Azrael stood still in the men’s restroom of the portable guest- and bathhouse that had been erected outside of Slains Castle for his brother’s wedding. He was alone, and the air was filled with the hollow sound of foreboding. There was a storm brewing. It was a hurricane, hot and windy and destructive, and it was ripping through Azrael’s insides, begging to be released. He exhaled a shaky breath and pressed his forehead to the mirror in front of him, glancing up at his reflection as he did so.
Another human myth gone horribly awry. Vampires did indeed have reflections. It was the wraiths that didn’t. Azrael bared his teeth and laughed a cold, hard laugh at the thought. The most asinine things were going through his head at that moment. The thoughts were like fireflies on a pitch-black night, chaotic and useless and utterly distracting.
Sophie’s whispered thoughts echoed through his mind, taunting him. I would do anything. She’d been thinking about Juliette’s wings and wishing she could fly. If she’d had any idea how dangerously tempting her thoughts were . . . To say nothing of her reaction to the image he had so carelessly planted in her mind of the wedding ring sliding onto her finger. He hadn’t even meant to do it; he’d simply imagined it. However, he’d been in her head at the time, thoroughly rapt in all that she was, and she’d caught the impression clear as a bell.
Her heart had skipped, her cheeks had flushed, and her lips had actually grown fuller as blood rushed into them. Her eyes had become glassy and unfocused. Her breath had hitched. And Azrael lost a little of his sanity then and there at his brother’s wedding.
He’d never felt like this before. Not in his two thousand years on Earth—nor in the thousands upon thousands of years before that in the realm of angels. Never had he lost focus in this manner. He felt like he had the flu. But vampires didn’t get the flu. Archangels didn’t get the flu. The Angel of Death most certainly did not get the flu.
Azrael swore under his breath—and the mirror in front of him cracked beneath his palm, slicing into the skin of his hand. He blinked and slowly pulled away, straightening as he turned his hand over and gazed down at the welling red line across his palm. Even as he watched, it began to heal.
Azrael looked back up at the mirror and glared at the evidence of his rage. Lightning had indeed carved itself across the glass, a reflection of the storm that raged within him and was now breaking free. Get control, he told himself sternly. He was the most powerful vampire on Earth. If he couldn’t control his emotions, they would leak out in an incredibly destructive manner. Broken mirrors would be only the beginning.
He needed to think. He needed to plan. But Sophie Bryce was two hundred yards away, a walking, talking piece of the sun, and Azrael was losing it.
The lights in the men’s restroom began to flicker, and the shadows in the corners grew longer. The temperature in the room seemed to drop. Thunder rolled in the distance. Again Azrael swore. He was fighting a losing battle. The image in the broken mirror reflected a tall, broad-shouldered man draped in stygian black, his sable hair framing a strikingly handsome face that was entirely too pale. Eyes that were entirely too bright.
And fangs that were entirely too long.
With a great amount of effort, Azrael forced his fangs to recede. He couldn’t get rid of them completely; his incisors would always be noticeably sharp and a touch longer than human canines. But with a good deal of concentration, he was able to make them look passable. This was a learned vampire ability; new vampires had to practice at it, and it could sometimes take years.
Azrael would know. When he had left his realm and traveled to Earth with his brothers two thousand years ago, something had happened to him. Michael’s theory was that what Azrael had done up until then as the Angel of Death somehow negatively influenced his material form on Earth. Unlike his brothers, Az had been transformed into some kind of supernatural monster.
At the time there was no name for what he was. The fangs, the nearly unquenchable hunger for blood, the new and horrid deadly aversion to the sun—these symptoms had never existed in a being until Azrael came along. He was the first vampire. He gave himself the name because it sounded right.
It took him months to learn to control the hunger inside. It had been a very painful period of time, and in the years since then, he had never forgotten the way it tore him up inside, shredding his soul like tissue paper. Now, every night as he awoke with the stars, he thanked fate that he no longer suffered. He still had to feed. It was necessary for the survival of a vampire that he ingest human blood every night. But his need had become a simple understanding of his physiology—and an acceptance of the same. He considered himself immensely fortunate and never took for granted the fact that he no longer craved and hungered the way he had in those horrid moments of vampiric inception.
But tonight . . .
Now, as Azrael stood in the men’s restroom outside of the castle, he was gripped by acidic, mind-numbing fear. Because he felt it again. It was the same driving kind of need—one that shoved every other thought or desire or inclination ruthlessly out of the way and threatened absolute subjugation. Only this time, it was focused. Directed.
He hungered. He craved like a madman. But what he craved and hungered for was Sophie Bryce.
From Death’s Angel, by Heather Killough-Walden
Coming December, 2012