Mortal Obligation (Dark Betrayal Trilogy #1) - Page 25
All of the color drained from the faces looking at her and Paden launched himself from the table and flew through the swinging door to the kitchen.
“Paden!” Her foot caught the leg of her chair slowing her even more as she stumbled after her friends, but Bryce was right beside Paden. “What’s going on?” Ree demanded as she scrambled forward.
“Claire just took the trash out,” Melanie yelled as she reached the swinging door and flung it open.
“Oh my god,” Ree said, her mouth suddenly dry.
By the time she had shoved her way out of the kitchen and into the back alley, all hell had broken loose. There were two Dark Ones, a male and a female, putting up a good fight. Paden and Bryce were fighting one that held a deadly-looking, curved sword. Bryce had his hands wrapped around a short sword Ree had not seen before, and for the briefest of moments she wondered where it had come from. All sidetracked thoughts were forgotten when she saw Melanie join Weylin and Juliette who were fighting the female, blonde from earlier that night; the very monster that would have eaten two little children was trying to kill her friends.
Unprepared for the anger that washed over her, the power matched the red-hot fury and flew out of Ree, knocking everyone over. Instead of being taken aback, she rolled with it and in a move that was much more graceful than she would have thought herself capable of, she pulled the dagger from her boot and launched herself at the female Dark One on the ground.
For a moment the Dark One was still so stunned from being knocked down, she didn’t seem to understand what was happening. Thankfully, Melanie still had her sense about her and was right behind Ree. Grabbing the blonde around the shoulders, she pinned the monster down. Ree didn’t stop to think about it and did her best to thrust the blade in her hands under the woman’s ribs. The dagger scraped across the bone and jarred her arm, the blood that rushed out made the handle slippery and hard to hold, but Mel put her hand over Ree’s and shoved it all the way in. For a moment she met the girl’s eyes and gritted her teeth, expecting to feel disgusted, but instead she was still angry and afraid for her friend. The blonde wailed while Juliette dragged Ree off of her. Without taking the time to watch her disintegrate Ree shoved the hair that had escaped from her ponytail out of the way and looked around the dark alley for Claire.
“Claire!” She ducked behind the dumpster, looking for some sign of her friend but was rewarded with only litter.
Grunting and cursing issued from the corner where Paden and Bryce had been fighting their Dark One. When she looked over, she realized they had captured him. A long blade was wedged just under the Dark One’s ribs, causing him a great deal of pain. A pale face glared at the Immortals surrounding him, his breathing was shallow, and spittle flew from the corners of his mouth as he cursed at them all.
“Where is Claire?” Looking down at the man, Paden’s voice was tight and dark. A slight lisp affected his words because his fangs were still extended.
“Who?” Apparently even with a blade inches from his heart, the Dark One had fight left in him. Paden lifted his foot and placed it on the pommel of the dagger. The man groaned and blood started to exit the corner of his mouth.
“Where . . . is . . . the . . . girl.” Paden leaned down closer to the monster on the ground and growled his words.
“Oh, the little one with curly hair?” He coughed and spat blood at Paden. He had an old style of dialect that made Ree wonder just how old this Dark One was. “She was a little too thin for my taste. Not enough meat, if you know what I mean.”
“Where is she?” Ree demanded pushing herself through her friends.
“What’s it matter to you, little girl?” The Dark One gave a coughing laugh; he turned his head and spit foul-smelling black blood in her direction.
“Stop stalling and tell me where she is!” The power flared around Ree, lifting her hair and sparking in her eyes.
“Now I can see the resemblance. All that anger and blond hair. Very threatening, Alastriana.”
Ree looked at him, wondering if he was losing his mind. Instead she decided to try a different tactic and wrapped him in the power effectively cocooning from everything else.
“I will let them put you somewhere the sun will reach, while you wait, helpless and suffering, or we can do this the quicker way. It’s your choice.” Her stomach felt sick, and she could hardly believe those words were her own, but she knew it was the truth. She would torture this man to find out what had happened to her friend.
“He took her to the cemetery.” He looked Ree in the eye, his voice mocking.
“How am I supposed to know what its name is? You people have a ton of them around here.”
“What cemetery?” Paden yelled and slammed his hand into the wall next to him. The bricks cracked, showering dust down on everyone.
“It’s the one with all of the soldiers in the middle of the city.” He sneered at Paden. “But you can’t get there in time. Might as well start her memorial service now.”
“Ree, he probably means Colonial Park,” Juliette said. “We need to run.”
Ree knew there was no way she could keep up with them if they ran full speed. “Go. Get Claire.”
“We’re staying together,” Paden told her. “We already left the pub; we aren’t going to break the other rules too. And no matter what, we can’t risk you.”
“I can’t keep up, Paden.”
“We’ll make it work.” The stubborn set of his jaw meant no amount of arguing was going to change his mind.
“What do we do with this guy?” Weylin pointed at the Dark One.
“Yeah, what about me, bitch?”
Those were his last words because Paden had reached his breaking point. With a quick kick he shoved the dagger all the way under The Dark Ones ribs. The man’s eyes bulged with pain and then turned to ash, followed by the prominent features of his face caving in. Ree stared, disgusted as the process left a gaping hole where his face had been while his body fell apart. The fact that it was taking so long for him to disintegrate steadied her stomach because it meant they had avenged some soul that had been murdered.
There was a blur in her direction and the breath left her lungs as Paden swooped her up into his arms and headed for the alley entrance.
“Wait, let me.” Bryce came up and held out his arms for Ree. Paden hesitated until Bryce said, “I’m faster so the extra weight won’t slow me down as much.”
“Hey!” Ree couldn’t help her irritation at being referred to as extra weight.
Paden carefully handed her to Bryce and smiled down at her. “If you weighed more than ten pounds over a hundred you might be able to complain, but we all know that’s pushing it.”
She sighed and tried to steady herself against her friend’s chest as they took off through the streets of downtown Savannah.
Melanie pulled out her cell phone and dialed a number as they ran. How she managed to not run into anything amazed Ree. Eventually, Ree closed her eyes to try and counter the motion sickness that was invading her system.
“I told them where we’re headed. They’re going to meet us there,” Mel told them in an even voice. You’d never guess they were running full speed by listening to her. They were blurring through the streets, and thankfully most people were already in bed. The only people still out were too drunk to understand just what they were seeing.
By the time they reached Colonial Park Cemetery she couldn’t wait to get out of Bryce’s arms. He had tried to keep her from being jarred as they ran but there’s only so much he could do. It had not been a smooth ride, but she had been right when she assumed there would have been no way for her to keep up. It had felt as if they were flying through the streets of Savannah. As soon as they reached the corner across from the entrance to the Colonial ceremony, they stopped. She figured they were listening for the others or for the Dark Ones that had Claire. Bryce set her down carefully and she purposefully ignored the pain on her arms and legs where she had rested against his arms.
Cold air seemed to radiate from the cemetery, while fog crept across the ground like the hand of death. Alarm bells went off in her head signaling there were definitely Dark Ones somewhere in the maze of old graves and tombstones. Ree knew from experience that the arched entrance was closed and locked by dark. Through the shadows she could almost make out the bronze eagle that sat at the top of the gate, screeching at people who would dare enter. Surrounding the park was a black wrought-iron fence that wouldn’t be hard to jump. Hopefully there weren’t any cops patrolling around at this time of night to see them breaking in.
“Do you smell that, Jules?” Paden took a big sniff of air, his eyebrows drawn together.
“It smells like whoever was in your room,” Jules said.
A shrill scream broke the eerie silence and Ree jerked forward without thought. The others weren’t far behind; scaling the fence in less time than it took to decide she was going to do it.
The others seemed to know what direction to head and she gladly followed. She was aware that without thought they had all managed to fall into their protection detail around her. When a quiet moan seemed to seep out of the darkness, Ree felt her hopes plummet. Pulling in the power of the ancient trees around her, she pushed the fog away from them so she could see better and was rewarded by the sight of people gathered around one of the larger monuments.
An old oak sheltered them from any stars that were out; the heavy Spanish moss hung down like curtains, concealing just how many were actually there. Two of the people looked like they were embracing, and, for just a moment, Ree thought that perhaps they had stumbled upon a group of teenagers out defacing the tombstones. A lot of people tried to do ghost hunts in the old cemeteries around town.
Then she saw the curly brown hair hanging limply along the girl’s back and she knew it wasn’t lovers, but someone eating her friend. She started forward, ready to thrust the power at the group standing under the tree when the young man holding Claire looked up, his fangs glinting red and blood running down his chin. When his eyes met Ree’s he smiled and dropped Claire to the ground.
Stumbling to a halt, her mind not able to process what she was seeing, she reached out to one of her friends to steady her. Somehow she knew Claire wasn’t moving, would never move again, even without the power telling her the young girl’s bright warmth was completely gone. But it was the boy with the bloody smirk that made the world spin. He was familiar – too familiar. But there was no way that could make sense.
“What? Not going to tell your brother you missed him?”
The Dark Ones around the tall blond man laughed cruelly. Shaking her head in confusion, she took a step forward, but Paden’s hand on her arm stopped her.
“No love for the resurrected, huh?” Stepping over Claire’s body, Tristan wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. “Sorry about that. I always was a messy eater growing up. I’m sure you remember, Ree.”
Her entire world tilted and she came dangerously close to losing the food she had eaten earlier. Ree didn’t understand how any of this could be happening. Her mind whirled, trying to make sense of what she was seeing. Her friend lay dead at her brother’s feet: the very brother that had died almost two years earlier in a drunk-driving accident. He had killed Claire, drank her dry and thrown her small body to the ground. Claire, that never met a stranger, that had her whole life ahead of her, was dead. Dead because her brother wanted a snack.
“Come on, little Ree. Say something. Or better yet, come give me a hug.” Tristan held his arms out, his fangs flashing in the moonlight.
“No,” she whispered, shaking her head.
“What’s that, Ree? Can’t hear you all the way over there,” Cupping his hand to his ear he leaned forward, sending the other Dark Ones into gales of laughter.
“You aren’t my brother. You’re nothing but a monster,” Ree said, her voice trembling on the last word. “You knew Claire as a baby and you just killed her!” Her voice broke as she yelled at her brother.
“Oh, I’m your brother, Ree. A better version of your brother.” In the blink of an eye he was standing just in front of her. Paden was just a step behind him and yanked Ree behind his back. “Of course, eating all of these would-be Immortals is helping to make me even stronger.”
Paden growled and launched himself at Tristan, but he was gone before her guardian had even moved. Paden stumbled before twisting and finding his one-time friend with his eyes.
“Oh, that’s right. She was your little cousin. You just can’t seem to keep anyone around you alive.” Tristan hopped from one tombstone to another as if it were all just a game. “First me, and now your little cousin. Imagine how funny it was when I found out you were the one sent to protect my sister. Remember that night when I asked you to watch out for her? Oh, the irony.”
The other Dark Ones were moving closer as Tristan talked, and one of the women kicked Claire’s body as she stepped over her. A roar ripped out of Paden’s chest; frustration and anger rolled off of him in waves. The grief and rage mirrored what Ree felt. She knew he wanted to avenge his cousin but couldn’t leave her unprotected.
“Steady, Pay,” Melanie whispered to him.
“Yes, Pay, don’t do anything rash.” Tristan laughed and one of the other Dark Ones bent over Claire’s body and trailed their fingers through the blood dripping off of her neck. He looked at them and smiled before licking the sticky red liquid off of his hand. Ree’s stomach clenched in rage. Her breaths were coming in shallow gasps but she couldn’t take her eyes off of Claire’s lifeless form. As the man chuckled at her discomfort, the golden handle of a knife appeared in his chest. He fell backwards and grabbed the handle, cursing as he struggled to pull it out.
“Show a little respect, you frickin’ pig.” Julietitte glared at the man struggling to remove her throwing dagger. It was stuck in his breast bone and wasn’t budging. With a nasty crack he broke it free and threw it on the ground.
Tristan laughed loudly at the man as he wallowed in the dirt. “Tsk, tsk, Johnson. Juliette has a nasty bite herself.” He disappeared again to appear next to Jules. It was so fast even the Guardians seemed surprised at his speed. “Show me those pretty teeth, Jules.” She grimaced at him but didn’t open her mouth. With his uncanny speed he rushed Julliette, grabbed her chin, and pulled her against him. “Now, who’s being rude?”