Into The Void (Vampire Hunter Book 4)

Into The Void

Book 4 in The Vampire Hunter
Series

By S.C. Reynolds

 

Text copyright © 2013
S.C. Reynolds

[email protected]

All Rights Reserved

Chapter 1

We must have been driving for almost half an hour before I got up the
nerve to speak to Lucas and Nicholas. They had been whispering, obviously in
their own world, for most of the journey.

At first I had tried to talk to Emmett, but he was being even weirder
than usual. He looked like he was in a trance of his own, staring straight
ahead at the back of Lucas’ seat. “Earth to Emmett,” I’d hissed, thinking I
could get through to him. But he’d just turned to look at me with a totally
blank expression,
then
continued staring at the back
of the car seat.
 

It sounded like Lucas and Nicholas had stopped talking – for now – so I
took my opportunity. I leaned forward. “Lucas?” I said nervously. Hopefully he
wouldn’t ignore me, too.

He glanced back at me briefly. I must have looked upset, because Lucas
winked at me and smiled, although I could tell it was forced. “Don’t worry,” he
told me, returning his attention back to the road.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

This time Nicholas turned around to answer. It was the first time I’d
gotten a good look at him and it hit me that he and Lucas could almost pass for
brothers! Nicholas had the same high cheekbones and chiseled face. His hair,
which was a dark brown color with hints of red, was wavy and fell slightly past
his ears. While Lucas’ eyes were dark, almost black, Nicholas’ were a bright
blue. I had assumed those dark, piercing eyes were a vampire thing, but I guess
Lucas was just born that way. I forced myself to look away from Nicholas. I
didn’t want to freak him out by studying his face too long.

Nicholas was speaking now. His voice was deep, commanding. “We’re going
to a cabin; a friend found it for me. And he had it checked out.”

“Checked out for…?” my voice trailed off.

“To make sure it wasn’t some type of set up. No traps. And no one knows we’re
heading there. We’ll be there in about ten more minutes, the way this guy’s
driving.” He cocked his head towards Lucas and flashed a crooked grin.

I smiled. Nicholas seemed genuine. I had vowed if I ever met him I would
make up my own mind about his character – I still had a hard time believing
that the vampire who had turned Lucas without his permission could be trusted.
But I found myself instantly comfortable around Nicholas, like he really wanted
to help us, no hidden agenda of his own.

And it was nice to get some straightforward answers. Lucas loved winding
me up and took any opportunity to answer my questions cryptically, that is if
he decided to address them at all. Nicholas seemed to be an open book.

“So what’s the plan?” I asked Nicholas.

 
“We have to prepare for tonight.”
Nicholas glanced at the clock on the car dash. The illuminated letters read
8:28. “The meeting will convene at midnight. That should be enough time.”

I could feel my mouth drop open in surprise. I quickly clamped it shut.
“We need that long?” I asked in a shrill voice.

Lucas shot a glance back in my direction. He looked bemused. “You and
your questions,” he said.

Nicholas just laughed. “If I were pulled away from a party to go to some
clandestine meeting, I might have some questions, too.”

Ha!
Finally, I had someone who
understood me.
 
I
was
liking
Nicholas more and more by the minute.

But his words rang in my ears.
If I
were pulled away from a party…

Henry! I was so stunned when I first got into the car that I had
momentarily forgotten about him. I fumbled to pull my phone out of my purse. I
probably had missed calls and texts; Henry must be furious with me, wondering
why I ran out of there with Lucas.

No notifications were flashing on my phone.
This can’t be right.
I unlocked my phone and checked for missed
calls and texts. Nothing. I had fucked up with Henry yet again. Still, I had to
tell him something.

Nicholas was talking again but I couldn’t focus on his words. Finally I
looked up at him and he paused. “I, I’m sorry,” I stuttered. “I just need a
sec.”

 
“Is this about Henry?” Lucas
interjected. “You haven’t told him anything yet, right? You can’t say where
you’re really going.”

“I know
that
,” I said, more
irritably than I meant it to come out. I softened my voice. “Any suggestions
for what I
can
tell him?”

Before Lucas or Nicholas could say anything, Emmett turned his head sharply
to look at me. I jumped, startled. I thought he was totally zoned out, not
listening to a word we’d been saying.

“Tell him you were in danger,” Emmett said. “That Lucas got a call from
me to go find you, that the twins were looking for you again and you weren’t
safe at that party.”

“But that doesn’t make sense,” I argued. “Why wouldn’t you have called
Henry to get me out of there? As far as Henry knows, you haven’t even got a way
to get in touch directly with anyone but him!”

Emmett pushed his glasses up on his nose and sighed. “If it comes to
that, tell him the number appeared to me. That I looked up at the night sky and
saw it emblazoned across the moon.”

Nicholas snickered but didn’t comment. Was this Emmett’s idea of a joke,
or was he genuinely losing it?

“Why aren’t you taking this seriously?” I asked him angrily.

“Oh, I’m taking it seriously, all right.” Emmett’s expression was
different than I had ever seen before. I couldn’t pinpoint why, I could just
see it in his eyes. The first time we had met they were a twinkling brown. Now
they looked hard, jaded. But Emmett didn’t look resigned. He looked determined.

“Well, you could have come up with something better,” I muttered.
“Something Henry would believe.”

“He’ll believe it because he wants to,” Emmett replied.

“It’s not that simple,” I said. I was getting really frustrated now.
Emmett was no help at all.

“Do I have to spell it out for you?” Emmett snapped. “Henry will buy
whatever you tell him because he
wants
to
think that you’re as transparent with him as he is with you. Henry can’t fathom
you could be lying to him, not on this grand of a scale. And besides, he’s in
love with you. Love blinds people to reason.”

I saw Lucas’ shoulders tense up. Nicholas, who had remained facing us,
fascinated by the conversation, slowly turned forward in his seat.

Why did he have to say that? How
embarrassing!
I knew Henry liked me, but I never thought he was
in love
with me. But I guess if anyone
could possibly know that, it would be Emmett.

Emmett’s words killed the conversation. No one spoke. Not having anything
better to say than Emmett’s lame reason, I typed a message to Henry.

Sorry I ran out like that. E told L
that the twins were close by and I was in danger. I’m fine now. I’ll make it up
to you tomorrow.
Before I could second-guess myself, I hit send.

Tomorrow.
The last day of summer vacation.
I
just hoped I was around to see it. Nicholas was acting nonchalant, but Lucas
was barely talking. And he’d been frantic when he dragged me away from Bunny’s
party. Normally, it was Henry and me freaking out and Lucas trying to calm us
down.

I didn’t know how to process Lucas being so uptight. It made me think
that this was really serious, more so than anything else thus far.

I was jolted from my thoughts – literally – as the car slammed to a halt.

“We’re here,” Lucas said.

“Here” looked like the middle of the woods. It reminded me of Lucas’
house, secluded from all other civilization.

Lucas and Nicholas hopped out of the car. Emmett and I hesitantly
followed suit. Now that he was standing, I could see that Nicholas was about
the same height as Lucas. He wasn’t as shredded, but I had a feeling that he
was still extremely powerful. It was easy to imagine how he and Lucas were a
force to be reckoned with, back when they travelled around together, hunting
and doing all the things Lucas refused to talk about.

We trudged forward silently. I briefly wondered how Nicholas knew where
he was going – there was no dirt path worn in the ground, no indication that a
cabin was nearby. Everything looked untouched, covered with leaves and debris.
We were in the middle of nowhere.

I tried to push the doubt out of my mind that Nicholas really had double-crossed
us, that someone had paid him off to get rid of the dead girl, the vampire and
the psychic in one fell swoop.

But there was no turning back now. The further we got into the woods, the
more unlikely that I’d be able to trace my steps back, if this was in fact some
horrible trick. I guess we would find out soon enough.

Chapter 2

Just when I had decided
for sure
that
we were being led to our deaths by the charming but deadly Nicholas, we finally
arrived at the cabin. I felt a small glimmer of hope, but it was immediately
replaced by the thought that he had lured us to this tiny cabin to lock us
inside and kill us one by one.

But when he opened the door, I was relieved to see the inside looked
completely normal. No chair with shackles, no IVs, no smoldering caldron. I
shuddered, remembering the torture chamber the twins had set up.

“You’re dead. You shouldn’t be cold.” Emmett was staring at me. I
resisted the urge to stick my tongue out at him, which would have been
extremely juvenile. Instead, I ignored him, pretending I hadn’t heard his
stupid comment.
 

The cabin was furnished and decorated, which was surprising, considering
I didn’t think anyone lived here. There were intricate paintings of the woods
hanging on opposite walls; one depicted the scenery at sunrise, and the other
was a dark rendition of the woods at night, with a huge moon shining between
the trees.

The main room had a fireplace that spanned the length of one wall, a
coffee table in the middle of the room, and two brown leather couches adjacent
to each other. It was homey and comforting.

I sank down onto one of the couches as Nicholas retreated to another room
in the cabin. Emmett remained standing, but Lucas sat down next to me. He
pushed his dark hair off his forehead and again flashed a forced smile.

“Are you okay?” I asked in a low voice. “You seem really worried. You’re
usually the laid back one.”

I expected Lucas to laugh, to reassure me somehow, but he didn’t
immediately say anything. Finally, he spoke, his voice barely above a whisper.
“I don’t want to put you in danger tonight, without me there to protect you.”

“I won’t be in danger though, right?” I asked nervously. “Nicholas will
be there. Don’t you trust him with
your
life
?”

“Yes,” Lucas said solemnly. “But this isn’t
my life.
It’s yours. And as much as I trust him, I’d rather be the
one watching over you.”

I knew Emmett was right there, probably listening to each and every word,
but I didn’t care. Hell, if he didn’t hear it with his own two ears he’d
probably figure it out later, anyway, through some crazy psychic vision.

I reached out and grabbed Lucas’ hand. “Can’t you come with me?” I asked
desperately. “I won’t know how to act, what to do….I need you there to protect
me, to guide me.”

Lucas shook his head helplessly. “I can’t. Tobias obviously vetted every
creature and hand-selected who he wanted for the meetings. He might recognize
me and know I wasn’t invited. Nicholas should be safe though; I don’t think
Tobias took his search overseas.”

Lucas reached up and caressed my face with the back of his hand, running
his fingers along my cheek, over my lips. “You’ll be fine,” he tried again to reassure
me, but he didn’t sound convinced himself.

“You guys need a room? The bed’s that-away,” Nicholas cracked. We both
jumped apart guiltily.

“Shut up,” Lucas mumbled.

Nicholas sat down on the other couch, placing a large black leather
satchel next to him. “Okay, Aurora, let me tell you what we know so far,” he
said.

I nodded for him to go on. “At the first meeting, the one where you
actually
were
in a trance, Tobias
branded everyone there…you know, kind of like cattle.”

I wrinkled my nose. “If they tried to use a hot metal iron to burn a scar
into my skin, it would have just healed right away. When I get injured, it
heals instantly. Besides, I haven’t noticed anything different.”

“No, not like that,” Lucas interjected. “The mark is on your neck, right
below your hairline.”

My hand flew to the back of my neck. “Feels normal,” I said.

“You wouldn’t notice a difference.” Lucas stood up and walked over to the
satchel next to Nicholas. He pulled out an object that resembled a flashlight.
Nicholas leaned over and flipped the light switch, turning off what little light
we had in the already dim room.

When Lucas clicked the ‘flashlight’ on, the room was illuminated by an
emerald green glow.


Woah
,” Emmett said, shielding his eyes. “I
didn’t know that thing was so powerful.”

“Yeah, what is that?” I asked.

Instead of answering, Nicholas stood up from the couch and turned his
back to us, pulling his longish hair to one side so that his neck was exposed.
Lucas aimed the light at him.

“Wow,” I said, my voice barely above a whisper.

“It’s so intricate,” Emmett chimed in. He sounded impressed.

“This is the mark, more like a barcode, if you think about it. They’re
going to scan it before they let you in. Each creature that was summoned to the
meeting has his or her own unique marking. It’s a way for Tobias and Matthews
to keep track of everyone,” Lucas explained.

It didn’t look like any barcode I had ever seen. The marking was a
complex pattern of lines and dashes with what appeared to be ancient characters
between the lines. And it wasn’t a small drawing either; the entire ‘barcode’
must have stretched at least two inches across the back of Nicholas’ neck.

I gulped. “Can you read that? Does it actually mean something?”

“To someone, yes,” Nicholas answered. “We’re not sure on the exact
details, but I’m assuming they’ve got a machine to scan us, to make sure we’re
supposed to be there. A unique marking will also stop any imposters, like shape
shifters for example.”

“Wait,” I said nervously. “Nicholas, you weren’t invited. How do you know
that’s a legitimate barcode, tattoo, whatever you want to call it? I mean, what
if they scan it, say you’re a fraud, and kill you on the spot?”

“Emmett, I know you’ve been wonderful about getting us so much
information so far,” I continued, “but how do you know you got the details of
the marking right? That seems like a lot to remember. I thought your visions
weren’t that clear?”

“They’re not,” Emmett replied. “I had nothing to do with figuring this
out. Those guys did.”

“Huh?” Now I was more confused than ever.

Lucas and Nicholas exchanged a look and Lucas nodded slightly. He sighed.
“I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want you acting strangely around
Henry’s father, but I tapped his phone line and hacked his email accounts.”

“When?” I demanded.

“After I found out you went somewhere during that blackout. I was fucking
terrified; I had to get a handle on the situation. All of the pressure has been
on Emmett. I have skills and resources, too. It was time to use them.”

“You could have told me,” I said, feeling a little hurt. “I would have
helped. And I barely see Mr. Matthews, anyway.”

“Rory, you had enough on your plate,” Lucas said earnestly. He was
looking at me in a way that made me want to reach out for him again, but I was
acutely aware that we weren’t alone. And besides, we had business to attend to.
“You were studying for that exam,” Lucas continued, “and I also knew you were
grounded because of me. Those are the reasons I couldn’t involve you.”

“Grounded?” Nicholas asked. “I can’t remember the last time you were
responsible for getting a girl grounded. Probably when we were still humans.”
He snickered.

“I know!” Lucas said, laughing. “I keep having to remind myself that
Aurora can’t just come and go as she pleases.”

“I’m right here; you don’t have to talk about me in third person,” I said
waspishly.

“Sorry.” Lucas brushed my hand.
Relax.
He mouthed the words.

I forced my shoulders down. I didn’t realize I had been holding them so
tightly. I really was tense. At least Lucas looked like he was calming down some
now. And even Emmett had stopped pacing and sat down to study the flashlight
thing.

“Actually, I’m glad you said that about me being grounded. I can’t
believe I was about to forget that my curfew is at midnight. We’ll just be
getting to the meeting then,” I said nervously.

I pulled out my phone and texted my mom.
Can I stay at Jessica’s house tonight? Henry will drop us both off.

Almost immediately my mom wrote back.
Sure!
I’m so glad to see you reconnecting with your old friends. Have fun!

If only she knew the truth.

Henry had also texted me back. I was almost afraid to read it, but I had
to know he didn’t hate my guts.
I’m so
glad you’re safe, Rory. Where are you now? I could leave the party and we could
hang out.

I couldn’t let Henry know anything strange was happening.

I’m home but I’m exhausted. Going
to bed early. Call you in the morning?

I slipped my phone back into my purse, satisfied with my alibis.
I just hope mom and Henry don’t compare
stories,
I thought nervously.

“Anyway,” Lucas continued, “getting back to what I was telling you about
Matthews. He didn’t say much on the phone or in emails – he’s very careful. But
one thing stood out. He had an old email – from before the first meeting – that
mentioned making sure each and every attendant got a stamp.”

“Like when they stamp your hand at a concert to show you’re underage?” I
asked.

“That’s what we were thinking,” Nicholas said. “So we decided to set out
and find one of these so-called stamps.”

“But didn’t you say that they’re all unique?” Emmett asked.

Lucas looked uncomfortable but Nicholas seemed totally at ease. “Correct.
That’s why in order to find a stamp, I first had to find a vamp.”

“You see,” Nicholas continued, “there are some creatures you don’t want
to mess with. And vampires are one of those creatures, but I’ve got a leg up
since I happen to be one myself. So, I thought if I could find a vampire with a
stamp, I’d take his stamp and put it on my neck.
And voila.
I’d become him for the next meet and greet.”
 

“What happened to the vampire you took it from?” Emmett asked
suspiciously. He was watching Nicholas closely and didn’t look like he trusted
him at all. But then again, Emmett didn’t seem to trust anyone. It was probably
a miracle Lucas got him to agree to come out with them and not meet in some
hugely populated place.

Nicholas pantomimed stabbing a stake through his chest,
then
dramatically fell back onto the couch as he twisted his
face in pretend pain.

“Is that really how they die?” I blurted out.

Lucas looked like he was trying to decide whether to be annoyed or
amused. “
Nic
is screwing around,” he finally said.

“About all of it?” I raised my eyebrows.

“Nah, just about the way vamps die. It’s much more brutal than that.”
Nicholas leaned forward, a serious expression on his face. “I’m not trying to
scare you, but yeah, I had to kill the vampire. Maybe Lucas sugar coats his
job, but I don’t. Sometimes it’s necessary.”

I looked at Lucas. “You told me you only kill the bad guys!” I said
accusatorily.

“I wasn’t implying Lucas has a lax moral code,” Nicholas said quickly.
“Neither of us does. This vamp I killed – Raymond – had it coming. Always
involved in shady shit and by the skin of his teeth would muster up an alibi to
clear his name. Or all of the sudden some other creature would turn up dead, a
handy ‘tell-all’ suicide note tucked in his pocket confessing to whatever
brutal murder had just happened – the brutal murder that had Raymond’s name written
all over it.”

“But you killed him and there was no solid evidence that he did those
things,” I argued. I knew I needed to shut up; this wasn’t what we were here to
discuss. But what if someone used that logic on Lucas – piled together
circumstantial evidence and decided it was okay to stake him?

“This is why I don’t explain the things I’m forced to do,” Lucas said
with a smirk. He turned his attention to Nicholas. “I did warn you she was a
firecracker. Divulge your actions at your own risk.” Lucas looked like he was
trying to hold back laughter.

“There are always casualties in war.” We all turned to look at Emmett
when he spoke. He was leaning forward on the couch, head in hands, resting his
elbows on his knees. “You guys understand, right? This is just the beginning.
One vampire is nothing, compared to what’s to come.”

“What aren’t you telling us? What else do you know?” I demanded. “I’d
rather have a heads up if we’re about to be in the middle of a bloodbath,
thanks.”

“It’s obvious,” Emmett shot back. “I’ve been warning you that a war is
coming; what do you think war is? Everyone airs their grievances then they all
shake hands and go home? I’ve been
trying
to prepare you, but you don’t listen.”

I tried to think of something to say back, but there was nothing. Emmett
was right. I was choosing to wear blinders. War meant death. And one vampire
didn’t matter in terms of the big picture.

“Anyway,” Nicholas said, deliberately ignoring both of us. “Raymond’s
been on my radar off and on over the years, and this was as good a time as any
to take him out.”

“So you cut off a hunk of his neck to recreate that barcode?” I asked.

Nicholas nodded. “Yeah, I have a contact who is also a damn good artist;
he figured out how it was applied and put it on me, line for line. We’re good
for tonight, I promise.”

“Okay,” I whispered. “So you have the right mark to get into this
meeting. What else? How do you plan on keeping me from blacking out? You said
we had to prepare for tonight.” I directed my last comment at Lucas. He was the
one who’d physically dragged me from the party.

Nicholas reached into the satchel and pulled out a black box.

“That’s the scrambler thing?” I asked, looking nervously between Lucas
and Nicholas.

“Yes,” Lucas answered.

“And you know it works?” I demanded. “I mean, what if I lose
consciousness like I always do? Does it have to be in close proximity to me?
Are we going to try to sneak the box in or something?”

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