Dead & Dealing

Cats & Dogs

You just have to love New York City.

I mean, where else could an infant vampire carrying a bleeding and naked Shifter wrapped in a World War Two inspired greatcoat hail a cab hardly a dozen yards from a multiple homicide?

Most taxi drivers, even the corporately frowned upon gypsy cabs, would either refuse to take such a pair or ask a million questions along the way. They might even decide to drive to the nearest police precinct, but the elderly driver who sounded as if he might be from Russia merely asked for a destination and nodded. Say what you will about the stereotypical and famous New York attitude, but sometimes it truly is The City of Friendly People.

As the Russian rushed through traffic, I kept a finger on Christine's pulse. It seemed to be rapid, but growing weaker. At least, it felt that way to me if I went by I felt when I fed. I made a mental note to find a book on human anatomy or have Sally provide some much needed information. Other than it was considered a tissue by the medical community and not a liquid and it was essential in bringing oxygen to every inch of the body, I really did not know much about blood. For some genius who had put a very significant dent in local Were population, I knew surprisingly little of my own kind.

"Dom?" Christine's asked, her voice hardly audible even to me. "Dom . . . where . . ."

"I'm here." I said gently as I looked down.

She looked pale and her blood was beginning to soak through the thick wool of the greatcoat, along with the irresistible scent of her blood. It was then I realized that I had made five fresh, and if was honest with myself, satisfying kills and passed up all their blood. I made an effort to keep my fangs retracted when I spoke. Christine had enough to be frightened of.

"Where . . ." She said again.

"I'm taking you home." I said quietly. "I need you to stay awake." I think it would wise if she did so. "Can you do that?"

"So . . . cold." Her eyes fluttered and her breathing was becoming short and labored. "Too . . . cold . . . for . . . "

"I know." I looked up to see we were coming to a stop. "Just a little longer and I'll make you some soup." I allowed myself a deep whiff of the sweet scent in small space of the cab. "And a warm bath."

"Here!" the driver shouted. "Broadway 'n Walker."

"Thank you." I held out a few hundred dollars. "Keep the change." He reached for the money, but I held onto to it for a moment. "Do you want to earn more?" I smiled when he nodded. "Then forget you saw us." I held up another hundred in my free hand. "Deal?"

"Deal!" He took the money and gave me a bright smile. "I no supposed to be driving anyway." He shrugged. "No license or green card."

My feet hardly touched the ground when the taxi sped down the street and I took off much faster toward the back the building. It was actually a maintenance entrance that the building had for plumbers and the like came to repair something, but the door was always unlocked and no one ever used it which was I needed. The stairwell was just as empty and if I missed someone, I doubt they saw more than a blur and would probably say they saw a ghost.

I reached the twelfth floor and poked my head inside the hallway. When I saw and heard no one was about to enter or leave in just that moment, I reached into my coat and retrieved my keys. Some of Christine's blood had soaked through and coated the keys like chocolate that coated strawberries. i resisted the urge to lick them clean and found the key to the apartment. The less time I spent in the hallway, the better.

"Dom?" Her voice so soft, I almost didn't hear. "Can't . . . "

"I know." I reached door 221B in the blink of an eye. "Only a few more seconds, I promise."

I entered the apartment and kicked the door closed behind me. I quickly set Christine down on the couch. Unfortunately it meant interrupting Tux's nap and her growl told me she did take kindly to being kicked off the couch to boot. I ignored her and went back to retrieve my keys and properly locked the door. It never bothered me before, but I felt doubtful about the lock in the doorknob even with the separate deadbolt and chain. Even a human could kick in the door if they had a mind to. A Were or another vampire might give me a few seconds by laughing, but that was the extent.

I heard Christine cough and was at her side before she could draw ina breath. I pulled away my coat and looked at the hole in her hip. The bleeding had slowed, but I had the suspicion it was because there wasn't much left. I checked her pulse again and it had gotten weaker. I had to work fast and first thing I had to was remove the bullet. I had just bent my mouth to the wound, but a thought came to me. I carefully turned her over. It would just be my luck to try to suck out a bullet that had gone through. She did not yelp or otherwise protest to this and she was probably to delirious from blood loss to understand what was going on.

I saw there was no exit wound so I assumed the bullet was still lodged in her hip. I also saw she gotten a tattoo since I last saw her. It wasn't on her a lower back like i had seen some women had, but off to the side on her hip. Had the bullet gone through it would have destroyed the image. That image was the head of a doberman with undocked ears that had an asklepian in its mouth like chew toy. I couldn't help how much like the doberman looked Christine when she was in that form, but the asklepian made no sense to me.

I gently turned her again on her back and bent to her wound. Quickly, I sank my fangs into her hips and closed my mouth around the wound. I heard her make a sound somewhere between a yelp and grunt, but I wasn't about to stop. The rest was no different from a feeding, minus the seducing and probably the sex after said seducing. I sucked hard for barely thirty seconds when a felt and tasted a lump of metal pop into my mouth. I gripped it between my teeth and swallowed the last mouthful of Christine's blood which I noted had a salty hint to it. I briefly wondered if that meant she had consumed too much salt or it was how Shifter blood tasted.

I took the bullet from my mouth and noticed it now looked like a copper mushroom with a flat head. It still had a thin coat of blood mixed with my saliva as I set aside on the coffee table and licked clean the wound. I saw that the wound had stopped bleeding significantly and I remembered that SHE had mentioned that our saliva has a mild coagulant that helps sealing the tiny pricks our fangs left when we fed. Unfortunately, that was not going to be enough. To be safe, I pricked a finger on a fang and dripped a couple of drops of my blood into the wound. It instantly stopped bleeding and began to scab around the edge. I made a mental note to apply antiseptic and a bandage later, but that would have to wait.

I licked my lips and wiped my mouth, wishing for more blood, as I knelt by Christine. "Can you hear me?" I asked. "Are you awake."

"My side . . ." She managed a weak smile. "It . . . hurts . . . less."

"That's good." I said. "But now I need you to drink something. It will help."

She opened her mouth slightly.

So that would not protest, and because I did not enjoy the feeling when it was self induced, I quickly bit my where my radial artery was and pressed my forearm against her mouth. At first only a few drops seemed to go down while a lot of my blood dribbled down her chin, but she latched onto my arm like a barnacle half a beat later. One of her hands gripped my wrist surprisingly tight and pressed me harder against her mouth.

Despite the events that led up to it, part of me realized I had finally seen her naked. Of course, I had preferred more of a build up and certainly more voluntary then events had provided, but best not to look a gift horse in the mouth. I suppose I should have been more courteous and covered her or averted my eyes, but I didn't. I do have my limits like any other. There was also the fact her taking of my blood was exciting me. It didn't surprise me. I had lost count how many times SHE and I took blood from each other while in bed together. As far as my hormones, or whatever the vampire equivilant was, Christine's mouth was on another body part entirely. The same part that was making my boxers uncomfortably too small.

I let it continue for a bit. I figured with my youth and my uncertainty of how severe the damage was, the more of my blood she had the better off she would be. I did however stop when I began to feel weak. Christine fought me slightly, but I managed to pry my arm away. It did not surprise me. I recalled briefly how delicious and powerful I felt when I had tasted vampire blood. Granted it had only been for a few minutes before I passed out, but I had felt it.

I guessed she would be heal just fine. Her skin had regained most of its color and her breathing seemed normal. A bit deep like she had run a mile or done something a bit more enjoyable. I remembered that Kimberly mentioned that a major side effect of vampire blood, regardless if use to heal injuries or not, was a highly increased libido. I figured Christine wouldn't mind a sleepless night or two considering the alternative. Not that I planned to use that to my advantage. It was severely tempted, but I had come to enjoy the chase so to speak. One of my old human friends, Eric, would say it was like playing tennis with the net down. Although, he had been referring to Tasha at the time and not Christine which I suppose was true as far as reputation was concerned.

"Dom?" Her voice didn't sound as labored as before which I took as an improvement.

"I'm here." I knelt by her head so she could catch my eye. "You're still hurt."

"Hurt?" She repeated when my glamor took effect.

"Yes." I said. "You need to rest. Just go to sleep and you'll feel much better."

"Really?" She frowned for moment. "Hold on . . . I was shot." She seemed to be looking for confirmation. "I was. Wasn't I?"

"Yes." I nodded and pushed my glamor a bit harder. "But I gave you some really strong drugs and it's better if you don't fight them and sleep. Okay?"

"Okay." She closed her eyes and drifted off, but her mouth seemed lag behind the rest. "Just . . . make . . . sure . . . to . . . to . . . check . . . my . . . O2 sat . . . and . . ."

I felt a ton disappear and my shoulders dropped. Now I find a place for her to rest. I couldn't just leave her naked on my couch with blood stained greatcoat as a blanket. My bed was out of the question, but not because I did not wish give up my bed for the day. On the contrary, I wouldn't mind in the slightest if Christine wished to share my bed, although I'd prefer under better circumstances. It was security issue.

Christine was a Shifter and I had no idea how she would react to waking up in an apartment she had never been to that reeked of only knew what she might do if she woke up in the same room with a sleeping vampire that happened to be a close friend she thought dead for the past two years. She might decide to do something rash involving a broken chair leg just easily as she might simply panic and leave the apartment.

I ran a mental list of the rooms available. Doyle and Regina's old room were currently my empty library and had no bed. A few comfortable leather recliners and a large desk, but no bed. Adrian's room was currently filled with the furniture he, Doyle, and Regina had left behind. With three beds, six night stands, and three trunks with some old forgotten pieces of clothing, one could barely open the door all the way. Then I remembered there was an empty room with a bed. A room I hadn't entered and had gone out of my way to ignore for past few months.

I opened the door to HER room.

Everything was as SHE had left it. Like the others, SHE hadn't taken any furniture with her. The canopy bed hadn't moved as did the two nightstands. The dresser still sat where it had and a large leather bound trunk was still at the foot of the bed. SHE did take the Wallace sword and hammer with her, but that was the extent of it. I did not like the idea of Christine, or anyone, sleeping in this room, but I had to be practical. I quickly found an old broom in the kitchen and swept the floor of her room. It wasn't surprising that after a few months of neglect everything had acquired a thin layer of dust. I also quickly mopped afterword and remade the bed with fresh sheets after flipping the mattress.

Once I finished hardly five minutes later, a thought occurred that Christine was going to need clothes. I opened the trunk and saw something had been left behind. Fortunately for Christine, it was a silk lavender nightgown with the tag still attached. It didn't surprise me because I knew, one way or another, SHE always slept in the nude. I guess the nightgown had been a gift of some sort.

So I carefully slipped the nightgown on Christine. It seemed a little tight around the chest, but it was long enough so that she would think she was wearing lingerie. Even to me that seemed creepy. So I covered her and did a quick visual exam. She looked like she would make a full recovery. Her skin had claimed almost all of its previous color and it was warm, almost hot, to the touch when I laid her down. Her breathing and heart sounded slow and regular to my ears. With nothing else to do for her, I turned off the lights and went to the living room where I found Tux sniffing at the bloody coat.

"I know." I told her."Barnabe is not going to be happy."

I sank into a recliner and hopped into my lap without a word. Like I knew she would, Tux began purring the second I began scratching behind her ears. I let myself relax in the task and wondered what would happen next, or rather, the next night. It just went to show that killing five humans in an alley, transporting a bleeding Shifter down seven crowded city blocks and up twelve floors - all without being seen or having to stop to kill witnesses - then treat her wounds, clean my Maker's old room, then finally dressing her my Maker's nightgown before laying her down to rest in my Maker's bed would be the easy part.

Sooner or later, Christine would have to wake up and she would have to leave. To say I was conflicted was putting it mildly. She had known me when I was human, which under normal vampiric circumstances was highly dangerous. But these weren't normal vampiric circumstances. Christine was a Shifter so therefor part of same hidden world as I was. So I guessed she could be trusted to keep a secrete and knew some of our rules. She had to know that if she told any human, my family or others, then she'd be putting their lives in danger and as a would be doctor, she would want to save lives not end them.

The simple answer would be to glamor her and have her forget she ever saw me, but I wanted to avoid that. Maybe, I still cared about her. I might even still think I love her on some level. Maybe after all I've said and done about not wishing to go back to my human life, I wanted something familiar. It made sense when I tried to think about it. When I was turned, I wanted nothing more than to go back home. To return to something familiar and safe. It might not have been pleasant, but it had been all I knew. I did eventually learn to accept and even revel in my new life. So was it so out of the question that when it happened again that I'd be tempted by something from my past?

Did I want a relationship with Christine?

For a possible genius, I couldn't seem to come up with an answer. I knew I did when I was human, but that ship sailed a while ago. I knew now that sometimes women just only saw you as friend. Just because I had feelings for her did not mean she was obligated to do the same. It couldn't just end well. A traditional relationship was impossible. Oh we might have a fun night in bed here and there, but she couldn't stay young forever.

Right now she is probably focused on her career as a doctor, but what about ten years down the line when she wants to settle down and have children? I couldn't give her that. Even if I could give her a family, what woman would be happy with a man that couldn't take her and the kids to the beach on a sunny day? What child would want a father that couldn't be there for their little league games or their class's rendition of Romeo & Juliet? I'd be just like my father. Only I'd feel something because I actually would care.

Even if she gives that up which I highly doubted, there was still the huge problem that I will always look twenty-one. Sure, it might be fun when she is the cougar on the prowl when she's in her forties, but we would definitely get some stares when she hits her golden years. To say nothing the damage it would take on the children. Call me insane, but idea of burying generation after generation of my own bloodline does not appeal to me at all. A simple answer would be to turn her, but no Shifter would agree to that. Not to mention that the child eventually has to leave the Maker's side whether it was ten years or fifty.

Maybe I should just tell how I felt and see from there.

"Ow!" I said, startled.

I looked down to see Tux had rolled onto her back and was chewing on my hand. I must have retreated into myself without meaning to and not one for being ignored, Tux snapped me out of it. I smiled and began teasing her belly which she pretended to dislike by pushing my hand away and nipping at my hand with her teeth. She must have been more intelligent than I first thought because she never bit or scratched hard enough to break the skin when I played with her like that. She had come close a few times when she had gotten over excited, but no cigar as they say.

Like any spoiled child with a toy, Tux quickly grew bored and hopped off my lap. I envied her in a way. Some food, a warm bed, and someone to tickle her now and then was all she really needed or wanted. She reminded me of how most vampire probably viewed the world. Humans, undead or otherwise, were there to provide food and clean up after her. They were also expected to drop everything at the drop of the hat should she feel bored and demanded attention and should be more than grateful for whatever paltry amount of affection she gave.

"It's your world and we're just living in it." I said musingly. "Right?"

"Rrrow." Tux said which I took for a confirmation and began rubbing against the backpack Mae had left.

"Thanks for reminding me." I stood up and took the bag into the library. "Funny, three years ago I thought the only time I'd see this kind of money in a boring action movie."

"Rroow" Tux responded as she followed.

"I don't know." I set the back next to the desk. "Something with Schwarzenegger or Stallone." I knelt by the desk and removed two screws from two small rails hidden by the thick carpeting. "Maybe even Bruce Willis."

I then stood and pulled the desk gently while I lifted it slightly to reveal one of the two secret bolt holes I had.

When I remodeled, I couldn't think of a way to use the false bottoms where Regina and Doyle's coffins had been. I reasoned that I might need the extra sleeping space for one reason or another. I had gotten the idea one night when one of the drawers of my old dresser had become stuck. Of course like an idiot, I gave it a hard yank and it came flying out. When I looked inside, inspiration hit me.

I had quickly emptied and dismantled the dresser. Then I screwed and hammered the tiny metal railings into the wood floor by the hole. A quick trip the hardware store and I had all I needed, namely a board that perfectly covered the hole like a lid and one significantly longer and wider. I attached the tiny wheels that had belonged to the drawers to the small board and made sure it glided along the railings like it had been designed to. Satisfied, I screwed and nailed the sliding lid to the much larger board which I built and attached the desk on top.

I did it so that desk would not sit directly on top of the lid. With the first board acting as a lock by sinking a few inches into the hole, it prevent from anyone casually leaning against the desk and have it slide out of place. The second board, much wider and longer than either the hole or the first board, prevented the desk from falling into the hole should someone heavy sit on it, possibly crushing me as well as reveal the compartment. As a security measure, I kept two screws on the railing to prevent the desk from sliding whenever I wasn't using it. I tested it a few times before I dismantled it and laid down the carpeting and rebuilt it. Once I knew everything I need to know, it was child's play to do it again with a coffee table. Truth be told, it took me longer to get the materials than building the second sliding lid.

While I had a secret bolt hole in mind when I designed them, it seemed they could function as a secret money cache. I unzipped the bag anf began neatly stacking them along the edge. While I worked, I tried to think of what I might say to Christine when she woke up. It might not prove wise to pursue a romantic relationship in the long run, but that didn't mean I would never see her again. We were friends before and we could be again.

"Well?" I looked up to see Tux batting the tip of an antennae of a portable radio. "Feel free to chime in."

Not much to my surprise, she ignored me for the little round tip of metal just out of reach. She tried to reach t by climbing on top of the radio, but leaped off when one of her paw turned the radio on and a loud blast of static came from the speakers. I laughed when she approached and began curiously tapping the radio, each hit making the static hiss differently when she got closer.

I had finished squirreling my nuts away for winter, so to speak, and slid the desk back into place before I set the radio right side up. "What the matter?" I asked while I straightened the antenna and lowered the volume. "Bored of those toy mice?"

"Rrow!" Tux answered and hopped onto the desk.

"You know, you never gave me answer." I scratched behind an ear while she pawed at the dials. "What do you think I should do? I know she turns into a dog, but you have to know something about them, right?"

Tux didn't make a sound, but she continue paw curiously at the dials and looked amazed that they could turn. To my amusement, she found the volume dial and jumped a foot when music began to play. I laughed and went to shut it off when I paused and realized i knew the song. It was last bit of an old Billy Joel song.

Listen boy, it's good information

From a man who's made mistakes

Just a word or two that she gets from you

Could be the difference that it makes

She's a trusting soul, she's put her trust in you

But a girl like that won't tell you what you should do

Tell her about it, tell her everything you feel

Give her every reason to accept that you're for real

Tell her about it, tell her all your crazy dreams

Let her know you need her, let her know how much she means

Tell her about it

Tell her how you feel right now

Just tell her about it

The girl don't want to wait too long

You got to tell her about it

Tell her now and you won't go wrong

You got to tell her about it

Before it gets too late

You got to tell her about it

"And that was Billy Joel's Tell Her About it." said the radio DJ once the song faded. "Don't beat around the bush guys. Valentine's Day only a few hours away. Do what the man says and tell her about it!"

"Hmm." I smiled at Tux. "Anyone ever tell you that you have a way with words?"

"Rrow?"

"Case and point."

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