It was completely dark out when Kael rolled them out from under the truck. They were on a residential road near a wide expanse of forest, and no other cars approached in the time it took to get their bearings and straighten up. There was gravel and dirt stuck in Amory’s hair, and her jeans had a fresh rip in them. So did her skin.
“You’re bleeding,” Kael frowned.
“Where are we?” Amory ignored the question. There was a bit more than a trace of fear in her voice. She was out alone with a man she barely knew, in a place she didn’t recognize, with no money, no cell phone, and no way to protect herself: nothing. There wasn’t any better way to sound, she figured. As a matter of fact, she thought she was doing quite well, considering the situation.
Kael stood, head cocked to the side as if he were listening for something. “We’re close,” he said at length. He motioned for her to follow him, and set off towards the forest.
Amory didn’t know just what they were close to, but couldn’t bring herself to ask. There was just too much to process, and not enough time. Right then she felt as if she were living a dream, and that she would wake up in the morning and it would all be over.
Unfortunately she knew that wasn’t the case, and trotted obediently after the young Vampire.
“Where are we going?” she asked, after they had been walking in silence for a while.
“The Coven I was brought into. I have to consult with my elders. If we’re lucky they might grant you sanctuary.” He looked back at her. “For a price.”
Amory didn’t like the sound of that at all. “What price?” she asked, rushing up to grab his arm, even as they continued walking.
Kael shrugged, and studied a pile of moss. “Last person who offered sanctuary offered his services to the Elders.”
“What kind of services?”
He refused to meet her eyes. “His…..bodily……services.”
Amory stood still. “You mean sex?”
Kael flushed, and moved his shoulders. “Then why can’t you say it?” Amory asked, not sure whether she should be amused or exasperated.
“It’s not something you talk about in polite company, ok?” he finally burst out.
She was floored. “I’m sorry. Aren’t you the same Kael that was talking about taking off my dress not two hours ago?”
“You’ve got nice melons,” Kael said defensively, ducking his head when Amory made a swing at him. “I honestly don’t see why you’re so insulted.”
“Because it’s not something you talk about in polite company!” Amory screamed, stomping her foot.
“Shhhh!” he hissed, pulling her close and putting a hand over her mouth. “Werewolves have incredible hearing, you’re supposed to know this!”
She yanked his hand from her mouth. “I’m sorry, but I never took Werewolf 101,” she hissed around the lump in her throat, pushing away from him.
“Just come on,” Kael murmured low in his throat, and pulled her along behind him.
An hour later, Amory started crying again. Kael rolled his eyes, but did put his arm around her shoulders. It was the least he could do, considering the situation. Besides, it wasn’t like Amory wasn’t pleasant, mostly. She was pleasant to look at, pleasant to touch……He was pretty sure she would be pleasant to kiss…..and taste, but he quickly diverted his brain away from those thoughts. They would only earn him a jab in the stomach, or maybe another slap.
He felt when they passed the border, and allowed himself to relax. His senses had been continually on high alert as he slowly hurried the distraught girl along. There was no way they had lost the werewolves for good, and with so many of them on the hunt, even a half second of warning would be useful.
Now, he set himself on the least painful looking rock and pulled Amory down with him. She had stopped sobbing, and instead her breath hitched every now and again, and tears slid unheeded down her cheeks. Her eyes were red and puffy, and she had been chewing on her bottom lip. Kael tucked her head under his chin, absently nudging the offended lip from its torture. It was swollen, its pink flesh shining purple in the moonlight. He tried not to think about it, and settled for keeping the girl warm.
The night was chilly, even for him. He could still feel heat and cold, just like he could still eat and walk about in daylight, something he hadn’t thought possible. But then, he hadn’t thought it was possible to be turned into a vampire either.
He sat there, holding Amory close, and trying to ignore the feeling growing in his chest. He didn’t even want to name it. It was nothing special, it wasn’t. Amory was just some girl he had to protect because his Sire let some human save his sorry hide. There was nothing more. Nothing.
A soft ‘snap’ sounded behind them. Kael jumped up and spun, only to come face to face with the business end of a crossbow.
“You had better have a good reason to be in these parts, stranger.” The speaker, and crossbow holder, stood well over six feet, broad shouldered and menacing. And Kael couldn’t even see his face. Amory had been confused with the sudden movements, but now stood behind him, clutchin at his jacket for dear life. Kael was not amused.
“You’d better have a good reason to be pointing that thing at your youngest brother, you prick,” he said, annoyed.
The weapon didn’t budge. “I do, actually. Mortals aren’t allowed here, Kael, you know this.” The voice was deep, and slow. It always reminded Kael a bit of that crinkly foreheaded guy on Star Track. Trek. Whatever. Or of Forest Gump. Not that he would ever tell Kamaan this, that is.
“Special circumstances, K Man. I need to see the elders.”
Kamaan shifted, and then the crossbow was pressed to his temple. Amory burst into tears.
“You’re scaring her, Kamaan. Could you – “
“No one sees the elders, ever. You have ten minutes – “
“Look, cut the crap, alright. This is important. I’ve got a Blood – “
“ – to get off this land before – “
“Kael, please let’s just – “
“No, I’m not going to let this idiot stop –“
Kamaan shifted till the arrow was in Amory’s face, and fired.
He was dead before the shot ever left the gun. Amory lay on the ground, wide-eyed and shaking. It seemed to take forever for Kamaan to fall, and when he did, his torso rolling a few feet away from his legs, she turned and threw up. Kael winced, and hurried over. Of course she could stomach the death of a few dozen werewolves, but as soon as something vaguely resembling a human got chopped to bits, she was sick. He gave what definitely was a long suffering sigh as he helped her to her feet, and was annoyed that she clung to him like some kind of human monkey. He was.
He avoided looking at Kamaan’s mangled body. It was something he couldn’t process at the moment. Sure, the man had been older than him by nearly four centuries, but to the Parents they were all Children. Kael had been the last Childe turned in the past five centuries, and Kamaan and the others had made sure he knew it. For someone who had been an only child at his original birth, he had taken remarkably well to being the youngest of thirteen older vampires.
He sighed, and pulled Amory away from the scene. There would be consequences enough when the Elders realized one of their own was dead. As a matter of fact, continuing towards the Coven was basically signing his own death warrant. But he couldn’t just leave. Besides the fact that the place was his home, he was now, irrevocably, responsible for Amory. Not that he knew how, exactly, but he thought he had the general idea. And the girl was helpless in a fight. Granted, there weren’t many black girls he knew that would take on a werewolf….. Not many girls at all, really.
“We have got to get you in fighting shape, babe,” he said into her hair.
“What?” Amory asked, looking up at him in confusion.
“You heard me. This ‘hide-behind-the-fearsome-vampire’ thing isn’t going to work out. We’ve got to teach you to handle a weapon.”
Amory pulled away from him. ‘Like your knife?”
“It’s not a ‘knife’,” he protested, stabbing the blade back into its sheath. “It’s a custom made Kukri melee weapon.”
She stared at him a minute, then folded her arms. “It’s a knife.”
Kael growled, and motioned for her to come with him. “Whatever. Knives don’t just slice three hundred pound vampires in half.”
Amory whimpered. “Don’t talk about that.”
“Fine,” he said, his tone softer. “But this is exactly what I meant. There are things out here trying to kill you. Most of them won’t give you the chance to turn around and puke your guts out.” He looked down at her, and resisted the urge to smile. “Cute barf face, by the way.”
She glared at him, and he gave her a cheeky grin in return.
“You said that, that guy was your brother?” They had been walking in silence for about ten minutes. Kael had been paying attention to the terrain, watching out for swamps and hostile vegetation, because Amory would not have been able to see it; disadvantage of not having night vision. His gaze darkened as he thought about Kamaan, and the sudden, all-consuming desire to eliminate the treat he had become to Amory.
“Yea,” he said hoarsely. “The eldest.”
A hand slipped into his, and squeezed. He didn’t look up. “That must have been hard.”
“I killed my brother in cold blood.” For someone I barely know. “It’s like I ripped out a piece of my soul.”
Then why’d you do it?” she asked softly.
He was almost afraid to answer. “For you.”
Amory sniffled, then suddenly pulled away. She moved to stand in front of him, halting his movements.
“If you’re going to go all Edward Cullen on me and declare that you love me but desire my blood or some other nonsense, could you just let me know?” She ran a hand through her hair, and crossly folded her arms. “Because, frankly, this ‘knight-in-shining-armor’ thing is starting to give me the willies, and if you’re going to keep doing this, we might have a problem.”
Kael raised his eyebrows. “Oh really now. A problem; that sounds original. And just what are you going to do about it miss – “
A shriek, a pain-filled, grieving shriek of disbelief and outrage filled the air. Kael froze, and turned towards the sound. Eyes wide, he grabbed for Amory’s arm, and ran.
“Hey! What are we doing?” Amory screamed.
“We’re running, can’t you see? Keep up!”
“But what are we running from?” Sharp twigs and branches slapped at them both as they ran, deeper into the forest. But Kael wasn’t headed for the Coven. He needed to find the border and get the hell of Coven land.
Another scream sounded, this one closer to them and promising vengeance, and Kael urged himself faster. Amory was barely keeping up, and hadn’t the energy to protest. All she could do was move move move move. Just keep moving, and hope she wouldn’t fall flat on her face.
“Come on, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon!” Kael hissed, wishing the girl could move faster. But she was a fudging human and they weren’t built for speed. He growled, and pulled to an abrupt stop.
Amory crashed into him, and he took the opportunity to grab her face, pressed their lips together and breath out.
She sputtered, predictably, panting and choking and pushing him away with her feeble little arms. “Stop it,” he snapped, pushing them away roughly. “Breath in.”
She didn’t listen. He resorted to pressing her nose closed with his thumbs and forcing the air into her, and when she took the first breath, breathing in more. He was taking a risk here, a risk that could very well spell death for them both. But there wasn’t time to stop and think about the consequences. All he knew was that they needed to be gone now, and dammit he would do whatever it took to get it done.
They stood there, for what seemed like an eternity. Amory couldn’t wrap her mind around the concept. Kale was breathing for her. It should have been completely gross and violating but it wasn’t. It was the most incredible feeling she had ever felt in her life. She wasn’t sure if it was the temperature, the fact that this was technically her first kiss or the adrenaline running through her veins, but Amory was both lightheaded and hyper aware of everything going on around her. She could hear the trees rustling in the wind, feel Kael at every point their bodies touched, she could feel his chest rise and fall as he breath in, out…in…..out… her heart raced and she felt like she could rip up a tree and tear it to shreds. There was nothing but Kael and then everything snapped into focus and all she wanted to do was
“Run,” Kael rasped, fighting the lightheaded feeling seeping through him. He grabbed Amory’s hand and sprinted. He didn’t know what he was feeling more, relief that she was actually able to keep up with his vampire speed, or the desire to kick himself for not kissing her when he had the chance. Yes, they were running for their lives, but that didn’t change the fact that one did not lock lips with a cute girl to exchange air. He skirted a giant tree that marked the halfway point, and grinned a self-satisfied grin.
That was promptly swiped off his face.
A screaming vampire leapt out of the tree cover, hurtling itself to land on Amory’s back, dragging her to the forest ground. Kael was after them immediately, fighting off the woman who had somehow turned Amory’s back into shreds. But the girl was giving as good as she got. Someone sliced into his thigh, and Kael growled, feeling his fangs descend from his gums. The dull, heady feeling was starting to creep through his veins again, locking him into the ‘kill, kill, kill’ state of mind. He separated the two, and Amory rolled away and into a crouch. Before either of them could move there was a rushing of wind around them, and suddenly they weren’t alone.
Nearly seventy Coven members stood around them, fangs bared and claws extended. Kael knelt, one hand fisted in the shirt of the young woman who had attacked them, and gaze around at him. He was in deep, deep doodie.
“Kael Orson,” one vampire intoned. In the dark the group seemed to perpetuate it was difficult to see who had spoken. Kael, however, knew who had. He had attracted the attention of the Elders. Oh Goodie.
He stood, moving to position himself in front of Amory. “Elder Dragan, May the Mother smile upon thee.”
The Elder shook his head. “What have you done, Childe?”
Kael forced himself to remain standing upright, when all of his training, his very being screamed for him to prostrate himself. “Followed my Blood, Elder,” he said, careful to keep his tone respectful. “I could do nothing else.”
There was a rustling through the crowd at this statement, though the ten elders remained stoic, unmovable. At length the tittering gave way to eerie silence, and Elder Dragan responded. “Explain.”
At this, Kael swallowed nervously. All he had were assumptions and suppositions, and the heady feeling that was humming at the ready in his stomach even now. “I think my Sire, Orpheus, may have sworn a Blood Debt to this girl’s family.”
“You think,” another Elder asked. It was clear that whatever Kael said after this point was moot in this man’s eyes. He was already wrong.
“Yes, Elder. I have no concrete proof, other than the Call I felt earlier this evening that lead me far outside our region, the same call that overtook me not too long ago.”
Dragan straightened, if possible. “So it was you that killed my son.” It was not a question, yet Kael knew an answer was mandatory. He dropped his eyes. Behind him, Amory stopped breathing.
The area was silent, even the trees having somehow sensed the tension of the situation. “You killed your own brother over some…..mortal, Kael Orson?” A woman asked. Elder Yuta was a short woman whose wide, flat features never gave way to a smile. She had always given him the impression that she would like to gut him like a fish, then eat him like one.
“Please, Elder,” he pleaded. “It was not my choice.”
“And what of the girl? Does she not bear some responsibility – “
“No, she hasn’t done anything – “
“She reaks of us – “
“What have you done?”
“Leave her out of this, please.”
“Should be put down, I say.”
“Kael, maybe we should – “
“ENOUGH!” Silence fell on them like a blanket. All eyes rested on Elder Dragan, who stood above them looking as powerful as every one of his seventeen hundred years. “I believe you, Kael Orson, son of Orpheus the Trickster.”
He nearly wept with relief. Dropping to his knees, he managed a “Thank you, Elder.” The crowd was still each waiting to hear what else the Elders might say. Surely the matter hadn’t been put to rest as yet.
And suddenly the Elder moved, gliding from his spot in the formation to appear before Kael, bending low and gripping him by the neck, and lifting him from the ground to hang in mid-air. “I have also decided that you must die, Childe.”