The floor I was on was almost pitch black and it took a while for my eyes to adjust. The further down in this building you went, the sleazier it got. If this was what it was like five floors down I’d hate to see what it was like further down. Dancing on a pole was a black bikini clad blonde woman, too beautiful to be a human. A crowd of men gathered around her cheering and offering money and blood. She brushed them all off and sent a few of them to the bar. Another woman was working the bar, handing out shots of blood and some kind of liquor. Sat on the floor by me was a man and woman, locked in a battle between making out and sharing blood. Everyone in the room was either drunk or high or both. Not too far from me, a dirty blonde girl was in the process of snorting a line of cocaine. And then my eyes located the snarling, biting, punching mass that was Trace and Travis. No one seemed to notice what was happening, they were all too caught up in their own little worlds.
“Whoo! Show us your tail!” one of the men shouted at the pole dancer.
She gave him the finger but carried on dancing. If you can call it dancing.
“Wolf scum” a man said as he went past me, ramming my shoulder as he went.
“It’s funny, you keep threatening to kill me but all you’ve done is beat me up. I really do remind you of you love rat, don’t I?” Travis said smugly.
“Shut your mouth!” Trace bellowed.
“So go on then. Punish me. Show me what it means to feel pain!” Travis was laughing as he spoke.
“Trace!” I shouted but he didn’t hear me. His anger was blocking his senses, a red mist descending over his eyes. It was descending over mine too. But I had to stay calm.
It took five minutes before he heard me. He and Travis had both taken a beating in that time and looked like they were ready to drop.
“Trace, he’s winding you up! Nate hasn’t got a new boyfriend. In fact, your memories were the first I knew of…that. But he hasn’t forgotten you either. Tawny tried to set him up on a date. We all watched from a distance. He was miserable the whole time, he just kept talking about someone called Trace. We all thought it was an old girlfriend or something”.
Trace had a hold of Travis’ collar but he loosened his grip. He looked at me in disbelief. I could feel Ren’s gaze burning through my back.
“Yes. He kept telling this girl that he only had room in his heart for one person and, even though they were gone, he wouldn’t let himself forget them. She was bored to tears because he kept talking about all the good times they had together. In fact, I remember one of them. You and him went out for a meal, Italian I think he said. Anyway, he got sauce-“
“All over his chin. I wiped it off for him and we got a few disapproving looks. We had a great night but… There were some Southern boys in there. Saw Nate as one of their own and that made what he was doing twice as wrong. They cornered us outside… I let them beat me up because it meant protecting him. That was our first date” he said with a chuckle at the end.
“She’s lying” Travis said bitterly.
“For God’s sake, Travis, give up. If you want to fight someone you can fight me outside” Ren said, her annoyance grating against my ears.
Trace let go of Travis’ collar and stared at me. Travis growled slightly and padded over to Ren. She put a hand on his shoulder and led him out of the room but not before whispering to me “Nice way to break up a fight”.
I led Trace back upstairs, past the carnage that had occurred in both Travis and Ren’s rooms, and sat him down on the leather sofa.
“Hannah… How… How is he?” he asked once I’d filled a small glass with my own blood.
I didn’t know if he kept any bottles of blood lying around but mine would do. Vampires needed blood to make them strong and that’s what Trace needed to be now. Not the shaken boy he was right now but the fearless leader he’d been before.
“He’s good. He’s a rogue but he’s good” I said, passing him the glass and sitting next to him.
A small laugh came from him. “He said he’d never pick sides. It wasn’t a promise but he stuck to his word”.
The rest of the night was spent with Trace, talking about Nate and various other things. With each hour that passed Trace seemed to get stronger, bolder, more like his former self. As the sun began to rise he sent me back to the others. Said Ren was bound to be irritable because he and Travis had destroyed her room, the one place she was truly at peace. And, as had become the norm, Morrigan blanked me. Though she did cast a sympathetic look at the two strips of muslin wrapped around my arm. Adrianna seemed wary of me, and because of her reaction Luc was too. Trace came down to collect Morrigan and everyone looked to me for an explanation. I couldn’t give them one, I was too tired. And then Travis appeared, broken, beat and bruised. He ignored the others and marched straight towards me. He grabbed my wrist with a sickening crunch and dragged me out of the room.
“Why did you interfere?” he asked icily.
“Ren told me to”.
“Would you throw yourself off a bridge if Ren asked you to?”
“Then why did you interfere? I told you to trust me, that it was all part of the plan!”
“I’m not sure we were working towards the same thing”.
“Listen, if you hadn’t have interfered I could have killed him. That would have solved all our problems”.
“Since when did we share problems?”
He grasped my wrist tighter. Much more force and it would snap.
“Leave her alone, Travis” Ren said. Amy was at her side. She sounded tired.
“Don’t tell me what to do, Ren. What if I want her to be my protégé?” he snapped.
“Well, keep hold of her wrist like that and she wont be your protégé for long”.
“Hypocrite” he muttered.
“I would never treat Amy like that! And, frankly, if you want a protégé, take them from your own ranks” Ren said, grabbing my arm and pulling me away from Travis. “Just ignore him. He’s only hacked off ‘cause I beat him last night. He’s like a kitten, see? Adorable and would never hurt you unless you get on his bad side”.
For some reason, those words didn't make me feel any better.