Part 3 of many. (Does anyone hate Amber yet I'm genuinely interested)
than you. Correct?" I asked tactfully. Amber nodded. "Well how much do you think Luke has me by; weight wise?"
"Probably over a hundred pounds," she estimated loosely, making a so-so gesture with her hands. On a good day, I was about a hundred and twenty pounds, but Luke was tall and still very well-muscled even after five years of slacking off. I think he is about two hundred and twenty to two hundred thirty, so Amber's estimate was pretty accurate.
"So, he should be able to subdue me easily if we were to fight. Correct?" She nodded again, but looked less sure of her statement. If Luke had told her anything about me, she knew that I was a force to reckoned with. "Today, I am going to prove your theory wrong. We are going to try to pin each other to the floor for an excess of twenty seconds. Whoever does this first will win."
I set the rules knowing that pinning someone much heavier that I, will give me that much more credibility. I smiled at Luke who stood in front of me already tensed for battle. His emerald eyes were narrowed and assessing my weight distribution and expression to predict my actions before they happened. I too settled into a crouch and wiped my face of expression. I had spent hours looking in the mirror, watching my eyes go blank and making every emotion fade until my face showed none of the flashing thoughts that raced through my brain.
Luke made the first move, running towards me with long smooth strides. I waited until he was almost on top of me before utilizing my small stature to roll between his legs and deliver furious jabs at his kidneys. He turned quickly, but I was already gone. He aimed a clumsy kick at my head that I'll admit, I hadn't expected, but I dropped and aimed a kick of my own at the back of the leg that he was balanced on. He crumbled to the floor and I was on him in a flash, knees pinning his arms to the ground and forearm at his neck.
I should not have been able to beat him this easily. He should have seen that coming. I was furious now. I knew that he was out of practice, but I would have thought that he would have practiced at least a bit. I looked down at his miserable face and bared my teeth. "I told you into that we can't get by on our powers alone, that we had to be strong and skilled. You never cared. You're just another arrogant fool with power that you don't even understand yet. You think I'm crazy, but many people thought that and look what happened to them. They were captured and they died. All because they thought that what I said was too insane to be believed and with that decision, they tore my family apart. You don't deserve anything that I've done for you!"
"Stop! Please you're hurting him!" I let my body go slack as Amber tore me off of Luke as I became aware that I had pinned him for more than twenty seconds. He got up quickly gasping as the pressure on his throat disappeared. I closed my mouth and immediately felt something sharp slice through my lip. After carefully investigating with my tongue, I found that large canines had sprouted in my mouth. Horror stuck me and I quickly looked and my coiled fists. There were rivulets of blood streaming down my arms. I carefully uncurled my fingers and saw that my nails had elongated into claws that had dug into my hands leaving deep holes, now rapidly closing.
I had found that I could shift only certain parts of my body if concentrated, but this had happened without me even knowing. I had been so angry that I had lost control. This usually only happened when I was pulled into memories, and I was scared that it could happen like this at all.
Every muscle was shaking from being tensed for so long so I unwound them and stood slowly. I felt guilty as I watched Amber and Luke. He reassured her repeatedly that he was fine as the purple marks around his neck vanished before her eye. The fading marks were enough to make my stomach clench. Even though he was trying to brush it off for her sake, I could tell that he was freaked out. I had never done something like that and he knew that something was very wrong.
"I'm so sorry Luke," I whispered, "I have no idea what I was doing."
"You shut up! You had no right to do that." Amber screamed at me, "You could have killed him!"
I knew that she was wrong, but that didn't take away from the horror of what I had just done. Trying to the life out of someone was just not something that could be apologized for. I tried to take a couple of steps towards them trying to explain, but instead careened towards the ground as my limbs froze and I was pulled from the present. Holy shit. My mind really was trying to screw me over.
I tried to make sense of my surroundings as the memory enveloped me. Why the hell did I have to be looking down? My bare feet were surrounded by thousands of wildflowers, but I was very sad. Everyone was leaving. First Nita then Petram. The only one left was Will and he had been so quiet since Petram died that I feared that he would leave next. I wore a black dress, clearly expressing my sorrow at the death of someone who had been a constant in my life for two hundred year, someone who I had believed to be indestructible.
Oh, I thought. I didn't even try to pull away from this memory. This was a memory that I both treasured and mourned every day. For this was the day that I let Will walk away forever. I guess I deserved this memory and I took it as punishment for my extreme lapse of the tight control over my mind that I usually kept. Miserably, I watched as the scene unfolded.
"So, what now dove?" Will's arms circled around me, warding off the cold that was seeping into my bones as I lifted my eyes to stare listlessly at the mound of dirt that we had piled onto Petram's coffin.
"I don't know. You could go back to the hunters to be with Nita, but I hadn't really thought about where I'll go." I shrugged my shoulders and despaired at what my life would become.
Suddenly, Will turned my body to face him. His face was gentle and his lovely eyes kind. "Lizzy I would never leave you alone."
I smiled tentatively up at him as his face became more animated. Clearly, he had been thinking more about what we would do than I had. It sure explained his broodiness over the last couple of days.
"I've been thinking that we could travel. We wouldn't need to interact with anyone, it would be just you and I." He described it with such enthusiasm that I couldn't help wishing that it could happen, but there were problems that even I could see.
"What would we do for food? You know that I don't like to steal and besides we would be quite a conspicuous pair." I reminded him gently. He cupped my cheek gently while still holding me with his other hand as his eyes shined. He had been doing little things like this lately (by lately I mean a couple of years. Time kind of blurred for me back then) that made me feel warm and slightly frightened at the same time.
"None of that would be a problem dove! We would live as wolves!" he declared triumphantly. My eyes widened and I stared at him shocked, "Petram told me about some shifters that stayed under the radar because they live as animals full time. We would go slowly of course, maybe a couple of days at a time, but eventually we would live like them. Wild, and free from all of the trouble of the human world."
His voice rung with conviction, and I could tell that he had been thinking about it for longer than I had thought. I searched his face, looking for some sign that there was another option, but could see that his heart was set on it. There was a deep despair in his usually bright eyes that killed me to see. He needed to get away from everything that we had been through, away from humanity's greed and their willingness to sacrifice for their own gain. My heart ached as I knew that I couldn't go with him. The past few years had torn away at my sanity, and life ripped away everything that I thought was permanent. If I were to become an animal, I feared I would lose myself and everything I stood for. I loved to sing. I loved to dance and laugh with the people around, but I could do none of this if I went with Will. Isolating myself would ruin my already shattered mind even with Will to keep me company.
"I- I can't," I stammered as my heart broke. Will's face fell and I could see how much it hurt him. I buried my head in his muscled shoulder, and regarded myself with contempt "I need to be around people; I can't be silent and alone in my own mind. I fear it will destroy me. Besides, I don't think I could ever live as an animal, I've got too much humanity"
"Fine. I'll stay then," I looked back up at him and shook my head at the tortured look on his face.
"You can't Will, for that would eventually destroy you." I sobbed up at him. Tears were hot and blinding in my eyes as I asked, "Why would you want to tear yourself apart? You already know what you want to do. Why give that up for me?"
Will's face softened and lost the anger and hurt for a moment as he answered simply, "It's because I love you my dove. I want to protect you forever and never let anyone hurt you, not even your own mind."
My world shifted at that admission. Will had been the center of my world since we had met. He had always been at my side through every trial and taught me so much about defending myself and controlling my gifts. There was no one that I would rather spend eternity with. I could look at his smile and listen to his low, slightly rough tenor of his voice for the rest of time. The only thing that I could not do, was hurt him so that I could feel better. It was the most selfish thing that I could think of and I had had enough greed to last several lifetimes.
The love in his eyes was so apparent now, and I longed to stay in his arms where I knew I was safe. Instead, I ripped myself from his arms and wrapped my own around my thin body. They fit easily as I had stopped eating weeks ago. I painted on a face of disgust that came so easily after the constant horror of the past weeks and watched as I slowly tore him apart.
"I don't need your protection." He cringed away. I started trembling, but pushed on determined to dissuade him. "I don't need your protection and I don't need your love."
"I know you don't need it," he stumbled over his words, confused at my sudden distain, "But it is yours to have."
"If you were to give it. I would leave it on the ground for I do not return it." I could hear my frigid voice as if it were another person talking. Will was slowly becoming angry, which was better than the anguish that it replaced. He now matched my trembling, but his was more from the power of his emotions rather than his weakness.
"We have been through so much!" he shouted, "Now you want me to leave you here? You'll never be able to make your way on your own."
"I will find a way," I shrugged feigning indifference, though I felt physical pain in doing so. He was right of course, my tendency to pass out suddenly could be written off as disease, but my quick healing and odd looks had caused me trouble before.
"You cannot just- Lizzy we lived together for over a century. You can't just pretend that you don't care!" He accused, his voice like poison. He continued, his eyes drilling holes through mine. I simply shrugged and turned away, examining the flowers around me. I tried to take my mind away from the weight of my heart in my chest, screaming that this was the wrong thing to do. It was ironic that the weather was so nice today. I felt that rain and gloom would have been more fitting.
"You look at me right now young lady! You can't just turn your back and expect me to walk away." He growled behind me, "We are family. We pick each other up. That is what we have always done. I'll always be there for you."
I whipped around so fast that I could hear the grass rip under my feet, "Oh. No. My family is dead." I used my hysteria to muster a laugh, "They died centuries ago at my own hand. Burned to the ground. You just happened to be both nearby and immortal like me. You accepted me with open arms without knowing anything about me."
"I knew all I needed to." He responded woodenly, taken aback by my newfound tenacity.
"You know nothing." I spat with eyes flashing. "Do you know the amount of people that have died because of me? Or at my own hand?"
"No.." he answered through gritted teeth.
I smiled cruelly, "That's what I thought."
"That doesn't matter." Will plowed through my confession, "That is in the past. We still need each other. I don't want anything to hurt you."
"Oh? And who is going to save me from the horrors of the real world? You?" I scoffed through the lump in my throat, "You couldn't even save our so-called family. There are six of us left. Six. Petram's dead too and he wasn't even killed in the war!"
I could see my words driving into him as he flinched away. He had tried so hard to lift our mentor's spirits and I knew that Petram's death was something that weighed on his shoulders like a ton of brick. Unfortunately, this was the perfect set of barbs for me to use. It would be better for him later on. He didn't need to be saddled with a time bomb that could go ballistic at any time.
"You couldn't even get Nita, your own sister, to stay with us." I sneered, "Talk about family and you lost the last of your real one. I don't need you Will. In fact, I never did."
"Well," his voice sounded weary, but he didn't try to convince me anymore. The damage of my words was clear on his face, but I refused to acknowledge it, "If this is what you really want, then I'll leave."
I watched as his tortured expression melted away into the unreadable face of a wolf. I picked up a lock of hair, twisting the alabaster curl into a tighter spiral and watched him out of the corner of my eye. As I did, I saw the outline of a huge, black wolf disappear into the surrounding forest. I was disappointed and I didn't know why. Maybe part of myself had wanted him to put up more of a fight and to stay with me even when I had told him to go and trodden on his heart that he had laid so vulnerably at my feet. I sank to the ground, as the adrenaline drained out of my body. For all of my bluster and talk, I had no idea where I was going to go or what I was going to do. I felt empty and tired, so I curled up in the middle of the field and slept on a vibrant bed of wildflowers.
Though the memory had ended, I sat in darkness for what felt like centuries. I was drowning in regret and forced to think about what I had thrown away so carelessly. I told myself over and over that what I had done was necessary, but every time I did, I relived the moment that something had shattered in Will's eyes that day. Slowly, I came to realize that there were shapes in the darkness. I tried to reach for them, to pull myself out of this pit of misery.
Little by little more light filtered through until I could clearly see Luke and Amber looking down at me with differing expressions.
"Lizzy? Can you hear me now?" his voice was tight and filled with worry that I did not deserve. I wondered how long I had been down. Time was kind of iffy in memories.
"Yes, I can hear you." My voice sounded small and far away in my ears, but Luke seemed to relax and helped me to sit up. I was surprised at how stiff I was with every muscle clenched and taut. "How long was I out?"
"Three hours." He told me flatly. Huh, no wonder they had been worried. I never out for that long, but besides that, I could have missed the mission tonight and ruined all of our plans. I moved to get up but Luke held me down, apparently not finished, "Three hours is how long you have been unresponsive. You opened your eyes about two hours ago. You kept saying 'no' and 'Will' in various states of horror."
"Sorry about that." I was embarrassed, but I resumed my usual tact. "I guess it is too late to continue with training, right?"
"I think we should call off the mission." I looked at Luke like he was insane. We had gone on plenty of missions just after one of my episodes and I had been just fine. I told him as much.
"Ya well this was different. Usually you wake right up, not lay there with your eyes open like a freaking corpse." He threw his hands up in an effort to express his discomfort. I stared at him sadly, waiting for him to tire himself out. My visions had been getting exponentially worse, but they didn't stop me from doing my normal activities afterwards.
"I'm ok Luke. If I say I'm going, then that is what is happening." I told him firmly.
"I think she should go if she wants to. If she's not ok, then she is just going to get herself hurt and that'll be her problem." Amber defended me much to my surprise. I nodded my thanks to her, but I strongly suspected that she wanted me to get hurt for what I had done to Luke earlier. I agreed with her and planned to push myself even harder to keep up my part of the mission, knowing that I was weaker now than I had planned on being.
"If that is settled, I am going to get ready now." I told them tiredly, "Remember Amber, we want to be too conspicuous, but feel free to go all out. The stragoi like their food too look appetizing too."
With that, I slowly got to my feet and walked quietly out of the gym, leaving a wake of confusion and worry behind me.
Luke watched Lizzy walk out in a haze. She was awake now, but she seemed more fragile than he had ever seen her and it worried him to no end. The dead look in her eyes as they had opened haunted him and made him almost entirely forget the fury and anger that radiated from her only a short time before. He had seen her lose her temper before when he had left the apartment a mess, but this was different. The first time she had gone away for a weekend to attend to a problem that one of her investments had encountered, he had left clothes and dirty dishes lying everywhere. Lizzy had screamed and yelled, demanding that he clean up his mess. She was so on edge that little flames appeared on her nose and fingertips, but she kept them away from him, careful not to burn him. She was always careful. Lizzy had told him that keeping things clean and where they were supposed to be, allowed her to keep some modicum of control over a life that made her feel like every time she thought she had some footing, she was swept away again.
This time, her rage was palpable and almost animalistic in nature. He could still hear the rough, choked snarls escaping her mouth and the force of her forearm crushing his windpipe over and over again. Luke was scared, but he knew that he would not sustain any permanent damage. What scared him more, what that Lizzy didn't seem to be in control of what she was doing. In fact, she looked horrified as she realized what she had done. Her deep blue eyes were full of disgust for herself. Luke shook his head. Whatever was happening to her would have to be discussed later, but for now, Lizzy was right. They had a job to do.
Amber had followed Lizzy up to the house, excited to be able to wear the new dress that she had bought the first day that that they were here, so Luke walked back to the apartment alone. He sat down at the kitchen table and flipped through some of the blueprints of the buildings that Lizzy thought most likely to be the stragoi's hideout. The most likely building was an old hotel that was only a couple of yards from the building. The bodies that had been found had been dumped about a hundred miles away from the club in a different part of the city all together, but both he and Lizzy had agreed that the murders would not stray too far from where they picked up the girls. He studied until he heard the click of heels coming from his room.
Amber looked hot. That was for sure. Her long honey blond hair was pulled into a sleek ponytail and she had gone with a dramatic smoky eye with bold back liner. Her dress clung to her curves. Luke definitely approved of the dress when she bought it, but it looked even better on. It was a short black lace number with long sleeves that hung off her shoulders and she wore what she like to call 'stripper heels', black strappy pumps, to accentuate her long legs.
"What do you think babe?" she smiled seductively and shimmied in a cartoonish manner. Luke grabbed her by the waist and smiled at her.
"You look good enough to eat." He teased her. Luke pulled her into a kiss as he heard a second pair of heels, softer this time and turned to see Lizzy come through the door. Amber turned away from her and walked over to the door of the apartment. She still thought Lizzy had hurt him on purpose. Dressing up for her was rare, but boy did she know how to do it. He hadn't seen her for five years and couldn't help a sharp intake of breath at the sight of her. This was after how he had first developed a crush on her in the first place.
She had been working him to the bone all month and he was tired of the routine. Luke had asked her if they could take a break over the weekend to go party like normal kids. She reminded him that she wasn't a kid, but had relented quickly. She normally wore workout clothes or oversized jackets around the house, but when she came out of her room to meet him that night, she took his breath away. She's been wearing a tight, red knee length dress with no sleeves. Her strict regimen had built her legs while leaving her waist slim and smooth, so the dress had been filled out nicely. Simple makeup highlighted her features making her dark eyes stand out even more against her pale skin and half of her hair had been gathered into a bun on top of her head. He had finally had the chance to see her looking his age.
Tonight's look was a bit less subtle, but had the same effect. Her usually messy curls had been cleaned up and taken out of the bun that they were usually contained in. They now hung in ringlets down her back. She had on a tiny, black pencil skirt and red mesh long-sleeved top over a black bralette. Her shoes were unnecessarily complicated, with tall heels and little strings that wound up her legs to the middle of her thigh. As his eyes worked their way up to her face, he noticed that she had on deep red lipstick making her full lips more prominent and think wings of eyeliner made her look dangerous, but compelling at the same time. She looked good, but her expression was still dark and her shoulders were slumped.
"How the hell are you going to fight in those shoes?" Luke asked incredulously. Lizzy laughed and a cloud that he hadn't known was hanging over him, lifted.
"Watch this!" She whispered. Luke watched as she bent down and took the heels off of her shoes with ease and pushed a button that he had not noticed. A small blade popped out and he stared in surprise. "I had them specially made a couple years ago."
Beside him, Amber was looking at Lizzy with a new appreciation. If there was anything that was going to make her like Lizzy, it was going to be cool features on clothes that still look good. I mean she was over the moon when she found a cute dress with pockets, let alone shoes with daggers hidden in the heels.
"Shall we go?" Lizzy walked over to where Amber stood and offered her arm. She shrugged apologetically when Amber gave her a nasty look, "We're supposed to be friends on a night out. Plus, if you're going to come with us then you need to stick close to me so you don't get hurt."
With a second more of hesitation, Amber took the smaller girl's arm and they walked out of the door, leaving Luke to shift into an owl and follow them as soon as they were on the street. He went to the window and opened it before he shifted. Luke hadn't mastered the artful way that Lizzy controlled his changes, so he was glad that Amber had left before he did it. Feathers grew in patches on his skin as the ground rushed towards him and he felt his bones shrink and grind together as they reconfigured themselves. It wasn't a pleasant experience, but at last he was a tiny brown screech owl.
Luke took off out of the open window and waited only minutes before the girls came through the front door of the apartment. He watched them as they walked the couple of blocks that would take them to the club. Lizzy told jokes and funny stories, trying to loosen Amber up as they walked. It seemed to work as his girlfriend's steps became less stiff and laughter freer. Lizzy laughed too, but hers was manufactured and stiff. Her head was on a swivel that to the untrained eye would look unintentional, but Luke knew she was already on alert.
When they got to the club, Amber started to get in line, but Lizzy just rolled her eyes and dragged her to the front where a meat headed and angry bouncer was glaring at them. Luke made a small chirping sound as he tried to laugh. Lizzy had no patience to wait in lines that could be avoided. He perched on a pole and listened to her talk her way into the club.
"Hello sir!" She said brightly. She stood straight and was smiling with her eyes unusually wide, "Do you think we could get in without waiting in this line?"
Subtlety really wasn't her thing, but the bouncer was into her. He was looking her up and down, taking his time as he got to her hips, but she pressed on, "You see, it's my best friend's birthday and we planned to hit at least seven clubs tonight. We can't exactly do that if we're stuck in line all night."
She flipped her hair and flirted outrageously, while Amber giggled behind her playing her part. The bouncer ran a hand through his thin hair and stepped aside to let them through. Luke had never understood how Lizzy got people to do what she wanted like that, as he doubted that she could have if she was just another pretty girl. Luke suspected that sometimes her broken mind sometimes influenced others.
She thanked him, and kissed him on the cheek, giving enough distraction for him to slip into the club with them. Luke found a string of lights in the corner near the back of the club to perch on. Nothing obstructed his view of the girls so he switched from keeping an eye on them to looking for men that could be stragoi.
Lizzy and Amber flitted around the dance floor, never straying too far from each other. They both looked into the eyes of the men that tried to dance with them, looking for the red irises that would identify them as targets. A large man caught Luke's eye. He was purposefully making his way to where Lizzy and Amber were dancing. His hair was blond and the fluid way he walked made Luke ruffle his feathers in discomfort. He grabbed Lizzy around the waist with a lazy smile and she turned sharply. He concentrated on their conversation, blocking out the roar of the crowd.
"Hello little girl," the man purred with a slight Russian accent, "How does someone as lovely as you not come with a man?"
Lizzy's eyes widened. She looked at him with innocence and faint desire. It was bullshit, but the Vikingish man moved his hands from her waist to her wrists as his lazy smile turned dark. Her eyes hardened slightly at his shift. She put a hand on his chest curling her pinky and ring finger in. Luke tensed as he recognized the signal that this was a stragoi.
"You're very handsome. What's your name?" she asked breathlessly. Luke could see much better as an owl, and noticed her slender fingers turning red. The stragoi had effectively handcuffed her with a grip of iron.
"Call me Andi little one. Would you like to come with me tonight?" he let one of her arms go to stroke her cheek roughly. Luke's skin crawled under his feathers. He didn't know how anyone could keep their cool being touched by something so repulsive.
"I don't know," she screwed up her face in disappointment. The bloodsucker puffed up with visible anger, but Lizzy feigned obliviousness, "Can my friend come with us? It's her birthday and I don't want to leave her here."
She pointed Amber out as she returned from the bar and the man seemed to force himself to stay calm, "Of course darling. Maybe she can come with us for a bite to eat as well."
Andi laughed as Lizzy thanked him profusely and told him what a good time they would have. She waved Amber over and Luke prepared to take off again. The man went stiff as Lizzy took his arm and Amber's, but didn't object. She had put herself between them and Luke was glad that she was thinking about Amber's safety.
The trio walked out back door to the club and down and alleyway. They were only led a couple of blocks before their guide came to a stop in in front of a worn looking building. Luke nodded to himself as he recognized the layout of the hotel he had been looking at when they'd left. The girls looked terrified, (he suspected that the acting wasn't very hard for Amber as she had never done something like this before.)
He knew that the stragoi wouldn't try to bite them so soon so he flew up to a vent that he knew would lead to the main lobby and found that there were six more stragoi waiting to meet their guests. He flew to a dark corner and changed back into a human. Making sure he was hidden, Luke waited for his signal to make his presence known. One of them, smaller than most of them, was clearly the leader. He stood in the middle of the room silently as the others murmured restlessly. The room went silent as their runner opened the door and pushed Lizzy and Amber in.
"These two practically begged me to take the here. They are simple creatures after all." Andi laughed as they stumbled in. Luke saw Lizzy stretching her arms in anticipation, and he rolled his eyes. Amber was now practically glued to Lizzy. The leader came forward, singling Lizzy out as the more composed of the two.
"My name is Demetri. Have you realized what is happening yet young one?" he said slowly. Lizzy examined her nails, as he went on in a condescending fashion, "I find that humans sometimes don't realize when things happen right under their noses."
"Oh, ya I totally missed the rapey vibes your pretty little delivery boy gave off." She sounded annoyed and was matching Demetri's condescension perfectly. He seemed taken aback by her lack of fear.
"I don't think you understand little human." He bore down on her, dwarfing her even in his small stature.
"No, I don't think you do buddy," she broke off examining her nails, suddenly deadly calm, "You've grown sloppy. You kill a dozen girls because they have no idea what you are. Your boy could have broken my wrist with the way he grabbed it and this was in the middle of the club. If you are going try and run an operation like this, then you are going to have to be much smarter about it."
Luke had to use all of his will power to keep from laughing. Demetri and his goons looked equal parts surprised and mortified as she chewed them out. Amber on the other hand was shaking. She obviously did not think Lizzy's tactics would be beneficial to their health. Luke hoped that she would be able to stay out of the fray and was prepared to cover her with his own body if need be.
"If you could see through it so easily, then why let yourself be taken?" One of the goons yelled triumphantly. Lizzy turned to him, her eyes gleaming and pupils elongated. She had already begun to change.
"Because that is precisely what I wanted dipshit." She leapt for Demetri her fingernails now claws that dug into his face. Luke moved too, surprising the two goons closest to him. He tore a dull sword from a display above them and quickly chopped off their heads. It wasn't the prettiest kill he'd ever had and surprise was the only thing that allowed it, but Luke would take anything at this point.