Home > Catalyst (Vampire Apocalypse #2)(3)

Catalyst (Vampire Apocalypse #2)(3)
Author: H.M. Ward

Taking a deep breath, he ran his fingers through his hair. It was the end of the day. Everyone should be exhausted, but Cole was not. He feigned his fatigue, slowing his pace to match his sister's. Finally, he said, "Don't worry about it for tonight. I'll tell you what I know in the morning. If she comes back, send a message. Remember what they taught us?"

Cassie bobbed her head, knowing exactly what he was referring to. Hands twisting, she looked up at him. "Yes, but that was before we came here."

Cole shook his head, "It doesn't matter. It's still true. Don't assume anything until there's blood. With our kind, with our anemia, there is always blood and lots of it when something goes wrong. Don't freak out until then. It won't help you and it won't help Kahli. All right?"

Nothing was all right, but what was she supposed to say? They turned a corner and walked down a hallway with floor to ceiling windows. All the drapes were pulled shut to seal in the heat. Even so, Cassie could still feel the frozen air wafting in and spilling under the thick curtains.

Something Cole said came back to her. She didn't know what he meant. Cole always spoke using as few words as possible. She glanced up at him, "What do you mean, they're watching you?"

Cole's gaze cut to hers. He slipped his hands into his pockets, continuing to walk like nothing was wrong even though everything was falling apart. "Exactly that."

Cassie sighed, frustrated with him. For once, she wished he would just talk to her the way he used to. Coming to the palace was exciting at first. It meant a better life, but Cole never acted like that. Instead he seemed to shut down and was constantly anxious, like he was going to be attacked at any moment. There were more rules in the palace, more protection. But that didn't help Kahli, she thought sadly. Maybe Cole's been right all this time. Cassie rubbed her face and looked up at him. "Gonna tell me anything else about it?"

"Not at the moment. I shouldn't have mentioned it. I just don't want more attention and running draws it. Although, Kahli shone a spotlight on us, so maybe it doesn't matter." Cole wanted to strangle Kahli. She was reckless. Her behavior would affect Cassie, and while Kahli was protective of his sister, she couldn't protect Cassie from the vamps if she was dead.

Cole turned toward his sister. Taking her elbow, he stopped her. "Hey, sorry I snapped. I've tried so hard to make sure that we survive. I'm not handling this very well. Kahli doesn't mesh with my ideal situation."

Cassie arched an eyebrow at him. "Ideal situation? Are you nuts? The ideal situation was before the ice shelf snapped off and drown half the world. The ideal situation was before everything was covered in ice. Nothing is ideal, Cole, not anymore. We're at the bottom of the food-chain, living in hell. And honestly, if it wasn't for the vamps, we'd be dead by now. People can't survive on their own out there. Not anymore."

Cole's voice was soft, pensive. He looked straight at her, saying, "And yet Kahli did, from age seven, and she was alone. Makes you think, doesn't it?"

Cole didn't say anything else. He couldn't. The vamps were too close. They heard every word he said. He led Cassie back to her rooms and told her not to worry, that he'd look into Kahli's whereabouts as well as the other girls who were missing. He gave Cassie a kiss on the head and shoved her through the door and told her to go back to her room.

As he walked away, Cole wondered what happened to him. Since Kahli arrived, he'd gone from just another piece of vamp decor to socialite status, drawing attention and turning heads. No one looked at him the same way anymore. He was lucky to get a reprieve between feedings. The Regent would have tried to tap him tonight if the Queen hadn't requested him. They noticed Cole, now. They watched him closer, and he didn't like it. That made everything he worked for harder, but there was no way he was giving up now.

Chapter 4

Sophia sat on her throne admiring her reflection. A large mirror with white gold gilding sat directly in front of her dais. The warm silvery tones gleamed, reflecting an image that was ghostlike in appearance. Sophia grinned. It was the effects of the girl's blood. She knew it. That shimmering likeness was a hollow display of her beauty. The reflection was fading and soon, with enough blood, would disappear entirely. It marked the restoration of her former power. Everything would return to the way it was. "Just like old times," she said, pleased.

"Yes, sister." Reginald rolled his eyes. He sat slouched in his chair, next to her, head leaning sideways on his hand. "Exactly like old times. You sat in front of the mirror even when there was nothing to see."

Sophia's eyes cut to her brother. Why she allowed him to return was a mystery. Fickle was how the Regent described her actions, but Sophia knew why she called him back. Reggie had a way of bringing out the worst in her, and she'd need that soon. Very soon.

"Remind me why you're still alive?" she said, sighing, like she was bored.

"So you can rub my face in your returning power." He straightened in his chair. "Power isn't much fun without someone to flaunt in front of." Bitterness filled his mouth. That girl should have been his. Instead of watching his vapid sister fading from that looking glass, it would have been his reflection that was nearly gone. Reggie tried to hide his jealousy, but he couldn't completely mask it - which was why Sophia kept him around. They both knew it.

"Ah, yes," she grinned. "Flaunting is the perfect reason to spare your insignificant life." After gazing at the glass for some time, she tilted her head. A dark ringlet fell over her shoulder. She touched it gently, twisting it between her fingers. "Reggie, dear. What did we do before?"

He glanced up at her not following her meaning. "Pardon?" He straightened in his seat, leaning forward slightly and feigning interest.

Sophia sighed. Why did he pretend to be a fool? She knew he was far from it. Sophia resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "Before, when we were powerful and had no reflection at all...how did we dress? How did we know what we looked like? It was so long ago."

It was long ago, but Reginald recognized this as another snub from his sister. She remembered. "Servants. Slaves. Tell them to make you pretty. If they fail, kill them, and then choose another." He uncrossed his legs and sat forward in his chair. "You act like it was so long ago that you can't remember."

"I'm not sure I do remember everything," she said, still primping, while she could make out her fading image in the mirror.

"Come now, sister. Good blood should draw memories back, not exile them completely." When Sophia didn't answer he looked over at her. She continued to fuss with the curl, trying to drape it over her shoulder with the other cascading dark locks.

Reggie wondered if she really couldn't remember, if it wasn't an act. As he watched his sister primp and fuss, he wondered why. Was there a reason she hadn't obtained her former power? Was the girl too defiant to be fed from? Something was wrong with her, otherwise his sister would have devoured more blood by now. Those who don't grab power while it's within their grasp don't live to see the sunrise, and yet, Sophia was sitting like she had all the time in the world. There was only one explanation for it in his mind - something was wrong with Kahli.

A grin spread across Reggie's lips, slowly stretching from one corner of his mouth to the other. He didn't realize it, but now that he saw, he didn't know how he missed it. "Tell me, how is her blood? Perhaps it's not as pure as we thought? I mean, look at the mirror. Your face is still there when you should be reflectionless by now."

Sophia was always easy to goad. She stopped and turned toward him slowly. Reginald knew he plucked the right strings. "Be careful, brother. You do not want to fight me today."

"I have no wish to fight with you, either," Reginald said. Sophia's eyes bore into him. If she could make him burst into flames, she would have. "I was merely pointing out that your prized-possession seems to be rather lackluster," he pressed his hand to his chest, "which is dreadfully embarrassing with how she was flaunted at the All Hallow's Eve party. Every Regent saw and heard you brag about her, the dirty wild thing." He shivered as he thought about it. Kahli was disgusting, dripping with filth and savage beyond comprehension. She acted more like a beast, than a girl.

Sophia's gaze narrowed, her hands tightening their grip on the dais. "She is what I thought she was. What you told me she was - wild - pure. Do you think we should just tap her and drink goblets of her blood? Are you a fool? Do you know how potent pure blood is? What it does compared to the anemic spawn we've been breeding?" The only reason she offered this information was to prove she was right, that pure blood was hers and not his. That the blood was restoring her former power and he wouldn't have a drop.

Reginald hadn't realized what was wrong with the girl. He figured that young William had issues restraining her, or something ridiculous. But this, this was much better. "How dreadful," he said with pity in his voice. "To have something that could change everything so easily and yet, not be able to take that power. It must be awful." He clucked his tongue and shook his head, barely hiding the satisfied smile that kept breaking across his lips. "I had no idea."

"You never have any idea," she snapped. Motioning for her servant, Sophia said to her, "Fetch the wild girl for a tasting. Promptly." After the servant left, Sophia turned toward her brother with a wicked gleam in her eye. "Never say that I was unkind to you, Reginald. I'll let you taste a drop and you can see how strong a stomach is needed to drink from her. It's not what you think, either." The smug expression fell from his face. "It's not a matter of swallowing it. It's a matter of our weakened bodies being able to metabolize her blood."

Reginald was excited and apprehensive. Leaning back, he slouched in his chair trying to hide it. "What's the worst that it could do?"

Sophia gave a wolfish grin, "Wait and see for yourself." When the servant reentered without Will, Sophia was irritated. "Well?" Sophia snapped.

The servant didn't look her in the eye. Instead she bowed her head and stared at the floor. "Neither of them is to be found. I've looked and asked. The last person to see the girl was the King."

Sophia rose slowly, utterly calm. Reginald shrunk away from her, knowing exactly how much rage just exploded in her system. Every inch of Sophia's body would twitch any second. She would kill without a second thought, without reason.

Reginald sat very still, managing to stay just out of her line of sight. Sophia stepped toward the trembling servant and before Reginald could blink, a severed head rolled across the floor. No one moved. No one breathed. The Queen crossed the room, power flowing from her in a deadly wave, killing anyone within reach. A bloody path trailed in her wake. Before he was remembered, Reginald slipped from the chair and made his way out of the palace. If the King took what wasn't his, then Reginald was not safe. He cursed himself for not returning sooner.

Although his sister didn't suspect it, Reginald had nefarious reasons for being there, all of which stemmed back to Kahli.

Chapter 5

Will was nervous when Kahli's eyes slipped over his runes. He wondered how much she knew? If she would notice? His throat constricted as her fingers trailed over his chest and down his side, her green eyes trailing across his bare skin. There was so much he wanted to say, so many things to explain, but he couldn't. Blood runes were more binding than she realized. They burned under his flesh, searing into his soul, commanding him in a way that Kahli's betrothal runes did not. The way she looked at him, like she was caught between trust and turning on him, made Will do it. Revealing his runes was a calculated risk, one that he would regret later if she ever found out the truth about him. The power of his true name was enough to sate her insecurities. Although Kahli didn't realize what she could do with it, or that she had any power over him at all.

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