Authors: Jackie Ivie
Tags: #warlord, #Paris catacombs, #vampire assassin romance, #vampire short story, #vampire series, #vampire romance
A Forever Mate
by Jackie Ivie
A Vampire Assassin League Novella
“We Kill for Profit”
th in series
Copyright 2014, Jackie Ivie
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portion thereof, in any form. This book may not be resold or uploaded for distribution to others.
This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
One small word, in tiny font appeared on his monitor. It sent an eerie yellow glow into his cavernous chamber. Sebastian watched the word flicker on his monitor for a few moments before he typed his answer.
‘I detest Paris.’
The answer was immediate. In bolder font.
You detest most things.
‘You know the reason.’
Inconsequential. Your assignment is in Paris.
‘Give it to someone else.’
‘I’m in Bruges.’
Grab a cell.
The screen went dark. The chamber about him lost its lone source of illumination as the little blue connection light faded. Sebastian reached for the eight-pack of slim-phones in his back pocket. He pulled one out. He didn’t like phones, either, but it was now his fault.
He’d listed his location.
On the World Wide Web.
Where it could be traced.
He’d probably have to move to the caverns beneath Castle Venderlyn now. He pondered that while he waited. It wasn’t much of an issue. All his homes were pretty much the same, richly-furnished. Private. Quiet. Dark. They were all deep in the ground beneath ancient castles that doubled as sometime-inns. That disguised his electrical usage. And any errant smoke... if he made a fire in a fireplace.
. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d made a fire. No need for the light, the heat, or the ambiance. The phone in his palm vibrated. He slid the receiver open and put it to an ear.
His name came with authority and power, as if intoning a lengthy sentence. It also carried a hint of amusement. He was dealing with the head of the Vampire Assassin League. One of Akron’s attributes was a powerful voice. The speaker on Sebastian’s cell phone crackled with bass tones. Sebastian smirked before mimicking the greeting. Exactly.
“You have an assignment. In Paris.”
“It involves a politician.”
Sebastian hesitated, momentarily paused. He detested Paris, but he really hated politicians. “Have someone else do it.”
“Actually... I should clarify some more. The assignment actually entails a bit of sex and sleaze along with the politics.”
“I’m trying to pique your interest.”
Sebastian clicked the lid shut on his credit-card sized phone. His entire back pocket jolted with the reaction as more than one cell phone rang. He reached back and pulled the pack out, slid out another. Opened it. Put it to his ear.
“Don’t hang up on me again, Sebastian. You won’t enjoy the consequences.”
Sebastian considered his options. None of them were acceptable. He’d discovered that back in the seventeenth century when he’d physically fought Akron.
“Why me?” he asked finally.
“Like I said... you’re closest.”
“There are eight associates in France.”
“And I’m closest?”
Akron chuckled. “I really do like you, Sebastian. You’re quick. Argumentative. Confident. And entirely too stuck in your ways. This is your hit. Trust me.”
“Whoa. I can’t believe my ears, Sir. He’s telling you no. You.”
That sounded like Nigel, the youngest assassin, and the most annoying. That wasn’t amusing. Sebastian hadn’t known Nigel was listening in. There was a bit of silence before Akron answered.
“I believe I’m getting that message as well, Nigel. Thank you for bringing it up.”
“What did he do?” Sebastian asked.
“Oh. Him. He hired us.”
“A politician hired us? Why? He can’t win an election without bumping off his opponent?”
“Nothing like that. It’s more in the sex and sleaze arena. You see... our client recently wed a beautiful young woman. Let me place the emphasis on young. And beautiful. She’s sexy. Exotic. She barely speaks his language. I believe she is what is called a ‘trophy wife’ in his circle.”
“Sounds like the sex part is covered.”
“And she’s insatiable.”
“Oh. No. You misunderstand. Our man is – to put it delicately – mature. He is not keeping his wife satisfied. And then he exacerbated the situation by hiring several young, fit, male bodyguards. Is this making sense to you, yet?”
“Let me guess. These bodyguards are doing a bit too much close body work with the wife, nobody signed a pre-nup, and our man likes his money and his career. So, who is the hit? The wife?”
“Oh. No. Our politician adores her. He almost wishes he hadn’t hired a private investigator and learned the extent of his wife’s nymphomania.”
“Right. Sounds like a case of true love. So... the hit is on the so-called bodyguards? How many are we talking?”
“You’re getting ahead of me, Sebastian. You need to look a little deeper. Politicians hide from bad publicity. He actually hired the P.I. so he could ascertain what kind of damage might come out if he does run for office.”
“Well, of course. Politicians are usually thinking ahead. So. It’s the wife
the bodyguards, then? Does he own a small private plane? It can be quick. Clean. Untraceable. Hell, even Nigel could handle it.”
“What? Now, hang on a minute! Just because I’m not as big and bad as some of you guys does not make me incompetent. Sir. Let me handle it. Please? I really need the experience.”
“Nigel. Has it ever occurred to you that certain things might be said in your hearing to get a certain reaction?”
“All the time, Sir.”
“Then, perhaps you could consider ignoring Cole’s words this time?”
“What reaction would the big-bad, barbarian, Sebastian Cole, be looking for?”
“Oh... I would hazard a guess that he’s searching for something that might get him off the hook on this assignment. And look there. You jumped right onto the bait.”
“But I could handle this hit. You should let me.”
“I already said it. This is Sebastian’s hit. Trust me. We’re out of time. Sebastian. You still there?”
“Grab another phone.”
The line went dead. Sebastian put the phone on the table next to his laptop. He’d crush it later. The VAL always used disposable cell phones and non-traceable numbers. He almost had the next phone opened before it vibrated.
“Sebastian? Good. Apologies. I don’t usually waste so much time and words. Your hit is actually the private investigator. Harold Bracket. He wins the sleaze prize this go-around. Apparently, he decided to try his hand at blackmail. And if our politician doesn’t cough up the funds, the file on the wife is going public. That is something our client refuses to allow. I charged him triple what the P.I. was asking, because we’re doing a clean-up of all files afterwards. He said it’s worth it.”
“Money doesn’t matter to me.”
“I know. Oh. And Sebastian?”
“Stay out of the catacombs.”
He slapped the lid shut and flung the phone. The crunch as it shattered against a wall was loud. But it wasn’t satisfying.
Harold Bracket appeared to be an excellent private investigator. He was a hair under average height... perhaps five foot seven. He had a bald spot at the crown of his head that he covered over with a ‘comb-over’ effect. He could be extremely fit, but he disguised it beneath nondescript dungarees that needed washing, a dark-toned, button-up shirt, and a faded denim jacket. He’d been hard to locate in the dark streets and alleys he’d decided to inhabit this evening.
If his killer was afoot, Harold would be difficult to track as well.
Sebastian tilted his head to one side as he peered down into the tenth alley in as many minutes. He was atop the railing of a fire escape this time. Next to the brick wall of some four story tenement. Just below the roof eave, using it for shadow. Harold and his prey were moving rapidly now. That was interesting. The P.I. was obviously on a case, continually stalking a jittery young man who appeared to be under the influence of some psychedelic drug. It was actually easier to track the druggie and then back-track to Harold’s location.
The private investigator also seemed to have a sixth-sense about his environment. More than once he’d appeared to check about surreptitiously, as if aware he was under scrutiny, but unable to verify. He had a nasty habit of chain-smoking, however. And an equally nasty cough. He was probably flirting with some cardio-pulmonary disease if he wasn’t already suffering it. That might explain his foray into blackmail. He might be looking to retire... before the cancer killed him.
Looked like he was handling a mercy killing, not just a hit. That should alleviate some of the gloom that surrounded him.
Out here, it was hard to think of Paris as the city of light. Or the capital of love. Or a city of life. Verve. Imagination. No. To him, Paris was dark. Distasteful. Ugly. And the longer he lingered, the more the bitterness grew. Something perverse made it happen, too. He could have taken out Harold any number of times, but something made this delay part of his penance.
To Sebastian, Paris was a reminder of failure.
He dropped soundlessly to the railing below him, and then the one beneath that, hovering at the second floor fire escape. Just above Harold’s head. The guy was coughing again, shoving his face beneath the right lapel of his jacket, apparently trying to keep it quiet. Somewhere in the street he watched, Harold’s junkie was buying a fix. Maybe even shooting it up. Sebastian didn’t look. He didn’t care. He’d finished wasting time.
He dropped into the spot before Harold. The guy looked up, and then stumbled back, reacting instantly to the threat. He had a wicked-looking blade in one hand, too. Sebastian grinned.
“Good eve, Harold,” he said.
“Who the hell are you?”
He’d been off a bit on Harold’s height. The fellow was diminutive. Or Sebastian’s six foot, six inch size was larger than it used to be. He looked down at the fellow, and his smile broadened. This time he let his canines grow. He watched Harold’s eyes grow larger. Round. Harold worried needlessly. Sebastian wasn’t fond of nicotine.
“I believe tonight... you can call me... Reaper,” Sebastian said. And then he smacked Harold right in the chest.
The P.I. snapped back several feet, both hands clutching at his chest as if that could restart his heart. He made gulping noises, while his mouth worked to suck at air. His eyes were still wide as he sank to the ground at their feet, but he wasn’t seeing anything. He was dead before he hit the mud. Face first. If all went well, the medical unit would suspect a heart attack and fail to check for postmortem bruising under the skin.
Sebastian didn’t truly care. It was over. He headed now toward the one place Akron had told him not to. The underground city of the dead. Officially the Ossuary of Paris, but always called the catacombs.
Because his penance included this, as well.
It took him awhile to reach the right area. It wasn’t due to incompetence, or loss of direction. His approach slowed as he neared the arrangement of human bones that decorated the walls of the catacomb. It was as if his feet were mired in quicksand, bogging him down. Making each movement more difficult. More poignant. Blacker. The tunnels hadn’t been crafted for a man of his size, either. He’d stooped more than once, and even that dragged at him.
And then he was there.
At the place where the bones from the Church of Saint Nicolas des Champs had been placed.
The place that held
His Isabelle. His wife.
Sebastian put his head back and howled, the sound echoing and re-echoing back to him. It didn’t matter. The catacombs were empty this time of night. The tunnels leading to this section had all been black. Eerie. They didn’t have much light in this area but that didn’t hamper him. He found the marker:
“OSSEMENTS DE LANCIEN CIMETIERE ST NICHOLAS DES CHAMPS DEPOSES DE 1843... TRANSFERES DANS LES CATACOMBES...”
Sebastian went to his knee before it.
This plaque was all he had to show that Isabelle’s remains had been ripped from her grave, piled onto a cart for transportation, and then dumped into a tunnel that held millions of bones. Nobody had kept track of names. Dates. Grave markers. Sebastian faced a sea of bones. He didn’t even know which ones were hers.
This was the reason he hated politicians. They were the ones allowing this desecration, this transfer, the creation of this macabre display. They’d needed the ground for the living. The dead could simply move.
Sebastian bent his head down, his view taking in the scuffle of footprints on the dirt beneath his knee. The area had seen a lot of foot traffic recently. He didn’t know why anyone bothered. Images were available in graphic detail on any internet search. And yet, they’d made the bones of his beloved nothing more than a tourist attraction.
. He really detested Paris.
If he had sensation, he’d probably feel grief, experience pain... maybe even rage. But all that was gone. Just like his Isabelle. She’d been lost the moment he left her side. Isabelle had been stricken by the plague. Nobody could help. Nobody would even approach. So Sebastian had washed her body down with water, wrapped her in sumptuous blankets, and gone on a quest.
Sebastian was a rare creature. He hadn’t been saved from death by a vampire bite. He’d been healthy, strong, and desperate. He’d actively pursued tales and sightings of the monstrous creatures. And one night, Akron had appeared. Sebastian had begged and pleaded and been granted his wish. He needed immortality. For her.
But it had taken time. He’d been too late.
And this was the result.
He stood, and bent to dust his knee. He’d picked up several sharp shards on his leather trousers. As if someone had broken something glass-like. They pricked his fingers as he brushed. It stung slightly. Sebastian turned his hand over and watched as the tiny cuts closed up and disappeared.
For a moment there, he’d almost felt... something. Sebastian lifted his head and looked down one tunnel and then the other direction. Nothing but rows of arranged bones, dimness that led to more of the same, silence that had a weight to it. He hadn’t noticed it before, but the temperature was cooler down here. Almost chilly. It wasn’t bothersome. It was simply an observation. Sebastian shook his head. He was imagining. Vampires didn’t feel anything. Never had. Never would.
He took a deep breath. Held it for long enough it pained. Released it. He might as well leave. He’d done what he came to do. Harold Bracket was dead. The League was at work erasing files and eliminating evidence at his office and his home. And he’d paid his respects to his one true love. His life.
His heart thumped heavily at the thought. And then it did it again.
On the third beat Sebastian’s mouth went wide, stretching his jaw. His eyes followed. His limbs went weak next. His legs wobbled. And then he dropped onto both knees. His sword landed somewhere beside him. He watched it without really seeing it.
Was it possible?
He was breathing?
Oh. This was bad. This only happened if a vampire found their one true mate. The one creature designated throughout time for them. He couldn’t have a mate. He’d already had one. He’d loved Isabelle too deeply. She owned his heart. She always would. Gooseflesh raced along his skin next, lifting bumps. Sebastian tried to stop the shivers. He tightened every muscle. Held his chest from inhaling. Willed his heart to cease beating. Tried to force the reanimation to cease.
All that happened was a repetitive dull pounding as his heart hammered away in his chest, while his muscles grew cramped and angered. He gave a huge sigh, retrieved his sword, and gained his feet. There was nothing for it. The pull of it was too strong. He’d have to go find her. Maybe even mate with her.
And try not to hate her, too.