Sierra felt no less furious, disappointed and worried after her confrontation with Mestipen. He was a creature of impulse, rarely thinking his plans through before executing them. Eventually she would forgive him, but not for awhile. She was determined to stay away from him. Besides, one of his observations was eating away at her and it was something she had barely admitted to herself. Yet Mestipen had managed to discover that tiny little kernel of knowledge she had buried deep down inside. She had wanted Chase.
Even though she had come upon the scene of the attack after it had begun, she should have stopped it. But everything had happened so quickly. The shock of Mestipen’s act had paralyzed her and her curiosity had kept her immobile. Subconsciously, she had been fully aware of what was happening. They were of an order of vampires that did not take innocents. So when one was attacked... she had known what Mestipen had meant to do. But then there had been the surprise of the girlfriend, unexpectedly stumbling upon the entire scene. Yes, Sierra knew she was as much to blame for the situation as Mestipen. The anger she felt towards him, she felt tenfold towards herself.
Sierra swept into her lavishly decorated living quarters, consisting of her bedroom with a full ensuite, a comfortable sitting area and study. Heavy curtains hung on the windows, blocking out the harmful rays of the daytime sun. The suite was part of an even more luxurious mansion, located on a private, abundantly treed lot. It was close enough to the amenities of the city, but far enough away that they were not bothered by a multitude of curious people. Most were not even aware that the estate existed there, hidden by the dense forest surrounding it. The mansion had been her home since she had left the mortal world.
Sierra's attention immediately went to Chase, who was lying on her beautiful, four poster mahogany bed. The mattress felt like a cocoon that enveloped and lulled her into peaceful sleeps. Chase was far from resting peacefully. He was still pale, feverish and restless. He spent most of his time in a semi-conscious state, dotted occasionally with delirious ranting. She brought a wet washcloth and pressed it gently against his brow, attempting to bring his fever down. He stirred slightly at the coolness, but did not open his eyes.
“What fresh and exciting hell have you gotten yourself into now, child?” breezed a familiar voice from the doorway of her room.
Sierra looked up at the see Tilda, one of the elders, watching with concern. Tilda was wearing her trademark jewel toned, flowing gossamer robes and matching head scarf. She was a cross between royalty and some kind of gypsy. She smiled wistfully and rose to greet her old friend. The two women embraced each other.
“How did you know?” Sierra asked.
“How do I always know when you’re in trouble? So what’s the story here? And what has Mestipen done now that you are paying the price for?” Tilda glided into the room and over to the bedside. “Well, he certainly is a handsome one.” Tilda gently stroked Chase’s cheek. “And very sick.”
“I’m at a loss as to what to do with him.” Sierra joined Tilda beside the bed as they watched Chase’s shallow breathing. “Mestipen tried to turn him, but was interrupted before he could give him blood. I rescued him and gave him what I could of mine. The police – they were looking for him, so we were stuck in hiding for a while. Then a Hunter caught wind of the commotion and began snooping around, so I wasn’t able to get him more blood right away.”
Tilda sat down on the edge of the bed beside Chase and watched his shallow, labored breathing. She lifted his eyelids and peered into his eyes. She ran her hands down his arms and along the sides of his body. Sierra watched her tentatively as she completed her examination. Tilda brushed the hair from his damp forehead. Chase moaned and moved his head slightly.
“Poor, poor soul. Such a shame for one to be suffering like this,” Tilda observed. “He would have been stunning. A wonderful addition to our family.”
“So what do you think? What can we do to help him?” Sierra asked her nervously.
“He needs to be put down.”
Sierra’s eyes widened in shock. She looked Chase, who was still lightly moaning and moving his head. “No, that can’t be the answer.”
“I’m sorry child, but you must accept it. He’s suffering. Do you wish that upon him?”
“No! Of course I don’t want him to suffer, but neither can I let him die. He was a good person.” She added quietly, “He didn’t deserve to die in an alleyway.”
“Your reluctance betrays you. Are you in love with this man?”
Sierra looked at the floor and said nothing at first. “He was… kind.”
“You can’t keep him. Even if you can get him better, he will never be right. Once they don’t get their blood back, that’s it. The change has not taken place and yet he is no longer mortal. He’s been put in the in-between world. End his suffering. And yours.”
Tilda stood and stroked Sierra’s hair, a gesture to ease the sting of her words. “I am all too familiar with that look of determination on your face, but it is best if you heed my words. It is an unfortunate situation and but a vampire who does not receive his own blood when he is sired, can never be anything more than a savage demon. He’ll have no trace of humanity left within him.” She looked over at the Chase. “That is, if he were to even recover.”
Tilda glided to the doorway, her robes flowing behind her. “Do it quickly. I’ll send Mestipen to dispose of his mess.”
In the brightness of day, Des’s psychotic mind rantings seemed almost ridiculous. She had gotten up, sleep deprived and groggy, dragged herself into the shower and had gotten dressed for work. She trekked into the office and began her day. The coffee with the extra shot of espresso she had drank, did nothing to lift the fog from her brain. She worked for a short while, on automatic, doing mundane tasks that required very little cerebral power. She stopped in the middle and stared off into space, the thoughts of the night before taking over her waking consciousness.
“What in hell are you doing here?” asked Sam, incredulously. “You shouldn’t be here. Go home and rest.”
Des snapped out of her reverie to find her boss standing in front of her. He was looking at her with a mix of wonder and pity. It took a moment for his words to register in her muddled mind.
“I just... I have work to do,” she finally managed.
“Don’t be ridiculous. You’ve been through some kind of hell. Go home and rest. You need time to recover,” he said sympathetically. He came around to the other side of her desk and gently lifted her by the arm from her chair. “Do you need someone to take you home?”
Des shook her head. She didn’t want to go home. She had nothing to do there and the awful thoughts would possess her brain once again. She needed to keep busy. “I’m okay. I’ll be okay,” she said, not really convincing herself, let alone Sam.
“Alright. Go. Take the week off. Whatever you need, take it.”
Whatever I need? Des thought as she gathered her purse. I need answers. I need to know what happened to Chase.
Des found herself on the street, in front of her place of work. She stood in the middle of the sidewalk, dazed and confused as to what to do next. People walked around her, oblivious to the world of hurt she existed in, some of them even perturbed that she was in their way.
She tried to figure out what her next move should be. She could walk to the police station a few blocks away, but she already knew that they had no further information. And they had her cell number, they would call if they had anything. They were supposed to be keeping an eye on the hospital emergency rooms as well. But in a city of millions, the police were stretched thin. How would they be able to put everything into finding Chase? She had to do something herself.
She made a quick decision and jumped onto the subway. She spent the better part of the day going from hospital to hospital in the city, talking to emergency room receptionists, showing them Chase’s picture. She had to pose as Chase’s wife, taking the promise ring he had given her almost a year ago and turning the tiny diamond setting around to make it look as though she were wearing a wedding band. Otherwise, she would not be able to coax any information from them. Was anyone admitted with severe blood loss last night or early this morning, possibly a victim of a mugging last night? Each time, the answer was the same. There had only been two within all the hospitals in the city, but one victim was from a gun fight and the other was a major car accident on the highway. And those victims had already been identified.
By the end of the day, she was discouraged and exhausted, her physical pain matching her mental state. Her feet were singing and her bones ached like she was seventy. She sat on a bench outside of a small downtown chapel, drinking a coffee and trying to settle the spinning thoughts in her head. She contemplated the people around her, envious of them, going about their normal lives. She played with the promise ring on her finger, turning it back around so that the setting sat in its proper position on her finger. She needed an answer to the question that was burning inside her.
“Don’t ask again, because I’m not telling you. You’ll find out, when you find out,” Chase said, his eyes twinkling with excitement. “You’re like a dog with a bone. Just relax and enjoy the trip."
Des sat back and pouted. She crossed her arms defiantly and looked out the car window at the passing scenery. They had been driving for an hour already. She didn’t like not knowing, but he wasn’t going to tell her. He loved to surprise her, probably because he knew that the suspense ate her up inside.
“Pout all you want. I’m still not gonna tell you,” he grinned, as he kept his eyes on the road. He didn’t even have to look at her to know what she was doing.
A few minutes later, he had turned off the highway and driven through a quaint town that time had completely passed by. He pulled into a small service station and parked. Des looked at him curiously as he got out of the car.
“You have to trust me,” he said as he came around with a scarf made from heavy material. He put it over her eyes and tied it gently, but firmly at the back of her head.
“So not only are you not telling me where we're going, but now I can’t see anything either. Are you trying to torture me?”
Chase laughed. He had a wonderful laugh - the kind that as soon as you heard it, it instantly made everyone feel good. You didn’t even need to know what it was he was laughing about, it just magically made the world a happier place.
The car started moving again, but shortly after it stopped. Chase had rolled down all the windows and a soft summer breeze caressed her face. They were close to water, she sensed. Were they at the beach?
“Okay, be a good girl and stay put. Don’t lift the blindfold, you don’t want to ruin the surprise,” he cautioned.
Des did as she was told, but strained to listen for any sounds that would give her clues. She heard him rummaging through the trunk of the car and then the lid slamming closed. She sensed that he was no longer nearby, but there had been no sound of footsteps walking away from the car. Probably walking on grass. Okay, so maybe not the beach. She held still again and listened intently to her surroundings. There was the faint sound of children frolicking.
She was about to be driven mad with anticipation, when she felt Chase return. He opened her side of the car and gently pulled her out. He navigated her away from the car and she could feel the grass tickling her feet around her flip flops.
“This is crazy!” she said impatiently. “Everyone must be wondering what the hell is going on.”
“Pipe down and just enjoy it,” Chase told her.
“Enjoy being blindfolded, not knowing where I’m going?” she huffed. “He’s kidnapping me! He’s taken me against my – “ she yelled out.
Chase clamped his hand over her mouth. “Are you crazy? You’re going to get me arrested!”
Des giggled at her prank. She turned him to her and felt for his face, pulling him close. Her lips found his and she kissed him deeply. “There, that’s your get out of jail free card. I’ll stop being a brat now.”
She let him go and waited for him to continue on. There was a pause before he took her arm again, during which she imagined that he was smiling and shaking his head at her at the same time. They continued walking. A moment later they stopped and he helped her to sit down on a blanket. It was then that he removed the blindfold.
It took Des a moment to adjust to the brightness. She blinked and squinted. When her vision cleared, she took in her surroundings. They were sitting under a large oak tree in the park, a lavish picnic spread out in front of them. A large bandstand was before them, with people setting up similar picnic areas on blankets and on tables. To their left, the blue water of the lake sparkled and danced under the late afternoon sun. Behind them, not far away was a playground, where the sounds of children playing, had come from.
Des turned to look at Chase, who was sitting beside her and was waiting for her reaction.
“Oh, Chase,” she gushed. “It’s so beautiful here! This is so... amazing!”
A big smile lit up his face. “This isn’t even the best part. Look.” He handed her a goldenrod colored flyer. She took the paper and read it. She looked up at him unbelievingly.
“Isabella’s Puppets? They’re playing here today? Oh my god! How in the world did you find that out?” she squealed as she threw her arms around him. Isabella’s Puppets was an obscure indie band that had she had discovered in college. She had been a devoted fan for years, but since graduating, she hadn’t kept track of them.
“A guy’s gotta have some secrets, you know,” he winked at her.
“Oh my god! I can’t believe this! This is so amazing and fantastic and unbelievable. And you’re amazing and fantastic and wonderful for doing this for me,” she said, her words tumbling out excitedly.
“I would do anything for you, Des,” he said, becoming serious. “I want you to know how much you mean to me.”
He pulled out a small jewellery box and popped the lid open. She looked down at the box he had presented to her. Nestled inside was a beautiful, white gold ring, with two inverted waves at the front, tapering into the band. Held by the peak of the top wave and the valley of the bottom wave, was a small, but perfect, brilliant diamond that caught the rays of the sun and flashed them back at her. Des’s hands flew to her mouth in surprise. Chase carefully took the ring out of the box and slid it onto her finger.
“It’s just a promise ring for now. I have to keep saving for the real thing, but I wanted you to know how much you mean to me and that I’m serious when I say I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
Des put her arms around him again and kissed him. She hugged him close and whispered in his ear, “I’m yours now and forever.”
It hit her like a ton of bricks, that her life would never be normal again. She burst into tears, her body shaking so hard, she had to put down her coffee on the cement walkway. As Des suffered through her breakdown, the people around her continued on, oblivious to the heartbroken woman crying in the middle of a church yard. No one caring that she had just lost the greatest love of her life.