Drake and I had caught Break-Up Artists’ last three shows before they were to head to Europe. The band had already packed and prepared for their flights while Samantha stayed an extra day. She wanted to treat me to lunch and a girls’ night.
She came over bright and early and we made a day of it. The three of us, Christopher in tow, went to the mall to walk around and talk about old times and our futures. She was really excited about the upcoming tour with Lola Belle and she spoke with such enthusiasm.
“After everything I went through here with Gabriel and his producer friends, I’d all about given up! I’d really hit a slump. I moved back home and stayed with Maggie for nearly four months. She was really encouraging and pushed me to continue with my music though I’m sure I was driving her bonkers with it all day and night.”
I laughed. “Yeah I remember your late night jam sessions when we had the apartment here, it did interrupt sleep most nights.”
“But you never complained! You could have said something you know.”
“What? Tell you to stop practicing? It was the reason we moved here in the first place! You were pursuing your music and me my paintings. Though you’ve actually taken steps forward with your goals, mine came to a complete stand still after the whole witch thing.”
We walked longer in silence. Christopher’s tummy rumbled a little and he glared at Samantha.
“I think he’s looking at me like lunch,” she smiled.
“He is. He does that. He has a voracious appetite. But don’t worry, I came prepared, we won’t ask you to tap a vein for him.”
She laughed. “I’d of course not mind, he’s my darling nephew! I’d do anything for him!”
We walked to a diner nearby and she had the Lobster Thermidor and salad and ate it with caution. She kept peering up at me from over her plate smiling.
“Am I making you uncomfortable?” I asked.
“Actually I thought I was making you uncomfortable. I’m really enjoying this lobster and you’re not eating.”
I laughed. “Sam I’m fine. I don’t have to feed all day! A little breakfast can last quite a while. Well, for me anyway, I can’t say the same for this little guy here!”
He giggled hearing me talk about him. I watched as my son and best friend had lunch.
Sam glanced at her cell phone checking the time. “I should be getting to the airport. I don’t want to miss my flight.”
We reached the airport in fifteen minutes. I waited near the departure gate as Sam went to grab her tickets and check her bags.
“Well, I guess this is goodbye,” she smiled sadly as she wrapped her arms around my neck. “I love you Zoe.”
“I love you too, Sam. Stay safe out there and enjoy the ride! You deserved this!”
She leaned over and kissed CJ and I watched her walk through the gates before strolling Christopher out to the car.
“Zoe Vale,” a sultry male voice announced behind me as we neared the parking lot. “Excuse me, Zoe Steele. I mustn’t forget the man you married, you took his name.”
I turned around and saw a tall, redhead leaning against the wall. “And you would be?”
“You know that man you married; he really loves you, more than I think you know. The things he does to prove that knows no bounds. The evils he’s endured, the tortures on his flesh and the damage to his body it’s all for you and your son; that precious little offspring.”
His eyes went to Christopher’s and he smirked. He inched closer to his stroller and leaned into him.
I pushed him forward and stood in front of him; he glared at me. “How do you know my son or Drake?”
“I know more than that, Zoe. I know everything about you; your deepest desires, your dreams; the source of the magic that runs in your family.”
I backed away from him as he continued speaking.
“You’re not thinking about running are you?” he asked as I turned towards my car pushing Chris as fast as I could.
He was instantly in front of me. I glanced over my shoulder then back to his smiling face. “It’s silly to think that would have worked, Zoe.”
He approached me again. “You know what I am? Look at me; you know who I am?”
“Karver.” He smiled hearing me speak his name. Something about him screamed danger but I couldn’t move. My feet were firmly planted in place. I thought he was another vampire, one as old as Zavier; had to be, only older vampires could control another without that toxin.
“Please, don’t insult me with those thoughts. I’m not just a vampire, Zoe; I’m maleficent, evil incarnate. Zavier took the form of a vampire because that was his choice. I am every dark thing your mother ever warned you about and then some.”
He grinned revealing fangs and for a moment I could swear I saw horns pierce his skull.
I gasped and he grabbed my face. “Don’t even think about screaming. Drake made a deal with me and you’re going to see to it that it gets done properly.”
“I didn’t make any deals, what’s between you and Drake is between you and Drake,” I announced with force.
“If only that were true, Zoe. But you see you placed yourself in the center of all of this with that inquisitive nature of yours. You really should have listened when you were warned to stop using magic during your pregnancy. Drake wasn’t concerned for your health as much as he was bothered by the idea that every time you cast a spell, you empowered not only your son, but me as well.”
“I need to thank you for that. Had you not been connected to your magics, I would not be here right now.”
“Why are you sending these creatures after my son?”
“I’m not sending anyone after baby Christopher.” He walked to the front of the stroller, picked him up and Chris giggled. “You are some of my greatest work.”
I snatched him from his arms and held him close. “Keep your hands off of him!”
“There’s no need to be rude, Zoe. I was just admiring him. Besides, did he seem scared to you?”
“You should know by now he’d not let anyone harm you. Nor would they,” he nodded above me and Midnight and Macbeth landed on his shoulders.
“These are your birds?”
“I called them Heckle and Jeckle though the names you chose are much more befitting my black beauties, I think they like them better.”
“They protected my interests while I could not. But now I’m back.”
“What do you want with us?”
“You’ll find that out soon enough. You and I are alike in many ways and I think that’s why the two of us are going to become close, personal friends.”
“Where have I heard this before?”
“I asked you nicely not to insult me, make me repeat myself and you won’t like what I become.”
“No need to apologize,” he said raising his hand. “Just don’t let it happen again.”
“We’re going to work together to accomplish one grand goal and when it’s for you to know, you’ll know,” he paused. “I’m telling you this because I don’t intend on repeating that either. I’m not Drake, when I ask that you stop doing something you’d better listen.”
“Are you going to threaten me the entire time?”
He smirked, “Depends. Do you always speak your mind even when being threatened?”
“So I’m told.”
“You have nothing to fear Zoe, as long as you do as I ask, you’ll be safe and I can promise you that.”
I brushed pass him to my car and strapped Chris into the car seat. He rushed over, opened my door and waited for me to sit before shutting it.
“Take care of Christopher, he’s very important.”
“What…?” I started but remembered his warning. I turned my gaze to Chris.
“At least we have an understanding,” he said before he vanished.
I drove myself home and waited for Drake to finish his shower.
“Zoe? Is that you?” he yelled from upstairs.
I sat Chris on the floor and handed him a toy to keep him busy.
I joined him in the bathroom as he was toweling off. He approached me and grabbed me in his arms. “Hey beautiful,” he said with a kiss.
“Is Chris sleeping?”
“Sorry baby. He doesn’t even seem tired.”
Drake continued giving me his bedroom eyes before sighing. “This is torture Zoe.”
I laughed. He finished drying off, took my hand and led me to the bedroom. “How was your visit with Samantha?”
“It was great! I’m very happy knowing she’s been doing so well. I just wish we could be around one another more. I hadn’t realized how much I missed her and now she’s gone again to tour for months!”
“Is that why you’re so glum?” he asked picking Chris up.
“No. My expression is because of what happened as I was leaving the airport.”
“What happened?” he asked, that familiar wrinkle of worry crossing his brow.
“I met Karver.”
“What? What do you mean you met him? Where? When? How? He shouldn’t be able to cross the realms.”
“Well he did and he found me as I was dropping Samantha off and he told me that I owe him and we need to work together on some grand scheme that I’ll get details about later.”
“Did he hurt you?”
“No. He promised me no harm, provided he gets what he wants. How do these people keep finding us?”
The phone rang and I ran to the office to answer. “Hello?”
“Hey Vincent! What’s up?”
…“Have you seen Sarah? Heard from her? She was supposed to be getting back here today. She called and asked me to pick her up from the airport but she hasn’t arrived yet and she’s not answering her phone…”
“No, I haven’t heard anything. I didn’t even know she was moving back here!”
…“It was spur of the moment. She called me last night to tell me that she’d decided to return. Apparently Vanessa’s not really adjusting to life away from me and she’s trying to eat everyone she sees. Sarah said she munched on her babysitter the other night. The poor woman had a heart attack. She’s fine though, was scared until Sarah compelled her. Hold on a second, that’s my other line…” He clicked over for a few minutes before returning.
…“It was Sarah, she reached the airport late and won’t be here for another 3 hours. Thanks Zo I guess I’ll talk to you later…”
I walked back into the bedroom and found Drake dressed. “Where are you going?”
“To find Karver, if he’s made it to the surface he may be able to explain where these other creatures are coming from.”
“He said he didn’t send them after us.”
“And you believed him?”
I nodded. “Christopher wasn’t scared of him and Midnight and Macbeth are his birds, Drake. I don’t think he is out to hurt us.”
“I still need to find him, Zoe. I’m not comfortable knowing he’s roaming around up here and knowing the deal I’ve made with him changed.”
“Fine, Drake. Just don’t take long. There are too many bad things coming out of the woodworks for Chris. I don’t want anything to happen.”
“One hour tops, if I don’t find him, I’m heading back.”
It got dark quickly. Drake had not returned in the hour he’d promised. It was already two since he left and I was becoming anxious.
There was a knock on the door. I grabbed Christopher and ran downstairs to answer.
Vanessa’s smiling face greeted me and she and Vincent entered into the living room.
“Where’s Sarah?” I asked looking out the door. She was climbing out of the car and heading towards me waving eagerly.
“I’ll trade ya,” Vincent grinned handing me Ness as he took Christopher.
“Wow, he’s heavy!”
“Yeah he eats like there’s a hole in his stomach,” I laughed. “Hey Ness, how have you been beautiful?”
She snuggled her face to mine and smiled. “Is she talking now?”
“Uh…yeah kinda, if you can understand her.”
She gave Vincent a frown. “I think she understood that, Vinny.”
“Vinny?” he smirked. “Are you having flashbacks?”
I felt my face flush and his grin deepened. “Sorry, Vincent. I don’t think she likes what you said.”
“She’s my Angel, she knows I mean well. Isn’t that right beautiful?”
She nodded her head.
He watched me as I played with Vanessa a little longer.
Sarah walked in and dropped a baby bag near the door. “Hey!” she exclaimed draping her arms around me.
“Welcome back, Sarah.”
“Thank you! Is Drake here?” she walked over and took Chris from Vincent and tossed him in the air.
“Right behind you,” Drake said kissing my cheek as he and Karver entered into the house.
Karver gave me a wicked smile as he stopped near me at the door. “Great seeing you again, Zoe.”
“Later,” he said shutting me down. I nodded. Karver’s expression remained the same.
“Sarah! Welcome home,” Drake smiled at her. “Do you have a place to stay?”
“Oh yeah, Vincent gave me one of his homes. He set everything up for us before we got back. It’s very beautiful. Vanessa and I will be fine.”
Vincent’s eyes darted to the red head standing behind me. “Who’s that?”
“Vincent, let’s not get into anything too deep right now,” Karver replied.
“How do you know my name?”
Karver sighed. “I’d like to get down to business, is there someplace we can talk, Drake?”
He pointed him towards the office and closed the door.
“Who was that Zo?”
“Karver? As in the Butcher? Zo do you know who he is? And since when was he a red head?”
“No, Vincent, but I can tell from your reaction you know him. And I’m pretty sure he can change his appearance at will.”
“Who’s Karver Styx?” Sarah asked.
“Someone I don’t want you or Vanessa around.”
Vincent grabbed Chris, handed him back to me and scooped up Vanessa before ushering Sarah out the door.
“Be careful here, Zo. Zavier’s nothing compared to him.”
He got to his car and took off.
I walked Christopher towards the office. As I turned the knob, it began burning my hand. I jerked back in pain and watched the burn heal instantly. Nice, Drake. I’m coming inside so you better stop that.
The knob cooled off and I entered into the room, taking a seat behind the desk as he and Karver spoke. Drake’s eyes kept searching mine with each new word Karver said.
“How’s Christopher’s training coming along?”
“He’s learned quite a bit. He’s very capable of handling source magic to an extent and grows stronger every day.”
“How about his non magical aspects? Has the demon blood taken affect?”
I cringed hearing that, knowing that he and Drake corrupted my child that way.
“Not that I’ve seen.”
“Perhaps we should add more?”
“No!” I spoke up. “You’ve done enough. He’ll grow into whatever it is you did.”
“IF I WANTED YOUR OPINION ON THIS MATTER, YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN ASKED!” Karver yelled. “I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR HIM TO PLAY CATCH UP ZOE!” He began transforming limb by limb as he approached me.
Before he reached me, he was thrown towards the corner of the room and crashed into a bookshelf. Large volumes fell from the shelves and hit him as he collapsed on the floor.
“You stupid little witch!” he glared at me before noticing Christopher. “Did he?”
“‘You should know by now he’d not let anyone harm me’,” I said stealing his line from earlier.
He laughed as he transformed back. “Good. He’s ready! We’ll talk more on this later Drake,” he said before disappearing.
“What did he want? Why did you bring him here?” I asked walking up to my husband.
“Zoe, the deal wasn’t remade. He thought the best solution was to maintain our previous arrangement provided we can still come through on what he’s asked. He wanted to check on Christopher’s progress and I’d promised not to be gone too long so I brought him with me.’
CJ yawned in my arms. “I better get him to bed.”
“I’ll be up in a minute to read to him,” Drake said gathering the books that had been tossed to the ground.
“Ok, his favorite Sprocket book is sitting near the playpen in his room.” I left the office and headed up the stairs.
The lights went out as I approached Chris’ crib. Drake came rushing into the room behind me.
“Must be a blown fuse. Stay close to him; I’ll go check the basement.”
I pulled him deeper into my chest and we waited for Drake to return.
The stairs leading to the basement were darkened and Drake switched to night vision to guide his way through the shadows.
He entered into the dim room and searched for the fuse box. As his hand slid across the cool surface of the wall, he was struck in the face with a pipe and fell backwards. His skull bounced off the cement floor and he lay huddled in the corner near the stairs as a massive pool of blood gathered near his head.
Chris had become really agitated and started crying. I walked with him trying to calm his nerves but the more I moved the worst his screams became.
The front door slammed shut and I heard footsteps on the stairs. “Drake?” I yelled for him as I approached the bedroom door.
I turned the knob and the door slammed shut. Chris had calmed himself and was preventing me from exiting the room.
“Christopher! Why are you doing that? What’s out there baby?”
I picked up on his change in demeanor and placed him on the floor to slide the dresser in front of the door.
Just as the cabinet slid into place, there was a large push on the door and banging from the other side. I grabbed Chris and ran towards the window near my side of the bed.
My eyes picked up movement outside and I saw three more of the otherworldly creatures running towards the house. I gasped and rushed Chris and I into the bathroom. “Drake where are you?”
The pushing and banging on the bedroom door continued and Chris jumped from my arms and waited near the door ready for what was coming.
I feared more watching him prepare himself; it was like he wasn’t a baby but a well trained soldier. The bathroom window crashed in beside me and I snatched Chris from the floor. I consumed my source, my eyes blazing white and began casting. I placed a protection on Chris and me.
I turned my attention back to the door until Chris alerted me of the fiend standing at the window behind me making his way into the room. I threw gusts of wind towards the faceless creature crawling through the window.
I watched as he went flying from the window and landed near the tire of Drake’s convertible.
Before he was able to jump up and reenter the bathroom, his body was engulfed in flames. Drake!
I saw him stumble from the basement doors and towards the house. He was grabbing at his head and leaving a trail of blood behind him. I heard the front door burst open and a rapid pair of feet on the stairs again.
The noise outside the room stopped suddenly and Chris and I waited nervously to see what was happening.
“Zoe!?” I heard Drake yell before a large growl pierced the air.
Chris began struggling against me even more hearing Drake that close. “Baby please, let Daddy take care of this.”
I was suddenly grabbed from behind and a bright burst of light filled the room.
Drake found himself faced with four large beasties. He noticed the large holes placed in the bedroom door as they’d beat the wood paneling merciless to gain entry.
When they saw Drake, they all turned and prepared for battle. The one that growled began running towards him
Drake balled his fist and prepared for his advance. He caught the monster as he leaped into the air and he slammed him hard in front of the stairs.
Drake was quickly on his feet again tossing vicious kicks into the belly of the beast. Two of the others jumped into the fight, grabbing Drake and tossing him towards the one waiting near the bedroom door.
The fourth monster gripped him tightly in a headlock and Drake struggled to free himself as the brute wrenched his forearm deeper into his forehead.
The other three charged at him again and he pushed the fourth into all three before tackling each to the ground. He popped up and began tossing large balls of fire at them.
The blue ghoul dodged the oncoming rocket and watched it fry one of the others. He blinked at Drake and hurriedly exited down the stairs, retreating as fast as he could.
Another tried to follow behind him but was shot with a surge of fire, burning quickly and evoking fear in the one remaining. The one that had attacked first stood and began casting a small whirlwind in front of Drake.
Dirt and debris blew back and forth as the air became larger, sucking in items around the hall. He pushed it towards Drake and he jumped out of the way. Bouncing quickly to his feet, he ran at the creature kicking at him and disrupting his cast.
The fiend caught his foot as he tossed another kick in his direction and wrestled him into the wall behind him. Drake ducked as he the monster hurled a giant fist towards his head. His hand went through the wall and he battled to free himself.
Drake tapped his shoulder and as he turned around, he was met with a large fist of his own. Ripping his lip and tearing flesh from his face, he finished him quickly. Drake knocked him to the ground and pummeled the creatures’ face into a syrupy puddle. He kept punching until he felt his knuckles meeting the wooden floor through the monsters’ skull.
Drake stood victorious over the monsters, soaked in the blood of the last he’d slain. He quickly ran towards the bedroom door and tried pushing it open. “Zoe?” he yelled as he rammed his shoulder into the frame. “Baby open the door, it’s safe now.”
He pushed harder when he didn’t get a response until finally the dresser had been thrown free of the door.
“Zoe? Baby where are you?” he yelled panicked.
Noticing the bathroom door closed, he rushed towards it and kicked it in. “Zoe?”
He paused in the center of the room and bit his lip realizing his family was not in the house. He let his fire consume him, his arms and hands became a blaze and his eyes burned, “ZOEEE!!!!”