Authors: Nicole R. Taylor
"Lucky you," she rolled her eyes. "What do you have to say? Make it quick, or you can add another person to that list that wants to do you in."
"I have heard the stories about you," the man said and Tristan leant forward to grab him, but Aya kicked him sharply in the shin.
"I'm sure you have, so you will understand that I am deadly serious. Whatever you have to
spit it out."
"It was pure chance that I saw you at the library this morning," he began. "Then when you turned up here... We've been waiting for you for a long time, Hunter."
Her eyes narrowed when she heard the use of the name that came with a deadly reputation. "Who?"
"I cannot tell you everything, but if you want to know more, I will arrange a meeting between you and our informant."
"Stop speaking in riddles, human," she hissed, leaning forward and slamming her fist on the tabletop. To her annoyance, the man didn't flinch.
"Go to the British Museum two days from now. There you will find the Medieval Britain gallery is closed for renovation. Inside you will find your answers. Midday." Before they could enquire further, the man slipped out of the booth and disappeared into the busy pub. Aya tried to find trace of his mind amongst the rowdy locals, but he was gone. It stunk of witchcraft.
"What the hell?" Tristan cursed. "What a wack job."
"Yes," Aya scowled. "I couldn't compel him either."
Tristan snorted, but didn't offer any comeback. Instead, he inspected the jug of beer, dipping in a finger then testing it against his tongue. Satisfied, he drained his pint.
Aya watched him with annoyance,
said, "Something big is going on here and I bet it has something to do with whatever Arturius and Regulus were trying to find. Something Victoria was messed up in."
"Somethin' that affected her blood? Whatever that is, it sounds like bad news."
"Very bad news. Whatever it was, she passed it along to Zac and his brother. If this gets out, they could be in serious trouble."
"We don't even know why yet, Arrow."
"No, but that's why we need to meet this mysterious informant."
"Arrow," Tristan exclaimed. "You're not serious? You said yourself, it stinks of witchcraft and that guy knew who you were. This is a trap."
"There hasn't been a trap yet that I haven't been able to get out of," she said, offended.
"There's always a first."
"I'm doing this, Tristan. You can come along if you wish, but I am more than capable to do it on my own."
Tristan groaned as his head fell into his hands. "You're trouble, you know that Arrow?"
She smiled slyly at the knight. "Big trouble."
"Yeah, well, I hope we get out of it alive."
Aya had no doubt that she would get what she wanted from this informant. She tried not to think about who was lying in wait for them. It could be any number of humans, witches or vampires. That one she would leave as a surprise, but her money was on witches.
Lots of them.
And she tried not to think about her suspicions about who Victoria had really been. That she had something to do with the Celestines. The inscription on her grave had been glaringly obvious that was the case, but that couldn't be true. They'd died thousands of years ago and she'd been the last. Victoria had been born seventeen hundred years later. Any link between the witch and her kind was only in the gift. Blood had nothing to do with it.
The part that worried her most was
below, sleeps a vicious sword,
Beware ye who breaks the sleeping ward.
Did it have something to do with what the Romans were looking for? She hoped not, because that was a warning that should be heeded. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to leave that message for her and she intended to find the reason.
They were no closer to finding out the truth than before. What the hell was Victoria? Whoever this informant was, she would get the truth out of them, even if she had to take it by force.
It was a different London than Zac remembered. The first time he'd left Sam and wandered the world on his own, he found himself here and enlisted in the British Army. What seemed like the entire world was at war over some guy getting shot, but he didn't care for the reasons why.
He found himself amongst the rain, mud and stench of blood on the Western Front late in 1914.
Blood that stained the battlefields and the men about him.
So much blood it drove him mad, but it didn't matter how many men he killed as long as they were the enemy. Turks, Germans, they all came under the one banner.
It was a different kind of war than he'd fought fifty years prior. He'd served in the Confederate trenches at Petersburg, but this was a new kind of horror. There were many more sadistic ways to kill a man. Bombs,
, land mines. Air raids and dogfights were
, submarines consistently sunk the massive machines that were the destroyers and battle ships of the Navy.
For Zac, it was much more effective to take a man down with his knife. Most times, they didn't even see him coming, he was too fast in the confusion of no mans land. When he couldn't take the reek of stale blood any longer, he compelled his way to the Dardanelles, but was too late to help the Allies at Gallipoli. Bodies littered the beaches in the thousands and the retreat had long sounded.
Eventually, he found Sam again, once the war was over, having learnt nothing new about
. He was still the monster he always was and always would be. The dead had piled up around him and he didn't care. It took him almost sixty years before he began to think about it. That horror was called napalm.
was torture and suffering. At least he had the decency in all of his violence to make it quick. Zac had thrown down his rifle and simply walked away, not bothering to compel anyone. He'd been branded a deserter, an enemy of the United States, but he didn't give one fucking shit. War was terrible and brutal, and finally he'd realized he had to search for something else. It would be a long time being immortal if he didn't.
Obviously, he was still running around in circles beating his head against an impenetrable brick wall. He'd given his life to Aya, tried to become something better, but she had thrown it back at him. Even she didn't want him. Was he too far gone to ever come back?
"Zachary." Regulus' haughty voice interrupted his trip down memory lane.
He knew that he had to follow Regulus' orders down to the letter if he wanted to continue living. What he was living for, he wasn't entirely sure yet. He just knew that he didn't want to die any time in the near future.
"Hungry?" The Roman grinned at his new protégé.
Zac glanced disinterested down the lane that Regulus had inched him towards. A woman was walking down the cobbled stretch between the lightened populated roads, her stiletto heels tapping as she went.
She was coming straight at them
. Regulus was almost frothing at the mouth, but he elbowed him in her direction.
"Show me," he sneered.
The cold snap had brought down a heavy mist that hung about them, shadowing their forms into the night. The woman, however, was like a beacon in the darkness, her breath vaporizing about her as she walked towards them, oblivious. Regulus wanted him to feed on her, but not just that. He wanted him to hunt her for his own sport.
Taking a deep breath, Zac felt the air shift as Regulus disappeared. He felt the Roman's eyes on him, which meant he hadn't gone far. The tap of the woman's heels grew louder as she neared and he couldn't help but turn and watch her approach. He'd played this game many times before. It was one of Victoria's favorites and it had soon become one of his as well in the early days.
As the woman rounded the corner, he stepped into her, as if he was hurrying the other way, their shoulders colliding. He saw her fall and reached out a hand to steady her, but deliberately missed.
The moment her knees scraped on the footpath, Zac smelt the blood. He was suddenly
"Are you okay?" he heard himself saying. Before he understood what he was doing, the predator took over. Reaching out, he grasped the woman's arm, helping her to stand, one of her shoes coming loose. Blonde hair tumbled around her shoulders and her red woolen scarf had fallen off. He bent down to pick it up, catching the scent of her blood on the crisp air.
"Shit," she cursed, hissing as she surveyed the scrapes that now adorned each knee. "Thank you."
"My pleasure," he smiled lopsidedly at her, handing her back her scarf. She was quite pretty, but she hadn't bothered to look at him yet. "Sorry, I ran into you and all."
"Oh, that's okay. Shit happens I guess," she waved a hand, barely looking at him. Her accent was thick and he had trouble making out some of the words. She jumped on one heel for a moment, pulling her dislodged shoe back on.
"Where are you going? Do you need a hand?" he asked, letting concern flood into his voice.
"Oh," she said, looking down the high street, then back to him,
eyes meeting for the first time. "I'm going to the pub down there a ways." She waived off into the distance vaguely, seemingly more interested in him, once she'd had gotten an eyeful.
"May I walk you?" he smiled again and gestured to her scraped knees. "Just in case."
They walked in silence for a block before she asked, "What's your name? I'm Cassy."
He let a smile play at his lips before saying, "I'm Zac."
"Nice to meet you."
"And you." He let his arm brush against hers, pretending not to notice.
"Where are you from? Are you American?"
"Yes, I'm American," he said. "Louisiana."
"That would explain the accent," she laughed, stopping by a building before a pub, which he assumed was the one she was going to. The street was empty outside, probably due to the weather and the sounds of voices and music drifted out on to the street as the door around the corner opened and closed.
"Southern through and through. And you?" he asked as he lent against the wall, as close as he could without tearing out her throat there and then.
"Manchester," she laughed as if it were a joke he should get.
Reaching out, he tucked a piece of blonde hair behind her ear, letting his gaze flicker to her mouth, then back to her eyes. "Do you want to go get a drink someplace quiet?"
That was all it took. She nodded, hardly believing her luck. Zac could never get over how
it was. He hadn't needed compulsion at all. He
her down the high street, walking close enough that his arm continuously brushed hers.
"It's one of those hidden lane way places," he was saying. "You wouldn't know it was here unless someone told you about it."
"Then how do you know?" she giggled. How he loathed women who
"I know one of the bartenders," he winked.
When they approached a lane that looked deserted enough, he took her arm and guided her down into the darkness. The sound of her heart pumping blood around her body was beginning to drive him mad.
"Are you sure this is the right way?" She was beginning to sound wary. "It looks too dark."
Zac stopped and looked back towards the high street, wondering if this had gone far enough.
If he had played with her enough to please Regulus.
He almost felt sorry that she had to die. She took a step backwards then, as if she sensed the imminent danger. But, he had her far enough in the darkness that it didn't matter what she did next.
"I confess," he smiled. "I just wanted to get away from the crowd."
Fed up with the chase, he pushed her roughly against the wall and for added flair, kissed her. He didn't know if it was surprise, but she opened her mouth to him and began to kiss him back, slipping her tongue into his mouth. It wasn't a particularly nice kiss, not compared to
, but it did the trick. As he felt his fangs elongate and pierce the soft flesh of her tongue, he groaned. Her blood began to trickle into his mouth and trail down the flushed skin of her chin.
She began to sob and squirm under his grasp as she felt him bite deeper, trying to scream, fists beating uselessly against his chest. A memory flashed through him then, this was the point where Aya had stopped him. He'd disappeared and she came to find him and pull him away from his binge. But, he was a long way from home and Regulus would never call a halt to this.
He drew back and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and placed a hand over her bloodied mouth. Her eyes widened as she beheld the blackness that his green ones had transformed into. "Shh," he whispered into her ear. "Don't scream. You'll only make it worse."
As the compulsion took hold, he took his hand from her mouth, her lips quivering as she sobbed silently. Pulling her hair from her neck, he tore away her scarf, letting it fall to the ground.
"Please," she cried. "I don't want to die."
"We all have to die at some point," he murmured into her ear, his lips brushing her soft skin.
"I don't want to die. I don't want to die." He couldn't stand her incessant pleading anymore. Covering her mouth with one hand, he sunk his fangs into her neck, pressing
hard into her small body.
As the warm, coppery blood ran down his throat, he purred deep in his chest. He'd forgotten how amazing it felt to drink from a human to the point of death. He felt the blood coursing through his veins, awakening a strength he hadn't felt in years. Her struggling became weaker, hands that had beaten furiously, now dropped limply to her sides. As he felt the life leave her, he let go, gasping for breath, her body sliding to the ground.
"Bravo!" The slow clap that signaled Regulus' approval echoed down the narrow lane. Bastard. "That was quite something, you know. I'd rate it a four out of five."
Zac let the blood drip down his face as he sunk to his knees. He didn't want to do this anymore, but it felt so good. No mercy where his enemies we concerned. Those, he would tear apart without a second thought. But, this woman was an innocent. He'd hunted her like an animal.
"That is your nature, Zachary," Regulus said, looking down at him. "You're not human any more. They are to us as cattle are to them. Stop fighting it."
He thought he had, but obviously not.
The Roman snorted, "I've got a little job for you. Get this right and I'll get you to do something important for me in the morning."
"What?" he hissed wiping his face clean with the woman's
He'd already forgotten her name.
"This one's just killing," he said. "Tomorrow is a lot more involved."
Pulling himself to his feet, he glared at Regulus. "What do you want me to do?"
"That's the spirit," he clapped Zac on the shoulder, steering him away from the dead woman. "Three blocks from here you will find a little hole in the wall called The Ship. Nice little place full of tasty tattooed girls and hipsters, whatever they are. Inside you will find a man who is very much a vampire who is flaunting his god given right to feed on anyone and everything he wants and he doesn't care who suffers or who sees him do it."
"And why do you care?"
Regulus' eyes narrowed. "London is mine and I will not have that little bastard flaunting his insubordination in my face. He has been given too many free passes and it's time for my threats to be made his reality."
"Who is he?"
"He goes by the name of Vince.
Slimy little thing, barely in double figures.
Slicked back hair, tattoos. I don't care what you do to him, as long as by the end of it he is dead."
The Ship sat down a lane crammed between a clothes shop and a stinking dark alleyway.
The whole front of the place was taken up by two windows and a door
and that was it. Regulus had said it was a little hole in the wall and he was right. If he hadn't been looking for it, he would have walked straight past. He stood there looking at the sign hanging over the door for god knows how long, people passing him on the dark street, bundled up against the early onset of winter. Scarves, coats,
… the humans were bound up so tightly, he barely caught their scent as they hurried past.