“My best friend is dead.”
These words were the first that Regan heard as she tried to rouse herself.
“My best friend is freaking dead and I found her. What the hell am I supposed to do?”
The voice was familiar. Regan tried to clear her thoughts and recall exactly where she was. She opened her eyes, relieved that she was not in a coffin. Her hopes that the last night was a dream were fairly well dashed as there was no Harrison next to her, and she was not in her own bed. Instead she was still sprawled on the old futon she kept in her tiny basement, a hold over from her days in an undergrad apartment. She was not alone, as she had been when she had poured a glass of wine and all but fell onto the mattress to sleep.
“Do I call nine one one? She’s already dead. What the hell are they going to do?”
Regan pushed herself over onto her back. She had literally crashed onto the futon, face first, and fallen asleep. So much for vampires sleeping neatly on their backs with their arms crossed. “Emma?”
Emma looked up at her, eyes wide with surprise. Her mascara had run, creating black rivers of grief down her smooth cheeks and creating a sharp contrast to her silver white hair. “You’re dead,” she declared with shaken certainty.
Regan shook her head. “I assure you I’m not.” She hated lying, especially to Emma. As a case in point, the last time she had tried to lie, she managed to last about thirty seconds before blurting out the truth that she had indeed kissed Ryan Fletcher between third and fourth periods was revealed. Fortunately, Regan still was not sure if being a vampire qualified as dead or not, thus the lie she was telling did have some level of truth to it.
“I checked your pulse. I mean I tried to check your pulse. You don’t have a freaking pulse.” Emma had been kneeling on the rug next to the futon and now shifted away from her, one hand propping her up, the other pointing, accusingly at Regan.
Regan took in a breath to sigh. Emma smelled sweet, like chocolate, caramel, and marshmallows. Candy was her comfort food of choice, religiously worked off with an extra half mile of jogging for each indulgence. The advantage of being a blogger: Emma had time for such little niceties as self defense classes, napping, and cooking real food.
“I have a pulse.” She held out her wrist.
“You definitely do not have a pulse,” Emma protested. “I’ve been checking for over an hour now. I checked your wrist. I checked your neck. Hell I even double checked your femoral a few times and nothing.”
“You put your hand up my shorts?”
“I thought you were dead!”
“Not helping any,” Regan said, pressing her shorts against her thigh. She offered her other hand towards Emma. “But really, I do have a pulse. Check.”
Emma continued to stare back, her mouth slightly open with surprise. Tentatively she stretched out a hand and closed it over Regan’s wrist. Regan was surprised at how warm her touch was on her own skin. She could smell more than just the sweets Emma had used to comfort herself. She could smell something else, something she could not really identify. But the scent was making her hungry. It made her need that feeling she felt the night before as she sucked at the bag of blood. She was going to eat her best friend, and part of her was quite sure she was going to enjoy it.
“You’re so cold,” Emma said, leaning forward a little as her fingers closed over the spot where her veins were easily found. “And, you do have a pulse.” She moved closer, still kneeling on the remnant rug that provided the closest thing to carpet in the unfinished basement space. “You had me so scared.”
Regan reached up and put her hand on her friend’s cheek. “I know. I’m so sorry.” She closed her hand slightly, feeling how soft and smooth the skin was, so warm and inviting. It would be no challenge at all to pull her close, and bite down on her neck. All that blood, so close, so sweet and so inviting.
She pulled her hand back quickly, turning away from Emma and pushing herself off the futon. Emma watched her go, her eyes widening again. “What? Did I do something?”
Regan shook her head and started to walk away quickly. “No. You’re fine. I just need something to eat.” She turned back to Emma. “What time is it?”
Emma blinked and then pulled herself up to her feet as well. “I don’t know, like, nine or something.”
“Yeah, sun just set a little bit ago.” Emma took a step closer. “You’re starting to freak me out again, Reg. What’s going on?”
Regan did not answer. She took a step back and tried to clear her head, but the more she moved the more she realized that she needed to feed. Feeding was the right word. She had to feed. Emma moved closer again, leaning her head to the side and baring her neck. It would be so easy.
“Is there wine? Let’s go see if I still have some wine in the house.” Regan took the stairs out of the basement two at a time. She had to figure out how to get Emma out of the house before she lost all self-control. She started to look through her kitchen. Maybe a bottle of red wine would work. She found one in the back of the fridge and quickly took it out. The cork was halfway in from when she had shared it with Emma the night before the wedding. This was, actually, the third bottle of that night. She pulled the cork free and lifted the bottle towards her lips.
Emma ducked back into the stairwell as Regan spit a mouthful of the wine out in her direction. It was as though she had just taken a mouthful of vinegar, a horrible taste. In frustration she threw the bottle against the marble counter top, shattering it and sending the red liquid flying across the white cabinets. She flung open the fridge again, hoping to find some raw meat. She could suck some blood from that, surely. Desperate she began to throw things from their shelves. She was going to make steaks for Harrison this week. They had to be in here.
“What the hell is going on?” Emma was still in in the basement doorway, watching the scene. Regan glanced at her, but refused to look for more than a moment. The longer she looked the more she knew she had to focus somewhere else.
The door chime sounded, an excuse to flee the kitchen and put some more distance between herself and her best friend of twenty years. Regan all but flew out of the kitchen and across the small living room. She tried to calm herself before opening the door, but was fairly certain she failed. At least she had taken a shower before the sun rose and had gotten most of the dirt out of her hair.
“Hi,” the the girl at the door smiled at Regan. “I’ve got something for Regan Fairchild.” She was dressed in a tight pink and black shirt, with matching biker shorts. A helmet was tucked under one arm as she held a small cooler in her other hand.
Regan nodded, slowly realising that inviting another living, breathing blood bag was making her situation worse rather than better.
The girl held out the cooler. “If that’s you, I just need you to sign the form on the front of this, and it’s yours.” The form was on the wrong side, forcing the girl to twist her arm, and rotate the cooler. She winced a little as she held the weight, palm up, but with the correct side facing forward.
Regan reached for the offered item but found herself staring past it at the girl’s wrist instead. She could see the blue veins as the girl held her arm up. Regan shut her eyes and tried to block out the thoughts of blood, to ignore the scent of sweat, of life, that this girl was coated in. She had to keep control. She had to step back, go upstairs and hide from them both. She had to resist the urge to feed.
Regan’s eyes shot open and she knew that what she needed. Grabbing the girl’s wrist, she pulled her into the living room and slammed the door hard behind her. The messenger started to protest but was cut off as Regan pushed her hard against the door. Regan did not hear the cooler or the helmet hit the floor as they were dropped, but instead snarled and then closed her teeth over the girl’s neck.
And there it was, the one thing she knew she needed. She could feel the girl’s body sag in her arms as the blood started to flow between them and her struggling passed with it. She sucked hard at the flesh, drawing out the vital drink, and feeling her own body warm with it. Where the blood bags had been the most amazing thing she had ever tasted, supplanting even the orgasm on a bun, they were a cheap off-label wine compared to the premium vintage this girl provided. She continued to drink, now holding the messenger upright against the door rather than pinning her to it.
“Regan! What the hell are you doing?”
Regan snarled and turned from the messenger girl. Emma stood in the doorway to the kitchen, her hands on the frame to brace herself from the shock. She stared back openly at her friend, and the scene.
The girl started to slide down the door, her legs unable to hold her weight. “Wow, what a rush,” she muttered as she sank to the floor. Regan ignored her; all she saw now was the other human standing before her, challenging her. She bent her knees, coiling up and sprang at it, arms outstretched.
Then Emma disappeared from her vision, dropping out of sight. In the moment it took to realize that Emma had simply ducked her body, Regan was starting pass right over her. Emma was prepared to help her flight, grabbing a leg and pushing her through the throw, then slamming her, hard, down on the kitchen tile. Regan’s next vision was of Emma’s closed fist rocketing towards her face.
The shock of the blow rocked Regan out of her blood thirst and back to the present. She stared up at Emma who held a raised fist, ready to bash her in the face again.
“I can explain,” she coughed. She started to lift herself up onto her elbows. Emma punched her hard again, knocking the back of her head down into the tiles. “No, Emma,” she pleaded. “Really, I can explain.”
“What are you?” Emma punctuated each word with another punch. “What did you do to my Regan?”
Regan managed to get an arm across her face to protect herself from the fist of her best friend. “Emma,” she said, her own anger rising. “Stop. Let me explain.” Emma hit her again, the blow mostly deflected by her arm. “I said, ‘Stop!’” Regan pushed her arm up hard and threw Emma off of her and across the kitchen. Slowly she pulled herself up. Emma did the same, rubbing the back of her head with a hand. “Look, listen to me,” Regan said, raising her hands in surrender. “I can explain.”
Emma shook her head once and then put her hands up in a defensive stance. “Okay. Explain.”
There was a light, though happy, moan from the front door. The messenger girl was still slumped against the door, her eyes closed and a smile on her face. Regan looked back at Emma. Should she just be honest? How much of the truth should she tell? Would she be putting Emma in danger if she told her everything?
“I’m a vampire.”
Emma blinked. “Okay. You think you’re a vampire. So this is some game? Like a Detroit By Night Role Playing game or something?”
“No,” Regan shook her head. “Like I’m really a vampire. I died, rose again, drink blood, and have super-smell.”
Emma sniffed the air. “You don’t smell dead to me.”
“I mean,” Regan clarified, “I have hyper smelly sense. Like, I can tell you that you were snacking on your sister’s famous chocolate and caramel rice crispie treats tonight, and that the messenger girl has been thinking about getting home to have sex with her boyfriend for the last hour.”
Emma shook her head. “No way. That’s freaking insane. You can’t be a vampire.” She stammered. “I mean you’re so not the vampire type.”
Regan stood up a little straighter. “What about me makes me not the vampire type? You think you’d make a better one?”
Emma relaxed a little. “Well maybe not me, but when was the last time you heard of a vampire accountant?”
“Vampires have money,” Regan answered coolly. “So they have to have some accountants to manage it and keep it hidden from things like the IRS.”
“Don’t you mean ‘people like the IRS’?”
“I’m pretty sure the IRS qualifies as a soulless entity.” She paused. “I’m sorry I tried to eat you.”
“Twenty years of friendship is about the only thing keeping me from really going postal on you,” Emma said still shaking her head. She looked past Regan and spotted the messenger girl. She rushed through the doorway to check on her. “Is she going to be okay?” Regan went with her. The girl was still smiling as they helped her to her feet. Regan looked at her neck while Emma checked her pulse.
Regan had expected to see a massive wound where the flesh had been torn open by her teeth. It had certainly felt like she had ripped a good deal of the skin. What she saw, however, was simply two small red marks. Her neck was not even bruised greatly where just a few seconds ago Regan had been draining her blood.
“She’s still alive,” Emma said, as she withdrew her hand from the messenger’s wrist. “And quite happy, too.”
The girl still had not opened her eyes. “You know,” she said dreamily, “I’ve got a boyfriend but you are totally free to kiss me again if you want. I think I’m pretty okay making out with girls now.”
Emma turned to Regan. “She liked having you try to kill her?”
“I wasn’t trying to kill her,” Regan answered facing her friend. She was only using one hand to help the girl keep her feet.
Emma glared back, letting go of the girl all together. “And what do you think happens with the balance of blood in her goes into the red? That she just asks the blood bank for a loan to tide her over?”
“I wasn’t thinking,” Regan countered. “I was starving. I nearly jumped you in the basement.”
“Oh, so I should be thanking you, now?”
“No, but it’s not like I have total control of this.”
Emma folded her arms and stood her ground. “Well that’s reassuring. Nothing like wondering if your best friend since fifth grade is going to start thinking of you as a walking Hot Pocket.”
Regan withdrew her hand from the girl and mimicked Emma’s stance, staring back up at her. “You are not a Hot Pocket to me,” she said, adding without thought, “more like a cabernet sauvignon.”
Emma’s eyes narrowed. “Which label?”
“Better than a merlot.” She pointed a finger at Regan. “But you refer to me as a food product to my face again, and I’m putting you on your ass, again.”
Regan failed to stop a small smile. “But behind your back is okay?”
Emma shrugged. “What I don’t know can’t hurt you.” She looked down at the messenger who had slid back to the floor, her knees up hear her chin. “I’m still not totally okay with all of this, you know.”
“You’re not okay?” Regan turned and walked back into the center of the room. “I’m the one who’s dead.”
“If I were dead,” the messenger girl cooed, “I’d die happy, like, right now.”
Emma started to help the girl back to her feet. “Change of priority. I’m officially more freaked out by her gushing than I am your sucking.” She patted the girl’s cheek. “Are you going to be okay? C’mon back to the rest of us.”
The messenger’s eyes opened and she smiled until she saw Emma’s face instead of Regan’s. That seemed to bring her back to reality. She took a step to the side, away from Emma. “Right,” she said, looking around trying to regain her own bearings. “So, if you, or,” she looked at Regan, “you want to sign for that, I’ve got some more rounds to get before my shift’s over.”
Regan picked up the cooler, used the pen clipped to the page to sign at the bottom, then handed the forms over to the girl. Apparently fully returned to reality she could not get out of the house fast enough. Regan put the cooler on the coffee table and sank onto the couch to stare at it.
“You’re not going to open it?” Emma sat down next to her.
Regan took a breath, focusing on drawing in the air, holding the pose and pushing it out again. She had hoped that the gesture would focus her, relax her, but it did little along those lines. Instead it was another reminder that she had to think to breathe. Without a word she leaned forward and opened the cooler.
Under the ice pack there were three bags of blood, neatly arranged and labeled. There was also a note. She took it out and unfolded it. It was written in a smooth flowing handwriting that she recognized, and on a heavy formal paper stock.
“Do accept this gift to help you begin your life, and forget not who among us is willing to help a new novice to our association. If you would like to thank me in person, do pay a visit to Sava’s on State Street. Ask the hostess for a table with a bottle of 1952 merlot and she will show you to our party.
“I remain, etc, etc,
Emma read the note over her shoulder. “Who’s J?”
Regan shook her head. “I haven’t got a clue. Someone who likes to send me blood though.” She held up one of the blood bags. “This would have been useful about twenty minutes ago.”
“And robbed me of a chance to actually use some of those self defense moves.” Emma paused, and peeked into the cooler to see if there was anything else. “Of course, I can’t say I really liked laying you out, so I guess that balances out.”
“So much for vampires magically getting martial arts powers,” Regan said, rubbing the back of her head, which was still sore from the throw. It was sensitive, but hurt a lot less than she would have expected.
“Yeah,” Emma added, “that always seemed a little too convenient for my taste.” She held up the note. “Going to pay a visit to J?”
“What else should I do?” Despite a potential eternity before her, Regan really was feeling rather lost.
“I say we track down that Draco guy you work with, the one with the eyeliner.”
Regan shook her head. “Drake? We could but what do I say? ‘Hi, you’re, like, a total expert on all things vamp. Any advice for me now that I’m, like, a blood sucking fiend now?’”
Emma shrugged. “You could call Harrison. Does he know?”
“Your bra size.” Emma paused. “That you’re a blood sucking fiend?”
Regan stared back, momentarily dumbstruck. “Why would I tell him?”
“Because he’s been camping out here since you went missing?” Emma shook her head. “One day you’re all happy and excited to be settling down with the man of your dreams, the next you run from the altar and then disappear without a trace. People were really freaked out, Regan, and not just at your ‘I don’t’, but the fact that no one could find you afterwards. You didn’t even call me to say you were okay.”
Regan returned her face to her hands to consider things. “Okay, so not my brightest moment.”
Emma put a hand on her shoulder. “What did happen?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” She looked at her friend. “I should probably call Harrison or something.” She hesitated, looking at the small table near the door. “Or I could call him if I knew where my cell was.”
Emma glanced at the charger then back at Regan. “You lost your phone?”
“Apparently.” Regan thought back over the last few days. “If anything it’s at O’Patrick’s. I remember just burning through random Runaway Bride articles while I was having a drink to clear my head. That’s the last I remember seeing it.”
The story continues into the Chapter 4 Addendum
Readers should note that there was a single vote on the Facebook page, creating a 3/3 tie.
It seems dear reader that our heroine is at a crossroads. What shall she do?