Roman was perched beneath a water tower two buildings away from Servanah’s apartment. He looked at the sky. Charcoal grey clouds smoldered across the black firmament. Most of the city’s lights were off, doused in the name of belated conservation.
The transvestite slept. He wondered why he’d saved him. Why he’d even bothered to. Because he leaned and wasn’t evil. Roman would never have hunted such a soul. Only pure evil ignited Roman’s blood lust and satiated his appetite.
Servanah had called him a demon. She’d confirmed what he already believed he was, thanks to Drake. But what crime had he committed? Why did he Fall? Why couldn’t he remember? A flood of emotions washed over him.
Why had Servanah called him Unfallen? The demon who avoided Hell? Why was he hunted? He thought of the names, Bailien, Lucien. Lucien meant nothing to him. But Drake had been expecting someone called Bailien, whom he’d referred to as an emissary. Servanah had said that he’d betrayed them upon the celestial realm. That they’d been exiled to earth. If what she said was true, then he was probably already being hunted. Roman didn’t like the idea of someone coming for him. Perhaps he could track down this hunter before his hunter found him. Bring the fight to Bailien. But that would have to wait until he’d paid a visit to Father Purgeon and Avalyn. He didn’t think there’d be enough time for that.
Servanah was from Coven Lust. Her master’s name was Astor. Roman needed to know where he could find him.
Though the bridge Roman had seen when draining Servanah beckoned, he was wary. More information was required before heading there. He went over what he did know. Wood petrified vampires, rendered them immobile. They contacted one another via what Servanah had called a House sigil. She could use her essence in a variety of ways. If he was more powerful than she was, what powers might he possess?
The guilt he’d always felt after feeding off humans was no longer there. Now that he had a taste for vampire blood, he wished to feed it. Three vampires had risen because of him. He’d taken care of two. One remained.
As he’d done when hunting Servanah, he listened to his blood. Receiving no signal, he decided to expand his search and leapt from the building with a firm image of Darius’s face set in his mind.
Lightening exploded overhead. It sheared the night, gave the dark some day. Below, the mortals were an endless sea of vibrant colors, and to Roman, were brighter than the elemental fireworks. Some were single toned while others swirled with mixed shades. From their auras came a symphony of sound.
If one could penetrate Roman’s essence, one would see a corpse on wings, slitting the night, claws drawn, arms and legs depending like a predator, his overcoat billowing beneath his wings.
He felt his veins pulling him. He heard the biosonic pulse of his echolocation beat in time with his tugging arteries. Blood and echolocation merged. He followed the signal. It was moving fast.
He locked in on the target before he saw it, an unmarked van, several blocks to the north, traveling off the main roads, within the backstreets.
Roman looked inside the vehicle as he closed the distance.
There were two men and a woman in the van. The men sat in the front. None of them was Darius. Even though the female was alive, she was in a body bag on a stretcher in the rear.
Where was Darius?
He looked at the two men in the front seats and focused on their auras. A familiar sight. Yellow auras with black worms. He remembered the man he’d seen delivering bodies to Darius at the morgue. He remembered the man he’d seen standing sentry outside the bar. They were infected with vampire blood.
He scanned the woman in the body bag. Her aura was a putrid green; no worms swam there. No trace of Darius within her blood stream.
“You sure she’s alive?” the driver asked.
“I was careful this time, Sammy,” the man in the passenger seat said.
“You can’t fuck up again, Kyle,” Sammy said. “You won’t get off so easy next time.” He peeled his eyes off the streets for a second and glanced at Kyle. “You don’t look so good.” Normally, Kyle was painfully thin, one hundred and fifty pounds on a six foot four frame. Now, he looked like he weighed about twenty pounds less.
“I don’t feel so good.” Sweat ran down Kyle’s face. He was breathing heavy.
“Well suck it up. You might get some tonight.”
“I hope so. I fucking need it!” Kyle said. With a whimper, he slunk down into his seat.
Above, all thought escaped Roman’s mind, every thought but one: the need to feed on vampire blood. Though the two within the van weren’t vampires, Darius’s blood was within them. Roman recognized the blood lust. The mere thought of tasting the diluted blood shot currents of euphoria through him. Stronger now. Stronger than it had been with Servanah. An agonizing anxiety replaced ecstasy. He had to quench his murderous thirst. He felt his veins and arteries contract and expand painfully, the blood within them pounding. He felt pressure behind his eyes. Blood sweat dappled his forehead. Though he wanted to hold his hunger, save his craving for the one he really wanted, satiate it on the evil he was responsible for, he didn’t think he’d be able to. Like a starving carnivore salivating over a piece of meat, Roman felt his mouth water with blood. Though this craving was excruciating, it didn’t frighten him. It could only aide him on his quest toward retribution.
Roman flew past the van, then veered back around, and plunged, leading with his taloned-feet. He crashed through the front window. The van veered out of control and crashed into an alley wall.
Inside, the gurney with the woman, still strapped in, was on its side. Kyle had knocked it over, the impact having thrown him into the back of the van. He jumped to his feet and looked towards the front. He saw Sammy being fed on. He’d never seen a vampire with wings before.
Without a backward glance, Kyle exploded from the rear doors and raced down the alley, vaulted a fence and plunged down a backstreet. His only thought was escape.
The blood Roman was drinking was a mere tease to what he desired, to what he now needed. It took him seconds to drain the man. He pulled away and left his fangs unsheathed as he leapt back into the night.
The rain was now a mist, transformed from a torrent to sheets of light precipitation that floated more than fell, sprayed but never soaked.
Somewhere above, Kyle heard the beating of wings. Fear fueled his feet. Then, the wings ceased beating. He looked over his shoulder and wished he hadn’t when he saw the vampire bearing down on him. He dove to his left, hoping he’d leapt in time, hoping he’d been fast enough. He felt claws graze the back of his neck. Heard them click as they clasped empty air. Then, as the winged vampire went past, Kyle felt the air, as hard as a fist, punch him from behind and propel him through glass.
Roman had almost had him. He’d been so close. He felt the blood on his foot claws, felt their tips soak in the sips worth there. He circled back.
Inside the building, Kyle was sprawled in a pool of glass, where gutted walls revealed the relics of rooms. In a corner was a homeless man, shirtless, an indistinguishable garment served as his pants. Syringe stings, healed many times over, left their marks along his arms. Strewn on the floor by him were used needles and empty vials.
Kyle got up. Brick and glass imbedded his face and hands. His flesh pushed out the foreign debris, but the cuts wouldn’t close. He’d need more of Darius’s blood for that. He ran over to the bum.
He heard the wall come down behind him just as he reached the man. He heard the flapping of wings. Then felt granite shrapnel pelt the back of his head. Bricks soared over him and showered around him. Kyle grasped the man’s neck, lifted him, turned, and flung him at where he hoped his hunter would be.
Roman’s echolocation picked up the human projectile too late. The body hit him square in the face and knocked him from the air. He’d thought he was done with his underestimations.
Kyle disappeared into the building.
The human’s aura beat crimson, yet Roman felt no desire to kill him. He cast the vagrant aside and got up, caught the scent of Darius’s blood within Kyle. His nostrils flared and the slits underneath his septum gilled.
Kyle left the building and raced for the morgue. It was a block ahead. It was a drab, single-story building. Looked as lifeless as the function it served. Kyle heard his pursuer crash through the building behind him. As he ran, he hoped he’d make it to the morgue before the winged vampire caught him.