I threw off the blankets then swung my angry gaze to the clock on my bedside table.
“Argh,” I growled.
Night after night for the last three months, I couldn’t sleep. Every time I tried, all I could see was Webb in a coffin. I was numb to the knowledge that he might be dead. I cried my eyes out for the first month. Then all my tears dried up. If I wasn’t trying to sleep, I lived in the control room, waiting to hear his voice come over the radio or biting my nails while my dad’s team was glued to their computers in the hopes that they too would hear from Webb.
“You have to try and dream,” Dad had said.
I laughed at him. The more pressure he put on me, the less chance I would fall into a deep slumber. My vampire powers had grown significantly since Webb’s plane went down over the Alaskan mountains. Before then, I could make objects move, manipulate water, air, and earth, and read human minds, but only if I were touching the people. The vampire community considered my father the most powerful of all vampires. But I now matched all his abilities and then some. I’d recently added the fire element to my growing powers. That ability took a great amount of concentration to conjure up fireballs that I could throw like baseballs. Not to mention, I was capable of reading vampire minds, albeit I still had to have skin contact to do so.
The one ability my father didn’t have that I had somehow developed was seeing into the future through my dreams, although that power was dead in its tracks at the moment. My dad, Sam, Dr. Vieira, Tripp, and many others were relying on me to find Webb. Again, I’d laughed at them. Aside from my recurring dream, where I was standing in the middle of a cemetery surrounded by coffins, one of which contained Webb, I hadn’t come up with anything. If I had, I would have woken up with no memories of the dream world.
Dad hadn’t had any luck, either. For thirty solid days, a search and rescue team hunted the Alaskan mountains for any sign of the plane or Webb, Olivia, Kraft, Sloan, and Kodiak. But they found nothing. Dad had finally called off the search.
Through tears, I’d pleaded with him for hours on end. “You’re the commander of the vampire SEAL team. You rule this base. You have to keep looking.”
“Jo, the terrain and the weather are slowing us down. I’ve alerted the military base in Alaska. They’ll keep their eyes and ears open. I’m sorry, pumpkin. We have work to do here. We still have to get to the bottom of who stole all your lab data. Remember, Edmund is still out there, working toward building that vampire army. And you are instrumental in his endeavor.”
“If Edmund needs my DNA for his plan, then why haven’t we heard from him in over three months?” I’d asked Dad.
Dr. Vieira believed that I was the key to Edmund’s master plan since I had a unique DNA makeup that no other vampire had. I wasn’t so sure I believed that I was the one who could help Edmund build an army of vampires out of humans, at least not perfect ones that could fight against us. So far, Edmund’s only experiment that held any substance had been with Blake Turner, the human boy I’d been accused of murdering. But Blake’s new genetic makeup had only served to kill him. Still, I didn’t want to become a lab experiment.
“If I know Edmund, he’s not going to do something on a whim. He’s planning. In the meantime, try to see if your dreams tell you anything about Edmund or Webb.”
I couldn’t dream about Webb. How was I supposed to dream about our enemy? I growled again as I popped out of bed. It was four in the morning, and the apartment was deathly quiet. I tiptoed out of my room and into the hall. I was about to get some water when I noticed that my twin brother, Sam’s, bedroom door was ajar. That was odd. He never left it open when he slept. He had this odd sense of fear that someone would attack him in the dead of sleep.
I peeked in to find his bed empty. I wasn’t exactly surprised. Like me, Sam had trouble sleeping. Many times, I found him in the training room, venting off steam or in the control room, checking for any news on Webb.
I trudged down the hall and into the kitchen, where I poured myself a glass of blood. After I quenched my thirst, I decided I should try to ease my frustrations. I could stand to shed some anxiety or at least tire myself out so I could sleep. Then maybe I could dream or at least get past the scene of Webb in a coffin.
I changed quickly into a pair of yoga pants, a T-shirt, and tennis shoes then quietly dashed out of the apartment, making sure I didn’t wake Dad. The hall leading to the stairwell was eerily quiet. Overhead lights blinked on as I trekked down to the basement. While Webb and other sentinels had their own place to call home on base, Dad wanted to live in an apartment above his office, the control room, and all the other military amenities for the staff. It hadn’t bothered me too much, although I would have preferred to have a home where we weren’t in the middle of the chaos.
Grunts resounded as I drew close, followed by clanging swords. I smiled as I settled against the doorjamb to the training room. Tripp and Sam were going at it, the air charged with electricity. Surrounded by padded walls, they circled each other with their swords at the ready. Tripp’s sandy-blond hair was pulled back into a low ponytail, while Sam’s black hair stuck to his forehead. For several months, Sam had sported shoulder-length hair until he decided that short was easier and better. So he had it styled in a cut just above his ears. I loved his new look. It made his green eyes and angular jaw stand out.
Tripp lunged at Sam, the tip of his sword breaking the skin just above Sam’s heart. “Pussy.”
Sam returned the gesture, thrusting his left hip forward, sword extended, forcing Tripp’s blade down.
“You drew blood, asshole,” Sam growled.
“Then pay attention,” Tripp countered.
The two stood facing each other, waiting for the other to make a move.
Tripp cocked an eyebrow. “You sure you want to do this, Mason? You know you can’t win.”
“Ha! You don’t know shit, sentinel,” Sam spat.
They both circled the mat, muscles bunching on their bare chests as though they were two wolves vying for the alpha spot in a pack. I laughed out loud at that thought.
Both of them whipped their heads toward me.
“Something funny, Sis?” Sam asked.
“Yeah. Be careful or Tripp will shift into a wolf. I mean, he has wolf blood in him.”
Tripp crossed the padded floor to a bench, where he snagged a towel, then wiped his face. “How many times do I have to tell you? I am mostly vampire. My wolf heritage has only graced me with the added ability to detect scents ten times more than a vampire.”
Sam wiped the sweat off his face with a towel before he plucked his shirt off a bag at his feet and threw it over his head. “Good thing,” he chided. “I’d hate for you to spring claws while we were sparring.”
Once Tripp’s face was dry of sweat, he switched out the towel for a T-shirt then covered his chest. “Can’t sleep, Jo?”
I joined them, sitting down on the slatted wooden bench as a cloud of stinky sweat burned my nostrils. “All I keep dreaming about is Webb in a coffin. I need to get off the base. I need a new venue or something to take my mind off Webb. Then maybe I could clear my head.” Dad kept me under wraps, afraid that if I left base, Edmund would strike. He wouldn’t even let me go to school, which was fine with me. In fact, Ms. Costner was still tutoring Sam and me on most days at the base library. Dad had said school was too risky. Considering I’d gotten into trouble and killed Blake Turner in self-defense, I agreed with Dad.
Dad was also concerned about Ben Jackson, Sam’s human best friend who supposedly had been subjected to Edmund’s vampire serum. We weren’t sure if Ben was now a vampire or a monster like Blake Turner had been. Ben had escaped from Dad’s men when we encountered him at the fundraising gala a few months back. Even Mr. Jackson had been scouring the city, looking for his son. Dad suspected that Ben was probably working for Edmund.
“Good luck convincing Pops to let you off base,” Sam said.
“I’m going to ask. I want to see Darcy.” She was my best human friend and had been under our protection for a month while her father worked to pay off his debt to a vampire he’d represented in court. “I haven’t seen her since she moved back home, and that was three months ago.” We’d spoken on the phone, but that was it. Her father wanted her far removed from the vampire world. I couldn’t blame him since Edmund had kidnapped Darcy because of her father’s poor decision concerning a vampire client of his.
“You need to stay away from the human.” Tripp folded his large body as he sat down next to me. “You’re only putting her in harm’s way. Edmund can use her to get to you. And she’s been through enough with him and us.”
He was right, but I didn’t want to acknowledge that fact. I wanted a friend. I wanted someone who I could talk to about Webb. I wanted a shoulder to cry on. I could cry on Dad’s shoulder or Sam’s or even Tripp’s, but it wasn’t the same. They were men, and while they might understand, a female friend understood better, at least to me. Not only that, I wanted to talk about things other than wars, blood, vampires, genetics, and anything else associated with my new world. I wanted to hear all about Darcy’s life. She’d started her senior year. Was she dating? Had she decided on college like her father had wished? Or was she still set on beauty school? I could glean all that information over the phone or in an email or text, but I wanted that person-to-person connection, where we could lie around in her bedroom like we used to and giggle or watch a movie or just talk about nothing.
Tripp placed a hand on my knee, his drug-induced touch immediately sending a warm and lazy feeling through my body. “Jo, I don’t mean this in a bad way, but you look like shit. Maybe I can help. I can try to put you to sleep.”
Sam and I did a double take.
“Since when do you have that ability?” I asked.
“I haven’t put someone under in quite some time. I’m not sure the commander would let me do it anyway. The last time I tried was on a family member who didn’t wake up for a year. But I think she drank too much of my blood.”
“Are you saying you can put someone in a coma if they drink your blood?” I continued to learn something new every day about vampires.
“In so many words, yeah.” Tripp swung his bronze gaze from Sam to me. “My cousin had gotten into a bad fight when she was on the cusp of blossoming into her wolf form. Since she wasn’t entirely human and hadn’t learned how to shift yet, her mother suggested we try to give her a dose of my vampire blood to see if it would heal her. Otherwise, she would die. The good news was she didn’t die and is now a healthy wolf shifter. The bad news was she lost a year of her life. She still has issues with me.”
“Does my father know you can do this?” Sam asked.
“Oh, yeah. I had to disclose my abilities when I applied for the vampire SEAL program.” Tripp removed his hand from my knee. When he did, the warmth coursing through me turned cold. “At first, your father didn’t believe me. So we experimented with a healthy vampire. He fell asleep not long after he drank my blood and didn’t wake up for a week. So in emergencies when other vampires need blood, I’m not the one they come to.”
My stomach fluttered at the notion that I might be able to sleep for longer than two hours. “If I sleep for a week, then I could dream. Maybe I could find out if Webb is still alive.”
“Maybe,” Tripp said with a hint of hesitation in his voice. “Your father has to agree.”
I didn’t see why he wouldn’t. If I could sleep, then I wasn’t bugging him about getting off base or whining about Webb, and I could possibly help find the team.
No sooner had I jumped off the bench, ready to go in search of my dad, than the sirens blared, the red lights in the room flashed, and Tripp sprang into action, bolting out of the room.
Sam and I followed. When I first moved on base, I’d panicked at any alarm, especially when Edmund blew up a building on base. But now I’d grown accustomed to the chaos. The three of us ran down the hall, up the stairs, and down more halls until we reached the belly of the control room. This was the place where the heart of the military beat, where information came in and went out, and where my father was wide-eyed with his black hair mussed as though he’d flown out of bed, which I was sure he had.
The TV screens lit up on one wall, while vamps shuffled into place, banging on keyboards. As screens changed, showing parts of the base’s perimeter, a figure came into view at the main gate. Then three sentinels drew their guns on the dark figure, who held up his hands.
I knitted my eyebrows as I watched the dark hooded figure get down on his knees. Then he lifted his head and spoke. “I want to speak with Commander Mason. Tell him it’s Ben Jackson.”
Sam and I exchanged a horrified look as my stomach lurched.
Copyright © 2021 by S.B. Alexander.