Cat and Mouse | iv

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Nerina moved on but the messages kept coming. That was what they were— warped messages from Eve. In a small farm town in Poland, Nerina had to kill three innocents Eve had changed and released. Every vampire Eve made Nerina killed them. Each carried a message. With each kill Nerina's heart bled, grew heavy. She mourned for every one of them. That was what Eve wanted—for her to suffer from her bleeding heart. For her weak human emotions to swallow her whole.

All you have to do is turn it off, one of the men had said to her. He said it like a patient father waiting for his daughter to get up after a minor tumble. Nerina had been too late to stop him from killing his wife but she had saved his son. Now an orphan Nerina had no idea what to do with him. Doing the only thing she could think of she left him on a doorstep compelling the woman who answered to look after him as if he was her own.

Newborn vampires were now roaming the countryside wherever she went. She kept away from the cities in a bid to limit the carnage. In the wilderness, there would be few families to kill, fewer people to change. Eve managed just fine. There was never a shortage of lives that Nerina had to take. It was taking a toll, as her sire knew it would. Still she accepted the pain instead of hiding away from it.

Clenching her bloodied fingers into tight fists, Nerina's anger burned. Eve was still pulling her strings. Still controlling her. Still marking innocents for death as if they were nothing. Eve was not willing Nerina to take their lives but she had forced her hand. It was either take them down or leave them to kill and maim. Leave them to change others. Newborns knew nothing of control. They killed with each feed. Each life she took left a stain darkening her hatred, warping it into a living breathing thing that threatened to consume her.

Nerina had had enough.

In that moment of dark resolve, the mouse became the cat.

Nerina hunted Eve using all Steele had taught her, skills that had developed as she had hunted the newborns. There had to be an end and she was going to write it. Or die trying as she had no delusions of an easy victory if she was to have one.

Living forever would not be so bad if Eve was no longer in the picture. Nerina was certain she could cope with what she was but not when she was the reason for so much death and pain.

The idea that she would be the one to stop Eve was laughable. Borderline crazy. A slightly misplaced confidence that had no solid ground to stand on. The most rational thing to do would be to keep running and hiding and killing whatever Eve after her. That would be more rational than hunting down the woman. Nerina felt like she was going crazy. If she found Eve then what? Nerina let out a huff.

What utter rubbish. Nerina had no idea what she would do when she found Eve. A part of her hoped it would be a futile search. Then she thought about all the innocent people who were the casualties of their cat and mouse game. Nerina was not going to switch off her emotions. More importantly, she was not going to run anymore. Brave sentiments from someone with no plan of attack or any slight inclinations as to what she was doing. Nerina was sure a plan would come to her soon enough. Preferably before Eve locked her in a cage or literally bit her head off.

Nerina scoured the entire expanse of Europe hopping over to the British Isles. She looked for her needle in a haystack following the breadcrumbs of deaths to lead her to her goal. Once she had come close but a momentary distraction had her missing her chance. The momentary distraction being a band of newborns attempting to kill her.

In Ireland, she picked up the trail again and this time she was successful. She had found Eve. Then the big question—now what?

Making herself at home in a farmhouse Eve used the family as slaves. She had somehow compelled herself an invite. Nerina had to stand on the other side of the door uninvited. Clever she was to keep the owner alive. She was in a safe haven now. Eve knew it was and reveled in the frustration on Nerina's face. She knew her little charge had been pursuing her. A stimulating twist in the plot if she might say so herself. Nerina had found her as she was meant to.

"Found me," Eve was pleased. "Finally."

"You left a tidy trail."

Eve laughed as she stood on the other side of the door. "Clumsy of me."

Deliberate. Calculated. Not clumsy at all. This was what Eve wanted—to be found. A fact that had become very clear when Nerina realized it was too easy. She had played right into the hands of her sire but it was her only move. Face the threat head on. One of them was going to die that night or both.

"A nice little family," Eve said casually. "I can appreciate the appeal you can't seem to shake."

The muscle in Nerina's jaw twitched and Eve smiled. "I never controlled them."

"No?" Eve feigned surprise as she looked back at the family inside.

Sitting by the corner of the fireside a woman sat with her daughter in her lap. Standing over them with a hunting rifle was a man. Nerina guessed it was the woman's husband. He had been whom Eve had compelled. His family sat in fear aware of all that was happening while he stood void of all expression with a gun aimed in their direction. With Eve's word, he would kill them without a thought. Such was the perverse nature of her amusement.

"So much fun to be had."

"Let them be."

"Let them be?" Her voice was amused though the amusement never reached her eyes. No emotions ever reached her eyes. Except of course—anger.

"I'm here. That is what you wanted so let them go."

"What I want," Eve stopped at the very entrance of the threshold. So close yet so far, "is not this bleeding heart."

"You were expecting me to fail." For her to break. For her to change. "That will not happen again."

"We will see about that little mouse."

Eve had the upper hand and she was not afraid to use it. Nerina could not come into the house and she would not come outside. When dawn came, Nerina went to ground and she knew Eve would have a chamber inside the protection of the house.

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