The sitting room was much lighter in its colour tones, earthy but more modern than the study. Large full length windows looked out over the rear gardens and Savernake forest, now only visible as a dense black shadow against the starlit sky. The heavy cream drapes were pulled back by fringed golden ties at either side of the windows. By their appearance, Cassie guessed they were rarely closed hanging only for decoration. The cloth beneath the ties was a slightly darker shade, not bleached by the sun like the rest of the curtain material.
A creamy marble, mottled with varying shades of brown, framed the arched fireplace. It was much smaller than the one in the study but equally as stunning. The brass screen was fixed to the outer rim of the fireplace, thin framed brass doors with fine brass mesh allowed full view inside the hearth. The rim was textured with divots into its beaten metal, giving it a rustic finish. The matching brass fire tools stood beside it, their highly polished metal gleaming on the hearth.
Mrs Philpot, having anticipated an extended visit, had prepared the wood and kindling in the hearth. Alaric opened the screen doors and crouched down. With the flick of a match it flared to life, igniting the dry kindling. Trails of smoke spiralled up the chimney as the bark on the wood beneath caught alight.
As Cassie looked around the room she noticed an antique Chinese sideboard, stained a chestnut colour and lacquered with a glossy finish standing along the rear wall facing toward the fireplace. Its top curled up at either end emulating a scroll. The handles on the draws and cupboard doors below had brass yin/yang symbols. A large gilded mirror on the wall above it reflected back the warmth and light from the fire, giving the room a very homely feel.
Cassie and Alex sank deeply into one of two large cream lounges. Alex groaned with pleasure as he spread himself out and rearranged the nest of cushions around him, squashing Cassie against the arm of the couch at the other end.
"This is more comfortable than my bed," he said, turning to Alaric, "I don't think this couch goes very well in this room though. I tell you what, I'll do you a favour. I'd be happy to take it off your hands," he crowed flippantly, offering his best lopsided grin.
Alaric raised himself from his crouched position by the fire, its flames now growing steadily higher.
"I tell you what," Alaric began, in a serious business-like tone. "I'll let you have the couch if Cassie stays here with me," turning his head away from Alex to wink at Cassie.
Alex's smile disintegrated into a scowl. There was no way on earth he was letting Cassie anywhere near this guy...vampire...arsehole...freak. They all watched as his face flushed and the veins in his neck began to bulge. He rose from his seat slowly as if the pressure building in his body expanded in volume forcing him upright, his finger raised pointing at Alaric with a venomous deluge of insults ready and waiting. "Not on your life, you blood sucking perverted low life. If you think ..."
Cassie's giggles distracted his train of thought, redirecting his anger in her direction.
"What the hell are you laughing about," he exploded. "This fuck whit thinks you're a possession that he can trade for furniture," his face turning from red to purple with rage.
"He's kidding. He's just trying to get your goat, calm down," she said, trying her best to keep the smile off her face, pulling on the cuff of his sleeve unsuccessfully trying to make him sit down again.
Although from her perspective, she couldn't see any problem with Alaric's proposal. There was nothing she'd like more than to stay here, not that she was about to tell Alex that though. Not without starting World War III.
Alaric smiled. "Sorry, I was kidding. Couldn't help myself. You're just so easy to bait and there's not a lot of entertainment around here. Please, sit down," trying to defuse the situation he held out his hand to Alex to shake, hoping he would accept a truce.
Alex slowly reached out woodenly and shook his hand with one half hearted brief shake and seated himself again, giving Alaric a glare that was the ocular version of a fully extended middle finger. His scowl furrowed lines so deeply into his forehead they left indelible marks like waves in the sand while his anger simmered visibly just below the surface. If Alaric was anyone other than a vampire, he would've snotted him one. Then again, he still might just for the hell of it, bugger the consequences. For now however, he chose a safer option and took it out on the cushions, punching them into a comfortable position behind him.
What really annoyed him was that he knew it wouldn't take much to convince Cassie to stay at the Manor with the blood sucking leach. It was written all over her love struck face.
Cassie patted him on the knee and gave him the look. The one that he knew meant get over it. Not likely, he thought to himself. He had a memory like an elephant.
The Professor and Lilith occupied the two matching chairs. Alaric began slowly pacing in front of the fire.
"Would you look at that," admired the Professor, rubbing his hands together with delight. "Mrs Philpot thinks of everything." A large platter of sandwiches had been laid out on the coffee table before them along with plates, a jug of orange juice and glasses. "Cheese and cucumber sandwiches. Ooh, and ham and pickles too, my favourites." He exclaimed, reaching forward to help himself.
"Of course she's made your favourites," sniped Lilith. "If fried toad was your favourite food, she would've made that too!" sitting back heavily into her seat she debated whether she was hungry enough to eat Mrs Philpot's food. Contrarily, Alex was hoeing into the platter of sandwiches with as much enthusiasm as the Professor, handing Cassie a token sandwich or two when she made no effort to acquire any for herself. If she didn't know him so well, she'd think his foul mood of only a few moments earlier was seemingly forgotten.
"Well. When do we get to hear about this cup?" Alex asked, gulping down the last sandwich and deliberately brushing the crumbs onto the rug. A fruitless gesture since Alaric's eyes never left Cassie for a moment, which did nothing to placate his pensive mood.
Although the Professor and Lilith were well versed on the relevant history, Alaric couldn't recall a time in his long past when he had shared so much information with humans, any humans. His life had required anonymity and it felt strange and unnatural to suddenly be openly discussing knowledge he had guarded so vehemently for centuries, secrets he'd once killed to protect.
Cassie leaned forward a little, staring expectantly at Alaric who in turn looked to the Professor, nodding and taking his cue to start the discussion.
"Where to begin?" The Professor mulled over the important parts to his story. "You're familiar with the tale of the Holy Grail. The legend tells that it if you drink from the cup you will gain eternal life," looking from Cassie to Alex who both nodded in agreement.
"Well, the Holy Grail is real. It does have the ability to give eternal life but not in the way that the stories tell." He stopped talking, shaking his head, his forefinger tapping his chin in thought.
"No. That's not where we need to start. I think we need to go back further," clapping his hands and rubbing them together, as he often did at the beginning of his lectures.
"About 2,500 years ago lived a man by the name of Siddhartha Gautama, more commonly known as the Buddha. During his life he achieved enlightenment, and at the time of his death his soul ascended to the higher dimensions, one of the lower angelic dimensions, in fact. His was the first soul to achieve this without the assistance of an Angel of Death." He paused when Alex looked confused.
"What does the Angel of Death have to do with this?" He asked, flashing a look at Cassie to see if she understood any better than he did. Religious anthropology was here gig, not his.
"Well," the Professor explained, "There were many Angels of Death on earth back then, born as humans they retained their angelic gifts. At that time, the majority of humans weren't very spiritually evolved, and I'm not talking about religion, that's something completely different," he quickly added to avoid further confusion. "Those whose souls were ready to experience the higher realms were assisted by an Angel of Death at the time of their death. They acted as a doorway for the soul to pass through." Cassie and Alex both nodded silently.
"When Siddhartha Gautama achieved ascension on his own, the Elders recognised this as a sign that the human race was nearly ready to take another leap in their evolution. They saw that soon, many more souls would be ready to transcend to the next spiritual dimension, too many for the Angels of Death to manage. Another, more permanent gateway needed to be created." The professor paused when Cassie raised her finger, something she would have done in one of the Professor's lectures. Habits die hard, she thought to herself.
"You're talking about the so-called 'pearly gates of heaven' that you're supposed to pass through at the time of death, aren't you?" Cassie asked.
"Yes. In a round-about sort of way," he confirmed, quickly continuing on. "When the time was right, about four hundred years later, the Elders implanted a new gene into the embryo of an unborn girl. This girl grew up to become the mother of Jesus, who in turn inherited this gene from his mother. He was unique in this world. He was an upper level angel who had been born as human to create this gateway," The Professor paused again, searching their faces for a sign they appreciated where he was heading. Seeing only puzzled expressions, he decided he needed to elaborate on the topic further.
"A lower level angel can incarnate as human without damaging the body it inhabits, but an upper level angel's soul vibrates at a much higher rate. If an upper level angel occupied a human body and retained all its powers, the vibration required to use these abilities would quite literally vibrate the human body apart. In a short period of time the body would become sick and die. Are you following so far?" he asked.
He could see the cogs churning inside Cassie's mind, processing the information.
Alex, who'd sat quietly brooding, became suddenly animated, scaring the daylights out of Cassie when he jumped from his seat.
"I understand," he exclaimed. "Or at least I think I do," he added, a little less enthusiastically. For a moment his posture mirrored Alaric's opposite him, confident and commanding.
"You're describing physics, more specifically quantum physics" he said. "There is nothing that exists that isn't pure energy when broken down to its smallest particles, each particle vibrates at its own unique frequency and rhythm. These particles cluster together in specific ways to create tangible matter. I guess you could compare it to musical notes. If you arrange particular notes in sequence and frequency, you get a unique song. If you change the notes, you change the song. The same is true with physical matter," he said, arranging the plates and glasses on the table to resemble the composition of an atom, "Particles that make a piece of wood, vibrate at a different rate and frequency to that of water, which is different from plants and different again from animals. If you change the vibration inside a human body, increase the rate, it can't sustain its original form, it would break down," reiterating the Professor's explanation.
"Although," he continued "It's believed that matter can't actually be destroyed, it can only change form." When no one interjected his hypothesis, he expanded on his explanation. "The Greek philosopher, Aristotle concluded that there are five elements: fire, earth, air, water and ether. Ether is supposedly an unearthly, spiritual substance that fills the universe but exists outside the physical Earth, and as such does not undergo change in the same way that everything in our world does," pointing to the fireplace with its fire now blazing.
"Some quantum physicists believe that in the same way a burning log becomes ash and metal can become rust, the eroded matter from the wood and metal doesn't just disappear as the original article shrinks in size, but changes form. Research has shown that the smallest particles of matter, strings, have been observed to vanish from view, presumably into the ether and then reappear again somewhere else.
"As a physical object is influenced by an outside force, the minute strings pull apart. Its physical form breaks down and the strings realign in a new pattern to become another form, either a new physical object or possibly returning to the universe in the form of energy." he explained.
"It's also believed that the energy that creates dimensional barriers is also able to be distorted or changed in some way, like creating doorways.
"Interestingly enough, I am working on a thesis at the moment that involves an experiment that manipulates these strings using electromagnetic energy to test the forces required to change their form." He concluded.
Alex took his seat to a round of applause from the Professor, whose broad smile beamed, lighting the room and lifting their moods momentarily.
"Alex, I'm glad to see your education hasn't been wasted on you. I don't think you realise just how close you are to the truth." Alaric said, complimenting him. Well, it was the closest he could get to a true compliment anyway.
Alex eyed him suspiciously, searching his blank face for signs of mockery.
Cassie held her breath waiting for a snide remark from Alex to undermine the momentary reprieve of ill humour between them, which fortunately never came. For once he held his tongue. Miracles were possible after all.
"Shall we continue then?" asked the Professor, forcibly maintaining his smile now. Signs of strain and fatigue were beginning to show. Each line on his face more deeply etched than Cassie could ever remember seeing before.
"Yes." They both replied.
"Let me know if you want me to clarify anything else won't you." To which they both nodded silently.
"Ok then. This gene that Jesus inherited allowed his body to cope with the vibration of his soul, and also enabled him to retain many of his angelic powers so he could perform all those miracles." The Professor added.
Alaric joined the conversation. "It's believed that at the last supper, when Jesus blessed the cup, he infused some of his power into it. He handed the cup to his sister's husband, a roman soldier and also an Angel of Death called Sammael. Unfortunately Judas not only betrayed Jesus that night, but also his sister. A Jew married to a roman soldier was a criminal offense. They stoned her to death. Sammael was ordered to watch Jesus die and then was to be put to death himself," Alaric took a deep breath before continuing, slowly pacing a track through the shag pile rug in front of the fireplace.
"While Jesus hung on the cross, he called to Sammael. At Jesus' order, Sammael plunged his spear deep into Jesus' side, releasing blood from his body. At that same moment, the Elders poured into Jesus the power to create the permanent gateway. Jesus channelled some of this power into the spear. When he died, it opened the gateway but it wasn't until he rose again on the Sunday that the gate to the next spiritual dimension was sealed open." Alaric stopped pacing, his arms were crossed in front of himself, his expression thoughtful. He poked a log in the fire, a shower of sparks zig zagging their way up the chimney.
"Sammael" he continued "was half mad with grief over his wife's death. A couple of days after Jesus died, he found himself in possession of the cup and a cloth soaked with Jesus' blood. He soaked the blood from the cloth and used the cup to drink the blood." Alaric stated.
"Why would he do that? Drink the blood." Cassie asked. Ew, just the thought made her stomach churn with disgust. It was a form of cannibalism.
"No one knows exactly, but we believe that Jesus or someone else instructed him to." answered Lilith. "The blood that he drank contained the new gene that Jesus carried. The power he had infused into the cup forced this gene to penetrate every cell in Sammael's body, changing his DNA."
"The soldiers were sent to find Sammael and complete his sentence. When they found him though, they discovered that he was no longer quite human although not fully transformed at that point. Using Sammael's own spear, the soldiers killed him, or at least they thought they had. However, the spear contained the Elders power and Sammael rose from the dead as the first vampire. Over time he created new vampires but only he was truly immortal, the only one who had drunk from the cup and received resurrection power from the spear." Lilith finished.
Alaric watched Cassie throughout the narration to assess her thoughts and then Alex, their faces a mirror image of each others, enthralled by the tale. As unbelievable as it was, they were taking it much better than he'd expected. Fortunately.
"After Sammael became a vampire, he hid the cup and the spear realising the power they contained and the power that could be unleashed on the world in the wrong hands," the Professor chipped in. Even then there were those in the Underworld and on Earth who would stop at nothing to get their hands on them.
"How did the cup end up with the Dalai Lama then?" Alex asked, slowly digesting the new information which spun a new twist on history and religion, and for that matter, reality in general.
"That's a very good question," the Professor answered, pouring himself a glass of juice. "Siddhartha Gautama ascended to the next spiritual realm. He hadn't yet achieved the level of an angel but he was very close. He was given a choice whether he wanted to continue reincarnating on earth or continue his evolutionary journey in the spiritual realms," the Professor's eyes sparkled as he spoke.
Lilith interjected and the Professor took another long swallow of his juice. "Siddhartha chose to continue the path of reincarnation on the condition he could return each time as a spiritual teacher. The Elders agreed with one condition of their own. He must be the guardian for the Cup of Life, the Holy Grail." finishing the explanation for him, eliciting a grin of pride for her knowledge and waved his hand for her to continue the story.
She had never studied Religious Anthropology, the course which he taught, although in the ten years she had worked for him, she had dedicated herself to learning as much as she could. The Professor felt she had earned herself an honorary degree. At times he thought she knew more about the subject than he did.
"Sammael had hidden the cup and the spear for centuries but he discovered that if they remained in one place for too long, people became suspicious of them. Well before the time the first Dalai Lama was inducted in 1391, rumours and legends about the power of the cup had circled the world." Lilith concluded.
"So Sammael gave it to the Dalai Lama," Cassie queried.
"Yes," Alaric said. The Professor and Lilith nodded in agreement. "The cup was hidden in plain sight. At each new incarnation the Dalai Lama is required to choose a number of items from hundreds of objects that belonged to the previous incarnation of himself. One of these items was the Cup. It was portrayed to the world as being an ordinary object having belonged to an extraordinary man."
"But, then how was it discovered after so long. He must have had it for what, at least eight hundred years?" Alex queried.
"Good question," all eyes now back on Lilith. "Jesus isn't the only upper level being that's appeared on earth. Lucifer, one of the original fallen angels, has also made an appearance, along with a couple of other upper level fallen angels including one named Ahriman. Ahriman is obsessed with power and domination. He wants to consume your soul, unlike Lucifer who wishes to live through you by manipulation."
Alex's lips tightened in thought for a moment, concern becoming more evident in his posture. "So, what you're telling us, is that we're mixed up in something really big. You're not talking about someone trying to take over a large international corporation, you're talking about someone trying to take over the world, like Hitler." A rhetorical question based on observation.
"Actually, Hitler was Ahriman's first attempt at incarnation." Lilith chipped in. "We think that's how the Cup was discovered. We know that Hitler used all his resources collecting artwork and religious artefacts and he had a whole division of the SS dedicated to researching every occult document they could get their hands on. He collected a library of information and occult relics," she looked to the Professor who nodded for her to continue.
"We believe that following Hitler's death, his men remained loyal to him, continuing the search for the Cup. They recruited more followers, hundreds, maybe thousands of people around the world who have dedicated their lives to ensuring that Ahriman's next incarnation will see him become immortal. They call themselves the Guild of Ascension. " Lilith stood and moved in front of the fire, a shiver rippling through her, leaving her with goose bumps from head to toe.
"At the time that the Dalai Lama was expelled from Tibet by the Chinese, we believe that the Guild discovered the Cup." added the Professor.
"We don't know for sure, but we think that Ahriman has incarnated again and now either he or the Guild has the Cup. If that's the case, we need to find him and get the cup back before he can use it." Lilith finished, crossing her arms and then uncrossing them again with nervous agitation.
"No doubt he's learnt a few things since his last appearance. He's not going to make it as easy to find him this time. He's one of the upper level fallen with a very bad attitude. As a mortal he is an evil pain in the tuchis but if he becomes immortal, he'll be unstoppable. He'll create hell on earth." added the Professor.
"He wants to rule the world and possess our souls. Is that it?" Alex asked, not sure how much more of all this he could take seriously. But, then again, he just discovered vampires are real, why not everything else.
"Yes and no," pausing to find the right words to explain without confusing them any more. "He wants to change the course of evolution."
"What exactly does that mean?" Alex asked.
"And, what about the spear." Cassie's own curiosity was on fire, a thousand and one questions filling her thoughts. "You said that Sammael hid both the spear and the cup. If the Guild has found the cup and the spear holds just as much power, wouldn't it make sense that they would be after the spear next? Or do they already have it?"
The Professor looked to Alaric briefly, the movement barely discernable. "No. The spear is safe but unfortunately that is a conversation for another day I'm afraid or we'll be here all night." He smiled but the attempt was grim and humourless.
It occurred to Cassie, they seemed to have skipped over a major piece of information. "Where is Sammael now? I'm assuming that truly immortal means he can't die, so where is he and why isn't he doing anything to help in all this? Especially since he seems to be the one who started it all."
The Professor cleared his throat, once again exchanging glances with Alaric. "No one knows where he is. We assume he's still around somewhere but no one has seen or heard from him in over a thousand years," he postulated.
"We're hoping that now that the cup has been stolen, it might induce him to make an appearance again," Lilith quipped with an acidic tinge to her words.
Alex had seen and heard enough for one night about creepy psychopathic megalomaniacal fallen angels with identity crises and an inter dimensional angelic hierarchy who created blood sucking demons to somehow save the world in some debauched way, and hastily changed the subject.
"Right then. Getting back to the immediate problem," Alex looked squarely at Alaric gaining his full attention. "You mentioned before that Jarvis can't glamour Cassie. I take it that glamouring is a vampire skill. In which case Jarvis and his friends are vampires, not just assassins."
"Yes. But I'm not going to let them get anywhere near her. She will be completely safe. I promise you that." Alaric's steely eyes bored into him reinforcing his first impression of him being an extremely formidable opponent, capable of unspeakable acts on his enemy.
Alex shuddered, not from fear, but in eager anticipation.
Alaric recognised the hungry glint in his eyes and although he could appreciate the incentive for his mindset, he wondered if Alex's fearless gung-ho nature would end up making him a liability or maybe his zealous behaviour might even get him killed. He wasn't too fond of Alex but for Cassie's sake he'd need to rein him in,…tomorrow. His priority right now was to keep Cassie safe and to do that, he was prepared to break every vow he'd made.
Alex looked from Alaric to Cassie, his doubt that he could protect her swayed a little more towards Alaric's advantage.
Alex himself, felt inadequate to protect her, he was so far out of his league it wasn't funny. HHHe certainly wasn't equipped to do battle with vampires, he knew nothing about them except what he'd learned in movies, and he couldn't rely on those for accurate information. He had no idea how to defeat a vampire, but he resolved to learn as much about them as he could. In the meantime, he had no other choice but to put his trust in Alaric. Next time however, he'll be ready for those evil blood suckers.
With any luck there wouldn't be a next time. They would deal with this Jarvis character and be done with it. Get back to their normal lives.
His hands knotted into tight balls by his sides, his frustration was as pungent to Cassie as the odour of his week old smelly socks. She slid closer to him and gave him a nudge with her shoulder, cupping his knee with her hand and squeezing it. He attempted to give her a reassuring smile but it came out as a constipated grimace.
"There were others like him at the Phoenix nightclub," Cassie stated flatly. She didn't want to think about Jarvis a minute before she had to but it was unavoidable, there was still information she needed to know. "What is that place exactly?" she asked.
"Put bluntly, it's a smorgasbord restaurant for vampires." Lilith answered.
That made sense. That made a lot of sense.
The Professor checked his watch. "11:30 pm. I think we should be heading back," he said, raising himself from the comfortable chair, slowly stretching out his stiff muscles. "Getting old is a bitch."
Cassie gasped, staring at the Professor. She'd never heard him even remotely swear before, it sounded so, so… wrong, unlike Alex whose vocabulary would be halved if he removed all the profanities, which seemed to naturally form part of his speech.
As the group began to move towards the door, Cassie's heart rate began to climb as anxiety took hold. The Professor, Lilith and Alex made their way towards the front doors while she held back fluffing and rearranging the cushions. Procrastination, she knew, could only delay leaving for a few minutes. She waited for Alaric who closed the fire screen and turned off the lights in the sitting room, blinding her momentarily. Even when her eyes adjusted to the filtered light from the window and the fading amber glow from the dwindling fire, she failed to make out the vague shapes of furniture in the shadowy dimness.
Her sense of orientation was off, banging her knee painfully on the corner of the coffee table. "Ouch. Damn."
Nothing felt as foreign as a strange house in the dark, she thought. But, hopefully she'd live long enough to become better acquainted with the manor and its owner.
Silently Alaric approached her, his hand slipping around her waist to guide her through the room. His hard body pressed firmly against hers.
"I've got you." His voice, sweet and seductive, sent another flush of heat rushing through her, pooling between her thighs.
She remembered being this close to him before, when he'd stepped between herself and Jarvis. Her hands began to tremble as she slid her arm around his waist. Like a child clinging to its mother, she clung to him tightly. His skin was cool, but only a few degrees below normal body temperature. His taught tense muscles beneath his shirt rippled as he walked. If nothing else, his touch certainly distracted her attention from Jarvis. His relaxed countenance and calm optimism bolstered her faltering composure.
"Cassie," he said, stopping at the front doors, turning to face her, his hand slid from her waist. She looked up into his eyes, sparkling in the lamplight outside. The strong lines of his jaw and cheek bones, and the perfection of his flawless skin betrayed him as a vampire, while the strand of hair falling over his left eye as he tilted his head down closer to hers, softened his face to that of an angel.
"Don't worry. I won't let anything happen to you. I promise. I'll be following you all the way home and I'll be just outside your apartment until morning," he said to reassure her, taking her hand in his in the same manner she had done for him earlier.
"You'll be driving right behind us?" she asked.
He gave her a cheeky lopsided smile and shook his head which in a strange way resembled Alex. "No, I can travel much faster without a car."
"Oh. Of course. It's the vampire thing, huh," feeling a bit foolish.
"Yes," he chuckled. "If you're interested, I can give you a demonstration some time. But, right now" motioning towards the car where Lilith and the Professor were fastening their seat belts, Alex stood leaning against the open door, staring indignantly at them both. "It's time to go."
Alaric placed Cassie's hand through the crease of his arm and led her to the car, waving for Alex to take his seat.
"When you get home, do everything as you would normally. If Jarvis is watching you, we don't want to tip him off, Ok?" he instructed.
"It'll be okay," he added. The look of trust in her eyes caused a knot in his stomach. He felt so protective toward her. He had to fight the urge to steal her away to somewhere safe, away from anything or anyone who might harm her. But that, he knew, was not an option. Cassie was special. It was his responsibility to protect her. It was her destiny to marry a human man, and have his children.
He would have to console himself with a few brief encounters throughout her life.
Taking her hand in his, bowing low, his soft lips brushed the back of her hand, a kiss so gentle it felt like the cool caress of a feather. A current of attraction rushed between them, echoing in their eyes with parallel hunger.
She didn't want to leave.
"I guess I'll see you again soon then will I?" she said, revealing a half hearted mischievous grin as an attempt to down play the magnetism that she felt pulling at her core.
Reluctantly Alaric released her hand as she climbed into the car and watched as she clutched it to her, touching the area where he'd kissed it, wishing it was her lips he'd kissed instead.
As Alaric pushed the door closed, Alex leaned across Cassie holding it open, his expression determined and strained. "I'm holding you to your promise. You keep her safe or you'll have me to deal with."
They stared at each other for a moment before Alaric gave a slight nod to Alex and winked at Cassie.
"Trust me," he said as he closed the car door.
As the car moved off, Alaric could hear Alex muttering to himself in the back seat, "Trust me, he says. As if we have a choice. I don't like this one bit."
Alex's words echoed in his head. He could only hope that he could live up to his word and hadn't under estimated Jarvis and his crew.
He watched until they disappeared around the bend in the driveway.
It was up to him now.
Hell would freeze over before he would let her down.