Free Chapters – Introduction, 1-5

Chapter 3

 

Simon pulled on his black Canali wool suit as he stepped out of the suite he shared with Ellis.  The jacket had a two-button closure, flap pockets, besom chest pocket with four interior pockets and prepared sleeves with exact tailoring.  It fit his long frame comfortably and with style.  Pulling on white, thinly blue striped button up cuff of his right arm, he saw Vivienne standing against the wall across from the door, eating what appeared to be a tootsie roll.

 

“Ready?” he asked, straightening his grey and burgundy Canali tie as Vivienne tucked the tootsie roll wrapper into her jacket pocket and then lifted her chin in his direction.

 

“That’s like three thousand dollars you’re wearing right there,” she said chewing her piece of candy.

 

Simon looked down and brushed a bit of errant fluff off his sleeve.  “This is how I dress.”

 

“Do you know how long I’ve had this jacket?”

 

“Yes.  The cut is 18th century, as well as the odor.”

 

Vivienne rolled her eyes and turned toward the elevator in between their suites.  “This is why we dislike you folks.”

 

“Folks,” he repeated.

 

“You flaunt your wealth.  I think you looked perfectly fine in the jeans and shirt you had on before.”

 

Walking one step for her two, he pressed the elevator call button and leaned against the wall looking at her.  “You liked me in that, did you?”

 

“Stop it.  You’re trying too hard.”

 

The elevator doors slid open and he held his hand out, allowing her to step on first.  “No I like your Keds.  Did you want to stop by Barnes and Nobles first or just straight to the PTA meeting?”

 

Viv looked up at him and growled, “So nasty.”

 

They exited the hotel via the private garage entrance and stood on the corner waiting for his car.  When his 2009 XF 4.2 V8 supercharged Jaguar, ebony with charcoal seats, charcoal facia, and soft grain leather pulled up, he could not help but snicker at Vivienne’s response.

 

“You should be ashamed.  Seriously.”  Vivienne allowed him to open her door but stopped and turned back.  “Can I drive?”

 

“Absolutely not,” he said immediately.

 

“Oh come on.  I’ll let you talk to my boobs.”

 

“I’ll do that anyway.”

 

Vivienne glared at him as she settled into the passenger seat.  Circling the car he put his hand on the door handle and heard a distinct click.  The driver’s side window came down just a smidge and Vivienne’s brown eyes peered over the glass.

 

“Oh no, no, no no.”

 

“Just this once.  I swear.”  Simon opened his mouth to complain but she interrupted him.  “The keys are already in it, you know.”

 

The last time someone else drove his car, it ended up ass over teakettle in the marina, squashed like a tin can.  This was the replacement of that car.  He loved this car.  Rolling his eyes, he pointed at her through the small opening and clenched his jaw.  The corners of her eyes crinkled in happiness and she closed the window again.  He didn’t hear the click of the doors unlocking until he got to the passenger side.

 

Sliding in, he thought she looked completely out of place in the driver’s seat.  He considered saying something, but she looked almost a little too happy to be driving.  Leaning over, Simon tried pointing out a few things only to have Vivienne slap his hand away and then gun it out of the underground parking lot.

 

Grabbing onto the door handle, he resisted the urge to yell at her to slow down and instead explained a little about Anantya.

 

“Anantya is made up of the oldest vampires alive.  So old that honestly, there isn’t much I even know about them.  They’re made up of three orders:  The Rose, The Night, and The Hunt.  The Rose Order are the leaders.  They control everything – the strategists, rule makers – their administrative department, if you will.  The leader of this order could freeze Vodka.”

 

Vivienne snorted and dropped the Jag into a lower gear and let inertia naturally slide the car around a corner, then gunned it back down the strip.

 

“The Night Order is their actors, poets, but also, and more importantly, their spies, and diplomats.  Their leader is a piece of work.”  Simon sneered and then wiped his mouth.  “I haven’t seen him in months, but that doesn’t mean he’s not around.  Watching.  Waiting.

 

“Then there’s The Hunt.  These are the killers, the warriors, and their protectors.  We all have this type of sub-class of vampires.  Ours are called Mercs.  Any major political killing in history has more than likely been facilitated by this group.  They might be the ones to talk to, but….”

 

“But what?”

 

“If they had any hand in this, why would they tell me?”  Simon shifted uncomfortably in seat, not anticipating entering Anantya territory.  Still, he gave Vivienne directions to their cathedral, not that the building wasn’t visible from the main strip up in the hills of the city.

 

“Are you nervous?” Vivienne asked, slowing the vehicle down as they took the winding road toward the front entrance.

 

Perfectly manicured lawns lined the gravel road with night blooming flowers, giving the illusion of being inviting, but Simon knew better.  The mansion was marble and Italian stone, brought brick by brick over from northern Europe, flaunting old wealth.  A tourist attraction, to be sure, not that Simon ever saw anyone, anyone human at least, ever traversing the landscape.

 

Simon raised his eyebrows and shrugged.  “They don’t think much of us, even less of Ellis.  Our lives are nothing compared to theirs.”

 

“You’re what?  Fourteen hundred?”

 

“Yes,” Simon whispered, his forehead wrinkling with anxiety.  “This is stupid.”

 

“Should we just forget about it?”  Vivienne cut the engine and leaned back in the seat.

 

“It’s too late,” Simon said reaching out with his perception and listening to the silent heartbeats surround the car.  “They’re already here.  Switch with me.  Right now.”

 

Simon unbuckled his seatbelt and lifted his legs over to the driver’s seat as Vivienne climbed over him.  Their bodies were achingly close, more than brushing up against each other as she put her hands on him, maneuvering around him, but he could not stop himself from breaking out into a nervous sweat as the heartbeats became louder in his head.

 

“Shit,” he muttered quietly as he rolled down the window.  “Vivienne don’t say anything.  I’m serious.”  He felt the light touch of her fingers on his wrist as he took a deep breath and tried to look unimpressed.

 

A thin layer of fog filtered through the beam from the Jag’s headlights and drifted around the car until it was surrounded.  They couldn’t see within ten feet of the car.  He was not surprised to see fingers curl through the opened driver’s side window.

 

“Well if it isn’t the leader of Tacharan,” a voice purred as the mist solidified a foot away from him.  A beautiful redhead laid her arms on the car door and bent over, resting her chin on them.  Her eyes were bright green and her skin a creamy peach.  He didn’t recognize her, but it wouldn’t matter.  She was from the Order of The Hunt.

 

“I need to speak to,” Simon started as the redhead reached in and pulled on the door handle, opening it slowly.  Simon half rolled his eyes as the female vampire dipped low, exposing her cleavage through her 15th century period dress and looked into the car.

 

“New play thing, Simon?”

 

Vivienne’s heartbeat was strong but controlled.  She may not have been afraid, but she had every reason to be.  It would only take one Anantya half a heartbeat to kill Vivienne before she even knew what happened.  Simon was thankful she didn’t respond to the jab.

 

“I need to see your leader,” he said with an edge, looking the female dead in her green eyes.  She paused a moment, her smile faltering.  There was no bad blood between Tacharan and Anantya so the female was just being catty for the hell of it.  Simon blinked slowly at her and then reached out past her, pulling on the car door.  She moved out of the way as he closed it.

 

“Follow the road, I’ll meet you there.”

 

“Don’t want a ride?”  Simon asked with a grin.  The female retreated, backing into the fog and disappeared.   He restarted the engine and pulled out of the fog, watching it disperse with the thrust of the car.  Grumbling, he reached down and adjusted his seat.  “My god you’re short.”

 

“What the hell was that?  Is that one of your abilities?  Fucking appearing out of the fog?”  Vivienne’s eyes were large as her heartbeat ramped up to three times its normal beat.

 

“That’s ethereal.  They were the fog.”

 

Viv was quiet for a moment but then contributed, “You could have taken her, you know.”

 

Simon looked at her as he drove slowly up the hill.  “What do you mean?”

 

“It’s called super-awesomeness, but yeah, you could have.  Between the two of you, you were stronger.”

 

Simon opened his eyes wide and sighed.  “Super-awesomeness.  Right.  How could you tell?”

 

Viv shrugged, looking back out the window as they drove toward the end of the road.  “Little bit experience but more innate ability.  We can do equally enthralling things as well, you know.”

 

Simon gave her a side look and grinned.  “Well that’s good to know.”

 

~

 

Vivienne marveled at the shadowy domain of the Anantya vampires.  Simon had called it the seat of their creation.  Where the founders of their kind ruled with impunity and lived in infamy.  Even in the darkness, it gleamed like a jewel, overlooking the city in all its glory.

 

“Jesus, in plain sight.  This is why we hate you folks.”

 

“Folks,” Simon repeated again, his irritation mixed in with a snort.  “You really need to let that go.”

 

“Could you?” Viv asked, tearing her eyes away from the building and looking at Simon.  “Have you?”

 

“It burned Ellis to the point of self destruction.”  Simon stared up at the cathedral, his eyes glowing with something akin to envy and despair.  “She had -such- plans for them.  It consumed her.”

 

“Plans?”

 

“Marthinus didn’t tell you?”

 

Viv shook her head, “He is apparently leaving out all the good parts.  He’s extremely protective of you.”

 

Simon flexed his hand on the steering wheel with a soft smile.  “That he is,” he murmured quietly.  “Ellis wanted to harvest the ancients for Eternity.  The older the vampire, the more potent the drug.”

 

Viv looked down in her lap and thought back to Marthinus’ introduction to the Greater Pack.  When Hammerthynn escaped Johannesburg in ’06 with the still human Marthinus, but could not prevent the fatal wounds Marthinus incurred during the attack.  Marthinus asked Hammer to use the dose of Eternity the old man kept on him, his heart old and weak, to keep him alive a little longer.  Granted in the process Hammer transferred the dormant virus within them all, into him.

 

The drug was not unknown to the leaders of the Greater Pack or Vivienne’s, the Outcasts.   Viv had seen the effects of it on humans over the years; the aching addiction, the uncontrollable withering of their soul.  The effect of it on werewolves was unknown.

 

“So she was willing to sell her own species out?”  Viv paused and shook her head.  “It wasn’t for money.  It was for revenge.  My god, she can hold a grudge.”

 

Simon remained quiet, pushing the car to crest the last bit of the hill.

 

“And she let it go all lickety split?  For love?”

 

Simon flicked his eyes at her.  They were cold, contemptuous, and seething with more hate than she thought capable of any man.  Viv found that one line she shouldn’t ever cross again.  What he must have given up for Ellis, besides his humanity?

 

“Stay here,” he said, turning away from her and exiting the car.

 

Viv opened her door and stepped out, looking at him over the roof.  “Simon.”

 

He stopped as he began to walk away from the car and up to the steps leading into the building.  There were no wrought iron gates surrounding the place.  Viv imagined not very many people trespassed.  The entire area oozed power and an unmistakable feeling of foreboding.  Simon turned and looked at her, his face indifferent.

 

She laid her left arm on the roof and flicked her fingers.  A byproduct of her sarcasm was an unfortunate ability to sound cruel.  That really wasn’t who she was, and despite what Simon might be, he didn’t deserve it.  “I’m sorry,” she said softly.  “It’s a habit.  The poking with a stick thing.”

 

Simon blinked at her once and then slipped his hands into his trouser pockets.  He walked up to her and stood on the opposite side of the passenger side car door.  Slowly, a smile formed on his lips.

 

“Don’t wander off.”

 

“What?  Into the dark trees and not-really-fog?  You’re no fun.”

 

Simon stepped around the door and walked right up to Viv, pressing her into the car.  Viv felt the pressure of the side of the car and reached behind with her hand to steady herself so she didn’t fall into it.  Leaning in unnecessarily close, Simon pushed a button and the window opened.  He took the car door and held it open wide enough for her to get into the vehicle.

 

“There, I even left the window open for you.  No drooling on the upholstery please.”

 

Viv narrowed her eyes at him and pushed her lips to the side.  “Rude,” she murmured and settled down into the passenger side seat.  She looked up at him through the open window and raised an eyebrow.  He was just standing there, staring down at her.  Viv put her hands on the car door and peered out the window.  “You better hurry.  If you’re not back in fifteen minutes, I’m calling the po-lice.”

 

Simon reached out and touched her hands with his large one and winked at her.  The gesture was not lost on Vivienne, but it did seem out of place for the vampire.  She wondered if his curiosity with her wasn’t more of a front and there was more to him than he let on.

 

Looking around a final time, Simon slipped his hands back into his pockets and walked up the slight incline to the cathedral steps.  A misty fog appeared, floating around him, and Viv watched as the redhead appeared to his left.  Simon never once flinched, barely even acknowledging the female.

 

Watching Simon disappear, Viv’s eyes narrowed with concentration.  Taking a deep breath, she let the scents color her mind’s eye, making note of what was already there.  Closing her eyes, she listened, using her sense of smell to set up a perimeter in her mind, but immediately she opened her eyes.

 

There was nothing.  Not a sound.  Not a cricket.  Barely even the sound of the wind through the trees surrounding the building.  Simon had been gone maybe a minute before her personal alarm went off, blaring into the silent night.

 

Fog had no heartbeat and that kind of complicated things.

 

Pushing her lips out, Vivienne leaned out the passenger side window and watched the layer of fog ease up to the road but not onto it.  In fact, it filtered into the trees and hung there, despite the slight breeze.   There was no such thing as safe passage, even she knew that, but she wagered her safety was limited to the confines of Simon’s car, so she made no move to go traipsing through the dark trees.  Instead, Viv settled into the extremely buttery smooth leather seat and laid her head back on the headrest.

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