Bronte followed Lucas out of the car and the headlights of the approaching BMW caught her attention long enough for her to see that Nolan had arrived. She turned her sights back to the oncoming zombies, of which she had never seen before.
“What’s the difference between zombies and ghouls?” she asked her mother as they all met in front of the car.
“Ghouls can move faster, zombies are really just muscle,” Raven explained as she checked her gun and the knife she had placed in a sheath at her forearm. She had an extra magazine in her hand that she handed to Bronte and Bronte put it in her front pocket.
Her mother had brought her clothes that would allow the accumulation and concealment of several weapons and she found a long silver knife engraved with a cross in a compartment of the pants that ran down the leg. She was glad of the extra weapon as she saw about twenty zombies as she scanned the area.
As they prepared their attention was drawn away by the loud sound of metal dropping to metal. Nolan had several handguns and two sawed off shotguns that he dropped onto the hood of their car.
“I’ll get these,” he said to them and he picked up one of the shotguns. “You go on in and I’ll be there when I’m done.” He stepped away and began to shoot the zombies that had come closest to them.
The things were slow and Bronte thought they might have been left outside the house to keep them occupied there while the real monsters were inside trying to kill Aden. She looked from the now headless zombie to the front door of the Cyrus’ house. There was no sound coming from within and that made her worry. The others began walking toward the house so she followed between Lucas and Dylan.
Rohan was at the door and everyone stood to one side as he checked it and it opened easily and quietly. The lights were off inside and he walked in first to do a sweep of the area. He found a light and switched it on. Raven followed, then Lucas and when Bronte walked in she was startled at the carnage within. There were decapitated bodies strewn throughout the receiving area and up the stairs. Some of the bodies had bullet holes in them, but they were all devoid of heads. She stopped and then turned when she felt a hand rest on her shoulder. It was Dylan and he appeared very concerned about her reaction to the bodies. She searched his eyes and found him to be very alert and aware of all around him. Still, his dark green eyes found hers long enough to ensure that she would be okay. She nodded and he removed his hand. She turned and was looking about the room until she heard someone running above. Everyone heard it and they all looked up, but saw nothing. It was dark upstairs and as before Rohan went before them to find light. Lucas stayed behind and began to look in the rooms there.
Another light came on that lit the stairway and part of the hallway. The sound of running came again and Rohan turned in the direction of that sound, but saw nothing. That was when she heard the sounds; whispers coming from the dark end of the hallway. The fear rose and she stopped halfway up the stairs.
“Whisperers,” she breathed out in fear. Her mother turned to look at her. Her eyes fell to her mother then and even her presence could not still her frantic heart.
Raven had to trust that Bronte could do this, but the look on her daughter’s face when the sounds of whispering began made her wonder. If Bronte became a liability she would have to be taken from the house. She hoped that wouldn’t happen, but if it did Bronte had to be the priority.
Someone snickered and they looked back to the darkness. Rohan approached the noises and Bronte felt fear for her father. She took another step, but they began to whisper to her and she froze.
“See you, see you, see you,” it laughed in its whispering voice.
The hand went back to her shoulder and again she turned around and looked into the confident face of Dylan.
“They smell your fear,” he said quietly. “I will stay at your side. Hide your fear from them.”
His eyes told her to be strong and she wished she could make them understand. No one would ever understand. The whisperers wanted her and they would take her if she wasn’t careful.
The sound of running came again and it was on the top floor. They would have to walk into the darkness where the whispering was in order to reach the next floor. Rohan moved forward and tried to locate a light. As his figure was encompassed in the darkness Bronte heard the sound of movement there and then the sound of something hitting a wall. The pictures just outside the darkness shook when she heard the sound and she knew something was attacking her father.
She watched her mother’s reaction and knew she was right. Raven pulled her gun and moved into the darkness to join her husband. Bronte heard the shot ring out and then another and her feet found freedom. She would not face the whisperers for herself, but she would not allow them to hurt those she loved. She heard Dylan’s quick footsteps behind her as she entered the darkness.
In the moment it took for her eyes to adjust she saw a figure approach her. Dylan was in front of her with a sword raised and she saw him take the head of the thing that had charged her. She could see them now. They were only shadows in the darkness, but she knew what they would look like in the light. They were no taller than she was, and she could see stringy hair flying as they attacked. Their long fingers grabbed and scratched and she screamed when one grabbed her mother and lifted her from the floor. Two shots rang out and the creature dropped her and her mother continued to on as she looked for lights and fought the creatures.
There were too many of them she thought as two attacked her father and two more attacked Dylan. They were everywhere in the darkness. She could see several on the stairway that led to the next floor, and several were at the furthest end of the hall, waiting their turn to attack.
They came out like ants from hill and shots rang out again and again as her mother emptied her first magazine and loaded the second. Dylan had kept them away from her so far, but there were now five fighting him and more coming upon him. Soon they would overrun him, and they would have her.
* * *
Cyrus felt a shift within him and he looked up to the immortal to see if it was coming from him. The immortal sat with his eyes closed and his feet up as though he felt nothing at all. Rylan had removed the painful net and Cyrus had been grateful for that. He now was imprisoned in a cage that had a witch’s circle of protection about the plane that held him within.
The feeling came again and he recognized it at once; it was fear, Bronte’s fear. He had no idea where it came from or how he could feel it. His power was low as was his blood. No markings warmed him to announce her, because the markings were now gone. He knew it was her regardless and his heart began to beat as he felt her fear rise. Her power was calling to him. He felt it enter his body and search for his own.
He had been a powerful vampire when he was made king, which could not be taken away by the Circle. Even in his weakened state he could feel the calling and felt his fangs lengthen in response and his eyes became sharp and aware as they turned blood red. He had thought his power drained, but his fear fed it and it sprang to life like a new flame. He felt the inside of the plane grow warm and he saw the immortal shift in his seat as he came forward to look at him.
“What are you doing Cyrus?” Rylan asked. He could feel the warmth, he could feel the power.
Cyrus said nothing. He pulled on the power he found there and he knew Bronte was in danger, she was somewhere far away and there were the ghouls she called the whisperers trying to take her. He knew her mind would not withstand their touch, he had seen as much in her face when they were at Seth’s castle. He was not there to save her now and he replaced his feelings of helplessness with rage and he sent his power out in all directions to her.
Rylan felt the power expand and it was painful. It was heat and rage and as the power filled the plane, the windows shattered and the plane went down.
* * *
Bronte felt the power enter her body and her marking grew hot. Her eyes became acutely sharp and she could see everything around her. The whisperers were loud and the gunshots only served to make them more incessant. She focused on the whisperers, all of them. Her gun fell from her hand and she didn’t hear it hit the carpeted floor. The power that infused her body was rage and she looked at it with her own power and molded it.
“Fear me,” she whispered into the darkness and the ghouls there began to scream in whispers. They moved away and stopped attacking. They looked at her now with fear and dismay. Bronte felt no fear of them now, she felt the heat of her power filling them with what she wanted them to feel. She was able to direct it to them and knew no one else had been affected as they turned to look at what the whisperers was backing away from and surprise filled their expressions.
Bronte felt herself move in slow motion. She heard footsteps coming up behind her and cast a glance to find Lucas and Nolan there. They stopped and looked at her then to the ghouls that were backing into the far corner. There had to be thirty of them and they began to crawl over one another to get away from her. She turned back and walked toward the stairs. She did not look at anyone else. She could feel Aden and Felix now. She wasn’t sure how, but she could feel then and they were fighting creatures upstairs near the hallway with the long, tall windows. They allowed her to pass and as she began to walk up the stairs she stopped and looked to Dylan and then to the ghouls in the corner of the room.
“Kill them,” she said to the warrior as she looked from the monsters. “Kill them all.”
She watched the warrior nod and saw Lucas pick up her gun and look to her again. They all looked to her and they followed her, except for Dylan and Lucas who began to kill the ghouls in earnest.
She felt another power surge, but it came from behind her so she stopped at the top of the stairs to look down at her approaching mother. The power recognized her mother and it reached out to touch her gently. She saw her mother’s eyes grow wide in recognition and when they locked eyes her markings grew warm again. The power her mother had could not be controlled like Bronte’s own, but it was power like hers and it answered to her when she called it.
“Come mother,” she said with great love in her voice, “I feel the call of justice. It asks for blood.”
Raven could feel the hairs on the back of her neck stand out. The power that called to her was her daughter’s, but it was like her own. It was stronger though, more powerful, and Bronte could control it. She had not felt whatever it was Bronte sent out to the ghouls below, but it was obvious the things feared her. She had no idea where the power came from, but walked past a very still Rohan to join her daughter on the landing above and together they walked calmly toward a door at the end of the hallway.
Shots rang out from below and sounds of the whisperers followed them as they screamed. Bronte never looked back. As her hand touched the door she felt her father’s hand fall to her shoulder. She looked back and he handed her another gun. She took it and offered him a smile as she opened the door and led them to where she knew the two vampires were fighting.
The ghouls in the large hallway were bigger than the whisperers, but they turned when Bronte walked in the room. Aden and Felix were covered in blood, theirs and the ghouls and they both held swords. They had run out of bullets and the swords were all that was left to them.
The larger ghouls did not seem to be afraid of her, but looked at her in curiosity when she entered. Some had already gone back to fighting the two vampires with pieces of furniture they had picked up along the way. Some had knives and one had a sword and was fighting Felix at the far end of the hallway. Aden’s attention was called away as he saw Bronte, and then Rohan and Raven enter the room. It was immediately brought back to the fight as two of the ghouls fought him using lamp stands.
Bronte still felt no fear. She brought the gun in front of her and her finger fell to the trigger. She felt a nothingness fill her then and she heard the shots ring out. She continued to walk further down the hall toward Aden as she shot the ghouls in the head and watched them fall away. Some became brazen and came toward her, but there were shots coming from behind her and her mother came up beside her.
Rohan walked past the women and further down the hall. He still had his sword in hand and began fighting the creatures as he now stood next to Aden.
Bronte’s eyes fell to Felix and she felt protective of him. She walked through the hallway as her mother cleared a path for her. As she neared Felix she brought the gun up and sent two shots to the creature, one to the heart and one to the head. It dropped and Felix turned. He had been wounded and he looked tired, but mostly he looked surprised. He walked to her then and the room had grown quiet with the killing of the last ghoul.
The man stood there in front of her staring as though he couldn’t figure her out. He was bleeding and needed to find nourishment, as he was sure the other vampire would as well. They had been ambushed and he Felix had felt the weakening of his master, though he had no idea what had happened. Looking at the girl he felt awe, she was powerful, he could feel it. He could feel his master there, but she was not a vampire. His hand rose slowly and he touched her face. Her hand met his there and she looked at him with something akin to love.
“You belong to me now Felix,” she told him. “You are mine until the master returns.”
He heard her voice, but it was also his master’s. He knew that she belonged to Cyrus and that somehow they were bonded and he did not hesitate to agree to her words.
Someone found the light and she turned to see Dylan standing in the doorway. He was covered in blood and she felt the smile of satisfaction broaden her lips at the knowledge that the whisperers were dead.
Someone walked into her path and blocked her view of the warrior. She turned her face upward to look into the blue-green eyes of Aden. He was looking at her with the same curiosity that Felix had shown.
“You feel like a vampire to me,” he said to her and his eyes looked her over carefully. “You feel like Cyrus to me.”
“Yes, I know,” she answered. Before she could say another word she felt a sudden break in her power. It was so sudden and complete that the loss of it filled her with grief and fear and she felt herself waver. She looked up into Aden’s concerned face when he grabbed her up in his arms to keep her from falling. “Get me out of here Aden,” she whispered to him as she allowed him to cradle her in his arms. “I don’t belong here anymore.”
Sadness filled her heart and she feared that Cyrus was now in Dark World and his power was locked away, taken from her. She looked at no one as Aden walked down the stairs and out of the house, with Felix following, bringing nothing, saying nothing.
* * *
Little was said on the way back to their DC home. Pierce had not come to fight, but he was waiting for them when they all arrived. Aden still had Bronte cradled in his arms, and Lucas was with Nolan as he pulled his car in the driveway behind them.
Pierce was outside, but followed them in and they all sat in the living room of the small house. It was in Georgetown and was a quaint little Victorian place with sparse furnishings. It was meant to be functional and it was.
Aden sat Bronte down on the couch and then sat next to her. Her hand found his and held it tightly as she looked up at him. Seth had said he was dead, and Seth was wrong. Seth had been a fool to think that Aden could be killed so easily. She wondered what might have happened if they had not come to help and her heart couldn’t take the thought of it. He was alive and no one had been seriously harmed. She looked to Felix who was uncomfortable in the small home. She moved and signaled him to come and sit next to her, which he did gratefully.
Pierce looked at the three of them on the couch and then to Rohan and Raven who stood by an empty fireplace. Rohan had pulled Raven against him and they were speaking quietly to one another. Lucas and Nolan came in together and the warrior Dylan had gone to clean up somewhere else in the house.
“When we spend so much time together like this it is never a good sign,” Pierce brought their attention to him as he stood just inside the entrance to the living room. No one commented and he went on. “I’m afraid I have bad news.” He looked at each of them, but his eyes settled on Bronte. “The plane carrying Cyrus and Rylan has crashed somewhere over Utah.” Raven broke free from Rohan’s embrace, but he pulled her back. They both looked to Bronte and could see fear fill her expressive eyes. Aden pulled her closer to him and put his arm around her, but Bronte’s attention went to Felix.
“Do you feel him Felix?” She asked the other vampire. Cyrus was his master and she thought he would feel it if something happened to him. Her heart was pounding hard, because she had felt the power fall away suddenly and had felt the emptiness.
Felix looked worried, but she could see him doing some kind of internal search as his eyes looked forward, but did not seem to see anything. When his eyes focused he turned to her.
“I do not feel him,” he admitted and sadness filled him until she could feel it herself. “Do you?” he asked her and there was hope there in his face that broke her heart for them both.
“No,” she said to him quietly. “I can’t feel him anymore.”
No one spoke as she tried to do concentrate as Felix did to see if she could feel his power. It wasn’t there and she became despondent. Her heart felt as though it would shatter and the fear increased. She looked up into the eyes of her mother and had to blink to remove the tears and see her clearly.
“I can’t feel him,” she said to Raven, and Rohan let go of his wife so that she could go to Bronte.
Bronte started to lean forward so she could stand and meet her mother, but she fell forward into the floor and found it hard to breathe. Her head touched the carpet and she couldn’t hear anything, she couldn’t see anything. She felt people around her, but she only wanted to be left alone. Strong arms lifted her, but she couldn’t see who carried her away from the others. She was put upon a bed and someone sat next to her. She looked at the tall man there, but she couldn’t see him. It was when he spoke that she knew it was her father.
“Bronte, we will find him,” he promised as his hand caressed her forehead and moved away the hair from her eyes.
“If he is dead, I don’t want to be immortal,” she said and her father’s hand stopped its movement and he seemed to hold his breath.
“Rest,” he told her and she felt tired. She thought she would never be able to sleep until she knew what had happened to Cyrus, but she grew weary and as her eyes closed she realized that her father had put her to sleep, and she found that she was grateful.
* * *
Cyrus opened his eyes and felt panic at the coming dawn. Without the power of the Circle he would parish from the sun’s rays. He tried to focus his eyes, but it was difficult due to the incredible pain in his head, but he finally managed to see his surroundings.
The plane had hit somewhere in a desert area and he could see by the coming light that everything appeared red, red dirt, red boulders, red and blue sky. He had been thrown from the cage when the plane hit and he could see fire from the wreckage. Twisted metal scattered the landscape and the red dirt made it appear that the plane had bled. He tried to stand and could feel the broken bones trying to mend. There was significant internal damage and he knew that if he did not seek shelter from the sun he would be dead in a matter of minutes.
It was cold and the pre-dawn wind whipped at him. It reminded his body that it needed to fight to live as the puffs of white clouds appeared from between his cold lips. Breathing helped to mend, it fed his blood cells and he needed all the help he could get at the moment. He needed all the blood he could get at the moment. Looking at what once had been a small corporate jet he knew the pilot could not have survived. The man had been a lycanthrope, and although the werewolves could take a lot of damage, they couldn’t take that much and live. His only hope was to find the immortal.
He crawled along cold, dry dirt trying to concentrate on feeling for the immortal. He searched for his power, his blood, his warmth. The coming sun continued to distract him and he felt the day begin to come to life. He saw the figure of the immortal near the flames and smelled the burning flesh. Rylan’s arm was in the flames and most of the flesh there had burned, and his arm continued to act like a log and the flames crawled slowly upward toward his body. Cyrus removed his shirt and as he pulled the immortal away from the flames and put them out with the cloth. The plane continued to burn and Cyrus drug Rylan further away to ensure the man would not be burned up once he left him. The shirt caught fire and Cyrus let it fly into the wind toward the burning plane.
“Poetic justice my friend,” Cyrus whispered as he sunk his teeth into Rylan’s throat and felt the rush of power from the king’s blood. Rylan had removed the cruel net of crosses when his brother would have it remain. Cyrus felt that they were now even as he stood and looked down at the immortal who was no longer on fire. He would heal, but Cyrus would live with the burns of the crosses forever. Rylan’s blood was penance for what they had done to him.
Cyrus took to the wind and found shelter a few miles east of where they had landed. He cloaked his presence from the world and the kings. He looked like a monster now with the burns scattered over his face and arms. He had lost his place at the Circle, he had lost his people and he had lost Bronte. He buried himself deep within the cave and within the ground. He could never have her now and so he closed himself off and thought of Seth, and of revenge.
* * *
It was dawn when she awoke. She felt as though she was suffocating in the dark and she felt sorrow and rage. Her eyes roamed the room that was her parents as she recalled where she was. She wondered where they were. She sat up quickly as she remembered what Pierce had told them. It was dawn and if Cyrus was still alive and outside he could die now. She threw the covers away and saw that she still wore her clothes from last night. Someone had removed the knife from her leg compartment and the gun she had and both were sitting next to the bed on a table. She stood and reached for the weapons as the realization settled in that she was experiencing a change in herself. She realized that she would never be unarmed again. Her life had changed, she had seen evil and she had killed. She thought of the words of her godfather, Lucas before they had entered the house and as she put the weapons in place she recognized her acceptance of it all. She had found a place within herself that allowed her to feel nothing when she shot those creatures and she wondered if that place would welcome her again if she were forced to kill humans, or lycanthropes, or even vampires. Her mind echoed with the words of “Justice” and she knew she could do it, she could bring justice to whatever creature deserved it, she just hoped she would be able to recognize it when it was deserved.
She felt the weight of the responsibility she now carried. She wondered at how her father and the other kings could bear it so long; deciding who died and making the kill. She hoped she would always be sure of herself before she made a kill. That nothingness rubbed along her conscience and she felt that she would always do her best to make the right decision, but if it came down to it she wouldn’t give a damn as long as she was the one who walked away.
She picked up the extra magazine that had been left there. She looked at it and saw the silver bullets engraved with crosses, she put them in one of the pockets in her pants. The bullets had not killed Seth. They hadn’t even really slowed him down. She considered the long knife sheathed in place in her leg pocket and wondered if she would be able to slow him down enough to cut his heart out. Thoughts of toys and dreams and happily-ever-after were lost and someone should have to die for that she thought. She smiled at the irony of the thought and turned to leave the room and find the others.
Her mother and Dylan were sitting in the kitchen chatting quietly. Her mother had done some shopping so she could eat. Immortals could eat, but they rarely did, it wasn’t necessary. Dylan stood when she walked in and she nodded to him in recognition. Her mother’s eyes followed her as she found a seat next to them at the kitchen table. They sat in front of a large window and the sunlight shown down on the table, warming the room. It was a beautiful day, clear and blue out, but Bronte found she was unable to appreciate it. She was learning to hate the sun. The sun took away people you love; the sun could kill people you love. She looked out the window and squinted her eyes at the street down the driveway. People were starting their mornings going no where important, but thinking they were. She felt the stirrings of loss and she pushed at them before she turned her attention back to her mother.
“Where is everyone?” She asked and her eyes fell to her mother whose expression told her she saw the changes in her daughter. Her eyes were sad, but they showed resolve and acceptance as she answered.
“Pierce had his people in Utah look for the plane,” she said, “They know approximately where it went down. Pierce and Nolan are probably there by now and your father and Lucas have gone out to see if they can find out what Seth is doing and what his plans are,” she finished.
“I want proof that Cyrus is dead,” Bronte told her mother. “I need some kind of evidence.”
Raven felt her heart breaking for her daughter. No one thought Cyrus was alive. He had been too weak to survive the crash, and even if he did he would have been too weak or still in the cage and would not have survived the sun. Her hand went out and lay coolly on top of Bronte’s. Bronte looked down at it and moved it to squeeze it reassuringly and then looked at her mother.
“He’s not dead, until I say he’s dead,” she said and she pushed her mother’s hand gently away to let her know that sympathy was not needed nor wanted. “I’m going to eat, shower, change and then I want to know the plan,” she said softly to her mother. She knew this was hard on her mother, to no longer see the child, but to accept the woman she had grown to be. She watched her mother’s eyes betray her and glisten with unshed tears and she leaned forward to capture her in an embrace.
“I’m so sorry Bronte,” she whispered. She would have given anything to have kept this from happening. Bronte’s heart was broken and she wondered about her ability to cope with it all. She and Bronte looked more like sisters now that she had grown. Soon they would have to claim they are sisters so others would not question why Raven looked so young to be a mother of a child that looked close to her own age. It would never matter that they did not look like mother and daughter; no one could take that kind of love away, not even time. She didn’t want to let go of her little girl, but the time had come to let her be her own woman, whatever that was going to be. Raven accepted what had to be and she felt herself changing as well. Now she would protect her daughter by making her stronger, instead of being strong for her.
Bronte pulled back and smiled and Raven returned it. She got up and made herself breakfast. It was going to be a difficult day; the beginning of a difficult life.
* * *
It was late in the day when her father and Lucas returned. Aden and Felix were in black body bags in the den and she thought that had to be uncomfortable. Of course neither of them were breathing so maybe they didn’t feel the discomfort of the cold hard wood floor. She had walked in to check on them and checked to make sure the window was locked before she left. Dylan was watching her and as she walked out of the den he spoke.
“Aden has put up a circle of protection so Seth’s ghouls can’t get in here,” he said. “Of course Seth’s vampire fledglings can because he can’t include vampires in the circle for obvious reasons.” He smiled at the last part finding it ironic that a vampire could set up a circle of protection and then not be able to include vampires because he was one.
She had never seen him smile before and she found that it made him even more handsome when he did so. She considered him in that moment. He had come with her father to rescue her, he had promised his protection, and when the plans changed from staying at the hotel as her father directed and going to the Circle as she and her mother wanted he had followed without hesitation. He would do as her father asked, but he definitely had his own mind and even though he had not wanted to lose her as a mate, he saw the necessity of getting to Cyrus and he had gone with them.
The thought that he had been chosen for her and that he had waited for her crossed her mind. He was handsome and strong and he seemed kind and thoughtful and she was sorry he would not get what he waited so long to have, but she could not force herself to love him. Her entire heart and soul belonged to Cyrus and she didn’t think that would change, even if he were dead. She looked into Dylan’s eyes and her smile that had held there for a moment slipped.
“I’m sorry Dylan that things turned out the way they did,” she said. “I’m sorry your time was wasted.”
She looked beautiful today he thought, but her eyes spoke of things she now knew that could not be forgotten or taken away with time. He wished he had been known to her and he wished he could have prevented all of this. He was sure Cyrus was dead and it pained him to think she would go on alone. He didn’t want that for her. She was a woman that was meant to be loved and cherished, and the thought of her living her life alone was unjust.
“I am too,” he said and his hand came up to tuck a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. “I know you don’t want to think of this now, but I still want you. Don’t live your life alone.”
She could only look at him as her mind screamed out that Cyrus was not dead and her heart ached to even consider his death. She did not want to live her life alone, she wanted to live her life with Cyrus. She wondered if she could accept Dylan and immortality if Cyrus were indeed dead. Cyrus had told her that she would become immortal by his hand or another’s, but at the time she hadn’t considered what she would do with immortality if it were truly offered to her. She didn’t think she could live forever with this awful emptiness and terrible ache in her heart.
“I don’t want to live forever Dylan,” she said, “Not like this. Not without him.”
“You’re young Bronte,” he said gently, “I can see that you love him and perhaps you always will, but time has a way of passing that allows us to heal. If you can’t see that with your heart see it with your mind. Be logical. There’s much you have to offer this world, don’t let your loss be everyone’s loss.”
Bronte understood about the passing of time more than Dylan might imagine. The days would go by slowly and the nights would be worse. Still, he was right, she was thinking with her heart; how could she not? Logically, she thought, she did not want to grieve her parents. She would never want them to feel the loss she was feeling now for Cyrus.
“Now’s not the time to consider it,” she said to him. “I need to take things one step at a time right now.” Looking at him she found her mind considering it anyway. Sometimes your mind went against your heart and thought what it would. She didn’t want to even imagine anyone with her but Cyrus, but looking at Dylan she couldn’t say that it would be a terrible fate.
Dylan dropped his hand and nodded in understanding. She had enough to consider right now and he would not add to her concerns. He only wanted her to take care and consider that life would not always be full of fear and grief.
Their attention was called to the sound of the front door opening. Lucas and Rohan walked in and their faces were solemn. Raven walked out of the kitchen when she saw them pull in to the driveway and they now all stood looking at one another waiting for Rohan to speak.
Rohan nodded to his wife and walked into the living room where everyone followed and took a seat.
“The house in Virginia was burned,” he said and no one seemed surprised. “Some of it still stands, but the bodies were either burned or removed. We could find nothing of Seth there.”
“What about the clubs here in DC?” Raven asked. They had already been working on finding out what Seth owned and where. He had clubs everywhere around the country. There were two in DC and one in Boston.
“They are guarded, but we managed to get in through a back window with little resistance,” Rohan told her. “It looks like a blood bank in there. Vampire blood more than likely. There were syringes and needles. We tore the place up, so we can expect to hear from Seth tonight.
Bronte listened carefully to the details of what was found there. She recalled the club in Minnesota and the syringe the bartender was handing out. She also recalled seeing the woman on the dance floor and knew that Seth had ghouls and other creatures watching the clubs. At the time she hadn’t realized the club she was at in Minnesota was Seth’s, but now things fell into place and she knew the incident outside the club had been at Seth’s command or from his lack of attention to what was happening to her while she was there. Either way Seth was behind it.
She wondered about her apartment in Minnesota, and her job. She wondered if it would all still be there. She didn’t want to go back to the apartment, it had too many memories. Cyrus was gone and Carol was dead, no amount of time could take that away and she doubted she would want to remain in Minnesota.
She looked up at her father and found that she saw him differently now. He was more than just her father; he was a man and a king. She had never thought about what that might be like and what hardships must certainly come with that title. She found she was seeing many things differently and she worried that she did not know who she was. She worried that she would not care for who she would become.
“Do we have a plan?” She asked Rohan. He looked to her and he stopped talking for a moment. His eyes moved over her face and he looked to Raven, but said nothing.
“Yes,” he said and looked to Bronte. “We have to get Seth to do something unacceptable to the Circle and the kings. We need to prove that he cannot rule the vampire world.”
“How do we plan on doing that?” Bronte asked. Her eyes went to Lucas whose expression had turned inward and reflective. The Lycanthrope King put his arm on his thighs and leaned his head into his hands there looking down to the floor.
“We are going to allow Seth to continue doing what he’s doing until we have enough evidence to have him challenged and send him to Dark World,” Lucas rubbed his face with both hands as though he had the smell of something detestable on him. When he looked up to Bronte his expression was full of shame and regret.
“What is it Lucas?” She asked. She knew he would not want to see people using vampire blood or being hurt by Seth while they waited to get something on him that would be enough to take him from the Circle, but it was more than that.
“We’re doing exactly what Cyrus was doing,” he said and his eyes moved to Rohan, “What we said made him unfit to be a king.”
Rohan said nothing. Lucas was right, but there was nothing that could be done about that now. They wanted Seth as badly as Cyrus had wanted him and they were willing to allow some atrocities to occur to ensure that Seth was taken out. It was no different than what Cyrus was doing and they had judged him harshly for it.
“What about Cyrus?” She asked and was glad when her voice remained even and calm.
“If he is alive we will help him regain his seat,” Rohan said and realized the words had hurt Bronte, but there was nothing that could be done about it. “If not I say we speak to Aden and see if he will challenge Seth.”
Bronte didn’t like the plan, but she didn’t have a better one. She didn’t want to wait for Seth to do enough damage to the vampire world that the Circle would allow a challenge. She wanted Seth punished now, and not able to search her out and lay claim to her as he had promised. She didn’t want Aden to be the Vampire King because that would mean admitting that Cyrus was dead. Cyrus was meant to be the Vampire King and that was the only justice she would accept. She didn’t think Aden would want to sit on the Circle of Seven. It wasn’t his style, but he would be better than Seth.
“While Seth still reigns you will need to be under guard,” Rohan told her. He feared that she would not accept this. He wasn’t sure who she was anymore. She had gone from being a child to killing alongside him. He needed time to adjust and he wasn’t going to get that. He looked at her and waited for a reply.
She didn’t want her father to start dictating her life, but he was right on this. There was no way she could hope to defend herself against Seth and she would rather die than have him touch her. She nodded quietly and saw the relief wash over her father’s features.
“The immortals will watch over you,” he said to her and his eyes fell to Dylan who nodded his acknowledgment of his new duty.
Bronte watched the shadows descend and merge into the darkness within the room. It would be sunset soon and she wondered what Pierce and Nolan had found. She wondered what she would do with Felix. Felix and Aden would have to hunt tonight and then she and Felix would have to decide what they would do while they awaited Cyrus. They couldn’t stay here, it was too crowded with just her parents, and they couldn’t go back to the house in Virginia now. She wished they had taken her with them to Utah. Waiting was driving her mad.
She dropped her head down in her hands, but it snapped up when the phone rang. On the first ring she felt her heart pound loudly in her chest. She had no doubt that it was word about the plane accident. No one moved to answer it, it was as though no one wanted to be the one to know first. No one wanted to be the one to have to share the news. By the third ring Bronte realized she was the reason no one wanted to pick up the phone. No one thought Cyrus was alive and they didn’t want to be the one to tell her. On the fourth ring she stood, unable to listen to the echo of it in her head. When she did her father stood and shook his head at her as he walked over to pick up the phone.
“Rohan, this is Pierce,” he said and his voice sounded tired. There was the sound the wind in the background and the movement of metal as Pierce moved the phone cord of the payphone he was at and it scraped against the phone.
“What is it?” Rohan asked in measured calm.
“Rylan was hurt pretty bad and we’ll not be able to move him tonight,” he said as he put off the inevitable. “His arm is mostly burned off, but someone drug him away from the fire before the rest of him could burn.”
Rohan had no doubt that it was Cyrus that had dragged his brother away from the flames. The pilot had been a lycanthrope and would have been easily killed. It only left Cyrus and his hope sprung to life that the vampire still lived.
“And what of Cyrus?” He asked.
Pierce paused long enough for Rohan to have his answer, but he stood very still, not wanting Bronte to see his reaction to the news.
“We found some of his clothing,” Pierce said as he thought of the burned shirt near the plane. Cyrus couldn’t have been burned up in the crash because someone had saved Rylan from the fire and the pilot was dead. The vampire had perished in the sun and there was nothing left to bring home and bury. “I’m sorry Rohan,” he said and was suddenly grateful he was in Utah. “The sun has claimed Cyrus.”
There was nothing left to say. Pierce and Nolan would care for Rylan until he was well enough to return to DC and Cyrus was dead. Rohan whispered something to Pierce that no could hear and then he hung up the phone to deliver the news.
They were all standing in anticipation. His eyes sought Bronte and he couldn’t speak. He could only stand there with his guilt and her pain and Cyrus’ death eating at him like cancer. Her eyes were locked to him and still he could say nothing.
“No,” she began to shake her head at her father in disbelief. “No,” she felt the tears come and fall freely down her face without thought. “No,” it was the only word that filled her mind and it screamed and screamed as she remained seemingly calm. It was all just a big mistake and she waited for her father to speak and tell her that his silence meant that Cyrus was terribly injured or could not be found. Rylan was immortal and she knew he was alive no matter what had happened to him in the wreck and she doubted that her father would appear so solemn for the pilot that he didn’t really know. “No,” she felt her calm resolve crumble and her world spin and the darkness came.