"You okay, Tessa?" Her dad crouched down at her side, concern evident on his face. He reached out to stroke her shoulder gently.
She managed a tiny smile. "I’m fine. Just a little tired and a whole lot worried. I want Mom found safe and sound." She didn’t want to admit the last few days had taken a toll on her. Sitting in the bare room only big enough for the floating floor, with one door in or out hadn't exactly instilled confidence they'd make it any further.
"Do we know if there’s another way in? Has that been checked out?" Tessa pulled her knees up to her chin and rested her head. Her mind spun with ideas. "What about knocking? Maybe they’re expecting someone?"
"Knock?" David laughed sarcastically. "If they can hear knocking, they'd have heard us already. We haven't exactly been quiet."
Serus stood up and ran his long fingers through his hair, staring down at Tessa.
Tessa closed her eyes, letting the others bash the information around. They’d let her in on the final decision.
"Yeah, I’m here…just thinking."
"Sleeping is more like," Cody scoffed.
David plunked down beside her. "I know you’re tired, but we can’t give up now. Mom needs us."
Tessa reared back. "Closing my eyes while you guys think about what to do is not giving up." She hopped to her feet. "Damn it, don’t you think I feel responsible? She’s in trouble because I insisted on searching for Jared."
"Hey," David stood up, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. "I didn't mean to upset you." He squeezed her shoulders. "You're not in any way responsible for what happened to her. Don't you ever think that."
She searched his eyes, wanting to believe him yet having trouble doing so. "We have to get her back. Safe. And now." Tessa strode to the door and pounded hard on the steel surface with her fists.
"Shit. Tessa, what are you doing?" Jewel hissed as she slammed back against the wall and out of sight in case the door swung open. The others rushed to line up beside her.
Serus placed a calming hand on Tessa’s shoulder. "Move, Tessa. Just in case someone does come. They won't question the presence of an adult as much as they will a teenager."
"Well, they’d better come. This is ridiculous. I want mom back." She pounded the door again. Then kicked it several times, belatedly remembering that's how the stone wall had opened.
Snick. The door swung open.
Tessa turned to the others triumphantly. "There. Nothing like a good kick to get the job done."
Serus stared in astonishment. "What the…?"
"She did it!" crowed David.
"Shhh. Let's go." Cody jumped through the opening and disappeared from sight.
The others entered single file, with Serus bringing up the rear. Another long passageway, again with stone walls all around. Followed by another long set of stairs. Tessa couldn’t believe it. Who built all of this?
"Unbelievable," she whispered to Jewel as they crept along. "What is this place?"
"I don’t know. But it's beyond creepy."
Tessa ran her hands along the smooth aged walls. "Makes me wonder how long ago this place was built."
The men stopped in front of them. Tessa tried to see over Cody’s shoulder. Another door.
"Just kick it."
David glanced over his shoulder at her then back at the door. His big boot lashed out and he kicked the door in approximately the same place she had kicked the last one.
The door opened silently.
They entered the next room to find computer screens filled one wall, with rows of sterile office desks and computers filling the rest. No people – no vampires. Nothing on the desks or floor to say anyone worked there. There were no windows either. Artificial lights hung overhead. Darkness and gloom hung over the room. The only sounds were the ones they made.
Tessa strode to the screens on the walls. Each monitor showed a small section of some kind of warehouse. She bent her head closer. Her heart thudded in her chest. Shock and horror slammed into her awareness. "Are those people?"
"Where?" Everyone crowded around her.
"Oh, no!" Jewel’s agonized whisper floated in the air around them. "They’re humans."
"What are they doing?"
Serus moved to a different monitor. His face grayed. "They’re not doing anything. They can’t. I think this is another blood farm."