Authors: Nikki Kelly
“Francesca? But why? As far as they’re concerned she just happened to be there. A human girl shot down seemingly by Eligio’s own, assumed dead.” Gabriel had a confused and somewhat worried look spreading across his face.
“Maybe they do want me. I ended a hell of a lot of them,” Jonah offered, almost hopeful.
Michael’s face screwed up and I sensed he was holding something back. I guessed their relationships were a little strained.
“I wonder how many of them I actually took out in the end.…”
“Enough,” Michael snapped, baring his fangs.
“Hey, you’re one of us now, you don’t belong to your Pureblood anymore. You wanted out and we helped you,” Jonah argued.
“I wanted Thomas to have his freedom more than I wanted my own. I’ve only been separated from them for a short time and I felt every single one of my clan’s demise when you decided that they didn’t deserve their existence anymore. Do you know how difficult that is?” Michael replied coldly.
“They aren’t your clan anymore, that’s the point. They have no desire to change. They’re beyond saving. You said you wanted your humanity back, that’s why you’re here and they still belong to their Purebloods. Well, now some of them belong to the dirt.…”
That was too much for Michael, who launched himself in Jonah’s direction. To my surprise Gabriel began to glow as he stepped in between them and both Vampires halted.
“Stop, right now. Michael, I will try to help Thomas, in whatever way I can, but right now we have to leave,” Gabriel said. “How long until they reach us?”
“Minutes, not hours. But we need to go back for Thomas—he’s my brother. I’m the reason he was turned; he was trying to save me. Now I must save him,” Michael replied, stepping back from Gabriel. “If they are coming here, Thomas has surely been left behind, bound and chained. Now is the time to go back for him.”
“We need to get Francesca away from here. I’m sorry. We will have to find another way, but trust me, I will help him.” Gabriel’s word was final.
Michael glanced at me with narrowed eyes, concluding that I was the reason Thomas wasn’t with us now.
“Okay, gather the others, take them home. We’ll follow behind.” Gabriel hadn’t even finished his sentence and the Vampire was gone. “Jonah, get Francesca to the car.”
Jonah grabbed my hand and as we touched I felt a tiny spark pass between his palm and my own. I released him automatically and he gaped back at me. He’d felt it too. “Come on!” he yelled.
Shaking the moment off, we pelted through the front door and into the Range Rover. Jonah jumped into the driver’s seat, ready to speed off.
“What about the others? There’s only one car?” I quizzed frantically.
“They’ve gone on foot.”
“We’re faster on foot. We’re only in the car because you wouldn’t be able to keep up.” Jonah winked at me.
I felt a blush sweep over my cheeks. In the cold light of day, he was just as attractive.
“Where’s Gabriel?” I asked. “What’s he doing?”
The thought of an army of Vampires tearing toward the house was terrifying and I wished that Gabriel would hurry.
“Tying up loose ends,” Jonah answered.
“If they are coming for you,” he said impatiently, “your blood is still all over the bedroom, your scent all through the house.” He made this statement as if the rest were implied.
“I thought you said I had no scent?” I argued.
He hesitated before answering. “No, I think you were right. I was starved; I wasn’t myself. I can catch your scent now.” He raised his eyebrows and said, “Tasty…”
I dismissed his remark with a half smile.
Minutes later, Gabriel at last appeared, and as he jumped into the backseat, Jonah slammed the car into gear. Instinctively I reached for my chain; it wasn’t there.
I shouted. I didn’t have time to explain—I flung open the door and began running back to the house.
“Cessie!” Jonah yelled after me.
Strange. It sounded like Gabriel’s voice, but it was like I had imagined it.
As I approached the entrance, Jonah appeared and blocked me, grabbing my arm. I didn’t have time to think about it. I forced my way around him and somehow, despite his strength, I found myself in the hallway with the winding staircase in front of me.
I sprinted up as fast as I could, telling myself we’d still have time to get away. The boards creaked loudly as I sprung up each one. Pushing the bedroom door open I charged through, snagging the cardigan on the bedpost, and raced into the bathroom.
There it sat, glinting and glimmering, its light reflecting off the glass table.
I scooped it up and quickly lifted it over my head, placing it back in its rightful position around my neck. At that moment, I heard a thunderous explosion. I spun around and, in a blink, there were flames engulfing everything, blazing up through the landing and filling every room and every crevice. The heat was so fierce that I thought I might melt before the fire reached me. I froze.
As the flames raced toward me, I felt the heat graze my face, but only for a moment; my feet swept past the carpet and my body was being elevated off the floor—Jonah!
We burst through the window; he covered my face with his shoulder, protecting me from the shards of shattering glass as we hurtled through the pane. He tried to brace me from the fall, spinning me, taking my weight on top of his as we crashed onto the ground below. Unfortunately, even he couldn’t prevent us from being launched farther with the blast that followed.
I landed several yards away from Jonah, facedown in the grass. My ears were ringing and my hands failed me as I tried to prop myself up. Immediately Gabriel was at my side, and in one swift movement I was in his arms and being bundled into the back of the car. Jonah was already at the wheel and we flew away from the furnace.
What were you doing?
Automatically I raised my hand to touch my necklace. “I left it inside.”
Bewildered, his wide eyes met mine as he whispered, “I didn’t say that aloud.”
The car sped down the country roads. Gabriel, silently helping me into a more comfortable position in the backseat, began fastening my seat belt. The mood was tense and I could sense that Jonah was biting his tongue; he wanted to speak but followed Gabriel’s lead.
“Are you all right?” Gabriel said, casting his eyes over me.
“I’ll live,” I replied.
“That’s not what I meant. Are you hurt?”
“Perhaps a little bruised and embarrassed, but otherwise I’m fine.” I surveyed myself. “Oh, I ripped the cardigan, I’m so sorry.”
Gabriel looked confused. “That’s the least of our problems. Brooke won’t mind, don’t worry.”
“Thanks, Jonah. I think I owe you one,” I offered in gratitude.
“Even Stevens now!” he replied playfully. “How did you get past me anyway? I’m pretty strong, you know!”
I thought I saw him flex his bicep as he asked, just to demonstrate his point.
Gabriel moved back to his own seat and, pulling out a map, he began studying it. But I knew he was focused on my response.
“I think you must have tripped or something, I’m not sure. I just got by you somehow.” I wasn’t entirely sure myself.
“Hmm yeah, I guess so; no person…” he hesitated, “… could get by me that easily.”
His fingers met the dashboard and he started fiddling with the radio buttons. I thought about it for a moment and tried to recall. He had stopped me, hadn’t he? He grabbed me and I couldn’t move, but then … he was just out of the way and I was inside. As I focused on it, my head started to ache and I winced. Gabriel peered down at me.
Let him think he tripped.
His lips didn’t move and the words floated around my mind, clearing the ache that was developing. I raised my eyebrows in surprise.
How are you doing that?
I thought. I didn’t say it. Could I communicate back?
Gabriel cast his eyes back down to the map.
When we met, I believed you were a mortal. When I found you, you were gone. You’re obviously not and you clearly weren’t. Whatever you are, he must believe you are human.
He continued scanning the fold-out map.
What do you mean, when you found me I was gone? If I was gone, how did you find me? And he already thinks I’m anything but human, I heard him telling you!
I was getting angry now and I could feel my body tensing.
He is a Vampire, Francesca. I trust him, but he still has a connection to his Gualtiero, the Pureblood Vampire who changed him. We must be careful.
I felt upset, and an overwhelming sense of confusion started bubbling to my surface.
Why can’t you call me Cessie!
Here he was, this memory, this ghost whom I believed I had a connection with, and he couldn’t even call me by my nickname. I felt my skin radiating heat as my confusion swiftly transcended back into anger.
How the hell are you in my head telling me what to do when you’ve given me no explanations! When you left me! When you …
“Ahhh!” I screeched loudly as my thoughts were cut off by a violent ringing noise passing through my mind.
Gabriel clutched his temple, bowing his head down at the same second. He had heard the same deafening sound.
“Sorry, sorry! Not a fan of rock music, eh?” Jonah laughed, turning down the music bellowing out of the speakers.
I caught him glancing at me in the rearview mirror as he grinned. My eyes met his for a moment and his pupils widened in surprise. The creases in his cheeks ironed out into a smooth surface as his smile fell away. I covered my eyes with my hand as I felt them burning, wondering what he’d seen.
I glanced down into the footwell self-consciously, trying to calm myself. My eyelids stopped twitching after a few moments. Jonah switched the radio off altogether and said nothing.
Gabriel reached his hand out and cupped mine in his own. Instantly the knots in my body loosened and I felt calm again. Taking a deep breath, I said, just to him:
Jonah continued to whiz around the winding roads at top speed, and miraculously the thick tires stuck to the road. Eventually I could see the highway. I glanced back at the countryside. Saying farewell to the rolling hillsides, I wondered if the rain that had begun pelting down furiously was an omen.
And sure enough, as I watched, the landscape became a whirlpool, and at the center of it, there was a transparent ball, bouncing and balancing, containing a terrifying image: a large group of Vampires standing next to the smoking remains of the house, observing. At the front of the row of obedient soldiers, two seven-foot-tall putrid figures snarled and shrieked an ungodly, deafening noise that reverberated through the trees.
Wearing long black cloaks, their bald heads covered in tattoo-like markings, they certainly didn’t look like Vampires. They were so dark that I felt every inch of me tremble as I took them in. I couldn’t watch them for long as something underneath their skin bubbled and traveled through their bodies, so that they seemed to disappear and reappear in and out of focus.
Standing slightly behind the others, I recognized the same Vampire who had stood face-to-face with me and then disappeared. He was furious. I tried to make out what he was shouting, and my body tightened as one of the putrid figures twisted his head, revealing his fangs. I was certain, as his stare shifted from his subordinate, that he could see me. Pointing into the air, he hissed a sound that made my bones feel as if they might splinter, and then the figures were gone.
Disconnected from my vision, I found myself panting shallow breaths.
Gabriel, sensing my unease, turned to me and took my hand once more.
What did you see?
They are outside the house, they’re furious that we have escaped. They will not stop.
I don’t know how I knew, but I did. They were coming for me and they wouldn’t rest until they had what they wanted.
You mean they
outside the house?
he corrected me.
You were seeing a vision of the past? But then, how is that possible, you weren’t there, it’s not a memory.
I’m not sure.… It felt as though it was happening right now. And the two figures who stood at the front of the Vampire clans were nearly identical to the creature who came to me this morning.
Gabriel seemed to contemplate before responding.
Have they ever reached into your memories before this morning?
Not in this lifetime at least. That was the first time.
“Since Jonah drank from me,” I said aloud by accident.
“Sorry, what?” Jonah said.
I looked to Gabriel and he shook his head in discouragement, but I carried on. “I saw the Vampire clans outside the house. There were two huge figures with them, wearing black cloaks, and they were covered in tattoos.”
“You mean you saw the Purebloods? But when? They weren’t just standing around when we left,” Jonah replied.
“They were Pureblood Vampires? Is that what they are?” I panicked.
Gabriel reached for my hand and squeezed it, taking the lead. “Francesca has an ability to see things. What she just described was a vision she had. Which means, if her vision is accurate, Michael was right. Two Purebloods and their clans are on our heels.”
Jonah cleared his throat, hitting his chest as he said sarcastically, “Human, right?”
“Yes, Jonah, she is human. Just a bit extraordinary,” Gabriel replied with a false confidence.
The car fell silent once again and no one said anything. Jonah careered down the fast lane, constantly checking his mirrors. I thought he was checking that we weren’t being followed, but occasionally I felt his eyes observing my reflection.
“Where are we going?” I broke the silence.
“Back to the main house,” Jonah replied.
“Which is where, Europe? America?”
“Buckinghamshire,” Gabriel answered.
“Buckinghamshire? Surely that’s not far enough away!”
“It doesn’t matter how far away from here we are. Purebloods and their clans are all over the world. I was turned in Florida,” Jonah replied coldly.