Since the Slaughterhouse Rout, Daniel has nursed his abilities, but the decision he faces will change his life and those of everyone around him.
Whether the change is positive or not remains to be seen.
Cressida fears that history will repeat itself. Once before she lost everything she held dear, but after centuries of hiding she must face her past in order to
forge a new future. Has she waited too long and pushed Daniel away too well?
The darkness draws closer...
The crackle of firelight played over the features of the three women. They were so different—one small and dark-haired, perched in the high-back armchair she preferred. The redhead favored a boudoir chair, her legs crossed at her ankles and a book resting on her lap.
The third woman chose to be easy, and reclined in a new armchair after insisting it sit in the center of the room. She’d raised the footrest and pushed the back to recline so it cradled her body, as she twined her blonde strands idly.
Now that the nights were cooling, they had gathered in their chairs gazing at the fire, seeking warmth.
“You know, I never expected it to get to this point.” Jemima, the youngest of them, rubbed her eyes. “That we’d have to…interfere so much!”
“They don’t seem to be the most…organized group of people. But the prophecy is quite clear.” Selena settled more deeply into her comfortable reclining seat—one of the small modifications they’d made to their home through the passing millennia. Around her, the other two women groaned. She glanced at her sisters and gave a slight smile. “The prophecy has been the only thing that has given us hope over the years, sisters. Do not discount it.”
“We aren’t, but to be honest, after all these centuries and false starts, how can we be sure this time it will work? I mean, we’ve found one or the other but never has the second or third come forward with strong enough skills, at the right time. Together.”
“I know that, sister.” Selena rested her hand on her sister’s arm. “But we must be strong just a little longer. This time I’m sure—”
“Like before?” Selena smiled at Danicka’s prickly comment, aware that she needed time together with her sisters to recharge herself.
“Previously we couldn’t move so quickly. Most humans didn’t believe in vampires, or at least they considered them demons. It was imperative that we stayed hidden or we’d have ended up like the women in Salem. We all know how badly that went.” Nods around the room indicated understanding. “This time… It’s nothing like before. I feel it in my bones.”
“You’re sure?” Jemima sounded uncertain and Selena itched to bring forth a vision of how it would be. If only she could, but there were limitations to her powers.
“I remember last time we sat around the fire like this, and we each decided who our charges were. I knew back then.” Selena was sure they considered her words in the resulting silence. Looking for anything that seemed wrong. Seeking problems. Let them do so. That will only make our work stronger. Give us a greater chance of success.
“Let’s hope you are right then, Selena. Because we’ve done all we can. Now it is in your hands.” Jemima’s voice shook and Selena understood her concerns and fears. She too carried them, but if she let her worries take ascendency now, then the battle would be lost before it could be won.
“Take heart, my sisters. This time I feel the power that the three exude.” And she did—it washed over her—filled her with light and hope.
“I just hope that we can find him.” Jemima frowned, the creasing of her brow in stark contrast to her youthful features.
“Already done, my sisters.” They gaped at her and she smiled. “Why, Daniel is just about dripping with power. I’d never felt it before, but it occurs to me he needed something to help him unlock it. That battle in the animal house…the meat house… What did they call it?”
Danicka grimaced. “Slaughterhouse.”
“Yes. The explosion of magic coursed clear and strong after the skirmish. He’s aware of it and wants to learn how to harness it.” Selena tapped her finger against her pursed lips. “Now all we have to do is give his partner a push in the right direction.”
“Whoever she may be,” Danicka muttered.
“Yes, well, she’s proving more than a little difficult.”
Her sisters goggled. “You’ve seen…?”
The witch smiled widely. “Oh yes. I’ve foreseen them. Now if I could just snap my fingers and make it so…”
Selena reclined into the soft padding of her chair. If only I could make it so. But this time the human and vampire had to come together of their own choice. They had to be the ones to decide. No amount of pushing or prodding would work. After all, Cressida was too strong a personality to accept gentle nudges.
So Selena focused on the fire dancing in front of her, and as she did, her worries slipped away and sleep claimed her.
* * * *
Creedar’s slaves were gone and weariness assailed him. It had been days since his flight from the place of his warriors’ defeat. The trek through the wilderness had angered him while stealing the last reserves of his energy.
A light glimmered, shining through the gloom ahead. He cocked his head, listened and, hearing little in the way of humans, he headed in its direction. Dawn drew near and he’d need shelter very soon.
For the last few days he’d been a fugitive, slaking his thirst with the blood of animals. He’d survived, but blood of an animal wasn’t sufficient to sustain him for long.
He gagged, remembering the gamelike taste that had nauseated him. Not for the first time, he thought longingly of the cells, filled with humans, their veins pumping with life-sustaining and gloriously unspoiled blood. “There will be shelter ahead.”
Where there was artificial light, he knew he’d find humans. Sounds of engines had kept him hiding far longer than he’d wanted, but in this confusing age, caution had ensured he was still alive.
At the end of the settlement, he stilled. The structure’s walls were metallic and stank of age, human sweat and exertion. He hadn’t lived for so long that he’d forgotten the most basic of cautions. Creedar flattened himself against the wall, not for the first time cursing those who’d meddled with his plans.
A quick look within showed him there was only one person—one human. He smiled, inhaled deeply and let the slow pumping of the human heart fill his senses.
He thanked the stars that this building, in the middle of nowhere, seemed otherwise deserted. He had a choice—slake his thirst and leave the carcass behind, or take enough to sustain him and change the human.
His eyes narrowed as he chanced another glance around the corner of the doorway. He seemed healthy enough. Young and strong. In that instant, his decision was made.
On silent feet Creedar advanced, sneaking within the tiny ramshackle building.
The human never heard him.
The bite was quick. Efficient. Though the human struggled initially then Creedar felt his power surge, returning with a rush.
The final trembling heartbeat dragged his senses back. With a savage twist, he withdrew his fangs, then slashed his wrist.
Thrusting it to the human’s lips, he chanted, “Drink now! Drink deep and be one with me.”
The human, unable to ignore the thirst, fastened his mouth over the weeping gash in Creedar’s arm. He latched on and drew hard, like a babe suckling at the breast.
So the cycle began anew.