It was the knife in my gut that finally woke me.
I had happily slept through all the yelling, but the strange cold sensation quickly followed by white-hot pain ripped me from unconsciousness.
Howling in agony I rolled from the bed, struggling to get into a defensive position. The movement only forced the blade deeper in, tearing another shriek from my throat. Gritting my teeth, I gripped the handle and pulled it from my body. The handle was slippery with my blood, but I kept my grip, intending to use the weapon on my attacker.
My eyes automatically searched the room for the threat and I froze.
“Gabriel? What the hell!”
The reaper stood at the foot of my bed; his face was a mask of cold fury.
“What did you do?” He snapped. “You are supposed to be dead right now. Instead, I come here to find you changed back into this thing! Plus, don’t think I haven’t seen the abomination upstairs!”
By abomination, I assumed that he meant my best friend, Lillian. I guessed he was particularly upset that instead of dying for good, I had returned to my previous undead vampiric state.
“You stabbed me!”
I was too shocked to question the situation much further. The two of us were not exactly friends, but I didn’t think we were on stabbing each other terms.
“I thought you weren’t allowed to interfere!” I hissed indignantly.
Gabriel was a reaper, something I still didn’t completely understand. However, I was pretty certain he was not supposed to be attacking people. He was supposed to be peacefully guiding the souls of the dead or some such thing.
“I am not supposed to interfere with the living.” He spat out. “However, that doesn’t seem to be something that applies to you any longer!”
I bared my fangs at him in response. The large wound in my abdomen was really diminishing my conversational abilities. I pressed my free hand against it to slow the flow of blood, keeping the pain off of my face. I was not particularly concerned- the blade was just regular metal. I would heal quickly, provided I could get access to blood soon.
“How dare you do this!” He was still yelling at me.
“It has nothing to do with you!” I snapped back, matching his tone. “Besides, I had no control over it! I thought I was dying for good. I didn’t know I would wake up again.”
“No control-” He broke off looking furious. “Of course, you had control! You may not remember any of it, but you had to fight to come back. As I have explained to you before, the process is not automatic!”
His answer surprised me, but I didn’t let it show. Of course, he had explained the process to me before, but I hadn’t had time to give it much thought.
“Who cares about that? My life, my choice.”
“No! It is not your choice. You were meant to die and you were meant to become a reaper! You cannot keep flouting the natural order of things!”
The rising pain was making my already tenuous temper short. I did not care in the slightest about the natural order of things. If there was a natural order, I would have been long forgotten dust centuries ago. I had had enough.
“Gabriel, get the hell out of my house.”
“I will not, you must-”
“I must nothing, get out now! You are no longer welcome here.”
The door at the top of the stairs burst open just as I flung the knife at Gabriel’s head. He disappeared just in time and it hit the wall with a solid sounding thunk. I wasn’t sure what would have happened if it hit him- could he even be hurt? I didn’t know.
I spun to face the newest threat but it was just Lillian, my previously dead but now alive roommate. She had appeared at the top of the stairs. Wrapped in a large dressing gown, she looked very confused.
“What happened? Oh goodness, you’re bleeding!”
I glanced down at myself and groaned. This only caused her to be more alarmed.
“What, what is it? Are you in a lot of pain?”
“I’m fine. Look at my bedsheets!” I wailed, “These are my favourite ones! I will never get the blood out!”
I was being overly dramatic, I was aware. Still, returning from the dead and having your original antique French-designed sheets ruined for no good reason will do that.
“What happened?” She asked again, looking a little less panicked.
Haltingly I explained it all as I made my way upstairs. My wound was already knitting together but my desire for blood was getting stronger by the minute. I had to force myself to keep a safe distance from Lillian. Thankfully it seemed Nick and Amir had left; two fewer people to tempt me.
I made my way into the kitchen so I could lean against a stool without getting blood on anything else important. I saw the remains of a meal on the counter.
“What time is it?” I asked, grimacing a little as I stretched.
“It’s still early, just after four pm,” she told me.
That was good. I had a lot of things I needed to do and a limited amount of darkness. I focused on Lillian who was still hovering anxiously.
“How are you feeling?”
She smiled, “Still fine. Nick made me some food before he left, it was amazing.”
Despite the pain I was in, I couldn’t help but smile back. I still couldn’t get over the little thrill of joy at seeing her alive. I reached out tenuously with my power and found that I could still feel her life force, strong and vibrant. Gabriel’s anger worried me. I would do everything in my power to protect my best friend. Nothing was going to take this opportunity away from her.
“I need to call Vanessa,” I said. “Perhaps she can put wards on our house like she did with her own apartment.”
I remembered when I had first been searching for the witch. I had been unable to teleport directly into her residence and Lillian had not been able to enter through a wall. Something like that would hopefully keep Gabriel out until we could think of a better solution.
“I bet that is powerful magic,” Lillian observed.
She was probably right. I would have to think of something substantial to repay Vanessa with. Perhaps that new car I had considered before. Before anything else though, I needed to feed. Lillian’s heartbeat was becoming distracting.
“I need to go out,” I said abruptly.
Lillian’s eyes widened in understanding.
“You don’t have to leave; I don’t mind donating my blood.” She told me. “Now that I actually have some to give, I mean.”
I was doing nothing to jeopardize her newly alive state. I shook my head quickly.
“No, it’s fine. I need to go and take care of matters in town, anyway.”
I still hadn’t properly checked in after dealing with all of the red-eyed creatures in the warehouse. People would want to know that everything was under control.
“I need to get dressed. I wonder if…”
I closed my eyes and thought of my bedroom. Suddenly I was there; the process felt even easier than when I was human. I let out a peal of laughter.
“Ha! It still works!”
“Scarlett?” Lillian’s voice called from above me.
“Down here!” I yelled.
Being able to shift was going to make my life so much easier. I didn’t understand why I still had my reaper power, but I wasn’t about to question it.
Quickly I dressed in some dark practical clothes. My black shirt would hide any blood that escaped from my still-healing wounds. My hair was being entirely impossible so I put it in a bun.
I made sure to grab some extra money from a drawer – blood would cost.