Continuing after Offer
Panting with exertion and clutching his side, Darren took a step back and scanned his opponent through blood-veiled eyes: five feet seven in height, built like a goddess of war and standing in her immaculate outfit without a single bead of sweat – the perfect opposite of his current state: mussed hair, bloodied face and dirty clothes. As soon as he felt his ribs putting themselves back together, he charged at her with all the strength and speed his infant vampire body could muster.
So close. He was so close in landing a blow on her that he could actually feel the texture of her sleeve through his fist when she flashed behind him to land a kick on his back, sending Darren across the dome room and into the steel wall.
He took small comfort in the dent he made in that mass of metal. At least his spine didn’t break for nothing.
“OK,” a voice said, or boomed, judging from where he was lying, flushed against the concrete floor and next to a pair of killer heels. “Time out, please. I want to borrow Darren.”
No one ever said Aurora’s timing wasn’t flawless.
“Sorry, Aurora,” Darren bleated, turning his head to the other side so it didn’t look like he was gazing up her mini-skirt. “I’m a little busy here. Do you mind coming back at another time?”
She was probably hit with the urge to ravage every boutique shop in New Orleans… again. Since Tristan was always busy dealing with one business or another, Aurora felt entirely justified to grab the closest thing, ahem, person to her brother for substitution.
Aya held out her hand in front of him, which Darren unceremoniously took. As she helped him to his feet, more like pulled him to his feet, she smiled and said, “That was actually an improvement, kid. Next time, try to be less obvious about your aim.”
“Thanks,” replied Darren with a slight groan, straightening his back. There was no pain like a broken spine; he was sure to remember it for the rest of his un-life.
“A Strix who cannot at least defend themself is no Strix at all,” Tristan had told him after Darren’s admission to The Strix with a gentle pat on his shoulder. While the high-schooler-turn-vampire wasn’t particular enthusiastic about his newly granted membership of this douche (Elijah’s implication) organization, he too agreed that he should find a way to be stronger. According to Tristan, Elijah had tons of enemies and who knew some of them might see “Elijah’s little pet” (he hated it when Tristan referred to him as such) as possible leverage. If there was a role for him in the Crescent city, the last thing Darren wanted was for it to be the damsel in distress’s.
‘Twas the brief summary of how he had ended in this special training room with the strict Aya as his coach. Looking out for our baby brother as she said, hence a variety of wounds and broken bones Darren hadn’t known were possible on a body until he experienced them on his own.
So much beating had he taken in these weeks that he forgot to ask sometime whether Elijah had trained her in the same way back in her early vampire years.
“Aurora, we’ve agreed that Darren’s training time is sacrosanct,” Tristan, who occasionally joined their session to monitor Darren’s progress, spoke from his chair.
“That’s what you said. I didn’t say a thing. Come on, let the poor boy catch a breath!”
“Whatever you say, sister.” Tristan was defeated.
“So, Darren, what’s your last name?”
“Uhm… Hayward,” Darren answered while wiping his face with a towel.
Aurora scribbled something down on a large sheet. “Good, that means your father is a Hayward. And your grandfather’s?”
This was getting weird. “Possibly Hayward?”
“Charming. And your great-great grandfather’s?”
“How should I know?” Honestly all except his own last name were mere guesses. He had never met his grandfather for goodness’s sake and researching his paternal family’s legacy wasn’t exactly his pastime so…
“How could you not know?” Aurora was positively offended. “As you ancestor, I am very disappointed.”
Darren rolled his eyes at her. “Since when you became my ancestor?”
The look on Aurora’s face suggested that Darren had just said something so retarded she was rendered speechless.
Well, nobody would say Aurora didn’t possess a dramatic flair. She would make a perfect drama queen if she didn’t have a tendency to eat her co-stars.
“Oh please, Aurora,” Tristan sighed. “Would you be so kind to us as to abort this ridiculous and futile research of yours?”
“Excuse me, what is that research?” asked Aya, whose interest just got piqued.
“My dear brother, have a little faith,” Aurora said, flinging an arm around Darren’s shoulders. “Isn’t this little one a profound reminder that we should discover our lost and scattered bloodline?”
“You mean the de Martels?”
“Yes, Aya, our family whom we had involuntarily left behind thanks to a certain Original jerk.”
“There’s no concrete evidence that Darren is our descendant. It may turn out to be a case of looking alike, which happens all around the earth as we speak.”
“Looking alike? Please, have you looked in the mirror recently, Tristan? Anyone with half an eye can tell he’s your spitting image, down to those large blue eyes. Doppelgänger blood runs in the family.”
Tristan looked as if he would prefer to embed himself into the wall than further engage in this discussion with Aurora. Darren, in the other hand, was interested.
“How is your process so far?” Aya asked, glancing at Aurora’s sheet. “Oh, a family tree with… not many branches.”
Darren tried to contain his laughter. Aurora’s accomplishment so far was putting up their parents’ names on top, followed by hers and Tristan’s with a glaring blank space between them and Darren’s name near the bottom.
“I got blocked right here. Tristan, do you remember our cousin Maria? She was expecting a baby when we left.”
“As I recall, we had many cousins from both our paternal and maternal sides.”
“Is there any chance that Tristan had sired a bastard, or several, before he was turned?”
“What makes you think so, Aya?” Tristan’s voice was edged with frost.
Still, Aya was unfazed. “No offense to your person but isn’t that the common way of noble sons back then? Going around and bedding any fair village maiden that caught their eyes?”
“I will have to defend my brother’s honor in this matter, Aya,” said Aurora. “Unlike those lecherous noble dicks, my brother had never done such thing, and this sometimes prompted our lord father to question whether Tristan was truly his son.”
Aya squinted her dark eyes. “Not once?”
“Absolutely. He had taken a personal vow of chastity until marriage and meant to uphold it.”
“Meant to?” Darren echoed, and got a chill from Tristan’s glare.
“Then along came Eli—”
“The training session ends for the day,” Tristan cut her short. “Aya, would you please see to it that Darren gets home safe?”
“Hey, I still want to ask him a few more—”
With a slight jerk of his head, Tristan instructed them to ignore his sister. Aya gave a small nod and took Darren’s arm. “Let us go, kid.”
Once they were out in the hallway, Darren finally gave in to his laughter. Aya couldn’t help a few larger-than-usual smiles despite her trademark stoicism.
“Are they always like that?”
Aya nodded. “Aurora loves to make Tristan uncomfortable and it doesn’t help when Tristan’s all oversensitive about his millennium-old affair with you-know-who, despite it is no longer a secret to everyone around.”
Darren agreed. With Aurora’s spilling the tea at such frequency, it would be very strange if there was a Strix who didn’t know.
“Thanks to the boss, we still have a few hours to spare before I give you a ride back to Elijah. Do you feel like going for a drink?”
“I think I’m capable of escorting myself back to the Mikaelson compound, Aya.”
“I’m doing my job, kid. One thing you should bear in mind: here insubordination isn’t taken too well, no matter how small the deed.”
“All right,” Darren muttered. “But isn’t it a bit early to go to a club?”
To tell the truth, Darren hadn’t really been a club-goer in his human days, and neither had he been a drinker. A few sips from time to time at Zack’s constant parties and that was all. He would rather hole himself up in his room and play the newest video game all night then go out and drink. That must have been the reason for his near-bottom status at the school.
Aya’s lips formed a tiny amused smile. “If you’re thinking about all those noisy squalors littered the French Quarter, no. Let me introduce you to our private bar, where only the best spirits and blood are served.”
“Do they have, like, age restriction?”
“No admission of vampires under three hundred.”
“Maybe I’ll come back three centuries later,” Darren replied.
“Fortunately I’m old enough for the both of us,” said Aya, ruffling his mussy black hair.
Hours later, Elijah wasn’t nowhere pleased to see a stone-drunk Darren delivered home. In reply to his question, “Whose idea was it?”, Aya merely shrugged.
Needless to say, he would definitely have a few words with his youngest protégé about underage drinking.