What would you like to see next week on Amaranthine Unlocked? More of this AU or a different one? A scene from a different character's POV? An interview with someone? Some backstory info? Let me know in the comments! Or just say hi. Or tell me a joke. Just leave a comment, puh-puh-puh-please. (ha ha!)
Katelina opened her eyes slowly. The wailing in the background of her dreams turned into a distant siren. Police? Ambulance? Did it matter?
She rolled over and blinked at her surroundings. The building was abandoned and half finished. Sand coated the floor and the bits of junk. A piece of plastic flapped somewhere in the early evening breeze. Along the far wall, a pile of plywood had been draped in plastic tarps, but those tarps were now blocking the last of the sunlight.
Katelina felt the movement against her back, the soft stretch of someone waking. She expected to hear Jorick’s usual gasp, but it didn’t come.
Because that isn’t Jorick.
With that thought, the memory of last night crashed down on her. The fight at Lilith’s. The hotel. Verchiel. The hotel pool. And then they’d run. Verchiel had stopped only to grab his bag from his room, and they’d made a mad dash for the cars.
“It will be some time before they know we’re gone,” he’d assured her as he started a stranger’s car. “Maybe not ‘til near sunrise. That should buy us some time.”
Had it? she wondered. Or had the others just decided not to chase them?
“They’ll come,” Verchiel replied without moving. “Jorick and Oren will assume I kidnapped you. The interesting one will be Samael. He’ll know you came willingly – he probably knows it now.”
Katelina sat up, pulling her knees to her chest. Fragments of a dream hung in her mind, but they were already fading. She’d seen Samael, perched like a vulture at the window.
She is here.
With a panicked cry, Katelina grabbed Verchiel’s shirt. “Lilith! Oh my God! She’s…” But another clip flashed behind her eyes. Samael glowed in the sun, Lilith’s ruined body at his feet.
“It is done.”
Verchiel swung up, concern in his violet eyes, but Katelina relaxed. “No. She’s dead. Samael killed her.”
“During the day, I guess. While we were sleeping. I don’t know. I just saw a flash of it.”
Verchiel made a show of stretching and yawning. As his arms came down, he slid one of them around her. She felt the hesitation, the stiffness in his muscles as he waited, no doubt to see what she’d do. Would she pull away? Would she relax into him? Would she just sit there stiff?
What should I do?
Last night flashed through her head again. His hands. His lips. The taste of him. The feel of him. The…
She couldn’t see his face, but she could feel his worry, a sharp sting, like a cold knife edge. The longer she hesitated, the worse it would get, for both of them.
With a sigh, she closed her eyes and leaned against him. His surprise was like a scarlet spark, echoing through her, and then he relaxed. He tightened his hold, squeezing her to him. “At least it’s over.”
Over? What… then she realized he meant Samael and Lilith.
“I hope so.”
“Me too. We have enough problems without them.” Though he laughed, she knew the humor was a cover, a pretty lie, maybe to make her feel better. She appreciated the gesture, but they didn’t have time of rit. Not right now.
“Speaking of that, we’d better get moving.”
Verchiel sighed, his face turned to nuzzle her hair. “In a minute.”
“We might not have a minute.” She imagined Jorick crashing through the wall any second, Oren and Micah on his heels, blood lust in their eyes.
“All right.” Verchiel started to stand, then switched at the last minute, sweeping her onto her back, his face close to hers. A smile played on his lips and mischief twinkled in the depths of his twilight eyes. “In a minute.”
His gaze trapped her, sweet with the song of late summer promise, and she dropped away, letting him claim her mouth with his. Her body rose, back arching, hands reaching for him, as her lips parted to let his tongue delve inside.
He caught her hand, lowering it, and pulled away reluctantly. “Sadly, it’s been a minute, and we do need to go. But this,” he motioned between them. “We’ll pick this up later.”
He stood, offering her a hand. She let him tug her to her feet, then turned to straightening her clothes. She hadn’t gotten any of her luggage, leaving her with no bra, and last night’s jeans and t-shirt, both of which were covered in sand and sawdust.
Verchiel tossed his bag to her. “Here. You can borrow some of mine. We’ll stop and buy you something later. When we’re not on the run.”
Will that ever happen?
It was a question she didn’t want to face. Instead, she fished through his belongings to find a neon pink shirt and stone washed jeans. Neither would have been her first choice – where did he get his fashion sense from? – but they were better than being dirty.
While she changed, Verchiel dusted himself off. “Good enough. Come on.”
He knelt so she could climb on his back. Though she hated it, it was faster than walking back to the car. He’d insisted they leave it several blocks away, to throw everyone off. She hadn’t bothered to point out that the other vampires could smell their trail.
The city sped by in a blur of street lights and old buildings. They were near the outskirts, and today’s journey should see them through the desert and then – and then where? She didn’t know where they were going. It hadn’t seemed important last night, but today…
Verchiel slid to a stop by the stolen car and crouched so she could climb off. Once they were inside, he brought he engine to life with a grin. “Ready?”
The only thing she could do was nod.
They stopped at a truck stop for gas and dinner. Though Katelina didn’t want to feed on humans, it was better than wasting hours in the desert trying to find an animal.
Verchiel filled the car while she prowled around, looking for a likely suspect. A mousy woman sat against the wall smoking, her glasses smudged and her bun sloppy. Katelina felt the crush of her unhappiness, her betrayal, her anger.
No. I can’t lose myself to this. I need to concentrate.
Katelina pulled away from the woman’s emotions and forced herself to survey the area. They were around the corner of the building. No other people. She didn’t see any cameras, either. It was perfect.
The woman looked up at her, red rimmed eyes narrowed. “Can I help you?”
Katelina tried not to panic. She couldn’t enchant the woman, or stop her from screaming. Maybe she could delay her until Verchiel got there.
“Hi.” She gave the woman a tight, fake smile. “Just wondered if you have a lighter? I can’t find mine.”
The woman made an unintelligible noise and reached for her purse, just as Verchiel came around the corner.
“There you are. I wondered where you’d gotten to.” He looked from her to the woman. “Oh, hello.”
“Hello.” The woman produced the lighter and tossed it to Katelina. “Keep it. I don’t need it anyway.”
Verchiel stopped in front of her, and cocked his head to one side. “You really shouldn’t do that. Your mom will be sad.”
The woman looked up sharply, eyes wide. In that second, he snared her. Katelina could see when it took effect, how the woman’s body relaxed, how her expression glazed over. He’d enchanted her.
Just like Jorick does.
Katelina cringed away from the thought. She didn’t want to think about him, not now. Maybe not ever. Though she wasn’t sure they were going to have a choice.
Verchiel motioned her to feed, and she hurried without argument. There wasn’t time for it. She bit the woman’s neck, letting the hot blood flow into her mouth. She swallowed again, and again, fighting against the pull of the woman’s thoughts, her memories, her broken heart.
He left me. I can’t take anymore. Not after our baby died. I’m done.
Katelina was suddenly aware of Verchiel shaking her, an amused smirk on his face. She pulled away, cheeks flushing, and he took her place, locking on to the fresh wound. Katelina stepped back, wiping her face, checking for onlookers.
Verchiel suddenly appeared beside her. “Ready to go?”
Katelina jumped and smacked his shoulder. “Don’t do that!”
“What? Sneak up on you? I can’t help it if you’re too slow. Anyway, we need to-” he broke off, eyes on the gas station window. “Oh-oh.”
Katelina followed his gaze to see a TV splashed with horrible images. Rubble. Fire. A war zone.
Except it was labeled Phoenix, Arizona.
“I think we know where the battle happened,” Verchiel said quietly, moving closer. Helicopter flashed past, showing a fight of some kind on a rooftop. Someone fell, possibly dead. The grainy night quality made it impossible to see who.
“I can’t believe The Guild hasn’t dealt with this,” Verchiel muttered, reaching for his pocket. Katelina saw panic appear, then fade. “That’s right. No phone.” He’d ditched the device last night at the hotel, to stop The Guild from tracing them.
His face switched to its usual cheerful expression. “Oh well, not our problem. Let Ark and the rest deal with it. That’s why I called them to Phoenix in the first place. Let’s go.”
Katelina let him take her hand and tug her toward the car, even as she glanced back to the TV. She couldn’t hear what the newscaster said, but she knew it was bad, knew that there were casualties. Probably a lot of casualties.
Including our friends.
Verchiel opened the passenger door and bowed low, motioning her inside. “Right now we don’t have any friends, Kately.” He straightened, his face serious. “Once things have settled down, if you want, we can see who’s still talking to us, but it might be better to just make a clean break and forget it. Europe is nice this time of year.”
He winked, then slid around to the driver’s side, leaving her unsure how much of that was a joke and how much he meant. Something she was probably going to wonder a lot from now on.
He did say I’d never be bored.