Dark Mercy (Preternaturals #0)

Chapter 7

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She will rue the day she ever set foot inside my church.

He was thankful she could only control him—or so she thought—and not read his mind. He appreciated the element of surprise.

Hadrian moved toward the blonde. She was pretty, with delicate pixie features. Her hair came to just her shoulders, and she appeared wise beyond her years.

“She’s young, but she feels very powerful to me, for some reason,” he said to no one in particular.

Father Hadrian looked skeptically at the woman. There was no fear there, but there also was no anger or duplicity or really anything extreme at all. Maybe hope? Hope for what? It couldn’t be redemption. The puzzle piece that wouldn’t quite line up only a moment before clicked into space. If she were really enthralled, she shouldn’t have any feelings or opinions at all. She should be blank, save for whatever suggestion or desire had been put in her head.

He allowed his fangs to drop for the girl’s benefit, just so she was clear about which side of the good/evil fence he was technically on now. But nothing changed in her gaze. For some bizarre reason she seemed to want this. He wondered again if she was enthralled.

“Why is she bound and gagged?”

“You can never be too careful with witches. This one is strong. I’m surprised she hasn’t broken the thrall. If she does, we wouldn’t want her to have access to her magic. Now feed. You’ll feel better.”

His back was to Angeline, still trying to figure out his meal. The self-control he’d practiced as a human would become very useful to him, he had no doubt. But right now he had to give the impression Angeline was the one in control, at least until he’d fed and held all the aces.

Hadrian picked the girl up, and held her in an embrace as he turned to face the other vampire. No way was he turning his back on that nut for long. He sank his fangs into the girl’s delicate throat and drank. Her whimper caused his grip to tighten involuntarily on her arm. If Angeline hadn’t been standing there, he would have thrown her down on the grass and done more than just drink her blood.

Nothing tasted this good. Relief was what he tasted as he drank her. This girl had a death wish. In another time and place he would have tried to help her, but that was a different Father Hadrian, this one was happy their desires meshed so well. She wanted to die and he wanted to kill her. She wanted to lose herself in oblivion and he wanted to lose himself in the power of her blood.

Such power for someone so young. His demon instincts told him it was the kind of strength he should only expect to find in a very old vampire. Not a human. Not even a witch. And certainly not a witch no older than this one. For the second time since all this started, the thought, something is off, drifted through his mind. He only hoped it was off in a way that wouldn’t bite him in the end.

“Drain the little bitch dry.”

Jealous?

Hadrian, licked and sealed the witch’s wound, then spun her to face him. He removed the gag, his mouth capturing hers in a kiss. She was too weak from blood loss to even protest, and he had no interest in doing anything more than screw with his sire for a moment. Let her see how fickle his attentions would be after being brought into this life unwillingly. The little gasp of dismay that came from Angeline served to take the edge off his anger. He went back to feeding.

“Drain her, then I’m going to fuck my new plaything.”

The former priest worked hard to keep the grimace off his face. A normal fledge would have been so under the power of his sire that the idea of sleeping with her would have sounded lovely to him. Either way, she didn’t have to tell Hadrian twice. As curious as he was about the witch in his arms, and as much as he knew the girl probably didn’t deserve a death like this, his survival—and freedom—came first. Where before his mercy had always overridden his pragmatism, now it was the opposite, courtesy of the demon part of him.

When the last of the life slipped from the girl, Hadrian dropped her on the ground. The power surged through him, and he looked up at his maker and revealed bloody fangs.

Angeline, misreading the meaning of his smile, returned one of her own. “Come here. I can take my time with you, now.” She crooked a finger at him, somehow adding a little seductive glint to her eyes.

Hadrian very much doubted she’d ever turned a vampire before. If she had, she might have known that though there was a connection of power between them, it did not flow in the direction she thought it did.

“No,” he said.

The vampire’s eyes widened, then her mouth turned down in the pout he’d once thought was incredibly attractive but now could see as nothing more than childish nonsense she should have outgrown long before now.

“What did you say to me?” she demanded, her voice turning obnoxious and screechy. Without any true power over him, it seemed her only weapon was the tried and true temper tantrum.

“I said, NO. Have you never heard that word before? Or was it so long ago you can no longer remember its meaning? You come here.” He pointed at the upturned clumps of dirt in front of him where he intended her to stand.

Her face went even more white than usual as she found her feet moving against her will to obey his order. “How? This can’t happen. I-I’m your maker. I’m the boss. What I say goes. This isn’t fair!” With each clipped statement from her mouth, her voice became more shrill.

“Life isn’t fair, sweetheart. The Latin I spoke to you wasn’t sweet nothings. It was the Church’s exorcism ritual. I used it while you were performing your own ritual to bind us together. It reversed which one of us had control over which demon. It was an experiment, I’ll admit. I wasn’t sure it would work, but my intention must have been very strong. It might not have been wise to let someone chant a language you couldn’t decipher while your own magic was going.”

She was crying now. Crying. What right did she have to cry after what she’d done? She’d desecrated his church, used her dark, vampiric magic against him, and in a sense had raped him. It wasn’t an idea he was comfortable thinking for too long. He’d wanted her, and even without the thrall he may have wanted her still, but his vow had meant something to him, and he’d always respected it. If she’d only been human, he would have turned her down.

The confidence left her face, her lip visibly trembled, and a surge of excitement went through Hadrian at the feeling of power.

“Are you scared of me now because you finally have to take responsibility for your actions?”

Her lip trembled, but her glare came back in full force. “Fuck you. You’re like me. Why can’t you see you’re like me?”

Hadrian crossed his arms over his chest. This should be good. “In what way am I possibly like you?”

“You were a priest. I was training to become a nun. I thought you’d understand me. We could be together and… and somebody would understand me… ”

“Stop.”

She wanted to keep talking, he could tell, but her mouth shut automatically because of the link between them. If she’d been a prospective nun—a sweet innocent—and had transformed into the manipulative beast in front of him, her sire must have been truly horrible. He’d made her this way.

Part of Hadrian wanted to keep her with him and fix her. But how did one fix a vampire with centuries of emotional damage and moral decay? Besides, his right and wrong compass was no longer anymore sound. It wasn’t the solid thing that had always pointed him to true north. There was enough darkness that had come to him through her blood that it would be like the blind helping the blind. After all, he’d killed an innocent woman for the sake of pragmatism without much guilt only a few minutes ago. He wasn’t confident in his ability to help someone such as Angeline.

No, in the morning she would meet her real maker. But that was hours off, still.

“Pick up the witch and bring her inside,” he said. He couldn’t very well leave a corpse out in the cemetery. Although there was a gate and trees that shielded the place, you never knew who might wander through.

They could have just dropped the girl in the hole Hadrian had crawled out of and put the dirt on top of her, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it yet.

“Are you going to hurt me?” Angeline asked as she hefted the witch’s body in her arms.

“Do you deserve it?”

“Fuck you.”

“That’s what I thought.”

Once they were inside the church, he directed Angeline to lay the witch on the altar. He’d have to do something with her later. For now, he unbound her wrists and smoothed her dress. It wasn’t as if she was going anywhere. He hoped she’d found whatever peace she’d seemed to be looking for, at least.

Hadrian brushed blonde strands of hair away from the girl’s face and traced the small smile lines around her mouth, then he picked the ropes that had bound the witch and coiled and uncoiled them in his hands.

“Is this really the life you’ve enjoyed?” he asked his sire.

“What?”

He waved an arm around himself at the evidence of her most recent train wreck. “This. Controlling everyone and everything. Having pet zombies. That’s what I was the other night to you. It’s what you are with me right now.”


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