The Long Road Home, Chapter 6: Road to Perdition (Jasper)

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Suddenly I wrenched myself from my reverie. They were coming at me.

The first one came at me from the left, shooting out of the dimness. I heard his growl, felt the movement of his body in the air, his arms outstretched, fingers hooked into claws...

It was a simple matter to take him in the fraction of a second. My body responded with unimaginable speed, my arms closing around him in mid-air, crushing his arms into his torso, as his momentum propelled us into the others who were advancing toward us from the opposite side. They hissed in shock, pulling away, trying to get a better bead on me.

I rolled in the dirt struggling with the other vampire, and our growls and curses filled the night. But it was over quickly. The man knew nothing of fighting hand-to-hand; my father's lessons came back to me from the cloudy memories of my childhood, surfacing in the movements of my steel muscles as if they had always been there. After a second or so I had managed to get to my feet, hauling him up with me, and with one hand ripped his screaming head free of his neck with a grinding screech. I cast the head from me.

It rolled in the dust, mouth open, still screaming soundlessly.

I kicked it away into the night with a scornful laugh, and turned to the others, who held back, eyes wide in sudden fear. I felt the frenzy roaring inside me, the delight in the successful kill. I felt so very alive.

"Come on now, don't be shy!" I mocked them, and proceeded to tear the headless corpse into shreds before their rolling red eyes.

They backed away from me, staring, shaking their heads. One was a woman, the other two men. None of them looked as if they'd ever done anything useful in their previous lives; I doubted they would be much good at fighting. Perhaps it was arrogance, but I knew I could take them all easily, despite the odds and their newborn strength.

I cast aside the remains of the man I had just destroyed and beckoned to the others. "Let's dance, shall we?" I hissed, and crouched down in preparation.

They fled into the night. My laughter followed them.

"Very good, Jasper...Very good indeed," Maria's voice purred, her lips brushing my ear. I shivered at the touch and at her proximity, drawing away a little to stare down at her. She was standing beside me; I hadn't been aware of her approaching in my concentration on the fleeing vampires.

She nudged a glittering, quivering piece of the vampire I'd just shredding with the toe of her shoe, a faint grimace of disgust crossing her lovely face. "Dispose of...this, please, Jasper, and then let's get back, shall we?" Her full lips curled into a catlike smile, her eyes sparkling up at me like rubies. I shivered. "I can think of much more entertaining things to do than stay out here and watch Randall try to put himself back together, can't you?"

She threw her head back and laughed, a full-bodied sound like a chorus of bells, and her glossy black hair shimmered in the moonlight. She was beautiful, I had to give her that. And very...appealing. I could feel her desire for me emanating from her in waves, like heat from an oven in winter. It was hard to resist. She knew things, knew how to make me feel so good...

But at times she still gave me a creeping, foreboding sensation that I couldn't shake, no matter how much I tried to. And somehow, it felt wrong to be with her. I felt incomplete, felt incomplete even with Maria, as if she was the wrong piece to fit into the puzzle of my life.

I heaved a sigh and fell to the unpleasant task of gathering poor Randall up into a pile and setting him afire. As I watched the heavy purple smoke billow up into the brightening sky I tried to remember my life as it had been, to think back to a time when taking a life had meant more to me. It was very hard, but I tried as often as I could to rehash my memories, to keep them alive and not cloud over like Maria said they would with time. I replayed my whole mortal life in my mind in the course of a few seconds.

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