Home > Tegan's Return (The Ultimate Power #2)

Tegan's Return (The Ultimate Power #2)
Author: L.H. Cosway

Chapter One

This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us

Two years later…

Manchester. England. That’s the city I chose to run to. I don’t know, the name just seemed to call to me, Man-chester. I liked the way it sounded. Rolled off the tongue nicely. Now I’ve been here for quite a long time, longer than I expected to stay hidden from the supernatural creatures of Tribane. Rita’s spell must have worked a treat in preventing them from finding me. Then again, I did fly halfway across the world to get here.

I’ve been working in a small independent art gallery. I used the money Ethan gave me to pay the deposit on an apartment in an old converted factory, then I went to the University of Manchester and enrolled in their Art History course. Now I’ve finally finished my degree. In contrast to how I completely fell apart after Matthew died, my heartache at having to leave Tribane made me as determined as a bulldog. I wasn’t going to let myself fall into a hole of self-pity again. So I took the bits and pieces of my broken life and slowly began putting them back together.

I still feel empty though. My success at having completed my education and found a job is not enough to make me feel better about how I left. I can’t tell my dad or Nicky where I am because that would put them in danger, and I’m sure the vampires are keeping a close watch on them in case I do happen to make contact. So no, I cannot bring the people I love into this. They might be heartbroken that I left them behind, but it’s safer for them in the long run.

It’s a lonely life for me here, but a good one. Good in terms of staying alive, I mean. I make sure not to get too close to the people I meet, that way there’ll be less chance of the vampires discovering me. I’ve also been going by my middle name, Alexandra, just a precaution. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and wonder if I imagined the whole thing, everything just seems so normal here. I haven’t come across one single vampire, dhamphir, slayer, warlock or witch. Although saying that, I don’t go out after dark much.

That has to change just for tonight, because there’s an exhibition going on down at the gallery where I work, and my boss Jeff asked if I’d come and help out. It’s December, so it gets dark out fairly early. Winter nights are always the darkest. I’m having these little heart palpitations as I step out onto the street, looking this way and that, praying that there really aren’t any supernatural creatures in this city.

I’m wearing black trousers and a cream blouse under the new dark green military coat I bought to replace my old one. I’ve taken to keeping my hair cut short since I hacked it off in the airport bathroom that time. I can remember almost having a heart attack when I got stopped going through customs because I had a bloody scissors in my ruck sack. My irrational brain had me convinced the airport workers were all vampires.

Anyway, I suppose the change will help me to avoid detection. I’ve also been dyeing one thin strand at the front white, like Rogue from X-Men. I could claim I did this to further disguise myself, but I’ll admit I did it out of boredom. You’ll find yourself with a lot of free time on your hands if you ever run away to a strange city where you can’t allow yourself to make any new friends.

It only takes me a few minutes to get to the gallery because it’s close to my apartment. The place is empty at the moment, the exhibition doesn’t begin until eight. Jeff’s buzzing around in a frantic rush to have everything ready by the time people start arriving. The artist whose work is being displayed is called John Kinsella, he’s in his early thirties and has shoulder length brown hair and brown eyes. I recognise him standing over by the corner, sipping on a glass of wine. His picture was in the newsletter that goes around all the galleries this month.

The other girl who works here, Maggie, shoves a bunch of fairy lights into my arms and instructs me to hang them outside in the little garden area, where people go to have a cigarette. I nod and head outside, where I hang them along the top of the wall that separates the gallery from the business next door.

“Watch you don’t fall,” says a voice behind me. I’m standing on a rickety chair as I hang up the lights. I turn around and find the artist John standing there, a lit cigarette in his hand.

“I’ll be careful,” I reply with a small smile, as I step down and shift the chair over to hang the remainder of the lights.

John stands by the door silently watching me, and it’s a little bit off-putting. When I’m done I turn to go back inside, but he places a hand on my arm. I stare into his face and wait for him to say whatever it is he wants to say to me.

“Are you doing anything tonight?” he asks, stubbing out the end of his smoke.

I plaster on a fake smile and gesture with my hands. “Of course, I’m working as you can see.”

He shakes his head and grins. “No, I meant after the exhibition.”

He must be one of those artists. You know, the kind who think their rock star status means that all the girls will jump on the opportunity to go out with them. I’m sure there are lots of girls who would want to, but I just don’t find the unwashed bohemian look very appealing any more. I probably would have thought he was a complete catch in my younger years, but not now.

Everything that happened to me before I left Tribane sort of matured me a little. And the sad thing is, I still think about Ethan almost every night before I go to sleep. All men seem to pale in comparison to his strong, untouchable beauty.

“Sorry, I’ve got plans then too,” I tell him. Like say, locking myself up in my apartment because I’m so frightened of who or what might come looking for me. I slip back inside the gallery. This is the problem, even though I might not find John particularly attractive, I probably would have gone for a drink with him just for something to do. But I can’t, because if I let one person into my life it won’t be long before others follow, and I’m so scared of being discovered.

People have started to gather in the main exhibition room and there are two waiters strolling from group to group with trays of canapés. They look delicious, but of course I can’t have any since I’m working. Jeff comes over to me and tells me to stand by the door and welcome people in. I put on my hostess face, which isn’t very believable, but the arty set seem to be falling for it.

Most of the people who come in are in their mid-twenties to late thirties and are as middle class as you can get. You can always tell by the clothes, stylish and expensive, but subtle. I notice John standing over by one of his paintings chatting to two other men, perhaps explaining the significance of the piece they’re standing in front of. The deep meaning of it all. I have to make a conscious effort not to roll my eyes. I think the reason most artists only become famous after they die is because they are so irritating and full of it in real life. Nobody can stand their massive egos, so it’s only after they’re gone that we can properly appreciate the beauty of their work.

I’m still watching John pontificate with overly dramatic hand gestures when the gallery door opens again, a cool breeze flows in and somebody steps inside. I’m sick of smiling and being hospitable so I ignore the newcomer and continue watching the crowd, as small groups move from painting to painting and nod in appreciation.

About thirty seconds pass and the person who just came in still hasn’t moved on, I look down to the ground first and notice that they’re wearing big, heavy black boots. Not exactly the kind of footwear art exhibition types normally wear. Slowly, my eyes scan up the body standing in front of me, before resting on a very familiar face. A frightened and jittery scowl settles itself on my lips.

“What the hell are you doing here?” I hiss quietly, narrowing my gaze at the vampire slayer. My heart is suddenly beating a mile a minute, I feel like a rabbit caught in the headlights. This can’t be f**king happening.

Finn laughs low in his throat. “So you’re not going to give me a big hug and a kiss and tell me how much you missed me then?”

“Leave now,” I say, trying my best to put as much threat into my voice as possible, when on the inside I’m shaking like a leaf.

“You haven’t even heard what I have to say yet,” he replies, grinning in amusement.

“It’s been two years Finn, how on earth did you find me?”

“I have my ways,” is all he says. I can hardly hear his response because my heartbeat is making loud THUD, THUD, THUD sounds in my ears.

I cross my arms over my chest and glance around to make sure Jeff hasn’t noticed I’m having an argument with a suspicious looking character. Waves of fear and anxiety are rolling off me. “I think it goes without saying that when a person leaves their home city and doesn’t tell their friends or family where they have gone that they don’t want to be found.” I spit.

Finn takes a step closer to me, and whispers in my ear, “Just because you don’t want to be found, doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who want to find you. You should be glad it’s me who got to you first and not one of the vamps.”

I breathe heavily in angry frustration. But I guess Rita’s spell wasn’t going to last forever. I make eye contact with Finn for a long moment, and try to think of a way to get out of this mess. How can I get him to leave and not tell anyone that he knows where I am? The only solution I can come up with is to run away and start again some place else. That’s going to take a lot of effort though.

Finn is still standing there, watching me just as closely as I’m watching him. He’s wearing a black jacket with a tight grey t-shirt underneath and dark jeans. I try not to focus on how the t-shirt clings to his muscular chest. His eyes wander over me, before resting on my lips. I feel a little flutter in my chest. What can I say, despite everything, it’s been two very long and lonely years.

“I like the new look by the way,” he says, breaking the silence. “It’s very dystopian future chique.”

“You need to leave now,” I reply hastily, ignoring his comment. “Are you alone, or did someone come with you?”

He smirks. “I’m all alone, darlin’.”

“Good, that means you can go back to Tribane and forget you ever saw me here.”

He leans into me, and I can smell the fresh scent of his shower gel, his minty breath trickles over my skin when he speaks. “Now why would I want to do that?”

“You know what I am Finn, please, if the vampires find me they will kill me.” My voice is desperate now and a little bit scratchy. I do my best to hold in my tears.

Finn’s expression softens when he says, “Your secret’s safe with me, I’m not going to tell anyone where you are, but I need your help.”

I notice Jeff glance at me from across the room, his brow furrows when he takes in the sight of Finn, and then he starts to make his way toward us. “Look, I don’t have time for this right now, I’m working. There’s a café at the end of the street, wait for me there. I’ll be about an hour.” I tell him quickly.

Finn’s eyes narrow as he considers it, he’s probably judging whether he can trust me to meet him and not try to make a run for it. I plead with him with my eyes.

“Is everything all right here, Alexandra?” Jeff asks as he reaches us.

I turn to him and smile. “Yes everything’s fine, this man was just looking for directions.”

Finn glances at Jeff in irritation. “Yeah that’s right, thanks for the help, I’ll be seeing you, Alexandra.” There’s a subtle warning in his eyes. A warning that says I’d better meet him at the café when I’m finished. Then Finn turns and walks out the door and I breathe a sigh of relief. I wait to make sure he’s definitely gone before I look to my boss.

“Jeff, I’m not feeling very well, would you mind if I left early? I think it was something I ate.”

Jeff’s face is concerned when he says, “No of course not.” Then he glances about the room where the waiters are still handing out food and wine. “It wasn’t the canapés was it?” he asks worriedly.

I grin. “No Jeff, it wasn’t the canapés, they’re only for the guests after all.”

He smiles in relief. “Oh thank God for that. I thought we were going to have several law suits on our hands.”

I nod and go to grab my coat and bag from the back room. Then I hurry to leave and get back to my apartment. No way am I meeting Finn at the café. I told him I’d be at least an hour, that gives me some time to get home, pack as much as I can and book a flight somewhere. I walk in the opposite direction so that I don’t have to pass by the café, it will lengthen my journey by a few minutes, but it’s necessary if I want to avoid Finn.

I’m out of breath by the time I get home. I practically ran half the way here since I need all the head start I can get. I rummage in my bag for my key, shove it in the door and turn the lock. I rush for my bedroom so that I can begin packing. I’m only halfway there when I realise there’s somebody sitting at the kitchen table. Finn.

I turn around and kick the wall in frustration. How could I have been so stupid as to think he wouldn’t see right through my plan? Seeing him sitting there reminds me of the very first time he broke into my apartment back in Tribane. He’d been so comfortable and confident as he ate an apple and told me about how dangerous the vampires really are. As if I hadn’t already known.

I feel strangely reminiscent as I think about it, my life had been a mess back then, but at least it hadn’t been as isolated as it is now. At least I could see my friends when I wanted to. My dad too. A strange yearning comes over me, a yearning to get that life back, even if it means I will also be putting myself in danger.

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