Chapter 1 of The Search: Book 2
“You smell good,” the man said as he nuzzled my neck.
“What perfume are you wearing?”
I couldn’t smell my signature scent over his alcohol-laced breath. “I’m not wearing perfume.”
“But you smell…heavenly.”
“Heavenly?” I scoffed. “I doubt that.”
We continued to ascend the staircase away from the lounge, the sound of the live band fading away as we headed toward my luxury apartment. Well, it wasn’t technically my apartment, but one owned by the Drakes. I had found the address, along with that of several other properties, on the phone I’d stolen from Marlo the night I fled Castle Adena.
“Where are you taking me?” the man asked.
“I’m taking you back to my place,” I coyly replied.
“Oh yeah? And what are you going to do with me when we get there?” His hand slid over my silk dress, caressing my back with the finesse of a drunken schoolboy.
“I’m going to show you something you’ve never seen before.”
“Mmm, I can’t wait.” He pulled me closer and began sloppily kissing my jaw.
This guy had no idea what I was about to show him. Or, rather, I should say, what I was about to do to him. Not only was I going to show him something he’d never seen before, but it would also be the last thing his mortal eyes saw on this planet.
“I want you – what did you say your name was?” The man stopped kissing to look at me.
“I didn’t tell you my name, Jay, because my name doesn’t matter.”
“My name is Joe.” He looked somewhat hurt by my forgetfulness, even dejected. Jay, Joe, tomato, tomahto, the name didn’t much matter. There was a greater purpose he was about to serve.
“I’m sorry, Joe,” I said, looking him square in the eye. “I forgot your name in the heat of the moment. Why don’t you just forget that ever happened?”
Joe’s pupils dilated as his brain recorded my command. In the next second, his mouth was back on my neck and I knew he had forgotten all about my slip up.
“I want you so bad,” Joe said.
“You have no idea how much I want you.” And that was the truth. Venom churned in my belly, making me hunger for this man’s blood. As the poison spread through my veins, it deposited desire on every nerve ending in my body. It was the same feeling I experienced before every kill, but it was more powerful when a human was my prey. The need for blood intensified with each beat of my heart – a heart whose only purpose was to move the Devil’s venom through my body and to drive me toward the singular goal of another mortal kill, another soul eternally damned. But I had to control myself – at least until I got dear, sweet Joe to my room.
We reached the apartment and I punched the security code into the keypad as I steadied Joe with my left arm. The lock clicked and I pushed the door open. We entered the dark apartment, the only illumination coming from the cityscape visible through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Which city, I hadn’t a clue. I’d traveled to so many cities over the past several months that they all looked the same. This was just another metropolis with an overabundance of skyscrapers, congested freeways and plenty of places like the lounge to inconspicuously pick up an easy meal, like Joe.
“Where’s the light?” Joe groped the wall in search of a switch.
“We don’t need light.” I grabbed Joe by the shirt and pushed him against the wall. I pressed my body against his as I kicked the door closed with my other foot.
“I like it. A woman who takes control and knows what she wants.”
“I know what I want, alright.”
Joe panted with anticipation. I could feel his heart beating beneath his shirt, now damp with perspiration. I yanked at his collar, exposing his neck. Though the room was dark, my eyes could see the vein thumping under his skin with every beat of his heart. I licked his neck and the saltiness was enough to make the venom angrier. It swirled more powerfully in my stomach and steamrolled through my veins. Desire was flush throughout my body; I yearned for nourishment. My legs tingled with anticipation. I opened my mouth and felt my fangs emerge; a drop of venom numbed my tongue for a second. I threw my head back, ready to strike when the light flicked on.
“What in the hell?” I shouted at Joe, assuming he had found the light switch.
It took his mortal eyes a few seconds to adjust to the surroundings, which was enough time for my fangs to retract without him noticing. Joe rubbed his eyes with both hands and I realized he couldn’t have turned on the light; the switch was out of reach. I turned around.
“Hello, Allison,” a female voice greeted from across the room.
“Marlo?” I was shocked by the unexpected appearance of the woman I had once, not too long ago, considered like a sister. She looked much the same since the last time I saw her – a full head of red curls spiraled past her shoulders and lavender eyes, vibrant against her pale skin, with thirteen yellow flecks each – the mark of a vampire – that barely moved, a sign that she was well nourished.
“Surprised to see me, are you?”
“What’s this?” Joe asked. “A threesome?”
“No!” Marlo and I replied in unison.
“You can go,” Marlo instructed Joe. Joe’s eyes dilated as the command registered.
“No, Joe, you are my guest and you are staying.” Joe’s eyes confirmed that my instructions had registered.
“Allison, Joe can go. He’s of no use to us.”
“He may be of no use to you, but he was about to serve a purpose for me.” I was angry that my meal had been interrupted. How dare Marlo show up here and interfere with my plans. I had to feed; there was too much venom built up in my body and there was only one way to squelch it. “You’re the one that needs to go.”
Marlo didn’t move. She stood there like a stoic angel, but there was nothing angelic about her. She was, after all, a killer just like me.
“Okay, I can see you’re not leaving. Fine. Stay and watch.” I turned back to Joe who was still leaning against the wall. “Remember when I said I was going to show you something you had never seen before?” Joe nodded in affirmation. “Check this out.”
My lips parted and my fangs emerged. It took Joe a second to work through his alcohol infused daze but the sight of my fangs eventually registered.
“How did you do that?” he muttered as his body began to tremble with fear.
A giggle escaped through my mouth as I observed Joe’s face – wide eyes and mouth agape. I knew what was going through his mind that wasn’t coming out of his mouth: oh no, not me; please don’t kill me, I have a family that will miss me. Blah, blah, blah – I had heard it all before. There was nothing he could say or do to stop me now; I needed his blood.
I moved my mouth toward Joe’s neck, my eyes not leaving his. He squirmed as he tried to escape my grasp but his mortal strength was no match for my immortal capabilities. My fangs brushed across Joe’s skin, sending a shiver down his spine. I nipped his neck and a drop of blood popped through his skin. The slight taste of his blood – coppery yet sweet with a hint of Jack Daniels – made me want him even more.
“I have news about Matthew,” Marlo announced.
I stopped the pursuit of my prey and froze in place. The sound of Matt’s name, my husband who had been kidnapped and hidden away by my would-be suitor Vincent, momentarily overrode all desire for human blood.
“Impossible,” I hissed, my mouth still inches from my victim’s neck.
“It’s true. Let Joe go and I’ll tell you what we found.”
“We?” I stepped back from Joe but still held him in place.
“Yes, we. You know, my brothers and me whom you once considered to be your own family? We have news about your husband.”
Thoughts of Matt raced through my mind. I missed my husband terribly. Hurt filled my heart as it always did when I thought of Matt. He was innocent in all of this and I still couldn’t comprehend why Vincent had gone through the hassle of staging a car accident and kidnapping Matt instead of just killing him. Killing him would have been the easier option, especially for a vampire. Or why hadn’t Vincent simply faked my death and left Matt alone? That also seemed easier than kidnapping and hiding him somewhere. After all, I was the one Vincent was really after – the first mortal descendant to exhibit signs of vampirism, just another unique possession to add to his one-of-a-kind collection. Vincent went to such lengths to make me believe that Matt was dead, but in reality, he was only missing. Vincent removed him from my life and transplanted him somewhere, but to where I didn’t know. I had tried to find Matt after I initially fled the Drake’s castle. I had searched what felt like all of North America and Central America, but the search had been in vain. The world was too vast to find one person who had been hidden by someone who didn’t want him found. So I distracted myself from my search with other things. Things like Joe.
“Husband?” Joe whispered. “You’re married?”
Joe’s voice floated through my ears and brought me back to reality. “Go,” I commanded. Joe flinched but I pulled him back, his face an inch from mine. “Forget everything that you’ve seen and heard here tonight. Got it?”
Joe nodded and I knew he had received the message. I opened the door to let him out and closed it before he was barely over the threshold.
“How dare you!” I shouted at Marlo. “How dare you show up here under some guise about knowing where my husband is. What – are you spying on me? Are you here to take me home? You can forget it, Marlo. I don’t ever want to go back to Ohio or Castle Adena.”
“Look at you, so full of rage you can barely control yourself. You know what the problem is Allison? You’re having withdrawals. There’s not enough human blood in your system so it’s driving you mad. You want to know why there’s not enough blood to satiate your appetite? Because you’ve been on a non-stop binge since you ran away last November.”
“Is it? I don’t think it is. Do you know how I found you, Allison? It wasn’t all that hard. I just had to follow the trail of dead bodies you’ve been leaving behind. I knew it was a mistake to let you watch the sun set alone that night after you killed Lucious. I should have taken you back to the castle. But I felt bad for you, knowing how much you had been through the past several months. I figured there was nothing wrong with giving you some space to contemplate things and process your thoughts. But that was naïve of me; I should have known your impulses might have told you to flee. I knew that you needed to be trained on how to hunt, on how to balance animal and mortal kills so that you wouldn’t reach this point. This is what happens when a newborn vampire isn’t properly trained.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about. You act like I’m the only vampire out there! Anyone could have killed the people you found. Heck, you and your brothers could have killed them.”
“No Allison, no mature, trained vampire would be that careless. Self-preservation is our top priority and at the rate at which you’ve been killing -- well, preservation is clearly the last thing on your mind.”
“You don’t know –”
“Then what’s this?” Marlo threw something across the room. My hand snatched it in midair.
“Where did you get this?” I asked as I looked at the small book I held in my hand. I rubbed the leather cover with my thumb, knowing full well what it was.
“I found it.”
“You went snooping through my things?”
“What is that Allison? A guilty conscience written on those pages? The names of your victims and where you killed them?”
“No,” I lied as I flipped through the pages of my victims’ names, some even written in their own blood. “This is private, my own business. And I’m going to ask you one more time – why are you here?”
“I want you to come back to the castle with me.”
“Why? So you can show me the error of my ways? So that you can fix me? No thanks, Marlo. I’m liking vampire life just fine on my own.”
“No, this really is about Matthew. We found him.”
“You found him? And how exactly did you find him? Because in the months that I’ve been…away, I haven’t been able to find a trace of him. Anywhere.”
“Felix found some clues.”
“Clues?” My mind flashed back to the room in Castle Adena I had been in when I had transformed into a vampire, before I realized that I had to work on controlling my vampire senses. With my vision in hunting mode, I had glanced at the painting that spanned the wall of that room. It had been a picture of the ocean in the midst of a violent storm. I had seen every brush stroke that together created the overall scene and I had sworn that I had seen something in that painting. “What kind of clues? Did he find something in that painting in my room?”
“The painting in your room? No. Why would you think that?”
“I swear that I saw something written among all of the brush strokes as I was trying to gain control of my senses.”
“No, Allison. There’s nothing special about that painting. The interior decorators found that piece and hung it. Felix used something called the Bible Code to discover where Matthew is being hidden.”
“Bible Code?” I asked incredulously. “That doesn’t even sound real.”
“Felix will have to explain it to you.”
“Okay, so why couldn’t Felix come here and explain it to me now?”
“Because we’re all out looking for you.” I rolled my eyes. “Once I found you, I called my brothers and told them to head back to the castle and that we’d be there soon.”
“That’s awfully presumptuous of you. Have you actually found Matt using these clues? Have you seen him?”
“Well, no. As soon as Felix thought he had found Matthew’s location, we all split up to look for you. We thought that you would want to hear the good news and help search for your husband. We, at least, remember how much you loved him and would do anything to find him. You do still love him, right? Or is your mind otherwise preoccupied these days?”
I ignored Marlo’s insinuation that I’d given up searching for my husband in lieu of binging on human blood. The past months had been a distraction, nothing more. I hadn’t forgotten about Matt; not one bit. “I still love my husband. Don’t you ever question that. If you haven’t seen him, then how do you even know he’s alive?”
“I saw that in Vincent’s own mind the night of the Halloween party.”
“The night Vincent transformed me?” I asked solemnly. The night Vincent had taken away the last decision I could have made as a mortal, damning my soul for eternity while placing a bounty on his own head for having broken a cardinal rule of vampire society.
“Yes, Allison. After getting Vincent good and worked up as I confronted him after your transformation, I touched him and was able to see some of Vincent’s memories. I saw Matthew in the car with you the night of your accident. I told you that and you apparently believed in it enough to run off by yourself and try to find Matthew. But now we have concrete proof of his location and we can target our search. Do you want to find your husband or not?”
Matt’s image in my mind’s eye was so vivid it was as if I could almost feel him. I missed running my fingers through his fine hair and feeling his strong arms comforting me. I missed looking into his hazel eyes and feeling the butterflies in my stomach. It had felt like years since I’d last seen Matt; it felt that way because Vincent had erased my memories of the past three years. But there was no doubt I still loved my husband. The only reason I had given up my search was because I hadn’t known where else to look. “I don’t believe you,” I whispered.
Marlo huffed. “Fine, do what you want, Allison. Stay here or go somewhere else and continue doing whatever it is you’re doing which isn’t getting you any closer to finding Matthew. Don’t come back to the castle with me to find out more about the only chance of finding your husband.” Marlo grabbed the doorknob, ready to exit the condo.
“Wait. What am I supposed to do when I find him?” Marlo turned around and gave me a soft smile. “He can’t find out that I’m a vampire. If I reveal to him what I am, that will mean his certain death.”
“How about we cross that bridge when we get to it?”
I mulled that over for a moment and then nodded my head. “Okay. Let’s go find my husband.”
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