Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for mature content.
A solemn silence hung in the car as they drove to the woods on the outskirts of the village. Every time they hit a bump and their cargo shifted, Ezra winced and shifted his eyes to the rear-view mirror to check on Lillian.
Gabriel hadn’t been able to move her from the sofa. But, to be honest, he hadn’t tried very hard. She had this haunted look about her now. Ben’s blood was still all over her pyjamas and it had dried black under her fingernails.
She had just been sitting there staring at the wall. There was this emptiness in the room like her presence didn’t fill up the space she inhabited.
Gabriel had shaken her shoulder lightly and told her Ezra was going to get the car. She hadn’t even registered him. Not even a blink. He could only take a few minutes of her eerie stillness before he left the room and waited out in the hallway for Ezra’s return. And when he did, he managed to usher her out the door – talking to her in a soft, encouraging tone like a parent to a toddler.
A shiver ran up the back of Gabriel’s neck as they drove through the night. He was very aware of Lillian in the backseat, even though she was as quiet as a ghost. Ezra was the opposite. He was just as quiet, but his silence had mass. It was thick and tense and roiling. His inner battle was etched within the tight lines of his face. The flex of his jaw muscle. The twitch in his eye. The quiver in his lip.
Gabriel frowned down at his lap, his mind wandering to what Ezra had said back in Ben’s room. Why had he waited this long to tell Gabriel how he had really been Turned? If he thought Gabriel would have thought less of him, he couldn’t have been more wrong. He actually felt like he understood him so much more now. And the respect for Ezra he pretended not to have had grown. So much so he feared he’d struggle to hide it from now on.
Ezra had cared for someone so much that he hadn’t been able to imagine a future without him. In all the years they had spent together, Ezra hadn’t seemed to connect to anyone else to that magnitude.
And now for him to think that he was failing because he respected his and Lillian’s relationship too much to command her against her will? Gabriel’s dead heart ached for him. Ezra had told him that it was his job to protect the both of them. But it wasn’t. He could have left Lillian just like Gabriel’s Maker had left him. He was bound to her, but that bond could be severed.
And as for Gabriel? He was just a fellow vampire he’d gotten high with one night and decided he was worth keeping around. He didn’t owe Gabriel anything, and yet he gave him everything.
Ezra cared. He cared so much.
Gabriel looked up to see that they were now surrounded by trees.
Ezra slowed the car to a crawl and parked up on a dirt path just off a narrow lane. He scanned the woods. “We’re here.”
Lillian stayed in the car as Gabriel and Ezra grabbed the shovels out of the boot and started digging into the compact earth in the light of the headlights. For once, Gabriel was glad to have the big clunky vehicle.
With the amount of killing Gabriel had done over the years, he was surprised that this was the first time he was digging a grave.
Poor, naïve, little Ben.
He was genuinely upset by his death. The guy had been a bit odd; he called Lillian cheesy pet names, and play card games against himself. But he had been harmless, and so full of bubbly optimism. Gabriel suddenly felt guilty about how he had chided him for his positive outlook as he dug deeper and deeper into the earth.
This is so fucked up.
With their vampire speed, they dug the hole relatively quickly and soon it was time to drag the body out of the boot and along the dirt. Ezra’s face was pinched, his lips drawn into a grim line as the two of them released their hold of the rug and the dead weight flopped against the packed dirt beside the grave. Gabriel looked to the bare feet poking out of the end. They looked so white in the glare of the headlights.
The car door squeaked open and Lillian stepped out. New tears marred her face as she hugged herself tightly and jogged to Ezra’s side. Ezra pulled her close and planted a heavy kiss on her forehead.
“Do you want to say anything?” he asked against her hair.
She pressed her bloody knuckles to her lips and shook her head. “I’m so sorry.”
Without another word, Gabriel bent down and rolled the body. It hit the bottom of the grave with a definitive thud. Lillian let out a distraught mewl and pushed herself from Ezra. He reached out to grab her but she put her arms up and walked off into the trees. The two of them watched her pink flowery pyjama set fade into the night.
“Aren’t you going after her?” Gabriel asked, yanking his shovel from where he’d stabbed it into the earth.
“She just needs a minute. Let’s get this filled before she comes back.”
They both got to work shovelling the loose soil over the body. Gabriel made sure to cover Ben’s feet first so he didn’t have to keep looking at them.
“Guys?” Lillian’s voice travelled to them through the darkness. Then she appeared, looking like the lone survivor of a horror film. “I found something.”
Gabriel and Ezra shared a look before dropping their shovels and following her deeper into the woods.
The three of them surrounded the body. Ezra toed its side with his foot; his once white socks now black with dirt. A testament to why people shouldn’t wear sliders outside the house. It was funny how Ezra would call Ben out for doing the same thing. But apparently sliders and sandals were two very different things.
“So, it seems this is a popular body-dumping spot.” Ezra frowned.
The body was female, late teens to early twenties, dressed in jeans and a cropped jumper. The cause of death had been by vampire judging from the gnarly chunks missing from her middle, thighs, and neck.
Gabriel bent down and brushed the dirt and leaves to reveal her face. Two lifeless eyes stared fearfully up at him. He jerked back at the familiarity of them.
“It’s Laura,” he said.
“Who?” asked Ezra.
Gabriel straightened. “The girl who was missing. Her mother grabbed me in the streets. She thought I’d done something to her.”
Ezra nodded in recollection. His brow furrowed deeper as he studied the body at their feet. “Are you sure you didn’t do something to her?”
A small gasp escaped Lillian.
“What?” Gabriel was appalled. He gestured to the bloodied, violated body of the poor girl. “You think I did this?”
“Well, Lillian doesn’t remember killing Ben.”
“And it seems like you’ve forgotten that only hours ago, we were attacked by a vampire in our home.”
“Wait, what?” Lillian shook her head, perplexed.
Ezra waved his hand towards her dismissively, not taking his accusatory glare off Gabriel. “It’s fine. I killed him.”
“I didn’t do this!” Anger and fear coated Gabriel’s throat like tar. “That other vamp probably did. Why would I? It makes no sense.”
“Why would Lillian kill Ben?”
“They were living together. A vampire and a human at close proximity. Throw in feelings and passion and hunger into the mix and, like you said, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.” He knew he was talking too fast – like a guilty person. “Same thing happened with Becca and me.”
Ezra blinked. “What?”
Gabriel gulped. Whoops.
“Gabriel.” Ezra’s tone was as firm as a grasp around the back of his neck. “What did you do to Becca?”
“Well, she’s not dead, if that’s what you’re thinking.” Gabriel’s whole body tensed. He knew he was exuding defensive energy. And he was defensive. But not because he’d killed a young girl for no reason.
Gabriel’s eyes clenched shut. His hands turned to fists by his side. “I bit her, okay? It was an accident. We were in bed and things got out of hand. But as soon as I realised what I’d done, I left. I knew I couldn’t trust myself around her. I haven’t seen her since. I promise.”
A heavy silence followed. All he could hear was the rustling of leaves blowing across the dirt. Gabriel opened his eyes. Both Ezra and Lillian were looking at the body, shoulders slumped and brows knitted together.
“That was the first time you’d bitten her?” asked Ezra. His tone was neutral, like a cop just gathering facts.
Gabriel nodded. “I’d never bite her. Well…” He hugged himself. “I promised I never would. I guess my promises don’t mean much, huh?”
“I believe you.”
Gabriel and Lillian looked to Ezra. He squatted, studying the mangled wounds on the body. They knew it was a vampire attack because they knew what they looked like, but to the untrained eye, the bites looked like the workings of a wolf.
“We’re not this reckless. Our kind doesn’t kill like this.” He straightened and met both their eyes. “Something’s not right here.”
The three of them just stared down at the body. Ezra was right. Things weren’t making sense anymore, but when Gabriel thought back to everything – biting Becca, nearly being killed by a psycho vamp, Ben all bloody on the bed – he felt sick to his stomach.
Ezra stood and nodded back in the direction of Ben’s grave. “We should get back to work.”
“We can’t just leave her like this!” said Lillian, gesturing to the poor girl.
“We could put her in with Ben?” Gabriel suggested.
“We should tell someone. Let her parent’s know what happened to her. I bet they’re distraught.”
Ezra shook his head, holding up his hands to silence them both. “We’re not getting involved. Her mother already thinks Gabriel killed her.” Lillian blinked in surprise. “If we tamper with the body or tell her family, they’re bound to find a way to make us look guilty.”
Lillian’s lips pressed into a firm line. He was right, they both knew it. Gabriel’s brows furrowed as he looked down at Laura’s dead eyes, the mischievous light in them snuffed out forever.
Ezra began walking back to where Ben was still awaiting a burial. Without another word, Gabriel and Lillian followed.
Freshly clean from the fourth shower of the night, Ezra towelled his hair and redressed into yet another t-shirt and shorts combo. He sank down onto his bed, draping his forearm over his eyes to block the streetlight that seeped through his curtains.
What a night.
Two dead bodies. Or three, if he counted the dead vamp – whose remains had completely ruined both of their sofas. All in one night. Ezra couldn’t shake the feeling that something was happening. Something was changing. He’d had a similar feeling right before the Moonlight raid and their kind were exposed.
The raid felt like a lifetime ago. The world had changed so much since then. Vampires were on the News every night. On the front cover of almost every newspaper. Ezra discovered that a Vampire Court was a very real thing that not only existed but his Maker was a member of.
Ezra thought back to the meeting with the Court and figured that when Guardian had said the humans were coming up with a solution to make their kind more humane, they were talking about their new diet. He wondered what Guardian made of this change. From what Silas had told him, it was Guardian’s job to protect their kind and now that meant just nodding along to whatever the human authorities proposed. As angry as he was at the time, he was starting to see the logic behind it. Humanity needed to know that vampires weren’t a threat. Which was easier said than done. And from what Ezra had witnessed tonight, the truth was plainly obvious. Vampires were a threat. Now more than ever.
A knock on his bedroom door pulled him out of his thoughts. “Yeah?”
Lillian popped her head around the door. “Hey.”
Ezra rubbed his eyes and propped himself up onto his elbows. “Are you okay?”
“Can I… can I stay in here with you tonight?” She closed the door behind her. Lillian had also showered and cleaned herself up. Her hair was still wet and hung in ashy blonde waves down to her shoulders. She had swapped her flowery pyjamas for a pink and grey checked long-sleeved nightshirt. “I just… I don’t want to sleep alone.”
Ezra was lying on top of his duvet but he still pulled down the left side of it with a smile. “Of course, hop in.”
She tip-toed across the room, before diving into the bed and throwing the duvet over herself and smiled sheepishly. She shuffled around until she was in a comfortable position then peered at him from the pillow. “I know it doesn’t really matter once I’m asleep, but I just don’t want to lie there in that bed…” Her brows knitted, pained. “I feel so empty. I’m trying to remember what happened but at the same time, I don’t want to.”
“Remembering won’t bring him back. It’d only make things worse.”
She nodded. “But it’s what I deserve. I deserve to know what I did. I shouldn’t be saved from that. I killed him. I should know how it felt. I need to live with that.”
“Lillian, you’ve been a vampire for twenty years and you hadn’t ended a life until tonight.”
“You still haven’t. Not a human.”
Ezra dropped his head onto his pillow and gazed up at the ceiling. “No, but ending a vampire’s life doesn’t feel any better. Even when you’re told they deserve it. A life is a life.”
A silence filled the room. Ezra turned to Lillian. Her eyes, shining in the darkness, shifted from side to side the way they did when she was thinking something over.
“Do you really think that vampire you killed, killed that girl?” she asked.
“It seems more than likely.”
“But where did he come from? I thought we were the only ones here.”
“I don’t know. I thought we were, too. Maybe he was just passing through.”
“And he attacked you?”
“He was at the black-eyed stage of hunger.”
Lillian frowned. “I must have looked like that to Ben. He must have been so terrified.”
“Let’s not think about that now and try and get some sleep.” Ezra crawled under the duvet and a soft giggle escaped Lillian when he wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close. She cuddled up to him and pressed her face against his chest just like she used to.
As he held her close, Ezra closed his eyes and felt for their bond. The last time he had done this it was as thin as spider’s silk. Now it was strong, strands interlaced and woven together by trauma. He sensed her on the other end of the rope, quivering so much it sent tremors down their tie. Ezra opened himself to her and poured out an artificial sense of ease. He wished he could gift her with the real thing but the truth was, he was just as fragile. But she was his progeny and she was hurting. So, he passed the makeshift calm he created for himself down to her without a second thought.
The tremors eased. She stilled. Content for the moment, until the façade fell free.
He kissed her damp hair and she sighed softly. He thought back to how they used to sleep like this, back when she still had her humanity. Her heartbeat would quicken at their closeness. Her skin blushing under his deftly touch. Her breath tingling his neck as she trailed kisses along his throat. Her body warm against his.
Now she was still and cold, like a block of marble sculptured into the form of a forlorn woman by deftly, precise hands.
He didn’t blame Lillian and Gabriel for giving into the allure of human companionship. Afterall, Ezra wasn’t immune to the charm.
Playing house was all fun and games until the bitterness of reality set in.