Home > Wickedly They Dance (After Darkness Falls #3)(3)

Wickedly They Dance (After Darkness Falls #3)(3)
Author: May Sage

“My mom taught me some stuff,” she replied, leaving it at that. “Still, I couldn’t make sense of what he said overall.”

“Thanks again. It’s helpful.”

Levi and his posse were obviously not as squeamish as she; they circled the eerie corpse and started to poke him, sniff him, ask questions.

Avani cleared her throat. “Well, so long, everybody. Let’s never do this again.”

She started down the hill, never expecting an answer. To her surprise, steps soon trailed her.

“Wait!”

She turned to find Chloe walking right behind her.

Immortality suited the other woman. She’d clearly been made for it. When they’d first met, Chloe had felt shy and unsure of herself. Her aura had been all over the place, a strange mix of fear, eagerness, curiosity that made her feel scattered.

The woman in front of her was a different animal.

A dangerous one.

The wolf inside Avani, never far from the surface, observed her every move with wariness. One wrong movement, and her furry counterpart would burst out of her skin to attack the vamp.

Avani wasn’t sure she’d win against the fledgling, young and inexperienced as Chloe was.

She tried to hold the beast back—for that reason, and because she was absolutely, a hundred percent certain that she would lose against whoever was sent to avenge Chloe if she did manage to take her down.

Part of her was irritated; it would be a good fight. Too bad they couldn’t spar for kicks like she would with another pack member. But the dynamic between wolves probably didn’t apply on the hill. If they’d both been wolves, no one would have raised an eyebrow at two dominant females challenging each other for no reason. Avani remembered enough of her life before the Elder Pack to know that wasn’t standard everywhere.

Besides, Chloe hadn’t actually shown an inclination toward starting a fight yet. Just because she was an immortal bloodsucker from a family known for their cannibalism and savagery didn’t mean that Chloe was violent.

“What?”

“I’ve lived in Oldcrest seven months and it’s the second time I've spoken to you—to any wolf of your pack. But although you stay on your territory, you’re part of our little world. If something happens here, you guys will be affected. I feel like we should get to know each other a little better.”

Avani laughed. “What, braid each other’s hair, talk boys, and exchange dresses? Come on, Eirikrson. Vampires and wolves are enemies.”

“Are we? I have wolf friends.”

Not from her pack, Avani wanted to say.

“That’s not possible. Our alpha hates your guts—all of you.” Everyone who wasn’t a pure werewolf, basically.

“And what do you think?”

Avani lifted a brow. “It doesn’t matter what I think. He forbids interactions with your kind, so that’s the end of it.”

“And yet, you’re here,” Chloe challenged with a lopsided grin.

Damn, the girl had a point.

“Do you always do as you’re told?” Avani asked her.

Chloe laughed. “I can’t take orders. Like, at all. So, no. But your kind have to obey the alpha, is that right?”

Avani inclined her head in acquiescence, slowly. It was the way with shifters, especially when the alpha was a born alpha.

“What if I could help you with that?” Chloe said, tilting her head.

Avani frowned. “What do you mean?”

“What if I could make it so you don’t have to obey anyone?”

It was a trap. A trick. When something sounded too good to be true, it was, end of story. Especially when it came from a stranger.

“You helped me once. Let me return the favor.”

“I showed you out of the woods. That’s not exactly a huge favor.”

“And all you get from me is two words,” Chloe said. “I’m not even sure it’ll work. But I think so.”

She was rambling and it made no sense. Still, there was something about this girl. Something that made Avani want to believe her. Feel like she could trust her.

Trap, trap, trap. Her animal disagreed. It felt a little cornered, so close to the petite blonde.

“What words?” she said.

The air changed around Chloe. Her deep brown eyes turned bright blue, flashing in the moonlight. Avani would have sworn the earth itself stood still, paying attention to that force of nature.

“You’re free.”

That was all she said. Two words, as promised. Whispered, sung in a way that resonated deep inside Avani.

You’re free.

She shook her head. Just a trick. It’d just been a strange trick, that was all. Stuff like that was easy to say for someone like Chloe Eirikrson, mate to a badass royal vamp, heir to a well-known family of psychotic bloodsuckers. She didn’t understand what it was to be a werewolf—the pack dynamic. The price Avani would pay if she ever stepped out of line.

But the other woman meant well. Ignorance didn’t make her a bad person.

“Thanks, I guess,” Avani said, waving again as she picked up the pace to leave the creepy hill and its weird inhabitants.

The assholes, the royals, the weird-ass witch princesses.

Avani rushed back to pack territory—a hamlet with red brick houses built in a circle around a tiny town square—and headed to one of the smallest homes. As a single female without pups, she was only entitled to one bedroom. It was clean and comfortable inside. She headed straight to her bathroom and started a shower.

As cold water rushed down her skin, she smiled, though with some reluctance. What a strange night. She couldn’t remember a day quite as interesting as this in a long time.

Gilded Cage

Alexius had expected a visit eventually; not tonight, perhaps, but at one point or another. And sure enough, the Leviathan was at his door at three in the morning.

Lise had left his apartment by the time he’d made it back, so he’d spent his time doing what he did best. Tweaking his fusion spell. He’d found a way to bind two elements in one object, as the great mages of the old days had done—an art lost to the current inhabitants of this planet that he’d been determined to perfect.

Mostly because he could. He had no specific reason for wanting to break the laws of physics and magic, other than boredom.

Vampires needed to sleep—though far less than mortals. Just like they needed to eat, drink, to maintain their corporal bodies' functioning. The blood was something else—a carnal desire and need born of their duality; it maintained their immortal essence.

Alexius had suffered from insomnia for almost a thousand years. On the rare occasions when he finally passed out, exhausted, three or four times a year, the nightmares started. The memories of who he used to be, what he’d done, twisted by time and magic.

So, he worked, night after night, day after day, until he finally had to give in to sleep.

“Am I disturbing your rest?” Levi asked.

Alexius rolled his eyes. “That’s actually not possible.”

No one, nothing, could wake him up when he did finally manage to fall asleep. Until his mind consented to free him from his dreams, he was a statue, a corpse.

“Just because you can’t sleep doesn’t mean you aren’t resting,” his friend pointed out.

Though “friend” was perhaps a bit of a stretch. Levi had shown nothing but contempt for Alexius for the first several hundred years of his residence on the hill; then later, some indifference. They’d only seemed to get closer five hundred and twenty years ago, after the Eirikrson massacre.

Neither of them had known that anything had been going on. The royals had called a meeting, which meant that Alexius had headed right to the Adairford pub—an excellent brewery, even back then—to get drunk off his arse and forget that his family existed. As for Levi, he’d heard the term politics and hightailed it out of there. Then the next thing they knew, there had been screams on the hill, terrible screams that still haunted Alexius’s nightmares.

It took an unholy amount of alcohol for a vampire to get even the slightest bit tipsy, and the haze soon passed; but the night of the meeting, Alexius had drunk enough booze to be completely out of his wits. He’d imagined that the screams were his nightmares come to ruin his life during his waking hours for a change.

One of the many things he’d never atone for: not even trying to help as an entire family was slaughtered by his kin.

Some of the Eirikrsons deserved a good beheading. There always were assholes in each family. But there had been innocents—children, men, and women who weren’t inclined to fight anything or anyone unless it was self-defense. Even among the warriors, some were fair, honest, even kind.

And necessary. The Eirikrsons had been the one thing that had kept their kind in check. That had kept him in check.

Young vampires could lose it. Easily. The newfound bloodlust, the great powers suddenly at their fingertips held an intoxicating lure. And there also was the way their brains worked. Faster. Taking in everything and nothing at once. The lack of focus was their greatest curse.

Alexius used to be lazy as a teen. Too lazy to pay attention to his lessons about control. Or any lesson for that matter. He did what he pleased, and nothing else. His family never bothered to correct his behavior. He was a prince of the Helsing clan; rules were for other people.

Then he turned at age twenty-five, and he became something dark, twisted, a predator without a care, without a thought about his victims. Without a thought at all. He was a lion and the humans crossing his path, prey.

If that had happened now, in year 134 of the Age of Blood, he would have been killed on sight by huntsmen. Back then, it had been the Eirikrsons and their slayers who kept vampires in check, and they made a different call.

He still remembered Viola Wild pinning him down under her heel, both of her curved blades at the ready. She awaited her orders from her mistress.

Alexius had thrashed against her like a caged animal, desperate to get free, but he lacked discipline and strength. There was no way he could have done a thing against the likes of Viola, a soldier trained since infancy and turned into a vampire only when she knew every single one of her strengths and weaknesses.

   
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