Klaus dashed back into the trees, and tugged the stolen denim up his legs. They were too long, but a quick roll of the hems took care of that. His face fell into confusion as he finally looked at the graphic on the T. What was a “Hootie?”
At least it was clean and only about two sizes too large.
On bare feet, he darted through the trees to the old truck containing the distressed damsel and cautiously approached the passenger door. He quickly rapped out a pattern on the window and couldn’t quite contain his amusement when the young lady startled so abruptly her head made a resounding thunk when it struck the window in the driver’s side door.
Her hand flew up to the side of her head and she gaped at him, eyes wide in terror. After a moment, she released a great whooshing breath.
“Who … who are you?” she stuttered weakly. She wiped at her eyes and face with a crumpled paper towel and huddled against the door.
To Klaus, she looked very young in the dim light of the antique dashboard, but perhaps that was because her dark brown eyes were still bright with tears and she looked so lost and afraid. He felt the faintest twinge of sympathy for her. Perhaps he wouldn’t drain her. Completely. Yet.
He donned his most reassuring smile. The passenger window was open about an inch and he aimed his reply there. “Well, it’s very late, and I thought a young woman wouldn’t be parked on the side of the road, unless she required assistance. Perhaps I could help?”
She scrubbed at her face with the long sleeves that covered her hands and nervously brushed a lock of hair behind an ear. “Maybe? I don’t know what happened. It just stopped and I have to … um, I … I don’t know.”
Klaus walked unhurriedly around the front of the truck and paused at the driver door, noting that window was also open just a bit. He subtly breathed in her lovely scent. “Maybe I could take a look? Try to start it for you?’ He peered intently into her eyes, willing her to trust him.
“Um.” The young woman leaned away from the window and looked around the cab, eyes darting here and there.
Intriguing. She seemed to be immune to being compelled. He could detect no hint of vervain at all. Curiouser and curiouser.
Waiting patiently as she made her decision, he couldn’t blame her for being nervous. But he had nowhere to be and if she didn’t allow him in the vehicle, mere glass wouldn’t keep him out.
At last, sighing in resignation, she unlocked the door, grabbed her purse from the bench seat, clutched it to her chest, and scooted across the worn vinyl until her back was against the passenger door. Then she shoved her hand inside the bag.
Klaus didn’t think she had a concealed firearm, but he wouldn’t relish being shot with pepper spray either.
Unhurriedly, so as not to frighten her, he opened the door and winced at the loud squealing creak. He smiled brightly at her again and leaned in to look over the antique instrument panel. “People call me Klaus, by the way. And you are?”
“Hello, Bella Swan.” He tapped lightly at one of the gauges and frowned. “I believe you’ve run out of gasoline.”
“What?” She stared at him blankly. “No. There’s no way.” She lurched forward, dropping her purse and grabbing the steering wheel. She stared at the gauges, glanced at Klaus, and then gawked at the gauges. Dawning realization soon overtook disbelieving panic and she curled backward in slow motion until she seemed to collapse in on herself, drawing her knees up and covering her face with her hands.
“Oh, my god. How stupid … Why didn’t I … I should’ve seen … Oh, god.” She burst into a fresh torrent of tears. “I just got gas in Shreveport!”
Spotting a roll of paper towels jammed under the edge of the seat, Klaus tore one off and held it toward her. “There, there, Bella Swan. It’ll be all right. If I could borrow your phone, as I seem to have misplaced mine, I could call roadside assistance?” Again, he gave her his most reassuring smile.
As if on automatic pilot, she picked up her purse and reached inside, but then froze.
“No. No. You don’t understand.” She snatched at the paper towel and noisily blew her nose. “I just filled up in Shreveport. She must have done something to my truck when I went inside to the bathroom. I thought I was …” A heart-rending wail halted her words.
Klaus was at a loss. Who did something to the truck? Someone was after his damsel?
“Oh, shit,” Bella choked out, eyes wide again with renewed panic. “Klaus! You have to leave! She’s coming!” She lunged forward and shoved him away. “Get out of here before she shows up. She’ll kill you, too!”
Klaus was so startled by the young woman’s abrupt actions, he staggered back a few steps before he had the presence of mind to grab the frame of the door, preventing her from slamming it shut.
“Bella Swan,” Klaus spoke softly, “Surely whoever is after you won’t show herself while I, a witness, is here.”
“That won’t stop her,” Bella cried as she tried to pry his fingers loose. “She kills everybody—anybody! You have to leave before she gets here! Please!” she begged him.
Klaus caught her hand. Her attempt to remove his from the door had exposed a faintly shimmering scar on her wrist. A scar that looked suspiciously like a human bite. It had been years since he’d seen a similar mark, but he knew what it was. He forced himself not to stare at it.
His night had just become a lot more interesting. “I assure you, Bella Swan, whoever she is, she won’t kill me.”
A lively tinkling laugh sounded from out of the surrounding darkness. “Is that right?”
In the glare of the headlights stood a pale woman with flowing red curls cascading over her shoulders. Dressed in a denim jacket over a plain white T-shirt tucked into a faded pair of jeans, one hand rested casually on her hip, while the other was raised, fingers fluttering in a saucy wave. “Hello, Bella. Who’s your friend?”
“Victoria,” Bella gasped, barely able to breathe. “Klaus, I am so sorry. You were just trying to help. You don’t deserve to die.”
“Die?” A grin spread widely over his face and a flash of flaming yellow lit his blue eyes. “We shall see about that, Bella Swan.”
He chucked her under the chin with the side of a curled index finger and disappeared. The next instant, he reappeared in front of the redhead, grabbing her by the hair on top of her head, and ripping off her left arm and flinging it away. Before Victoria even had time to draw breath to scream, Klaus shoved her to her knees, snarled, grabbed her right hand, and sank his exposed fangs into her wrist.
Victoria’s blood red eyes nearly bulged from their sockets as she stared at the fangs buried in her remaining arm. She recovered from the shock, and with a shriek, tried to pull away from him, but he yanked his teeth from her arm, jerked her head back, and went for her throat. He held her there for several long moments while she futilely kicked and flopped about, her terrified screeches and cries growing weaker and more garbled.
Gradually, her movements became even more feeble and Klaus threw her to the ground. He stood upright and used the long tail of the T-shirt to wipe his face and mouth. He smirked as he looked down his nose at Victoria.
She trembled and clawed at the weeping wound on her neck. Her eyes opened a mere slit. “Who … are you?”
“Just Klaus. Klaus Mikaelson.”
With a body-wracking shudder, Victoria’s eyes squeezed shut and she tried to turn away but only groaned piteously instead.
“So, you’ve heard of me.” Delighted, Klaus smiled broadly and turned to check on his strangely silent damsel. Where was the screaming?
She appeared to be in shock.
As Klaus approached the vehicle, Bella asked, “Is she dead?”
“Oh, no,” Klaus answered with a chuckle. “Only fire eliminates her kind.” He propped one hand on the door frame, reached in with the other and gently took hold of her scarred wrist. “But I suspect you knew that.” He leaned forward and placed a light kiss on the glimmering mark. “My venom appears to be affecting her.”
“Your … v—?” Bella gulped. Her blank, glazed eyes shifted to Klaus’ amused ones. “What are you?”
“If I told you …” He tilted his head down and looked up at her, an undeniable glint of mischief in his eyes. “Could you love me anyway?”