The time of the battle was rapidly approaching as the different groups of C.I.A. agents made it to their various rendezvous points throughout Philadelphia. The Alliance was already here, my son amongst them, and the Werewolves were on their way to the city. My calculations had them arriving about an hour after sunset, just as the battle was beginning. I was anxious to see Ethan again, that was the whole point of this expedition. I had to get Ethan back from the Vampires.
The SUV bounced along the highway, heading directly for downtown where the local C.I.A. building was located. Once there, I would take charge of the facility, evacuating anybody that didn't have the proper level of clearance for what was coming. The secret had to be maintained. Just like it had to be maintained with Cynthia. There were no other options once my former wife had found out what had really happened to Evan. Kidnapping her would have only brought more suspicion down on me and the boys, and I couldn't let that happen, either. Faking her suicide was the only option I had at the time.
The driver showed his badge at the gate to the underground parking structure, and my door was pulled open by Agent Clark, the assistant that I had decided to take on.
"Director," he greeted me with a slight nod of his head. "If you would come with me, I will show you where your office is going to be for the next few days, sir."
I nodded and followed Agent Clark as he led me into a nearby elevator. The doors slid open, and I was surprised to find an agent standing inside with his hands clasped in front of him.
"Good afternoon, Director Bentley," the agent greeted me as I joined him aboard the lift. Agent Clark touched the keypad and the doors of the elevator slid closed, silently. I felt a slight lurch as the car was suddenly pulled upwards, and I had to put my hand on the side-rail to steady myself.
"There's been a cot set up for you in one of the empty offices, Director Bentley," Agent Clark informed me. "Everyone has been instructed not to disturb you until sunset."
I nodded in agreement. I could use the rest. Too much had been going on, lately, and it was all beginning to catch up with me. Plus, I needed to have a clear head for the battle. There was no turning back, now. The pieces were already in place, and people would die if we pulled out, including my own children.
The office was small, but it had a window that overlooked downtown. In the distance I could see the top of the hotel where Sonya had her penthouse. It made no sense to me why a vampire would want to be even closer to the sun, but Sonya always did what she wanted, with little regard given to anybody else. I requested a set of binoculars from Clark, but he told me that it wouldn't be feasible at this time. Then, I decided to go ahead and take the nap that I was in desperate need of. An old desk had been slid to the side of the office, and a cot with a wool blanket had been erected in its place. I locked the door to the office before I set an alarm on my cell phone and made myself comfortable on the cot.
I'm coming to save you, Ethan, I thought calmly before I finally drifted off to sleep.
I held Hayden in my arms the entire day. His tiny heart was hammering away in his chest, and he would whimper in pain as the venom burned throughout his frail body. David watched me, his green eyes studying me as I comforted Hayden. I hated seeing him like this.
"I know it's a rite of passage, David," I said softly. "I just don't think he's old enough to go through it on his own."
"Do you have any idea who you're going to ask to stay with him?" David asked in a serious tone. "We can't leave him here alone while we go to fight our battle."
"There's always my grandmother," I suggested.
"No, Evan," David said with a frown. "You can't put the responsibility of a newborn vampire off on a human, even if it is a witch. All you're doing is opening up an opportunity for trouble if you don't make it back."
"There's always Lady Lauren," I added.
"She is a possibility," David agreed with me. "Anybody that you can use as a backup?"
"Tatum" I said without hesitation.
"He's not a strong fighter," I replied in a low voice, "and he hasn't really mentioned his role in the fight, tonight."
"Maybe," David suggested, "that's because you haven't decided what his role is supposed to be?"
My breath caught in my throat. David was right. I had already placed everybody else in my family into a specific position for the battle, everyone except Tatum.
"No," I said in resolution as I thought about Ethan for a moment. "Tatum has to be by my side when we make it to Ethan. He's responsible for making sure that Ethan gets out of the building alive if things go South."
David smiled and nodded.
"Good, I'm glad that's settled, finally."
"What are you talking about, David?" I asked the man, suspiciously. "What did Felix tell you?"
Hayden whimpered in pain, drawing my attention to the child that I held possessively in my arms. His face was contorted in a grimace of pain as the venom burned through his veins, forever changing the small boy into a monster.
"Did I make the right choice?" I asked as I gazed at the brown-haired boy. "I mean-"
"I know what you meant, Evan," David reassured me. "Hayden would have died if you didn't save him."
"I've sentenced probably hundreds, maybe even thousands of people to death with my choice, though, David." Putting voice to my thoughts made me tremble, the realization of what this life truly meant, and the gift that I had bestowed upon each one of my children. Though, it was a gift for them, it was a curse for the rest of the world. We were the perfect killers, and we would never be caught, as long as we kept our tracks covered. "Why do we deserve to live, and all of our victims deserve to die?"
David reached out and touched my shoulder. "Nobody ever said that it was going to be easy, Evan. You've only been in this form of yours since January, so you've still got a long way to go before you're finished maturing. Plus, you're a completely, different type of vampire, one that's never existed before, there's bound to be some hiccups along the way."
"I don't know what to do, David," I admitted. "Everybody expects me to be some leader, but all I want to do is save my baby brother and live out my days making sure that he gets to live his life! Is that too much to ask?"
"How old do you think I am, Evan?" David asked as he sat on the edge of the nearest bed. "Don't hold back, either."
"Umm," I hesitated as I studied the man. "You look like you're forty-two, but I know that's not right. Are you about fifteen-hundred?"
"Not even close, Evan," David said with a humored chuckle. "I'm over thirty-five-hundred years old."
"Bull shit!" I muttered in disbelief before I could stop myself.
David chuckled again and shrugged his shoulders. "You can believe me, or not. That's up to you, Evan, but I do not lie."
"Fine," I said, accepting his response. "You're thirty-five-hundred-years old. What does that have to do with me?"
"I just thought that you might like to know where some of the DNA came from that made the formula creating you," he said nonchalantly, making me glance at him in surprise.
"So, you're one of the five?" I asked with a giggle.
"I thought Jon would have told you, by now, Evan," David looked smug as he grinned at me. I was about to respond with a sarcastic comment, when Hayden whimpered in pain, and his body clenched up against my chest. My attention was instantly focused on soothing the suffering child. David chuckled lightly as I stroked Hayden's cheek with the back of my fingertips. The marks were already missing where I had bit him, leaving tiny pinpricks of silver in their place, the only evidence of their existence. The skin around the marks was losing its golden tan with every passing moment, as the venom continued to work its way through his veins. The bruises were already forming under his eyes, and many of the superficial blemishes that had once been on his skin, were beginning to fade away into nothing but a memory. Suddenly, I couldn't imagine my life without Hayden in it. I could see him keeping me anchored in the future, helping me focus on everything that was important, and keeping me from losing my mind as we traveled together throughout our years as Father and Son. David reached over and squeezed my shoulder. "Evan, I promise to tell you everything that you need to know, but there's a few things that even I don't know about. You were an experiment that should have never been allowed to take place, and if it hadn't worked on you, the government would have just kept going until they found someone to use it on. Did they show you their special cell block?"
I shuddered at the memory of being kept as a hostage in the Section-9 basement for several weeks before I was able to escape with Dougie at my side.
"Oh," David said sullenly. "So, that's where you were?"
"Yes," I replied grimly. "Luckily, Agent Croft didn't know about my lack of a reaction to the sunlight. That was his problem, though."
"Was," I confirmed. "Eugene Bentley took his position after retiring the former director, as ordered by POTUS."
"Are you serious?" David asked with a grin.
I shrugged. "That's what the new director told me, but I'm not really a fan of many humans at the moment. Especially ones that murdered my mother just to keep a secret."
David nearly fell off of the edge of the bed in disbelief. "Holy shit," he muttered absently.
"That's what I said when I caught his thought," I told him. "He doesn't think I know, though."
"When did you find out?"
"While Croft was starving me," I replied. "I was practicing my abilities when I heard his voice in my head."
"Why haven't you done anything?" David asked.
"I agree that the secret needs to be kept, David," I told him blandly. "I wish he would have thought about his options, though. There were plenty of other things he could have done to keep her silent. Shit, he could have even asked me."
"How could he have asked you, when you didn't even know what you were capable of, Evan?"
I rolled my eyes. It was pointless to focus on the past, it couldn't be changed.
"So," I said to change the subject. "What all do I need to expect from Arella?"
"The worst possible fight that you could ever imagine, Evan," David told me grimly. "She's been around for thirty-five-hundred years, she's not going to give up any of her beliefs, easily."
"Woah! Woah! Woah!" I protested quickly. "Is she really going to fight me over Hayden?"
"She's going to try, Evan," David said firmly. "That, I can promise you. Arella doesn't take too kindly to people breaking the rules."
"She's not my boss, anymore, David," I told him with a grin. "I don't have to follow her rules."
"Try telling her that," the Hunter replied.
I couldn't help but laugh at his statement. Even though, David had warned me that Arella was going to move against me and my family, something told me that I wouldn't have a problem facing the Mother of Vampires, when the time came for it. She was destined to fail if she chose that path.
It seems so inviting, at first. Then, you're faced with the true nature of it. Is living forever truly possible? Do you stay until the Earth itself ceases to exist? What happens to you, then? Do you just float through space, never needing to take a breath? Watching as the planets and stars slowly pass you by. Or do you get pulled into the gravity well of Sol and burn to ashes as you get close to it? How long is forever? Truly? Does anybody really know?
Those were the questions that continued to pass through my mind as I waited with Leonard for Lulu and Dante to awaken from their daily slumber. I couldn't stop questioning my own mortality. The same thing I had been doing since Felix had told me the choice that I was going to be left facing. How do you defeat your own death? Is it even worth it to try?
"Do you feel that, Jenna?" Leonard asked me quietly. We knew that Lulu and Dante couldn't hear us in their slumber, but it still felt disrespectful to us. I looked at Leonard for a moment, noticing the slight glint in his eye as he thought about our family. I closed my eyes and let myself relax for a moment, and I felt it almost immediately. There was another presence in the connection that we shared with the other members of our Coven. I opened my eyes and smiled at Leonard.
"And then there were six," I said with a giggle.
"I can sort of feel him," Leonard said with his trademark grin. "He feels so young, Jenna."
"He's strong, though," I told him.
"Yeah, he is," Leonard agreed. "I can't wait until we meet him."
"I wonder how long it's going to take before he finishes going through the Change," I pondered. Leonard kissed me on my cheek, his lips brushing silently against the smooth skin. Normally, I would have blushed at the contact, but when you didn't have any blood circulating throughout your veins, the human side of you doesn't really show any longer. Now, there was another one of us. Another monster being released upon the unsuspecting world.
The sun was beginning to set, and it was time for us to make our first move. The tiny boy named Hayden, had already wormed his way into our hearts, and he wasn't even awake yet. Dougie, Evan, and Tatum each took turns holding the boy as the venom continued to burn through his veins. I had no reason to sleep like Dylan did, so I spent the day watching the T.V. and listening to the conversations around me. I thought about Ethan, and how much I wanted to be with him again, but I wasn't certain if I would ever be able to control myself around him. I was going through my own changes. I was becoming a monster, just like the people I was supposed to stop.
David had tried to tell me that it was all about will power, but I didn't think that I would ever have the ability to withstand the urges that I had already experienced. There was also the feeling of being satisfied after I had finished with my first hunt. I didn't even feel the guilt until three days later, when I was no longer drunk off of the blood I had consumed. That was when I saw their faces. That was when I heard their desperate pleas for release as I sank my fangs into their throats. Seven people had died at my hand, all in the space of two hours. The first three were a family, and David had to burn their house down just to cover it up. A man and his wife had died before their daughter walked in on me in the act of finishing off her mother. I had no choice but to take her, as well. The monster didn't care anyway. He was satisfied. There were four others after that. I had managed to stumble on a sorority house, where one of the doors had been left open. It was my lucky night as the monster moved through the slumbering house full of young adults. I was bloated by the time David managed to pull me from the property, and all I could do was stagger my way along with David, my brain foggy from the changes going through my body.
I could never let Ethan see me like that. I would never be able to forgive myself if I hurt the love of my life. I glanced over at Dylan to see him staring at me with a frown on his face. I quickly looked away from the mind-reader, my vision clouding with tears. Then, Dylan hugged me, and I managed to keep myself from cringing at the feel of his colder body pressing up against my back.
"Relax, Justin," Dylan breathed into my ear. "Everybody knows that you would never hurt Ethan."
"I hope not, Dylan," I said quietly.
"You're going to make me miss out on all of the fun, Evan," Lulu complained as she slid into the backseat of the car with Hayden in her arms.
"I'll let you take Hayden on his first hunt," I told her with a grin.
Lulu smiled, excitement seeming to sparkle in her red eyes. "I'm going to hold you to that, Evan."
"I wouldn't expect any less, Lulu," I responded before I turned my attention to Dante. The nomad nodded at me, still carrying himself in the serious demeanor that he always did.
"I'll make sure they get there safely, Evan," Dante promised me. I clasped his shoulder in respect before I stepped back to give him room to get into the car. Tatum joined me and slid his hand into my own.
"He'll be okay, Father," Tatum reassured me with a smile.
"Will we, Tatum?" I asked the fifteen-year-old. "I know that Lulu and Dante will make sure Hayden is well taken care of, I'm just worried about ourselves."
Tatum hugged me tightly.
"I wish I knew," he said softly. "There are too many variables involved for me to get a clear enough picture."
"Oh well," I said with a shrug. "It looks like we're just going to have to take our chances, Tatum. Come on, we should go get into position. I want to get this over and done with."
Tatum and I turned to where everybody else was getting into the SUV. David was driving, and I was going to sit up front with him. Everybody else was on their own fighting for space in the back. Wesley waited for Tatum with a smile on his face. Dougie kissed my cheek before he climbed into the back with Dylan, Tatum, Justin, and Wesley. Then, I took my spot in the SUV, and we were soon on our way to the checkpoint.
"It's time," Lusindra announced, slipping her cellphone back into her jacket pocket. The Elder had changed into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt for the battle, foregoing her usual eloquent display of attire. We were each moving towards the warehouse from different directions, all converging on the newborns.
The seven of us set out in loose formation, with Henry, Lusindra's bodyguard, leading the way. Leonard ran along beside me, constantly scanning the area to his left to make sure that we weren't being watched. William, Emily's bodyguard, ran on my right, while Harmony brought up the rear of our group. Emily and Lusindra remained silent, all of us on the alert for any possible attack. Evan had told us everything that Marcel had told him. We moved fast, sticking to the alleys to keep any mortals from catching sight of us.
We were nearly to the highway when the first attack came. "Watch out!" Leonard called out as a newborn vampire slammed into his side. Harmony leapt forward, yanking the attacking vampire off of Leonard, just in time for three more newborns to jump into the center of our group. Emily spun around, swinging out with the stake she grasped tightly in her hand, and struck one of the newborns firmly in the chest with the weapon. The newborn gasped out in disbelief before his body crumbled away into dust. William and Henry made quick work of the other newborns before we realized that we were alone in the alleyway.
"Keep moving," Henry called out. "We're almost there."
Leonard slipped his hand into my own with a nervous smile.
"We've got this," I told him. Leonard nodded in agreement.
I could see the masts of ships sticking up over the roofs the warehouses in front of us. I climbed a building with David so we could get a better look down on the scene. There were at least seventy newborn vampires standing around in the yard below us. Amongst them were werewolves including the same one that had pushed me out the window. David glanced at me in surprise as a low growl escaped from my throat.
"See somebody you know, Evan?" The Hunter asked me with a chuckle.
"Yeah," I stated. "The same man that pushed me out a window into the sunlight. Needless to say, I've been holding a grudge for a few weeks."
David chuckled again before he turned his attention to the vampires beneath us.
"It's almost time," the Hunter said in a hushed tone. "I think the cue was for midnight."
"Only a few more minutes," I said nervously. "This wait is killing me."
"Me too," David admitted. "The period before a battle always unnerves me."
"How do you get through it?"
"I found someone to talk to about it," he told me with a grin. I smiled back at the Hunter until we saw the artillery round land in the center of the clearing. Fire exploded outwards, creating mass chaos amongst the newborn army and effectively cutting their numbers by a third. The remainder of the newborns were confused until Vincent began to bark out orders at them. David frowned. "One more round."
Another artillery round exploded amongst the newborns, and the Alliance advanced in force before the dust had a chance to settle. I could hear the popping sound as snipers took out newborns from a safe distance. We had been trying to minimize the number of human casualties as much as possible. I felt an energy stirring to my right, and I glanced over to see a circle of witches casting a spell together. A massive dragon made of fire sprung out from the center of their gathering before it launched itself at the newborns. The screams of terror and pain were proof enough that my grandmother could definitely handle herself when it came to a fight.
I was beginning to get antsy for my role in the fight, so I grabbed an iron rod and swung it a few times to make sure I knew how to handle the weapon. David looked at me curiously for a moment before he returned his attention to the battle. I could hear the cries of pain from below me as people died violently. My head snapped around when I heard Leslie scream out in terror. I ran to the edge of the roof in time to see Leslie get surrounded by nine of the newborns. I glanced around the battlefield to see that our numbers were beginning to dwindle.
Where are you, Jon? I asked myself as my hopes began to falter. We were going to lose if the werewolves didn't show up to help us.
"It's time, David." I said as I launched myself off of the roof. I landed on the ground and David landed a second behind me. I immediately ran towards Leslie, but I was too late. I watched as Nikolas jumped over one of the newborns as he tried desperately to save his Creator.
"No!" Nikolas screamed out in horror as one of the newborns sank a spike into Leslie's heart. Her steps faltered for a moment until her body collapsed lifelessly towards the ground. She turned into a pile of dust before she even completely hit the ground. I stared at the pile of dust in disbelief. Leslie was dead…
I didn't stop running until I was beside Nikolas. Together, we stood a better chance of destroying the army. Together, we would continue on like Leslie would have wanted. Nikolas and I made short work of the newborns that had attacked Leslie before we moved on to help Lusindra get herself out of a bind. She and Dominick had gotten separated from each other during our struggle for survival.
"You have to do it, Evan!" Dominick shouted at me. "You have to use your power!"
"Jon's not here, yet!" I shouted back. "It's important that I wait for him."
I heard Justin groan in disgust, but I didn't have time to deal with him. Everything had to happen a certain way. More of the Alliance would perish if I didn't wait for Jon. I heard the howl before I could sense their presence. The newborns had just started swarming over us when Jackson and Jon jumped into the turmoil. I Immediately released the control of my power and forced every one of the newborns to their knees. Jackson and Jon went after Vincent together while the other werewolves started dispatching the vampires without mercy. The number of dust piles was growing profusely, and the battle was quickly coming to an end. My next task was going to be the hardest of my entire existence. It was time to go after Sonya.
Thank you to all of my Readers for staying with this story for the past year! It's awesome when you guys take the time to write me, and I love to hear from you! The final chapter and the epilogue will both be posted within a day or two of each other, and then it will be time to turn my attention back to the two stories that I left hanging!
Stay Safe! Stay Healthy!
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