It wasn’t until November, on a field trip to the Grand Canyon, that she saw him again.
They were on the plexi-glass platform looking down when she noticed him out of the corner of her eye, him slipping around the corner, back into one of the buildings.
Fifteen minutes later, she noticed her hadn’t come back out. It was very curious, but Adriane told herself to stop looking. A cloud suddenly covered up the sun and a drizzle occurred. Adriane looked up at the imposing clouds that she hadn’t noticed before. The students were all being rushed back inside the building, where they watched the rain steadily beat down harder on the parched Western rock.
Suddenly she turned around, feeling that she was being watched by someone in the crowded space. But seeing no one looking at her, she moved off to a corner by a large window and watched the rain.
After Uncle Vito had picked her up for the weekend and she was lounging on the patio in the dark, she felt a sudden rush of cold air, and turned on the bright flood lights, but saw nothing.
More instances of feeling watched and followed occurred for another week. It had Adriane on edge, scared. She never went outside in the dark, tried to stay in places with more than one way of exit, and wished more than ever she could talk to someone and have them tell her she was just scaring herself. She wanted to tell Uncle Vito, but he was stuck in Italy for a month doing business, so she couldn’t call him to talk.
Laughing at herself, she told herself it was just the new environment doing it to her. But that scary little know-it-all voice at the back of her mind said You’ve been here almost four months now. Why would this be happening just now?
Shut up. Adriane told the voice.
Well? It said.
Adriane ignored it.
But it was right. And she knew it.
Adriane was walking back to the dorms. There had been a night performance from the Drama Club and every student had been forced to come.
The side walk cobblestones echoed loudly with every step she took. Voices wafted over to her like a lovely scent from the kitchens.
“Make her go away.”
“You know I can’t do that. She’ll be in even more danger than where she is right now!”
“I don’t care. She’s a threat. A beacon showing every Night Creature where we are. And you were an idiot for doing that to her!”
The first voice was a very alpha female. The second was lower and smoother, and very male. Both very human, Adriane noticed. She stood behind a topiary of a likeness of the Greek Goddess, Athena, goddess of wisdom.
“And if I hadn’t done it she would be dead if they had tried to get her.”
“Hello idiot! We’re trying to make peace with them! If they want the girl, they get it, no questions asked. Trying to strike up a peace treaty is unbelievably hard! You wouldn’t understand.”
Silence answered the girl.
Adriane tried to peek from under the arm of Athena, but a few stray leaves blocked her view of the two students.
“Maybe it is hard, I don’t know. But she’s not like the other ones. She was targeted by them before. Not too long ago either. We got to her through relatives and brought her here to keep her safe. I was assigned to take her in, but not tell her anything. She knows nothing about me. And if they want her, there must be a very good reason for it, and we could use her as a bargaining chip. ”
“No. You are such a freaking moron! They want her, we give her. Is that too hard for your tiny little brain to understand?!” The girl shrieked.
“But… we protect humans! We don’t sacrifice them!”
“Yes, humans. You said yourself she wasn’t like them. So we aren’t sworn to protect her.”
“I said NO!”
Adriane guessed that the male was probably glaring at the girl. And her thoughts were whirling. Sacrifice? Bargaining chip? People talking about protecting humans like they weren’t humans themselves? Adriane stepped backwards and of course, stepped on a dry leaf that crackled. She now had a perfect view of the two students. The guy had been James. The other a short, slim girl with perfectly curled long brown hair with an aggravated expression on her face, and her hands on her hips. Adriane assumed she had a deer-caught-in-the-headlights look on her face. Her bright blue eyes were very wide.
“E-er… Sorry, I was l-looking for the d-dorms. The gardens get v-very… tricky in the d-d-dark.” Adriane laughed nervously.
The short brown-haired girl looked up at James. “Like I said. Nothing but trouble. Get her out of here.”
Adriane blinked rapidly. “N-no I’m fine. Really. I think I know where I’m going bye!” And she practically sprinted away. How confusing could this place get?!
Adriane’s day went normal. Sat in the back of every class. Sat in the corner by the window in the back for lunch. Stayed towards the back of the gym class group. Rushed straight back to her room to do homework.
She was coming towards the library doors when she heard a female voice.
“Get it done tonight.”
“I don’t care what James wants! He’s an idiot!”
Adriane knew now the girl was on a cell phone.
“So?… Look, the Martins want her, they get her. No questions asked, okay?… Of course I don’t know what they want to do to her… I DON’T CARE!… Don’t feel sympathy for something you don’t know…. Don’t tell me you’re getting soft on me now Isabelle… Oh great now you’re preaching the exact same things James was saying. Well forget it already! We need this peace treaty! And I just don’t care!” The girl snapped.
Adriane suddenly realized that this was the girl form last night. She started back for the dorms, but out of exactly nowhere a black shape collided with her at blurring speeds, and she shut her eyes and didn’t open them for a while.
A blindfold was pulled off from over her eyes. She tried to scream but found herself paralyzed with fear. Her wrists and ankles were taped to a chair.
Her eyes took in the surroundings. She saw a dimly lit room that looked like an old, dark, stone room you would find in a very old castle. Red velvet banners draped the walls and torches jutted out of the wall and cast dancing shadows. Adriane felt like she was about to snap. So much was so overwhelming she could barely breathe. The round wall was lined with around fourteen people, all stunningly beautiful, dark, and mysterious.
Adriane whimpered slightly. It was the only sound she could make.
“She’s pretty. What is her blood type?” said a man sitting in a throne twenty feet in front of Adriane.
“Does it matter?” answered a cold voice. James stepped forward; the owner of the voice.
“Not really.” answered the man in the throne. He had long black hair tied up and draped over one shoulder. His eyes were hungry, his posture leisurely.
“I’ve brought her here. Now pay up.” James said.
“Once I’ve tasted the merchandise. Then you’ll have your cut. As usual.”
The man moved closer. Tears started to stream silently from Adriane’s pale gray eyes. Terror drowned her.
“Aren’t you going to gag her?” asked one of the people on the wall.
“No. I like it when they try to scream.”
Adriane clenched her fists and shut her eyes.
He turned his head away in disgust. It hadn’t worked. The girl was doomed to die the horrible death she had been marked for from birth. The stones felt cold against his back as he leaned against it in defeat.
On eye opened slightly. The man leaned close, fangs close to Adriane’s neck. Then suddenly a BANG and a flash of light occurred and the man was hurled against the sharp, heavy throne with a sickening crunch as Adriane uttered a wildly insane shriek of pure terror. The tape shattered on Adriane’s right wrist and she threw her head into her palm and sobbed.
He sank to his knees in pure relief, running his fingers through his black hair. It had worked after all.
Adriane pulled at the tape on her left wrist. She had been put into a small room with all the lights off, still taped to the chair. She heard the man’s voice outside, bellowing.
“WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!! WHO MARKED HER! SHE SHOULD NOT BE MARKED!!!”
Muffled voices followed. Then more enraged bellowing. It would be quite comical if Adriane hadn’t experienced a near-death experience.
Unfortunately the sudden isolation had left her with more than enough time for contemplation. And she had come to the conclusion that vampires did exist. But then if they existed, then what about other so called “mythical” creatures like werewolves, witches, goblins, Chupacabras, phoenixes, unicorns and the winged horse, Pegasus?
Deep in thought, Adriane forced herself to bury the worry temporarily. She was completely bewildered by the whole situation. Nothing made sense, and it was more like she was in a dream. Or, more correctly, a nightmare. But the adrenaline and terror was altogether much, much too real. It was a nightmare.
He walked down the hall toward the room she was being held in, in the dark literally and figuratively. He thought it was incredibly ironic.
The knob turned silently in his skilled hand and the door opened and closed without a sound.
He reached to his right and turned on a lamp which barely sent a glow into the room. The girl was in the corner, turned toward a wall. Apparently she had noticed the slight glow, because her head popped up, but she couldn’t turn it around.
He pulled out a pocket knife and flipped it open. Then he turned the chair around and she instantly spotted the knife but didn‘t look as terrified as she had earlier. Shock coursed over his face, he knew. She looked haggard, weak and tired, and her bottom lip was bleeding and swollen where she had bitten it. Dark rings laid under her eyes like bruises.
“What are you going to do?” she asked in a very hoarse and quiet voice. He winced in sympathy. Then cut the tape and turned on another, bigger lamp. The room was filled with gentle light the color of a sunset. It revealed a smaller room which was a bathroom, a bed with a nice looking comforter, and an armoire. It was stone, but had a rug covering the cold stone of the floor.
“You need to sleep. You’ve been tied up for much too long and haven’t eaten for days. I’ll bring spare clothes and something for you to eat later. Just sleep for now.” He didn’t even try to spare a smile and instead checked his tousled, jet black hair in the mirror on the wall. The black hair fell all over his forehead sometimes, but usually kept brushed to the right. He didn’t know why he bothered anyway.
Just as he was opening the door, she spoke. “You said I haven’t eaten for days.”
He turned around. His dark green eyes were sharp as knives. Her voice sounded painful, and in return his throat clenched. “Yeah.”
“I haven’t been in this room for days, have I?”
“You were unconscious before. You were out for a couple of days.”
“Oh. Okay.” She sat down on the bed.
He closed the door behind him and locked it. A slight semblance of sanity returned to him for a fleeting moment before the darkness of the hall smothered it before it could grow any more.
What was she? There was something off-beat about her presence, like she was something in between, undecided. All he knew was that there was something terrifying under the surface, and whoever discovered it wouldn’t like it.
Adriane awoke from under the sheets of the bed hours later. She still felt like crap. Nothing wanted to move.
She checked her face in the mirror. It looked horrible and her hair looked like a rat’s nest. Her lip hurt fiercely. Looked like it too.
She washed her face and neck as best she could and true to the stranger’s words, there was warm food and fresh clothes. Adriane could have worshipped him just then. There was tea, water, soup, several warm, buttery croissants and bread, butter and cheese. And for clothes there were thick wool socks, a plain gray sweater and black jeans.
Remembering the stranger, she appreciated his arrival. He had been really tall, and mostly thin except for his chest and biceps which were muscled but not overly so. He had looked about sixteen; a year older than Adriane. He had worn all black clothes and a leather jacket that was well worn. Maybe he had genuinely cared. But he belonged to the enemy, so there was most certainly an ulterior motive behind the masquerading kindness.
Dressed in the new clothes and full of warm food, Adriane explored the tiny room. No windows and the door was locked. Empty armoire, nothing under the bed and nothing on the walls. Now she was left to her own devices. Boredom and more thinking awaited her. And it came and stayed for hours. All that she had was her watch and her uniform to play with, and she didn’t do anything with that. At least her watch helped her stay somewhat sane. But she didn’t know if it was two in the morning or in the afternoon. This proved a problem.
Adriane was lying on the bed staring at the ceiling when the door burst open with a bang. She sat upright with a jolt of fear. The man with the ponytail that had tried to eat her earlier glared at her from the doorway. He seemed reluctant to come any closer. The black-haired guy and two muscular supermodel types were with him as well.
Without meaning to, Adriane shrank back against the wall.
The ponytail man spoke. “If you were even the tiniest bit significant to me I would introduce myself. But you are not even the least bit significant in my life. Show me your left hand.” he announced coldly.
She extended her hand, palm up. It was clean and pale. The man looked vicious. “Show me your right.”
Adriane extended her right hand, palm up. It was, again, pale and unmarked.
The man looked feral now. “Rudi. Try to touch her. Girl, keep your hands palms up.” One of the supermodel-looking guys stepped up and tried to touch her palm but out of him erupted a wild shriek and his hand jerked back to his stomach, shielded by his left hand.
Her hands were still unmarked. The man kept his feral look as he said, “Search her. The mark must be somewhere else.”
Adriane’s eyes widened with panic and the three guys behind the man looked positively green. “No!!” She yelled, her hands outstretched as if to ward them off. The sleeve of her left arm slipped down around her elbow, and the mark was revealed on the inside of her left wrist.
“Never mind.” He said coldly. “We leave tonight at midnight. Prepare her.”
The boys nodded and swiftly stalked out of the room. The man looked her over one more time, his eyes seeming to pierce her straight to the bone. “Don’t count yourself lucky. And count your days and blessings, because they’re numbered.”
“Okay.” Adriane answered timidly. Adriane now guessed it was more like two in the afternoon.
At least now I know what time it is, she thought with a wry smile.
She braided her hair into a short braid that tapped the backs of her shoulders, her bangs swept to one side, because they were getting in her eyes.
She kept waiting. And waiting. Thinking she might go insane waiting, she tried to go back to sleep, but sleep did not come to her. Adriane lay in a half-conscious state, half-closed eyes staring at the ceiling. She had no idea how she managed to out herself in this state, but when she snapped back to consciousness there was a tall, muscular blonde man with a short, curly ponytail waking her up.
“It’z time to go.” He said in a thick Russian accent. He handed her a dark brown hooded cloak and told her to put it on. It swirled around her, hanging to her feet and covering all of her. She put the hood down and followed the blonde man out the door.
He walked briskly, and with upright purpose, chin lifted as if challenging anyone to make fun of him. His pace was making it hard for Adriane to keep up. She, however, walked with her head ducked, and she stepped quietly, like a dancer, with the way she seemed to refuse to let her feet scrape along the ground. Nothing she did was ever arrogant. Adriane was only quiet, and dark, and she liked to blend into the background, unnoticed.
Once the blonde man entered the room, eyes were riveted to him because of his authoritative walk and gestures. No one noticed the shadow behind him until she shifted her robes. They were back in the domed, stone room that Adriane had woken up to, tied to a chair.
Lining the walls were the same faces, plus an extra ten Adriane hadn’t noticed before. But that man with the ponytail was gone. Instead, there was a man with equally long, but curly and blood red hair, untamed by a string. His eyes shone obsidian black, and a carefully trimmed mustache and beard adorned his face. He wore black clothes with red and silver trim. His mouth had a cruel set to it, like the boy with black hair that brought her clothes and food. Speaking of him, he stood against the wall as well, arms crossed, green eyes darker than usual.
Adriane stared at them with her pale gray eyes. The man with the curly red hair and black eyes finally spoke. “You are a freak of nature, girl. No further explanation. You are ignorant of our world. You are now a high security prisoner of us now, and you shall be sent to our home land, the land of magic.”
“You’re insane. Magic doesn’t exist.” Adriane said shakily. There was not a chance that this room wasn’t filled with people that belonged in an asylum. Now she was really afraid again.
“You are ignorant and insolent. Two of my least favorite characteristics in a person.” He lifted his mouth in a sneer of distaste.
“If I’m so ignorant as you say why not explain to me what I am ignorant of?” Adriane asked boldly.
The man kept up his lazy glare. “You will discover it eventually. But I shall not patiently exchange words with a peasant who doesn’t even believe what I say. It would be the ultimate disgrace for myself as a persons of high authority.” He looked elsewhere, not wanting to have eye contact with “The Peasant.”
Adriane felt that cold fury building up inside her as he showed he was another one of the much-hated aristocrats. Her gray eyes took on a glacial hue.
“Travel and other arrangements have been made for you. Now go before I decide to kill you and the freak.” He addressed the blonde man with black eyes hard as stone.
The blonde man visibly stiffened. He turned around quickly and pushed Adriane out of the room. She tripped, but caught herself and shot a final icy glare at everyone in the room.
The domed, stone hallways were dim, dank and much too long. They twisted to the left and right and branched off about twenty times before they emerged in the rain. The sky was black, as it was midnight. The man caught her arm and rushed her through the rain to a black, shiny car whose engine made a nice purr. She jumped in the backseat and the car peeled off, spitting gravel from the tires.
After being on a dark, bumpy road for a an hour or so, someone turned around in the passenger’s seat. Adriane tried to hide that she was startled. It was the boy with the smooth black hair and smoky green eyes. His eyes still had that lazy, heavy lidded look that showed his absolute boredom. He lifted a hand and snapped his fingers, and Adriane’s mind went black as she fell asleep.
Adriane lifted her head sleepily. She yawned and stretched, but her fist hit upholstered seating. Her half-asleep mind blankly wondered why she was lying on a thin, hard floor and why the seats were above her. Her eyes were still blurry and they couldn’t seem to stay in one place.
Her mind was confused and dazed, and she felt like everything was upside down. When she finally woke up, she discovered everything was upside down.
The car had flipped over some time in the night, because the scenery was still familiar. Then she saw blood on the window shield. Her heart stopped for a moment. Suddenly, she was scrambling out into the weak daylight. She threw what she could of herself at the window, and it broke, and she crawled through. Adriane found both front side windows up front broken, and the window shield cracked in a kind of spider-web pattern. She smacked the blonde guy’s head, trying to wake him. His face was scratched up from broken glass, and he had a red welt on his neck from the seat belt.
Adriane saw a pocket knife on the roof of the car among other debris like broken glass. She flipped it open and sawed at the seatbelt that held both guys suspended above the roof.
Before the seatbelt was completely cut through, she realized that she should try and clear the broken glass off the upside down roof. Once most of it was gone she was sweating in the chilly air, and she finished cutting the seatbelt.
His head and shoulder fell on her arms, and she slowly dragged him out onto the dirt road. She walked around to the other side and started to get the other guy out. He had hit his head really hard on the window shield, and was slowly bleeding out from his forehead. Adriane gasped. Head wounds bled out really fast, and this had happened last night, and now it was morning. But he was still breathing, if shallowly.
She dragged him out as well, and that was when she finally wondered why she’d saved them.
“Oh well. It was the right thing to do.” She said to herself. Then she tore a strip from the bottom of her cloak and wrapped it around the green-eyed guy’s head and tied it snugly to prevent any more bleeding. He groaned and moved his head.
“My freaking head hurts.” He opened his eyes slightly and saw Adriane, her hands testing the bandage. He pushed her hands away and rushed to sit up. “Get away from me.” Adriane recoiled immediately, stung.
“Fine. You don’t want help, try doing that yourself.” She glared at him with eyes like chips of ice, the gray sharp and cold. She stood quickly, turning on her heel and making her cloak billow behind her.
Adriane woke up the blonde guy, unaware of the guy with black hair watching her closely.
The blonde one was irritable as well, but he didn’t swat her hands away. His expression only hinted that he was about to. She hastily withdrew and leaned back against the car.
“Vat now?” The blonde one said to the dark-haired one.
“I guess we go get another car.” The dark one glared lazily at the blonde guy. “Duh.” The blonde guy openly glared back.
“Do you haf your cellular?” The blonde guy asked.
The green-eyed guy with the slightly tan skin glared at Adriane. “It went out the window when we flipped over. Who knows where it is.”
Adriane was mad. More than mad at this stupid snob. “Ok, why the heck are you glaring at me?! What did I do to make you mad?” She fumed.
His eyes widened slightly. “You mean you don’t remember what happened?”
“No! I just remember waking up upside down in a car.”
“And you’re not hurt anywhere?”
Now Adriane was surprised. She hadn’t thought about that. “No, no I’m not. And I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.” She frowned.
The black-haired one and the blonde one exchanged frowns. “Let someone else explain once we get there.” They muttered. Adriane didn’t hear.
“All right.” The dark haired one got up, dusting off his pants. “Let’s go find the nearest town and call for another car.”
“Vat about ze GPS?” The blonde one asked. The dark haired one shrugged.
“Dunno. It might still be there. Not a very good chance of it.”
“Vell check anyway!” The blonde one snarled. With his thick accent it sounded more like a growl.
The dark haired one glared with more resentment and crawled halfway into the car. He emerged with a small, hard, black metal case. He unzipped it and pulled out an undamaged GPS. “Well whaddya know, Blondie had a good idea.” The blonde one raised a lip in anger.
“At lest it vas mine own idea.” Blondie said in weak retaliation. But the dark-haired one was already tapping away at the touch screen, apparently calling someone on it.
“But… Wait, I didn’t know you could call people on a GPS!” Adriane exclaimed.
The dark haired one answered without looking at her. “I’m not calling sending an emergency alert through the GPS mapping network to the castle. They’ll get it and trace our position from where the alert was issued. Easy.” Adriane’s resentment was reignited with the way he was so calmly arrogant.
“All right we stay here until they come but I’m hungry and there’s a first aid kit in the trunk with some food. Blondie, get over here and help me push this thing over.
Adriane watched them turn it right-side up from the slant of the ditch, so their job was easy, but they just pushed it farther into the ditch. Now the dark-haired one said something to Blondie, who lumbered back up the slope and pointed Adriane into the road, where he stood next to her.
“Zis vill be very loud. Coover your ears.” Adriane did as told. She watched as the dark-haired one pushed up the skin-tight sleeves of his modern, black long-sleeved shirt and place the fingertips of his right hand on the smashed up trunk of the car. He withdrew his hand and sprinted up the slope to where Blondie and Adriane stood.
On the metal, where his fingers had been, was five bright green sparks that hissed and sparked, then suddenly spiked upwards and exploded.
Adriane was pushed backwards with the force of it, and she would have fallen over if Blondie hadn’t been there.
“Whoa.” Adriane said in a whisper. “That was so freaking awesome.” She noticed, just barely, that the dark-haired one tried very hard to suppress his grin.
Just then the smoking trunk lid landed right at her feet. She jumped back with a strangled yelp.
“Oops.” The dark-haired one looked thoughtful. “Should have thought about the velocity, huh?”
Blondie raised an eyebrow. “You zink? You almost killed za freak.”
The dark-haired one rolled his eyes. “Whatever. Let’s eat.” he rubbed his hands together and walked back into the ditch. Adriane toed the still smoking trunk lid and decided it was safe to walk again.
The dark-haired one was pulling out several small coolers and a big red and white box. He tossed a couple of the small coolers at Blondie, who caught them smoothly, though they looked pretty heavy. The other guy picked up the smallest cooler and the red and white first aid box and walked out of the ditch.
A strong, cold breeze whipped across the dirt road and blew Adriane’s hair into a whipping fury of black. She turned around and put her face to the wind so her hair would stop blowing into her face, and suddenly the clouds in the sky broke apart, letting the sunlight rush downward and envelope the cold, desolate road. Somehow, for a split second, the sudden flash of sunlight turned Adriane’s hair a rich, dark honey color that shone and glittered with golden highlights. Only the dark-haired guy noticed, and he thought it was just his imagination.
As soon as it had sprung up, the wind died down. Adriane turned back towards the car and barely caught the cooler as Blondie tossed it at her.
She walked to the other side of the road, where giant, gnarled trees stood, with their leaves mostly gone. Under the trees though, was a giant mass of soft moss that the dark-haired guy sank into gratefully, as Adriane observed.
Adriane sat under a different tree a bit farther away and opened her cooler. Inside was a lot of different, exotic foods, all very cold but she didn’t see any ice or cold water. She pulled out a pack of sushi, a bottle of water, and a pair of chopsticks. It was just then that she realized how hungry she was. She ate the sushi ravenously, but neatly.
She lay back against the tree and closed her eyes, but not to fall asleep. Just to rest.
A car came bumping down the dirt road a half hour later. It was the same sleek, black sedan that they had crashed last night. Then another one followed thirty seconds behind. They stopped in the middle of the road, perfectly in line. Then the driver doors opened at the same time, the drivers stepped out at the same time, and the front car’s passenger door opened suddenly.
Out stepped James. Adriane now felt a sudden pang of apprehension and suspicion at the sight of him. His eyes were as cold as hers and his tall, muscular form was intimidating. He didn’t look like he had he had shaken her hand. Adriane found herself taking a step back.
“So, Eris, I see you managed to wreck our expensive car.”
The black-haired guy scowled fiercely. “Wasn’t me. It was Rolfe. He was driving.”
James whipped his glare to settle on Rolfe. “Shut it.”
Rolfe cast his eyes to the ground. James looked like a snake about to strike. But his face calmed and looked like he had a better idea. “I would very much like to kill you dolts right now, but a better punishment would be to have to escort the freak like you were supposed to in the beginning.” James hurled the keys at Eris. “You drive now. Now, if the car gets wrecked again I will know I have you to blame. And if you disobey me by not driving the punishment will be just as bad. And I doubt Rolfe would try to save your skin.” James’ grin was downright terrifying, the way it showed the hard edge to his features and the cruel set to his jaw that showed how headstrong and ruthless he was.
Now he had Eris backed in a dark corner without friends and if he moved he would be stepping into the carefully laid trap. He closed his eyes in frustration. Now if anything went wrong his shoulders would be bearing the burden.
“Fine. Whatever.” Eris replied.
James’ expression didn’t change, but some muscle twitched, showing for the briefest instant his glee at this small victory.
He stepped into the other car with the two drivers and the car sped off.
Adriane looked to Eris, who rolled his eyes, showing remarkable emotional elasticity. “Whatever. He’s an idiot and doesn’t know what the heck he’s doing. I’ll drive.” Rolfe nodded.
Adriane snapped to attention, her mind temporarily going into a blank slump.
She scrambled into the back seat and barely shut the door when the car peeled off.
The car ride was rather uneventful. A few rest stops and stops for gas and about two days of a ride and they had to buy winter clothes to keep warm.
But Eris and Rolfe ordered Adriane to keep her hooded cloak on for some reason. Adriane didn’t want to and she didn’t know why she had to, but she didn’t have grounds to argue with them.
She rubbed her eyes as they pulled into a gravel parking lot. The bumpy ground had woken her up. Adriane sat up just as the car braked sharply to a stop. Eris’ shoulders slumped, his head hung low.
“I can’t do this anymore. We have another day of driving and I can’t stay awake for three days. I haven’t slept for two days.”
Rolfe nodded with grudged respect. “I can understand zat. Ve zhall ztay here tonight.”
Eris rolled his shoulders back and got out of the car. “Come on.” he said. He sounded painfully tired.
Adriane followed dutifully; she had no choice. But these two guys were nice enough. They weren’t openly hostile towards her, just frustrated that they were chosen for transporting the “filthy half-breed”.
They walked into the lobby of the tiny, dated, ramshackle, one story brick motel. A tired looking elderly woman with curly gray hair escaping her messy bun sat at the desk. The inside was surprisingly nice and looked like the inside of a trendy hotel. Adriane thought it was incredibly suspicious. She heard Eris and Rolfe swear under their breaths.
“Vampire hostel.” Eris hissed.
“A surprisingly nice one.” Rolfe whispered.
“A wha-at?” Adriane asked incredulously.
“Shut it gurl.” Rolfe snapped.
Eris walked up to the front desk. “We need a two bed room.”
The woman looked at them with orange eyes. Adriane unconsciously took a step back at the woman’s intense glare. But the orange eyes softened as they looked at Adriane for a second. Then hardened as she looked back at Eris.
“Hunter,” she hissed. Eris glared and whipped out a small black thing and handed it to the woman.
“Slave.” He said. Adriane wasn’t sure if he was calling the woman that or himself.
The woman continued to glare, but handed him a couple of room cards. “Room 306, third floor down.” Eris frowned.
“I should’ve known. Basement hotel for vampires. Clever.”
The woman’s face contorted into a sharp glare of hatred. Then, Adriane saw through the nasty glare and saw how beautiful the woman was underneath. But Adriane blinked; the vision was gone and Eris had had hold of her forearm and was dragging her to the elevator.
“Come on, the sooner we get to the room the sooner we’re safe.” Eris growled.
Adriane scowled and tried to yank her arm out of his grip but it was like trying to yank off an iron band around your wrist. Adriane stumbled along after Eris as he jammed his finger into the “close doors” button. He pressed it repeatedly, not liking the way the desk lady’s eyes followed him. Finally, the doors closed and they started the descent to the third floor down.
Apparently, Eris and Rolfe hated being so far from the surface, because they were extremely high-strung. They snapped their heads towards any little sound, and walked much faster.
The hallway went on forever. Their room was at the very end of the long tunnel that was so lavishly decorated in gold hues.
Eris ran the card through the scanner so fast Adriane couldn’t tell if he even had. He grabbed the door handle and almost ripped it out of the door as he pushed the door open with unnecessary force.
Rolfe slammed it shut behind them.
“This isn’t a good idea. We’re surrounded by vampires that have no restraint like our master and they know we’re here. They smell fresh blood.” Eris pointed to the bandage on his head.
“Plus, zey’ll vant ze gurl.” Rolfe added.
“This was a horrible idea. We should leave I’ll just sleep in the car.” Eris said as he paced around the couch in the room. Adriane sat down on one of the two large beds.
“No, ze vampires vill be delighted to zee zat ve are outside and a much easier dinner. I have been zleeping in ze car all day I vill keep a vatch tonight. You sleep. I zink ve zhall be vine tonight.” Rolfe had a good point.
Adriane sighed and kicked her shoes off, then took the hooded cloak off and threw it on an armchair. She pulled the covers back and slipped into the warm bed. Within minutes she was asleep. But before she fell asleep she noticed Eris snoring within seconds as he flopped down on the other bed.
Adriane awoke at dawn. Rolfe was watching her with a slightly tired expression. “You are finally awake.”
“Uh, yeah.” Adriane was still tired and didn’t appreciate his bluntness and the tones of disgust running through his words. She partially sat up and rolled over. The soft bed was a welcome change from the uncomfortable back seat of the sedan.
Just as the heavy, warm sheets were settling on her, something blew past her ear, sending a zing of pain into her head. She flew upright, holding her head with both hands as it seemed to explode. It felt like someone had lit a fire in her head and filled it with flying shards of burning glass.
She screamed. Eris snapped awake and looked at her with not-so tired eyes.
Adriane hunched over as strange words filled her head and she continued to scream. Rolfe looked horrified.
“Vat did I do?” He asked. Eris launched out of bed and looked at Adriane, unsure of what to do.
Suddenly Adriane stopping screaming and her eyes slid open. Her head tilted towards Eris, and he fell backwards as her eyes fell on him. One eye was golden, and the other one was a bright blood-red.
“Animal!!” She snarled.
Adriane’s body suddenly tensed and she lost consciousness and fell back on the bed.
Eris was not surprisingly shocked. He turned to look at Rolfe. “I’ve seen those eyes before.” Rolfe was white faced.
“Me too.” He said quietly. That was all the communication they had for a while.
Eris and Rolfe were wary of opening the door, because they were underground and they knew the vampires had sensed that sudden surge in magic.
Rolfe opened the door and looked down the very long hallway, dotted with elaborate doors and waved to Eris, who had picked up Adriane reluctantly.
They slipped out quietly and shut the door as gently as they could. Both of the hunters were as jumpy as they had been the night before. Sprinting down the hall towards the elevators, they skidded to a stop as one of the doors in front of them opened.
Out stepped a vampire woman that looked like Heidi Klum. She wore a black silk nightgown that floated around her ankles like smoke and hung from two slender straps.
“Well aren’t you a couple of fine-looking boys.” She smiled, showing two white and very sharp fangs. “I think you need to hand over that girl there. She is very valuable to us.” Another door opened, and a man in a pin stripe suit walked out, straightening his collar. His brown hair was slicked back, and his light blue eyes gleamed dangerously. “She is a very valuable girl, Henrietta. Do not harm her.”
The woman looked at the man sharply. “I wouldn’t dream of it, Roger. Wait for the others.”
Eris and Rolfe stood stock still. They were confronted by two of some of the most dangerous vampires in the USA. Henrietta Marshalls and Roger Kemerson. They commanded multiple covens and broke as many rules as they wished when they wanted to. And if anyone objected they would just have them killed and dumped somewhere in the human gang territories.
Rolfe slowly drew an old pistol from his belt. It was marked with powerful runes of accuracy and power and his family symbol.
Henrietta hissed dangerously. It was no secret Rolfe’s family was a long-time rival of Henrietta and her covens. His whole family had spent their lives trying to kill the blonde menace. Rolf had also taken the vow to kill her. Henrietta was one of the vampires who had committed some of the more horrific crimes by vampires in medieval times. But the catch was that Henrietta was Rolfe’s own ancestor. She was a part of his family but she had never had any children, but she had slaughtered Rolfe’s family when she had first become a vampire, and stole a young boy from her family to raise as her own. Then, while he was still young, she had planned to make him a vampire.
But of course, things hadn’t gone as planned. The boy discovered she was a vampire and ran away before his humanity was stolen. He then swore he would kill Henrietta for killing their family.
Henrietta disappeared for years while the boy, named Anders, trained to kill her. Then Anders met a young woman who also hunted vampires. She was a part of a growing organization called The Hunters who hunted The Creatures of The Night. They fell in love, married, and had many children, while at night staking vampires, ghouls, and locking up shape shifters.
Then, in Anders’s old age, Henrietta returned when Anders was wounded and couldn’t fight. Henrietta had brought a young and foolish witch with her who helped Henrietta put a curse on Anders and all of his offspring, that they would forever be the bitterest of foes and Anders’ family would never be able to kill Henrietta. But the witch ruined one of the runes under the stress Henrietta put on her. She drew the rune of permanence as the rune of chance, which would possibly enable one of the offspring to end Henrietta one day.
Then Henrietta had once again vanished for many years, then came back as a very powerful leader of a coven. She repeated the same routine every twenty three years, leaving a swathe of destruction in her wake.
Eris and Rolfe were now even more wary of this girl, who had pulled Henrietta out of hiding before the twenty three years were up.
“We will take proper care of that girl. The Guild of traitors you work for doesn’t understand the importance of that girl. Hand her over and we’ll let you live. Well, only the one holding the girl. Son of Anders, you will die here tonight.” Henrietta spoke, her words incredibly cold.
Steely, Eris spoke back through gritted teeth. “No one is going to die here tonight except you.” He set Adriane down against the wall gently. He drew from inside his black leather jacket a silver object which expanded into a perfect sword with a flawless emerald star set at the tip of the silver-scaled hilt.
Everything erupted into one big blur.
“The time for talking is OVER!!” Eris yelled as the sword made contact with Roger.
Rolfe shot with alarming accuracy, but Henrietta employed her unfair vampire powers and she dodged everyone. She could dodge, but Rolfe used his gun and a long wooden knife.
Eris cursed. He left his wooden staff in the car. He hadn’t thought to go back and get it. Idiot, he thought, and went for another strike that Roger blocked cleverly. Roger moved with cool, smooth power, and his face remained impassive the whole time. They were evenly matched, but one might have the advantage.
Just as the sword was deflected, Roger saw his opening and drove the next hand attack home, but Eris shot a bolt of green electricity through Roger’s hand. The current traveled through Roger and went out his hair, setting the oiled tips on fire. Roger fell over, unconscious from the electricity attack.
Eris turned his attention to the rest of the hall, where more and more vampires were walking out of their rooms into the hall where Henrietta and her foe were fighting. Rolfe dove, fired and stabbed while Henrietta swept up, away, and back, sometimes clinging to the walls, to avoid Rolfe.
Eris’ heart stopped as he saw all the vampires waiting to attack. Suddenly Henrietta shot past him, sweeping her arm around toward Rolfe in a deadly arc. Her fingernails were pointed into claws, and her face had taken on sharp features. Her arm went too far to the left, though, and caught Adriane’s face, leaving four long cuts on Adriane’s cheek.
Adriane’s eyes shot open, one eye gold and the other the frightening blood red. Eris blinked, and suddenly Adriane stood stick-straight, hands clenched at her sides. Henrietta slowed in shock, seeing the girl with fine black hair and ancient, powerful eyes.
Eris stumbled back against the wall; everything was happening in slow motion to Eris.
Adriane took a fast step forward while Henrietta was still in mid-dive for the floor. One arm stretched to the left, one arm almost touching Henrietta’s astounded face.
And then everything exploded. Eris was slammed against the wall, Rolfe blown down the hallway against a marble statue.
The silver beam shot down both ends of the hallway, vaporizing everything.
Once it was over, only Adriane was standing. Her head tilted towards the ceiling, where a large hole had opened up. She guessed Henrietta had escaped after all. Her feet wobbled, and she fell.
Eris leapt up and caught her; he kneeled on the floor. “What are you?” He whispered.
Her breath was shaky. “I have no idea.” Her consciousness slipped out of her grasp once more.
Eris rushed up the stairs, Rolfe close behind. Rolfe was frustrated and mad because Henrietta had gotten away once again. But now they were running as fast as they could to get out.
The elevator was taking forever to get up to the main level. Eris started to hyperventilate roughly. As the elevator dinged and the doors opened, Eris and Rolfe exploded out the doors like thoroughbreds out of the starting gate.
The lady at the desk was gone. The doors opened with a clang. There were no vampires outside; the sun was coming up.
Eris set Adriane in the backseat as fast as he could then slammed the door and yanked the driver’s door open. He revved the engine and screamed off into the dawn light.
“Just one more day’s drive, Rolfe.”
“You have ztopped calling me ‘Blondie’?”
“Yeah. Guess so.”
Adriane felt so sore she couldn’t move for a moment. All her muscles cramped slightly for a moment, then the pain passed. She flexed her neck gently, but didn’t try to sit up. Her voice was partially muffled by the upholstered seat. “Where are we?”
“Northern Russia. We’ll be home soon. By evening tonight, hopefully before the vampires are out and partying.” Adriane noticed Eris was still driving like a maniac, though it must have been hours since they had left the hotel.
Eris glanced at her briefly in the rearview mirror. “Do you remember what happened in there?”
She closed her eyes. “Yeah. I do.”
Eris’ hands tensed on the steering wheel. “Did you do it deliberately?”
“No. It just happened.” She sighed. “I hurt everywhere.”
Eris’s and Rolfe’s eyes softened in sympathy. Eris blinked. “The first time is always the hardest. Magic, I mean.”
Rolfe nodded. “It certainly iz.”
Adriane nodded. “Why does it hurt? Isn’t magic supposed to be like, good?”
Eris snorted. “Not in this world.”
Adriane didn’t reply. She looked like a poor, pathetic excuse of a creature at that moment, limp, thin and pale with the bright red cuts on her cheeks still fresh and throbbing.
As she thought back to the moment when she let the power loose in the hotel, she had a sudden and painful flashback to the night she was first in the car driving away from the castle. Eris had cast the sleep spell on her when something feral exploded out of her, a blast of power like the one in the hall that had wrecked the car.
Adriane gasped. “It was all my fault. Everything… all of this was all my fault?”
“Zhe catches on at last.” Rolfe stated bluntly.
“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to…”
“Yeah ve know,” Rolfe snapped irritably. “You juzt almost accidentally killed uz.”
Adriane looked absolutely devastated. “Sorry.” She said in a very small voice.
Eris stayed silent, hands gripped on the wheel. “Just don’t worry about it. We’ll be home in a few hours where people will be able to control your powers and no one will have to worry again.”
Adriane opened her eyes. “Control? Like… lock me away?” She sat up.
“Vell duh. You thought you could juzt waltz in and expect to be treated like a queen? No. You are our prizoner now. Expect to be treated like one.” Rolfe made a sound of disgust. Adriane narrowed her eyes. Eris shot an annoyed glance at Rolfe.
“What if I don’t want to be a prisoner?” Adriane’s words were low and soft.
Eris and Rolfe exchanged a glance. “I zink zat you haf no choice.”
Adriane had a dangerous glint in her eye. “Is that so?”
Suddenly, her right eye turned gold. Her left iris turned red.
Eris slammed the brakes, yelling, “HOLY CRAP!!!” As Adriane launched herself out of the open rear window. She rolled as she hit the ground and Eris exploded out of the car, launching an attack spell at her. It hit her square in the back and she fell to the ground. Black and gold smoke was leeching from her skin, accumulating until one could not see Adriane’s still form anymore. It rolled off her like fog, obscuring the boys’ vision. Adriane coughed and choked and all the smoke suddenly imploded and vanished into her.
Adriane let out a small groan and laid limp. Eris assumed it was safe to approach. He poked her shoulder once, but no response so he picked her up and put her back in the back seat.
“Vell at least she didn’t blow up ze carr agen.” Rolfe said.
Eris rolled his eyes. “Well aren’t you the optimist.”
“Yah. I am. Not.” They got back in the car, not daring to show the other how shaken up they were.
Adriane woke up hours later, and it was dark and Rolfe was snoring. In the dark Adriane couldn’t see Eris’s face but she could hear his breathing. She sat up, feeling her hair stick to her neck. She was wondering if it would be appropriate to say what was on her mind or not. It might make her sound crazy but she had to know.
“Is any of this real?” Adriane whispered shakily.
Eris might have glanced at her. “You want the truth? Or a lie? It would be easier if I said this was all in your head but we both know you’re too smart to believe that.”
“True.” Adriane whispered.
“Unfortunately, it’s all real. However bad it is it’s real.”
Adriane bit her lip but didn’t succeed in stopping her tears. Thankfully, it was dark and she didn’t make any crying sounds. She didn’t talk anymore after that.
Eventually, Eris stopped at a garage past a cast iron gate in the middle of North Russia. Like, North Russia in the middle of nowhere. It was just past dawn and Adriane sat upright with her hair in a ponytail. It just faintly looked like she had been crying hours ago. Adriane had her arms crossed over her chest and was very pointedly not looking at Eris and Rolfe and out the window.
Eris sighed, closed his eyes, leaned his head back against the seat and ran a hand through his black hair. He practically jumped out the car even though he was so tired and he reached to open Adriane’s door but she shoved the door into his hand and almost slammed it behind her.
Adriane stared at the dawn while Eris woke Rolfe up. She wondered if this was the last sunrise she would ever see again. She closed her eyes against the bitter wind and tried to savor the feel of it but it was too harsh. Eris tapped her arm lightly and she turned back towards him and started to follow but ran into his shoulder. He hadn’t moved yet. She backed up quickly.
“Well aren’t we going?” she said quietly.
“Yeah. Sorry.” Eris seemed to have stopped functioning momentarily, like he had almost thought of something but couldn’t quite get at it.
Adriane followed him into the quaint little redwood garage. It only had two other identical black sedans in it and a door. The door led down into a brick tunnel that was well lit with some white light that Adriane suspected wasn’t electricity.
It wasn’t an especially long tunnel but to Adriane it seemed like it went on forever.
They came to a set of brick stairs, which led up into an absolutely massive stone dome with a gigantic pool that only had a series of extra large stepping stones to get across. It went wall to wall and there was a dark tunnel at the other side.
Eris, Rolfe and Adriane stood on a circular platform on the water, alarmingly close to the edge. Adriane leaned over and looked at the water, which looked like it was lit from somewhere in the pool very far from the surface.
Light from various stones glanced across the pool, making the water sparkle and glow more brilliantly than any indoor pool Adriane had ever seen.
On the stepping stones was a single man. He had porcelain skin, was very tall and thin and wore all black clothes like Eris and Rolfe. He had short brown hair and an impassive expression.
“Come on.” Eris motioned at Adriane for her to follow. He leaped forward to the first stepping stone, all of which were spaced far enough away from each other that you had to jump.
Rolfe and Eris leaped swiftly, but heavily. Adriane flitted carefully from stone to stone, her black cloak billowing behind her. The stones, thankfully, were solid as Adriane landed on each one. Finally, they came face to face with the thin man who was on the stone in the middle of the ridiculously large room filled completely with water.
Before Adriane could react, the thin man grabbed her shoulder and threw her down into the water as hard as he could, and he had a lot more strength than he let on.
Adriane hadn’t had time to get her breath, and she was sinking fast, since the cloak was wrapping around her and trapping her arms. The water just got darker as she sank farther and farther to the bottom.
Water came into her nose and mouth and black dots clouded her vision, but she didn’t lose consciousness completely. She kicked as hard as she could and used her arms frantically to try and get back to the surface, but she sank farther and farther down into the deep. Black ink was swirling up around her and her sinking somehow slowed. Black dots swam alarmingly in front of her, until her vision had shrunk to a pinprick of light and endless blue.
Just as her eyes were about to close, some force wrenched her back towards the surface.
A strong hand closed around her upper arms and hauled her out onto a stone. She landed on her hands and knees and coughed and coughed until she fell over on her side unwillingly. She tried to get up but something had sapped all of her strength and she could barely move.
The thin man put some kind of chain around her neck with something hanging on it and she suddenly got her strength back. Adriane got up as fast as possible and noticed something different. She drew a long lock of soaking wet hair forward and gasped. Her hair was the color of very dark caramel and it wasn’t black anymore.
“What the heck happened?”
The thin man stepped back. “The water is spell-bound with a spell that dissolves all costume magic.”
Adriane frowned. “Costume magic? What’s that?”
“It’s the magic one would use to disguise themselves. It all, well, ‘washes off’ in this water. Very useful.”
“Except you almost freaking drowned me.”
“That is an undesirable side effect but this works better than anything else we have tried. Now you all may continue.”
Adriane hesitated as Eris and Rolfe jumped to the next stone. “Why did you shove Eris and Rolfe in with me?”
“Because I did not sense any costume magic on them.”
“So you’re a witch?”
“One of the few male ones. Now I think those young men are waiting for you.”
Adriane raised one eyebrow quizzically. “You say they are young like you aren’t.”
The thin man winked at her. “That’s because I’m not.”
Adriane thought about that but followed Eris and Rolfe. She looked back, but somehow the man was mysteriously gone. Somehow, she knew that she was only scratching the surface of all the mystery she was about to encounter