Cheetah returned, and the pungent smell of cooked flesh arrived with him. Bryce’s snoring ceased as the werewolf woke up and complained of his friend taking his sweet time. Awake, I did not open my eyes. Having told them I wasn’t hungry, I was sure there was nothing for me. I hoped they would assume I was asleep and not pitifully starving. Although my eyes were dead, I had no way of knowing if they could still show emotion. If that were possible, I did not want them to instill pity.
My stomach gave me away, growling softly.
“I know you’re not asleep, Lexis,” Bryce said. “Come on. We got something for you.”
Cheetah chimed in after Bryce. “I told the chef to hook me up with something rare and juicy. Told him I wanted to hear it moo. Well, it’s mooing all right, and dripping. Come and get it.”
I opened my eyes but did not move. The loss of my eyesight wasn’t a bad thing at that moment. At least I couldn’t see their disapproval or pity.
“Lexis? What’s your problem?” Bryce sounded irritated.
“I don’t have a problem.”
“I know what’s wrong,” Cheetah exclaimed. “He just can’t go on living anymore. After surviving the horrifying shithole of the I.E.D., freedom is a harsh state to which he cannot adjust. He just can’t take it anymore!”
Trying to remain serious although Cheetah was far from it, I sat up and coughed. Bryce and Cheetah laughed.
Over the rustle of a paper bag, Cheetah harped, “Hey, Lex, maybe some fresh blood might encourage your eyesight to return. Regeneration and all that.”
I had once lost a finger. It was sliced clean off. All I’d done was place it back at the stub, and regeneration began. My blood could heal when it flowed, but it did not flow in my eyes, not after days or months. The darkness had still not abated. “It will never return.”
“That’s a bitch. Fucking humans.”
“Humans did not do this to me,” I snapped at Cheetah, my anger giving me warmth. It was Bryce’s presence at my side, his hand helping me to my feet that brought me back to reality. “They only found me like this. Pathetic, weak, useless. A fucking cripple.”
“I was betrayed. Punished for my arrogance and vanity.”
“I thought all vampires were vain.”
“I was exceptional,” I responded to Cheetah.
Bryce sat down to my right. He lifted my hand with his larger one and set a cup against my palm. From the scent alone, I could tell that it was a mixture of blood and au jus, definitely from beef. It would sate me nonetheless.
Cheetah replied, “You’re being too hard on yourself. Whatever it was couldn’t have been that bad.”
“I thought to challenge the elder of my clan. I believed I had the love and loyalty of his clan and his lieutenants.” Putting the cup to my lips, I took a long sip of the heady liquor of life. Shuddering as it progressed through my veins, the elation of nourishment made me giddy. It almost sounded like laughter as I admitted, “I was wrong, and for my treason, I was bound in black cloth from head to toe. They cut holes out for my eyes. Janos said to me, ‘You think that you are great. You are nothing. I will show you greatness, and you will be humbled.’ The next night, I was captured feeding on a beggar. I actually believed blood would give me back my sight.”
“That fucking sucks, man.”
“Cheetah,” Bryce growled in my defense, but even I found it humorous.
We ate in front of the television, listening to the cover-up of our escape on the news. The newswoman declared that an explosion at a Virginia Pharmaceutical Company had resulted in nearly twenty casualties. We all knew it was the I.E.D. There was no mention of the deaths not caused by fire, only that the firemen were having difficulties combating the chemical fires.
Bryce gave Cheetah credit for the blazes. Cheetah gave Bryce credit for at least six deaths. They both expressed hopes that the other supernatural prisoners had escaped.
I just considered myself lucky.
“Fuck this shit. I’m going to Europe.” His voice garbled by the food he was chewing, Cheetah continued, “Transylvania, Serbia, Bulgaria, or some other Second World War zone. America is crap for the supernatural. It always was, and it always will be.”
“From one extreme to the next, eh? Everywhere you spit over there you run into a supernatural,” Bryce balked. “That’s not where I want to be.”
Nodding my head, I agreed. There were just as many things to fear in Europe as in America. I knew there were worse in Europe who didn’t have to employ science to know what made me tick. They knew everything about vampires, namely how to kill and torture. There were several secret societies sworn to that end alone, I’d heard. Out of curiosity I asked, “Where will you be going, Bryce?”
And where was I supposed to go, I wondered. Freedom was worthless to me. Beginning to think that my salvation would be moot in a short time, I tried to quell the panic of uncertainty stirring within my chest.
“How about you?” Cheetah asked. “Got any friends that will take you in, Lex?”
“You could go with me. Maybe a different coven and scenery will do you good?”
I didn’t think so. “Between Europe, Asia, and Africa, there isn’t a mile of steppe, dune, or forest that isn’t some vampire’s territory, some pack of werewolf’s lands, some gargoyle’s domain… No. I won’t be going back there.”
“You can’t stay here though. I mean, it’s cool now, but the humans are on to us. It ain’t safe alone. They won’t touch a clan, but the humans are bold with stragglers and outcasts, man. You gotta --”
“He’s coming with me,” Bryce interrupted.
Both Cheetah and I gasped. I would have given the world to see the silent gestures between them.
“Ah…okay.” Chuckling as if he had stumbled upon a secret, Cheetah opened the cap of a fizzing hop-derived substance. Beer. He took several gulps before speaking again. “It’s like that, is it? I mean, it’s cool…whatever it is, but can vampires even…you know?”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Being blind is one thing I could live with, but does the plumbing work? That’s the important question.”
Taking slow, deep breaths to calm my nerves, I prayed that my skin didn’t show the warmth I felt at Cheetah’s questioning. “You want to know if I can have sex” -- I ventured a guess -- “because you think that I am even considering the werewolf’s offer?”
Bryce ceased his loud and vigorous chewing before speaking up. “What you going to do? Are you just going to stay here and feed off the rats that run past you in this fucking dump? The I.E.D. will have you back in a heartbeat. I didn’t kill them all. They will regroup and without your sight, you might as well be wearing a fucking sign that says Recapture Me. No, I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be alone.”
As if he weren’t paying attention to Bryce, Cheetah continued with his line of questioning, “Yeah, that’s exactly what I want to know. Any lead in the pencil?”
If there was a stake nearby, I would have put myself out of my misery. Between Cheetah’s blunt questioning and Bryce’s machismo, I felt dizzy. Bryce wanted me to commit to joining him; Cheetah wanted details of my sex life. Answering the easiest request, I admitted, “I can’t procreate but I can fuck.”
“Can you enjoy it?”
Bryce spoke up. “Hold up, Cheetah. He hasn’t answered my
question. I thought you were done with feeling sorry for yourself, Lex?”
“That doesn’t mean I’ve resigned myself to you.” I drank the last of the beef blood, savoring it slowly. While the idea of being alone with Bryce was intimidating, it was much better than being strapped down for an EKG. “Look, I’m grateful for the rescue, but I am not going to be a burden or
Cheetah laughed like he had just realized something. “Werewolves tend to think with their cocks.”
“You know what? Both of you are fucking sick.” Emotion really made its presence known in Bryce’s voice, the werewolf’s heart beat loud and strong as if the truth made him nervous. “Maybe I just have a fucking heart,” Bryce suggested. “He’s blind, alone. He can barely get two feet without running into something and --”
Cheetah cleared his throat. “You’re forgetting to add handsome to that list, Bryce. I suppose you know you’re not bad looking, eh, Lex? I mean, when you had your sight, you knew, right?”
Choked up by Bryce’s attempt at nobility, it began to matter to me less whether his motivations were sexual or not. He was offering to help me. I should have been more grateful. Instead I felt hollow and greedy. I wanted more than just help. I wanted security and with my options numbering few, I softened my tone. “I was once beautiful, if that’s what you want to know. I haven’t seen a mirror in a while.”
Bryce sighed. “Only a vampire would use the word beautiful
“And only a werewolf thinks of sex all of the time!” I slammed the empty cup down and felt my way across the carpet to the bed. I pulled myself up and onto the mattress. Somehow, the elevation made me feel better about acting like an immature youth. “It’s not about sex; it’s about seduction, luring your victim into a false sense of security, making them willing to offer themselves up. Blunt crassness gets you nowhere.”
Still a prisoner of his own humor, Cheetah harped, “Ah. Yes, ma chère
. Come to me, bareth your throateth so that I may --”
“It’s not like that at all.”
“What are you? A wrist biter?”
Turning toward Bryce, I hissed, “You’re just upset that I’m not biting you
“No. I’m upset because you’re not sucking
My personal darkness could not protect me from the heat within, nor from the arousal I felt at his blunt words. My prick pulsed with life as it called all of the newly acquired blood directly to it. The idea of giving myself blindly to the werewolf was more arousing because of its submissive deviancy. Bracing myself between his thighs, peeling back his jeans, maybe his hand upon my head while I took him into my throat…I entertained the idea upon the darkness of my surroundings and found that I did not need my sight to be excited by the idea. “You want to be my Seeing Eye dog?”
“Would it make you feel better if I wore a collar and gave you the leash to hold?”
Feeling around for the top of the covers, I was in no mood to debate who would be getting a bed and who wouldn’t. I took the bed and claimed it as my own. For the sheer embarrassment they’d caused me, they could argue over the other. “It would make me feel better if you gave up on the idea. Go wherever it is you’re going. I’ll be fine. I am
supernatural, after all.”
“Are you sure?”
“I am, Cheetah.”
Bryce sighed, determined not to pay me any mind. “Supernatural or no, Lex, you’re coming with me. If you need to be taken somewhere, that’s fine. If you need me to wear a choke chain, that’s fine, but it wouldn’t be right to leave you by yourself.”
Not about to argue, I felt around for a pillow to bury my head within. Against its soft fabric, I silently gave in to Bryce as well as to myself. It was more than I could have ever hoped for -- someone to watch over me.