Emily waited until nightfall to leave her apartment. She didn't believe more than half of what Madden had told her, but that part was consistent with all of the books and movies: vampires and sunlight didn't mix. So she stayed inside--and well away from all the windows--when the sun was up.
Vampire. She laughed harshly and pulled her coat tighter against the wind. Emily believed in facing up to reality, in playing the cards she was dealt, but this...how the hell had she gone from investigating two women's deaths to walking the streets at three in the morning because it was that or claw off her own skin?
She'd quickly discovered there were other reasons besides fear of the sun to limit her excursions to night hours. The world was more muted at night. There was less colour and less noise, both of which she appreciated after spending the day hearing every creak and bang and argument from the neighbouring apartments. (Who knew that so many people worked from home?) And, of course, there were fewer people, which meant less temptation. And that was a very, very good thing.
Still, she missed the sun sometimes. It had been less than a week, and she sometimes found herself panicking at the thought of never seeing the world in daylight again. She wondered briefly how she'd feel ten or twenty years from now, then firmly suppressed the thought. There was no point in borrowing trouble. One day at a time.
She was six blocks away from her building when she noticed the men following her. Three of them. She catalogued them automatically. Jeans. Leather. Knitted caps. All three were clearly visible in the light of the nearly full moon, but she didn't need the light to keep track of them. Even from that distance, she could hear the beating of their hearts and the soft padding of their footfalls. She sped up and crossed the street. She wasn't surprised when they crossed they followed her across the street and fell back into step behind her, not even trying to hide their pursuit. Emily considered for a moment, then turned and headed toward a nearby alley.
She'd done just enough experimenting to have some idea of her new strength, and she'd have been lying if she said she wasn't just a little interested in testing it further. She would never have done this before Madden, obviously. At least not without back-up standing by. And not just because the encounter wouldn't have ended well for her. There was a darker impulse at work here. The thing she'd been fighting back since she first woke in Madden's filthy warehouse. Something that hadn't been there before Madden, or that had at least been better contained.
But...they had chosen to follow her into the alley.
They broke into a run as soon as they were clear of the street, all three of them grinning as they surrounded her, like they'd expected her to challenge them and knew they had the upper hand. It wasn't until they were nearly on her that she caught the smell. She nearly retched; they all smelled like wet dogs, only a thousand times stronger than any dog she'd ever encountered. And they were strong. Stronger than she was expecting. Stronger than any human should be.
They weren't human, she realized with a sinking heart as she dodged blows and threw out what strikes she could. Well, and why had she assumed that she was the only dark thing that walked the streets?
She was going to lose this fight. If there'd been even one less, she might have managed it, but three against one was too many, and she'd left her gun at home. The three of them piled on her, clawing at her jacket, and she sank under the weight. And then suddenly the weight was lighter. And lighter again. Another figure had joined the fight, throwing the three men aside as if they were twigs.
The fight didn't last long after that. With two against three, her attackers ran, leaving her alone in the alley with the stranger.
She studied him in the moonlight. Tall. Dark-haired. Attractive, in a sharp-featured way. Jeans and a black leather jacket layered over a hoodie.
Completely lacking an audible heartbeat.
"Are you okay?" he asked, concerned.
Was he the same as her, she wondered? Was that why he'd stepped in to help? Or something else? Something she hadn't encountered yet? And if he was the same...she suppressed a shudder, remembering Madden. Remembering what they'd found in his place. Was this guy the like that? Were they all the same, in the end? Was that what she going to become as well?
On the other hand, if he wasn't, if he didn't...she was working in the dark here, both literally and figuratively. A few answers would be nice.
"Yeah," Emily said, straightening up. "I'm fine. I didn't...what were they?"
"Werewolves," he said. He took a step toward her, reaching out like he meant to touch her, then stopped when she tensed and let his arm drop. "Didn't your maker warn you about them?
"My maker?" She wasn't out of breath, she thought, despite her exertion. She was, however, hungrier, and was suddenly glad that the only person in reach wasn't a reasonable source of food.
"The vampire who turned you."
Madden. She suppressed a shudder at the memory. Waking. His leer as he told her what he'd done. Invited her to feed on the child he'd secured for her. The broken chair leg that had found its way into her hand... "Dead," Emily said. She didn't elaborate. Clearly the role of maker meant something to this man, and probably to vampires as a whole. She wasn't sure what kind of fate they'd mete out to someone who'd killed their maker, but she suspected it wouldn't be kind.
The stranger was still studying her. "You haven't been doing this very long."
"Less than a week," she admitted. She wondered if it was risky, telling him that. But he'd helped her, and had let their attackers go rather than kill them, which she was sure Madden would never have done. And she desperately needed answers. "I don't...he died before he could tell me much."
The man nodded. "What have you been doing with the bodies of the people you killed?" he asked matter-of-factly.
Emily went cold. So she was right, then. They were all the same. She wondered if he'd kill her if she told him the truth. And then decided she didn't care. If that was the only fate open to her, she'd rather be dead. "I don't kill people," she said flatly.
The man...vampire...looked shocked. "You were turned nearly a week ago and you haven't killed yet?"
"I don't want to become that," Emily said, looking him in the eye.
His expression changed to something unreadable, but she thought...admiration, maybe? And envy. He nodded slowly. "Then I'll help you avoid it. There are ways...things you can do. Alternatives. I'll show you."
So maybe it wasn't impossible after all, becoming a vampire and remaining herself. Emily breathed deep, a sigh of relief. Habit. She didn't need to breathe now; she'd figured that one out on her first day. "Can I ask you something else?" she asked.
He shoved his hands in his pockets, leaning in a bit like he was bracing himself for another shock. "Sure."
"How do you live without the sun?" It was the thing that bothered her the most, besides the hunger.
The stranger looked puzzled. "What do you mean?"
"I mean...how long have you been a vampire?"
He smiled crookedly. "A little over two hundred years."
Two hundred years. So Madden had been telling the truth about that too, if this guy could be trusted. An eternity as a monster's bride...if he hadn't underestimated her.
"How do you go two hundred years without seeing the sun?" Emily asked.
He still looked puzzled. "I was out in the sun today." He paused, eyes widening. "Your maker really didn't tell you anything before they died, did they?"
Emily shook her head. "He didn't." Nothing useful, anyway.
"Then it's probably good that we met," he said. He held out his hand. "I'm Aidan."
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