I was thankful that the stupid bear wasn’t coming with us. It wasn’t going to go well if I had to constantly play the brawn game. Ged was living up to the redneck bumble fuck that I thought of his name when Victor introduced us. And I wasn’t really in the mood to deal with guys like him. I didn’t mind being called names in most cases but sometimes from some people I went off on it like before.
We had to shadow walk and I was trying my best not to puke my guts out when a cute brunette walked into the room we had appeared in. Her eyes were stunning for being brown and I could see the shadows shifting around her. I gave her my best grin while I stayed bent over taking deep breaths. I hated shadow walking.
She chuckled softly and when I stood up there was a glimmer in her eye that hadn’t been there before. I held out my hand and she took it gently and I raised it to my lips to place a kiss on the third knuckle. “You must be Aurora Dejesus. A pleasure.”
Aurora laughed. “You are correct. And you must be Nox Sétanta. Our Ant has much to say about you.”
“Ant talks about me?” I asked. I found it odd to be saying.
Ant groaned, “Please don’t Aurora, that was years ago.”
“Now I have to know.” I said.
The small woman put her arm through my elbow, “Come, let us speak of Ant. He was always a good boy. His mother is too hard on him. He rebels in the sweetest ways.”
“Are you saying I’m a rebellion? Or I was.”
That sweet smile never left her lips as she spoke, “You were an accident. One that I think his mother finds rather useful.”
“Great! Now I’m a useful accident.” I sighed. “I was an unplanned accident too, wonder if they were related.”
“What one perceives as an accident is another’s miracle.” Aurora said with all the old wisdom of her years. She was one of Il Cane’s makers. She was one of the oldest vampires known to live. She was second generation embraced. Her lover and husband was her maker. Salvador Einor was a first generation embraced vampire. He was one of the first to ever be created. He was powerful in fear and he was the defacto leader of the vampire council. But he was not the ruling body. The council still had to agree. Which was why there was Cari. They made her to do the dirty work.
The enforcers ensured behavior. The enforcers were the ones you had to be afraid of because if they knew you were being a bad little vampire, you were dead. There was no questions asked. There were no trials. If the enforcers got your name, you were dead.
I didn’t have a problem with that. It was vampire law. Vampire versus vampire. It wasn’t our law sitting on top and executing. Whatever they wanted to do to their own kind was none of my business.
Ant sighed, pulling me from my thoughts. “He does that often. It’s no wonder Devin is fond of listening in. I only wish my powers were better.”
Aurora laughed. “He’s a boy, Ant, with many things going on. He’s entitlled moments to think.”
“He disappears all the time. Get’s lost in thought.”
She shook her head. “Let him.”
Ant closed his mouth and nodded. He didn’t say another word.
I apologized. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to.”
Aurora smiled at me, “Nox, it is acceptable. We weren’t discussing anything of import.”
“Still I’m sorry.”
Aurora let go of my elbow and sat down in a plush couch and patted the cushion next to her. “Join me.”
I sat down close to the stunning brunette. She smiled at me. “I am no threat.”
I laughed. “Says the second oldest vampire I’ve met.”
“It’s never polite to mention someone’s age, but who do you have you meet that’s older than I? If you think it’s Damian you are sadly mistaken. It’s not Desmond or Armand either.”
“I’m a New York City hunter, Ms. Dejesus. I’ve met Bernstein once or twice.”
“Pffshaw. The man is centuries younger than me. Did you meet Sal while you were in Dangdburgh? And if you don’t call me Aurora, I will be forced to call you Mr. Viddens or Mr. Sétanta and I’m aware that you dislike those designations.”
“Alright, Aurora. No I didn’t meet him. I was otherwise engaged for most of my stay.” I winked at Ant and he groaned.
Aurora’s golden brown eyes sparkled in the firelight. “Tying our little prince up in bonds so tight.”
Ant cleared his throat and got up and left the room. “I don’t have to put up with this,” were his parting words. Ryan took his vacated seat, Isabel sat on the floor next to him. Vincent left with Ant.
Ant’s blonde friend was grinning madly at me. Ryan chuckled as he spoke, “Ant’s a little touchy when it comes to you.”
“He was a lot touchy if I remember correctly.”
Ryan choked on his laughter and gave the blonde a wink before turning my attention back to Aurora. “Why is Valence attacking Damian?”
Aurora sighed. “You remind me of a little vampiress I used to know. Always wanting to get down to business when there was fun to be had.”
Ryan calmed his fit of laughter before he interjected. “He’s not as bad as Cari, Aurora. Nox enjoys fun and games. But he’s right. He attacked us in Cari’s villa. This can’t stand. Cari won’t allow it.”
“I won’t let him attack the other supernatural races either. He went after Isabel’s coven and the bears in Rome. I don’t know what goes around here for cooperation, but at home that’s an act of war. And that’s what Cari wanted me to prevent.”
Aurora sighed. “We misled our Enforcer a little. The war rages despite her knowledge. We’ve kept it from the New World as long as possible, but it’s spreading there. We needed her here. Instead she sends you.” Aurora smiled. “A far better prospect – a neutral party. No longer Venatori.” She tapped the tattoo on my temple. “But kind to all creatures.”
“Cari told me I was to be the diplomatic one.”
Aurora laughed. She stood up and walked to one end of the room and poured a glass of bourbon. At least that’s what I thought it was, it wasn’t in a marked bottle. “We need a neutral power house, not a diplomat.”
“So you lied to Cari to get me here?” I was skeptical, “Why me?”
“I know everyone keeps informing you of prophecy and fate with a little mix of destiny. But I will tell you the same thing when Carissa first came to us and asked ‘why me?’ The answer is simple. You are you. Has nothing to do with prophecy or destiny. It has nothing to do with how you came to be this person, right here, right now. You are here because you followed your path. You made the decision whether it was conscious or not, but you made each one. You came here to find yourself. Tell me have you lost yourself?”
“How did you know that?” I asked.
“I know a few things child.” Aurora smiled at me. She handed me a cold beer. “I don’t have your brand.”
“This is fine.” I took a sip of the cold liquid and it went down smoothly.
“Tell me, Nox. Did you lose yourself?”
I shrugged. “I’ve lost my way.”
“But you are here. You aren’t lost. The tattoo changed you did it?”
“No. It changed my life.”
“How?” Aurora asked simply as she sipped her bourbon next to me.
“I’m brok,e save for the money in my accounts. I’m not making anything at all. I have no job. I live with my boyfriend and the boys, so I’m at least not homeless.”
“You mean you make no money. You feel like a leech. You have no purpose in life. Being a stay-at-home parent and mate is never easy. Why did you choose it?”
“I haven’t chosen anything.”
“What would you choose to do differently?” Aurora asked.
“I need to keep doing this. I feel alive doing this. Hunting, saving people, keeping the world safe. This is all I know.”
“So don’t stop, Nox. The world always needs heroes.”
“A Hero doesn’t pay.” I sighed.
“Do you think I’m good with money? Or even this modern world?” Aurora asked. “Or Cari, and even Ant or Ryan. We are thousands of years old collectively yet we do not worry about our jobs. Why do you think that is?”
Ryan clapped his hands together. “I know that one. Because Terry is a stock market god. And Jack knows his way around tech , and Larry makes the deals happen. And Allison handles everything else.”
I laughed, “You are saying I need to pay someone to handle what money I have.”
Aurora smiled. “Payment doesn’t have to be in monetary means but yes. Cari’s Doc, he has a research lab that Cari fully funds as his payment. Jack gets the best equipment known to man. Ryan tell Nox, what your payment is.”
Ryan smiled. “My sister’s eternal life and mine too.”
“I have nothing to offer anyone.”
“You can offer your protection. What you do for free now, for your family. It extends to others, like Ant, and the wolf packs of New York. Require payment or tribute. Not monetary. Dominic Olmos surely has a stock market guru in his pack. Or Sheridan. “ Aurora smiled. “Nox, you don’t need to find yourself. You know exactly who you are. You need to blend into human existence. And you are not human. We don’t have to follow their rules.”