Friday, October 25, 2013

Flash Fiction Friday! The Great Mage: Week 14

A little GoT humor for ya.  Graphic Art by: Sean Kearney


Hey everyone! 

Guess what happened this week? It snowed!  While some might be ecstatic to watch the first snow come down in little flakes, and race to get a cup of hot chocolate so they can perch behind their front window and ooh and ahh as the fireplace crackles in the background, I do not share in their Norman Rockwell moment of bliss.  My first thought upon seeing the first snow is something close to “Oh shit”.  And that is followed by a not-so-subtle, verbal, “Oh fuck no.”

I have lived in Michigan for a long time and repeatedly endured the lake front winters, that said, I am never prepared for the season.  One day the temperature is 65 and the sun is shining.  The trees are turning these gorgeous colors.  And then bam, guess what biatch?  It’s cold.  It’s snowing.  People are driving like assholes, especially the awesome fellas in Carhartt jackets; those manly man men with Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes peeing obscenely on the back of their truck window surrounded by their “I hunt all moving things” paraphernalia.  Cute.  Real cute when they're obscuring my visibility with their snowy backlash caused by their manly speed with their impenetrable truck forged from the hellfire of Middle Earth.  Or Chevy.

And then I’m buried under these “seasonal shift change” lists of to-dos.  Find snow brush to unbury my truck every morning.  Don’t forget to leave your wipers up so they don’t freeze to the windshield.  Avoid slamming back door too hard so snow from the roof doesn’t fall on your head, melt, and leave you screaming for mercy.  Dig out boxes of boots, sweaters, and other things needed to cover every inch of skin so that I can step out of my house without getting blasted with icy wind daggers.  Buy salt for the sidewalk.  Call snow plow guy and get that shit contracted.  Because I am not up for shoveling my satanically long driveway every time I need to leave my house.

Load up the iPod with soothing playlists for those drives of 25 mph on a 70 mph highway, because 2 hours of commuting at a speed that not even coffee could keep me from going insane requires relaxing tunes.  Then there’s the task of changing over all the bedding to more winter friendly sheets and thick down comforters.  Ever tried washing a down comforter that is three times as big as your washing machine?  Me either.  The Chinese lady at Lemon Fresh Cleaners charges me 80 bucks.  Somewhere in this world that kind of upcharge is illegal.  I will live vicariously through those imaginary people in that imaginary country who can launder their down comforters at a reasonable price.  But it’s warm and oh so cozy—too warm to leave in the back of my storage closet of Narnia where Christmas lights and “those jeans you’ll again fit into” go to die.

And that, boys and girls, is only the tip of the iceberg.  Maybe one day when I’m really good and pissed at winter I’ll share how I make it through the bad days of those six months of Eskimo life.  Hint:  Apple Pie.  And I’m not talking about Granny’s homemade crust filled with floured Honeycrisp slices either.  More on that later… ;)  Your inner backwoods yahoo will thank me.

While I sit and brood over the fact that winter has arrived, here is the prompt for this week’s FFF:

1.     Law and Order – Pick one of the five listed laws and apply it to a key scene in your chapter/story:

·        The penalty for a member of a lower class abusing a slave girl is a few years' imprisonment.

·        The penalty for a juvenile engaging in piracy is a flogging.

·        The penalty for a foreigner stealing corpses is a warning.

·        The penalty for offending a member of a certain bloodline is a considerable term of servitude.

·        The penalty for smuggling herbs is whipping.

I chose:  The penalty for offending a member of a certain bloodline is a considerable term of servitude.

Please note that Winter won’t be posting this week, so check back with her blog next Friday.  That’s all for now on my end.  Please visit our other talented bloggers and see what they chose to use from this week’s prompt.  Stay warm.  Have a drink for me.  Love you all.  *Hugs*




The Great Mage: Week 14


The Trolls were a breath of nature, beings created from the very essence of all things living and the earth that sustained mankind and creature alike.  Nothing like what Aneris had conjured in his mind of what a Troll was supposed to be, these creatures were massive yet docile and pretty in their own right.  Just as one would look at a tree with red leaves in the fall, and stop to think of how beautiful it was when every other season of the year they could have cared less, the Trolls embodied the joy of that special time and wore it on their skin with pride.

Even in the dark, barely displayed under the Fae lantern light, Aneris saw their clear blue eyes and felt their power.  He didn’t need the sun to gain perspective of their bodily significance.  He only needed to stare into their eyes long enough to feel the trees whisper around them, the water trickle through their veins like a tinkling melody, and the connection they had with every  living thing around them.  They had no need to be governed by kings and queens, or petty magical politics; the Trolls obeyed a higher power, and to them, the Earth was their beloved deity.

“Killian,” a Troll murmured, although his baritone voice was hardly quiet in the hushed forest.

In recognition, the mysterious Shifter went to one knee and bowed his head in respect.  “Powl, forgive my hasty summoning.  I meant no disrespect speaking your tongue or by offering modest offerings to your cherished god.”

The Troll known as Powl blinked, his eyes were large and wet, vividly blue like a slice glass taken from a romantic cathedral window.  Aneris couldn’t look away.  He wanted to reach out and take Powl’s hand to know the secrets of the water that filled the ocean and the lakes, the little creeks and streams and puddles he stepped in after it rained.  He wanted to know what the blades of tall grass said to each other when they rustled in the wind, and how the rich, dark soil under the leaves at his feet smelled so fragrant and familiar.

Powl smiled without looking at Aneris, but the Mage felt the humor directed at him.  Powl regarded the Shifter’s kneeling form and put a hand to his dark hair.  “Your actions and words speak as if I am a king.  If I were your ruler, and I took offense to this unexpected summoning, you would serve me for the rest of my days as punishment.”  Powl sighed.  “But I am neither king nor ruler.  I am a servant and a peace keeper, a guardian of the earth.  And you have served unwillingly for far too long to be indentured to any creature’s will again.”

Killian, the dark Shifter, looked up as if wounded.  His mouth opened in rebuttal, only to close when Powl carved a massive hand through Killian’s long hair.  “The lake has mourned the water for a very long time, old friend.  They have both kept watch for the day they could be reunited and you could serve the water once more, and the temple you gave up your humanity to protect.  Do not be upset, Killian.  We know all.”

The trolls grumbled in agreement.  No one in Aneris’s party made a peep, too riveted with Killian and the Trolls to utter a single sound.  Leaves rustled above, birds shifting closer to the meeting on tangled branches.  Fae lanterns hovered, bobbing gently midair.  Killian put his other knee to the ground and his hands covered his face.

“Nothing to be ashamed of, old friend—you have played your part.  You have served your elders and our mother well. Because of your will to live, you are now free to do the things you have had time to contemplate and dream of.  In return we will honor your request, as this summoning was meant to aid you on your journey, yes?”  Powl searched his brothers’ eyes to seek approval.  The Trolls surrounding Aneris and his fellow warriors nodded.  “Rise and tell us what you need.”

On shaky legs, Killian stood, yet still he hid his face beneath a curtain of dark hair.  “It is not for me directly.  And I need for you to understand I mean not to bring you to battle once we step—”

“Tsk.”  Powl hunched over, brushing Killian’s hair out of his eyes.  “A battle for the earth on which you stand is not born of peace.  Nevertheless, the earth is in peril.  As you said not minutes before, if the White King perishes so does the magic that feeds the lands and wills our hearts to beat.  Even if the Black King succeeds, what are we to do without our mother and our lands, Killian?  What are we, beings who nourish and listen to this home the earth has created, to do without a purpose and a lifespan that exceeds the stars and the moon?  It is not a life I would wish on my worst enemy.  The loneliness.  The longing.”

“What are you saying?”  Aneris blurted, and then gasped, backing up in the warmth of Fia’s fiery tail.

“I’m saying, Great Mage, that this is a battle we wish to be a part of, in our way, of course.  While we might not directly step into the fire, we can surely command the fire, so to speak.”  Powl’s innocent eyes narrowed, and for once Aneris saw the Troll of his Othersider imagination.  “You play a great part in this journey as well, Mage.  Your name has been whispered in the air for some time now.  And even our mother, though she may never admit it out loud, seeks your victory.”  Powl bowed his head and winked.

The White Lady, Aneris thought with a smirk.  Aneris looked down at the moon embedded in the stone on his sash.  It was a little brighter, a bit larger than before.  He gulped and looked up at Powl.  “So you’ll join us?”

The Trolls smiled.  One by one moving back into the trees. Only Powl remained within visual, and the heavy thud of large feet traveling along the overgrown path in the forest answered where the others had gone to.  Powl extended his arms to Aneris.  The Mage frowned in confusion.  But Killian was quick to remedy his misunderstanding.  “There is no greater rest than with the earth,” he said.  “And you, our leader, need all the rest you can get before the time comes for the unexpected.”

Aneris looked up at Seth.  The Red Knight sighed and smiled.  “He’s right.  You know he’s right.”

“I’ve slept enough, don’t you think?  I mean, I was dea—”

Seth pointed an angry finger at Aneris.  “Don’t you dare finish that sentence.  A Mage is only as good as his preparation.  There are no written spells or potions for you here.  Your body is your weapon, and your “weapons” are an extension of your body.  What will you do if you reach the castle completely drained from this journey, fighting your way through brush and mud in the dark with sore feet and tired muscles?  What good will you be to these people, to this land, or to your king?”

Aneris made to spit out a remark, but stopped.  He was tired.  His back hurt from all the twisting and turning.  His feet were sore from all the walking over uneven ground, up inclines, and down craggy rocks in the dark.  The more he searched for his abundance of magic, the harder it was to find that golden spark dwelling deep within his belly.  With a sigh Aneris surrendered whatever argument he sought to give and stepped into Powl’s embrace.

He was a bit humiliated at the thought of being carried like a child in front of herd of warriors, seeing Fia as a more graceful way of resting up, and Seth’s back as more familiar place to rest his head.  But as soon as he was lifted off the ground, cradled in Powl’s muscular yet soft arms, Aneris understood.  He smelled the salty cling of ocean spray in the air, although the ocean must have been thousands of miles, if not dimensions away from this realm.  He laid his cheek on Powl’s chest where the Troll’s skin was silky, the feel of rubbing his thumb along a rose petal and the scent just as sweet.  His body molded to Powl’s arms the same way a grassy plot on a summer’s day was the perfect place to lay around so he could watch the clouds roll by in the afternoon sun.

Powl was the embodiment of peace, of tranquility; a premier spot to be to meditate one’s mind and forget about their surroundings for a moment.  The Troll’s soul connected him to the earth, and established a lifeline of energy so that Aneris could fill his cup with dreams, and purge the very ferocity of his future battle with Sylvius.  A war to stake claim on the Silver Realm and send the lesser Mage to his death.

All of his flakey what-to-dos and how-to-do-thems were chased away in the basket of Powl’s arms.  Aneris’s head lolled to the side so he could catch one glimpse of his beautiful Red Knight before a heavy pull stole his vision and captured his mind so he could whisked away to the Land of Nod.

To be continued…

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Shelter Me: Part 7

Hello all!  I thank you for being patient for the next installment.  It took a bit of work on my part, and time, so again thank you for waiting.  For those of you experiencing the dreaded cold temperatures right now, I hope this chapter gives you something else to think about, and I hope you smile… or cry.  I assure you there will be a tear or two near the end.  ;) Sorry about the lack of a playlist this week.  I’ll include one in the next installment.  Hope you’re all well and staying warm as fall creeps on by.  You guys rock.  *hugs*




Shelter Me: Part 7


Hyperaware of damn near everything, Greg scanned the street from over Fletcher’s cab, his arm resting on the open back seat door and his palm flat against the roof.  His father was gone, no longer standing over his shoulder.  Donohue was stationed nearby with one of the best detectives on the force, Senior Detective Wesley Durren, and he was in charge of GERT tonight, the Guard Emergency Response Team.   All that was left was to say goodbye to Trey and leave him in the capable hands of a well-trained team.  Leave his mate.  Just walk away and trust someone else with the most precious person in his life while murderous traitors were looking to skewer Trey and dance around the bonfire chanting their victory.  Fuck.

It was a temporary separation.  Or so Donohue assured Greg.  Assurance meant nothing to Greg without absolute proof his mate would never be in harm’s way.  They both knew Trey’s safety was impossible.  There would danger tonight.  They both had to play a crucial role in the plan for it to go off without a hitch.  That meant parting ways and playing along as if nothing was happening.  But, seriously, walking away was the hardest thing Greg would ever have to do.

Trey grunted, tugging on Greg’s hand.  “Will you stop?  I’ll see you in less than an hour.”

“Right.  Have you ever tried to drive through the Meatpacking District this time of night?  Or even get on the Greenway with the one lane exit now?  Less than hour my ass.”

Trey smirked.  “I don’t drive, Greg, so I wouldn’t know.  But Fletcher does.”  He hitched a thumb at the blond driver who was humming behind the Plexiglas, pretending not to listen.

“That’s what worries me.  What if something happens?  What if the switch doesn’t go off as planned and he is the only way you’ll get out of there?”  Greg leaned into the open space between them.  “I can’t risk that.  Fuck this.  Get out of the cab right now.  We’re going upstairs.”

“I can hear you, Greg.”  Turning in his seat, an ever present smile on his lips, Fletcher laughed.  “Just call me James Bond.  I’ve got mad skills.”

Greg snarled, mindful of the humans walking by, otherwise he would have done a lot more than curl up his lip and glare.  He glowered at Fletcher.  His voice low as he said, “Maybe if you had something faster I might believe you.  But this piece of plastic isn’t made to outrun criminals and take bullets.  You understand we’re being watched right now, don’t you?  You get that my mate’s life is in your hands at this very moment?  I’m handing over my over half to a child driving a hot wheels car with a hula dancer on the dashboard.”

“Well, duh.  And I’m not a child.  And don’t make fun of Twerk, she’s an excellent dancer.”  Fletcher rolled his eyes, patting the dashboard hula doll on the head.  “Give me some cred, Greg.  I was assigned to do this by the higher ups.”  He perked up in his seat, a wild grin spread to his eyes.

“Assigned?”  Greg huffed.  “The only reason you’re here is because my dad fucked up with your dad and he feels like shit.  Which he should,” Greg was quick to amend, pointing a finger.  “And you’ve been more than likely under surveillance since my building is being watched.  It makes sense for you to drive him at this point.  They know you’re involved with Trey somehow.  They’d be stupid not to make connection and it’ll seem normal for you to drop him off.”

“I’m going to pretend you didn’t just pull a daddy pity card and take what I can get.  If it makes sense, then quit your bitchin and get out of the kitchen.”  Fletcher turned his nose up and swiveled his back against his seat.  He turned over the ignition, prepared for takeoff.  Twerk’s hips mirrored the drum of Fletcher’s irritated fingers on the wheel.

“It’s a cab, not a kitchen!”

“Greg,” Trey murmured, kissing Greg’s hand.  “Chill.  I need you to relax. I need to relax if this is going to work.  Have a little faith.”

Faith?  Greg wasn’t sure he could rely on faith at the moment.  His inner caveman wanted nothing more than to throw Trey over his shoulder, march upstairs and rut against his mate until Trey was more pliable than clay so he could strap him down in a closet somewhere and sit outside it with a shotgun.  To protect his mate was his new life mission.  Allowing Trey to leave like his mother had was harder than he’d ever thought.  He couldn’t imagine what he’d do if something happened to his mate.  Greg would sooner off himself than let Trey die.  Life without his mate…

“Please,” he begged hoarsely.  “Be careful.  Listen to Donohue and follow every instruction.”  If he pulled the caveman card he would be telling Trey he was weak, unworthy of being his equal.  He couldn’t smother Trey or protect him every second of the day.  So Greg sucked it up and lent his mate support instead.  He would be there in spirit.  It was all he had left to give.

They were silent for a minute, staring at each other.  Trey was the first to look away.  He squeezed Greg’s hand.  “I’m not helpless, Greg.  They killed Jackson and took your mother.  I want revenge just as much as you do, if not more to prove myself to everyone and avenge my family.”

Greg winced.  “You don’t have to prove anything.  What they did wasn’t your fault—”

“To myself I do.  And I will.  Let me have this, Greg.”  Trey flicked swirling green eyes up to Greg.  “I need this.”

Danger danced in those jade eyes, enough to startle Greg.  Was it the practiced expression of a dealer from a shadowy alley, or was this a new side of Trey that Greg had yet to see?—a bolder facet to a man who had dodged death more times than Greg could comprehend.  Either way, he dug it.  Greg dug it a lot.  Greg bowed his head.  He leaned into the cab, his lips almost to Trey’s.  “An hour.  If you don’t show after that I’m bringing hell down on the city and everyone else be damned.”

“That’s so romantic.”  Fletcher sighed.

Greg slammed a hand to the Plexiglas.  “Knock it off.”

Warm fingertips gripped Greg’s chin, bringing his face to Trey’s.  Trey brought him close.  Close enough to slant his lips over Greg’s for a fleeting kiss.  Then Greg was shoved out of the cab, arms flailing for balance as the cab shot forward.  Greg’s cell phone rang as he fought to get control of his body. Moving against the building for support, and to avoid passerby traffic with questioning stares, Greg put a hand over his thumping heart for a second.  He pressed the phone to his ear, fingers still on his lips from Trey’s kiss.

“Hey,” he whispered, looking down so he didn’t have to see the lady pushing a stroller give him a disparaging look.  He squinted at her stupid slip on shoes, the ones that donated a pair to some kid in Africa with every purchase.  Hers had sparkles.  He was pretty sure the kids in Africa didn’t get fucking sparkles.  Looking at me like a freak.  Sparkly bitch.

“Keep staring down the street,” Donohue directed and Greg brought his eyes level with the back of Sparkles’ bobbing head like a target.  “That’s it, look upset.”

Greg’s nostrils flared.  “I am upset.”  He knew better than to try and find Donohue.  They were being watched.  He couldn’t tip off the enemy if he spotted the Captain.

“Don’t speak to me.  Just listen.  At the corner are two men in a blue cab.  They’ve been there since we arrived.  Unless cabbies started partnering up because of a rise in crime, I doubt their legit.  They’re watching closely, so now would be a good time to go inside.  Deep breath, that’s it.  Go on in now.”

Close to combusting between Sparkles and her misplaced judgment, and Trey now out of his sight, Greg keyed in at the front door, still on the phone with Donohue.  “Still there?”

“Don’t speak to me, Gregory.  Go out the back door on the first level and bring the trash on the patio to the dumpster.”

“I just took the trash out.”

“There’s trash now!  Just do it and keep your damn mouth closed.”

Greg stomped down the wide first floor hallway, past the glassed in lobby with the modern art pieces by some kid two galleries up, and continued toward the private residences on either side of the hallway.   He grunted to a former shelter resident sifting through his mail in the doorway.  The guy tried to say hi, to smile with a wave of his hand.  He didn’t get another word in because Greg persisted on his not-so-merry way.  The backdoor was made of one door, a small glass security enclosure following, and then an additional heavy glass door with another keypad all the residents had access to with their own private PIN number.  Greg typed his in, stepped out on the brick patio, and again wrestled the compulsion to see who was watching back.  Normal.  He was supposed to act normal while his mate was whisked off towards a dangerous location where Greg couldn’t protect him.

Managing the phone between his neck and shoulder, Greg threw the lid to the trashcan on the ground and hefted the bag out of the can.  He threw it over his other shoulder, holding the tie in the crook of his fingers and held the phone with his other hand.  Donohue’s steady breathing gave him strength and a purpose when he said, “I have two Guards in your sight.  Keep walking, Gregory.  You’re doing great.”

Greg swallowed down the lump in his throat and nodded at the young man crouched over a small grill with a single piece of steak in the common lawn space.  The Guard may have been young, but he flashed a smile full of fangs and twisted his foot around so Greg could see the handle of his blade sticking out of his boot.  Greg quickly faced the upcoming alley, relieved to see the second Guard fussing at the side door to a Wexel’s Parcel Delivery van.  The man darted a glance at him with an almost imperceptible lift of his chin, picked up a box and then put it at the doorway to another apartment complex door facing the alleyway.

“Put the garbage in the dumpster, Gregory, and then get in the back of the van,” Donohue whispered.  Where the fuck is this guy?  Instead of finding out, Greg deposited the single bag in the commercial dumpster.  Heart racing, he walked around the back of the van and was yanked inside.  Before he knew what was happening, the doors slammed all around him, the van reversed down the alley and was off down the street; all before he had a chance to blink.

Greg braced his hands against the doors behind him and stared at somebody’s idea of a Goth boy wet dream.  Cherry red hair spiked all over his head, the glasses wearing, buckle strapped warrior shoved a gun at him, handle first.  “Don’t shoot, sugar.  I might like red hair, but I don’t want matching spatter on my new coat.”  The coat pooled around the guy’s crouched form.  Buckles and chains with some zippers for good measure decorated the heavy black outerwear. They matched his knee high boots with soles thick enough to crush someone’s face in or hike a mountain in hell. Wicked eyes slanted at Greg and he leaned away, but took the gun.  It sat in his lap, a heavy weight he immediately hated.  He was more of a knife kind of guy—If and when he ever needed to go all ninja on someone’s ass, which was usually never.

“Know where to put that thing or do I need to walk you through it?  Fuck, do you know how to shoot at all?”  The vampire Royal kept his balance as the driver turned sharply.  He acted as if he wasn’t in the back of a moving van, crouched over a dangerous weapons cache.  “Do you speak?”

“Fuck off.  I know how to shoot.”

That earned Greg a smile and a lick of the warrior’s lips.  “Got a good bark, but do you have a nice bite?”

“Not for you.”

“Good answer.”  The Royal lifted his chin.  “Name’s Blaze, Weapon’s Wizard for the Queen and her band of merry killers.  You’re Greg.  I don’t need a bunch of bullshit bonding stories either.  So, you can use a gun.  But have you ever used one of these babies?”  He held up what looked like a glow stick from a sci-fi movie.  Green liquid sloshed around the flexible tube with silver capped ends.  Greg’s fear spiked at the devilish smile on the Blaze’s lips.  Spiked further at the possibility this guy might be somewhat of a terrorist with his own brand of explosives.  “Yeah, I guessed not.  How could you?  They’re still in development with the military.  Very underground stuff, or so they think.  I acquired a box a few months back and this is my own version.  Press the button down here, release the blue juice of death, shake it up, and run for your life.”

“A bomb?”

Blaze chuckled.  His eyes lit up like a mad scientist as he rolled the tube in the palm of his hand.  “Explosive, and not just your run-of-the-mill boom boom either. I call it Triple D.”

“Why’s that?”  Greg flinched when Blaze hobbled forward with a squat walk. 

The warrior held up the tube.  “Duck.  Dive.  Or Die.  Triple D.  Cute, huh?”

“Not really.”

Blaze stroked the tube, shooting Greg a scowl.  The Goth warrior stared at his precious weapon.  “It’s okay, baby.  He didn’t mean it.”

“You’re nuts.  They sent you to help me get my mother back?  Wait until my Dad gets wind of this.  He’ll swallow his own balls.”

“Now that would be a show.”  Blaze wagged his brows.  “Fortunately I’ve known your father for years and I doubt he’d go to such lengths on my behalf.   Where do you think all the weapons come from, Greg?  The sky?  This isn’t Chicken Little, my friend.  This is fucking war.  You don’t take one of ours and go out quietly.  You call on Blaze and his friends to make a bloody mess of them.”  Blaze’s smile was cold and his fist was punishing around the tube.  He snarled, his eyes swirling brightly.  “I might be crazy, but having a deadly crazy on your side is a good thing.  We’ll get her back, Greg.  And then we’ll hold the dust pan while you sweep the floor with their traitorous heads.”

Taken aback by the psychotic sentiment, it took Greg a second to wrap his head around Blaze and all that he stood for.  The Queen had promised her resources.  And here they were.  Blaze.  He was death and where he was, there was likely to be more just like him.  Sliding the gun away to give back to Blaze, Greg snatched the tube out of Blaze’s hand, careful not to touch the button on the end.  “Tell me more about this.”
Blaze beamed.  “That’s a good boy.”


West 32nd Street was still bustling with humans and a few oblivious vampires.  Fletcher drove slowly down the street, more careful than Trey would have expected.  Trey was too nervous to comment on Fletcher’s sudden in-the-zone expression in the rearview mirror.  As an alternative, he silently reached up next to his shoulder and threaded his fingers through the loop of fabric there.  Staring straight ahead, Trey scooted over until he was almost flush with the door and pulled on the loop, causing the fold down seat back to give way.  He pulled his hood up and waited until two arms grabbed the cast down seat and a head emerged from the trunk.

“Don’t say a word,” Junior Guard Feist hissed as he crawled out of the hole to the trunk like an expert contortionist and wiggled down towards the floorboard.  Trey got a knee to his thigh and a hand stomped on his foot.  He almost kicked Feist in the face to free his feet.  “When you lay down, face the back of the seat.  It will be easier to crawl through without alerting anyone at eye level with the window, if they’re watching.”

“They are,” Fletcher confirmed, glancing at this side mirror.  “Same cab followed us here from Spring Street.”

“ETA?”  The Guard got into position as Trey bent down on the seat.

“Maybe two minutes.  Make it quick.  They’ll wonder why he’s suddenly taking a nap so close to the address.”

“Go,” Feist hissed, glaring up at Trey.  The man was the same height and build and Trey.  They both had longish dark hair and green eyes, but Feist’s were more hazel than green.  Still, on a street, among a crowd, wearing the same thing Trey was, the Haitians would be satisfied “Trey” had entered the building while he actually escaped in the trunk of Fletcher’s cab.

Throughout the evening Donohue had begun putting Guards in place, systematically calling them into the area in pairs of by themselves.  The hotel next door was a good concealment and the mass amount of Korean restaurants on this block of Midtown gave the Guards plenty of extra cover if the Haitians were out in full force.  Trey wasn’t privy to how many Guards were out there, but he felt safe enough knowing they were.  He took a deep breath, breached the trunk cavity and curled up in the dark enclosure.  Feist flipped his hood up, crawled up onto the seat like a boneless creature from the floorboard and sat up straight.  He sucked in air, let it out and pushed the folded down seat back into place with a click.

Minutes later, Trey felt the cab stop near the curb.  He heard Feist get out at Trey’s old shitty walkup, the entrance located at a back door to a Korean quick stop where they sold everything from postcards and cigarettes to bitter coffee and pot if you knew who to ask for.  And then the door slammed shut.  The cab lurched forward again.  Trey shuddered with a relieved exhale; the hard part was over.  Now it was time to go save his family from being torn apart.


The Hudson River Greenway fared better at night with traffic.  It was a smaller two lane road that curved around Lincoln Highway and the merge of 11th, sandwiched between the major road and the water.  Night cloaked the ancient warehouses of the Meatpacking District and the forgotten docks left to erode in the water, as well as the rusty old structures attached.  The City Sanitation Department had been moved up the Hudson over fifteen years ago, after a zoning problem for the planned additions and an overlapping clause in the surrounding businesses’ contracts.  So they’d sold and moved out, and eventually so did everyone else.

The new owners of the property had put up a metal chain link fence that went at least ten feet high.  Although Greg couldn’t see barbed wire topping the fence, with that kind of security he didn’t doubt it was electric.  How the hell had Trey gotten in there by his self?  And for that matter, how had Jackson slipped by that kind of security without being touched?  Ultimately one of the twins had been caught and paid the price with his life, but Greg had to wonder how they would repeat Jackson’s escapade without paying a price as well.

Blaze acted as if this mission was an everyday occurrence for him.  He looked over three black plastic utility cases.  A series of four Triple D tubes were set into convoluted foam inside each case.  Every tube was plugged into a thick silver cap with a spring lock mechanism.  A red light blinked in the lid of the case, wires stemming from the tiny black plate of death that served as the acting motherboard that linked to Blaze’s detonator.  The wire hooked into the mechanisms.  Simple.  Deadly.  Perfect.

“You know how to swim?”  Blaze cocked a brow at Greg over his shoulder.

“Yes.  But I doubt we’ll be looking for Haitians in the water.”

Greg had been watching Blaze work for about an hour while the driver whisked them around a planned circuit until they’d been called in by Donohue.  For as crazy as Blaze dressed and acted, Greg had to hand it to the guy; he knew what he was doing with weapons.  The man had an ease around all things dangerous that Greg admired.  Yes, Greg was a confident, strong person.  But holding explosives hardcore enough to blow a city block freaked him out.  He’d only touched the thing earlier to show Blaze he was unafraid, although he’d been terrified.

Blaze sniggered.  “We’re not looking for anyone except for your mother.  We go in, get her out, fuck some shit up, and then we blow these beauties.  The entire complex’s foundation is set on posts.  We dive, we attach these babies, and when all is said and done we get far enough way to enjoy the boom.”  Blaze sighed when his elation wasn’t reciprocated.  “Look Greg, I understand you’re this little do-gooder and that’s great.  I suck with kids and trying to come up with ways to make people feel better. I play with the shiny big boy toys and you feed the hungry.  We each have a role to do.  Hoorah.  But haven’t you ever just wanted to punch that person that pissed you off so bad you could eat them for breakfast?”

“Yeah, but what’s that got to do with anything right now?”   Greg stared out the side door window, at the water shimmering in the moonlight.  Had it been day, he could have cared less about the disgusting water and the sickly green color.  But at night the Hudson was magical, and the lights of the city reflecting in its depths were like floating stars.  Trey would like this, had they been alone on a bench by the water.  Maybe he’d take him some time when they weren’t out killing the enemy.

A hand slapped him upside the head.  “Welcome back from Pansy Land.  Hitting people you hate, you with me again?”

Greg rubbed the back of his head, scowling at Blaze.  “What of it?”

“Good.  You should be mad.  Those fuckers took your mom and tried to kill your baby daddy, several times.  Now, as I was saying, it’s okay to kick them back.  Kick them back with steel toe boots on, bro.  Half of who we are is a creature we barely have control over.  Every once in a while let him out.  Tonight would be a good time to do that.  All I’m sayin’, man.”

Greg huffed.  “Whatever.  And the swimming?”

“I figured you want to pop the top off this place right along with me since its personal and all.  And…”  Blaze smiled.

“And what?”

“We kind of have to swim our way in.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?  The water is freezing.  No way.”

Blaze extracted a wet suit from a duffle bag and tossed it Greg’s way.  “Yes way. Gonna be a tight fit, but I’ll turn around while you shimmy in.  Can’t look at mated goods, or so I’m told.”

“You’re a real piece of work, you know that? “  Greg looked from the Ziploc fit suit to the back of Blaze’s head.  He thought of his mother, how she might barely be hanging on, and how he was bitching over a little swim to come to her rescue.  He thought of his mate and how brave he was to take things head on.

“I have to be that piece of work.  Not everyone can do this job.  Just like not a lot of vamps can do yours.”  Blaze smiled and scooted to the side of the van.  He pulled on a metal latch in the floorboard to reveal four oxygen tanks and a trunk of secret goods.  “So, you grow some balls yet or what?  Want to go swimming with me?”

Be brave.  You can do this.  “Sure.”

Twenty minutes later, the driver dropped them off at the Pier 51 playground.  What was once a pristine park with a boat themed playground was now overrun with trash and graffiti.  Skateboarders and gangbangers often used the playground for drug deals.  Two teenage boys sat under one of the faded white tents off to the side, watching Blaze and Greg drag two waterproof duffle bags across the concrete.

“Yo!  What’re you doin?”

Greg growled, but kept his mouth shut.  Blaze chuckled under his breath and lifted the first duffle up on the ledge next to the water.  They stood on a small deck in the shape of the bow of a boat for children’s entertainment that overlooked the river.  Not very safe, Greg thought.  Although kids hadn’t been around this area for some time since a gang had claimed it as theirs and those two shitheads across the way holding spray paint cans were posted on behalf of their dealer brethren.

“Hey, you can’t make drops here.  This is our turf.  You gonna have to get up with Big Johnny to dump bodies here, dumb shit.  Don’t need no pigs sniffing around.”  The sound of a skateboard rolling over concrete put Greg on edge.  “You deaf or what, fucker?”

Blaze shook his head, putting on the last of his scuba gear.  He kept his goggles on his head as he turned to the skateboarder.  His long fingers wrapped around this teen’s throat and lifted him off the ground.  His dirty sneakers dangled as his hands fought Blaze’s grip.

Blaze’s eyes swirled. “You’re going to go home to your parents and beg for forgiveness for being such a tool.  And tomorrow you’re going to go back to school and stay away from thugs and dealers and bitches who have names like Big Johnny or Lil or Dawg or G.  And so will your friend here.”  Blaze inhaled sharply, turning his eyes on the other skateboarder who had run to his friend’s aid.  “Do you both understand?”

“Yes,” they murmured.

“Good.”  Blaze set the kid down on his feet.  “Go home now.  You were never at the park tonight.  You never saw either of us here.  And if you don’t do as I say I’m gonna come to your house and wait until everyone’s asleep before I step out of the dark closet and beat the shit out of you for being so stupid.”

The teens gasped, eyes dilated under the lone lamp burning above them.  Less than a minute ticked by before they picked up their skateboards and left the paint cans to roll away.  They trudged up the sidewalk in a daze to wait at the crosswalk.  Eventually they blended into the night, going home under Blaze’s control.

“See?  People just gotta learn to follow instructions.  Isn’t so hard.”  Blaze grunted as he put on his goggles.  “Coming, White Knight?”

He bent down and pulled out a deflated square of black plastic.  He flipped on a switch.  The whir of a tiny motor rumbled at their feet until an inflatable basket for their duffle bags had formed.  Greg’s lips twitched with awe.  He nodded at Blaze.  Helped him put the bags inside the basket and then sealed the plastic protector over the top so they didn’t get wet.

“I can see why they call you.”  Greg commented, climbing over the railing.

“Mm hmm.  Because I’m the shit—that’s why.”  Blaze waited until Greg had his mouth piece in place and his tank was secure.  Then he pushed Greg back into the water with a laugh.  Greg resurfaced from the freezing water with a flail of his arms. “Turn on your lights.  Then catch this!”

After he was acclimated to his surroundings, Greg reached up to his goggles, flicked on the small head lamp at the side and swam back.  “Ready!”

The basket plunked into the water, splashing everywhere.  It dipped under the surface before bobbing back in front of Greg.  “We’re good.  Let’s get going,”

Blaze put one flipper in front of him and dropped off the ledge.  His fall was a hell of lot more graceful than Greg’s, but who cared?  With the basket clipped on a tether to Blaze’s back, they dove underwater.  Greg followed Blaze around the remnants of old dock posts that were left under the surface like a mass grave of rotting wood.

After planting three of the cases under the foundation, they reached the back of a corrugated warehouse that was a blinding shade of diner green, still hideous without aid from the sun.  Blaze went first, hoisting his lean upper body out of the water at a set of metal stairs leading down into the river.  A two-seater speed boat was docked next to the stairs, rocking with every subtle wave.  Most likely a maintenance transport as it was older, but just to be careful Greg pocketed the keys that were still in the ignition.  None of the traitors were getting out of here alive.  Greg helped Blaze get the last of their cargo up on ground level and then stopped to catch his breath.

Parked off to the side were a dozen vehicles straight out of a showroom.  The silver car ornaments and ostentatious rims would have bought food for the shelter for an entire year and then some.  Greg wanted to keep staring at the beautiful assortment of luxury cars, but he was neither materialistic nor patient.   They left the cars sitting there and Blaze took the last case out of the bag along with two hand guns, ammo, and a couple of knives.  “These are outfitted with custom holsters.”  He put the blade in a sheath at the thigh of his wetsuit.  It slipped in cleanly and a snap held it in place.  “Easy to get a grip on and molds to your body.  Take whatever you like.  I’m good.”

“That’s all you’re gonna take?”  Greg swallowed at the nod he received.  “Sure.  Okay.”  He bent and grabbed a sharp tipped diving knife and one of two matching .38s with attached silencers.  The hidden holster at his hip and the one at his thigh gave him no problems as he slipped the gun and knife into place.  The fabric was reinforced inside the pockets with leather and the snaps were sturdy enough to keep the weapons from coming loose when on the run.  It was strange how exposed Greg felt in the wetsuit, but it was better than actually being naked.  Plus, with the weapons, he was feeling a little more confident about this whole show.

As if Blaze sensed Greg’s newfound ease, he smirked.  “This is where we split up.  Donohue and Durren have Guards working on the gate and they’ll surround the warehouse before closing in.  Your baby daddy should show up any minute to start the real action, and when that happens, you and I want to be on the inside with the case.  From what I’ve been given, your boy says they have an entire stock here in addition to a pretty big lab.  I need to plant the case if we want to blow this operation.  You need to be my eyes and ears when my back is turned.  We’ll communicate via these…” 

Blaze unzipped the collar of his wetsuit and pulled out a plastic coated pouch the size of his index finger.  He tore open the plastic and slid a wire around his ear.”  “There’s a comm inside the left chest piece of your suit.  It’s already flipped on.  Donohue, Durren and I will hear you, but only you and I can talk to each other.  Stay out of sight, follow your gut, and keep me informed.  If you get in trouble, fight or flight, but make sure you tell me what’s going down even if you scream it.  I’ll come running.  Promise.”  Blaze slipped on a pair of thick soled boots from the bag and kicked a pair over to Greg.  “You ready for this?”

Shoving his feet into the lace-up boots, Greg nodded.  “I want my mom back.  I’ll do what it takes.”

“Let’s hope so.”  Blaze stretched up and cracked his back. He put a finger to his lips, twisted a bit as if going to tie his shoelace and grabbed the remaining gun.  In one swift move, he straightened, aimed and put a hole between an Assassin’s eyes; the kind of hole a vampire couldn’t mend on his own, or ever.  Assassins were the enemy’s version of the Royal Guards.  They did all the grunt work between the dealers and the enemy. 

As if Blaze sensed Greg’s newfound ease, he smirked.  “This is where we split up.  Donohue and Durren have GERT working on the gate and they’ll surround the warehouse before closing in.  Your baby daddy should show up any minute to start the real action, and when that happens, you and I want to be on the inside with the case.  From what I’ve been given, your boy says they have an entire stock here in addition to a pretty big lab.  I need to plant the case if we want to blow this operation.  You need to be my eyes and ears when my back is turned.  We’ll communicate via these…” 

Blaze unzipped the collar of his wetsuit and pulled out a plastic coated pouch the size of his index finger.  He tore open the plastic and slid a wire around his ear.  “There’s a wire inside the left chest piece of your suit.  It’s already flipped on.  Donohue, Durren, and I will hear you, but only you and I can talk to each other.  Stay out of sight, follow your gut, and keep me informed.  If you get in trouble, fight or flight, but make sure you tell me what’s going down even if you have to scream it.  I’ll come running.  Promise.”  Blaze slipped on a pair of thick soled boots from the bag and kicked a pair over to Greg.  “You ready for this?”

Shoving his feet into the lace-up boots, Greg nodded.  “I want my mom back.  I’ll do what it takes.”

“Let’s hope so.”  Blaze divvied up the ammo before going over to a piece of concrete holding down a tarp over a stack of wooden palettes.  He came back over to Greg and stabbed the inflatable basket.  They watched it wither.  When Blaze was satisfied, he stuck the basket carcass and one of the duffle bags inside the other and put the heavy rock inside.  All zipped up, Blaze kicked the bag into the water and let it drown.
He stretched his arms over his head and cracked his back. A noise around the corner jerked them to attention.  Blaze put a finger to his lips, twisted a bit as if going to tie his shoelace and grabbed the remaining gun.  In one swift move, he straightened, aimed, and put a hole between an Assassin’s eyes; the kind of hole a vampire couldn’t mend on his own, or ever.  Assassins were the enemy’s version of the Royal Guards.  They did all the grunt work between the dealers and the enemy.  And it was easier to kill them from a distance if one didn’t want to call attention.
Blaze dragged the Assassin over to the palette stack and rolled his body under the blue tarp.  He tapped his microphone.  “Showtime.  Entering back right door of the green warehouse.  A bunch of flashy-mobiles parked next to me.  Pretty sure mommy’s home.”
Greg got with the program, realizing Blaze was talking to Donohue.  He nodded to Blaze, drew in air, and went to the left entrance a few yards away.  “This is Greg,” he said a bit self-consciously.  “Entering back left door of the green warehouse.”
“Draw you weapon, dumbass,” Blaze hissed in his ear.
Palming the gun’s handle, Greg put his shoulder to the door and withdrew the .38 from the snap holster.  Elbows bent, his weapon  level with his head, he slowly turned the handle and was greeted with a sweet, yet bitter scent that made him nauseous.  It was hot inside the warehouse, tropically so, where he tasted the moist air on his tongue.  Blocking out a clear view of anything except the aisle he was in were rafter high metal shelves, loaded down with boxes in uniform lines and neatly labeled addresses.  Drugs ready for distribution. Rush ready to kill vampires everywhere.
A sick feeling left Greg frozen for a second.  It was only until he spotted Blaze entering the door down the aisle that he was able to keep going.  A wall of smoke built the farther down the aisles Greg traveled.  Cages of weapons to his right added to the fear rocking his mind.  But then Greg thought of his mother’s innocent face and his grip on the gun tightened.  He stepped gingerly over a smoking grate in the concrete floor and a puddle of water from a leak in the roof.  The last thing he needed was wet boots when he had to run for his life.
The smoking grates appeared every few feet or so.  He stilled at the sound of rock music pouring through the grates closer to the middle of the warehouse.  Blaze came into view from down the aisle and nodded.  “I hear it too,” he whispered.  “Something is going down underground.  The actual structure is raised, sitting on a lower level.  Should’ve known, man.  Smells like crack.”
“Smells like Rush,” Greg whispered back.
 He and Blaze agreed with a single look.  Blaze walked quietly down the aisle and hitched his thumb as footsteps came closer from the center aisle running perpendicular to the maze of boxes.  Blaze slipped the remaining case of Triple D onto a shelf and tapped his nose.  Greg used the end of the aisle as cover, shouldering a group of cardboard boxes.  A tall, thin man in a tailored suit stopped before a grate in the floor and held up a hand to the large, dark bodyguard at his back.  He sniffed the air like a dog and frowned.  Sharply, he turned his head to Blaze and got a mouthful of lead.  The back of his head exploded all over the floor.  His bodyguard barked in French, summoning other minions.
Biggy pulled a gun from the back of his pants.  Greg didn’t hesitate.  He pulled the trigger three times.  The bodyguard fell over like a tree in the forest, a loud thud of three hundred plus pounds greeting concrete in one slow motion move.  Greg didn’t meet Jagger’s eyes this time.  For the second time in his life, Greg had killed a man.  But for the first time it felt right.  His glee was pushed aside by determination.  He listened to the ruckus growing wild in the front of the building and determined his line of safety by the proximity of their voices.
“Doing good, Greg.  There are stairs on your side above the cages.  I can see an entrance going down.  Can you make it?”  Shots fired out.  Faraway wet splats and groans.  More gunfire.  More sickly sweet smoke.  A wall of the stuff caused Greg’s eyes to water the closer he came to the stairs.
“Go now!”  Blaze’s scream was enough to roll Greg’s lunch around his stomach.  He ran down the aisle towards the caged stairs, trying not think about his toes bunched up in the size-too-small boots, and caught sight of Blaze straddling a man on the floor.  His diving knife came down again and again until the man stopped moving. Blood dripped down the metal, catching in the grooved side of the knife.  Blaze flicked his eyes up to meet Greg’s, the chill there could bring snow to winter.  All in the span of under a second Greg realized as his mind caught back up with his body, Blaze twisted the knife in the man’s heart and listened for what must have been a heartbeat.  He didn’t listen long.  Warm bodies were heading for them from all directions.
“Get the fuck down there, Greg!  Unload the lead!  We got back-up here.  You feel that?”
And he did.  His gut and his heart sensed Donohue’s team on the premises.  How and when they’d arrived he didn’t quite know.  But they were here.  Thank fuck. 
Greg hustled towards the caged door and yanked it open, the metal making an awful warping sound as it banged against the warehouse wall.  He paused to see if Blaze was coming.  From somewhere outside, a loud bang and the sound of metal being demolished got him in gear. Crash.  Boom.  Bang, and the gunning of an engine.  Was that a car or a tank?
A war began outside the warehouse and the large garage door started rolling up.  Blaze shot him a look of fear before sprinting for Greg.  Together they pushed against the door to the sublevel and shot down a darkened staircase with their guns ready.  Submerged in the dark, the only way out was up.  They weren’t sure up was safe anymore.  In fact, up wasn’t an option at all.
“Donohue, there’s a basement beyond the caged door.  Going down,” Blaze murmured to his microphone.  Greg hoped Donohue was listening.  “Shoot anything that moves, Greg.  We’re on our own until that gets sorted out up there.” 
Blaze stopped him at the last step.  Staying close, Blaze and Greg turned the corner, only to land right in the middle of the biggest Rush lab they had ever seen.  Well, Greg had never seen a lab, but going by the look on Blaze’s face, he could tell it was big and they were in trouble.  A dozen rows of metal tables served as workbenches for men and women wearing full gas masks.  Mindless to their presence, they cut bricks of cocaine with thin metal instruments to mix with a red liquid boiling over an open flamed burner at each station.   A scoop of white powder sizzled as it hit the hot red concoction in the glass beaker.  Smoke rose from the mixture, curling up to the ventilation fans that fed into the warehouse.
So loud he wanted to scream, the rock music only amplified Greg’s anger at what he saw next.  Beyond the show floor of work stations was a glass wall that led to a more troubling bit of scenery.  Greg recognized both men that were being tortured.  His Mother’s Guards had been stripped of their clothing, left nude and vulnerable, and obviously overpowered.  They were strapped to metal tables with tubes emerging from every major vein and artery in their bodies.  They were being drained for their blood.  Blood that would be used to make Rush, because the main component in the liquid was vampire blood.
Overseeing their bloodletting was a tall, thin man that held an air of authority about him.  He wasn’t a scientist or a lab rat.  He was prideful male with a crisp navy pinstripe suit tailored to his arrogant posture. His mocha skin complemented the suit and the shiny gold timepiece on his wrist, and every single Assassin in the room took whatever he was saying seriously.  None of them uttered a word back, nodding in reply instead.  Another slab of metal was introduced into the room, pushed on wheels by two Assassins.  They stopped in the center, between the two Guards’ bodies.  One Assassin lifted his chin in a direction Greg couldn’t see from his position in the shadows.
Blaze pulled them back to the wall when an alarm blared like an echo in Greg’s ear, but no one down here seemed concerned.  It was as if it had all been planned from the start, one big theatric show to wow a certain audience: him.  Greg was sure of this when his Mother was corralled into the room; she fought with everything she had to get away.  But in the end her face was slammed against the table and her now pliable body placed on top of it.  Greg forgot to be quiet.  He forgot they were hiding and didn’t care who or what they were waiting for.  He reloaded his gun, gaining attention from one of the workers cutting cocaine in front of them.
Greg stepped out of his body, the rage in his veins consuming logic, and space or time.  He almost laughed as the worker drew a gun from a drawer under his table, because the man went down seconds later, crumpled, identical to a ragdoll falling to the floor. Greg played whack a mole with his gun, channeling his wrath into a bodily scope, hitting his targets when they made to stand.  He sent them down the moment they stood.  He was a force of madness.  Blaze was at his side, stepping into the pit of death along with him.  They had no shields or places to hide, no armor to protect them from the storm that began.  They had each other, the will to live, and the guns that wouldn’t quit.
Of course, their guns quit after the chambers were empty.  And they were now targets of the leader behind the glass, who taunted them by stabbing a needle into Yvonne’s limp arm.  The Haitian’s smile let Greg know he didn’t give a fuck how many of his dealers died.  His men and women weren’t important.  Only revenge mattered, a misplaced vendetta that Greg was more than happy to rectify.
Blood splattered the glass wall separating Greg from his Mother.  He climbed a desk, hopped over another one and took a bullet to the shoulder.  It hurt.  It really fucking hurt, but he couldn’t slow down.  Adrenaline shot him up, amped his energy to a level no one could touch.  This man, the enemy who had killed his mate’s best friend, stolen Greg’s mother, hurt his father’s heart, and ultimately tried to kill Greg’s mate was dead.  He just didn’t know it yet.
There was a commotion behind Greg.  He chanced a peek over his shoulder to find Blaze had overturned one of the metal tables to use a shield at the only exit, the way they had come.  He had another gun in his hand, one of the workers’ pieces that he’d pried from their cold fingers.  There was no way out.  There were too many Assassins, too many components that didn’t add up to freedom.  Even so Greg still charged the glass room where his Mother laid unmoving on a steel table, hooked up to crude needles jutting out of her delicate skin like a voodoo doll.
Greg progressed before he allowed his mind to make connections.  His knife drew a line across an Assassin’s throat, cutting deep into his flesh.  The man clutched his neck to stave off the loss of precious blood.  He leaked like wet paint thrown across a creamy canvas, thick rivulets giving way to a hearty well of red, and Greg smiled at the Haitian in charge.  There was nothing to say as far as he was concerned, but the Haitian thought otherwise.
“I made myself very clear,” the Haitian shouted over the rock music and the lead storm on the other side of the glass.  “Trey was to give himself up in exchange—”
“You would have killed them both.  And we don’t negotiate with terrorists.”  Greg found a brick wall to the left to give his back cover.  He raised his left hand with the gun.  The right had gone numb as his shoulder was under repair with his vampire DNA.  “Unhook her, and then the others.”
“Come now, Gregory.  This has nothing to do with you.”  The Haitian smiled.
It was like that, huh?  “The fuck it doesn’t.”  Greg winced as something popped in his shoulder under the strain of his muscles.  “Pierre, right?  You made a big mistake trying to kill my mate.  No one, and I mean no one, tries to kill what’s mine.”
“Ah, I see now.  Isn’t it just a small world?  Trey is your mate.  You are the son of the great Manager, Flynn Courtenay—the man who killed quite a few of my men.  Hmm, why don’t we just wait on your father to pull a heroic stunt like you, and you can all die one happy little family.”
Greg bared his fangs as his Mother’s fingers moved on the table.  He raised the gun, ushering the Assassin behind Pierre to move away.  When the Assassin snorted, Greg shot him multiple times in the chest.  He went down with an open mouth and wide eyes, like he didn’t think Greg would really do it now that Pierre was doing the talking.
Pierred whistled in admiration.  “Look at you, the big man with the gun.  I don’t need one.  I have this.”  He pulled a knife from behind his back, ramming it down inches from Yvonne’s head.  The steel table vibrated.  Greg stiffened.  Pierre smiled cruelly.  “Put it down, Gregory.  I think we have to reach a compromise after all.”
“I don’t compromise with you.” 
Greg knew if he shot Pierre that his Mother was dead.  There were ways to mend a vampire body.  They could take a shot from a gun, but not over and over.  They could take a knife, but not in the head where the brain could not be repaired, the heart where its very intricacies refused to knit together, or the throat if the cut severed an artery.  Gaping wounds in the body or the loss of a head was the easiest way to bring a vamp down.  Stuffing a knife in his Mother’s cranium was on Greg’s list of not good.  His heart thumped in his chest.  His adrenaline high was streamlining downhill.  His shoulder throbbed and sliced him up with pain.
If he died, he didn’t know what would happen to Trey or to his mother, but Greg couldn’t stand there and watch this asshole breath the same space as him, or be alive at all for that matter.  He sniffed, sending all the love he had in his heart to his mate, hoping Trey would feel it.  He received a scream in his head, a heart wrenching wail of disapproval and Greg was compelled to look at the bloody glass.  Through the bits of body matter and sodden red, Greg was allowed one look at his mate in the darkened stairwell before an iron metal slab rolled over the entrance.  Trey had…
“No,” Greg murmured, his body sagging on the right.  “No!”  He whipped around, prepared to shoot Pierre’s face off.  All he got was a wide grin and a clap of Pierre’s hands.  A needle pierced Greg’s back, pumping him full of liquid hellfire.  He choked and fell to his knees, the gun scattering to his left.  He panted as the injection spot burned, spreading through his limbs and then his chest where it twisted his heart and left him screaming.
He fell to his side.  Pierre walked over and kicked Greg onto his back.  “Oh yes.  Three for the price of one, and when my associates show upstairs things will really be fun.  How do you feel, Gregory?  Like your body is on fire and your heart is liquefying?  Don’t you just love Rush?  Party drug of the year I’m told.”  Pierre winked and clucked his tongue.  “While you enjoy the ride until everything goes dark, I’m going to go say hi to your mate.  We have business to discuss.”  Pierre flicked the knife up with his fingers.  “Very important business.”
“No,” Greg breathed.  He tried to lift his hand to stop Pierre, but it wouldn’t move.  He was frozen on his back, victim to the Rush destroying his humanity minute by minute.
“Goodnight, Gregory.”  Pierre used his fingers to shut Greg’s eyelids.  The world faded for Greg, but not the pain; never the pain.
The whole shebang had gone to shit half an hour ago for Trey.  What started as a nervous feeling in his gut as he rode to meet Donohue’s team at the warehouse, transformed into unreserved panic.  By the time they’d reached the front gates where Fletcher meant to park and circle up with the team, Trey had been screaming to just gun it.   In the end Trey had flipped Fletcher out so bad, the cabbie had no choice but to drive right into the gate, ruining his precious cab and jerking them around in circles, until a cloud of dust surrounded their unspectacular rupture onto the grounds.
Donohue and GERT, along with an authoritative silver haired beast of a man flooded the property with enough firepower to take down a military base.  But Trey didn’t wait for instructions.  He smelled the blood, heard the screams and shouts, and in his heart he felt Greg’s fear.  Glimpses touched his mind, people in gasmasks, needles in flesh, Yvonne strapped to a table and then Pierre’s eyes.  Pierre was with his mate.  His worst nightmare had come to life, replaying Jackson’s disastrous end and hoping like hell Greg didn’t meet the same fate.
Trey tore off into the danger zone, running like a madman through the chaos until he slapped the garage door button out of instinct.  It rolled up at a snail’s pace.  He couldn’t take it anymore.  Crouching to the ground, he saw the blood creeping toward him, all the bodies littering the floor and the Assassin’s rushing through the aisles. As a door to his right banged shut, Trey grabbed a gun from the floor and  crawled on his stomach under the garage door.  He let off a few terrible shots while running for cover, which led him to follow the bloody boot prints to a caged door.
Shots pinged off the metal cage when he slammed it shut.  Unrelenting, the men with the guns made it rain lead in anticipation of the bullets sifting through the holes to tear through the brick near his head.  Trey could barely breathe.  He just had to get to Greg.  His Greg.  His mate.  Never in his life had he been more thankful to hear return gunfire.  GERT swarmed into the warehouse in full tactical gear.  Donohue, armed with an assault rifle, took point and ripped open a steady stream of bullets, shells falling to the floor.  Bodies thudded with every casing that plinked to the concrete floor; a melody straight from hell.
Dread too great to ignore, Trey yanked on the door next to him in the cage where heavy rock music and more gunfire was coming from.  He jiggled the handle several times only to realize it was jammed.  He put his back into it, and then looked around for something to take the thing out with.  A fire extinguisher mounted to the wall caught his eye.  Hoping what vampire strength he had was good for something, Trey ripped the tank off the wall and brought it over his head with the end pointed down.  He connected it to the doorknob with all his power, over and over until the knob gave way, clattering to the ground.  The other knob pinged as it hit the floor, rolling down what sounded like stairs beyond the door.
Trey threaded his fingers into the empty hole in the door and swung it open.   A pitch black stairwell led down.  At the bottom bursts of light and shadows danced from around the corner.  Without another thought, Trey ran downstairs with the fire extinguisher in the crook of his arm and the gun in his other hand.  He paused at the last stair where he took in the gravity of Greg’s situation.  He did the only thing he could think of.  An Assassin slapped a hand to a button against the wall, right in Trey’s line of sight.  Red lights whirled to right, a warning of some sort.
Trey raised his gun with a shaky hand and unloaded.  A steel door started coming out of a pocket in the brick entryway as the Assassin keeled over without half a face.  Trey squeaked and pushed through the door in time to see Greg across the room, on the other side of a bloody glass wall.  He opened his mouth to say something but a hand grabbed him on the shoulder.  Trey swung the tank around, hitting another Assassin in the face as the door sealed them into the basement.
He went down into a crouch.  His fangs dropped in his mouth on the defense.  Using the tank, Trey attered the man’s knees until the thug went down with a sickening crunch.  Pulling the pin on the tank, Trey aimed the nozzle and let her rip.  White clouds billowed from the nozzle, giving him time to back away in fear.  The backs of his legs hit metal and he jumped.
“Get behind here now!”  A hand reached through the clouds, grabbing his wrist.  Trey tried to fight, but the person pulling on him was stronger.  He came face to face with a man wearing a wet suit crouched behind the table.  Fire engine red hair was plastered to his face.  The guy was covered in blood and dust.  “Got a gun?”
Trey shook his head.  “Who the fuck are you?”
“Probably the last person you’ll see alive.  Name’s Blaze.  I’m with Donohue. Now cut the shit.  Got a weapon?”  He narrowed his eyes and fired into the settling white dust.
“No.  I had a gun, but I think the thing is empty.  I dropped it over there.”
“Useless.  How the hell does a Guard not have a backup?”  Blaze pushed Trey down behind the cover of the table as bullets pounded into the thick steel.  “Nice trick with the tank, although it isn’t gonna save us from those two over there.  All that’s left between us and getting the fuck out of here is Dumb and Dumber.”
Trey braced himself against the table.  “We’re sealed in.  Didn’t you see that?”
“Sealed?”  Blaze peeked over the table to see for himself. He ducked down when a few bullets nearly bit him in the ear.  “Fuck no.  That’s a panic door.  The vamps they drain probably go feral before they give up.  Bad news… Detective?”
“Hell no.  I’m Trey.  Greg’s my—”
“Oh no, you did not.  The fuck were you thinking?  What the hell Donohue!”  Blaze growled and sucked on his bottom lip.  He looked at his gun.  “I’m out.  No more bullets, Trey.  I got a knife, but that’s a hit or miss from this far and it’ll only take out one if we’re lucky.  And frankly the chance of it killing one of them is slim.”
“What do we do?”  Trey drew in a shaky breath.  His eyes snapped to the glass wall where he saw Greg fall to his knees.  “No!”
Blaze cursed, flicking his eyes to Trey’s source of upset.  His lips flapped for a second before he gripped Trey’s shoulders, shaking him.  “Stay with me, Trey.  I need you to keep your head.  We’re gonna improvise and then we’re gonna take that asshole’s face off.  Got it?”
Trey could only hiss.  He dropped the tank to the ground and rolled his shoulders back.  “Mine.”
“What the hell is with all of you and this mine shit?  Can’t you get a new slogan?”  Blaze slammed his fist into the metal table.  “Jesus!  Snap out of it.  Two guys stand between us and your mate.  Focus on that.”
Trey would have never referred to himself as a take charge kind of guy, or dominant for that matter, but at the moment his beast, however diluted it was with his human genes was rip roaring for blood; the kind of blood that could only be found by annihilating his enemies and ripping his fangs though their necks.  He could already taste their demise on his tongue.  When Blaze pulled back with genuine concern in his eyes, Trey knew his dominance had become physical. 
Trey’s eyes focused as if they only had sight for the two men across the room, huddled behind another table.  His muscles slid under his skin, bunching and rolling, ready for action.  His movements were fluid, that of a predator on the prowl.  A throaty growl bubbled up from his throat as he pushed Blaze aside to crawl over the floor.  His mate was in pain.  His mate was giving up.  He wouldn’t allow it.  Someone would pay for this!  He tried to send Greg his disapproval, to tell him to fight it, but all he felt was love; warm love that blanketed him like a warm bath before it dulled away.
He kicked a leg of the table, not really surprised when the steel gave way as he jerked it out of the screwed in bracket.  He stood up, uncaring of bullets or Assassins after him.  They’re dead men, he thought, carrying the steel leg to another table that he flipped over.  He hissed at the glass wall, letting the Haitian standing there watching know he was next.  His intent to kill the Assassins was just that, intended.  He never made it far enough to make it happen.
One minute he was flipping tables to get to them, and the next the Haitian was running out one side of the room.  Pierre tried to jam a table against the open doorway, terror bunching his face as the table was pounded on from the other side.  A blur ripped through the glass room and dropped down to the ground once it breached the opposite doorway.  Trey heard the growl above the music, the deep animalistic sound of something not quite right.  The Haitian was unconcerned of Trey standing there with a piece of stell, or that Blaze was tugging Trey back.  Pierre’s focus was building a fort of tables around him, struggling to mount the pieces so that he could reach the ceiling and push out one of the vents to the warehouse.
A roar stopped them all short.  Trey slowly turned to the noise, and gasped back into Blaze as the blur shot behind the Assassins’ table.  Screams pierced through the rock music still going on the stereo.  Blood and body parts splattered and thudded in every direction.  A head rolled away from the table.
“Fuck.  Me.”  Trey clasped Blaze’s arm across his chest.
“Very quietly, Trey.  Move with me.  Don’t think about it right now.  Just listen to my voice.  Do what I say,” Blaze whispered.
Don’t think about what right now?  It was then Trey understood.  He couldn’t feel Greg in his mind anymore.  He couldn’t feel Greg’s soul beat within his heart, or recall the smell of his Greg and the warmth to his eyes.  Trey was left cold, rooted to the spot as he realized who that blur was.  “It’s not true,” he whispered.  “No.”
Pierre got the vent open.  However, it was still too far away to pull his body up.  He reached for it, eyeing Trey, and for the first time Pierre looked well and truly scared.  A man who made killing innocents his life mission was terrified of death, death by the creatures he sought to make.  “It was the prototype for the new Rush, the one you were supposed to deliver that night.  I had no idea how powerful it really was.   But I find it fitting your own mate will be the one to kill you while he’s doped up on the drugs you sold.  Revenge is very sweet, Trey. My father would be proud of me.”  He pushed on his toes and clung to the ledge of the vent, hoisting his body up.
The blur that was Greg tore through the room.  He wasn’t letting Pierre go, whether he understood why or not.  He saw movement and he went for it.  His teeth sank into Pierre’s hip.  His feral claws pierced Pierre’s chest, dragging him down onto the cluster of tables where the Haitian’s back snapped over the edge of a steel slab.  Trey winced when he heard the spine give, the head crack and the wet sounds of his mate feeding from a man’s flesh.
He only had Blaze to hold him upright, to keep him still as the tears ran down his face to wet his chin.  His mate had gone feral.  Greg was gone.
“Look away, Trey.  Please,” Blaze begged in his ear.  “That’s not how you want to remember him.”
“I won’t let him die.”  Trey pushed Blaze away.
“We can’t get a team down here in time.  You and I have no idea what kind of Rush were up against.  He went down minutes ago, Trey, and now he’s totally feral.  Once he finishes with Pierre, he’s coming over here and we can’t sedate him, hell, I don’t think there’s enough sedative at a zoo to take Greg down right now.  And… Trey,” he whispered like one would say sweetheart or honey, “I think he’s too far gone to use your blood because you’re his mate.  He’ll rip your neck apart.  He won’t even know who you are.”  Blaze stiffened.  Red eyes peered over Pierre’s dead body.  That same sickly growl left Trey sick to his stomach.
Trey whimpered past the lump in his throat.  He tried to exhale, but it came out a bunch of pants and puffs of air.  He squeezed Blaze’s arm.  “When I run…  I want you to climb up the vent and get the hell out.”
“No way, Trey.  I can’t just leave you here.”
Trey inhaled a deep breath through his nose.  Greg’s feral claws clicked over the table’s edge.  His eyes were rimmed with black veins fanning out to his cheeks.  His muscles were so defined under the bloody wetsuit it looked like he would pop with the slightest pressure.  And even so, as scary as Greg looked, Trey couldn’t live without the monster rising to his feet.  He couldn’t get Greg out of his head or his heart, now or for the rest of his days.  He loved Greg, creature and all, and he wouldn’t accept a life where Greg wasn’t by his side.  Trey had died once. And he could either die of a broken heart or in the strong arms of his mate.
His mind made up, he looked at Blaze with a forced smile and watery eyes.  “He’s my world.  Without him I just can’t…”
Blaze was baffled, but Trey knew he understood.  Blaze gripped Trey’s forearm and put the detonator in Trey’s hand.  “When you’re ready.  I think you know what this does.”
A bomb.  A bomb to take down everything Trey had done wrong in the past.  He glanced at the simple black stick that fit in his palm.  It would ensure this designer Rush would never see the light of day and that this lab and all its contents were gone forever, along with Trey, and his beautiful mate.
Trey nodded, looking at Greg, who was crawling down to the floor unhurriedly, stalking them.  “Tell Flynn to take care of our boys.  Tell them we loved them so much and we’re sorry we won’t be there to watch them grow up.  Tell them that.  Please.”
Blaze made a pained sound and kissed Trey’s cheek.  “Fuck those detectives.  You got balls of steel they’ll never live up to, my brother.”
“On three,” Trey replied because saying how much he respected Blaze would take his head out of the game and leave him weeping on the floor.  His courage to die would fall to the wayside.
“You’re amazing.  Everyone will know, and those kids will be proud to call you family,” Blaze said as Trey counted to three. He squeezed Trey’s hand, one final goodbye before Trey took off running around the tables.
Greg roared and leapt over the table fort in one clean jump.  He threw tables out of his way, cracking the thick glass wall that shielded Yvonne and the unconscious Guards strapped to tables.  Trey knew he was seconds from death, and moments away from killing everything around them, and even knowing that he stopped and pivoted around, coming face to face with the love of his life.  He sighed, looking up into Greg’s red eyes, willing his fears away.  The tears wouldn’t quit and he wiped them on the backs of his fingers so he could continue to soak up Greg’s image, no matter how he looked.  No matter how feral Greg had become, he was still Greg in there somewhere.
Trey slowly raised his hand to Greg’s cheek, ignoring the bared fangs and the wet blood.  Greg’s eyes followed Trey’s fingers.  He was ready to strike at any second.  “I promised you forever, and I don’t have anywhere to go from here without you.  If this is forever, so be it.  I love you, Greg.”
Greg snarled, pushing his face into Trey’s hand. His fangs sliced up Trey’s palm where he licked up the blood. He inhaled Trey’s skin and followed the scent to the inside of Trey’s wrist, up his arm and to his neck.  Trey shuddered; terrified as this was the second time he would be ripped apart by a feral.  All that aside, he still believed in his mate.  He still loved the man inside the beast.  His love wrapped Greg up in his arms, poured over him with Trey’s final moments, and squeezed into Greg’s back with Trey’s fingers.  Trey sobbed, hugging his mate one final time.
Greg whimpered into Trey’s neck as Trey stared at the detonator over Greg’s shoulder.  His vision blurred again with tears.
“Love you forever, Greg.”
 Greg struck his fangs into Trey’s neck.  Trey screamed and pressed the button.
To be continued…