Home > Tegan's Return (The Ultimate Power #2)(10)

Tegan's Return (The Ultimate Power #2)(10)
Author: L.H. Cosway

“A fight with the vampires. We were outnumbered; they caught us unawares when we were transporting some of the new recruits to a safe house.” He glances at the young man who’s holding a bunched up towel to Finn’s lower leg. The wound is just below his calf muscle.

“Fucking bastards shot me,” Finn continues, letting out a sharp gush of breath.

“The DOH have a doctor on retainer, he’s on his way now,” says the young man, addressing me.

“Oh, how long do you think he’ll be?” I say with worry, just as there’s a knock at the front door, my question instantly answered. I go to the door and let in a grey haired man in his late fifties. He doesn’t look like a doctor in the clothes he’s wearing, sweat pants and a black t-shirt. He quickly shoves myself and the young man who’d been seeing to Finn from the room, Wolf follows us out.

We sit quietly in the living room and listen as the doctor works on Finn, at first there is nothing much to hear. Suddenly, Finn lets out an almighty growling noise and then there is quiet once more. I think about the doctor removing the bullet from Finn’s leg, not a pleasant experience I imagine.

I look to the man sitting across the room from me, in a chair by the window, his head in his hands. “Are you a slayer too?” I ask him.

He nods silently. He only looks about eighteen or nineteen years old. I wonder what could have encouraged him to want to join the DOH. Either a vampire did something to him or his family, or else he’s just young and foolish, thinking he can save the world and kill monsters in the process. Looking at him now, I have a feeling he’s regretting having ever gotten involved with the DOH. He’s definitely one of the new recruits Finn had spoken of. He looks like he’s in shock, like he wishes he were anywhere but here right now.

He rubs a hand over his jaw, then he turns to me. “It puts it all into perspective really,” he says, his voice shallow. “Seeing people die. One minute you’re laughing and joking and the next you’re being attacked and killed by men far stronger than you will ever be. Watching your friends die, seeing the life leave their faces.”

He reminds me of how I’d been after I’d first seen Ethan kill all those slayers in that empty industrial estate. Then again, that hadn’t been the first time I’d seen a dead body. When I found Matthew still and lifeless in my old apartment, I hadn’t spoken for days afterwards. Compared to that, this slayer whose name I don’t even know is holding up pretty well.

A half an hour later the doctor comes into the room and tells us that Finn’s all bandaged up, then he leaves, perhaps off to take care of some other gruesome DOH tragedy. Why can’t Pamphrock see how pointless this fight against the vampires is? The young slayer goes in to speak with Finn, and I allow them some privacy, remaining in the living room. Wolf is sitting up beside me again, the couch almost groans under his heavy weight and it makes me smile for a minute. I pet his head and he rests it on my lap. Ten minutes later the slayer leaves, so it’s only myself and Finn left in the house.

When I go into the kitchen he’s sitting at the table knocking back a handful of pills.

“Antibiotics,” Finn explains.

“Right. So do you want to tell me what exactly went down tonight?”

“It won’t be happening again,” Finn answers. “The vamps had been lying in wait for us when we were bringing the recruits to their new sleeping quarters. There were fifteen of us in that van Tegan, only young Danny and myself came out alive.”

He grabs the open bottle of whiskey from the table top and knocks back a long gulp. I pull it out of his hands. “You can’t drink that when you’re on antibiotics, Finn,” I tell him, and he quirks an eyebrow.

“What, you want to play the role of nurse do you? Because I think I’m in the mood for a sponge bath.”

“You should have become a comedian instead of a vampire slayer,” I say, rolling my eyes. “That way there’d be less of a chance of you getting shot. Unless of course you happened to offend the wrong person, knowing you that’s probably what would happen.”

Finn doesn’t seem to be listening to me. His eyes are somewhere else, replaying the blood and violence and death he’s witnessed tonight.

“How many vampires were there?” I ask softly.

“Five. We got two of them though, the other three scampered once they’d had their fill of blood.”

“I’m really sorry Finn,” I tell him, though I doubt my sympathy is going to make him feel any better about losing all those young slayers.

“Sure you are, it still won’t make you think twice the next time Cristescu tries it on with you.”

I remember Ethan touching me earlier tonight and feel a terrible sense of shame. Finn’s right. Nonetheless I reply, “That’s different. I need to keep him sweet to save Rebecca, you know that.”

“Yeah maybe,” Finn replies. “Did you get any more info on your dad?”

This time it’s my turn to take a swig from the whiskey bottle. “Sort of. Ethan says it wasn’t a vampire who took him. Or made him leave town. Or whatever it was that happened.”

“And you believe him?” asks Finn incredulously.

“He wouldn’t lie to me.” Or is that just what I want to think?

Finn laughs at me, like I’m some sort of naïve child. “If it wasn’t vampires, then who was it Tegan?”

“I don’t know. It could have been a witch or a warlock, Theodore told me that my blood is a powerful magical ingredient, that’s why he took me to his mansion in the first place. Perhaps someone wanted my blood for their spells and thought that intimidating my dad would get him to reveal where I’d gone.”

“It makes sense I suppose,” says Finn, grabbing the bottle of whiskey and making a move to stand up, he hisses in pain and sits back down.

“Jesus, didn’t that doctor give you any painkillers?”

“They haven’t kicked in yet,” he says, before making a second attempt at getting up from his seat. I rush to his side, putting his arm over my shoulder for support.

“Come on, I’ll help you upstairs to your room.”

“Now that I like the sound of,” Finn adds suggestively.

“Can’t you abstain from being an endless flirt for at least one night? You’re lucky I feel sorry for you getting shot, otherwise you’d be on your own.”

“Sympathy for a slayer from the vampire sympathiser,” says Finn in amusement. “Now how’s that for irony.”

“You’re about five seconds away from getting kicked in the gunshot wound, Finn,” I warn, and this seems to shut him up. I help him onto his bed. “You’ll have to sleep in your clothes tonight, sorry.” I say, pulling open the blankets for him.

“Your bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired,” he sighs, with a theatrical frown as I slip out the door and go to my own room.

The next day Finn makes me take Wolf with me when I’m going to visit Nicky. He says we can’t risk taking any chances after what happened last night. Seemingly the vampires have upped the ante in a last ditch attempt to subdue the slayers completely. I argue about taking Wolf with me for about ten minutes before I realise that I kind of want to bring the dog along. He’s safely reassuring, in a large, menacing canine sort of way.

Both Nicky and Rita live within relatively easy walking distance of Finn’s house, so I don’t mind going by foot. When I ask Finn where Wolf’s lead is, he simply looks at me as if I’m some sort of supporter of animal cruelty. And it seems that I don’t need one for this dog anyway, he pads alongside me, silent and watchful. When I get to Nicky’s place I tell him to wait outside and in his eyes I can tell that he understands exactly what I’m saying to him. Spooky.

Nicky cries and hugs me for a good fifteen minutes before finally allowing me some breathing space. I feel like a cold bitch for not being more emotional at our reunion, but I was never one to be very open with my feelings. Mostly I keep them locked deep inside, which I can tell you is not a healthy way to deal with things.

She introduces me to her new girlfriend Deena, a tall woman with short, naturally blond hair. We have a long lunch and I tell her all about my new life in Manchester, my apartment in the converted factory, my job at the art gallery. I even make up some friends too, just so that she doesn’t cotton on to the fact that I’ve kept myself very much to myself these past two years. It takes a long time to leave, she keeps pulling me back and hugging me and telling me how glad she is that I’m better now.

I’m surprised to find that Wolf is still sitting by Nicky’s front gate when I finally manage to get away. He looks at me as if to say, what took you so long? And then we start our walk over to Rita’s. As I near her house, I get a distinct feeling in the air, something heavy, like magic.

Wolf stands by my side as I knock on the door, one, twice, three times. He growls at Rita’s cats who are sitting along her garden wall. They hiss at him and slink away. Finally, someone comes to answer the door, but it isn’t Rita. Nor is it Alvie or her mother. It’s Gabriel.

Chapter Seven

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

Gabriel blinks a couple times in surprise and steps out onto the doorstep.

“Tegan, is that you?” he asks, his voice airy and disbelieving.

“The one and only,” I grin. “Is Rita home by any chance?”

“Of course, yes, she’s just out the back with…what are you doing here? I thought you’d left Tribane for good.”

“What, Finn didn’t tell you that I was back? I am staying at his place after all.”

Gabriel shakes his head. “No, somehow he failed to mention it.”

I shrug, not knowing what else to say. I wait for him to invite me in, but he still seems taken aback. He shakes himself. “Where are my manners, please, come in Tegan,” and then he steps aside, gesturing into the house.

“How’s Marcel?” I ask, as he leads me down the narrow hallway.

Gabriel is quiet before answering, “Marcel and I have parted ways I’m afraid. It came down to a difference in opinion.”

“And you’re here in Rita’s,” I say, “does that mean you two are, um…” I trail off to let him answer.

His eyes widen. “Oh no, we’re not together. Not like that anyway.” Then he opens the door to the kitchen and leads me out to the back garden.

I’ve never been in Rita’s garden before, but standing in it now it truly is a sight to behold. Flowers and plants grow wildly all around a large grassy area, creeping vines crawl up faded wooden trellises. A pond lays at the very end of the garden, over grown with bright green moss and dark leaves. There’s noise, like the light tinkling of glass, coming from the multi-coloured stones that hang from strings intertwined through the branches of a tall oak tree.

In the centre of the garden is Rita, she looks exactly the same as the last time I saw her. Short, choppy black hair, too much eye-liner crowding her deep brown eyes. Behind her are four individuals lined up in a row. I recognise Alvie as one of them, but the other three are strangers.

All of them are holding the exact same posture, their arms stretched out in front of them, the palms of their hands facing upward, and above each pair of hands a small grey pebble floats in the air. It’s so similar to how the fork had hovered in the air above my hand yesterday that I have to cough to disguise my surprise.

Surely this accounts for the magic I’d felt in the air just as I’d gotten near to the house. All of them have their eyes firmly closed, so they don’t notice myself and Gabriel standing watching them just yet. And Wolf, I’ve only just realised that he’s followed us inside. Perhaps he’s not content to wait outside this time, since I took so long at Nicky’s.

Gabriel glances at Wolf and whispers, “Is that Finn’s dog?”

I smile. “He’s my new bodyguard.”

Gabriel raises his eyebrows and nods, as if in agreement that Wolf definitely suffices as a form of protection.

My eyes wander to Rita again when she says, “And slowly release.” All of those standing behind her mimic her movements, as they gradually let their hands fall to their sides and the pebbles in front of them float calmly to the ground.

Rita opens her eyes, and they immediately widen before she exclaims, “Oh shit!” Then she gallops forward, throws her arms around me and grips me in a hug so tight it almost suffocates me. Finally she lets go and pulls back to look at me. “I knew you’d be back,” she says, with a cheeky grin.

“I couldn’t stay away,” I answer, and then Rita begins introducing me to the people standing behind her.

I already know Alvie, the other three are Melissa, Caitlin and Marcus. They’re all students of Rita’s, she and Gabriel have started a small secret magic school for disenfranchised members of the magical families. Melissa and Caitlin belong to the Ridleys, a family of witches and warlocks after whom Ridley Island was apparently named. Seemingly the human population is unaware of this connection. Marcus is a Girard, which means he’s related to Marcel in some way, but I don’t venture to ask exactly how closely related he is to my old employer.

Once Rita’s students have left, it’s just me, her, Alvie and Gabriel standing in her kitchen. She makes a pot of tea and we sit down at the table to drink it.

“So,” Rita begins, “do you want to fill us in on why you’re here Tegan? Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see you and all, but I’m still a little unclear as to why you’ve come back to a place that’s so dangerous for someone like you.”

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