Please see first chapter for disclaimer, rating, warning, pairings, etc.
Author's note: This chapter is more or less introducing the three other vampires in the coven. Thank you for reading: we hope you enjoy!
Cristiana surged ahead of the group, turning the surrounding woods into her own world. She was beginning to get tired of this, feeling like a burden. When the three of them had made their decision – the hardest one of her life, at least – she actually thought it would help the rest of her family. The truly stupid thing was that it did. By them hunting animals instead of relying on Lorne, there was more for the other three. Somehow, though, it separated them. They were still family, but things got uncomfortable every time they went hunting. She should talk to Elizabeth about it sometime. Her coven-sister would understand.
I'm sorry. I had no idea you felt that way. I'll talk to the others. The thought exploded into her mind, sounding like the speaker stood next to her.
She stopped in her tracks, looking around her. Elizabeth! She hadn't realized her thoughts were being monitored. Then she chuckled at her own jumpiness. Thanks, Cristy responded, grateful. She was the only one of the brethren without at least a little resentment toward their leader's ability. She enjoyed having nothing to hide.
Elizabeth sent images of love and care. No problem. We're sisters.
Get out of my head! I'm hungry! Cristy teased. The connection dissolved, leaving her there alone.
A predator in a world of prey.
A scent – tempting beyond words – drifted in her direction. Elk. Yes! Her thoughts screamed in elation. No response came from Elizabeth, or any of the others. The "carnivores" knew to leave them alone. The other two "vegetarians" were in a frenzy now, cut off from all reason. No conversation was possible right now. She willingly joined her brother and sister in the frenzy.
Her prey was just standing there, on the edge of the cliff, thirty feet away from her. Too easy. She chuckled wickedly. Licked her lips. Flexed her fingers. Charged.
Her mouth flooded with venom, turning her into an animal with one goal. One purpose: Blood.
A full ten seconds later she ran into the elk full-force, catching it in her arms. Already her mouth was at the creature's throat. The drop was farther than she'd thought, but nothing that could possibly cause her any damage.
Her senses overwhelmed her. She saw every pattern in her prey's fur, smelled its breath, heard its heartbeat. And, most sweetly of all, she was so close to tasting what it had to offer her.
The prey was now in her hands, helpless in comparison. Its eyes were glazed with fear as if it knew what was to come.
The predator, more animal than the elk in her grip, grabbed its head. With a quick gesture, she ended its misery.
All of this in less than a second.
Now. Finally! Blood! In a movement so quick not even a brethren could track, she brought her mouth to it's throat.
Julianne crouched, slowly moving her head left to right in an arch. She heard the bears she couldn't see. She felt the insect moving through the layers of earth beneath her. She saw birds flying miles ahead and above. She smelled. . . Deer! The scent drove her into the woods, mind on one thing. Leaves crunched and crackled to her left: her brother. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Cristy going over a cliff to the right. The sights passed in front her with nothing but a subconscious chuckle from her. She was too intent on her prey. And there it was; clueless, standing between a limb and a brook, surveying its surroundings.
Then, finally, it saw her. Yes! Julianne exulted. More fun that way.
She chased it. Chased it with every fiber of her being. Although it once was near a mile away, the distance quickly shrank to a matter of feet. She had it now!
Her adrenaline clouded her mind, clearing her thoughts and forcing her instincts to take over. So she did what came natural in this situation. She ran. Each footstep came more like a leap as she moved through the forest. She felt air coming into her lungs, chilling her nostrils. Her feet pounded into the earth, leaving forgotten signs of her skills. Not that she cared. She only cared about the beast, the food, the blood four yards away. Closer now; 3 . . . 2 . . . pounce.
There it was, the satisfying feeling of prey in her grasp.
Rodney sat on his perch, surveying everything around him. Hundreds of feet off the ground seemed like a stupid way to hunt coyote, but they didn't know him. Which, it seemed, was the point.
His family moved around him, letting instinct govern their actions. To the left, so fast that he could barely discern, Cristy was moving in on an elk. Good for her. She hardly ever gets to find those here. Two miles east and four seconds later, Julianne hurtled into a brook with her arms wrapped around a deer.
Rodney chuckled at the change in his quietest sister. Knowing her, she wasn't going to even feel the cold water for a few more minutes. She's always so focused. . .
Rodney, Cristy, and Julianne had been here since yesterday, just to get away and enjoy nature. However, with werewolves a constant threat, they had to hunt and get out before sunset now. He didn't mind though, much. He loved this place: as long as he got to spend some time here, it didn't matter when he left. The highest tree on the tallest peak, this was where he belonged. He saw everything – at least, it felt like he did. He didn't know for sure how far his vision went, but he knew the smudge of a bear to the north was next to the old Jefferson house. They lived ten miles away.
A movement crackled the underbrush twenty yards down and to his left, making Rodney jump. His hand shot out to grab the trunk beside him, tearing a three-inch chunk out of the wood. Venom pooled in his mouth, but he swallowed it back. Not yet.
A few seconds later, the creature making the sounds entered his line of sight around the trees. It was just what he'd been waiting for: a coyote, fur almost yellow from the sun's reflection. It was beautiful; now only ten yards away. He still had time.
He wasn't one for sites, but this was quite beautiful. To the south, the closest exit from the forest, stretched a long golden beach he liked to observe without being watched himself. He turned his gaze in that direction now, and his stomach twisted.
They were there. How could they laugh and joke like that? Acting as if they're really humans. As if they deserve to live. Pshaw! They're dogs. Filthy, mangy dogs. If they think they're so high and mighty, why did they always walk around like humans, too? The sight made him sick. As if love like that could exist between beasts, he thought spitefully. He glared balefully at the two werewolves chasing each other around the beach, barking happily.
Crunch. The coyote was closer now, only nine yards away. He knew without looking.
Stomach not allowing him to watch the dogs any longer, he turned back to Cristy. She was so – beautiful. Sure, all of his family members were gorgeous even for vampires, but she was different. She was so strong and independent. He would never understand her choice to never marry. He would always loathe that decision, even though it made her happy to be alone. It was selfish of him, perhaps, but he was a very selfish person. Sometimes.
Crack. There it was, a hundred feet below and a yard to the left.
He leapt from the tree and free-fell. It was an art he'd perfected over the years, gliding swiftly through the air to land directly below his perch. All the venom he'd been suppressing previously now came rushing at him suddenly. There he was, three feet in front of the one thing every ounce of his being craved. He wanted it; needed it. He was going to catch this beast. There was no doubt about that.
The coyote paused, questioning the event that just occurred. Had it heard something? Perhaps felt the rush of the breeze of his landing?
Rodney tilted his head, bared his teeth, and charged.
It seemed to understand now. It bolted for the north, deeper into the forest. It was smart, speeding, turning, and picking the right terrains.
Rodney was forced through thickets, weeds, and poison ivy. He felt none of it.
Finally, after five miles of rough terrain, they were in a clearing. This was the fastest animal Rodney had ever hunted. He suspected it was surprised to see it was still being perused.
Not for much longer, though.
He lunged, filling the distance of three yards in one jump. The beast was now beneath him.
Finally, his craving was quenched.
Julianne was the first through the threshold. She'd outrun her brother and sister here, yearning for home. She hated being away, separated from. . .
She stopped in the doorway of the family room, eyes swiftly sweeping the room, searching for— Marcus! she smiled. Her feet moved beneath her, carrying her gracefully across the room in a fraction of a second. I thought you'd be gone by now. She jumped into his arms, ignoring the roaring laugh her brother John tried to smother across the room.
Marcus's arms clasped around her in a way that made her doubt that they would ever let go again. Never without saying goodbye. He kissed the top of her head, the side of her face, and the top of her shoulder. There was a pause. You're wet. He sounded bemused.
Content, Julianne curled into his chest. I know. She knew he wouldn't care. He was just worried about her. I missed you. He was so – strong. So wonderful. How had she managed to survive for twenty years before finding him with this coven?
Marcus held her head to his chest with one hand and wrapped the other around her waist, surrounding her as if to protect her. I missed you, too. More and more every time. Are you sure you're okay? He hissed a little, and John scurried from the room.
Julianne chuckled. Though the dampness concerned him, she didn't feel it at all. Really. I'm fine.
"I'm going with you next time," Marcus announced suddenly, aloud now that they were alone.
"Really?! But last time—" She trailed off, trying to understand his thoughts, his expression.He couldn't accept the lifestyle then. Why should now be any different?
"Not to hunt," he said quickly. "Just to – be with you."He squeezed her tighter. "Besides, you're cute when you're in a temper."
Her smile widened. He was so protective. He was so perfect. "Be quiet," she muttered. If she could blush, she knew her cheeks would be bright red.
Once again, he bent down and kissed her shoulder. "I love you, Juli,"he whispered directly into her ear.
There it was. Her nickname. She'd always hated that name, until she heard him say it for the first time in his loving, musical voice. At that moment, she fell in love with the nickname. But he was still the only person allowed to call her that. "I love you too, my husband."
There they stood, in each other's arms. The rest of the hunting party must have come in behind her sometime (she could hear them whispering and stirring in the next room with John and Elizabeth), but she hadn't noticed. This was her world. And it was perfect.
-To Be Continued-