of encouragement at my outburst.
My words were nothing but a game to them, but they burned in my throat with every truth I let loose.
Through the tears of blurred origin streaking down my face, wriggling free from this vampire for no other reason than to give the starting blow that would eventually be his end.
“I made you to be great, Kiari,” He spoke as if he hadn’t processed a single word from my mouth, “And you can still accomplish that within the belly of the beast.”
What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Was he so senile now that he was spouting nonsense?
I couldn’t find it in me to care, not now. Not after the sudden changes this night was brought.
“Alright as entertaining as this is, I don’t wanna be here all night,” Cass spoke, claws sprouting from his fingertips before grabbing my dad’s upper arm, and pulling his back to his front.
Dad’s chin tilted up as the claws traced across his neck.
My pulse raced with so many different emotions, half of which I felt I was already becoming numb to.
Cass’ furrowed eyes shifted to the one on top of me.
“Take her to where we agreed. You know I like to enjoy my meals in peace.”
Reyner shifted, relief from the absence of his knee hitting me before he could grab my upper arms and force my feet beneath me.
My body trembled as I tried to stand, not being able to tell if I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to watch him pay for the damages he’s wrought.
“Yeah yeah, whatever. I’ll be back to get my fair share of his blood.”
As he steadied me and clasped my wrists together before speeding into the night one thing became clear. A resolve broke through the shredded mess of tonight’s events.
Though I couldn’t escape from the situation I was in now, this wasn’t a done deal.
I could get out. I could escape whoever dares to purchase me. Go and find Gabe, and continue my life like this never happened.
I wasn’t a mindless pet to be bought and used and discarded. To obey every whim and give everything I was with a single command.
That wasn’t me, and I was going to make sure every damn vampire I crossed became aware of it.