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A SURREAL BLUE ROGUE AGENT NOVELLA:

DO OR DIE 

BY

E.R. BAINE

Copyright

Published by Chunksie Entertainment

Copyright 2013. E.R. Baine

Cover Art by chunksieentertainment@hotmail.com

Images provided by RomanceNovelCovers.com

Edited by Word Vagabond: http://wordvagabond.com/

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people, it is however DRM FREE. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. To obtain permission to excerpt portions of the text, please contact the author at chunksie@gmail.com. This book contains Mature Language and Mature Content. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

This publication is part of the Dark Lens Galaxy Collection serialization.

Print ISSN: 2306-1642., 2nd Edition

Written and Copyrighted by E.R. Baine, a.k.a. Chunksie.

All characters in this book are fiction and figments of the author’s imagination. www.chunksie.com

Author’s Note

No matter the places I have been, South Carolina, Venezuela, Panama City or Manhattan, my heart always makes its way back to Trinidad. This novella in the first in the series titled Surreal Blue Rogue Agent. I will be writing several series in the coming years and I hope you enjoy reading them. This book is dedicated to my loving family and friends who have supported me in this great adventure of becoming a published author, and to Chunksie Entertainment that has allowed me to reach a much further audience than I could ever imagine. This is not a two people meeting for the first time and falling in love, coming of age story but an episodic paranormal/fantasy and romantic saga.

About Do Or Die, Book 1:

Nothing to lose, everything to gain…

Multi-Billionaire Russian tycoon Viktor Mackmillian and his family are enjoying a peaceful vacation on the sunny Caribbean island of Trinidad. But when his wife Audrianna is kidnapped he becomes a man on a deadly mission. He has turned to the vicious werewolf pack he has long cut off all ties with for help…but for a price that Viktor is loath to accept.

For a love that holds no bounds, and bares all wounds…Viktor will forsake his life by the light of the full moon.

A new, paranormal, romance saga…

Mature Content, Mature Language

GLOSSARY OF TERMS AND MAIN CHARACTERS

Viktor Maxckmillian – Russian Ambassador to Trinidad in the futuristic fantasy Earth world. He is Audrianna’s husband and owner of a Multinational Corporation called Maxckcom International, were-bear with mystical powers.

Audrianna Maxckmillian – Wife of Viktor Maxckmillian, were-fox and member of the Werewolf pack of Harlem ruled by Xin Xing. She is also the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Maxckcom International.

Lincoln Huntington – Audrianna’s aide and confident and ex-Marine. He also has a bionic arm and both his legs are bionic.

Matsenêste King – Viktor’s aide, former Navy Seal and close confidant of Lincoln and Audrianna.

Xin Xing – Leader of the Harlem Werewolf Pack and extreme fighter. Commanding fire is his special ability.

Dr. Eli – Scientist.

Kelly Payne – Master interrogator for Viktor’s Maxckcom International black-market dealings. Has the ability to get into people’s head. Martial artist weapons expert.

Elyzabel – Audrianna’s personal assistant, and Kelly’s fiancé.

Hell’s Embrace – Viktor’s magical club he uses to fight in battle.

Brighton Darksmith – A smith dedicated to creating weaponry infused with magical powers. Occupation referred to as “The Darksmith”.

Grigori – Man servant to Viktor, comes from a long line of family members who steadfastly serve the Maxckmillian lineage.

Farther Arie John – Chaplain-in-residence at the local New York estate church belonging to the Maxckmillian’s.

 

Table of Contents

Copyright

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

EXCERPT FROM BOOK 2 – AND THE HEART GROWS FONDER

Follow Me!

PROLOGUE

THREE YEARS AGO

Audrianna looked out at the expanse of the surrounding hills and was awed by the beauty of the tropical rainforest. Trinidad was truly a beautiful place. A few feet from her was a steep cliff face that gave way to a ravine. She heard the sound of running water at the bottom, a few yards below. The mellow morning enchanted her, and the whistling birds raised her spirit and put her mind at ease.

She hugged herself in the purple fur coat she wore. Naked underneath, her black skin was starting to bear goose-bumps. She shivered. Hearing the crunch of forest leaves, she turned to look at the person who had intruded on her space. Viktor Maxckmillian, the Russian Junior Ambassador from the local embassy. She had known him for years before he received the post.

His approach was purposeful as he emerged from the canopy of trees. He wore slacks but no top, only an overcoat. He was both strong and tall, a well-chiseled male specimen. His jet-black hair was long and flowing, past his shoulders. The ends were tipped with grey, though he was barely over twenty.  Audrianna bit her lower lip against the impassioned feeling inside her that his stare wrought.

“You didn’t have to follow me,” Audrianna yelled at him from a few feet away, scowling as he quirked a brow at her, never hesitating in his approach.

“I’m not going to disappear on you again.” He stood inches from her now. “It wouldn’t make any sense now that you know who I am and where I live.”

He gazed at her, a lazy smile on his face. “I’m not taking any chances, especially where you’re concerned.”

Audrianna shrugged, nonchalant.

“Have you an answer for my proposal?”

She shrugged again.

Her eyes diverted sideways. She did not witness the twinge of sadness that flashed across Viktor’s features. His expression soon gave way to one of pique, and then arrogant anger. He reached for her, gripping the fur on either side, and swung her so that she tilted backward, arching her body over the cliff.

Shocked, Audrianna clung onto him, her body exposed. She looked at him determinedly, meeting an equally determined expression.

“Viktor!”

“No!” He ground out. “Now, you listen to me. Everything I have worked for, everything that I have sacrificed, has been for this.” He pushed her closer to the edge and she cried out. “You are in possession of me, woman, and Iown you. Your hesitation impugns us both. There is no going back on this. I warned you before, if all that is left for us is the depths of hell, then we embrace hell- together.”

“Alright, yes.” Audrianna glanced down at the steep drop below. “Yes, I’ll marry you. Just please calm down.”

Viktor yanked her forward into his arms and hugged her tightly to him. “Dammit Audrey, you drive me to hysterics.” Both their breaths were ragged.

Audrianna placed a hand on his pectoral, her naked body mashed against his. “I think you came to me partly insane.”

Viktor smiled. “You’re driving me over the edge.”

“That is not funny.” She listened to his erratic heartbeat, watching her hand rise up and down with each breath he took.

Viktor heard the smile in her voice and looked down at her, turning her face up to him with the crook of his finger. The top of her head barely met his chest.

“You’re not going to apologize to me, are you?” Audrianna asked.

“Apologize? For what?”

Audrianna feigned exasperation. “For coercing me to accept your marriage proposal.  You threatened to throw me off the side of a cliff.”

“Sweetheart,” Viktor was unapologetically emphatic. “I make most of my millions from men who feel their lives threatened unless they give in to my demands; I’m not going to stop at my v’wife.”

She laughed at the way his accent sometimes affected his pronunciation whenever he became emotional.

Viktor twirled her round and lowered her to the ground. Audrianna screamed in delight. He straddled her, their pelvises aligned. He entwined her hand in his. “This is it Audrey, we did it, you and me.”

The purple fur coat lay open on the ground. Viktor seemed mesmerized by the sight of their hands locked together. Their union felt irrevocably right. He had never been incredibly confident about any other triumph.

His eyes moved from their engaged hands to the play of light refracted by his studded ruby, emerald and sapphire ring, that danced on Audrianna’s stomach.

“Are you listening to me?” Audrianna asked.

Viktor looked up into her eyes and Audrianna’s voice caught, witnessing the passionate emotion she saw there.

“No,” Viktor said right before he took her mouth in a breathless, passionate, all-consuming kiss that left no room for discourse.

Viktor’s other hand cupped her breast, pinching her nipple until it grew hard. She whimpered. Audrianna slipped her hand over his firm chest. She caressed his shoulders, the back of his neck. Viktor moved his other hand down to the apex of her thighs and fingered her clit gently. She groaned. He pressed harder. She squeezed her thigh over his hand. He trailed a hot row of kisses from her lips, down the center of her chest. His tongue laved her other nipple, and she gasped.

His mouth trailed lower until it landed on her opening. He suckled between her parted legs until she was wet and ready for him. She writhed and arched up to meet him.

“Ohh, Viktor. Please hurry!”  Audrianna begged.

With a hand on each side he pushed himself up to look down at her. “Say it, plead with me again.” He unzipped his trousers and unleashed his cock.

Audrianna stared down at him; it was obvious he already wanted her so bad.  She felt herself blush.

“Mmmm.” Audrianna lifted both arms around his head, tangling her fingers in his hair, pulling him close. “Viktor, please,” she whispered softly in his ear, her eyes closed. “Fuck me… hard.” She felt so embarrassed by what she had said, defying her demure self, that she covered her face with both hands.

Viktor growled, burying his head in the crook of her shoulder. His heart rejoiced, and his cock felt taut.  He struggled not to cum. Holding her at the waist, he rolled backward, bringing her with him. He lifted her up.

Audrianna had the view of the surrounding hills before she looked down.  The top of Viktor’s head was at the edge of the cliff. She caught a jaw-dropping glimpse of the bottom of the ravine before he entered her and Audrianna had no other impulse than to look into his eyes.

She was mesmerized by his intense gaze. She felt him thrust inside her. She shuddered with each slick feel of movement and throbbed around him.

“Move, baby, move.”

Audrianna, staring down at him, pushed up on his chest. His look of need for her only emboldened her to take the lead in their sexcapade. She moved up and down his length, rocking her hips. His hands on both her buttocks, he supported her motion.

His thrusts matched her momentum until the ecstatic sexual pleasure reached crescendo, and she convulsed around him, squeezing him. He groaned, climaxing inside her.

Audrianna collapsed on his chest. Her soft panting mellowed as she drifted into a languid peace. Moments passed and she felt him still inside her, start to push into her again. She gave a breezy laugh. Her eyes popped open and she gazed at the surrounding tropical rainforest and thought,

How insane is this?

CHAPTER 1

PRESENT DAY

“Xin, is the target in sight?”

Xin inhaled sharply, fighting off a sneer that threatened to crack his quiet exterior. “Xie xie,” Xin replied softly over the phone. He couldn’t believe that Victor’s harsh undertone had the power to stick needles into his composure. Nothing got past Xin’s thick skin. “Tag him!”  The commander’s response was curt.

Xin clapped the cellphone shut and tapped it against his pursed lips. Sitting on a folding chair, off-center of the sparsely furnished room, he eyed the last of the exiting thugs with mild interest. Xin hailed him, inclining his head to encourage him to come near. The man hesitated, glanced back at the troop, and then quickly stepped forward to be addressed by his superior.

The man who hailed him had short black hair and wore dark glasses. He wore a dark grey suit and a metallic tie with an engraved silver tie clip that fastened to a crisp, plum-colored shirt.

Bending over, listening closely to what the mysterious Asian man had to say, he did not realize that this man was a figure only he could see.

Xin, using his thumb to hold the cell phone to his palm, extended his four fingers to stab the man through the protective black army gear in his lower abdomen.

“No, look at me, look at me,” Xin said as he coaxed the man’s attention from the sudden pain in his side to look into his eyes as he inserted the small phone into his flesh. “You’re fine. You feel no pain,” he told him. Xin used his fingers to slowly push the cell phone deeper into the man’s side before he removed his coarse hand and the gash quickly healed, leaving a contused wound.

Xin covered the spot by pulling the man’s jacket over the area and smiled. “Now, hurry along before they realize you’re gone.”

The man swallowed hard as he slowly gained his bearings coming out from under the strong trance. He felt sick as though he wanted to throw up, but he couldn’t fathom the reason. He shrugged it off as just the intensity of the job at hand; for protecting the subject from attack would not be easy. He inhaled to calm himself. As he left the room, he almost gagged on the saliva that had accumulated in his mouth. He covered his mouth, coughing to clear his throat, and was shocked to see a spattering of blood in the palm of his hand. This confused him even further.

“Hey! Roger!” Looking up from his bloodied hand, he saw his teammate waving to him from the entrance.

I’m fine. No pain no gain, he thought as he rushed to meet up with the rest of the group. He ignored the slight twinge he felt in the side of his lower abdomen as he ran.

* * *

“How’s your arm.” Mat looked at Lincoln as he flexed his right arm open and closed. They both stood at the back of the group of men that would be engaged in battling Audrianna’s abductors.

“Not a problem.” Lincoln whispered back. A triple amputee, Lincoln wore special high quality bionic prosthetics that were grafted in aesthetically pleasing synthetic skin. His arm and legs looked and mimicked natural limbs. He had forsaken an integral doctor’s visit to fix a categorical malfunction in his arm to be present for his Boss’s meeting.

Cory Broderick, the commander in charge of the operation, was in front of the group giving a briefing. The two aides listened in quietly. Corey finished the briefing and Lincoln called the officers to attention.

“I can’t stress this hard enough guys,” Lincoln circled the men seated in the room dressed in military fatigue. “This is a “No Fire” operation until specified otherwise. Understood?”

The men nodded emphatically in response.

“Good.” Lincoln nodded in Broderick’s direction.

Broderick looked over at Mr. Maxckmillian who was at the time taking a private call.

“The receiver has been placed,” Viktor heard Xin say. He sighed as he disconnected the line on his cell and gazed at the members of his wife’s security team. His eyebrow rose at Lincoln Huntington, his wife’s personal aide, who was now in charge of the rescue mission to save her from the abductors.

“Zat it?” he asked in his heavily laden Russian accent.

Lincoln’s reply was equally terse. “For the CPA meeting, for now- yes. We will act as soon as we have her coordinates.”

“Khoroshiy.” Viktor Maxckmillian swiveled the black ergonomic chair around to face the floor-to-ceiling glass windows that overlooked the coastal city of Port-of-Spain. They had an all encompassing view of the of the Gulf of Paria. The slashing, ominous waves, coupled with the encroaching mass of blackness in the sky that gave way to sparse strips of white light that barely touched the oceanic surface spoke of treacherous weather.

Viktor’s act was as much of a dismissal as the group expected, and the fifteen military-trained men began leaving the regional office of Maxckcom International, located in the Eric Williams Financial Complex. As their steps receded, Viktor heard one steady, assured foot land beside his desk.

“That there be devil’s weather.” Matsenêstse King, Viktor’s blond-haired, green-eyed Texan aide muttered under his breath. Mat had sharp, strong features and a square jaw that relaxed into an easy smile far too often. His hair was tapered short and neat.

Viktor’s eyes slanted to his right. Hearing the door slam behind him, he turned his chair around. His dark blue eyes were guarded.

Lincoln stood by the door, clutching the knob. Viktor released a harsh sigh. “Something else…” Victor paused to think of the right words, “on your mind?” His eyebrow raised in query.

Lincoln released his tense grip on the knob to approach the thick, wide glass desk. He came closer, to stand before Viktor. Viktor relaxed in his seat and arched backward, casually folding his arms over his broad chest. He looked up at Lincoln’s massive six-foot four-inch frame, whose shadow eclipsed Viktor’s body. Lincoln’s honey-colored eyes bored through Viktor’s. Lincoln’s strong jaw tensed. “Is there any phone call so important that you could ignore a briefing about your own wife’s kidnapping?”

Viktor blanched, more from inner rage than embarrassment. He lowered his eyes, “You seem to have the matter under control.”

“Do you have any idea where she is?”

Mat’s gasp was audible.

Viktor’s smirk was incredulous. “You driving something at here – Lincoln Huntington?”

“I want to know who was on the other line of that call you got earlier.  What do you know about Audrianna’s kidnapping? You see, the world of Audrianna Maxckmillian, which is totally eclipsed by the all-knowing Viktor Maxckmillian, holds no secrets from you; but the rest of us are not privy to it .” Lincoln’s left hand clenched the secret Contingency Plan file painfully. “If you know who has her, then I want to know now.”

Viktor’s fists landed with extreme force on the glass desk. “Do you truly believe v’at I-” Viktor paused to take a deep calming breath. “Do you think I could ever, ever, delay my wife’s homecoming for the sake of one-upmanship over you?” Viktor’s voice was savage. “Over anyone?” Viktor stood up swiftly with a force that shot his chair backward. “I would never betray Audrianna in this way.” Viktor’s height nearly matched Lincoln’s. “I know you don’t respect my ethics, but give me some credit for the way I handle my business. Whoever took my wife – I don’t know – but be sure, they will regret their actions this day.”

A tense silence filled the room a moment before a sharp rap was heard against the door. A good-looking brunette, Miriam Whitfield, staggered into the office and collapsed unceremoniously in one of the empty guest chairs.  “Alcohol please,” she gasped for breath. “Anything will do.”

Viktor buzzed his assistant secretary Emily and ordered a scotch and tonic. Emily, a petit, raven-haired girl with strict bearing, walked in with a tray of bottles of scotch, gin, tonic, and empty glasses. Miriam passed on the gin, deciding on the rich, dark liquid. Emily poured the liquor into one of the glasses. Miriam swiped one immediately, quickly downing it in one, strong gulp.

Miriam pumped her elbow backward, bringing her fist to her shoulder blade. “Aha, now that’s the stuff!” she breathed.

Mat grinned, releasing a slow, low wolf-whistle. Gotta love a gal that can hold her liquor, he thought. Miriam grabbed another glass, about to down another shot, when Viktor lost his already thin patience.

“Miriam!” Viktor’s voice was quiet but curt.

Miriam stilled. The glass of scotch paused, the glass rim right at the tip of her lips; a sly smile animated her face. Her left eyebrow quirked upwards, her eyes lowered from Viktor’s stern features to the chilled golden liquid. Her gaze became shuttered.

“Faulty wiring: a leak gone unnoticed, water pooling over some exposed wires, a minor electrical explosion, a life lost. That’s the story I’ve been pushing across the internet and it’s been picked up by the AP.” Miriam swirled the scotch confidently in her hand. The ice cubes chinked as they clashed against the glass surface, knocking against each other. “I’ve got someone on the report from the fire services, the police department, and the private ambulance service. They’ll all concur with the initial on-site findings – an explosion due to faulty wiring.” Miriam drained the glass. Her mouth pouted in a soft moue. “Ohh,” she released a soft breath. “Bully for us.” She placed the empty glass on the waiter. “The only casualty was one of ours. A national would have muddied the waters…the body bag is already in transit to New York.” Miriam nodded to the assistant and made a small gesture with her index finger, waving it up and down, indicating she’d have another.

“Z’ank you, Miriam, for z’ee brief,” Viktor said through clenched teeth.

Miriam sighed, familiar with her boss’s cue for when it was time to make a quick exit.  She grabbed a lime wedge from the serving tray, the bottle of scotch, and two glasses. She shoved the wedge in her mouth. The two glasses clinked against each other as she held them neatly together with her right index and middle fingers. Standing, she raised them along with her hand to salute her boss. Miriam then sauntered through the exit as Emily held the door open for her. The assistant departed as well, closing the door behind her. The three men were once again alone in the room.

Viktor turned to observe the menacing weather through the window once more, his back to the two assistants. Lincoln observed the Russian’s stiff posture. Victor wore a dark silver pin-striped waistcoat with matching trousers. His lengthy raven hair was wound into a close-fitted Dutch braid that fell squarely down the middle of his back. The end of his braid was bound by a fat black rubber strap. The bit of loose hair at the end of his braid always captured the attention of onlookers for its striking shock of white-grey color.

Lincoln opened his mouth to address his superior once more, only to give pause to the shrill ring of the office IP phone. Viktor waved Mat aside when he advanced to pick up the receiver. Viktor answered on the second ring. “Dobryy denʹ, Viktor Maxckmillian.” As he listened to the voice over the phone, his face suddenly paled and he sat down slowly in his chair. The voice on the other end had unmistakable similarities to his missing wife. Viktor shut his eyes when he realized that he was instead speaking to her mother. He released a short breath over an inaudible, muttered curse. He closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair, dragging his hand down his face gently, using his thumb and index finger to massage his closed eyelids. “No, Mama.” Viktor stopped to listen. “Yes, she is a very ungrateful girl, I’ll make sure she comes over to you before the day is out, of that you could play lotto.” Viktor shrugged off the well of reassurance that surged through him at the sound of the quiet giggle that erupted in his ear. Yes, the both agreed he was no good at colloquial slangs.  He ended the conversation with his mother-in-law, only to field another call.

“Viktor, how are you? I have yet to speak to your wife today. I am having trouble getting a hold of her – is she still unavailable? Tonight is the one true night she can see the Saturn’s rings at optimal clarity.”

Dammit!  Viktor cursed silently. Had he known his wife had this many personal engagements on a daily basis, he would have reined in her private schedule long ago instead of leaving her ‘daily’ to be settled between herself and Lincoln.  His wife was an amateur astrophysicist. Witnessing Saturn’s rings for the first time was all she could talk about the whole week. Viktor kneaded his chin with his thumb and forefinger. “Really, hmm, I’m not aware of her being busy, ‘ve  meeting has overrun – she may run late.”

“She is well then?” Dr. Eli asked, concerned about his colleague.

“Yes, she is over the moon about the meeting, so to speak. She has long to arrive; after all, you have all night.”

“Yes, very well then, I will see her soon.” Dr. Eli left the conversation at that.  He was not too familiar with the Russian diplomat.  He had only met him on occasion when he was with his wife.

Viktor hung up the phone, but it was a moment before his tight grip on the receiver was released.  His strong resolve remained hidden behind the look he gave the two assistants, who gazed at him with questioning eyes. “Find her,” he ground out.

Viktor stood grabbing his tailored jacket from over the chair’s back and hastily drew his arms through the sleeves. Lincoln’s cell played the beginning of the Niki Minaj song “Beez In The Trap”. He pulled the phone out and glanced at the screen and then froze, his eyes locked onto it.  He slowly turned to face the other two men, displaying the cell’s screen message. The Google map with the red icon representing fixed coordinates could not be misinterpreted.

Viktor, already adept at masking his emotions, easily hid his annoyance at the fact that Adrianna’s explicit location was divulged to Lincoln so quickly. Viktor wondered at Xin’s mounting challenge to his authority at every turn. This further shrank the time available to him to manage his deliverables – Audrianna to Dr. Eli by dusk.

“We have a decisive lock on her GIS coordinates.” Lincoln looked at Viktor. “Would you like to lead the SWAT team?”

Lincoln had to hand it to Viktor; he appeared genuinely puzzled by the question.

“Me?” Viktor replied.

“Given your former profession, I thought you would rather like to handle the undertaking yourself.”

Viktor blinked, aghast. “As an actuary?”

Lincoln sighed. “Are you willing to keep up the pretense, even now, though your wife’s life is on the line?”

Viktor sighed in response to Lincoln’s clipped tone.  He laid a reassuring palm on his shoulder.  The men were nearly equal in height; Lincoln had only two inches over Viktor. Viktor looked squarely into Lincoln’s eyes and said quietly, “I trust you,” before he grabbed his briefcase and headed towards the door.

Leaving the job of finding his wife in the hands of his U.S. Army-trained aides, Viktor headed towards the elevator. Trinidad was a small island, and he had no time to lose to arrive at the coordinates before Lincoln and his team. Audrianna’s security team was highly trained in combat, a daring mash-up of ex-Marines, Interpol agents, and volatile assassins. They had no doubt taken the kidnapping as an affront to their very existence.  Yet Viktor’s training was undoubtedly of a more lethal vein than any human could dare measure against. Audrianna was his wife. He would make sure the person who had taken her drew his last breath the very second he laid his hands on him.

Viktor related to his secretary that she was to remain on call until further notice. He reached the elevator, pressed the button and waited. He then slowly turned to his right to face the approaching auburn-haired man. Viktor’s brow furrowed as he sought to recall the young man’s name. Viktor extended his arm and grasped the callused hand the man extended. “Brighton,” Viktor inclined his head, “Darksmith.”

The man had a somber, disquiet disposition about him that left others unsettled in his presence. Viktor had remained unperturbed by him.

“Sir,” Brighton addressed him as he reached for the case held by his apprentice, who stood beside him. “Your “Hell’s Embrace” as per your request.”

Viktor stayed the man’s hand by gently tapping it with his index finger. He waved his finger negatively. “No, no.” Viktor spoke softly. “Not here, we’re too overexposed.”

Viktor turned at the sound of approaching footsteps. Lincoln and Mat drew close, the doors to the elevator opened and Viktor entered. Three young women of African descent dressed in white tube tops, black leather jackets, and leather pants stood waiting his arrival in the elevator. Viktor sighed in exasperation. His silver-lined suit should have been enough to deter them from following him.

The trio of werewolves was a part of Audrianna’s pack; they protected Audrianna on occasions, and one of their own had been the only casualty in the attack. He had hoped to not have to bring them with him, he had never agreed to them being a part of her entourage. But he was not in the mood to turn them away.

They all wore their natural hair in a corkscrew hairstyle that massed at the shoulder. One’s complexion was a fairer shade of almond brown than the others. The ultimate goal was to be a decoy for Audrianna in case of an attack such as the one that occurred last night. But all that had resulted in is the death of one, and the kidnapping of his wife. Revenge must be at the forefront of their minds.

Their expressions gave away no measure of discomfort as he turned to the elevator’s opening and beckoned Darksmith and the young boy inside.

The doors to the elevator were about to close when an index finger slid through the cracked opening. With the strength of his artificial index finger Lincoln forcefully, and easily, slid the doors back into its slit. Lincoln looked down at Viktor.

“You’re not heading to command center?”

“Sorry. We’re heading up. Prior engagement.” Viktor flicked Lincoln’s finger from the open door, but his finger only moved because Lincoln moved it, not because Viktor could. Lincoln folded his arms and watched as the doors began to close, not before Brighton gave a half-hearted wave delivered with an expectant expression in Lincoln’s direction.

Lincoln gave Brighton a brief, non-committal smile before the doors shut.

Mat turned to Lincoln and leered at him. He lifted his curled fingers and gave him the fig sign, wriggling his thumb beneath his index finger. Only a decades-long friendship kept Mat from landing in a world of hurt by offending the towering Lincoln Huntington with his brash teasing.

Lincoln, in response, flipped Mat his middle finger.  His eyes silently told Mat, “Go fuck yourself.”

CHAPTER 2

Viktor led the Darksmith and his apprentice through the double doors of the top floor, past the portraits of former Ministers of Finance who had reined over the national Ministry of the preceding years. He led them to the second conference room, which had the title “Scarlet Ibis” engraved over the double doors.

Viktor barged into the room unceremoniously. They had booked the room for a meeting and had assured the building’s caterers that they would provide their own helpers. They would remain undisturbed until the watchman made his patrol later that night.

Viktor surveyed the board. His manservant Grigori, a pale figure with a bushy beard and mustache and an aristocratic nose, stood on the far side of the room facing the expansive windows. His attention had been drawn to the darkening skies. “Striking view, isn’t it.” His gaze never wavered; his reflection in the glass was a clear mimicry. “Like having a clear view of what is to come.” Grigori turned to face Viktor.

He sniffed Viktor’s collar, his brows shot up, Grigori snickered at the scent of silver that lined Viktor’s waistcoat and jacket that assailed him, “ a tad…immature?” Grigori lent accusingly.

Viktor’s attention had already been caught by the sight of the other young boy in the room. He sat on a chair in the corner. Nikolai, sullen, looked out at the same intense weather. The dark clouds rolling in from the horizon were nearly upon the shoreline. The deep-barreled rumbling and flashes of lightning promised a dire circumstance to the evening. Viktor sighed, annoyed. He drew himself up beside Grigori. “What the hell Grigori, this is not a family affair!” he ground out quietly.

Grigori looked at him, unfazed by his master’s aura of malice. “I am not to leave young master unattended. He is quite traumatized by the events that occurred last night – you should have a word…” Viktor walked away from him.

Had Viktor paid attention to what he had said? Grigori scowled as he watched Viktor grab the weapon that had wanted repair. Grigori’s attention, too, had been stirred by the remarkable aesthetics of the club. Hell’s Embrace, Viktor’s superior weapon, had been chipped badly during his last battle.

The club was about two and a half feet in height, its weight – hefty. Though as a man of strong build Viktor felt no extremity in wielding it. The wood the club was made of was jagged, but smooth to the touch, as though chiseled from a tree trunk and then sandpapered with exquisite care. Its crown was encrusted with clear, hard crystals and black moon rock. Spikes adorned its circular rim.

Viktor waved his arm in a clean, effortless downward motion. Whoosh; the sound sliced the air. The top of the club sparkled like stars in the night sky, as though with energy born from the swift movement. Viktor was visibly appreciative of the weapon. He brought the club to lay across his palm. Sighing, he walked across to Nikolai.

The boy’s puffy eyes and red nose were marked signs that he had been crying. Viktor spoke resoundingly in his native language. “You see this club. I’m going to find the man who took your mother, and I’m going to use this club to beat him within an inch of his life…” He looked down, dead straight into the boy’s unwavering stare. “Then I’m going to kill him.” The exchange seemed to cheer Nikolai up, because a slow smile dared to grace his lips.

“Fantastic,” Grigori thought, pulling out his ringing cell phone. “At least they seem to speak each other’s language.”

“I trust the club is to your liking.” Brighton would rather take his leave now and make an early flight out of the country. This stop was one of four for the evening, his obligation to the Maxcks were purely sentimental.

“Ah yes, heavier than I am used to…” Viktor kept admiring his piece.

“That may be ‘cause of the added inner component you requested.” Brighton pointed at the weapon in Viktor’s hand. “Dead center, as per your instructions.”

“Hmm…” Viktor folded his arms. Still holding the weapon, he brought his other hand upward to stroke his chin using his thumb and index finger. “Brighton…” He paused. “After this…we need to have a word.”

“Viktor,” Grigori addressed him from behind. “That was your master interrogator. He is stuck on the highway, he will be another twenty minutes. Brian is just now drawing that symbol you’re so fond of on the roof top, and Kelly should make it in time for the transportation ritual…”

“We have no time,” Viktor said decisively. Lincoln was probably on his way to Audrianna now, the epic Lincoln Huntington was sure not to wait for backup, thought Viktor. Aside from the urgency of the matter of his wife’s kidnapping, Viktor was not yet sure if she was being held for ransom or for another reason altogether too sinister to comprehend.

“I’ll protect you.”

His boastful words came back to haunt him now; he closed his eyes to the vivid memory. “Marry me, I’ll protect you.” He had promised her.

Viktor walked over to the long window, surveying the black man on the roof of the other building. He was barely out of sight, using the paintbrush in his hand to quickly fashion the Star of David on the roof. “Spare me…” Viktor breathed. He extended his arm in a swooping arc; Hell’s Embrace glowed, emitting a soft hum. “I’ll grab Kelly – Darksmith, how good are you tactically, in the field?”

“I’m no fighter.” Brighton was quick to reveal with raised brows.

“But you are armed,” Viktor stated.

Brighton gave no answer.

“Viktor.” Grigori approached him as Viktor made a mental check of everyone aligned with him: the three wolves, Darksmith, Kelly in transit. “You mean to transport these four men, and yourself, plus one in transit without knowing precisely where he is and without a proper marker to keep your locations in check – have you ever done it before?”

Viktor kept his eyes trained on the toe of his grey, Versace, patent leather dress shoe and the inane thought flitted through his mind that he hoped the decorative lines of the shoe would not dizzy him. “I’m doing it now.” Viktor did not look up. “Everyone, stand where you are and do not move a muscle, do not even blink – and if you can help it, do not even breathe.” Viktor flexed his arm, gripping the club’s handle. He could hear the sound of metal clang as he was deftly in tune with his instrument of destruction. Only Viktor could hear it, only he could see the vibration of the ground, the heartbeat of each man he was to bring with him on his journey. There was the harsh sound of metal dragging slowly against steel as though a clammy echo of a creaking door had been opened, and then Viktor saw nothing but the black.

They were gone. Grigori looked at his charge, sitting in the ergonomic chair, staring at him questioningly. And who is this kid? Grigori thought to himself as he stared at the young apprentice of Darksmith. Ahh yes, Grigori Rasputin: healer, supreme master of the mystic arts – errant babysitter. Grigori thought wryly.

He clapped his hands together and wore an effectively bright smile commanding the attention of both children. “Okay,” he rubbed his hands together, speaking lively. “Who is up for some chocolate ice cream and some cake?”

Kelly sat in the convertible. His red BMW drew stares from the locals, as it was clearly expensive. They must wonder who he was, but Kelly was not concerned about the attention he drew to himself. Dressed in a black turtleneck sweater, black overcoat, and slacks, he sat in the driver’s seat checking his emails on his smart phone – in that instant he felt an oppressive hand placed firmly on his shoulder,  making him gasp. He whipped his head to see who could have possibly caught him, Kelly Payne, off-guard. His eyes met blackness.

Kelly started. His feet were no longer neatly tucked into the driver’s seat of his newly-refurbished car, but planted on a hard unseen ground. Kelly fell backward, and his derrière hit asphalt. He cursed. “Damn it Viktor, some professional courtesy is not only welcome,” Kelly said, picking himself up and dusting himself off, “It is advised.”

Kelly stared at his employer’s broad, tensed shoulder and took heed of his stance. He automatically reached for the weapon secreted on the inside of his overcoat.

“You are a thousand years ahead of yourself to be dictating to me, scrub,” Viktor snorted.

Kelly sucked in a deep breath; his cheeks swelled with the torture of curbing his tongue rather than correcting Viktor on his wrongly-worded metaphor. He released a calming breath as he drew out his nunchucks.

Kelly’s weapon of choice strayed from the conventional nunchaku. Far from the ones sustained by Bruce Lee, they were not made solely of wood, but were silver-gilded with gold.

The top of the nunchaku were held together by a short silver chain; the body of each long silver-gilded stick was referred to as the shaft. Holding the batons’ top between his thumb and forefinger, he swung the nunchucks upwards, towards himself, catching it squarely in his palm.

“Payne.” Viktor turned his head briefly to look back at him. Kelly’s head was bent. He did not catch the telling stare in Viktor’s eyes. “The level of concealment is limited and we’re heading into terrain where an ambush is highly likely.”

Without looking up, Kelly acknowledged him with a short nod. Catching the nunchucks in the palm of his hand, as one slender shaft met the other, he lightly pressed a small mechanism that allowed him to freely control the many, rows of two-inch blades embedded in the weapon, which he incorporated into his fighting style. Spinning the nunchucks deftly between his fingers, the blades escaped through slits in their exposed surface. The blades did not all come out at once, but in a pattern only Kelly, and one other, were able to intuit: a unique, consistent pattern.

“I’d also like to keep the blow-by-blow to a minimum.” Viktor was firm on this regard.

Unbelievable, Kelly thought. He couldn’t believe that he was letting the misuse of all these common English idioms slide. Oh, to be Maleficent is a godsend, Kelly thought,  his eyes trained on Viktor’s back as he now spun the nunchucks with such speed that it appeared to be one long stick, the blades coming in and out of the shafts in quick succession. A novice would have had several fingers lopped off at this stage. Kelly was no novice.

Kelly’s mind vaguely wondered at the other occupants that shared this darkened place.

Humph, Darksmith thought. Another pretty boy. Darksmith observed the lanky blond newly added to the group before looking back at Viktor. They were surrounded by – nothing. They were in a bubble, a vacuum, a minor dimension controlled by Viktor himself. Aside from the statue poses of the three little women who gave the faint whiff of dog to Darksmith’s sensitive nose, blondie, and Viktor here, there were no other markers to speak of.

Darksmith gritted his teeth. His mouth pressed together in a sneer, he touched the long, thickly stemmed weapon at his side. I most certainly do not want to be here, he thought quietly to himself.

“Kelly, process as many heads as you can, as quickly as you can. I want to know exactly where she is as soon as you know. Darksmith, cover Kelly, nobody touches him. Girls, you can let loose as soon as I’ve got Audrianna’s distinct position – understood?”

“We want what you want,” one of them concurred. Viktor snorted in disbelief. They only kept themselves in check because of Audrianna. They were more unrepentant with him than their master.

Viktor paused. “Hold back as much as you can.”

Beep-beep, beep-beep. Everyone grew motionless. “What’s that?” Kelly’s voice sounded hoarse. He looked in Viktor’s direction.

Viktor’s head was bowed. His attention appeared to be caught by something on the ground.

Beneath Viktor’s stylish dress shoes lay his cell phone, the screen glowing. Almost out of juice, it beckoned its owner for replenishment. Viktor had used the device to acquire exact GPS coordinates to complement his mystical compass trajectory spell. It had worked, not for the first time.

His foot was on his cell phone. Looking down, he stared at it. He stepped off the device, stooped down and clutched it. His hold only tightened as he stood up, placed the phone in his pocket, gathered his wits, and flexed the arm that held Hell’s Embrace.

Hefty reasoning and the calculations of a purposeful raiding party became fogged by the fury that intensified with the stillness of every second they waited for the right moment to attack. A slender trickle of sweat escaped the furrow of Viktor’s brow to slither down the side of his nose. The perspiration was not due to fear. Fear, panic, derision of the enemy – these were all emotions that were scaled down to a level of inferiority that would be overshadowed by skill and due diligence in the time of combat. Trained in the method of combat science, the act that had been whittled down to a measured reflex when needed, he found himself displeased that he must struggle to find the inner voice necessary to soothe the rage that threatened to control his actions.

Viktor closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. My time here, in this moment, is too crucial for me to allow my anger to take control.

I must remain calm, now more than ever… I must prepare to protect everyone in my team from direct fire. I must cover all dead space… 

Beeb-beep, the phone went off again, beckoning Viktor’s anxiety. His eyes flew open. He exhaled roughly, his jaw muscle flexed. Twisting his neck to the side caused a small cracking sound to escape his muscular shoulders. He raised Hell’s Embrace straight up, directing the crystal crown overhead.

“Now!” he yelled, blasting a spectacular stream of white, electric, luminous light towards the  top of their black enclosure.

 

CHAPTER 3

The black walls that surrounded the company of six slowly dispersed, puffing up vertically like plumes of smoke. The trajectory of the blast became visible. The inside of the transport helicopter exploded, and so too did the occupants as the force of their entry became evident. Their pocket dimension had been set up to emerge inside the man with whom Xin had placed the phone. Viktor had blown the dimension walls apart, along with the helicopter the man had boarded. They had landed from the inside out, causing a large explosion. Everyone in the man’s vicinity had been killed.

The helicopter was a transport chopper; not fit for landing, it had a ladder and pulley at the entrance, presumably for hoisting an infirm patient for transport. The party of six fell to the ground on impact.

The explosion had the effect Viktor had surmised of eliminating a number of combatants on contact. It also had the dubious effect of attracting everyone’s attention and did not make for an ideally stealthy approach. The eyes of everyone still on the rooftop fell on them. A screeching alarm blasted the silence, alerting all others to the intrusion at the base, and the six fighters were immediately under massive direct fire.

Viktor turned; he was at the back of the line. Kelly was in front, using his numchucks to deflect bullets. Viktor cursed. He raised his club to fire – but a long, thin silver projectile appeared from the side, penetrating the stomach of an attacker. The force of the object did not end with the first impact, but continued, pulling the attacker off his feet and causing him to slam into a fellow combatant. The projectile, sinking into the flesh of the second combatant’s side before hitting a third, dragged all attackers backwards into the side corner of a wall. The wall broke off and all the enemies were heard screaming as they followed it over the side of the building.

All stood and looked back at the direction from which the projectile had originated. Brighton Darksmith lay heaving with exhaustion, holding a long thin weapon that looked like a recoilless rifle. The stares leveled at him turned witless.

Viktor walked over to him and offered him a hand up. Brighton took it and stood, righting himself. Viktor looked upon him, thoughtful, making Darksmith feel uncomfortable under the direct scrutiny before a bullet whizzed by, grazing the side of Viktor’s cheekbone. Specks of blood and broken skin splattered into the air.

Two assault rifles. It was then Kelly brought out his second numchucks from inside his jacket, spinning both pairs in the form of  X’s  with either hand so fast they resembled straight, golden batons.  He deftly deflected all the bullets streaming toward them. The bullets flashed and sparked as they flew into each golden shaft.

The two combatants stood side by side, effectively blocking the only entrance to the roof. Their accuracy was skewed, though, a tell-tale sign of their lack of experience in using the Kalashnikov. They decided to advance, believing a smaller gap would give them a better shot at him, in between the spin of the nunchucks. Kelly’s movement did not allow for breaks in speed. Their strategy amounted to futility, and closing the gap only allowed Kelly a better shot at them when deflecting the bullets. He parried both rifles with the ease and fluidity of a trained professional. He had sheathed the blades, and this had allowed his free-form tactics to become sharper.

The rifles were on semi-automatic. The short bursts of gunfire veered off in either direction, due to the combatants’ stance in shouldering their rifles. Kelly used the brief reprieve from being in the direct line of fire to accomplish a change-up. He skillfully turned around, grinned at his counterparts as he flung both numchucks under his arm, caught them at the baton stick’s middle on one end, and turned once more to face the shooters. Lunging forward, holding both sticks in either hand, he swung both diagonally across in front of him.

He effectively deflected a bullet, sending it flying to hit the AK-47 shooter on his left in the hand holding the gun’s grip. The shooter yelped.  Another bullet came at Kelly from the shooter on the right. Kelly swung both numchucks above to his chest in a criss-cross style, deflecting the other bullet into the other shooter’s head. The bullet shattered the skull, entering the brain, and the man slumped to his death.

With his compatriot dead beside him, the man began to panic. The alarms still rung loudly, the clouds crackled, the rain started to drizzle steadily.  The man began to fumble for the vertical selector lever on the left side of the AK-47. If he hadn’t noticed when one of the initial bullets Kelly had deflected earlier had ricocheted off the lever rendering it ineffective, he noticed its stub missing now.

Before he could reach for the other safety so he could place the rifle in full-automatic mode, he felt a sharp, unbearable pain at his abdomen. He looked down to witness the unthinkable; a black hand had pierced his middle straight through. He then looked into the face of owner of such an arm, and it held the prettiest brown eyes he had ever seen. That was his last thought as his neck was caught between two inhuman jaws.

CHAPTER 4

The other young girl of African descent had semi-transformed into a wolf. With her head that of a large werewolf, her body grew into an oversized human. She had run up behind her sister and latched onto the man’s neck before spinning to a stop and spitting the head over the edge of the rooftop. She then transformed back into a small-sized human.

Great, Viktor thought, as he absorbed the scene before him. Remnants of the blown chopper and body parts lay burnt, askew at their feet. The smell of burnt flesh and aviation fuel assailed their nostrils. Smoke from the blast also hung low about their ankles, held there by the cold night air. The rain would be pouring on them soon. Viktor advanced towards the entrance. No survivors from their entrance. He cursed.

“I recall you saying earlier that you needed some alive?” Darksmith stood behind him, looking into the shadowy stairwell.

“Not if direct fire doesn’t allow it.” But this was too much overkill, Viktor thought.

“Right then.” Darksmith advanced into the corridor. Above the blaring sirens that called the men securing the property to arms, footsteps could be heard shuffling cautiously in their direction. Darksmith reached to his side and pulled out a bronze hammer, the head of which was shaped like a fist.  Darksmith grasped the hammer tightly with both hands, lifted it above and over his shoulder. Its handle length appeared to increase by way of magic. The fist opened into a palm, and Darksmith then swung the weapon onto the ground with a dullclang. The floor erupted with waves that were visible to the naked eye, and also what seemed to transport a blue, flickering electric pulse down the floor of the corridor, turning the corner, out of their sight.

A few moments after the disappearance of the wave, resounding screams of pain could be heard along the corridor. Viktor led the team round the bend to discover the bodies of men in bulletproof vests and grey security fatigues littering the floor.

“Kelly.” Viktor crossed over the men walking further down the corridor. “Get to work.”

* * *

Xin glanced up at the twin full moons in the sky. Ahh, he thought, always a comforting sight. Eyes closed, he breathed in the dewy, cold night air of the tropical jungle that surrounded him. The crackle of thunder overhead disrupted his musings and his eyes fluttered open on a heavy sigh.

The darkness of the jungle was no match for his natural, unimpaired night vision. He saw all, from the dark African violets more than fifty feet away behind him that grew in abundance round the white building that had come under Viktor’s attack, to the colorful, very venomous red and yellow coral snake nest that lay hidden beneath some loose rocks a mile in front of him.

Crickets’ chirping in Trinidad was different than most. It was long and hard, matching that of a whistle being blown for hours at a time. There were many crickets in the Aripo Mountains, their high-pitched screech competing with the warning alarm that was triggered by Viktor’s crew blowing up the chopper.

Xin looked back up at the two-story building that stood carved into the cliff face on an embankment, smiling at the broken propeller of the helicopter that lay dangling off the side of the roof. The bloody, burnt, smoking arm of a dead man hung off one propeller, which threatened to fall off the side of the building. At the very least Audrianna would not be ensconced at a secondary location. She was as safe as she could be – for now.

Xin turned and looked ahead at the thin, disappearing path before him. The path was crooked, with jagged rocks jutting out of the ground, slippery brown leaves en masse to tread upon – it was not the most convenient terrain to get a comfortable foothold.

The second-wave security team heading up the path to support the base operations staff could be heard two miles down the path. The sound of their feet trampling on soft forest mesh was amplified by Xin’s were-hearing.

About twenty-three men, he deduced as he stepped back until his body was squarely hidden beneath some low-hanging palm leaves. He unsheathed his katana-gun. The moon beams’ glare travelled up the blade’s length as he brought the sword straight up, parallel to the centre of his body.  Xin grasped the hilt securely beneath the trigger guard. It was an uncommon attachment for a sword to sport. He quietly waited for the approach of the first combatant to the small clearing.

The clearing was further hidden by overhanging leaves, which blocked the mouth of the passage. Anyone arriving would have to remove the hanging palms from in front of them before coming directly before Xin. Boulders that were almost level to Xin’s waist flanked each side of the passage. He brought his sword up and waited. His heart rate slowed and mellowed as his mind restrained his anxiety and shoved it into a recess of his mind that he would never acknowledge. Xin, eyes closed, braced his nerve with the will to react quickly to the first entry into his deadly trap. He kept himself quietly poised as he waited.

He listened as the first armed enemy brushed aside the low-hanging palm leaf. And he waited…and then…he heard the armed man’s track into the clearing…Now!

Xin brought his sword down swiftly, with such deadly force that the blade cleanly severed the head of the first man at the top of his neck. The force of the blow tossed the head flying into the air. The man’s body collapsed onto its knees as another man entered the clearing. Xin stepped forward further.  Facing the next man directly, he brought his katana sideways from left to right, effectively slicing the other opponent’s neck. The head was sent flying, blood splattered in the air . Blood spewed from the gaping wound at the apex of the shoulders, gushing like a minor spring as that body collapsed upon the first.

Xin reeled backward, his left leg a shoulder’s length in front of his right, his sword lowered, waiting for the other combatant to make his appearance.

The other man entered the clearing, looking down to assess the obstacle that he nearly tripped over.  He had no time to be surprised at the bodies at his feet before Xin brought his sword upward in a sweeping arc and the blade severed his neck.

A whip of lightning flashed across the black sky, illuminating the clearing in which Xin awaited the next man. His eyes closed, Xin swung his sword downward, expecting to feel the counter-pressure of the wall of flesh, but the blade met thin air instead. His eyes flew up to meet the shocked wild fear in the eyes of the fourth perpetrator, who assessed the bloody scene before reaching for his hand gun and firing off two shots in Xin’s direction.

Xin straightened and pivoted on his right foot, dragging his left foot to his right side from behind. Facing away from the gunman, he pulled his katana forward above his head. The blade against his back, Xin steadfastly blocked each shot from entering his body – sight unseen. He then waited for a lapse in firing to quickly turn around, wielding his sword in a 360-degree turn, counter-clockwise, drawing the sword down heavily.

Shwoop; the blade slashed the flesh of the neck hard, sending the man’s head spinning through the air. Blood splattered in an uneven spiral, and the rest of the man’s body tumbled to the forest floor.

Fuckin’ shit!

Xin cursed silently. He coolly slashed the air beside him with the katana shaking off the blood and flesh with avwip.

Xin was vexed with himself for allowing the last man to get some shots at him. He had hoped to cut down more men at this stage, but because of the early release of gunfire it was already time for phase two. He could hear the other men speed up, advancing towards his point. Untroubled by the bloody cadavers at his feet, he sidestepped the slaughtered guards.

Xin crouched down by the side of the path beyond the boulders and felt for the ropes he had tied into a heaving line knot and stashed beneath the dense carpet of wet leaves. The ropes were extended across the path at particular intervals, parallel to each other, and camouflaged by fallen leaves. Xin held the loop of the knot and waited as the footsteps of the men to come nearer and nearer. As feet of the front-line guards trampled on the hidden ropes, Xin stood, yanking on the heaving knot. The ropes rose, causing the men to collapse upon each other as they lost their balance. Xin then attacked the men where they lay. Coming upon them he proceeded to stab them on the ground in the jugular and heart. He gouged out their stomachs, moving quickly.

Xin managed to slaughter nine more men before an armed gunman at the rear spotted him and opened fire. Xin then jumped over the boulders to his right and disappeared into the darkness of the night forest.

 

CHAPTER 5

“ Payne!” Viktor barked, looking down at Kelly. Kelly nearly jumped at the unspoken threat in the violent spew of his name. He eyed Viktor warily, crouched on the floor as he cradled the head of one of the armed gunmen in his hands. He shook his head.

“Shit!” Viktor expelled through clenched teeth. “Not good Kelly-not good at all. Try one more then we move door-to-door.”

Kelly nodded. “Aye, commander.” He saluted him, never without his sense of humor. Viktor did not waver at the official address. He spun around and continued to monitor the hallway beyond.

Kelly yanked a thin gold acupuncture pin from the base of the gunman’s head, which he had used to puncture his spine. The pins were constructed from nano-technology and served as a transmitter between the gunmen and Kelly, who often used them in his interrogative techniques. With an unconscious combatant, it was proving difficult to force the information he wanted to the forefront of the enemy’s thoughts. He had to feel himself around thoughts of vague, dreamlike elements.

Kelly righted himself, carelessly letting go of the gunman’s head. It landed with a hard thud on the floor. Kelly went to the next unconscious man and stabbed him at the base of his head.

Viktor looked out upon the dark corridor. This compound was familiar to him, but he was not prepared to search door-to-door until he had an exact location for his wife. On the other hand, time was slipping away and he could bet money on the SWAT team being moments from charging onto the scene.

Viktor’s ears perked up and he glanced at his team behind him. The girls and Darksmith all looked at him knowingly – more men heading in this direction. “Wait here.” Viktor stared steely-eyed into the darkness as he walked down the corridor.

The compound structure had three levels. The first level was below ground, a main storage area and sleeping quarters for the help. The second level was the main foyer, which led into a dining area, study, and garage. The third level housed the kitchen and bedrooms. That was how Viktor remembered it from the last time he was here, five years ago; the first time he met his wife. He didn’t want to go from room to room, guns blazing, just in case there was a protocol to kill Audrianna as a means to instigate a cover-up.

Viktor took a few steps into the darkness before he came across two gunmen. They fired shots at him – one held a hand gun, the other an AK-47 at full automatic. Right before the shots came into contact with his body, they were deflected off into another direction, encountering a mystically-charged force field, projected by Hell’s Embrace, which surrounded him and protected Viktor from all harm. Once armed with Hell’s Embrace, Viktor could attack at will, all the while being automatically covered from all direct fire in this full defensive mode.

Viktor reached out, held each man by their necks with either hand, and squeezed. Any officer would only dream of being this close to an unarmed target. The men fired. Groups of shots hit Viktor’s chest and shoulders, as the men were raised above his head against the wall with his bare hands.

Eventually they managed to fire shots at his head, but it made no impact on their current situation. Viktor, teeth gnashing, eyes coldly intense, continued to squeeze with a viselike grip at the men’s throat until each man went dead still. He released them, allowing their bodies to slump and crumble to the floor. He grabbed their collars and dragged them to the opening of the room where Kelly and the others waited.

“Anything?” he ground out at Kelly.

Kelly responded with a shake of his head, looking down at the knocked-out figure in his lap with the needle in its head. Kelly, sweat-drenched and fatigued, felt the strained muscles at the base of his neck. He reached behind his shoulder and squeezed to alleviate the tension. He looked up at Viktor. “Nothing- yet.  Many of these men were kept out of the loop, probably just hired thugs. At this rate we’ll be the ones knocked out if we have to brace for more of them coming at us.”

“Try these.” Viktor released the men roughly before Kelly. “If you can’t get anything from them, then we move on.”

Kelly slapped his palm to his forehead and dragged it up to his hairline, wiping away the sweat. Looking down at the two unconscious men thoughtfully, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out what looked like a gold cigarette case. He opened it to reveal more of the gold-plated needles he used to infiltrate the minds of his prisoners. He and removed two before returning it to his pocket. Holding the two men by the nape, he pressed them forward at the waist. They slumped over, unconscious, the backs of their necks exposed to him. Kelly stabbed each man with a needle, pressing them into the flesh hard.

He gritted his teeth at the pain of the double exposure to the senses. His mind became full of the aggregate memories of each officer. Usually, one ‘brainstorm’ was jarring enough, without losing control of the senses, but the inconsistency of brain activity of two men in unison strained the limits of his cognitive abilities. “Holy shit!” He ground his teeth from the pain, hugged his waist, and doubled over. Wave after wave of each man’s memories crashed through his mind, overpowering him like a twenty-foot tidal wave.

His head felt the pressure as though jumping from a skyscraper. Still, he forged on with his mind spiraling out of control, sifting through the memories of the unconscious men as though they were his own. Then one of the men stirred, groaning, as though he too felt the probing of his mind like a physical touch. But Kelly knew better; only he was aware of the feelings during this connection.

Sensing an ideal opportunity, Kelly, straining against the tension that had built up in him, yanked the needle out of the man who hadn’t moved. He then bent over the man that was fighting his unresponsive state. Bracing his hands on either side of the man’s head, he concentrated.

His breathing erratic, Kelly finally staggered to his feet. “Oh man.” His eyes flew open. “I think I hit something.” He paused, massaging his eyes. “And a name. Someone they report to.”

“Do you have her location? Did you find my wife?” Viktor grabbed his shoulder forcefully.

“I think so, in a room on the next level.” Kelly felt calmer now that he’d stopped processing the men’s thoughts. He drew in deep breaths, steadying himself on his feet. “Two doors past… the left of the stairs.” He paused as he caught his breath. “Opposite a window.”

“Good,” Viktor said as he whirled around, heading for the darkened hallway. “Alright,” Viktor gave the three young werewolves a seething look, “It’s time now. Let loose.”

The three young women smiled at him. They had been trembling with the need to rebel against the ordered operation and hunt for the men who had killed their friend in the earlier ambush. From this moment forth there would be no holding back.

Viktor led his rescue team through the corridor, which turned left four times before it met a staircase. At the top of the stairs they met a barrage of bullets. Viktor led his team down the stairs into the direct line of fire. The men kept firing at him, backing up as they did so, shocked as they realized the fierce man had walked by them unaffected by their gunfire. They noticed too late the snarling, hairy beasts in front of them.

The petite femmes had transformed into werewolves, standing on their hind legs. The men’s faces contorted in fear as they shrieked before they felt the ripping of their tender flesh by large black claws, and their heads being seized between the jagged teeth of supernatural creatures.

Viktor brushed past each man with a machine gun, quickly drawing their fire and leaving them unaware of the approaching doom from the blind spot over their shoulder. He finally reached the door, where a sentry stood blasting at Viktor’s head with rapid fire rounds from an AK-47.

Viktor clutched the man’s head on either side. The man’s head became hot as it grew colder and colder. He released the rifle, letting it collapse to the floor. Thin streams of blood escaped his eye sockets and his nose. Almost immediately, the man’s whole face turned blue, then a light purple, then black, in rapid succession until the whole face resembled that of a black, charred, charcoal mask. His whole head became light ash and crumbled in on itself. The man’s body collapsed and blood from the hole in his neck pooled in the flimsy ash that was once his skull. Viktor then turned purposefully towards the closed door and kicked it open.

A lone gurney lay before him in the center of the room. On it laid his wife.

CHAPTER 6

Xin felt the bullet land squarely in his right shoulder from behind, nicking his collar bone on entry. He howled and nearly turned into a werewolf at that moment. His teeth gnashed as the wound bled. He felt the hairs on his neck nearly give way to the sharp bristles of his supernatural self. Luckily, he reined in the werewolf transformation. Not yet, Xin thought, deliberately calming his beating heart. Then he stilled. His nose twitched at a familiar smell – vampire.

Xin stood at his full height, his face a mask. If he was having fun before, now he was deadly serious. “Vampires, here?” Xin snickered. He turned, spiraling out of the darkest fringe of the clearing and slashing a gunman across the back diagonally from left to right. He was dead. His body did not regenerate. He was human. But there was a vampire…somewhere.

“Hmph.” Xin placed his hand in his pocket, casually walking into the jungle canopy that shrouded his presence. As he did so, three men with firearms walked into the clearing Xin had been using as his vantage point since he had arrived on the site.

Xin watched the men closely circling the clearing. He studied their expressions. The dead bodies they had encountered so far on their way to base headquarters must surely have them spooked. If he weren’t so astutely trying to accomplish a stealthy approach, he would surely have enjoyed having a fit of brazen laughter at their expense.

The men were anxious and their movements were jerky. Beads of sweat leaked from beneath their black berets down the side of their faces, disappearing into the damp open collars of their black fatigues.  Their eyes frantically searched the dense darkness of the tropical jungle around them.

Xin stood up.  The clearing was not much to bolster his position: everyone was about six or seven feet from each other. He withdrew his twelve-inch hunting knife and held it by the blade, lifting his throwing arm. As the man farthest from him turned around, Xin flung the blade with such force into the man’s chest that the gunman was thrown back to land hard against a tree trunk. His rifle released a few shots, drawing the attention of the two men closest to him.

Xin used the diversion to come upon the remaining men from behind. He pierced the shorter of the men through his jugular with his blade.

No, Xin thought to himself quietly.

He drew his sword upward, slicing through the rest of the man’s neck before the blade entered the other man’s head, slicing it at such an angle that the head was severed diagonally, leaving one eye intact. The third man was dead before the body of the second man collapsed to the floor.

“No,” Xin thought again. “Not a vampire.” But there was no mistaking that dank, familiar smell of rotting corpse. “Hmph.” Xin swung his sword to allow the guts and blood that had collected there to slide off. He deduced that the vampire must have been on the island a long time, having to deal with the Caribbean heat, in order to allow its body to pass along its scent so strongly to a human.

The gunman stuck to the tree was still firing at him. Xin grabbed the body of the third man whose head-top was lopped off and proceeded to use it as a shield as he advanced towards the gunman.

The man’s aim was irregular; the bullets from the rifle tore into the “shield’s” lower abdomen and legs. Xin covered the few steps to the enemy right away. He drew the corpse he held with his left hand up against the arm that held the rifle and the handle of the knife in his chest. The burdensome weight preventing the gunman from reciprocating, his rifle fired shots at the earth.

Xin then pressed down on the corpse, placing pressure on the handle; he looked down into the eyes of the gunman until they rolled back into his head.

Xin stilled.

Another one?

Smiling, he swiftly swung the sword upward, overhead. The tip of the blade landed dead center into the head of an armed gunman who had been hiding so as to catch him unawares.

So, the others exposed themselves to draw me out, did they?

He slowly eased his index finger onto the trigger that rested at the collar of the katana. Xin pulled the trigger, and a bullet escaped the spacer of the katana and blasted the head of the gunman clean off.

The unique magazine hidden in the hilt of his katana couldn’t retain many bullets, so he made sure the ones there were capable of maximum effect. He normally resorted to such tactics when dealing with vampires. Firepower that exploded on impact made all the difference…against a human it was a total waste.

Hmph , all human…

Xin heard the rest of the men heading in his direction. He turned right and darted towards the building. A bullet entered his midsection from behind and he released a fierce howl before he leapt a yard into the air.

In mid-air he felt the proportions of his human form contort grotesquely into an abnormal shape. The drastic change was so sudden and crippling a regular human unfamiliar with the pain would have lost their mind to the agony. But for him it was a clean and welcome occasion that he could acutely manipulate. His whole body convulsed as he transformed. Thick, dark-grey, bristling hairs grew out instantaneously along the stretch of his back. Brown fibers mirrored the effect on the other parts of his body. Human ears gave way to long, thin ears that burst out on either side of his head. His human face transformed into the massive embodiment of an overgrown jackal.

With the transformation into a were behind him, he landed onto the side of the building. The strong claws of his  large, newly-formed jackal paws grappled the stone face, chipping away at its white brick finish.

Xin, now a fully formed were-jackal, scanned the crowed of overzealous pursuants firing at him. He still wore the dark suit, which had been especially tailored to suit his needs for transformation. A young pup would have been left bereft without such attire in a sudden- transformation situation such as this.

Xin turned his blade downward, his thumb rest handily on the butt cap. With one sure press of the hidden button at the base of his katana-gun handle, he detonated the grenade that was hidden inside the hunting knife that he had planted in the gunman moments earlier. The gang of gunmen was decimated by the explosion that ripped through the tropical jungle. Burnt body parts flew into the air over the ball of fire that surged and threatened to go further than the three mile radius it had impacted.

Xin sheathed his unique sword and dutifully began the arduous task of climbing up the side of the building with all fours, bullet wounds in his back.

 

 

CHAPTER 7

Viktor found it terribly disturbing that he had to fight for his composure  He stared at his wife, lying unconscious on the gurney. His wife’s skin, the color of dark chocolate, had lost its luster and was now ashen. Her cheeks were sunken; her lips dry, and cracked. She wore a hospital robe that did nothing to veil the fact that she was bare beneath. A catheter had been connected to her bladder and was strapped to the inside of her right thigh.

Viktor’s teeth gnashed together.  His breathing quickened harshly. He raised his fisted hands to pound either side of his head.

Get a grip man, get a fuckin’ grip…

She looked so small where she lay. At five feet, two inches, most men towered above her.

She was so small, so innocent – in all of this…Don’t lose it, man!

Her scalp is what sent him over the edge. Her bare head was exposed and her soft, relaxed hair was nonexistent. Viktor stared, unresponsive. Her head had been shaved.

They cut off her hair?!

Viktor’s nails bit painfully into his palms; his chest ached as he tried hard to catch his breath. His shoulders trembled. Closing his glistening eyes, he held his breath and begged himself to remain calm. Then his eyes fluttered open to focus on her peaceful face. They travelled down to rest on her hands. Finally, he touched her, holding her soft, small hand…

Where’s her ring?

There was movement at the doorway, causing Viktor to take heed. An Asian man of medium height and frail build, balding and wearing wire-thin frames, stood in the doorway looking as though his heart had stopped beating the moment he entered the room. The young, golden-haired nurse, who rivaled the old man in height, looked just as pale, leaving Viktor to come to one conclusion – they were both shocked stupid.

Viktor’s eyes searched theirs for a brief moment before the nurse’s fear of his silent warning got the better of her. She dropped the medical chart she was carrying, whirled around, and bolted out the door. In the entryway she darted to her left, but the strange snarling arrested her, and she turned to discover a menacing creature advancing towards her. She screamed, staggering backwards before the werewolf jumped her.

Viktor’s attention was not caught by the happenings just beyond the entryway. His eyes were still on the little man before him, whom he assumed was the person in charge of this operation. He looked familiar, in his common, dull grey slacks and equally dull shirt, his shoes well-worn. His appearance was belied by the cocky glint in his eyes. His hand rose to slip his wire frames down the slender ridge of his large, crooked nose. He gave Viktor a once over that spoke volumes of his calm demeanor. Viktor was further taken aback by the guy’s nonchalant behavior.

Did he not know his life was doomed to end right here-right now?

“Mr. Maxckmillian, I dare say, out of the many countless scenarios I may have manufactured to have to deal with, none of them included you. You often restrain yourself above your wife’s activities, I thought us once to never meet.” The little man then pushed the glasses, which were too refined for his deeply-creased features, back atop the bend on his nose.

Viktor’s head cocked sideways, and he sighed. Holding his wife’s hand with his left hand, he reached to his side for Hell’s Embrace with his right. The weapon hummed as he decided to go slow with this one. The nuts cracked easily…at least for Viktor…

But he might not be the figurehead. There might be others involved, and he needed to find them and destroy them all the same.

Viktor kept his eyes on the dainty man. His eyes focused on him, he squinted. He figured he knew him, most certainly his voice sounded familiar…

“You don’t know who I am. Heh, heh, heh.” He was quite brash with his vitriol.

Viktor was still considering what to make of this man before him. He was not afraid of him. The old man was human, but not a fool. Viktor was in a fair mind to grab his wife and take her home rather than to subject himself to the musings of a soon-to-be-dead dog.

Don’t want to hang the little one and allow the bigger one to escape.

His mind sought to reason with his non-obliging nature. Viktor stared at the man once more… Who the hell was he?

“Too bad.” He looked up. “I really had hoped to catch a glimpse of Saturn’s rings tonight. Ah…But I’m guessing that could still transpire. Things can all still go well tonight.”

A familiar tune filled the air, coming from the doorway behind the old man. The lyrics were in Mandarin- Gōng  chē shàng de lún zi zhuàn ya zhuàn– but the nursery rhyme melody was familiar to every creed and race on the planet.

Xin made his appearance at the entrance, towering above the other Asian man. He continued singing the children’s tune: “Oh the wheels of the bus go round and round,” Xin stepped around the man, towards Viktor where he stood near his wife. “Round and round, round and round, the wheels of the bus go round and round, all the way home.”

Xin looked at Viktor with an accusing glare. “How dare you wear silver around my pups.” But Viktor’s eyes were all on the little man.

Now they both stared at the small man, who grinned like the Cheshire cat, just realizing he had the full attention of the crowd.

The look on Viktor’s face was priceless, Xin thought. Without looking in Viktor’s direction, he whispered to him, “One of yours?”

Highly rhetorical, Viktor mused silently. “Dr. Eli, I presume?”

The Asian man lowered his head slightly. “For the man married to one of the top information theorists in the world, you truly are slow, aren’t you?”

He thinks himself to be very clever…

Viktor then did the unconscionable; he chortled with irrepressible mirth. His burst of laughter surprised the little man. Dr. Eli’s eyes narrowed on the billionaire diplomat.

Viktor slapped his face with his left hand. “You called. You called to ask after her.” Viktor continued with his burst of laughter. He bowed and hugged his stomach as though not able to contain his glee. Uncontrollable.

Xin gave Viktor an incredulous look and staggered back. Both men were engrossed thoroughly by Viktor’s unfathomable display. Amazingly, a long, thick silver chain spewed forth from his mouth, landing with a loud clang on the floor.

Slowly, a deeply composed Viktor righted himself. Looking at Dr. Eli with somber eyes, he yanked on the chain, whose reach suddenly extended beneath the earth. The strength of the pull caused the earth to break apart as more of the chain came above ground. At the end of the chain a massive, silver, circular instrument escaped the earth: a bear trap. The equipment jerked, sharp teeth clamping down on the doctor’s legs.

“Argh!” Dr. Eli’s face contorted in pure agony as the teeth of the bear trap bit into his legs. Blood streamed out from exposed flesh and bone.

“Is this one of the scenarios you anticipated in your playbook, doctor?”  Viktor wrapped the big anchor chain round his forearm.  The gesture caused Dr. Eli to fall hard on the floor. If not for the brutal agony of the painful, jagged teeth in his legs keeping him cognizant, the impact of the fall might have knocked him out cold.

“Surely now my actions have earned more than a vague interest from you?” A second coil wrapped around Viktor’s forearm drew the doctor closer over the rubble of displaced earth.

“Arrrrrhgh.” Dr. Eli’s fingernails scraped against the bloody earth. His blood soaked into his clothes as he was dragged. Dr. Eli gritted his teeth against the torturous, overwhelming pain. “Mr. Maxcksmilli-“

“No-No.” Viktor’s stare became less relaxed. “You don’t get to say my name. My name is her name. You’ve scorned her trust, her honest faith in you. You’ve scorned my wife…”

I need to keep him alive to catch the larger evil before it escapes.

“You are too selfish.” Dr. Eli managed weakly heaving out each word on failed puffs of breath. Saliva leaked over his gums and lips. “She is too valuable-you only want to keep her for yourself.”

Oh, so that is what this is about…

Viktor stilled. He thought fiercely as he felt Xin’s eyes on him. Studying him quietly, wondering what the old man meant by that last statement: his very last statement.

“You’re an evil whose existence cannot be tolerated out of necessity,” Viktor raged. He reeled Dr. Eli to him like a fish caught on a hook.  Hell’s Embrace hummed, waiting; sensing his master’s need for him in fight.

Dr. Eli lay before him. Viktor raised his glowing club with purpose, his anger no longer hidden, his face contorted with share hatred of the professor. “When I am through with you, they will have to scrape you off the walls.”

“Not before your wife.” Dr. Eli lifted his hand to reveal a small object that resembled a silver pen,with a red, blinking light for a head.

Then Viktor knew- he was too late. He heard the beeping coming from beneath the gurney where his wife lay and witnessed a flashing of dull red light behind the white sheet.

“Noooo!” Viktor’s guttural outcry was drowned out by the blast from the bomb hidden beneath the gurney.

 

CHAPTER 8

Audrianna shielded her eyes from the bright white light that had amassed suddenly before her. The light flashed, enveloping her, and then quickly receded into the distance until it was a remote speck on the horizon. She blinked. She was surrounded by darkness but for the dull, glowing orb ahead.

The space around seemed a void. The blackness was more encompassing than the starless space of the cosmos.  She stood on a narrow platform of dry, yellowish earth, leading  to the orb.  On either side, clear water lapped in sullen waves. Barefoot, dressed only in a hospital gown, she walked to the glowing center.

Her feet felt leaden; her legs were cramped. But she knew she could not give up the path she had chosen. Walking, the distance seemed limitless: then she was there. She blinked and was before the orb. It emitted slivers of static electricity that fizzled out less than five inches away from its fuzzy surface.

A low sound reverberated from the glowing ball and bounced off the dark walls of the dome she was in. The phenomenon stood suspended in midair over a cream-colored, twisted pedestal that had thin, rough, curved groves carved into its winding form. The pedestal was heavily smudged by the same yellow dirt as the plain where it stood.

Audrianna, still dazed from sleep, looked at the glowing ball and raised her hand to touch it. As she paused, her hand close, it hummed even louder.

A calm, soothing, feminine voice softly spoke to her, “Don’t be afraid…step into the light.”

Audrianna still faltered in placing her hand in the mysterious light. Less than semi-conscious, her wits offered a foreboding that aimed at deterring her from causing herself harm. In that instant she felt a crushing clamp on her lifted arm, making her more alarmed and wakeful. Stunned, she turned to look up at the person who manhandled her.

She stared up into the face of a towering, bald black man with ashen skin. He had harsh, menacing features and gritted even, pearl-white teeth. He appeared to be straining to push her delicate arm onto the glowing orb. His eyes showed resolve, though, and with one strong push her hand landed in the glowing structure. The light flashed and the white glow amassed and spread once again, embracing them both. She screamed.

* * *

“What the fuck was that shit?” Mat balked. He was at the helm of the only commercial helicopter on the island, with Lincoln beside him.  They flew north-east towards the Aripo mountains,no longer flying low.. They witnessed a plume of smoke shoot up in the distance, dissipating into the night sky.

The lights of the city had faded behind them, and though there were a spattering of households and squatter settlements in the area, the majority of the mountainous zone was covered by tropical rainforest. Lincoln was afraid there would be no way for the Special Weapons And Tactics (S.W.A.T.) team to make it up the mountain in the Northern Range in time to stop the abductors from transporting Audrianna to a second location.

Out of sheer habit, as a former Marine, Lincoln glanced down at the controls. But the helicopter they maneuvered towards the scene had the basic flying equipment a cockpit would need to function. There were no thermal imaging sensors for navigation purposes.

Shit, man! It’s a Beetle with a rotor blade and a tail fin stuck on it.  

Lincoln grew irritated that he was basically flying blind with a 360-degree blind spot. He looked down at his smart phone; Audrianna’s location on his GPS signaling app had gone dead. The direction had been at 0:200 when it vanished, the direction of the explosion. Lincoln cursed, slamming his palm on his fist. He squeezed Mat’s shoulder. “Balls to the wall, Coyote!”

Mat jammed the pedal and eased the cyclic control stick to his right, flying towards the fire that burned the dark-green forest at full speed.

* * *

“Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.” the ringing in Viktor’s ears sounded like the emergency testing transmission on a television. He couldn’t hear anything else.

He squeezed his eyelids tightly closed.

Dr. Eli…

Viktor’s eyes popped open. Dr. Eli, he thought savagely. His eyes filled with unimaginable rage. His veins burned with hatred. Viktor gripped his weapon in his hand. He wanted to beat the old man within an inch of his life.

Viktor felt a harsh nudge to the side of his head, where he lay on the floor in his dimensional enclosure. He looked up at Xin. Viktor’s vision was still hazy from being blown back by the impact of the blast. Xin nudged him again with the tip of his shoe.

“Hey.” Xin’s indifferent features looked down at him from what was, to him, a great height. Almost mocking, he said, “We’d like out.”

To Viktor it was pantomime. Unsure of his sight, hearing shot, Viktor shoved himself off the floor of the dimensional chamber he had created earlier for their entrance onto the scene. He had instantly pulled all his acquaintances into the chamber with the detonation of the bomb.

Viktor flexed his arm. Pointing Hell’s Embrace with authority, he fired a strong white  blast at the black apse structure. The walls dispelled into black smoke until they disappeared completely, revealing the white room his wife had been in once more.

The room, along with half the house, had been destroyed. Burnt rubble lay everywhere. The dark night sky with its two moons shone brightly. Dr. Eli had killed many of his allies with that detonation. There were burnt, shredded limbs, stubs of incinerated flesh, everywhere.  The smell choked the lungs.

“Ahhh, how nostalgic…I love the smell of burnt, raw flesh at sunset.” Xin might as well have been talking with cotton balls in his mouth; all Viktor heard was mumbled jargon. Viktor slapped his palm against his ear. Feeling a wet substance, he rubbed his fingers and looked at his hand. Blood. His blood. His wife…

Viktor swiveled around and accounted for everyone he had come with. Payne was bent on one knee as though genuflecting, Darksmith assessing the damage around him with calm surveillance; the three teen cubs were all present, if a little worse for wear. They were all disheveled, faces marred by anxiety, their bodies heaved vigorously with exhaustion.

Viktor shook his head, blinking profusely. The ringing finally stopped.

“ ‘Bout time we retrieved your lover,” Xin mocked, looking out across the bluff. Viktor walked over to him. He sighed with relief, his eyes welling up with tears as he watched Audrianna staggering towards the bushes. She walked into the canopy of a group leafy palms some three miles below, out of sight.

Viktor gritted his teeth against the swell of emotions that burned within him. He sucked in a deep breath and took a step off the bluff that supported the unique building structure of the small brick house, sliding down the muddied path to the foliage beneath.

Xin drew the attention of the teen wolves with a wave of his hand and a nod forward in the direction Viktor was headed, a silent command to follow. They all slid down the slope towards the direction Audrianna had gone.

Payne looked at Viktor, Xin, and the werewolves heading down the path; Darksmith stood next to him. “Well,” he patted Darksmith on the back, “there goes my ride. Let me know how it turns out.” Payne whipped around on his feet and walked off in the opposite direction, into the darkness of the blown-away building, into the open jungle.

Darksmith looked in either direction; then, gritting his teeth, he stumbled down the path in the direction of the other party.

* * *

Audrianna stumbled through the jungle brush to a small clearing that led to a steep ravine. Her steps were slow. Her mind confused, she did not recognize her surroundings, she felt trapped in a trance from which escape was beyond her will. She sensed a presence behind her and turned. Her vision impaired, the seven combatants with automatic rifles, circling her as they entered the clearing, did not cause her to become alarmed.

Audrianna backed up, mere feet away from the edge of the cliff. She faltered and dug her feet into the ground, and her arms lifted responding to inner machinations out of her control. Her hands cupped together, drawing apart to reveal a small ball that crackled with electricity. The ball began to pull swirls of air into it as it started spinning, becoming bigger. It fashioned itself into a glowing, humming orb of uneven shape.

The combatants encroached on the space between themselves and Audrianna. Audrianna stood squarely; the darkly-clothed men took another step closer. They were not more than five feet away when the ball stopped its out-of-control spinning and slivers of very sharp, very white electric current crackled and burst from its surface. It happened too quickly for the men to raise arms against her; a burst of electricity crashed into every man. Remarkably, they were not shocked- instead, their bodies became elongated, pulled and stretched.

Each body was a distorted, massive swirl which appeared to be sucked into a vortex of spiraling white light. Into each individual vortex, the men vanished, along with their assault rifles.

Audrianna, her mind unclear, became aware of the approach of another interloper to her right. She clapped her hands together and drew them apart to reveal the formation of another small ball, which had only just begun to spin drawing in tuffs of air.

Viktor glimpsed Audrianna. It was just the two of them in the clearing. He saw her harnessing the powerful element in her hands and was awed by it. He thrilled at the sight of the orb the woman he loved formed. But even as the thrill enveloped him, he was realized that the power she possessed was now focused on him. His heart raced and his shoulders tightened as he inhaled a ragged breath through clenched teeth. and bellowed to her, “Audriannaaaaaa!”

A flash of lightning escaped the orb, shot through the air with great speed in Viktor’s direction, and just as quickly stopped without reaching him. Audrianna’s arms fell to her sides.

Viktor fell to his knees, relieved beyond compare. He prayed no one else had seen what had just transpired.

Dear God, let me keep this secret just a little bit longer…

“Squaaaaaaaaak!” A bird’s hollow cry was heard as it burst from the tree behind him, expanded its wings and glided over the bluff, seconds before the helicopter was heard above, advancing towards the clearing.

The chopper was now over them. Xin and the girls had just come into the vicinity of the ravine. Viktor stood. He watched the glass of the helicopter cabin door and was not surprised to find Lincoln and Matsenêstse.

Her mind in a daze, confused about her surroundings, Audrianna staggered backwards.

* * *

“Holy shit!” Lincoln unbuckled his seatbelt. “Mat, get me on top of her-right on top!”

Mat could foresee what Lincoln’s intentions were, and he positioned the aircraft above. “Lincoln,” Mat said as he attempted to stabilize the swaying helicopter as smoothly as possible. “You sure about this? Remember, penny packets go splat!”

Lincoln looked at him with a sardonic smile and gave him a thumbs up. “No parachute, no rope, no helmet – no problem.”

Looking back down at the deep ravine, covered with protruding foliage that hid the bottom of it from view, Lincoln wondered silently what the delay might be before he did go splat.

* * *

Viktor wanted to use his power to save Audrianna from falling over, but Lincoln and Matsenêstse were two humans in his employ to whom he was loath to reveal the supernatural. They knew nothing of werewolves, vampires, demons…he didn’t feature being in their debt for keeping his secrets. He had never trusted a human with such a secret of the ‘supernatural underground’ before, and he wasn’t going to start now. Viktor raised his hands to urge his group not to move. “Find your way back, I’ll take it from here.”

Xin looked at him and smiled. Viktor guessed at what Xin’s smirk was meant to convey.

What you gonna’ do ‘bout this now, huh?

Viktor, stone-faced, turned his attention back to his wife. Xin, the girls, Darksmith – they all backed up into the forest. Viktor raised his hand. He felt the commonplace strain of the power raging within him as he attempted to release the curtailed amount he needed to save his wife from falling into the ravine.

Viktor was no novice when it came to sorcery, though he still struggled with controlling the craft he had gained through heredity, a power that was unique to his family. He braced himself for the impact of the feeling of breaching the dam of a mighty river that had had many years to build. Controlling a flow of energy so intense could prove deadly for any being.

Viktor raised his arm, extending it forward and mentally blocking out the loud whir and earth-tremor made by the helicopter above. He opened his hand and closed his fingers as though holding a hard ball.

The power inside him was in his grasp to control. Slowly, he attempted to tap into his wife’s energy, her ‘non-physical essence’ in order to draw a connection between her and his power.

The feeling startled him.

A barrier?

He stared at his wife Audrianna backing over the cliff. There was no time…he tried again, reaching with his hand. He felt a slow burning in his hand- an unusual sensation. Viktor looked at his hand and it was on fire, burning from the inside out with an uncommon white flame.

He rushed to his wife. Audrianna fell off the cliff, and seconds later Viktor saw Lincoln falling right behind her. Viktor rushed forward and looked over the side of the bluff. He did not see them.

* * *

The ravine was pitch black and Lincoln thought it was sheer luck that he had managed to hook Audrianna securely with one arm and grab a protruding branch with the other. They were surrounded by forest, and it was too dark to see how many feet were left before they would hit the ground; or stream, for that matter.

Lincoln felt the branch he held onto bend, then crack, under the pressure of their combined weight. His hand slipped on the wet, thin bark, which bit into his hand, breaking the skin. He steeled his courage to brace for the fall before he willingly let go of the branch.

Lincoln jumped, hugging Audrianna to him, his hand cupping the back of her head. He fell seventy-five feet and landed squarely on dry ground. His bionic legs strained with the impact, his knees bent and almost buckled withstanding the velocity of the intense fall. His feet smashed the earth with a loud ‘wham.’ The earth was cracked.

Lincoln attempted to straighten out his artificial limbs. The fall had knocked the wind from his lungs.  He had never put such an unequal burden on his bionic limbs. His knee cranked up like an oversized, rusty rivet being was forced to turn on command. The effect was polarizing- his will to move was fighting against his legs’ need to remain still and recoup their equilibrium. Lincoln pushed on his legs, forcing himself to walk forward, slowly.

Two feet, three feet, four feet later, he started to walk normally, with Audrianna unconscious in his arms. Lincoln made his way out of the dark ravine, following the path beside the stream to a gravel roadway. Hailing a local taxi in the form of a Toyota Corolla, he paid the taxi driver extra fare to take him off route to the local hospital.

 

CHAPTER 9

“Mmmm,” Audrianna moaned.  She opened her eyes, looked up, and smiled. Then, as the face before her became more focused, she stilled.

Audrianna stared into the mockingly loving eyes of Lincoln Huntington, her secretary.

“Audrianna,” he whispered softly, hugging her hands gently. He sat in a chair right beside her bed; their faces were inches apart.

“Yes,” Audrianna breathed, turning to her side to face him better.

He stared deep into her eyes. Squeezing her hands he said gently, “I want a divorce.”

Audrianna’s smile was wry. “From whom? Me and Viktor, or Viktor and you?”

Lincoln snickered.

“Not gonna’ happen.” Audrianna sat up in the hospital bed, and Lincoln let go of her hand.

“Fine, then I want a raise.”

Audrianna looked appalled. “On top of a five hundred thousand dollar Christmas bonus?”

“Audrianna-no amount of money is worth my life.”

“You didn’t accept that kind of payout from the U.S. military.”

“That was different.” Lincoln lay back in his folding chair, pushing the seat backwards, balancing on its rear legs. “That was for Corps and country; Viktor’s an ass.”

Audrianna scowled. “Don’t say that about my husband.”

Lincoln sighed. Folding his arms across his chest, he looked away. “You know you were a second away from dying tonight.” Lincoln brought the chair down with a harsh scrape on the floor. “I nearly lost my legs-again.”

Audrianna was thoughtful. “I remember the explosion…hmmm…” Bowing her head, she looked thoughtful.

Lincoln stood. The lighting in the room was dim, though dawn was quickly approaching. They were secured in a room in the women’s hospital at Mount Hope. Audrianna was in a room by herself, surrounded by eight empty beds.

Lincoln looked down on her. Audrianna looked absorbed in thought. She was a small woman, delicate, but not frail. Her cheeks were high and she had a small, demure nose and mouth. Her forehead was flat and small.

Lincoln brought his hand up to ruffle her hair, an act that always made her balk. He stopped short, not wanting to alarm her with her bald head. He drew his hand to his chin and looked at her head.

She looked back at him, her soft almond-colored eyes questioning. “What?”

Lincoln covered his grin with his hand. “Nothing.” His eyes shifted right to hide the guilty laughter there.

She is gonna’ have one sure fright next time she takes a look in the mirror.

“I’ll be outside if you need anything.”

“You could go straight on holiday. Ohhh nooo, you missed your flight, right?”

“It’s nothing. I’ll catch a later one. I was just looking to take some time off to be with the kids anyway.”

Audrianna screwed up her face, her eyes wandering in the opposite direction. Lincoln watched her suspiciously.

“What?” Lincoln asked.

“Nothing.”

“Lincoln?”

He looked over his shoulder at her.

“Thank you.”

He exited the room.

Audrianna, lost in thought, soon dozed off once more.

* * *

Audrianna awoke to a beaming Viktor looking down at her.

“Morning, cupcake!” He walked over to the windows and parted the blinds. Early morning sun bathed the room, her husband made a silhouette by the sunshine.

Audrianna squeezed her eyes shut and stretched in the bed. “Mmmmm. I’m hungry like hell.”

Viktor walked over, pulse twitching in his jaw. His voice was soft. “When was the last time you ate something?”

Audrianna sighed, her gaze lowered. “I honestly don’t remember.” It’s been nearly three days, but she wasn’t going to tell her husband that; it would only compound his anxiety.

“Where did you get such tight pants.”

“Well,” he paused, He pulled her up on the bed. “Your ring is gone. And we need to find you another one.”

She made a sad pouty face.

He felt a twinge of regret. “Since there is no other way to protect you from silver, I’m going to have to find another enchanted item to protect my little were from harm. My suit was lined with silver, so I exchanged clothes with Kelly for a time.”

She fingered the waist with her index finger and her hand boldly cupped his bulge in front. He released a small gasp.

“As you can imagine.” He breathed, “It is a tight fit.”

She giggled as she caressed his bulge in front.

Audrianna reached out with her arms, beckoning Viktor. He pulled her up on the bed. Kneeling, she hugged him close. “I need a large pizza.” Moving her tongue around in her mouth she screwed up her face. “Ugh, I have to brush my teeth.” She started to push Viktor away when his arms tightened around her. He gave her a smoldering look that made her heart lurch. Passion flared within her as its unspoken meaning stoked her desire.

He lowered her to the bed. “Do you hurt?” His hands glided down the length of her body, slipping beneath her sheer hospital gown. “Anywhere?”

Audrianna flexed, bucking her hips upward, her body like a bow. “No.”

“I know I should let you rest and take it easy. But I thought I’d lost you forever. Good God.” Viktor passed his hand over her bare womanhood and cupped her there. “I want to stick it in.”

Bam! The door swung open, slamming into the side of the wall. Xin stood in the doorway, glancing from Viktor’s tight-lipped, accusing glare to the Audrianna’s compromised state on the bed.

“Viktor,” Xin greeted him with a curt nod. “Mrs. Viktor.” He did not look at Audrianna’s guilty expression.

Audrianna, unutterably embarrassed, covered her face with the pillow. In a muffled voice she replied, “Daddy.”

His eyes locked on Viktor, he spoke sternly, “A word with my charge.” Xin stood in the doorway, waiting.

Incensed, Viktor turned and walked pass Xin, who summarily kicked the door closed behind him.

Clear blue skies in the distance met Viktor as he walked onto the third-floor balcony of the hospital, which faced the yard’s entrance nearly one hundred feet away. To his left was a small reception area. The desk was a semi-circular structure painted a mild lemon yellow. The worn, marginally chipped counter top was varnished cherry wood. An old computer and overly used red and blue ledgers covered the desk. There were two uniformed nurses at the reception. One nurse read the daily papers while the other rapped specifics over the phone curtly. The atmosphere felt uneventful, a far cry from the drama that had unfolded hours earlier.

Viktor walked a few steps away from the reception area to his left and kept to the balcony overseeing the spacious, well-kept green lawn that extended fifty feet towards the highway.

The calm, scenic view that greeted him did nothing to soothe his turbulent thoughts.

How could I have let this happen?

Viktor reviewed in his head all the protocols he had created to protect himself and his family from intruders such as Dr. Eli. Notwithstanding his obvious proclivity to attract crazies who wish to test their might against his, Audrianna was a different story. Obviously someone had sicced Dr. Eli onto his wife. Someone who was aware of her status, but who? No one else knew of the power she possessed but him, and Grigori.

Grigori was a loyal busybody who had served the Maxcks’ family for generations. It was impossible to think of him as a traitor. No. Viktor’s features grew into a mask of heated displeasure.

His familiars were mechanically loyal to him. The only other default option was that someone had done their own research and zeroed in on Audrianna. Audrianna herself could not have spoken of the phenomenon to anyone. The only other person to have been revealed to the truth was dead.

Leaning against the railing, arms crossed, he decided on a series of further measures that would protect his wife. He smiled without mirth. They would probably anger her as well…but Viktor wasn’t afraid of becoming necessarily rough with her in order to secure her own protection.

Lost in his deep musings, he appeared not to have noticed Xin’s approach to his side.

“Don’t you believe you are allowing the acquisition of self-blame go too far?” Viktor sighed roughly, reaching into his pants pockets to remove his smartphone. He entered the code to gain access. He then sent the private information he had used to bargain with Xin for his help earlier.

Xin’s phone in his pocket made a corresponding sound, indicating it had received Viktor’s text. Viktor then placed his phone back into his pocket.

“Hmmph,” Xin bent his head. With a sideways glance he mused, “’First remove the log from your own eye.’”  Xin looked away, his eyes distant. “She killed my brother and father, this I cannot let stand. You’ve brought this on yourself. You’ve willfully made a date with the hangman, and you opted to bring your own noose.” He paused, turning towards the entrance. “Do not drag me into the same pit as you.”

Xin walked off, leaving Viktor observing the view before him. He stood outside, pondering the day’s events. It was the wretched, piercing scream that jarred his awareness, causing him to sprint to his wife’s side. Viktor barged into the room to find his wife screaming at her reflection in a compact case. Her personal assistant Elyzabel was jumping up and down in her six-inch heels in excitement, pointing excitedly at Audrianna with a look of shock and dismay on her face.

“Look at you! Look at you!”

Audrianna was caressing her bald scalp, close to tears. Viktor walked up to her in the bed, grabbed both her shoulders and silenced her with a deep, long, searing kiss. Audrianna’s distress-filled cry died as she was sucked in deeper and deeper into the maelstrom of passion that caused her insides to melt.  She reached out, intending to hug him closer to her body, when he drew back, releasing her from the devastating kiss.

“Now that I have your attention,” he whispered against her ear. The small breath tickled her skin, and she shivered.  “Where would you like to go for a small trip? Paris, Milan, the mansion off the bay in South Carolina?” Viktor slowly pulled away.

He kept his eyes trained on hers and the meaning there conveyed an image of intense yearning that Audrianna could not mistake. “You decide.” He bowed his head. Bringing her open palm against his mouth he flicked the tip of his tongue there. His eyes remained on hers. He gave Elyzabel a look of warning before exiting the room, leaving Audrianna with a besotted expression on her face.

Audrianna balled both hands up to her chest and grinned. “I love my man.” She clapped her hands a few times gleefully and then reached for the smart phone on the side table, which Elyzabel had handed her before the big commotion about her hair.

Elyzabel, a voluptuous woman of Hispanic decent, looked immediately contrite. “Sorry for getting all worked up about your head and things. It was just a shock to see all of it gone, so…” Elyzabel shrugged her shoulders.

“Eh, it’s okay.” Audrianna sighed and looked spaced out. “I think I’m over most of it already anyway.”

“I’ll bet you are.” Elyzabel reached over and squeezed her arm, grinning from ear to ear knowingly. Elyzabel had light caramel-colored skin, with pink lips, straight short hair, and clear, honey-colored eyes always ready to dance in merriment. She wore a loose fitting, bright, flowery blouse that featured a curved neckline and slits from shoulder to elbow on both arms. Snug fitting blue jeans that hugged her curves and lacy six inch heels topped off the ensemble.

“At least your man is suave.” Elyzabel brought up some text on her cell phone. She handed her cell to Audrianna. “Here, read this.”

Audrianna took the phone, and as she read the text on the screen she laughed aloud. “Kelly sent this?”

Elyzabel nodded. “And is wasn’t until after we ‘got together’ that he told me you were in the hospital and needed clothes and shit.”

Audrianna read the text out loud, swallowing hard. “Come over sexy body and suck some crotch-but he not easy?”

Elyzabel frowned, shaking her head. “I thought that since Payne was raised ‘alright’ that he wouldn’t be so vulgar.”

Audrianna opened a radio application on her phone to listen to the local morning disc jockeys and placed the cell on the bedside table. “All of them are like that,” Audrianna referred to Payne’s other brothers and sister, shaking her head with a small smile, .

Elyzabel looked at her with a mischievous smile on her face. “Was Llewellyn like that?”

Audrianna settled down on the pillow, folding her arms. She screwed her mouth up into a small moue, her mind away on other things. Elyzabel laughed at her expression and got up and started unpacking clothes that Audrianna could wear and some toiletries, placing them on one of the other vacant beds.

She listened quietly to the two disc jockeys on the radio.

“You don’t find it is just dark-”

Every morning now. Normally you could tell when the sky is cloudy, but I just feel every morning it’s just dark.”

“Just dark-cold and dark…” Audrianna reached for the phone and placed it on mute.

She hugged herself and rubbed the sides of her arms, eager to dispel the unnerving feeling that crept into her body with thoughts of her ex.

A chilly, unannounced breeze swept through the room, and the curtains billowed. She looked towards the window over the green, distant hill tops. A waning howl from an unknown animal could be heard in the distance. She rubbed her arms up and down. She felt restless, and anxious all at once.  A small tap on her shoulder from behind made her jump.

“What do you think of, my dear?” A soft whisper in her ear made her smile and turn towards the calming voice. Her priest, Father Arie John, chaplain-in-residence at their local New York estate church, looked upon her fondly.

Audrianna reached over to caress his strong hand on her shoulder, and squeezed. “Father John, it is so… comforting to have you here.” And a surprise, Audrianna thought silently.

“Still.” Viktor came upon them both from behind. “There was no need for him to rush over to pay you any attention. She is well and in good spirits, dear Father.”

Audrianna rolled her eyes heavenward.  She often grew tired of the cat-and-mouse game played between these two. Viktor made no bones about disliking the young priest who often assisted Audrianna on her excursions in visiting charitable institutions abroad. And Arie felt no need to ignore her husband’s distaste of him.

Arie kept his eyes on Audrianna. “I merely wished to be soundly reassured in her countenance, good Viktor. In that, a face-to-face meeting is always best.”

Arie sat down in the chair beside her that Lincoln had occupied. He held her hand gently. “Now, how are you feeling?”

“Umm.” Audrianna glanced surreptitiously over at her husband, whose body exuded waves of menace towards the young man. “I can’t say that I hurt anywhere.”

Arie was about twenty-seven years old with dark hair, not nearly as black as Viktor’s. It was short in a neat style cut above the ears. His eyes were light blue. His nose was smooth, long and straight, but not protruding. He had handsome, rugged features, and a grin that made women lament the Catholic Church.

“Who told you about what happened?” Viktor demanded. Folding his arms, he stood looking down at Arie right beside the priest.

Arie looked up, sighing. “Lincoln told me. I had been calling you, but I am afraid my calls got sent to voicemail.” He turned to Audrianna. “I am truly sorry if I have disturbed your recovery.” He bent over her, bracing each side of the bed with his arms. “Lincoln was kind enough to send the private jet to pick me up. You look worn out.”

“Not at all, I feel fine.” Audrianna raised her shoulders up and down as though to prove she was well.

“You heard it from v’e monkey’s mouth yourself, she is fine-you may leave,” Viktor said.

“Emph, umph!” Elyzabel hit her chest repeatedly with her hand and stifled a short laugh by placing the other hand over her mouth. She waited patiently for her cue to help Audrianna get dressed and ready to leave the hospital.

Arie shot up to his full height, which had an advantage over Viktor by two inches. “I only wish to comfort her in her time of need.”

Viktor looked dumbfounded, and then his eyes lit up like burning coal. “I am the only man to comfort Audrianna in her time of need.”

“Arie, I am really okay. There was no need for you to come here at all. Please, go now and I will see you next week at prayer service at Immaculate Conception.”

“Praise be you, you are so brave. Yes, I see you there.” He bent down and kissed her forehead lightly.

“Pray, may I see you outside a moment, Father?” Viktor managed through clenched teeth.

They departed the room and Elyzabel tried hard to contain her laughter. “Talk about a cock fight.”

Audrianna couldn’t help herself, she laughed along with Elyzabel.

* * *

“That poor, poor woman. Such a brave face.”

Viktor opened his mouth to speak-

“You do realize that the poor woman is feigning joviality?”

“Father Arie-”

“I hope you do not intend to…” Arie raised one eyebrow significantly at Viktor. “Stress her out, too soon.”

The priest gave Viktor such a look it was impossible not to deduce  what particular type of stress Arie was implying.

“Look here.” Viktor could hardly contain his fury. “Audrianna is my wife, you will cease to be so familiar with her as to lay your hands on her shoulder or your lips on her,” Viktor struggled to grasp the right word. “ANYWHERE! Have I made myself clear?”

Arie looked contrite; he sighed and nodded placidly.

Viktor was not fooled, though. He crooked his head at him, not believing his sincerity. “Do you wish to harm my wife, to harm me, to harm my marriage?”

Arie blinked, and was at once red. “Good Viktor, no! I mean no harm to you or to anyone.”

“Then you would keep a safe distance from my wife.” Viktor’s eyes were candid. “Do not doubt that I will take action against her, the fault to be your own doing.”

Arie blanched. “Do you mean you would harm her if ever you would suspect…”

“You value her life, you will keep away from her. I have made myself clear.”

Viktor walked past the priest and returned to his wife’s side. “Elyzabel, I will take care of her. Please, leave.”

Elyzabel’s eyes flashed from Viktor’s hot glare to Audrianna’s lowered gaze. “Alright, I’ll just leave everything right here. Call me if you need anything. Later.”

Elyzabel left and they were alone.

Audrianna looked at Viktor with anxiety.

Is he going to go anal on me now?

He bent over her, his eyes tumultuous. His gaze slowly travelled from her newly shaved head, down the length of her nose to her mouth. He met her eyes again, but this time they exuded a tenderness that proclaimed his love for his wife. His eyes travelled again, over her slender, curvaceous figure to the apex of her thighs. His eyes became hot and needy. She felt the same way.  Last night was a double full moon and a time when lusts ran high for were’s. They both felt restless to have missed being together last night.

“Honestly.” He grabbed her by the shoulders and pressed her onto the bed. “Either you have that man completely fooled, or he is an idiot.”  His lips landed on hers with such longing to be touched she responded in kind, if not with more fervor.

“Mmmmm.” Her voice strained in her throat as she groaned into his mouth. She felt his palm caress her leg beneath her gown and she shuddered. His hand traced the length of her thigh, his index finger flicked her below, moaning in wicked delight. Never breaking the kiss, his finger traced her down there and entered her body. A wave of pleasure erupted between her thighs.

Audrianna swiped his long braid; grabbing his head, she dragged him closer to her. He lifted his head, his teeth gently bit her lower lip and he suckled her there. She sighed. His lips moving away from hers elicited a soft, musical, vocal response from her in protest. His right hand caressed her left breast, his thumb flicked her nipple. She whimpered. She brought her fist to her mouth.

Viktor lowered his mouth to her breast and sucked it. Audrianna shook her head, trying to contain her voice. She would just die of embarrassment if anyone heard her. Viktor was pushing her to hysterical arousal and she could just bear it no more. After dampening the cloth and making her nipple hard, he moved away. He looked at her, his eyes cloaked with heady desire.

Pulling his tie from around his neck, he looked into her eyes and the words he spoke barely registered with Audrianna’s arousal-filled brain.

“Trust me.”

Audrianna nodded, allowing him to wrap the tie around her. It circled her head twice and embedded into her mouth. She bit down on the tie, sucking on it. He circled the tie around her neck and rolled the other end round his fingers. She growled. He kept it tightened in his fist. “Fucking shit, Audrianna, you could make a guy lose it.”

Audrianna tugged on his braid again. He lowered his head to her breast. She bit down on the tie hard, releasing a stifled scream. She flung her arms around him, pressing him closer. She tried to raise her head to push her chest closer to him, but that caused the tie to constrict around her neck and she lowered herself back down.

Viktor released a rough laugh. “You’re an animal.” He straightened; grabbing the neck of her gown, he dragged it off of her, exposing her bare body. Audrianna wriggled. Bending her knees, she arched, opening up herself to him. She laid her hand below, covering herself, rubbing there. She bit down on the tie. Sucking in a breath, she swallowed hard.

Viktor stood there, appearing lustful and entranced by her devilish delight. His manhood strained against the fabric.

She stretched her hand over it, rubbing him, coaxing his cock to rise. He tensed further. His body felt near explosion, taut like a coiled spring. He fought not to be too rough. He was playing with fire too much already.

His hold on the tie caused her to turn her head sideways, exposing her ear to him. He breathed softly, sucking his teeth. “Tsk, tsk my dear, not yet.”

She tried to scream her dismay. He licked her ear and gently tugged at the tie, forcing her not to. She swallowed, hard.

Hold it in.

His hand glided over her middle. She trembled. He moved his hand beneath hers. She pressed on his hand, encouraging his entry into her. He pushed two fingers inside her, pressing on her point of ecstasy. Surprisingly, she winced. He stopped, pressed again, and she wriggled in discomfort; not the good kind. Viktor cursed.

Removing his hand, he stepped back, unraveling the tie from his fist. Could it be?

The catheter, friggin’ fuck, it must have made her sore.

Viktor silently cursed the bastards who had done this to her. His beloved Audrianna looked at him, an apprehensive question in her eyes. He passed his fingers across his lips and tasted her. His eyes landed on a bottle of baby oil on the bed that had been brought up with her change of clothes. His looked at her with meaning.

“I can’t wait,” he said soothingly. “And neither should you.”

I won’t let them take this away from us.

He cradled her head with both hands, kissed her lovingly on her forehead, and reached for the small bottle of baby oil.

He cupped his hand, poured some of the oil into his palm, and gently massaged some on her behind. He inserted two fingers into her ass. He rubbed her, pressing down inside as she clenched around him. It had been a while since they had done it there. He stroked and teased her cheeks and sex, teasing both ends until she was writhing, wanting more than just his fingers inside her. She was blossoming for him.

He had three fingers inside of her; she felt slick, and warm, and inviting.

“Release me baby,” Viktor grunted encouragement.

Audrianna knelt down and freed him. He was fully aroused by just playing with her. Holding him in her hands, she licked him from his balls to the slit of his penis. Then she took him in her mouth: all of him.

“Fuck!” Viktor recaptured the tie and wrapped it around his fist. His other hand pressed her forward. She started bobbing her head up and down, sucking his length. Her tongue played with his tip. He thought he’d explode. He couldn’t wait.

Viktor placed the crook of his finger below her chin, tilting her face upwards, a dare in his eyes. “However you want it, baby.”

Her heart overflowed with love and longing. Circling her arms around his neck, she climbed him, her legs wrapped about his waist. He grunted as he entered her ass.

“Uhhhh…” Her soft moans and pants reiterated her pleasure.

He sat on the bed. Grasping her soft cheeks, he moved her up and down his length, controlling the movement. She hugged him as they stared into each other’s eyes. They lingered in a world where only the two of them existed, and the pleasure they gave each other.

“Uhhhh, mmmm.” Wave after wave of sensual pleasure built within her as her pelvis rubbed against his groin. Audrianna’s body succumbed to the undeniable passion.

Fuck!

He placed the cloth in her mouth once more to stifle her moans so no one other than the guards outside could hear. Viktor fondled her opening in front, sucking on her breast at the same time. She felt herself teeter on the edge of reason. She started to feel an unusual sensation within her.

Shit! Audrianna brought her muffled voice to Viktor’s ear. Though hampered by the wet cloth and uneven breathing, he was still able to understand. He got up, bringing her with him. He turned, laying her on the bed. Though he loathe to, he departed her.

She whimpered over the loss pushing herself up on the bed on her elbows.

Her dark skin glistened with sweat. Her nipples were pert brown beads that still lusted for her master’s tongue. Her mouth was still gagged, the tie soaked with her saliva. Her center was moist and slick. Her ragged panting made her small breasts heave up and down. Viktor couldn’t take his eyes off her body. She fueled his need more.

She turned around, intending to head to the bathroom. He then grasped her round the waist and brought her back against his chest. There was a rap at the door, and to Audrianna’s amazement Viktor encouraged them to enter. She wriggled furiously against him, but slowed when she saw the familiar, Golub’  White.

White  was a lofty attractive man with white-blond hair that hung loose down his back, past his waist. He wore white slacks, a sweater vest, and an overcoat, and dark shades. Unlike Viktor, he was immune to the hot climate.

“The car has arrived to take you to the airport.” He was unmoved by their scandalous appearance.

Viktor wrapped his hand around the tie once more. “Wait for us.”

Golub’ nodded and turned to leave.

“Stay,” Viktor commanded him.

He then caressed Audrianna between her thighs with his engorged penis. He rubbed her a few times back and forth, sending little bolts of unimaginable ecstasy to shoot through her. It calmed her slight misgivings towards the intrusion. She bucked her bare bottom against his pelvis. Viktor, sensing her urgency, pushed himself inside of her ass.

His right hand tugged the tie gently. Her face upturned, he suckled on her mouth greedily. His other hand reached for her in front, entering her, stroking her. She couldn’t resist. She moved against him. Golub’’s eyes on her made her feel pleasurably erotic.

Fuck! I can’t believe this, in the hospital! This is insane!

But it wouldn’t be the most scandalous place they have done it.

Audrianna reached behind with her hands to hold onto his taut behind as he thrust rhythmically inside her. Viktor always felt so comfortable inside her, so right. She felt she couldn’t be this exposed or open in her lust to anyone else but him. She closed her eyes.

God! I’m gonna cum hard!

“Audrey, know this.” Viktor nipped at her ear. She shivered. The menace in his voice gave her an uncanny thrill. “Your life depends on you being with me. I won’t see you with anyone else. Ever.”

Her eyes opened and Viktor saw her moist, glazed, besotted look. He growled fiercely through clenched teeth, and drove into her incessantly. He couldn’t control himself. He came. He tried to pull out of her but she squeezed him.

“Fuck, Audrey!” he bellowed. “Fuck!”

She reached behind and clasped him to her. The momentum was too much. She came uncontrollably. Warm liquid spilled from inside her as she came, spraying on the bed, dampening Viktor’s slacks.  “Mmmmm.” Audrianna’s eyes shut against the splendor of release.

Viktor’s hand untangled the tie and reached for her breast, pinching her nipple as his other hand pinched her below. Her muffled cry was guttural. She felt the crescendo of pleasure would never end. Slowly, she released Viktor.

His manhood slid out of her. He gently rested her on the bed. He stroked himself, spilling some more over her back. She whimpered.

He gazed at her, disheveled and replete. He looked at Golub’.  The familiar, a manservant whose sole purpose in life was to serve his master, was determined to appear unaffected by witnessing the erotic affair.

“Give me yours.” Viktor bent over and peeled off his soiled suit pants.

 

CHAPTER 10

New York City, Three Days Later…

Lincoln swished the Jack Daniels in the shot glass contemplatively.

“Mind if I sit here?” A man, cleanly-cut and in casual clothes, approached him with an expectant look on his face.

“Not at all,” Mat replied from behind him. Mat jerked his head in the other direction to encourage Lincoln to meet him in a booth.

Lincoln glanced up and hid his smirk by taking a swig of his drink. He got up from his stool at the bar, and his height and good looks caused the other man to take appreciative notice as Lincoln walked off with Mat.

“No use,” The bartender said to the newcomer at the bar. “He’s taken and is religiously loyal.”

Mat slid into the side booth. He rested his suitcase on the long, obsidian table. The large window that flanked his side was crusted over with frost.

Lincoln, dressed simply in a cream-colored bubble vest over a brown cashmere sweater, slid in the booth, facing Mat on the other seat.

Mat opened up the suitcase, withdrew three thick manila envelopes, and slid them across the table to Lincoln. “That’s everything.”

Lincoln opened one of the envelopes. He withdrew a photograph of the scene depicting the aftermath of the explosion and Audrianna’s kidnapping in the underground carpark two weeks ago.

“What about the girl who died, Lindy, who was a part of the entourage? Audrianna was quite close to all the girls. Is her family getting compensation?”

“Audrianna’s taken care of it.” Mat drummed his fingers on the polished black tabletop. “Listen, are you going to spend your one and only vacation working?”

Lincoln shook his head, laughing, “I don’t remember a vacation where I haven’t done anything else but work.” Lincoln rubbed his chin. “My son is about her age. Do you know where she lived?”

“The address is included with the report and final findings. It’s right around here in Hell’s Kitchen.”

“Hmm.” Lincoln grew contemplative. His phone buzzed and he glanced at the incoming text. “Just a sec.” He got up and walked a little way to the entrance, where Mat saw him greet another man before Lincoln was handed a medium-sized black garbage bag. Lincoln walked back to the table to reclaim his seat, placing the bag next to him.

“How are the kids?”

Lincoln sighed. “Think Alvin and The Chipmunks on steroids.”

“That bad, huh?” Mat laughed.

“Actually, no, it’s not half bad at all.”

Lincoln waved to his friend behind the bar, held up his glass and put up two fingers in the air. The bartender nodded and at him and started to fill the order.

“Molly has a recital coming up. She’s going to be a bunch of grapes.”

Mat smiled.

Lincoln placed the photos and documents relating to the investigation of Audrianna’s kidnapping into the folders. “Between them and the financials I can’t begin to call my time at home a “staycation,” even.”

Mat relaxed, placing his arm to rest on top of the headrest. “I thought Bob was helping.”

“Yeah, but they are still my kids. I can’t slough them off on my lover.”

“Lincoln.” The waiter came and placed the drinks on the table.

“Thanks, man.” Lincoln placed the two next to his empty one.

“I’ll have a beer in the bottle.” Mat ordered.

Lincoln gave him a quizzical glance.

“I’m off the clock until my flight arrives in New Mexico in about three days.”

Lincoln finished off his drink.

“Have you given any thought to Mexico?”

“Other than everything else, Mexico is always on my mind.”

Mat nodded. “Just be sure,” he paused, “to be prepared.” Mat looked down. “Best get started early on that.”

Lincoln looked at him, suspicion in his eyes. “You couldn’t be more cryptic.”

Lincoln threw back his other drink as Mat’s beer was delivered.

“Is Viktor planning something?”

Mat took a sip of his beer. “I can’t say.”

Lincoln looked interested.

“I can’t say, except that Viktor is my boss and you should just look to getting all your ducks in a row, dot your Ts and cross your Is until you get cross-eyed. This year is gonna be the shit-stinger of all time.”

Lincoln tapped the rim of one glass with another, lost in thought.

“Plus,” Mat rolled the beer bottle around with his hand, his eyes shuttered. “You know how you said that you get the idea that Viktor can’t do as he’d like to with his wife on board.”

Lincoln’s hand stilled. “You think he might try to push her out.”

“I’m thinking that she carries a lot of leverage, and that irks a lot of people. If someone tries to push her out, he won’t stand in their way.” Mat drained his beer. “He’s thinking the best way to keep her safe is to keep her out.”

Lincoln kneaded his furrowed brow with his fingers, squeezing his eyes.

Dammit, Lincoln thought.  Audrianna was a real asset to the company, and with a PhD in management information systems she had spearheaded many successful global mergers as the Chief Information Officer. The kidnapping must have Viktor nervous for her safety. But being CIO she was also Viktor’s “right hand man,” so to speak, and was often the only tie-breaker left when it came to decision-making. Coupled with the fact that she was also his wife, that made her an easy target for animosity.

Maxckcorp was a global technologies investment firm, privately owned without a board of directors; that didn’t mean there weren’t people within the company who vied for the top spot. Or at the very least, the most favor with the owner, Viktor Maxckmillian.

It was Audrianna’s skillful and intuitive thirst for knowledge, and her ability to break down that knowledge into data, which drove the pathways to successful acquisitions.

“Crap, Audrianna is like the yin to my yang, I don’t think I can tolerate working there without her.”

Would I even have a job if Audrianna left Maxckcorp?

“You see,” Mat pointed at Lincoln with his pinky finger on the same hand that held the beer bottle. “That’s another problem right there. I told you when you first got on the job you have to stop all this chummy-chummy stuff you have going on with Audrey.”

Lincoln scowled.

“You’re making a case for Viktor to hate you. Stop being so close with another man’s wife. Audrianna is a married woman, with kids. He hates the fact that you’re with her on the job more than he is.”

“We’re close friends, associates at best.”

Mat snickered as he took another swig of his beer.

“You’re just as close to her as I am; we attended the same military academy.”

“Yeah, but I managed to convince Viktor that I’m into blondes, brunettes, and redheads-if you know what I mean. And I don’t partner up with her every chance I get. She visits with you both during and after work hours. Adopt conference calling, get Skype, and just don’t see her as much as you’re used to.”

Lincoln raked his hand through his hair.

Mat sighed in exasperation. “Viktor would be more likely to push her out if he knew for sure it would get her away from you.”

Lincoln picked up his phone from the table and pocketed it. He removed a burner phone from his pocket and proceeded to dial a number. After a few tries he hung up the phone.

He cursed, looking somber. “Enrique’s not picking up.”

Mat looked at him. “How long has it been since…”

“Eight weeks.”

Mat stared at him, whistling low. “You can’t lose Mexico, man, that’s one quarter of the company’s budget. Roku is out for blood- Audrianna’s blood.”

“Crap!”

“You’re going to have to head over there?”

“Shit no. I can’t – they know me there. I can’t show my face there. And my plate is damn near full.”

“Gotta send somebody.” Mat finished his beer. “You think Enrique is…” Mat used his index finger to cut across his neck.

“Shit, at this point I really don’t care. As long as he doesn’t bring down the company with him, nobody is to know that we are in Mexico. Hell, we are not supposed to be in Mexico. He can die if he wants to, as long as it’s just him.”

Lincoln tried calling Enrique again. “Shit, you know what the problem here is, with Enrique and all these fuckers,” Lincoln said, pointing the phone at Mat with an accusatory look on his face. “All these little shits come into the company with their own private and personal agendas and once they get where they want to be, they go about conducting that private business or personal vendetta with absolutely no consideration of what kind of shit they’re dragging the company into.”

“You have to send somebody.” Mat stared at him.

Lincoln stared back. “No.” Lincoln gritted his teeth. “Not Carlos.”

“You have to send somebody.”

“He has his own agenda. He’s just been salivating, waiting to get a chance to throw himself into the lion’s den.”

Lincoln cursed, and he started to dial another number.

“Who you gonna send, then?”

Lincoln looked at him with an exasperated look on his face. “Who else?”

They spoke resolutely, in unison. “Carlos.”

“Yo, big L!” A guy hailed him from the bar. The person carried a white trash bag. He approached their table.

“Hey McCarthy, you brought the balloons.”

He handed Lincoln the bag. “Cool man,” Lincoln pulled out a small purple balloon. He showed it to Mat who gave him a quizzical look. “Hey man this is awesome. Thank you.”

“No problem Bro, the least I can do!”

Lincoln got out of his seat, slapped his hands in a strong handshake that drew the other man into a bear hug.

The guy then left them alone.

Mat’s eyes shot up.

“It’s for Molly’s recital- you know, the bunch of grapes.”

“That too.” Mat indicated the black plastic bag beside Lincoln.

“Yeah, yeah.” He pulled out a small, purple coverall. “You see, you take this, and take the balloons.” He removed a small balloon from the bag. “And you stick this on this right here and you see, and there you have it: a bunch of grapes.”

Mat gave him an all-knowing look that incensed Lincoln.

“I can tell exactly what you’re thinking.” Lincoln got up. He put the plastic bag under his arm, and grabbed the bag with the balloons. “I don’t have to explain anything to you.” He looked at Mat with a sly grin. “But I will have you know one grand detail.” He leaned over Mat to whisper in his ear. “I’ve never slept with any of these gentlemen, and I haven’t slept with any other man but Bob for the last two years.”

Mat tried to cover his stunned expression as he followed Lincoln to the door. Lincoln then stopped at the bar and collected a pair of small purple shoes from the bartender there. Lincoln mouthed the words “thank you” over the loud music, which was starting to transgress from the party floor as the late evening diners dwindled to make room for the evening partygoers.

Mat shook his head, frowning, as the two made their way through the decorative glass and wooden doors onto the snowy street. “Could we at least stop meeting in all these gay bars all the time?”

Lincoln laughed. “You asked me where I was.”

“Yeah, well I hate all the looks those guys give me.”

They walked down the street at a casual pace. It was just after seven.

“What looks?”

“They keep staring at me as if to say, ’What is I guy like that doing with a guy like him?’ As if I could never get a guy like you to like me.”

“Mat, are you for real?” Lincoln looked incredulous. “But you’re not gay.”

Mat looked offended, he gritted his teeth. “Pisses me off all the same.”

Lincoln laughed. He visibly assessed Mat’s appearance in a dark brown undershirt and light grey tweed jacket. “You can relax about that, take it from a guy that knows, tweed is a natural gay repellant.” Lincoln gave him a friendly nudge.

“What’s wrong with the way I’m dressed.”

“It’s embarrassing at least for me, being your closest gay friend and not being capable of making a dent in that fuddy-duddy  closet of yours…”

“Hey! Don’t think I won’t clock you a good one right here, right now.”

Lincoln laughed, “Just walk a safe distance in front so people won’t know we’re together and I’ll be fine with just that.”

A young man drove up in a grey BMW. “Need a ride?”

“No thanks,” Lincoln said. “I have year-round parking across the street.”

“Get in, I’ll drive you up.”

Lincoln got in, shoving his bags in the back. He folded his large frame into the back seat. Mat sat beside him.

Eyeing his friend’s packages, he shook his head again.

“I can’t dump a broad without her slamming my ass on Facebook.”

Lincoln snickered.

“Lincoln, I’ve got one question for you. What kind of control you have over men, and can it be reverse-engineered from ‘gay’ to ‘straight’?”

* * *

Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang!

Is the ringing in my ears getting louder?

The man lying in the grimy cell covered his ears harder with his hands. To his chagrin, the sound intensified.

“What the…”

“Yo,” the officer at the gate called to him in Spanish. “Time to go, gringo.”

The man perked up. “Huh?”

“Time to go, you’re out of here.”

Ohh yeah.

The man rolled over, falling right off the side of the suspended wooden bench that served as a cot and onto the floor. His head met dirt. The other occupants of the cell snickered.

The man brought himself up awkwardly, swaying on his feet. He shook his head roughly.

“You okay?” the policeman asked. “Come on.” He opened cell door. “Let’s go.”

The man grunted. He exited the cell and started walking the short distance to the entrance. Then someone caught his eye. He stopped, staring. Sitting on the cot in the next cell, barely dressed, was a young girl. He figured she couldn’t be more than eleven or twelve years old. The girl felt his stare, but didn’t meet his eyes. The other occupants of the cell leered at her. Another man in the cell came to him and told him frankly, in front of the policeman, “Special order. You have money, we make it happen.”

The young man, dressed in a wife-beater, open plaid shirt, and loose jeans shook his head, averting his eyes. The policeman behind him shoved him to move forward. He grunted his response and complied.

At the front desk he collected his belongings: a wallet (now devoid of cash), a cigarette box (with mysteriously vanishing cigarettes), and one cell phone. The man seemed genuinely surprised that he got back his cell phone. And one toothbrush which he made a mental note to throw away.

The man saluted the officers, taking note of the one lounging in the corner whom he was sure was wearing his pricey shades. Then he walked out of the dilapidated jail house.

The jailhouse was an outpost in the midst of obscure squalor on the outskirts of a little-known Guatemalan city. The police there were not properly supervised, and dished out their own brand of justice; namely the laws of the local crime boss. Prostitution, money laundering, and human trafficking were their bread and butter.

The man sighed. He walked a little ways to the side of the small, grey-brick police station stood in the middle of a dead end street. He lifted a stone and removed a small device that resembled a car locator. Looking up, he stumbled backwards, caught off-guard by the amazing fifty-foot tall magnolia tree in front of him. The grey asphalt walk that led to his car was lined with the great beauties. He walked a mile further down the road to his parked car.

He raked his hand through his dark, curly hair. His mind went to the little girl in the cell. No doubt she was a prostitute, sold or kidnapped into slavery. She looked so sweet and innocent, and thin. He shook his head. A beauty among savages.

The evil that men do…

He pushed the button on the device, and the jailhouse he had exited just minutes before erupted in an explosion powerful enough that it rocked the ground as though an earthquake had hit. The flames shot up ten feet in the sky. He nearly collapsed from strong shaking of the earth.

Yeah, death is hard for everybody, he thought as he sifted through his keys for the one that matched his car. He then noticed the flashing signal on his cell and decided to check his text messages. There was only one worth merit.

“Mexico?”

Carlos snickered. Using his thumb, he typed in a return text.

“I’m all in.”

Excerpt from Book 2- And The Heart Grows Fonder

Atlanta, Georgia

Audrianna Maxckmillian examined the report on her screen, reevaluating the Critical Assumptions she had concluded for the companies she had deemed would be successful takeovers for the coming year. She sat at an antique armoire with the laptop in front of her. She couldn’t help but glance at her reflection in the mirror. Her bald head still irked her. She squeezed her head on either side and willed herself not to be perturbed by it.

“Mommy! Mommy! Watch me! Watch me!” Nathan, her four year old son appeared beside her.

Audrianna laughed, “What is it baby.” She hugged him to her.

“I’m not a baby.” He declared pushing her away.

She released him and he stood, posing with his hands on his hips with a very serious look on his face. He puffed out his chest and started to bob his body up and down. He started singing the beginning of a popular children’s cartoon in Russian. Audrianna had to hold her breath to keep from expressing her dismay at having to see her son perform the same act for the fourth time for the morning.

“A!” Viktor walked in, trailing behind their daughter. His hand secured a small, bushy brown teddy bear to her shoulders. “I thought I told you to stay in your room and not to disturb your mother.”

Nathan squealed as he climbed on top the bed, rolling himself inside the comforter.

“Mommy! Mommy! Look it’s Chubby!” Nadia, Nathan’s twin sister showed her the teddy bear Viktor kept from falling.

“So, is daddy following you around with that whole day?”

“No!” Viktor was adamant.

“Yes!” Nadia cheered.

“Off of that bed and go to your room.” Viktor ordered Nathan.

“No Chunky Nasty!”

Viktor scowled. “What did you just say?!”

Nathan giggled rolled up in the covers like a pig in the blanket. Viktor pulled the sheet towards him. Nathan wriggled.

“I want to poo poo.” He screamed.

“I want to pee too.” Nadia said.

Audrianna sighed. “No you don’t.”

“Yes mommy I want to go to the toilet too.” Nadia begged.

Audrianna sucked her teeth in long, old fashioned, Trinidadian stupes.

“I’ll handle it.” Viktor said. Though he knew Nathan only said he wanted to go to the bathroom to not get into trouble for what he had just said, and Nadia only wanted to go because her brother said that he wanted to.  “You continue what you are doing.” A small, soiled  jockey came flying into Viktor’s chest from the direction of the doorway. He made haste to catch it with his right hand. “Nathan! You don’t have to undress to use the toilet.”

“Ah fool you!” Nathan laughed, escaping the room.

Viktor scowled darkly as he ran after his son. Nadia skipped behind them holding onto the legs of her teddy around her shoulders. Chubby teddy hung upside down without daddy managing to hold it in place.

Audrianna sighed, hanging her head low in frustration before she looked back at the screen and focused on her report. A loud clash could be heard and she got up once more to search for the root of the sound. “What now?” She thought.

She entered Nikolai’s room to find him laying on the floor holding his knee tangled in the sheets. The waiter that held his breakfast was collapsed on the floor.

“Oh baby.” Audrianna scooped him up and laid her on the bed. “Are you okay.”

Viktor loomed in the doorway, assessing the damage. “Jumping on the bed again. I thought I told you not to stop.” He turned in the doorway. “Arianna.” Her rasped for the maid. “I should make you clean up your own mess..”

Tears welled up in Nikolai’s eyes and streamed down his cheeks still clutching his kneed. Viktor looked none too impressed.

“Are you okay.” Audrianna cooed.

“Oh, there is obviously nothing wrong with him Audrianna! Go to your room and finish up your work.” Viktor barked.

Audrianna scoffed, hands on her hips. “Don’t take that tone with me.”

Viktor looked miffed, he sighed. “Look, you go and finish do your job. I’ll handle the kids today. The sooner you complete your report, the sooner we can leave for the Carolinas. Now go!”

Audrianna sighed, exasperated. Nathan, fully dressed and Nadia, teddy in hand came running curious as to what was causing all the commotion.

“Nikolai, you hurt?” Nathan asked.

“Aww.” Nadia sympathized. “Let me kiss it and make it all better.” She got up on the bed and kissed the injured knee.

Nathan patted Nikolai’s knee. “You need a plaster? I have a octopus plaster.”

“No no no! He doesn’t need a plaster. All of you back to your rooms now!”

“No I want to stay here. Chunky nasty!” Nathan hugged Nikolai.

“Me too,” Nadia whined. “I’m staying too.” She hugged Nikolai across his stomach.

Nikolai, annoyed with the attention started to push the twins off of him. “Get off me.” He said.

The twins looked at him before they both started to push him down forcefully, hugging him mercilessly.

“No I’m not playing.” Nikolai screamed.

The twins laughed, Audrianna hugged him close too, kissing him on his cheeks. Nikolai squirmed.

Viktor walked over to the bed, he hooked to deliriously happy Nadia and Nathan around their stomachs and headed out the room. He caught Arianna at the door and filled her in on the mess created by Nikolai to clean up. Viktor then yelled at Audrianna to get back to work.

* * *

“Right.” Audrianna clapped her hands above her head. “It’s over.” She said with glee. The glow of the laptop illuminated her face. It was later that night when she watched the document save and she closed her laptop shut. She glanced at the bed in the mirror. Her husband was not there.

She got up and ventured outside. The town house they occupied while in the city was both modern and comfortable. Audrianna loved the style of the darkly polished Mahogany woodwork and high ceilings. She walked down the spiral staircase with deep, red velvet carpet to the foyer below. She turned towards her husband’s study.

She peeked inside. “Hey daddy. What ’cha doin’ ?”

Viktor sat in his chair and seemed engrossed in what was on his computer screen. Grigori stood behind him. He looked up distractedly. “I’m almost done here.” He looked back at his desktop. “I’ll be up in a minute.”

She smiled at them. “I’m starving.  I’m just stepping into the kitchen and then I’ll be up myself.” She left.

Viktor nodded, watching the replay of the scene of Audrianna’s attack on the men in the clearing from before. He was none too pleased with Grigori for recording the incident.

“Do you always think it best to usurp my familiars to spy on me?”

“You forget yourself Viktor,” Grigori was engrossed in reading the ancient text in his hands. “Golub’ is Audrianna’s familiar now. It is only natural that one’s familiar would want to put all else to task in favor of the life of their master.”

Viktor gritted his teeth in displeasure at the ‘dig’.

“Always have to get one in, right Grigori?”

Grigori snickered. “Nonsense, my lord, it is all for you after all.” He pointed at the screen. “And do take notice of what I had mentioned to you prior. The men there had clearly not been disintegrated, their matter has not been scattered in the wind. They were not destroyed, not in our totalitarian sense anyway. Neither were their bodies converted into a more unseemly strain.”

The muscle in Viktor’s jaw began to twitch. “Get to your point.”

“Ah, yes sir. I believe we are seeing the return of the special power as documented in your Aunt’s text sir.”

Viktor shrugged. Standing, he switched off the monitor. “One incident, ever, does not the end of the world make.”

“Ah, well yes I suppose you are right Sir. Less we become excited over one sure incident, mind we should wait for things to escalate and become a proper burden before we make plans to protect the world from absolute destruction, much like the humans do.”

Viktor looked at him unmoved by Grigori’s words. “Goodnight Grigori” Viktor walked out the study.

“Goodnight dear Sir.”

Viktor left the study and turned to the stairs.  Changing his mind he headed towards the kitchen. He pushed open the doors. The multiple cupboards, huge stove and long table were the trappings of cool steel.  Audrianna sat with her head bowed over the container of ice-cream at the far end. Viktor found it odd that she was eating straight from the container and had not transferred it into a bowl. “Save some for the rest of us will you hon?”

Audrianna glanced up at Viktor, a gleam in her eyes, she grinned without contrition. “Mmmmm, I forgot how this stuff tastes.” Her voice was low, resembling that of a growl. She dipped her whole hand in the container and scooped up the vanilla and shoveled it in her mouth. She swallowed, hard, smearing the ice-cream all over her face and dirtying her night gown. “Mmmm.”

Viktor stood motionless. His eyes squinted; he did not want to believe what might be happening. “Come again.” He began a slow approach towards his peculiar behaving wife. “Audrianna?” he questioned softly.

“She’s not here now.” She sang, though he was sure now that the voice was not her own.

Viktor cursed. “It’s you?”

“Way to go, sucker. Tsk, tsk, tsk. You struck out, better luck next time.” Audrianna rubbed her hands together. She stood. She cracked her knuckles, the sound was abrasive.

Viktor was nearly upon her now. “So you’ve come back have you?”

“Ho ho ho, come back? Might you have mistaken me for some other fellow?”

He raised his arms to grapple her, “You are like that other one, and nothing new.” He reached for her, his arm clutched her diagonally over the shoulder from behind. His left hand glowed trying to cover her face. “You are likewise no match for me.”

Audrianna grabbed the wrist of his left arm painfully, pulling it from her face, for she feared the light. She must always fear the light. She grabbed Viktor’s shoulder and flipped him forward, flinging him with such force he slammed into the air against the cupboards and landed with a thud on the floor. He scrambled to his feet.

Audrianna placed each hand on each breast. “Why so testy ‘eh Jack! What’s mine is yours, not so?” she yelled at him.

“What’s mine is mine, and I don’t care to share.” Viktor raised his hand to the sky, tufts of smoke gathered; the air above crackled and boomed, and darkened as though a storm raged within the confines of the dome ceiling. Viktor quietly summoned a black hole to open up above him and a mighty, wide staff with the head of a black horned Minotaur fell from it to stand on the ground with a boom. The eyes of the minotaur opened with a menacing glare directed at Audrianna. The minotaur, poised, inhaled deeply and the length of the brown and white, swirl decorated staff looked to swell with the strength of the breath. The minotaur then released the breath on a long, loud growl, and the walls shook from the extremity of it. The sound was like a blast and it was all Audrianna could do to block her ears from the bloody howl. Audrianna was flung backwards, landing hard against the fridge door. She was stunned. Knocked out cold.

She began to fall forward when Viktor dived to catch her before she hit the floor. He cradled her in his arms.

“Well, I say.” Grigori allowed the door to swing shut behind him. He evaluated the scene before him. The glass windows had been blown out and the steel cupboards dented. The place looked like the aftermath of a tornado hit.

Grigori crooked a brow at Viktor. Viktor’s look was of such anger that Grigori decided against any snide remarks.

“Shall I help with the cleaning, Sir?” Grigori thought to ask, but even those words sounded too dangerous to utter at the moment. Grigori sighed, turned around and let himself back out the kitchen door.

TO BE RELEASED AUGUST, 2013.

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