Kerry awoke with a start. Her heart was pounding in fear, all her senses on alert. She couldn't move, couldn't breathe. She felt paralyzed.
It took her less than a moment to realize that this was because a hand was clamped over her mouth, her body immobilized by someone leaning on top of her. She could vaguely make out a shape from the glow coming through her closed curtains from the street lights outside, and despite the constant struggles her body made - had been making since the moment she woke up, she realized, despite the fact she wasn't moving an inch - he didn't seem to be having any trouble holding her down.
Her heartrate kicked into overdrive. She felt sick, queasy at the idea that someone had invaded her home, the sanctity of her own room, bed. Combined with the shock of adrenalin, but no outlet, she was wired to defend herself.
She just didn't know how. Yet. But this person would have to move at some point, and then she would do everything she could to get away and call for help.
"Calm down," a voice said in the dark, and the person shifted on top of her, making her tense and hope for an opening. She'd been through too much in her life to not to fight back, or at least try. It was now almost instinctual for her. The hand over her mouth bit down sharply, ripping her lip open with her own teeth. Kerry's eyes widen in fright at his strength and the coppery taste of her own blood, as the nightlight turned on above her head and the room was briefly illuminated with a soft glow. "I'm not here to harm you."
He was whispering, which might explain why she hadn't recognised his voice, but there was absolutely no way she could mistaken his face, especially hovering an inch above her head. She only knew him in the dark.
Kerry wasn't sure whether the fact that the person invading her bedroom was someone she knew really made any differences. Vampires weren't exactly known for their sense of magnanimity, despite the fact he had shown it to her on other occasions. But just the fact that this was Michel, and he had scared her beyond belief - again - made all that fear channel itself into fury.
"You need to calm down before I take my hand off your mouth. Do you understand? You can't make a sound, can't draw your family's attention. I'm here as a friend. Do you understand me, Kerry?"
He was speaking so softly, she could barely hear him, though his face was still hovering an inch above hers. Although his voice was calming, relaxing a bit of the anger she felt towards him, it was the fact he was being so careful as to be absolutely silent that made her believe that he was telling the truth. She knew there were ways he could have killed her just as silently without the necessity of waking her up, just as there were ways to wake her up that were far more violent if his intention was to make her feel the pain.
"Good." He nodded in accordance to her relaxing beneath him, her elevated heart rate decreasing. "Now listen very carefully to me. You aren't to make a sound. You and I are going to leave this house without your father or brother waking up. You aren't going to bring anything with you. No cell phone. No clothing. There are hunters on your trail and they are narrowing in quickly. We have to make this look as much like a kidnapping as possible. Do you understand me?"
Kerry nodded, and his hand loosened its grasp on her mouth. He backed up off the bed without a sound. She could tell from the limited glow coming from the window that his finger was over his lips, reminding her to be silent. For some reason, she trusted him enough to comply, and it wasn't because she feared the consequences from him if she screamed and alerted her family.
She feared he was telling the truth, and if she didn't trust him she would be dead by day break.
There were so many questions she wanted to ask him, but she bit her tongue and surveyed her room, wondering how she was going to get off her creaky old bed without making a sound. She wasn't nearly as predatory as he was, and even her feet hitting the floor usually made a dull thump, no matter how quiet she was trying to be. The idea of putting her family in danger again was a better gag than the idea of her own life being jeopardised, and she realized that she was going to comply with everything he said.
Even that couldn't stop her from hissing "what are you doing?" when he grabbed her off the bed and slung her over his shoulder in a fireman's hold, the sound of their clothing rubbing together barely a sigh in the quiet night over the sound of occasional traffic outside.
Michel sighed. "Giving the illusion of kidnapping," he bit back, using his free hand to rip the sheets off her bed in a way that wouldn't be natural even in the most restless of nights.
He then moved quickly out of her bedroom and down the stairs, somehow managing to avoid the step that creaked every time someone stepped on it. Kerry watched her brother's door disappear from view, her neck craned to watch to make sure he didn't come out and find them, despite the fact Michel would surely know if he woke up. She wondered when she would see Ian again, but even Kerry was smart enough to realize that the answer might be never, and asking the question would not be wise.
Instead of walking out the front door, Michel stopped in front of the living room window. Kerry could feel the cool June breeze coming through the broken screen, and she could see the ripped mesh hanging over the side of the pane as he shifted her, leaning forward and changing his hold.
"Remember, quiet. And don't move in case someone is watching. We want this to appear as unwilling as possible."
He then dropped her out the window.
Kerry landed on her back, the wind knocked out of her lungs. She stared up at the stars in a daze, unable to do anything but lie perfectly still. Her attention was drawn towards him as he gracefully jumped out the window, landing softly on his feet in a crouch above her without any part of his body touching hers.
Within seconds, he had gathered her back up, slinging her over her shoulder again. Kerry did her best to appear unconscious as he moved rapidly through her back yard and towards the net street over. There, he approached a silver car a few houses to the left of hers and deposited her in the back seat.
"Stay down," he warned, slamming the door and getting into the driver's side. The car started and he took off at a moderate pace, not squealing his tires or burning rubber, or any of the clichéd moves kidnappers used on television and the movies.
She didn't really expect anything less, especially after all the lessons he had given her on avoiding detection the last time he had kidnapped her.
As Kerry did what she was told, she couldn't help but wonder why. Why was he concerned for her safety? Why was this happening to her again?
"I bet you're wondering why I didn't just tie you up, maybe slip you some kind of drug to knock you out, if I wanted this to look like a real kidnapping," Michel said conversationally.
No. She hadn't. That question hadn't even made her top five.
"It seemed the humane thing to do," he informed her, amusement evident in his voice. "Besides, it's easier to get you to work with me and not against me if you don't feel threatened."
"You just told me I'm being hunted. I'm feeling threatened," Kerry muttered conversely from her position sprawled across the back seat. She was thinking that she really needed to start wearing a bra to bed if getting dragged out of it for vampire games was going to be a regular occurrence.
"Ah," Michel responded, and this time he was definitely amused. "But not by me."
"Why are you doing this?" Kerry asked crossly, her genuine interest being over shadowed by the ache in her lower back. Without the fear present, she couldn't help but wonder if this entire situation was not as dire as he made it seem.
"Because I haven't gotten my good deed quota for the month and June is almost over? You can get up now. It doesn't look like we're being followed. And don't you start thinking that you're safe, either. You're not."
"When have I ever been since meeting you?" Kerry muttered as she sat up.
"It doesn't matter. There are some clothes under the seat. They're even new. No ex-fuck buddy cast-offs for you this time. Thoughtful of me, isn't it?"
Since he had expertly deflected her next grump-inspired question as to where he got women's clothing - and it wasn't a lie, since there were tags still on the items - she kept her mouth shut. It remained shut even after she realized that not only did the bra fit, but so did the jeans, despite the 3 sizes she had lost since the last time she saw him.
Once she was dressed, which was not as difficult as she thought it would be, given the bagginess of her pajamas and her ability to wriggle into underwear while remaining modestly covered, she shoved her pjs into the empty Walmart bag and shoved it back under the seat. Then she climbed into the front beside him, settling in by putting her feet on the dash and buckling the seat belt.
"You're oddly quiet," he reflected after a few moments of silence.
"I've got nothing to say to you. Any question I ask will just be deflected, or you'll lie, so what's the point?"
"Never stopped you before."
"I'm a little different from the girl you met last year. Life altering events tend to do that to people. Especially kids."
Michel smiled, but it was one of the ones that seemed fake, as though he was going through the motions of charm and emotions for her benefit only. "Does that mean no more hysterics?"
"Hysterics! I was never hysterical!"
"You refused to tell me a single detail about yourself, thinking I was going to judge the quality of your life. You'd demand answers to questions I couldn't give you, and then get upset over the fact I lied. You were not pleasant company."
"Then why are you bothering with me now? Why save my life? Or am I demanding answers you can't give?"
"I owe you one," he said simply, ignoring her sarcasm.
"I thought we were even on that account," Kerry responded with a frown.
"See, that's the problem right there. You have this idea that just because I'm a vampire, that makes me some bloodsucking fiend. As if allowing you to live was some act of charity on my part. I was never going to kill you."
"You had an odd way of showing it."
Michel looked at her, exasperated. Then he chuckled. "There she is. Kerry Unforgiving."
Why did she ever think she loved this guy?
Oh yeah, he was sexy as fuck, and somehow charming in that psychotic killer way of his.
"You can go to sleep if you want," he said, once realizing she wasn't going to respond to his bait. "But in about four hours we're going to stop for the day and you'll have nothing better to do than sleep."
"I'm not tired," she told him, crossing her arms over her chest. "I think it's time you told me who's after me?"
"Do you?" His lips quirked in amusement. "Bad people."
"Can you be more specific?"
"Bad, misguided people who think you're in league with vampires."
"And you think being found with you is going to help my cause?"
"The POINT is to not be found at all. The point is to get you as far away as possible."
"And my family?" Kerry asked, thinking of who she was leaving behind to face the danger. She couldn't help wincing at the question. It was a familiar one that she had asked him before, and she couldn't help but feel foolish for asking it again. Her voice sounded childish, almost whiny and ungrateful, but she had to know.
"There are no guarantees."
"But you said…"
"Look, the best thing you can do for them is not be around when the shit hits the fan. The fact that their lives have all being in danger once is pretty much the best security they have right now. Your disappearance? Well, one teenage girl is no big deal. She probably fell into the wrong crowd, brought the whole thing on herself. Or maybe she ran away, like her mother before her…"
"Don't bring her into this!"
"BUT your family, however," Michel ploughed on. "Well people will notice if they all go missing again. Or something happens to them. It will make headlines, and if I've taught you anything it's that we avoid headlines at all costs."
That wasn't necessarily true, she knew. "I thought by people you meant that actual humans were after me," Kerry pointed out with a suspicious frown.
"You better hope not. They can cover much more ground than I can. I'm assuming that it is vampires after you. Not all of them are happy with the way I handled things, and a few of them would rather you were silenced."
Kerry felt a chill go up her spine. He didn't say anything as she shivered, probably understanding it wasn't a sign that she was cold.
"This might surprise you, but it would be the humans who would be the most efficient in hunting you, and the least sympathetic in their methods of disposal. Especially if the belief that you're a vampire got out."
"No, I don't think it did. To be honest, I don't know who's after you. I've been keeping tabs on you, and the rumour you were being hunted started circulating yesterday. I don't think it's human hunters."
"But no guarantees," she reminded him, her head swimming with all this new information. She didn't know what to make of it yet.
"There are none in life. There are no absolute promises; you're a cynic, at least most of the time, you don't need to be told this stuff. People can even have the best intentions, but things get in the way. Life happens. Plans fail."
Kerry snorted. "Way to pep-talk. That makes me feel real confident about being here with you."
Kerry recognised the unspoken signal for the end of a conversation. She allowed them to lapse into silence again, but then remembered that she had vowed to never make the same mistake she had the year before and ignore him to the point of rudeness. It was one of her major regrets - not knowing him better, and it was all her fault because she hadn't treated him as someone to talk to.
She still wasn't sure that it wasn't the right decision to make.
"Where are we going?" she finally asked, giving voice to the question most pressing on her mind.
"You've always got a question to ask, even though you know I can't answer most of them."
"This one isn't personal, and it's not about vampirehood in general. So really you're not answering just because you enjoy being mysterious and keeping me wondering. Besides, it's not fair to use my own personality as a means of deflecting my questions. That's like saying I'm never going to talk to you because you never tell me the truth."
"You should try it.," Michel smiled casually as he changed lanes to show he was joking. "You're just not asking the right questions. What you should want to know is what I'm going to do with you now. I can't take you with me forever, unless you've changed your mind on that account." He slid his gaze towards her as though gauging her reaction.
She didn't give him one and within seconds he moved on with the conversation.
"Didn't think so. Even if I could bring you with me, sooner or later they'll track us down. I have limited mobility in the summer, and it isn't rocket science that if one of them didn't get you, then it has to be me. There aren't many options."
Kerry pondered that for a second. It was true that in a few hours he'd be dead to the world, a dead-weight that would slow them down and that was dangerous to move during sunlight hours. "I could be the daylight hours for you," she offered. "We could almost triple…"
"I don't think so," he interrupted her. "One of the things vampires learn very early on is to not travel during the day unless precautions are made - like an airtight shipping container, or a hearse with a coffin - and even then you have to be with people you trust. Car trunks can fly open. Cars can be stolen, broken into, smashed in accidents. Any number of things can expose a vampire to the light. You can't even imagine how vulnerable we are because of the sun."
"No, I can't. I'm not going to argue with you, not after what I've seen - well, you know all about that. I can't sit here and say that I wouldn't get in a car accident, or get pulled over by the cops, or whatever. If you still can't trust me after the lengths I've gone to keep you alive, that's your right."
"Trust?" Michel echoed in surprise. "You're a little traitor, you know that? I got shot in the knees and almost burned alive because of you."
"I could have let you!"
"It's not my fault you got cold feet. I understand. Witnessing your first murder is a traumatizing experience. It gets easier."
Kerry made an angry noise in the back of her throat. "You terrorized me for days! Even using little sentences like that one you just threw out, making you seem like some sort of monster or something. You made me fear for my life. And you know that cold feet had nothing to do with why I saved you."
"Love? Really Kerry? Your feelings were misplaced."
"It seems so," she snarled crossly.
"I terrorized you for days. Who falls in love with someone like that?"
Kerry remained silent.
"Have you seen a psychiatrist about Stockholm Syndrome?"
"No. You want to know why? Because I kept the secret you asked me to, and a shrink would be cheating. And you know damn well that you set it up so I would have feelings for you. You charmed me even as you made me feel threatened."
"Am I really such a monster?"
Michel snorted. "You might be right. Look now, don't be angry. I played you the best way I could. There's one thing better than terror to make a young girl loyal to you."
"Bastard," Kerry muttered, but there was no heat behind the words. He was only confirming something she realized months ago. The fact that he was actually honest about it took away a little of the hostility and embarrassment she felt when thinking that her feelings for him - even as strong as they seemed to be, considering he still turned her head and made her heart flutter - had all been a product of his manipulation.
"How right you are. My mother had no idea who my father was. She met him down at the docks right before he was shipping out to war and they had a tempestuous week of sex and whirlwind romance. Eight months later, I was born and she never saw him again. She sold the promise ring he gave her to buy a crib. A very pragmatic woman, my mom. She'd like you."
"About which part?" Michel asked, looking at her with an eyebrow raised and an inquiring look on his face.
"All of it."
He laughed and shook his head. "Right again. She really would like you for not falling for my bullshit though, if she were real."
Kerry found herself grinning along with him. "If she were real I would think you were complimenting me by comparing me to your mother, but since she isn't I have to assume that you're trying to manipulate me again for some devious purpose."
"Just lightening the mood. The car ride is going to be long and uncomfortable enough without you giving off waves of animosity towards me."
"By reminding me of why I should hate you? Fail."
"I know, right?"
But they were both smiling slightly when they finished this conversation, and the silence they fell into wasn't uncomfortable at all. Kerry didn't feel the need to respond to his rhetorical question just to fill the air, just as she didn't spend the silence glaring at him hostilely or refusing to be engaged in light conversation.
If anything, they were actually getting along for once with a maintained banter that was only hinted at during their last road trip, when she let her guard down or he had succeeded in being particularly charming.
A few minutes of looking out the car window at the passing scenery, with patches of darkness interspersed with lights from houses and towns, she turned away from the view to look at him. Staring at his profile was a lot clearer than the reflection she had really been watching in the glass.
He looked the same. Maybe a little more tanned, his hair styled longer than Ethan Bryne's had been the first day they met. It was styled in that teen heart-throb way that was so popular these days, a dark fringe of hair across his brow and every once and a while he would swipe at it impatiently, making her smile to herself.
"You look good too," he told her, somehow reading her mind, but more likely her expression. "I realize that I didn't get to see the best of sixteen year old Kerry, but you looked good tonight. Sexy."
"You were following me?" She gaped, before her mind could even process the compliment. Great, he had probably been sitting two seats behind her in the movie theatre when he date copped a feel, and skulking in the bushes when she let him do it again in his car outside her house. Just what she had always wanted - a vampire watching her make out with her boyfriend.
Not just any vampire, either. Michel.
"I was hoping for an opportunity to grab you before you got home. It certainly would have been easier if I didn't have to wait for your family to get to sleep. You've got the bladder of champions."
Michel smirked. "Good thing when you're chained up in a cold abandoned subway station, sure. When someone infinitely more interesting than your grabby boyfriend is hoping to steal you on your way to the bathroom, not so much."
"I usually go through my days trying not to be stolen."
Michel slanted her a look. "You're lying. You've had a taste of excitement and you crave it now. You're dreadfully bored. That's why you didn't argue when I pulled you out of your bed at one in the morning."
"My life is fine. I don't need excitement," Kerry denied, clenching her fist against his astute observation. God, he probably knew she was lying to him again now too. She needed out of the status quo of her life so badly. But that didn't mean it had to be him. "I didn't argue with you because I don't have to argue everything," she finished.
"Oh," Kerry responded softly with the realization she had just argued the fact she didn't have to argue everything. It caused him to grin at her. "Ok, so I'm a little argumentative."
"Mmhmm," he agreed.
"Are we in Pennsylvania?" she asked, spotting a familiar landmark out the window. She put a Transylvanian accent on the state, just to make fun of him.
Michel gave her that look that said he wasn't amused, and she gave him an innocent smile in return. "We are," he told her with a suspicious lilt to his tone.
"Are we continuing down to Washington or over to New York?"
"Neither. Right now we're on our way to Williamsport."
"Williamsport?" Kerry asked incredulously. "Do people actually go there on purpose?"
"No one will think to look for us there. It's big enough that a few strangers will go unnoticed, but small enough that no one will think it's our first choice."
"Unless they think exactly like you do," Kerry pointed out.
"There is that," Michel responded with a smile. "I know of a place we can stay that is empty right now."
"One of your real estate holdings?" she asked.
"I think you just insulted my intelligence. I wouldn't bring you somewhere I could be traced."
"Wouldn't anyone hunting me figure that? So then somewhere you don't own would be the first place they look."
"There are a lot of places I don't own. I'm not exactly a business mogul."
"No," she agreed, thinking hard about the situation. She knew that even if he did manage to have extensive properties – something she had never been able to confirm – he would barely even tip the scales of everything. But she also knew that he likely wouldn't take her somewhere he didn't feel safe. And that's what it all came back to, didn't it? Michel ensuring his own survival. "But we wouldn't go somewhere you didn't know was safe. You said yourself you don't trust me, so you'd have to have faith that the place would be safe enough?"
He gave her that look again. The one that said he didn't know exactly what to do with her. "We're going to what would be considered a vampire-owned safe-house. Think of it as what you humans would consider a time-share. We all donate money – something like our version of taxes – towards purchasing places all over the world."
Kerry was silent for a long moment. "I think that's a list hunters would love to get their hands on."
Michel looked slightly surprised, his eyebrows winging up. "If they ever did, we'd have a lot more problems than just losing a good hiding place or two. All of our names and contact information are in the same database."
But he didn't respond, too busy thinking about possibilities. She noticed he didn't defend the security of the information and she wondered if it was because he realized how easily things could be hacked these days. Then Kerry realized that if he knew that, it was something he was always aware of, and if that was the case then what was he thinking about with such intensity?
It was her, she realized. He was thinking about the fact he had just told her that this database existed, and how much power was now in her possession.
He wasn't intending on letting her go.
Kerry's blood ran cold, and she felt fear flood through her mind for the first time since she had awoken with him leaning over her. Her heart rate elevated, and she knew he could probably smell the apprehension coming off her in waves.
"Finally you've caught on," he told her with a smile, pulling over to the side of the road. They were on an empty expanse of highway, with no lights visible through the woods on either side of the car.
"Michel?" Kerry squeaked.
"Do you think I would share something so important with a human?"
"No," she denied, shaking her head and backing up against the car seat. Her shoulder hit against the window as she tried to put as much distance between them as possible. With her hand she groped for the lever to open the door, but her fingers couldn't seem to reach it. She'd have to move if she wanted out of the car, but she couldn't. Michel's eyes were watching her, the look predatory.
His face was devoid of emotions but his eyes looked hungry and dangerous, glinting like someone who would enjoy the kill very much.
Kerry couldn't breathe. It felt like someone had knocked the breath out of her in a single, well-aimed punch.
"I find that I like you enough to make you an offer," he told her, his congenial expression back, but his eyes were still watching her, gauging the distance between them and knowing how quickly – to a fraction of a second – it would take to have her. "I'll drain your blood tonight Kerry, but what happens after that is your choice. Would you rather I kill you and leave your body in the woods, maybe in a shallow grave to hide your scent from scavengers? Would you like that?"
Absurdly, Kerry's mind wondered if he wanted to know if she'd like to be killed and left in the woods, or if she would like him to spend the extra moments to bury her to stop her limbs from being gnawed off by wild animals. She made a strangled sound in the back of her throat.
Even if she made it out of the car, there was nowhere to go.
"No? Well, maybe you'd like it if I fed you my blood in return?"
She inhaled sharply at the idea, shaking her head in denial but she knew that she would accept that offer if it came to that. This was not Ethan Bryne, the vampire who good naturedly let her walk away from his offer of death. The only choice he was giving her was whether she wanted death to be permanent or not.
And she didn't.
He lunged at her, his knee pressed against her thigh as he leaned forward on the seat, crowding her back against the window. He only paused for a moment so she could readjust to his position and experience a fresh sensation of terror before he grabbed her jaw and forced it to the side, barring her neck to him.
Kerry swallowed as he leaned forward. Her hands were pushing against his chest with all her strength, trying to get him away from her, but he barely seemed to notice.
Michel's mouth brushed against the pulse in her throat.
Then he was gone, sitting back in the driver's seat and shaking. Since Kerry was experiencing some trembling of her own, it took a moment for her to realize that the sound he was making was not one of a contrite man, or one trying to regain self control, but one of mirth.
"Bastard!" she gasped.
"Your face!" he crowed, giving her a wicked grin.
Kerry glared at him and sulked as he continued laughing at her expense. "Oh my goodness Nowicki, did you really think I would tell you the truth about anything vampiric? Property holdings," he snorted.
"What was I thinking?" she asked with self deprivation, going along with him as he turned the car ignition and pulled back on the highway.
Outwardly she allowed herself be convinced that it was all just a prank, but inside she knew. His eyes. There was no faking that naked predatory look in his eyes.
They arrived at the unassuming brownstone apartment less than an hour before sunrise. She hadn't spoken to him since the scare, but she could tell he was getting uneasy with how late it was. She couldn't help but wonder if the only reason she was alive was because he hadn't been sure he would have time to kill her and then make it to safety. Maybe he was planning to try again tomorrow night.
"I sincerely regret scaring you," he told her as he parked, turning in his seat to look at her. "But if this is going to work, you're going to have to trust me. I brought you here to keep you safe."
Kerry felt like laughing. Right, keep her safe. Really he was just worried she was going to yank open the curtains as he "slept." "You don't have to worry about me," she told him, narrowing her eyes. "I'm not going to play any pranks."
He reached out, running his fingers down her cheek slowly until her heart quickened in betrayal. "Let it go, please. I just carried it a little too far that's all. My judgment of your reactions has always been a little bit off."
Kerry was startled by his use of the word please. He sounded sincere, and she wondered if she was unduly treating him again. Despite her reservations, she found herself giving him a tiny smile. "Ok," she told him.
"Good," he said, climbing out of the car and circling to her side to open her door for her. She climbed out, smile getting slightly wider. "It sticks sometimes," he said by way of explanation, putting a hand on her arm to keep her there as he opened the back door and grabbed the bag with her clothing in it and another of groceries he had picked up at the same time. As he carried these to the side door of the building, she couldn't help but reflect on his ingrained manners and wonder once again how old he was and who he had been.
The apartment he let her into was small, but it was clean, not showing any neglect of time without anyone living there. She wondered if there was a maid, or if anything about the "time-share" bit was true. If it was, did that mean the house in Brockport that she loved so much didn't actually belong to him?
Contemplating this, she cast her eye around the apartment, both curious and critical. "How many bedrooms?" she asked, noticing three doors off a small hallway. It was more of a nook, but she had seen stranger layouts before. Before he could answer, she opened the first door and came across a linen closet, which pretty much told her what was behind the other two. Any fool would realize it had to be a bathroom and a bedroom.
"One," he told her, standing in the doorway of the kitchen with a can of soup in one hand. It was obvious she had interrupted him taking things out of the bag, but where he was putting them was another matter altogether. She thought it was ridiculous that he would store it all in a cupboard if they were only here a night. And really, what was there to store? A can of soup, a can of Chef Boy-r-dee, a package of coconut covered donuts, and a few cans of various pop and juice. He got variety for the two meals she would need.
"I figured that out, thanks," she told him, raising an eyebrow and wondering why he was still looking at her expectantly. "Is there something you want to tell me?"
He shook his head. "No, I was just waiting for you to go all Victorian-era chaste on me and ask where I was going to sleep if there was only one room."
Kerry crossed her arms over her chest. "Well for one thing, you won't really be "sleeping" now will you? So you hardly need to be on the bed. However, I'm not exactly going to tell you you can't be in the room if it is the safest one in the apartment."
His face was expressionless. "It is. That's why I'm taking it. You can have the couch."
Kerry glowered. "What is this? Reverse Victorian-chaste? I actually have to SLEEP, ergo I should get the bed."
"Really? Did you just ergo me?" His lips quirked into a smirk. "Ok, we'll share. Deal?"
She stared at him and then took a step forward to open the door to the bedroom, revealing a bed almost the full size of the room. The room was pretty small so she thought it might only be a double, but she didn't have any objections to sharing it. They were both rather slim people, and it wasn't like he would be moving much once the sun came up.
Kerry backed up out of the doorway. "Ok, deal."
He smirked at her, that quirk of lips that told her he was amused for some reason, but probably not any reason she would want to know. "Why don't you snoop?" he offered, too late to actually be an offer since she was already rifling through the drawer next to her.
"I think I'll save that until tomorrow," she told him, still looking intently at the odds and ends stored in the small space. If this wasn't someone's home, why was there a miscellaneous button, numerous pens, and everything that should be in a junk drawer? She looked up and met his eyes, noticing dimly that he had put the can down and was now leaning against the frame of the kitchen very nonchalantly. "Even if I sleep for a good eight hours, I'll still have hours to kill."
"Mmmm," he hummed, agreeing. Then he straightened and indicated to the couch. "Your pj's should still be in the bag."
Kerry grabbed the bag, recognizing the change of subject to mean he was giving her a chance to change into her pajamas. She didn't understand why until she returned from the bathroom and found him already lounging on the far side of the bed, allowing her easy access to and from the door. He also dispensed of some of the awkwardness there would have been if they had to discuss the matter. He was ignoring her entirely, reading a book she had seen on the table in the living room.
Quietly, she crept to her side of the bed, trying her best not to disturb him and feeling foolish for it even as she continued. As softly as she could, Kerry eased into bed and drew the covers over herself. At first, she turned away from him and faced the wall, but then she thought she was creating some kind of elephant in the middle of the bed and so she turned to her back. Finally, she turned to look at him, noting embarrassedly that his lips were turned up slightly at the corners.
It was his sign that he was trying not to laugh at her. "You're ridiculous, you know that?"
He turned to look at her and quirked her a heart-stopping grin as he placed the open book between them. Suddenly, the atmosphere between them became intimate and close, and Kerry could feel her heart start to yammer as she tried not to look at his mouth.
Stop it, she told herself. You have a boyfriend, remember?
Yeah, her mind agreed, betraying her, but that's only because Michel wasn't available.
"Are you done?" he asked, brushing his thumb across her lower lip so that it became malleable under his touch and she stopped biting it with her teeth.
"I…" she breathed.
"Kerry," he responded softly, his fingers drifting down to her neck and caressing the pulse-point with a feathery touch.
She hummed in the back of her throat, unwittingly leaning towards him with hopeful eyes.
"Don't worry," he continued, drawing away. "There's no time for anything to happen tonight."
The next evening found them back in the car, travelling towards New York City. Michel was quiet, intent on driving, and Kerry didn't have anything to say to him either. When she had awoken slightly after noon she had done the required snooping through drawers, cupboards, the pockets of his pants, but had found nothing. She hadn't even found a wallet on him, despite actually bodily turning him over so she could check the back pockets.
Groping him had been slightly fun, but finding out what name he was going by these days would have been more so.
To make matters worse, she was pretty sure he noticed being moved when he "woke up" from being dead. Even the slightest of millimeters would have been obvious to someone who lost life at sunup and then didn't experience anything until the sun went down. It probably seemed to happen in the blink of an eye for him.
"Did you have a good day?" he finally asked, breaking the silence.
She shrugged. "Not really. I couldn't find your wallet," she said honestly. "Where are we going?"
"Tonight? New York City," he told her.
Kerry had already figured that one out, considering he had pulled into the lane heading in that direction about 15 miles back.
"Mmm," she agreed, less than impressed by his capability to share.
Michel let out an aggravated sigh that was probably more for show than any reluctance to actually talk to her. "I'm taking you to the FBI. They joined the hunt for you last night and out of everyone looking for you right now, they're the most likely to protect you and make sure you get home."
Kerry stared at him for a moment. "I'll be able to go home?" she asked, tone far more hopeful than it had any right to be.
"Sure," Michel responded with a shrug.
She didn't think to ask how he had gotten that information when he had been with her for every second of the last 24 hours, and to be honest she didn't care.
They made surprisingly detailed smalltalk for the rest of the trip, Kerry telling him the story of how she and Nelle almost blew up a display at the autumn festival and Michel returning the favour by telling her about a horrible date he experienced last month.
By the time they reached NYC, both were chatting carefree and amicably, each story tinged with self-censorship they both ignored. Finally, Michel drew to a stop in front of a large brownstone building.
"The FBI?" Kerry asked unnecessarily, looking at the sign above the door. "For some reason I thought it would be more covert."
"Stall as long as you can to give me a chance to get away."
"Ok," Kerry said, frowning in confusion. "Are you wanted by the Feds or something? Or does it have something to do with you trying to kill me."
Michel didn't say anything, simply observed her. She was turned facing him, so when he leaned forward close to her, she couldn't help but move closer to him.
"I didn't mean to startle you last night," he crooned against her ear, his cheek pressed against hers and his hand rubbing up and down her back in comforting motions. "It seemed appropriate at the time."
Kerry bit her tongue, not responding to the apology. He was only trying to put her at ease, but all it served to do was remind her that there was nothing appropriate – seemingly or otherwise – about his behavior. He hadn't intended it to keep her in line, or to scare her into following his orders. On the surface she could tell herself it had been about making her keep another secret for him out of bald fear, but her intuition told her that wasn't the case.
"You don't believe me?" he asked, stiffening in her loose embrace.
And damn, if she didn't hear hurt in his voice.
"No," she whispered, despite the screams in her head telling her not to say anything.
Michel chuckled, the hand weaved through her hair tightening until he was forcing her head back by the pressure on her roots. He wasn't hurting her, almost deliberately she thought, but just making it so she had to look him in the eye. "Good girl," he said, not quite with fondness, but not neutrally either.
Kerry opened her mouth to tell him to go to hell, and he took the opportunity to kiss her, his mouth harsh against hers. Just as suddenly, he moved away. "You could be mine," he said roughly looking at her. Judging her. "Go."
She didn't hesitate to scramble out of the car and into the building. The receptionist at the door recognized her immediately as she came in, already on the phone as Kerry approached her desk.
So it was true what Michel had said. She was being hunted and the FBI was just one of the parties searching for her right now. If Michel was right about that, she could only assume he also told her the truth about the FBI being the good guys, only wanting to protect an innocent girl after they received news that she was prey to something bigger and more dangerous than her, or possibly even them.
It still sounded farfetched to Kerry. In all her experience with the FBI – granted it was limited to television and movies – they never seemed to care about a single victim.
It didn't take long before she was escorted to a waiting room with a couch and a magazine rack. The casualness of the environment didn't fool Kerry. She was under observation, and possibly later interrogation.
Turned out it was far later. She watched the sun come up from the eighth floor window, the rays drastically hampered by the tall buildings surrounding this one, but nonetheless no one came to talk to her until daylight was firmly established. As was her humanity.
"I'm sorry for keeping you waiting," a man in a suit finally said from the doorway just as she had finished the last available issue of US Weekly. Next she was going to have to move on to Forbes, so she looked at him with far more relief that was necessary. "I'm Agent Taylor."
"Kerry Nowicki," she told him with a smile. It was just as well it took them so long. She had promised Michel she'd allow him as much time as possible to get away. She wasn't sure why he needed to get away, but she could guess from their wary treatment of her that maybe this agency didn't combat just terrorists.
"I have to tell you Miss Nowicki, we didn't think you had a chance and we can't be too careful around here. We heard about the danger to your life at some point last night." Here he rubbed a hand over his face. "I mean the night before last. We were too late to get to you and we were sure he got there first. It was thought that you were dead until you walked in here. He had enough time to turn you."
"Who did?" she asked.
"The vampire who was sent to kill you. The vampire known as Michael. I believe you know him as Ethan Bryne."
Kerry stared at him in shock and then she burst out laughing. If it was slightly hysterical, she didn't notice. "Kill me?" she asked. "Who do you think brought me here? He saved me!"
A part of her couldn't help but wonder why. In the front seat of his car, after he had driven her out to a secluded section of woods far enough from her home that she would never be found by search parties, why had he made the choice not to end her life?
Maybe he actually liked her more than she thought.