It had been, if I may be permitted an understatement, one hell of a year. I’d gotten a boyfriend. His name was Hans and he was a werewolf. I’d found out my boss, Mr. Salvatore, was a vampire and wanted to kill my best friend, Megan. She was in love with me. But I’d only discovered that after making out with another woman, which may or may not have counted as cheating on Hans since I hadn’t really claimed him as my boyfriend until after we’d been attacked by a small army of goblins.
Oh, and my boss? I’d killed him. But in all fairness, he’d killed me first.
Yeah, it had been one hell of a year. All of that had happened yesterday. Thank God that had been New Year’s Eve. Hopefully this year wouldn’t be so bad.
It was off to a good start, I thought. I was sucking blood from Hans’ shoulder like a nursing infant. A nursing infant from hell, but at least the influx of life in my veins kept the sun from burning me. The heat coming off my raging apartment fire was bad enough. Did I mention that my apartment had burned down last year? Well, technically it had only caught fire last year, and was burning down this one. Whatever. I hadn’t gone to sleep yet and everyone knows that the next day doesn’t technically start until you wake up to greet it, so the whole fire thing was getting tacked on to last year in my calendar. It was a good thing I didn’t have neighbors – I’d lived in a single story studio unit, so at least I didn’t have to feel guilty that anyone else’s worldly possessions were being incinerated.
I squirmed against Hans’ chest and kept drinking. I couldn’t really help myself – he just tasted so damn good! Besides, infants are supposed to be selfish, right?
I caught myself idly wondering how that would work. When I’d been alive, I’d been twenty-four years old. But whenever they talked about how old a vampire was in the movies, they were always really talking about how long he’d been dead. Did that mean I had to start over again? Would I have to wait another twenty-one years before I could legally drink drunks? I mean… not that I was prone to drinking when I was alive. But still. I was dead now; that seemed like the sort of thing that would drive someone to alcoholism.
I decided that as long as I’d been dead for less time than I’d been alive, I’d use my living age. Not because I was worried about getting carded at bars, but because Hans was sexy as hell. When he’d stormed into my apartment, shotgun blazing, and put down Mr. Salvatore’s still mobile, burning corpse… well, I’d decided in the heat of the moment that as soon as I got over my issues with sex I was going to screw Hans’ brains out.
I really didn’t think I could do that if it meant he was a pedophile, so twenty-four years it was.
My fangs receded as I had my fill. I guess they were symptomatic of being ‘dead’ and now that I’d had enough of Hans’ blood to be ‘alive’ they were clearing up. The morning sun even felt pleasant now.
I didn’t care. I kept gnawing on Hans’ shoulder anyway, hoping it would give up just a little bit more. God, he tasted good! I mean, not as good as Megan, but still – Hans’ blood fell into a category of taste I’d never before known existed. I named that category ‘better than bacon’ and it was pretty much exactly what it said on the label.
Unfortunately, a side-effect of feeding on someone was apparently that they got a taste of vampiric powers while I was getting a taste of their life. The wound my fangs had opened on Hans’ shoulder closed of its own volition, and soon I was just lapping at his skin through two ragged holes in his shirt. He was probably going to end up with a lot of weirdly placed hickies if we kept dating.
Hans held me against his broad chest. His hand cradled the back of my head and soothingly stroked my hair. “Abby,” he said to get my attention. “Abby?”
I’m not sure how long he’d been trying to get through to me, but now that I could hear him his voice sent a thrill through me.
It’s crazy, but I’m a sucker for a foreign accent. Or any accent, really. I’m too much of an agoraphobe to be comfortable going out to the neighborhood store, but men with accents from far flung lands get me going. Crazy, like I said, but… Well, hell. It didn’t help that Hans’ accent was attached to a blonde haired, blue eyed muscular Viking Adonis with a boyish smile and gentle demeanour that tended to turn devilish in the bedroom.
“Mmmmm?” I replied. I’d started nibbling my way to his neck. I felt aggressive. Aroused. Primal. I wondered if that was how Hans usually felt. When Mr. Salvatore had fed on me he’d gotten paranoid. It seemed that vampires fed on more of a person than just their blood. We fed on life. One of the fae had told me that vampires consumed the souls of others in order to pretend they had their own.
“Abby, you need to stop,” Hans said. I growled in protest. “I need to get my shirt off,” he tried to explain.
Oh. Oh, that was okay then.
I sat in Hans’ lap. My rather savage thoughts were looking forward to fucking him senseless much sooner than I ever figured I’d be ready to.
In fact, I was eager enough that I recoiled in confusion. That wasn’t me. Sex freaked me out! I only had sex vicariously through erotica, ecchi manga, Megan’s reminiscences and wildly inappropriate fantasies! I stared at Hans in disbelief. If that was how he felt all the time, then how the hell did Hans keep stopping himself from ravaging me? So far I’d gotten him unfairly riled up at least twice – so he’d had at least two opportunities to do whatever he wanted to me even though I’d inevitably freaked out half way through messing around and told him to stop.
Hans smiled lopsidedly at me and shifted me out of his lap. I sat on the pavement next to the wheel of his Hummer and blinked at him as he stood up. He stepped away from me and stripped off his shirt.
The borrowed primal desires seemed fractured as my normal personality started to reassert itself, but I still wanted to jump him. I mean, come on: Adonis. Topless. Muscles rippling, backlit by a raging fire, skin glistening; broad shoulders – plus there was the whole ‘holy fuck, I’m still alive!’ endorphin rush going on.
Of course, the fire consisted of my every worldly belonging. That detracted a little.
Hans balled up his tee-shirt and chucked it into the flames. I blinked again. Oh, right. It had been soaked with blood from when Mr. Salvatore had stabbed him. There were sirens approaching and torn, bloody clothing might be hard to explain. I wondered what our explanation was going to be. Given that Megan and I were still dressed for clubbing and Hans was fucking hot, a ménage a trois gone wrong suggested itself to me.
I made a mental note to never line a headboard with candles.
Hans turned and marched back to his car. He opened the back door. I swallowed. The lump of charcoal that used to be Mr. Salvatore was in there, wrapped up in the ruin of a quilt my mom had made for me. When Hans got back out, he had another tee shirt on.
I guess it made sense for a werewolf to keep a change of clothes handy at all times. It was still a little disappointing, though.
I scrambled to my feet then, too. A fire truck was turning into the drive at the far end of the apartment parking lot. “What do we say?” I asked Hans.
“The truth,” he said. “Or close enough. I’ll make sure the appropriate authorities know the whole story. For anyone who needs a mundane explanation: Salvatore was obsessed with Megan. After the party at the office he hunted you down because she didn’t show and you’re her best friend.”
I nodded. “He made me call her, but she knew something was wrong. She pepper sprayed him,” I recollected.
“Right,” said Hans. “So you two drove him off.”
“He knocked her out,” I said angrily.
Hans grimaced. “Which makes this part easier,” he said. “You drove him off and called me. I showed up just in time to see him chuck a Molotov through the window. He sees me and runs; I help you and Megan get out, and here we are.”
I clung to Hans. “Okay,” I said. Maybe I’d let him do the talking. It was a little disturbing that he’d come up with that so easily – but then again, I usually make up crazy stories, not sane ones. And it was even more disturbing that ‘my boss firebombed my apartment in a fit of jaded heartbreak’ wasn’t crazy compared to what had really gone down.
Megan stirred as the sirens arrived. She started to slowly pick herself up, and Hans let go of me to rush to her side. I didn’t begrudge him for doing it since I’d let go of him to do the same.
“Mr. Salvatore hit you,” I told Megan. I was holding her hand; Hans was holding her supportively – and keeping her from getting up. “You hit your head on the bedpost and passed out.”
“Oh,” Megan said dazedly. “I knew something was wrong, Abby. I knew it. Your doors weren’t locked and you’d asked me to come here in a cab. You hate cabs.”
I swallowed and smiled at her. For some reason my eyes were getting watery. “I do,” I said. As far as I was concerned, cabbies were way too likely to just be licensed kidnappers. Shoot, the fare you pay to an honest one is just the ransom you had to pay to get them to let you go – and who knew when one might just decide it wasn’t enough and then lock you up in a pit in their cellar, anyway?
“You should try to stay still,” Hans said. “We don’t know how badly you were hurt. You might be concussed.”
Megan tried to get up again anyway, but Hans held her back and gave her a stern look.
“I feel fine,” Megan muttered, but Hans glared her into subsiding.
I was just as glad. Megan was fine – but she hadn’t been. She’d been hurt pretty badly, and so had I, and… When a vampire takes in someone’s life force, the sharing isn’t one way. I’d tasted Megan’s life to keep myself alive, and in the process she’d been healed, too. The same as with Hans: Vampires don’t leave holes in people’s necks. Symbiotic healing for the win, right?
But even though I knew it had helped her, I couldn’t bring myself to look at Megan. I’d licked blood off her face. Twice. While she was unconscious.
At the time, I hadn’t cared about anything except surviving. Hell, at the time I’d wanted to slit her throat and drain her dry. Now I felt like I’d violated her horribly, and she hadn’t even been conscious to say no.
I’d been a monster just as vile as Mr. Salvatore.
And if I ever got hungry again, I’d wind up right back there, wouldn’t I? I felt myself start to tremble.
Oh god. I was a monster.
Hans waved over one of the fire fighters that had arrived. I barely heard him telling the man that there was no one inside, or that the adjoining unit was unoccupied. Rugged men in uniforms that usually would have set my imagination to drooling over how they comported themselves in the privacy of the fire house dashed about in a vain attempt to contain the blaze of my home – and I didn’t care.
I was a monster, and for the moment at least I was alive enough to realize it. I clung to Megan and buried my face against her shoulder and started to sob. In my hunger last night I’d thought about killing her, and it hadn’t even bothered me!
Megan’s arms slid around me. She tried to hug me soothingly but I pulled away. She looked up at me: confused; hurt? I couldn’t tell. My vision was too blurry, but I imagined the worst. I started to cry harder. Megan was my best friend. She loved me. I’d given my life to save her from Mr. Salvatore.
Was there any way I’d be able to save her from myself?