Mia wiped the condensation from the bathroom mirror with the edge of her towel. She ran a comb through her shoulder length ash blond hair as she studied the face in the mirror. Any one seeing her could easily mistake her for a young woman in her mid-twenties. No one would suspect she was nearly a hundred and fifty. Her face was free of lines and wrinkles. Her large gray eyes were clear. She looked no different from any other young woman you might meet on the street. She was neither beautiful nor plain, but somewhere in between. Her features were pleasant but forgettable. There was nothing about her that would stand out. And that was the way she wanted it.
It had taken her two weeks to craft the spells to hide her true appearance. It had been some pretty powerful spells. The spells hadn’t just changed how people saw her, it had physically changed her appearance. It was magical cosmetic surgery.
Mia had been hesitant at first to use the spell. Not only because it was such a powerful spell and would require a lot of her blood but because it would take away the last bit of herself she had. She had changed everything after that night. She had taken on a new name, a new outlook on life, now she was changing her appearance for good. But in the end she realized, if she truly wanted a chance to escape her old life she would need to change completely.
Besides, what good were her old looks if it only attracted attention, especially the wrong kind of attention? She was trying to hide, her original face would have attracted attention no matter how much she had tried to down play her looks. Someone had paid a heavy blood price for her beauty. But her mother had wanted beautiful children and she was willing to do anything to get it. There was no way she could have gone anywhere unnoticed.
It was better this way, she told herself. After all, even he had not recognized her. If he had not recognized her, there was a good chance her family wouldn’t either.
Setting her brush down on the counter, Mia turned away from the mirror. She set the towel on the rack to dry and headed in to her bedroom. The room was small and the furniture sparse but it had everything she needed. A twin size bed was up against one wall while a set a drawers for her clothes was against another. She had found an old bedside table at a secondhand store and spent five dollars on it. It was now covered in books on knitting that Sarah had lent her. She was trying to teach Mia a craft. So far all Mia had been able to do was make a passable potholder. She had given it to Sarah who had loved it. Mia thought she was just being kind.
Although Sarah was blind she was far from helpless. When Sarah had first told her she loved to knit. It kept her hands busy while her mind wandered. Mia hadn’t understood how Sarah could knit. She couldn’t see. How would she know where to put the needles? But as she watched Sarah she was amazed.
Sarah admitted it hadn’t been easy to learn. She had been utterly frustrated on more than one occasion. There were times she would throw the entire bundle, yarn and needles in to the trash. But her grandmother refused to give up on her. The same way Sarah refused to give up on Mia.
Sarah was the only one that knew the truth about Mia. She was the only one that knew what Mia had been. Although she knew the horrors Mia was capable of. She didn’t hold it against her.
“Are you still that person?” Sarah asked point blank when Mia asked why she would want to be around a person like her.
“No, but it’s hard. It hard not to be her,” Mia had admitted. Every day was a struggle. Using blood magic was too easy. If things didn’t go the way she wanted, she had always used magic to fix it. But now, she couldn’t do that. To keep herself hidden she couldn’t use her magic any more than she had to. Each time she used her magic it sent out a signal. Each’s person magic had a unique signature. If she used her powers and someone was to sense it, all they would have to do was follow the trail back to the place she used the magic and they would know it was her.
When she had first escaped her grandmother, she had needed to use blood magic to hide herself. She had used it sparingly and had always moved immediately after using it. Of course she had only used her own blood for the magic. After that night, she had never taken blood from another source. If she was going to use blood magic, then she was going to use her own blood as payment.
But using blood magic was like using a drug. It gave her a pleasant high. It made her feel so good. It made her feel powerful. Every time she used it, she not only took the risk of getting caught, but of being pulled back in to that life. But sometimes it was so hard to fight the need. Even now, her thumb rubbed against her pointer finger where she used to wear her silver ring, the one with the blade hidden in it.
The ring was now hidden under a loose floorboard under her bed. She knew it was not a good hiding place, but it was enough. Unless someone knew to look for it, they wouldn’t even know to check. She didn’t think leaving the ring in a jewelry box was dangerous, but it was a very unique. If anyone where to spot it and recognize it, they would know it was her. That was why she kept it hidden. She didn’t know exactly who worked for her grandmother anymore. It was better to be safe than sorry.
Pulling the covers on the bed down, she climbed between the thick cotton sheets. The nights were getting colder and soon she would have to get warmer clothes. She didn’t have much money but maybe if she checked a couple of the second hand stores she could find some good deals. A good pair of boots might be nice.
Pulling the covers up over her, she lay down. The room was lit by a single lamp on the dresser. She never turned the lamp off at night. Without using her blood magic as often as she used to she had lost a lot of her heightened senses. Now days, she saw no better in the dark than any normal person. She mourned the loss of her night vision and hearing, but they weren’t worth the price she would need to pay to keep them.
Turning on her side, she closed her eyes and tried to fall asleep. She had watched Mr. Rosen leave with the two men no more than ten minutes after she had gotten in to her apartment. They had left in a black Range Rover. Mia hadn’t been able to get a good look at it in the dark, but she recognized the emblem on the side of the vehicle, the sword and cross, the insignia of the Guild.
Mia didn’t have many dealings with the Guild but she knew a lot about them. They were the group of magic users who made the rules and laws for all magic users. They policed all magic users, doling out punishment were it was deserved. They whole purpose was to keep peace and protect those without the power to protect themselves.
All magic users needed to register with the Guild. They tested you on your level of skill and where the focus of your powers lay. Once you passed the tests you were given an ID card with your name, picture, and personal information, most important being you skill level and your magic focus.
Mia had a card in her purse. Of course it wasn’t real, but it would take more than a quick glance to determine its authenticity. She always made sure no one from the Guild needed more than a quick glance at it.
As far as the Guild was concerned, she was Mia Carlisle, twenty-six years old, five-foot six and a hundred and twenty pounds. She was a C-level magic user, which put her just above average. If her spells worked correctly, that is all that would be read from her. She had healing as her magic focus, which was in part true. Because of her blood magic, she was able to influence the body and its workings. A C-level magic user with a healing focus could do no more than seal a wound and set a bone. All of which she could do.
Until now she had been safe. She had never been questioned about her abilities and no one had paid any attention to her. Now things were going to be different. She knew it. Although he may not have recognized her, he would sense what she was. He had been exposed to blood magic for too long not to sense it. Even if he couldn’t put his finger on it exactly, he would know there was something wrong with her.
She hated to think about leaving this close to winter. But if he started to bring too much attention to her, she would need to. There were people out there looking for her. Her grandmother would not let her go. If they couldn’t bring her back in to the fold they would kill her. And they would kill anyone around her to ensure she had no escape.
She didn’t want to put anyone in danger. But would leaving be the right choice? It would surely draw attention to her. She wasn’t exactly sure, but she always thought her grandmother had connections in the Guild. Mia believed it was how she always found the powerful children. After all, at age ten, all children with any magical abilities were registered with the Guild. Mia couldn’t help but notice that all the children her grandmother took were all ten years of age. It was just too much of a coincidence to be chance.
If the Guild’s attention were to come upon her, it would only be time before her grandmother sent someone after here. No, leaving right now was not a good idea. Maybe if she could talk to him. Maybe make him see. Maybe she could keep them both alive. After all, he had escaped them. They would want him back just as badly as they would want her. Especially now, if they knew just how powerful he was.
But would he even listen to her? She had been in a room with him for five minutes and he looked like he was ready to kill her, if not kill, at least do some serious harm. He was a hard man. But what would you expect after what happened to him as a child? He had adapted the only way he could.
But had he become so cold that he wouldn’t listen to a word she said? What if she told him the truth and he turned her in to the Guild himself? That was if he didn’t outright kill her on the spot. No, talking to him didn’t seem to be a viable option either. At least not yet, not until she could get a better read on him. It was too much of a risk for both of them if he turned on her.
Turning on her back, she opened her eyes. She stared up at the ceiling. So much had happened tonight. She wasn’t sure she could calm her mind down enough to rest. Not when part of her wanted to pack her bags and leave. She had been on the run too long to sit still.
Turning on her other side, she looked at the alarm clock beside her bed. The bright red numbers read 12:59. If she started packing now, she could be out of here in ten minutes. It wouldn’t take long, she didn’t travel with much and a lot of things could be left behind. But where would she go. Winter was almost here and the nights were getting colder. She could head south, but did she have enough money to get her down there and still have enough to find a place to stay until she could find a job. Not everyone was as nice as Mr. Rosen. He charged her only a hundred dollars a month for rent and he provided her with one meal a day plus whatever remained from the café at the end of the day. She had been able to save quite a bit of money working for him. But would it be enough?
Still too agitated to lie down, she sat up. She was never going to fall asleep this way. She needed to work off some off this energy. Getting up, she grabbed a pair of jeans, a long sleeve shirt and a pair of thick socks from the set of drawers. She quickly changed from her long night shirt to the warmer clothes. Grabbing her hoodie from the back of the bathroom door where she had hung it, she quickly pulled it on.
She hurried out the door only stopping long enough to pulled on her pair of old sneakers and grab the apartment keys from the kitchen counter. Making sure to lock the door behind her, she head down the dimly lit hallway to the outside door. She opened the heavy metal door with a good shove and stepped out in to the cool night. The heavy door slammed shut behind her. The door automatically locked so she didn’t have to worry about that one.
Taking a quick look around, she took off at jog towards the main street. It was deserted at this time of night, but because it was a college town, there was still a police presence. Mainly they were out there looking for drunken college kids that needed as escort home. There was still some bars open at this time of night, but they were a couple streets over so Mia didn’t have to worry about running in to anyone.
She didn’t want to go far, she just needed to work off the excess energy so she could fall asleep. So she decided to run down a few blocks, turn around a head home. It should take about twenty minutes. Hopefully that would be enough.
The night was still, the only sound was her sneakers padding against the red brick sidewalk. Around her, the stores and restaurants were dark. Every now and then she would pass someone on their way home. They exchanged a nod or a good evening and continued on their way. It wasn’t completely dead at this time of night, but seeing any one was rare and they were few and far between.
When Mia reached the corner of Third and Main she decided to turn around a head home. She had figured she had walked far enough. The corner was well lit. The light from a 24-hour diner kept the area illuminated. Mia glanced in the window to see a few students with their heads over books and cups of coffee at their side. A couple of men in business suits sat at the counter eating a late meal.
No one glanced up at her, they were all too deep in their own thoughts. It was probably better that way, no one to notice her. Turning around, she headed back to the apartment. This time she decided to walk. She was barely winded and hadn’t even broken a sweat. The jog had helped her calm down a little bit, maybe the walk would help her unwind completely.
She had walked a block when she noticed she was no longer alone. At first she had ignored the presence. They had joined her not long after she had turned back. She had figured it was just someone leaving the diner and heading home. But the person behind her was keeping pace with her a little too well.
Most people who walked on their own kept their own pace. Some people walked fast, some people walked slow, but most people didn’t walk at the exact same speed unless they were on a crowded street and they had no choice. But the sidewalk was empty. There was enough space on the side of her to pass by her if the person was in a rush. But instead they kept the distance. Just far back enough to keep her in sight yet appear non-threatening.
Mia continued on at the exact pace. She didn’t want to let on that she knew they were there. If they thought she was oblivious to their presence it would give her the upper hand.
When they were halfway down the second block Mia watched as a figure came around the corner of the block and headed in her direction. She stared at the man who walked in her direction. He wasn’t very old, probably in his mid- to late twenties. He was tall and solid, built like a professional football player, all wide shoulders and large muscles. Like her, he was dressed in jeans and a sweater. She couldn’t see his face well, it was hidden under the shadow cast by the baseball cap he wore on his head. The man walked towards her at a steady pace, his hands in his pockets.
Mia might have thought nothing of it until she sensed the person behind her picking up their pace. So this was their game. The first person must have been stationed at the diner watching for somebody who would be a good target. He probably texted his friend when he saw her jogging alone this late at night. They must have taken one look at her and thought easy target. Boy, had they chosen the wrong person to attack.
Mia slowed her pace, letting the person behind her catch up. She looked around to see if there was anyone else around. It wouldn’t do to have any witnesses. She didn’t plan to kill the men, but she was going to make sure they never thought about attacking anyone again.
The man coming towards her watched her. He smiled when he saw her slow down. He probably thought she was afraid, looking around for someone to help her. How wrong he was.
Mia came to a complete stop as she glanced behind her to see another man very much like the first about ten feet behind her. When he saw her look back at him her gave her a wide grin. He pulled his hand from his jacket, Mia saw something glint off the street light a few feet away.
Good, just what she needed, a weapon since she had left hers at home. She hadn’t been thinking clearly when she had left her apartment. Usually she never went around unarmed. But her mind had been such a mess that she had forgotten to grab the slim dagger she usually carried with her everywhere.
When she had realized it, she hadn’t wanted to turn back to grab it. It wasn’t like she needed it. It was just that there were a lot less questions asked when there was an obvious weapon. Most people didn’t like it when you told them you could create a weapon from your own blood. Usually any mention of blood magic was enough to get you locked up. She had started carrying around the dagger so that she wouldn’t have to use her magic.
As the first man drew up to her, he whipped a hunting knife from his jacket. He waved it at her, silently threatening her with it. She stared at the six inch blade. It wasn’t what she would have considered a weapon. The knife was obviously old, the dulled blade was rusted in some spots and the wooden handle nearly worn white. Her slim five inch blade could have done more damage than that thing he called a knife.
“Well what do we have here?” The man with the knife drawled as he looked Mia up and down as he partner caught up with them, coming to a stop behind Mia. “Aren’t you a pretty little thing?”
The man was barely taller than her, who was he calling little. His friend though, had a good six inches on her, but it still wouldn’t help him.
“What do you want?” Mia asked, her voice cool, no tremor or fear, no hesitation. The man in front of her just raised a brow.
“Brave one, aren’t you? Well you won’t be so brave when I start cutting off little pieces of you. What do you think Jack, what should we start with? A toe, a finger, maybe an ear?” The man smiled at her, running one of his fingers against the dull blade. Too bad it hadn’t been sharp, maybe he would have cut himself on it then.
“Maybe we should start with her clothes,” The man name Jack suggested as he moved to stand right behind her so that his chest was brushing against her back. His large hands clamped down on her waist, “Let’s see what she’s got under there.”
Mia felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up, the one behind her was a magic user. She could feel his magic brushing against her. It sent shivers down her spine. He felt it, let out a breath moan as he pulled her back against him. She could feel him hardening against her waist.
Her fear seemed to be a turn on for him, too bad it wasn’t fear. The man had magic, strong magic. He was probably a B-level magic user. She could taste his magic on her tongue, a fire-user. His blood would be potent.
She closed her eyes and leaned in to him, taking a whiff of his scent. She could smell mint and aftershave, but underneath that she could smell him, that hot metallic scent of his blood. She ran her tongue of her lips, causing the man to moan as he pulled her tighter to him.
“That’s it baby,” Jack said as he ground himself against her.
“What the hell?” His partner asked. He probably saw what his friend could not. Her magic was reacting to his. She had seen herself once when she was in the full throes of her magic. It had been spooky. Her gray eyes began to glow, an eerie silver-white. It wasn’t just her eyes either, her skin began to glow as well.
A smile came to Mia’s lips as her control started to slip and the old Amelia began to surface. She opened her eyes as gazed at the man across from her. The man stepped back as she looked at him.
“What the hell are you?” The man demanded, his voice dry and hoarse, his face had gone white. Mia smiled wider as she tasted the man’s fear on the air. So very delicious.
Jack’s hands began to roam around her body as his lips lay a trail of kisses against her neck. He was too lost in the spell of their mixed magics to notice of even care that she was practically glowing.
Mia knew well about mixed magics. She had used it often to get more out a bleeding then one would normally get. When two complementary magics mixed, the emotion the person was feeling at the time was heightened. Usually the emotion she induced was fear. It had always made the high of blood magic so much better. But this man had been feeling lust and now he was lost in it, too lost to even realize the danger he was in.
His friend though was all too aware of the danger she posed. She reached out to him, her fingers brushing against his stubble covered cheek. He flinched at her touch, a deep throaty laughter bubbled from deep within her.
She knew she should stop now, but it was so hard. It felt so good. She hadn’t felt this euphoria in such a long time. Her body was on fire but the burn felt so good. She didn’t want to give it up. She barely realized what she was doing when she ran the edge of her nails against the man’s neck, her eyes watching his neck intently as his pulse pounded under her finger.
It must have been too much for the man because he shriek and struck out with the knife he held tightly in his right hand. He missed her completely but he sliced his friend. It was a deep cut and Jack’s hot blood began to gush from the wound.
“What the fuck?” Jack snarled as he looked at his bleeding arm to his friend. “What the hell was that for?”
Mia stayed perfectly still as the scent of fresh blood filled the air. The fire in her blood began to rage, demanding release. The need to use her magic was nearly overwhelming. It clawed at her from the inside, struggling to break free.
“No,” Mia moaned as her muscles clenched so hard they began to scream at her. Her magic wanted blood and it would tear through her to get it.
“No,” She said gritting her teeth. She closed her eyes, trying to block out the sight of the blood seeping through Jack’s fingers, but even with her eyes closed she could still smell it. The rich copper scent filled her nose.
The power within her screamed for release. Take it! Take It! The magic demanded. And the thing was, she wanted to, she wanted to take it so damn badly. The blood was right there. All she had to do was reach out and it would answer her call. It was so close and it’s call so damn sweet. She could nearly taste it on her tongue, that unbelievable ambrosia. It was so damn enticing. Why? Why was she fighting?
“What the hell?” Jack’s voice was so distant it was like a whisper but she knew he stood right next to her. So close. She licked her lips, remembering all too well the indescribable taste on her tongue. So sweet, so rich, so very addicting.
Mia opened her eyes, unable to keep them closed any longer. Jack stood in front of her. His eyes were large green pools that reflected her image back at her. She could only stare at herself for a long moment.
The woman staring back at her had a wicked smile on her lips, her eyes so bright they no longer held any color. Her soft blond curls danced around her in an invisible wind while every inch of exposed skin gave off a luminescent glow.
Jack took a step back as he stared at her, his mouth hanging open and whimpering sounds began to emit from him. The smile on her lips grew as his fear began to feed her.
“Get the hell away from us!” Jack’s friend squealed as he began to swipe his knife blindly at her. She couldn’t help but laugh. They had come after her, not she after them. Now they wanted her to go away. But she hadn’t even begun to play yet. No, she didn’t think so. They had started this, and now she would end it. She lifted her right hand, drawing on the power within her, ready to release it after such a very long time.
No, the single word reverberated through the body. Mia froze as the single word broke the spell over her. The magic that had been clawing for release, was no longer as demanding as it had been a moment ago. The high she had been under began to fade as the world around her snapped back in to place.
Horror filled her as she realized what she had almost done. She stared down at the hands that had been an instant away from taking the lives of these two men. She had been so close to losing it all. So close to losing everything she had fought so hard these last twenty-five years to attain. She had thought she had changed, she thought she had become a better person. How wrong she had been.
“Get out of here,” she told the men, not even bothering to look up at them, “Get out of here before I change my mind.”
They didn’t need any further incentive. They took off as if they devil was on their tail, and it truth, she had been.
Clenching her fists she looked up. She needed to get away from here. The scent of Jack’s blood was still too strong. The wound had been deep and he had left blood all over the brick sidewalk. The fallen blood called to her, its siren song trying to lure her back.
Shaking her head to clear the song out of her head, she took off toward her apartment. This time, at a full run. She didn’t even bother to stop at the intersections and wait for the cross sign. Instead she just ran straight in to the road. It’s not like there was cars out this late at night. Besides, at this point, being run over might just be a blessing.
The moment she reached the metal door she shoved her key in the lock. She twisted it open and sped up the stairs. The moment she reached her apartment door she was out of breath. Her hands were shaking so hard as she tried to shove the key in the lock. Why had it worked so well outside but now that she was inside she could barely keep her hand steady.
Tears pricked at her eyes and a growl of frustration ripped from her lips.
“Open!” She screamed, her voice echoing in the empty hall. She kicked the brick wall too for a good measure but still the door wouldn’t open for her. She collapsed against the wall and the tears began to overflow.
She had nearly killed those men. She had taken their lives just because she could. She had thought she had left that life behind. But she was wrong. She hadn’t changed at all. There was no better future, there was no better her. She had been such a fool.
She wasn’t sure how long she lost in her tears when she realized she was no longer alone.
“Shh,” a kind voice told her as she was gently pulled into a warm embrace, “Hush now. Everything will be okay.”
Mia looked through her tear filled eyes to find Sarah sitting against the wall next to her, holding her against her side as she ran her hand through Mia’s hair. Mia didn’t know how she got there or when she got there but all that mattered was that she was here.
“It’s all right,” Sarah told her. “Everything will be all right.”
Mia wanted so badly to believer her. She wanted to believe so much it hurt. But she couldn’t escape the person she had been. She couldn’t escape Amelia Dragos. No matter how fast or far she ran, she could never escape. There was no hope.
Next: Chapter Three