Chapter Ten

The Pizza Man

The next day started with Corbin checking in on Shade as soon as he awoke. He and his two other sisters, along with Ethan, had each volunteered to watch over her in shifts so her condition could be constantly monitored while everyone had a chance to get some rest. He was early in replacing Ethan, who sat in the unobtrusive glow of a small lamp near the head of the bed where Shade was sleeping, reading a thick book that had carried him through the late hours of the night during his vigil.

"You're early," Ethan stated unexpectedly with a whisper as he closed his book.

Corbin disregarded the obvious and went straight to his foremost concern. "How is she?" he whispered with a nod toward Shade.

Ethan exhaled a quiet, discouraged sigh as he tossed a glance at the sickly young woman in the bed next to him who slept under the beading sweat of a raging fever. "The same," he regretfully whispered, turning back with a frown to Corbin.

Corbin nodded with his own frown to acknowledge the assessment, then he strolled up next to the chair Ethan was sitting in. "Go get some rest, I'll take over now," he said quietly, giving Ethan a solemn expression of respect for his dutiful watch over Shade.

Ethan rose wearily from the chair with his book in hand and started past Corbin who took his place in the chair and immediately examined Shade's resting form with the concerned eyes of a loving brother.

"Hey...," Ethan whispered from the doorway.

Corbin twisted around in the chair to answer the call with an arched brow that signaled he was listening.

"I'll put on a fresh pot of coffee before I head up to bed," Ethan thoughtfully offered through a raised whisper meant to carry across the increased distance between himself and Corbin.

Corbin nodded graciously, and Ethan disappeared from the doorway.

Corbin settled comfortably into the chair which was warm from Ethan's presence, and the dark-haired Allender son once again cast his purple-eyed gaze on his ailing sister. She had not stirred during the shift change, but even in her rest the torment of her malaise was evident across her slightly contorted, feverish visage.

Not too long after Ethan had departed, Gale appeared in the doorway dressed warmly in a thick nightgown and cradling a steaming cup of coffee in both hands which she carried carefully over to Corbin with her naturally graceful movements. She extended the cup out to him with a smile that was far warmer than any steaming brew ever could be. After he took the cup from her with a grateful smile and drew it near his lips for a small sip, Gale looked over him toward Shade. The sight of her sister's suffering dampened her royal blue eyes with a heavy sadness, dimming the glow of her radiant demeanor which her loved ones knew so well.

"Don't worry, she's gonna be fine," Corbin assured in a soft voice once he noticed Gale's troubled expression.

Gale floated a hopeful gaze down to her brother with her lovely features brightening somewhat in the comfort of his optimism. His confident stare did not yield to any disbelief on his part, and after Gale wiped away a few strands of her glorious blond hair that had fallen with her gaze, she turned with another warm smile and left the room.

A few moments later, when Corbin took the last sip from his coffee and placed the cup on an end table near the bed, Lydia wandered into the room. She was already dressed for the day ahead, and Corbin rose to offer her his chair so she could be close to Shade who still endured a deep, uncertain rest. Lydia thanked him silently with a polite smile that swept quickly across her young face as she sat down and looked over toward the bed. Corbin quietly lifted another chair from a corner in the room and placed it opposite Lydia so they could face each other as they sat.

Lydia turned back to face him, then with her gift she linked her mind to his, starting a silent conversation with the bond that only she and her big brother shared.

Any change in her condition?

Not since I got here early this morning.

I'm so worried about her.

I know, we all are; but she's gonna be fine. She's tougher than any of us, she'll pull through.

I hope so.

What about you?

What do you mean?

How are you doing kiddo? We haven't really had a chance to talk since the attack.

Mmm, I'm fine I guess. Everything happened so fast.

Yeah, it was pretty scary, wasn't it?

Lydia simply shook her head agreeingly with wide eyes of remembrance.

I was so afraid. I didn't know if those vampires could hurt the other you or not.

I was afraid too, but thankfully Mother's gift to me was those creatures' worst nightmare.

Yeah, guess we should've known, huh?

Corbin hung his head low.

I just wish Shade hadn't got hurt. I should have seen that creature coming, but there were so many, and...

Don't do that Corbin. Don't put that blame on yourself. Shade was never gonna just stand idly by while you were being overwhelmed. There's no doubt in my mind that she won't hesitate to act again if a similar situation should arise. She was just protecting her family, like you, and she knew the risks.

She's so confident and bold. I wish I was more like her.

Then you wouldn't be you, and I kinda like you just the way you are. Besides, you're very confident and bold too, in your own way.

Corbin lifted his head with a grateful smile, unable to reply because of his modesty, then Lydia changed the subject.

Hey, since Gideon doesn't want us to leave the manor, how about we order pizza for lunch today.

As long as it comes from Angelo's, you've got my vote.

With that suggestion the two ended their private conversation, and together they sat silently for a while, watching over Shade with eagerness for any sign of improvement in her condition.

When lunchtime finally rolled around, Gale was tending to Shade with a glass of water during her appointed shift while Corbin and Lydia lounged together in the entertainment room, giving their minds a break from the dreadful reasons behind their house arrest with the help of video games. Ethan was still recouping his sleep upstairs in Gale's bedroom. The manor was at peace until the doorbell rang out, causing Lydia to abruptly turn her head from the beating Corbin was handing her on the video game.

"The pizzas are here," she announced as she jumped up from a plush armchair.

"About time, I'm starving," Corbin groaned as he stood to join Lydia.

Together they made their way through the manor to the front vestibule, where Corbin began to sift through his wallet for some cash while Lydia opened the door. She was greeted by a slender, stubble-faced man wearing an ill fitting uniform from Angelo's.

"Is this the Allender residence?" he asked.

"Yep," Lydia chirped, taking in the aroma of the warm stack of pizzas the man balanced with one arm. Corbin was still distracted with selecting a few bills from his wallet.

"Good," the man grinned, then suddenly he tossed the stack of pizzas to the side and reached behind his back for a pistol that was tucked away in his pants.

Lydia reflexively shuddered at the abrupt motions, recoiling with an alarming shriek when she saw the gun come into view as it was pointed in her direction. Corbin dropped his wallet to the floor and snatched his head around with an uncertain glare as he tried to immediately comprehend what was happening. Before he could set his eyes fully on the scene, the man barked out an order toward Lydia. "You're comin' with me little girl!"

The man went to reach through the open door in order to snatch Lydia away, but the instant appearance of a blue energy field sealing off the open doorway kept him from breaching the manor when his hand abruptly crashed into the pulsating energy field. He yanked his throbbing hand back with a few curses, trying to shake the pain away as he shared a bewildered gaze with Corbin and Lydia at the the vibrantly glowing, yet transparent energy field protecting the doorway.

"Must be Sebastian's spell," Lydia reasoned with an astonished mumble.

"Yeah, it really works," Corbin commented, equally as astonished as his little sister.

"Alright...you two...," the man grumbled shakily, waving the gun between them,"...both of you...are comin' with me now!"

Corbin rushed over to become a protective barrier between Lydia and the man's intentions. "I don't think so," he asserted in an untrifling tone through the glowing blue energy field.

The nervous man glanced quickly with confounded eyes at the blue spectacle keeping him at bay, then he shook his head in disbelief. "He ain't payin' me enough for this...", he uttered as he turned and ran away with the gun clutched tightly in his hand.

"He's getting away!" Lydia noted as she watched the man disappear from sight from behind Corbin.

Without ever taking his focused stare from the glowing doorway, Corbin said calmly with an absolute sureness,"No, he just thinks he is."

Corbin took off in a full sprint, ripping through his clothes into his beastly form as he passed through the energy field protecting the doorway and stopping just outside the manor in the clear view of broad daylight. He caught sight of the man's backside as he ran for his parked car in the driveway. With a guttural snarl and angry purple eyes under his raised pointy ears, Corbin clenched his clawed fists as he marched in a hurried pace toward his prey.

The man jerked open the driver's side door on his battered sedan and quickly tossed the pistol inside before bolting in and slamming the door shut. Frantically he began digging in his pockets for the car keys, but a sudden jolt to the rear of the car made him lurch forward in his seat. Snapping his head back to find the cause of the impact, his mouth gaped in astonishment at the huge black form he stared at through the rear window that had taken hold of the car with massive claws. Breathless terror quickly overcame the man when the fanged, snarling visage of Corbin's wolf-like head lowered into view and peered in angrily to find his prey.

Corbin dug his claws into the car's sheet metal body, lifting it from behind with no hint of a strain whatsoever. Arching his back to point the nose of the car toward the sky, Corbin began to twist and rock the sedan in an attempt to shake his prey from his hiding place. More and more Corbin shook and rocked the car until finally, the driver's door opened and the dizzy man fell clumsily to the ground where he rolled away, stopping at the feet of Lydia who stared down at him coldly over folded arms.

The wrenching of twisting steel and the cry of shattered glass sounded forth nearby as Corbin tossed the car safely to the side, making the man shudder when he felt the impact of the car's landing through the ground under his back; but he never broke his cowering stare at Lydia. He gasped in terror, finally looking past Lydia when Corbin's hulking form stomped up behind her, towering over her like a monstrous shadow that loomed with glaring purple eyes. Corbin's unbelievably broad shoulders rose as he drew in a deep breath which he released through an intimidating, unearthly growl that revealed the tips of his fangs. The man raised his trembling hands up in a gesture of surrender, then he felt a presence creep into his mind. Looking back at Lydia, whose piercing expression hadn't changed, he somehow knew it was her inside his head, then he heard her accusing voice in his thoughts.

That wasn't very nice.

The man was confused at first, hearing her voice but not seeing her mouth form the words, but when Corbin reached around Lydia toward him with an unsettling clawed hand, he began to whimper and quiver uncontrollably like a frightened child, forgetting all about the young girl who'd invaded his mind as the menacing claw closed in around him.