He sneered, pinning her to the ground. His canines protruded from under his lip and had sharpened to predatory points. No longer teeth, but fangs.
Kat stared at him, still gripping her knife. She didn’t stare because she thought he was an actual vampire, but more, she was trying to figure out why he had employed such a youthful scare tactic. The perp must have known that type of Halloween setup wouldn’t actually alarm her.
He seemed to mistake her bewildered confusion for terrified fear. “That’s right.” The wannabe vampire flashed his teeth in a triumphant grin. “Your blood will free me this night, and I shall take revenge on this house.” He leaned in closer as his eyes glittered like the low burning flame from a candle.
Kat had enough of his party tricks. She kneed him in the gut and rolled away from his grasp.
The man coughed but still lunged after her. His fingers dug into her wrists trapping her to the cold marble floor. “Do you think you can really beat me?”
“Depends on if you start making balloon animals, too.” Kat chuckled between her gritted teeth. “You should’ve picked a clown to dress up as instead of some lame blood-sucker. Creepy clowns are much more scary.”
“Hmm.” He gave a small, eerie smile, then lowered his fangs to her neck. “Then, maybe I can make you believe me in another way.” His warm breath made a shiver slide down her back.
She swore under her breath and twisted her knife hand free, aiming for his shoulder. Kat avoided his major vital points on purpose, but if he didn’t back down soon, that might no longer be an option.
Before the knife could reach him, he snatched her wrist again, pinning her hand to the wooden floor beside them. The blade slid across the floor bumping into the wall.
Her eyes flashed. This wannabe vamp was strong and utterly insane. She needed to end this fight before he did something stupid.
“Miss Katharine? Miss Katharine, what are you doing?”
Her eyes darted down the hall.
No, Walter, she thought with a rising horror.
They didn’t need to give this psycho any opportunity to take a hostage.
“I’ll end your life once I take her’s, old man,” the intruder snarled. His gaze fixated on the limping butler. The perp’s muscles tensed, and in turn, tightened his grip on her. Not quite hurting her, yet, but she began to worry how much power the madman actually had behind his lean frame.
Walter huffed out an irritated breath. “Now, I’ve already told you to stop playing around. We have a serious issue at hand.”
Kat called out to him, “Run, now. Call the police. Hurry!”
The perp returned his gaze to her. “You would sacrifice yourself for that old dirtbag?”
“Damn you,” she growled, shifting her body and tried to angle herself to use a takedown technique. “You’d better leave him alone. This is our fight.” She twisted her hands and tried to grab onto him. She wanted to give Walter a fighting chance to escape. The perp sneered, then faltered as she wiggled her hand free. Her fist slammed into the side of his head, sending him toppling over.
Kat rocked her body with his fall, shifting her position over him. The man blinked and grabbed for her hand again. Thankfully, her training had prepared her for such an attack, and she clasped her hands around his, locking onto the pressure point between his thumb and forefinger. Her second hand released his arm and shot for his neck, pressing against a sensitive spot there as well. The perp gasped and tried to pull his hand free. However, her grip tightened enough for him to grit his teeth and release his hold on her. She knew the extensive pain one pressure point could cause, but two could make a man almost pass out.
The man relaxed and glared at the old butler again. “This is all your fault, isn’t it?”
Kat had lessened her pressure on him but didn’t dare remove her hands, yet. She didn’t let her eyes leave the perp as she spoke, “Run, Walter. I’ll hold him for you. Go get the security guards.”
The vamp sighed.
Walter shuffled forward, reaching out a trembling hand.
Kat stared in shock as he approached. He was losing his only chance to escape. Then, he did something she did not expect.
Walter flicked the intruder on the nose.
“Hey,” the dark-haired man growled. “Did you really have to thump me? I could kill you, you know?”
Walter scoffed. “The only way that will happen, Uriel, is if you can turn into a blood clot or liver disease.” He helped Kat stand. She didn’t want to release her hold on him but let go and kept herself between the man and Walter. She shuffled them back against the wall.
The apparent Uriel snarled and sat up, rubbing at his neck and hand. “You have no idea what I can do, old man.”
“It seems downright insubordinate of you to call me old when I know that you are at least double my age…boy.” He turned his gaze to Kat. “Now is not the time for games. We have a serious situation on our hands. You must be kept safe.”
Uriel rolled his eyes and stood, storming over to stand by the opposite wall. “I was trying to kill her. I highly doubt that’s playing around.”
Walter narrowed his eyes at him. “And I deem it so when you can’t even harm a fly without Miss Katharine’s permission.”
The wannabe vampire scoffed and crossed his arms. “It figures you’d give that much power to some scrawny girl. I’ll be free one day, then you’ll see.”
Kat continued to observe the exchange with her mouth hanging open.
She must have died, she thought entirely dumbfounded by their conversation. Or, more likely, I died and have been placed in some bizarre hell.
“Are you quite done pouting, Uriel? The knights are here. We have one tied up, but there are still more loose in the manor.”
Uriel hesitated, then his posture and eyes shifted from something relaxed to more like an alerted wolf. His head perked up and his feet adjusted to a stance that Kat recognized. It was a fighter’s pose, where his feet had parted for balance, and his hands hung loosely at his sides, prepared to react. He seemed ready as though he expected people to drop from the ceiling. “The knights? They’re here already?”
“Get her to safety,” Walter ordered, pointing a finger at Kat. “Then, come help us deal with this mess.”
The man glowered and turned to leave.
“Uriel, if we burn, you burn with us. Remember?”
His duster flared out as he turned and strolled next to Kat. “Fine, but we do this my way. Go find the others and try not to get killed, old man. The fireplace in the study has a nice poker you can use to hit one of those knights if they get too close. I’ll be there soon.”
Walter nodded and hurried away. His limp was more apparent with each step.
Kat flicked her gaze between the two men.
What in the hell was going on?
“Come on. We have to hurry.”
She eyed him, unsure of what to think. In the last day and a half, he had tried to kill her multiple times, or at least acted like it. Walter seemed to regard him as a reluctant comrade in arms. Yet, whatever bound them together appeared to be linked to her in some way. There were too many questions and not nearly enough answers.
He said something, but she’d missed his words.
“Let’s go,” he growled, apparently frustrated with having to repeat himself.
She licked her lips, still not trusting her eyes. “Weren’t you just trying to kill me?”
“I still am.”
Kat hesitated, then retrieved her knife from the floor. She didn’t want to go with him anywhere, but why had Walter asked him to watch over her?
He rolled his eyes, then rubbed at the back of his neck. “Well, okay, not right now. But I will try again later.”
Kat paused but nodded still deep in thought. She would need to ask Walter about all of this. Needless to say, she had questions, a lot of questions. She didn’t know if she could trust his answers, but it wasn’t as though there was anyone else around to ask. “I know I’m going to regret this, but what’s stopping you?”
His fangs shown in a snarl, but instead of attacking her, he made his way toward the stairwell at the end of the hall. “Come on. We should get you to your room.”
Kat swallowed and planted her feet. She was the only trained, or mostly trained, officer around as far as she knew. Uriel didn’t seem to have any training, other than perhaps outlandish street fighting. If someone was attacking the house, then the responsibility fell to her to capture the culprits. “No.”
The wannabe-vampire buffoon was not going to order her around like she was some helpless child. She had trained for combat at the academy for over six months now. If something was happening to them, then she needed to be with Walter.
She would serve and protect.
Uriel spun and glared at her. Her defiance seemed to fuel his rage. “What did you say?”
“I said no. You can’t hurt me, right?”
He growled in response.
Kat held her ground. “Then, if you don’t tell me what is going on it means you are hurting me.”
Uriel rubbed at the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. “You are an insufferable woman.”
She crossed her arms, waiting.
He stepped up to her, and his eyes trailed down.
Kat raised an eyebrow not sure what he was staring at but realized the necklace beneath her shirt held his attention. She pulled out the key with its leather cord still looped around her neck.
He bared his fangs and turned away. “I can’t hurt you as long as you have that.”
“As long as I have it?” Kat asked.
He glanced back at her with his tongue running along his protruded teeth. “As long as you wear it.”
She stared at the triquetra-shaped key in her hand.
Uriel stepped forward, catching her gaze. “But I swear to you. The second—the absolute second—you remove that necklace. I will be there. I will be swifter than death. I will remove you from this existence.” His frosted voice whispered out the last few words, “Do you hear me? No one will be my master…ever again.”
Kat took a step back, and Uriel stepped forward. The behavior seemed familiar to her somehow, even the pattern of his thoughts.
She stopped, but he continued forward. His actions reminded her of a lecture from her Biology class. Predators stalked those they deemed their prey. She licked her lips and continued to hold the key. “Stop.”
Uriel snarled but froze.
“You,” her voice wavered with frustration, but she had to focus. “You said ‘master.’ This means I can tell you what to do.”
The supposed vampire lunged at her with fangs gleaming.
“I said stop.” Kat ground her teeth and held the Celtic triangle forward.
Uriel recoiled back to the wall. A wildness consumed his eyes, and he paced the floor. Even if she didn’t believe what he was or could be, he seemed to think that the key held power over him. A new flood of questions invaded her mind. She would need to sit down with Walter as soon as the emergency was over. All of the loose ends needed tying up and fast if she was going to regain her grip on reality any time soon. She didn’t trust Uriel, but Walter had left him with her. However, maybe it wasn’t trust as much as him believing in her instincts and resourcefulness. “So, instead of hiding me away like some princess, we are going to help Walter, and you aren’t going to give me any grief about it. Lead the way and tell me about these people attacking us.”
Uriel sneered but trudged off in the way Walter had left. “You enjoy digging your own grave, don’t you?” He took a deep breath and shook his head. “Ever heard of the Knights Templar?”
“Good, ever met one?”