Authors: A. L. Kessler
Tags: #vampires, #werewolves, #shifters, #Magic, #demons, #dark fantasy
He didn't like the idea of her going to work, but he forced himself to sit back down and remind himself that she was a big girl. "Okay, I'll see you tonight."
When she left he fell back on the bed and closed his eyes. If he was going to Lucius' he needed more sleep.
Danielle skidded to a halt in front of Joey's classroom. Luckily the students hadn't been let out yet, but they were all starting to gather their things. Just like high school, antsy because the bell was just about to ring. On cue the electronic bell sounded through the building and the students came rushing out into the halls. Dani squeezed past them and into the classroom.
A visitor would assume any normal class was taught here. Desks connected to chairs sat in rows, five rows of five desks. Small classes. Joey leaned against a typical gray metal desk with a wooden top, with his arms crossed and behind him a white board to use during class. He turned his head and met her gaze. "So what brings you here?"
"I need the dagger that was forged in the Seelie Court. The one that can kill the Queen of Blood and Darkness."
Joey raised a brow. "And what do you plan on doing with that dagger? It's a dangerous item and one that they don't let off the grounds."
"I need it to help Orion." She grumbled. "Joey, we're mated and he thinks that this is the only way I won't have to join Lucius' territory and we can be together."
"Trust me, you don't want to join his territory. He’s as vicious as they come. What do you plan on doing after he kills the queen? Go with him to the Unseelie Court? Stay here and hunt? What is in your future, Danielle?"
She pursed her lips and then sighed. "I don't know, but it feels right, it feels like I have to do this."
"And what of your other missions? Your vow to the Society?" He pushed away from the desk and met her gaze. "Do you realize that you could be skinned of your mark for working with Lucius?"
"I don't work for him or with him. I am returning a favor to Orion, because he helped kill the demon that was leaving victims all around our city. Isn't that what my mission was? Other than hunting down some corpses so that the Society can burn them?" To her the Society had been slipping in its own mission to protect those who had become victim. It wasn't like them to send Hunters on wild goose chases instead of rogue creatures.
"I agree with you, their missions are skewed."
"Joey, that's creepy."
"Then learn to guard your thoughts. I can tell you that the guards at the museum switch shifts at midnight, and that the alarm system hasn't worked for years." He gave her a wink. "Other than that, I don't know anything about the dagger. Now, aren't you due to check in with the Elders? Something about dead ends and myths?"
"Yeah, let's hope they aren't gifted like you. I'd hate for them to pick the truth out of my head."
"There aren't any others like me here." He looked up as the door opened.
A younger Hunter walked in. Her black hair was pulled back in some type of braid and her blue eyes were crystal clear. She grinned at Joey. "You said you wanted to talk to me about my blades test?"
Joey nodded. "Yes Isadora, thank you for coming."
Danielle inclined her head in thanks and then walked out of the room. Making her way down the hall she wondered what else Joey knew, what he could be hiding from the society. He was helping her with no regards to the rules and that made her question his motives.
She walked into a small meeting room where the Elder Masters had all gathered. She couldn't recall their names and knew that they were only five of the twenty that lived at headquarters. Many others were scattered at other bases around the country. When she stopped at the small podium that sat in front of them all, she felt their eyes burn into her.
They were sizing her up, wondering if she was as crazy as her ex-partner was. She swallowed. "I've come to request that you pass the mission you gave me to another Hunter or put an end to the chase. There is no trace or proof of the Original vampires, nor the creature called The Father. All my searches have turned up nothing."
They murmured and muttered to each other and then one stood. She racked her brain for a name and finally one came. Master Matthews.
"You are telling us that all those photos turned up nothing? Even the one with a human there?"
Tegan. "Correct." She kept her voice even and swept her eyes over the questioning faces. "There are nothing but old family crypts with years of history here, the crypt the woman weeps at dates back to when Colorado first became a state, if not later."
"The woman could be like you, linked to the vampire there."
Boy, did they have it wrong. "My connection to the vampire has nothing to do with this. I have simply come to request a transfer or discontinuation of the mission."
"We will pass it to another Elite who should prove more confident in it. Your faith in what we are having you study is lacking and that clouds your vision for it. Your request is granted and you are dismissed." Master Mathews sat down and waved a hand towards the door.
She spun on her heel and left, not wanting to dwell there. It wasn't a kind parting and she'd hoped to throw them off the trail, but they weren't ones to give up. Now she had a few hours to wait before she could steal the dagger.
Liara smiled as she approached the grave, her handmaiden by her side. The woman had brought back news of Dani's biggest secret, a vampire who had bound her. It was perfect. Though she wasn't allying with the vampires, losing Dani to one would destroy Orion. Even if Danielle weren’t killed, the vampire would be willing to drag her out of the Hunting Society and out of Orion's arms. Maybe even kill the Fae, wouldn't that work to her advantage?
She waved a hand and the lock fell off the gate. She waltzed right in and glanced at her handmaiden. She hadn't even bothered to learn the girl's name and if the vampire didn't drain her tonight, Liara would have to kill her eventually to make up for it. No one could know that the Queen was setting a captive vampire free. It could be seen as an alliance. The chains fell away from the coffin as she walked up to it. She opened it and looked down at the sunken face of the vampire.
"How long have you been here?" She asked and the black eyes met hers.
"I don't know." He grumbled and fixed his hungry eyes on her throat.
"Oh no, I brought you a meal and then you and I need to talk about something." She smirked and grabbed her handmaiden by the wrist, throwing her at the vampire. "Eat up."
Liara stepped away while the vampire fed, and when he was done he tossed the pale and woozy-looking handmaiden away. Liara smiled and held her arm out to him. "Shall we go somewhere more comfortable to talk? I'd like to see if we couldn’t come to an agreement."
The vampire linked arms with her and they walked out of the gated area, the maid disappearing, probably to take herself home. Liara paused when the vampire froze and looked in a different direction. "Something wrong?"
"No, I just thought I sensed something." He turned his eyes forward again. "Now, what is it that you wanted to negotiate? You're Fae, you normally leave our kind alone."
She nodded. "This is true, but I just need you to do one simple thing. I need you to claim your human and then go back to whereever you came from. I know you're not part of Lucius' territory, so you need to get as far away as you can."
"And what do you get out of this?"
"Simple, it'll cripple her mate. He won't be able to go into your territory because he belongs to Lucius. If he leaves Lucius' protection I will kill him before he has a chance to go after Danielle."
He was silent for a moment as they walked and she wanted to know what he was thinking, or if he was simply enjoying the first few moments of his freedom. "And if I refuse?" He asked once they reached the edge of the graveyard.
She hadn't thought about that. "Do you not plan on getting your human back?"
"Not currently, my plan is to do such when it is at my utmost advantage. Having her in Lucius' territory and having Lucius believe that I am not a threat works for me, not against me." He shrugged.
Snarling, Liara turned to face him. "I just freed you from your prison."
"By your choice. I didn’t ask to be freed. You just assumed I would pay you back for it and I won't. I will take my leave." He disappeared from her arm and she snarled.
What an arrogant prick, she had never thought he'd turn her down after she freed him and provided him a meal. Clearly he had something underhanded planned and that is why he allowed the Hunters to capture him in the first place. With that plan back firing, she was going to have to get drastic.
Taking herself back to her palace and throne she contemplated how to go about her next attempt at Orion.
Orion walked into the foyer and his eyes swept over the tiny crowd there. Kass and Jaxon stood next to each other, while Kaden was leaning against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest. His eyes narrowed the moment Orion spotted him, but he looked away as Lucius stood.
"It's about time you got here." Lucius snapped. "Do you not know the meaning of being on time anymore?"
Orion snorted. "You're lucky I'm here. Pretty sure I have orders to be looking for Tegan twenty-four-seven."
Kaden snorted. “Don't bother, Lucius knows where she is, but all he's done is stand around here and mope."
"Quiet demon, this is about security, not Tegan." Lucius snapped and then swung around to face Orion. "Because Coran and Tegan are gone, we have a huge gap in our security. The bar has already been attacked once and I fear that is not the end of it."
Orion raised a brow. "You think the queen has reason to attack elsewhere?"
"I think that we need to bring in more security. You are the group that I keep closest to me, which means I feel it’s necessary to consult you on who we bring in. Derrick has refused wolves, so we must call on other members of my territory."
"How did he get away with refusing wolves?" Kass asked, stepping away from Jaxon.
Lucius cut his glare to her. "We had a misunderstanding and he's got his own problems right now in the pack."
That was news to Orion. Coran hadn't mentioned trouble at all and he ran with the pack on the full moon. "Who were you thinking? There are plenty of vampires in the territory that work for you as well as other shifters and witches. What about Sophia's husband?"
"The seer's husband?" Lucius stroked his chin and watched the fire in the fireplace dance. "He could be good, as a bear he tends to be fierce. I will put him on the list."
Kass pressed her lips together and then spoke. "What about the small Kiss of vampires in northern Colorado? They are under your territory, they have a woman by the name of Victoria."
"Good suggestion, I will contact her as well. There are many I can call on, do you have any objections?"
No one said anything. A loud crash drew their attention away from the conversation and to the now splintered oak doors. The fire and lights disappeared as cold consumed the room. Lucius growled. "The Queen of Blood and Darkness."
"Oh Lucius, your manners are lacking." Liara's voice echoed through the room. "I've come to correct something that I did wrong so many years ago."
Orion summoned a sword and glanced at Lucius. "She's after me."
"That gives her no reason to attack me on my territory, now show yourself."
The sounds of bones snapping and flesh stretching filled the area and the two panthers came up behind Lucius, nearly invisible save for their yellow eyes.
"You think you’re a match for me, with your kitties, your demon, and your damaged Fae?" The fire came flickering back to life and Liara was lounging in Lucius' throne.
Everyone spun around to face her. Lucius raised a brow. "I think we can take you, but you must realize that if you attack us here it means war."
"I don't think you have enough people to go through with that threat. One nick, one wound, that's all I need to kill you all. To bleed you out." She smiled and traced her nails over the throne. "Or I could blind you in an instant, I just have to wrap my hand around your eyes. I could make your blood boil with a mere thought, or let it pour out of you." She gave a wicked laugh. "Or you could just hand over Orion for me to kill."
Orion twirled his sword and looked back to see Kaden finally pushing off the wall to join them.
Lucius smirked. "I don't think so. I told you earlier that I don't just throw my people away."
So Lucius had spoken to her before and he'd denied her before as well. Orion stepped up. "If it's me you want, leave them out of this."
"I don't think so." She stood, but Lucius threw a hand in the air, hitting her with power and slamming her back down into the chair.
"You are a threat to me and my people. For the sake of not starting another spike in this war, I ask you again to leave."
Kassity curled around Lucius' leg, letting out a low growl of a warning. Orion could see the twitching of her tail as a warning that she was about to pounce. The fire disappeared again in a flash of smoke, leaving the smell behind. The cats would have no problem tracking her movements if she hadn't been Fae, but she could move in that darkness. A cry of pain came from one of the cats and Orion's eyes darted around to see if he could find anything to indicate who it was.
An invisible power took him to the ground, and he knew in an instant whose it was. "Lucius you ass, you got me." Closing his eyes, he focused as Lucius' power left him. He remembered the way Dani's hand felt when it touched him, the way it had healed his wings and called to his power. He wrapped that feeling around him. Opening his hand, he smiled as a crackling silver ball of light formed, illuminating everything around him. Electricity, lightning, a perfect power to have.
Everyone in the room froze and faced him. Liara skulked out of the shadows, dragging Kassity by the tail.
"Stupid bitch doesn't know how to control her attacks."
Of course not, because Lucius stripped her of any control so she acted out of pure instinct. They all knew it would get her in trouble. Liara threw Kassity at Orion's feet. There was a rise and fall of the beast’s chest so he knew she lived, but nasty bleeding slices marred her back.