Reven looked up, running her tongue over her lips almost fastidiously. She cast a surreptitious glance around the clearing. The wind blew quietly through the leaves of the elm trees surrounding her, sending a haunting melody wafting gently around her. The soft drip of the water falling from the trees beat in time with the gentle pounding of her heart. There was a calmness there in the place that belied the struggle it had just seen.
She looked down at the body of the limp deer at her feet in regret. Hesitantly, her hand hovered over its soft white muzzle before dropping gently into her lap. There was nothing that could be done for it now.
With a sigh, she turned away. She didn’t want to look at it lying there so brokenly, its purity replaced by something so ugly as death. It was her own fault. She should know better than to wait so long between feedings. But… She hadn’t wanted to feed.
The temptation had almost been too great tonight, when she had been back at headquarters with the other members of Circle Moonbeam. All of those lovely, long white necks just calling to her… But of course that was just something one didn’t do, especially not when one was trying to save the human race. So she’d waited until she could slip away unnoticed and, well, it was rather obvious what had happened then. She was going to have to be more careful in the future. She hadn’t meant to kill tonight, animal or otherwise.
Her soulmate would not approve.
What was done was done, though, and there was no taking it back. The best she could do was hide the evidence. It wouldn’t do at all for some unsuspecting human to find the deer, drained of nearly all its blood. Panic would ensue and things would get out of control. Then she’d have far too much to explain. It would be better if she just buried it and returned quietly like nothing had happened.
She groaned. So much for that idea. Although, if anyone would understand, Damon would. He probably would have found a willing donor, on the other hand, and not been reduced to such a thing. She imagined that she could even hear the amusement in his voice.
She turned around to face him, cringing in embarrassment. He read her expression correctly. "I’m sure someone would have donated," he said, smirking. Damon never needed to resort to animals to feed. There was always an army of willing females ready to swoon into his arms. And they never even knew what happened to them. He made sure of that.
She looked down, somewhat remorseful. "Yes, but I needed more than they could have given." She gestured toward the deer, which was still lying sadly in the middle of the grove.
He flinched, just a little. "Why did you wait so long? That wouldn’t have happened if you’d listened to yourself."
She smiled without humor. "Yes, but with all the talk about the millenium and everything, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it." She snorted in self-derision. "Believe me, I’ve learned that lesson."
"As have we all," he returned. "Let me help you get rid of it and then we’ll head back."
She nodded quietly in agreement. As she was about to pick the deer up to drag it somewhere that was more concealed, a thought struck her. "Wait," she said, "what are you doing out here?"
If Damon had been the type to blush, she was sure he would have. "I had a date," he replied calmly, as if meeting someone in the middle of an abandoned forest were an everyday thing.
She raised an eyebrow. "In the middle of the woods at midnight?" The skepticism in her voice was so thick it could have been cut with a knife.
He looked up at the nearly cloudless sky, staring into a dense patch of stars. "Yes," he said shortly, clearly not wanting to talk about it.
She wasn’t going to let him get away with that. "Well," she prompted, "are you going to tell me about it?"
"No," he answered without rancor.
"Okay," she muttered quietly, almost under her breath. It wasn’t like Damon to keep quiet about his conquests. He was usually more vocal about… Well, everything. She wondered what made this so special.
He changed the subject abruptly then, trying to take her mind off of what he had or could have been doing. "What do you think about this new wild power? Do you think they’ve really found them all? That this one really is the fourth and last?"
She blinked. "I don’t know. There are always so many rumors about that kind of thing. It could be just a fluke."
He absently pulled a bush out of the ground, starting what could be considered a good-sized hole. "It could be, but something tells me that this is the real thing." Then he shrugged. "Poppy knows more about it than I do."
"I guess so," she murmured, grabbing a branch and idly swiping at the dirt with it. "But then, Poppy has seen the girl they think is the wild power."
He took the branch out of her hands and started to dig more seriously than she had been. He was quiet for a few moments. "Do you think it’s possible for there to be two more wild powers?"
She shook her head definitively as she hefted the deer up and heaved it into the hole. "You know the prophecy as well as I do," she answered. "It says that there are only four wild powers. That means one more, not two."
He didn’t answer. She looked at him sharply, asking, "Why?"
"I don’t know," he shrugged. "I just wondered."
She watched him through narrowed lashes as he scraped the dirt over the deer, back into the hole it had come from. "This has something to do with what you were doing out here just now, doesn’t it?"
If she hadn’t been scrutinizing him so carefully, she never would have noticed the telltale pause in his movements. "Of course not," he said. His voice was carefully controlled, almost too carefully controlled.
"Damon, what’s going on?"
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