XQ stood still.
Her danger alarm was still going off. But she recognized in him the vulnerability that she so often felt.
She hesitated for a moment before transforming back into Missy.
He raised his head and uncurled his arms. “It is unwise to lower your defenses, XQ.”
“I could say the same about you.”
Her alarm grew more insistent as he stood. The fire lurked ever ready under her skin.
“The Institute wants you to return.”
“They want you alive. Antioch is interested in you.”
“I’m not supposed to damage you in any way. That’s what Capernum told me.”
“I can’t go back. I don’t want to be XQ. I want to be Missy.”
“You’re XQ. No sense in dreaming otherwise. You are fire. I am…” A look of sorrow crossed his face. “Sharp teeth. Ink well eyes. Just a monster. Nothing but MLO.”
“If I go back, they’ll tear me apart.”
“If you don’t come back willingly, I will use their methods and I won’t like it too well.”
“I can’t go back.”
He shrugged and picked up a knapsack in the corner. He pulled out a pair of glass gloves. The fingers were forever frozen in a curved grip as if it were a unique holder for a pop can.
He walked up to her. “I warned you.” He held the gloves to her. “XQ. PUT THESE ON. NOW.”
She reached for the gloves and put them on without question.
All of her fire drained to her hands. The weight of it all pulled her down to the floor.
She tried to transform.
He crouched in front of her. “I know the other occupants of this household are vampires.”
“They aren’t. They’re just three guys who are living together because apartment rent is too expensive and they figured that it would be a whole lot easier and cheaper to—”
“This place smells like a vampire’s den: full of blood and death.” He pulled a couple of stakes out of one of his pockets on his cargo pants. “I’m no hunter, but it can’t be that hard to stake an unconscious vampire. Right?”
In her mind, she saw Raven sleeping so soundly with his hands curled up under his chin.
She saw him completely defenseless. “You will not touch him!” She tried again to transform.
“I’ll start with the one in this room first.” He opened the door and went inside.
She tried to stand, to run after him, to stop him.
Her gloved hands were stuck to the floor.
She could not rise.
He closed the door.