13

FIRST DATE

“ Are you going to let me out?” Larissa’s question was delivered in a sweet, childish tone of voice, like a little girl asking her mother for a kitten. Jamie laughed, incredulous.

“Why would I do that?” he asked.

“Because I spared you,” she replied, smiling sweetly at him, the tips of her fangs no longer visible beneath lips that were stained with blood.

“You spared me?”

“I spared you. And you saw what I got for my trouble.”

Jamie looked at her. Her gray shirt was torn in places, stained almost black with blood, but she wore it with nonchalant confidence. Her faded blue jeans were also torn, and the scuffed toes of brown boots protruded from beneath the denim.

Her dark hair was long, swept carelessly away from her forehead. Her face was- beautiful, she’s so beautiful -a slim oval, her eyes wide, the dark brown irises sparkling under the fluorescent lighting of her cell. Her nose was small, too pointed to be classically perfect, but in keeping with the slender aspect of her features. Blood coated the bottom half of her face, garish against the milky white skin, obscuring the shape of her lips. Streaks of crimson caressed her neck.

She coughed, pointedly, and he shook his head, trying to focus on what he needed to do.

“Why did you spare me?” he asked.

She smiled again. “I didn’t feel like killing you,” she replied.

“That’s not really sparing me, is it? That’s just not feeling like it.”

“Semantics.”

“Not to me.”

She looked away from him, inspecting her bloody fingernails, shifting her weight from one leg to the other. When she looked back at him, her smile was more dazzling than ever, and Jamie felt something flutter through his stomach.

“So you’re not going to let me out?” she asked.

“I can’t let you out, even if I wanted to. I don’t have any authority here.”

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

“Even with your famous surname? Oh, well. That’s a shame.”

They eyed each other through the shimmering UV field, and Jamie asked her the first of the two questions he really wanted her to answer. “Why were you trying to kill me?”

Larissa narrowed her eyes. “I wasn’t trying to kill you. If I’d wanted to kill you, you’d be dead.”

“So you weren’t trying to kill Matt either?”

“Who’s Matt?”

“The boy whose garden you landed in. The one whose throat you pulled out with your fingernails. He’s in a coma upstairs.”

“Good for him. Maybe he’ll pull through.”

“Hopefully. So why did you attack me? What did I ever do?”

“Orders.”

“From who?”

“From my master.”

A chill danced up Jamie’s spine, and he remembered the thing in the gray coat that had let itself into the house he had shared with his mother. He remembered the pale madness on its face, the way it had leapt into the air when Frankenstein fired his huge weapon, before it disappeared into the sky like a missile.

“Alexandru,” he said, softly, and Larissa flinched.

“You know his name?” she asked. Her voice had lost a touch of its easy confidence.

“I was told it,” he replied.

“By the monster?”

“By Frankenstein, if that’s who you mean. Who is he? Alexandru.”

The smile returned to her face. “They didn’t tell you?” she asked.

“Just his name,” he replied.

“He’s the second oldest vampire in the world,” she said, with obvious relish. “His brothers are the first and third. He’s more powerful than you can imagine.”

“Like how powerful?”

“Like a God. Like that powerful.”

“I don’t believe in God.”

She smiled at him again, and this time Jamie saw the white triangles below her upper lip, and he shivered.

“You should,” she said. “You really should.”

For several minutes neither of them spoke. Jamie lowered himself to the ground and crossed his legs, looking directly at her. After a few seconds, she mirrored him, and they sat like this for a while. They did not smile at each other, not exactly, but they did not scowl or frown either. Jamie was concentrating on projecting calm, but inside he was a maelstrom of anger and frustration.

She’s not your friend, you idiot. Why are you talking to her like she is, you stupid, stupid idiot? She might have killed you twice yesterday, and she might know where your mother is. Snap out of it, for God’s sake. Make her tell you what you need to know.

When he finally spoke, he did so bluntly.

“Is my mother alive?” he asked, taking care not to let his voice tremble at the thought. Larissa sat forward and brushed strands of dark hair away from her face.

“I would think so,” she replied.

Calm, calm.

“You don’t know?”

“She was alive when I met up with them after it was over. But then Alexandru got a tiny bit angry with me for not killing you, so I got torn to pieces and dropped out of the clouds into some family’s garden. So after that, no, I don’t know.” She smiled at him, and her tongue darted out and licked blood off her lower lip. He tried to ignore it.

“Where would he have taken her?” he asked.

“I don’t know.”

“I don’t believe you.”

Larissa shrugged. “That’s your prerogative. But it’s the truth. Only Alexandru and Anderson knew where we were going next.”

“Who’s Anderson?”

“Alexandru’s right-hand man. Simple-but vicious. Like a guard dog.”

“So you don’t know anything that can help me?”

“I know where they were until yesterday. And I know how to find out where they are now.”

“How?”

“By asking someone nicely.”

“Asking who?”

“That would be telling.”

“Yes. It would. So tell me.”

“I can’t,” she replied.

Anger surged through Jamie. “Why not?” he asked, his voice rising. He couldn’t help it.

“Because then you won’t come back and see me.”

“This isn’t a game!” Jamie exploded. “This isn’t funny! My mother’s life is in danger!”

Larissa’s eyes flashed red, then settled back to their dark brown.

“That’s right,” she said, in a voice like ice. “Her life. Not my life. Just a single, anonymous human life. What difference will it really make if she lives or dies?”

“All the difference in the world to me!” Jamie bellowed. “Tell me where she is! Right now!”

She sighed and rolled her eyes. “Such bravery,” she said, softly. “From behind an impenetrable barrier.”

“I’d open this cell right now if I could,” Jamie spit. “I’d kill you with my bare hands.”

“No,” Larissa said, looking at him with terrible sadness. “You wouldn’t. And you know it. You’re not a killer. Not like me. If you arrange for my release, I will take you to the person who can tell us where your mother is. If you won’t, or can’t, then I’m afraid you’re on your own.”

Tears rose in the corners of Jamie’s eyes, and he stumbled to his feet. He walked quickly, almost running, down the corridor away from her, determined that she would not see him cry.

Her voice floated down the cellblock after him.

“Come back soon,” she cried, her tone warm and friendly. “I’ll be waiting.”

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