Chapter 9: Bloodlust

As a nocturnal being that was constantly shrouded in some form of darkness, I generally had no qualms about the night. I also didn't mind forests—I'd been sneaking out to the one beside Freightway Academy through the hole in the wall for the past couple of years. So, it was safe to say that I wasn't perturbed by the things that may have frightened some individuals yet, at that moment as my horse picked its way over the roots of trees and other plants, I was...not frightened, but wary. Very wary.

The good thing about horses was that they actually had very sufficient night vision, which meant that I didn't have to worry about the horse bumping into a tree. The horse and I wandered around aimlessly, without the slightest whiff of a human, until I heard the first bell that signified half an hour had gone by. I nudged the horse into a canter and switched directions, in more of a hurry than I had been before.

It was hard to hear anything over the pounding of hooves against the ground and that made me even warier. Slowing the horse down, I readied my bow and notched an arrow, in case I had to shoot at a moment's notice. Pulling the horse to a complete standstill, I closed my eyes and listened. There was the sound of my breathing, of the horses' breathing. The wind whistled through the trees, countless animals scurried around in the underbrush and...and a moist, wet heartbeat accompanied by a quick, jagged breathing pierced the air. A breeze drifted in my direction and, with it, it carried a succulent, meaty scent that set my own heart racing and my mouth watering.

My eyes snapped open and I quickly dug my heels into the horse. It let out a whinny at my unexpected command but lurched forwards with a toss of its head. My entire being was solely focused on the prize that I was hunting. I'd never fed off a conscious human before and a dark, deep part of me thrilled at the idea of the chase. And then, when I'd overpowered my prey and went in for that first bite—oh, the blood would be so good. So fresh, and flavoured with fear...

I slowed my horse so as to not alert the human, and decided to continue on foot. I tied my horse to a thin tree using reins, wished it luck on not being eaten, and made my way towards the heart that I could still feel pounding. After a moment's thought, I decided to stalk the human from the trees. Height would give me an advantage. I found a decent tree, maneuvered my way up it with the bow and quiver strapped across my back. There was so much vegetation in the forest that it was easy to jump from one tree to another and, before long, I found my meal.

It was a human boy. He was facing away from me, his posture rigid. I couldn't see his face, but his hair was light brown and shaggy and he appeared to be in pretty decent physical condition. Strange. I'd been expecting him to be half-starved. My mind couldn't focus for very long on his state because my eyes kept getting drawn to his neck. His pulse. I could practically see the flow of blood there, and it made my mouth salivate. I was prepared to pounce on him but, first, I offhandedly glanced at what had captured his attention. Then I, myself, froze as well, but only for a second.

It was a wolf. A savage looking wolf that was larger than any wolf I'd ever seen. It was easily twice the size of my horse, and its eyes glowed a bright, angry yellow. It snarled at the boy, and stalked closer. The human didn't move but I heard his heart pick up and his fear added a delicious spiciness to his already delectable blood. Heat flashed through me then, and I quickly readied my bow and an arrow. That boy was mine. I wasn't about to let some beast have my prey. I took aim at the wolf's head, drew back the drawstring, and let the arrow fly just as the wolf bunched its muscles together to pounce. The arrow hit the wolf in the air and, with a startled yip that quickly ended, it fell to the ground and didn't move.

The human whirled around, confusion apparent on his face, and looked in my direction. I didn't know if he saw me perched on the thick tree branch since his eyes were weaker than mine so I jumped down lightly and landed in front of him. He didn't yell, but jumped back and clumsily fell to the ground. I stared at him for a second, a bit curious. After all, he was the first non-sedated human I'd ever seen.

He had a nice face. I don't know why that pleased me, but it did. Probably because I wanted the package holding my blood to be as pleasing as the blood itself. His eyes—big and blue—watched me warily as I watched him. Neither of us moved, until I did. I stepped towards him and he scurried back, still on the ground. I paused again.

"Are you going to run?" I asked softly, thinking that it would be fun to chase him. "I can give you a head start, if you'd like."

His face transformed from cautious to arrogance and he lifted his hand to flip me off. "Go to hell, bloodsucker."

"Don't rush me."

I moved again, but this time I walked to the dead wolf and bent down to examine it. The arrow had sliced it cleanly through the eye. I was good with a bow and arrow, but hadn't thought that I was that good. I heard the boy get to his feet so I straightened up and turned around.

"I saved your life, you know," I informed him. "You're welcome."

His hands clenched into fists and a muscle in his jaw popped.

"Stop screwing around with me and just do it," he hissed. "I'm not playing your stupid vampire games. Kill me, or let me go."

I could see that he was serious. He had accepted the idea of his death and just wanted to get it over with. I closed the distance between us, expecting him to flinch away. He held his ground and stared me with wide, light eyes. Eyes that, for whatever reason, were achingly familiar because they were almost the exact colour of Bunny's eyes, although his were a shade or two greener. That put a damper on things because I could not, in good conscious, kill someone whose eyes were nearly identical to my best friend's.

I watched the human for a little while longer and, when the second bell rang to signal that one hour had passed, I spoke.

"If I let you go you'll just die anyways," I mused.

"I'll take my chances," he growled.

"And I'll still be thirsty," I said pleasantly. "But I'll make you a deal?"

He growled at me and, even though he was human, it was still impressive. "I told you I'm not playing your stupid games—,"

"I'm not playing a game," I interrupted. My gaze had dropped to his throat again and it was taking vast amounts of willpower to not latch onto his neck and just take him. If he didn't listen to what I was trying to say, I would do just that, despite the sudden compassion I had felt for him. "I'm offering you a chance to get out of here."

I decided not to mention the fact that even if I got him over the fence, he probably wouldn't survive the woods. But he might and I could already tell that he would rather die out there than by a dhampir or vampire. As it was, his eyes sparked up in reluctant interest.

"Alright," he conceded, crossing his arms over his chest. "What's your idea?"

"I can get you onto the other side of the fence." Well, I could try. "But you're on your own after that. And I want something in return."

His face went blank again. "What? I don't have anything. Except my clothes and I don't really want to give you those."

I almost laughed. Maybe I would have, if I couldn't hear his heartbeat thrumming in his chest, and if the heat from his body was slamming against mine in delicious waves.

"I want some of your blood," I breathed, nearly intoxicated by his scent. "Just a bit. I won't take enough to kill you."

Raw disgust fluttered across his face but he seemed to realize that I would take his blood regardless of what he said. "Why should I trust you to stop?"

I frowned and grew impatient. "If I was just going to kill you I would have done that already."

He inhaled loudly, then exhaled. His breath washed over my face and it carried the same musky scent that ran through his blood. I felt a sharp pain in my bottom lip and knew that my fangs had extended and were digging into my mouth. I couldn't wait any longer and I didn't have to because the boy nodded and slowly extended his arm. The blood flow was strong there, in his wrist and the crook of his elbow, but it wasn't as hot or powerful as the one in his neck. I ignored his offering and leapt, my hands grabbing his shoulders while simultaneously pulling him down so that I could bite into his neck. I had moved so quickly that he hadn't had time to react and probably hadn't even registered my move until my teeth were latched into him.

His blood flowed into my mouth and it was like...magic. Pure, sweet magic that warmed me from head to toe. Drinking from a conscious human was so different, and so much better than drinking from an unconscious one. I could taste his fear, his anxiety. His life. He groaned above me, probably from pain, and I forced myself to regain control of my body. I had promised not to kill him...even though my instincts were itching to drain him.

I sternly ordered myself to stop and had started to reluctantly pull away when the human made another sound. His hand latched onto the back of my head and held me against his neck. I was more than slightly confused but the blood had started rushing back into my mouth and this time I tasted another flavour that made me shiver and caused my knees to buckle.

Lust. Hot, driving lust. It flowed through him and into me, until we were two quivering balls of need. My eyes fluttered shut of their own accord and I leaned more heavily into the boy. The hand that wasn't holding me against his throat came up and pressed against my lower back. My shirt rose up a bit and his hand brushed against my bare skin. The contact of his skin against mine was what managed to draw me out of my blood/lust induced fog. I hastily pushed the boy away so forcefully that he fell over and moved back a few steps, fighting against the urge to pounce on him again.

The boy and I stared at each other, his eyes wide and blue. I wasn't sure what I'd been expecting his reaction to be but when his pretty eyes lit up in anger and he furiously got to his feet, I was somewhat surprised. He was mad at me? I'd tried to stop. Was it my fault that he hadn't wanted me to? I mean, we'd learnt about bloodlust in school but I'd never expected it to be that intense and I'd assumed that he'd found me revolting enough that he'd push me away no matter how good the bite felt.

"You—you—," he raged, seeming so put out that he couldn't form a sentence. I scowled at him, turned my back, and marched over to where I'd tied up the horse. It was still there, thankfully, and hadn't been eaten by some sort of nasty creature. I untied it and was about to walk back to the human when he did something that made me seriously reconsider killing him.

"Hey!" He shouted. His voice was loud enough to stir a few creatures. "Where'd you go? What happened to our—,"

I momentarily forgot about the horse, ran back over to him, and slapped a hand over his mouth.

"Are you insane?" I hissed. "Have you forgotten that we're in a forest with a bunch of dhampirs—who happen to have very good hearing?"

That silenced him. I lowered my hand, all the while glaring at him, and stepped back. "Stay here."

I got my horse and rejoined him. He seemed startled to see the creature but didn't shy away from it. The bell had yet to ring for a third time but I figured that we were almost out of time.

"Get on it," I ordered. "You walk to slow, we don't have much time."

He swung himself onto the horse with a grace that told me he'd done it before. I took the reins in hand, tersely told him to hold on, and pulled the horse into a fast gallop. I kind of had a general idea as to how I would get him over the electrical fence but it was a dangerous idea and my plan might not hold long enough for him to make it to the other side.

We kept running towards where I thought the fence might be and found it just as the third bell rang, signaling that we only had half an hour left. I pulled my quiver of arrows off my back and settled down onto the ground beside it. The arrows were metal, hopefully iron since that conducted quite well.

"Give me your shirt," I commanded, pulling out seven arrows.

"What? Why?"

"Do you want to leave or not?" I snapped, at my wits end. This human seemed determined to be a pain in the ass. He crossed his arms over his chest but, after a few seconds, relented and pulled his shirt over his head. I snatched it out of the air as he threw it to me and ripped it into shreds. I then used the shreds to tie the arrows together in a straight line. In the end, I had a rough version of a metal rod. It wasn't very sturdy but it would hold long enough. I hoped.

I stuck one end of the rod into the ground but didn't yet lay the other on the fence. Instead, I looked over at the human.

"This should temporarily direct the electricity into the ground," I informed him. "So you'll be able to climb over, but you'll only have a few minutes. Either this rod won't hold or the vampires will flip a switch and get it up and running again."

He nodded and stepped towards the fence. He trained his eyes on me again. "Why are you helping me?"

By way of answer, I placed the other end of the rod on the fence and jumped back just as the electricity flowed through it. "You have less than five minutes. I suggest you climb."

He didn't hesitate and approached the fence. He placed his hand on it...and nothing happened. He didn't get shocker and sparks didn't fly. Like a monkey, he clambered up the high, high fence and made it to the top within two minutes. But it was too slow, and if he climbed down, the electricity would probably be up again.

"Jump down from the top," I suggested as he swung his legs over.

"Are you insane?" He hissed. "It's too high."

I shrugged and stepped away from the fence to pull myself up onto the horse. "Your funeral."

I didn't stick around long enough to hear his response. As I was galloping back to the camp, I realized that I'd left the bow and the rest of the arrows behind. I almost stopped to go fetch them but I didn't have enough time. I only hoped that no one would find them. I didn't need the added complication of explaining why I'd bothered to tie arrows together.

I nearly crashed into Xavier on my way back. He smiled at me and slowed down so that we were riding side by side. He made a motion at my mouth.

"You've got a little blood..."

I wiped my arm over my mouth. "All gone?"

He nodded and his eyes flitted over to my back. He frowned a bit. "Where's your bow?"

And it starts.

"I dropped it fighting off a wolf," I lied. "And I forgot about it."

The last bell rang and saved me from having to explain further.

"We should hurry," I said, urging my horse into a canter. "Our two hours are up."

I raced ahead of him and burst out of the woods, where Patch was already waiting with Jacob, Damen, and Taylor. The three dhampirs all looked sleepy and satisfied. I tried to force my face to look that way as well but some things were easier said than done.

"Ah, the mighty hunters return," Patch drawled. Then he raised a dark eyebrow and pointed at me. "Jones, where's your bow?"

Screw it.

Twelve people died that day. Nine greens, and three reds. When I was told this news by Bunny after dinner, I was not as sympathetic as I should have been.

"They died...hunting humans?" I asked her skeptically as we found a nice patch of grass near the woods to sit on before the sun rose. "Seriously?"

Bunny frowned at my and wrinkled her little nose. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"C'mon Bunny," I snorted. "It's not exactly that difficult. If they couldn't handle that I doubt they'd be able to handle whatever else we have to do."

Bunny's eyes narrowed and she angrily got to her feet. "You don't have to be so rude about everything, Indigo."

She turned on her heel and marched away, determined. I considered going after her but decided that, if she wanted to get upset over everything, then she could do that by herself. I hadn't exactly had the easiest damn day ever. Had she had to help a stupid human over a fence? No. Had she left incriminating evidence behind and risked exposure? No. So, after all of that crap, I thought that I was due for some sympathy as well.

I stewed over life in general for another half hour and, just as the sun had started to crest over the tree tops, decided to trudge back to my cabin. That was when a large, burly vampire found me and promptly stationed himself in my path. He was one of the vampires that guarded the fence at night and roamed the camp. He beckoned me forwards with one large hand and the only thought going through my head was 'oh crap, they know'.

"What did I do?" I demanded, hesitantly moving up to the large guard. He said nothing but dropped his hand onto my shoulder and started steering me towards one of the larger buildings. The one that housed the three group leaders. My feeling of dread only increased because what other reason would they have for summoning me if I hadn't been caught? When we reached the steps leading up to the door, the vampire guard nudged me forwards but didn't accompany me. Stifling my anxiety, I boldly marched up the stairs and raised my fist to pound on the door. It opened before I could do so and, sensing that as an invitation, I strode in.

This building was more like a house than a cabin. It had shiny hardwood floors and, from what I saw as I made my way down a long hallway, a fully functioning bathroom, a living room with a large flat-screen television, and a modern kitchen. There was a large pool at the back of the house as well, and the pool was closed off by a high fence. I still had yet to see any vampires and was about to turn back and retrace my steps when a throat was cleared behind me. I jumped and whirled around to see Alexander, the fair-haired leader of the reds. He crossed his arms over his chest and raised a pale eyebrow.

"What, exactly, are you doing in here?"

I blinked and was about to defend myself when a second vampire—Star, the woman—came bounding into the hallway as well and placed her hand on Alexander's shoulder.

"Easy, brother," she soothed. Brother? Were they related? "Patch sent for her."

She trained her intense, grey eyes on me and cocked her head to a flight of stairs just behind her. "He's downstairs. And angry. Good luck."

As if to illustrate her words, a large crash echoed up the stairs and was followed by a creative stream of curses that even I wouldn't have uttered out loud. Mentally steeling myself, I brushed past the two blond vampires and ventured down the stairs. When I reached the bottom, I found myself in a very large weight room. It was windowless and lightless, save for a few candles here and there. My eyes thanked the dimness. I quickly found Patch working on a punching bag. Sand crunched under my feet as I approached him and, for a split second I wondered why but I spotted the empty punching bag against the wall and deduced that Patch had broken it. That would explain the crash and swearing.

Punch stopped beating up the bag and turned to face me. His mouth was set in a harsh, straight line and his eyes were livid. I automatically started to step back but a warning growl from deep in his throat halted my movements.

"Don't move from that spot." He shoved past me, ran up the stairs, and returned a few moments later with my bow in one hand, and the rod I'd fashioned out of arrows and the human's shirt in the other. He thrust the items at me so forcefully that I stumbled back a few feet and bared his teeth—fangs and all—at me.

"Care to explain, Jones?"

My brain was working overtime to come up with an excuse and, in the end, I went with the age-old one. I denied everything. "I have no idea what this is. Other than a bow and some tied-together arrows. What's the issue here?"

Patch grabbed me and threw me against the nearest wall in one of those quick, powerful vampire movements. My head connected with the wall with a solid sounding thunk and, for a few seconds, I was completely dazed. Patch used my disorientation to grab my shoulders and shake me. I grabbed his wrists in an attempt to push him away but I might as well had been pushing against Mt. Everest for all the good it did me.

"Do. Not. Lie. To. Me." He growled. His fingers were digging into my shoulders hard enough to break the skin. "Your bow was the only one missing and this—,"

He moved away, grabbed the make-shift rod I'd created, and waved it in front of my face. "Was used to short-circuit our fence. You helped someone over it—you helped a human over it."

"Now why," I started in what I hoped was a calm voice. "Would I do that?"

He hit me. Harder than last time. I cried out and, once again, my head snapped back and collided with the wall. I saw stars for a few moments and, when I regained my vision, I found that I had slid down the wall and Patch was towering above me. Anger radiated off of him in waves. He crouched down and fit his hand around my throat. I whimpered involuntarily when he squeezed hard enough to cut off my air flow.

"What I don't understand," he started quietly. "Is why you would do it? Why help a human?"

"I...didn't!" I gasped. He shook his head and further tightened his grip. My heart started to pound even louder and I let out a noiseless cry.

"Jones," he murmured, sounding disappointed, as he brushed his free hand over my hair. "I'm going to have to kill you now. So sad. I had hope for you."

I hit at him with my hands but he captured them with his own and held them down. Pain bloomed in my head and throat. I couldn't breathe. It hurt to try.

"Oh, Patch, stop being such a drama queen. Do you really want to kill Oliver and Barbara Jones's daughter?"

Patch looked over his shoulder at Star, who had joined us in the weight room. He still didn't release my throat and I felt my eyelids slide down as my body gave up. Right before I blacked out Patch exhaled loudly and released me. "I guess not."

I fell to my knees and retched on the ground, torn between coughing and inhaling. I gagged a few times and was grateful when someone placed a bucket near my head because, as soon as they did, I grabbed it and violently vomited out my insides.