Enoch watched from the airplane window as the pilot circled a wide meadow, surrounded by steep peaks. A nearly full moon flooded the area, and he leaned closer to the glass to get a better look at the scenery below them. He motioned to Caleb, seated across from him. “Look in the shadows. Are there movements from one end of the meadow to the other?”
Caleb finished his glass of champagne and nodded for the beautiful vampire stewardess to bring him another. His private jet was stocked with every amenity to make travel comfortable. “Somebody’s been busy. Looks like construction work.”
“In the dark?”
Caleb shook his head. “We’re vampires, remember? We can’t work in sunlight.”
“You’re a vampire. But you’re an angel, too. You can walk in daytime. I’m thinking Samiel’s both by now, too.”
Caleb nodded. “I changed him so that he could sip blood to keep up his strength.”
Enoch wasn’t sure that had been a good idea. If Samiel faded and weakened on Earth, he’d have to return home. Now, he didn’t have to. Of course, Caleb had figured out that blood made a close substitute for the Light, and that’s why he’d bitten mortals when he first came here, infecting them with his immortality. Samiel would have done the same, and Lord help the poor mortals he chose.
The plane flew over the length of the meadow, and Enoch spotted a large lodge sitting near a lake, light spilling from its windows. Moonbeams reflected across the lake’s smooth waters. A serene picture, but Enoch knew better.
“No good place to land,” Caleb said, studying the terrain.
The pilot called back to them. “Near the top of the ridge, there’s a road that’s wide enough for me to set the plane down. You’ll have to take the all-terrain vehicles from there.”
“All terrain vehicles?” Enoch frowned, looking around the plane.
Caleb grinned. “Below decks. I should have known. Ace thinks of everything. I can always count on him.”
Ace had piloted for Caleb ever since a vampire attacked him on a bombing mission during World War I. When Enoch battled rogues with Caleb’s generals, Ace usually flew them to where they needed to be. Tall with a rangy build, Ace looked the part of an airman in khaki pants and a bomber jacket. “Thanks, Ace!” Enoch called to him.
“Anything for you, Glowstick!” Ace’s nickname for him.
The plane banked and began to descend. Once it came to a stop on a lonely road that circled the brim of the valley, Ace ferried it to a turn-off and parked. Then he came back to check on them. He led them to a lower level that contained a half-dozen, four-wheel utility vehicles, meant to travel over rugged environments. They reminded Enoch of Dune buggies with roll bars, big tires, and monster engines.
Enoch smiled his pleasure. “I’ve never driven one of these before.”
Caleb pushed a button, and the tail of the plane yawned open and a ramp sloped to the ground. Then he folded his long frame into one of the open-air buggies and started the engine. “Try to keep up, brother. This is going to be fun.”
Enoch began his usual protest—“I’m not your brother,”—but gave it up. He was here, wasn’t he? Siding with Caleb? He felt a stab of guilt. “I bullied you into coming with me, but it might not be safe. You can feel pain. I don’t. Why don’t you go back to the casino and send your generals to help me?”
Caleb barked a laugh. “You only think you’re my nanny, but you’re not. Samiel came to me, not you. He’s my problem. Are you with me, or would you rather sit here with Ace and play cards?”
“Right behind you.” Enoch started his buggy, too.
Ace shook his head. “It’s always fun and games until the enemy attacks. Try to stay safe, you two. I’ll be here if you need me.”
Caleb flicked him the finger. “Such a spoil sport. Let’s go, Enoch!”
They revved their engines, then drove down the ramp, bouncing when they hit the rough cement of the road. Whew! What a ride! The shocks on the buggies were topnotch, but Enoch’s bones rattled as the tires jostled in and out of potholes. He raised his fist in the air and gave a wild shout. “Here we come!” He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had so much fun.
“You have to get out more,” Caleb teased.
“I don’t have all the toys you have, no reason to, but I like these.”
The path they were on climbed to the summit of the craggy mountainside. When they reached the top, huge trees had been placed across the road to block their way.
They skidded to a stop and looked down at the meadow beneath them.
“The entire meadow’s active,” Enoch called to Caleb. He had to shout over the engine noise to be heard.
Caleb nodded his golden head. “I’d guess Samiel had vampires working here before he ever visited my casino. He just locked me up to keep me out of his way.”
“He didn’t know about our telepathy.”
“A good thing, or I’d have been stuck in a lair and Samiel would have used my casino to recruit more followers.”
“He must feel safe enough now to go out on his own. He’s that sure of himself.” Not a good thing. A brazen Samiel would be hard to intimidate.
Caleb scanned the dozen stone fortresses Samiel had built around the perimeter of the meadow. “His base looks pretty secure.”
How many vampires could Samiel house in each one of those? Enoch recalculated Samiel’s actions. “I think he’s been building these since he came to visit me the first time.”
“You warned him away,” Caleb said, remembering.
“But I’m guessing he didn’t leave. He started building his empire. Then he decided he’d fare better if he had you as an ally, only you turned him away, too.”
They walked to the edge of the peak and gazed at Samiel’s military base, spread out below them. Formidable.
“More of everything than any angel needs to flex his muscles and own his own kingdom,” Caleb said.
Enoch sighed. Samiel never did anything in half measures. What did he have in mind this time?
“Samiel must want some privacy.” Caleb turned off his buggy and stalked toward the pile of tree trunks and branches, blocking their way.
Enoch followed his lead. They grabbed trees and tossed them out of the way, then looked at the steep trail that curved to the meadow. Once they’d cleared the debris, they started forward again, but were stopped a few miles later when the road ended and another pile of tree trunks littered the dirt path. No Trespassing signs warned visitors off.
When they started removing those logs, too, a dozen vampires landed close by and stalked toward them. The vampire in the lead warned,
“You’re on private property. Go away.”
Caleb mustered one of his best smiles. “We’re friends of Samiel. He’s expecting us.”
The vampire wasn’t amused. “He is expecting you, and told me to shoo you away. You’re not welcome.”
“Did you hear that, Enoch? After we came all this way? It’s a good thing I’m not sensitive. We intend to see Samiel, one way or another.” Caleb crossed his arms over his chest and glared at the vampire. He was tall and bulky, but both angels were taller with more muscle.
Enoch stepped to the side of his friend and raised his arms. “It won’t be a fair fight. I don’t want to have to blast you. The Light turns a dozen vamps to dust in a flash.”
The vampire narrowed his eyes. “You’re the dark angel?”
“In the flesh.”
Samiel’s guards exchanged glances. Their leader jerked his head, and they sprang up in unison and flew away.
“No goodbyes?” Caleb sighed. “Kids these days. No manners.”
Enoch lifted a log and tossed it aside. “They’re going to warn Samiel that we’re on our way.”
“Maybe we’ll have a meet and greet.” Caleb ran a hand through his shoulder-length, golden hair. With his sapphire-blue eyes and golden skin, he almost glowed. “Too bad I wore jeans and an old T-shirt. I won’t impress anyone.”
“Doesn’t matter. Samiel’s followers won’t lust after you. They’d rather make you true dead.”
“Poor them, can’t happen.” Caleb tossed the last trunk and climbed back into his vehicle. “Move it, brother! First one down the mountain gets a gold star!” He zoomed away.
A gold star. Really? The One had placed many a star in Enoch’s name throughout the heavens. Not that stars had saved him once he helped Caleb. As far as he could tell, he’d never get to return Home. He’d always be jailed here, cleaning up after his friend. Grinding his teeth, Enoch pushed on his vehicle’s gas pedal and roared down the mountain.
Soon, they’d meet Samiel. Then the bargaining would begin. How ambitious was Samiel? Silly question. If Samiel had his way, he’d be first in command, and the One would do his bidding. Enoch couldn’t see any fair compromise that would please all of them.