Prologue

June 2014

Savin and Alex threw their backpacks into the trunk of their car.

"I still don't see why I can't go with you," I pouted.

"Because, Ash, this is dangerous," Savin said, using his calming tone. "We can't risk your life." The 'not after all we did to save it' was implied.

"I know, but I need to get out of here! Savin, please? I've been going nuts these past few weeks," I pleaded.

To my surprise Alex actually took my side, "I think we should take her with us. She could be of use, after all."

"But, Alex, the risk-"

"Is no greater than when she fought Ron or when she was being hunted by Marvin," Alex interrupted. "Plus, she could use the practice."

"But it's not safe," Savin stressed.

"Her life isn't safe, Savin!" Alex retorted. "Haven't we spent all this time teaching her to protect herself? Isn't it protocol for new recruits to go out on raids with their mentors as part of their training?"

"Yes, but-"

"Savin. Stop. She's coming with us and if the two of us can't protect her then we really are getting old," she said with a chuckle.

"Fine," Savin said and crossed his arms. "But just so you know I'm against this."

"We know, " Alex said, with a smile. "Get in, Ash," she said as she slid into the passengers seat, with a heavy sigh Savin walked around to the driver's side.

"Go ahead," he said.

I smiled and slid into the back. The coil of unease and restlessness side me eased a tiny bit.

"Alright, Ash, here's the situation," Savin said and began to fill me in on the problems that drew their attention.

In San Francisco there have been a rash of unexplainable deaths and disappearances for the past month or so. The press hadn't released much information other than it looked they were all drug overdoses.

"Then how do you know they are vampire killing?" I asked.

"There are three things that clue us in. The three major indicators of a vampire killing is, of course, blood loss, high levels of ecstasy, and the corpse will have next to no damage," Savin explained.

"But you said they didn't release that there was any blood loss?"

"No, they didn't."

"Then how do you know there was?"

"I have a friend in the police department. He keeps me informed on any suspicious deaths."

"Ecstasy?" I asked, the next thing that came to mind.

"Yeah, our saliva is mostly liquid ecstasy. The stuff the humans sell is a very crude version of what we produce naturally. Actually it was created by a man who lost his vampire mate, he worked night and day until he created an artificial version of the high he used to get regularly," Alex explained.

They went on to explain how for the past weeks they have reported at least seventy-five deaths, all with (unreported) blood loss and (reported) high levels of ecstasy. "So what does that mean?" I asked.

"It means that there is at least five vampires who aren't bothering to cover their tracks," Savin answered.

"Five?"

"Yeah, an average vampire would need to drain one human per two days to stave off V1 withdraw. Since there has been seventy-five killings in thirty days that's about one death per vampire every other day."

"How come humans aren't cluing in? That many deaths..." I said, trailing off as excitement ran through my veins. I took a deep breath and thought 'Now is not the time to be getting excited! For God's sake almost eighty people are DEAD.' A small voice followed up with, 'Hey, vampires have to eat, too. Why should they be forced to eat nasty, cold, congealed blood from a bag?'

I shook off the thought as Alex answered my question. "Humans are eternally blind to things they don't want to see. Plus the connections between the deaths a thin at best. Most will look like a drug overdose."

"But what about the blood loss?"

"That will perplex them, but most cops won't look past the drug overdose. Besides I'm sure Baxton has already sent out witch to remove their suspicions," Savin replied.

"So why are we going up there?" I asked.

"Because when I left Baxton's guard with Alex, I swore that I would protect humans from vampires. Alex made me see that just because they are food doesn't mean we have the right to treat them like trash," Savin responded.

"Alex made you see that? So when did Alex get all bitter and bitchy?"

Alex threw a glare back at me, but Savin said "That happened after my ex-wife abducted and tortured her about three decades ago."

"Oh." I cast around for something, anything else to say and when finding nothing just stared out the window, letting the awkwardness wash over me.

About about half an hour later we were in San Francisco and the sun was setting. "So what's the plan?" I asked.

"We're going to track them to their den, then Alex and I are going to kill them while you keep watch," Savin explained.

"Wait, so I don't get to do any killing?" I asked, panic starting to rise inside me. I had to kill. I couldn't explain it, but I felt like I was going insane, my heart constantly beat too fast and skin was always to hot and my muscles shook as if from nerves. I didn't know how killing would help, but I knew somehow it would.

"No. I told you it's too dangerous," Savin said.

"I agree," Alex said. "This time."

I sighed and crossed my arms. Savin parked and we all got out of the car. "This was where the latest victims where found," Savin said.

"In the middle of Golden Gate Park? You realize that thousands of people visit here everyday?" I asked.

"Yeah, but only five of them are killing humans."

"But how will we know which five?"

"Simple. You are going to cast a little spell."

"A spell? Which spell?" I asked confused.

"There is a spell that we used to have our witches cast when a member of the guard was killed. The spell would be able to track the killer, then all we would have to do is follow the spell."

"Okay, so how do I cast this spell? I've never tried to cast a tracking spell before."

"All you need to is focus on finding the killers," Savin said. He took my elbow and pulled me toward a marked off area. "Focus on the deaths that happened here and will your magic to find the ones responsible."

I nodded and focused all my senses on the scene before me. I gasped when the first image assaulted my psyche.

"Please!" The blonde haired girl yelled. The man never stopped in his attack, he grabbed the girl and sank his fangs into her neck. The girls screams turned to moans as the vampire's bite to effect.

"Help me!" A male's voice broke the silence. I turned to find a petite female pounce on him. He tried to buck her off but the second she bite into his neck his subdued.

More screams filled the air and then quited to low, fading moans until nothing but silence was left. The five vampires, two female and three males, stepped away from their kills and walked out of focus.

Sisssss. I drew breath threw clenched teeth and when I opened my eyes was standing beside Alex and Savin. The bodies where gone and so were the vampires.

"What happened?" Savin asked, concern coloring his voice.

"You didn't tell me that I would experience what happened!" I said, my voice cracking at the end.

"What? No, you were just supposed to get a sense of where they are, not experience anything."

"Well I experienced the whole damn thing."

"Did you at least get a sense of where they are?" He asked.

I closed my eyes and tried to sense the five vampire I saw. My eyes snapped open. "They're here."

"What?!" Savin said, whipping around and sniffing the air.

"No, not like here, here. But here as in, in the park."

"You said that you saw them right?" Alex asked.

"Yeah, there are three males and two females. The males are blonde, brunette, and bald. The females are a blonde and red-headed. The blonde dude and the bald dude are extremely tall, like almost seven foot and the brunette dude is short, maybe five feet. The blonde female was very short, almost four feet and the red-headed female was about somewhere between five and six feet tall."

Alex and Savin nodded. "Okay you stay here and we'll be right back," Savin said and took off with Alex.

I waited for a minute and then follow the nagging feeling I had since I performed the spell. As I silently gilded through the trees the nagging feeling got stronger and stronger and until it just vanished. The second it vanished I heard the tell-tale sucking sound of a vampire feeding. Leaning up against a tree, I peeked around and saw the five vampires feeding on subdued victims.

A smile spread across my face, as I pulled out the short, jagged knife I pocketed from under Alex's seat. Silently I stepped out from behind the tree and gilded up behind the bald male vampire. I pressed the knife against his throat and whispered in his ear, "Hey. I think you've been a bad boy." He jerked up right, pulling me off the ground. "Bye-bye," I said and dragged the knife across his throat. He dropped and I rolled him over onto his back. Flipping the knife around, I brought it down directly into his heart, "Gah," was the last thing he said before he started to dust.

By that time the other vampires had been alerted and where surrounding me. "Hello," I said.

"What did you just do?" The petite female demanded.

"Oh, I, uh, killed your friend."

"You bitch!"

I laughed. "Why do you people always go for the 'bitch" come back? Can't find something better to say?"

"I'm going to rip you apart!" She snarled.

"Good luck that," I said with a smile.

She launched herself at me, I twisted and grabbed her shoulder. With a slight twitch I brought her to the ground and stabbed her through the heart.

With a yank I brought the knife out of her body.

"Ash? What are you doing here?" Alex yelled at me from the other side of the clearing.

"What does that matter?" I yelled back. The other three vampires were getting uncomfortably close. "Are you gonna help me get rid of these scumbags or are you just gonna stand there and watch?"

"I guess we'll help," she said and ran up behind one of male vampires. Savin grabbed the other freakishly tall vampire, leaving me to deal with the female.

"Why?" She asked, her tone implying her hopelessness.

"Because you killed humans."

"Haven't you ever killed a human?" She asked, her wide brown eyes staring up at me.

I swallowed and felt the weight of the womans body against mine again. Faintly heard the dying thud of her heart as I drained her. Thud. Thu-thud. Thu. Thu-thud. Thu. Th...ud. Th...ud.

"Yes. I have."

"Then what's the difference between me and you?" She asked.

"AHHHH-" Someone screamed. I turned and saw Savin snap the male's neck, then shove in hand into his chest and rip out his heart.

Blood poured out of his chest cavity and covered the ground. Savin's hand was caked in gore up the forearm. Even with all the blood and disgusting shit, disgust was not one of the many emotions I was feeling. Excited. Calm. Free. But not disgusted.

The red-headed female took advantage of my distraction and pounced on me. Damn it, Ash! I thought. Never get distracted!

I rolled, forcing her off of me, and pinned her to the ground. "You want to know the difference between you and me?" I asked as I press the tip of the knife into the skin over her heart. "I only killed one human and it nearly killed me to do it."

"Don't try and pretend like you don't have warrior's bloodlust. You love to kill. I can't tell," she hissed at me.

"You're right, I do love to kill," I said and slid the knife completely in, within minutes she began to turn to dust.

When I looked up, I saw that Alex had also dispatched the other vampire and was now mutilating the fang marks on the necks of the human victims.

Someone slammed into my shoulder and I hit the ground hard. "What the hell, Savin?!" I exclaimed from the ground.

"I told you it was too dangerous and to stay by the damn car!"

"I handled myself just fine, thank you!" I yelled back at him as I struggled to my feet.

"Why in the hell would you come out here? Why?" Savin demanded, obviously fuming.

"I had to!" I said and then snapped my mouth shut.

"What?"

"Nothing."

"Ash. What do you mean you had to?" Savin said, his tone switching to the calming tone he uses when he's teaching.

"I had to, okay? I was going insane. I had to kill."

"I see," Savin mummered, fixing me with his copper eyes.

"What do you mean, you see?" I asked.

"Ash, I never asked you how you moved on so quickly after killing that woman. But I think it's time you told me."

"I, uh, um...I asked her ghost to remove my memory of what happened," I paused for a second. "Well, technically, the emotions behind the memory."

"You, what?" Savin said and then continued on without pausing. "You removed the memory? Do you even know what kind of consequences that has? Well, I'll give you a hint! Traumatic events can change people, but removing emotions before they have played themselves out changes people even more!" Savin yelled at me. "What you did was change your entire psyche's emotional response to death. More specifically, to killing. Before you felt no emotion to killing, but was haunted by their ghosts. Now you feel no emotion to killing or any emotion after killing and to make matters worse you now have to kill." Savin sighed. "You do not realize what you've done."

"Well then explain it to me, Savin!" I yelled back at him.

"You made yourself into a killing machine! You will never, ever, be happy again unless you kill. You will never no a moments peace other than the brief flash you get when you take a life. You will forever be forced to kill."

"And how do you know that?" I asked.

"I know because I was like that!" He shouted at me.

I was taken aback. "What?"

"Yeah. How do you think I managed to run Baxton's guard for so many, many years? How do you think I managed to make Baxton the most powerful vampire this world has ever seen? I killed everyone and anyone in his way and loved doing it."

"Then what changed? You obviously aren't like that now," I demanded.

"He met me," Alex said, having joined the conversation a few minutes previously.

"What?" I asked.

"Finding your soulmate can change you. Will change you, in fact," she said.

"Soulmate? Seriously? You actually believe that there is only one person out there for everyone?" I asked, scoffing.

"No. You can have several soulmates. You soul changes and grows as you do and as it does your soul will be, say, 'attracted' to other souls. Your job is to pick the one that fits you best."

"Until you do you will have to kill to stay sane," Savin added.

"What if I get Shannon to give me the memory back?"

Savin shook his head. "It wouldn't matter. You've already changed, that memory wouldn't effect you the same way it once did. You will still have to kill."

"Okay. So what's the big deal with that?" I asked.

"Well, you've been talking about wanting to change the laws, so that you can have peace, right?" He asked.

"Yeah, so?"

"Well you'll never have it until you find someone that changes you."

"Why can't I change myself?"

"The bloodlust is too strong. It'll consume you until all you know/want/can do is kill."

"Great. So now I have to be saved? I think it's safe to say that my life just got even more fucked up."

Alex and Savin just sighed. Great, Ash. Now look what you've done.