Jesse punched the numbers into the pad at the security gate and watched the bar lift. Keeping her speed down, she eased the car forward, looking for the space number that Tess had given her. Once she found it, she pulled in and parked.
The drive over had been very quiet, and the silence had made Jesse jittery. As she turned and looked at Nix, she saw the vampire's eyes were closed, and her stomach lurched.
"Hey, Nix. Come on, wake up."
The blue eyes opened slowly, just a little. Nix blinked and she opened her mouth to speak. Jesse put a finger to her lips and stopped her.
"No. Don't try to talk." Her hand brushed through the blonde hair carefully avoiding the areas of matted blood. "Tess should be here soon. You'll be okay." A hesitant smile crossed her face. "After all, vampires are immortal, right?"
Nix managed to raise an amused eyebrow and nodded her head a little. But she was so tired. Everything hurt, and she knew it was quite possible that she wouldn't make it through the night. Her attacker had known exactly how much pressure to put into her blows, what would hurt the most, and where to stab her in order to make it a slow death. Her body was weak from not feeding, and it couldn't heal itself fast enough to stop the blood flow that could drain her life away.
She coughed, feeling the agony in her chest as pieces of a broken rib grated against each other. Jesse's face swam in her vision and she blinked again, wanting to see it more clearly.
Jesse bit her lip, trying to decide what to do. She kept hearing Tess tell her that Nix needed blood, and it competed with her memories of the helpless feeling which accompanied her last experience with a vampire bite. But, Nix could die. Was dying, by all appearances. When that thought crossed her mind, Jess felt her heart stop for a second, and knew her decision was made.
"Nix, you need to feed." Jesse took the watchband off her left wrist and extended her arm towards the vampire. "Here. Come on, Tess said you needed blood."
The blue eyes closed and Nix's head moved from side to side in denial.
Trying hard not to think about what she was doing, Jess pulled her switchblade from its hiding place. She leaned the driver's seat back, then carefully made an incision in her wrist, clenching her teeth against the pain. Making sure it was deep enough to give a good blood flow, she reached over to Nix and put the bloody arm to her mouth.
"Come on, Nix. You need this."
Nix hesitated a moment longer, but the taste of blood hit her tongue and she couldn't fight the need any longer. Raising one hand from her stomach, she held Jesse's wrist in place and locked her mouth onto it, her fangs extending and sinking into the veins.
Jesse closed her eyes as both pain and pleasure assaulted her body. The sting of the fangs was soon overpowered by the pleasant tugging in her stomach that got stronger with every mouthful that Nix drew from her. Jesse shook her head to try and clear the fog, and started counting each swallow.
When the count reached twelve, Jesse tried to pull her hand away. Nix never noticed, concentrating on the blood flowing into her mouth.
"That's enough, Nix, stop. Fuck, please stop." Pressing her right arm across Nix's throat and shoulders, she pulled her left arm as hard as she could, finally breaking the hold the vampire had on her. She sighed with relief and leaned back, her right hand wrapping around her bleeding wrist.
Her pulse slowed, and Jesse closed her eyes, taking a moment to catch her breath. She felt shaky, and a little tired. Her eyes blurred and she blinked them rapidly to clear them, then rolled onto her side to look at Nix.
The vampire's eyes were open and watching her.
"Hey. You feelin' any better?"
Nix nodded. "You -- okay?" Her voice was weak, but clear.
"Yeah, sure. Not a problem." Jesse winked, and Nix gave her a half smile.
The sound of a car engine made Jesse sit up, and she watched as a black SUV pulled in next to her passenger door. She muttered a curse when she saw Trey hop out of the back of the other vehicle.
She turned back to Nix. "Yeah?"
They locked eyes for a moment, and Jesse felt a sudden calm come over her.
Then the car door opened and anxious faces peered in at Nix.
Cam directed Jess and myself into the kitchen of their luxury penthouse and told me where the first aid kit was. Jesse's wrist was still bleeding, and dripping all over the floor.
Jess kicked a chair from the table over to the sink and dropped into it, then held her hands over the sink. She looked drained, more so than I'd ever seen her.
But not nearly as bad as Nix had. Tess had lifted her from the car and carried her into the elevator and up to the penthouse. They'd disappeared into a back bedroom, with Cam following behind them.
"What were you doing with them?"
Jess sounded as tired as she looked, and I glanced at her in concern. Having found the first aid kit, I tossed it onto the counter and began pulling open drawers in search of some towels.
"I was looking for Nix, like I told you I would. I went to the bar she'd taken me to in April, and Cam and Tess were there. I was talking with them when you called."
"Kay." Jess closed her eyes. "You might want to see about calling Jace. Let her know what's going on."
"I will." I found the towels and took several out, leaving them on the counter next to the sink. Turning on the faucet I pulled Jesse's wrist under the water. "Okay, move your hand, let's see what we have here."
She pulled her hand away, and blood starting flowing freely from her wrist. I winced as I saw it.
"What the hell did you do? How did you rip it open like this?"
Cam had just entered the kitchen and she took a look over my shoulder, hissing when she saw the wound. "Damn, Jess, that's gonna need stitches."
Jess shrugged. "Nix had her fangs in my wrist. I was getting dizzy, so I tried to pull away, but she wouldn't let go. I had to yank it away from her."
I turned to see a grimace on Cam's face. "She needs to go to the hospital."
"Just wrap it, Trey. I'm not in the mood for the emergency room."
"She won't have to go to the hospital, Trey. Put ice on it and wrap it." Cam's voice was soft as she moved away and opened the refrigerator. She pulled a carton of orange juice out and left it on the table. "I have to call someone to come look at Nix; we can have Kelsey sew up Jesse's wrist at the same time." Picking up the cordless phone from the table, she started dialing. "Make sure she drinks a couple glasses of juice. I think there's a steak in the freezer, but --"
"I'll take care of it. Go make your phone call."
She gave me a sad smile, then looked away. "Kelsey? Hey, it's Cameron. Listen, Phoenix has been injured, severely, and we need your help . . ."
Her voice faded as she walked out of the kitchen.
I sighed and folded a towel over Jess's wrist. "All right. Hang onto this while I get some ice."
Jess just nodded and put her other hand on the towel.
I was still on the phone with Jace when the doorbell rang. Cam came out of the bedroom and I watched from the kitchen as she opened the door for her friend. Kelsey was short, with brown hair the same shade as Kruise's. She was carrying two boxes and Cam took one and led her to the back bedroom.
"Trey, did you hear me?"
"Hm? Sorry, babe, what was that?"
"I asked for an address. Kruise and I are coming over."
I glanced first at the bedroom and then at Jesse. "Uh, Jace, I don't know if that's a good idea. Things are kind of -- tense -- around here right now."
"Yeah, and Nix is hurt and so is Jesse. They're our friends too." I could hear Kruise in the background, and Jace telling her to be quiet. "So, what's the address? Where are we going?"
Frustrated, I leaned against the wall and stared up at the ceiling.
Jesse looked up as I sighed. "What?"
"Jace and Kruise want to come over."
She snorted, and closed her eyes again.
"Babe, I'm not even sure of --"
I was interrupted by Jesse reciting the street and building number. "Tell them it's a security building; they'll have to check in at the desk, and Tess or Cam will have to clear them."
Covering the phone with my hand I looked toward the bedroom once more, then back at Jess. "Do you really think that's a good idea?"
"Why not? I heard the same thing you did on the elevator. If Kruise was attacked by this Star, she deserves to know what's going on."
As we rode up in the elevator Tess had asked Nix if Star had been her attacker, and Nix nodded.
"Fine." Making the decision, I gave Jace the address Jesse had given me, letting them know about having to call up for clearance. She said they were on their way, and hung up.
I punched the off button on the phone and gave it a short toss onto the table. It skittered across the surface, nearly taking out Jesse's orange juice glass.
"Well, they're on the way." I dropped into a chair. "For better or worse, they're on the way."
"Who're on their way?" Cam and Kelsey came into the kitchen, and I looked up guiltily at Cam's question.
It was Jesse who answered. "Jace and Kruise. I gave them the address. Jace considers Nix a friend, and Kruise has a right to be here if this Star is the one who attacked her."
Cam put her head back and closed her eyes for a moment. Her shoulders slumped and she let out a deep sigh. "All right. I'll call down and tell security to clear them." She motioned toward her friend. "Jace, this is Kelsey. She's a doctor. I asked her to look at your wrist and sew it up."
Jesse nodded. "Want me back over at the sink?"
"No, table will do." Kelsey sat in the chair between Jess and myself and spread out one of the towels I'd stacked on the table. "Let's see what we've got."
I looked away, having had enough blood for the day.
Cam noticed and jerked her head toward the door. I got up and followed her into the living room.
"Look, this isn't something you guys should be involved with. I understand the solidarity thing because Star attacked Kruise, but this isn't your fight. It has nothing to do with you."
"It has everything to do with us."
"No. Star isn't just your problem anymore. She's not just trying to hurt vampires. She's killing humans, lesbians, and as part of that community, she's our responsibility."
"No, Cam. Kruise wasn't the only one attacked. There were at least four that I know of before Kruise, and one of them died."
"Okay, you --"
"We're staying, Cam."
"-- can stay."
I nodded. "Damned right we can."
I heard Tess chuckling behind me and turned around.
"Nice, Trey. I hope you like the floor."
"There's only our bedroom, the guest bedroom we have Nix in, and the couch, which opens into a king sized bed. Now, Jesse is hurt, and Kruise is recovering, so they get the couch. Hope you like sleeping on the floor."
I winced. Jace hates sleeping on floors.
"Um, don't suppose you'd trade with us, let us have your bed?"
She gave a laugh and looked at Cam. "Did you call Dayle? She deserves to know."
Cam nodded. "She said she'd be on a flight tonight. It'll be very late so she'll take a cab from the airport."
"Good. Then tonight we let everyone rest, bring Dayle up to date on events, and let Trey and the others know what they're in for." She shrugged. "Maybe it'll scare some sense into them and they'll take off."
"Hah." I folded my arms and glared at her. "No chance."
Tess shrugged again, but let a little smile cross her face. "I know. None of you have any sense at all."
Cam laughed and put a hand on my shoulder, giving it a tiny squeeze.
Loud voices erupted from the kitchen and Cam rolled her eyes.
She headed toward the voices. Tess and I waited, standing still.
Cam's voice joined the melee and Tess sighed. "Come on. We better go save your friend from my girl."
"No, no fucking way." Jesse had a towel over her wrist again, and was standing by the sink, glaring at Kelsey and Cam who were glaring right back at her.
I quietly asked Tess if she knew what was going on. She leaned against the wall by the door and shrugged.
"Jesse's being stubborn."
"Oh." I turned back to watch the argument.
"You are not putting that shit on my arm, no way, no how."
I leaned closer to Tess. "What do they wanna put on her?"
"Some salve, to make the wound heal faster."
Frowning, I asked, "Why would she object to that?"
"Cause it's made with vampire blood."
"Oh." I raised an eyebrow and blinked.
Tess shrugged again and headed off toward the bedroom.
Cam glanced at me in frustration then turned back to my friend. "Look, Jess, the wound is bad. The vein is injured, and there's a little nerve damage as well. This will heal it, completely, I promise."
Kelsey threw up her hands. "Fine. Bleed to death."
"You can sew it up."
"I tried. The damage is at a bad spot, and I can't close it without you losing a hell of a lot more blood. Right now the pressure on the wound is keeping it from killing you, but trying to sew that would take another fifteen minutes just for the vein. You'd be dead in ten."
I'd heard enough to know I needed to step in.
"Just what is this stuff? What does it do, and why would you wanna put it on Jesse's arm?"
Kelsey rolled her eyes. Cam turned to me. "It's just a salve. Yes, it has vampire blood because that will speed the healing. Other than that, it's just an anti-biotic ointment with something to stop the bleeding."
Having heard the story of Jesse's first night with Nix, I knew instinctively why Jess didn't want them to use the salve.
"Will it -- I mean, does it, um, have the same effect that -- drinking the blood -- would have?" I asked the question carefully, not wanting to aggravate the situation.
Cam's eyes lit in recognition and she turned to Jesse. "No. It doesn't. There's like a flash of heat, and then a head rush, but once that's over, there's nothing else. Your muscles are a little more relaxed, but there is no other effect. Not like tasting it. It's not the same."
Jess was still glaring, but her eyes were down and her shoulders had slumped. Her wrist was dripping again, and she was pale.
"Jesse, let them use it. I'll stay with you. You've already lost a lot of blood. Don't be stubborn."
"Trey, I --" she squeezed her eyes shut and then nodded. "Fine. Fuck it." She moved over to the chair and sat down again. Kelsey opened a jar of reddish brown ointment, and once again took the chair beside her patient.
I moved behind Jesse and put my hands on her shoulders, rubbing them gently. Cam knelt beside her and took hold of her right hand. Jess looked like she wanted to pull away at first, but Cam smiled and massaged the palm of Jesse's hand, and Jess let her keep hold of it.
"Okay, here we go." With a brush full of ointment already in her hand, Kelsey pulled the towel off the wound and began coating it with the salve.
It took a moment for it to hit, but then Jess gasped and tightened, her shoulders turning to stone under my hands.
"Easy, Jess, it won't last long." Cam's voice was soothing, and she kept her hold on Jess, rubbing a hand up and down her forearm.
It was only about fifteen seconds before Jess relaxed. Her eyes closed and she took a long slow breath. Her shoulders slumped again, and her head came back, her eyes meeting mine.
"You all right?" She nodded. I could see a little tension left in her face, but there was no longer the fear that I'd seen in her eyes before I'd stepped in.
Cam stood. "Think of it this way, Jess. This salve will heal your arm in a matter of days, rather than the weeks it normally would take."
Jess looked up at her. "You guys should market the stuff if it's that good."
"Nope. Sorry. Don't feel like being a lab rat."
Kelsey sighed as she wrapped gauze around the injured limb. "I've been examining it in the lab for many years, hoping I can figure out a way to synthesize it. So far, I haven't been able to."
"Are you a vampire, Kelsey?" I asked curiously.
"Yes. Vampire, scientist and head of the New York vampire council." She tied off the bandage on Jesse's arm, and stood up. "I'm going to check on Nix again, and then get out of here, Cam. I'll be contacting the other council members tonight."
"You'll put through the request?"
"Yes. I'm not really sure they'll be willing to do anything, but I'll be pushing for it."
"Do you want one of us to be there?"
"Right." Kelsey gave a sarcastic laugh. "The two ancients and the half-breed." Cam's face went red. "Sorry, Cam, it's what they call you."
The other woman leaned forward and gave her a half hug before leaving the kitchen.
Cam sat down on the vacated chair and sighed. We were all silent for a minute, then she looked up at the two us.
"Council?" I asked.
"Half-breed?" Jess raised an eyebrow.
There was a buzz from the door, and Cam sighed. "Let's get everyone here, and order some dinner, and then I'll tell you what all is going on." She stood up and stretched a little. "It's gonna be a long night."
Jess and I looked at each other while Cam went to the door.
"It's already been a long night," she said. I just nodded.
End Part 4