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“Hey! Watch where you’re swinging that ax!” I yelled as the blade whistled through the air, grazing my cheek. “I’m helping you bring that demon down, you know. The least you could do is try not to lop off my head.”
The demon, a nasty little number, was covered with slimy brown scales. It ducked, but not before Connie’s ax connected with its shoulder. The demon howled in pain and outrage and backed further into the corner of the alley where we had trapped it.
“Is head-lopping one of the ways you can kill a vampire?” Connie asked. She never took her gaze off the demon, but her eyes lit up with a deadly fervor that made me cringe. I knew her question was a reference to me.
“Well, yes,” I admitted. “One of the few.” The demon made a break for it, but I caught him in the jaw with my fist—if that lump below its mouth was a jaw—and spun him back into the corner.
Connie sighed. “I have so much to learn. So many vampires; so little time.”
Our friend Werm, who’d acted as bait to lure the creature into the side street where Connie and I were hiding, danced back and forth. I knew he was looking for an opening so he could use the ninja throwing stars he’d ordered from a martial arts catalog. He’d gotten each of them specially engraved with an ankh, which is the ancient Egyptian symbol for eternal life. The ankh is also a good-luck charm for vampires—or so he told me. Werm can be ridiculous at times. Even though his greatest weapon is his ability to make himself invisible, he’d still rather play with kung fu toys.
“And as for you,” I warned, pointing at him, “if I wind up with one of those chunks of steel sticking out of my forehead, I’m going to make you rue the day you begged to be made into a vampire.”
“What makes you think I don’t rue it already?” Werm asked, holstering his ninja stars with a pout. The little goth had thought being a vamp would be all fun and games and give him a chance to scare the shit out of guys who used to kick sand in his face. He didn’t figure close-quarters demon fighting would be part of the deal.
The demon charged me and I kicked it in the side, slamming it back into the wall. Connie raised her ax again and swung with almost as much speed and strength as I myself could have mustered. The demon’s head left its shoulders with a spray of blood. As its body fell forward onto the pavement, it instantaneously turned into a pile of dirt. The smell mixed with the sickening-sweet stench of the nearby Dumpster and made my nose twitch with disgust.
“Another one bites the dust, uh, huh,” Connie sang with a little victory dance. I watched in awe as she shimmied her shapely booty. I wasn’t quite sure whether I should be grossed out by her bloodlust or turned on by it, but I seemed to be a little of both. Maybe I’d inherited William’s infamous death wish along with all his responsibilities.
“I’m going back to the club,” Werm said. “Call me when you need me.”
As I waved him off, Connie turned her attention to me, noticing the trickle of blood running down my cheek. Her eyes dilated, the pupils turning into slits. Her irises were bloodred. She grabbed me by the neck and pulled my face next to hers so quickly it startled me. I searched her eyes for a sign of my old Connie, and didn’t see it. Would she ever be back? Or was she lost and gone forever, lost in the shell of this vicious, half-human killer standing in front of me now?
When she pressed her lips to my cheek, I felt myself go weak in the knees. She hadn’t shown me any affection since. . . well, since the night I tried to kill her. Of course that had been for her own good.
I quickly realized it wasn’t her lust for me that had caused her to move her lovely lips along my skin, though it had sent a shiver down my spine and a throb of desire running everywhere else. As a dhampir, she was part vampire, part human, part goddess. She was savoring my blood for its flavor and its power. She was a predator now, and I was her prey of choice. She flicked out her tongue and lapped away the dribble of my blood.
“Mmm. Good to the last drop,” she murmured in a throaty whisper.
Even as I glanced down to see her pull back her lips and reveal her small fangs, I felt more yearning than terror. She was driven to kill me, after all, and I swear if it weren’t for Mel and Renee, I would have let her. I was tempted to just tell her to get it over with, as long as she made love to me one last time.
I closed my eyes, relishing the serrated rasp of those fangs across my skin, and nearly swooned. I know, I know. Kick-ass vampires with superpowers like me don’t swoon. But you don’t know Connie. Her hot breath burned from my cheek to my neck.
“Please,” I heard myself beg.
“Please what?” Her tongue probed the hollow of my throat, searing my cold, dead flesh.
I bit my tongue to keep myself from murmuring, Kill me. It was tempting, but too many innocent people depended on me for their safety. I couldn’t take the easy way out. As much as I might want to die in Connie’s arms, perish at the point of her fangs and be done with it, I couldn’t.
I took hold of her shoulders and gently pushed her away from me, breaking the suction lock she had on my neck. “Remember our agreement,” I muttered. “I help you with the demon killing, and you don’t eat me.”
“You’re going to get a nice bloodred hickey,” she teased, ignoring me.
I rubbed at the spot on my neck. It was difficult getting used to the new Connie. Before, she had been a no-nonsense woman. Oh, she had a great sense of humor and could be as playful and fun-loving as anyone, but when it came to matters of life and death—which it came to often because she’s a cop—she was as serious as a heart attack and always in control. But the way she went about catching demons as a slayer was altogether different from the way she went about catching regular bad guys as a detective.
When she was activated as the Slayer, she’d turned wild, unpredictable, and vicious. Travis Rubio, who was her father and one of the only vampires who had faced down slayers and lived to tell the tale, said she would achieve more self-control as she matured. But for now, to her way of thinking, the only good vampire was a dead vampire. I hoped that as time went on, she would develop some discrimination. I longed to be able to reason with her, to convince her to fight at our side against the evil ones. I only hoped I could keep her from killing me before we reached an agreement.
And I also hoped to keep my beloved Melaphia, the voodoo queen, from killing Connie to avenge William’s death. What was done was done. He was the first vampire whom Connie had slain, and nothing could bring him back now.
The whole situation really was a nightmare, but William would have been the first to approve of my strategy of convincing Connie to come over to our side. And he would have been the first to forgive her, too. An evil vampire named Damien, with the help of two other vampires, Eleanor and Reedrek, had manipulated the time and place of Connie’s official switchover into slayer mode, and William had been in that wrong place at the wrong time.
As I studied the predatory gleam in Connie’s eye and the way she licked the last drop of my blood from her ruby lips, I figured my efforts to keep her from killing me had at best a fifty-fifty chance. She made a little feint toward my neck and I dodged away.
“You’re no fun,” she said, thrusting out her bottom lip in the pretty pout that still drove me to distraction. “And you and Werm are not much help, either. The only demons we’ve killed are the ones I could have identified myself because they have scales and stuff. I thought you were going to help me sniff out the ones who aren’t so obvious, the ones who chose to take over human bodies.”
“Oh, yeah, that,” I began as if I’d forgotten our deal. “I’ll be doing plenty of that. But we have to get rid of the obvious ones first so the humans won’t panic.” I pointed to the pile of dirt that used to be a monster. “I mean, if this guy had decided to wander into Clary’s, sit down at the lunch counter, and order up a plate of humans on the half shell, it would have made the national news, and we can’t have that, can we?”
“No, I guess not,” Connie agreed reasonably. I wondered if her fellow cops had noticed the recent change in her. Maybe she went back to acting normal when she wasn’t in the presence of vampires.