Justin didn’t stand a chance. I crept up behind him and he was none the wiser: there weren’t even any of those rune circled disks between us to get in the way.
“She’s clearly trained,” Justin said into his phone while watching the alleyway across the street. “But Mr. Fiore, they aren’t acting as I’d expect. The two of them could have bolted and Dolcet would have gone for the easiest prey. There are three of his own donors down there: the rogue’s thralls could have gotten away — or come after us — while Dolcet went after his own people.”
The voice that answered him was dry and clipped. “I see. Regardless, you are authorized to support Dolcet if the rogue’s thralls gain the upper hand.”
“Understood,” Justin said. “But it shouldn’t be necessary. She’s only lasted this long because Dolcet is hindered by his restraints, and he’s finally gotten an arm free.”
That made me rush forward. Justin was clearly talking about Fumiko, and his statement was punctuated by a distant snap that I was becoming all too familiar with: bone breaking.
Fumiko cried out in pain. At the same time, I grabbed Justin. He cried out, too — in surprise, and then fear when I lifted him up and then carried him with me as I stepped off the roof’s ledge. Part of me took a little bit of vindictive pleasure in cracking the stoicism of the guy who’d shot me in the head.
Okay: more than a little.
When I hit the ground, Justin lost his cellphone. He flailed at me with the scope he’d been observing Fumiko and Benjamin through. It struck hard enough to bruise and I felt the barest sliver of my reserve melt away in the process of healing it. I also lost my grip on him.
Justin hit the ground and rolled away from me. I was on him again before he could get up or fumble his sidearm free of its holster, though. I grabbed his arms and forced them behind his back, shoving him back to prone as I did. I felt him strain against me: if he’d had the leverage he probably could have stood up with me just hanging off of him. As it was, I now had him pinned and he didn’t have the strength to pry his arms free of my grip.
I stopped paying attention to Justin’s struggles. “Ben!” I shouted instead. “If you feed off my friend, I swear to God I will rip off your head and air mail it to Zimbabwe!
Benjamin froze in the act of lunging for Fumiko. She was in a half-crouch in front of him, with her right arm hanging at her side and her left held in front of her defensively. There was a freakish bulge in her right arm halfway between her shoulder and elbow, where the bone had been broken but hadn’t torn through the flesh. I felt a little sick at the sight of it, and couldn’t believe she hadn’t passed out when it happened. I would’ve.
At least, I would’ve when I’d been alive.
Benjamin took a step back and turned to look at me. Vampires were nice like that, I decided. Even though we turned into psychopaths with absolutely no moral compass when we were blood starved, we remained rational within that framework. Benjamin knew I could — and would — deliver on my threat. And I knew that wouldn’t matter if he couldn’t find another source of blood — but at least I had a moment to offer him an alternative.
“Abigail,” Benjamin purred. Again I swallowed back an entirely inappropriate wave of desire over the dangerous tone in his voice. I tried to hold onto the fear that accompanied it, to remind myself that I should not ask if he was still up for sharing that drink. It really didn’t help that the memory of him tasting my own blood was still fresh in my mind. He took my moment of distraction to wriggle the rest of the way free of the truck bumper I’d wrapped around him. “How pleasant to see you. After all that gunfire I was certain you were down for the night. And who is your friend?”
“I was,” I admitted. “Then I got back up.” I shifted a little on top of Justin. “This is the guy who shot you. I’m going to be pissed if you hurt my friend or my dad, but I’ve got to admit I’m pretty ambivalent about whatever you might want to do with this guy.”
I heard Justin’s breathing speed up and start to grow ragged. His struggles redoubled, but were just as ineffective. “Oh, stop it,” I snapped at him. “You shot the man so it’s perfectly fair that you fix it.”
Before I’d finished talking, Benjamin appeared in front of us. I smiled. “He’s all yours,” I told Ben. “Try not to kill him, okay?” Maybe my own morality was somewhat compromised — my fangs were out, after all — but I wasn’t super worried about Justin’s safety. I shoved myself back and away from him, and Benjamin leapt into my place. Justin barely got to move before we’d traded off, and his shout of protest was rendered completely inarticulate when it trailed off after Benjamin’s fangs sank into his neck.
I looked over at Fumiko. “Are you okay?” I called to her, stupidly. She was pale as a sheet, and I was pretty sure that was from pain and not the sight of a vampire feeding on some guy across the street from her.
Regardless, she managed a brief nod — but she wobbled when she tried to rise and my super senses easily heard the cry of pain she suppressed before it could escape her throat.
I froze time for a second to pick up Justin’s phone and return to the alley with my dad and Fumiko. When I unfroze time again Fumiko let out a shuddering breath. “Your dad is driving,” she said. There was an attempt at humor in her tone, but it couldn’t hope to mask the pain she was in.
I nodded to her and turned my attention to Dad and Benjamin’s donors. “Alright, you guys,” I told the three men under my dad’s guard. “If you move away from that wall I will break all of your limbs and leave you in a heap until Mr. Dolcet can get around to healing you. Got it?”
They nodded mutely, and I gave them a smile.
“Good,” I told them. “Dad, can you get Fumiko into the back seat?”
Dad holstered his gun and rushed to Fumiko’s side. He seemed much more in his element while he was helping her to the car than he had been while holding a gun on Benjamin’s people. I took the moment to turn my attention to Justin’s phone.
The person on the other end had gone from ordering Justin to report to leveling dire threats against whoever was abusing his men. “…buy a satellite just so I can shoot your ashes into fucking space,” he was snarling when I finally put the phone to my ear.
“Hi,” I said. “Nice to meet you, too. But before we make any plans to send a vampire envoy out to greet the aliens, would you be so kind as to let me know to whom am I talking?”
“Matteo,” he snapped. “Of the family Fiore.”
“Right,” I responded. “And I’m Abigail. But I think you probably guessed that. Anyway, Mr. Fiore, before you get too far along in swearing vengeance, would you be so kind as to tell me what exactly the fuck you think I did to deserve this delightful visit from your cronies? I mean, I get that they have a lot of guns and when all you have is a hammer everything starts to look like a nail… but they just tried to kill an innocent vampire. And that is not cool.”
“They were sent to kill you,” Matteo spat back. His tone shifted as he suppressed his fury. “And if Mr. Dolcet happened to get in the way, well, some collateral damage can be accepted if it is necessary to see justice done.”
I glanced over at Benjamin. “Oh, so you heard me talking to him?” Of course he had. He had super vampire hearing and the phone had been on the whole time I’d been offering Justin to Ben. “Don’t be too harsh on him,” I said. “We all do crazy things when we’re blood-starved. I’m sure you understand that.”
Matteo started to say something, but I interrupted him. “What you don’t seem to understand,” I said — and I let my tone drop dangerously as I did, let some of my own anger leak into it — “is that when I said they tried to kill an innocent vampire, I meant me. So as far as I’m concerned, your boys getting snacked on to make up for it is justice being done.”
This time Matteo did get a word in edgewise. “If any harm befalls them…”
“It’ll be your fault for sending them after me when I didn’t do anything wrong?” I asked sweetly. “I tell you what: How about instead of sending more people after me in order to punish me for what happens to them when you send them after me, you just have them come over here to pick up these two and make sure they get taken care of? You’ll find them at the corner of Jackson and Tenth, across from the hotel. They’ll be pretty aura drained, so I really recommend that you send any extra solocks you’ve got to take care of them instead of to get their butts kicked by me. ‘kay? Bye.”
I hung up and threw the phone across the street. It broke and the pieces skittered across the ground next to Justin and Benjamin. Oh well: neither of them noticed. I turned and got in the back seat of Fumiko’s car.
Fumiko was in the back, too. She was unbuckled, but I could forgive that considering her arm. Dad was in the front and started to back out as soon as I closed my door. “Where’s the nearest hospital?”
I glanced in his direction. “What?”
He backed into a parking space and turned around, then drove up to the exit of the parking lot before looking back at me. “Abigail, Fumiko needs to go to a hospital.”
Oh. Right. I looked at Fumiko. “Do you want to go to a hospital, or will you be okay if I take care of that for you?” My fangs were still out; what I’d taken from Derrick had mostly gone into repairing my skull. “Honestly, I could use a bite myself.”
Fumiko stared at me, her face pale and drawn. After a moment I thought she wasn’t even capable of replying. Then she managed to whisper: “If you do, you’ll get in my head, right?”
I nodded. Was that what her problem was with donating blood? “Actually,” I said, “I sort of already have. I looked when you were fighting Mr. Dolcet, to make sure you were okay while I was dead on the roof.”
Fumiko’s mouth opened slightly, but nothing came out. So I tried to be a good friend and help her out by assuming she was trying to ask me how.
“You know how I share a part of Megan’s soul? ” I asked. “And how she can see people’s emotions in order to feed off of them? Yeah. I can do that too. Like how I could push energy into Emma. Oh, and apparently I can pull energy from people, too. At least, I could while I was dormant. The leylines are a lot clearer when that shard of Megan’s soul isn’t busy keeping the rest of mine attached to my body.” I should probably try to figure out what other fae things I could do. Could I cast glamours? That would be awesome. Maybe? “Anyway, what I mean is: I’ve already had a peek.” Then, because it seemed appropriate now that I knew Fumiko’s issue was with me seeing into her head and not the squick factor, I added: “I’m sorry.”
She breathed out softly in response. It almost sounded like she said: “fuck,” but it was a whisper even to my enhanced hearing. Then, pale and trembling the entire time, she raised her wrist toward me.
I looked at it and recognized the thirst that rose at the sight of her delicate veins and the blood pulsing through them. “Are you certain?” I asked. “I’ll see a lot more if we use sympathetic healing to fix your arm. We can have Dad drop you off at a hospital; I can give him Mr. Dolcet’s amulet so he can find me again afterward.” I’d actually meant to give the amulet to Dad and Fumiko so they could follow at a safe distance while I tracked down John in Dad’s car — before the whole mess with Mr. Fiore’s snipers.
Fumiko grimaced. Her eyes slid away from mine, toward the back of the seat. “Fuck it,” she said, her tone pained. “It’s like with Megan. She already knows. And if you can see like she does, you’ll figure it out eventually. Go for it.”
I didn’t need further invitation. I took the offered wrist and pulled it to my lips. I ducked my head, but kept my eyes on Fumiko’s face. She continued to look away from me, refusing to meet my gaze.
And then I bit.