Mia wasn’t sure how long she had slept for. All she knew was that when she woke up the room was dark. She lay curled in her bed with her thick comforter wrapped around her. The last thing she remembered before falling asleep was an awful headache.
After throwing up her lunch she had crawled into bed. Her head had begun to pound and it wasn’t letting up. Alistair had come to check on her asking if she wanted anything to drink or maybe some crackers. She had just shaken her head, no.
He didn’t ask what had caused her to be sick. He didn’t try to pry. Instead he let her be, letting her know he would be in the living room until one of the men returned to take over. She had made some kind of sound of agreement, she was pretty sure of that, but by then her head felt like it was splitting apart.
She closed her eyes and tried not to be sick again. She wasn’t sure how long she had lain like that before she finally fell asleep. She glanced at the alarm clock to see it was already past midnight. She wasn’t really hungry and there was still a dull pounding in her head, but she felt much better than she had before.
Pushing the sheets aside she walked over to her bathroom. Turning the bathroom light on, she glanced at the face in the mirror. She still didn’t look very good. Her skin was far too pale and her normal curls hung limply around her face.
She definitely had better days. Turning away from the mirror she walked over to the tub. Stopping the drain, she turned on the faucet to fill the tub. A nice hot bath might make her feel better. Maybe if she felt well enough after she was done bathing, she might just see if she could stomach to eat something. She still had her bowl of soup left from the morning, if not then her leftovers from lunch.
Stripping off her clothes, she climbed in to the hot water. For a long moment she just lay there, letting the heat set in to her body. Closing her eyes, she rested her head against the back of the tub. This felt so nice, she didn’t ever want to leave. Turning the faucet off with her foot, Mia just lay there relaxing.
She thought about adding the bath salts Sarah had bought her but she was just too comfortable to move. She lay there until the water got to cool. Once most of the heat was gone she finally forced herself to move. Grabbing the bottle of all-in-one shampoo and conditioner she lathered her hair up. She couldn’t afford by shampoo and condition so she bought the all-in-one from the local drugstore. It worked well enough and cut her shower time in half.
Dunking her head underwater, she rinsed the lather away. Grabbing her shower poof and body wash she quickly soaped herself and washed off before the water turned frigid. Once she was clean, she unplugged the tub and got out.
Grabbing a towel, she dried herself off before pulling on her long night shirt. She left the towel on the back of the bathroom door to dry before wandering in to the kitchen to look for something light to eat. She wasn’t really hungry but she figured maybe if she had something in her stomach, it would make the dull throbbing her head go away.
She opened her fridge door and froze as she looked at all the food that had suddenly appeared. Where there had just been a bowl of soup, a nearly empty bottle of mayonnaise and a wilted head of lettuce, there was now apples, carrots, sandwich meats, cheese, milk, orange juice, half of roasted chicken, a container that was marked mashed potatoes and gravy, and plastic containers filled with all different kinds of soups from the local deli.
Tear came to her eyes as she looked at all the food. She didn’t know if this from Alistair or Sarah. But she was so grateful. It had been such a long time since she had seen this much food. This morning she had been worrying about having enough money to buy groceries till the next payday, and now she had enough food to last her for a couple of weeks. Now that would give her enough money to buy some warm clothes.
She didn’t know why but she just started bawling. She stood there in front of the open refrigerator door crying her heart out. She had never been given a gift like this before.
“All your food is going to spoil if you stand there crying,” A kind voice told her, as they led her away from the hand and closed the refrigerator door for her. Mia sobs slowly ceased as she found Ronan standing there shaking his head at her.
He was dressed in a pair of jeaned as a shirt that looked like it was hastily thrown on since it was on backwards. His hair was stick up all over the place as if he had just rolled out of bed.
Her cheeks began to burn as she realized her crying must have woken him up. They still hadn’t gotten the door fixed so it was hanging half on-half off its hinges. It afforded her some privacy, but obviously, not much.
Looking around the kitchen, Ronan picked up the kitchen towel she had hanging above the dish rack. He handed it to her and she quickly wiped the tears off her face then wiped her running nose.
“There, that’s better,” he told her. She wasn’t sure if it was because she was no longer crying or because she looked slightly better. She knew she must still appear a mess. Whenever she cried her nose would turn red and her eyes would get all splotchy. She wasn’t a good crier, nor did she cry often, so when she did, she was a complete mess.
“Thank you,” she sniffled.
“Hey, I had to get you to stop somehow. You were keeping me up,” He told her. Her cheeks grew hot again.
“I’m sorry,” She said, unable to tell if he was joking or not. He looked at her for a long moment before shaking his head.
“You continually surprise me,” he said simply before turning around and heading back out. He didn’t bother to turn around but called over his shoulder as he left, “Try not to cry in front of your open fridge again, it would be a waste to have all that food spoil.”
Mia just nodded although he couldn’t see it. But he said nothing else before pushing the front door aside and closing it again after he left. Mia turned back to her fridge with a happy smile. Opening the door, she looked at all the containers of different kinds of soups. She bent over to read all their labels and tried to decide which one she should eat.
Grabbing one, she transferred the contents to a ceramic bowl and threw it in to the microwave. When it was done heating up, she grabbed her bowl of warm soup and a spoon and went in to her living room to sit and eat.
Turning the television on, but keeping the volume soft, she ate her warm bowl of soup while she watched some old reruns. Once her stomach was full, she washed her bowl and spoon and set the dishes to dry in the dish rack.
With a yawn, she headed back to her bedroom. She walked back in to her bathroom and grabbed her toothbrush and toothpaste. She brushed her teeth quickly as her eyes were beginning to droop. Rinsing out her mouth, she ran her toothbrush under the water until it was clean. She placed it back on the bathroom counter and crawled back in to bed.
She knew it wasn’t good to go to sleep with wet hair but she was just too tired to dry it. Besides, it wasn’t that wet, just a little damp still. Pulling the blanket up to her shoulders, Mia was out in seconds. She had a very long day, she really hoped the next day would be better.
Mia wasn’t really surprised to see Ronan seated in the café the next day when she arrived for her shift. She always worked the closing shift, except for Saturdays. So she would get to work around one and left exactly at closing. She would get a thirty minute break in the middle of her shift for dinner, which was always provided by the café.
As Mia walked passed the café entrance, Ronan looked up at her and nodded before turning back to the magazine he was reading. He didn’t seem to notice all the women around him, but they sure did notice him.
Mia just shook her head as she headed to the back of the store where the employee break room was. She placed her purse in one of the employee lockers and grabbed a green Books and Beans apron and pulled it on. She checked the schedule near the bathroom to see what she would be working on today. Usually she ran register on Monday nights, but sometimes if they had enough staff, they had Mia shelving books instead.
It looked like they had one of the part-time girls working the afternoon, so Mia would be shelving until the girl’s shift ended and then she would be manning the register until closing. Grabbing a cart with filled with books, Mia wheeled it on to the sales floor and headed to the reference section. This cart had been loaded with dictionaries and travel guides. The travel section was only a shelf over so she figured she start with the dictionaries first since they were closest.
Of all the jobs Mia had taken in the past twenty-five years, she loved working at Books and Beans the best. She had never realized just how relaxing it was to be surrounded by books. This place was nothing like her grandmother’s library.
Her grandmother’s library had been a large cold room filled with old musty texts that smelled like mold and dried blood. Mia had never liked the room and had only gone in there rarely. Usually it was when her grandmother had sent her to grab one text or another. Mia had never liked it there. But here, Mia could stay here all day and just wander from shelf to shelf just looking at the titles of the books. She may never have enough time to read all the books in this place, but one day, she may just want to try.
Alistair did allow his staff to borrow the books from the store, they just had to sign it out with Liz and bring it back before borrowing another. All he asked was that you brought the book back in good shape so that it could be sold. Not many people took him up on that offer. But Mia decided, if she was going to stay, maybe she could try borrowing a couple books. Maybe she could try learning how to cook, or maybe learning another language might be nice.
She was so deep in her thought she didn’t noticed she was no longer alone. She was just shelving a heavy dictionary when a shadow fell over her. The book nearly fell out of her hands before a large hand reached over her should to grab it for her. She whirled around to come face to face with her cousin Marco.
He stared down at her, his large body trapping her up against the book case. It felt like her heart literally stopped and she looked up in to his hazel eyes. He stared down at her intently, his mouth fixed in a grim line.
“May I help you?” She was finally able to utter out, her voice a little shaky. But she figured she could get away with it. What woman wouldn’t be scared to have some large unknown man hovering over her like that.
“I thought Alexander was lying when he said the quiet little book seller at Books and Beans was his daughter in disguise,” Marco said as he lifted a finger to her chin, tilting her head from one side the other, “You sure don’t look like Amelia, but you reek of blood magic.”
Mia’s body froze. She was unsure what to do. Would he truly believe her if she tried to play dumb? Or should she call for help? Ronan was in the store, would he come if she called for him? Or would it just put him in danger?
The book store was crowded enough she was sure Marco wouldn’t make a scene. But was she willing to bet her life and freedom on it.
Before she could come to a decision, he let go of her chin and took a step back, giving her space to breathe again. He watch her intently as she took a tiny step back, if she needed to make a run for it, she wanted to give herself at least a chance. She may not be as fast as she once had been, but neither could he show his true speed or draw too much attention to himself.
“You aren’t going to say anything? Deny you’re Amelia? Pretend you’re a blood magic user? Plead for your freedom?” Marco said, raising an eyebrow as he studied her.
“Would doing any of those things do me any good? You seem to believe these things, is there some way I could change your mind?” She said simply with a shrug, deciding to play it cool. Maybe if she could get him to let down his guard she could make a run for it.
“No,” he told her flatly.
“Then what do you want with me?” She asked, her eyes darting around them. They happened to be in the far back corner of the bookstore. There weren’t too many customers in this area, but she could hear a couple of women a few shelves down. Marco wasn’t speaking loud enough for them to hear what they were saying, but they were close enough she could hear them.
“I want to know why you haven’t returned,” He told her, stepping closer so that he was only a foot away from her. He lowered his voice even further so that only she could hear what he was saying, “There is a war brewing and you will not survive on your own. You may think your little body guards will be able to protect you but they won’t. The only ones that can help you now are your family.”
Mia couldn’t help but snort at that. Wasn’t this the same family that had been hunting her down for the last twenty-five years? The same family that had come after her in the forest prepared to take her down? And she was supposed to believe that everything was fine and forgiven?
“Amelia, you can’t survive on your own. The person has already killed twenty-one people. Who knows how powerful he is at this point? Who know what he has planned? The safest place for you now is with us. Now come on, there’s a car waiting for you outside,” He told her firmly as he wrapped a hand around her arm.
“No,” she growled as she pulled her arm out of his grip, “I’m not going with you.”
“Are you completely out of your mind? Do you not see what that killer did? I know you’ve taken a look at the bodies. I have people watching Alistair Rosen and his men too. You know what this killer is capable of, you aren’t safe,” He told her as he reached out for her again.
She took a step back and away from him, “Why is it so important that I return? What do you want from me?”
“As hard as it may be to believe, we all don’t agree with Grandmother on everything. What you did was wrong. You know better than to betray the family. But I can at least understand why you did it,” He told her. She looked up at him in surprise, unsure if he was actually telling the truth or if this was some lie he was expected to swallow.
“You were there that night. You were with them hunting me down. Do you really expect me to believe your lies?”
“I’m not like the rest of them, you know that,” he told her with a scowl, “I’ve lived in the outside world far longer than I’ve lived in the manor. I may have been born to that world, but it is not the world I belong in.”
“Then why are you making me go back. If you understand what it feels like to be free, why are you forcing me to return?”
“Because you aren’t safe out here,” He told her earnestly.
“Why? What do you know that I don’t? What do you know about me?” She demanded to know. Marco sighed and looked around them real quick before leaning in so that they’re heads were only inches apart.
“I was born long before you, Amelia. I was already a hundred years old when you were born,” he told her softly, “I have seen things far worse than you can possible imagine. My only saving grace has been the fact that I was not born woman.”
Mia frowned as she looked at him, not understanding what he was trying to say.
“You were not the first, Amelia. Before you, there were nine others,” he told her, “Only four of the nine could be considered successes.”
Mia’s hands clenched in to fists. Was he talking about what she thought he was talking about? Did he know something about the marks on her back? Did he know what they did to her?
“What did they do to me?” She ground out between clenched teeth, “What did they do so that I don’t need to make the blood sacrifices to work my magic? What did they do to the soul that belongs to this body?”
“So you know then?” He asked as he took a step back to get a good look at her.
“I know nothing, that’s why you need to tell me? What am I? Who was I? What did they do to me?” Her voice rose high enough that the women a few shelves down stopped speaking.
“Shh!” Marco said as he wrapped a hand around her wrist and pulled her to the very back of the store. “I’m not supposed to know and I wouldn’t have if they hadn’t taken my sister.”
“No. I had another sister before Delilah. Like you, I was born a twin. My sister, Marguerite was much like you. She was an A-level magic user and a blood letter. She was powerful and she had skills not many others had,” He told her.
“What happened to her? Why have I never heard of her?” Mia demanded to know.
“Because they tried to do to her what they did to you,” He told her flatly. “They tried to use her body as a gateway to bring back the soul of one of the four original Omegas.”
Mia’s mouth dropped open, unable to truly comprehend what he was saying. Original Omegas? What did he mean by original Omegas? She knew from what Ronan had told her before that there were five known Omegas in Guild history. Was her grandmother trying to create an army of Omegas by resurrecting their souls in the bodies of her own grandchildren?
The horror that filled her at even the thought of it was utterly indescribable. It made her sick. Wrapping her hands around her stomach she turned away from Marco, not wanting to look at him anymore.
“Marguerite was all wrong. They let her get to old,” Marco said shaking his head, “She was too powerful, her soul too strong.”
“What happened?” the words were soft, so soft at first she wasn’t sure he heard them. But then a moment later he answered her.
“Her body was torn apart. Two powerful souls were fighting for control of one body. It was too much, her body couldn’t contain the power. It was like her body exploded. I wasn’t there for when it happened, but I saw the room afterwards,” he voice was empty, his face a sickly white color.
Part of her wanted to offer him support, but the other half of her wanted to run away screaming. After what he had just told her, he wanted her to return to the people that had done that to his own twin sister. Was he out of his mind?
“I won’t go back there,” she told him shaking her head.
“You don’t understand. You don’t have a choice. You are too powerful. Do you think I will be the only one coming after you? After your little explosion of power yesterday, you’re lucky some of the others cousins aren’t here banging down your door. You’re just lucky I was already stationed in this city and that I was able to put them off by telling them I would bring you in.”
“Grandmother won’t let you go, not with a war coming. Right now, she needs all the fire power she can get, and who better than an Omega Blood Letter. You don’t need a blood sacrifice to work your magic so you will not be bound by the same rules the rest of us are. You can keep fighting after the rest of us wear out. You are her ultimate weapon,” he told her bitterly.
“I didn’t ask to be this way. I didn’t want to be this way. I ran away from that life so that I didn’t have to be a killer anymore,” She told him angrily.
“But that’s just it, you don’t need to ever take another life to work your magic. You are the ultimate blood magic user. You have all of our strengths and none of our weaknesses.”
“Because an innocent person sacrificed their soul that I can life in their body. I think that counts as a sacrifice,” she snarled at him.
Marco just snorted, “Believe me, that ‘innocent soul’ you are so sad about having been sacrificed is hardly worth a second thought. She was a spoiled brat without an ounce of self-control. You think your twin Emily is bad, you should have seen the soul that inhabited that body before you did. I don’t normally believe a person can be born evil, but I swear that she was quite literally the child of the devil.”
Mia froze as she looked at him. He just nodded at her, “She took joy in the killing. She liked to watch the life drain from their eyes before she drank their blood.”
If Mia hadn’t felt sick before, she felt sick now. She was so glad she hadn’t eaten anything before work, otherwise she might had been running to the restroom right now. She hadn’t enjoyed throwing up yesterday, she really didn’t want a repeat.
“Grandmother absolutely loved her, but she was a prime candidate for the transfer. She had all the right qualities,” Marco said.
“Being a psychotic killer?”
“Being an A-level magic user with the bloodletting ability,” Marco informed her.
“How old was she when they made the…transfer?”
Mia’s mouth literally dropped open at that point. She had been killing people when she was only a child. What the hell kind of life had she been thrown in to? No wonder her father had no love for his daughters. How could you fall in love with a psychotic killer and cold blood bitch? Really?
“I’m not going back. I don’t care what you say or do, I’m not going back there,” Mia said shaking her head as she took a step away from him.
“I can’t protect you, Amelia. Not from what’s out there and not from out family,” He told her, “I have a wife and a daughter in this life. I can’t risk them, not for you.”
“Then you have to understand why I can’t go back. I have people I care about here. Even if Grandmother made a blood oath not to come after them, after what I seen her do, I could never trust her to keep that oath.”
“This is because of him, isn’t?” Marco asked with a frown. “This is because of that boy you saved all those years ago. You won’t leave because of him.”
Mia frowned. This wasn’t about Nick. Well not completely. He opened her eyes. Because of him, she saw the world differently. She saw the wonders as well as the evils. She saw the good along with the bad. She owed him for that. But she wasn’t fighting Marco because of him.
Sure she was scared of her grandmother. She would have to be a complete fool not to be. But she didn’t trust her. Her grandmother liked to scheme. She would do just about anything for more power, look at Mia. She was living, breathing proof of that.
Mia had found a real life. She had a real friend and people she cared about who cared about her. They would fight for her, so she was willing to fight for them. She knew that whoever this attacker was, he was just as dangerous as her grandmother if not more. She could leave the people she cared about unprotected, not from the attacker or her grandmother.
So she was willing to earn her grandmother’s fury, if it meant she would be given the chance to protect the ones she cared for. Because if something were to ever happened to them because of her, she would never be able to forgive herself.
Marco scowled at her but didn’t argue with her. If he had a wife and daughter, he had to understand what she was going through. She didn’t want to cause him any trouble, especially if it were going to put his family in danger. But she could go back there. Not now. Not ever. Not after what Marco had told her. If her grandmother really wanted to come after her, then let her come. She had already given away her location. She didn’t need to make a blood sacrifice to use her magic. If her grandmother was going to send someone else after her, she was going to fight. She had something worth protecting now. She wasn’t going to give it up to anyone, not to Marco, not to her grandmother, and not to this unknown attacker. She was here to stay and she was willing to fight to remain her.
For the first time in a long time, she was beginning to get a sense of who she truly was. She wasn’t Amelia Thalia Dragos anymore, she was Mia Carlisle. And no one was going to take that away from her, no one.
Next: Chapter Eleven