I grabbed her arm, bringing us both to a halt. “We need to leave. This is beyond weird now and has entered the realm of too damn dangerous. We’re putting ourselves and everyone here at risk by staying.” I expected a snarl or a snort from her, but she instead nodded.
“You’re right. This is?”
A long, drawn-out moan pierced the silence. Every single one of us froze in position. A few seconds later, there was another moan; it was filled with pain, hopelessness, and misery. Technically, such a sound should have made me want to run to that person’s rescue.
Instead, it made my blood turn to ice. Then there was another sound: scuffling. Someone was coming, but their footsteps were so sluggish that their feet were dragging against the ground as they moved.
I wasn’t sure what I expected to see when that person finally rounded the head of the junction, but it wasn’t the sight before me. The shirtless vampire was so gaunt, skeletal, and emaciated that it was revolting. His glowing red eyes looked like they had been sucked inward and much of his hair had fallen out. His ribcage was visible, his shoulder blades were sticking out, and he had a greyish, translucent complexion. Basically, he looked like a skeleton with a layer of skin stretched over it. And there was only one thing that made a vampire look like that.
This really wasn’t good. “Evan, don’t go any closer.”
But either my brother was feeling suicidal or he had no idea just how dangerous a starving vampire could be, because he was actually approaching the Pagori. What I wanted to do was order everyone to hold hands and then teleport us all out of there, but I couldn’t reach Evan to grab him and there was simply no way I was leaving him behind.
“All of you slowly retreat,” I said without moving my gaze from the starving vampire. “We need to get the f**k out of here. Don’t take your eyes off him. And whatever you do, unless he leaps at you, don’t run.” They each followed my commands instantly, except for Evan. He was instead continuing to move forward. “Evan, what the f**k?”
“He’s starving, Jared, he needs blood, get over here.”
Clearly Evan had never been near a starving vampire before. I had. “Yes, he’s starving. That makes him dangerous. He’ll attack you.”
“Attack me? Look at him, he’s practically falling to pieces – he doesn’t have the strength to take me on.”
That was where my brother was wrong. “You’d be surprised just how strong and fast a vampire can be when it’s desperate. Right now, he’s desperate. So move your stubborn ass away from him!” I thought he’d keep ignoring me, but instead Evan sighed and took a step backwards. That was when the vampire lunged at him. He knocked Evan to the ground, his mouth latching onto his throat and gulping down his blood so strongly it was sickeningly audible.
Before I could react, one of Sam’s powerful energy balls struck the vampire, making him burst into ashes with a scream. Then we were both at Evan’s side, helping him from the floor. As I’d expected, the bite was bad. The vampire had almost taken a chunk out of Evan’s neck with his overriding thirst. “You okay?”
Evan put pressure against the badly bleeding wound with his hand. “No.”
“Well, that explained why no one came.” When a vampire went into ‘starvation mode’, their senses gradually dulled until they were even less acute than human senses. Furthermore, their predatory drives increasingly took over as their need for survival made them operate on an almost animal instinct – losing rationality, reason, and civilisation. That was why they were also unable to focus enough to use their gifts.
I tensed as the ground seemed to rumble beneath us. Worse, it sounded like a freaking stampede was heading our way. Clearly the racket we’d just made and the sound of the vampire’s scream had gained us some attention. If that was the rest of the nest coming toward us, we were doomed if we didn’t get out of there now. I turned, intending to order everyone to hold onto one another so I could teleport us all outside. That was when I noticed that not only was there a big gap between us and the others – who had clearly continued following my order to retreat – but none of them were looking at me. They were staring at the horde of vampires that were charging down the other end of the tunnel, heading for them.
Fuck, we were boxed in.
Having the deadliest gifts, David, Chico, and Salem immediately began attacking the starving vampires approaching them, taking advantage of the distance still between them. At the same time, Harvey used his telekinesis to shove them back again and again. Having faith that they could all handle themselves for now and do what they had been trained to do, I joined Evan and Sam in dealing with the flock of vampires that were fast approaching us.
Sam was attacking with energy balls, energy bolts, and thermal energy beams. Evan was freezing every vampire that came at him – not to ice, but completely immobilising them so that there was no blood-flow, no heartbeat, no breathing, nothing. Mere milliseconds after the vampires were frozen, they exploded into ashes.
I joined the fight; sending charge after charge after charge of electricity from my hands. But there were just so damn many of them that even our combined efforts couldn’t keep them completely at bay. Any time a vampire managed to get too close, Sam would slam up her shield, causing the vampire to bounce away. But they weren’t deterred; they continued to charge at us. Sam then conjured an energy shield big enough to encompass her, me, and Evan, but the vampires tried crawling over it like ants.
“Bollocks to this,” she gritted out. A blast of wind flew out of her palms, sending the vampires zooming through the air until they collided with the wall at the end of the tunnel. She then swiftly tapped into the natural elements, using the earth to quickly build a wall to block the tunnel. “It won’t hold them back for long,” she warned. She was right; no sooner had the tunnel sealed shut than the wall was being charged at. “Quick, go, go, go!”
Turning, I took in the sight in front of us. Butch had formed a deflecting shield and was using it to protect Salem, David, and Chico as they attacked the starving vampires. Unfortunately the shield wasn’t big enough to act as a barrier, and some of the vampires had gotten past it. Denny was shooting yellowy-green ooze out of his thumbs and smallest fingers to engulf and spring them away while Harvey was using his telekinesis to fight off others. But still some vampires had slipped through.
One was currently biting into Stuart’s arm, who then quickly exploded into molecules in order to get free. Another had its teeth buried in Max’s throat as Cristiano attacked it from behind with a knife that I was guessing he’d conjured – nice gift. Ava was fighting off a third and, damn, could she fight! Sam was right; tiny Ava could take care of herself. Apparently that didn’t matter to Salem, because the big guy suddenly turned, looped an arm around her, pulled her back against his chest, and sent a lethal psychic punch hurling at her attacker.