The capital city of Tiresial, Ennion
Lavell Cathcart walked out onto the balcony adjacent to her bedroom, and laid her lace-gloved hands on the cool grey stone of the banister. She was uneasy outside after dark, but the edges of fear sharpened her mind and that was what she needed now. The door behind her was left wide open, and she could be back inside in one jump. And it was one she would be making without hesitation at the first sign of trouble, her senses on edge. But she needed the fresh air, room to think, time alone. They had just returned from the first ball of the Tiresial high season, and she should have had nothing on her mind but the good time she had been having and hopes for the future. But instead, her thoughts were weighing heavily on her.
She took a folded page out of her reticule, part of a letter that did not belong to her. The single sheet was a draft, forgotten to be thrown away. She had found it half under the desk in her father’s study, and was in the handwriting of her brother-in-law. She flattened it, before reading it again, although she knew the words by heart now.
… and my wife is in good health as well. One of the reasons I included this letter to you with the one for my parents, is that I wanted to beg of you a favour. It is not for myself, and I will relate the entire reason for you below, but I would like to purchase a large quantity of your verbena.
As you know, my dear cousin, my wife comes from a hunter family as well. They do not, however, possess all the old knowledge that our family holds and passes on through the generations. Verbena is uncommon here in Tiresial, as the night creatures known as vampires are considered a threat well harnessed by the strict practises of law. I do agree with that assessment, and personally believe the verbena is better spent in our home province, where the fight for our borders against the night creatures continues. But I ask it of you anyway for a personal reason. My wife and her father are both hunters in their own right, and my mother-in-law chooses to be unaware of the danger she is protected from. My concern is for my sister-in-law, my wife’s younger sister Lavell. She has grown up in a hunter family and thus is privy to full knowledge of the creatures. After almost dying from a vampire attack at fifteen, her fear of the night creatures has become debilitating. The combination of her knowledge and her fear leaves her incapable of following in her family’s footsteps.
Her sister and I have quite taken it upon ourselves to make sure she is alright, as she makes an easy target for vampires, one of which is living right next door. I hope that with the verbena she can at least feel safe knowing she cannot be compelled again. I am prepared, my dear cousin, to pay you every price you ask of me. I hope to soon receive word from you, and give it to her as a present for her birthday, which is coming up shortly. She knows how valuable the verbena is, and will regard it in every way I would.
There is also good news I think you would enjoy hearing about. In Tiresial there has recently been a…
Lavell folded the letter back up, and turned it over and over in her hands as she looked up at the star-speckled night sky. It took a moment to realise that she was fidgeting, and resolutely she put it away again. She took a deep breath, gathering her thoughts, and released it slowly. It was not that she resented Sergio for writing what she had, or that she thought it inappropriate – she would be eternally grateful if he actually succeeded. But Lavell did not like to find out that her family worried for her so, as she was unable to do anything to alleviate it. She did not want to feel so helpless and inept, but that was how the vampires made her feel all the time. They loved nothing more than to target her. The perfect prey was the weak link in a hunter family, of course. But no matter how much her father pushed her to learn to defend herself, every time she tried to take up a silver sword, even in practice, her mind blocked.
She was sick and tired of being scared. She had had enough of belonging to a family that could not pretend that vampires did not exist, she wanted to be as unaware of them as the rest of Tiresial society had the luxury of being. The treaty that had allowed Rydden’s People into their lands under strict guidelines, had specified that only those need-to-know could be aware of the vampires’ true nature. One of its side effects had been that hunting became a family affair, concentrating knowledge. Hunters married other hunters, and sons and daughters carried on the family business. But what if she did not want to know, did not want to be a hunter? There was no one who had accounted for them. When they married outside of the hunter families, they were not allowed to tell their spouse or children, but usually the decision was respected. Lavell belonged to the most powerful hunter family in Ennion, though. Her sister and brother-in-law were both active hunters. Her father was a member of the High Council regulating vampire law and its enforcers.
She had not always wanted out. Sergio had spoken of it in his letter. There had been a time when she had been very much in love with the idea of danger. She had been forcefully cured of that notion. Still, deep in her heart she despised her now careful nature. Despised wanting to be safe. She wondered if she was prepared to lose the exhilaration of life that came with the intense fear of dying. It was this discord within herself that she could find no way of reconciling.
Outwardly, she was the perfect socialite. Enjoying life, having endless opportunities and little care, loved by Tiresial high society. She had numerous friends, interested gentlemen and the affections of influential dowagers. But when she returned home and darkness fell, she was the frightened and terrorised daughter of a hunter family, unable to defend herself and living with fear. Which was she? She was unable to become a hunter, but was she able to become the socialite? To embrace a husband who did not know of any of that world. Would it be freedom from fear, or just another ill-fitting bodice?
It brought her to the other reason she was in need of fresh air. At the ball she had continued on in her acquaintance with the marquis of Estyll, who was a very kind man and a coveted bachelor. She sighed, leaning against the banister, not caring that her cream coloured dress would probably get dirty. Usually men were not so forward with their intentions, considering her observant and sometimes overbearing father, but he really approved of the marquis. After Sadie had ran away at fifteen to find adventure, their father had concentrated all his attention on Lavell. He was disappointed in her absolute rejection of anything related to hunters, but at least she shone in another area that was important to him – their social circles.
If there was anyone Lavell would consider, it was the marquis. He was a calm and rational man, quick to smile and at ease with himself and others. She was attracted to those qualities and to him and she had allowed him to court her, to think about the possibilities life with him would offer her. But in that same treacherous depth of her heart she wondered if that was enough for her. It did not feel like it and she knew she was faking it. That when she got that life of ignorance, it would be as much of a disillusion as living in a hunter family was. And she was fairly certain that even if the vampires would leave her alone after that, the fear would not go away.
She had come out to her balcony to face the fact that she was stuck. She wanted neither of the options available to her and she could not see another way. She was sick of the word ‘afraid’. ‘What if I can get a middle ground?’ she bargained with the night sky, as if defying logic was logical. ‘Somewhere between strong but terrified, and safe but stifling.’
Occupied by her troubled thoughts she had let her alertness drift off, and literally jumped when behind her a suave voice came out of the shadows: ‘How about a bold fashion choice? Always the same elaborate ball gowns are getting so old to me. You could be mad as a hatter. They are liked in society, make for a good story.’
She spun around, heart thumping in her throat, to face the man who had spoken. He was standing in the corner of her balcony, barely visible in the darkness. The only reason she saw him at all was because of his wearing a tan overcoat, speaking of a bold fashion statement. His race could be dead quiet and blend into the shadows until they were nigh invisible. He could even have been there before she had walked out at all.
For what felt like the longest three seconds neither one of them spoke, or moved. Then he made towards her, faster than she could see. She yanked off her necklace and threw it in his face. He growled after a high pitched start of pain, and a burning smell flared in her nostrils. She jumped towards the door, crossing the threshold of her room a heartbeat before his hand could close on the fabric of her dress, and he couldn’t move further. Lavell turned around to look at him with every bit of pretence she could muster. ‘A priest of Le’Mar came by to do it over again.’
He was looking at her, his face unreadable not because it was blank, but because it hung on too many expressions to pick a single one.
‘You bitch.’ he said.
He was standing in the doorway still, the burn on his face glossy and red against his skin. She had hit him squarely, she could well see the circled shape with the broad, protruding legs of the V. She almost saw it starting to heal already, but she knew her imagination was playing tricks on her. In half an hour, though, it truly would be as if she had never hit him at all. Even though her faith in Le’Mar provided her with a way to defend herself without wielding silver weapons, it was still temporary. It hurt more, but it healed just as quickly. Only silver truly severed their skin, made its knitting back together as difficult as a regular steel knife would on a human.
It was repulsive, and unfair that such a debased and inherently evil people had these huge advantages on her own species. If the humans had never beaten them back, a few centuries before, what would have become of her kind? Would they have still existed as more than food donors? She shivered. If it had been her, she would have shouted from the rooftops what these creatures were, but hunter or not, she was bound by the same laws as her family. No one outside of vampire law enforcement and the crown was to know. Letting them back in, to her eyes, had been the biggest mistake humans had ever made, and sooner or later all of humanity would pay for it.
At least her faith provided her with some protection, with some small measure of defending herself against their onslaught. Faith in Ennion was largely prevalent, although not absolute. It ran most strongly among the hunter families – unsurprisingly so. The benefits of the Le’Mar faith were obvious to them, and one would have a hard time not to believe in a god who provided real protection. It was a strained relationship at best between hunters and vampires, and it worked only for those who had true faith. It had strengthened Lavell’s own belief that they were creatures of darkness, unsavable, for her god preached understanding and forgiveness. Yet vampires burned when they came in touch with Le’Mar’s symbol, that had hung from the necklace she had thrown. When water or oil was blessed by a priest of the faith, it did the same. More importantly, the priests knew of sacred rites that could protect a home from vampires. When the rites had been performed, a vampire was unable to cross any threshold unless specifically invited to by one of the permanent residents. After having been given that invitation, though, he or she could enter at any time.
Of course her father, Sadie and Sergio were all three strong enough not to look into a vampire’s eyes, which Lavell was not. It was why she wanted the verbena that Sergio planned to offer her so very badly. It would free her, once and for all, of the mind control which she found even more appalling and fearful than the drinking of blood. Once the vampires established eye contact, no one was exempt from doing whatever they ordered and Lavell just did not have the force of will to prevent herself from looking. Between her and her mother, they were easy prey. Lady Cathcart was an entirely different story, however. She chose not to believe in the existence of vampires, with a wilful ignorance that baffled and alienated her entire family.
In front of her open balcony door Tryst was stalking the doorway, reminding her of a caged animal getting more and more frustrated – and violent – as it continued to lack a way in. Seeing as he could not enter, she felt safe enough on her own, standing in the middle of her bedroom without calling for help. For the moment. She knew she had to face her fears one day, even if only to decide.
It was as if he could see straight through, putting a finger on the sore spot. ‘Poor girl. Stuck between worlds. Foolish enough to go out in the dark and pose the question aloud. Do you even realise you did it on purpose? That no matter how afraid you are, you still personally tempt danger? Don’t think you can ever escape yourself, Lavell. Besides, I can’t say no to invitations, I’d follow you to another balcony easily enough.’ He said it tauntingly, the corner of his mouth lifted in a smirk. ‘Go ahead. Call out to your sister and brother-in-law. Call for your father. Let them come and save you and kill me so you can sleep a bit better at night with one less vampire. Maybe you won’t have to marry a complete bore, then.’ He grinned, a deep resounding sound. ‘O wait. They know what I am. They know that I live next door, and that I use your balcony to terrorise you. That you hate and fear me more than you hate and fear any of us. Yet they let me do whatever I want.’
‘Sooner or later you will slip up, with me or with some donor. You can’t help yourself. And then you will die.’ She said, fully backed by her steadfast belief that this was true. ‘I just have to wait safely inside until that happens.’
‘And that’s the thing that truly haunts you. You can’t.’ Tryst answered her. ‘Anything that happened to you, you did unto yourself.’
Lavell swallowed hard.
Tryst Valentine lived right next door to the Cathcart family, and he had been for almost a decade. Eight years. What would possess a vampire to move into a house besides that of one of the most prominent hunter families, Lavell could not grasp. And what kind of name was Tryst Valentine anyway? It had to be made up, not even vampires would do that. Once she had been very much intrigued with the fact that one of them was living a few metres away, and at that time had still believed they held to the treaty rules made long ago. Her infatuation with the – to her eyes exotic – creatures had almost cost her her life, and because of that she had seen them for what they truly were. The event had made it a sport for Tryst Valentine to find out exactly how far he could go, how much he could scare her.
He’d done a very fine job of that. She didn’t notice she was clenching her hands to fists, grabbing the fabric of her skirt. Yet funnily enough, of him she had never really been afraid. Not in the way she felt almost truly paralysed when she came face to face with any other vampire. He made her angry, made her want to talk back and stand up. She hated him. She hated him enough to mean the next words out of her mouth: ‘Even if I have to help you along or fake the entire scene, you are getting a death sentence, Tryst Valentine.’
He let his eyes wander over her hands, her inkling to run even though she knew she was safe in her room with him locked out and he wasn’t fooled. He grinned again. ‘Just run, if you are that afraid. But you won’t, and we both know there is a reason for it other than not wanting to, somewhere in the back of your mind. You can never escape this life, because you don’t want to.’ Tryst told her, and eyed her from head to toe this time. ‘How sweet and sensible and perfect you pretend to be, the little social butterfly dancing through life. And underneath that you plot to fake my guilt in a crime that will sentence me to death. To murder me, Lavell. Do you see who you are? No wonder you are so conflicted. How could you ever not need me to show you the truths that you can’t admit to yourself?’
Lavell tried to ignore that statement, trying to come up with a response that was good enough to restore the self-confidence he just shattered. She was looking around her room, finding it reassuring that even though she could never bring herself to touch it, there was a silver sword behind the door of her armoire.
‘Look at me, love.’
She did before she realised what she was doing, shocked by his use of the endearment and understanding too late that he had deliberately tore her down to throw her off balance. A second was enough to catch her eyes and she tumbled deep into the pools that his dark eyes had become. It was as if she was falling, further and further, while in the back of her mind she heard his voice talking to her, in an uncanny softness. She felt the wish – the urge – to do whatever that voice wanted of her. Deep within she was still there, her real thoughts shouting at her, but it was as if it didn’t get through. She wasn’t in control anymore. No matter how she knew not to respond to him, and tried to fight the urge, her body circumvented her and did whatever his sweet sounding voice asked. Like a velvet hand running down her spine, moving her for her. It was this loss of control that terrified her most, the realisation that she could be asked anything and she’d do it, while knowing she didn’t want to.
‘Invite me in.’
She choked on the words, fighting it with all she had. She knew she had no hope of withstanding him before drowning completely, but she tried. As soon as she could banish his voice out of her head, she would scream for Sadie. Tryst grinned again, relaxed, knowing he had her already. ‘Say the words, Lavell. Invite me in.’ His voice strengthened, became more forcing, when his eyes rimmed with red.
She felt something in the corner of her eye.
She sighed it, losing grip on the control of her voice. ‘Come in.’
He surged forward, into the bedroom. She wanted to scream, but he laid a hand forcefully over her mouth and she slammed with her back into the wall behind her as he crashed into her. As he stopped just a fingerbreadth away, she realised crashing was not the right word for a vampire who had absolute control over his reflexes. His doing these things on purpose was antagonising, even though she was no match for his superior speed and strength. He was standing so close that she could feel warmth emanating from his body. Since they could only do that after they had fed, and only ever so slightly, she realised fully just how close he was. When he smiled the tips of his fangs showed, deliberately. He knew how she hated the sight of them.
‘This is such a waste of time, and getting old the longer we do it. You barring my entrance, me forcing you within considerable time to invite me back in again.’ Tryst said. ‘Is your family not tired of that yet? Do Le’Mar’s priests charge for the service, by the way? Perhaps you should get a discount once you reach the tenth.’
He used his thumb to wipe the fallen tear from her cheek, as he still held her one hand stuck in between them at chest level, where he had grabbed it before she had had a chance to defend herself as he rushed at her. The other he had forced down. She jerked her head to the side, trying to move out of his range. If he didn’t stop, he’d at least have to let go of her hand and that offered her at least some wiggle room. He waited calmly until she turned her eyes upwards enough to duck his head and catch them. He did not compel her, he simply looked into them.
‘Don’t you dare.’ she said, ‘If you touch me, if you drink even one drop of my blood against my will, it will be your end.’
‘I could drown you within me, wrap my mind around yours. I could make it fun.’
‘If that is all you have to offer, I pity you.’ Lavell answered, and had trouble keeping the tremor out of her voice. She kept her face as blank as possible, which – of course – he was unimpressed with. Just once she would love to have a comeback that shut him up completely, that would hurt him. His playing with her solely for amusement made her hate him even more. She’d give him a reason to hate her back. She did not know where thoughts like these came from, unwise if ever there was an understatement. It was true what he had said. She never did have the sense to stay away from a dangerous situation. Her years of fearing vampires had not changed that. This was the moment to call out for Sadie or Sergio, she knew it, but still her voice refused.
‘So righteous.’ Tryst said. ‘Such a princess. But pull the right string and I have you crying, in every way of the word. And even if you don’t want to, that does not negate the fact that when I want to, I will have you beg for more.’
She violently pushed against him to shove him away from her. He allowed himself to be shoved, truth be told, but from the slight stumble before he righted she found the satisfaction that he had not anticipated that much strength.
‘You don’t have any control over me other than what you force.’ Lavell said to him. ‘And you are afraid to lose it. Don’t think I don’t know that when I choose to leave my hunter family for an unaware husband, you have no choice but to leave us and any children in peace. It is the one curtesy your kind has ever shown mine and don’t think I don’t know it is because you want to keep in the hunters’ good graces.’
She yelped in surprise when he slammed her back into the wall. She had come to expect certain moves, like steps to a dance, she realised. And this was not part of it. A true anger flashed out of his eyes and a small, analytical part of her brain realised that she’d finally done it. Found that button and pushed it. If only she knew what it was so she could replicate its effect.
‘I won’t ever leave you alone.’ he hissed with his face so close to hers their foreheads almost touched. She shuddered. ‘I don’t care what my kind does for yours. I will follow you anywhere, whomever you marry. You will never be rid of me. I will make you hate me so much that you won’t have time to enjoy anything anymore, even if that life could have satisfied you, you will never know. I’ll have you torn between two worlds forever, and never a moment’s peace.’
‘You will leave me alone!’
‘So make me!’ he yelled back at her, slamming an open palmed hand into the wall next to her head. She cringed. He bowed over to her again, regaining his composure, but she could see the tautness of his jaw. ‘Do you know that your blood is the only thing that does it for me?’ he whispered with his mouth to her ear.
She grabbed the pitcher of water on the dresser next to where they were standing and toppled it over before he could ward her off, splattering him fully. When the water hit him he let go of her with a scream, blessed water streaming hissing down his face. She hoped it hurt as much as the necklace had, and covering more of him.
‘Sadie!’ she screamed as loudly as she could, before Tryst had re-established himself and would keep her from doing so. Lavell pushed herself to the wall this time, as the pitcher fell clanking to the ground at her feet. ‘Why do you always presume I am unprepared?’ she asked again, shaking, and she didn’t know if it was for fear of retribution or anger. ‘I would never be that careless with you.’ A reasonable supply of blessed water was always about in the Cathcart residence, and Lavell would not leave a room without it in case of necessity. Seeing as a Le’Mar priest had just visited them, they had been fully topped up. She had her necklace, and there was the silver sword in her armoire. Even if she could not use it, her sister and brother-in-law sure could. They would have to waste no time finding a weapon before running to her aid.
Tryst hissed at her, more animal than human because of the pain. A lot of the water had hit him. ‘Sadie!’ she yelled again, and not two seconds after that the door slammed open. Sergio surged in, with Sadie right behind him. Tryst immediately made for the balcony door, slowed down because of the pain but picking up speed, so that when he disappeared over the banister, swallowed by darkness, Sergio had not even had time to lift his sword.
Sadie went past him over to the balcony, checking both it and over the ledge into the garden to make sure that they really had gone and they were alone again, while Sergio asked Lavell if she was alright.
‘Who was it?’ Sadie asked. She turned to her sister.
Annoyed with her own inability to handle the situation rather than her sister’s question, Lavell answered exasperated: ‘Tryst Valentine, who else?’
Sadie looked over at Sergio. ‘This has got to stop. He can’t just come barging in every time he likes to take a stab at her. He just waiting days in between visits from the priest now? It’s enough. Four years is enough. I don’t want him ever gaining access to our house again, no matter how high the cost is.’ She pointed to the floor to where Lavell was standing. ‘The water is on the ground around her feet. How long before he takes it further? This isn’t just pestering anymore.’
‘I know.’ Sergio said. ‘Tell your father.’
Lavell looked away, not answering. Sergio sighed, looking from his sister-in-law to his wife. He threw up his hands, as if not knowing what to do to make it better. He did not, in fact. Sadie was looking at Lavell now too. Lavell had never wanted to involve their father in Tryst Valentine’s campaign to make her life miserable. He knew she feared vampires, and he knew she was targeted by them because she was the weak link in their family, but he did not know that it was their next-door neighbour exclusively. Nor that it did not limit itself to balcony threats. Lavell didn’t want him to know because she did not want her father meddling, or even asking questions.
‘This is becoming ridiculous. How many times will a priest have to come by before anyone starts asking questions? Before your father figures it out?’ Sergio asked, looking at his wife as well, considering both sisters went along with this scheme.
Lavell still wasn’t answering.
‘He is too busy to notice.’ Sadie said, slightly begrudgingly because she knew it was the absolute wrong thing to say, but she had nothing else to add considering she was so clearly still taking her sister’s side in this argument. Not because she thought Lavell was right, but because Lavell was her sister and she always would.
Sadie had found her husband in Aryfn, a small province to the south, adjacent to Rydden. There vampires had been crossing the border unwantedly for centuries to take blood, and relations between them and humans were strained at best. The vampires in the south of Rydden had not recognised their own king, so when the treaty between Ennion and Rydden was made, both Aryfn and the southern regions of Rydden rejected it, and their situation stayed as was, despite the efforts of Ennion’s king. Unsurprisingly, the most ferocious hunter families lived in Aryfn.
Sadie had run off when she was fifteen. Their father had not wanted his daughters to become hunters, but to marry well socially instead and broaden the family’s influence. That option was not in any of Sadie’s plans, so she had recklessly made her way to Aryfn to learn the hunter trade on her own, as no one in Tiresial would go against the wishes of lord Cathcart. It had been, as Sadie put it, the thrill of her life. She had met Sergio quite soon, getting herself into a mess – as Sergio put it. It had apparently been a very dangerous situation, and Sergio had come barging in to save the day and yell at the insane girl who had gone inside the den to kill the vampires there singlehandedly. Sadie had later admitted that she hadn’t known there would be more than one, in Ennion there usually weren’t. Crimes against the treaty’s laws were not committed often, and commonly the act of a single vampire. But she had never liked being yelled at. So she had started a shouting match of her own, and before either of them had known it, they were married and on their way back to Ennion. The fact that Sergio had no title and came from a rebel province didn’t sit well with their father, but knowing he was a hunter – an extremely skilled one even – had eased every bit of that pain over the course of a couple of years. Now, Sadie and Sergio usually took assignments together, and were in high demand in vampire law enforcement.
Not that it was doing Lavell any favours. Sadie could take her side in keeping secrets all she wanted, but it was not nearly enough. Sadie caught her younger sister’s look and said to Lavell: ‘Do not look at me like that. You know I can’t bring him to the Council until he breaks the law by either feeding from you against your will, or killing you. We can’t prove compulsion, especially not for inviting him in and not feeding, and you won’t disclose your longstanding history with him to make a case for harassment, even if that was included in the laws at present. I want to, but I’m bound by the laws. I know the system is not perfect, but even vampires have some rights. They get a death sentence when their guilt is proven and no circumstantial clemency, because of the extreme danger they would otherwise have posed to us. No one anticipated during treaty negotiations milder kinds of infractions and frankly, I’ve heard of no case but yours. They stick to their own and usually tend to go to the extremes for which they are held accountable. I hate to break this to you, but being an ass is not included for punishment.’
Lavell made a disdaining sound. ‘If it were you, you would have taken care of it. You have chosen a great time to start sticking to the rules. And don’t tell me they ever followed them in Aryfn.’ The latter was directed at Sergio.
Sadie opened her mouth to protest, undoubtedly to say that she’d bend them for Lavell over herself, but Sergio was the one who answered, calmly. ‘Aryfn never accepted the treaty and thus cannot be bound by it. The situation there is barely accepted by the Ennion king and only because the southern vampires are as ruthless as my people, any attempt at a treaty would inevitably fail. It is a precarious balance in Ennion itself, and especially here in the capital. They have kept vampires a secret by law and the expansion and influence of hunter families severely restricted. I for one would not be surprised if that pressure is the reason your father wanted to keep you both from this life. No one likes the situation as is – vampires or humans –, but they have been accepted by the Crown and they need to be able to live a life.’ He had expressed this opinion on the subject more than once, surprisingly mild for someone coming from Aryfn.
Lavell loved Sergio like a real brother, but she couldn’t stand him using logic when she was upset. She knew he found her to be unreasonable tonight and it made her even more angry. She knew from the look on Sadie’s face that the latter was frustrated with Lavell’s refusal to tell the full truth about Tryst Valentine. Lavell bent down to pick up the water pitcher from the floor and put it back, putting the items on the dresser back in order. It was a sure sign she refused to answer because she did not want to say something she would later regret. Behind her back, Sadie shook her head at Sergio, and waved him out of the bedroom. She followed with a concerned look at Lavell, which Lavell did not see.
She did hear them talking, quite easily, in the hallway outside her door.
‘Tryst would never be so stupid as to actually kill Lavell or compel her to drink her blood, in spite of her fears.’ Sadie said under her breath, but not soft enough. It was true that Tryst knew full well that Sadie nor Sergio would make his death either swift or easy if he killed Sadie’s much beloved sister. It was probably meant to ease Sergio’s worries, but he replied with a deep rooted concern in his voice, strained as he tried to keep it down: ‘Well it’s starting to look as if his life is becoming absorbed by this vendetta. And because of that, hers is too. And it’s an obsession that Tryst isn’t going to end any time soon if nothing is done about it, and no ritual to keep him out is going to make a difference.’
They moved away from Lavell’s door, probably because one of them realised the hallway was not exactly the best place to be discussing such issues. Sergio’s words frightened Lavell, but it soon enough passed under the sting of being patronised. Her inability to take care of herself or even solve her own problems was what was truly eating at her in this entire mess she called her life.
And she knew what Sadie wasn’t telling Sergio out loud. Lavell was allowing Tryst to do this to her. Even Lavell knew that she was, but she did not know how to break the cycle. She didn’t know why she did. Perhaps she wanted, or needed, things to come to a head, before she could decide what she had been trying to figure out for weeks now. What was she doing with her life that made her feel like it wasn’t hers at all?