I saw a weakness beneath his strength and with growing horror I realized I was that weakness.
I might have just made the biggest mistake of my life, and now not only my life hung in the balance; Brendon’s did as well.
Brendon’s eyes widened and he twisted away from the creature. I watched as the thing’s claws dug in to Brendon’s body but still he fought against it- and then I realized he was mouthing something. No, he wasn’t mouthing it. He was yelling it.
“Run!” The word finally broke free, and I realized he’d been yelling for me to run the whole time he fought with the creature… and he wasn’t fighting to be freed, he was holding it against him instead- holding the claws against his body… forcing them in to his flesh, which seemed just as tender as mine.
I wasn’t sure what I was doing- but I was going to do something. I had to. I could just leave. I could be free. I could let Brendon die. The thoughts held little meaning to me though. What was freedom really? I wouldn’t ever really be free knowing that I let Brendon die. He’d lit the fuse to my feelings and now they were on fire, throughout my entire body. I had no choice but to feel- and I felt something for him, despite how sick those feelings made me feel.
Everything has a weak spot.
“Everything.” I whispered the word out loud, thinking over the possibilities.
Brendon lost his fight.
The creature pulled free, pulling Brendon to him.
I watched in horror, my thoughts coming to an abrupt halt. Brendon’s eyes locked on to mine just as the creature tossed him away as if he were a piece of trash. Brendon stumbled, falling backwards- and then I couldn’t see him.
The creature turned to me and I was frozen in place once again. Bloody fur matted its face, and vicious eyes burned in to me. I almost screamed as it advanced, but I didn’t.
When I didn’t even move away the creature stopped, just inches from me. It growled but I held perfectly still. The creature’s eyes narrowed and I figured it was confused. Did it… feel confusion? I was out of my element. I’d been out of my element since the night I met Brendon.
I held my hands behind my back, twisting a thin branch around quietly. I’d acquired the branch in my fall but it wasn’t until that moment that I realized I’d been gripping on to it tightly, as if for silent support.
The creature sniffed, leaning towards me.
Why was it smelling me?
I heard branches and wondered if there were more… more of whatever this thing was. Its head cocked to the side, listening to the noise.
I took the chance I was given and moved my hand quickly. I pushed forward, slamming the somewhat sharpened stick in to the creature’s eye. It howled loudly, making me jump. I pushed harder, cringing at the liquid-y sound. The creature lashed out, slamming its furry hand against my side. I was shoved in to another tree just in time to see Brendon lunge at the creature, viciously taking hold of its head. There was a crunch and then another wet sound, and I looked away as Brendon tore its head off- the knife he was holding slick with blood.
Brendon stayed in place for several seconds as I fought to catch my breath. Once I could properly breath I stood again, forcing myself to approach him.
He stayed completely still.
Once I reached him I slowly reached out, gently prying the knife from his hand. He let go after a second, but still didn’t move. “Are you okay?” I finally asked.
“I have to burn the body.” He finally responded in a bone chillingly cold tone.
“Oh.” I took a step back, gripping on to the knife desperately.
“Go home.” Brendon spoke so clearly.
“I- what if there are more?” I finally asked.
“There aren’t.” Brendon answered.
“How do you know?”
“I would be able to sense them.”
“You didn’t sense the first one very well.” Brendon tensed at the words that I hadn’t meant to make sound so accusatory.
“I wasn’t at my best.” Brendon whispered, “I was focused on you, and only you. That’s dangerous for us both. It won’t happen again.” His words were still icy, as was his demeanor. “Now go home. I won’t ask you again.”
I turned, nearly stumbling.
Once I reached the edge of the circle I stopped but only for a moment. After looking down at the bloody knife I continued on, feeling every single painful step.
I didn’t feel safe, not even when I stepped inside and Ryan rushed to my side. “What the hell happened?” He wrinkled his nose, “That’s werewolf blood. Where is Brendon?”
“He’s burning the body.” I wouldn’t let go of the knife.
Ryan placed his hands on either side of my face and gazed in to my eyes with an intensity I’d yet to see upon his face before tonight, “Madeline, this is very important- very important… Did it bite you, or Brendon?”
“I- I…” I didn’t get bitten. “I haven’t seen Brendon’s wounds. It uh-“ Why was I so broken up? It hurt Brendon. It hurt him, badly. How badly though? “It clawed him but I- I don’t think it bit him.”
Ryan seemed relieved. “And you?”
“No.” I shook my head, “It didn’t bite me.”
Ryan nodded, “Stay here.”
I blinked and the front door was closing.
With measured steps I went to the door, stepping back outside. The cold night air blew past my body and in the distance I could see a fire burning brightly in the forest. A fire that was burning the body of something I’d never before seen.
I stood on the porch, staring at the distant flames until they were extinguished- then I waited, and waited.
When Brendon appeared he looked utterly exhausted and he was limping. Ryan was beside him, trying to help him walk. Brendon looked at me but then looked away, without another word. “Inside.” Was all Ryan said.
I trailed behind them helplessly as Ryan helped Brendon upstairs. Brendon stopped, “I can make it from here.” He finally said, pushing open his bedroom door. “I didn’t even sense it until it was too late Ryan.”
“I know. I didn’t either. I guess we… it’s just been a long time since one of them has come here.” Ryan responded.
I leaned against the wall, listening to them.
“Why would it be here?” Brendon sounded exhausted, and angry. “And why was it alone? They usually travel in packs.”
“I think- … Brendon, Jack is in town.” I heard the apprehension in Ryan’s voice, met with fury in Brendon’s voice.
“When? Why didn’t you tell me?”
Ryan sighed, “He just called a few days ago and we were busy. He wanted to meet with us, and I’m betting he brought along that thing- or it followed him. It’s his whole life- and now he wants to recruit us.”
“His mission has always been foolish.” Brendon snapped.
“I know.” Ryan agreed, “But…”
“No.” Brendon angrily cut him off, “I can’t do this tonight, I can’t think about this Ryan. We can- we can talk about it tomorrow.”
Ryan hesitated to drop the subject but gave in. “Want me to bring you some blood?”
“No.” Brendon shook his head as I peered at them from my hiding place. “I’m not hungry- and we can both sense you Madeline. You’re only hiding in your own mind.”
I stepped from behind the wall and approached them, “Well…” I just trailed off, not knowing what to say.
Brendon turned away and disappeared in to his bedroom. Ryan shot me a sympathetic look and gestured to the open bedroom door. I sighed and walked past him, knowing that Brendon was less than pleased with my actions. As the door closed behind me I felt trapped.
“Look, I’m sorry and I know it was stupid and I might have gotten in the way but I helped you and you know it and I-“ With two quick strides Brendon was in front of me, cutting me off with a rough kiss.
I gasped in to his mouth as his fingers tugged at my hair; forcing my face closer to his though it seemed an impossible task. He didn’t realize that he didn’t have to force me but still I found myself enjoying the forceful action. My hands moved to the back of his head and I ran my fingers through his tousled hair- and I gave him the same treatment he was giving me as I roughly tugged at his hair.
He aggressively bit my bottom lip, opening the wound from earlier. I could taste the blood that he quickly sucked away. His tongue travelled over my teeth as he explored every inch of the inside of my mouth.
I gasped as one of Brendon’s hands travelled down my body, resting upon my ass. He roughly grabbed it, pulling my body up and then I was being pressed against the bed. I leaned back and Brendon’s body was quickly on top of mine, our lips still attached.
Then he let me breath, as he pulled away.
Our faces were inches apart as he dangerously whispered the words that couldn’t stop my developing lust, “Pull a stunt like that again and I will beat the shit out of you, do you understand that Madeline?” His eyes were tinted red.
“I was scared.” I whispered, staring in to his eyes. I felt as if I were on display for Brendon. What would he see that he hadn’t already seen?
“Then why didn’t you just run?” Brendon asked, “You would have been safe.”
“I wasn’t scared for myself.” I whispered; looking away from him as the tears clinging to my eyelashes threatened to spill.
“You-“ Brendon shook his head and pulled away from me, as if I were poison. “I don’t understand.”
I didn’t either.
“I-“ The bedroom door was pushed open with force and I blinked in confusion as Ryan trailed in behind a guy I’d never seen before.
Brendon tensed as he looked at the man, “Jack.”
“Brendon.” Jack responded, smiling widely. “You’ve looked better.” At those words I forced myself to look at Brendon, really look at him. He was pretty beat up.
His shirt was in pieces, barely hanging on. There was blood everywhere, even on me after our make out session. Those were the only injuries I could clearly see but he was obviously hurt elsewhere from the way he’d needed Ryan’s help to walk- to the way he kept pressing upon his leg with his hand, as if he were trying to force the pain away.
“I don’t want to talk to you tonight.” Brendon said, looking away.
Jack didn’t seem insulted. “Well, it’s a good thing I’m not here to talk to you then. I’m here to talk to Madeline. It’s Madeline, right?”
I was too surprised to speak.
“Yes, that is Madeline.” Ryan answered.
Brendon’s eyes snapped back to Jack, “You’re not talking to her.” I wasn’t used to his fiercely protective tone, and my silence continued.
“She threatened the treaty.” Jack responded, “Word spread quickly. It has already begun.”
“How?” Ryan asked, “Madeline didn’t kill it; Brendon did.”
Brendon shifted uncomfortably, “Madeline helped me.”
“What?” Ryan’s mouth fell open a little.
“I don’t know how word spread.” Jack responded, “But I heard about it from one of my contacts. A group in Boston is deciding on what will be done with the information. They’ve been our enemies since the beginning of time but… they had a treaty with humans, a treaty that might have burned away with the body.”
“Treaty?” I sat up, confusion giving me a blinding headache. The room spun and it was a few seconds before I could clearly see again.
“The werewolves created a treaty with humans over hundreds of years ago.” Jack explained, “It was in a time when vampires and werewolves weren’t just fairy tales. The treaty clearly states that humans will not harm werewolves, and werewolves will not harm humans- not on purpose.”
“But it was attacking us!” This was so confusing.
“But you were with a vampire.” Jack pointed out, raising an eyebrow, “Which is questionable, by the way- but I’ll hold my questions for later.”
“So?” What did that mean? So what if I was with a vampire?
“Being with a vampire puts you on a different playing field. You’re no longer just an innocent human. You’re now the enemy and despite the treaty you struck against the creature.” That would actually explain why it stopped before attacking me. That was what gave me the upper hand and allowed me to harm it enough to give Brendon the upper hand.
“I didn’t even know about the treaty, or the creature.” The words fell uselessly to the ground though and I knew it wouldn’t matter how little I knew.
Brendon swallowed hard, “What do they want?”
“They want the girl dead.” Jack responded, “Or it will be an all-out war. That’s the story so far anyway.”
“An all- out war?” My lips felt numb.
“That’s not acceptable.” Brendon snapped, “If it’s a war they want then it’s a war I’ll give them.”
Jack smirked, “That’s the spirit.”
“No.” I shook my head, “War is serious. War means death, and it doesn’t always mean you’ll win- and it… I’m just one person.”
Ryan stood tensely by the door, “I agree that it’s not acceptable for Madeline to die but it’s three against an army… and it’s a war with humans they are going to want, not a war with vampires.”
“There are other vampires that are itching to fight.” Jack offered, “And if there is a war between humans and werewolves… humans won’t be the only casualties. There aren’t many vampires that want to give up living the way we are all living. Humans give us a certain advantage in their open ignorance.”
“Brendon-“ I tried to gain his attention. They couldn’t be serious!
“I have something-“ Brendon began but was quickly cut off.
“No Brendon-“ Ryan held a warning in his tone.
“They want Madeline dead.” Brendon snapped, glaring at Ryan. “What should I do, step aside?”
“You’re talking about killing an entire race.” Ryan warned, sounding concerned. “You can’t just do something like that and walk away.”
“I’ll wait for their decision before I make the final call.” Brendon responded, once again sounding exhausted.
Jack grinned and the excitement in his voice was unmistakable, “I’ll be back as soon as I have word.”
I couldn’t hear his footsteps as he disappeared. Ryan followed after him, just as quietly. Brendon didn’t look at me as I stared holes in to his back. “How hurt are you?” I finally asked, letting my defenses fall to the ground now that the stranger was gone.
I was afraid once again.
“I’ll heal.” Brendon answered, staring blankly at the wall in front of him.
I moved to the edge of the bed beside him, “What was Ryan talking about? What were you talking about? I mean, you guys can’t really just kill an entire race…” An entire race that I hadn’t even believed in before tonight…
“I can.” Brendon answered, “Jack’s wanted my help for a really long time but I-“ He cleared his throat, “I like the life I have. Ryan and I have worked hard for what we have. We’ve worked to blend in with humans, and we- we didn’t look for the conflict that Jack wants.”
“What can you do?” He made himself sound all powerful.
“It’s not important Madeline.” Brendon’s tone suggested that the end of the conversation had been reached but I wouldn’t make it that easy.
“If whatever secret you have holds the power to kill an entire race then it’s pretty damn important, and if you’re going to test this secret out because of me then it’s my business.” I gazed at Brendon but he continued to stare blankly at the wall.
“About ninety years ago I perfected this liquid serum. It’s either injectable or edible. It acts quickly if it’s injected; if it’s eaten then it can take days. I tested it on various subjects for three years, watching as the toxin ate at its victims.”
I felt cold as I thought over his words. He experimented on werewolves, killing them… to learn how to kill them more effectively. “It’s a vicious toxin, causing as much pain as it can. The nerves in the werewolf die, giving up under the extreme duress. The pain reaches the heart and it stops, after the maximum level of pain is reached.” A chill took over my body and I shivered uncontrollably. He hadn’t just researched how to kill them. He researched how to make it hurt. “It was the most amazing, and the most disturbing discovery I’ve ever made- the worst yet best thing I’ve ever created.”
“But you can’t just capture a bunch of werewolves and inject them with this… this substance.” I tried to argue, the horror of what he was planning to do gripping me.
“I have a plan that should work.” He didn’t sound certain.
“It should.” Brendon repeated, “If I can turn the toxin in to powder then… all they would have to do is inhale it. It would be a minimal risk.”
“You can’t Brendon.” I felt sick to my stomach. “You can’t kill an entire race.”
Brendon finally glanced at me, confusion coloring his eyes a lighter shade. “I’m doing it for you Madeline.”
“Don’t say that.” I shook my head, “Don’t say it’s for me. I don’t want an entire race murdered, not for me.”
“It’s a rather disgusting race.” Brendon commented.
I didn’t know what to say.
“Let’s not talk about it. We won’t know exactly what we are doing until Jack brings word of their decision.” Brendon spoke softly, “I only fight to protect what is mine. If they back off… then so will I.”
I stood up and winced, bending over a little.
“Madeline?” Brendon stood as well. “You didn’t tell me that you were hurt.” He ran his fingers over the cut on my arm, “I saw the cut but… show me what else there is.”
“Only if you show me.” I gestured to him.
We both stared at each other. Brendon made the first move as he peeled the pieces of his shirt away and threw it to the ground. The gashes were deep, and still bleeding. I pulled my shirt off, wincing as I moved. Brendon was a lot better at hiding his pain and his wounds were a lot more serious than mine were.
Brendon started pulling his belt off as I stepped out of my jeans. I had cuts across my knees from falling and light cuts all across my stomach from the branches I’d been thrown through. My thigh had noticeable trauma, which was what caused me to wince with movement.
Brendon stepped out of his jeans and I realized why he was limping. From his calf all the way up his leg was a deep gash which was openly bleeding.
“Are you okay?” I asked, stepping closer to Brendon.
I wanted to help him but I didn’t know how to.
“If you hadn’t come back then I would’ve died.” Brendon stared at me, surprise clearly shown in his eyes. “Ryan wouldn’t have made it back in time.”
“I heard you cry out.” I looked away as tears built in my eyes. I’d never come so close to losing something I didn’t even know I wanted before tonight. It was confusing and irritating, and hard to say out loud. “That’s why I came back.”
“You could have died.” Brendon was blunt.
“I wouldn’t have been able to live knowing that I let you die.” I answered, hugging my arms across my chest.
I jumped as Brendon brushed hair from my face, “Madeline, why’d you really come back?”
I knew the question was coming but I still wasn’t ready for it.
“Why did you come back to save someone you keep saying you hate?” Brendon asked.
“I-“ The warm wet tears itched as they slid down my face. “I’m cold.”
Brendon nodded but I saw the disappointment in his eyes. It wasn’t what he expected me to say but I didn’t know what he wanted from me. I didn’t really understand the answer I was about to give, and I didn’t feel right saying something I didn’t really understand.
“Do you want to shower the blood away?” Brendon asked, “I can start a warm shower. I’m going to jump in too.”
Brendon walked away and I stood in place, listening as the water started.
Time passed and then Brendon returned, “The shower is ready Madeline.”
I nervously followed him, knowing that each step I took with him was another step away from freedom.
I didn’t even know what freedom was anymore, because being away from Brendon didn’t fit the image I had in mind.