Friday, June 13, 2:15a.m
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
From a dark corner table, Mel studied the crowd of humans while they drank and partied. Their shouts and laughter mingled with rock music, pulsating throughout the dim interior of The Green Tree, a seedy nightclub set in the heart of downtown Surrey. Sweat and strong perfumes mixed together to form a nauseating bouquet.
Humans were clueless. Completely unaware vampires lived amongst them. Unaware one was amidst them at this moment, watching their every move. If they knew, they'd trample each other as they stormed to the nearest exit. A dark part of him wanted to jump up, bare his fangs and shout, "I vant to suck your blood." He smiled, picturing the scene. Yeah, too bad he left his Dracula cape at home.
Taking a sip of whiskey, Mel leaned back in his seat and continued his scrutiny of the inebriated crowd. Hard to imagine there'd been a time when both species had stood together against the evils in the world. That ended centuries ago, after humans turned their backs on vampires and listened to the lies spouted by the demons. Yet, vampires had kept their end of the bargain. They continued to fight, keeping humans from being wiped off the planet.
Mel fingered the remnants of a scar hidden along his hairline, a trophy received the night before from a demon's blade. A battle he and his fellow slayer, Kal, almost lost. Four against two was a tough fight, but they emerged the victors.
A shapely waitress caught his attention as she retrieved her drink orders at the bar. She held a loaded tray above her head with one hand. The movement forced her full breasts higher. He was positive they'd spill out of her low-cut top. Round hips swayed as she wove through the crowded tables, delivering drinks to the rowdy patrons. His dick hardened and pushed against his pants. And buried underneath his sexual need, a deeper, more primitive hunger swam to the surface. A thirst no amount of alcohol could quench.
His fangs descended. He glanced away from her lush figure and willed them back.
Shit. Blood lust mixed with sexual desire was a hard combo to ignore. Too bad his mind wasn't as eager as his body. His canines tried to slip past his lips again and he sighed. Ah hell, couldn't fight vampire biology. And judging from the erection that bulged in his jeans, he couldn't fight male biology either.
Against his better judgment, Mel's eyes darted back to the waitress. He groaned when he caught another eyeful of her ample cleavage. His fangs dropped further. He swore, forcing them to retract. Two against one. Looked like his baser urges were winning this war.
Mel curled his fingers around the glass and downed the last of his whiskey, ice and all. Maybe he should just split. He glanced at his wristwatch. 2:20 a.m. Dawn wasn't far off. He scanned the crowd looking for Kal. What the hell was taking him so long? One more drink and he'd have to hunt him down.
As Mel crunched the ice, he checked on the waitress's progress. Three tables away, she moved with the grace of a dancer, all the while avoiding groping hands. She drew closer and peeked at him from under her thick false lashes. An unmistakable invitation shone in her blue eyes. Her scent, a tangy citrus aroma, cranked up his desire. She smiled, revealing even white teeth. Mel returned the gesture, but careful not to flash his teeth.
Maybe he would line-up a little pleasure. And as always, when it was over, he'd wipe himself from her memory. Same drill, different night.
Yet, he couldn't muster any enthusiasm. He was sick of the anonymity of it. He wanted more. Wanted to wake up next to someone. Wanted someone to share his life with. Hell, at the very least he wanted someone to remember him.
Years ago, he had known the contentment of joining his life with another. He and his wife had shared a strong emotional tie--one that can only be achieved through love. But his father had made damn sure their love and happiness ended in tragedy.
Sweat beaded his forehead. Memories of his ol' man bubbled up from of the dark pit in his soul, where he desperately tried to keep them buried.
Something brushed against his hand. Mel jerked back, muscles tensed as fear sped up his heart. He felt like a jackass when he realized it was only his cell phone vibrating.
The phone bounced again and skittered across the polished tabletop. With a shaky hand, he snatched it before it fell. It buzzed against his palm and he pushed the side button to check caller ID.
He swiped answer and shoved a finger in one ear in an attempt to block the throbbing music. "What's up?"
A faint muffle was all he heard. Mel pressed his finger in tighter. "What was that?" This time he made out Roarik's deep voice but no distinct words. "I can't hear you. Hold on a sec, I'm going to find some place quieter." He stood and moved through the tight press of bodies toward the restrooms. A quick check made sure it was empty. Satisfied, he brought the phone back to his ear. "Okay, what's up?"
"Is Kal with you?" Roarik asked in his gruff voice.
"He was hunting demons with me earlier, but he's not with me now."
Roarik's barked curse blasted in his ear. "Where is he?"
"I think he's in his truck out back of the club, feeding and screwing. Why?"
"Typical. Find him and get your asses back to the base. I'm calling an emergency meeting."
Mel's heart slowed to a crawl as unease filtered through his brain. "All right, but can you at least tell me what's going on"
Silence filled the line, and then a heavy sigh. "The prophecy has been found."
The prophecy? Then it hit him with the intensity of a lightning bolt. The Vampire Prophecy. Mel cleared his suddenly dry throat. ?How? When??
"I'll fill you in when you get here."
The door banged open. Startled, Mel spun around.
Kal sauntered in with a big cocky grin. "Hey, I was lookin' everywhere for ya. Thought maybe you were finally gettin' some action. Guess not."
"Kal's here now. We're on our way." Mel ended the call. "Let's go." In three strides, he was across the room.
"Yo, where's the fire, dude?" Kal asked.
Mel wrenched the door open, and the steady beat of the music rushed in. He turned and stared at Kal. "The prophecy's been discovered."
All pretense of teasing vanished from Kal's face. His dark brows dropped low over blue eyes, which were the same color as the highlights streaked throughout his black hair. "Are you shittin' me? When did this happen?"
"Don't know. Let's go." Mel shot through the door with Kal right behind him.
As they drove through the city, it seemed to Mel they hit every damn red light, plus the heavy Friday night traffic slowed them up. When they finally reached the highway, traffic thinned and Kal stomped on the accelerator.
With the lights of the city well behind, they turned onto a quiet country road. After a few miles surrounded by nothing but trees, the pavement came to a sudden end and the road forked. The headlights illuminated two large signs. One read Water Shed with an arrow pointing left to a washed-out logging road, the other marked private property pointed to a narrow gravel lane dwarfed on either side by dense fir and cedar trees. Kal turned right.
Fifteen minutes later, Kal parked in front of a three-story white house with a wide veranda running the length of the lower level. They hopped out, sprinted up the stairs, through the wooden double doors, and up a winding staircase to the top floor.
"Sorry we're late," Mel said as he stepped into Roarik's office. He glanced at the other warriors seated throughout the room. All were present. Soren, Black, Sin, even Ace.
The rectangular room was spacious, but with all seven warriors present, it felt like the red walls shrank.
Roarik rose from behind his oak desk. Topping out at six-foot-seven, he was the tallest and broadest of the demon slayers in this squad. His regal carriage demanded respect. Not only was he a direct descendant of the first king of the first vampire clan sent to Earth thousands of years ago, he was the captain of this unit of slayers.
Before Mel and Kal sat, Roarik thrust a sheet of paper in each of their hands. Mel studied it. Written across the top were the words vampire prophecy followed by fourteen short sentences in English. Decorating the bottom was a small symbol shaped like a crooked dagger. He glanced up. "This makes no sense. It reads like a goddamn riddle."
Roarik nodded. He headed back to the black swivel chair behind his desk. Once seated, he picked a pen from a jar on his desk and twirled it between his fingers. "Behold the prophecy, boys."
Silence filled the room.
Dropping his pen, Roarik sat forward and leaned his thick forearms along the desktop. "Those lazy pricks in the Sacred Order are riding me and every squad leader's ass around the globe--hard--demanding answers to this riddle. Their orders are for one warrior from each squadron to research it." A short pause followed. "I choose you, Mel."
Mel's eyes jerked from the page to Roarik's grim face. "Why me?"
"Because, out of the seven of us here, you're the only one who's studied our species' history extensively."
"Studied sure, but a scholar I'm not. Sorry, can't help you. You'll have to get someone else."
"Well, I suggest you get on your computer and search the great world-wide web and get reacquainted with history text books." Roarik's eyes narrowed. "That's an order.?
Annoyance rolled up from Mel's gut. Well, I suggest you shove it. He clamped his teeth to trap the words. He had no desire to spend one second of his time researching a bogus prophecy made up by the gods. As far as he was concerned, the gods could go straight to hell with their buddy, Lucifer. They were all useless bastards who cared nothing for the miseries vampires suffered. Miseries he'd suffered. They proved that when they'd ignored his prayers and allowed his father to destroy everyone he loved.
"I want you on it this weekend," Roarik stated. "I expect a report on Monday."
Mel swore under his breath and shoved the prophecy into a pocket of his black leather jacket. "I'll do what I can."
Beside him, Kal laughed and nudged his arm. "That's what ya get for being a book-worm. That's why I stick to the simple things in life: women, video games, and loud music. This way no one expects anything."
Mel tried to hide his smile. Leave it to Kal to find humor in an otherwise serious situation.
Chuckles from the other warrior's filled the room, but Roarik's thunderous expression stopped the laughter. "Now is not the time for your bullshit comedy, Kal."
Kal's face turn red and his gaze shifted to the carpeted floor. "Sorry."
Roarik stood and strolled over to the enormous stone fireplace, which covered most of one wall. "I'll fill you in on what little the Sacred Order knows about the prophecy. They believe it refers to some mystical warriors who will help bring an end to this war.?
Soren pulled a pack of smokes from his jacket pocket. His dark blond brows lowered over cunning green eyes. "What do the historians have to say about it?"
"Where do you think the Order is getting their information?" Roarik shoved his hands through his blond hair. "Oh, and another thing, the symbol on the bottom of the page is believed to be how we will identify these warriors. So they want every slayer on the lookout for this mark."
"Yeah? And what do they suggest we do? Go around stripping every warrior we meet?" Ace laughed and shook his head. "What a bunch of no-mind ass clowns."
"I agree," Roarik said with a smirk on his face.
Black leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs. "How was the prophecy found?"
"Rats found the prophecy?" Kal laughed.
"In a manner of speaking." Roarik crossed his arms and widened his stance. "Recently the Council house was hit with a rat infestation. A member of the Sacred Order went down to the unused section of the underground tunnels armed with rat poison. He shone a light into a crumbled segment of wall when he noticed a rat jump out, and hidden inside was a metal box. Imagine their surprise when they opened it to find the prophecy. God knows how long it had been sealed up in the wall."
"Holy shit," Black murmured. "The prophecy had been under the Sacred Order's noses all this time."
Roarik nodded. "I know you all have tons of questions, but I don't have answers, so save them. Now, on to other business. Celeene and I are leaving tonight for Kelowna to meet their new squad leader. We'll be back Sunday night. While I'm away, Soren will be in charge. This concludes our meeting. If anything unforeseen happens, call my cell. As usual, boys, be careful."
Ten minutes later, Mel entered the small two-bedroom suite he and Kal shared beneath the main house. There were seven suites in all, including theirs. He paused in the entrance to their living room and glared at his computer. Instant anger over his new position as researcher gripped his gut in a tight fist. Shaking his head, he walked down the short hallway to his room. 'I'm hitting the sack. Catch ya later."
"Yo, Mel? Do you think there's any truth to the prophecy?"
Mel halted outside his bedroom, but didn't turn around. He hated the glimmer of hope in Kal's voice. "No. I don't believe the gods will finally get off their lazy asses and send help."
"But you don't know that for sure, man."
Mel heaved a weary sigh. "The gods don't give a shit what happens to us. Hell, they don't even care what happens to their precious humans. Look around, Kal. Look at all the misery. All of us--humans and vampires--are just puppets dangling from strings for the god's amusement, and we vampires are their disposable soldiers. Tools to be used and tossed aside when we're no longer needed." He opened the door and stepped inside.
She rested with her back against the red cushioned swing chair in a garden of blooming flowers. Moonlight illuminated everything it touched while flowers danced in the light breeze, swaying to a song only they could hear. The swing rocked back and forth, powered by her small bare foot. In her arms lay a smiling baby. Long dark hair shielded her face from view. Mel tried to call to her, but to no gain; his tongue wouldn't take direction from his brain. He wanted, no, needed to see her.
Abruptly, as if someone flicked a light switch, the woman and baby disappeared and the sound of thunder filled the blackness.
Blood curdling screams poured into his ears as he ran, clawing his way up a steep hill, stumbling and sliding in his panic. When he finally reached the top, he stood unmoving on the edge of the cliff and stared with horror at the scene. The houses and barns in the little valley were all ablaze. Flames lit the night while smoke filled the sky, trying to choke out the stars.
Men on horseback raced through the village, cutting down screaming females and young on the run for their lives. He tried to move, but his feet had grown roots and were stuck fast, deep in the earth.
He glimpsed his wife Bethany, as she ran out from behind a burning barn. Her long red braid bounced and swayed as she raced toward the dark forest. He tried to scream a warning, but no sound escaped. He was paralyzed and mute. Helpless. A large masked human male riding an immense black horse, galloped up behind her, closing the distance with lightening speed. As she headed for the cover of the trees, the rider, with a mighty swing of a sword, cut her down as he bolted past. Her body crumpled to the dirt. The male jerked his snorting steed to a sliding stop, and wheeling around, he charged back. With a triumphant yell, the masked warrior pulled his helm from his head, and shook out his long black hair.
The scene changed again. No longer merely an observer, Mel was thrust into the action. He leaped off the prancing stallion and turned over his dead wife for inspection. Instead of his wife's lovely face, his father's evil black eyes stared back. He tried to jump away, but his father's hand snaked out and curled around his ankle.
?Oh, son,? he sneered, laughing maniacally up at him. ?You will never be free of me. I am inside you, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to come out.?
The scenario abruptly transformed once more. Mel now lay bleeding on the cold, hard ground. He looked up at his father as he leered down. Pure hatred swirled in his sire?s eyes, freezing his soul. With a foot planted on Mel's chest, his father plunged the tip of a sword straight for his heart.
Mel violently shook his head, mouthing the word no, over and over.
Then just before the blade hit its mark, a beautiful white light shone into his eyes, momentarily blinding him. Mel swung his terrified gaze from his father's enraged expression and stared at a hooded and cloaked figure. He sensed she was a woman, but he didn't know for sure because he couldn't see her face. She reached down to him with one small glowing hand. Without hesitation, he grasped it like a lifeline and she pulled him out of the nightmare.
Mel bolted awake. His arms flailed as he fought the blankets tangled around his body.
Sucking in a lungful of air, his heart slammed against his ribs. With a vicious curse, he shoved his sweat-dampened hair out of his eyes. Frantic, he searched the room, afraid his father's ghost still lingered in the shadows.
He hung his head from tense shoulders and willed his pounding heart and erratic breathing to settle.
A few moments later, he laid back and recalled the dream of the woman and baby. A dream that had haunted him on and off for the past fifty years. Nothing ever changed, not even the simplest detail. After all these years he had no clue who she was. He'd never seen her face. But oddly enough, she didn't seem like a stranger. This dream always filled him with love, contentment, and overwhelming happiness.
He frowned as his thoughts changed to the nightmare that had followed. A nightmare which plagued him since his wife's murder. But the cloaked woman in the end was new.
Closing his eyes, Mel hoped for sleep with no dreams, only forgetfulness.