Fifteen

1924, Paris

Zara’s heart pounded in her chest, and in a wild moment she wasn’t sure which was more threatening: her heart feeling as though it was about to explode and choke her, or the beasts slithering behind her, their hisses licking the shell of her ear. She felt her brother sprint beside her, his fingers in a vice around her wrist, unwilling to let them separate. Her wrist twisted so that she could pull his arm as she turned sharply, slipping through one of Paris’ many tiny gaps between buildings. They had to shuffle, unbearably slow.

“Go, go,” Marco urged behind her, his voice broken. Zara begged her feet to go faster, hurling her body out of the gap and back onto another dark street. They’d been running for what felt like hours, her body burned with the effort. Then it snapped.

Her instincts let her hit the ground on all fours, her brain too muddled with fear to comprehend the change, but suddenly she burst with speed. She smelled Marco behind her, growling and panting against her side, and she smelled nothing behind them. And that was what terrified her, because only one thing had no scent at all.

But soon even her other form tired, and she whimpered through fangs, urging herself and her brother to push on. The next corner came too fast, her body hitting bricks even as her legs pistoned onwards, Marco narrowly missing the same fate. The panther tore past her, but abruptly stopped and turned back to her. She snarled at his stupidity, already regaining speed. The two were even again, and her heightened vision finally saw a light. It shone several blocks away, but it was a straight shot down another narrow brick street. Zara felt her body move faster, they could just make it to–

Marco’s whimper would have startled her, but the sudden weight and piercing pain on her back sent her body tumbling. Her fur stood on end, but her legs were paralyzed under her. She couldn’t get up. She could barely turn her head. She felt a new pain as the vampire ripped his nails out of her skin, felt wet heat as blood began to flow from the shallow wound. Shallow, but poisoned all the same. She couldn’t move her limbs as they began to prickle and the muscles began to twist. Marco howled, and Zara grit her now blunt teeth to not follow him. Her vision focused the same time her body did, the bricks cold and wet against the bare skin of her back. A face loomed over her, blocking out the sky and buildings above.

“Hi, pretty kitty,” he sneered, his true form making Zara almost hope he would kill her right then. His pupils were black slits that seemed to radiate darkness, the pale scales cracked as his face was twisted in a sadistic smile. “You look as delicious as you smell.”

She heard Marco snarl something far away, but couldn’t even think to look for him. The man’s teeth glowed in the moonlight, and Zara felt hot tears sting her eyes as her lungs refused to expand.

“Don’t cry, sweetie,” he practically giggled. “We just wanted to play with some kitties.” Grey was at the edges of her vision, and then the man’s face left the narrow tunnel. She twisted, and found Marco’s wide, horrified eyes. She opened her mouth to call to him, to tell him not to–

Zara’s scream stabbed her own ears as blinding pain seared from her neck, lighting her entire body on fire. Her muscles seized before disintegrating in acid, her skin melting off her bones, and Zara screamed for hours, choking through the iron blood in her throat.

************

Insistent pounding against wood woke Cass, and she sighed before dragging the duvet over her head. Her efforts were futile against both the light and the noise, however. She swore to kill Lars whenever the hell he got back for leaving her in the crappy motel. She didn’t care about the tiny bathroom, the suspicious-looking stains splattering every single surface, the thin and squeaky mattresses, or even the lack of a TV. But the paper-thin walls and equally useless blinds were what threatened both her ability to sleep through the day and her sanity.

She grumbled as she sat up, resigned. Then, alarmed. The pounding on the door had gone on longer than any regular housekeeping staff–they didn’t even bother knocking half of the time. She slid slowly out of the bed, carefully easing her weight off the bed so it didn’t squeak and alert whoever it was that she was there. Maybe it was some new maid, overeager. Maybe they’d just go away. But the knocking hadn’t so much as paused.

Cass began to slowly step towards the door, concerned. The peep hole was useless, the outside covered in a thin layer of uncleanable dirt, so she would have to open the door at least a bit to see. And despite her history of an attitude and willingness to shove people in a crowd, she watched the news and its neverending stories of what happened to girls in hotels alone. Then, she stopped completely, and straightened as one thought kicked the rest out of her head. You’re a vampire, stupid. The undead, the Supernatural, title notwithstanding, she could now literally dropkick any person of any size right back out the door. With that, she strode easily to the door and pulled it open, her expression slightly annoyed, but accurately displaying the absolute lack of fear.

Not that any of that was relevant. Because she knew who she was facing, and also that being a vampire mattered very little in front of them.

“Miss us?” Marco grinned excitedly, Zara smirking. Cass laughed, and nodded to humor him. His grin grew, showing off his dimples and sparkly blue eyes.

Cass opened the door wider and let them step into the tiny suite. They simultaneously plopped down on the shabby couch, Zara looking around with an eyebrow arched, but Marco looking completely unphased.

“So, how’s this going?” Zara started, answering her own question in her tone. Cass shrugged, moving to stand in front of them.

“Lars said we have to lie low, and I figured he’d have a fit if I just left now,” she explained nonchalantly.

“Where is he?” Marco asked curiously. Cass shrugged again, and his expression fell, suddenly looking like a puppy who had been told to sleep outside. “You’re all alone?”

“No, he’s coming back,” Cass said quickly, not quite sure how his reaction made her stomach feel. “I can handle a couple days by myself, you know.”

“Of course you can,” Marco said, stuttering slightly and looking embarrassed. “It’s just, you know, it would be boring or lonely to be here alone. Well, I mean, you could go do something, there’s lots to do in the famous Vegas, but you’d be by yourself so…” he trailed.

Zara threw him a look, effectively quieting him. Then she looked back at Cass, smiling. “After you left, we hung out in Paris a while longer. But, a combination of boredom, curiosity about you, the never-ending need to move every so often so that your human neighbors don’t realize you’re not aging, and more boredom, led us to want to travel a bit. And Vegas is always fun, even if we didn’t find you again,” she leaned back, swinging one long, bare leg over the other and smoothing her skirt.

Cass grinned, glad to have the company. “Sure, I’ve never been so I could use the company. You’re welcome to stay here, at least until he gets back.”

Zara raised her eyebrows again, looking surreptitiously around the room again. “Oh no, we won’t be doing that.”