Warning: Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, and Violence. Seriously. No Kids.

Author's Note: Although many of the characters here were introduced in my first story, "Queen of the Darkiss," it is not necessary to read that story first, or at all. This story is meant to be able to stand completely on its own. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

It was kind of funny how evil and vindictive humans could be. Humans always painted witches and vampires to be monstrous, villainous creatures, but as Maribel stared across the room at the woman's hate-filled eyes, she decided it was humans who were truly vicious.

"You must bury the bones near her home, in a place where she is sure to cross their path."

The woman's eyes narrowed intently as she listened to the witch's instructions.

"Then you must moisten these seeds with your own saliva," the witch placed a small cloth bag in the woman's hands, "and on the first night of the waning moon, you must spread them before her door."

Maribel watched with fascination as the witch, Jacklyn, turned the woman's hand palm up, then pricked her finger with a long, thin needle. The woman gasped, watching with horror as a thick droplet of blood surfaced.

"I'll take care of the rest," Jacklyn said, wiping the blood onto a scrap of white linen and placing it in a crude wooden box.

The woman clutched the bag tightly to her chest, her face pale and intense. "Is she going to . . . will she die?" the woman asked.

"Now, you didn't say you wanted her dead," Jacklyn told her. "You only said you didn't want your husband visiting her anymore. If you want her dead it's going to cost you another three thousand –"

"But this is everything I have," the woman said desperately, gesturing toward the stack of bills she had placed on the table.

"Trust me," Jacklyn said as she stood and ushered the woman out. "As the moon wanes, so shall her appeal. By the time it is new, no man will ever want to touch her again."

Maribel glanced over at her best friend Dana, who had been watching the proceedings as attentively as Maribel had been. "What do you think is going to happen to the woman?" Maribel whispered.

"Which one?" Dana asked. "The one who's getting cursed, or the one who just gave my sister a drop of her blood?"

"Alright, you two," Jacklyn said, re-entering the room and extinguishing the candles. "That's the last for the night."

The girls rose to leave.

"And Maribel," Jacklyn called over her shoulder. "Don't worry about it, Sweetie."

But Maribel couldn't help but worry. She didn't care about the husband-stealing human, whose forthcoming suffering was inevitable. Nor did she care about the malicious woman who had just paid to ensure it. What she cared about was her friend.

"Dana," she asked when they were alone in the car. "Are you really going to do that? I mean . . . take over your sisters' business?"

"Why not?"

"It just doesn't seem . . . " Right was the word she was looking for, but who was she to judge, really? She came from a family of witches as well. It was just the luck of the draw that her family wasn't of Black Witches like Dana's, and that she wouldn't have such a shady legacy to fulfill.

"I know how bad some of it seems," Dana admitted. "Trust me, some of the things those humans want done to others is downright sadistic."

Maribel nodded, having heard some of the requests just that evening.

"But it's not my sisters who send the evil out; they only aid the humans in doing so. And when the evil comes back around threefold it lands on the humans who sent it; not on us."

Maribel nodded again, then dropped it. She wasn't sure she agreed with that shift of responsibility, but there was no point in making her friend defensive about something she had no control over. "So, where to?"

"I was thinking we could hit up that new club downtown. You know, the one that's supposed to have three floors and like, five bars?"

"I don't think they'll let us in there," Maribel said, referring to the fact that the two of them were only 17, and their IDs were fake as hell.

"Well it's worth a try."

"Let's just go to The Lantern."

"The Lantern?" Dana grimaced. "We always go to The Lantern."

"Yeah, and they always let us in," Maribel pointed out.

"Ugh," Dana pretended to gag, but she took the turnoff toward the I-6 anyway, and headed for the bar. "And there's never anyone there except vampires," she continued to pout. "And not even regular vampires. Just those weird, creepy ones from the Other Side."

Yeah. That was exactly why Maribel wanted to go.

# # #

The vampire crept silently through the night, moving swiftly, but keeping carefully hidden in the shadows. When he neared the mountain's ledge, he slithered on the ground like a snake, then peeked down into the quarry. He spotted what he'd been seeking instantly.

The filthy, decrepit shack sat at the base of the mountain, stooped over and cowering. The paint chipped and peeled from the rotten wood as though repulsed by it, and the scents of decay and stagnant water surrounded the place like a thick blanket. But despite the conditions, or maybe because of them, there were three of the creatures inside.

The vampire's piercing red gaze shot straight through the dingy windows, and even from his distant vantage point in the cliffs he could make out their silhouettes. The tall, thin, wiry forms of the Orchids were unmistakable.

A shiver of satisfaction rushed down his spine. One step closer. With every Orchid he killed, he was one step closer to reaching his goal, one step closer to achieving complete vengeance.

He moved to the side of the mountain and began to climb his way down. He really should wait in the shadows and pick them off individually, when they separated to hunt. But he couldn't wait. He never could, and that was his problem.

Whenever he found one, the anger and rage overtook him, until he was so overwhelmed with bloodlust that he attacked instantly and without thought. He didn't creep in as stealthily as he should. He didn't stake the place out to see what kinds of weapons they might have. And he hardly took them by surprise.

It was sloppy of him, really. But it didn't matter. All that mattered was killing them. All of them. He wouldn't stop until he had extinguished the entire race, and they knew it. Word about him had spread, until every member of the species had gone into hiding. But he didn't care. He kind of liked it, actually. He wanted them to be afraid; to try to run and hide. And when they saw his face, he wanted them to know that death had found them.

He walked right up to the front door of the sagging shack, lifted his hand, and knocked.

# # #

"I'm not even dressed for this place," Dana complained as they walked through the dirt field that served as the bar's parking lot. She was just making excuses, Maribel thought, giving her friend a once-over. When you had Dana's gorgeous blonde hair and stunning green eyes, nobody ever noticed what you were wearing.

"Fine," Maribel said, stopping in front of the large double-doors. "If you want to go someplace else that bad, then let's just go. But it's already half past twelve and any other place is going to close at one thirty and –"

"Whatever," Dana cut her off. "We're already here, so we might as well go in and have a drink." She grabbed the door handle. "But you're buying." Maribel nodded. "And next Friday we go where I want."

"Deal."

The bouncers didn't even blink as the girls walked right past them and headed for the bar, and by the time they had pulled out two bar-stools and sat down, the bartender was already placing their drinks in front of them.

"Thanks Jeffrey." Dana swallowed the Cosmo in two gulps, then pushed the martini glass back toward him. "But I think I'm going to want something a bit stronger tonight."

Maribel ignored her drink and turned to survey the room. At first glance it looked like any seedy dive bar you'd find on the side of a small-town road: wood-paneled walls, cracked leather booths, a couple of pool tables, neon Coors and Bud signs, old blues tunes playing on the jukebox . . . it was the kind of place you'd expect to meet guys in cowboy boots named Billy-Bob and Bubba. But this wasn't your average dive, and there were no Billy-Bobs here. Just vampires.

She quickly scanned over their faces, careful not to make full eye-contact. She didn't know most of them, and she didn't trust them not to try to entrance her.

"He's not here," a low voice said in her ear. She jumped, startled. When she turned and looked the dark-haired vampire in the face, he gave her a devilish grin. He was always sneaking up on her like that. It seemed to amuse him.

"Who's not here?" she asked.

"Whoever it is you're always looking for," he responded, taking the empty stool to her right.

"Whoever it is she's always looking for is not you," Dana told him, hinting at him in her not-so-subtle manner to get lost.

"Easy, Blondie," he drawled. "Maribel doesn't mind my company so much, do you, Doll?"

"No," Maribel said.

"Yes, she does. She's just too polite to tell you. But I'm not, so piss off." Dana and the vampire stared hard at each other. Maribel kept quiet, because the thing was, Dana was right. She didn't really like him hovering around her as he always did, letting his eyes wander leeringly over her body. She knew what he wanted, and it wasn't her scintillating conversation. He wanted to taste the blood of a witch. They all did.

But she didn't have the heart to be rude to him. Even though he was sickeningly beautiful and arrogant and there wasn't a genuine bone in his body, he did have feelings. Dana didn't seem to care though. She had no compunction about bluntly blowing off the attentions of any male, be it human, warlock, or vampire.

"I'm not playing with you Lucas," Dana told him. "She's not interested. So piss off!"

"Alright, okay." The bartender came over, obviously seeing the need to diffuse the situation before it got out of hand. Lucas' eyes were spitting fire at Dana, and she was glaring right back. "Let the girls drink their cocktails in peace, alright?"

Lucas stood and stepped away from the bar. "Alright," he said, "but I'll see you later, eh Blondie? Maybe in the parking lot."

"Yeah, my stake and I are looking forward to it," Dana shot back.

"Bye darling," he whispered in Maribel's ear, then let his hand brush over her leg as he walked off.

"How dare he threaten me," Dana said. "I'm going to be ruling this town in a few months, so he had better watch himself."

That was only partially true. When Dana graduated next spring, her sisters were planning on moving to the Other Side. So Dana would be taking over not only the family business, but also her sister Marie's place as High Priestess of Denver. Even once she was High Priestess though, there wouldn't be much she could do about a vampire like Lucas.

"We know, Dana. Everyone knows you're the boss." The bartender said playfully, winking at Maribel and pouring more Don Julio into Dana's glass. Maribel smiled back at him. With his sandy-red hair and boyish charm, Jeffrey was probably the sweetest, most harmless vampire from the Other Side that Maribel had ever met. And since she'd been coming here, she had met a lot. "Why do you think nobody ever bothers you when you're in here?" he asked.

"Everybody bothers me when I'm in here," Dana joked. "Hey, pour one for Maribel, will you?"

Maribel fidgeted with the lime wedge on her napkin, letting the drinks sit in front of her untouched. She wasn't much of a drinker. She really only came here for one reason.

"I know why you're always dragging me here," Dana said after a long moment of silence.

Maribel shifted uncomfortably.

"You're hoping to run into him, aren't you?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Maribel muttered.

Dana rolled her eyes. "Spare me," she said. "I know you better than you do, and all this waiting around for Cairo to come back isn't –"

"Shhhh!" Maribel whispered, mortified. She didn't need everyone in the bar knowing about her private yearnings. It was embarrassing enough that Dana had guessed them. "Could you at least try to keep your voice down and not humiliate me in front of the whole place?"

"I'm sorry," Dana said softly. They were silent for a moment, but Dana was rarely quick to let things drop. "I just wish you wouldn't . . ." she started up again, but let her voice trail off as Maribel shot her a warning glare.

Needing a minute to herself, Maribel walked over to the jukebox and slid a few coins into the slot. She flipped through the records, looking for something a little less depressing than the twangy guitar blues that seemed to dominate the selections. Didn't they have anything even a little more upbeat?

"I know what you're seeking." The strange, raspy voice came from the booth behind her.

"What's that?" she turned to the vampire, thinking maybe he knew where they were hiding the Patsy Cline.

"The vampire of whom you speak," he said. "Cairo, The Soulless One."