My sincerest apologies to my readers for the unplanned long hiatus. I wasn't feeling this chapter at all and kept putting it off. Then Christmas came, I decided to make it a Christmas break. Then New Year came and I thought, what the hell, I'll start the year fresh. Call it a block, call it school frustrations… I always found a reason to not work on this chapter. And before I even had any notion, 3 months had passed.
I had another downer a week ago when I learned that one of my readers and dear friend Jill passed away at the end of January. I'm only slowly coming to terms with it. Can't believe I can't speak to her again even if we only knew each other online… She was a writer and vivid reader. In some part of my mind I feel like I let her down. She, like you, was waiting for this story and if I had posted regularly, maybe she could've finished it.
It might be a small thing, but I dedicate this chapter to her.
JillyBean, I'll miss you!
| Iden's Residence |
Devereaux waited outside the door of his master's quarters, but when 30 minutes passed and he wasn't summoned in, he knocked twice and swung the door open. The permeated smell of iron entered his nostrils and a delicious shudder went through him. He sighed a quiet sigh and walked over to where a man sat, bend over the limp body of a young purple haired woman. 'Master Iden, she was employed to take of your appearance', he stopped within arm's length of him.
Iden growled at his proximity, like a lion possessive of his prey, but lifted his mouth from her high enough to speak. 'She has done her job well. Now I am showing her my appreciation', he smiled, giving her neck a long slow lick before diving back in. He had taken so much, the beating of her heart had reduced to a mere flutter. A little more and she's be dead, but not that it mattered. The treaty was void anyway.
'Pity, she was the finest hairdresser this side of the city', Devereaux said after hearing her heart stop. 'And now she has made way for the next finest', Iden grinned and pushed her lifeless body to the floor. He got up and checked his attire in the mirror; not one drop spilled. 'Are they here yet?'
'They've assembled in the ballroom. It's the biggest room in this place; great for audiences. And remember that hideous chair you loved so much? Yeah, we had it shipped over for you'
'Are you saying I am lacking in the department of taste, Devereaux?', Iden's eyes shifted towards him in the mirror.
'No, on the contrary master Iden. You have great taste, even if it is only limited to women', Devereaux smirked, 'It's good to have you back master!'
'It is good to be back, although I would have preferred it to be under different circumstances. Take care of that!', Iden said, pointing at the body, and left the room.
Iden ran his fingers over the back of his old chair and looked at the gathering crowd in front of him. It consisted of mostly the heads of his units and some of Calum’s. It was easy to distinguish his subordinates from those belonging to his younger brother; they were all cowering with eyes fixed on the floor, while his own looked up at him. Glad to see their true leader once again in front of them.
He sat down ready to address them, but instantly forgot what he wanted to say when the one face he was so eager to see again was the only one missing from the crowd.
‘Where is my brother?’
One of the vampires closest to him came forward, bowed his head and hesitantly lifted an open palm in Calum’s direction. Iden followed his gesturing hand and looked straight at Calum, who was now leaning against the curtains on his far left. He looked at Calum long and hard and turned his face without even a reaction. ‘Last I checked I had two…’ Iden once again addressed the crowd.
The minute Iden’s eyes left his, Calum recovered. Everyone must’ve thought him pathetic cowering in his brother's presence. He was part of the ‘TriCon’ and it was time he acted like it. One of those chairs was his and he needed to be strong and confident to sit on it. Show them that he wasn't just there because of his heritage, but that he too had a say in matters. He had after all ruled in Iden’s stead for almost 25 years. Drawing his strength from all this, he got out of his shadowed shelter and faced his brother. ‘He hasn’t been around for at least 15 years. No one knows where he is. One minute he was here and the next…’
‘Don’t KNOW where he is?!’, Iden raised his voice at Calum’s outrageous explanation. ‘Or you don’t WANT to know where he is!’
In the corners of his eye Calum saw the crowd flinch at every emphasized word that came out of Iden’s mouth. His face was unreadable as he stared at Calum, but Calum knew that he was furious. Hell, the entire room knew he was furious. ‘Why haven’t you tried sensing him? Hmm? But, no, of course not. You were too busy trying to play king and rule over everybody; which proved quite easy without him by your side monitoring your every move. Is that not right Calum?’
‘I wasn’t try…’
‘ENOUGH, brother! The confidant I had placed in your midst has given me the full history of the past 25 years even your latest obsession with expanding your units. Oh, you thought no one knew about it? How many newborns have you lost already? How many LIVES have you played with?’, Iden now stood angrily towering above him. Eyes red with fire stared him down. So much for the confidence and strength he was planning to show. With each word his brother let out, he felt his confidence sink. Iden had a way of doing that and the memory of it quickly turned Calum’s sinking confidence into growing rage.
‘So much incompetence’ Iden whispered, but everyone there was a vampire, so he knew they all heard him. ‘Never mind! I shall find my brother myself!’. He muttered a few words of gratitude to the commanding heads with promise of a meeting later in the evening and left the room.
Calum paced the small of the sitting-room attached to his bedroom. A confidant… His brother’s words were still ringing in his ears, but that one screamed louder. He couldn’t believe Iden had lodged a watchdog in his council; blending in like one of his own… but who? He knew all of them from years before… the only new additions were… Calum leaned against the table with a heavy sigh. -Chase, Byron and Crux-
It couldn't have been Crux; he was training one of the other stations, nowhere close to the council… so either Byron or Chase. Chase is on the run for jump-started this mess with Lillian. He would know better if Iden was his master, but all that didn't matter now; he'd kill them both. Calum picked up his phone. 'Yeah?'
'Jag, you've just been promoted. Twist Byron's neck and rally up the units at the border- -it's time!'
Iden reentered his room, slamming the door behind him. That was not how he saw that meeting go. He walked back and forth and over again when he finally sat down. Gazing at the now empty spot in front of the sofa, he realized the girl was no longer there. Devereaux always was fast, but this was overachieving. Iden's thoughts on Raven kept an up-creeping smile from emerging and it was quickly replaced by a frown. Why would he disappear like that? It wasn't like him; especially since he knew Calum's nature. All the more reason to stay here and keep him in line! He got up and opened the door before Devereaux had the chance to knock. 'I have a job for you. I need you to find out what Raven has been doing all this time'
'You don't want to meet him yourself?'
'I do want to meet him. I have questions only he can answer, however if I get too close he will sense me and be on his guard. No, I won't go! I will locate his whereabouts and you will shadow him. Keep your distance as well. Anything around him that stands out as strange or maybe very much like him… I want you to tell me about'
'Very well. Where am I to go to?'
Iden took in a deep breath and closed his eyes letting the calm wash over him as he tried sensing his brother. He was out of practice and it took him a few minutes before the connection was strong enough to see anything. The mind-melt showed him large trees, ponds and stretches of land. A house here and there, but none next to each other… and a sign --Leaving Riverblossom Hills--.
'Riverblossom Hills… Do you know of it?'
'Indeed I do. I've been through there before. It's one or two states from here. It's a small town consisting of mostly farms. Should be quite easy to find him. I'll take my leave then', Devereaux said and then left to do what was asked of him.
It didn't take long to locate Raven's exact whereabouts when he got to Riverblossom Hills. Just as it didn't take long for him to find out just what it was that kept his master's brother here; a woman. He didn't pay much attention to her in the beginning since his goal was to observe Raven, but wherever she was, he was too. Was she the reason he left their fates in the hands of his chaotic brother? Devereaux was able to hide in the vastness of trees surrounding these farming plains; sheltering him from direct sunlight and shadowed them for nearly half a day. The care Raven took around the woman made it very clear she was important to him and Devereaux knew Iden would take an interest in this particular detail.
He was more surprised when he saw her and another woman get into a pickup truck. Knowing there are others out there should've been reason enough for Raven to never let her out of his sight; but it proved beneficial to Devereaux that he did.
Devereaux followed the women to the town's square where, from the sun-sheltered corner of a small café, he kept a close eye on them. They were grocery shopping… how human of them. He picked up his phone and replayed whatever info he had gathered back to Iden. 'Yes, I have her in my sight right now. Raven's not here; he's… house sitting', Devereaux pulled a face; the idea left a nasty aftertaste in his mouth. 'He probably thought it best not to endanger her by being seen with her in public', Devereaux smiled at the waitress who came back to refill his cup. 'Too late for that! What do you want me to do? I don't see him parting from her anytime soon… She is a sure way to get him to you… alright then!', he hung up and reached inside his pocket to pay for the coffee. Devereaux slipped the bills under the cup and made his way out of the café staying out of the setting sun as much as possible.
Marina laughed as Binny told her about her visit to her sisters. Binny always went to them on her days off and came back with a smile on her face. With the recent witchy, prophecy business and the revealing of Raven's vampiric nature, tension filled the house and they didn't get to talk like they used to. Binny was weary of Raven in the house and now with Chase also there, it was like she was sitting on hot coals. Shopping for groceries was an excuse to get out of the house, because Marina knew they had supplies to last them an entire week. So, she offered to go with her and now hearing Binny speak freely and unburdened about her sisters, made her glad she came. She sidestepped a man to keep from running into him, but Binny in the middle of her laugh didn't and bumped into him with her grocery bag. 'Oh, I'm sorry'. 'Apologies', the man said at the same time and continued on his way; he didn't even look up.
They reached the truck a little while after and Marina waited for Binny to open up. They were already heading for warmer weather and the snow had cleared off the streets, but the wind was still chilly. 'Whoo', Marina blew out at a sudden gust of cold wind, 'Hurry Binny'
Binny pulled her hand out, shifted the groceries and searched her other pocket. 'I can't find the keys. Maybe I left them on the counter at the supermarket. Wait here, I'll be right back', She put her bag on the hood of the truck and went back to the supermarket.
'I'll be quick!', she said from further away.
Marina sighed and leaned against the truck. Another mean gust of wind blew her way and she shielded her eyes, slightly tipping her grocery bag. Two cans of condensed milk rolled out onto the pavement and a bunch of apples. 'Where the hell did that come from?', she whispered, bending down to grab the milk. Reaching for the apples, she noticed a pair of boots next to them. She looked up just as the guy reached down to pick them up for her. 'Thank you', Marina whispered and walked back to the car. Turning around, she noticed the stranger had come after her. He stopped at arm's length. 'Who are you?', she said looking around if there were people to help.
'Crux Devereaux, but I am no one you want to know', Devereaux said, swinging her car keys in front of her. Marina eyed the keys and recognized him from his clothes as the man Binny bumped into. The one that didn't look up and just continued walking; now she knew why. 'Why did you take our car keys? Is it the car you want? Take it!'
'I have no need for the car. It was simply to keep you from leaving', he stopped twirling the keys and placed the correct one into the door lock.
'What do you want with me?'
'I? Nothing', Devereaux smiled and pulled a bouquet from behind his back consisting of 3 blood red roses. 'Master Iden, however has extended you an invite to his estate'
'Iden?', she had heard that name before and quite recently. The use of master instantly refreshed her memory.
'Raven's brother Iden?'
'Indeed, so you've heard of him…'
'I-I have… uhm, this is a bit sudden. You've caught me unprepared. Uhm, I will tell Raven and we'll be there as soon as possible. Please excuse me…', Marina answered, turning around to walk after Binny. Her heart was thumping inside her chest so hard she feared it would jump out all together. This man; this vampire was creeping her out more than words could tell and she wondered what her chances were of getting away from him. Nihil, turns out, because as quick as she turned away from him, just as quickly he appeared in front of her again.
'My telling you it was an invitation was me being a gentleman'
Binny returned a few minutes later after having been told by the cashier at the supermarket that she saw her put the keys in her jeans pocket. She looked along the path they walked in case it had fallen out. Surely she would've heard it fall if it did, but she still looked. Nothing! Returning to the truck she noticed Marina wasn't there. Binny looked for the nearest bench in case Marina went to sit down, but the nearest one was two steps away from the car and it was empty. 'Marina?', she called, walking around the truck. Her head was swinging left to right, but there was no sign of Marina.
Her foot kicked something and she recognized an apple rolling away from her. The apples were in Marina's bag… she bent down to pick it up and noticed the keys hanging on the door. Looking inside, she saw the grocery bag and panicked. Her grocery bag was still on the hood where she left it… Binny picked up her cell and called home. Raven picked up after the first ring. 'Raven, Marina's gone!'
Binny heard a thud and then another voice. 'Hello?', Chase had picked up the phone where Raven had dropped it. 'Lubinnia, what happened?'
'Marina's gone, where's Raven?'
'He just left, definitely on his way to you. What do you mean gone?'
'We couldn't find our car keys – she was standing next to the truck and now she's gone… I- I don't know what happened and… Raven!'
Binny hung up as soon as she saw him. 'Where is she?'
'I don't know… she was waiting here with the groceries-'
Raven looked around the truck with a predator's eye as Binny explained what she knew. He yanked the keys out of the door and held it up to his nose. There was a vampire here, of that he was certain, but he couldn't make out who it was. The sun had only just gone under, so it had to be someone like Chase. High-ranked within the hierarchy; able to walk in the light if sheltered from the direct sun. He growled and pulled the truck door open. Marina's scent was heavy in there as he looked over to where the bag was on the seat. He stiffened when he saw the bouquet of the 3 blood red roses placed under it.
'Devereaux', he whispered.
He got out of the truck and silenced Binny. 'Go back to the house and tell Chase to go to the Rosetta Estate. Can you do that? The Rosetta Estate!'
'What, no, I'm coming with you-'
'No, get Chase!!'
And with those words he was out of sight. Lubinnia swore before getting in the truck and drove home as fast as she could.