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14.13% Blood & Juniper (A Vampire Tale) / Chapter 13: A Surprise (Part 1)

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Chapter 13: A Surprise (Part 1)

Accounts of Sam, first night of Fall, 2017

I shouldn't have promised her, I don't know how I'm going to keep my word. Showing restraint has never been a strong suit of mine and I'm going to help her out with that same problem? I'm in over my head.

She believes I'm too distracted to notice her eyeing me. That's the fifth time I've caught her glance.

'Ashlen'. Her name bounces around in my mind. She had ample opportunity to push me away and I would've honored that, but no. She's still here, though, she should detest me, why?

Guilt nests itself square in my chest. I should have left the first time she thought to shoo me away, that would have been the right thing to do. She's a thousand times the person I am, I may end up dragging her down with me. My help opposed to no help may be the worse of the two options.

She gawks at the twinkling stars above, amazed. I take the opportunity to examine the interesting girl. There is something about her, she appeals to me in every way. Not only is Ashlen obviously beautiful, she wears a childlike innocence, has a keen sense of self and radiates goodness. All things I envy, but also cherish the chance to be close to. They are rare and under appreciated traits.

I *am* selfish, indulging in her humanity at her expense.

'I won't let you down.' I silently promise. 'Please let this be the one thing I get right.' I join her gaze at the dense milky way, sparking determination.

We trot away from the lonely corner she calls home. Ash is nibbling at her fingertips as I steer our path for a more populated area, I'm well aware of her growing anxiety.

She isn't going to kill anyone tonight, I won't let her. I vow to myself that I *will* be strong enough for the both of us.

"Where are we going?" she inquires, chewing on the thumb nail.

"Don't worry, I have a plan," let's hope it works, "I just need to find the right... one."

Her wide doe eyes look up at me, but I can't allow myself to get sidetracked right now.

I close my eyes, paying close attention to the vibrations on the ground and in the atmosphere. Keeping my wits sharp, I breathe in the essence of these streets. Someone weak and undesirable is what we need. I pick up something promising wafting out of an alleyway.

I motion her and we tread in that direction. There might be something for us at the far end. We tour the tight, aging space coming for the slender T-section in the back of this alley.

The sides of the thin pass are extremely weathered, years of rain and wind have taken their toll on the tall walls of crumbling brick and chipping paint.

Once we reach the end, I peer down both paths then choose the right rather than left as the right alley is longer with more options and easy escapes.

My arm is seized suddenly, I look over my shoulder to see Ashlen clinging to it, a ghastly expression of horror sprayed across her face. 'Shit! Did she catch someone's trail before I did?' I whirl around placing my hands on her shoulders lightly, that way I'll be ready if she loses it and tries to bolt.

"Ashlen, what's the matter?"

I try to make direct eye contact but her eyes are lost, they are staring right into mine but they don't seem to actually see me.

I shake her slightly, "Ash?"

She snaps out of it with a shudder, batting her lids rapidly. Then really looks me in the eyes this time, her eyes are wild.

"We can't go down that way," she responds suddenly.

"Huh? Is there someone down there?" I glance down the long passage, it's uncommon for someone this new to rely so strongly on other senses before their sight. I'm not even picking up what she's sensing.

"Yeah, someone is going to come out of that back door," her head vibrates and her words come out a little breathless, "I won't be able to handle it."

I peak down the skinny path again, narrowing my eyes in focus. I spot a door clear at the end of the long pathway but how is she perceiving anything from this distance, not to mention the building providing an extra layer?

"That blue back door all the way down there?"

I study her frozen face carefully, following her gaze glued on that very door. I watch her chest expand in shallow movements from a light panting.

I tilt my head, "Can you sense them from all the way over here?"

She doesn't take her leer off the door, "No, I saw..." She stops mid sentence looking back at me with her mouth open slightly.

She tilts her head an inch to the side, shutting her mouth with a blink before finishing her sentence, "... Well I mean yes," she glances to the side, "Am I not supposed to? Do you not?"

The whites of her eyes are massive as she holds my gaze, before twitching her paranoid face toward the alley door again.

I narrow my eyes, she's hiding something from me. I recall that moment when Ashlen stepped into her bathroom. That whole event was off, too. I couldn't make out much from being stuck in that stupid stairwell but remember how chilling it was. I saw one hand clutching holes the edge of that sink and she was way too quiet, but her aura spiked like she was fighting someone.

My brows furrow, something definitely isn't right.

"Ok, then do we go this way?" I shift my fingers on her arms trying to draw her attention back on me.

She turns to me dazed then takes a quick glance down the opposite direction before nodding hastily.

She shuffles in that direction going ahead of me, reacting a bit jumpy. What is going on with her?

I chew on my lip, tailing close behind, I keep my eyes peeled and ready for anything.

I'm really starting to think the Reaper is her maker. That's a whole other can of worms, but it might explain some of this odd behavior. I wish I was more knowledgeable on the different bloodlines and their abilities, but the majority of the information came from Cooper.

I clench and unclench my fists repetitively trying to prepare myself for what's to come and what I may have to do. I swallow as we inch our way down the ragged path; I'm beginning to feel antsy.

It hits me.

I grab Ashlen by the shoulder to stop her, she slowly spins to face me. Finally, some luck for once! This is exactly the kind of person I was hoping for. There's a bum in a nook of this alley.

As she turns I notice that anxious expression still dominating her features, she raises questioning brows at me.

I point to the nook.

Examining the nook she asks, "Is that a guy a friend of yours?"

I cock my head to the side, "What?"

She blinks, "Oh...never mind," she says in a low voice.

I grab the back of my neck, kneading at a growing knot. 'What the hell is she talking about?' And I don't even have a visual on this "guy".

"Ok, so now what?" anxiety shines through her big eyes.

"You can hear and smell him, right? Are you going to be able to manage if we go after this one?"

"Ummm," her eyes dart over to the nook again.

My brows constrict while I push a loose strand of hair from my face. 'She hasn't even caught that drift yet? Then how does she know there's someone back there at all?' This isn't adding up.

"The truth is..." she admits, biting her lip as I lean forward, "I'm too afraid... to sense him, I'm scared of what I'll do."

Understandable, but damn, I was hoping to get let in on the little secret she's keeping and that still doesn't explain how she knew someone was back there without sensing him.

She looks down digging her foot in the gravel, "Isn't he going to panic when we...?"

I tilt her chin up to look at me, surprising her, "I've got a few tricks up my sleeve, he won't know what hit him."

She shrinks back grimacing.

"Sorry, poor word choice. He'll be ok, just like I promised."

She bites her lip, looking back at the shadowed divot in the wall.

I touch her shoulder again coaxing her look at me, "Just don't lose sight of what's important to you. Don't forget about your desire to spare him and it'll be ok."

Who am I kidding? Sometimes it's not enough to want or not want something. When the need strikes hard, it's almost impossible to maintain anything else. But I put on a white lie through my face, I need to show her my confidence in her ability for restraint.

"I don't know why you have so much faith in me, I'm not that strong."

I shake my head, "You can't think like that or you've already lost. You're stronger than you give yourself credit for," Damn, I hope I'm not building her up too high. What I convey is truth, her self disapline is impressive but some burdens crush the strongest of us. Am I filling her with false hope?

No, I can't think like that either. I made a vow, I'm going to see it through.

"Now, can you take him in? Don't worry, I'll hold you back if you lose it, alright?"

She looks down and nods, closing her eyes.

She wrinkles her nose, "Not quite the cream of the crop is he?" she peeks up at me with one eye giving a tense, small smirk.

I shake my head, cracking a smile, "Nope, he's no gourmet specialty. Sorry I can't give you the best but he'll still prove challenging."

"No, I get it," she pauses thoughtfully, "By the way, Sam?"

I gaze down into her colorful eyes.

She touches me on the arm, a genuineness radiating from her, "Thank you."

My lips part as my thick eyebrows wander up, her touch sends small sparks. I quickly regain my composure with a sincere nod. I can explore that a bit more later.

I snuff out a breath and look at the thin strip of sky between the old walls. I'd better pull this off.

"Stay close," I make sure she's paying attention before I turn, "I'll approach first. Just grab me if something is wrong."

We stalk up to the hollowed out section in the wall. I find myself synchronizing my movements to the beat of the vagrant's weak heart.

I wrinkle my nose at the apparent body odor mixed with an earthy smell. It's not the worst thing ever, even his weak blood is desirable over any beast by at least 20 times. His light rhythm tickles the hair on my arms, yep still much too tempting.

I glance over my shoulder to check on Ashlen's current mental status. She looks very ridged but seems to be okay for the most part.

We finally creep around the corner to face a guy that fits the stereotype appearance of a crack addict. He blinks at us with aloofness.

"Hey, Jerry, I thought you said you'd meet us at the bar," I remark casually.

I feel the confused glances from both the bum and Ashlen upon me.

The bum slurres, "Huh? My name'sh not Jerry, I'm shupposed to meets you where?"

'Oh, great.' This guy might be under the influence of something. Ashlen may get a little more than she bargained for. Well, beggars can't be choosers.

He stumbles over a little closer. Perfect, I feel the faint cool sensation wash over the back of my throat and behind my eyes. This is going to be much easier than I originally thought, even being out of practice.

"You don't go by Jerry anymore? We used to call you Jerry all the time in Highschool," Highschool? Whoops. He appears to be at least twice my age if we were judging on appearance alone. It doesn't matter though, I can see it in his groggy eyes. If I told him the sky was falling he'd hit the floor covering his head.

He is convinced, "Oh yeah, yeah ish been so long I forgot."

I focus my leer on his entranced eyeballs, seeing the green glow from my irises reflecting back in the white of his eyes.

"Yes, Jill over here has something for you."

"Jill?" I hear Ashlen scoff from behind.

I look over my should to see her raised eyebrow. I squint at her before focusing on disheveled man again.

"It's a *nice* surprise, you have to shut your eyes."

He obeys sliding his lids closed.

I come a little closer.

"Don't move, No peeking, now. This is a *nice* surprise," I command knowing my words are now an unbreakable law.

I turn back to Ashlen and stifle a laugh from that silly look on her face. She looks astonish, like a child seeing a clever magician's trick for the first time.

I give the 'all yours' motion with a hand and side step.

Now for the tough part, preventing this measly bastard from dying.

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