I'm late tonight. Russ and I went out for a very late dinner. It was an unintentional celebration -- it wasn't until we were talking about how strange life has gotten that I realized we had moved in together thirty years ago on May 1st. We married a year later in June.
We laughed about some things. (For some reason, he'd seemed to think my saying that I'm not hard to live with was very funny. We may have to discuss that some time.) We had a serious discussion about how difficult things have gotten over the last few years since he can't find a full time job. We're holding on, but there are times when it's difficult.
But we left holding hands and drove home. I've been working on getting the 2YN class stuff done, and now I'll post just a little bit of the story that still isn't done. No Beast So Fierce is now somewhere around 22,000 words. I can see the ending at least, though I'm still not certain how long it will take me to get there.
Here's a little tidbit. Bancroft is someone who is an unwilling ally, and who doesn't really trust Toli or Del all that much.
"We need to know where they are taking the others," I finally said, and he looked my way, glaring. "Until then, all we have is my word, Bancroft. Would you really go in and try to arrest these ten on my word alone? On my word and Del's trust in me? That's all it's ever been. I could not go to authorities without anything concrete. I had hoped to get more by following them."
"Why? Why do you follow them? What does it matter to you?"
"It's always mattered to me," I said. "It's what I do, Bancroft, for much the same reason you do your work, and why Del is so good at her own."
"I don't trust people who work outside the law."
"Except for Del," I said.
He turned that glare on me again, but I had made my point. And I really didn't think we had time to sit around debating this. I had, finally, a plan.
"We need bait," I said and lifted the knife I'd used for dinner.
"Toli, don't --"
I slashed along the inside of my palm -- not very deep, and just a quick sting. It bled. I nodded to Del, who had gone white, and Bancroft who looked startled. I wrapped the cloth napkin around it, though not so tight that the blood didn't seep through.
"Let me get to them before you follow," I said, starting to stand.
"Watch the group, Bancroft," I said, looking at him. "You'll at least get an idea of which ones to keep an eye on."
I nodded, and turned away, crossing toward the men's room. I wound my way right past the table of vamps, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw all their heads turn toward me as they picked up the scent of fresh blood. I caught myself on the arm of one, leaving a taint of blood there.
"Sorry," I said, and hurried on.
I heard their breaths catch, and chairs move as I went past. I didn't look back to see who followed me, for good or bad.
Once upon a time, in the age of gilded glory that gave us Raphael and Michelangelo, I had gotten careless and... well, stupid. I had been hunting a clan of vampires for a decade -- an unusually cagey group with a bit more smarts than most. They traveled a great deal, and in those days it was easy to slip from place to place without drawing attention. We all traveled. I still missed so slow, leisurely trips where boats plied the Mediterranean, slipping into a new port each night, and sailing again with the dawn.
Ah, but the tale.
I decided the best way to finally trap the vampires was to set myself up as bait. I cut myself in the leg -- not deep, but enough that I cursed with each step, and left a thin line of blood from the edge of an alley where I knew they were sometimes seen and off into the dark of the night.
They came for me. They came in force, and the numbers doubled as other local vampires joined them, and I learned for the first time that my blood was not quite like that of other humans. They had always come to me before, but I had not considered it more than normal. I had not hunted vampires in this largue a group, either. Now I saw something different. The scent of my blood drew them like a starving man to a feast.
I survived because I changed, bit and tore at everything that came near me, and finally ran. But I bled and they followed, and it was two days before I got to the Tiber River on a stormy night and swam -- upstream, not down, where they expected me. The river water diluted the scent.
I nearly died before I dragged myself out of the water -- I had to change to do it, and almost couldn't, I had lost so much strength. Oh, I thought the locals, being Roman and found of wolves in their own ways, might care for me in that form, but I needed hands to grab and drag myself out. And then I had to find and steal clothing, or else go to the wolf again -- a naked man running through the streets wasn't going to get the same reaction as a wolf.
The first cloth I found, I bound every wound I had. Then I headed out of Rome. It was nearly twenty years before I returned and finally dealt with the group, though I took it slowly this time.
I couldn't give up the hunt, you see. It's part of me... I must hunt. And so I have made a deal with the wolf and we only hunt one prey: Vampires.
And so, here I was... still on the hunt, and still doing stupid things.
"Are you hurt?" a soft, beguiling voice said next to me. They're quick and they're quiet, the vampires.
I looked back at her and offered a little smile. "Nothing serious."
"Oh, but you're bleeding," she said. The tip of her tongue came to the edge of her teeth, very nearly licking her lips. "Here, let me help."
Her long, fingered hand reached toward my wrist. I knew the kind of power in that deceptively fragile looking hand and I drew back at the last moment.
"Is he all right?" another voice asked, coming up to the other side.
They were starting to encircle me. I took a step to the side, putting the two women closer together where I could keep an eye on them. One of the males came to join them, and then another, and we were going to have quite a little crowd here soon and draw attention if they didn't move soon.