Chapter 2

"Very impressive, Matriarch." The cold masculine voice slid over my skin like wet velvet. I had to make a conscious effort not to cringe away from it. "You have great skill for one so young."

How the hell had I missed him? It wasn't like it was my first night on the job. I know I was distracted, but I hadn't even smelled him until he had that sword at my back. I suddenly felt like a rookie again. And if I hadn't been in mortal danger, I'd probably be embarrassed about it. Especially when I realized that he'd seen me take out those other two vampires. He'd been following me. And I had no idea for how long.

And that was when I took a moment to feel him out a little. It's difficult to explain how I do it, but Hunters have an innate gift to read auras. It's usually how we tell the difference between vampires and humans, if we don't smell them first. We can see souls, or more specifically the colors that surround them. In the case of a vampire, the aura is entirely black and empty. The blacker and larger the aura, the older the vampire. I didn't have to see this vampire's aura to know that he was pretty darn old.

I took a deep breath, and focused on slowing down my heart before it beat its way out of my chest. "Who are you?" I kept my voice even and unhurried, surprising even myself at how nonchalant I sounded, considering that there was a very, very old vampire holding a very, very sharp sword to my very, very sore back.

"A messenger." He responded casually, as though we were talking about the weather, and he wasn't about to stab me in the back.

"Really? That's funny, because from the way you were talking, it sounds like you're more of a stalker." That one earned me a slight jab just above my waistline, hard enough to draw a thin trickle of blood. It was obvious he hadn't found my response to be as humorous as I had. Should've known. Vampires weren't exactly renowned for their sense of humor, at least not one that wasn't sadistic.

"I have a message for your people, a warning if you will." The tip of his sword slid slowly up my back, with enough pressure to make me aware of exactly how sharp it was, but not draw anymore blood.

"And what would that be?" It was amazing that I could actually speak past the huge lump that had suddenly formed in my throat. I was screwed

I didn't have to see him to know that he was smiling. I could hear it in his next few words. "I suppose I could tell you, but it would be much easier and so much more fun to show them."

Oh, that didn't sound good. And that sword making its way to the back of my neck didn't feel so good either. I had to do something, and fast, because I had a feeling that this guy's idea of fun and mine were on two opposite ends of the spectrum. Unless of course he enjoyed playing Scrabble.

Even if I could maneuver out of the way of his sword in time, I'd never be able to outrun him, not in three inch stilettos. And that meant that I had to take care of him, right here right now. The only weapons I'd been able to bring with me were the knives and they were safely tucked under my skirt and I wasn't so sure I could get them out in time to deflect a blow he might deliver with his sword. That meant that I had to get it away from him. Somehow.

The good news was he was keeping his distance from me, keeping the sword in between us at all times, so getting away wouldn't be a problem. The bad news was this vampire was old. Like dirt old. I couldn't even tell how old he was, but he was old. Probably the oldest vampire I'd ever come into contact with. And that was bad. Very bad. The older they were, the more powerful they were, and the more experience they'd had in battle. And that meant that I was going to have one hell of a fight on my hands. I was good, but I wasn't so sure I was that good.

Unfortunately I didn't have a lot of options, and if I was going die, I'd damn well die fighting, not standing around like some sheep being led to the slaughter.

So, it was with a fixed determination that I ducked my head and threw myself to the side, right into the street, pulling out one of the knives from my skirt as I rolled into a defensive kneeling position, facing my opponent.

Oh. My. Gods. I blanched. And it was I could do to suppress the strong urge to recoil with terror. As it was I'm sure my eyes were bulging out of their sockets. The vampire's skin was a motley grey, almost dark blue in places. He had no hair, and his skull looked like someone had depressed a bowl into it. The skin on his face was literally hanging off the sunken bones of his sallow face. And his eyes were entirely black, pitch black. I nearly tripped over myself when I took a couple of wary steps back as I came to my feet.

I'd seen scary vampires before. Even though most of them looked human, occasionally you'd come across one that didn't. I mean I'd seen ones that looked like Hollywood rejects, and things that looked like they'd been pulled right out of Bram Stoker's ass, but this…this took the cake.

As if I didn't have enough material for my nightmares to work with.

"What the hell are you?" I demanded, completely astounded that I was still capable of speech, seeing as how that lump in my throat suddenly felt like it'd hit a growth spurt. He was just standing there, watching me with an amused curiosity as I stared at him like an idiot, in shock.

"A harbinger of The Apocalypse." He replied matter-of-factly, as though he'd just told me he was an accountant.

I was still reeling from the effects his appearance had on me as I tried to consider his words. "Apocalypse?" I hadn't realized until it was too late that I'd thought out loud.

The smile that creased his features made him look even creepier if that was possible. "Yes, my dear Matriarch. I have come to…" He paused for dramatic effect as though he were looking for the right word, "demonstrate to you and your kin the power my Master possesses."

Well that wasn't good. Yeah, it was time to leave.

I started to back up, slowly, never once looking away from the vampire who was now eyeing me like I was his next meal. And that more than anything, even his appearance made me nervous.

Hunter blood was supposed to be extremely unappetizing to vampires. I guess it was some built-in defense mechanism us Hunters had developed via evolution in order to help combat the vampires. Vampires couldn't tell the difference between human and Hunter blood until after we started bleeding, but once they caught a whiff of our blood, it was the equivalent of walking through a bunch of sulfur pits. It was enough to ruin any appetite, even a vampire's.

Unfortunately for me, it seemed that this vampire not only differed in looks but in appetite as well. He'd drawn blood, and by all things unholy he shouldn't be looking at me that way. But he was. And I was getting more freaked out by the second. It took every ounce of self-control I had left not to turn tail and run as fast and hard as I could. That would've just set off his predatory instincts and he'd have pounced faster than a starving lioness.

There was now at least twenty feet between us, and I was getting farther every moment. Slowly but surely. Every cell in my body was preparing itself for his attack. But he just stood there, looking at me with that infuriating, not to mention nightmare-inducing, smile. As though he knew something that I didn't. Yeah, that definitely wasn't good.

I wasn't just worried anymore. I was woman enough to admit that I was afraid. Ok, so I was downright terrified and probably would have peed in my pants if I'd had anymore Coke at the party.

He'd been more than anticipatory only a moment ago of doing me some harm. To be perfectly honest I'd probably have felt better if he had attacked me. At least something about this situation would be normal.

And that was when I found out exactly why he'd been smiling.

Have you ever had those moments, like when you lose car keys and when you find them they're in a spot that you've already looked in like ten times? And then you feel like the biggest idiot in the world? Well that's exactly how I felt. I don't know how the hell I missed it. I'd been trained for this kind of work since before I could walk.

So, when I bumped into a solid, bulky mass and inhaled the sick scent of vampire, I let out a self-deprecating groan just as I twisted to the side in order to keep both the new vampire and the one on the sidewalk in my view.

This one was just as old, and had the same skin, head and eyes as his companion. A matching set, how quaint.

I backed away a lot faster this time around, though it would probably be considered by most to be a slow walk. The second one hadn't said anything, but he had that same look in his eyes as the first one, who was still on the sidewalk, smiling.

I only had a moment to consider that when a pair of arms, the same sheen of silver and blue as the other two, shot out and grabbed me around the neck and waist in a way that locked both of my arms to my side.

With a frustrated roar, I kicked my stiletto heel back into the shin of the vampire holding me. I waited until I felt his arms loosen before I whirled around and shoved my knife into his heart, twisted and yanked it back out.

Nothing happened.

Ok, so something did happen. I pissed him off, and he picked me up and threw me against the brick building across the street. I hate brick.

My lungs heaved as they struggled to suck in the oxygen from the air. My brain was working overdrive trying to absorb the enormity of what just happened.

I'd stabbed the vampire in the heart, and twisted it for good measure.

He didn't explode. He was still standing. He'd thrown me into a freaking brick wall!

What the hell was going on?
I staggered to my feet, my back to the wall, knife out in front of me defensively, as though that were going to protect me. Yeah, right.

And then to my absolute horror, I watched as four more blue/gray vampires formed out of the shadows of the night. There were seven of them now, and they were all converging on me, slowly but surely, in a half-circle.

I looked over at the one I'd stabbed, and felt my eyes widen further. His wound had already healed. Vampires were fast healers, even faster than Hunters, but that was just ridiculous, especially after a killing blow.

My eyes searched desperately for a way out, anything that would help me get the hell out of there. But I found nothing. Nothing, nada, zilch. I was so screwed.

My fingers clenched the knife in my hand, and my other reached inside my skirt to get the second knife. I honestly had no idea what I was going to do with them, but two knives were better than one. At least I thought they were.

They were walking towards me as slowly as I'd been walking away from the first vampire. Before they abruptly stopped only six feet away from me.

The first vampire, I guess I'd call him Harbinger since that's what he said he was, Harbinger approached me cautiously, his sword at the ready, and it looked like he really knew how to use it.

"Tell me what you're thinking Guinevere." I hated that voice. It was sickeningly soft and deceitfully sweet. And I really wanted to go French Revolution on his head.

Now there was an idea…

I looked around at all the revolting faces and bodies around me. "I'm thinking I should've brought an Uzi." My cynical sense of humor tended to take over whenever I was around vampires…or my brothers. I guess it was just because both brought out the worst in me.

That one actually earned me a laugh, and it automatically made me wish I hadn't said anything. His laugh was even worse than his voice. It was almost musical, in a certain-doom sort of way.

My body pressed back against the brick, seeking the comfort of having at least one safe side. Despite the fact that it was early spring, I could already feel a thin sheen of sweat beginning to form on the top of my brow. My palms were moist, and both my breathing and heart rate were wildly out of control.

I'd been raised and trained not to fear death, but to embrace it. Hunters were promised a utopian paradise after death if they fell in battle. And I wasn't afraid to die. Really. Sure it'd suck, but I'm sure I'd get over it, especially after I got to see my parents. But it was more of the 'how' that was worrying me at the moment.

Harbinger got a little closer, until we were barely four feet apart, and that was when I sprung. I brought down one knife while he deflected the blow, then swung the other right at his neck, effectively severing it from his body.

Only when I leapt back to my previous position, poised for an attack from one or, Morrigan help me, all of his comrades, his head didn't fall off his neck like it was supposed to. Oh no. Instead, I watched with growing panic as the wound my knife had inflicted simply healed itself. Like magic. Oh yeah, I was dead.

As if to prove I hadn't been anything more than a nuisance, Harbinger bent his neck from side to side. "That was not very polite." Even though his voice still retained that soft exterior, I could feel the anger and promise of retribution beneath it.

"Yeah?" I responded, my voice remarkably composed, even though I was breathing like I'd just run a 5k. "And what do you call ganging up on a teenage girl in the middle of the night? Chivalrous?"

The smile was back, but I saw the fury behind it. "Fun." He stated simply right before he jumped me.

I tried to fight back, but I felt the others shoving my body down to the ground, pinning my arms, my legs, my head, and any other part of me that could move. Damn, they were strong. Somehow, I managed to worm one of my legs free and caught one of my captors in the chin, before it was restrained again.

I was in a full state of panic now. Bile rose in my throat, just as I let out a glass-shattering shriek that could have outdone any vampire. But this only seemed to egg them on. Harbinger, leaned over me, brushed a few stray locks of hair away from my face almost tenderly, before opening his mouth and allowing his fangs to extend. My panic only escalated as one by one, I watched all the others' extend theirs as well.

For a fraction of a second, everything stopped, my struggles, my breathing, even my heart. And then I lost it.

My limbs began fighting back of their own accord. And I began flailing about wildly, doing everything I could possibly do to get away. The holds on my arms and legs tightened and I heard someone scream bloody murder. "NO!" I cried out desperately and realized that the person screaming bloody murder was me. "LET ME GO!"

I felt the first bite on my left shoulder. I wasn't sure who had bit me, and quite honestly I really didn't care. Especially when only seconds later, my entire body went taut, and I felt something akin to hot molten acid rush through my veins. I barely registered the pain when the others bit me. It already felt like I was burning alive from the inside out. Every nerve in my body was screaming, and clawing for relief. But I couldn't find it.

My eyes went dark. I couldn't see anything, I couldn't hear anything. I couldn't even tell if I was screaming anymore. I could only feel. I felt my blood begin to boil in my bloodstream, felt my heart pumping it to every part of my body and back again. I felt it searing and branding every organ and cell it came into contact with. And I felt the darkness descend over me like a shroud. I clawed towards it, desperate for something, anything to make the pain stop.

And a few moments later, it finally did. Everything stopped, the pain, my lungs, and my heart.

When the darkness finally claimed me, I didn't fight it. I didn't bother. I wasn't even sure I wanted to. I just let it take me.

A/n: Ok, chapter 3 is already written, however my beta is on vacation so it probably won't be up until next week. Please review and tell me what you think.