Rating: Strong R for violence and language
Character: Chris, Buck, Vin and the rest of the seven
Disclaimer: I don't own the Mag 7 characters, and no money is made from the stories I write
Warnings: Violence, language, blood, dismemberment....hopefully in true Halloween spirit. If this bothers you then please heed the warning and don't read.
Comments: This story is for Halloween and deals with shape-shifting vampires. Thanks to Pamela for the wonderful collage and to Antoinette and Marti for the great beta job.
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The wind whistled through the trees, bringing with it a sense that all was not as it should be. The Eve of Samhain, also called All Hallow's Eve, or Halloween, was her favorite time of year. It gave credence to her very existence without making her hide as she did most of the year. She belonged to a race of creatures who had died out long ago, except for a few dozen who still walked the strange world they'd been sent to eons ago.
She knew things were changing, and could feel her body withering with the passing of time. There was no way back to her own world and the only thing that could rejuvenate her internal clock and restore her youthful beauty was to take a mate...one that chose to go with her. She'd taken many mates over the years, taken being the operative word because she had never given them a choice.
Now she had to find someone compatible, someone who would live a life of solace with only her and Edward as companions for they would not be able to live a normal life. She needed the darkness and could no longer stand the bright sunshine of the daylight hours for very long. Her body required a fresh supply of nourishment that would not come from the food the humans ate. She would need to choose several victims so that her chosen mate could feed when the time came.
"Edward," she called and reached for the long black form fitting gown she'd chosen for tonight's foray.
"Yes, Mistress," the tall dark haired man answered from the open doorway.
"Bring the car around front. Tonight we begin the search for my beloved," the female called and knew he would not question her orders. She knew she would have to choose a name, but for now she had other things to do. She looked at herself in the mirror and knew the creatures of this world would find her appearance hideous and smiled as she changed into a raven haired beauty with the body of a Goddess. She quickly donned the dress and smiled at her own reflection before slipping on a set of high heels and hurried out of the house. The sleek black sedan was parked next to the front door and she waited for Edward to open it before getting into the back seat.
"Where to, Mistress?"
"I'm not sure, Edward, tonight we go searching for my beloved for the Eve of Samhain is a perfect night for a wedding," she answered and smiled when the man got back into the car and drove away from the dark house she called home.
+ + + + + + +
Chris ran his hand through his hair and cursed the headache that began shortly after he'd left the office. He pulled to the side of the highway and searched through the dash for the pills Stacey Midland prescribed for his migraines. He cursed and clenched his eyes as the nauseating pain spread across his forehead as if someone was driving hot pokers through his eyes.
"Damn it!" Larabee cursed and groaned loudly as a car sped toward him with the high beams glaringly bright. Chris had time to close his eyes, but not before it felt like his head exploded. The pain was worse than anything he'd experienced in a long time and he knew he was going to be sick. Several times he tried to grab the handle and finally managed to shove the door open and exit the truck. He staggered to the edge of the road and wretched violently. His shoulders shook and he wiped at his mouth as the bitter taste made his gut clench.
With nothing left in his stomach the churning nausea eased, but the headache blinded him to the darkness. Chris felt his legs begin to buckle, but fought to stay on his feet. Whatever had started the damn headache was not letting up and he wished he was tucked in his bed with the blinds pulled down and that there was no light anywhere.
Chris knew he had to get back to the truck, but was not sure he even knew which direction it was in. The sound of an approaching car had him slamming his eyes shut against the advancing lights and he took a steadying breath. Again he tried to move, but swayed and would have fallen had it not been for the hands that gently reached out to touch him and hold him steady.
"Hold him, Edward," the beauty dressed in black ordered.
Chris tried to look at the woman who spoke, but even the meager light from her car sent daggers through his mind and he fought to stay upright. He couldn't remember ever having suffered a migraine so debilitating as this one and was grateful when someone took the initiative and supported him back to the road.
"Put him in here with me, Edward," the woman said and smiled when the handsome stranger shook his head.
"My...my truck," Larabee mumbled.
"Your truck will be fine until Edward can retrieve it. Right now I would say the top priority is to get you some help."
Chris tried to open his eyes and focus on the illusive figure already seated in the car, but his eyes refused to cooperate and all he saw was shadows as the man eased him inside. He felt his head cradled on a soft lap and a cold hand touched against his forehead as the pain increased tenfold and threatened to send him into a pit of darkness.
"Tell me all your secrets...you cannot keep from me what I so desire."
Chris groaned and tried to move, but the hand held him firm and seemed to probe his subconscious. The agony twisted through his skull and he tried to keep his secrets, but the woman continued to press forward until a scream echoed through the inside of the car. He writhed beneath her touch, mentally pushing her out even as his mind was invaded by cold tendrils that sought every corner of his mind until they found what would make him bow down to her every whim.
"So, you do have pain that can be tapped into."
"Did you say something, Mistress?"
"Yes, Edward, I did. This one should prove very interesting."
Edward looked into the mirror as the creature shifted and changed as easily as most people changed their clothes. Her straight dark hair lightened and became curly as it hung below her shoulders. Her eyes changed color, while her mouth become fuller and her breasts ripened. Her body changed dramatically until the shape-shifter was no longer the hideous creature he often saw, but an elegant beauty who could easily turn the head of any man.
"Am I pleasing to the eye, Edward?"
"Very much so, Mistress...who is she?"
"A more fitting question would be who was she? She was his wife, but she no longer poses a threat...she died in a fire several years ago. Her name was Sarah Larabee and he still grieves for her."
"Is he the one?"
"Yes, I believe he is. He will come to me on the Eve of Samhain and give himself freely," the woman said, but continued to probe his mind. There were layers to his subconscious such as she'd never experienced before and she felt the strength of those memories nearest the surface. She frowned and drew back her touch as if it burned and knew she would have to take care around this man.
"Is something wrong, Mistress?"
"No...yes, but it can be dealt with. He has friends...strong willed friends who will try and fight me, but they cannot be allowed to interfere. Take me to my home," the woman ordered. "I need time to explore his subconscious and find their weaknesses."
"Yes, Mistress," Edward said, his eyes adjusted to the darkness and he flipped off the lights while listening to the soft, painful moans from the back of the car. His mistress had changed him a long time ago when she was but a child herself, and he had proven his loyalty and unlike so many others had been granted a life at her side. He would never be an equal to her power, but she had shown him how to use the night as a cloak to hide his appearance from others who would see him for what he truly was.
+ + + + + + +
Chris could not fight the icy tendrils that were touching his mind and body. He trembled uncontrollably and screamed when a hand seemed to sink into his chest and hold him in place while fingers sank deeper into his skull. Slowly, as if she understood what he was guarding, the fingers peeled away each layer until she found the secrets that could break him.
Chris struggled harder, but again the scream echoed through the interior of the car and he gasped for breath. The air no longer entered his lungs and he could feel his body slowly dying with each loud beat of his heart. His eyes shot open and he caught sight of the hideous creature whose lap his head rested in and tried to draw away from the biting touch against his mind.
"Just relax, Chris, this will all be over soon and your secrets will no longer matter. You will come to me willingly and you will give your heart to me in one week's time. The Eve of Samhain is when my power is at its strongest and you will become my mate. Together we will take what is rightfully ours and kill anyone who tries to stop us."
"NO!" Larabee screamed, fighting to hold onto what little sanity he had left. The creature shifted and seemed to liquify until it took on another shape and Chris gasped at what he saw. The fingers were removed from his skull and a half smile formed when he tried to reach out for her.
"Is this more pleasing to you, Love?"
"Sarah," Larabee whispered hopefully.
"That's right, Love, I'm here now...everything is going to be all right now. No one will hurt you or interfere in our lives. You and I are going to be joined forever and no one will be able to stop us."
The words, the hint of an Irish accent, and the soft curls framing a face he knew intimately was like a jolt of electricity through his mind and body, but it was not enough to hold him enthralled. Chris knew his wife could not be here, that the creature he'd seen was somehow manipulating his mind and he tried to fight her.
"You're not...Sarah is gone...she...she..." His mind was invaded once more as she touched his forehead and slowly drew on the memories that made Chris Larabee who he was. He tried to hide, tried to draw away from the creature, but the icy tendrils returned and his body shook with a force that could not be stilled.
"You are strong, Chris Larabee, but you cannot hope to win. I will have you...body and flesh and you will accept me for who I am. The years have been hard on me, but I have the power to make you see me as I wish you to and I will draw on your own weaknesses to solidify our joining and make sure you know that you will not be able to escape me."
The pain of the migraine returned bringing with it the churning nausea that rose on a sea of bile and erupted from his throat. He groaned and fought, but the touch deepened and pressed forward taking every memory and he felt tears slip from his eyes as his mind was defiled by something he could no longer fight. Darkness reached out for him, and he embraced it in hopes of finding some salvation and peace, but there was none, only more of the tentacles that bored through his skull.
+ + + + + + +
"Easy, Love, just relax now...we're almost home."
Chris felt as if he'd been drained of what little energy he had left after the debilitating migraine. He fought to open his eyes, but the lids seemed glued shut. "Where...Sarah?"
"I'm right here, Chris. Relax now...you're home and I won't let anyone hurt you again." She knew it was going to be hard to keep this shape for long, but for now she wanted to ease his mind until she could make him accept her and the life she had chosen for him. He was strong, virile, and everything she craved in a mate, and she knew she would have to fight to keep him. There were several men who would fight her, amongst them an ex-preacher who could be a challenge if given the chance. Challenges were something she coveted because her victories made her stronger and she fed on their blood before their hearts stopped beating.
"Head hurts," the blond whispered.
"I know it does, but I'll get you something once you're settled in our bed."
"Are...are you real?"
"As real as you want me to be, Love," she said and gently touched his cheek. She did not allow her touch to go any deeper, for fear of undoing what little she'd already accomplished.
"Sarah...Adam...is he here?" Larabee asked hopefully.
"No, Love, Adam was taken from us...he could not come back with me...I am sorry," the shape-shifter whispered, smiling as the sea green eyes opened and looked up at her. "You should rest...but not until we get you inside."
"I know you are, but Edward can carry you if he needs to," the female told him.
"No...can walk," Larabee assured her when the back door opened and a large man blocked the exit. A hand was offered and Chris reached out for it, shuddering at the cold touch. "F...feels dead..."
"It's cold tonight and Edward didn't have any gloves," she offered and stepped out of the car. She watched the man closely and knew the headache had returned and that played right into her hands. Sarah Larabee had been a nurse and during her probe of his mind she'd learned that the woman had often treated Chris Larabee's ailments at home. She had everything she needed, and what she didn't have Edward could bring her. The probe had also showed her that the six men who posed the most danger were not expecting to see Chris until Monday morning which gave her plenty of time to plant the seeds she wanted to grow.
"Damn light's too bright," Larabee groaned.
"Honestly, Love, when are you going to learn to take something before these damn migraines get so bad they make you sick?"
"Probably never," the blond said, silently cursing when someone scooped him up and carried him toward the Victorian house he'd caught sight of in the darkness. "Put me down!"
"Nonsense, Edward can easily carry you! Now you behave or I'm going to..."
"Love that fiery Irish tem...temper...hate when you fi...fight dir...ty," Larabee stammered, but kept his eyes closed as his stomach churned uncontrollably. He groaned softly, but knew she'd heard him in spite of his effort to keep his pain to himself.
"Put him in my bed, Edward," the female ordered and hurried into the lab to find the items she would need. She had medications that could be injected to ease pain, but she also had poisons that would make the pain worse without killing the victim. She knew she could not hold this shape much longer, but it would last until she had sedated Chris Larabee and could begin exploring his mind more thoroughly.
Edward carried the semi-conscious male up the stairs and deposited him on the bed in his mistress' room. He could see why she would find the man attractive and could see the merits of taking him as her mate, but it would be hard to watch her with someone else.
"Get his clothes off," the shape-shifter ordered upon entering the room.
"I can do it," Larabee said and sat forward, sliding his legs over the edge of the bed. He sat there, wavering like a drunk who'd been on a binge way too long and soon felt cold hands easing the clothes from his body. He put up a mild resistance, but was soon lying flat on his back with nothing but blankets covering him.
"I am going to give you something to help you rest, Love."
"I'd rather hold you, Sarah," Larabee said and reached for her, pulling his hand back when it touched against her frigid skin.
"I know and you will, but first I must make you more comfortable."
"How...how is it possible for you to be here?" Chris asked when the man held his arm and allowed her access to his forearm. "I hate needles..."
"I know you do, but with the pain and nausea this bad you are in need of quick relief. This is the best way," the female told him and injected the medication into his arm. It would indeed ease the pain, but it would also open neuro-pathways that would allow her access to his inner thoughts without the deep probing he had experienced earlier. "Sleep, Love, and then we will talk..."
"Sleep is g...good," Larabee sighed and closed his eyes.
"You must rest now, Mistress," Edward said as the shape-shifter dropped the façade and showed her true form. He knew it would probably drive a human insane, but for him there was real beauty in the creature before him.
"I am fine," the shape-shifter whispered, but she could no longer control her body and allowed him to ease her down on the bed beside her chosen mate.
+ + + + + + +
The shape-shifter used everything she had learned through the years to get what she wanted and Chris Larabee would not remember the invasive search of his mind. There were times during the long hours when she'd been forced to dig deeper through his subconscious and she knew she had marked him, but it was a necessity if she was to succeed. Edward had helped her maintain control and made sure she rested when her body could no longer stand the strain. If she could make him choose her over the others she would no longer need to use her mind to control his.
"Are you sure it is safe to allow him to go free, Mistress?"
"No, but I don't have a choice right now. If I don't allow him to return to his people they will become suspicious and begin searching for him. I cannot allow them to find us here, not until the time is right. We have less than a week to prepare and it is up to you to bring the others."
"They will not be happy that you have chosen an outsider."
"I don't need their approval, Edward, only their presence. Chris Larabee is filled with pain and that alone makes him the perfect mate for me."
"What of his friends...the six men you told me of? Won't they be a danger to us all?"
"Yes, I have seen how loyal they are to Chris Larabee and each other. If they interfere they will make a great sacrifice at our joining."
"Have you fed off him?"
"I have not felt the need to until tonight. I will mark him so that I can call him to me at any time, but I will not take too much for fear of our joining not being a true choice for him." She lay beside the blond and gently pulled him to her. His body was weak from the repeated assault on his mind and the drugs she'd plied him with and that made him even more susceptible to her wishes. Here, if she took what she needed properly, she would gain strength by feeding from his life force and reliving his memories through her touch.
She felt him tense beneath her touch and knew he would not be able to withstand her assault. Her fingers grabbed a fistful of blond hair and she pressed her lips to his as her fangs distended and she bit into his upper lip. She tasted the rich blood, but would not take enough to satisfy her cravings yet, the joining had to be done properly or she would lose her chance at prolonging her life. Contrary to what the legends said, a vampire, especially one who had shape shifting abilities did not live forever unless the mate they joined with came to them willingly.
She released her hold, having taken less than a pint of blood from his lips and licked her mouth as a smile formed. "Edward, I think he is going to be as strong as any human who has undergone the complete change."
"Will you be able to control him if he is, Mistress?"
"Of course, go now and find me a victim, for tonight I will need to feed if I am to maintain the shape of his dead wife." She knew he would bring her a strong body, one rich with blood that would give her what she needed. She waited, her tongue slipping between her lips as if she could still taste Chris Larabee. Yes, he would be strong and perfect and together they would take control of the other creatures that stalked their victims under the cover of darkness. She moved from the bed and looked over her shoulder, fighting the urge to suck the blood from his veins. It was too early and her life depended on waiting for the Eve of Samhain. She closed and locked the door to the bedroom and hurried down the stairs to wait Edward's return.
+ + + + + + +
Edward reached into the trunk and pulled out the young male he'd found searching through the dash of a car that did not belong to him. He'd quickly silenced the male and bit into his throat, tasting the blood to be sure it was pure and was surprised to find no trace of the street drugs often found in the youths who wandered the streets. He quickly wrapped the man's wrists in metal cuffs and carried him to the trunk. He dropped the unconscious male inside and looked around, pleased that the streets remained quiet and the darkness would swallow up any evidence that he'd been here.
"My mistress will be very pleased with you," he said and closed the trunk. The drive back to the house was uneventful and he parked near the door. The noise from the trunk told him his captive was awake and trying to plead for his life. Too bad his life was such a short one, but Edward wanted to keep his mistress happy. He opened the trunk and pulled the young man out.
"What the fuck are you doing? I got no money and my family don't give a fuck about me!"
"Money has nothing to do with why you're here!" Edward said and smiled at the creature standing in the open doorway. "I have brought dinner, Mistress."
Jonathon Joseph Reynolds, JJ to his friends on the street, stared at the massive creature as the thing solidified into something from his nightmares. There was no longer any doubt in his mind that vampires existed because he was staring at one as the moon shone down on the front yard of the old house. He'd always been lazy and stolen things instead of working for them, but he had never really done anything to hurt anyone. At least not compared to the gangs he'd seen on the streets of New York. He'd been traveling west in hopes of making a better life for himself and had only picked the lock on the car in an effort to have someplace warm to sleep.
"He has no impurities in his blood, Mistress," Edward explained.
"Thank you, Edward, go sit with Chris and make sure he hears this one scream!"
"My pleasure, Mistress," Edward said and walked past the terrified human.
"Please...I won't tell anyone...let me go," Reynolds whimpered.
"Run...as fast as you can!"
"Run...if you make it to the road you are free!"
"I don't know which way," Reynolds said, his head going left to right in an effort to find a means of escape.
"The road is at the end of the driveway...I will give you two minutes to find your way and then I will come after you," the shape-shifter quickly transformed into a vampire with fanged teeth and a six foot wingspan. She lifted off and landed on the gargoyle at the center of the slanted roof.
The smell hit him first, like something dead and suspended in formaldehyde for too long. He staggered backwards when she raised her wings and the gust of wind threatened to fling him to the ground. He'd seen vampires in the old movies, but nothing compared to the creature towering above him.
"Time is running out!"
JJ turned and ran stumbling several times and climbing awkwardly to his feet. His hands were still cuffed behind his back, but that was the least of his worries. The creature would soon be after him and he had to put as much distance as possible between himself and it. He raced, falling to his knees when his right foot became entangled in an exposed root. The wind howled around him, slapping at his clothing and pushing him forward when he regained his footing.
"Please, God, help me...don't let it catch me! Please, God...please God...please God," he whimpered and realized that the creature had taken flight and was bearing down on him. JJ spotted the road ahead and thought he could make it, but something snagged in his clothing and lifted him off the ground. Talons, pointed and razor sharp dug into his shoulders and he screamed.
+ + + + + + +
Chris sat bolt upright, wincing when the movement wreaked havoc with his aching head. He was not sure what woke him, but when the sound was repeated he threw back the blankets and raced to the open door leading outside. The terrace ran the length of the second floor and wind battered his body as he raced toward the end. Something large loomed above him and he squinted into the darkness in time to see whatever it was drop something from ten feet in the air.
Chris recognized the shape that landed on the ground and searched for a way down, but a hand landed on his shoulder and he was forced to his knees. He watched helplessly as the winged creature swerved several times, pushing the helpless man to the ground each time he tried to escape. The man's screams reached his ears and Chris struggled to get away from his captor, but Edward held fast and he could only watch what was happening in front of him.
+ + + + + + +
JJ knew he was going to die and prayed for it to be over quickly, but that was not to be. The creature toyed with him, digging its talons into his back before allowing him to climb back to his feet. He'd heard a distinct human voice cry out and turned to see a man on the terrace and screamed for help, but again the creature attacked and drove him to the ground. He could feel the blood draining from his body and thought maybe he'd been wrong about the creature being a vampire, but that thought left him when the creature landed on his back once more. He knew he was going to die and silently sent a message that no one would hear.
'I'm sorry, Mom...Dad, I guess I fucked up, but I love you both,' he thought just before the creature began her final attack.
JJ stared up into the glowing red eyes that belonged to no monster he'd ever dreamed of and he felt his heart trip hammer in his chest. There were times when he'd thought monsters were real, but that had only been as a child whose imagination was running wild. The truth, though, was far worse than any child could imagine as the fangs formed and saliva dripped from the gaping maw set in an elongated head that could easily have been the gargoyle he'd seen high above his head. He felt the talons grip his upper body tightly and whimpered when the head dipped toward his neck. He felt the fangs tear at his flesh and a final scream, raw with fear and pain echoed through the landscape. His blood was slowly drained from his body until the creature tore the remains apart, scattering the limbs and torso until all it held was the head with the eye sockets bulging and the mouth open in a final silent scream.
The shape-shifter turned, showing Chris Larabee what was left of Jonathon Joseph Reynolds. "This is what will become of your friends should they interfere!"
Edward felt the man's body tremble and smiled when he lost consciousness. He knew Chris Larabee's mind had undergone a beating since they'd found him on the highway outside of Billings, but it would be nothing compared to the nights ahead. He lifted the unconscious man and carried him back to the bed just as the shape-shifter returned. Her body was once more that of Sarah Larabee and she lay down beside her soon to be mate.
+ + + + + + +
Chris stretched and smiled at the woman standing before him. She was even more beautiful than he remembered and he could not believe that she was here with him. She'd been tending to him all weekend and making sure the headache was a thing of the past. He remembered crying when he thought he'd lost her again, but when he'd opened his eyes she was beside him in the bed. She held him and cradled him while he cried for their lost child and he knew there was no one else who could understand what she meant to him.
"Are you sure you have to leave in the morning?" the creature asked and smiled inwardly at the change in Chris Larabee. She explored his mind during the last two days and had hidden the memory of her attack on JJ Reynolds. It would remain with the other horrific memories until the Eve of Samhain when she would show him this was where he was meant to be.
"Sarah, if I don't the others will get worried about me. You said yourself that they would not understand," Larabee said when she placed the tray on his lap. He looked into her eyes and frowned at what he saw there. "Sarah, you must be tired...you've taken care of me all weekend. I could call in and use a sick day...stay here and take care of you for a change."
"Thank you, Love, but Edward is here and he will make sure I rest."
Chris pulled her to him, and wanted to stay where he was in spite of the niggling doubts he had about whether she truly was Sarah Larabee, his beloved wife. She didn't seem to care about where Adam was and there'd been no mention of their unborn child, yet he wanted so badly to have her with him. He knew she was right about telling the others, but at some point in time they would have to know she was still alive.
"What are you thinking about, Love?"
"How I'm going to keep from shouting to the world how happy I am," Larabee answered and claimed her mouth. A chill spread through him, but he shook it off when he felt her heart beating in time with his own. "God, Sarah, I've missed you so much and I don't ever want to lose you again."
"You won't, Chris, in a few days you and I will be joined forever and no one will be able to take away what we have. We will grow strong and powerful..."
"Strong and powerful," Larabee chuckled at her choice of words.
"What's so funny?"
"You....you sound like an advertisement for a gym somewhere. Strong and powerful...I'd settle for tender and caring and making love until the..."
"Wee hours of the night..."
"And all through the day...I don't think I'll ever want to leave our bed," Larabee told her.
"Perhaps I'll chain you to the bed forever and ravish you day and night."
"Is that a promise or a threat....doesn't matter 'cause I'm all for it, Honey," the blond said, sighing heavily when she sat up and pulled him up beside her.
"I wish it could be like that, Love, but you need to leave before they get suspicious. It wouldn't look good for the boss to be late on Monday morning."
"Ezra's always coming in late..."
"Ezra's not the boss, Love, now get that gorgeous butt into some clothes and I'll have Edward bring your truck around."
"How did my truck get here?" Larabee asked.
"Edward brought it when we found you pulled over," she lied and could feel herself losing the ability to maintain the female form.
"Edward's pretty handy to have around," Larabee said, frowning when he caught a strong scent of blood and rotted meat. "What is that?"
"It's probably just the sewer backing up. I'll have Edward fix it while you're gone," the woman said and helped him into the blue jeans that fit tightly and did little to hide his manhood.
"Smells like something died...might want to get someone out here to check the crawlspace," the blond told her.
"I will," she whispered, spooning up against him seductively. "I am going to give you something to help you get through the day..."
"I'm fine, Sarah, I don't need anything," Larabee said, eyebrows furrowing as he remembered her giving him several shots during the weekend. He'd tried to question her about them, but for some reason he couldn't quite get the words out.
"Now, Love, I know what's best for my stubborn man and right now this is exactly what you need. Without it you'll be bending over some toilet somewhere puking your guts up," she warned. During the last few days she'd been testing to see just how compatible they were. She'd tasted his blood and while he was under the influence of the drugs she'd fed him several drops of her own rich essence. He'd been violently sick afterward, but she'd continued to feed him several times until she had to resort to the use of an anti nausea medication.
Chris found himself entranced by her eyes and the supple lips he longed to taste. He could no longer deny her anything and sat on the edge of the bed. He soon felt something sharp pressed against his forearm and the burning liquid entered his body.
The shape-shifter smiled as his body grew still and his eyes glazed over. Most people, when they thought about vampires thought they simply chose their victim and sucked them dry, thereby leaving a body that would eventually become a creature of the night. There was some truth to those stories, but not enough was known about her special breed. She needed to sample her chosen mate and make sure he could handle the change when it finally came. There was so much more to changing a human to a shape shifting vampire than just sucking him dry, and right now he was in the early stages of the process. Some of her kind had a name for the human mates they chose, they simply called them 'Changelings' and they would keep that name until they proved their worth. Others of her kind would show up at the house on the Eve of Samhain. For now she needed to keep giving him small amounts of her tainted blood and hope that when the time came he would not have the strength or will to fight her.
She used her fangs to puncture a small hole in her wrist and placed it before his mouth. Chris Larabee continued to stare straight ahead even as she forced his lips apart and pressed the bleeding wound to his mouth. She knew he was still far from ready to be taken over completely, but she forced him to taste her blood by squeezing the skin around the puncture wound until several drops made it into his mouth.
"Swallow it, Love, it will make you strong," the creature whispered and rubbed her hand along his Adam's apple, smiling when her touch accomplished what she wanted and he drank what she'd given him. She'd already taken steps to ensure that her touch was still inside his mind...as if a magnetic resonance ran between them. She could easily manipulate his mind and make him do her bidding so long as Edward kept her other needs fulfilled.
"The truck is parked out front, Mistress."
"Thank you, Edward," the shape-shifter said and pressed her lips to the dazed man's mouth. She could taste her own blood and simply nipped at his upper lip, drawing several drops before releasing him. He gasped and drew in a deep breath before looking at her. "Is something wrong, Love?"
"Not sure...think I bit my lip," Larabee answered, pressing his hand against his mouth.
"Let me see," the creature told him, her voice filled with tender care.
"It's okay, Sarah," the blond said, suddenly needing to be away from her, angered at the thoughts running through his mind. He finished dressing and walked out of the room, grabbing his keys from Edward as he passed him and raced down the stairs, unaware that his hasty escape was being watched closely.
"He has a strong will."
"Yes, he does, Edward. These past two days have been draining for me. I need new blood if I am to keep up this ruse."
"Yes, Mistress, I will find several young people who will fill your needs until you are ready to change him," The big man assured her and turned to go.
The creature slowly relaxed her rigid body, allowing her bones to liquify and her face to dissolve until her own haggard, cracked features remained. Through the years she'd learned that this shape, almost liquified was the best way for her to hibernate while waiting for Edward to bring her the flesh that would give her strength. The Eve of Samhain was less than a week away, but she would need to feed often in order to keep Chris Larabee under her spell.
Her mind turned to the six men she'd seen while exploring his mind and she knew that the bond between them was special. She would need to take care of them if she wanted to complete her joining with Chris Larabee and it suddenly dawned on her that she could use them for a special sacrifice. One that would see them drained of the blood flowing through their veins by the man they had chosen to lead them. What better way could he prove his loyalty to her than by killing the ones who would stand strong against her?
+ + + + + + +
Chris slid in behind the steering wheel and placed the keys in the ignition. He knew he should drive away without a backward glance, but he could not face saying goodbye to Sarah again. She still loved him and if he could just get past her obvious disregard for their deceased son and unborn child, his life could be filled with happiness again.
'How can she not remember?' he thought and gasped as the pain reverberated through his skull. He grabbed the steering wheel in a deathlike grip and tried to ride out the pain. Nausea churned in his gut and it felt like daggers were being driven through his skull and he screamed until his throat was raw.
"Don't ever question my motives, Love." The voice was definitely Sarah's, but the anger and blatant attempts to cause pain did not set well with him.
+ + + + + + +
She knew he was fighting her and that the more distance there was between them the harder it would be for her to control him. Somehow she would have to keep tabs on him, but it would take more than one victim to give her the nourishment she would need. She knew Edward would return with a new victim and if she could feed on him while his fears were at their highest she could follow Larabee and stay close to him, but for now she would have to trust in the magnetic resonance she'd forged between them.
+ + + + + + +
Chris gasped as the icy tendrils released his mind and sat back in the seat. He took a deep breath before sliding the keys into the ignition and driving away from the house. He tried to think, but each time his mind tried to wrap around something the pain returned and with it the nausea that filled his mouth with a bitter taste that reminded him of blood.
+ + + + + + +
Vin smiled when he patted Peso's rump and made sure the horse had everything he needed until his return later in the day. Glancing at his watch he hurried toward his jeep and knew he would easily beat Standish to work. He sat behind the wheel and headed toward Billings. He neared the city limits and frowned when a shiver raced along his spine, bringing with it a fear that could not be denied.
"Chris," he whispered and drove away from his house while grabbing his cell phone. He hit speed dial and waited, not sure whether he expected an answer and if he did how he would explain what he was feeling. Something had happened, was happening to Chris Larabee...something that interfered with the gossamer threads that had kept him and Chris in tune with each other since their very first meeting. He nearly dropped the phone when Larabee answered on the second ring.
"What's up, Tanner?"
"Last time I checked...hang on and I'll look in the mirror...hell yes, it's me. Have you been on a bender this weekend?" Larabee asked.
"Yer real funny this mornin'...ya ain't been imbibin' already?"
"Thought I just asked you that? Where are you?"
"Just comin' up yer six, Cowboy...look in the rearview mirror," Tanner answered, Waving when Larabee looked back at him.
"Coffee from Delvecchio's and you're buying."
"Bite me, Tanner. See ya on the flip side," Larabee said.
Tanner gave a mock salute and turned onto the street that would lead him to Delvecchio's deli and grocery. He still couldn't quite get rid of the feeling that nagged at him, but speaking to Larabee had eased some of the fears. A shadow formed above him, disappearing before he had a chance to make sense of what he'd seen and he put it down to the time of year, Halloween was a time for imagining all kinds of monsters and bogeymen and he was too old to believe in any of that shit.
+ + + + + + +
She circled her prey...dipping low and nipping at the warm flesh until blood seeped from hundreds of tiny puncture wounds. She knew she didn't have much time, but this one had been such a joy to behold. He was young...early twenties with blond hair and blue eyes, and the scent of his blood was driving her insane with hunger. Edward had found him thumbing a ride north of the city and had easily got him into the car and subdued him before the victim knew what had hit him.
She heard him scream as she chased him through the trees and could smell the fear oozing like blood from his body. His mind was nearly insane now and soon she would take what she needed before seeking out her chosen mate and renewing her hold on him. Her wings were spread wide as she dipped down, this time grabbing the virile body and lifting him high in the sky. She manipulated his body until he was facing her and saw insanity in the blue eyes.
She allowed him to see her fangs drop into place and drew strength from the terror she was causing. Her talons dug in deeper and she lowered her head until she could bury her fangs in his shoulder. She suckled, draining the blood slowly and drawing out the fear flowing through his veins.
The whispers lessened with each stroke of her claws and each flap of her wings as his heart slowed and fought to keep circulating blood through collapsing veins. The body was dying, but she was not quite through with it yet. There could still be more pain, more horror, more insanity and she quickly tore his arms from his body while keeping her fangs buried in his shoulder. The screams echoed through the early morning, but only the animals heard it and instincts had them hiding in fear from the unknown creature that had entered their domain.
The body no longer moved, the voice silenced in death as she finished mutilating the body and dropped the limbs and torso to the ground. She had no fear of being caught because humans were too afraid to believe in demons and vampires. If only they would realize that legends often had a basis in fact, but there were things about her kind that they did not know. Unlike the vampires from their movies she could easily walk in sunshine, she could change her appearance so that she was pleasing to the eye, but more importantly she did not have to feed every night unless she wanted to hold a form for a long period of time. She turned toward the city of Billings and flew toward her chosen mate, keeping her body invisible from anyone who looked toward the sky.
+ + + + + + +
Feeling better than he had all weekend, Chris smiled as he pulled the truck into his reserved parking lot. He sat back in his seat and thought about the woman who'd held him and cared for him all weekend. He could feel her hands on his body, massaging his shoulders while her mouth explored his neck and ears. He shuddered and gasped when he licked his lips and tasted blood. Chris felt the beginnings of the pain returning and pushed it aside, clinging to the memory of holding his wife in his arms after so long.
"Hey, Pard, you're going to freeze your assets off sitting there."
"Good morning to you too, Buck," Larabee said and exited the truck. It was cold and the weather station talked about getting snow early this year.
"Looks like the boss even beat Vin in," the ladies' man said with a soft chuckle.
"Not exactly...I met him on the outskirts and sent him to get the good stuff," the blond answered.
"Is there anywhere else?"
"Not if you want real coffee. Have you seen the news this weekend?"
"No, why is something going on I should know about?" Larabee asked, locking the truck, hitching his coat up around his body and walking toward the building.
"There's been another killing," Wilmington explained.
"Damn, where did they find him?" the blond asked. There'd been several killings over the last three weeks all young males who'd been dismembered and drained of blood. Chris shivered and entered the building and tried to ignore the bitter taste in his mouth.
"Behind Rimrock Mall..."
"Chris, I want a meeting with your team in half an hour," Travis said upon entering the building.
"They'll be ready, Orrin," Larabee vowed, nodding toward the security guard behind the main desk. "Buck, call Ezra and tell him he's got twenty minutes to get his ass out of that feather bed and seated in his chair in the conference room."
"You got it," Wilmington said, pulling out his cell phone as the trio entered the elevator.
"What's this about, Orrin?" Larabee asked.
"The mayor called Steven McNally and requested our help with the spate of murders," Travis said. "Miller sent over what they have and this case takes top priority as of right now. You'll have everything the police have and several items that Steven said might connect these killings with corresponding crimes in other cities during the last 20 to 25 years."
"Damn," the blond said when they stopped on the seventh floor. "We'll be waiting for you, Orrin."
"I'll be there in 15 minutes...don't be surprised if Steven shows up as well," Travis explained and let the elevator doors close.
"Ezra's already on his way," Wilmington told the blond, frowning when Larabee suddenly seemed distant. "Chris, did you hear me?"
"Huh...what?" Larabee asked, shaking off the feeling that someone was watching him.
"I said Ezra's on his way," the rogue told him.
"Thanks, Buck, look I have a couple of things to go over before the meeting with Travis. Will you make sure I'm not disturbed?"
"Sure," Wilmington said.
Chris nodded to the trio who were already at their desks before entering his office and closing and locking the door behind him. He made his way toward the door that opened onto his balcony and stepped outside. The sky was overcast and a chill wind blew down the alleys between the buildings. He lifted his head and his eyes caught sight of a creature that had no right to be here, but when it landed on the balcony next to him and the shape solidified he smiled and pulled her close.
"Sarah, what are you doing here?" briefly wondering how she could possibly have been on his seventh floor balcony.
"I missed you, Love, aren't you glad to see me?"
"Of course I am, but what if you're seen?"
"No one will see me, Love," she whispered and pressed her lips to his.
Chris could taste her lips and instinctively tried to pull away, but he felt the tendrils reaching deeper into his mind and relaxed to her touch. Her tongue slipped past his lips and the kiss deepened while she probed his mouth. Again he tasted blood, but this time he did not shy away and actually melted to her ministrations.
"This will make you strong, Love..."
"Chris, coffee's here..."
"I need to go," Larabee told her.
"I know, but you will come to me tonight and I will share my gift with you. Soon you will become my changeling and nothing will ever come between us. My blood will flow through your body and in turn yours will flow through mine making us one in both mind and body," the creature whispered and reluctantly released him.
"Sarah," Chris whispered and felt the breeze as she slowly disappeared.
"Chris, quit playin' with yerself and get on out here!" Tanner called.
Larabee shook himself and wondered what the hell he was doing on the balcony and hurried back inside. He unlocked the door and opened it in time to see Standish enter the office. He looked at his watch and wondered where the last fifteen minutes had gone and shivered as if chilled to the bone. "Did someone turn off the damn heat?"
"It's 30 degrees out there, Pard, nobody's turning off the heat," Wilmington advised.
"Are you all right, Chris?" Jackson asked.
"I'm fine, Nathan," Larabee told him and accepted the large cup of coffee from the sharpshooter. "Thanks, Vin."
"Yer welcome...Mrs. D. said to tell ya she's making up some of her special meatball subs today, the Texan said.
"Now that sounds good. Okay, boys, grab what you need and head for the conference room," the blond ordered. He watched the flurry of activity and looked toward the door of his office, smiling when he spotted a shadowy silhouette against the window.
"Chris, are the others ready?" Travis asked, frowning when Larabee didn't answer. He glanced at the man who'd accompanied him before calling Larabee's name once more. "Chris?"
"Sorry, Orrin, I didn't hear you come in. Hello, Steven, it's been a while."
"Sure has...how are you, Chris?" McNally asked. He'd worked with Larabee on several occasions and had nothing but the utmost respect for the man and his team. When the mayor had called his office and asked for help on behalf of Robert Miller he'd readily agreed to give Larabee's bunch a crack at solving the vicious murders taking place in Billings.
"I've been good, Steven," Larabee said and led the way to the conference room. He took his place at the head of the table and noticed that Vin and Buck had left the two seats next to him free for Travis and McNally. The latter dropped several thick folders on the table before taking his seat.
"Well, I'm sure you're all wondering why I called this meeting," Travis observed. "The truth is we've been asked to help in an investigation that's been ongoing for over twenty years..."
"Cold cases?" Dunne asked, slightly disappointed at the thought of going through old files looking for hidden or lost clues.
"Not exactly, JD," Travis remarked. "The cases are still open and some go as far back as the early eighties, but none of them have been closed or filed as cold cases because there is an ongoing investigation. I'll let Steven fill you in on what's been happening and why you're being asked to help out."
"Thank you, Orrin," McNally said and passed each man a manila folder. "These are pictures of the victims and the pertinent information we have that draws a correlative line between them. There are 48 victims in all and there are probably more that we don't know about. These are just the ones that were reported missing and their bodies were actually found...or should I say what remained of their bodies was actually found."
"This looks like the work of a madman," Wilmington observed.
"It does, but it's hard to believe the same man could keep doing this for over twenty years and there isn't a damn thing that can be used to identify the sonofabitch!" McNally cursed. He'd worked with several government agencies over the years before settling into an administrative job within the FBI. During the last few years he'd been asked to take on some things that were to be kept out of the papers at all cost. This case was one of them.
"What about witnesses?" Travis asked.
"None. That's why we need your help, Orrin. Larabee's team seems to have an extraordinary track record for solving cases others had given up on. Brian and Robert were both in agreement about asking for your help because they know you have far better sources than they do and your hands are not tied like Miller's are."
"We still have to go through a lot of red tape," Sanchez offered.
"Yes, but you know how to circumvent them in ways that the police department can't. We know how easily Ezra and JD can break the codes that are otherwise deemed unbreakable...don't worry, gentlemen, we have no plans to charge you with anything as long as you keep it legal," McNally told them with a grin.
"There was another victim over the weekend," Jackson said.
"I know, but I haven't got the details yet," the FBI agent told them. "We're also compiling a list of missing persons in each of the cities, but don't hold out much hope of finding anything conclusive."
"Were you aware that there's an increase in victims during the month of October and culminates with several victims on October 31st?" Sanchez asked.
"The Eve of Samhain. The name Samhain is Celtic and means summer's end," Sanchez told them. "Also called All Hallows...All Hallow's Eve...Hallow E'en...Halloween. It is supposed to be the most magical night of the year and is exactly opposite Beltane on the wheel of the year. Halloween is Beltane's dark twin. It is revered as the night when the veil that separates our world from the Otherworld is at its thinnest."
"Ghosts, ghouls, and goblins," Dunne said, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Let's not forget the vampires, changelings, werewolves and other creatures of the night," Sanchez told them.
"Changelings?" Standish asked of the strange name.
"Some believe it is a deformed child who is the offspring of a fairy or troll, but there is also the legend that a changeling is the result of a shape shifting vampire's choice for a mate..."
"Boys, can we leave the legends for Halloween and get back to the case at hand?" Larabee asked, hiding how nervous this conversation was making him as pain lanced through his skull.
"Sorry, Chris," Sanchez apologized and began rifling through the gruesome pictures. "Is there anything in here that will help us figure out where the murderer will strike next?"
"Not a damn thing, Josiah, that's what's got the department so frustrated. Usually there's something in the files...especially in the back cases that could give us a clue as to what to expect, but I've been over them several times and don't see any correlation between the first case and the most recent case except the dismemberment and draining of the victim's blood."
"JD, Ezra, I want you two going through the agencies files and see if there's anything they could have missed. Josiah, you're the expert on the 'supernatural' and 'legends' so I'd like you and Nathan to see if you can come up with anything in that area that could tie the victims together. Maybe they were all part of some cult that's gone too far," Larabee suggested and turned to the remaining men. "Buck, you and Vin hit the streets and check out the background on the most recent victims here in Billings."
"Chris, keep me up to date on what's happening," McNally said.
"We will, Steven, and I'd like you to contact us if there's anything new on the case," Larabee said, shaking the other man's hand.
"Chris, I've got a ten o'clock meeting, but if you need anything just call Peggy and she'll get word to me...otherwise do what you have to on this one," Travis ordered.
"We will, Orrin," the blond vowed and leaned back in his chair while the others stood and exited the conference room. He stayed where he was while the others filed out and thought about the legends Sanchez spoke of. The word Changeling had hit home and he tried to focus on it, but doubled over as nausea churned in his gut.
"Chris, we'll call...damn, Pard, what's wrong?" Wilmington asked of the pale faced Larabee.
"Chris, I know you...is it a migraine?" the ladies man asked.
"Yes," the blond answered weakly.
"Want me to get your pills?"
"No thanks...just get me to my office," Larabee ordered and was glad of the other man's strength as he supported him until they reached the blond's office. Buck shook his head at the others and settled Larabee on the couch before covering him with the afghan and closing the drapes before turning out the lights and leaving his friend to rest.
Chris took a deep breath and huddled beneath the warm cover, yet the chill that invaded his body continued to hold him in its grip. He kept his eyes closed and knew if he opened them he'd see something he didn't want to face. His mind drifted and he heard her voice, saw her face, and felt her nuzzle his neck, but he chose not to acknowledge it even as the pain intensified and he lost consciousness with the taste of blood bubbling in his throat.
+ + + + + + +
His strength amazed her...never before had she had someone fight her and she deepened her touch before leaving the city. She would need to feed again soon, but she needed to speak with Edward first. A plan was forming, one that would keep Larabee at her side until the time of their joining. She'd reached into his mind and sought out the information the agent had given him and knew it was time to get rid of Steven McNally before setting her new plan in motion. She flew high over the city, ignoring the rich scent of blood that increased her lust for the taste of flesh.
+ + + + + + +
JD and Ezra were frustrated by the lack of success they'd had during the last few hours of sifting through the case files that dealt with the gruesome murders. So far all they had was that the victims were all between the ages of 20 to 30 and in relatively good health. There was no history of drug abuse and no major illnesses found in the autopsy done on the remains.
Josiah and Nathan had also come up empty and were unable to find any links to cults throughout the country. As far as they could see none of the victims had ever been involved in cults or street gangs of any type. Most came from upstanding families and Josiah had voiced the question that had been on all their minds. Could the young males have been victims of someone who believed they were vampires? There were two distinct bite marks found on most of the victims, but unlike the legend they were not always on the neck. Several were on the shoulders, or the chest and even the groin area, but no matter where the marks were, that seemed to be the site where the blood was drained.
"I'm going to check on Chris," Jackson said and walked to Larabee's office, somewhat surprised to find the man seated at his desk with the pictures pertaining to the case spread across the top. The man didn't seem to notice his entry until Jackson spoke to him. "Chris, are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Nathan, guess it wasn't a migraine after all. Did you and Josiah find anything useful?"
"No, there doesn't seem to be any evidence of cult involvement," Jackson answered. "It looks like Ezra and JD have hit a dead end as well."
"Damn," Larabee cursed. "Any word from Buck and Vin?"
"Nothing so far," Jackson said. He studied Larabee's face, frowning at the lines he saw in the pale face. "Chris, did you eat anything?"
"Not hungry, Nathan," the blond said and returned to studying the pictures and reports.
"You should eat..."
"I will...later," Larabee said and dismissed the other man's concerns. "Is there any coffee?"
"There is...I'll bring you a cup and a bagel."
"All right, Nate," the blond said with a grin. He really didn't have an appetite and the very thought of eating made his stomach churn, but Jackson would not let it go until he ate something. He sat back and watched Jackson leave and licked at his lips, worrying over the mark Sarah had made to his upper lip.
+ + + + + + +
Edward smiled when the shape-shifter landed near the car and reached out to steady her. As always happened at this time of year, she used up her energy faster than he could supply her with victims. This year was especially hard because she was sharing her 'feast' with the human who would be her changeling. She would continue to do so until they were mated and then it would be time to move on. Perhaps it was time to go back to the origin of their roots, but he was not sure she would agree to such a move.
"Edward, there is something I need you to do for me."
"Anything, Mistress," Edward told her.
"There is a man...I want him brought to me tonight after Chris arrives. I want to hunt him as I always do, but this time I want Chris to be awake and aware of everything I'm doing. I want you to make sure he can't escape until I tell you to release him."
"Are you going to hunt him?"
"Yes, but unlike the others Chris will not be killed. I need him to see what I am offering him..."
"Are you sure hunting him down is the best way to do that?"
"It will open his mind to the reality of his situation. I will be able to touch his mind at the deepest level and make sure he will not be able to resist me. He has to be open and ready or I will lose him and I am not willing to let him go. You will bring McNally here and hold him until Chris arrives, but don't let him see you...don't let him see anything until it is time for the hunt."
"Yes, Mistress, I will leave immediately," Edward said.
+ + + + + + +``
Buck and Vin canvassed the area where the victims had been found and kept coming up empty. The information they gathered from the families of the most recent victims was exactly the same as what was in the files. It was nearing five PM when they decided to call it a day and returned to the office, somewhat surprised to find that Chris had already left for the day.
"Did you find anything new?" Sanchez asked.
"Nothing. Whoever did the interviews with the families covered all the bases. Vin and I went to every single name on the list and questioned the neighbors, but came up empty. What about you guys?"
"Same here. There's no evidence of any cult involvement and it doesn't look like the victims used drugs of any kind," the ex-preacher offered.
"Hell, none of them even smoked from what I read," Dunne told them.
"The victims were athletic and didn't seem to have any enemies," Standish said and shut down the files he'd been working on.
"What time did Chris leave?" Tanner asked.
"About half an hour ago," Jackson asked. "He said he hadn't slept much over the weekend because he couldn't get rid of a migraine."
"He seems to be getting a lot of migraines lately," Wilmington observed.
"Well, after looking at the pictures and reports today I seem to be developing one of my own," Standish told them.
"It's frustrating, but it's only the first day," Sanchez offered and sat forward. "I don't know about you boys, but I could use a drink or two."
"Sounds good, Josiah," Wilmington agreed.
"You guys go ahead...I'm gonna head home and check on Peso," Tanner told them. The truth was he wanted to stop by Larabee's ranch and make sure the blond was all right. Something kept nagging him about Larabee's actions during the day, nothing concrete, simply the flickering resonance that was usually so strong.
"Come on, Vin, Chris is a grown man...besides you owe me one from last week," the rogue explained.
"Yeah, Vin, that way maybe Buck'll be able to buy me the one he owes me," Dunne said.
"Come on, Son, we won't stay long, but after the things we've seen today we all need something to ease the shock," Sanchez said and was somewhat surprised when the Texan finally agreed. The six men left the office unaware that their lives were about to be intimately touched by the evil that lurked nearby.
+ + + + + + +
Steven McNally drove along the outskirts of Billings, glad he'd taken a room at the hotel near the airport. He'd been sickened by he files he'd brought with him, but knew there was nothing he could do tonight. He'd stayed in town, speaking with Robert Miller until later than expected and darkness had fallen before he'd made his way toward his car.
Miller was a good cop and they'd known each other a lot of years...good years where their families had grown close and often vacationed together. Today's meeting had nothing to do with that side of his life and had been purely business. They needed to find out who was killing, dismembering, and draining the blood from young males in twenty different cities around the country.
McNally blinked rapidly when a car came up behind him, high beams blinding him momentarily. "Sonofabitch!" he cursed and glanced in the rearview mirror. A dark car had driven up close behind him and still had the high beams directed into his own vehicle. He finally pulled off the road and waited for the other car to pass him and get his license plate, but the car hit the back of his own before stopping.
McNally shoved open his door and strode angrily toward the other car, shocked when a tall man unfurled from behind the wheel. The man had to be well over seven feet tall with broad shoulders and long dark hair pulled back in a pony tail that framed the angular jaw line and high cheekbones. The man was an imposing figure, but McNally had seen bigger men and this one did not scare him.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" McNally spat, checking for damage to the rented vehicle. The man didn't answer, simply stood in the light from his own car until McNally rounded on him. "You damn well better have insurance!"
Edward simply reached out and wrapped a beefy hand around the agent's throat and lifted him off the ground. McNally's hands clasped onto his wrists, but Edward simply tightened his grip, choking the agent until the man began kicking and gasping for air. It took less than a minute for McNally to lose consciousness and Edward dropped him into the trunk of the sedan before pushing the rented vehicle over the road and down into the gulley. He watched as it entered the deep water and slowly sank beneath the surface before making his way back to his car and driving toward the house he shared with the shape-shifter.
+ + + + + + +
Chris frowned when he stopped the car in front of the Victorian house and tried to form rational thoughts, but for some reason he couldn't quite grasp the reason he'd bypassed his home and driven here. A light shone from the open doorway and the confusion quickly disappeared when he spotted the beautiful woman waiting there for him.
"Sarah," he whispered and exited the truck. He ran up the rocky footpath and took her into his arms, kissing her soundly before placing her back on the ground.
"Welcome home, Love, have you eaten?"
"Not yet...but there's only one thing I'm hungry for," Larabee whispered and heard the sound of an approaching vehicle.
"Edward is home."
"Damn, here I thought we would be alone for a change."
"Now, Love, you know Edward is loyal to me and I need him to protect me when you're not around," the creature said, nodding for Edward to join her.
"Hello, Edward, did you bring him?"
"Bring who?" Larabee asked, fighting the tendrils that reached into his mind. He screamed as they dug deep and allowed him to see what she truly was before withdrawing from his skull. He tried to escape, but Edward grabbed his arms and held tight, forcing him to remain where he was.
"You will watch and learn, Chris Larabee, for I have chosen you to be my changeling and we will hunt together when darkness falls."
"Get the fuck away from me!" Larabee snapped, as the woman disappeared and a hideous creature took shape before him. He knew he was looking at the monster responsible for the killing and mutilations and fought against the hands that clamped down on his shoulders bruising them to the bone. The creature advanced on him, allowing him to see her for what she truly was with her wings spread wide and her taloned hand held before him as her muzzle elongated and fangs distended.
"I am allowing you to see me so that you will understand what is to happen. You will be unable to stop me or fight me once we are joined on The Eve of Samhain. Until then you will come to me each night and share my bed and I will feed you until you are able to hunt on your own!"
"No fucking way, Bitch!" Larabee cursed, gasping when the creature lowered its head and sank its fangs into his shoulder. He bucked against the hands holding him, crying out when he felt the thing drawing blood from his body.
"You will kill him, Mistress," Edward told her and managed to stop the creature's feeding before it was too late. The human he held slumped forward, but he held him up when the shape-shifter changed into the female form once more. Her lips were full and rimmed with the blood she'd taken from him and he watched her bite into her own wrist. Edward tilted the blond head back, smiling when she pressed her ravaged arm against his mouth and forced her blood into his mouth.
Chris tasted the foul liquid and choked, fighting to spit it out, but unable to stop it from flowing down the back of his throat and hitting his empty stomach. He gasped as the creature pulled away and tried to spit out her offering, but Edward clamped down on his mouth and she held his nose until he was forced to swallow in order to bring air into his oxygen starved lungs.
"You cannot fight me, Love, we are destined to be joined and you will share in the feast I offer." She shifted until she stood before him as a vampire and flapped her wings. "You will be allowed to watch a hunt tonight, but I have changed my mind about hunting you until the night of our joining. On that night there will be many of my kind present to witness my hunt and then our joined hunt."
"Fuck you!" Larabee managed, struggling against the hands that still held him in place even as her taloned fingers cupped his jaw.
"On that night...after we are joined and I have drained your body of blood and you have feasted off me, you and I will hunt together as mates for the first time. I have chosen a special prey for that time and you and I will feed off their flesh. Their blood will sustain you for many nights because of the connection I've sensed between you and the six you call brother..."
"You touch them and I swear I'll rip that ugly head from your shoulders and shove it up your..."
"Silence, Chris, or I will be forced to move up my time clock and toy with your friends," the shape-shifter warned, saliva dripping from its muzzle. "Make sure he can see everything, Edward."
"Yes, Mistress." The big man said and solidified his hold on the struggling man.
+ + + + + + +
Steven McNally awoke to the screaming curses muffled by the tomb he was imprisoned in. He struggled to free himself, growing quiet when he heard something scratch across the trunk of the car. He didn't consider himself a coward, but there were times when a man just had to be honest with himself. Right now whatever was outside the car terrified him beyond belief. He tried to move as far back in the recess of the trunk as he could, but the sound of the lock mechanism disengaging made his heart beat faster.
"Please, God," he whispered when the trunk lid was lifted and the creature from his worst nightmares stood framed by the white glow of the moon.
"You have five minutes to make it to the road...make it and you live...if you don't then I will feast upon you as was written so long ago."
McNally could no longer breathe while staring at the winged creature hovering above the open trunk. He heard the words and slowly climbed over the edge to stand below it. The wind cause by the wings threatened to beat him to the ground, but he managed to stay on his feet and was shocked to hear a familiar voice to his right.
"Steven! Leave him alone you bitch!"
"Chris, what the fuck is going on? What is that thing?" McNally shouted, but any answer was drowned out by the rapid beating of veined wings.
"Four minutes and counting!"
"Damn you! Don't do this!" Larabee raged, but could not free himself from the steel like hands that held him in place.
"Run, Steven! Get the fuck out of here!"
McNally turned away from the demonic creature above him and raced toward the promise of freedom. He had no idea where the road was, but right now anywhere away from the car seemed liked a good choice. He could hear Larabee behind him, but there was nothing else until he spotted a copse of trees to his right. He raced toward it, but before he reached the opening something landed in front of him and he quickly changed direction. Faster and faster he ran, aware of his heart beating painfully within his chest, but unable to stop for fear the creature would catch him.
Chris could only watch as again and again the shape-shifter manipulated her prey and drove him away from the road and back toward the house. He watched in horror as it ripped into McNally's back and drove him to the ground before rising high into the air and circling like a vulture waiting for a gourmet meal. The creature would hover, waiting for McNally to regain his footing and even allowed him to run several feet before she pounced on him again. As impossible as it seemed the white orb of the moon shone off the man's blood soaked back, giving Chris a good idea of how much the man had already lost. The creature reached her victim, but this time she changed her attack. Instead of driving him to the ground she dug her talons deep into his shoulders and lifted the screaming man high above the ground before winging her way slowly toward him.
Chris could not tear his eyes away from the gruesome sight before him as the vampire like creature showed him her blood stained fangs before dropping her muzzle and digging her fangs into Steven McNally's throat. Chris could hear the man screaming and realized it wasn't just the agent's screams he heard, but his own as well. His throat was raw from exertion, but he couldn't stop as the creature slowly tore its victim apart, throwing away what it couldn't feed on until it tore into the dying man's chest and tore out the still beating heart.
Chris knew he was going insane when he watched the shape-shifter lift the heart above its muzzle and tear into the warm organ. It didn't stop until there was nothing left and then lowered its head and stared straight into Chris' wide open eyes. He fought against the man holding him, but could not get free as the monster returned to the form of his beloved wife. She strode toward him, blood dripping from her mouth while she spoke to him.
"You see, Love, there is nothing you can do to stop me..."
"There's always a way," Larabee ground out, but there was nothing he could do to stop what was about to happen. She lifted her right hand until it was directly in front of his face. He swallowed several times when the fingers elongated and touched against his forehead.
"I will not release you again, Love, but I needed you to understand that there is no fighting me on this. You and I are destined..."
"No fucking way!" He screamed as she touched his skin and he felt the daggers enter his skull as the vicelike grip on his shoulders was released and he sank to his knees before her.
+ + + + + + +
"Easy, Vin, just be still," Jackson warned the trembling sharpshooter. They'd been enjoying a game of pool when Vin had grabbed his head and screamed as he sank to his knees. Buck's Bar and Grill was practically deserted at this time on Monday nights, but the few people present watched in stunned silence as Tanner was lowered to the floor. "What happened? Where does it hurt?"
"Not me...Chris...Jesus, Chris is in trouble, Nate," the Texan told them and forced his way to his feet in time to see Wilmington pull out his cell phone. A chair was pushed toward him and Nathan and Josiah helped him sit while Inez pressed a glass of water into his hands.
"Vin, do you have any idea what kind of trouble you're sensing?"
"He's in pain...and he's afraid, Nate," Tanner said and grabbed at his head, looking toward Wilmington hopefully.
+ + + + + + +
The phone was ringing and he wanted so badly to ignore it, but the beautiful woman in his arms placed it into his hand and he knew there was no choice, but to answer it. "Larabee."
"Chris, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Buck, or I would be if you'd hang up and leave me alone..."
"Vin said you were hurt..."
"Not me...if anything I'm enjoying myself and would like to get back to what I was doing."
"And that would be?"
"None of your business, Stud," Larabee teased and felt the woman nuzzling at his neck. He could feel her breath and hear the soft laughter that resonated between them.
"Who is that?"
"As I said, Buck, none of your business. Now if there's nothing pressing I'd like to..."
+ + + + + + +
"Shit, Pard, get to it and enjoy," Wilmington said and turned to see the others watching him.
"I take it our esteemed leader is not in pain...at least not the kind that would leave him screaming," Standish asked.
"Oh, I don't know...ol' Chris just might end up screaming, but it's not from pain."
"What are you talking about, Buck?" Jackson asked.
"He's with a woman and from what I heard he's enjoying himself," Wilmington explained.
"It's a lie," Tanner said simply.
"Now, Vin, I know what I heard and it definitely wasn't someone in pain. Let it go...let Chris enjoy himself without worrying about us," the rogue said.
"I just..." Tanner closed his eyes and reached for the familiar gossamer strands, but there seemed to be a disturbance there now and Vin knew in his heart something was terribly wrong.
+ + + + + + +
She took the phone from his hand before easing him back to the bed. She'd dug deep into his mind and found that there was something strange...something strong about his connection to the man called Vin Tanner and knew the Texan would be the final straw that drove Chris Larabee insane. Insanity, although not exactly what she wanted, could make him more susceptible to her wiles. She could easily snip the strands between them, but for now she would simply allow the touch to remain until such time as it interfered with her plans.
She looked into the wide open eyes and ran her fingers along the strong jaw line and knew the warmth she felt would quickly disappear once she made him her changeling. He would no longer hold the body heat that radiated from him now and would be as cold as she was. That saddened her, but it was something she was willing to give up in order to have a mate who suited her tastes. She relaxed and allowed her body to take on its natural shape until morning came and she had to let him leave.
"Soon, Love, soon your friends will no longer matter...it will be just the two of us and the world will be at our feet."
+ + + + + + +
In spite of Buck's assurances, Vin could not shake the feeling that something was very wrong. He reached for the quicksilver resonance that had always told him that Larabee was there...that nothing was wrong, but even that seemed to be troubled. He took a deep breath, laid down his pool cue, and without a word, made his way toward the exit. Wilmington's hand on his shoulder stopped him.
"Vin, I don't think Chris would appreciate you interrupting him and his lady," the rogue explained.
"Buck, somethin' jest ain't right 'bout this. I feel it in my gut and it ain't wrong," Tanner said.
"Ever?" Wilmington asked and saw a sliver of doubt. There were times when the Texan was wrong, but it wasn't often. The problem was that he'd spoken with Larabee and heard the joy in his voice and didn't want to ruin a romantic evening for his friend. God knew they were few and far between since the loss of his wife and son. "Gut feelings aside, Vin, I spoke to him and believe me he wasn't hurting."
"Not that you could hear, Buck...it's jest..."
"Look, call him yourself, but please don't ruin this for him," the ladies' man said and handed the younger man his cell phone.
Vin took it and hit speed dial before placing it to his ear and waiting for the call to go through.
+ + + + + + +
She was aggravated when the phone began to ring and looked at the familiar number. Larabee was semi-conscious and she touched his forehead before speaking. "Make sure he is not suspicious!"
Larabee pressed the talk button and placed the phone to his ear. "Look, Buck, you keep this up and I swear I'll shoot you..."
"Ain't Buck, Cowboy, it's me."
"Vin, is something wrong?"
"No, I's jest worried 'bout'cha. Where are ya?"
"Now a man doesn't kiss and tell, Vin. Look, I'm fine, but the lady I'm with is a little shy and she's not ready to meet you yahoos just yet. I'm at her place, but I'll be at the office in the morning and I'll tell you more about her then."
"Ya sure yer all right?"
"Never been more sure of anything. Sounds like you boys are at Buck's place so go have another beer and enjoy yourself. Tell Ezra he'd better be on time or I'm going to deny his expenses for the week."
"I'll tell him, Cowboy...ya know I could come out there and give ya some pointers."
"In your dreams...good night, Vin."
"Good night, Chris."
"Well done, Love, sleep now and tomorrow things will liven up for your friends," she said and took the phone from his fingers before releasing her touch from his mind. She knew she could manipulate him with just a touch of her fingertips, but when he was away from her she would have to control him through the link she'd bridged between them.
+ + + + + + +
"Satisfied?" Wilmington asked when Tanner handed him back the cell phone.
"He sounds okay...but it ain't like him ta spend a night with a lady he's only jest met." the Texan agreed, unable to find a reason for his fears, yet unwilling to relax and let it go.
"What makes you so sure he just met her? Maybe they've been seeing each other for a while." Wilmington suggested. "Vin, look Chris is a grown man and if he wants to spend the night with a lady...any lady, then that's his choice. In this case the old saying 'you're not your brother's keeper' fits."
"Are you gentlemen calling it a night or are we going to complete the pool game?" Standish asked from behind the duo.
"My money's on you, Vin, don't let me down now," Wilmington said and herded the younger man back toward the pool table where the others waited patiently.
"Is everything okay?" Jackson asked.
"It's fine," the Texan said, unable to explain why he felt like hell was about to visit earth.
"You know Vin's just excited about Halloween...I think he found the perfect costume for the party," Dunne told them. Buck's Bar and Grill held a costume party every year and Vin always had a unique take on his costumes. Last year the Texan showed up dressed as Zorro and cut a dashing figure as he imitated Antonio Bandaras' romantic accent.
"What's it going to be this year, Vin...are you going from Zorro to Zero?" Wilmington teased.
"Zero is for you, Bucklin," Tanner said and checked out the impossible shot Sanchez had left him.
"Real funny...but we'll see who's laughing in four days when I bring the Tower triplets to the party," the rogue told him, wagging his eyebrows expectantly.
"Buck, we all know you'll end up with Mrs. Thumb and her four daughters," Dunne quipped, wiggling his fingers suggestively as he ducked out of the older man's reach. He enjoyed the camaraderie he had with Wilmington and knew his roommate could take the jokes, especially when they used them to ease the tension that often plagued the group when on a case.
"Gentlemen, I believe Mr. Tanner is in need of silence in order to ascertain the appropriate angle for his shot. Not to mention that you are interrupting my calculations," Standish told them, already counting his money when he saw the angle of the balls and knew Sanchez would win the game with his next shot.
"Ezra, have you ever heard the old adage about not counting your chickens before they hatch?" Jackson asked.
"Au contraire, Nathan, I had the opportunity to peruse the shot and know there is no possible technique Vin could use to..."
"Ain't lost yet, Ezra," Tanner said and told the others exactly what he was about to do. The others moved closer and watched with baited breath as the Texan made a trick shot that should have been impossible.
"Holy shit, Vin, where'd you learn how to make a shot like that?" Dunne asked.
"Chris," the Texan answered with a grin, grabbing the money from Standish's hand.
"Chris never made a shot like that," Wilmington said. Larabee was a damn good player, but he'd never seen him make anything close to the shot Tanner had made.
"Gives a whole new meaning to the term sharpshooter doesn't it?" Sanchez said, clapping the Texan on the back. "Well done, Vin."
"Thanks, Josiah," Tanner said and handed Wilmington his share of the winnings.
"Chris showed you how to do that?" the rogue asked, awed by the revelation that his long time friend still played, let alone knew how to make trick shots.
"Sure did...he's thinkin' 'bout changing his extra bedroom into a pool room," Tanner explained.
"A pool table...cool," Dunne said excitedly.
"Yep," the Texan said and tucked the money into his wallet. "Well, boys, I think it's time to call it a night."
"Ezra, Chris said you'd better be on time tomorrow," Wilmington said as they settled up the bill with Inez Recillos.
"I am always on time..."
"Your own time maybe," Jackson quipped. "Contrary to your mother's beliefs the day doesn't start at noon."
"Whoa, Vin, how many beers did you have?" Sanchez asked.
"One or two," the Texan said, grabbing the bar as dizziness assailed him. His head pounded and he thought he was going to be sick.
"Vin, maybe you should spend the night at my place," Sanchez offered.
"You might be, but why take a chance driving out to the ranch when there's a perfectly good bed with your name on it at my place," the ex-preacher said, taking the keys from the younger man. Nathan had not been drinking and would be dropping Wilmington and Dunne at their place before driving him home. They'd taken the agency's seven passenger club van and there was plenty of room for one more passenger. The group made their way out of the bar and across the parking lot, unaware of the creature that watched from the tree tops at the edge of the parking lot.