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23.91% Blood & Juniper (A Vampire Tale) / Chapter 22: Connections (Part 2)

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Chapter 22: Connections (Part 2)

Accounts of Sam.

Her back was turned, I envisioned myself tearing the monster's head clean from her shoulders. I saw my teeth latching onto the crook of her neck and dismembering her arms simultaneously in a bone shattering thrust. Tackling her to the floor and shoving my thumbs in her eye sockets while my hands crushed in the skull. She wouldn't be able to smile when I dislocated that jaw and concaved the rest of her miserable face.

And now she's walking away, how entirely aggravating.

All I could do was stand there, useless, like I always seem to be.

Ash clung to me like a ball and chain holding me down until the wretched woman left. I could have easily escaped her grip but I knew better. It was a losing battle with no reward. The power emanating from her maker was incredible and ancient.

I didn't have the element of surprise, I didn't have a good position and I had Ash to worry about, who might turn on me if I attack her supposed maker.

I let out a breath of defeat, the disdain I felt for the reaper was almost making me insane and I could do nothing.

I didn't expect the reaper to be a woman and that was troubling in it's own way. A dangerous man was like a broad sword, you could see it coming a mile away, all you had to do was block. In contrast, a dangerous woman was like a poison dagger, never knowing when you'd be stabbed in the back.

The ominous aura dissipates leaving the two of us alone. Ash swivels around to face me with angry eyes and a gawking mouth. Her palms turned outward, demanding an explanation, "What the hell was that all about?"

"So, the reaper actually turned you," I stated with coldness, scowling at the exit as if it had been tainted by hosting the vile woman, "You really have a talent for putting yourself in deadly situations, Ash."

"What's that supposed to mean?" She exclaimed.

I shake my head with a grimace, "You don't seem to realize how dangerous that woman is or what associating with her means."

"Dangerous?" she narrows her eyes with a frown, "She saved me. No one else was going to help me. Certainly not your *dangerous* friend who would have killed me!"

Like I suspected, she would side with her maker, I'll bet that sired connection had an effect on her judgement, "You have every right to hate Derek, but he has nothing on that reaper. That woman has slaughtered hundreds if not thousands."

She shot me a skeptical glance, "You're exaggerating, how could you possibly know that?"

"Think about it, you've probably heard about the countless disappearances around Spiral Hood. You think that's a coincidence? Both vampires and humans," I make a slicing motion with my hand through the air, "eradicated."

She purses her lips taking in the information, "Even if what you're saying is true, I don't have many options and she offered me asylum." she blinks looking away, "What are you suggesting exactly."

She's in denial about how lethal that reaper is, I can plainly see she would oppose my plan to kill her. Fine, she'll become closer with the reaper and I'll gain the trust of Ash. Now, I need to figure out what bloodline she's from so I can exploit her maker's weakness.

"All I'm saying is you should be cautious. You may think you know her because you shared blood but don't trick yourself into thinking you understand your Maker's intentions."

She tilts her head in confusion, blinking twice.

"I saw you sensed her before I did, right? It's a sired connection."

She nods slowly, questions form in her eyes but she redirects the conversation, "You still haven't explained why you reacted so hostile when Juniper came in the room." She keeps her gaze on me as she plops down on a nearby pew, "I mean, it looked like you wanted to rip her to pieces, what are you not telling me?"

I *am* going to rip her to pieces, "I already told you, she has a nasty reputation and she murdered my brother," I downplay my outright fury making it appear as prudence, "And she left you alone without filling you in on any important details, you could have gotten into some serious trouble. Then she has the nerve to show up, now."

I sigh, "Needless to say I have a few strong reasons for my dislike and mistrust."

More like an overwhelming revulsion and I don't find that unreasonable either.

Her face makes a drastic change from tense to empathic surprise, her eyebrows turn upward in sympathetic sadness, "Derek was your brother?"

I look away, having no desire to discuss him, "I considered him to be, he was the closest thing I had to a brother."

"I'm sorry."

I give her a bizarre involuntary look of perplexity. She feels sympathy for my loss even though her's was comparatively great. Not only that, he was the cause and I was regrettably involved.

I chuckle bitterly out of the absolute ridiculousness of it, "You're apologizing when I'm the reason your life is in shambles?" I shake my head unable to wrap my mind around it, "I'm the one who should be begging for your forgiveness and never expect to receive it."

She shakes her head with a calm demeanor, "No, Derek should, though he severely paid for his mistake," she looks down thoughtfully, "but, I'm not angry with you anymore, Sam. I forgive you."

Time stopped.

Just like that, forgiven? How could she ever forgive me, that wasn't right. I'd never forgive me and it hasn't even been three days.

I almost feel angry, "No, I don't deserve it," I sit on the arm of a bench adjacent from her, burning holes into the ground unable to look at her, "And I will never deserve it."

She giggles, my eyes flick upwards with the most baffled expression, "Well too bad, it's mine to give!" she smirks with soft eyes, "knowing what I do now," she shrugs looking to the side, "I don't know, I just don't blame you."

"Ash, you can't just let things like this go," I caution out of concern for her well being, "There are people that will take advantage of that."

She titters, "Hell no," she insists as she hops off the bench skipping over to me, "not if they're smart! I'm not in the business of being a doormat," she stands in front of me, glaring with a crooked smile, "cross me again and face my wrath!" She gives me a playful punch in the shoulder.

I snort, not sure if I should smile from her silliness or frown out of worriment, I think I somehow end up doing both.

She gives me a cheeky look and I stare into her eyes trying to figure her out. Even with all the mystery that lies in the young woman's fickle behavior, it was as if I had known Ash for a long time and I was strangely comfortable around her like we were old friends. I wasn't fully able to understand or explain why that was.

"We need to find you something to drink," I interrupt the break in conversation and almost laugh seeing her grin immediately dissolve, "Don't be so glum about it, you know what to expect now."

She pouts, "I have to do it again so soon?"

"Absolutely, in fact you should be drinking more."

Her eyes crinkle with a frown, "*More?*"

"Mhm, aim to get your fill. The more you keep your thirst in check, the more control you'll have," I slide off the arm of the bench, heading back to the busted window, "That's what you want, to be in control, right?"

"Yeah, I do," she replies quietly while following close behind, "I just wish I didn't have to risk losing control to gain it."

'You and I both.'

I slide the window open and hop out, "Let's find you a meal," I turn to face her with a mischievous smile, "This time I'm not going to persuade him, you're going to handle this one on your own."

********

"This seems like a really bad idea," her face is tight with anxiety.

"I'm not going to be around all the time to help you out," I eye her chewing on her nails as she peaks over the crates on tiptoed feet, "You have the ability to do this on your own, it will come more naturally than you might think."

I try to remember my first time ever stealing blood from another. Taking blood from the unwilling was effortless, stopping was the problem. The extreme horror from my actions was the only thing that stopped me in the beginning, I still don't know if my first victim survived my attack or if he should also be labeled as my first kill. It didn't really matter, 'cause he wasn't my last.

I raise my head, peering over a pallets of cargo at an unspespecting guy pacing while on his phone. He was talking to a woman on the other end, it sounded like things would wrap up in the next few minutes.

"That guy looks really strong, am I just supposed to grab him from behind and," she sucks in her bottom lip with a pained expression, "bite him?"

"You can easily overpower him. It's your choice if you want to chat him up to bring his guard down or keep him clueless and just go for it."

She gives me a weird look, "Like seducing him?"

"That's one option."

She scrunches up her face not too keen on the idea, "No, no, that's weird and I never know what to say when meeting new people."

I examine her, surprised she wasn't comfortable being flirty or social. She was certainly attractive enough to get a man's attention without trying, even before immortality.

"But there's no way I can take that guy, he's like twice my size. He'll throw me off."

I glance behind me seeing some thick short pieces of rebar dumped into a disorganized pile. I pick two of them up handing one to Ash, "Bend it."

She raises her eyebrows like I'm insane, "You're kidding, bend *this* steel rod? Do I look like a bodybuilder?" she argues while waving the steel rebar at me.

I hold out the extra piece of metal in front of her, grasping the end of the pole with my other hand, coiling it like rope around my fist. Her jaw drops as she observes the metal rod twist with little resistance.

I slide the deformed rod off my hand, holding it up to reveal it's spring shape, "Bend it, Ash."

She scans the rebar with raised brows, taking it in both hands. It bends like pipe cleaner in her petite grip.

"Holy crap!" She exclaims a little louder than she should.

"Oops," she mouths as we duck behind the stack of crates at the same time.

I hear the man halt his stride as his shoes scuff to a stop. We wait for a short while, his pulse dies down again as he goes back to pacing, trying to politely end the conversation on the phone.

"Holding him will be easier than you think, most people freeze up when once you bite down," I explain as she gulps with glazed eyes, likely envisioning the action, "get ready, he's going to hang up soon, I'll be waiting right here."

She takes a deep slow breath and tenses as her eyes flash with hunger from the man's aroma. She's got to learn to stop doing that.

She recovers grabbing a wooden box to compose and breathes out her nose with closed eyes, she gives herself determined nod with a half smile.

Ash stalks around the boxes as I stand back to supervise, she glides over like a ghost in the night. Suddenly, she freezes when halfway to the guy. I narrow my eyes, 'what in the world is she doing?'

She stands like a statue and I contemplate if I need to go get her. Abruptly, she turns her head back to me with a look of shock and anxiety.

I try to coax her forward flicking my fingers in a shooing manner toward the distracted guy who fortunately hasn't spotted Ash yet. 'Maybe she's a self-conscious eater or is she getting cold feet?'

I hold out an open palm as if to silently ask 'What?' when she doesn't move, I think about going back behind the crates so she doesn't feel I'm hovering too much.

She runs silently back over to me, taking us back behind the tower of boxes.

"What are you doing? You were almost there, why'd you stop?" I question as she peaks over the tops of the crates again.

"We need to find someone else, I have a bad feeling about this," she responds with furrowed brows still scanning over the boxes.

She's incredibly reluctant, I get it but she can't avoid feeding if she wants to overcome her instinct to kill.

"Ash, I understand you're afraid, but finding someone else won't make much of a difference," I scan her face as she stares at the man. The man is no longer chatting on the phone, I hear his fingers click away, likely texting, "I'm still here, if things get out of hand."

She shakes her head looking back to me, "It's not that. I can't explain it but I really think we should find someone else."

I bite the inside of my cheek as I look her over, 'Can't explain or won't?'

"You're right, it's probably nothing, but I'd feel better if we found someone else," she looks to the side then back to me pursuing her lips.

I glance over the crates, trying to see what she's seeing. 'A bad feeling? Is it a woman's intuition or something?'

I look back at her as she waits for my response with worried eyes, "Alright, Ash. I hope you know, I'm not trying to force you into anything," I pull my lips to the side, "I'm just here to…"

I stop mid sentence as she puts her hands on my shoulders, "I know and you are."

She smiles sweetly and I hide my fondness for that smile, how much her simple touches appeal.

I nod, "Lead the way."

She turns, looking around then heads for the corner of the building.

I hesitate before heading around the corner with her, spying on the man between a separation in the stacked cargo.

I scan the area as if waiting for something to happen.

Unable to find anything out of the ordinary, I turn to leave. A back door to the building swings open suddenly and my eyes snap to attention. A group of three boys pour out of the door, gathering around the one texting.

One yells in a playful tone, "Hey you slacker! We were looking for you!" while another says, "We covered for you but you'd better get back inside."

The chattering continues as I raise an eyebrow. Bad feeling indeed. 'Hmm, a woman's intuition, or something else entirely.'

"You coming, Sam?" Ash calls out, already standing at the front of the building near the sidewalk, interrupting my theories and thoughts.

I run down the length of the long building in no time, standing in front of her before three seconds pass.

She looks a bit impressed then narrows her eyes muttering, "Show off."

I give her a cheeky grin as she rolls her eyes and continues down the sidewalk, taking a turn as if she has a specific place in mind. I puzzle through Ash's unique behavior as I travel slightly behind her.

Something savory sails in the air as the music of life plays in my ears. Ash led us to very tasty looking girl chaining up her bike to a rack.

"She smells a lot better than the last one, are you up for it?"

"Yep, she's the one," she confirms with a peculiar air of poise, "Will you be around," she looks to me with big eyes, "Just in case?"

"I'll be right here," I walk over to a street light and lean against it.

She gives me a nervous smile before descending on the young woman.

Ash comes to a halt behind her, a dubious stance. Her eyes keep flicking apprehensively over my way. I fold my arms and wait, it's unusual that instinct hasn't kicked in yet. It will soon enough.

The seconds seem to tick by unbelievably slow, Ash still hasn't made her move. 'Come on, what are you waiting for?'

She loses her element of surprise as the girl finishes locking her bike, straightening with a spin. She gasps upon seeing Ashlen and Ash gives her a small oafish wave, her head scrunching into her shoulders. My palm smacks the center of my forehead, 'What the hell is she doing?'

The strawberry haired lady nervously greets Ash, obviously unsure of what to do, "Um, hi?"

Ash glances around awkwardly and half mumbles a hardly intelligible, "Hey."

Is she seriously just going to let this girl walk away? The girl begins to retreat cautiously and I see Ash's eyes begin to shine, finally.

Ash clamps her hands upon the shoulders of the startled young woman. Pulling her close then plunging her teeth into the woman's neck.

"Ah! He-!" the girl's squawk is short lived as Ashlen immediately drinks her in deep.

The scent of blood permeates, hitting with blunt force as skin breaks. I start to worry that she picked someone a little too desirable, I'm pretty tempted by the presumed flavor myself.

I ponder a time I would have shared someone of that quality. It had been years since I'd participated in something like that, I showed much less restraint back then, too.

Strawberry hair, no doubt she's sweeter than strawberries. 'Nope, don't get distracted, it's not the time.' The enticing pulse flows through the young woman's body and I struggle to keep focus. I probably should have fed before attempting to help. I pop my knuckles with my thumb to interrupt the captivating sensation.

Ashlen doesn't show any signs of slowing as the beat begins to weaken, I expected as much. Hopefully, I won't have to fight her like last time.

I rush over standing in front of her, although she doesn't seem to notice, obviously absorbed in her enterprise, "Ash."

I'm pleased to find she's responsive, her untamed yellow eyes lock on me as she continues sipping away. A trickle of blood escapes the side of Ash's mouth, rolling down the swaying girl's shoulder blade before staining the wide neck of the loose fitting shirt.

I try to remain calm not letting myself get aroused by the thick scent and enticing drumming. I force myself to look back into Ash's illuminated eyes, otherwise be lost in the single blood trail. I kill off the thought of cleaning up that subtle yet tantalizing spill, "Let her go."

Her eyes become fearful and she obeys dropping the unconscious woman, the girl sprawls out on the ground with a thud. I'm amazed by her accordance, almost thinking I used persuasion on Ashlen without meaning to.

She stands there quivering, staring at the girl's neck in disquieted silence, struggling not to drop to the floor and continue suckling the faintly beating life.

I hold my breath as to not take in the exposed liquid pooling from the artery, keeping my eyes on Ash, "Everything's ok, it's time to leave."

Her gaze slowly lifts to my face, horror stricken. Her hands jittering before her, she doesn't move from the spot.

I take her hand gently, trying not to provoke that beast lying just below the surface, pulling her to me. Her eyes are slightly teary and afraid but she's compliant, I almost can't believe it.

I turn, still holding Ash by the hand as I direct us as far away from the body as possible.

The street lamps bathe us in a sweep as we retreat down the walk, light fading in and out rhythmically upon us.

She must have a fairly prevailing angel on her shoulder or something special.

Hope dominates the corners of my mouth.

Maybe, you don't have to be a monster in this life. Ash just might be proof of that.


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