Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Only With The Heart - Chapter 19 - A Paranormal Romance story by Kallysten

If you are new to this story, you can find chapter 1 here.
If you missed chapter 18, it's here.


ONLY WITH THE HEART
CHAPTER 19




What was it that attracted vampires to the same places, over and over? Was there a secret vampire app with the addresses of places that could serve as lair for a few nights or even a few months?

Lance had asked himself the question many times over the years, but if he asked it again now it was to distract himself more than because he was truly curious. As different as this place was to the alley downtown where Taylor had taken her last breath, he couldn’t help feeling awkward to know that she was only a few feet away, and the memory of their last hunt together kept resurfacing. He couldn’t think about that now, though. He couldn’t let the guilt of that day overwhelm him until he couldn’t keep Ellie and Taylor safe anymore.




All three of them made as little noise as possible and remained quiet as they advanced further into the abandoned warehouse. It wasn’t strictly necessary: a vampire would hear them coming regardless. If nothing else, their heartbeats would give them away. Still, it was good practice in case the vampire was distracted.

They found him easily enough. Just one vampire, sorting through whatever the clan Lance and Ellie had dispatched a few nights earlier had left behind. Although at this point, his vampire status was a guess rather than certainty. He threw the quickest of looks at them over his shoulder, clearly aware of their presence, but otherwise continued to look through duffel bags and other leftover detritus.

Lance stopped a few yards from him, his sword out though pointed at the floor—for now. Without even looking at Taylor on his left or Ellie on his right, he knew they’d both stopped, knew Taylor had adopted the same relaxed but ready stance he had, while Ellie’s crossbow would point at the vampire just in case.

“You’re on private property,” Lance said loudly. “You need to leave.”

Now the man stood up, showing his tall, lithe stature, and turned toward them. As he saw his face, lined with tiredness and a wild edge that looked too much like despair, Lance’s throat tightened and his heart jumped in his chest. He was a vampire, all right.

The wariness in his dark eyes turned to recognition when he met Lance’s gaze. His eyes flicked toward Ellie, dismissing her and her crossbow at once. He turned toward Taylor next, and gave a slow blink as he took her in.

“Vamps can’t be SEs,” he said with a trace of dry amusement. “What are you doing with them?”

“Moral support,” she replied coolly. “Unless you attack my friends, in which case I’ll have to clean your ashes from my clothes. You heard the man, this is private property and you’re trespassing. Get out of here without violence and you won’t be harmed.”

He frowned, shaking his head in disbelief. Lance could feel a bead of cold sweat running down his back. He had to cut this short.

“Seriously?” the vampire said. “You could do that? To me?”

“Any of us will do what’s needed if you don’t leave now,” Lance said, trying to get the vampire’s attention back to him, but to no avail.

“Why wouldn’t I?” Taylor said coldly. “Just because we’re both vamps, you don’t mean anything to me.”

The vampire reeled back as though she’d slapped him. He looked stunned.

“It doesn’t have to come to that,” Lance said quickly. “You’re trespassing but it’s not a terminal offense. You can leave now and we won’t hurt you. All you have to do is go away.”

Three long seconds passed during which the vampire observed Taylor with an intensity that didn’t seem to bother her, but that made Lance more than uncomfortable. What if he started talking too much? Should Lance stop him, then? Should he kill him? He’d never killed a vampire unless the vampire attacked first or there was clear, irrefutable proof that the vampire was a killer. If he attacked now…

Bitterness stung the back of his throat. Those three seconds seemed to last three hours.

“I will leave,” the vampire said at last. “But first tell me this. Did you deal with the vampire clan that squatted here recently?”

“Why would you care?” Ellie said, speaking for the first time. “Were they your clan?”

The vampire scoffed at that. “No, they really weren’t, but they had something of mine. Did you dispatch them all?”

“We did,” Ellie said curtly. “You have your answer, now go.”

But the vampire wasn’t done yet.

“Was one of them…” For the first time he hesitated. “Was one of them a child? Or was there a child with them?”

Forgetting the reason he already had to feel so wary, Lance could all but feel his spine turn to steel as the vampire clearly referenced James. From the corner of his eye, he could see Ellie stand up a little straighter, hold her head a little higher. Neither of them answered the vampire’s question as he waited, his eyes going from one to the other, but their body language must have answered for them because he asked in a dead-sounding voice, “Did you dispatch him too?”

Something pinged in Lance’s mind at hearing him use that word. It was usually Special Enforcers that called killing a vampire ‘dispatching.’ Had this vampire been around so many SEs that he’d picked up their slang?

“Why would you care if we did?” Ellie asked, and now there was anger in her voice—no, not anger, Lance realized. Outrage that she might be accused of dispatching a child.

“Did you?” the vampire insisted.

Rather than answering, Ellie recited the trespassing act.

“Per the state bill 104-5, any vampire found trespassing into a building which, by virtue of not being a human dwelling, does not possess a threshold, will be required to vacate the premises upon demand from the owner, the local authorities or Special Enforcers. Non compliance with such order will be sufficient grounds for execution.”

“You didn’t,” the vampire said, his eyes narrowing as he scrutinized Lance. “He’s still alive then. Where is he?”

“This is your last warning,” Ellie said loudly.

The vampire glanced at Taylor, then gave Lance a very pointed look before asking again, “Where is he?”

That look, too, was a warning. Answer me, or we’ll talk about something else altogether.

“He’s safe,” Lance said through gritted teeth. “Now leave. Please.”

To his immense surprise, the vampire did. His relief was greater still.


*


While the three of them turned to watch the vampire leave the building, Taylor met Ellie’s gaze on the other side of Lance, and she could read the same surprise in her eyes that she herself felt. Once the vampire had disappeared, they all started toward the exit as well, and Ellie asked, “We say please, now? I didn’t get that memo.”

Lance grunted.

“I just wanted to avoid a fight.”

“Three to one and you wanted to avoid a fight?” Taylor asked, incredulous.

“Yes. He’s gone. Case closed.”

Ellie seemed to accept that much, and started on her oft-repeated rant about how much easier their job would be if the owners of these old, unused warehouses simply locked them up better, or found them a new purpose. She received no response. Taylor was too busy observing Lance to get into the familiar conversation. Why did he look so troubled? Only one reason that she could figure out.

“Looks like he knows James,” she commented, keeping a close eye on his reactions. “What does a vampire want with a child?”

“Whatever it is,” Ellie answered when Lance remained silent, “I doubt it’s anything good.”

Still, Lance didn’t reply. They were back to the cars already, and Lance took the crossbow from Ellie before stashing both in the trunk. He barely even looked at Taylor when he murmured a weak, “Good night,” then climbed into the car. Ellie frowned at him then turned to Taylor, and something passed between them—the silent acknowledgment that something was off with Lance but neither of them knew what exactly. With a small shrug, Ellie opened her arms and hugged Taylor.

“I’m sorry he’s such a jerk,” she said. “Thank you for tonight.”

“Anytime. Take care now.”

Watching the car leave was strangely painful. It used to be that she’d be in there with them, and they’d spend the ride home chatting, teasing each other, or debriefing after a fight. She missed that. She missed them, her best friend and the first man she’d ever loved. She’d been missing them for months, but it had been even worse in the past few days—ever since they’d both started visiting her.

With a sigh, she shook her head and started for her car—Lance’s car—just a few yards away. She climbed in, setting her sword in its sheath on the passenger seat, and was about to turn on the engine when a knock on the window almost made her jump out of her skin. She looked and found the vampire behind the glass. He motioned for her with a finger, asking her to come out, then moved back to give her room to do so.

After a brief hesitation in which she considered simply leaving, curiosity got the best of her. That, and the strange feeling in the pit of her stomach. She hadn’t talked to any vampire since becoming one herself. She hadn’t felt any need or desire to. So why did she want to talk to him?

She took hers word with her she got out of the car, although the mere idea to use it on him made her a little queasy. She’d put up a good front earlier when confronting him, but she wasn’t sure she could have killed him then, or that she could do it now.

She stood in front of him, observing him as he observed her, waiting for him to tell her what he wanted. When he spoke, it was nothing she’d expected.

“How did you get hurt?” he asked gruffly.

She blinked in surprise. “What?”

He gestured vaguely toward her face.

“Your burns. How did that happen?”

“Oh.” She had to suppress the urge to touch the healing burns. They didn’t hurt much if at all anymore, and most of the time she forgot about them.

“Sunlight,” she said curtly, but somehow found herself adding, “It’s fine, it doesn’t hurt anymore, I…”

She trailed off, wondering why she even said that much.

“Why do you care?” she asked, suddenly feeling defensive.

The same frowning expression he’d given her inside the building returned to his features, confusing and bewilderment mixed into one.

“You really don’t remember, do you?” he asked slowly.

“Remember what? You? What do you mean? We’ve never met.”

But even as she said so, she couldn’t help but wonder why he did feel so familiar. She didn’t know his face, no, but there was something about him that called to her.

He shook his head.

“Never mind that. I heard you talking about James when you came out. Is he really all right? Did you people take him to the police or to children services?”

Like a moment earlier, something within her demanded that she answer his questions. She forced herself not to say a word.

“I don’t see how it’s any of your business,” was all she offered before starting to turn back to the car.

“Stop,” the vampire said, and to her own surprise, Taylor did.

“Turn around,” he demanded, and again she obeyed without as much as a thought.

When he asked, “Tell me what happened to James,” the words came out of her without her consent, flat but true. She could only watch from a corner of her mind as information was pulled from her, however much she tried to keep quiet. She suddenly realized the only thing it could mean, and, having finished telling him that James was living with Lance and Ellie, she blurted out, “You just thralled me! I wasn’t even looking at you when you did, how could you possibly…”

Her outrage faded into shock and she stared at him even as another lesson from the Academy resurfaced. Vampire thrall, the ability for a vampire to control their prey with just words, was strong on humans, but even stronger from Sire to Childe.

Understanding left Taylor reeling, and while she asked, “Are you… did you… make you a vampire?” she already knew the answer.

“Yes,” the vampire said simply. “You really don’t remember me? You were pretty out of it but I thought you’d seen my face.”

Flashes of her last moments as a human erupted in Taylor’s mind. A dark alley. Pain at the back of her head where she’d been struck from behind, pain at her neck. Lance’s wide, frightened eyes above her, his arms holding her tight. And then—

Unsteady, she took a couple of steps back until she could lay a hand on the car for support. She was breathing fast, and while half of her knew that was only a reflex, completely useless now, another part insisted that her heart should have been thundering in her chest. The vampire was watching her with mild concern, and that expression infuriated her more than anything. She managed to get a grip on herself and extended the sword in front of her toward the vampire’s throat.

“You killed me,” she said, the words like sandpaper as they passed her throat.

“Killed you?” the vampire repeated, nonplussed. “No, I didn’t. I found you after you’d already been drained. I saved you. Gave you a second chance to be with your boyfriend. You’d have died if I hadn’t made you a vampire. I know you were too out of it to agree, but your boyfriend said that was what you wanted.”

Once again, the world started wavering around Taylor. Her sword hand trembled so much that she lowered her weapon. Maybe she should have laughed in the vampire’s face at his claim, maybe she should have refused to believe him, but somehow his words felt right.

“Lance… Lance told you to turn me?”

“I offered,” he said slowly. “You were dying, I offered to do something about it, and he begged me to do it.”

More flashes of memory passed through Taylor’s mind, but none helped her much. She felt confused and disorientated as the past few months suddenly appeared in an entirely different light.

“I… I have to go,” she muttered.

Only one person could help her make sense of all this.

“Wait,” the vampire asked, and while he didn’t use thrall again, Taylor did stop and looked at him.

“Tell me more about James,” he requested. “Why didn’t they take him to the authorities? Was he hurt?”

“I don’t think so. I don’t know why they kept him.”

“What is the address?”

Later, she’d tell herself that refusing to answer would have been useless; he could have simply thralled her again and forced her to tell him anything he wanted, do anything he pleased. The truth, however, was that her mind was in shambles from the revelations about her siring, and it didn’t even occur to her not to answer.

Nodding at her in thanks, he reached into his pocket and pulled out something that he handed to her. It was a business card, she realized, but she didn’t reach for it.

“I don’t know the first thing about being a Sire,” he said. “My own wasn’t exactly a shining example. But I’ve realized in these past months that I shouldn’t have just left after I turned you. Regardless of how it happened, you’re my Childe and there’s a pull inside me that needs to make sure you’re okay. Please give me a call if you need anything?”

She didn’t reply, nor did she take card.

“Take it, please,” he demanded, the inescapable tones of thrall back in his voice. “Keep it. Call me if you need something.”

With a trembling hand, she took the card and shoved it in her pocket without looking at it. He nodded, smiling faintly, and stepped back as though to give her permission to leave. She climbed back into the car, and while she locked the door she realized how useless the gesture was. Her hand was clenched so tightly on the hilt of her sword that she had to made a conscious effort to release it.

Her entire body was shaking and she closed her eyes, uncaring that the vampire might still be outside, watching her fall apart. She understood now why Lance had always seemed so guilty in the past months, his eyes filled with it every time he looked at her. Not because of her death, not because he hadn’t been able to save her, but because of her rebirth and how he had asked for it—begged, her Sire had said, and somehow that part, too, was easy to believe.

They’d talked about it, years ago. All Special Enforcers did at some point. She’d told him she would rather die than be a vampire. He’d taken the same stance.

For months, with nothing more than disjointed threads of memory to help her, she’d thought that the same vampire who had drained her on her blood had also forced her to drink theirs and turned her. Reality, it seemed, had been rather different. And now that she knew, she could fathom even less than before why Lance had pulled away from her after making sure she’d live on as a vampire. It made no sense.

She needed to understand.

She thought briefly of calling him, but that wasn’t enough. Finally calm enough to drive, she opened her eyes. The vampire was gone, she saw, but it didn’t matter. With her mind blank save for her purpose, she drove back to town and to the home that used to be hers. Once there, she called Lance—something she hadn’t done since he’d broken up with her—and told him she was outside and needed to talk to him. He hesitated only briefly before saying he’d be out in a moment. She waited in the backyard on the swing, her knuckles bone white as she clutched the ropes. She didn’t know what she would say to him, but she had better figure it out because here he was, walking toward her.


to be continued...

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