Tristan's body burned from head to toe, sweat sheened his body as it tried to expel the poison that over took him. He moaned as he tried to move his limbs, only to find them heavy and his joints stiff, sending pain shooting through every part of his body. He opened his eyes, but even those ached as he looked into darkness.
He tried to listen to the muffled voices that whispered around him, but his hearing had dulled as his head pounded away. He felt grateful that he was even still alive as he drifted back into unconsciousness.
His dreams were no less of a salvation as he was plagued with visions of Alona's torture; her screams carried his name as he fought against an invisible force that kept him rooted to the spot. He called out to her over and over but his voice wouldn't come.
"Alona," he cried out, sitting up in bed only to have his body consumed by agonizing pain, drawing him face down into the sheets of his bed.
"Master Tristan," he heard as his closest advisors called at to him.
He grunted, huffing deeply as he sat up more slowly.
"Master you must take it slow," Demetri said, as he helped the man sit up.
"Yeah," Gavin replied, "You haven't healed completely."
Tristan shook his head, "I'm fine." His voice was hoarse, his vocal chords raw, "Where is Alona?"
The three looked solemn, "We found only you," Florin said, "Demetri got your phone call, but when we heard the commotion we went to find you. We didn't know she was involved until we got to that house."
"We wanted to call your father when we had seen your state," Gavin said, fidgeting with a pen, "but you said you would have each of our heads."
Tristan smiled, "For once you listen."
"Yes well," Demetri chimed in smoothly, "it's not going to last very long when he sees the stores are low, he's going to be adding things together. He's already figured out that you've done something stupid just by the smell of blood."
Tristan grew solemn, "Yeah, I'll deal with it when the time comes, I'm more worried about getting Alona the hell out of the clan of killers." He pinched the bridge of his nose, flinching as another roll of pain shot through his shoulder, "How long have I been out?"
The room grew silent again as he watched this advisors look nervously at one another. "How long?"
They sighed, their voices in unison, "Happy Birthday Master Tristan."
His eyes snapped open, his body flinching in protest, "I've been out for a week," he rasped.
"Damn," he growled, "That means everyone will be here soon."
He tried to remove the blankets from his legs, biting the inside of his cheek as again the agony tore through him.
"Master you need to rest," Florin said.
He shook his head, "No, what I need, is to find Alona, I need to know if she's ok."
"Master we can't let you do that," Gavin replied sternly, "She nearly cost you your life. If we had known what you were up to, we'd have never let you go."
Tristan glared at him, gasping harshly, "She needs me, and for all I know, she's already dead."
"Gavin is right," Florin chimed in angrily, "You're going to get yourself killed over this girl, a petty infatuation. If you haven't noticed Master, she's a hunter, she kills our kind, if anything, she deserves to die with the rest of them; she's going to drag you down with her."
Before he could be stopped, Tristan had jumped from the bed, grabbing the front of the other man's shirt, "I would gladly follow her into any hell she brings. She means more to me than this life and I gladly accept being called a fool, but I will not tolerate anyone dragging her down, she's been through enough," his voice hissed, on the verge of a snarl, his body shaking in agony as he gasped. He stood; his limbs on fire, "Alona is all I need."
Demetri sighed, wrapping an arm around Tristan's waist and wrapping the man's arm over his shoulders, "Yes, you certainly are a stupid fool and I'm going to go out on a limb and say you've fallen in love with her."
Tristan's breath caught as his friend sat him on the edge of the bed, smiling as he realized the truth, "Yeah, I love her more than anything, but it's not just that, Demetri she's important to all of us."
Gavin helped Florin to his feet, "How can a hunter be important?"
Tristan smirked cockily, "You'll find out later, but for now I need to figure out how to get her away from those lunatics before she ends up dead."
"If this woman is that important, then we need to inform your father," Gavin replied, "he can help."
Tristan shook his head, "No, this is my responsibility and I want everything to remain quiet until tomorrow. I have an idea to get a hold of her; it'll be up to her to get out of the manor."
Demetri smiled, "Well now, the young Master is finally growing up; this woman really is good for you."
Tristan smiled, "She drives me insane."
"Master just leave it to us," Florin said as he brought his arms behind his head, "Tell us what to do, so you can relax."
Alona waited for Blake to leave their apartment before she herself left. The two of them hadn't spoken since she had woken up a few days earlier, Blake having forbid her to leave the manor, so she had spent her days recuperating in the manor archives.
Her shoulders ached as she slipped a shirt over her head; bandages still wrapped both of her shoulders tightly. She had no memory of what had happened after the trip, though her dreams left her fearful of shutting her eyes. She had spent several days feeling boiling flames lick at her body as she screamed out for anyone who could hear, but no one came to douse the blaze.
She found her spot in the archives, a secluded place, away from prying eyes and sneers, and after grabbing a few books, she sat in an oversized chair to read.
She had found out a great deal about who she was after only a few hours of reading, learning that she was a human-vampire hybrid, one of only a few to survive it's birth. She had learned that many halfling infants died due to either succumbing to starvation or its people growing fearful and killing it, and its mortal mother, "So he really did save me."
She also acquired that, though there were so few hybrids in existence, their abilities were unclear but many shared the same abilities as their parents in speed and strength.
She had also found out that her mother had been crossed from the family records, Alona herself had not even been added though in another set of records she found that her mother had been labeled a traitor when it was found out that she had consorted with a member of the Balan house.
Tears rolled down her cheeks as she read the latest books, finding out that the choker she wore was really a collar meant to keep her under control. "Tristan was right," she whispered. She put the books back and made her way back to the apartment.
She had just closed her bedroom door when a familiar song reached her ears. She pulled it from her pocket, smiling as she answered, "Hey Anna."
"Alona, thank goodness," the woman on the other end cried, "are you ok?"
Alona sat on the bed, "Yeah, I'm sorry I didn't call you back the other day, I've been having a few problems I need to take care of."
"So, I take it the trip didn't go so great."
Alona fell back onto the bed, "The trip went fine, just a few things came to light is all and Tristan's been the only honest person."
"I see," Anna said, "You know he seems like a really sweet guy, hot too."
Alona felt her cheeks grow warm, as she smiled softly, "Yeah, he's sweet too," she began to giggle, "and an amazing kisser."
The woman on the other end laughed, "No kidding, you two were pretty heavy."
Alona's blush deepened as she covered her face in her free hand, "Oh my god, you saw that?"
"Yes, hun, we did," she laughed harder. "Are you guys an item or what?"
Alona began to choke, her face now crimson, "No we are not, I mean yes I like him but we're just friends..."
The woman laughed, "Fine, if you guys are just friends, then I'll take him."
Alona's heart raced, as her voice came out harshly, "Absolutely not."
"Calm down 'Lona, I'm only teasing and if you're worried about Max, don't. You two split ages ago and on good terms so don't worry, I'm not mad, so what if my little 'Lona has got a new love, I'm happy for you."
"Thanks Anna, I really appreciate you saying that," she replied sincerely, "I will admit I do like him, but I have no clue what he thinks. I mean I barely know him, and he hardly knows me."
"Well maybe you don't have to worry about that."
"What do you mean?"
"Well this morning I went to see about a venue in town and I ran into a really sexy red haired guy who said he's looking for you because his Master would really like to see you, but because he can't leave due to some kind of injury he can't get you himself."
Alona's breathe caught, "Tristan is looking for me?"
"Yep, the guy gave me a number to give to you, so you two love birds could talk."
Tears formed in Alona's eyes, as she placed her free hand over her lips, "He wants to see me; after what happened," she thought.
"You there Alona," Anna asked worriedly.
"Yeah sorry," she replied, brushing a hand over her eyes.
"You know for someone you have no ideas about, he must really be into you if he's looking."
"Yeah," she said with a smile.
"Listen, if I give you this number, you need to promise me that you'll tell me what went on between you two, got it?"
Alona laughed, blushing again, "No way, he may just want to tell me to lay off."
"Not hardly, beside, I'm living vicariously through you since I have no one to snuggle with."
Alona snickered, "Fine, give it."
Anna gave her the number, "Now go to him and give him all you got."
Alona laughed, "Yes ma'am."
"Ok, love ya, bye."
"Love you too."
Anna hung up, leaving Alona to her thoughts. She dialed the number, but simply stared at it. She knew that if she contacted whoever was on the other end, it meant she was stepping into something that would end every tie she had to the life she had always know. Her hands shook as she reached her thumb for the call button on the screen, but before she could press it she heard the door to the apartment open and the scent of her brother filled the place.
She hurriedly shut the screen down and slid the phone into her back pocket when Blake rapped at her door, "It's open."
He slowly pushed it open, her heart tightening at his state. His usually neatly combed golden hair was dull and disheveled, his eyes dark and puffy from lack of sleep and his lips were nothing more than a pale line.
"Hey, how are you feeling," he asked softly, leaning against the door frame like he always did.
She shrugged, "Ok, I guess, can't complain; and you?"
He shrugged, crossing his arms, "Same. I'm going to make dinner, you want to help?"
"Sure," she smiled softly. She loved when they cooked because it meant they would talk about everything that bothered them.
Blake had always been more like a father to her than a brother; she could never keep secrets because he had always been there to listen, or so she had always thought.
As they made their way to the kitchen, Alona noticed Blake's scent was different; his distress had grown as she also smelled salt and water.
She stopped, watching his broad shoulders slouch, "Blake, what does the council say about me?"
He stopped before the cupboards, not turning to look at her, "I'd rather not talk about it right now."
"Yeah of course you wouldn't," she replied hollowly.
"Alona, not now," he sighed, taking a glass from the cupboard.
Her chest grew tight as she began to feel angry, "If you don't want to talk, then I will."
"Mom got a little too friendly with a vampire and got pregnant with me. The clan didn't appreciate that so they had her killed. I would have died too if you hadn't stepped in, but you know you're always reminding me about that."
Blake stiffened, "So he told you?"
"No, Tristan hasn't told me much, I went to the archives since I'm not allowed to leave."
"I told them to keep that place locked up," he growled.
"Seriously, you never had any intention of telling me?"
Alona jumped when the cup he was holding, shattered in the palm of his hand, "No I didn't; you were never supposed to know. I thought if I kept you in the dark, than you wouldn't want to leave. I've spent your entire life showing them how great you are," he hissed, wrapping his bleeding hand in a towel. "You're all I have left, I was protecting you."
She glared at him, "Do you seriously expect me to believe that, you collared me, you refused to look at me when I came to you crying and yelled at me when I finally stood up to them. I was the good little sister, listening to her big brother; I hung on your every word."
"It's not like that," he shouted, "You got stronger, yes, I was an idiot, I was a kid raising a baby, but now I know that if something happens to me, I know you'll be fine. You don't need me."
She shook her head, turning to leave.
"Where are you going?"
"Out, since you know, I don't need you."
She made her way out of the manor, heading for town.
She had reached the freight district as the sun drew low, the last of the ships blaring into the distance as they brought in their goods.
Smiling, she knew exactly where she was and after just a few blocks she came to a familiar place.
The warehouse looked weathered and shabby in the last hours of daylight, but it made her smile as she remembered playing here with Max and the others and it was also where she had met him.
She smiled, remembering her first hot headed meeting with Tristan Balan, a cocky, impulsive and smart mouthed man that invaded her thoughts nearly every day. Her chest felt light, her heart racing faster at the thought of his smile as he spoke to her. She remembered his amber eyes glistening under his shoulder length, dark hair.
Alona's stomach gave a flip when she remembered the sensation of his lips pressed against hers, enjoying the feeling of her legs going weak, but being embraced in his arms made her feel safe and wanted. She felt whole when he held her so close, making her feel like everything was going to be fine. She loved this silly man who showed her so much attention and adoration.
A grin crossed her lips when she finally realized Anna had been right, she loved Tristan.
Her heart fell, as her thoughts drifted to another possibility, does he love her, or is he just using her, was he lying when he said he could help her.
Her hands went to the side of her head, jostling the hair around her ears in annoyance, "Augh."
She sat on the steps, looking out over the water, ripples cascading in all directions from a passing boat.
She hated feeling indecisive, she was a grown woman, she would be turning twenty in a week, she loved Tristan, but not knowing his feelings made her decision all the more painful.
She pulled the phone from her pocket, looking at her reflection in the blank screen, "Yep, you're an idiot," she said, turning the phone on, finding the number still illuminated the screen. Taking a deep breath, she tapped the call button.
The line rang twice when a voice she didn't recognize answered, "You must be Alona, I presume." The voice was smooth and calm, a sense of command slipping through, making a chill run down her spine and her air cut off.
She coughed sharply, forcing her voice to obey, "Yes, may I ask who this is?"
She drew the phone away from her ear as a loud scratch, followed by a thump and muffled voices greeted her answer until a familiar voice came through the receiver, "Alona."
She smiled, relief washing over her, "Hey Tristan, how are you feeling?"
He sounded winded as he fought to remain calm, "I'm doing ok, how about you?"
"Same," her heart raced as she listened to his voice, "I was told that a friend of yours wanted to speak with me, was that him?"
She listened to him laugh, making her heart skip, "Yeah, that was Demetrius, I sent him since I wasn't exactly a hundred percent. The sun and I don't really get along right now. I'm also kinda busy with a few things."
She frowned, "I'm sorry, I can call back later."
"No, no," he cried, "you're fine; it's nothing important, just a little party. I'm really glad you called."
She smiled, relaxing as she listened to him. She drew her right knee to her chin and wrapped her left arm around it. "Oh yeah, what kind of party you having," her voice a purr.
She heard him laugh, "A party you aren't going to want to miss. What are you doing tonight?"
She snickered when she heard him tell someone to shut up, “I don't know," she replied playfully. "You never know if I might have practice." She paused, listening to his breath hit the phone, smiling childishly, "I suppose I'm open, but I don't have anything to wear."
He laughed, the sound loud and husky, "Don't worry about that, where are you, I can hear the water."
"I'm at the warehouse."
She heard him let out a heavy sigh, "Ok, listen, I can't come get you but I'm sending a friend for you, Ok?"
She grew curious, "Um, Ok, what should I look for?"
"He's driving a dark blue motorcycle, he'll have red hair and he's a know-it-all so just ignore him, but he's one of the few people I trust to be near you."
She smiled, "Ok, then I guess I'll be seeing you shortly."
"Yeah," he sounded as though he had run a mile.
"I'll let you go, so relax ok," she said softly.
She heard him gently laugh, "I'm not going to relax until I have you in my arms."
Her chest grew tight, "Yeah, same here...bye."
She didn't want to hang up, but she knew she had to or else he wouldn't either and as she took the phone away from her ear she heard him call out to her, "Alona, wait."
He grew silent, huffing harshly, "Never mind; see you soon."
She smiled, "Bye, Tristan." She laughed, returning her phone to her pocket, drawing her knees against her chest, wrapping her arms around them to await her ride.