Cal twitched uneasily, rolling her head to the other side on her pillow. She knew she was dreaming. By now, she had developed a way of knowing when her nights didn’t belong to her alone anymore, when her skin prickled with electricity as if she had walked straight into the center of a thunderstorm and the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. After nearly ten years she had long since learned to drown out the calls, to not enter the lush garden whenever it presented itself in her dreams. It was this time like it had been so many nights before: a hedge opened next to her and immediately her senses were filled with the smell of the jungle after a rainstorm, with exotic birds screeching their invitations. The sensations brought a sense of warmth, like she could almost smell the peaches of the tree that she knew stood in the garden’s center.
There had been a time when she had entered that garden every time it called out to her, to meet its keeper hidden between thick vines and lush foliage. Even after her brother’s death, even after an expert shaman of the guild had performed another severing on her, even after the dark arrows on her arm kept becoming more and more numerous, she had still followed the gardens winding paths. But years ago, she had stopped. Her pain and the visceral anger it procured had won out in the end and looking the monster responsible for it all in the eye had become unbearable.
The garden beckoned her more forcefully now, like the leaves of the hedges were echoing the call ringing out in Cal’s mind. With a groan she rolled onto her side, pulling her blanket closer to her chin. In her dream she steeled her resolve and turned from the greenery spreading out in front of her only to have it rustle and present itself right in front of her again like it was a living being that wouldn’t be ignored. Cal took a step back, her hunter instincts kicking in. This had never happened before. She had always been able to walk away from the garden whenever it presented itself.
Where the voice had been gentle and somewhat enticing before, it was now more insistent. Pushy. That was the word her 16-year-old self would have used. With a violent shake of her head the silver-tipped stake Cal carried on her belt at all times was in her hand a second later. “What the hell do you want from me?” She yelled at the opening in the hedges. For a minute, she only got silence and the rustling of leaves in the wind in return. She saw the snake only in the last instant, as it lunged from the underbrush between the hedges with eyes like violent emeralds and pale fangs bared wide.
With a sharp gasp, she sat up in bed. Her forehead was damp with sweat as she leaned forward on her knees to catch her breath. What was that?
After years of testing, research and another severing, Cal and the hunters of the guild had come to the conclusion that Juliette Fairmont, the legacy vampire that appeared in the garden in her dreams, had to have the power of spirit bonding. They had tested her blood and found no traces of the venom legacies used to enthrall the ones they bit. In fact, no remnant of Juliette could be found in any of the many samples Cal analyzed and even in her normal life, it was as if the small brunette had never really existed. They had left Savannah mere days after Theo had been turned and never looked back. Had it not been for the two holes in her heart, Savannah could have just as well been a nightmare. Ironically, it was her dreams that reminded her of how real it all had been. How Juliette had tainted her with eyes so innocent and hands so gentle that Cal had thought no monster could love like this. When she touched her, it had felt like nothing short of worship, so divine that Cal had to admit that no woman she had been with afterwards had ever even come close. “When she bit you, she bonded your soul to her. Made you dream of her and want her so that you would do anything for her. All without leaving a trace. She made you love her. The cruelest legacy power I have ever seen.” The guild shaman had tried to reason after listening to her story and studying the results of her blood test. It was what Cal clung to, what helped fuel her hatred and made her strong enough to turn from the hidden garden in her dreams whenever it appeared.
Cal sat back against the headboard, her heartrate finally evening out. It had been different tonight. Darker. It had never been so insistent before, like the vampire had tried to force her into her realm. She still felt the tugging in her stomach coaxing her.
“Calliope.” Cal stood with her back against her bedroom door not an instant later, her silver-tipped stake in one hand, a dagger in the other. Was she still dreaming? She had never heard her voice like this before when she was awake. It felt like Juliette was at once whispering in her ear and echoing in her head. Immediately, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. Seconds later, her throat started itching like it hadn’t done in years. It was like she could feel the bite of those small but deadly teeth all over again. After a few more moments of silence, Cal saw movement outside her glass door on the balcony. It had just been a shadow flicking by in the moonlight but it gave her enough to know that she wasn’t alone. Her grip on the dagger in her hand tightened, the muscles under the arrows on her arm flexing. Instinct made her calm where no human would be. She was about to take a measured step towards her sliding glass door when a figure stepped into the moonlight right outside of it, casual as only one who had nothing to fear from the dark of night would.
“Calliope.” Juliette said with her gentle smile firmly in place, hands in the pockets of her tan coat. The glass prevented the physical sound from reaching Cal’s ears but she heard them like before, whispered in her ear and blaring in her mind. “You’re awake.” Heat shot through Cal like she hadn’t felt in years. The vampire on her balcony was easily the most beautiful creature she had ever seen. Not the 16-year-old vampire teen she had met all those years ago, Juliette was without a doubt a grown woman now. Her hair was slightly longer, shimmering in the moonlight as it cascaded over her shoulders. Her face had lost the childish fullness, giving way to features sharp enough to cut glass and beautiful enough to make the glass willing in that endeavor. Her stance was relaxed, not nervous like it so often had been during their short-lived time together. She had obviously come into her own, much like Cal had.
The hunter’s heart started racing but all she did physically was raise the stake in her hand slightly, the knuckles turning white around it. Juliette’s bright eyes widened delightfully in response and too late Cal realized that she had immediately given herself away. I can hear your heartbeat. The memory echoed in her mind as the vampire outside her bedroom smiled the same smile she had that day all those years ago, impish and self-satisfied. The only difference was that this time, her now longer fangs caught the light of the moon and made her beauty almost obscene to look at. Cal swallowed and forced herself to be calm in the face of the most dangerous of predators. This fully grown woman was also a fully grown monster.
“You’ve finally come to finish what you couldn’t ten years ago, daywalker?” The hunter asked, defiantly raising her chin to the hammering in her chest. Something flickered across Juliette’s face for a split second. “Apologize in a way that makes you not hate me for what I did to your brother out of well-meaning ignorance? I actually gave up on that a while ago.” She smiled sadly. “Seemed like a futile attempt, even for eternity.” On the other side of the window, Cal gritted her teeth. She had not been expecting the vampire to talk about Theo so nonchalantly and it tore at her barely scarred wounds. “Don’t talk about my brother!” She hissed out of instinct. Juliette’s sad smile reached her eyes now, turning them somehow lighter. She took her hands out of her coat pockets and held them up apologetically. “I apologize.” Her brow furrowed. “You should know he is fine, though. Alive. Oliver is -” She broke off when the dagger hit the glass right in front of her face, scratching the surface before falling uselessly to the hardwood floor. “I said. Don’t. Talk. About. My. Brother.” Cal all but growled this time and Juliette nodded. “Would you come outside?” She asked gently, her arms still raised as if to show she wasn’t dangerous. The hunter scoffed. “And why would I do that?”
“I would like to talk to you. And, believe it or not, telepathy is actually quite straining.” She smiled sheepishly and for a second, she looked like the bashful Jules Cal had known. The hunter quickly shrugged it off though, pushing off the wall and taking a few steps forward, stake still pointed directly at the vampire’s chest. “I’m sorry, am I making your hunting spree more difficult than you like?” She asked indignantly and it made Juliette sigh before reaching for the sliding balcony door’s handle and pushing it open with a hiss. The smallest hint of smoke rose from her hand. “Silver door handles. Nice touch.” She said, the disdain clear in her voice but it didn’t take anything away from the pulse Cal felt shoot through her heart. She hadn’t heard that voice in person for so long, not since the night she had held a silver spear to her then-girlfriend’s chest. The voice that called to her in her dreams was beautiful, yes, but it paled in comparison. And it, too, was more mature now, slightly deeper and more even. She allowed herself to revel in it for the shortest of moments but came back to reality quickly. “I forbid you from entering this home, vampire.”
“Of course. We can talk like this.” Juliette was looking at her with honest eyes, her palms raised as before but now, one of them had an angry red burn mark where she touched the door handle.
“No. I don’t want to talk to you. Leave. Or I’ll kill you.” Cal was fast to answer, stepping another step closer in what she hoped was a threatening manner. Juliette just raised an eyebrow and smiled her fanged smile. “With that thing?” She nodded towards the stake. It was silver-tipped but it wouldn’t cause Juliette more than a very uncomfortable hole in her chest and they both knew that. In ten years, neither Cal not the guild had sadly come closer to figuring out a way to kill a legacy vampire than Cal had been when she staked Juliette at the party, not knowing the power she was playing with on the night she had been bitten and irrevocably changed. Her bite itched again but she resisted the urge to scratch it, knowing she would give herself away once more.
“I will leave as soon as we talk.” Juliette was adamant, skipping over Calliopes threat the moment she realized she would not get an answer. “I know you will go on a hunt in two days with your father and brother to get rid of a coven of made vampires. You need to let that go and leave this city.”
“What?” Cal was taken aback. She had expected many things: Juliette coming to kill her, to drain her, to plead with her like she had when she left but this she had not expected. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She finally said but the vampire just rolled her eyes. “For someone who called me a terrible liar, you sure are not much better.” Cal wished Juliette would stop making references to when she thought they knew each other but before she could tell her that the vampire continued. “We don’t need to play this game. I know you already drew up plans and that your father and brother are out making a supply run right now. I know you have stakes of silver ready downstairs, enough for the seven vampires you know are there and three more in case there’s more.”
Cal paused. Everything Juliette was saying was true, down to the number of stakes. The question was, why was she telling her that? It had to be some sort of trick. But she didn’t understand what the point in that would be. She took another step closer. “And those vamps differ from any of the others I killed exactly how?” Juliette’s gaze flickered down to her arm where her black arrows told the story of one of the most proficient young hunters of the guild. “They will have a hunter killer with them.” She said quietly and for only a second, Calliope lowered the stake in her hand. “You know what those are by now, I assume.” Of course, Cal knew. Hunter killers were those few legacy vampires or at least half-legacies that had no real social standing of their own. Usually, they were the youngest children of less powerful families. Since they were hard or basically impossible to kill for hunters, the legacy families used them as mercenaries to protect assets valuable to them. After what had happened in Savannah, many legacies had felt threatened and hunter killings had become more prevalent again. Cal knew of only a few hunters who had encountered one in the last few years and lived to tell the tale.
“Why would there be a hunter killer protecting a meaningless coven of made vampires? And even if, we would know about that.” She defended herself. There had been nothing suspicious or unusual about this contract and she had leant to always trust her gut. Aside from when it came to the vampire in front of her, of course.
“I can’t tell you that. But I am going to tell you that if you go through with your plan, you will die. You, Jack and Apollo. All of you.” Juliette was looking at her imploringly, her fangs now retracted and posture gentle. Cal scoffed again. “So, you just show up here out of nowhere and expect me to believe you? I’m not even sure you’re actually here right now and not just some vision you sent to torture me.”
“I have not consciously contacted you in years, Calliope. You made it sufficiently clear you don’t want me in your dreams anymore. I only did it tonight, because…” She trailed off but Cal heard the rest ring through her head. Because I won’t live in a world without you.
“Another selfish motive for a selfish creature then, yes? I think I can decide for myself what I want.” Cal spat. Her emotions were getting the better of her, she could feel it but she was powerless to stop it at the same time. Juliette was truly the only person who could ever get her to forget everything she had ever learned about being a hunter. Slowly, she walked to the balcony door until she was towering over the short vampire. She placed the stake on her chest, right above her heart and Juliette lifted her gaze to meet hers. Up close, it was even more undeniable how beautiful she was and as it always had, it almost knocked the wind out of Cal. But her beauty was different, it was clear now that she was closer. Juliette’s eyes were just a little too bright, her skin just a little too immaculate, her proportions just a little too appealing. She was too perfect to be human. Cal knew Juliette had been designed to lure, it was part of her unfair arsenal of advantages. Still, she had something so distinctly Jules about her that Cal couldn’t help herself. Torn between her hurt about what had happened to her family because of the vampires, anger at Juliette for having the audacity to show up here just to tell her next to nothing once more under the guise of helping her and her long-suppressed desire she suddenly pushed Juliette backwards and stepped onto the balcony with her. One hand found the lapel of her coat and pulled her close while the other still pressed the stake to her chest, more insistent than before.
“Why can’t you just kill me and be done with it?” She whispered against her. “Save yourself all this righteous suffering.” She saw Juliette take a deep breath and shakily release it, her fangs barely visible behind her upper lip. “I promised I would never hurt you.” She said and it sounded so simple that it made Cal smile with her but immediately, the hurt caught up with her and she pressed the stake harder to the vampire’s chest until it made her hiss with her mouth open, fangs on full display. The sight was equal parts hatred and arousal for Calliope. No matter how much she hated monsters and vampires especially, the sight of angelically beautiful Juliette baring the monster that lived inside of her to Cal had always made her heart race in the best of ways. “And I said I would kill you.”
“I don’t think I would let you.” Juliette smiled one hand still raised as before, the other finding the stake that held their chests apart. She released a sound that almost sounded like a growl when Calliope pushed further against her in response, making the stake pierce flesh and their lower bodies touch. “I think you wouldn’t get a say.” Cal told her and for a second, she thought the vampire was about to lean up and kiss her. What actually happened was nothing but a blur. Calliope pushed the stake all the way in, impaling Juliette who hissed from the most animalistic part of herself. Suddenly, the hunter found herself sitting with her back against the brick of the house wall. Her arms were tingling and when she tried to move them, they responded only jerkily before falling to her sides, useless. Juliette was kneeling in front of her, cradling her head with a hand behind it. With shock, Cal realized that the speed would have surely cracked her skull had that delicate but marble-like hand not protected her. Then she saw the two blood stains, one on both of her arms and realized why they were numb. In a matter of the blink of an eye, Juliette had pushed off of her, dipped fingers into her own wounds, painted her blood on the hunter and crashed both of them against the wall. It was also in that moment that Calliope Burns realized she would be helpless should this magnificent creature want to do her harm. Yet, she felt strangely at ease, like she was exactly where she should be. Juliette was still looking at her, blood dripping from her mouth. “Why do we always end up here?” She growled, slowly pulling the stake from her chest. Immediately, Cal was sent back to the first time she had left a stake in Juliette Fairmont, not knowing that she wouldn’t die. Her bite mark started itching again and this time, the vampire caught it, her gaze fixing itself onto the artery in her neck like a lion on the hunt.
“Do it.” Calliope heard herself whisper. “Drain me.” And with little to no hesitation, Juliette, her full-grown monster, dove in. The first time, she had felt shock and Juliette’s confused desire. This time, she was overtaken by the pleasure of it. Warmth spread all throughout her body as Juliette pulled her into an intimate embrace. It was a heady feeling and the trembling of Juliette’s hands, one still behind her back, the other around her waist made her feel like fire was running through her veins. Minutes passed and Cal felt her vison getting blurry but then the vampire pulled back, away from her neck and out of the embrace to lean back on her heels. The hunter’s blood was dripping down her chin and onto her coat while she looked at Cal with almost crazed eyes. “I can’t drain you.” She finally panted. “You’d become a vampire.” Cal’s vison was still blurry from the blood loss but she managed a weak “What?”. “When we drain a person we have no emotional connection to, they die. When we bite and drain for any other reason than hunger, our venom turns them.” Juliette admitted, revealing a secret most vampires never even knew to Cal. She pressed her forehead against Calliope’s. “I didn’t know that when I drained Theo. I’m so sorry.” And through the tears streaming down both of their faces and the blood still covering Juliette’s mouth, Cal kissed her like she needed her to breathe, paralyzed arms be damned. And her vampire, her Jules, her monster, reciprocated like it was the only thing she was put on this earth to do.
A day later, Calliope convinced her father and brother to not go through with the plan for the hunt, explaining to them how it was too dangerous. The guild was less than pleased and sent a different team with Jack’s plans. They never came back. And the new bite on Calliope’s neck itched whenever she thought about it.