28 AN OVERDUE APOLOGY
VLAD TRIED HARD TO STOP PACING, but he was having little luck with his efforts. A breeze blew through the alley, brushing his hair from his face and cooling his skin. The temperatures had risen to full-blown summer heat in the past week, and this evening was no different. Vlad blamed the heat wave for the beads of sweat on his forehead, but knew that he was kidding himself. It was his nerves, plain and simple.
The back door of The Crypt swung open, and, for a brief moment, music blared into the alley. Something raw. Something dark. Snow stepped out and the door closed, muting the sounds once again. Vlad caught her glance and cleared his throat, but didn’t speak.
She approached, gliding dreamily toward him, her steps not cautious in the least. Vlad wondered for a moment if she remembered the night he took her blood, or if it was all just a blur. Still, he had a burning need to apologize, even if she didn’t understand. “Thank you for meeting me. I need to apologize to you, Snow. I did something that I’m not proud of, and I can’t go into details, but-”
“You mean when you fed on me?” Her head was tilted slightly in a curious fashion, her well-plucked brows raised.
Now it was Vlad who didn’t understand. “You… you remember that?”
Snow nodded, and her burgundy lips spread into a grin. “Remember it? I’ll never forget it. It was great! I mean, at first I was confused. But ever since the fog lifted, it’s all I can think about.”
A brief flash of Eddie’s face invaded Vlad’s thoughts, and he frowned. “You didn’t tell anyone, did you?”
Snow looked mildly insulted. She shook her head, her bangs draping across her eyes like a curtain for a moment. “I would never tell anyone about that night. That is just between you and me.”
Vlad stayed quiet for a long time, uncertain what to say or do. After all, technically the girl standing before him was his drudge. Had she not recalled their previous encounter, it wouldn’t really matter, but here she was, fully aware. He had no idea what to do with her, other than the obvious. “Don’t tell anyone about me. And if a boy named Eddie Poe tries to talk to you, ignore him.”
Snow nodded eagerly. “Is there anything else?”
Vlad wet his lips, hesitant. “You should know that you’re my drudge now. It’s… well, pretty much a vampire’s human slave. You won’t be able to resist any direct orders.”
She seemed to mull this over for a minute, then nodded, seemingly satisfied with her predicament. “I’m cool with that. Are you… hungry?”
Vlad shook his head curtly. “Let’s get something straight. I don’t feed off humans.”
Snow furrowed her brow, questioning. “But… you are a vampire, right? And you bit me. And I know you drank. It made me dizzy.”
“ That was a mistake. One I don’t plan on repeating.” He inhaled a delectable whiff of her blood as it rushed through her veins. Her heart beat quicker, and he could also smell the adrenaline in her blood. Vlad lowered his voice to a near whisper, terrified of himself, of his growing need to feed. “No matter how good you smell.”
She stepped closer and, against his will, he remained very still. Carefully, she swept her hair to one side, exposing the smooth porcelain of her neck-just as perfect, just as flawless as it had been before Vlad had bitten her. Vlad recalled Henry’s wound when they were eight healing within seconds after Vlad had removed his fangs-apparently, that was the norm. It looked as though that initial feeding on Snow had never occurred, though Vlad’s appetite recalled otherwise. The blue vein there pulsed, and Vlad felt his will break. He wet his lips again, suddenly famished.
Her whispered words brushed his cheek, enticing him further. “It’s okay. It’s just between us. Feed. You need it. I can tell.”
Vlad inhaled again, and his head spun with thirst. “It… it has to be a secret. From everyone.”
Snow was still nodding in understanding when Vlad leaned closer and bit hard into her neck. He drank deep, the rubies of her veins spilling over his tongue and filling his stomach, gifting him with the greatest pleasure he had ever known. He fed and fed, mindful of her heartbeat, but more mindful of his hunger and the taste of the forbidden.
He wouldn’t tell Otis. Or Nelly. Even Henry. This was his secret, his and Snow’s. And he would feed on her in surreptitious shadows.
Until he learned how to tame the beast within.
If, indeed, he ever would.
Vlad shut that thought out and pulled Snow closer, swallowing mouthfuls of her sweet crimson and blocking from his thoughts all the lies that he would be forced to tell in order to satiate his need for blood.
There would be many.