Matthias, p.8
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       Matthias, p.8

           Ariana Kenny

  Chapter 6 Welcome to the family

  I couldn’t have been out long and when I woke up I felt like I had the worst hangover ever. I sat groggy and nauseous while Cassie drove and Cam sat beside her. Michael was still and quiet curled against the side of the door staring out the window.

  The two….girls….in the front both looked back at me. Cassie looked guilty. I didn't know what to say so I said the first thing that came to my mind: “So. Is this the part where you tell me it isn’t what it looks like?”

  Cassie’s voice resounded, serious. “I don’t know. Is this the part where I tell you it isn’t what it looks like? What do you think?!”

  I didn’t care what they were, I started yelling: “What do I think! You're kidding me right. What the hell did you give me! I feel like shit – Pullover!”

  “I can't” she replied. “Things didn't go the way they were supposed to”.

  “No!” I said feigning surprise badly. “Really?! That wasn't how it was supposed to go?”

  Cam rolled her eyes “Humans. Always using sarcasm and humour in serious situations. You should have just come out and explained it to him in the first place like I said.”

  Cassie sounded exasperated. “Yes. Of course because it is the sort of thing that people believe. They don't think you're crazy and walk away. We needed him to come to our house”.

  “It didn't exactly go the way it was supposed to though, did it Cassie” said Cam.

  “How was I supposed to know Belil picked up on us? I thought we were fine to go ahead. He must have sensed it.” Cassie replied her voice strained.

  “Maybe it was Viktor.” replied Cam.

  Cassie shook her head. “It wasn’t Viktor. He hates Belil as much as us.” For a moment she looked like she was going to cry. “Camille, I was so sure this would work. I’m so sorry.”

  Cam softly reassured Cassie “I know.” she said and she stroked her sister’s head. “But now I don't know what we should do. They will be looking for us, and we don't have anywhere to go yet”.

  “We’ll figure it out. I'll figure it out. I'm the one who convinced you to do this Cam”.

  I was just staring out the window at this stage, my head was throbbing and I was thirsty beyond belief. I couldn’t be sick in my uncle's $250,000 car. All I could do is try and make sense of the situation.

  “Someone is going to have to explain this to me. Why, what happens next….”. I said flatly. Cam looked back at me solemn until I shrank back, silenced, before she turned back to face straight ahead.

  “Matt. I really am sorry” said Cassie. “I will explain it, but we have to find a place to stop for the day”.

  “Like hell!” Michael yelled and sat bolt upright. “We have a right to know what's going on. I need to get away from you two”.

  Cassie drew the car to a stop. She looked back at Michael, but her face was changed. Her upper lip fuller, teeth protruding, and an odd shine to her eyes that wasn’t there before. “I will tell you but not her and now. We will be safe. But we need to put some distance between us and them, and we need to do it before the sunlight. So I am going to drive the car, we can talk, and you are going to sit in the back. End of conversation.” Cassie paused briefly before revving the engine again. “And I will make this up to you.” she added. I didn’t like it, any of it, but I believed her. After she calmed down a bit she spoke more softly “How are you feeling Matt?”

  “Been better” I admitted. “I would like some more answers. Even one would be good.”

  “I’m fine thanks for asking” Michael interjected. “Any chance you can drop me off at a mall, a service station even, and I will gladly be on my way”. He was sulking in the back before continuing his tirade. “No offence Matt, but your new girlfriend SUUUUUCKS!!!” He shouted.

  Camille’s head snapped back again, her patience clearly exhausted. “You done? If you wish to be hunted down and torn into strips I would much rather let you out here.” Cam stated bluntly.

  Then, past reason, Michael just started screaming. “Go ahead. I’m not scared – give me a pencil and you’re dust…. I’ve seen the movies, I know the rules. One garlic naan for lunch and you’re history”.

  “Michael….shut up.” I said to him but he turned on me then.

  “And you, had to help her, you had to let her in the car…”

  Cam turned to him, leaning over the seat into the back, not angry, just eerily calm. “Michael.” she said with a determined sound in her voice. He instantly changed, became calm and turned to face her. She reached over towards his head and pointed a finger between his eyes as he stared her down. She simply uttered three words “ad arbitrium. Sleep”, and he fell against the door.

  I checked he was breathing and, horrified, looked at her accusingly. “What did you do to him?”

  “He’s sleeping, that all.” came the bored sounding response.

  Cassie started talking and interrupted my decision as to whether or not to bother trying to kick at her head and jump out of the moving vehicle. “I wouldn’t have put you in this situation if I didn’t have to. You are different Matt. Matthias. You are the key to our freedom. Family, real family is everything, blood ties or not. I know you know this, because we were watching you. You value relationships and responsibilities.” She said pleadingly. “I need two things to happen, for me to get something from Belil, and for you to help me get that.”

  “So you thought you would hijack my car to get me to do something, to hold my friend hostage.” I replied.

  “I didn’t know about Michael. I didn’t expect him to be here with you. I had to do something, I had to make it work so we could get her back”.


  “Our sister. She is hidden and only Belil can free her. He has an amulet he wears around his neck that opens a door somewhere. His blood and that amulet can release her.”

  “How was I going to help with this?” Saying I was baffled as to what I could do was an understatement.

  “It’s difficult to explain. He fears you” she replied, solemn.

  I laughed at her. “Something bloodsucking and dead like you, fears me?!”

  Cassie flinched momentarily as though hurt but she continued: “I didn’t used to be like this, neither did Cam, but we still carry with us some of who we were before we were changed, still have the same need to belong, to be free. Believe it or not, you need the same thing. I am sorry I lied to you though. I didn’t trust you would come with me if I told you the truth.”

  We pulled into a halfway decent motel this time with Cam going in ahead. Cassie just spent the time watching me as though she were looking for something until Cam arrived back.

  When Cam reached the car dangling the room key, I broke my return stare. “Come” Cassie half asked and half demanded. With few real choices, I stepped out of the car and followed them. Cassie had the keys to the car, and I doubt it very much that running would do any good. Cam picked up Michael on her own, little effort exerted to do so, and proceeded to carry him on one side, dragging him into the room, and slinging him on the couch. Their strength was phenomenal. How could something like that possibly fear me? The thought plagued me incessantly.

  When we were inside Cassie drew the curtains and Cam took out a small vial of sand from her boot and a thick stick of chalk from in between her breasts. With the chalk she drew on the door a symbol that looked familiar, one you might see commonly branded on retail symbology like Bluetooth, and she lay the sand on the floor across the doorway. Cam then stretched and laid down on the king-size bed. In her style she had picked the sizeable honeymoon suite and she stretched out across the bed clearly enjoying the luxury. The whole room must have been the nicest in the county, because it certainly didn’t look like it fit in a roadside motel like this one.

  Cassie looked at me once more as I settled myself against a back wall. “Family comes first you know. This wasn’t personal, but ….” She looked away as she trailed off. “I know you don't really understa
nd and I am going to explain it”.

  Cam called from the bed “I don't know that this is the time for this Cassie. You need to eat properly. It's already been too long.” I looked at Cassie's face she was very pale and had red reams along her eyelashes and dark circles under her eyes. Even her arms were pale and almost transparent. I could practically see all the veins underneath her skin. Cassie nodded reluctantly and rose from the chair before she faced Cam and said: “Camille take care of him while I'm gone.”

  Cam gave a curt nod and before I knew it Cassie was out the door. I felt unnerved to say the least as Cam looked at me as though sizing me up. I did my best to meet her gaze with resolution, but I was breaking out in a nervous sweat that was hard to hide.

  Cam broke the silence first “She thinks your special you know” she said leaning against a wall. “I hope she’s right or we’re all in a lot of trouble”.

  I had so many questions but I got it started with what I thought was a simple one. “Why. Why am I here, why am I supposed to be so special. I need to know what's going on.”

  Cam moved to the short, makeshift bar to take out two bottles of something alcoholic and pour them in to two glasses. She handed me a glass and I accepted. I drank it quickly while she observed me closely, and before I had drained the glass I was already walking over to the bar to get another. The alcohol barely taking the edge off, I sat down at the coffee table, Cam mirroring me on the opposite side.

  “Why are you here?” she questioned herself out loud. “Cassie's brilliant, she always has been. She is always looking out for my sister and I. It’s almost a weakness though, that she sees the potential for more in people and situations. She has never quite been happy with what she's got. My other sister has the same capacity, to pick someone who is special, sense their gifts or talents before they even know themselves. And now Cassie sees that potential with you.” I took in all in as she continued.

  “There is something else about you though. There is something in your blood. Your family and Belil’s go back a very long way. So long your parents and their parent’s parents have probably forgotten all about it, but you have an untapped power source flowing through your body. It may not make you feel special now, but do you remember how you felt back at the club when he tasted Cassie's blood. That surge, that power to be able to just push Viktor and Jorge back like that.” I remembered very well.

  “That’s not something all humans have?” I asked tentatively.

  Cam shook her head “They might be intoxicated, I would know - I've used it enough times to get people to come home with me to do those things that they wouldn't ordinarily do.”

  “Like let you suck the life out of them?” I clarified.

  “That’s a bit melodramatic, but something to that effect. But to be able to harness it like that – that is special. Belil has been looking for something new, something to increase the source of his power and he asked Cassie to find you. He set a few things up of course, to get you out here in the first place. To know where you'd be and bring you away from home to isolate you. And here you are. Don't underestimate him he's been around longer than any of us, and I have seen too many times what he can do if he puts his mind to it. But Cassie, she sees more in you for us than enhancing Belil’s rule. She sees that you are the key to us being able to break free from him. So we can be out on our own. No commands, no orders, no punishments.”

  “What sort of punishments are you talking about? Cassie mentioned it in the car. She said your sister had been punished. Locked up.” I recalled the sadness on Cassie face when she had mentioned that. Cam had that same look right now.

  “You don't know until you been there.” Cam said looking as though she were a million miles away in thought. “I went there once. It was just a day but it felt like a year. She has been gone for ten years now.”

  “What is it?” I asked knowing that I didn't really want to know the answer. I just had to.

  “Hell.” her voice trailed. I already feared what could cause a vampire to feel dread.

  Camille shook herself from her haze and redirected her glance at me once more. “You know what we are.’ she said with a darkness underpinning her tone. I nodded in silent response. “You don't look particularly scared. Are you?” she asked nonchalantly.

  I replied just as casually “I'm fairly certain I wouldn’t still be here if you didn't need me. You made that much clear, but you also said something went wrong? And why did those two men arrive? What was supposed to happen?”

  “The Bellock brothers?” Cam huffed. “That was nothing, a long time dispute with poor timing that’s all. But the plan was that Belil was supposed to keep you around. He was going to offer you a place of honour and give you a couple of days to consider. Throw everything you could imagine at you: Money, women, drugs - anything. In that time Cassie and I thought we could convince you otherwise. We wanted to convince you to take your strength and turn against him. I didn't realise that he'd see through what we were going to do. We were never meant to be cowering here in this place, but there's always a way to change things, to fix them. So we are going to have to go to him now.”

  Cassie arrived back then. Only a whoosh of air and the slam of the window gave her away. Tossing a pile of clothes on the nearby couch next to Michael, she came over to sit next to me. “I don’t want to go to him.” I protested. “I want to get out of here and back to normal. Let us go now, and we can forget it all.” Sounded reasonable enough to me.

  “We can’t. We need you to help us find my sister by confronting Belil.” Cassie delineated in earnest.

  “What makes you think that I'll do anything for you?” I asked.

  “Because you understand how important family is, how I can’t do anything less than save my sister.” When I failed to give her any ground she added: “Also, because it's for you now too. Now he knows you have been told what your background is, where your strength lies, he won't bear insults like tonight again. He has your scent and your friend’s.” She nodded towards Michael lightly snoring on the couch. “He will be looking for you, your family.”

  “If I don’t help you deal with Belil, he will come after me, and my family. That’s what you’re saying.” I wanted that part clear so I knew what I was getting into.

  “We aren’t going to let that happen. I won’t let him hurt you. I promise things were never supposed to be this complicated, but he will be unstoppable to just Cam and I, but for you…. You need to stop him. He doesn't let go and he doesn't have to sleep. You will have the advantage.”

  “You sleep!” I challenged.

  Cam piped up from beside me: “We don’t have to but we get slowed down in the light of day. By daybreak we sleep because otherwise we would be like crawling children until nightfall. We can operate, but only barely. When you have been around as long as Belil though, you hardly need rest. But he does function better indoors.”

  Cassie walked back over to the couch and retrieved the clothes tossing some to Cam who held up a purple and black dress sequined and split up one side. It looked gaudy and dated, and resulted in Cam turning up her nose at it. “Am I adjoining the 80’s revolution?” she asked, with some amusement, and draped the dress on the chair next to her.

  Cassie handed me slacks and a long sleeve knit shirt but I paused in taking them. “I don't really want to know where the clothes came from do I?” I queried expecting some person had been slaughtered in pursuit of free clothes and a blood meal. “How was dinner?” I extended not even try and hide my revulsion.

  “No one got hurt. That's really not my style.” Cassie responded. I felt a chill run up my back as she continued. “I'm sorry I’m going to have to do this, but we both need to sleep, so we can't watch you. I know you want to leave, and have more answers, but that can’t happen right now”. She reached to put her hand on my head and I flinched. She looked wounded before she proceeded on and finally pressed her hand to my head, then looked very deeply into me and whispered “ad arbitrium”. I
felt fuzzy and when she said “You need to sleep too.” my eyes closed of their own accord and slipped into sleep, only vaguely aware of falling back onto the bed.

  My dreams were twisted, full of the unreal. I was running but I couldn't feel my legs. I was running in the dark and couldn't tell which way I was going. As I ran, I passed myself standing on the side of the nothingness – just watching, as I passed. When I looked back at myself staring at me, the face of my other self was missing – just blank. I kept running until ahead I came across a plush armchair in the middle of the darkness. There was a spotlight over the chair in question and draped over the chair was a woman dressed in a white evening gown with her legs up on one arm of the chair, and her head hanging over the other, facing away from me. As I approached the chair I crept forward more cautiously and the woman turned her head towards me and brought her legs to the ground. It was Cassie. I walked up to face her and she looked beautiful, her hair styled delicately and her complexion porcelain. I was leaning into kiss her when her face suddenly changed and she lunged at me to bite me as a snake would, coming towards my eyes with slit pupils and distorted features.

  I woke with a start and there was half light in the room. I was in the middle of the bed with Cassie on one side and Cam on the other. I went to inch off the bed when Cam's cold hand suddenly grabbed my wrist. She looked up at me in a daze from the pillow and said sweetly: “Don’t go too far now.” before she sank back, her eyes rolling back in her head. Inching off the bed I made my way to the bathroom to splash water on my face. I poured a glass of water and drank it gratefully while I sat on the edge of the bath wondering what the hell to do next.

  By the time I came out, Michael was awake and Cassie and Cam still lay, deathlike on the bed, the final slivers of late afternoon sunlight peaking through the curtains. Michael beckoned to me, rose from the couch, and headed towards the door. I shook my head violently, stepping forward meaning to stop him form getting himself hurt. He grabbed my shoulders and looked me in the eye. “I am going,” he whispered hoarsely “And you are coming with me”.

  “How far do you think we’ll get. Really!” I responded. Michael’s hand was on the door and he opened it soundlessly. There was the soft dusk light outside and it occurred to me that another day had passed as we slept and I had no idea exactly where we were.

  “We’ll get as far as we bloody well can.” he said. I looked back at the bed, then at him, and went to follow him out the door. He took one step over the sand and out of the door and turned to check I was behind him.

  Michael stood encouraging me out, as I hesitated.

  Then it happened. A figure swept from the side, pulling him off his feet and away into the emerging blackness of the night.

  Cassie was beside me immediately and drew me back from the door. She hissed into the night and Cam arrived next to us, closer to the door, scowling. That is when the fair haired man from the club appeared with the thinner, one armed man. I noted the thin man held the intact arm in his pocket, but the arm that had been severed was different now than before, there was more of it, stump-like, but obviously regenerating. It reminded me of a lizard’s tail. They both waltzed up calmly and seemed unperturbed.

  “Jorge.” Cam snarled at the one armed man.

  “I see you have your bag of tricks with you.” he replied looking at the sand along the line of the door. “Wouldn’t have even known you were here if the door wasn’t opened. And here we are, so let’s get straight to it. Give him to us,” Jorge pointed at me. “Belil will forgive all, you can go your own way”.

  “Just like that?” Cassie retorted in snide disbelief.

  “Just like that.” the other piped up from behind.

  “Fine, I’ll go.” I found myself saying, but Cassie wouldn’t let me move towards the door.

  “Your friend will be fine for the moment.” Cassie whispered to me. “They need him to get you to cooperate and go to them. We need to make sure what happens is on our terms.”

  “Oh well,” said Jorge. “I guess I can at least say I tried. In the meantime we have a snack until you turn up.”

  “No way am I going to let that happen.” I strained against Cassie pulling me back.

  Jorge laughed while the other man explained the situation to me. “They want to keep you on the other side of their magic dirt. It might keep us out, but you have to come out sometime. If I were you, and you wanted to save your friend, I would make it soon.”

  “Come Carl, we have what we need”, said Jorge. “We’ll have visitors soon enough, and I am getting …. hungry” his hand slid over his stomach, he smiled again and they were gone in a flash.

  Cassie slammed the door. “What have you done!” I shouted at them

  Cam bit back at me. “Don’t look at us, Michael should have known better. The markings on the door hid us from their senses and the sand prevented them from crossing the threshold”.

  “In case you haven’t noticed, this is a bit new to us. What are you – hundreds of years old? We’ve had all of about six minutes to adjust to all of this. How would we know?” I dropped to my knees and felt hopeless and enraged at the same time. Cassie sat next to me and ran her hand along my back trying to soothe me. I shucked her away.

  “You don’t understand.” I tried to explain. “Michael and I have been best friends for almost as long as I can remember. If something happens to him, I can’t imagine….. Michael really is like my brother. I have to get him back.” I drew a breath trying to gather my thoughts before turning back to Cassie. “I don’t have any of the strength you think I do. I was out of my mind before when you gave me your blood. You have the wrong guy.”

  “I don’t have the wrong person. You are the only person for this Matt. It has to be you. Belil and you share a blood link in your genetic history, which makes you able to channel skills like immense strength, beyond what we have. I know it’s a stretch to understand.

  “Besides, we are not that old, or we wouldn’t be needing you.” Cam added as though it helped. She tossed me the clothes from before. Change your clothes, then we can head out. The sooner the better I think.”

  “Why do we need to change?” I asked. Clean clothes were not my priority right now. Then I saw the dresses Cam and Cassie were intending to wear. “Where are we going to go dressed like this?”

  Cam replied bluntly: “To Norseman, where Belil and Michael are. There’s a club about two hours down the road. We have enough time to get you trained in the basics, then we’ll have to leave. He will be waiting for us.”

  I rose to my feet. “What’s the point of playing dress up if he knows we’re coming?”

  “We don’t want to draw attention where we are going.” Cassie responded void of emotion. She walked closer to me. “If you do this, I'll owe you the world. And it is the only way to get your friend back.” she pleaded as she faced me.

  “Besides, you stink of blood and sweat.” Camille added. “I almost want to bite you myself.”

  I did my best to ignore the comments. “I still don't know exactly what it is you expect me to do.” I was exasperated now.

  “Come with us. Face him. Kill him. All you have to do is break his neck and rip his head from his body” Cassie stated surly.

  “Oh is that all?” I replied.

  “I’m not strong enough, not old enough yet, but if you drink from me before we go in you will be able to because of who you are”. She pressed further.

  “It would be easier if we just turned him.” Cam stated matter-of-factly.

  Cassie snarled at her sister and continued on speaking to me: “But you need to have your senses about you and from the looks of last time you almost couldn't walk straight. I'll teach you how to breathe through it – work with it. It's always more disorienting first time the second time will be easier”.

  “I don't think so” I said stubbornly. Cassie slammed her hand on the table and it split in half, the glasses tumbling to the floor. I jumped in reaction.

He has what I need to get my sister back. I need to get her back and you're the only one who can help me, so willing or not, bear in mind that if he doesn't find you, he will find your family. My family, your family, one way to keep them safe. He has to go. The things he’s done, you have no idea. Were not all monsters but he uses his power….wrongly. He’s no good. There is no reasoning, no bargaining, so get dressed and I'll tell you anything and everything else you need to know on the way.” There was a long pause as we regarded each other. “We don't have much time before it will be a hell of a lot more difficult to try and get things done. And they won’t be holding on to your friend for ever either. They will only keep him as long as they want you to find them.”

  There was an uncomfortable silence before I spoke. “I know I don't have any choices. I don't think you’re lying to me, but I also don’t have any reason to trust you.” I reminded her.

  Cam broke in then, already dressed: “Well, fine as it is to see that the party started without me, I had better go grab something to eat –I need my strength.” She walked straight out the door while Cassie and I still stood, staring each other down. Eventually she broke the gaze and walked off.

  I went to have a shower with a million thoughts running through my mind. One of which was that they don't all need to sleep but some do or they are practically incapacitated. Maybe that was a key to my freedom. Ours – once I found Michael. They could also induce intoxication with their blood, and both Cassie and Cam had manipulated us into falling asleep – somehow. They were beautiful people, well, not people, not anymore. Clearly they had lived a long time, possessed speed and strength, and I wondered what else they might have up their sleeves by way of tricks that may have come out of a book or movie. I got dressed quickly and stepped out.

  Cassie had changed into a calf length black dress which was backless. There was a line of feathery like fur around the edging, and she had pinned her hair to one side so she looked more like an elegant celebrity about to walk the red carpet than someone planning a murder. She looked brighter than when I had left her.

  “Won’t it be hard to fight in a dress and this?” I motioned to myself. “Shouldn’t we be in khakis and black ninja suits or something”. She walked up and adjusted my collar and I let her.

  “You won’t have to worry about that. Wouldn’t be the first dress I ripped through, but we do want to blend in as much as possible to avoid everyone knowing our business.” She took a moment then met my eyes meaningfully. “I meant what I said before” she said calmly, “I do believe in fate, and I have been looking for you for a very long time.”

  “How long?”

  “Not as long as Belil.” she answered me.

  “I understand you know.” For some unfathomable reason I still wanted to reassure her. “I understand why you are doing this.” I thought of my oaf of a brother and I would do anything to save him. For all our misgivings, I did love him. I would fight for him, my parents, and now to save my friend as well.

  She put her forehead to mine and smiled before she asked: “Are you ready?”

  “Not really, but let’s do it anyway.”

  “Drink me.” she said as she smiled and took a knife from the bar and drew it across her wrist over a shot glass. Blood burst from the wound and I knew immediately what she meant. She handed me the glass and started to talk. “You have to breathe through it, in through the nose, out through the mouth. You might feel nauseous but don’t fight it, let it wash over you and you’ll adjust. This much will last you into the morning. It'll taste foreign, but you could grow to like it, if you wanted to stay.”

  “I do this - and I'm gone. I am taking Michael, the car, I am going to deliver that stupid piece of scrap metal like I said I would, and then I am getting on the first plane I can, so I can be back home where I belong”. My surety surprised me.

  Cassie looked reserved, walking around the bar next to my drink and hopping up on the counter. She leaned to the side and looked at me deeply before saying “Whatever you want. I'm still hoping you change your mind. I meant everything I said before, but it’s just that you don't really know me yet, only the person I was pretending to be before and the person I have to be right now to get things done.” She smiled to break the seriousness of the conversation. “I didn’t even need to meet you before, but I wanted to see what you were like.”

  “What am I like?” I held my breath waiting for that answer.

  “What I was hoping for.” she said with that smile that had held me so strongly when I had first seen her.

  “Get a room.” I heard Cam say from behind me. She had slunk in before I even noticed. “You going to drink that or what?” Cam snapped.

  “I’m not going to turn into .. you know…. if I drink this, right?” I turned to ask Cassie.

  Cassie shook her head in response. “Don’t be worried.”

  “I’m not worried.” I snapped back too quickly.

  “Sure you are. I can hear your heart racing.” I instinctively clutched my chest when she said this.

  “I have exceptional hearing. One of my talents.” Cassie cleared up for me. “You won’t turn into one of us though. I would have to kill you while it was in your system – like drink you to the point you would die, or snap your neck or something.” She saw the flicker of concern pass over my expression and hurriedly added: “I’m not going to do that of course…” she said before smirking. “Until you ask me to. Which you will, you know.” I smiled to myself. She was persistent. “What is it?” asked Cassie bemused.

  “Two days ago I had tickets to go see the Louvre in Paris, a ring to marry the girl that I thought I loved, and the proverbial world at my feet. Now I'm standing in a motel off a highway about to take a hit of blood out of a shot glass so I can help two vampire sisters knock off their father and find their other sister and free her from some hell place. Life is not without its quirks” I lifted the glass and threw back the shot.

  The most amazing taste explosion ran through my mouth, stroking the sides of my tongue, and running warm down the back of my throat. It tasted foul, but as soon as I drank it, I felt different. The disorientation wasn't as bad as the first time, and I felt more in control of myself. There was a fire burning through my body like the first time I raided the liquor cabinet at my parents house and tried Ouzo, but this was edgier, sending me into a tailspin. I grabbed the bar to steady myself and closed my eyes to try and concentrate on breathing. When I inhaled I felt breath like never before, my lungs opened right up and I threw my head back. I felt incredible, powerful. Hearing the edge of the bar crack underneath my fingertips, I opened my eyes and they felt as though they were glowing. Everything was sharp, walls, corners, items on the table around me all seemed to have an aura, and I felt like I could almost see right through things. I saw Cassie standing out from everything else, like technicolour against black and white, and her skin looked irresistible.

  “How are you feeling?” she asked. I reached out and touched her cheek with the back of my hand. “You feel amazing. I never felt anything like you before.”

  “Bah!” I heard Cam utter. I turned around to see her roll her eyes and walk away from me. I felt Cassie touch my hand, which still stroked her face.

  “Are you alright” her velvety voice seemed to purr. I couldn’t help myself, I leaned in and kissed her. Her lips were more unbelievable than the first time. I enjoyed the feeling and grabbed her even closer. I breathed her in and marvelled at the sensations. When I stopped I put my forehead to hers.

  “It’s an amazing feeling isn’t it” she said “Everything is more intense, it feels warm inside and like you are under the influence of something extraordinary.”

  “I’ve never felt anything like it.” I leant in to kiss her again but she moved gracefully away. I grabbed her hand “Don’t go” I pleaded. My mind was foggy, all I knew was I wanted to touch her, and be touched by her.

  “It’s just the intoxication” she said dismissively. “Some people call it bloodlust
. We have to go Matt.” I pulled her close, and she embraced me back. “Now, can you fight Matt?”

  “I never had to.” I said squeezing her tighter.

  Cassie groaned uncomfortably and I let her free. “Well strength isn’t going to be a problem. That you have.”

  “Staying alive is a whole different ballgame though.” stated Cam. “Don’t let anyone get behind you, don’t let anyone grab your head, keep your eyes on everyone and don’t give them second chances.”

  “Hit them like they’re never getting up again.” I reverberated words my father had taught me, not that I had ever had to apply them.

  “Exactly.” Cam enthused.

  “We should practice.” Cassie offered.

  “No, we should go now.” I commanded. “The more time we spend here, the worse off Michael could be. I’ll take my chances as I am.”

  “You will be fine” Cassie soothed as she straightened my collar. She actually looked worried for me. “Just when we get there, stay quiet because he won’t know what we have done, though he may suspect. Take in the territory, who, what and where. If things don’t have to get violent, we will try and work around it.”

  I took her hands in mine. “Let’s do this Cassie.”

  “Welcome to the family” came Camille’s voice in the background.

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