Authors: Jackie Ivie
Tags: #vampire short story, #vampire series, #vampire romance, #vampire assassin league
“No? Well, he killed someone.”
“Yes. Everyone else. He saved us.”
“Great. He did the hero thing, too. Figures. No wonder the ladies never look at me. So...hey. Did he ever finish with that gargoyle-head embossed shield? That was the most amazing design. I’m hoping he’ll sell it to me.”
“Are you for real?”
“Look. I was told not to let you connect with anyone. I wasn’t told not to talk to you. We got about eleven seconds. What do you want to talk about?”
“I need a rescue.”
“Right. Look. Akron is already rescuing your BFF. As soon as he’s done there, he’ll be coming in your direction. I think he’s delivering your archeology friend to Thanos.”
“No! Wait! She can’t come here!”
“Why not? I think you two make a great start on a harem...if she shuts up long enough. Signing off now.”
He hit the power switch before she reacted. With the way she tossed the monitor at one of the flat screens, and the resultant chunks of debris that fell, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.
The next station had an even older desktop. But, for some reason, this one already had the power on. Good thing. She was way too ticked to wait for it to power up. Darcy had to consciously force her own hands to work the mouse carefully, ignoring what felt like rage. She’d never felt so angry and unsettled...and jealous.
No way. Not her. It just couldn’t be. But something was happening; something odd. Almost as if she looked through a red haze or something. Which was ridiculous. She couldn’t possibly be jealous. Because she wasn’t in love. She wasn’t possessive because she didn’t care who he bedded, or how many times, or in what chamber...
The mouse shattered into pieces. She narrowed her eyes as she considered the myriad of cuts in her palm that started healing before her eyes. Well. That answered that. She more than cared. She wasn’t sharing that gorgeous male specimen with anyone. He was hers.
“Hey. You’re not supposed to be on this one!”
This time the young male voice had a hint of panic in it.
“Why not?” she asked.
“This is the secure link. The boss is probably having it monitored. Oh hell. He’s going to have my ass.”
“You don’t have much of an ass, Nigel. Why would I want it?”
Wow. The voice that answered rattled every unsecured item in the geek room. Darcy’s eyes went wide. So did her mouth.
“Sir. I can explain. It’s not my fault. She started it.”
“No time. Darcy. You listening?”
It took a moment to realize he’d addressed her, another to get her voice to work. Man. She’d never heard such a voice. He was rattling the chandelier above her. “Yes,” she managed to answer.
“My name is Akron. We can do introductions later. I have your friend, Lizbeth. Of immediate concern is your own safety. And that of Thanos. Is he with you?”
“Uh...not exactly,” she answered.
“Find him. You’re about to be hit by a covert team of killers. Hunters are either much smarter than I gave them credit, or I have an infiltrator in my midst. I’m hoping it’s the former.”
“Covert...team. Of...?” Her voice just kept dribbling words. And then it gave out completely.
“Don’t just sit there, get—!”
He didn’t finish. The computer wasn’t the only thing that went black this time. Everything did. And a moment later, even the humming stopped.
Thanos launched upward, adhering to the rock, instantly aware, alert, and then – was it possible? Was he feeling...fear?
By the gods!
How could he have been so stupid? His gut had been warning him. Instinct had saved him numerous times on countless battlefields in his remote past. And he’d shoved the unease aside...why? Because he’d found Darcy. His mate. And she was perfect. Tall. Lean. Curvaceous enough to scramble any battlefield into chaos. He’d
better than to let her roam these halls outside his protection! And she didn’t even have her sword. He did.
That same sword shook for an instant before Thanos stopped it. He’d never felt such debilitating weakness. Was this...fear? Him? Thanos of Macedon? No. Not him. He’d been the head smithy of Alexander the Great. Honed all sorts of blades and wielded them with all kinds of courage. He’d been there, cutting a swath through Persian soldiers that got him labeled more than once a scourge from Hades.
So. If this was fear, he was conquering it. Now. Fear did things. It weakened and confused when he needed strength, wits, and abilities. It might be nothing. This particular generator had failed before. Years ago. It had been his fault. He’d ignored the slight gap in its humming noise. So, he’d fixed it, maintained it, and...
by the gods!
Who cared when and why? He had to locate Darcy. That was the most important. But where could she have wandered? Thanos shifted against the rock. He didn’t loosen his grip on either the rock or her sword. And that’s when he caught a slight whiff of something unpleasant. Burnt. Rotten.
And that smell meant Hunters.
The bastards had somehow found his home. He didn’t question it. He knew. What he didn’t know was how many, or how well prepared they were. Therefore, he had to assign them every benefit. They might know the layout of his cave system. They could’ve studied it. That might be how they’d entered without his knowledge. Conversely, they might have gained access because he’d been focused so entirely on his mate he’d missed the security breach.
His newly awakened heart slapped into his ribs. His eyes misted. His mind went into a flashing sequence of images, one after the other. His mate. Her beauty. Her spunk. Her frame. Unclothed. Against his. Holding to him. Making him whole for the first time. Ever. He’d just found love. He couldn’t lose it!
Thanos had to consciously force down an emotion so close to panic, he’d die before admitting to it. He couldn’t afford panic. Not now. Not ever. Panic was another killer in any battle, right beside fear. Thanos gripped the handle of her sword until it warped slightly, and finally had the blackness conquered. The shuddering calmed. His mind settled. His eyes cleared.
He’d lost his head there. And he hadn’t much time. He needed to use it to think. Reason. Evaluate. He had the advantage. Every Hunter in here was facing death. Thanos knew the immediate location of at least one of them – the generator room. If they were really smart, they’d have separated and gained positions before shutting off the power. If they were doing it by rote, however, they were probably fanning out from the generator room right now in a leapfrog fashion, covering each other as they moved. They’d be wearing some sort of night vision aid and they’d be packing weaponry. All of which would be visual and audible to any vampire. And he knew this labyrinth. Every inch. His nose wrinkled in distaste, and then he was moving.
They were smart. Or they’d gone rogue. There were only two Hunters in the generator room. And they’d set a trap. They hadn’t done their homework very well, though. They’d spritzed the area with Holy Water, not realizing it wouldn’t stop a vampire spawned before the Christian era. If they really wanted to stop him, they needed a pagan icon; something the masses from his era put their faith in. A Star of David. A bit of sacrificial blood. A piece of altar. But no. They’d used Holy Water.
It wouldn’t stop him, but it was still going to hurt.
Thanos gripped the sword hilt, swooped into mist that burned, and lopped one man’s head off before swiveling to the other. Darcy might actually be right about the balance on this blade. It might need more weight on the tip. That might be why his move to cleave the other Hunter in half only managed to separate him from his breathing apparatus, flak jacket, and most of his gear.
They’d sent a very special unit after him. These Hunters had been chosen for more than skill. Thanos didn’t have to ask. The man didn’t even panic, ignoring the long scrape in his belly as it reddened with blood. He was already sending bullets in Thanos direction; bullets that smelled of cedar. Thanos felt one rip past his ear. Another grazed his neck. One thudded off his sword scabbard belt buckle, while one went through his upper arm, searing its way out the other side. That was lucky. They were using sanctified wood, but since the man shot without aiming, his lone hit had been a fleshy part that cauterized as it exited.
That was the last shot he fired. Thanos slammed into the man, lifting him off the ground with his left hand and snarling as blood smell permeated his senses, elongated his canines, and filled his eyes.
The Hunter’s words of warning were choked off. Thanos shoved Darcy’s blade right through his rib cage, the kill dousing his hand and arm with blood. Thick. Dark. Tangible. Cloyingly sweet. He could almost taste it on his tongue. Feel it sating his thirst. His senses altered. Opening. Needing. Requiring a feeding. Lust filled him. Supreme. Carnal. Necessary. And it got denied.
Not yet. Not until he had his mate. Safe. Beside him.
Thanos fought his own body, clenching his entire frame, working to extinguish cravings he’d never stifled before...and something finally worked. He had it tamped. For now. Seated deep in his gut where it throbbed and reminded; red-hued and burning and angered. Thanos threw his head back and howled, using deep, full tones that radiated outward, filling the hallways with sound.
And someone out there reacted.
Metal shifted and fell, clanking as it landed. Thanos whipped his head down and toward the sound. One of them had just disturbed weapons from a niche in his display hall. The sound wasn’t much, but enough for an undead creature with senses tuned for it. Thanos was already moving, skimming the ceiling. Was his Darcy there? Had she finished her shower? Damn him for letting her leave his side! The room she called a man-cave was reached through the display hall. What if she’d gotten there first? What if they were using her for bait, tormenting her?
Thanos worked at calming the thoughts as well as an unbelievable shake that had just taken over of his sword arm. Is this what love did to a man? Weakened him? Debilitating and enervating when he most needed strength and agility?
The next Hunter wasn’t in the display hall. He was attempting to hide in the shadow cast by a portal to the library room. He wasn’t alert enough. Thanos saw him first. It may have been the man’s first and only mistake, but it was definitely his last. Thanos swooped in and took the man’s head off, dodging as it bounced off the library door and into the chasm behind him. Darcy’s blade may not have much thrusting ability, but it was sharp; perfect for carving and slicing. The Hunter’s body slowly sagged to the floor, drenching Thanos’ thighs with fluid that spurted outward, matching the dying rhythm of the Hunter’s heart. This time Thanos was prepared for the instant rush of feeding frenzy that rumbled through him, although it took every bit of strength he possessed to temper it again. And it only worked due to his immediate movement up and away, closing in on the display hall and his next victim.
By Zeus, he had to find her! And soon! The need to reach her and protect her overwhelmed him. She was easy prey for this killing team. Easy and available and unarmed. Thanos’ heart clenched painfully within his breast with every passing second. Blast this maze of tunnels! The time and ability he’d had to carve them out! The bent of mockery that found it amusing to create a labyrinth capable of hiding a Minotaur. If he’d known he’d someday be spanning these same halls, frantically searching for his mate, he’d have crafted them in straight lines! Or built something entirely different for such a prize as his Darcy. A multi-level palace. No! He’d have crafted a small, cozy bungalow. Something small. Compact. That way he’d never have such trouble and worry trying to locate her.
The next Hunter was hiding in one of his niches. As if Thanos didn’t know every single one by heart. He smiled sardonically as he noted how far the shield, pike, and sword had been moved to one side, leaving just enough space for one, almost-perfecting-camouflaged Hunter. Oh. This kill was going to be pure pleasure.
Thanos halted just shy of the niche opening, flat against the wall as he listened to the Hunter’s breathing, evaluating the man’s heart rate while waiting the opportune moment. But the decision was made for him as Darcy’s voice split the area, answering several questions at once. She was in the area she called his man-cave. She wasn’t dead. She was facing more than one Hunter. And she was angry.
“You complete and total assholes!”
The hidden Hunter moved, knocking the displayed weaponry outward. The pike came first. This particular one came from the time before Alexander’s father, Phillip. It was still over eight feet long, requiring a lot of room to wield. Thanos grabbed it mid-shaft in his left hand and stabbed it into the Hunter, smashing through ribs and lungs, before it exited the man’s back. He didn’t even feel the knife blade that slashed at his cheek as the man fought. It didn’t last. Thanos had the Hunter fully impaled before ramming the pike’s tip into the rock above them. And he was moving before the dying Hunter made a sound. He heard it, when it came though. It was gurgled. Full of liquid. Sputtered.
“And tossing acid? What the hell is wrong with you two?”
A rumble of voice answered Darcy, unintelligible to Thanos in his sense of urgency. Worry. Fear. He flew around another corner. Another.
“Holy Water, my ass. That was acid, and you have zero reason to—don’t you aim that thing at me. Don’t you dare...ah!”
A thwacking sound came. Thanos shot around the next corner.
“You shot me! I can’t believe it! You. Fucking. Asshole!”
Each word was punctuated with a loud thump. Things shattered. Fell. Furniture? His Darcy? Thanos’ reawakened heart pumped a spurt of pure agony through him.
“And just what is it supposed to do anyway?”
“Well, you’re going to have to come up with better than that if you want to kill me. You jerks!”
And then he was in the room, watching as his mate chucked all kinds of things at the two Hunters who’d ducked behind his sofa. Lamps. Tables. An enormous sideboard that shattered upon impact with the far rock wall. She was still wearing battle attire, including the breastplate...and it had worked. The broken end of an arrow shaft was protruding from the left breast area. He’d make offerings to the gods later. He had another problem. Darcy was so focused on annihilating the Hunters who’d tormented her she didn’t notice the one sneaking up behind her, sword held high. Ready for a killing blow.