The ocean was vast. I kicked my feet furiously. Salt water pricked my eyes. My arms swept out, hoping beyond hope that they'd touch a limb.
How was I supposed to find him in all of this? I could barely see my own ghastly green hand in front of my face, and that was only because my skin was so pale. The moonlight penetrated the water more than I would have thought, but still not enough.
I hadn't seen where he had landed, and what if those dratted octopi found him first? A kraken could eat Kayto in one swallow. Its tentacles were supposed to be as large as a man. The first sea monster I had ever encountered had ended up being Kayto, but I couldn't count on another of Adrian's Children showing up.
I had to — I had to find him!
I flailed more, but that brought nothing. How long could a living being go without breath? I had never needed to know as a human, and as a vampire that number became infinite. Was it already too late?
Would the sun rise before I could find him?
I hadn't even managed to swim away from the gondola. This was so much… larger. I needed him. I needed him to save me. I couldn't do the saving.
Stop panicking, I ordered myself. I made my limbs obeisant, kicking and curling in a more orderly fashion. It was not as efficient as I would need, but better than flailing.
I had thrown him in front of me. How far in front, I did not know, but he would be deeper. He would have hit the water much harder than I had.
Surely he had only suffered a nick. I propelled myself downward, but my rebellious legs tried to float up. Kayto was supposed to be helping me swim. What if he had already swam to the surface, only to find me missing? He had promised he'd save me.
Ahead, I saw the billowing outline of some greater mass. I ignored my resulting yelp, but in addition to the salt water that flooded my mouth, I tasted a familiar copper. I flung myself toward the mass, moving downward. Blood in the water didn't mean anything. That Hunter had coughed all over him, as well as the blood that projected from his stab wound. The Hunter's stab wound. Kayto's was just a prick, right?
My hand brushed something solid, and quelling what would in a human be the frantic beating of my heart, grabbed a hold. A wrist. My other hand swarmed around before catching another.
Oh thank Le Chasseur!
I pulled him tight to my body. My nose nuzzled his neck. I had scarcely a moment to enjoy this victory before the limp state of his body overwhelmed my attention.
He should have struggled. I had heard that if a man should drown, even an unconscious body would struggle for air. It had been so long since we had been separated. Had he struggled in my absence only to… only to…
The wound couldn't be this great.
Either way, he needed air immediately.
But if I surfaced, the Hunters — To be caught by the Hunters was a far better fate than just allowing him to die. They may not execute him for treason when they saw his ears and tail. Traitors Adrian's Blessed Children may be to Le Chasseur, they still bore his sacred blood. Master Leveque — if he had had a moment to see Kayto instead of rushing forward in a last ditch attempt to stop us, I did not believe he would have hurt him.
Even if the Hunters should prove not so hospitable, at least it was a chance. They'd try to save him.
We surfaced, my legs whacking against his more than beating back the water. Still he did not wake. I managed to shift him so that his head could lay on my shoulder, staying above the water. Please, oh please, Heavenly Hunter who slumbers, punish me however you may please, but let him live. Please let him live. Please, Kayto, breathe.
I eyed my surroundings. The lights of Venezia were so far away. Somewhere out there, Master Leveque mobilised his Hunters. Perhaps they were commandeering the Doge's gondola, supposedly large enough to handle the seas, or so Alexis had once mentioned. The current must have swept us out.
Thrashing like mad, I spun us around. On the other side, I spotted the beacon of a light house. It must be the island that Kayto had mentioned, and from its position, I guessed it was Lido, an underdeveloped lagoon island known for its convent. With its sparse population, Kayto was right, it would serve as a safe harbour for two fugitives.
I struggled to swim us to the island. If Hunters came upon us, all the better. It would be much faster. Why had I not thought to practise swimming? The Foundling Hospital had only taken us twice, once on a day trip to the beach, the other in a local river. Neither had taught me enough.
At long last, my foot kicked a sandy bottom. Gaining purchase, I carried Kayto onto the beach. My body just wanted to rest, but it couldn't. Not until I knew for sure.
I laid him as soon as I could on the beach. The tide still licked his feet. My hands touched his shoulders and then shook him before I could stop.
"Kayto, Kayto." My voice broke.
My ear pressed to his chest. I waited and waited and waited for it to beat, but it refused. Had only a second passed? Or an hour? It could still…
His body… his body was so cold, like the ocean water. He should still be warmer than I. He was always so warm, as warm as a human in the throes of a fever.
Why wasn't his chest moving?
My fingers moved to the wound. Blood pricked my eyes. A mere cut wouldn't have left a chest wound, not when he'd been stabbed in the back.
"You… you said this was the easy part." My voice couldn't wail, but only whisper.
I should have stayed in my cell. What a ridiculous choice to have made when it ended with Kayto… Kayto… like this.
"Just wake up. Wake up and see how easy it was, just like you said."
Why did I persist in lingering in life when Kayto could be… I should have died when Alexis first saw me. I should have been executed on the spot when Master Leveque discovered my misguided gift to Kayto. What hateful thing had I ever done to Master Leveque that had delayed my death?
"I'll even forgive you for Ciri. And living in a whore house, doing what only Adrian could approve of. I — I'll try…"
But his chest still wouldn't move. I straddled him, leaning onto my elbows so that my fingers could brush his cheeks.
"How am I — how am I supposed to be good without you?"
He had set me up with an impossible task. I had dared to think I could — but only if Kayto was there for me. He was the only one…
The future seemed like the ocean… dark, vast, filled with nothing. Was this the portent in those paintings, in the waves? If only I had heeded. If only I hadn't argued. If only, if only, if only, if only…
I choked. "You can't leave me."
He wasn't allowed to. A wicked idea occurred to me, worse than trying to teach Kayto a lesson, worse than… I couldn't think of anything that even compared. Worse than enjoying Alexis' ministrations? For being Alexis' voluntary companion?
I sat back on my heels. My chin lifted and I stared at the stars. I had to try. He wasn't allowed to leave me. I needed him!
I ripped open my wrist with my fangs. Blood welled in the ruin, far too slow for my liking.
Master Leveque had completed the first step of the process. If he hadn't, this wouldn't be necessary.
His lips were already open a hairbreadth. Had he been like this in the water? I opened them further and placed my wrist there. When the blood slowed, I squeezed the flesh, wringing out every drop I could.
When that stopped working, I bit my other wrist and held it to him too. When that also turned dry, I clawed at my chest and my thighs and my neck.
I even wiped the corners of my eyes and pressed my thumbs between his lips. My body jolted as I remembered him, warm and alive and grinning at me, taking my thumb into his mouth, swirling his tongue around as the tips of his teeth scraped my knuckle.
But he just laid there this time. His expression mirrored the one he had when he had walked into my massacre.
I wished I had a knife to access the deeper veins, where some blood must remain. Every last drop of blood in my body was his. The flesh, the spirit, all his too.
His face swam before my eyes. This foul curse kept me alive while my veins were empty. Unlike Kayto.
I curled inward to keep myself from collapsing on top of him. I lay on his chest, hoping that even if I couldn't see it, I might feel his heart beat, his chest move. Would they?
In my most fervent wish, they did. But in this…
How long did this process take? I had never asked Alexis and he had never told me. I might have thrown something at him if he had attempted to. He wouldn't want to share me with a vampire of my own making either.
How long had it been since I pulled him from the water? A kingdom for a time piece.
In a few hours, the sun would rise. I would lie here as long as I must. If Kayto awakened to his new existence, I must be here to guide him. A good vampire, right? Perhaps that wasn't destined to be me.
And if he didn't, then I would rather the dawn rid this world of my existence.
Sand flew against my outstretched hand. My body tensed, but could not rise. The best I could do was to bring my hands together above our heads, and hope that the sand I dragged with them was enough to hide Kayto's ears.
"Not Alexis," a girl's voice said.
Just leave me be. But vampires weren't as considerate. Scary thirteen year girl vampires least of all.
"What do you want?" I demanded.
There would be more of them close by, her cloaked and masked… erm… vampires, but she chose to speak.
"My treat." She knelt down, took a lock of my hair and released it from its roots. I muffled my cry in Kayto's shoulder.
"What was he thinking, leaving his pet all alone?"
Alexis? "I'm not…"
"I think that his mouth is bigger than his appetite. Don't you think so?"
This time, yes.
"The young ones seem to be. I outsmarted Le Chasseur when he brought hell across the land. But these little ones think I must be of no consequence. I am of consequence."
Not to me. The only thing I cared about lay beneath me.
"Yet he brings Hunters salivating for his head into my lands. And I'm the one forced to leave. It's very regrettable. For him."
"My… sincere apologies," I said.
She giggled. "Liar!"
She was right, of course. But to tell her to go to hell wouldn't have gone over very well. When she was happy, she wasn't turning her attention to the body beneath me and ensuring I lived to see the dawn.
"He told me in that big important voice of his that he'd kill the Duc for me, if I helped him with the matter of his puppy. But here's his puppy, and where is his owner to be found?"
My hands curled into fists. Alexis had — no. Impossible. He had sweet talked her out of killing me. He couldn't possibly…
"Dead," I said. The reasons why didn't matter now. "Beheaded."
Her nails slid down the back of my neck. If I had only a drop of blood left... "That isn't amusing. Who shall I take my annoyance out on now?"
Me, apparently. Thank you, Alexis.
"The Duc is dead." So leave me be.
"Oh? He actually managed that?"
"I killed him."
She made a high pitched squealing sound. "You must not be as dumb as you seem."
"You must not have thought so anyway," I said. "Your thugs are not speaking for you."
"I can have my tea party now," she said. "But whosoever will be my guest?"
Not me. Go find someone else.
She gathered up my hair. Not just a lock, but all of it. She yanked and if I did not rise, it felt like my scalp would come clean off.
"You'll be my puppy now."
She didn't relent until I came up onto my knees.
"Oh, and before you come, bury that thing before it rots."
I looked down. Kayto's eyes remained close, his lips open and blood smeared.
"This will be so much fun!" she said. "I love having new toys."
I'm sorry Kayto. Her minions surrounded me. I hissed to keep them back, but two of them dragged me to my feet.
It looks like I can't even try to be good.
Death is not necessarily the ending. Kayto and Seraphin's story is not over.
It just requires a brief interlude.
25 years is nothing for a vampire.
Next week, Blood Cursed begins.
(Keep an eye on my profile next Wednesday (Jan 22, 2013) - or sign up for the Alexis story, details in profile, so I can email you a reminder.)
And with that small glimmer of hope (I know, it's not much... and you may be having the urge to throw something heavy or pointy at me), I'll leave you with the summary:
Blood Cursed, Book 2 of Cursed
"I do not wish to alarm anyone, but I think this man is a vampire."
Le Chasseur waged his war against the vampires with the help of three other gods. After their victory, Le Savant founded West Ridge Academy to train his disciples in the art of sorcery, the power that the vampires covet.
Daniel is dull - he must be, to not have acknowledged his classmate Valere Braud until he unwittingly aids in his abduction. During Daniel's final year at West Ridge, Daniel's father orders him to investigate Valere as a potential apprentice for his genius. Daniel doesn't need the encouragement. As beautiful as a winter blizzard and just as cold, Daniel finds himself wanting to learn everything there is about him, and repay him for the whole abduction thing too.But Valere has secrets. His abduction is just a blip compared to the long line of horrors that has shaped Valere into a cunning but cold player who will use everything and anyone he can to reach his ends. When Daniel invites himself into Valere's world, he can not rest on his usual mediocrity. He struggles to uncover Valere's secrets, much to Valere's chagrin, but everything he uncovers only leads to more questions. What is the mysterious illness eating Valere's soul? Who is the vampire who looks so much like Valere? And why does Valere like Dominic over him?!