As Calla and I headed back to the familiar dark streets of London that lined The Pig's Head, I felt the first sense of happiness settle within me. We were weighed down with bags, and my stomach still hurt from all the laughing I had done that afternoon. It felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders, even if it was just for a few hours.
As soon as stepped over the threshold of Demrin's apartment, Calla frowned.
'Something's not right,' she murmured.
'What do you mean?'
She didn't reply, instead, she went back the way we had come, out into the corridor. She peered left, and then right.
'Are you okay?' I called, unsure.
'Who are you?' her voice was puzzled. For a second I thought she was talking to me, until I heard footsteps and a smooth, calm voice that seemed to appear out of nowhere. It was also vaguely familiar, and as the person stepped into the light, I gasped.
'I have something to tell you.'
The guy I had seen the other night, Jester I think his name was, stood facing us with a calm expression. He had his hands behind his back and was wearing a smart, dark suit.
'Jester?' I blinked.
Calla turned to face me. 'You know him?'
'Not as such, I saw him a couple of nights ago.'
Jester smiled at me warmly, which I returned, slightly confused as to why he was here in Demrin's apartment.
'It's Adder,' he turned back to Calla. 'He's been attacked. Demrin's there now, I just thought you should know.'
'Adder? Attacked by who?' her voice was growing panicked now, and whilst I didn't feel anything for the vampire who had tried to kill me, I was worried for Calla. So far, she had been the nicest to me, doing all she could to put me at ease.
'I am unsure of that, I stayed here to tell you. You should go see if he's okay.'
Immediately, Calla dashed out the room. Her head poked in the doorway a few seconds later.
'Will you be okay here Ana?'
'I'll be fine,' I assured her. I wasn't entirely comfortable with being left alone with a stranger for God knows how long, but Calla deserved to see how he was doing. I didn't want to keep her here. She smiled at me gratefully before disappearing.
A few seconds of awkward silence passed before I spoke.
'Why are you outside?'
'There's magical energy surrounding the building. I'm not allowed to enter without Demrin's permission.'
'Like a vampire,' I said without thinking.
His eyes widened and he drew a sharp intake of breath. 'You know about vampires?'
I stared at him, confused. Never mind about me knowing vampires, how did he? It suddenly occurred to me that I had absolutely no idea who he was, and whilst he couldn't enter the apartment, that didn't mean I wasn't in danger.
I nodded, gulping.
'What else do you know?' his tone was sharp and I flinched slightly.
'Nothing,' I decided to lie, taking an automatic step back.
His features softened. 'I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. It's just, there are things, dangerous things, that you shouldn't know. It's perilous to your safety.'
Why would you care about my safety? I felt like saying. Instead, I said nothing, I only stared at him.
'The world isn't the place you thought it was,' he continued, his voice turning thoughtful, his expression becoming distant. 'I found that out the hard way. There are things out there Ana, things that want to hurt you, and whilst you may be surrounding yourself with all of these powerful beings, Demrin, Adder, Calla, it won't protect you. You need to learn to fight.'
Who was this stranger? Why did he care so much about me? What did he mean by 'things' wanting to hurt me? A million questions swam through my mind, each of them burning with the desire to be answered.
Instead, I mumbled, 'I can take care of myself.'
'No,' he frowned. 'You can't. You're just a human, as fragile as a baby lamb. They could kill you in a matter of seconds.'
I didn't like being compared to a "baby lamb", I felt as though he was patronizing me. I stared at his condescending expression and felt the biggest urge to prove to him I was capable of looking after myself. I could use that mental torture on him, that'd wipe that look off his face. Besides, it would just be for a few seconds...
Shocked at my sadistic thoughts, I shook my head, starting to head out into the corridor. Jester blocked my path.
'Where are you going?'
'I'm going to Adder's, to see if Calla's okay.'
'No you're not,' he said simply.
I looked at him, incredulous. 'And you're going to stop me how?'
'You don't know what state he's in Ana. He's just been viciously attacked, drained of blood. No doubt he'll be in a psychotic, demonic state.' He spat the last word out and I knew there was more he wasn't telling me.
'You've seen Adder before, haven't you?'
'Of course I have. The bastard nearly drained me dry.'
'I know that feeling,' I muttered. 'But Calla's my friend, I have to see if she's okay.'
Even though Jester towered over me, I still stood with my shoulders back, my head held defiantly and he eventually stepped to the side, sighing again.
'Fine, but I'm coming with you.'
The walk to the Pig's Head was short and uninteresting. We didn't speak much but I kept catching Jester glancing at me every now and then which made me a little nervous. He kept sighing too, like he was unhappy of where we were headed and to be honest, I didn't blame him. I wasn't too comfortable at the thought of wandering into a half starved, half dead vampire's room. But I knew Demrin and Calla were there and that made me relax slightly.
Jester held the door of the pub open for me and I thanked him.
'I really think we should wait here Ana,' Jester murmured, and I faltered in my steps. He did have a point. I didn't know what state Adder was going to be in, and he'd already tried killing me twice.
'Calla will be safe with Demrin, won't she?' I found myself asking. Jester nodded, sensing my unease.
'We'll wait here until we hear anymore. How's that?'
I eventually had to oblige, not wanting to cheat death for a third time.