WARNING: This part contains smut.
Eyes turned to focus on them as Kiril urged Miho away from the table to where there was enough room to dance. This fictitious crowd bowed their heads respectfully, curtsied, before Kiril twirled Miho around.
“There have been many balls such a this,” he told her, their faces close.
“How are you controlling all of this in such detail and yet still able to form sentences?” Miho blinked, still preoccupied by their surroundings to pay too much notice to Kiril’s touch,
“You think women are the only ones able to multi-task?” he huffed, squeezing her body a little tighter against him. “The blood of a true vampire is very potent… among other things.”
At this, Miho sputtered out a laugh and accidentally trod on his toes, and their slight stumble saw them slide directly through a passing couple.
“I’m sorry,” she chuckled stepping back into the rhythm of their graceful path around the glittering space. “But that…”
“I wonder what potent thing you are imagining, Sparrow,” he grinned, knowing full well the innuendo he’d made.
“What’s with the nickname?” she asked on a different tangent, but it had been something she’d thought about on and off.
“Sparrows are small and delicate,” he replied easily, spinning her with the dramatic flourish of intangible cloth.
“Delicate? Me?” she snorted, somewhat proving her point.
“And you have this furtive awareness, always looking for danger,” he added.
“Ah, can you blame me?” she laughed, gasping a little when he leaned her back draped over one arm.
“No, I cannot,” he conceded, staring down at her with suddenly greater focus.
From her eyes, to her lips, his gaze then travelled to the extension of her neck, and as she noted this, Miho’s muscles tensed.
“You look hungry,” she exhaled quietly, her fingers clenching tighter against his jacket. “Should I be sensing danger?”
“Do not doubt I want to taste what Alex stole,” Kiril admitted, the hand not holding her reclined touching lightly to the line of her jaw before trailing slowly downward. “His trespass was unforgiveable.”
“Because he attacked me without provocation and that was wrong, or because the alpha male in you thinks my hunter blood should only be for you?” she breathed, but her eyes had narrowed sharply.
Slowly, maintaining eye-contact, he brought her upright, so close the tips of their noses were touching.
“Yes,” he told her quietly, and Miho was so transfixed, so consumed by the lush gleam of his eyes, that it took her several seconds to notice the orchestral music had ceased, as had the movement of bodies around them.
“I should kick your ass for that response,” she told him flatly, but he saw the continuation of her statement twitching on her lips.
“But?” he prompted.
“But I’d rather you kissed me,” she admitted, but Kiril still did not look especially moved.
“Why then, do you not kiss me?” he offered, challenge smeared across the slight upward tweak of his mouth.
Glowering, Miho lifted herself a little onto her toes and leaned forward, pressing against him with her lower body whiles her lip drew closer to him; then she smugly pulled back, just before their lips made contact – she made a point of showing him he was not the only one capable of playing games.
At this is was not pleased.
“Frustrating, isn’t i…” Miho began, but the air was crushed from her as he tightened one arm, and with the other slid his hand into her hair and brought her face to his.
It’s a ravenous kiss so fierce I think I might disappear inside him completely, sparking a fire almost beyond my control. Every inch of my skin is suddenly singing a heavenly choir of rapture – and it’s terrifying just how ready I feel to face the apocalypse, if only to prolong this a little more. As my fingers dig into the taut muscles of his upper arms I can feel just how much he wants me too; I’m doing more than flirting with danger now, but whatever spell he’s got me under I don’t think I can resist it for much longer.
Even at the nip of his teeth against my lower lip, I’m still so caught up in the desire to taste his skin I ignore the potential of him biting down just a little too hard. Oh God, my head is spinning because I can’t remember the last time I took a breath – and I don’t care.
My gasp echoes around the hall, now empty but for Kiril and I, my panting a stark contrast to his complete composure. But his eyes are devouring me so indecently I cannot bring myself to move my face any further than I absolutely need to ensure I don’t pass out.
“See?” I grin in dizzy triumph. “You’re not the only one who always gets what he wants.”
“Is that all you want?” he inquires, the seriousness of the question dropping the floor from under my feet.
What he wants is obvious, and I simply cannot deny I want it too – trying to convince myself otherwise is now futile.
“Aren’t my thoughts loud enough for you now?” I volley, brushing my fingertips beneath the collar of his shirt.
“You told me not to intrude, Sparrow,” he points out, teasingly pecking at my cheeks, “so you are just going to have to be explicit.”
“Oh, explicit is exactly what I’m thinking,” I reply breathily, chasing his lips until he allows me to warm them with my own once more. “Distract me from this insufferable waiting, Kiril.”
“Is that what I am? A distraction?” he frowns, but the way he’s tugging me against his body by the waist tells me right now it’s highly unlikely he cares about anything other than getting me naked.
“Distraaaaaact me,” I hiss against his throat, before kissing up under his chin.
His reaction startles me at first, giving me a shove away, but his sharp bark at the pair of attendants to clean up precedes the equally as sharp snatch of my hand and the swift jerk of my body toward the exit.
There is a faint sense of travel, but the distance between the castle and my hotel is little more than a blur, pouring like molten liquid into the moment Kiril and I burst into my suite. The push and pull of emotions I’ve experienced since meeting him is full throttle forward – pull his jacket away, pull his shirt buttons free, pull his bare chest against mine.
The air rushes loudly from my lungs as I’m slammed against the door, and my legs wrap naturally around his waist; his tongue, cool and moist against the inflame of my skin, slithers maddeningly down my throat, across my collarbone and across my chest until his lips suck my left nipple into his mouth.
“Gaaaah,” I hiss as his teeth pinch, and a thrill of fear shakes magnitude 10 down my spine. “Kiril… wait…”
“Rrrrwhaaat?” he growls, lifting his head with a face full of fierce. “Do not tell me to stop.”
“No… not that,” I pant, helplessly drowning in his eyes, raking my fingers through his hair as I struggle to find more words. “No biting.”
“Are you afraid, Sparrow?” he whispers against my cheek, though his unflinching gaze doesn’t break contact.
A denial is derailed before I can voice it, the promising strain of his desire pressing between my legs.
“Yes,” I admit, a word frighteningly loud as even the sound of our heavy breathing vanishes.
“Good,” he praises, his wolfish grin at first suggesting a twisted satisfaction in my alarm, but then I see in the sudden stillness that’s gripped our bodies, it’s my honesty that has garnered his approval. “Trust me.”
“Take me,” I shudder out, and throw the last of my caution to the whirlwind that envelopes us both.
Thought gives way to pure sensation: the tearing of fabric refusing to give; the swimming intoxication of breath held far too long; the slick of perspiration and persistence.
Trembling in desperate anticipation, I welcome the weight of his body, frantic to smooth my palms over the sculpture of his muscles, aching for him to touch more than just the surface.
Begging like I have never felt lust before.
Teased from toe-tip to top, to the very limit of my frustration, until he can see the wildness, the agonising fracture lines of my libido chasing every caress.
And begging like I have never felt lust before – or perhaps once – I had the taste of him in my mouth and the heaving delight of him within; even though it wasn’t him, even when it was no more than the craft of my imagination and a warm substitute.
Now there is no need, but need for him, and had I sense of anything other than that, my pride might protest. But he is every bit as hungry as I am.
Ravenous, he drags me up, a puppet sobbing feverishly for him to end my torment. My body curls, back arches as he reaches around to dance his fingers against the throb of my suffering, and I can’t hold out any longer.
It doesn’t sound like my voice, but somehow it’s the most natural utterance I’ve ever made – a choking moan without meaning to be a word, just the pure expression of my body’s inability to comprehend anything other than the pleasure of Kiril tipping me over the edge.
The way he pulls back on my hair, the gratification of his teeth grazing my shoulder, that he is unrelenting even as I convulse, is finally punctuated by the surprisingly slow ease of him inside me. This delicious pressure from within, slow, measured strokes, causes my muscles to contract so tightly I may never unwind.
I’m a tense ball of yearning wanting more, rocking myself against him forcefully until I’m rewarded by his voice mingling with mine in incoherent harmony.
“Sparrow,” he grates out through his teeth, my earlobe bearing the brunt of his next assault in a stinging bite that draws close to breaking his word, but doesn’t.
“Don’t stop,” I breathe giddily, grasping for enough air to fill my lungs but light-headed regardless as another storm breaks over me.
Thunder rumbling at my very centre.
Lightning searing every nerve ending.
There is no way to distinguish between sweat and tears of ecstasy, but neither he or I care.
In a slight moment of terrible respite, my back hits the bedsheets and I peer up at Kiril looming over me with an ardent restraint I both hate and admire.
“What?” I swallow heavily, unable to keep from squirming as he poises at my entrance but moves no more.
“I want to burn that face you are making, into my memory,” he declares, and it’s now, now that he’s hovering above looking down at me I see his teeth, his fangs, the touch of his tongue tapping one point.
My chest stops moving; I am mesmerized.
“No,” he whispers, leaning slowly forward to frame my face with large hands, lying against me with a tenderness I do not associate with monsters, “not that face,” he continues, brushing my lower lip with one thumb before burying himself inside me again.
With his head nuzzling into the crook of my neck, his hands slithering up my arms to grip my wrists and hold them firmly down, I know there is nothing I can do to fight him – if he’s going to kill me, I’ll die.
It’s not death that’s bubbling in my veins though, not death tingling through every fibre of my body, nor are the screams Kiril smothers with his tongue cries for help – it’s a star gone supernova consuming everything in its path.
And if he stops now without filling me to the brim?
Perhaps that is death.
“That is the face,” he groans, and I open my eyes to see his – wild and shameless – trying to fix me in his focus as I watch him come undone.
Kiril’s voice drifts softly to where I lie comfortably beneath the bed covers. Blearily, I try to blink away the tattered remnants of sleep and listen in.
“… control freak,” Kiril sniffs, standing by the window with bright of morning cutting a black silhouette out of the day. “Give me more time.”
There he pauses. I cannot hear who he’s talking to, but he doesn’t seem irritated or in any way put out.
Though I make no attempt to hide my interest in his conversation, sitting up, my interest moves from his lips to the bare of his chest. There are no marks on his skin where last night my fingernails broke the surface in my ardour.
Slowly, my eyes widen, because beneath the sheets I’m a mess, and I’m a mess because…
“Oh shit,” I gasp, suddenly scrambling to free myself of the tangle.
“Just do it, Narumi,” Kiril huffs, turning to fix me in his gaze. “I have to go.”
The hand holding his phone drops to his side, and I become motionless.
A naked, vulnerable example of intimacy without protection.
“I’m ahh… I’m going to…” I mutter.
“You look like death,” he smirks, amused as he makes absolutely no effort to hide his appreciation of my figure.
“Kiril… we… I’m…”
“Yes, a frightful reminder of the things I would very much like to repeat,” he grins, approaching.
“You need to tell me right now,” I demand in a fluster, pointing at him almost in accusation. “Can you get me pregnant?”
Kiril blinks, but his surprise is feigned.
“We could try I suppose,” he offers, spreading his hands and approaching with clear intent.
“This isn’t funny, Kiril, can a vampire get a human pregnant? Because I don’t want some needle-teeth horror chewing its way out of my body.”
“Then it is lucky I do not sparkle in the sunlight then,” he smiles, but I shuffle back before he can touch me.
“I am not joking!” I cry in agitated frustration, only to find myself swiftly backed up against the wall.
“And I am not laughing,” he hisses against my lips, our noses point to point. “Do I seem a man who longs for the complication of a child?”
“Just tell me you can’t get me pregnant,” I sigh, shivering as his fingers brush my bare hip.
“You and I, cannot have children,” he assures me gently, but his grin is teasing.
“And other things? Oh god, where was my head when I just…” I rush on, thinking about all the diseases one might catch from unprotected sex.
“I am not sure where yours was, but mine,” he chuckles, smoothing hair over my ear as he breathes against my cheek, “was somewhere deep, and dark, warm and beautiful.”
“I bet you say that to all the vaginas,” I stammer out, my fingers tensing against his sides, hankering to dig in.
“Those conversations do not usually last very long,” he admits, kissing one cheek lightly then moving to the other, “but I would definitely like to resume the discussion I began with yours last night.”
“Now you’re just being vulgar,” I snort, but a smile tugs my lips upwards as he lightly kisses them again.
What I’m doing – other than the obvious – I don’t know. What I do know, is being touched by Kiril is unlike anything else, and it’s utterly stupid how much I want him to never stop.
After running the water cold with activities other than cleaning, Miho dressed and sat on her suite’s balcony in the mid-morning sun. She’d been staring at her phone for some time before inhaling deeply and calling a number she had not hesitated to dial in the past.
It rang only once before Sebastian answered, and the image of him crouched over it, glaring, waiting for it to ring flashed in Miho’s mind’s eye.
“Have you any idea how worried I’ve been?” were the first words he said, and Miho rubbed her brow where a frown instantly formed.
If his concern for her was indeed so fierce, why had he not told her about the vampire in their midst? Why had he been so cryptic about his warnings to stay away from Kiril when he had to have known she would push back when not provided with a valid reason.
“Would you have accepted the real reason if he’d told you?” she wondered silently, finally responding loud. “I’m pleased to hear from you too, Sebastian.”
“Really? You know, if that were true, you might have responded to the fifty message I’ve left for you already,” he snapped.
“I’ve been running all over Prague looking for my missing best friend,” she volleyed curtly, her mood quick to darken. “Imagine Selina went AWOL,” she continued, leaning forward in her seat, “because that is how I feel right now, how I’ve been feeling, so I’m sorry if I’ve gone deaf to all your warning-warning danger Will Robinson over Kiril Lambert.”
A short silence ensued, during which time Miho sucked in a deep breath and flopped back; she hadn’t meant to be quite so savage.
“Uh, I’m sorry,” she sighed, rolling her eyes across the city. “I’m really exhausted, and Jazz’s trail’s gone cold.”
Why she was especially tired, she did not say.
“I don’t mean to badger you, Miho,” he responded, his voice also tempered by apology, “but that family are just so dangerous. I don’t want you to get hurt anymore.”
“Then tell me everything at Pale is fine,” she replied, trying to muster up some positivity. “I hope you’ll manage to give Selina some of your time.”
“You know she loves the club,” Sebastian conceded, letting the matter of the Lamberts go – or the moment. “I actually think she was happier helping Mieke and I out than she would have been having boring old dinner with her boring old brother.”
It wasn’t the first time Selina Ross had visited and spent time at Pale, and though she was several years younger, Miho quite liked the girl. There was an infectious optimism about her that made being grumpy almost impossible, and patrons at the club found that incredibly magnetic.
Having her around was good for business.
“I doubt very much she travelled all that way to see the club,” Miho chuckled. “Boring old or not, kid sisters and big brothers have special relationships.”
As she spoke those last few words, Kiril stepped out onto the balcony behind her.
“Maybe,” Sebastian grunted, and there was another pause before he spoke again, during which time Kiril made it clear he wasn’t going to give Miho space to finish her call in privacy. “So, I meant Mieke and I can handle things here but, if there’s nothing…”
“I’m not coming home without her,” Miho stated flatly, staring up at Kiril whose lips began to part as if he meant to speak.
In warning, Miho sharply raised a finger and her stare became a glower. The last thing she needed was for Sebastian to recognise Kiril’s voice. Teasingly, he leaned closer.
“I know you love her,” Sebastian said somberly, “just, promise me you won’t destroy yourself in this search.”
“I’m a big gi…” Miho began, but Sebastian cut her off, his tone of voice absolutely serious.
“Promise me,” he insisted, and hearing him, Kiril’s eyebrows twitched downward.
“You know I don’t like making promises,” Miho answered carefully, “especially ones I may not be able to keep, but… I promise I will keep my eyes open and my wits about me.”
A heavy exhale signalled Sebastian’s surrender.
“Okay, well, you know how to reach me if you need anything, so call me,” he added.
“I will,” Miho affirmed. “Say hi to Selina for me.”
That ended the conversation, and Miho dropped her phone into her lap, chewing the inside of her cheek for a few seconds until Kiril’s shadow across her caused the bloom of a shiver.
“Mr. Ross seems very invested in your wellbeing,” he noted, and it might have sounded casual but for the slight scowl he was wearing.
“Friends usually are,” Miho shrugged, trying not to play into his looming broodiness.
“You and he…”
“Don’t finish that sentence, or question or thought,” she huffed, rocking to her feet and standing, but Kiril caught her wrist before she could slip back inside.
“Which question would that be?” he queried. “Whether you are in a relationship with him? Sleeping with him? I suppose that would go some way to explaining his hostility toward me.”
“Yes,” Miho replied ambiguously.
Kiril’s touch was warm – generally it was not, and it reminded her of the first time he’d heated his skin for her.
“That, and I imagine in large part because he doesn’t like the idea of a vampire making a meal out of his boss,” Miho added.
“Mmm, just his boss. Doubtful,” he asserted, walking his fingers up her other arm in a gesture Miho thought was absurdly cute – so much so she couldn’t help but laugh. “What?”
“And what if Sebastian and I are a thing?” she posed, teasingly, and Kiril’s expression became serious.
“One more reason to kill him,” he answered flatly, pulling her against him and trapping her in his arms with her back to his chest.
“Don’t you dare!” she hissed, struggling as he nudged her closer the balustrade and lowered one hand to the front of her pants.
“Or what, little Sparrow?” he smiled against the shell of her ear, his fingers burrowing into her underwear.
“Fuck you, Kiril,” Miho growled, squirming as he rubbed against her, but her declaration sounded less fierce as his name twisted into a moan.
“It is kind of you to be so explicit in your invitation,” he hummed against her throat, grinding against her even as she squinted at the street.
“Someone is going to see us,” she grumbled, fighting a losing battle with her self-restraint. “Damnit, why does this feel so good?”
“I have had a lot of practice,” he responded, delving into her with slow strokes – one, two, three fingers – until the volume of her encouragements grew conspicuous. “Sing louder, Sparrow,” he groaned into her hair. “Let all of Prague know how I make you feel.”
Clenching her teeth, Miho resisted that urge, trapping cries in her chest even as Kiril began to work free the buttons of her blouse.
Then his phone rang.
“Ignore it,” he snapped quickly, withdrawing from her so he could tend to his own pants, but this afforded Miho a moment of clarity.
“Kiril, answer it,” she panted. “What if it’s Arno?”
“Grrr,” Kiril snarled, standing straight and digging out the phone, barking into it the moment he answered. “What?”
With a hand on her chest, heart beating wildly beneath her palm, Miho stumbled into a seat. And her heart wasn’t the only thing pulsing – she was sure if there was any more friction, even if she just crossed her legs, she was going to lose it.
Instead, she tried to focus on what Kiril was saying. His expression had sobered, but his body was still tensed… everywhere.
“We made our agreement, and I will keep it if your information turns out to be accurate,” he said curtly shifting over to Miho, whose hand reached up to him without prompting. “We will head there now,” he continued, his lips pinching when Miho traced her fingers lightly around the front of his pants. “Mhm, ensure your people do not alert them.”
Grinding his teeth, he listened to his caller’s response while Miho palmed him, grinning up cheekily.
“Fine,” he grunted, then without bidding his caller farewell, he hung up and tossed his phone aside before grabbing Miho’s hand.
“Sparrow, you are asking for trouble,” he warned, dragging her back to her feet. “Here I have the location of our fugitives, but all I want is to tear your clothes off.”
“God, I can’t believe I want you to,” Miho shuddered, wrapping her arms around his neck. “But Jazz? They really found her?”
“According to Arno,” Kiril confirmed, his forehead lowered to hers. “But right now I do not want to leave this suite.”
“You deliver Jazz to me, and I’ll do whatever you ask,” Miho exhaled breathily, tapping her fingers against the swell in is pants for extra emphasis. “And I’ll even enjoy it.”
“Get your coat,” he dropped, before clicking his tongue and forcing himself to turn away from her.
In a flurry, Miho did as she was bid, the burning in her loins distracted by the prospect of finally seeing Jazz again. Kiril hadn’t said whether Arno described her physical state, but Miho assumed Kiril would extend the courtesy of preparing her for the worst if… if what they’d found was a corpse in a ditch somewhere.
In the cab she couldn’t keep still, fidgeting and twisting in her seat. Though Kiril sat beside her watching, her mind was elsewhere – what she would say to Jazz, how relieved she would feel, how to hold her tears back so she could yell at her for just up and disappearing.
“This waiting is unbearable,” she muttered, wringing her fingers until her knuckles cracked, until Kiril closed much larger hands around hers.
Immediately she sat up a little straighter, the touch of his flesh against hers like an aphrodisiac that made her thighs quiver.
“According to Arno’s people, both Konstantin and Jazz are located on the outskirts of Prague in a cute little cottage… playing house,” he explained, sounding exasperated.
“Playing house,” Miho repeated quietly to herself, gnawing on her lower lip before leaning back and looking up into Kiril’s face. “With a vampire? Is that even possible?”
Immediately Miho could tell Kiril had heard her thoughts, but he said nothing.
Miho considered her feelings for Kiril more seriously now. If Jazz had run away to be with Konstantin…
“You were talking to Narumi earlier,” Miho stated out of the blue. “Is something going on?”
“Hmmm,” Kiril hummed thoughtfully. “Konrad is wondering where his favourite son has disappeared to, and doesn’t have his least favourite son to take it out on.”
“What does that mean?” Miho frowned. “Is he going to send an army to march on Prague and extract you?”
At this Kiril emitted a pithy laugh.
“For Konstantin, perhaps, but not for the like of me,” he expounded. “If his golden child does not return soon, he may indeed send agents in search of him. Better that he goes back of his own accord.”
“And is Narumi on your side, or your father’s?” Miho pressed, trying to distract herself with backstory.
This caused Kiril to chuckle.
“Konrad is a tyrant,” he asserted. “No one is truly on his side, at least not out of choice. Fear maybe.”
“Is he really that much of a monster?” Miho scowled, then continued. “So, if he found out I was a hunter?”
“That in and of itself is not enough to condemn you,” he explained, but lifted a hand to her cheek. “But treaties are tenuous things, Sparrow. It is best you tell no one about yourself, not even Jazz.”
This caused Miho to frown.
“Jazz and I don’t keep secrets from one another,” she declared, her lips quivering as Kiril’s thumb approached them.
“We both know that is not true,” he smiles slowly. “Or she would not have disappeared without your knowledge.”
“You’re assuming Konstantin didn’t force her,” she scowled, her stomach churning. “Kiril, if she is with him, if she has been with him all this time… could he… would he turn her?”
There was silence but for the rhythmic sound of the car.
“It is a possibility,” Kiril answered eventually watching her reaction closely.
“What will that mean?” she exhaled, leaning into his hand until her head slipped to his shoulder.
“Complications,” he replied, idly stroking Miho’s hair, “but nothing I cannot handle.”
“Complications how?” Miho persisted.
“My father has no love for the turned vampire,” Kiril explained, disdain thick in his voice. “In the hierarchy of influence, they are even less than humans; the turned are a bastardised form of pure vampire blood, stains he refuses to acknowledge as being of worth to his domain.”
Miho pondered this, but the brush of his fingers against her scalp made it difficult to think.
“If Konstantin has turned your friend,” Kiril continued. “If they fled together and Konrad finds out they are involved, he will kill her.”
“He’ll have to go through me,” Miho snarled, straightening, and Kiril pinched the back of her neck.
“He will kill you too, Sparrow,” he pointed out. “Especially you.”
“Narumi,” Miho scowled. “Whose side is she on?”
“Hmph,” Kiril snorted, his fingers slackening. “Narumi is in the unenviable position of being caught between her place in the aristocracy and Konrad’s law-keeper, and what she believes is right.”
“So if she finds out I’m a hunter?” Miho prompted.
“It would be a terrible shame if I had to kill her,” Kiril mused. “I actually like her.”
“You’d kill her?” Miho frowned, shifting her body a little sideways so she could look into his face. “For me?”
“Let us not dwell too much on hypotheticals,” he responded, leaving the question unanswered. “Soon we shall have the information we require to move forward, and prevent Konrad from becoming more of problem for anyone.”
Soon the city gave way the green countryside, and in the hills to the south of Stradonice, the car came to a stop at the entrance to a dirt road where a man stood waiting.
Fiercely biting into her lower lip, Miho approached him with Kiril at her side, watching and listening as the pair spoke in Czech. Impatiently she scraped her toe through the gravel, until the man turned to his own car.
“There is a cottage half a kilometre up this track,” Kiril reported, taking Miho’s hand and pulling her into motion. “According to our friend, Konstantin and Jazz are both inside.”
“How the hell did they find them out here?” she whispered, as much to herself as to him.
“I imagine Arno really wanted to avoid the consequences of not locating them,” Kiril answered, and continued. “When we reach the house, allow me to approach first.”
She didn’t question why. If they had gone to such lengths to disappear, then they may not be all that happy about being discovered. Still, Miho couldn’t imagine Jazz ever doing her harm, vampire or not.
At the sight of the cottage, Miho found herself barely able to breathe, and Kiril gave her hand a squeeze.
“Wait here,” he instructed, and after releasing her he pushed through the picket gate and began up the path to the front door.
“Wait here,” Miho sigh, resuming her lower lip attack until she couldn’t stand it anymore.
Kiril pulled back the tattered fly-screen door and knocked three times against the chipped paint of the wooden door beneath. He could sense Miho at his back, knew she wouldn’t listen, but focused his hearing on any sounds of movement.
Then he was gone, one blink and he had dashed away, leaving Miho blinking at the space where he’d stood. She could only think he’d hear something and rushed off to intercept it.
“Jazz!” she shouted, shouted with all the energy she had, and after stomping up onto the porch she turned the front door knob.
Beneath her palm it turned, and steeling herself, she moved into the dim interior of the cottage.
“Jazz?” she called again, this time a little more discretely, but her answer came not in the form of her best friend’s voice, but in a loud crash and the sound of splintering wood.
There was little time to wonder at how her reflex was to run toward the sound rather than away from it – before rational thought blossomed, Miho had sprinted through the unfamiliar house and burst out the back door.
“Do not run,” Kiril warned, pointing at where Konstantin was struggling from the hole in the side of the cottage he’d made with his body’s impact. “For the chosen son you are a real pain in the ass.”
“Jazz,” Miho dropped in a breathy whisper, and the blonde woman’s head snapped in her best friend’s direction.
“Miho?” she mouthed, barely a sound at all – just enough for Miho to hear, enough to break the dam that held back the tears.
But Jazz’s expression was a conflicted twist of joy and angst, and her eyes darted between the two brothers before returning to Miho.
“My life has nothing to do with you Kiril,” Konstantin growled, brushing off his shoulders.
“Do you have any idea…?” Miho wept.
“Konrad has tasked Narumi to find you…” Kiril volleyed.
“I didn’t want to hurt you…” Jazz murmured, taking a hesitant step toward her friend.
“No, Jazz!” Konstantin called out urgently. “If Konrad’s looking for us we need to get even further away.”
“Who do you think our father is exactly?” Kiril rumbled, stalking toward his brother again. “There is no place you can hide he will not find you.”
“I thought you were dead,” Miho sobbed, peering up from where she’d sunken to the ground, Jazz’s figure wavering through tears like a ghost. “Are you dead?”
“I’m…” Jazz began, but her sentence faltered.
As Kiril and Konstantin physically clashed once more, Jazz crouched down before Miho and lightly placed her hands on Miho’s knees.
“… it’s complicated now,” she finished, Miho’s raw pain cutting her deeply; but she knew she deserved it and more.
“Why couldn’t you tell me about this? About him?” Miho choked out, taking hold of Jazz’s hands tightly, wrapping warm fingers around cold.
So cold that her eyes widened.
“You… He…” she stammered, blinking furiously to clear her vision. “Did he force this on you?”
Miho stopped listening despite having asked a question. The answer had already formed in her mind – this vampire who had taken her best friend away, turned her into this thing against her will… she would kill him, and it was written all over her face as she rose.
“No, Miho!” Jazz exclaimed. “It isn’t like that.”
“Really?” Miho balked, swiping away Jazz’s attempt to place a gentle hand on her shoulder. “So he sat you down and asked you politely and you said, oh sure son of a vampire king who’ll kill us both for it, make me a vampire!”
“We… not exactly,” Jazz admitted, fixing her grip around one of Miho’s wrists and holding her back easily.
“I don’t care who he is!” Miho shrieked, fighting against Jazz tooth and nail, but both women were nearly bowled over when Kiril came tumbling toward them.
“You of all people should understand the desire for freedom, Kiril,” Konstantin glowered, his voice suddenly so much lower, his body inexplicably growing until his clothing strained and threatened to tear.
“Konstantin don’t!” Jazz shouted, as she jerked Miho back against her chest and folded both arms around her. “Just calm down, we need to, to talk to them!”
Kiril was picking himself up, his expensive clothing streaked with mud and grass, while Miho struggled, and he cut a glance to her and paused when Jazz lifted her head a little toward her friend’s neck.
“Miho, we need to talk,” Jazz said thickly, and the taller woman fell still, just a moment, before wriggling around in Jazz’s hold to hug her tightly. “Inside,” Jazz prompted, looking around Miho at the two brothers briefly, before sliding her hand into Miho’s and guiding her back toward the cottage.