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21.73% Blood & Juniper (A Vampire Tale) / Chapter 20: Meet up (Part 2)

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Chapter 20: Meet up (Part 2)

Accounts of Sam, sometime after 9 o'clock.

"Don' leave me alone with 'Enry," Cooper pleads in a whisper-shout, "He almos' rivals ya as a negative Nan'say."

I slide my other arm into the black leather jacket preparing to leave the bar, "So he's less of a downer than I am? I fail to see the issue."

"The doom 'n' gloom I can handle," Cooper smirks, "I've lived through tha Great Depression, ya kno," Cooper states eyeing Henry as he made his way back over to our table, "but tha' man's got absolutelay no sense o' huma'!"

"Sorry, got plans," I respond rolling my shoulder to get the jacket to lay flat, "Sure, he's kind of a stone faced guy but you can get a laugh out of him, occasionally."

"Ya right," Cooper looks like he's about to fall asleep just imaging the boring small talk, his enthusiasm smeared on his face as Henry gets closer.

"Yer killin' me, Sam!" his eyes narrow at me like it's all my fault, he could just leave if he doesn't want to talk to him.

He thumbs his jaw line, "I'm not drunk e'nough fer this, at leas' tell me who's the mos' plastaed before ya ditch ou'."

I glance around Rosy's bar, it was still early but there was always one that partied a little too hard, a little too fast.

"The boy in the blue shirt is likely bar hopping," I jab a thumb over to the pool table, "He came in swaying and has scratched at least six times,"

I look over at the far end of the packed bar, "Or the wall flower in glasses at the far end, social anxiety drinker." I pull my key out of the jacket pocket, "Not as drunk as the boy, but I'm sure you can work your charm on her."

"Aye, detective Sammy," he praises, already taking an interest in the shy girl, "Whadda I do withou' ya?"

"You'd probably be dead," I jest with a shrug, it's definitely the other way around.

I turn on my heels, flicking a wave, "Stay out of trouble."

"Ha! *You* stay outta trouble!"

I shake my head as Cooper hoots behind me, but I couldn't deny. Although, Cooper could be mischievous, I was the one usually creating the messes. Good thing I had a talent for cleaning up.

The bar door jingles as I step out. The sound of multiple conversation buzz along with the rumbling of boots scuffing the concrete. It was a pretty busy night, even for a Saturday.

I start my stroll to the curb when some calls for my attention, "You're leaving so early, it's only half past nine."

I glance over to see the Co owner of Rosy's, Janet Feldman, taking a drag from her smoke as she leaned against the wall.

"I have to meet up with someone."

She raises her eyebrows, "A lady friend?"

I chuckle, "I guess you could say that."

"Lucky woman," Janet stares off into the distance with a small smirk.

Time had really flown by, I could hardly believe Cooper and I had been regulars at this place for just over seven years. And Janet, spunky, confident, quite attractive, too. Generally, pleasant to talk with unless you were causing problems in her bar. It was entertaining watching her lay into the riffraff that occasionally showed up. A small woman that certainly packed a punch. She looked quite young for her age, too. So much so, newcomers rarely suspected she was the owner. Wasn't she a few years away from 40? Honestly, where did the time go?

I take steps toward her as she looks me over with her deep brown eyes, I can spare a few minutes to chat, "You mean, what an unfortunate woman."

She slugs me in the arm and I crack a smile.

"You still look barely 21, if that. What's your secret?"

"You must know the secret since you don't seem to age yourself."

She looks away with a satisfied smirk.

Dangerously perceptive, I'd already convinced her against a few theories many times. I remember each time she caught Derek, Cooper and I in 'the act', all more than once on separate occasions. She took the revelation pretty well, except the one time Derek murdered a man in the backroom. I could have let her be, she didn't seem like the type to cause a scene. There were other humans that knew about what we were. Eventually, I will likely leave her with the knowledge of us. For now, I think it best to continue the ruse.

"Where's Derek been? I haven't seen him lately," she asks out of the blue.

I try not to flinch.

"You know how impulsive he is, he took off to some other state," I struggled to completely mask my bitterness and she saw it.

"You're a good brother, always looking out for him. He'll come around."

I clench my jaw to hold back a grimace, I heartily disagree on all counts.

She offers her cigarette to me as her lips turn up sympathetically, I give her a small smile back and shake my head.

She takes another drag and suddenly makes a sour face, "Yeah, that Cooper doesn't age either, that Bastard."

I snort.

She gives me a warning glare, "Don't you dare tell him I said that!"

I grin, "Never."

"Yeah, not like he needs that ego of his inflated," she shakes her head, "already fat enough as is!"

My grin widens knowing she's about to go into a rant about Cooper.

"You won't believe this! The other day some girl comes in with a fake ID, got past one of my new guys." She bites her lip squinting one eye, "She was practically throwing herself at Cooper, he may not look it but I was thinking the whole time before I booted her, 'He's *way* too old for you.'"

I choke on the irony, laughing a bit harder than I should. She has *no idea* how right she is about that.

"Mmhmm, well you know Cooper. He'll flirt with anything that moves."

She scoffs in her throat, grinding the butt of her cigarette into the wall.

"Smug, asshole," she mutters.

I give her a sociable touch on the shoulder before heading in the direction of my bike, "See you around, Janet."

She waves lazily and turns her back to pull open the bar door.

I glance up at the nearby clock tower, plenty of time. I could probably even walk, but what's the fun in that? I don't mind being a bit early. I hop on the seat of the Hayabusa, starting it up.

I catch a guy giving me a dirty look as I roll away from the curb, the girl next to him scanning me with coquettish eyes and her heartbeat picks up speed. They both smell pretty good, I wonder if I have time for a quick snack.

The glaring man takes a protective steps closer to the sidetracked girl. I tut, before lifting off to accelerate down the street. I'm so easily riled, I shouldn't be so casual about the lives of others.

Traffic is flowing at an irritatingly slow pace, I hate it when it's this crowded. I split lanes to pass two cars driving side by side. So many smells, so much noise. Hopefully, it's not so busy down by Spiral Hood trail. These weren't ideal conditions for someone resisting day two bloodlust.

Her vibrant hazel eyes pierce my thoughts as I cross over into the quieter parts of the city.

Innocent eyes. Let's keep it that way.

I give the throttle an eager twist as the sluggish cars finally start to thin out. Zooming and weaving in the quaint stretch.

About a mile away from Spiral Hood, I take notice of a peculiar but familiar smell that seems to stand out above the rest. My eyebrows furrow. What is she doing out here? The smell is a kin to standing beneath an orange tree bedded in the center of the sweetest flowers, I'm surprised at how her lovely fragrance is so easily recognized.

I slow the bike finding a spot to park. Ash's unique scent, on par with the most delicious smelling human blood. My mind wanders, I imagine taking her fragile frame in my arms and biting into that soft, porcelain skin, her lips parting in a pleasured sigh. What is this? I shake my head as I get off the bike, what is this girl doing to me?

There's quite a few people here, that can't be easy on her. I pursue Ash's unforgettable perfume, tracking it as I journey down the block. It doesn't smell like a murder scene, no copious amounts of blood spilled on the pavement, anyway. That's a good sign.

I sense a radiating energy, young but strong as I near the street corner.

I peer into a lone alleyway, the stretch is deep with no exit. At the end, I see a curled figure huddled to the back wall. I make my way through the pass at a casual pace, my obvious footsteps reverberate off the walls.

Long golden brown hair draped over folded arms, her head buried in those arms. She doesn't stir as I approach, a little worrying.

I stop a foot away, she still hasn't moved. I wasn't trying to sneak around, she should know I'm right in front of her.

I finally cut the silence like dagger in the secluded alley, "You get lost?"

She jumps with a start, snapping her face to look up at mine. Her frightened eyes shimmer with warning before recognizing who I am. She really didn't know I was standing right in front of her?

"Hmmm, you should have heard me coming at least a block away," I shift with genuine worry, "I'm not going to lie, that's a bit concerning."

Her eyes fall as she drops her chin, resting her face on the folded arms atop curled knees.

"I've got a lot on my mind," she responds after a while with a deadened stare at the wall beside her.

My expression tenses at the sound of her depressing tone.

"What's wrong?" I walk over to the wall leaning my back against it, "Did you… Kill someone?"

Her face scrunches as her lips press tightly together, "No, I *didn't* kill anyone," she sounds almost offended by my asking.

"Well then, what's the problem?"

She looks at me angrily, like I'm dense or something.

"Everything!" She bursts out.

Her palms open with strained fingers spread as she gestures upward then both arms make fluid circles, "All of this!"

Her eyes widen as if hit with an epiphany. She aburptly blurts out in alarm as she turns her head to me, "Crap! Is it past 10?"

"Nope, don't worry about it. I was going to be early and noticed you were close by."

She lets out a sigh as her arms fall limply over her knees again. She was overwhelmed, I could sympathize. I look down at her waiting patiently.

"How do you do it?" She shakes her head with sad eyes staring out, "How do you not slaughter every person you come across?"

I slide down the wall sitting next to her.

"I screwed up, I thought I could handle this," her lips make a firm line and her eyes bunch up like she's holding back tears, "but I'm so damn weak," she spits distanfully, "I can't do anything right."

"I disagree," I try to make eye contact but she won't look into my way, "You've got an impressive amount of restraint, that's not a quality a 'weak' person would possess."

She continues mopping staring at the floor, "Maybe I should have died in the woods."

"You're giving up?" I question as she glances at me out of the corner of her eye, "I know I don't know much about you, but you don't seem like the type to give up."

She turns her head with a questioning look, her face hard like she's a bit angry or suspicious, "What makes you say that?"

"Well, you fought for your life in the forest, I didn't expect you to survive, but here you are."

She looks down sighing out through her nose.

My brows furrow, afraid of the answer for the question I'm about to ask, "Do you want to die?"

Her expression of intense anger surprises and relieves me.

"No! Why does everyone ask me that?" she makes a hiss through her teeth looking away, "I don't want to be killed, but I don't want to be the killer either."

She gazes up at the stars with thoughtful eyes, "I wasn't ready to die, I feel like," she pauses pressing her lips together, "I've always felt like such a failure, even when I've had all the tools and more at my disposal."

My head tilts as I stare at her more intensely, "Why did you go out alone that night?"

She glances at me with shame on her face, "I knew I was going to get into trouble if I walked home alone that night." She bounces a finger on her chest as if pointing repeatedly to herself as she looks down, "Everything was going so wrong and I just didn't care anymore," she sticks a hand out as if weighing something, "but then I did care when I realized that could have been my last night alive."

"I haven't done much. I'm supposed to be more than what I was, I *need* to accomplish more," she furrows her brows, "It's strange, I wonder if I things were meant to happen this way, if it was unavoidable."

I'm not sure I understand, "Like fate?"

"Maybe... I don't know! I don't know what the hell I'm talking about," she rolls her eyes and shakes her head then mutters bitterly, "I'm probably destined to be a mass murder."

I take her shoulder to turn her toward me, pressing a finger to her heart. She looks up at me in surprise.

"You doubt yourself too much. You have a strong connection to your humanity, Ash," I poke her twice where her heart would be, "This, your heart, is stronger than that monster in you. I envy that."

She stares into my eyes a bit breathless and a little dazed before averting her gaze with apparent shyness.

She thinks to herself and suddenly titters, "We're cursed, huh?"

I pluck a dead leaf from her hair and eye her as she continues.

"I've never really considered myself religious," I raise my brows in surprise, I wouldn't have guessed that with the holy water she was carrying that night, she goes on without looking at me, "but now I'm starting to believe, especially in a devil, like I'm the devil," she laughs humorlessly, "Hell, I'll probably burn up just by setting foot in a church."

I smirk, rising to my feet. Standing in front of her with a hand out, "Come on, no more sulking. I want to show you something."

She stares up at me suspiciously, "What do you want to show me?"

"I guess you're going to have to come with me if you want to find out."

She looks me up and down before taking my hand, I lift her light frame off the ground as if she were a doll. She stands with her face close to mine, her hair fans over me with her intoxicating fragrance and she breathes in a little befuddled by our proximity.

I stare into her beautiful eyes, as her fingers grab my chest, wrapping the themselves in my shirt just under the open jacket. I don't think she realizes what she's doing, she looks a bit out of it like she's hypnotized.

I feel those sparks from her hand on my chest, I have the strange desire to pull her closer to me.

Her eyelashes flutter and her brows raise before she turns her bashful head aside. Her fingers slide from my shirt and she takes a step back. My eyes drift down seeing Ash bite into her bottom lip. I hold back the crooked smile attempting to spread, she's completely unconscious to her moments and how appealing they are.

I give her space, heading out of the dead end stretch, "Let's get out of this place, it smells like a fish market back here."

Her light steps follow behind me as we leave. I become aware of the reason she hiding back here as the chatter, pounding and myriad of footsteps compete with the potent smells seeping into the exit of the alley.

I look back to see Ash's concerned face as she timidly walks behind me.

I grab her arm playfully and pull her beside me. A bit of shock touches her eyes from my unexpected contact.

"Stop worrying, that's my job."

"So, you're worried.." her mouth slope and her eyes fill with doubt.

I'm always worried, "Nope."

My eyes relax and I give a small smile of confidence. It's a small lie, but better for her to think I not worried in the slightest.

She looks dumbfounded, "I don't get how you're so calm and collected."

"Because you handle yourself well, everything will be fine," I state with a shrug. That much was true, she did handle herself really well for being so new.

Her tension begins to ease as she buys my mostly genuine assurance.

"I can tell you're curious to know where I'm taking you."

I could see her narrow eyes trying to puzzle it out as her lips twitched upward, "Alright, fine. Yes, I'm interested," she gives me an impish glare then swishes her open hand in the air, "lead the way."

We exit the alley walking in lockstep, turning the nearest corner where common homes and bustling shops begin to muddle into one another.

A couple passes us that seems to unconsciously know to give us space. I glance at Ash out of the corner of my eye who hungrily watches them, she suddenly realizes what she's doing and tears her glance away.

We cross paths with someone getting into their car and another sitting on a bench which I swap places with Ash to create distance. This is going so much smoother than I could have hoped.

Two more blocks and we'll be there. We start to wind around the next corner when I put an arm out to stop Ash. I hear someone sprinting down the sidewalk, elevated heart pumping, I wait for him to run past us. Instead the moron comes trucking around the corner and runs smack into Ashlen.

I sidestep to dodge expecting her to do the same but forget how aloof she can be, especially with all of the other new sensation she's not used to bombarding her at once. Damn, I'm an idiot too, I should have grabbed her.

She gasps as the guy practically bounces off of her, falling backwards. Her hands out in front of her like a shield. Although looking stunned, she's barely affected by someone charging full speed into her.

The guy yelps and sucks in air, "Ah! Jeez, Damn it!"

I step in front of Ash, snarling at the man. What kind of dumb ass whips around a corner like that? He totally would have plowed her over if she wasn't impervious to it.

"What's your problem, buddy? You're lucky you didn't run the girl over!" I snap, wanting to choke this guy out.

"Sorry, man, sorry! I didn't mean it," He stubble upright holding his arm.

I resist grabbing the guy by the collar of his shirt, this guy is insufferable but I need to keep it under wraps.

"Don't apologize to me, apologize to her," brain dead asshole…

"Oh! Oh! Sorry lady! You OK?...lady?"

Deep red liquid begins to accumulate on the wide scrap along the man's arm, his heart pumping blood like a machine. Shit! I flick my eyes over to Ash. Her eyes begin to glow giving the man a death stare and her nails dig into the brick wall.

She bares her teeth and starts to lean in.

"Ash!" I whisper-shout through my teeth.

A small relief when her crazed eyes dart over to look my way. I nod to her, trying to keep her present.

She attempts to straighten her stance still clinging to the wall, her jaw tightens as she clenches her teeth.

"She's fine, now get out of here and watch where you're going," I demanded without taking my eyes off of Ash.

"Her eyes…" He shakes his head doubting what he saw, "I'm really sorry, man, are you sure…"

I flashed him a death glare so potent he staggered.

The man stubbles off without another word, fear flooding his constitution. I keep my eyes glued on Ash, who struggles not to look at him as he limps away.

She lets out a snarl and her head follows the guy. I put a hand on her arm trying to get her attention again, she gives me a feral look for a second before easing. I quell my own tempest while locked in her eyes.

"You're Ok?" I ask after a minute.

"Are *you* OK?" She asks with an impressive amount of composure.

"Damn, that meathead dashed straight into you." I sighed with relief, "I wanted to pummel that guy."

Her chuckle helps dissipate the tension.

I scowl in the direction where that bumbling idiot was headed, "You would have had to stop me from murdering the guy if he actually managed to knock you down."

She laughs again, "Wow, so noble, like a knight in shining armor."

I titter, "Nothing noble about, if I had it my way I'd euthanize every idiot in this town."

She rolls her eyes, "You wouldn't do that!"

Yeah I wouldn't, but damn am I tempted.

"I'm sorry I didn't move you out of the way. I should have thought about that."

"You lied to me."

I look at her shocked, "When did I lie to you?"

She grins, "You're more anxious than you let on."

I glare with a smirk back, "I only stress the details so I can be prepared for the worst," I gesture to her as I turn the corner.

She catches up in a smooth motion as we wander up the sidewalk.

"You're lucky you don't age, you'd probably go bald from how much you worry."

Very funny, I didn't think I was so transparent, "Well, lucky me."

We make it to the end of the sidewalk crossing the charcoal street. We thankfully see only two more people without any issues.

We finally get to the building, stained glass shining down on us like kaleidoscope spotlight.

Ashlen scoffs, "You took me to a church. Are you just trying to rub in the fact that we're damned?"

"Ever been inside an empty church at night? This one is particularly elaborate and old."

"We're sneaking into a church?" She eyes me in disbelief, "It seems like you really are trying to give us more 'hell points', I didn't even think I could set foot in a church without something terrible happening," she narrows her eyes, "Nothing bad will happen, Right?"

"Just think of it as a late night tour, we're not going to vandalize the place," I head around back as she reluctantly follows, "There's a window with a busted lock, I saw some kids sneak in a while back."

We reach the window and I slide the pane above as the bristles from the seal brush against the metal.

"I thought you couldn't go into places without permission," I hear Ash question behind me.

"If it's open to the public like a shop or a place like this," I point to the church building, "I'm usually free to enter."

I hop through the window, then turn to hold out a hand to Ash.

"Although, some from my bloodline must ask permission to enter any place that is owned and covered."

Ash takes my hand, gracefully climbing through the window.

"That would seriously suck! What a crippling factor!"

"Well, the trade off is their mind control is usually unbelievably strong."

She eyes me nervously, "That sounds scary, can you avoid being controlled?"

"Yes, just like you can push an intruder out of your house. It's just a lot of people don't know how to get rid of a trespasser of the mind, naturally," I lead Ash to the exit of the modern room, "Just being a vampire will give you some resistance, but generally your resistance depends on if you're of a 'sound mind'."

We navigate the carpeted hallway to the door at the end.

"What do you mean of a 'sound mind'," she asks while examining the religious paintings lining the wall.

"Mental instability, like mental illness, a mind that's too unguarded, being under the influence of drugs, even being in a poor mindset or weak sense of self. An infiltrator will always look for weaknesses and openings," I stare at Ash while she takes in the detail of the hall, wondering how difficult it would be to actually control of her, though I have no plans of doing that, ever.

I push open the door at the end, ushering Ash through first.

"So, how can I…," Ash stops mid sentence as her mouth drops open.

I grin as she takes in the array of colors pouring from the massive stained glass in the grand room. The polished dark wood from the pews glistened where streams of soft light hit. The pillars held up the second floor stand firm, holding the architecture the hung over like an indoor balcony. The white walls and floor had a blueish hue darkening as it reached the vaulted ceilings with the gold accents. Most breathtaking was the stained glass that shone down like a shattered rainbow.

"Wow," Ash's astonishment plain on her face as she turns to me, "This is… Amazing."

I nod, and she turns round and round to soak in every detail.

"What made you think to come to this place? Do you come here often?"

"I visit occasionally," I'd usually sit on the bench right under the round stained glass when I needed to clear my head or solve a problem that weighed heavily on my mind.

She walks over to the large cross mounted near the podium, "I've got to admit, Sam, I thought it was weird that you'd take me into a church," she gazes upon the cross with a wary expression before looking back to me, "but it's beautiful in here."

She eyes an antique sacrarium sink filled with a glistening pool of crystal water, she turns to me with a raised eyebrow of concern, "Is that Holy Water?"

"Yes."

Her eyes widen, "Will that burn us?"

No, Cooper already confirmed she's not a part of the Devil's line and neither am I, "I don't know, maybe we should find it out."

I put on a face of mock apprehension waltzing over to the stoup. I clench my teeth to hold in smile upon looking into Ash's terrified eyes.

"Wait! Maybe that's not a good idea," she bites her lip weighing her curiosity over the danger, it's cute how concerned she is.

I keep pretend ignorance on my face, "It can't be that bad right?"

I hover my fingers over the water and swallow to show reluctance. She mimics my behavior with a gulp.

I eye her with fake concern, she's buying it. It's amusing how she gullible is.

I dip my fingers into the water and impersonate a howl of pain ripping them from the sink.

She shrieks as her hand fly up covering her mouth, "Sam!"

I ball up my fists, clenching my teeth, cringing with a hiss. Hamming it up a little longer before I bust up.

Her eyes crinkle with empathy, as her fingers ball up exposing her grimace of terror.

I finally crack with a snicker, I can't keep the antic going anymore, I'm starting to actually feel a little bad.

She narrows her eyes immediately with a look of annoyance, shaking her head, "You… You are such an Asshole!"

"Swearing in a church, Ash," I shake my head with a mock scolding.

I dip my fingers in again and flick some water at her.

"Ahh, Oww! Ahh!" She yelps holding her face.

I almost fell for it.

She glares playfully and sticks out her tongue.

"So, we're not affected by blessed items?" She goes to touch the cross, acting like it's a hot stove as a test before running her fingers down it, "I feel kind of dumb, I should have guessed not all of the myths are reality."

"Well, *we're* not affected, but the Devil's Line is," I examine her in wondering whose line she descended from.

She turns to me with a bizarre expression, "Really? What's the perk of being from that "line"?"

"Being a day walker."

"What! They get to be in the sun? That's not fair!"

'Not fair' I repeat in my mind finding her word choice humorous, "Well, I've been told they still feel ill or slightly off in the sun, but they don't burn."

Ash has this look of bewilderment and anxiety suddenly flood her face as she clutches her shirt over her heart. Her eyes dart around.

My guard goes up, what happened? I focus on her, intently. Was it an outside source that startled her? I try to search for something that doesn't seem to be there, reaching out with all my senses, "Ash?"

"Sorry, that's so… She can't be," she looks around in confusion.

She? My face tenses. Is someone in church with us?

Someone *is* here. I put on a calm but urgent voice, I have a theory as to who it is, "Ash, come here, get behind me."

Her wide eyes full of confusion and apprehension stare at me, she opens her mouth to question but something about my expression changes her mind, "OK."

She gathers herself hurrying behind me.

I stare into the dark entrance near the door we came from.

A shadow zips from the entry behind a large pillar, I tense as Ashlen gasps over my shoulder.

The creature's hidden energy slips out in a wave, an uncontrolled growl of animosity leaves my lips, all the pieces come together, I *know* who is peering behind the stone post.

I feel my eyes double over in intensity as I stare into the flames of two icy rings burning with sickly vibrancy. Eyes of a demon.


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There's a possibility I'll be away for 2 weeks, sorry about the delay, but I'll update as soon as I can. Thanks to all who support!

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