Moon Dance (Vampire for Hire #1)

Chapter 21

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41.

Danny was sitting up against the headboard, his knees drawn up against his chest. A sort of guy version of the fetal position. He was watching me with wary eyes. Who would blame him?

Although the room was dark, I could see the red welts around his neck. He had regained his breath and I had calmed considerably. The fury that overcame me had nothing to do with the vampire in me, and everything to do with the mother in me.

"I have given strict instruction to my attorney to release sealed information concerning your…disease," he said. His voice was ragged and torn, as if he were speaking through a very old microphone. Or a very damaged throat. "That is, should anything suspicious happen to me."

"What do you mean?" I was sitting on the edge of the bed. A sick realization came over me. Danny, despite my threats of bodily harm, would have the upper hand in this situation.

"I've completely detailed everything about your vampirism. Everything. From your attack six years ago to your account with the butchery in Norco."

"No one will believe it. They'll think you're crazy."

"Maybe, maybe not."

"What does that mean, Danny?"

"I've included in the packet two additional items. A video of me holding a mirror up to you while you slept, and a vial of your own tainted blood."

"Are you insane?" I asked.

"Maybe. But I want the kids, and I want them safe, and I want you to stay away and keep your filthy hands off me�Dand them."

We were silent again as I absorbed all of this. I was stuck. Whether or not anyone believed his story or bothered to test the vial of blood was debatable, but one I could not chance. I had known early on that I could never, ever risk being exposed.

"What about the kids?" I asked.

He took a deep breath and drew his knees up higher. "I'm taking the kids, Samantha."

I needed a clear mind for this. He was leaving, that much I understood, that much I could try to deal with. But to take the kids….

When I spoke again, I was the voice of reason and calm. "Danny, baby, listen to me. We've lived like this for six years. I've given them nothing but love. I would never harm anyone, not a living soul, especially not my kids. They need their mother."

He snorted. "After what just happened? My God, Sam, I thought you were going to kill me."

"I was furious, Danny. You've been cheating on me. Hell, you practically flaunted it in my face. Anyone woman�Dany mother�Dwould have reacted the same way." I paused. He rubbed his neck and winced. "They need their mother, Danny."

"I agree, which is why I will allow you to see them every other weekend. Supervised." He inhaled deeply, raggedly. He knew what he was doing to me, he knew he was killing me, but he continued on. "Don't fight me on this either, Sam. Don't make me expose you for the monster that you are, because I will. I will do it to save the kids."

"Danny, please."

"I'm sorry. I truly am. You never deserved this to happen to you, and you never asked for it. Neither did I. Neither did the kids. But I am determined to keep them safe. I stuck it out this long, Sam. I did it for the kids. I think they're both old enough now to understand that mommy and daddy's relationship isn't so good anymore."

In a flash of rare compassion, he reached out and took my hand. I noticed he didn't recoil in horror, or hold it limply. He held it firmly and compassionately. "This is for the best, Sam. Now you can live…your life, however you need to live it. You don't have to worry about picking the kids up from school anymore, or about going to parent/ teacher conferences, or about staying up with the kids during the day if one is sick. You can be free to be who you are, to be what you are, whatever that is…."

He kept talking, but I wasn't sure if I was listening. I could only think of my children growing up without their mother. I could only think of not seeing their faces everyday. Worse, I realized there was nothing I could do short of kidnapping them, and I would never do that because what kind of life would that be? Danny continued talking, extolling the virtues of being on my own, unhindered by the kids and the daily grind of being a mother; he continued stroking my hand, and I knew that my kids were lost to me. Every other weekend seemed an eternity. Suddenly, the daily grind of being a mother never looked better, and every time I tried to state my case the words failed me, because, in my heart, I knew he was right.

I am a monster. I am unnatural. They deserve better.

Bullshit. I'm their mother.

No matter what.

I had always known this day was coming. I had fought against it so hard. I had tried to do everything right and it still wasn't enough.

"If I promise not to fight you, if I promise to give you the kids to raise with whomever you choose, can I ask you one favor?"

He said nothing. Lying next to me, I could almost see him biting his lower lip, as he always did when in deep thought. This hesitation coming from a man who once proposed to me in a hot air balloon even though he had been terrified of heights.

"Please, Danny, just one favor."

"Maybe."

"That I see them every weekend, unsupervised."

He thought about it long and hard. He let out a long stream of breath. "Okay, Sam, every weekend. But I'm afraid I must insist the meeting be supervised."

"Thank you, Danny," I said quietly, my voice full of emotion and pain, unrecognizable even to my own ears. "When will the three of you be leaving?"

And the moment I uttered those words, I realized my mistake. They weren't going anywhere.

"We are not leaving, Sam. You are leaving, and I want you out by tomorrow night."

42.

In the late evening, I was standing on the ninth floor balcony of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Brea.

It had been a rough day. My sister had come over to help me move, although there wasn't really much to move. Mostly she was there for moral support. Danny was there, too, but he wasn't there for moral support. Instead, he watched over me like a prison warden.

Since it was my last day with the children, I had let them stay home from school. Earlier, I tried explaining to them why mommy was going away. I told them it wasn't their fault, that mommy and daddy could not live together anymore, that mommy and daddy still loved each other but not in that special way. They both cried. So did I.

At the hotel, Mary Lou helped me unpack, even the packets of chilled blood, which we stored in the suite's mini-refrigerator. I caught her studying one of the packets. Her face, I noted, had turned white. To her credit, she didn't say anything about the blood, and I silently thanked her for that.

We sat together on my bed and she rubbed my neck and shoulders and gently stroked my hair. Her touch, her warmth, her compassion gave me strength. She didn't think I should be alone and wanted to stay the night with me. I thanked her and told her I wanted to be alone. She didn't like it, but relented, and when she was gone I found myself alone�Dreally alone�Dfor the first time in years.

The suite had a small balcony with two canvas folding chairs and a circular table. I opened the sliding glass door and stepped out onto the balcony, and was immediately blasted by cold wind. The city was so breath-takingly beautiful from up here. Twinkling lights spread in all directions, as far as the eye could see.

In one swift motion, I pulled myself up onto the balcony's wall and hung my feet hung over the ledge. I kicked my feet absently like a kid hanging from a swing.

Cars sped by on the little street that separated the hotel from the nearby mall. Its various parking lots were jammed with cars. Malls and Orange County sort of went hand-in-hand.

I was hungry and, at the same time, sick to my stomach. Sometimes those two went hand-in-hand, as well.

Wind pulled and tugged at me, moaning softly over my ears. It was just after 8:00 p.m. It had been a hell of a shitty day, and I hadn't slept a wink.

The attack six years ago had cost me so much. It had cost me my job, my sunny days, my home, my husband, my kids and my life.

I watched people entering and leaving the big mall, eager to spend their hard earned money at over-priced stores. Even from nine stories up, I could make out details of clothing and facial expressions. Most appeared to be in relatively good moods. Just living the American dream. Nothing better than spending an evening at the mall with the family. Shopping for nice things in nice stores with nice-looking kids. One person, returning a JCPenny bag, didn't look so happy.

Like a hawk watching field mice, I watched it all from above, sitting on the ledge, feeling increasingly separated from the human race.

I stood suddenly, pulling my feet up, balancing easily on the wide ledge. The wind seemed to pick up, but not enough to threaten to knock me off.

I looked down at the narrow street below, at the bustling mall, the streaming cars, the distant city lights. Sounds and smells came at me, too. The occasional, echoing honk of a car horn in an enclosed parking garage. The murmur of voices. The murmur of children's voices.

I took a deep, worthless, shuddering breath.

I had nothing to lose, really. My kids had been torn from my life. Hell, my life had been torn from my life.

The ground was far, far below. Nine stories up looks like a hundred and fifty stories up, especially if you are thinking of jumping. And I was thinking of jumping.

I closed my eyes, then leaped off the balcony.

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