Welcome back to Olivia Owens and her vampire series Soulless
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Windows of the Soulless
Her hand glides up my neck and to the base of my skull. She pulls my face to hers, kissing me softly. Placing my hand in the small of her back, I draw her to me. Her wet dress drips water onto my shoe, making a quiet tapping sound. But I pay no attention to that, instead I am focused on the way her body conforms to mine, the way her hands pull my shoulders toward her, the way a heat courses through my body as our kissing becomes more passionate.
As she arches her head back, I kiss her chin and then make my way down to her chest, lifting her up slightly as I do. Knowing I shouldn’t, I rake my teeth along her neck and to her chin, biting gently. She gasps and presses herself into me as chills form on her arms.
Even with the distraction of my lust for Claire, I have a gnawing feeling that we are not alone. My senses heighten at the potential threat, and I gently pull her away from me. “Wait,” I whisper.
I listen intently but hear nothing. I look around but see only cows. No movements. No noise.
“What’s wrong?” Claire asks, knowing enough to keep her voice down.
I hush her. I can feel it deep inside, the same way I sense the other vampires that we live with. I can feel their presence, predatory, powerful, and ravenous. But these are not just any vampires—these are nomads.
My heart drops into my stomach. Nomads are the vampires the humans write their horror stories about. Creatures stripped down to their most basic instinctual desires. Animalistic and savage, they have lost every hint of the humanity that tames us. Filling their nights with blood and lust, they leave nothing but death in their wake.
“Hide,” I whisper to Claire, keeping my eyes on the trees.
“What do you mean? What’s happening?”
Grabbing her shoulders with both my hands, I urge her, “Go to that pond over there. Go under the water and don’t come up until I call for you.”
It will be a challenge, but it is imperative that she hide, and hide well. Staying under the water will conceal her from sight and mask her delectable aroma. That is, if they have not already seen her.
I’m trying to find the balance in my voice between expressing concern and plain begging, but she must hear my fear because she responds, “Tell me what’s wrong.”
It is not fear for myself that I feel. Claire would not survive an encounter with a nomad by herself. Not even a young one.
“I don’t have time to explain. Just do what I ask,” I stress to her. “Please.”
She stares at me for a moment, thinking, but we do not have a moment to spare.
“Go,” I whisper.
Nodding, she steps back. “Be safe,” she says, though she does not know what I am about to do. She turns and runs to the pond. I am sure the water is frigid, but that does not seem to affect her as she wades in until she’s chest deep in the murky water. Watching me, she takes a deep breath and submerges herself completely. The water ripples away from where she just was, but otherwise there is no indication that she was ever here.
I turn my attention back to the trees across the field and walk out into the pouring rain. It streams down my face and hands, soaking my clothes and dripping from my hair.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” I taunt. Then, from the trees, she emerges, slow and creeping. Like a predator watching its prey, she keeps her gaze on me as she walks into the field. Her long black hair hangs over her face, but the part I can see has a pink, rosy glow, meaning she has fed recently. Her large eyes are a piercing green, probably baiting her usual victims.
Her body flows effortlessly across the grass toward me. Stopping near me, she pushes her hair behind her ear, exposing the rest of her face.
“Looky what I found,” she teases. She slides her finger from my temple to my chin. “A native. How delightfully quaint.”
I grab her hand, moving it away from my face. I suppose it would be easy for some to get lost in her sultry voice, but she does not fool me. I know that drifters like her typically travel in pairs, and if she distracts me, another will swoop in for the kill.
“Where’s your friend?” I ask her directly.
She smiles maliciously. “Shouldn’t we get to know each other a little before we indulge in a trio?” She walks around me, trailing her hand along my shoulders. “I’ll start. I’m Jade. I’m a Capricorn. I enjoy blood, sex, violence, and death.” Which is exactly why we cannot have her killing at will here. “And you would be lying if you said you didn’t like it, too.”
She’s right, that would be a lie, and I hate myself for it. As she comes back around to the front of me, I grab both her wrists. “Do you think your friend will come out if I kill you? Would it try to stop me?” I press her back into the trunk of a tree forcefully. “Call it out now,” I order her.
“It? Is that any way to talk about a lady?” As if any ladylike part of them remains. She glances toward the trees and calls out, “Kirah, come here.”
As I let go of Jade’s wrists, a stunning dark-skinned beauty walks toward us. Her short curly hair is weighed down by the rain yet still hangs only to her shoulders. Her solid black eyes are intense and fierce and fixed on me. Stopping a few yards from us, she exposes her fangs in a hungry smile.
I shift quickly into my vampire form, but before I can move, I feel Jade’s fingernails slice through my sleeve, cutting into my bicep. I raise my foot up and kick her in the chest, knocking her into the tree. Kirah leaps on me, knocking me down onto my side. She wraps her legs around me and squeezes them together, crushing my rib cage. I swing my arm around and strike her head hard enough to throw her to the ground beside me.
As Jade runs toward me, I grab Kirah by the ankle and swing her around, slamming her into Jade, knocking them both down. I jump on top of Kirah with my fangs exposed. Grasping both of her hands, I lean toward her throat, but Jade flips over my back, grabbing me and tossing me into another tree.
I am on my feet in time to move away from the trunk, causing Jade to punch it instead. A powder of wood chips spreads into the air around her fist. Placing my hand on the back of her head, I shove her face into the tree, breaking her nose.
Kirah brings her leg around, making contact with my abdomen. As I fall backward, she swings her arm behind me, propelling me to the ground on my stomach.
When Jade stomps at me, I roll onto my back away from her. But as I do, Kirah grabs both of my wrists and holds them above my head. Before I can do much about it, Jade sits on top of me. She pushes my head aside, exposing my neck.
I know a way out of this, but I do not like it. I pull my hands through Kirah’s tight grip, dislocating my wrists and breaking several of the bones in my hands, screaming through the pain. I sit up and punch Jade in the mouth, knocking her away from me. But as I do, I hear the swishing of water and someone taking in a deep breath.
Without looking, I know it’s Claire, and I’m not the only one who hears her. Jade and Kirah look at her standing chest deep in the pond. They leap to their feet. As they start toward Claire, I hit the side of Kirah’s knee with my fist and feel a bone pop. She falls to the ground, and I know this is my opportunity to end her life, but I am more worried about Jade going for Claire.
I jump to my feet and vault up into the tree, landing on a branch. Jade runs at Claire as I snap a twig off. With my fingernails, I peel the bark off, scratching the stick into a sharp point in one quick motion. I fling it at Jade and it flips through the air toward her. Just as Claire flinches away from her, the twig impales Jade’s heart through her back.
Jade arches her back, falls forward, and turns to ash in front of Claire. All around Claire the stick and remnants of ash from Jade’s body float. The look on Claire’s face is one I have seen on others before. It is fear and shock.
I cannot dwell on this, because Kirah looks up at me and hisses angrily. I leap out of the tree close to her, put my arm around her neck in a head-lock, and drive my knee into her face. Kirah digs her fingernails deep into the back of my thigh and drags them down, carving gouges in my hamstrings. I throw her to the ground and with a quick kick to her ribs, send her flying into a tree trunk.
She stands up and bounds up into the tree. With the pouring rain making it difficult to keep my eyes open when I’m looking up at her, I lose her in the treetops.
Before I can think about how that is a rookie mistake, she jumps onto my back. Even though I move quickly, her fangs scratch my neck as I pull her over my shoulder.
She scrambles to her feet and swings her fists wildly at my face. I block most of her punches but a few make contact.
Placing one hand on her shoulder, I strike her with an uppercut, except my fingers are extended so they pierce her gut. I thrust them up through her abdomen and diaphragm until I reach what I am searching for. She shrieks painfully and pushes against me, to no avail. Squeezing hard, I crush her heart in my hand and she turns to ash with my arm still inside her.
I wipe the blood and ash from my hand onto my pants and look at Claire as the scratches on my neck disappear. Her hand is over her mouth, and her eyes are wide, but she does not have a scrape on her.
Though the back of my leg is still bleeding and aching, I walk to the edge of the pond without so much as a limp. I sit down along the water’s edge, letting the rain run over me.
“Are you all right?” Claire asks, walking through the water toward me.
Excusing the fact that both of my hands and wrists are throbbing and will not heal for about another thirty minutes, I figure I am fine, so I nod and ask, “Are you?”
“I think so.” She smiles half-heartedly. “Physically, anyway.” She sits down close by, facing me with her legs still in the water. “I was scared there for a while.”
I turn her face toward mine. “I won’t let anything happen to you. I promise.” I immediately regret saying that, as I am not very good at keeping my promises.
She tells me, “I thought you were hurt.” I was. “I thought you might lose.” I could have. “I thought it would be my fault.”
“If it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t even be out here.”
“Claire, stop talking,” I say gently, and I take her hand. “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be a lot of things. And I’m not sure how happy I would be, either.”
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