I kept yelling until my voice was hoarse from the cold and strain.
Shaking, I moved back from the edge and pulled my cell phone from its clip.
Jesse answered the call on the second ring.
"Jess, we're in trouble. We're in the abandoned building on Nineteenth, a half block past Reynolds. Nix is hurt."
"Shit." I heard her relay my message and Dayle's voice in the background.
"Stay put. We're on our way."
I put the phone down and picked up the flashlight, glad of its company in the surrounding darkness. Aiming it down the hole that used to be the stairs, I tried to spot Nix, but all I could see was debris and dust.
"Nix?" I tried calling again. "Can you hear me?" There was nothing but a groan, but I took that as an affirmative. "I called Jesse, help is on the way. I'm going down the other side to see if I can get to you."
I listened, but there was no sound.
With a curse, I moved away, turning my attention back to the corridor we'd come down. Getting back to the door we'd come in was easy. After that I had to avoid a few fallen beams and other blackened objects.
It seemed like hours later that I finally got to the other set of stairs. I shined the flashlight all the way down, trying to find if there were any broken steps, but I could only see to the second landing. With a deep breath and a tight grip on the railing, I started down.
There were four flights, about eight stairs each, and they creaked all the way. Once, I felt the stair I was on start to cave in and I had to jump back. Stepping past that, I made it to the third landing, then inched my way down the last flight.
There was a lot of dust here, and more debris. The smell of soot and smoke still clung to the walls. The flashlight wasn't a great help, since it just highlighted the dust particles in the air. I moved forward as slowly as I'd gotten down the steps, often reaching out to feel my way when the dust was especially thick. Once I had to stop and cough, clearing the crap out of my throat.
Finally, I got around one final corner and came to a large room where the stairs let out. Nix lay a little bit away from the steps, face down.
"Nix? Oh, fuck." She didn't answer or move, and I knelt by her, not sure I should move her. After checking what I could on her back with just the flashlight and my hands, I decided to roll her over, and I gently pushed her onto her back.
Her skin was deathly white, and she was cold. There was a gash on her cheek, and blood was smeared over her front. I could see where a piece of wood had punctured her shoulder, and when I tried to lift a board off her leg, it wouldn't move at first. I tugged harder and it came free. I turned it over to see nails sticking out of the broken wood, and winced.
"Okay, Nix, you need to just hang on, okay?" I could see the frost from her breath, but there wasn't much. I pulled off my scarf to try and wipe the blood off her where I could.
That was when I discovered the two fang marks on her neck.
The hairs on my neck prickled, and I felt an itch start on my back. Swallowing hard, I picked the flashlight up and shined it around the area.
In the corner, opposite from where I'd come in, was a huddled figure, curled into a ball on the floor. Her clothes were filthy, her hair matted, and she had her arms over her head as if hiding from the light. Rocking back and forth, she looked like a battered child rather than a bloodthirsty stalker.
"Cam?" I wasn't sure it was her, but the rocking stopped when I said the name. Slowly the head came up and I saw that it was Cam, or at least it resembled Cam. Her eyes were wild, and there was blood over her face. "Cam, it's okay. It's Trey. Remember?"
She didn't move, but she didn't seem to understand, either.
I sighed, wondering when the cavalry was going to show up. Taking Nix's hand in mine, I rubbed it, trying to get warmth in it, or get my friend to respond.
I looked up to find Cam's eyes wide. There was a little sanity in them, but panic as well.
"Yeah, it's me, Cam." I laid Nix's hand on her chest and crawled a step closer to the person we'd been searching for. "It's gonna be okay, Cam. Help is on the way; everything's gonna be fine."
She shook her head and pulled back. "No. Don't. Get out of here, please?"
"Cam, you need --"
Her head whipped up and I could see the struggle in her eyes. Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Trey, I need blood. And I can smell you." She pushed herself up against the corner even more. "You need to leave, you need to -- just go." The last part of the sentence dropped into a cross between a groan and a growl.
"No. It's alright, Cam. Jesse's coming, and she's bringing Kelsey. Kelsey can help. It'll be all right." I reached out a hand to her. "Just come sit with me, okay? It won't be long."
"NO!" She wrapped her arms around herself and went back to rocking. "Get out, Trey, please, I don't wanna hurt you, I hurt Nix, and I don't wanna hurt anyone any more."
I couldn't help myself; she looked so lost that I moved closer.
Then she was looking at me and snarling, and I knew she'd lost the battle.
She was on me before I could do anything, and her teeth were in my throat.
I counted to five before I started fighting her. I wanted to give her enough to help her think past the craving, but I also knew if I didn't fight her she'd drain me as she did Nix, and my constitution wasn't anywhere as strong as a vampire's.
After struggling, I got a knee up into her chest and between that and a slug to the jaw, she let go. I moved backwards, holding my hand to my throat, hoping she'd come back to herself.
When she did she just sat and rocked again, crying.
I was breathing hard and trying to clear my head when I heard noises from upstairs.
"Trey? Nix?" It was Kruise's voice.
"Here." It wasn't a very loud answer, but it must have been heard, 'cause moments later, Dayle dropped out of nowhere, landing next to me.
"Damn." She looked up and called to the others. "It's a long drop, but Kelsey should be able to make it fine. Jesse, you and Kruise see if there's another staircase."
Kelsey dropped down, landing a little awkwardly and falling to her rear. She gasped when she saw Nix and immediately starting checking her for injuries.
Dayle knelt next to me and noticed the blood on my neck. I pointed, and she turned towards Cam.
"Shit." Her voice brought Kelsey's gaze up, and the doctor gave another gasp.
"Trey, what happened? Did she attack the two of you?" Dayle slowly moved to sit between Cam and the rest of us.
I shook my head. "No. We were searching, coming down the stairs, when they collapsed. Nix fell, but I managed to get a handhold." I coughed a little, then told her how I'd made it down to the basement and found Nix.
"She recognized me, Dayle. She called me by name, told me to get out, that she didn't mean to hurt me. Cam's still in there, but she's starving."
Dayle nodded. "Okay. Let's see if she recognizes me." Slowly she moved forward.
Cam noticed and tried to crawl backwards.
"Easy, Cam. It's Dayle. It's okay."
The half vampire blinked a few times, and licked her lips. "Dayle?"
"Yeah. It's me, pal. How you feeling?"
"She needs blood." Nix's voice was low and gasping. "Dayle, she needs vampire blood."
Kelsey put an arm across Nix's chest when the blond vampire tried to rise. "You just stay put, Nix. Dayle can handle this."
Dayle looked back at her, confused. "Why vampire blood?"
Nix coughed, and I put a hand on her uninjured shoulder. "Nix and I figured it out. Cam's different from most Nosferatu because she and Tess gave her more blood, and because Tess continued to give her blood. It's the vampire blood that's kept her sane, and without it . . ." I raised a hand toward her. "This is the result."
Kelsey was looking sick. "You mean -- if she doesn't feed off of us, then --"
I nodded when she broke off. "That's what we figured."
Cam whimpered. "Dayle?"
We all looked at her.
"Dayle, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt Nix, I didn't want to hurt Trey, I just -I --" She was rocking and crying, and Dayle slowly moved over and put her arms around the distraught woman.
"Shh. It's gonna be okay, Cam. Easy, now. Just relax."
Jesse and Kruise started calling for us, and Kelsey yelled back. Moments later they appeared, almost as soot covered as I was.
Jesse dropped by Nix and touched the vampire's face. "What happened?" She looked up at me. "Trey?"
"She fell." I swallowed, then motioned with my chin. "Cam fed from her."
Kelsey sighed and sat back. "All right, that's all I can do here. She needs blood, fast, and a ton of it. Dayle, can you carry her or do you want me to?"
Jesse leaned forward and slid her arms under Nix's limp body, putting an end to the question.
Cam was growling again, and Dayle tightened her hold. "Kelsey, do you have anything to put her out? If we can get her out of here . . ."
"Right." Unzipping her kit again, Kelsey took a syringe. "Let's try this. It should knock her out for a couple of hours at least."
It took both of them to hold Cam and inject the medicine. Jesse was standing near the door waiting, with Nix in her arms. Dayle looked up and nodded. "Go, Jesse. This shouldn't take long. Kruise, you wanna help Trey?"
"Right." Kruise slipped her hands under my arms, pulling me up.
I stood, grabbing onto her as a wave of dizziness hit me. She wrapped both arms around me.
I waited until I was sure I wouldn't pass out before I opened my eyes and looked at her.
Her gaze was fastened on my neck.
"Kelsey, when you get a chance, I think Trey needs you to look at her. Cam bit her as well as Nix."
I heard Kelsey curse, then move in behind me. She checked my pulse and looked at the jagged holes in my throat.
"She'll be okay till we get back to your place. I'll give her a transfusion there."
"You have enough blood?"
"If not, I'll stop and get some." She shook her head. "We're gonna need another blood drive just to keep you people alive."
I tried to grin, but the dizziness was back, and with it the darkness. I was out before my head hit Kruise's shoulder.
The first sensation that Nix was aware of was hunger. She licked her lips and took a deep breath. The scent of human blood was hovering around, and she felt her fangs extend.
She noticed that she was moving and felt arms around her. Obviously she was being carried, and by a human. Her hunger lashed into her and she had to clench her jaw to keep from snapping at whoever was holding her.
Then the scent of familiar cologne got through to her senses, and she tensed, knowing it was Jesse. Concentrating, she forced her fangs to slip back into hiding.
Jesse felt Nix move in her arms and quickened her pace. Getting to the car, she slowly let Nix's legs drop to the snow while she reached into the pocket she knew held the vampire's car keys.
"Hang on, Nix. I'll get you in the car, and we'll turn on the heat while we wait for the others. They should be right behind us."
The vampire kept her eyes closed, not wanting to tempt the hunger inside her any more. She allowed Jesse to guide her into the passenger seat, then cracked her eyelids to look up at the ceiling of her BMW. Her fingernails cut into her palms as she tightened her hands into fists.
"Nix?" Jesse knelt down by the side of the car, ignoring the snow and slush. She saw the blue eyes open and reached in to take Nix's hands. The skin was almost white, and as cold as ice. "Hey, Nix?"
Keeping her jaw clenched, Nix turned her head slightly to bring Jesse into her view. Even that much made the hunger leap, and she gasped, losing control of her fangs.
Jesse pulled back, but didn't let go of the hands in hers. "Easy. Kelsey said she'd be here soon. She just needs to get the case out of my car."
Nix concentrated and retracted her fangs again. She nodded and turned back to the front.
"Well, looks like I get to drive again. Let me just get your seat belt." She leaned over the vampire to slide the clasp into the slot.
Faster than thought, Nix's hands reached out to pull Jesse to her, jerking back the collars of both jacket and shirt to bare her throat. Her fangs were against the beating vein before she could regain control.
Jesse froze, her instincts telling her reflexes to stop. She waited, wondering if Nix would bite or not. With a sigh of relief, she felt the hands loosening from their hold, and she slowly inched back out of the car.
Nix had her eyes closed again, and she was trembling. The fangs were still obvious, extending just a little over her bottom lip. Taking deep breaths, she got herself in control.
"Jesse, go away."
Jesse flinched at the command. "Not until I know you're all right."
Nix managed to inject a little humor in her voice. "Oh, I'm fine. But if you come any closer, you won't be."
Hearing voices, Jesse turned, seeing Kruise and jogging toward her, a package in her hands. "Hang on, Nix, I think help is here."
She stood to greet her friend. "What's up? Where's Kelsey?"
"With Dayle and the others. Trey passed out, and she's being put into the Cruiser. Kelsey's riding with them, and Cam is too."
"What about you?"
"I'm in your car, if that's okay with you. You can drive Nix to the apartment."
"No." The voice from the inside of the car was strong. "Kruise, let Jesse drive her car. You can drive mine."
Kruise moved closer, slipping past Jesse to crouch down in the doorway. "Here, Nix. Kelsey said you'd be needing these." She pulled the cloth bundle apart to show her two packs of blood.
Nix took one and sank her fangs into it.
Standing, Kruise looked at Jesse who was staring off into the night.
Jesse shrugged. "Sounds like it's all in hand. Guess I'll go home." She gave Kruise a half smile. "Tell Trey she's an idiot, okay?"
"Come to the apartment, tell her yourself."
The dark haired woman shook her head. "No. I'm not needed there." She slipped an arm around her friend and hugged her briefly. "I'll be in touch, okay?"
Kruise nodded and watched as Jesse walked through the snow back to her car. Suddenly angry, she spun around and slammed Nix's door shut, then stomped to the other side of the car.
She got in and started the car, her movements short and jerky. Nix was silent, having finished both packets of blood within just a couple of minutes. The vampire was finally feeling somewhat in control of herself.
"Don't thank me. I'm not doing you a favor, it's just the only way I have to get home."
"What about Jesse? You could have ridden with her, couldn't you?"
Kruise gave a harsh laugh. "She's going home. Something obviously didn't sit right with her." She glared at the vampire. "Can't think what that might be."
Nix turned and looked out the window in silence.
When Kruise glanced over at her again, she saw the tears on the vampire's face reflected in the car window.
"I'm sorry, Nix."
Kruise shrugged. "She passed out; Dayle had to carry her out of the basement, but she was conscious and talking when we got to the car. Kelsey said she'd give her a blood transfusion when we got to the apartment."
Nix shook her head. "I should never have taken her into that place."
Another shrug. "Trey has a mind of her own. It was probably her idea, wasn't it?"
She got a nod in response. "Yeah, but I was supposed to take care of her."
"Right." Kruise snorted. "No one's been able to stop her from getting into trouble. I mean, look at what happened the first time you two met."
That got a laugh out of the vampire.
The tension between them dropped. Nix leaned back, her eyes still trained out the window. "What about Cam?"
"Kelsey said she'd be okay, but it's going to take a while. She's just -- ugh." Kruise shook her head. "It didn't even look like Cam."
"No," Nix said quietly, "it didn't."
Silence descended again, but this time there were no sparks of anger flying back and forth between them.
"What are you going to do about Jesse?"
The vampire took a deep breath before answering. "Nothing." She sighed. "There's nothing I can do."
"Did you not want her to drive you for a reason?"
"Yeah." Nix gave a short laugh, without humor. "Because I was afraid I'd jump her and not be able to stop."
"And you wouldn't jump me?"
The blonde head shook. "No. I mean, if you were close enough, sure, but . . . I can smell Jesse. I know how she tastes, I remember it. And that -- it makes the hunger stronger." Another sigh. "And now, because I wanted to be sure she was safe, I've ruined things. Again."
Nix turned her head to look at Kruise. "What do you mean?"
"Well, maybe you two can still work things out." She shrugged. "We can talk about it later, after you, Trey, and Cam are feeling better. Okay?"
Nodding, Nix turned back to the window. She didn't believe it could happen, but she still found herself clinging to the hope that Kruise held out to her.
The rest of the drive was silent.
I was resting comfortably on the couch, feeling a little punch drunk, and weak. Kelsey had figured out my blood type and set up a transfusion, so there was a needle in my left arm. My right was curled on my stomach, a thick roast beef sandwich in my hand.
My two vampire friends had disappeared into the bathroom with Cam, and when they were finished in there they took her into the spare bedroom. Cam hadn't spoken yet, and I could sense the worry in both Dayle and Kelsey.
The sound of the front door opening pulled my attention from the closed bedroom door, and I watched as Kruise and Nix came in. Nix stumbled a bit, but made it to the recliner and sat down. Kruise gave a tug on the vampire's jacket sleeve and Nix struggled out of it, letting Kruise take it from her. Nix sighed.
"That's the last time I'm taking you anywhere, Trey."
I shrugged. "Not my fault. You're the one that fell."
She glared at me.
I winked at her and grinned.
After a moment, the angry look faded and she chuckled just a little.
Kruise came back from hanging up her jacket and sat at the end of the couch. "I thought you weren't going to do anything stupid, Trey."
"What? I just went to find Nix after she fell."
"Whose idea was it to go into the building in the first place?"
"Um." I tilted my head. "Can I plead the fifth?"
"Kruise, leave her be. It's both our faults." Nix yawned. "Trey, I don't suppose you know where Kelsey is?"
"Sure, she and Dayle are in there, working on Cam."
She sat up a little. "How is she?"
I opened my mouth to answer, but was interrupted by the door opening. Kelsey came out of the bedroom, shaking her head.
Kruise, Nix and I shared a glance. This didn't look encouraging.
"How is she, Kels?"
Kelsey put her hands on her hips and stared at us. "You people are the most accident prone individuals I've ever seen. I'm getting tired of patching you all up."
"Yeah, okay, lecture received." I shifted a little, wincing as the needle moved in my arm. "Now how's Cam?"
"Cam's fine." Kelsey came over and knelt down. "She's not talking to us, but she's alert, and she's responding to commands. I think we can get her through this." She checked the apparatus on my arm as she spoke. "You, Trey, are going to get some rest. Nix, there's blood in the fridge, I'll get some for you."
Kruise stood. "I'll get it."
I raised an eyebrow at her, but she just smiled and left.
The door opened again, and Dayle stuck her head out. "Kelsey? That cut's still bleeding, it might be a good idea if we put in a couple stitches till she's healed."
"Right." The doctor stood and headed back into the bedroom. She stopped at the door and looked at Nix and me. "Don't you two move. Got it?"
I nodded, and Nix gave her a weak salute.
Twisting my head, I looked at Nix. "Where's Jesse?"
She sighed, and I knew it wasn't good. "She headed home."
"Cause." She shifted in her seat. "Can we leave it at that?"
"No." I pulled myself up, ignoring the pain in my arm. "Why didn't she come back with you two? Kruise could have driven the Mustang while she drove your car."
"Yeah, but I didn't want her to drive my car."
Nix looked at me in exasperation.
Kruise came back in. "Because Nix was afraid of losing control. She told Jesse to go away, and Jesse took it literally and headed for home." She sighed as she handed the packets of blood to Nix. "What are we going to do with you two?"
"Stay out of it." Nix ripped the seal off one packet and took a long drink. There was a lot more color in her face than there had been when I found her, but I could still see the pale tint to her features.
She glared at me.
I smiled and took another bite of my sandwich.
It hadn't been that bad a night, I figured.
End Part Eleven
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