[CHRONICLES OF ARAXX
CHRONICLES OF ARAXX
Text copyright © Kellie Steele
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The floor of the cell was cold, cold and hard as ice.
It hurt to sit, but Annaleah had sat on it for so long she no longer felt the pain nor the cold.
Her clothes were too big for her, ripped and tattered. Her feet were bare, and the grime that covered her was from years of imprisonment.
The walls surrounding her were grey, the floor was grey, everything in Annaleah’s cell was grey.
The only bright colour in her life was red.
First was her matted, messed-up red hair even though the guards kept it short, cutting it when it grew longer than her shoulders. The other thing she saw every day that was red, was blood.
Whether it was her own blood from the constant beatings or that of the many rats which made their way into her cell, Annaleah could always count on seeing the colour red every day.
A squeaking noise from the other side of her cell caught her attention.
She lifted her head from her knees and looked across the room, trying to find the location of the sound.
A single solitary rat ran across the floor. Its sharp claws scratched on the ground as it chased a large spider. It crossed the room and escaped through a crack in the wall, followed closely by the rat, although the rat did not get through the gap as easily as the spider did.
The insect and the rodent escaped the prison, something Annaleah had often attempted to do.
All attempts had failed.
Now, even the rats didn’t stop to look twice at the small girl.
A cold breeze blew across the room, causing the hair on Annaleah’s arms to stand on end. The air smelled fresh and cool, like freedom and dreams.
Annaleah stood up from her seated position and walked over to the far wall. She placed her hand on the cold stone and looked up.
On this wall, there was a window.
A small barred window, high up against the wall. It was close to the ceiling of the cell, level with the ground outside, and Annaleah had to stand on her tip-toes to look through it.
Tonight, the sky was black. Only a few stars were visible from where she stood, but there was no moon in the sky.
It had been three days since they brought her any real amount of food, and she was feeling weak from it.
The cycles of the sun and the moon weren’t the only way of telling how long she had been in the cell, there were the guards too. Sometimes they would talk when they were outside standing guard. Now and then, Annaleah would catch a date or a time. It was all pretty meaningless to her, though. What did time matter when she had nothing to look forward to except her next scraps of food.
Loud footsteps sounded in the passage outside her cell. Annaleah could hear someone walking down the corridor.
She knew the drill by now and moved to the back wall, the one furthest from the door. If she stood at the back of the room with her head down, the guards were likely to leave her alone. Of course, that depended entirely on which guard was coming. If it was Kane or Jacob, she would not get away without a beating.
A few of the others found joy in hitting her, although she never took the time to remember their names. She hoped it would be one of the new guards walking down the passage. They left her alone. It was almost as if they were frightened of her. Usually, footsteps meant only two things. Either another beating or food. Annaleah hoped it would be the latter. Her stomach grumbled loudly and angrily. She definitely hoped it would be food.
Annaleah listened carefully to the footsteps. The sound of heavy boots on the stone floor of the corridor echoed in the silence. The footsteps did not sound familiar, which was a blessing. Or, Annaleah hoped it would be.
The new guards were always too scared to get close to her and Annaleah got good at learning which footsteps belonged to which guard, and which ones to be wary of.
She heard the guard, who was already standing guard at her door, greet the newcomer.
The sound of the heavy wooden door unlocking was loud in the echoing silence of her cell.
With a loud creak, the door opened and the light from the corridor filled the gap, silhouetting the man in the doorway, the man who was bringing her food.
She could smell it as soon as the door opened. Annaleah allowed herself to smile a little.
“I don’t know why Kane keeps you alive, why he keeps you fed, but here you go.” The guard threw the food to the floor. The plate clattered as it hit the ground, spilling some of its contents.
Annaleah’s stomach complained at the waste, but she kept still, not wanting to move just yet. She did not know this guard, and for all she knew, one move could mean a beating and the food being taken away. She did not want to risk that.
Annaleah waited until the guard left the room before she lifted her head to collect her scraps. There was an old, stale bread bun and bones from what looked like lamb chops. They still had a little meat on them.
Annaleah ate greedily, savouring every mouthful, every taste as if it was the last thing she would ever eat. One of these days, it could well be.
Silence once again fell in Annaleah’s cell and she returned to the place where she usually sat.
She sat on her haunches, chewing on the bone in her mouth as she stared up at the window to the world outside.
The taste of meat boosted her mood, and even though the meat was cold and had a greasy texture, it was also the nicest thing she had eaten in a long time.
She’d been living in the cell for so long, she’d almost forgotten what the outside world looked like.
From what she could deduct, Annaleah determined she’d been captive for about nine years, and in this cell for the last four.
She was seven when she was taken from her home, so that would make her sixteen, perhaps nearly seventeen.
She did not remember much of when she was taken. All she remembered was fire, burning and death, then waking up in this castle. She imagined it to be a castle, although she did not remember ever seeing it from the outside. The walls reminded her of castles she’d seen in films before she was taken, although there was no prince charming on his way to save her.
The reason for Annaleah being taken and kept prisoner was unclear to her. She had been taken from her home by a man called Kane, although she had no idea why.
When she was first taken, Kane kept asking, “Where is it?”.
Annaleah didn’t know what he was looking for.
Kane told her, her parents hid something, and it was his. He wanted it back, and Annaleah had to find it for him, but he didn’t seem to know what he was looking for either.
The beatings started after a few weeks of questioning. When Annaleah couldn’t answer Kane’s questions, he became angry. The angrier her got, the more he hit her.
Eventually, he gave up, leaving her to his guards. They used her as their plaything for many years. They beat her, made fun of her, tortured her, and from what Annaleah knew, there was no reason for any of it.
The questioning had stopped years ago.
Since then, they’d just beat her until she was bloody and unconscious, throw her in her cell, then do it again the next day.
Annaleah was thankful when the beatings became less frequent but still, they did not let her go.
Every once in a while Kane would come back, and Annaleah would get a frightful beating, but it had been weeks since this had happened last.
Many times she wished for freedom, but it never came.
Annaleah had searched many ways to escape her prison, but could never find any.
After years of wishing she was free, wishing her parents would come back and save her, she gave up. Instead, she simply started wishing it would all end soon. Maybe one day a guard would hit her hard enough to kill her, or they’d forget to feed her for a couple of weeks, but that never happened.
Eventually, Annaleah laid down on the cold hard ground.
She had been given an old dog bed by one of the newer guards who felt sorry for Annaleah and pitied her. The dog bed smelled old and damp, but it was better than sleeping on the cold, hard floor.
Soon, she found the most comfortable spot on the dog bed and curled up against the cold. Darkness took over her thoughts.
That night she slept with a full belly, as full as possible for someone trapped in perpetual starvation.
Annaleah found herself in a house.
It was a beautiful house with old wooden beams on the ceiling and pretty bricks surrounding an old fireplace. The walls were a warm cream colour and there were flowers in a vase on the mantelpiece. There was a painting above the fireplace of the family who lived in this house.
Annaleah could see herself in this painting, the bright red hair of the small child gave it away. The happy child that Annaleah had once been, was smiling.
The other two people in the painting must have been her parents, although she could not remember them clearly, and their faces were not in focus. It was as though someone had painted over the faces to cover them.
She could see their bodies, holding her in the picture. The man had short brown hair, and the woman had long, straight, red hair like her.
Annaleah focused on them, but the more she focused, the blurrier they became.
Annaleah looked over to the window. It was a large bay window with pale brown curtains framing it. She could see grass and trees outside. It looked as though the house was in a forest, or, at least, not the city. The sky outside was orange too, it must have been sunset. It looked beautiful out there, and Annaleah wanted nothing more than to play outside.
A voice from behind her brought happiness, although she couldn’t quite make out what it was saying. The voice was muffled and sounded as though it was underwater. The woman the voice belonged to moved quickly towards her. Annaleah assumed it was her mother by the colour of her hair. She picked her up and held her tight. Too tight. It hurt, but the hold her mother had on her felt familiar. Annaleah remembered it, and it didn’t matter if she was holding too tight. She breathed in deeply, and a familiar smell filled her nostrils. It smelled like roses and oranges. It smelled like her mother, like home. The smells made her woozy and light headed.
Although Annaleah could not hear what the woman was saying clearly, she could tell the words were said in panic and fear. The woman moved quickly with Annaleah in her arms, but the fire was quicker.
Annaleah had not noticed the blaze burning around her before, but the orange glow filled the house. Smoke filled the space above her head, and she began to cough.
The woman ran with her in her arms, out of the door and down the cobbled path. She smelled nice, sweet and familiar, but the smell was short lived, soon replaced by the smell of smoke and burning.
Annaleah peeked over the woman’s shoulder through the tangle of red hair that cascaded down her Mother’s back.
What she saw was the house she had grown up in ablaze. The windows were shattered, and the flames were climbing ever higher, burning her home to the ground. The thatched roof had caught quickly, and soon there would be nothing left. She reached a hand out towards the building to stop the flames, but nothing happened.
Annaleah did not understand. Why was her home burning? Why was this woman running with her in her arms? And who were all the strange people who surrounded them?
She had not noticed these people before, distracted by everything else. It was as though they had just arrived in the garden. The thought crossed Annaleah’s mind that the people might have been there to help tackle the blaze, but the looks on their faces changed her mind. Their faces were twisted into angry snarls. They did not look human.
Annaleah’s mother, the woman who was running for her life with the small red-headed child version of Annaleah tripped on something on the ground, She fell fast and dropped Annaleah at the same time. She instinctively reached out for her fallen daughter, but one of the men surrounding them grabbed her.
He picked her mother up by the throat.
Annaleah called out the only word she could bring to her lips, “Mother!”
It was too late.
The man squeezed his hand around her throat tighter.
Annaleah’s mother struggled against the force, but the man was too strong and she grew weaker.
Annaleah stood up from the ground, aware of the pain in her legs, the burning sensation on her arm and the tears clouding her vision. She briefly looked down at herself, seeing her scuffed knees and a burnt right arm.
She focused herself and attempted to charge the man strangling her mother, but someone picked her up as if she was a rag-doll before she could even get to them.
After the big man had squeezed every ounce of life out of her mother, her body dropped to the ground, lifeless and cold.
Annaleah stared into the wide, dead eyes of her mother, still open and looking right at her, but there was something wrong. The face was twisted and didn’t look human any more.
Annaleah screamed in terror, but her voice was silent.
“What do we do with the child?” A clear voice asked.
Annaleah could not say anything. She saw her mother die, and she was too young and too small to do anything about it.“Boss wants her alive,” another said. The man came into view, blocking Annaleah’s mother from her sight. “What’s this?” He asked as he took Annaleah’s burnt arm in his hand.
“Looks like she was burnt in the fire, Sir.” The man holding her answered.
“Well. I guess the boss didn’t say anything about not hurting her.” He squeezed the burn on Annaleah’s arm.
The pain was excruciating and she cried out.
“He only wanted her alive.” The man brought up his hand, bunching it into a fist. With full force, he punched Annaleah in the face.
She winced in pain.
Awoken with a deep breath and pain in her arm, Annaleah looked around her cell.
The dream was over, and she was once again in the present.
It was not really a dream. It was a memory, clouded and blurred, but clear as day at the same time.
She looked down at her arm, the burn scar throbbed a little. It no longer hurt, but would be forever a reminder that she lost her mother in a fire caused by the men who now held her prisoner.
Annaleah had this dream many times, almost every time she dreamt.
She could never see her mother’s face, nor that of her father, and it haunted her.
Why could she not remember the faces of the people who brought her up? Why could she not hear her mother’s voice clearly? And why did she not know what had happened to her father?
Darkness still surrounded Annaleah, but she was far too awake to sleep again.
She stood up from her makeshift bed, rubbed her sore back, and made her way over to the bars on the wall which lead to the outside world.
Using small footholds, she climbed up the wall and used the ledge to hold onto.
Her arms strained to keep her there, but Annaleah was determined to finish the job.
A week earlier, Annaleah had started working on loosening the bars in front of the little window. There were six bars in total, and so far four of them were loose enough to push them free from their concrete slots.
This was not the first cell she had been a prisoner in. In fact, Annaleah could not remember how many cells she had been held captive in. It must have been well into the double figures by now. She had escaped a couple of times before, using weaknesses in the doors, or managing to get around a new guard who had not been warned about her, but this cell proved harder to escape from.
It had taken several months’ worth of strength training for Annaleah to be able to hold her own body weight up for long enough to work on the bars.
She had been twisting, pulling and pushing at the bars, loosening them from their fixings, and then she would put them back into their rightful places so none of the guards ever suspected anything when they scrutinised her cell.
Since she escaped the last time, using a small drain in her cell leading into the sewers below, the guards kept a closer eye on her. They assumed, however, the bars on the window was too high to be an escape risk. How wrong they would be?
The bar Annaleah had been working on for the last hour or so eventually came free. This one had been the easiest so far. The others normally took a few hours or more to pry loose from their concrete anchors.
“It might be enough,” Annaleah muttered to herself.
She couldn’t risk escaping yet, though. The sun was just starting to peek over the horizon, and there would be a change of guard soon. She needed to wait until nightfall, just after the guard changed again. That way she could guarantee no one would check on her for a good few hours, which would give her enough time to make a break for it.
Annaleah looked out over the land that stretches from her cell. There was a clear break to the tree line about half a mile away. If she could get there, she might have a chance.
This was her first chance at hope in a long time.
She could hear birds chirping from somewhere, but she could not see from where.
Annaleah allowed herself to drop down from the wall, landing with a soft thud on the ground. The impact sent shooting pains up her legs, but she soon recovered.
The sound of approaching footsteps and voices indicated the guard change was due.
Quietly, she walked over to the door to get a better place for listening to their conversation.
During the handover, sometimes Annaleah could hear bits of useful information. It was in these short conversations she would hear about the outside world she could no longer remember, and she would also find out if she were to be questioned that day or not.
“Are you asleep? On your feet boy!” The approaching guard ordered.
From the noise and shuffle outside, it seemed Annaleah’s night guard had fallen asleep on duty.
“Sorry Sir,” he said firmly as he snapped to attention.
“No need to be sorry. I’m not going to tell anyone you fell asleep,” The approaching guard said.
“Quiet night, I take it?”
“I didn’t hear a sound from inside,” Sleepy said.
“She’s often quiet.” By the sound of the metal clang on the floor, it seemed the new guard had placed something on the ground.
It sounded like a bowl maybe.
Annaleah hoped it would be more food for her. The thought made her stomach grumble.
“Can I ask you something, Sir?”
“Go for it lad.”
“Why does the boss keep her locked up? What good is she to him?”
All these years, it was the only unspoken question on Annaleah’s lips as well.
“Truth is, I really don’t know,” the guard answered. “We’ve had her locked up so long now, I think the only person who remembers why is the boss. He still makes us ask her where ‘it’ is, but none of us knows what it is, and I’m not sure she does either.” He paused before he continued. “Do me a favour lad, before you clock off.”
“Take this in for her. The boss will be in later today. The kid will need her strength.”
Then Annaleah’s cell door opened.
She stepped away from it too late and looked at the man standing in front of her with a bowl of hot soup. Her mouth started watering instantly, and the aroma coming from the soup made her stomach growl even louder than usual. Panicked, she looked at the man holding the bowl, waiting for him to put it down.
He couldn’t have been older than her, and he looked terrified seeing her standing so close to him.
Why would he have been scared of her? She was just a tiny thing with no muscle and weak. Or that’s what everyone thought. She knew her oversized baggy clothes hid a toned body, and although she was underweight, she was strong for her size.
The man was visibly shaking as he stood in front of her and Annaleah couldn’t help thinking how easy this man, no boy, would be to overpower. She could rush him, and no doubt he would drop the bowl and let her escape.
If it weren’t for the other guard now in the corridor, she might have considered it. Instead, Annaleah simply stood in her cell, keeping her head down but her eyes on the door.
The young man put the bowl of soup on the ground and closed the door again.
Annaleah picked the bowl up from the floor and drank greedily. The soup was hot, but it was a pleasant feeling after cold meat and stale bread from the night before.
Annaleah listened until the guard change was over, and decided she would rest for now, but not sleep.
If Kane was coming later, she’d need to be wide awake.
The bars were not ready for her to escape, and she would not fit through the gap as it was.
Annaleah prayed the guards were mistaken and Kane was not on his way to see her.
Everything in Annaleah’s cell had gone quiet. She finished her vegetable soup then placed the bowl on the ground.
A rat came out from under the door to finish off any scraps she might have left, but Annaleah did not leave anything. The food was far too precious to waste and leave to the rats. Besides, they were not her friends. The rats only paid her attention when she had food, and they were dirty. She was not much cleaner than the rats.
Annaleah looked down at her hands, her nails, and the years of dirt buried beneath them. She would give anything for a nice hot bath, and soap, and to be out of the hell-hole she was living in.
Maybe that time would come soon.
She could always hope.
Noises in the corridor outside her cell caught Annaleah’s attention. She strained her ears to listen.
It had been about two hours since her morning bowl of soup, and Annaleah was feeling a little more energised than usual.
If Kane was coming for her now, she was ready for it.
She readied herself for the inevitable pain to come, but the noises Annaleah could hear were different from Kane’s usual approach. She heard something she’d never heard before. A loud metallic bang different from that of a bowl being placed on the floor, and then it banged again. What could it be?
Annaleah moved towards the door, wanting to hear better, curious to know what was going on.
With her ear pressed to the heavy door, Annaleah listened closely.
Footsteps ran down the corridor at great speed, and Annaleah heard a voice she recognised.
“Whatever you do, don’t let them take her!” Kane shouted.
Panic filled her. Kane was already here.
She stayed by the door, listening intently, even when she wanted so badly to move away. To get as far away from Kane as possibly could, but she also needed to hear what was going on outside her door.
Why was Kane so afraid, and who was he talking about when he said don’t let them take her?
Annaleah stayed with her ear pressed against the wooden door, her heart beat so loud she wondered if Kane could hear it on the other side, but he was far too preoccupied with what was going on in the corridor.
“Who are they, Sir?” The guard who took over from sleepy just a few hours ago asked.
“Araxx,” Kane said.
Just one word, but from the reactions of the other guards, Annaleah could tell they knew what it meant. Her palms began to sweat. She was even more worried now because if Kane was scared of this Araxx then it could only be bad. Annaleah had never witnessed Kane being scared, ever.
“What are the Araxx doing here? I thought we’d stayed under their radar,” another guard said.
Annaleah could hear the voices of six guards outside her door, not including Kane.
“I thought we had too,” Kane admitted.
To Annaleah it sounded as if he was worried. If something could worry this cold-hearted man, then she sure as hell was worried too.
The sound of his fist slamming against the door made Annaleah jump back as the wood shook under the power.
“Get the girl,” a voice yelled from down the far end of the corridor.
Annaleah looked around her cell.
From the sounds of things, ‘Araxx’ was after her, and she wasn’t so sure she wanted to go with them. It didn’t sound as if they were there to rescue her. She had to find something to defend herself, but there was nothing in her bare cell.
Nothing but the walls, the door and the spiders creating intricate webs on the ceiling.
Nothing except her window.
The sounds were drawing closer, and her panic got worse. She’d felt fear often, but this was different. She did not know who or what was coming for her, or if they were friend or foe, but she did not want to stick around to find out.
Annaleah slapped herself on the forehead. “Idiot,” she said. She did not have to wait in her cell for ‘Araxx’ to come for her, she could escape through the window.
She looked over to the window with the bars leading to the outside world. This was her chance. This would be the day she escaped from the prison she’d been captive in for most of her life.
She smiled slightly, then caught herself.
Before celebrating her escape, she would have to first get through the window. After all, she did not know if she was even going to make it out, and for all she knew, there could be people waiting outside for her, anticipating an escape.
She had to hurry. It was either attempt to climb out through the window or get taken again by another person she did not know.
The shouting and loud noises outside in the corridor became louder and deafening.
Annaleah knew she didn’t have a lot of time before the ‘Araxx’ reached her door, then soon it would be her.
She heard the death-cry of one of the guards.
The shouting from the invaders grew even louder, and Annaleah could hear them clearly now.
“Our orders are to take Kane and the girl alive,” she heard one of them say.
That was enough to push her to the window.
Annaleah knew it would be a risk to escape in the daylight, and she was hoping she could wait for night, but now she didn’t have a choice any more.
She moved quickly towards the window, and using all her strength, jumped up to grasp the ledge. It crumbled a little under her weight, but it held. Annaleah then proceeded to push and twist the loosened bars at her window. She managed to get them out and they clanged on the cold steel floor when they fell from her hand.
Except for the last one.
She had not worked on this one yet, and it was not budging at all. Her fingers grew sore quickly from pushing and prodding on the bar, and her arm began to shake from holding up all her weight.
There were more loud bangs and cries of pain from outside the door. The sound of a punch landed in the corridor, and then a retaliating bang.
Annaleah was not sure how long she had to make her escape. In a desperate attempt to free the last bar so she could escape, she pulled and twisted it faster, trying to pry it from the concrete, but it was stubborn.
“Come on,” Annaleah spat through gritted teeth.
H hand began to bleed with the force of twisting the bar making her palms slip around it and then it moved a little but was still far from coming loose.
Something slammed hard against the door of her cell, then a booming voice came through the wood. “I take it she’s in there then Kane?” It asked.
“You killed all my men, you bastard!” Kane shouted. From the sound of things, he had his face pressed up against something, most likely the door.
Annaleah let herself imagine his handsome face pressed up against the wood, wrinkled and ugly from the pressure, his blond hair all messed up and no longer perfect.
“Yes, we killed your men, but you will stay alive. I have a need for you,” the man said. “Open the door,” he ordered.
Annaleah pulled at the bar frantically but it was not budging no matter how hard she pulled at it.
The door shook, but it did not open.
“It’s locked,” one of the men with the Araxx said.
“Of course it would be locked,” the man with the gruff voice said. “Where’s the key?”
Kane just started laughing. “As if I’m going to tell you… Ugh.” It sounded as if a punch landed in his stomach, knocking the breath right out of him.
“Break it down!”
A repeated barrage of knocks, bangs and pushes on the door followed the order until the wood creaked under the increased pressure.
Annaleah knew then she was not going to free the bar from its hold before the door broke down.
Instead, she decided to try a different tack and started lifting herself through the gap she had already made. It did not look big enough, but she had two choices; be captured by this ‘Araxx’ or get through the gap, and this choice was more preferable.
She pulled herself up, getting as much of her body on the ledge as she could, then she put her right arm through the gap, followed by her shoulder and head.
When she heard the sound of Kane laughing again, she took a millisecond to glance at the door. They had not yet broken through.
She managed to get through to her waist before the doors opened and she heard it go with a crash as it hit the floor, shaking the walls of her cell.
“Quick! Before she gets away!” The man with the gruff voice called out.
“Idiots!” Kane called.
Annaleah knew he’d be mad when he found out she’d escaped. She turned around as she pulled her legs and bare feet through the gap.
It was then she caught sight of the silver weapon in the hand of one of the guards. It didn’t look like much, but the guard who was holding it looked like he knew how to use it.
She caught a glimpse of Kane through the broken doorway. His face was crumpled and there was blood on his cheek from where it had been smashed against the door. He looked pissed.
Annaleah just couldn’t help herself, the look on Kane’s face was just too good to waste. She looked directly at him, smiled and stuck her middle finger up at him, before turning and running as fast as she could.
The ground under her feet was covered with soft grass.
She remembered the feeling of nothing nicer than grass between her toes, the dew from the morning still wet and cold on her skin, and it was the nicest thought she had in years.
This was the first time she’d been out of the cell by her own choice since she could remember.
She could hear people shouting from behind her, but they were too far away to matter.
A few gunshots flew past her and she was quickly brought back to the present, and focused solely on getting to the forest on the other side of the field she was running through.
The trees grew closer by the second, and the sounds of shouting started to disappear into the distance.
Annaleah looked back at the place she had been a prisoner for most of her life. The building was beautiful. It could only be described as a castle, just like the ones in the fairy tales she used to read as a child, except this one was dark and decaying.
Annaleah’s ran until her lungs started to burn and she could tell her legs were going to be sore, but she was free. The only thing that mattered.
When she stopped running, she looked over her shoulder and could not see the dark building any more. She had to decide what she should do next. She had to find somewhere to hide and some food. Those were her new priorities but she didn’t even know where she was.
The forest was the most beautiful thing Annaleah could ever think to see. The grass that covered the majority of the ground was lush green, peppered with flowers of every colour. She could not remember ever seeing this much colour. There were pink flowers, and purple, and yellow and blue. They swayed gently in the warm breeze. A butterfly hovered in the sky, then found another to dance with.
Allowing herself to feel happy for a second, she stretched her arms out and twirled, looking up at the canopy of green and blue above her. Quickly, she grew dizzy and fell to the ground as the world continued to spin around her.
The tall trees towered over Annaleah, making her feel very small. She breathed in deeply, taking in the many scents of the outside. Up above, between the branches of the tall trees, she could see white, fluffy clouds floating in an azure sky. Annaleah wished she could take a picture with her eyes, and keep the image forever to treasure.
A small tear trickled down her cheek, leaving a trail of porcelain white freckled skin beneath it.
Overwhelmed by the beauty of the outside world, Annaleah allowed the tear to drop to the ground without wiping it away and simply smiled a small smile.
She had never cried with happiness before because she forgot what happiness felt like, and before she was kidnapped and saw her mother die in front of her, she took happiness for granted.
After wandering through the forest for perhaps half an hour, Annaleah spotted a sign. She’d not read anything in such a long time, but she was a good reader when she was little. The wooden sign read, ‘Nature Trail’.
Annaleah decided to follow the sign as she thought it might lead her to a town or village where she could ask where the nearest city was.
A city would definitely be the best place to go, and there would be less chance of Kane or ‘Araxx’ finding her.
It didn’t take long for Annaleah to find civilisation. From what it looked like, a small town was just beyond a large building in front of her.
Annaleah left the Nature Trail and stepped out from the forest and found herself at a small supermarket. There were people around, and all of them stared at her. Some of them even whispered and pointed at her. Annaleah quickly walked past them, keeping her head down until she reached the back of the building. She knew she looked terrible after years of imprisonment. She was barefoot, dirty and wearing clothes that did not fit her. It was no wonder people were staring.
She noticed large bins to the side of her and one of them had pieces of fabric sticking out from a hole near the top of it. She walked over to the green bin and read the words: ‘Salvage Army Donations’.
Annaleah stood on her toes and looked inside the bin. To her delight, she saw clothes, and better yet shoes.
She rummaged around in the clothes until she found enough to dress, and in sizes, she thought might fit her.
. She bundled all the clothes she wanted into a rucksack she also found, then headed for the safety of the forest where she could hide again.
As she took a step towards the trees, a door to the side of her swung open and the smell of freshly baked bread wafted out.
Annaleah breathed in deeply.
It smelled divine, like heaven.
Walking closer to the open door, she could see no-one. She could see the bread, hot steam rising from it, just sitting on the side.
The temptation was too much and Annaleah went for it.
She quickly looked around again, making sure no one was around to see her and nabbed a loaf. The bread was hot in her hand and she quickly thrust it into her rucksack before she swung it onto her back and retreated into the forest.
Annaleah dressed in the clothes she had taken and sat down to enjoy the bread. She found the clothes pleasantly comfortable, although a little tighter than she was used to. She’d come across a pair of black jeans, ripped at the knee but wearable, a black vest which she tucked in, a baggy green jumper, the rucksack, and a pair of grey military style lace up boots in her size. It felt strange wearing shoes after so long.
Annaleah also came across a long, dark green coat, which she would need come night. The clothes smelled funny but a damn sight better than she did, and she was thankful to be warm and almost presentable.
There was nothing she could do about the dirt on her skin, or in her hair, but she was warm, she had food, and better yet, she was free at last.
As she tucked into the fresh bread, Annaleah breathed, “I’ve done it.”
The bread was soft, comforting and just what she needed.
“Get those silvers on him now!” Jones shouted at Thompson.
Kane was struggling to get free, and if they didn’t get the silvers on him soon, the captive alpha would shift and they would have real trouble getting him contained again.
Thompson pulled the silver chain cuffs from his pocket and clasped them to Kane’s wrists. He was strong, but the silvers weakened him enough so Thompson could control him.
The chains looked painful. They pinched at the skin and hair beneath, but it was what the werewolf deserved. He was a monster hiding in human skin.
“You bastard!” Kane yelled. “Smart to use silver, though.” He laughed.
It was an unnerving sound and caused shivers to run through Thompson’s whole body. Everything about the alpha was wrong, but he was not the focus of the mission, and Thompson had to remember that.
Kane laughed again, and looked Thompson directly in the eyes, boring into his soul.
Kane’s eyes were as bright as grass. He was handsome looking too, not what Thompson was expecting. When he was told the mission involved the alpha werewolf, Thompson had an image in his head.
He thought Kane would have shaggy hair, a scraggy beard, smell, and have eyes like a wolf, but he was wrong. Kane looked like a normal man, except he wasn’t. None of the men in this building was normal, and all of them were werewolves.
All except the girl in the next room, the reason they were here in this dark, dank place.
“Sir, he’s laughing,” Thompson said to Jones. He was feeling extremely uncomfortable.
“What?” Jones questioned. He wasn’t interested in the alpha. His real prize was on the other side of the wooden door, probably hiding like a scared child. He had to get to her quickly before the poor thing died of fright. She must have been terrified, being held by the werewolves most of her life.
“He won’t stop laughing.” Thompson sounded worried.
“You have no idea.” Kane laughed.
When the laughing grew louder, Jones slammed Kane into the door to stop him from laughing.
“She’s in there. Get that door open.”
One of the other men tried the door. He rattled it by the handle but the door did not open.
“It’s locked,” he said.
“Of course, it’s locked,” Jones said. “Where’s the key?”
Kane just started laughing again. “As if I’m going to tell you… Ugh.”
Thompson punched him in the stomach. He was getting sick of Kane’s laughing.
“Break it down!” Jones yelled. He took over holding Kane captive while the others used a battering ram to break through the door.
Three men in total, Thompson, Smith and Reynolds repeatedly banged at the wooden door until it came loose.
They did not know what they would find on the other side.
All they had been told was that the Hemplesworth girl had been kept there for the last few years and that she had been a werewolf prisoner for more than half of her life. They only had a picture of the girl taken when she was small, only seven years old. Bright red hair. It was the Hemplesworth girl’s most distinct feature and the only thing they would know her by when they saw her.
They finally burst the door down.
They rushed through the door to rescue the girl, only to find a red headed girl dressed in rags, barefoot and dirty, climbing out of the window at the back of her cell.
The cell was dirty too. It had a foul smell and it was clear the poor girl was being kept in squalled conditions.
The girl escaping was the last thing they expected.
They were coming to save her, and she was running away from them.
Jones expected her to be curled up in the corner, crying, scared. They all did, but she was clearly tougher than that.
Kane noticeably tensed when he saw his prisoner escaping and shouted, “Idiots!” He was still laughing, though, a manic laugh that was not right for the situation.
Why would he be laughing?
The prisoner he held captive for years was escaping him, and he was going to be incarcerated by the Araxx, but for some reason, he found pleasure in his situation.
Thompson looked down at him, then back to the girl framed in the window.
Just as she was leaving, the girl did something none of them expected.
She turned around, looked right at Kane and stuck her middle finger up at him. If it were in different circumstances, Thompson might have laughed. “Got to admire her spirit,” he said out loud.
“Someone, get her,” Jones called out. “We can’t let her run off on her own. Heaven knows what trouble she will get herself into.”
“Yes, Sir!” Smith saluted.
Thomson had always thought he was a strange one. He acted as though they were in an army, not an organisation, but the man could get any job done.
Smith ran out of the room, making his way to the nearest door. He barged through, almost knocking himself over as he opened the heavy door.
A gunshot rang out, echoing off the walls of the castle.
One of the familiars had shot at Smith, but his clumsy aim missed.
Smith dove for the man, knocking him to the ground, unconscious. When he looked up again, the girl was gone.
“Damn!” He shouted.
The others caught up with him, coming through the door he’d busted through.
“She got away?” Jones asked.
“Yeah.” Smith sighed.
“Silly children, you have no idea who that girl is.” Kane laughed again.
“Get him into the van,” Jones ordered, gesturing towards the black van coming down the drive. “We have to get back to the Institute.”
“Look at this forest, Blossom!” A male voice shouted. He had a strange twang to his accent that was hard to place.
The sound woke Annaleah where she was still on the ground at the foot of the oak tree she’d fallen asleep under. When she opened her eyes, she was met with the bright light of the sun beaming through the green leaves of the trees above her.
“The trees look so alive,” the man’s voice said.
“I agree with you there, Bear,” a shrill female voice said. She had the same strange twang to her voice as the man. “You can feel the forest’s heartbeat can’t you?”
“Totally,” Bear said. “Nothing beats the beauty of Ireland though. I can’t wait to go back home.”
Annaleah sat up slowly and could see the pair walking on the path not far from where she was. The man called, Bear was a thin man with no hair on his head, thin metal glasses, a moustache and goatee. He was wearing baggy trousers and a tight-fitting vest, both in a dark green colour. Blossom was also strange-looking, but almost the opposite of Bear. She was a plump woman, with long, blonde hair in dreadlocks weaved with lots of beads and different coloured ribbons. She was wearing a dress, pink and patterned with flowers. Both of these strange people were attractive in their own way, but nothing like Annaleah had ever seen before.
“I really don’t think they should cut down this forest.” Bear continued, but Blossom had noticed Annaleah when she had taken the loaf of bread from her rucksack. Although she had wanted to eat the entire thing last night, she managed less than half before feeling full.
“Hey, look over there,” she said to Bear.
He looked over towards Annaleah.
“She looks dirty, do you think she’s homeless?” He asked his companion.
“Might be, yeah, she looks thin too.” Blossom sighed. “We should help her.”
Annaleah knew what she needed to do next.
She needed to make her way to a city, London if she could. She didn’t know much about the outside world, but she remembered her parents taking her to London when she was very small. Of the little memory she had of them, this one was clear in her mind. Perhaps if she went somewhere she remembered going with them, she might be able to remember their faces.
“Excuse me?” Bear called from the pathway, not walking closer to where Annaleah was still sitting under the oak tree, watching them nervously. “Didn’t mean to scare you. I was just wondering…” Bear went quiet. He was nervous, not really one to talk to strangers.
“We were wondering if you were homeless,” Blossom said bluntly.
“You can’t ask someone outright like that, it’s impolite,” Bear scolded Blossom, but it didn’t seem to phase her, nor did it bother Annaleah.
“Yeah, I am,” Annaleah answered. There was no point lying.
They walked closer and Annaleah stood up quickly, grabbing her rucksack, ready to run if needed.
“Oh, you poor child.” Blossom gushed. “What’s your name?”
Annaleah paused for a second before she answered. She never liked the name, and now she could change it. After all, it wasn’t even the name her parents gave her. She could no longer remember her real name, but the name, Annaleah was the name Kane had given her.
“Lee.” She smiled friendly. “My name is Lee.”
“I’m Blossom, and this is Bear.” Blossom gestured to herself and her companion. “Nice to meet you.” She extended her hand.
Lee was reluctant to take it. The only physical contact she had for most of her life was when she was being beaten or hurt, and now someone was extending a hand in friendship.
“I won’t bite. Promise.” Blossom smiled.
Lee eventually took her hand.
“So, where are you going Lee?” Bear asked.
“I don’t really know,” she admitted. “I don’t know my way around here very well, but I know I want to get to London.”
“We’ll if this isn’t a coincidence I don’t know what is!” Blossom exclaimed. “We’re on our way there too. There’s a convention in two days time about the conservation of the trees around here. We can take you if you want.”
While Lee was sceptical, she knew it might be her only way of getting to the city.
“I’d love to, but I can’t afford to pay you…” she started.
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Bear said. “Call it karma. If we do this for you, something good might happen for us in return.”
“Thank you,” Lee said.
“First things first, though, we gotta get you clean.” Blossom pinched her nose with her fingers in a joking manner, then laughed.
They led her to a camper van in which they lived, and currently parked at the side of the road, just a ten-minute walk from the forest where Lee had slept.
The camper van was small but cosy and there were pictures of the two of them all over the place, and little ornaments from around the world.
Blossom showed Lee the shower and left her to clean herself.
Lee took off her clothes and looked at herself in the mirror. She’d seen herself before, but never really looked. Her body looked painfully thin, and her ribs and hip bones were clearly visible. Her skin was pale too. If it weren’t for the many freckles which covered her arms and face, she would have looked like a ghost.
She was dirty. Years of not washing had caked the dirt and grime into her skin. It took a lot of scrubbing until Lee came out clean. Her nails were the hardest part and there was still dirt under them when she left the bathroom.
“This will help with that.” Blossom handed Lee a toothpick.
She looked at it with a blank expression.
“Use it to get the dirt from under your nails.” Blossom laughed. “And if you come over here, I’ll do your hair.” She gestured to a comfortable looking settee with bright cushions all over it.
Lee went with Blossom, allowing her to brush through her auburn locks as she cleaned underneath her fingernails. It was oddly relaxing, and a very pleasant feeling.
Blossom offered to cook for Lee, saying she was already making food for two and a third would not be too hard to cater for.
Lee accepted. She wasn’t going to pass up on food, not likely.
Blossom cooked some strange foods Lee had never eaten before, but for the last seven years, she hadn’t really had much other than scraps, stale bread and the occasional bowl of soup if she was lucky.
The smell of the food cooking was making Lee even more hungry. There were sweet smells, spices, and the aroma of cooking food soon filled the camper van.
While Blossom was cooking, Bear took it upon himself to question Lee about her past. “So, how old are you, if you don’t mind me asking?” He asked.
Lee thought for a moment. She didn’t actually know how old she was.
“We’ll I know I was born on April 10th in 2009. What date is it now?” She asked.
Both Bear and Blossom turned to look at her.
“It’s March 7th, 2025. You’re nearly 17?” Bear was shocked.
“I guess so, yeah.” Lee shrugged her shoulders.
What was an age to her, it didn’t matter one bit? Lee looked at both Blossom and Bear. Why were they so shocked about her age?
“Can I ask you another question?” Bear asked.
“Go for it.”
“How did you become homeless?” Bear asked.
“Bear, you can’t just ask someone that.” Blossom was outraged by Bears rudeness, but it didn’t bother Lee.
She thought for a moment before she answered. She didn’t want to tell them the whole truth, she had a feeling telling them she’d been locked up in a cell wouldn’t go down well.
“I was young, about seven, I think when it all started,” Lee began.
Both Bear and Blossom were paying close attention to Lee now. Blossom was plating up the food, vegetable stir fry with a sweet and sour sauce, but her full attention was not on the job.
“The house I was living in with my parents caught fire and I don’t remember much about them, not even their faces, nor their voices. I saw my Mother die, but not my Father. I know he’s dead, though. That’s where I got this.” Lee held her arm out, showing them her scar.
“Oh, you poor thing,” Blossom gushed. “Did you not have any family to take you in?”
“I don’t have anyone,” Lee said. What she had said so far was true. She’d never actually said they died in the fire, just that they were dead. “I’ve been on my own ever since. Well, sort of. There have been people in and out if my life, but no family.” Again this was true. The only people who were constant in Lee’s life were Kane, and his accomplice Jacob.
Lee had thought at one point Jacob was her friend. For a while, he was nice to her for, but it only turned out to be a ruse. He was playing her, getting inside her head, and boy did he.
Lee, in the short few months Jacob was friendly with her, fell head over heels for him. When she found out his niceness was only to get information from her, and he was working for Kane, thirteen-year-old Lee was crushed.
“So, where have you been living?” Bear asked, snapping Lee out of her own memories.
“Here and there,” Lee answered. “My goal is to get to London, though. I’m sick of living out here in the country.”
“Well, we leave for London in the morning. You’ll be there by tomorrow night.”
Lee thoroughly enjoyed the stir fry. It hit the spot. She couldn’t remember the last time she had vegetables, or something sweet.
After dinner, Blossom brought out a chocolate cake for pudding.
Lee only had a small piece, but the taste would stay with her forever. The last time she had chocolate, she was a little girl.
While they were eating, Blossom explained all the things she and Bear had collected on their travels. She pointed to a wooden elephant, saying it was from India, then there was a beaded necklace on the side which came from Greece. There was a dream catcher hanging on one of the walls.
Lee was enchanted by the idea of a dream catcher. She could do with one. Maybe it would help her remember her parents’ faces more clearly.
Outside the sun was down already, and the camper van was lit with the dim glow of fairy lights. The colours were purples, pinks and golden whites, making the camper van feel warm inside.
Bear and Blossom took themselves off to bed once they finished washing the dishes and Lee was tired.
Lee was exhausted after the day, and all the talking she did, and the stories she heard, but once she was on her own, laid out on the sofa with a warm blanket over her, she was still wide awake.
She looked out of the window, seeing bright stars above. Lee stared at the stars. They were beautiful. Tiny balls of fire which burned brightly in the sky. It wasn’t long before she drifted off, the sound of the wind chime hanging outside the door, singing a soft lullaby to a girl who was out-of-place.
Lee was awoken the next morning with the smell of something sweet. She breathed in deeply, still not fully awake and her mouth began to water. She remembered that smell, she’d eaten this before. Pancakes. Home-made pancakes.
Blossom was cooking when Lee opened her eyes.
“Morning.” She said in a chirpy voice, blonde dreadlocks bouncing around her face.
Lee was suddenly aware of the hum of the shower and thought Bear must be taking a wash. Sure enough, the humming stopped and a minute later, Bear stepped out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist.
“Smells divine, dear,” he said to her as he kissed her on the cheek.
“Go get dressed, then we can all eat breakfast.” Blossom smiled back at him.
Soon enough he was back and Blossom plated the food.
“I can’t remember the last time I ate this much!” Lee scoffed with a mouth full of syrupy pancakes.
Blossom laughed delighted. “I hope you’re enjoying them. They’re made with organic and free range ingredients. Only the best of Mother Nature.” Blossom really was a true hippy.
“We’d better get on the road soon if we want to make it to London before the tea time traffic sets in,” Bear worried.
“How long will it take to get there?” Lee asked. She had no idea how far away from the capital she was.
“About six hours, give or take time for traffic,” Blossom said. “But there’s no rush really.” She smiled. “Finish up your pancakes, then we’ll get going.”
They’d been on the road for maybe half an hour.
Lee found it strange being in a moving vehicle. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d done this and the motion of the car was making her feel a little ill.
Bear was driving, and Blossom was sitting in the front with him.
Lee was sitting just behind them, enjoying watching the countryside fly past her. Staring at the road ahead was helping with the motion sickness, but every time she looked to the side, she felt sick again.
“Let’s put the radio on,” Bear suggested.
The radio came to life, and the end of a pop song Lee had never heard before was playing. It was loud and cheerful and instantly made her want to dance and sing along. She wished she knew the words to sing along.
When the song ended, the news started. “Breaking news,” the announcer stated in a serious voice. “Six men have been found murdered. All men have gunshot wounds. It is believed to be a gang attack. The incident happened just outside Tarbet…”
Lee could not hear the rest of the news bulletin any more as Blossom was talking over it, “Oh that’s just horrible. I can’t believe there are people out there like that, and so close to us too.”
“How close is that?” Lee asked.
“I forgot you don’t know where we are,” Blossom said. “Tarbet was the village we left just this morning.”
It hit Lee like a tonne of bricks. The shooting they were talking about on the news was the incident at the castle she escaped from just the day before.
Blossom interrupted Lee’s thoughts, “I’d like to get as far away from this place as we can. It’s just horrible.”
Lee couldn’t help but be annoyed by Blossom’s reaction to the news, but she didn’t show it. If she did, she and Bear might suspect something was not right with Lee. The men who died were the bad guys. In Lee’s eyes, no-one could be worse. Although she had no idea if the men who killed her captors were bad too, she didn’t want to find out. All she knew was that people who hurt her, who kept her prisoner, were dead. And they deserved it.
To stay on Blossom’s good side, Lee simply agreed with her about how awful everything was, and that no one deserved to die. While Lee’s point of view was different, she could also see it from Blossom’s point of view. Blossom did not know the men at all, so in her eyes, it was nothing more than unprovoked murder.
The three unlikely companions travelled for a good couple of hours before stopping at a petrol station to fill the camper van’s tank.
While Bear filled up the tank and paid at the till, Blossom talked about the rally they were taking part in, in London.
Lee was only half interested in what she was saying because all the nature talk was beginning to grate on her nerves. She enjoyed nature as much as the next person, more so, in fact, seeing she’d been in confinement for most of her life, but Blossom and Bear took it to the extreme.
They called themselves ‘nature warriors’, an activity campaigning for nature and the environment. They only used materials which were environmentally friendly and ate a vegetarian diet, believing it was cruel to eat anything that came from an animal.
The radio report came on several more times. In one report it mentioned they did not know who was behind the attack, while in another they stated the police believed it to be the work of a gang.
Bear thought this was ridiculous. “There aren’t any gangs in Scotland.” He laughed. “Probably stupid kids with their mindless video games. The sooner we get back to Ireland the better.”
“Video games?” Lee asked. She had grown up in a world without them, and never heard anything about them. Not enough to know what Bear was talking about, at any rate.
“Have you not played a video game?” Bear asked. “I thought everyone had.”
“Sorry, no. I’ve not really done anything anyone else has.” Lee smiled sheepishly.
“The video games that children play now, are all about violence. They play games with controllers and a TV. Most of them are shooting games, where the goal is to kill people. That is what I blame all this violence on nowadays. Young people think it’s normal because that’s what they’ve grown up with.” Bear added, “And it got worse since VR got cheaper and more popular.”
“What’s VR?” Lee was interested in the subject.
“Virtual reality. It looks real, and from what people have said about the more advanced stuff, you know, the really expensive programmes, it feels real too.”
“Honey?” Blossom said.
“Yes, sugar plumb?” He replied.
The lovey-dovey way they spoke to each other made Lee a little queasy.
“Could you stop ranting and raving and concentrate on the road?” Blossom said, a smile as sweet as pie on her round face.
“Yes, dear.” Bear was clearly a little taken aback by Blossom’s outburst. He didn’t like his authority questioned, but there was no way he was going to answer back to his wife. It was abundantly clear who wore the trousers in their relationship.
Lee, however, was interested in the idea of video games, but could not see how they would instil violence. She made a mental note to research the subject when she could. She’d heard the guards talking about computers, and Google, and that you could find anything there. It was quite clear from the look of the camper van that Blossom and Bear did not have a computer at all.
Another radio broadcast went out a few hours later when they were nearing the capital. “More news on the gun attack in Scotland now,” the news reporter said. “Forensic analysts have looked at the bullets found at the scene and they cannot match then to any gun found in the UK. They also found that the bullets were silver. Anyone with any information about this attack please contact the following number…”
Bear turned the radio off.
“We’re coming to London now,” he said. “Do you want to join us at the rally tonight, Lee?”
“What do I have to do?” She asked. She’d never been to a rally before and had no idea what it would entail.
“Nothing much, it’s the numbers that make the difference really,” Blossom said. “It’s your choice, but it might be a nice experience for you.” She smiled.
“Okay.” Lee smiled back. After all, she had nowhere specific to go, and another night with these two strange hippies wouldn’t be so bad.
“Head for the car park, Bear, then we’ll get the train into the centre,” Blossom ordered.
Bear parked the car in a small car park.
London wasn’t exactly what Lee remembered. “Where are all the tall buildings and things?” She asked, remembering what she saw when she was here with her parents.
“We’re on the outskirts of the city at the moment,” Blossom explained. “You’ll see all those things when we get off the tube.” She paused for a minute, thinking. “Oh, wait, you don’t have an Oyster card do you?”
“I didn’t think so. Don’t worry, we’ll get you one.” Blossom smiled.
“Won’t that cost you money?” Lee asked. She knew she already owed these people for everything they’d done for her so far and didn’t want to take them for granted.
“Not much money. Don’t worry about it,” Bear said, as he smiled at her.
“I promise I’ll pay you back someday,” Lee vowed. “I owe you guys.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Bear grinned. He was becoming excited about the rally.
Lee entered the tube station with Blossom and Bear. She could have been their child, and no one would suspect anything.
Blossom bought Lee an Oyster card with twenty pounds on it.
“That’ll get you around down here for a good few days,” she explained. “When you go through a ticket gate, just swipe the card. It will open the gate, and charge you for the journey,” Blossom said as she did it herself, demonstrating for Lee.
She followed suit and went through the gate.
They travelled down an escalator and Bear explained about standing on the right and letting people pass on the left. It was a strange experience, travelling down in these tunnels. They were dark but lit by artificial white lights.
The train itself was the strangest experience. Lee could hear it coming through the tunnel before she saw it. It made a strange combination of sounds with the metallic screaming of wheels on tracks and the buzzing of electricity.
Lee glanced down into the track-bed. Mice. There was something she was used to seeing.
The train came into view very quickly and came to a dead stop in front if them. There was no driver, which Lee found bizarre. She remembered the tube from when she was in London with her parents, and they had drivers then, but this was over ten years ago, so things must have changed considerably.
Lee, Blossom and Bear got on the train and joined the others who were travelling to the city as well.
Lee couldn’t remember how many trains she went on that day, but one thing she did know was that finding her way around down there was going to be hard. She had time to pick up a tube map on her way from one underground station to another, and the sight of it made her eyes swim. There were so many lines, so many stops, and so many colours.
“Which line are we on now?” She asked Blossom.
“The green one.” She pointed her finger at the map. “That’s where we need to get off.”
The closer they got to the centre of the city, the fuller the trains became. The one they were on currently was packed, and they had to stand rather than sitting.
A few other people on their way to the rally were on this tube too. Lee listened to their conversations and apparently they were going to stand on the grass outside the Houses of Parliament and protest there.
Lee vaguely remembered the Houses of Parliament or Big Ben at least, but her memories of London were very sketchy.
When Lee emerged from the underground station, she was soon met with the iconic view of London.
The station at Embankment brought them out next to the river Thames. From where she stood, Lee could see the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.
Memories flooded through her as she remembered this sight from when she was a child.
The streets were packed with people and it made Lee a little uneasy. She’d been locked up for so long, she forgot there were so many people in the world.
It was noisy too. People shouted to each other, cars piped horns, the sounds of people going about their everyday lives were loud.
Her one saving grace was that she was at the opposite end of the country from where she had been the day before, and hopefully far away from ‘Araxx’ and Kane.
It was a short walk to the rally from the station, and there were indeed other people there. Lee was a little sceptical about whether people would turn up for something like that, but there was quite an atmosphere. There were forty-six people on the patch of grass, including Lee and her companions.
A tall, lanky girl with black hair longer than any Lee had seen before, walked towards Bear and Blossom. She was wearing all black and had multiple piercings on her face, and maybe more Lee could not see.
A slightly taller man, dressed in the same way but with only shoulder length black hair stepped up just behind her. “Glad you could make it.”
“Tom, Kate, I didn’t know you two were going to be here!” Blossom embraced them.
“We couldn’t just stay home for this,” Kate said. “And who’s the redhead?” She asked, looking Lee up and down.
“I’m Lee.” She stepped forward before Blossom or Bear had the chance to introduce her. She could introduce herself, and she had a feeling a sixteen-year-old, homeless girl in London would need to demand respect from others, otherwise, she’d be walked all over.
After the introductions, Lee and the others joined the group of people on the grass.
The rally wasn’t exactly what Lee had expected. In fact, she wasn’t sure what it would be. It turned out to be just a group of people sitting around singing songs Lee did not know and holding up signs about not cutting down trees, saving the planet and keeping the air clean.
In truth, Lee found the whole experience very boring, and it was a long day of it.
The group caught the attention of a news crew, and Lee had to make her escape before she was caught on camera. She knew it would not be good for her face to be all over the television.
That would make it all too easy for her Kane or ‘Araxx’ to find her, and that was the last thing she wanted.
She stepped away from the group and stood to the back of the camera.
“You look a bit bored,” a girl about her own age said to her.
She hadn’t seen the girl walk up to her, and was shocked she was being spoken to. “Who me?” Lee asked.
“Yeah.” The girl laughed. She had long blonde hair, the kind of blond you knew wasn’t natural, and a warming smile. “My name’s Bree. What’s yours?”
“Lee.” She smiled back at the stranger.
“Nice to meet you, Lee.” Bree smiled. “How about we get out of here, go do something more interesting?”
“Like what?” Lee asked. She didn’t know what Bree was intending on doing, but anything was bound to be more fun than the rally. She would go for a little while and meet Bear and Blossom later in the day. They wouldn’t even know she was gone.
“Come on.” Bree took Lee’s hand and pulled her away from the crowd.
They crossed the bridge in front of Big Ben and started walking down towards the London Eye.
“Let’s go shopping.” Bree smiled.
“I don’t have any money,” Lee admitted.
It seemed money wasn’t a problem in Bree’s world. “Who said anything about money?” Bree grinned.
There was something about this girl, something strange, but Lee liked it.
“Watch this.” Bree stepped off into the crowd.
Lee watched closely. She had a feeling she was going to learn something there and then, and it would prove to be extremely valuable.
Bree stepped around the people on the crowded path as though they weren’t really there. She was looking for something specific, someone specific. She saw a man walking with what she presumed was his wife or girlfriend who was wearing a fur coat. That was all Bree needed. These two were clearly tourists, identified by the tube map in his hand. Bree stepped towards the back of the man, and as quick as a flash, she took his wallet from his back pocket, then made her way over to one of the food stands at the side of the path. She took out the wallet, leather and black, bold as brass, and bought something with it.
Lee could not see clearly what it was, but the smell of greasy food in that area hung in the air.
Within no time at all, Bree had come back to Lee, and she was holding a brown paper bag in her hand. “Doughnut?” She asked, as if nothing had happened, and took a bite from one she was holding in her hand.
“Bree?” Lee was shocked. “But you just…”
“Yeah I know. It’s too easy.” She opened the wallet, taking out a handful of cash. “There’s at least a hundred here.”
She brought the money to her nose and breathed in deeply, taking in the scent of the cash. She put the money back into the wallet, and stuffed it into her satchel, then pulled another doughnut out of the bag and handed one to Lee. “Let’s go shopping,” she said with a mouth full of the hot doughnut.
Lee took a bite of hers. The dough was soft and warm, and as she chewed her mouth watered. It was delicious. She moaned with pleasure as she chewed.
Bree giggled at her.
“What?” Lee asked as she swallowed. “Do I have something on my face?” Lee wiped her mouth and covered her arm with sugar as she did so. Then took another bite of the fresh doughnut. She didn’t care about the sugar. The doughnut tasted amazing.
After finding a tube station, Bree took them to Camden Market. She said it was her favourite place to go ‘shopping’ and Lee would love it.
She was right about that.
Just a short walk from the tube station, Lee was met with market stalls full of clothes. She’d never seen so many clothes in one place all at the same time, and so much she would wear. There was every kind of item of clothing in the market, and all different types of people too.
Bree looked Lee up and down. “Hmm, I think we can find something nice for you to wear, but first things first.” She took Lee’s hand and pulled her towards one of the stalls. “You need a bag to carry it all in.”
Lee spotted a black backpack, made from a soft fabric, with rope-like tassels coming down from it. “I have a bag, though,” Lee said. She pulled the old rucksack from her back, the one she found in the salvation army bin, but Bree wasn’t listening to her.
She’d already spotted something that was better. “This one’s beautiful,” she said.
Lee picked up the price tag. £25 it read.
Bree looked around. The market was pretty quiet, and the vendor was at the other side of his stall, dealing with another customer. “Take it,” Bree whispered.
“Come on, pick it up and let’s go before he sees us,” Bree urged.
Lee wasn’t so sure about taking the bag. After all, it was stealing. But the bag was nice, and she didn’t have any money, let alone enough to buy it. She picked it up, her heart racing then threw it on her back and started walking away with Bree.
It was a bit of a rush, stealing the bag. Lee found she almost liked the feeling. Danger.
Bree congratulated her on taking the bag without getting caught. “That was your first time wasn’t it?” She asked as they walked down the street towards a clothes stall that looked particularly interesting. “Stealing I mean.”
“Yeah,” Lee said shyly. She was ashamed of what she had done.
Bree reassured her, “Here in London if you live on the streets, you don’t have much of a choice. It’s either stealing or go very cold and very hungry.”
“How did you know… Do you live on the streets too?” Lee asked.“Am I really that obvious?”
“It wasn’t obvious, no. I’m just good at knowing that sort of thing, and, yeah, have done for the last year,” Bree admitted.
“So what were you doing at that rally?” Lee’s curiosity peaked.
“Easy pickings,” Bree said bluntly. “A lot of those hippies have more money than sense, and they’re so distracted by ‘saving the world’ they don’t notice me taking their dosh.”
She opened her satchel to show Lee and revealed another two wallets. “What were you doing there?” Bree asked as she closed the bag again.
“I was with these two people. They picked me up off the street, helped me get cleaned up, fed me and brought me here. I was coming to London anyway, so it was convenient.”
“Odd, but fair enough.” Bree shrugged. “Where did you come from?”
“You don’t sound Scottish.”
“I wasn’t born there, just stayed there for a while.” Lee didn’t really want to say much more.
The two girls walked through the food market at Camden Town.
The smells of the different foods were driving Lee wild. There were different foods from all around the world. Some of them she recognised, and others she didn’t.
“What’s calamari?” Lee asked as she pointed at something that looked a lot like onion rings.
“That’s squid rings in batter, basically,” Bree explained as she laughed.
Bree bought them both a polish sausage in a roll. Lee added fried onions to hers, and they both went to sit on a bench by the canal to eat.
“This tastes amazing!” Lee exclaimed after her first bite of the juicy sausage.
“They’re good aren’t they?” Bree said with her mouth full. “So, what’s your plan while you’re down here?” Bree asked.
Lee didn’t really know how to answer this. She didn’t really have a plan. “I don’t really know,” she admitted. “I need to find somewhere to sleep, and go from there, I guess.”
“You should stay with me,” Bree suggested.
“You have a house? But I thought you said you were homeless?” Looking at Bree, Lee could tell the girl was not completely homeless and living on the street. She was too clean.
Lee looked at her properly for the first time since meeting her. She was a pretty girl, with small features, and a few freckles dotted on her cheeks, partially hidden by light make-up. Her hair was blond, but Lee could see the pale brown roots underneath. Her hair was neat and tidy like it had recently been cut with care, unlike Lee’s mop of shoulder length hair. Bree was also wearing nice clothes that looked clean, although most likely she’d stolen them recently. Bree also smelled nice, which meant she must have been staying somewhere with a bath or shower. She was wearing skinny jeans in a stonewashed blue, and a long-sleeved bottle green shirt, white trainers on her feet, and a leather jacket on her back. She looked as if she just stepped out of a film.
“Technically, I have a place, yeah, but I wouldn’t exactly say it was mine,” Bree answered, taking another bite of the sausage.
“What does that mean?”
Lee looked confused. She’d never heard the term dossing before.
Bree explained it to her.
“So you’re living in someone else’s house while they’re not there?”
“Have they moved out then? Or just on holiday?”
“The place I’m in at the moment is totally empty. Well, there’s furniture, but no one lives there. It’s been empty for a while,” Bree said.
“How often do you have to move?” Lee asked.
“Every few months or so. I’ve been in this place only a week, so I’m hoping to stay there a while. So what do you say? Wanna be roomies?” Bree was smiling brightly now.
“Sure, why not?” Lee answered an equally big smile graced her face.
Bree told Lee to stay where she was. To enjoy the scenery and watch the people go by, and she would be back soon with clothes.
“It’ll be easier if I get them on my own today. You still need some practice,” Bree explained. “Last thing we want is you getting caught and locked up, right?”
“Right.” Lee smiled.
Bree didn’t know Lee had been imprisoned most of her life, and the comment was ironic. She’d been locked up so much of her life, the last thing she wanted was to be locked up again, although no prison warden could ever treat her as bad as Kane did.
So far, in her time away from his grasp, Lee had met so many lovely people, and there was a real potential of a friend in Bree.
She was gone quite a while, and Lee took the time to take in her surroundings.
The canal was strange, a little smelly and Lee could see a couple of rats on the opposite bank, but it wasn’t such a bad place to be sitting. Some people who passed her by looked at her funny because she still looked like a homeless person. She was still a little dirty, her hair was a mess and her clothes were ill-fitted and torn. Then there were other people who walked by and completely ignored her. Lee liked these people better.
Lee focussed on a couple of rats on the side of the canal wall arguing over a scrap of bread which Lee had dropped, when a loud shout came from behind her, causing her to jump and almost fall off the bench.
“Quick! Run!” The voice shouted.
Lee looked in the direction where the noise was coming from and saw Bree running at full pelt through the market, bags in her hands and people chasing her. She leapt to her feet and started running beside the canal.
Bree caught up in no time. “Follow me,” she said. She clearly knew what she was doing, where she was going and must have run away before.
They lost the men who were chasing them pretty quick, but they ran a couple of extra streets down just to be safe.
When they finally came to a stop, Lee was puffing and panting, struggling to breathe with a burning pain in her lungs. “Please tell me we lost them,” she panted, doubled over to catch her breath.
“Yeah, we did.” Bree laughed. “I don’t think we can go back there for a few days. Was well worth it, though!” She seemed so animated as if the chase gave her a rush and it made her feel alive.
“I hope you got some nice things,” Lee panted. “And I really need to get fitter.”
“Yeah, you do,” Bree agreed. “But we can work on that.” She took hold of Lee’s arm and started leading her down the street. “|It’s not far to my place. We’ll walk the rest of the way.”
Bree took Lee to a street about twenty minutes from Camden Market. The streets here were filled with blocks of flats, six or seven stories high—small for a block in London.
They came to a block like any of the others. The outside looked a bit dishevelled, but at least it would be somewhere to stay.
“This is it,” Bree said, standing in front of the building.
The red bricks looked old and dirty, and a couple of the windows on the lower floors were cracked.
Lee looked at the door. It was black, but the paint was chipping away from the wood, and the letterbox had been ripped clear off.
She walked towards the door, but Bree stopped her.
“Not that way,” she said. “Come on.” She led Lee down the alley at the back of the house, towards the fire escape that led all the way up the building and to the roof.
The fire escape looked like the rest of the building, old and like it could fall down at any moment.
Bree climbed first, and Lee followed.
They were heading to the top floor, the sixth floor in this block.
Something in one of the windows caught Lee’s attention.
There was a family in the room.
The man sitting in the chair had a large beer belly and a balding head. He was wearing a stained shirt and jogging bottoms which were far too small for him. “Oy, woman!” He shouted. “Get me a beer!”
A woman appeared in the doorway of what Lee presumed was the kitchen, beer in hand and took it to the man. She looked thin, thinner than Lee herself, and much older than she probably was. Her face was hollow, and her eyes looked almost black.
Lee pushed on up the ladder. She didn’t really want to know anything about the other people who lived in this block. All she cared about was getting into the flat and getting herself clean.
“Welcome to Le Hotel de Bree!” She smiled as Lee climbed through the window and into the flat.
It was nicer than Lee had imagined.
The previous tenant clearly looked after the place when they lived here. Lee entered the living room through the window. There was no sofa or chairs in this room, but instead, seven bean bags were laid out on the ground. There was a TV in the room too, and a laptop near the back. An electric heater was standing against the far wall. It was unplugged, but the flat was warm enough as it was.
“You have electricity?” Lee asked.
“Yeah, I do. No heating, though, hence the electric radiator. Make yourself at home, take a look around.” Bree dropped her bag from her back, as well as the other bags she had acquired, took off her jacket and threw herself into one of the beanbags.
The rest of the flat was pretty much the same. The kitchen had a working fridge, although when Lee looked there was not much food in it, there was an electric oven and running water in both the kitchen and the bathroom. Although, the water ran cold from the tap, there was a kettle if hot water was needed.
In the bedroom, there was a mattress on the floor with a sheet over it and a couple of sleeping bags.
“Does anyone else live here?” Lee asked after seeing there was more than one bag.
“No, just me,” Bree replied.
Lee thought it was strange, but it didn’t really matter.
After having a look around the one bedroomed flat, Lee met Bree back in the living room.
“So how do you have a TV and a computer?” Lee asked. “Don’t they cost a lot of money?”
“They were here when I found this place, and they still work so I’m not gonna complain.” She smiled. “I use next doors’ internet, and it keeps me entertained.”
It was a lot for Lee to take in, but she was enjoying herself. A sudden thought crossed her mind. “Blossom and Bear!” She blurted suddenly.
“Is that the name of a new band or something?” Bree asked as she rifled through the bags she brought back from the market.
“No. They’re the people who I came to London with. I completely forgot about them.” Lee was upset with herself for forgetting.
“Funny names.” Bree laughed. “Forget them, though. You’d have left them not long after tonight anyway right?”
“Yeah, but they’d be worried about me,” Lee said.
“I doubt it,” Bree said sternly. “Look, no offence intended, but no one misses us, homeless kids.”
“I guess.” Lee sighed.
“Anyway,” Bree said in a cheery voice. “Let’s do something about your hair.” She pulled a couple of things out of one of the bags. One was a pair of scissors for neatening Lee’s hair up, and the other was a box of bright red hair dye.
“My hair’s already red,” Lee stated as she tugged at her messy locks.
“Yeah, but this will make it brighter. I think it will suit you.” Bree smiled.
“Ah, what the hell,” Lee said. After all, what’s the worse that could happen?
Before putting the dye on Lee’s head, Bree went to work on cutting it.
They were in the bathroom, but Lee’s hair was getting everywhere. Bree didn’t cut off too much, just neatened everything up, took away the split ends and levelled it out. It looked much better, but Bree was not yet finished.
She took an old towel from the cupboard in the bathroom, stained white and yellow clearly from Bree dying her own hair. She placed it around Lee’s neck, put the gloves on that came in the dye pack, then began smothering Lee’s hair with the dark red liquid.
As she applied the dye to Lee’s hair, Bree spoke, “Do you want to know why I was drawn to you?”
“Yeah, I was wondering about that,” Lee admitted.
“If truth be told, it was your hair.” Bree started with Lee’s roots, covering them with the red dye.
“My hair?” Lee was confused. “What would my hair have to do with anything?”
“I love the colour. It reminds me of autumn.” Bree was quiet for a few seconds. “Autumn is my favourite month, and you remind me of it.”
“I guess I’ll take that as a compliment.” Lee laughed.
The smell of the hair dye was chemical and harsh, but fruity at the same time. Lee liked the smell, and once Bree was finished and her hair was dry, Lee couldn’t stop smelling it.
“If only the rest of me was as nice smelling as my hair.” Lee sighed.
“You can be.” Bree laughed. “Just take a shower. I have loads of soaps and stuff, just don’t get your hair wet,” she warned.
Lee expected the water to be cold, but it was heated by electricity.
The hot water of the shower felt lovely on Lee’s tired muscles.
She hadn’t realised it before, but her muscles ached. She’d not had this much exercise in a very long time. All the walking and the running had taken its toll on her muscles.
The hot water soothed them.
When she finally emerged from the water, pulling the shower curtain back and wrapping the fresh towel around herself, Lee found a pile of clothes on the closed toilet seat.
Bree must have left them for her to get dressed into.
She dried herself with the soft towel, then dressed in the stolen clothes. It felt a little wrong, but she didn’t have much of a choice. This was her life now, and she was going to have to get used to it.
Lee left the bathroom in her new clothes, a perfect fit. She was wearing black jeggings which hugged her legs comfortably, leaving her enough room to move comfortably but not too much that they fell down when she moved, a grey vest top which came down long enough for her to tuck in, and a baggier black top with short sleeves. The outfit suited her, and Lee liked it. Bree clearly had good taste.
“They look good on you,” Bree said as Lee entered the living room where she was sitting with a big bowl of crisps in front of her.
Lee took a seat next to her, and they both ate the crisps.
Everything Lee tasted amazed her. It had been so long since she’d eaten anything other than cold scraps, and soup.
It was already dark outside when Bree stretched and yawned. “I’m tired,” she stated and looked over to Lee.
They’d both sprawled out on the bean bags, and were watching a film on the television.
Bree said it was one of her favourites, something called Bridget Jones’ Diary, but Lee wasn’t so interested in it.
“I’m gonna go to bed, feel free to use the laptop while I’m sleeping, and make sure you get some sleep too.”
“Bree?” Lee asked. “How do I use the laptop?”
“You’ve never used a laptop?” Bree laughed. “Okay, I’ll show you quick.” Bree picked up the thin laptop and opened it, turning it on. She opened the internet and briefly explained that all Lee had to do was type what she was looking for in the search bar, then press enter and the laptop would do the rest.
“Night Lee,” she said as she left the room.
“Night Bree,” Lee replied, smiling at the new friend she’d made.
The internet was a fascinating place to Lee. She found a wealth of information she’d never even dreamt of. The first thing she researched was London. She spent a good long time looking at the tube maps and trying to remember how to get to different places. She then turned to the news to see if there was more information about the shooting in Scotland, but there was nothing new.
The next thing which popped up on the screen was a video of a news reporter reporting on a murder in London just a couple of days before. It had a woman with dark skin and hair pulled back tight into a bun, wearing smart clothes and talking into a microphone outside the metropolitan police station. “Officials are still unsure of who the killer is but have issued a warning to the homeless and vulnerable living in London and the surrounding areas. Four people have been murdered in the last month, and all of them have been homeless.” She paused for a second before continuing, “The killer has been nicknamed ‘Dracula’ for his style of murder, as he drains the bodies of blood. This is Teresa Billthorp, reporting from London.” She finished, and so did the news clip.
As Lee had never heard of Dracula before, it was the first thing she researched next. What she found both interested and disgusted her. But the worst part was that this killer was doing what a vampire was said to do. Of course, vampires weren’t real, and it was clear from all the evidence Lee found on-line, they are just a myth, and that this murderer was nothing more than a psychotic man with a sick fetish, but the thought of someone praying on the homeless worried her.
After all, she was now homeless herself.
“I hear he’s furious,” Adz whispered to Jay.
“Yeah, and what gave you that idea dumb-ass,” Jay answered sarcastically. “Of course he’s mad. He sent the best team he had out there, and they couldn’t even bring the girl in.”
“She’s our age, Jay. How could a team of men who’ve been doing this job for years let her escape? And they had a Beaty with then, too. How could it even happen? It’s a joke.” Adz laughed.
“Beaty’s are the best trackers aside from werewolves granted,” Jay started. “But the simple fact is they are part werewolf and the stench of a dog in that place would have been immense. Mix that with the fact he didn’t have the girl’s scent before she escaped and you have this – the girl got away. We’d have done a much better job at bringing her in,” Jay boasted. “Either way, the hearing takes place in the chamber hall in twenty minutes. We’d better go if we want to hear all the details.”
“Jay, you know we’re not allowed at that meeting,” Adz protested.
“I have a hiding place, come on.”
The hall Jay and Adz entered was small, but large enough for the hearing. It never had more than about twenty people in it, and most of them were usually seated on the benches facing the chair at the front of the room. The walls of this room were a dark stone colour, with dark green banners on the wall with the Araxx symbol on it.
The symbol was a mix of crescent moons and circles, all in gold thread. It had been the symbol of the Araxx for hundreds of years, ever since the organisation was founded.
The light was streaming in through one of the stained glass windows. It depicted a warrior dressed in black, slaying a vampire. The colours in the glass cast bright shadows onto the stone ground below. It had the feel of a church, although it wasn’t anything religious.
“Yes, it’s still empty,” Jay said with excitement. “Quick, over here.” He gestured to a table at the side of the room with one of the dark green flags draped over it.
“I’m still not sure this is a good idea.” Adz hesitated, but he climbed under the table with Jay anyway. “Are you sure they won’t see us?” He asked. “Or smell us for that matter.”
“What do you mean smell us?” Jay asked.
“Your hair stinks of peroxide. Why do you dye it blonde? It looks strange.”
“Just because I’m half Japanese doesn’t mean I can’t dye my hair, I like it this colour. Anyway, you’re not one to talk. Your hair is as black as the ace of spades, and you’re about as pale as a ghost.” They both laughed, then quietened down.
The door to the hall opened, and people started coming in.
Jay and Adz could see shapes through the fabric of the flag, but it was enough to keep them satisfied.
Jay had been with the Araxx since he was only three. His parents were killed by a vampire, and he witnessed their murder. The Araxx managed to save him before the creature finished its meal. They attempted to find blood relatives for him to go live with, but they could not trace any. They decided to take him in and bring him up as one of their own.
Jay grew up well in the Institute and began learning martial arts and combat at a very young age. He was an exceptional student and grew up strong.
Jay was well-built, with a good amount of muscle covering his body. His dark brown eyes and oriental features made him an attractive young man. He liked showing off his muscles and was usually seen in tight jogging bottoms and a vest, similar to the ones he was wearing today. They were comfortable, and it meant he could easily practice his martial arts without having to change.
Jay was the joker of the two of them, playing jokes and messing around. He was always the one to get into trouble too and was usually the one who spoke out of turn. Many a time, Jay’s mouth had got both him and Adz in trouble.
Adz had been taken into the Institute at a slightly older age. He was seven when they brought him in. Much slimmer than his friend, Adz wasn’t as strong, but certainly made up for it with his agility. He too was just as handsome as Jay but in a darker mysterious way.
Adz was brought to the institution under different circumstances than Jay. His parents were not killed by a supernatural, nor was a supernatural anything the reason for him joining the Institute of the Araxx.
He grew up in an orphanage. His Mother gave him up when he was only a few days old, leaving him on the doorstep. The Institute brought him in as they believed he had potential, and they needed someone Jay’s age for him to train with.
Adz was a troublemaker when he was younger, always getting into fights with the other orphans at the orphanage before he came to live at the Institute, and no one wanted to adopt him.
It was Jay himself who picked him out of the crowd.
Adz was the polar opposite of Jay in almost every way. He was a couple of inches shorter than Jay, although both were around the six-foot mark. His hair was jet black and hung to almost shoulder length. His usual attire was a pair of ripped skinny jeans and a baggy jumper which he pulled down over his hands. He wore fingerless gloves on his hands, and always had a thoughtful expression on his face. He was quiet but knew how to have fun.
Jay and Adz quickly made friends and were soon inseparable.
They trained together, ate together and even stayed in the same room.
They were offered separate rooms but enjoyed each other’s company far too much to accept.
It was as if they were brothers. They often fought like brothers, but nothing could keep them from each other for too long. They soon made up, and it would be as if they had never fought at all.
Jay made sure they always had fun, while Adz kept his friend grounded. They were the perfect friends, and would soon grow to be great work colleagues too.
A tall man with greying hair was first to enter the hall.
Simons, the head of the Institute.
It was his great, great, grandfather who founded the Institute, and it had been passed down through the generations in succession. He stood at the front of the room, commanding attention from everyone present.
Jay and Adz had a pretty good view of the room from their hiding place and watched as the group who went on the rescue mission entered, all with their heads bowed.
They took their seats, and Simons started the hearing.
“Now, as you all know, the mission to retrieve the Hemplesworth girl was a failure. Despite having our best men on the job, she escaped.” He paused, looking around the room at all who were involved. “But, the bad news does not end there. Not all of you will know this, but last night Kane managed to escape from us as well.”
Several people in the room gasped, but most kept their composure.
“Now, I believe he had help to escape, and I have put the person I suspect to be responsible, in confinement.” He confessed, “I will be scrutinising the CCTV later today to determine whether my suspicions are correct.”
“An outrage,” someone in the room called out. “An inside job.”
“It was to be expected,” Simons said. “It’s been a long time since something like this has happened. Now for the good news.”
“Can you believe that?” Jay whispered to Adz. “The head of the biggest English werewolf pack has escaped from the Institute.”
“Shut up idiot, they’ll hear us,” Adz whispered back.
“Good news? Don’t hold back, Sir.” Jones said.
“She’s been spotted,” he said.
The whole room gasped.
It had been two weeks since the girl escaped them, and no one had seen any trace of her.
“Where?” Someone asked.
“London. The CCTV picked her up just this morning,” he added.
“That’s not far from here. We should go now, catch her and bring her back before she disappears again,” one of the members stated.
“We can’t just rush into it,” Simons said. “This girl has been captive for more than half her life. If she sees us coming, she’s going to run. She could hurt herself, or someone else in the process. We have no idea of her mental stability or what kind of personality and skills she has. We have to be careful.”
“So what do you suggest?” Thompson asked.
“We need to put together a field team, a group who will observe her, then choose the ideal time to apprehend her,” Simons said. “And I think I know just who I will send on this mission.”
The group waited in anticipation for Simons to announce who he would choose.
“I’m getting a cramp,” Jay whispered.
Both were clearly too tall and large to be hiding underneath the desk for as long as they had.
Adz was also feeling the pressure of hiding for so long, but he was keeping his mouth shut. “Shh,” he whispered as he put his index finger to his lips.
“We also have the issue of the alpha. Now, we have no idea where Kane has gone to, just that he escaped. While this is the case, we do know he will contact his pack and regroup. We know his whole pack wasn’t at the castle that day, and most of those people were only familiars anyway, not werewolves. We also know he will indeed go after the girl again, and he and his pack have a much higher chance of finding her than we do.”
“Remind me, Sir…” One of the men piped up. “And forgive me for being blunt, but what does a single human girl matter to risk so many of our best? I know our job is to protect the human race but is she really that important?”
“A valid point,” Simons said. “I understand completely where you are coming from, and it’s hard to explain, but this girl is important.” He paused and sighed. “I’ll understand if some of you want to step out of these missions and focus on other tasks, but I hope you will not.”
Murmurs filled the room as the people began to discuss what their thoughts on the matter were.
“All I know is that there is a scared girl out there, in the city probably for the first time in her life, with no one to protect her.”
Silence fell over the crowd as they all considered the facts. Some of them had children of their own and could sympathise.
“She’s a young girl with an entire werewolf pack after her,” one of the men said. “It’s only right that we help.”
Everyone was in agreement that they would first find the girl and bring her into the institution, then they would focus on finding Kane and the rest of the pack.
“Now, back to the matter of the team, I would like to send after the Hemplesworth girl…” Simons started.
“I’m gonna sneeze,” Jay whispered as he screwed up his face up in a most unpleasant way.
“Don’t you dare, they’ll hear us,” Adz whispered back, raising a hand to Jay’s face to stop him from sneezing, but it was already too late.
“Aching!” The noise was loud, and all eyes in the room turned to the table where Jay and Adz were hiding.
“You can come out now, boys,” Simons said, not looking in their direction.
Adz and Jay climbed out from under that hiding place, both sheepish and red-faced.
“You knew we were there the entire time, didn’t you, Sir?” Adz asked.
“I did.” He smiled.
“What are the children doing in here?” One of the men sneered.
“Children? I’ll have you know I’m nearly seventeen,” Jay started. He stepped forward, but Adz caught his shoulder, stopping him from moving.
“It is a good job they’re here, Tom,” Simons said. “I’ve chosen them to go on the mission to bring the girl back.”
The entire room was in outrage.
“You can’t send them, they’re no older than the girl,” one man shouted.
“But that’s my point exactly.” Simons smiled. “They’re her age.” He turned to look at Jay and Adz. “So how about it, lads? Fancy a trip to London?”
Jay and Adz were taken from the hall and into Simons’ office.
The walls of the office were blank as was the rest of the room. There wasn’t much to indicate who the office belonged to, except for the picture of the Simons’ family on his desk.
“This is a big responsibility, boys. I hope you know how much the success of this mission depends on you,” he said to them.
Neither Jay nor Adz said anything, but they both nodded in agreement. They were standing in front of the desk with their arms folded behind their backs, standing up straight like soldiers.
“Relax, take a seat. We have a lot to discuss,” said Simons.
They both sat in the chairs opposite the desk, slouching a little as they relaxed.
“Now. What do you know about this girl?” Simons asked.
“Sir?” Jay asked. He wasn’t quite sure he understood the question.
Jay and Adz didn’t know much about her at all.
“You were hiding in the hall at our last hearing, I’m not sure how many of my other meetings you’ve sat in on, without my knowledge.”
“It was just that one meeting, Sir,” Jay admitted. It was the honest truth, but he wished he and Adz were able to secretly sit in on more meetings.
“Well then, I’d better start from the beginning. Not much is known about the Hemplesworth girl, only that her parents were killed in a fire set by Kane and his pack when she was only little. The girl was not killed in the fire, however, and Kane took her. It is unclear why he took her, but we believe his reasons are important. We had word from an inside man that in the beginning, Kane attempted to bring the girl up as his own, but it became clear she blamed him for her parents’ death and she resented him. The girl rebelled against him and refused to do anything he asked of her. He became frustrated with her and started taking his rage out on her. He would beat her for no clear reason other than for his own pleasure.”
“That’s horrible,” Jay couldn’t help but say. He was always the more talkative out of the two.
Adz sat in silence, listening, taking it all in.
“He locked her up soon after that, and she’s been living in a cell for most of her life, being the plaything of Kane for as long as she can most likely remember.”
“What would a pack of werewolves want with this girl, though? Is she some kind of supernatural?” Jay asked.
“Not that we know of, no,” Simons explained. “As far as we know she’s completely human.”
After a brief hesitation, Simons continued, “You both know, of course, Kane has escaped us.”
Both Jay and Adz nodded.
“Well, this brings about more urgency for finding the girl. He will no doubt go after her, and we don’t want her falling back into his clutches if we can help it.”
“So what do we know about her now?” Adz asked his serious head on.
“We know she’s living in London, on the streets, and she’s been spotted with another girl.” Simons showed them a photo of the two girls. “This is them,” he explained.
“Sir, can I ask you something?” Jay said.
“This may seem like a silly question, but how much does she know about us, of our world, of the supernatural?”
“Not a silly question at all, Jason,” Simons replied. “We can assume she doesn’t know much. The fact that she ran from us that night we invaded Kane’s castle means she does not know we were there to rescue her, and I very much doubt she even knows she was living with a pack of werewolves.” He paused. “This is why I have chosen the two of you to bring her in. The girl may recognise some of the older men, as she must have seen them in the castle, but she will not know you.”
Both Adz and Jay agreed with this. They were excited to be going on their first proper mission outside of the Institute without a guardian with them.
“You may leave now, boys. Pack your bags and be ready to leave tomorrow morning. Get a good night’s sleep,” Simons said.
“Sir, just one more thing,” Jay said nervously.
“Have you heard the rumours about there being vampires in London?” He asked. Adz jabbed him in the side. “Ouch,” he said as he glanced at Adz. “And don’t tell me you weren’t thinking the same thing.”
Simons said, “We don’t know for sure that it is a vampire. But you’re right, it could be. I need you to be extra vigilant while you’re in London.” Simons paused. “There are others looking for this girl as well.”
Jay and Adz turned and left the office, leaving Simons looking intently at the picture of his family on his desk.
Everyone at the Institute knew what happened to his family. Simons’ daughter was taken and murdered by a rogue werewolf gone mad. Simons had tried to save her, but it was to no avail. His wife went mad with loss and sorrow, and she became severely depressed. Simons was the one to find her, hanging from the bannisters of their house, one of his ties around her neck. He doesn’t wear a tie any more, of course.
Everyone at the Institute had their secrets, and this was his.
Back in their dormitory, Jay and Adz discussed what they were going to take with them to London.
Simons had arranged for them to travel by train, and they would be staying at a hotel next to Kings Cross station so they could get around the city easily. Both had been to London before, but never without a guardian.
Although they were mature for their age, they knew too much about the world, the secret world which was hidden from normal people, to be completely carefree about going to a big city unaccompanied for the first time. In a city, it was easier for the supernatural to hide in large crowds, and they often gathered together in large groups within the city.
“Do you think she’s just human then?” Jay asked.
“I don’t know,” Adz admitted. “I mean, we know the alpha of the most powerful pack in Scotland wants her, so she can’t be, right?”
“I only ask, because, well, what would a pack want with a human?”
“It might be as simple as her just being human and having some powerful information,” Adz paused. “But, I don’t want to go in without proper protection. I’m taking my gun.”
“And I’ll take my sword,” Jay said.
“A sword? Really Jason?” Simons asked as he entered their room. “You need to be more inconspicuous than that. I think a gun would suit you better, too,” he suggested.
“Sir?” Adz questioned. Both he and Jay thought Simons was finished with them for the day.
“There’s something I forgot to give you while you were in my office,” he said, holding up a box with two leather jackets inside. “Try them on.”
The jackets fit them well, but they felt strange.
Jay felt inside one of the pockets in the lining of the jacket and felt something small and round. He pulled it out. A golf ball sized mass of black metal was resting in his hand. “What’s this, Sir?” Jay asked.
Adz stared at the strange item, puzzled, and reached inside his own jacket, finding he had one too.
“These are my gifts to you,” Simons explained. “As you know, drone technology has come a long way, mostly due to our work with the government.” He took the metal ball from Jay and turned it in his hand.
After turning it a couple of times, he threw it into the air.
Both Jay and Adz expected it to hit the floor and dove forward to catch it. Before they could reach the ball, it started to hover in the air.
“This is the newest invention of ours. These drones are only a fraction of the size of any other, lightweight and, of course, they are controlled without a remote. I say that, but they do have a remote.” Simons paused, laughing a little at his own joke.
Neither Jay nor Adz seemed to catch on.
“Sorry, Sir, I’m not really understanding. How do we control them if they do not have any remote controls? And how will they help us find the girl?” Adz asked.
“You control them with your mind,” Simons simply said. “You think where you want the drone to go, and it will go there. In anticipation of this mission, I have taken the liberty of programming these individual drones to follow your own specific brainwaves, but they will also respond to me.”
Simons looked from Adz to Jay. “And, as to how they will help you, that is an easy answer. Like most drones, these have tiny cameras attached to them. You will be able to scout larger areas and also follow her with these, once you find her, allowing you to observe her from a distance and learn the best way to bring her in without harming her or yourselves,” Simons paused. “I don’t need to remind you that this mission could be extremely dangerous, and I am trusting you with a lot, boys.”
They both understood.
“Practice using your drones tonight. They should be easy to control.”
Jay and Adz took control of their tiny drones. They were easy to fly, and fast too.
“How do we play the footage back?” Adz asked.
Jay, however, was playing with his drone, flying it around the room at great speed, diving through the posts on his bed and testing its agility, smiling like a big kid.
“There is a button on the side and once pressed will play a hologram to you. If the drone is flying and you would like a live feed, use these.” Simons handed both of them a strange pair of sunglasses. “The image will appear on the inside of the sunglasses.”
Adz put on his glasses, and the image of their room appeared in front of his eyes on the lenses of the sunglasses.
“Whoa!” Jay exclaimed, looking at Adz. The glasses had expanded, and now took up half of his face. They had also sprouted a headphone which was hanging down, echoes of the sounds in the room playing through it quietly. “That’s amazing. We’ll feel like spies.”
“With all the real dangers, yes.” Simons agreed. “If you need me at all, just press the red button on the side of the glasses. It will contact me, and I will also be shown live feeds from your drones when you press it.” He turned to leave the room. “I have to leave now, so good luck. A taxi will be here at seven tomorrow to take you to the train station.”
Simons left the room, leaving Jay and Adz to practice with their drones and continue packing.
During the next week, Lee learned a lot.
Bree taught her about the best places to go pickpocketing and the best people to take from. From the beginning, Lee decided she would only take from someone who looked very well off and always make sure she was not spotted or caught.
After a few times of watching and studying Bree, Lee had a go.
As it turned out, the red-head was a natural. She managed to steal a rich man’s wallet without him even knowing she was there. Upon close inspection, they found the wallet contained one hundred pounds.
“Not bad,” Bree praised.
Bree also showed Lee all the places not to steal from, making it clear that most shops had CCTV cameras, and it would not be smart to steal with one around. For this reason, Bree said if she needed something from a specific shop, or if she needed food, she should buy it, but that the markets were good for getting free clothes.
Both girls were sitting on a pillar each in Covent Garden where they watched a street performer juggling a chainsaw while riding a unicycle.
They had been all over London that day and even bought clothes to work out in after Lee complained of being too unfit every time they had to make a run for it.
Sitting watching the man juggle, while eating the sandwich Lee had bought from the shop around the corner, Lee piped up with the question that had been burning on her mind for the last week, ever since she met Bree, “If you don’t mind me asking, Bree, how did you come to live here, on the streets?”
Bree stopped eating her tuna wrap straight away and looked at Lee.
“I’ve never told anyone,” she said, looking a little sheepish.
“Come on, Bree. I told you about me.” Lee pushed. She was curious to know and it was the one thing Bree never told her.
“I don’t know.” She was hesitant.
“We’re friends, right?” Lee smiled at her. It was true. In the last couple of days together, Bree and Lee had become very close friends.
“Yeah, but you’ll think less of me if I tell you,” she said.
“I could never think less of you,” Lee encouraged.
“Alright, but not here,” Bree said. “Let’s go home and I’ll tell you there.”
They hurried back to the flat and climbed in through the window.
Once Bree had closed it behind her, she turned to look at Lee, a worried expression on her face. “I don’t want you to think less of me,” she repeated.
“Bree, I promise, I won’t,” Lee encouraged. She couldn’t think of anything Bree could say that would make her think less of the only friend she had ever had.
“Okay,” Bree said, as she sank into one of the beanbags and removed her shoes.
“I’ll make drinks, then you can tell me everything,” Lee said.
She went into the kitchen and turned the kettle on.
Lee played with her hair as she waited for the kettle to boil. Her hair had grown longer and was now below her shoulders and almost level with her armpits. It had grown quickly, but her hair always did. She twirled it around her fingers until she heard the click of the kettle.
A few minutes later, Lee entered the living room with two cups of minty hot chocolate, both with little marshmallows floating on top. It was Bree’s favourite drink, and Lee knew it would cheer her up.
Her face instantly lit up as the smell of mint and chocolate filled the room. She took it from Lee, who took the position on one of the other beanbags, also removing her shoes.
It had grown darker outside, so Lee turned on the lamp next to her as Bree began telling her story.
“I guess it started before I was born. See, I never knew my father. He was in the army, and he died while he was away in another country and my mother was still pregnant with me. Life was good when I was little, aside from having no father, but my mum and I were happy. We had my father’s insurance money to live on, and she was holding down a part-time job, while looking after me, too.”
“When I started school, mum took up a full-time job, and we got a bigger house. Up until then, we had been living in a small one bedroomed place, but when we moved I got my own room. It was after, maybe a year, of living in our new house, when my mum met a man. He seemed nice at first.”
Bree took a sip of her hot chocolate. “I think I was about seven when he moved in with us. He was nice when mum was around at first, but when she wasn’t there, he would shout at me and call me names. I have a thick skin, so I brushed most of it off and mum loved him, so I had to tolerate him for her sake.”
“It was when he started turning on my mum that I got mad. One day, I saw him hit her, right across the face. I mean, I’d seen bruises on her arms and legs before, but mum was always clumsy and walking into things. I then started to wonder how many of her bruises were caused by him. His abuse towards me then became physical too, and he hit me. He would throw things at me, too. He became a slob and a bully, and insisted on me calling him Dad.”
“I was ten when my mum died of cancer. She became very ill very quickly, not helped by him making her do things for him, cook, clean, work, all while he sat on his fat ass, eating and drinking himself into a drunken state.”
Bree paused, clearly calming the anger which was boiling up inside her. She took another sip of her chocolate drink.
Lee kept silent, listening carefully to every word Bree said.
“Once mum died, I took over all the chores. Not because I wanted to, but because if I didn’t do it, no one would, and he would beat me if I didn’t cook or clean.”
“Then, one day, it all came to a climax. I was sick and tired of being bossed around by that bully, and I snapped. I shouted back at him. Telling him if he wanted food, he could get off his lazy ass and get it himself. He got really mad and stormed into the kitchen, an angry look on his round face, steam practically pouring from his ears. He lunged at me, and I reacted in self-defence.”
Bree paused again, staring off into space, sweating a little as she remembered the events which followed.
“It was the day before my thirteenth birthday, you know?”
“Bree, what did you do?” Lee asked softly.
“I… I killed him. Stabbed him through the heart with the kitchen knife I was holding. He just dropped to the floor, bleeding.” She rushed her words. “I didn’t know what to do. I just ran.” Tears were welling up in her eyes.
Lee got up from her beanbag and moved to her instantly, holding her as she cried.
It was horrible watching Bree cry.
She was such a strong person, and she’d had such a terrible life.
Lee put her to bed, reassuring her over and over again that she did not think any less of her.
She left Bree in the bedroom, puffy eyed and tired, but the crying had stopped at least.
Lee thought it wasn’t the act of killing the horrible man who became her guardian after her mum died that made her cry, it was the idea that Bree might lose her only friend.
Lee knew this because it was her worst fear too.
The sun would be going down soon, and Jay and Adz had spent the majority of the day on the train. They had to catch three different trains to get to London.
The Institute was situated in northern Scotland, and as a result, it took more than one change to reach the capital of England.
Their first train had been delayed, something about a fallen tree on the tracks, meaning they missed their train to London. After waiting another hour for a train, Jay and Adz were finally able to continue their journey.
However, they were unable to sit in any of the seats, as their tickets were not valid for reservation, and had to stand all the way from Glasgow to London.
When they finally arrived at London at three in the afternoon, they exited the train and made their way down to the underground.
Adz had decided they should purchase their Oyster cards then, before heading to the hotel as he thought it would be easier.
He was wrong.
They both had the joy of waiting in a long queue of people who all had the exact same idea.
It was half past four when Jay and Adz had finally checked in at the hotel and put their bags in the room.
It was a large room, with two double beds and a sofa. The facilities were basic, but it was all they needed. They had a strong internet connection, and the room had plenty of storage.
They did not know how long they were going to be staying in the hotel, and they were booked in as being in London on business.
Adz had a feeling the hotel manager knew the truth, though, from the way he looked at them when he welcomed them to the hotel, showing them their room personally.
It probably meant he was informed by the Institute of their arrival and he knew about their mission, which was a good thing in case they needed some backup.
Adz told Jay they would have to keep anything which might lead to suspicion of either of them, with them at all times or hide it very well.
Simons had given them a lockable case, which they would use for the weapons they’d brought, but this in itself might look suspicious to the maintenance and cleaning staff.
Adz suggested they should not start their search for the Hemplesworth girl until the next day. “It’ll be like looking for a needle in a haystack anyway,” he said.
“And it will be getting dark soon. Besides, I’m knackered,” Jay agreed with him.
They instead took themselves off to Leicester Square, after working out the tube system and finding out which line to take, to a pizza house they’d been told was good.
The restaurant they found themselves in served the best pizza either of them had ever tasted. Neither of them had eaten all day, and the cheesy dough hit the spot.
“So where do we start looking?” Jay wondered, his mouth full of pizza.
“I don’t know,” Adz answered. “Where would you go if you were in London?”
“We are in London.” Jay was confused by the question.
“I mean if you were her?” Adz took a bite of his Cajun chicken pizza. “She’s with another girl right? Or she was in that picture.”
“Do you think they’re staying together?” Jay asked.
“I think so, yeah.” Adz took out the picture of the two girls. It was CCTV footage, and the blonde was the only one in focus. “We could start with her. Ask if anyone around knows her,” Jay agreed.
“Tomorrow, though. I’m beat.”
“Tomorrow,” Adz agreed then called for the bill and they left the restaurant feeling full and satisfied.
By the time they got back to the hotel, it was pitch dark. They were both tired, but still had work to do before the next day.
Jay headed into the shower first, leaving Adz to inspect the guns, making sure they both had full clips. They did, and although Adz doubted they would need to use them, he was going to make sure he had his on him the whole time.
Jay was fantastic at hand to hand combat, he’d grown up learning it, but Adz was not as good. If they got into a fist fight, he wouldn’t stand much of a chance. He was, however, extremely athletic and flexible. He could outrun almost anyone, and his gymnastic skills were second to none.
Adz picked Jay’s jacket up off the floor and felt something hard in the back. Upon closer inspection, it appeared Jay had brought his sword with him.
It was in a special casing which made it look smaller, some kind of magic sword Simons had acquired for him. It didn’t look like anything but was deadly sharp when out of its sheath.
Adz laughed. Of course, Jay was going to bring the sword. He never expected anything less.
Once both men had showered, talk turned to tactics.
“So we start early tomorrow morning,” Adz started. Although Jay was the one who had been with the Institute the longest, it was usually Adz who took charge of situations. He was more level headed and by far the most mature.
As he spoke, Jay had flown his drone out of the hotel window and was intently watching something through his glasses.
“Are you even paying attention at all?” Adz asked.
“Shh…” Jay hushed Adz.
“What do you mean shh? This is important Jay,” Adz said. He was about to continue but stopped himself. Jay wasn’t paying him any attention at all and Adz knew Jay could have a short attention span, but this seemed like more than that.
He walked over to Jay and pressed the button on the side of Jay’s glasses, projecting the image for him to see as well. Sound soon followed, and Jay removed the glasses from his face.
Outside the window, the drone hovered steadily in the air. Jay had good control of it.
He’d positioned the drone behind a large potted plant, so it wouldn’t be spotted easily. Although he had a short attention span, and he was edging on the side of immature, Jay was not stupid.
The lobby of the hotel was almost empty. It was late, close to midnight and the guests staying at the hotel were all tucked up in bed.
A young man stood in the lobby. He looked to be about the same age as Jay and Adz. He was well toned for someone so young and showed off his large arms and toned chest by wearing a tight, black top. His hair was dark and messy, but in that bad boy way that made young girls swoon. He had a strong jawline, and near perfect features, with deep green eyes, with just a hint of gold in them.
He looked like the epitome of the perfect man, but his attitude was off as he stood in front of the reception desk, his arms folded across his chest, making the muscles on his arms more prominent. “I demand to speak to the manager,” he said, his deep voice louder than it needed to be.
The pretty receptionist was flustered and nervous.
Since flirting with the blonde receptionist didn’t work, the man instead resorted to intimidation.
“I’m sorry, Sir, but the manager will be asleep now. If you leave your name and number, I will ask him to call you as soon as he is able.” She was stuttering, her nerves and confusion getting to her, and it was obvious that the young man was becoming more and more agitated.
“Now listen here, girl,” he said to her, unfolding his arms just a little. “You call your manager and you tell him I need to speak with him now. Tell him Kane sent me.”
The receptionist, feeling defeated and scared, picked up the phone and dialled her manager’s number.
“Did I just hear him right?” Jay asked, turning to Adz.
“If you heard the name, Kane, then, yeah, you heard right.” He scowled. “Can’t be the same person, though, can it?
“Let’s keep listening, see what we can find out.”
“Yes, Sir. Sorry to wake you, Mr Mason… There’s a man here to see you… I know it’s late Sir… He says Kane sent him, told me to…” The receptionist paused, listening to her manager.
The young man waiting at the front desk had a smug look on his face. He crossed his arms tighter and puffed up his chest.
“Sent by the Kane we know or not, I already hate this guy,” Jay spat.
“Yes, Sir,” The receptionist said before she put down the phone. She turned to the man. “He’d like you to wait here and says he’ll be down shortly. Would you like a coffee?” She offered.
“No, thank you.” Mr Charming was back. “But I would like your number.” He winked at her. “What’s your name?”
“Maria.” The receptionist blushed.
“Maria.” He let the name roll off his tongue. “A beautiful name for a beautiful girl. My name’s Jacob, pleased to meet you.”
“What a sleaze,” Jay said. “I can’t believe she’s falling for that act.”
“Jay?” Adz said, pulling Jay’s attention away from the hologram in front of them for a moment.
“What if he was sent by the same Kane? He could be a werewolf,” he said in a serious tone. “What do we do if he is?”
“I’d love to say we apprehend him and take him back to the Institute, but we have other work to do. I think we just leave him be.”
Jay was about to turn off the hologram, but Adz stopped him.
“Hold up,” Adz said.
“I thought we were going to do nothing?” Jay said. “That’s the smart thing to do, right? That’s what Simons would want us to do?”
“Yeah, it’s totally the smart thing to do,” Adz agreed with a slight glint in his eye. “But if we listen in on their conversation, we might be able to find out more about the Hemplesworth girl, and maybe even where Kane is now.”
Jay had the same mischievous smile on his face now.
They agreed they wouldn’t intervene with the man’s plans, but instead use the drones to get information from him without him even knowing.
The manager arrived from the lift looking flustered and red. He clearly was not expecting Jacob to turn up in his hotel in the middle if the night.
Jay and Adz focused on the hologram again.
The manager stepped briskly towards the young man, holding out his right hand to shake, although there was sweat beading his forehead and his hands looked sweaty. “Arnold Mason,” he said as he took the young intruders hand, shaking it firmly.
“Jacob,” he said a smile on his face. The manager’s hand felt sweaty. He was nervous and for good reason. “You know why I’m here, I take it?”
“Should we take this to a more private room?” Arnold said, his nerves clearly getting to him.
“It’s quiet here.” Jacob smiled.
“Yes, Sir,” Arnold said.
The receptionist was shocked by this. Her manager, the small greying man who ran the hotel, the man who commanded so much respect from his employees, was calling someone no older than herself, Sir.
“Maria, please lock the front door, lock the lift and then leave us. I will contact you in due time,” he said without looking at her.
The receptionist did as she was told, then exited the reception area, very confused and a little scared.
Now alone in the foyer of the hotel, the two men began to talk.
Jay and Adz listened intently to the conversation.
“Not to mean offence in any way, Jacob, but what is Kane doing sending a pup out to do his work?” Arnold asked.
Jacob didn’t seem to like this word, pup. It implied he was too young to be working solo, away from the pack.
“He sent me because I am the best.” Jacob bristled, boosting his own ego.
“The best he has left,” Arnold said, a little under his breath.
Jacob heard this but pretended he did not. “He sent me for information,” Jacob continued.
“That I understand,” Arnold said. “What I don’t quite get is why he didn’t come himself. Kane has never had a problem with coming here and…” He was cut off.
Jacob had launched himself at the hotel manager, seizing him by the throat and lifting him, with one hand, clean off the ground. “Don’t think for a second, you Faye scum I won’t snap your neck right now,” Jacob spat.
Jay and Adz looked at each other in shock. They had no idea the hotel manager was Faye, but it made sense now.
They turned back to the hologram to see Jacob putting Arnold back down on the ground. He gasped for breath while Jacob continued to talk. “As you well know, the pack was hit hard earlier this month.” Jacob started pacing as he spoke, ignoring Arnold’s gasps for breath. “Luckily, half the pack, including myself, were away from the castle at the time of the attack. Two things were lost that night.” He laughed a little. “Well, two things of any importance anyway. Our pack master was taken, and so was Annaleah.”
Jay and Adz looked at one another again. They finally had a name to go on.
“Kane managed to escape the Araxx and is now in hiding. He cannot talk with you himself because the Araxx is still looking for him, and he can’t be seen in public.”
“So what information do you need?” Arnold finally managed to ask.
Jacob turned to him, a smile on his face so evil it could only have come from him.
“I need information on Annaleah,” he said. “And before you try telling me you know nothing, I know the Araxx are searching for her too.”
Both Jay and Adz breathed a sigh of relief. They both thought they’d been found out, but Jacob was specific. He clearly knew something, but not who was sent or where they were staying.
Jacob continued. “If you get any information on where she is… If you see her, hear her, smell her or have the faintest whisper of her whereabouts, you tell me first. Got that?” He spat.
Arnold nodded, saying nothing.
Jacob then left, saying nothing more about his reason for being in London
Jay shut off the hologram.
“Do you think he knows we’re here?” Jay asked.
“No,” Adz said with confidence. “He would have said something if he knew we were in the hotel. He seems like the cocky type who would brag about being able to kill us if he knew we were here.”
“What do you think we should we do?”
“We need to tell Simons. He needs to know his suspicions were right and that Kane is in London too, looking for the girl.” With that, Adz hit the button on the side of the glasses which called Simons.
Simons watched the hologram from the beginning and listened as Jay and Adz explained everything, then sat quietly for a while. When he finally spoke, Simons sounded worried, “I don’t like this at all boys.”
“Well, it’s not good, but they don’t know it’s us, and they don’t know where we are,” Jay started.
“So as long as we keep a low profile…” Adz continued.
Simons cut him off. “No. I don’t like it al all.” He was looking very sombre. “I’m pulling you off this mission.”
“What?” They both chorused. It was their first mission, and they were excited to be given an opportunity to prove themselves.
“You can’t pull us off. This is our mission.” Jay was becoming angry.
Adz sat in silence, thinking it over.
“I’m sorry, boys, but I can’t risk anything happening to you. This mission has become too dangerous.”
“But, Sir…” Jay started.
“That’s enough!” Simons shouted, stopping Jay from his complaint. “I will not hear another word from you about this. I’m pulling you from the mission. Stay in the hotel until your train tickets arrive. I will order them now, and they will be with you by tomorrow.”
“Yes, Sir,” Adz said.
“But…” A dig in the ribs from Adz shut Jay up quickly. “Sir,” he said instead.
Simons ended the call, leaving Jay to open up a torrent of rage. He shouted for a good couple of minutes about how unfair it was for him and Adz to be sent home, and how he could easily take on the werewolf—no problem.
Jay was getting more and more irate the more he shouted and complained, and all the while Adz just sat on his bed, watching the news.
“Adz?” Jay asked after his complaining calmed down to a moan. “Aren’t you mad about being sent back?”
Adz just smiled, leaning back against his bed head, his arms folded behind his head. “We’re not going home.”
“What do you mean we’re not going home? You heard what Simons said,” Jay started, but something about the look on Adz face told him he had a plan.
“Jay, do you remember where I was before the Institute found me?”
“Course I do. You came from an orphanage, didn’t you?” Jay said, knowing he was right because he was there to pick him up too.
“Yeah. Well, I’ve been keeping a secret from you, and from everyone at the Institute,” Adz said.
Jay moved from where he was standing to sit on the bed opposite Adz. He had a feeling the story Adz was about to tell might be a long one.
“You have to promise to keep my secret though Jay, I mean it.”
“If your secret is that you’ve been stealing my hair gel for the last five years, I already know,” Jay joked.
“Jay, I’m being serious. There are more lives at stake with this secret than just mine,” Adz said.
This took Jay by surprise. Lives at stake? What was that suppose to mean? “Sorry man. Serious Jay is in the room,” he said.
“Maybe it’s easier to show you, rather than talk. You up for a move?”
“What have we got to lose?” Jay smiled at his friend.
Disobeying Simons’ orders and leaving the hotel was the most dangerous thing Jay and Adz had done so far in their short lives.
They both knew the consequences of their actions. They could be kicked out of the Araxx, sent away, have all memories of the supernatural world wiped from their memories and be made to live normal lives.
While this doesn’t sound too bad to you or me, the supernatural was all Jay and Adz had.
Neither of them had any family, but both of them knew finding the girl was more important than them.
All they had to do was find the girl before the Institute found them.
Adz took it upon himself to take the trackers out of all of their electronic devices. Jay hadn’t realised they were being tracked, but the Institute were never going to send two inexperienced young people into the middle of London without knowing where they were at all times.
The tracking devices were tiny, about the size of a five pence piece, and one was hidden in both their phones, the glasses and the drones. They were the hardest thing to put back together, but Adz was a bit of a whiz with technology.
Jay opened the window wide enough for the two of them to climb through.
“A good way down, Looks like we’re rock climbing,” Adz said looking down to the ground below.
They had experience climbing buildings, and one’s like this were easy. The bricks were wide set, and there were plenty of windows and ledges to use as footholds. It would be slow going to get down, but not too difficult.
“No need,” Jay said. “There’s a fire escape two floors down. We can jump it.” With that, Jay took a tight hold on his bags and jumped down.
A metallic clang was the first sound Adz heard. Adz smiled. He knew Jay was reckless. He, himself, would have thought about it for a minute or two, trying to gauge if the jump was safe before he just leapt through the window but Jay was a risk taker.
Adz followed his lead and jumped from the window to the fire escape below.
Once they were on the ground, they looked back at the hotel before turning towards the tube station.
“So what are you taking me to see?” Jay asked.
“Not what.” Adz smiled. “Who.”
Jay looked confused.
“I shouldn’t talk about it here. It’ll be easier when you meet him.” Adz took out his phone, now bug-free, and dialled a number. “Gray, yeah, it’s me. Where are you?” Then there was a pause. “Be there in less than an hour.” Adz put the phone down.
Jay was beyond confused but decided he would trust Adz.
The tube was fairly quiet that early in the morning, and Jay and Adz were able to travel on them in peace. The carriage they were in only had a couple of other people on it at just after 1 am, and they looked to be homeless, sleeping on the train to stay warm.
“It must be hard,” Jay said sadly.
“What must be?” Adz was oblivious to the sleeping homeless people.
“Being homeless in a place like this.” He looked to his friend. “Have you ever lived on the streets?”
This was a tough topic and it wasn’t one Adz liked to talk about, but this morning everything felt different. “I was lucky enough not to ever live on the streets, but the friend we are going to see now did for a few years,” Adz said.
“Who is he?”
“That’s where it gets complicated, he…” Adz was about to continue when the train stopped at a station and the doors opened.
A familiar face appeared, joined by two other people.
It was Jacob, and he had a mean look on his face. He took a seat a couple of rows from Jay and Adz.
His two companions were clearly werewolves too.
“That Faye bastard was lying, I know he was,” Jacob said.
Neither Jay nor Adz could believe their ears. This werewolf was talking so boldly about the supernatural in public, and although the tube was quiet, there were still people around.
“I know he knows.”
“About the girl or the Araxx?” One of the other beta’s asked.
“Both,” Jacob sneered. “I know there will be more than one Araxx in London now they know the girl is here somewhere, and I wouldn’t put it past the Faye to know where Annaleah is too.”
“So what are we going to do?” The same man asked.
“What do you think we’re going to do, Aaron?” Jacob asked sarcastically, but before either of his betas could answer, he said it himself. “We’re going to kill the Araxx if we see them, and bring Annaleah back alive.”
“And what if she doesn’t come easy?” The other man asked.
“Then we use force, Tom,” Jacob said. “You two really are thick, aren’t you?” He said rhetorically.
Adz couldn’t help thinking how Jacob was the stupid one, talking so openly when he had no idea who was on the train with him.
“So what do you think the Araxx looks like then? Who are they?” Aaron asked.
“Like the rest of them. They’d be experienced, skilled and we’d recognise them a mile off,” Jacob sneered. He turned to look at Aaron then started laughing. “You can’t tell me you’re afraid of a couple of humans!”
Aaron seemed hurt by this.
Adz looked over to Jay who was clenching his fists in anger. “Cool it,” Adz whispered to him.
“Come on, Jacob, you have to admit it’s worrying. You saw what they did to the pack back at the castle, they killed everyone,” Aaron said.
“They were weak!” Jacob raised his voice. “Kane left humans and weak werewolves guarding her. It was the only reason why she escaped so easily. If I was there, the Araxx scum would all be dead, and Annaleah would not have gotten away.”
The tube stopped again and a group of women entered the carriage, slightly drunk and dressed for a hen party.
Jacob stood up immediately and walked over to one of them. The flirting commenced.
“Funny how his attitude to ‘humans’ change when a pretty one walks in,” Jay said under his breath.
Adz didn’t speak.
The other werewolves were watching them. They’d clearly seen Jay’s odd behaviour.
“Come on,” Adz said. “We get off here.” Before the door of the carriage could close, they left the train.
“I feel wrong leaving those women there with the werewolves,” Jay said. “They might get killed.”
“There are cameras on those trains, and Jacob will know it. They won’t do anything to draw the attention of the police to themselves unnecessarily,” Adz reassured him. “Come on, Gray should be waiting for us.”
Jay and Adz exited the tube station at Camden Town and walked out into the street.
“What does this friend of yours look like then?” Jay asked, but his question was answered as he turned around.
A young man, possibly only a year or two older than Jay, was standing with his arms folded on the other side of the road. He unfolded them and crossed the road towards them without looking. There was little traffic on the roads at this time of the morning, but it gave him the impression of being bad-ass.
The first thing Jay noticed was the man’s hair. It would have been the first thing anyone noticed when they looked at Gray. His hair was bright orange, with flecks of yellow, golden and red mixed in. It almost looked as though his head was on fire. He had fairly long hair, long on top and down the back, all stuck up at strange angles, like fire, with shorter sides.
Jay also noticed Gray’s eyebrows were the same colour as his hair. The next thing Jay noticed was that, even though there was a slight nip in the air, Gray was only wearing shorts and a vest. His skin was also heavily tattooed, with both arms and one of his legs adorned with inky patterns.
“Been a long time, Adz,” Gray said in a deep, warm voice.
He and Adz embraced in a manly hug with slaps on the back.
“Nice to see you again, brother,” Adz said.
The next day, Bree seemed much better.
Although her eyes were still a little puffy from crying the night before, she hid them well with make-up.
Lee decided it would be best if she didn’t mention Bree’s past again even if it didn’t make her feel any different about Bree. She was still her best friend.
After a hearty breakfast of Granola and fruit, the two of them went for a run. It was their usual route, from the flat they lived in, towards Camden, through the market and back again.
Bree took great pleasure in pointing out all the men she found attractive, and there were quite a lot of them in London.
There were three men in particular who caught Bree’s attention that morning when she’d stopped to catch her breath while Lee kept going.
Lee was going to run around the block again, then meet Bree where she left her so they could warm down and go back up to their flat to get cleaned up.
Lee’s fitness level had improved dramatically, and Bree was surprised at how well she was doing so quickly.
Bree was standing in the street, doubled over catching her breath when she saw them the three young men leaving a building on the other side of the road. They looked to be about her age, and all three of them were attractive in their own way.
The first man had jet black hair, a little long and shaggy. His features were cold and sharp, but perfect all the same. He was tall and slim, but defined muscles could be seen clearly through the tight arms of his long-sleeved top and he was holding a leather jacket in his hand.
The second man was taller by a few inches and built stronger than the first. His skin had an oriental tinge to it, and his hair was dyed blonde, the natural brown showing a little underneath. He had softer features, but not the usual small eyes of the oriental. Bree decided it was possible only one of his parents were of Japanese origin. He too was wearing a tight top, but he was wearing a leather jacket over the top.
The third man was the strangest, but in Bree’s eyes, also the most attractive. He was between the heights of the other two, with pale skin and pretty plain features. Not too muscular, nor too scrawny, but just how Bree liked her men. He, however, had bright orange hair, like fire. It was only after his hair caught her attention that she saw his tattoos. She realised she knew him. He was a famous DJ in the area and she was excited to tell Lee when she came back.
Just as the thought popped into her mind, Lee ran around the corner, her face almost as red as her hair.
Lee got to Bree just as the men were going around the corner and out of sight.
“You just missed them!” Bree exclaimed.
“Missed who?” Lee puffed. “What are you talking about?”
“Three of the most beautiful men I have ever seen.” She sighed, collapsing into the wall she was standing next to. She paused for a second before pure joy and excitement filled her blue eyes. “I know what were doing tonight.”
“What?” Lee laughed. The joy on Bree’s face was comical.
“You and I are going clubbing,” she proposed.
“Clubbing?” Lee wasn’t sure. After all, she was under-age and had never been clubbing before.
“Nope, don’t say anything else.” Bree leapt up from her leaning position against the wall and took Lee by the arm. “Let’s get showered, then we are going shopping.”
A few hours later, Bree and Lee were at Stratford, for clothes.
Bree, who was still the best at pickpocketing, managed to nab them a couple of hundred pounds from the pocket of a very posh looking man on the tube. She was very adept at taking without anyone noticing.
Lee made a mental note to ask her how many times she’d been caught, when they were away from prying ears, of course.
Top-shop was Bree’s favourite place to go shopping for clothes. She picked out clothes for both herself and Lee.
Lee was going to wear a tight fitted black dress with cut-outs at the sides and a low back, showing off how slim she was and the flawlessness of her pale skin, as well as a pair of strapped black heels. Even though she’d put on some weight since meeting Bree, she still had an attractive body shape most women would die for.
Lee tried the outfit on and stood in front of the mirror in the cubicle looking at herself. The dress was beautiful, but Lee was not sure about how it looked on her. There was so much flesh showing, and the dress came up to mid-thigh height, much shorter than anything else she’d ever worn. In fact, Lee never showed her legs, nor her arms, nor her back, and she was feeling a little uncomfortable at the lack of fabric.
“Let’s see then,” Bree said, her voice full of glee as she pulled back the satin curtain.
Bree looked beautiful in her dress, nude coloured, and a similar style to Lee’s dress, except the front, was lower and the back was slightly higher. She was wearing midnight blue strapped heels, probably an inch taller than Lee’s, extenuating her already long legs.
“Wow,” they both said in unison.
“No really, Lee, that dress looks amazing on you,” Bree said, smiling. “You will really break hearts tonight.”
“So will you,” Lee said. “But do I really have to show so much skin?”
“Wait here,” Bree said, before leaving the cubicle.
She wasn’t gone long, and when she returned, she had the perfect solution. “Try this.” She handed Lee a piece of thin see-through fabric.
Lee pulled it on over the dress. It was a cardigan made of sheer black material so the dress and Lee’s skin could be seen clearly through it, but it was also thick enough to cover her up and make Lee more comfortable in the dress. The cardigan had three-quarter sleeves, and came down below knee-length, with a pretty lace trim on the edges of the sleeves and the bottom of the garment.
“Perfect.” Bree smiled, and Lee agreed with her.
Shopping was fun, and the next place they stopped at was Superdrug. They needed make-up, and Bree said Superdrug was the best place to go.
As they were walking down the aisles inside the shopping centre, Lee heard something she hoped she would never hear again. It brought butterflies to her stomach, both good and bad.
“Bree, we gotta go,” Lee said urgently.
“It’s just around this corner Lee, come on,” she said before turning to face Lee. When Bree saw the expression on Lee’s face, she stopped in her tracks. “What’s wrong?”
“An ex,” Lee fumbled. “I heard his voice and I really don’t want him to see me.”
Bree could tell there was real fear in her voice.
“Which way was the voice coming from?” Bree was eager to get Lee out of the uncomfortable situation by taking her in the opposite direction, but it was too late.
Jacob stepped around the corner, along with two men Lee did not recognise.
She froze, unable to move, just staring at him.
Bree pulled her to the side and into a photo booth, out of sight.
Jacob didn’t see her, but breathed in deeply, inhaling her scent. “She’s here,” he said. “I can smell her.”
Bree looked at Lee. They were both worried now.
Jacob sniffed the air again, then carried on walking, muttering something about there being too many smelly people in London.
“What on earth was that about?” Bree asked when the coast was clear again. “Is that really your ex?”
“I… Yeah. It’s complicated,” Lee said. “Can we go home now?”
“Sure,” Bree said, still worried about her friend and the ex who seemed so threatening.
“I never knew you had a brother,” Jay said.
Gray had led them into his flat where they were free to talk without interruption. “Adz, how come you never told me?”
“It’s complicated,” Adz said a little sheepishly.
“How complicated can it be?” He then started imitating Adz’s voice. “Hey Jay, just wanted to tell you I have a brother I haven’t seen in years. Just thought you might want to know seeing as you’re my best friend.” He sounded angry.
“It was too dangerous to tell anyone about Gray.” Adz gestured to his brother. “And besides, he’s my half-brother anyway, same mother, different father.”
“And what difference does that make. I’m your best friend, you could have told me this! I was hardly going to tell anyone. And why is it too dangerous for anyone to know about him anyway?” Jay was furious, shouting at the top of his lungs.
Gray was becoming impatient. He stood to the side with his arms crossed and rolled his eyes.
Just as Jay was about to open his mouth to allow another torrent of rage to fill the air, the surrounding room filled with fire, burning red and bright. Jay shouted out in fear, but when he looked to Adz and Gray for their reactions, both seemed perfectly calm.
The fire disappeared as quickly as it came, retreating into the fingertips of the man Adz called his brother.
“Warlock!” Jay shouted, pulling his gun from its holster and aiming at Gray. He pulled the trigger and fired, missing his target completely. He then simply stood there in shock. Jay had fired a gun many times, but never at someone.
“And this is why no one at the Institute knew about Gray.” Adz sighed as he clapped his hand to his face. “Everyone instantly sees he’s a warlock and then tries to kill him.”
“Half warlock, baby brother, I’m only half,” Gray spoke in a deep voice.
“But warlocks are…” Jay was lost for words. He was no longer pointing the gun at Gray, but he had not loosened his grip on it either. “They’re bad,” he finished his sentence.
“Only some are,” Adz explained. “Not all warlocks are bad, but most grow up that way. They are brought up by bad witches or warlocks, and so they turn dark. But as my brother was brought up in the human world with me, he was never taught dark magic. He only learned what came to him naturally.”
“I’ll correct you there, Adz,” Gray said, finally unfolding his arms and stepping forward. “Recently, I have been teaching myself spells and incantations from an old book I’ve found but you’re right, no dark magic.”
“How do we know we can trust him?” Jay asked as he pulled Adz to the side.
“Put it this way, if I wanted you dead, you would be gone by now,” Gray said.
Jay didn’t like this and took it as more of a threat than a statement. His entire body tensed up.
“Cool it, Jay. He’s not dangerous, not to us anyway.” Adz laughed.
There was clear tension between Jay and Gray, but it was understandable. Gray was a warlock, and warlocks were notorious for being unpredictable and for having issues with controlling their anger, but Gray was different.
When he was younger, Gray had problems with his temper, and would often get into fights with other children. He did not develop his abilities until he turned seven, and it was a shock to him when he found out. He didn’t know why he could do the things he could do, and Adz was the only one he could confide in.
They were already close, being half-brothers, but the intimacy which came from sharing such a large secret drew them even closer together.
Both were distraught when they were separated, and Adz promised he would always keep in touch.
After a few months at the Institute, when Adz had settled in and had an understanding of the supernatural world, he contacted his brother with news of what he was.
Adz became fascinated with warlocks and researched them as much as he could in his spare time. He looked at the different traits the warlocks in the books at the instituted had, and during his research, he found out who Gray’s father was.
During this period Gray’s aggression and short fuse became more of a problem. He became frustrated and angry at the smallest thing, and without his brother to calm him, he was becoming a danger to those around him.
Gray took up a multitude of sports in an attempt to maintain inner peace. The first thing he took up was yoga. This helped to relax him and release his stresses. He found that if he was becoming wound up, a simple yoga session and some breathing exercises would calm him down. This, however, was not always enough.
Sometimes the frustration in him built up so high he was simply too highly wound for the yoga to work. When he realised this, Gray decided to take up a physical sport. He started with kick boxing, then moved onto free running. He found that as well as keeping him fit, he was able to control his emotions, and these sports proved to be a great stress relief.
As the day drew on, and Gray opened up about how difficult things had been without his brother around, Jay began to relax a lot more.
He no longer saw Gray as a threat, and instead began to sympathise with him. “Okay, so maybe not all warlocks are bad,” he said as he lazed on the sofa in Gray’s flat. “So what can you actually do then? We’ve seen the fire, but can you do anything else?”
Gray burst out laughing. “Come on. I’ll show you,” Gray said, standing up and walking towards a heavily bolted door at the back of the room.
Gray’s flat looked to be all in one room, with the kitchen at the front, several sofas in the living room, a large TV on the wall, and a double bed at the back of the room.
There were only three doors in the room. One was the front door, another led into the closet and bathroom, but the other door was the strangest. Neither Jay nor Adz had noticed it before.
“What’s in there?” Adz asked.
“Just wait and see, little brother,” Gray said, mischief in his voice.
Gray stood in front of the heavy door.
“What are you waiting for, bro?” Adz asked.
“This door cannot be opened by someone without magic. I have to open it with an incantation.” He turned to look at the reaction of the other two. They both looked a little shell-shocked. “It means no one can get in or out of this room without me knowing about it.” He cleared his throat and waved his hands around.
After a few seconds of what looked like strange sign language, slithers of white smoke began to wisp from his fingertips. It weaved its way into the locks on the door.
With each inch the smoke seeped further into the locks, the locks on the door began to click, unlocking one at a time.
It was magical to watch, and in just under a minute, the door swung inwards, revealing a room within.
Gray invited them into the room with him.
The room was huge. The walls and floors were white, and it was hard to see where one began and the other ended, making the room seem oddly circular.
“Welcome to my training room,” Gray said as the huge door swung shut behind them.
“Wow!” Both Jay and Adz said at the same time.
“This is the only place in London I can practice my magic and not worry about being seen.” He stepped into the middle of the room and breathed in deeply, puffing his chest up and making himself look bigger. He breathed out sharply, and with this, a torrent of flames left his mouth, flying forward.
“You can breathe fire too?!” Adz shouted in surprise.
Jay was too shocked to say anything.
“I can do a lot more than that.” Gray laughed, rubbing his throat. “It burns a little, though, like heartburn.”
They all laughed at this.
“So come on, little brother. You told me many times they’ve taught you to fight, so show me.”
“Jay’s better at hand to hand,” Adz said. “I’m better with my gun.”
Gray took a remote control from his pocket and pressed a few buttons. There was a quiet mechanical noise, then the wall began to open. Inside was a multitude of different weapons; guns, swords, daggers, throwing stars, nun chucks and much more Adz and Jay did not know the name of.
Jay and Adz were like children in a sweet shop when they saw all the weapons.
Gray revealed everything else in the room, showing them the entire set-up he had with targets and dummy’s for practice, but there was one thing he had not yet shown them, and it was the most exciting of all.
“Hey, guys!” He called, interrupting them from practising with the nun-chucks.
Jay lost concentration and hit his own hand with one of the nun-chucks.
“Wanna see something really cool?” Gray asked as he threw a small wristband to both of them. “Put this on your left wrist.”
“What is it?” Jay asked as he pulled it around his wrist.
Almost before he finished asking, a person appeared in front of him, and one in front if Adz, too.
“Gray, what it this? More magic?” Adz asked.
“Not magic, per se, but it is one of my inventions.” Gray walked towards Adz and Jay, explaining the strange-looking men in front of them. “These are holograms,” Gray explained. “But not like any holograms you have seen before. Reach out to touch it,” He said.
Adz was a little nervous to do so, but Jay didn’t think twice. He put his hand forward, reaching for the hologram’s face. The man in front of him slapped his arm away, leaving Jay stunned. “It touched me.”
“That is where my holograms are special.” Gray smiled. It was the kind of smile that made women swoon and men feel intimidated. “I have infused the bands on your wrists with magic. These bands, when you put them on, connect with neurones in your brain, which then project the image you see in front of you. The same technology also creates the feeling you experience when they touch you.”
“So, are we the only people who can see them?” Adz asked.
Jay was already messing around with his hologram. He was mock fighting with it and losing.
“I have found that I can see them with or without the bands, as they are my creation, but to my knowledge, no one else can see or feel them without the bands.” Gray looked to Jay, who was struggling to get out of the headlock his hologram had put him in. “I use them for fight training, and you’re free to use them as well.”
“So how do you…?” Adz started.
“Programme them?” Gray laughed. “Just tell them what you want to do. They will respond to the voice of the wearer, and you can choose several programme types.” Jay’s hologram put him back down again as Gray waved his hand. “Try them out. I’ve got to get ready for tonight.”
“What’s happening tonight?” Jay asked, rubbing his neck where the hologram had pinned him.
“I’m the DJ at a local club tonight,” he said as he opened the door with magic again. “It’s going to be a wild night.”
Getting ready to go out was the most fun part for Lee, although she couldn’t escape the uneasy feeling she had in her stomach.
What was Jacob doing in London? Was it just a coincidence? Or did he know she was somewhere in the city? Either way, it was extremely unnerving.
How long would it be until he found her? She started to panic.
There was no way she could go back with him, no way she was ever going back to living in a cell.
Her breathing became rapid and shallow.
She could feel her face becoming hotter, and she didn’t know what was happening.
Bree walked into the room with her towel wrapped around her, fresh from the shower. “Bathroom’s free, Lee.” She trailed off when she saw her friend having a panic attack. She rushed over to her and sat down on the floor with her. “Breath, Lee, what’s wrong?”
“What if he finds me?” Lee stuttered, “I can’t go back. I can’t.”
It didn’t make a lot of sense to Bree. Lee had never really explained what had happened to her while she was homeless and before they met. She knew Lee lost her family, and that she’d been homeless for a while, but she didn’t know much more than that.
Bree made Lee comfortable on the floor and encouraged her to breathe deeply.
Once Lee was doing as instructed, Bree left for the kitchen, and returned a few minutes later with two cups if sweet iced tea.
“Have you calmed down now?” Bree asked as she handed Lee a cup.
Lee sipped the cool drink, nodding her head and sighing. “I’m sorry, Bree,” she said. “I shouldn’t get myself so worked up about.”
“I think you need to explain a little more, though,” Bree said. “What do you mean, you can’t go back?”
“It’s complicated,” Lee said. She was scared to tell Bree her history, but this girl had become her only friend, and Lee felt she trusted her enough to tell her everything. “Can I tell you after I get cleaned?”
“I’ll be right here, waiting to do your hair when you get out of the shower, then you can tell me all about it,” Bree said as she began towel drying her own hair.
In the shower, Lee scrubbed herself clean, washing away all her bad thoughts and memories with the hot water. Her hair was still leaking red dye, and it filled the bottom of the bath with a reddish colour. She swished her feet around in the coloured water, wondering if she stood there long enough if her feet would turn red as well.
The landlord who owned the building had mistakenly turned the heating on for the whole building, so Lee and Bree were using the built-in radiators rather than the storage heaters and it made their flat a lot warmer.
Lee’s towel was warming on the radiator while she was showering, and by the time she finished, it was toasty warm and soft as cotton wool.
She pulled the towel around herself and breathed in the warm smell. The smell of freshly washed towel warmed through and full of the scent of flowers filled her nostrils. It was a heavenly smell, and the one she liked best. Recently, she’d learned to appreciate nice smells, clean clothes and good food after all those years of the exact opposite.
When Lee left the bathroom, she found Bree sitting in front of the mirror with a pair of straighteners in her hand. Bree always looked best with curly hair, and she was just about finished doing hers.
The multi tones of her blonde hair shone in the bright light coming in through the window, and it bounced so beautifully when she moved. Bree was still wearing her towel, not wanting to get her outfit dirty before going out. She had not done her make-up yet and said this would be the last thing she did after she put her dress on.
Lee walked over to her, with badly towel dried hair, and sat down on the floor next to her.
“My god, girl.” Bree laughed. “When are you going to learn to brush the knots out your hair yourself?”
“But you promised,” Lee reminded her, giving Bree her puppy dog eyes.
“I know, and you know I don’t mind.” Bree started combing the knots out of Lee’s hair as she spoke, “It’s kinda like having a little sister.”
Lee never had any siblings, but being with Bree felt how she imagined having a sister would feel.
“What’s up ginger nut? Are you going to tell me what happened earlier? Why the panic attack?” Bree asked.
“It’s got to do with how I ended up living on the streets,” she said.
Bree stopped brushing her hair. “I don’t need to know if you don’t want to tell me.” Bree smiled an understanding smile.
“You told me your story.” Lee paused. “I owe you to tell you mine.”
“It started when I was very young, maybe five or six, I don’t really remember how old I was. I do remember the fire, though.”
Both Bree and Lee looked down at the angry scar on her right arm.
“The flames were everywhere, burning our house down. My mother came into the room and picked me up, carrying me through the flames and out of the building. I don’t remember her face any more.”
“Oh, that’s sad.” Bree sighed.
Lee continued, “I saw my father outside the house, but he was already dead, on the ground. There were people everywhere, loads of them. And Kane…” Lee’s voice trailed off, going white and hollow.
“Lee?” Bree asked after a minute of pure silence.
Lee snapped out of her trance and continued, “Long story short, Kane killed my mother and kidnapped me. They left my family to burn and took me with them.”
“For the next god knows how many years, they kept me in a cell with dirty walls and bars on the windows, heavy doors and guards 24/7. It was horrible. Kane would question me most days, ask where it was. I don’t even know what it was supposed to be that he was looking for!” Lee stood up. “Then he came.”
“That guy from the shopping centre?” Bree was stunned.
“Yeah, him. He was amazing, Bree. He came into my cell and he was so nice to me. I must have been about twelve or thirteen, and he was the nicest person I had ever met.” Lee had a smile on her face. “He called me beautiful, said I was the best thing to happen to him, and he called me his girl. He was sweet and sensitive and kind, and I fell in love with him. Then he also started asking questions… Strange questions about ‘it’ and I didn’t know the answer. When I couldn’t answer the question he got nasty and he hit me. Then he just stopped visiting me.” Lee sat down. “It was all mind games. He would ignore me, then be nice and visit all the time, then he’d be mean and violent. I didn’t know what to think.”
“So how did you get away?” Bree asked.
“I broke out, ran away and came to London. I met you and I couldn’t be happier.” Lee was smiling again.
“Lee, that’s awful,” Bree said, throwing her arms around Lee. “Are you sure you’re still okay to go out tonight?”
“Yeah. I’ll be fine.” She genuinely did feel better about things, happier in herself, and less frightened, knowing that Bree knew everything about her.
Bree couldn’t help thinking about Lee while they got ready to go out. Sure, her life hadn’t been great, but at least her troubles ended when she killed her stepfather, Lee’s problems were literally following her around. She wondered why Jacob would have followed Lee to London, or how he even knew she was there, but thought it best not to ask too many questions.
Lee had opened up to her, and although Bree would never have asked her outright why and how she ended up on the streets, she was curious. She had so many questions, but given Lee’s fragile state, thought better of it.
The club was like nothing Lee had ever seen, and she wasn’t even inside yet.
The night was dark, and there was a chill in the air, but Lee was shivering for a different reason. There were so many people outside the club, all older than her, and they all seemed so confident in their bodies.
Women giggled and men wolf whistled at them. Most of the people in the queue were already drunk, or well on their way there.
Bree had made cocktails at home while they were getting ready, but with only two drinks each, the girls were still sober.
Lee was also well aware she was only seventeen, and too young to be attempting to enter the club anyway.
At the front of the queue, coming up quickly as the crowd entered the club, was the single biggest man Lee had ever seen. One of the women in front of them, who was clearly hammered, bent down to pick up her handbag, which she’d dropped when she fished her phone out to take a selfie. With the tall woman no longer obscuring her view, Lee was able to get a good look at the bouncer. The man practically filled the doorway. He was huge. In fact, huge was an understatement. The muscles on his arms had veins protruding from them, making him look slightly alien.
A very drunk man at the front of the queue staggered forward towards the door with his friend who was equally drunk.
“You’re not coming in here,” the bouncer said to him. His arms were folded in front of his chest over the black vest he wore. He obviously didn’t feel the chill in the air, and probably never did with the amount of muscle he had.
“What you gonna go about it big man?” The drunk guy goaded.
“Yeah!” His friend encouraged.
The bouncer stood in silence, his arms still folded, still as a statue.
The first man stepped forward, raised his arms to the side and shouted, “What!” directly in the bouncer’s face.
A drip of the drunk man’s spit landed on the bouncer’s nose, and the vein on his bald forehead began to pulse, yet he still kept his cool. “I won’t tell you again. You’re not coming into this club,” he said in a calm tone.
“Oh yeah?” The first man boasted. “Just watch me.” He stepped forward, but the doorway was blocked by the bouncer’s massive body. The drunk man shoved him, but the bouncer did not move. “Out of my way,” the drunk man slurred but was quickly interrupted.
With one quick movement, the bouncer stepped forward, picked the drunk man up from the ground and threw him across the velvet rope and into the street.
His drunk friend then thought twice about tangling with the giant and retreated through the crowd and out of the queue, leaving an open path from Bree and Lee to the door.
Bree took this opportunity, grabbed Lee’s hand and pulled her towards the door.
“Alright sweetheart!” The bouncer said with a smile.
“Hey Tim, having a tough night?” Bree started up a conversation.
“Drunk kids, no trouble really.” He smiled, his white teeth beaming through his lips. “You’ve got a friend with you tonight?”
“Yeah, this is Lee.” She smiled.
“Nice to meet you, Lee.” Tim held out his hand to shake.
Lee took it, her forearm almost completely engulfed by his hand. “Erm, nice to meet you, Tim.” She smiled back. He seemed nice if a little intimidating.
“In you go, girls,” he said without hesitation. He didn’t even check their ID’s which Lee found strange, but Bree clearly knew him, so that must have been the reason.
The inside of the club was even more of a shock to Lee than the outside. As soon as they entered the door, Lee could hear the music and feel its vibration. The bass was pulsing, gently rattling her ribs inside her chest and the corridor was narrow and dark, painted black, but purple and red lights could be seen flashing around the corner. The music was already loud, although it was almost unnoticeable from the outside. Lee felt nervous. She had never been anywhere like this, but Bree knew what she was doing. She grabbed Lee’s hand and pulled her into the main body of the club through a black curtain.
The music and heat hit them as they walked through, almost like they were entering another world. The lights bouncing off the walls and ceiling were mesmerising, and the bodies dancing in time to the music were something Lee struggled to keep from staring at. She looked down at the feet of the women, all in heels, all dancing well. She then looked down at her own shoes and wondered how long she would be able to dance in them.
Dancing, now that was something Lee had never done.
“Do you want a drink?” Bree’s voice was so quiet, even though she was standing right next to Lee.
“Sorry?” Lee shouted over the music, not able to hear her friend over the base of the music.
“Drink?” Bree asked again as she raised her hand to her mouth in a gesture.
Lee nodded, then watched Bree walk towards the bar. She had no idea what her friend would bring back, but Bree always seemed to pick the best-tasting drinks.
Lee felt a little awkward standing in the club, not dancing, watching other people dance around her, and without Bree there, she was uncomfortable. A tap on her shoulder made her jump.
“Only me.” Bree smiled.
Lee was reading her lips more than hearing the words, but she was able to make it out over the music, just. The music had quietened a little, either that or Lee was becoming used to the volume.
“You’ll never guess what happened at the bar,” Bree said as she guided Lee over to a small table.
“What, and what are all these?” Lee looked down at the tray Bree was holding with a multitude of different coloured drinks in tiny glasses.
“Shots,” Bree said, downing one after she put the tray down on the table. She handed Lee a shot glass with a bright blue substance. “Drink it all at once.”
Lee drank it, then pulled a face. “Sour.” She cringed.
“They’re good, though.” Bree took another, this time green.
Lee had one too. It tasted faintly of apples, but she had no idea what the blue one was.
“So like I was saying, guess what happened at the bar?” Lee had no idea, and before she could say anything, Bree was talking again. “You see the tall guy at the bar, the one with the dark hair, he offered to buy the drinks for us,” Bree gushed.
“What did he do that for?” Lee was cautious.
“Just to be nice, I guess.” Bree shrugged, having a red shot next.
Lee made a mental note to keep an eye on the man as she too had a red shot.
After a few drinks, Lee was feeling light-headed and giddy. She wasn’t used to alcohol, and it had gone to her head pretty quickly.
The music was driving her to dance, and soon she and Bree were on the dance floor, having a whale of a time.
Bree was a brilliant dancer, and people couldn’t keep their eyes off her. Her body moved in time to the music, and she seemed to flow effortlessly like water. With the nude coloured dress and the blonde curls on her head, she looked like something out of a film. Men watched her, drooling over her body, while the women around watched with jealousy how pretty she was. It was as if Bree felt the music rather than heard it.
Lee didn’t look so graceful, but she was enjoying herself all the same.
“I told you this DJ was good,” Bree shouted over the music.
Lee had to agree, the club was alive with people, not one of them sitting down, and the choice of music was great. They were all songs Lee did not know, but the rhythm was familiar, and she couldn’t keep from dancing.
Across the club, behind the DJ sat three men, they were watching, their attention on one red-haired girl in particular.
The flashing lights in the club made it harder to see. There were a few young women in the club with red hair, and Adz didn’t know which one was Annaleah.
There was one girl, in the middle of the dance floor who stood out from the others. He watched her for a moment as he attempted to work out if she was the one. “What do you think?” Adz voiced out loud, catching the attention of Jay and Gray who were engrossed in choosing the next song.
“Which one?” Jay asked, pulling his attention back to the task at hand.
“That one”” Adz pointed towards the girl in question as he pulled out the picture they’d been given. They looked different, far too different.
“Nah, can’t be her. She looks all wrong,” Jay concluded.
Her hair was dyed an unnatural red, and in the picture it was natural. She had more weight to her than in the picture too. That’s not to say she was a big girl, just that the one in the picture was almost skeletal, and the girl Adz was watching had a good proportioning.
“Yeah,” Adz agreed, although he couldn’t shake the idea that the girl he was watching was the one.
Gray was doing a great job with the music. He really was a natural.
The club was hot, though, and not in a good way. “I think I need some air,” Adz shouted over the booming music.
He left through the side door into the alley, leaving his leather jacket. It was far too warm to be wearing it.
The air outside was cool and damp. It felt like it was going to rain. He stood for a minute, allowing himself to cool down. There were so many people in the club, all dancing, all moving, creating heat and friction.
Being in a room with Gray didn’t help either. He was naturally warm, and he seemed to make any room he was in warmer.
Leaning against the stone wall, watching his breath mist as he breathed out, the ringing in Adz ears from the loud music started to subside.
Voices caught his attention. One of them was familiar but he couldn’t place it.
“What do you want her for anyway?” A deep sensual voice asked.
“It doesn’t concern you, bloodsucker, just know I need her alive, and you will be paid well,” the familiar voice answered.
Adz needed to see who was talking. He had a bad hunch he knew who it might be.
“I want my payment upfront.”
As Adz peered around the corner, Jacob pushed the stranger hard in the chest, shoving him against the wall with force.
“You will get your payment when the job is done,” Jacob spat.
Adz couldn’t see anyone else in the alley, besides Jacob and the stranger. Adz did not know the other man but he knew he was a vampire. To a normal person, he might have just looked a little pale but extremely well-dressed and handsome, but to the trained eye, the second man in the alley was clearly a vampire, and he was not taking the threat from a werewolf kindly.
“Why does a pup like you expect me to take orders?” He laughed as he shoved Jacob away from him.
“You’re not taking orders from me,” Jacob sneered. “You take them from Kane.”
That shut the vampire up quickly. “What does she look like?” He changed his tone quickly.
Adz knew Kane had influence over other supernatural beings, but he had no idea his hold on them was so powerful.
Jacob took a picture out of his pocket, but Adz couldn’t see who was on it.
“The red-head?” The vampire asked.
“Yeah, pretty isn’t she? She’s inside dancing with a blonde. And I want this made clear, she is not to be harmed. Kane wants her alive, and in good condition.”
“Understood.” The vampire turned towards the door, but just before he went inside, he asked another question. “Why can you not take her?”
It was an honest question, which Jacob answered with equal honesty. “She knows me,” he said simply.
With that, the vampire entered the club.
Adz returned inside through the side door, his heart beating fast. He should have trusted his instincts that the red-head on the dance floor was Annaleah, and now it might be too late to save her.
Adz rushed inside and straight to Jay and Gray behind the DJ stand. “You guys we have a problem,” he said as he reached them.
“You’re right, we do.” Gray laughed. “You’re missing the party.”
“No, I mean a vampire problem.”
“There are no vampires here.” Jay laughed. “Why would there be a vampire in a club like this?”
Neither of them was listening, neither of them understood. They were dancing and messing around at the mixing deck and Jay was attempting to mash two songs together that didn’t quite work.
Adz looked around for the red-headed girl who was on the dance floor earlier, but he couldn’t see her. There were too many people.
Then he spotted her.
Annaleah, the beautiful red-head girl who was still dancing with her friend. They looked so happy, so carefree, and they had no idea of the dangers lurking in the club with them.
Bree’s smile was infectious.
Lee couldn’t help but smile with her.
“You seen any cute guys tonight?” Bree asked over the music.
“Not me, but you clearly have.” Lee laughed. “I’ve seen you shakin’ your…”
“You noticed that?” Bree smiled. “Well let’s hope he did.”
“Which one? Everyone is looking at you, Bree. You’re the most beautiful girl in the room.”
“No, they’re all looking at you, Lee. Everyone loves a redhead.” She pulled a lock of Lee’s fiery hair through her fingers, letting it fall back down. “Your hair’s grown really fast,” she noted. Bree twirled around, making Lee feel dizzy just looking at her.
As she stopped, Bree lost her footing slightly but was caught by a handsome stranger. She fell into his arms, then looked up into his dark eyes.
“Careful miss, lucky I was here to catch you,” the man said. He had dark hair covering part of his face, and dark brown eyes, so dark they were almost black. He was dressed smart, too smart for this club. It was the same man who was at the bar, the one who paid for their drinks. “The name’s Alistair, what’s yours?”
“Bree.” She blushed, pulling herself up from his arms, but he still kept hold of her hand.
“Like the cheese, only sweeter.” He kissed her hand, and she blushed more. Alistair looked over Bree’s hand at Lee. There was something off about this man, and Lee didn’t trust him at all.
“We really have a problem now,” Adz said, pointing towards the scene taking place in the middle of the dance floor.
“Which one do you have a crush on, little brother? The red-head or the blonde?” Gray laughed.
“This is no joke guys,” Adz explained through rushed words. “The red-head is our girl, and that man with them is a vampire hired by the werewolves.”
It finally sank in. Jay had almost completely forgotten about the mission, and Gray was too involved with the music to remember.
“What do we do?” Jay asked. He and Adz had read about vampires, but they had never met one. They had no idea what to do.
“We have to get to her now, while we still have a chance to take her before the vampire does.”
“It is just the one? Or are there others here?” Gray asked.
Jay and Adz looked at him a little blankly.
“What does it matter?”
“I’ve seen vampires before,” Gray explained. “One isn’t so much trouble, but when there’s a clan of them, that’s when you have a problem.”
“There was only one outside with the werewolf, but I don’t know.” Adz shrugged. He was out of his depth, but he wasn’t going to admit it.
Lee really didn’t like the man Bree was dancing with. He kept looking at her, and it was unnerving, but it was Bree’s choice, and she wasn’t going to spoil her fun.
“I’m getting a drink. Do you want one?” Lee asked.
Bree nodded her head but didn’t specify what she would like.
As Lee was on her way to the bar, she remembered she didn’t know the names of any drinks. She figured she could ask the bartender for his opinion, then just order two of whatever he suggested. Her feet were beginning to hurt now. The shoes Bree had picked for her were a little high, and there wasn’t much support in them.
Lee didn’t really need the drink, and she didn’t really want anything alcoholic. She sat down on one of the stools at the bar and was served very quickly. A tall man with spiky blonde hair and tattoos all over his arms asked, “What would you like, sweetheart?”
“A coke, and whatever you recommend for my friend.” Lee gestures towards the dance floor.
“Ditched for a guy?” The bartender asked.
“You could say that, yeah.”
“She might be a Mojito kinda girl,” he said as he added a multitude of alcohols and other things into a metal mixer. Watching him make the cocktail was like an art, but he was quickly done. He handed Lee her drinks and quickly moved onto his next customer.
“She’s by the bar,” Jay said. “Maybe we can get to her now, while she’s away from the vampire.”
“No, look.” Gray pointed towards the vampire. “He’s watching her even now.”
It was too late. Adz was already heading towards the redhead at the bar. He walked with purpose, pushing past everyone, but by the time he made it to the bar, she was gone again.
Adz looked around the club and found the Hemplesworth girl. She was on her way back to her friend and the vampire. Adz was too late. He knew he wouldn’t get close to her with him there, and he was struggling for ideas.
The lights in the club suddenly changed, and bright purple UV lights flashed around to the sound of the music.
Adz looked up to Gray in the DJ stand who had orchestrated it, then looked back to the red head, but something was wrong.
As Lee made it back to Bree and her ‘friend’ the lights changed colour from blue and red, to a bright violet light, ultra-violet, in fact.
Anyone who was wearing white changed to a pale bluish colour, and teeth glowed in the dark, and that’s when she saw it.
There was something wrong with the strange man dancing with Bree, something very wrong.
He looked like he was in pain and then it happened.
Lee screamed, but there seemed to be no air in her lungs. No sound. Nothing. It was like she wasn’t even there, and no one else had noticed.
The man bared his fangs, which glowed in the dark. His eyes turned even darker than their normal colour and looking directly into Lee’s, he sank his fangs into Bree’s neck, holding his hand over her mouth to stop her from crying out.
Bree’s eyes went wide with shock and pain, but there was nothing she could do to get away from the vampire. He was holding her tight, draining the blood from her.
Lee wanted to move forward, to help Bree, but she was rooted to the ground. She couldn’t move, couldn’t speak. She was helpless and still as a statue as she watched the vampire drain her friend’s blood from her body, and no one was doing anything. Why did no one else see what she saw?
Adz was keeping his eyes on the red-head, not wanting to lose sight of her again when suddenly something was very wrong.
She was standing very still, her mouth open in a gasp, and Adz’s heart sunk.
He heard a faint smashing sound over the loud music as the redhead dropped her drink glasses to the floor. She stumbled backwards a couple of steps, before bumping into another girl.
Adz looked closely at the other girl and saw something he hoped was a trick of the eye. The girl was tall and beautiful, but skinny and pale. Her eyes were black, black as the night, and tiny purple veins emanated from them. She opened her mouth, and sharp fangs glowed in the UV light.
Then it hit him. The UV light was causing the vampires to act up, to show their true nature. Everyone in the club was in danger, not just the red-head.
It was then that Adz glanced around the rest of the room. He’d been sure there was only one vampire here, and one they could handle, he was sure, but now he counted six.
Things were getting bad, and quickly.
Adz shot a look at Gray, who realised his mistake, changing the lights in the club back to red and blue, but it was too late. By this point, the vampires had blood on their minds, and it was blood they were going to have.
“Watch where you’re going, cupcake,” the blonde vampire behind Lee hissed through her fangs.
Lee was taken aback. Did this girl really have fangs too? No. She must be seeing things. The alcohol was sending her funny. Vampires didn’t exist.
She turned to look back at Bree and as she looked at her friend, almost lifeless in the arms of the undead, red beads falling down her neck and into her cleavage, Lee started feeling hot and sick, dizzy, but there was no way she was going to faint, and there was no way she was going to leave Bree with that monster.
Adz attempted to make his way through the crowd to the Hemplesworth girl, while Jay and Gray were trying to get all the other people safely out of the club, but the panic that ensued was chaotic.
Whilst fighting against the oncoming crowd, Adz saw the red-headed girl grab her friend’s arm, tugging it.
The vampire dropped the blonde in shock, but soon regained his grip on her, cutting her bare arm with his claw-like fingernails.
“Just get out of here!” Adz shouted at the red-head, but she could not hear him, either that or she was ignoring him.
“Give Bree back to me!” Lee shouted in the face of the vampire.
The vampire laughed.
Lee felt something cold on the back of her neck, and the feeling made her hairs stand on end.
Adz saw what it was before Lee felt it.
“You smell sweet, like a cupcake,” the blonde vampire whispered in Lee’s ear. “Let me taste you.” She opened her mouth to bite into Lee’s neck, but something caught her.
By this point, the club was empty, aside from the vampires, Lee, Bree, Gray, Jay and Adz.
The blonde vampire stumbled backwards, a wooden stick protruding from her forehead. She staggered on the spot for a few seconds, her trembling hands reached for the wooden stick and then she let out a scream as she crumbled to the floor, nothing left of her but bones and ash.
All eyes turned in the direction of the assailant, finding Gray at the other end of a cross-bow.
From the back of the room, a dull clapping noise could be heard. “Well done, Warlock, I am impressed with your aim,” a very familiar voice spoke out.
Lee’s whole body went cold.
“Now. Dear, sweet Annaleah, where have you been hiding all this time?” Jacob stepped out of the shadows, followed by two of his betas.
Jacob was here!
“You do look good, Annaleah,” Jacob purred. “Almost good enough to eat.” He laughed a little at his own joke, although no one else found it funny.
Lee hated hearing his voice. It brought back so many memories, and most of them were bad.
“Now do me a favour and make this easy for me. Come home with me?” Jacob stretched his arm out to her, offering his hand to her.
There was a time when she would have taken it, but not any more. “I’m not going anywhere with you,” she spat back at him. She looked down at her lifeless friend. “Did you organise this?”
“I didn’t mean for the girl to die, but I can’t say I’m unhappy about it, my dear.” Jacob laughed. “I wanted you back, and the vampire here helped me.” He then looked at Adz, Jay and Gray. “Are they your friends too? Maybe I should have them killed as well.”
“I don’t know them.” Lee looked at the three men. They were all beautiful, but there was something strange about the one with the orange hair. He was holding a crossbow. A crossbow. Lee realised she was in a horror film, and there was no way of getting out of it. “Don’t kill them, Jacob,” she pleaded.
“And why shouldn’t I?” He asked. “Why shouldn’t I kill these boys?”
“Because they’ve done nothing,” Lee said.
“They’re here. They’ve seen you, and me. They should be killed.” Jacob had a mad look in his eyes.
“If I go with you, will you leave them?” Lee couldn’t let anyone else get hurt because of her. She would try anything to keep the other people in the club safe.
“I might consider it.” Jacob smiled. He was winning, and he knew it.
“Might isn’t good enough,” Lee said. Just as she took a step towards Kane the entire club filled with flames.
Lee panicked instantly, but the flames were not touching her.
She looked down at the ground but she could not see Bree, she couldn’t see anyone. She didn’t want to leave her friend here, but she couldn’t see where she was.
Lee looked back and saw a clear pathway to the door, and she was going to take it. She had to save herself, and she hoped the three strangers she didn’t know would be able to get out alive too.
She bolted for the door, and soon she was outside the club in the cold.
As Lee ran from the club, the strapped heels she’d been wearing caused her to trip up. She fell to the ground, scraping her knees on the concrete as she fell. The skin on her knees ripped, as well as the skin coloured tights she’d been wearing. Her legs were a mess, and the heel on one of her shoes was broken.
Lee looked back, the doors at the front of the club were wide open but no-one was following her yet.
She got to her feet, shakily knowing she had to get out of there, and she didn’t hesitate in doing so.
She turned from the blaze and started running again, needing to get as far as possible away from Jacob, but the clothing she was wearing was restricting her. The shoes were hard to run with, especially with the one heel broken and they rubbed on her heels, the dress was tight and restricted the movement of her legs.
Lee tripped again, this time, however, she caught herself on a wall.
She heard shouting behind her but didn’t dare to look as tears started falling down her cheeks, causing her make-up to streak.
Then she realised something had changed. It was suddenly easier to run. She looked down, and to her surprise, her outfit was completely different. She was no longer wearing the figure hugging dress and broken heels, but she was now dressed in her gym gear, running shoes and all. Lee had no idea how this had happened.
While Lee was running for her life, things back at the club got interesting.
The vampires had scattered as it wasn’t their fight, leaving the werewolves, Adz, Jay and Grey in the burning building.
The warlock stunted the flames, and it disappeared at once, the heat evaporating, not leaving a single trace of fire or smoke in the club.
“Clever trick, Warlock.” Jacob snickered.
“Damn. She ran away!” Adz cursed.
“What’s so funny werewolf?”
“Do you even know Annaleah, at all?” He laughed again at the puzzled expression on Adz face. “The one thing that scares her the most is fire, and you light the building she’s in, then question why she ran.”
Adz hated to admit the werewolf was right, but he was.
“That’s beside the point,” Adz blurted. He and the others were way out of their comfort zone. There was no way they could take on all three werewolves and live to tell the tale.
However skilled they were in combat, they had no real life experience. Adz realised how close they were to failing their mission and there was a very real chance that if they got their next moves wrong, it would be the end of all three of them.
Gray was the first to react. He lifted his arms and with that movement, the floor in front of the werewolves lit up. The flames burned bright, and Adz, Gray and Jay used this distraction to escape.
They had to move fast. Within a few seconds of leaving the area, Gray’s flames would disappear, and their cover would be gone.
As they ran away from the flames, Jacob’s angry voice filled the air.
They rounded the first corner and quickly ducked inside the nearest building through an unlocked fire door.
Jay pulled it to, careful not to close it fully. He peeked out and watched the anger on Jacob’s face as he realised both they and the girl had gone.
“Damn!” Jacob shouted as he slammed his fist against a brick wall.
“Chill out, dude,” Tom said as he put his hand on Jacob’s shoulder.
Jacob turned, grabbed the hand on his shoulder and twisted.
A sickening crack was heard by all three hiding behind the door.
“Don’t tell me to ‘chill out’,” Jacob sneered through gritted teeth. “We lost the girl and the Araxx.”
“Those kids were Araxx?” Aaron asked.
“Of course they were. We have to be quick at getting to her first especially now they know she’s here, and that we are too. More of them will come.” He slammed his fist into the wall again, causing his betas to cringe.
The one with the broken wrist held it gingerly in the palm of his hand, a small tear formed in the corner of his eye from pain, but he wasn’t going to let Jacob see.
The werewolves left the area, and after a while, Adz, Gray and Jay exited the building.
“We should get back to mine,” Gray said. “We need to work out a plan on how we’re going to be getting this girl of yours.”
Back in Gray’s flat, Adz, Jay and Gray sat on the living room couches.
“What are we going to do now?” Adz asked. “This might have been our only chance to get her. Now that she knows what we look like, she’s not going to trust us.”
“She might,” Gray said. “We helped her get away from the werewolves. Strange that the vampires were there too. Since when do vampires and werewolves work together?”
“It’s strange alright,” Jay agreed. “But I agree, we’ve blown it with the Hemplesworth girl.”
Gray looked at him confused, but Adz shared the same expression as Jay. “You guys are blaming me, aren’t you?” Gray accused. “That’s it, turn against the warlock.” He got up from his seat and turned his back on his brother and Jay.
“It’s not like that,” Adz argued. “None of us knew about her fear of fire. It wasn’t something we were told, and we should have been. But I think that might have frightened her more than the vampire did.”
“Hold up,” Jay said, sounding shocked.
“What’s up?” Gray and Adz asked at the same time.
“How much does she know about the supernatural?”
“What do you mean?” Adz questioned. “She was captive with werewolves most of her life. She must know everything about them.” He paused. “Why do you ask that?”
It clicked in Gray’s head, and he answered the question, “She looked shocked.” He stated, “At the mention of vampire, and warlock she looked shocked, and like she’d never heard of one before. If she knew about werewolves, then she would know about everything else too. She must not know what we, I mean, I am, and the others.”
They all thought about it for a moment, then Jay brought up another topic. “I know it’s a little off topic, and shoot me down if I’m wrong, but do you think we need to tell Simons about this?”
“Are you joking!?” Adz practically choked on the water he was drinking. “We cannot call him. You know he wanted to take us off this mission. We are already in a heap of trouble.”
“Like what?” Gray asked. “I thought you were fully fledged members of the Araxx, wouldn’t they just send backup?”
“You didn’t tell him we were trainees?” Jay asked.
“I didn’t really have time.” Adz backtracked, “Everything happened so fast and I didn’t really say we were qualified.”
“No, but I thought you were. Anyway, what’s the worst that could happen if you called them?” Gray pushed.
“Where do I start.” Adz sighed. “To start with, they would for sure come and get us. We would get the worst telling off ever. God that sounds childish, but it wouldn’t just be a ‘you were bad, don’t do it again’ kinda telling off. We would not be trusted to go on any missions, like every again. And seeing as this is our first mission, I don’t want to risk that. I don’t know what I’d do without the Araxx. The next thing that would happen would be that they capture you, Gray.” Adz looked at his brother. “They would take one look at you and know instantly you’re a warlock. They wouldn’t even get to know you or ask you who you were. They’d automatically assume you were a threat, and hold you in a prison, question you and assume you were working for some kind of evil organisation.”
“I don’t know, it’s something I’ve heard the older ones talk about. Something called Druids of the Night. I don’t know if it is anything, but they think everyone with magical abilities is one of these druids. The next thing they would do is take over the mission themselves.”
“That wouldn’t be so bad,” Jay said. The others looked at him, shocked. “Don’t look at me like that, guys. You can’t tell me you don’t think it would be easier to hand this whole thing over to them and let them deal with it. We are way out of our depth here.”
“That’s true,” Gray agreed.
“Come on, guys. Think of how good it will feel if we nail this mission. Not to mention the fact that if Gray helps, he might be accepted into the Araxx too. Wouldn’t that be cool?” Adz was getting excited.
“I guess, but then we have a lot of work to do,” Gray agreed. He was sceptical about whether the Araxx would ever let him into their institution. He was a warlock, after all, and warlocks didn’t have a good standing with the Araxx, even Gray knew that.
It had been such a long time since Gray had seen his brother, and he was thankful for the time with him, even though he knew the chances were it would be short-lived.
They then went on to talk about how they were going to find Annaleah Hemplesworth.
They agreed she would be hard to find. Now that the werewolves were after her, and she knew they were, she would most likely go into hiding. They could use the mini drones to find her, but still, it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. They also had no idea whether she would even stay in London, or whether she had other friends in the city who would hide her.
For all they knew, the werewolves had already found her, and they were looking for something that was no longer there.
Meanwhile, not far away, but what felt like another world, Lee was in the living room of the flat where she and Bree were just that afternoon.
Lee was in a state of shock, and nothing felt real.
Bree should be in the flat with her. Bree should be here.
Lee started hyperventilating again, her breaths ragged, and she couldn’t see straight.
She balled herself up in the corner of the room and pulled her knees to her chin, wrapping her arms around them. She stayed like that for a few minutes, calming herself down, rationalising, “Okay, Lee. Think about it. What happened in the club?”
She thought through the things that had happened.
First, they went to the club. Everything was good, strange but good. They got into the club easily, and Bree went to get drinks. The music was loud, but it was bearable. That and the alcohol dulled Lee’s senses, but she had enjoyed herself. Then there was that strange man who was dancing with Bree. Lee’s mind flashed to the image of Bree’s neck bleeding and the man standing behind her with his mouth on her neck.
She shook her head, a tear falling onto her cheek.
Then she was at the bar, buying drinks, and on her way back to Bree, the music changed, and so did the lights. That’s when it happened. That’s when everything went wrong. What was it that changed then? What could have caused this?
Lee stood up from where she was sitting, pushing the images of her and Bree laughing, getting ready to go out, watching films, she pushed all of it to the back of her mind.
She had to focus now. Memories were only going to make her sad, and while she wanted to mourn her friend, everything was too strange, too alien to feel real.
Lee grabbed the laptop and pulled it open. She knew the name of the lights which were flashing in the club, she heard someone mention them while she was walking back to Bree.
‘What do ultraviolet lights do?’ She typed into the search bar.
The first thing that came up was about turning white clothes, teeth and eyes a purplish glow. Lee remembered that happening and assumed she was on the right track. She couldn’t, however, find anything about ultraviolet lights making people crazy, angry or insane.
She opened another page, and her eyes skimmed through the text. One word caught her eye and she remembered hearing it in the club. Vampire.
The text read: Ultraviolet light is uncomfortable for vampires. It can bring out the beast in them and causes them to show their true selves. This is one of the ways hunters used to find a vampire. You can weaken a vampire by….
Vampires? Could it be? Vampires weren’t real. They were just something made up in books and films. They couldn’t be real, could they?
She looked further down the page. A lot of what the website was saying tallied up with what Lee saw. They had sharp white teeth, beautiful faces, dark eyes, and they drank blood.
The image of Bree’s bleeding neck filled her mind again.
Lee shook her head. More memories came back to her. The word werewolf rang somewhere in her brain.
She researched this too and found similarities to Jacob. The heightened sense of smell, the way he talked. Everything. It made her feel strange. Could the man she once fell in love with, be a werewolf? Did he change into a wolf when there was a full moon? It was a strange thought, and one Lee didn’t really want to think about too much.
Another word she remembered hearing was, warlock. When she searched this, the first thing that came up was an image of a demon consumed by fire. That would explain the flames, but the man who made them didn’t look like what she imagined a demon would look like. She shuddered at the thought of the flames, the burn scar on her arm started stinging at the thought of fire.
And who were the other two in the club? Were they warlocks too?
Was all she had read real? Was it just a figment of her imagination?
Lee shrugged it off, thinking maybe someone had spiked her drink, maybe it was all one huge prank. She half expected Bree to climb through the window and tell her it was all a joke.
She looked down at her feet, ready to take off her heels when she remembered she was already wearing her gym clothes.
Was she a witch or something? She was wearing her dress and heels when she fell after leaving the club, and then her clothes changed when she started running again.
Lee ripped off her clothes and stood in front of the mirror. Her knees were scuffed, and she looked a mess. How could that be real? It couldn’t be, could it? Maybe it was real. Maybe Lee was magic. But magic didn’t exist.
After freaking out for the next hour, attempting to reason with herself and failing, finally coming to terms with what had happened that night, Lee decided she would test her theory.
All she had to do to change into her gym clothes was to make a wish. She looked deep into the mirror and thought about getting away.
A cold breeze rippled in through the open window. She still hadn’t closed it after climbing through it and she shivered and thought how much she wanted to be warm.
Then she was holding a blanket. A warm fluffy blanket. Lee lifted the blanket to her nose and breathed. The scent which filled her nostrils was a familiar one, one that brought tears to her eyes and a lump in her throat. This used to be Bree’s blanket. Lee wrapped herself in the blanket, imagining it was Bree hugging her warm.
Lee allowed herself to cry. It had finally sunk in. The only friend she had ever had was dead. She let the tears fall from her eyes and promised herself she would avenge Bree. She would find the vampire who did this, the people who took her best friend from her, and she would make them pay.
Lee would never be helpless again.
That night was full of everything but sleep.
Lee kept going over every single little detail in her head. If she was going to become strong enough to defeat the vampire and stay away from the werewolves, she would have a lot of work to do.
It was two in the morning when she sat down on the floor of the flat with the laptop in front of her.
The first thing she had to do was move. They had been due to move soon anyway, and the flat was full of memories she wanted to get away from. Everywhere she looked, she could see Bree, hear her voice, smell her.
She opened a search engine and typed ‘apartments in London’. After searching for a while, she realised how expensive London was. There was no way she would ever be able to afford any of the properties advertised. Even for a small studio flat where almost everything was in one room, she would be looking at paying nearly £1,500 a month for rent.
She looked at the wad of money they had collected that week and counted it. There was only £500. Lee wasn’t entirely sure if £500 was a lot of money or not, it was a foreign concept to her, but she knew it took her and Bree three days to collect, and Bree was a lot better at pickpocketing than Lee, so, as it was, she wouldn’t be able to afford £1,500 a month easily.
Then Lee remembered the flat they were currently living in wasn’t rented. They were just squatting in an empty flat, so all she needed to look for was somewhere empty. She would move in, stay for a while until it looked as if someone was going to be moving in and then she would move out again.
She changed the way she was searching and looked instead for warehouses. There were plenty of empty warehouses to let in her area, and Lee knew from talking to Bree that most of these were empty for months at a time. She found one which looked as if it would suit her purpose, and it was just around the corner from where she was staying now.
The thought crossed her mind that maybe she should leave London, leave it far behind and possibly even go to another country, but she didn’t know anywhere else. Bree had thought her everything she needed to know about being homeless in London.
Besides, Jacob would think she had left town. He would think she wouldn’t wait around but try to get as far away as possible.
The next few hours were spent researching vampire, werewolves and warlocks. Information about them was very mixed, and Lee was confused by it. Every single website she went on contradicted the next, and it wasn’t much help. The one thing they all agreed on was that all supernatural creatures were stronger, faster and harder to kill than humans. Lee needed a way to make herself strong enough to be able to battle them and to get away from them if she needed to.
Lee knew Jacob was after her, and according to her suspicions, although it was difficult to believe, she also knew he was a werewolf. From her extensive research on the internet, Lee surmised he would be fast, which meant she had to be even faster.
The sun was up by this point, but Lee had not looked outside yet.
She opened up another search window and entered ‘fast ways for people to travel’. The first things that came up were cars, bikes planes, all the usual forms of transport.
Then Lee came across something called free-running. She’d never heard of it before but from the images, it looked just like people running, and moving fast too.
There were video links in the search results and Lee clicked on one. She waited for the video to load and then watched as the video showed people running through cities, using their surroundings to get around quicker. Lee was enthralled by this and decided this could be a way to stay ahead of Jacob. She would learn how to move like the people in the videos, and she would need to learn how to defend herself too.
The next videos Lee researched were self-defence videos. Looking at the videos, it didn’t look too hard, but trying it out might be another matter.
Lee got up from the floor, stretched and finally saw the time. It was 10 am, and the streets outside were alive.
Lee looked around the flat, and everything she saw reminded her of Bree. She could feel the sadness creeping up inside her, and decided she would have to take her mind off it. She would spend that day moving home instead of being sad.
Lee also couldn’t help the feeling Jacob might know where she’d been staying. How else would he have been able to find her at the club? She didn’t even know how he found out she was in London, then it hit her. If Jacob was a werewolf, he would be able to track her scent. But still, she’d travelled across the country. How would he have been able to track her that far? Maybe someone tipped him off about where she was. One of the vampires, no doubt.
She made a mental note to not move around outside during the night any more and to stick only to going out in the daylight, just to be on the safe side.
She decided to first take a run to the empty warehouse she found on the internet and scope it out. While she was there, she would look for a way in.
The run felt good. The half hour it took for her to jog to the industrial estate where the empty warehouse was helped clear her mind.
It was spring and the trees were all blossoming pink flowers. She ran past people who were going about their daily business, not a care in the world. She tried hard, but Lee couldn’t help thinking about her and Bree’s last day together. If only she’d known what would happen if they went to that club, Lee could have stopped it all. But it was too late.
Lee’s train of thought was broken as she entered the industrial estate and spotted the For Sale sign hanging on the wall of the warehouse she had seen on the internet. The warehouse was old and the paint was chipping off the walls, but other than that it looked okay.
It was in a deserted part of the city, and there weren’t many people around.
Lee walked around the back of the building and spotted a fire escape up to the second floor. She ran up the stairs and found the door at the top was unlocked. Lee gingerly opened the door, not knowing what she would find inside.
She stepped inside and looked to her left, finding a light switch on the wall. Lee flicked it, not expecting anything to happen, but to her surprise, the lights came on, and the building was flooded with bright, white light.
“This’ll do,” she said.
Lee squinted at the ground, wondering if an idea she had would work. She thought very hard about the rug that was in the living room back in the flat, but nothing happened.
“‘Twas worth a try.” She sighed.
It turned out her ‘powers’, as she was calling them, were temperamental, and she was not going to be able to magically make the entire contents of the flat appear in this warehouse. She would instead have to resort to other means of transport and she would have to hire a van with somebody to drive it to move her belongings to the warehouse.
Lee walked down the interior stairs to the ground floor of the warehouse.
After a thorough scout of the building, Lee found a shower room with a toilet, sink and a wall full of mirrors. A small room in the back where she would put the mattress and her clothes, and better yet, she found all the doors downstairs were locked from the inside.
Lee took a look in the back of the warehouse and found what must have been the office. On the wall of the office, Lee found a key.
She laughed. “If this is the key for the door upstairs, I might just… I don’t know. I hope it is,” Lee said. She paused. “Talking to yourself is the first sign of madness, Lee.” She laughed, then picked up the key and ran upstairs.
She burst out laughing when she put the key in the lock, turned it and it worked.
She ran back downstairs and tried it on all the doors. Every single one opened with that one key.
All she had to do now was to arrange for a van to bring all her belongings to the warehouse, although she had to make sure she did it during the day. It was getting late, and the sun would soon be going down.
Lee made her way back to town and found a small moving company.
The whole encounter with the men and the van was awkward. They never voiced it, but Lee could see they wanted to ask why she was moving everything from a flat to a warehouse.
“Photography project,” Lee said to throw them off.
“Excuse me?” One of the men asked as she paid him £200 for moving everything.
“It’s for a photography project,” she repeated.
“Cool,” he said sarcastically. He didn’t really care as he’d just made £200 for three hours work, and that made him happy. He really didn’t care what this strange red-headed girl was doing in a warehouse, as long as he got his money.
When the men left, Lee was left to move everything into their right places. The warehouse had electricity, but no heating. After digging around in one of the store cupboards, Lee found a couple of storage heaters. She put one in the bedroom, the small back room she’d put her mattress and clothes in, and the other she put in the main warehouse close to the back. She pulled one of the bean bags closer to it and decided this was where she would sit most of the time when she was doing research.
Then it dawned on her. Internet. Lee didn’t know much about technology, but she did know the internet wasn’t everywhere. She turned the laptop on, and to her surprise, she found an internet connection. It wasn’t very strong, but she would be able to use it.
Lee started off slowly with her training.
She knew she had to be quick about it, but on her many travels through the internet, she found a lot could go wrong with free running, and if she did it wrong she could break bones, or worse.
So, she started out with simple things, like jumping over small walls whilst running and there were plenty of them near the warehouse. The tallest wall was about knee height, and after a small amount of practice, she was able to clear it quickly and easily.
Lee then moved onto jumping from wall to wall. She’d seen this done in a lot of the videos and it didn’t look too difficult. The walls she started out on were low, and it was a good job too. Only a meter apart, Lee was struggling to clear the jump. She caught herself a few times, tripping and ending up on the floor, but by the end of the day, she could do that too.
She was fit, so she had no problem with keeping her energy up, but the agility side was harder to do.
It was late when she realised she was ravenous, and she needed money too.
She headed into Camden Market. It was a Saturday which meant it would be crowded and she was right.
After only ten minutes wandering around the market, Lee had collected three wallets, and a total of four hundred pounds.
People in the market always had a lot of money, and tourists didn’t guard their bags very well.
She had a pang of guilt, taking money from people. They’d earned the money, and all she did was sneak it from their pockets, but she needed to eat, and she needed to top up her oyster card. On her way over to the market, only four tube stops away, Lee had used the last of the money on her card.
Lee picked up a coffee and a Panini from one of the food tents, before heading back towards the tube station and topping her card up. She put another £40 on it. That would last her plenty of time, and she wouldn’t have to worry too much about being caught without any money on it.
The tube was full that afternoon, and Lee couldn’t stop looking down the carriages, hoping she would see Bree, and praying she wouldn’t see Jacob or any of the other people who were with him.
Luckily, her journey went without a hitch, and she was back at the warehouse before dark.
Lee decided to spend the rest of the afternoon on weight training. She didn’t have a lot of muscle mass, and in an all out fight, she was sure to lose. She used her own body as a weight, doing push-ups and lunges, as well as stretches. It was pretty basic, but Lee could feel it tug on her muscles. That meant it must be working.
An hour of weight training passed, and the sun had started falling behind the clouds, making it too dark for Lee to risk practising outside, so she went inside the warehouse to eat and to research more things she would need to learn.
She would need to put them into real practice, in the field as it were. As she sat and ate her noodles, Lee planned her next day and how she would put her newly learnt skills in to practice.
Meanwhile, in Gray’s flat, they were planning their next move.
It had been a couple of days since they had clapped eyes on the girl they were after, and they were no closer to getting her. They had not seen her at all, despite searching the streets in London.
“This is useless,” Adz said. “We are never going to find her traipsing the street. We need to think of a better way of finding her.” He looked out the window into the dark. “What if we used the drones?” The others looked at him. “I think it’s a good idea. We can cover a larger area, then when we find her, we can follow her.”
They all agreed this would be a good idea, but neither Jay nor Adz knew where to start.
Gray, however, had an idea. He started by telling the others he recognised the blonde who was with her. “I’ve seen her around this area a lot, hanging around Camden. I think she lived just around the corner.” He continued telling them how he had seen her pickpocket people, usually people who looked rich, like they had a lot of money. He also talked about how she would stare at him. “What if the red-head…”
“Annaleah,” Adz interjected.
“Annaleah. What if she was living with the blonde? What if they were staying in the same place? That would mean she’d still be around here, right? This would be a familiar area and she’d stay in an area she knew best.”
It made sense, and the three of them decided they would focus their efforts on the Camden area. It was the only lead they had, and it seemed like a good one.
Gray and Jay went to bed, both tired after walking the streets all day, leaving Adz awake. He tried to sleep, closed his eyes, counted sheep, but he just couldn’t drop off.
He decided he would start the search early and use his drone to look around. After picking up the rucksack he’d put it in, he headed up to the roof of the building.
The sky was clear, but the stars were hard to see.
He turned one of the drones on and set it off into the sky, flying it over the main road and down a few back streets.
Then he came across something strange and decided to investigate. Zooming the drone in, keeping it well out of sight he saw there was a man standing on the stairs of a fire exit to one of the block of flats, and another was on his way up the stairs of the fire escape.
Adz focused on the faces of the men and he recognised them. They were from the club. What were they looking for? That apartment looked empty.
Adz adjusted the volume on the microphones and was able to hear their conversation.
“The werewolf said this is where the girl was staying,” the first one said. He had dark eyes, almost black. “I can smell her all over this place.”
“She’s not here now, though, is she?” The other said. He had softer features, and blue eyes, but was still unmistakably a vampire.
“No, gone, but I don’t think she’s gone far, and she’s not been gone long,” the black-eyed vampire said. “The sun will be coming up soon, and we have to report to the werewolf. We’d better go.”
“I hate that we have to work for him. It sickens me.”
“Me too. But when Kane comes to power, I want to be on his good side.”
The vampires left and Adz was left wondering what they were talking about. What did they mean ‘when Kane comes to power’? It didn’t sound good.
Adz went inside to tell the others what he saw. It wasn’t something he should keep to himself. When he walked into the apartment, he called, “You guys wake up, I have to tell you…” He was cut short when he saw them both sitting in the living room, a projection on the table in front of them. “Oh.”
“Good evening, Adam,” Simons said. “It took a while to get through to you boys, but I finally found a way into Jay’s drone.” He sounded mad, and Adz didn’t like him when he was mad, no one did.
“Sir, I can explain,” Adz started. He expected Simons to cut him off, but he kept quiet, letting him speak. “We had to go dark. We found the werewolves. They were in the hotel we were staying in, and we thought they knew we were there.” Adz looked to Jay and Gray for confirmation. Both of them were silent, just watching. “I thought we could do this mission on our own,” Adz admitted. “But I think we might be in over our heads.” It took guts for him to admit they were overwhelmed by the whole thing. He looked to the projection of Simons on the table, expecting him to burst into a fit of rage, but he stayed quiet. This brought out the anger in Adz. “Say something.”
“They already told me everything,” Simons said.
“We had to Adz,” Jay admitted. “It was the right thing to do.”
“But Gray!” This wasn’t a question. He knew how the Araxx felt about warlocks, even if Gray was only half a warlock.
“Adam. Don’t worry about your brother. I knew about him from the moment we took you in even though the others don’t know about him.”
Simons spoke with a calm, even tone. “I have to be quick with this boys. Adam, Jay and Gray, your mission is very important, and I know I’m asking a lot of you, but you have to bring that girl back. I have secured this drone so only you and I can see the images on it. You can also use it as a secure way to contact me. I need you to call as soon as you have a lock on her.” He looked scared, which was worrying.
Simons was not scared of anything, and for him to look worried, means something must be wrong. “I did not realise the werewolves had vampires working for them, and that heightens the danger. I thought you would be able to find her quickly and bring her back before they found out where she was, but I was wrong.” Simons looked down.
“Why haven’t you told anyone about this?” Adz asked. He was curious and didn’t trust Simons completely. He threatened to take them off the mission just after they arrived in London and now he was talking as if that incident had never happened.
The second day of Lee’s training was much like the first. She practised the wall jumps and some other small skills she thought she might be able to do.
Her muscles were sore from the day before, and the weight training had made everything twice the effort to do, but she felt like she was getting a hang of the smaller things.
She stopped for a lunch break and got the laptop out as she ate a cheese and pickle sandwich she’d bought from the corner store.
While browsing the internet, Lee came across a website that interested her. She was looking for ways to teach herself how to do free running, and she found a lot of people started at trampoline parks.
She brought up a video of someone doing this in one of these parks, and it looked easier than learning on the streets. After thinking about it, she decided to search for the nearest trampoline park. If she was lucky, there might be one just a few tube stops away, and she could learn some more advanced skills in a safer way without hurting herself.
According to the internet, the nearest trampoline park was twenty minutes away. Lee picked up her bag and left the warehouse, heading for the tube.
The tube was crowded again, but not as bad as the day before.
It was only a short ride, then she exited the tube and headed up to ground level. On the way up the escalators, she heard a couple of people having a conversation. They looked to be in their mid-twenties, and they were talking about a club they had been to. From what Lee could gather, they were in the club with her the other night, and they saw everything.
“I saw this guy bite a girl,” one of them said.
“No you didn’t,” the other answered back.
“I did. There was blood and everything,” she insisted.
“Must have done too much of something,” said the second girl. “I haven’t heard about it on the news, though, so she can’t have died.”
Lee pushed past them. She didn’t want to hear any more.
It was bright and sunny outside, but there was a breeze in the air that caught Lee’s hair as she exited the tube station.
It was just a short walk to the building where the trampolines were, and she found her way to it without a problem.
The building inside was large and airy, but there were a lot of people in the room.
Lee felt uneasy at first. The people in the trampoline centre were loud, and all of them looked liked they knew exactly what they were doing. Lee had never been on a trampoline before, and she had no idea how to use one.
She quickly learnt they were bouncy, and it didn’t take much to get height on one. She was having fun, the most fun she’d had on her own.
Lee spotted a group of people over on the other side of the room. They looked to be practising free running and were having fun doing it. Lee watched for a few minutes before plucking up the courage to go over to them to watch closer. It was like watching one of the many videos she’d seen recently. These people moved with such ease, and they looked good doing it.
She watched for about five minutes before one of the guys came over and asked her if she wanted to join in.
“I’ve never done anything like this before, though,” Lee said.
“It’s easy. Just start small,” the guy said. He looked to be about the same age as Lee but was built like he was made for free running. His arms were huge, and his muscles were clearly defined beneath his clothing. He was wearing a white vest, which contrasted beautifully with his darker skin.
She joined in and started by jumping distances. This was a lot easier at the trampoline park, with pits of foam squares to fall into. It didn’t take long before she was jumping distances she didn’t think she’d be able to.
“It’s all about confidence,” the guy who invited her into the group said. Lee caught his name, Vaughan. He sounded vaguely American. At least Lee thought that was where his accent came from. She wasn’t too good at placing them. “If you believe you can do it, you really can.”
The next thing Lee was taught was how to do a handstand. A simple thing, but hard to learn.
“And how will this help me?” Lee asked.
“It won’t,” Vaughan said. “But it looks good when you do one in the middle of a set of tricks.” He then proceeded to do an impressive one-handed handstand.
A bell rang out in the hall, signalling the session was over for the day. “Well, that’s our time up here.”
“Do you guys come back every day?” Lee asked.
“Got you hooked, did we?” Vaughan laughed a throaty laugh. “I tell you what. Why don’t you come with us? We practice on the streets too.”
“Oh, I don’t know if I’m ready to do that.” Lee blushed. “I can barely do anything in here, so I doubt I’ll be able to do anything on the rooftops.”
“Rooftops? Who do you think we are? Superheroes? We don’t go on the roofs, too dangerous. We stick to ground level and I’m sure you could keep up with our crew.”
Lee was flattered she was invited, but she noticed it was getting dark and she didn’t want to be out in the streets after the sun had gone down. Vampires and all that.
“Maybe another time?” She shrugged. “I’ll be back here tomorrow, though?” Lee hoped Vaughan would say he was coming back too.
“Same time tomorrow, doll.” He winked then turned to leave with his friends. “Oh…” He turned back to Lee. “What’s your name?”
“Lee.” She smiled.
“See you tomorrow, Lee.” Vaughan waved.
She smiled as she pulled her trainers back on. She’d made another friend.
Her smile faded. Was it a good idea, or would it come back to bite her?
She tried not to think about it on the tube home.
Climbing into bed was a relief on her sore muscles. They were going to ache in the morning.
Vaughan and the others had taught her a great deal, and she was getting confident on the trampolines. They’d taught her how to do a back flip on the trampoline, a front flip, a roll and she was confident doing all of this.
The next thing they were going to show her was wall walking. Vaughan had said this was hard, but Lee didn’t quite believe him till she tried it herself.
The wall Lee was supposed to climb was only 10 feet high, just under twice Lee’s height, but climbing it was hard.
“You have to get the right speed, momentum and jump height to be able to reach it, making sure you keep your run going even up the wall,” Vaughan told her.
By the end of the session, Lee was able to do that as well.
“You’re really good,” Vaughan said, clapping Lee on the back. “A natural, even.” He smiled at her.
“Thanks.” Lee grinned.
“Come out with us. We’re going to Trafalgar Square to do some practice and film. I think you should come along.”
Lee was enjoying herself, and couldn’t really say no. The sun was still high in the sky. They’d gone to the trampoline park earlier, and it was only 2 pm by the time they left.
“Go on then,” she agreed.
Trafalgar Square was a great place to practice. Lee was nervous. She’d never done free running on the street, and someone was walking around with a camera too. Everyone was showing off, but Lee was focusing on practising. She was so used to the bouncy floor of the trampoline it felt strange to be doing everything on a hard concrete floor.
The first thing she tried was a simple handstand. It took a couple of attempts, but she managed to get up into one and held it for 10 seconds. When she landed on the ground, she was acutely aware there was a camera trained on her.
Vaughan came towards her, a bounce in his step. “Wanna show the camera what you can do?”
“I don’t think I can…” Lee started, but Vaughan was already pushing her towards a small wall. It was only 2 foot high.
“Back flip?” He asked, prompting her. “You can do it,” he encouraged her when she looked sceptical.
“If you believe you can do it…”
“You can,” he finished.
Lee stepped up to the wall, bounced on her toes a couple of times, then took a deep breath and jumped. As she jumped, Lee forced her legs back a little, forced herself backwards and before she knew it, she was standing on the ground, her feet firm on the floor.
Vaughan clapped his hands. “I knew you could do it.” He laughed.
“That felt amazing.” She laughed.
She messed around with them for another hour or so, letting the camera follow her around. Although she was still a little clumsy, it was true what Vaughan had said, she was a natural.
“So I’ll see you at the park tomorrow?” Vaughan asked.
“I’ll be there.” Lee smiled.
“Day after tomorrow we’re going to do a run, not just doing tricks. Do you want to tag along?” Vaughan asked.
“Yeah sure, what time are you going?” Lee asked.
“Just after 3 pm. Meet us here?”
“See you then.” Lee smiled. She looked up at the sky. “Crap!”
“What’s up?” Vaughan asked.
Lee hadn’t noticed just how dark it was. The lights at the square made it difficult to tell the time, and from the looks of it the sun had gone down a little while ago. “I gotta go, but I’ll see you tomorrow,” Lee called as she ran to the underground station.
She had to get back to the warehouse without being spotted by the vampires. She didn’t even know if they knew where she was, but she didn’t want to run into them.
The whole way back, Lee kept her ears and eyes open for any sign of Vampires, or worse, Jacob. Thankfully, there was no danger on her way back. Lee was beginning to wonder if Jacob had left London, but she thought it was doubtful.
She got back to the warehouse just fine, and had a long hot shower. It felt good to wash the dried sweat from her body, clean her hair and relax her muscles.
The warehouse was cold when she got out from under the hot water, and still wrapped in her towel, she turned on the storage heater in the main warehouse. She turned the laptop on too and made hot chocolate, then went into her room to dress.
Once she was suitably clothed, Lee returned to the laptop and went straight onto YouTube. What she found made her laugh, and she couldn’t stop watching. It was strange to see herself on the screen, but she liked it.
It had been two days since Simons had called, and the boys were no closer to finding Annaleah. They were becoming restless, and doubts were creeping into Adz’ mind.
“What if she’s left London?” He wondered. Even though no one answered him, he kept talking. His own voice was a comfort to him. “Maybe she thought it was too dangerous here and went. Maybe somewhere up north, completely out of the way. Maybe she’s not even in this country any more.”
It was dark outside, and they’d stopped searching. The drones had good sight, but Adz and Jay were clumsy with them when there wasn’t much light.
Adz was droning on, being his usual moody self. Jay had opened up the computer and was searching the internet.
“What are you doing Jay?” Adz asked. “Surfing isn’t going to help us find her.”
“No, but free running might.” Jay smiled.
“If that was some kind of joke, it was a poor one,” Gray said.
“It didn’t even make sense.” Adz raised one eyebrow and brushed his black hair out of his eyes.
“No, look,” Jay said as he brought the video he’d found up onto the screen on the wall of the room. It projected an image of a group of teenagers practising free running in the city centre.
“And how is this…?” Adz was cut short when the image of a thin redhead filled the space. She was smiling and looked nervous. She was encouraged onto a wall and did a back flip from it. The shot then cut back to the group doing other things.
“Rewind that,” Adz said.
“Pause.” The image froze on the face of the girl. Adz pulled a picture from his pocket. “That’s her. That’s our girl.”
When Lee got to the trampoline park the next day, she found Vaughan and the others were not there. She was disappointed but assumed they were either late, or they had ditched her.
The later saddened her a little, but she didn’t let it bother her. Instead, she took her shoes off and started out for the trampolines.
“Psst.” A voice caught her attention.
Lee looked around for the voice but couldn’t see anything. She took another step.
“Psst.” This time for longer. “Over here.” It was Vaughan.
“What are you…?”
Vaughan put his finger to his lips and made a ‘shushing’ motion.
Lee took the hint.
He then gestured for her to follow him, which she did. The thought briefly crossed her mind this might be a bad idea, but she trusted him well enough to follow. After all, they were in a building filled with people in the middle of the day.
The room Vaughan led Lee into was strange. The walls were all black, so was the floor and the ceiling. It wasn’t dark, in fact, there was a lot of light in the room, it was just black.
Lee noticed there was a door on one of the walls, although it wasn’t easy to spot.
“Hello?” Lee said into the empty blackness. She saw Vaughan go into this room, didn’t she? As she thought this, a light came on further up the room, and Vaughan was visible behind a piece of glass, in the room the door led to. He pushed a button and his voice echoed through the room.
“Cool huh?” He asked. His voice sounded robotic through the microphone.
“What is this place?” Lee shouted, unsure if Vaughan could hear her through the glass.
“Hah, no need to shout, doll, I can hear you loud and clear.” He laughed. “It’s a holo-room.”
“What is a holo-room?” Lee was puzzled.
Vaughan explained it’s a new thing, only invented in the last year or so, and not many places had them yet. They were designed for intensive training. The user was able to control the holograms which appeared, enabling them to train for fighting or, in their case, free running.
“So how does it work?” Lee asked.
“I’ll show you.” Vaughan turned off the light in the little room and exited through the door into the main room.
Lee stepped to the side, letting Vaughan take centre stage as it were.
He simply said, “London street.”
That’s when everything changed. The whole room changed.
Lee stumbled and found herself standing on the city street. “What the hell?”
“Cool isn’t it?”
“This isn’t real.” Lee couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She was standing in the street. She stepped forward, then placed her hand on the brick wall next to her. “This feels like brick,” she remarked.
“It all feels real, and it all looks real,” Vaughan explained.
“So what happens if you fall?” Lee asked.
“You fall,” Vaughan answered. “Of course, you wouldn’t seriously hurt yourself, but you’d still feel pain.” He started walking, and Lee followed him. “It’s great for training, ‘cause you can do the things you’re too afraid to do on the street, like being on top of the buildings.”
As they walked, Lee thought about how big the room must be. “We must be coming to the end of the room by now,” she said, holding both hands in front of her face so she didn’t bump her nose.
Vaughan belly laughed. “The room is endless when it’s in hologram mode. There is no end and no beginning.”
“How does that work?” Lee couldn’t wrap her mind around it, but then there was a lot in this world she still knew nothing about.
“I don’t know.” Vaughan shrugged honestly. “But it’s cool.” Vaughan walked towards a fire escape on the side of one of the buildings and started to climb.
Lee followed him up. It seemed strange to be climbing in a room that was empty only a minute before, but it felt so real, she soon forgot they were only in a simulation.
Atop the building’s roof, Vaughan began stretching his legs and warming his muscles.
Lee followed suit and did the same.
Vaughan stood up from stretching, and with a sly side smile, looked straight at Lee. He clapped his hands together and music started playing. It was a fast beat she had not heard before. Dubstep is what Vaughan called it. The beat kicked in, and Vaughan was off. He started running across the top of the building they were on and took a flying leap onto the top of the next building.
It didn’t look too far and Lee was brimming with confidence. She gave her neck a crack and she too ran forward. As her foot connected with the edge of the flat rooftop, she propelled herself forward. Her heart stopped mid-air and she landed on the other side with a front roll. Vaughan had taught her to do that as there was less of a chance of breaking bones.
He clapped her on the back. “I knew you had it in you, doll.” He laughed. “Come on,” he said as he took off once more across the rooftop.
This time Lee was right there with him. She was fast for a girl, and she just about kept pace with him.
They jumped from building to building, attempting other tricks along the way. Lee was a natural on the rooftops, and Vaughan was impressed with her.
“I think you are really ready to join us on the street,” he said.
It was hard work, and both of them were tired.
“I don’t know.” Lee breathed. Her chest hurt and her lungs burned.
“I’m not taking no for an answer. You’re coming with us tomorrow. We’re meeting by Trafalgar Square at 3.30. Be there or be square.”
Lee didn’t understand the reference but agreed all the same. “Fine, I’ll be there.” Just as she agreed, the floor fell out from underneath her, and they were back in the black room. “Did you do that?”
“Crap! We gotta get out of here,” Vaughan rushed. “We’ve been spotted, come on.” He took hold of Lee’s hand and dragged her from the room, into the little back office where he was when she first came in.
Just as they got through the door, a group of people entered the black room.
“Up here,” Vaughan whispered, pointing to a hatch on the roof. They both escaped through the hatch and found themselves in the loft space. “It’s this way to the toilets. That way we can get back to the main room.”
“Something tells me you’ve done this a few times.” Lee couldn’t help but giggle.
“Shh, you’ll get us caught.” Vaughan was laughing too as they jumped down through the hatch. “So, tomorrow?”
“I’ll be there.” Lee smiled.
Morning broke, and Lee awoke feeling sore.
All the exercise the last few days had taken its toll on her body, and she was struggling to walk. The pain in her muscles was worth the effort because it meant she was working towards her goal of getting fit, of getting stronger and faster than Kane, and werewolves and vampires. Every ache in her body was dedicated to Bree.
She stood up from her bed, stretched and headed for the shower room.
The water was hot on her skin and it felt good. She washed away all her bad thoughts with the water and soap, cleansing herself, readying herself for the day ahead.
First, she would head into the market at Camden to get some breakfast. Every day has to start with a good meal, and this one wouldn’t be any different. She dressed in a pair of plumb-red tights, a black dress which clinched in at the waist, and a long grey cardigan which billowed out behind her as she walked. She then pulled on a pair of low heeled boots before she looked in the mirror in the bathroom.
“You look good today, Lee,” she said.
Normally Bree would have said it to her, but her best friend wasn’t here any more.
Lee felt a pang in her heart, then she pushed it away. She would get revenge for her friend, then she would be able to mourn, but for now, she had a job to do.
She checked the time on the clock she got from the market the day before. It was already 2 pm. She had overslept and would have to be quick with getting her food
Lee stepped out into the street and started heading for the market, her stomach rumbling. She had money in her pocket and was thinking of nothing but the food she was going to get. Her mind was set on crepes, filled with Nutella and strawberries. That’s what she really wanted, with fresh orange juice, too.
The fronts of the shops in Camden were beautiful. They were full of mannequins wearing different Summer outfits, all in bright colours, with matching high heels higher than Lee could wear, and bags in different shapes and sizes.
There were also tattoo and piercing shops. These attracted Lee’s attention, but she wasn’t sure she could handle the pain. It seemed like a strange idea, and she couldn’t understand why a person would want to puncture their skin with a needle and leave permanent marks.
When Lee asked Bree about it, she just laughed. It seemed strange to Lee, but Bree had grown up in a world where tattoos were normal.
Everywhere Lee looked brought back memories of Bree, all of them happy.
Soon she found herself by the canal, crepe in hand. She remembered being there with Bree, both of them with their polish sausages, talking like they’d always known each other.
For the first time, Lee wondered if Bree had any other family. She knew her mother died after battling cancer and then she had to stay with her mother’s boyfriend probably because there was no other family until she killed him and had to run away, but was there nobody? Did they know she was gone? Was Bree in the morgue now, and renamed to Jane Doe?
It was too sad to think she had no one. But then again, Lee had no one either. She was all alone herself, or was she? She’d made a friend in Vaughan, or at least the beginnings of a friendship.
Exhaling loudly, pushing the pain in her heart out with the air in her lungs, she allowed herself to feel excited about spending time with Vaughan and his friends later today.
Lee finished eating and headed back through the market picking up a bottle of fresh orange juice on her way. The bottle was cold, and the juice was bitter on her tongue, but it tasted good.
There was a sudden gust of wind and a leaf fell from a tree above her to the ground. It was an orange leaf with crisp red parts. It was mid-Spring, and all the leaves on the trees were green so the Autumn leaf seemed strange. The leaf reminded her of Bree who loved Autumn and told Lee on many occasions it was her favourite time of year.
Adz, Jay and Gray were all on their way out of the flat. They’d noted that in the YouTube video the free runners had been at Trafalgar Square, and that was where they would start their search.
Gray had just locked the door and they were all about to cross the road when something caught their eye.
All three of them looked at each other, all thinking the same thing as the red-headed girl passed right in front of them.
“Do we follow?” Jay asked.
“I think we stay back and watch,” Adz said, pulling the drone and his sunglasses from his bag. “And we’re not calling Simons yet,” he added.
“Why not? We’ve found her,” Jay protested.
“I want to first make sure it’s really her, and that we’re safe to take her. For all we know, this could be a trap. You know how tricky werewolves can be.” He had a good point.
The three of them retreated into the shelter of an alley on the side of the building and watched.
Lee walked through the street with a strange kind of confidence she had never felt before. She was feeling good, and the orange juice in her hand made her feel even better. She lifted the bottle to her lips and sipped as she walked. Her heels clicked along on the cobbled pavement, and her hair blew in the wind, making her look like the star of a film.
“Oh, no,” Adz said, and when the others saw what he saw, they thought the same.
What Adz had seen was something Lee had not.
“She won’t be able to get away,” Adz said as Lee stepped around the corner.
Jay instinctively pulled his drone out of his bag and hit the call button, signalling Simons that they had found the girl and were in need of urgent help.
Lee was daydreaming about running along the rooftops and how fun it had been with Vaughan yesterday. It was hard to believe it was only a hologram.
In front of her, another leaf floated from the sky.
Strange, there were no trees around.
A flash of the bright red on the leaf caught her eye, it was redder than the previous one.
The leaf landed on Lee’s face, and she brushed it off as she stepped around the corner.
“Sorry.” She smiled at the stranger she bumped into.
Her heart skipped a beat as she looked into his eyes. It was a colour she would never forget, and his scent brought back so many memories.
Lee’s fight or flight instincts kicked in and she dropped the plastic bottle of orange juice on the floor, causing its contents to splatter all over the place.
She turned on her heel and ran.
Jacob ran after her, but he was alone.
Briefly, Lee wondered where his betas were but didn’t stop to question.
Jacob held his phone to his ear. “I’ve found her. You know what to do, and where to meet me.” Then he pushed his phone back into his pocket.
Lee turned a corner into a familiar street which she knew led straight into Camden Market but as she did she felt her foot slip out from under her and she landed hard on her knees but forced herself to get back up straight away.
As she stood up, Jacob caught hold of her cardigan and pulled hard.
Her clothes were an issue, and she had to lose them. The same way as she had done before, although it still baffled her how she did it.
She felt the moment Jacob was not holding her back any more by the firm hold he had on her cardigan and looked down, seeing she was wearing her gym clothes and shoes. Lee sprinted away as fast as she could
Jacob shouted in anger and took off after her again.
Adz and the other two set off after the girl as well.
She was in real danger, and they were the only ones who could help her now. If they waited for Simons to turn up with his team, it might be too late.
Lee glanced over her shoulder and noticed Jacob was dangerously close. He was fast, faster than she was, and she was going to struggle to get away from him.
She darted into an alleyway and before Jacob managed to get around the corner, Lee spotted a fire escape. She grabbed hold of the bottom rung of the ladder and pulled herself up and out of sight, but only just.
Jacob rounded the corner and looked down the alleyway. “Come on, Annaleah baby, I just want you to come home,” Jacob said as he walked slowly down the narrow passage.
Lee held her breath. She was trapped with nowhere to go, and if Jacob found her… She didn’t even want to think about it.
“It upsets me, Annaleah, that you don’t want to be with me. I thought we were made for each other.”
Jacob was using Lee’s own words against her. There was a time, even through everything she’d endured when she thought she loved Jacob. She did love Jacob, and she thought he loved her. He was sweet to her and there was something about his kiss. The way his lips felt when they touched hers.
Her heart hurt.
She’d said those words to Jacob, and now he was using them to hurt her.
“Nice trick with the way you changed your clothes. You’ve learnt a lot since you’ve run away, haven’t you?” He said as he searched the alleyway. “I know you’re here, Annaleah. You might as well come out now.”
Lee hated the name, Annaleah. She hated how it sounded when he said it.
“This alley is a dead-end. I’ll find you,” he screamed in rage.
Lee looked up and saw the ladder went all the way up to the roof.
Slowly she put her foot on the next rung then looked down.
Jacob still hadn’t spotted her.
She lifted her other foot onto the next rung and looked down to make sure she was still unseen. Then another. She was going to get up the ladder without him seeing her. She was going to get away.
Then the ladder creaked.
“Aha!” He smirked, then he too was on the fire escape.
It was hard to follow the drone, but Gray knew the streets of Camden well and was able to direct them exactly to where she was.
They reached the entrance to the alleyway just as Jacob started climbing onto the fire escape.
The ladder creaked loudly as both Lee and Jacob climbed it.
“We should follow from down here,” Gray said.
“How will we know which way they’re going?” Adz panted, then remembered the drone.
With the drone hanging in the sky above the girl and the werewolf, they were able to see everything that was happening on the roof.
Lee got to the top of the building and started running for the other side.
The roofs in this part of town had flat roofs, and the buildings were all built close together, with about a meter gap between each one. These jumps were easy to make for Lee, but Jacob wasn’t giving up.
After jumping a few rooftops, Lee spotted a tube station and her next possible escape. She thrust her hand into her pocket hoping that even if her clothes changed mysteriously, she still had her Oyster card. Pulling it from her pocket, she sighed relieved.
She spotted a big green dustbin on the other side of the next alleyway and decided that would have to be her way down off the second story building she was on. The gap between this building and the next was further than the others, but Lee was confident she could do it.
Peeked behind her, she saw Jacob had slowed his run assuming the gap was too great and Lee would have to stop.
He started laughing. “Dead end, sweetheart.”
Lee got to the edge of the roof and leapt without pausing. The jump was far, but she caught it just right, grabbing the edge of the next building with her hands, where she hung from the ledge for a second before she dropped to the dustbin below, denting the lid as she landed.
Lee quickly ran for the end of the alleyway and towards the road.
Jacob, using his werewolf abilities, leapt from the building roof straight down to the ground in front of Lee.
She ducked around him, narrowly missing his outstretched arms, and crossed the road quickly towards the entrance of the tube station, almost getting hit by a car.
The driver of the car braked, but not fast enough and the car slammed into Jacob, knocking him to the ground.
Lee glanced to her left and saw three figures she recognised but she didn’t slow down as she darted down into the station.
Jacob was only meters behind her after regaining his footing.
Adz, Jay and Gray lost Lee when she entered the tube station, but Jacob didn’t and neither did the drone.
Lee ran down the stairs, with Jacob close behind her.
A security guard looked at her but didn’t stop her, assuming she was just late catching her train.
Lee ran for the gates, beeped her Oyster card and was quickly through and on the other side.
Jacob jumped the gate.
The security guard yelled, “Stop!”
Lee didn’t look back and kept running as fast as she could. She believed if she could get down the escalators and onto a train, she could get away from Jacob.
Adz watched the images from the drone on his sunglasses as Lee headed towards one of the tube trains.
Lee was somewhere on the northern line, although she wasn’t exactly sure where. She stopped for a minute to look at the board to find a place she recognised. She spotted Charring Cross on the map, which reminded her she was meant to meet Vaughan soon. It didn’t look as if that was going to happen.
Lee looked back up the escalator, and Jacob was on his way down.
At least Kane was locked away. Of the two of them, he was the meanest. The last time she saw him, he was in silver chains and it looked as if he’d been captured by the ‘Araxx’ who tried to take her too. If Kane was free he would have used every resource to find her and, no doubt, by now she would have been back in a cell somewhere in Scotland.
She turned the corner onto the platform. There was no train in the station and when she glanced at the clock on the wall, she saw it would only arrive in a few seconds. She didn’t have a second.
She turned around to see Jacob coming through the gap in the wall and straight towards her.
The hiss of the approaching train in the tunnel was getting louder.
It pulled into the station and as the doors opened Lee stepped inside. Floods of people exited the carriage and Lee used the confusion to move down the train, but Jacob was smarter than she thought he was.
He walked down the platform, watching her through the windows and stepped into the carriage at the next door, appearing just in front of Lee.
There weren’t many people on the tube, and none of them paid any attention to Lee or Jacob.
He wasn’t going to attack her on the train, it would attract too much attention so instead, he did something worse.
Jacob took a long stride towards Lee, but before she could get away, he wrapped one arm around her waist, holding her to him. His arms practically engulfed her. She was so small, and he was much bigger than her. The few people who were in the carriage turned away, expecting a public display of affection.
Little did Lee know, Adz and the others were watching her on the drone. They heard and saw everything.
Gray was still guiding them through the streets to where he thought Lee would exit the tube system, but they all stopped when they caught sight of the exchange.
Jacob pressed his lips to Lee’s ear and whispered, “Come home, baby.”
Lee shivered. The feeling of his hot breath in her ear gave her mixed feelings. Once upon a time, she would have given anything to be this close to him, to feel his arms holding her, to have him whisper sweet nothings in her ear, but that time had passed. Her brain wanted nothing more than to be a million miles away from him, but her body was harder to convince.
With her heart beating faster than usual, and with Jacob fully aware of the effect he had on her, Lee was finding it hard to pull herself away from him. She closed her eyes for a second to gather her thoughts.
She could smell him. Sweet, but with an underlying scent she didn’t like. Then she remembered what he was, or what she thought he was. A werewolf!
Fear overwhelmed her yearning to be loved by him and she put her hand against his chest, pushing him away from her with all her might, catching him by surprise.
Jacob reacted quickly, pulling Lee back to him before planting a firm kiss on her lips, taking Lee’s breath away in more than one way.
Adz felt a surge of unexplained rage, which was clear from the look on his face. “We have to get to her. This is getting dangerous,” he said. As he spoke, he answered a call coming in on the glasses Simons had given him. “Sir?”
“I got the call, Adam, what is it? Have you found her?” Simons asked. His question was answered before he had finished speaking. He saw the image the others were seeing instantly. “Holy Mother of… We have to get her out of there.”
“She looks like she’s enjoying it.” Gray laughed a little, then caught himself. It was no laughing matter, and he knew it.
“Be careful Grayson,” Simons warned. “I’m sending backup, boys. I’ve had a team hanging around London for the last couple of days since I threatened to take you off this mission so they’ll be with you soon.” He ended the call.
“We take the next turn, I have a feeling she’s going to come up at the next tube station,” Adz said.
“What gives you that impression?” Jay asked.
“Gut feeling,” Adz said as he darted around the corner.
Jacob’s lips were like fire and ice, all at the same time. The fluttering feeling in her stomach was uncomfortable, but at the same time, she also liked it.
There were so many feelings rushing around inside her, and she knew she shouldn’t be enjoying the kiss, but she was, and it made her feel sick. She remembered all the times Jacob had said things to her, the spiteful, mean things, the words that hurt her, the looks that hurt.
She pulled her body back and stepped away from Jacob, breaking contact with his lips, but he continued to hold onto her hand.
Lee glanced down at their hands and saw an object in his other hand. Before she could move away, Jacob clasped the object around Lee’s wrist. It pinched and burned against her skin. “What is this?” She asked, pain in her voice.
“A gift,” he said simply. “For you to always remember me.”
The door of the tube opened, and as Jacob let go of her, Lee fled.
The bracelet on her wrist burned, and it was painful. Lee tugged at it as she ran, but she couldn’t get it off. The thing was stuck, and the more she pulled, the more it hurt.
Lee took the stairs two at a time in an attempt to get away from Jacob, but his legs were longer than hers, and he wasn’t far behind.
The tube station she’d come out from was small, and there weren’t many people around. Lee instinctively wanted to be around people, as there was less chance Jacob would do anything to harm her, but there weren’t enough people in the area, and Lee didn’t know this part of town well at all.
Lee turned a corner, but it was the wrong way to go. She found herself in an alleyway, with no idea of how to get out quickly. It wasn’t a dead-end and Lee could see the road at the other side, but it wasn’t the alley that bothered her. It was what was in the alley.
Adz was right when he guessed where Annaleah would come up from the tube but they weren’t quick enough to beat her there.
Although they weren’t far away, she was in real danger, and there was a chance they might not make it to her in time.
Adz was running at the front, powering through the streets. He was good on his feet, agile and fast, and the other two lagged behind a little. Adz turned the corner first and saw Annaleah standing in front of him, facing the other way.
She looked shocked.
The alleyway was wide and Lee was standing in the centre, unsure of what to do next or where to go.
Jacob was standing behind her, blocking her path, but it was the people in front that had caught Lee’s attention mostly.
Jacob’s two betas were standing on the other side of the alley and they had someone with them.
The crop of dark curly hair was unmistakable. Vaughan.
What were they doing with him?
He looked up with shock on his face. “Lee, what are you…?” He didn’t get to finish his sentence.
One of the betas’s elbowed him in his side, knocking the wind right out of him.
Lee was terrified, but she couldn’t let this happen again. There was no way another one of her friends was going to get hurt because of her.
“Get off him, dog,” she barked. A burst of confidence filled her. She wasn’t going to be weak. She couldn’t.
“Lee, was it?” Jacob mocked. “What kind of name is that for a pretty girl like you?” He stepped closer to her, his hand outstretched.
As he moved closer to her, the bracelet on Lee’s wrist burned. She grabbed it, holding onto it tightly and whimpered. The pain was excruciating.
Jacob let his palm brush against her cheek as he passed her on his way towards Vaughan and the two betas.
“What’s your name, boy?” Jacob punched Vaughan in the face.
Lee clasped her hand to her mouth. She heard bone crunch, but she wasn’t sure if it was Vaughan’s jaw or Jacob’s knuckles.
Vaughan lifted his head and blood was pouring from his broken nose. “And what’s it to you?” He spat a mouthful of blood on the ground.
Jacob brought his knee up to Vaughan’s chest, knocking the wind out of him.
“Vaughan!” Lee lunged forward but was caught quickly by one of the betas. He pulled her arms behind her back and pinned them there, then kicked at the backs of her legs, forcing her to her knees.
Jacob kicked Vaughan while he was on the ground.
“Your new friend isn’t very durable, Annaleah.” Jacob laughed.
“Leave him alone, Jacob,” Lee shouted. She noticed three people on the other side of Jacob. She recognised them, from the club, but why were they just standing there? Why weren’t they doing anything?
“You want me to leave him alone?” Jacob asked in his best mocking voice. “Too bad I don’t want to.” He laughed as he kicked Vaughan again, this time in the back of the head.
Vaughan slumped to the ground unconscious.
“What will you do to make me leave him alone, Annaleah?”
“Anything, just let him go. He’s done nothing wrong. Please Jacob,” Lee begged.
Jacob laughed and kicked Vaughan in the head again.
Lee heard another crunch and suddenly felt very sick. “No!”
She pushed forward, breaking away from the beta, and lunged straight at Jacob.
He was fast, too fast for Lee, and he quickly dodged her attack, then, using her own body strength, pushed her against the far wall of the alleyway.
She hit the wall with force, then slumped to the floor, pain radiating through her back.
“Tut, tut, Annaleah.” Jacob wagged his finger at her. “Didn’t you learn anything? You can’t beat me.” He started laughing, then picked Lee up by the collar of her shirt.
She landed back on her feet but was very shaky.
He punched her in the chest, causing a shooting pain in her ribs, then her face. Jacob wrapped a hand around her throat and lifted her off her feet. “You will come home!”
Jay was the first to take action. He reached and pulled his swords from his back.
“Where the bloody hell did you pull that thing from?” Gray asked.
“A special present from Simons,” Jay said as he lifted his jacket and showed Gray the special sheath on his back. It looked small but was clearly large enough to house an entire samurai sword. Jay stepped forward, but Adz stopped him.
“It’s too dangerous in close quarters,” he cautioned as he stepped forward himself. Adz pulled his gun from his pocket. He was better with ranged weapons, and this gun was his favourite. He lifted it up and aimed.
“Watch carefully, Annaleah, dear,” Jacob said as he lifted her head. He wrapped his hand around her chin and held her face in place so she was unable to pull away. “Now.”
One of the betas pulled Vaughan to his feet, and the other, smaller beta, stepped closer. It all happened so fast Lee didn’t have time to close her eyes. The beta took Vaughan’s head between both his hands and with one sharp twist, and a crack, Vaughan fell to the floor. Dead.
Lee let out a scream.
Jacob let go of her and she dropped to her knees. There was a loud bang.
Adz had hit his mark, but it didn’t do much damage.
Jacob removed his hand from his left shoulder and blood coated his fingertips. “You shot me?” Jacob was shocked but quickly composed himself. “You missed my heart, human,” he sneered. “Get them!” He ordered his betas.
Suddenly, the whole alley filled with flames.
Where was the fire coming from? She focused on the three men who just stood there looking, doing nothing while Jacob assaulted Vaughan She could see flames coming from the fingertips of the tall, well-built man with the orange hair. The warlock, she remembers.
Lee lunged away from the wall towards Vaughan’s lifeless body forward, but something caught her arm and held her back. “Get off me!” She shouted, not looking back. “Let me go!”
“I can’t do that,” Adz said as he held onto her firmly.
Gray was using the flames to keep the betas away, while Jay was struggling to keep Jacob at arm’s length with the sword. The blade was sharp, and Jacob had several cuts from getting too close.
“We have to go,” Adz said.
“Who are you?” Lee asked.
Jacob broke past Jay and went straight for Lee.
He knocked into Adz, which in turn knocked Lee to the ground.
She knocked her head hard on the ground and everything went black.
Adz and Jacob wrestled on the floor, while Jay and Gray kept the betas occupied.
Things looked hopeless for them.
Then out of nowhere, half a dozen Araxx appeared.
At the sight of them, Jacob ordered his betas to retreat.
“This isn’t the end of it,” he shouted as he and the others ran away. “You’re mine, Annaleah, and you will always be mine.”
Two of the Araxx followed them down the street, but the werewolves were fast, and they were quickly out of sight.
“You got here just in time,” Adz said as he shuffled to the girl and started to help her up. She was coming out of unconsciousness and was very shaky on her feet. “Gray, help me with her, will you?” Adz turned to look at his brother.
The fire from his fingers had died, but the Araxx had seen the flames and acted instinctively. Two of them, tall well-built men were pointing guns at him.
“Don’t move warlock,” one of them said. He had a deep voice; Mason.
“You’ve got it all wrong,” Jay tried to explain. “He’s with us.”
“Get back Jason, it’s dangerous to be so close to a warlock,” the other said. He had a deep voice too, although not as deep as his comrade. Adz remembered him, he was called Billy and had a reputation for being trigger happy.
Gray held his hands in the air. He knew if he fought to get away they would shoot him down and he might be resilient, but a bullet to the head would surely kill him. He’d never tried it before, and this wasn’t the time to test it.
“It’s okay, Adz,” Gray said.
“Someone, chain him,” Mason said.
A slight woman stepped forward to help Adz with the girl, who was coming to in his arms, and the last man stepped forward to chain Gray’s hands together.
Gray didn’t fight it, and they hadn’t hurt him. They’d be able to explain everything when they got back to the Institute, and Simons would be on their side, so everything would be okay. Adz had to focus on Annaleah, Lee, whatever her name was.
Lee tugged free from their grip and fell to the ground. Quickly she crawled to Vaughan’s lifeless body. “Vaughan?”
She pressed her head against his chest to listen for a heartbeat. Silence. “No,” she whispered as she sat back and folded her knees beneath herself. Why is this happening again? First Bree, now Vaughan. She closed her eyes.
Lee had forgotten about everything around her. None of it mattered. She stared off in the direction she thought the werewolves might have escaped, the only logical direction and placed a hand on the ground in front of her, pushing herself to a standing position.
The wind blew strong, pushing her long red hair behind her in a billowing motion. “I’m going to kill you, Jacob, if it’s the last thing I do. I swear it now,” she said softly. “You dog!” She shouted as loud as she could, then took a step forward.
Someone caught her hand, and Lee pulled away.
“You can’t go after them. You have to come with us,” the woman said from behind Adz who was holding onto her hand The woman stepped forward. “My name’s Tanya, what’s yours?”
Lee snorted a laugh. “Why should I go anywhere with you?” She wasn’t looking at Tanya. She was looking at Adz. “You were here.” She jabbed a finger at him, coming into contact with his pecks. “Why didn’t you stop this from happening?” She gestured at Vaughan on the ground.
“Who was he?” Mason asked.
“A friend,” Lee said.
“Human,” Jay said.
“Oh,” a chorus from the Araxx.
“You have to come with us,” the third man said. His name was Thompson, and he was the youngest aside from Adz and Jay.
Lee half recognised him, but she wasn’t sure where from.
“It’s not safe here. It will be night soon, and you don’t want to be out here when the sun goes…”
“I know you,” Lee said. “I recognise you from somewhere.” She paused to think, and then she remembered. It came back to her in a flash. “You were there. At the castle. You were the one holding Kane back.”
“Yes, why did you run from us?” Thompson asked.
“Now’s not the time for questions like that, we have to get her back to the Institute,” Mason snapped. He was getting irritated.
“I’m not going anywhere with you,” Lee insisted.
“This is useless. We’re never going to get anywhere like this,” Tanya said.
Just as Tanya spoke, Billy stepped around behind her. He pushed the needle he was holding in his hand into Lee’s arm before she even noticed. The contents of the vial emptied into her blood stream and it started working immediately.
“What are you…” Lee’s words trailed off as she fell asleep.
“That was fast,” Thompson remarked.
“It’s designed to take out werewolves and vampires, the stuff has to be strong,” Mason explained. “Get her in the van quickly before she comes to.”
Adz and Jay took an arm each and began to manoeuvre Lee into the van which was parked on the street at the end of the alleyway.
Gray was also led to the van, and although he was heavily chained, he was not sedated.
Before Adz entered the van, he called his drone back in. It had been flying overhead the entire time. No doubt Simons was watching and judging their every move.
Adz looked to Gray. He knew the drone was still recording and Adz assumed that was the main reason for his cooperation. If he didn’t struggle or fight, and it was documented, he’d have a stronger case of him not being a danger. For him to not be like all other warlocks.
Adz hoped it worked.
Mason was driving the van, and Billy was in the front with him, but Tanya and Thompson sat in the back with everyone else. The back of the van was large, but with six of them, it was a bit of a squeeze.
Adz looked down at the red-head they’d spent so long looking for. They finally found her, and now she was with them, safe. A thought crossed his mind, one he was sure was on Jay’s lips too. “Hey, Thompson, why did Mason say we needed to get her in here before she woke up? The sedative should have her out for hours, right?”
“It should,” Thompson answered. “The problem is, we don’t know what she is,” he said bluntly. When Adz and Jay stared at him blankly, Thompson explained, “We know she definitely isn’t human, but we don’t know what she is.” He paused as he looked to Tanya.
“We might as well tell them, they’re going to find out anyway,” she said.
“Kane needs her for something. We don’t know what that is yet, but he needs her,” Thompson looked down at his feet. “We all saw what she did when she bumped into that werewolf initially and had to get away from him. Simons showed us the footage when we were on our way here. We needed to know who we were looking for, and the powers she possesses. It’s our job to keep her safe.”
“That’s right. This is more dangerous than you can handle, boys.” Tanya said.
“But we…” Adz started to protest.
“No buts. We can’t risk you on a mission like this again. And we’re not taking no for an answer.” Adz was disappointed. He, Jay and Gray had worked hard, putting their lives at risk, and they were being taken off the job because they weren’t experienced enough. He was going to prove he could do this.
A few minutes of silence passed while Adz looked to his brother. It looked like the chains around his wrists were uncomfortable.
“What about Gray?” Jay asked out of the blue, taking everyone by surprise.
“The warlock? What about him?” Tanya asked.
“Why is he not sedated?”
“Hey!” Gray protested.
“Not that I want you to be,” Jay explained. “It’s just, if you think he’s a danger, hence the chains, why is he still awake?”
“Good question, to be fair.” Gray shrugged. He’d been thinking the same thing.
“He doesn’t need to be,” Mason said from the front seat.
“So you don’t think he’s dangerous?” Adz was relieved. His brother would be okay, and they didn’t think he was the same as all other warlocks.
“On the contrary, we think he is very dangerous, but he doesn’t need to be sedated,” Mason said. He peeked into the rear view mirror and saw blank expressions on everyone’s faces, Thompson and Tanya included. “The chains restrict abilities. He can’t use those flames of his while he’s wearing them.”
“Oh.” Adz sighed.
It didn’t feel like they were driving for long before Mason pulled into a driveway.
They had been in London, and the Araxx Institute was in northern Scotland. There was no way they were there already.
Adz thought to question it, but there wasn’t much point.
Jay, on the other hand, spoke out as the others unfastened their seat belts. “What are we stopping for? Aren’t we going to the Institute?”
Mason opened the side door to reveal a runway. “It made more sense to take a plane back up to the north. It wouldn’t take nearly as long, and without knowing how long the girl would stay unconscious for, it was the safest option,” he explained.
It was a private jet. Adz had seen it before on the runway at the Institute. It was all-black at the moment but changed colour to match the colour of the sky it was flying in. It was designed to be stealthy.
Adz had flown only once, years ago. It was on the day Simons took him into the Institute, and it had been one of the best days of his life.
Jay, however, had never flown, and the thought of it made him feel unwell.
Gray was indifferent to it. He’d never before been on a plane, but the thought of flying thousands of feet in the air didn’t bother him in the slightest.
Thompson checked Gray’s restraints were secure before he stepped onto the aircraft, then followed him onto the plane.
Adz and Jay took hold of Lee to carry her onto the plane.
She moaned in her sleep as they moved her.
“Looks like she’s coming out of it,” Jay warned as they placed her in one of the seats.
Her eyes fluttered, but Mason leant over and dosed her with another needle full of the sleeping drug.
It was dark outside, and Adz was feeling sleepy himself. He didn’t realise how quickly it got dark. It was only 5 pm, but the sky outside was already darkening. Being late spring the sun should be going down much later, yet it was almost dark out. It had been happening more frequently since Kane escaped from them, and Adz couldn’t help but wonder whether the two things were linked.
The lights on the plane went out, and everyone settled into their seats.
In the dark of the plane, Adz was left to think. It was silent aside from the low hum of the engines flying them home.
He couldn’t get rid of the sight of anguish on the girl’s face when the boy she called Vaughan, was killed. He couldn’t have been important to her. She’d only been free for a short while, and there’s no way she knew anyone on the outside before she got away from Kane, so why did it seem to hurt her so much when Vaughan died?
It was the words she spoke which hurt him the most: You were there. You could have done something. Those words echoed through his mind repeatedly. Could he have done something? It all seemed to happen so fast. He didn’t know if there was anything he could have done, but his drone caught every second of the action. Adz made a mental note to check the footage when he was home.
Adz hadn’t realised how tired he was until he closed his eyes to rest them.
It felt as if he just blinked this eyes when the plane slowed, the lights turned on, and it started to descend onto the runway at the Institute.
The lights on the ground were the first thing which came into view, then Adz saw the masses of people on the runway. There must have been two dozen of them.
Mason was the first to get up from his seat after the plane landed. He, along with Tanya, took Lee, who was still out like a light.
Thompson and Billy took Gray, while Adz and Jay were allowed to leave the plane on their own accord.
As he stepped from the plane, the first person Adz clapped his eyes on, was Simons. He was standing at the forefront of the group, arms folded against his chest.
Roughly a dozen Araxx came forward to apprehend Gray, and they were not as careful with him.
“Ouch, watch it,” Gray snapped as one of the younger Araxx pulled on his arm.
“Shut it, Warlock,” he sneered as he pulled Gray again.
Adz was grouchy after the plane ride and wasn’t in a good mood. He stepped forward to his brother’s aid. “Just watch who you’re pulling around, Ryan.” He pointed at the guy.
“Oh, shut up, teacher’s pet.”
“What did you call me?” Adz snapped.
“The only reason you’re not in chains now is because the boss loves you so much,” Ryan sneered. “I bet you’re a warlock too.”
“Cool it, the both of you,” Simons commanded. He looked to Lee, who was coming out of her sleep state. “This is not the time to argue. Everyone inside.” He turned to Mason and Tanya. “Take the girl to the medical wing, and you two…” He looked at Adz and Jay. “Come with me.”
The last thing Lee remembered was seeing the three men she saw at the club the night Bree died, fire, Jacob, Vaughan.
Vaughan was dead.
Jacob killed him.
The three men did nothing, they just stood there.
Then more people turned up.
Everything was a bit of a blur. She remembered snippets of the past, but it looked like clips from a film recorded badly, fuzzy and the sound was out.
She could hear voices talking about something called Araxx, they mentioned warlocks, the girl who Lee assumed was herself, someone called Simons and Kane. His name was mentioned too, although she could not remember what they had said about him. She shuddered at his very name and everything it meant.
Lee then remembered being walked, and seeing a plane, at least that’s what she thought, but it was as too quick to be sure. She heard the word Scotland at some point, but she couldn’t be sure of that either.
She awoke feeling sick, very sick. The room she was in smelled strange, clinical, and oddly clean. Lee could hear voices in the room, but she did not want to open her eyes. As far as she was aware, the people in the room still thought she was sleeping.
“So who’s the girl, then?” A woman asked. Her voice was high and excited. “We never get outsiders here. I don’t know what she is.”
“I heard she was a werewolf captive, and that Kane is looking for her,” another voice said.
“I heard the same thing, except I heard she killed a young man before they caught her,” a third voice said.
“That can’t be true,” the first voice argued. “She’s not chained up or anything.”
There was a pause.
“So what?” The second voice asked.
“So… If she’d killed that boy, she should be chained and have guards, right?”
There was a sound of a door opening and the women left the room. Their voices carried down the corridor, and Lee lost the sound of them once the doors closed again.
The last thing she heard as they disappeared down the corridor was one of them saying, “Did you hear about the warlock they brought back too?”
Lee kept her eyes closed. She didn’t dare open them, scared there might be someone else in the room with her, watching her. She couldn’t feel eyes on her, but she could not be sure.
Straining her ears for the sound of breathing, she could not hear anything. The echoes of the voices in the room suggested it was large and she could see light through her closed eyelids, bright and natural. The room she was in had windows.
Lee focused on her body. She could feel a thin cover over her, which came up to her shoulders. She could also feel she was not wearing any shoes, nor any socks. Her feet were a little chilly, but the soft covers felt nice against her skin. She was also not wearing the clothes she had been captured in.
Her legs felt like they were mainly bare, but she could feel the fabric of clothing on her high thighs. Someone had changed her clothes.
Lee could not feel any restraints on her body. She thought this was strange, but assumed she must be in a locked cell. That would make sense, but she still did not know who had locked her up. Was it Kane again? Or someone who was working for him? Was he coming for her?
Lee began to panic. Just the thought of him terrified her.
She opened her eyes quickly. She had to know where she was.
When Lee opened her eyes, she saw something she was not expecting. The walls of the room were white, and there were several beds in the room. It was bright, with large windows on the wall opposite her bed. It looked like a hospital room. She’d never before been inside a hospital, but she’d seen them in films she watched with Bree.
A sad feeling washed over her as she remembered more of what had happened the night before. Or had it been longer? Lee had no way of telling how long she had been here.
Lee pulled the covers back to reveal she was wearing a hospital gown. It was pale blue, clean and rustled a little when she moved.
She sat up and swung her legs around to the side of the bed. As she did so, something pulled on her arm.
There was a drip in her arm. Lee had not been aware of the tube and the clear liquid running into her bloodstream. She looked over to the bag. ‘Saline solution’ the sign read.
She pulled the needle from her arm, wincing at the pain, then allowed it to drop to the floor along with a few drops of her blood. She covered the small hole in her arm with two fingers.
Lee’s muscles throbbed as she stood up from the hospital bed. Her legs were sore, all of her muscles were. The floor was cold as she stepped on it.
Lee looked to the door at the end of the room. It was a big double door with glass panes filling half of them. They didn’t look like the normally fortified doors Lee was used to, and she could get through them easily. They did not look locked either.
A further inspection of the room uncovered a sink and a mirror. Lee walked to the mirror and looked in it. What she saw shocked her.
Her neck was purple, and there were bruises and cuts on her face. She inspected herself further, moving the gown to expose her skin. Her arms and legs were bruised also, and her ribs were sore. She assumed they would be bruised too, but didn’t check them. Her hair was a mess, matted with what she assumed was blood. She felt dirty and uncomfortable. Where were her clothes? Who had put her here? And why were they not revealing themselves?
She had so many questions, and no one to ask.
Lee strained her ears again. She was sure she heard voices, although she could have been mistaken. She quickly moved closer to the door and pressed her ear up against in.
“Is she going to be awake yet, Sir?” She heard a vaguely familiar voice. “Mason drugged her with a lot of that sleeping stuff before he brought her in here.”
“She should be awake, yes. The drug would have worn off about half an hour ago, Jason,” another voice said. Lee had not heard this one.
“Does she know where she is?” Another familiar voice spoke. Adz, Lee thought his name was.
She was filled with anger. This Adz and his two friends just stood there while Vaughan was killed.
“No, Adam. She does not know where she is, or who we are, so be prepared for anything when we go in the room,” the older sounding man warned.
Be prepared was right. Lee wasn’t going to go quietly. These people would not take her that easily.
“Simons? Can I ask you something?” Adz said.
“Can it wait?” Simons asked.
“It’s about my brother, Sir,” Adz stated.
“I see.” Simons sighed.
They’d stopped outside the doorway. Lee could see their outlines through the frosted glass. They were all tall, although the older man, Simons, was the shortest of the three, he commanded respect. Lee could hear it in the other’s voices. “He’s not going to be harmed, Adam, I can promise you that,” Simons assured him.
“When can I see him?” Adz asked.
“Soon. Let’s focus on Annaleah for now, though. She’s the most important thing at the moment.”
The handle of the door bent downwards, and it opened with a faint creak, revealing all three men dressed in black and grey clothing.
Simons was clearly the eldest from his silvery hair and a short beard. He was wearing a black suit with a grey shirt. He looked smart, and like someone who was clearly in charge.
The next person Lee saw, was Jay. He was the tallest, made to look taller by the width of his shoulders. He was wearing black lounge-pants, black trainers and a dark grey vest. The muscles on his arms were clearly visible, and he was a little intimidating. His hair was blonde, which looked strange with his Asian complexion. Lee would have guessed Japanese possibly, although she couldn’t have been sure.
The third person who entered the room was Adz. He was wearing black skinny jeans and a baggy grey jumper with rips in it. It clung to him in a few places, giving the indication there might be well-defined muscles under his clothing. His hair was dark, almost black and longer than Jay or Simons. It hung almost to his shoulders and was shaggy looking, but in a sexy kind of way.
Lee’s first reaction to these people, two of whom witnessed her friend dying and did nothing, was to flee, but there was nowhere she could go. The room only had one exit, and the windows were too far away for her to get to before they would get to her. She decided instead, she might have to fight her way out of the room, although she did not like her chances with that. Perhaps she could escape some other way, but she would have to bide her time and hope she could find her chance.
“Good morning, Annaleah.” The older man spoke in a soft calming voice. “My name is Toreador Simons, but you can call me Simons,” he said as he walked forward, his arm outstretched.
Lee did not trust him and stepped backwards. She glanced behind him to Jay and Adz. They were not looking directly at her, and Lee did not know why. They looked nervous, shy possibly, or something else?
“You don’t trust me, do you?” Simons asked.
Lee decided it could do no harm for her to answer, she would simply have to be careful about how she answered their questions.
“Not really, no,” she said. These were the first words she had spoken since waking up, and her voice was raspy.
“Can I ask why you don’t trust me, Annaleah?” He asked.
Lee winced at the name. “My name is Lee,” she said as she looked at the floor, not wanting to make eye contact for fear Simons may see directly into her soul. His eyes seemed like they could do that, it was a strange feeling she got from him and the way he was looking at her.
“Okay, Lee.” Simons adjusted the name he used to address her. “May I ask why you do not like the name, Annaleah?”
Lee cringed at the use of the name again but answered the question. “The only people I can remember calling me by that name hurt me. I don’t like it.” Lee could feel her lips burning from where Jacob kissed her. The thought of him saying her name hurt, and in more than a physical way.
“Note taken. I will tell everyone here not to call you by that name. Agreed?”
Lee looked up, and straight into his eyes. She decided she had nothing to fear from this man, and she would have to put on a brave face even if she was terrified on the inside. “Agreed,” she said. “I have questions.”
“I thought you might,” Simons said. “Fire away. I will answer as many as I can.”
Lee looked past Simons, to Adz and Jay. She narrowed her eyes at them, and Simons followed her gaze. “Why did you not help when Jacob had Vaughan killed?” Her voice broke at the end of the sentence. It was showing a weakness Lee did not want to reveal, so she quickly cleared her throat. “You stood there while he broke my friend’s neck, and you did nothing.” She paused, thinking back. “Come to think of it, you did the same thing with Bree. I remember you were there, in the club when the vampire attacked, and you did nothing.”
“You know about vampires?” Simons was shocked. “I thought you had no knowledge of our world.”
“My knowledge is limited, and I have no idea who any of you are, but I know a vampire killed Bree, and a werewolf killed Vaughan, and I want answers.” Lee was getting angry again and had to breathe deeply to calm herself.
“Now Lee, I know you’re angry at Jason and Adam, but it really wasn’t their fault. There’s something you have to understand.” Simons tried to defuse the situation. “I told them when they started the mission they were only to focus on you, and they were only to protect you, and they should not interfere with anything else. So, you see, it’s my fault your friends died, not theirs.”
“How could you send children?” There were tears in Lee’s eyes.
Simons couldn’t help but feel sorry for the girl. She looked so small, so helpless and scared. She was putting on a brave face, but Simons could tell she was frightened, and he didn’t blame her.
“Children?” Adz snapped. She had blatantly insulted him and Jay, and he wasn’t going to stand for it. “Who are you calling, children. We’re the same age as you.”
“You had no idea what you were doing. The only reason I’m here and not with Kane is because more people showed up and…” Lee let her voice trail off. “You didn’t do anything to help. Nothing!” A single tear fell from her left eye but Lee held his gaze.
Jay stepped forward and took hold of Adz’ arm. “What do they want from you?” He asked Lee.
She decided she may as well tell these people as much as she knew, it wasn’t much anyway, and they may be able to help her. “I don’t really know,” she said truthfully as she took a seat on the bed behind her. She was feeling exhausted and was starting to get a headache. “Kane needs something from me, but I don’t know what it is. He’d ask me, over and over again where ‘it’ was. I don’t know what ‘it’ is. All he would tell me was that the thing he was looking for was important, that it would take him to the top, that it was owned by my parents. When he burned my home to the ground he didn’t find whatever it was he was looking for, and I don’t know what it is.” As Lee spoke, she became aware of a burning sensation coming from the bracelet wrapped around her wrist. She wrapped her left hand around her right wrist in an attempt to dull the pain, but it didn’t go unnoticed.
“What’s that on your wrist?” Jay asked. No one else had noticed the bracelet until it started causing her pain.
Simons extended a hand and touched the bracelet but recoiled instantly. He put his finger in his mouth and pulled it out again. The tip was bright red and threatened to blister from the burn. “It’s really hot. What is it?” Simons asked as he massaged his burnt finger.
“A reminder from Jacob.” Lee sighed as she winced in pain.
“A reminder of what?” Adz asked.
“A reminder that I belong to him.” Lee didn’t take her eyes from the platinum bracelet as she spoke. “This bracelet it tied directly to Jacob. I’ve had one before, so I know what they do. Jacob can make me feel whatever pain or pleasure he wants me to feel through it.” The burning subsided a little. “I thought it was cute the first time he gave me one. Like I would have a part of him with me, even when he wasn’t close. That was until I pissed him off one day. I didn’t know how it worked at first until I saw him do it. Jacob dug his own nails into his arm, drawing blood. As he felt the pain in his arm, I felt it through the bracelet. It was agony. I quickly learnt I should never make him angry, but he always found pleasure in my pain.”
“So why don’t you just take it off?” Jay asked.
“It’s not that simple, Jason,” Simons explained.
“You’ve seen one before?” Adz asked. He couldn’t stop looking at the band around Lee’s arm. The skin underneath it was red and sore looking.
“I’ve seen one, yes. It’s an Alabra. They contain powerful magic that goes both ways, not just one. The werewolf must be wearing one too for you to feel anything through the connection. Only he can take them off too because he was the one who put them on. There is no other way of removing them. They’re designed so siblings, lovers and close friends are aware of the dangers the other might be in. It’s old magic and not to be messed with.”
“I wasn’t aware at first that he could feel my pain through the bracelet until one day when Kane came back. I didn’t think Jacob knew about the beatings until that day. Kane came into my cell, asking questions again. He brought Jacob with him, as he usually did. When I didn’t tell him the answers he wanted to hear, he hit me. Only once, but it hurt like hell. Nearly broke my nose, but the pain wasn’t as bad as it should have been. I think Jacob must have felt most of it through the bracelet he was wearing. It wasn’t long after, that he removed them.”
“So there’s no way of taking it off?” Jay asked.
“Not that I’ve found, no.” Lee sighed.
“We’ll leave you to rest, Lee. When you feel ready to talk again, I can answer some questions. My office is down the hall. I’m easy to find,” Simons said.
“So, I’m not a prisoner here?” Lee asked.
“Why would you assume you were a prisoner?” Simons laughed. “You’re our guest.” He smiled a warm smile.
“Thank you,” She said as they left the room.
After they left, Lee fell asleep into a deep, dreamless sleep almost instantly.
She awoke several hours later to find someone had been in the room while she slept. There was an alarm clock which wasn’t there before on the bedside table. The time was 06:07.
It was early morning, and the sun was peeking through the clouds outside.
Lee sat up and stretched. The bed was the most comfortable place she had slept in a long time, and she felt well rested.
She swung her legs to the side of the bed. When she turned, she found here were clothes on a chair next to the bed.
Picking up the leggings, they looked to be her size. There was a vest too, and a jumper. The jumper looked a little large, but it would do. There was also socks and underwear. Nothing fancy, just plain black pants and a sports bra. It was clearly a man who bought these items. All black except the jumper which was grey. It didn’t matter, they were clean. Everything still had tags on them. There was a pair of boots on the ground as well, also her size.
Lee bundled all the clothes into her arms and headed to the small bathroom in the corner of the room.
When she entered the bathroom, she found soap and shampoo in the shower cubicle, as well as a toothbrush and toothpaste by the sink.
It felt good to wash away the dirt, grime and blood. Lee let the hot water fall on her skin for a few minutes before she lathered up with soap.
By the time she climbed out of the shower and into the fresh cotton towel, her skin was bright red. It felt good to be clean again.
She wrapped the towel around herself, turned to face the mirror and wiped away the condensation
“If only I had make-up to cover my face,” she told her reflection in the mirror. Her skin was purple in places, and it didn’t look pleasant. She had no one to impress, though, and they would all have to deal with her looking rough.
Lee dressed in the clothes. They were a good fit, clinging to her in all the right places. The boots were even comfortable. Lee expected them to pinch and was pleasantly surprised at how well they fit.
As Lee opened the bathroom door, she was met by the face of a woman. They were both startled, and Lee jumped backwards.
“I’m sorry,” the woman said. She was possibly a year or two older than Lee, but looked small and slight. “My name’s Debbie. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“It’s okay,” Lee said. “I’m just jumpy. My name’s Lee.”
“Oh, I know who you are.” Debbie smiled. “We all know who you are An…. Lee.” She corrected herself. “I don’t mean to pry, but I thought you might want this.” Debbie held out a bag. Lee took it from her and opened it. “I don’t ever like to be seen without my make-up. I don’t know if you’re the same, but I knew you wouldn’t have any with you so I thought I’d bring you some. I hope it’s your colour,” she gushed. Debbie seemed nervous.
“Thank you.” Lee smiled. “I was actually just saying how I wish I had my make up. What are you doing up anyway? It’s early, isn’t it? I didn’t think anyone else would be up yet.”
“I’m always up early, but most people are awake by now, too. Simons is already in his office. He said you’d want to see him today. I wanted to bring you the make-up and see if you wanted breakfast.” Debbie smiled. It was a friendly smile, the kind that warmed you to a person before you even knew them. She was pretty, and reminded Lee a little of Bree, if Bree had mousey brown hair cut into a short bob, that is.
“Thank you, I’d love some. Just give me ten minutes?” Lee said.
“I’ll wait outside.” Debbie smiled, then turned and left the room.
After brushing her hair and applying some foundation, powder and mascara, Lee left the bathroom and made her way out of the hospital room.
The corridor was long, and Lee could see a sign on a big door that said: ‘Simons’. She was in no doubt whose office it was and made a mental note to go there, after she had eaten something.
She wasn’t even aware how hungry she was until she smelled the aroma of eggs and bacon coming from the hall at the end of the corridor.
Debbie led the way and opened the door for Lee. There were a lot of people, around two dozen or so and their conversations stopped instantly when Lee entered the room. She spotted a few people she recognised. There was Jay, Adz, Simons, and the four people who turned up in London. She vaguely recognised them, but having not been introduced, she did not know their names.
It felt as though every single eye in the room was watching her, and Lee felt suddenly very uncomfortable.
Simons stood from his seat and directed Lee towards him. She could feel her cheeks redden as she moved through the crowded hall. As she walked, he cleared his throat and spoke to the whole room, “Okay people, show’s over. You’ve seen her, now eat your food or sod off.”
A few people got up from their seats and left the room, while the others whispered amongst each other.
Lee took a seat on the bench, and Debbie soon joined them with two plates of food. Hers had a single slice of toast with a poached egg on top.
She placed a plate in front of Lee. “I didn’t know what you’d want so I got a bit of everything,” she said.
On the plate in front of Lee was two slices of toast, with a poached egg on top of each, three slices of streaky bacon on the side, a desert spoon of beans and half a tomato. She tucked in gratefully, finishing off everything except one of the slices of toast.
The other people at her table allowed her to eat in peace, talking quietly amongst themselves about nothing in particular.
When Lee finished eating, she placed her cutlery on her plate and wiped her mouth with a napkin. “Can I ask you something?” She asked Simons.
Lee asked, “How did you know where I was?”
“You have Debbie’s uncle to thank for that,” Simons answered.
Lee looked confused.
“I’m a Beaty, so is my Father, and my uncle,” Debbie explained. The blank expression on Lee’s face led Debbie to explain more, “I’m guessing you don’t know what a Beaty is? Well, a Beaty is basically a half werewolf. Although we don’t have most of the abilities a werewolf has, their blood is in our veins. My uncle is one, and he works for Kane, as a spy for us.”
“But how? Kane would know if there was a spy in his pack.” Lee was worried.
“He doesn’t know about my uncle,” Debbie continued. “It was him who told us Kane was holding you captive. We knew for a while, but we had to wait for the right time to launch our attack on the fortress to bring you back.”
As Debbie was talking, Lee had a flashback of seeing Kane in chains as she escaped from her prison cell. “Where’s Kane now?” Was he here? The thought filled her with dread.
“We don’t know,” Simons admitted.
“What do you mean, you don’t know. You have him. I saw you take him.” How could they lose him?
“He escaped a few weeks back, and we haven’t heard anything of him since then.” Simons was looking down at the table as he spoke.
“Does he know about this place? Does he know I’m here?” Lee was having a panic attack, and everyone in the room was witnessing it.
“No. He was never here. We held him at a compound fifty miles from here,” Simons answered.
Lee began to calm a little but was still uneasy about Kane wandering around free.
A phone started ringing, and Simons picked it up.
Lee regained her breathing and looked up at Simons who was staring directly at her as he spoke to someone on the phone, “Yes… I understand… London?… Yes… We’ll send someone straight away.” Then he hung up the phone.
“What was that, Sir?” Jay asked.
“He’s been spotted in London. At the warehouse, you were staying at.” Simons looked at Lee. “Kane is looking for you.”
[Chronicles of Araxx
After finding herself in the safe hands of the Araxx, Lee begins her training to become one of them. Together with Adz, Jay and the warlock Gray, they will become a team, and a bad-ass one at that.
Although Lee is reluctant to become friends with the people who saved her, she can’t help but do the very same.
Lee believes that she is safe with the Araxx, but a surprise visitor throws this into disarray, confusing everything she every thought she knew.
Kane is still looking for Lee, and there is nothing he won’t do to bring her back. He’s still looking for something, and he needs Lee to get it.
Kellie Steele on Amazon
Lee's life spiralled out of control when her house was burnt down, leaving her the only one left alive. After being held captive for most of her childhood and into her mid teens, Lee finally managed to escape the grasp of her captors. She befriended Bree, a girl her own age, homeless in London. Everything was going well and Lee’s life was taking a good turn, but little was Lee to know that everything would soon take a drastic change. When the werewolves that held her captive decided they wanted her back, enlisting all the supernatural creatures they can do to get her, it's up to the Araxx to save her, but Lee doesn't know she needs saving. She was a part of a bigger plan, one that could bring about the end of the world.