Having my eye on Lewellan’s leyline gave me one advantage immediately: I could tell that he was still approaching right up until the instant that he wasn’t. It might’ve seemed a little risky, but it was all I had so I used it to conserve my strength. I sat in normal time until I felt Lewellan’s emotions flicker: he was here. Only then did I stop time myself.
When I did, Lewellan appeared just halfway down the block from me. He looked like he was jogging — possibly strolling. It was hard to judge if his control of time was stronger than mine at the moment, or if he was just being that casual about coming out to kill me. I kept absolutely, completely still. I didn’t breathe. My heart didn’t beat. I was motionless as only the dead could be.
I’d just found my way to reclaim the element of surprise, after all.
I felt Lewellan’s anger shift into a smug superiority as he closed the remaining distance between us. He thinks I’m too dumb or too inexperienced to have been waiting for him in my own speed, I thought. Or maybe he thinks I tried to and got bored? Good grief, if I were him I totally would have thought he was tricking me. My paranoia wouldn’t have let me consider the possibility that it wasn’t a trap, if I had an opportunity to wander up to Lewellan while he was unawares and off guard. It took actual effort not to roll my eyes and give myself away.
When Lewellan was just a couple of steps away from me, he stopped. If he moved any closer, her would get caught on my aura. If past experience served, then either I’d pull him into my time-stream or he’d pull me into his. In any event, it looked like he was going to pull the same stunt I’d pulled on Mr. Eyelids and his cronies: he meant to hit me by surprise, and hit me hard. The sword he was carrying looked like it would do a lot of damage, too.
Sword?! What the what?! My eyes might have widened slightly. If they did, the only reason that Lewellan’s heightened visual acuity missed it is that at that point he stepped around me. Apparently, smugly confidant or not, he was still going to maximize his advantages. So, he’s going to stab me. By surprise. From behind? What a jackass.
I decided to surprise him, first.
When Lewellan stepped past me, the hand holding his blade happened to be on the side of him that remained closest to me. I spun and lunged. Time hicupped slightly when our auras struck. I let go of my grasp on it and let myself be pulled into Lewllan’s time-stream. Let him shoulder the cost for both of us, I thought. I didn’t have the essence to spare.
I did have surprise on my side, though. I caught Lewellan’s wrist. I didn’t know any fancy martial arts or anything — I’d barely remembered what Fumiko had told me about how to throw a punch, before — so I just went for brute force. Bones shattered and flesh pulped in my grip. The sword fell out of Lewellan’s suddenly slack grip. I yanked him toward me and swung my other fist as hard as I could.
Lewellan reacted faster than I could have imagined. I blamed the unfairness of his having however many centuries of experience over me, because my imagination can usually move pretty damn fast. Lewellan pivoted and dropped down into a low stance while his free arm snapped upward to deflect my wild punch. My arm was knocked up, over his head — ‘knocked’ with enough force to splinter the bone. I didn’t even get time to react to the sudden pain, though. Not before my curse started pulling for essence with which to regenerate the broken bones.
No no no! I panicked. I shoved my desire to kill Lewellan at my curse, letting it be consumed. I had to preserve the desire to save Emma. Whether I killed Lewellan or not didn’t matter: saving Emma did. My broken arm mended almost instantly — but in that almost instant Lewellan twisted and straightened his free arm. Somehow his hand caught my arm just in front of my elbow. His grip closed with enough force to snap the bone again, and then his hand twisted again — but this time with my arm trapped in its grip.
My shoulder wrenched. My elbow dislocated. Something around it — ligaments? muscle? flesh? — tore. Pain surged across my awareness: enough to have made me pass out if I’d been alive, and I’d developed a very, very high threshold for pain over my years of self-abuse.
By the time I managed to fight through that pain my desire to save Emma was gone. Or perhaps it was just inaccesible: the broken shell that had been holding my vampiric nature in check had been consumed entirely, letting a different set of instincts and emotions surge to the fore. And it hadn’t even been enough to fix any of the damage Lewellan had just managed to do, either.
I immediately snarled and lunged at Lewellan, fangs first. I had never been so thirsty. I couldn’t think. There was nothing but need: all of the ’emptiness’ my stupid ‘living’ side had let fill my aura became the driving, hateful, agonizing need for blood that it had always been and I had not had the active instincts to recognize it as. Blood. Any blood. Lewellan’s would do. All of it.
Lewellan must have let go of his grasp on time rather than continue to pay for both of us out of his essence, because I could move. Unfortunately, he still had a grip on me — he even twisted the wrist I’d crushed so that he could grab me by that arm, too. He used his grasp to hold me back. Even leaning forward as far as I could I couldn’t do more than snap fruitlessly inches away from Lewellan’s neck. His face twisted in disgust. I didn’t care.
The hunger was beyond maddening. I continued to throw myself at Lewellan. My wrenched shoulder dislocated with a snap-pop and my flesh stretched from the force I used to hurl myself forward. I didn’t care about that, either: I would rip my own arm off to get my fangs into Lewellan’s blood, and gladly.
“If that’s all it takes to turn you feral, then you couldn’t handle me,” Lewellan snarled. Through our shared leyline I could see disgust, contempt, and a faint undercurrent of desire. He had bragged about how many vampires he’d created when we’d first met. And he would have made them from his own donors: of course he would have had experience with what it was like when vampires fed on each other. I knew that desire reflected the tiny part of him that knew what it would be like to let me feed on him.
I didn’t care about any of that, of course: I was only watching the leyline because I wanted all of it. There was so much essence in his aura, even if I could only see a sliver of it! I’d get all of it when my fangs split open his skin and I consumed him. Feeding would be bliss itself, and it didn’t even matter to me that I’d be feeding on another vampire — something that I also knew was pure ecstasy even without hunger to lend the blissful spice of satiation to the blood.
“Lewellan,” I purred on autopilot. The Director’s eyes widened, and a shock of surprise colored his aura. I wanted to eat that, too. I continued to wrench my arm further out of place. Eventually I would tear free and be able to get him. “I’m not feral,” I insisted. “Just a little thirsty. Why don’t you be a gentleman and let me have a nibble? Really, it’s the least you could do after you didn’t even have the decency to try to stab me to my face.”
“H-how,” Lewellan stammered. “But you’re feral! You’re tearing yourself apart to get to blood!”
I didn’t know the answer to his question. I didn’t even know what he was surprised about — and I didn’t care, either. My every conscious thought and desire was on feeding. I could smell the blood on him — a faint stain of other people’s. Probably people from the house. Not Emma’s, but someone’s. More than one. And I could smell his blood through his skin. I could see it in his veins. My every sense was dialed beyond what I could have imagined as ‘the maximum’ and they were all just as focused on blood as I was.
“How what?” I asked. I didn’t care about the conversation, either: it was just something my autopilot was doing while the rest of me focused on the important stuff. Blood. “How am I talking to you when I should be absolutely insane with blood lust?” My continued efforts were bearing fruit: something in my arm tore a little, and when I snapped my fangs shut I was a hair closer to Lewellan’s throat. “Why don’t you let me go? We can discuss it over a drink.”
Lewellan, the fucking jackass, didn’t let me go. Quite. He didn’t answer me, either, though of course I didn’t really care about that. He did bring his arms together and step aside when I lunged next, though, letting me throw myself further than I had been — and entirely off-balance. He shattered my wrist under his grip — the wrist of the hand that had a grip around his. When my fingers lost their strength he let go with that hand and pulled his wrist free. I was falling forward — the bastard had tripped me, too.
I crashed face first into the pavement and Lewellan twisted the arm he still held behind my back. Since it was already destroyed at each joint, I couldn’t even resist when he manhandled my arm into place and knelt on my back. I scrabbled at him with my other arm, but I didn’t have the angle to grab for him and my fingers wouldn’t obey me, anyway. I screamed in outrage. I was further from his blood than I had been while we were standing.
“You fucking bastard!” I screamed. I twisted my neck as far as I could. If I’d been able to, I might’ve snapped it just to get a shot at biting him again. Something popped from my efforts, and I lost the muscle control necessary to keep twisting. I snarled incoherently. My eyes were leaking from the sheer frustrated need. “You bastard,” I sobbed. “How can you do this? How can you do this?!” The leyline was the only access to Lewellan’s aura still available to me. I latched onto it with all of my attention. Maybe I could just suck him dry through that, pull essence through it like I had with Derrick.
But I couldn’t. The opening I had to work through was too narrow: the eye of a needle. Or the opening of a fiber optic wire. And I couldn’t find anything I could draw through it. No fear. Just a strange sort of horrified fascination. After a second, the ‘horror’ part of it faded. I was crying from hunger, and Lewellan thought it was fascinating. “You bastard,” I sobbed. “I just want a bite. Just a little one.” That was all I would need to drain him dry. “Please?” I begged. “Pretty please?”
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Lewellan sit up slightly. He didn’t release me. He didn’t offer me his wrist. His fascination hardened into resolve. He wasn’t going to feed me. “You fucker!” I screamed. “You’ll fucking pay for this! I already devoured my desire to kill you, Lewellan. You don’t want to fucking piss me off again!”
And then Lewellan punched me in the head hard enough to crack it open against the pavement and cave it in where his fist connected.
The fucking bastard.