In the last two hundred and fifty years Vlas learned a few things by hanging low and keeping his nose clean. First off, you never win a war with brute force only. He'd seen his kind go on rampages without any strategy or goal and lose terribly. The thing was if he convinced the masses that what he was doing would save them, then and only then, would they beg for him to be their lord and master. Second, don't call attention to yourself.
Vlas Von Heildvic usually stuck out like a sore thumb during daylight hours, but he did his best to look natural in the coffee shop at the Student Union. The seat he'd chosen had a crappy view of the life sciences building, but there was a huge reason for that. He leaned to the left one inch causing pain to etch its way from his cheeks to his neck. The pain only dissipated where cloth totally covered his body.
The wait was painful, literally, since the sun was still up. Unfortunately no clouds cloaked the bright orb that would fry him to a crisp if he were in a direct line of site. Even in this shadowy alcove he was close to bursting into flames. If someone came through with a mirrored surface and the reflection hit him just right the results would be disastrous.
He needed to see her. Once she rounded the walkway and headed home, he could track her easy. As long as she didn't change her usual course and turn past Choppin Hall or take a walk around the campus lake he would be fine. Both of the other routes would take him into full view of the sun. The system wasn't the best. Fully clothed, with a face cover and gloves made him look like an idiot, especially in Louisiana. If he were in Quebec he would fit in, here, not so much. If the girl went a different way than normal then he would be forced to go search for her once his problem went away. Damn that sun for burning so long.
He blew out a breath, annoyed with the fading light of day. Why couldn't it go faster? And why couldn't the clouds blow in to mute the last rays of daylight? The bitch of it was that he hadn't lived long enough to have full immunity from the sun. And that synth crap the protectorate peddled tasted like shit. He'd get his immunity the proper way, not by chemically enhancing his DNA. Plus he liked his blood the old fashioned way, hot neck and a fast heart always made him happy.
In a few minutes he could change positions, garnering him a full view of the building where she worked. But what if she'd already left for the day?
The problem with following Amber Black was her schedule. She hadn't learned how to set a proper one. When his body had been weak with its human form his schedule had been the only thing to keep him on track. Work by nine, lunch at noon and home by five thirty. As a clockmaker's apprentice he spent his life watching time. Those habits had stuck with him in his new life.
A flash of a red scarf caught his attention. He stayed still, acting as though he were ignoring her. Brown leaves swirled around her legs when she stopped and glanced at the front of the coffee shop. For a moment he thought she had spotted him. Her hand came up, giving a brief wave. If he were still human he knew his heart would be pumping like rabbits, instead the fear just pinged around his brain. She was headed his way, like she'd zeroed in on his position. No way could she know he was following her. He'd been careful, more than careful.
Vlas felt the urge to run, but he'd need to pull on his trench coat and gloves if he went out, not that it would take long with vampire speed, but he couldn't risk detection. Plus he didn't have a face cover that would look normal in this weather.
If he drew attention to himself he might be found out. Human's hated vampires and there were enough superstitious people in south Louisiana to peg him for what he was. Then he would really be dead.
The click of her black stiletto boots echoed up the steps. He needed to move and fast. Just as he was about to jump up to run she threw her arms around a man standing outside the doors and gave him a crushing hug.
Interesting, she hadn't been sexually active. He'd been watching long enough to figure that out. But who the hell was this guy?
Amber gave the man another squeeze then turned and walked away. Vlas watched the guy for a second, but the other man never looked back to watch the girl strut away in her drop dead gorgeous outfit. Curious that she'd hugged the other man and yet he had basically ignored her.
The wind picked up, blowing in a cool breeze. Amber's hair fluttered in the wind, sending off a burst of her scent. He smiled, and breathed in deeply. No doubt, he could determine her location just by her scent.
She stopped moving and glanced back at the coffee shop. Her head cocked to the side and her brows knit together. He could see her mind turning over the possibilities. This girl was a joy to follow. Maybe she had a date and didn't want to spoil her frail human hunger. Vlas's mind jumped at the possibility. The thought of watching her with another man sent a flood of excitement through his body. He would love to see her stretched out below some bloke, her back arched and her leg around his hips. Yea, he could watch her for hours and learn what she liked. Then, when the time was right, he would make her his own.
The door opened, letting in the brisk winter air behind Amber, sending her scent throughout the place, drowning him in the essence of Amber. She glanced his way but ignored him as she walked to the counter to order. The blood lust he kept in check raged forward, but he tamped it down. Later he would taste. When the time was right he would do the deed.
"Double espresso, and a bottle of water."
Her voice was musical, her body hot, and her brain off the charts. She would be his ace in the hole. People would listen to her. She could present the facts in a way that the science would amaze people. Then he would have his minions. It may take a while, but when you were immortal time meant little.
The front door dinged, pulling him out of his thoughts. Amber was leaving. What the hell had happened? Vlas hated when humans surprised him. How had she gone from ordering her drink to leaving? Maybe his fantasy of her had been too deep.
Damn it, should he leave the shop and follow her? No, he didn't need to rush. Rushing would draw her attention, and that was the last thing in the world he wanted. Soon he would change her, just not yet.
The time drew near. He could taste it on his tongue and feel it in his bones. Only a few more days. Then Amber would be the newest addition to his legion of vampires.
* * * *
Normally, Maverick would use an assistant for an exorcism, but not this time. The Druj demon would draw from the energy of another and twist the truth into a lie, thus making the other person susceptible to being possessed. He couldn't allow the Druj to body hop. No, he had to do this right. Follow the process and work the plan.
The plan was holy. The plan would keep him safe. Safe was good.
Maverick reached into his bag and pulled out a small vial of wolf blood. His body rebelled against the stench. The urge to run almost overwhelmed him, but he'd done this before and knew to ignore the danger signals.
Wolf blood, no matter how repulsive it was to him, once mixed with the right essential oils, herbs, and lizard scales would draw the demon out. The chili oiled leather pouch would keep the demon contained until he deposited it in a hermetic chamber back at Central.
Then the demon would be Central's problem. Central could deal with the issues. They could take care of the demon's bad behavior and proclivity to build deception. If he only had a scry stick. Then he would know how this little event would turn out, but true scry sticks were hard to come by.
He used to carry a scry with him all the time until he learned that the damned thing wouldn't always tell him the final truth. The desire to move forward evaporated if the outcome looked bad for him. Living as an immortal for three hundred and eighty-seven years had left him with few pleasured or surprises. The joy of not knowing the outcome won out and he ditched the stick.
The candles flickered, almost going out. The demon was awake. "Druj, you can not confuse me with your lies. I will win."
The poor man whose body the druj inhabited would have a hell of a headache when this ended. The druj pulled against the bindings tying the man to the bed. The demon fought to win, but he wouldn't. The demon couldn't stay in this man, and he wouldn't escape into another's body. No the bastard needed to be captured and contained.
"I am Warnuk the Druj," the voice had a metallic feel to it, almost like two pieces of steel scraping together, that sent a chill down Maverick's spine. "You are on fire."
Maverick felt a trickle of heat roll across his shoulders, but he knew it was faked unlike the chill that had rolled over him earlier. To give in and check for fire would undo him. The druj would draw energy from winning that little skirmish, and Maverick couldn't allow the druj to increase in any way. The name was also a sign of desperation on the part of the druj. Its energy must be waning. Maverick knew all too well that speaking the demon's name would give the thing energy.
The druj pulled back, giving the poor man a small amount of respite. Maverick could see evidence of the druj still swimming in the host's eyes. The man blinked rapidly and shook visibly. "Please, water." The cry spoke of desperation and pain.
Few exorcists knew how to handle a druj. Possessions weren't too common, and the experience needed to deal with them went beyond what any priest possessed. Most priests would give in and deliver the water, thinking the end was near. Then the demon would surface and use the water to drown the priest. Most exorcists didn't understand how a small glass of water could cause them to drown, but Maverick had seen the deception played out too many times.
"No water, no food." Maverick stepped away from the bed, not wanting any of his energy to be sapped by the demon.
The man let out a stifled cry. "Please, I'm dying. I just need a little."
"Druj, I know you can still hear me. I won't allow you to grow. You will shrink and die off."
"Shows how much you know human." The voice changed, going back to full metallic mode.
Maverick laughed, he found it funny that the druj had no idea Maverick wasn't human, but vampire. Once the deceit was revealed the druj would lose hope. A day, maybe two more and he would end this. The druj would be weak, but the human would still be alive.
* * * *
Amber did a happy dance in the empty lab. She was done, nothing left except to clean out her cabinet and prepare for her last defense. And really the last meeting in two days was just for show. She'd done all the hard work. Only one more short session on the defense of her doctorate, then she would have her PHD in molecular biology.
Today had gone well, all the professors had been impressed with her work. And her family said it couldn't be done. She was too young, too immature and too beautiful to get stuck in a lab, but she had proven them wrong. Sure she's spent years doubling up on classes. Her skin didn't glow in its whiteness, but she was close to looking like a ghost from sunlight deprivation. Not that she'd ever really cared about the tone of her skin. She didn't look bad, but still it would be nice to have someone look at her that couldn't be described as geeky, nerdy, or pale. She'd found that most of the hot guys only dated women with golden tans. At least that's what she thought. Who knows, maybe her freakishly daunting schedule had kept the hotties away.
Molecularly speaking, she would be the better mate. Her lack of sun exposure would do much to keep her cancer free. Not that the other women were destined to be melanoma sufferers. But still, her skin would be wrinkle free longer and better looking way into her forties and fifties.
In three days she would be on her way to Switzerland. Not to speak, she'd done enough of that during her doctorate, even earning a little money from Mercy hospital. No, Switzerland was vacation time before the big job hit. Maybe she'd meet some cute, muscular ski instructor and have her way with him.
Amber laughed out loud, knowing that she had no idea how to have her way with anyone. She wasn't a virgin, but only because of a mistake of a date. Fumbling was putting it politely for what had happened. She'd screwed up and slept with another scientist. Never again would she make that mistake. No more smarty pants guys, only dumb jocks from now on. Trouble was, she had no idea where to begin with men.
Amber finished up in the lab and exited the building with a little pep in her gait. She skipped down the steps, loving the cool night air. Loving the way the leaves crunched under her feet. Loving the way she felt as the cold seeped through her clothes.
She was alone, the streets empty. If anyone buzzed down the Ten she could probably hear it, but no one had. Few people were out at this time of night. Not even the crooks would hazard out on a night like this.
The university warned of being out alone after dark, but she wouldn't live with a victim's mentality. No she would live by her own rules, making her way not only in life, but also in a science few understood but affected all.
The moon went behind a cloud and the three lights on the street near her went out. The tree lined pathway blackened. She couldn't make out the walkways for a moment and was forced to stop, letting her eyes adjust. In that second after she closed her eyes she heard the footfall of another. It hadn't been a loud sound, just the soft crunch of a leaf underfoot. She didn't move, but her heart sped up, racing along like a crazy jackrabbit.
Amber laughed at her foolishness. No one was following her. Plus she pitied the fool who would dare to challenge her. Her multiple fourth degree black belts in three different forms of martial arts would keep her from falling victim to any attackers. Few knew of her passion for the intricacies of the fighting arts, but any idiot who tried to attack her would find out, and depending on how serious they were, they wouldn't live to tell the story.
Without letting her body betray her fear, Amber moved forward making noise as she went. She dropped her bag and stopped to pick it up, using the subterfuge to survey the area. Nothing. She moved forward again, acting like nothing was wrong then stopped. The noise sounded again.
Someone was following her. No doubt about it. She would show the jerk and make him pay for trying to mess with her.
She might go easy at first to see how he responded. If he fought back she would really lay it on.
The though of fighting made her blood run hot. She wanted to feel the crunch of bone under her palms and hear the slap of flesh against flesh. Her heat for battle would surprise many of her classmates. Few knew of her fighting past or the skill she possessed. The fact that she was a stellar kick-boxer had gone unnoticed by all at the university since she trained on the other side of town.
Maybe it was Joch the jerk following her. He had been trying to get her to go out for months, but his oily hair and pasty face had turned her off. She thought about calling out to him, making him show his ugly face. Instead she turned down Raphael Semmes Road and headed towards the open field in front of the law building. Now she would have the advantage, forcing the dickwad to come out of hiding.