Ethan sat up in bed quickly, his eyes darting around the sunlit room, a look of heavy suspicion crossing his face as he looked about. I could hear his heart beginning to pick up in pace as panic and confusion began to cloud his mind. I knew what he was feeling as I heard him climb from his bed and stumble towards the window.
“What the hell?” I heard him mutter as he forced his window open. “It was raining and cold. . .”
Deciding that I needed to keep him from freaking out, I slipped into his room through his open door. The sound of his door latching shut was enough to snag Ethan’s attention and he whirled around to face me with tears running down his cheeks. His entire body was trembling as his blue eyes went wide at the sight of me. Then, Ethan threw himself into my arms, forcing me to hold him as he sobbed uncontrollably. He wasn’t forming a solid sentence as the sobs racked his body, and it took everything for me to figure out some of the words that he had been saying.
“Shh, Ethan,” I tried to reassure him as I rubbed his back. “It’s going to be okay.”
“What happened?” He finally asked. “I was at school. . .”
Then, Ethan’s face fell. He remembered something else from that fateful night in April.
“Jenna?” His voice faltered as he leaned back to look at me with a questioning gaze. “I saw her-. Is she-?”
All I could do was pull him against me, Ethan letting out a small gasp of disbelief before a fresh wave of sobs ran through him.
“You need to take some deep breaths, babe,” I told him softly. “It’s important, Ethan.”
“I’m trying, Justin,” Ethan sniffled in response. “I’m trying. I just, don’t understand how everything could have changed like this? I know it was raining and cold! We were at the sleepover at school. . .”
“I know,” I said in response. “That was almost two months ago, Ethan.”
“That’s not possible,” Ethan’s bottom lip quivered as he leaned back from me, trying to push me away with his hands. I let my hands fall to my sides as Ethan broke free, a wild look filling his eyes as he stared at me in disbelief. “Are you screwing with me, Justin?”
His question nearly broke my heart as I heard the desperate plea behind his words. I wanted to tell him the truth, but I couldn’t. My vow to Evan wouldn’t let me. The secret had to be kept, no matter what.
“All I know, babe,” I said softly, pulling him back into my arms. “Is that you were kidnapped by someone that was trying to get to the C.I.A.”
“Bull shit!” Ethan exclaimed, beginning to laugh maniacally. “You’re messing with me.”
“No, Ethan,” I told him. “It’s true. You’ve been missing since the sleepover.” I swallowed as I began to recite the story that I was forced into memorizing. “The C.I.A. wasn’t able to find you until just a few days ago, Ethan. The group slipped up and caused too much attention to be drawn to themselves, so the government went in last night and swept the place clean. They were keeping you drugged, Ethan. You were completely out of it when your dad was able to finally bring you home.”
“Why are you here, then?” Ethan asked me suspiciously. I was about to answer him when his father entered the room behind me.
“Because he wouldn’t stop asking about you, Ethan,” Eugene told his son. “Justin was just as worried about you as the rest of us.”
Ethan looked between both of us, disbelieving the words he was being told. Eugene moved around me and gently led Ethan towards the edge of the bed.
“Sit down, Ethan,” the man stated firmly, making Ethan sit on the edge of his bed. Eugene sat next to his son and put his arms across his shoulders. “Are you feeling alright? Any dizziness?”
“What?” The teen asked in confusion. “No, dad! I just want to know what happened to me!”
Eugene sighed in defeat. “Justin told you the truth, Ethan. You need to believe us on this. Please?”
Ethan’s entire body trembled. I could tell from his reactions and body language that he didn’t believe us. None of what we were saying seemed real. Nevertheless, Eugene continued with his side of the story, telling Ethan about the different things the C.I.A. had went through to find the teenager. The problem with Eugene’s words, for me at least, was that he was able to tell the truth. He didn’t have to cover up his part in the ordeal, at all. Eugene would be Ethan’s hero once everything was said and done. Then, I began to wonder, where would that leave me? Would I still have a place in Ethan’s life if he didn’t believe me? How would I ever be able to regain his trust if I was being forced into lying to him?
I couldn’t explain the pull that Evan had over me, but it felt right. I could feel his love emanating from whatever bond he had made with me, and I knew that I would follow him to the ends of the earth that we were damned to spend the rest of eternity upon. The threads of connection were already existent from my relationship with Ethan, and Evan simply included himself in those threads, without even considering the notion. The moment that he stepped in to fill the role of my sire, I felt at peace. My cravings for human blood were fewer and I could stomach seeing myself in the mirror, again. Evan made me feel like I was still human.
“You have to understand, Ethan,” Eugene was saying as I focused back in on the conversation being shared between the father and son. “The people that kidnapped you, had managed to keep you very well hidden, son. They slipped in one of their video messages to the C.I.A., though. They left a picture in the background that my agents were able to recognize, and we used that knowledge to figure out exactly where you were being kept captive. Then, it took us a few days to get all the approvals we needed to rescue you. It turned into a little battle that took the lives of several very good people.”
“People died for me?” Ethan asked in a low murmur. “Why? Why would they die for me? I’m a nobody.”
“You’re far from being a nobody, Ethan,” I spoke up, causing Ethan to flash a distrusting glare in my direction. I dropped my gaze to the floor and turned away. “I’ll go then,” I mumbled before I slipped from the room. I whispered my goodbyes to Ethan as I darted down the stairs and out the front door. I didn’t even stop to get David’s truck, opting to run instead. I couldn’t be in the Bentley house any longer. If I stayed, I would have unintentionally revealed the truth about what had really happened to Ethan. That was something that I had to keep from happening, no matter what.
Even if it meant ripping out my own heart just to keep Ethan from discovering the truth.
‘I love you, Ethan,’ I thought miserably as I left the love of my life behind me without looking back. It was better for me to remove myself from the picture, rather than lie to my best friend. ‘I hope you can forgive me someday.’
My name is Payton Brooks and I am seventeen years old. I have light brown hair and I used to have almond-brown eyes. I used the past tense because my eyes are red, now.
Darker than the color of blood, with tiny streaks of silver and green in them. I didn’t choose to become this monster of darkness, though. It was forced upon me by a small teenager with jet black hair. I don’t even think he knows of my existence.
I was walking home from a small party at my friend’s house when I decided to take a shortcut through the downtown area of Crater Lake. I sent my dad a text letting him know that I was coming home, but I knew that I wouldn’t receive a reply from him or my mother. They only cared that I smiled while I was in public and that I didn’t tarnish their precious reputation. The result of their status was that I developed my own status in life.
And I loved it.
Doors opened for me.
People looked up to me and wanted to be me.
All it took was a look and I could get anybody to do what I wanted. I stepped on those that I thought were beneath me, doing whatever it took to keep them in their rightful place.
I was Crater Lake royalty.
Nothing could stand in my way. Nothing except some little black-haired bastard with blood red eyes.
I turned down an alley that cutaway from downtown and led towards the swankier area of Crater Lake. I was checking my phone, not paying attention to anything going on around me. I didn’t even notice I was being followed until the little bastard was latched onto my back and sinking his teeth into my neck. I tried to fight him off, but he dislocated my shoulder with a quick squeeze that sent me to my knees. My body grew weaker until the smaller teen was supporting all of my weight like it was nothing to him.
“Damn, Tatum,” I heard someone chuckle. “You must have been thirsty, tonight.”
The teenager sucking the life out of my veins only growled in response, a sensation that made my heart flutter as it passed through my body. My breaths were growing shorter, and I could feel my heart slowing, barely keeping me alive. Then, just as I felt the darkness closing in, the teenager finally relented of his assault and let my body drop to the ground. I heard him sigh in satisfaction as he stood over me.
“It’s been two weeks since I’ve fed, Dougie,” I heard my murderer say with a slur to his words. “This guy was nothing but trash, anyway. The world is better off without his kind.”
“Agreed,” the other teenager replied. “Come on, let’s discard his corpse and get back home.”
Then, Tatum picked me up and slung me over his shoulder. I couldn’t bring myself to react as I realized that a fire was beginning to burn through my throat and down into my chest. I stifled the groan in my throat as the fire spread with each struggling beat of my heart.
“Open that dumpster for me, Dougie,” Tatum said. I heard the clang of the lid being thrown back before Tatum thanked the other man. Then, he tossed my body into the dumpster just like I was a bag of trash. I saw a flash of his red eyes as he took one last look at me. I swore that he frowned as he started to pull the lid closed. “I hope you learn your lesson and make the correct choice, Payton.”
I was startled by the teenager’s use of my name. Did he know who I was? How did he know? Did he only say that because I was dying? Or did he know that I was still alive? I wanted to call out to him, but the fire had my voice paralyzed. What did he mean with his last comment? Why did they both call me trash?
‘Am I really that bad?’ I asked myself before I let myself settle into a time of self-reflection. It’s not like I could do anything else as the fire spread through my body. Was this my atonement for being such a bastard my entire life? Was I being burned alive in a dumpster?
‘I hope you learn your lesson and make the correct choice,’ his words echoed through my head as I focused on different moments in my past. Moments that I always enjoyed the idea of being able to gloat over somebody else. Moments that I was able to move closer to the top of my social ladder, not caring who I destroyed in my path.
Now, I was left to die in a dumpster like the trash I was. Nobody would mourn my passing, though. They would only use it to their own advantage. My death would be their own advancement up the social ladder of Crater Lake. Officially opening a spot for the vultures to fight over, just like I had when I claimed the spot as my own. Even my own parents would use my death to advance their own placement on the social ladder. My parents knew how to keep their status, though.
Tatum’s words flashed through my head, again. Only making me realize that I had to let go of who I had been and accept his conclusion that I was nothing.
I was a nobody.
The social ladders around the world didn’t matter. We were nothing but prey to a higher power. A power that I had fallen victim to.
Then, the fire began to spread into my mind. A ringing filled my ears as I was plunged into darkness, my heart hammering away in my chest like a drummer at a rock concert.
“Another attack by the terrorist organization known as the Purifiers has left seventeen people in the hospital and forty-eight unaccounted for this evening,” the news reporter was saying as I stretched out on the sofa in our living room. My dad was sitting in his recliner as we watched the news together in silence. He had already told me about this religious cult and how they had started calling themselves “The Guardians of Humanity” shortly after I had been rescued from Philadelphia. They had already attacked nearly thirty different targets, claiming that they were hotspots for vampire activities. My father laughed them off as being crazy, but something about his demeanor told me there was some truth to the group’s strange belief. “Governor Adams has released the National Guard to help in the search for survivors at the site of the fiery explosion that took the lives of so many. The leader of the Purifiers released a statement earlier that they would continue to serve God in their quest to protect humanity from the creatures of the night.”
My father changed the channel before the reporter could say anything else. I ignored his attempt to cover up my suspicions and let myself get drawn into the television show. I didn’t even realize I had drifted off to sleep when I found myself standing in the middle of a dirt street that was lined with overturned wagons and burning buildings. A line of people marched towards me with pitch forks and torches waving in the air, chanting as they approached.
“Death to the Monster! Death to the Monster!”
The intimidating sounds of their approach was enough to send a chill down my spine before I heard growling and snarling coming from behind me. I turned quickly to see a line of overgrown wolves approaching from the other end of the street with a single-pale skinned man walking the dirt road behind them. His long black hair flowed behind him, while his fiery red eyes seemed to pierce into my very soul. The werewolves passed by me without even noticing me, but the man stopped and turned his eyes to meet my own.
“Our paths will cross again in the future, Ethan,” his baritone voice drifted into my mind. “Help your brother realize who the true enemy is.”
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I am Orthis,” the young man stated. “We are distant cousins, connected by the threads of time. Together, we can show the world the truth of the Mother and who she really is.”
“I don’t understand, Orthis,” I told him.
“You will, soon enough,” he replied with a weary grin. “Stay strong until we meet again, Ethan. Your brother needs you by his side.”
“Evan’s dead, though.”
“Is he?” The young man asked with a raised eyebrow and a smirk. Then, he reached out and placed his icy palm against my cheek. “You’re going to make a beautiful vampire someday, Ethan. I hope your brother changes you in time.”
“What?” I asked in confusion. Orthis didn’t answer me, though. Instead, he simply placed his forehead against my own. Then, I was back in my own living room. The television was playing some infomercial and it was just past midnight. My father’s chair was empty and there was a blanket draped across my body. He had even given me a pillow to use while I slept. The image of Orthis’ narrow face hung in my mind as I slowly let myself drift off to a dreamless sleep. Who was the Mother? Why did Orthis believe that Evan was still alive? Then, I remembered a conversation that I had overheard my father having with someone on the phone.
“Was that body delivered to the funeral home?” My father had asked. “Good. Once it’s cremated, I’ll finish the plans for the funeral.”
I felt my heart beginning to race in my chest as I considered the possibilities. ‘He never once mentioned that it was Evan. I only assumed that’s who he was talking about.’ I felt my stomach turn. ‘What’s really been going on? I’ll never be able to trust anyone. . .’
I opened my eyes to see that I was buried in a mound of garbage. I considered digging my way out, but I could see sunlight coming in through the gaps in the bags and I felt a slight aversion against the brightness of it. The smell was horrid, but I quickly found that holding my breath didn’t bother me in the slightest.
A small smile spread across my lips as I listened to all the different sounds that were coming from everywhere around me. I could see better than I could with my glasses and touched my face to confirm that they were gone. Then, I heard a sound that set my throat to burning like I had not had a glass of water in a week. I heard the muddy thumping sound of a heartbeat.
I was moving towards the sound without even thinking about it, the thought of being in the sun quickly overpowered by my urge to satisfy my thirst. A monster inside of me had taken control, easily sweeping all my human thoughts to the side as if I was just switching personalities. I was acting on pure instinct alone. A hunting instinct. The source of the heartbeat? Some poor fat bastard, standing next to his dump truck with a cigarette hanging from his mouth.
“You can’t be here, kid,” the man mumbled, barely taking a second glance at me. Then, he noticed my torn clothes and the fact that I was approaching from the direction of the piles of garbage. “Holy shit, kid! Are you. . .?”
His words fell silent as the monster lunged forward. My fangs were buried in the man’s fleshy throat in seconds, and he was dead shortly after. Just to make sure that he was truly dead, I even broke his neck with a quick squeeze of my hands. Then, I studied the body as I tried to figure out how to dispose of it. I had a flashback to Tatum dragging me along behind him like I was a bag of garbage, so I did the same thing with my first meal. I grabbed his hand and started to pull, surprising myself at how easily I was able to move the man that weighed over three-hundred pounds.
I dragged the cadaver along behind me, getting as far from the dump truck as I could. I didn’t want anybody finding the body of the man and somehow link his death back to me. Maybe, I would get lucky and when they found the man, they would assume that I was buried in the mounds of garbage, too. Just another hapless victim in the rising wave of crime that was slowly spreading into our area. Once I was certain that I had moved the body far enough away from the crime scene, I dug into the closest mound of garbage so I could hide the man in the pile. The weight of the man was barely noticeable to me as I tossed him in the crude hole I had made. I knocked down the edges of the heap around the body and jumped out of the way as the pile covered my deadly deed. I nodded once at the pile, mumbling an apology to the man, before I went in search of the black-haired teenager that had created me.
A forest at the edge of the dump provided me with cover for my daylight escape. The foul smell of garbage was stronger than I could ever imagine it to be, clinging to my clothes with every step I took. There was also the scent of drying blood that was beginning to make itself known to my senses, as well. The scent made the back of my throat burn, reminding me that my thirst hadn’t been satiated just yet. I let myself be drawn towards the sounds of the nearby city, listening through the cacophony of car tires on pavement and wind through the trees for the drumbeat that would sustain my thirst.
I needed to hear it.
I wanted to hear it and I knew there was nothing keeping me from setting my feet in motion the moment that I did hear the sound I was yearning for. I was on the verge of stepping out from the trees when I saw a teenager walking down the sidewalk towards me. Deciding that this was my opportunity, I ducked down into the bushes and waited until the brown-haired teen was directly in front of me before I drug him into the bushes with me. The young man made a gasping noise as I sunk my teeth into his flesh, but his struggles soon fell silent as he died under my touch.
With the monster inside of me satisfied and the signs of my crime hidden away, I ran further into the forest to continue the mission of finding my Maker.
‘I’m coming, Tatum,’ I thought with a grin before I leapt up into the treetops, leaving nothing behind but a few fallen leaves as a sign of my passing.
‘This boy was born to be a vampire,’ I thought as I watched Hayden slipped through the treetops in a blur. His giggle echoed in the air around me, bringing a smile to my lips at the sound of his happiness. The leaves rustled overhead as the boy slung himself through them, letting his momentum carry him branch to branch. I ran below on the ground, letting my thoughts drift as Hayden played. We had been through so much in the past few months since Evan had changed me into a vampire when I was on the brink of death. After me, Evan saved Jenna’s life after she had been slammed into a locker by a werewolf, then he changed Leonard after he had been shot by agents sent by the government. Finally, Hayden joined our family just before we rescued Ethan from the clutches of the Elder known as Sonya.
‘We’ve been through so much.’
Over the course of six months, we had come a long way as a Coven and our journey was just beginning. The news of the Bentley Coven was spreading like wildfire through the Underworld, further igniting the followers that had sworn themselves to Evan’s cause. All Evan wanted was to relax with his family for a little while. I didn’t blame him. ‘Lulu’s Hideaway’ was no longer safe for us as a home, and we were going to have to move on once my own contribution to the Coven joined us. He had made the decision to find me, now all I could do was wait for him. I had told Evan about Payton two nights before I had even created the teenage vampire. Needless to say, he wasn’t happy, but he knew the way my visions always played out.
“It’s a big gamble, Tatum,” he told me with a scowl.
“I know, Father,” I told him humbly. “I also know that he is going to be the perfect fit for our Coven.”
I tapped the side of my head with my finger. “I’ve seen it.”
Evan frowned before he finally nodded. “Fine, but you’re responsible for him, Tatum.”
“I know, Father,” I replied with a smile.
My thoughts were broken as Hayden landed in front of me and jumped into my arms. “Everything looks right,” the boy said with a grin.
“I’ve noticed, too,” I replied. “He should be along any minute.”
“I can’t wait to meet him,” Hayden giggled. “Do you think he’ll be friendly?”
“I guess we’ll find out when he gets here.”
“Is that today?” Evan asked as he joined us.
“Yes,” Hayden responded for me, quickly jumping into Evan’s arms.
“How did you know I was coming?”
We all turned to see the sandy-blond haired teen that I had saw in my visions standing behind us.
“I can see the future, Payton,” I told him honestly.
“Why did you leave me in the dumpster if you knew I was coming?” Payton asked with a frown.
“It was the only way,” I told him. “If I would have brought you with me, you would have never been able to adapt to your new life. You would have resented me for all of eternity, turning you into an undeniable monster. That life wouldn’t have been fair to you.”
“How do you know I’m going to be able to adapt, now?” Payton demanded. “You left me to die in a fucking dumpster!”
Then, Hayden did the unthinkable. He was hugging Payton before any of us could stop him. The teenager growled lightly but he was soon on his knees with the boy clutched tightly in his arms. Together they cried with tearless sobs as Payton let go of his past. Evan looked at me with a nervous expression on his face. Neither of us knew how this turn of events was going to play out.
“I woke up in the dump,” Payton admitted to Hayden.
“I’m so sorry, Payton,” Hayden whispered. “You will never experience that, again though. I promise. I’ll never let your Maker treat you badly.”
“Thank you, little one,” Payton said with another sob.
“I’m sorry that I did that to you, Payton,” I admitted. “If I could think of any other way to make you shun your past life, I would have.”
Payton froze before he turned his red eyes in my direction.
“I get it,” he said truthfully. “I was a snob in my human life. I was popular and had tons of friends. When I woke up in the dump, at first, I was angry, but I realized that I could easily be thrown away. I was a nobody.” Then, Payton was pulling me into his arms. “Thank you, Father,” he whispered. “I will dedicate my life to making you proud of me.”
“I’m already proud of you, Payton,” I told him honestly as I returned the hug before I snubbed my nose at him. “Dude, you fucking stink.”
“Yeah, he does,” Hayden agreed with an exaggerated wave of his hand in front of his nose.
I jerked my thumb in the direction of the motel. “Come on,” I told him. “Let’s go get you cleaned up.”
“Gladly,” Payton replied.
“Come on, Jenna,” Leonard pleaded with me. “Slow down a little bit. There’s no reason for us to have to hurry.”
I couldn’t help but smile as I darted through the forest ahead of him. A small giggle escaped my lips.
“I heard that,” he growled with his own chuckle.
Deciding to turn it into a game of tag, I quickly threw myself feet first against the trunk of a tree and threw myself in another direction, leaving Leonard to have to catch up. Suddenly, he dropped down from the trees in front of me and wrapped his arms around me, bringing us both to a dead stop.
“Hi,” he smiled.
“Cheater,” I whispered with a grin.
“Only when necessary,” Leonard told me. Then, he kissed me.
“I love you too, Leo,” I smiled as we parted. Then, I held out my hand towards him. “Come on, let’s go find a new home. We don’t have much time before the Purifiers make their move on ‘Lulu’s Hideaway’.“
Leonard frowned in anger as we walked together. “We need to find a way to stop them.”
“We will,” I said confidently. “Evan will, at least.”
We walked side by side for several miles before we noticed a wooden cabin sitting by itself in the middle of a small clearing. An orangish glow was showing through the curtained windows, a clear sign that someone was inside. Leonard sniffed deeply of the air around us.
“It isn’t human,” Leonard informed me.
“No, we’re not,” a young voice said from behind us, making us both turn around to see Justin standing behind us.
“Justin?” I asked in disbelief. “What are you doing here?”
I hugged him quickly before I stepped back. Justin smiled nervously and scratched his head.
“It’s been a while, Jenna,” he said.
“Why aren’t you with Ethan?”
“He didn’t want me around,” Justin replied with a tremble in his voice. He wiped the back of his hand across his cheeks before he motioned towards the cabin. “He already knows you’re here. You may as well come inside.”
“My father,” Justin answered, making me and Leonard look at each other in shock.
“You found Demetrius?” Leonard asked.
Justin could only nod before he started walking towards the cabin. “He’s not really a bad guy,” Justin explained. “He’s just been alone for a long time, so he doesn’t trust anybody.”
“Gotcha,” Leonard acknowledged. “Let him ask the questions, don’t lie, and no sudden movements.”
“Exactly,” Justin replied.
The log cabin had a pillar of smoke rising towards the sky from the chimney and one of the curtains pulled back for a moment, releasing the light from inside to illuminate the yard in front of us. I glanced up in time to see a shadowy figure step away from the window as the curtain fell back into place. Leonard slipped his hand back into my own and squeezed it gently.
“Don’t worry,” he assured me. “I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
Justin opened the door and led us inside the warm interior of the log cabin. The main room was larger than it appeared to be outside with a large fireplace in one wall and several oil lamps lighting the interior of the room. Two sofas were sitting near the fireplace with a coffee table between them and a high back cushioned chair sitting opposite the crackling fire. Then, a man wearing a red and black flannel shirt with blue jeans and leather boots stepped out of the hallway and leaned up against the edge of the fireplace. His chin was covered with a thick beard that was the same shade of chestnut brown as his curly hair. He crossed his thick arms over his muscular chest as he scowled at the two intruders inside his home.
“Father, this is Jenna and Leonard Bentley,” Justin introduced us. “They’re friends of mine.”
“How did you find us?” The man demanded with a low growl.
“Completely by accident, sir,” I replied honestly. “We were instructed by Evan and Lulu to find a new home since ‘Lulu’s Hideaway’ is in danger of being attacked by the Purifiers. We don’t even really know where we are at the moment.”
The man seemed to think about it for a moment before he finally nodded and motioned towards the sofas. “Have a seat,” he instructed with a grunt before he made himself comfortable in the chair. “I’m sure that we’ve each got a lot to talk about. How is Lulu doing?”
“She’s well,” I replied as me and Leonard sat on the sofa to Demetrius’s right. Justin sat on the sofa across from us. “She’s scared, that’s for sure.”
“That doesn’t seem like her,” Demetrius replied roughly.
“She’s not scared for herself,” I told him. “She’s scared of losing her home. It’s been around for years, protected by the different governments of the country, only to be under threat by some religious fanatics.”
“No place else will ever be home,” Leonard said absently, drawing Demetrius’s attention.
“Why do you look familiar, boy?” Demetrius demanded.
“I used to be Lulu’s pet until someone from the government shot me,” Leonard explained. “I was beyond the point for Lulu to save me, so she got Evan to change me, instead.”
“Humans,” the man spat in disgust. “Sometimes I feel that Orthis was right. We should have taken control of their societies when they were young and stupid, still forming their different cultures. It’s too late now, though. They outnumber us by the billions. Alas, that’s not what the Great Mother wanted. She wanted us to slip into the secrecy of the Underworld, living in fear of being discovered as we stuck to the shadows.” He looked between the two of us for a moment. “You are different, though. I can smell it on you.”
“Evan was created by the humans using a sample of Arella’s DNA,” Leonard explained. “I don’t think that’s all that he has in him, though.”
“It’s not,” Demetrius admitted. “You’re a part of me, too.”
We both stared at the man in silence, waiting for him to tell us what he meant.
“You’ve got five different species mixed into your genes, I believe,” Demetrius told us. “I think Evan has witch from his human side, too.”
“Holy shit,” I muttered in disbelief. “What else is there in him?”
“I only know of his Vampire side, Witch, and Hybrid sides,” the man admitted with a shrug. “Nothing else mattered to me, though I would suspect that Evan was also injected with Werewolf and Hunter DNA.”
“That explains some of it,” Leonard said distantly. “We get our powers from his Witch side, our lust for blood from the Vampire side, our aversion to sunlight from the Hybrid side. . .”
“What about the Hunter and Werewolf DNA?” Justin asked.
“You’re wrong,” Demetrius interrupted us. He chuckled smoothly before he changed the subject on us. “You need to worry about the Purifiers before you worry about what you’re made of.”
“What do you know about the Purifiers?” Leonard asked. “All we know is what the government has told us.”
“I know that they’ve been around for hundreds of centuries,” the hybrid replied bluntly. “Almost as long as the Hunters.”
“How though?” I asked in disbelief.
Demetrius smiled. “All it takes is one believer with a persuasive speech to gain followers. You’d be surprised at what one human can do when he is controlled by his faith.”
I glanced at Leonard to see that he was frowning. I felt his discouragement. No matter what we did, the Purifiers would never cease to exist.
“There is one way to make all of this go away,” Demetrius stated grimly. “You’re going to have to change them into monsters.”
“Holy shit,” I muttered. “You would need someone on the inside in order to be able to do that.”
“This isn’t going to be possible,” Leonard protested. “There’s a rumor that they have some kind of anti-venom that they keep in their pouches. It’s supposed to counteract the effects of the venom if they’re bitten.”
“It only works on normal creatures,” Demetrius offered. “Not your type.”
“Evan isn’t going to like this at all,” I stated. “Not even a little bit.”
“They have a device, Eugene,” Mason was telling me as we sat in my office. “It sends shockwaves through the ground before it explodes in a flash of UV light and fire. They’re getting dangerous, brother, and somebody needs to do something.”
“I’ve been trying to do something, Mason,” I snapped at my brother. “I have been discussing the situation with Director Johnson, and she is already putting pressure on Homeland Security. From what I know, the F.B.I. is currently trying to find the Purifiers headquarters. If we can find their H.Q., we can take them down, once and for all.”
“I’m hearing a ton of ifs, Eugene,” Mason stated coldly before he stood from his chair and glared at me. “My son is just beginning his second chance at life, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to stand by and let a bunch of religious zealots try to kill him!”
Before I could say anything else, Mason turned and stormed out of my office. I sighed in defeat, knowing that I was going to have to deal with him, sooner or later. He was my brother, but he was beginning to become a problem. Even Director Johnson was beginning to take notice of my brother’s attitude, as of late. She had only been in the building twice since the Battle of Philadelphia, but Mason had made the wrong impression on the young woman. I tried to warn him, but it was too late.
“I understand that Doctor Mason Bentley is your brother, Eugene?” She had asked me after meeting him the first time.
“Yes, ma’am,” I replied respectfully. “He was the person responsible for making the serum work.”
“I know,” the dark-haired woman told me with a polite smile. I knew at that moment, that my brother’s days were numbered. “I also understand that his son, Tatum Bentley, was successfully changed into a vampire by your eldest son. Is that correct?”
“Yes, Director Johnson,” I told her. Then, I remained silent. Something told me that it wasn’t just my brother’s job that was on the line.
“How many vampires has Evan created, Eugene?”
“Five, I believe, Director.”
She nodded more like she was just making sure that I wasn’t going to lie to her. Emilee Johnson already knew everything that she wanted to know. Her only goal now, was to find out who she could truly trust to do their jobs the way that she wanted them done.
“Do you know the reasoning behind his decision to change Hayden into a vampire, Eugene?” She asked me.
“I do, Director Johnson,” I began, but she quickly cut me off.
“Eugene,” she said with a brief smile. “You are not on trial here. Nobody is. You can relax. I’m not here to remove you from your position. I have seen what you are capable of achieving, and it would be stupid of me to let an asset like you slip away. I need you on my side, Eugene.”
It was just as I suspected. Director Johnson was the youngest Director in the Special Projects Division of the C.I.A. It was her drive to succeed that had moved her to the top of the ladder by the time she was thirty-two-years-old. The woman was a force to be reckoned with, and I knew that I needed her in my corner, as well.
“Do I believe that your brother is a loose cannon? Yes, I do. Frankly, he scares me. But I am willing to let you keep him in line, however you see fit. If you can keep him silent financially, then, I suggest that you do it. I won’t deny the paperwork when it comes across my desk. Mason has done us all a great favor, Eugene. He deserves to be rewarded for everything that he has accomplished. I don’t want this to end badly. Do you understand what I mean, Director Bentley?”
“Yes, ma’am,” I replied quickly. I knew exactly what her words had meant. She was giving me the chance to keep Mason alive, a chance that I had been trying to find a way to sell to my brother since the private conversation.
“Good,” she replied with a more relaxed smile. “Now, how do you want to handle the Purifiers? They’re starting to become a thorn in my side, Eugene.”
“Mine, too,” I had stated dejectedly. “I was hoping Mason would have come up with a way for us to stop them quietly, but his attempts have been nothing but failures. Whoever is supplying them with money, is giving them more than we could ever hope to be budgeted.”
“Tell Mason to focus on disabling the Purifiers,” Emilee had instructed. “We don’t need them dead. Not yet at least.”
“I’ll make sure that Doctor Bentley knows, Director Johnson.”
“Good,” she confirmed. “Now, let’s get back to what happened to Hayden. What can you tell me about the boy and why he’s a vampire, now?”
“Evan and his Coven were checking into their motel for the Battle of Philadelphia, when Tatum could hear Hayden’s father screaming at the boy and striking him over, and over.” I frowned as I remembered the story my son had told me. “They decided to act to rescue the boy, only to find that the father was succeeding in beating the boy to death. His injuries were too severe for him to survive, so Evan bit him to save his life. While Evan was saving the boy, Tatum took care of the father.”
Emilee had smiled at that moment.
“I remember that news story,” she stated almost pleasantly. “Now, that I know who is responsible for his death, I can reward them.”
“Ma’am?” I had asked in confusion.
“I’ve been looking for who was responsible for bringing the child abuser to justice, Eugene,” she had said. “I want to offer him a job.”
I chuckled at her comment. “I don’t think you would be able to even present the offer to him face to face, Director Johnson.”
“Is Tatum really that vicious, still?” The young woman asked in disbelief.
“Far from, Director Johnson,” I had told her. “He can see you coming days away, though. He’ll avoid you if he doesn’t trust you.”
“How do I get Tatum and Evan to trust me, Eugene?” She had pleaded. “Please, be honest.”
“You have to prove to them that you’re on their side, Emilee,” I told her dryly. “Don’t ever give them a reason to doubt your word, or they’ll drop you in a heartbeat. You’ll never have another chance. Don’t ever try to trick them, either. You’ll never win against the Bentley Coven if you do. They have a bigger purpose in life than you or I could ever comprehend, and that is their main goal.”
“What are they doing?” She asked in confusion. “Are they trying to take over?”
“No, Emilee,” I told her seriously. “They’re trying to save us from being turned into cattle.”
Emilee had let out a small gasp of surprise.
“There’s a Prophecy, Director Johnson,” I had informed her. “It’s in the Section-9 ‘CODE RED’ folder.”
That entire conversation had taken place between us only one week after Ethan had been rescued from Sonya’s grasp. The Battle of Philadelphia had been a trying event, but we had overcome Sonya and her army of newborn vampires. Evan had wiped Ethan’s memories, clear back to the moment Jenna had been thrown against the wall. At first, I had tried to convince Evan to take Ethan back to before the sleepover, but he had refused. Then, he said something that sent chills down my spine.
“I don’t approve of your methods for keeping the secret, Eugene,” his light voice sounded threatening as his blood-red eyes flashed with anger. “I do understand, though. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to give my brother one last message, before I take away his memories.”
With that, he had turned and led Ethan away from me, his Coven closing in tightly around them. I knew what the meaning behind his words had been. He knew what I had done to Cynthia, and he would never forgive me for it. The only reason that he was associating with me, was because he needed me. I was the one who was to keep Ethan safe until the next move was made by either side.
My office was quiet as I sat in it alone, lost in my own thoughts. I had no clue where the Purifiers could be located. Nobody knew where they were getting their technology or their financing. All we knew, was that the self-righteous were beginning to grow in numbers. I had to come up with a plan to stop them that didn’t involve getting everybody killed in the process. I needed to get ahold of Evan.