Tabitha ducked behind the corner of the building, her hand squeezing the hilt of her sword. A full moon loomed over her, filling the alley with light. This was the one. He had to be the one. Four months of hunting and interrogation and still nothing. No sign of Alistair.
She glanced over her shoulder where her best friend stood, eyes wide as she glanced from Tabitha’s face to the sword.
Tabitha forced a smile to hide her frustration. “Just stay here Chelse and watch how I take this one. Alive.”
Chelsea nodded, her own hands fisted around two silver tipped daggers. Tabitha was teaching her how to use silver and what happened when something sharp and silver was jabbed into the heart of a vampire: they didn’t turn to dust like with wooden stakes. The silver made them rapidly desiccate. Not Tabitha’s favorite form of killing them since it left a body and made things messier, but Chelsea needed to learn the difference.
Tabitha patted her best friend’s shoulder reassuringly and glanced around the corner. There he was: Lawson Reynolds. It had taken Tabitha two months to find him and a whole week to track him down to a small town one state over. Tabitha had convinced Sebastian to stay at the hotel and let her and Chelsea go it alone this time. It would draw too much attention to have all three of them stalking the streets.
Lawson had just staggered out of a local bar with an arm looped around a girl’s shoulders. Tabitha watched as he pushed her up against a wall and they embraced in a sloppy kiss. His lips trailed down to her neck and his fangs gleamed as he craned his head to get a good bite at her carotid artery. That was her cue.
The familiar rush of adrenaline surged through her. Tabitha sprinted out and slashed, her sword cutting a clean line across his back. He let out a howl and stumbled away from his prey, hitting the wall next to her. The blond gaped at Tabitha, eyes wide. Tabitha pointed toward the exit of the alley. “Get out of here,” she ordered.
The girl didn’t waste any time. She bolted, leaving Tabitha alone with Lawson. The vampire seethed, and red eyes flashed up to glower at her. “What was that for?” he snarled. “I wasn’t doing anything wrong.”
Tabitha snorted and drew her second sword from its sheath on her back, yellow gloves wrapped around the metal hilt. “Oh really? You were just about to make a meal out of that innocent girl. I’d hardly call that saintly.”
Before he could reply, she swiped again. He didn’t try to move, and her silver blade sliced into his shoulder. He seethed and grabbed hold of the wound where his skin sizzled and smoked at the silver’s contact. In the back of Tabitha’s mind, she wondered why he wasn’t fighting back or running but at the forefront all she could think about was getting information and how much she enjoyed hurting this vampire. Getting all her frustration out by cutting him up and making him bleed. Blood dribbled down his shoulder and pooled down his back, drip-dropping onto the ground.
“You don’t understand. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I wasn’t going to kill her. Just take a sip. I have a deal with the owner of this bar. He lets me take a bite out of his customers as long as I heal them up and erase their memories,” he explained, scowling as if Tabitha were the one doing wrong instead of him.
Tabitha narrowed her eyes. She knew some people made deals with the vampires. Let them feed on people but… those sorts of deals weren’t allowed in Rosewood or anywhere near her small town. A deal didn’t make feeding off people okay but… it also didn’t make Lawson as malicious and evil as other vampires Tabitha knew. As bad as the vampire she was currently hunting. Grimacing, she sheathed her swords and took a step back. His body relaxed, and he dropped his hand from his already healing shoulder.
“What is it that you want?” he asked, his voice thick with an old Western accent Tabitha had only ever heard in Western movies. He wore a button-down shirt, jeans and black cowboy boots. Tabitha had heard tell of Lawson from her previous lead who she had dusted a month ago. How he was a vampire who made it his business to know everything about everything, including the whereabouts of some of the more prominent vampires out there. A vampire wearing cowboy boots and talking in a Western accent wasn’t what Tabitha had been expecting.
Tabitha regarded him, keeping her head held high. “I’m looking for a man named Alistair. Heard of him?”
Lawson rolled his shoulders, the cut gone with only the tear in his shirt to prove that Tabitha had hurt him.
His eyes dissolved from a hungry red into a tan brown. “Ahh so you’re the huntress everyone’s been talking bout, huh? Tracking down the big bad Alistair, are we?”
Tabitha nodded. She hadn’t known she’d built a reputation for herself in the vampire community. Though she wasn’t surprised. She, Sebastian and Chelsea had been hitting some of the oldest and highest of the vampires over the last four months, hoping they would have something on Alistair. The closest they had come was about two weeks ago when a Russian vampire named Sasha said she’d seen Emmeline a month ago in New York City. Sasha had even talked to her. When she had asked where Emmeline and Alistair were headed all Emmeline had said was they were moving on to a different city. Sasha had given them Lawson’s name, saying he used to know Emmeline pretty well and that if Emmeline was searching for something, he was the guy she would go to.
So there Tabitha was, hoping beyond hoping that he could give her some clue as to where Alistair and Emmeline had disappeared to.
Lawson leaned against the brick wall and looped his fingers through his belt buckles, staring her down with a lazy gaze. “Well you’ve come to the right place. I know Alistair’s girl and I can point ya in the right direction. I just want one thing in return.”
“What sort of thing?”
Lawson shrugged off the brick wall and came to stand toe to toe with her. Out of the corner of Tabitha’s eye she saw Chelsea tense and step forward, but she shook her head slightly. Chelsea ducked back into the shadows.
“Just a little assurance. I do this favor for you and you do one for me in return.”
Tabitha frowned, folding her arms. “I don’t make a point of owing vampires any favors.”
He gave her words away. “No, no, this one’s easy. You can promise it to me right here, right now. All I want is assurance that once I give you what information you want, you leave me alone and never come after me again.”
Tabitha considered it for a moment and then nodded. “Sure.”
He grinned, holding his hand out. “Deal then?”
“Deal,” Tabitha said, giving his hand a shake.
“Emmy’s an old, ah, flame of mine and she came to me about two weeks ago asking about a particular hunter. You may know of him… He was a Sterling.”
Tabitha frowned. During the past four months, she hadn’t heard anything about Alistair and Emmeline hunting down a hunter. Especially a Sterling hunter. She’d thought she was the only Sterling hunter Alistair cared about.
“Wait… was?” she asked, processing what he had said.
Lawson nodded, shoving his hands into his pockets and leaning against the wall. “Yes, was. Thomas Sterling. Born in Rosewood 1840, died 1869 in New Orleans.”
“I never had any family or ancestors in New Orleans…”
“Well, seems you did. Emmy came asking about where he might be buried. I did my best searching for an answer for her, but only came up with where he died: New Orleans. That’s where I reckon she headed.”
Tabitha nodded. Well at least that was a start. She’d have to ask Derrick about this Thomas Sterling, but now they had a lead. The first solid lead in four months. She grinned. “Thank you. You have no idea how helpful you’ve been,” she said, stepping back.
Lawson flashed her a fanged grin back and nodded his head at her. “Glad I could help. Remember our agreement.”
“I will.” She watched him duck back into the bar.
Chelsea stepped out the shadows, giving Tabitha a questioning look. “I only heard bits and pieces. Did he have anything?”
Tabitha turned around to face her best friend. Derrick was going to kill her when she got home. Tabitha and Sebastian had been coming and going ever since her mother’s funeral and this was the longest time they’d been away in four months. She’d missed so much school she would be surprised if Rosewood High accepted her back.
Nearly two weeks had gone by since the last time she had stepped foot in Rosewood, her home town, and she had ignored all of his texts and calls since leaving. Chelsea had driven out to help Tabitha.Tabitha grinned, grabbed Chelsea’s hand and headed back toward the hotel they were staying in. “He had more than something. I know where we can find Emmeline.”