Authors: Jackie Ivie
Tags: #vampire short story, #vampire series, #vampire romance, #vampire assassin league
Thanos dropped into the spot right behind her, back-to-back, and felt her turn as his blade caught the blow. The Hunter meant business. The blow rang solidly, nicking a shard of steel from the blade before he tried again.
“Oh, Thanos. Thanks goodness.”
Her relief was as palpable as the man’s urgency. It didn’t help him. Thanos blocked the Hunter’s blow with Darcy’s sword and sent his fist right into the man’s chest, getting his hand caught on ribs for a moment before he yanked back out. And before the man fell, Thanos had his crossbow, too. For some reason, he didn’t have any trouble stanching blood lust this time. Because of her.
Thanos swiveled, wrapped his arm holding the crossbow around her and sent an arrow into one Hunter’s eye. It was the lone target the man presented as he peeked over the sofa edge. It was a difficult shot. Worthy of a Macedonian warrior. She didn’t seem to notice.
“Where the hell have you been?” she demanded before the body had even fallen.
“Busy? While these guys have been trying to kill me? Busy!”
“You want your sword back now?”
Her eyes narrowed before she smiled. He handed it to her, and watched as she slashed it at the air a few times. She had full fangs on display. He wondered if she noticed.
“Wait! I forfeit! Don’t kill me!”
What could be the last Hunter was waving empty hands in the air. The rest of him was completely hidden behind the couch. This was a surprise and completely against the rules of engagement, if there was such a thing. Thanos lifted his eyebrows and turned to Darcy.
“What do you think, darling?” he asked.
“Are you kidding? That Akron guy said this was a covert killing team, and that guy is the one who shot me!”
“You spoke with Akron? When?”
“Earlier. In your Recon room. I...uh. Can we talk about it later?”
Thanos smiled before turning back to the sofa area. “Well, Hunter! Surrendering requires relinquishing your weapons. All of them! What do you have to say now?”
Weaponry started raining over the back of the sofa, some of it landing on the seat, most of it bouncing from there to the rock floor. A crossbow. Canisters that would explode on impact. A quiver of arrows. A backpack tank that probably contained Holy Water. A sword. Three knives, one after the other.
“Not much for bravery, is he?” Thanos observed before addressing the man cowering behind the furniture. “So tell me, Hunter! How many came with you?”
“Two in the room with your generator. Two roving and hidden. These two. Six.”
“I wonder how honest a Hunter is when he’s trying to avoid certain death...or a potential draining of blood. You?” Thanos turned back to Darcy.
“What about the others?” she asked instead.
“Dead. I told you I’d been busy.”
“Well?” The Hunter called out. “Are you accepting my surrender?”
“Not sure yet. I’ve never been in this situation. I believe I’ll need a bit of time to ponder it.”
“Oh...I think we can wait for the 4D Team. They’ll have facilities for captives. Means to interrogate.”
“4D?” Darcy asked.
“Stands for Deploy. Destruct. Disinfect. Disappear. You say Akron called. That means a 4D Team is imminent. They’re very thorough. Efficient. Why...if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say my home is about to become an active volcano site.”
“All of it? Even the library? Your weapons?”
He nodded. And then he heard the slightest gurgling sound coming from behind the sofa. Thanos shook his head. “Well. I believe that answers that question.”
“How trustworthy Hunters are when facing certain death. They’re not. He’s gone and killed himself.”
“How do you know?” she asked.
The sound of the last Hunter sagging onto the floor answered her. He was still fully behind the sofa, but a blood trail started to ooze from beneath it, glistening as it moved.
“Oh,” Darcy said.
“Pity. We could have fed. Taking from a dead body leaves the vilest taste.”
“Yuck,” she replied.
“It’s a small price to pay for immortality, my love.”
“It’s still gross.”
“You might grow to like it.”
“And I might toss my cookies, too.”
“Am I really a vampire, Thanos? Really?”
He nodded, extremely wary of what the glint of moisture atop her blue eyes might signify.
“And you didn’t think of asking first?”
He almost spoke up in defense, by saying he had asked. He wanted her to be sure. And she’d responded in the positive. But something stopped him. He’d add that to his prayers to the gods later. He gulped, stood a bit straighter and started speaking.
“That’s no excuse.”
“I couldn’t help it.”
“That’s worse, Thanos.”
“Eternity was...so empty without you.”
She moved, closing the distance between them, and a hand crept along his arm and then she wove her fingers into his hair at the back of his neck. Thanos’ knees wobbled, knocking together before he stiffened them. This was ridiculous. He wasn’t remotely weak. He never had been before, anyway. By the goddess of love, herself, Aphrodite! This love emotion was amazement beyond description.
“And I...love you.”
Her mouth hovered tantalizingly close to his. Their shared breath mingled on his lips. This time he couldn’t control the tremor that scored him, although his legs held. He cleared his throat.
“And I would be the luckiest man ever...if you would be my wife.”
He nodded. It was the most he could manage. She’d stuck her tongue out and licked his bottom lip! Sweet gods of Mount Olympus! If she kissed him right now, he was going to keel over.
She kissed him. And the roof exploded, raining a wall of dust and rock onto everything.
“Hold your peace!”
“That’s hold your fire,
“Cease calling me a horse penis,
“Enough already! And where did you two learn your explosives technology? From Thor? Good thing this isn’t a real volcano. We’d be facing one hell of an inferno.”
“You told us to find an entrance.”
“I meant an existing one, not to make—! Oh, never mind. I’ll look for the Macedonian and his new mate. You two use the heat sensors. Start searching. You find any Hunters, you let me know, you hear?”
“After I drain him first. Right, Darryl?”
“You would not share with me? Your own twin brother?”
“Yes. It is true. You are my twin, Ethelstone. But I am the handsome one.”
“Oh, enough of that already. Get searching, guys. We’ve not got all night. Reika gave us ten minutes before she comes to check. And we don’t want her checking, now do we?”
“Ten minutes? A lifetime!”
“I suppose. To some. Oh! And Athlerod? Why don’t you be in charge this time?”
“Him? Are you dense?”
“Ha. You heard him. Get moving, brother. I’ll go right. You take left. We’ll make a contest of it. First to find a Hunter – wait! I did not say to start!
That particular voice faded. Sounds of shuffling took over. She heard the sounds clearly, even through the mass of debris atop her. Choking her. Stifling. Pressing her down into rock with the sheer weight.
It wasn’t rock atop her. It was Thanos. He’d covered her with his body and taken the brunt of the cave-in. She should’ve known he’d be heavy. But this was ridiculous. A cave-in couldn’t hurt them. She shouldn’t be feeling anything. Should she? Weren’t they immortal? What good was immortality if pain and suffering were still involved? Darcy shifted. His body shifted slightly. Inanimately. As if—
Her eyes filled. Her heart thumped in a beat that contained pure pain. And that’s when she knew for certain. She didn’t just like him. She was in love with him. Hopelessly. Fully. Completely. And if she lost him...
Stop it, Darcy!
She wasn’t finishing the thought. He was a vampire, for pity’s sake. He couldn’t die. She wouldn’t allow it! Darcy maneuvered a hand free, ran it up his arm, along his chin, and then used it to tip his face down to hers.
“Thanos?” she whispered.
No answer. Darcy ran her thumb along his lower lip.
“Thanos? Please answer me. Please? Oh my heart! I love you! I need you. You can’t leave me! Thanos...
His body jerked, and a hint of breath touched her fingers. Darcy’s entire being seemed to fill with light and joy. She almost couldn’t contain it.
His lips curved. “Did I just hear you say...you love me?”
“Oh, my love!”
He was definitely aware and awake. His lips were just the first hint of it as he touched them to hers. And then he stiffened. Groaned.
“What is it?”
“You have a hard breastplate, love. And a very sharp blade. No. Don’t move.”
Her eyes widened.
“It is in my thigh. Just above the knee. And you were right. It really needs a bit more weight at the tip.”
Darcy giggled. He groaned again.
“Hey! I heard that. Macedonian! You in there somewhere?”
The rock shifted atop them, gaining some light. Air. Thanos touched another kiss to the tip of her nose.
“I have to answer him,” he told her.
“I love you,” she answered.
“Oh darling. There are no words—”
“There you are! Up! And, oh boy. You need help with that?”
Thanos was ripped out of her arms. An extremely large man held him on his feet as he gestured to where her sword was definitely sticking out of Thanos’ leg.
“Got it handled. Just get...my mate.”
She watched Thanos pull the sword out and then slap a hand onto the wound, clamping it. Even covered in dun-colored dust, he was pretty fine. Sculpted. Defined. Much more so than their rescuer.
“You must be Darcy.”
She got the same lift out of the debris. And the same jolt as he set her on her feet.
“Allow me. Name’s Darryl Bailes. Waiting for us topside is my mate, Reika. We usually handle covert hits. Not tonight, though. Nope. Akron’s got us doing search and rescue...and when we finish, we get to relocate you, too. Hey. New acronym. I like that. We’re doing SRR work. Not to worry. We have a 4D Team on our ass. And...damn. Look at you. You’re tall. What are you, six feet? I think the Macedonian has gone and snagged himself an Amazon.”
Darcy’s face fell. Thanos held out her sword by the blade.
“Here, love. Answer him with this.”
The big guy lifted his hands, palms outward. “Now hang on just a minute. I’ve got my mate waiting topside, holding a very nice chopper ready. So. As much as I’d like to stay and play pincushion with you, well. Like I said. I’ve got my mate up there. Waiting. And...where the hell are those Icelandic twins?”
He turned and loped toward the corridor. Thanos held out his hand. A downward glance showed only a faint slice of scabbing as his wound sealed. Then Darcy was at his side, holding hands, and looking into perfect eyes of a nice brown shade.
“You never did give me your answer, love.”
“To what?” she asked.
“Oh, yeah. That.”
Darcy ducked her head, toyed with a flippant answer, and then just nodded. And it was enough.
~ ~ ~
Special preview of Vampire Assassin League #16
DO YOU TAKE
“Number seven! You’re up!”
“See you lakeside, kiddo!”
Ashley moved into position, grabbed the bar beside the door with gloves that still slid. She had a really bad feeling about this jump. She did a last second pat-down of her buckles.
She dove outward, keeping streamlined for a count of seven before opening her arms, slowing the flight, and just loving it. She loved the rush of air across her cheeks. The chill that meant light rain. The dark. The repetition of history. That’s why they had chosen this flight path.
This was Dan Cooper’s jump. The guy known as D. B. Cooper. The infamous hijacker who jumped from a Boeing 727 back in the ‘70s, and then disappeared. The man behind the only unsolved aircraft hijacking. They were following his flight path tonight almost to the letter, except for the altitude. They were beneath 10,000 feet. It was safer. And nobody was carrying wads of cash.
She wore clear goggles. She could have used night vision lenses, but that was cheating. She wanted the full experience. Real. Graphic. Visceral. And she didn’t want anything covered with a hazy green shade.
This was so cool. And so far, absolutely perfect. Even with the light rain falling, she could see dim outlines of mountains all about her, their peaks luminous in streaks from moonlight that broke through the cloud cover. Beautiful. And nothing like her inner sense had been warning her.
She checked her altimeter, hanging from a strap around her neck. She’d reached four thousand feet. Already? That was a shame. Nobody was to pull their ripcord until they reached two thousand. That was the pact they’d made. She might go before though. Not because she wasn’t experienced. Hell. She’d had more jumps than any of them. That’s what came of parents that were avid skydiving enthusiasts.
It was because of the rumble of worry in the pit of her belly. It might even be the one her parents had whispered of just before their fatal dive. When they hadn’t taken her along because she had the flu.
Enough of that, Ash
. She’d scattered their ashes and memorialized them, and now she was just thrill-diving because she could. She looked at her altimeter again. Three thousand. On the count of seven, she was pulling the cord. Nobody would know except her.
She pulled, and the cord came out of her suit. Nothing else happened. No rapid whoosh of sound that meant a parachute was released. No tug on her back. Nothing. She could still feel the cord in her gloved fingers, useless now. She spent a few seconds tucking it into a pocket. She might need that for investigation later.