Susan Delarosa limped her way across the parking lot to her car, leaning hard on her cane. She had surprised herself earlier by even coming to work tonight after the close encounter with the vampire. Even as she eased herself carefully into the driver's seat, the image of the vampire's glowing red eyes and fang-filled smile filled her mind, sending shivers down her spine. And Susan was not easily shaken. You don't recover as far as she had from a broken neck if you're a wimp.
Susan was lucky to be alive after a diving accident twenty years earlier had left her unconscious in a swimming pool. It was through her hard work and determination that she was able to walk, drive, write, and all-around function on her own, so she wasn't about to let a little thing like an unstoppable killer knowing her face slow her down.
Unstoppable. Susan had rushed to the window as quickly as she could when the vampire fell after being struck by the tranquilizers and had stared in horror at the sickening sight of the twisted body lying on the floor. It brought back terrible memories and nightmares for her. Her horror turned to awe as she saw the vampire move and untwist herself, completely unaffected by a fall that could have killed or paralyzed a normal human.
Susan hated to admit it, but she was jealous. The vampire could heal from almost any wound. If Susan was a vampire, she wouldn't need a cane to walk. Life would be effortless if she was a vampire. That was what drove her back to work tonight. If she could help the scientists find a way to capture the vampire's healing abilities, they might be able to transfer them to humans to help them heal better. They might even be able to heal injuries as severe as her own.
The night had not been as productive as Susan had hoped. Two of the computer servers crashed while the scientists were trying to run complicated programs to study the vampire's DNA. That left everyone in the lab without so much as e-mail access until Susan was able to discover the issue and solve it. Hours of valuable research time had been lost because someone had unplugged a cord.
Susan was just glad that none of the information had been lost thanks to her insistence that everything be backed up automatically onto an external hard drive. The minutes that the process took every hour were small matter compared to the hours that it would take to redo everything that could be lost.
Amy Hunt’s apartment was small, but she didn’t mind. She never spent much time there anyway. If she wasn’t at work, she was usually asleep, so why did it matter? Athens used to suggest that she got a bigger place, she could easily afford it, but she didn’t see the point. Athens’ place was twice or three times the size of hers, but since they’d broken up, he didn’t mention that fact anymore.
The majority of Hunt's décor was burgundy, chocolate brown, and beige. Her furniture was all dark wood, except the beige couch and loveseat. Her bedding and curtains were burgundy. Her walls were beige. Her flooring was camel-colored carpet, except for the modeled brown tiles in the bathroom and kitchen. It was the color scheme that the apartment came with and Hunt liked it and had never bothered to change it.
There had been a point in their relationship when Hunt was sure she’d soon be moving in with Athens, but she never told him that that was one of the reasons she didn’t get a bigger place. Then she’d caught him cheating on her, which set their relationship back a few notches. Athens swore it was the only time he’d done it and the only time he would, and Hunt had believed him, for a while. Then she found out that he had cheated before, and when she confronted him, he admitted to more than just the two she knew about.
Hunt surprised them both by not exploding in anger. She’d simply gotten up from her chair and left the restaurant. She got into a taxi and went back to her tiny apartment. When she got home she turned the ringer off on her bedroom phone and lay on the bed crying until she fell asleep. When she woke up, she went to work, where she ignored Athens all night. For the next few days she followed the same routine, but after that she started speaking to him again, and she turned the ringer back on on her phone.
Athens had tried to apologize again, but Hunt didn’t believe his promises this time. She told him flat out that it was over, forever, and to drop the subject, so he reluctantly did. Since then there had only been a slight tension between them at work, a tension that was worse some days and better others. The capture of the vampire had restored their working relationship to almost the level it had been when they first started dating. They were back to the point where they could share information and the same room, but not the same apartment.
Hunt thought about Merry's question about “home”. Where was her home? Certainly not this apartment. As a child it had been her grandparents' house, but it had been sold years ago, so it wasn't “home” anymore. It was a sad realization that she didn't have anywhere to really call “home”, and she didn't even have the excuse of being a wanderer like Merry. And even the vampire had a place she called “home”.
How special were these “friends” Merry mentioned that the vampire considered their place to be her home? How special was she to them that they kept a bedroom for her? The fact that Merry hadn't elaborated told Hunt that it wasn't her place to ask, but her curiosity was still peaked.
Alixi Athens' loft apartment was, like Hunt's, decorated by someone else. The walls were navy or steel blue, depending on the room. The furniture was grey and steel. There were white faux-fur accent rugs and throws. The king-sized bed was covered in grey bedding with a mirrored headboard. Athens had paid a designer to give his home a masculine feel and that was just what he got. Of course, the designer had nearly fainted when he returned to present Athens with the bill and found a crew installing a 60” TV on the wall, which amused Athens to no end.
Athens sat on his couch flipping channels. Even with 500 channels to choose from, there was nothing on at this time of day. Athens clicked the TV off and tossed the remote onto the glass and steel coffee table. He pulled his glasses off his face and rubbed his tired eyes. He hadn’t been sleeping well since Hunt had broken up with him and now that they had finally captured a vampire he knew he would be spending more time at work and getting even less sleep.
Something was bothering him about the vampire, but he couldn’t bring it forward from his subconscious. She had awakened something deep inside of him, and it disturbed him that the only way he could describe it was “hunger”.
Besides the loss of sleep and obvious loneliness and awkwardness, Athens slowly was getting used to Hunt not being his girlfriend. They still spent a great deal of time together at work, and it wasn’t like they’d ever had much time together away from work, but now… This “hunger” that the vampire had triggered in him made him want to spend more time with Hunt. The vampire was trying to get them back together.
That’s ridiculous, Athens said to himself. The vampire is using her power of seduction on me and I’m just transferring that energy to Amy because she’s the one I want. The vampire is trying to use me to escape but it won’t work. My heart belongs to Amy. I just wish I could make her see that. I should never have broken her heart. The vampire is right: I am a jerk. And a heartbreaker. I don’t deserve Amy, but I want her back…
Athens rose from the couch and went to the bedroom, prepared to spend another restless night alone. Surprisingly, he fell asleep almost immediately and did not wake up until the next evening when his alarm clock rang.
Hunt pushed Athens out of her mind. She didn’t want to think of the pain he’d caused her. She glanced at her wrist and wondered if Merry was any good at healing broken hearts. Something told her that Merry was good at fixing a lot of things.
Hunt showered and went to bed, completely exhausted. She fell asleep immediately and slept deeply the entire day. Shortly before her alarm went off, Hunt had a very strange dream. It was night and she was sitting somewhere very high and looking out across a vast city. She looked down and saw that she was at the very top of the Eiffel Tower, far higher than the elevators went. Her alarm woke her and the dream faded to the back of her mind as she got ready to go to work.
Alone in her room, Merry was having a nightmare. She tossed and turned, but was unable to wake from it as the memory played out in her head.
Merry sprinted down the dark street and around the corner of a building. She was frantically searching for someone. She rounded another corner and stopped short at the sight of a building on fire. Her face contorted in a look of desperation and she ran closer to the building.
The man she was searching for was inside the building, trapped, and she could feel the flames closing in on him. Sweat began to form on her forehead from the heat, but she couldn’t tell if it was because she was close to the flames or because he was.
Merry!!! the man cried out to her through their link.
I’m here Oliver, Merry replied. I’m here.
I can’t get out! Oliver said desperately. Help me!
I’m trying! Merry shouted as she ran around the building.
Merry looked up and spotted a balcony on the fifth floor. She leapt up to it and made her way inside the building.
Merry cried out in pain and shook her hand. Oliver had been burnt. Merry pushed forward, using her link with Oliver to guide her to where he was trapped. In the distance she heard the fire brigade coming, but she was afraid that they would arrive too late to save Oliver, just like she had.
Sweat ran down Merry’s face as she stepped further into the brilliant flames and black smoke. Her eyes burned from the smoke and she could hardly see anything. Oliver screamed and Merry dropped to her knees in pain, both his and hers, as the flames began to lick Oliver’s flesh off his bones. Knowing that there was only one thing she could do for him, Merry seized their link and pulled it as hard as she could. Oliver felt a millisecond of extreme pain, then he blacked out. Merry released the link and waited while it stretched, then broke, as Oliver blinked out of existence.
The flames began to close in on Merry, but she didn’t know if she had the strength to stand up. Two powerful arms seized her from behind, hooking under her arms and lifting her to her feet. Merry’s body was limp from shock.
“Come on Merry,” the man said.
He held her tightly and whirled to face the balcony. He could barely see outside, but it was enough. In a blur he zipped outside onto the balcony, leapt onto the railing, then launched off into the air. They landed on another roof and he gently lay Merry down and knelt beside her, pulling her up onto his lap. He looked into her eyes, hoping to see a flicker of life, but they were fixed in a blank stare. He understood her pain, he had felt Oliver die too, but Merry’s link to him was closer since she had sired him.
Merry coughed and shivered.
“Merry?” the man asked softly.
“Davide?” Merry said uncertainly.
Her vision began to return as her eyes healed and she stared up at the face of her sire and one true love. Her breathing was deep and her heart was heavy but being in Davide’s arms made her feel better.
“I’m here, my love,” Davide replied.
He ran his fingers through her hair and smiled at her. Relief that she was alright poured through their link and she smiled back at him weakly.
“We should go,” Davide said.
Merry nodded and tried to stand, but Davide knew that she wouldn’t be able to. He scooped her up into his arms effortlessly and stood up, then walked to the edge of the building and hopped down to the street. Davide carried Merry back to the inn where they were staying.
“Is your wife ill?” the concerned innkeeper asked.
“Yes,” Davide replied as he continued past the counter towards their room. “But she’ll be alright. She just needs some rest.”
“Do you want me to send for a doctor?” he asked as he followed Davide down the hall.
“No, no. A bit of sleep and she’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure?” the innkeeper insisted. He followed the vampires into their room.
Davide lay Merry down on the bed. The innkeeper stared at Merry, her clothes and face showing the telltale signs that she had been near a fire.
“It’s no trouble,” the innkeeper added as he began to back out of the room.
Seeing that there would be trouble if he let the man leave, Davide quickly, though calmly, moved around him and shut the door. He turned the key in the lock, then removed it and put it in his pocket.
“She’ll be fine,” Davide repeated, “but there is something you can do for us.”
The innkeeper never knew what hit him. Davide’s eyes flared bright red and long fangs appeared as he snarled at the man. He leapt at the man, sinking his fangs into his neck and drawing the life out of him before he could even draw a breath to scream.
Davide pulled back out of the man’s neck, then drug him to the bedside table where he snatched up a cup to catch the blood that was flowing down his neck. When all that was coming had drained into the cup, Davide tossed the body aside and sat on the bed beside Merry. His fangs retracted and his eyes returned to their normal, dark color as he gently lifted her head and pressed the cup to her lips.
He tipped up the cup and Merry felt the blood pour into her mouth. She forced herself to swallow and immediately felt her strength returning. Her eyes shone red and she touched Davide’s hand as he continued to tip up the cup.
When the cup was empty Davide set it aside. The red faded from Merry’s eyes and tears welled up in the corners. Davide leaned down to hug her and Merry wrapped her arms around him as tightly as she could. He squeezed her back, tight enough that for a second their souls touched, then he eased his grip slightly. Merry dug her fingernails into his back, drawing blood.
“Never leave me,” Merry begged. “Never leave me alone.”
“I won’t,” Davide promised. “I won’t.”
Merry eased her grip but didn’t let go. Davide rolled onto his side, turning Merry as well.
“Shh,” he said as he brushed the hair off her face. He leaned in and kissed her tears away.
Merry awoke with a start, fresh tears in the corners of her eyes. She wiped them away and rolled onto her side. She closed her eyes again, and her mind filled with Oliver’s face. It had taken several days for Merry to physically recover from Oliver’s death, and even after a hundred years there was still an empty spot in her heart where he had been.
Slowly the vampire drifted back to sleep.