Authors: Nicole R. Taylor
Aya sensed the animosity between them over her and she said, "Get over it."
Tristan sighed, "Always so astute, Arrow."
She glanced at Zac, sitting beside him. No doubt she would have much to explain later. Grasping his hand under the table she frowned at her old friend, "How did you find me, Tristan?"
"You killed two Romans and ended the witch Katrin in a matter of weeks. News like that travels quickly," he said. "You made it easy."
Aya smiled wickedly. "I'm not worried about that."
"There is only one vampire that you have cause to worry about."
"He knows, Arrow. Arturius sent him word that you were dead. That your heart was torn from you." He shook his head in disbelief. "And yet, here you are."
"Well, what a conundrum," she rolled her eyes.
"If he has to imprison you for an eternity, he will, now that he knows how hard it is to end you."
Aya's eyes darkened, suddenly and she hissed, "Not if I end him first. Regulus will die, whether it
today, tomorrow or next century. He. Will. Die." She felt Zac's hand tighten around hers and she sat back, letting the tension ease from her body.
"I don't doubt it," Tristan shook his head at her sudden outburst. "But, he is comin' regardless. And he will start here."
"Let him look. The moment I lay eyes on him, he is dead."
"I think he'll get more than he bargained for," Zac said, eyeballing Tristan with unmasked dislike. He'd made his mind up quick.
"Likewise," the knight said, leaning forward, elbows resting on the table.
Aya sensed the hostility coming from both the men and she stifled a groan of annoyance. Tristan's appearance was enough to rattle her, let alone Zac. The fact that the knight had found her and knew about what she'd done? That was enough in itself to worry her. He seemed to know a lot about Regulus and the thought crossed her mind that he might be in the Roman's back pocket. She would have to be careful with him, even though they had shared a lifetime of sorts together.
She glanced to Zac, who was watching Tristan with a hard jaw. He would have a lot to say about this later. Another problem to add to the
pile. There was enough going on with them without the appearance of a mysterious man from her past.
"And how do you know all this?" Zac was saying, his lip curled into a sneer.
"I have my sources," Tristan replied, leaning back in his chair, his emotions carefully guarded.
"If you find it so necessary to warn us, then why not reveal how you jumped to that conclusion?"
"Arrow might know you, but I do not."
Aya slammed a fist onto the tabletop, the few empty glasses rattling against each other. Both men were looking at her and she swore both of them were equally as disappointed she had interrupted their slanging match.
"Enough," she hissed. "Stop acting like children." She pressed her leg against Zac's and she felt the tension bleed from him. Eyeballing Tristan across the table, he let out an exasperated sigh, shaking his head.
"I had thought more of you, Arrow," he said, keeping his voice low.
She clamped a hand on Zac's thigh before he could move and pressed her fingers hard into his flesh. "Be careful what you say to me Tristan
Tri Tor. We may have been friends once, but that was a long time ago. I have torn greater men's heads from their shoulders for far less."
"You haven't changed one bit," the knight laughed, the tension suddenly lifting from the table.
"Arrogant bastard," she said, rolling her eyes.
"That's what got me the title of Ser in the first place."
"Ass," Zac hissed under his breath so quietly she almost missed it and apparently Tristan didn't either.
"Well," he said. "I see you have a penchant for arrogant men, Arrow. What were you, Zac?
Captain, Major, Sergeant?
A man as volatile as you would have some ambition, right?"
Zac let out a snort, his eyes measuring the knight. "Captain."
Tristan let out a slow whistle, "Good for you."
"I think you better leave, Tristan," Aya cut off their little bragging match. "We will continue this another time."
He chuckled, leaning towards her. "Oh, I am sure you have a barrage of questions, Arrow. Come and find me tomorrow and leave your play thing at home." He took one last jab at Zac before standing, his chair scraping back on the floorboards. Glaring at the younger vampire he said, "It was a pleasure meetin' you."
"I wish I could say the same," Zac replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
Aya watched the two vampires regarding each other and didn't like what she saw. Tristan and Zac? That was a fight waiting to happen. And knowing both of their track records, she had no idea who would come out the victor.
ac let out a relieved breath when he finally walked through the front door of the manor, Aya's hand firmly clasped in his own. They made a beeline straight for the parlor. Today had completely screwed with his mind and he felt edgy, despite her presence. She had the uncanny ability to calm him down with a simple touch, but he was too tightly wound for that to work now.
Kneeling in front of the fireplace, he threw a few logs into the hearth and struck a match, lighting the kindling. Overly conscious of Aya's eyes on his back, he watched as the flames took, the flickering light beginning to fill the parlor with a dull orange glow.
. He'd appeared out of nowhere and Zac couldn't help but feel jealous. He'd never loved anyone in the one hundred and seventy years he'd been on this earth and even though she had told him the same, Aya had been around for two thousand years. Who knew half the things she'd done and especially what had gone on with this vampire. He'd sensed his feelings without having to witness them. The knight obviously felt he had some kind of claim over her and it irritated the hell out of him.
Tristan seemed to know a lot about Regulus and his comings and goings. It stunk of deceit. Whose side was he really on? Zac knew that Aya could read his emotions and when he felt her beside him, he shook his head, setting the poker to the side.
"What do you want to know?" she asked. When he didn't answer right away she continued, "I know you have a million questions that you're burning to ask me."
"A million? Try a billion," he huffed, not bothering to mask his irritation.
She tugged on his arm, coaxing him to sit beside her on the sofa. "Start with the first one that comes to mind."
"What's with his name? It sounds like a circus act."
"It's Irish," she laughed. "In English it means Tristan of the Three Towers. His
lower nobility and owned a castle fort
that had three towers. They named things very obviously back then."
." He let his gaze linger on her as she watched the fire burning in the hearth, its glow flickering on the walls around them. They didn't need the heat on such warm night, but the flames calmed her down. That was the only reason he lit it. Sometimes, he wished that he could read her emotions as easily as she could his. She carefully guarded her expression always and it made him wonder what she thought about the possibility of Regulus coming to Ashburton. After all, that's what Tristan had implied. They would have to do something about it sooner rather than later and this vampire appearing only made him feel more on edge about it.
"So, he's about a thousand years old?" Zac asked.
"More like nine hundred," she shrugged.
"Why does he call you Arrow?"
"It was the name I took at the time. Ser Arrow. I was in England about 1180 give or take a few years. I pretended to be a man so I could pose as a knight, joined the Templars in England and took part in the Third Crusade. Richard the Lionheart and the Church were trying to win back the Holy Land. You would know it now as Jerusalem. I marched with them, as much to see a new part of the world as an excuse to fight," she said. "I didn't particularly believe in their cause. Christianity at that time didn't seem that
. I mainly went because I was at a low point."
"A low point?" he asked, knowing full well what point she was talking about.
She sighed, rubbing her eyes. "A particularly messy low point."
Sensing her discomfort, he asked another question. "And where does he come into it?"
"Tristan was the only one who I never had to compel to forget I was a woman. He was a son of an Irish lord who sent him to England to squire for a man who later became one of the first Templars. He became a knight just before we marched on the Crusade. I left right after the campaign began to fail, three years later and he was still human. The last I saw of him, he was marching back to England and I was off to what is now Turkey and beyond. It wasn't until fifteen years after that that we met again. This time he was a vampire and in a right mess."
"How did he change?"
Aya sighed, "I think that's a story he should tell you, if he so chooses. It wasn't pretty. He had a family in England. A wife and child, but he'd devoted himself to the cause of the Church and Crown all the same. He was a hero, in all senses of the word, until he was turned. He saw the atrocities his own people inflicted on the cities they claimed and he tried to stop a lot of it. I saved him from a flogging more than once. He died during the Fourth Crusade somewhere underneath the city of Constantinople. I found him years later in Europe and by that time he was a true monster, but I felt that I owed him. So, I helped him adjust and come to terms with his new life. He had nothing, Zac. That's why he stayed with me for so long. When we finally parted, it was as friends. It was never anything more than that."
"He hunted witches with you," Zac whispered.
"Yes. And in turn, he was hunted by the Romans as much as I was," she sighed, rubbing her eyes again.
"It's been over six hundred years since I've seen him," Aya frowned. "I don't entirely trust him now."
"Good," Zac whispered. He didn't either.
"Tristan doesn't know anything about the Celestines," she said, caressing his face, making him shiver. "You're the first vampire, other than the Romans who knows the entire truth.
You, Sam, Alex, Gabby and Liz.
And you know I can compel a vampire if necessary."
"I know," he wasn't really convinced.
"Zac, what's wrong?"
"You were with him for one hundred and forty years," he said quietly, a hint of anger in his voice. "That's my whole life. Forgive me if I don't understand, but I cannot fathom it."
Aya sighed and pulled his face her hers, kissing him with a need that unsettled him. When he moaned, crushing her to him, she whispered, "I never did that with him."
Zac stiffened and pulled away. "You're going to kill me, Aya."
"Of course I am, because I won't let anyone else touch you."
She ran her hand up his chest and he pulled her close, kissing the delicate skin below her ear, her arms wrapping around his neck. When he eased her back onto the sofa, his weight pressing into her, she turned her head away, obviously uncomfortable. Zac closed his eyes, masking his frustration and tore himself from her. What wasn't she telling him?
He walked across the room, conscious of her eyes following every gesture he made. Wrenching open the liquor cabinet, he poured himself a glass of the first thing his hand came in contact with. The slow burn of the whisky trailed down his throat, soothing his hunger. Leaving the glass on the sideboard, he went upstairs without looking at her again.
Perhaps it was a bit childish, but he was at his wits end. He knew nothing he could have said that would change the fact that Aya was pulling away from him. It took him so much to get to this point and he still didn't know what to do. It was glaringly obvious that she didn't trust him and that hurt more than anything. After everything they'd been through. After everything he'd shared with her.
Now this Tristan had waltzed into town and made things even more complicated. There was more to him than met the
was for sure. The way he had looked at Aya hadn't escaped him either. Was this how she had felt when Morgan had been at his side? Hell, was this how Morgan had felt seeing him with her? If it had been, then now he understood.
Thinking about Morgan brought back another ebb of emotions he had been trying to forget. Morgan had helped him come back from one of his psychopathic rages and had fallen for him in the process. That was almost seventy years ago and he remembered it like it was yesterday. When they finally met again a few months ago, she had betrayed Aya to Arturius in the hopes of getting her out of the picture. Instead, she was betrayed herself and ended up dead. All in the name of love. Would this story play out the same way?
Zac had no idea where he stood anymore. He couldn't help thinking that maybe Aya was too much for him to handle.
Some time later, after he'd finally managed to fall asleep, she had found her way into his bed and he woke with her head resting on his bare chest. Her familiar scent washed over him as he dragged a hand through her hair.
If they didn't work this out... she was going to kill him, not this Regulus. And it would be a slow, painful death.
Aya's mind was preoccupied a lot lately. She could use it as a reason for her coldness, but that was only an excuse and she knew it.
It had been three months since she'd confronted and killed the founding vampire, Arturius. And during the fight, he'd broken her body brutally, but she feared that he'd broken something in her mind as well. He had been the one to turn her all those years ago and it was his vampire blood that ran with her Celestine. How was she to know what would happen if she killed him? When she had let her power flow into him, it had folded back on itself and shocked right into her mind. That had never happened before.
. She was afraid it had changed something inside of her, something that she didn't know yet.
Whatever it might be, she felt she had to keep Zac at arms length. If she became unstable - then she could just as easily tear him apart and not know what she was doing until it was too late. There was no way of knowing if any of that was true. It was just speculation.
He knew she was keeping something from him. He always knew. It was strange that he hadn't asked yet. He was less… arrogant than when she'd first met him. Sam had told her that he was becoming more human, more like he was before. She wasn't sure what to make of that.
Shoving those thoughts aside, Aya turned to other pressing matters.
The mystery that was Zac's blood.
She could hear when he was near and if she listened hard enough, could even track him over miles. In her entire life, she had never encountered blood that
to her. There were no words to describe it. Drinking his blood had awakened abilities in her that she had thought lost. It was an enigma.
When she had tasted Sam's blood, it had the same effect. Now she could hear Sam as well, but curiously, it was a slightly different song it sung than Zac's. To her disgust and Sam's request, she had even tried Liz's blood, but it was silent, her maker unknown.
They had spent the last few months tracing Zac and Sam's family line, but so far had found nothing that would indicate a reason for their unusual blood. There was no witchcraft to be found in their ancestry or any hint of other supernatural intermingling that sometimes happened with humans. Not in the records that were available, anyway.
Aya's thoughts kept going back to her theory that it had to do with their sunlight spells. The same Mexican witch had cast the incantation that allowed them to walk in the day and she knew that brujas practiced differently than others and didn't always use conventional means. Gabby had made enquiries of her own regarding the spell and had been told that a spell like that, even done by dark means, wouldn't
The only avenue left to investigate was their vampire heritage. Regulus turned Victoria and the brothers knew this. Arturius had implied it when Zac had confronted the Roman a few months prior. He was now dead, but that wasn't the Roman who would know.
Why had Regulus turned Victoria in the first place? Aya had neglected to mention to the brothers that she had been a witch.
Not very powerful, but a witch regardless.
She knew that her power had disappeared once she was
Aya had seen proof of that. There was something else in play here. Regulus didn't have a
he must have wanted something from her.
The more she dwelt on it, the more she knew that it was Victoria's blood that had something to do with the brothers strange vampirism. Their memories were sharper, their blood potent to her hybrid senses. If there were other benefits or disadvantages, she didn't know.
Eventually, she would have to track down Victoria's lineage. But for now, she was content with staying at the manor in the relative peace and quiet. Their respite would be broken soon enough when Regulus deigned to retaliate for Arturius and Caius' deaths.