The Worst Night Ever</b></u>
By: Jennifer L. Bratcher
As a general rule, vampires really didn’t like Christmas. Perhaps with the whole religion thing it entailed. Perhaps it was all the false cheer.
Forest was pretty sure it was the former rather than the latter.
As a vampire, she wasn’t very fond of Christmas.
The Winter Solstice was an other matter entirely. After all, she had been born a Celt all those years ago. Well, half Celt, but her parentage was another story for another time as were the other little intricacies and dark secrets that she liked to keep to herself about her history.
The past was the past. You didn’t forget it, but you didn’t let it rule you either. You remembered it and made sure you didn’t make the same mistakes in your life. Or at least that was Law Unto Herself’s philosophy.
Well, one of them anyway.
Right now said vampiress was ready to step out of her car and leave a path of carnage that made the Bride’s from Kill Bill look positively tame.
Forest was stuck in the Bible Belt of the US right after Thanksgiving. People were forcing God and Good Cheer down her throat and it was making her irritable. The thing that was really driving nails into her temples though was Beyonce’s rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”.
“There has to be a rock station in this bloody county somewhere,” Forest grumbled as she fiddled with the radio for the tenth time that night.
If there wasn’t, there was going to be some hell to pay.
It wasn’t that Forest actually minded this song. In fact, it was tolerable compared to the happy cooperate produced Holiday Pop that had been spitting out for the last half century. It was just that it seemed that Beyonce didn’t know all of the words and hummed over half of the song. If you don’t know the fucking words, you shouldn’t sing the fucking song, came Quinn’s voice into her mind.
Her recently acquired dhampire was odd. He was quiet, sullen, antisocial, cold, yet there was something else about him. Some sad, desperate spark that flickered through his eyes when he thought Forest wasn’t looking. That and Quinn had a mind like a whip. He processed information on an insane level and had this ability that bordered on precognition to know someone’s plans based on information he gathered about them.
The scary thing about that was, so far, Quinn hadn’t been wrong.
Forest just wished she had asked him about her latest target before coming to Bible Belt Central. She had no established safe house here. So she was shacked up at the Hilton, vulnerable during the day while she slept. All the while on a wild goose chase for a cadre of vampires and werewolves hiring themselves out to the highest bidder, human or otherwise.
The fact that they were hiring themselves out to humans showed that they were quite desperate. However, the fact that a human was hiring them was an unsettling one. The whole world could find out that the supernatural existed and the metaphorical shit would hit the fan.
Not that Forest cared. She was old. She’d adapt. She’d accept the changes and grow with them. Still, catastrophes like this were dangerous on any level.
Her fiddling with the radio finally payed off.
The soft, haunting voice of Maynard James Keenan was almost shouting in rage against God.
Forest rolled down the window, cranked her stereo up and sang aloud to A Perfect Circle’s “Judith”.
Take your holiday cheer and throw it, thank you kindly, Forest thought with satisfaction.
Besides, in her honest opinion Christmas songs shouldn’t be played till December First.
She snorted and thought, Pretty soon Christmas’ll devour Halloween. She frowned at that. Oh, that would simply suck.
Yellow eyes flickered up at the speaker. A long leg was propped against a table filled with the trappings for poker. He looked back at his hand with a smirk before looking back at the speaker.
He absently replied, “Yes. Father Enrico Dominique.”
“A priest!? Holy fucking shit, Hawk, you spoke to a fucking priest?”
Hawk Hunters sighed as he laid his winning hand down on the table. The other two men playing against him hissed, bared fangs and threw down their cards. One of the vampires stood up and sneered, “You cheated, Hunters.”
Hawk snapped his arm down and hit the mechanism resting against his elbow against his chair. He then jerked it up again to fire a wooden stake from the sleeve of his heavy biker jacket. The vampire’s crimson eyes widened as the stake sunk home. Hawk gathered the pot as the vampire exploded into ashes.
Hawk quipped, “Now that’s cheating.”
The man who had came to speak with him chuckled. Hawk looked at his flunky. He was tall, broad shouldered and built like a mack truck. He had thick, yet handsome features with wavy shoulder length dirty dishwater blond hair and hazel eyes. He was dressed similarly like Hawk: fashionably tattered jeans, combat boots and a T-shirt with a full moon painted on it. Except Hawk’s own shirt had an anarchy symbol in bright red against a black back ground.
Hawk smirked and said, “Yes. Apparently, he’s having a problem with some witches.”
“Witches? Like the hot orgy having kind?” the flunky chuckled.
Hawk sighed, “I swear, Dave, all you werewolves think about are fucking and food.”
“Hey, the basic F’s,” Dave replied with a grin, “Leeches aren’t that much different.”
Hawk’s defeated poker opponent hissed, “Hunters, you tell your pet to behave. He doesn’t know his place.”
“Listen, Jack, I’m not Hunters. That’s my baby brother. I’m the Hawk, got it, asshole?” Hawk snapped as he reached out and jerked the pompous ass out of his chair and off the ground.
Dave leaned on the table and snorted, “Yeah, he’s not a suicidal, brooding Anne Rice Wanna-Be.”
“Yeah, I’m more on the Joss Whedon side of things,” Hawk replied jovially as he dropped the other vampire back to the ground, “I like to have fun. I’m a Creature of the Night. I’m pretty, super strong, have powers beyond humans’ fucking dreams, get to stay up all night and sleep all day. What’s not to love?”
Dave added, “And you get laid a lot.”
“I’ve never had that problem,” Hawk laughed with his werewolf friend and servant.
The vampire straightened his lapels and snapped, “Well, enjoy your winnings, Hawk. While they last. One day you will fall.”
“Yeah right,” Hawk snickered as he gathered his winnings into his jacket and wrapped a friendly arm around Dave’s broad shoulders. He waved at the other vampire as he walked his friend out of the smokey basement. He laughed into the night sky and Dave did the same.
Dave chuckled, “Shit man, you’ve still got the biggest balls I’ve ever seen.”
“If you’ve been looking at my balls I’m going to have to kill you,” Hawk snickered and Dave laughed.
It was just one of those nights that everything seemed to have a charge to it. The night was in his veins and he was craving blood. He wanted the thick richness pouring down his throat. He wanted to feel the ecstacy of his dying victim through his bite. There was just something liberating about being a vampire.
Like everything had finally come together or some shit.
He had thought turning his uptight Templar baby brother would liven him up. Instead it made him a mess. Joshua Hunters sought his own death by hunting vampire hunters because he was still too Catholic to take up sunbathing. Hawk knew for certain that Hell didn’t exist, that it was on Earth. So it was up for him to give people something to fear.
Besides, it was too much fun not to.
Forest had a list of places she could go to get information. There were a few bars that were just the sort that werewolves liked to hang around at. She’d even found the address for a brothel that catered to more unusual preferences. Which meant that vampires probably used the prostitutes to soothe two needs instead of just one.
However, the first place she was going to visit on her list was a store that catered to magic users and other things New Age. Most of the time places like that were for mortals who had a more open and positive way of thinking and believing than anything else. Sometimes though one would get lucky and find Fey as well as true practitioners of an Art. Forest was hoping she got lucky and wouldn’t have to do too much bar hopping.
Hey, there’s only so much bar fighting that even I can take. As well as having my derriere groped. And I really don’t want to run from the police tonight in a town where I don’t have a single connection.
She parked her car and walked to the tiny store. Even before she entered, she could smell the familiar scent of fresh herbs coming from inside. However, before she walked into the store a middle age man in a pressed grey suit with flashy gold jewelry pressed a pamphlet into her hand.
He smelled like old parchment and sickly sweet peppermint. It wasn’t like the fresh peppermint smell that Quinn carried with him. Well, Quinn smelled like peppermint and spring water, which fit the quiet yet intense boy very well. This man smelled like falsehoods, ignorance, and prejudice. Forest figured he had to be a minster, and not a very open minded one at that.
For some bizarre reason, the late 20th century had spawned almost as much religious persecution as the Spanish Inquisition and witch hunts of their days. Forest figured it had to do with the resurgence of the Old Ways and the rebirth of Pagan religion as a whole in the form of Wicca. She thought it was rather sad that one religion condemned others to an eternity of torture simply because they had different (and better if Forest was asked) beliefs.
A flash of heat rushed through her hand as something white hot brushed against her palm. She fought to keep her face neutral while shifting her hands so she was holding the pamphlet by the edges. A quick glance down confirmed her suspicions. She raised her eyes back up to the man.
“Just take this, as a token of good will. All I ask is that you read it. It will only take a few minutes of your time and it just might help you,” the man told her in a falsely cheerful voice.
Forest gingerly held the pamphlet and forced a smile on her face. She replied, “Thank you, sir, but this isn’t my sort of thing.”
The man looked shocked and he replied, “God is for everyone, miss.”
“God is for everyone, but religion isn’t for everyone. Now, I bid you a good night,” Forest retorted cheerfully as she brushed past the minster. She left him floundering as she walked into the store.
She sighed as she heard a light bell chime behind her and took a look around. The tiny store was crammed with shelves featuring trinkets from different religions from across the world. There were bookshelves filled with various books from the pop culture Wicca inspiration and some that were older in their origin. The left wall was filled with large glass jars filled with various herbs and powders with computer printouts taped onto them. A glass case towards the back of the store was filled with various mineral specimens while a display a bit a way of it held cheep tumbled and raw stones. Celtic music was softly playing from the counter from an older, well-used CD player.
“Hi! Can I help you?” A cheerful voice from underneath the counter greeted Forest.
Forest walked over and peered down to see a young woman kneeling on the hard wood floor. Bright blue-grey eyes twinkled from a gamine, freckled covered face. She had long strawberry blond hair haphazardly pulled up in a bun and was dressed in a white peasant blouse and a long jean skirt. She stood up and smiled at Forest, pushing back a long wavy lock of hair from her face.
Forest started to hand her the pamphlet when she knew this girl wasn’t some twit practicing Wiccan because it was the newest fad. She was radiating good energy from every ounce of her being. It was soft and warm, welcoming to be around. Forest’s sardonic grin turned into a full smile as she handed her the pamphlet.
“Yeah, I was wondering if you had a trash can back there,” Forest answered.
The girl sighed as she took the pamphlet, “I’m sorry. Mr. Flynn can be such a pain. I’m sorry he bothered you.”
“I’m sorry you have to put up with him if he’s out there spreading the Word of God every day,” Forest replied dryly as she tossed her hair back.
The girl giggled then gasped when she spotted Forest’s hand. Forest looked down at the tiny x-shaped burn on the heel of her hand where the cross printed on the pamphlet touched her. She gently took Forest’s hand and asked, “When did this happen?”
“Don’t worry about it, it doesn’t hurt much,” Forest replied as she drew her hand away from the young witch. She curled her fingers over it and lowered her hand automatically. Stuff like cross burns could draw unwanted attention. Besides, the girl might practice an Art, but she might not be able to stomach vampires or even knew about them. So Forest was going to play it safe so she didn’t have to deal with crossbows and crosses from would-be Van Helsings.
The witch threw the pamphlet away and asked, “Is there anything I could help you with?”
“I’m just here to look. I’m not from around here and I heard about this store,” Forest answered truthfully, “And I thought I’d take a look around.”
Buying something expensive and then asking questions was the proper protocol for these sorts of things. Forest wasn’t going to waltz in with her gun displayed with no tolerance for idiots like she would have if she was dealing with other vampires or werewolves. From looking at the tiny witch, Forest was sure that she would faint if she saw the .44 Super Magnum she was carrying with her.
“Hey, Chloe, I’ve got the last box of jewelry right here,” another young, female voice piped up and Forest turned to the back door of the store.
She felt the psychic energy swirl around her. It was rich and powerful and reacted with almost everything in the store. While the witch behind the counter was soft and warm, like candle light, this newcomer was rich and steady, like old trees.
She was short, even shorter than Chloe behind the counter. Her hair was a bright coppery color that was pulled back in a lopsided pony tail that left strands of the baby fine mass caressing her round face. A pretty face that had unusually high cheek bones for the structure. She was fair skinned and freckled too, except her eyes were a rich golden brown like honey. She wore a moonstone amulet, a smokey quartz crystal, and a strand of black tourmaline beads around her neck. She was holding a white box in her hands.
“Hey, Chloe, did ya know you have a vampire in your store?” the redhead asked with a grin.
Chloe blinked at Forest and asked, “Kyle, are you sure?”
The redhead, Kyle, nodded as she walked over to the counter. “Yep, I’m sure. They feel cold. Their energy does. And she’s . . .”
Forest blinked as the tiny redhead looked up at her unblinkingly before grinning. “Wow, your eyes are like the exact color of iolite,” Kyle stated, “Hey, Chloe, did you check out her eyes?”
Forest just stood there blinking as Chloe stepped from behind the counter and out to where Forest was. She looked up at Forest as well and made a happy squeaking sound. “Oh, Goddess, her eyes are like iolite . . .”
“They’re indigo,” Forest said awkwardly, “Or so I’ve been told. I guess you know I don’t look into many mirrors.”
Then she lifted her eyebrow at Kyle and asked, “How did you know that anyway?”
“Oh crud . . . Chloe, Haitama . . . I’ve really gotta go. Haitama’s going to get worried about me and you know how he is,” Kyle gasped before snorting and rolling her eyes.
Chloe looked at Forest and explained, “Kyle’s dating a vampire.”
“And he just told you what he was? Just right out of the blue?” Forest asked wryly.
Chloe looked at Kyle and asked, “Is she evil?”
“Goodness no, Chloe. She’s just . . .” those uncanny honey brown eyes narrowed at her again, “She kinda reminds me of how Haitama was when I first met him, but more benevolent. Like she’s living . . . well undead justice and vengeance.”
Chloe asked, “Like the Morrigan?”
Forest stood there silently. Now the witches were hitting too close to home. Luckily, there was some commotion outside.
Forest felt another vampire in the general vicinity. Younger than she was, but older than a mere fledgling. Whoever they were, they radiated power. She turned to see Flynn talking to a compact young Japanese man dressed all in practical black. Flynn started handing him the pamphlet.
The Japanese vampire said something, gave the minster a distasteful look, and entered the store. “Is that man still bothering you, Chloe?” he said in perfect English with just a hint of a Kyoto accent.
“Don’t worry about it, Haitama,” Chloe said with a dismissive wave of her hand as she took the box from Kyle’s hands.
Kyle walked over and beamed at the Japanese vampire. His sloe eyes lit up at the sight of her and a smile graced his stoic features. Forest raised an eyebrow. Seems like the little witch nailed herself a bishonen.
He kissed her cheek and gently took her hand. “He did not bother you, did he, Kyle?” he asked.
“I snuck in the back door,” Kyle snickered.
Haitama’s sloe eyes drifted to where Forest had started to lean against the counter. His posture changed and he stepped slightly in front of Kyle. He turned his body to the side slightly, the first hints of a defensive stance in his posture. Forest knew he was carrying weapons in his turtleneck, in his sleeves. She could see the faint outlines of shurikins on his arms.
“Shinobi?” Forest asked with a tiny bow of her head.
Haitama bowed his head in return and answered, “Hai.”
Kyle asked, “So, do you two know each other?”
Chloe had opened the box and started cooing over it. Forest saw brightly colored natural stones combined in the way to give different attributes and to cure certain ailments. Along with several combinations that would promise attraction and romance.
Haitama answered, “I know of her. I have never met her personally, but her reputation proceeds her.”
“Oh, that spiel again,” Forest snorted as she rolled her eyes. Despite the fact that she adored the title Law Unto Herself, she’d become sort of a legend among the supernatural community. Sort of a vampire bogeyman. There was a whole lot of myth attached to her name and title. Quite a bit of it was true. It was the poetic parts she could have done without. Like the whole, “Deadly as she was beautiful,” spiel that always seemed to accompany her.
She didn’t see it. She’d seen prettier people. And women with better figures. The two witches had better figures than she did. She was long, lanky, toned and athletic. Kyle and Chloe had that sort of soft, petite curviness that men seemed drawn too.
In her eyes, Forest killed better than she looked.
Amusement flickered through Haitama’s eyes as he replied, “I take it that you are not fond of your reputation.”
“Well, the true parts of it, but the whole poetic rambling I can do without,” Forest snorted as she rolled her eyes.
Kyle had now joined Chloe on the jewelry. She was explaining certain things to her and showing her things. Forest figured that Kyle had made the jewelry herself.
“Your lover has talent,” Forest said as she gestured to Kyle’s jewelry.
Kyle chirped, “I can make you something, if you want.”
Haitama stroked her hair fondly and mused, “Kyle, always willing to help and give.”
“Give unto others as you would give unto yourself,” Kyle chided as she rolled her eyes.
Forest smiled and said, “That’s a good philosophy. You should teach it to the Holy Roller out there.”
“Mr. Flynn can’t help it that he’s misguided,” Chloe piped up.
Haitama reached out and tucked a loose lock of hair behind Kyle’s ear. He said, “Kyle, we will miss our flight.”
“Oh right! Sorry, Chloe, e-mail me if you’ve got any other problems or questions,” Kyle exclaimed as she rushed to the back of the store.
Chloe followed her and Forest could hear young, girlish chatter from the storeroom. Haitama smiled and asked, “Do you believe that we could have ever been that young?”
“Not really, but then our childhoods were a lot rougher than theirs,” Forest answered dryly.
Haitama fixed his dark eyes on her and gave her a steady look. He simply said, “There are rumors here and your appearance suddenly makes me curious about their credibility.”
“I want to know who the one pulling the strings is. He’s the one to stop,” Forest replied quietly.
Haitama gave her a low, respectful bow. Forest replied in kind. They rose at the same time, their eyes meeting once again. Haitama said, “I wish you the best of luck then. I apologize that I cannot help you anymore, but I am trying to change my old rooted ways.”
At that moment Kyle and Chloe emerged from the storeroom. Kyle draped a heavy fleece poncho over her head and flicked her hair out of it. She grinned and said, “I forgot my poncho and it’s nippy outside.”
Haitama wrapped an arm around her and the young woman beamed. Forest bit her lip, saying nothing. She understood Haitama’s feelings, but they were foolish. This relationship would either end painfully or Kyle would become one of them.
And Kyle wasn’t the sort of person that could make it as a vampire.
Forest thought of Quinn, sitting in her base of operations in New York, probably reading in her massive library while listening to U2 on his MP3 player. The product of such a love, except abandoned and left alone. To always walk between two worlds and be a part of none.
She hoped that they would be happy, but she had her doubts.
Forest knew how quickly that love dimmed and fascination faded only to be left alone while her feelings were still bright and clear. She knew exactly how painful it was.
She bit her lip, metaphorically speaking, and said nothing.
Haitama began to usher Kyle out and said, “It was good seeing you again, Chloe, and an honor to meet you, Forest-domo.”
“As it was you, Haitama-san,” Forest replied. As Haitama’s elder and more experienced peer she received the more respectful honorific, even though she believed she didn’t deserve it. After all, the ninja never saw her in action, and she had never seen him. So that’s why she stuck with the more general “san” honorific.
Chloe waved farewell to her friend and turned back to Forest after they had left. She smiled brightly and asked, “So, is there anything I can help you with? And I’m Chloe by the way, Chloe Dougan.”
“Forest,” Forest replied with a tiny nod, “And I was just wondering if you heard anything weird lately.”
Chloe shook her head and answered, “Nope, not at all.”
Forest dug her wallet out of her pocket and plucked out a business card on it. All that was written on the business card was a cell phone number with a black crow printed beside it. She had her own reasons for putting that particular bird on her card.
She handed the card to Chloe. Chloe took it with a frown and looked at Forest with wide blue-grey eyes. She asked, “What’s this for?”
“If you see anything weird call this number. Or if you’re in trouble. No matter how out there it is, even if it’s just a feeling, call it,” Forest explained with a grin.
Chloe frowned and replied, “I don’t get it.”
“Well, lets just say I don’t hope you have to call it,” Forest said as she sauntered right out the door.
Chloe looked at the business card lying on her desk. She looked at the vivid black crow printed onto the glossy white paper. She brushed a stray lock from her face and looked back at her computer screen.
She was cataloging all the jewelry that Kyle had made from her into her inventory and pricing each item. She had paid Kyle her base fee and had to jack up the price a bit so that the store could make a profit. However, she hadn’t been getting the business that the store had been in the past.
Which really put a cramp on things.
First there was Flynn and his spreading pamphlets. There were also protests at the town hall against the store. She wondered what suddenly turned this town into Salem.
For decades the townspeople had pretty much gotten along with the Coven that had been established here since the town’s erection. It was a small Coven, but established and powerful. The Coven even had a few natural born Talents to its ranks. True, Chloe was rather low on the power scale, but the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone were glad that she ran this store.
Now it seemed that she was escaping torches and hunts almost every day.
Then she had a vampire come into her store. A very beautiful vampire with eyes like fine iolite and hair like spun sunlight, Chloe remembered with a slight flush to her cheeks, but a vampire none the less. Who had handed her a business card.
With a crow on it.
She looked at her phone. She wanted to call Mother Gale and tell her what happened. Isis Corvane, the Crone, was currently in the hospital and her prognosis wasn’t favorable. Apparently even magic had its limits. So Gale soothed fears and helped out, just like a good Mother should.
Chloe sighed and looked back at her spreadsheet. I’m just worrying, that’s all. Needless worrying. I need to meditate and strengthen my thoughts when I get home. Too much stress lately.
She closed her spreadsheet and decided to go home.
Chloe wrapped her heavy wool shawl around herself and grabbed her keys. She made sure to lock the jewelry cases and the cases for the more expensive minerals. She locked every thing down, set the alarm and the security cameras, and headed out for the night.
She was digging out her car keys when a tall man bumped into her. She looked up as she was overwhelmed with the feel of dark magic. A curse. A very powerful curse that was bound to something . . .
The man was good looking, even if his forehead over hanged just a bit. He had long dark blond hair and was dressed in jeans, a T-shirt with a full moon on it, and a thick biker jacket. He grinned at her and whistled.
“Hey there pretty witch,” he said with a wolfish grin.
Chloe took a step back from him. He approached with another chuckle. He threw back his head and howled.
Chloe cringed at the eerie sound. She looked to see three more men approach. There was nothing remarkable about them, except how they moved.
They moved with a steady, loping grace. Hungry, glowing eyes locked on her as she fumbled for the keys to her store. Her heart was thudding deep in her chest as they surrounded her, closing in.
One of the men circling her asked, “Who gets to fuck her first, Dave?”
Chloe froze in fear, her own heart thundering in her ears. The one who had spoken licked his lips and leered at her suggestively. Chloe squeaked as she spun to the door, trying to poke the key into the lock.
She was yanked away, right into the hard body of the blond. He sniffed her and she whimpered. They’re not human. He’s not human . . . She closed her eyes and let out a tiny, fearful sob.
“I do,” the blond growled in an inhuman voice in her ear before a thick, wet tongue, not unlike that of a dog, lathered her throat.
She struggled against him. She closed her eyes and began to chant rapidly. She felt the power well up and bubble inside of her as it found its focus. She felt the spell charge as she set it free.
The blond let her go with a startled yelp. Chloe wasted no time. She jammed the key into the lock, opened the door, and threw herself in. She locked the door and ran into the store.
The protection spell would last only moments. She had to ward herself to protect herself from whatever they were. With shaking hands she opened up the drawer under her register. Nestled there were candles, chalk, a bag of crystals, herbs, smudge bundles, and a lighter. She grabbed four black candles, a piece of chalk, a smudge bundle, and the lighter.
She screamed as she heard glass break. She spilled all the stuff on the floor and crouched down. With shaking hands she drew a lopsided circle around herself. She placed one black candle at each of the four points. She lit the candles and the smudge bundle. The smell of sage and sweet grass filled her nostrils.
Something large and furred charged into the shop, followed by three wolves. Chloe whirled the sweet-smelling smoke around her as she chanted to the four Elements and to Artemis. The large monster snarled and charged toward her.
It leapt. Chloe closed her eyes and screamed. Except she felt nothing. She opened her eyes to find the monster staring her face to face with reddish eyes and a muzzle filled with sharp teeth and hot saliva. Yet it couldn’t pass. Her spell had worked.
In the flickering candle light she got a good look at her would-be rapist. A chill washed over her as she looked at the pointed ears, the long muzzle, the hulking form, and the stump of a tail pointed straight out behind it. Clawed fingers scratched the ward helplessly. He, for his genitalia hung heavy and bare between his legs, was covered in dark blond fur.
Chloe froze in terror as she looked at the werewolf snarling at her.
“Fucking little bitch, you think this shit can keep me away? Your ass is mine now, little girl. I was gonna be nice about it, fuck you as a human, but now . . .” he chuckled, words coming from a throat that wasn’t human.
Chloe trembled as she waved the smudge bundle in front of her. She cried, “It’ll keep you out long enough!”
The werewolf turned to the three wolves and barked out a laugh. He howled, “Fuck the place up since we can’t fuck the witch.”
Chloe felt tears sting her eyes as the three wolves transformed into the half-human, half-wolf monsters and began to tear into the store. She sobbed as she watched them destroy the place. The blond werewolf snarled at her before he aided in the destruction.
Chloe whimpered helplessly as she remembered the card on her desk in the stockroom.
There was a reason why a Toyota Supra was one of Forest’s personal favorite cars. Even though Supras weren’t made anymore, it was still hard to beat one in speed. Well and look somewhat conspicuous anyway. In this little podock town, even a Supra would draw attention, but not as much as say her Buggati.
She was driving like a dervish. Her boot was pressing down the petal and her hand kept shifting between third and fourth gears. She made hairpin turns with precise control. She had somewhere to go now.
Chloe had called her on her cell phone. The poor witch had been sobbing. Forest barely understood her, and Forest had held a lot of hands and soothed a lot of tears in her time. All Forest knew was that she had to get to the tiny witch shop to see if the girl was all right.
Forest was sure she had made it in record time.
She parked her car and stepped out. Her eyes widened as she saw the broken windows and the glass strewn everywhere. She took a deep whiff of the air and her lip curled in a soundless snarl. She drew her gun and pulled the safety off.
Werewolves had done this. The rank smell of wet fur and musk still hung thick in the air as well as the terror of a human girl charged with magic. There was no sweet tang of blood in the air, which Forest was relieved. Her boots crushed broken glass as she walked in through the broken window.
Her eyes saw candles flickering in the darkness and she smelled the salty, damp smell of tears as well as the thick, sickly scent of fear. Forest moved along the broken glass, throwing the idea of stealth to the wind. The werewolves’ scent lingered in the air, but it would have been stronger if they were close by. Besides, Forest only heard one heart beat in the dim shop.
Sitting behind the counter in a hastily cast Circle was Chloe. Candle flame flickered of her wavy strawberry blond hair, making it look like blood stained gold. Red puffy eyes and an equally swollen nose greeted Forest as the witch looked up at her. Forest clicked the safety back
on, holstered the gun, and rushed to the other girl’s side, careful not to break the Circle.
“Chloe?” Forest asked as the girl sobbed and threw herself at Forest.
Forest felt the Circle come crashing in a warm flash of power. She wrapped her arms around the tiny girl and stroked her hair while Chloe cried. As Forest soothed the crying girl she looked around the room.
Her eyes narrowed as she took on the utter destruction. Jewelry and crystals were strewn all over the floor; books had their pages ripped out and thrown in disarray; display cases were shattered. The place was in utter shambles, just in ruins.
“They threatened to rape me and I cast a defensive spell and I ran back in here and made the Circle and they just wrecked the place because they couldn’t rape me,” Chloe babbled between choking sobs.
Forest rubbed Chloe’s back in soothing circles and soothingly said, “Its all right now, they can’t hurt you.”
Chloe looked up right as the scent of wet fur grew stronger. Four heartbeats added themselves to the sound of Chloe’s slowing pulse as she gradually calmed down. Forest rose quickly to her feet and spun around to face the four nude men standing in the broken glass. Chloe let out a loud scream and hid behind Forest’s legs.
Forest drew her gun and pulled the safety off. She aimed at the werewolf at the far corner and fired. The werewolves scattered as their pack member’s brains splattered across what was left of the window, like garnets on diamonds in the flickering candle light.
After the incident with the McLaughlin brothers, she didn’t fool around with lycanthropes anymore.
“And yes, I am using silver bullets,” she stated with a smirk as she shot another werewolf in the chest. Her .44 created a gaping hole where his heart had been and splattered more blood everywhere. The last two werewolves scattered, already shifting forms to move faster. Forest snorted as the darker of the two lunged at her.
She blew right through its skull. The body fell down, nerves causing it to twitch as he reverted to his human form. Forest spun around to find the blond werewolf. Chloe was sitting in her Circle again, recast during the gunfight.
She was looking up at Forest with wide eyes. Forest crept soundlessly over the rubble and told Chloe telepathically, Unless I say, stay in that Circle. I’m going hunting.
Forest opened up her senses and focused outward. The werewolf would either be focused on her or the girl. Since Forest was the threat, she was very sure that he would focus on her and forget about Chloe. Which made Chloe safe at the moment. Forest was keeping alert for other werewolves.
She smelled wet fur and heard a heartbeat behind her. She sensed the duality of the werewolf’s power and spun around. She pulled back the hammer to fire until something splashed on her face.
Forest hissed and recoiled at the hot rushing pain that burned her face. She tried shaking the Holy Water off. She closed her eyes to keep them from being burned by the acid like Holy Water as well as she backed away.
A huge furred arm smacked her hand holding the gun down. Then it smacked the gun to the side, sending it flying. Forest growled and spun into a blind roundhouse kick.
It was harmlessly caught as she was backhanded for her efforts. She went flying into what was left of a bookcase. Her eyes flew open as she saw how close she had been to getting staked.
The blond werewolf growled at her, saliva dripping from his muzzle. Forest stood up and felt her senses sharpened as her fangs grew. She bared them and hissed loudly, a ritual challenge, as her fingernails thickened and lengthened into sharp claws.
The werewolf held up a plastic bottle of water with a gold cross printed on it. He laughed at her, the sound hideous. He waved it at her tauntingly. Forest looked to where her gun had landed and sprung.
He lunged at her as well. They collided and rolled to the ground. Forest ignored the shards of glass cutting through her jacket as she reached for her gun. The smell of wet fur was over powering and something else was added to the musky mixture, making it even more powerful.
He ground his pelvis against hers with a throaty chuckle as his amber eyes shown down at her. Forest hissed as he spread her legs apart. He licked her cheek with that sloppy, scalding hot tongue, making the burn hurt even more. “You’d be a better fuck than the witch. You fight back, bitch,” he snarled approvingly in her ear as he pinned her arms above her head.
Forest bared her fangs and hissed, “Why, yes, I am a bitch. Thank you for reminding me.”
She rolled her shoulders and hips back to bring up her legs. Her muscles strained as she slammed her feet against the werewolf’s pointed ears. He jerked up and howled in pain. Forest swung her legs together and bent her knees. She placed her feet at the beast’s solar plexus and kicked up while bringing her legs close to her chest.
Momentum carried the werewolf over her, sprawling above her head. She jerked her arms up and free. She jumped to her feet and stood loosely. She blew her hair from her face with a smirk.
“You almost made me bite you. I didn’t want to. I’m not fond of the taste of werewolf,” Forest quipped as the werewolf drew himself up and snarled at her.
The werewolf lunged at her again. Forest calmly side stepped him and clothes lined his gut while she chopped the back of his thick neck with the heel of her hand. She brought the arm at his gut up in a sharp motion while she pushed down hard on his head. His feet came out from underneath him as he was flipped to the ground.
Forest calmly picked up her gun and aimed it at the werewolf. She fired, but the werewolf jerked away at the last moment. However, she did graze his left shoulder and he wouldn’t heal because the bullet was silver. She had a blood trail. If he fled and made it out alive, she could track him.
The musky, coppery tang of werewolf blood filled her nostrils though. Her fangs throbbed in time with the beat of the werewolf’s heart, reminding her she hadn’t fed in the last two days. While she might taunt that she didn’t like the taste of werewolf blood, it was a treat for any vampire. It was filled with dark power and would charge the one who drank from the werewolf.
She licked her lips without realizing it.
The hairs on the back of her neck and arms went on end. She felt the cool rush of power thrum over her body in recognition. Another vampire was entering the shop.
The werewolf turned his head as Forest watched a slim, nimble figure enter the shop. The candle light glinted off his bright red hair and he lifted glimmering eyes like topaz toward them. He was dressed in jeans, a biker jacket, and a black T-shirt with an anarchy symbol printed on it. He was handsome in a boyish way and probably had been covered head to toe in freckles when he had drawn breath.
“I should have known,” Forest said dryly as Hawk Hunters looked around the shop.
Hawk’s yellow eyes flickered over Forest appreciatively until he looked at her face. “Fuck, Forest, you look like shit,” he said in way of greeting. He then smiled and whistled, “Dave, you look even worse man. Didn’t you know who you were dealing with?”
Forest let her smirk cover her features, hiding all emotions other than ironic amusement. Hawk was unpredictable, intelligent, and crafty. He was also evil. He was a mercenary. He had been in life as well. Now I know who’s the leader of the group of vampires and werewolves. Not surprising, Forest thought sardonically as she remembered Hawk.
Hawk was also the older brother of none other than Joshua Hunters, the infamous dhampire hunter. Even though Hawk looked younger than his brother, he was a good ten years older. Hawk was just turned at a younger age and turned his brother, a Knight Templar, none the less.
Hawk claimed it was because Joshua needed to lighten up.
Forest swore it was some sick, sadistic streak that Hawk had to make his pious brother fall. Forest knew fully well why Joshua hunted vampire hunters and dhampires. He had a death wish, but his Catholicism proclaimed that if he killed himself he would be damned. Being a vampire was bad enough; he didn’t want to twice damn himself to what he believed to be Hell. So he hunted his own death on a nightly basis. It was just that Joshua was so skilled that no one had been able to give him his honorable death.
And Forest wasn’t going to assist someone in suicide.
Dave, the werewolf, snarled wordlessly. Forest gave him a two-finger salute. Hawk chuckled as he leaned on a broken doorway. His eyes flickered toward the cowering witch.
“Cute. Not my type, but she’s cute,” he mused before looking back at Dave, “Why didn’t you fuck her?”
Dave growled, “I want the bitch.” His burning eyes flickered over Forest. Forest rolled her eyes. Female werewolves were a rarity because werewolves liked to eat girls while they raped them. Women didn’t often survive werewolf attacks, and for a werewolf to find a “bitch”, a female who fought back and responded with more than screams, was rare.
Forest grinned and replied, “Please try. I think neutering will help that nasty disposition.”
“You’re not touching Forest,” Hawk warned with a fiery gleam in his topaz eyes as he took a step closer to her. There was a hungry look on his face as he looked her over. He seemed to have that look whenever he looked at her. Every meeting, every trading of blows, every skirmish that Forest took the victory for.
She just couldn’t kill him.
I swear. I’m not making promises to Joshua again. Well, I couldn’t kill him anyway. Someone else has the right to grant James Hunters his death and its not me.
Forest sweetly replied, “If he touches me, I’ll touch him back.”
“Always did like your sense of humor. It’s hard to find a Grade A Smartass,” Hawk mused with a grin.
Forest gestured him closer as she stood formlessly. She said, “Hawk, I don’t want to wait all night to kick your ass. Let’s just get this over with.”
“This sucks, I’m here for business and I can’t indulge myself. Dave, take care of the girl. Remember, we wanna leave a message,” Hawk sighed before his eyes became glittering and sharp as he looked at her. “And I’ll delay Law Unto Herself.”
Forest took a step closer to Chloe and pointed her gun. She had only one shot left and Hawk wouldn’t give her a chance to reload. She hissed, “Chloe, run.”
Don’t talk back. Just think your answers to me and I’ll understand them. Chloe, do you have any safe place you can go where they can protect you? Forest asked, blocking the sending so Hawk wouldn’t overhear her.
Chloe’s eyes were drowning her face as she softly nodded. I’m part of an ancient coven. We’ve been in this place for ages. I can go to the Mother.
Well, go. I’ve only got one shot left, Forest replied with a wiry grin.
Chloe asked, What about you?
Like I said. If they touch me, I’ll touch them back, Forest answered as she put herself between vampire and werewolf and witch.
Chloe stood up from the Circle. She disbanded it with a wave of her hand. Then she took off to the back of the store.
Dave started to bound after her, but Forest aimed. She fired. Then she heard another gunshot before she felt the searing pain of a bullet going through her wrist. She snarled as she was forced to drop the gun.
She ignored Hawk and dove at Dave. She tackled the werewolf to the ground and drove her fist through his chest. She felt his rib cage shatter around her hand as warm, sweet wetness engulfed her hand. She snarled as she dug claws into his heart and jerked her hand free.
She was seething with anger. Dave lay limp from the already healing injuries. She knew he wouldn’t die from it, but it would keep him from getting Chloe.
“Holy shit, that was hardcore! Forest, I can’t believe you fucking did that!” Hawk laughed.
Forest snarled as she looked up at the younger vampire. She stood slowly to her feet and shook the still warm blood off her hand. Hawk smirked as he said, “You should have licked the blood off your fingers. That would have been hot.”
“That would have been cliched,” Forest sneered between grit fangs.
Hawk grinned and replied, “And it would have been sexy as hell, but I’d rather have you lick warm blood off me than your pretty fingers.”
“What do you want with the witches?” Forest asked as she glared. She was beyond witty banter now. I almost ripped his heart out, Forest thought sickly.
Because, while Hawk did like to cause trouble, this wasn’t his style unless someone was paying him for it.
Hawk opened his mouth to reply when Forest heard the sound of sirens rapidly approaching. Apparently, Hawk heard it too as he pointed his 9mm Beretta at her. Forest glared. It wouldn’t kill her, but a bullet to the brain would take a while to heal. Just like when she tried to rip Dave’s heart out.
Besides, it would be better to play a corpse as the cops approached than to stand here with a loaded gun.
Or so she reasoned before Hawk shot her in the head.
Norman Franz was very good at what he did. Some people thought his job was really morbid. They were right. It was. He was the clerk at the local morgue. He had the gruesome job of undressing bodies before autopsies and sewing them back up after the ME was finished.
Franz was currently reading the latest Anne Rice novel as four gurneys where rolled in. “We’ve got four cold ones for you. Three guys and a chick. The dudes are naked, saving you some work,” the orderly stated emotionlessly.
Franz lifted an eyebrow and asked, “Really?”
“Yeah, blown to shit. The chick’s fully dressed though. The cops want all of her shit cataloged ASAP before they lose it. Something about a shoot out,” the orderly told him.
Franz sighed as they rolled the corpses into the autopsy theater. The sickly pale green lights hummed above them. When Dr. Morrison would start the autopsy, the CD would be playing Death Metal of all things as he worked.
Dr. Morrison was the morbid one around here, not Franz.
Franz waited until the orderly left before he opened up the black vinyl body bag with the woman in it. The zipper was startlingly loud in the tomb like room. He gingerly pushed the body bag down to examine the corpse inside.
His eyes widened as he took notice of the girl’s face. She couldn’t have been older than twenty with high, fine cheekbones, an Aristocratic nose, big eyes, and a set of lips where the bottom lip was plumper than the top, which made her look slightly pouty or mischievous under the right circumstances. She was tall and slender with a tone body like a dancer’s. Her baby fine gold hair reached past her waist.
She reminded him of a younger Nicole Kidman. That classic sort of beauty. However, the outfit was sort of Gothic. She wore a long leather duster that cost probably more than what he made in a year that had Celtic scroll work along the cuffs of the collar, sleeves, bottom of the jacket, and along the shoulders. Underneath that she wore a pair of black jeans and a black silk camisole. Her skin was the same flawless white of her face.
The only sign of injury was a spot of dry blood in the middle of her forehead and more clotted blood at the back of her hair. On closer inspection, under the blood there was more smooth, flawless skin. Frowning, he noted the quick draw holster around her slim waist and tied around a shapely thigh. The holster was empty, but the gun it would have held would have been as long as her arm.
He started to untie the thong around her thigh to take off the holster. Then he’d take off her jacket and undress her. I wonder if that blond’s from a bottle, Franz thought absently. As soon as he had her undressed, he would find out.
Her leg bent slightly at the knee. Franz was unconcerned. He’d seen corpses sit up in his day. It was either gases being released or retaining muscle spasms. It was no big deal.
The dead didn’t come back to life. That stuff only happened in the books or the movies. Even though he fancied what it would be like to be immortal, beautiful, and powerful. Just like Lestat.
Franz shrugged and started to unbuckle the holster. Something soft and cool with a grip like a vice wrapped around his wrist. He blinked as he noticed the long white fingers wrapped around his wrist. She’s got red nails, Franz thought absently before panic set in.
He tried to jerk his hand away but the corpse had a grip like iron. He pulled at her long fingers to no avail. The body rose to a sitting position, like a marionette. An inhumanly graceful and fluid movement that made his heart race as he distantly remembered the Anne Rice novel on his desk.
He found himself looking into that beautiful face like a cameo and jewel like eyes that were some velvety color between blue and violet.
Norman Franz opened his mouth to scream.