Ambrose crouched in front of the woman. She smelled like warmed creme brulee, but she was terribly lackluster in the looks department. Limp brown hair. Plain brown eyes. And a face that failed to create any impression. “Who are you?”
“That’s your name? N1?”
She nodded. “That’s what the people at The Institute called me.”
“Do you have a real name?”
She shook her head. “I am N1.”
He shifted into a more comfortable position.”Why does Antioch want you?”
“Because I escaped. He will find me. He will change me so I won’t leave him again.”
“But why does he want you? Who are you, N1?”
“Right now? I’m just a blank slate. They’ve cleared away my memories. They haven’t done anything else to me yet, but I know they will. I know if they catch me and take me back, they’ll do things to me.”
He frowned. “Things?”
“Experiments to transform me into a weapon. I don’t know what kind of weapon. Maybe a fire creature like XQ. Maybe…I don’t even know. But I can’t go back there.”
“That’s not a real vampire. Look. He don’t have a cape.”
The sun was hot.
“You think he can turn into a bat?”
The sun was insistent.
“Hey, vampire! Let me see you sparkle.”
The sun was relentless.
“Show us your fangs.”
The sun was cruel.
“They should throw someone out there and see what happens.”
And there was no escaping it.
Ambrose shuddered. “I know that feeling.” He looked down at her. “Come up here.”
She willingly sat up.
He opened his mouth and leaned forward to bite her neck.
She pulled her hair out of his way and turned her head.
His lips touched her skin.
He inhaled her warmed crème brulee scent.
She smells so good. I could devour her. I want to devour her.
Barbara appeared in his mind.
It would disappoint her.
It would disappoint me.
He kissed her neck and stood.
She looked up at him in a silent plea.
“I’m sorry. I’m not hungry.”
“Does that matter so much? You’re a vampire. I’m a willing victim.”
“It matters.” He took her hands and helped her up. “Find a safe place. Somewhere Antioch won’t find you.”
“I don’t know where to go. Can I come with you?”
Bring a strange woman home with me. There’s a brilliant idea. “No. I’m already taken.”
“I’ll let you drink from me every night. You won’t have to go hunting anymore.”
Ambrose raised his eyebrows in surprise. “You want to be my blood letter?”
“I’ll let you take as much as you want. Every night.”
He licked his lips. “It isn’t too often a vampire gets an offer like that.”
To have a delicious meal waiting for me every night. No fighting for it. No searching for it.
It would be right there under my roof.
“And it is a very lovely offer.”
Her shoulders slumped. “But?”
“But how would that work out after Barbara and I get married? Would you move in with us? And where exactly would I put you? In our spare bedroom? Locked up in the cellar so you can’t escape me? I suppose I’d have to keep you a secret from Barbara. I’d hate that.”
He imagined Barbara’s reaction. It made him feel sick. “It would erode her trust in me. It would destroy our relationship. It would ruin our marriage.”
“I just want to be safe.”
He laughed. “That has to be the most ludicrous thing I’ve heard all night. You don’t seem to understand, N1. I am a vampire.” He extended his claw on his index finger and touched the middle of her throat. “I am not safe.”
“So. Where do I go? What do I do?”
His claw retreated into his finger. “I don’t like police stations. Bad memories there. But that is where you should go. Tell the police you need help. Unless they are thoroughly incompetent, they will help you.”
“Could you come with me?”
He smiled and shook his head. “Like I said, bad memories. Besides, I have a promise to keep.”