Halfway to the Grave

Page 7

"Bloody hell, woman, that hurts!" he snarled in surprise, snatching it from his chest.

Blood flowed from the wound before stopping abruptly, as if a faucet had been turned off. Contrary to popular belief, vampires did bleed red. I was dismayed, being down to only one weapon and not even having slowed him. Bracing myself, I sprang to my feet, moving with heavy steps.

"Had enough?" He faced me and sniffed the air, once. I blinked in confusion, never having seen a vampire breathe before. I was panting furiously. Sweat was dripping off my brow.

"Not yet."

There was another blur of motion, and then he was on me. I blocked blow after blow and tried to score some of my own, but he was too quick. Fists landed on me with brutal force. Desperately I jabbed the stake into whatever was nearest, but it always missed his heart. After ten minutes or so that seemed like eternity, I fell to the ground for the last time. Unable to move, I gazed at him through swollen eyelids. I don't have to worry about his terms, I thought dully. I was dying from my injuries.

He loomed over me. Everything was colored red and fading.

"Enough now?"

I couldn't speak, couldn't nod, couldn't think. As my answer, I passed out. It was the only action I was capable of.

There was something soft underneath me. Floating, I was floating on a cloud and covering myself with its fleece. I burrowed farther inside when it spoke to me in irritated tones.

"If you're going to take all the covers, you can bloody well sleep on the floor!"

Huh? Since when was a cloud both annoyed and English?

When I opened my eyes, I saw with horror that I was in a bed with the vampire. And yes, apparently I had the entire blanket wrapped around me.

Shooting upward as though burned, I immediately banged my head on the low ceiling.

"Owww..." Rubbing the sore spot, I glanced around in revolted fear. How did I end up here? Why wasn't I in a coma from the beating? In fact, I felt...fine. Aside from the mild concussion I had surely just given myself.

I backed as far into a corner as I could manage. There didn't seem to be any visible exit to this small limestone chamber. "Why am I not in a hospital?"

"I healed you," he replied blandly, as if we were discussing tea.

Numb with fear, I checked my pulse. God, he hadn't turned me, had he? No, my heart pounded strongly.


"Blood, of course. How else?"

He leaned back on his elbows, eyeing me with impatience and weariness. He had changed into a new shirt, from what I could see. I didn't even want to know what was under the sheet.

"Tell me what you did to me!"

With a roll of his eyes at my hysteria, he fluffed his pillow and then hugged it to him. It was such a human gesture, it was uncanny. Who knew vampires cared if their pillows were fluffed?

"Gave you a few drops of my blood. Figured you wouldn't need much, what with your being a half-breed. You probably heal fast naturally, but then you were banged up a bit. Your own fault, of course, having suggested that stupid match. Now, if you don't mind, it's daylight and I'm knackered. Didn't even get a meal out of all this."

"Vampire blood heals?"

He shut his eyes as he answered me. "You mean you didn't know? Blimey, but you're ignorant about your own kind."

"Your kind is not my kind."

He didn't even flinch. "Whatever you say, Kitten."

"Would too much blood turn me? How much is too much?"

That got an eye opened balefully at me. "Look, school's out now, luv. I'm going to sleep. You're going to shut up. Later, when I'm awake, we'll go over all of these niceties while I prepare you for our arrangement. Until then, let a fellow get some rest."

"Show me the way out and you can sleep all you want." Again I looked around for an exit, finding nothing.

He snorted in derision. "Sure thing. Hows about I fetch your weapons for you as well, then I'll just close my eyes while you plug holes into my heart? Not bloody likely. You're in until I let you out. Don't bother trying to escape, you'd never make it. Now I suggest you get some rest, because if you keep me awake much longer, I'm going to want breakfast. Understand?" He closed his eyes again with finality.

"I'm not sleeping with you." Indignation filled my tone.

There was a brief tussling on the bed, and then a sheet hit me in the face.

"Sleep on the floor, then. You're a cover hog anyhow."

Left with no other alternative, I lay down on the cold stone ground. The sheet didn't do much to keep out the chill, let alone provide any padding. I maneuvered around, hopelessly trying to find a softer spot before giving up and cradling my head on my arms. At least this was better than being in bed with that thing. I'd sooner sleep on nails. The silence of the room was somehow soothing. One thing was for certain, vampires didn't snore. After a while, I drifted off.

It could have been hours, it seemed like minutes. A hand none too gently shook my shoulders and that dreaded voice sounded in my ears.

"Rise and shine. We have work to do."

My bones gave an audible creak of misery when I stood and stretched. He grinned at the sound.

"Serves you right for trying to kill me. Last bloke who did that ended up with much more than a stiff neck. You're right lucky you're useful, or you'd be nothing more than a flush in my cheeks by now."

"Yeah, that's me. Lucky." I felt bitter instead, trapped in a cave with a homicidal vampire.

He wagged a finger at me. "Don't be glum. You're about to get a first-class education in nosferatu. Believe me, not many humans get to learn this stuff. But then again, you're not really human."

"Stop saying that. I'm more human than I am...thing."

"Yes, well, we'll find out just how much shortly. Move away from the wall."

I complied, not having much choice in this small room and not wanting to be close to him. He stood in front of the stone wall where I'd been sleeping and grasped either side of the rock. With ease, he lifted the slab completely off the ground and set it to the side, exposing a crevice big enough to walk through. So that was how we entered this tomb.

"Come along," he threw over his shoulder, stepping through it. "Don't dawdle."

As I squeezed through the narrow opening, a sudden twist of my bladder reminded me that I was still very much dependent on my organs.

"Um...er, I don't suppose..." To hell with the niceties. "Is there a bathroom in here? One of us still has functioning kidneys."

He stopped short, arching an eyebrow at me. There were thin streams of light coming from the limestone ceiling, making crisscrossed patterns of illumination throughout the cave. Daytime, then.

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