Darkness Dawns

Page 39

She laughed.

“Why are you so convinced you did poorly?”

“When you attacked me and tested me, you were holding yourself back.”

“I want you to learn the moves and grow comfortable with them before I come at you in earnest with preternatural speed and strength.”

“But you will come at me in earnest, right? Soon?”

“Yes, if you promise to let me heal the bruises or other injuries that will result.”


“Sarah, please,” he said somberly, taking one of her hands in his. “I’m not simply mouthing platitudes when I say I can’t bear to see you hurt. I care about you. It’s going to be very … difficult for me to train you in earnest, knowing I risk hurting you when my every instinct is screaming at me to protect you. I won’t be able to do it unless you assure me I can heal you if anything happens.”

He couldn’t read her expression as she gazed up at him, nibbling her lower lip.

“Okay, you can heal me.”

The tension that had been slowly gathering in his shoulders vanished. “Thank you.”

Raising her free hand, she drew the soft pads of her fingers across his forehead, down his temple, over his cheekbone, and along his jaw in a tender caress that sped his pulse.

“Do you know how easy it would be for me to fall in love with you?” she whispered.

Roland closed his eyes. How could he feel elated and as if his heart were breaking at the same time? “That would be very unwise,” he told her softly.

“Because you don’t feel the same?”

Opening his eyes, he brought the hand he held to his lips for a fervent kiss and shook his head. “No, sweetling. I fear you may have stolen my heart in the first twenty-four hours we were together.”

“Shouldn’t that be a good thing? If we both feel the same way…”

“If I were human, it would be wonderful. We could fall in love with light hearts, marry, have children, grandchildren, grow old together, live happily ever after, and die. But I’m not human, Sarah. I’m immortal. My body will never age. I will remain exactly as I am now while you grow old. And, in time, you would become bitter and doubt my feelings for you.”

She stared down at their clasped hands. “Maybe I wouldn’t.”

He smiled sadly. “If so, you would be the first. There have been other immortals who have loved humans.”

Pulling his hand onto her lap, she toyed with his fingers. “Even if I didn’t, I would still grow old and die.”

He remained quiet, letting her ponder it.

“I would probably come to feel like a chain around your neck. A strong young—at least physically—man tied to a dying old woman.”

“You see how it would be,” he murmured, full of regret. “And I couldn’t give you children.”

“Did the transformation leave you sterile?”

“That’s what we all believed since even those who wished to reproduce with their human lovers were unable to. However, our scientists have come to understand—”

“You have scientists?”

“Both human and immortal, learning everything they can about the virus. How it works. Researching a cure and, barring that, some way to force the virus to mutate in vampires the way it has in us so that we can end their madness and bloodlust.”

“Have you had any luck with that?”

“None so far.”

“What about the fertility problem?”

“We aren’t sterile, but we may as well be. With our males, the virus dramatically decreases the lifespan of our sperm.” He paused uncertainly. “Are you sure you want to hear this?”

“Yes, I want to know everything.”

So be it. “Normally sperm can live inside a woman’s body for up to five days. Ours, however, die pretty much as soon as we ejaculate. Because of the strange symbiotic relationship we have with the virus, it dies with the sperm before the woman can become infected, which is why I haven’t been using condoms.”

“What about immortal women? Can they get pregnant?”

“No, the virus present in the eggs their bodies produce attacks and kills the sperm of human males.”

“And if she sleeps with an immortal?”

“We believe that, if circumstances are optimal, pregnancy could result.” He sighed, reluctant to continue. But she had asked and she should know it all. “In truth, we’re uncertain how the virus would affect a fetus. Or a baby if it were carried to term and delivered. Would the child of two immortals age or remain forever trapped in the form of an infant? Immortal females are always conscious of the time they ovu-late and, when they do, refrain from engaging in intercourse with immortal males for fear of the consequences.”

Her brow furrowed. “So, no children.”

“No children.”

How he wished he could give her children, watch her body swell with his babe, have a tiny replica of Sarah skipping through their home.

Sarah raised her chin and met his gaze. “If the trade-off is having you, Roland, I wouldn’t need children to be happy.”

His heart skipped a beat. “What are you saying?”

“What if you transformed me?”

Stunned, Roland almost forgot to breathe. “You would let me?”

She opened her mouth to speak, paused, then sighed. “I don’t know. All of this is happening so quickly. I want to say yes. But considering what’s at stake, I think I should take more time to think about it.”

“Just knowing you would consider it means the world to me.”

“Then you would do it, if I asked?You would transform me?”

Pleasure and pain again warred within him. “No.”

Her lips parted in surprise. “Why?”

“I told you how the virus works. If you aren’t a gifted one, your body won’t mutate the virus and you will turn vampire instead of immortal.” He fingered a satiny strand of brown hair that had escaped from her ponytail. “Every one of us has black hair and dark brown eyes.”

Understanding dimmed her hazel gaze. “You think I would turn vampire, that I don’t have the right DNA.”

“Do you possess any special gifts you haven’t mentioned?” he asked, not really holding out any hope. “Telepathy? Telekinesis? The ability to shape shift? Teleport? See the future? Know an object’s history by touch? Heal with your hands? See the dead?”

She shook her head with the first gift mentioned and continued wagging it back and forth as he named a few others. “Nothing. No special gifts.”

“Then I won’t transform you and risk your turning vampire.”

Sarah stared up at Roland, so depressed now she didn’t really know what to say. No matter what path they took, they were screwed. They could either go their separate ways, maintain a human/immortal relationship he seemed to think would be doomed, or transform her, which would probably turn her into a bloodlusting lunatic vampire.

“This really blows.”

“I know,” he agreed fatalistically.

“Isn’t there a blood test or something that would let us know for sure whether I have the right DNA?”

“Yes. If you decide you want to be transformed, I can take you to one of our labs and have a sample tested to be sure.”

But she could tell he didn’t think there was a chance in hell she would turn immortal.

Hmm. Alone without Roland. Bitter with Roland. Or murderously crazy.

Sarah wasn’t too thrilled with the choices.

“Anybody home?” a voice called out upstairs.

Roland’s eyes immediately flashed bright amber as fangs burst from his gums.

He was gone in a blink, moving so quickly he seemed to vanish.

Sarah took off after him, running from the room, down the hall, and up the winding staircase.

“Don’t-kill-me-it’s-Marcus!” was shouted, the words emerging one on top of another.

Indistinct masculine voices followed, growing more clear as she reached the ground floor and headed for the living room.

“David gave me the code to get through the security gate and a key,” Marcus was saying. Roland must have asked how he had gotten in without tripping the alarm.


“When I moved to North Carolina. Every immortal in the state has one.”

“I don’t.”

“That’s because you’re antisocial,” Marcus replied as though explaining it to a child.

Sarah pursed her lips. She was beginning to think the other immortals used that particular label just to aggravate him.

“If you had accepted his invitation,” Marcus went on, “he would have given you one, too. Hello, Sarah.”

“Hi, Marcus,” she greeted as she joined them, noticing a third man standing nearby.

Roland was scowling at his friend. “Did you make certain you weren’t followed?”

“I saw, heard, and smelled nothing.”

“I didn’t see anything either,” the other man said. He was about five-eleven with dark blond hair, blue eyes, and a muscular build. Stepping forward, he offered his hand to Roland. “Chris Reordon.”

Roland shook it. “I recognized your voice.”

Chris offered his hand to Sarah next.

She smiled. “Sarah Bingham.”

“Nice to meet you, Sarah.”

When Chris gave her a friendly smile, Roland sidled up next to her and draped an arm around her shoulders.

Was he jealous?

The warning scowl he sent the blond certainly seemed to indicate he was as he motioned for them to sit down. “What have you found out?”

Sarah and Roland sat beside each other on the sofa. Marcus took the cushy chair on Sarah’s other side while Chris sat in one of the chairs opposite them and dropped a manila file folder on the coffee table between them.

“The vamps seem to have gone deep underground,” Marcus said wearily. “Lisette and I have spent every hour of darkness searching for them for the past three nights and haven’t found a thing. If they’re feeding, they’re doing it well outside our territory and are being damned careful to stay under our radar on their way in and out.”

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