Avenari - Chapter 4
“I feel like I’ve been kidnapped,” Nick grumbled after ten minutes of silent walking. We had just entered a small neighborhood in the suburbs, comparatively modern. The houses were cookie-cutter-style, each one the same as the last in every way except for the paint job, with chemically enhanced, manicured lawns and two-car garages.
Unfortunately, all my observations and fascinations fell to dust at Nick’s little comment.
“Look here, kid,” I said. “We’re going to your house, not to some secret hiding place. How can you call this a kidnapping when in actuality I’m just walking you home?”
“Yeah, sure, tell yourself whatever you need to hear, but this is wrong on some level that I haven’t figured out yet. When I get it, I’ll be sure to tell you.” He gave me a suspicious leer.
“You’ll be thanking me profusely the next time you see me, you ungrateful little boy.”
“And what’s up with all the demeaning names?! You keep calling me ‘kid,’ and now I’m a ‘little boy?’ What the hell is wrong with you? I had no idea that a girl could have a male ego until you kidnapped me.”
“Dammit, this isn’t a kidnapping!”
“Yeah, yeah...this one’s mine. Seventeen.” He pointed to the next house down, painted in shades of gray with a brick red front door, and halted, turning to me with an annoyed frown. “There, you’ve walked me home and insulted me repeatedly. Good bye.”
“Oh, you are so not getting off that easily. We’re going in and having a little chat. Hell, if you’re a good little boy, I might even let you offer me dinner.”
His words seemed strangled in his throat, he had so many protests to shout at me. I took advantage of his condition and pulled him up to the front door.
“Keys.” I held my hand out.
“Wha—hell no!” he shouted, finally finding his retort.
“Stubborn child,” I said, reaching into his pocket before he could stop me, pulling out the keys, and inserting the correct one in the slot. I imagined that a spunky grandma would behave this way if she still had a young, healthy body. It was kind of fun. Age gave people quite the ego.
“Breaking and entering!” he yelped when I yanked him in and shut the door behind us.
“No, just entering,” I said, folding my arms and frowning down at him. He had sprawled out on the drab tan hallway carpet. The walls were off-white and barren—the place smelled like paint and bleach. I noticed a shoe rack to the right of the doorway and proceeded to remove my sneakers, placing them on the rack just as Nick realized what I was doing.
He shook his head vigorously and leapt to his feet. “No, no, no! You’re not staying! Get out of my house!”
“Shut up!” I hissed. “You want your parents to hear?”
made a face. “As if they’re even home. At the moment, this is my house, so get out!”
Home alone, eh? Excellent. “Try and make me, kid.”
The kid balked. “Uh...well...go!”
Nick was suddenly very confused, and after his mind made a few runs through possible methods to get rid of me, he at last gave up and slumped to a seat on the stairs. “Dammit, what do you want from me?”
“Loyalty, in exchange for an exciting life.”
He glared up at me in defeat. “Are you mental or something? Who are you, anyway?”
“The name’s Lynn Ravenfeather—or rather, if you want my real name it’s Lydian Plorávero. Of course, using my real name might cause friction in the legal realm, so I’m restricted to my nickname and the English translation of my last name. Plus, I don’t like my real name anymore, so just call me Lynn...and if you ever call me Lydian, I’ll strangle you.”
He was quiet for a moment, processing my nonsense, then:
“You’re clearly insane. Please go away.”
Okay, time for plan B. “Nick, do you believe in the supernatural?”
Of course, even that didn’t go as planned. “A cult!” he accused. “You’re part of some freaky cult and now you’re gonna brainwash me! Go away! I have no money!”
“Quit changing the subject and just answer the damn question!” I practically screamed.
He fell into shocked silence, before murmuring slowly, “Like, ghosts and whatever? Yeah...sure...but not cult crap.”
“Why? The ghost thing, that is. And quit with the cult accusation. It’s already old.”
I could see the argument forming in his mind, but luckily his common sense forced him to respond in a somewhat composed manner. “Because weird shit is going down all over the world, and too many separate ancient cultures encountered these same anomalies, and until science can offer a valid explanation for everything, I want to believe that there’s something really fascinating out there.” His face said clearly that he was going out on a limb.
I smirked. “You don’t say.”
“Don’t you dare make fun of me. You’re the one who kidnapped a total stranger and demand loyalty from him! What the hell have you been smoking? Whatever it is, I want a cut.”
I raised my hands to placate him, and once he was quiet again I replied, “I’m not making fun of you, honest. As a matter of fact, your answer will help you accept what I’m going to say.”
His dubiety was vividly apparent, but that was okay. By the time I left, he’d be on my side. “Right, so you’re insane, and you’re a vampire now, huh? Really believable.”
That stopped me. “What did you call me?”
He frowned and shrugged a little helplessly. “Insane...vampire...I’ll think of more later.”
“I see so...well, you’re half right.”
He laughed abruptly. “So you admit to your insanity?”
I sighed in exasperation. “I’m eccentric, not insane, you dolt!”
Something akin to realization flickered in his eyes, and he gave me a quick once-over. “Um, that leaves only the vampire option—you realize this, don’t you?”
“Vampiress, actually, and yes, I realize this.”
Silence. He seemed to be having a bit of difficulty reconciling my response.
I filled in a few of the blanks for him. “I’m about seventy years old and I live with a family—or aggregate of kindred spirits, if you will—of six others of my kind.”
At last, he spoke, “So how did you come in? I didn’t give you permission.”
“Why would I need permission? That’s just stupid. I’m also immune to garlic, holy implements, stakes...the whole nine yards. Pretty much the only thing that could kill me is sunlight—or fire, I guess. Oh, and if another were to drain me completely, I’d be pretty close to dead—though I could maybe come back with more blood. I also hear that decapitation or decoronation is pretty effective—removing the head or heart, that is.”
“Er...are you some kind of schizoid compulsive liar or something?”
This was going to be exactly as difficult as expected. “Get me a knife. I’ll prove it.”
My demand seemed only to cement his belief that I was deviant. “You really are insane. Why would I give you a knife? You don’t just give crazy people knives!”
I massaged my temple. “Look, Nick. Either you get me that knife, or I’m going to bite you. I haven’t fed in three days. Though your anemia sort of deters me, I’ll make an exception.”
“How do you know I’m anemic?”
“Eh?” I met his confused gaze. “I can smell it a mile off. Also, telepathy helps. How else could I have known about your funk? And don’t even think about getting mad at me for calling you out on that. You are going to live to the ripe old age of senility, and nothing you say will stop me from preventing your prolonged stupidity. By the way, you brought this on yourself.”
Anger sparked across my spatial sense, emanating from him more strongly than before—less of a tepid breeze and more of an actual flame. “You don’t have any right to judge me or decide how I’ll live my life!”
I laughed, “Well, that goes without saying. However, I do have a say in your death, and I absolutely forbid you from taking your own life. You don’t seem to realize how precious life is, so in exchange for your silence concerning my ‘condition,’ I’ll show you how much there is out there, far beyond anything you’ve ever thought existed.”
“Oh, that’s rich. How the hell am I supposed to believe that you’re a vampire? Aside from the apparent insanity, you seem perfectly normal. Hell, you even have a tan. Asian, by the looks of it. Maybe Cuban?”
I narrowed my eyes a smidge. I could still clearly remember the days when my heritage had been grounds enough for a showdown in the schoolyard. “I’ll show you, then. Get a knife and I’ll prove to you that I’m not lying.”
He watched me for a long while, weighing his options against his general curiosity, and then reiterated stubbornly, “Like hell I’m giving a knife to a crazy person. That’s gotta be somewhere in the handbook for the clinically insane.”
“I’m not insane!” I barked.
He flinched, and I backed down a bit, but he still stared at me as though I had declared myself the Queen of France. I sighed and rubbed my eyes. “Look, I’m not killing you unless you do the stupid thing and tell people about me. I’m not precognitive, but I can tell that you’re a good secret-keeper, so this is me going out on a limb here. The knife isn’t for you; it’s for me.”
“Just get it and I’ll show you...oh, and you might want to get a bowl—and a towel.”
“But...what are you going to do?” Less accusation and more wariness filtered through the web of my spatial sense.
“Just do it.”
A troubled frown slowly overcame his outrage, but he kicked off his shoes and placed them on the rack beside mine, then went through the first door in the hallway. Curious, I followed, analyzing the various food scents of the place. Someone had cooked curry recently, and there was a tangerine somewhere that had gone past its prime. Otherwise, the place smelled as sterile as a hospital ICU.
“Hey, do you clean a lot?” I asked as I paused to run a finger across the bare dinner table. Not even a tablecloth added a much-needed touch of personality.
“No. My mom’s just got a mild case of hypochondria. She doesn’t obsess over washing her hands, but she can’t stand it if the house isn’t spotless. My room feels like a hospital sometimes. It bites.” He took out a paring knife and opened a cabinet to find a bowl. “I was okay with it, though, because I’d figured I wouldn’t be around much longer.”
“My, you certainly are depressing,” I said. “There, that small one is good. I can use that dishtowel just fine.”
He placed the towel and knife inside the bowl and held it out to me. “Here, take it. Whatever you’re doing, don’t do it here.”
I took the proffered bowl and squinted at him. “And where do you propose my proof should be given, genius?”
“Don’t insult someone whose home you’ve invaded!” he snapped instantly. “My room. We’re going upstairs. If anything gets dirty down here, I’m a dead man.”
“Fine. Let’s go.”
He led the way and I followed silently, taking in the sights and smells and sounds of this stranger’s home. It was all unfamiliar and familiar at the same time. I could remember what it was like to have a mortal family—separate people on whom I relied to get me through life. I missed that warmth, but I didn’t miss how fragile it was. Mortality was what it was for a reason.
Ugh, I was depressing myself again.
“Ladies first,” Nick muttered, opening the door to what was apparently his room. It held his scent—as well as the scent of old illness. He’d been bedridden for a time, apparently.
“Wow,” I said upon entry. “I had no idea that a boy could have a room so clean.”
“Shut up. You can’t be more than a couple years older than me. I still don’t believe you.”
I followed the near wall, painted the starkest white and bare of anything aside from a plain wooden cross and a digital wall clock. A single lonely light bulb hung from the precise center of the square room, casting an even glow. The only furniture in the cubicle was a desk with a small CD player and black laptop, a hospital-cornered bed, a dresser, and a computer chair—all composed of ultra-modern steel and glass. A poster of some popular band hung above the headboard, expressing the only shred of individuality visible.
“How can you live in here?” I asked without thinking. “It’s like a cell.”
“I’m glad you agree,” he said darkly. “If you’ve got some sort of proof to back up your insanity, please get it over with so I can go to sleep.”
I smirked, setting the bowl on the desk and seating myself in the computer chair. It felt like car upholstery.
Nick plopped onto his bed and sat cross-legged. “If you’re going to do what I think you’re going to do, you’re just as bad as I am.”
“There’s one major difference between you and me,” I reminded him. “But enough doubts. I’ll prove the difference with this.” Taking up the knife, I clenched my fist over the bowl and with a quick, diagonal swipe I made a deep gash in my wrist.
“Oh, hush,” I sighed, watching my thick blood form scarlet pearls that dripped quickly into the little basin.
“You just—! You really are crazy!” He’d jumped up and grabbed the towel from my lap with the intent to staunch the bleeding, but I grabbed his hand before he could and held tightly.
“Just wait. It’ll be fine.”
Disbelief and indignation suffused the air like a cloud of dry ice runoff, but he stopped struggling and resigned himself to what he believed to be an act of supreme stupidity. He would see. I would make him see.
After about a minute passed I noticed that the flow had decreased. Carefully, I shook off the straggling drops and brought the wound to my lips, licking it clean and releasing his arm at the same time. “Give me the towel,” I ordered. He complied, and I dried the cut and showed him my wrist. “What do you see?”
His face took on a nauseated, jaundiced color. “Tendons.”
“No, stupid! What’s happening to it?” As much as I wanted him on my side, he really was stubborn.
He frowned at me before dropping his gaze to the wound once more. For a moment, he remained dubious and somewhat ill, but seconds later his eyes widened and he grabbed my arm.
“What the hell is going on here?” he whispered, staring in shock as the edges of the cut began to knit back together. My body was repairing itself faster than any human could dream of. In no time at all, the cut was nothing more than a pink line. A minute after that, no sign remained that any wound had been made.
“Told you so,” I chuckled. Gently, I removed my wrist from his grasp and pressed the back of my hand to his forehead. “Cold, huh? I’m as cold-blooded as they come.”
I bared my teeth obediently, indicating the slightly elongated canines. “Diamond hard and razor sharp, but not too extravagant, though I sometimes wish they were. I could probably bite through steel if I wanted, but I don’t because that’s just stupid.”
“Oh, and slashing your wrist isn’t?!” he said incredulously.
“Perhaps it is, but so is overdosing on pain medication, idiot. However, you seem to be taking this well. How are you feeling?”
“Sick,” he admitted, dropping back onto the bed and staring at the boring carpet.
“But you believe me?”
“Y-yeah, I guess...but it’s still creepy. I guess it’s an overused question, but why would you want me, of all people?”
I smiled. “I want more out of life than being depressed about living in shadows and having nothing better to do than hunt down unsuspecting humans for food. You, my friend, are my ticket out of this rut. Someone like you, who understands what it’s like to be trapped, will understand me. Also, you’re kind of the first person I spotted—I tend not to over-think things.”
A troubled expression crossed his features. “You make a distinction between human and not. It just feels weird to hear someone talk like that. Plus, you look completely human. I never would have thought you were different if you hadn’t started talking crazy and healing so fast.”
“Hmm...Simone does often tell me that I’m lucky to have mixed blood. It softens the bleaching aspects of the aging process and makes me seem more human.”
“Simone? Who’s that?”
“He’s the one who made me. He adopted me after my dad died, and turned me when I was twenty. Maybe you’ll meet him.” My heart ached a little at the memory of Dad, but I shook it off. This was a happy day. No moping allowed.
The idea of meeting Simone didn’t have a heartening effect on the kid. He changed the subject instead. “So you’re really...y’know...undead?”
Now he was just being absurd. “Kid, you don’t need to act like I’m going to bite you,” I said in exasperation. “If I ever feel the need to do that, I’ll ask first. Since you know who and what I am, I can’t be doing things that might jeopardize our tenuous friendship. Lighten up.
He raised a brow. “Friendship, huh? That’s assuming a lot. How do you know I’m not going to say no to this whole crazy thing and tell you to never come back?”
“Te-le-pa-thy,” I sounded out with a smirk. “Besides, you’re as desperate for company as I am. Sometimes the best way to escape the status quo is to take an otherwise unnecessary risk. Anyway, as for undead, I feel alive and I have a pulse, so I’m not sure if that’s quite how I would describe it. I sort of died to get to this juncture, and I think I’m alive...but I could be wrong.”
“Huh.” Despite the gravity of the situation, he was still in one piece. Impressive. “So...what are you going to do with that blood?” He motioned toward the bowl.
“This? Well, I was going to drink it—I’m starved so I can’t waste it—but I think I have a better idea, before it dries completely. The choice is yours to make, however.”
Yet again, he grew wary, though it was mixed with enough curiosity to tell me that he might not reject my offer. “What kind of idea?”
I shrugged and picked up the bowl, swilling the dark liquid around and watching it form a crystalline layer around the sides. Our blood didn’t clot. It simply dried like alcohol and became solid and brittle. “Why don’t you drink it? If I brand you, then you’ll be my familiar, and no others of my kind will be allowed to touch you for a while.”
He recoiled. “Ugh! What kind of idea is that?!” It wasn’t an outrageous response. In some corner of my mind, the thirst was laughing and calling him a fool, but I ignored it.
“It’s either this, or run the risk of some rogue draining you in a back alley.” I raised my eyebrows pointedly and offered the bowl again. “We try to keep them out, but there’s always a chance that you’ll leave the territory.” It was Nick’s choice, but if another Shimare were to come upon him and decide that he was edible, there was nothing to stop the attacker from just killing him. The only sure defense was to have him drink a small amount of my blood. It would brand him, and make it so that any harm to him reflected instead onto the perpetrator.
His expression grew downright incredulous. “Paranoid much? What are the chances of that happening?”
I mulled it over and shrugged, then smiled shrewdly. “Fine, maybe not a rogue, but if Simone comes looking for you, and if he’s not happy about what I’m doing, he may be after your life. I don’t want you dead, Nick. I like you—you’re honest, and that’s a commodity these days.”
He held up a hand to stop me. “Hold up, you mean the dude who turned you into a vampire might come after me now? Are you nuts? If that’s how it works, then why did you come here and risk my life?”
It both intrigued and irritated me that he was so reluctant to take my offer. Not only would it save his life, but this was no ordinary blood to begin with. What I was offering was worth its weight in diamonds. “I’ve been in a bad place for the past couple of weeks, and you’re my last hope. I know this city like the back of my hand, but I’ve never seen you here before, which is saying a lot since I normally pick out the interesting ones early on. I’m thinking you were sick for a long time. Anyway, tonight is special—I’ve decided to be selfish for once.”
“You’re doing a good job of it,” the kid grumbled, still frowning at the bowl. It was half-dried already.
“You’re running out of time, Nick. This is the chance of a lifetime. Oh, and it’ll get rid of any pesky medical conditions you may have. There are upsides to this, you know. That anemia? Gone. And permanent remission for that other problem of yours.”
At this information, he perked up in interest like a dog catching the scent of a nearby squirrel. “You’re lying.”
“Why would I lie about something so serious? The clock’s ticking away. Either take it or don’t, but you’ll be better off if you do.”
The complex processes and reasoning of his mind zipped through the possibilities in only a few seconds. He weighed the pros and cons fairly quickly.
“Give me that.”
I placed the bowl in his open hands and grinned in triumph. “Ignore the dry bits—that blood is dead now.”
For the first several seconds, he stared hard at the blood, as though having second thoughts, but then, without any further hesitation, he tipped the bowl to his lips and drank it in three gulps. When he lowered the vessel, his face was utterly devoid of all previous annoyance. His muscles relaxed perceptibly, and the bowl slipped into my waiting hands.
“Wow,” he said, staring at me in fascination. “You’re...glowing.”
“You get used to it,” I assured him. “My spectrum is a bit broader than yours.”
He frowned. “Hey, if this is what it’s like for me, then what’s it like for a vampire?”
“Hmm.” I thought about it. “A lot of my counterparts compare it to sex, because it’s the closest intimate thing we have to the act, but in reality it’s more like your first drink of water after spending weeks in a desert chewing on cacti. It just feels good. It makes you kind of lazy. The whole sex thing only got around because some of the older ones know how to trigger those areas of the brain on both sides when they feed. It’s probably all scientifically verifiable, though I don’t know how a scientist would explain the division between the blood and the thirst.”
“Ah.” He didn’t totally understand, but that wasn’t necessary. He blinked a few times and appeared to awaken from his temporary stupor. “Wait, you guys can’t...do it?”
“What? Sex? Nope. We’re all impotent. Why can’t we? I don’t know; that’s just how it is. I guess when the entire body attains the level of sensitivity that those parts feel, sex seems a bit redundant. Besides, according to what Sam tells me, vampire males just can’t...well, get it up.”
He cringed a little in embarrassment and sympathy. “Damn...that bites.”
“I guess.” At least I hadn’t been turned as a virgin. That was enough for me. Sam, though...deep down, I was positive that he resented never dating, regardless of his bravado.
There was a minute of silence, where Nick took a look around his room with temporarily enhanced eyes. To him, it must have been like he was seeing everything through a saturation filter, making everything more intense than it normally was. Our vision spilled off into both the ultraviolet and infrared, so the colors we saw were slightly different from what humans saw.
Nick’s reaction made me smile. Even if Simone found out and made me end this, it was worth it to see this depressed kid find his mundane world fascinating, however temporarily. Rather than melancholy, his thoughts had turned to elation. It lifted my own spirits significantly.
“Hey,” he said after a time, “have you...fed yet?” His curious eyes fell back to me.
I shook my head. “No. I’ll go do that after I leave—which will be soon. Simone’s probably waiting. Why? You plan on donating?” I joked.
“Actually, if you’re okay with it, I want to see what it’s like.”
His tone was so serious that I frowned. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea. Even with what blood I gave you, you’d still be exhausted for a while.”
He actually scoffed. “Yeah, right. Nothing could possibly be as bad as that bone marrow transplant last year. That was the worst year of my life. This here is the coolest thing that has ever happened to me—and on the day I was planning to die, too. Man, life is weird.”
“I don’t know. I haven’t fed in three days, so I’ll be taking enough to leave you effectively unconscious.” Was he crazy, stupid, or just sweet? Or all three?
“Will you lock up and turn everything off when you go?”
This question surprised me outright. “Huh?”
He laced his thin fingers together in his lap and leaned forward a little, watching me intently. “Seriously. I want to know what it’s like, and as long as I can trust you to lock up, I’m okay with donating. And if I’m unconscious tomorrow it won’t be that big a deal. My mom’s used to my weak constitution. It’s a miracle that I have hair, if you know what I mean.”
“That makes it worse. Aren’t you afraid?” This was certainly more than I had expected.
“You trust me to keep your secret, and that seems pretty heavy. Shouldn’t I trust you?”
I frowned hard at him, fighting the stirrings of my thirst. It knew that he was offering, and like an animal sniffing out the trail of its prey it slithered through my veins and filled my core with eager warmth. An involuntary groan escaped my chest as the warmth reached my mouth and burned my throat, and I stood suddenly. “I should go,” I managed to croak.
He got up as well and grabbed my arm, turning me to face him. I had to look up to meet his gaze—I suddenly didn’t feel so tough. “Seriously, it’s okay,” he assured me.
I shook my head and tried to back away. His hand was so warm, almost scorching to my cold flesh. “N-no. If something goes wrong, and I can’t stop—you have no idea how strong the thirst can be. I don’t want to hurt the first mortal friend I’ve had in decades.”
He didn’t let go. “Look, I understand that there are risks involved,” he said carefully, “but for my entire life I’ve been under the assumption that this was the way it would be until I died, and now I know it can be different. Lynn, I was fully prepared to kill myself. At least let me do this for you. Give me some idea as to whether or not I’m up to the task.”
I shot him a cold glare. “I say you’re up to the task. You don’t understand what you’re asking me to do, especially in your condition.”
“Exactly!” he exclaimed. “I don’t know, so why not teach me?” With his free hand, he pulled down the collar of his sweater, baring his throat to me.
Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe—not that I needed the oxygen, per se, but breathing was intrinsic to all of us. It was a sign that things were going okay. It was an indicator, a litmus test.
Stop fighting, my blood ordered, startling me. It could be remarkably persuasive at times, but never before had it given me actual orders. The thirst grew until the thick, cloying scent of fresh blood choked my senses. I gasped, but the scent accosted me, urged me to lean in and press my fangs to his artery. I could see it pulsing just beneath his skin. Though it lay deep in his flesh, it burned with a heat that my eyes picked out immediately.
Blood...sweet, thick, hot, smooth, sharp...I had to have it, had to have it.
Take it, whispered my blood. He is your familiar now.
I relaxed, and my consciousness faded. It didn’t take much room for the thirst to squeeze into my mind and take over.
“See? You do want it,” Nick murmured, frowning in curiosity and anticipation. I could see in his mind that he was one of those dreamer types. Despite the hardship of living with a debilitating weakness, he had clung to the hope that, though it may never touch him, there was something out there that defied what the tragedy of his life had tried to make him believe.
And I was the one to finally reach across that chasm and yank him over to my side.
Reason left me then, abandoning me to the mercy of my thirst and leaving only my blood to control it. I trusted my blood to know when to stop.
“Sit,” I whispered.
He blinked, and his eyes glazed over as he sat abruptly. He was under my thrall. I couldn’t call my prey across great distances like some of the charmers among my people, but, as with us all, I could pacify my prey.
I moved without the excess of thought, leaning in and crawling over him when he fell back. He was still watching intently, as though his fascination couldn’t be stopped, but there was an emptiness there which made obvious the fact that a change of heart was not permitted.
His scent was warm and young, and I slipped a hand around his back while reaching into his clean, shaggy hair to pull his head to the side and stretch his throat tight. His pulse sped and made my mouth dry with thirst.
I brought my face down to his throat and breathed deeply, savoring that youth. We all had our tastes, and I preferred my prey young as the spring. They were strong and fragile, a balance of contrasts to suit my desires.
When I glanced over, his eyelids lowered until only a thin line of white and pretty gray was visible behind chocolate lashes. All of his trust was with me.
“You’ll feel a pinch, and then you’ll drown in nothing,” I heard myself whisper.
His eyes closed.
And then the thirst seized me completely, and I shuddered, pressing my lips to his skin and biting deep into his throat.
He gave a small cry, and his arms went around my waist. After that, he fell silent, except for his breathing. His racing heart forced the blood from him, and it washed into my mouth.
Drop after drop seeped into me, hot with life and power that only we Shimaren could take for our own. My veins throbbed, filling with this warmth and raising my body temperature. The pain eased and gradually became nothing, until all I could feel was utter satisfaction.
His life poured into my mind, carried on his blood. He was so warm and fragile, so easily broken after years of weathering. It roused my sympathy—I wanted to protect him.
He was my familiar now. He would show me the other side of life, and I would show him the meaning of life. It didn’t matter whose meaning it was, just that there was any meaning at all.
Like a good pet, the thirst obeyed the blood’s limits, and as soon as it felt that I had taken enough to last a few more days, it bid the thirst to return to its home in my core. The need faded, and I withdrew my teeth from Nick’s throat, licking the wound to clean up any missed drops and heal the damage. All of our bodily fluids, namely tears and saliva, were composed of blood. It acted as an anticoagulant during feeding, and as a healing catalyst once we were done.
I watched the bite heal to nothing, then studied his expression and listened for his pulse.
He was serene. His heartbeat sounded a bit winded, but steady, and stronger than before.
“Sweet sanity, that felt good,” I sighed, smiling at him in contentment. He was adorable.
It was now time to fulfill my end of the deal, so I did all the necessary cleanup procedures: rinsed the bowl, towel, and knife and put them away, then tucked him in to make it appear as though he’d simply fallen asleep before he’d changed. When I removed his sweater, I was surprised at how painfully thin he really was, but instead of pity I felt a sense of determination. Everything would be fine. I would make sure of it.
As promised, I shut off all the lights and locked the door when I left, humming an old tune that my mom had used to sing when I was little. Things were finally looking up.
But when I approached the driveway, I spotted a figure at the end of the walk and froze.
“What have you done?” Simone whispered.