Hearts of Warriors Ch. 10byJazCullen©
The fatigue of being in Pietro's mind was so strong she was holding onto herself by a hairsbreadth. Any more stress and she was liable to lose all her mental shields and then they'd know all about it.
Convincing Pietro she was almost an Ancient, playing with his male emotions to try and tempt him, as well as listening into his thoughts as she'd distracted him had been far too much given his own mental strength. If her shields shattered under her weariness, all her fury and pain would blast out and everyone would be shrieking under the weight of her agony.
Taking a deep breath Reasa stood up trying to calm her breathing. "I'm going to call Louis. Give Pietro at least three bottles of chilled blood if he'll take it. If he wants more give it to him. And see if you can convince him to take from source. You can each donate one of your little harem members if he's willing. Just keep him alive until we get clear instructions on how to proceed."
She hurried to her room collapsing to the floor against the door. It took a good fifteen minutes to repair her mental shields enough to call her coven leader. Taking deep breaths, Reasa worked through the mental exercises she had learned over the years until she felt her inner balance slip back into place. Then she pulled out her cell phone and hit the first speed dial number.
"Louis, there's a problem. Those imbeciles gave him too much poison and he's dying. His shields are still strong though and I wasn't able to glean too much. Just something about a group protecting the hybrids and that Pietro's waiting for someone called Mac to arrive." Louis didn't do small talk so it was pointless to begin with niceties.
"You're sure about Mac?" Terse words to suit the type of male her coven leader was.
"Yes, he thought it a few times. His friend's name is definitely Mac."
Louis cursed gutturally, his displeasure seeping down their connection. "This is not good, ma chérie," he sighed, his French accent at odds with his volatile personality. He sounded so cultured, so civilised but he could be a monster to rival most monsters when called for.
"I've had dealings with Mackenzie; he's done me a few favours over the years. I wasn't aware he was involved in this otherwise I wouldn't have agreed to this information gathering exercise. You're sure the vampire is dying?"
A mental image of Pietro came to mind and Reasa shuddered, her expression sad. "Nothing will stop that, Louis. I've told them to give him as much blood as he'll accept but the damage has been done. Parts of his skin are already turning black. The Amort is eating him alive. Maybe a complete bleeding would help but the amount of blood required to replenish him would be too great."
"Merde!" Louis spat, his fury escalating and making her shiver.
He classed her as one of his favourites but if her handling of the mission had disappointed him enough he wouldn't be lax at punishing her for her failure. She waited for him to speak again.
"Which one of them was it?" he finally asked.
"Bruce. He hates Pietro. I think he was scared of him. If I'd been here sooner maybe I could have stopped it. But I needed to feed and I was distracted thinking we had more time. I'm sorry, Louis."
"Ce n'est pas important," he said soothingly and she breathed a sigh of relief that he was forgiving her so easily. She'd only once been punished by Louis and a century on could still remember every single detail of it. She never wanted to go through that again.
"Leave the vampire alive and ensure Mac has enough clues to discover his whereabouts quickly. If there is any chance of him being saved Mackenzie will find a way. Have Michael clean up the Bruce problem and then come back to the coven. We're sitting this one out. I don't owe anyone a big enough favour to betray a man who's never done me wrong."
He hung up and Reasa bent forward resting her head on her knees. She felt so relieved she thought she would throw up; only vampires didn't have the need to regurgitate. Louis had handed her a lifeline...more than one.
She didn't need to pronounce a death sentence on Pietro and there was a fragile hope he may still be saved. Louis also didn't view her leadership as being a failure so she had escaped punishment because of this fiasco. And he had pronounced judgement on Bruce.
In this situation it was a decision Reasa would have made herself. Taking a life should never be an easy decision but when it was the right thing to do, it should be carried out.
Which brought her back to the abominations. Louis had ordered them home, had made it plain they would take no further part in any actions taken against the monsters that had been birthed. In her eyes that decision was wrong.
They couldn't be allowed to live. She had meant what she'd said to Pietro. They went against everything which was natural. They weren't meant to exist and she wasn't sure if she could walk away and ignore her conscience on their fate.
If she went against Louis' command he would either order her killed or if he was fond enough of her maybe just throw her out of the coven. If she could reach her targets without harming this Mac person then there was a good chance it would be the latter decision he reached.
Reasa was still trying to work out what she could live with when there was a knock on her bedroom door and she opened it to silently usher the blond vampire into the room. She began tapping out a text message on her phone which she had no intention of sending.
"He drank the bottled blood once both Bruce and I had sipped from each one," Michael informed her. "He managed four before he was too glutted for more. There's some slight improvement, he's a little stronger and the blackness has slowed across his skin. I'm not sure how much time we've bought him though."
"Louis will be pleased with the news," she answered still tapping out her message. "He wants sufficient clues left for Mac to find Pietro while he's still alive. We're to return to the coven, the mission is over."
She handed him the cell phone and let him read what she'd written. Coven life was hard so all members learnt to be devious, learnt to listen into conversations they weren't supposed to be privy to.
Louis says to take care of Bruce. You're to return to the coven after it's done. I've been assigned to another mission and will leave directly. Don't fail him!
There was no indication if Michael was pleased or displeased with his orders but she took a flavour of his emotions and sensed acceptance. He may have screwed up on this mission but he was redeemable as she'd suspected. He wouldn't hesitate to take Bruce's head and ensure the other details were taken care of.
Her decision made, Reasa moved instantly. It would take Michael a few hours to set everything in place and maybe half a day to get back to the coven. She had that long to vanish off the radar. She wasn't stupid enough to go straight for her target. Louis would most probably expect that of her once he realised what she was up to.
No, she had to lay low for a while, gather as much intelligence as possible so she was fully informed before she made her move. She had a starting point now too. Mackenzie. She had no intention of hurting the vampire but something told her he would be in the thick of things when it came to protecting the abominations. If she could track him back to his lair then she just knew she would find what she was seeking.
Packing her travel bag swiftly she headed out towards the front door, her grey eyes settling on the pool of blood dripping along the kitchen floor and down the stone basement steps.
Michael obviously didn't waste time and was exercising his brain too. An infusion of vampiric blood, even blood as young as Bruce's, may halt the damage to Pietro's body long enough for Mac to arrive and save him somehow. She genuinely hoped something could be done for the vampire. Under different circumstances she could have liked him a lot.
She left the cottage and vanished into the surrounding trees. It was time to become a ghost as she set about working out how to track her prey.
Demetri Bozic appeared to be like any other tourist as he strode down the busy street. He'd been in Edinburgh for hours and hadn't managed to track down Pietro as yet and was starting to feel concerned. He paused to do the tourist thing, raising his camera high and pointing it towards Edinburgh Castle as if taking a photograph. He did actually snap a couple of photos but he was working at scenting the surrounding area at the same time.
Dressed in jeans and T-shirt, his long black hair hidden beneath a black Fedora, he didn't look the least out of place among the throng of people on Princes Street. There was such a mix of cultures and visitors to the capital city of Scotland he blended in easily.
It was a help but also a hindrance. Picking out individual scents with so many people around was a nightmare even for an Ancient vampire. He was starting to feel irritated at his lack of progress and had to fight to contain the emotion. He'd never track the vampires he was seeking if he didn't remain calm.
Letting the camera hang from his neck he pulled out his cell phone and dialled the number Pietro had given Mac. He didn't expect it to be answered; it hadn't the last ten times he'd called. When it was he froze for a second, his body tensing.
"Is this Mac?"
The male on the other end wasn't Pietro and Demetri decided not to contradict his assumption. Someone knew Mac was supposed to be arriving to meet with Pietro and that someone obviously wanted to talk.
"Yes," he answered tersely. "Where's Pietro?"
"He's incapacitated at the moment." A derisive snort sounded. "You people are supposed to be good. At the rate you're deciphering the clues left the vampire will be dead."
Demetri felt a chill of unease ripple through him, his hand tightening on the phone. "Maybe your skills leave a lot to be desired. I've yet to see any sign of a clue and believe me I've been looking most diligently," he responded coldly. "So let's stop dicking around and you just tell me what I need to know because if Pietro is dead when I find him, you'll be joining him. And any of your friends I can lay my hands on."
It was a risk to be so blunt but he had a feeling time was running out fast. He had to consider this call was a trap too. The enemy could be trying to lure him in but it was a chance he was going to have to take.
"You're lucky my leader wants him found alive," the male answered after a pause. "If it was up to me he'd already be dead. But I don't argue with my leader so I'll text his location to your number. Whether or not he'll still be alive is another matter."
"I don't make threats, vampire." Demetri's voice was pure ice. "I make promises and I keep my word. If Pietro dies I'll rip this continent apart looking for you and your leader. Be sure to let them know that. Now text the fucking location and stop wasting any more time."
He hung up, knowing it was a risk. The male he was talking to was young and obviously able to follow a chain-of-command. He was gambling the other male respected power and would obey.
Digging out the map he had, he was already opening it up as the text message came through. He cursed under his breath when he located the area Pietro was being held at. It was miles away according to the map and he was bang in the heart of civilisation. He wouldn't be able to use his vampiric speed until he was out of the city centre at least.
Continuing to curse mentally, Demetri took off in the direction he needed to be going in, walking as fast as he could towards the train station. He'd seen a symbol for a station on the map fairly close to where he needed to be. It would be the quickest way to get there.
Waverley Station was busy but thankfully the staff were very helpful. They were obviously used to tourists and their inane questions. He was quickly shown to the correct counter to purchase a ticket and then to the platform the train would be departing from.
The notice board told him the train was due in ten minutes and would take another ten to reach its destination. He used that time to call Caleb. "Do we have anyone we can trust in the Edinburgh area?" he asked when his friend answered.
"Give me a minute to think," Caleb answered. "Is there a problem?"
Demetri quickly related the previous conversation. "I've got a bad feeling about this, Caleb. I don't think it's a trap as such but I do think something is seriously wrong with Pietro and it may not have anything to do with the usual injuries we have to contend with. I didn't get the impression Pietro's problem lay at the hands of a third party."
It was hard to have the conversation with so many other people around. He was keeping his voice low knowing Caleb could hear him easily but if he kept it too low the humans would notice something was out of the ordinary and start paying attention.
"I'll see if Joshua's still in the area," Caleb said pensively. He trusted Demetri's ability to size up a situation accurately. "He was there when I visited with Annie a few years ago but he mentioned he was thinking of moving on. He can be trusted. I'll give him a codeword only you'll know. Be careful Demetri. I'll arrange a private plane to be ready for you. Joshua should be able to skirt around any potential issues at the airport."
The train pulled up as the call ended and Demetri stepped aboard and sank into the first available seat. His concern was increasing, his feeling of being too late starting to spiral out of control. If anything happened to Pietro...
The vampire was a pain in the ass but he liked him, trusted him more than he did most people. His easy laughter, the way he took the piss out of Andrei, his steadfast loyalty to his friends...all those things were what made Pietro a friend to Demetri. And no one fucked with his friends.
He hadn't lied to the vampire on the phone. He would rip the continent apart to get justice for Pietro if he died. He'd done it before for people he'd cared less about and he would do it again. Despite the veneer of civility Demetri wore, his feral side dominated his spirit. It was more subdued since he'd met Mara but it was always there, always waiting for a chance at freedom.
It was simple for Demetri...if his friends were hurt then the enemy would bleed a river of blood in penance. Most of his kind were smart enough to know this. It would appear the European contingent were lacking in brain cells. They'd better pray he wasn't required to educate them.
The train journey was quicker than he thought it would be or maybe he was just so deep in his dark thoughts he hadn't noticed the passage of time. Whatever the reason, he was alighting the train and heading quickly out of the station in next to no time.
He scented the other vampire instantly and his gaze zeroed in on the tall man leaning against a SUV in the parking lot. The other man had blond hair to his shoulders, the blond colouring the top layer, a deep brown hiding beneath. He was an Elder around about the thousand year mark and built like a well-honed athlete.
Cautiously Demetri made his way over to the vampire and stopped a few feet away.
"Demetri? I'm Joshua. Caleb said to mention Serengahi and also I'm only to listen to you if you're making sense. He also said if you start crossing over I'm to run like fuck."
Joshua looked relaxed but Demetri could tell he was ready to move in an instant. If he'd lived as long as he had then he wasn't an idiot. He scrutinized the other male a moment longer and then nodded. He'd had the promised codeword Serengahi. Only Caleb knew the name of the field they had met on so many millennia ago.
"You got here fast," he commented, tossing his tourist ID into the back of the SUV and climbing into the passenger seat. He tied back his hair once he'd tossed the Fedora.
"I live close by and I didn't have to take the train," Joshua answered, a hint of laughter in his voice.
It made Demetri bristle but he tamped his annoyance down. Caleb wouldn't have sent him an idiot to work with. If his friend trusted this man then he would too...to a certain extent.
"My friend's life hangs in the balance, Joshua. I'm not feeling very amused at the moment. Just get us to the location." He closed his eyes and worked on calming down. He would only go feral if the worst happened. For now he had to use his more logical side. It was Pietro's only chance.
"Caleb explained the seriousness of the situation." Joshua was pulling out of the parking lot and down the street. "I'm a firm believer of waiting for the shit to hit the fan before I start worrying about it. If it's possible to help your friend we'll do so. If it isn't...you tell me what you need and I'll make sure you have it."
His Scottish brogue was soothing as he spoke, easing some of Demetri's tension. It had been a while since he'd visited one of the Celtic nations and he'd forgotten how much he enjoyed listening to the people talk. The content of his words were also soothing. Just knowing there was backup available helped to loosen him up a bit more.
"Let's hope I don't need anything other than a quick way home," he finally said, opening his eyes as Joshua pulled the SUV to a halt bare moments later. "This is it?" He hadn't realised the location was so close to the station.
"It's another couple of miles on foot but I figured you'd want to approach a bit more stealthily."
Demetri's respect for the other man went up a couple of notches. He uncurled his big body from the car and quickly appraised his surroundings. Every instinct was on alert, every sense reaching out to ensure they were unobserved. His green eyes finally met the deep blue ones regarding him intently. A smile curled his lips but didn't meet his eyes.
"I can see why Caleb likes you so much."
Joshua's gaze narrowed, intelligence dancing across his face. "I can see why he told me to run like fuck if you lose it," he countered seriously and then he grinned. "Anyone ever tell you that you're a scary son of a bitch?"
Demetri laughed. It was a deep laugh but held a hint of menace. "Yeah, Pietro tells me that all the time." Joshua reminded him of his friend, the same mix of lack of respect, humour and reliability.
Caleb had chosen well. He'd picked just the right personality type Demetri would need to be around should the worst happen. There was less of a chance he'd kill Joshua if he crossed over. The other man should remind him enough of the friend he'd just lost.
"Time's wasting," he said quietly, heading off in the direction he could scent his friend. It was a faint scent and it smelled wrong but it was there and he needed to get to him as fast as possible. Joshua fell in beside him and then the two vampires put on a burst of speed, covering the remaining distance in less than a minute.
The cottage nestling in the rocks looked empty and smelled empty with the exception of Pietro's scent. There was an underlying scent of blood which didn't belong to Pietro, but it wasn't fresh so Demetri wasn't too concerned about it.
The two males circled the stone cottage twice taking opposite directions and then going around a third final time. "Just the one male," Joshua commented when they met up again. "I scent no one else in the vicinity."
Demetri concurred and gave him a nod of agreement. They headed to the front door and entered the building. Joshua put a hand lightly on his arm for him to wait a moment. The blond vampire scented the air for what felt like forever and then dropped his hand.
"I've an affinity for explosive devices," he explained. "Anything that combusts makes my nose itch like crazy. There's no scent here. Blood trail in the kitchen and down the stairs, your vampire's scent is in one of the bedrooms."