Authors: Nikki Kelly
Only a few minutes had passed and I started to feel faint. Jonah showed no sign that he was ready or able to let go. “Jonah, stop,” I whimpered, feeling hazy.
I was losing all strength in my body, and my legs gave way.
HE WHOLE HOUSE SHOOK,
and at the same moment what felt like an electric shock seemed to pass between the two of us. A startled look smacked across Jonah’s face as he was brought back from wherever he had gone, and he withdrew and fell away from me. He put his hand behind my back to steady me and glanced at my pale skin glowing in the darkness.
I opened my eyes and was amazed to see Jonah no longer looking like a withering flower, but instead positively revived. His eyes lit up so red that it was as though Hell itself was burning inside them.
Using his free hand to move some wayward strands of hair from my eyes, I noticed his wrist was completely healed and I was left totally confused. He couldn’t have looked any more superb, yet nothing could have filled me with more fear than in that moment as I watched his eyes blaze.
“Come on!” he yelled through the thunderous noises surrounding us. “This place have a back door?” His voice was rushed.
He scanned the room, alert and ready. I nodded toward the hallway that led to the kitchen, which had a sort of back door, but I was sure by now that we were surrounded. I reached for the Swiss Army knife and flipped the blade inside before stuffing it into my jeans’ pocket. I tried to stand and eventually found my feet; Jonah grabbed my hand and I felt a surge of energy run through it. He moved swiftly and we darted through and out of the house. When he saw I couldn’t keep up, he tossed me over his shoulder.
Jonah raced toward the woods. I turned my head and, sure enough, I caught in my peripheral vision several figures jumping and dashing. What happened next was a blur: something landed on top of me, knocking Jonah off balance, and we plummeted with a tremendous thud. I fell away from him, grazing my arms on the grass below me.
A hand was around my throat, my head was forced backwards and I began to gag. I reached into my jeans’ pocket and pulled out the Swiss Army knife that I had used to help Jonah, and as forcefully as I could with my left hand, I thrust it into my attacker’s side. It simply bounced off his flesh. He growled viciously, kicking me back down to the ground, hard.
My eyes shot up to see Jonah leaping through the air like a wild animal, smashing into the offending Vampire. I couldn’t block out the sounds of my attacker’s choking spit, but I looked away before Jonah ended him.
I caught my breath. I saw other shadowy figures in the distance, hurtling toward us. I didn’t know what to do, which way to turn, but I couldn’t leave Jonah here. And I didn’t stand much chance without him.
Seeing Jonah battle against the evil nature that had been bestowed upon him through no choice of his own, unwilling to accept it, I first came to appreciate that there was no such thing as good and evil; it could never be that simple. Somewhere between black and white, there were shades of gray. I wondered if, given the complexity of my own existence, perhaps I belonged somewhere among the spectrum of the in between, right next to the likes of Jonah?
I staggered back up and spun around, just in time to see Jonah a few feet away from me, shattering several fierce-looking Vampires one by one. He was possessed. With one swift movement he literally tore a limb from one, at the same time as slamming another to the ground with his free hand. It was terrifying. He was so powerful, quite a contrast from the forlorn being I had rescued a few hours ago. He no longer needed my help, not that I had anything to offer. I debated running and hiding; I was just a hindrance, distracting him from his fight. But it was like the morbid curiosity of watching an accident unfold; it was impossible to turn away.
A pair of ferocious crimson eyes caught my attention. Crouched on the ground, a couple of feet behind, was a Vampire ready to pounce on his prey: me. I drew a deep breath, closed my eyes tightly, and waited for the inevitable; there was nothing else I could do. There was no point trying to run and I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of the chase.
I forced my eyes open a moment later when I felt his breath on the tip of my nose. He stood over me, leaving barely any space between us. Staring intensely into my eyes, his own seemed to smolder for a moment into a dull brown. He was a perfect statue. Long, dirty-blond hair was tied behind his neck and he wore a white frilled shirt. Judging by his attire, it was easy to surmise that he was from another time.
To my surprise, he slowly moved his hand to my face and carefully, with the back of his fingers, he stroked me. A cold, thick gold ring grazed my skin. At his touch, for a second, I was transported into the past.
These hands had brushed my cheeks before.
I didn’t have a chance to focus in on the memory; the thread was snapped as he jolted away from me. The sound of heavy footsteps careering across the field echoed through the air, cutting through this surreal moment. There were only minutes now before Jonah’s friends arrived and Eligio’s clan would be outnumbered, or so I hoped. As the ground shook, I stumbled a little.
When I snapped back to the Vampire, he was gone. I scanned the area but couldn’t see him anywhere through the darkness of the night. I wondered if he was one of Jonah’s friends who had arrived first and had let me live. But that didn’t explain how I seemed to know him. I hadn’t been given enough time to try and place him, and with every second that passed the thought of who he was only became cloudier in my mind.
I shifted my attention back to Jonah, who was still fighting, ending each Vampire as quickly as the last, until six remaining soldiers stood in awe of his strength. As Jonah hissed and bared his fangs to his audience, a sudden taste of smoke and ash engulfed my senses, and then I saw it. Though I was not sure what it was.
An enormous figure cloaked in black, somehow manipulating the darkness in an attempt to camouflage itself, was plunging through the sky toward Jonah’s back. My gut instinct told me that whatever it was, it was powerful and moments away from ending him.
My eyes began to burn and I clawed my skin as a fury seemed to hit me from nowhere. My mind cleared of thought and my legs stretched into a sprint toward Jonah, when
appeared ahead of me. Shrouded in shadow, she sprang off the ground as the silhouette of the terrifyingly large figure prepared to wrap itself around Jonah’s shoulders from behind him. She crashed into it first and it soared back through the air, while she landed perfectly balanced, hunkered low on the ground.
The cloaked figure had disappeared. What it was, and where it went I was unsure.
I strained to focus as I approached her; she seemed to just blend into the night. As I extended my arm to reach for hers, for the briefest second, I was distracted. A strange light seemed to flicker, illuminating the woods some distance away.
I flashed my gaze back to the girl in shadow, but she was already gone.
Though Jonah did not turn to face me—instead, keeping his focus on the Vampires that crouched all around—he knew I was behind him. A particularly young-looking boy, no more than fourteen in human years, regarded me with an astonished expression. Frothing at the mouth, he growled at Jonah and gestured for the others to retreat. He was in charge of the losing side tonight and though reluctant to concede it, he knew this fight was over. Turning his back, he vaulted into the trees hanging over the house and away into the night.
As the branch sprang back, I watched as the bare twigs drifted and fell to the ground in slow motion. Time seemed to elude me, and as the moment became extended, I heard the echo of a gunshot from some distance away. The air seemed to swell and I smelled the silver melting as it sped toward Jonah.
I couldn’t stop time, but time itself seemed to become lost. It was slowing, giving me just enough precious seconds to swoop half a foot to the right, and I swung my back to the bullet and protected Jonah’s chest. A sharp, scolding shot of red-hot lead fused with silver components perforated my skin. It ate its way through my flesh, finally lodging itself in my shoulder. I peeked up at Jonah’s frozen face and as his eyelashes finally started to move, time seemed to catch back up with me.
My legs gave way and I fell.
Jonah threw himself underneath my body, stopping me from hitting the ground.
“Cessie! Are you hurt?” he shouted in alarm as he shifted my weight on top of his body. His muscular arms now wrapped around my back, supporting me as he sat up. He glared powerfully at my face and I grimaced in response.
“It’s okay, they’ve gone. You’re safe now.…” He trailed off as he removed his hand from behind me. His expression spread with confusion as my blood seeped down his hand.
I blacked out.
* * *
HE NEXT THING
was the icy breeze skimming my cheeks as we fled into the night, my body bundled in Jonah’s strong arms. The blaze from the bullet was fierce and it coursed through me; it was hard to catch my breath and even harder with the wind whipping my body. It sounded like Jonah was talking about me, but his words were all muffled and disjointed.
As we ground to a halt, a new voice sounded. “We should be safe here. I need to put pressure on the wound. We’ll do the rest back at the house. Go, we’ll be right behind you!”
“I can’t leave you here! What if they come back? What if they’ve followed us? We’ll wait for you, love, and we’ll all leave together.” Another voice, though it sounded lighter and softer, that of a woman, retaliated.
“It’s too dangerous, it’s an open wound. Please, leave.”
I didn’t hear any further complaint, and the next thing I felt was the ground underneath me as Jonah carefully placed me down. My ponytail had fallen out and my mass of blond hair was sodden in the blood sticking to my skin. I sensed Jonah was still present, but he had now moved back, and someone new was taking me in.
“Her name is Francesca,” Jonah said.
Gentleness was touching my face, moving my hair from over my eyes. “You’re okay.…” His voice was such a soothing sound, hushing the screaming pain that was vibrating inside me. “Francesca, can you hear me?” he murmured gently, his words reverberating all the way through my skin and into my bones.
I tried to sit up, but the wound in my shoulder made it impossible for me to move. So instead, I fought the urge to pass out and with all my will forced my eyes to open.
My vision was hazy at first, but with every passing second the smoke cleared until eventually I could see him. He stole what little breath I had left. There he was, right in front of me. I deliberated, unsure if he was real or whether I was no longer conscious and just dreaming this. To my surprise, his expression mirrored my confusion; though it was like he was looking into me, through me, and past me, all at once.
“Gabriel…” I finally stuttered through the sweet-tasting blood in between my teeth, shattering the silence between us.
In an instant he was on his feet, hovering over me on the ground. He was so beautiful that he could not be of this world. His loose blond curls framed his perfect chiseled cheekbones and jaw; his eyes were so deep that if you fell into them, you would never be able to climb back out. Not that you would want to. He exuded an aura of light all around him, but then perhaps I was imagining things.
He turned away from me, still barely moving, standing over six feet tall, his body muscular and toned. His hands were clenched into fists, making the veins running up his arms jut out.
I tried to say his name again but this time it was harder to speak. I let out a cry, my shoulder continuing to burn. The lead and silver fusion was boiling my flesh; the pain was growing. My agony seemed to bring him back to me and he spun around immediately.
“How?” His short question was fired with such intensity, but still the words seemed to dance from his tongue.
“I know your face.…” I tried to answer, though I wasn’t sure if his question had been directed at me.
He scanned me quickly and unzipped my jacket, tearing my top to reveal the extent of my injury. He removed his woolen sweater and with no effort tore the sleeves off. Working swiftly, he wrapped one around the top of my shoulder tightly, desperately trying to stop the blood flow, and then seemed drawn to my wrist.
Shoving the fabric out of the way, the look on his face was pained as he took in the fang marks from where Jonah had pierced my skin and fed from me. It was raw, red and ravaged, and still smeared with traces of my blood. He flinched as he wrapped part of the other sleeve around it firmly.
Gabriel glanced over his shoulder and although I couldn’t see, I sensed Jonah move farther back from where I was lying, helpless. “We need to get the bullet out before you bleed to death,” he ordered.
“Okay,” was all I could manage to choke out.
Gabriel lingered, and I could taste his fear. Fear for not knowing what to do next and fear for not understanding what I was. “I’m taking you back, I’ll remove it myself.”
Without even a moment passing, I was in Gabriel’s arms, the wind hitting my body again; only this time I forced my eyes open. I didn’t want to forget this.
I had to keep breathing.
I tried to recall how I had ended up with a bullet in my back. The girl in the shadow was the last image in my mind. I tried to push past it, but I couldn’t. Jonah’s expression as he had observed his bloodied hand was the next thing I could clearly remember. I tried to focus, to stay conscious.
It felt like forever, but eventually we made it to a house with only rolling fields, laced with frost, for company. It was deadly quiet now. The blackness of the night had long reached the doorway that I was being lifted through.
Once inside Gabriel seemed to search for his companions but was greeted only by one. Creeping in the shadows, she merely nodded in acknowledgment of our arrival. My hair had fallen once more over my eyes, and I could barely make her out; she almost seemed to blend into the emptiness.