Vampire huntress rebel a.., p.12

Vampire Huntress (Rebel Angels Book 1), page 12

 

Vampire Huntress (Rebel Angels Book 1)
 


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  I blinked. ‘Merry Christmas to you too. And we didn’t believe in any of that Santa crap.’

  Her scowl lightened. ‘I know, that’s why I’m making sure Aylin does.’

  ‘I don’t understand.’

  Gizem sighed, brushing my shoulder in a gesture so familiar, it made me ache. ‘I know. You never did.’ She slid out a packet of ciggies from her pocket and lit one with a disposable.

  ‘So, your little one didn’t recognise me.’

  ‘They grow fast. And you…seem different.’ When Gizem took a deep drag, she exhaled with a sigh, and then relaxed back against the concrete wall.

  I slouched next to her. ‘Remember last Christmas she was obsessed with some pricey princess doll, until—’

  ‘You took her to see a knight’s dressing up outfit and told her the story of Buffy the Vampire Slayer who was just like King Arthur and ever since—’

  ‘She’s said she wants to be Sir Buffy when she grows up?’

  We sniggered.

  Just for a moment, I could pretend Rebel had never fallen into my life.

  ‘You always had my back,’ Gizem said softly.

  ‘Because you always had mine.’

  ‘I looked for you,’ she tumbled ash from her ciggie between her feet. ‘The feds interviewed us. You know what they’re saying about you?’

  I stiffened, before forcing myself to smile. ‘That I’m a kickass bitch?’

  ‘That you’re a killer,’ she licked at her dry lips, ‘who took out Toben and then Bisi.’

  ‘And Jade?’

  Gizem shrugged, although the movement seemed to cost her. ‘Casualty of turf war.’

  ‘And what do you say?’

  Gizem threw down her ciggie, grinding it with her bare heel. I flinched. ‘You want to guess how much I wouldn’t be out here if I reckoned you’d ganked Jade?’ Then she hugged me fiercely, something she hadn’t done since I was a kid, and I struggled not to lose any Hackney respect and bawl. ‘I saw those pictures and I knew—’

  ‘Hell, you saw…?’ I’d forgotten, in the joy of the familiar, that my old life’s annihilation had been caught on film.

  ‘Someone’s going to turn you in. It’s all over social media.’ Gizem edged back towards her apartment. I could see the light through the crack. A world of The Night Before Christmas and belief in a good magic that didn’t come tainted with death. ‘And the gang that took over the business,’ she shuddered, her hand straying to rub at the towel around her neck, ‘they’re bastards who make Bisi look like a pussy. You can’t let them catch you.’

  ‘I won’t let them mess with you either.’ I couldn’t help the growl. This was Gizem, and we were the Two Orphan Musketeers. Ever since we’d been kids, we’d looked out for each other because we’d had no one else. ‘I’ll protect you.’

  Her smile was sad. ‘Can you even protect yourself?’

  I caught her arm before she could slam the door closed on me. ‘You’re saying there’s no room at the inn?’

  Gizem looked trapped in that agonizing choice between laughing and weeping. ‘Maybe you’re just trying to win the most screwed-up Christmas this year, Feathers?’

  I couldn’t help the wetness pricking my eyes. Gizem had never shut me out before. It hadn’t mattered what I’d done, she’d always been there to put me back together again.

  Suddenly desperate, I found myself babbling, ‘I’m claiming that medal. I’ve earned it. So, do I tell the spooky story?’

  Gizem’s gaze hardened as she slammed the door, but I didn’t miss her mutter, ‘You’re spooky enough already, girl.’

  I stared at the closed door, blankly.

  Then I allowed the tears to fall.

  Blindly, I stumbled out of Tower Block B into a snow world, blurred to ice white by my tears. I grasped onto the frozen chain, dropping onto the swing.

  I shivered as I swung.

  Homeless, alone, abandoned.

  Time for the spooky ass story, Violet-sweets. Make us fear and forget.

  I bent my legs, lolling my head back, with my eyes screwed shut against a world I didn’t want to remember. I swung higher and higher.

  There was once a foundling. No one knew who’d left her in the human world. But she was powerful and swore one day, when she was all grown up, she’d take her rightful place in the magical world and her vengeance…

  Lips on my neck. Arms around my waist, trapping me. Someone stopping the swing and stealing me back into the snow world with a kiss.

  My eyes snapped open.

  The bloke’s hair was auburn and smoothed into a boy band chic I remembered. His skin was tanned, and his cheek bones were high and aristocratic. His long black wool coat and leather gloves marked him as Romantic Boyfriend material.

  He was beautiful.

  No wonder I’d risked everything that night to be with him. The bastard did everything but sparkle.

  Phoenix.

  And he hadn’t aged since the night he’d tried to kill me, shanked Gizem, and given me my first kiss.

  Yet his pupils appeared charcoal-grey, rather than black. Was that why I hadn’t clocked he wasn’t human? And did vampires hide themselves that way?

  Phoenix frowned, like he’d expected a bigger reaction. He leaned closer, as if to steal a kiss, but I wrenched his arm off my waist and scrambled away.

  He sauntered after me. ‘You smell divine. A Christmas gift just for me. But why are you so sad?’ He smiled, with that dimple I’d found so cute before.

  Now I wanted to curb stamp the pretty bitch’s face into the snow.

  I shrugged. ‘Because a psycho reckons we’re into sharing our feelings.’

  Run, isn’t that what you said to the Fang? Do it now, before this asshole twists your mind.

  Why? I’m a huntress, remember?

  But this was the first time I’d been alone without Rebel. Alone with a vampire.

  And Phoenix wasn’t a gagged baby vamp.

  Phoenix ran a hand through his thick wave of hair. ‘You’re sad, I believe, because nobody wants you.’ When I flinched, his smile broadened. ‘Except, I want you. You want me too, if you’d only let go. You crave death, seeking it out with your foolishness. Yet I can give you something that will take you further than death. Just relax, and allow it to take you. Let me in.’

  Phoenix’s eyes were burning coals against the white of the snow. His move to me so fast, I felt his breath against my neck before I’d tensed for it. When he tongued my skin, I stiffened.

  I didn’t want this, but I was frozen because I did crave death.

  Only not how he imagined it.

  With a sigh, I elbowed Phoenix, and he staggered back with a startled oomph.

  ‘Just bounce, yeah?’ I booted the merry-go-round; it slowly spun.

  Run, Pretty Feathers, run…

  An outraged roar, then hands dragged me back by my hair.

  I yelped, but my neck was twisted. Fingers dug in at the base.

  Coming, ready or not…

  Agony. Blinding and pure.

  I screamed as my muscles and nerves melted in a wave of weakness. I submitted, falling to my knees in the wet snow.

  I had the sudden memory of Rebel, risking this same pain at Da’s hands.

  I hadn’t prayed to the angels for many years, but I prayed now for Rebel to save me.

  I juddered with pain, like I’d been tasered, so weak I couldn’t lift my arms. Then I stared up at Phoenix’s face full of fangs.

  That’s a proper screwed-up Christmas for you.

  Phoenix stroked down my cheek; the leather was soft and cold against my skin. He dragged my throat closer to his gleaming teeth. ‘I’ve waited a long time to taste you.’

  ‘Sweet Jesus, you’re not using those idiot lines?’ Rebel wrenched Phoenix away from me, smashing his head against the merry-go-round.

  Phoenix snarled, trying to escape, but Rebel held him down with a boot on his throat.

  I panted, gaping at Rebel in his swirl of black leather,
as — bang — he lifted up Phoenix’s head and crushed it against the merry-go-round again.

  Maybe a Christmas prayer could come true? I’d never been so relieved to see anyone as that psychotic angel pounding Phoenix’s head.

  I struggled to crawl closer to the bastard who’d scarred Gizem and stolen my trust in men. After Phoenix, blokes were disposable toys: shag and throw away. That way, you couldn’t be hurt or shanked.

  All because my first kiss was with a vampire.

  I dragged myself through the snow towards Phoenix.

  Phoenix flailed under Rebel’s boot, but Rebel grimly held him down.

  ‘You’re right: I crave death. Let’s see what happens when I let it in.’ I kissed Phoenix lightly.

  When Phoenix snapped at me with his fangs, Rebel ground his heel into his neck and he stilled.

  I forced my tongue into Phoenix’s resisting mouth. For the first time, violet death flowed through my lips and into my intimate tonguing.

  Phoenix jerked. The silver knives, which had haunted so many of my nightmares, shot from his nails.

  But now they were impotent.

  Rebel swung Eclipse, slicing off the hands that’d dared to touch me, at the same time as a hissing, searing path of flames flared through Phoenix’s head, until he burned like a candle.

  When I settled back on my heels, the sparking fire ate through the vampire’s convulsing body, until in a flash that speared up to the army of stars, Phoenix crumbled to ash.

  I am death. The End. Destroyer.

  You should’ve run. Remember I gave you the choice to run.

  A huntress doesn’t run.

  I’ll read you until the Christmas bells ring out: you’re an addict, the same as Rebel.

  Shocked, I sprawled backwards.

  Rebel leapt over the pile of ash and threw himself onto me.

  His body was hard. Supporting. Anchoring.

  His face was as white as the snow, and his hands shook.

  He touched every inch of me, patting down for injuries and turning my head from side-to-side to check my neck. He sighed, when he saw it was unmarked. Then he caressed his fingertips over my face, as if memorising it. When he slowly removed my glasses, I stiffened but allowed it.

  He’d earned that…intimacy.

  I blinked, as first Rebel touched one eyelid, and then the other. Carefully, he pushed my glasses back on. At last, he pressed a kiss to my forehead, before collapsing onto me. ‘You’re a muppet.’

  I smiled. ‘Yeah, and you’re a wallad.’

  Rebel touched his forehead to mine. ‘I’m sorry. It’s Christmas and your sister… You know I don’t do—’

  ‘Talking?’

  ‘I say it all arseway but I understand. And before you eat my head off, I’ve lost family too. It doesn’t make me seek death, but life. Look, princess,’ he glanced down, his lashes curling onto his cheek, ‘I’m a bad angel. I’ve fibbed to you about…everything. There are things I can’t tell you. But if you come back with me — to my family — I’ll tell you what I’ve been hiding…’

  I clutched Rebel, my heart pounding.

  This was it. The secret he hid behind his shuttered eyes. Where he went when he stole out of the witches’ house at night.

  Whether I’d been right to trust and free him.

  And if I hadn’t, I’d be forced to set him alight like a violet sparkler.

  Then this Christmas Eve night, Rebel would be just another pretty death.

  13

  When the House of Rose, Wolf and Fox beckoned in a blaze of light in the freezing black — no way had my Christmas Eve vanishing gone unnoticed — I swung to Rebel.

  My breath came in icy mists, puffing out like a fairy train down the driveway. My fingers swept the frosty stone of the sundial.

  Crunch — I dug my heels into the gravel as I dragged Rebel to a stop.

  Rebel glanced down at my fingers, which dug into his arm, with a nervous smile. ‘Time to pay the piper then?’

  Family is the angel in eyeliner’s weakness. He’s a loyal little punk. He’ll tell you his secret…out here.

  But if you let that sweet ass of his inside, then his adoptive psychos will smother the darling until—

  Got it, J, shank the weakness.

  Shank the punk. Is it not sinking in yet? If they’re not yours, then they’re dead.

  I shuddered, closing my eyes.

  ‘Feathers, you’re not looking so well.’ Rebel stroked across the back of my elbow.

  My eyes snapped open, and I wrenched away my arm. ‘I’ll look better, bro, when you trust me with the truth. Like where you go at night.’

  He clutched at his collar, as if for protection. ‘Do Ma and Da know…?’

  ‘Focus.’

  ‘What happened to your da?’ He glanced carefully at me from underneath his eyelashes but he’d crossed his arms defiantly.

  My stomach twisted. I’d never known my parents. But it’d been clear they hadn’t wanted me.

  Rebel knew that. He was playing me.

  I shrank from his cruelty, even as I seethed that he’d use my dad to distract me.

  Who’s getting shanked here?

  You don’t need your dad; you have me.

  ‘I reckon you know more about my dad than I do.’ My hands shook as I gripped the edge of the sundial, but I tilted my head. ‘You have one sentence to convince me not to burn you alive.’

  Rebel’s eyes widened. He paced in a tight circle around me and the sundial. My head spun. ‘My real da’s here on earth because I abandoned him.’ Then he licked his lips. ‘Oh, and please don’t kill me.’

  I snatched the cold sleeve of his leathers, holding him still. ‘You have an angel dad?’

  ‘It’s…complicated. But I’ve been searching for him. Even though the Deadmans would whip my arse for it, but that’s why—’

  I shoved Rebel across the gravelled driveway, slamming him against the timbered porch; the wicker effigies that swung by their necks trembled. The protection spells glowed, snaking crimson symbols in the shadows.

  Rebel let out a startled yelp.

  ‘I’m the mug who believed you were here to save me. My own angel at last. Where’s my head been at, reckoning you were family? Because all along, you’ve been on earth to find your true family. I never reckoned I could feel sorry for the bastard witches.’

  My vampiric and angelic sides crashed together in a dominating, enraged flood.

  Mine, mine, mine…

  I lowered my lips to Rebel’s, as I had Phoenix’s, whilst an ice-cold inferno spat and sparked from my toes to my mouth.

  You can do this.

  Remember the anger. The betrayal. I’m all you need.

  Rebel struggled, his heels cracking against the oak door, but then he went limp. ‘Hurt me,’ he whispered, as if it was a prayer, ‘kiss me, burn me…’

  The sizzling flames leapt, from my lips to his, and he gasped.

  What the hell was I doing?

  I staggered back from him. The enraged wave broke, and the waters bled away. I vibrated with shock.

  His gaze was dazed, before he swiped his knuckles across his seared lips.

  ‘Don’t lie to me again,’ I shook, terrified at what I’d almost done — what I’d craved to do. And into what J had tempted me. ‘If your dad is missing…then we can search for him, the same as Jade.’ How little control I had still over the powers inside horrified me. ‘You’re not alone in that birdcage anymore. Fam is fam, remember?’

  He nodded, although his smile was fragile. ‘Brilliant! Although, could you call me Custodian once in a while? I’m already making a big enough balls of the job.’

  ‘Safe, Custodian.’

  ‘See? Now I’m all tingly.’

  I smacked his arm, but he’d stilled, scanning the woods along the drive.

  A flicker of movement like bats…

  ‘Inside.’ Rebel had paled. He dashed through the high door, fiddling with the effigy on his trousers.

  I s
talked after him into the halo light of the hallway that was glaring after the gloom of the porch, reaching for my own effigy…except it wasn’t there.

  I’d crushed it under my boot in Evie’s room.

  Hadn’t Ma warned me that without the effigy I’d be the hunted?

  Rebel scowled at me. He slammed the door, resting his forehead against it.

  He’d guessed.

  I banged my boot against the panelled wall. ‘So, what have I done and how bad is it?’ I asked, trying for casual.

  Rebel’s gaze was hard. ‘You’ve brought down the vampires on us…on my family.’

  ‘But I thought the effigies were to hide us from angels?’

  ‘You want to discuss this now? Those creatures outside are here to kill us all.’

  ‘Why?’

  ‘Hunters? Witches? Angels? And you’re….’ He caught himself, biting at his lip. ‘We’re they’re enemies in a war that’s been battled for centuries. There’s no talking or dealing or… To them, we’re the villains.’

  In a flurry of silk dressing gowns, the Deadmans clattered down the staircase to paw Rebel, twirling him round to check for injuries and hissing over his burnt lips.

  Da gave me a level look. ‘Do you enjoy the chase? I have Blood Familiars who were once like you. After they were…tamed…they enjoyed it considerably less.’

  ‘Sorry, bro, but your damaged psyche — freaky as it is — has to wait. There’s a gang of Fangs outside.’

  Evie’s wild curls danced as she spun to me, but I was shocked to see the tears trapped in the corners of her eyes. ‘I have powers, but no one listens to my warnings; I’m the Cassandra of London. And you, my lovely, are the destroyer. You bring death to this house.’

  ‘Nobody will hurt you, I promise,’ Rebel pulled his family around him. In silence, they held each other in a tight circle at the base of the staircase.

  I ached, hugging my arms around myself. ‘What can I do?’ I asked quietly. ‘Do we go out there, hunter style?’

  ‘As if leading the enemy to our hidden door was not your intention,’ Evie sneered, pulling away from the circle and breaking it. But Rebel held onto Ma’s hand; her fingers clasped around his. ‘Precious thing, how much will you cost us?’

  Evie swayed in a trance, tracing invisible visions in the air with twitching fingers.

 
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