THE CRIMSON FLOW

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Chapter 9.1 - I COULDN'T LOSE YOU

Fangs extended, he bit into his wrist, deep, then scored his chest with razored talons. Holding his bleeding arm over Becky’s mouth, he willed her to drink. Desperate, striving above desolation, he prayed as he had never prayed in centuries and smeared the blood from his chest over her wounds, covering them in the red tincture.

Her body stilled.

He had left it too late.

His heart constricted, a pain so brutal, so intense, he was overwhelmed. Mournful cries, swallowed by his agony, raced, screaming within his head, his torture absolute.

Becky had not actively drunk his blood, it merely poured down her throat until thin rivulets trickled from the corners of her mouth. There was nothing more could be done. He drew his arm away.

Then -

A twitch.

Hope.

Another tremor, a spasm. She breathed! Shallow, frail, latent, but she was still alive.

An audible cry filled the room as Cain’s boundless relief surged forth. And then he waited, anxious, attentive.

As the minutes ticked by, Becky’s body convulsed - her back arched, arms and legs thrashed. Fingers wrung the sheets, clasping the material, her knuckles white. Occasionally she called out; her pitiable cry clawing at Cain’s heart.

A memory of pain and heartbreak was evoked. Becky’s transition mirrored Melantha’s - febrific and brutal. Anxiety and insurmountable dread flared as Cain feared he had yet again doomed a beautiful woman. Turbulent emotions encompassed him, accusing, unforgiving, relentless. Still, he did not, could not move from Becky’s side.

Holding her hand, his thumb brushed her knuckles as he sat vigil throughout her transformation, waiting, praying; blood tears never far from the surface.

Almost an hour passed, then finally Becky showed some signs of stability. Her breathing settled into a more regular pattern. Relieved, yet trepidatious, Cain observed as her wounds started to cinch and close. Scar tissue formed, the knitting of her flesh almost reverent in its execution; strips of skin, plumping, filling out, sliding together, renewed. Blood pigment was then slowly absorbed by her skin as she lay, finally peaceful, beautified by the moonlight. Only a delicate translucent veil, the residue of her paroxysmal transmutation, remained.

Cain yanked the clean sheet from the twin bed and draped it over her. Gently, he brushed aside wayward strands of her hair, the gesture amative, like a lover. He wanted to speak her name yet his voice refused to obey.

Glancing out of the window, his thoughts became distant. He considered all the talking monkeys sitting safely behind millions of tiny, brightly-lit windows, and those who moved in the sea of red tail-lights, streaming away in the distance. All were given life through the grace of God. And here Cain sat, having robbed one such blessed individual of her mortality, condemning her to an uncertain, possibly fleeting and insufferable future. The guilt, the conflict started to rise, take hold - but it was far too late now.

Becky’s fingers twitched, the small movement drawing Cain’s attention. Hope sparked in his withered heart.

Suddenly, her eyes sprang open. She held his tormented gaze for a few moments before her focus shifted, taking in her surroundings. “Cain,” she whispered, hesitant, turning her attention back to him. She stared, uncertain, apprehensive. “Where am I? What happened? I feel - I feel different.”

The vampire managed a wistful smile. “You’re in my hotel room.” Then Cain hung his head, the black hair forming a curtain, shielding his face from Becky’s view.

Becky’s brow furrowed. “What’s wrong?”

Cain’s voice was quiet, wretched. “You almost died. You were barely breathing.”

"Almost ?” She pushed herself up, keeping modesty intact by gripping the sheet. Her eyes then widened. “Riley?” she inquired.

Cain shook his head. “No, I’m sorry.”

She fell silent and sat for a while staring out of the window, lost in thought, tears welling at the corners of her eyes. Cain knew although she had only recently met the man, she still felt sad Riley had not survived; he had, after all, ended up trying to protect her.

Suddenly, she inspected her arms, fretful, uncertain. She raised her hand to her throat, examining, assessing. Her eyes, looking but not seeing, seemed to be searching inwardly as if combing a memory, seeking answers. A small tic tugged the corner of her mouth. “I remember - some of it!” she whispered. A shudder passed through her and she clutched the sheet tighter.

Cain expected all-out panic, but strangely, Becky calmed.

“Luke turned me?” she asked; her voice airing confusion, apprehension.

Cain shifted and held Becky’s gaze, taking a few moments before answering. “No,” he said, barely audible. He watched as puzzlement crossed her face. “I did.”

She inhaled, sharp. Her eyes fixed upon his bare chest and arms. No ostensible indication of the source was available, his body had healed.

“But - you refused me so often. I tried to make you turn me for so long, and I know how my persistence irritated you. When I finally understood why - I then decided I no longer wanted this. Cain! I am so sorry - my stupidity has forced your hand.”

“My reluctance was not easy, it was a constant battle, yes, but when I saw you lying there, barely breathing - ” He paused. ”I couldn’t lose you,” he continued hurriedly, remorseful. “Though I fear I have served you a monstrous sentence. I - ” His voice cracked, sorrow threatening to engulf him. “I have sinned again.”

Becky leaned forward, spontaneous, and pressed her lips against his before he could utter more regret.

Her mouth was beautifully soft, lips of silk. As his brain registered the ‘new’ sensation, Cain felt another hunger being forged; his body sensitised in a way he had not experienced for millennia. He pulled back, momentarily surprised.

“Cain,” Becky said, quietly confident. Her hand closed around his, comforting, reassuring. She looked vibrant, inspirited. “I admit I’m more than surprised, and yes, I’m scared, too. To be honest, I’m astonished I’m not positively bricking it!” She laughed, light.

He held her gaze as she continued. The timbre of her voice gave rise to an ancient, almost forgotten rhythm from deep within his soul.

“I have one very strange and macabre journey ahead of me; that’s the pathetic extent of my understanding of this. But, I will have you with me, and that alone will give me the courage and strength I will need to adjust. I will do it, I know I will.” Her eyes misted over, pupils dilating. Squeezing his hand, she inched back across the bed. “We can share other things, too.”

Cain had not engaged in matters of the heart for - well, a very long time indeed, but he still recognised the signs of desire in a woman’s eyes. Undeniably, his affections were strong for Becky, but this was territory he had long since left behind.

He lowered his head, hair shielding his face once more. “I cannot be with you that way-” He felt inexorably foolish, defeated.

“Hey,” Becky said, fingers stroking his cheek, her touch making him meet her eyes. “There are many levels of intimacy.”

She slid over, inviting him to join her.

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