Nick stared at the image on his computer screen with a deep frown on his lips. He had been staring at the image for the last twenty minutes, since they had received the footage from the bank across the street from where the attack took place.
The image was grainy and blown up but it was the only image he could find when the woman had actually been facing the camera. The rest of the time all you could see was the back of one of the attackers as he held the young woman while the other man threatened her with a knife.
“So what do we have?” Ronan said as he came around the desk with a cup of steaming coffee in his hand. He handed the Styrofoam cup to Nick who took it gratefully. He hadn’t had much sleep since the case had been thrown on his desk yesterday. Ronan had been off so Nick had been handling the case alone. He hadn’t gotten anywhere because neither of the men had given a good description to the police of the woman who attacked them. It had taken him a day to have the Guild clear the request for the security footage and it had just arrived twenty minutes ago.
Usually Nick and Ronan didn’t handle assault cases. Those were usually left to the human police. Because a magic user was involved, one of the Guild Liaisons would have been sent the handle the situation, but because of the unknown female magic user, the file had gotten thrown on to Nick and Ronan.
Nick and Ronan were part of the Dark Magic Division. They dealt with crimes that involved blood magic. After what happened to him twenty-five years ago Nick had vowed to find the people who had kidnapped him and tortured him. He also wanted to ensure that what had happened to him wouldn’t happen to other innocent children. No one should have to go through that.
Nick was fully aware that he had been lucky that his parents were rich and had a good deal of influence in the Guild. After all, the Guild didn’t send out their special ops team for just any kidnapping. He also had been lucky that someone had sent a tip to the Guild as to his location. Without those two things, there was a good chance he would have never been found again, or if he was, then it would have been his empty husk. He was sure they would have drained him dry. He was extremely lucky to be alive and that was something he swore never to forget.
But as he stared at the image on the screen, a deep chill ran down his spine. Memories he had thought he had push down were begin to surface. A dark night, a beautiful young woman, and a forest filled with screams.
Ronan let out a low whistle as he looked at the image on the screen. You couldn’t see the woman’s face clearly but what you could see was that fact that her eyes and face were glowing. Light shimmered from every inch of exposed skin.
“Have you ever seen anything like that before? What the hell do you think she is?” Ronan asked in wonder as he turned to screen so he could get a better look.
“That is an Omega Level magic user,” Nick said, his voice void of any emotion as he stared at the blurry face on his screen. Ronan nearly feel off his perch on the side of Nick’s desk at he whipped his head to look at his friend and partner.
“Omega?” He choked on the words. “I thought they were just legends. I thought the highest the level anyone could reach was A-Level.”
“According the Guild, there are indeed Omega level magic users. But they are very rare and as far as the Guild knew, the last one known on record was five hundred years ago, a woman named Theodora Dragos.”
“The Blood Queen,” Ronan said in horror. Nick just nodded. No one knew much about Theodora Dragos. They didn’t know when she was born or where she came from. There weren’t even any images of her. It was said if you were close enough to see her, you were already dead.
The only reason the Guild even knew about her was because five hundred years ago she walked in to a small town in France one night and when she walked out the next morning all the inhabitants except for one young man had been murdered, all of their blood drained so that all that remained were empty corpses.
The young man had not survived because of luck. He had been kept alive for a reason. From the personal accounts of the young man Theodora had been obsessed with him. She had wanted him but he had been in love with another woman, a girl he had known since childhood. They were supposed to get married. But then he had met Theodora in a nearby village where he had gone to trade some of the fabrics his family made for other supplies they needed.
The man said Theodora was a very beautiful woman but she could not tempt him from his love. She became outraged when he did not respond to her advances. He was supposed to leave for home the next day but he convinced his brother and friend who had travelled with them to leave in the middle of the night.
He and his traveling companions had reached home safely but a week later Theodora had breezed in to town and killed everyone except the young man. Every man, woman and child had been murdered. No one had been spared. Theodora had used their blood for one powerful spell, an immortality spell. She had cursed the young man with immortality. He would never grow old, he would never get sick, he would never die. Even if he tried to kill himself, the wound would heal and he would wake up good as new.
Most people didn’t know that last part. It was not in the Guild records. The only reason Nick knew about it was because that man was his grandfather.
Ronan knew about what happened to Nick twenty-five years ago but he knew nothing about his grandfather. Alistair knew. It had never been confirmed that Theodora Dragos had been involved in Nick’s kidnapping, but Alistair suspected she was. Nick’s grandfather agreed. Alistair suspected it was probably Nick’s resemblance to his grandfather that had been one of the reasons he had been taken. If Theodora was behind it, she would have definitely taken Nick on the chance that he was related to the man that had spurned her.
But as Nick gazed at the screen, he was sure that woman on the screen was not Theodora Dragos. First of all, those men had been allowed to leave alive. By all accounts, Theodora would have killed them without a second thought. She would have drained them dry and walked away.
Second, besides the glowing, there were no signs that she had used any magic so they couldn’t even figure out what kind of magic user she was. Which meant that there were at least two known Omega level magic users out in the world and the chances that they weren’t related was almost non-existent.
And third, Nick was almost certain this was the young woman he had seen that night in the woods. The woman Nick hadn’t told anyone about, not even Alistair. At first, he hadn’t been sure she was real. After all, why would one of his captors release him, much less save his life. Nick hadn’t been conscious the whole time during that night. He remembered waking up to see the woman leaning over him and promising him she would get him out of there. He remembered the men coming after them. He remembered giving her his blood so that she could protect them. He saw her begin to glow, her eyes turning bright silver as her skin began to glow. He saw her turn to the men and watched as the blade she carried split in to a thousand tiny needles. He heard the screams in the darkness and then he had passed out.
When he had come to again, Alistair had been there, picking him up and carrying him away. He had tried to keep Nick from seeing the carnage around him but Nick had seen it anyway. Dead bodies littered the ground around him. Their bodies shredded as if a thousand knifes had been taken to them all at once.
It had been horrifying to see, yet at the same time, a part of him had felt justified. She had done that to protect him. She had made them pay for what they had done to him. She had kept her promise.
At first he didn’t speak about her because he thought she might not be real. And then was he was convinced she was, he didn’t speak about her because he didn’t want anyone to hunt her down. Yes, she was a blood magic user, but she had protected him, she had saved him, and now he would save her.
He hadn’t realized what he had seen that night until he read his grandfather’s accounts in the Guild records. He didn’t realize she was an Omega level magic user. But now he knew. But was she and this woman who was attacked the night before really the same woman. He couldn’t make out much in the grainy image, but from what he could see, this woman looked nothing like the woman who had saved him. Sure he had only been ten at the time and suffering from dehydration and blood loss. But the woman he remembered had looked like a goddess to him. This one was not even close. But could there possibly be two Omega level witches besides Theodora roaming the world? He didn’t think it was likely.
But then, what was she doing here? Why here and why now? There were so many questions and Nick needed answers before he could decide how to move forward with the case. He had saved her life once because of what she had done for him. But could he do it again? He knew nothing about this woman. She could be just as bad as Theodora no matter what he saw on the surveillance video. She was a blood magic user and therefore she was evil. But she had let the men live, hadn’t she.
With a frustrated growl, Nick slammed his hand on to his keyboard. The image disappeared and he was left staring at a blank screen. What the hell was he supposed to do? He really wished someone would tell him.
“So what are we supposed to do?” Ronan asked as he lifted his own cup to his lips, his hand a little unsteady as the cup shook in his grip.
“Hell if I know,” Nick snapped as he pushed away from his desk and came to his feet. He began to pace the small office the two men shared.
“Does the Guild believe that woman is Theodora Dragos?” Ronan asked, his face pale.
“No,” Nick said gruffly, nothing how he friend seemed to sag in relief before bringing his cup back up to his lips, “They believe she is an unknown Omega.”
“And what are we supposed to do about that?” Ronan asked as he watched his friend pace.
“Our only orders so far as to find and bring in the woman in the video,” Nick said as he hit some keys on the keyboard as the woman’s face appeared on the screen again. Ronan was silent as he stared at the face on the screen. His lips pressed tightly together as his eyes studied the blurry image.
“I’m sure if there’s an unregistered Omega magic user out there, there is a reason for it. What do you think the Guild would do with an Omega?” Ronan asked, his voice quiet so that no one outside the room would hear them.
As much as the two men believed in the job and their purpose with the Guild, they were not blind to the corruption in the upper ranks. Not everyone within the Guild believed in human equality. Some followed the might is right ideology. They believed they had the power therefore they had the right to rule. They preached about the enslavement of the Norms and the rise in power for all magic users.
What would these men do if they were to get their hands on an Omega Level magic user? Especially if that woman happened to be a blood magic user. The possibilities were unlimited and none of them were good.
Nick ran a hand through his short white blond hair as let out a frustrated growl. He had joined the Guild to protect the innocent. But by following his orders, was he helping them or dooming them. There was no difference to him, whether they were Norm or Magic User. Everyone deserved to be protected from the evils in the world. But who was the evil in all this? The woman on the screen? The Guild Upper Council? Or him for even thinking about letting a possible Omega Level blood magic user get away again?
Grabbing his coat from the back of his chair he headed out, “Let get out of here. Maybe some fresh air will help me think.”
Ronan said nothing but grabbed his coffee and followed his partner out.
* * *
On Saturdays Mia worked a half shift. Mr. Rosen usually hired a couple of college students from the local university and he allowed them to work the weekend shifts to make a little extra money. Weekends were usually busier and the college students provided the extra help needed. Mia who worked the nights during the week, worked half a day on Saturday and had Sunday off.
Because Becca, one of the college students was working today, Mia was in charge of clearing out the stock room while Becca ran the register. Mia favorite day of the week was Saturday because she got the spend most of her time in the back room clearing off shelves and listening to music.
Mr. Rosen liked to keep the stock moving. So on Saturdays, Mia would restock the shelves before the store opened and then for the rest of her shift she would unpack boxes and load the stocking carts for afternoon and night staff to take care of.
Mia’s shift was almost over for the day and she was just sweeping up the backroom before she got ready to leave for the day, when Liz walked in to the backroom.
“Oh good, there you are,” Elizabeth Rosen said with a bright smile when she saw Mia. Liz was beautiful much like her actress mother. She had long wavy chestnut hair and deep sapphire eyes. Liz could have been a model with her high cheekbones and full red lips, but instead she had gone to business school and helped her father run his bookstore.
Like Sarah, Liz was an herb magic user, but she only ranked at D-Level while Sarah was A-Level. Liz didn’t mind though. She wasn’t one for using magic anyway. She used it every now and then to make tea for a headache or bad cramps, but besides that, magic really wasn’t a big part of her life. For Liz, there was no real distinction between magic users and Norms, that’s probably while she was engaged to a Norm.
Mia had met the man once when he stopped by to take Liz to lunch. He was a nice enough man. Not extremely good looking but nice to look at. Sarah informed her that his name was John Tyler and that he was dentist. She said he was a good man, a little boring but he was what Liz needed, a stable dependable partner.
Having never been in love, Mia couldn’t comment on what a good partner would be for a marriage. She had dated once or twice since leaving her old life behind. But it had never gone further than one date. She had never felt that spark she assumed you were supposed to feel when you met the one. Besides, she hadn’t even really been interested in the men. She had just gone out on the dates because she had been curious about it. What did one do on a date? What was all the excitement about?
She had given it a try but hadn’t seen what the big deal was about. She had felt awkward and out of place. She knew nothing about what her dates talked about and had nothing to offer to the conversation. It was obvious the dates were disasters and thankfully ended shortly after they began when the men realized they would not be getting in to her bed.
Pasting a smile on her face, Mia turned to Liz, “Did you need me for something?”
“Yes, I know you’re going to be getting out of her shortly but could you do me a real quick favor. I had to send Becca home because she wasn’t feeling well and Heather doesn’t get in for another ten minutes. Do you think you could run the register until Heather gets in?” Liz asked with a warm smile.
“Sure,” Mia replied. It wasn’t like she had plans after work. And it would only be for a short time, just until Heather got in, so Mia didn’t mind. Placing the broom back in the corner, she wiped her dusty hands on her green Beans and Books apron before heading out front.
There was already a customer at the counter as Mia made her way up. She walked a little faster so that the customer wouldn’t have to wait long.
“Thank you for waiting,” Mia said as she pushed through the swinging go-thru. The man who had been turned away from the register turned towards her and Mia got her first good look at him. The smile nearly slid from her face but she worked hard to get it back up before the customer noticed.
“It was no problem,” The man said with a big smile. Mia worked hard to return it as she kept telling herself he wouldn’t recognize her. She looked absolutely nothing like she once had. Her spells were perfect, no one would be able to sense that she was anything more than a C-Level Healer. She had even been smart enough to change her voice. There was no way he would be able to recognize her. But enough though she knew all this, her heart was still beating a mile a minute.
She knew she should have ran. She should have just packed her bags and left without a second glance that night. She may have drawn attention to herself but then at least she would have left everyone here safe. They would have been too busy chasing after her to pay attention to anyone here.
She should have known someone would have come looking for her after she released all that power. She may not have used her blood magic, but the amount of power she was giving off would have definitely been noticed. She had been such a fool and now she was cursing herself every which way. She had led her family here and now someone was going to pay for her stupidity.
As best as she could, she put on her best face as she turned back to her cousin Marco, “Was there anything I could help you with? Were you looking for a certain book or magazine?”
“Oh no, I was actually looking for the store owner, Alistair Rosen,” Marco said, flashing her a bright white smile. Her cousin always did know how to interact with the outside world the best. He was the least shelter of them all. He had actually gone out in the world while Mia and her other female cousins had been kept close at home.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Rosen doesn’t come in till later, is there something I could help you with,” she offered, lying through her teeth. Mr. Rosen had come in an hour ago and was closest in his office with Liz. They were working on the schedule for the upcoming holiday season and seeing how much staff they would be able to hire.
“Oh, that’s too bad. I actually came here on Guild business.”
Mia nearly fell off her feet when Marco flashed her a Guild badge with his picture and the name Michael Stanton printed on it. So she had been right, her grandmother did have people in the Guild. Her own cousin had infiltrated its ranks. But did that mean he knew Nick? Did Nick know him? Did Marco recognize Nick? But more importantly, would Nick recognize Marco?
Praying to any god that would listen, she pleaded that Mr. Rosen would remain in his office until she was able to get rid of Marco and that Nick not be anywhere near the store. Even if she was lucky enough to get away with fooling her cousin, she wanted those two men nowhere near him. Mia didn’t know what Marco had in mind, but she knew none of it was good.
“I’m really sorry about that, but is there a message I could pass on to him. If you want to leave your number I can have him call you when he gets in?” Mia offered as she pretended to look around for a pad and paper.
“Oh, that won’t be necessary, if you can give me a time to expect him, I can come back then,” Marco said. Mia’s smile was beginning to falter. She couldn’t stay around all day waiting for Marco to come back and make up another excuse. It would look odd if she stayed past her normal shift. She always left on time on Saturdays. And besides, the night shift would be in soon and there would be more than enough staff. There would be no reason for her to remain.
“I think he’s usually in by four on Saturdays,” Mia said. That would give her about two hours to figures something out. Maybe she could have Sarah help her get her father out of the store for the rest of the day. But then Marco would just come back tomorrow. She would need to figure out a more permanent solution. But what to do?
Damn it, these were the times she wished she hadn’t made that vow against killing anyone. If she had been her old self, she would have killed her cousin with hesitation. But that was no longer an option. Besides, she had already drawn enough attention to this area. Killing Marco would draw the attention of her entire family. What she definitely did not need was her grandmother turning too close of an eye on to this city. Not with Nick here. But really, what else was she supposed to do.
Mia was about ready to scream when a chirping sound came from Marco’s pocket. He gave her an apologetic smile as he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out his cellphone. He glanced at the screen before quickly picking up the call.
“Yes?” He said in the receiver. Mia couldn’t hear what was being said on the other line, but she could tell it wasn’t good by watching her cousin’s face closely. The smile never left his face, his blue-gray eyes darkened until they were nearly cobalt. His hand tightened on the sides of the phone. “I see… No, no. That will be all right. Tell them I will there in ten minutes… Yes, please call in the other teams. Let them know we will be having a meeting to discuss our next steps… Okay… See you then.”
Pressing the end call button he turned back to Mia. She forced her lips into a polite smile.
“It seems I will be unable to come back today. If you could just let Mr. Rosen know that I’m looking for him and to give me a call when he is free, I would really appreciate it,” Marco said as he pulled a business card out of his wallet at held it out to Mia.
Mia smiled as she warily eyed the thin piece of cardstock in his hand. Thankful that her hood had long sleeves, she reached out to take the card from Marco’s hand with her fingers, ensuring that her fingers didn’t brush any part of Marco’s bare skin.
“I’ll be sure to do that,” She set the card down on the counter next to the register, making sure her movements weren’t fast enough to be suspicious but quick enough so that she handled the business card as little as possible. She didn’t trust her cousin not to have spell the piece of paper.
“Thank you..Mia,” He said, reading her name tag. He offered her one more dazzling smile before he turned and left the store. Mia couldn’t help but sag against the counter once she was sure he was gone for good. That had been too close. Had she truly fooled him or was he going back to her grandmother right now to report he had found her. Either way, maybe it would be a good idea to get out of here before anymore of her family showed up.
Next: Chapter Five