Chapter Two: Tell Me Something Good
Then, it didn’t bite me.
Instead, it said, “Drop the stake,” in a quiet, male voice. I tensed as if to fight, but he shook me enough to make me dizzy. “Drop it,” he whispered harshly in my ear.
With my arms pinned, I couldn’t even use the stake to kill myself, so there was no point in holding on to it. I let it drop.
“Now, kick it away.” I did. “If you promise not to scream, I’ll remove my hand.”
I nodded. The hand over my mouth relaxed, and then both of his hands moved to wrap around my upper arms more securely, like a tight hug. “Why don’t you just eat me?” I snarled. “Or, do you prefer to play with your food?”
“I’m rarely hungry, though I’m sure you’d be tasty…Camellia.” He knew my name? I swallowed. “Your father would be so disappointed that you got caught.”
I tensed. It was stupid and sloppy of me to follow him into the forest. I should’ve gone to the house immediately, but I hadn’t. Now, I needed to find a way out of this situation. Playing dumb, I asked, “My father?”
“Yes. I know of him. He’s a famous slayer. Almost as famous as you.”
I was a famous slayer? Vampires knew about me? I couldn’t think, but I had to. I had to devise a way to either get away from him or kill myself before he bit me and put me in thrall.
The vampire continued, “The Rosegartens.”
“So? Kill me already. Brag to your pals. I promise you that I’m no vampire’s slave.” I tried to wriggle free, but it was pointless. He was incredibly strong.
“No?” he teased. “I don’t think you have much choice.”
His teeth skimmed down the side of my neck and over my shoulder where my tank top left it bare. I cast my eyes to the side to try to get a look at him. He was about my height with medium brown hair, straight, just long enough to put in a stubby ponytail. My skin chilled where he touched it. The sensation was arousing, despite my impending doom.
“But, I’d rather not have you in thrall if it can be helped. I’d like you to have free will.”
“Your zombified girlfriends don’t get you off? Want to fuck somebody with some fight in them?” I stomped on his foot, which had no effect on him.
“Thanks for the offer, but that’s not what I wanted to speak with you about.” When I tried a backward head-butt, he dodged. “This is really annoying, talking like this.” He released me, and as I sprang forth to run, he grabbed my wrist to hold me. “Please, be still. If I wanted you dead, you would be.”
“Well, if you don’t want to eat me or fuck me, then what the hell do you want?”
I hoped no one else had come outside looking for me, hoped that I could get back and get us gone before the worst happened. I kicked out at him, but he avoided me quite easily.
“I want to work with you.”
That was unexpected, so I stopped struggling for a moment. “Excuse me?”
“I want to work with you and your group. I want to take down Benoit.”
“So you can take his place? That’s no better.” I resumed straining against his hold.
“To remove him and change things. I don’t think slavery is any less wrong now than it was in the past. Humans deserve their freedom.”
His odd eyes—almost aqua in color—shined with something powerful. Intrigued by those eyes and whatever made them so fierce, I calmed down and made myself focus.
“Are you toying with me or have you lost your mind? You’re a vampire, remember?”
“Yes, I am, but I wasn’t made one by choice, and I miss being human, even if I haven’t been for some time.”
He rubbed my wrist with his thumb, feeling my pulse. His eyes darted there then back up to mine. In them, I saw a longing that wasn’t a result of one of his primal vampire desires.
“I represent a group of vampires and humans who are working to abolish human slavery. Of course, the old human ways of going about a change such as this don’t apply here.” He looked up into the canopy of pine trees and the thick clouds beyond it. “It’s more about the number of vampires that want change. We’re quickly growing, and you can help us here in Tallahassee.”
My father had explained sales pitches to me—someone doctors up a product or service with flowery language and empty promises so you’ll buy it. That’s what this vampire sounded like he was doing.
I wasn’t buying it.
“You have lost your mind. No vampire wants to give up slaves.” I gave him a look. “How would you guarantee loyalty, safety?”
“It’s about rights, for all of us, and mutual trust and respect. The world is stagnant. To control humans, vampires take away free will, and without free will, humans have no imagination and the world cannot advance.” Without realizing it, he released me and paced back and forth in a deep shadow. “Certainly, humans still work in factories, maintain interstates and major highways, and manufacture all sorts of goods, but they are little more than robots, puppets. Not only is there no progress, but this world and our
society are only just staying together. I fear if change doesn’t come about soon, it will fall completely apart.”
“It’s been falling apart for a while now,” I muttered. “You just expect people to trust you, for other vampires to just go along?”
“Of course not. It will take years to build that trust and respect. Regardless, every sentient being deserves to be free to live and make its own choices.” He said this matter-of-factly, and I agreed. I just didn’t see how he could make it come about, and I wasn’t sure I really believed him.
I raised my eyebrows. “You’re telling me you don’t have any slaves.”
“Not a single one. Oh sure, my group has many human allies. Some live with us and mate with us, but they are not enthralled, and we do not feed on them without their permission.”
Okay, he had my attention. “Then, who do you eat?”
“Well, there have been sympathetic vampires since there have been vampires. Those like me get blood, mostly pig or bovine, from butchers, you know, at grocery stores. When the suppliers deliver the meat for the humans, they deliver the blood for the vampires. It’s like the grocery store behind the grocery store.” He continued to pace as he spoke. “My group gets blood from three Human Foods stores in the area, including the one you go to. Benoit,” his fists balled tightly when he said the name, “thinks he’s so kind to do it for us, feels sorry for us, like we’re mentally challenged.”
“But, you have had humans before.”
“Well, of course.” He casually put his hands in his pockets. He wore navy slacks and a dark green mock turtleneck. Other than his pale face, he blended perfectly with the shadows. “I still do,” he continued, “but only if it’s donated freely and never to cause death or thrall.”
“You make it all sound so believable.” I crossed my arms over my chest.