“We have to go to Mr. Salvatore’s house.” The words rolled off my tongue without thought: my response was immediate and final. Rescuing Megan was something that had to be done, but we had until daybreak to do it. Emma was in danger now.
I was completely unprepared for Fumiko to contradict me. “No,” she said firmly. “We don’t.”
I twisted around, ready to throw cold outrage at her, but Fumiko’s face was just as set as mine. Bonbon pressed his body against the far side of the car, trying to get as far out from between us as possible. Mr. Kallaher glanced aside at Fumiko, then at me in his rearview mirror. Then he pulled the hearse over and put on the blinkers.
“Abigail,” Fumiko said before my outrage could work itself into words, “If you hadn’t wrapped Benjamin in a steel wrapper he would have torn me apart. I’ve seen how fast you vampires move. If Mr. Kallaher and I tried to face down Director Lewellan, we would be dead. Jamie, too. We can’t contribute there. Moreover… Megan is my friend. I’m going to go save her. But you can’t help with that anyway. So you go do what you have to do; Jamie, Mr. Kallaher and I will do what we have to do. I trust you can find your way to Emma the same way you found your way to Jamie?”
I nodded mutely.
“Good,” Fumiko said. “Now: It would be nice if you were there to guard our retreat from faerie land, but I suppose that will just have to fall to Mr. Kallaher. Unless you hurry your ass. So get going.”
I stared at Fumiko for a second more. Even though she isn’t watching what she’s saying, and even if she doesn’t know Emma, she still cares because I do. Elitist sadist or not, she was still a better friend than I’d ever realized. “Alright,” I said. “Thanks.”
I got out of the car. It didn’t take much effort to grasp Emma’s leyline. Seconds later, after pacing a single small circle, I was off and running.
I didn’t get tired anymore, but I figured that had to cost me something in terms of essence. I wasn’t sure if it was more energy efficient to run on supernatural endurance like that, freeze time and run, or freeze time and walk. Ultimately I decided that whether I was running or not, just living was eating into my reserves of aura so those were probably all about the same. Freezing time on top of it would probably eat through my reserve a lot faster than just running nonstop and letting my vampiric healing keep me from getting tired. At least, I assumed that was doing it: any strain on my muscles was just being regenerated too fast for me to notice. Maybe not, though, since I was still super-strong when I was starving for blood, and I didn’t heal then.
I scowled to myself and focused harder on Emma. There wasn’t a lot of activity at the far end of her leyline. She was unconscious still, I assumed, and if she was dreaming there wasn’t much in the way of emotional content to it. That was bad. I almost decided to freeze time anyway, but I knew I only had so much essence available — and it would be just as bad if I arrived at Emma’s side while I was starving as it would be if Lewellan got to her first. I already knew I didn’t give a rat’s ass about her well being when my hunger was in control.
That thought, however, made me reconsider my approach. I was heading toward Emma in order to protect her from Director Lewellan. Yeah, sure: that made perfect sense. Except that if I got into a fight with the Director and wound up hurt, it would be just as bad for any bystanders as if I’d burned out my reserves getting there in the first place, or if Lewellan decided he needed to frame me for killing more people. And if Emma was one of those bystanders…
I hadn’t been in a fight yet where I hadn’t wound up starving from my wounds. I couldn’t risk facing down Lewellan while I was near anyone I cared about. But trying to take him out somewhere neutral was just as risky: then I’d go after whoever I could find. Unless I hit him by surprise, and hit him so hard he doesn’t get a chance to hit me back.
I felt a smile creep in place of my scowl. It was a smile that was wholly supported by the predatory impulses that strained to escape from were they were contained just below the thin shell of my reserve aura. I’m pretty sure the best defense is napalming them on their territory instead of waiting for them to get to yours. I didn’t have napalm, true, but I could head off Lewellan. He wouldn’t even see it coming: according to whatever charm he had to track me, I was on my way out of town.
I slid to a halt and shifted my focus. Lewellan, Lewellan, wherefore art thou going to get your ass kicked, Lewellan? I found his leyline without much difficulty. Examining it almost made me giggle. Why hadn’t I thought to do this sooner? I could have intercepted him when he went after Daniel and taken his head off then. That would’ve made the rest of this mess easier, wouldn’t it have? If nothing else, peeking in Lewellan’s head would have given me some handy insights. I might’ve even been able to figure out why he was out to get me.
At the moment, unfortunatly, there wasn’t a lot of emotion to read. Determination. Urgency. A crowding of anxieties: apparently I hadn’t been making screwing me over easy on him. How sad.
I started running again. Lewellan was moving, which made my circle trick not all that precise. I did know that he was headed for the house, though, so I started running toward Emma again. I hoped to get a bearing on Lewellan along the way, then veer off and intercept him. I kind of hoped he was in a car or something. I would totally take a few minutes of stopped time to siphon his tank and set the whole fucking vehicle on fire if he was in a car.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a good bearing on Lewellan’s location. No matter which way I turned on my way toward Emma, the Director always seemed to be heading away from me. It was almost confusing enough to make me stop and try to rejoin Fumiko — maybe Lewellan wasn’t headed for the house after all? He might’ve changed his plans, or been on his way somewhere that just seemed like it was on the way to Salvatore’s house.
I did stop then. I wished I had my phone still: it didn’t have Ben’s number, but Thomas had Emma’s phone and I could have called that. Lewellan continued to travel away from me, so I shook my head. If wishes were wings we’d all speak the same language because the tower of Babel wouldn’t have seemed like a useful endeavor. I took a step back to turn toward Fumiko and froze.
Even when I’d moved in the opposite direction, Lewellan was still moving ‘away.’ And that could just be because he was moving faster than I was… Or it could be that he’s been moving ‘away’ this entire time because he is faster than you, and he’s already closer to the house than you are, too.
I started running again. I froze time for as long as I dared and ran. With time frozen I could get a better bead on Lewellan — he must have been moving in his own time stream, too. That meant he was on foot. But it also meant that this entire time he’d been moving a hell of a lot faster than I had. It wasn’t long, subjectively, before I realized my grip on time was getting shaky.
So I did what I had to do.
I formed a spike of essence, like I had outside the hotel room when the night had started, and drove it through the shell of reserves I still had remaining. The last time I’d done this I’d done it to cope mentally. This time? This time it was calculated. This time I wasn’t after my vampiric ruthlessness — though I knew I would need that. This time I was leveraging the side-effect I had discovered the last time I’d tried to let some of my vampire side leak out.
Specifically: this time, I was trying to let my mortal aura leak in where the curse could feed on it. I welcomed the emptiness that fell over me because every second that it grew was another second that my reserve of unsubsumed essence was still sufficiently intact for me to control time. I focused and made pockets to hide my important emotions in — pockets like the deep caves Fumiko used to keep her head clear and her impulses under control. I knew I could do that — I had manipulated my own aura often enough already. I had done it the first time I’d broken through the shell of my reserves. I had done it when I’d shifted my reserves to ‘block’ Lewellan’s geas. So now I did it to keep my concern for Emma safe from the curse. My fury with Lewellan, too. Everything else? Everything else I let the curse claim.
My worry about Dad? It wouldn’t help me here. So it was gone. My concern about rescuing Megan? Lost to the emptiness. My anxiety about Hans breaking up with me, and my hope that he and Fumiko would be happy together? What anxiety? What hope?
There was something about the structure of my reserve, of the buffer that formed around my curse when I was sated, that gave me access to regeneration and controlling time. That had to be why when I was hungry I couldn’t do either: I was hungry when my reserve was gone. Without it I would still be super-humanly strong, exceptionally fast; my senses would be heightened beyond any natural measure and I would be ruthless — but I would also be no match for a vampire that could regenerate his wounds and slow down time for himself. I had to preserve what reserve I had, but I couldn’t afford to slow down to ‘normal’ time.
So I funneled my emotions into the curse, letting the emptiness work its way from the outside inward instead of eating away at the core of my aura first, as it had when I hadn’t been paying attention to it. And I continued to run as I did.
I started to recognize the neighborhood from when I’d been hunting Pipsqueak. That was bad: if I was close to Mr. Salvatore’s house, Lewellan was closer. Then I felt a brush of fear when I realized the Director was no longer pulling away from me. I recognized the source of that fear and fed it to my curse, too. I wasn’t catching up because I was going any faster. If anything, I was slowing down as my aura vanished and my curse was forced to start drawing on my reserve again, weakening my control over time. When that reserve is gone, I lose my better strengths. No: the only reason I was catching up to Lewellan was that he had slowed down.
He was at the house.
Lewellan was at the house, and I couldn’t keep my grip on time any longer. Not without losing the shell that kept my curse contained. It wouldn’t matter that I’d preserved my determination to save Emma, or to fight Lewellan. Without that barrier keeping my curse and the instincts it was gnarled around in check, my living self would be as dormant as if I’d been shot in the head. All I would care about would be feeding. Lewellan would be free to kill Emma while I went hunting someone else.
I stumbled into normal time and latched onto Lewellan’s leyline harder, trying to use it to find out what was happening the same way I had ‘watched’ Fumiko’s fight with Benjamin while I’d been dormant. I continued running at mortal speeds. Watching Lewellan’s leyline was like looking through the eye of a needle at flickers of someone’s soul. Anticipation. Confidence. Surprise. Pain. Outrage. Rage. Confidence. Victory. Shock. Amusement. Determination. Pain. Surprise. Killing fury. Intense satisfaction. Resolve. Murderous intent. My superhuman hearing had caught explosions and the now far too familiar daka-aka-aka of automatic arms fire, but those had fallen silent.
I didn’t need to see more. The silence and Lewellan’s emotions were telling enough. Benjamin had lost. The resolve? The murderous intent? Those had been the emotions I’d been chasing this entire time. Lewellan had dealt with whatever was between him and Emma, and now he was going to….
I stopped in the middle of the street. I could only think of one way to stop him. I wasn’t the only one with supernatural hearing.
“Lewellan!” I yelled as loudly as I could.
“That’s right, fucker!” I shouted. “Your tracking medallion is broken!”
“But hey,” I hollered. “I’m right here! And I swear to you, right now: if Emma dies before you’ve dealt with me you will never know where I am again! I will be a pain in your side for fucking ever, do you hear me?! So get your ass out here you cowardly murderer! Come on, or I swear to god: faeries will tell legends about the nightmare I turn your life into!”
Evaluation. Determination. Killing hatred.
Apparently, Lewellan had decided to take my refusal to roll over and make things easy on him personally. My connection to his leyline began to strengthen. He was coming for me, and Emma’s leyline showed no change from when I’d looked at it last. Lewellan hadn’t done anything to her before I’d gotten his attention.
I smiled to myself and sagged in relief. Relief? Where had that come from? My curse must have eaten a sliver of my reserve to form it — I fed the feeling back into my curse and let my smile fade. I didn’t have time for relief. I didn’t have a use for relief. I had the barest sliver of reserve essence in a cracked shell around my curse, and I’d just thrown away the advantage of surprise in order to keep Lewellan from killing Emma before I even got there. Relief wasn’t even appropriate.
No, I only had two emotions left. Two drives to motivate me — everything else had already been used just to get me to this fight. It would be up to those last two to get me through it.
I pulled myself upright. It was easy to be determined and fearless. I didn’t have any fears left, and my two remaining emotions were simply flavors of determination.
Save Emma, I thought.
Save Emma, and kill Lewellan.