RUSH: A Vampire, A Witch, A Secret, A Rush. (3 page)


I trail my fingers over the bookcase. Table tennis and pool don’t really interest me, and they don’t really interest the other girls either. But the bookshelf gets our attention.

“This one’s good,” Couch says.

I didn’t give her that nickname, but she is always hugging a cushion on the couch so everyone calls her couch. It’s really counterproductive. Blondie, who everyone calls Boss, hasn’t elaborated on her rules or where she got them from and since I’m one of fourteen – and the last one in here – I’ve decided this is a good time to follow someone.

“I just finished it,” Couch continues. “It’s about a girl who can’t get along with her dad and runs away and does stupid shit.”

“Sounds depressing,” I say, taking the book and slipping it amongst the others on the shelf.

“Not really. It has a happy ending.” She shrugs, then picks up any random book and begins to walk off.

“How do you know you’ll like that one?”

“I don’t care.”

Ok, great theory, but still I scan over the titles trying to get excited about one of them based on the words or the cover. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but I do. ‘Witchwars’ one reads and I slip it from the shelf with a chuckle.

“You don’t like supernatural stuff?” Sooky says.

You don’t need three guesses to work out why she’s called sooky. When she isn’t reading, or eating, she’s crying and sometimes she’s having a cry whilst reading and eating – talented.

“No, not really,” I say. “They’re always so fake.”

“Well dah, it’s a book, they’re all fake.”

“Sure,” I mutter, slipping the book back on the shelf.

“How would they write a ‘real’ witch or vampire story?” she asks.

I shrug, I hadn’t thought about it before. Plus vampires are just fiction so half the question is stupid.

“For starters they could get rid of the brooms. No one actually believes witches use broomsticks do they?” Couch says.

I chuckle. Tell that to my mother.

Or don’t. No one can tell anything to my mother. Being the High Priestess of the whole Northern Triangle, which includes most of the US, Canada and a smidge of Alaska, she’s like the queen of the witches. Should make me the princess, but in our world princesses aren’t weighted on hand and foot.

“Ok, then New Girl, how would you write a witch?” Blondie asks.

It doesn’t take her long to butt into every conversation.

“You first Blondie, what would your witch be like?” Sooky asks.

“Like my mother, before she told me Harvard or the highway.”

“Let me guess, you didn’t get into Harvard?”

“I didn’t even show up for the exams,” Blondie spits, like it’s still a funny joke.

“That’ll teach your mother,” I mutter.

“Alright New Girl, you tell the story then.”

I almost keep my mouth shut, then the words begin to spill out. “Born only on new moons, the babies of witches are branded seconds after their first breath. Either they have magic or they don’t. Those with magic learn to use it, those without magic learn to serve. There’s a queen, of course, a High Priestess, and her heir is her first born girl.” The tension in the room grows so I piece together more details, more facts. “But the strongest is always bowed down to and up until the day the crown sits on your head you can be usurped. Even as a child the heir has to fight. She has to learn faster, master spells quicker, follow the laws even when they’re bloody stupid, and she’s not even sure she wants the job.”

People move in closer. Even the girls who were drawing with a selection of broken crayons, or idling tossing a ball against the wall, take an interest and find seats on the floor, couch or table top nearby.

“Then why doesn’t she just give up the job, run away?” Blondie asks.

“Run away to what? A witch is only as good as their coven. There are forty seven covens in the USA alone and all of them answer to the High Priestess. Hold that crown and you rule the world, or a big part of it anyway,” I explain.

“Who wants to rule the world?” Blondie asks.

“If it was me I would be out of there in a flash,” Couch agrees.

I purse my lips. I can’t explain it to them, the drive, the way everyone you know either wants you to be their next Priestess, or wants to take the position from you. It’s not like kings and queens of old where people are murdered or poisoned for their crown. There are more rules around it than that. It has to be in set battle zones or trials, what humans consider exams I consider nightmares, and being beaten happens all the time so there’s a margin for error. I had to have my ass well and truly handed to me for someone to claim they were my better.

“You know,” Sookie says. “Having the crown or not having it, that wouldn’t worry me, but having a mother who was the queen; that would suck.”

I look her square in the eye, like a bolt of lightning just shot between the two of us. “Yes, and the pressure would suck,” I add.

“So, just run,” Blondie says.

“Ok,” I relent, because she’s right. “Let’s say a witch, who is supposed to become the next High Priestess, rebels a little. Let’s say they go to some underground witch type club and get a little waisted on drinks that are half alcohol and half magic.”

An excited cheer goes around the room.

“Then we’ll see what mummy has to say,” Blondie says.

“This,” I say, holding my hand with the tattoo on it up for everyone to see. “Mother had to say this.” Everyone kind of goes silent and I scramble to grab the story threads and turn their attention back to the supposed fiction. “Witches are like evolved humans, their magic makes them unique. Spelled tattoo ink creates certain kinds of protections and can empower or depower the wearer. So a tattoo like this, it blinds and binds the wearer, and strips them of their connection with their magic. Also, it banishes them from their coven; All covens.”

“You’re not blind,” Sookie says.

“Not me you fool, witches,” I blurt out.

“Oh,” Sookie says, nodding in big exaggerated head movements.

“So new girl... no happy ending?” Blondie asks, and for the first time her tone isn’t nasty.

The others move away, muttering about details, saying who they would be if they were a witch or what super powers they’d have.

“Not yet, anyway,” I whisper.

What would be a happy ending for me? A new coven, somewhere I could belong and practice magic and just be me without all the laws and fighting and trials and battle zones. I don’t need to go back, I don’t need my mother’s forgiveness and I don’t even need a coven specifically of witches. All I need is just a home and a family.

That’s all I need, that’s all I want.


A new inspection is shouted for and the light as I leave the barn cellar hits me just as hard as it did last time. You’d think the constant lights on in the cellar would be enough – but a week without sunlight burns and I’m walking blind until I can feel the grass underfoot. I wipe the tears away and notice the other girls, and nearby boys, are doing the same thing.

Already inspecting the group is three women. They’re pretty, the kind of pretty that makes a million dollars in photographs and modelling jobs. It’s odd that the tree of them are so gorgeous, in a group shouldn’t at least one look average?

They have the same kind of impeccable style that the guys had, different but kind of the same. Like they’re trying to blend in but also they see themselves as better than everyone else. To be honest the long grey jacket over grey dress pants, on the woman with such long hair it’s up in a high pony and still trails right down to her waist, and the neutral cream lacy dress on the woman with middle eastern skin, and the chocolate brown knitwear on the only one wearing a pair of sunglasses, well all the clothes look real super-model-ish too.

They step in front of me and I yawn. Stretching my arms out and rolling my shoulders.

“You don’t want me,” I say, I feel like I’m the second billy goat gruff chatting with the troll under the bridge. “I’m a bit malnourished, look, not a muscle on me. I drink too much and oh, man, do I love taking drugs. Reckon I’d taste gamy, too.”

I sense a rush in air pressure and feel the pain of a sledge hammer hitting my face. Then I hit the grass, roll, groan and lay still. Stay down, I tell myself on instinct. Like a dog rolling over under the presence of her alpha.

She didn’t punch me. It happened real fast, but his hand was open. And if all she did was slap me then her hand has to be made of granite.

“Get her out of here,” someone shouts, one of
. “You killed her, you pay for her.”

Hallam’s arms are familiar. He hoists me into the air and when I open my eyes we’re walking beside the barn.

I gasp in, a delayed breath, and wince with the pain of it. Any swelling should be gone by morning, but there goes all that food I just downed. It’ll burn twice as quick as my body heals itself.

“You’re alive,” he gasps, sitting me against the barn.

“Yeah, a slap doesn’t normally kill a person.”

“It does when you’re slapped by a vampire.”

I stare into his eyes; vampire? They’re myths, surely? In all my travels I would have found one if they really existed.

Carefully I lift my hand and run my fingers down the side of his face. Cold and hard. I press my palm to his chest, at the spot where his shirt v’s.

“Nothing,” I say, no beat, no pulse, nothing.

He lifts my chin with one finger and holds my gaze. “But your heart is beating. You’re human.”

As if on his command my heart stops; I pull my gaze away from his and climb to my feet.

“You can control it?” he asks.

“Kind of,” I say, and it starts beating again. “More like I can live without it for a bit, but it does what it wants to do.”

“So your heart can stop?” he asks.

He puts a hand either side of me and leans against the barn. I’m blocked in, but not in a threatening kind of way. I can hear the timber creaking under his weight and once again my heart stops.

I pull a bread roll from my pocket and take a bite. “Want some?” I ask.

“My diet is strictly blood,” he smiles, flashing his fangs.

Now I understand them.

“Is that what they’re for?” I ask, motioning back towards where the other teens are, behind the barn. “Food.”

“Sometimes we have buyers who want to grow their families, other times those who want a hunt a fit young man down. We keep the stock here long enough to make sure the media won’t care about them and we have a corpse disposal service, too.”

I swallow hard, trying to keep the contents of my stomach down – but I keep eating because Yeah, foods impossible to resist.

“You know that sounds real crazy to me,” I say. “Like I hit my head in that club and this is my comatose imagination gone wild.”

He chuckles, a beautiful sound, and hesitantly he puts his palm on my cheek.

“Do I feel like your imagination?” he asks.

His voice is so soft that it takes a few seconds for my ears to get the message to my brain. Or maybe it’s the crazy overexcited beating in my chest that has me distracted.

“No,” I say. “But you do feel wild.”

“I could put you in a coma.”

“I doubt it.”

“You have no idea what we’re capable of.”

“And you don’t even know what I am, Hallam. How can you hurt what you can’t name?”

“Then tell me what you are?”

My laughter breaks the static in the air. “What? So you can hurt me?”

He shakes his head with a smiling filling out only half his lips. “I don’t think I could.”

Silence. What in the goddesses crap am I supposed to say to that?

“Tell me your name?”

“Rowena,” my voice box answers without any instruction from the saner side of me.

“Well, Rowena, you have two options.” As he talks he strokes my cheek and I have to force my mind to stay focused on his words and not get lost in his touch. “Really die, for good, forever, and I know some vamps that will do it. In fact, those vamps out there in that field are rather good at killing. Or go back out there.”

“Oh, gosh,” I say mockingly. “What a hard choice.”

I wrap my hand through his hair and pull myself in closer to him. His breathing stops, and I feel giddy at the idea that I have his full attention.

“Or,” I whisper into his ear. “You could try and catch me.”

I’m gone, under his arm before he even twitched. The
dissolves the distance between me and the furthest fence in a second. Trees, shrubs, animal paths, they disappear around me. I can’t even see him anymore.


Not many of us are born with this power. Granted until now I actually thought moving super-fast was rather useless, especially when a car is more comfortable and fuel is cheaper than the quantity of food I’ll need to recover.

A heavy male laugh bounds behind me. I can’t believe it, he’s right there. I clear a fallen log and in the same second so does he. We dodge trees and zig-zag through the forest quicker than the wind, side by side.

His bright red eyes are alight and a smile fills his face. I laugh with him, and push myself harder.

The airbrakes of a truck shatter our concentration. We must be nearing a road. He slows and I look over my shoulder at him. I could keep running, escape was the general idea. Some truck driver would pick me up and drive me to safety.

Instead I let gravity pull me back, and the
loses its momentum.

A branch catches my arm, ripping straight through my shirt and gauging at my flesh.

I gasp in pain.

Hallam’s hand grips my shoulder and he pins me to a tree in such a quick jolt from
to stand still that my head is left spinning.

The road is in view, built up on top of a mound to the point that none of the drivers would be able to see us down here in the forest.

“Hallam, you’re hurting me,” I gasp.

His teeth are bared and his eyes are fixed on my arm; pinned up between his hand and the tree. Blood runs from the gash down over his fingers and he’s sniffing it like a hungry dog offered a bone.

“No,” I gasp.

I’ve no idea how the vampire thing works. In movies they drink your blood and you die unless you drink theirs. But movies are full of witches riding on broom sticks with long noses and warts. HA! Never been able to get a stinking broom to fly in my life – and I’ve tried.

His eyelids close and some of the pressure on my arm releases.

I grip the stomach of his shirt and pull him in closer to me. It sounds stupid, but the closer your enemy is the less damage they can suddenly do to you.

He hasn’t let go of me, he’s just relaxed his grip the barest of centimetres – so I don’t feel like he’s about the break my arm.

“What do you want?” I whisper.

But the word ‘want’ begs me to ask myself the question. What do I want?

My fingers brush against his flesh, alive with a tingling sensation that’s completely new to my senses.

I want Hallam.

I feel my shoulder crunch as I force myself from the tree and into his arms. He lets go of my arm and with blood still smeared on his fingers he grips my other shoulder, both my shoulders, and holds me still.

Is he’s going to stop me? Then he leans down. His lips brush my neck and he breathes me in.

I gasp at the sensation, like hot liquid running through my insides.

“Can I hurt you,” he whispers.

“I’d prefer it if you didn’t,” I say.

“No, do you break like a human does?”

“Sometimes, but I’ll heal.”

He lifts me up, then lowers me to the leaf litter. This should be scary, and messy, and dangerous and very out-in-the-open, but I pull him in closer and the whole world dissolves around us.

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