So Long Sentiment
"What the hell is wrong with me?
Why am I torturing myself?
Inhaling all these memories,
Like a breath of fire sent from hell.
Lead in my gut, not in my spine.
I feel distracted all the time.
Well, lucky me, I'm finally all alone.
I'll miss you!"
Author's Note: Welcome to the sequel of To Bleed for Him, the sequel of From Her Vein to the Floor! It was never supposed to go this far, I swear. If you've followed me this far, however, thank you so much! I hope you enjoy this story as much as the first two - and there will be a resolution to this love triangle, I promise - and as always, reviews are very welcome! Enjoy!
"Oh, shit!" Torryn cried as the sound of splitting drywall met her ears, the undead before her dancing neatly out of the way of her double-headed axe's crescent-shaped blade. She pulled violently at the handle, her wild eyes following the man's movements as he rocked to a stop a few feet away, but no matter how hard she tugged, no matter how loudly the drywall protested, she couldn't get the sharp edge free from the wall.
Axes, it seemed, could be safely stricken from the list of practical and effective replacements for her broken dagger. Along with maces, flails, shotguns, cans of hair spray and lighters…
And suddenly, he was lunging toward her once more, a blur of pasty white skin and dark fabric, and she had no choice but to leave the axe behind in her haste to sidestep the vampire's oncoming blow. Her brows rose high on her forehead when his fist stopped just short of the wall that had been at her back only seconds ago, and as she dipped beneath another punch, as she bobbed and weaved around the ones that followed, she said casually, "Your control isn't half bad for a guy who was just turned. Punches are sloppy, though." She skipped around to his back, letting loose a kick to his side that sent him staggering backward toward the wall, toward her waiting axe, toward the blade that poked out oh-so obligingly. She followed up with another kick, but it seemed he'd anticipated her intent, as a hand flew up to block the blow at lightning-fast speed, and another hand lashed out just as quickly to send her sprawling on the hardwood floor.
Her ribs throbbed as she fought to catch her breath, and a memory of Caleb flitted through her mind — kicking her in the stomach again and again, breaking rib after rib and flooding her mouth with blood that barely stopped her screams. She could feel fresh pheromones seeping into her in the present, a familiar haze settling like a blanket over her vision, but Caleb's smirking face sprang into her dulling mind anew. "The only thing you've ever been really good at taking is a pair of fangs and a good dicking," his memory mocked her, and she gritted her teeth until it hurt. Her resolve hardened; her senses sharpened. Mirroring her current opponent's impossible speed, she caught his foot as it fell toward her chest with the weight of a hammer. Her palms stung; the blow reverberated painfully through her arms; but without hesitation, she swung him into the wall with all of her strength and leaped to her feet the moment his form had fallen aside.
He pushed himself away from the wall and threw himself at her angrily, his attempted punches growing sloppier even as they grew faster. She dodged a handful of them, scowling at him as he glared at her, until she finally saw an opening and snatched at his outstretched hand. She spun him around gracelessly, and though he tried to draw himself back with a cry of surprise at the last second, his neck fell into the outfacing blade of her captured axe with all the force she'd intended.
His cry died in a wet gurgle, and she gritted her teeth as she grabbed the back of his head with one hand and forced it forward until the axe finally pierced his spine and tore through what little remained of his throat. Gore spattered across her face, and she cringed against it, but no sooner had the blood begun to rain down from the man's severed neck than it all turned to grimy gray ash, filling the air with a dusty cloud that left a tickle at the back of her throat.
Stepping back, she coughed lightly and surveyed her handiwork. Ash stuck in the spatters of blood along the wall and floor to create a matted mess that she was glad she didn't have to clean up, and any other evidence of the battle and its outcome was long gone. Even if one of the neighbors did get suspicious and call the cops, nothing would ever come of it.
At least, that's what Raphael always told her.
Not to mention the fact that no one would believe that a scrawny-looking teenage girl had busted in waving around a thirty-pound battle axe, anyway. Even if she had been building some muscle over the past few months.
She crossed the sea of dust and placed her foot firmly on the wall beneath her axe, taking the wooden handle in both hands, and this time, one rough jerk was all it took to free it from its plaster bindings. "Like you couldn't have done that before?" she muttered as she hefted the unwieldy weapon, attempting to dislodge the filth from the blade with a couple of sharp swings. "You know, when I actually needed you to save my ass?" Her ribs still ached dully, but as she recalled the battle with Caleb, a shudder raced through her, and she knew to count her blessings. At least she could still feel her legs, right?
She gave the room a final once-over — the living room of a basement-less one-story house in the middle of a questionable neighborhood. She knew without looking that there were no captives here, neither Progeny nor human, and with a sigh, she headed out the front door.
Was this really the best information Raphael had for her?
"It's been two weeks, Raphael," she said to the healer, perching herself on the edge of the couch and breathing in the waft of stale dog smell that rose from the cushion. "Nowhere you've sent me has produced any results beyond the fun of beating grown men to a pulp."
The healer grunted as he lowered himself onto the coffee table before her, but his expression remained empty beneath a layer of dark scruff. "I told you when we started this that I don't know which vampires have slaves in their possession. Hell, outside of the Big Five, I don't even know for sure which vampires are master vampires in this damn town. All I'm able to give you is my best guess." His hand rested on her jaw, just below a deep gash along her cheek, and she shivered as the warm tingle of healing soaked into her skin. "And at this point, honestly, my best guess is really just any vampire I've heard about lately."
The Big Five, she thought darkly, and her lip would've curled if the pleasant pulsations in her mending wound hadn't distracted her. The Lord, Levon, Yaphet, Diederick, and Emmeline. I'm, like, 100% sure that they're all holding humans and Progeny hostage, but I'm not allowed to act, because I'm so tiny and delicate and edible and blah, blah, blah.
"So you really are sending me after nobodies," she grumbled, rolling her eyes. The sharp sting of an electric shock pierced her cheek and vanished as he lifted his hand, and she winced.
"I could stop helping you entirely, you know," he said calmly, his gray-blue eyes filled with the barest hint of rebuke, peering at her from between the strands of shaggy hair that hung in his face. "Besides making a profit off of healing you, I'm not getting jack shit out of this." His hand rested on her stomach now, and she wondered how he always knew just where her pain was. Another shudder rippled through her as warmth tickled within the barely formed bruise over her ribs.
"I know," she said with a sigh, chastened. "I'm still thankful that you agreed to help me, even if I am down to beating up on the freshly undead because there's nothing else to do."
He grunted again. "Freshly undead? You mean there wasn't even a fraction of a chance that he could've been holding Progeny or humans?" She nodded, and he sighed. "I'll see what I can do about obtaining some more promising information for tomorrow night. This is becoming a bigger waste of time by the day." His hand fell away from her stomach, and she jumped in shock when his fingers rested upon her upper thigh.
"Whoa! What the hell are you doing?" she asked, jerking her leg aside, but his hand merely followed her, warmth oozing into her flesh before she could move again.
"You have another bruise," he said, his tone implying that she was an idiot.
She felt her cheeks warm in agreement with that implication. "Oh, uh, I didn't…I didn't…"
"Feel it?" He shrugged, and the heat faded from her leg as his hand dropped away once more. "If I'm going to accept money for this, I might as well deal with every injury I can find, right? Besides, I'm a little old for you, aren't I?" he teased, though his expression never changed. She wasn't sure it ever did. "Math has never been my strong suit, but even I know that 34 minus 18 is a bit on the high side, and I like to think I'm not some creepy old pervert who picks girls up fresh out of high school." He paused thoughtfully. "Then again, is sending recent high school graduates into what may or may not be vampire covens really much better?" She shrugged dumbly and watched as he rose to his full height, towering over her. "Well, regardless, go ahead and clean up and change. Antony should be missing you any time now, right?"
She laughed mirthlessly and stood, then bent over the duffel bag that rested on the floor beside the couch. "Yeah, right. It turns out that, if you stop giving him pussy, he stops paying attention to you." She pulled a thick stack of bills from within and tossed them onto the table without bothering to count, and Raphael guffawed behind her.
"Antony? In it for the pussy? No! Say it ain't so!"
She rolled her eyes but didn't respond, already on her way up the stairs. When she reached the bathroom, she found a pile of clean clothes waiting for her on the corner of the sink alongside a fresh washcloth and towel, same as always, and she couldn't help smiling to herself.
Even if Antony wasn't paying attention to her, at least Raphael was. It may have been for the sake of business, but at this point, she would take what she could get.
Backpack slung over her shoulder, hair brushed and face clean to show no sign of a fight, Torryn pushed the door open and crossed the threshold into Antony's home.
"Hey there, chickadee," Becca greeted her pleasantly, pausing in her trek halfway down the hall to smile at her. "Have a good day?"
Torryn returned the smile as she closed the door behind her. "Better than most. I'm itching for a fight, though."
"Say no more," Becca said with a wave of her hand, resuming her journey to the kitchen. For what, Torryn couldn't fathom. "Kick some ass for me, chickadee."
"Will do," Torryn responded, more grateful for that small show of affection than she was willing to let on, and she headed quickly up the stairs.
Just as she stepped off of the final stair and rounded the corner, the door to Antony's new bedroom — what had once been his parents' bedroom, grossly enough — creaked open, and a woman stepped out of the darkness beyond and into the dim light of the hall. She fit the profile of Antony's usual dinner date as of late — tall, slim, olive-skinned, and absolutely gorgeous. The woman sneered at Torryn as she passed, and Torryn felt her stomach drop at the sight of fresh bite marks and blossoming hickeys along her throat. She watched out of the corner of her eye as the woman bounced her way down the stairs, reminded of the first woman Antony had ever fed on besides herself during their brief relationship: Alexis.
"How was class?" came Antony's voice suddenly, and she tensed as she turned toward him, her hand resting on the knob of her own door — the door to the room that she used to share with him. He stood in the doorway to his bedroom, shirtless and still holding on to the edge of the door, and her chest tightened as she met his half-lidded eyes — the eyes of a man sated in every way.
"It was all right," she said calmly. "Nothing special." Another woman slid past Antony, taller and paler than the first, but Torryn refused to let herself find all of the puncture wounds and love bites that graced her neck as she walked by. "How was dinner?" she asked with forced cheer.
The vampire chuckled lowly, a smirk corking his lips. "Fantastic," he purred, running a hand along his jaw to smear the blood that still lingered in his stubble. His fingers drifted lower, trailing through the droplets of crimson that waited on his bare chest, smudging them into the red stains along his abs, lower and lower…
She swallowed, hard. "Well, I guess I'm off to the Arena for the night," she blurted none too tactfully, then shoved the door open, threw her bag inside, and all but bolted down the hall. His seductive chuckle followed her down the stairs, and she wished with every fiber of her being that she could force her heart to stop hammering in her chest as easily as she could force a three-hundred-pound man's throat onto an axe blade.