Bite Me: A Love Story Chapter 23


23. Brat in the Paper Aisle


She stood under the eave of a post office that looked out on the Safeway parking lot, watching the old man with the dogs pounding at the door. Well, that would make seven. She knew she should wait for the others, but what fun was there in that. A lean black guy let the old man and his dogs into the store, then locked the door behind him.

She moved to the side of the building, then along the front behind a long train of shopping carts, where she could look through the windows without being seen herself. They were spread out, each working an aisle to himself. She really should call for the others. Neither would be that far away, but she did so little on her own anymore. She examined the window. Thick Plexiglas, she wasn't going through that. She could kick the door down, of course, but then they would run and there'd be chasing and if any got away Rolf would pout with disapproval for months. Not that she wasn't beyond pouting herself. She once awakened to find Bella and Rolf merged together in mist without her and refused to take solid form for a year except to feed.

That was how they began each night, merged in mist form, still inside their titanium chamber, experiencing every corner of each other's consciousness, every memory, every emotion, every want, every fear-complete knowing, complete intimacy. After an hour or so, they would assume their solid forms, then leave the chamber and feed, or watch a video of a sunrise or sunset. That was it! Mist. She would go into the store by stealth. Except for the one with the dogs, they were all young men, weren't they? She knew she could hold the rapt attention of a young man. She'd take each one, drain him without the others even knowing what happened, then share the experience with Rolf and Bella tomorrow night. It was always fun to bring something new and dangerous to their night.

She wouldn't be able to wear her special suit, or take any of the weapons, but it was just as well. She couldn't leave bodies. Seven. She'd be as full as a tick, ready to pop. She checked that none of them was by the door, hid her weapons under the shopping carts, then lay down and oozed out of the Kevlar bodysuit, across the sidewalk, and under the door.

Rock and roll was blasting out of the PA system, filling the store with a relentless chainsaw rhythm guitar that drowned all other sound. She swirled around the registers, then started to make her way across the aisles. The first two were empty, then in the third, the old man was sitting all by himself on a milk crate. Scented candles were lit up and down either side of the aisle, as if someone had laid out a landing strip. She could sense the others around her, but her perceptions weren't as sharp in mist form and the odor and heat from the candles made it nearly impossible to tell how far away they were. Their heartbeats and breathing were lost in the music, but there was blood in the air. All over in the air. She floated up to the ceiling, where she could see over the tops of the shelf gondolas. There were two of them working on the other side of the store, bobbing in time to the music.

Rolf would have wafted back out the door and called the others, and Bella would have drawn an elaborate plan to stalk them, one at a time, and pick them off when they were alone, but that was exactly why she wasn't going to do either of those things.

As she pulled herself into solid form she felt a horrible wrenching in her chest, like her heart caving in on itself. Not a physical pain, but a sudden absence. One of the others was suddenly not there. Rolf. Just not there. She stood there in front of the old man, naked, shaking, trying to bring herself back to the hunt.

"Don't scream," she said.

He didn't like that the men were locked in the walk-in cooler, and he didn't like that the Animals had tied him up, rubbed liver and steaks all over him, and set him on a milk box, but he had done his duty to his city. He had alerted the only people who would listen to the presence of the black ship, told them what the strange faux-Hawaiian had said about the old vampires coming for them, and he could have some peace of mind in that. They didn't have to duct tape his hands so tightly, and tape his ankles to the milk box. They could have just asked. Ah, youth.

She materialized about twelve feet in front of him, nude, nubile, and athletic, so black she might have been made of polished ironwood, yet the death-pallor made her lips appear lavender. Her hair was trimmed close to her scalp, her eyes appeared to be gold, but he couldn't tell for sure. She shivered for a moment, as if a current was being applied to her body. He watched her muscles tensing and relaxing, rippling under her skin in waves.

Then she stopped shaking and opened her eyes.

"Don't scream," she said. Blood tears formed in the corners of her eyes.

"Oh my, if you aren't lovely," said the Emperor.

She smiled and he saw fangs there, and he suddenly felt as if he might wet himself.

She moved a few steps closer to him. "Are those steaks on your shoulders?" she said.

"Yes. There's liver in my pockets as well."

She cocked her head as if listening. "Where are the others?"

"I don't know," he said.

Her hand shot out and in an instant her fingers were wrapped in his beard and she was pulling his head back, not yanking, but pulling with an irresistible strength, as if he'd been hitched to a power winch. "Where are they?"

He could feel his vertebrae cracking, feel her raking her fangs over his neck. Then the sound of a high-pressure gas burst and she wasn't there, and there was a length of heavy nylon line in the space where her face had been.

"Down!" came Lash's voice, as he, Troy Lee, Jeff, and Drew all rolled out of the shelves where they had been hiding behind rows of toilet paper and paper towels.

The vampire woman's head was pinned to a bale of paper towels with the stainless-steel spear from Barry's spear gun. She screeched like a wildcat and pulled herself away and leapt at Drew, who was leveling a Super Soaker. Lash yanked the spear gun and the nylon line whipped her around. Jeff and Troy Lee opened garden sprayers on her from the front, while Drew unloaded the Super Soaker from the back.

She screeched and writhed in the streams, but her flesh was coming off in great slimy chunks, as if she were wax and had been dropped into a foundry furnace. It was all over in ten seconds, and every item for twenty feet in either direction had been knocked off the shelves, the Emperor was on his back, unable to right himself, and the ancient vampire was a puddle of red goo that still bubbled as it broke down.

"What do you know," said Troy Lee. "Grandma's tea worked."

Lash nodded and threw the spear gun to the floor with a clank. "Clint! Clean up on aisle four!"

Because she never liked going to the gym, Jody decided to stake out the Raven from the roof of an office building next door instead of on the Bay Club. The fact that she'd been able to leap from brick balcony to brick balcony until she was on the roof, six floors up, proved what she had always maintained, at least when she was alive: working out is narcissistic bullshit. She almost wished that the girls she'd worked with at the Transamerica Building could see her now-all of them stuffing themselves into Spandex and nylon after work and heading to the Bay Club or 24 Hour Fitness in hope of meeting someone who wasn't a creep and, in the case of the Bay Club members, someone who was rich.

She imagined them saying, "Do you want to come with us? We can get you a guest pass. Mohitos afterward?"

"No thanks," she'd say. "I'm going to go bench-press an Audi a couple of sets, grab the satchel with the three-hundred grand I stashed on a roof up the street, and go back to my loft and fuck my immortal boyfriend until dawn."

Okay, that wasn't really what she was going to do, but she for goddamn sure was not going to the gym and getting all sweaty so she could meet guys. She didn't even want to be on the roof of the gym, knowing that there was unprotected fitness going on below.

She could see the Raven across the Embarcadero, and the Rasta kid was doing nautical stuff with different instruments. At least she thought he was doing nautical stuff. He could have just been dicking around with expensive equipment. None of the vampires was there. There were lights coming from a few of the ports below the cockpit, but she didn't see any movement. The sense of immediacy that had driven her here had evaporated somewhat. She thought about calling Tommy, but didn't have any idea what his new cell phone number might be. She used Abby's phone and dialed Foo's number, but it went to voice mail, which she didn't see as a good sign.

If the other two vampires were out of the ship, and she had to wait for them to return, she'd never get a shot at them from this far away. If they didn't come back until dawn, she'd be caught outside at sunrise. There was a warehouse by the pier, perhaps that roof. And she'd set herself a time limit. If they didn't show by a half-hour before sunup, she'd head back to the loft. Even at a slow, human jog she'd make it in plenty of time.

She'd have to sneak down the back of the building, though. You didn't want people to see you jumping two or three stories at a time. She understood why the vampires had to keep their secret, she really did, but not at the expense of them killing her friends.

"Good view?" A woman's voice came from behind her.

Jody rolled and whipped around, pulling Foo's UV laser from the waistband of her jeans. She didn't have on the sun-glasses so she pointed the laser at the figure coming across the roof toward her, closed her eyes, turned away, then fired. The laser buzzed out a blue beam that lasted two seconds, then started making a high-pitched whining sound as it recharged its capacitor.

"Oh, very nice," came the voice.

It was definitely a woman, amazing figure, wearing a skin-tight black suit, a black mask, and sunglasses, and carrying some sort of weapon. She looked like a superhero.

Jody was on her feet, in a crouch. The laser thing was still charging, but maybe it would fire a weaker blast, give her time to move.

"Nah, nah, nah." The woman raised her weapon, and fired. A stuttering stream of pellets peppered Jody's arm and she lost hold of the laser. Jody felt as if her arm were on fire. She looked to see ten tiny holes, each smoking, with a clear liquid, not blood running out of it.

The woman whipped off her hood and sunglasses, but kept the weapon trained on Jody. She was stunning, a pale, Mediterranean beauty with waist-length hair like black silk and almost impossibly large eyes. "That light thing is sweet, but you should get one of these," she said. "It's basically just a pellet gun modified to fire chemical pellets, but the chemical, there's the magic."

"It burns like hell," Jody said.

"Yes, it does. And I could cut you in half with this before you could get to me. That's the problem with light weapons, they don't have range and it doesn't take much to stop them. Like this suit, for instance. I mean, this thing has a UV light on it, but that's just to keep you from turning to mist. Can you do that, fledgling?"

"That's what Elijah called me," Jody said.

"That's what he called all of us in our day."

Jody tried to figure out how to get to the woman. She knew she could move impossibly fast for a human, but this was another vampire, a very old vampire. She had once squared off against Elijah thinking all things were equal among vampires and he'd nearly ended her.

As if she was reading Jody's thoughts the vampire fired her weapon and Jody felt her other arm light up with pain from shoulder to elbow.

"Ouch. Fuck. You bitch!"

"Bella, not bitch. And what were you going to do to me, fledgling? Do you have any idea what you've done? We have been together hundreds of years. You ended pieces of history. You took parts of me."

She fired again and Jody's right leg gave way.

"What do you mean, pieces?"

"You don't know what it is to merge with another being then? With a lover? We were lovers, Rolf, Makeda, and me, for hundreds of years, and now they are gone."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Both are gone, I could feel it. Funny, I didn't know I was always aware of their presence until they were gone. Not an hour ago. I'm alone now. I should let you live if only because we've lost two. There are fewer than a hundred of us, fledgling, and you might have been one of us."

"I didn't know," Jody said.

"I don't even care anymore. Maybe I'll just kill you and lie down and wait for the sun to come up. I'll never even know what happened."

"Trust me, that's not as painless as you think it is," Jody said.

"Don't!" said Bella. She raised her weapon again but this time, when the little UV light came on, Jody pushed off with her good leg, did a high backflip, and fell six stories to the courtyard below.

She expected to feel bone-crushing pain, hear the crackle of vertebrae, maybe even the crunch of her skull, but instead she felt warm water envelop her. She had landed in the Bay Club's pool, which meant she must have launched herself a good forty feet away from the roof. Her predator mind, the one that had risen to tell her that the City was hers, now kicked in, assessing survival. She was under water, that was good. The pellet weapon wouldn't penetrate the water more than a foot before losing it's effectiveness. Plus, the pool water was flushing out whatever heinous chemical had been burning her. She felt herself healing, even as she hovered at the bottom of the pool. She could stay there indefinitely without breathing if necessary.

The bad news was that Bella was still up there, and as soon as Jody left the water, the good news would end. It was very unlikely she could take the older vampire hand-to-hand, even if she could get past the pellet weapon, but she could run. Even if she was no faster than Bella, she knew this neighborhood. She'd worked here for years, and she wasn't three blocks from Okata's dismal little apartment.

She dug in her jacket pocket and found Abby's phone. It was a weatherized model and the screen was still showing the time. Still four hours until sunup, and that was a guess. She had to cut it extremely close, but if she could bolt away from the Raven with just enough time to find shelter herself, but not enough time for Bella, she just might get away. And maybe in the meantime, Rivera and Cavuto would call out a S.W.A.T. team to storm the black ship. Or the Animals would blow it up, like they had Elijah's yacht. Maybe Bella would dive into the water after her, although losing the high ground would take away a distinct advantage. Maybe one of the people in the apartments above would look down and think there was a body in the pool, and she could make her escape when the EMTs came to rescue her.

That's it. She assumed the yoga posture called "down-floating corpse" and waited, listening for any disturbance that might indicate she had company in the pool, and concentrated on her wound healing. Maybe if she healed enough she could go to mist and sneak out that way. She hadn't moved a lot in mist form, nor had she ever changed under water and she wasn't sure she could, but it might be worth a try.

A shadow fell across the bottom of the pool, cast by the mercury lights above, and she flipped over to see Bella moving catlike at the edge of the pool.

Then again, maybe not.


He'd watched them slaughter all of his fellow vampire cats and instead of running, as would have been his feline instinct, he tracked the killers, which was behavior born entirely of his human side. The three sides of his nature were in constant conflict. Even now, his cat side hated water, and wanted to flee, but his human side felt hate rising and wanted to attack. The vampire side told him to remain hidden, to approach in stealth, as mist, but his cat side told him to pounce, rip her throat out with claw and fang. It occurred to him, as he watched from the roof of the Bay Club as she paced around the pool in her skin-tight black suit, that water or no water, revenge or no revenge, he was going to hump the bejezus out of her before any other action took place. There was part tomcat in all of his natures.

He'd started his pack by mating with any female in heat, then they turned males, and so on. And he continued his undead romp through the alleys and backyards of San Francisco, but as he grew larger, and the human part of him manifested, he was just too big to finish the deed. If he fed on them, they went to dust before he got to hump them, and if humped them, they didn't survive for him to feed on them, and he'd humped a bunch of cats to death before he figured that out. It turned out, size did matter.

But here was the perfect solution. Moving strong and sexy, just the right size-he could lock his jaws on her neck and have at it, then drink her blood or bite her head off as the whim hit him, and all the time that horrible weapon would be pointed away from him.

He went to mist and oozed down the side of the building in a stream that blended with the night fog creeping in off the Bay.


Jody just happened to be looking up at Bella's watery silhouette against the mercury light when she saw another shape appear behind Bella, leap on her back, and pull her away from the edge of the pool. Jody was not going to sit around checking references, whatever that thing was, it was an ally.

She came out of the water like a rocket, and in two steps she leapt to the top of the twelve-foot security fence and looked back. Something had pulled Bella around and now had her face-down on the pavement and appeared to be humping the bejezus out of her.

Jody knew she shouldn't, but she paused. Big kitty ears, big kitty tail, big kitty sinking his fangs into the back of Bella's neck. Kitty was as big as Bella, maybe a little bigger. Chet. Bad kitty, Jody thought.

Bella shrieked, then launched herself backward with her arms, lifting both of them into the air, where they did a half-backflip and landed on the concrete with Chet's back as the point of impact. He let go with his jaws and Bella spun around and let loose with the pellet weapon. Chet yowled and jerked on the ground. Bella strafed his neck, which dissolved instantly into a mass of goo. He stopped moving.

Jody had seen enough. She leapt off the fence to the sidewalk and took off into the financial district, taking a right at the next corner, then a left, going as fast as her legs would carry her-to hell with someone seeing. She tried to go to mist, but couldn't. Either the fear or her injuries were stopping her. She could hear Bella's footsteps behind her, a block away, now less than a block. What was the range of that pellet weapon anyway?

Left on Broadway, left on Battery, right on Pacific, footsteps on her ass, now left on Sansome, next left, she heard the pellet gun sputter and she felt her right leg go out from under her. She rolled and tried to come up but the gun sputtered again and her left leg was gone. She rolled over onto her back, pushed away, scooting on her butt. The gun spat and her left elbow stopped working.

"Fuck, how much ammo does that thing have?"

"More than I'll need to turn you to soup," Bella said. "Oh look, no swimming pool."

"Shame, I guess you won't get to enjoy another kitty fuck."

The gun spat. Jody's right arm folded behind her with a splash of pain.

Bella ran her nails over her breast. "Didn't happen. This suit will stop light, even small-caliber firearms-"

But evidently not blades, Jody thought.

Because she was a vampire, and things happened more slowly to her predator eyes, she saw the blade come over Bella's shoulder, enter her body at her left trapezius, and zip across her chest and her kitty-dick-proof suit to exit just under her right arm. Bella's head and right arm slid right, her left arm and the rest of her body fell left. She had a rather surprised expression on her face that stayed there, even as her mouth continued to work soundlessly, as if she really, desperately wanted to finish that last sentence.

"Hello," Okata said.

Jody looked past the swordsman to the sign on the corner that read: JACKSON STREET.

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