Blood Bond




I sit up, rubbing my eyes. Did I fall asleep?

He smiles. "Hey."

He's wearing jeans and a T-shirt. He looks good. "Hey, yourself. When did they let you out of the hospital?"

"An hour ago. I was afraid you weren't going to wake up in time."

My head is fuzzy with sleep. I give it a shake and focus on Max. "You really look good. I just left Texas a few hours ago. You made a miraculous recovery."

"In a way." He takes a seat on the end of my bed. "I have something to tell you. And I don't think I have much time."

I smile. "Why not?"

"Oh, you know, places to go, people to see."

"You realize Pablo is in custody."

"Yes. But that's not why I'm here."

I prop myself up straighter against the headboard and try to concentrate. My brain isn't cooperating. It seems to be trying to cut into my thoughts, to tell me something. I tell it to shut up, that I only want to listen to Max. I lean toward him. "Go on."

He sighs. "First, I owe you an apology. I didn't treat you very well when I found out you are a vampire. I was afraid of what it meant-to me. Stupid because it meant nothing. Not really. Above all, you are a good woman, Anna, and my biggest regret is that I realized it too late."

I shrug. "You can make it up to me."

He shakes his head. "No. Believe me, it's too late. But there is someone else. Learn from me. You have a real chance at happiness now. Take it."

My turn to shake my head. "If you mean Stephen-"

"No. Not Stephen. There is another. You know who it is." He stops, tilts his head as if listening. He nods. "I only have a few more minutes. Don't regret what happened in that hangar. I know you've been wondering whether you will always be stronger than vampire . You only need to want it. All the strength you need is within yourself. You are right about Culebra. He has found new meaning for his life with Adelita. He has found a way to make up for past mistakes. He has finally found peace. Make sure he understands he is not to blame for what happened to me. He needs to concentrate now on the future. Let the past die."

I tilt my head. "But how did you know what I was thinking at the hospital? You were unconscious the entire time."

"All the same, I heard your thoughts. Loud and clear. In fact, it was those thoughts that kept pulling me back when I was ready to let go." He laughs. "Your will is too strong. I was relieved when they sent you home."

"I don't understand," I say while my gut is saying, of course you do. You know.

"It was my time, Anna."

Anger wells up, and with it, fear. Fear of losing a friend. Fear of losing Max. "No. I don't want you to go."

"It's too late. It's a tribute to your power that I was allowed to hang around this long. To say a proper good-bye. I'll miss you, Anna."

"No." I lunge forward on the bed, reaching for his hand.

It slips through mine as though made of fog.

He smiles a slow, sweet smile and raises his hand in farewell.

And then before I can reach out again, he is gone.

* * *

FUNNY HOW SOME DREAMS ARE FLEETING AS SPRING snow while others stay with you long past waking. It's been that way with the "dream" I had the night Max died. Only it wasn't a dream, was it?

It's all I think about on my way to Monument Valley. Max's message to me is like a beacon drawing me to Daniel Frey. And when I get there . . .

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