Today’s story is a bit closer to what I typically write when working on my book. I like paranormal romance and so my writing tends to go that route. I would normally write more sexual tension into the story, but I found myself thinking about my family reading this and so pulled back some. Just a warning to my mom and dad, if I ever do publish my book I don’t pull back in that at all… like at all. You might want to skip that one!
Writing Prompt: Shadow’s Edge
Quickly ducking back around the corner, Ava crouched down against the side of the building and tried to make her breathing as quiet as possible. Thankfully it was full dark, and she knew she was all but invisible in the shadows.
“Oprax. Still a go?”
The death mage she had been tailing was clearly checking in with his contract. Oprax was one of the most notorious death mages for hire. The guild had caught wind that he was in the city and asked her to track him down. It wasn’t illegal to be a death mage, nor even one for hire, but it was bad form not to check in with the guild first. And Darklight Guild liked to run a tight ship.
Being notorious had its draw backs. It wasn’t hard to find information on Oprax’s movements once she found the general area he was staying in. No one seemed to know what he was doing in New Vanhelm though. Or if they did know, they were too afraid to give her any information.
Now that she could confirm he was on contract – and without Darklight’s consent or knowledge – her job description had just gone from tracker to hunter.
“Confirmed.” Edging just enough to peek around the corner again, she watched as Oprax shoved his cellphone into an inner pocket of the grey duster he wore. He was thin, with long black hair and a pencil goatee. She knew under the coat he’d be sporting the typical runic tattoos that mages liked. They were class symbols among the mages and you could usually tell what school of magic a mage practiced in by their ink.
Oprax was rumored to be covered in skulls, dying souls, and images of hell.
She saw Oprax glance to the right and slid back into hiding just as his head was turning to the left where she hid around the corner. After a minute or so she peered back around again, only to find the death mage gone.
Standing fully, she pulled her own cell phone out of a hidden pocket in her leather jacket. Her whole outfit was made of shadow leather, magicked to assist in stealthy movement and staying hidden in shadows. Extremely expensive, but worth it to one in her trade.
She pressed a quick dial button for the guild dispatch.
“Hey Ava. Track that death guy yet?”
“Yeah. And he’s definitely under contract. But I don’t know with who.”
“I don’t know yet, and now I’ve lost him.” She blew out a loud sigh before confessing the rest. “And I think it’s going down soon.”
“Shit. You have to find him Ava. Want me to call in Kara for assist?”
She hated to do it. Kara was her best friend, but was on a small break after her recent contract tracking down a jewelry thief. Besides, Kara had just acquired a new pet – or roommate depending on how you looked at it – and could probably use the week off.
A sleek black town car pulled up to the tall glass building across the street. A driver stepped out of the car the same time as two others opened their doors. All were clearly security personnel and on the job.
“No, that’s okay. Maybe send in–,” she trailed off as the driver opened the back passenger side door and the tall imposing figure of Garreth Cole stepped out of the vehicle.
Though she was still standing in the darkest shadows thrown by her own building, Garreth’s eyes immediately narrowed on her as he glanced around. Shadow leather was no use with a vampire, they could see through shadows.
Easily recognizable, he had the typical vampire characteristic of being deadly gorgeous and paler then she typically liked her men. His dark shoulder length hair made his pale face stand out in stark contrast even more. Tall, with wide shoulders, she could easily see why it was rumored that he had been turned in a time where men wore armor and carried swords. She couldn’t make out the details of his face, but she knew from pictures and video that he had piercing blue eyes and a slightly crooked nose.
As head of New Vanhelm’s vampire clan, and one of the oldest vampires in the city, he was often hounded by paparazzi whenever he went out. In addition, he was very much involved in his many business dealings – typically involving real estate – and so was headlined in business news on a regular basis. Needless to say, you’d have to be living under a rock, not to know who Garreth Cole was.
Jimmy, bless him, kept the line open but didn’t ask any questions when she fell silent. He was very good at his job and knew when a guild mate fell silent, there were usually reasons for it. Most tended to for deadly reasons.
No more than a few seconds had passed, but she felt Garreth’s gaze pierce her to the bone. She also felt the telltale pressure on her brain of a scan. The bastard was trying to read her thoughts! Thankfully, a prerequisite of becoming a member of the guild was the ability to shield your thoughts.
Ava didn’t have a magical bone in her body, but she had a natural shield that no one had ever been able to penetrate. She was secretly proud of this ability, no matter how small it might seem. She might not be able to cast or ward, but she could keep a damn secret!
Finally looking away, the group of men went into the building and she breathed a sigh of relief. However, she had one more trick besides her ability to shield and that was one of instinct. It had never let her down before, and she was getting a good kick in the gut right now.
He immediately responded. “Still here. What’s going on?”
“Check to see if there’s a contract on Garreth Cole.”
There was a heartbeat of silence. “Garreth Cole? The Garreth Cole?
“Yes! Just check!”
“Ava, I don’t have to check. I can tell you without a doubt, that there is no contract on Garreth Cole.”
She hadn’t thought so, but wanted to double check. “Shit. I gotta go.”
Just about to end the call, she brought her phone back to her ear. “What?” Time was running out. She could feel it.
Oh, right. “Zaros?” She didn’t like vampires as a rule, but of the few in the guild, he was the only one she had actually met and she figured it would be best to have one vampire around to deal with another vampire. She was just a human and certainly wasn’t sure if she could deal with a master vampire if things went south. She also had her own reasons for not wanting to deal directly with them.
“He can be there in twenty. Sit tight. I’ll also try to get a hold of Garreth’s security team.”
She felt her stomach drop as she put away her phone. She didn’t have twenty. He didn’t have twenty. Oprax had been hired to kill Garreth. Her other sense was in high gear and she knew it without a doubt.
Racing across the street, she ducked into the dark alley next door and found a stairwell. She had to break the lock to get in but wasn’t worried about it. Darklight would replace the lock free of charge. Though the front of the building was made of glass, the sides were thick steel walls like two book ends. She was grateful no one from the outside could see her climbing as the stairwell was well lit, completely negating her shadow leather.
She didn’t know where Garreth and his team were heading so she slowed as she reached the landing of each floor, relying on her gut to tell her if she was at the right floor or not. Strangely, she kept getting the urgent sense to go all the way to the top and soon found herself breaking the lock to the roof of the building. The building was fifteen floors high and she was breathing hard by the time she burst out onto the rooftop.
Nothing. There was nothing up here!
Racing to the front of the building she looked over the edge into the empty street below. Nothing!
Panic started to set in. She was almost out of time.
A faint blue glow had her focusing on the building across the street.
There, on the tenth floor of the other building was the death mage. He was focusing hard through an open window on one of the floors right below her. Death mages needed line of sight to hit their marks, so she knew Garreth must be on the tenth floor of this building or a floor below. She wouldn’t have time to race down there and warn him.
Now that she thought about it, even if she knew which floor it was, if she ran bursting into a room his security team were liable to shoot first and ask questions later. She wasn’t about to die for a vampire. No matter how good looking he was.
The blue glow from the mages hands dipped and dived as Oprax worked a death spell. She fleetingly wondered if it would be a quick death or a slow death.
She couldn’t let this happen. She drew her gun from the holster at her thigh. Sighting along the barrel, she brought the mage in sight and let out a shaky breath. She had never actually shot anyone before. She’d threatened, sure, but she’d never killed anyone.
For the first time in her life, she regretted her natural shield. She couldn’t control the shield, and therefore couldn’t take it down. If she could do that, then she could mind shout a warning to Garreth and his team. They were surely scanning for threats. Unfortunately that wasn’t an option for her.
Oprax threw his spell.
She let out a breath and pulled the trigger.
He flew back from the hit as the report from the gun was still ringing in her ears. Landing somewhere out of her sight, she about did a happy dance when his spell immediately dissipated. She had just managed to relax slightly when the sound of the stairwell door being slammed open had her turning.
Before she could turn fully though, a massive hand had her around her throat and was – dear god! – pushing her out over the street below! Choking, fighting for air and for words, she clawed at the hand around her throat. She kicked out at the solid mass of muscle that was now forcing her over the edge of the roof. She may as well have kicked a brick wall.
Recognizing one of the vampires from Garreth’s security team, she pleaded with him with her eyes to no avail. He continued to hold her at an angle over the deadly drop, his lips pulled back in a snarl, revealing long fangs that captured her horrified attention. There was no mercy in him. He was going to let her go. She silently said her goodbyes to those she considered family – her guild mates, her friends.
One barked word, and she was suddenly hauled back onto the roof and dropped unceremoniously to the rooftop.
Garreth Cole watched dispassionately as the female coughed and gasped for air at Thorne’s feet.
Thorne. She’s human. He had already tried reigning his friend and head of security in mentally, but Thorne tended to be… overprotective.
So? Thorne’s terse response resonated with his anger. She fired a gun in your presence. She deserves to die.
No. She fired a gun in an area that we happened to be in. Not actually in my presence.
“Stop talking about me behind my back.” The female straightened to her feet, still rubbing her throat and turned a murderous glare on Thorne. Garreth felt his lips quirk in the beginning of a smile and quickly schooled his features. It was unusual for anyone to stand up to him or his clan, let alone a human. And female.
“She’s the woman from the street. The one on the corner.” Though by no means obligated to grant her request, Thorne spoke out loud. His wording could have been better though if the females furious gaze and red face were any indication. Looking to Garreth, she made a step in his direction.
That was a mistake.
Faster, and certainly harsher, than necessary Thorne had her flat on her back, fangs flashing before she could take a step.
“Stay where you are blood bag!”
Far from cowed, the woman slammed one hand into Thorne’s throat, threw one leg over his shoulder and flipped him off her.
He couldn’t help it. The look on Thorne’s stunned face. The woman’s gloating expression as she leapt to her feet. The look on Thorne’s face!
He laughed. Out loud. For probably the first time in years.
It wasn’t that funny. Thorne’s disgruntled tone as he rose to his feet had him laughing even harder.
“Look. I know how this must look, but I’m from the guild, and I… shit!” With that confusing explanation the woman rushed to look over the edge of the building into the one across the street. It didn’t take a genius to realize what had happened.
All traces of humor gone, he and Thorne joined her to peer into the other building. One window was open on the tenth floor. Directly across from the floor he had been having a meeting.
“Who?” He didn’t need to elaborate.
“The death mage?”
“Yes. I shot him, but we need to check on him.”
He and Throne immediately sent a message to Taos and Byron, who were waiting in the conference room below with their host.
“My associate, Byron, is going to check on this death mage.”
Immediately following that statement they all watched as a black figure streaked across the street and disappeared into the building. Seconds later, Byron was at the window, head shaking.
“Damn.” The frustrated curse from the female was echoed silently by Thorne and Garreth.
Glancing over at her, he was suddenly struck by how pretty she was. Large blue eyes searched the street below as if she expected to see the death mage hiding in the shadows. She had a pert nose, and full lips that were currently frowning in frustration. She wasn’t wearing any makeup, sensible if she worked for the guild, and he found he liked seeing her without a woman’s typical armor. At least for the women in his circles. She was tall, but not too tall, and had a runner’s build. He knew the guild required daily physical training, so again, unsurprising; except, for the fact that he’d noticed at all. Her hair was pulled back in a French braid, but he could tell it was varying shades of blonde and long. He curled his hands into fists to keep from reaching to touch the silken strands that had come loose around her face.
Frowning, he purposely pulled his gaze from her. He tended to avoid humans as companions. They were easily breakable and their short lifespans only lead to heartache for all involved. For the past hundred years he had only viewed them as food.
Completely unaware of the direction of his thoughts, the woman turned to him, forcing him to return his gaze to her.
“Great. He’s going to go into hiding now. I’m going to have a bitch of a time tracking him down now.”
He paused for a second, thrown by her language. The women in his coven certainly didn’t cuss as much as this one seemed to. “I’m assuming he was contracted to kill me.”
She sat on the edge of the building, clearly unafraid of the height, even after what had transpired with Thorne. How about that Thorne? A human you can’t keep cowed.
Thorne raised an eyebrow at his ribbing. I could give her a little nudge. Only the clear tone of a joke in his mental voice kept Garreth from moving closer to the woman to protect her.
“I can only assume the same. I don’t actually know. I was tracking him for information purposes and to make sure he officially checked in with Darklight. When I caught up with him here, it was immediately apparent he was on a job, but certainly not with the guild.”
Thorne scanned the street below and the buildings nearby. “A no-no.”
The woman nodded. “That would be a big no-no.”
Annoyed, but for a completely different reason then his would-be killer, Garreth found himself speaking before he could stop himself. “What is your name?” He ignored Thorne’s glance of surprise.
“Oh, sorry. Ava Wickham. Darklight hunter.” With the barest hesitation he was sure she didn’t even notice, she reached out a small hand to shake his.
Seeing as she had just saved his life, he did her one better and took her arm in a warrior’s grip, grasping her forearm up near her elbow. Shocked by how much he liked the feel of her arm in his, and how much he liked her automatic return squeeze, he quickly let go of her. The ache in his teeth told him how close he was to releasing his fangs.
Garreth. What the hell? Thorne’s exasperation would have had him blushing if he was capable.
And apparently Thorne had broadcasted his unusual interest to Taos and Byron, who were now laughing down the mental bond they shared. Bloody hell.
He’s mooning over a girl? A human? Byron clearly found it hard to believe.
Uncomfortable, though she couldn’t possibly know why, Ava stepped back out of his reach. “Um, listen, I have to go check out the other building and do a sweep of the surrounding area. Someone from the guild should be here soon to take statements and ask some questions. His name is Zaros. He’s a vampire too, so will probably be flying in. Please don’t shoot him, or fang him, or anything.”
Thorne looked affronted. “Fang him?”
Pointedly ignoring his best friend, Ava kept her focus completely on Garreth. Something he was only too happy with.
“I request that you return as well. I have questions of my own.” Like why my sudden interest in a slip of a human girl for something other than food. “I’ll also want to set up a meeting with Darklight’s guild leader. Roric, I believe?”
Nodding distractedly, Ava began texting on her cellphone, he assumed messaging his request to the guild.
Garreth, Uriah is getting antsy. He is demanding you return and explain what is going on. Taos’s tone suggested he didn’t much care for Uriah’s demands. Garreth didn’t much care about the daemon’s demands either, but they were meeting tonight for a reason.
He knew Uriah could be the one holding Oprax’s contract. How else would the death mage have known where to await his assassination? He felt his eyes briefly glow red, as he fought to control his anger. Unfortunately Ava glanced up just then, meeting his eyes.
Gasping, she stepped back involuntarily, one hand hovering over the gun at her thigh. He immediately brought himself under control, but the damage had been done. He could see the fear she struggled to keep from her eyes. Smell it the light sheen of sweat that broke out on her brow. Hear it in the hard beating of her racing heart.
She had bounced right back from Thorne’s rough treatment, but one look at his glowing eyes had her trembling. Someone had hurt this girl. No, not someone. One of his own. Once again, he fought the ache in his incisors, only this time, it was from the need to hurt whoever had hurt her.
Thorne wasn’t as good as controlling his own anger and hissed through his fangs, startling Ava. She began to swiftly walk to the rooftop door.
“I’m going to go take a look around.” She was unknowingly triggering predator responses and he had to grapple with himself not to lunge after her. He could tell Thorne was having the same issue, and he reached out mentally to his friend. Steady. “So yeah… I’ll be back in thirty.” She practically ran the last few steps, slamming the door violently behind her.
Visibly relaxing, both he and Thorne let out deep breaths. I’m going to kill the fucker that hurt her.
Nodding, Thorne shared what had transpired with Taos and Byron. He was surprised the guild hadn’t come to him sooner if there was an issue with a vampire hurting one of their own. As head of his clan, any violence involving vampires should have been brought to his attention.
They were predatory beings, and long ago had been nearly mindless in their savagery and bloodlust, but centuries of a wars had eventually given way to rules and laws that were strictly adhered to. Vampires no longer had to hide in the dark, luring prey, draining prey, killing prey. They now knew how to feed without killing, could even make it pleasurable so that there were usually lines out the door for willing donors. Donors were paid well and some chose to remain designated donors for the length of their lives. Garreth even had a family that donated from generation to generation. There was no need for pain and violence when feeding.
However, it was hard for some of his brethren to give up the power feeding gave them. Especially a feeding laced with fear and pain. The rush was addicting to some vampires and they had to be swiftly brought to justice. Left unpunished, a vampire could succumb to bloodlust, killing many victims in the process. Bloodlust could also be catching, inciting others to also hurt and kill during feedings. A century ago a whole city had been laid to waste during a surge of vampire bloodlust that had run out of control. Out of necessity, Garreth kept careful, and sometimes deadly, control of the vampires in his city.
As head of his clan, he was judge and jury to all vampires in New Vanhelm. The thought that Ava might have been harmed, and her assailant not brought to justice, made his eyes glow all over again.
Byron broke into his dark thoughts. I’ll shadow her.
His friends knew him well.
He headed towards the stairwell, moving at normal speed, in no hurry to get back to Uriah. He now had two objectives. Discovering if Uriah was the one behind the assassination attempt. And finding out everything he possibly could about Ava Wickham.
One prospect infuriating, the other provoking for entirely different reasons.
Heading down the stairs he had a bit of inspiration regarding Ava.
Let me know as soon as the guild makes contact. This threat to my life has me concerned and I think I may need some additional manpower. Or, womanpower as the case may be. I’m thinking on hiring a new bodyguard. Once again, he found himself smiling – even if it felt a little rusty – at the simultaneous groans from Taos and Byron, and Thorne’s insistence that he’d lost his mind.
I hope you enjoyed this short story! Please feel free to leave comments below. I do welcome constructive criticism in the comments, but please give me more than, “I didn’t like it”. Don’t be afraid to tell me it sucked, but tell me why you think it sucked! And, of course, if you did like it, I would like to know that too.
And if you liked this writing prompt, and feel inspired to write a short story of your own, please feel free to shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to highlight your story in a post of it’s own!
Please don’t mind the mess.
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