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Stalking a Vampire
I was being followed.
I wasn’t sure at first when I left Colette’s apartment, catching signs of something thin and short trailing me in my periphery, but now I was sure of it.
First of all, they were purposefully stomping their feet each time I paused to listen. Secondly, whoever it was kept slipping into my periphery; a shadowy form with white teeth and a violet gaze. Lastly…
I could smell her.
And I knew it was a her because she smelled like hazy lavender and that scent you just associate with girls. Something sweet and clean.
I pursed my lips, keeping my head low but my body alert. Whoever she was must be really stupid because anyone was an idiot to try to follow me.
Anyone was an idiot for following a Vampire at all.
I finally paused again, smirking when she stomped her feet—trying to get my attention? Maybe she was a friend of Colette’s, who was currently supplying me with blood. Sometimes that happened.
And I couldn’t fault them for having good taste.
“All right, I’m getting tired of this,” I turned in a slow circle, rain making my boots squeak against the sidewalk.
The girl was just standing there, out of the yellow glow of the streetlight I was standing under. I could only make out a sharp smirk and that strange purple gaze. She was a Witch, then, or at least had Witch blood in her.
“Me, too,” she said slowly.
Her voice was distinctly foreign, German or Swedish.
I narrowed my gaze, pulling my hands from my pockets. She laughed lightly at the sight of my balled fists.
“Why are you following me?” I said irritably.
The girl looked down at her nails, “So impolite. My name’s Stephie. And you’re Ashton.”
I frowned. That was not my name.
Maybe she tripped in the rain and slammed her head against the ground.
“Sure. Ashton Kutcher at your service,” I said, relaxing slightly.
She tilted her head, “It’s a code name. I’ve been looking for you.”
I curled my nose, “Everyone’s looking for me; you’ll have to be more specific, darling.”
The girl stepped closer, parts of her face becoming clearer. Sharp nose. Sharp cheekbones. Lips painted blood red.
“I know all about you. Seven counts of murder, all human. Two counts of thievery from Covens nearby. And don’t even get me started on your arson charges.”
I slid into a smile, laughing as she studied me, “Hey, the murders were accidents, and the Covens were just asking for it. They had Teslas, lady. Teslas. Just sitting in the driveway. Unrelated question, Stephie𑁋”
“Don’t call me that.”
“𑁋What kind of name is that? Was your father hoping for a boy?”
She curled her lips, showing off a pair of Vampire teeth.
Suddenly, I was on alert again, “Who are you?”
Stephie huffed, “The fact is, Jackson, you owe us.”
I scoffed, not even caring that she knew my name, “Us? Who are you talking about? What is this, an arrest?”
“Sort of,” she shrugged in that offhanded way people do when your fate is in their hands. “And ‘us’ is none of your business.”
“Okay?” I shrugged back at her, letting my green eyes narrow to thin slits as she moved closer. I could now see her hair better; it was long and dark, pinned back in bobby pins already loosening. And I could see her dark, high-collared outfit, too𑁋
Great. She was decked in hunting gear: stakes, crossbows, daggers, the works. I instinctively stepped back, letting my fangs show as I bared my teeth.
“What exactly are you?”
She rolled her eyes, “Part Witch, part Vampire. Swedish Mafia. Who cares? I’m here to talk to you.”
“Oh, yeah? Do you think I’m going to go anywhere with someone who is a Vampire but has a hunting stake? Are you suicidal?”
“No, but I’m beginning to think you are because of how you’re running your mouth at me,” she snarled, touching the stake clipped to her belt with long fingers. “And I didn’t say we were going anywhere.”
“Can you please elaborate? Why are you stalking me, Stephie𑁋”
“Don’t call me that.”
“𑁋And what the heck is this,” I gestured between us, “about?”
She laughed, and I almost flashed her one of my famous grins, “This? This is about your sister.”
My body went cold, and my jaw automatically clenched, “Rosie? What about her?”
Stephie reached inside the fanny pack, freaking fanny pack, at her waist, unzipping it and pulling a photograph out. She extended it, eyebrows raised in challenge.
I rubbed a hand through my hair, shaking the blond locks loose from the tie at my nape so I could postpone reaching towards her. After a long, drawn-out moment, she scowled and dropped the photograph, stepping back so I could grab it without being near her.
It was of a massacre—blood and bodies littered at the foot of the stairs leading up to a church. I recognized the Coven; I had stolen the Teslas from them less than a month ago.
I blinked at Stephie, “What happened?”
She raised a brow, still hanging back, “Your sister did. Ripped their throats out.” She pressed her fingers against her neck, swallowing, “that’s why I’m here.”
I almost laughed at what she said. Rosie was the most docile Vampire I’d ever met, and she was my freaking sister. Granted, we were only half-siblings, but I knew Rosie. She wouldn’t harm anyone.
“You’re joking, right? Did Amy put you up to this? Josh?”
She snorted, beginning to pace with her fingers now at her temple. “Gosh, you’re annoying. No, you’re Vampire friends have nothing to do with this, although they’re in deep trouble, too.”
I rolled my eyes; she had to be lying, “Fine, let’s say I believe you, all right? What, is this some investigation or something? Who do you even work for?”
I snorted. It was like I was in some sort of black-and-white film, standing before the man in the fedora and long coat. Of course, the detective before me was a lot prettier.
Suddenly, I understood.
She was wearing hunting gear; she had Witch eyes but Vampire teeth. She’d be considered a freak of nature to any Witch or Vampire because she was. Hunters would see her as a joke, too. And Witches and Vampires were forbidden from being together.
I cocked my head, smiling smugly, “You’re alone. Aren’t you?”
Her neck flushed red, and she stroked her stake again, “What makes you think that?”
I gestured to her appearance, “No Vampire or Witch would risk the wrath of the Ordinance. Especially since you have two types of blood in you.”
Her eye twitched, and I wondered if she was thinking about plunging her stake through my heart. It would hurt, but the stories weren’t exactly true. Blessed wood hurt us, but it didn’t kill us. Though I would bet, she’d find more creative ways to kill me after she ran me through.
“Forget it. The problem here is your sister. She’s attacked three Covens already.”
“Now, why would my sister do that?” Rosie hated killing things and attacking a Coven𑁋a group of Witches that came together to protect budding Vampires, Werewolves, and Witches𑁋just didn’t sound like something she would do.
Or even could do.
Stephie sighed deeply, “I’m seriously contemplating my life choices right now.” She refocused, eying me, “listen, Jackson. Your sister is on some kind of rampage. She’s gone nuts. Crazy. And we have to stop her.”
“‘We?’ See, I don’t like you making assumptions,” I said, shoving my hands in my pockets and balling the picture up there.
Stephie looked me up and down, “Fine. Then tell me this; why did you attack Rosie two years ago?”
My body went rigid, and I clenched my jaw. She knew. How did she know?
“I didn’t attack her; we just had a disagreement. You know how Vampires are, Stephie.”
“Don’t call me that!” She snapped, and I could practically see her patience wearing thin, “I know you two had a fight, not a disagreement. She had to check into a hospital.”
I shrugged, but it was rigid, and she knew, “As I said, you know Vampires.”
She pursed her lips and crossed her arms. I was surprised to see the slight bulge of muscles along her biceps, “Why did you fight? What happened?”
I took a step back. There was a crosswalk behind me, and the roads were deserted this time of night. She may be part Vampire, but she wouldn’t be as fast as me. Unfortunately, I was more worried about the Witch side.
She raised a brow, “I have information that says otherwise. A friend says you attacked her because she had killed the humans you were convicted of killing. You took the fall for her.”
I shut my eyes, thinking over what I could say, how I could lie. I heard Stephie shift, and that sent off warning bells that had me opening my eyes. She had moved to my left, anticipating how badly I wanted to run.
“It was an accident like I said. Rosie was in bad shape.”
“Because of what happened with that Werewolf. Devin, right?”
I clenched my jaw harder, “What are you stalking me? What even is this?”
“I have eyes everywhere,” she responded, “and magic helps.”
“I tire of this game, Stephie𑁋”
“Will you knock that off!?”
“𑁋let’s just forget this ever happened, all right? Great.”
I turned to leave, hoping she wouldn’t follow.
“Listen, this may not be important to you, but you’re responsible for your sister. She’s only sixteen, a minor. Both your parents are dead, right? No aunts or uncles, at least none who care. So that means she’s yours to care for.”
I forced myself not to stop as I crossed the street. I knew not to hit girls, but gosh, I really wanted to hit the woman stalking next to me. Her steps were heavy and loud.
“Just think about that, all right?” Was it my imagination, or did she sound a little bit desperate? “The next Coven she’ll hit is the one in Roster. It’s only about ten miles from the last one, and I know that’s where she’ll go next.”
When I still didn’t stop or even look at her, she finally caught my elbow and swung me to face her, “If I don’t stop her, do you know what’s going to happen to me?” I blinked, shocked at her venomous tone and how her gaze bore holes into my face.
Her grip was really tight.
“They’re going to kill me, Jackson.”
I scoffed, “Seriously? This is kind of sad.”
“I’m not lying,” she insisted, her fingernails digging into my arm, “this is my last try. My last attempt. If I fail, I’m… gone.”
I studied her, gauging whether she was telling the truth, and then said the first thing that came to mind, “So?”
Her mouth fell open almost instantly.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t even know you. Why would your possible death sway me into helping?”
Her grip loosened and then fell away. She shut her mouth, adjusted her stake, looked me in the eye, and said:
“I’ll pay you.”
I perked up almost instantly.
What can I say? I’m a big fan of money, and even family can’t get in the way of that.
She thought it over, eyes downcast, “Fifty.”
I laughed, thinking she was joking, but her eyes were serious, “Wait. What?”
“I’ll pay you fifty thousand.”
“Your help,” she hissed.
“Is that answering questions based or tracking Rosie down and stopping her?”
She blinked like I was stupid, “All of the above.”
“When do I get it?”
“When we’ve caught her.”
“And does catching her mean killing her?”
She contemplated, “I don’t know.”
“Then I don’t accept,” I said.
She opened her mouth. Shut it. Thought over her response.
I scowled at how long it was taking, “Fine. See you never, Stephie.”
I spun away, waving her off.
She cursed, “What am I even doing?”
I jerked when she grabbed me but didn’t expect much in the way of her managing to drag me away.
I also didn’t expect the sharp pain that accompanied her stake being buried in my gut.
Sticky hot blood trickled down my fingers as I fell to my knees, staring at the sharpened point sticking out of my stomach. She stabbed me.
“Sorry,” Stephie muttered, not sounding sorry at all, “but you might draw her to us. But only if she can smell your blood.”
I grunted as she slid the stake out, falling forward, so I was on my hands. I had just been stabbed, but all that came out of my mouth before darkness took over was:
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