Gabriel hesitated for a moment, then lowered Avra to the ground and stepped back. My hands shaking, I made a small cut on my arm, letting the blood flow onto Avra's lips. She stirred, and I felt Ian's hands on my arm, gently pulling me to my feet.
"That's enough for now."
In one fluid movement, Gabriel scooped up Avra and got to his feet. He smiled briefly at me before running down the road too fast to see.
"Thank you." I looked around to see Lyra smiling at me. "Thank you so much for what you did." She squeezed my hand and then ran off after her brother.
Ian hugged me tightly, and I could tell that he was shocked yet pleased by my actions.
"Let's get you home," he said, pulling back and taking my hand. "And keep pressure on that arm."
"Ugh, where are my freaking band-aids!" I hissed. I had uprooted my whole dresser and bathroom cabinet in search of band-aids, but so far I had found none. My arm was still bleeding, a lot.
"Looking for these?" I turned sharply and saw Ian smiling at me and holding out a box of band-aids.
"Yeah," I muttered, trying to snatch the box from him, but he was way too fast.
"Sit." he commanded, patting the sofa. I grudgingly sat down and let him apply the band-aid to my arm.
"How come you don't attack me and suck my blood when you see it?" I asked, suddenly curious.
"Another time." he said stiffly. I really didn't get why he was being so secretive. "Come to our new place later," he said, standing up and tugging my braid.
"Sure," I replied agreeably. Maybe I could coax the answer out of him then
"Erika!" hollered my mom from donwstairs. "I'm home!" Ian kissed me quickly and was gone before I could say a word. I clumped donwstairs and plopped down beside my mom on the couch.
"Busy day?" I asked.
"Hell yes." She replied, closing her eyes and propping her head on her hand.
"That's too bad."
She opened her eyes and looked at me, biting the edge of her lip. I knew that look.
"What is it, Mom?"
She sat up and took a deep breath.
"What would you say if I went to California for a buisness meeting? It's for two weeks." she said in a rush.
I was surprised. "Honestly?" I asked. She nodded. "Well, I wouldn't mind."
"Are you sure?"
Yes, I'm sure!" I said. "When does the plane leave?"
"In two hours."
"Holy crap!" I exclaimed. "You better go, then!" She smiled at me before leaping to her feet and rushing into her room to pack.
"Bye, Mom! I love you!" I said, waving her out the door impatiently. She grinned teary-eyed at me and hurried out the door, bag in hand.
"Phew," I muttered, sagging against the staircase. I grabbed the paper Ian had given me from my room and skipped out the door.
"26th street...." I murmured, walking quickly down the sidewalk.
"Here we go," I said to myself, lifting my hand to knock on the wooden door. It flew open before I had the chance.
"Hey, Eri!" Loretta chimed, grinning at me and giving me a quick hug. "What's happening?" That cracked me up. I guess it was because after all those phony kid's stories about vampires, I kind of forgot that they were pretty much human.
"Hey, L." I chortled.
"What's so funny?" She demanded. "Oh, nothing." I replied airily. She gave me a funny look, but then shrugged and led me into the new house.
"Come see my room!" She cried excitedly. "It's awesome!"
I entered Loretta's room and staggered back, my eyes watering. Almost everything in there was blindingly yellow.
"Um.....wow, it's, uh......bright." I stammered, blinking to get rid of the spots dancing in front of my eyes.
"Oh, I know." she said. "I wanted it that way. After my old room....ugh." She gave a little shiver, turning gracefully to face me. "I suppose you want to see Ian," she said shrewdly.
"Um, yeah." I admitted, blushing.
"Follow me," she said, her eyes twinkling. "Here ya go." Loretta opened the door next to her's and grinned mischeviously at me.
"Hey," said Ian, looking up from the book he was reading.
"Hey," I replied, standing there a bit awkwardly. Ian got to his feet and hugged me.
"I've been wondering for a while," I began slowly after he realeased me. "How do you, uh, hunt?"
At once Ian leaped to the other side of the room and sank into a half-crouch, baring his teeth at me. He prowled towards me, a vicious snarl ripping from his throat. I backed away instinctively, breathing quickly. He was pretty terrifying.
Ian jumped at me, grabbing my shoulders and pushing me up against the wall. I could tell he was being extremely careful not to hurt me, but all the same I bumped up against the wall a little harder than he intended. The breath was knocked out of me and Ian released me at once. I slipped down the wall, struggling to get my breath back.
"Are you okay?" Ian's face was concerned as he knelt down in front of me.
"I'm fine," I said shakily.
"I'm so sorry." he said quietly, not looking at me. I tilted his chin back up and looked him squarely in the eyes.
"I told you I was fine." I said. And then, carefully, I leaned forward and kissed him, my heart hammering.
When we broke apart, he was smiling.
"I've been waiting for you to do that." He laughed. I frowned at him. "You could have told me." I said, chuffed.
"I wanted to see when you would do it on your own." He paused, a faint crease appearing between his eyebrows. "I guess it would sort of tell me if you were going to go running and screaming from me or not."
I raised my eyebrows in disbelief. "You really think that would happen?" I asked incredulously, jumping to my feet.
"I didn't know." Ian replied, grabbing my arm and tickling me until I choked and almost fell over.
"So," Ian said, once I finshed choking and he finished pounding me on the back. "I think you should stay with us until your mom gets back."
I stared at him. "But, what about your parents? What would they think?"
"They agree." Ian said smoothly. "Even my mom. She's warmed up to you since you saved Avra."
Huh. That was something else.
"We all think it's the safest. Nothing can hurt you here." All of the sudden, the door burst open and Loretta flew inside, looking terrified.
"It's Gabriel!" she cried. "He says the werewolves are coming!"
Ian rushed into the kitchen. I followed him as quickly as I could. Avra, Lyra, Gabriel and Ian's parents were all there, looking tense.
"What's going on?" asked Ian, letting go of my hand and striding over to where Gabriel stood.
"They're coming through the forest where you used to live," Gabriel said, his brow furrowed.
Yikes. I sure was glad my mom wasn't there.
"How close are they now?" Ian asked sharply. Gabriel closed his eyes and his face went blank for a moment. "Approaching the edge of the woods."
Ian cussed. He was silent for a moment, and then said, "We're going to have to hold them off."
"We're going to attack them now?" Avra asked, shock spreading accross her face. I noticed that she looked better than she did a few hours ago.
"What, you've got a better plan?" Ian shot back. Gabriel nodded, agreeing with Ian. "We have to stop them before they can attack anybody. There's a whole neighborhood facing them before they can reach us."
Avra looked down, biting her lip. Even I could tell that she couldn't think of anything else to do.
"We can't wait for them to get to us." said Ian's mother, speaking for the first time. "There are so many people that they won't even think twice about killing. We can't let that happen."
"Erika, you need to stay here." Ian said, turning to me.
"What? No way!" I said, anger flaring within me. "I can't stay here, not knowing what's going on! I can help."
"Erika," Ian said. "Do you have any idea what you're asking? Vampires, werewolves, it will be out of control....madness! Do you think I'm going to expose you like that?"
"Yes." I snapped, crossing my arms and trying but failing to look like I meant buisness. I was still trying to get over how vicious Ian had looked a few minutes ago. I didn't want him to freak me out like that again.
"Erika, you're being ridiculous. You're not coming, and that's final!"
"Jesus, Ian! Are you forever going to be so controlling?" Loretta had bounded up from her chair, and was now standing between me and Ian. Her face was hard as a rock and she looked pretty scary.
"Just let her come! She'll just follow us anyway, that's what I would do!"
"She's right," I said quietly, looking down at my feet. I could feel Ian's angry gaze burning a hole in the top of my head.
"Fine." he said shortly. "But only if you promise not to do anything stupid. Stay out of sight and out of trouble." He turned and stalked out the front door.
I chewed on my lip and looked down at my feet, swiping angrily at the tears that threatened to spill onto my cheeks.
"He's only doing it to protect you." a quiet voice said. I looked up to see Gabriel smiling carefully at me. "He loves you very much. He doesn't want to lose you. You're the only thing he really has." Gabriel turned away and followed the others as they walked out the door. I swallowed hard. I knew Ian loved me, and that he wanted to protect me, but what did Gabriel mean by "you're the only thing he really has"?
I hurried after the others, trying to untangle my thoughts.
I was scared. No, I was beyond scared. I terrified.
I wished I could tell Ian that I was sorry and I wanted to go back now, but it was too late. Much too late, because we had already arrived in a clearing before I could really see where we were going.
Five vampires stood in front of us. They were poised and alert, ready for fighting. They relaxed slightly when they realized who we were.
"Just stay back and don't say anything." Ian warned quietly. I nodded. I had no desire to risk a fight with other vampires.
"Good, you came." Said the only male, who had glasses and blond hair. "We were getting worried we would have to do this by ourselves." One of the girls laughed, but it was too forced and brief to be real.
The branches rustled in a slight breeze and one of the girls stiffened and looked in my direction. Ian tensed, and he growled slightly.
"You brought a human with you?" she asked, shock plainly written on her face. "What good will that do? She can't fight like one of us."
"We understand." Avra broke in smoothly. "I'm sure everything will be just fine." She flashed a small smile at me and then looked away.
"Look out!" yelled one of the brunette vampires, pointing behind us. We all whirled around. I couldn't see anything, but everyone else in the clearing had either tensed or shifted into attack stances. Soon I heard what their sharper ears had heard before; padding of feet, snapping branches, and a low howling.
The werewolves burst into the clearing and fear flooded me. They were just the same as I remembered; tall and menacing, jet black eyes flashing with rage and hunger.
The battle began in a flurry of movement. Gabriel and Avra flung themselves at the two nearest werewolves and began tearing at them. One of the werewolves leaped at Loretta, who didn't dodge quick enough. I cried out as she was pinned down, the werewolf baring its teeth to tear at her throat. It never got that far. With a mighty kick of her legs, Loretta flipped the werewolf off her, and it landed behind her with a thump.
Ian pulled me away and I didn't look back at what I knew Loretta was doing to her would-be killer.
Ian dragged me away from the attack, holding my shoulders tightly. I could tell he was agitated, probably wishing, like I was, that he hadn't agreed to bring me.
"Promise me you'll stay here." Ian pleaded. I could feel his cold hands shaking.
"I promise." I whispered.
Ian pressed his lips to mine and held me close. His eyes were blank and emotionless as he pulled away.
"I love you." he said before turning away.
The next instant, a werewolf had flung himself at Ian from behind, thrusting him down. Ian fell back and the force of the attack stunned him.
I cried out, fighting not to run to Ian's side. Instead I gathered several apple sized stones and started throwing them wildly at Ian's attacker.
My aim was far off, and I watched in horror as the werewolf bent down to finish Ian off. I threw my last stone in desperation, then watched in amazement as it hit the werewolf in the head, felling him to the ground.
I started to dash out of my hiding place, but strong arms seized me from behind before I could go another step.
"And where do you think you're going?" a gravelly voice asked mockingly. I didn't have to look behind me to know that my captor was a werewolf.
"N-nowhere," I stammered, pretty sure I was about to die. However, the werewolf paused and looked at me closely.
"I recognize you," he said suddenly. "You're that little wretch who escaped from us a few weeks ago." A snarl burst from him, and I closed my eyes, waiting for it all to end.
I was suddenly released, and I almost fell on my face. Someone had freed me and killed the werewolf. It was Gabriel. He smiled at me before running towards a few werewolves who were locked in combat with Ava and Lyra.
I flung myself down beside Ian, crying frantically, "Ian, please! Ian, please wake up!" Tears ran down my cheeks as I began to sob.
"Ian! Ian, wake up!" I shook him, praying that he wasn't......I couldn't finish the thought.
A noise from behind startled me, and I spun around to see another werewolf leering at me.
"Move if you want to live," he growled. "This vampire's mine."
I shook my head desperately. "Move!" the werewolf thundered, stepping forward.
"You'll have to kill me." I said. My voice was shaking, and I knew it. No one was here to save me this time.
"You're pretty dumb." the werewolf sneered. "If I do kill you, which I will, your boyfriend will die anyway."
"He's already dead." I whispered. He snorted.
"You're stupider than I thought. I know a live vampire when I smell it. And if he was dead, then why won't you just move and let me have him?" I didn't have an answer. I felt Ian stir behind me, and I almost passed out with relief.
The werewolf shrugged as I didn't answer. "It's your head." He lunged at me.
The next instant Ian had sprung up and thrown himself at the werewolf. It screamed as Ian's arms tightened around it's neck, and then the screams choked off and it slumped to the ground.
"Are you okay?" Ian cried, taking me in his arms and holding me tightly.
"Me? What about you?" I shrieked, pulling away and looking at him, my eyes wide and frantic. "I thought you were dead!" I choked before I burst into tears.
Ian held me close, kissing my hair.
"I'm tougher than you think." he said, pulling away and holding my face in his hands. "It would take a lot more than that to kill me."
"I need to get you out of here," Ian said, grabbing my hand and pulling me to my feet. "Let's go." We had gone several steps before, out of the corner of my eye, I saw an unfamiliar vampire racing towards me. I only had time to see his flashing scarlet eyes before he hit me and everything was gone.
"Erika! Erika, come on, wake up!" Someone was cradling me in their arms. Someone very cold.
"Ian?" I groaned, my eyes fluttering open.
"Oh, God, Erika." Ian moaned, pulling me to his chest. All of the sudden, burning fire shot through my arm. I screamed in pain, and Ian frantically cried,
"What is it? What's wrong?" The shadows were closing in again.
"My arm..." I mumbled faintly, fighting to remain conscious. I closed my eyes.
"Erika! Ian! What happened?" Loretta's shrill voice broke through the haze of darkness clouding my mind. I realized that we must have left the battle. I couldn't remember anything but a vampire running at me and then.....blackness.
"Ian, I'm sorry." I said thickly. "I know how much you wanted to fight....and I ruined it."
"Erika, don't be ridiculous. You would have followed us anyway, you said so yourself. And now we need to get you to a doctor."
I made to stand up, but my stomach quaked and I threw up, thankfully not on Ian or Loretta. Ian carefully moved me away from the puddle of sick, but also turned me around so that my left arm didn't touch him. At that moment, I saw Loretta's eyes open wide and her mouth drop in shock.
"Wha...." I began. Then it hit me. The vampire who had knocked me out had bitten me. I looked down at my arm. There were two bleeding wounds, like a rattlesnake bite.
"Ian, what's going to happen to me?" I asked softly.
"Nothing," Ian said soothingly, but the look in his eyes told me he wasn't convinced himself. "Nothing at all, sweetheart."
But then pain seared through my entire body, fiery and burning. I cried out once before it all went black.
The next thing I knew, it was night, and I could tell we were in a car....going somewhere, I supposed. The pain had gotten worse, and it was now throbbing through me nonstop.
Ian was holding me, leaning back against the seat, alseep. Loretta was curled up in a ball in the front, but her eyes were open, reflected cat-like in the glow of headlights.
I tried to change positions, but pain wracked my body excruciatingly, and a gasp escaped my lips. Ian's eyes flew open and Loretta whipped around to face me, then was suddenly in the seat next to us.
"Are you okay?" she whispered, touching my shoulder, her fingers light as moths' wings.
"No," I moaned, fighting not to black out again.
"How far do we have to go, Gabriel?" Ian's voice was tight. So that's who was driving; Gabriel. And how far to where?
"Forty miles." Gabriel replied tersely. If I could read his voice, he was as anxious as any of us.
Ian cussed. Thoughts raced through my head. How long would I last? Would we get wherever we were going in time? I carefully shifted in Ian's lap, trying to ignore the fiery ache throbbing through me.
"What happened after he knocked me out?" I asked Ian.
"You were unconscious," he replied slowly. "And I knew I had to get you away before more harm could come to you. But I was so angry at that rogue who attacked you..." Ian's voice trailed off. When he started talking again, his voice was hard. "I dealt with him before going to you."
"You killed him?!" I choked. Ian remained silent. Finally, he said,
"I couldn't know if he was on our side or not. God, I wish I knew what happened!" Ian's fist struck the seat. I felt awful, knowing it was my fault.
"I'm sorry." I whispered. Ian's angry expression cleared at once.
"You are so bizarre!" He said, kissing the top of my head.
"This was not in any way your fault! If you hadn't been there, I would have probably been devoured by a werewolf, remember?" He said it jokingly, but nobody laughed.
"Listen, Erika," Loretta spoke up. "You have more than enough to worry about.....just relax, okay?"
Easier said than done, I thought. There was no way I could relax, not with fire eating my insides.
"Ian?" I murmured, laying my aching head against his arm. "Am I going to die?" Ian looked shocked.
"Of course not!"
The car screeched to a halt, throwing us all forward. I screamed in agony as my injured arm hit the seat. Everything went hazy, the world was spinnning before my eyes. I felt cold arms wrapping around me, heard a whispered jumble of words spoke so fast that they made no sense.
"What the hell was that about?" Loretta cried, her voice even higher than usual. "Traffic jam." muttered Gabriel.
"Dammit." Ian hissed. I writhed as the venom struck again, tightening around me until I could barely breathe.
Ian heard my ragged breathing, and through my eyelashes I could see his outline bending down over me.
"Erika, it'll be okay. Just hold on---" Ian voice cracked. Loretta was rubbing my back, whispering soothingly to me. I was in so much pain.....death couldn't be far away.