Home > Reign of Blood (Reign of Blood #1)(15)

Reign of Blood (Reign of Blood #1)(15)
Author: Alexia Purdy

“What do you mean stay alive longer? Does that mean…are you guys dying?” My voice came out slightly accusatory. I sucked my breath in as I waited for an answer, fighting my impatience with every ounce of my strength. I had to wait for him to answer. I knew I didn’t want to hear it, but what choice did I have?

“Yes, some of us. Not all.” He turned toward Brian and gave him a nod. The hematologist nodded and hit a few keys on the keyboard to bring up another screen of blood cells. This was a time lapsed film that repeated over and over again. The red blood cells appeared spherical like their blood had, little balls bouncing around the screen. Eventually those balls changed colors, morphing into a sickly green that rippled the balls on their surface as they collapsed into themselves and then lay suspended like crumpled green bits of paper scattered in green fluid. It was sickening and I suddenly knew what was coming next.

“Some of us disintegrate, wither in a sense. We have no way of knowing when it will happen and the end comes quickly, usually within a week. We start to feel feverish, turn pale and sickly green. Then we bleed, our blood turning into a green sludge, pouring out of every orifice right before death. So far it seems only one in five of us suffer from this disease but we don’t know how to track who is vulnerable. We have already lost about one hundred and fifty people. We bury them in the nearby water containment ditch, which has been dry for a long time. We usually set them on fire to disintegrate what is left.” He shifted his weight, for he was still standing, his words wearing on him as he spoke. I soaked it all in, still waiting for him to bring up my own blood in all this.

“Your serum may be a vaccine for us to defeat this ailment. So you see, that is why we need you, April.” Blaze was staring back at me, awaiting my reaction. My indifference surprised me. I didn’t care if it helped them or not. They were still vampires–killers and dependent on blood. Whether they came up with a cure or not, I didn’t care.

“Well, good luck with that. You got what you wanted. Now, are you still going to help me with what I want?” I narrowed my eyes at him, my voice spilling out icy and hard. I wanted to feel something for them, just to remind myself that I was still human, but I couldn’t–or wouldn’t. I wasn’t quite sure which it was.

“We might need future specimens to make this work; you have to be on board to help us every time we need more samples.” Blaze’s eyes were open in surprise; he had obviously expected a different reaction from me. “It won’t be much, I promise you that.” His voice cracked in a slip of desperation. I shook my head and turned, surprising everyone and even myself as I headed out the door of the lab. The air inside had started to feel thick and dry, suffocating me. I ran down the hall a ways until I realized I had run the wrong way.

I stood staring down another hall and turned to run back but had followed too many turns to be sure it was the right way. I groaned in frustration as I slid to the floor and leaned against the wall, smacking my fist on the hard, cold concrete floor. I was rubbing the soreness on my hand when I heard someone approaching. I scrambled to my feet and came face to face with Rye.

His statuesque face was still and his eyes had darkened over like a coming storm. He was obviously angry but I stood my ground, waiting for him to speak first.

“What’s wrong with you?” he snapped, taking a step forward, closing the space between us.

“What do you mean?” I growled back, my lips twitching at his disgust.

Rye tilted his head as he narrowed his steely eyes, sizing me up. “You think you’re so righteous, don’t you? This so-called mission of yours–killing the wildlings like animals–and for what? Just to find your family. Does that make you better than us?” He started shaking his head as he further closed the gap between us, a sinister grin dwelling on his lips. “But you’re not better than us, April. You, my dear, are just another kind of vampire.”

The heat of his breath seared my cheek as I pressed myself against the wall, pulling my head away from him, though my heart was racing. His warm nose brushed my cheek as he put his hands against the concrete wall and leaned in, surrounding me. I tried ducking away from him but he moved so fast I found myself pressed against the wall once more. My fear was mixed with want, fogging up my thoughts as I turned my head away, refusing to look into his gun-metal eyes. My hands pushed at his chest, but not with the force I would have used against an attack. My feelings were conflicted; I wanted to run, run so far that I would never see this place or his face again. And yet, I couldn’t run. I didn’t want to run, really. My feet would not budge and my heart longed for him to brush his lips across my cheek and press them against my own lips, with as much want as I felt.

He stepped away, breaking off a piece of my soul with every step he took. I let my eyes find his, my breathing fast and short, my heart in my throat, expecting to see malice and taunt dancing in his eyes.

But there wasn’t any of that at all.

He looked more serious than anything else. Rye’s eyes glinted bright like fire on steel, desire burning in them. He seemed as surprised at the feelings we had evoked as I was, if not more so. Sighing, his eyes lowered to the floor as he gathered himself once more. I could almost see his energy retract within himself until it no longer rippled about him.

When he was done, Rye glanced back up, once again sporting the stoic blank mask he’d had the first time I met him. I felt a twinge of loss without him near. I tried to shake it off but I knew the damage was done. I would help them, and not just because I wanted them to help me save my family, but because I could not bear to ever witness him wither and die.

“Come on, let’s go back,” he whispered, holding out his hand for me to take. I nodded, feeling slightly exasperated that the moment was over. Clasping his hand, I could see it shake before he curled his fingers over mine. He pulled me along, down the narrow halls and turns as if he could walk it in his sleep. I was pretty sure he could. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him, a feeling of calm flushing over me as the warmth of his skin bled onto mine. I was glad to have met him. In a twisted sort of way, it felt right. I only hoped that no matter what, he would help me find my family.

Chapter Eighteen

Rye didn’t lead me back to the lab but he did lead me back to the room I had woken up in, the sleeping quarters. I had protested but he had shushed me with a finger to my lips, the longing returning to his eyes. He managed a slight smile and left quickly after telling me to rest up. I laid back after kicking off my boots, feeling more tired than I had thought I was. My lids sank closed as I let the dark embrace take me, replacing my thoughts for the time being. I was all too willing for this silent sanctuary.

*****

I woke later, not knowing what time it was. The hum of the overhead lights was the only sound that hovered in the atmosphere of this underground bunker. I wondered where everyone was and how late it was. I checked my watch and realized that it was about one in the morning. I had slept for so long I had missed dinner. Sighing, I swung my legs out and stretched, wishing I hadn’t slept so much. I would be up for a while now because of it. It hadn’t occurred to me that maybe the vampires were nocturnal, even if they could walk in the sunlight.

I got my boots back on and ran the brush through my straggly hair, pulling it back into the ponytail it had fallen out of. Pretty sure I looked like I had just rolled out of bed, I stood up and flattened the wrinkles in my outfit. My stomach rolled, filling with hunger pangs as I licked my lips, feeling definitely parched. The dry desert air lingered down here too, sucking the moisture from my body. I had to eat and drink something but finding my way around this underground labyrinth would not be fun alone. I wondered what Rye was up to, if he was still awake or not. No one else was in the sleeping quarters; the place was as silent as a tomb. I walked to the door and hoped I would find him, Miranda or Blaze nearby.

The hive was vast. I was sure that it ran the length of the airport, at least. The long runways above used to vibrate above the freeway tunnel that led to this bunker, now forever silent. It had been so long since I’d seen a plane in the sky. This had been a place full of planes, twinkling in the evening skies like stars lined up and evenly-spaced as they came in to land. Now not even the bright lights of The Strip kept the night sky from showing the real stars, no lights to take over the natural brilliance of nature.

I wondered how long it would take for nature to overtake the city. It was already evident after one year of neglect. Weeds and litter were strewn across every street. Dead landscaping and crumbling trees were everywhere. A thick layer of dirt and mud stuck to the windows of the once magnificent Strip of Las Vegas and Fremont Street. Shimmering glass shards lay everywhere. No place was untainted by the viral epidemic. Apparently not even me.

I rounded the corner and came to dead stop. Before me stood a woman, dirtied and with wild hair. Her face was streaked with grime and rips ran through her clothing. Blood had dried in dark red and brown splats on her shirt and pants and the large Rambo-like knife that she fingered in front of me. She was ready to pounce, slowly shifting on her legs as she narrowed her eyes at me. Sucking in my breath, I instinctively reached for one of the machetes strapped to my side.

I was too slow.

The woman moved inhumanely fast, faster than even Miranda. She snatched my arm and twisted it behind me, forcing my fingers to lose their grip on my weapon as she pushed me to my knees and held the knife to my throat. The machete clanged onto the ground, far from my sight. Her breath felt hot on my neck as I struggled against her. She was incredibly strong, like there was a powerful beast inside her. My eyes bulged wildly, unable to pull my arm away from her as it burned in pain. I tried to claw at her with my free arm but she shoved me down to the floor, smashing my cheek against the rough concrete slab.

“Get off me!” I grunted, bucking as much as I could as she dug her knees into my back, making me groan instead. She was a bit smaller than me but she had me pinned pretty well. I stopped squirming as she brought the knife back to my neck, snickering as she whispered into my ear.

“Stupid fool, I could slice your throat like nothing.” She pressed the blade against my skin, slightly dragging it along the surface. The sting of the blade on my skin made me gasp as my crimson blood slowly dripped down to the ground. She stopped suddenly, sniffing at the air and shifting her weight but still pressing down on my back painfully.

“You don’t smell right.” She stated. Her voice was now cracking and uncertain. She pushed off me and stood up, letting me catch my breath as I scrambled off the floor, turning to face her as my hand flew to my throat. It was just a scratch but my fear welled up in me like an overwhelming flood, my eyes wild as I stared at the filthy creature before me.

“What’s going on here?” Blaze came storming down the hall, followed by Miranda and Rye as he pushed the woman out of the way. “What do you think you’re doing?” He yelled at her as he pulled my hand from my bleeding throat. He let go and nodded, relieved to see that it was just a superficial wound.

“She’s trespassing. I was about to dispatch her but….” The grimy woman snarled back at Blaze as she turned back toward me. “There’s something off about her, she’s not one of us.”

“We know that! Take her to the infirmary, patch her up.” He snapped to the two behind him. “Seraphin, go clean yourself up, you’re disgusting! Then meet me in the debriefing room,” Blaze yelled back at her, motioning for her to leave.

The woman’s lips pressed tightly together as she glared back at him, her fangs flashing out from under her lips. She turned her hateful look toward me before spinning and running down the hall to who knew where.

I watched her disappear from sight, jumping slightly when Rye took my arm to lead me away. My hand held the cut, keeping it from oozing any more crimson blood down my neck. Walking slowly, I finally slowed my breathing as my thumping heart calmed its ferocity.

“What or who was that!” I said irritatingly, pulling gently away from Rye’s grip. I didn’t want to feel inferior or like I needed someone to care for me. I was used to being alone and doing it all myself. His touch made me seethe as I remembered how easily she had overpowered me.

“That was Seraphin, our double agent in the opposing hive. She’s going to help us infiltrate the hive to find your family. She just got back and we haven’t had a chance to tell her about the plan yet.” He chuckled slightly but stopped as he caught the nasty look I was boring into him. He gave me a half smile but decided to keep his eyes ahead instead of suffering my stabbing look.

“She’s on your side?” I was exasperated. I couldn’t believe that violent and lethal wild-looking crazy woman was part of Rye’s hive. I turned to look at Miranda for confirmation. She nodded and sighed.

“Yep, she’s one of us. She’s a little unconventional but she’s the only one that would fit in with the other hive; they’re not as civilized as we are, April. In fact, you think the wildlings are crazy? They have nothing on them.” She gave a huff as she spoke of Seraphin. I wasn’t sure if she approved of her methods but I was pretty sure that they had little choice.

“Let me see,” Rye said as he tugged at my hand. I let my arm drop away from my wound. He draped a towel on me as he rinsed it out with saline, dabbed it with antibiotic ointment and taped a bandage onto it. I felt silly with the bulk of gauze hanging off the side of my neck but relieved that I didn’t need stitches. Rye smiled and stepped away to wash his hands quickly in the sink. I began to suspect that the smell of blood was overwhelming for him. I glanced at Miranda who was trying to look busy rearranging a cabinet at the far end of the infirmary. Wrinkling my nose, I sighed. I would have to wash off the remainder of the blood and change if I was going to go near the rest of the hive.

   
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