Looking at the ringing device, she saw Jonathan's name.
She almost dropped it in her hurry to answer it.
"Jonathan, thank god. What's going on? Where are you? Is Madelyn okay?"
The female voice surprised her.
"I am. Is everything okay?"
"No. I don't know. Jonathan said to call you. We were attacked and he's hurt. I'm supposed to drive us to you. But I don't know where to go."
"Madelyn, are you driving now?" Chevonne asked before looking up. All of her men and Kian were on their feet.
"Yes. He was able to tell me to get on the interstate before he passed out."
The air left her body in a rush. Think. Think.
"Tell her to come here. We can watch out for them."
"One second, Madelyn. I'm going to give you over to Elliot and he will tell you how to get here."
"Hurry. He's bleeding a lot."
She held out her phone and Elliot took it. Wrapping her arms around her waist, Chevonne sat back into the the couch. Caleb was saying something to Kian but she couldn't hear it. Nikolas was staring at Elliot.
Elliot gave Madelyn the instructions before breaking off. "Yes, I know it's a lot. And I know a lot is going on." He paused for a moment before glancing at Nikolas "What car are you driving?" Another pause. "Do you know the tag number?"
Nikolas gave Chevonne a quick hug before getting to his feet.
"I'm sending some people to find you. They will help you get here. No. I promise you, Jonathan will be fine." His eyes met hers and he nodded. "We'll take care of him." A longer pause. "Just focus on driving. This is no trouble at all. I'm going to hang up now and I'll tell the others so they know who to look for. You'll be okay. You have my word."
After a moment, Elliot handed her back her phone. "She's worried that they might be being followed. It's unlikely, as Draven won't want to leave his army, but to err on the side of caution, I'm going to meet her on the way. She's terrified and I don't think she will remember what I told her."
Chevonne nodded. "Who's going?"
He was silent for a moment. "I won't put you in harms way. So, I would like for Kian to stay with you."
She couldn't control the slightly hysterical burst of laughter. "That's not in harms way?"
"He knows better than to touch you. He doesn't know who Jonathan is, much less invested in his protection." He glances at the red-haired vampire. "And perhaps you two can talk. Maybe get to know each other a little more."
She nodded and only then realized she had been crying.
"Be careful, Elliot. All of you." She looked around at the two she loved and the one she liked. "I want you all back safe."
Surprising her, Caleb grinned before kneeling in front of her. "A kiss for luck?"
She blinked at him before cupping his face and pulling him close.
"Luck," she whispered before pressing her lips to his.
Quickly, she kissed the other two, fighting with herself to let Nikolas go. This wasn't how the night was supposed to go. It was supposed to be her declaration and maybe some violin. Some time away from worrying and now that worry was eating her alive.
Her lovers moved to the door and she called out his name. Time. There was never enough of it.
Nikolas turned back to her with a grin. "You win," he said before following the others.
He… He just told her that he loved her.
Jumping to her feet, she raced to the door. "Nikolas!" she called out and he turned. "We tied," she said and he smiled, a thing of breathtaking beauty.
"I'll share the trophy."
Despite everything, she smiled.
She paced the floor in front of the fire, flames doing their best to warm her chilled skin. Minutes ticked by agonizingly slow and there was no way for her to know how long it would take for everyone to return home.
"You're going to wear a hole in the carpet."
The voice brought her back to the present with a jump. She was so lost in her own thoughts, she had forgotten that Kian was there.
"I'm sure Elliot won't mind." She turned to look at the vampire she force-fed and almost died for.
"Is it helping? Being trapped in your head? Or would you rather talk to me?"
"You were going to kill me. Why would I want to talk to you?"
Kian sat back in the couch and crossed his legs. "There are a lot of reasons for that. Most of which I told you. Some I'm sure you figured out on your own. Are you going to keep bringing it up every time I see you?"
The weight of her world settled on her shoulders and she sighed. "I suppose I shouldn't."
"Don't look so defeated."
She sat in the chair and stared at the fire. "All of this is my fault, Kian. Every single bit of it. Am I not supposed to feel responsible?
"I didn't say that."
She looked at him and he grinned.
"I said don't look defeated. You're not dealing with everything alone. And as for the responsible thing, I know from what you told me and the others, it's not your fault. Elliot is a big boy and makes his own decisions." He shrugged. "He could have dealt with you and none of this would be going on. No Nyx. No army coming after him. That is all on him."
"Because he was curious about me. Me. It comes back to me."
"If you want to wear a sack and beat your chest, I'm not going to stop you. I'm just saying that you are living with grown vampires who do what they do for reasons."
She closed her eyes and leaned back. "I can't lose them. Any of them and I'm so afraid that I'll have to say goodbye one day. Permanently. And it will be because of me."
"But isn't that the same in any life? You fall in love, get married, stand at the door with the kids as your husband goes off to work and as he's crossing the street, you tell him one more time that you love him. He turns to you and says it back then he gets hit by a truck. Because you had to tell him, one more time, he dies. Is that your fault? No, it's not."
"That's a grim comparison."
"I don't do fluffy."
She narrowed her eyes. "Is that a vampire thing? Because from what I can tell, none of you are fluffy."
His laugher helped ease her tortured thoughts.
"Nikolas is pretty fluffy. But, yeah, I guess it comes with the fangs. When you are killing people to survive, fluff gets squashed. Well, if one develops a conscious, it dies. The ones that live to kill are usually pretty happy."
There was nothing she could say to that.
"Is our talk over?"
She shrugged. "How did you come to be a vampire?"
"A vampire drank my blood and gave me his. The typical."
"You know that's not what I meant."
He laughed again before grinning at her. "I guess since you told me your trauma, you think I should share mine."
"You are the one asking if we are done with out conversation."
"Fair enough. Well, let me see if I can remember in my old age. Oh yeah. I was born 1768. And in 1790, I joined a little group of bad people. I pissed off some of them and got shot in the head. And let me tell you. That fucking hurts, but thankfully, guns weren't what they are now. So, I was bleeding out in the woods and there was this, what I thought at the time, animal sniffing around. I thought that my dying ass was about to be eaten. In a sense, I was. The sniffing was my creator. A vampire that went insane and spent every day poking his eyes out, because they grew back. The smell of my blood attracted him, and he was sniffing, because he had already blinded himself again. He almost finished me off before making me drink his blood. Over and over we did this and I became his student. Until the day he went to a clearing, opened his veins, over and over again, soaking the ground with his blood, until he grew weak. Then, he tied, rather, had me tie him between two trees. He met his end in the sun. The last thing I heard before burying myself in the hut where we lived was him screaming." His eyes met hers again.
"That was my birth. That was what shaped me. And I eventually found that same place in me. At first it was great." He held his hands up. "The things I can do with these. Strength that I never felt as a human. Strength to get my revenge on those that tried to kill me. Then, despite his teachings, I lost myself in the blood-lust. I kept my fluffy. Laughing as I drained man or woman. Living the life of royalty because people had no use for coin if they were dead. But after time, his ways came back to me and I realized why he did what he did. Why he blinded himself every single day. Because while the dead don't need cash, sometimes, they need people to talk to.
"I don't know how Elliot found me. I don't know why. I'm thinking that it had to do with what he does. But, find me he did. Tallest mountain in Ireland. I tried to do what my maker did. I emptied my veins, over and over, weakening myself. I couldn't get everything tied down, but I did a fairly good job with my feet and the one hand. And I lay there and waited for the sun to take me. I've never asked him how he found me, but because of some of the things he went through, he could tolerate the sun a bit more than most of us blood-drinkers. I had just begun burning when a cloth was thrown over me and I was pulled from my bindings." He looked into the fire. "And here I am."
Chevonne pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around them. An imagined shield from the horror of his words. "That was what Elliot meant when he said nothing bothered you. You were already prepared to die."
Kian grinned at her. "Well, that was the case and then I was lured into a hell hole. Literally. I can't lie. Dying by fire would have been easier than a slow death by being drained and eaten."
"Don't stop now."
"How did you survive that and how did you manage to gain enough blood to turn them? Once or twice, I could understand."
He watched her for a moment. "As for surviving, the blood of a goddess saved me."
Chevonne could feel the heat rise in her face. "Descendant of a goddess."
"You say tomato, I say ambrosia. It doesn't matter. You're still tasty."
Chevonne shook her head and buried her face against her knees. "That's not a compliment," she muttered.
"Yes it is," he said and she lifted her burning face.
His laugher was spontaneous and beautiful.
After a quick stern talking too, she asked, "And the other?"
"I'll tell you later."
"Is it too personal?"
"Nope," He tilted his head. "It's about to be busy in here."
With that, he got to his feet and turned to the door.
"You need to stay here." His tone had changed into something abrupt. "Jesus, he smells like you."
Chevonne frowned at his back as she slowly got up.
Nikolas' head appeared in the doorway, locking eyes on her. "I need for you and Kian to stay with Madelyn while we tend to Jonathan, okay?"
"Is he going to be okay?" The break in her voice could have shamed her if she cared.
"Despite what I look like, yes, he will be fine. Hopefully." With those words, he stepped into sight, holding the hand of the young woman that almost died in that infamous night. A woman she could only see peripherally as her eyes traveled the streaks of blood that covered Nikolas.
Her knees went weak and if it wasn't for the back of the chair, she might have hit the ground.
Kian stood beside her, an arm around her waist and now was not the time for that warmth to fill her.
"Fix him, Nikolas. I'm begging."
"We will do everything we can." He took a step into the room and Madelyn came with him.
Finally she could look at her and if she thought Nikolas was covered, she was wrong.
The fear in dazzling blue eyes touched Chevonne and she was able to gather herself. For once, she would be someone else's pillar.
"Hello Madelyn, I'm Chevonne. I'm so sorry this happened, but things will be okay."
"That's what he said. Jonathan."
Chevonne smiled at her. "He's wise." A quick glance at her clothes. "I'm taller than you are, but would you like to get cleaned up?"
Madelyn was silent for a moment before she nodded.
Chevonne glanced at Nikolas. "We'll be fine."
He stepped up to her and pressed his lips to her head. "I know." With that, he was gone.
"Kian, would you escort us to my room? This won't take long and I'm sure she'll feel better if she knows there is someone looking out for her."
Chevonne headed to the door, motioning her sister to walk beside her.
She did after a long look at Kian.
"He won't hurt you."
She didn't say anything and Chevonne gave him a look. All he did was shrug.
After that, they made their way to Chevonne's room. Kian waited in the hall and as Chevonne closed the door, Madelyn let out her breath.
Chevonne got a fresh towel and robe for her and with the fainest "Thank you," she closed the door.
This time, was the one who sighed. They were related, but she didn't know how to talk to her. Aside from Jonathan, she was always alone. It would come. She had to believe that. And things were weird. It wasn't like they were meeting over coffee. They were meeting with the woman covered in Jonathan's blood.
Instead of panicking, Chevonne went to her drawers and dug through her clothing. She would need to go shopping the next day. Of course, she would take James. But Madelyn needed her own things. Did she bring luggage? She didn't see anything, but that doesn't mean it wasn't in her car. A pair of capri leggings and a t-shirt were the closest thing that would fit her. She could find out the other stuff later.
A few more minutes, and the door opened. Chevonne handed her the clothes and told her she would be outside with Kian.
Madelyn nodded and Chevonne softly closed the door behind her.
She stood beside him and leaned back against the wall before running her hands down her thighs.
"This wasn't how I thought I would meet her," she said, not caring if Kian was listening or not. "I pictured it over coffee, after she had time to adjust. When she was ready. Not when her protector got attacked and they had to run for their lives."
"Sounds like life." His shoulder hit hers and she looked at him. "You two will figure it out."
"I hope so." She was surprised by the unexpected support.
A couple of minutes passed in silence while they waited for Madelyn to open the door.
Finally, Kian touched her hand.
Chevonne glanced at it, ignoring the heat, something she struggled to get better at. She looked up into his green eyes.
"You can't hear it, but she's crying. I think this could be a moment."
He nodded. "Take your time, I'll just be holding the wall up."
A hint of a smile touched her lips as she turned away.
Two light knocks on the door and she slowly opened it.
Kian was right. Madelyn stood in the middle of the room, dressed, but shaking from tears.
Easing up to her, Chevonne touched the blond hair. Blood-shot eyes met hers.
"I've been where you are. And I've had someone to hold me while I cried. Care to try?"
She held out her arms and in a second, they were wrapped around her sister. She knew better then to try to tell her again that things would be okay. She wouldn't believe it until things were actually fine.
She stroked the damp blond hair as Madelyn slowly grew quiet.
"I thought he was going to die." The words were muffled but Chevonne heard them well enough.
"The others will take care of him. I promise."
"He saved me."
Madelyn looked up at her. "No, he saved me tonight. Those people were after me."
"Come with me. We are going to sit in front of the fire and have a drink and talk. Wait, how old are you?"
Madelyn smiled. "I'm twenty-three."
"How do you feel about whiskey?"
Kian sat in a chair, legs out in front of him and looking like he didn't have a care in the world.
Chevonne handed Madelyn a glass before sitting beside her. She held out her own glass and touched the one in the other woman's hand. "To exposed secrets and an honest-to-goodness family."
Madelyn nodded and took a sip. The look on her face would have been funny, were things not so serious.
Chevonne had to be honest. The longer the others were away, the more worried she became. But she wouldn't show that to her younger sister. Not when she was so fragile.
"So, do you want to talk about what happened? Or would you like to hear my story first? Or wait until your shoulders loosen then we tell war stories?" Chevonne asked.
Madelyn glanced at her. "I don't know how you're going to take this, but Jonathan told me a lot about you. I don't know everything about that night, and he didn't talk about it, but other things I know. I know of our blood ties and the other ties."
"And I know nothing of you." Chevonne shifted on the couch, looking at her sister. Just that word was shocking. Then to be there looking at her…
Madelyn took a longer drink of her whiskey. "I don't want to go to deep into my life because for the most part I was happy. But I remember the day the couple showed up to take me from our mother. They paid for me. And that money probably went straight into her arm. She was a junkie and while she was homeless with you, she had found someone who had a semblance of a job and home. Living there was terrifying and while she loved me and I missed her, I was glad to go. The people who raised me were kind, but distant. I always wondered about that. And not long ago, I realized why." She met Chevonne's eyes. "When that day happened, your birthday, I was told that my life was to be forfeit for the greater good. I was so confused. And then there was Jonathan. I don't know how they got him, but he was in a cage beside me. They were cutting me and covering his cage with my blood. Jonathan told me later, when I could talk about it, that my blood is like poison to him, because of my bloodline."
Kian sat up a little straighter in his chair and Chevonne glanced at him. "I told you, she is the descendant of Hemera, primordial goddess of the day."
"I'm still not sure how much of that is true," he said.
"All of it," Madelyn said. "My blood kept one of your kind trapped in a simple metal cage. My blood burns him."
"Madelyn? Are you sure it was those people after you? Not others like Kian and Jonathan."
Madelyn gave her the barest hint of a smile. "You can say vampire. I'm not going to fall apart. Jonathan and I have had a lot of discussions about what he is. It's okay. And yes, I'm sure. They said to kill Nyx's child and take me alive." The smile faded and she dropped her eyes. "Before that day, I had been going to the doctor's office a lot. They said they were worried about my being anemic and wanted to test my blood. Sometimes twice a week, sometimes three, I would go to the office and they would take my blood. I didn't think anything of it, but tonight, I understood why."
Chevonne stopped breathing as she too began to put two and two together.
"They used my blood on him. I don't know how they did it, but the bullet wounds didn't heal like they should have. He fought them as they continued to fire at him. He killed the one that had me trapped and he used the last of his strength to get us to the car. He handed me his phone and told me to call. That we would be safe here."
"Jonathan." Chevonne closed her eyes. "They shot him in the side."
"That was where most of the injuries were."
Chevonne met Kian's eyes. "Take me to them."
"I don't think that's a good idea."
She stood up and headed for the door. "I don't care. I can help him."
Madelyn spoke. "How?"
Closing her eyes, forcing down the panic, she could only hope that what she was about to say wouldn't terrify the girl. "I'm going to feed him."