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16.3% Blood & Juniper (A Vampire Tale) / Chapter 15: Picking up the Pieces (Part 1)

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Chapter 15: Picking up the Pieces (Part 1)

Accounts of Sam. After Midnight.

It's a wonder how this girl survived as long as she did. Who just falls asleep out in the open like this? I still need to find someone to sate my own appetite, but it doesn't seem right leaving her here so vulnerable. This girl is seriously a handful.

Any regular Joe who tries to mess with her would get his ass handed to him, but she's not the only superhuman wandering these parts.

"Aaaashh, It's time to wake up!" I try again in a sing-songy voice.

Sleeping like the dead, she doesn't move a muscle.

I stare at her frowning, I hope I didn't hurt her in the alley. Even if she was completely out of her mind, I didn't like having to lay hands on her like that. I almost lost control myself, her energy is infectious. Hell, I almost snapped that guy's neck just to spare her from... the inevitable.

I purse my lips, flicking the stubby cigarette that I loathed. When the memory of that unforgettable liquid taste fades from your mouth, their face, when you absorb their life, becomes muddled with time. The guilt would always creep, hoving like a rain cloud. Even when you try to ignore and bury it down deep, it always found its way back home like a lost dog. It did for me, at least.

I couldn't bare to watch that guilt darken a face like hers. Not someone that innocent.

Maybe leaving that guy in such a wretched state was more heartless than putting him to sleep permanently, who could say? I'm no arbiter of morality.

The night wasn't over and I hardly would call what just happened "keeping my promise". That man was barely alive when we left, not something I'd call OK. Then leaving her out here to possibly burn in the sun or go on a murder spree upon waking was not in the realm of "OK" either.

"Ash, you better wake your ass up or I'm taking you with me," she doesn't stir, "No, objection? Alright, we're leaving, I've been more than patient."

I scoop up the limp woman into my arms, lying her down on a bench with half of the woman's figure on my lap while I decide what to do with her. I hoped she would wake up when I lifted her off the ground, but she's out cold.

Pushing my hair out of my face, sliding my fingers from forehead to crown, I stare out into the quiet streets. A green tint laces the view from thriving, dense trees, illuminating the aged town. I glance down to take in the sleeping beauty, brushing a strand of hair from her brows.

Her face is peaceful and still as if frozen in time. Her lips, soft and rosy against her ivory skin, dry blood staining the corners of the mouth and a little trail down her chin. I'm oddly tempted to lick it off. Damn it, I'm always hungry.

I take my eyes away from the old blood, I'm such a slave to it. I finally make a decision to take Ash to my place, getting up and throwing her over my shoulder.

I can't get into her house and there is a whole restaurant above her, so that's out. Close proximity to neighbors at a motel is not happening either, she's way too unstable.

'Why do I always get myself entangled in such messes?' I scold myself as Ash's dead weight sways. She's petite and light, even if I didn't have this inhuman strength I'm sure she'd still be a feather.

Lost in my sea of thoughts, I'm surprised how far I had actually traveled in such a short time. We had already crossed the slummy area where Ash lived and passed the few houses scattered beyond town. We had hit the light grey sun faded part of the road, ridden with veined cracks. This decrepit street would branch out to my little shack by the coast line. I rarely had unwelcome visitors come too close for comfort around my area.

Ash mutters something to the effect of 'heaven or hell' in groggy slurs. I reach for her, sliding her rag doll body across my arms to check on her. Her lashes brush the tops of her cheeks as a light breeze tickles them but otherwise doesn't stir. I continue uphill, carrying her close to my chest.

The air becomes cooler and misty as I make my way up the slight incline, the light taste of salt hovers on the roof of my mouth. I hear the waves beating at the cliff side while gull cries echo through the ravines.

The road gradually becomes more uneven, littered with massive splits, I count the pot holes, growing more prevalent with the years. I was making good time but this would be a lot faster on my Hayabusa. Much more fun, too.

I was really lucky to come across that decaying hut about 15 years back, a place I was actually able to enter without permission which meant it was likely disowned long ago. I had tied up all loose ends so no one would come knocking on my door to demolish or repossess the abandoned area. Persuasion really did have it's perks.

It was probably an old fishing shack, the place was in horrible shape when I stumbled upon it. It was rickety and ugly, even after the good cleanup but it was something I could call my own. I didn't have much, so I always treasured the little I did.

The crunch of gravel surrounds the soles of my feet as I tread on the last road before my hut. The unpaved road was so overgrown with wild plants you'd miss it unless actively looking for it.

I see a dark shack peering over the cliff side. The waves crashing into the rocky wall threatening to take the dilapidated building under, swallowing it into the unforgiving ocean. The sight gives me comfort because this unremarkable hut was what I called home.

I became a little hesitant, I was taking an unknown woman to my place, my sanctuary. What an unusual night.

I observe the lifeless figure in my arms, again. We didn't necessarily need to sleep but she was still comatose. Was it the strong drugs in the vagrant's blood stream? Maybe the wild night of being reborn was just too much for the poor girl.

Hoppers bound away from each step like being launched out of a slingshot, the skitter of a thousand bugs taps against the air current. Weeds cling and rasp against my jeans as I approach the wooden door. Using my foot I swing open the flimsy entry, stalking over to the mattress to lay the woman down upon it.

She hums sweetly in her sleep as the cushions eat her up, her relaxed expression pure and irreproachable. I pull the blanket around her and wet a cloth from the rusted industrial sink to wipe the crusted blood from her lips.

Cleaning off her mouth and chin I gaze into that face. Ashlen had undeniably chipped away at long buried and repressed emotions. Just like that other unforgettable face from a few years ago, the face that changed everything.

I couldn't remember her name, but remembered her big, light brown eyes and her chocolaty, curly hair. The memory of her head hitting the crimson pillow in the hotel room, blank faced, hypnotized. And the single tear that fell from those entranced eyes that I forcefully took control of. I hear that woman's voice in my head, 'I don't want to do this.'

Tossing the rag back in the sink I drop myself on a chair by the bedside, shoving my fingers into my eye sockets and sliding them to my hairline. I don't want to relive this memory right now. I squeeze my eyes shut trying to rid the image of her from my mind. Her voice wriggles in again, 'I don't want this, I love him.'

I hear a faint rustling from outside and I jump to my feet soundlessly, eyes locked on the planked door ahead. It sounded like a small rabbit hopping through tall grass, but I knew *someone* was out there. It was something supernatural and likely skilled since they were suppressing their power. I tensed getting ready to fight, balling my fists. A shift takes place inside my mouth as my narrowed eyes focus on the door, waiting.

There it was, standing at the front steps.

"Sam? 'Ave you been 'ere all night?"

I recognize that voice and my shoulders immediately settle back. I pull the chair toward me to sit on it again while responding, "Why are you sneaking around outside my place?"

"Sneaking?" a muffled chuckle rumbles the weak wood of my door, "Not intention'lly. Force of habit." I hear fingertips press against the door but it doesn't budge an inch, "Are ya busy, can I trouble ya?"

"Come on in," I say taking a quick peek at Ashlen who's still curled in the blankets.

The entrance whispers open to reveal the silhouette that was easily identified as Cooper, looking like the strongest bouncer at any high class club, topped with his dark, curly but well kept hair.

"You left the bar early tonight," I look over at him directly, leaning back in my chair, "Did that waitress turn you down again?"

"The bartenda'," Cooper grinned, "what are ya talkin' about? She neva' turns me down."

I fold my arms across my chest, raising an eyebrow, "She kicked you out early, didn't she?"

My rickety hut shakes as he bursts into laughter, "She wouldn't kick me out," his grin widens, "We've gotta special relationship."

I blow out air through my teeth, shaking my head, "Poor girl, I'm sure you drive her nuts. The only reason she doesn't throw you out is because it would be impossible for a tiny thing like her to shove you out the door."

"Ah! Sam, ya underestimate 'er. I see 'er throw out a man twice me size," he jabs his finger into his chest acting like his claim was one hundred percent truth, "She's a tough one, she'd beat me within an inch of me life," he glances over mischievously, "But luckily I'm on 'er good list, ya see?"

"Right," I snort, rolling my eyes, "so if you didn't get the boot, what made you go out of your way to track me down?"

He steps over to trace his fingers around a dusty built in shelf before continuing, "With everythin' that happened yesterday," he rubs his dusty fingers together looking at me again, "I was a littl' concerned when ya left, thought I'd see if ya wanted ta find a drink, if ya were back in ya right mind," he pauses while his tongue runs over some of his teeth.

"I hoped you wouldn't do anything...," his eyes roll over to my mattress noticing Ashlen, then flick back to me, "...Stupid."

"She was alone, no maker in sight."

"Sam...", he chastised with a breath.

I cut him off, "She was going to make a mess, leave a trail of bodies."

"Ya shouldn't of involved yerself, jus' let things work themselves out."

"You didn't, besides Derek might have..."

I trail off mid-sentence to seeing Cooper shaking his head in response, his eyes intently fixed on the girl.

"No, she's not apart'a my line."

He grabs a chair twirling it to sit down in it backwards, his arms draped over the support of the unimpressive chair.

"The Reaper might come back for 'er," he states assured.

I examine Cooper, he looks deep in thought, puzzling over the situation.

"You think this turn was intentional, by the Reaper no less?"

He nods, "I do," He places a hand to his mouth rubbing his bottom lip and chin, "What ya should do is cut ties, asap."

He thumbs his jawline, eyeing me, "What's the damage? How much did ya say, is she talkin' ta ya?"

I look down, "Well I..."

An audible sigh cuts in, he knows I'm way too involved.

"Ya shoulda let sleepin' dogs lie," He says lightly while shaking his head, "I have a feelin' that Reap'a might come ta find this one."

"Good," I tighten my lips into a harsh half grimace, half smirk, "I hope that damn cannibal does come out of it's little hidey hole."

"Sam... I can help ya clean this up," He gives me a disapproving look, "Think about where you're goin' with this."

"I am," I'm hoping this girl will act as a lure for me to get that Reaper, "I'm aware."

We sit there in silence for a good while before Cooper finally lets out a breath, getting up from the chair.

"Fine," He makes his way for the exit, obviously not happy where this conversation went, "I hope ya realize fully, and don' expec' my help lata' on."

He runs his fingers through his thick hair, "I need anotha' drink, I was hopin' you'd come with but yer obviously in the middle of somethin'."

He swings the door open stopping at the foot of the doorstep eyeing me over his shoulder, "Sam..."

I glance up to make contact.

"Be careful," He says with a stern look.

I acknowledge him with a nod as he lets the door close behind him.

He leaves more silently than when he approached, I listen to the ghostly footsteps as I mull over my decision. Was it smart? Absolutely not, but I needed to rid that demon from this planet.


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