Alix got dressed and as soon as the sun had set he headed to work. As soon as he reached the facility he could feel the defenses that had been installed to keep vampires in – the UV lights, the garlic, etc. – and he knew how to turn them off. He entered the facility and headed to the maintenance room. He flipped off the switches for the UV lights that filled the walls with deadly light. He felt the rays stop and he grinned. Time for the next step. He headed inside.
Other vampires had already congregated around the facility. When they felt the defenses go off and heard Athens words, they swarmed inside the facility. They spread out, destroying everything related to the project and disposing of the scientists. Some were hypnotized and sent home, but most of them didn’t deserve to live.
Merry felt the UV lights go off. She smiled and retrieved her pen and notebook, tucking the book into the back of her pants and the pen into her pocket. She leapt into the air at the camera, breaking it with her fist. She landed lightly on her feet and bolted towards the door.
Merry froze millimeters from the door but the force of the air in front of her blew it off its hinges and it crashed down the hallway. Merry smiled wider. She could feel all the vampires in the facility that had come to her aid, and she had wanted to knock down that door since the day she’d been locked behind it. Merry stepped out into the hallway, glanced at a vampire who had just come around the corner, nodded to her, then zipped off down the hall.
Hunt had arrived early. Something was still bothering her about the night before. She brought up the footage of the vampire’s cell from the day before, rewound, and watched again as Athens and the vampire embraced in the dim light. Why? Merry didn’t even like Athens. Her mind flashed back to her conversation with Merry. Vampirism is a disease, a virus, like AIDS, and it’s spread the same way. Her eyes grew wide as she understood. Blood contact was only one way; vampirism could be spread other ways. Alix was a vampire.
It all made sense now. Merry had hypnotized Johnson on the very first day when she’d attacked the observation room. He had been close to the window and hadn’t moved away immediately. She had told him to come to her, but he wasn’t able to for a while, so he slowly became obsessed with her. She hadn’t expected him to have a gun and had been forced to kill him to protect herself. When she woke up with Athens beside her, she played hurt so she could trick him into returning later. From then on he was under her control. She had slept with him, infecting him, but because she hadn’t bitten him to weaken him, it took time for his body to be overcome by the vampire virus. It was perfect: Athens had time to get away from the facility before he turned and no one, not even he, would know that he was becoming a vampire until it was too late.
No. Something about that wasn’t right. Merry was too smart to leave it up to chance. She knew Johnson would attack her. She had read his mind and found out that he wasn’t as innocent as he pretended. She had escaped that night so that the gun was out for Johnson to take and use on her. She had set Athens up, probably from the very start. She read his mind when he first looked at her in the police station.
It suddenly dawned on Hunt that Merry certainly would have been able to escape the very first night when Athens and the boys went to get her from the police station. There were a good thirty seconds between when they took her out of the station and away from the tranquilizer gun and when they put her in the back of the van. For a vampire like Merry, thirty seconds was twenty-nine and a half seconds longer than she needed to escape. She had let them contain her.
Hunt didn’t know how to feel. She was angry at Athens for playing right into Merry’s arms and scared because he had all the security codes and could get in. She knew she had to change the codes immediately, before Athens arrived, and she returned the computer to live feed as she stood up. She glanced at the monitor and was surprised to see that the screen was blank. Hunt stared at it for a moment, confused, then she realized what it meant. Alix was already here, and he’d freed Merry.
A chair creaked behind her.
Hunt’s eyes grew wide as she realized that there was someone in the room with her. She whirled around and stared at Merry, a few feet away from her. She gazed into Merry’s eyes, but the vampire didn’t need to hypnotize her. Merry was smiling.
The vampire had clearly reclaimed all of her possessions. Her hair was tied back in a ponytail and she wore her beloved belt and wickedly dangerous boots. Hunt was sure that the vampire’s pockets contained everything they had before the police took her into custody.
“I need to apologize in advance for what I am about to do to you,” Merry said. “I won't lie, I might lose control, but I will do my best not to hurt you.”
Hunt was speechless. She stared at Merry, afraid to speak in case she said the wrong thing. Merry didn't look threatening as she lounged in the over-stuffed office chair, but her words and the fact that she was here, in Hunt's space, made her seem so much more dangerous.
“Alix?” Hunt stammered.
“I mentioned before about sex between humans and vampires being dangerous, but I left out the worst part of it. I hated to do that to him, but it was the only way. He had to have time to leave before he turned.”
“You planned this all.”
“You knew that Mark would attack you.”
Again the vampire nodded.
“Why would you risk that? He could have raped you... killed you.”
Merry shook her head.
“There was no risk,” the vampire assured Hunt. “I knew that in his haste he would make mistakes. I knew that I would have time to kill him before the tranquilizers took effect.”
“It was still risky,” Hunt disagreed, trying to draw out the conversation in order to give herself more time to live.
“It worked, didn't it?” Merry asked.
Hunt had to concede. It did work. All of Merry's careful planning had led to this moment.
“I needed Alix to see me weak so he could come to my rescue. I needed him to want to comfort me and make me feel better. I needed to get him alone and get inside his head.”
“What would you have done if you couldn't seduce Alix?”
“Seduced you,” the vampire replied casually. “In the heat of the moment you would have given me the door codes and I would have bitten you. We would have left in your car and I would have come back for Alix.”
Hunt was completely flustered by the response.
“Was it.. um... easy to seduce him?” Hunt asked, wondering how easily the vampire could have seduced her.
“It usually is,” Merry replied, making Hunt feel as if Merry was reading her mind. “If I really wanted to make it easy, I could have asked him for his blood to help me recover from the tranquilizers. It would have given me more power over him.”
Hunt looked down at her wrists. There were no marks to show the many times she had allowed the vampire to drink her blood. She had had no idea what she was giving up.
“Our bond is strong enough for me to steer your thoughts and emotions, if I want. I can compel you to act, or not act... to sleep while I seduce your boyfriend.”
“You lied. You said it was safe for you to bite me... That I wouldn't get infected.”
“You aren't infected... yet. For the link to fully form you would have to drink my blood. If we were apart, if I didn't drink any more of your blood, the link would fade. And I could seal it off. I do it all the time when I bite someone for a snack. I wipe their memories and block the link so they never remember and I don't have to feel them all the time.”
“How many people have you killed?” Hunt wondered, again trying to distract the vampire.
“Killed or sired?”
“Since I met you, four and one,” Merry replied. “Before that, I've killed too many to count, and sired, well...” She smiled. “Let's say: enough.”
Hunt had run out of questions. The vampire had one for her.
“Why is the government so interested in vampires?” Merry asked.
Hunt didn't know what to say. Why on earth was Merry bothering to ask that kind of question now? She was free, Athens was a vampire, Hunt would soon be dead; why did it matter?
“What do you mean?” Hunt asked, stalling for time. Her mind raced as she tried to think of a way to escape. “For research.”
“Research for what?”
“To study you. To know how you work. I mean... To understand you and what you're capable of...”
Hunt was having trouble concentrating on the subject. She glanced at the door and immediately knew that she could never reach it in time. Her hand struck her jacket pocket where her garlic spray rested, reminding her that it was there, but she was afraid that reaching for it would cause Merry to strike.
“For what?” the vampire repeated.
Hunt paused. Merry's question burned in her head. Vampires were amazing – who wouldn't want to study them? But Merry was right: the government never shelled out a dime for research unless there was a really good reason.
“Medical reasons, I suppose,” Hunt replied. “We were supposed to focus on your healing capabilities, strength, and speed.”
Merry smirked. The scientist was so naive.
Hunt's eyes widened and her jaw dropped slightly. One simple word and everything had changed. Hunt sat down on the edge of the desk and stared at the floor. She had been duped. The government didn't want to use the vampire's abilities to save lives, they wanted to build super-soldiers; they wanted to make better killers.
“A human-vampire hybrid that could walk in the sun and run for days, eat regular food and go without water for weeks, heal from any wound in a matter of minutes, leap over walls and defenses, kill better with their bare hands than any martial arts master...”
Merry left the rest to Hunt's imagination. Hunt had a very active imagination.
Hunt pushed off the counter and walked a few steps away from the computer, still staring blankly at the ground. Merry had known all along and Hunt hadn't even considered it in all the time she'd been there. It made Hunt feel sick and angry. She wanted to tear up all the research and burn the building to the ground. She felt betrayed.
Merry smiled. She could read Hunt's thoughts and smell her emotions. Hunt was glad, now, that Merry was about to destroy everything that she had worked so hard to build.
“I will tear it down for you,” Merry said. “I will erase all proof that this facility, this project, ever existed. I will take the lives or memories of everyone involved. No one will ever know any of the things you discovered.”
Hunt nodded. She didn't know how to reply. Still staring into space, she slowly removed her lab coat and laid it on the desk. She gently touched the amethyst pendant that hung around her neck, then slowly reached around behind her head and unclasped it. She brought it around in front of her in order to reconnect the clasp, then carefully tucked it into her pocket. She removed her earrings, admired them for a moment, then tossed them into the garbage can. She patted her pockets and ran her fingers through her hair, glancing around as if she was making sure she didn't forget anything.
Merry watched her, unblinking. She knew that Hunt was going to let her bite her and it was all she could do to stay seated. She shifted in the chair and sat up straight, her hands gripping the chair arms with near-crushing force. She stiffened and her eyes began to glow red as Hunt slowly walked towards her.
Hunt stopped just in front of Merry and looked down at her. The vampire's red eyes didn't frighten her anymore, even though they were focused on her throat. The vampire was statuesque as she sat with her jaw clenched and every muscle rigid, except for the slightest twitch of a muscle as she fought the overwhelming urge to leap at Hunt.
“I never answered you the other day when you asked me whether I would choose vampirism over death,” Hunt said. “I didn't want to admit the truth, to you or to myself. You have shown me that I have been missing so much in my life. There are so many experiences that I have never had, that I want to have. I'm not ready to die.”
Merry started to stand up, but Hunt put her hand on her shoulder. Merry froze, the intoxicating scent of Hunt's blood filling her nostrils as it pulsed just underneath the skin of her wrist. Hunt slowly sat down on Merry's lap, like a lover might have, as an act of complete surrender.
Merry's breathing was labored and her eyes were locked on Hunt's throat. Hunt realized that she had completely turned the tables on Merry. It was now the vampire that was so distracted that she could hardly follow the conversation, and she was afraid to open her mouth even to speak for fear of losing control. Hunt touched Merry's cheek, making her blink for the first time in minutes. Merry's eyes met Hunt's. Her face was strained and Hunt could see her fangs as she finally spoke.
“Death is nothing to fear,” Merry insisted. She needed to take several sharp breathes before she could continue. “But I have no intentions of letting you die.”
The vampire's eyes had drifted back down to Hunt's throat. Hunt reached up and drew her hair back off her own neck.
“I know,” Hunt replied.
The chair hit one wall as Hunt suddenly found herself pinned against the opposite wall. She remembered a snarl and someone had screamed. She closed her eyes because the room was spinning. There was a sharp pain in her neck and as the blood flowed out of her it dawned on her that the scream had been her own. And she was dying.
Her fingertips became cool where they gripped Merry's warm, powerful arms. She dug her fingernails into the vampire's flesh as the pain made her swoon. Merry didn't seem to notice. The pain faded as Hunt became too weak to stand on her own. Her grip on Merry failed, leaving trails of blood down the vampire's arms.
Hunt sighed as the pain in her neck completely disappeared. She wasn't afraid of falling because strong hands gently lowered her to the ground. She tasted blood in her mouth. It burned. She swallowed. It burned worse.
Merry held Hunt with one hand as she kept her bleeding wrist pressed against her stomach while it healed. At last Hunt's pain faded and she relaxed.
Hunt opened her eyes and stared up into Merry's dark eyes. Merry smiled. Hunt smiled back. Her eyes fell shut again.
Merry hooked her arms underneath Hunt’s shoulders and knees and lifted her effortlessly off the floor. She turned and headed out of the control room into the hallway.
Susan tried not to watch as the vampires killed her co-workers. Her cane had been knocked away from her in the confusion after the red-eyed strangers first entered the lab, not that being able to walk would have helped her when the only door was blocked. So she sat, her chair pushed back into the corner, and waited to die.
A tall, male vampire with wavy brown hair entered the room. His eyes fell on Susan, who met his gaze and watched with growing trepidation as he advanced on her.
The vampire was smiling pleasantly and his eyes remained their natural brown as he approached the woman. His sharp eyes spotted the abandoned cane on the floor. He stooped and lifted it from the floor, then offered it to Susan.
“Is this yours?”
Susan nodded as she cautiously took the cane, but didn't speak. The vampire sat down in a chair.
“My name is Jonas.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” Jonas said, smiling as he offered his hand to shake.
Susan slowly took his hand and shook it. Jonas pulled her hand close and kissed the back of it. When he looked back at Susan, she was smiling slightly, unable to resist the vampire's charm.
“Tell me, Susan, are you particularly attached to that cane?”
Susan looked down at the cane, wondering if he meant what she thought he meant. She slowly reached over and hooked the cane on a nearby desk. Jonas smiled wider. A noise behind him disturbed the moment.
“Shall we go somewhere quieter?” Jonas offered.
“I'd like that,” Susan replied.
Jonas stood and stepped beside her.
“May I?” he asked.
She nodded. The vampire gently lifted her up into his arms. She wrapped her arms around his neck, tucked her face against his collarbone, and closed her eyes.
Susan never opened her eyes once as they made their way through the facility, outside, and across the city. She was tempted to look twice, once when she heard a scream and once when she heard Dr. Athens' voice. She didn't remember seeing Dr. Athens before the computers had started to fail, and his voice didn't indicate that he was threatened or afraid, and Susan didn't want to see the handsome doctor as a vampire.
Once they were outside and the vampire was leaping from rooftop to rooftop, Susan held on tighter and squeezed her eyes shut to avoid the temptation to look at where they were going. She didn't know that they were moving so quickly that her human eyes wouldn't have been able to process the sights anyway. Finally their movement slowed.
“You can look now,” Jonas said.
Susan opened her eyes and found that they were on a balcony. Jonas carried her inside his small, simple apartment. She hardly had time to look around before they were in the bedroom and he was laying her on the bed.
Jonas smiled down at her as he pulled his jacket off and tossed it onto a chair in the corner before sitting beside her on the bed.
“What's wrong?” he asked, concerned that she wasn't smiling anymore.
“I'm just wondering what your intentions are,” Susan replied.
“Ah,” Jonas replied, looking down at her hand as he took hold of it.
“Do you intend to make me into a vampire?” Susan asked.
“I do,” Jonas said as he met her eyes, “if that's alright with you.”
“Will I be able to walk without a cane?”
“My dear, you will be able to leapt tall buildings in a single bound,” Jonas assured her.
Susan smiled at the Superman analogy.
“Why me?” she wondered.
“I would like to get to know you better,” Jonas answered, smiling. “And eternity seems like it might be long enough to do so.”
“Will it hurt?” Susan asked.
Jonas slid his hand under her back and touched the place where he had felt a thick scar while he was carrying her. Susan met his eyes, wondering if this pain would be as bad as the pain she suffered during her accident, or worse.
“Yes,” Jonas replied, “but it's nothing a strong woman like you can't handle.”
Susan nodded. Jonas leaned closer to her.
“Close your eyes,” he suggested.
Alix sunk his fangs into the neck of the young laboratory technician, still shocked slightly by what he had learned from the man’s mind when he’d first taken hold of him. Alix didn’t stop in time to save the man for vampirism; he didn’t deserve eternity.
Alix felt Merry and pulled his fangs back out of the man’s neck. He licked his fangs and let the body fall to the floor absentmindedly as he concentrated on Merry’s location. Around him several other vampires, including Dominic, one of Merry’s other sired, were finishing off the remaining scientists.
Merry appeared in the doorway with Hunt in her arms. Alix retracted his fangs and stepped over a body on his way towards them. Dom too dropped what he was doing and fell into step with Alix. The reached Merry at the same time and Merry addressed Dom first.
“See that it’s burnt to the ground,” Merry ordered. “I’ve sent others to do follow up. Within a week no trace of ‘The Vampire Project’ will remain.”
“Yes, Merry,” Dom replied with a nod. He turned back into the room and Merry turned to Alix.
“We should go.”
Alix nodded and followed Merry down the hallway to the elevator. He pushed the buttons and they road down to the parking garage. Alix opened the passenger door of his car and Merry gently sat Hunt inside and seat-belted her in. Alix climbed into the driver’s seat and started the car. Merry laid her notebook on the dash.
“Take care,” Merry said to him. He nodded. “I’ll see you tomorrow night.”
Alix nodded again. Merry closed the car door and patted the roof. She stepped back and Alix drove off. Merry stood smiling and watching until the car was out of sight, then vanished into the night.
Alix drove much slower than he normally did, taking the corners easy and braking over bumps and dips in the road. He couldn’t help but glance nervously at Hunt every few moments, just to make sure. She made him smile. She looked so peaceful, lost in dreams. Alix reluctantly tore his eyes away from her and back to the street. He finally reached his building and pulled gently into his parking spot. He glanced at Hunt again as he turn of the ignition, gazing at her for a minute, then hopped out of the car and hurried around to her side.
As Alix stepped into the lobby he saw the building manager step out of her office. She stared at him and at the limp form he held in his arms. She looked him in the eyes and Alix took advantage of her, contracting and dilating his pupils rapidly so that the woman couldn’t look away, then he slid into her mind.
“She fell asleep on the drive home,” he said softly. The woman nodded, not taking her eyes off his.
Alix blinked to release her, then turned towards the elevator and headed up to his apartment. Once inside, Alix carefully place Hunt on his bed and covered her with the blanket. He fetched a glass of water from the kitchen and put it on the bedside table, just in case she was thirsty when she woke up, then knelt beside her.
Alix brushed Hunt’s hair back off her face and smiled wider when the corners of her lips moved up. He caressed her cheek, then leaned in and kissed her lightly on the lips. He stood up and adjusted the blanket before heading out of the room. He glanced back once, then pulled the door partially closed.
Davide stood high on a rooftop, staring out at the city. He had heard Merry call for vampires to help her kill the scientists and destroy the facility, and he had felt her make the new vampires, but where was she? He reached out for her through their link and found her. He whirled around and caught her around the waist. She smiled at him and reached up to release her hair from the ponytail. The wind blew her hair across her face. Davide brushed it back. Merry wrapped her arms around his neck and they kissed, finally able to ease the longing between them.
They pulled apart and Merry gazed up into Davide’s eyes. He smiled back down at her and brought his hand up to rest on the link on the side of her neck. Merry took a deep breath as her eyes rolled back into her head. She swooned forward against Davide and slowly moved her hand up to his link. Davide closed his eyes and smiled. They swayed together in the wind.
Davide finally moved his hand away. Merry held on for another moment before following suit. Davide pulled Merry's ring from his pocket and slipped it onto her finger. Merry smiled as she spun the ring, glad to have it back.
“Have you eaten,” she asked.
Davide shook his head. “What do you feel like?”
“Italian,” Merry replied, her grin widening.
“Pizza boy it is,” Davide said, grinning back.
Merry laughed. Davide loved her laugh. He loved everything about her. She was all he wanted and all he needed.
“I missed you,” he said.
Merry cuddled against him. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I shouldn’t have…”
“You never have to apologize to me,” Davide cut her off. “I only ever hoped to tie you to my heart. I knew I could never keep you locked in my arms. You are your own person and I love that about you. I love everything about you. You can’t make any mistakes; you’re an angel, and why you choose to wander the earth with me baffles me.”
“I am no angel,” Merry countered.
“Your heart is pure as gold,” Davide insisted, placing his hand over her heart. “You are as close as they come.”
Merry smiled. Davide leaned her back against a tall, metal air-exchange unit, cornering her. Merry's smile became mischievous. Davide could hear her heart rate increase as he pressed against her. His gaze dropped from her eyes as he hooked his finger in her belt and began to loosen it. Merry tried to pull him forward into a kiss but he resisted her, a crooked smile on his face. He held her back, teasing, as he undid her belt, and knew that he wouldn't be able to resist her for long.
Neither vampire noticed when the side of the air-exchange unit became dented.