Excerpt: The Lair

Vampires live in a timeless world. None of that matters. Routine had been my lifeboat. Now I am adrift in a sea of minutes.

I wander, barely aware of the empty houses on the block, as soulless as I am. One empty house ignoring the others.

We reach the corner of the block, where an unlit streetlight peers over the street.

I pause at the stop sign, instinct winning out over logic in a careless world.

Then Sebastian turns to me. “Let’s see just what you can do.”

I’m still gaping in confusion when he runs at the streetlight, grasps it and swings around with acrobatic grace. His legs kick out, aimed at my chest. Instinctively, I drop to the ground. I hit the sidewalk hard, but Sebastian misses me. He launches off the lamppost and lands maybe ten feet away.

“Not bad,” he calls. “Good reaction time. But you still think like a human.”

“How am I supposed to think?” I ask, standing.

“Like a vampire. Obviously.”

He closes the distance between us in a flash and kicks my legs out from under me. I’m on the ground. Again. “What should I do, then? Rip your heart out of your chest and guzzle your blood?”

He smiles as he looms over me. Typical that he’d enjoy this. “I would like to see you try.”

He reaches down a hand to help me up. I take it, but then kick my legs up at his chest and yank him over me. At least that’s what I intended.

This doesn’t go exactly as I imagined. I have no training. Girls on the spectrum don’t exactly go out for wrestling. Instead of flinging Sebastian, he flips neatly had over heels and lands by my shoulders, still holding my hand. He gives it a wicked twist and pain wrenches my shoulder.

“Better, but still not good enough.”

Again, the heat of fury floods me in a wash of pain. “Let me go!” I scream.

He gives my arm another twist and I can feel it twisting out of its socket. “You’re a vampire, Melanie. Make me let you go.”

There’s an audible pop as my shoulder dislocates. My whole body bucks off the sidewalk and a scream tears from my mouth. I look up at him from my spot on the ground. His face is distorted and upside down, a twisted Mardi Gras mask of pleasure. He’s enjoying this. I pant out the words, “I will kill you for this, you sadistic bastard!”

“If you can get out of this, I may let you. From here, however, Melanie, my dear, it doesn’t look like you’ll be killing anyone.”

“Let me go!” I yell again, but my words dissolve into a whimper. I can feel the the tendons and connective tissue breaking loose. My fingers flop uselessly against his hand. I can’t even control my own hand anymore.

He just laughs and presses his foot into my shoulder. “Perhaps I shouldn’t have worried about you eating from a Tick. You couldn’t go up against a Tick and walk away.” He gives my arm a little tug and pain shoots through my body so intense that my stomach rebels and I wretch. But it’s the helplessness that’s the worst. He squats down then, much of his weight on my shoulder, his face close to mine. I reach out with my other hand trying to claw at his face, but he nabs my hand out of mid-air and holds it almost gently. “A Tick would beat you and rip your heart out. We already know you have the gene. You’d die. Again. And regenerate. Again. As a Tick.”

That fury burning through me turns to something else. Not fear. Maybe shame. He was right. I couldn’t defend myself against him. A group of Ticks would dstroy me. I would be devoured and reborn.

I squeezed my eyes shut. Blocking out his voice and the pain. Shuttering my mind against my very existence.

Then I feel a hand on my face. A single finger tracing down my cheek. “Open your eyes, Melanie.”

I pinch them more tightly to spite him.

“Come on, Melly. You gave me your word.”

Melly. That surprises me. No one has ever called me that before. And I did promise to follow his orders. I open my eyes, surprised-again. He’s so close that I can see the scalloped edges of his pupils. His voice is soft. His touch is whisper light.

“You are a vampire now,” he says.

I cut him off, because I’m tired of hearing it. I speak through pain-clenched teeth. “So you keep telling me.”

“And you have yet to hear me.” He grasps my chin and makes me meet his gaze. “You are stronger and more flexible than almost any creature alive. Your autonomic nervous system is hardwired to pounce and fight, to kill and destroy. If you would stop thinking like a human, your body would do the work for you.” He straightens, rocking forward so that even more of his weight rests on my shoulder. “Now stop acting like a child and fight back!”

Humiliation burns through me. It’s not even that I don’t believe him. I’ve seen him fight. His body in motion is a thing of beauty and grace. Hollywood special effects have nothing on him. Professional dancers look like clumsy puppets compared to him. But that isn’t me.

He barks one insult after another.

“If you can’t fight me, you might as well just give up now. You can’t fight a Tick. You can’t feed yourself. You’re more helpless than a baby. No wonder Lily had to take care of you on the Farm. You never would have made it without her. It’s a miracle you didn’t get both of you killed.”

That’s it. Right there. My breaking point.

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