Vampire matriarch, p.1
Vampire Matriarch, page 1part #7 of Shifter Squad Series
Shifter Squad: Book Seven
Copyright © 2015 J.C. DIEM
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, storage in an information retrieval system, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, incidents and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Table of Contents
Holding myself together through sheer desperate willpower, I drove towards New Orleans on autopilot. Tearing my bond away from Reece had left a gaping hole inside me that was growing by the second. Alone in my head for the first time in months, I felt as though I was teetering on the edge of madness.
Our bond had been the only thing keeping the vampirism at bay. Now that I no longer had that protection, the virus was rapidly spreading through my system. Becoming undead was a hideous prospect, but there was something even worse than that inside me. I could no longer hide my true nature from myself. I was a necromancer with the potential to raise legions of zombies.
It seemed that the necromancy was responsible for the darkness that had been rising inside me. Even now, I felt the insidious desire to call out to the dead and to bring them to my side. The necromancy was warring with the vampirism and they were desperately jostling for supremacy. Both were a derivative of death magic, but they were wildly different. Whichever one was the victor would claim me.
According to a dream I’d had recently, if the necromancy won there was a good chance that I would end up wiping out the entire human race. This possible outcome had been revealed to me in the dream by a mysterious woman who called herself Fate.
Unwilling to take the risk that Fate had just been a figment of my imagination, I could think of only one way to ensure that I wouldn’t destroy humanity. My mother had tied herself to me when she’d fed from me as a baby. She’d strengthened her hold after she’d bitten me twice more just a few months ago. If my necromancy didn’t win first, her power over me would become absolute within a matter of days. I needed to confront her while I still had the free will to do what was necessary.
When I didn’t show up at my father’s house by lunchtime, he’d undoubtedly call Mark. I’d been on the way to see him when Reece contacted me mind to mind and demanded that I release him from our bond. Whatever my dad wanted to say to me couldn’t have been that important or he’d have told me over the phone. It would no doubt be yet another secret that he’d kept from me supposedly for my own good. Whatever the secret was would remain unknown to me. I found I couldn’t dredge up the energy to care.
I was speeding well over the limit, but it was going to take me at least until nightfall to reach New Orleans. I’d switched my phone off so Mark couldn’t track my movements. It occurred to me that the SUV was probably fitted with a tracking device. The team would know where I was going, but they wouldn’t be able to follow me in time to stop me from going ahead with my plan.
I tried not to think about how Mark, Kala, Flynn and Zeus would feel once they realized I wasn’t coming back. They’d probably be better off without me. As Kala had pointed out, I was a magnet for trouble. An innocent walk to the park could end in disaster. Maybe she was right and I was cursed.
Looking back over my short life, I didn’t have much to complain about, other than losing my mother when I was so young. Yet the only time I’d ever been truly happy was when Reece had surrendered to our bond. Unfortunately, that happiness had only lasted for a few days.
During the long drive to New Orleans I remembered every word and every touch that Reece and I had exchanged. My life had changed forever the night he’d bitten me and had made me his. Like everyone, I deserved to be loved, but that apparently wasn’t my destiny. Fate had something else in mind for me. I wasn’t even nineteen yet and I was going to my death.
Dread and an awful anticipation crept over me when I finally reached New Orleans. I hadn’t bothered to buy food when I’d stopped for gas. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, yet I wasn’t hungry. My appetite had fled once the vampirism and darkness began to war inside me.
The sun was just beginning to fade from the sky as I drove through the city and headed to our base. It was fully dark by the time I reached the compound forty-five minutes later. I used the remote control device in the glove box to open the gate then continued on to the two story concrete building.
I used the device again and the garage door rolled upwards. Backing the SUV inside, I left my backpack in the front passenger seat. I left my cell phone behind as well. The only item I took with me was the white box that contained a necklace that had once belonged to my mother.
Beatrice, a witch who was a friend of Mark’s, had enchanted the necklace a few weeks ago. Once I donned it, I’d have twenty-four hours to track my mother down before the spell would wear off. I didn’t think it would take me that long to find her. She was somewhere near the city and I knew we’d meet before this night was over.
It was winter and I was dressed in a slightly battered black leather jacket, a plain white t-shirt and jeans, but I wasn’t cold as I jogged back towards the gate. Using the device to open the gate for a final time, I stepped out then tossed it back inside before the barrier swung shut. I wouldn’t need it again.
Taking the white box out of my pocket, I opened it and removed the necklace. I put it around my neck, secured the clasp and waited for something to happen. A full minute passed and I didn’t feel any different. Just when I thought the spell had failed, faint warmth filled the metal. Beatrice had told me the necklace would guide me to my mother. The heat would apparently increase the closer I came to her.
The heat gradually increased as I jogged along the road, indicating that I was heading in the right direction. It began to cool when I drew closer to New Orleans. Turning towards the swamp where Reece and I had once laid a body to rest, the heat increased again.
I loped along an increasingly worn track until it became an overgrown path. The ground became sodden and my jeans were soon soaked to the knees. Mud tried to suck my boots from my feet. If I’d been a normal girl, it would have been difficult to continue on through the marshland. Since I was far from human, I didn’t have any trouble negotiating my way through the water and
Grimacing at the swampy smell, I slowed down when the heat in the necklace intensified. After a couple of hours, I no longer needed the gold chain to guide me. I could sense my mother ahead and knew that I was getting close.
Swampland gave way to solid ground and I spied a ramshackle house through the dense woods. It might have been a grand mansion once, but time had reduced it to a moldering hovel. Dingy and gray, it was two stories high and was squat and square in shape. A balcony with wrought iron railings on the second level overlooked the entrance below. The windows seemed to glower down at me in disapproval.
The building was lightless, but it was far from empty. I could feel nine vampires inside. I knew they could sense me as well when someone called out. “Come inside, darling. I’ve been waiting for you.”
I shuddered at hearing Katrina’s voice. Her accent was Romanian, but it was easy enough to understand. On the surface, she sounded almost sweet. In reality, she was a cold blooded killer. I was pretty sure her sanity had been lost long ago.
Steeling myself for the long overdue confrontation, I climbed the stairs to the porch and crossed to the door. A metal gate barred my way, but it wasn’t locked. I pulled it open then gave the door beyond it a light shove. Rusty hinges squealed when it swung open.
The air inside was damp, musty and far from fresh, not that it mattered to creatures who could no longer breathe. Dark gray carpet covered the floor. Faded floral wallpaper was peeling from the walls. A long hallway led to a staircase that was in dire need of repairs. Lighter patches of wallpaper indicated that paintings had once graced the walls.
Making my way down the corridor, I glanced through the door to the right to see a large dining room that was devoid of furniture. The first door on the left was a parlor. The undead were waiting for me inside.
My mother sat on a plush, but ratty maroon armchair as if it was a throne made of pure gold. Eight minions sat on the floor at her feet. After her master had been killed, she’d either subjugated the survivors or had made new followers. They seemed to be fairly new to being unholy creatures of the night, but I wasn’t an expert. They were just as filthy and raggedy as their master. They were far too thin with hollow cheeks and gaunt faces. I hadn’t turned completely yet and my blood was still enticing to them. Each one eyed me as if I was a tasty treat. They’d have fallen on me and torn me apart if their master hadn’t been there to stop them.
Katrina smiled and crooked her finger for me to come closer. She wore the same torn and stained white dress that I’d seen her in last. Her feet were bare and filthy and her hair was a tangled mess. Her face was thin as well, but she wasn’t quite as starved as her underlings. She probably kept them hungry to make it easier for her to control them.
Being face to face with her was almost like looking into a mirror despite her tangled hair and dirty skin. We had the same dark brown eyes, oval face and shallow cleft in our chins. A few subtle differences made her far more beautiful than I could ever be. Only a few mortal years older than me, she looked like my big sister rather than my mother.
“You have come at last,” she said. Her brows drew down into a displeased frown and her lackeys cringed away from her slightly. “I expected you weeks ago. Why did it take you so long to come to me?”
She’d known I was a werewolf and that her vampire toxin would kill me if she bit me, yet she’d done so anyway. Against all odds, I’d survived, but her reckless disregard for my welfare was a reminder that she wasn’t capable of compassion or the ability to care. Seeing the cautious way her minions reacted to her small sign of displeasure, I knew it would be smart to tread carefully. I needed to catch her off guard before I could make my move.
“I turned into a werewolf for a full month,” I replied truthfully. “It seems to have slowed the vampirism down.” She watched my face intently, searching for a lie. “Why do you want me to be a part of your nest so badly?”
Annoyed at my tone, her hands clenched on the armrests of the overstuffed seat and the wood groaned in protest. She leaned forward and glowered at me. “Because you are mine. I gave birth to you and you belong to me.” Her fangs descended with the passion of her beliefs. I didn’t think she was even aware that she was snarling.
“You might have given birth to me,” I told her, “but I was never yours and I never will be.” I winced inwardly at my lack of tact as rage flashed across her face. So much for treading carefully.
Her lackeys cringed away from her anger again, distracting her slightly. Seizing the moment, I pulled the Beretta that I’d hidden in the back of my jeans. She turned back to see my gun pointed at her face and shock held her immobile just long enough for me to pull the trigger.
My triumph was short lived when I realized she was no longer sitting in the armchair. The bullet that should have entered her forehead had instead lodged in the back of the chair. Some stuffing oozed out, but I was pretty sure the chair would survive. Hopefully, I wouldn’t be so lucky. The reason I’d come here was to make sure I would die, after all.
“So,” a cold voice said from right behind me. Katrina was standing close enough for me to feel a chill emanating from her undead flesh. The fury in that one word was enough to make my knees knock in fear. “I should have guessed that you would try to kill me.” At an unseen signal, her followers rose to their feet with eerie grace and speed. “Are you aware of what would have happened to you if you’d succeeded?”
Turning to face her, I didn’t offer any resistance when my gun was snatched away. I was no match for even one vampire let alone nine of them in my human form. I’d had one chance to kill her and I’d failed.
“There is enough vampirism in you that if you’d killed me, you’d have died as well,” she said when I remained silent.
“I know,” I told her flatly. “I was counting on it.”
Her beauty disappeared as she allowed her rage to show. Her hand moved far too fast for me to see it and her fist connected with my jaw. Bone shattered and I let out a strangled shout of pain as I crashed to the floor.
I healed rapidly and the pain had already faded by the time I rolled over onto my back. Before I could try to stand, my arms and legs were pinned down by her cowering servants. I bared my teeth at Katrina and a deep snarl escaped me as my wolf tried to rise. If I let her take control, she’d tear the vampires to pieces and I couldn’t let that happen. I couldn’t allow the darkness to win and my necromancy to gain ascendency. It would be far better for me to become one of the undead than to jeopardize mankind.
“What is she?” a young female vamp whispered to the others. Katrina sent her a quelling look.
“I’m a werewolf,” I said. They couldn’t quite stifle their gasps of shock. “The vampire virus didn’t kill me like it should have when Katrina bit me.” I directed my next words to their master. “There’s never been anything like me before. If you turn me, God only knows what I’ll become. You should kill me while you have the chance. If you don’t, I promise you I’ll see you dead one way or another.”
My vow took her aback and some of the insanity that was pouring off her abated. Studying me shrewdly, she crouched down and reached out to touch my face. I flinched away, but that didn’t deter her. Her palm was cold when it came to rest against my cheek. “We are so much alike, Alexis. We both tried to kill ourselves to avoid our pain.”
My father hadn’t told me she’d attempted suicide, but I was too disappointed in my failure to feel much shock at that news.
“You might be a werewolf,” she continued, “but the vampirism is stronger. Once I turn you, perhaps your wolf will die.” She contemplated this idea then shrugged. “There is only one way to find out. It’s time for you to join us and to become what you were destined to be.”
A fist tangled in my hair and tilted my head to the side. My jacket was stripped off and my t-shirt was torn away to expose my right shoulder. My friends were hours away and no one was coming to save me. There w
I closed my eyes as my mother’s fangs sheared into my flesh for what would be the final time.
Pain lanced through me and horrible sucking noises filled my ears. I danced on the edge of blacking out as my blood was drained. With each swallow, the vampirism inside me swelled until it permeated my entire body and became all encompassing. Gasping in agony, I thrashed and the minions fought to keep me still.
The sucking noises finally stopped and Katrina’s face filled my vision. Blood coated her mouth and dripped from her fangs to splatter on my torn shirt. She was both beautiful and terrible as her eyes bored into mine.
After a long struggle, I felt my will seeping away. My pain and terror faded and calmness took over. I felt almost at peace.
“I am your mother and I have always loved you,” Katrina said. “Don’t fight me, Lexi. Drink my blood of your own free will so we can finally become a family again.”
Her tone was pleading rather than commanding and I desperately wanted to believe her. She’d been taken from me before I’d even had an opportunity to know her. I’d never had a mother and she was giving me the chance to have one for eternity. Or for however long the undead lived.
She bit into her wrist and dark, sluggish fluid welled. “Drink, darling,” she urged. Some part of me knew she was controlling my mind and that her words were lies, yet I was unable to resist her power. She held her wrist over my mouth and the scent brought my blood hunger roaring to the surface. The moment her wrist touched my lips, I latched onto her flesh and drank.
Her blood was bitter and very nearly rancid, but it sated a hunger that I’d been trying so hard and for so long to deny. Her wound closed, but I wasn’t done yet. Katrina made a sound of pain when my fangs descended and I bit her, but she didn’t pull away. She let me drink my fill then pulled away when I was done. “Let her go,” she said and the hands that had been holding me down disappeared.
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