Dark Hunger


Chapter Ten



Harper opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling over his bed, then a vision of Drina covered in blood filled his mind, and he sat up abruptly.

"Settle down, boy. You're safe," Teddy Brunswick said, hefting himself out of a chair beside the bed. Harper stared at the man blankly, the crash replaying in his head; blood splashing, glass flying, and the smoke from burning rubber all filled his vision, accompanied by the sound track from hell. Shouts, screams, screeching metal, shrieking brakes, and then dead silence and stillness. He recalled being dizzy from hi ng his head. Barely holding on to consciousness, Harper had turned ins nc vely to Drina and moaned at what he'd found. Her bloodied body had appeared par ally encased in metal, and what wasn't - including her face - had been shredded by the flying glass.

"Drina?" he growled, shoving aside the memory along with the blankets that had been covering him, and shifting to get up.

"She's alive. You know you people don't die that easy," Teddy said grimly. Harper relaxed a fraction, but continued to his feet, asking, "And Stephanie?"

"They're both in their room being tended to by Beau and Tiny," Teddy assured him, reaching out to steady Harper when he swayed on his feet. "I'm thinking you need blood. Your head wound didn't look too bad, but you lost consciousness and have been out all night. Your nanos probably used up a fair amount repairing whatever damage was done."

"All night?" Harper muttered with surprise.

Teddy nodded. "I was surprised myself. Once we cleaned away the blood, there didn't seem much wrong with you compared to the girls, but the knock your head took must have caused some internal damage that needed repair or something. We fed you a couple of bags of blood, but didn't want to give you too much and cause other problems." He frowned, and asked, "If I go fetch a bag for you, will you sit your arse down and wait for me to get back before trying to - ?"

"I need to see Drina," Harper interrupted impatiently, staggering past the man.

"That's what I figured," Teddy said on a sigh, and caught his arm to help him to the door. "I'll see you down to the girls' room then before I fetch that blood."

Harper mu ered a "thanks," but then remained silent for the rest of the walk down the hall, the flight of stairs, and up the second floor hall to the girls' room. He knew he definitely needed blood by the me they reached it. He was unsteady on his feet and exhausted by then. Obviously, there had been more damage done inside his head than it had appeared, but then his brain had probably bounced around inside his skull like jelly in a bowl during the accident.

Teddy reached past him to open the bedroom door, and Harper staggered eagerly forward, almost desperate to see for himself that Drina was all right. He spo ed an exhausted Mirabeau and Tiny si ng in chairs by the window, and then his gaze dropped to the first bed, and he let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Drina was pale, but otherwise appeared fine, with no sign of the shredded skin or smashed body he recalled in his memory.

Of course, she was under the covers, so there might be injuries s ll mending, but she would heal, he assured himself, his gaze now moving to Stephanie. She had been seated directly behind Drina on the impact side as well, and had no doubt taken equally severe injuries, but like Drina, the girl appeared pale and s ll but otherwise fine. There was an IV stand between the two single beds; two bags of blood hung from it, each with tubing. One long tube dropped down, and then curved into Stephanie's arm, the other trailed down from the second bag and led into Drina's.

"Sit down before you fall down," Teddy said gruffly, urging him to the bedside as Tiny and Mira-beau stood up.

"How are you feeling?" Mirabeau asked, coming around the bed toward him.

"I'm no expert on your people, but I think he needs blood," Teddy answered for him as he forced Harper to sit on the side of Drina's bed.

Mirabeau nodded and turned back toward the windows, but Tiny was already opening a cooler that sat under the window ledge and retrieving a bag.

"What happened?" Harper asked as he accepted the bag, and then clarified, "A er the accident. How did you get us out?"

"I was first on the scene," Teddy said grimly. "Got the call in my car and headed right over. Didn't realize it was you three at first. Between injuries and the burst bags of blood all three of you were unrecognizable." He grimaced at the memory. "I thought it was people at first and as good as dead, but then you moaned Drina's name, and I took a second look. Once I realized it was you three, I blocked off the road and called the house, then started trying to get you all out. I thought we'd need the Jaws of Life, but then Beau and Anders got there and started pulling the metal away like it was toffee. Even so, it took a long me to get Stephanie and Drina out. They were both a damned mess. Never seen a body so mangled, let alone two, and it was hard to tell where flesh ended and metal began," he added with a shake of the head. "Never want to see anything like that again so long as I live."

"I had no brakes," Harper said fre ully, his old familiar friend, guilt, creeping over him as he wondered if there was something he could have done to prevent the crash.

"Yeah, I know," Teddy said, surprising him, and then explained, "I took witness reports, and when they kept saying you didn't even try to stop, I knew something was wrong. I had the car towed down to the garage to be looked over. The mechanic, Jimmy, called me just a few minutes before you woke up and reported that the brake lines were cut."

"Cut?" Harper asked with a frown, and then mu ered, "We didn't have any trouble on the way into London. It must have been done in the parking lot while we were in the mall."

"Most likely," Teddy agreed. He then added, "The news, though, immediately made me wonder if that Leonius feller didn't track down the girl here after all."

Mirabeau shook her head at once. "Leonius wouldn't try to kill her. He wants her alive for breeding."

"Breeding?" Teddy squawked, his dismayed eyes shooting to the fifteen-year-old. Mirabeau nodded, her expression ght. "To replace the sons he lost taking Stephanie and her sister. He wouldn't have tried to kill her," she said firmly. "It couldn't have been him."

"I don't know," Tiny said slowly, and when the others turned to him in ques on, he pointed out, "He'd know that a car accident probably wouldn't kill her. And this Leonius sounds pre y twisted. He might enjoy torturing and tormenting her, along with anyone else he could, before taking her."

"The more I hear about this animal, the less I like," Teddy mu ered, staring at Stephanie with troubled eyes, no doubt still contemplating that some madman wanted to use the child as a broodmare.

"Where's Anders?" Harper asked suddenly.

"He was watching over you with me," Teddy informed him. "Just before you woke up, he le . In fact, I think it was the sound of the door closing that woke you."

As if having heard his name, the door to the bedroom suddenly opened, and Anders entered, phone in hand. His gaze skated over Harper, flickering as he noted that he was up and about, and then the immortal handed his cell phone wordlessly to Mirabeau.

They all fell silent, simply listening. Not that there was much to hear. Mirabeau said, "Hello," and then listened briefly, said "Yes, Lucian," and hung up.

"Well?" Teddy asked as she handed the phone back to Anders.

"We're to switch to feeding them blood. It's faster than the IVs. Lucian wants Stephanie and Drina back on their feet as quickly as possible," she said grimly, standing to move to the cooler and retrieve two bags of blood. Pausing then, she glanced to Tiny apologe cally, and added, "And he wants you turned by nightfall."

Tiny frowned. "But Jackie wanted to be here for it, and she and Vincent won't be here for another couple days."

"I know. I'm sorry," she said regretfully.

Tiny sighed and nodded. He took one of the bags from her, but as she moved up beside Drina's bed, asked, "Did he say why?"

"He wants us all at top speed as quickly as possible and prepared for anything," Mirabeau answered, bending over Drina. She opened the unconscious woman's mouth and massaged her upper gums to force her fangs out. The moment they slid down, Mirabeau popped the bag onto them.

"Hold this for me," she said to Harper, and when he reached out to hold the bag in place, Mirabeau turned, took the other bag back from Tiny, swung toward Stephanie, and then paused, a blank look covering her face. Stephanie didn't have fangs.

"Will she swallow it if you pour it down her throat?" Tiny asked, seeming to recognize the problem.

"I don't know," Mirabeau admitted on a sigh.

Tiny hesitated, but then shrugged and moved around to the other side of Stephanie's bed. Si ng on the edge, he slid an arm under her neck, raising her so that her head draped over his arm. Using his free hand, he then caught her jaw and pulled it open before glancing to Mirabeau. "From what I understand, she won't choke or drown from it. Even if it gets in her lungs, the nanos will probably retrieve it to use. You may as well try."

Mirabeau hesitated, but then nodded and stepped forward. She held the bag over Stephanie's open mouth and stabbed at it quickly with one fingernail. Blood immediately began to gush out. Drina had a serious case of dry mouth. It felt like she'd gone to sleep with glue in her mouth. A most unpleasant sensa on, she decided, smacking her lips together with a grimace and rolling over in bed only to bump up against something hard.

Opening her eyes, she stared blearily at the wide dark expanse before her, slow to recognize it as a man's chest in a dark shirt.

"You're awake."

That mumble from above her head made her lean back slightly and peer up to find Harper lying facing her on his side. He was looking sleepily down at her, and the relief on his face was obvious. Her head was nearly tucked under his chin, or probably had been when she'd first rolled over, she realized, and smiled at him.

"Hi," Drina said, and frowned at the sound that croaked out of her parched throat.

"You need more blood." He rolled away and sat up, then stood and moved around the bed and out of sight. Drina had to shi onto her back to follow him with her eyes as he moved to a set of coolers by the window. He opened one, retrieved a bag of blood, and returned, but, when she realized they were in her room, she turned her attention to the bed beside her own.

Seeing Stephanie sleeping in the next bed, she half sat up, whispering with confusion, "What are you doing in here?"

"You don't remember the accident?" Harper asked, sinking to sit next to her on the mattress. Drina opened her mouth to say no, but paused as memory came crashing in. She sucked in a breath as horror washed over her in the wake of the memories, and then fell back on the bed with a gu ural sound, her eyes running briefly over Harper to be sure he was wholly intact, and then to Stephanie again. She looked fine. Unmarked and pink-cheeked, her breathing even.

"She'll probably wake up soon too," Harper murmured, offering Drina the bag of blood he'd retrieved. Drina sat up and shifted up the bed to lean against the headboard, then accepted the blood.

"What happened to the brakes?" she asked, recalling Stephanie's saying something about them just before the accident.

Harper waited un l she popped the bag of blood to her fangs before saying grimly, "The brake lines were cut."

Drina frowned around the bag in her mouth.

"There's some worry it's Leonius playing nasty games before he tries to take Stephanie," he admi ed.

"So everyone's on high alert. Lucian wants you and Stephanie on your feet and Tiny turned as quickly as possible. He called Alessandro and Edward and asked them to bring their mates and come help out ll the turn is done," he added, and then seeing her confusion, explained, "Edward and Alessandro are the other two immortals who came in answer to the ad Teddy and a friend of Elvi's named Mabel, put in the Toronto papers for a vampire mate for her."

Drina immediately nodded. Harper had told her how he'd landed in Port Henry during their twenty-four hours in Toronto. While she hadn't recognized the names when he'd men oned them a moment ago, she knew who the men were and knew that they'd become good friends to Harper this last year and a half.

"Alessandro, Edward, and their mates arrived a few minutes ago," Harper informed her. "Teddy, Tiny, and Mirabeau went downstairs with Anders to greet them and coordinate everything. Un l then, we'd been feeding you and Stephanie bag a er bag of blood, trying to rush you through the healing. They were administering it intravenously before that."

Drina grimaced, suddenly understanding the dry mouth. The slower the blood entered the body, the slower the healing was, but it was also less painful. When the blood was fed through the fangs bag a er bag, it hit the system fast and sent the nanos into a frenzy of healing that hurt like hell. She'd probably been screaming her head off until the worst of the healing was done.

She turned and glanced toward Stephanie again.

"They were pouring it down her throat," Harper said quietly. "It seemed to work just as well."

Drina nodded and pulled the now-empty bag off her fangs.

"Do you want another?" Harper asked, getting up.

"No." Drina smiled wryly. "I think I'm probably good for blood, but water would be nice."

He leaned to the side at once and picked up a glass of the clear liquid from the bedside table.

"Thank you," she murmured, accep ng it. Drina was very happy to see that her hand didn't tremble as she raised the glass to her lips. She wasn't suffering any lingering weakness. At least she didn't appear to be, she thought as she drank half the water down in one go. Drina paused to breathe and smile at him, and then downed the rest of the glass before handing it back.

Harper set it on the table, then reached out to slide his hand into the hair at the back of her neck and pulled her forward to press his forehead to hers. "I'm sorry."

Drina nodded solemnly, bumping her forehead on his nose as she did. "You should be. You should have spun the wheel so your side of the car took the impact and saved Stephanie and me all this."

Harper pulled back with amazement. "Crap, I didn't think of that."

"Idiot," Drina chided, rolling her eyes. "Honestly! I was joking. I wouldn't have wanted that any more than you wanted my ge ng injured to occur. This wasn't your fault. And we're all fine. That's the important thing."

A small smile tugged at his lips, and Harper suddenly leaned forward to kiss her. Afraid her breath was less than pleasant at the moment, Drina froze, but if it was bad, Harper didn't seem to care. When he deepened the kiss, she sighed and allowed him to ease her back on the bed.

"Geez, guys, really? Right there in the bed beside me?"

That husky growl from Stephanie made them both s ffen, and then Harper straightened, bringing Drina upright with him again. They turned to peer at the girl together.

"How are you feeling?" Drina asked quietly, as Harper released her.

"Thirsty," Stephanie said on a sigh, sitting up as well and rubbing sleep from her eyes.

"Blood thirsty or water thirsty?" Drina asked at once.

Stephanie hesitated, and then sighed and admitted, "Maybe both."

Harper immediately stood to return to the cooler and brought back a bag for the girl, only to pause. "We don't have straws. Mirabeau was just stabbing the bag and letting it pour down your throat."

Stephanie immediately pped her head back and opened her mouth, apparently willing to go that route to get what she needed. When Harper hesitated, Drina realized what the problem was and stood to take the bag from him. He had no nails. She did. She posi oned the bag over Stephanie's mouth and quickly stabbed the bag, then squeezed to force the liquid out more quickly as the teenager swallowed over and over.

"More?" Drina asked when it was empty. When Stephanie paused to consider, but then shook her head, Drina tossed the bag in a garbage pail that had been posi oned between the two beds, picked up a second glass of water from the bedside table, and offered it to her.

"That was some crash," Stephanie muttered as she accepted the glass.

"The brake lines were cut," Drina said quietly as Stephanie took a drink.

"Nice," the girl said dryly, and glanced to Harper. "So who have you pissed off besides Drina?"

"He didn't piss me off," Drina said at once, and when Stephanie snorted, added, "Well, perhaps I was a bit frustrated a er we returned from Toronto when he seemed to be avoiding me, but I wasn't pissed off

. . . much."

Harper chuckled and slid his arm around her. "Well, don't worry. I've come to my senses. I won't be dragging my feet or avoiding you from now on, so you won't be pissed off or frustrated again." He smiled wryly, and added, "At least not about that."

"So you're ready to accept her as a life mate?" Stephanie asked with a grin.

"Do I have a choice?" he asked dryly. "She just is."

"Hey! You're blessed to be my life mate," Drina snapped, punching him in the stomach for the crack, and with more than just a teasing force behind it.

Harper winced and shook his head. "I don't know. A life me of your fiery Spanish temperament? I think it's more a curse than a blessing."

"Don't listen to him, Dree," Stephanie said with amusement. "He's just winding you up. It used to bother him that Jenny was such a cold fish. He likes your passion."

"Really?" Drina asked with interest, but her eyes were on Harper, no ng the way his eyes had widened with surprise, as if he'd just realized the truth of those words himself.

"Oh, good, you're up."

Drina glanced over her shoulder to see Mirabeau entering the room.

"How are you two doing? Do you need more blood?" Mirabeau asked.

"I think we're good at the moment," Drina answered for both herself and Stephanie.

"How about food then?" Mirabeau asked. "Alessandro and Leonora brought a big batch of spaghe and a bunch of garlic bread for everyone, and we're going to eat before we start Tiny's turn."

"Is there Parmesan cheese?" Stephanie asked.

"Freshly grated," Mirabeau assured her.

"Yum." Stephanie was off the bed at once and hurrying for the door.

Smiling wryly, Drina started to follow, but slowed, her smile widening when Harper caught her hand in his. It seemed he'd meant what he'd said. He'd come to his senses and wasn't going to fight their being life mates.

Drina paused at the head of the bed in Mirabeau and Tiny's room, and then glanced around to watch the rest of the crew file in. There was Mirabeau and Tiny of course, Stephanie, Anders, and Teddy Brunswick, and then came the people she'd never met un l li le more than half an hour ago - Alessandro and Leonora Cipriano, and Edward and Dawn Kenric.

Alessandro and Leonora, both olive-skinned and spor ng long, dark hair, were similar enough in looks that they could have been brother and sister, but a brother and sister would never find any and every excuse to touch each other. Nor would they look at each other the way these two did, devouring each other with bronzed brown eyes full of love and desire.

In contrast, Edward and Dawn Kenric were fair-skinned and fair-haired. They were also more conserva ve in behavior. They s ll shared the same touches and exchanged passionate looks, but only when they thought no one else was looking.

Harper had told Drina that Edward had been the most arrogant, annoying bastard he'd ever known, un l he met Dawn, but that finding her had changed him considerably, and he now actually called him a friend.

Altogether, what they had was a small army in that room, Drina thought grimly as she took in their numbers. That being the case, she wasn't terribly surprised when Tiny suddenly said, "Surely it isn't necessary for all of you to be up here? Shouldn't some of you be downstairs watching the doors and windows?"

"Most of us will go downstairs once your turn is under way," Edward said, reminding the mortal of what they'd apparently decided earlier. "Then we'll take turns watching over you until it's finished."

"Yeah, but why are so many here for the start?" Tiny asked with a frown. "We don't need this many people, surely? Even little Stephanie here could probably bench-press me with one hand."

Seeing the distress on Mirabeau's face, Drina said, "Maybe, but you're a big guy, Tiny, and pre y strong for a mortal. Once the nanos hit, you'll be even stronger. And in pain . . ." She shrugged, leaving the rest unsaid but thinking they'd be lucky if he didn't toss someone out a window in his distress.

"Don't worry, son. It will be all right," Leonora Cipriano crooned and moved over to hug the big man and pat his back as if he were a five-year-old who needed soothing.

Drina glanced to Harper in ques on, and he murmured, "She's eighty-six or thereabouts, just turned the summer before last."

Drina nodded with understanding. The woman might look twenty-five now, but in her head, she was s ll the grandmotherly old woman she'd been before her turn. To her, Tiny was just a boy.

"Well, let's get to it," Teddy said bracingly, as Leonora released Tiny and stepped back to Alessandro's side.

"Right." Tiny glanced to Mirabeau, and seeing the worry on her face, reached out to caress her cheek.

"It's all right, Beau. By this me tomorrow, it will be over. Or maybe the next day," he added with a frown. "Marguerite told me that different people take different lengths of time to turn."

"That's true," Harper murmured.

Tiny nodded and glanced around. "So, you'll need some rope, right?"

"All taken care of," Kenric announced. "We brought chain. Speaking of which, we le it in the garage. I'll go get it."

"Chains?" Tiny asked, eyes widening as the Englishman hurried out of the room.

"Si," Alessandro began, nodding. "The Lucian, he say is best we - "

"Rope is some mes used, but chain is be er," Leonora interrupted, slipping her hand into her husband's and giving a shake of her head when he glanced to her in surprise. She then turned back to Tiny, and added, "They used rope for me and I snapped the e on my right wrist before the end of the turn and I was just an old woman, so when Lucian suggested chain, it seemed a good idea."

"Right," Tiny repeated weakly, but he was star ng to look a bit gray around the gills, and Mirabeau was beginning to wring her hands with worry as it was brought home to her what a dangerous endeavor the turning could be.

Edward hadn't dallied about collec ng the chain. Leonora had barely finished speaking when he returned with several lengths of heavy-duty chain made up of large, thick links. Even Drina had to bite her lip when she saw it. An elephant would have had trouble snapping them.

"Well, let's get started," she said with forced cheer, thinking it was be er just to get it done than to delay. The more time he had to think, the more anxious Tiny would get.

"Do I need to change or anything? Or do I just lie down?" Tiny asked, and the uncertainty in his voice caught her ear.

"You might want to take off your shirt if you're especially fond of it," Drina murmured. "And change your pants if you like those as well."

Tiny didn't ask ques ons, he merely shrugged out of his T-shirt. Apparently he wasn't overly fond of the joggers, though, because once his shirt was off, he simply lay down on the bed. It was Teddy who asked, "Why? What's going to happen to his clothes? He's not going to hulk out or something, is he?"

"No," Drina assured the older mortal with amusement. "But the nanos will force out any impuri es through his skin. It's hard to get the clothes clean afterward."

"I'll say," Stephanie mu ered with disgust. "I was wearing my favorite top when I turned. I washed it six mes before I gave up trying to get the s nk out." She grimaced, and then added, "The bed I was on was ruined too. They hadn't thought to put one of those bed-protector things on before laying me in it."

Tiny was immediately hopping off the bed as if it were hot coals. Without a word, he tugged the blankets and sheets up at one corner to reveal a bed protector underneath with one side plas c, the other cloth. He didn't return the bedding then, but pulled the sheets off completely and tossed them in the corner of the room, leaving only the protector, muttering, "No sense ruining Elvi's sheets."

Edward immediately moved forward with the chains and quickly half tossed and half slid the first under the metal frame. Alessandro pulled it out the other side, and then moved to the foot of the bed as Edward repeated the process there. Once done threading chain under the bed at both the top and bo om, Alessandro straightened and nodded with approval. "Bella. Is good."

Tiny grunted something of a response and climbed back onto the mattress protector. Drina moved toward the two coolers Anders had moved to the room earlier. "Did Lucian send any - "

"The green cooler," Anders interrupted before she could finish, and Drina closed the red cooler she'd just opened, which held only blood, and moved to the second, green cooler. Opening it, she nodded as she spo ed the li le medical case inside. She knew it would contain needles and ampoules of various drugs. They wouldn't prevent Tiny's experiencing the pain, but would dull it somewhat and keep him from ge ng too ac ve during the worst of it. Unfortunately, they couldn't be administered un l a er the turn had started. The dosage would kill a mortal without the benefit of the nanos in their system. She straightened and opened the case to reveal the items lined up inside.

"Are those the nanos?" Tiny asked warily.

"No," Drina answered. "These are drugs to help you through the turn."

Tiny frowned, and Stephanie - obviously reading his thoughts - piped up, and said, "Oh believe me, you do want the drugs. They don't do much, but they're better than nothing at all."

Leonora and Dawn nodded in solemn agreement. They were the only immortals there besides the teenager who had been turned. The rest of them had been born immortal and avoided this necessity. Tiny knew that as well and peered from one solemn face to the other, before clearing his throat, and asking,

"So what can I expect here?"

When the older women hesitated, Stephanie grimaced, and said honestly, "It's gonna hurt like the dickens, Tiny. It feels like you're being torn apart from the inside out and I guess that's kind of what the nanos are doing." She breathed out a little sigh, and then added, "But the nightmares are the worst part."

Tiny raised his eyebrows. "Nightmares?"

"Or hallucina ons or whatever," Stephanie said unhappily. "I was in a river of blood. It was burning, the flames leaping all around me, and I was caught in a current and being dragged downstream. I couldn't get out, and these mu lated and bloated corpses kept floa ng by while I just screamed and screamed. And then the current pulled me under, and I was choking on the burning blood." She shuddered at the memory. "And then I woke up, and it was over."

"I had the same nightmares," Leonora said with surprise.

"Me too," Dawn announced. She then murmured, "I wonder if it's your brain trying to understand what's happening inside your body."

Drina didn't comment but thought it a possibility. Every turn she'd ever talked to had had the same, or similar, nightmares. Rivers of blood, fire, corpses floa ng past, and then being pulled under either by the corpses in the water with them or by the current itself, followed by the sensa on of drowning on the blood they inadvertently swallowed as they screamed. It was always the same with li le in the way of variation.

"Why don't we just leave it for now and do this another time," Mirabeau said with a frown. Tiny glanced at her with surprise, noted her shaky expression, and reached out to take her hand. "It's okay, Beau," he murmured. "Better to get it done. If it's the price of being with you . . . better just to get it done."

He pulled her hand to his lips and pressed a gentle kiss to it, then glanced from Anders to Drina in question. "So where is the shot with the nanos? Give it to me and let's get it over with."

Drina felt her eyebrows rise and glanced to Mirabeau in question.

"We haven't discussed the turn and what takes place," the woman admi ed on a sigh, though Drina supposed she needn't have bothered. Tiny's question had given that away.

"Well?" Teddy barked. "Where's the shot? Give it to the boy. Don't make him sit here worrying over what's coming. Just get it over with."

"There is no shot," Drina said quietly.

"No shot?" Tiny and Teddy echoed as one.

"Beau has to give you her nanos," Harper explained solemnly.

When Tiny glanced to Mirabeau in ques on, she hesitated, but then opened her mouth, let her fangs slide out, and lifted her wrist to her mouth.

"What are you doing?" Tiny asked, catching her arm to stop her. "You don't have to bite yourself."

"Yes, I do," Mirabeau said quietly.

"No you don't," Teddy said at once. "Tiny's right. This isn't a damned vampire movie. Drina there has needles. She can just pull some blood out of you and shoot it in Tiny, and, hey presto, it's done."

"That won't work," Drina assured him. "It would just be blood. No nanos would be in it. Or, at least, not enough to start a turn."

"What?" the old man asked with disbelief. "How would that be possible?"

When Drina sighed, it was Harper who explained. "Think of the nanos like rats in a pet-store cage. The shop owner opens the cage and reaches in, and all the rats run to the corners of the cage to avoid being pulled from their nice safe home. Nanos do the same when anything punctures our skin, whether it's a needle, or a knife, or fangs. They are programmed to keep their host body at their peak, and they can't do that unless they stay in the body. That is why you will not find nanos in tears, urine, sperm, or any other material that naturally leaves the body. So if you s ck a needle into any one of us, the nanos would immediately evacuate the area to avoid removal."

"No, no, no," Teddy said firmly. "From what I understand, our Elvi was turned when some vampire fellow was injured in an accident and bled into her mouth."

"A wound such as the one you're talking about, or like Mirabeau ripping her wrist open, is like someone tearing away the side of the rat cage and turning it to dump the contents. It's large and unexpected. The nanos in that area will be caught by surprise and get swept along in the blood that flows out. At least at first," he added dryly. "If the wound isn't big enough, or she's too slow pressing it to his mouth, she will have to do it twice, or even more, to give him enough nanos to get the process started."

"Barbaric." Teddy grunted and shook his head. "I don't know why you just don't mix up a batch of those damned nanos and keep them for turning people."

"Because no one's been able to replicate the process," Drina said dryly.

"What?" Teddy peered at her with amazement. "You people made them. You should be able to make more."

"Not us," Drina said with amusement. "Our scientists did, and they tested them out on guinea pigs first."

"You mean none of your scien sts tried it themselves?" Teddy asked with disbelief. "I find that hard to believe. It was their idea, and they'd surely want to be young and healthy forever too. It's probably why they came up with them in the first place."

"Perhaps," Drina said mildly. "But apparently they weren't willing to risk trying it themselves un l they'd perfected them on others, and Atlan s fell before they decided they were perfected." She shrugged.

"They all died in the fall. We have today's scien sts trying to replicate the process, but they haven't yet been successful."

"Is this how you two were turned?" Teddy asked Dawn and Leonora with horror. Both women nodded silently.

"Barbaric," Teddy repeated with disgust, and then sighed and glanced to Mirabeau. "Well, then I guess you'd best get to it."

She nodded, but Tiny was s ll holding her arm, and he asked uncertainly, "Are you sure you want to do this, Beau? It sounds painful."

"Not as painful as the turn," she said solemnly. "And I'd go through this and a lot more to keep you as my life mate."

Tiny sighed and reluctantly released her wrist with a nod. Mirabeau didn't hesitate or give either of them a chance to reconsider or agonize. The moment he released her arm, she whipped it up to her mouth. Her fangs were out by the me her wrist reached her teeth, and she bit into it as viciously as a dog, not just puncturing the flesh, but tearing into it and then ripping away a good-sized flap so that it hung from her arm like a torn pocket. Even as blood began to spurt from the open wound, she was turning it to press against Tiny's mouth.

"I'll get bandages," Harper muttered, and headed for the door to the adjoining bathroom. Drina nodded absently, but her a en on was on Tiny. Despite knowing what was going to happen, the violence and suddenness of it all appeared to have caught him by surprise. He ins nc vely tried to pull away when Mirabeau pressed the wound to his mouth, but caught himself almost at once and allowed her to do it. S ll, he choked a bit as the blood coursed into his mouth, no doubt unable to subdue his natural repulsion at the thought of drinking anyone's blood.

"You have to swallow. Try to relax," Drina said quietly. Tiny met her gaze over Mirabeau's arm. Seeing the distress in his eyes, Drina ins nc vely slid into his mind to help, soothing his thoughts and making his body relax, so that he could swallow as much of the blood as possible before the nanos made the bleeding stop.

Inside his head as she was, Drina knew when the gushing began to slow. It quickly reduced to a trickle, and when it stopped altogether, she released her control of him.

Tiny immediately removed his mouth from Mirabeau's arm and sank back on the mattress.

"Are you all right?" Mirabeau asked with concern, hardly seeming to no ce that Harper had returned with bandaging and was tending to her wound. "Tiny?"

Nodding, he raised his head and forced a smile. "I'm fine. You?"

His gaze slid to her wrist, but there was nothing to see now that Harper had bandaged it. S ll, he grimaced at the swath of white and then sighed and asked, "How long does it usually take to start?"

"It differs for different people," Harper murmured, se ng the roll of co on bandaging on the bedside table. "With some it starts right away, and with others it takes a while before they no ce a difference, and then it's sometimes just a slow onset that builds up."

"How do you feel?" Mirabeau asked worriedly.

Tiny smiled wryly as he took in the circle of concerned faces around him. But shrugged. "Fine. I don't feel any different. I guess I'm going to be one of those slow-buildup kinda guys. I - " He paused, eyes suddenly widening, and then began to convulse on the bed.


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