Halfway to the Grave

Page 5

He held it upside down, apparently bemused by its lack of contents. "If I'd known you were such a lush, I'd have given you the cheap stuff. Going to go out with a bang, are you?"

I shrugged as much as my raised arms would allow.

"What's the matter? Did I ruin my flavor for you? I'm sure I'll be turning over in my grave worrying that you didn't like how I tasted. I hope you choke on my blood, you jerk."

That drew more laughter. "Good form, Kitten! But enough stalling. How did you know what to use if no vampire told you?"

Another modified shrug. "I didn't. Oh, I'd read a hundred books or more about our...your kind after hearing about my father. They all varied. Some said crosses, sunlight, wood, or silver. It was pure luck, really. One night a vampire approached me at a club and then took me for a drive. Of course, he couldn't have been nicer, right up until he tried to eat me alive. I made up my mind that I was going to kill him or die trying, and the big cross dagger was all I had on me. It worked, though it took a bit of doing. So, presto, I knew about silver. Later I found that wood didn't work at all. Got myself a nice scar on the thigh to prove it. That vamp laughed when he saw my stake. Clearly, he wasn't afraid of wood. Then when I was making caramel apples it occurred to me to hide the silver in something a vampire would think was harmless. It didn't seem like such a stretch. Most of you are so busy eyeing my neck, you don't see me pull out my pointy friend. There you have it."

He shook his head slowly back and forth as if uncomprehending. Finally, he fixed piercing eyes on me and burst out, "Are you telling me bloody caramel apples and books taught you how to kill vampires? Is that what you're saying?"

He started to pace in short, rapid lengths. "It's a damn good thing most of the recent generations are nearly illiterate or we'd all be in serious trouble. Blimey!" Throwing back his head, he laughed in rich, deep peals of mirth. "That's the funniest bleedin' bit I've heard in decades!" Still chuckling, he returned until he was next to me again.

"How did you know he was a vampire when you saw him? Did you know, or did you not find out until he tried to have an artery party?"

Artery party? Well, that was one way to put it. "Honestly, I don't know how I knew. I just did. For starters, your kind looks different. All of you do. Your skin looks...ethereal, almost. You move different, more purposefully. And when I'm near you, I feel it in the air, like static electricity. Happy now? Heard what you wanted?" Desperately I tried to hang on to my courage, but this chattering was eating away at it. Being flippant was all I had left.

"Almost. How many vampires have you killed? Don't lie to me, or I'll know it."

Pursing my lips, I considered lying despite the warning. Would it be better if he thought I'd only killed a couple? Maybe it wouldn't make any difference. If he could tell I was lying, perhaps he'd do more than just kill me. There were so many things worse than death...

"Sixteen, including your friend from last night." Honesty won out.

"Sixteen?" he repeated in disbelief, looking me over thoroughly again. "Sixteen vampires you took out yourself with nothing but a stake and your cle**age? Makes me ashamed of my kind, it does."

"And I would have killed more if I hadn't been too young to get into bars, since they're vampire trolling ground, not to mention all the time I had to take off when my grandfather got sick," I flared. So much for trying not to make him angrier.

In a flash he was gone, leaving me staring at the spot where he'd just been. He certainly moved fast. Faster than any vampire I'd seen. I cursed my earlier impatience. If only I'd waited until the next weekend to hunt again. If only.

Left alone, I craned my neck to see where I was. With a start, I realized I must be in a cave. There was the sound of dripping water in the background, and it was dark even for my eyes. The single bald lamp only shone light in the immediate vicinity. The rest was blackness as complete as my nightmares. I heard slight echoes of him in the distance, how far away I had no idea. Seizing my chance, I wrapped my fingers around the braces holding me and pulled downward with all of my strength. Sweat popped out on my brow, my legs clenched with effort, and I channeled every muscle toward that singular goal.

There was a creak of metal in stone, a rasp of chains clanging together, and then the only light was suddenly switched off. Laughter from the darkness made me sag in defeat.

"Oh, sorry about that. Those won't budge. They're not going anywhere-and neither are you. Good of you to try, though. Hate to think your spirit's broken already. Not much fun in that."

"I hate you." To avoid sobbing, I turned my face away from his direction and closed my eyes. Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name...

"Time's up, luv."

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done...

My eyes were closed, but I felt him move closer until he pressed lengthwise next to me. Unable to help it, my breath came in short hard pants. His hands moved to my hair, and he smoothed it back from my neck.

...on earth as it is in Heaven...

His mouth sealed on my throat, tongue circling my thundering pulse in a deliberate manner. My back cut into the wall as I tried to disappear into the rock, but the cold hard limestone offered no escape. I felt the pressure of pointed, sharp teeth at my exposed and vulnerable artery. He was nuzzling my neck the way a hungry lion nuzzled a gazelle.

"Last chance, Kitten. Who do you work for? Tell me the truth and I'll let you live."

"I told you the truth." That high-pitched whisper couldn't be mine. The roaring of blood in my ears was deafening. Were my eyes still closed? No, I could see a faint green glow in the darkness. Vampire eyes.

"I don't believe you..." Softly spoken, yet falling with the weight of an ax.


"Bloody hell, look at your eyes."

So deeply had I fallen into the fervent prayer, I hadn't felt him pull back. He stared at me with fanged mouth open in disbelief, his face illuminated in the new green glow of my eyes. His brown ones were now that penetrating shade as well, and matching rays of emerald connected one shocked gaze to another.

"Look at your bloody eyes!"

He gripped either side of my head as though it would spin off. Still in a fog from teetering on the brink of mortality, I mumbled my response.

"Don't need to look at them, I've seen them. They change from gray to green when I'm upset. Happy now? Going to enjoy your meal more?"

As if my head were scalding, he released me. I sagged in my chains, the adrenaline abandoning me and leaving dizzying lethargy in its wake.

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