Her pursuers pinned her between the two buildings and with her back against the brick wall, Ruby slid further into the corner to avoid their beastly eyes.
She felt that she could sink further into the cold concreate and disappear within its cracks if she willed it. Everything moved too fast and she needed a moment to come up with an escape plan, but they would have none of it.
This wasn’t the first time she found herself cornered with no escape.
When word spread that she had taken one piece of the Dark Curse tablet from the researcher, suddenly she found herself being hunted. Deamhan’s network rivaled any other in the supernatural world. After two years these supernaturals never grew tired and they never hesitated.
This particular group of Deamhan chased her for hours, days, and weeks through the suburbs of Madison, and then Milwaukee with the chance of capturing the most wanted Dorvo vampire in the Deamhan world.
There wasn’t anyone she could turn to; no one who’d risk their lives to save her. The werewolves and any other supernatural creatures she came across in the past two years; many who despised and loathed Deamhan, shut their door in her face. “You made your bed now lie in it” became their motto. Gone were the days of these creatures cowering at her status, fearing Dorvo vampires. She failed everyone. She failed herself.
What would my sire think of me now? Poor Ruby! Poor, dreadful Ruby! Stuck in a rut with no place to go.
And the regular, run of the mill vampires? They cheered on her downfall. They celebrated! This only made her angrier. They had forgotten that Deamhan were their enemies. Now that title belonged to her.
“Hand it over.”
Her multicolored eyes watched their every move. The piece of the Dark Curse tablet didn’t belong to them. She would never hand it over.
“You are beneath me,” she hissed at her two attackers. “You will never find it.”
“Give it to us or we’ll make you give it to us.” One of them, a Ramanga, approached her. His fangs glistened in the darkness.
“You inexperienced dizzards.” Her insult flew right over their heads, just as she expected. From their pungent odors, she figured that they were between three and seven, in Deamhan years. They were new to the world and like most of their kind at that age, they had the desire to prove themselves. What better way to do so by killing the leader of the now defunct Dorvo vampires. “You know nothing about what will happen next.”
The taller one, a Metusba Deamhan, began to punch his balled fist into the palm of his hand.
“Pugilists.” She sneered. “That’s all you Deamhan are. That’s all you’ve ever been. You think you scare me? I’ve faced far worse than you.”
The Metusba laughed. “I doubt that.” He pointed to his accomplice. “You see my man over there, he took down two Dorvo dudes last week on his own and I raided a house full of them about a month ago.”
“They begged me to let them go.” The Ramanga finished the story. “You should’ve seen them.”
“Oh! Don’t forget about that researcher you ate too, James. He was a handful.”
“But his blood tasted so damn good.” James laughed along with his friend.
With no way to escape and nowhere to go, she prepared to make her last stand. If they somehow managed to overpower her, they wouldn’t kill her outright. Torture was the name of this game.
But suddenly all of that changed when the two Deamhan went on high alert. They weren’t alone. A scent Ruby had never smelled before crept into the alley. It was no scent she had ever smelled before.
A stranger appeared, her face hidden behind a gray mask with a solemn expression. Her body language looked non-threatening and her long brown hair rested on her shoulders. Barefoot, the individual made her way toward them and Ruby’s attackers didn’t approve.
“Who are you?” James asked and received no response. “This is our catch. We got to her first! Get out of here.”
As the stranger closed the distance between them, the Metusba stood in her way. “You heard my man. Get out of here.”
But Ruby knew who this person was. Who didn’t? Her name spread like wildfire among the lips of many supernaturals she came across in these last two years. “Do not let The Defiler catch you…”
The woman ignored the Deamhan and instead, she reached her handout to Ruby. “My dear, you’re a hard vampire to find.”
“Who are you?” Ruby took another sniff and smelled nothing.
“She’s ours!” James grabbed the stranger by her collar and revealed his fangs which he sunk into her right shoulder.
Ruby struggled to her feet and watched. James would kill the woman if he didn’t stop, but what did it matter to her? This gave her a small window to make a dashing escape.
James pulled back and immediately hunched forward. “Dude, I don’t feel so good.” He dropped to his knees and began to spit the blood onto the pavement.
Unaffected, the woman then turned her attention to the Metusba. “I do like it when they underestimate their prey.”
“As do I.” Ruby had never witnessed anything like it. James began to hyperventilate and his body shook.
Panicked, his friend began to step away from the mysterious woman. “What did you do to him?” James made a move that even stunned Ruby. In a quick speed, he jumped up, placed his right hand on his friend’s shoulder and punched through his chest, obliterating his heart.
The Deamhan’s skin shrunk over his bones and mummified. His eyes dropped deeper into his skull until they disappeared altogether, leaving nothing but empty dark holes. His body collapsed into a pool of blood, bone, and dust.
“I know who you are,” Ruby said. “And I know what you want.” She didn’t know whether the woman would use James to come after her next.
The woman held out her hand again to her and Ruby hesitated. “Don’t worry. I have no intention of harming you.”
Ruby adjusted her soiled clothing and straightened her knotted hair. “What do you want?”
“You know what I want.” She flicked his wrist at James who ran to her side.
She had no intention of handing over the one thing that could end the Deamhan species. She craved their demised since a Deamhan killed her sire centuries ago. No one was going to take that desire from her.
“It doesn’t belong to you,” the woman replied.
“Oh? Is that right? Then who does it belong to. You?” Through the eye slits in the stranger’s mask, Ruby saw her bright and colorful green eyes. “The Defiler. I’ve heard about you. You’ve made a mess of plenty of Deamhan these past two years.”
“To find you.”
“If you wanted to impress me, all you had to do was kill the Deamhan in Minneapolis.”
“I’m not here to impress you.”
Ruby felt her body jump just as a swift and unseen force pushed itself into her mind. Images she’d never seen before appeared to her subconsciously; images that answered every question and solved every problem she had. The green eyed woman wasn’t there to take what Ruby believed to be hers.
“You will go back to that city. That is where I need you. That is where she needs you.”
“No. You will not force me!” Ruby fought back against the mental attack. “I am a Dorvo vampire. You’re nothing to me.”
“You will.” As The Defiler spoke Ruby felt her body and mind relax. The woman’s suggestions began to replace her desire to be as far away from the city as possible. She fought against the pain she felt in her eyes and her ears.
When it passed, she grasped her head in pain. The thoughts and the memories which entered her mind against her will had suddenly disappeared. She remembered nothing. “How? What…who are you?”
“A concerned citizen,” the woman placed her hand over James’ chest, “who wants to see this world burn.” She ripped through his chest bone and slowly pulled out his dark heart. “She has great plans for you.” She crushed the heart in her grasp as James’ body deteriorated in front of them. “She has plans for all of us.”
The smell of wet garbage and old oil floated on the breeze off the sea’s shore. Anastasia stood alert and eyed the huge cargo ship docked at the pier. Its red rusted hull contrasted against the moon’s pale glow. The clear star-dotted sky accompanied the sounds of dock workers and machines working in an even tempo.
Her offspring, Maris, stood to her right, eying the spectacle without saying so much as a word. Sia, her new confidante, stood to her left. Both women remained silent but it was Maris who fidgeted and looked for any signs of Ayden aboard the ship. Anastasia sensed her offspring’s concerns and she wanted to comfort them but she knew that Maris wouldn’t take any comfort nor would she want anything from her.
They had waited in their shitty hideout for a week. It was a large condemned building with boarded windows and rat colonies that even they found annoying and troublesome. In that time Maris avoided any conversation with her. Instead she found comfort in Sia through midnight private conversations while she waited in silence for any word of her beloved Ayden. Every night she asked Sia, who would disappear, only to return before sunrise with no news to report. Sometimes Maris wanted to leave their hideout, seeking to escape the darkness and mild odors and of course, Anastasia’s presence, but Sia told her that she was too important to step outside those doors.
This disturbed Anastasia greatly. After all, Sia was an Adze—a Deamhan thought to be extinct and for a good reason. Like all Adze, she moved within the shadows, using them to travel great distances, track her prey, and kill her enemies. These were useful traits, yet also dangerous for any other Deamhan.
Once Sia received word of the ship’s arrival, she used her unusual shadow traveling skills to get them from Chicago to the New York City dock’s in a moment’s notice. There they waited out of sight from humans. Sia kept her head low in an attempt to hide her intimidating appearance. Before leaving she sewed her eyes shut like she did every night. Anastasia couldn’t understand why and how a Deamhan could purposely put themselves through so much pain. Sometimes Sia whimpered and other times she growled, forcing herself to swallow her physical suffering. With a large thick needle she interwove the thread, and near the end she jerked. Blood trails traveled down her cheeks and left dark stains.
They watched the humans descend down the metal stairs from the large cargo ship and to the pier. Many of them were older men, clueless to what traveled with them on their voyage to New York. The dock workers turned to their machines to move the metal crates. Maris pulled down the hood from her sweater and her short dark hair, which she had cut the previous night, lifted in the breeze.
“I don’t see him,” she said. “Do you see him?”
Anastasia concentrated her sight. When that didn’t work she used her keen sense of smell. Unable to pick up Ayden’s scent, she shook her head. “No. Are you sure that he’s arriving tonight?”
“Yes. He’ll be here. He has to be.” It was the first time Maris had spoken and replied to her in weeks. She tucked her hair behind her ear, revealing her scar on her left cheek. Anastasia couldn’t help but stare and, when Maris noticed, she moved forward.
Two years ago Ayden traveled to the Old World to look for a Kashshapu. The trip was meant to be short but he sent word that the search would take longer than expected. Since no one knew exactly what the Dark Mother, Amenirdis, planned next, it made sense to Sia and Maris to search for humans who practiced the same dark magic responsible for the creation of their species; Deamhan. According to lore, they no longer existed. Wiped out centuries ago these humans were the only individuals who could harness the dark energy. To Anastasia, it felt idiotic to think they could’ve survived after all this time without being seen or heard from. However, Sia remained adamant that they existed and Anastasia believed the Adze Deamhan embedded these fraudulent thoughts inside Maris’ fragile and young mind. For her, things felt simpler if they could come up with a solid plan that didn’t involve Kashshapu.
In the meantime the Dark mother disappeared into thin air. No one had heard or seen her since then. Many Deamhan thought that the worst was over. There would be Revelation—the ritual that would release the Pure Deamhan from Limbo. This also meant that Maris no longer had to worry since her blood was the key to the entire fiasco.
However, another face in the dark took the Dark Mother’s place. Rumors spread about a woman who killed Deamhan with dark magic. She was first spotted near the Texas and Mexico border. Afterwards they heard of another slaying in Nebraska and then Utah. At first they perceived the rumors to be just that; rumors, until Ayden sent word that this woman did exist and she had Deamhan from all over the world scrambling in fear. This woman was strong enough to stand up against Deamhan and no one knew who her identity but they knew her MO.
Any Deamhan she came across, she slaughtered without hesitation. She defiled their bodies and propped them up as a warning for others in the area. Hence, they began to call her The Defiler. To Anastasia, that was a silly name.
Sia pulled down her shawl. “He’s here. I’ve got his scent”
Anastasia sniffed the air. “I don’t smell him.”
“Believe me. He is here.”
Soon Anastasia saw Ayden standing on the top step next to an unknown female dressed in a black leather jacket, black shirt, and dark jeans. As the wind picked up, it carried the stranger’s aroma and Anastasia tried her hardest to decipher it but failed. Ayden cut his dirty-blond hair short and he looked tired as if he hadn’t eaten in days. He wore a slightly discolored shirt and stained jeans.
He descended the metal steps with the female following him and they reached the pier. He trotted toward them and, with his eyes, dissected Anastasia.
“Ayden!” Maris ran into his arms.
He looked her over. “Are you okay? He asked in an uneasy voice.
“Yes, I’m fine.”
His soft eyes glanced at Anastasia. “Why is she here? I thought you said you wanted nothing to do with her?”
Maris pulled back. “Things are different now. We need all the help we can get.”
“We don’t need her, now that we have her.” He thumbed at their human guest who didn’t bother to make eye contact. Instead the guest, who looked no older than eighteen to Anastasia, viewed the pier and the immediate area with wonder in her eyes.
No matter the excuse, Anastasia knew that Ayden would never accept her or stand by her. Their tangled and dark history extended decades back. She was responsible for the death of his sire and that wasn’t something he would forgive so easily. In fact, he wasn’t looking for forgiveness. He wanted revenge.
“And who is this human that you so desperately need?” Anastasia asked rudely.
“She is our protection,” Sia answered. “Thank you for coming.” She held out her hand to female. “I know this must be…difficult and weird for you.”
The teenage girl titled her head to the side and with her bright green eyes she gazed at the thread sewn in Sia’s eyelids. “Yeah…uh, it’s not what I was expecting.”
“I know.” She nodded. “And that is Maris,” she pointed to Maris, “and of course, I met Ayden already.” She stood in thought. “You…I think I’ve heard about you.”
“Who hasn’t?” Bothered, Ayden rolled his light colored eyes. “This is Anastasia.”
“Anastasia!” Her eyes lit up. “Yeah, yeah…I’ve heard about you…” She held out his hand. “Krerina.”
Anastasia glared at her palm. “And I’ve never heard of you.”
“Oh yeah, no one has.” She dropped her hand. “We kind of remain hidden…you know…not known because well…if we didn’t Deamhan would just try to kill us again.”
The teenage girl spoke with such uncertainty that Anastasia didn’t know whether to think of her as shy or as a human who purposely tried to hide something from them. It was easy to read the mind of a human in such situations, but she didn’t want to cause drama by invaded her thoughts.
“Aren’t you a little too young?”
Sia quickly moved things along. “I understand. The history between both factions hasn’t been the best. But this time we have a common enemy. Let this be the beginning of a well needed relationship.”
“I hope so,” Krerina replied. “It took a lot of convincing but the others—”
“There are more of you?” Anastasia questioned.
“Oh yes.” She said with enthusiasm. “They all agreed to help and they gave me some items that I can use.”
“Yeah.” She pointed to a wooden crate on their left. “They’re in there.”
They quickly approached the large crate a few feet away from the other supplies the humans had taken off the ship. The box smelled of weathered wood and old dirt. Sia rubbed her hand along its surface and smiled. “Come. We must get this inside.”
They helped to carry it a few feet and inside a large warehouse. Ayden broke the lock on the door and, once inside, Anastasia surveyed the interior to make sure they were alone.
Sia easily yanked the top of the crate free. The wood shattered, leaving large shards on the floor. The contents inside made everyone pause.
“Some of them weren’t really eager to part with it,” Krerina said.
Sia nodded. “Of course. I understand.”
The interior of the box was filled with old dirt. Sia began to dig like a mad, wild dog, tossing the dirt over her shoulder and to the floor. Some of it floated in the air, creating a brownish mist around them. Soon the dirt revealed its hidden contents. It was a small chest decorated in faded gold and white colors. Small gems adorned the hinged lid. There was also an emblem of an unknown female’s face on the front.
She opened the lid and revealed a sharp, long knife with a wooden handle, and also what looked like a small crude bowl with etched spiral writing from the rim to the center of the object.
“What is this?” Sia asked.
There was also a brown, thin leather vial which, when opened, contained a tightly bound scroll. Anastasia also saw small ruby-quartz colored vials with corked lids. She gently picked one up and studied it.
“Vials?” Ayden snatched it from her. “I don’t get it. What does a Kashshapu need this for?”
“Nothing because Kashshapu don’t exist,” Anastasia answered.
“We do exist.” Krerina moved quick to correct her. “Who do you think I am?”
Sia placed the chest on the ground. “I can’t say that I’ve come across Kashshapu throughout my lifetime. I don’t think any of us has.”
“You wouldn’t because, again, we keep a low profile.”
“So they just sent you?” Anastasia stood face to face with her. “You’re just one girl.”
“I’m twenty and yes, they only sent me” she replied. “Most of them are still skittish, especially around Deamhan. Not to mention the rumors about the other person out there, killing your kind.”
“Yes, the woman.” Sia jumped in.
“The Defiler.” The name felt like hard stones in Anastasia’s mouth. “What a ridiculous name.”
“I bet you don’t she exists too,” Ayden joked.
“If she does, she isn’t anyone to fear. But I do know that Kashshapu don’t exist,” Anastasia continued. “If they did, they would’ve shown themselves moment Amenirdis was released from Limbo.”
“Wow, you do know how to scare the help away, don’t you?” he grumbled. “You should be thankful we found someone who practices dark magic to help us.”
“I would be grateful if she was a real Kashshapu.”
“Anastasia that is enough.” Maris put her foot down. “You’re here because Sia thinks you’re viable but so far I haven’t seen one thing from you to support that.” She pushed her back.
Anastasia swallowed her discontent with the situation as Ayden’s smuggled smile only made her feel worse.
He continued to eye the vial. “This feels light.” He popped the corked lid.
“No!” Krerina snatched the vial from his hand. “You can’t open it. Not yet!”
The vial looked empty; however, a fragrance expelled from it. It smelled distinctly different and it rattled their noses. A sharp pain in Anastasia’s head made her stumble back. It was a powerful headache that struck them all at the same time. Ayden squinted in agony and Sia dropped to one knee. However, Maris remained unaffected. She stood, enthralled at what she witnessed around her.
“What is that!?” Anastasia’s eyes turned dark and her fangs extended from her gums. Fear pushed her.
“Items infused with dark magic forged centuries ago and now it’s wasted.” Krerina quickly replaced the lid.
The pain slowly subsided and Anastasia retracted her fangs. Whatever escaped from the vile gave her a terrible headache and sent her senses on fire.
“You know, creating Deamhan isn’t the only thing that dark magic has been used for,” Krerina said. “Dark magic has been around since the beginning of time. It has its uses and misuses of course but our extreme loyalty to our culture and practices remains the same.”
“So, was that proof good enough for you?” Ayden egged Anastasia.
Maris grabbed the knife from the box. “So I can stab Amenirdis with this and it’ll be over? Sounds too easy to be true.”
“And it can be,” Krerina replied. “All Deamhan have dark magic in them. That’s what keeps your bodies from rotting away. This baby can suck it out. Jab it into her chest and BAM!; no more Dark Mother. If you can’t stab her in the chest, stab her in the back or the arm…it doesn’t matter.”
“So, there’s not need to aim for the heart?”
“Not with this magical baby!”
“And what happens to Amenirdis?” Sia asked.
“If she dies, the entire bloodline of Ekimmu Deamhan die as well.” Maris handed the magical object to Krerina.
“Correct,” she replied. “Kill the Pure Deamhan and Deamhan from that same bloodline die with them.”
“Then the knife should be our last resort.”
Krerina placed the knife back in the box, closed the lid, and placed it underneath her right arm. “We have what we need. We should go.”
“Where to now?” Maris asked.
“A place to rest for the remainder of the evening. Plus I need to perform an incantation or two, just to be on the safe side.”
Anastasia huffed under her breath.
Sia took Maris’ hand and they walked out of the warehouse with Krerina close behind.
Now alone with Ayden, he locked eyes with Anastasia and she knew that look. She’d seen it from him before, back in Minneapolis at the sanctuary, Blind Bluff Manor, and many other times.
“You know, you shouldn’t be here, with Maris,” he said. “You don’t deserve to.”
“How many times do I have to tell you? I’m not your enemy.”
“And how many times do I have to tell you that you are?”
“Ugh, what you think doesn’t matter.” Her headache continued and she desperately wanted to rid herself of it.
“Doesn’t matter?” His eyes turned black in color. “You, along with one of your sired maniacs, killed my sire with a smile on your face. I do not trust you. I do not like you.”
“Once again, what you think of me doesn’t matter.” She rolled her eyes. “I’m here for Maris. That’s it.”
He folded his arms. “Maris—the offspring that you sired because it only benefited you. Maris—the one you abandoned…”
“Are you that blind to not see the real issue here?” she asked. “We’re putting our faith in this girl’s claim that she is a Kashshapu. There’s no proof of that, besides a magical vial that anyone can obtain. Can’t you see the flaw in that?”
“Of course I see the flaw.” His body stiffened. “But it’s better than anything you have to offer.”
“You can’t seriously think that.”
“No, you’re blinded by your hate for me; for what happened in the past.”
“I watched you repeatedly stab my sire with a stick for fun. Even after he impaled you, he showed you mercy, and you repaid him by ripping his head off. So excuse me for not letting the past stay in the past while your actions continue to glorify all the horror you’ve done to not only me, but to countless others, including Maris.”
She found it hard to explain her actions. Her plan to be a perfect predator was the main reason she caused so much harm to him and countless others. Everyone else, including his sire, meant nothing to her. At one point Maris also fell into this category. “I’m not the same person from that time, Ayden. I’m different.”
“Then act like it.” He pointed his finger in her face. “If Maris thinks what we’re about to do will help then I’m with her. I’m willing to do what it takes to protect her with my life. The same thing can’t be said about you.”
Tap. Tap. Tap.
The branch from a nearby tree scraped against the basement window glass as the wind whistled outside. The smell of old grass and the coming precipitation seeped through the cracks and infiltrated the air inside the basement.
Remy pulled back the small rotted curtains, gazing out at the night. Using his superb Deamhan sight, he saw the headlights of vehicles on the freeway in the far distance. He grew increasingly annoyed with his current living conditions. His assigned room contained only one queen-size bed with dingy sheets that smelled like old dust. The mattress was stiff and the pillows were flat. He missed his own room back at Blind Bluff Manor. He couldn’t wait to go back, but it wasn’t safe as long as one Dorvo vampire still remained in Minneapolis.
It felt like only yesterday when Ruby, defeated and out of options, ran with her tail between her legs. In two years, there’d been little word of where she ran off to and in that time Lambert made his loyal vampires scour the streets of Minneapolis in search for her every night.
Until then all they could do was wait and prepare for the worst and he was tired of waiting. If she planned to make a move, she would have done so already. In the meantime, he spent these boring nights toying with Kenneth who he kept in the basement, chained to the brick basement wall. Anastasia sired the ex-Brotherhood researcher before leaving the city with Sia. The least he could do while she was gone was to remind her offspring of all the bullshit he committed against them. Not even Kenneth’s current condition could bring him out of his slump but at least he had something to keep him occupied.
“Open up. Wide…wider…almost there.” Remy dangled the blood vile a few inches from Kenneth’s mouth. Just as a drop was about to escape, he pulled back and laughed. “Awww, so close yet so far away.” He stepped back and viewed his tortured captive. The poor man’s right arm was missing and, in its place, fresh skin covered the wound. Kenneth’s dark eyes narrowed in on him and he snarled, showing his pearly white Ramanga Deamhan fangs. “I know you’re hungry. All you have to do is tell me where you hid the Dark Curse piece you stole. Do that and I’ll give you a drop or maybe the whole vial.”
“You’ve been asking me for years and I’ve already told you. I don’t fucking remember!”
“Researchers.” Remy tisked. Ruby had found the information first and literally ripped that thought from his then human brain. “So hard-headed. You have ways of dealing with a vampire’s attempt to scrape your precious memories away. Think harder.”
“I said I don’t know!”
Seeing Kenneth in his current state should have, at least, satisfied him. They had won! They made Kenneth pay for what he’d done and pushed the Dorvo vampires back. So why didn’t it feel like a victory? Remy contributed that to his boredom and for not being able to return to Blind Bluff Manor.
“You have no real power here anymore. Didn’t you get the memo? Why do you want to protect The Brotherhood? You’re not human. You’re one of us—a Deamhan—and the threat of being eradicated by some powerful Deamhan who wants us to call her ‘Mother’ should be your top priority now.”
“I’d rather rot.” Kenneth struggled against the chains.
“I didn’t say rot. I said eradicated.” He stared at him in thought. “You know your hunger pains isn’t going to go away anytime soon. You need to eat before you start to smell worse than you already do.”
“I don’t need that shit in me.”
“Oh, you need blood. That’s what you Ramanga Deamhan drink. You need the psychic essence inside it.” He touched the tip of the vial with his index finger and examined it, noticing a spot of the red substance. “You should be thanking me. If I didn’t force feed you, you would have died a long, time ago.” With his index finger he tapped his tongue and suddenly shivered. “Ugh, tastes like iron.” He gagged, replaced the top on the vial, and placed it in his pocket. “I don’t know how you Ramanga can live off that.”
Being Lamia Deamhan, Remy didn’t survive off the blood of others. Instead he needed the psychic energy of a victim, their life force, to ensure that his body remained strong.
He heard footsteps cautiously descending down the stairs followed by Hallie’s Metusba Deamhan scent. The young baby Deamhan grew up quickly but being the youngest of their damned and small crowd, she had no choice not to. She shaved her head and fed on countless rabbits and squirrels for a week in order for it to grow back. Now it rested on her shoulders, dark and smooth. She romped around their home as if she feared no one. She frequently went to the city on her won, when it was dangerous for their species and she tried hard to erase the ‘old her’ by putting on a bravado, which only made Remy smile.
All of it was a cover-up for what she was dealing with. Enlai, the only Deamhan she loved, left the city in order to save her from another terrifying and old Deamhan who reminded Remy of one of those kids from the movie, Village of the Damned.
She stood by the steps. “Lambert wants you to come upstairs so, if you’re done playing your torture games…”
“I don’t know. Ask him.”
“Tell him I’ll be right up.” Hopefully the vampire had returned with some good news, like telling them they could finally return to their own sanctuary. Finally!! “Hang tight and don’t go anywhere.” He slapped Kenneth’s cheek. “I won’t be long.” He followed her up the stairs.
He closed the basement door behind him and walked down the narrow hallway. His hearing picked up on Lambert’s voice coming from the front and his body shivered at the smell of another vampire scent.
The night was still young and he had yet to feed. The promise of having vampire blood, specifically from Alexis—Lambert’s consort—plagued him. Never before had he been so addicted, craving the warm liquid like he did now. Then again, she just wasn’t some run-of-the-mill vampire. She was older than most that lived in Minneapolis among Deamhan and Dorvo vampires. With her aged blood came power. Not to mention, no other vampire could backtalk him the way she could.
Hallie stopped in front of Nathan’s bedroom door.
“How is the old man doing?” he asked.
“Worse. He won’t leave. He won’t talk to anyone. He doesn’t take the medication I stole for him.” She knocked and opened the door. “I don’t know how long he can last like this.”
Almost immediately Remy recognized Nathan’s pasty skin. Dark bags sat under his eyes. The smell of sickness in the air was thick. He wore a red robe; too thick for the mild Minnesota summer.
“Nathan,” he entered the room, “Hallie says you aren’t taking your meds.”
“I don’t need them,” he whispered.
“You have cancer and those cherry-flavored cough drops you’re suckin’ on won’t help with that.” Everyone knew that his cancer had taken a turn for the worse but when confronted, he told them all not to worry. He saw the color of his wrinkling skin change slowly into a muddled pasty color.
Remy didn’t want to admit it but his human friend needed vampire blood as much as he craved it. It helped his cancer, which, from the smell, had now spread to his lungs. His friend was dying and how ironic it felt that there were people around him who could solve his condition by just sharing their blood or making him immortal, if it came down to it. Nathan refused both options and grew sicker with each passing day. He kept mostly to himself, cooped up in his cubby-hole of a room, doing God knows what.
“You look like straight shit.”
Remy noticed an open researcher journal in his lap. “What are you up to?”
“So, did you have a chance to think about what I told you last night? You know, going to a regular doctor and getting a checkup?”
Nathan’s short response bothered him. He looked back at Hallie.
“Told you,” she mouthed in silence.
“I didn’t think it was this bad.” He mouthed back. He didn’t check on him as often as he wanted to. That was Hallie’s job, but with her recent distraction, he could no longer ignore that responsibility.
“Lambert’s back and he might have news about when we can go back to Blind Bluff Manor.” Their temporary home was more eerie and quiet than the Blind Bluff Manor he yearned to go back to. He even missed Hallie’s pacing footsteps and their snappy one-sided conversations. Nothing was the same but he held his discontent for their current situation inside him for now.
Nathan slowly nodded his head. “Let me know what he says.”
Remy left the room and closed the door. “Well, that went well. I have to admit, I miss the old healthy Nathan.”
“You got farther than I did.” She sighed. “I could barely get a sentence out of him.”
“Well, we can’t force him to do what he doesn’t want to do. Anastasia did that and we all know how that turned out.” He shrugged. “Let’s not keep Lambert waiting.” He ushered her down the hall, just in time to hear the end of Lambert’s statement with Alexis.
“…is safe. Remy and the others should be able to return tonight if they want.”
He couldn’t take his eyes off her. She stood across from her consort, dressed in tight-fitting black jeans and a short shirt that showed off her beautiful figure. She placed her head on Lambert’s shoulder and he rubbed her left arm. “We can go back home?” He smiled and clapped his hands. “Are you serious this time?”
“Yes.” Lambert had reclaimed his spot as the most important vampire in the city and nothing would say ‘the most important’ without a complete makeover. His brown hair was buzzed short. He wore a dark suit with a bright red tie. His dress shoes were polished and gleamed underneath the light in the foyer. His face was flawless. He looked perfect.
Remy wiped his nose and eventually covered his lower face to avoid another moment of taking in her scent. “I guess you two made up? Back to being Time Magazine’s vampire couple of the year?”
Alexis’ chocolate colored eyes narrowed. “Of course. We always do. Unlike Deamhan we don’t have a habit of betraying those closest to us.”
Lambert resembled nothing from the pictures he had made of his human self, which hung on the walls of his downtown Minneapolis vampire club. When human, he was a strong warrior, responsible for the deaths of many more experienced than he was. Like Hallie, he made a significant transformation but his made more sense. All of this would never hide the fact that he cared for Nathan as much—and sometimes more—as his own consort. “How’s our dear friend?” He took off his suit jacket and draped it over his forearm.
“He’s dying. That hasn’t changed.” Remy’s response was muffled.
“Why is your hand over your mouth?”
He ignored Lambert’s question. “So, you said it’s safe for us to head back to our sanctuary?”
“There haven’t been any signs of Dorvo vampires in the city for a week now.”
“However, Ruby still might be here.” Lambert waved at him. “Come outside with me. We need to talk.”
Remy hoped it was that easy. While he wanted his old flame to pay for what she did to him, he also didn’t want to see her pretty little Dorvo head separated from her pretty little body. He still viewed her as his jewel, his ex-lover, and the only woman from his past who could make his heart skip a beat if it beat at all. He couldn’t explain it. Somewhere, deep inside his shriveled heart, he still had a thing for her.
He followed Lambert out of the home and stood on the front steps. The hot breeze graced his skin and the clear sky was comforting to say the least. The sticky summer heat was in the air. There was always something about Minnesota summers that made him miss his old home city of Paris.
“How is she doing?” Lambert asked.
“Oh! She’s fine.”
“You don’t know what she does when she goes to the city, do you?”
“No. Is she actually eating people now?”
Lambert smiled. “No, but she does zoom in and out of vampire areas.”
“Well, that’s new. Hallie is a big girl. She can take care of herself.”
“So, she isn’t your littlest Deamhan anymore?”
“She always will be.” Remy laughed. “But I respect her decision to put on her big girl pants.”
“My vampires know she is not to be harmed.” Lambert moved in closer. “I need you to come to the city with me.”
“I’m fine right here.”
“This is the fifth night that you’ve refused to come on the hunt with me. Why?”
He looked at his fingers. “I don’t know why my nails are so dirty. I haven’t done anything besides torture Kenneth.”
“You’re avoiding the question. Does the idea of possibly confronting Ruby hurt you that much?”
He picked at his fingernails. He would never forget what Ruby did to him at Dark Sepulcher nor could he forget how damn good she looked doing it. Her caramel skin radiated underneath the dark lights of the vampire club. She had come up with various torture techniques, some that made Anastasia look like an amateur. She believed that somewhere, in his brain, was the key to unlocking the Dark Curse. She planned on releasing the first Deamhan from Limbo just to kill them and end the Deamhan species once and for all. “So, you think it’s Ruby?”
“Yes, chances are that it is her and if that’s the case, you’re the only one who knows how she acts and what she’ll do when she’s cornered like an emaciated dog.”
He continued to pick at his fingernails.
“Are you listening to me?”
“Unfortunately, I am,” Remy finally replied. “I can’t turn off my Deamhan hearing.” He smiled briefly. “Like everything that exists on this planet, we change and adapt. Ruby’s a master expert. If she doesn’t want to be found, chances are, we won’t find her. She’ll just rise again, like a phoenix from the ashes, and attack Blind Bluff Manor, but when she comes, I’ll be ready.” He wiped the dirt particles from his hands. “
“So come with me and let’s find her before she can ‘rise again’, as you say. Will you agree to go with me tonight?”
He patted Lambert’s shoulders. “Depends where.”
“Wabasha Caves, just south of the city, near the Mississippi River.”
“Caves? You mean like real caves?” He leered at the thought. “That doesn’t sound like the precious jewel I know. Ruby desires a comfortable living environment and rock walls don’t fit that.”
“And this is why you’re important in this search. You’re the only one in the city who knows her.”
“I just…I don’t feel like going down that road again.” The breeze kicked up and the trees swayed in its wind. “Whenever I think about her, I think about the time I spent with her. Those memories…I never wanted them to resurface. I buried that shit for a reason and seeing her will bring it all back again.”
“She has one of the pieces of the tablet that can end your species.”
“I know…I know.” He sighed. “Ruby’s just…I don’t know whether to rip her into pieces or to kiss her.”
When he met her for the first time, he found himself magnetized to her. Although a young Deamhan during that time, he felt there was no other woman in the world that he’d rather be with. She was the one for him. He felt she always would be and he reveled in her mischief against other Deamhan.
But now things were different.
As long as she had the other piece of the tablet, he faced extinction, and he did know her well enough to understand that she would do anything to see the death of his species into fruition.
Divination. Deamhan Chronicles #4 is available on Amazon
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