The thirst lets out
sound and people are running in fear. All I can do is think of one
of those old Godzilla movies. Some strange beast rises over the city
and people were jetting off. This thing had to be at least 20 feet
tall and its wings were about 40 feet each. The wings were like a
bat or more like a demon. It stretches them out from above the trees
and shades everything below it.
Justice is attempting to convey some type of authority, “Everyone stand strong. Armando I'll need you to clear the reporters out.”
Justice is putting on a performance. Most people were already running save The only people brave enough to stick around were the local news station.
I notice almost immediately who they sent out. Her name was Vigorosa from Bat Chat. She was the most popular news person out there. Her show had the highest ratings from 100 years ago and nothing has changed. Vigorosa still looked the same. Jet black hair that is tied in a bun, high fake cheek bones, commercial glazed over glare and large white fangs that always show when she smiles.
“I don't have to go anywhere. This is a free city!” Vigorosa argues.
“Armando! Do what I say,” Justice states.
“You are going to send our best fighter to keep the news station away?” Lucca asks.
He's right. What was Justice trying to pull by sending Armando away? Armando seems to want to argue this point but he doesn't. He turns and tries to keep Vigorosa and her camera crew away from the beast. Lucca and Camilla both have looks of terror in their face when Armando turns to leave. I think they all feel comfortable around him. I used to feel safer around my father too. He was strong and capable. He was the type of person you wanted on your side in a fight.
“Let's go team,” Justice states.
“We should clear the park,” Lucca tells Camilla.
“No with me!”
Justice states, “Come on!”
Lucca and Camilla ignore him. I'm not too surprised when they basically turn to run under the guise of “Helping people get out of the park.” Cowards. I have to admit it's funny to see Justice's face when he realizes that Lucca and Camilla aren't going to hurt him.
“Justice keep your head in the game,” Aiden states.
A part of me wants to root Justice on. With Camilla and Lucca basically tucking their tales and ditching us it's clear it's just Aiden, Coco, Justice and I. Justice pulls out his silver gun. He looks at us trying to put on this brave face. I have to admit. Justice definitely does seem more like a grown man and it's kind of sexy.
come with me.”
I can't see where Camilla and Lucca have run off too. We've lost them in the crowd of park goers who were still scattering away from the large beast. I can see Armando in the distance struggling to hold back Vigorosa and the Bat Chat camera people. That was a battle on in it's own.
Justice and Aiden run forward. The beast roars at them as it approaches. Coco circles around in the back with her hair wailing in the breeze. She pulls out her gun and is flanking the beast. Her aim is off. Usually Coco is one of the top shooters in the class. Hell she's usually top in the class when it comes to everything. She must be afraid. I can sense it. Her hands are damn near shaking. She's missing every shot she fires sending the bullets into the trees in the background.
The call comes from Justice. He is calling to me to come help. I cross my arms.
I stand still.
“He's not going to do anything,” Aiden states.
right. I wasn't going to do a damn thing. Aiden seems to realize
this first and I watch him climb up a tree close to the beast. He
climbs like a goddam monkey using retracting nails that act as claws
Justice seems to see what Aiden does and does the same thing up another tree. The two of them jump at the beast at the same time but only Aiden gets on it. Justice is flung to the ground. His body is like a rag doll to the beast.
Aiden clutches on the things back holding it like a rodeo. The thing has Justice in it's sights. I have to admit all this is rather amusing. I find my own tree but I lean up against it. I cross my arms and enjoy the show.
Justice lets out a hurling scream as he dodges beast not to sink it's fangs into him.
He continues to roll out of sight. The beast seems not to notice or care that Aiden is on it's back. It is going after Justice. I lowers it's head attempting over and over to get Justice in it's fangs. Justice is rolling around from side to side. No time to stand up! No time to even catch a breath. It's only a matter of time before Justice bites the dust.
Coco is doing more harm then good with her shots.
One of her bullets pierce Aiden who is on the Thirst. I hear him scream out a seering, “FUCK!”
I almost break out into full laughter when Aiden's arm goes limp from the bullet. He's hanging onto the beast with one arm and bleeding out. Coco drops her gun at that moment. The beast turns her way as though sensing her panic. It swipes one of it's large wings at her! Coco attempts to run but she doesn't get far. The swipe knocks her clear across the park and her body slams into the grass with a loud PLOP. She isn't moving. I wonder if she's dead.
Armando must notice because he goes out to help her. Hell the Thirst hit her all the way back there. It must be a strange sight because honestly I think the two of them probably have the most bitter past history. Armando had killed Coco's father back in the day to protect me. Now he was running to possibly save her life.
Vigorosa and her camera crew have no one to hold them back.
There are cameras in my face. They see me just standing there. Vigorosa makes some smart ass comments into the camera but I can't even hear them over the loud scream the beast makes at that moment. It is coming down on Justice. There are no bullets to distract it now. There is nothing to hold it down. I'll never forget the loud piercing thing that was a Thirst. I'll never forget how even Vigorosa who always does the most for her story was now clutching her pearls and falling to the ground without even touching it.
The thing is lowering his head on Justice. It's about to kill the Prince.
Then I see him.
He swings himself around with a stake in his mouth. His limp arm is useless but with his one good hand he scales the beast. He falls down to the chest of the Thirst and lets his arms go. His arms flail and I think he's crazy to swing from the back to the front of the Thirst. The thirst takes notice of him. It snaps at him attempting to kill him but it barely misses. Aiden is freefalling in FRONT of the Thirst right now and he DIGS his stake with his one good hand into the Thirst.
He hangs there with his hand on a stake and the stake in the thirst. His other bad hand is dangling at his side. The Thirst isn't moving. The stake isn't deep enough in his chest and he doesn't seem like he has the ability to push it further in.
That's when he comes up with strength. Somehow. Aiden uses his arm, the same arm that Coco shot off and he lifts it up. He nails his the stake deeper in with his hand slamming the thing as deep into the Thirst as possible.
The thirst falls down, backwards.
I'm not sure what happens at first. I'm not sure if it is going to get up again. I don't know it's over until I hear Vigorosa announce it to everyone.
King Aiden. King Aiden's killed the Thirst!”
That's when I see him. He's bloody but he manages to stand tall and it just so happens that he's standing over the fallen Thirst. His hair is glimmering in the red sky. His fangs are showing. He pulls his stake out. He lifts it into the air.
Then I realize.
If Aiden was just a hero before...he was a God now.
“What were you
We are summoned to the throne room by Nero. It's not hard to know what it was about. The Thirst at Chain Center park was top news. It was on every vampire show and Vigorosa's footage was being passed around like gold. Then there was Aiden...the hero of the day. He was standing like some type of God king. He was being praised like he was the next coming for killing that Thirst. I watch him now sitting on his throne next to Aiden. The rest of the King's Guard are in the room.
“Father we can explain,” Justice states.
Justice looks bad. No one looks as bad as Coco though. Coco barely dragged herself in this place. She's alive but just barely. Her left eye is closed and the once pretty face of hers looks more like the Thirst's personal destruction zone.
“Save it,” Nero responds, “The fighting was ineffective. You are supposed to be the Elite Guards. What so Elite about friendly fire and rolling around on the ground?”
He's attempting to go at Coco who shot Aiden. Justice spent most of the fight just dodging. I look at him and I honestly feel bad that Nero isn't being a little nicer to him. Justice actually did try. I mean he kept himself alive and for the most part wasn't badly injured. That took skill in itself.
The Countess Roxanne sighs in agreement with the King, “Half of them didn't even fight.”
I watch the team bow their heads. It's clear that they are embarrassed. I'm the only one who isn't bowing my head. I could care less. The rest of them look like they are some little boys who are getting screamed at by their dads. The other guards, the countess and the King are clearly disappointed. The failure of the team was broadcast all over the news. We were the laughing stocks of Eden. People were doing Justice impersonations on television calling it the “Stop, Drop and Roll.” The entire city was embarrassed for us...all except Aiden. I don't know how Aiden managed to kill the Thirst. I watch the news over and over trying to figure it out. Was it some type of crazy luck that he knew exactly where, when and how deep to stab the thing? Was it skill? It didn't matter. Aiden was sitting high.
“What was that about? Lucca and Camilla where were you,” Nero asks.
I struggle to hold back laughter. A slight sneer does come out though and Camilla notices it. She cuts her eyes to me hard before crossing her arms and stating, “We were helping to evacuate the park.”
“There were King's Guard doing that,” Nero responds.
“They ran,” Justice finally admits.
I'm glad he does because Camilla and Lucca look so dumb right now. For the first time they weren't the popular kids who everyone loved. People see them for the first time for exactly who they were. They were cowards. They hid behind stronger personalities. First they hid behind Coco, then they hid behind me and now they were hiding behind Aiden.
I'm not surprised when Aiden runs to take up for his favorite followers, “With all due respect we don't know that for sure. They could have been helping to clear the park out. There was chaos in the park and no one knew what to do.”
Justice looks at Aiden, “Are you fucking trying to throw me under the bus?”
That's exactly what he was trying to do. Aiden wasn't even being clear. He was trying to make it seem like Justice wasn't giving orders. He was giving orders. They just weren't being listened to. Justice was the youngest. No one respected him.
“Respect your King,” Nero responds to Justice.
All of a sudden it's not funny anymore. Not to me at least. Nero is protecting Aiden...the guy who was cheating on him with his son? I understood the whole political marriage but this was getting out of hand.
“You made me the leader of this team,” Justice tells Nero.
“You squandered it,” Nero responds, “If it wasn't for Aiden you'd all be dead. Where was Armando? Why didn't you use him? What kind of leader sits out the most experienced fighter? You were trying to get a name for yourself but instead you end up scurrying around the ground avoiding to get stepped on like a cockroach.”
Laughter breaks out. I feel so bad for Justice. Everyone is laughing even the Countess Roxanne. Even Lucca and Camilla are laughing at Justice. That's when I notice his face. Justice is upset. Justice is angry. His father had embarrassed him in a way that would belittle his authority to these people forever.
“QUIET!” Nero responds.
His voice is for everyone. I'm sure he didn't mean it as a joke and he's letting everyone know that. Everyone bows down at that moment. It's a powerful thing being a king. It's a powerful thing when you raise your voice and almost immediately everyone takes a knee.
I didn't get the memo.
“Something wrong with your legs Santos?” Aiden asks me.
He's pointing out to the fact that everyone shuttered over everyone.
“Santos....” Nero starts but he stops.
The others are all
looking at me. At that moment I think they are all worried about the
same thing. Everyone has gotten embarrassed. Everyone has gotten
chewed out. I had been the exception. The elder vampires were
around to know that Nero and I had something going in the past. The
younger vampires read the tabloids that were floating around the city
and probably wondered if they were true. Either way everyone had
suspicion that there was something between Nero and I, even if they
didn't know what it was.
“You are dear to me Santos and my husband as well, but what you did was beyond everyone else,” Aiden states.
Nero shuts down his husband, “I can deal with Santos...”
Deal with me?
“Are you sure?” Aiden responds.
Aiden's tone is clear. He's challenging Nero. I wonder if Nero is smart enough to pick that up. He's calling out Nero. Nero has been tough with everyone. It's my turn now. Aiden knows it, I know it, Nero knows it and everyone in the room knows it. They saw me on Vigorosa's program. They saw me, leaning up against a tree chilling while the rest of my team fought for their lives.
“In private,” Nero states.
“Nero,” Aiden starts to protest.
It's clear what he's going to say. Aiden is going to undermine Nero if Nero attempts to have this conversation with me in private. A part of me knows this. It's true I want to make Nero feel the same pain that I felt but it's also true that I wouldn't give Aiden the pleasure of being more loved than even King Nero to everyone.
Nero had to do his job. I knew that. He knew that. Aiden knew that. Everyone knew it.
I walk forward.
“Go ahead, King Nero. What do you have to say to me?”
Nero's voice starts off unsure at first as he speaks to me, “You were...wrong Santos. You left your team. You watched.”
I don't deny it, “Yes.”
Everyone is looking at me. Everyone wants to know the answer. I want to give it to them. I watched because I hated them. I hated every last one of them. I wanted all of them to die slow, painful deaths. I want them to feel the pain that I felt when I was buried alive for 100 years. I want Eden burned to the fucking ground and I want to stand over it's ashes.
But I can't tell them that. Not now. Right now I hold my tongue. I bite my lip.
“Is he with the Darkest?” Aiden asks.
My eyes glare at him. He knows better to speak my mother's name in public. Even speaking about her causes the other vampires to break out in a slow whisper. It makes people uncomfortable. Before the Thirsts there was Lilith.
Nero looks over at
me, “Of course not. Why would you suggest that Aiden?”
Nero was so blind. He didn't see what Aiden was doing. Aiden was getting people on his side. I watch as the King's Guard give Nero a questioning stare. They are doubting him. Aiden was planting these seeds of doubt right in front of everyone and Nero was falling right into the trap.
“He was standing there,” the countess Roxanne states, “King Nero with all due respect I think there is growing amounts of...concern when it comes to your friend Santos.”
“Do all of you feel this way?” Nero asks.
No one responds. Everyone is glaring. They are just staring.
“He looked like he was enjoying it,” King's Guard Livia finally states.
“You're a fucking idiot Livia,” Nero glares at her, “If this is what you all think then you're all idiots. This was his first battle. Santos was just afraid.”
“King Nero, as your adviser I'd ask you to please consider letting your friend speak for himself.”
They were all glaring at me. There was a sentiment. I was a reminder of the Darkest. I was a reminder of the thing they were all the most afraid of. The more they looked at me the more they saw it. I can see the looks in their eyes. Yes the sentiment was fear. I have to admit I expected this. This is the same reason they buried me under ground for 100 years. It wasn't because of anything that I had done. It was because I was Lilith's son.
It was because of this fucking sentiment.
I let the moment pass. I don't say anything. Fuck no I wasn't afraid. Yes I enjoyed it.
Nero nudges me on,
“Santos tell them you were afraid.”
Aiden is the only
one with the authority to say what everyone else is thinking at that
moment, “He didn't look afraid.”
Nero is looking at me. He puts a hand on my shoulder, “Tell them you were afraid Santos.”
“I was terrified. Shaking...in my boots,” I tell them.
I don't think I can sound any more sarcastic. Even still some seem a little relieved and others are probably a little more suspicious. I'd done what they wanted though. I gave them the reassurance that they wanted.
They could sleep well for one more night.
I open my fridge. I'm out of blood. I don't mind. I don't drink it much. I don't have a need for it like I've seen the other vampires. I'm bored. I can't put on the television because I know I'll see Vigorosa's annoying face talking about what happened today at the Chain Center park.
So I just sit around and nap only to be woken up to a slight knock on the door. I open it to see Justice standing there.
“Brought blood,” the voice says.
It's Justice. He's standing there. He has blood in his hands and a smile on his face.
thought I was going to turn into a Thirst for a minute.”
“Can I come in?”
“You think that's a good idea.”
Justice doesn't listen for me to respond. He walks into the room. He has on a tank top that is real nice and is showing off his muscles. I wonder if he is doing this on purpose. He has a few bruises that are showing and when he takes a seat in the chair in the living room he struggles. He hands me a bottle of blood. It is in one of those old milk cartons from back in the day. Nothing changes in Eden...I swear.
blood that came in today. A huge delivery. It's the first one in
Eden in a long time. People are getting more and more scared to get
out there. That means more Thirsts. We're going to get
“You come to chew me out about not fighting too huh?”
Justice leans back on the chair.
“Naw. If you call what my father did chewing you out then you must not notice when he talks to me,” Justice responds.
“He loves you, he's just tough.”
Justice laughs a little bit. He takes a deep sip of blood. I take one with him and sit on a chair next to him. His bright eyes stare at me every couple of minutes. He bites his lips every few.
“Naw, he loves
you,” Justice responds, “He looks at me as his
“Seriously. Vampires live forever. That makes it kind of hard when it comes to successors. The only way my father gets off the throne is if he steps down and goes into a vampire slumber or...if he's removed...”
I look over at Justice. He has this hard look on his face. It's crazy that he looks so much like his father. He's lighter of course with leaner tone but his his face looks so much alike. It's amazing to know how everyone dealt with their own issues. The relationship between Justice and his father was something that I'd never quite get, but then again I didn't have to. It was their strange competitive father-son relationship.
“You wouldn't do that right?” I ask.
“Clearly you love him to,” Justice states.
“Why would you think that?”
“I see how you look at him. I'd pay to have you look at me like that,” Justice responds, “Literally. How much do you want?”
I laugh. I can't lie. A part of me does feel something for Nero. A part of me will always feel something for Nero. Nero was married though. He was with someone else and if he thinks that the way him and I would get back together is by Eden loving me then he had another thing coming.
“You came here
to sweet talk me, I thought you were going to Aiden's parade that
Eden is throwing him.”
“It's actually just a dinner. The parade is tomorrow,” Justice responds.
I was joking.”
Justice shrugs, “People love him. If I had that amount of love, man...I'd be king now.”
“At least people don't hate you.”
“They don't hate you. They just...well...yeah I guess they hate you,” Justice responds.
I can't help but to laugh. This talk with Justice shouldn't be making me feel better but for some reason it's odd that we have something in common. Justice was the under appreciated son of an overbearing King and I was the son of a woman who people were terrified of.
“No shit,” I laugh.
We sit there together and laugh about it for a couple of minutes. It's nice to have someone who thinks this situation is amusing and not just sad. I was tired of being sad. It was nice to see another side of my depressing ass circumstances. Not everyone can say they'd been betrayed as much as I had and could laugh about it.
mother used to tell me stories about her.”
I sigh, “You can say her name. It's Lilith.”
He nods but still doesn't say her name, “I thought it was just a nighttime story, something to keep kids from going crazy. See I'd always known I was going to be a vampire. My father would come to visit me when I was a kid often. He was never some great father. He never loved my mother. He needed an heir and she was someone willing to give him one. Even back then though everyone was scared to leave Eden. Lilith was outside of Eden...”
“You don't think it's weird you are with her son?”
He shrugs, “Not necessarily. But I want to let you know...just because people are scared of you doesn't mean that they are bad people.”
I cross my arms. Now I understood why he was here tonight.
“This is about Chain Center Park?”
He nods, “I don't think you're scared but I don't think you're the Darkest either. I think you're somewhere in between. I think you need someone to grab you and pull you away from the darkness and I kind of want to be that person.”
Justice shakes his head.
“I watched you
almost get killed. I watched. If I wasn't scared then maybe that's
a sign that you should be...”
Justice shakes his head, “I feel like you look at me like you look at everyone. Blood sucking vampires. Literally. You think Eden is corrupt. You think there's nothing here worth saving. There is nothing here worth fighting for. That's why you didn't fight.”
He was right. He hit the head on the nail.
“When you're buried alive for 100 years and you're forgotten it may occur to you to stop caring about the people who did it to you,” I let him know.
Geneva can feel the cold breeze as the door of her house opens. She'd just returned to Eden that night. She'd seen the Darkest. Every time she saw the Darkest her eyes would burn afterwards. She cry tears of blood for several hours straight. It would stain her pillow. The Darkest had a strange effect on vampires. She'd told the Darkest that Santos was committed to her. The Darkest never responded...she never had a reason to.
Silence. Geneva stands to her feet and walks out. Her heart is beating. She couldn't trust anyone in Eden. People had forgiven that she was once a Rogue Vampire working for the Darkest but they hadn't forgotten. Every once in a while some vampire would challenge her in hopes of cleansing Eden again for what they called “Good Vampires.” Vampires that wanted to make peace.
What was peace? Geneva couldn't understand it. Her family had always raised her to understand what a real vampire was. Vampires shouldn't live in cities. They shouldn't get donated blood. They should hunt humans. That's what made vampires feel alive. That's why Geneva still served her.
She walks into the kitchen.
The lights are flickering. Someone was in here. Someone had snuck in.
“Show yourself,” she states.
“Relax it's just me,” the voice states.
She turns and sees her husband. Armando. He is standing there.
“Thank God you're ok,” she states.
“I'm fine,” Armando responds.
Armando doesn't give her a kiss. He doesn't hold her. Their relationship for the last 100 years wasn't that kind of relationship. Armando had one concern and only one concern. Santos. That's all he cared about. Geneva wasn't silly enough to think that Armando truly loved her the way she loved him. She knew that Armando had a reason for keeping her so close. He had a reason to marry her and that reason was the same reason that it had always been.
He'd done it for Santos.
“I saw Santos
on Bat Chat,” Geneva states, “He's getting darker.”
“Not dark enough,” Armando responds.
Armando nods, “Yes. He thinks I betrayed him. He got darker, but still not dark enough. I shut him in a room with a Thirst that I knew he could kill. I did just enough for him to think that I really wanted him dead.”
Geneva was confused. Why was it taking Santos so long to become dark?
“He still has a soul even after he thinks you betrayed him?”
Armando nods, “My
son hates me for nothing. I figured it would push him over the edge.
It almost worked. Nero I expected but Santos seems to have a wall
up when it comes to Nero. I didn't expect Justice.”
Geneva sighs, “Prince Justice?”
“Yes. They've taken to each other. I just followed Santos. I saw him walking the city with Justice. They were smiling, laughing. He's giving Santos hope. As long as Santos feels love he won't be able to do what he needs to do.”
Geneva crosses her arms, “We kill Justice?”
Armando crosses his arms, “Yes or find a way to remove him from the picture.”
Geneva smiles at the thought. Armando hadn't always been a Rogue but when they had buried his son 100 years ago he had approached her. He wanted revenge and he wasn't going to let them take it from him.
“What if Santos can't do it? What if Santos can't destroy the Lucky ones and let Lilith into Eden? What if he just isn't Dark enough?”
Armando grabs her by the collar. There was nothing more upsetting to Armando than doubting Santos. She knew that and truthfully she ignored it. Geneva had her doubts about Santos. Santos had so many opportunities to truly become the true son of Lilith. He was the dark prince, the vampire Jehovah. He should be turning getting revenge but instead he was out here playing with matters of the heart.
“If you doubt my son, I'll kill you,” Armando tells his wife with the coldest demeanor, “My son must be reduced to think everyone is against him. He will be reduced to ashes and from those ashes he will rise up. He will be a flaming Phoenix. He will have his justice. He will have his revenge. I'll make sure that everyone who hurt Santos will be hurt in return. These fuckers messed with the wrong one 100 years ago and I'll make sure they'll pay for it. Out of his pain he will rise up. My beautiful Phoenix. He is the only thing that matters. My flaming phoenix. He will have his revenge. Eden will burn.”
“It was always
him wasn't it? The reason you're still alive. The reason
Their marriage meant nothing. Armando had married her because she was the only one who hated Eden as much as Armando did. But Geneva hated Eden because she was loyal to Lilith. Armando could give a fuck less about Lilith. He could care less about Geneva. He only cared about Santos getting what Santos deserved.
It was no surprise when Armando opens his mouth and whispers, “Always.”
He throws her to the
ground with not even the slightest care.
Geneva knew then by the passion in his eyes that Armando would never love her. Armando couldn't love her. There was a madness in his eyes. She wouldn't acknowledge just how truly sick Armando had become.
Armando could never love Geneva because he was in love with his own son.
To read the next chapter in advance go to www.crushedcrown.com