The next thing that Emma was aware of was the petite blond gently washing away the blood and gore. Emma reached up, brushing at the tears that glistened on the girl’s cheeks. “It will be alright, my love,” Emma said softly, almost drowsily.
“I was afraid that he would kill you!” Ilyiana cried, throwing herself into Emma’s arms.
Emma began to shush her, stroking her hair as she held her tightly. “Everything will be alright.”
“But Mikhael said it was a hunter…”
“He was, and you need not fear.” Emma said, holding her tightly.
The girl continued to blubber and sob. Fearing that she may begin to get too loud, Emma did the only thing she could do. She bit her.
Hot blood spurted into her mouth with every beat of the girl’s heart, sweet and full of life. Ilyiana clung to her, moaning with pleasure.
As she fed, Emma could not help but note that the smell of Mikhael was all over Ilyiana. She growled low in her throat and allowed the blood memory to come to the surface.
Ilyiana had remained seated on the floor as Emma had stood to go with the Italian. Her lover rarely ever left Andre’s side, but for rare occasions. And this was one of them.
Ilyiana hugged her knees to her chest, feeling uneasy. The man did not have the bearing of one who had come to terms with death. There was anger, rage even, in his demeanor. She could not help but to think that he meant Emma harm.
“Fear not, little one,” Andrei said, puffing on his cigar as he fondled the gold coins on the table top. “Our Babochka can take care of herself.”
Ilyiana wished that she could believe him.
At the base of the stairs, Mikhael paced with nervous agitation. The situation bothered him as well, doing little to settle her nerves.
Then Emma’s scream of agony echoed down the stairwell.
Immediately, Mikhael bolted into action, drawing his gun as he charged up the steps two at a time. More screams could be heard, followed by the thunder of Nikolai and Gregor’s paces as they fell in behind him.
Without thinking, Ilyiana cowered against Andrei’s leg, biting her lip as she held her eyes clenched shut. She feared the worst at that moment as shots rang out.
The other girls sat huddled together in the corners of the room. Some shrieked, some cried, all of them were afraid.
Dmitri had taken a defensive stance between Andrei and the stairs. One of the inner door guards peeked up over the counter while the other knelt to peer around the side as they watched the stairs.
And like that it was over.
Gregor came thudding down the steps, beckoning to Dmitri. Hushed words were exchanged before the two stomped off to the outer door.
The guards who had been responsible for searching every customer then slowly made their way toward the backroom. Their heads were bowed and their steps deliberate as they walked. They knew they had failed in their duty and were about to be punished for it.
Nikolai made an appearance then, leaning down to speak to Andrei. Ilyiana heard the words “piked,” and “blood,” and immediately leaped to her feet.
Andrei grabbed her forcefully by the wrist. “Do not be so rash, Dushenka,” he said softly. Then, with a nod to Nikolai, he let her go.
“Come,” Nikolai said, taking her by the elbow and leading her up the stairs.
“Is she alright?” she stammered, fearing the worst.
“She will live,” Nikolai said simply, still holding her arm. “Mikhael is with her now.”
“I should be with her!” Ilyiana protested, trying to pull away.
“You will go to your room and stay until sent for.” There was a tone of menace to his words and Ilyiana resisted no more.
As the door to her room closed behind her, Ilyiana threw herself down on the bed. She shook as the tears flowed freely, clutching her pillow as if for dear life.
After a while, the tears gave way to exhaustion and she lay there snuffling in the dark. If she lost Emma, then she did not want to live anymore…
The door creaked open, revealing Mikhael in the doorway. A bandage wrapped his left forearm, and his clothes were smeared with black gore.
Ilyiana launched herself from the bed, grabbing the front of his jacket. “Is she alright?” she asked frantically.
Mikhael nodded. “She has fed.”
His eyes were hooded and dark. There was no malice to his gaze, yet Ilyiana shrank back in apprehension.
Mikhael strode after her, an intent expression on his face.
Emma felt it all through Ilyiana’s skin as if it had been her in the blond’s place. His touch, his taste, his smell as he possessed Ilyiana and bent her to his will. She saw a look of ownership in his eyes as he commanded her to bite him.
If he could not have Emma, then he would make due with the next best thing—Ilyiana.
The disgust and jealousy pulled her from the memory. Opening her eyes, Emma could see the outline of Ilyiana’s face as she looked down at her. “I’m sorry you had to go through that, my love.”
Ilyiana sniffled. “It happens much less since you came.”
Emma hugged her tight, kissing her face.
Realizing that the girl still bled, Emma nipped the end of her tongue and then began to lick at the wound. Ilyiana stifled a whimper as the familiar sting of the caustic blood hit her. By morning, the bite mark would be gone without even a scar.
The girl snuggled close still, nuzzling at Emma’s neck. And then she began to nip and bite at it. Emma gave her a gentle swat on the behind. “Not tonight, sweetling,” she said softly.
“But I stink of him,” Ilyiana pouted. “And I can still feel his touch…” She crawled over top of Emma, straddling her hips. “Please, my love?”
“I spoil you too much,” Emma said, rolling Ilyiana down onto the bed, the girl squealing and giggling.
Ilyiana lay curled up against her, head on Emma’s shoulder as they drowsed. “You are going to leave soon?” she asked, lifting her head.
“Most likely,” Emma said, trailing her fingers up and down the blond’s arm.
“Because of the Hunter?”
“Yes, and it will only be a matter of time before the Vatican sends someone to look for him,” Emma said, getting up and pulling on a robe of dark red silk.
“But you did not do anything!” the girl protested.
“I have existed for many years, and kept out of trouble the best that I could. However, I will always be a monster in their eyes,” she said sadly, lighting several of the candles.
“So where will you go?” Ilyiana asked, voice tremulous.
“First, I will go to the Church and explain the situation to them,” Emma said, brushing her hair.
“But they just tried to kill you!” the blond cried.
“I am sure that the Hunter was acting on his own. The Church did not send him after me.”
“He knew exactly who you were.”
“Sweetling,” Emma said, rushing to sit next her. “I will be fine.” She put her arms around her and hugged her tightly. “And then I will come back for you.”
The night was beginning to wane when she left the brothel. Andrei and his men had eyes on her as she stepped out the front door, but made no move to stop her.
The air was cold with the approaching winter. It did not bother her, but Emma pulled up her hood just the same.
The smell of blood lay heavy on the air, implying that others fared about as well as the Hunter did on this night. Despite the intoxicating aroma of it, however, to ingest dead blood was anathema. As well as potentially lethal.
So she put her hands deep into her coat pockets and hurried on.
The Church was several blocks away and in a part of town that was in worse condition than Andrei’s place. However, the building itself was in surprisingly good shape despite the homeless, addicts, and criminals who occupied the streets around it.
“Hey pretty lady, I got somewhere warm we can go!” came a shout from the steps of a rundown building. Cackles rang out when Emma flashed a middle finger at them as she passed.
Emma passed through the gate and made her way up the front walk. But at the door, she lingered on the steps.
She eyed the depictions of the Crucifixion with trepidation for only a moment before pushing the door open and slipping inside.
The heels of her boots echoed eerily against the tile of the floor as she stepped beyond the threshold, giving the basin of Holy Water a wide berth as she went. She had all she cared of that Holy Communion for one evening.
“Father?” she called. “Are you here?”
Sounds came from the passage leading off toward the Rectory as a priest made his way toward her. “How may I assist you…” he trailed off once he recognized what, and therefore who, she was. “Emmalina Van Zant,” he whispered.
Emma smiled sweetly. “Yes, that was what I was called once,” she said simply.