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Devils playground, p.15
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       Devil's Playground, p.15

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  “What was your last memory before tonight?”

  The twin with the wing over her breast remained silent, letting her sister answer all my questions.

  A moment of awareness shone in the dominant twin’s eyes, and her features remained stoic, as she tried to remember her life before she died. And I wondered when she’d realize that she had, in fact, been dead. It didn’t take long.

  “What year is it?” she asked.

  I told her the year, and her jaw tensed. It was the first sign of emotion she’d shown. She hesitated for a beat and then looked over at her sister. Her lips pulled into what I could only describe as the sweetest smile I’d ever seen.

  “We’re free of them, Nova.”

  Nova’s eyes moved to me and then back to her sister.

  “How is this possible, Rebel? Why do we live?” Her questions came out slowly, as if she were in a zombified state.

  Rebel grabbed Nova by the shoulders and pulled her forward, until they ended up face to face with each other. I was scared that she was going to smack her or shake some sense into her, but she didn’t. She just gazed at her tenderly. It was as if no one else in the field existed—only them.

  “Sister, it doesn’t matter how. What matters is that after 20 years, we are alive. Look around you. Do you see any of the bastards who hurt us? No, right?”

  “Who hurt you?” I asked.

  Without even glancing my way, it was Nova that answered that time. In a trancelike state, her hand moved over a set of lips that were like two fluffy pillows, lined darker than her skin around the edges; a warm rosy hue filled them in, making them appear freshly colored by lipstick.

  She dragged her fingers across those rouged lips and said, “They liked to bite us first.” Her fingers skipped to her neck. “Here.” She dragged the trembling digits down her body, her stomach, and then finally across the inside of her thighs, to dip between her closed legs. “And here.”

  Rebel sighed and said, “We’re safe, sister, we must be. Can’t you feel it?”

  The fact that those reanimated vampires were adapting so quickly to their new physiological appearance, as well as the emotional toll that the changes should be having on them, was absolutely remarkable. Other than the apparent residual trauma from a hard life of abuse and captivity, those two women seemed to be adjusting to their new circumstances at an alarming rate.

  I’d learned that lesson from a similar experience with my formerly one and only creation, Rafe. My magic worked much like an electrical grid of high-voltage transmissions, sparking each connection, or in that case, molecular buildup, inside the corpse, replicating his or her DNA material into the perfect specimen of themselves. Along with their new appearance came an instant and unbreakable bond between vampire and Creator. And the bond worked both ways.

  Nova gave us all a slow sweep of her gaze. She looked at me, and her focus held.

  “She feels safe.”

  Her warm statement sent shivers through me.

  I nodded and said, “You and your sister can trust me.”

  Rebel placed a hand on her sister’s shoulder.

  “I believe her.”

  At the sound of a loud boom, accompanied by screams ringing out from across the field, our get-to-know-you time was interrupted. So much for making my newly turned vampires feel all safe and cuddly.

  Nova’s and Rebel’s eyes narrowed, and their wings flared out in black sheets behind them, as they surged up into the sky.

  Lily and the others ran toward the commotion. The screams grew louder.

  I inhaled deeply and said, “Rafe.”

  Something hit me hard in the back, and I found myself lifted off the ground, to soar through the air.

  Rebel’s breath hit my cheek, as she said, “I got you.”

  The farm exploded in the distance.

  I squinted through watery eyes. The swiftness of air rushing into them was making it hard for me to see anything. But I could have sworn I saw Rafe flying away from the blast, holding something, maybe a body, in his arms. Then he tossed it in the fire. Another vampire bit the dust, or more accurately, kissed the flames.

  Rebel’s grip tightened around my chest. All the while, she dodged flying debris and wood shrapnel with expert precision. Not even a splinter had touched us. She did have me, and I felt safe… for the moment.

  We landed at the fence line between the field and the main house—the same house where I’d been held when I first arrived.

  I took a step forward, and I could see Rush, running through the back door of the house. My grandmother must have already been inside, because I couldn’t see her anywhere.

  Jude appeared at my side. He pointed to a van not far from us that had just pulled up to the house.

  “Damn. How many vampires live in this town?” I asked.

  Rebel’s smooth light voice said, “It doesn’t matter. They won’t be alive for long.”

  “Huh?”

  “Not after Nova is finished with them.”

  I gave her an odd look that said exactly what I’d just voiced.

  “She has a bit of a temper. And this place is a stresser for her.”

  “Oh.”

  I watched, as five vampires hopped out of the back of the van. That meant there were at least two more in front that I couldn’t see: the driver and, more than likely, a passenger. My heart skipped five beats, when I realized that all of the creatures were heading toward the house where Lily and Rush were.

  “Look,” Jude said, moving his finger to the sky.

  When I looked up, I saw Nova in mid dive bomb, her face a mask of cool determination. Her wings were pressed against her back, and she had a set of black talons protruding from her outstretched fingers. Hers was a chilling beauty that mesmerized, as she swooped down to attack the rushing vampires. All five of them were taken off guard. They tried ducking out of reach of her sharp claws, and two narrowly escaped. One hopped behind the van, as the driver and passenger popped off gunshots from inside the cab.

  Rebel shook her head and flashed a wicked grin, saying, “The hell if I’m going to let my sister have all the fun.”

  She then shot up into the air.

  Seconds after Rebel flew off, Rafe appeared. His gaze shifted between the battling ravens and me, his expression guarded.

  “I leave you alone for what… 20 minutes tops, and this is what I find?”

  There was no time to explain my new creations, so I shrugged and said, “Congratulations. You have twin sisters.”

  His eyes went wide, and then he laughed a jolted rumble.

  “I can handle that.”

  The twins had their combatants well in hand. That thought became literal, as Rebel touched down at the backs of the three vampires who were hiding. With a swift arch, her right arm swung back, talons sharp and eager, slashing down through the neck of one of them. Blood arced, as his head tumbled to land at her feet. She twirled on the one next to him, grabbing his outstretched arm. She bit down and flew back, taking the arm with her. He barely had time to scream, before she whipped around and took his head, too. Nova walked over and stood near what remained of the two.

  “Impressive,” she said, sounding more alive than she had only minutes before. Her eyes cut to the remaining vampire, who was scrambling, scooting backwards on the palms of his hands and butt. “What are we going to do with him?”

  And then I realized I’d just been standing around, watching, while I should have been in the thick of it, too. I needed to be fighting, so I didn’t stick around to find out what happened to the remaining vampire.

  I spotted a gun on the ground about 20 paces away and went for it. Dust pinged around the ground at my feet, as I ran. They were bullets fired from the cab of the van.

  Rafe narrowed in, his face a mask of, You’re fucked.

  “I’ll take care of those assholes!” he yelled over the rapid fire.

  I wanted to say, “No. Stop putting yourself in danger for me,” but instead, I yelled back, “Be caref
ul!”

  Magic wended through my body, reaching and sparking out with every blow my creations delivered to my enemies. All three of my winged vampires were deadly, and they were in the process of protecting me, without question or hesitation. It was a humbling scene to behold. I just hoped I could live up to such loyalty.

  Finally, I grasped the gun and tightened my grip around it. Rafe reached the driver’s side of the van at the same time. His arm disappeared inside of the open window and pulled free the gunman who’d been shooting at me. Rafe was fast, faster than he’d been only a few weeks ago. With one arm, he slammed the guy against the hood of the car. I flinched at the sharp, echoing crack of the guy’s back breaking. With an open palm, Rafe pummeled the vampire’s head into nothing but mush and broken bones. He then grabbed up what was left of his victim’s muddled and bloody hair and pulled the guy’s head clean off.

  It was the most gruesome kill I’d ever had the misfortune to witness.

  Somehow, I controlled the contents of my stomach and the horrified scream that croaked hoarse within my throat and raced toward the house in search of Rush and my grandmother.

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Magic wafted off my body in unspent waves, needing to be used. All my wounds were healed, and the muscles in my thighs and arms—hell, every part of my body—felt renewed, fortified.

  Sounds of a fight were coming from the front of the house. I held the gun, which I didn’t necessarily need, considering how hard and potent my magic was riding me.

  Like a building storm, time whispered by me in slow motion. The coppery smell of spilt blood assaulted my senses, as I eased forward, making sure to watch my back, while I checked the corners of each room I entered and searched within dense shadows for any signs of vampires.

  Rush’s voice floated over to me in the middle of my search, an assurance to my grandmother that the house was clear. My eyes weren’t blowing up red (or blue) like a Roman candle, the way they liked to in the presence of bloodsuckers, so I trusted Rush, when he said the coast was clear. I tucked the gun away, inside the waistband of my shorts.

  “Rush, is everything all right?”

  “Kris, come in here.” His words had a relieved ring to them.

  I entered the living room, where Rush and my grandmother stood amongst a sea of dead things. In that space, arms and legs had no trouble finding a spot to rest across butchered torsos or scattered atop a side table or magazine rack. The smell of death was crisp in there, reminding me of something corrosive. I almost expected to see the blackened flesh of chemical burns on Rush’s and Lily’s hands, faces, and arms. But all that stained their flesh was a glistening wash of crimson.

  Rush looked me over, and his terse features relaxed.

  “We have some news.”

  I was always up for good news, but I’d rather not hear it in a room littered with dismembered limbs. Even though I knew the slaughtered were of the evil persuasion, it was still a hard thing to witness.

  “Do you mind sharing your news with me outside?”

  Lily shrugged and said, “Outside is fine.”

  Rush scanned the room, taking in the carnage he’d helped create, seeing it as I did.

  “Sorry about the mess. Those suckers put up a hell of a fight. Wouldn’t go down easy.”

  He turned and opened the door for me.

  The puddles of goo, limbs, heads, and torsos belonged to vampires, so I didn’t believe they’d died easily.

  “I need some air.”

  I covered my nose and breathed through my mouth. All the while, I tried my damndest to ignore all the blood and body parts, as I trudged through on my way to the front porch.

  ***

  The sky was lit up, a blue that shone bright around the waning moon. Dawn was coming. I took in a mouthful of untainted air and thought about how life should always taste and feel like that—cool and calming.

  The younger vampires would be feeling the ill effects caused from the sun, as it neared. I needed to get my new creations to safety, a place where they could rest for the day.

  Speaking of which, faster than thought, Rafe and the twins appeared, standing together, in the front of the house. Their sudden arrival ruined my moment of peace and prodded me into action. My smile disappeared, and I palmed my gun, swiveled around, and checked in every possible direction for trouble. But there wasn’t any. It was a false alarm. And then I realized everyone was standing around, cool as a cucumber, staring at me.

  A little embarrassed, I shuffled on the balls of my feet.

  Nova let out a squeak. Or was it a laugh? Whatever it was, she quickly covered it up with a hand.

  I fingered a bloody rip in my shirt and asked, “Is something funny?”

  Rebel wasn’t as sensitive as her sister. She laughed and met my gaze without flinching.

  “No need to get excited. The party’s over.”

  Rafe nudged Rebel in the leg with the back of his hand, eyes full of amusement.

  She shrugged at him, saying, “What?”

  I was glad to see my creations were already bonding, even if it was over razzing me.

  I dragged a hand through my tangles and fell back against a column. The gun was still clenched in my hand. I relaxed my grip, and my arm dropped to my side.

  “I thought….”

  But they already knew what I thought. Strap a straightjacket around me and haul me away to an asylum. I was losing it. But after the last few weeks I’d had, could anyone blame me?

  “Anyway, what did you guys find out?” I asked, in a desperate attempt to change the subject and because I really wanted to know.

  Rush glanced at me, and I noticed for the first time how beat up he was. He had a split lip, and as he brushed his hair out of his face, I also saw a deep gash at his hairline.

  “Come and see for yourself.”

  “All right.”

  I followed Rush down the stairs. I had to jog to keep up with him. He stopped at the back of the van.

  I ignored the carnage that littered the ground around the vehicle, almost as well as I’d blocked out the mess from inside the house. Most assuredly, the Center had a team that would come and clean up all of the bodies and make it as if the bloodbath had never occurred. But I’d remember that night forever. Some things sank their claws into you and stuck. The blood of the guilty stained deep.

  An awful smell filled my nose as soon as Rush swung open the van door. Old food wrappers, bodily fluids, and only God knew what else. Two heads snapped up suddenly, with eyes widened by terror, staring at us from far inside the cargo space. Both of the women’s hands were cinched together with zip ties. Their beautiful tear-stained faces were partially hidden behind wild hair.

  I stepped back in shock, contempt singed my blood, and I no longer gave a shit about the dismembered limbs belonging to the bloodsuckers who had done such evil and vile things to those poor women. They deserved what they got. I kicked aside a dismembered leg, without flinching, and hopped inside the van.

  I was cautious at first, hoping I wouldn’t come off as a threat. They’d been threatened enough for a thousand lifetimes.

  “It’s okay. You’re safe now.”

  The tops of two heads, one red and one blonde, tucked closer in together, with their knees pulled up to protect their naked bodies, arms wrapped tightly around their shins.

  I wanted to ignore the proper protocol needed in that kind of situation and just run to their sides. Instead, I inched forward, stopping to rest on my knees a few feet in front of them. Up that close, I could tell that the blonde woman was bleeding badly from a neck wound. The vampires had been carelessly feeding on that one. Her face was washed white, and she was shivering uncontrollably. I needed to staunch the hemorrhaging, before she bled out.

  I pushed energy through my right hand and held it out in front of me. The tips of my fingers gleamed light blue with power.

  “I can help if you let me.”

  The blonde peeked between their laced arms, lifting her
vacant brown eyes to my hand.

  Shaking her head, she said, “I can’t take any more of this.”

  I blinked back tears I hadn’t known were forming and inched a little closer.

  “I promise you that I can make this all go away. You just have to trust me. Can you do that?” I asked gently.

  She closed her eyes, as if she were thinking about what I’d said, and when she opened them again, they were filled with defeat.

  “It’s not like I have a choice.”

  “This is your fight to win or lose now. You can either let me help you live, or you can bleed to death. It is your choice. If it were me, I’d fight like hell to live, because if you do die, you’re letting the bastards who did this to you win.”

  Her brows jumped together at what I’d said, a strong sign of a spirit not yet broken. My heart filled with hope.

  The blonde whispered something into the redhead’s ear, and at the tail end of the sentence, I heard her use the name Lisa. Lisa nodded, and they untangled themselves from each other. I didn’t show any reaction, as she pushed herself up from her huddle. I was too scared I’d spook her into changing her mind. Her arms and legs wobbled from weakness, as she tried to shift onto her hands and knees. She made it about a foot, before toppling to the floor.

  Lisa let out a strangled cry, and my gaze caught her frantic one.

  “It’s okay,” I said, managing to calm her down.

  Panic flew by me like wind, as I dropped my fingers onto the ripped flesh at her neck. A cool sensation overtook the tips, and light flashed out to seep underneath her skin. A small ache gripped my middle, as more and more power pumped out of me. The healing process had begun.

  No one outside of the van said a word. They stood at least six feet from the bumper and watched at a comfortable distance—comfortable for the girls, not them.

  Rafe was nowhere to be seen, but I could feel that he was close, off to the side and out of view. I eased closer to the redhead’s side, power flowing, gathering into one place. I was stronger in that moment than I’d ever been, and I could feel it. I finally had every bit of my magic under my complete control. I smiled to myself at that thought, because I knew from there on out, I wouldn’t be making any more accidental vampires.

 
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