A Shade of Vampire 30: A Game of Risk (2 page)

Victoria

I
returned
to the hospital room where my parents were recovering. They were awake when I arrived. I moved over to their beds and embraced them.

“Thank God you’re okay,” I breathed.

They filled me in on some details of what happened during their trip to Aviary, although I had already heard about much of it—news spread fast around the island, in spite of its size. And then it was time for me to share my own news with them, even as I grimaced at the bombshell I was about to drop.

“Mom, Dad… Bastien’s in trouble.”

My mother frowned, her grip tightening around my hand. “What do you mean, honey?” she asked.

I drew in a deep breath, and began to explain about my trip to The Woodlands with Aisha and our encounter with Bastien’s mother. How she had been completely against me because I was a mere human and had basically forbidden Bastien to have anything to do with me. And now I was even uncertain about Bastien’s safety. I told them I needed to find him as soon as possible.

My parents stared at me before my father asked the obvious question.

“But what can you, or any of us, do about all this? She could’ve taken him anywhere in the supernatural dimension. Besides,” my father added, worry creasing his forehead, “it would be incredibly dangerous for you to go on a search for them. These Mortclaw creatures sound like nightmares.”

“Oh, they are,” I murmured, gulping as I thought of the vial filled with greenish-brown liquid that lay in wait for me in Mona’s penthouse… if only my parents agreed with me taking the risk to drink it.

“I went and talked to Mona about them,” I explained. “We went on a trip, back to the old island where she and the other black witches used to reside. We found a vial containing the elixir that was used to give the Mortclaws the powers they still possess today.” I hesitated, wincing internally. Mona’s idea sounded crazy enough in my head. It sounded a hundred times more insane when spoken aloud. “Mona said that if I ingest a drop… just a tiny drop… it would create a type of bond between the Mortclaws and me, and in spite of their prejudices, they would find it extremely hard to perceive me as an enemy. I would essentially be seen as one of their pack… It would also create a psychic connection, allowing me to sense their location.”

I wasn’t even sure how that would work. How, exactly, I would tap into their location. But I supposed that was something that Mona would explain.

“Oh, Victoria,” my mother said, her voice tight with anguish. “I really don’t feel good about this.”

“Neither do I,” I admitted, slumping down in a chair. “But Mom… I love Bastien. Honestly, I…” My voice became constricted. “I would do anything to see him again. Even just knowing he’s safe would take a load off my mind.”

My parents exchanged glances. They should understand what I was going through. They knew what it was like to be young and in love. Deep down, I’d always hoped I’d be able to have a relationship that was as strong and long-lasting as theirs.

“If I took a drop of that stuff,” I went on, since they had gone quiet, “I wouldn’t go to The Woodlands alone. I would most likely go with Mona. So I would be in no danger, just as I was in no danger when I went there with Aisha. She’ll be perfectly capable of protecting me.”

My father rubbed his hands over his face.

“I want to speak to Mona,” my mother said. “I want to ask her some questions myself about this potion. Our nurse said that we shouldn’t leave the hospital yet—that we should stay a few more hours. So please go find her and ask her to come here.”

“All right,” I said, glad that I had made at least some headway.

I left the room and headed down through the levels of the hospital toward the exit. Before stepping out into the sunflower meadow, I came across a jinni—one of Aisha’s cousins. I asked if she would give me a lift to Mona’s house, since it was quite a distance from here. She agreed and left me on Mona’s balcony.

I approached the door and knocked. It was Brock who answered, wearing sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt.

“Oh, hi, Vicky,” he said, inviting me inside. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to speak to your mom, actually,” I said, moving into the penthouse.

“She’s not here,” he said. “I’m not sure where she went.”

Great
.

“And you don’t have any idea when she’ll be back?” I asked.

Brock shook his head. “Nope. Sorry.”

“Okay… well, I’ll just have to wait.” Though, in the meantime, I wanted to show my parents what this strange elixir stuff actually looked like, so that they could see it in front of them—see that it was a real thing. “Could you… take me to your mom’s potion room?”

Brock looked hesitant. “She hates me messing around in there… That’s why she cleared out the spare room for me to have my own space for my experiments. Why do you want to go in to her potion room?” he asked.

“Well, there’s this vial of liquid,” I began to explain, giving him a brief summary of his mom’s and my trip to the black witches’ old island in the supernatural dimension. “She said that I could have access to it if my parents agreed. Well, they almost have… kind of. They want to speak to her, but in the meantime I want to show them the vial.”

Brock considered my request for a moment longer before shrugging. “Okay. Just know that if my mom gets mad, I’ll be piling all the blame on you…”

“Yeah, well, I’m sure I’d get a lot milder punishment than you would.”

“You got that right,” he muttered.

He led me to Mona’s spell room. This was the first time I’d ever visited it. It was a fairly small room at the back of the apartment, overlooking the redwoods. It was neatly organized, definitely neater than Corrine’s—everything labeled and color-coded, the tables freshly wiped and cauldrons washed and lined up in a row to dry by the sink.

I scanned the shelves, looking for the vial. I spotted it on one of the higher shelves, near the back. Carefully parting the bottles in front of it, I lifted it and held it in my hands. Brock stood behind me, peering over my shoulder.

“Looks weird,” he said.

“Believe me, it is.”

* * *

B
rock escorted
me back to my parents’ room in the hospital. Their eyes immediately shot to the vial I was clasping in my hands. Trepidation filled my mother’s eyes. She took the bottle from me and gazed into it.

“Mona wasn’t around,” I explained, hating the idea of waiting an indefinite amount of time for her to return. I had this unshakeable feeling deep inside me that time was running out, that I needed to hurry up and make a decision. I had already delayed taking action by hours. “Brock isn’t sure when she’ll be back. But her instructions were quite clear. I just need to take a tiny drop of it…”

“And if something goes wrong?” my father asked, dubious.

“Then…” I couldn’t think of a rational counter to that. This was a concoction by the black witches. And Mona was the only ex-black witch on the island. If something really did go wrong, she would be the only one with the slightest clue of how to handle it. “You’re right,” I muttered. “We should wait.”

F
ortunately
, Mona arrived sooner than expected. Brock and I had returned to his apartment to wait for her when she walked through the door. Her eyes widened in surprise when she found me sitting on the living room sofa with her son… clasping the vial on my lap.

“Victoria?” she asked, her eyebrows rising to her bangs. “What are you doing?”

“Sorry for the surprise,” I said. “But I’ve talked to my parents and now they would like to talk to you… if you don’t mind.”

“Have they agreed?” she asked.

Meh
. “Well, yes and no,” I said. “I don’t think they’ll come to any decision before speaking to you.”

She took a few minutes to use the bathroom before she, Brock and I headed back to the hospital. What followed was a long conversation, filled with questions back and forth, discussing all the things that could go wrong and any possible way around this course of action, like simply smashing the vial. Mona explained the risks that would come with that.

The questions they asked were the same ones that I had already mulled over for hours and hours and was sick of by now. But my parents needed to go through the process themselves before they could even think about giving me their blessing. Once they’d run out of things to ask Mona, they arrived at the same conclusion I expected them to. But at least now they were educated as to the risks.

“Well, Victoria,” my father said, even as he eyed me wearily, “as much as I’d love to just lock that vial up in a box right now, or wipe that werewolf from your brain, you know the risks involved. It’s clear you’re not going to forget about or get over him. If Mona agrees to carry out the procedure and accompany you to The Woodlands… there’s not a lot more I can say.”

Even as my mother looked pained, she took my hands in hers and said softly, “This is
your
love story, Vicky.”

Victoria

M
y hands were trembling slightly
at their agreement. Nervousness began to overwhelm any sense of triumph I felt.

This is it. It’s happening.

I can’t believe I’m actually doing this.

My father had wanted to accompany me to The Woodlands, after they were allowed out of the hospital. But both Mona and I reminded him that a vampire being present would hardly help the situation. Especially around the Mortclaws—they weren’t as liberal as some of the other werewolves had become over the years. They were an old family, steeped in tradition. They would find it incredibly hard to break the mold…
hence the crazy measures I’m about to go to
. If Bastien’s mom had been a normal mom, Bastien and I could have just sat down with her and told her we were in love.

Oh, how I wished sometimes that my world was populated with normal people, and not these crazy supernaturals.
And why, oh, why, of all people, did I have to go and fall in love with a werewolf? And a Mortclaw at that.
Thinking about it, there probably wasn’t a more unattainable match for me in the entire universe.

But the deed was done. I couldn’t extricate Bastien from my heart no matter how much I tried. I knew that well enough by now.

So I returned with Mona and Brock to their penthouse. Mona took me to the bathroom.

Mona decided to carry out the procedure here, in case I felt the urge to puke—which, apparently, was quite likely. Mona fetched a spoon from the kitchen. We stood around the sink, me in the middle.

I couldn’t miss the way the witch’s hands were shaking slightly as she reached for the bottle. That hardly did much to help my own nerves. I was relieved we were doing this without my parents present. My, Mona’s and Brock’s nerves were palpable enough.

Mona slowly, cautiously removed the stopper from the sleek glass neck. A strange sulfurous smell immediately filled the room, and smoke billowed up from the liquid, even though it was supposedly cool.

Mona raised the vial and tilted it ever so slightly over the spoon, until a tiny drop had pooled in its center.

“All right,” Mona murmured, “Tilt your head back, Victoria. I’m just going to pour a tiny, tiny drop into your mouth. You should barely be able to taste it.”

I tilted my head back, noting Brock watching the proceedings with a kind of morbid fascination.

“Now stick out your tongue,” Mona ordered.

I did as Mona instructed me.

Closing my eyes, I felt the liquid fall on my tongue, light as a raindrop. Although to my surprise, it instantly began to burn.

“Pull your tongue back in your mouth and swallow,” Mona said tensely.

I did so, even as it caused the burning to spread down my throat. As tiny as the drop must have been, I could practically feel its prickling trail down my esophagus, my chest and into my gut.

“Now, you might feel the urge to vomit, but try to hold it in,” the witch said, closing the bottle and placing it gently on a shelf along with the spoon. “Otherwise you might have to take another drop if it doesn’t have a chance to get absorbed by your system.”

That was a tough request, but somehow I managed it. After a couple of minutes, my stomach stopped churning so much, and the burning in my mouth and throat subsided.

“Can I have some water?” I croaked.

Brock magicked a glass of water and handed it to me.

“Thanks.” I took it from him and downed the whole lot in one go.

Then Mona took my hand and sat me down on the edge of the tub. She lowered herself to my level and stared me deep in the eyes. “How are you feeling?” she asked timidly.

“Uh… Okay. I think,” I said. “Why? Do I look funny?”

“You look all right,” she replied. “Your eyes are just a little unfocused.”

“Yeah… they feel it. Is that not normal?”

Mona didn’t reply. Instead, she pulled me up and walked me to her and Kiev’s bedroom.

“Lie down on the bed for a while,” she said. “Let it sink in.”

I lay back on the mattress while she and Brock loomed over me. They eyed me as though half fearing I might start sprouting fur or a tail.

Oh, God. Please don’t let that happen. I’m not psychologically prepared.

I waited and waited. Nothing happened, except my eyes feeling normal again. I sat up in bed. “So… what’s supposed to happen now?” I asked. This was all feeling rather anticlimactic. But maybe this was how it was supposed to feel. Maybe it was a good sign.

“It hasn’t even been an hour yet,” Mona said, “but you can try closing your eyes and picturing Bastien in your head. Or his mother. Focus on either one of them.”

“All right,” I said uncertainly. I closed my eyes, and first thought of Bastien. I felt pretty stupid as several minutes passed and all I could see was the backs of my eyelids.

“Nothing’s happening,” I murmured. “I still don’t even understand what I’m supposed to—”

“Just keep your eyes closed,” Mona said. “Wait a little bit longer. You’ll only be able to psychically connect with them if you’re actively thinking about them. You should just feel a kind of… instinct… A pull.”

Mona’s words seemed so vague. I still didn’t understand it. And I still wasn’t feeling anything. But, holding faith in her words, I continued focusing on Bastien.

An hour passed. Still nothing.

I blew out. “This really isn’t working, Mona. Maybe the connection simply isn’t strong enough after only one drop. Maybe I need to drink more.”

Mona shook her head immediately. “I wouldn’t be comfortable giving you more. We can’t risk an overdose.”

“Then what?” I asked, my shoulders sagging in disappointment. “All this buildup for nothing?”

“Just because you haven’t developed psychic abilities doesn’t mean it hasn’t worked. They could still feel a draw toward
you
. Another possibility is that maybe you have to be closer to them to sense it. They’re in the supernatural dimension, no doubt. Maybe you need to at least be in the same dimension.”

“Then will you take me?” I asked. It had been so long since I’d last seen Bastien. Anything could’ve happened to him by now. All this waiting and preparation could be totally wasted if I didn’t get to him soon.

“Okay,” Mona agreed. “Let’s head to the supernatural realm and see if anything becomes clearer…”

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