The bridge was behind them, but Roman knew he’d be back. The blinking crimson beacons at its crown seemed to be communicating in some secret code with the buoy’s drifting around its black stone columns.
Roman thought about what had happened on the train. He’d been unable to control himself and had endangered those he’d meant to save. Enslaved to this newfound addiction, he enjoyed destroying vampires and the need itself. He felt their blood coursing within his veins, singing with it. He was inebriated with it. Just thinking about it made him want more. Need more. He shuddered and shook himself to clear his head. He didn’t like not being in control. He’d have to learn to control his addiction. He didn’t think it was possible.
They’d take the priest within its bowels. They’d hold him there. For Roman. For his transgressions. For crimes both remembered and forgotten. What they’d do to him in lieu of his arrival, Roman could only imagine, and he could imagine quite a bit. Just because they couldn’t feed off him, didn’t mean that they couldn’t harm him. For if they were anything like Roman, if their minds mirrored his own, then Father Purgeon wasn’t only endanger of losing his life, but his sanity, his very soul.
Roman wasn’t going to let that happen.
He thought about the ones keeping the priest prisoner. The ones he had to destroy. His survival depended on it. He’d enjoy draining every one of them. But he mustn’t enjoy it enough to make him forget the priest and forgo the mission in favor of gluttony. No matter how good it felt, how insatiable the need.
Bailien. Lucien. Names that now had faces. Astor though, the leader of the bridge’s coven, remained faceless. He knew that would change very soon.
Exactly what Lucien was, Roman didn’t know. A werewolf, yes, but something more. He sensed that Lucien’s body wasn’t his own. He sensed that it wasn’t alive. That it was animated by the demon possessing it, Lucien. He’d sensed the same eternal power, emanating from both Lucien and Bailien. He knew that they were demons. Like him. Fallen.
A Winged-One without wings. A Winged-One without his body.
Roman had betrayed them in some other realm, accusations he’d no memory of, crimes he couldn’t recall. Why?
His thoughts turned to the sleeping child in his arms. Remember, her soul had said on the night of his planned suicide, remember. Remember what? Why couldn’t he remember his past? Did she know what he didn’t? Could she help him remember? And if she did, and if she could, why hadn’t she told him? Would he even want to remember?
How had they tracked the priest? How had they linked Purgeon to him? How had Sarah become involved? Questions, questions, and more questions.
Sarah was asleep as well. They’d allowed Roman to put them under, after he’d requested they remove their hands off his chest; their blood had seared his chest some, making it difficult for him to fly. Putting them to sleep was something he couldn’t do to the pure without their permission or without their compliance. He’d wake them once they reached Sarah’s house. It was best this way. The cold weather in combination with his frigid frame would have made the journey extremely uncomfortable for the mortals.
He’d mentally extracted the destination from Sarah’s mind before he’d put her to sleep by asking her to think of her home. It was on the other side of the city. A thirty-minute trip by train was a five-minute trip by wing. They were halfway there.
Safely enshrouded within his essence, they headed south. As they left the heart of the city, metallic structures gave way to those of brick and stone. Older structures. Three story, grey uniformities. The unstable and mercurial climate had stripped and blasted away most of the masonry.
To the end of one of the streets, Roman soared. He swooped down when he reached the last house on the block. It leaned more than stood. Pock marked stone. Paled brick. Deteriorating and aged. But the home exuded a benign vibe.
Roman landed. His echolocation informed him that it was safe to recall his essence. The mist reentered his pores. Awaken, Roman said to their minds.
They stirred in his arms, yawning and stretching, as if they’d been asleep for hours instead of minutes. Not wanting them to waken within his winged embrace, Roman placed them on their feet before the front door just as their eyes opened. He quickly retracted his wings.
Sarah took an involuntary step backwards. She saw herself reflected in those black eyes. Even without his wings, Roman was a foreboding sight. She rubbed her body with her hands, tried to kill the frost that still clung to her skin, seemed to seep into it.
Roman thought that there was something strange about Sarah’s aura. Something strange about the way it looked. The way it sounded.
“Thank you, Roman,” Avalyn said, breaking his thoughts, his name sounding awkward coming out of her mouth. She fared better than Sarah did. If she was cold, she didn’t show it.
“What about Father Purgeon?” Sarah said, finally finding her voice.
“I will bring him back,” Roman said. “Alive.” His face hardened into a marble mask.
“I know,” Avalyn said.
Roman stared at her and searched her eyes. So, she did know something. “You will not be safe here for long. When I return with the priest, we will have to seek other sanctuaries.”
Roman secreted his mist. Though Avalyn and Sarah didn’t see him depart, they felt it as cold wind blasted their faces.