Home > Reign of Blood (Reign of Blood #1)(14)

Reign of Blood (Reign of Blood #1)(14)
Author: Alexia Purdy

“Tate, my name is April Tate. Your name is Rye, right?” He nodded at me as I licked my lips, the harsh silence making me bounce on my legs back and forth nervously. “Well, you gonna take me there or not?” I felt like his slow-motion antics were meant to delay me in some way but his eyes never wavered from my face to give anything away. I felt a slight flush blossom on my cheeks and moved my eyes to the cool cement floor. It was porous and slick in some spots, laid in ginormous slabs all the way down the hall of sleep stalls. I didn’t have the only bed in this section and I wondered how many vampires slept here. I did not like that fact that I had slept an entire night oblivious to the presence of others.

Rye began walking down the hall and I followed silently behind him. I studied each stall and wondered why they were all quite unused. Mine had been near the end and I didn’t see any other people around to account for the murmur of voices I had heard earlier. No one but Rye and I were here.

“Rye?” I asked.

“Yes, Miss April?” he answered as he continued down the hall toward a set of double doors.

“Who else sleeps here? I thought I heard someone else when I woke up. I don’t see anyone now.” I studied the stalls and noticed just about two or maybe three that had a few other items in them but nothing with a truly personal touch.

“This area of our bunker is sealed off to the rest of the hive. Only Blaze, Miranda, you and I live here now.” He pushed through the door and turned to his right and opened the door into a large locker room, similar to the one I had been in before. There was no one there either.

“Why is it sealed off from the rest of the hive?” My curiosity rose tenfold as we came to stop in the middle of the room, or rather Rye did. I turned toward him and waited for my answer. He was already watching me, sizing me up with a small squint to his eyes. He was extremely good looking; his pink lips were soft and beckoned a touch. I looked away again, wondering why I felt so stupid around him. It was not simple infatuation, but something else. I was hoping it was something else at least, some sort of vampire antics that I could not control.

“We are the leaders of this Hive. We do not sleep where the others sleep for safety purposes. We have had traitors among us before and this ensures that we remain safe when we rest and can monitor the hive without interruption.”

I paused, darting my eyes back to his face, which was still as serious and unchanged.

“Leaders? I thought Blaze was the leader. You mean Miranda and you are also leaders?” I was very interested in discovering the hierarchy of this vampire hive. My ears were practically at attention to hear what he had to say.

“Yes, but Blaze is first in command, Miranda is second in command. I am third. Blaze is my cousin. We were in the military together, stationed at the Air Force branch here at Nellis Air Force Base, actually. This was our top secret facility where we both worked prior to the outbreak. We were the only ones who made it safely back here.” He paused, watching for my reaction. I gave him none to work with so he continued. “We discovered that we had changed too but not like the wildlings. We were different. As we found others like us, we had to create order, to secure ourselves from the outside threats, so hence, the start of our underground home.” He smiled and waved me toward the sinks and stalls. “I’ll wait for you outside.”

I nodded and watched him turn and leave. I wondered if he had to use the facilities like humans did. Maybe they didn’t; they didn’t seem exactly dead, even if the history of the vampire deemed him to be so. I wondered what made them different from the feral vamps. There was a major difference, of course. There was also an extreme difference between him and me for that matter. I swallowed down a dry lump in my throat, feeling suddenly alone once again. I was one of the last humans. What was to happen in this world when humans were finally extinct? The world would belong to these mutated beings. And they were as close to human as anyone would ever be again.

After brushing my teeth, washing my face and using the facilities, I walked out to find Rye patiently waiting. He was leaning against the wall and bouncing a small rubber ball off the opposite wall over and over. He pocketed it and turned toward me, smiling. That was a refreshing change.

“I’ll lead you back to the sleeping quarters so you can change and put your stuff away. Breakfast is almost ready, are you hungry?” He seemed amused, watching my face morph into shock.

“What? You guys don’t eat food…I thought….”

“You thought we just drink blood?” He gave out a laugh and shook his head as we continued to walk toward my “room.” “No, we can survive on human food too, but if we forgo drinking blood for too long, we become very ill and weak.” He stopped when we reached my area. He motioned that he would wait at the doors and left me to change, full of questions.

I felt stunned; Miranda had feasted on the feral vamp’s blood quite eagerly. She could eat human food too and had not mentioned it. I got a feeling that human nutrition was not the favorite food group around here anymore. There was more iron at the top of the pyramid now. I shuddered at the thought and peeled my clothes off, putting them on a neat pile on the bed and slipping on my now clean outfit from the prior day. They felt good and soft against my skin, like a glove. I tossed my weapons on and belted the straps, feeling more like myself once I had finished. I quickly made the bed and headed out to meet Rye.

His face lit up a bit when he saw me coming. It made my stomach flutter, making me slip on my confidence. He seemed more human when he smiled, not the still, statuesque façade he had been parading on his face since I met him. Something told me to not underestimate him; he was a deep well full of life and knowledge of many things that he hid well. It obviously made him a good leader, to be still as stone and dependable as a leader could be. Blaze had more presence than Rye but this man was not a fool. I could feel his strength swirl around him like an aura. He could probably kick a lot of butt out there if he had to. I wouldn’t doubt it one bit. And I wouldn’t doubt that he had done so already, many times.

We followed the long, closed-off hall and entered into the large warehouse room once more. Along the farthest corner, long tables were set up and many a vampire was seated, eating up greedily and chatting amongst themselves. The echoing voices quieted some as we approached. Rye grabbed two trays off a pile at the end of the buffet-style line and a couple of plates. He handed one set to me and motioned for me to pick what I wanted. I kept one eyeball on the many vampires that now had their faces firmly glued on me. Their eyes felt like tiny little needles pricking me in the back as I tried to focus on plopping food onto my plate. I was starving but being the center of attention in a room full of fangs made my appetite diminish as my stomach twisted into a nervous knot.

I took a deep breath, watching my hand shake as I reached to pour some juice into a cup at the end of the food line. I spilled part of it and moaned slightly at my clumsiness. A hand reached over and took the pitcher from me. Rye poured the rest in, grinning slightly as he placed it on his tray.

“I’ll carry it to the table. You’re just a bundle of jitteriness this morning aren’t you?” He winked and pulled me to follow him to an empty area at the end of one of the long tables. I sat across from him, darting my eyes toward the group nearest us. They whispered to each other as they glanced back to me every now and then. It was quite irritating and I focused my attention on my tray to avoid seething even more from their unwanted attention.

“Ignore them. They haven’t seen a human in so long they’re just not sure what to think.” Rye shoved a potato into his mouth and chomped down, smiling playfully back at me. I was quite intrigued with this new personality that now flowed across his face. His grey eyes were twinkling, as though he had plans for shenanigans that day. I hoped he wasn’t bipolar. I couldn’t stand an unstable person right now; I was as unstable as one got in a difficult situation.

“I don’t feel comfortable here. You don’t think that any one of them would attack me, do you?” I asked. I shoved a bit of egg into my mouth and chewed, barely believing they had fresh eggs here. I would have to ask Rye about the food supply and how it was acquired.

“No, not as long as one of us is with you,” he said coyly, winking at me, making me think he might be joking. I didn’t want to find out if he wasn’t.

I ate as much as I could with my stomach tensed up, which wasn’t as much as I had wanted to. I knew I’d be starving before noon for sure. Rye grabbed my tray and shushed me when I protested. He dumped them out and returned, motioning for me to follow him again. The stares had diminished since we had first arrived so I was beginning to feel a little more at ease. He walked over to the opposite corner of the warehouse and down another hallway to another set of double doors. I recognized it as the lab where they had drawn my blood the night before. I wondered why he had brought me here again, hoping that they didn’t need even more vials of my blood. I would be anemic pretty fast if they did.

“Why are we coming back here?” I asked.

“You want to see what they’ve come up with, right? Besides, Blaze has been here all morning, awaiting results.” Rye smiled again, making me slightly at ease with his explanation. “He wants a cure more than anything. But, we have to help our hive stay alive first.”

I crinkled my nose, wondering why it was that every question I had seemed to bring more questions. I sighed, following him through the doors as I glanced about the lab. The tables were full of vials, centrifuge machines and other machines that I was sure did the tests. There were fridges full of blood units on one wall, rack after rack of them. I wondered why they didn’t just drink that blood. I doubted it would last very long with the amount of mouths they had to feed. Why this lab was not in the protected locked down area of the bunker was beyond me. I quickly discovered that there was a whole other freezer at the back of the lab, a deep freeze room stuffed full of blood.

“It’s our emergency stash. If were unable to leave here for days, we could survive for a while without venturing outside,” Rye offered when he caught me staring at the clear glass doors of the freezers. I nodded, ripping my eyes away from the deep red blood inside row after row of bags. I wondered how they had acquired so many bags in one place. I shivered thinking about how many humans it had taken to fill freezers like that.

“Blaze, anything new?” Rye asked his huskier cousin. The leader slowly brought his eyes away from the computer he had been staring intently at to land on us. He smiled and gave me a nod before turning back to a person wearing a lab coat in front of him.

“This is Brian Sands, head hematologist of our hive.” Blaze waved toward the lab coated man. “Brian, this is April, the only human we have found so far.” Brian stood up, a scrawny and scraggly man with deep chocolate eyes and messed up, fading blonde hair. The ring of gold in his eyes seemed to almost clash with the deep brown of them. He reached out to shake my hand and sat back down.

“Good day, April,” Brian said as he turned back to the computer screen in front of him. I waited as I craned my neck to see what he was looking at. The screen was full of gibberish and numbers that made no sense to me. I gave up staring at it and scanned the room, interested in all the equipment when Blaze yanked me out of my thoughts.

“April, we have isolated a compound in your serum that very well could hold the key to the immunity you’ve developed against the virus.” I turned to look at him, his eyes studying me as if I was a very interesting item on display. The twinkle in his eye made me feel a bit guarded. He didn’t make me as nervous as Rye did but he had a certain air about him that made me think twice before I said anything.

“That’s good then, you don’t need more blood do you?” I asked nervously, feeling a bit dumb for asking. Being around others was not comfortable to me. I realized how familiar my isolated lifestyle with my mother and brother had become. The cocoon we had created had apparently kept my social skills at bay. Now I felt like the new kid at a school full of people that weren’t one bit like me. I wasn’t quite yet sure how to feel about it.

Blaze gave a short laugh as he grinned, nodding as he stood up and pointed at the screen.

“No, we don’t. Not yet. These are you antibodies here, the red are your blood cells. They are usually spherical and concave in a human, something we don’t see anymore. Vampires like us, our cells are more like round spherical balls, bouncing around in our vessels, full of nothing but fluid, we have to ingest massive amounts of blood to keep our hemoglobin attached to our cells or we die.” He paused, looking gravely serious for a moment. He waved me over to another monitor where another kind of blood was on display.

“This is a sample of a wildling’s blood. See how withered it looks? This one had not fed in a long time. But they have the ability to fill their cells up once they feed and they look similar to yours but the surfaces of the cells are a bit rougher, like they’re encased in a muck that sticks to them. These are the differences between the three of types of ‘beings’ left.” He straightened up and sighed, looking a bit worn out for a moment as he rubbed his brows.

“So why do you need my blood? What can it do for you?” I asked, curious to hear an answer, if they even had one, to this outbreak that had ended the world.

Blaze’s eyes rolled up to meet my stare. His eyes were now cold and a dark blue, like an ocean before a storm, no longer twinkling as they studied me. This made the hair on my neck stand on end as a chill passed through me. I rubbed my arms as he averted his eyes from my face.

“We are reproducing this antibody you carry in hopes that it could help us stay alive longer.” His voice came out dry and rough as the room stared at him in silence with only the hum of the machines to interrupt the awkwardness. I pressed my lips together, realizing that whatever he was going to say next would change many things.

   
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