Lucien dug his fingers into the flesh of his neck, grasping the jagged end of a three-inch long werewolf claw. He yanked it out, grimacing. A mere fraction of an inch to the left, and the werewolf would have severed his spinal cord.
“You should turn that into a necklace,” Charlie suggested. He was kneeling on the grass next to the limp body of the werewolf who had attacked Lucien. “Definitely dead. That was some move you pulled.”
Lucien held up the bloodied claw in front of him. Light from the half-moon hanging in the night sky made his blood dripping from the tip look more black than red. “He took me by surprise. What’s a werewolf doing in a vampire den, anyway?”
“Good question,” Charlie replied, flipping the hair out of his eyes. Lucien couldn’t understand how he could fight without being able to see properly. That was why Lucien kept his hair short.
Rick walked out of the darkened house behind them and pointed at the bloodied claw. “You going to keep that?”
“You want it?” Lucien offered it to him.
“Thanks, man!” Rick snatched it and walked back to the truck, pushing up his glasses as he went. Being a vampire, Rick had perfect vision, but he always wore them, saying they made him look like a nice person.
As it turned out, Rick was a nice person, though a bit obnoxious at times. He was one of the many vampire recruits Lucien’s brother, Aiden, had tried to lure in with his deadly plan of unleashing a plague upon the earth, but Rick had doubts. Lucien convinced him to fly back to the States and learn more from Charlie about the Deific, an organization that fights the true evils in the world. He was surprised when Rick actually did it. By nature, vampires were normally bloodthirsty creatures who loved violence but not Rick. The blood and gore often made him ill.
Lucien stepped over the fatty remains of a vampire. He had killed four of them tonight with his bare hands. It had felt good to take his anger out on something. Fighting was all he had left.
He looked back at the rundown home where they had found the vampires and the lone werewolf. It was a house at the end of a cul-de-sac, set back a ways from the road. Overgrown trees and shrubs hid its inner horrors from the rest of the world.
Charlie came up behind him. “You didn’t even ask them, Lucien. You must give everyone a chance to learn another way.”
“Did you not see the human leg on the floor? These vampires were too far gone.”
“There might have been one vampire. The wolf even. They’re not known for being especially violent.”
“None of it matters." He hated Charlie’s rule. Ever since Lucien had convinced Rick to switch sides, Charlie had it in his head that others could turn away from their naturally dark tendencies, but Lucien knew how unlikely that was.
“You scare me sometimes,” Charlie said, eyeing him sideways. “Eve wouldn’t like the man you’re becoming.”
Every part of Lucien flexed, and he practically snarled. Charlie should know better than to bring up her name.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have—” Charlie’s mouth closed, and his eyebrows drew together in concentration. “There’s another vampire.”
“Where?” Lucien asked, itching for another fight.
Charlie squinted and glanced around as if trying to hone in on a target. He was a powerful psychic, one with the ability to not only sense things unseen, but often see the future too.
“Behind the house. In a shed, maybe? Whatever it is, a vampire’s hiding in it.”
Lucien sprinted around the small home, nearly losing his shoe in a puddle of mud.
“Wait!” Charlie called.
Charlie’s footsteps pounded after him, but Lucien was too fast. He stopped near the back porch and tuned into his vampire senses. A broken swing set butted up against an old fence at the rear of the yard, and on the other side, was a plastic kiddie pool with dirty water in its center.
There was no shed that Lucien could see, but he zeroed in on a doghouse, sniffing the air. A predatory smile spread across his face. He crouched low and leapt into the air. He crashed on top of the doghouse roof, shattering wood into a thousand pieces.
A vampire scurried out from within the debris. He was a mangy-looking thing with long, stringy hair and bones nearly poking out from his skin. His face was sallow, and his eyes glowed an eerie yellow. Had he ingested something besides blood? Drugs weren’t just addictive to humans. Vampires could indulge in them, too, at higher doses.
I should put him out of his misery. That’s what he thought, but deep down he knew he just wanted to fight. He scoped the area for a means to do so. Leaning against a nearby tree was a weathered rake. He kicked at it, snapping it in two, and picked up the jagged handle.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Lucien asked the vampire who was still scrambling across the lawn on all fours like a frightened puppy, his eyes darting back and forth.
“I’m a good boy,” the vampire mutt assured. “A good boy. Not a vampire, a dog. Ruff!”
Charlie rounded the corner and came to a stop near Lucien. “What in the? Is he high?”
“Either that or crazy.” Lucien inched toward him, as if not to startle him.
“Try and talk to him first,” Charlie whispered. “He might not be one of the bad ones.”
“But he is one of the crazy ones,” Lucien muttered. They were just as dangerous.
The mutt turned in a circle, as if chasing his tail. After two spins, he stopped and sniffed the air. His head slowly turned in Lucien’s direction, and he growled.
“Down, boy,” Lucien said, his voice calm. “I just want to rip your head off.”
The mutt’s expression went from crazy to calm in a blink of an eye. He took his time standing up, stretching to his full height, which was a few inches taller than Lucien. He held out his hands and unfolded each finger one at a time; his long, sharpened nails were filled with dirt and grime.
Lucien tightened his grip on the wooden rake handle.
“Have you heard of Boaz?” Charlie asked him.
He c****d his head.
“Bo-az,” Lucien repeated, enunciating each syllable slowly.
The corner of the mutt’s mouth twitched and spread into a smile. “The Devil’s Soldier. May he kill every human he touches.”
Lucien sprang from the ground and swung an open clawed hand at the mutt’s face. His nails caught the side of his cheek just as the mutt turned away. Lucien swung his other fist, but the mutt caught it.
The vampire was surprisingly strong for his thin frame. He twisted Lucien’s arm until Lucien’s shoulder almost popped from the joint. Lucien took hold of the mutt’s shirt and jerked him to the ground, but the mutt took Lucien with him.
Lucien arched his back and kicked up to his feet. The mutt glanced behind him toward a never-ending forest, and then back at Lucien as if trying to decide whether or not to fight. Lucien made the decision for him.
It wasn’t a fair fight. Lucien realized this when the mutt’s cheekbone caved in beneath Lucien’s fist on only the second punch. But Lucien didn’t stop. He jumped on top of him and continued to rain down punches with a desire to break every bone in his body. Lucien’s anger burned deep and the only way to keep the fire from consuming him was to physically release it.
Eve was dead.
Every second of every day he saw her stepping off the cliff, heard her bones shattering against the rocks, and smelled her blood permeating the air. All because of Boaz.
“Lucien!” Charlie had his shoulders and was attempting to pull him off the mutt. “Stop!”
Lucien shoved him back and snarled. He turned back to the bloodied, crushed face of the vampire mutt and raised his fist. Charlie tackled him, knocking him to the side.
“You have to stop!” Charlie yelled in his face.
Rick, who must’ve been watching the whole time, picked up the broken rake handle from the ground and jabbed it into the mutt’s heart. His body burst into ashes; they hissed and smoked into the air.
Lucien’s chest heaved up and down, and he returned Charlie’s heated stare. “He deserved it.”
Charlie moved off him and stood. “No one deserves a beating like that. Besides, he knew Boaz. You ruined our first chance at finding him.”
“You have some serious mental issues,” Rick said to Lucien.
Lucien came to his feet and shrugged his jacket back onto his shoulders. Every part of him still burned with a desire to destroy. He felt it all the way to his fingertips, and in the darkest parts of his mind. He wanted to consume everything around him, make it feel the pain that racked him continually.
He inhaled deeply, his hands balled tight. The darkness inside him was dangerous. He knew that, but anger was better than feeling overwhelming grief.
“We miss her, too,” Charlie said, his voice gentle.
Lucien tightened his lips. He had to get out of here. He glanced up to the night sky and sprang upward, his body bursting into a cloud of smoke.
Flying high among the blackest of black, he would burn out the rest of his anger, at least for a while. But the rage would return. It always did. Only Boaz’s blood would be enough to satisfy his fury.