I approached the large building with a sense of trepidation. It was very grand and intimidatting to look at anyway, without the fact that I was most likely walking into a trap. The air was grey as time hovered between night and dawn. I slipped the familiar mask over my face, supressing the leaden feeling in my stomach. I turned away from the main entrance and moved silently through the forest edge until I had reached my usual route in. I checked carefully for anything that might show someone had tampered with it. I wasn't taking any chances this time.
Finally I scaled the wall and landed through the open window with a light impact that would not have been heard unless you were listening for it. I was in a plush, luxurious office, hung with paintings and tapestries. I crouched down by the window and waited, as was the usual practice. A heartbeat later, a regal vampire appeared.
"Shadow, so pleased to see some things never change." he checked his watch "Precisely on time. Tell me, how did you fare?"
"The contract was completed as agreed." I replied, the mask distorting my voice slightly. "The new Duke was all to happy to comply once he discovered the fate of his father."
The vampire laughed with a cold pleasure "Excellent. You have done well, as always."
I bowed my head respectfully, supressing any thought that this was other than normal. Under my black clothes, Jay's ring was cool against my skin, reminding me who I really was and what was on the line here.
"My dear Shadow, do not stay on show, please have a seat?" the vampire pulled out a seat beside himself, pouring two crystal glasses of blood. He held one to his face, smiling over the rim at me. His black eyes were cold.
Useful as always.. shes good. Very good. Good enough? Surely the best.. Only the best would be able to suceed in this.
I swallowed hard at the thoughts I could hear in his head. Another contract. A tough one at the sounds of it.
"As always Zelthar, I must refuse with the utmost respect." I replied levelly, lifting only my eyes to him.
He laughed, but the chill in his eyes deepened. "We can always live in hope."
The candles that littered the room all suddenly sprang into life, although the area where I was crouched still lay in darkness. Zelthar was a pyrokinetic and extreamely powerful.
"My dear Shadow, I am afriad I must request your talents again. I have recieved some reports, very disturbing reports indeed. It appears that there are some vampires emerging who would upset the natural balance. Those who would see the downfall of this Council. Ordinarily, we would give this to one of.. lesser talents, than yourself. However, these reports also bring tales of one among them who can control ice. One who can control thoughts. One who can throw lightening. One who can manipulate emotions. These vampires would destroy our Secrecy. I have a guide who will take you to them. Do not allow them to continue and you shall be rewarded above all others Shadow."
I held silent as I deliberated. I knew exactly who he meant. Everyone back at the Mansion was in danger.
"Meet your partner." Zelthar purred, opening the door. A figure stepped into the candlelight and I nearly flinched. The bleached blond hair, the slender build, the dark coat.. My mind screamed Lee! He's dead.. He must be. I killed him. I saw him die..
"This is Jasper. His brother was killed by those vampires I was telling you about. He has inside information that can get you in there."
"Hello Shadow. Lee told me all about you." Jasper's hard brown eyes fixed me in a glare. Asha.. Stupid b*tch, you will pay for him. I will make you suffer for Lee.
"Zelthar, I shall take the contract on one condition." I spoke calmly, my mind racing.
"Of course my dear, name it." Zelthar was in his element, practically purring.
"I work alone." I replied, not moving an inch. "As always. I will find them. I will complete the contract. Bring you proof, as always. But I work alone."
I did not look at Jasper, glancing at Zelthar instead. He deliberated a moment, then nodded slowly.
"Very well. However, I will be sending Jasper as a back up. He is also in your line of work." He replied, looking at me steadily. "That is my condition."
I felt the tension in my shoulders increase. Zelthar was determined to send Jasper. My jaw flexed. I was in a corner. Either way, Jasper was going to be there.
"I also travel alone. I do not want contact with any other agent." I emphasised. "I need to work entirely alone."
Zelthar nodded slowly again. "I shall give you a month's start. No longer.I want another report in eight weeks time."
I nodded, placing a packet on the floor. Inside were photographs. The 'proof'. Zelthar tossed a thick packet over to me. My payment.
"I accept your terms. One month from today you will send 'back up'. I work alone. No contact with any agents of this Council. I return in two months with a report."
"Agreed." Zelthar replied. "In two months then my dear. Fare you well."
"Zelthar. As always." I inclined my head in a show of respect. The sun was coming up behind me and I felt exposed. Zelthar smiled, waving me away.
I left as swiftly as I could, sprinting for the cover of the trees. I slowed a little so that I could keep running. I wanted to get back. I had to. As I ran, I pulled off my mask, stuffing it in a pocket. I pulled out Jay's rings and put them back on. I felt calmer already, the silver reassuringly familiar already. I put on a spurt of speed, wanting to be back as fast as possible.
Finally, the Mansion loomed into view. Most of the day had gone and I could sense people inside. I climbed the wall into my room, vaulting over the balcony and through the door, which I had left open. I dumped the pack I had been carrying, and my mask. I sent out my mind and located Jay's thoughts in the living room. Smiling I ran down the stairs, silent and slipped through the door, which was ajar. Jay was slumped in a chair, looking drawn and pensieve.
He didn't see me, lost in thought as I walked to him, making no sound. It wasn't until I sat on his lap, my back to the room, that he looked up, eyes wide. Before he could say anything, I leaned down and kissed him. I felt his arms go around me, holding me like he never wanted to let go. My muscles ached from running and I was shaken from what I had learned, but having Jay hold me, was better than any other remedy.
We broke away eventually, smiling at each other. Jay pulled me into a tight hug as the door was pushed open by someone.