Falling Into Darkness Ch. 15byElianna©
"Oh Angel!" cried Mara pulling a shirt off the rack. "This is gorgeous."
Angel smiled at her. It was strange going shopping with Mara. Supposedly, she was a mentor, but in many ways it was like going shopping with someone her own age. She didn't look older or even act older. Somehow there was still a youthful innocence about her; as though Mara's life had stopped the moment she became a vampire nearly twenty years ago. She hadn't talked about it often, but Angel was smart enough to read as much from, if not more from what Mara didn't say about her past. From those poignantly painful silences, she could tell that she'd been tormented, used, harmed by her creator. He'd manipulated her into doing things; things that made the woman's face darken with pain, guilt, horror. Mara never even said her creator's name as though saying the word on her lips might bring him with all his wickedness back into her life.
"What do you think?"
Angel stared at the shirt and her smiling friend thoughtfully. "It'll look really hot with some black pants," she suggested.
Mara smiled with excitement and added it to the stack of clothes on her arm and bounced off to find a set of black pants.
Angel picked a few things as well, though after her strange encounter in the mirror, she wasn't quite up to shopping anymore. For the past few hours, she'd avoided looking into any reflective surface, fearing that she'd see that wicked face again.
Since she awoke as a vampire she'd been inundated with faces and images from a hazy past. There was her rapist; a man with blue eyes and brown hair who later, during her "dark time," as she was now calling that time between her rape and when she was turned, became a vampire. Then there was a god-like vampire with icy eyes that glinted as if he bordered on insane, and a gorgeous red-haired woman who seemed dark and calculating. Angel knew these faces to be evil, wicked; people not to be trusted. She couldn't remember who they were or what they did, but she knew they had somehow caused her harm.
Then there was a handsome vampire with white-blond hair and platinum eyes whose lips seemed to be twisted in a perpetual smirk and another vampire with dark hair, dark eyes and always seemed to be irritated and annoyed. Even though they were vampires, too, she got the sense that they were trustworthy.
She saw so many flashes of people in her memories, but none of them had the intensity of emotion, the absolute pull of longing that she felt for the vampire with jade eyes. He haunted her in her dreams, made love to her so passionately that she'd hurried to bed the past few mornings hoping her dreams would take her to him again. She looked at the clothes she picked wondering if he'd think she would look nice in them and then shook her head. She didn't even know who he was, or if he was real. He was just a dream.
She smiled at Mara as she picked out some sexy lingerie and then held up a set in Anna's size for her.
"Those are hot," she agreed finding herself blushing a little.
It felt good to be doing "normal" things again. Shopping, trying on sexy lingerie with a girlfriend, walking through the mall window shopping. It was a far cry from driving in a beat-up SUV with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stolen goods in the rear, learning how to be a vampire. Tonight, she almost felt ordinary.
"Let's try on!" Mara said smiling hugely at her clothes-filled arms.
Angel followed her in the dressing room and took the stall next to hers.
She quickly shed her ill-fitting clothes and tried on the sexy bra first. She closed her eyes and turned around to look in the mirror. God, she hoped she only saw herself in a black lace bra. She peeked one eye open and then sighed in relief. It was just her in a seriously sexy bra. She smiled. If only the man of her dreams could see her in this!
She tried on several outfits, some jeans, some black pants, cute tops. She and Mara smiled and giggled like girls as they modeled for each other parading around the dressing room in their new, sexy clothing. They ended up spending their entire budget, but both of them were smiling broadly when they finally left the department store. Mara insisted that they change from their old rags into one of the new outfits before they headed out, and Angel smiled in agreement. They decided to change in the gas station bathroom before they left so Angel filled up while Mara changed. Then they switched.
Angel quickly slipped into her new clothes humming happily to herself. This was the beginning of a new life. They were on their way to New York! She straightened her clothing and then walked over to the mirror to check herself out. She struck a flirtatious little pose and smiled turning around to see how her rear looked in the jeans. Smiling to herself she took one last glance.
She froze in horror. Standing behind her in the mirror's reflection was the horrible-looking vampire from earlier. His eyes were black and shadowed, his skin was pasty and carcass-like, and about him was a sense of malevolence. It was worse than the darkness she gathered from the face of her rapist or the icy-eyed vampire. In this vampire's soulless eyes was nothing but pure, unadulterated evil.
She wanted to scream, but she couldn't manage to move, she couldn't manage to breathe. Her heart pounded as he continued to stare at her. Then suddenly he smiled wickedly, baring his fangs. Perhaps it was her mind playing tricks on her, but they seemed yellowed, like this vampire was more of a beast than a man.
"Who are you?" she demanded trying to be brave.
"Mara," he whispered, the voice sending a shiver down her spine.
A fierce sense of protectiveness came over her for her friend. Whoever this wicked, disgusting vampire was, she wasn't going to let him touch Mara.
"No!" she snapped turning around and baring her fangs.
Angel froze and stared in confusion; there was no one behind her. She turned back to look in the mirror. She was alone again.
Shuddering, she hurried out of the bathroom, her playfulness gone. Just like the car barreling towards the ATM, she didn't know how she knew, but she knew that wicked vampire was following them. She knew that he wanted Mara.
Mara was standing outside the SUV and waved to her excitedly.
"Angel you look hot!" she exclaimed.
"Let's get out of here," she replied quietly.
Mara froze. "What's wrong?"
"Let's go and I'll explain while you drive."
"You're shitting me!" Darian exclaimed when he watched the video beside Kieran.
He stared at it in amazement as the video played over again. He wanted to rub his eyes, blink, do something to fix what his mind told him was absolutely impossible.
A million things passed through his mind.
Anna was alive? Anna was turned. Alexander must be pissed. Good thing he'd advised him not to bury the girl.
He wondered about that. It wasn't a vision that told him to entomb her instead of burying her beneath the earth; it was just a...feeling. There were times he felt like his powers were limitless; a dream walker, a psychic, a seer. How had his power failed him like this? He'd always known when things like this were happening. It was why he was so powerful; he knew when people were trying something, were messing with him, especially when they were in close proximity. He'd held the girl's hand, and damn it, he'd sensed nothing! He looked back up to the screen. There she was; obviously a vampire now, her incredible eyes glittering with the power Alexander's blood had given her.
"Fuck," he breathed quietly as he shook his head.
At once his thoughts went to his friend. He'd just been starting to move on. The American kingdom was getting back under control, his businesses were flourishing again, and even though he'd been terribly grieved, he'd forced himself along. In the blink of an eye, all that had changed again.
"How's Alexander?" he asked Kieran.
"Ready to call a mass manhunt."
"I don't blame him."
"He thinks the girl hasn't gotten her memory back yet," Kieran said. "He thinks that's why she hasn't sought him out."
"How can he be sure?"
The dark vampire shrugged irritably. "He says she's a dream walker."
Darian looked at the screen again and watched as she pulled Mara away from the ATM, only for it to be completely destroyed moments later. She was having the visions all right.
"How does he know she doesn't have his memory?" he asked curiously even as he stared with mesmerized fascination watching the scene play over and over again.
"He said that she couldn't remember his name in a dream yesterday."
"Of course. She's been coming to his dreams without knowing what she was doing," he breathed recalling how Alexander had mourned that she'd been haunting his sleep.
Kieran nodded. "When you first changed, did you do it?"
Darian chuckled to himself remembering his ineptitude at the time.
"Yeah, I was invading dreams left and right without knowing what was happening. It took me centuries to master doing it consciously and even longer to do things when I was awake. Back when I was turned, the visions were uncontrollable. At the time we were called Oracles; people who could have visions about the future. Most of the vampires I knew who had the gift ended up killing themselves. It's not an easy gift to manage; that's why there are so few now."
"Another reason to find her then," Kieran said.
Darian smiled. "Finally admitting that you care for the girl are we?"
"Alexander loves her."
"Yeah, he does."
"So now what?"
Darian watched the video thoughtfully. "He's probably just created one of the most powerful dream walkers alive, next to me. We really do need to get to her quickly. Sometimes the visions can be overwhelming."
"Do I start a mass man hunt then?"
"Send out the call," Darian said, "but tell them not to approach. Just watch and report."
"What should I tell Alexander?"
"I'll tell him, but don't say anything else until we've found her. To lose a true mate is incapacitating; if he hadn't been alone for so long I would have expected him to kill himself. Now to find she's alive... he's on edge and dangerous. I'd keep people away from him for a while."
"I'm going to check on him," he said turning to leave the security room.
He walked through the halls of Alexander's mansion thoughtfully. He'd always known there was something special about Anna, other than being Alexander's true mate; it had been in her eyes. Perhaps more than anyone, he felt particularly responsible for her. With all his foreknowledge, he'd not been able to see enough to protect her; she'd been nearly impossible to read. Even as a human, he should have been able to recognize the mark of her eyes; the potential for what she could become. He shook his head in regret; he'd been so distracted, and Alexander had been horribly protective. Suddenly he smiled a little wickedly to himself. It served his brother just right to have a dream-walker as a mate. Anna was going to keep the Ancient One busy for many a century- once he got her back.
He opened the door to Alexander's office without knocking and chuckled wickedly as he growled, his jade eyes glinted and he bared his fangs in surprise and anger.
"Good evening," he said lightly.
He noted that his friend had been sitting at his desk reading over paperwork. His hair was unruly as though he'd been running his fingers through it in frustration and his eyes were tight. On the outside he looked like a calm, put together Ancient One, but Darian could feel it; the tension bubbling just beneath the surface.
"How are you?"
By now, he'd managed to get his eyes and fangs back under control and he looked irritable. He grunted and shrugged.
Darian walked over to his desk and looked at the stack casually. He'd been going over reports of murders that had been expected to have vampire perpetrators. There were several vampires who loved death, enjoyed the kill, and tortured humans as they drank their blood. Francisco Paola had been one of them, and his Little One, Mara was obviously tied to Anna. It probably wasn't the best thing for him to be reading about at the moment. He was upset enough as it was.
"You probably should just table all that until you're in a better frame of mind," he chided.
He put his head in his hands and shook his head. "I have to do something. I want to be out there, actively looking for her, but I'm here in my luxurious home while she's living in danger fleeing with Paola's Little One. Mara is a complete vagabond. She's been a thief for the past 2 years, and before that she'd been an accessory to Paola's murders for nearly 18 years."
"That vagabond saved your Little One's life," Darian reminded him. "You're lucky she found her and has been guiding her."
"I should be guiding her," Alexander growled. He stood, his eyes glittering with rage once again and began pacing anxiously.
Darian watched him cautiously. He was most definitely on edge.
"Yes," he agreed neutrally. "You should. But you're here, and she's out there. We're putting out a massive search. We'll have information soon."
Alexander stopped pacing and looked out into the darkness as though his glittering eyes would pierce the shadows and find her. Then he shook his head irritably and began to pace again.
Darian watched him for a while knowing when to be silent. His friend would talk again when he was ready.
"For the first time in centuries, I'm actually looking forward to sunrise," Alexander said at last.
"She's been coming to my dreams. I knew the signs but..." he shrugged, "how could I believe that she was alive?"
"So you're going to try to talk to her?"
Alexander nodded. "The last several times she's come to me, but I've controlled the dream. I think I could force her to stay a while and speak with her."
"You are much more powerful than she is, and you know how to use it," Darian agreed. "But don't be fooled by her youth as a vampire. Anna's having the visions, and she's got your blood. Dream walking is obviously her talent, not yours. She might be able to pull away from you more easily than you suspect. The fact that she's allowed you to control the dreams should actually be more encouraging to you than anything else."
"It means that part of her wanted to let you."
He watched his friend mull over that for a moment.
"Maybe I can convince her to come to me."
"And if you cannot? If you frighten her?"
Alexander's jaw clenched. "Then I will bring her in against her will."
"She has every reason to hate you," Darian said. "She's a Little One, abandoned. She might run from you."
"I'm just warning you. I want you to be prepared for all possibilities. We don't know what happened to Anna in her last moments. All we know that it was brutal, she was terrified and tortured. Even if she remembers, she might not come to you. For some reason I'm not very good at reading her, perhaps because she's a dream-walker, too, but I see that she might run, that she might try to escape you."
Alexander's jaw clenched angrily. "She doesn't have a choice," he nearly snarled. "A Little One is bound to her creator. She has my blood, and is therefore mine."
Darian chuckled. "Even if she remembers you, she'll fight you about that. You didn't pick the most tractable woman to be your mate. Be prepared for a battle."
He smiled baring just a hint of his fangs. "I look forward to it."
"Promise me you won't freak out?" Angel said.
"Sweetheart," Mara laughed, "you've been freaking me out since day one."
"Yeah," Angel sighed, "me, too." She looked out the window and wondered for the millionth time who turned her into a vampire. Whoever it was, did they know that she was seeing things like this? Did they know how terrifying it was? Did they even care?
"Out with it."
"I was drying my hair when I got out of the shower earlier, and I looked into the mirror." She shivered. "It was cloudy, I mean, the bathroom was a sauna, but..." as if she summoned it, the wicked face flashed before her eyes, making her shudder. "There was this face."
"The hot guy with the green eyes?" Mara asked teasingly.
"No. He was...evil. His eyes were dark, maybe black, but I couldn't tell because it's like his eye sockets were so shadowed that you couldn't see for sure. He looked like some kind of demon, a skeleton."
Mara didn't say anything.
"So, at first, I thought it was nothing. I'd just gotten out of a dream with the hot vampire I keep seeing and so I thought that maybe it was just my mind playing tricks on me."
The car was silent. Mara didn't even tease her about her steamy dreams. Angel felt her heart pound. She was right. This was something bad. She forced herself to keep on telling her tale.
"I was kinda upset, so I didn't look into any mirrors for a while. But then we were trying on clothes and having fun and everything was fine."
Mara still didn't say anything.
"Just now in the bathroom, I could have sworn he was standing behind me when I looked in the mirror, but when I turned around to face him, he wasn't there."
The car was silent for several moments and Angel felt herself squirming in the seat uncomfortably. She didn't know what she'd do if Mara lost it on her.
"Is there anything else?"
"Yeah," she replied quietly. "He keeps saying your name. I think he's looking for you."
Mara slammed on the brakes making the car swerve and skid. Angel gasped and clung for dear life as the vehicle fishtailed and leaned on two wheels as though it was going to topple over. Her body slammed against the side of the door as the car tipped frighteningly. Instinctively, Mara corrected the steering, righting the SUV. Finally, after what seemed an eternity of swerving, screeching tires, and being knocked around, they skidded to a halt.
When the dust finally settled Angel looked over at Mara. She was sitting still, clutching the steering wheel as though her life depended on the grip. She wasn't moving.
"Mara?" Angel asked. "Are you okay?"
She didn't answer.
Angel reached out to touch her but suddenly Mara came to life with a despairing wail.
"Oh God! Oh God!" she whimpered in a frantic voice. "He's coming for me. He's going to kill me. Oh GOD!" She looked around wildly as though he was going to show up in front of the car at any minute. "Angel, what am I going to do?"
"Maybe it's just me being stupid and the visions don't mean anything," she replied trying to comfort her friend.
Deep down, she knew that they did. There was something too real, too pulling about her visions. Even the strange dreams with the gorgeous, green-eyed stranger were much too intense to be normal dreams. Half the time she wasn't even sure if she was awake or asleep; the familiar boundaries she'd grown accustomed to between dreams and reality just weren't there anymore. It was like she was constantly walking around with her subconscious more "conscious" than "sub." She knew she was a dream walker, but she didn't know what it meant.
"No," Mara wailed nearly hyperventilating. "He's coming. You're a dream walker. I know it!"
"Okay," she placated, "maybe I am. Maybe I am that thing you said. It may mean he's looking for you in California, or it may mean he's here in Illinois. We don't know. I don't know anything except that these dreams and visions are freaking me out. I'm not in control of anything. It seems like they just come depending on the breeze. So..." she shrugged helplessly.
"You need to get away from me," Mara said. "He'll hurt you, too, Angel. Francisco is..." She bowed her head as tears filled her eyes and shook it over and over again.
Angel reached out and touched her arm. She peeled a hand from the steering wheel and then clasped it tightly. For a long time they sat holding onto each other for dear life, both of them feeling their lives spinning out of control; fearing impending doom, uncertainty, haunting shadows.