|The Deadly Flower
Author: Carmel March PM
She's a strong, independent P.I. just trying to get through each day. Unbeknownst to her, she's dangerous to vampires. She gets sucked into their world when all vampires make a choice: kill her or turn her. Except for one. He wants to save her. [COMPLETE]Rated: Fiction T - English - Supernatural/Adventure - Chapters: 30 - Words: 167,828 - Reviews: 2,237 - Favs: 1,134 - Follows: 1,029 - Updated: 01-21-13 - Published: 02-27-07 - Status: Complete - id: 2326029
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Recap: Even though Damien and his vampires are dead, Damien's discarded lover, Lilynn Blaise, is still a looming threat. Callum and Liam are in Dahlia's apartment in order to take her to Callum's to better protect her. As the three of them are talking in the living room, both Callum and Liam sense the presence of werewolves, which they guess have been hired by Lilynn to assassinate them. Since there are werewolves outside her apartment door, they decide to exit a different way:
I swept my gaze around the dark room while they discussed possible ways to kill the werewolves. A sudden idea struck me when I looked at the French doors. Grasping both of their arms, I nodded towards them. "How do you feel about jumping?" I asked.
The two of them glanced at the door, at me, then at each other. They exchanged a look.
Liam patted my cheek, and said, "Smarter than she looks," and dashed over to the doors. He opened them quietly, stepping out onto the small balcony.
I chose to ignore that particular insult for the sake of more important things.
Unexpectedly, Callum picked me up, cradling me to his chest. I threw my arms around his neck, gun still in one hand, and pressed my cheek into his shirt. He walked out onto the balcony to stand beside Liam. The cool night air was like a wet blanket against my skin. Callum's hair blew in the wind, brushing my forehead at times.
There was a click of a door opening inside the apartment. I watched with wide eyes as Liam hopped up onto the ledge and looked down. He gave me a salute before stepping off and disappearing from our view.
Before I knew it, Callum was standing on the edge of the small balcony as well. I fought the urge to look down, because I knew it was more than three stories high. Clinging to him tighter, I said, "Do it."
A growl—a deep, menacing, nonhuman growl—sounded from just behind the French doors. Callum put one foot out. From this side of the apartment building, we were diagonal to the adjacent complex. As he took the next step, I watched the windows of the other apartments blur into a mess of lights and brick. The air sped by us, flowing up and over us as we fell straight down.
We hit the ground without making a sound. I hardly had had the time to feel scared. I unwrapped my arms from around Callum's neck and he let me drop to my feet. In a two-handed grip, I pointed the gun into the darkness. Liam met us, his normally slicked-back hair disheveled from the wind. We were on the right side of the building, near the wall. I was able to see the street, Dario's car, and another, unfamiliar vehicle.
Liam leaned in, his cheek brushing mine, and whispered, "There are two of them by the main door. You stay here while Mr. Knightley and I take care of them. Don't come out."
"Okay," I whispered back.
"I mean it, sunshine. Don't show yourself to them."
"I got it," I hissed.
He drew back with a nod. Callum took my arm and pushed me against the rough brick wall, in an effort to be as inconspicuous as possible. We were completely cloaked in shadows. I could only see his outline.
"Be careful," I murmured. It worried me that these werewolves were prepared for vampires, with silver and God knows what else.
He touched my cheek, trailing his cold fingers down the line of my jaw. And then he was gone.
I pressed myself up against the wall, gun up and ready to start firing. I hoped that no innocent people were milling around for this. It was past midnight, so with any luck, they would be in bed by now.
There was a high-pitched, wounded animal sound that came from around the corner. I heard a series of crashes, more sounds, and a couple of vampiric hisses. Swallowing hard, I obeyed Liam and didn't come out.
Two thumps came from the opposite direction, to my left instead of to my right. I swung the Firestar around, eyes frantically searching the side of the apartment. The outlines of two people, crouching on the balls of their feet, made me inhale sharply. Squinting, I glanced upwards, then back down to them. They had landed right where Callum and I had.
Werewolves could jump down three stories and live, too. Oh, goody, just my luck.
One of them stood up. He looked straight at me with oddly pale eyes. He opened his mouth, and even in the faint glow of city lights, I could see a full set of jagged teeth. "You the bitch who killed the vampire?" he growled.
"No," I said, quite calm.
"Oh, really?" he drawled disbelievingly.
What the hell did he think I would say? "Really. You must be thinking of someone else."
The other one stood up, shaved head gleaming. He looked uncannily like Mr. Clean. Except for those pointy wolf teeth. "She looks tasty, Bruce."
"Yes, yes, she does," Bruce agreed while surveying me.
Mr. Clean smiled, the expression unnatural with all those teeth. "Whaddya say, Bruce?"
"I say we share," he replied.
"You take the top, I take the bottom?"
He shrugged. "Sounds good to me."
Bruce gnashed his teeth at me. He took a step forward, hunching over, pale eyes set on me.
I let all the air out of my lungs and sighted down the barrel of the gun. Mr. Clean saw me preparing to shoot and laughed loudly. He dropped down on all fours and began crawling towards me.
"You gonna shoot me?" he asked in a mocking tone.
I aimed the gun at him. "I will if you don't leave me alone," I said.
"Do it, bitch," he laughed, coming closer, within feet of me. "Shoot me."
And I did.
He had the gall to look surprised. The bullet took him in the upper chest, near his throat, since he was on his hands and knees. He coughed up blood onto the grass. It sparkled in the glimmer of lights.
Bruce gave a howl, and a shudder ran from his shoulders down. He ran and crashed into me, and consequentially, the wall. His clawed hands ripped chunks out of the brick. I pulled the trigger again, firing directly into his chest. He snarled, snapping his jaws at me, and shoved me up the wall. I let out an involuntary yell as I strained against the force of his body.
Spittle flew out of his mouth as thrashed his head, trying to sink those teeth into any part of my body that he could. His mouth was still human-sized, so it was difficult for him to wrap his mouth around anything. I shot him again, but the bullet just grazed the side of his neck. There was only one bullet left. The brick was digging into my back as he held me, one-handed, up against the wall.
With a half-transformed hand, Bruce side-swept the gun, knocking it to the ground. There was a moment where I met his eyes, briefly, and we both paused. I was thinking "oh, shit", and he was thinking something more along the lines of "food". I was completely unarmed now, a helpless human.
Bruce had pushed me so far up against the wall that the first level's apartment was merely a foot above me. The bottom of their small balcony was within reach. When Bruce went for a bite, I curled my hands around the thin metal bars of the railing, gripping it so hard it hurt. Bracing myself, I sent both of my feet swinging into his face. He was propelled backwards towards his bleeding accomplice. Unsteady on his feet, he staggered sideways.
I took the opportunity to let go, falling about four feet and hitting the ground into an ungraceful heap. Dew from the grass soaked through the knees of my jeans. I sent one hand out, patting around for my gun, and used the other to dig in my pocket for the extra ammo. Both of my hands met their target at the same time. Fumbling with the ammo, I looked up to see Bruce making his way towards me, deliberately slow. His shirt was staining a dark red, blood from where I had shot him in the chest. Mr. Clean was sitting now, pale eyes alert and focused, one hand on his neck wound. I was betting both of them would be good as new in, oh, say, half an hour? But if bullets could kill vampires, then that opened up the possibility for werewolves. Not many creatures, mortal or immortal, can survive a shot in the head or in the heart. I planned on testing that theory.
A screech came from around the corner, where the others were fighting. Bruce turned his head in that direction. I took advantage of his distraction to point the gun at him. He didn't notice, so I fired that last bullet right into his heart.
Time seemed to slow down as he turned to me, put a hand over his heart, opened his mouth to let out a soundless scream, and crumpled onto the grass. He lay there, gurgling, blood dribbling down his chest. I popped the empty slip out of the Firestar, tossed it aside, and clicked the new one into place. I aimed it at Mr. Clean.
Mr. Clean was stunned, eyes going from his dying friend to me. Shock quickly turned into rage. He staggered to his feet, so I stood as well. I gripped the gun two-handed, legs spread slightly apart, the steadiest stance, and pointed right where his heart was. He stopped moving towards me, because frankly, he knew I would shoot him.
"Who sent you here?" I asked. I thought I knew, but I just wanted to make sure.
He was taken aback at the question. His voice was gasping as he answered, "You mean you don't know?"
"Answer the question," I said.
He spluttered a laugh. Blood dribbled down his chin. "Or what?'
"Or you'll end up like your friend Bruce."
His eyes darkened as he glanced at the body next to him. "I'm gonna kill you before you even—"
"I mean it," I interrupted. "Tell me who ordered this."
He didn't respond, just blinked at me.
"Blaise?" I questioned, "Was it Lilynn Blaise?"
Something flickered in his eyes and the right side of his mouth twitched. That was answer enough.
The werewolf took another look at the now still Bruce, then spitting out blood, said, "You're tough, babe."
I frowned. "Sorry?"
"But that ain't enough with this chick. She's got money, brains, and is crazier than my aunt Marie." He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "You're lucky you made it this far. I really thought that first hit was going to take you down."
"What do you mean?" I asked warily. Did he mean when I was stabbed? My arms were starting to get tired of pointing the gun, but I managed to keep it steadily aimed at his heart.
"Well, apparently," he drawled, "the first time she went after you—"
"Wait," I cut him off. "This is the first time she's gone after me."
He laughed and coughed at the same time. "Sure," he choked out. "If you say so."
I jerked the Firestar, and said, "What do you know?"
He wiped the cold sweat off his brow with an arm, then smiled, showing off razor-sharp teeth. "I know I'm tired of talking."
Before I could even think, he pounced, more of an animal movement than a human one. I dropped to a crouch quickly, aiming the gun high, trying to anticipate where he would hit me. When a mere flash of his chest came into my field of vision, I pulled the trigger twice. Mr. Clean fell backwards onto the ground, two new holes in his shirt. Scrambling to my feet, I didn't even bother to check if he was dead or not. I hugged the wall, moving fast and silently to peek around the corner at where Liam and Callum were fighting the other werewolves.
Though it was dark, I could make out both Liam and Callum, and at least six other figures. Scanning lower, I saw four more rolling around on the ground, clutching various different body parts. That was double the amount of werewolves Callum had estimated. Looking out at the road, I noticed an additional car parked; they had sent backup.
There were a couple of containers marked "GASOLINE" lying to the left side of the small walkway, forgotten on the grass. Some silver chains were strewn by their side, glittering in the streetlamp's light. A partially-changed man was crawling towards them, one hairy hand reaching for the end of a chain. Callum pushed the two men who were coming at him into the steps leading up to the front door, then grabbed the werewolf before he could reach the chains.
Liam was being backed into a tree by three of them. The tree lay straight ahead, near the edge of the road. The backs of the werewolves were facing me, advancing on Liam. He smoothed his hair back in a nervous gesture. Leaning my left shoulder against the wall for stability, I took aim. It only took four bullets to take them down. They were still alive, but had dropped like flies to the ground.
Looking up in slow shock, Liam's eyes widened when he saw me. Then they narrowed, giving me a harsh look for moving my position.
I made a face and mouthed, "You're welcome."
Before he could make any sort of response, he was tackled by a burly man with claws for hands and fangs for teeth. They rolled away out of my sight.
With only my head peering around the side of the building, I watched Callum fight off a set of aggressive werewolves. I would have shot them, too, but they were moving much too fast to fire an accurate shot. Accidentally shooting Callum was not an option.
The front door opened and out stepped another one. I cursed under my breath. We didn't need another werewolf.
The man's head turned, looking directly at me with large, glowing eyes. I froze, stomach clenched tight with fear. And, surprisingly, awe.
Even from ten feet away, he was impressive. With skin the colour of caramel, strong facial features, and lack of a shirt, he was an undeniably striking man. The wind played with his thick, golden hair, brushing it along his naked shoulders. It was hard not to stare.
A mask of blankness covered his face. He just blinked at me. I pulled back around the corner, shoving my back against the wall with my gun up, and stared out into the darkness, breathing heavily. What was I going to do? He had seen me. I was the target of all this mess, so, naturally, he would come and attempt to kill me. Crap.
"Why are you still here?" a rumbling voice asked from my left.
Gasping, I jumped away from the side of the building, backing away from the massive shape of the man. The Firestar was shaking in my hands. Something about him made it hard to concentrate. He radiated sheer power, but not like a vampire. I couldn't feel it crawl along my skin, but I knew it was there, very close to the surface.
"What?" I replied, still walking backwards.
Face still expressionless, he repeated, "Why are you still here?" There was a lilt to his voice that told me that English wasn't his first language.
I stopped where I was. "Because werewolves are trying to kill me?" I said. Sarcasm in the midst of danger. I was sort of proud.
He stared down at my face. His irises were flecked with amber, nothing I'd ever seen before on a human. They suddenly flicked behind my shoulder, and I turned as well, only to see the two still forms of Bruce and Mr. Clean. Turning back, I tried to gauge his expression.
"Go," he said.
I tried to move but couldn't.
"Take your car and go," he ordered.
"You don't want to kill me?" I asked, feeling stupid the moment I said it.
"I never wanted to kill you," he replied, eyes intense. "We needed the money. But no amount of money is worth the lives of my wolves."
I nodded once.
"You're also not what I expected," he added.
"Oh," was all I could manage.
"You're just a naïve girl, not at all like she painted you. You don't deserve to die." His nostrils flared. "Go. I will tell her you managed to escape us with the help of your vampires."
I made a few incomprehensible sounds, protesting against the usage of the words 'naïve' and 'girl'. I finally shoved my hand in my pocket and withdrew the car keys. He moved out of the way for me, giving me a straight shot for the road.
"Thank you," I said.
As I brushed past him, he wrapped one huge hand around my arm, looked me right in the eye, and said, "My name is Lucian."
"Thank you," I repeated softly, pausing, then added, "Lucian."
Tilting his head in acknowledgement, he let my arm go. I gave him one last look before turning and jogging in the direction of the Mercedes. A few fallen werewolves snatched at my ankles, but I dodged them, heading straight for the car. Clicking the 'unlock' button on the small remote control, it chirruped, lights flashing twice. I ran around the back of it, yanking open the driver's side door as soon as I reached it. I threw the gun on the floor, by the pedals, so it would still be within reach. Sliding the key into the ignition, I twisted it, starting the engine. The sound was loud in the night.
I searched frantically for the button to roll down the windows. Once I found it, I buzzed the passenger side window all the way down, and leaned over, putting my elbow on the other seat. While pinning a man to the ground, Callum looked up and met my eyes. His were blackened completely, all that beautiful green washed away by his instinct to fight. In a second, he was standing in front of the window, moving to open the door. A small sound of amazement escaped my mouth.
Once he had slid onto the seat and closed the door, I leaned over him to yell, "Liam!"
Liam waved a hand, as if to say 'just wait', while he grabbed a werewolf by the throat and threw him into two other werewolves. He then stalked towards them, lifting them up, one by one, and tossed them onto the concrete steps. The other standing werewolves moved towards the car, growling and spitting at us.
"What the hell is he doing?" I muttered.
A growl came from deep within Callum's chest. I think it was directed at the approaching wolves.
"Liam!" I shouted again.
He ignored me this time. I huffed, opened my door, stepped out, and put my hands on the top of the car. "Get in the car!"
The werewolves were halfway across the street now. One of them held silver chains in his clawed hands and another held a container of gasoline. I saw Lucian with his arms crossed, leaning against the tree, the one where Liam had been cornered, just watching us. He sensed me looking at him, and blinked up at me.
"Call off your wolves," I said to him, gesturing to the ones that were drawing nearer to the Mercedes.
"Call off your vampire," he said, so calm it was unnerving.
I glanced at Liam. "I'm trying."
After a moment of staring impassively at me, Lucian told his wolves in that deep, accented voice, "Leave them be."
They paused in the middle of the street, taken aback. They turned to Lucian, confusion etched into their half-animal faces. Lucian ran his thumb along his bottom lip, still looking at me. Then he jerked his head towards Liam, who was so absorbed in fighting that he hadn't even noticed what had happened. "Your turn," he said.
I swallowed hard, ducked down into the car to grab the Firestar, walked back around the car, and crossed the street. I heard Callum get out of the car, ready to fight again if he had to. The werewolves followed my every movement with their strange eyes as I walked by, not understanding why Lucian was calling off the hit. But they obeyed him and left me alone.
I went by Lucian as well. His amber eyes flicked to the gun in my hand, and gave me the first sign of emotion I'd seen on him; a smile. "Perhaps 'naïve' wasn't the right word," he said.
"Perhaps not," I answered.
Standing behind Liam, I said, "Get in the damn car, Liam. They're letting us go."
Liam whirled and snarled in my face. Eyes completely washed in black, with his teeth bared, he didn't look as if he knew who I was. He was holding a bleeding werewolf by the neck, who was snatching at him with claws the size of small blades, face torn between human and wolf.
I cautiously took a step back. "Liam." I stretched out the word in warning.
He snapped his teeth at me and dropped the werewolf onto the cement. It rolled onto its feet, and headed for Lucian. Glancing in his direction, I met Lucian's amber eyes. He was watching my every move.
Liam advanced towards me, his brain still hooked on violence and blood.
"Liam." Callum's voice called coolly from beside the car.
Jerking his eyes in the direction of his master, Liam froze. He shook his head, and blinked down at me.
I nodded at the Mercedes, and said, "Let's go."
Throwing one last look at the werewolves scattered around the area, Liam took a step towards the car. I followed behind him, looking up at Lucian when I passed him.
Expression set in stone, Lucian bowed his head. "Tell Mr. Knightley that I apologize for this disruption. Had I known he was involved, we would not have done such a thing."
"Sure," I replied, and made a move to continue walking.
"Be on your guard," he rumbled suddenly. "This Lilynn woman has much planned for you."
I hesitated with on my next step, then turned and met his gaze. "What do you know?"
Pushing off the tree trunk, Lucian folded his big, overbearing arms in front of me. "Nothing. Just watch your back."
His vagueness was unhelpful, but I appreciated the warning. "I will."
"And watch out for a large white van," he said.
Startled, I asked, "What?"
Lucian merely smiled and walked towards my apartment building to collect his fallen wolves. I watched his bare back as he strolled away from me, then jogged to the running car where both Callum and Liam were waiting for me. While I headed for the driver's seat, the two of them slithered into the car, Callum up front and Liam in the back.
When I shut my door and the car fell to darkness, with only the lights of the dashboard to see by, I let my head fall back on the headrest.
"I hate werewolves," Liam growled, shifting around in his seat restlessly.
"I can tell," I said.
He grunted. He then leaned forward between the front seats and inhaled. "God, sunshine, you smell so good."
I swatted at his head.
"I damn near bit you just then, when I was fighting that werewolf," he said.
What was I supposed to say to that? I might trust a few vampires with my life, but I couldn't let myself forget that they were not human. And that they would never be human.
Callum turned around in his seat to fiercely look Liam in the eyes. Something passed between the two of them that I didn't understand. Liam bowed his head, and muttered, "Master."
I pushed the loose hair back from my ponytail and sighed. "Lucian says he apologizes for this little incident," I said. "Who is he, anyways? And who the hell doesn't wear a shirt out to an assassination?"
Callum gave me a small smile as he settled back down in his seat and looked at me. "Lucian is the leader of the California werewolf pack. I suppose you could say he is the equivalent of a master vampire."
"He doesn't wear a shirt because he doesn't want to," Liam added.
"Well, he told me to watch out for a big white van," I said.
"A big white van?" Liam repeated. "How ominous."
"And one of the werewolves hinted that Lilynn put out a hit that night I got stabbed on the boardwalk," I said.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Callum's long slender fingers clench into a fist.
"Which I don't understand," I continued. "I didn't even know Lilynn before she walked into my office a few days ago."
The car fell into a thoughtful silence. I leaned forward and peered out of the windshield at my shadowed apartment building. The werewolves were gone. I was amazed that no one in my apartment building had woken up with all the commotion. I voiced this thought out loud.
"They put gas in the heating system," Liam explained, as if it were the simplest thing in the world.
"Oh," I said.
I glanced at Callum. He was deep in thought, staring at the glove compartment with blank eyes.
There was a tap on my window. I gasped, my heart leaping into my throat. My hand found the gun that was lying in my lap. Callum and Liam tensed. Squinting through the window, I managed to discern the face of Lucian. Exhaling noisily, I buzzed the window down.
"Might want to get a move on," Lucian said, eyes shining with that bright amber colour.
I raised an eyebrow.
"That white van I mentioned…it is on its way," he explained. He stooped down, and looked at Callum. He nodded his head in greeting. "Mr. Knightley."
"Lucian," Callum acknowledged.
I clicked in my seatbelt and yanked the car into drive, and said, "Thanks, Lucian," before stepping on the gas.
I had never driven so fast. Other cars blurred as I passed them. My heart was pounding frantically with fear. I didn't know who or what was in this white van, but I had a feeling that I didn't want to find out.
Liam was backseat-driving like a maniac. He was only concerned for his new car, though, so I tuned him out. All his "watch the paint job!" comments and "go easy on the brakes" remarks were quite unheard by me.
Callum directed me to his house, which was only about twenty minutes away from my own. We were about a minute away from reaching it, when a white van darted from a side street on the right. I slammed on the brakes to avoid crashing into it, my seatbelt cutting into my chest.
I turned my head to check on Callum and Liam. They had both remained in their seats without a problem. Callum looked at me sharply. "You all right?" he asked, and I nodded. He turned his head to look out the window.
We were on a small, empty street. It was just the white van and us. How convenient.
A woman stepped out of the van. It wasn't Lilynn. This lady was small, muscular, and scary as hell. She raised one finger and gave me the "come here" gesture. Breathing heavily, I stomped on the gas, swerving around the car and the woman, and whipped down the street. Callum's house lay at the end, surrounded by a stone wall, the only entrance a massive metal gate. I headed for it, gripping the steering wheel with white-knuckled hands.
The gate to the house came into view in a matter of moments. But there was a problem; another white van was parked next to the gate, waiting for us. I slowed the car, and muttered, "What now?"
By the security lights, I could see three people standing in front of the gate. Each held a wooden crucifix the size of their torsos. I leaned forward in my seat and saw that one of the cross-bearing people was Lilynn Blaise. I leaned back. I was really getting sick of this.
Lilynn glowered at me, red hair blowing in the breeze. She looked exactly the same as she had in my office. Fair complexion, shoulder-length hair, vibrant eyes, stick-thin figure. Her frail fingers gripped her crucifix harder as I scanned her, and then raised it high in the air. Liam snarled from the backseat.
I turned to Callum, and noticed that his eyes had blackened as he looked at the cross. I hadn't believed that such a powerful creature could be repelled by a piece of wood, but looking at Callum and his unnaturally black eyes, I believed it now.
One of the men standing next to Lilynn raised his crucifix as well, giving me a self-satisfied smile. On Lilynn's other side stood another man, cross shaking and face stark white.
"Callum," I said without looking at him. "How do you open the gates?"
Sounding a little distracted by the crucifixes, he said, "There's a code."
I put the car in park. "What's the code?"
Grabbing my gun, I opened the door of the car and stepped out, the gravel of the road crunching under my feet. Before Callum or Liam could say anything, I slammed the door shut.
Lilynn and the two men had startled looks on their faces. I stalked towards them, gun lowered and nonthreatening. They raised their crosses higher, using them like a shield, expecting them to repel me as they repelled vampires, eyes frantic with excitement and fear.
Stopping within two feet of them, I said, "Hi, guys. Would you mind moving out of the way?"
Lilynn defiantly said, "No."
I felt my face go from vaguely blank to extremely unpleasant. I exhaled. "Lilynn, I'd suggest you move."
"You killed Damien."
Well, she wasted no time getting into it.
"You tried to kill me," I said. "More than once."
Her thin, white lips pressed together. "You killed Damien!" she screamed suddenly, throwing the crucifix to the ground and clenching her fists. She advanced on me, face turning a nasty shade of red. "You killed him!"
I stood my ground. She took a swing at me, but I dodged it easily. As she brought her fist back for another strike, I stepped around her and punched '7245' into the small lighted keypad on the side of the gate. The gates creaked open slowly. I turned back around, just in time to avoid another one of Lilynn's punches. Her fist hit the hard metal gate and she let out a yelp of pain. The two men with her shifted around uselessly.
"You bitch! You fucking bitch!" Lilynn shouted, voice shaking and echoing in the stillness of the night. She clutched her bleeding hand to her chest.
Edging around the shaking man in the direction of the car, I looked at the three of them. "Leave," I said. "Because if you don't, I'm either going to shoot you or run you over."
Callum and Liam had gotten out of the car at some point, and were standing in front of it. I gestured for them to get in and climbed in the driver's seat. Once both Callum and Liam had shut their doors, I put the car in drive. Lilynn and her two cronies barely made it out of the way before we shot through the gate, abandoned crucifixes crunching under the wheels of the car. I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw the gates swinging closed after us and three figures standing frozen. They didn't dare come onto Callum's property.
Callum's mansion was set far back from the main gates. The car was in a state of silence as we bumped down the gravel road. I pulled into the large circular driveway, parking the car directly in front of the house. I turned off the car and pulled out the keys.
"Something is honestly wrong with that woman," I muttered.
The car stayed quiet, tension saturating the air. I turned to Callum, who blinked at me, and then to Liam, who smoothed his hair down.
"What?" I asked.
Callum's face hardened. "What you did back there was…reckless and stupid," he said harshly.
My mouth opened and closed, words failing to come out.
"Yes, sunshine, he's right," Liam said. He coughed. "I'm also upset at how you treated my car. The way you just ran right over those crucifixes…God, I nearly died again." I gave him a look. He shrugged and added suspiciously, "You're sure you have a driver's license? A legally obtained one?"
Narrowing my eyes at him, I replied, "The car? Really? That's your biggest concern right now?"
Callum opened his door and was opening my own before I could even register he had moved from the seat beside me. He held out a hand and said, "Come."
I got out, leaving both the keys and the gun. He still looked angry and cold, so I didn't take his hand. He frowned a bit, a faint crease between his eyebrows, and then began walking up the steps to his house. I followed, and Liam caught up with me. Leaning into my arm, he whispered, "When he's in a bad mood, it's usually best to give him his space."
When we reached the front door, it opened the moment Callum stepped in front of it. It swung open to reveal the majestic entrance hall. My eyes swept over the long purple drapes, the chandelier hanging from the vaulted ceiling, the grand staircase on the left, and the delicate marble floors. It still took my breath away.
Callum waited for Liam and me to join him in the center of the room. His eyes flicked to Liam and he gave a slight nod.
Liam bowed his head and went through a door on the right. Callum and I stood alone, avoiding each other's eyes. I stared down at the complex marble patterns underneath my feet, hands playing with the edge of my shirt.
"I will show you to your room," Callum grumbled, and started up the winding staircase.
I trailed behind him, even though I had never agreed to stay at his house for the night. Considering it seemed I couldn't go an hour without being assaulted in some way, and with Lilynn and her crew outside the gates, I didn't argue. Callum's house was the safest place I could be right now.
At the top of the steps, there was a long hallway that went both right and left. The carpet was a plush red, and the wallpaper tastefully matched it. Paintings hung from the walls, with small, dim lamps spreading yellow light over them. Callum turned right, and moved so quickly that I had to jog to keep up. I grimaced. He was purposely not making this easy.
He slowed in front of a door and opened it. He flicked on the light and motioned me to enter. I did, slowly, taking in my surroundings. The room was large and filled with beautiful shades of blue. There were heavy navy-coloured drapes hanging in front of the windows, to prevent any light from peeking through, no doubt. The bed was the biggest that I'd ever seen, covered with blue and white pillows, and a magnificent wooden headboard that looked decades old.
"I hope this is agreeable," Callum said quietly from the doorway.
I twisted around to look at him. His face was smooth and void of any emotion. I nodded, and replied, "It's wonderful."
He inclined his head. "I will leave you now. Goodnight, Dahlia."
"Wait," I said, taking a step towards him. I didn't want to leave things the way they were.
He froze where he was, brilliant eyes focused on my face.
"What's…" I fought with what words to use. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing," he said, a little too bluntly.
"Callum," I said softly. "Don't be—"
"Don't be what?" he growled, walking up to me, so close I could see the scar above his eyebrow clearly. "Don't be what, Dahlia? Don't be angry? Don't be worried?" He gripped my arms.
"What you did out there was stupid," he said in a deathly cold voice, staring a hole in me with flashing green eyes. "You could have been killed. What were you thinking?" His jaw clenched and his eyes squeezed shut. "Were you even thinking?"
He had never been mad at me like this before. It cut deep. That tight feeling in my chest warned me I might cry, so I shoved it down and glared up at him.
"I can take care of myself," I snapped.
"No, you can't," he said.
I pulled myself out of his grip, now angry myself. He let me go, but continued to tower over me. "I've been taking care of myself way before you came along," I retorted.
His jaw clenched again. "You—"
"Don't get me wrong," I said. "I owe you my life for saving me all those times, but I'm not a weak little human girl, Callum."
He leaned forward and replied, "But you are a human. You can't take care of yourself."
My pride was hurt, which fueled my anger and frustration. "Oh, so you think, you think—" I spluttered, "that humans are pathetic, inferior creatures and vampires are better?"
"Yes," he said without any hesitation.
I made an exasperated sound. "Well, then." I stared at him, and then concentrated on my breathing and dropped my eyes. "Sorry to have wasted so much of your time with my inferior existence. Goodnight," I told him heatedly.
"Goodnight," he replied tartly, and spun on his heel and strode out of the room.
I closed the door behind him, exhaling heavily. I rested my back against the door for a moment, then went into the center of the room and just stood there. I wrapped my arms around myself, closing my eyes and taking a deep breath.
Perhaps Liam had been right. Maybe giving Callum a little space while he was in a bad mood was a good idea. A genius idea. He was not a pleasant one to argue with. I understood that he was angry that I faced Lilynn alone so recklessly, but he didn't have to demean the entire human race. Another wave of anger rose up in me.
There was a knock at the door. My eyes flew open and my heart beat a bit faster. I walked to it and opened it warily.
Callum stood there, looking slightly dangerous. His hair was unruly, like he had run his hands through it in frustration, waves framing his face. His lips were pressed in a tight line, and his eyes were a darkened green.
My heart jumped at the sight of him. "What do you want—" I began.
"Shut up," was all he said before he grabbed my face and kissed me.
His lips were cold, sending a shiver from my head to my toes. I closed the space between our bodies and kissed him back. My thoughts jumbled into something incomprehensible and my skin suddenly felt feverish.
He pushed me inside the room and pressed me against the wall by the door. My breath caught and I made a sound. I reached up and wound my arms around his neck. One of his hands held my face, and the other snuck around my waist, clutching me against him.
Callum broke from the kiss and murmured, "I'm sorry," against my cheek.
Breathing heavily, I smiled. "I'm sorry, too."
He grinned, with a slight flash of fangs and that one dimple. Oh, God. I gripped his silk shirt and stood on my tiptoes to lay my lips on his once more. He trailed his hands down to my waist, fingers softly brushing my bare skin where my tee-shirt had ridden up. Making a sound, I deepened the kiss, almost forgetting to breathe. He responded immediately, sliding his hands up my back. The coolness of his hands sent a shiver down my spine, and I involuntarily arched my back, pressing into him harder. I felt him smile against my lips.
From beside us, there was a sudden cough and a drawling, "Oh, sorry."
I gasped. Callum looked down into my eyes with a small, knowing smile before letting me go. We both turned to face our interrupter. It was Liam. What a shock.
Liam was leaning against the doorjamb, arms crossed, a toothy smile spread wide across his face. His dark eyes were focused on me.
"Timing, Liam," I said, eyes narrowed. "You really need to work on your timing."
"Considering how Lester is coughing up his own blood, I didn't think timing was too important," he said, still smiling.
"What?" Callum said sharply.
Liam looked at Callum, now serious. "We think his blood source was poisoned."
"Is he going to be okay?" I asked.
"Bring me to him," Callum said.
Liam nodded, and started off down the hallway. Callum and I stepped out of the room, and I flicked off the light and closed the door behind us. The hallway was dark, and it took my eyes a couple of seconds to adjust. Callum's hand found mine and we started off after Liam, heading for the stairs.
We wound down the stairs, walked through the entrance hall, and down a corridor I had been through once before. My shoes echoed on the hard stone floor, making me feel self-conscious since I was the only one making noise. Liam opened a door on the left, and we went into the room. It was sparse, with a bed and one weak light hanging from the ceiling. I could make out the form of Lester lying on the bed, with three others surrounding him. There was a loud groaning sound. Liam went to the bed.
Callum turned around, eyes glowing green in the darkness. He put his hands on my shoulders, and said, "You don't want to see this, Dahlia." He gently maneuvered me out of the room, and shut the door behind him.
I let out a long sigh. I tried to calm my nerves, to think clearly. I had very little doubt about who poisoned Lester's "blood source". Lilynn Blaise. I had been warned that she was tricky, clever, rich, and capable of a lot of things. And blind with the loss of Damian. I wondered if her target had been Lester, or if she planned for Callum to get infected.
All of a sudden, I felt like a sitting duck. Lilynn just kept coming after me. I was always on the defense, making it out alive because of vampire allies and sheer luck.
Well, damn if I wasn't going to do something about that.
A/N: It took a little over a month to update…I'm sad to say that's progress! I hope you guys enjoyed it – the next chapter has action, too, but of a different sort :)
Thanks for those of you who responded to the Liam question – I appreciate your input! And of course, thank you SO MUCH for reviewing. I can't stress enough how motivating you guys are.
I'm actually working on a new story, one of those ones that just sneaks up on you and you get all caught up in it. I might be uploading it soon...haven't decided yet! But don't worry, The Deadly Flower is definitely not on the back-burner.
Also, I'm excited to announce that A Drop of Romeo (an amazing site that reviews FP stories, among other things) has asked me to be the Project Fondle featured author for this month! There will be a live chat session on Saturday, June 23rd 2012 at 7pm EST. Please drop by if you want to ask any questions or just talk!
Just go to: adropofromeo. blogspot . com and click on Project Fondle. I hope to see you guys there!
Please let me know what you thought of the chapter!