Penance
Part Thirteen
The Road to Hell is Always Paved
By: Stephanie J. Bardy

Ash and his friends had removed Marlon to a new location. No one spoke of it and Reese refused to know where he was, to protect him from Adrian. They spent the days after, going over the "Family Tree," or so Jordan called it. Tiana called it the Legend of The First Ones. Reese just called it The List. The more Jordan talked about his time with Adrian, the more familiar it began to sound. She had been drawn to him, from the start. He had been standing across the street, sunglasses in place, white linen suit moving slightly in the breeze that wove it's way seductively down Bourbon Street. It was midnight but he seemed to have a glow about him. Like the sun had kissed him before dipping below the horizon to sleep, leaving behind a piece of itself on his cheek. She felt what he was long before he walked, or more like sauntered, over to her.

"You smell new." He said with a delicious Cajun drawl. Reese scowled up at him and wrinkled her nose.

"You smell like death." She replied. "And you have blood and bits of your last meal on your collar." Her stomach fluttered and she had this overwhelming urge to pull him closer, but she turned on her heel and walked away.

He watched her go for a few feet then grinned.

"You know you don't want to go down there." He whispered into her mind. It stroked things deep within her and she stopped walking. She was taken off guard by his ability to mind speak. She could do it with Marlon but had never met someone else who could. When he spoke to her again, he was right behind her. His breath slithered down her neck and stirred the hair at her nape. She shivered slightly as if she were cold and leaned back against him. When her back touched his chest, she startled out of the spell he seemed to have her under.

"You feel it too don't you cher?" he said softly. She took a slight breath and heard him gasp. She smiled. She still had her power. Could still take what she wanted, no matter how he made her body feel.

She had control for awhile, or so she thought. She clouded Marlon's mind to keep him away. Sent him on wild goose chases looking for her. She put up her shields so he could no longer feel her, but she kept tabs on him. She had hoped that he would eventually give up and find joy or at least some kind of peace of his own. But he didn't. He continued to pursue her.

Adrian and Reese tore up the city. Literally. They left body after body in their wake. They felt like Gods with no regard for human life. Young, old, it didn't matter. They relished in the blood. They drank their fill then bathed in it, had sex in it. The thrill of getting caught made them bolder and bolder. One particularly busy night in the Quarter, they strolled down the street, feeding at will, and dropping the empty vessels on the sidewalk. Only when the screams around them became deafening, did they stop. That was the night Marlon found them. He was enraged. He had spent eons protecting Reese, hiding her and her abilities. Cleaning up when she got a little to carried away. Adrian destroyed all that. He removed the last bits of humanity that Marlon had fought for Reese to hang on too. Reese was nothing but instinct and primal need. She laughed when she saw him.

"I told you to stay away; Even removed all trace of me to make it easier on you. Yet, here you stand, looking like I just ate your favorite puppy." She laughed.

Marlon stood his ground. "This is not you. Not the you, that you want to be."

Adrian chuckled and dropped the teenager he was feeding on. "She is a predator now. Top of the food chain. She is who she was meant to be." He dragged a passing tourist to himself and offered his wrist to Reese. She bit into it daintily, until the blood met her tongue. Sharp teeth came out and she tore the wrist open. The man stared at Adrian and didn't move. He had almost a half smile on is face and Reese not only drank the blood from him, but inhaled his life force. When she was done, she wiped here mouth on the mans sleeve, as that was all that was left. The dust that was the man drifted away on the breeze.

"Marlon, my faithful jailor, it is time we parted ways. Adrian is right. I am much more than I was with you." She reached out to touch his cheek, in an attempt to give him a patronizing pat, but when her skin touched his, a jolt of electricity went through both of them. It brought her out of the daze she had been in since she met Adrian. She saw him, truly saw him, for the first time.

She was afraid.

Reese shook her head and brought herself back to the present. Dwelling on the past was not going to help her.

She had wandered back to the courtyard again. She looked around and nothing seemed as beautiful, as bright as it had when she first arrived. The gentle sound of the water flowing into the pool sounded harsh and mocking now. It was tainted. It was where she had thought she had killed Adrian, where she had grieved for Marlon, and where this nightmare had begun because of her relentless search for her children.

"Hello cher." Adrian sat casually at the little table.

"You have a lot of nerve coming here. I could kill you without a second thought." Reese ground the words out between her teeth.

Adrian laughed. "You won't kill me. Not today. There is too much you still don't know. Who am I Reese?"

Reese furrowed her brow. "You are Adrian. Vampire. With powers I don't quite understand, but a vampire none the less."

Again, Adrian laughed. "No Reese, Who. Am. I." he asked again. Emphasising each word. "Think on it."

He turned to leave and looked back at her. She stood perfectly still with a blank expression on here face.

"Call Jayden."

She blinked and he was gone. She returned to the house and found everyone in the kitchen. Cythiana was showing Jordan the family photo's and Tiana was pounding, almost angrily, at a ball of dough. Ash just looked sullen and uncomfortable.

"Where is your brother?" she asked. The room fell silent except for the rhythmic pounding of Tiana's fists in the dough. Reese walked to the table and leaned down so that she was face to face with Jordan.

"Where is your brother?" she asked again, with a bit more force. He shrank a bit back from her;

"He is hiding."

Tiana spun around. "Hiding? After all he has done, he is hiding?" she stormed to the table and slammed her hands down. "He did this to us. He brought this hell upon us. Tormenting us with untold power, convincing us we would be Gods, rulers, unshakable. He destroyed Reese, he made you a monster, and destroyed what we had. Lloyd and Sarah were nothing after the ritual. A Djinn and a shapeshifter; both mortals, both vulnerable. He got the ultimate power, he got immortality, he got ageless beauty, and he is hiding?" She gave an exasperated sound and stomped out of the room. Cynthiana ran after her. Ash trailed behind slowly, but not before he shot Jordan one last sullen look.

Reese sat in the chair across from Jordan. "Where is he?" she asked again. He opened his mouth to speak, and she stopped him.

"Before you lie to me again, think very carefully. I was there, remember? You are twins, you moved in sync with each other, finished each others sentences, each others' thoughts. When one inhaled the other exhaled. So, I ask you again, where is he?"

Jordan closed his eyes, took a deep breath and a moment later, a knock came at the front door.

"He is here." He said.

Reese went to the door and opened it; Before her stood a much younger looking man, who bore a striking resemblance to Jordan. The minute she saw him, his face, the memory came flooding back. It was he who had lured her to the river. She was meeting him there, for a secret rendezvous. She was giddy with joy and anticipation as she strolled along the rivers edge.

When he looked at Reese's face, his froze in fear. Any color the vampire may have had in his face drained away. Jordan rushed up behind her before Jayden could bolt.

"It's ok brother, she won't hurt you. Not yet at least." Jordan led Jayden into the house.

Jayden's eyes never left Reese. Tiana came back into the kitchen and as soon as she saw Jayden, she let out an aggravated scream and left the room again. Cynthiana brought her back a few minutes later.

"Hello Tiana, good to see you again." Said Jayden. Tiana just grunted angrily. Reese almost snickered.

Jayden turned to Jordan. "Why have you summoned me here brother? You know we aren't safe. Lloyd and Sarah proved that."

"We found Adrian." Said Jordan

Again, Jayden seemed to pale, which Reese found rather entertaining for a vampire. "You all need to leave. You need to be as far away from him as possible."

Reese sat in the chair beside Jordan, he leaned away from her slightly.

"That is not an option." She told Jayden. "He must be destroyed. He is far to dangerous to be left alone. I know this from experience."

Jayden stood and began to pace. "You don't understand. He isn't what you think. He can't be destroyed."

Jordan looked at his brother, "What do you mean? You created him. He isn't any more than what you gave him."

Jayden looked at his brother sadly. "No, he is so much more."

Tiana's eyes shot to Reese. "You said the same thing."

Jayden turned to Reese. "When we did the ritual and you cursed us, you didn't tell me everything did you?"

She smiled at him. "No. I didn't."

Jordan and Tiana looked at Jayden quizzically.

"You left out the part about knowing our victims. Those we take life from. Knowing their hopes and dreams. Seeing their joys and their regrets. Knowing all their secrets."

"I did." Replied Reese. "What did you learn from Adrian? What are you not telling us?"

Jayden sat back down at the table, a sad look crossing his face. "We were good people." Reese made a sound in her throat. "Once." Jayden continued.

"Lloyd, Sarah, Aaron, Jordan, Tiana and I. We grew up together. We went through everything together. We were best friends and then we were teenagers. Hormones do funny things to friendships. Where we used to all lie in a big pile watching the stars and talking about our dreams, was replaced by awkward glanced and nervous giggles. Lloyd and Sarah became a thing, and it broke Aaron's heart. He was in love with Sarah, but she loved him like a brother. I thought he was weak, a sissy when he would leave the pile, tears glistening in his eyes, as the two snuggled. Until it happened to me." He looked at Tiana and she let out a gasp. "Yes, I was in love with you, but you loved Jordan. You always had. I suddenly felt like Aaron and we bonded over it. We would spend nights talking about all the what if's. When I found the book, it looked like one of my what if's could come true. If I was stronger, better, you would love me; Then you got pregnant and I knew, it was never going to be."

"How did you know?" Tiana asked. "I didn't even know."

Jayden smiled softly. You always got this furrowed brow when your cycles would come. You were snappy for a few days, face like thunder, then you got all soft and feminine around the edges. Almost three months passed and nothing,"

"This is all lovely and I really wish we had time to wander down memory lane and relive the night you tried to kill me, but I need to know about Adrian."

Jayden refocused is attention. "That night, I was angry. I wanted her to chose me. So, I chose what each would get. It was part of the spell that I didn't share with the others. I didn't know you were going to curse us, that was coincidence, but you cursed us being directed by the spell. I got vampire because that is what I chose, my brother, wolf, and so on. I wanted Tiana to love me, to need me. I had only the best intentions for her, for us."

He rubbed is hands over his face. "But you know what they say about good intentions. It didn't work out that way. Tiana became angry, Lloyd and Sarah fled together and Aaron disappeared. We kept in touch, but after decades had passed and no one heard from him, we all assumed he was dead. Then Lloyd was killed, and shortly after, Sarah. When we met Adrian in Pittsburgh, we were running. We though it was you." He looked at Reese. "We spent our whole supernatural lives covering our tracks and we had thought you had found us."

"What changed your mind?" asked Reese, she was getting impatient with Jayden's story.

"Adrian." Answered Jayden. "When I drank from him, I learned everything about him. I also realized that I could never tell anyone in case he found out."

Jayden fell silent. Reese rose angrily. "Will you finish the damn story!"

"Adrian isn't Adrian. That is a face he took from a meal he had. He has that ability because he killed Sarah and absorbed her abilities. He can cloud your thoughts and has the abilities of a Djinn because he did the same to Lloyd." Jordan looked at Jayden, fear and realization running across his face, one emotion chasing the other.

"Who is he Jayden?"

Jayden took a deep breath. "You can't kill him, not permanently, because Adrian is Aaron. The Phoenix. He will always rise. Since I made him vampire, he is as close to indestructible as one can get."

Tiana fell into the chair she had been standing beside.

"Fuck."

Reese sat down beside her and looked at Jayden.

"Yeah, what she said." She whispered.

To Be Continued…

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