MY VAMIRE'S HUSBAND
Running a hand down his worn face, he sighed. "I studied alone for awhile after that, until Jordan came to me. I didn't even let him enter the lab until I was sure that his motives were as," he smirked as he locked gazes with Teren, "altruistic, as mine."
Teren smiled softly at his accusation towards Gabriel repeated to him.
I stepped forward and timidly put a hand on Gabriel's arm. "So, you really are a good man?"
He looked over at me, every single one of his years apparent on his youthful face. "I'm not perfect, Emma, and I am no saint." He smiled wearily. "But I do try to be a good man, a good father...to those who need one."
He shrugged, taking in every person in the room. "That is all I have ever tried to do."
Teren stepped forward and put his hand over mine on Gabriel's arm. "I believe that about you." He raised his eyebrows. "So what do we do about Malcolm? How do we get my son back?"
Gabriel smiled wearily as he shook his head. "I do not know, Teren. Finding Malcolm and bringing him to justice was one thing. Finding him and making him give up the location of your child, is quite another." Gabriel shrugged as he looked down to the floor. His words echoing slightly in the large, quiet room, he said, "I've already spread the word that he is not to be harmed, that he must be taken alive, but vampires..."
Shrugging, he looked back up at us. "We can be an emotional lot, purebloods even more so." He scrunched his lips. "A part of me hopes that he stays hidden, so the fool does not get himself killed before Julian can be found."
Teren sighed and rested back against the fountain. A hand massaging his forehead, he sat on the lip of the water bowl in silence. Watching my husband, memories of our meeting with Malcolm flooded through me. Teren's weariness, Malcolm's desperation, his coldly laid out plan to end Gabriel's life, the things he'd already done to warn off the ancient vampire stalking him...
Shifting my gaze to the man who was also staring at Teren, I asked Gabriel, "Did you know that he killed Carrie?"
As the others in the room that didn't know that gasped, Teren lifted his head. Gabriel sighed as he looked over to me. From the tiredness I saw in the perfectly green depths, I assumed that he had known, possibly from the very beginning.
Alanna stepped forward as Teren straightened from the fountain. "Her death wasn't an accident?" she asked.
Teren sniffled as he stepped up to Gabriel again. "No, Malcolm admitted that he took her, fed on her, and then left her to die in the wildfire...as a warning to you. Did you know that?"
Holding his gaze, Gabriel nodded. "I did. I suspected something was...amiss with the situation with Miss Davids. A vampire's trance would not have let her leave the city so easily. I figured she was taken against her will. Since I don't believe in coincidences, and her being found in my backyard was too...convenient, I started to believe that Malcolm was responsible."
Gabriel paused, appraising Teren before speaking again. "I examined her body at the morgue." He raised his eyebrows at Teren. "There was no trace of soot in her lungs. She was dead before the fire got to her."
Teren staggered, his hand going to his stomach. "She...? But...?" He looked over to me, his eyes misting. "He told us he purposely left her alive, so she would feel it, just to get back at you." His eyes drifted back to Gabriel's. "He thought she was yours."
Gabriel twisted his lips. Alanna came up to Teren, putting her arms around him comfortingly. Stunned, my mind was reeling through that conversation we'd had with Malcolm. Watching Jack also walk over to his son, Gabriel dryly said, "Well, that may have been his intention, but however he left her in those woods, the wounds were too severe for her to make it." He smiled a sad, reassuring smile at Teren. "She died in peace, Teren. The flames did not bother her."
Teren's head sank into his hands as grief and relief crashed through him. It crashed through me too, and as my knees became soft and watery, I felt Imogen standing by my side, supporting me. Twisting my head to Gabriel, I spouted something logical, even though I was feeling like all logic had left my life ages ago. "Don't the police know that? Aren't they looking for a killer now? If they are on Malcolm's tail too..."
Gabriel smiled crookedly. "The medical examiner was brought to believe that she died in the fire, a pure accident, and Carrie was promptly cremated and returned to the remaining members of her family."
My eyes widened before I shut them. Hearing my husband's grieved voice, I opened them again. "Why didn't you tell me back then? You've known for awhile now that she was murdered. Wasn't that something I should have known?"
Gabriel sighed, placing a hand on Teren's shoulder. "No, it wasn't. As you said, Malcolm believed that she was here for me. He believed that he was doing something to harm me. The message was solely intended for me, Teren. There was no good that would have come from you knowing the truth."
Teren closed his eyes, straightening his stance. "You have pushed a desperate man into desperate actions. Actions that have involved people that I care about. Carrie...my wife...and now my son. If you had just stopped-"
Gabriel tilted his head, removing his hand from Teren's shoulder. "And let the man who is ultimately responsible for the torture and murder of countless of our species...for numerous children and adults alike...to go free?" He raised his eyebrows as he shook his head. "Should I have let him go with only a warning for his crimes? Would that have been fair?"
Teren sighed, slumping his head. "No," he finally muttered.
Sighing, Gabriel touched his hand to Teren's cheek. "I'm sorry this has involved you so much. I tried to keep the ugliness of it away from you and your family, I truly did. But...obviously, I have failed in doing that."
Teren locked gazes with him, his jaw tight. "Your family matter is now my family matter. That lunatic now has my son, and the price of his freedom is your head. If you know anything else...now would be the time to spill it."
Gabriel smiled at the look of determination on Teren's face, then nodded. "Of course, Teren. I will tell you whatever you wish to know."
We all adjourned to the more comfortable living room, walking through the glass double doors that led that way. As Teren walked through, he reached behind himself to grab my hand. Holding me tight, we stepped into the ski lodge-like room with the rest of his family. As Gabriel stood before the dormant fireplace, I instantly recalled the last time Gabriel was in this room, giving another speech that involved apologies towards our family. As his deep voice started going into detail about how he and Malcolm first met, back in the old days, the medieval old days, I recalled him telling me that I would die in this room.
And all because of one lone vampire. He had truly done more damage than I'd first believed he could. Gabriel seemed so powerful, so well connected, but Malcolm had slipped through his nets for years. But eventually the noose around him had tightened enough to make Malcolm act violently, and violently he had. As Gabriel went over happier times, when they'd started their lab together, I thought of Carrie. Caught in the middle of a war she knew nothing about, she'd paid the ultimate price. And she'd had no clue why. We'd wiped her clean. She wouldn't have even known who Teren was, let alone what he was. As Malcolm had been feeding off of her, it would have been her first and only experience with vampires. She'd died thinking we were all as evil as the horror movies made us out to be. She'd died not knowing that there were very good vampires too. And she'd loved one, nearly had his child.
It made my stomach crawl. Carrie had died, I'd died, and Starla had nearly died, all over money. It seemed childish and pointless, but to some people it wasn't, I guess. To some, if they had nothing else, money was everything. Maybe life had gotten stagnant for Malcolm. As I listened to Gabriel gloss over the hundreds of years in their relationship like it was nothing more than a handful of weeks, I began to believe that was a possibility. Were we destined to become cold and unfeeling towards others, simply because we were so long lived? Would humans eventually mean nothing, because they came and went as quickly as house flies?
Teren squeezed my hand as I considered our longevity. Glancing over at him, I watched his light eyes flick over mine. Then I turned to regard the other sets of light eyes in the room, all of them listening raptly to Gabriel's life with our son's kidnapper.
Alanna had her arms around Jack while Imogen had her arms around Alanna. The love and warmth passing between the three people was nearly palpable to me. I thought of Halina, her presence a blip in my head, her actual location still hundreds of miles away. She could seem indifferent at times, but I'd seen her soften as Gabriel's love warmed her. Perhaps it wasn't Malcolm's long life that had dulled his humanity. Perhaps it was just how long he'd been alone. Even as Gabriel described the times they'd been together, it still sounded like Malcolm had been alone. Jealous, petty, and demanding the affection of others, he'd never actually let anybody in.
I squeezed Teren's hand back as my gaze returned to his. No, the Adams would never fall into the lifeless rut that Malcolm had. We had each other, for eternity, and I knew that the bonds in his family would keep our souls in check.
Now we just had to find a way to get all of our family back together again...alive and intact.
As soon as Gabriel finished filling us in on everything he knew of Malcolm, Teren and I resumed our search of Julian. We knew it was pointless, but we felt like someone in the family should still be looking and we were the best equipped for daylight hours. We drove a lot though, and took breaks frequently. Teren didn't want to become so weak again that he couldn't put up a better fight, should we run into Malcolm. Teren stopped to drink more often in that one afternoon than I'd seen him drink since the night of his conversion. It helped though; he was more animated and alert than he'd been since Julian's abduction.
Gabriel joined us for our search, mostly staying secluded in the safety of his tinted vehicle, but venturing out with us if the location was shaded enough. He gave us better direction, places that would appeal to Malcolm or places he would never go, places that were the likelier targets. It nearly seemed that we had our own criminal profiler along with us. It made the process feel more streamlined, and I finally felt like we weren't just aimlessly looking around.
When he wasn't out traipsing around the countryside with us, Gabriel was on the phone with his vast array of contacts. He'd left a search party up north when he'd blazed back to us, and he kept them in a constant state of movement, much like he was keeping us. He also checked in with his lab, seeing how the new batch was coming along under Jordan's watchful eye. I remembered the coolly professional, dark-skinned vampire and thought he was probably in hog heaven, taking over while the boss was away.
Gabriel even checked in on Starla and Jacen. Once he'd sent them south, they'd kept going. From their last conversation, it seemed like they were in Mexico. While I'm sure Jacen was taking his task with all seriousness, I was equally sure that Starla was sipping margaritas.
When the sun set, the last Adams member that I could feel stirred and started heading our way again. By how quickly her form was closing the distance, I'd say she'd be in town well before morning. We called her as soon as we could, filling her in on the meeting with Malcolm. We did not mention that Teren had nearly driven a stake through Gabriel's heart. That was just something that was better for everyone if she never found out about it.
While we were debating trudging through the sewers, Teren's cell phone on his hip rang.
Probably thinking it was one of our parents, he answered it without looking at the ID. "Hello?" he said curtly, popping open a storm cover for Gabriel.
As Gabriel surveyed the dark hole, I heard the caller's response, "I'm not in there, Teren. I don't hide in sewers. That's just disgusting."
Teren's entire body went rigid and he dropped the manhole cover. Gabriel stepped back as the heavy slab clanged down to the ground, wedging sideways in the hole that he'd just been staring into.
Teren twisted around and searched the dark buildings along the empty stretch of road that we were on. I searched too, wondering if he was close enough to see us, or if he'd just heard something that had given away what we'd been doing.
"Where are you then?" Teren said it calmly, but his eyes betrayed the franticness he felt, darting from location to location, never once resting.
"Not in a hole in the ground," was Malcolm's snide response. "I know I'm early, but I find I'm getting impatient. Have you completed your task?"
I straightened and stopped looking around. Teren did too. As one, we looked over at Gabriel silently staring at us. Teren gave him the hush symbol and Gabriel nodded. Malcolm had just asked if Teren had killed Gabriel yet. That meant he couldn't see us, otherwise he'd see Gabriel too. He must have been sarcastically tossing out an idea of where we were, and happened to nail it right on the head.
With a growl of conviction, Teren murmured, "Yes...Gabriel is on his way to me now. It's as good as done. Now where's my son?"
"As good as done, isn't done, Adams." Malcolm laughed lightly. "Besides, do you expect me to take your word for it? I want to see the body. I want to hold his lifeless heart...then you get your boy."
Teren closed his eyes. "Fine, then I'll bring it to you...when I've taken it, I'll bring you his heart. Just tell me where to meet you."
"How about the place where this all started? Hmmm, that would be poetic, wouldn't it?"
Teren opened his eyes, scrunching his brow as he searched my face. I shrugged, not understanding either. "What are you talking about?"
Malcolm chuckled again, his laugh raw, like he was parched. I instantly prayed that he wasn't hungry enough to feed on Julian. "One of my deceased client's favorite haunts was in California, not too terribly far from your home. An old, abandoned farmhouse? I believe you know it, yes?"
A flood of ice ran through me as I remembered that hunter taking us, locking us up like prisoners in a bad horror flick. We'd been thrown into the cellar of an old farm house. That was where he wanted to meet? Teren's lips pressed into a hard line. "Yeah, I know it. Alright, I'll meet you there."
Malcolm's tone got serious as he bit out, "Bring me his heart...along with a photo of the rest of his body. The instant kind...one that you can't doctor. I want to know that this is real before I tell you where to find your child."
Teren sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "And how do I know you even will? How do I even know that he's still alive?"
Malcolm sighed then a muffled thump came through the phone. Like he was talking to a dog, he said, "Speak."
Instantly a tiny voice filled the line, a voice I knew so well, I heard it in my head in the middle of the night. "Daddy? I wanna go home."
My hands flew to my mouth as my eyes instantly watered and my knees threatened to buckle in half. Julian's voice was angelic, the cleanest, purest sound I'd ever head. All the more so, because I was sure I'd never hear it again.
Teren's knees did buckle. Catching himself before he fell, he took a stumbling step and cupped the phone to his ear. "Julian, baby, are you okay? Did he hurt you? Daddy's coming to get you, okay, Daddy's coming-"
Malcolm's voice snapped back onto the phone line. "I will be at the farmhouse at midnight. I will wait twenty minutes. If you don't show, I skip town and never come back. If you try and deceive me, I skip town and don't ever come back. If you try and trap me-"
Teren grit his jaw. "Yeah, I get it...you'll leave Julian to die..."
Malcolm chuckled softly, coldly "Good, you understand. Give me the proof, I'll give you your son's location...everybody wins."
"Except Gabriel," Teren whispered, locking eyes with the ancient vampire silently listening, his brow deeply furrowed.
Malcolm snorted. "Yeah, well, as with most things in life, for someone to win, someone else needs to lose. Midnight, Adams. Don't keep me waiting." Then the line went dead.
I started sniffling, my lip trembling. Julian's voice rang through my entire body. I wanted to reach out and hug him, tell him that everything was going to be okay, but I had no idea where he was. His hand shaking, Teren closed his phone and put it back. He closed his eyes, inhaling and exhaling as slowly and intently as I was.
"Well," a voice began. Teren opened his eyes and we both looked over at Gabriel. Twisting his lips, Gabriel shook his head. "It would seem that you need a heart."
Teren sighed and slumped, shrugging his shoulders. "Yeah, it would seem I do...any ideas?
Smirking with one edge of his lip, Gabriel slowly nodded. "Yes, I do have...one idea."