Moon Child (Vampire for Hire #4)

Chapter 4

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Chapter Seven

While the doctors fussed with my son, I stepped out of the room and headed quickly for the elevators.

My hands shook the entire way down, even when I held them tightly together. As I stepped past the receptionist and security guards, I found myself cursing God, the Universe and everything in-between for putting me in such a shitty situation. The security guard said something to me, but I couldn't hear him. I hid my face and walked quickly out into the night. Certainly, this hadn't been the first time he'd seen an upset mother.

Outside, I took in a lot of air, filling my dead lungs, walking in tight circles, running my hands through my hair. I was a wreck. The tears flowed.

What had I done? What had I done to my baby boy?

You saved him, I thought. You saved him, dammit.

I fished out my cell phone from my handbag and called my rock, the man I had leaned on for so long, the man who had been just a name until recently. Now he was a name and a face…and teeth.

"It's late, Moon Dance," he said, his voice groggy. He yawned loudly, smacking his lips a little. It was only recently that my relationship with Fang had graduated from instant messaging to phone conversations and even personal meetings. Even so, I was still getting used to the gentle sound of Fang's voice. A mellow tenor, so different than Kingsley's deep baritone. "How's your son?" he asked.

I told him much better. Much, much better, and he snapped awake instantly. I filled him in on my night, a night that had taken me from the depths of the Pacific Ocean, to my son's side, and feeding him from my bleeding wrist.

Fang said nothing at first. As he digested this information, I realized that just by hearing his soothing voice I had calmed down enough to stop my hands from shaking. As I waited for Fang to speak, I saw a man standing in a nearby pool of light, smoking and looking up towards the heavens. The gleam of tears on his cheeks was evident. A children's hospital in the dead of night is not a good place for a parent to be.

Finally, Fang said, "So, you really did it?"

"I had to."

"I'm not judging, Moon Dance. Actually, I think you made the right choice. A brave choice."

"Then why do I feel so horrible?"

"Because it's the unknown. Because it just happened. You saved your son, honey. He's alive because of you. Because of his mommy."

But I couldn't escape the feeling of being selfish, that I had exposed my son to something dark and horrible just to keep him alive, just to keep me from dealing with a lifetime of heartbreak.

"You're not being selfish, Sam," said Fang, using my real name, which he rarely did. He also read my thoughts, which was of no surprise since he and I had developed an unusual psychic connection over the years. And meeting him recently for the first time had only enhanced that connection. "It's your job to look out for your son. It's your job to keep him safe from harm."

"But look what I've done to him."

"Only temporarily, Sam. Remember the medallion."

"But what if it doesn't work?"

"But what if it does?" he countered.

"You're ever the optimist."

"My friend is a gloomy vampire. Someone has to be the optimist in this relationship."

"But what about the psychological harm? I mean, even if I can turn him back, will he ever have a normal life again?"

The man smoking nearby snubbed out his cigarette. He glanced at me once and I saw the darkness around his heart. I didn't know what that meant, but I suspected its implication: someone close to him was going to die. I tried to smile and he tried to smile, but in the end, we only stared at each other with empty eyes as he slipped back into the hospital.

Fang was thinking hard on his end. He was always thinking hard for me. Always helping. Always working through my problems with me.

"It's because I'm a helluva guy," he said, picking up on my thoughts.

"And because you're obsessed with vampires."

"Well, someone has to be. Now, speaking of vampires…six years ago, after your attack, when did you first realize that you were something, ah, something different?"

"When did I first realize that I was a vampire?"

"Yes."

"Weeks later. But I knew something was vastly wrong only a few days later."

"But did you suspect you were a vampire?"

"No. Not at first. I just knew something was wrong."

"When did you crave blood?"

"A few days later."

"How many days later?"

I thought back to my time in the hospital, and then to my first few days at home. "Four days. But I thought I was low on iron or something."

I had an image of my son drinking blood and it was almost too much to bear. I started pacing again and hating myself all over again.

"Calm down, Moon Dance," said Fang, despite the fact that I hadn't said anything, so pure was our mental connection. "The way I see it, you have four days to find him a cure."

I stopped pacing; he was right.

He went on. "You have four days before your son realizes that something is wrong, that he's something different."

"Four days," I said. Relief flooded me. My God, he was right. I had four days to find a cure.

"Four days, Sam, to unlock the secret to the medallion."

"I gotta go," I said. "Love ya."

The words caught him by surprise, as they did me.

"Love ya, too," he said after a short pause, and clicked off.

Chapter Eight

I checked on my son.

According to the doctor on staff – a young guy who could not have looked more bewildered – Anthony's fever was dropping at an astonishing rate, even though the fever hadn't appeared to break; as in, my son hadn't yet broken out in a sweat.

More astonishing, at least to the doctors, were his eyes. Red, swollen eyes were a hallmark of Kawasaki disease. Anthony's eyes, however, had shown marked improvement. In fact, there was no indication of redness and the swelling was nearly gone. Same with his tongue. "Strawberry tongue" was common with children with Kawasaki disease. His tongue was a normal, healthy pink. Same with his hands and feet, which had earlier developed severe erythema of the palms and soles, now appeared normal and healthy.

The doctor just stood there by my son's side, blinking and stammering and smiling. He was certain he was witnessing a miracle. He had – just a very different kind of miracle.

When the doctor left to order some blood work, I sat by my son's side, holding his warm hands. He continued staring at me quietly, and I was having a hard time looking him in the eye. Did he know what I had done? I didn't think so, but I suspected he knew on a very deep level. The soul level, perhaps. His outer level, the physical level, was still confused and wondering.

Finally, he spoke, and my son's little voice sounded strong. He told me he felt weird and sick to his stomach. I remember feeling sick to my stomach, too. Years ago, I had been attacked in the woods while jogging, an attack that had changed my life forever.

Why? I asked myself again. Why attack me? For what purpose? What good was a vampire mama?

For now, though, I comforted my son as best as I could. I asked him if he was hungry and he shook his head emphatically, his black locks whipping back and forth about his forehead. I really needed to get him a haircut.

I told him to rest. He nodded and I hugged him tightly and did my best to ignore the guilt that gripped my heart. Six years ago, after my attack, I had slept often throughout those first four days. Perhaps the length of time necessary for the body to fully assimilate the vampire blood, for the transformation to be complete. I didn't know.

Anthony would be sleeping often for the next four days, and for that I was thankful. After all, I was going to be busy looking for answers. And since his health was now assured, I felt free to leave his side.

I gave him a kiss on his cooling forehead just as he was drifting off to sleep. I got up from his side and closed the curtains tight, and slipped out of the room and out of the hospital and headed for my minivan.

I checked my watch as I stepped in. Two hours before sunlight.

As I started my vehicle, I made a call to the only other vampire in the world that I knew.

Chapter Nine

I was at Detective Hanner's home in Fullerton.

The home was located in the hills above the city, and as we sat together on her second-story deck, she pointed out the rooftop of another home, barely distinguishable among a copse of thick trees. According to Hanner, the old man there was a Kabbalistic grandmaster, and was considered by many to be immortal himself.

"Then again," said Detective Hanner, crossing her bare legs and flashing me a grin, "neighbors do tend to talk."

"What, exactly, is a Kabbalistic grandmaster?"

"One who has mastered the nuances of the Kabbalah, the esoteric Jewish doctrine that facilitates a deeper connection with the great unknown, helps one gain a profound understanding of other realities and illuminates the meaning of life." Hanner turned her face toward me and I was struck again by the wildness of her eyes. They belonged to something untamed and free and hungry, a puma hunting at night, a tiger hunting in the jungles, a lion tracking its prey across the Serengeti. She grinned fiercely and added, "Or something like that."

Hanner, who had known about my plans to help my son, did not know about the medallion. Wrong or not, I trusted my new friend, and so I told her about it, and about what I needed: answers to unlocking its secret.

"Where did you get the medallion, Sam?"

"From the vampire who attacked me."

"Amazing. Others have been looking for it for a very long time. Others like us."

"There are that many who seek to end their lives?" I asked, confused.

She shrugged. "Or there are others who seek to end the lives of other immortals."

"I don't understand," I said.

"There are some immortals who are so old, so powerful, that they cannot be killed by any means, Sam."

"And the medallion could kill them?"

"Perhaps. That's the theory at least."

I shook my head, amazed all over again. "I just want my son returned to me."

Pain flashed briefly over her face, and although her thoughts were impenetrable to me and her aura was non-existent, I was still a mother and an investigator and I could read her like a book. She was thinking of the loss of her own son who had died years ago.

Tears filled her eyes and, perhaps embarrassed, she changed the subject. "You must be famished," she said, standing.

I was. I hadn't eaten tonight and it was hitting me hard. Not to mention I had given copious amounts of my own blood to my son.

Hanner disappeared into her impressive home, and while I waited the electrified particles of light in the sky seemed agitated and frenzied, but that could have been my imagination. Or a reflection of my own inner struggles. I was having a hard time holding onto a thought for long, before it slipped away into the ether, to be quickly replaced by an equally chaotic thought.

She mercifully appeared a few minutes later, holding two full wine goblets that were filled with anything but wine. She handed one to me, which I eagerly accepted.

The glass was warm. "Fresh blood," I said.

"Of course."

"But where?"

"I have an arrangement with a mortal, Sam. A few mortals, in fact. Most of us do. It makes our lives easier."

I nodded but was soon drinking hungrily. Hell, I nearly bit through the glass. As I drank I was aware of Hanner watching me from over her own glass, her eyes as wild as I had ever seen them. I could only imagine what my own looked like.

Like an animal. A hungry animal.

I didn't savor the blood. In fact, I barely tasted it, so quickly did it pass over my lips and down my throat and into my stomach, where it interacted on some supernatural level with my own supernatural body.

When you don't need to come up for air, one can quickly down a glass of blood, and shortly it was finished but I was hesitant to return it. After all, there was still some blood pooling in the bottom and coating the inside of the glass.

"Thank you," I said, then motioned to the empty glass. "And thank…whoever provided this."

"Oh, I will." And she said that with such enthusiasm I briefly wondered what other kind of arrangement she had with her donors.

The hemoglobin had an immediate effect, no doubt due to its freshness. Rarely had I drank blood so fresh and pure. Even the stuff provided by Kingsley had no doubt been days or weeks old, and stored in his refrigerator.

This was different. This was straight from the source, and it was so damn good. Unable to control myself, I tilted the bloody goblet up and waited for the last few drops to crawl down, where I eagerly lapped them up. Once done, I used the edge of my index finger to scrape the inside of the glass clean.

"I'm a ghoul," I said, embarrassed.

"No different than licking brownie batter from a whisk. At least, that's what I tell myself."

"I'll tell myself that, too, but I think I'll pretend its chocolate chip cookie dough."

She smiled and sipped her own drink much more lady-like than I had. I set my glass down and secretly wished for another.

Such a ghoul.

Hanner said, "You should consider getting your own donor, Samantha. They are terribly important. I cannot imagine what you have been feeding on these past few years."

"You don't want to know."

"No, I suppose I don't."

We were silent some more and I finally set aside the glass, which had now been completely scraped clean. I found myself idly sucking under my nail.

"You are in an interesting situation, Sam."

"I don't know if I would use the word interesting," I said. "Frightening, perhaps."

"You misunderstand," said Hanner, and not for the first time I detected an odd lilt to her voice. "I mean, you have been given an interesting choice regarding your son."

"You mean I had been given," I said. "I already made my choice, remember, and now I must turn him back before it's too late, before he realizes what his mother has done to him."

"You misunderstand again, so let me explain clearly: Sam, you have a chance to be with your son…forever."

Her words didn't immediately sink in, but when they did, when the full realization of them hit, I was left speechless and my mouth hanging open.

"Eternity is a long, long time, Sam. Too long to be alone. Now, you will never have to be alone. Ever…" Her voice trailed off and she looked away and somewhere in the far distance a coyote howled. At least, I think it was a coyote.

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