Callie

Harlequin Nocturne | Share

by J.T. Chapman

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Pitch

For Callie, life begins with death.

With death comes the opportunity to put an old ghost to rest. Justifiable homicide Sam called it. For George’s victims, it’s sweet revenge. For the twins, it’s the starting point for a new way of life.

With a little help from a few vampires, shape shifters, a teenage witch, and a long-lost relative, newly-turned vampire Callie discovers that magic not only exists, it dwells within her blood. And supernaturals want it. They’d kill to have it.

Everybody loves Callie. They just can’t help themselves.

Prologue

George licked the blood from the split on his swollen lower lip. "Christ, that one was strong," he mumbled, rubbing his aching jaw with his free hand. He rolled his shoulders, attempting to ease the ache from having to carry the heavy load so far into the woods.

The full moon lit the way to his destination, negating the need for a torch, which could easily have given him away. He dumped his burden on the ground by his feet and picked the shovel up to move the decaying leaves to one side. The soil was still loose from his visit a week before, making it easier to dig and he dug only deep enough to stop any inquisitive animals from digging the evidence back up.

A loud crack sounded close by. He stopped and looked all around, listening for any more sounds. After a brief moment, the silhouette of a large stag became visible in the clearing off to his right, snorting and making clouds of steam with its breath in the chill of the night air. He stood, shovel ready, and listened for a minute more before continuing with his task.

With a dull thud, the sheet-wrapped bundle hit the bottom of the shallow grave. He peered in after it to see a small hand had fallen out of the cover. Tutting in exasperation as he jumped into the hole, he unwrapped his latest blunder to tuck it back in. Pale blond hair, matted with blood, covered the battered face of a petite ten-year-old girl from a farm near his home.

This one had been a fighter and strong as an ox for all the size of her; she had head butted him and knocked a tooth out before he managed to restrain her. He beat her senseless after that, cracking her head on the wall, punching her in the stomach and face numerous times. Then as she lay bleeding on the floor of his bedroom, he held her down with his hand at her chest while she continued to thrash about as he raped her, increasing his pleasure ten fold with her struggles. Sometime during the tussle, his hand had moved to her throat and he hadn’t noticed her movements had stopped until he lay panting over her still body.

He shivered as the memory passed and with a flick of his boot, pushed the arm back in and laid the sheet over it again.

Once the hole was filled in, he walked to the big fir behind the makeshift grave and carved a notch to match the seven already there.

Three years’ worth of his playthings lay buried in the shallow graves around the tree. The first notch was his friend Pete. The night before the twins had kicked him out, he’d gone to Callie’s room in a drunken stupor while Pete slept on the sofa downstairs. A mistake in hindsight, but he hadn’t been in any condition to think about it at the time. Adrianne had jumped him and the noise of the fight had woken Pete who came barrelling into the room wielding a pocket-knife. Before he knew it, Pete was dead. Blood coated his hands and the knife George held.

It’s their fault that Pete’s dead. It’s the twins’ fault, not mine. He thought in remembrance of that night, again feeling the same satisfaction when he had cut her, the aggressive one, slicing her face from eye to lip.

The long trek back to his car afforded plenty of time to reminisce about the events that had him returning to that same spot time and time again. He learned nothing from his mistakes.

Taking a different route home, this time passing through a small village, he came across his next tiny, little plaything all alone in the back garden, chattering away to her doll. With no one around to see him, he slipped over the fence, snatching her up with his hand covering her mouth to stifle her screams.

Chapter 1

Callie’s hand shot out from under the duvet and pummelled the alarm until the incessant beeping stopped, only for it to be replaced by the pounding on her bedroom door. She groaned and rolled over, pulling the duvet over her head to muffle the noise.

"Just another five minutes please!" she begged.

"Get up lazy bones, it’s the first day of your new job and you can’t be late," Adrianne hollered through the closed door.

She’d had the nightmare again last night, the same one she’d had every night for the last twelve years – George creeping into her room to laughingly tell her that her parents were dead and she was finally all his. The imprint of his repulsive, wandering hands touching her skin that first night were firmly etched in her mind and she could still see the look of lust that would cross his face when they entered a room he happened to be in. The look of horror on Adie’s face when he tied her to the bedposts and made her watch him rape her, would stay with her for an eternity.

The nightmare, although over now in reality and in sleep, was a vivid reminder of his torment from the first night he dragged Adie into her room to partake in his fun. Only too willing to take on two troubled pre-teen girls, he’d been dreaming about getting them alone for years before that. Imagining how they would feel beneath him and he praised the fates that brought him his greatest wish. To everyone else he was a saint, a hero who stepped up to the mark. They’d tried to tell a social worker not long after it started but she had flirted with George, accusing them of being attention-seeking, little misfits and told them, in no uncertain terms, that their uncle was making a huge sacrifice by giving up his life to look after them.

Their schoolteachers had failed to notice bruises marring their bodies on a daily basis, and parents of friends never questioned George’s reasons for not allowing them to sleep over. Callie was eternally grateful that Adie had the foresight to convince their doctor to put them on the contraceptive pill under the pretence of ‘excruciatingly painful cramps’.

Adrianne, Callie’s twin sister, older by 4 minutes but more like forty years in terms of her maturity, continued to pound on the door. "I’m not leaving until you show yourself!"

Adie had pretty much taken over the run of the household when they turned seventeen, the day they finally found the strength to fight back and kick out their abusive uncle. Now, three long years after they had shut the door on Uncle George’s bleeding and swelling nose, the dedication and single-mindedness Callie had put into her schoolwork after her one failed attempt at a relationship had finally paid off. She graduated with honours. Today she would take the first step to her dream job.

She’d be an assistant to some big-shot reporter, a gopher really, but Callie didn’t mind as long as she was allowed to tag along to the headline stories. She got the job because her English professor saw a spark of talent in her that was seriously lacking in her classmates, so he had recommended her for the position.

"Cal, come on! Get your butt in gear. You have to leave in like an hour!" Adie continued to pound on the door until Callie finally threw the duvet off and got out of bed, staggering on her way to open the door.

Adie took in the dishevelled appearance of her sister. From her ebony hair, normally glossy in slight, sleek waves, now looked like something a crow would use for a nest. Her shortie P.J’s had ridden up and were presently poking out of Callie’s backside.

"Oh my God!" Adie chuckled. "Look at the state of your hair. Get in the shower and I’ll put breakfast out, then I’ll fix it for you. Do you even know what you’re wearing yet?"

"Chill I’ve got it sorted," Callie reassured her. "I’m wearing the red pant suit. I even had it pressed at Steamers yesterday." She motioned over her shoulder in the general direction of the wardrobe. "And I’m borrowing your red, kitten heels," she added, quickly running down the hall to the bathroom as Adie spied them amongst the clutter and discarded clothing strewn around the room. Polished and gleaming on the floor under the hanging suit, the shoes were a perfect colour match and a surprisingly sensible choice of footwear.

Adie sighed, looking at the chaos in the room Callie seemed unable to keep clean and tidy, but she couldn’t bring herself to chastise her for it. She caught sight of her disappearing into the bathroom. Mum and Dad would be so proud of you, she thought. I wish they could see you now; you’ve really come out of your shell this past year.

When Adie confided in a work colleague about the abuse she and her sister had suffered growing up, Mandy had suggested counselling for them both. Callie refused, wanting to deal with it her own way. She’d been quiet and withdrawn for so long that Adie could barely remember the vibrant bubbly child who used to get them both into mischief.

"Hopefully this will be a new start for both of us," Adie breathed fervently, in a voice too low for her sister to hear.

Callie washed first then turned the shower on boost and leant against the cool, cream tiles of the wall. The pulsing water sluiced over her body, rinsing away any remaining sleep and the nightmare that came with it. She washed her hair and left the conditioner in for a few minutes to help with the tangles, then rinsed. Feeling the silky strands fall straight down her back to touch the dimple at the base of her spine, she reluctantly turned off the glorious hot water and reached for the fluffy towel Adie had thoughtfully left out for her.

Adie, the best sister a girl could have, worked every shift she could get at the hospital where she worked as a trainee nurse. She paid all the bills including topping up Callie’s collage fund when the money they inherited after their parents’ death had all but run out. The house they shared had been paid off by the life insurance, and the car Adie drove to work was their mother’s – it had sat in the garage untouched the entire time George had lived there, only because he wouldn’t drive a pink Mini. From today, Callie would be contributing to the upkeep of their home and able to take some of the financial burden from her sister.

A new dawn, a new day and a new start, Callie chanted in her mind, practically dancing down the stairs in her dressing gown and slippers, her hair wrapped in a towel.

The rich tang of freshly brewed coffee assaulted her, closely followed by the mouth-watering aroma of grilled bacon, as she entered the kitchen. Her stomach growled in anticipation of the treat.

"You’re spoiling me," Callie mock-complained, snatching toast from the plate and stuffing it in her mouth while she filled a mug from the carafe. "Have you been home long?"

"Got in just after six, the traffic was bad this morning. According to the radio, a young girl was abducted from her back yard just outside the village. Police were stopping traffic and checking the cars."

"Another one?" Callie gasped. "Wasn’t there one last week too?"

"Uh huh, and several before that. This one apparently went out to get her doll from the playhouse in the garden and didn’t come back inside. The mother raised the alarm immediately but they haven’t found her yet."

"That’s so sad. Who would do something like that?" she mused. "How old was this one?"

"Five."

"Jeez. Have they found any of the others? How many have there been anyway?"

"Callie, you are about to go work for the biggest newspaper in Ulster and you’re asking me about stuff that’s been in the headlines for months now! Seriously, did you do any prep for the job?" Adie chastised, adding, "This makes nine and no, none of the others have turned up yet."

Callie had the sense to look embarrassed. "I know I should have, but that stuff brings back too many memories I really don’t want to drag up."

"Yeah I know, sorry… Eat up, it’s getting cold."

They spent the next ten minutes catching up on other more mundane topics around mouthfuls of the deliciously tender bacon and buttery toast Adie had made for them.

"Come up to my room when you’re finished eating? I’ll do your hair, there’s more space and less clutter." Adie joked, picking up her own plate and setting it in the dishwasher. "Stack your plate and turn it on before you come up?"

After listening to Callie’s complaints that her hair got in her way, Adie dried her sister’s hair straight and put it in a bun. She pushed the last pin in place and stepped back to admire her handiwork.

With only minutes before the taxi was due, Callie finally got dressed. She loved the suit she’d chosen to wear, the cut emphasised every curve just right. A power suit, Adie called it. It made her feel more confident, like she was worth something. Not at all like the useless piece of trash George claimed her to be.

Honking outside told her the taxi was here, its driver getting impatient.

"Just be yourself," Adie advised, feeling a flash of nerves through their bond. "They’re gonna love you."

Hugging her in thanks, Callie ran out the door. "Straight to bed for you. I’ll see you later," she called over her shoulder.

She sat in the back seat, looking out the side window at the city traffic as it struggled to gain a few feet before the traffic lights changed. The people on the footpath made better headway.

"I’ll just walk the rest of the way," she said to the driver when he stopped at the lights. "It’s not far from here." She handed him a twenty for fare and tip.

Lost in her excited thoughts of what the day would bring, she didn’t see the guy barrelling towards her. Nor did she see the knife he was carrying. She felt it though as it pierced her stomach and ripped down toward her hip.

The guy had been tackled from behind just as he passed her, causing his arm to dart out in an attempt to save himself. He stabbed her in the process.

With wide eyes and gaping mouth, Callie collapsed to the ground. Staring and frightened faces of the crowd, who gathered around her as she lay on the footpath, began to swirl and fade to darkness.


Chapter 2

The poor girl was hurt when Sam tackled his informant on the footpath outside his office. He hadn’t realized John had the knife when he’d run away. A second or two passed before he managed to regain his control once the smell of fresh blood filled the air, by which time a crowd gathered around them.

Callie’s dark hair, having come loose from the bun at her neck, splayed in a black halo around her face, the paleness of her skin enhanced by the dirty-grey of the pavement. Her heartbeat faltered.

Sam accepted all responsibility for her imminent death. He should have realised sooner that the kid had immunity to compulsion when he refused the seat Sam offered him.

There was something about this girl that made him hesitate. He felt drawn to her. Something he couldn’t put a name to, combined with guilt, forced an impetuous decision to save her. Seizing control of the minds of the humans around him, he deleted the scene from their memories. He lifted her gently, cradling her against his chest.

From of the corner of his eye, he saw John gather himself up off the ground and glance in his direction, then take off down the road as if the hounds of Hell were after him.

"You’ll keep for another day, John," Sam vowed, carrying her up the fire escape stairs into the flat above the office.

Biting his own wrist after he laid her in the bath, he held the wound to her mouth and tilted her head back to let his blood slide down her throat. She swallowed, almost imperceptibly, before her heart stopped beating. He prayed she had taken enough.

Within an hour, his worst fears came to fruition as her body temperature rose. Had he not filled the bath with ice it would have soared further causing irreparable damage, and in doing so create yet another night stalker. It rarely happened, but when it did, the witless creatures were blood-craving monsters that thought only of their next meal, sucking their victims dry and leaving the desiccated corpses where they lay. He had first hand experience with the anarchy that resulted.

Others like Sam worked within a network to clear the streets of these abominations and their poor unfortunate victims. While vampires do need human blood to survive, they don’t need to kill the source.

Donors came in two forms: there were those who volunteer for live sessions. Endorphins released by the vampire bite were the best possible high any druggie could wish for, without the addictive side effects. They did have to be clean of all drugs, however.

For the other option, donors receive payment per pint at a special blood bank. A limit on how often a donation can be made ensures donors’ health and co-operation and keeps any suspicion from the vampire communities, allowing them to go about their business without detection.

***

Sam wiped the sweat from her forehead with a cold, damp cloth and swirled the ice in the bath surrounding her lifeless body. The skin on her fingers and toes had shrivelled to resemble wrinkled prunes a couple of days ago.

It had been two days and fifteen hours since she swallowed his blood and the transformation was almost complete. He left her for a few minutes to gather some things she would need when she awoke.

His robe would have to suffice as he had no women’s clothes at hand. He didn’t think she’d appreciate having to walk around in her blood-stained, ripped outfit, even though it accentuated the curve of her breasts and hips. He considered undressing her, but dismissed the idea, thinking she would be confused enough when she woke without having to deal with that as well.

He zapped a beaker of blood in the microwave, returning to the bathroom just as his watch beeped, signifying it was time. He pulled the plug to allow the bath to drain and turned the warm water on so it sprayed from the showerhead. After adjusting the temperature just enough to allow a little steam to develop, he sat on the closed toilet seat and watched as she began to stir.


Chapter 3

Callie gradually became aware of warmth seeping through to her bones, chasing away a chill she had vaguely been aware of for some time now. Her eyes fluttered and a breathy moan escaped her lips. Exhaustion, almost as if she had a bad case of the flu, left her aching from head to toe. She reached down to pull the duvet over her head to block out the persistent light that was making her eyes and head ache. What she felt instead of her duvet made her pause. Cracking open her eyes a little, she realized she was not in her bed. She glanced cautiously around and seeing the jet-black tiles, chrome taps and chrome shower hose in front of her, she knew she wasn’t in her own home either.

"Hi there, how do you feel?" a tender, yet very masculine voice asked from behind where her head lay on the bath.

"Like I’ve just been run over by a bus," Callie croaked.

Her mind raced, frantically trying to piece together how she came to be in a stranger’s bathroom; still fully clothed in her favourite red suit that was now soaked and ruined. Nothing came to her. The last thing she remembered was walking down High Street on her way to her new job.

She fought rising panic. Sitting up gingerly, she pushed a hand through her wet hair, and turned to look at the stranger who had spoken. Aged about twenty-five, his dark hair was short and lightly gelled into spikes. His build was slim, from what she could make out beneath the loose shirt, and his features were like one of those models from her favourite magazines, with a little stubble almost hiding the dimple on his chin. His eyes were his defining feature; a mesmerizing deep blue that seemed to look through to her soul. He was the epitome of handsome.

"Who…who are you?" she stuttered. "Where am I? How did I get here? …Crap what time is it?" She tried to get up. "And why am I in your bath tub?"

Although husky, her voice carried a musical lilt that mesmerised him. He shook his head to clear it and focused his attention on answering her questions.

"I take it you don’t remember what happened?" he asked. "I’ll explain. Firstly, my name is Sam Morrow. You’re in my flat on High Street just above the office. As for how you got here, that’s a bit of a long story. Before we get into that, I think you should drink this, dry off and put on that robe. Join me in the sitting room and I’ll explain everything when you’re ready." With that, he handed her a lukewarm beaker with a straw poking out the top.

After he left and closed the door, she staggered over to turn the lock before stripping out of her ruined suit. She stepped back into the bath and let the hot water stream over her naked body in the hopes that it would wake her up. Her head swam due to both weakness and questions.

Why don’t I remember how I got here and what the hell happened to my suit? she thought in puzzlement. I should run screaming from this place. That guy could be a rapist or a murderer, look at Uncle George for crying out loud. No one believed us about George and his late night visits just because he didn’t look like a paedophile. Seriously, Cal, get a grip! she chastised herself. But why, then, do I feel safe here?

As she argued with herself over what she should do, she absentmindedly dried her body, and on coming across a tender patch on her abdomen, she looked down to see a faint scar running from just below her belly button to her left hip. Where the hell did that come from? This just gets weirder…

After slipping on the robe, she sipped the drink for the first time. It was quite thick and syrupy with a salty sweetness that stuck to the roof of her mouth and coated her tongue as she swallowed. Before she knew it, she had drained every drop, slurping as the straw drew air from the bottom of the covered beaker. Weakness and lethargy faded instantly. She walked into the sitting room feeling better than she had done in years.


Chapter 4

“…So yeah, you died,” Sam finished as he recapped the events of the last three days.

Okay, he’s a fruit loop, Callie thought. “And you saved my life by reviving me. Thank you by the way, but three days isn’t long enough for the kind of wound you described to heal the way it has, and why didn’t you call an ambulance?”

A breakfast bar separated the kitchen from living room, so he was able to see and hear her as he refilled her beaker from the bag of blood he had in the fridge. “Callie, I didn’t save your life, not the way you think anyway. Nor did I revive you. You were dead and I made you un-dead, a vampire. You know, the living dead." He corrected her assumption and placed the refilled beaker in the microwave. "You’ll have to drink human blood in order to survive. You can’t go out in sunlight or you’ll burn, like go up in flames and turn to ash. At least until I can get an amulet made for you anyway.”

Smiling at her eagerness as she accepted the beaker, he watched her ruby-red lips close around the straw and gently draw its contents into her mouth. He was in big trouble. He could hardly think straight with her around. Glimpses of her creamy breasts tormented him when the too large robe gaped at the front with her every movement. When she sat down, the split at the front gave him flashes of a leg so long and flawless he had practically drooled. He had to use the excuse of refilling her juice to rearrange himself. Entranced, he watched as her tongue darted out to capture an escaping drop and he had to shake himself to carry on.

“Oh and by the way can you please ring Adie and tell her that you’re fine? She’s been ringing and texting your mobile constantly." He’d gone through her bag in order to turn off her mobile. While Florence and the Machine’s Shake it Out was a great song, the never-ending repetition of it was driving him mad. He’d found her driver’s licence too, and discovered that she was his new assistant, which explained the no show. "The office phone has been ringing every half hour for the last three days and Gill can’t put her off any longer. Your sister is threatening to ring the police.”

“Shit! She’ll be frantic with worry.” Callie snatched up her phone and pressed speed dial.

“Cal, where the hell are you and why didn’t you text or call back?” Adie fumed, her anger clearly evident from the tone she used. “Your boss’s office said you were on a case and couldn’t call because it would jeopardize the story. Really Cal? I thought something had happened to you. Couldn’t you have at least let me know before you just disappeared?”

Sam came to stand behind her. “You can’t tell her about any of this,” he whispered in her free ear.

A simple whiff of her clean flesh and it was almost his undoing. She smelled of his apple-scented shampoo combined with his shower gel, but there was something else too. He couldn’t put his finger on what it was; all he knew was that the combination was intoxicating. It never smelled that good on him.

Callie’s heart broke at the sound of anxiety in her sister’s voice. “I’m sorry Adie, with all the excitement I guess I just didn’t think.”

Sam let them finish their conversation in private. He headed into the bathroom for a cold shower and continued to the bedroom to change into the clothes he kept in the flat for emergencies. Another visit to the blood bank would be needed tonight. There wasn’t enough blood left in the fridge for him, never mind appease the appetite of a newly turned vampire.

"I’ll call you back and fill you in when he’s not around," Callie whispered when he left her.

She hung up a few minutes later and followed him to the other room where she found him shirtless. Her breath hitched at the sight of his naked back, the muscles of his shoulders bunched as he reached for a shirt from the wardrobe. It left her in a deep wanton sigh as he turned to expose his hairless chest. His sculptured abdominals bunched and rippled as he donned the shirt. Michelangelo’s David would weep in jealousy at the sight of such perfection. Her gaze travelled down, pausing briefly at the undone top button of his jeans, then continued down the length of his legs to his sockless toes peeking out from under the faded denim.

My God even his toes are hot, she thought. Dragging her gaze back up the lean length of his body, she met his eyes staring right back. The cutest dimple appeared on his cheek with the smirk at having caught her gawking. Her cheeks flushed scarlet – hard to do given that the only blood in her system was the two beakers she had consumed.

She lowered her head. “I really need to go home, will you take me?”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be around people at the moment. You can’t control your thirst and it’ll put your family at risk,” he replied. And I don’t want to let you go just yet.

“Please, I need clothes and stuff," she begged, playing along with his crazy vampire notion. “It’s Thursday right? Adie should be working the afternoon shift anyway. I can pack a bag and be out before she gets home. Please take me home.”

“You won’t be able to get in without an invitation.”

“What?” she asked in confusion. “But it’s my house.”

“A vampire must be invited in to be able to cross an occupied property’s threshold," he explained. "It’s one of the stupid rules.” After a moment’s thought, he took out his phone and made a call. “Gill, how are you at breaking and entering? ….No, I have a key you won’t actually have to break in….Great come over to the office and I’ll give you the address…Okay… yes I’ll give you a bonus….and Monday off… Don’t push it Gill.” He snapped the phone shut and faced Callie. “Make a list of stuff you’ll need and where to find it. Gill is going to stop by your house and pick it up for you. Try to keep it to a minimum, she has a small car.”

He strode to the door and turned to drink in the sight of her, as if storing the vision for while he would be gone. “I need to head out for some supplies to keep us going for a few days. Don’t go beyond this door. Oh, and stay away from the windows, the sun will be up soon. The glass is tinted but it’s not enough to stop a newborn vampire from burning. There’s more juice in the fridge if you get thirsty. I’ll be back within the hour for your list."

He left her there.

Sam’s first stop was Stephan’s Antique Emporium. If anyone could locate a sun amulet, it was Stephan. The owner had been a true and loyal friend Sam’s entire vampiric existence. He pushed through the heavy doors into a perpetual Aladdin’s cave of treasures, glanced around, and spotted the golden head of his best friend.

"Stephan, I need your help," he stated as he approached.

Stephan spun on his heel, dismissing the young man he was speaking to, and embraced Sam in a fierce hug. "What is it you require this time Sam? Surely not another repulsion piece, the ladies can’t find you so irresistible that you’ve gone through the half dozen in barely a month!" Stephan heartily laughed at his own joke, but sobered quickly when he studied Sam’s reaction. "Something tells me this ones going to be a challenge. What is it my friend?"

"Well, I’ve been granted a new charge, a young girl who had the misfortune to fall victim to an accident of my making." Sam briefed him on the incident that had him turning his first human in over 400 years. "She needs a sun amulet. I don’t suppose you have any lying around?”

“You know as well as I do that they have to be made to suit,” Stephan half-heartedly chastised.

“Then do you know where I can get one?"

Stephan was not only an expert in antiques, but also a hive of information. "Let me check the files and see who can do that kind of charm," Stephan muttered, moving towards the back room office. He had to dodge around several boxes strewn along the narrow alleyways created by the overstocked showroom to get the computer sitting in the corner. "This won’t take long now I’ve finally got all the old volumes stored on here. Only took me ten years too."

He tried several different word combinations in his database search. "Ah! Here we go. Irene McIlroy. You’re in luck. She’s a local girl, lives up in the Headlands with her grandmother and she’s a strong witch for her age. I’ll print off her details. Now, while we are waiting what say you tell about this girl, what made you change this one?"

Sam ran his hand through his hair and scratched the back of his head. “I don’t know if I can explain it. She’s just …it’s as if I’ve been waiting for her my whole life. Like I recognised her even though the first time I laid eyes on her was when I saw her lying in the street. Alarm bells rang in my head and I couldn’t let her die…I couldn’t walk away and not get to know her." He sighed. "I’m a journalist with umpteen degrees in literature and I’m stuck for words on how to describe the feeling."

Stephan chuckled, slapping Sam on the back in solace. "No need, no need old son. I felt the same way when I met Elizabeth. She must be your soul mate. Bring her round when you get her blood lust under control. I’m sure Liz would love to meet the woman who tamed you."

“That’s the other thing. She doesn’t seem to have the normal blood craving. No glowing eyes. No burning thirst. She’s completely coherent too.”

“Excellent, we can have a get-together sooner then. I’ll look into the lack of blood lust and let you know what I find.” He escorted him to the door, pulling his phone from his pocket as he waved Sam off. He couldn’t wait to tell Liz.


Chapter 5

As soon as Sam left, Callie dialled her sister’s number to finish the conversation they couldn’t have earlier in case she was overheard. "He’s gone out for a while," she said by way of greeting. "Do you think you could come get me? This guy is seriously whacked. He’s telling me weird shit, like how I died and he made me a vampire. Honestly Adie, he is delusional, like a total nut job."

"Has he hurt you?"

"I don’t think so," Called replied after thinking about it. "But I really need to get out of here. Please say you can come get me?"

Adie pondered this for a moment, thinking of how she felt, or rather hadn’t felt, Callie the last three days. "Cal, honey, I hate to say this but," she drew a deep breath in preparation for her argument. "I’ve a bad feeling he might be telling the truth." Silence met her confession. "I felt you die the morning you left for work. You know the way we’ve always known what the other was feeling, our emotions, pain and stuff like that? Well, that morning you just disappeared. I got this excruciating pain in my stomach and passed out. When I woke up you were gone. I didn’t feel you anymore. About an hour ago was the first I felt anything from you."

"But a vampire? Come on, you’re as delusional as he is. Or are you honestly trying to tell me you believe the crap in those books you’re always reading?"

"You could test the theory and go stand in the sun – see if you burn," Adie suggested. "Just a hand or something though, I don’t want to lose you again."

Callie uncurled herself from the sofa and crossed the room. Sam’s warning rang clear in her memory as she gingerly moved the curtain aside a few centimetres. The beam of early morning light caught her wrist for a mere second, blistering her skin. She screamed in agony as searing pain surged through her arm with the briefest touch of sunlight scorching her to what felt like the bone. Pain so intense she thought her hand had been cut off at the wrist. Stupefied, she stood staring at the wisps of smoke rising from the welt.

"Ouch! Shit Cal! That really hurt!" Adie rubbed the same spot on her own wrist where Callie had been burned. "Whatever you did, don’t do it again! Okay? I think we can safely say that unless you’ve developed a severe case of Erythropathingy – that sun allergy disease those kids had on the documentary we watched on Discovery channel last week – you are a vampire. Do you crave blood? Have pointy teeth?"

Experimentally, Callie ran her tongue around the inside of her mouth. "Nope, no teeth."

"Maybe they’re retractable…" Adie mused, sounding almost disappointed. "What about the blood? Any cravings?"

"The only thing I sort of crave is more of this juice Sam gave me. I think it’s some sort of energy protein drink." She sauntered over to the fridge to refill her beaker. It contained one bag with a little red liquid in it and a bottle of water in the door, nothing else. No food. No milk. Nothing. Picking up the bag of red juice, she turned it over to read the label. "Use by 18 JAN… B negative…" She squealed and slumped down on the floor, staring at the bag in her hand. Until it sink in. "Bloody hell. I’m a vampire Adie!"

Adie let the silence go on for a minute more before she interrupted Callie’s thoughts. "I think you’re gonna have to do what Sam says and stay there for a bit."

"I guess so," she reluctantly agreed. "Not that it’ll be a hardship – you really have to see this guy, H.O.T. He’s sending Gill over later for some of my things. Would you mind packing some clothes up before you head out to work? I don’t like the idea of a stranger going through my knicker drawer. My make-up bag too, shampoo, shower gel – you know the usual stuff."

"No probs, Sis, I’ll leave it by the front door and ring you later. Look after yourself in the meantime." Adie hung up, making mental plans to forget something in the bag and have to call round with it. She had to meet the guy who was causing sexual frustration to bombard her through the bond she shared with her sister. How she was going to make it through her shift at work, she had no idea.

Callie closed her phone and got up from the cold floor, poured herself some juice, and headed back to the sitting room. "Shit, I’m a vampire," she muttered to herself as she crossed the room. She picked up the TV remote and started flicking through the channels. Resuming her curled position on the sofa, the adverts ended signalling the start of her favourite show. I wonder what Jerry Springer would make of that?


Chapter 6

Sam pulled his car up to the curb outside the Rehabilitation Centre, switched off the engine and watched as one young man led another purposefully toward the entrance. They would both have been under twenty but the blonde one had a look of wisdom about him that told Sam he was likely a tenant in the Centre. He continued to drag the protesting darker-haired male inside.

The Centre was very strict about the age and condition of its donors. If they arrived with their blood full of toxins, they were put on a rigorous program to cleanse them before a drop of blood was taken. The tenants, the majority of which were homeless, were then provided with food, clothing and a bed in a dorm on the centre’s vast grounds. Those who had completed cleansing were rewarded with a more private room shared with three others instead of thirty.

The donation process had two stages. The first the donor knew about as they willing gave 470ml of their blood through a cannula and were paid fifty pounds for this every three weeks.

The other method they had no memory of, other than they felt euphoric and were more than happy to believe the ‘hypnosis’ treatment was responsible. The Centre’s accounts showed them as a charitable organisation receiving monies through their benefactors, who remained anonymous. Occasionally it would take in and help underage kids who found themselves homeless for whatever reason, and these kids would not be subject to the donor regime. Instead, they were counselled and schooled on a separate area of the grounds until they reached eighteen. At this time they could either stay on to become donors or were assisted to find jobs and start a new life. Their memories of course, were checked and altered upon leaving. The notorious John was one of those kids, but had somehow managed to slip the net.

Sam made his way inside the building marked Clinic, past the overflowing waiting room, where the two young men Sam had seen minutes ago already waited, and walked straight through to the manager’s office. He knocked politely before pushing open the heavy door.

"Mr. Morrow, to what do we owe to honour of your presence? Please take a seat." The kindly-looking matron smiled broadly and patted her hair into place.

"Mrs. Kidde, I hope you’re well." He smiled in return, taking the seat she indicated, away from the window. "I apologise for the short notice. I require several days worth of supplies – enough for two. I’m leaving on a business trip and don’t want to have to look for donors for the period we’re away."

"Oh? Why not take a donor with you? Surely that would be more sensible, never mind convenient for you both."

"Not really an option as my associate hasn’t quite come to terms with the living donor scenario as yet." He impatiently drummed his fingers on the arm of the sofa.

Mrs. Kidde pressed a button on her desk phone. "Daniel, please have eight bags of today’s harvest boxed and left at the front desk for Mr Morrow… Any particular brand Sam?" she asked, raising a single eyebrow in enquiry.

"Whatever is at hand will suffice, thank you."

"Thank you Daniel, Mr Morrow will be over momentarily to collect it… No, charge it to his account."

Sam got up to leave but remembered the other purpose for his visit. "Do you remember that young troublemaker, John? Blonde, light eyes, all skin and bones? He broke your window with a football?" She nodded her reply. "He has been able to access the premises and video tape a live session. He came to me with the intention of selling the story to the paper and made a run for it when he realized that I’m involved here. I will be apprehending him myself when I return from this trip, but it may be advisable to beef up security in the meantime."


Chapter 7

Callie jumped when she heard Sam’s key turn in the door; she’d been so lost in thought, she hadn’t heard him come up the fire escape.

"Everything okay?" he asked.

She nodded. "Sure, why wouldn’t it be?"

"No problems while I was gone?"

She shook her head.

"Good. So, do you have your list ready? Gill’s waiting downstairs to go and retrieve your things. We’ll be leaving this evening to visit a witch who may be able to help with your amulet."

"Witches? Seriously? What’s next? Werewolves, fairies, and leprechauns?" Callie scoffed, snorting in disbelief.

Sam chuckled at the snort, finding it cute. "Seamus is the last of the true leprechauns," he said seriously, "but there are plenty of half-bloods scattered around Ireland. A lot of pure bloods died during the great storm, many of those remaining moved to America when the potato famine struck so soon after." She stood with her mouth hanging open and Sam continued, "Werewolves on the other hand don’t live here as wolves aren’t native to Ireland. We do get the occasional visiting wolf. There are, however, plenty of other were-animals. Gill for example is a were-fox. Now, may I have your list please?"

"Don’t need one. Adie packed a bag for me and left it by the front door," Callie confessed. "She knows about this by the way, we have like this bond thing and she can tell when I’m lying, feels my pain and knows when I’m happy or sad, stuff like that… and when I’m dead too, apparently."

Sam groaned and went to give Gill the key for Callie’s house so she could retrieve the bag. Knowing Gill she’ll keep me to the bonus and day off anyway.

When he came back in, he was carrying the box containing the blood and Callie could smell it from the other side of the flat. She followed him into the kitchen, colliding with his back when he stopped to get a 12-volt travel fridge from the cupboard. It was at that moment they both felt it, a magnetic pull, an undeniable compulsion for one to touch the other. Sam set the box down on the counter and turned slowly to face an enraptured Callie. He raised his hand to push a strand of her ebony hair behind her ear, caressing her jawline with the back of his fingers as he did. Her skin felt as smooth as porcelain and her hair, despite her recent death, shone with vitality and health.

Callie raised her hands to his chest and closed her eyes, savouring the feel of his touch.

He drew her head forward to place his lips gently on hers. The hand not cupping her head moved to her waist, pulling her closer still. A flame of passion took her as he deepened the kiss, sweeping his tongue across her lips, seeking entrance to her moist depths.

Her legs wrapped around his waist when he lifted her onto the worktop. Moaning in ecstasy as her tongue danced and stroked his, their passion flared, the evidence of his excitement pressed against her core, exciting her more.

His taste changed suddenly, becoming intoxicating. Her fangs extended in anticipation of what her mind had not yet registered as blood. He pulled away gasping for breath and stepped back a couple of paces.

Callie groaned in disappointment, her eyes shooting open to search his face for any evidence that he had felt the connection too. That the passion she felt was real and shared.

A trickle of crimson dripped from his lip where she bit him in her enthusiasm.

Sam kept his eyes closed trying to show no emotion until he felt he had control again. An inner battle raged between his hormones and conscience. It was a close call, and next time his hormones might not give up so easily. Using the back of his hand, he wiped the trace of blood from his lip as he turned away, opening his eyes.

Callie briefly saw them swirl from their normal deep-blue to black and back again.

"We have too much to do before the sun sets for a roll in the sack," he said, feigning nonchalance, hoping that a disparaging attitude would dampen their ardour. He poked about the box for a moment, then, handing her the printout Stephan had given him, asked, “That contains the witch’s details. Would you give her a ring and ask what, if anything, we need to bring with us for her to make the amulet? Also the cost? You can be guaranteed it won’t be money. It never is."

Callie grabbed a bag from the box, pouring the contents into a fresh glass she got from the cupboard, and retired to the sitting room. With her phone in one hand, a notebook in her other, she made herself comfortable on the sofa, popping her feet onto the coffee table. The sheet of paper Sam had given her stuck to her lips, tugging against their passion swollen tenderness when she pulled it from the temporary clamp between them. Her tongue darted out to moisten them again.

She looked up from typing the number onto the keypad, catching Sam staring at her. "Close your mouth you’re attracting flies," she snapped, frustration evident in her tone.

"You seem to have accepted this whole vampire thing very well," he observed, attempting to change the subject. "What gives? Less than two hours ago you find out you’ve become something you didn’t believe existed. Now you’re drinking blood from a glass like you’ve been doing it for centuries."

"You can thank Adie for that, she has this gift for making me calm down and see things from another perspective. The way we see it is, if you hadn’t changed me I’d be dead and Adie would be alone. Better to have me as a blood sucker than not have me at all." She shrugged. "No point in being hung up about a little blood bag right? It’s not like I actually have to hunt victims and suck on their necks. Kind of like eating a burger I guess, as long you don’t see the cow being killed, eating the meat is no big deal."

"Commendable attitude." He nodded at the phone in her hand indicating she should continue.

"Good morning, Mystic Potions and Lotions. How may I help you?" a young female voice answered after three rings.

"Hi, I’m looking for Irene McIlroy, would she be available please?"

"Speaking." The voice sounded suspicious at being asked for by name.

Callie continued. "My name is Callie Williams. I’ve been told you’re the witch to see about an amulet."

"That would depend on the type you’re looking for?" Irene replied, again with suspicion.

"Preferably something that will let me walk around in daylight without burning to a crisp?" Callie laughed nervously. "I’ll be honest with you, I’m new at this whole supernatural stuff." She started rambling. "I’m almost 21 years old, or was, my twin and I were orphaned at twelve and it was either suffer abuse from a paedophile uncle for five years or be split from my sister and put in foster care. Sometimes I think the fostering might have been… Anyway, I was stabbed on the first day of my new job and turned into a vampire without prior knowledge they even existed. In the past couple of hours, I’ve discovered that everything I believed about the world has been a lie. Not a great life so far and I know I’m going to forget about the burning thing." She paused to take a breath. "Sorry, don’t know why I just spilled my guts." She finally finished.

Irene laughed quietly. "It’s a normal thing for me. Most people just want to tell me stuff. It’s both a blessing and a curse. Yes, I can do an amulet for you. You’ll need to bring the following things with you." She listed a few things, which Callie wrote into the notebook. "Lastly my payment will be a dragon’s tooth, if you can find me one of those the amulet will be no bother at all."

"Are you telling me dragons exist now too?"

"Not anymore I’m afraid. The last one in Europe died around 300 years ago. The teeth are extremely hard to come by," Irene stated factually.

"Oh. I don’t suppose there’s anything else I can pay you with instead then?"

"Don’t give up so easily, Callie Williams. I’ve been told by a very reliable source, that you have access to a dragon’s tooth but you must search your memories to find its whereabouts. You’ll arrive in my home by first light tomorrow. I’ll make arrangements for your stay during daylight hours."

Irene hung up without as much as a goodbye, leaving Callie listening to the dial tone. She ambled over to where Sam was setting up his laptop at the breakfast bar and pushed the list under his nose.

After a brief scan, Sam nodded. "Our combined blood will be no problem; we can do that bit when we get there. Stephan can provide the silver jewellery for enchanting. I’d suggest a ring – chains are too easily broken. But what is with the dragon’s tooth?"

"That’s the payment she wants. Apparently I know where to get it but it’s locked up somewhere in my memory and we need to find it tonight because we’ll be arriving at Irene’s by first light tomorrow. I don’t even know where to start looking!"

"Here," he said, handing her his laptop. "Take your mind off it for the moment. You can have a look over some stories for me. They’re supposed to go to print in a couple of hours."

She spent the next hour or so torn between watching Sam make calls and potter about the room, and speed reading the screen in front of her, hiding her scrutiny behind her hair.

"Why don’t you go have a lie down for a bit, get some rest for an hour?" he suggested, looking directly into her eyes. "Maybe things will be clearer about the dragon tooth when you wake." He motioned to the adjoining bedroom. She felt compelled to do as he said. Even in a trance, her hips swung seductively.

After about fifteen minutes he could hear soft snores coming from the room and went to do what he had to in order to help her find the memory. He placed his hands on either side of her temples and closed his eyes in concentration. He could feel the pull from her sister’s mind – the bond there was stronger than he anticipated. He swept it aside and moved deeper into her subconscious.

Coming across a vision of a handsome young man, he paused, curious about this person Callie had felt strongly for. He watched a broken replay of her life involving him and jealousy spiked within him as he saw the brief flickers of his seduction of her. He was just about to pull from that memory when he caught the next image; it was the same young man with a pretty blonde girl in his arms. He felt Callie’s heartbreak, then witnessed her pouring beer in the man’s hair and felt her resolve to not let another ‘player’ win her heart.

He skipped back several more years to the time she spent with her uncle – he was a slime ball if ever there was one. Callie had cried herself to sleep the night following her parents’ funeral. She had woken to find the creep touching her in places no man should ever touch a child, telling her that it was what happened to little girls who didn’t have parents. That if she told anyone she would be taken to foster homes where she would be beaten and raped over, and over, and over again. Sam heard the repulsive reptile describe in detail what rape was then proceeded to show her. Witnessing the evidence of the torture he inflicted on both these young girls for years, Sam vowed to find and persecute him… violently.

It was as he was retreating from that segment of her mind that he caught a glimpse of the dragon’s tooth. It was on a leather cord tied around the paedophile’s neck. He tagged just that flash of her memory so she would remember when she woke. He left her with a pleasant dream of a holiday she had recently taken with her sister.

Not a bit of wonder he’s gotten away with such atrocities, that dragon tooth had the power to make any lie that came from his disgusting mouth believed by all. Even seeing what I have I would have had to believe him, Sam thought, creeping from the room.

Twenty minutes later Callie sprang from the bed and rushed into the sitting room. She collided with Gill, who had just set the duffel bag with her clothes by the bedroom door.

"Um hi," Callie stammered, taking in the sprawled form of the middle-aged redhead on the floor by her feet. "Sorry, I didn’t see you there."

Gill scrambled to her feet and cowered behind Sam.

Sam regarded Callie with distrust. "Just stay calm Gill, and walk behind me towards the door."

Callie knelt down to her bag and started rummaging through it. She leant sideways so she could see around Sam to address Gill. "Thanks for getting my stuff. Did you happen to notice if my hairdryer was in there?"

Gill stepped out from behind Sam, looking dumbfounded. "I think I felt the plug poking at the side. D…don’t you feel the urge to attack me? Rip my throat open and drink my blood?"

"How about no, ewh! I am getting kind of hungry again though. Sam? Can I have some more juice?" she asked, her eyes flicking between the two in front of the door and the box on the counter.

"Sure, the rest of your bag from earlier is in the fridge."

Callie walked past both of them, giving no regard whatsoever to either, and poured herself another juice. "I think I know where the tooth is and I’ll admit that recent developments mean I can’t wait to go get it. Someone is going to be surprised by my visit, seeing as I swore the next time I laid eyes on him I’d rip his head off." She rubbed her hands together, almost jumping up and down on the spot with eagerness. "Oh can Adie come too? I think she’d love to see Uncle George pee his pants when he gets a load of these babies." She pointed at her teeth, making them extend to an inch in length so she could run her tongue from root to tip.


Chapter 8

Callie’s mind spun as she tried to come up with a way to get the most hated man in her life to invite her in. She eventually conceded after an hour of pulling her hair out. I need to call Adie, maybe she can help.

"What has got you all excited, but anxious at the same time?" Adie asked as she answered the phone practically before it even rang.

"Uncle George has something I need and we’re going to pay him a visit," she replied.

"And you’re excited about that?"

"No, I’m excited because I’m a vampire and I’m going to show him what that means."

Adie caught on quickly to Callie’s way of thinking. "Now that I’ve got to see," she exclaimed eagerly.

"Our problem is we can’t enter his house until we’re invited – any ideas?"

"Hmm…" Adie considered her options, throwing out several scenarios before she decided on one that might work. "How about you get your boss to ring him and ask for a response to a paedophile ring story? If he doesn’t agree to an interview, tell him it will be published as no comment from the alleged organizer. That way he’ll look guilty. It might be enough to sway him."

"Adie, you are a genius. Sam did you hear that?" Callie’s anticipation and eagerness was obvious by the way she bounced around the small sitting room.

"That just might work, you know." Sam waited while Callie looked up George’s number then dialled. He schooled his voice to try to sound impartial like it was just another story to him.

After barely five minutes, the call ended and Callie was impressed with Sam’s smooth persuasion skills. George had denied all knowledge, feigning outrage at such an outlandish accusation, but agreed to a proper interview that evening.

"It’s all set. If you insist on your sister being there, we’ll pick her up on the way."

"Oh that’s okay. She’ll be coming here when her shift ends this afternoon, which is in about an hour by the time she walks the couple of streets from the hospital. I’m just going to change before she gets here," Callie said, moving in the direction of the bathroom. She stopped at the door to pick up her bag. "Thank you for doing this."

Sam smiled.

When the doorbell rang, Callie leapt over the sofa and raced to the door just as Sam opened it to reveal an almost exact replica of Callie. The scar that ran from her left eye to the corner of her lips was the only difference he saw before he was shoved aside and the woman enveloped in a bear hug.

Callie flung her arms around her sister and placed her head against her neck, inhaling the scent of home. She felt grounded at last. Turmoil had been building inside her to the point that she thought she would burst.

"Cal, too tight – can’t breathe," Adie choked out, patting her sister’s back in surrender.

Sam reached out to pull Callie from her when she lifted her head and abruptly let go. "God, I’m sorry! Did I hurt you?"

Adie shook her head and chuckled softly. "No, you’re just stronger than you think. So you gonna fill me in on what’s happening?"

Sam motioned for her to enter with a sweep of his arm. "Please come in. Your sister is driving me mad with her pacing around the sitting room. A distraction will allow my head to stop spinning. Can I get you something to drink? Tea or coffee perhaps?" Sam asked, as he retreated to the kitchen.

"I would normally have said whatever you’re having, but I don’t think I could stomach it," Adie replied with a rueful smile as she pointed at the glass on the coffee table. "Just a glass of water would be great, thanks."

He fetched a glass and filled it from the bottle in the fridge – keeping watch for any signs of Callie’s hunger or imminent attack. There was nothing to indicate the girl was a newly turned vampire. With the exception of her increased strength and speed, she was behaving as if nothing was out of the ordinary. As for the sister, Adrianne, she had no fear of her or him, which was so unlike anything he had ever come across in humans. He was intrigued. He watched the pair in silence as they animatedly chatted, each mimicking the other’s movements and finishing off the others sentences.

"Might I ask how you came about the scar?" Sam enquired unexpectedly, demonstrating on his own face Adrianne’s scar.

She dropped her gaze to her lap, letting her hair fall forward to hide the offending mark. Her hand rose to feel the raised line.

Callie glanced at him. "Its okay Adie, we can tell him."

After a moment and a silent exchange between the two, Adie recounted the night George cut her. "It was the night of our seventeenth birthday. George had sent us to our rooms while he had some of his buddies over for a game of poker. They were all drunk by two and most of them left soon after. We heard him coming up the stairs, and knowing what he intended, we prepared to defend ourselves. We weren’t the helpless kids he had taken in and we weren’t letting him get away with it any longer." She paused, the pain of remembering still evident in the tone of her voice.

"I waited behind the bedroom door while Callie lay in bed, pretending to sleep. He staggered into the room and all but fell on the bed on top of her. I jumped on him before he could regain his balance and we struggled on the floor a bit. I’m guessing the noise woke his buddy, who was sleeping on the sofa, because he came charging into the room with a small pocket knife in his hand. Probably thought he was confronting an intruder or something. I managed to kick George off and Peter, that’s the guy’s name, grabbed hold of him. I don’t know how, but George ended up with the knife and Peter lay on the floor bleeding from a huge gash across his neck. He…he grabbed me by the hair and pushed me to the ground were Peter’s body lay, saying that it was my fault he had hurt his friend. In punishment, he cut my face. He left us then to drag Peter out of the house. We thought he’d taken him to hospital, but we’ve never seen him again.

"When George came back, I found strength in me I didn’t know I had. That was the night we kicked him out. I punched him in the face, breaking his nose, and swung the golf club I found in the cupboard for his head. He ducked just in time, so I kicked him in the balls and pushed him out the door. We told him it was over and never to come near us again. We’re guessing the fact that we stood up to him was what made him leave."

"Yeah, that and the fact that you kicked his ass big time!" Callie finished for her.

Sam slowly nodded. "You girls must decide what you want to do with him. Humiliation or death, it’s your choice. I would prefer long suffering resulting in slow and painful death for him, personally. But that’s me."

"I think we’ll play it by ear – see how we feel when we get there," both replied at the same time, amusing Sam with their synchronicity.

They pulled up outside a dilapidated cottage on the outskirts of town. The lights were on and they could see George moving around inside. He was making wild gestures with his hands and his lips were moving – as if he were talking to someone. On closer inspection through the main window, they didn’t see anyone. He was alone. They approached the front door, taking up the positions they had agreed on earlier – Sam in full view, Callie beyond sight at the side of the door, and Adie around the corner. She was to enter when the others had been invited in to witness proceedings.

Sam pressed the doorbell and a few moments later the door opened. He held out his hand with a smile on his face. "Good evening, Mr. Williams. Sam Morrow of the Daily Post."

George plastered a greasy smile to his face and ushered him in. "Come in, come in, come in. Let’s talk in the living room where it’s comfortable." He turned in the narrow hallway allowing Sam to close the door.

An open invitation had been issued and Callie easily followed them inside. She signalled Adie to keep up.

George strode toward the fireplace and turned to see two extra bodies enter his home. "What is this? I thought you said it was a private interview?"

Callie tilted her head to the side and looked him up and down with disdain. Her eyes took on a glow. "Hello George," she stated, then made a show of licking her lips. She smiled to show her elongated eyeteeth.

"Wha… what the hell?" George stammered.

"You have something I want and you’re going to give it to me, aren’t you George?" Callie’s sultry tones took on a commanding resonance.

"Y…yes," he stuttered, completely enthralled.

"Give me the necklace George."

His shaking hands untied the cord from his neck, which he flung it towards her while he inched backwards until he hit the mantle over the fireplace. Callie picked up the dragon tooth and passed it to Adie for safekeeping. She walked slowly toward him.

He fell to his knees with his arms over his head as if protecting himself. "I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Please don’t hurt me," he begged.

Callie leant down and easily lifted him up by his neck, holding him above her head. She let his feet dangle several inches off the ground and hissed in his face. Adie’s laughter made her look down George’s body to find that he had peed in his pants, a puddle forming beneath him.

A faint sound caught Callie’s attention. "Do either of you hear that? It sounds like sniffling." She let go of George, who dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes. "Don’t move," she commanded him, as she went to investigate. "It’s coming from the bedroom."

Callie knew in her heart what she would find in the room, but hoped, with every fibre of her being, that she was wrong. Huddled in the corner was a girl of around five years old. Her face and eyes were swollen in a rainbow of bruises. Clean tracks ran down her cheeks as her tears washed days of filth away. She hiccupped and shrank further into the corner.

Adie glanced toward the bed when she looked over Callie’s shoulder and spotted the blood that stained the sheets. She knew what the monster had subjected the innocent child to. Without a word, she stormed back to the living room and kicked George in the groin as hard as she could. "You monster!" she screamed at him. He fell backwards with his hands covering his groin. She pummelled him with her fists until he stopped moving. Blood streamed from his nose and mouth. She gave him one final kick and left to find a sink to wash his blood from her hands.

Sam placed his hands either side of George’s head. "We need to find out who she is and where she came from."

"She’s the kid who was abducted from her garden the day I came to work for you," Callie stated before Sam finished reading George’s mind.

"She is the latest in a long line," Sam confirmed as Adie took control of the whimpering child. "Take her to the car."

Adie crossed the room sparing a quick glance at Callie. She nodded in affirmation of the unasked question. The fiend would not be allowed to live.

Callie was on the other side of the room in a flash and slapped his face a bit to try and bring him round. He deserved to suffer for what he’d done, not just to them, but to all the children since. He just lay there limp as a rag. She growled in frustration, and then snapped his neck like a twig.

"We’ll have to burn the evidence," Sam calmly stated, while setting and lighting a fire in the hearth. He doused the body in brandy from the decanter on the sideboard and motioned for her move back. He used a couple of pokers to pull a large, glowing-red log from the fire that instantly ignited the alcohol-soaked corpse.

"Burn in hell," Callie whispered. She watched his clothes catch fire, then his hair shrivel and finally his skin blister and crisp. Despite the smell of his burning flesh making her gag, she continued to watch him burn until Sam pulled her from the building.

"We’re far enough from the town that no-one will see the flames until it’s too late," Sam explained once they got back into the car. "It will be assumed that he fell in a drunken stupor and knocked a log from the fire to burn both himself and the house."

"What about the girl?" Adie asked.

"He kidnapped her from her own backyard three days ago. I suggest Adie escorts her into the hospital stating that she found her outside in an alleyway near there. I can alter the child’s memory to suit and erase all memory of her ordeal in his hands. She will be re-united with her family and should recover quickly."

"Agreed," they both stated simultaneously.

Sam pulled his phone from his jacket pocket and dialled an all too familiar number. "Hello Sergeant Blaine? How are you? Okay, …Fine, I’ll make it quick. I’ve had a tip that there are several bodies buried in shallow graves in Delmont woods… No, they called from a phone box… No exact location but they mentioned marks gouged out of a fir tree trunk… You’ll keep me informed of the investigation? …Thanks, I appreciate the delicate nature of the case… I won’t release any details until you give the go ahead." He glanced at Callie as he hung up and smiled ruefully. "The poor girls deserve a proper burial and their families need closure."


Chapter 9

Callie absentmindedly spun the silver ring that now adorned her right index finger. The design she had chosen was a simple Celtic knot. It had caught her eye almost immediately and when she tried it on it fit perfectly, as if it was meant for her. Thankfully, Stephan had been more than willing to open up the store for them at such an ungodly hour of the morning, but probably most surprising was that Liz had insisted on joining them. They were the perfect couple and still very much in love after centuries of marriage. They had been holding hands when they arrived and more often than not, Stephan’s eyes had followed her around the room. If not for the fact that Callie and Sam had to travel a hundred miles before dawn broke, they would still have been chatting like old friends. Arrangements had been made for another visit on their return.

They had an hour to reach the witch before the sun rose and they were cutting it short. The GPS stated it would take an hour and twenty minutes to reach their destination. Sam gunned the engine and took off, taking each turn as the GPS voice instructed.

Callie’s silence made Sam uncomfortable. He could tell there was something bothering her. "As long as we don’t meet any traffic we can make up some time on the motorway. We’ll get there before sunrise."

Callie shrugged. "Irene said we would be there before first light, so I’m not worried about that."

"So you admit you are worried?"

"This is all quite overwhelming you know. I wake up to find that, not only am I dead, but I’m also quite capable of murder."

"By slaying him, you have saved the lives of countless children. He would undoubtedly have mutilated them in such horrific ways that it doesn’t bear thinking about. Consider it justifiable homicide," he interrupted her. "You are not dead, you’re a vampire."

"I know first hand what kind of monster he was and what he was capable of. I guess I’ll just have to get used to it. After all, it would seem I’m going to be around for a while."

They slipped into a more comfortable topic of conversation for the rest of the journey, chatting easily about Stephan and Liz, and made good time as Sam had predicted. The sky was just starting to lighten by the time the GPS stated that they had arrived. Callie ran from the car to the front door and raised her hand to knock just as it opened to reveal a girl in her mid teens. She was dressed much older than her years in a floral patterned blouse under a cream, cable knit cardigan and navy, creased trousers.

"Come in both of you. Welcome to my home. Please try to talk quietly as my grandmother is still sleeping upstairs." Irene closed the door after Sam and ushered them through to a north-facing room. "Through this door are stairs that lead to the basement. Callie, I suggest you go there now and I’ll help Sam with your things from the car."

Callie thanked her and walked down the darkened staircase using her heightened vision to allow her to see. On reaching the bottom, she came to another door that opened with a groan. The room beyond had an eerie glow that lit the room but there were no visible sources of light that she could find. There was a bed against the far right wall, a comfortable looking sofa against the left wall, a table in the middle of the room and a fridge in the corner.

She felt a presence lingering – a tingle that made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end – but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t see anyone. She stood next to the bed and closed her eyes. Concentrating on the feeling, she pushed all other thoughts from her mind and listened intently for some sound that would give the onlooker away.

An image began to form in her mind’s eye. It was faint and blurred, though she could make out two forms. They stood in a dark cavern with a fire lighting the immediate area. Then she heard the murmurs and knew that the two were talking. She concentrated harder.

"Mumble, mumble…Callie Williams, Sire." The first voice mentioned her name and suddenly the voices became clear.

"I don’t care what their names are! I just want them brought here unharmed. They will not come into their full power until the next full moon. Bring them to me before then. I want that power."

The voice called Sire rounded and stared right at her. All she could make out of his appearance were his deep-red glowing eyes. He growled and fear speared through her, making her lose her concentration. The image disintegrated with such force that it threw her backwards, crashing her body into the wall. Everything went completely black as she slid to the floor unconscious.

Both Irene and Sam charged into the room after they heard the crash. Irene flicked the switch behind the door for the overhead light to see Callie sprawled at an awkward angle off the end of the bed. Sam scanned the room for intruders and when he saw none, he gently lifted her and laid her properly on the bed.

Sam brought in the bags and unpacked the chiller of blood into the fridge while Irene began to set up the table for the sun charming. Small bottles and plastic boxes lined the table, a large Pyrex bowl taking up the centre. When everything was ready, Irene left to check on her grandmother.

"Call me if she wakes, I’ll get Grandma her breakfast and bring her back with me. We’ll need her help for this."

Almost an hour passed before Irene called him from the top of the stairs. "Sam would you mind carrying Grandma down? I don’t think she’ll be able to manage the stairs."

As Sam lifted the elderly woman, he noticed how frail she felt – virtually skin and bones. He also noticed the smell of decay on her breath. He knew the odour was caused by advanced cancer and that the woman didn’t have long left on this world.

"Set me down here son," the crone instructed.

Sam chuckled to himself. "Son indeed, I am ten times your age crone."

"Granted, but I am ten times more powerful. And my name is Rosemary, not crone." Sam nodded his head, accepting her superiority, and set her feet-first on the floor by the sofa. "She’s the picture of Noleen, her great-grandmother, aside from her hair colour. Noleen’s was a flame red."

"How do you know her great-grandmother?"

"We were in the same coven. She was my mother’s best friend, my teacher and extremely powerful foreseer and healer. Her husband was a powerful telekinetic. Together they kept us safe from demons and rogue vampires."

Callie sat bolt upright her eyes wide with fear. She scanned the room, her gaze settling on the three who were watching her.

"Tell me it was a dream!" she begged. "Please tell me he isn’t coming for me!"

"Who do you think is coming Callie?" Sam asked.

She told them of her dream vision and the red demonic eyes that had stared into hers as it ended.

"You have visions just like Noleen. He knows who you are, and he’ll send his minions for you," the crone informed her. "But don’t worry, he won’t find you. This place is protected. You’ll be safe here," she said with confidence.

Callie stared at the old woman with a mix of confusion and uncertainty. "What powers will I have that he wants them so badly and who is ‘he’ anyway?"

"I can’t say his name as he’ll hear it and any conversation we have after it. Names give power, don’t ever forget that. Suffice to say he is the demon that killed your great-grandparents for their power. I believe he may be responsible for your parents’ death too." The crone took a deep, wheezing breath. "He has been sending his minions to gather powerful witches, fairies – anything with enough power to help him escape the underworld. Noleen being a great foreseer knew that they were coming. She bound her and her husband’s powers in such a way that only twin girls of her bloodline could claim them. Now, first things first. Let’s get you out in daylight. You brought what we asked?"

Callie produced her hand with the ring and passed it to Irene, next her father’s silver hunting knife, which she passed hilt first, and finally the dragon’s tooth.

"Both of you join hands over the bowl and repeat after me. Per nostrum iunctus manuum, pectus pectoris, quod cruor, sino nos vestri vires ut ingredior in vestri lux lucis. (By our joined hands, hearts, and blood, allow us your strength to walk in your light)

Callie gritted her teeth in anticipation of the pain. Irene cut both their palms and let their blood pour into the bowl beneath. She added several other things from bottles, jars and tubs around the table, the final item being Callie’s ring. The power radiating from the two witches increased, becoming almost tangible as smoke rose from the bowl. A flash and a loud bang resonated through the room. The blood in the bowl slowly disappeared as the ring soaked it up like a sponge and the wounds on their palms healed almost instantly. Rosemary fell to one side from exhaustion as the spell drained the last of her energy.

"Grandmother will probably sleep for a while," Irene said with a sorrowful smile. "You’ll need to prepare for the claiming of your power tonight as tonight is the new moon. We’ll need to start the chanting when the six other witches from my coven come over later to form the circle. Sam would you mind helping get Grandma back to her room? Then you should rest, you too will need your strength later."


Chapter 10

Adie had only been in bed ten minutes when she heard the first thump from the living room. She tiptoed to the window and looked out to see a dark-coloured van parked at the edge of the driveway. She backed away letting the curtain fall again and searched the nightstand for her phone. Her hands were shaking so much she almost dropped it twice before she managed to press the speed dial.

“There’s someone in the house. They’re pulling the place apart,” Adie whispered. Adrenalin made her heart race wildly. She shivered – the need to leave was overwhelming.

“Get out of the there now," Callie whispered in reply. "Go out the bedroom window and use the oak tree to get down. Trust me, it will hold your weight.”

Grating and rubbing sounded, then a muffled oomph as Adie dropped the last few feet to the ground. More scratching and crackling noises as she removed the phone from her pyjama pocket. "Shit, my car keys are on the hall table. I’m going to have to creep around and see if I can get them.”

A few seconds later, Callie heard footsteps on the gravel of the driveway. A door creaked, followed by the faint jingle of keys on wood. A second more passed before she heard hurried footsteps on the gravel again and finally the engine started. Tyres squealed as Adie peeled rubber, racing from the house.

“You need to come here. They’re after you too by the looks of it,” Callie insisted.

“Who are they? From the glimpse I caught, they looked like us but they felt wrong, they felt…” she gulped at the only word she could think of to describe them. “They felt evil, Cal.”

Callie too shivered, feeling her sister’s unease through the bond. She gave her the address. “Get here as quick as you can. Make sure no-one follows you.”

Callie paced the small room. To human eyes, it would have looked like she was flashing from one side to the other in the blink of an eye. Sam grabbed her by the shoulders, halting her in mid-stride. He looked at her face before crushing her body to his in a tight embrace.

“She’ll be fine, you’ll see. It’s okay,” he said soothingly as he rubbed her back in a comforting gesture. Callie clung to him and let her tears roll unbidden from her eyes.

Sam pulled back hesitantly and took her face in both his hands. He kissed her, first on her forehead, then her nose. They stared into each other’s eyes as their heads moved together as if drawn by some invisible force. Their eyes closed when their lips met and a surge of passion overtook them as the kiss deepened. She opened for him – tasting him. As their tongues danced, he carried her to the bed where they lay together with their limbs entangled.

Sam kept his weight on his elbows as he gazed at her. Her beauty astounded him. From her silky, ebony hair that haloed her pale face, to her thick lashes that created the perfect frame for chocolate eyes, finally coming to rest on her passion swollen lips.

“You really are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.”

She blushed and smiled in return. “You’re pretty damn hot yourself.”

He chuckled and lay down beside her to bask in the knowledge that she was his. Mine, he thought possessively.

Some time later, the trill of Sam’s phone ringing woke them from their passion-fuelled slumber. He frowned as he checked the caller ID and answered. He got up and paced the room.

“Hello Gill, what is it? …What? …Damn it. When was this? …Did they say when the ship is due to sail? …If I leave now I may be able to catch him before he boards. Book a ticket anyway just in case… Thanks Gill.” He ran his fingers through his hair in frustration as he turned to Callie. “I have to leave. John, the guy who stabbed you, has decided to skip the country. If I don’t get him before he reaches the mainland, he’ll disappear or possibly sell the video to the highest-bidding tabloids. Things could get messy for the Centre. I’m sorry to have to leave you. Just stay here with the witches; they’ll keep you hidden until I get back.” He kissed her briefly and fled the room before Callie could protest.

“Call or text me,” she yelled at his back. “Because I don’t have your number,” she said to the empty room, as he was gone before she finished her sentence.

“Hello and goodbye,” he called to Adie as he passed her at the top of the stairs.

Adie limply raised her hand in farewell as she made her way down the dim stairway. The two girls embraced one another in a tight hug, talking at the same time. Each filled the other in on the events that led to this point.

Irene interrupted their reunion to ask them to join her in the sitting room. She wanted them to meet the coven witches who were going to help them claim their power. Callie emerged from the basement stairwell with dread. The time had come to test the effect sunlight would have on her skin. She reached out with her hand to tentatively touch a beam that shone through a small gap in the curtain. When she felt no pain, she reached further, letting an arm slice through it. Next, she kicked her leg out, as if she were a martial arts fighter, waving it back and forth through the narrow beam. Finally satisfied that she wouldn’t burn, she flung open the curtain and did a silly happy dance that involved waving her hands over her head while singing.

“Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah!”

The first of the witches to arrive was Sarah – a forty-ish, portly woman with mousy brown hair and a huge smile on her pretty face. Next came Rose and her teenage daughter, Jennifer – both were blonde and gorgeous. Their pouted pink lips pulled up in smiles of greeting. Fourth was the elderly Elizabeth – a stereotypical witch with a black cloak and warts. The last two, Laura and Louise arrived together. They were like chalk and cheese – Laura was tall and slender with dark, poker straight hair, glasses and a sharp nose. While Louise was, at most, five foot. She had unruly, curly red hair and a dainty button nose.

They all helped to clear out the dining room of furniture in preparation for cleansing. Callie, being the strongest, took the heavy stuff with ease and piled it all between the sitting room and large kitchen. Irene handed Callie and Adie a broom each and instructed them to brush from west to east as the rest of the women were doing. When this was done, she lifted the dirt in a small cyclone of air and held it above a small dustpan so Jennifer could set fire to it. The dust burned with a flash and the ashes fell into the pan. Irene took the pan outside and tossed the contents to the wind.

Louise used a large set of tongs to lift hot coals from the sitting room fire, dropping them into a bowl of water that Laura was holding with oven gloves. Sparks and steam hissed from the bowl. This water was then used to mop the floor.

As the floor dried naturally, the women withdrew to the kitchen and began to prepare the meal they would share with The Divine Witch Hecate – Queen of the night and ruler of wisdom, choice, victory, vengeance, and travel – in askance that she assist them. The meal consisted primarily of steamed fish with potato wedges in garlic butter and honey-glazed carrots. After dark, all ten women walked the half mile to the nearest three-way crossroads and ate their feast. Hecate’s full plate was left at the crossroads – not one of the women looked back. On their return, Callie retired to her basement bedroom where she drank her supper in private and toasted the women who were helping her.

After everything had been cleared away, candles were lit in a circle around a five-pointed star or pentagram – for protection from evil spirits while the chanting was in progress. Five of the witches sat around the outer circle, incomprehensively chanting, while the others tended their needs. This continued every night for almost two weeks.

It was during these two weeks that both Callie and Adie were taught the basics of their heritage using the five elements; air, water, fire, earth and metal.

“A magic spell is a conscious attempt to manipulate power and energy to achieve your goal,” Rosemary re-iterated. “Words of power may come to you as you learn the craft, but these must never be said aloud as it gives others the opportunity to steal them from you.”

“What about names? You said they had power,” Adie asked.

“Knowing someone’s true name renders them vulnerable to your power. The names we use everyday are not our true names; those names only our mothers know.”

On the day of the full moon, Irene and Elizabeth, a water elemental, prepared a sea salt bath for the Williams girls. They added an assortment of oils to the water, including lavender, rose, sandalwood, frankincense, myrrh and rosemary. They then sprinkled rose and calendula blossoms in the water as they left the girls to undress and spiritually cleanse for the ritual that would begin at full dark.

A summoning spell was cast to call the spirit of Noleen to attend and direct her power to her chosen daughters. Both girls stood in the middle of another circle, facing each other with their hands clasped together and their heads bowed. Irene, her grandmother and the other six witches joined hands around the outer circle and began to chant the spell.

Moments later, a vortex of air swirled around Callie and Adie, lifting their hair above their heads. Their white gowns billowed around their knees. A wall of blue flame surrounded them. They were lifted several feet into the air where flame engulfed them and power filled their bodies.

Every one in the room collapsed to the ground unconscious, their hands still clasped to keep the circle intact.


Chapter 11

Sam sped toward the office, his mind on reaching John before he boarded the ferry, not the speeding tickets that would arrive in the post later in the month. He screeched to a halt and sprinted inside, his movements so fast that no one would see him as anything more than a fleeting shadow. He stopped in front of Gill’s desk after briefly checking she was alone.

"I took the liberty of packing an overnight bag for you just in case. It’s in the flat." She handed him his ticket and the itinerary for the ferry crossing. "The ship sails in forty-five minutes; they’re expecting you as a foot passenger. My source said John has already boarded."

"Gill, you are fantastic," he praised.

"Fantastic enough for that pay rise?"

"I think about it." He laughed, and made his way up to the flat to collect the overnight bag.

The door of the flat stood open a few inches. Sam crept inside expecting an intruder, however, he found nothing amiss and assumed Gill had forgotten to close it behind her. He was in such a hurry, he didn’t notice the black van pulling into traffic just behind him. It followed him all the way to the ferry port.

With barely ten minutes to spare, he parked up in the long stay car park and jogged at human speed toward the terminal. When he rounded a corner, he walked straight into the prongs of a tazer. The current made his entire body spasm and jerk as every muscle contracted in total agony. Then everything went blessedly black.

He woke with a start; the sudden movement caused pain to radiate from his shoulder. He screamed involuntarily from the agony of having his hands bound and chained to a wall above his head, his feet barely touching the ground. The room was pitch black.

"Finally, it’s about time you came round," said an eager voice to his left.

He swung his head in that direction, feeling the friction of the fabric covering his eyes. They had blindfolded him.

"Glad I could oblige," he croaked out through dry lips. His throat burned.

"My master wishes to know the whereabouts of the human you employ."

"There are twenty," he replied evasively.

"You know which one. Do not make this hard on yourself. You will talk in the end; they all do," said a new voice to his right this time.

"Nope."

Pain erupted in his arm – pain so intense, he lost consciousness again. A splash of icy-cold water brought him round quickly. His captors removed his blindfold and he blinked water from his eyes to look at the one on the left.

"Kill him," he commanded.

Both of them burst out laughing. The one on the left brought a wooden stake into view. He twirled it around his hand with the skill and dexterity of a majorette. After tossing it lightly in the air, he smirked, then caught it and thrust it into Sam’s other arm. Sam didn’t get the luxury of blacking out this time. He remained mute, however, when the stake was thrust into his stomach. They proceeded with his torture, asking the same question repeatedly. He continued to defy them.

It was always be the same two who tortured him for hours on end. They left when he passed out to allow his wounds heal overnight, returning in the morning to resume his torment. On the thirteenth day, by Sam’s estimation, they left seven stakes in his body and let the wounds heal around them. They slowly pulled the stakes out so he would feel every grain and knot in the wood. He refused to speak.

When their Master heard of their failure to find even a trace of the Williams girls, they hesitantly entered his chamber, resigned to their fate at their master’s ire. "We’re sorry Sire, we couldn’t find them. We captured someone who knows where they are. He won’t talk, no matter how persuasive we are." Both bowed their heads refusing to meet his eye.

"Argh! Useless, the lot of you. Bring him through the portal to me immediately. Perhaps he wishes to bargain for his soul." He dismissed them with a flick of his hand.

Sam’s guards reappeared through the door they had left through only a moment before. He steeled the last of his strength and stood tall. Callie’s life depended on his silence. He had survived them staking him everywhere, their denying him blood had weakened him enough that his wounds took twice as long as normal to even partially heal over. He figured the only reason they hadn’t poured holy water into his wounds was because they couldn’t touch it either.

The first guard unlocked the cell door whilst the second grabbed him by his hair to trail him through. "You’ll be sorry you refused to talk to us, the Master wishes to speak with you now." He laughed, a truly evil laugh that chilled Sam to the bone.

They dragged Sam through the main door and threw him to the ground at the feet of a monster. Slipper shod feet came into Sam’s view. As he slowly raised his head, he saw a snake-headed man with a scaly face. The snake-man’s eyes glowed with an unearthly vibrant-red hue. Sam could feel something prodding against his thought shield. The snake-man pushed harder, searching Sam’s mind, the pain of the intrusion forcing agonized screams from Sam’s throat. His shields crumbled and cracked allowing the demon to rip his memories apart one by one. Darkness crept in. He was too weak to fight it.

Demon laughter: the last thing Sam heard.


Chapter 12

Several hours later, the first of the circled witches began to stir. Laura jerked her hands, attempting to rouse her best friend and when she woke, they roused the others. The exception was Irene’s grandmother, who appeared to be unconscious rather than sleeping. They carried her prone figure to her bedroom and laid her on the bed. Returning to the dining room, they found both Williams girls awake but disorientated and helped them to sit on nearby chairs. Irene fetched them a glass of water each.

"How do you feel?" she asked, handing the glasses over.

"Tired, but strangely full of energy at the same time," Callie answered first. "Does that even make sense?"

"I ache all over. Even my hair hurts," Adie groaned.

"Callie, why don’t you bring your breakfast up here and eat with us?" Irene suggested. It came across as more of an order. "We can discuss what we’re going to do while we get something to eat."

Two of the witches set about fixing breakfast, while the others cleared the mess in the dining room by returning the furniture to its original place. Just as the last chair was positioned under the table, Elizabeth and Jennifer began bringing the food in. Callie gratefully found a large pint glass by her spot at the table in place of a plate. She sipped her juice while she watched the witches eat the traditional Irish breakfast consisting of bacon, sausage, egg, potato bread, soda bread, wheaten bread and pancakes.

"I miss actually eating." Callie sighed. "It smells wonderful."

Chuckles and giggles erupted around the table, breaking the slight tension Callie had subconsciously felt. She relaxed with a deep calming breath and joined in the chat.

The dishes were washed and left to drain before the six coven witches left, returning to their homes and families. Adrianne, Callie and Irene stood at the door waving them off.

"I think we should test what elements your powers have taken while we wait for Grandma to wake up."

Irene led the way to the garden and took up the central seat under the shade. She asked both of them to perform various tasks incorporating the five elements. While Callie had trouble with only one, she excelled at the four others. Adie excelled at two, but had yet to gain control of the other three.

"Adie you seem to be extremely strong earth and your control of metal is outstanding. Callie, four! Earth is not your strongest but even that is better than most witches I’ve met."

Just then, a loud crash came from upstairs. Callie was there almost instantly and found Rosemary on the floor of the bedroom. She picked her up and gently laid her on the bed as the others entered the room.

"Grandma!" Irene cried, flinging herself on the bed to hold her.

Callie whispered for Adie’s ears only, "Her heartbeat is weak."

Adie stepped forward to place her hands on the crone’s forehead and closed her eyes in concentration. She moved her hands over Rosemary’s chest and lungs – a faint white light developed beneath her hands.

"I can’t cure the cancer that eats her flesh but I can give her a little time," Adie said, not understanding how she knew, but accepting that she did. She continued to pour energy into healing until the old crone blinked open her eyes.

“It figures Adie would be a healer – she has always been a natural nurse,” Callie commented as the four sat at in the living room discussing the powers.

Callie opened her hand and called fire. As a small flame appeared in her palm, she directed it to the fireplace. The fire erupted with a whoosh. Flame licked the edge of the seat in front of it.

“You need to work on your control!” Rosemary screeched, moving her legs away from the flame. “That will come with practice of course, but can we keep the fire balls outside until you do?”

“I wonder what’s keeping Sam. He was supposed to be back by now," Callie mused aloud, changing the subject. "According to Gill he’s not answering calls. Do you think he’s abandoned me here?”

“Have you tried looking for him?” Irene asked. "You should be able to see him like you did the demon."

Callie shook her head. “I don’t know how I did it the last time. It just happened.”

The crone sighed. “We have a lot to do, but I can see your thoughts are elsewhere. Lie down on the sofa and relax. Close your eyes and see his face. Concentrate on his face. Let everything else go and think only of …”

Rosemary’s voice faded into the background of her mind as Sam’s face came into focus. The rest of him soon followed and she was horror-struck by what she saw. His wrists were bound by chains and attached by a hook to the wall above his head, which rested awkwardly against his chest. Purpling bruises on his face stood in stark contrast against his pale skin and the blood coating his naked chest. On closer inspection, she saw a wooden stake lodged deep, narrowly missing his heart. She looked around and when she saw no one guarding his cell, she strode out from the shadows. Somehow in the dream vision, she was able to lift him from the hook and lay him on the dusty floor, where she released his wrists from the chained cuffs. She gently touched his face and traced the contour of his lips before pressing hers to them.

“I’ll find you. Hold on a bit longer," she whispered. "I’m coming.”

She scanned the room again and crossed through the bars of his cell to the first door she spotted. On the next level, she found another door that led to a large parking area. She kept to the shadows of the building as she made her way to the end where she could see illuminated signs.

Something shook her and the vision disappeared. She woke to find three sets of worried eyes staring at her from above.

“I have to find him,” Callie cried, leaping from the sofa. “Someone has him bound, chained and staked. He’s dying!”

“Think dear, what else did you see? Some clue to where he’s being held,” coaxed the crone.

“Above the cell was a car park. The building was maybe two storey, grey brick with tin sheeting on the upper half, I think. It looked a bit like a warehouse.”

“Doesn’t ring any bells with me.”

“Nor me," agreed Irene.

“Sam was headed for a boat, so maybe it’s a warehouse near the port?” Adie suggested.

“I guess it’s a place to start. Irene do you mind if Adie stays with you?" She turned to Adie, "It’s too dangerous for you.”

“What? And it’s not dangerous for you?" Adie countered.

“I’m already dead.”

“Un-dead actually, they can still kill you. Besides, I can heal Sam.” Adie attempted to persuade her.

“I’ll be able to get in and out without them seeing me. Quicker too. I’m sorry, Adie, I won’t be gone long. It’s only a forty minute drive from here. Anyway, I need to feed. The supplies Irene got for me are gone.” She hugged the three remaining behind and left, ignoring any further arguments.

In his basement cell, Sam heard a whisper. “I’m coming. Hold on a little longer.” He could faintly smell Callie, as if she’d been there.

“No,” he whimpered. “Don’t come.”


Chapter 13

Gill answered Callie’s call on the third ring, though didn’t manage to get a word out before Callie quizzed her. “Has there been any word yet, Gill?”

“Oh hi, Callie, I’m afraid there’s been nothing from anybody. None of his contacts have seen or heard from him since he left with you. None of the registered donors either.”

“That sucks. Listen, I might have a lead. I’m on my way to check it out. Speaking of donors I really, really need to eat and soon, my throat is starting to burn. Would you point me in the direction of the nearest bank please?”

“Of course, where are you at the moment?”

“Just coming into Seven Tower City.”

“There’s a big building right next to the hospital. Go round the back to the red door. Ask for Sidney, she’ll sort you out. Just tell her it’s for Sam and I’ll ring ahead to clear it to be put on account.”

“Thanks, Gill, I owe you one.”

“Call if you hear anything?”

“Yeah, you too?”

Callie hung up and concentrated on finding the hospital. The signposts were fairly decent, but it was a big city and it took a while to find the red door once she was in the area. It was as she was nearing the point of grabbing some poor passing human that she finally spotted it.

“Come on, come on.” She willed the door to open with gritted teeth.

“Callie?”

“I need Sidney,” Callie hissed through tight lips.

Someone shoved a bag of blood into her hand, which she ripped open with her teeth. She gulped the thick liquid down, barely tasting it.

“Now you can come in,” the voice said. “Gill told us to expect you, so how much do you need?”

She considered her predicament. “Maybe another two for me and I think a couple for Sam, if you can manage that much?”

“You know where he is?” A female voice asked as she came into the hall.

“I don’t know for sure, I think he’s trapped in a warehouse near the ferry port. I’m heading there now to try and find it.”

“I’m coming too.” The woman stuck out her hand. “Sorry, the name’s Sidney, Sam is my sire too. I guess that means were blood sisters.”

“How did you know Sam’s my sire?”

“Gill told us. With both of us looking we have a better chance of finding him.”

“But you don’t know what you’re looking for,” Callie said with reservation.

“I’m a telepath. I can see the building in your mind. I’ll also show you how to shield your thoughts on the way. You really don’t want certain beings knowing what you are – witch.”

The latter was said without malice and the former made Callie wonder who or what she could be talking about.

“The red-eyed demon, dear,” Sidney answered her unasked question. “I’m driving. I know these roads better than you do – I’ve been driving them since cars were invented.”

Callie couldn’t argue with her logic and once they were on the road again, Sidney kept to her word.

“Imagine your mind is a series of filing cabinets. Now imagine a wall around them – all the way round. The stronger the better,” she started.

“Okay, I think I’ve got that.”

“Try something a bit stronger that bricks,” she suggested.

“How’s that?”

“Hmm. Metal is good and iron is for protection. It’s thick too.” She sent a stronger probe to Callie’s mind but saw nothing. “Excellent shield! Now if you want to let anyone in, all you have to do is imagine an open door.”

“Can Sam read minds too then?” Callie asked after a few miles.

“Not unless he touches your temples. He is very good with mass compulsion though, the strongest I’ve met actually. We should be able to talk telepathically, come to think of it. The blood sister bond thing has its advantages.”

Do you hear me? she broadcast into Callie’s mind.

“It’s a little faint but I can make it out,” Callie replied aloud.

Try speaking to my mind, Sidney tried a little louder.

Okay, can you hear me? You were spot on that time, Callie tried.

Sidney cringed and put her hands to her ears. Too loud!

“Both hands on the wheel!” Callie exclaimed as Sidney let go of the steering wheel to cover her ears. They both laughed and practiced talking to each other in their minds for the remaining journey.

I think we should start at the actual dock and work our way around the buildings. You go left and I’ll go right. Call if you see it, Sidney suggested, tapping the side of her head to indicate the call was to be silent.

Agreed. We should hide the keys here though, and then the other can bring the car round near the warehouse.

Good idea. Sidney pulled a small stone from a nearby wall and set the key in. She replaced the stone and pulled her lipstick from her pocket to make a mark on it. See you soon, good luck.

Good luck, Callie thought as she disappeared in the shadows.

After Callie’s initial sweep of her side of the docks proved fruitless, she looked a second time, in case she overlooked it in her haste the first go round.

Anything? she broadcast to Sidney.

Nothing. Plenty of grey brick but no tin top, tin but no brick, red brick with tin top, and I’ve been round three times already. Sidney replied dejectedly.

Meet you back at the car. The warehouse isn’t here.

Callie slumped into the passenger seat. "What now? I don’t know where else to look.”

“We could ask about other industrial complexes near by. It’s a big port so there must be more stores. I saw a sign for a filling station on the way in, we’ll head that way and ask.”

A bored-looking man behind the counter of the filling station gave them directions to three other areas. They were unsuccessful with the first and second areas so they drove on to the third.

“Stop the car!” Callie yelled, startling Sidney. “That’s the place.”

Sidney hit the brakes so hard Callie was thrown into the windscreen. Sidney sniggered and drove on down the road little to park outside a used car showroom.

“Are you sure that’s the one?”

“Positive.” She opened the door in her shields to show her the pattern of shadows cast by the streetlights around the car park.

They crept toward the gate. The door I remember was on the far side, away from the road, Callie projected.

I’ll go in first and distract anyone that may be guarding him. You grab Sam and make a run for it. Tell me as soon as you’re clear of the building.

Sidney willed the door not to squeak as she opened it. She pointed to the stairs, indicating left, and then pointed at herself and right. You go left, I go right.

Creeping through the door that led to Sam’s cell, Callie prayed that the shadows would conceal her. The sound of flesh hitting flesh came from behind her. Things were being broken and men shouted an intruder alert. She ignored it and concentrated on her task.

Sam lay on the floor of the cell, unconscious. His hands were unbound and the chain lying beside him where she had left it in her dream vision. After failing to find a key to the cell in the immediate area, she smacked herself upside the head. Damn it! she thought in realisation that she didn’t need one. Duh! You can control metal!

She held her palm against the lock of the cell door and concentrated on the cylinder sliding back. The door clicked and swung inwards.

“Nice of you to join us, Ms. Williams,” a voice said from beyond the only other door in the basement.


Chapter 14

A black van pulled into Rosemary’s driveway , spewing gravel as it slid to a stop.

Rosemary moved the curtain aside to look out the window. "What the… Damn,” she swore. “They’ve found us! Quickly girls, get to the car. The protection spell won’t hold up for long once they start forcing it."

Irene and Adie raced to help her.

Rosemary refused. "No, I’ll be staying here to hold them off."

"Grandma they’ll kill you. You have to come with us," Irene pleaded, tugging on her grandmother’s arm.

"Irene, you know I love you, but we really don’t have time for this. We will all die if you waste it. I’m dying anyway, Dear, let me go out with a bang and maybe I can take some of them with me. Now go!"

Irene hugged her and fled the room, fighting the tears threatening to blind her. "I love you Grandma," she called as she reached the garage door.

Adie followed closely behind and grabbed the keys from the hook just as the demon’s minions broke through the front of the house.

Rosemary cracked her knuckles and laughed hysterically as several minions attempted to enter the house. Every time they tried to cross the threshold, they were flung back out, landing on their backs several feet down the path. As she predicted, the protection spell weakened with each one that touched the door.

She chanted her spells while forming fireballs to throw at the fiends who dared to threaten her family and friends. On hearing the car engine start and a crash of the garage doors as her granddaughter fled for her life, she turned attention to the intruders. With a plan firmly decided, she lowered what remained of the protection shield to allow the minions to enter. Once they crossed the threshold, she resurrected the protection spell to trap them all inside with her. In one final draw of her energy, she created as much fire as she could and sent the demon’s helpers back from whence they came.

Orange and yellow flames erupted through the living room window, catching Adie’s attention in the rear view mirror. She prayed the old woman’s sacrifice had not been in vain.


Chapter 15

"Where are my manners?" the snake-headed demon mocked. "We have not been formally introduced. Sam would you care to do the honours?" he asked with a snigger. "No? I think he’s rather indisposed at the moment so allow me. My name is Lucien, Master of the Seventh Underworld, Commander of Legions, Gatherer of Souls and…" He chuckled, "Slaughterer of Parents."

He bent at the waist while he rolled his hand and swept his arm across the front of his body in a formal bow. His eyes never left her. Callie stood frozen to the spot in fear of the fiend that stood just two metres from her.

“Kneel before me, child,” he instructed. Callie unwillingly fell to her knees. He rubbed his hands together with glee. “This is going to be so easy. When my band of not-so-merry followers arrive with your sister, we can get started on transferring your powers to me.”

Anger spiked within her and she growled, forcing her words past her unmoving lips. “Don’t touch my sister.” At the thought of another monster hurting Adie, she mentally called out to her, hoping to warn her to escape before they captured her. Adie? Adie please hear me! You’re in danger.

Irene and I are okay, a faint voice replied. Her grandmother held them off so we could escape…Cal? Cal?

Pain in Callie’s head cut the connection short, increasing in strength until it became unbearable. The demon tried to force his way past her shield. She could feel the iron wall in her mind begin to heat up, taking on a red-hot glow as he forced more of his own power against it. Drawing strength from the knowledge that Adie was safe, Callie visualized water pouring over the iron wall to cool it and harden it more.

“No,” she whispered. “No.” Louder. “No!” she screamed. “You will not win!” Pushing against the force that held her to the ground, Callie stood tall before the creature who had confessed to stealing her parents’ lives.

“Relinquish your powers to me or your soul mate will die,” he challenged her. A smile developed on his face as she slowly walked toward him – he thought he had found her weak spot.

She stopped a foot away from the door and swept both her arms up from her side, palms facing up, and thought the power word for protection. Cosain. A wall of white flame appeared between Lucien and the cell holding Sam.

“Mine,” she hissed through her teeth.

Rage enveloped the demon. Without thinking, he reached for her, but when his hand touched the portal boundary, represented by the door, he was flung backwards to land hard on the other side of the room.

Callie broke into hysterical laughter at the sight of the big, bad demon flying through the air with his arms and legs akimbo. The resounding crunch as he landed on his ass proved to be a very satisfying sound.

He scowled at her and shuffled backwards until his back hit the wall. “Stop laughing,” he ordered. She laughed harder. “Stop laughing!” he commanded.

She continued until tears were running down her cheeks. They ceased only when she could no longer draw a breath.

Realization dawned on her. “Your power comes from other’s fear?” His eyes snapped to meet hers. “Hear this, Lucien, Master of the Seventh Underworld, Commander of Legions, Gatherer of Souls, and Slaughterer of Parents. I know your name. And guess what?” she asked, but didn’t wait for his reply. “I’m not afraid of you. You have no power over me.”

Expecting something to hit her when he flicked his hand in her direction, she ducked. Nothing happened. When she looked up, the door between them vanished as if it had never been there. The smooth walls of the basement store were continuous and unblemished. Sidney chose that moment to enter the room looking a little worse for wear. She was battered and bruised from head to toe, with blood dripping from a split on her lip.

Sidney spat out blood. “What kept you?" she asked with an edge of anger in her tone. "I‘ve been getting my butt kicked out there.”

Callie smiled and picked Sam up, fireman style, and carried him out to the car.

The air seemed to thicken and vibrate. A voice, seeming to come from everywhere at once, said, You may have won the battle Callie Williams, but the war has only begun.

Sidney prodded her shields in an attempt to find out what the voice was referring to. Callie opened the door to allow her access. “Is that a demon?" she asked after a moment.

Callie nodded. "Let’s get Sam somewhere safe.”

How Sidney got Sam into the back seat of a mini, Callie had no idea. She swung around in her seat to grab her phone and another blood bag from the dashboard, and then turned back again to face Sam. She bit a small hole in the bag and squeezed it, a drop at a time, into Sam’s mouth.

Callie called her sister. “We got him out, but he’s really badly hurt. Do you think you could heal him?”

“Hi to you too. We’re fine, thanks for asking,” Adie said sarcastically. “I can try. Where are you and we‘ll head that way?”

Sidney answered, loud enough for Adie to hear, “Head to Seven Tower City Hospital. I’ll send Rick to meet you at the A&E entrance. He can bring you round to the bank, it’ll be quicker.”

“Will do, we should be there in about five minutes. What does Rick look like?”

“Don’t worry, he’s met Callie. He’ll find you.”

“I’m glad you’re both okay. See you soon.” Callie said and snapped the phone closed.

Sidney snatched it from her hand and called Rick to relay her instructions.

“Who’s Rick and is my sister safe with him?” Callie asked as soon as Sidney hung up.

“Relax. Do you remember the guy who opened the door to you earlier? Well that’s Rick and he’s half human.”

“Half human? I’m almost afraid to ask what the other half is.”

Sidney chuckled. “He’s a white tiger.”

“There are no wolves in Ireland, but there is a white tiger?” Callie scoffed. “Really?”

“He’s actually from the States – visiting with Felix for a couple of months.”

"Who’s Felix?"

"Our blood brother, he was the first person Sam turned."

“How many of these sisters and brothers do we have?"

“There are four of us now – Felix, Charles, you and me,” Sidney revealed.

“How old is he?”

“Felix is…"

“Sam,” Callie interrupted, correcting Sidney’s assumption of whom she meant.

“Oh, I think maybe you should ask him this stuff. Vamps can be a bit tetchy about age.”

“Fine… Tell me about you then.”

Sidney flicked a glance in her direction. Callie was studying the bruising that marked Sam’s face by gently tracing them with her fingertips. She decided that she quite liked this nosey, little witch.

“I’ve been a vampire for 597 years in March past. Sam turned me when I was nineteen. I originally come from a small village called Blainroe, which is south of Dublin. Our village was attacked and all the men killed on sight. The women and female children were raped repeatedly and tortured for the fun of it. They left us to die and I’m guessing the smell of blood drew Sam to what remained of the village. My younger sister and I were the only ones left alive at that point and he gave us the option of becoming like him or he would end our suffering for us. We chose to live.

"Marie’s didn’t take and she turned night stalker. She went on a rampage in the next village, killing her boyfriend and his family before Sam and I could capture her. I was the one to plunge the stake into her heart.” She paused and cleared her throat. “We rested during the day in any covered area we could find and followed the trail of death and destruction from our attackers at night. We come upon them several nights later when my bloodlust was at its most intense. Between us, we killed around thirty men.”

Callie didn’t flinch. “Do people notice that you don’t age?”

“We generally don’t stay in one place for more that ten years. It’s getting easier to explain now with the excuse of plastic surgery, but we move around a lot to different towns and countries.”

“How long have you been in Ireland this time? I can tell from your accent that you’ve been in America for a while. Have you always been with Sam?”

“We were in America for a long time, living in most of the states there. This is the first time I’ve been home, to live here, in about a century.”

They pulled up outside the building with the red door. “Rick’s car isn’t back yet. Give me a hand getting Sam out of this minuscule car. You should really think about getting something bigger, you know.”

Callie took the hint and let the subject of Sidney’s past drop. She laughed. “No way, I love my pink Minbin.”

Felix raced out the door and relived them of Sam. He strode down a long corridor with his burden, turning into a small room about half way down. It contained a narrow bed, chair and sink. Callie followed him until she was shoved to the side by a gorgeous blonde woman with legs to her armpits and boobs the size of melons. Callie picked herself up from the floor and growled at the blonde, who had plastered herself on top of Sam and sobbed into his neck.

“Oh my poor baby,” the blonde cried while she stroked his hair.

A haze of red rage descended on Callie, clouding her vision. She hissed and growleded, speeding toward the woman with the intention of ripping out her throat.


Chapter 16

Callie flew at Blondie, grabbing a fistful of pale hair. She yanked the woman from Sam’s unmoving body and flung her away. In the confines of the small room, she hit someone else, sending them both into the wall. They slid to the floor in a heap of tangled limbs. Blondie was on her feet in a second, her eyes glowing gold and her teeth snapping like a vicious dog’s. Talon like fingers attached themselves in Callie’s shoulder and tore at her flesh.

Callie turned her head and bit into the wrist attached to the offending talons, tearing her own pound of flesh. A pair of strong arms grabbed her from behind to pin her arms by her sides. Someone else grabbed Blondie to hold them apart.

“Let me go!” Callie hissed, struggling to free herself from the iron grip holding her captive.

“What the hell’s gotten into you? She’s not hurting him,” asked the disgruntled voice of the man holding her.

“Get her out of here now!” Sidney chorused from the doorway. “Why the hell is she here anyway? Didn’t you throw her out last night?”

Adie arrived and shoved her way into the crowded room. Her eyes flicked between Callie and the blonde, she could feel the animosity Callie felt toward the woman, because of their bond. She knew immediately that Callie was seeing a replay of her first heartbreak in college when she found her first lover with a blonde bimbo in a compromising position.

“Callie calm down," Adie soothed. "Deep breaths, slowly in…and out…in ….and out…”

Relaxing slowly, the tension easing because of Adie’s words and mere presence, Callie replied, “Just keep her off him and I’ll be fine.”

The blonde shook off her restrainers grip. “I can walk on my own,” she spat, shooting a glare in Callie’s direction. Her eyes, having returned to their natural porcelain blue, were cold and piercing.

If looks could kill, Callie thought.

We’d all be dead, Sidney finished in Callie’s mind as she led Blondie out of the room.

The arms around Callie relaxed their tight hold. She swung her head to see who had held her, only to find him gone. Rick was the closest and he was staring at Adie as though spellbound. She waved her hand in front of his face and he didn’t blink. He just watched, mesmerized, as Adie flung herself in her sister’s arms.

“Rosemary is dead. She died fighting off a load of demon creeps so we could get away," Adie whispered in Callie’s ear. "The house burned to the ground with her inside.”

Callie released her sister enough so she could pull Irene into the hug. “I’m so sorry, this is all my fault. If I hadn’t come to your home, they would never have attacked and Rosemary would still be here. I am so, so sorry.”

Irene brushed at a tear rolling down her cheek. “No, it’s not your fault. The demon, whose name is not to be mentioned, is completely to blame for the attack.” She took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly. “Grandma was dying of lung cancer. The doctor gave her six months and that was nine months ago. It was expected. At least this way she went with a bang like she wanted, and I was spared from having to watch her suffer.”

Callie and Adie exchanged a silent agreement. “You’re coming to stay with us,” they said.

“If you want to that is?” Callie added.

Irene nodded. “I’d like that. I’ve nowhere else to go. Grandma was all I had left.”

Adie placed a glowing hand over Callie’s injured shoulder to speed up the healing process. She noticed Rick staring at her and frowned at him. When he didn’t react, she stuck her tongue out.

Sidney burst out laughing at the sight, having just come back inside from escorting Blondie out and putting her in a taxi home with the added compulsion to stay away this time. “Can we get started on Sam now?” she asked.

The three sprang apart and Rick, having physically shaken himself free of his trance, left the room with a beaming smile and beetroot-red face.

Adie set to work placing her hands over Sam’s injuries and concentrated on calling for the healing earth energy she needed to heal Sam. The effect was not what she hoped for, however, as the injuries were slow to close, even using her maximum strength.

“Cal, come put your hands by mine and try this too, maybe we can speed it up a little.”

Once again, Callie felt remorse for involving someone she cared for in her own troubles, only to see them hurt because of her. Tears rolled down her pale cheeks to drop off the end of her chin and splash into the wounds on Sam’s chest. A faint glow formed under her hands, becoming stronger as Adie’s hands moved closer.

Together they worked until darkness fell again. It left them exhausted. They were sleeping by the time Rick returned with a blanket for Callie. He lifted her off the cold floor to lay her next to Sam on the narrow bed. He then lifted Adie, as if she weighed nothing, and carried her further into the building , up two flights of stairs and down a long hallway. He came to a stop at a closed door and balanced her on one arm while he fished around in his pocket for the key to his room.

When he finally managed to get the door open, he stepped through and kicked it shut behind him. For a moment he thought the noise would wake her, but she snuggled deeper into his embrace and sighed contentedly. He reluctantly laid her on his bed and pulled the covers up to her chin. The small, uncomfortable wooden chair by the bed would have to do for him to sleep in. He had no intention of leaving the beautiful creature sleeping soundly in his bed, even for a moment.

*****

Bright light streamed in through the window of the small room, catching the natural red highlights of Callie’s hair. Sam bent his head and inhaled the smell of her. He pressed a gentle kiss to her lips before lying back down and pulling her closer to spoon his body to her back. She moaned in her sleep, snuggling deeper into his embrace before bolting upright and leaping from the bed with a look of disgust on her face.

“What’s wrong?” Sam asked, confused at her sudden movement. “I feel fine, you won’t hurt me.”

“You’re nothing but a damn player!” she yelled, stomping from the room in search of better company.

Sam sat up in confusion. What the hell does she mean – player? he asked himself, getting up to jog after her, only to collide with Sidney as he left the room. She sprawled backwards, sliding on her ass several feet up the hallway until her back hit the wall.

“Oomph!” she squawked, the wind was knocked from her. “Hold up, where’s the fire?” she demanded, picking herself up and brushing of her black jeans. She ran to catch up to him and skidded to a stop by his side. “Callie is well pissed with you. She was muttering pet names for you like jerk, asshole, player and several other not so pretty ones on her way out the front door.”

Sam waved both his hands in front of him in defence. “I didn’t do anything, I swear. I’ve only just woken up. She jumped out of bed, called me a player and ran off.”

Sidney chuckled. She’d being doing that a lot since she’d met Callie. “I’ll give you a hint, it starts with So and ends with phia. She’ll be back in a few minutes, she just needs some air.” She linked her arm through his. “Let’s get you some breakfast.”

“Tell me that mad cow wasn’t here when I was out of it?” he pleaded, dragging a hand down his face in exasperation and rubbed the stubble on his chin.

Sidney nodded, trying to stifle a snigger at the memory and failing miserably. “Callie attacked her when she was draped all over you. She was whispering sweet nothings in your ear.”

“Argh, I hate that woman.” He sighed in frustration. “Has Callie told you what happened while I was away?”

“Not in words, no. I saw what I needed in her mind. She is one powerful little witch.”

Callie sat on the wall outside the back entrance to the Seven Towers City Hospital, absentmindedly watching the cars come and go as she mulled over the past three weeks of her life. Visiting time brought even more people milling around and still she sat there, swinging her legs back and forth, paying no attention to what was going on around her. She was so lost in her own little world that she didn’t hear Sam approach and almost jumped out of her skin when he spoke.

“Sidney filled me in on what happened with Sophia. You know I haven’t been with her, or anyone else, since I met you,” he tried to reason with her.

“Did you break it off with her?”

“We’ve never really been an item. It was more of a casual thing when I was in the area. For me it was anyway. According to Sidney, she hangs around here a lot waiting for me to show up.”

“So how many other casual relationships do you have going on around the country?” she mumbled.

“They’re all in the past now I have you,” he coaxed, while reaching for her.

She jumped from the wall and brushed by him to head back inside. “I like you Sam, really I do. But I can’t be in a relationship at the moment. There are too many things going on with my life. I don’t even know who I am anymore, never mind the fact that there’s a demon looking for mine and Adie’s heads on a platter. I need to eat.” She ran to the bank, nothing but a blur in the shadows cast by the late afternoon sun. I won’t cry… I’m not crying… I do not feel sorry for myself. The wind is making my eyes sting and water, that’s all, she thought, trying to fool herself. I just need to sort this damn demon thing out so everyone will be safe. Then I can get on with my life. If he’s my soul mate, whatever that means, he’ll wait for me. Simple.

She stopped just outside the door and straightened her shoulders. Once she finished drying the wet streaks from her face with the sleeve of her sweater, she took a deep breath to steel her resolve. Food first, then see what info we can dig up on the snake man.


Chapter 17

Adie slowly became aware of her surroundings. The bed was so cosy and warm; it smelled of comfort and safety. She didn’t want to open her eyes to shatter the dream and let in the nightmare that her life had become.

“No point trying to hide from the problems, they’ll just sneak up and bite you on the ass when you’re not looking,” she mumbled.

A deep chuckle startled her from her reverie. “I wouldn’t mind a bite of that ass myself.”

Her eyes flew open with her squeal of shock. She pulled the blanket up to her chin to cover her modesty and took in the dishevelled form sitting opposite her. Her gaze flicked quickly around the room in an attempt to determine where she was. The room was bare but for the bed she lay on, the chair he sat on and a shelf full of books. Her gaze landed back on him, defiantly meeting his stare.

“Where am I?” she asked.

“My room,” he answered with a husky, sleep-filled voice that made him sound almost like he was purring.

Rick yawned and stretched lazily in the seat. His arms reached high over his head, making his T-shirt ride up to reveal the undone buttons at the waistband of his jeans. As he stood, his jeans fell low to ride his hips.

Adie gasped and stared at the bulge forming before her eyes. Maybe she even drooled a little at the sight. A quick look under the blanket told her she was still fully clothed and she breathed a sigh of relief. Or maybe disappointment, an inner voice mocked.

“How did I get here?" she asked, throwing the cover off. "And why am I here?”

He reached out his hand to help her from the bed. “I carried you because you were exhausted after healing Sam.”

She placed her hand in his and let him pull her up to stand. The force of the pull sent her into his hard chest and his arms closed around her waist to keep her there. He lowered his head to her neck and inhaled her scent. When he smelled her arousal, he literally started purring. She could feel the vibration of it where her hands rested on his chest and she couldn’t help but notice how right it felt.

“Shall we go find something to eat? The thought of biting your tight little ass has given me an appetite.”

*****

Sidney and Irene were already seated at the huge kitchen table when Callie walked in. “Hey guys!” she called, pasting an overly bright smile on her face.

“Supper is in the fridge, pull up a chair and join us,” Sidney chirped.

“We were just discussing our friend and we’ve decided to call him Scaly. It’s quite fitting don’t you think?” Irene joked.

“What’s fitting?" Adie asked as she and Rick joined the others in the kitchen. Her hand was securely tucked into his elbow.

“Ssscaly, the nickname they gave to the demon, whose name cannot be mentioned,” replied Callie, sucking the dregs of blood from the bag she’d poured into a glass. “Where can I find some information on him? I doubt the local library would keep stuff like that.” She directed this at Irene.

“Hmm, I know my coven doesn’t have anything more than you already know, but the Circle of Fire may have something. I’ll ring Elizabeth and get their contact details. Can I borrow someone’s phone?” She left the room after catching the one Callie tossed at her.

Rick pushed Adie into the seat next to her sister and set about making them food. He moved around the kitchen with ease, grilling bacon and scrambling eggs. He smiled from ear to ear when he caught Adie staring at his butt on more than one occasion.

“I’ve been thinking,” Rick said out of the blue.

“Is that where the grinding and squealing noise was coming from? The rusty wheels in your head actually getting a bit of use?” Sidney couldn’t help but tease.

Rick rolled his eyes at her. “I know someone who might be able to tell you about him or get you access to information about him anyway.”

They waited patiently for him to continue, when he didn’t, both Callie and Adie asked at the same time, “Well, tell us who?”

“She’s the Shaman of my father’s pride. From what I understand, there are books passed down through each generation of Shaman. They’re kind of like diaries and if this demon is connected to any of the legends then there may be something written about him.”

“Great. So will you ring after breakfast?” Callie asked.

“No, there aren’t any phones where she lives. I’m afraid it’s a long road trip and a plane trip to Colorado.”

Adie stared at the food set in front of her. For some reason she’d lost her appetite. “How long until you leave?” she asked quietly.

“Felix and I have our flight home already booked for tomorrow. It’s only a matter of getting an extra seat arranged and that shouldn’t be a problem.”

Everyone had a confused look on their face, except Sidney, who grinned. She’d read Rick’s mind and knew what was coming next.

He looked at Adie with a lopsided grin, his eyes pleading for her to agree. “You’ll need to pack for warmer weather. And bring hiking boots, it’s a long trek once we reach the trail. You’ll probably need sun cream too.”

“Give a girl plenty of notice why don’t you,” she replied with a grin.

Callie could feel her sister’s elation flowing through the bond, but she wasn’t so sure this was such a good idea. “Adie are you sure you want to do this? The Circle of Fire might know something.”

“You worry too much. I’ll be fine. Rick will look after me. You-know-who, won’t be looking for me over there, so I’ll be one less body for you to watch out for. Right?”

“I guess. I just don’t like the idea of you being half-way around the world on your own,” Callie replied, resigned to Adie’s determination to go with Rick.

“I won’t be alone,” Adie reminded her.

“Great, that’s settled then,” Rick rejoiced, slapping his hands on the table. “I’ll take you home to pack some things and get your passport. After you eat.” He pointed at her untouched meal.

“I’ll have to stop by the hospital and extend my time off. I need to ring Laura too, see if she’ll cover my shifts again.”

Irene returned to the kitchen with a phone in her hand and a pleased look on her face. “The Circle of Fire have agreed to meet with us tomorrow and maybe,” she emphasized the maybe, “let us have a look at the archives. They’re based in Cork so we can either leave now and rest up when we get there, or leave at 5am?”

Both sisters looked at one another before moving together for a long hug. Adie drew back first and ran her hand down Callie’s hair to gently tug the end. “Look after you while I’m gone. And for heavens sakes don’t do anything stupid.”

Callie laughed, her tears streaming down her face as she pulled Adie back in for another hug. “Ditto. I love you, be safe.” She sniffled and reluctantly let go of Adie to fix a glare at Rick. “If she so much as gets a splinter I’ll hunt you down and castrate you.”

He gave a short, sharp nod in understanding.

“Is this just a witch outing or can the vamps come too?” Sidney quipped, half hoping for an invite to join Callie and Irene’s road trip.

“I think it should be just the two of us. They’re not too keen on vampires. It’ll be bad enough if they find out Callie’s one as it is,” Irene answered, quickly adding, “No offence.”

“None taken, but keep in touch.” Sidney looked at Callie and tapped the side of her head. “And if that doesn’t work use the phone.”

“We will," Callie assured her. "I’m just going to say goodbye to Sam.” She hugged her sister again on the way past. “Love you.”

“Whove oou hoo,” came Adie’s muffled reply around a mouthful of egg and toast, the crumbs flying as she spoke.

After getting directions from Felix, she found Sam in large lounge area, sprawled out on a black leather, two-seat sofa. He looked up as she entered, giving her a half-hearted smile of greeting.

“Hi,” she said, testing the steadiness of her voice. “You know I haven’t done a days work for you yet. I should probably quit and let you find an assistant who’ll actually assist.”

His smile widened before becoming serious. “Sergeant Blaine called. He’s releasing the details of the eight bodies they found in the woods. We have the exclusive to do on that – interviews and such.”

“Irene and I are leaving for Cork in a few minutes to see if some witches know anything about the demon. I’ll be back in a few days, hopefully sooner.”

He mulled this over for a few moments. “I can give the story to someone else to cover and come with you?” he suggested with an edge of hope to the question.

“Irene said that it’s just the two of us. Apparently, they don’t like vamps. I just came to say goodbye and I’ll see you later.” She started walking backwards as she spoke.

“Wait,” he called, catching hold of her arm as she turned.

She froze with her back to him. He stroked his calloused hands down the sleeves of her sweater to take her hands in his. He pressed his lips to her neck and trailed a series of soft, butterfly kisses along the exposed portion of her shoulder. “Okay, just come back to me after you see them. Please don’t go running off chasing some lead on your own just because you think I might get hurt or some other heroic notion you may have.” She nodded. “Promise?”

“I promise.” She pulled away and walked at human speed to collect Irene for the short trip home to pick up clothes and a few other things they would need. I’ll have to ask Sidney for a list of places for me to eat too, she thought just before Sidney walked into the hall with a piece of paper in her hand containing the exact information she needed. “Damn, but you’re good at this mind reading thing. You knew what I wanted before I’d even thought of it.”

“Perhaps it was you reading my mind this time. Your shields are locked tighter than a nun’s knickers.”

Tension Callie didn’t realise she was holding, left her as fits of laughter wracked her body. She was still giggling when she collected Irene and they set off on the next chapter of their adventure.


Chapter 18

Callie pulled the mini into the driveway. The headlight beam swept across the front of the house, highlighting that the door lay slightly ajar. She approached gingerly, easing the door open to peer inside. Irene cautiously stepped over the threshold, but Callie was unable to follow.

“Damn, I forgot Adie hasn’t invited me in yet,” Callie swore. “Technically, as you’re living with us now, you should be able to do it.”

“Em okay… Come in?” Irene said hesitantly.

“Make it a statement not a question.”

Irene exhaled audibly. “I don’t think it’ll work, but please come on in!”

Still unable to cross, Callie dug her phone from her pocket and called Adie. “Will you invite me into our home please? I can’t get in.”

Adie laughed. “What, over the phone?”

“It’s worth a shot. Give us a sec so Irene can take the phone inside.” She put it on loudspeaker and handed it to Irene who took it a few paces down the hall. “Okay, try now!” she called.

“Callie, you may enter our home.”

A few seconds later, she took the phone from Irene’s hand and put it next to her ear after turning the volume back down. “You weren’t kidding when you said they wrecked the place.”

“Cool! it worked. I’ll be back there later, is it really that bad?”

Callie groaned when she looked down the hall at the mess the demon’s minions made of the house. “It’s worse.”

“Don’t worry about clearing any of it up. It can wait until we get back. Just pull the door over when you leave so no animals get in.”

“See you later then.” Callie hung up and took a better look around. She felt deeply saddened by what she saw.

Broken shards of mirror were scattered from the front door right the way up the hall. The small fragments were crushed deep into the pile of the rug. She crept further in. The sofa and chairs in the living room lay upturned and slashed. Her mother’s ornaments, which had once taken pride of place in the display cabinet in the corner by the window, lay destroyed, pieces of fine bone china strewn around with the remnants of the cabinet. The family portrait, taken just a week before the accident that killed both her parents, no longer hung over the fireplace. She could see no hint of it in the room, nor of the one of her and Adie taken whilst on holiday in Tenerife. The kitchen yielded more of the same devastation, with the contents of the cupboards emptied out. Smashed crockery coated with flour, pasta and stale bread mixed with the souring and decaying fridge contents littering the floor. The foul odour made her gag. She opened the window and gasped the clean air.

“I can’t leave it like this, it smells bad enough already. A couple more days and it’ll get up and walk out on its own.” She pointed to the brush behind Irene. “Would you pass the brush and pan please?”

Irene snatched it from its spot beside the mop and bucket. “Why don’t I do this while you pack? It’ll be quicker.”

“So not arguing over cleaning,” Callie agreed with vigour. Glass crunched under her feet with every step on the way upstairs.

The floor and lower half of the bed in Adie’s room were soaking wet because the window had been left open when Adie escaped. Nothing else had been touched, so Callie closed the window and left for her own room. It looked like a tornado had stuck with clothes lying everywhere.

Just how I left it, she thought in satisfaction, happy in the knowledge that no one had been poking around in her drawers.

She kicked her dirty clothes aside to gain access to the suitcase under the bed. There were a few clean outfits left on the wardrobe shelves, so she added those to the case along with some toiletries. She moved on to the bedside table and easily found her driver’s licence and bankcard in the drawer. When her mind registered what lay on the top of the table, her breath caught at the sight. A perfect yellow and orange rose – resembling a flame – was sitting in a tiny crystal bud vase with a small envelope placed in front of it. She inhaled the fresh, almost sickly sweetness of the flower before opening the letter to read the elegant flowing script within.

My Dearest Callie,

I find myself intrigued. Never have I encountered such a fearless, daring and beautiful creature in all my many, many years. I know we have gotten off on the wrong footing, but I would like to make amends and get to know you better.

Please forgive my assistants intrusion into your private space. I offer my apologies for the mess they created previously. I will make them clean it up if you so wish. All you have to do is call me. You know how.

Forever Yours

Lucien

Callie sank onto the edge of her bed to re-read the letter. Wow, she thought, astounded. Didn’t see that one coming. She quickly refolded the letter when she heard Irene’s footsteps coming up the stairs, stuffing it into her pocket. I’ll show her later.

“Did you get everything we need?” Irene asked when she poked her head round the door.

“Yup, I think so.”

They loaded the suitcase into the car and made their way to the first hole-in-the-wall bank machine just over the now invisible border separating North from South Ireland. She was able to withdraw what she hoped was enough euros for their trip. Their next stop was the first address on the list Sidney had given her. They were expecting her and insisted that Sidney had already settled the bill.

The motorway was wide and practically straight, with very little traffic, which meant Callie’s mind was free wander to the letter from her arch nemesis. She pulled it from her pocket and rubbed it between her two fingers and thumb – in two minds whether or not to reveal it. She glanced at Irene through the dimness of the dashboard lights and saw her eyes drifting closed. The letter can wait, she thought, turning the radio down and settled in for the long five-hour drive to the Circle of Fire headquarters.

*****

Lucien stood back several paces from the wall and studied the picture he’d just finished hanging. He moved forward again to push the right side up an inch so it sat square to the wall.

“What should I do with the rest of them, Sire?” his beady-eyed assistant asked, holding up what remained of the large pictures he had retrieved from the Williams household.

“I don’t know. Burn them for all I care,” he replied absently, still enraptured by the image before him.

Callie’s smiling image held the hand of an arm around her shoulders. The arm had once belonged to her sister, but due to some careful grafting on Lucien’s part, his own image now appeared in its place.

“You left the other things I instructed?”

“Yes, Sire.”

“Good. Now get out.” Lucien retreated to his favourite armchair when the idiot left, turning it to face the picture so it became the focal point of the room. He stared at her image in eager anticipation of her calling his name.


Chapter 19

John sat on the cold, stone steps outside the only place that would give him shelter for the night. He’d been on the run since he’d spotted two men following him from the ferry port in Stranraer. He managed to lose sight of them at one point by slipping out the back door of the Central Café but somehow they had picked up his trail again by the time he’d hitch-hiked to Gretna.

Their car followed the lorry he stowed away on, all the way to Uxbridge, where he persuaded the driver that the car was really following the lorry. The driver had made enough of a distraction to allow him to slip away again. He had been living on the streets since then, begging for scraps from the kitchens of some of the local restaurants. Competition for any crust was so great that many a day he went without.

An old man pulled a knife on him over a slice of pizza. Luckily for John, he’d been chased off before he did too much damage. But he lost the memory stick. Sometime during the scuffle it had fallen from his pocket and he’d been unable to find it when he’d returned to the alleyway.

Looking down at his bandaged hand, he shook his head in disbelief at what had become of his life, at his stupidity for thinking he could sell a story like that to the press. Every one of the papers he’d gone to had laughed at him and told him they didn’t cover publicity stunts. They’d thought he was promoting some big vampire movie.

“Now I don’t even have the proof anymore,” he finished recounting the tale of his sorry existence to Father Jacob, the priest who had loaned him a jacket and allowed him to camp down on the storeroom floor at the back of the church.

“From what I understand of this Centre you talk of, they do a lot of good for the community, yes?”

“They’re vampires. Leeches that suck the life out of people. How can you say that’s good for the community?” John snorted.

“Look at the bigger picture, beyond what you think you saw one of them do. They give homeless people, like you, a roof over their heads. They feed and clothe them; help them to find work and support themselves if they decide to leave the Centre. They provide shelter and education for children without guardians. And what do they ask in return? A mere pint of your blood as payment, something your body easily produces. You probably lost more than that last night from the wound on your hand. You said yourself they do not hurt you when they do this so what is the problem?”

“Father, you of all people should know they are the spawn of Satan, evil creatures who walk the night killing randomly and making more of their own kind. If they are allowed to continue they’ll take over the world and make us all slaves.” John protested with frustration.

“Son, I see victims of man’s own sins every day. I listen to confessions of murderers, rapists, child molesters, thieves and the like at every one of the services I hold. I have witnessed first-hand, the atrocities of the Second World War, when Hitler declared that the Jews be wiped from the face of the Earth because they had different religious beliefs. Thousands were murdered under his command.

"Think about these vampires and what you have personally witnessed them do, not as what the horror movie makers will have you believe. Just think about it a little, I know you will see I am right,” Father Jacob argued. He placed a hand on John’s shoulder and squeezed gently. “It is cold tonight and these old bones ache, come join me in the vestry kitchen for some supper and warm up.”

“I’ll be in soon, Father, thank you. I just need a moment.”

“Close the door after you then.” Father Jacob left him to mull over his words with the hope that the boy would see sense.

Jacob’s father, David, had been turned during the war after Hitler’s men had invaded his village and stolen everyone from their beds. They shot all who opposed and herded the rest into trucks. Harold had found Jacob bleeding and cradling the near-dead body of his father. Feeding his father life from his own vein, Harold had given David a chance to live. At first, he had sought revenge against the monsters that had killed his family, friends and pillaged his village, but in later years Jacob had renewed his faith and in a way helped to make a change in his own little corner of the world. So now he aided vampires where could and he liked the idea of the Centre. It would be beneficial to both communities. “I will run it by David and see what he thinks,” he mumbled to himself on his way in through the heavy doors at the front of the church in search of his dad.

John knew what Father Jacob said made sense but he was having trouble getting the idea of vampires being anything but evil from his mind. He stood and stretched, opening his mouth in a wide yawn and turned to follow the old man into the warmth.


Chapter 20

Callie pulled the Mini into the parking space at the front of the quaint bed and breakfast just outside Cork city limits. Driving four and a half hours straight, to the point of almost falling asleep behind the wheel, and she was shattered, grateful to see the signpost on the main road declaring the Robin’s Nest open 24/7. As she approached, however, she saw no lights or life about the place. She got out of the car and left the main lights on, hoping it would help her to read the note stuck to the glass on the inside of the front door.

Please ring for attention it read, with an arrow pointing to an intercom. She pressed the button and waited. After a few minutes, the hall light came on and an elderly man shuffled his way toward the desk in his dressing gown and slippers.

“Yes?” His sleepy, static-filled voice echoed from the small box.

“Hi, I’m so sorry to wake you at such an early hour, but we would like a room for a day or two please.”

“Push the door when the buzzer sounds,” he instructed. “Tap o la morning te ye missy.” He laughed outright at her expression upon hearing his overenthusiastic, stereotypically Irish greeting, which trailed into a fit of wheezing and subsequent coughing. “Three rooms to choose from. Top floor joined single, ground floor double, or the flat o’er yonder?” he asked once he caught his breath.

“The flat, I guess.”

“Deposit is sixty-nine euro. Sign the register, and breakfast will be at eight sharp. The missus don’t do late, so if you wanna eat, be there.” He pocketed the cash she handed him after she signed the book and he gave her the key. “Pleasant dreams, Missy.”

“Thanks.” She jogged back to the car and moved it over a few feet to park outside the flat.

Irene groaned and stretched. “Are we there yet?”

“Hey, sleepy head. Not quite yet. I got us a room just outside the city. I need to sleep for a few hours before I kill us both falling asleep behind the wheel.” She yawned, proving her point.

“Go on in and I’ll bring in the case. You can take this one though,” Irene offered, handing her the bags of blood conveniently wrapped in brown paper.

They made their way up concrete steps at the side of the building that led to the flat over the garage. Callie dropped the keys onto the table just inside the door and headed straight for the bed. Irene kicked the door closed behind her and set the case on the floor.

“I’m just going to grab a shower. Anything in here I shouldn’t wear?” she asked, opening the case.

“Anything you like is fine by me. Breakfast is at eight sharp. Don’t be late or you won’t get fed,” Callie warned, slipping off her shoes and lying on the bed still fully clothed. “We’ll leave at half nine for the Circle headquarters. Wake me at nine if I’m not already up?”

“Sure,” she agreed as Callie closed her eyes and let the blissful darkness take her.

*****

“Caalliee Wiilllliaams…Caalliee Willliaamss… Caallieeee Wiiilliaammmsss…” A familiar voice rang out in a singsong. “Ah! There you are, even more beautiful than I remember,” he said with bright smile that flashed his even, pearly-white teeth.

“Where the hell…” Callie began.

Ornate murals of dragons in flight and scenes of ferocious battles interrupted her train of thought as she looked around at what she assumed was someone’s bedroom. A rich chocolate brown carpet, with a pile so deep it hid her toes, covered the floor. The bed was huge – like something fit for royalty. It had large ornately carved wood headboard and four equally ornate posts at each corner, sporting a rich cream curtain tied back with dark leather cords. In the centre of the bed, covered to the waist by a matching throw, sat a naked, extremely well-defined chest, with a tan that was enhanced by the colour of the throw.

She allowed her gaze to travel up, expecting to find the serpent-headed demon to match the voice. Instead, she found herself looking into midnight blue eyes of a rather handsome young face. His blond hair was a little long, giving it a tussled look that framed his sculptured features to perfection. He was clean-shaven and when he smiled, his straight even teeth almost sparkled.

“You’re not in Hell yet, my love. Another seven levels down before you reach it. I’ve been there a couple of times and find it a little too hot even for my liking.”

“Who are you?” Callie asked in confusion. The voice belonged to Lucien but the rest of him didn’t fit.

“Oh.” He ran his hand through his hair and cringed. “This is my true form. I wear the other to incite fear.”

Callie shook herself from her daze, finding it hard to picture both man and serpent as one and the same. “What do you want from me, Lucien? Aside from my power that is?”

“Hmm, such a quandary don’t you think?" he asked. "To obtain your power would ultimately mean my freedom from this underworld prison. However, the mere thought your death causes me pain, here.” He held his clenched fist to his bare chest in the region of his heart. “So I have decided to look elsewhere for the power I need, on condition that you visit me here at least once a week to keep me company.”

“There are numerous things wrong with that statement. One: you’ve killed generations of my family. Two: you tried to kill my sister. Three: you tried to kill me. Four: you almost succeeded in killing my boyfriend. Oh and five: you’re now telling me you’re going to kill innocent people in my place." Seething at his audacity, she continued, "Do you honestly believe that I would willingly spend time with a monster that would do that? Your true form may be hot as hell, but inside you’re hideous.”

“You think I’m hot?” he interrupted, jerking his head up, suddenly interested in her tirade. His eyes shone with hope.

“What is so important about my world that has you so desperate to leave the luxury you so obviously enjoy here? Do you have grand notions of taking over the world or something?”

His smile was so wide it was almost blinding. “You find me hot!” He threw the bed covers off and jumped up and down on top of the bed. “She wants me, she thinks I’m sexy,” he sang repeatedly.

“Lucien…Lucien! …LUCIEN SHUT UP,” she screamed. “Answer me, why do you want to leave here?”

He stopped bouncing and sobered immediately, sitting cross-legged on the bed. He shrugged as he plucked at the fabric of his pyjama trouser. “I just want to be free. I would give it all up, this power and luxury as you see it, for a mortal life. To know that one day I will cease to exist. I have lived for several thousand years and I don’t want to live for even a hundred more. I’m tired of it.”

“So you end other’s lives because you want to end yours?” she asked for clarification.

“In a nutshell… yes.” He shrugged again.

“Can’t you just do yourself in then?”

He growled in frustration. “Don’t you think I’ve tried? I’ve thrown myself into the flames of Hell itself, feeling the agony of my flesh melting from my bones, only wake up here a few hours later. I’ve driven swords through my heart and I wake here. I’ve given myself to dragons, put my head in their powerful jaws and felt their teeth ripping my body in two, and still I wake up here, whole again. I’ve been cursed by the gods themselves to spend eternity here.” He looked away from her, embarrassed at having revealed his true self, but not before she caught the glassy shimmer of tears gleaming in his eyes.

“If it’s truly death you crave then I will find a way to help you. But,” she wagged her finger at him, “you must not kill or hurt any other creature. Do we have a deal?”

“You would help me? Just like that, for nothing in return?” he asked, stunned by her offer.

“I want your word that you will not harm another living or un-dead creature and I will help you end your existence,” she promised.

“You have my word." He picked up a gleaming knife that lay on the small table beside the bed, the light reflecting from its shiny surface danced around the room. "Do you want it in blood?”

“Tempting, but no. I need to sleep now Lucien, send me back to my bed.”

He patted the bed he sat on. “You can sleep here, with me.”

“No. Send me back now… Please.”

“Aww! Okay, but only because you beg so nicely.”

Callie woke with a start, all her muscles twitched once, jerking her instantly awake. She glanced at the watch on her wrist and whimpered when the time showed 8.55am. With a snort of contempt, she sat up and reached for the blood bag tucked between the edge of the bed and the nightstand. She drained it in seconds, but still being thirsty, she drank a second. She blew the hair from her eyes with a frustrated puff, and got up to shower and change for the meeting. Her purpose had not changed; she still needed to know how to kill the demon, but the reason behind that purpose had become blurred during the nighttime visit to his realm. Her disgust at him for what he had done to her family over the decades had not changed, but she sort of understood his motivation.


Chapter 21

“Are you sure this is the place?” Callie asked as they drove along a long tree-lined driveway.

“It’s the address they gave me.”

Irene stared out the window at the dense trees lining both sides of the road. The sky was clear and the sun bright, but it hardly penetrated the thick trees towering around them; their branches mingled overhead to create a tunnel. Lights reflected back at them in the mist swirling gently around the car as it crawled toward their destination, making it harder to see.

“This place is seriously creepy.” Callie shivered, trying to shake off the need to turn the car around and leave as quickly as possible. “I don’t think they like many visitors.”

Twenty minutes later, they broke through the mist. Thinning trees allow more of the bright sunshine to penetrate their path. As they rounded a sharp turn, a large stately building loomed ahead. It had flat, well-kept twinned lawns on either side of the driveway, which split in two and enclosed a circular flowerbed containing an elaborate fountain.

The building itself was sandstone finished, standing three storeys high with twelve sets of double windows on the second and third floors. On the ground floor, a grand entrance took up half of the building, with several steps leading up to an open courtyard. The entrance doors were in a covered porch, surrounded by deep-purple flowering clematis on a climbing a trellis on one side and a pale lilac rose climbing the other. They met in the middle in a symphony of colour – light against dark.

A small man, dressed in a plain black jacket over a white shirt, danced down the steps to greet them as they exited the car. “Good morning, ladies," he greeted them. "Welcome to Shadow Academy. Do you have an appointment?”

“We’ve come to see Rachael," Irene replied. "I spoke to her yesterday over the phone. She said to drop by anytime today.”

“Ah yes, her class is due a break in ten minutes. If you would like to follow me, I’ll show you to the waiting room.” He ushered them in through the main doors.

He strode purposefully across the wide foyer, passing a door marked reception, and stopped at the next unmarked door waiting for them to catch up. Both Callie and Irene were dawdling, taking in the grandeur of the place. A prominent sandstone staircase faced the doors they came through, flanked on either side by a carved wooden balustrade. The staircase split in two, leading in opposite directions at right angles to the first part. Around the edges of the foyer were four doors, two on either side. Between each pair of doors and the open staircase were open hallways.

“This way please,” he interrupted their perusal, hurrying them along. He opened a door and stepped aside, granting them entrance. “Please wait here, Ms Rachael will be informed of your arrival.”

Irene chose to sit by the window overlooking the extensive grounds at the side of the building. Callie examined the numerous framed academic certificates and photographs lining the walls.

“Did you know this was a school?” Callie asked, moving on to look at the frames on the other side of the room.

“I didn’t even know magic schools existed. Grandma taught me at home with the others in the coven one evening a week.”

The door burst open a few minutes later when a harried mid-twenty year old rushed into the room. “Sorry to keep you waiting, Miss Williams, Miss McIlroy. I’m Rachael, the school librarian. You mentioned on the phone about viewing our archives. Can I ask what you hope to discover in them?” Rachael panted and nudged her glasses back onto the bridge of her sharp nose. The brisk walk up two flights of stairs and a jog across the main building had left her out of breath.

“We require information on a certain demon,” Irene began.

“His name is Lucien, Master…”

“Shush Callie, don’t say his name or he’ll hear you,” Irene blurted, interrupting her.

“I’ll explain later, but he knows what we’re looking for and why.”

Rachael raised her eyebrows. “You will explain now, or there will be no access into my archives, young lady.”

“Fine.” She briefly laid out the conversation she had had with Lucien just hours before. “We have a deal; he doesn’t kill, maim, or otherwise injure any living or un-dead creature and I help him become mortal and release him from his prison. Or find a way to kill him permanently.”

“What do you get out of this deal?” Rachael asked, narrowing her eyes and peering over the square rim of her glasses.

“The same as him in a way… Peace and freedom.”

Rachael nodded. “Okay, you may search the archives. I’ll take you there now, but you’ll be looking on your own. I have classes to take.” She hurried them along, not giving them time to look around the Academy. Young girls and boys dressed in matching navy blazers cast them curious looks as they hurried by. She left them at the top of a set of steps.

“Follow the steps to the very bottom, and take the door directly opposite, the toilet is on the left. Do not enter the door marked Private under any circumstances or the consequence will be dire. Do you understand? I must get back to class.”

Callie led the way down the narrow steps and opened the door directly in front of her. She searched the wall just inside the door for a light switch and flicked it down. Florescent lights flickered and blinked to life, illuminating row upon row of deep industrial shelving, each containing four shelves with half a dozen foot-square boxes on each shelf. The entire basement of the huge building was used as the archive store.

“There must be thousands of boxes in here! This is going to take forever,” Irene groaned in complaint.

“There must be some sort of system for filing. Have a look around for a reference centre.”

“A what?”

“Probably a tall unit with lots of little drawers in it. You take that side and I’ll go this side. It’s probably not too far from here.”

They parted ways, each walking up and down the isles, starting at the nearest and working outward. Within a few minutes Irene called out, “I think I found it.”

Callie was there in a flash, she opened the first drawer marked ‘A’ and read the card, “It says Animals: Allies –Chickens R1 S2 B1. R must be row, S shelf, and B box. Lets see,” she flicked through more cards, “Rabbits – Spiders R4 S1 B3…Row 4, shelf 1, box 3. Lets go find row 4, this one is row…93, this one…92, this way.”

Callie already had the box on the floor and was pulling files from it by the time Irene caught up with her. Discarding most into one pile until she found one marked ‘snake’ she speed-read the thick file within a few minutes.

Placing it aside, she shook her head, “Nothing in that one, where to next?” They replaced the files in the box and the box to its shelf.

“This could get exhausting, running back and forward to every box," Irene complained.

"I think we should make a note of as many points as we can think of regarding Lucien, and reference each one first before we go looking. We can split up and get through a few more that way,” Callie suggested.

“Okay, I’ve a pen and paper here, fire away.”

“Write down snake and serpent then score them off so we know we’ve already looked at those. Obviously Lucien… master of blah blah…you know the rest of it, but try them separately just in case. Demons might give us some useful names but be careful not to speak them aloud. That will give us something to work on for now.”

They set about searching up each of the points and ended up with a list of placements scattered around the basement. Irene wrote them out again in order of row number first so they would start at the far edges and work inward meeting the centre. They worked for hours, crossing off each section as they came to them. By 7pm, Callie had just about had enough. She packed up the files into the box and set off to rescue Irene. She found her sitting in the middle of a sea of paper, oblivious to her approach. Callie couldn’t resist spooking her. Irene screamed like a banshee, jumping a foot into the air and sending the file she was reading into a waterfall of paper.

Callie held her stomach as she rolled around the floor in fits of laughter. “Your face was priceless.”

“Yeah hilarious," Irene agreed sarcastically. "You made me lose my place, and I think it might have been something. Help me clean this up and look for it again.”

They spent the next thirty minutes scanning each sheet of paper and putting them in order.

“Yes!” Irene squealed excitedly. “This has to be it.”

“What? Let me see.” Callie snatched the paper Irene was holding and speed-read through it. “It’s about a curse placed on a mortal for screwing around with Neptune’s daughter.”

“Read on,” Irene insisted.

“He was cast into the underworld for eternity…no escape from life…feared by all…only visible to mortals as the serpent demon…Harvest souls…” Callie read. “You’re right, this sounds like him. Does it give the wording of the curse? Is there a get out clause? There usually is, right?”

“Not that I’ve come across so far, but we have the name of the witch who placed the curse. It’s a step in the right direction. If we can find her grimoire it might tell us more.”

“Not tonight. My eyes are gritty and losing focus with all the reading. We’ll come back tomorrow for a fresh look.”

They put the box back on the shelf and made a note of the RSB number on the sheet. Callie flicked off the lights and closed the door. A few seconds later, there was faint tapping from across the hall. Callie turned to listen, stepping forward toward the sound.

“Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“A faint tapping followed by what sounds like help me please. It’s kinda muffled though.” She moved closer to the door, reaching for the handle.

“Wait! Rachael said not to go in there.” Irene grabbed her arm to stop her from opening the door. Next time when the tapping came, Irene could faintly hear it too and removed her restraining hand. “The question is why does Rachael not want us to go in there?”

“We’ll soon find out,” Callie said as she pushed down on the handle. The door creaked eerily and loudly through the empty stairwell.

The area beyond the door was pitch black. The darkness sucked the light from the hall, making it even dimmer. Callie searched for a light switch along the wall and on finding none, called a small orb of fire to her hand. She held it in front of her so the light revealed a long narrow corridor stretching further than the light could penetrate.

“Do you hear anything?" Irene asked, breaking the eerie silence.

“No, nothing. I’m going to go a bit further in.” She walked forward, her steps silent on the dusty concrete floor. The corridor started to slope gently downward before a gradual sweep to the right.

Irene hesitantly closed the door behind her and ran to catch up to Callie before she lost sight of the light. “Where do you think it leads to?” Irene whispered, coming to a stop at the top of a narrow, very steep set of steps. The walls had changed from plaster to rough sheet rock, becoming a tunnel. The steps formed from the same rock disappeared downwards out of sight.

“Down,” Callie stated the obvious.

The tapping came louder, followed by a faint, “Please, someone help!”

“What do we do? Should we go get help?” Irene hedged, knowing Callie would probably just charge ahead anyway.

“There’s a girl down there and she sounds hurt. We’re both pretty powerful witches and I’m a vampire to boot. I reckon if there’s anything bad down there we should be able to take care of it no problem,” she said, sounding more confident than she felt.

The two edged their way, in single file, down the narrow steps, keeping one hand on the wall for support. The fire in Callie’s hand began to flicker, the flame pulled forward as a light breeze of air was drawn downward. On and on the steps took them, deeper into the earth. The walls around the tunnel began to lose their chill, becoming warmer the further down they travelled.

They stopped abruptly, faced with a solid wall that Irene tapped lightly. “I think it’s a door. There may be a lever or button somewhere.”

Callie joined in the search. The great sheet of rock slid sideways suddenly, becoming part of the wall. It revealed a round, torch-lit cavern, which was empty, bar a young, blonde-haired girl perched on a rock shelf. She was chained to pipes that ran from the floor to the ceiling. Silver chains, wrapped around the pipes, bound her raw and bleeding wrists. She scurried back as far as she could when the door slid open. The girl squealed, relaxing visibly on Callie and Irene, who rushed to her side.

“Let’s get you out of these chains.” Callie began working on one of the links, making it bend and twist with her mind. “What’s your name?”

“Maggie,” the girl whispered, looking between the chain link and the other door in the cavern. “Hurry, he could come back any second.” The chain snapped and Maggie’s arms thumped to her side with the release. She sprang up and ran for the door. “Come on. We have to get out of here.”

The rock door slammed back into place, trapping the three in the cavern. “No!” Maggie cried. “Not again.” She slumped down on the floor, drawing her knees up to her chest. Her head fell onto her knees and she sobbed.

Callie approached her and ran her hand along the girl’s hair in a soothing motion. “We’ll find a way out. Shush, its okay, don’t worry,” she soothed.

Maggie’s sobs slowly became laughter. The pitch of her voice became deeper. Her hair changed in texture, becoming darker and thicker. She lifted her head, revealing menacing red eyes. Her face distorted, the jaw lengthening to become more masculine, as did her body. Within seconds, a bearded demon sat before them. Callie backed up toward Irene, calling fire to her hand. The demon laughed harder, the sound bouncing around the cavern, mimicking him.

“Oooh.” He chuckled, managing to control the laughter a little. “It has been too long since I have been able to pull that illusion.” He spotted the fire in Callie’s hand. “Please if you think a little fire will hurt me.” He curled his clawed fingers in a bring it on motion. “By all means have a go.”

Aiming for his chest, Callie released the fire. It hit him square in the centre, but he stood on as if nothing had happened.

“I am waiting…Oh, was that it?”

She called fire again, hotter this time, putting more energy into its forward momentum. Again, it hit him square on the chest and he didn’t even flinch.

“You are boring me. Do you have anything else or are we done here?”

Callie and Irene looked at one another. Callie called air, creating a vortex in front of her. Irene added her energy to it and sent it toward him hoping to trap him inside it. It surrounded him, drawing dust up into its centre, and blocking him from sight. They turned, intending to run out the other door, only to find him standing there, clapping slowly at their pathetic attempt to restrain him. He raised one hand and, with a flick of his wrist, both girls were flung against a wall.

Callie crawled to Irene’s side. Cosain. She thought the power word and a wall of white flame erupted to block the demon from coming any closer.

“Now that is impressive,” the demon hissed as he tried, and failed, to cross through it. “How long can you keep it up?”

Callie had no idea what to do to get them out of this mess. She didn’t know how long she could keep up the protection flames either. Calling Sidney through the mind link failed. She pulled out her phone, it had no signal. Cursing, she forced her mind to concentrate on holding the flame. After several minutes, the flame began to fade to pale blue. A few minutes more and it became a darker blue. She was tiring, her power fading rapidly. Spots appeared before her eyes – a twinkling of rainbow-coloured stars dancing in her vision.

Seconds before she collapsed, she shouted with every once of power left in her. “Lucien, Master of the Seventh Underworld, Commander of Legions, Gatherer of Souls, and Slaughterer of Parents, hear me. HELP ME!” she screamed, just before the stars blinked out.


Chapter 22

Lucien got out of bed with an enthusiastic spring in his step. He was scheduled to torture a soul. Since his rise in the legion’s ranks, he only had to torture a few souls once a decade or so and the task wouldn’t normally give him such delight. A new soul arrived about a month ago, causing a commotion amongst the lesser demons. He would beg for forgiveness from the almighty upstairs one minute, and then boast of his conquests the next, describing in detail how he would penetrate his young victim’s small bodies, making them scream for their mummies. He had the audacity to tell all who would listen, how he left them bleeding and broken while he took his pleasure.

A truly sick mind, the type Lucien had no leniency for at all. Yes, he had killed hundreds himself to strip them of their power, but most were rotten anyway and they had all been capable of putting up a decent fight. This new soul picked on defenceless children, eventually killing them for his own amusement when he tired of them. This was possibly the one thing Lucien would miss if he were ever freed from here – the torment of souls such as this one.

He entered the gates of Hell waving in greeting to Marshal and Damien, the gatekeepers, and virtually skipped his way to his assigned section. “Damn but it’s hot in here today.” He smiled his snake-fanged smile at the man in front of him, who had been given a solid form for his soul. “Let’s start with the basics shall we? What’s your name?” He didn’t give the man time to answer before pushing a rusted steel knife into his thigh and twisted it. He withdrew the knife and asked again, “What’s your name?” Down came the knife to bring about the agonized screams of the man before him. “I’m sorry,” Lucien chuckled. “I didn’t hear you. Someone was screaming in my ear.”

The man continued to scream obscenities between his pants and trying to catch the breath that he no longer needed. “Arggghh, George. My name is George.”

Another blow came, this time with Lucien’s boot attached. It sank into the soft flesh of George’s wounded leg. Lucien called for hell fire to sear the flesh from George’s bones. His face and eyes were left intact so he could watch his body reconstruct. Lucien repeated his call for fire, using the flame to warm the knife blade as George’s flesh reformed. He cut a thin ribbon of flesh from George’s abdomen to test the blade’s sharpness, peeling it away slowly to expose sinew and muscle – skinning him.

“Since you are so fond of little girls, George, I’m going to make you one.” He took hold of George’s penis and started sawing at it with the blunt knife. “Do you recall the name of your first, George?”

“Yes," George hissed through clenched teeth. “Please demon, have mercy. I couldn’t stop myself,” he begged.

“Did you really try, George? Or were you having too much fun? Now, do share the name of your first. You have been so forthcoming with so many other details already.”

“Twins,” he gasped as Lucien jerked the knife again, sawing to and fro. “Nieces,” he wheezed, sagging forward. The ropes binding his wrists dug into his flesh, keeping him upright.

“I want names, George.”

“Please. Can’t think,” he pleaded in agony.

“You can’t think of the names of your nieces? Did they mean so little?” Lucien asked, removing the knife to pick a piece of flesh from it. “Nothing more than a temporary release, huh George?”

George wheezed through the pain as the sawing commenced again. “Adrianne,” he squealed with anguish. “Callie.”

Lucien stopped sawing to seek confirmation. “The Williams girls?”

George paled even more as a look of recognition crossed the demon’s face. “Yes,” he whispered.

Lucien’s eyes took on a glazed look a moment before pure rage came over him. He began to tremble. The edge of the knife was thrust to George’s throat – pressed hard enough against his adam’s apple to prevent him talking. “I’m going to make sure you suffer every day for the rest of eternity. You will suffer every one of those days for what you have taken from the innocent children you have harmed.” He took hold of George’s penis again and with one swipe, he cut it from his body.

He felt a tug on his mind at that moment. Someone was calling his name – summoning him actually. He had no choice but to go to her. Not that he didn’t want to see the beautiful and intriguing Miss Williams again, but it was going to spoil his fun.

“Marcus?” Lucien called to the lesser demon behind him. “Would you mind taking over for a time? I fear I’m needed elsewhere.” He stuffed the prize in his hand so far into George’s mouth that he started choking on it. “Let him choke,” he told Marcus as he went to remove it. He grabbed George by the throat and squeezed, making George turn his head so he would look Lucien in the eye. “I shouldn’t be too long. Marcus here is going to keep you entertained until I return.”

Lucien let Callie’s command guide him as he travelled up several floors and into another section of the upper levels of the underworld. He came to a stop outside a lesser demon’s chambers when he heard a couple of lesser demons talking about some prize. The word ‘vampire’ was mentioned, catching his attention.

“Are you sure it was the master she called?” asked the first.

“Yes. Now help me hide them somewhere and you can have the little one. The vampire is mine. Do not speak of this to anyone. I do not know how she knows the master, or why she thinks he will help, but I am not risking his wrath to find out,” the second replied, yanking open the door to the chamber to reveal Lucien standing on the other side.

“Master!” the second yelped in surprise. "I did not know you were visiting today. How may I be of service to you?” The second voice belonged to Zen, a cunning illusionist and head of one of the many legions under Lucien’s command. He pulled the door of his chamber closed behind him as he stepped out into the hall.

“I believe you have something that belongs to me?” Lucien asked, stepping forward to reach for the door. “You should know by now that you cannot hide things from me.”

“Master I am afraid you are mistaken. I have nothing of yours in my chamber.” Zen hastily created an illusion masking his ally in his room so it would appear empty.

Lucien opened the door to find an empty room, but he knew what the demon was up to and changed his tactics. “My mistake,” he said, feigning an apology.

He walked down several corridors, knowing that Zen would follow to make sure he left. He then doubled back, hiding around the last corner to spy on the two as they emerged from the chamber carrying a large chest. They looked up and down suspiciously. Lucien followed them from a distance, keeping to the shadows and ducking into alcoves and doorways when they glanced in his direction.

They finally came to a section of the underworld Lucien had never seen before. The archway he now hid behind served as the entrance to a large cavern that looked like it had been recently carved from the surrounding rock face. There were piles of rubble and dust scattered all around. Lying amongst the debris were two female bodies; one of them he was sure was no older than fifteen. The other was the reason for his impromptu visit. His Callie lay lifeless and pale. Her body was positioned over the younger girl, acting as a shelter.

He readied himself, spranging from his hiding place to take Zen and his companion by surprise. His fist struck Zen’s face, sending him careening into the rock pile at the far side of the cavern. His attention focussed on the other lesser who knelt before him.

“Forgive me, Master. I was only doing his bidding.” he cowered, with his head bowed.

“Just get out of my sight before I do something you’ll regret.” Lucien pointed at the arched doorway, sending him on his way with a boot to his behind.

Zen slowly got to his feet and staggered toward the door.

“Where do you think you are going?” Lucien challenged him, stretching out his hand and using his power to hold the demon in place. Zen struggled in an attempt to free himself from his master’s powerful grip. Lucien closed his hand slightly and the invisible grip on Zen tightened. He raised his hand so Zen hovered in mid-air. “Now where did you find them?” he asked, pointing to the two girls.

Zen refused to talk. The grip tightened and he blabbed the entire tale. “Far above this cavern is a learning place for witches. My contact on the upper world had reneged on the deal she made with me. I have been collecting the young witches as payment for her bargain. I use my illusion to call upon the students to free a comrade who has been injured within a forbidden room, which, in turn, leads to this chamber. These two came to rescue such a maiden.”

“What happened to those other witches? Where are they now?" Lucien demanded.

“I stripped them of their power and fed their remains to the flames,” he choked out as Lucien’s grip tightened, his temper reaching boiling point.

“You have broken the rules by taking the souls of innocents, Zen. You are herby banished.”

Finally hearing all he needed, Lucien clenched his fist, effectively crushing the lesser demon, and sent him back to the flames. Unlike Lucien, he would not re-awaken in his own bed in the morning.

He used his power to pick up both girls and float them through the doorway that led to the surface. He followed behind them as far as he could. At the top of the stone steps, he gently laid Irene down just beyond the entrance. Callie remained floating just in front of him. He brushed a stray strand of hair from her face. Not used to denying himself, he bent down and stole a gentle kiss – the sweetest touch of her lips against his own.

“If only I could keep you,” he sighed and pushed her forward to join her friend beyond the boundary of his world and hers.


Chapter 23

Callie moaned, cracking open her eyelids a mere fraction to assess her surroundings. Seeing and hearing nothing but silence in the darkness, she pushed herself to sit upright. She felt the smooth, albeit dusty, finish of the floor beneath her hand. She frowned, trying to remember where she was. Burning erupted in her throat, the thirst for blood taking her senses to that of a predator; she could smell a human within striking distance. Moving stealthily on her hands and knees toward the intoxicating scent, she neared, hearing the soft breaths of her prey. Its silhouette lay curled in bal. The beat of its heart – bum-bump, bum-bump, bum-bump.

Her teeth lengthened of their own accord, saliva dripped from her lips. She lowered her head toward its neck, inhaling the sweet tang of its life force flowing in steady rhythm beneath the surface of its skin. Her lips met the fragrant flesh, parting to allow her fangs access. They sank deep through skin, skimming the corded muscle and into the vein. Sweet, syrupy, warm goodness burst into her mouth causing a euphoria of sensations on her tongue. Her taste buds danced as it pulsed over them and down her throat.

A soft feminine moan of pleasure met her ears and jerked her back to awareness. She pulled back, licking the last drops of blood from the wound she had created, and looked at the girl lying beneath her for the first time since she awoke.

“Oh shit, Irene. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t know what I was doing.” She panicked, guilt washing over her.

Irene lay still; her head tilted to the side exposing her neck. Callie shook her by her shoulders trying to wake her from her stupor. Irene’s eyes remained wide, staring at nothing. Callie shook her again until Irene blinked a few times. Her dazed look gave way to a frown. She moaned again and struggled to sit up.

Callie tried to help but Irene shook her off. “Don’t touch me,” she whispered.

“Please Irene, I’m really sorry. I woke up and I just couldn’t control it. Please…please don’t hate me.”

“I don’t hate you… I think… I’m just embarrassed because I liked it too much,” Irene confessed, the blush visible even in the darkness of the hallway.

“It’s the saliva, it makes you feel good. Better than drugs apparently, at least that’s what Sidney said.”

Irene blushed even more. “I wouldn’t know.”

“Do you feel okay now? Can you stand?”

Lucien coughed from the entrance to the tunnel, making his presence known. Both girls spun to glare at him. “I’ve only just got back and I assume from what I just heard that I missed all the action.”

“Lucien!” Callie shrieked, racing to hug him. “Thank you! Thank you for coming for us.”

“For you, anything,” he breathed into her ear. He wore a genuine smile, the first in such a very long time. He unclasped her arms from his neck and brushed his lips to her cheek as he pulled away. “I must get back. There is a particular soul in need of some serious torture. You’re back in the basement of the Academy. The demon who lured you into the underworld is gone and will not be returning to lure anymore unfortunates to their deaths. Please advise the witch who drew the favour from him that her debt has been settled. I will be closing the entrance as I leave… Call me soon?” He blew Callie a kiss and shooed them up the hallway. The wall reconstructed itself to block the steps.

“That was the demon?” Irene gasped in shock. “He didn’t look like the demon you described to us.”

“I know, but yes that’s the demon we’re going to make mortal again when we find the grimoire – if we find the grimoire.”

Purple, red, orange and yellow set the sky aflame with the first rays of the morning sun visible through the windows at the front entrance of the Academy. It filled the entrance hall with welcoming light. Irene dug out her phone to call Rachael. A trill rang out, interrupting the silence and they spun to see a body scrambling upright from its slumber on the padded bench. Rachael adjusted her glasses and straightened her blouse as she rose and crossed the foyer to meet them.

“Was the deal you made with the demon worth the innocent lives it cost?” Irene demanded.

Rachael looked shocked. "How did you…" she began, then shook her head. “No." She bowed her head in shame. "He tricked me and I was young and foolish enough to let him.”

“We have been told to inform you that your debt has been paid and the demon won’t return. The entrance has been sealed.”

“Thank you,” Rachael gushed. Years of pent-up desperation sent her to her knees at the feet of the two girls. “How can I ever repay you?”

“It’s not us you need to thank, but if you know the whereabouts of the witch Habondia’s grimoire it would go some way to even the score,” Callie stated.

“I’m afraid Habondia’s Book of Shadows was destroyed by fire many years ago when it with Natural History Museum. I do have something in my personal collection at home that may be of help though," she offered. "Habondia had an apprentice for a great many years and she kept a very detailed diary of their time spent in servitude to the witch.”

“We’ll go back to the B&B for breakfast and freshen up, then come by your place around 11am if that suits?”

“Yes, that fine. It’ll give me time to dig it out. Here, I’ll write the address down for you.” She found a scrap of paper on the reception desk and scribbled on it. “You have saved so many young lives. I’m in your debt.” She squeezed Callie’s hand as she placed the slip of paper into it.

At 10:57am Callie’s pink mini pulled into the driveway of a small cottage. Callie, slurping the last drops from her juice bag, and Irene washing the last bite of her McD’s breakfast down with banana milkshake, got out and crossed the pink pea-gravel path leading to the door. They had to step over and around herbs growing wild and untended from the beds surrounding the cottage. A grey-haired, wizened, old woman greeted them at the door dressed in a flowing multi-coloured robe that reached her ankles.

She pushed her square-rimmed glasses up onto her nose in a familiar gesture. “Come in please, I’ve found the diary but it’s in a worse state than I thought.” The old woman beckoned them inside, indicating the plump sofa that took up most of the sitting room.

“Rachael?” Irene asked staring at the woman as she turned to leave the room.

“Yes, dear?”

“I’m sorry, and I know I’m staring, but weren’t you like, a lot younger a couple of hours ago?”

Rachael touched her face and caught her reflection in the mirror hanging over the fireplace. “Oh!” she gasped, staring at the old woman reflected there. Her hands moved frantically across her face, feeling the wrinkles and sagging skin that appeared. She aged even more as she watched in horrified fascination as the last sparks of life faded from her eyes. “It looks like the illusion died with the demon I made the bargain with… I don’t have much time… the diary… is on shelf … spare bed..room,” she managed to choke out before collapsing on the floor.

The skin on her face began to shrivel and dry, her eyes sinking into their sockets. The flesh on her hands dried up rapidly. Within a matter of moments, there was a little poof and a cloud of dust rose from the floor where her body had lain – her robe and glasses the only thing left to signify Rachael had even been there.

Callie covered her mouth with the sleeve of her jumper to avoid inhaling the witch’s remains while Irene gathered the dustpan from beside the fireplace.

She gently swept up what she could. “When I hold the dust in the air light it on fire just like we did at your ceremony.” When the ashes fell into the dustpan, Irene took it outside and tossed the ashes to the wind “Peace sister,” she whispered.

A veritable treasure trove of witch paraphernalia awaited them in the small bedroom. The walls were lined floor to ceiling with bookshelves full of ancient grimoires and diaries. The centre of the room held a tall bookstand with an ancient book resting open on top of it. As they moved closer the book suddenly snapped shut making them jump. It glowed brightly for a brief second then fell to the floor coming to rest at Irene’s feet. Callie bent to pick it up but it slid a few inches out of her grasp. She tried again, and again it moved out of reach.

“You try,” she told a giggling Irene.

Irene knelt and brushed her hand along the spine, feeling the ancient leather that bound the pages within. She picked it up and opened it to the first page.

“It’s blank,” Callie stated with surprise.

“No. It hides its magic from anyone it feels is not meant to have it. I can feel the lure of it. It’s very powerful and needs to be protected. If this fell into the wrong hands it could be disastrous.” Irene clutched it to her chest as if hiding it from view. “Rachael used it for her own gain and has paid the price for her greed.”

“Then I guess we’re taking it with us too, seeing as it’s picked you as its new guardian.” Callie glanced around the room and spotted an old tattered book lying on top of the nearest shelf. She picked it up to read the first few entries. The diary mentioned the writer’s excitement at being asked to serve Habondia and her exhilaration at being accepted as her apprentice. “I’ve got the diary. Are there any others you think we should take?”

“I’m actually thinking that we should let the school know about Rachael and her hoard. They can keep an eye on the rest of it. There’s a lot of power in this room.”

They travelled back to the Academy and this time the strange mist seemed to part before them, making their journey quicker. The eerie feeling Callie felt on their first trip along this road was also absent.

The same small man came bounding down the steps. “Ah, back again I see. How may I assist this time?”

“We urgently need to speak to the head teacher,” Irene replied. When he made no move to help, she brushed by him, racing up the steps into the foyer.

The first door on the right said PRINCIPAL and she made straight for it, striding in without knocking.

A man of around sixty – a little portly around his middle but not excessively so – stood up from behind a desk so quickly his seat toppled over behind him.

“What is the meaning of this?” he demanded.

“Sorry, but it’s really important that we speak to the head teacher,” Irene stated.

“It’s fine Bob,” he said to the small man who had chased after her. He indicated for the girls to sit. “Close the door after you.” He righted his seat and sat down, placing his hands with his fingers interlocked on top of the desk. “Now tell me what has you in such a tizzy, ladies?”

It took them close to an hour to recap the tale of the demon and Rachael’s involvement in the disappearances of so many students in the last century. He was shocked at the news and agreed that the diaries and grimoires in Rachael’s possession should be removed from the cottage and stored securely. It took them another hour to explain how and what they were looking for in the archives in the first place.

“I have a proposition for you Irene. I would like you to come and study here full time. You can study the craft and help with the protection of the archives. You are obviously trustworthy – the Ancient Book of Shadows has already chosen you as its new keeper and that’s the best reference for the job. What do you say?”

She looked at Callie as she answered, “I’d like the chance to learn more. Grandma could only teach us what she knew and I can learn so much more here. I think I should stay.”

Callie flung her arms around her friend and hugged her close. “I’m going to miss you so much, but this is your choice. If you change your mind at any time, you’ll always have a home with us. And for pity sakes I want a phone call at least once a week.” She continued in a whisper for Irene’s ears only, “I’m sorry I bit you. Please don’t let it influence your decision.”

Irene laughed and blushed scarlet. “If that were the case, I’d be leaving with you.”

Callie wiped the tears from her eyes in order to see the road. She promised Sam she’d go back to him before she went hunting for more clues. Besides, she thought, with Adie leaving to go to Colorado, and now Irene staying here, I’m a little lonely.


Chapter 24

Between the phone battery giving up on her and being too mentally exhausted to contemplate trying to mind-link with anyone, she settled the bill from the B&B and headed home.

The journey seemed to take longer with only the radio for company, which played depressing music no matter which station she selected. She sniffled her way through Christina Perri’s Thousand years, drying her tears with her sleeve as it ended.

Her mind whirled with everything that had happened over the last month. She would never age – stuck at 20 for the rest of her days providing she wasn’t staked through the heart or lost her head – that would be a very long time. She would never have children, and that thought alone made her weep again. Having to watch Adie grow old and eventually die filled her with grief so consuming she had to pull over.

Finally pulling into her driveway several hours later, she switched off the engine and sat staring at the house. It seemed cold and empty and she felt more alone than ever. With renewed determination and a vow to just get on with it, she got out of the car, took the suitcase from the backseat and made her way inside. Her bed called to her. She was so exhausted that she dropped her things by the hall table and made her way upstairs to crawl under the covers still fully clothed. She cried herself to sleep, mourning the loss of her humanity and the seemingly simple life that had been taken from her on the pavement outside the office where she worked, but had yet to set foot in.

Lucien called for her while she slept. She appeared beside him on the bed, her eyes puffy and red and her hair in a crow’s nest. Lucien didn’t notice. She was so worn out that she didn’t stir when he drew her into his arms and let her sleep in his embrace until the morning came. When she awoke in her own bed in the morning, she was none the wiser for having spent the night with Lucien.

A slight burn to her throat made it difficult to swallow the cold blood she eventually found on the front seat of the car. It was sort of like swallowing cold coffee when you had experienced an aromatic warm, creamy cappuccino -stale and bitter against the sweetness of fresh blood drawn directly from the vein. She forced it down.

The rest of the morning she spent cleaning the living room of broken furniture and glass before plugging the phone charger in. It took a minute for the screen to light up, when it did, her phone beeped and buzzed continuously for a good three minutes, alerting her to fourteen missed calls, five texts and six voice mails. She checked the voice mail first.

1st – Hey just letting you know we’re at the airport and getting on the plane in about five minutes. Felix booked us in first class, a private suite of all things. Rick said the flight takes about eight hours and the phones have to be turned off, so I’ll ring you when we land. Love you. Mwah.

2nd – Thank God we’re finally on the ground, I think the change in air pressure must have played havoc with my head cause Rick reckons I passed out for a good hour. Anyway, I’m fine now… Jesus it’s hot here compared to home. Ring me when you get this okay? Love you, talk soon.

3rd – Cal? Are you okay? …Stupid question, of course you are, I’d know if you weren’t. Although things have been a bit quieter through the bond, though I put that down to distance… I’m calling Sam now to see if he’s heard from you.

4th – Callie it’s Sam, Adie’s been on the phone panicking because no one has heard from you since you left for Cork. Ring me back ASAP.

5th – Okay, I’m starting to get worried. No one’s heard from you in – what – two and half days now. Rick and I have almost reached the point where we lose phone signal. We’re stopping at a motel for the night, if you haven’t called by morning I’m coming home to find you. Pity help that demon if he’s hurt you in any way.

6th – Callie it’s Sam again. Ring your sister.

She called Adie first. The mobile you are calling may be switched off. Please try later.

She left a message. “Adie, hi, sorry I’ve only just got your messages. I’m fine as you can hear. Things were a bit iffy with phone reception where we were and then the battery died. We managed to find a diary belonging to an apprentice of the witch who cursed Lucien and I’m going start going through that shortly. Irene’s been offered at place at the Shadow Academy, the place Circle of Fire have their headquarters. She’s decided to stay on. Some really old book claimed her as its protector, which I really don’t get yet, but anyway…I’m back at our house now, cleaning up the mess and before you say it, yes me, cleaning. Never thought you’d hear me say that did ya? I’ll speak to you soon. Love you.”

She hung up feeling a little brighter and called Sam next. He answered on the second ring. “Hey, I’m home,” she sang.

“Thank the gods. We were about to send a search party for you. Did everything go okay? Did you get what you needed at the Circle of Fire?” he asked, relieved to hear her voice.

“Yeah, it worked out okay in the end. I’ll fill you in when I see you.”

“Are you coming in to work today or would you like me to come over?” He hoped she chose for him to go over. He missed her and wanted nothing more than to hold her for a while. He couldn’t do that in the office. “I’ll bring a carry out?” he coaxed.

“Maybe later tonight, I’m pretty shattered and the house still needs cleaning too. Say around sevenish?”

“It’s a date…Callie?”

“Hmmm?”

“I missed you,” he confessed.

“I’ll see you later.” She laughed and snapped the phone closed.

If she was going to find the time for a relaxing bath, fix her hair and make-up before he arrived, she needed a little supernatural help in the form of vampire speed.

Once the ground floor was gleaming, she moved to her bedroom. You never know where the night will end, she thought with anticipation. I can’t very well bring anyone into my room in the state it’s in at the moment. A tornado would make less mess. An idea struck her, I have magic – why not try it out! Maybe not fire though.

She concentrated on calling air and created a mini cyclone. It lifted all the clothing strewn around the room and hovered it downstairs to the utility room. She dumped it all into the washer, added detergent and softener and turned it on. A random tune played inside her mind, it seemed familiar even though she was sure she’d never heard it before. She hummed it on her way back upstairs with the intention of vacuuming; only she did the cyclone thing again and dumped all the dust bunnies out the window. At shortly after 5pm, she put fresh linen on the bed and went to run a bath.

She slid down to her neck in the delicious-smelling bubbled bath and sent fire to the candles around the room. The volume on the portable stereo she’d left by the door was set low enough to provide subtle background noise. When Adele’s beautiful melodies began, Callie magically turned the volume up.

“It was dark and I was over, until you kissed my lips and you saved me,” she sang, in perfect harmony with Adele “I set fire to the rain, watched it pour as I touched your face.”

The diary floated towards her outstretched hands from the shelf by the sink. Upon opening it, she attempted to decipher the scribbles adorning the delicate and tattered pages. A couple of pages later, the script became interspersed with squiggles and strange symbols, becoming more and more complex as she turned each page. She had no idea what any of the symbols meant so she started randomly flicking through the diary. Towards the end there was a key listing some of them and their meanings. For example the symbol ‘W’ she thought might have been for witch was in fact vampire, and the ‘star’ signified night. She guessed the ‘half moon’ correctly, same with ‘sun’.

Damn, I’ll have to rewrite most of the diary replacing the symbols for words if I’m going to make any sense of it at all, she thought as she floated it back to the shelf.

She was just adding the finishing touches to her make-up as the doorbell rang, signifying Sam’s arrival. She bounded down the stairs two at a time and flung open the door, ready to leap into his arms. She barely managed to stop herself in time to avoid a face-full of the blood-red roses he offered in an outstretched hand. In his other hand, he firmly held onto a large, darkened glass wine bottle.

“Carry out?” she questioned, eyeing the bottle. “Can we drink alcohol?”

“I guess there is a lot I haven’t told you about your new lifestyle yet. This is a very special vintage, one I believe you will enjoy more than your usual brand,” he replied mysteriously, nodding toward the door, hinting at the invitation that had yet to be spoken.

She smacked herself upside the head with the palm of her hand. “Come in,” she said as she stepped back to allow him access.

He made his way into the kitchen “Have you eaten yet?”

“Not since this morning and that one tasted as rank as stale coffee.” She screwed up her face in a grimace.

“Did you check the date printed on the bag? It can go off pretty quickly too if you don’t keep it in the fridge.”

“Oh. What’s with that anyway? How come it tastes so good directly from the person and the stuff in the bag is kinda…I don’t know, flat, by comparison?” She jumped up onto the worktop and swung her legs back and forth, watching him search each of the cupboards.

He closed the last cupboard and looked around the kitchen in case he missed one. “Where do you keep the glasses?”

“The glasses are all broken, but there are some plastic beakers in the picnic hamper.” She shrugged and pointed up to where it was stored above the cupboards. “You haven’t answered me.”

“Hmmm, when did you drink from a donor? I thought you were revolted by that and it doesn’t really taste any different until it starts gong off.”

He dragged a stool from under the breakfast bar and used it to stand on. Callie beat him to the hamper by levitating it down from its perch above him. He had to duck to avoid it colliding with his head.

“Long story but suffice to say the blood lust struck at an inopportune moment. Irene felt the sharp end of the fangs.”

He stared at her, wide-eyed. “How much did you drink?” he asked in panic. “Do you feel okay? Not weakened or anything?”

He rushed to her side and examined her eyes using his finger and thumb to pry each of them open further, then placed his palm to her forehead.

She pushed him off and laughed. “I feel perfectly fine. Why? What’s the problem?”

He took her by the hand and led her to the only seat in the house, the stool he had used to stand on. “Witch blood is poisonous to vampires. A couple of mouthfuls would be enough to kill us. Imagine what drinking acid would do to a human body and multiply it by ten. I’m surprised you were able to get close enough and your stomach wasn’t turned by the smell of her.”

“She smells no different to Sidney, or Adie for that matter,” she countered with confusion. “Well no, that’s not strictly true. If anything she smelled sweeter than Sidney – more of a satisfying sweetness, the kind you find in chocolate – and the taste was too wonderful for words.” She sighed in remembrance of the ecstasy she felt as the first drop had tickled her tongue and tingled her throat as it slid down.

Sam snapped his fingers in front of her face to draw her back from her daydream. “Strange, what you describe is how human blood should taste.” He unscrewed the top of the wine bottle he’d brought and poured some into a beaker for her to taste. “Try some of this and tell me what you think.”

She put her nose to the beaker and inhaled. “Smells like…” She sniffed again. “Malt bread?” She tilted the beaker to her lips and let the merest drop touch them. Her tongue darted out to capture it and smear it around her lips before drawing her tongue in and sampling the flavour. "It’s not bad. It’s sorta malty and woodsy with a touch of honey and vanilla thrown in. What is it?”

“This is black bear shifter blood. This particular bear is from South America but is visiting with Sidney for a few weeks. With him are lion, wolf, and puma. Each of the different shifter groups has a unique flavour. The predator groups generally have a stronger, fuller flavour than say, swan or deer.”

“So what about alcohol then – can we drink that?”

“Drinking anything is fine – alcohol doesn’t have the same effect on us as it would humans. Eating, although possible for appearances’ sake, isn’t a good idea because our bodies are no longer able to process it. You would have to vomit it back up so it doesn’t rot in your stomach. It causes an ungodly smell after a couple of days.”

Callie took another sip of the bear blood and let a little linger on her lips. She’d noticed how he had watched her the last time and decided to tease him a little. He raised his hand to finger the drip away, but she caught it in hers and shook her head slightly. He looked at her mouth, then her eyes before he dipped his head slowly, keeping eye contact until he could resist the call of her lips no longer. His mouth hovered a fraction from hers for a second before he claimed her with a crushing force. Her teeth nicked his tongue as it swept into her mouth and he moaned from his throat – the vibration of it sending shivers down Callie’s spine and further igniting her passion to a fever pitch. She wound her legs around his waist and drew him closer, as close as he could get while still fully clothed. His hands crept around her back, sinking lower until he cupped her ass – it fit so perfectly in his hands.

Her voice echoed in his mind for the first time. Please take me upstairs, you have too many clothes.

He pulled back to look in her eyes. “Are you sure?”

She tangled her fingers in his slightly too-long hair and pulled him forward to recapture his mouth. Yes, now move it, her soft command whispered through his mind.

Crashing through her bedroom door a second later, he landed on the bed with her on top. He gave her full control of how fast and where she wanted to take things. She giggled and started unbuttoning his shirt, kissing his chest as each released. They continued in the same manner until they were both naked and breathing fast.

“The exchange of blood between vampires is only done with soul mates,” he breathed against her neck. “May I?”

She hesitated a moment, then nodded in agreement, making a short, sharp gasp as his fangs penetrated the tender flesh at her neck. They became moans of unadulterated pleasure as the ecstasy consumed them both.


Chapter 25

Seconds after the first mouthful of Callie’s blood, Sam’s body began convulsing. Violent spasms made his head jerk viciously to tear at Callie’s flesh, leaving her vein open. Blood spewed everywhere. Her hand flew to her neck in an attempt to stanch the flow until she could reach the towel she left in the laundry basket on the other side of the room. She packed the towel around the wound, returning quickly to check Sam. Blisters were forming on his lips and blood gurgled from his mouth.

“Oh God! Oh God! What’s happening? Sam? Sam please, what do I do?” She shook him.

He vomited blood over her face and naked chest, running in tracks between her breasts.

Sid, his voice whispered faintly through her mind.

Sidney! she broadcast with urgency, Sidney, Sam’s hurt! Help please Sidney!

I hear you. What’s wrong? Sidney replied, her calm belying the urgency she felt through the link.

There’s something wrong with Sam, he’s having convulsions and spitting blood everywhere!

Project your memories to me.

Callie opened the door to her shields and sent all her memories from the moment Sam arrived in her home – she didn’t bother filtering out the x-rated scenes.

He’s like that from drinking your blood? Damn. Okay, you need to flush it out quickly, use water. Stick his head under a tap or something. Don’t worry about him drowning at this point – just keep flushing until the water coming back out runs clear. We’re on our way, maybe five minutes. You’ll need to let me in when I get there. I’m bringing some shifters with me too. He’ll need their blood.

Callie carried him to the bathroom and laid him gently down in the bath, rushing to disconnect the showerhead from the hose so she could put it in his mouth as a direct flush. Turning the cold-water tap on full, she prayed that Sidney would be quick.

You might want to get dressed before we get there. The shifters I’m bringing are all male… Although I’m sure they wouldn’t mind an eyeful, Sidney sent as an afterthought. And rub some of your saliva into the wound on your neck. It will stop the bleeding.

Callie gingerly peeked beneath the towel – blood spurted and hit her square in the eye. She used the only dry corner left on the towel to wipe it. She then spat in her hand and inched it under the towel to rub it in, repeating again, and again until the bleeding stopped.

The colour of the water leaching from the side of Sam’s mouth had gone from red to a faint tinge of pink when she checked on his progress. She also noticed his nakedness at this point and grabbed her robe from the bathroom door, laying it over him to cover his lower half at least. She flashed back to her room and grabbed the first piece of clothing she came across. Sam’s shirt covered enough of her nakedness to pass muster. She’d just finished rolling up the sleeves when Sidney’s voice echoed in her mind again.

We’re only a minute away. Open the door and stand back. These guys will trample all over you if you’re in the way.

She raced down stairs, barely touching any of the steps, and flung the door open just as Sidney’s Audi pulled up behind Sam’s BMW. Three huge guys pilled out of it and charged straight for her. She managed to duck behind the door just in time to avoid being crushed. When she peeked back out, Sidney was dancing on the spot, anxiously waiting for the invitation that would allow her entrance.

“Come in,” Callie invited and followed at her heels as Sidney tore up to the bathroom to her sire.

Two of the shifters had turned the water off, removed the hose from Sam’s mouth and lifted his limp body forward to allow a third to slip in behind him. He held Sam against his chest as a sharp, mean-looking knife was placed in his hand. He drew it across his own wrist to open a vein, allowing the thick, pungently sweet blood to pulse from the wound. Its intoxicating scent instantly filled the small bathroom and Callie staggered at the smell of it, her teeth lengthening to fill her mouth. She closed her eyes in an attempt to block out the sight of it pulsating in rivers of crimson. She could hear each beat of the shifter’s heart calling out a tattoo of her name. With her eyes closed, she inched toward the bath, letting the smell guide her.

The shifter didn’t bat as much as an eyelash as he watched her silent approach, but continued to hold his wrist to Sam’s mouth so blood pulsed down his throat. A restraining hand clasped Callie’s undamaged shoulder and snapped her from the lustful haze. She blinked and sent a silent Thanks to Sidney.

After only a minute more, he removed his wrist from Sam’s mouth and covered it with a cloth before offering it up to Sidney who licked it clean – stopping the flow immediately. Callie watched with her eyes fixed on the source of her fascination and whimpered as Sidney’s tongue slowly traced the deep cut, removing all traces of the potent elixir.

“Is he going to be okay?” Callie whispered, her eyes pleading for Sidney to say that Sam would make a full recovery.

Sidney lightly shook her head. “I wish I could say everything will be fine, but I just don’t know. We may have got it before it did too much damage, only time will tell. Come on,” she said, pulling Callie from the room. “There’s nothing more we can do for the moment. Let me have a look at your neck.”

They stopped abruptly at the doorway to the bedroom after Sidney’s horrified gasp. “This is all your blood? How in hell are you still standing? You couldn’t have more than a pint left in your system. Nico!” She called for one of the shifters.

“Holy crap!” A thick American accent swore when the man Callie assumed to be Nico stepped into the room to survey the mess. “What’s up Sid?”

“Callie here is a little dry,” she said, sweeping her arm around the room indicating the obvious mess. “Would you mind donating a little?”

Callie stuttered, “What? N…no Sam needs it more. There’s a bottle in the fridge. I can grab that. I’m fine really.” She walked backwards and stumbled over a shoe that lay discarded in the middle of the floor. It almost sent her sprawling, contradicting her claim. She edged her way towards the door, intent on going to the kitchen. The thought of having a strange, albeit good-looking bloke, moaning and writhing under her like Irene had, was too embarrassing. What if he decided he wanted something more from her. No way am I even going there, she thought.

Nico stepped in front of the door to block her escape. “Don’t be afraid of the big bad wolf, sugar. I’ll leave the biting to you,” he promised with a wink.

Sidney frowned at her. “What’s the problem? Oh I see.” She laughed at Callie’s thoughts. “Nico here is well used to donating, and I’ll hang around if it makes you feel more comfortable.”

“Look, I don’t even know how to…” She waved her hand at his neck and gnashed her teeth. “You know. I’ve only done it once before and that just kind of happened.” She tried to push past the living wall blocking her escape.

He finally moved at Sidney’s nod and followed both women downstairs to the kitchen. Callie lifted the bottle from the fridge and poured what remained into a beaker. She sighed in defeat when barely a mouthful decorated the bottom.

“Fine, but you’ll have to show me how.”

Sidney led them into the living room. “What happened to your furniture?" she asked, then scanned Callie’s open thoughts. "Never mind.” She pulled over a footstool that looked as though it had survived reasonably well and plonked Callie down on it. Nico sat with his back to her on the floor between her legs. “Just let instinct guide you…bend down and sniff his neck…” Callie’s teeth extended as she inhaled, catching his musky scent. Sidney’s voice appeared as a whisper in her mind. Close your eyes if it helps and let the predator take over.

Callie did as instructed. She felt herself drawn downwards, her tongue flicking out and licking skin. She could taste the salty tang of his masculine sweat and the fine hair that coated his skin made her tongue tingle. A steady rhythm beat beneath her tongue and she struck suddenly. Her teeth pierced his vein and she latched on as he flinched.

Sidney sat cross-legged on the floor and watched the expression on Nico’s face change from a grimace at the sudden attack to one of pure pleasure. His eyes rolled back in his head and a secret smile graced his lips. The shifter had never shown emotion or anything else while donating before in all the years Sidney had known him. She found herself fascinated at the transformation that overtook him. His breath hitched and became open-mouthed panting. Short, sharp gasps escaped his mouth and his hips rocked back and forth – becoming more frantic as he neared completion. His sudden loud raspy groan was ripped from his throat as his hips jerked forcibly upwards just once more. Callie withdrew and licked the wound then ran her tongue around her lips with a satisfied smile on her face.

Sidney frowned in confusion, tilting her head from side to side, examining both their faces. “That was different,” she exclaimed. “I almost feel like a voyeur watching you two.”

Callie looked away in embarrassment. “Is he okay?” she hesitantly asked.

“I’m more than okay, Sugar. That was …amazing.” He sighed, taking her hand in his to kiss it. “I think I’m in love.”

Sidney’s burst of laughter eased the tension of the moment. “Wait till I tell Pete his Alpha has finally succumbed to a woman’s wily ways.”

Nico chuckled. “Like he’s going to believe you.”

“Not to change the subject or anything,” Callie started, feeling her head clear of the bliss-induced haze, “but why did Sam react that way when he drank from me?”

“Well.” Sidney deliberated, rising from the floor to pace the length of the room. “I think it may have been one of two things, or perhaps a combination of both. One – you drank recently from the witch Irene. I saw that in your mind, and I’m honestly not sure how you survived that, but it may have something to do with you being a witch yourself. You drinking from her might somehow have affected Sam. Your being a witch is also the second possibility, even if you don’t smell like one. Witch blood is poisonous to us. That brings me to my next question, one that I’ve been unable to see in your mind. How was Sam able to turn you without taking any of your blood in the first place? I mean he has to drain you first, and then feed you his blood. Why did it not affect him then?”

“According to Sam, I drained of blood from the stab wound to my stomach. So all he had to do was make me swallow his blood and voila.” Callie shrugged, lowering her gaze to Nico who was still sitting in front of her. She ran her hand through his hair from front to back letting it come to rest on his shoulder. “Thank you Nico. That was …tasty.”

“Anytime, Sugar. I mean that, absolutely anytime you fancy a snack you call me. I’ll be in the country for a time, and while I’m here I’m all yours.” He handed her his phone. “Give me your number and I’ll text you so you have mine.”

“Eager much?” Sidney sniggered and dragged him to his feet and shooed him back upstairs. “Go check on Sam and the others.” To Callie she said, “Once he’s stable we’ll move him to his home.”

“Maybe you should all stay here? It’s bigger than the flat. There’d be a bit more room for everyone,” Callie suggested.

“Hmm, don’t you know? Sam has a fairly, big estate – too big if you ask me. It’s more like a hotel with fifteen bedrooms – all with their own bathrooms attached. Five reception rooms and a kitchen that any five star restaurant would be envious of. It’s fully staffed too. You should come with us,” she decided, all but making Callie’s mind up for her. “Go throw some things in a bag. You can drive Sam’s car back because those three are too damn dangerous, what with driving on the wrong side of the road all the time. Sam would kill them if they so much as put a stone chip on his precious car.”

It took until four in the morning before Sidney felt Sam was stable enough to be moved.

Nico rode with Callie in Sam’s car. "For security reasons," he insisted when Sidney snorted at his declaration of riding shotgun.

Neither Callie nor Nico spoke for the entire journey, but it was a comfortable silence that neither felt the need to fill with idle chitchat. It took a further hour to get Sam settled in his room and another hour to make the staff stop fussing over them all and leave. In true vampire form, the sun was just starting to rise when Callie finally got into bed and fell into an exhausted sleep for the day.


Chapter 26

Callie was in the middle of the most comfortable bed she had ever had the pleasure to lie on. Her mind had gone blissfully blank as soon as her head hit the pillow. Several hours later, she was woken from the most peaceful sleep she’d had in months by a rough, wet sponge being swept across her face, leaving behind a trail of sticky dampness that smelled like a dog’s breath. She turned her head away from it to shout at the person who dared to interrupt her dream.

“Go away! I’m trying to sleep here.”

She reached her hand out from under the duvet to push the offender away but instead of an arm, she encountered long, very dense fur. Her eyes sprang open to meet a pair of emerald green eyes surrounded by jet-black fur, staring right back. A long, pink tongue extended from between powerful jaws to repeat its sweep across her face.

Callie screamed. A strange intermittent soft growl, sounding almost like a chuckle, echoed from the hairy beast and it moved in for another taste of her. She leapt up and tackled it, both of them falling off the bed and onto the floor with her underneath. She pulled her legs up, tucking her knees to her chest, and used as much force as she could to push her legs out, catapulting the beast across the room. It crashed into the wall, sending a cloud of plaster dust into the air. The beast was on its feet instantly, shaking the debris from its coat.

It was huge! As broad as her shoulders and as tall as she was while it stood on all four feet. Its coat was incredibly glossy – thick and as black as night, making the green eyes stand out with an eerie glow. It was undoubtedly, the most beautiful creature Callie had ever seen. And the most deadly, with jaws that could crush bone to dust and claws on the end of its powerful limbs that could cut her to ribbons with one sweep.

That’s going to bruise, a disgruntled male voice echoed in her mind.

Callie spun around in search of the owner of the voice. “Whoever said that better show themselves now, or I’ll be extremely pissed.”

You can hear me? asked the stunned voice in her mind again.

“Yes. Now show yourself!”

The huge wolf walked toward her with its head tilted to one side.

It can’t be. Can it? quizzed the voice, sounding confused and surprised at the same time.

Callie held up her hand to the wolf – palm out. “Stop,” she commanded and the beast sat, turning its head from side to side, examining her every move. “Show yourself now!” she demanded. The wolf dropped to the floor. Fur and claws receded. Large ripples danced under its skin as its body trembled. Joints popped and limbs shortened. Its snout shrunk back into its face and within a matter of moments, a naked man lay on the floor. She stared at him and realization dawned. “Nico?”

“Ouch,” he moaned, unable to move without pain wracking his body from the forced transformation.

Callie winced with each of his pain-induced cries as he tried to shuffle into a better position. She rushed to his side. “I’m going to lift you onto the bed,” she told him, ignoring his yelps as she did so. Gently laying him on the mattress, she covered his nakedness and sat beside him, brushing his hair from his eyes. They were just as green as they were in wolf form but the glow had dimmed now that they were no longer surrounded by black fur. “That was your voice I heard then, I take it?”

“Uh-huh,” he confirmed, gasping with the pain when he nodded. “Explain later. Tired,” he managed to croak as he closed his eyes. Seconds later, soft snores escaped his mouth.

Callie stood and surveyed the room. Dust and bits of plaster covered everything from floor to ceiling except for the practically bare brick wall it was meant to cover. She shook her head and went to shower off the dust sticking to the slobber on her face. She then dressed and went to search for Sidney to break the bad news about the damage she caused.

********

“You beat Nico in a fight? While he was in wolf form?” Sidney asked in clarification, “and you think you forced him to shift?”

“Well it wasn’t really a fight. He woke me up by slobbering all over my face, only I didn’t know it was him at the time. We wrestled a bit and I kicked him into the wall. It was the voice I heard that I made show itself. Next thing I know, Nico is lying on the floor in agony, and that’s when I realized the voice was his. He wasn’t even trying to hurt me. He just took me by surprise.” Callie shrugged. “Anyway the wall is pretty wrecked and the room is a mess. I’ll clean it after I eat, but I’m afraid I’m hopeless at plastering.”

“Whatever. The cleaner will sort it and we’ll get someone in to fix the plaster. No worries,” Sidney assured her. “But you still forced him to shift, whether you meant to or not. Nico is the Alpha of his pack and can only be forced into a shift by a more powerful alpha who wants to take over the pack. Or… No! That can’t happen. It’s just not possible…”

“What’s not possible? Cause I sure as hell don’t want to take over any pack…Sidney?” She waved her hand in front of Sidney’s face and snapped her fingers. “Earth calling Sidney!”

“Hmm? Oh nothing. Forget I mentioned it.” Sidney jumped up and made for the door in a hurry. “I just remembered I have to see someone about …something.” Sidney sprinted to her car. There’s only one place to go for answers round here, she thought, waiting for the gates to open.


Chapter 27

Sidney sped off. Dust and bits of gravel dinging off the glass drew Callie’s attention to the window, where she saw the glare of the sun dance off the highly polished surface of Sidney’s black Audi as it raced down the driveway.

“Something’s got Sidney’s knickers in a knot,” she said to the empty room.

“I think she’s just worried about Sam,” said an unexpected deep growl from the doorway. “She’s been with him a long time now, and I believe this is the first time she’s seen him hurt so badly.”

Callie spun to face the shifter who had fed Sam from his wrist the day before. “Hi, I didn’t hear you come in.”

“Obviously,” he said, sarcastically. He came further into the room and stepped up to look out the other window. He didn’t take his eyes from her until he reached his destination and even then, he used the reflection in the glass to track her movements as she turned away.

“How is Sam this morning? I haven’t been allowed to see him yet,” she asked, casually brushing her fingers lightly along the vertical spines standing proud on the closest bookshelf, subconsciously noting that they were all first editions.

“Good. He’s improved a little this morning.”

Callie was unsure if he had meant good to her not seeing Sam, or if it was his condition that was good. “And how do you feel? You donated a lot of blood yesterday. Shouldn’t you be resting?” She glanced at him from the corner of her eye.

He smiled, showing a lot of teeth, and shrugged off her concern. Callie had a feeling it wasn’t a friendly smile. “I heal particularly fast – even for a shifter.”

They fell into an awkward silence and Callie felt an almost overwhelming urge to leave the room. The shifter wasn‘t being openly hostile toward her, but she was aware of some sort of resentment directed at her. She wasn’t one for leaving things unfinished.

“I have a feeling you don’t like me much,” she said bluntly.

“That would be because I don’t,” he replied, equally as blunt.

She folded her arms in front of her chest. “Would you care to enlighten me to the reason for that?”

“What do you care?” He snarled.

“I don’t really, but considering we’ve only met I was wondering if you make snap judgements about everyone or do have something personal against me?”

“Look, I saw what you did to Sam first-hand. The way you looked at me yesterday, it was as if I was nothing but a blood bag for your supper, so don’t you dare come off with your high-and-mighty, little-Miss-Innocent act with me. I can see right through you.”

“This is personal then. I’m sorry if you feel I didn’t control the blood lust very well. Or do you feel that way about the others too?”

“Leave Sidney and Sam out of this. They’re nothing like you. They respect the shifters," he snapped. "Ha! Blood lust my ass! Only the new ones suffer that for a year or so. If you’d had blood lust, you’d have ripped us all apart to get it. You are nothing but the worst type of parasite,” he all but ground out through his teeth.

Callie thrust her hands on her hips and stared him down. “You think you know everything, don’t you?” She moved toward him slowly. “Well I have news for you, Mr. what-ever-your-name-is. You know sweet Fanny Adams about me.” She stood toe to toe with him and looked him in the eye before poking him in the chest with her first two fingers, accentuating her every word. “Get. Your. Facts. Right. Before. You. Throw. Accusations. Around.”

She stomped from the room in a hurry only to collide with the third male who had been in her house the day before, knocking both an apple from his hand and several pictures off their hooks. He grabbed her arms to steady her, but she pulled herself from his grip with a muttered thanks as she ran off up the hall in search of the kitchen.

“What facts don’t you have, Chris?” the newcomer asked, lifting the apple off the floor and polishing it on his sweater before taking a huge bite.

“Did you see how she looked at us yesterday? Like we were walking blood bags!” Chris threw his hands in the air in exasperation. “Some of these vamps really get on my nerves man, thinking they own us or something.”

“Are you talking about her? Callie?" he asked around the mouthful, pointing in the direction she’d left.

“Duh, did you see anyone else here?”

“Did she tell you to let her feed from you or what?”

“Nope, didn’t give her the chance to either. No way is she getting anything from me voluntarily. Not after the way she treats us, like ready meals.”

“Okay mate, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but she’s right about you needing the facts. Sidney told us what happened. Must’ve been while you were sleeping off the blood loss. That little hottie is Sam’s new baby vamp. She’s just over a month turned from what I gather. Her and Sam where apparently getting it on last night when he collapsed. He ripped a huge chunk from her neck during the convulsions and tore into her jugular. You saw the state of the bedroom?”

Chris nodded.

“That was all hers. I’m surprised she was still standing, never mind able to carry Sam to the bathroom and flush the poison from him. I’m even more surprised she didn’t drink us all dry after losing so much. But, apparently, she wasn’t even going to feed from Nico at first, she only agreed in the end because there was no other blood in the place. Sidney had to talk her into it.”

Chris turned a deep shade of red with embarrassment. “Uh oh, so I let rip into a new vamp who was practically starved, just because she drooled a little when I opened a vein for Sam?”

“Yep, bet you feel shitty now huh?”

“Well crap! Now I’m going to have to apologize.” Chris swore as he dawdled toward the door. “Did you see which way she went?”

“Toward the kitchen, I think.”

Chris made his way to the kitchen, rehearsing in his mind how he would apologize to her. He’d not only accused her of attacking Sam but of being a parasite too. He made it as far as the door to the kitchen when he heard her scream in frustration.

“Damn it! Where in hell are the blood bags? …Somebody? …Anybody? Does Sam even keep any here?”

He cleared his throat and leaned against the doorframe. “Blood bag at your service ma’am.”

“Go away!” she hissed at him. “I’ll do without first.” She stormed past him, ramming her shoulder into his side as he tried to block her escape.

“Wait please!” He reached for her and managed to grab a hold of her arm. “I’m sorry, okay. You were right, I didn’t know the facts.”

She yanked her arm from his grip and pushed him off. “Whatever. Just leave me alone.” She ran up the stairs to her room. Nico was still asleep in her bed. “Damn it,” she swore, stomping her foot and closing the door again. She made it to a sitting room at the back of the house before the shifter found her again.

“Please,” he began, “let me make amends. You need to eat soon. If you don’t, you’ll end up with blood lust and you’ll probably hurt someone.”

“Then I’ll find someone who doesn’t think I’m a leech.”

“I’ve said I’m sorry. Listen to reason: Nico has disappeared; he was in wolf form last I saw him, which means he’ll need his energy for when he changes back. Mike is still recovering after feeding Sam this morning. Brian was with Sidney before she left. So that leaves little old me. Can we start over?” He thrust out his hand for her to shake. “Hello Callie, my name is Chris. It’s very nice to meet you.”

Callie considered telling him where Nico was, but that would mean having to explain why he was in her bed. He probably wouldn’t believe her anyway. Instead, she reached for his hand and gripped it firmly. “Fine, we’ll start over. Hello Chris, do you mind if I ask what kind of animal you are, or change into?”

He laughed at her attempt at small talk. “I, my dear, am a puma.” He laced her arm through his and led her to the sofa that dominated the room. “Why don’t you get comfortable and we can get to know each other a little better while you have something to eat. I know you’re hungry.”

She sat close to the edge of the seat while he knelt on the floor, pushing himself between her legs to face her. He noticed the look of apprehension on her face just before she spoke.

“Nico sat facing the other way.”

He chuckled gently and brushed his fingers down the side of her face. “This will work too. Look, I can see you’re unsure, don’t worry about hurting me, okay? I don’t mind a bit of pain, but go gently on me. I don’t get a high like the others do.”

She brightened at this. “Really? You don’t feel the pleasure that comes with a bite? Why do you do it then?”

He shrugged. “Sam and Sidney helped my family out a while ago, and I owe them more than a little blood now and then. It’s not so much pleasure the others feel but a rush, a high.”

“Oh. Are you sure you want me to? You don’t owe me anything, and the thought of bringing you pain doesn’t appeal to me very much.”

He bent his head forward to expose his neck and leant his hands on the back of the sofa for support. He smiled reassuringly. “I’m sure.”

She leant forward to inhale his scent – the way Sidney had told her to do with Nico. The steady rhythm of his pulse beat just below the surface. Her teeth extended, but she moved back again. “I can’t do it,” she lisped around her canines. “I can’t cause you pain.”

He pulled her head towards his neck again. “Just bite me already. But gently.”

She could feel the tattoo of his pulse under her lips where he held her and she willed herself to be gentle. To give him some sort of pleasure from what she was about to put him through. She opened her mouth and swept her tongue across his skin, tasting the citrus tang of his shower gel. She began suckling him gently without piercing his skin. Her tongue laved him as she kissed his neck. As gently as she could, she allowed her fangs to pierce through skin. The sudden burst of blood filled her mouth and coated her tongue, tantalizing it with the sweetest of sensations. She felt a tingle all the way through to her core – making her throb there. The feeling enticed her to pull harder on his vein. She focused and forced herself to simply let it flow while she continued the open mouth kiss.

He moaned and unconsciously rocked his hips back and forward toward her, bumping and grinding at her core. Sensations spiralled out of control. She could feel the bulge forming in his trousers pushing at her centre and she had to concentrate harder. Had to will herself not to explode with the pleasure he induced. His husky roar of triumph filled her ears and she withdrew her fangs just as she peaked a second later. She screamed in the glory of it.

Chris collapsed on top of her, his weight pushing her back against the seat. She licked his wound to close it, giving him one last shiver of pleasure.

“Holy shit!” he gasped, managing to voice her thoughts perfectly. He slid down her body until his ass rested on his heels and his head lay across her stomach. A gentle rumble began his chest as he sighed in satisfaction.

“Are you purring?” Callie giggled, gently brushing his hair from his sweat-dampened forehead.

The sound of her voice brought him back to his senses; he leapt up to pull his T-shirt from his jeans in an attempt to cover himself. His face flamed as he saw her glance at the damp spot that had appeared at his crotch.

“Shit, I’m sorry. That’s never happened before. I swear I wasn’t taking advantage of you. I don’t know what happened it’s normally painful.” He rushed the words out as he backed up to give her space.

She smiled at him. “I’m glad it didn’t hurt this time and I’m the one who should apologise.”

“No way are you apologising! That was the most intense…” he paused searching for the right word, “powerful, amazingly fantastic and completely unexpected thing I’ve ever experienced. Ever…Wow, just…wow.”

She giggled again, flushing herself this time as he walked backwards holding his T-shirt down.

“I need to go…eh change,” he stammered.

“Me too,” she admitted, hurring to join him when he left the room.

He escorted her to her bedroom door. “Thank you, Chris.”

“Absolutely anytime,” he replied, turning and practically skipping his way to his own room.


Chapter 28

Sidney entered the large foyer of Stephan and Liz’s home behind the human who opened the door for her.

“The masters will be down momentarily,” he said through his nose, bowing as he left her in the front sitting room.

Their home was the epitome of grandeur and the oldest inhabited castle in the north of Ireland. The decor was very modern and unexpected given the age of the building, and the fact that Stephan was one of the biggest antique dealers in the country. It made the castle feel homely and welcoming. Sidney felt instantly at ease as she sat in the large cream armchair while she waited for her hosts to appear for her unexpected visit.

A pretty, young woman entered the room and curtsied to Sidney. “The masters wish me to offer you sustenance.” She knelt on the floor in front of Sidney and offered up her wrist. She kept her head down to avoid looking Sidney in the eye.

“Thank you, but I’m fine,” Sidney replied. The young woman looked up with fear in her eyes at her refusal and Sidney caught the faint whisper of a brutal slap that crossed her memory. She helped her to stand. “I’ve already eaten. Really, I’m fine.” She could feel the woman’s relief as she all but ran from the room. Sidney couldn’t help but wonder at the reason for the fear while she waited for her hosts.

Draped in a peach-coloured, silk robe with lace trim, Liz arrived first – her attire elegant, but for the bunny slippers peeking out below the hem of the gown. She enveloped Sidney in a hug. “It’s been too long.” She smiled in greeting.

“I know, I keep meaning to call, but something always seems to crop up at the last moment.”

Stephan swept into the room, cutting off any further catching up between the two. He had dressed himself in a red, velvet robe that was almost as frivolous as the one Liz wore. “Sidney, dear,” he said, taking her hand to his lips for a mock kiss across her knuckles. “What have you gotten yourself into?”

“That’s right, assume I’m in trouble.” She rolled her eyes at him. “I’m on a fact-finding mission actually.”

“Fine.” He chuckled. “How can we help?”

“I’ll get straight to the point. I’ve obviously interrupted something.” She smiled wickedly. “Is it possible for a vampire to have a werewolf as a mate?”

He returned her smile and indicated for them all to sit. “In theory, yes, I suppose they could. Why? Have you finally found a mate for yourself?”

“Me? No, but what if that vampire already had a vampire mate. Would it be possible to have both?”

“Hmm, two mates, one soul and one bond? I’ve never heard of such a thing happening. It’s highly unlikely but again, in theory, possible,” he replied thoughtfully. He sat forward in his seat, anxious to hear more. “Are you going to fill us in on who we are referring to?”

“Well, you know how Sam thinks he’s found his soul mate?”

“Yes we’ve met the girl. Very pretty little thing she is too,” Liz interrupted her.

“What do you mean, thinks?” Stephan shushed his wife by flapping his hand in her direction.

“I can see in his mind that he feels strongly for her, and she does for him too, but there’s something not right about it. He tried to share blood with her and ended up poisoned by it. We almost lost him. Had it not been such a small amount, Callie’s quick action in flushing it out and him being able to feed straight away, we would have. He is still terribly weak, but recovering. I had put the poison down to her having drunk from a young witch just the day before…”

“She was able to drink witch blood without ill effect?” Stephan gasped.

“Yes, and again I thought perhaps because she is a witch herself, it didn’t affect her the same way as it would us.”

“No, she can’t be a witch. How could Sam have turned her if she were?” Liz exclaimed, aghast at the suggestion.

“We have met her and she smells quite delightful – not like a witch at all,” Stephan refuted.

Sidney filled them in on how Sam had only had to make her swallow a small mouthful of his blood and how she had inherited her powers several weeks after that.

“Come to think of it now, it was rather strange that she had no blood lust, or newborn symptoms. Perhaps that had something to do with being a witch. I found no information about it what-so-ever,” Stephan added as an afterthought, taping his chin with his index finger.

“Then last night, after she had lost a vast quantity of her blood through the rip Sam caused in her main artery, I made her feed from a shifter. Rather reluctantly, I might add. What was strange was that although he has donated for years without emotion or any after effects, he reacted very strongly during her feeding and he became captivated by her. Today she forced him to shift. It was unintentional, but just before that she could hear his voice in her mind while he was in wolf form. I can’t even do that…”

“How did he react?” Stephan interrupted again.

“Sexually,” she answered. “But in order for her to hear him and then force him to shift she would…”

"Either have to be a more powerful alpha or his mate,” Liz finished for her.

“Exactly.” Sidney nodded. “She has no intention of taking over any wolf pack.”

Stephan scratched his head. “Very curious. Are there any or have there ever been shifters in her family history?”

“Not that she’s aware of. Her maternal great grandparents were powerful witches, Noleen and Brian O’Connor, and as far as I can draw from her mind all on her paternal side were human.”

“Ah, I knew them, very nice people too. Such a pity their lives were cut short. Hmmm,” he sighed, lost in thought, “a vampire witch who is unaffected by poisonous witch blood, can control this shifter…is it just the wolf?”

“So far it’s just the wolf. But then there’s also the matter of the demon.”

"Demon?”

“He was attempting to kill her – to take her power. For all intents and purposes, he has given up being a demon on her say so. Something about a promise she made to help him escape his underworld prison. He has admitted to her that he finds her intriguing. He also saved both her and the witch from a fellow demon who lured them into the underworld.” At their confused looks she added, “A long story.”

“Did she feed from the demon as well?”

“Not that I’m aware of, no, but she is trying to give him something he craves more than anything else. Something he can’t even do himself.”

“Okay, so we add ‘may be consort to a demon’ to the list.” More head scratching. “The witch she drank from, do you know how she responded?”

“The only hazy vision I could glimpse of the witch was her writhing in ecstasy under Callie while she drank. Only the fact that Callie is female may have been the deciding factor in the enchanting. I know the young witch was confused and embarrassed by how she felt.”

“Oh my! Of course! You just hit the nail on the head as it were,” Stephan cried as he rose from his seat to pace the room in panic. “But she can’t be! They have been gone for more than three thousand years. If word gets out that she may even possibly be… every being of power will come looking for her, including the council elders. They will kill anything that gets in their way. We will all be in danger…” He stopped pacing abruptly and took a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself.

“Wait.” Sidney frowned at him. “I couldn’t quite catch that thought. Can’t be what exactly?”

“An Enchantress.”

Both Liz and Sidney sent him quizzical looks.

“Explain what an Enchantress, is dear,” Liz instructed.

“I only know what I can remember from an ancient script I came across many years ago. I’ll have to hunt it out to be sure. From what I remember, whatever animal – be it human, beast, vampire, or anything for that matter – that she feeds from, will fall in love with her. They fall so completely that she can make them do absolutely anything, including taking their lives if she asks it. Whatever magic she weaves can fool shifters into thinking they’ve found their mates, and vampires their soul mates, etcetera…Whoever controls her will have access to all other beings through her.”

“Oh shit. That’s not good,” Sidney concluded.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here,” Stephan continued. “We are jumping to conclusions, and one wolf does not mean she has control of all the beasts. It could be as simple as having two mates as you suggest.” He started pacing again. “We will have to keep an eye on her. Do not let her feed from anyone else, bag feedings only from now on. We cannot risk it just in case.”

Sidney rose from her seat. “You’ll keep me informed of what you find?”

“I will call on you when I know more,” he promised.

She turned to Liz, hugging her in farewell. “Next time I come by I’ll leave more time for a decent visit.”

“Speak of this to no-one, Sidney,” Stephan warned, walking her to the door.

“I won’t, no fear of that. I’ll be in touch soon.” Sidney waved, speeding off to the nearest blood bank on the way to Sam’s home.


Chapter 29

Callie emerged from the walk-in closet after changing her clothes, to find Nico awake and sitting up. “Hi, sleepy head,” she greeted him, making her way over to sit on the bed. “I’m sorry about earlier. I’d no idea you were the voice I heard, or that you were the wolf for that matter. How do you feel now?”

“Truthfully, I’m a little sore,” he admitted. “I’m fine, really." He added at her troubled look. "I hurt more after a workout with Chris and Mike, it’s no big deal.”

She patted his knee through the duvet. “Thank you for trying to make me feel better. Now come on, get your butt up and out of my bed. It’s almost dinner time and I think the cook’s making venison stew for you guys.”

He threw the duvet off and stood to unashamedly expose his nakedness.

Callie gasped and turned her head away. “For pity’s sakes, Nico. Warn me next time. I really don’t want an eyeful.”

“Sorry, I forgot how prudish you Irish are. This is nothing, you should see it back home. Practically everyone walks around naked half the time.” He chuckled at her shocked look. “If we change forms when we’re dressed, the clothes we have on tear, so we get naked first. The clothes just don’t magically appear back on you know.” He wrapped the sheet around his hips. “Besides you’re my mate so you may as well get used to seeing me like this. You’ll be seeing a lot more of it.”

“What? Mate? Huh…You’ve lost me. Did I miss something?” Callie asked, stupefied. “What do you mean I’m your mate?”

He sniggered at her horrified expression. “Ah come on, it’s not that bad. Look, you’re obviously not an alpha, so that means you must be my mate.” When she still looked confused, he explained, “You can hear me when I’m in wolf form and you made me shift. Only an alpha or a mate can do that.”

“But Sam said I was his mate. No offence, but I don’t really think of you like…” She pointed at them both alternately. “Like, you know…like that.”

“Before last night we didn’t know one another so that’s not surprising. I’ve heard of worse cases where mates actually hated each other before they bonded. Personally, I love the idea of us, and after last night I’m rather looking forward to your supper time.” He bounced his eyebrows leeringly at her, and then burst out laughing when she blushed.

“I’m still not jumping into bed with you just because you think I’m your mate. I’d rather you didn’t walk about naked either please… I’m dating Sam anyway.”

“I don’t mind sharing,” he said with a grin.

“Whatever.” She rolled her eyes. “Get dressed and come down for dinner. I’ll save you bowl of stew.” She left the room in a hurry, pausing only to call the apprentice witch’s diary to her hand as she passed the dresser.

Instead of going directly to the kitchen, Callie made her way up one floor to the bedroom where Sam was staying during his recovery. After knocking gently, she entered to find Mike holding a straw that poked out the top of a blood bag, to Sam’s lips.

Mike removed the straw from Sam’s mouth and got up from the bed. “I’ll give you a minute, but don’t expect too much conversation. His vocal cords haven’t healed enough yet.” He paused on his way out the door. “I’ll be right outside if you need me.”

“Thanks,” She called over her shoulder. Sitting on the bed, she leant forward to brush a gentle kiss to Sam’s forehead. He was sitting up a little crooked but his eyes were open and he managed a slight twist of his lips in greeting. “You’re looking a little better since the last time I saw you. Sidney reckons it must have been my witch blood that did this to you. I’m so sorry.”

He moved his hand slowly to touch hers and gave it light squeeze in understanding. “Not…your… fault,” he managed to croak out.

“Don’t talk or you’ll hurt yourself.” She squeezed his hand in response. “I’d like to try healing you. I’m not as strong as Adie, but it might help. Is that okay? Just nod.”

His head moved just a fraction in agreement so she reached up and circled her hand around his throat, hovering just above his skin. She concentrated on calling earth energy and focused everything she could draw into healing him. A faint white glow began to build under her hand. She closed her eyes and willed it to do what she needed. Warmth seeped from her hand to his throat with little blue sparks that jumped between them.

Tingles spread up her arm. She opened her eyes and watched as colour began to blossom on Sam’s skin, washing away the pallid tone of death it had held only moments before. The tingles spread across her chest as more heat left her and flowed into him. It left her feeling cold. A bitter chill so deep her body began to shiver. Drowsiness followed as all warmth left her. The blue sparks faded and the glow died as Callie slid off the bed.

The noise of her fall alerted Mike, who came rushing into the room to find her deathly pale and limp on the floor. He checked on Sam and noticed immediately the improvement in his colour, but found that he too was unconscious – his head hanging limply to one side. Mike rearranged Sam so he lay flat then lifted Callie off the floor and headed for the stairs with her cradled in his arms. A whisper of her hair moved across his cheek as she snuggled deeper into his neck. The sharp sting of her fangs scratched when they found their intended mark.

Callie gradually became aware of the thum-thump of a pulse beating just below her ear. She groggily moved her head around to better position her fangs. So tired she could barely open her mouth, she managed to pierce the vein with the first strike. Lifeblood filled her. She swallowed, not noticing that her position had changed again.

Mike managed to sit down on the stairs with her across his lap while she suckled gently from him. He could feel her tongue sweeping in and out, lapping at the blood that oozed from the wound she made. With every swallow she took, he felt himself slip deeper into bliss and his hips began to rock. Before long, he began to thrust harder. She moved, angling herself for better access until she sat astride him, clinging to him as the force of his pumping threatened to throw her off. He gripped her waist and used the extra friction her new position gave to heighten his pleasure.

Consciousness slowly returned to Callie with every mouthful, and as she became aware, she slowly withdrew her fangs. The grip on her waist tightened to stop her from moving.

“Please don’t stop,” Mike begged. “Just a little more.”

She returned to the elixir that flowed freely. Her tongue dipped and swirled in time with each of his thrusts until he roared in ecstasy as he toppled over the edge. He shuddered. She swept her tongue directly over the wound to close it and he shuddered again.

Callie rolled off him to sit beside him on the stairs. She sighed, still exhausted. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me.”

He turned his head to look at her and grinned wickedly. “I can think of a really good reply to that.” He laughed and he pushed himself up. “Do you feel better now? You were out of it for a bit.”

“Eh…Yes, thanks. I guess I used too much energy on Sam and passed out. I … thanks for letting me…” She pointed to his neck – the wound had gone.

“You’re welcome to suck on me anytime you feel like it.” He winked. “You okay to head down yourself now?”

“Yup, I just need to get the book from Sam’s room. I think I dropped it in there.” She too got up.

He smiled at her and took her hand in his to help her to her feet. He then placed it against his lips. “You are one special little lady, Callie Williams,” he said and kissed her hand before turning and whistling on his way into Sam’s room. A second later, he was back with the diary, which he passed to her with a wink. Whistling something resembling Dr. Hook, I’m in love with a beautiful woman, he left her listening to the echoed tune in the empty stairwell.

Callie made it to the kitchen. She even managed to fill a bowl of stew for Nico before the four shifters arrived through the swinging doors with Sidney following on their heels. She handed each of them a bowl as she filled it, before gratefully accepting a tall glass of chilled blood from Sidney. Almost immediately after taking her seat, three of the four shifters moved at the same time, for the only seat beside her. They shoved each other, arguing over who was going to sit next to her.

“Stop it now, all of you,” Sidney cried in frustration, stepping over broken remains of a glass of blood one of the bickering males had knocked from her hand. Delicious red juice covered her from head to toe. She stood with her hands on her hips. “Callie, move to the head of the table then no one can argue,” she ordered, clearing the shards of broken glass. “Such a waste,” she mumbled and sighed dramatically while she licked and sucked the juice from each of her fingers.

Three of the shifters watched Callie’s every move while they all chatted easily about the events of day – each of them had wide satisfied smiles. Sidney observed them in silence, trying to catch random thoughts the three seemed unwilling to share.

“Why the hell are you three grinning like idiots anyway?” Brian eventually asked, scowling at his three friends. He thought they were up to no good and he would likely suffer the brunt of any pranks they were about to pull.

Brian’s question prompted all three of their minds to reveal the same thing – Callie feeding from them and them loving her, graphically.

Sidney groaned. “Callie, can I have a word in the library? In private?”

“Sure,” Callie replied, getting up to follow her. Three pairs of eyes watched her leave.

“Okay,” Sidney started when she closed the door behind Callie. “This is going to sound strange, but I need you to just do as I say for the time being. You have to stop feeding from donors for a while and stick to bag feeds. Don’t ask me why. I’ll tell you when I get confirmation. Okay?”

“Okay, I guess." She started pacing. “While I have you here alone I have something to ask…Nico seems to think I’m his mate now because I heard him when he was a wolf. Is it true? Am I his mate?”

“I honestly don’t know the answer to that,” Sidney admitted, “but don’t worry about it for now. Sam loves you and I know you feel strongly for him too.” She answered Callie’s next question before it fully formed in her mind. “Your shields are down because you weakened yourself when you tried to heal Sam…and no, it’s not like that when anyone else feeds from them, just with you.”

“Oh.”

“Anything else you want to ask?” Callie shook her head. “Right, I’ll leave you to try and make sense of the witch’s diary then. Good night, Callie.”

“Night Sidney,” she replied, a little shaken by the news that she alone could induce that kind of response from the three men she had fed from.

She absentmindedly snapped her fingers so the small table lamp lit up. Making herself comfortable in the armchair, she spent the next few hours jotting notes or drawing sketches of the symbols from the diary – some she already knew, and some she wanted to research more.


Chapter 30

Heavy, dark clouds obscured the sun in the eastern sky by the time Callie looked up from her notes. Almost eight A4 pages of symbols sat on her lap when her mind wandered to the demon himself. I really should ask him what he remembers of the witch and the spell she cast to banish him.

She called him. “Lucien, Master of the seventh Underworld…” she started, but before she got any further, she stood before him in his bedchamber.

He was sound asleep in the middle of the huge bed, spread out like a starfish. No sound of his breathing or twitch of an eyelid the entire time she observed. After about 10 minutes, she got bored and poked him on the arm. He didn’t move. She poked him harder and still nothing. Again, she tried tapping his face lightly with the flat of her hand. When he still didn’t move she put her head to his chest to listen for a heartbeat.

He wrapped his arms around her suddenly, holding her captive against his side. Callie squealed and snorted as a fit of giggles took her.

“Mmm.” He sighed in contentment. “To be woken by the sound of your joyous laughter is a pleasure I would partake in every day, if you would but have me.”

Slapping his arm playfully, she pointed to the ceiling. “Behave I get enough of that up there.”

He scowled. “Who do you waken with your laughter in the Upperworld?”

“No one.” She laughed. “But this afternoon three shifters were arguing over who was going to sit next to me at the diner table. Poor Sidney was standing a little too close and ended up covered from head to toe in her supper. You should have seen her, blood was running down her face and dripping off the end of her nose.”

“And where was your so-called soul-mate while these three beasts fought for your attentions.”

“They weren’t fighting, just shoving a bit. Sam’s confined to bed until he heals.”

“Heals from?” he asked when she didn’t elaborate.

She sighed. “Apparently my blood is poisonous to vampires, and when he drank from me it almost killed him.” She revealed, waiting for him to respond. He didn’t. “Okay, the reason I’m here is… I need to know what you remember about the spell the witch cast to banish you here.”

“I wasn’t present when she cast it. The last thing I remember from my mortal life was travelling to Olympus to ask Herophile’s father for permission to wed her. We had been involved for a couple of summers and I had asked him before to allow us to marry but he refused. We thought if she were with child he would acquiesce, so when she told me the happy news we’d been hoping for, I set off to see him. The ship I travelled on was caught in a freak storm and crushed against the rocks. Everyone on board was tossed into the raging sea and I awoke here in the lower levels of the underworld.” He paused, taking a deep breath in preparation for the next part of his tale. “Phroshene was the master here at the time and claims to have been visited by Poseidon. He told him that I had been banished from the Upperworld and his daughter had been punished through the death of our unborn child for daring to defy him.” He croaked out the last sentence, his grief still evident in voice even after so long.

“You must have loved her a great deal,” she whispered, taking his hand in hers and squeezing it gently.

“I would have willingly given my life for her,” he sighed. “You remind me of her you know, and not just in appearance. She was just as fearless in the face of adversity, both loving and forgiving. Although, she was perhaps a little naïve in her judgement as she always took people at face value. Now, tell me what you‘ve learned from this book you spoke of.” He finished with a change of subject.

She smiled and flicked her hair away from her face so she could see him better. “It’s full of symbols, some of which I’ve been able to find meanings for. I’m afraid there are so many left to work out that it’s going to take a while.”

“Show them to me, it may be the old language or a form of it. Perhaps I can be of some help after all.”

“They’re back at the house. You’ll have to send me back so I can get them.” She stood and waited for him to dispatch her.

“Callie, dear, you are a witch of great power. Simply call for them.” At her shrug he advised, “Think of the symbols and the book they dwell in and then see it in your hand.”

With her eyes closed, she saw the crisp, white sheets of lined paper she’d left sitting on the arm of the chair her body still occupied back at the house. She then pictured them resting in her hand. Feeling the slight weight and the cool brush of the paper in her palm, she opened her eyes, astonished to find it actually there.

“Yes!” She pumped her fist in triumph and handed it to him. “These are the pages with the symbols I don’t know.”

“Hmmm…this one is lavender,” he said pointing to the first mark on the page, “this one honey…This one is very similar to the symbol for air…water…” He flicked the pages over reciting each that he knew. "This one means child. Are you writing these down?”

“Sorry.” She called for the biro pen and handed it to him. He looked at it as he took it from her. Twisting it this way and that, he rolled it between his fingers. “It’s a biro…a pen. To write with,” she explained, pulling the lid off to expose the roller ball.

He frowned and held his hand out as if waiting for something else. “The ink well?” he asked at her questioning look and imitated dipping the pen.

“The ink is stored in it.” She pulled the pen apart to show him the blue tube of ink. “Just write with it the way you normally would. You don’t need to dip it.”

Moving the reassembled pen slowly across the page, he stared in astonishment. Touching the ink and gasping when he found it dry. Callie laughed when he reached forward to dip the pen in an imaginary pot before returning to the page to continue writing his elegant script.

“Why don’t I leave you to get on with it?” she suggested, waiting for him to dismiss her. “Lucien you can send me back now.”

“You don’t need me to send you. See your body and will your consciousness to return to it.” He glanced up when he finished the word he was writing to smile warmly. “Good morning. Go get some sleep, you look worn out.”

Closing her eyes, she did as he instructed and imagined the feel of her body and willed herself to wake. When she opened her eyes again, she was curled in the armchair by the table lamp in the library. She glanced out the window as she stood to stretch the stiffness from her muscles, and caught sight of something she never imagined ever seeing in her life. A wolf, bear, puma, and a lion playing tag on the tree-lined lawn of the large gentleman’s residence.

Her phone beeped with a text message. Hey Sis got msg glad u ok no sgnl here headin 2 ricks now luv u tlk soon xx

Knowing Adie probably wouldn’t get her reply any time soon, she replied with a simple, Luv u 2 miss u more xx

She continued to watch the four beasts run riot around the lawn. Laughing at how they would alternately take the legs from beneath one another and then jump back out of claws reach. The sky began to darken further and she could feel the chill of rain approaching just as the heavens lit up. Thunder rumbled several seconds later. Trees around the garden began to sway in the increasing wind, their branches bending and springing with each gust. A big storm was coming fast. The four outside turned to face the road moments before Callie saw the glint of lighting reflected on the gleaming surface of the approaching car.

Callie! She heard Sidney anxious call in her mind. When they get here, say and do nothing unless I approve it. Nothing at all, you understand? All our lives depend on it!


Chapter 31

“Sam! Sam wake up!” Sidney cried, shaking him roughly. “Come on! You have to wake up, they’re almost here.”

Sam groggily opened his eyes and looked around the room. “Where’s the fire?” he croaked with a sleep-roughened voice, using both his arms to push himself up.

“Morag’s coming. She’s only a few minutes away.”

“What the hell is she coming here for?”

“I’ll explain while you dress.” She pulling the duvet from him. “Hurry!”

The room spun as he swung his legs over the side of the bed and he clasped both his hands to his head in an attempt to stop it. He forced himself to stand, gripping the chair beside the bed for support. “Well. I’m up, start explaining.”

She puffed a rust coloured bang of hair from her face. “I went to see Stephan and Liz yesterday,” she began. “Some things have developed with Callie. When she was hurt I made her feed from Nico and now she can make him shift forms.”

“She is not his mate.” He frowned. “She’s mine.”

“Apparently…Stephan thinks she may be something else, but he needs to confirm his suspicions. Anyway, he caught one of his donors trying to sneak out during the night and when confronted she revealed that Morag had made her spy on them and report any suspicious activity. She informed her of the conversation we had about Callie and what we suspect.” She helped him pull his trousers up past his knees. “She must have flown straight over on the first flight this morning.”

“What do you suspect of Callie?” He shrugged into his shirt, starting with the top buttons while Sidney buttoned from the bottom.

“Stephan thinks she’s an Enchantress.” He raised his eyebrows in question. “Someone who can control any conscious being by making them fall in love with her,” she explained. “It might be her bite because the three shifters she fed from have fallen ass over tit for her overnight… Crap, Morag’s right outside. We’re out of time.” She raced from the room and down the two flights of stairs to the front door. She schooled her features and plastered a fake smile to her lips as she flung the door open.

“Morag, how lovely to see you. Come in please.” She stepped back, allowing her entrance. “To what do we owe the honour of this unexpected visit?”

Morag shook her umbrella and handed it to the man standing on the porch behind her. “Do try not to drip on the floor, Arthur,” she chastised him as rainwater ran in streams down his face from his soaked hair and dripped from his water-logged jacket. His shoes squelched as he stepped forward to take her offering.

I wouldn’t have to worry if you didn’t insist on this atrocious weather everywhere you go! he broadcast loudly, his disgruntled thoughts slamming into Sidney’s mind.

“Where is your Sire?” Morag asked, intentionally evading Sidney’s question.

Telepathically prodding the woman’s mind, Sidney attempted to find the answer but saw nothing, her shields were too strong and any more force would be felt.

“Getting dressed I believe," Sidney answered. "Had we known you were coming, he would have greeted you himself.” She smiled at the elder. Callie stay where you are, I’m sending the boys in to you, she broadcast. Nico and Mike, you stay with Callie in the library. Chris, follow Arthur and make sure he doesn’t get too nosy. Brian, you’re with me.

Sam walked with purpose along the balcony overlooking the foyer, trailing his fingers along the polished wood of the handrail. He consciously made an effort to make it look like he didn’t need the support and steeled his strength for his descent down the wide staircase.

“Morag,” he greeted when he reached the bottom. He crossed the large expanse of open space to grip her shoulders and air-kissed her cheeks. “Shall we retire…”

Front parlour, Sidney whispered in his head.

“…to the front parlour for refreshments?” Sam asked, without pause.

Morag laced her arm through Sam’s proffered one. “Always the gentleman Sam,” she mused. “I’ve heard news that you have found your mate at long last and wish to pay my respects to the lucky young thing who finally turned your head.”

“Ah, news travels fast these days.” He chuckled appropriately. “She’s resting at the moment. I’m sure she would be honoured to meet you when she’s feeling up to it.”

Disconnecting himself from her arm as they entered the front room, he spoke into the intercom beside the door. “Robert, please bring a bottle of this morning’s harvest to the front parlour. Three glasses please, we have a guest,” Sam said as a cue to Robert to bring out the good Waterford crystal flutes.

Brian, still in his huge grizzly form, shouldered his way through the double doors and took up residence in front of the empty fireplace – remaining equidistant from both Sam and Sidney. A short time later, Robert appeared with a tray containing three glasses and a frost-coated, deep-red bottle from which he proceeded to pour the contents into the flutes. Handing one to each, their guest first, he bowed his head to Sam and left the room without uttering a single word.

“Let’s not beat around the bush Sam. Your young bride-to-be is something of a conundrum, is she not?” Morag raised her brows, challenging him to correct her. “Or are my sources wrong?”

“I have no idea what you’re implying Morag. Please elaborate?” He took a huge gulp from the blooded glass, fearing he would need more of his strength before the visit ended.

She sneered at him. “Very well. My source is under the impression that your mate is more than you make her out to be. That she has some sort of control over them.” She pointed at Brian.

Tell her to compel him. Sidney silently sent him.

Sam smiled at Morag. “You have the strongest compulsion this side of Europe, why don’t you ask Brian yourself?” He turned to him and called him closer with a wave of his hand. “Brian, would you mind answering some questions?”

The bear shrugged and shook his head.

“This is absurd. How can he answer in animal form?”

“Ask questions that require yes or no answers,” Sam supplied.

She tutted. “Fine…Bear look into my eyes…you will answer truthfully.”

Brian nodded – he had no choice; she had compelled with a single glance.

“Is Sam’s mate resting?”

He nodded – she was sound asleep the last he saw her.

“Does she have any control over you?” He shook his head.

“Can she make you shift?”

Again, he shook his head.

“Can she make any of the others change forms?”

He shook his head with a shrug was so small it was almost un-noticeable – he had no idea whether she could or not.

“You can go now.” Morag frowned and shot a look at Sidney who just sipped from her glass looking completely un-concerned. She then spun to settle her stare on Sam. “Hmm, I smell a rat…I’ll take my leave for now but be assured I will return when Demetrius gets in from the Philippines tomorrow evening. Have your mate ready for visitors and your animals in human form.”

She stood and turned on her heel to make her long overcoat swing out around her in a very dramatic fashion. The front door slammed behind her as she left. Callie, Nico, Mike and Chris all filed into the room after her car had taken off at high speed down the driveway.

“We are so screwed!” Sidney exclaimed, flopping down on the chaise-longue.

“I think it’s about time to fill everyone in,” Sam suggested, searching for his phone in his jacket pockets. “I’ll ask Stephan to come over too because I’d also like to know what the hell is going on.”


Chapter 32

Thirty-five minutes later, a mud-splattered, once-white Land Rover rolled to a stop not four feet from the front door. The driver twisted in his seat to lift a large folder from the back seat, then exited and made his way to the passenger door. He opened it to help his mate from the vehicle. The wind had eased considerably once the sky had cleared enough to allow the late morning sun to penetrate the gloom. Sparkles of light danced on the raindrop-laden scarlet roses lining the borders of the entrance porch. The ozone generated from the lightning that accompanied the unwelcome visitor earlier that morning, heightened their aroma. He stopped on his way to the front door to pluck a perfect sample from the multitude and passed it to his wife.

Liz smiled, flicking it toward him so the lightly scented water splattered his face.

“I make a romantic gesture and you throw it in my face.” He sighed, pulling a cotton handkerchief from the breast pocket of his suit jacket to mop the moisture from his face.

“It’s lovely, Stephan. Really, but now is not the time for romance,” Liz replied, still giggling at his shocked expression.

The door swung open and Chris ushered them in. “They’re in the front parlour. Second set of doors on the left.” He then sprinted upstairs to join his two friends, Nico and Mike, who were packing their belongings in preparation for the flight home.

“I don’t see why we have to leave anyway,” Mike complained when Chris stuck his head around the doorframe.

“If we stay, we could put Callie in more danger. You heard what Sam said. We know she can make Nico shift and she can hear all three of us when we’re in animal form. There is no way she is mate to all of us. No matter how I much I want her to be mine.” Chris countered from the doorway.

Nico threw the jeans he was about to fold down on top of the case. “No, I can’t just leave her. My wolf won’t let me. I have to stay and protect her.”

“Same here,” the other two agreed.

“Right, then let’s go tell them we’re not leaving.”

Nico, having been elected spokesperson, stepped forward from the others when they entered the room. “We’re not leaving. No one can protect Callie better than us," he stated. "So we’re staying.”

Sam closed his eyes and took a deep breath, exhaling it slowly. “Guys, it’s your being here that is putting all of us in more danger. If Demetrius can control Callie enough to have her make you shift, then he will take her from us and use her to further his goals. If you feel about her the way I do, you will fight him and then we will all die in the attempt. He cares only for his own gain. Our lives mean absolutely nothing to him.”

“Then we fight for her,” Chris spoke up from behind Nico.

Callie jumped up from the seat by the window and stormed up to the three of them. “No! That’s it! No one is going to die because of me.” She poked each in the chest as she spoke their names. “Nico, Chris, Mike – all of you go home now. Get packed. Get on the plane and leave.”

“Okay.” Mike shrugged and turned from her.

“Will do.” Chris complied, turning at the same time.

Nico ground his teeth, clearly trying to fight the order. “I will be back.” He looked pointedly at Sam. “You better have more shifters coming cause if they don’t see any here they’ll know what you’re hiding and take her anyway.”

“Your three replacements will arrive around 9pm this evening,” Sam assured him. “Would you ask Brian to join us please?” Sam turned to face his fellow vampires seated around the room. “Before Brian gets here, I should tell you that he has been kept in the dark about events so far, which is the only reason he was able to answer Morag’s questions without giving us away. I’m going to give him the choice of leaving now and hope Morag doesn’t notice the difference if a replacement takes animal form or I’ll have to compel him to think the replacement shifters are really our three and hope that it holds up under Demetrious’ scrutiny.”

“I’ll hang around as long as you need me Boss,” Brian assured Sam from just beyond the open doors. “I think it best if I don’t know why my friends are leaving. I trust your judgement. If you wouldn’t mind waiting until the others get here before you compel me, I’d like to see these three off at the airport.”

Sam stepped forward to clasp Brian’s hand in his. “Thank you, friend. I owe you one.”

Once the shifters left the property a short while later, the large double doors to the front parlour were closed and locked. Stephan pulled the coffee table in front of his seat and opened the thick folder. One by one, he removed the sheets of white A4 paper and lined them up on the table to form one continuous banner.

“This is a copy of a scroll that was unearthed in Serbia just after The Great War. It’s been carbon dated to be 3250 years old. Most of it was intact at the time and preserved with the development of recent technology. Roughly translated it tells of how a young witch defied the will of one of the sea gods to raise the bastard child of his daughter as her own. A girl whose beauty was admired by all who looked on her but she bore only one male child before she was taken by the walking dead.

"She was then followed and worshipped by all she borrowed life from, whether animal, human, or un-dead and through this worship was able to command them to her will. She was nicknamed The Enchantress. Her final death is also recorded.” Stephan began to pull more sheets from the folder. “This one documents a similar occurrence some 1500 years later. Again she had one son and was later mated to, I quote, ‘a creature of the night’. Only it claims that the woman was a descendant of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

"Now according to any records or legends I have been able to unearth, Aphrodite had only two daughters and neither was able to carry children to term. Unless you believe the first scroll that claims otherwise and would genetically link the two incidents.” He started to pace around the room, pausing only to refill his glass.

“Is that it?” Sam asked, getting impatient with his friend’s dallying.

“No, the genetic link sent me on another tangent and this is where the complication starts. Thankfully, I have access to a programme on the database that let me into the old records and helped narrow things a little. I traced the family tree of the male child born to the second Enchantress – no easy task I can tell you. All of his descendants had only one child, a male. The trail went cold after World War II when both parents were killed and the child disappeared with the possibility of an unrecorded adoption.

"It took some searching but I eventually came up with a name; Thomas was allegedly born to a middle-aged couple around that time. I was suspicious because of their age, so I traced him and he too had only one male child.” He stopped pacing directly in front of Callie. “His name was James Williams.”

“Are you trying to tell me you think the Greek goddess Aphrodite was a distant relative?” Callie asked, after the initial shock had worn off a little. “Wait, there’s a slight flaw in your working out. My father wasn’t an only child. He had a brother, George.”

“That was the only discrepancy I found in the entire line, but as it turns out George was born to a teenage relative of your paternal grandmother’s and taken in as their own when they discovered they couldn’t have any more children. So it would appear that I was correct in my theory that only females born of this blood line carry the Enchantress gene,” Stephan concluded and sat down to wait for any questions the others may have.

“Both these other Enchantress’ drew vampires as their mates?” Sidney asked in curiosity.

“That is what it looks like. Yes,” Stephan answered. “Although they didn’t have her power. Magic, it would seem, is an added bonus from her mother’s ancestors.”

“What about Adie then, is she an Enchantress too?” Callie asked him.

“It would seem that the Enchantress side only became apparent when you and the other two became vampires. The enchanting works through your bite, so unless your sister also becomes one of us, the answer would be no… Not yet anyway.”

“Good.” She stood and kissed Sam lightly on the cheek then addressed the room, “Please excuse me, I’ll be in the library if you need me.” She patted Sam’s shoulder when he made to rise from his seat. “I’m fine and you probably have a few things to talk over with Stephan. Call me if you need me.” Her mind raced over Stephan’s revelations. She vaguely remembered seeing a book about the Greek gods in the library and went to do a bit of research on her ancestor.

Aphrodite, the book said, was the goddess of love and had numerous children to several different gods and mortals, but only two daughters to the sea god. Callie nearly choked when she read his name. Poseidon She then scanned the page for the names of his daughters. Rhode and Herophile she read a few pages later.

“Well holy shit," she exclaimed. "I’m sure Lucien said Herophile was the name of his woman, and if the scroll is right, then that would mean her baby didn’t die! It would explain why he thinks I look like her too if I’m a descendant… Wait that means I’m related to him too.”

She was just about to call his name but thought to try it out on her own first. She made herself comfortable on the same big armchair she sat in that morning and closed her eyes. With his bed chamber pictured in her mind, she willed herself to be there. On opening her eyes again, she found herself standing by his bed. He wasn’t there of course, so she ended up calling him anyway.

“Lucien, Master of the Seventh Underworld, blah, blah, blah. I know you can hear me. I have some news and I’m in your room if you want to hear it.”

She made herself at home wandering around the room while she waited for him to arrive. Coming to a stop when she found the symbol names he had translated for her.

“Two visits in one day, I am honoured,” he joked as he appeared directly behind her, making her jump a mile.

“You are so not going to believe the news I have for you. Sit,” she ordered. “Okay, I need to clarify a couple of things first. The name of the woman you wanted to marry was Herophile?”

“Yes,” he replied tolerantly.

“And the name of her father was Poseidon, as in the Greek god Poseidon?”

“Yes,” he replied again.

“Was the name of her mother Aphrodite by any chance?”

“It was, yes. Is there a point to these questions?” he asked, his tolerance waning.

She clapped her hands excitedly. “I have it on good authority that the baby Herophile carried didn’t die as Poseidon thought. She was secretly raised by a witch after she was born.”

He scowled at her. “This is too cruel a joke Callie. Please don’t say such things as it will only invoke my anger.”

“It’s true!” she affirmed and proceeded to tell him of the scroll Stephan had revealed to her. She left nothing out, including the part about her being an Enchantress. “So when he went through her descendants he discovered that I’m one of them, and that means that we’re distantly related.”

Lucien stared into space for several minutes before a smile slowly appeared on his face. “I had a daughter.” He turned to her and pulled her into his arms, squeezing so tight that, had she been mortal, he would have broken several ribs. “Thank you.” He beamed and kissed her forehead then flung himself backwards onto the bed. “I had a daughter… I wish… I wish I could have known her.” A tear fell from his eye and he dashed it away with his sleeve. “Would you mind leaving me now? I’d like to be alone for a while,” he asked, wiping away another tear.

She squeezed his knee in understanding. “I have to get back anyway. There are some vamps on their way who want to use me and my power. We need to get ready for the fight.”

He absentmindedly nodded and waved her off. Moments later, she sat up from her seat in the library.


Chapter 33

Dinnertime came and went with the same pattern of discussion: what to do. Running was dismissed before it was even suggested as Demetrious had a reach that encompassed most of the continents in some form or other. As it stood, only he and Morag knew of Callie’s existence and if they made a run for it then he would involve his allies in his search for her and the news would spread. Their only choices were to either deny everything or fight him.

By 9pm, the flaming sky had lost its streaks of orange and red, gradually fading to violet, and further blending into velvety inky blackness. Only the occasional cloud remained to mar the otherwise perfect view of the Earth’s diamond-encrusted blanket. Callie lay in the crook of Sam’s arm on the sun lounge he dragged from the conservatory and placed in the middle of the front lawn – away from the lights of the house. They gazed at each of the constellations, Sam pointing out several obvious clusters like Orion and Taurus.

All Callie wanted was an hour where she didn’t have to think about anything. An hour without demons or witches. No wolves or lions. But most of all, no impending doom. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of a shooting star, its tail lingering for a second after she focused on it. The rhyme she used to say as a child sprang immediately to her thoughts and she chanted it in her mind.

Star light, star bright,

Hear the wish I make tonight

I wish I may, I wish I might

Grant me strength to end this fight

Blindingly bright car lights sweeping through the open gates disturbed her reverie. Their reprieve was over. The approaching car carried three replacement shifters and the time to set up the rouse had arrived. Unwinding herself from Sam’s arms, she stood, her gaze following the lights as they made their journey up the sweeping lane, stopping only when they reached the garage at the side of the house. Lights blinked out and doors slammed a second later. Sam took her hand, and together they made their way across the damp grass to greet their guests.

“Sir,” A tall blonde man said, shaking Sam’s hand. “Leo, the lion shifter.” At Callie’s escaped snort of laughter, he sheepishly added, “Me Mam was a huge fan of Leonardo De Caprio and me Da had a very cruel sense of humour.” He shrugged. “These two are Tristan and Ash, wolf and puma.”

Sam shook both their hands. “Thank you all for coming at such short notice. You understand the situation is extremely dangerous for all of us and the less you know about it, the safer you will be when Demetrious gets here. I’ll fill you in on what I can once you’re settled in,” he said in welcome. “Brian,” he turned to the approaching man. “This is Leo, Tristan, and Ash. Would you mind showing them to their rooms? Then join us in the kitchen in say… an hour?”

“Sure thing boss. Guys, grab your bags and follow me.” He led them through the back door, through the hall and into the main kitchen. “Do not under any circumstance touch anything in this room. Cook will skin you alive if you so much as move a pan without his say so," he warned. "Through here is our kitchen space. The fridge and cupboards are well stocked with snacks and soft drinks. Anytime you fancy it just help yourself. Cook will regularly leave us pastries and it’s first come first served. But be warned, if you eat mine you’ll lose a hand.” The three visibly relaxed with their shared laughter. “I’m not kidding,” he added with a stern look.

Leading the way up the back stairs to the first floor, he pointed out each door as they passed. “These first five rooms are empty at the moment. This is Sidney’s room – you’ll meet her shortly. This is Stephan and Liz’s room – guests who you’ll also meet soon. The next two rooms are ours. We share both a bedroom and a living room, well more of a recreation room. It has a pool table, 50″ plasma TV and possibly every game console and game on the market," he boasted. "And finally, through here are the beds, pick any except that one – it’s mine. Bathroom is through that door. Oh! End of the hall is Callie, the chick from downstairs and Sam is right above on the upper floor…Any questions?”

“The boss mentioned a guy called Demetrious,” Tristan began, dumping his bag on the bed nearest the door. “Would that be the same Demetrious who tried to take over Gerard’s turf in Paris about two years ago?”

“Yes, there is only one Demetrious, one too many if you ask me. Now, if there’s nothing else?” The three shook their heads. “Then I’ll see you in our kitchen in exactly,” he glanced at his watch, “fifty-five minutes.”

*****

Sidney was the last to arrive. She caught the kitchen door as it swung closed behind Stephan and took her seat at Sam’s right, gratefully accepting the tall frosted glass Callie passed to her.

Sam made the introductions to the three new arrivals. “Now that everyone knows everyone, let’s get this show started. First things first, Ash, Leo, Tristan, we have a problem with the vampire master of the Philippines. You all know how power-hungry Demetrious is and he will stop at nothing to further his territory boundaries. He will be here tomorrow to try to take Callie and use her unusual powers to control anyone who disagrees with him, and that includes your people whose land surrounds his controlled area.”

Leo raised his hand slightly, interrupting Sam. “What kind of power does she have that makes him think he can take those areas?”

“That is one of the things you are better off not knowing. Suffice to say that we have to make him believe that she doesn’t have that kind of power over you. He will probably try to make her control your forms or read your minds, which she can’t do.” He turned to Brian but spoke to everyone. “His companion has already met Brian in animal form and knows that the three other shifters are his friends, so in order to keep up that part of the ruse I must compel him to think that you three are those friends and ask you let me do the same with you. In order for it to look convincing, I’ll have to read your memories and intermingle some of them. There is a chance that it will not be reversible and a few of your memories will be forever changed.”

“I’m okay with that as long as it’s nothing important you change,” Tristan agreed with ease, closely followed by agreement from the other two. “I’m a firm believer that you can never have too many friends.”

Sam set to work reading each of their minds in turn. He then duplicated and planted some of those in the other three’s memories. He worked for hours after the other vampires had left the room, arranging and re-arranging their memories until they coincided with one another. Finally, exhausted, he sent them all to bed and collapsed into his own a few minutes later.

*****

Sidney paced the floor of the sitting room and tried to think of a way to help while Callie dozed in the chair. If things turned bad and Demetrious got wind of their deception, they were dead. It was as simple as that. He was too powerful to take on.

As a vampire aged they became more powerful and their ability to control other vampires and shifters grew every century. Most of the master vampires gained one animal to call and command by the fifth century and Demetrious already had three breeds to do his bidding. Thankfully none of the four shifters in the house were one of those he had control over.

Sidney heard a faint echo of Callie’s name being called. As she slept, a small gap had formed in Callie’s shield, so Sidney slipped in to eavesdrop.

Callie stood on a narrow ledge on the edge of a great echoing cavern beside Lucien. She looked down and could see nothing. There was nothing but endless blackness. Her foot knocked a rock off the ledge and she waited for it to hit the bottom. No noise returned to signify the depth of the pit. She backed up as far as she could against the jagged wall. “Where are we?” she demanded.

“The Chamber of Lost Souls,” Lucien answered, leaning over the edge and looking down. “Somewhere in here, my soul is just floating around. I didn’t die when I was banished here, so my soul hasn’t been recycled. I feel it call for me sometimes and its sorrow is so overwhelming.” He sighed. “I’m sorry soul, today I have things I must attend to.” He grabbed Callie’s arm and dragged her back through the opening in the rock face. “Now tell me about these vamps you said were coming for you. I was a little distracted earlier and wasn’t paying attention.”

Callie huffed out a breath of relief at leaving the bottomless cavern. “Okay, I’ll start at the beginning but you better pay attention this time.” She reminded him of her heritage, the control she gained over the shifters, the reason for the visit by Morag and the impending visit by Demetrious.

“Hmm,” he considered, “does this Demetrious know that it’s your bite that gives you control over the animals?”

Sidney spoke into Callie’s mind, I think he’s on to something here.

“Sidney?" Callie exclaimed, jumping at the unexpected intrusion in her mind. “You can hear him?”

Lucien quickly glanced around the hall and saw no-one. “Who are you talking to?”

“Sidney. She’s listening in through my thoughts.”

“Well bring her here. I would like to hear what she has to say.” He smiled when she didn’t immediately comply. “The same way you called the symbols.”

Do you want to come? Callie asked Sidney through thought.

Can you bring me back?

I think so.

Then sure, why not.

Callie closed her eyes and visualized Sidney standing beside her in the cold carved-stone hallway in the underworld, willing her to be there. She opened them again and a faint ghost-like figure stood beside her. It gradually gathered form, solidifying until eventually becoming substantial enough to touch.

“Could we maybe go somewhere other than a public hallway to discuss this?” Sidney suggested, glancing up and down the deserted hall. “I’d hate for a demon to stumble on us or something.”

Lucien laughed and led the way to his chambers. “Right where were we?” he asked, after closing the door.

“Callie’s blood… No, I don’t think they know about the bite and I see where you’re going with this. The problem is going to be persuading him to let Callie bite him.”


Chapter 34

First light arrived all too soon for Callie who woke with a stiff neck and aching limbs from sleeping curled on the armchair. Sidney was much worse for wear. When Callie had called her to the underworld her body had collapsed where it stood as her consciousness left it. Her head struck the corner of the coffee table to leave a huge bump right in the middle of her forehead – about the size of a large egg and it looked a lot like one too.

As Sidney opened her eyes, Brian and Ash stepped back from their study of the bump and hastily held out a bag of juice for each of them. Sidney slowly rose to her feet before snatching hers with a groan. The sudden movement caused pain to radiate through her head and neck. Several vertebrae in her neck cracked when she rolled her head around her shoulders. She used a fang to pierce the bag and squeezed the contents into her mouth as if she were dying of thirst. Ironically, for all the gulping and noise she made, not a single drop escaped her lips. When she was done, she ran her tongue all around her teeth, removing every trace.

“Mmm good stuff.” She sighed, patting her stomach and winking at Brian who had been watching her every move. His cheeks took on delightful rosy tinge at being caught staring.

Callie looked back and forth between the two and noticed for the first time how Sidney seemed to preen and flick her hair more. She threw glances at him from the periphery of her sight line to check him out – generally flirting when he was nearby. I’m so going to set these two up if we ever get out of this mess, she vowed to herself and Sidney shot her a grin. “Is Sam up yet?” she asked, between sips of her own juice.

Brian was too busy watching Sidney stretch every muscle in her body. Starting with her arms that she pushed forward until her interlaced fingers cracked, she followed up with stretching them over head with an arch to her back; her breasts moving to within inches of Brian’s face. Finishing with leg stretches, where she practically did the splits. She pretended the entire time not to notice his perusal.

“Yeah, he’s in the kitchen getting his own breakfast,” Ash replied.

Callie linked her arm through his and steered him from the room to leave Brian and Sidney alone. She closed the door behind her. “No time like the present,” she murmured, dragging Ash through to the kitchen to find all the others sitting round the table. “Sidney will be in shortly,” she told no one in particular before claiming her seat on Sam’s left side.

******

“Why is it that a day will fly by when you don’t want it to?” Callie asked Sam late that afternoon.

The final preparations had been made for the unpleasantness that was too soon to arrive. Stephan checked the flight times out of the Philippines and declared that Demetrious would be with them sometime after 6.30pm. Leaving just over an hour to go.

Lucien found a spell to allow him to observe the meeting as long as it happened in the front parlour where the mirror Callie charmed sat high above the mantle. It would be like looking in through a two-way mirror. He would be able to see and hear the meeting and maybe to advise Sidney through the mind link they had established during the visit in the underworld. There was nothing more any of them could do, but wait.

The sky began to darken earlier than usual in anticipation of the coming battle. When the deafening clap of thunder sounded through the otherwise still evening, they knew the time had come to face their fears. Their enemies, Demetrious and Morag, were close.

Four cars rolled in through the gates, their lights sweeping the front of the house as they rounded to park by the door. Sam made his way from the parlour on seemingly automatic pilot. He shook himself in preparation before swinging the heavy door open with a fake smile pasted in place.

“Welcome to my home, Demetrious, I trust you had a pleasant journey?” He stepped back to allow the Master entrance. His entourage of three men, probably shifters he controlled, closely followed him. Morag threw him a look that promised he would suffer at her hands if he didn’t play ball. “Callie is waiting in the front parlour as you instructed, Morag.” He closed the door again and led the way. “We are truly honoured with your presence, Demetrious, but I fear Morag may have provided false information to bring you here.”

Demetrious raised his eyebrows at Morag. “Sire, I swear what I say is true. She can control them,” she hastened to assure him.

“We shall see.” Demetrious’ eyes scanned the room as he followed Sam inside. He missed nothing.

Sidney and Callie rose from their seats and curtsied as he entered. Sidney had assured her it was entirely necessary where Demetrious was concerned. He was a stickler for the old ways and insisted on tradition.

Callie felt ridiculous curtsying in jeans.

“Please sit,” Sam offered, pouring the two vampire guests and himself a drink.

“Shall we dispense with the pleasantries and idle chitchat and get down to the reason for my visit?” Demetrious asked. He failed to wait for a reply. “Do not waste my time trying to deny me what I wish to know. You will only suffer more in the end.”

“What is it you would have of us?” Sam asked.

“Give me the girl and the knowledge of how to control her and I will let you live to see another sunrise.”

“We still don’t understand why you want her. She can’t do what Morag claims,” Sam denied, moving to stand by Callie’s side of the sofa.

Demetrious sighed and shook his head. “Fine. We shall have proof." He nodded to one of the men who arrived with them. "Carlos, bring in Sophia.”

Sam and Sidney shared a shocked glance at the mention of Sam’s former girlfriend – the one Callie had bitten when they had quarrelled over Sam as he lay injured at the Seven Tower City blood bank. Carlos dragged Sophia into the room by her arms and flung her at Callie’s feet.

Sophia shot scared glances at the faces watching her from all around the room before finally settling on Callie. “Oh my God, is it really you?" she sobbed, rising to her knees to hug Callie. "I can’t believe I finally found you. I missed you so much. Why did you leave me?”

Callie pulled Sophia’s arms from around her neck and forced her off her lap with a panicked look at Sam. All their plans were crumbling around them. They had all forgotten about Sophia with everything else that had been going on.

Demetrious was in front of Callie in flash. He stared into her eyes. “You will do as I say,” he commanded. “Make her change forms.”

“Erm…No,” Callie replied, shocking everyone, including herself, at her ability to deny Demetrious’ compulsion.

Sam took advantage of Demetrious’ distraction and flew at the Master from across the room. The collision sent them both to the floor. Demetrious was too quick and spun in mid air so that Sam landed under him. He grabbed him by the throat and squeezed.

“Tell me how to control her or I rip off your head and feed it to Carlos,” he said with a growl in Sam’s face.

“No,” Sam croaked out. “Never.”

“I have to drink your blood!” Callie screamed at him. “Please, let him go.”

“Is that it? You drink my blood and I can control you?” He squeezed tighter on Sam’s neck.

Sidney fell to her knees, begging for Sam’s life. “Please Master, let him go. She lies! If she drinks your blood, she will control you.”

The mirror over the mantle rocked as a loud roar echoed through the room. You stupid, stupid woman. What have you done? The mirror glinted and crashed to the floor. Shards embedded themselves in Carlos and Morag, who were standing close by.

“Spare us and I will tell you how.” Sidney wept at Demetrious’ feet.


Chapter 35

Callie froze. “What the hell, Sidney?” she exclaimed in shock at her friend’s betrayal.

Sidney wept at Demetrious’ feet and sent a silent plea into her mind, He knows about your bite. He was just about to kill Sam as a lesson to you for trying to trick him.

Callie looked Demetrious in the eye, shrugged and held her head high in defiance. “Okay fine, I lied. Can you honestly blame me for trying?”

He laughed as he rose from the floor. “I would have thought less of you for not.” He turned his back on Callie so he faced Sidney.

Callie beckoned Sophia to her feet. “When I say go," she whispered, "you attack Carlos and keep him busy.” Sophia inclined her head a fraction to indicate she understood.

“Now Sidney,” he began, wagging his finger at her as if he were scolding a disobedient child. “No more games. This is your final chance to tell me or both of you will die in the most painful way possible.”

“Yes Sir, I understand.” She sniffled between her sobs. Callie, I see what you have planned, but play along with me for the moment. If this doesn’t work, then you can go for it.

“Finally, someone with a bit of sense.” He grinned. “Up off the floor then and do get on with it, I have a flight to catch.”

“Sidney please!” Callie pleaded as Sidney kicked pieces of the broken coffee table out of the way while she helped Sam to his feet

“I’m sorry Callie, this is the only way to ensure our survival.” She sat and crossed her legs. “We’re not entirely sure how to control her.” She held her hand up to stop Demetrious as he made a move to grab her. “Sam is the only one who can and we think it’s because he…”

Sam shook his head, interrupting her. “No don’t do it. Please Sidney, she’s my soul mate. I can’t live without her.”

Demetrious backhanded him and sent him sprawling across the room again. He crashed into the television. This time he didn’t get up. With his arm cradled to his side, Sam remained where he lay. He kept his gaze averted from Demetrious to give him the impression that he was injured and submissive.

Callie wait, Sidney interrupted Callie’s thoughts of attack. “We think it’s because he drank her blood when he turned her. It’s the only thing that no-one else has been allowed to do because she’s his soul mate,” Sidney finished in a rush with a glance at Sam to see how injured he was.

Demetrious studied her for a moment before replying, “Hmm, strangely that makes a modicum of sense. I can see no harm in trying that. Carlos, hold her still.”

Carlos stepped forward and grabbed Callie by the arm with the intention of spinning her around. Sophia pounced on him before he could force her to the ground. She took him by surprise and knocked the three of them over the back of the sofa. Callie’s pink and white Sketcher sneakers kicked in the air for a brief moment before Sophia went sailing through the window, shards of glass and timber following her out. Carlos peered out after her and growled low in his throat.

Morag stood by the fireplace, clapping her hands in a deliberate show of tiresomeness for the delay. “Can we stop with the tedium and just get on with it?”

Callie struggled in Carlos’s grip as he forced her to the floor in front of the floral-patterned sofa where Demetrious now sat. Demetrious twisted her hair around his fist in order to keep her head still. He struck without warning, his viciousness drawing an involuntary scream from Callie’s lips while he drew deep from her vein for several seconds before the convulsions started.

Her head whipped to the side with the grip Demetrious had on her hair. The flesh at her throat tore open as he was flung backwards. Blood spewed from her wound, soaking both of them in seconds. The blur of a body crossed her limited vision and someone crashed into another by her side.

Carlos and Sidney wrestled on the floor; each landing punches and kicks to the other as they struggled for the upper hand. Both ended up outside through the already broken window.

“Well Morag.” Sam stood up and brushed the dust and debris from his clothes. “It looks like it’s you and me.” Morag flew at him only to smash head-first into the wall when he sidestepped. She fell backwards onto her ass on the floor. Sam grabbed her by the hair and spun her head round so she looked at him. “You aren’t the only one who can compel vamps you know.” He stared deep into her eyes. “This stops now. You do as I say from now on. Failure to comply with this command will result in your death. Oh and while we’re at an understanding, no more of the thunder and lightning, or the wind and rain everywhere you go. It’s just irritating and completely unnecessary.” Her eyes stared blankly into his. “Get up and go home Morag.” He released his grip and let her fall to the floor.

Callie spat into her hand and rubbed the saliva onto her neck to close the wound. Sam turned his back on Morag, crossing to Callie to unwind her hair from Demetrious’ grip and help her away from the convulsing body.

Sidney came to stand by the window with the shifter over her shoulder. Blood oozed freely from several wounds on her face and upper body. “Live donor needed?” she asked.

Callie called fire to her hand and sent it directly for Sidney’s head. Duck! she broadcast at the last moment. The fireball coursed overhead and landed at the feet of two shifters who were heading for Sidney.

They stopped in their tracks. “We just want to take Carlos home. Thank you for breaking Demetrious’ hold on us. If ever we can be of service, just call.” He pulled a business card from his pocket and exchanged the card for Carlos. “Our pride is in your debt.”

They bundled Carlos and a mesmerized Morag into the cars and sped off down the drive. Four bodies came crashing through the parlour door.

“Damn it we missed the fight,” Ash proclaimed. “What the hell happened to him?” he added, pointing to Demetrious.

Everyone turned to look at where the body lay. The corpse had become a mass of melting blubber that soaked into the sofa.

“Want to move the sofa outside guys? That thing seriously stinks,” Sidney said with her fingers pinching her nose. “On the plus side, we get a new sofa. That one was a tad girly and outdated.”


Chapter 36

Callie had been using the sofa for target practice in the back yard for a couple of weeks. The goo that used to be the Master vampire of Munich had long since hardened and flaked off. Anything that remained was now a charred scar on the cotton floral-print upholstery.

Calling for small pebbles from the rock garden off to the left, Callie propelled them at high-speed towards it. The velocity of the stones increased as she practised until the last one embedded itself in the foam of the back cushion. When she was done with them, she floated them back to the gravel patch. Fireballs were next – just little ones that she made dance to and fro using her hand gestures. She spun them in arcs before sending them off to hit one of the many large printed flowers.

Sidney joined her and stood to one side. “You’re getting better with your control,” she said, startling Callie into missing the sofa altogether and scorching the grass. “Can you make them any bigger and still keep control?”

Callie formed a small orb of yellow flame just beyond her reach and gently fed more energy in to it. It gradually changed through a kaleidoscope of oranges, reds, purples, and blues until it finally stabilized in an ultra white glowing miniature sun – so bright Sidney had to step back from the heat and shield her eyes. Callie used a finger from each of her hands, gesturing left and right. It began to sway in rhythm with her movements. Her right hand circled anti-clockwise and her left clockwise alternately. The orb danced in a figure of eight. Next, she splayed all her fingers wide so the orb grew in size.

After sending it on a low tour around the garden, she stopped it in front of them. With a flick of her wrist, it shot straight for the sofa where it ignited with a loud roar. Instantaneous flames fought for oxygen, drawing their hair forward with the updraft as air rushed to fuel the flame. Choking grey smoke spiralled up in the air. Callie called for water from the overhead clouds and sent a downpour so heavy it extinguished the flames in seconds. It also soaked both of them to the skin.

“I said bigger, not nuclear,” Sidney complained while wringing the water from her top. “I just put this on too, now I’ll have to change again before we go out.”

“I’m sure Brian wouldn’t mind if you went out in a bin bag,” Callie joked, just managing to duck the towel sailing for her head. “Talk of the devil," she added as Brian joined them. "Where are you two heading tonight?”

“There’s a new club opened in Seven Tower City a couple of weeks ago. Prowler’s is apparently the place to be," Brian replied. "Want to come with us?” he asked as an afterthought.

Callie leaned in close to him to speak in mock confidentiality. “I think Sidney wants you all to herself.”

“If that were the case we’d be staying in. Again,” Sidney butted in with a flirtatious tilt of her eyebrows.

“TMI!” Callie laughed with her hands covering her ears. “Nah, thanks anyway. We could do with a quiet night. Besides, Lucien’s finished translating the symbols, and I need to get some reading done. Sam has a couple of stories that he wants to look into as well. You two go have fun.”

It took Sidney only fifteen minutes to change and dry her hair. Her hips swayed provocatively as she made her way to open the front door when the taxi sounded its horn. She had changed into a tight, long-sleeved, white dress that finished mid-thigh. She wore no tights and no panty line was visible. Brian ogled the never-ending length of her legs, emphasised by the five-inch white platform heels as he followed closely behind.

“Mind you don’t trip over your tongue there, Brian,” Sam hollered after them, chuckling as Brian gave him a one finger salute in reply.

He wound his arm around Callie’s waist and led her back inside once the taxi had driven off. “Would you mind joining me in my study? I’d like your opinion on something,” he said, all traces of his former good humour gone.

“Sure, what’s up?”

“There have been a couple of reports of missing people in the city area.”

“Nothing overly strange about that, it’s a big city and people go missing all the time."

“The difference with these people is that they are all local supernatural; vamps, shifters, witches and the like. There’s no trace of them. It’s like they’ve just vanished of the face of the Earth.” He brought her attention to the city map he had stuck to the wall in his study. “Each of the red dots represents the spot a shifter was taken; blue vampires; green witches; yellow is fairies, trolls, leprechauns and other species.”

The map had numerous random sticky dots scattered around the metre square sheet of paper. There were more blue dots than any other colour.

“I thought you said a couple? There must be over twenty here.” She observed. “How long has this been going on?”

“The first report was filed two weeks ago. A couple of days after Demetrious’ visit. It’s escalated this week, with two every night and then these three in the space of an hour last night.” He pointed out two green and one yellow dot. “The first of last nights was a twenty-four-year-old leprechaun with no magical ability. His blood was too diluted with humans to be able to grant wishes and he vanished after he walked his girlfriend home at around 1am.”

“Was?”

“What remained of his body was found by a man walking his dog on the beach a few hours ago. The second and third were mother and daughter, witches of the Fairhill coven. They left the hen party they were attending shortly before 2am and never arrived home. The husband raised the alarm when neither answered their phones.”

“Do any of them have anything in common apart from the supernatural thing?” Callie mused, studying the map and trying to form a pattern among the dots. Apart from the fact that they were all fairly close to the city centre, she could see nothing.

“None that we know of.” He moved away to flop down in his reclining office chair, his arm thrown over his eyes. “The leprechaun is the only body to turn up so far. We don’t even know if the others are still alive.”

“So the dots are what, the last place they were seen? Any street camera footage to show where they went?”

“Strangely, all the city centre cameras showed only blank footage for several minutes after the time the victims were last seen. It leads me to the conclusion that they were abducted by a being of magical ability.” He reached forward and drew her on to his lap so he could snuggle into her back with a fierce hug. “I honestly don’t know where to start looking. We can’t involve the human police, it would draw to much attention and everyone involved in the network has reached a dead end.”

“The numbers written on the dots, is that the time they went missing?”

“Yes, all between midnight and I think the latest was around 4am.”

“Why would people be in the city centre until 4am? Surely everywhere would be closed by then?” Callie thought aloud.

“We could always go and find out,” Sam suggested. “Though I’d be more comfortable with more than just two of us. Some of the missing witches were pretty powerful. It’d be a good idea to have backup.”

“You want to call Sidney and Brian? Have them meet us there?”

“Leave it until closer to the time we’re leaving. Let them have a little fun. Speaking of fun, I can think of a great way to pass the time,” he suggested, demonstrating by running his hand up her jean-clad leg to the junction of her thighs.

“You, Mr. Morrow, are insatiable.” She giggled.

At 12.45am, Sam’s phone rang with a panicked Brian on the other end. “Sam, she’s gone! You have to help me look for her. We were having a great time and were about to leave, but I ducked into the loo. When I came out, she was gone. The doorman said she staggered up the road, but we both know you guys can’t get drunk. I’ve looked everywhere and I can’t find her. There’s something wrong!”

“Where are you? We’re on our way.”

“In the city centre. At that new club, Prowlers. Please hurry!”


Chapter 37

Callie and Sam arrived at the start of the pedestrian precinct in record time. Dodging the drunken revellers seemed futile and time consuming, so Sam parked the car at the side of the road and they ran the rest of the way. They came to a stop in the alleyway to the side of Prowlers where Brian was pacing back and forth across the narrow space, impatiently glancing at his watch at every other turn.

“Anything?” Sam asked hopefully, startling Brian.

“Finally!” Brian gestured for them to follow him. “The doorman said she went this way.”

They searched every street and alleyway within a one-mile radius and found nothing. Sam could feel nothing through the sire bond and Callie got no reply to the call she sent out to Sidney’s mind.

“What about her scent, Brian? Do you think you could try tracking her?” Callie suggested, the idea coming just as they ran out of options.

“If I were in bear form it would be better, but I can’t very well walk around the city streets like that. Can you imagine the panic that would cause?” He threw his hands up in exasperation. “Besides there are cameras all over the place, it’d be all over the news in the morning.”

“It’s the middle of the night and the only people around are too drunk to remember. I can take care of the cameras, watch.” She ran to stand near a camera, out of its view range, and concentrated on feeling the prickle of electricity gathering in the air around her. Placing a hand on the pole, she sent a concentrated surge straight for the machine. It crackled and fizzed before the red light on top of it went out. “All we have to do is keep an eye out for them while you sniff her out.”

“It’s probably the only chance we’ll get. If we wait much longer her scent will fade too much to track,” Sam added. “The alley back here will be private enough for you change.”

Brian glanced around the alley before he stripped, passing his clothes and shoes to Sam. “Keep an eye on these? I really don’t fancy the trip home naked.”

He fell to his knees with the arching of his back. Deep ripples swam across his skin as bones repositioned themselves, popping and cracking when they reinserted into new socket positions. He opened his mouth with his lengthening snout to allow his teeth to extend, the sharp canines reaching three inches in length. At the same time, his fingers splayed wide, his hands broadening to form paws. Claws dug deeper into the brickwork of the path with each wave of pain during the change. Finally, coarse brown hair sprouted from his skin to cover his entire body. He shook himself, and less than a minute after Brian entered the alley, a huge brown bear stepped out onto the main street. He sat down and had a good scratch at its ear with its back paw.

“Ready?” Callie asked him.

He nodded and put his nose to the ground, sniffing round and around in circles before he ran off, chasing the faint lingering scent that only Sidney had.

Callie followed closely behind looking for cameras and stopping him before he stepped into view so she could disable them.

They carried on down alleyways and across deserted roads until Brian stopped and began circling again. He whined with agitation. Sidney’s scent had vanished and he couldn’t pick it up.

“There’s her shoe,” Sam shouted, running to retrieve it. “This proves she was taken because there is no way Sidney would voluntarily leave one of her Jimmy Chou’s lying in the gutter.”

“Yeah, it confirms what you suspected, but we’re still no closer to finding her. They must have drugged her somehow and bundled her into a car or van.” Callie groaned in frustration. “We also know now that Prowlers is at the centre of this somehow. I saw an open 24hr sign back there and I’d put money on that the hen party was held there too, and the rest of them were likely clubbers. We need to check that place out.”

Brian ducked into a nearby alley to shift again, emerging a couple of minutes later fully clothed and tugging on his shoes. “There was another scent right where Sidney’s disappeared. It was like something I’ve smelled before… powerful, like the smell just before lightning strikes. Does that make sense?”

“Powerful like a storm? Sam asked, confused by Brian’s description.

“No. Maybe. It’s more like the build-up of energy, it has a distinct odour. Only this was fainter, more subtle with the musty, earthy smell of a forest floor thrown in,” he clarified, trying to put in to words what his nose had found.

“So what now?” Callie asked.

Sam took a brief glance around the area and shrugged. “Back home I guess, and have another look at the video tapes for a car or van around the time of the blank footage. I’ll check if the other disappearances have any connection to the club.”


Chapter 38

“Three days! Three days and there haven’t been any more abductions. No more clues and no sign of Sidney what-so-ever.” Callie paced the demon’s chambers, irritated at not having heard news or any clue in where else to look for Sidney. “I don’t know what else to do. We staked out the club for the last three nights, but nothing more has happened. It was just another dead end in a long line of dead ends. The owner has done her own vanishing act. ‘Unobtainablethe manager said… Argh.” She stomped her foot to demonstrate her irritation.

“Have you tried calling for her?” Lucien asked, interrupting her tirade.

“Of course, but I can’t make contact with her mind. I need to be closer to her or something. How can I get closer to her when I don’t know where she is. It’s a never ending cycle."

“Scry for her.” Lucien shrugged, as if stating the obvious.

“I would if I knew what that was and how to do it.”

“I have resorted to teaching a witch how to be a witch,” Lucien grumbled, barely audibly. “You have a pen? You’ll need the following things.” He waited for her to take notes. “A map of the general area; an amethyst dowser; something belonging to the person you wish to find, preferably silver; and somewhere quiet to perform the scrying.”

“Wait, back up a bit, where do I get a dowser exactly?”

Lucien put his hand to his forehead and slowly drew it down to massage his eyes. “The vampire who knows everything… " He snapped his fingers several times as he searched his memory for the name. “His name is… Stephan? Ask him, he should have one. He seems to have everything else.”

“Is that it then?”

“Come back when you get everything and I’ll explain the process.”

Plenty of recent practice meant that the speed she was able to go between the realms was so fast, she was back in her own body in the time it took to blink.

“Sam!” she hollered, running for his study. “I’m just nipping out to Stephan’s shop.” She flung open the door to find Sam in deep conversation with the very man she was looking for. “Oh hi, speak of the devil. I was just about to go see you.”

Stephan stood and bowed at the waist. “My lady,” he greeted, straightening to air-kiss each of her cheeks. “How may I be of assistance?”

“Have you ever heard of a dowser? Witches use them for scrying.”

“I have several with different stones; amethyst, onyx, moonstone and citrene. Do you have a preference?”

“Amethyst. I’ll need one with amethyst please.”

“Not a problem. Would you like to call for it tomorrow or should I have Aaron put it aside for you?”

“Any chance I could get it now? I need it to scry for Sidney’s whereabouts.”

“Well why didn’t you say so?” He ushered Callie from the room, remembering Sam after he closed the study door behind him. He opened it again and stuck his head through the crack. “Sorry, I will be back in about twenty minutes.”

Just over an hour later, Callie raided Sidney’s bedroom for the silver item she needed. It was the easiest thing on the list as a silver necklace with a locket pendant hung in plain view on the vanity mirror. With everything she needed bundled in a small basket, she made her mental journey to Lucien’s chamber.

“Lay out the map,” Lucien directed. “Now wrap the pendent around your left hand. Hold the dowser in your right and spend the next ten minutes thinking of Sidney. As soon as you feel comfortable, start the pendulum swinging in a large circle over the map. Let it swing freely while you picture her face. Her whereabouts will appear if you do it right.” He left her to do as he instructed.

“I’ve found her!” Callie screamed with excitement. “You should have seen the dowser it twirled around for a minute then wham, it shot to the map with the point right in the middle of Mount Street. I even did it again just to be sure and it was the exact same spot.” She hugged Lucien. “Thank you.”

Nico, good as his word, had returned after relinquishing his alpha status to his second in command. He waited by the car to drive them to the site Callie directed, he then stood watch over her as she sat in the middle of the pavement on Mount Street.

Callie closed her eyes to mentally call for Sidney. The trance left her completely vulnerable so Nico, Sam and Brian formed an unmoveable barrier to protect her.


Chapter 39

It was the cold that woke her. A bone deep chill that left her muscles sore from her body’s incessant shivering. She cracked open her eyes a mere fraction, quickly closing them again as the pounding in her head took on a new tempo. Water dripped gently on her cheek and she opened her mouth to allow some to enter, hoping it would ease the desert-like feel of the sandpaper that was once her tongue. Her senses slowly returned and with them brought the smell of decaying leaves, rotting wood and mildew. She fought the urge to vomit, dragging herself to sit upright. Taking a deep breath, she opened her eyes, squinting at first then fully as she realized she had no idea where she was.

A full moon shed enough light through the canopy of overhead branches to allow her to see her immediate surroundings. Trees, she saw nothing but trees no matter which way she looked. She listened intently for any sounds of life, but could hear nothing over the roar of falling water nearby. Opening her mind, she searched for stray thoughts and thinking she heard something, gingerly pushed herself to her feet. She swayed and clasped hold of a tree trunk as her legs threatened to give out on her.

Deciding her best course of action would be to make it to the water, she stepped forward only to notice she was missing a shoe. Not that she could have walked very far in five-inch heels but those were her favourite Jimmy Chou’s.

“Damn it,” she swore, reaching down to pull the other off before hesitantly creeping across the sharp pine needles and small twigs littering the forest floor.

Sidney wracked her brain for the memory of how she ended up in a forest; nothing came to her. The last thing she remembered was dancing with Brian at the club, a vague recollection of getting hot and going outside for air. That was it.

The roar of crashing water grew deafeningly loud, making the pain in her head almost unbearable. Centuries ago, her mother had shown her a plant that would cure any pain; she had no recollection of its name, but it had deep green variegated round leaves that became red near the bulbous root. It only took a minute or so to spot one. After stripping the leaves from the bulb, she sucked on it and continued toward the water. The thinning of the trees allowed the moon to penetrate, illuminating her path better, but it also made her dress take on an ethereal glow, causing her to become highly visible against the dark backdrop.

It was as she emerged from the dense trees with the decaying smell that her senses stepped into overdrive. The heady scent of fresh blood assaulted her, making her realize that she was starving. Her head whipped around to face the source of her fascination – a faltering heartbeat. Her eyes glowed and teeth extended.

Whatever lay beyond the rocks at the base of the waterfall was dying. Instinct told her to jump, so she did. Leaping on impulse, she sailed through the air for longer than she anticipated before splashing into the pool at the bottom. Blood tainted the water with its metallic flavour, becoming more concentrated as she neared the source. Gulping some of it near the edge of the pool helped to take the depth from her hunger, however, it tasted like nothing she’d ever sampled before.

The blood belonged to a vampire she discovered cowering in a small crevice beneath the rocks. He would have been around twenty when he was changed. That was all Sidney noticed before he removed his hand from the broken shaft of an arrow lodged in his chest. Had it pierced his heart he would have been dead already.

“I need to take this out, it won’t heal as long as the wood stays in there,” she told him, rolling him over to check for an exit wound.

A red stained arrowhead glinted in the dim light. Clasping it in her fist, she gave one sharp yank. It slid from his body making his blood flow again. If he were to stand any chance of healing, the blood would need to be replaced.

With no time to hunt for an animal, she bit her wrist and held it too his mouth. Each swallow strengthened his heartbeat and she let him fed until he finally opened his eyes to stare into hers. The sudden burst of his unguarded thoughts entering her mind sent her sprawling backwards.

Dainton. Siofra hunting. She recognised that word from her human days, it meant changeling. Images whizzed by, the bombardment invading her mind and clouding her vision. They came so rapidly she couldn’t focus on a single thought: running, dodging tree trunks, jumping rocks; the vision of a middle-aged woman on her knees, tossing powder into a fire as she chanted. It was gone as quickly as it came. The intensity left Sidney on her hands and knees trying to rebuild her shields.

He reached for her, dragging her into the shelter of the crevice in the rocks. “The sun rises in a moment. Rest, they won’t find us here.”

She let him cradle her in his arms until she felt the stirrings of the bloodlust returning. An overwhelming need to hunt and an animal would have to tide her over. She slipped from his embrace, creeping silently like a predator to the edge of the rock pile. On hearing the gentle lapping of an animal drinking from the pool, she peered over to see a young deer dipping its tongue in the cool water. She circled in behind it, flashing to its side like a ghost, and wrestled it to the floor by its antlers.

“Sleep,” she commanded it in a whisper.

Its struggles ceased.

Nudging Dainton’s sprawled, sleeping form with her foot to rouse him, she slid the deer into the crevice between them. His eyes shot open, first with fear and then in shock as he glanced between her, the deer and the bright light beyond the shadow of the rocks.

“You can walk in the day?” he asked, awe evident in his tone but the thoughts that broke through her shields confused her. I did not believe her, she said she could bring you and I doubted her…I’m sorry, Mama.

“I need answers and you’re going to give me them after we eat and get some sleep,” Sidney stated. “I’m too hungry and tired to think straight right now.”

Chapter 40

Someone was poking her in the back. “Is this a private slumber party or can anyone join in?” they asked.

Sidney sleepily rolled onto her back. “Hmm? Hey, Callie, what’s up?”

“Hopefully you. You maybe want to detach yourself from sleeping beauty there and come outside?”

Her head snapped round to the man sleeping soundly beside her, she then let it fall back to rest on the fine grit dusting the floor. “It’s not a dream then.” She sighed and motioned for Callie to back up so she could crawl out.

Callie flung her arms around Sidney’s waist for a tight hug. “We were so worried about you. Do you know where you are so we can come get you?”

Sidney frowned at her. “Are you telling me you’re not actually, physically, here?”

“Visiting like I do with Lucien. I had a heck of a time trying to connect with you though. Ended up having to scry for you and the dowser told me where to look.”

“So you are here.”

“No, my body’s in the middle of Mount Street in Seven Tower City.”

“But you need to be close by to connect like this, don’t you? So you should know where I am.”

“That’s what has me so confused right now. You’re in the middle of some huge forest but the only place with trees near the city is Delmont woods, and this is not Delmont woods.”

“No it’s not,” Sidney agreed. “So how did I end up here anyway? The last thing I remember before I woke in the forest somewhere above the waterfall, is dancing with Brian.”

“When you were leaving the club, Brian left you for a minute and when he came back out the doorman said you’d staggered off. He tried to follow your scent trail but it led nowhere. Vanished just like you. That was three days ago.”

“Three days? I’ve only been awake a few hours.”

“You were the last in a long line of supernatural disappearances. Fourteen witches; including you, five vampires; five shifters; two fairies; one troll; one pixie; and one leprechaun. We thought the club had something to do with it and the suspicious disappearing act the owner did right after you, did seem to confirm it, but now I don’t know.”

“You could be right,” Sidney mused. “The place was full of non-humans. It’s like we were drawn to the place.” She leaned in close to Callie’s ear. “I caught his thoughts earlier; he seems to think someone called Mama brought me here. Whether that’s someone’s name or his actual mother, I don’t know. He’s also amazed that I can go out in the day, like it’s unheard of or something… I think maybe I should stick around and find out what’s going on.”

“Okay, not that you have much choice until we find out where you are.” Callie stepped back from her, she visualized a couple of the blood bags Sam had insisted they bring with them and they appeared in her hand.

“Now that is cool!” Sidney exclaimed excitedly, snatching a bag and draining it. “How about we meet here once a week or so, then we can keep one another updated with our progress, at say… just after first light on Mondays?”

“Fine by me,” Callie agreed, pulling her in for another hug.

“Can you bring more of this?” Sidney swung the empty bag in front of her face as they pulled apart again. “There seems to be a shortage of humans, so I think I’m going to need it.”

“You only want me for my blood,” Callie accused, jokingly.

Sidney laughed. “You and I both know that the last thing I want is your blood. Maybe a change of clothes too,” she called as Callie disintegrated in a show of sparkles that danced in the light breeze.

She climbed to the top of the waterfall for a look around; see if she could spot any landmarks that might help with her location. Using the sun to determine her compass bearings, she found that to the South were vaguely familiar lightly snow-capped mountains. To the West, nothing but forest as far as her eye could see. East was a vast expanse of water she assumed was the sea. And to the North, really far in the distance, looked like a tower or a church spire.

Something whizzed past her head almost knocking her of balance and landed with a slash in the pool beneath her. A tightly tied carrier bag floated to the surface and bobbed about with the force of the water spraying onto it from the cascading waterfall. She gracefully dived in after it, curious about its origin. Two more joined it in rapid succession; the last almost smacking her head and sinking immediately. She dragged all three to the edge of the pool, opened them and laid the contents out.

The first contained four sets of underwear, socks and a sweater; the second her hiking boots, loose combat trousers, jeans, another sweater and light jacket; and the third, six bags of A+ blood with a note attached

Hope this lot is OK.

See you in week.

Callie

She tied the carrier bag containing the blood to a long branch and dangled it in the water to keep it cool. After she took a quick glance around, she stripped out of the filthy white mini dress and into the comfortable combats. She sighed, feeling more like herself again.

“Yo! Helllooo! Miss?” called a male voice from the tree line.

Typical, not a sinner around until I get naked, she thought as she hastily pulled on her sweater then sat down on the rock to pull on her socks and boots before answering him. “You can come out now.”

A teenager emerged from behind a tree, bounding easily over the rocks; the longbow at his back bouncing with his movements. He was dressed in loose cotton trousers with a camouflaged pattern and khaki T-shirt.

“I wasn’t spying on you, I swear it,” he assured her, his thoughts stating the opposite. “I’m looking for an injured deochfola; don’t suppose you’ve seen him, have you?”

Deochfola: that’s the word for drink blood or vampire. He’s the one that shot Dainton and he obviously has no idea I’m one too, she saw his thoughts. “No sorry, I only got here a short while ago. It’s probably lying low for the day,” she replied.

He sat down beside her on the rocks, right next the submerged blood bags. “Probably, or he’s dead. Where you headed?” he asked eyeing the clothing lying in front of her.

“Not sure,” she hedged. “I’m new to the area and don’t know my way round yet. I thought this would be a good place to hold up for a while.”

Another male voice called impatiently from the deep within the forest “Will….William? Where are you lad?”

He jumped up. “That’s me Da. Got to go. See you around then,” he called as he headed for the trees. “Be careful round here at night, the area’s ripe with deochfola. We got seven of them the last couple of weeks and their sympathizers too.”

“Thanks, will do,” she called after him.

His thoughts were graphic. The witches and shifters were being held in a locked compound. All the vamps had been executed on sight, their bodies stripped of clothing and anything of value. Without the charmed silver of the amulets any of them may have had, they burned when the sun rose.

A small pebble hit her on the thigh, drawing her attention to the crevice. “Thank you. I owe you my life twice now,” Dainton whispered from the shadows.

“Be quiet,” she shushed him, without moving her lips. “They haven’t gone far enough away yet.” She waited until she could no longer hear the boy’s thoughts before starting to question him. “Why are they hunting you?” The prompted question made him reveal the memory, and she was curious to know whether he would speak the truth.

“A rabid deochfola killed her Sire about a year ago and went on a rampage in their village. She managed to slaughter eight families before they caught her. Now they think we’re all like that. Mind you, their leader is a mouthpiece and doesn’t like anything that’s not Siofra. They’ve been going from town to town campaigning for support for our ultimate extinction, slaughtering any of us they can find along the way. They even take the humans somewhere, probably to try and starve us out of hiding.”

His thoughts revealed he was speaking what he believed to be the truth.


Chapter 41

Sidney withdrew a bag of blood from the stash in the pool and tossed it into the crevice to Dainton. “Make it last the day. We don’t have many supplies.”

Dainton lifted it to his nose to smell the bag before turning it back and forth to examine the strange text on the label. “What is it?”

“What it looks like; blood.”

“I can see that. How do I get it out?”

She sighed. Sitting on the ground next to the opening, she held out her hand for the bag. He reluctantly gave it back and watched with amazement when she pierced the corner of it with her fang before passing it back to him. “I’ve made a small hole in the top, either suck it out or squeeze the bag gently.”

He put the bag to his mouth and squeezed firmly. His cheeks puffed out as his mouth instantly filled to overflowing. A small crimson river escaped the corner of his lips.

“Mmmm.” His moan of pleasure followed his audible gulp when he swallowed before withdrawing the bag and licking his lips clean. “It tastes like it’s straight from the vein. How do you get it in there in the first place?”

“A hollow needle attached to a tube is pushed into the vein, the blood flows out and into the bag if you do it right. The tube is inserted into the little white bit at the bottom of the bag.” She pointed to it and as he turned the bag over to look, the contents began to pour out. “Hold it upright! Now that it’s open it will spill.”

He righted the bag and tutted in frustration at the waste. “So how can I make it last the day if it spills every time I move it?”

“Good point,” she mused. “I suppose you’ll have to finish that one and we can share each of the other bags. Assuming you want to accompany me.”

“Of course,” he agreed, “but where are we going?”

“First stop will be the nearest town, I need to get a lay of the land and find out what’s going on.”

He pushed himself further into the crevice, shaking his head vehemently. “No. No, I can’t go back. They’ll kill me for sure this time. I’m sorry.”

“Fine.” She shrugged and began picking dirt from under her fingernails in a show of nonchalance. “Then you had better start talking. Who is Mama? How, and why, did she bring me here?”

His shocked eyes shot up to meet hers. “How… How do you know about her?”

“Quid pro quo, my dear Dainton. You tell me what I want to know and maybe I’ll share my secrets.”

He closed his eyes and leant back against the rock behind him. “Well it looks like you have me at a disadvantage. I’m captive by the sun so I can’t very well leave right now, can I. What do you want to know?”

“Mama, Who and why?” she reminded him.

“Mama is the leader of a coven of draoi, a spell caster and a visionary,” he began. “During one of her visions she saw what the siofra were doing to my people and what they were going to do to hers next. We made a pact to join forces. We were to protect her people at night while they slept and in return, they would conceal us in our hides by day. Around a month ago, she called on the spirits to send the prophesized Deliver to save us. During the spell, a large spiralling vortex of light opened on the sacred ground and pulled her through, to where I don’t know, but in her place, various races of people have been appearing there since. You heard the boy earlier; they have killed all the deochfola and captured the others. All except one, a young man who seemed to have no special abilities. When he tried to stop the siofra from killing one of us he was killed and thrown back through the vortex.”

As he spoke, she was able to see his memories. She also saw how he distracted the band of siofra who were hiding around the clearing just before her arrival. He had killed one of them then walked into the middle of the clearing to taunt them into trying to catch him. She drew a sharp breath as she felt his pain when the arrow pierced his chest in his memory. He had saved her life and almost lost his own in the process.

“It would seem we are even on the saving life score,” she told him after a moment of processing his thoughts. “Okay, next question. What makes you so sure that I’m this Deliverer you speak of?”

He frowned at her, thinking, How does she know? It’s like she’s reading my mind.

Sidney laughed and pushed her voice into his mind. You’re pretty sharp, that’s because I can.

He started at the sudden intrusion. “I wasn’t sure before, I had hoped, but now I’m certain… The Deliverer, it is prophesized, will walk among the living in the light of day, control the beast with a single word, be heard without uttering a single sound by mouth, and hear what is not spoken. If that isn’t you then we are all lost for the draoi, Mama, is dead and the vortex shattered.”

“Well damn it! How the hell am I meant to get home now?” she demanded. “What is this Deliverer meant to deliver anyhow?”

“Us all. You will deliver us all from persecution and tyranny.”

She shook her head in denial, letting it come to rest on the rock behind her back as she released a deep sigh. “I’m not the person you’re looking for Dainton. I’m just a normal vampire, deochfola; nothing special or out of the ordinary. I’m just like all the other deochfola who came through the vortex before me. Now I’m stuck here with no way home.” She sniffed and wiped at her running nose with her sleeve.

“There might be a way,” he whispered hesitantly. “Mama told me that if anything happened to her then I was to go to the north coast and search for a draoi by the name of Lana, that she would help.”

She searched his thoughts for deception and found none. “Fine, then help me free the others of my world from the prison in the town and we’ll all go look for this Lana. My name is Sidney by the way, and we leave as soon as the sun goes down. I’ve no doubt the hunters will be back in the area come nightfall looking for you.”


Chapter 42

Sidney sat at the top of the waterfall watching the flaming orb slowly sink below the tree line; the top edges of the vast forest set alight with hues of red and orange. Shadows had already reached the rock crevice beyond the pool far beneath her. She climbed down to join Dainton as he crawled from his hide.

Finally, she got to see him in his full glory. Taller than her 6ft, judging by how far his head soared above the rock pile, his leanness made him look taller still. Deep brown hair hung in limp straggles below his collar and framed his face. If you can call a man pretty without it sounding feminine, that’s how she saw him – delicate perhaps would be more apt. His nose was straight and drew the gaze to his cool blue/green eyes framed by perfect long lashes that many women have strived for with the use of eyeliner and mascara. High cheekbones, although partially hidden behind several weeks of beard growth, were a little more prominent than they would normally have been had he been eating properly. His dark denims and plain, once-white T-shirt hung loose on his frame, adding to his lean appearance. Filthy and blood stained, the T-shirt sported a perfect hole to the middle of his chest, front and back, where the arrow had pierced it.

Dainton watched her descend the rock face with the nimble ability of a seasoned climber – dropping to ledges and swinging for hand and toe grips. He was in awe of her. The first thing he’d noticed about her that morning was her flame-red hair. He’d seen it at its most magnificent when she’d brought the deer for him to feed from. Lit from behind by the sun, her head looked like it was surrounded by fire. Her body, a vision of loveliness clad in a long cotton sweater that just about covered her modesty, and when it was wet, it became see-through so everything was revealed to him; she might as well have stood before him naked. What man wouldn’t notice the athletic lines and flawless length of leg when presented with such a vision? He already knew she would be close to his height because she had fit perfectly to his body when they lay curled together in the crevice. Her compassion astounded him, she could easily have let him die, and he would have had she left the wooden arrow in his chest. Instead she removed it, and fed him from her own vein giving some of her much needed life-force to help him heal.

An angel, he thought. My angel of mercy.

“I can assure you, I’m no angel.” Sidney told him as she came to stand by his side. She was right about him being taller, he stood over her by a good three or four inches.

He smiled slightly, embarrassed. “Sorry I forgot; I’ll have to try to guard my thoughts.”

“No worries. I’m flattered really. Given the image of my head on fire you could have considered me a demon.”

Much too beautiful for a demon. His thoughts made her smile.

Suddenly shy, she turned to gather the blood from the pool and stuffed it into a bag along with her spare clothes then tossed it over her shoulder. “We best get moving. I can hear the faint echo of the boy’s thoughts heading this way.”

They headed north-west toward the village Dainton thought the others of her world were being held prisoner. The worried and nervous thoughts he was broadcasting were getting on her nerves. Always the same thing: as soon as they saw him, they would surely kill him this time. She caught a flash of memory: a house, his home, broken doors and windows; people he considered friends coming at him with knives and stakes.

“I need to teach you how to shield your mind. You’re invading mine so much I can hardly think at the moment.” She caught the slight movement of his hair as he nodded. “We’ll stop here then.”

He frowned. “Here, in the middle of the road?”

“No.” She sighed, shaking her head in disbelief at his gullibility. “The fallen tree behind me will do. I don’t fancy picking the pieces of you off the road when a car or bus comes tearing round the corner.”

They sat, concealed from the road by shrubs and bushes. Sidney began trying to teach him the basic shield. She still needed to get in to his thoughts so a complete block, like the one Callie had, was out of the question. Instead, she tried more of a muffler.

“Okay, I need you to think of your mind like a large store room. Give it walls… and a door… fill it with boxes for your memories…” Half an hour later, she breathed a sigh of relief when the foundations of his shield were finally in place. The intense headache his constant babbling thoughts had given her subsided. “How much further is it?”

“Perhaps twenty minutes or so,” he replied, looking down at his filthy T-shirt and jeans. “I really should tidy up a little before we get there. My appearance will draw more attention than necessary and home is on the outskirts. We pass within a half mile of it. Would you mind if we stopped off?”

“I thought you didn’t want to go home?”

“If I’m to pass as normal then a shower and change of clothing will be essential. That’s if it still stands after they chased me off.”

She shrugged. "Fine, we’ll make the detour. I’ll stand watch outside while you change, warn you if anyone approaches. How does that sound?”

He nodded. “Sounds good.”

They walked on, chatting about the surrounding area, the siofra and draoi. “The mountains to the south are very similar to those at home, we call them Mourne, What do you call them?”

“The same.”

“And the country?”

“Ireland, and yours?”

“Same. In my world we call siofra, shifters or were, pretty much every mammal you can think of will have someone who can transform from human into that animal. Assuming of course we have the same animals, there are so many other similarities that I assume we would.”

“Hmm,” he said distractedly. “We don’t have snakes anymore; the draoi Patrick banished them after his wife was bitten by one.” He kept glancing behind them and picked up his pace a little.

“You seem preoccupied, is there a problem?”

“I have a feeling we’re being followed. Can you sense anyone?”

She searched for stray thoughts close by, but found nothing. Not even a faint echo. “Nothing, you’re being paranoid because we’re getting close to your home.”

“Call it what you will but it’s never been wrong before,” he assured her.

“There’s a crossroads coming up, we’ll split up and I’ll have a look. Keep your mind open to me, like I showed you, so we can talk.”

He nervously agreed and kept walking toward his home as she took a different route – waving goodbye. Do you still have the feeling? she sent him as soon as she was out of sight around a bend in the road.

Yes and it’s getting worse.

I’m moving back to you now… There are fresh small paw prints in the dirt at the side of the road… I can make out something small and patchy it looks like… a dog?

She felt his relief. “Penny? …Penny,” he called, and the dog bounded toward him with its tail wagging fiercely. It jumped at his leg and when he picked it up, it immediately started licking his face.

“You knew she was following you, and you say you’ve never been wrong. Do you mean you can feel when siofra are close by in animal form?”

“I guess so, yeah.”

“What about in human form?”

“Nope just animals, it’s how I managed to evade them for so long, they hunt with at least two or three as animals.”

“That’s still good!” she nodded, pleased. “Maybe you’ll be of some use after all because I can’t read animal nor siofra minds in animal form. We’ll make the perfect team.”

His home remained standing, albeit not in one piece. Every window was broken and both doors hung off their hinges. Thankfully, there was little to no structural damage on the inside, just a bit of water from the rain pouring in through the glassless windows.

Sidney stayed close behind him as he shoved the door aside and stepped in to the dark hall. She listened intently for any sign of approaching trouble, but all remained quiet on the street. Nothing moved. Not a single person had a waking thought. That in itself would have raised suspicion in her world, but there seemed to be very few people here. It was almost too quiet.

Within what seemed like no time at all, Dainton was walking casually back down the stairs; his upper body naked but for the towel around his neck. If there was an award for the fastest shower he would have won it easily; he’d even washed his hair and shaved in the short time it took him.

“Do you think I should cut my hair, maybe it would alter my appearance slightly?” he asked, already holding the kitchen scissors out for her to do the honours.

“Sure, if you want.” She shrugged, taking the scissors from him and waited for him to sit in the chair she pulled out for him.

After giving the towel a quick shake, she placed it around his shoulders to try to stop the wet hair cuttings from sticking to him and itching later. He handed her a brush, which she used to scoop his hair into a ponytail than chopped it off at the base of his skull; the scissors weren’t the sharpest but they did the job. She methodically started at the top of his head, taking layer after layer between her fingers and chopped away like a professional. She trimmed around his ears and the back of his neck, cutting close to his scalp. The top she left longer then blended it to the meet the shorter sides.

“I don’t suppose you have hair gel?” she asked once she’d finished cutting. He went to get up but she stopped him with a hand to his shoulder. “I’ll get it just tell me where.”

“Bathroom: cupboard over the sink; first door on the left at the top of the stairs.”

She had to admit that he did scrub up well and the new haircut suited him. He put on a clean T-shirt with similar jeans to the ones he wore earlier and added a lightweight jacket – probably to try to blend in better. Hesitating only a moment when he offered his arm, she linked hers through it. Arm in arm, they strolled the half mile to the village.

The main street primarily consisted of the village square, a grassy area about the size of a football pitch. Half of it was grass, bordered by a knee height hedge. The other half had a child’s playground at one corner, a small toilet block in another and what looked like wooden stocks in between the two. The square itself was bordered by a road and beyond that were shops: a small convenience store, a post office, a garage, an off-licence, a pub, a small chip shop, a hairdressers, a bakery and a small police station tucked right back in the far corner.

Sidney quickly scanned the thoughts of the people in the area and confirmed in Dainton’s mind, Everyone is busy with their own troubles and haven’t noticed us yet. Let’s have a seat at the bench near the stocks and just observe for the moment. They moved together at a slow stroll emulating another couple ahead of them until they came to the bench. I’ve found only one human in the immediate area, but there is also one deochfola. Both are in the pub. The police station currently holds several witches and a couple of other breeds that I assume to be the prisoners but everyone else seems to be siofra.

I’m surprised at the deochfola being out in open. Can you hear what’s being said?

Sidney was quiet for several minutes while she listened, her eyebrows raised in surprise. The human is with the deochfola, and a siofra is trying to persuade them both to leave quietly. He says he doesn’t want trouble. Several of his friends are hiding close by to attack them once they leave the village boundaries… she relayed. A scowl appeared on her face a second later. He’s wondering how much he can get for the human.

What do you want to do? he asked, knowing already that they were in for a fight of one form or other.

The prisoners don’t seem to be in any immediate danger. The deochfola on the other hand could use some assistance. What do you say we have a little fun up the road?’

That depends on how many there are. I‘d need to be closer to feel if they’re in animal form.

Is that a yes then? she grinned, getting up and offering her hand.

We’ll check it out and see how we go, he agreed.

We have a few minutes head start. They’ll be heading toward a car park on Glenhead Road.

He stood and took her hand, leading them toward the opposite side of the village. “There is one already following us,” he informed her after only a few streets.

“There are three in human form hiding behind a fence. Do you feel any animals ahead yet?”

“No, not in front of us, just the one behind. I think it’s a large predator, maybe a lion or puma, some sort of large cat anyway.”

“Okay. I can handle the three in front no problem,” she stated confidently. “Do you think you can handle the cat?”

He laughed “No problem.”

They split up. Dainton ducked into the back garden of the next house and Sidney skipped on up the road.


Chapter 43

Casually strolling into the garden of the last house on the row, Sidney ducked behind the hedge. Her focus narrowed to take in only the three siofra minds. Her eyesight sharpened. Her hearing singled out the sound of their heartbeats. The steady rhythm increased in tempo; their excitement building in readiness for an ambush.

She was a predator. She loved this, loved the feel of adrenaline as it coursed through her veins in preparation for a fight. Picking one that seemed to be the leader, she looked through his eyes as he watched two women approach, hurrying and casting nervous glances behind them.

The deochfola was old, older than her at any rate. Sidney could see in her mind too and it raced, searching for any option that would save not her but the human. Her friend.

Sidney sent a silent message to her. There are three siofra ahead waiting in ambush behind a fence in the car park. My associate will take care of the one behind you. Protect your friend and stay out of my way.

Not waiting for any acknowledgment, she moved swiftly and silently through the trees that separated the garden from the car park; jumping easily over the waist-high, wire fence then crept along behind the parked cars until she reached the one behind the men.

The leader turned and sniffed the air. “Behind us!” he shouted in warning to the others a second too late.

The firsts head smashed through the driver side window as she threw him to the side. The second came at her from the front, while the third went round behind her.

Second’s technique was a little clumsy and no match for her in the close confines between the cars. He managed to block several of her punches and kicks until he moved in with his own, and left himself open as he rounded with a kick to her mid-section. Grabbing his foot, she held it up to expose his family jewels to her boot. He crumpled, clutching himself as she let go. She leapt on him, grabbed him by the collar of his jacket and hit him square on the nose with her forehead – cartilage crunched. One more punch to his face was all it took to knock him out.

While Sidney had been busy, the deochfola had pulled the third by the hair as he made his move. She swung him around, struck him with several jabs to his face and stomach, finishing him off with an uppercut. He lay sprawled over the bonnet of a black convertible. She dusted her hands then bowed to Sidney. “I’m in your debt. I couldn’t have taken all three and protected Susan at the same time. My name’s Emily,” she introduced herself, holding out her hand for Sidney to shake. “Thank you for your assistance.”

“Sidney,” Sidney responded. "And this is my associate Dainton.” She added as they were joined by the deochfola in question, who was chatting casually with the human as they approached.

“We should probably take advantage of their unconsciousness and feed from them,” Dainton suggested. “It’ll be a long night otherwise.”

“Fair point. The big one’s mine though,” Sidney claimed, rolling the biggest shifter over onto his back. “I have a hankering for bear blood.”

Susan kept watch at the entrance of the car park while the others fed.

“So what now? As much fun as that was they’ll only be out for a short time,” Emily asked a short while later, shooting worried, yet satisfied, glances at the three men.

“Hmm…I’ll be right back.” Sidney ran back to the three prone figures, pulling them beyond the tree line to sit them against a fallen tree. She spoke to their foggy minds, Sleep… Sleep until the sun rises.

“We’ll have no trouble from those three before morning, and I plan to be long gone by then.”

“I suggest you head south as most of the surrounding towns and villages are now under the control of Micah of Kells,” Emily suggested. “They’re no longer safe for any deochfola and he seems to be moving his campaign north.”

“Just my luck. We’ve no choice but to go north if I’m to get home again.”

“Where’s home?” asked Susan.

“Long story, let’s just say not local. But first things first, time to go rescue my people from the jail cells.”

“Now this I can help with,” Susan offered. “I worked as the desk clerk there for several years and I know the place like the back of my hand. How about we head to my place? It’s far enough out of the village and I can draw out a floor plan for you.”

The four got into Susan’s car and travelled the five miles to her country cottage, west of the village. They left the forest behind about a half mile before they pulled into the long lane, leading to an enclosed yard of a small farm holding. Sidney could smell the cattle and chickens Susan had mentioned she kept.

The sitting room of the tiny thatched cottage was roomier than it appeared which afforded enough space to seat them all comfortably. Susan left them to gather paper and pens she needed to draw out a floor plan of the police station and its adjoining cells. She returned a few minutes later, balancing a tray with the pens, a cup of coffee and a few sandwiches in one hand and a drawing pad tucked under her arm.

*****

Susan blew the crumbs that had fallen from her sandwich off the finished drawing. “That’s about all I can tell you on the layout. There should only be two officers on duty at night, but the cells have never been so full before so there could be another one. Their weapons include stun poles with enough electrical power to take down an elephant.”

Sidney rose from her seat, followed by Dainton and Emily. “Thanks for your help,” she addressed both Susan and Emily. “Good luck in finding a safe place.”

“We’d like to come with you, if we may?” Emily asked, apprehensively. “I know who you are and I’d like to help in any way I can.”

Sidney sighed, reading Emily’s mind. “I’m not the Deliverer, just an unfortunate victim of some sort of wormhole between our worlds. All I want is to go home, and if I can bring the others of my world with me then all the better… Dainton stop nodding, it’s just a coincidence nothing more.”

“Whatever you say,” Dainton placated. “Now shall we go rescue your friends? It’s already past midnight.”

“You’ve become very brave all of a sudden,” Sidney observed, rolling up the drawing in preparation for leaving. She turned to Susan. “It might be best if you stay here out of sight until we return.”

“Well, I was thinking,” Susan interrupted. “You’ll need a getaway driver and a bus to stand any chance of pulling this off. I just happen to know where I can get my hands on a bus.”

“Okay, I can see what you’re thinking, and that’s a pretty good plan,” She agreed. “Fine, you get the bus and meet us in the same car park as earlier. Everyone ready?”


Chapter 44

It was well after midnight and the town square deserted by the time Susan dropped them off. The last stragglers from the bar had long since staggered home, leaving an eerie silence in the dead of night. The first thing on the agenda was to ascertain how many guards were in the station. They approached stealthily, keeping to the shadows. An alleyway between the bakery and police station led them to a window that overlooked the cells.

Sidney sifted through the thoughts that bombarded her as she opened her mind, dismissing the random unorganized dreams of the sleeping as captives and pairing off others with those she could see were awake. It was awkward and twice she had to start over before coming to the conclusion that there were two guards out front, as Susan had predicted.

Do you feel any animals close by? she broadcast to Dainton.

He shook his head.

Good, this is what I suggest we do, she sent to Emily as well. One of us will distract the two guards in the front office while a second keeps watch outside, the third will slip in through the toilet window that’s cracked open and unlock the cells with the keys that are conveniently hanging by the door. They nodded to show their understanding.

“Who does what?" Emily mouthed silently.

Emily, do you think you can distract them? she asked, and seeing an idea begin to take form in the woman’s mind, she continued, Dainton you’re taking watch because I don’t think you’ll fit through the window and you’ll sense danger before you’ll see it. Are we ready? They nodded. Susan will stop briefly at the other end of the square making the air brakes of the bus hiss twice in signal that she’s in position. Now we wait.

Dainton blended into the shadows near the entrance of the alleyway, scanning the square for movement. He waited for the signal while keeping his senses tuned for danger. After around twenty minutes, he spotted the lights of an approaching vehicle and waved Emily forward. Air brakes hissed twice.

Stay alert everyone and don’t worry about what I’m doing, I’ll see and hear everything that you can, so I’ll know when to move.

Emily stepped confidently from the shelter of the alley and walked to the main door of the station. Without hesitation, she pushed it open then strode with purpose to the desk and pressed the bell that sat on top. “Hello!” she called, banging on the counter top when no one immediately appeared. “Can I get some help please?”

A slender middle-aged man in a tidy uniform stuck his head around the door from the room Susan had indicated was the lounge area. He looked her up and down before calling, “Mine,” over his shoulder and hastily closed the door. “Yes Miss, how can I help you?” he asked, pleasantly.

Sighing over-dramatically, she used a little of the sexual influence she possessed. “Mmm, I just love a man in uniform.”

His gaze travelled down to her cleavage as she leant forward to brace her hands on the desk. A second male head peered around the door, spied her, then eagerly joined his comrade at the desk for a better view.

“So what can we do for you?”

“I wish to make a complaint.” She pouted, slurring her words slightly. “A very rude man made suggestive remarks to me in the car park then drove off through a puddle and soaked my stockings.” She pulled her dress up several inches to expose her thigh and the top of the stocking. “Right up to here.” Both men leered over the desk for a better look, but managed to school their features when they rose to meet her eye again.

“What would you have us do, he’s probably long gone by now?” the slimmer one asked.

“I have his registration number,” she replied, slinging her bag off her shoulder to rummage around in it.

Pulling the contents out, she laid them on the desk to have a clearer look and, accidentally on purpose, nudged her lipstick so it rolled off the desk and across the floor. With a tut, she bent to retrieve it and wiggled her ass in their faces. She heard one of them groan then clear his throat.

Sidney monitored the situation through Emily’s eyes and the moment the second guard joined the pretty blonde vamp out front, she reached overhead and yanked the toilet window open. Getting up to the opening was an easy jump, squeezing through the small window was a bit more of a challenge. Once she was half way in, she realized she had nothing to brace her hands on to pull herself the rest of the way. The tiled walls were wider apart than her arm span and the toilet bowl was too far directly beneath her.

She wiggled and wriggled until her hips finally cleared the tiny gap causing her to drop head first toward to the lime scale-stained bowl, barely managing to catch the rim and flip onto her feet at the last second. She headed straight for the sink and ran the tap at a trickle.

“Gross,” she muttered as she rinsed the slime off.

At the end of a narrow corridor leading to the cells, the door creaked as she eased it open. Several of the sleeping minds came awake. She dismissed all but one. His first thought on seeing her was to sound the alarm. A mere millimetre separated his hand from the button by the time she reached him to slap it away. His hand moved to his side for the silver pole that hung there, only to find it gone.

The tip of the pole lit neon blue and crackled as it touched the guard. He fell to the ground, his body trembling until the pole was removed; the small man holding it sniggered.

“Hi, I’m Sidney and I’d like to get you out of here. Your co-operation would be appreciated.” She introduced herself to the room. “When I open the cells please line up against the wall. For pity’s sake don’t make a sound. Any questions raise your hand.” She scanned the cells “Are we understood?” Everyone nodded their agreement and lined up against the wall as soon as their cell doors opened.

*****

Emily giggled and feigned a drunken stumble. “Oops, help me up?” She giggled, rolling over to sit up, holding out her hands for assistance. She upped the potency of the sex appeal.

They eagerly rushed to her aide, the broader one kneeling on the floor at her feet. “You shouldn’t move yet. We need to check that you haven’t injured yourself,” he said, giving his colleague a wink.

“Yeah, we can’t have you suing us for negligence, you know?” Slim agreed.

Emily fluttered her eyelashes at them, “Oh okay. My ankle does feel a little tender,” she offered.

Both men took a foot each and started groping their way slowly up her legs, sliding their hands up then down repeatedly in eager caress.

Sidney’s voice echoed in her mind. Anyway you could get those two leeches out of the way of the front door so we can get out of here?

“Guys,” Emily cooed. “Do you really think full view of the windows is the place to be doing that?” She smiled, arching a single eyebrow in question. “And the floor is a little hard and cold.”

They looked at one another, Slim taking control of the situation. “Maybe you should rest your ankle somewhere a little more comfortable and perhaps a sweet cup of tea for the shock?”

“I’ll carry you through to the back room if you like,” the second offered.

“Oh Officer…” she looked at his name badge, “Steve, my hero.”

“Paul, mate, get the door?” Steve instructed as he slipped one of his arms under Emily’s legs and the other around her back.

The door swung closed behind them. “How about a little music? Something with a good, strong beat.” she suggested, pointing at a small stereo system under the TV.

“No problem.” Paul moved away to examine the limited collection, then slid a disc into the slot. A moment later, something closely resembling Pitbull’s Rain over me started playing.

She wiggled in Steve’s arms. “Put me down.”

As soon as her feet touched the floor, she started dancing, pumping her hips in time to the beat. She drew Steve closer and shimmied against him, sliding down his leg and lightly brushing his ass with her palm as she rose. Spinning away from him, she laughed and sidled up to Paul, presenting her back to him. He grabbed her waist and joined her rhythmic pumping, gyrating his hips against hers at the same time.

*****

Sidney turned to address the room. “Okay everyone, in a moment we’re going to walk quickly and quietly out of here in single file, right through the front door. There’s a bus waiting at the other end of the square. That’s our ride outta here.”

Opening the door, she peeped out to find the reception clear. The cells emptied in no time; the inmates followed Sidney out the door like a gaggle of baby ducklings. Dainton greeted them beyond the front doors and ran with them to the waiting bus, leaving Sidney at the station.

Sidney’s amusement was evident even in her silent voice as she once again focused on Emily’s antics. It seems such a shame to spoil your fun, but if you wish to join us we need to leave now.

I hadn’t thought that far ahead, Emily admitted in her own thoughts. “How am I going to get out of here without them following me?”

The door burst open and Sidney appeared almost from nowhere. “Sleep,” she commanded the two men and they instantly dropped to the floor.

“Quickly, help me take off their trousers,” she instructed Emily. “I’ll give them the memory of a fantastic night with a human woman.”

Within a minute, the two officers were positioned, half-naked on the sofa. One leant on the other, both had satisfied smiles on their faces. Sidney and Emily ran from the station to jump aboard the bus that was already in motion.


Chapter 45

Emily started fidgeting, getting up and immediately sitting down again, glancing out the window then straight ahead and back to the window. Her thoughts were in such a jumble Sidney couldn’t make them out.

“Emily for crying out loud will you take the bee out of your ass for two seconds and calm down?” She asked with exasperation.

“The sun will be up in twenty minutes. Can’t you feel it?” Emily stressed. “We need to get under cover for the day!”

“Yes?” Sidney acknowledged the arm that rose above the heads of the seated occupants.

“I don’t know what the hell is going on here but we want answers…”

“Sir,” Sidney interrupted, “I understand your anxiousness but we are trying to get us all home. Please be a little more patient and I’ll explain the best I can once we sort out those that require cover for the day.”

No sooner had he sat down again another hand shot up, “What about the luggage compartments under the bus? They should be mostly light proof.”

Emily jumped up again, “Mostly won’t do. It has to be completely light proof.”

Sidney made her way to the front, “Susan, please pull over. Emily and Dainton need to be under cover before sunrise and we’re going to try the luggage compartment.”

The bus immediately began to slow. Sidney jumped off and opened the side compartments to find them full of suitcases and bags. She sent Susan a respectful look, “Give me a hand with these on to the bus”.

“Why don’t you just dump them?” asked the man that wanted answers.

“Because whatever is in them may be useful later,” Susan answered for her as she passed him the first two bags.

“How do you know these will be light proof?” Dainton asked, “I mean, there has to be light to test them and by then it’ll be too late”

The young witch that suggested the compartments in the first place stepped forward as the last bag made it to the back of the bus, “We can fill the gaps around the doors with mud. I’ll be able to set it with a little heat.” In demonstration, she produced a small fireball that turned to a gentle flamethrower as she directed it to the damp ground. Steam rose as water evaporated.

Emily pushed her way to the front climbing into the small compartment, “We’re out of time the sun’s just about to rise. Hurry Dainton so they can close the doors!”

Several pairs of hands began scooping mud from the damp ground and smearing it around the doors. Sonia, the young witch whose name Sidney was able to pluck from her mind, sent a steady but gentle stream of flame that hissed as it set the mud, the steam quickly dispersed.

Banging the doors, Sidney attempted to rattle any loose mud free but all stayed intact. “Good job Sonia,” she complemented the young girl who beamed. “You guys okay in there?” She sent to Emily and Dainton as the first rays broke the horizon.

“Yeah,” Dainton yelled back, “There’s not even a speck coming through”

The questions came thick and fast the second after Sidney signalled for Susan to drive on.

“Please,” Sidney begged, “One at a time, you’re giving me a headache. Each of you can have one question. Start from the front … You,” she pointed to Sonia, “What do you wish to know?”

“Where we are?”

“From what I can gather, a parallel world.”

“How did we get here?” Mr. Impatient from the back called out.

“Wait your turn,” Sidney snapped, “But as that was this young Fairy’s question too I’ll answer. A witch created a wormhole – a portal between our worlds – and kidnapped each of us in an attempt to stop a war between shifters and vampire of this world.”

“So we’re going back through the portal then?” The impatient guy called out again.

Sidney shook her head and addressed the bus, “Is he to be the spokesman for you all?” No one objected. “Fine… no we can’t go back that way. The portal was destroyed after I was pulled through.”

“So how do we get home?”

“That, I’m hoping, will be answered when we reach our destination.” She held up her hand to stop his next barrage of questions, “All I know is, that is where we’ll find a witch who may be able to replicate the spell and send us home.”

“How do you plan on finding this witch? I take it you don’t know where she lives.”

“No I don’t,” Sidney sighed, “but we have mouths and we can ask.”

“Why us?” he muttered, “What’s so special about each of us to bring us here anyway?”

“That is one question I don’t have the answer for.”

She made her way to Susan after an hour asking “How are holding up? Do you want me to take over driving for a while?

Susan laughed, “So you can escape the questions? No, I’m fine for a bit longer although it would be good to know exactly where I’m driving to.”

Sidney called to Dainton in his mind, Dainton wake up! Do you know the name of the town this Lana lives in?

Hmm what? Oh sorry, I think it was Port Ballin… Something or other.

“Port Ballin-something,” Sidney relayed.


Chapter 46

The bus careened around a tight bend, flashing past Port Ballintoy’s muddy signpost on the most northern coast road of Ireland.

Air brakes hissed, labouring to slow the vehicle’s rapid descent down the main thoroughfare that made up the small village. Loud grating and grinding sounded, scraping along the nearside wall. Sidney cringed. Susan struggled with the wheel, attempting to take the long body around a particularly tricky bend.

“Oops,” Susan giggled nervously, “I guess the ‘no long vehicle’ sign was there for a reason.”

The rear wheels bumped over the wall rubble, which caused the dried mud to drop out from the cracks around the doors of the luggage compartment. Moans of complaint from within turned to screams of agony. Late morning sunlight streamed in, catching Emily first across her forearm, then her face when she flung her arm away from the light. With no escape from searing pain, her shrieks increased in pitch.

Dainton lay in a slightly better spot. His torso and legs smoked where several beams sliced through the darkness like a laser His clothing diluted the intensity, but afforded no real protection. He swallowed pain-induced bile and shuffled his body down in an effort to block the light from Emily’s face. Stiffening in anticipation of more of the burning torture, he positioned himself. His thick leather boots glinted in the refracted light, bringing about a relieved moan from the woman beside him.

Emily called out to Sidney’s mind the moment she could think again, Please stop the light. Stop the light!

In less than a minute, the bus pulled into the car park to one side of the small harbour in Port Ballintoy. The occupants of the bus beat a hasty departure to line up along the side of it, blocking the luggage compartment from view and the light.

“As great an idea as this is, we can’t stand here all day waiting for the sun to set,” grumbled the impatient man who Sidney had deduced was a troll purely by his grumpy and impatient nature.

Sidney sighed in exasperation. “Just stay where you are until we find something to thick enough to cover the gaps,” she instructed.

“Put more mud in then,” he mocked, like it was a no-brainer.

She raised a single eyebrow as she made eye contact with him, looked at the ground in front of her then all around. Shingle, small shells, bitumen and rock were the only visible substrate. He had the grace to look sheepish when several sniggers sounded among the group.

A short time later, the only middle-aged woman from their group jumped from the deck of a small boat waving cheerfully at the man who stood watching her departure with more than a little fleeting interest. She handed over her prize with a wide grin. Silver Gaffer Tape Sidney knew it as, but the witch, Harmony, informed her that the sailor had called it Marvel Tape and it would stick to anything.

Once the doors were secure, Susan moved the bus to a better position, taking numerous attempts to turn it so the vampires hold would be out of direct sunlight.

“Right, now we’ve finally sorted that dilemma,” Sidney addressed the group. “Our first order of business is to find the witch, Lana. We’ll split up into three groups of eight: the first will remain here and guard the bus and its cargo; the other two will ask at houses on either side of the village. It’s not very big so it shouldn’t take long. What do you say we meet back here in an hour?”

“Any chance we can get some lunch? I haven’t eaten since dinner last night,” grumpy troll asked.

Sidney shrugged. “Susan?”

“I have a few coins that will buy a few meals but not enough for everyone. Does anyone have anything of value that we could barter for food?”

“Like jewellery?” Harmony asked, producing her jingling, bangle-bound wrist.

“Yeah, that sort of thing will do. Also wrist clocks, rings and neck chains.” She pointed at grumpy troll’s wrist “That one should fetch enough to feed us all.”

He hid his arm behind his back. “It’s 24 carat gold and worth more than a few dinners,” he huffed.

“‘Tis gold plated and we’ll be lucky to get the meals,” countered Harmony, holding out her hand. “Hand it over Lewis.” When he refused, she called for the metal and it appeared in her hand.

He puffed his breath out with a growl, “Fine, but I want extra food seeing as it’s my watch.”

They split into four groups of six: two groups asking at the local households for Lana, one group stayed to protect the bus and the last sent in search of food.

The food group found an empty café, and when they asked for twenty-four of the day’s specials in exchange for the fancy looking watch, the owner eagerly agreed. He was grateful that the fare he’d toiled over would not go to the waste bin after all.

The door knockers tramped back down the hill after knocking on every door in the small village.

“There were only two homes that failed to answer the door,” Lewis supplied when asked how their task went. “According to the neighbours, one of them is a vamp and was chased off a couple of days ago when ‘Ivan the Terrible’ passed through. The other’s a fisherman and most likely on the boat that’s moored in the harbour.”

Harmony jumped to her feet, “I’ll go ask,” she volunteered.

She sauntered up to the rail alongside the small boat, tapping on the wooden door that sat slightly ajar “Hello? Eric? Are you in there?”

“All right love, did the tape do the trick?” Eric asked, poking his head up from the engine bay.

“Perfectly, it’s exactly what we needed.” She grinned and fluttered her eyelashes. “Not a pick of light is getting through and they’re both okay now. Thank you.”

“Good, good…is there something else I can help you with?”

“Well actually there is. We’re looking for someone by the name of Lana. Do you happen to know her?”

“I know of a Draoi by that name, but you don’t want to be messing with that one. She’s bad news, into the dark stuff.” He confirmed.

“Oh. I don’t know anything about that. Apparently, she’s the only one that can help us. So do you know where she lives?”

“Aye, she’s out on the island.” He pointed beyond the harbour mouth, “If you really must see her, I can take about ten of you across in about an hour. I have a couple of things I need to do first and the tide should be with us then.”

“Really? An hour would be great. Thank you.”

Harmony jogged back to the bus. “Good news folks!” she said excitedly. “I’ve found the witch and got us a ride to her island.”

“Well that was easier than I thought it was going to be,” Sidney confessed.

“The bad news is Eric can only take ten of us though,”

“That’s should be okay, it’s not like she’ll be able to form the wormhole and send us home immediately anyway.”

“True. The worrying part is, he’s reckons she’s into dark magic.”

Lewis interrupted, “What does that mean anyway? Dark magic.”

“It means she’s not against spilling blood for sacrifice,” Harmony answered. “And I don’t mean just animal blood either.”

“If you think she’s dangerous then I’ll stay here.” Lewis volunteered without haste.

“Coward,” someone muttered.

Within the hour, it was agreed that Lewis would be responsible for the safety of the bus occupants while Sidney, Sonia, Harmony and six other witches would make the journey to the island.

The trip was pleasant for the most part, in that the water was slightly choppy, but the little boat coped with the swell and no one lost her lunch. However, things got a little bumpy for the last hundred metres or so.

“Hold tight people!” Eric advised. “We’ll be through the rip tide in a moment.”

Sidney managed to catch hold of Sonia’s arm just as the bow dipped, stopping her from tumbling over the rail when she lost her footing. The engine struggled to make progress against the ebb of the waves, puttering then spluttering as the propeller dipped in and out of the water in the heavier swell. Just as suddenly, the resistance stopped and the little boat shot forward, narrowly missing the old pier as Eric battled to steer and power down the engine.

A hooded figure stood at the end of the pier, her cloak flapping, arms and face raised to the sky while she chanted. She stopped abruptly and motioned for the rope to tie off the boat.

“Welcome to my home.” She finally addressed them. “Follow me, we have much to discuss.” She turned to lead the group up the narrow roughly carved path.

A light gust of wind caught her hood, flinging it back to expose her face. Sidney stopped dead in her tracks when she caught sight of the familiar features. Both Harmony and Sonia walked into her knocking them all off their feet and into the freezing cold water of the Atlantic Ocean.


Chapter 47

Eric pulled Harmony from the freezing water and wrapped an old, smelly blanket around her shoulders. The onlookers scanned the choppy water for any sign of the other two.

“There!” Amber, the fire elemental, shouted, pointing at bobbing black dots just as they once again disappeared under the crashing waves.

Sydney dove under the water, the salt stinging her eyes, and circled an arm around Sonia’s waist. Quit fighting me and relax, she spoke into her mind. I can’t swim against the current with you fighting me too.

The girl fought the urge to draw a breath, knowing even in her panic that if she did water would fill her burning lungs. She struggled and kicked with everything she possessed. The whispered words in her mind did nothing to ease the terror.

They broke the surface again, closer to the island this time. Sydney could feel the power of the magic that carried them. Whoever the water elemental, they were using a vast amount of energy reversing the riptide in their favour. Several pairs of hands reached down and wrenched Sonia from her arms and onto the wooden pier.

Harmony issued instructions on resuscitation. “I need water and an air element,” She instructed between her chattering teeth. “Force the water out of her lungs… Good. Now air in… and out… in… out.” She checked for a pulse but could feel nothing with her numb fingers.

“Her heart beats,” advised Sydney. “I can hear it. Its faint, but I can still hear it.”

Sonia’s chest rose and fell with each breath the air element forced into her lungs. After several seconds, she began coughing, her breath coming in ragged gasps.

Lana walked unsteadily up to the group, her face pale and partially hidden beneath the black hood of the cloak she huddled under. “Bring them to the house. They need to be warmed.”

Sydney picked up the limp girl and followed Lana up the rocky pathway that led to an old single story house. Thick smoke billowed from the chimney, the smell of burning peat pungent in the air. Her eyes never left the staggering cloaked figure in front of her. From the way Lana stumbled and swayed, she knew the young witch had exhausted herself and was the one responsible for carrying them against the riptide.

Laying Sonia on the sofa in front of the roaring fire, Sidney drew a chair closer for Harmony. Lana swayed on her feet, toppling sideways into the arms of Amber who stumbled from the unexpected burden.

“Best get her to bed,” Amber stated. “Cathy will you grab her feet?” Sidney moved from warming her hands in front of the fireplace to take Lana, but Amber waved her off. “We can manage. You dry off and get warm.”

“I need to fetch blankets for Harmony and Sonia anyway.”

“We’ll find them and bring them to you, now go get warm,” she ordered. They returned shortly with armloads of blankets and set about mollycoddling her, Harmony and Sonia.

The perfect opportunity presented itself for Sidney to do a little snooping some time later. After seeing Eric safely back on his boat with the assurance that he would return for them the following day, she wondered through each room examining the knickknacks cluttering walls and shelves.

Picking up a photograph that caught her eye, she took it to the window for a better look. The face of the girl looking back at her from the beneath glass was the spitting image of Irene, the young witch who had befriended and helped Callie when she was first turned. Sidney had heard of people having an unrelated person that looks remarkably like them but these two were identical, even more so than Callie and Adie.

On reflection, she realized that her voice sounded the same, the tone, the accent, even the inflection in the few words she had spoken.

“I wonder,” She muttered, “Does the similarity end with their looks?”

“Who’s looks?” Harmony asked as she entered the room.

“Hmm, oh Lana and a witch back home. The resemblance is uncanny.”

“Do you think she’ll be able to do it? Send us home I mean.”

“If the power I felt earlier is anything to go by then I’d say she’s the best chance we have.”

“I didn’t realize you were a master vampire. Or am I wrong in thinking that only the masters can feel our power levels?”

Sidney snorted, “No, you’re not wrong, I’m not one by choice and I’d rather it didn’t get around I’m quite happy with arrangements the way they are.”

“You’d rather be a nobody without a say in how things are done?”

“I’d rather keep my nose out of Vamp politics. Most of the elders are self-righteous arrogant pricks that care for nothing but their own gain.”

“But can’t they feel your power then like you do theirs?”

“I’ve been able to mask it and help my sire mask his too but with his new girlfriend moving in it’s been a little more …difficult.”

“How so?”

“That, I’m afraid, is not for me to say and somewhat redundant seeing as I’m not with them right now.”

“Fair enough,” Harmony replied, turning from her. “We were just about to fix lunch. If you care to join us Lana has a jug of blood in the fridge with your name on it.”

Sidney raised her eyebrows in question, “Literally?”

“Yes, I’m thinking she knew we were coming, there’s a larder full of food, clean clothing, and towels laid out for each of us.”

“Then she’ll know why we’re here.”


Chapter 48

Typical Irish weather made it possible for an early rise for the two trapped in the luggage compartment. Heavy black clouds obscured the last rays of the setting sun from view, sending fingers of darkness throughout the land thirty minutes before it was due. Lewis peeled back the silver tape, opening the doors to reveal the two snoring bodies. The ripping hollow reverberation made when he removed the tape, did nothing to stir them, nor did Lewis shaking them. Were it not for the loud snoring they would easily be mistaken for dead.

“I don’t get it, why do they snore when they don’t need to breathe?” Lewis asked.

Susan chuckled. “I think it has to do with their minds clinging to humanity. According to Emily, her dreams are solely of her life before her sire ended it. Everything since the night she died is clear as crystal in her memory. She’s never dreamt of any of it, only actual events from her human time.”

“Interesting.” His bored tone said otherwise. “So what do we do now then? The sailor said he left the others on the island for the night.”

“Hang around here I guess, those two will need to eat soon after they wake,” Susan advised. “I don’t mind feeding Emily, but Dainton will either need to hunt or one of you lot could let him feed.”

“Eh… I think I have a cold coming on… or… or something, so I can’t do it. I, eh, need to go stretch my legs.” He hastily walked off, stealing a glance back when he reached the corner.

Emily stood watching him run away like the coward he was. “Where’s he running off to?”

“He’s avoiding being useful again,” Susan supplied. “What was Mama thinking when she sent him through the portal? He’s utterly spineless even by troll standards.”

“Well he must have something going for him or she wouldn’t have picked him.”

“Judging by some of the rejects in there, I beginning to think she got desperate and sent whatever she could find.”

“Shush, guard your tongue! Sidney’s might pick up on your thoughts.”

“It’s okay, she’s gone over to the island just beyond the point with some of the Draoi. She won’t be back till morning.”

“Just because she’s not here doesn’t mean we can relax our guard,” Emily chastised. “We need to find a way to get rid of this lot and keep Sidney here. They’re distracting her from our objective.”

“What do you suggest?”

“I’m not sure yet… I can’t think straight on an empty stomach.”

Susan sighed, “Let’s go somewhere a little more private. There’s an empty cottage up the hill thanks to Micah and his posse.”

A loud grumbling interrupted their chat. Dainton rubbed his stomach, stretched, and swung his legs over the edge of the hole he had spent the day in. “Ladies,” he addressed them. “Would you care to fill me in on your objective over breakfast?”

“Unless you can convince any of the rejects in there to let you feed from them you’ll have to go hunt your own, Susan is mine,” Emily replied.

“Not a problem, Sidney has a stash of blood in convenient little containers hidden somewhere. It should only take a moment to sniff it out and I’ll catch up to you.”

The squishy little bags of human blood held Dainton’s fascination so much that he paid no attention to where he walked. Rapid footfalls behind him, although muffled by the short grass that sprouted between the stones of the path, dragged him from his reverie. The hand that grabbed him by the shirttails a nano second later halted any advancement. By the time he looked up, barely a metre separated him from a cliff edge. He glanced quickly around to meet the fiery yellow eyes of the Fae who saved him from a nasty fall.

“What in Hades is wrong with you? I’ve been yelling your name since we were at the bottom of the hill,” the Fae rebuffed.

“Huh?” Dainton frowned and looked around; noticing that he now stood a good half kilometre above the harbour on a narrow trail that snaked its way up the hillside. “I guess I didn’t hear you.”

“A deaf man would have heard me. I actually thought you were going to walk over the edge for a second there.”

Dainton looked over his shoulder to the drop and the jagged rocks that could have ended him. He shuddered.

“Are you okay? You look a bit dazed.”

“Dazed?”

“Yeah, your eyes are glassy and you were just staring off into space on the way up here.”

He waved the blood bag. “A bit distracted. What can I do for you?”

“Susan said there’s a pub down the road that serves light meals and snacks, we’re all going to head down for a quick pint if you want to join us?”

“Sure, why not,” Dainton agreed as they headed back down the trail. “It’s not like I’ve anything else planned… At least I don’t think I have other plans.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Probably just hungry.” He pierced the bag the way Sydney had showed him and sucked lightly. The contents were a little bitter, but still good on an empty stomach.

As they reached the end of the trail, he couldn’t help but glance back up to where they had been and wondered what had possessed him to walk up there in the first place.


Chapter 49

Tiredness ate at Sidney’s resolve to remain awake until Lana regained consciousness. She sat in the overstuffed armchair with her feet drawn under her, content to watch flames dance in the blazing fire. Darkness had fallen several hours ago and as she felt her eyes drift closed. She snapped them open again. It became increasingly difficult to remain alert or to focus on anything but the hypnotic sway in the hearth. Finally, her lashes came together one last time and her soft snores joined the symphony of those of the witches bedded down on the floor around the room.

A dawn chorus of chirping and twittering, interspersed with an occasional lyrical song from birds flitting back and forth in the insect rich gardens around the bungalow, brought Sidney slowly back to awareness. She rose, stretching out the stiffness from lying curled for so long, and made her way outside. She was careful not to step on any of the sleeping bodies as she did.

Lana was at the southernmost edge of the garden, plucking red berries from a large bush that almost hid her from view. She placed them in a wicker basket among other items, moving on to another section of the garden where she added snippets from numerous plants.

Sidney joined her. “Good morning. May I?” she greeted, gesturing at the laden basket.

“Please, if you wouldn’t mind. It is getting rather heavy,” Lana replied with a tense smile, handing it over.

Sidney eyed the contents. “Restocking supplies?”

“Hmm? No,” Lana replied, distractedly. “I’m making a special potion for you.”

She tried to read Lana’s mind, but there was nothing to see, not even a visible block. Her mind was completely devoid of information or pictures. “Really? What will this potion do?”

“Reverse another potion or spell. I’m not sure which yet. I’ve only foreseen the effect it will have on you.”

Sidney waited for her to continue and when Lana said nothing more she asked, “So are you going to tell me what effect it has or how I come to be in need of a cure?”

“Sit with me shortly and let me read the crystal for you. It might reveal a little more than I know already. Perhaps even reveal the traitor in your group.”

She glanced back at the house. “A traitor among the witches?”

“Not those who came here with you. Someone you left on the mainland will somehow make you do something that will cause you so much pain, you’ll remove your charm and walk in to the sunlight.”

Sidney gasped. “I’m going to kill myself?”

“Not if I can help it.”

“Why are you helping me?”

Lana stooped to cut several sprigs of lavender. “Because my father was kidnapped four months ago, and you’re going to save him.”

She eyed the young witch in disbelief. “What is it about you lot thinking I’m some sort of hero?” she muttered while shaking her head in denial. “I’m just a normal vampire for crying out loud. And who is Micah, anyway?”

“Perhaps in your world you’re considered normal, but here you will achieve great things with a little help from a friend. Micah is the deochfola behind the recent slayings. He’s basically killing off anyone that may now or in the future be a threat to him. He’s already very powerful. With control of numerous breeds of siofra at his disposal and my father to help boost his power levels, he had enough to overthrow Graeme, the last Master.”

Getting used to being told that she’s destined for excellence since the moment she arrived in this world, Sidney made no more contradiction. However, her irritation grew with the witch giving her half bits of information then slapping another revelation on top of it if she asked for clarification.

“Which friend do you mean? I’ve only just met everyone I came here with and you’ve told me one of them will betray me.”

“She’s not one of them but she’s been in this world briefly. I don’t know her name but she’s more than just a draoi. Many will fall at her feet in worship before your time here’s through.”

Sidney’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “You mean Callie? …Callie can only visit, well sort of visit. Her physical body doesn’t leave my world while she’s here.”

Lana laughed, it was mocking in its nature. “When I open the portal to send the others through she’ll come in exchange. Your help rescuing my father will be my payment for sending the others home.”

“And what of us?” Sidney asked. “How do we get home?”

“I’ll send you when he’s freed from Micah’s service.”

“Are you sure he wants to be free? That kind of power can be corrupt even the purest souls.”

Lana’s face twisted in anger, “Micah made him his slave. He doesn’t serve him willingly!”

“And what if we fail to free him?”

Lana’s brow creased as if the thought hadn’t crossed her mind. “Failure is not an option.” She placed more of the herbs she’d collected into the basket and indicated the path back to the house. “Now your friend, Callie you say? She’ll be at the harbour before the sun sets, visiting as you put it. You’ll convince her to help you or you’ll all be stuck here.”

Uncertainty and confusion were the upper most emotions flitting through Sidney’s mind. She knew Lana was manipulating, even blackmailing her. What other choice did she have if they were all to get home?

“How does she know to come to the harbour when we agreed to meet at the same place once a week? It’s not even the right day for our meeting.”

“Because I’ve been calling her. Now come quickly, I need to read your crystal before Eric returns for you.”

On entering the house, Sydney realized that no one was awake. She scanned their minds and found that not one of them dreamed, they were all silent.

“What have you done to them?” Sydney demanded.

“Relax, it’s just a sleeping potion.”

“Then why can’t I hear their dreams?”

“Well, that would be because I gave you a potion too.”

Sydney growled, the deep rumble emanating from her throat made Lana back up a couple of steps. “What the hell did you give me?”

Fear radiated from the girl, Sidney could smell it. Like a beacon, it called to her predatory instincts, beckoning her. Her control slipped, her focus narrowed and her teeth extended as she sniffed the air.

“Damn it child, what did you do to me?” She demanded as she moved slowly closer. Her hearing picked up the rapid tempo of Lana’s anxious heartbeat.

Lana backed up to the sink, her arm catching the crystal orb that rested on the drainer. She chanted quickly, casting a spell to stop the imminent attack. But Sidney kept coming, closing the distance until they were nose to nose.

“I can feel the pain you’re trying to force into my mind, but whatever potion you gave me is blocking it… Is that what you did? Install a block so I wouldn’t hear your thoughts?”

Perspiration broke out on Lana’s brow as she nodded. A single bead gathered enough momentum to trickle down her face.

Agonizing seconds passed until Sidney’s tongue flicked out and caught it as it streaked down her cheek. Sidney sighed after licking her lips clean. The bitter aftertaste was a clear reminder that witch’s blood is poisonous. Regaining her control, she stepped back.

“You had better remove the block; it seems to be playing havoc with my control.”

“It… It… It’ll wear off in an hour or two,” Lana stuttered, wearily looking down at the shattered crystal scattered around her feet. “I’m sorry, I won’t be able to tell you who will betray you now,” she apologized.

“The fact that you’ve warned me may be enough. The potion you’re making, do you know what you need it to do?”

“Erm, yes…” Lana hedged, stealing a quick look at Sidney from under her lashes then said with more confidence, “Yes, I’m certain.”


Chapter 50

Pacing back and forth across Lucien’s chamber, Callie took deep breaths in an attempt to calm her rising panic. "If I knew why she wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be half as worried," she said. "In the dream I had last night, I saw her throw her sun charm into the sea. There’s something wrong Lucien, I have to find her."

He rolled his eyes, "She’s a big girl and knows how to look after herself. You’ve already found her once, what’s the problem with trying it again."

"I have," she sighed. "It keeps going off the end of the map."

"So try a bigger map."

"Oh, I didn’t think of that." She hugged him and disappeared.

Arriving at Stephan’s shop a short while later, Callie rummaged around in his stack of local maps until she found one that covered all of Ireland. Liz ushered her through to the back room and watched her scry for her friend by swinging the dowsing pendant in a large circle. Closing her eyes, Callie concentrated on finding Sydney. The pendulum swung twice before it veered forward, the circles getting smaller and faster. It struck the paper, standing upright to mark a point along the north coast.

"I need a bigger scale map of this area," she squealed happily, pulling her phone from her pocket to call Sam while Liz went to fetch it. "Hon, I think I’ve found her. She’s on the north coast."

"What’s she doing up there? Never mind, I guess we’re going on another road trip, do you want to leave now or in the morning?"

"I can go straight from here as soon as I pinpoint her."

"You’re taking someone with you. No way are you leaving your body unguarded while you visit with her."

"You have the conference call scheduled with Ben tonight so who do you suggest?"

"I’ll cancel and come with you."

"He said it was important, Hon. I’ll be fine."

"I’ll send Nico," he sighed after a moment’s thought. "As much as I hate the idea of the two of you alone together, I know he’ll guard you with his life."

"Okay, I’ll wait till he gets here then. I’ll be back in a couple of hours or so. Love you." She finished and hung up as Liz returned with the map, laying it out in front of her. The dowser swung without help this time. It slammed against the map with enough force the mark the paper. "Port Ballintoy." Callie read around the tear. "That’s not too far from where Irene lived with her Grandmother."

*****

Clutching the side rail of the small vessel, Sydney studied the people who waited for their return on the mainland that afternoon. Two were missing, no doubt holed up in the bus’ luggage compartment again.

"Do you have any suspects?" Harmony asked as she joined her. "Personally, I wouldn’t put it past Lewis to try something underhand if he thought he’d get something out of it."

"I don’t think it’s him as his thoughts are like an open book. He hates everyone but on the same token wouldn’t see harm come to any of us. Whoever it is, they’ve managed to conceal their thoughts until now. Then again, I haven’t been looking for anything specific."

"Speaking of concealed thoughts, has the potion Lana gave you worn off yet?"

Sydney turned her head to look at Lana, who was huddled in her heavy cloak at the back of the boat. The deep hood covered her head and concealed her features. "No, and I don’t trust her." Sydney murmured. "She’s hiding something; why else would she have blocked me from reading her."

"Those were my thoughts too. I’ll keep an eye on her. Make sure she doesn’t get up to anything."

"I’d appreciate that, thanks."

Eric masterfully moored his moat at the harbour wall and helped each of the women up the deep step from the deck to the ground. Lana waited until everyone else was ashore before she rose from her seat and watched as those with friends embraced the others. Envy chorused through her, people avoided her as though she had the plague and she coveted the close relationship these people had formed in the short time they’d been here. She followed behind as they moved off, listening to the banter and excitement as news spread of their impending journey home.

"Can I have everyone’s attention please," Sydney called over the din once everyone took his or her seats back on the bus. "This is Lana, as you’ve no doubt heard she’s agreed to help you get home, but there will be a price."

"Isn’t there always," Lewis chimed in.

Sydney ignored him. "She will advise you of the price individually once we get to the place she’ll be opening the portal later this evening. Now," she continued, ignoring several raised hands, "should any of you decide to go for a wander around the area be sure to be back here as soon as the sun sets. The bus moves out the second it dips below the horizon, with or without you."

Motioning Sydney with her hand, Lana beckoned her closer. "Your friend is waiting at the top of the hill. Tell her to be at the temple," she pointed to an old building further along the coast, "by an hour after sunset to cross over after I send the others through."

Sydney left the bus and ran through the deserted narrow streets to meet her friend.

Callie enveloped her in a fierce hug, "Are you okay?" she asked as she released her and studied her expression.

"I’m fine," she half-heartedly smiled, and filled her in on what she’d learned about Mama and the reason for the abductions. "Apparently this deliverer will stop the siofra from wiping the vamps out."

"What’s that got to do with you though?"

"Dainton and Emily seem to think I’m it, which I still don’t get."

"So what now then? If this Mama is dead, how do you get home? Could I recreate the spell?"

"Shouldn’t be necessary because I’ve found the other supernaturals and a witch who says she can send them home, but there’s a condition to her doing it."

Sidney hesitated so long that Callie thought she wasn’t going to continue. "Well, what’s the condition?"

"She wants us to rescue her father from a deochfola, a vampire, who’s enslaved him."

"And she needs all of you to do that?"

"No, just us, you and me." Sydney clarified. "She’ll send the others back if you agree to cross over when she opens a portal."

"Do you think we can do it?"

"It’s the only way to get everyone home. When we bring him back, she’ll open the portal again for us."

"And if we fail?"

"Failure is not an option."

"There’s no choice then, is there," Callie stated.

"You’ve to meet us at the temple just up the coast an hour after sunset for the exchange."

Callie nodded. "I’ll see you soon." She called for the blood she’d brought for Sydney then simply vanished.


Chapter 51

Darkness brought with it a tangible excitement that reverberated throughout the bus. The past hour had seen the block Lana forced upon her to fade until voices once again chattered with one-sided conversation inside Sydney’s head. Now that she had her ability back, she tried to sift through the thoughts currently bombarding her. It gave her a headache and nothing else of any significance. Lana’s thoughts remained a mystery however; nothing came from her mind but the hiss of white noise.

Dainton and Emily emerged from the luggage hold just as Harmony passed by, walking arm in arm with Eric from his boat to the bus. She giggled then nodded at something he said, slipping her arm from his and kissing him lightly on the cheek. Her excitement was even more evident by the smile on her face and her thoughts were a frantic mismatch of anticipation and worry. Worry for her daughter’s return home without her.

Guided by Lana, Susan manoeuvred the bus back up the narrow street onto the main road, pulling over again a short time later at a layby. Lana nodded at Sydney, an indication that they had reached the closest point the bus could get to the temple on the hill.

As they exited, Sydney watched and listened to each of the people of her world when they passed her. She was at a loss, only Harmony had thoughts other than their imminent trip home and not concerning Sydney’s problem.

They followed Lana like a gaggle of baby geese as she climbed over the fence and walked with purpose to the ruin. Silhouetted by the full moon that hung low in the clear sky, Lana stopped and indicated they should form a half circle behind her. She sat and they copied her movements, sitting cross-legged on the damp grass. Not a sound was uttered by anyone – even Lewis kept his mouth shut.

Lana’s soft chanting broke the silence. They all turned to watch a dim flicker of light forming about ten feet in front of her.

*****

"I don’t give a damn, Callie! There is no way you’re going through some portal thing to another world," Nico yelled, clambering over the fence after her.

"I have to go. If I don’t then those people will be stuck there," she called over her shoulder, her pace not slowing.

"I can’t let you do this," he pleaded. "Please Callie, think about Sam at least. He won’t have any idea what happened to you."

"You can tell him when you get back."

"If you think for one second I’d leave your side, then you have another thought coming."

She sighed. "Fine you can come with me." She dug her phone from her pocket and began typing. "I’ll text him where we’re going."

"What? No you’re not going. We’re not going."

She looked up from her phone after pressing the send button. "I am going. Don’t make me command you to leave."

He gritted his teeth and snarled at her. "I love you, but sometimes you really piss me off."

"I’ll bet I do. Now come on, we only have a couple of minutes left."

The icebox of blood bags from the boot of the car, appeared in front of her when Callie called for them. At the same time, a light began to glow at the base of the ruined temple.

Nico stared at the glimmer that grew and spread before his eyes. "How are we doing this?" he asked. "Them or us first?"

Callie snorted. "Them first, I’m not taking any chances that the witch will keep her word."

He nodded. "I’ll go before you." She shot him a look. "What? I need to make sure it’s safe."

"And how do you plan to tell me if it’s not?"

"Oh, I …"

"Didn’t think of that, did you?" She held her hand out for him to take. "We’ll go together." Hand in hand, they waited for the missing supernaturals to come through the light.

After numerous bodies exited the light, a gruff looking man stumbled as he stepped from the illumination. He picked himself up off the ground and shook his head to clear it. He looked around, catching sight of them, he nodded at Nico and Callie.

"I’m to tell you that I’m the last of those returning and two have stayed behind."

"Thanks," Nico replied, handing him the keys to the car and a slip of paper. "Take my car. If you wouldn’t mind, can I ask you to drop it off at that address? Speak to a guy called Sam. Tell him what happened and that I’ll look after Callie."

The guy nodded and took the keys. "Will do, thanks man."

Callie closed her eyes and squeezed Nico’s hand. They stepped forward through the light. She felt as if she were falling and clutched tighter to him. With a slight jolt, her foot connected with solid ground and she stumbled. Nico collided with her, sending them both tumbling forward onto the damp grass.

Strong arms helped Callie to her feet and enveloped her in a hug. It’s so good to see a face I can trust. Sydney sent to her mind. I missed you, and I see you brought supper. What’s in the icebox?

Callie’s mind voice chuckled. Don’t let him hear you call him food. They’re a bit touchy about that.

Nico’s cool about it, and where you’re concerned, I know he doesn’t mind in the slightest.

A noise, resembling the shattering of glass, broke their reunion short when the portal splintered apart.


Chapter 52

"Sir…"

Micah swung around in his seat, growling with displeasure and held a finger to his lips, silencing the siofra.

"But Sir…"

"Shh," Micah reiterated, emphasising his frustration at the interruption.

The Siofra fidgeted, shifting his weight from one foot to the other in time with the steady rhythm of the music played by the orchestra just below the stage. He impatiently waited for his boss to allow him to relay his urgent message. The music swelled to a crescendo as the final curtain fell in front of the actors bowing lowly on stage.

"What is it, Aiden?" Micah finally asked.

"I’ve heard a rumour in town that someone claiming to be the Deliverer has made an appearance."

Micah gave a short chuckle. "The Deliverer is nothing more than a legend, a myth born of lost hope."

"But Sir… The Guards said that she marched every one of the prisoners out of the cells and there was nothing either of them could do to stop her."

"Now why does that not surprise me? Those blithering idiots were probably sleeping on the job. Again. Is that all?"

"No Sir, Graeme was among the prisoners she led out."

Micah shot to his feet. "Graeme was to be executed on sight," he shouted, then realised he was in a public place and schooled his voice to a threatening low whisper. "Why is he still living? I can’t afford to have him running around, he has too many supporters as it is."

"I…I," Aiden stuttered, cowering back against the door in fear.

"Never mind, it was a rhetorical question. At least tell me you know where they’re headed."

Aiden nodded eagerly. "North."

Several seconds later, Micah released a huff of breath that came out as a growl. "North is a big area. Any chance you can narrow it down a little?"

"Em… Erm…" Aiden searched his memory for something, anything that would give a hint of where they were. "Oh, the bus! There was a bus stolen around the same time." Aiden reached behind him for the handle and pulled the door open so he could back out. "I’ll put out a search for it."


Chapter 53

Nico stood and brushed off his trousers, casting a uneasy glance behind him. "So what now?"

"Now you three will bring my father home." Lana stated with a slur. She struggled to her feet from the cross-legged position on the grass.

Callie stared at her with her mouth hanging open. "Irene?"

"This is Lana," Sidney said by way of introduction. "It would help if you gave us somewhere to start looking for him."

Lana grunted; her exhaustion obvious when she stumbled over a long tuft of grass and fell flat on her face. She struggled to roll onto her back and stared wide-eyed at the stars.

Sidney ran to help her up. "Are you okay?" she asked, reaching her hand out for Lana to take. Lana didn’t move. She continued to stare blankly at the darkened sky.

Nico joined Sidney to stand over the witch. "What’s wrong with her?"

"It looks a lot like a trance. I’ve seen it happen to others before."

"What do you want to do with her?"

Sidney knelt on the ground and placed one arm under Lana’s knees and the other behind her back. "Take her back to the bus. She’ll wake up in her own time."

What little light the full moon provided, faded quickly when heavy clouds rolled in off the North Sea. Sidney picked up her pace. She could feel the chill of the rising wind blowing against her back.

"Looks like we’re in for a storm." Dainton observed, stepping aside to let Sidney enter the bus.

Callie and Nico followed close on her heels. They brushed past Sidney, who was setting Lana down across the front seats, to take their own seats half way down the aisle. Harmony sat with a man two seats in front of them. Callie nodded to her as she passed.

Susan jumped on board behind Emily. "That’s everyone. Where to?" she asked Sidney.

"Until she wakes up, I don’t have a clue."

"We can’t stay here. It’s too open."

"Where do you suggest?" Sidney straightened after pulling a blanket over Lana and turned to face Susan and Emily.

Emily screwed her face up in thought. "Wasn’t there a sign for a Bed & Breakfast along this road?"

"I’d give my right arm for a hot bath." Susan’s face twitched with a wry smile.

"Same here," Dainton agreed. "Do we have anything left that we can pay with?"

"A couple of small things, perhaps enough for one room."

The man beside Harmony stood and cleared his throat. "Perhaps I can be of some help now that there a fewer of us. I know someone who would be willing to give you shelter for the night."

Sidney studied him for a moment, wondering why he hadn’t left with the others. She attempted to rifle through his thoughts only to discover that he had a very strong block in place. It wasn’t a natural block.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"My name is Graeme…"

Emily gasped. "Graeme of Clogh? How? We heard you were dead."

"Had it not been for your new friends, Emily, I would be. I owe them my life."


Chapter 54

"The first thing you need to do is ditch the bus," Graeme advised Sydney as the bus in question pulled into a dark farm lane. "It’s the only thing tying us to the breakout."

"Does your friend have other transport we can borrow?"

"I can get you transport before first light, don’t worry."

"From another friend, I presume? Who exactly are you to have this kind of support anyway? Emily assumed you dead too. Why?"

Graeme chuckled. "I am the Master of this pitiful island of Ireland or at least I was until Micah teamed up with my right hand man to stab me in the back. I do mean literally. I’m lucky the idiot he employed to kill me wasn’t the best shot."

"Wait, are you the one responsible for Lana’s father’s kidnapping?"

Graeme glanced toward the front of the bus and shuffled closer to Sidney. He spoke so softly, a human wouldn’t have heard him at such close quarters. The deochfola at the front of the bus paid them no heed. "I can assure you that Alfred volunteered his services. Not to me but to Micah the day I received an arrow in my back."

Sidney also lowered her voice in response. "That’s not how Lana tells it."

"A daughter blinded by love for a parent? Of course she said he’d been kidnapped and forced to do Micah’s bidding. We’ll talk more on this later."

The bus slowed and then stopped alongside an illuminated barn. "Shall we go and greet Luke, my human servant?"

Sidney raised an eyebrow in Callie’s direction. Did you get all that? she broadcast to Callie’s mind.

I did. Do you believe him about Lana’s dad?

That part I don’t doubt. It would explain what she’s been trying to hide from me. I can’t hear his thoughts either, which is a major inconvenience. Someone’s taught him how to shield, not just his thoughts, but his power levels too. I’d trouble picking up that he’s a vamp never mind a Master.

What do you need me to do?

Keep an eye on the others while I talk to him. She nodded her head in Graeme’s direction. I need to pump him for information. There’s more to all this than meets the eye, I’m sure of it.

As they entered the dimly lit barn, Sidney watched Graeme closely and strained to hear what he said to someone in the shadows. With a rustle of rich, layered fabric, a petite woman stepped into view, bowed her head and hurried off. She returned a few minutes later with a following of humans.

"Supper," she said by way of explanation. "You must be hungry after your journey. Please, drink your fill. Master Graeme will join you as soon as he arranges your accommodation for the day."

"Wait," Sidney instructed the woman, catching her by the upper arm to stop her retreat. "I thought humans were scarce?"

"Those four are the only ones left within an eighty mile radius, Micah had his minions gather the others and last I heard, they were shipped west, to some sort of camp."

"Do you know why?"

Graeme placed a hand on Sidney’s shoulder, interrupting her chat with the woman, who scuttled off as soon as Sidney released her. "Two reasons that I’m aware of. The first is to starve deochfola out of hiding and second to do his bidding as daor."

Sidney frowned in recognition of the word. "Why does he need slaves? Daor."

"Take a walk with me." He nodded his head in the direction of the door. "You may ask your questions in private." He waited until they were out of earshot of the barn. "In answer to your question, to build an army from his offspring."

"He aims to turn them all?"

"Hardly. If he did that, his new offspring would have no food." Graeme snorted. "No, he will change the champions and use the rest as food."

"You’ve lost me, what do you mean by champions?"

They stopped at a chest high wooden fence that penned cattle, Graeme resting his elbows across the top rail, Sidney leaning her back against the same section so she could keep an eye on the barn.

"The humans will face a series of trials to test their strengths. These strengths will most often be enhanced after the change. The champions of each trial will become his progeny, an army of deochfola."

"Where does the witch’s father fit into the equation?"

"That, I’m not yet sure of, but whatever it is, Micah has him under guard day and night. I did however hear a rumour that he can open doorways to other realms."

"Ah." Sidney nodded. "Like father, like daughter."

"I think perhaps it’s time to question the witch."

Sidney had been thinking the same thing. "Agreed," she said. "Now, why does Micah need an army?"

"Why does any master require an army but to expand their territory?"

Graeme’s words sent shivers of dread through Sidney. If Alfred could open a portal to her world then Sam and her friends would be in grave danger. Her presence in this parallel world took on a new perspective for her, success became imperative for whatever reason fate had brought her to this strange land.


Chapter 55

Callie yawned and stretched, licking her lips with satisfaction.

Nico released a needy groan, snuggling closer to her side. "Next time you feed we do it in private," he whispered. "I can’t take much more of this frustration."

Callie giggled. "I can’t drink too much at once, you know that. You’ll get tired from the blood loss and sleep half the day."

Apparently, we’re headed west, to a town called Dun Na Gal. Micah has rounded up the humans there for some sort of test or game. Sidney spoke into Callie’s Mind as she sipped from one of the blood bags Callie had brought with her. Unwilling to talk aloud in case their plans were overheard, Sidney relayed the information Graeme had revealed. We need to get in somehow and find the Draoi before Micah turns any of the humans.

With the first stage of the plan firmly agreed between the three of them – Nico being the third – Sidney went in search of Graeme and their new transportation.

After getting directions from one of the women under Graeme’s command, she found him emerging from the bathroom of the main house, wearing nothing but a towel around his waist. Pale scars marred Graeme’s chest. There were too many for Sidney to count and the fact that they hadn’t disappeared when he’d healed meant he’d received them long before he was turned.

"How were you able to survive being up in daylight?" Sidney asked by way of greeting, ignoring his lack of clothing.

"You mean during the bus trip? I made one of your people hide me in the luggage hold on the other side of the bus before it left the town square." Graeme replied unperturbed by Sidney’s perusal. He brushed past her into a bedroom, disappearing into a large walk-in closet. "What about you, Day-walker, how are you able to survive the sunlight?" he called from its depths.

Sidney evaded the question by asking, "Have you had a chance to question Lana yet?”

“She doesn’t respond to my gentle prodding and I think she’ll clam up completely if I get too aggressive.” He emerged wearing charcoal trousers, holding an almost identical shirt in each hand. “Our best bet would be to let Charlotte befriend her and gather the information we want. Charlotte has a knack for getting people to reveal their deepest, darkest secrets. Which one?”

She pointed to the one in his left hand. “It sounds like you’ve had personal experience with her?”

“You could say that. Remind me to tell you about it when all this is over and done with.”

“Speaking of which, will you be joining us when we leave for Dun Na Gal?"

"I don’t think that’s a good idea, do you? Micah will have his men posted in every town looking for me."

“So, what are you going to do? Go into hiding?”

Graham gave a self-mocking snort, tucking the shirt he just finished buttoning into his trousers. “That hasn’t worked out too well to date. Fighting isn’t an option either, my loyalists are either dead or have fled the country. Perhaps I can call in some favours from elsewhere, gather enough manpower to distract Micah from your insurgence.”

“Sounds like a plan. Any idea how long we have until this contest starts?”

“I believe it’s been an ongoing thing, but given that there are very few humans left, I’d say there’s not much time left.”

“In that case, if you have our transport ready we’d best hit the road."

*****

Nico stopped dead in his tracks and looked around, disappointed at what he saw parked at the front of the barn. “Aw come on! Couldn’t you at least find something that wouldn’t fall apart with the first bump in the road?”

Graeme laughed heartily, tapping Nico on the shoulder in consolation. “Don’t let her looks deceive you. Outside she may resemble something we towed from a scrap yard, but under the bonnet beats the heart of a dragon; the fastest, most reliable engine in the world.”

In order to demonstrate, Graeme popped the bonnet and turned the key in the ignition. Both of them grinned when the engine roared to life.

“If you boys are finished, I like to get moving,” Sidney asked while reaching for the bonnet stay to close it again.

“You’ll find two drums of petrol in the boot. As long as you take her fairly easy, it should be enough to get you there.”


Chapter 56

Bitterly cold winds brought mini-cyclones of autumn mulch whirling through the open door of a small cottage on the outskirts of Dun Na Gal town. Dainton, being the last inside, closed the door behind him.

Callie and Nico made a quick sweep of the upper floor while Sidney checked the kitchen and living room.

“No one’s been here in months,” Nico confirmed when he returned. “Nothing more than a trace of vamp scent in the main bedroom. Looks like they left in a hurry too, the wardrobe is full of clothes.”

Sidney agreed. “There are signs of a struggle in the kitchen: a couple of chairs knocked over and dried human blood spatters across several worktops. Looks like the vamp escaped, but they took the human.”

Dainton entered the living room, crossing the thick-pile carpet to the window in a hurry. “What next,” he asked, pulling the heavy curtains closed. “The sun will be up shortly; you lot will be fine, but I need to get undercover.”

“This place is as good as any. You should be safe in the cellar below the kitchen for the daylight hours. The rest of us are going to scout the area. We’re getting close to a Master, I can feel a hint of his power.”

Dainton concentrated, shaking his head after a brief moment. “We can’t be that close, I don’t feel a thing.”

“You’ll have to trust me on this, I can’t lower my shield for risk of him feeling us in return. We’ll be back in a few hours.”

Backing up a few feet when Nico opened the door, letting in a stream of muted sunlight, Dainton nodded in agreement. He had no choice in whether he stayed or not now that the sun had risen.

“Just a thought,” Nico said when they reached the end of the road, “won’t the Master be able to feel Dainton when you’re not around to shield him?”

Sidney shrugged. “I’m counting on it. Once Micah knows there’s another vamp in the area, he’ll send some men to deal with him. We’ll be waiting. Come on, there’s enough time to go to the top of the hill for a look around.” She raced ahead, leaving Callie and Nico to catch up at their own pace.

Wait! Callie broadcast to Sidney. You’re using him as bait? Why?

Not only do we need to find the camp, but we need help getting inside. The men Micah sends will be trusted by him, they won’t be questioned when they bring us back. Before you ask, you’re going to feed from them, thus giving us control over them. They’ll take us straight to the camp and Micah won’t have a clue we’re even there.

Why Dainton though? Why not one of us?

Sidney chuckled, letting Callie and Nico catch up to her before she replied, “You have no idea how powerful you are, do you? If Micah felt even a tenth of your power, never mind what we have combined, every being under his influence, his supporters and anyone who owes him a favour would converge on us like a plague. Dainton is small fish to him. He’ll send no more than a couple of men to take care of such a minor irritation.”

“I assume you two were having a mind chat? I wish you wouldn’t do that when it’s important stuff, I miss half the conversation,” Nico complained.

“You got the gist of it. Callie and I will be going into camp posing as human. I can shield our power levels to fool them into believing it. You need to stay outside with Dainton, I’m afraid. There’s no way to disguise your wolf from whatever shifter forms Micah commands.”

“No. Not a chance. Callie is not going anywhere without me to protect her. It was bad enough when she sent me away for the Demetrious escapade. I’m not letting her walk into that kind of danger unprotected.”

Callie coughed, interrupting Nico. “I’m right here you know. I can make decisions for myself. Besides, we both know I’m more than capable of protecting myself. Do I need to remind you what happened the first time your wolf and I met? Or what happened to Demetrious?”

“Do I need to remind you what happened when you tangled with that demon?”

“Lucien…”

“No, the one Lucien saved you from. You rushed in without thinking and almost got yourself, and the young witch, killed. Permanently dead. It’s not happening on my watch.”

Hold your tongue, Sidney broadcast, hearing Callie’s unspoken rebuttal before it left her mouth. You can make him stay when the times comes for us to leave for camp. Let him think he’s won for now.

“Fine,” Callie replied to both at once.


Chapter 57

From their vantage point at the top of the hill, Sidney spotted a car acting strangely as it emerged from the mountain pass, traveling much faster than the couple it overtook on precarious bends. It forced one of those it overtook to swerve off road to avoid impact. She had to concentrate harder than usual on blocking out Callie and Nico’s chatter in order to hear the occupants thoughts. Her inability to differentiate between the two gave her a headache, repercussions from whatever spell Lana placed on her the week before.

“Will you two shut up for five minutes? I can’t hear myself think, never mind anyone else with the racket you two make,” Sidney snapped, startling Callie into abrupt silence. After a moment of peace she was able to gather the information she needed. “Micah sent two shifters to take care of the problem. They’re only a couple of minutes away, let’s go.”

At Callie’s insistence, Nico waited behind a hedge at the end of the lane until Micah’s men entered the house, stating they’d smell him as soon as they got out of the car. He knew she was right, but his wolf wanted to protect her, wanted her to be the one to remain outside while he took care of the bad guys. He couldn’t however, fight the command she gave and waited until the second shifter’s foot crossed the threshold before sprinting for the house.

As he entered, he saw the first shifter lying face down on the living room floor with Callie sitting across his back. She waved Nico through to the kitchen where Sidney wrestled with the larger male.

Ducking just in time to avoid a chair the shifter swung in her direction, Sidney rolled under the table and grabbed the shifter by the legs, yanking him off his feet. Once she made eye contact, the fight was over, leaving Nico wondering why she didn’t batter them like she normally would.

“There’ll be fewer questions if they return uninjured,” Sidney replied to Nico’s unspoken thought. “Besides, I have a feeling there’ll be plenty of fights once we make it into camp.” She took Nico’s pro-offered hand, thanking him for his help as he pulled her out from below the table and onto her feet. “Out you come, Russel. Go join your buddy in the sitting room.”

“I still don’t understand why Callie has to feed on them,” Nico said, placing a hand on Sidney arm to stop her from following the shifter to the other room. “Can’t you just compel them to do what you say?”

Sidney snorted in amusement. “Compulsion is only as strong as their will is weak. The more stubborn the subject, the more likely they are to break it. And, unlike whatever Callie’s bite did to you, I can only make them do one simple thing at a time. Callie’s bite is more than compelling, it’s …”

“An inexplicable devotion,” Nico supplied at Sidney’s hesitation. “A desire to please her no matter the cost. Even though I know that what I feel is because of her bite, I want to be with her. She completes me.”

“There you go. You’ve answered your own question better than I could. We need them to have that sort of loyalty so they’ll protect her when you’re not around to do it.”

“I thought we’d settled this? She goes nowhere without me.”

Callie rolled her eyes in exasperation, getting up from her seat on the shifters back to sit in a slightly more comfortable armchair. With a wave of her hand, she beckoned the shifter closer so he sat on the floor between her knees, facing away from her.

His shoulder muscles bunched beneath her touch. “Relax, I’ve been assured you’ll enjoy the experience,” she whispered, her warm breath tickling just below his ear.

Course stubble-hair prickled her parted lips. Callie pressed harder, feeling the elastic-pop of her teeth piercing his taught skin. Salty sweetness exploded onto her tongue. She forced herself to take no more than a few mouthfuls before withdrawing her fangs.

“That should do the trick,” Callie said and patted the shifter on the head, much as she would an obedient dog. “Sidney?” she called over her shoulder. “It’s your turn to feed.”


Chapter 58

If a vampire could look paler than usual, Sidney made a fine specimen.

Too many thoughts bombarded her on the approach to the gates – pain, anger, depression, guilt and overwhelming it all, hunger of newly turned vampire.

Sidney wriggled her hand free from the bonds at her back and held onto Callie’s wrist. Her touch startled Callie. It was unexpected, but aside from that, touching was something Sidney didn’t do. Under normal circumstances, she’d go out of her way to avoid even the briefest skin contact. A moment later, Callie understood why when the echoes of a hundred voices reverberated around her skull.

Sydney’s mind voice overrode them all. I need you to keep me grounded. Something is messing with my shields. I can’t stop the voices.

The only thing I know how to do is give you healing energy. Will that help? Callie asked, fighting against the tidal wave of voices ebbing against her own shields.

It can’t hurt, I guess.

Callie wriggled her hand free so she could clasp Sidney’s and let a trickle of healing energy pass between them. But on realizing they only had a few seconds before they entered the compound and would have to leave the car, losing contact, Callie sent a power-filled burst.

Sidney gasped in the sudden silence within her mind. Her shields had not only been repaired, they were stronger than ever. Thank you, she broadcast to Callie.

How do you cope with all that noise? It would drive me insane to listen to that many voices at once. And how can pinpoint one from the masses?

Lots of practice, Sidney broadcast. I just hope I was strong enough to block that power surge. If Micah felt it, we’ll be in big trouble before we even set foot in his territory.

Callie hastily looked out the side window, checking for evidence that might indicate Micah knew something was up. Everyone appeared to be going about their business as usual: the security guard nodded as they passed, his attention returning to the closing gates; a gardener raked autumn leaves into a large pile, motioning for his companion to bring a trailer closer. It didn’t look like a training camp.

Gavin, the driver, continued along a narrow bitumen path, stopping once they reached a stable block at the back of a sprawling residence. Both he and Russel got out and entered a door marked Office.

They’re telling the clerk they found us locked up in the house they found the deochfola hiding in. They’re to take us to the induction quarters on the North side, Sidney relayed a condensed version of the conversation. Four others were brought in this morning and we’re to go up against them for tonight’s entertainment.

The stable block Gavin and Russel ushered them into housed fourteen female humans. Two rows of four bunks lined either side with a communal shower and toilet at the far end of the block. The occupants jumped off their bunks when the door opened, everyone breathing a sigh of relief when Callie and Sidney stumbled in and Gavin and Russel left again.

Sidney did a quick scan of their thoughts, relaying to Callie that none of them knew what was in store for them that night, while she and Callie stood back to back pretending to untie one another.

Noticing their predicament, the woman who considered herself their leader approached, asking them to turn around so their bindings could be untied.

“We got it. Thanks though,” Callie said.

“We don’t have any time to waste,” Sidney said, cutting the leader’s introduction routine short. “Come nightfall we’ll be herded into an arena where we’ll be made to fight. Only one will leave. All the training you’ve done over the past months has been in preparation for this.”

“How do you know?” the leader demanded, feeling her position in the group threatened by the newcomer.

Sidney addressed Callie, “We really don’t have time to talk them into it. You’ll have to feed from them all.”

Not liking the sound of that, several of the women backed up, attempting to put distance between them and this new threat. They managed a few steps before Sidney compelled them to stop. The thirteen who were looking at Sidney stopped, one turned and fled for the shower room.

Callie met her at the door. “I promise it won’t hurt,” she lisped around her fangs.

No sooner had Callie withdrawn her fangs from the last of the women when Gavin and Russel returned for them.

“You have exactly fifty-five minutes before Micah expects you in the arena. It will take us five minutes to get there from here, don’t be late. I can’t protect you if Micah decides to come looking for you,” Gavin warned.

Callie smiled. “We’ll be back in good time, I promise.”

“Enough time to finish what you started back at the house?” Russel asked, earning himself a dig in the ribs from Gavin.

Sidney nudged both shifters aside so Callie could pass. I thought the dinner table at home was bad enough. What’s it going to be like when you have fifty of these guys fighting to be first in queue? she broadcast to Callie.

Hopefully we won’t be here to find out. Where to?

We need to get to as many of Micah’s men as possible. Aloud Sidney asked, “Gavin? Where do you guys hang out during the day?”

“When we’re not on duty, you mean? There’s a house down by the lake where most of the guys will be getting ready for the last tournament at sun down.”

“Which way?” Callie asked.

Russel pointed at the dense treeline behind the stable block. “Follow the path, it’ll take you right to it.”

They met the first three shifters on the forest path, taking them by surprise. Sidney dropped from an overhead branch taking two of them out when they stopped to sniff the air right below her. Callie jumped on the third’s back and wasted no time in sinking her fangs into him.

The lake house yielded thirty shifters by the time Sidney said their time was almost up. As they ran back to the stable block, Sidney noticed Susan’s car pulling in to park at the side of the main house. She told Callie to go on without her so she could investigate.

On riffling through Susan’s thoughts, one main concern kept surfacing: they had no proof. Would Micah trust her word that they went undercover to flush out Graham?

Proof of what? Sidney wondered. She probed deeper.

Susan’s next thought revealed enough for Sidney to realise their intended betrayal. I have the Deliverer’s sister stowed in the boot of the car. Surely Micah will allow Emily to return to the fold?

Curiosity got the better of Sidney. She stopped alongside the car and listened, but heard nothing beyond shallow breathing. With a disbelieving shake of her head, she pulled the boot open, revealing a likeness of herself she hadn’t seen in almost six hundred years.

Stupefied, Sidney watched the deochfola leap from the confines and scream in burning agony when the last rays of the setting sun touched her flesh. None of it registered. In Sidney’s mind, she watched a replay of the night she pushed a stake through her true sister’s heart. Years of pent up grief assaulted her, weakening and sending her to her knees.

Alarms sounded all around, but it was the urgency of Callie’s mind voice that stopped her from slipping her sun charm from her finger.

Sidney! What’s happening? Why do I feel the need to put on a show of my power? Sidney? I can feel Micah’s power pressing in on me. It’s suffocating. I can’t breathe!

Shit! Hold tight, I just lost control for a second. Whatever you do, don’t answer him.


Chapter 59

Dainton crept from his hiding place the moment the sun’s light dipped low enough on the horizon. He found Nico leant against a wall, waiting for him to make an appearance.

“It’s about time. I thought you were never going to wake. Callie said you’re to feed from me and leave the area immediately,” Nico said, holding out his wrist in offering.

Dainton didn’t hesitate. His bite came so swiftly and with enough vigour that Nico flinched, something he prided himself on never doing.

After a minute passed, Nico tapped Dainton on the shoulder and said, “That’s enough for now.” When Dainton continued, Nico placed a thumb at the corner of Dainton’s mouth and levered his lips so it broke the suction-hold Dainton had on his wrist. “I said enough.”

Dainton stepped back at the barked order, wiping an escaping droplet from his lip, and licked the smear off the back of his hand. “Want me to seal it?” he asked, nodding at Nico’s wound.

“It’s fine. Get in the car and tell me about the Deliverer and why you’re so adamant you think Sidney is it.”

“Where are we going?”

Nico waited until Dainton closed the passenger door before replying, “Away from here is all I was told. Where do you want to go?”

“I don’t know yet. Maybe that way?” Dainton pointed West, the direction Callie and Sidney were taken.

Nico smiled with relief. “Tell me about the Deliver.”

“Mama said that the Deliverer could walk with the living; sunlight doesn’t hurt Sidney. The Deliver can hear what isn’t said; Sidney can hear my unspoken thoughts. The Deliver can command animals; I’ve seen her make a deer drop where it stood with a single word. Fire will answer the Deliver’s call; the morning I woke, Sidney stood at the entrance to my hide and her hair looked like it was on fire. And lastly, any living creature would willingly die for her; the night she crossed over, I took an arrow and almost died for her. That’s how I know it’s Sidney.”

Remaining silent during Dainton’s description and the revelation that hit him a moment later, Nico took a calming breath before asking, “I assume you’ll be wanting to help the Deliver, right?”

Dainton nodded.

“Good, because Sidney isn’t it, Callie is.”

With nothing more to go on than the general direction the two shifters took them, Nico put his foot to the floor and prayed he’d find the camp as easily as Gavin hinted before they left.

Luck appeared to be on his side. It took a couple of U-turns for Nico to find the motorway Gavin said overlooked the East entrance to a large estate. From their vantage point, he spotted a well-lit, sand arena in the distance, presumably once used as a sand school for training horses.

As they watched, guards gathered at the gates awaiting orders. The leader scanned the treeline below them. His headed snapped around to address a subordinate, snapping back as suddenly to focus on Dainton.

Nico had already crossed to the other side of the motorway and dropped over the side rail into the thick vegetation where he shifted into wolf form.

For the second time that day, Dainton would unknowingly be the bait in a ruse to gain access to the camp. He swore when he realised Nico had taken the keys for the car. He ran, keeping to the open road where his speed gave him an advantage.

Nico didn’t look up to check on Dainton. He kept his attention focused ahead while hiding in the shadow of an overhanging tree, up to his furry, black ears in a frigid river to conceal his scent.


Chapter 60

There was no doubt in Sidney’s mind that Micah felt both her and Callie’s power. The question of what he was going to do about it hadn’t been answered by the time she slipped into the arena to join the others.

We have another problem, Callie broadcast by way of greeting. Nico is here in wolf form. He said he’ll be here in a couple of minutes and if I try to order him away, he’ll make enough fuss to make Micah run for the hills and we’ll miss our shot at him.

Dozens of various shifter types fanned around an elevated platform at one end of the enclosure. Several more stood at regular intervals around the outside of the arena. Torches were ceremoniously lit, their flickering light making the sixteen contestant’s shadows dance across the sand.

Micah ascended onto his stage and waved a hand to silence the crowd.

Do you see Lana’s father anywhere? I don’t and haven’t heard any thoughts that I can confidently say were his, Sidney asked.

Callie response was instant. I assumed he’d be in the main house?

Send Nico to the house to look for him. That should keep him busy while we take care of things here.

As Sidney said the words, she focused her attention on Micah’s thoughts, and on hearing how conflicted he was between fleeing and fighting the Master he sensed for a fleeting moment as the sun set, she changed her plans to take the choice away from him.

He’s about to send his men into the arena as a distraction so he can make a run for it. It’s time to do your stuff Callie. Call our troops to stand behind us and when I drop my shield, answer him with every ounce of power you possess. Make a wall of flame around him to blind him long enough for me to get to him. If his men try to stop me, send ours in.

Callie whistled and motioned for her people to come to her.

In the ensuing confusion from Micah and his men, Sidney dropped her shields and began running for Micah, who staggered under the force of Callie and Sidney’s combined power. He jumped from the podium, managing to run a hundred feet before Callie’s wall of fire engulfed him, hiding him from view.

Micah let out an agonised roar and stepped into the flames, preferring to die by his own hand than by those of the prophesised Deliverer.

 

 


Chapter 61

Nico growled at Lana’s father, reminding him of his promise to send them home.

Sitting crossed legged on the grass, much like Lana had done when sending the other visitors home, Alfred concentrated on forming the portal. The air in front of him crackled with electricity. Small tendrils of blue lightning arced from a central sphere that hovered several feet off the ground. It grew, gaining density as Alfred chanted under his breath.

Lana sat too, slipping her hand in her father’s when the portal circumference reached the ground. She smiled at Nico before turning her attention on Sidney. “Thank you, we owe you more than a journey home.”

“A promise to never create another portal will do,” Sidney replied, knowing the command Callie gave to both after feeding on them earlier that day, would see that they didn’t. She wanted to hear them say it.

“My mother was desperate,” Lana explained, “and she paid the ultimate price to save us all. Don’t worry, Graham will reclaim the island and nothing more. Father and I will see to it.”

Harmony felt an arm slide around her waist. She beamed at Eric and addressed Sidney. “Don’t worry, we’ll keep an eye on them for you.”

Callie, Nico and Sidney linked arms in front of the portal. Each took a deep breath and stepped forward at the same time on Sidney’s broadcast command. On exiting, they turned and watched the portal shrink until it disappeared completely.

“Who wants to call Sam to come get us?” Nico asked, remembering that he sent his car home with one of the visitors who returned previously.

Sidney volunteered. After several failed attempts to connect with Sam’s mobile, she tried the house. Brian answered.

Callie and Nico walked ahead to give her some privacy when they heard Sidney giggle and say she missed him too.

“Brian’s on his way. He said Sam’s gone to the States to give Rick and his Dad a hand with some territory issues or something,” Sidney said when she caught up with them. “We’ve got at least an hour to kill before he gets here.”

“Did he say anything about Adie?” Callie asked. “I wonder if they had any luck finding information on Lucien from the Shaman.”

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  1. Christine

    This is a fantastic story and great writing. I feel though as if it really is two full plot lines in one. The Lucien plot starts out well developed and intriguing, but is never completed in the novel. This plot not being completed is a big let down to the story. After all the build up for the plot, it just jumps to a whole new story. The second plot line of a parallel world is a completely different story and does not seem to belong in the novel at all. It really should be fleshed out even more and made to stand on its own or as a sequel.

    • J T Chapman

      Thank you so much for the feedback!
      The story is indeed the first part of a trilogy. The focus of the second part is on Adie, Callie’s twin, and her visit to The States with Rick. She encounters her own problems and must make a sacrifice when Rock’s family is kidnapped by a rival pack of mountain lions under the control of the local master vampire.