WHITELIGHTER by Angie Derek. A steamy paranormal romance novella. Content warning: Violent battle scene below.
Lily Conner raced up the stairs. Her breath came in ragged gasps. The only thing keeping her moving was the vampires in hot pursuit behind them. The hotel lobby crawled with vampires blocking their escape. Unfortunately, two vamps had spotted them darting back up the fire stairs.
Her own personal vamp ran behind, keeping her going at a non-human speed and carrying her four-year-old sister. If she were holding Sophie, they wouldn’t be moving at this hard pace.
“Faster!” Brenda pushed steadily against her back.
She didn’t waste breath telling Brenda she couldn’t go any faster. It didn’t matter that they were being pursued. Her body could run only so fast. The sound of the other two vamps climbing a couple of stories below echoed up the stairs. Fighting against her growing fatigue, she somehow pulled the energy out to run up to the final floor of the high-rise hotel. She shoved against the fire door and stumbled into the large and extensive gym stretched out across the entire length of the hotel.
Staggering a few feet in, she collapsed against the soft gymnastic mats laid out in a large square in this corner of the room. On her knees, she sucked in air and pressed on her throbbing chest. The pain threatened to swamp her, but she pushed it down as oxygen struggled through her lungs. She glanced around the room to assess escape and weapon possibilities as Brenda had drilled her. Her backpack carried two stakes and a change of clothing. Her sister wore an identical if smaller backpack. But the problem with stakes was having to get up close and personal for them to be effective.
The main entrance across the room worried her the most. The double elevators could fit more than twenty vamps if they were on their way up. During the two years she had been on the run from the vampires she had learned that fighting a pack was practically impossible. You had to run and run fast.
Brenda set Sophie down next to Lily, her lightning fast gaze taking in the room as she prepared for the two vampires. The vamp dropped a much larger duffle bag which held the rest of their possessions and her own personal backpack next to Lily.
Lily had to get her energy back if she was going to have any chance of defending herself and Sophie from the two vamps about to come through the door let alone the master vampire controlling the vamp mob pursuing them. The pack wouldn’t have been in the lobby so openly unless they had a reason, and a reason could only be supplied by a master.
Brenda darted to the section of the gym devoted to weight lifting before pacing back to drop a metal bar from a barbell next to Lily. She hefted the bar and grimaced at the weight as her arm protested. Pivoting, she faced the fire escape door as Brenda took up her battle stance. The sound of the vamps climbing the final flight filtered through the heavy door. Two stakes appeared in Brenda’s palms and she went completely still, a predator awaiting its prey.
Lily couldn’t manage complete stillness as her arms trembled. She hadn’t yet regained her strength, but she gripped the bar with both hands and hefted it up as best she could.
The door crashed open and two gangly vampires filled the doorway. Their gazes went immediately to where Lily kneeled. A bad move on their part, because they didn’t notice Brenda until she’d already flung the stakes right into their chests. The vamps clawed at the weapons for half a second before falling. Brenda dragged them both into the gym and stuck her head into the stair well. She listened for a moment before slamming the door shut to turn back to the bodies. She knelt over them to make sure they were truly dead. Giving each stake a final nudge, she stood back up.
Lily lowered the bar, the threat over for the moment and focused her attention on Sophie. Her little sister looked more tired than scared, trusting Brenda and Lily to keep her safe. Sophie took everything in stride, but when all you knew was running for your life how else would you take life-threatening situations? She had been only two when their parents were murdered by the vampires and Lily wasn’t sure she had more than vague memories of normal life. Lily wasn’t so lucky. Her memories were crystal clear since she had just turned seventeen when they had barely escaped that night.
Cupping Sophie’s ponytail, she let the silky strands run through her fingers. “How you doin’, Soph?” Her sister leaned into her without saying anything. Lily focused on Brenda prowling about the room. “How many do you think will come?” She looked toward the elevator bank and wrapped her fingers more securely around the metal bar.
Brenda considered her question, but didn’t stop her movements. “Depends on if they find our scent on the stairs and whether the master goes to our room alone. He might not want to risk controlling the others in your presence, but once he realizes our room’s vacant he might send them out to search for you. I don’t think this pair told anyone they spotted us. They were hoping to have you to themselves.”
“So we don’t know what we’ll be facing.” She frowned in worry. The vamps had chased them into a corner. “We should have tried to make a run for it through the lobby.”
“That’s what they were waiting for. We wouldn’t have made it near the door.”
“If a pack of them comes up here we won’t be any better off.”
“We have a chance it could just be the master.”
Lily raised an eyebrow in doubt. Fighting a master didn’t seem like better odds to her. She tried to see the super large room through the vampire’s eyes. Make a strategy to defend herself and Sophie. Every moment was one moment closer to them being found. She needed to be focused for the fight to come. A large bang echoed up the stairs and Brenda snatched Sophie out of her arms. Lily stood and hefted the metal bar up as she followed Brenda to the farthest wall away from the main entrance and back staircase. She took Sophie as Brenda pivoted to face the threat. Sophie wrapped her arms and legs solidly around Lily.
A single vampire emerged from the doorway. Evil radiated from him and his soulless eyes.
The master vampire.
Looking past the two dead vampires and Brenda’s impressive battle stance, he focused on Lily. Death gleamed in his smile.
Her heart stuttered and she forced her eyes away from his face. She set Sophie down and kneeled beside her, keeping her mouth close to her sister’s ear. “You need to run, sweetie. Can you run for me?”
Fear passed through Sophie’s blue eyes for the first time. “You can’t leave me.”
“I’ll be right behind you.”
Brenda pulled out a cursed silver dagger with one hand and a wooden spike with her other, distracting the master away from the sisters as he focused on her movements.
Lily set Sophie apart from her and pointed to the stairs by the elevator. “I need you to go and hide. Remember the hiding games Brenda practiced with you. We’re gonna play now.”
Sophie made it to the entrance of the workout area before she turned and cast a fearful look toward the master as he moved in on Brenda.
Lily jerked her attention away from Sophie. Brenda and the master leapt at each other. The master far outmatched Brenda who had always amazed Lily with her swiftness and fighting ability. She stepped forward to back up Brenda, but hesitated not wanting to risk hitting Brenda with the pipe. She glanced back at Sophie, frozen beside a treadmill, her eyes wide in her petite face.
Sophie started to cry and shook her head in denial. Fear for her sister made Lily move closer to the snarling vampires. If Sophie wasn’t going to get herself to safety it would be up to her to keep her sister from a horrible death.
Brenda suddenly froze and fell. Disbelief and terror lanced through Lily. Brenda’s dagger and stake were buried deep in her own chest. The master had used her own weapons against her. Sophie’s scream filled the gym.
He smiled over Brenda’s dead body and beckoned to Lily.
Everything Brenda had taught her flew right out of her head. Pure terror filled her as if she was drowning.
He stepped over Brenda’s lifeless form, his gaze sliding past Lily to where Sophie continued to make small keening sounds. “She’s a tasty morsel, but you’re delectable. I'll save her for dessert.”
The terror fled as the power within rose up at his words. She would protect her little sister. Her fingers trembled as she filled with white light, the same light that made her a target to every master vampire and dark creature in the first place. Her hand heated and flashed to burning as she flung it toward Brenda. The dagger, buried deep in Brenda’s chest, released and rose up to fly into the master vampire’s back. The stake followed shortly behind it.
His smile froze as his body registered the impact and he reached back in vain to pull the weapons out. He pitched forward with a body shaking rattle.
Not believing what she’d done, she stood frozen for a full minute. Staring at her hand, the burning sensation faded away and she clenched it around the metal bar, hefting it up with both hands. She had to check on Brenda. Perhaps she wasn’t dead, as she appeared to be. Lily stepped carefully around the master vampire.
Sophie broke her petrified stance and ran to her, making a wide berth around the dead vampire. Sophie grabbed on to her arm, but she couldn’t focus on her distraught sister just yet. The power she couldn’t control surged within her. She knelt beside Brenda and instinctively ran her hands over the wounds. Her fingers tingled and burned. White light shot out of her palms and into Brenda’s body. She placed her hand over the worst wound on Brenda’s heart, blood seeped up through her fingers.
A breath shuddered out of her protector’s body. She jerked awake, her eyes snapped open and focused on Lily. “Where is he?”
“Dead,” she whispered another type of exhaustion besides fatigue filling her. She reached out to Sophie, drawing her closer.
Brenda grimaced in pain as she rose up on her elbows to verify the threat was indeed taken out. Her eyes narrowed at the sight of the fallen vampire. “He’s not the only vampire in the building.” She flinched as she pushed herself up into a sitting position and examined her wounds. “What did you do?” She didn’t sound too thrilled with Lily bringing her back from the dead.
“I don’t know.” Lily shook her head. “Now probably isn’t the time to discuss it.” Standing up, she helped Brenda to her feet. “Can you run? I have a feeling we’re going to do a lot of running.”
“I’m gonna have to.” Brenda held her hand out for Lily’s bar. She shot a regretful look at the cursed dagger buried deep in the master vampire.
Lily understood her regret, but they couldn’t risk removing the dagger in case it was what was keeping the vampire down and not the stake. She scooped the now silent Sophie up and kissed her tear streaked cheek. “We’re getting out of here.”
Brenda snagged the dropped duffle bag and her backpack before moving slowly toward the stairs they had come up and stuck her head in the stairwell, listening. With over thirty floors in the building there were plenty of places for the vamps to be waiting for them. She motioned for Lily to follow her and they went quickly down five flights before finding a floor that didn’t stink of vampire. Brenda walked with obvious difficulty. Lily tried not to mull over the possibility of being attacked without Brenda able to defend them. Her power had fizzled down again after healing Brenda and she wasn’t confident in her ability to call it up on command.
They walked swiftly down the twenty-fifth floor hallway to the elevator banks.
She melted back against the wall, Sophie secure in her arms. Brenda punched the down arrow and they waited for what seemed like an eternity before the arrow’s light turned off and the doors swooshed silently open. Brenda had the bar ready for a pack of vampires, but the elevator was blessedly vacant.
“Let’s go,” Brenda said. Lily hurried to catch up with her, raising an eyebrow when Brenda hit the button for the second floor. “We don’t need to announce our arrival. Especially…” She placed a hand over her chest and pushed as if to get rid of an ache.
“How hurt are you?” Lily whispered trying not to alarm Sophie.
“Enough that I think we should avoid a confrontation if at all possible.”
Worry crawled up her belly at the vamp’s admission to not having the strength to fight. “How do you suggest we get out of the building? It can’t be long until one of them finds him.”
“Housekeeping and room service are on the second floor. There’s a service elevator that goes from there down to the main floor and garage.”
“So, we head for the garage?”
Brenda didn’t bother to nod as the elevator hopped and the doors opened. Their luck seemed to hold. There weren’t any vamps in the hallway. Brenda stayed behind Lily out of cosmetic necessity. Thick wet blood coated the front of her chest. Too much to explain away if anyone happened to notice. Lily hid the streaks of blood she’d smeared across her own shirt with Sophie.
None of the kitchen staff paid any attention to them as they made their way through the kitchen to the service elevator. It amazed her how people could have supernatural beings all around them and no idea they could be five minutes away from their own death. She hit the elevator down key and listened as the elevator cranked up. The hotel obviously wasn’t worried about keeping this one as silently running as the guest elevators.
She waited until the doors closed before she brought up her next worry. “What if they have someone waiting? He has sentries stationed at the other exits. He would have them in the parking garage.”
Brenda nodded. “We have to exit at some point.”
“The garage won’t have many people.”
“How? They can attack us without fear of anyone else stepping in.”
“That’s why they have so many in the public areas. They figure we’ll try to stay with the crowds. Safety in numbers. They aren’t expecting us to go where they would be more comfortable. What they’re forgetting is I know they won’t be able to restrain themselves once they get close to you. Public or private won’t matter, they’ll attack.”
“You make it sound like I’m a giant neon light.”
“Might as well be. You could never blend into the crowd with a vampire watching.”
“We’ve never really tried.”
“And we aren’t going to try now.” Brenda dropped the duffle below the elevator bank buttons. “Step back.”
She nodded, shifting to the corner of the elevator with Sophie secure in her arms. The elevator door laboriously opened and Brenda stood ready for any vampires. She was out the door before it finished opening and made impact with someone. Several thuds and grunts echoed in the garage. The silence that followed was just as loud as the fight.
Brenda stuck her head back into the elevator and snagged the duffle. “Let’s go!”
Lily shifted Sophie slightly and followed Brenda out. A lone vampire lay on the floor next to a car.
“This way, there’s a fire exit I doubt’s guarded. They weren’t expecting us.”
“The other ran up the stairs, no doubt to get reinforcements.” Brenda hit the fire door.
They ran up a single flight of stairs to the back of the building into a dark alley squished between two huge buildings. Hardly any of the city’s lights filtered down.
“Head over there.” Brenda pointed deeper into the alley where it wrapped around the other building. “Stay off the main street.”
“Where are you going?”
“They’re gonna be right behind us. I have a stronger smell right now because of this.” She gestured to her injury.
“Your blood’s on me. Sophie too.”
“It’s dried. Don’t worry they’ll follow me.” She motioned down the alley again. “Go, I’ll meet you at the safety point in the morning.”
Lily bit her lip in automatic doubt, but nodded and turned to jog down the alley away from all the vampires including her guardian.