Two things pain can do for you: sharpen you up or dull you down. It never does anything for your mood. He'd been in pain for over a week, and the crystal clarity he'd run on was dulling down to shards of scoured glass. He'd been running on adrenaline, when he needed blood. That had to change -- soon -- if he was going to survive. Blood was survival.
If he survived long enough out here, once he was free he could start thinking about revenge. He yearned to think about what he'd do to those who'd imprisoned him -- but letting those thoughts surface could easily lead to hallucinations, a sure way to get himself caught again.
"Not going to happen," he growled, the sound a rumble of thunder in the desert night. The name of the game was survival, and survival meant paring himself down to pure animal instinct.
That was the only order of business.
He crouched on the ground, where scorpions scurried to get out of his way, rested his hands on the thick base of a saguaro cactus, and concentrated on finding blood. Animal blood wouldn't do; it had to be human. Preferably female.
He could hear the soft breathing of doves nesting in the cactus. Bats fluttered and flitted overhead, and he could hear their sonar squeaks piercing the air. Hearts beat all around him, so many small living things going about their nocturnal business. He was surrounded by life, but had never been so alone.
He blocked out everything else and searched for the one heartbeat that had to be out there. Had to be waiting for him. When the need was the greatest, that was when you found The One. Wasn't that how the old myth went?
Eventually his head came up, then turned, nostrils flaring.
"Son of a bitch," he muttered.
A slow smile creased his pain-ravaged features. He rose, gave a quick look up at the full moon, and whispered an ancient word of thanks.
Then he turned south and ran, spending all his remaining energy in a burst of desperate speed.
The stars were huge overhead, and the moon rode high in the sky. Stevie Nicks's voice was in her ears, singing about sorcerers and sapphires. Maybe she should have been enjoying the deep silence of the desert night, but she preferred the music coming through the headphones of her Discman as she lay on a sleeping bag outside her tent and drank in the vast emptiness.
She'd always liked being alone, but since the plane crash she craved privacy more than ever. She'd been called brave and heroic, and she hated that. She'd been the pilot, and she survived -- which seemed so wrong to her. The admiration made her cringe; so did the sympathy. She hoped the solitude would be healing.
She'd always absorbed other people's emotions too easily, and it was worse now, since her head injury when the plane hit the ground. The physical wound had closed, but her mind was still open. Things poured into it, thoughts and emotions, things that had nothing to do with her. She used to be able to control it most of the time. "Empath," a witchy friend had called her once, a Sensitive.
Once it had been kind of fun to have this psychic ability; now it made her a fugitive. Now the need to be alone was the reason she'd camped out in the national forest south of Tucson. Here, she had some peace from the joys and pains and hungers that didn't belong to her.
Right now she concentrated on the music to get away from the pain that did belong to her. Four people had died in the plane crash. Four others had lived besides her, but lives saved didn't make up for the guilt of lives lost. No one called it pilot error; it had been a freak storm. Wind shear. Lightning. An act of God. But she should have...
Something. There must have been something she could have done.
Try not to think about it. Try to move on. She'd heard those words so many times. But where did you move on to when by all rights you should be dead?
Maybe she was dead, and hell was having to hide away from the rest of the human race to keep from --
Hell? You don't know anything about hell.
The thought raced out of the night, straight into her heart, like an avalanche with a New York accent.
Then hunger shot through her, hunger that was a burning pain that set her writhing on the ground and clawing feverishly at the earth. It absorbed her, nauseated her, leaving her twisted up in a sweating, cringing ball when the pain withdrew. Gradually she realized that the pain was not hers...but that it was coming for her.
And she realized she did not want to die. In that way, the rising fear was a gift.
Terror pumped adrenaline through her, bringing her to her feet, and she turned to run from the unknown danger.
And found that she had turned toward the very thing she feared, as he came rushing at her like a runaway freight train out of the night.
She caught a quick glimpse in the bright moonlight of a big man, densely muscled. At least, he was shaped like a man. But his eyes belonged to a hungry, hunting beast. Fire burned in those eyes, the deep red of glowing coals, and the anguish in them was terrifying.
The woman's fear speared him, but he kept on coming. He had no choice: he was hunter, she was prey. He felt her pain when she pivoted and twisted her ankle trying to escape him. She ran despite the sprain; instinct made him follow.
After being pursued so long, being the pursuer brought him pinpricks of pride, and pleasure. He almost remembered what it felt like to be Prime.
It was a short chase. He followed the pounding of her heart and quick, sobbing breaths a few yards, then grasped her around the waist and brought her to the ground. They landed in the spiky shoots of a yucca, but he pulled her out before any cactus spines penetrated her skin. Her blood belonged to him -- every drop -- and how he took it was under his control.
Another time he might enjoy subduing her struggles, but he didn't have time to waste with love play. He was growing weaker.
He carried her back and sank to his knees onto a sleeping bag in front of her tent.
He ripped off her loose-fitting shirt while she fought and scratched at him. He was aware of her surprise when he didn't go for her bra or try to rip off her pants. He stroked a thumb down her long, lean throat, feeling her blood like blue heat beneath the satin skin, loving the strong, fast pulse. His fangs were already out, had been hard in his mouth for days.
He pushed her down and fell on top of her. Her scream punctured what remained of the shielding that protected his mind, and her fear drove through him like a stake. Shock sent him into her mind. He found psychic injury, a torn-open place that left her nearly helpless all the time.
He pulled out quickly, unwilling to take more from her mind than he must. And at least he could ease this for her -- so there would be a give as well as take.
He drilled a thought into her head and made sure she understood.
Then he forgot about everything but need. He kissed the side of her throat once, because he could not bear to make this intimate act completely impersonal. Then he sank his fangs into her. His need was so desperate, he couldn't make the bleeding a slow, sensual sipping. What he did brought her to powerful orgasm within a moment.
It brought him life, and he drank and drank and drank.
Copyright © 2004 by Susan Sizemore