I don’t know how long I was out. Minutes? Hours? For a second I was just confused that the world had come back; that I wasn’t dead. But I wasn’t. I was weirdly detached – but I felt good. I didn’t even hurt. I had to be in shock.
Then I realized what had happened. When Mr. Salvatore had drank my blood, our life forces had mingled. He’d gotten my life, and I’d gotten a fraction of his power. Vampiric night vision. Vampiric regeneration. It had fixed my ankle and all my scrapes and even Mr. Salvatore’s bite, when he was done.
But my blood was still in him. I’d passed out when he’d attacked me, but I hadn’t been killed outright. I must have been able to hold on – unconscious but alive – long enough for that symbiotic healing to kick in again.
I never thought I’d be grateful to have been bitten by a vampire.
I had no idea how long it would last, but I still had the nightvision. My apartment’s light was still on, and it was painfully bright.
Did that mean I had a fraction of Mr. Salvatore’s strength and speed, too? He’d smacked me down effortlessly when I tried to help Hans. But if I was stronger, and faster, maybe I could help Mr. Tophat. At least I might be able to really distract Mr. Salvatore; provide an opening for Mr. Tophat to exploit. Especially if Mr. Salvatore really thought he’d taken me out of the fight. Was he stupid enough – or unhinged enough – to have forgotten we shared his ability to heal?
Or did he just think he’d managed to wound me too brutally for that healing to save me?
I scrambled to my feet.
Megan was still on the bed where Mr. Tophat had put her. It didn’t look like she’d moved – but I could see her chest stir, ever so slightly, as she breathed.
However long it had been, Mr. Tophat and Mr. Salvatore were still fighting. Their battle had taken them to the kitchen and made my apartment a shambles. If I’d had neighbors someone would have definitely called the cops. I didn’t know if that would have been good or bad, at this point. From the sheer mess, I was guessing they’d been at it for hours.
Mr. Salvatore’s jacket had more rents in it than it had before. There was even a deep gash in his arm – a gash that wasn’t closing up. Hans had said a well fed vampire could heal his wounds and even survive in the sun, but that doing so would consume his reserves and make him thirst faster. Had Mr. Salvatore’s reserves burned out by healing me? That would be sweet irony.
Mr. Tophat was in worse shape, though. He sported dozens of cuts that bled black, shadowy blood. He trailed dark mist as he dodged and slashed – his blood flowed free of his wounds and into the air, dissipating into shadows. I had thought Mr. Salvatore had the edge when I’d blacked out. He definitely did now.
Hans had also said that vampires grew stronger, faster, and more ruthless as their hunger grew. Maybe my recovery had tipped the balance in Mr. Salvatore’s favor. Maybe that had been Mr. Salvatore’s plan when he’d knifed me.
I felt my lips twist in a snarl. Mr. Salvatore had knifed me. In my own home. I wasn’t going to distract him. I was going to fucking end him.
I’ve always been paranoid. I know it. And I have an overactive imagination, which makes me paranoid about stupid ass things like being abducted and sold by Canadian white slave traders. Or being attacked by slasher flick serial killers in my shower. Or being used for bait for the chupacabracorn.
So naturally, back when I hadn’t known vampires were real and had sworn my boss was one anyway, I’d sat down one paranoid evening and worked out all the ways I could take out a vampire if one ever managed to get in my home. And Mr. Salvatore had left me for dead next to the most surefire one.
Unfortunately, the fight in the kitchen wasn’t waiting for me to get my act together. While I was still confused and detached, Mr. Salvatore was pressing Mr. Tophat harder. Just as I decided Mr. Salvatore was fucking dead – re-dead – for what he’d done, Mr. Salvatore had gotten inside Mr. Tophat’s guard. Mr. Salvatore seized Mr. Tophat and lifted him, then slammed him bodily onto the counter that separated my living room and kitchen.
Mr. Tophat’s head bounced off of the shelves I keep my folded clothes in. Somehow his hat stayed on – but his eyes widened in surprise when he saw me.
It was all the opening Mr. Salvatore needed.
Mr. Salvatore’s knife slammed down through Mr. Tophat’s wrist, nailing it to the cheap wooden countertop. Mr. Tophat grunted in pain and his fingers spasmed. His sword slipped from his grip and tumbled to the living room floor.
Mr. Salvatore leapt onto Mr. Tophat and pinned his other arm. Mr. Tophat was staring at me in stunned disbelief, but Mr. Salvatore was still wholly focused on his victim.
Mr. Salvatore’s fangs were bared. I had to act. If I didn’t, Mr. Salvatore would drain Mr. Tophat. For the fae, that would mean a permanent death – and it would ruin my plan of attack.
“Hey, creepy-ass fucker!” I yelled to get Mr. Salvatore’s attention. Mr. Salvatore’s head snapped up. He stared at me in disbelief that rivaled Mr. Tophat’s. Maybe he had thought he’d killed me.
“No,” Mr. Salvatore said as though he could just deny my continued existence.
“Uh-huh,” I contradicted him. It would’ve been a great time for a witty come back, but I was just too pissed. “And what’s more, that’s my sadistic stalker elf,” I said as I reached to the side. “So get the fuck off of him!”
Mr. Salvatore’s eyes just had time to grow a fraction of a millimeter wider as he realized my intention. Then he flung himself sideways, off the counter, as I ripped down the patio door curtains.