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Ryder’s Story: chapter 28

21 Jan

ok little note before i start, sorry for the delay in the end  of this little story, there is only a few chapters to go now  🙂  i’ll try to get them up soon, so here we go chapter 28….

 

Chapter twenty eight

1923, New York

 

 

“Ey, Boss word on the street is raids are happening tonight, you want me to tighten security and break out the fine china?” I looked up from the revenue reports I’d been reading and gave a small nod.

 

“Thank you Nik. When that is done return here, I have some things we need to go over,”

 

“Sure thing boss,” I leant back in my chair as the concealed door slid back in place and I was once again alone.  I looked around my underground office, at all of the pre prohibition bottles of alcohol lining the walls and smiled. I operated one of the few speak easy’s that still served the fine, non-poisonous variety of alcohol. After my many failures as a hunter, I had finally found something I was good at; breaking the law. What had originally started out as an underground saloon, was now New York’s hottest supernatural speak easy and thanks to the prohibition laws business was booming. We worked on the principle, no fangs, no claws, no service. Now don’t get me wrong we served humans, in many ways, on occasion as paying customers. For those in the know this place was perfectly safe, stumble upon it by mistake and, well, that was when things went bad. I kicked back in my seat and just relaxed. It was something I had the pleasure of doing these days and I took it. I had ‘boys’ to do my dirty work and ‘girls’ to get my intel. It was a time where alcohol and money equalled power and I was swimming in both. There was another knock at my door.  I flipped the lock by using the button under my desk. Few people knew my office stood behind that wall and only one other person knew where the latch was on the outside, but he had already left. Magenta walked in dressed in her usual flapper attire. Her short brown bob was styled perfectly and today her cloche held a single white feather that matched her white fringed dress. She sat on the edge on my desk, her hemline riding above the line of her white silk stockings. It was the age of women’s independence and I was all for it. I had known plenty of powerful women in my time, so if they wished to vote, smoke, drink and dance who was I to stop them?  She crossed her legs and gave me the smile that flappers were famous for. It promised sex, no strings attached. Except hers was a little more dangerous, on account of her fangs.

 

“Evening boss, I thought I’d check in before my shift, see if you, uh, needed anything from me,” she winked and I did my best to stop the smile I could feel forming on my lips. Magenta was the first vampire I’d met when I had arrived in New York. Being a local, she had contacts I could not have dreamed of but no money to fuel her overwhelming ambitions. We had come to an arrangement, she’d work for me and I’d provide for her. It was a small price to pay, she was a very valuable woman. She did all the things I had no head for, booking bands, controlling the working girls and managing bar stock.

 

“I’m fine, just keep a low profile, raids tonight, the last thing we need is trouble.”

 

“When have I ever caused you any trouble?” I decided not to respond to that and merely continued to watch her. “Anyway isn’t that what we pay protection money for?” she asked, I sighed.

“I refused to pay them,” she stared at me as if I’d said I fancied wearing a dress and dying my hair purple.

 

“Ryder have you gone insane?! Well… more so than usual?” I stood abruptly, my anger getting the better of me. My damned control had gotten worse the longer I lived.  New aged people might have said that it was because I repressed so much, but I knew the truth.

 

“Why would I need protection? I’m a vampire! I all but rule these streets and my body guard is a demi god! I need protection from no one, least of all a bunch of humans that have a fondness for threats and guns.”

 

“You have lost it. Oh, Ryder when the shit hits the fan and the brotherhood is breathing down your neck don’t come crying to me,” I laughed dryly.

 

“I should fear a fictional organization that was created by hunters to keep vampires in line?” I laughed out loud.

 

“They aren’t fictional, they are very real and they will come after you Ryder. I’m not hanging around if they do, consider yourself warned.” I fixed her with an impatient look but nodded.

“Duly noted,” I replied just as the door opened. Nik walked in looking frustrated. Magenta threw up her hands in anger.

 

“He knows where the secret door switch is!”  She snapped as I sat back down.

 

“That is because I trust Nik,” I replied simply as she glared at me. Nik leaned against the wall looking as sullen as usual and she glanced back and forth between us.

 

“You know sometimes I wonder what really goes on between you two. You are always together. You arrive together and leave together, are you two like…” she trailed off and both Nik and I gave a dry laugh. I did not dignify that with an answer and Nik looked to her.

 

“Hardly” he looked away his expression not changing in the slightest. His accent was so different from anything I’d ever heard before; though the man did hail from ancient Greece, so it was to be expected. “The boss isn’t my type,” Magenta’s jaw dropped and I knew Nik was only messing with her. Nik didn’t seem particularly interested in anyone; he wasn’t exactly someone you would call approachable. I’d met Nik probably thirty years back, purely by accident. He’d been facing a firing squad and I had almost let him. At that point I’d still had somewhat of a ‘good’ side and as soon as I’d passed, I had turned around to go back and help. He had said he was innocent, though his voice lacked conviction and he’d told them all exactly where they could go, I’d believed him. Little did I know that he hadn’t needed my assistance because he was truly immortal, or so he claimed. Never the less he’d been thankful and informed me that he owed me one. We now had a standing tally and frankly I don’t think we will ever be even. Despite that fact he now worked for me and he did in fact live with me as magenta had suggested.

 

“No shit!” Magenta exclaimed and a hint of a smile played out on his lips.

 

“Magenta,” I sighed

 

“No shit,” he agreed.

 

The two of them started bantering and I rubbed my temples. Neither of them knew how to leave well enough alone. Nik despite his hard arse, cocky exterior was incredibly loyal and a good friend. Though he had some trust issues. His father was supposedly Zeus, or so he had told me. He had been shunned when he was young because of what his people considered a ‘deformity’, though I would hardly call a scar that, even one that marred half of his face. His left eye was a milky white and he was totally blind on that side. The thick scar ran from his forehead, down his face and onto his chest. It marred the edge of his lip giving him a somewhat permanent scowl. Without it he would have been quite handsome, still could be if you caught his good side. Buzzed hair, that was either blonde or red, he always kept it too short to tell, and eyes (or should I say eye) a spectacular gold.  His skin was a rich golden colour even though it hardly ever saw the light of day and the two of us were of a very similar build, though he was a head taller than me. He was a very medicining looking man, and to top that off he could call storms to ravage the earth. Thunder and lightning was at his beck and call and often out of his control when he was mad. He gave a whole new meaning to being in a stormy mood. They had continued talking and I tuned in at the tail end of their conversation.

 

“And to think all I have been trying to do for months now is get in your pants,” Magenta actually pouted at him. Nik sent a questioning glance at me, one I was sure no one but me would have been able to see and I gave a small nod in response.

 

“Well why didn’t you just ask, if sex is all you want I have a break in ten minutes,” Nik replied flatly. Magenta’s eyes found mine before she smiled at Nik.

 

“Ain’t you going to say anything boss,” she purred. I shrugged and picked up my pen.

 

“Not in my bathrooms, they are only for paying customers,” I replied and set about taking notes from the reports in front of me. I actually heard Nik laugh and Magenta sighed.

 

“Lovely Ryder, you are such a charmer,” her voice was flat and I think I detected a note of hurt in it but I had been very clear our relationship was strictly professional. I’d had enough of romance, love and all those pointless things; I was done with them, for good.

 

“Sorry I was unaware that I was trying to be charming. I merely think it’s only fair if Nik gets a turn, everyone else already has,” she glared at me, as Nik stifled another laugh.

 

“Arrgh! You are such prick! You know I hope the brotherhood comes after you, until then why don’t you fill your head of security in on how you have been saving money on protection fees!” she snapped and stormed off, knocking Nik with her shoulder as she passed him.

“Boss?” I sighed again. I was going to have to tell him now because he would never let it go otherwise.

 

“I did not pay the protection fees,”

 

“Damn it Ryder!” he stepped forward and slammed his palms against my desk to get me to look up at him. Thunder cracked at the same time his hands hit the wood and rain viciously hammered against the roof in a sudden downpour. The sudden onset of a storm was not uncommon in our neighbourhood. His golden gaze darkened as the storm leached into his eyes. I got the distinct impression he was not a fan of my idea. “Do you have any idea the shit this will cause me and my guys! We are on the verge of war with the local mobsters as it is and don’t even get me started on the coven. They hate you and would do anything to see us wiped off the map. I have invested too much into this place to see it be taken down because of you and your pride!” I considered that for a second and decided I didn’t care it had been too long since I had been in a good fight. I was skilled in the ways of war, considering how many I’d fought in my time but it was unfair of me to drag others into one alongside me. Thunder rumbled low and long warning me of his simmering anger.  I pitied anyone on the street around the flower shop that served at our cover.

 

“I know, it is what I wanted.” I replied simply. Even if at the time I had not planned it, I had known that eventually my refusal to pay would lead to a fight. The rain falling against the roof slowed to a light patter and his shoulders sagged as he hung his head. When he looked up the storm was gone from his eyes and resolve washed out his features. He was going to stand with me, even if I had acted rashly and I was thankful for that.

 

“I just wish you would ask me before you declare war on the supernatural underground, I might have plans you know. I could not help the smile that came to my lips.

 

“I’m sorry. Nik are you to free to help me declare war, or do you have other more pressing matters to attend to,” he pretended to consider this and I indulged him. I knew his habits as well as my own because in truth most of the time they were one the same.

 

“Nothing I can’t reschedule, I guess, but next time a ‘hey Nik, planning on declaring war in the near future, clear your calendar.’ Would be nice, you know boss.”  His tone was light, well as light as Nik’s ever was and I nodded.

 

“Duly noted, I will try to remember that for next time.” He nodded in return and left my office. Neither of us truly believed there wouldn’t be a next time, because in my world, there always was.

 

I finished up what I was doing and headed out to help on the floor. Jazz filled the darkened space, while girls, working and other moved about the floor, in a dance that was still rather new at the time. I was pulled into the Charleston by a woman I had never met before and we danced alongside the other patrons. I flashed her some fang when it was over and gold filtered through her royal blue eyes as wings sprouted from her back in a shimmering mass. I smiled, giving her a small bow. New York had quite the fairy population but I had never had one grace my club before. I pulled her close to me again and whispered a warning before I walked away.

 

“I’d be careful with those fair one, New York is a dangerous place.” She laughed and smiled showing her rows of sharp pointed teeth before grabbing a shape shifter in an army uniform to dance with her. I had extended my hand in friendship to the fae in the city, in the hopes they would be able to offer me passage back to their realm. They claimed they couldn’t but that didn’t mean I did not still have an arrangement with them. A small amount of longing welled inside me for the place that had never truly been my home, regardless of how much I wished it were, but I pushed it away. That did not matter, not anymore.

 

I walked to the bar and took a seat nodding at Nik who disappeared into the shadows. The place was crowded tonight; we had been getting busier and busier every night. I let the music seep into to me and closed my eyes for a second. For the first time in a very long time I felt as if I had found where I belonged. I was still aware of the hunter’s actions, their movements throughout the world. They had grown into families, they were strong and their presence governed the supernatural beings of this modern world. I had created a monster, but without it, without them, the world would have fallen into disarray long ago. The demons flourished in this world, they hid and their presence grew in the shadows, not even the hunters could stop them. I had known they wouldn’t, Ryan had warned me, but still to this day I hadn’t the faintest clue what he expected me to do about it.

 

A ruckus in the ally outside the club drew my attention and caused me to open my eyes. Only a few beings in the club had the ability to hear to over the music, so thankfully it did not cause too much of a disruption. I got up from my stool and walked towards a side door, the voices growing louder as I made my way outside. Thunder rumbled in warning and I knew Nik had intervened.

 

“I didn’t come here to speak with his body guard,” growled a vampire as he faced off with Nik. He did not look anywhere as frightened as he should be. I stepped into the ally, a few curious patrons had followed me. I took Nik’s side and sighed. The vampire turned his gaze toward me and stepped forward. My hand shot out and I grasped his neck with a crushing force, narrowing my eyes as I lifted him off his feet. I had not lived as long as I had to be intimated by a fledgling with an inflated ego.

 

“That will be all Nik.” I said, my voice like ice. Nik stepped back but did not leave my side. I did not need his protection any more than he needed mine but we never let onto that fact often. Tonight, though, I planned on getting my hands dirty. “Now you listen here and listen well. I run these streets now, I will not bow nor will I relent. I catch anyone who has not sworn loyalty to me and my men, or anyone charging any of my people protection ever again and I will annihilate them and their families. I will crush all they hold dear and bring their entire world to ashes. I will burn this city to the ground and rebuild it as my empire. Go against me and you will die, this is the only warning I will extend, tell your boss to submit or die. I run this city now!” I growled my voice inhuman through my fangs. I dropped the fledgling and he stared at me in wide eyed shock. His gaze flicked over my shoulder and I knew what he saw. Assembled behind me were the various fractions of our world, all on my side. They had trusted me with their safety and I was going to win it back for them. Today it was these thugs, tomorrow the hunters. We would have free reign of our world once again I would be sure of it. The vampire was quick to flee, returning to its master. I was not foolish enough to think they would return with a white flag flying, but if they didn’t I would do as I promised, I have always been a man of my word. After all, I did run these streets, whether anyone liked it or not.  I turned to face the people who had put their trust in me and they did not look disappointed. The fairy I had danced with beamed and threw herself at me our mouths meeting rough and hard. She kissed me with the mischievous passion that only the fae could manage and I kissed her back. I was too caught up in the thrill of it all to resist the temptation of this alluring creature. Her wings were silk under my touch and felt like water as they slid through my fingers. I had always wondered what they would feel like. Nik cleared his throat, reminding me had had more pressing matters to attend to. I pulled my lips away but still held her close as we both caught our breath. Her bright eyes fixed on me and I whispered in her ear before planning a kiss on her check.  “Dance floor at midnight,” I breathed as I turned to follow Nik back into the club, we had a lot of planning to do if we were to win the war I had just declared.

 

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Ryder’s Story: Chapter Twenty Seven

9 Dec

Chapter Twenty Seven

 

I pulled on a pair of slacks and slipped a shirt over my shoulders on the way out the door. As per Jerry’s request I had not woken Christine, nor did I have a chance to grab any weapons. I tussled my too long hair and tucked what I could out of the way. I wished I had thought to grab my hat, which was foolish considering Jerry’s over all attitude, I was sure there were bigger things to worry about at present. All the lights throughout the ranch were off, except for a single light in the living room of the main house, which was strange in itself. The throes of morning were yet to take hold of the sky, making that one light seem almost blinding in the darkness all around us.  There was a strange white glow to it, nothing like the light of the gas lamps that I was used to.  Jeremiah kept quiet, refusing to talk or tell me more about what we were walking into.  Only saying that I should not worry, which was unhelpful as far as advice went. When one gets dragged from ones bed at all hours of the night, to meet with a stranger that has shown up unexpectedly at your home, it is a little difficult not to harbour a little concern regarding what is to come.  Jeremiah pushed open the door to let me in. I could hear no others in the house which was typical for the hunters but not for a stranger. I walked into the living room and was temporally blinded by the light. It dimmed and as my vision retuned I was surprised to see only a young boy. He stood, alone in the centre of the room and there was something very odd about him. At a glance he looked like any other boy. Ten maybe eleven but when you looked closer it become apparent that he most certainly was not a normal young man. Though his eyes were clearly a hazel green, the glare of the light that I now realised was coming from within the boy made his eyes look blue. Longish dark hair flashed blonde with the flickering of the burning light. It was almost as though I was seeing two distinct individuals in the one boy.  My eyes burnt just from looking at him and I stood as far away as the room would allow.  I was wary of getting to close to the circle of light surrounding the boy, I had a sense that it was far more dangerous than it seemed, almost like it would turn me to ash if I got too close. Unease settled over me as a sudden pressure erupted in my head. It was as though hundreds of voices were screaming at me to leave, yelling that I was an abomination to HIS name. I had only ever experienced such a feeling when I had stumbled onto hallowed ground.  Just as quickly the light went out completely, plunging the three of us into darkness. My eyes adjusted immediately, only to see the boy walking toward us. That unease I felt grew stronger and every cell in my body urged me to run. Being a predator by nature it was not something I experienced often but as I glanced at Jeremiah and saw the look of complete reverence on his face I knew I was the only one feeling uneasy. When I finally pulled myself together enough to speak, my voice came out much weaker than I wished it had. I tried, in vain, to exude a confidence I was not feeling but I knew my primal fear of this being was all too clear.

 

“Who are you?” I am loathe to admit that my voice held the slightest tremor. The boy smirked, his smile showed the confidence of a man much older than his appearance suggested.  With a straight back and the glint of blue eyes he answered.

 

“My name is Michael and I come bearing a warning,” his stopped and lifted his hands to grasp the bare skin on both mine and Jeremiah’s arms. Power coursed through me, forcing my head back, as the world around me fell away.

 

I was standing in a valley of fire. Screams sounded, like the calls of birds over the crackling of flames. Shots rang out and men dressed in armour the likes of which I had never seen grappled with black eyed beasts. Beings like the boy fired orbs of burning light from their hands, killing not only the beasts but also men who got caught in the crossfire during their own battles. The earth cracked and shook, as fire rained down from the heavens. Screams of terror, cries of sorrow and the booming report of guns unlike any I had yet to see. A man dressed in the type of clothes I would not see for many years to come, surged forward. At first glance I thought it was Jeremiah I was seeing, but this man bore scars and a weariness that not even Jeremiah carried. Standing behind him, was me, a blade that appeared to be made of glass, in each hand.  The group I was amongst charged, joining what looked certain to be a losing battle. The sensation of watching another version of myself fight was disconcerting to say the least.

 

“What is this?” I asked, my voice seeming to come from nowhere in particular. The ‘voice’ that responded was not truly a voice at all, it was more like a thought insinuating its way into of my mind but none the less I understood it as easily as if it were spoken aloud. There was an unearthly quality to it and I got the feeling that every living being on this planet would be able to understand it.

 

“This is the future Anthony. Your future,”

 

“How… what causes this?”

 

“It is the end of times, child. The holy war between angel and demon,”

 

“The Apocalypse?”

 

“Yes, Anthony this is hell on earth, this is what you will face one day. This is your future.”

 

“How do I stop it?” the image fell away and I was standing at hells gate, the one the Petersons and I had tried to keep protected. A man and a woman stood by it. Both were tall and brunette, though their appearance was not clear. I could feel the cold tendrils of evil escaping from them, filling the air inside the small space. These were not people, they were demons and I knew that what I was seeing was happening, now.

 

“There is no stopping it. It will happen. The day will come when the world will end, Anthony and you will be there to see it, but all is not lost, for it can be prevented, at least for now,”

 

“Then how do I do it. Tell me!” I sounded beyond desperate but I didn’t care.

 

“You do not, Anthony, though you will try and try you must,” frustration built up in me as I watched the demons summon forth what looked like smoke from the gate. They were freeing more demons.

 

“I do not understand; if I’m not meant to stop it, then why tell me? Why show me what is to come if I can do nothing to prevent it?”

 

“You will understand your role in time Anthony, you just needed to know,” the power that held me fell away and it felt as if I was dropped back into my own body. I recognised the muffled voices that broke through the blackness I had been left in.

 

“Jerry’s the same, what happened to them and what the hell caused these burns?” Edward asked.  “I don’t know” when Ryan spoke his voice sounded close by. My eyes fluttered open. Sunlight streamed bright through the window, everyone stood around looking toward where Jeremiah and I were crumpled. At least Jerry was in a chair. I sat up quickly, I felt Ryan’s steadying hands on my shoulder, but I paid him no mind. Where had that boy gone? Had I dreamed that?  The longer I sat there the hazier my memories became; it was like awakening from a dream. The more I thought about it, the more I was sure it had been just that, a dream. I did not remember much from last night, it was possible I had simply drunk too much and passed out. I tried desperately to recall the boy, the vision, anything after leaving the saloon last night but it was all a blur.  Confusion and a god awful headache set upon me in a vicious wave followed by a fierce bout of nausea. I shrugged off Ryan’s hold and laid back down. This was most certainly a hangover and since I had not had one in well over three hundred years, I knew I must have had quite the bender.  I did not recall drinking after I returned; nor did I know where I had gotten the alcohol from. One thing was clear. I needed to stop drinking. Hallucinations and black outs were something I had experienced whist drinking as a human but never as a vampire and the fact I could not recall a single thing worried me immensely. Perhaps I had a problem. That thought made my head hurt worse and I craved a little hair of the dog.  Everyone in the room was yelling, all at once or so it seemed. I squeezed my eyes shut against the too bright light and shushed them, loudly.

 

The room quieted and then someone laughed very loudly, close to my ear. There was a slight chance that the hunters were not in fact being overly loud, that it was simply my headache making it seem that way. I refused to believe that, they were torturing me on purpose. I needed more booze and my bed. Not necessarily in that order; I would happily take whatever I could get.

 

“Whiskey?” my voice was little more than a rasp in my throat. I barely recognised my own voice; if I wasn’t positive that I had just spoken, I would have sworn it was someone else.

 

“Yes, my friend that is what seems to have gotten you into this mess,” Ryan all but screamed at me. I groaned and covered my eyes with my forearm. A small part of me wanted to explain that he had misunderstood my meaning; mostly I was just content to lie there for the rest of eternity. Frankly, it sounded like a marvellous idea. I was dragged, rather unceremoniously to my feet with a series of grunts and groans. My head spinning so wildly that I was unable to help the two men lifting me all that much. I just needed a minute for it to pass, that was all. Edward and Ryan practically carried me to my bed, where I all but passed out again.

 

 

I would like to say that things got better in the days that followed, but it was not to be. It was as though with each passing hour my comrades found more and more reasons to find fault with me. At first I passed it off as paranoia on my part but I soon learned that it was very real. The more they judged me the more out of control I felt. The less control I had the harder I had to work to fake being normal. That on top of demon’s terrorising nearby towns and the very real knowledge that we were in way over our heads, was very stressful.  I was acutely aware that I was cracking. In the past when work would put a strain on my home life I would frequent a house of ill repute and get lost to oblivion. It seemed that lately the only time I was truly able to rest was when something, usually an evil magical being, rendered me unconscious. Though try as I might I could not achieve the same results I had following our wolf hunt.  The effect had been peaceful, besides a slight lingering sense of unease, I had felt perfectly normal within a few hours.

 

”Damn it Ryder! What is wrong with you?” Christine stalked into our room, clearly irritated. Despite the fact that I had not been able to get obliterated, I did have a healthy buzz going so at first her irritation barely bothered me. I lazily picked up my almost empty bottle, toasting her and then downing the remaining whiskey.

 

“I’m quite sure I do not know what you mean” I replied with a smirk. I knew that antagonising her was a bad idea but my impulse control had never been particularly good and of late it had become all but non-existent.

 

“You know damn well what I am talking about. Ryan and Jeremiah were relying on you to go with them today! Hell, I assumed that you would at least show your face sometime this morning. Considering you didn’t come home last night! I’m not even going to ask where you were; clearly you didn’t think I was important enough to know. I told you, you could trust me with anything and I believed you when you said you would. So, imagine my surprise when Kelly told me what you’ve been up to lately!” she spat the words, heat rising in her cheeks. I should have walked away. I should have let it go, but I could not.  Suddenly my mind was awash with all the painful memories I tried so hard to ignore, no matter how hard I tried to push down the waves of pain they caused, I just could not do it. Not anymore. My temper flared and I did my best to keep calm but my best was not good enough not anymore. It seemed I could no longer even fake control.

 

“So you take Kelly’s word over mine now! You really believe that I am cheating on you? That I would do that to you” I didn’t even try to hide the slightly manic edge my words had taken.

 

“Ryder….” I could not have stopped the snarl that left my lips, even if I had wanted to.

 

“You know very well why I go to those girls! You have known all along and yet now you throw it back in my face? Am I not enough for you? Is that what this is about is there someone els…”

 

“Don’t you dare question my loyalty to you! I have given you everything and yet you still choose to spend your time in those places. Last time I checked you didn’t need to feed daily and I’m pretty sure that you don’t need to drink a barrel of whiskey every damn night either! So answer me this. Why should I sit here and wait for you, huh? Wait while you’re out sucking on some working girl’s thigh!”

 

“Everything…huh. You have given me everything? Funny it must cost you so much to love me. You have to keep one little thing quiet and that is all. Do you forget what it costs me? Every day I struggle to maintain my control, control that I have less and less of each passing day! You think it is easy but you have no idea the sacrifices I have made. Just by being here I risk my life every day, to be with you. I am living amongst an army who have trained to kill things like me, damn it! Any one of the people that live here could easily kill me; you want to know how I know that? I know, because I trained them! I trained them to kill me and others like me, all because YOU asked me to! “I paused in my tirade. Christine was staring at me her expression defiant.

 

“That’s not true; I have made sacrifices for you. I gave up everything!  Even my brother has his own family now; I gave up that opportunity, for you. I gave you years of my life, years I cannot get back Ryder. Even you had what I never will, so don’t you dare say I never sacrificed anything for you!”  Her voice broke on the revelation and I just stared at her. I had offered her those years back. I could give her time, I could give her eternal youth and love, but I could not give her the one thing I had never known she wanted. It was clear to me in that moment that by staying I was ruining both of our lives. I was the only one that could fix this. My pain melted into rage and back again. The mix was too potent and far too real for me to form a response.  It was more than I could take. I marched to the door, pulling the damned thing open like I was ripping into an enemy.  I slammed it behind me; with so much force that the walls shook, giving me momentary satisfaction.

 

I headed toward the stables at a brisk, but human pace. Honestly it was much faster than I would have thought I’d be capable of but it seemed the fight had sobered me up more than a little. If Christine had let me be for a while, what happened next may never have occurred, but it was in her nature to fight for what she believed in. The saddest thing was I knew without a shadow of doubt that she believed in us, even after everything I put her through.

 

 

“Ryder. Ryder! Don’t you dare walk away from me” she screamed, her voice carried throughout the entire stable, spooking a number of the horses. They bucked and neighed wildly, their restlessness doing nothing to temper my anger. I had Charlie bridled by the time she reached me and I could no longer hold my tongue.

 

“But that is exactly what I should do! I love you. That is exactly why I have to do this!” I yelled, my voice caused chaos to erupt among the horses. Charlie pulled back against the reins, clearly startled but I paid him no mind.

 

“How will this help, huh? How will hurting me help me, Ryder?” I pulled on Charlie’s reins trying to get him to move from the stall but he resisted.

 

“Because maybe I have come to my senses, maybe I have realised it is a dangerous road we are on,”

 

“You’re an arse! When things get hard you run. You ran from the covenant as a boy. You ran from your duties as a knight, you told me that yourself! Now you’re running from me. It’s the same old pattern with you. You will have to stop running one day Ryder.” I did my best not to snap again; through I was very much on edge. I could not have this conversation while I was this mad. It would not end well. I snatched sharply on the reins, but this time I must have pulled too hard. In my irritation I had not though to temper my strength and the horse’s hooves slipped on the cobblestone beneath our feet.  Charlie crumbled to the ground at an odd angle, a sharp crack sounding just before he whinnied out in pain. I jumped back from my horse and stared at him as he lay on the ground, breathing hard and fast, his eyes rolling wildly. One front leg was twisted awkwardly and blood was flowing freely from a wound just below his knee. I knew without a doubt it was broken, it was not his only problem as I suspected he had also most likely injured his back in the fall. I knew enough about horses those types of injuries were serious. Without meaning to I had essentially killed my most faithful companion.  Christine gasped but my heart was still too full of rage to be shocked.  With a lump in my throat, I drew my gun and fired. The sound was deafening and all the horses cried out as if it had been them I had shot.  The gun shook in my hand, as I stared at the growing pool of blood around Charlie’s head.  My vision hazed with red. My jaw ached as my fangs elongated into position. I looked back to Christine; she gasped again and backed up a few steps. She had never truly seen my vampire side unless it was because of a magical influence. I knew I was scaring her but I did not have the control to spare her now.  I could almost feel the blue of my eyes was slowly darkening to an inky black, as the red haze filled more and more of my vision.

 

“This is why I must leave!  Everything thing I love dies Christine! I am a walking death sentence. It is my punishment for being the monster I am! I am a killer; I have taken people away from their loved ones. Now I am doomed to have anyone I care for taken from me, for the rest of eternity. I will not live to see your name added to that list!”  Christine said nothing but she had tears streaming down her cheeks. The doors to the stable burst open and Jeremiah came skidding to a halt in the doorway.

 

“What… the…” he trailed off as his trained eyes assessed the situation. His hand moved and I knew he had come to the correct assumption. Suddenly my vision was nothing but a wash of red. I acted without thinking, moving faster than I ever had and pinning Jeremiah to the cobblestone floor before he could reach whatever weapon he had being going for.  I met his gaze and the numbness I felt told me that what I saw in his eyes would have hurt me at another time. That it still might when this was over.  Hate. Cold, unrestrained hate.  The expression on his face, told me I was nothing more than a monster to him.  The man had been my best friend for years and in a single moment all of that was gone, wiped, as though it never existed in the first place.

 

“I should have known,” he growled, not an ounce of fear in his voice. I snarled. I felt nothing. No anger, no pain, no hurt, absolutely nothing. Never before had I experienced such a profound numbness. It was like instinct was all I had left. “Beast, you best kill me, because if you don’t I will not rest until I have head your severed head in my hands and watch it fall away to dust.  I will get revenge for my fallen brother, monster, you will not get away with taking him,” I laughed, the sound was strange even to my own ears. It was a cold laugh, dead, monstrous.

 

“There is nothing for you to avenge Jerry. I am just as I have always been.  The day we met, I had been planning to drain your beautiful Kelly dry. She would have let me, you know and I would have enjoyed it.” I felt a smile pull at the edges of my lips.

 

“No, you saved me, you… you bastard! All this time and… and you!” his eyes flicked toward Christine.  “You knew that this…this thing, was among us and you let it live. Ryan knows as well, doesn’t he? You were letting that little freak experiment on you.”  I grabbed his face and turned it back to me.

 

“You do not address her and do not call Ryan a freak.  Yes they both knew, but I compelled them to forget it unless I brought it up.  Ryan was trying to find a cure, but he failed.  You were my friend Jerry; for some unknown reason I liked you and it is for this reason and this reason only that I do not kill you now. Know this, if you hurt either of the Peterson’s,  I will kill you, it will be quick and you will never see it coming. This is your one and only warning.”

 

“I will come for you monster! I will find you and I will kill you, mark my words,” I bared my fangs, bringing my face closer to his.

 

“Then I will be waiting. Catch me if you can,” with that I took off. Leaving all that I owned behind and not saying goodbye. I never planned to return, of that much I was sure and at the time I felt nothing, no regret. It was better for them all this way.

 

 

Texas, 1886

 

Ryder,

 

I never blamed you for leaving, though as you can tell I knew one day you would come back. If you’re reading this it means that I left before you decided to return. My family and I have decided it is time to return to England. I was never one for the West and I’ll be glad to get home. Jeremiah went off the deep end when you left. He decided it was his divine duty to stop the demons we were hunting from opening the gates of hell. It wasn’t pretty, the fool went alone and well I guess you heard what happened. The demons almost won Ryder, the gate was almost open. Christine cast a binding spell using Jeremiah’s blood. We never actually thought it would work but it did, though not as we planned. The spell was given to us by one of my father’s contacts, it was much stronger than any of us expected and I suspect I met my first Nephilim, without even realising. Who knew Christine and I had more of our father in us than we had expected. The spell bound the gate to Jeremiah’s blood. It’s not permanent and that’s why I’m telling you. One day, two children will be born. They will be sibling and they will be direct descendants of Jeremiah. One girl and one boy. The boy will be a shadow of Jerry, it’s how you will know it’s starting. His blood will be the key that breaks the spell. The girl will have a hybrid child, hybrid what we don’t know, but it’s blood  will swing that gate wide open. We didn’t know what we were messing with Ryder, and we paid the price. The gate will open again my friend and I hope you see fit to stop it.

 

After that mess we disbanded. As you can see the ranch was abandoned and the community we built, crumbled. We looked for you, but we both knew that there was no finding you when you didn’t want to be found. I wrote down addresses on a piece of paper with this letter. The first is when you will find your belongings, assuming no one has found them first they will be in the wagon and the second is where you can find Christine. I don’t blame you, I never could and I hope we meet again.

 

 I will always think of you as a brother, forever.

 

Ryan

 

 

I folded the note and put it back in my pocket. The setting sun cast and orange glow over everything it touched. I sighed, trying my best to ignore the burning in my throat. I took the bunch of wild flowers I had picked and tied then together with a piece I had pipped of one of my shirts. My voice broke as I spoke.

 

“I told you something like this would happen. It always does. I guess there is nothing I can say now that would make you forgive me. I wish things could be different and I wish that I had been there the night you faced those demons. Maybe… huh wow,” my voice broke as tears stung my eyes. It was the first thing I had felt in months and I wished it wasn’t.  “I never stopped loving you, and I never will,” I laid the flowers under the headstone that read Christine Peterson 1845 – 1872.   I wished more than anything things could have been different.  I stood, fixing my hat and headed in the direction of the sunset.

 

   

Ryders Story: Chapter Twenty Six

24 Nov

Chapter Twenty Six

“Head in the fight Kingston!” I quickly ducked the claws of the werewolf Jeremiah and I had pinned to a wall and switched my focus back to our task. Not that it mattered; there was no way it was getting loose on my watch, even if I was distracted. It was strong beast, but thankfully it was ‘wounded’, so that made it containable. “Ryan anytime now boy” the two of us rammed the struggling creature harder into the wall, while Ryan approached with his specially designed silver syringe. We all knew one of two things was going to happen, the creature was either going to die, slowly from silver poisoning or he would become a man again. The cure had been very successful last time; the man lasted four whole days before he died. Though Ryan assured us that he had the mixture just right this time and he was almost certain that death was no longer going to be a ‘side effect’ of the cure. He stabbed the oversized syringe into the creature’s heart and it howled an ungodly sound and then went lax in our grip. Jeremiah and I let go and it toppled to the ground. No sooner than it hit the ground, I was shoved hard in the shoulders. I stumbled only a step before I turned, glaring at Jeremiah.

“What is your problem man!” he threw his hands up in exasperation, his cheeks were flushed and sweat dampened his brow just below his hat, even though the weather had cooled substantially of late.

“My problem at this very moment is you friend, so you’d best back off, before I make you.” I had to do my very best to keep my fangs hidden where they should be. Though the biting pain on the inside of my lower lip told me I was not doing a very good job.

“I’ll back off when I’m good and ready son,” he punctuated that statement by stepping further into my space, which was foolish but sadly he was unaware of just how foolish, though in my current mood that might change. My temper had been wearing thin of late; much more than usual and that seemed to put me at odds with most of my companions. Ryan was about the only one I was yet to lose it at but that was merely because he was so hard to get angry at. He was just so very reasonable and that was frustrating in itself but somehow it made me more annoyed at myself, than at him. My little mental breakdown a year back had opened my eyes to how mortal my friends were and that how easy it would be for me to lose any one of them. This revaluation might have led me to ask the woman I loved to give her life for me, so that I would not have to fear losing her. If she became what I was, I would have no need to worry, but she had not liked that idea. True, she was more than friendly about her refusal and I know how wrong of me it was to ask that of her but I honestly could not watch another person I loved die, not again. I was sick of death, I was sick of mortality and I was sick of the constant worry. Knowing that death is something that could only be forced upon me was turning out to be a bigger curse than what I had become. My last salvation had been ruined when Ryan had given up his pursuit for a cure. He had managed to find a way to stop the turning process if the remedy was administered quickly enough, but he had found no cure for vampirism.

The steady rise and fall of the wolf’s chest slowed and the soft thudding in his chest followed suit. In an attempt to be the bigger man, I decided to ignore Jerry and inform Ryan that his latest test subject had died.

“Odd, he’s still transformed, usually they change back,” he knelt down next to the body while I stepped away from Jeremiah, who was now doing what he was meant to be and keeping lookout. The metal of the silver stake was cold against my already cool skin as I palmed it. I told myself that I did what I did because I was trying to exhibit caution, but deep down I knew that was only partly true. Without another thought I rammed the stake into the werewolf’s heart. Though stakes were primarily for defence against my own kind the silver ones worked just as well on any kind of shape changing creature. Its eyes flew wide and a low whine escaped its lips. As the ‘dead’ wolf died, again. The huge form shrunk with a series of sicking cracks and in only a matter of minutes there laid the body of a boy, naked as the day he was born. He would have been no older than seventeen. Ryan uttered a curse then a prayer, as he closed the boy’s wide eyes. I stared at the body knowing I should feel something, regret, sorrow, guilt, but I felt nothing; even when I looked to the faces of my companions and saw all those emotions and many more. Sad to say that of late, I had turned to old demons to help me cope with things I just did not want to deal with. Though they did not work as well as they once had, they filled the void I could feel in my chest. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that with each passing day I was losing more and more of my humanity. From a hunter’s stand point, I’d known it would happen; I had seen many vampires in my time and had noticed that the older they were the less human they seemed. But I had merely assumed I would be immune to that, though it seemed I wasn’t. The only good thing I could take from it, was that I still cared that it was happening and that my increasing lack of compassion, kindness and general human decency bothered me even if I was not compelled to changed it. I knew that soon there would come a day when I would cease caring, when it would seem foolish to have even done so in the first place, but that day had not yet come and as much as knowing it would pained me, I was still glad it hadn’t for the time being.

“Was that necessary, he could have reverted with time, now how will I know if it worked.” Ryan pulled my stake from the boy’s chest and examined the blood on the tip for god knows what. He didn’t seem annoyed nor did his tone convey the emotion his eyes hid, he was completely clinical. The scent of the blood from the fresh wound made the back of my throat burn. He was dead, which meant that even if I had felt the need to go ravenous, I could not drink it anyway but the smell of fresh blood was proving too much, I turned on my heel and started walking away from them.

“I assume you will deal with the clean-up,” I called over my shoulder as I put distance between myself and them, I heard a number of varying responses but I paid them no mind. I just kept walking. There had to be a bar, or saloon somewhere in the hick town because I intended to quench my thirsts, both of them.

I wrapped my hand over the prostitute’s mouth in an effort to stop that infernal moaning. It made it feel too sleazy when they did that, to avoid pain and distress I had no other choice but to seduce them into an intoxicated loll. I took a long draw on my bottle of whiskey, relishing the burn that out matched the natural, unpleasant one. The skin under the tips of my fingers was smooth and warm; the woman in my lap was beautiful and remarkably sweet, considering her profession. Her skin was free of lines and blemishes that would come with time and her scent still held an innocence. She was new to this, so very new. Wisps of silky hair brushed my face, as it escaped its tie, in perfect brown ringlets. She was so soft, so sweet, so unlike what I was used to, which of course made her perfect. I shushed her as my lips met her throat. My fingers teased the soft pillows of her lips as they fell away from her mouth to ensure she was able to breathe sufficiently. I kissed the skin over the throbbing vein once, twice and deeper on the third; sucking at the skin a little so she wouldn’t find it odd when I did bite her. I let my elongated fangs graze the skin leaving scratches just deep enough to break the skin, but not enough to cause unpleasant pain. As soon as I was sure she had breathed in enough of the pheromone to dull her natural responses to a predator, I sank my fangs into her pale skin. Her back arched away from my body and the breasts that were already straining against the whale bone in her corset pushed into my hand. I brought my other arm across her stomach, careful not to tip out the overpriced whiskey in my hand. I let my other hand fall to her thigh which seemed to be just as bad with the way she was squirming and writhing in my hold. She wanted something I was not willing to give her, even though technically, I had paid for it. The urge did not last long and as I retracted my fangs and licked the area clean she fell all but limp in my arms. I laid her out on the bed and sufficiently rumpled my clothes for her mistress’s benefit. Not that it took much. I had lost my gun and my coat in a game of cards, which only confirmed my theory that I should not gamble whilst drinking and had already been in somewhat of a state from hunting when I had arrived. I took another long draw from the nearly empty bottle before reaching for my discarded hat. With a deep breath I dragged my nails down my face so deeply that I knew the scratches would not heal before I left. Just to be sure they didn’t, I pulled the holy water from my pocket and gave myself a facial cleansing. The water burned hotter than fire against the skin of my hands and face and I actually stumbled almost losing what was left of my drink. I now had a way to explain the blood on her dress if someone should ask and I would be sure that her madam saw my face before I left. I drank what was left of my whiskey while I waited for the effects of the holy water to wear off. They didn’t last long on skin which I was thankful for, it was just the initial pain that was got us. But on an open wound it would be days before it healed correctly. I paid the madam and assured her ‘I liked it rough’ just to cover my own tracks, the puncture wounds would heal within the hour and bruising on the neck was nothing new for a prostitute. I looked between the bar and the tables, then to my last tenner. Neither would bring me much more than temporary enjoyment and Nathaniel was already going to be onto me about the money I had wasted. I took a shot for the road and walked to the compound. I was mostly sober when I arrived, or should I say not nearly as drunk as I probably needed to be. I was met at the gate by an unlikely companion. Kelly stood, hands on her hips with an almost two year old Judas, playing in the dirt by her feet. Unlike his mother he smiled brightly when he saw me and stumbled forward to meet me. I scooped him up which was a mistake because I too stumbled in the process and a very angry Kelly snatched her son from my arms. The boy started to cry and she bounced him on her hip as I gave her a lazy smile. She did not return it.

“Who do you think you are Ryder Kingston? Running off in the middle of a hunt! Coming home hours later drunk and endangering my children. Quick frankly I’m sick of your attitude lately, we all are,” I rolled my eyes and moved to walk past her. “No. Don’t you walk away from me; I’m not done yet,”

“Kelly, go berate Jeremiah. What I do and how I act is none of your concern. You are not my wife,”

“And your damn well lucky that I’m not mister! Christine is a damned fool letting you carry on like you do. Oh and about that the two of you have been together since before I met you and you haven’t been man enough to make her your wife. For reasons unknown to me she loves you and you repay her by going out, getting drunk and sleeping with working girls. Don’t you even think of denying it, I was one, I know the look and girls talk Ryder. I have ears everywhere; it’s why I’m so good getting us information. I’ve heard things lately Ryder and I know you’re up to old tricks again, and hell I get it. You’re good looking and I’ve heard very good things about your skills in the bedroom. Hell, those few minutes we had together were damn near magical but it’s not going to last forever Ryder. Christine will wake up and realise she deserves better and you’ll be left with no one. Good looks and charm don’t last forever, one day you’ll wake up and everyone will be gone. You’ll be all alone and it will be too late to fix it. You get one shot at this Ryder, stop wasting yours,” her words cut deeper than I’m sure she intended to because they were true, totally true. Whether I changed or not, one day I would wake up to find myself all alone, missing people who are long gone, destined to watch everybody I love grow old and die. That thought alone was what had gotten me into the state I was but having it thrown in my face was more than I could handle. I like to think I wasn’t the type to go on a woman but I also wasn’t known for my pristine anger control and my temper snapped.

“And what makes you the damn expert on how I should live my life. Don’t you think I already know exactly what is going to happen? What do you think I see every time I reach the end of a whiskey bottle? You cannot see the future, no one can. But I have a pretty good idea what it’s going to be like. So what makes you think you know what is coming and what gives you the right throw it straight back in my face!?”

“I’ve seen it Ryder, a hundred times over. I know what happens to men like you. Life, it’s not kind Ryder and reality isn’t any kinder. I don’t want to see you end up like them Ryder. I know deep down you are a good man, you deserve better than what life has dealt you. But life doesn’t apologise if it gives us a shitty hand, it leaves it up to us to make the right calls. Don’t let people take those calls away from you Ryder but more importantly don’t take them from yourself.”

“You right life’s not fair and I did deserve better but my choice were taken from me long ago. I do the best I can with the hand I was dealt but sometimes that is not enough Kelly. Preach all you want about a better life but know it’s for nothing,”

“I’m only trying to help you Ryder!” I kept walking despite the fact that I knew she was following. “I have a feeling it didn’t though. Shit, Jerry!” I didn’t hear so much as sense Ryan fall into step with me. It was odd really; I always knew when he was around without even having any physical proof. I guess all those months I had spent drinking nothing but his blood has linked us in a way neither of us could have expected. I was not sure if he felt it but I had never mentioned it because I knew it would be the experiment of the century for him and I was done playing lab rat.

“I have this theory,”

“No,”

“I haven’t even told you what it is yet,” I knew he had stopped walking only because of the connection between us. I stopped as well a few metres from him and sighed.

“My answer is still no, Ryan. I’m sick of experiments, I’m sick of tests, I’m sick of theory’s and hypotheses and all those other things that you talk about, but most of all I’m sick of not understanding a word that comes out of your mouth. I assumed I would learn eventually but no, whenever you start talking I stare at you blankly and hope I do not miss the point. All while wanting to scream ‘SPEAK ENGLISH MAN!’ until you actually grasp the fact that I am not overly intelligent, a fact I only learnt when I met you, so no I do not care and I don’t want to hear it,” I took a deep breath, kind of shocked by what had actually come out of my mouth. The things I say astound even me sometimes. He blinked a few times then gave a small smile and pushed his glasses up his nose.

“Ah. You’ve been drinking, well we’ll talking the morning, when you want a hangover cure,” he said and I had to resist the urge to bare my fangs at him in a snarl that would have made his ancestor’s soil themselves. I ground my aching teeth and tapped my foot so hard and fast I was surprised the earth didn’t tremble. “Anyway, good evening Ryder,” I watched him walk away to ensure that he did in fact leave and prayed to whoever was listing that I would not run into any other hunters before I reached my room and began my grovelling. Thankfully when I reached the door it wasn’t locked and since it was only just past sundown I figured there was no chance I was going to wake her. Catching her in a good mood would only improve my chances, as would showing up at a decent hour; being sober might have helped as well but two out of three was not too bad. Christine and I had fought this morning, over her involvement in our current werewolf hunt. She insisted she go, I insisted she not and well the rest was mostly yelling and stubborn pride. She had vowed to never forgive me when I’d left this morning but she’d had twelve hours to cool down, so I figured with a little grovelling and promises that I honestly did not intend to keep, I would be able to sleep in my own bed tonight as opposed to the stables.

I walked in to find Christine polishing one of my silver swords. Though that could be taken out of context if repeated, the action was a strange one. It was true I believed in maintaining one’s weapons but Christine was not a sword person. She said they were brutish and old fashioned, which made them my ideal weapon. Yes, my girl was a real charmer. She was more partial to daggers and throwing knives for hand to hand. There were two ways I could go about this and either had the potential to go horribly wrong. I could bring up the sword polishing to break the ice or I could start with an apology. I knew which one would probably be better.

“When I asked if you would polish my sword, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind,” yes, I know, I think it has been well and truly established that I never listen to myself. She looked up and my two hundred year old sword clattered to the floor. I reached out instinctively but it was of course too late. Trying to hide that extremely obvious move, I gave a small wave before stepping further into the room. As soon as her gaze met mine, the temperature in the room dropped ten degrees.

“Why did you run out of Jerry and Ryan?” I stared at her dumbfounded I had not expected that to be the first thing she asked. I spoke without hesitation. Since she knew my true nature, I did not have to lie. It was one of the few things that would never change.

“I had to,” my voice was pathetic, even to my own ears but thankfully Christine seemed to mad to notice.

“You had to? What was so important that it couldn’t wait?” I sighed knowing the truth would come out eventually. You would think after all these years the fact that I was a vampire would have gotten easier to handle when it came to the two of us but it hadn’t and as well-adjusted as Christine tried to be she was only human, it was something that she would never understand.

“Blood lust, love. Love that is what couldn’t wait. It is not something I can politely ask to hold off until I’m ready to deal with it. It comes on when it does and it has to be sated. I was seconds away from draining a dead werewolf in front of Ryan and Jeremiah and we all know what happens to vampires that ingest dead blood. Not to mention that fact that I very well might have turned on them. To quote your brother, I left to deal with a biological need,” she just stared at me like I had told her I’d gone off to boil kittens, though biting the neck of a prostitute is not exactly that much better.

“Ryder you know you can talk to me, right? I know I said to never speak to me again this morning, but if there is something going on with you, you can talk to me.” her voice was gentler than it had been in weeks and I honestly couldn’t respond. How could I tell the woman I loved that I was losing control, that the thought of spending eternity alone was turning me into a monster. I couldn’t, because even if deep down I knew it to be true, I was not ready to admit it, especially not to her. “Ryder?”

“I’m fine love; I’m just tired that’s all. It takes a great deal of effort to maintain the level of control I do. I just need a little time to recharge my batteries. I promise I will keep it civil and I’ll try not to run out on anymore hunts unless it is absolutely necessary. Okay?”

“No, you do what you need to Ryder. Run if you have to I’ll always be waiting when you get back,” I had to close my eyes against the stinging in them. It took all I had to stay upright as the crushing weigh of reality settled on my shoulders. I was not sure how long I could do this, but I wasn’t positive I could walk away, not again. I took a few quick steps forward and took her into my arms. She didn’t resist me in the slightest. I felt her fingers grasping at the shirt over my shoulder blades and her head came to rest on my shoulder. There was desperation in her actions and that did nothing to ease my sense of impending doom. It seemed I was not the only one who knew what was coming.
As was the case most nights I held her as she slept. Christine suffered with terrible night terrors. When I was younger the nuns in the orphanage told us that night terrors were caused by demons stealing our good memories while we slept. Though I now knew better; even back then I knew that it couldn’t be possible. One would first need good memories for the demons to take. But every night as I watched Christine’s silent screams, I knew the demons she faced in her dreams were quite real. It was yet another peril of the life we had chosen to lead. A soft knocking at the door drew my attention. It was well past three in the morning. All the children on the ranch were tucked into their beds and all their parents should have well and truly retired by now. Usually I was the only one ‘awake’ at this hour, so the knock at my door could only mean one thing. Trouble. I untangled myself with practiced ease and Christine did little but stir, as she curled back into the blankets that filled my absence. I had the distinct impression that they would be just slightly warmer than I though. In nothing but my undergarments I crept my way to the door and opened it just enough to see out. Jeremiah was standing there fully dressed, armed and ready for a fight. He looked up and what I saw in his eyes told me all I needed to know; absolute terror.

“Ryder we have a visitor. I think you are going to want to meet them.”

Ryder’s Story: Chapter Twenty Five

17 Nov

Chapter twenty five

 

I tackled Dwight; the two of us hit the ground hard. When I looked up again the air around us was filled with black, blue and purple smoke. I helped Dwight to his feet and we stood silently, staring around at the carnage, we were not the only ones. Most of the town had come running and they were all staring at the crumbled remains of the barricade. I broke the silence when I whistled for Mutt, fearing the worst for my canine companion. His response was a low growl, as he bolted to my side and crouched on his haunches, staring at the huge Zombie horde that stood motionless in place of the town’s barricade. As the smoke cleared the sheer size of the group became clear, there must have been a couple of hundred of the creatures standing motionless among the carnage. Floating above them on a glowing cloud of dark magic was a man whom I could only assume was the Shadow Man. He was dark skinned and his clothes were primitive. He had small bones acting as piercings in various parts of his face and his hair was long and tied in many small braids. His teeth were straight and white; the smile he wore was one of pure malice. Ryan and Cassadee had emerged from the gaol, behind me and I could see Christine and the witch by the doctor’s office. Alexander’s huge form stood out from the crowd that was gathered, many townsfolk almost cowering behind him, he was armed and ready. Dwight was brandishing his shotgun and Christine appeared to have my sword. Even Ryan and Cassadee were prepared with a set of six shooters that would probably be of little use among this crowd. Thankfully, I had been paranoid enough to keep the Fairy prince’s dagger on me; I drew it from its sheath and fell into a fighting stance.  We were unprepared but we all knew our roles, we had discussed them and yes this would take some improvising but this was our only shot. God help us if we botched it. The eerie silence was broken by a menacing laugh as the Shadow Man’s dark eyes were fixed intently on mine.  One shot.

 

“I hear that you were looking for me fair one,” his accent was thick, thicker even than the witch’s, almost making it difficult to understand his words. Though thanks to magical assistance, he could have been speaking another language and I still would have been able to figure it out. His question was clearly directed to me, so I stepped up to play my part. This was going to hurt, I was sure of it. I shot a quick look to Christine, I wish it had been one of love, because if I made a blunder there was a good chance that the group of zombies would tear me limb from limb but I had to make sure that she was with me on this, thankfully she was.

 

“Indeed I was Shadow Man. I am Ryder Kingston, and I think it is time the two of us talked about these creatures you have summoned,”

 

“Talk? Ha!” his laugh seemed to echo in the chilling silence. Each of his words seemed to float around me; lulling the fire to fight within me. The feeling worried me and I feared that the knife would not be enough to stop him from using me as a weapon. I pushed away that doubt, it was something we had planned for; I was not afraid to die and would willingly do so before allowing myself to be used like that again. True to my nature I decided to forgo the talking but sadly it seemed the Shadow Man had the same idea I did. I threw off my coat and charged. The zombies went wild spilling into the town centre, whilst the Shadow Man calmly floated where he was. That was bad; he needed to be down on our level. I could probably pull off the mid-air fighting, but I would be the only one, even then it would not be for long. Doing the only thing I could think of, I leaped into the air. I would just have to take the fight to him. Landing unsteadily on the shoulder of a Zombie I ran, now when I say ran, I actually mean I moved at a sort of, stumbling hop. It was not as easy as I assumed to do but thankfully the spontaneity of the move seemed to take him by surprise. My tackle was weak by my standards, but being stronger than your average human man we went down, harder than necessary. The creatures parted as we hit the ground, keeping a good distance from us as I attempted to pin him. Really, I should have seen it coming, but before I knew what hit me, I was flying through the air, in agonizing pain. I hit what was left of the barricade, hard and was immediately surrounded by zombies; they proceeded to attack, ripping flesh from my bones. I had no idea how I was going to explain that away, if I survived that is. Suddenly all the biting stopped and the rotting, stinking corpses, that were only a few seconds ago eating my face, backed away. The deep menacing laugh sounded close by. It was then I realised I had curled into the foetal position, with a groan I straightened. Oh damn, that was so going to hurt in the morning. I dragged myself to my feet to find the zombies studiously ignoring me in favour of mauling the townsfolk.  On the downside of that, I was now standing face to face with the Shadow Man, which undoubtedly meant more pain for me, long drawn out pain and suffering, thanks to vampiric resilience. Pain not pending, I had done my part keeping the Shadow Man thoroughly distracted, breaking every bone in my body, repeatedly. As if on cue I went flying again. This time I didn’t even try to pick myself up, he so generously decided to do it for me, grabbing me by the throat and lifting me up off the ground. Choking, even though I did not even need to breathe, I clawed at his hands. I’m not usually one to panic but when I felt the cold bite of his magic trying it’s damnedest to overtake my mind, I might have indulged, just a little.

 

“I do not know how you block my magic old one but know I can feel it slowly working its way past whatever defences you have.” The sting of his magic was cold, not at all like the burn I had felt so many times before and he was right, I could feel it snaking it was into my body. “I have already managed to stop you from healing, but it seems for now that will have to do.”

 

“Wow” my voice was little more than a breathy grunt, as I pulled my head back and head butted him. I had little hope that it would work but much to my surprise he dropped me and stumbled back. The creatures stopped attacking, appearing dazed. He clearly wasn’t expecting that either. Everyone took advantage of the momentary lull, while I used it to take stock of the injuries that weren’t healing. I had a few vital chunks missing, the majority of my right calf and a good portion of my shoulder. Not fatal by any means but they would slow me down immensely, I rolled my good shoulder to ensure that it was still working properly  and waited for the Shadow Man to right himself. “That’s a grand old trick that but sadly you are dealing with a masochist friend, so bring it on, in fact I insist” I growled. He snarled at me as he straightened, his teeth bared as if he intended to use them. I had the vague notion that it was an odd thing for a human to do but the thought was fleeting, as among the fray I saw Ryan brandishing my sword. That was not part of the plan; he was not meant to have it. I watched him cut down creature after creature on his path toward us. No, this wasn’t right, the Shadow Man was not weakened yet, Ryan stood no chance if he was to face him. I looked around, which in hind sight was rather foolish and noticed a few things at once. The first was Christine and Daphne, who were quickly making their way toward the clearing the two us stood in. The second was that Dwight was also closing fast, a foolishly determined expression on his face. The final thing took me by complete surprise. Once again I was knocked flying but in the midst of my most recent in air venture, I was left wondering what it was lunging at the throat of Shadow Man. The following series of events happened in only a few seconds but as I hit the ground and scrambled to right myself, I could do little but scream. Mutt, my loyal faithful dog latched onto the Shadow Man’s shoulder with a savage growl, I focused on that sound, it seemed to be the only thing I could hear. The Shadow Man blanched, cried out and took hold of my animal ripping him away. His grasped poor Mutt by the throat and even over the deafening sounds of battle, the only thing I could hear as the Shadow Man broke my dog’s neck, was his final strangled yelp. It was like watching part of me being taken from myself and the pain I felt was almost that of losing a child. I fell to my knees staring at the body of the most faithful friend I had ever had. A scream ripped from my throat, I have no idea what I yelled or if I had said any words at all but I didn’t care. All I could see was my dog’s body lying still by the Shadow Man’s feet. I lunged to my feet, blinded by rage. Kill. It was the single word that my mind could offer and I flipped into full vampire mode without even realising. My fangs punched into my mouth, tearing at my lips and puncturing my gums as I ground my teeth. My hand clawed but did not morph as they had when I had been high on elven blood. I was crouched, like an animal ready to attack. A roar ripped from my throat and I advanced, only to be once again stopped in my tracks. Time was still at a crawl and I saw it all happening, as though in slow motion almost before it transpired.  Dwight was driving a knife in an arc toward the Shadow Man, who was slowly turning toward him hand at the ready. Daphne was suspended in the air diving for Dwight trying to intercept the Shadow Man’s imminent attack. Behind them, coming from different sides through the slowly snapping creatures Ryan and Christine moved a full run clearly wanting to stop what was transpiring. As if it was a band that had been pulled too tight time seemed to go into hyper drive to make amends for the suspended state of the last few moments. I threw out an arm but as fast as I was there was no stopping what I knew would happen.  The Shadow Man whirled and drove a hand straight into Daphne’s chest cavity, just as the force of her body sent Dwight to the ground.  Her eyes widened in shock and she stared down at the hand that was no doubt at this very moment clasping her heart. She threw her head back in a silent scream and light, as silver as the reflection of the moon on a clear lake, exploded from her enveloping first her and the Shadow Man, then the rest of us. The magic forced me to knees, my fangs sliding away and my body submitting to it’s command. As suddenly as it had started it ceased and I lifted my head to see Ryan standing behind the pair, my blessed silver broad sword driven right through both bodies. The Shadow Man looked stunned for a second but that was all he got because Ryan ripped the sword free before swinging it in a mighty arc removing his head at the shoulders in a bloody spray.  Both bodies crumpled to the ground. Dwight crawled slowly toward Daphne, pulling her bloody corpse into his arms. I grew weaker and weaker with every second as I looked around at the now lifeless corpses that littered the ground. Her final act on this earth was to do as she had promised, to help us defeat the Shadow Man; maybe I had been wrong about her all along. I heard Ryan and Christine’s voices, though they sounded as if they were far off in the distance but I knew as soon as one of them took a knee beside me and draped a coat over the worst of my injuries that it was me who was far away. The final thing I saw before the magic took me was Jeremiah and Edward leaping off their panting horses and moving toward us at a dead run.

 

As usually happened, I awoke sometime later, feeling dazed and not at all connected to my body. That of course was not unusual after I had been hit with a necromancer’s magic. Something I was having far too much experience with, that’s was for sure. It took a few tries to regain enough control to reach down to find the furry head of… I froze my hand hovering above my own thigh as my memory kicked in. I bolted upright and looked toward the end of the cot, only to find it empty. Knowing it was foolish I checked the floor beside me only to find that barren as well, with the exception of my boots.  No! It could not be true, it just couldn’t. I was not ready for this, not yet. My eyes searched the room blindly, seeking something I knew I wouldn’t find.  All the energy I had had fell away and I slumped into myself, my head falling into my hands. My chest ached in an all too familiar way. I registered a female voice but it was as if I was surrounded by a haze. Centuries of heartache and loss a mere inch from the surface, threatening to break free; threatening to break me.  Gentle hands fell onto my shoulders. First the right, then the left and I didn’t push them away. Nor did I acknowledge them in the slightest. I was too busy trying to hold together the mess that was my mind. I had lost so much over the years; hurt so many, done so much I regretted. The only way I was able to get through each day was by pushing it all down locking it away, in a place I never needed to go. I was not equipped to handle the emotion I had hidden for so long; last time my dam had burst I had slipped into to insanity and had only regained it because I had been compelled to do so. As the soft touch turned into an embrace all my years of loss, all the pain I had ever felt, all the heartbreak I had ever experienced, everything burst to the fore front of my mind. Blood red tears slipped from my eyes, the silent sorrow soon progressed into body wracking sobs. All because someone had killed my first love, because someone had slaughtered my wife and children, because someone had ripped me from the one place I could have been truly happy and finally because someone had killed my dog.

 

By the time the others were ready to start the trek back to Nathanial’s ranch, I was feeling at least semi sane, the pain was still there but it think I was doing well hiding it, for the most part anyway. A couple of new companions accompanied us back to the ranch. It seemed Dwight had decided to take me up on my offer to join our campaign and Cassadee decided that she couldn’t allow her brother to pursue such a thing without her. In actual fact I think her decision had more to do with a certain tall, blonde doctor than anything else. Said doctor was equally agreeable with the plan and I was glad Ryan had finally found someone that could not only handle his quirks but embraced them. Life continued as usual for us and so began the hunting families of the modern day.  Nine months later our young Ryan found himself a father to a beautiful baby boy, a surprise we all welcomed. Everything was going well, though my relationship with Jeremiah was becoming strained. He seemed suspicious; comments about my appearance once made in jest were now starting to resemble accusations and to top it off it appeared that the Old West was rather rapidly developing a demon problem.

 

Ryder’s Story: Chapter Twenty Four

1 Nov

Chapter Twenty Four

 

The red headed man rushed up to us as we exited the building. We had been introduced but I could not remember his name, not that it bothered me. He looked to the witch’s face, then to my hand on her arm. “Daphne, what are you doing here?” he asked, confusion in his voice.

 

“Where is the gaol?’ I demanded, meeting his hard stare; he pointed toward another building and without a word I shoved Daphne toward it; she stumbled but stayed on her feet. He followed which was irritating, but there was nothing I could do about that. It wasn’t difficult to find the cell Cassadee was in, the three of us stopped just outside. She was lying on the cement floor, shaking uncontrollably. The bite on her arm was a mess; the skin had started to rot and infection streamed from the gash. Her skin was tinged grey and slick with sweat; she looked as though she’d caught the plague. She moaned the sound fading to a pained whimper. If it wasn’t for the fact I could hear her heart beating, I would have already thought she had become one of those things. “Unlock the door!” I ordered the red headed man. He stood frozen, staring at the poor girl lying on the floor and stammered something unintelligible which only served to increase my irritation. “Do it. Now!”  He man jumped, startled by my outburst. Daphne put her hand on the man’s arm as he stared at me wide eyed.

 

“It’s ok Dwight, open it,” he nodded and pulled a ring of keys from his pocket. Despite the momentary lapse, I got the impression that Dwight was in charge around here. He opened the door and Daphne walked in. She knelt beside Cassadee and the sounds she made showed how unsure she was. She looked to me and I’m sure my expression told her what was going to happen if she didn’t heal the poor girl. “I cannot promise this will work, it is not what I am good at,”

 

“Try” I snapped, crossing my arms over my chest. I knew exactly what she was good at, I had firsthand experience. She took a deep breath and the hum of magic filled the room, along with that fiery scent that most magic had. This was some kind of protection magic that much I was sure of; it did not feel all-consuming or evil and I could only assume that was a good sign. Daphne laid a hand on the other woman’s body, she shuddered and Cassadee started to convulse. Dwight rushed into the cell; he had tears in his eyes as he begged her not to turn into one of those things. She finally stilled and Daphne looked toward me.

 

“It’s done,” out of nowhere Dwight threw his arms around Daphne, thanking the heavens and her. He glanced at me, nodding his thanks. It was curious; clearly the pair had some kind of relationship other than mere acquaintances. I unfolded my arms; now that it was done I felt the intimidation routine may have been unjustified. True one of the women in front of me was capable of taking away my free will but, anger aside I wanted to believe Christine when she said it was a miss understanding.

 

I left them to their hugging and praying and walked outside. Mutt met me by the door and I leant down to pat his head. Ryan was leaning against the doctor’s office, a cigarette hanging lit from his mouth. Christine stood in front of him a hand on his shoulder. Looking at the siblings you would automatically assume they were twins, though Ryan was taller; he was in fact two years younger than his ‘little sister’ as he called her. The pair looked remarkably similar. I had always seen them as an unbreakable force, if you messed with one you faced the other’s wrath and somehow, over time, I had entered that equation. Both, despite what I was, the pair had shown me nothing but undying loyalty, a loyalty that I would return in an instant. The two had become family and that thought made me smile; it had been so long since I’d had family. I walked toward them slowly, not wanting to surprise them, since they seemed deep in conversation. Christine looked up; her worried eyes met mine across the distance. Mutt let out a low growl, at my side; then a hand wrapped around my bicep and I was spun around, to face an unfeasibly big man. I had to look up to meet his gun metal grey eyes. His dark hair, which was a similar length to my own, was hidden by a bowler hat and he had on what I would describe as a poor man’s suit. The jacket and pants were made of cheap material and the waistcoat some kind of hide. The width of his shoulders was almost double that of my own and he was muscular, though at the same time hefty, his large stomach straining the buttons on the hide vest. His face was hard, though it might have been considered handsome under different circumstances. I found myself actually taking a step back from the giant of a man; which was absurd, but frankly unavoidable. He stared down at me; I could not help but think he seemed familiar, though I could not recall ever meeting the man before.

 

“Afternoon good sir,” I said, halting my retreat. I hated how unsure my voice sounded but, it seemed, even a vampire could be intimidated by sheer size. His stare didn’t change and when he spoke his voice was strangely, friendly.

 

“Y’all are the monster hunters my father sent?” he glanced over my shoulder, so I did the same. I caught a glimpse of Christine behind me and I could only guess Ryan stood off to my other side. My guess was confirmed when Ryan spoke, his deep voice taking on the hard edge he used when he felt threatened.

 

“You must be Alexander. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” Ryan stepped forward and held out a hand. I was starting to think the man had no self-preservation instincts at all. The other man took his hand and much to my surprise he didn’t crush it in his huge palm as part of me had expected.  I could see the resemblance to his father now that I knew what the familiarity was and I wondered idly why this was the first time we were meeting. To avoid looking like the coward that I was inevitably being I held out my hand, after he released Ryan’s and introduced myself. Christine was next, when he bent at the waist and kissed the back of her hand, a small part of me wanted to rips his head off for daring to lay his lips on my Christine. Alas, as usual my more rational side informed me how tedious a task that would be, but I guess more importantly that it would not be considered a normal reaction.  He spoke quickly, telling another tale of how things had transpired and how he, being the mayor had to do what was best for his town and had put up the barricade. Dwight, whom I had assumed was in charge around here, was merely the sheriff and I had to respect the man’s sense of duty. When he was done talking, he left and it was Christine’s turn to drag me away, by the arm. Ryan followed behind us in silence. That dark haunted look was still washing his features out. I hated to see it, as far as I knew the woman would be fine and as soon as I was sure of that, I would get the information I needed to put an end to this plague.

 

I waited, watching Christine. I knew she was going to have something to say about me going all alpha vampire on the witch but I had no choice, I had to ensure she would do as I wanted. Asking nicely would have gotten me nowhere!  Moaning, groaning, growling and grunting filled the air, it was a strange ambient noise that was rather easy to get used to. It was also a good indicator that we hadn’t gotten all of the zombies, there were still more and as long as they were around they would keep multiplying.

 

“I’m not ok with how you handled that situation, but I know what you did, you did for my brother so as much as I want to be mad about it, I can’t. I said the same thing to him; I can’t really believe I had to. We are hunters, not barbarians. We fix our problems civilly. We do not set dangerous magical creatures loose on people and we do not use our supernatural powers to intimidate people who have already agreed to help us. I understand your frustration but what you didn’t know was the south has a very big vampire problem; Daphne thought we were with them. They refused to help and there are only a handful of people with Daphne’s kind of magic. Daphne told me of a shadow man who lives in the swamp; he alone has the power to cook something like this up. He uses a magic I’m not familiar with, Voodoo I think she said it was called but that doesn’t matter, she also told me that if we can get her close enough to this shadow man she can block his magic with her own. It will be a very small window and we will only get the one shot at this. Daphne will need a day or so to recover from healing Cassadee, the barricade is holding steady and the influx of those creatures is slow thanks to our cull, all we need to do for now is hold down the fort, the rest just needs time,”  I nodded

 

“Excuse me? one of you is a doctor correct? We need you to treat Cas” Dwight’s voice cut off my response. I was starting to tire of magically enhanced humans, I’d never been overly fond of surprises and these ones in particular just seem to enjoy sneaking up on me.

 

“Yes I am,” Ryan replied, stomping out the half smoked hand rolled. I stared at him. I happened to think that him being alone with the woman that just hours ago he tried to kill, was a notoriously bad idea. But voicing my doubts meant I would have to admit to the assembled group what he had done and the reason behind it; which would make his initial actions redundant. So I kept quiet; as much as I wanted to I couldn’t honestly say Ryan wouldn’t hurt her further. Ryan never really did do what was expected. I was going to have to keep an eye on him, preferably without him knowing, less messy that way. My gaze followed Ryan and Dwight as they walked off together. I considered following but there was no way I was leaving if Christine still wanted to talk and if I tried there was no way to know what she might do, no doubt that too could get messy.

 

“Yes that is a sound plan,” I muttered, finally responding to what she had said. Though the fact I wasn’t even looking at her, made it obvious that my attention was elsewhere.

 

“Seeing how you are clearly done listening, I will keep an eye on our witch. If she is lying I’ll find out.  Later when your head is in it, we need to talk,” my attention snapped back to her at those dreaded four words.

 

“My head’s in it. We can talk now.” She smiled, clasping my hand, before stretching up on her toes and planting a soft kiss on my lips. I was surprised; she never really did anything like that in the open. She was a very private person and the only reason the other hunters knew we were dating at all was that she considered them family and felt no need to hide around them. I felt a smile form on my lips; it was an expression I had not worn in so long that it felt unnatural.

 

“Don’t sound so worried Ryder; I was just thinking that the two of us never really talk much. We should change that,” I stared at her, wondering what had happened in the time I was unconscious. I was all for not talking, in some ways it suited me fine but I would do anything she wanted and she had to know that. Taking a risk, I snaked my arms around her and pulled her close, leaning down for a proper kiss. She didn’t resist me or even try and pull away before I was ready to let her go, as she usually did.  I pulled away a little so I could take her in; my mouth moved of its own accord; my thoughts turning to words without my conscious permission.

 

“I love you Chrissy,” Christina stared up at me, looking almost as shocked as I felt for actually saying it. It wasn’t like it was recent news. I had loved her longer than she had probably loved me. I couldn’t say what it was but thanks to that witch something had changed between the two of us. There was a closeness we had been missing in our relationship. If it turned out that we didn’t end up having to kill the witch, I would have to thank her. She leaned up and our lips locked again in a slow tender embrace. The moment lasted for an eternity, yet far too quickly she pulled away.

 

“I love you to Ryder. Now go keep an eye on my brother, I know you’re dying to,” the smile that split my face was a bright one and for once I didn’t have to fake a single thing about it. It was genuine.

 

“I think that ship has well and truly sailed love,” I replied on a laugh before I turned and jogged back toward the gaol.

 

As expected the next few days were uneventful, sometimes I passed time by killing zombies though that was losing its appeal. I had no doubt in bigger numbers these violent creatures could cause some serious damage but our culling had left them manageable. Though I will admit these newer ones were faster and stronger than the first wave we had faced. Daphne told everyone I was a warlock, an English version of their shadow man. It was a plausible enough excuse for my abilities and most people seemed to buy it.  Cassadee was recovering very well, despite the fact she was still locked up. We had no idea if there would be repercussions because of her coming back from that and obviously there were not any other cases to compare hers to. Ryan in his remorse spent most of his time caring for the woman and not doing much to help us find the shadow man. Truthfully, neither was I. I was the last ‘person’ that should be walking up to a necromancer of that power. If something happened to my pendant this town would have a far worse problem than the zombies and it would be me. I found it strange that Daphne of all people didn’t understand the local vampires desire to have nothing to do with this mess; she was after all a necromancer, one who knew her particular skills with magic could control our kind. But after she figured out that I was not one of the local blood suckers, their presence in this part of the swamp done nothing to hinder our plans. We were not here for them though, and from what we could tell they caused little trouble, Alexander was already handling them himself. Which it seemed he had been doing long before his father joined our motley crew.

 

Never the less, they were a problem for another time. In fact, we were facing a problem far bigger than any of us could have imagined. Ryan was falling for our Zombie doctor.  Which was obvious to us all expect to him and the doctor in question. I stood alone in an adjoining room, as I usually did and just kept an eye on the situation. I had stopped worrying that Ryan would make another attempt on her life about the time I had noticed ‘the look’ in his eye. He liked her, really liked her, not that he would ever admit it. I was sure he probably had no idea how to deal with the whole thing.  Because as far as Christine knew this was the first woman she’d seen her brother show any interest in. She had once told me she was almost sure his interests lay elsewhere, this being the reason he had warmed up to me so quickly; as amusing as that was, I did not believe it in the slightest. It was surely something I would have noticed.

 

“So he only drinks your blood?” Cassadee asked her deep voice back to normal once again. This was actually the first time the subject of my being a vampire had come up. Which was what had gotten her into this mess in the first place.

 

“Yes, there were too may unknown variables; I needed him on a controlled substance. It is only small amounts daily. Larger quantities, should I need to study his blood work, but they sustain him longer, so there is little risk in providing what he needs,”  Ryan’s voice was, as usual, matter of fact. I was getting bored by all the science talk. It was almost what I imagined school to be like. So much learning, I knew enough, thank you very much, without having to hear all this babble. It was nearly enough for me to contemplate abandoning my post sometimes, though I had made a promise to both Christine and Dwight, also truthfully I didn’t have much else to do. Mutt was asleep, curled up by my feet and part of me really wanted to join him.

 

“And he doesn’t mind?”

 

“Well, yes he minds, he objected at first but I helped him to reconsider,”

 

“My brother was the same about capturing those creatures for me. I’d convinced him I was in no harm while studying them; I assume he won’t be providing me with more,” her voice was sad and Ryan’s response was a long time coming. I knew without even having to see him what he was about to do and I nearly blew my cover to stop him but when he spoke I froze mid step. The regret in his soft voice was nothing I had ever heard before. His voice held so much anguish, that it hardly sounded like the Ryan I knew.

 

“Cas, I have a confession to make” there was another long pause and it was Cassadee that broke the silence.

 

“You loosened the straps?” it was at once a question and a statement, as if she was seeking conformation of something she already knew. But he didn’t give it to her. Not audibly at least. I was left wishing I could see through walls.

 

“How did you know?”

 

“You did it to protect your brother-in-law, I understand he’s family. I would have done the same thing if you were endangering Dwight. Family is more than blood, there are too few out there that truly understand that. I’m not saying it was rational but the way you chose to do it suggests you did not want to hurt me, not really. There were many far easier ways to kill in my lab alone and that was an uncertainty.”

 

“I’m sorry. Cas I truly am. I should have asked what you planned to do with your findings rather than act illogically. I know I am not good with people and honestly I am even worse with emotion. I brush it off so often, that I tend to act before thinking when I’m overcome by it, I have not learnt proper coping methods as of yet.”

 

“I know I should be but I am not mad at you Ryan. Because I understand completely, no matter how illogical it seems. You were protecting your own, I respect that,”

 

“You are an amazing woman Cassadee. Truly astounding,” there was no response to that and it was quiet for a while. There was only the sound of breathing and, wait, hello! My curiosity got the better of me and I snuck a peek and promptly wished I had not. A soft moan punctuated my retreat and I all but ran from the building to give them some privacy. Good for you Ryan.  Having to abandon my post as a necessity didn’t seem like a failure of duty and despite the fact I may never get those images erased from my mind, I found myself smiling. What can I say, deep, deep down I was a hopeless romantic. Despite knowing better I was all for true love and love at first sight. I had experienced them both; making it hard not to believe in them.  What was funny was Ryan didn’t believe in either, so their relationship might prove worrisome.   I leant up against the building I had just exited, I truly had nothing better to do and did not particularly feel like spending time with that witch. Dwight joined me about five minutes later and we talked about what it was like to do what the Peterson’s and I did for a living. Recruiting was not really my main goal but I found the offer to join us leaving my mouth without hesitation. He looked taken aback for a second before nodding.

 

“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind,” he said almost shyly, I gave him a reassuring smile.

 

“Please do. We don’t have a sheriff in our crew yet… and if you do decided to take me up on my offer and come face to face with a loud mouth group of outlaws, do try to keep an open mind,” he returned my smile and laughed. Sadly I figured he thought I was joking, well surprises aren’t always a bad thing. Dwight was an alright young man and he was easy to get along with. He was one of those men who could turn anything into an interesting conversation. We continued talking while Mutt chased various insects, leaves and other, often invisible, items. Finally our conversation drifted back to the reason we were here. I assured him we had everything under control, our plan was in motion and everything was going to be fine.  No sooner had the words left my mouth, the barricade exploded in a shower of shrapnel and a huge piece of it was flying right toward us.