Authors: Nicole R. Taylor
Zac burst through the front door of the manor, the wall splintering where the heavy oak door collided with it. He ignored Sam's concerned voice and flew up the stairs into the bathroom. He would have smelt the
of course he would have smelt the blood. Groaning as he tried to fight for some semblance of control he slammed the door behind him, shutting out his brother’s incessant pleading.
He was covered in the woman's blood
it was everywhere
. Staining his face, arms and hands, it felt like acid. His shirt was stiff with it and it stuck to his skin. He began to writhe like he was burning, pulling his shirt off, kicking his boots aside. The stench of it was unbearable.
Zac could hear his little brother pounding on the door, but he ignored him. Catching his reflection in the mirror, he froze.
. Roaring in agony, he punched the mirror with all his strength, shattering it into a million tiny pieces.
Sam burst into the bathroom when he heard the mirror splinter, holding his brothers arms behind his back.
"Zac," he yelled into his ear. "Calm down. Whose blood is this?"
He twisted out of Sam's grasp and pushed him out of the room. Turning on the faucet in the shower as far as it could go, the room began to fill with steam. He stood under the stinging stream of water, not bothering to take off the rest of his clothes and they soon soaked through. Desperately, he tried to scrub the dried blood from his skin as the grey tiles swam with red water. He had to get rid of the scent.
Sam was back in the bathroom, his expression one of horror. "Zac, what happened?"
He was still scrubbing his arms, refusing to look at him. "Get rid of it." But Sam didn't move, staring at him with some kind of pained expression.
Get rid of it
!" he yelled again, blinking furiously through the cascade of water.
He seemed to understand this time and began to gather up his discarded clothing and disappeared. When he came back Zac had curled up in the bottom of the shower, his head between his knees, the water still running.
Sam didn't dare touch him until he'd cleared the bathroom and any traces of blood he found in the house. Whatever Zac had done, this reaction was new and it scared the hell out of him. He eased his arm into the shower and turned the faucet off, his
shoulders heaving with the mere effort of breathing.
"He made me," he rasped, the sound of his voice muffled.
"Who made you?"
Sam drew a sharp breath. They had anticipated his arrival, but not so soon. Truthfully, he had hoped that they had avoided the Roman from ever coming here when Aya left. What had he coerced Zac into doing?
He didn't push him for more answers, instead coaxing him to stand, throwing a towel around his shoulders. "Dry off bro. It's all gone. I'll get you something to drink."
Zac nodded numbly and shuffled into his bedroom, trailing pools of water. By the time Sam came back with a bottle of whiskey and two glasses, he was in dry clothes sitting in the middle of the floor staring vacantly into space. He knew this was his way of coping.
To keep himself from going AWOL.
Shutting down was probably the best thing for a vampire to do in this situation.
He took the glass he was offered in a shaking hand and downed it. When Sam refilled it, he drank that as well, casting the glass aside.
"I killed her," he whispered, his hands in his hair. "I killed her."
"I don't know."
"Did he force you?"
Sam waited. Zac had killed before, he would be a fool to deny it, but the last time was forty years ago. Just after he had deserted in Vietnam. His brother had run off and joined the US Army and whatever had happened to him there, it had finally driven him to make the choice to try and be better, to be something else.
Zac grimaced. "He didn't have to."
he cold, hard light of day woke Zac earlier than he would have liked. Groaning, he ran his hands over his face. Memories of the previous night came flooding back and he rolled onto his side, almost throwing up. All this pain and regret was eating him up inside. His humanity was eating through his guts like acid. How much more of it he could take before he snapped again, he had no idea.
When he finally dragged himself from bed, he glanced into the bathroom. The floor was still covered with broken shards of mirror that sparkled in the sunlight flowing through the open windows. The water had dried, but there was a wet stain on the carpet where he'd flung his damp jeans the night before. What a mess.
Regulus. What was he going to do? He had asked him to join his sordid little network, to go and work with him. And do what? More killing? Pushing him onto that young woman last night had been the beginning of either forcing him into the decision the Roman wanted or making him
the truth. And the truth was… Regulus was right. But, there was another thing he didn't factor into the arrangement he had offered. Revenge.
The Romans had ruined his life from day one. That day in the woods in Virginia, where he was shot, that was the moment their demise became his problem. He just didn't know it until he met Aya. Just because she'd thrown him away, didn't mean he should disregard his own revenge. Maybe going with him was the only way to end this for good.
But, now that Regulus was here in front of him? The Roman had only shown him that fighting his urges was useless. He was born into vampirism as a
predator. Sam wasn't. Pure, sweet Liz wasn't. They were the
they were the
things about being vampires. And that's why he had to leave them behind to go with his greatest enemy.
He could never kill Regulus, not on his own.
was the only way. And Zac was sure that wherever she'd gone, she'd be looking for an opportunity to do just that. If she turned up, he would help her, but he didn't want to lay eyes on her again. Just like he had been to her, she was just a means to an end. Until then, he would align himself with his own kind and stop fighting his nature. He didn't have the strength to resist anymore.
He would go with Regulus. It was his only option if he wanted to come back.
Pulling on a pair of dark jeans and a wife beater, he thumped downstairs and shuffled into the parlor. He caught Sam's eye as he turned around on the sofa. How was he going to tell him?
"Are you feeling better?" Sam asked.
"Somewhat," he shrugged, sitting across from his little brother.
"What's happened?" Sam could tell he'd made a decision about something and from the tone of his voice, he knew that he wouldn't like it. Zac had never given his brother a reason to like anything he did. His decisions had always landed both of them in hot water, but not this time. This time Sam would stay out of it.
"Sam…" After everything, he had trouble saying it.
"You're going again, aren't you?" The look in his little brother's eyes was one of disappointment and he almost caved.
Because of Aya?
Because of what Regulus made you do? You can't go off again, Zac. Not this time."
"This time it's different, Sam." He heard himself pleading and it didn't sit well.
"This is it. This is my last chance. If I can't control myself this time, then it has to end."
"Sam, please," he pleaded, knowing his brother would fight him to the end. He had to convince him. If this time he couldn't find who he was and find the balance between his humanity and vampirism… then it had to end. He had to die.
"I won't let you." Sam's hand was on his arm. "I won't let you go."
"Sam, you have to."
"Zac, no. This isn't the way. Let me help you. We can leave and go somewhere else. Somewhere where Regulus won't be able to find us."
"And what about Liz?" he snapped. "What about her?"
Sam hissed and sat back, rubbing his temples. "She will understand."
"No," he said, firmly. "She won't understand at all. She loves you and you deserve to be with her. Always."
"I…" he began, but Zac held up a hand to stop him, determined.
"You deserve a better life, Sam. You've always wondered when I'll go off the deep end. Following me around for decades to make sure I'm doing all right, to pull me back. That's not what I wanted for you," he sighed, running his hands over his face. "I never wanted
When Sam grimaced, Zac knew that he understood what he meant.
The fact that he was a vampire.
That it was his fault that his little brother had become
. "I know, brother. But, it is what it is."
But, Zac wasn't listening. "You have Liz now. You need to go and be with her. She needs you. Go to LA with
go back to college if that's what you want to do. But, just live the life
"Zac," Sam began, his face flooded with concern.
"Sam, please do this for me. I'll be okay." His little brother stood and embraced him without a word, finally understanding. "When this is all over, when I've found whatever it is I'm looking for... I'll come find you. I
Gabby walked down the busy street that was clogged to the brim with tourists, bumping shoulders as she went. People milled about shops devoted to dark magic and voodoo, oohing and ahhing at the strange items for sale. None of it worked. It was all junk designed to line shopkeepers pockets. She could tell without even looking.
, New Orleans, had always been the home of many types of power. These days, one had to know exactly where to go to find it or they would only come away with rubbish. Luckily, she knew what she wanted and was determined to get it.
She walked into a small and unassuming cafe named Devils Kitchen, known for its selection of specialty cakes to the outside world. To those who knew things, it was so much more. All kinds of supernaturals congregated here to trade, inform, threaten and simply 'hang out'. Scanning the busy cafe, she laid eyes on
imposing figure. From the reverberations in the air, she knew this was the person who had summoned her here.
When a witch had contacted her during her meditation the previous evening, she knew it wasn't good news. There were only a few people alive who knew the truth of who and what she was and not all of them were good. Despite this, Gabby knew it was in her best interests, along with everyone else's, if she came here today. There was no fear or worry in her heart, only a morbid sense of curiosity. What could he possibly want from her?
Sighing, she crossed the room and sat across from the dark figure. Raising an eyebrow she said, "This better be worth my time."
Regulus smirked at the young witch. "Ismena was always quite talented. Good to see she passed it on."
"If anyone finds out I came to meet you," she began, an unmistakable note of warning in her voice.
"But, dear Gabrielle, they won't. Not anyone that
, anyway," he disregarded her warning with a flick of his hand.
A waitress stopped by the table then, but she waved her away. She didn't want to stay here a moment longer than she had to. "What do you want, Regulus? I have better things to do, you know."
The Roman leant back and surveyed her with a glint in his eye that should have unsettled her, but she only glared at him. His lip curled up into a sneer and he said, "Don't think for a second that I don't know what you've been poking around for."
"And what might that be?" she laughed.
"Want to make your own army, Gabrielle?"
Clearly, his fingers were in a lot more pies that she had thought. Since she had gotten wind of his arrival, she'd been trying to track down the spell that had created the founders in hope that she could undo it. So far, she'd come up with nothing but hearsay. "Who needs an army when all I have to do is to will my enemies to their knees?"
"Now I see why Arturius liked you. You have some mouth, Gabrielle." He said it suggestively, wiping his bottom lip with a thumb.
"In your dreams," she rolled her eyes. "I know you've been poking about Ashburton and I suggest you leave him alone."
"Now, why would I do that?"
"That town and everyone and everything in it is under my protection," her eyes narrowed in warning. "Leave him alone. He's been through enough without you trying to destroy him as well."
Regulus slammed a fist down on the table top, making her jump. "Zachary is mine," he spat. "He's already agreed to come along, so save your threats for someone who
to be saved."
"No…" Why would he do such a thing when she was there to help him?
"Yes," Regulus said. "Now, if you don't mind, witch, I have some business to discuss with you."
He pushed a vial of blood across the table and she scooped it into her bag, glancing about the cafe to see if anyone had noticed. "What the hell are you doing?"
The Roman laughed at her. "Do you think any of the people in here are a match for me? I've been around a long time, dear. If I desired it, everyone in this cafe would be dead before they reached the door. There would be no time to let out a scream."
"What do you want me to do with this?" she said through gritted teeth.
"You will link me to Zachary."
"Insurance from what?" As she asked the question, she understood the answer. If Zac died, the link would let Regulus know. Or if Zac attempted to kill him, then the magic would end him instead. It was exactly what Katrin had done to the Romans and every other vampire that had served her.
He ignored her question. "I know where your parents live and that darling witch Sophia. She's a live wire that one, considering her age."
"Don't you dare threaten me, Regulus, or I'll-"
"Or you'll what?" He leant over the table, his eyes becoming dark.
Gabby sat back as far as she could in the booth, knowing her threat was empty where Regulus was concerned. When he had said the word
earlier? What he really meant was
. There was no choice here if she wanted her friends to remain safe. Could she use her power on him? There was a very high chance that he was also immune like Arturius had been. After she had detained Caius all that time ago at the silo, they had learned how to counter her.
"Do what I ask and nothing need happen to them," he smiled, leaning back, knowing that he had her in the palm of his hand. "Oh, and what I continue to ask you to do."
"Asshole," she spat, much to his amusement.
"I've been called much worse things." As she stood up to leave, he said, "And I will know if you haven't done it. So, I suggest you do what I ask the moment you get home. I intend to leave as soon as possible."
He didn't have to threaten her, she knew exactly what would happen if she defied him. Glaring, she stalked towards the exit of the cafe, her skin crawling.
" he called out after her.