Blood Merge: Book One
CURSED © 2015 by Rebecca Trynes
All rights reserved.
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To all the people in my life who ever told me
that my stories were worth reading.
The Netherlands, early 1600s.
The boy was sixteen years of age, but looked to be well over a hundred; his body withered and emaciated, his movements slow and strained. The effort of turning over on his mattress, for what felt the hundredth time, had him panting in recovery for the next few minutes.
He looked, and felt, like a corpse.
Lifting his heavy eyelids, he slowly took stock of his surroundings. Cold grey stone was everywhere, and multi-coloured furs covered the floor in an attempt to hold back the chill of winter that nevertheless seeped up through the foundations. A fire burned in the hearth of the fireplace embedded in the far wall, its cheery light somehow threatening, taunting him with its vibrancy of life. Waves of heat could be seen rising from the flames, yet he failed to be warmed by them. Although there were no bars on the windows, or locks on his door, the room was a prison; for he could no more get up and walk out than had he been closed in behind steel bars. He hadn’t been outside in years; could barely remember what the sky looked like, let alone the smell of fresh air.
He hadn’t always been this way. As a small child, he had chased his sister up and down the hills surrounding the manor, the wind flowing through his thick dark hair, laughter but a moment away from escaping his lips. Over the years, that boy had slowly turned into the frail, shrunken, shadow of a male that he was now.
The heavy door to his room scraped open, causing his eyelids to snap open with it. The room that had been brightly lit by the light of the fire only moments ago, was now dim and sombre, the fireplace nothing but a bed of softly glowing coals.
Had he fallen asleep, or was the memory of the fire from another day? He could no longer properly organise his thoughts. Starvation had now completed its decimation of all that he was, and he would have wept for the man he could have been, had he the energy.
Movement by the door caught his attention. When had the door opened?
A tall, powerfully built male entered the room, his cruel face causing the boy to cringe beneath his covers. He whimpered softly as the warrior strode towards him, and would have bolted, had his legs not been useless sticks attached to his pelvis.
“Come,” the male said, his booming voice filling the small space like a clap of thunder.
The boy’s eyes darted towards the door as a well-dressed aristocrat entered the room, his blonde hair catching the light of the lantern held by one of the manor staff who followed behind. The male looked around at the stone walls curiously, and then, inevitably, flinched when his gaze fell upon the animated corpse that the boy had become.
“My God!” the stranger exclaimed, hand going to his throat in horror. “The rumours are true.”
The cruel warrior nodded sombrely and gestured for the male to come closer. After a lingering, wide-eyed stare, the stranger finally nodded, squared his shoulders with purpose, and strode forward.
Clutching the blanket to his chin, the boy shrunk from the male, staring in horror as the blonde lifted a thick wrist to his mouth and bit down. The boy opened his mouth to scream at the self-mutilation, but no sound emerged. As he looked into the dark eyes of the stranger, the aristocrat took his open mouth as invitation to lower the now bleeding wrist towards his lips.
Time seemed to slow to a crawl as his eyes locked onto the slowly seeping crimson liquid. The smell of the blood hit him first. Sweet and metallic, it sent the pure agony of a ravenous thirst through his shrunken veins, causing his mouth to water. His body lit with a sudden fire, a burning need to taste what the unknown male was offering, and a beastly growl erupted from his chest. Within a heartbeat, his hands locked with startling speed around the stranger’s wrist, and with no effort at all he raised his head and wrapped his lips around the smooth, warm flesh that was offered to him.
Hot liquid hit his parched tongue. Pure heaven. Seductively sweet, with the smooth consistency of melted chocolate, it slid down his throat, leaving a trail of welcome fire behind it. One swallow became two; on the third, he thought he would die from the pure ecstasy of the life-sustaining sustenance he so sorely needed.
But the effect was short-lived. As had happened every time before this, the ecstasy soon turned to disgust, and then to revulsion. What had seemed the perfect amount of sweetness turned sickening in an instant and his throat closed itself against the steady flow of poison. Gagging, he pushed the male’s wrist away and turned his head aside as a wave of nausea hit him with force, followed quickly by a slowly burning tide of lava that seemed to flow along his veins, emanating from his previously empty stomach.
Well-acquainted with the boys unnatural rejection to the essence of life, the warrior shook his head in frustration and placed his hand on Christian’s shoulder.
“I thank you for your gift, worthy friend,” he said, clenching his teeth against the wave of emotional agony that threatened to drop him to his knees, “but we will not be requiring it any longer.”
The blonde took back his wrist and licked the wound closed, his eyes lingering sadly on the boy who was now writhing with the pain of rejection.
“I am sorry that I was not successful,” the male told the warrior and bowed slightly before backing out of the room.
The warrior looked at the boy who was now still as death, the ordeal having robbed him of consciousness. Despair settled its weight upon his shoulders. He could think of no other course of action to save his youngest son; the failure was like a dagger in his heart.
“Father,” his youngest daughter said tentatively, having come soundlessly into the room, “is there none other?”
His breath left him on a long sigh. “No. He was our last hope.”
His sins weighed heavily upon him, for it was surely that for which his family had been cursed. What other reason could there be for his youngest son’s bodily rejection of all that made them what they were?
“Are you certain Father?” his daughter asked, her tone suggesting that he was ignoring a possibility.
He slashed his hand angrily at the implication and pinned her with a glare that invited no argument. “See to him.” With that, he brushed past her, unable to look at either of them further.
The daughter looked over at the still form of her brother, a lump in her throat and tears in her eyes. For the past ten years she had watched him get ever weaker, ever more frail, his body and mind slowly fading into the depths of a starvation that was both horrifying and unnatural. She wished she could have done something.
Pale grey eyes looked up at her and she could tell by the intensity of the stare that the small amount of blood her brother had ingested had at least revived his mind somewhat that he remembered who she was.
“Did I dream that male?” he asked, his voice a mere whisper.
She shook her head and walked quickly to his bedside. “Father has run out of options.”
He nodded wearily, his acceptance heartbreaking. “It was inevitable.”
The daughter debated with herself for a long minute and then said the words that changed everything. “I believe there is another.”
1: Vampires are real
Knox felt strangely energized; his walk down the street turning into more of a bouncing jaunt than a casual stroll. He was normally a pretty upbeat kind of guy, but today felt particularly stellar for some reason. Like there was a charge to the air, a sense of waiting for something great to happen. It had him grinning from ear to ear. So much so, that his son, who was strolling along next to him, hands in his pockets in his usual way, felt the need to comment.
“What’s got you so chipper?” Lucas asked, eyeing him suspiciously.
“Can’t you feel it?” Knox asked in return, taking a deep breath and letting it out with a sigh, noting that the city air was surprisingly fresh on this fine October morning. “Something good is going to happen.”
Lucas lifted an eyebrow and smiled slightly. “Such as?”
Grinning at his son, he shrugged. “Fuck knows, but it’s going to be good—no, great—whatever it is.”
Lucas made a noncommittal sound but the smile lingered on his face like he knew the truth as well as he.
Something was going to happen. Something life changing.
On sudden impulse, he shoved his hand into his pocket and pulled out his phone. “We should invite Greyvian to lunch,” he said, holding his finger on the button so the biometrics could do its thing and unlock his phone. “He really doesn’t get out enough.”
“Is there something you’re not telling me?”
Looking sideways at his son, he noted the suspicious tilt to the brunette’s eyes and couldn’t help but laugh. “I swear I’d tell you if I did, you know me.”
“Hmmm,” Lucas murmured. “All too well, actually. Better than any son should know his father.”
Winking at the male, he tapped through to contacts and started a search for Greyvian’s name; as soon as it came up, he tapped on it and held the phone to his ear. As per usual, the call was connected within three rings. Also as per usual, he was greeted with silence on the other end—a very Greyvian thing to do.
“You had lunch yet?” he asked into the phone, hoping that the connection was good and the male could hear him despite the silence. One time when he had called Greyvian, he’d talked for a few minutes before being told by the bastard that he hadn’t caught any of it because the signal was crap. Not in so many words, of course, but that was the gist of the comment. Now, Knox made it a point to always ask a short question that needed an answer before continuing. “You know—the kind that regular people eat.”
“I have,” came the laconic reply, spoken in a voice that could have been computer generated for all the enthusiasm and inflection that was put into it.
That was Greyvian for you. A man of many words. Just couldn’t shut the guy up. There was a long moment of silence where Knox hoped, even though he knew it was futile, for a question in return, like, ‘Why do you ask?’, but silence reigned.
“You want to join us anyway? You could order someone to drink.”
Silence. Pulling the phone from his ear, he checked the signal. Still good. Putting the phone back, he waited a moment longer and then faced the inevitable: Greyvian was just being Greyvian. If there was ever a question the male didn’t feel the need to answer, he just left it to silence—which were most questions put to him.
“Suit yourself,” he sighed, making a face at Lucas, who simply shook his head in response, amused, but unsurprised, by Greyvian’s rejection. “One day you’re going to say yes and I’ll probably die of shock.”
He had to laugh. Greyvian was a tough nut to crack. He should know—he’d been trying for about a hundred years.
“Well, catch ya later.”
Well, that was encouraging. Most of the time, he didn’t even get that.
Slipping his phone back into his pocket, he shrugged at the questioning look Lucas directed at him. “You never know if you don’t try.”
Lucas smiled in return. “You’ve got to be the most persistent male I have ever known. You should work on that.”
“Persistence is the key to success; didn’t anyone ever tell you that?”
“And am I not successful?”
Lucas made a face that could have been concession or ambivalence. He chose to see concession.
“Come on, let’s get some eats. I’m suddenly in the mood for something sweet.”
* * *
Joe’s cafe was crowded this afternoon. Inside was a kind of organised chaos, with too many people all trying to talk over the top of one another, and wait staff dodging through any open space they could find. Outside wasn’t much better.
Jacob managed to find an empty table on the outskirts of the madness, but the noisy clamour still made his teeth ache.
But maybe that was just the flu talking.
His muscles ached and his body felt cold, even though he had just walked the four and a half blocks from his apartment to the cafe and the air temperature was about twenty-six degrees Celsius. With the tips of his fingers, he removed a fine sheen of sweat from his forehead and stared down at the moisture with misgivings. A cold sweat. Great. Just when I thought it was gone, it comes back again, he thought, I so don’t need this right now.
He hated being sick. Not just the symptoms of it, but the forced downtime and inconvenience that it posed on his life, as well as the lives of the one hundred and twenty students he taught every week at his martial arts academy. He hated having to get someone to fill in for him. Not that Joel, an eighteen year old lean, mean (not really), fighting machine, minded at all. Hell, the kid was eager to take charge.
He snorted to himself. Kid. Like he was so old, himself? Twenty-four wasn’t that much older, but he felt ancient. He guessed you grew up pretty fast when you were bullied every day of your adolescent life by punks who thought they were better than you just because their family had money and you were the poor orphan boy. So cliché, but that was his life. He would have given anything for a different start.
Before he could crawl down the path of self-pity, his usual waitress, Katey, came smiling along and took his order, giving him an eyeful of her impressive cleavage as she bent over to vigorously wipe a few crumbs off the table, her breasts jiggling from side to side. She batted her long dark lashes at him and winked as she told him she wouldn’t be long.
As she sashayed away, fully aware that he was watching her ass, he wondered how many hours she spent at the gym to get a toned, taut rear like that. Normally he would have been having multiple fantasies involving that ass, but today he was just too tired.
He and Katey had played the flirting game every day for the last year and a half, ever since he’d started to frequent the place, though neither one of them had ever taken it any further than harmless flirting. Jacob, because it was hard to find a cafe that made his mochas just the way he liked them (extra sweet but still a little bitter at the same time) and he would hate to have to find a new place if he actually dated her—because his relationships never really ended well; and Katey, well he wasn’t sure what her reasoning was, but maybe she just liked to play the game without ever taking a base.
A sudden tightening in his skull had him cursing Mother Nature for ever having invented the flu. His frontal lobe felt uncomfortably full, like his head was a bucket and it was about to overflow. He made a mental note to pick up some decongestant on his way back home.
He couldn’t understand how he could be sick again. He’d just gone through this. The sneezing, the runny nose, the muscle aches, the migraines, the fever, sore throat—he’d had it all. His best friend and flatmate, Sienna, had tried to get him to go to a doctor, but he’d shrugged it off as a regular flu; especially since it only lasted a few days, before it started to dry up. Now that it was coming back again, he wasn’t so sure it was such a benign illness.
Maybe he would have to go to a doctor after all. The thought was more a pain than a fear of any kind. Waiting in a doctor’s office wasn’t his idea of a good time; sitting in a room full of sick people, who had probably put their germ-ridden hands all over the doorknobs and seats, and filled the air with their cough-expelled microscopic bacteria and viruses? No thanks. He was sick enough already without having to inhale a cocktail of other people’s sicknesses. Plus, he wouldn’t want to add his current brand of illness to the mix. Nobody else should have to suffer through this crap.
As Katey returned with his mocha, he managed a small smile of thanks.
“You feeling okay, babe?” she asked, obviously noticing his lack of attention.
“I’ve felt better.”
She pouted her lips in sympathy. “You poor thing. Let me know if I can get you anything else.”
He nodded in thanks and tracked her as she twitched her hips over to the table next to him where two male model types had just taken up residence.
There was something about them that had him looking twice, and it wasn’t because they were both tall, good-looking, and dressed like GQ models; meaning dark dress pants and crisp shirts that had a few buttons undone to show off their smooth brown chests, and the sleeves rolled up to expose their muscular forearms. Male model types like them weren’t that uncommon when you lived in a big city. It wasn’t even due to the fact that they could have been twins, apart from one of them sporting natural chocolate-brown hair, the other bleached blonde tips.
No, it was something deeper than appearance that had him studying them so closely that he could have told you how many moles they had (a total of two between them), but he couldn’t have said what. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Katey didn’t even spare them a glance, let alone a second one, as she cleaned the plates left by the previous patrons and sashayed back into the belly of the building. She even threw a flirty smile back his way when she caught his eyes following her.
Maybe she didn’t like pretty boys?
Smiling at the thought, he pulled his phone out of his pocket and checked his messages, his smile widening when he saw one from Sienna, his flatmate.
How are you feeling today? You were still sleeping when I left for work.
He shook his head in amusement. That girl. Always writing out her texts in full. It was like she couldn’t stand to abbreviate.
Pretty crap, he texted back. Came out 4 coffee anyway. Cabin Fever. U shld b here R now. 2 pretty boys at table next 2 me just got snubbed by KT.
A moment or two later she texted back with, Told you she likes ‘em rugged. You stud. Do you need any drugs?
He guessed work wasn’t that busy at the moment.
No, still got plenty at home. Unless we’re talking illicit. U think they’ll make it go away?
For a little while maybe! I’m sure you’d feel worse when you came down though.
She was probably right. Plus, neither of them would have known where to buy them, even if they were interested. Although, maybe if he waited in a dark alley somewhere he’d come across someone. And then get mugged and possibly stabbed?
Katey came back, efficient as ever, to take the models’ order, and still, she barely even looked at them. He only distantly noted that, in fact, she sounded really bored as she asked them what they wanted, because a sudden release of nasal congestion eased most of the tension in his head, as if he were a sink whose plug had just been pulled. It even seemed a little easier to breathe now.
“I’ll have the double layer chocolate cake, thank-you-very-much, Miss....” Returning his attention to the table beside him, Jacob couldn’t help but notice the blonde guy’s accent: American, with an unknown exotic twist; made more exotic by the fact that his voice was silky smooth and sexy as hell—even to a male as hetero as himself.
Katey’s head shot up from her notepad like he’d smacked her stupid. She gaped at the guy for a long moment, like she couldn’t believe she hadn’t noticed him before now, and then shook herself, her flirty smile transforming her face into something more alluring.
Well, there went his pretty boy theory.
“Call me Katey,” she replied, a tad breathlessly. “I’ll cut you a big piece myself. And your friend?” She barely glanced at the brother, even though the two were almost identical.
Model 1 raised a brow to Model 2 and grinned in a suggestive way. Model 2 rolled his eyes at Model 1 and then looked up at Katey. In a voice that was slightly more gravelly than his twin’s, but no less panty-dropping, he drawled, “Mind if I tap your vein?”
Katey didn’t seem to hear him at all and politely asked, “Excuse me?”
“He’ll have the same,” Model 1 replied with a smooth smile.
She nodded, smiling in return, and, with a lingering gaze on Model 1, left to fill their order.
Once again, Jacob’s frontal lobe felt like someone was standing on it, or maybe like he was in an aircraft and changing altitude on a regular basis. Next thing you know, his ears would start popping.
Being sick really sucked.
Model 1 laughed at Model 2, the sound musical and enticing. “Thirsty, are we?”
Model 2 shrugged a shoulder in a non-committal way and toyed with his napkin, a slight smile curving his lips.
Stirring his mocha, Jacob glanced at the brothers every so often, never openly staring (as that generally led to trouble) and wondered what kind of cult they belonged to. A blood drinking one, obviously. What other explanation for that comment could there be? A joke? They had a weird sense of humour. Maybe they watched too many vampire movies and fancied themselves vampire-wannabes?
Sienna would get a kick out of them, for sure. She was into vampires. Of course, she’d want the friendly type, the Twi-hard. He was pretty sure that if there were vampires out there, they’d be more into biting first and making friends, like, never. But then, he was more of a From Dusk to Dawn kind of guy.
As his inner aeroplane came down out of the clouds again, easing the pressure in his frontal lobe once more, Katey returned with the models’ cakes and showed as much cleavage as she could as she set them down for the two men. Model 1 appreciated the view with a grin just this side of a leer, while Model 2 looked like he was embarrassed by his twin’s attitude.
As Katey sauntered off, Model 1 wiggled his eyebrows at Model 2 and said, “Shall we take her home? She’s cute.”
“You’re such a Lech,” Model 2 said with a shake of his head.
Model 1 sighed dramatically and picked up his fork, waving it around as he said, “You know, sometimes I feel like you’re the father in this relationship, not the other way around.”
Father? Jacob forgot his caution and openly stared at the two. Nope. They had to be joking again, because sure as shit, he didn’t look old enough to be Model 2’s dad. Brothers definitely, father-son, no. If he looked closely, there was at most two years between them.
“Yeah, well, one of us has to be the mature one,” Model 2 said wryly.
“Lucas,” Model 1 said in a long suffering kind of way. “Just because we’re over a hundred years old does not mean we have to act like it.”
Model 2—Lucas—was just about to reply when Model 1 realised that Jacob was watching their exchange and elbowed his ‘son’, nodding his head in Jacob’s direction. Lucas followed Model 1’s gaze and Jacob had the sudden sense to look away and pretend like he hadn’t noticed them.
They were obviously insane. Best not to draw attention to himself.
“Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” Model 1’s voice, if he wasn’t mistaken.
“Yeah, but that’s nuts, right?”
There was a loud sniffing sound from their table, further proving that they were a pair of nutbags. He pretended not to notice and drank his mocha.
“I thought I smelled something bitter,” Model 1 said in a low voice. “I thought it was just the coffee.”
“Yeah, me too.” There was a pause, and then, “I don’t think he knows.”
Model 1 made a rude noise. “Given his obvious lineage, it doesn’t surprise me.” Suddenly the blonde laughed shortly and said, “See, I told you something good was going to happen today.”
Jacob glanced at them again. They were watching him. But, not in an intimidating, ‘I’m gonna bash your head in if you keep looking at us’ kind of way, more like they knew him; which was weird, as he was pretty sure he’d never met them before. They weren’t really the kind of guys you’d forget having a conversation with.
“Hey,” Model 1 said, by way of greeting, the next time he glanced their way.
No help for it now.
Jacob met the ridiculously pretty eyes of the blonde for a moment, gave a polite, “Hi,” and then looked away again, hoping they’d let it drop.
No such luck.
“Hey, what’s your name?”
Before he could politely decline to give these odd-balls his details, the tension in his head increased three-fold, making him feel as if his eyeballs were about to bust out of his head. But again, there was no pain associated with the feeling, just the uncomfortable pressure.
What the hell was up with that?
The Models’ heads just as suddenly snapped to the left and their green eyes practically glowed with intensity. As if in one choreographed move, they both rose effortlessly to their feet and stepped away from their table, not quite dropping into a defensive crouch, but pretty close to it.
Jacob looked down the crowded street and spotted three men sauntering closer who were eyeballing the two models. They were all dressed in a similar fashion—designer suits of a strange cut—and each one was sporting a vicious grin. Even from here, he could see that there was something wrong with their teeth. As they drew closer, he realised it was due to the enormous fangs gleaming in their mouths like little daggers.
Definitely a vampire cult—and these new guys looked like they were from a rival gang and ready to rumble.
“Knnnooooxxxx,” the tallest of the new arrivals said in a drawn out sound that was full of malicious glee, “you just made my day.”
Maybe the model would exercise some caution and leave it alone?
“Bartlett,” Model 1—Knox, apparently—replied with extreme politeness. “Out for a romantic stroll with your boyfriends?”
Okay, maybe not. It seemed the model was also looking for a fight.
Bartlett turned scarlet at the implication, making Jacob wish he were anywhere but where he was sitting right now. He was too tired to deal with a street fight amongst two rival vampire-wannabe cults. Maybe if he ignored them they’d go away?
Glancing around, he saw that everyone else seemed to be doing just that. Not one person had looked up from their coffee or plate to take any notice of the gang, even when one of the boyfriends said, “I want first crack.”
“He’s mine,” Bartlett growled in response and made a move towards Knox.
The conflict wasn’t really any of his business, but since nobody else seemed to want to keep the peace, Jacob sighed and picked up his mug, slowly getting to his feet. The group froze in mid-leap and all eyes swivelled to watch him walk around the table. They didn’t seem concerned at all—more like they were waiting for him to get out of the way so they could continue.
He stopped in front of Bartlett and looked the man straight in his muddy brown eyes. The guy was not attractive at all. He had very average features and thin light brown hair that flopped down over his forehead, but what made him truly unattractive was the nasty personality that swam like sharks behind his eyes.
He really hated bullies.
“Look, guys,” he said as politely as could be, “I don’t know what kind of beef you lot have with each other, but I’d really appreciate it if you took your attitude elsewhere.”
Bartlett’s eyes narrowed to a chilling display of predatory intensity that he’d never before seen on another human being. A shiver actually travelled down Jacob’s spine, and he found himself regretting the decision to intervene.
“Well, well, lookie here, boys,” Bartlett growled, drawing in a deep breath. “A pre-trans.”
Jacob didn’t know if the name was supposed to offend him or not, but from the way the guy was looking at him, he figured it must have been aimed that way. Resigning himself to the fact that there was going to be a fight, and that he was now in the front of the line, he decided he might as well get the drop on the guy first.
Without further ado, he smashed his mug against the side of Bartlett’s head, and then kicked the guy behind the thug in the chest. As he landed his boot to the ground, he back-handed the last guy in the face and all three dropped to the ground likes sacks of potato. The whole thing was over with in less time than it takes to say ‘thank you’.
Taking a step away from the three, he glanced around to see if anyone was calling the cops, but astonishingly nobody seemed to have taken the slightest bit of notice. They were all still sipping their lattes and eating their oversized muffins and either having a good old chat with their companion, or playing with their iDevices, like nothing at all had taken place. Even the streams of people walking past them didn’t so much as glance over as they gave them a wide berth.
What the fuck?
He looked back, expecting to find the three still nursing their wounds on the pavement, but they had risen to their feet and were looking for more punishment. Shocked stupid, he stood there while Knox and Lucas unleashed their fangs of mass destruction and went to work on their rivals.
In his almost twenty-five years of life thus far, he had only ever seen it’s like in the movies. The two models were a force to be reckoned with. After a few expertly thrown kicks and punches, the two of them grabbed their opponents by the hair, yanked hard to the side and to his horror, buried their faces in their enemies’ necks.
Jacob looked over at Bartlett who was just standing there watching the fight and rubbing his fingers over the slowly seeping cut on his forehead, smearing blood in the process, a scowl marring his already unattractive face. After a moment, the male’s eyes slid over to him and an evil grin spread his lips wide. Those teeth really were something, and if Bartlett’s were of the same quality as Knox and Lucas’s, guaranteed to be effective.
Even if they weren’t actual vampires (although he was beginning to wonder, seeing as Knox and Lucas seemed to be drinking their opponents blood?!) he had no doubt that they could still rip his throat out with them.
“You’re going to pay for the day your father defiled our lineage, pre-trans.”
Jacob had only a moment to wonder why the hell the creep kept calling him ‘pre-trans’ before Bartlett was circling around him. If these guys really were vampires, then they didn’t appear to have any supernatural speed or strength, which was really more points in favour of them being part of a wannabe cult than the real deal. Jacob had plenty of experience dealing with humans who had delusions of grandeur, so one more wouldn’t prove too much of a problem.
Except for the fact that he was so tired. His energy had pretty much been used up in his pre-emptive strike and even the rush of adrenaline he was feeling wasn’t enough to keep him moving fast enough to avoid Bartlett as the cretin clocked him a good one in the jaw.
It felt like he’d been slugged in the face with a two-by-four. The pain shot up into his cerebral cortex and made him half-blind so that he stumbled into a nearby table. The people sitting there shrieked and looked up at him as if his appearance was totally unexpected.
“Watch out!” the older woman snapped in a shrill voice.
“Jesus!” another patron exclaimed.
Oh, so now they take notice?
Jacob shook his head to clear it of the pain and grunted as he was grabbed by the hair and his head was jerked to the side. Neck muscles strained to discomfort, he braced himself for another punch, but what happened next took his breath away.
Pain exploded in his neck as the guy jabbed fangs into the tender flesh; twin points of agony punching into his jugular vein and then retracting just as quick, to be followed by a warm wetness that could have been his blood, or the guy’s mouth latching onto his skin.
He could only gape at the two people sitting at the table that were now looking around with confused expressions on their faces, like he’d completely disappeared.
I’m right here! he wanted to scream. Can’t you see the lunatic has bitten my neck?
But he couldn’t speak. The pain was like lava flowing along his veins and by the sounds of it, his attacker was downing his blood like it was a pint of beer.
No way! They could not be vampires! They were just strange guys who had really sharp retractable fangs who liked to bite people. But he couldn’t deny the fact that the guy was definitely drinking his blood; that the warm wetness he had felt earlier was now joined by the velvety soft feel of a tongue lapping at his skin as the guy swallowed again and again.
Although, after only half a dozen mouthfuls, Bartlett suddenly gagged and pushed him away, lending some credibility to his theory that they were just a bunch of crazy people.
Unable to hold himself up because of the pain and shock, Jacob slid to the ground and stared up at the male whose mouth was now covered with his blood.
“Damn pre-trans,” Bartlett spat, pulling a white handkerchief from his breast pocket and wiping his mouth, staining the pristine cloth red. “You taste like burnt coffee.”
“You don’t think they smell like that for no reason, do you?” Knox asked, appearing suddenly and stepping up behind the male with the fluid grace of a trained fighter.
As the blonde ripped into Bartlett’s throat, exposing a great deal of red flesh that he would not soon forget the sight of, Jacob lay on the sun-warmed concrete, his hand pressed firmly to the puncture wounds in his neck, Bartlett’s blood splattering all around him like rain, and reprimanded himself for interfering in something that was none of his business and way out of his league. Perhaps next time he felt like death warmed up he should just stay home. He’d always thought himself a pretty competent fighter, and maybe he would have been if he hadn’t been sick, but it was clear to him that he wasn’t equipped to deal with opponents with fangs. Defending against a bite to the neck simply wasn’t in his repertoire of moves. Sure, there were probably a few that would have worked, and if it ever happened again he’d have to try them out, but he felt too slow and uncoordinated to have tried them this time around.
As he closed his eyes and wished for the bliss of unconsciousness, he was only vaguely aware of the cafe patrons screeching and clambering around him. Amazingly, none of them fell over his prone body in their haste to avoid the spraying liquid, which they had only now realised was blood.
A fact for which he was supremely grateful.
After a few minutes, he heard the sound of shoes scraping the pavement beside his ear and opened his eyes a fraction, squinting against the glare of the bright blue sky. Knox was grinning down at him, the skin around his mouth smeared with blood and an unholy gleam shining in his black eyes.
Weren’t they green before?
“Well, that was fun,” Knox said cheerfully. “Thanks for the pre-emptive strike. I don’t think they’ll underestimate a pre-trans again anytime soon.”
There was that word again. Jacob closed his eyes again and wished for Knox to go away. He was too tired for this.
“Come on, I’ll help you up.”
Heaving a sigh, Jacob raised his arm and felt a strong hand grip his wrist and pull. He was upright in a blink and weaving from the shock of it. Okay, maybe there was a little bit of supernatural strength there—or maybe loss of blood had made him lighter.
Opening his eyes, he saw that Knox was looking at his neck in sympathy. The guy met his gaze and said in all seriousness, “Hold very still.”
Jacob was too tired to do otherwise, even when the guy stepped into his personal space, leaned in with a tilted head, and started licking.
Okay, ick. He stood it for a moment and then made to pull away, but a warning growl from Knox froze him solid. After another moment, the blonde took a step back and wiped his mouth with a napkin that he must have picked up from one of the tables.
The male looked at him strangely and then shook his head, saying, “You’re so close to transition I’m amazed you can still stand.”
Raising his hand to his neck, Jacob filed the comment away for the moment, focusing instead on the realisation that Knox’s licking had somehow healed his wound. He felt like he’d just slipped into an alternate dimension.
Was it really possible that these guys were vampires? Albeit, a very different kind than was usually portrayed in the movies? Ones who could go out in the daylight, weren’t that different strength-wise than a regular human, and could somehow heal a wound just by licking it? Oh, and don’t forget the fact that they seemed to be invisible. What the hell was up with that?
He shook his head. It was all too much. He really just wanted to lie down and sleep for a week. Instead, he glanced around at the expected carnage, only to find nothing but a spray of blood on the concrete and a few of the tables nearby. No enemy vampires left to clean up, and even more surprising, the cafe’s patrons seemed to have gotten over the fact that blood had rained down upon them and were back to reading or chatting like nothing had ever happened.
He would have asked what the hell was going on, but didn’t really have the energy to hear the answer. Instead, he asked, “Where did Bartlett and his buddies go?”
“They hobbled off after I ripped into Bart’s throat,” Knox replied cheerfully. “We drained Felix and James pretty effectively, so they knew it was time to book.”
Right. Drained. Awesome. Vampires were real—or he was losing his marbles. Maybe the fever had him hallucinating. Yeah, that must be it. Might as well talk to his hallucination and find out if these vampires had super-healing.
“Won’t that Bart guy need a hospital?”
The other vampire snorted a laugh and said, “Nah, they’re usually pretty quick at patching each other up. One of his goons will seal the wound for him before he’s too far gone.”
Oh, that’s right. Licking a wound healed it. How could he have forgotten so soon? He was definitely hallucinating.
“So, you guys are vampires, then?” he asked, for want of anything better to say.
“You really have to ask?”
He shrugged and swayed as dizziness hit him.
“What’s your name?” Knox asked, guiding him to a chair so he could sit down.
He didn’t really see any reason not to tell his hallucination his name, even though, being an hallucination, he should have known already. “Jacob.”
There was a long silence. When he looked up into Knox’s eyes, which he idly noticed were green once more, the male was shaking his head in amusement.
“Never in a million years would I have believed it if I wasn’t seeing it with mine own eyes.” The guy looked at him for a moment longer and then threw a smile back over his shoulder at his ‘son’.
“I still can’t believe it,” Lucas replied wryly.
As Knox pulled a phone out of his pocket and played with it, Lucas’s head twitched around, eyes bright as he surveyed the scene. When he noticed Jacob looking at him, he grinned, revealing those super-white, super-sharp incisors that looked like something from a movie.
“You’re a lucky male, Jacob,” he said. “If you’d gone through your transition without help... You’re a lucky male.”
Jacob looked up at the brunette and tried to work out what the guy was saying. It took him a while, seeing as his head was full of cotton wool, but he eventually struck upon the idea that Lucas seemed to think he was about to turn into something—maybe a vampire—like them (if they really were vampires and not hallucinations).
Which was utterly ridiculous. It wasn’t like he’d drunk any vampire blood at all in his twenty-four years of life, so how could that happen?
“Look, dude, I think you have me confused with someone else,” he said, shaking his head.
Lucas smiled slightly, like he knew what Jacob was thinking, but didn’t argue with him.
Knox snapped his fingers suddenly, demanding Jacob’s attention. “Where do you live?”
Yeah, sure. He was going to tell a bunch of vampires where he lived. Not fucking likely.
“You’ve been sick lately, haven’t you?” the vampire said, more a statement than a question. Not that it would have taken a genius to work that out—all you had to do was look at Jacob and you knew he was sick. “Fever, sweats, nausea, aching muscles. Like the worst flu you’ve ever had that just won’t go away. And you’re so damn tired you can barely think straight, and believe me, I know what that’s like—I’ve been there myself; as has Lucas. So you can trust me when I tell you that that’s not even the half of it. Things are about to get a whole lot worse and we’re the only ones who can help you.”
He wanted to tell the blonde to fuck off, he really did, but there was just something in Knox’s expression that gave him second thoughts.
“Look, Jacob,” Knox said, expression softening, “I know this is a lot to take in, but you are not imagining things. We are vampires. We are invisible to the human race.” Oh, good, he wasn’t insane. “The fact that you can see us when everyone else here is oblivious should tell you that you are different. You are the son of a vampire, and from the taste of your blood you are about to transition into one very soon. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s not happening right now, you’re that close. There is no time to think about this. We need to get you home; we need to get you safe. Now, where do you live?”
* * *
Greyvian appreciated big cities. He couldn’t exactly say that he liked them, because he couldn’t say he particularly liked anything, but he definitely appreciated them. They were filled with people of all shapes and sizes, gender, religions, and cultures: plenty of population for a vampire to choose from—if you were a regular Hollywood vampire, that is. If, however, you were a vampire with Greyvian’s particular requirements, it contained just enough population to keep him from total starvation.
His last meal had been well over a week ago and he could feel the desire for blood growing ever stronger with each passing hour. It was nowhere near the kind of desperate hunger he was well acquainted with, but the urge was there, and he knew he should service it before the choice of victim was denied him. The problem with being so fastidious, however, was that his particular brand of donor could be hard to come by.
He’d been leaning against the rough brick of an unremarkable building in the busiest part of the city for more time than he’d care to admit now, and he still had yet to get the faintest trace of anyone suitable, even though there had been a steady stream of humans passing by the entire time. Some days were better than others. If he was really fortunate, he’d find someone before he even really started to look. Other days, like today, he could stand for hours, with nothing.
Not that he really minded one way or another. There was nothing and no-one in his life that required his attention on most days of the week. Not that he cared about that either. In fact, over the past century he’d cared less and less about most aspects of life—
A sudden buzzing vibration against his right buttock brought his vision sharply into focus. Dipping his hand into his pocket, he extracted his phone and checked the screen. As if the male had heard the direction of his thoughts, there was a text with an address, followed by an exclamation point. He didn’t need to check the number to know who it was from. Only one male ever texted him in that manner and he knew exactly what it meant. It was the only thing that was guaranteed to get him out of bed in the morning, the only responsibility he had in life. His only purpose for living, if you will.
While it wasn’t ideal that he would be going to the provided address feeling peckish, neither was it a major concern. He would just have to find someone quickly after the fact. Nevertheless, he kept his senses sharp in case he came across someone on the way to the apartment.