Under Cover of Darkness
By Laura Feltyberger
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Lesson Two

Michael visited Winni a few times in the next two weeks. He didn’t feed every night, it wasn’t necessary. Gavriel and Sedrien had him doing some intense physical training. It was good that Michael had been in shape before he was reborn. He took to the martial arts quite naturally. Even Gavriel was pleased with his student’s aptitude for the fighting arts.

On one chilly evening Sedrien and Gavriel took Michael into the park. Michael had always been wary of walking in the park at night. It was too dangerous to walk alone in the park at night, everyone knew that. That was exactly the reason they were here now.

Walking along a dim path, Michael followed his tutors. Sed and Gav seemed to know where they were headed. A scream sounded in Michael’s ears, faint and quite a distance away. He automatically turned in the direction the scream came from.

“Did you hear that?”

“What, Michael? I heard nothing.” Gavriel said.

The scream came louder. Sedrien regarded Michael with ancient eyes.

“There it is. Go.”

Gavriel had taken off the moment he heard the second scream. Michael ran after him. Sedrien followed.

Michael smelled blood, and something else. It floated on the air, drawing him to the scene of violence. An older man held a young boy against a tree trunk with a switchblade at the boy’s throat. The blade had pierced the boy’s throat, allowing blood to run down his dark skin in a thin trickle. The boy’s eyes squeezed shut as he tried not to writhe against the sharp blade. Gavriel appeared behind the man and threw his body back into the grass. They tussled on the dry grass for several minutes before the switchblade was lost and came to rest at Michael’s feet.

Michael stood back and watched the scene unfold. Gavriel wrestled and fought with the attacker, while Sedrien drew the boy away to tend to his wound, and to his fears. Michael recognized the scent as fear. The child’s fears were soothed and absorbed while the attacker’s fear grew as Gavriel pounded him.

Gavriel stretched the mugger’s arms wide, allowing Michael the opportunity to hold him down on one side. Michael held the struggling man as Gavriel taunted him.

“You make me sick, taking advantage of a child. We have a way of dealing with your kind.” He nodded to Michael, “Take him, my brother, and make him pay.”

Michael had been used to taking a willing victim. He knew how prevent causing pain when he fed. He knew from Gavriel’s words that now was not the time for delicacy. Baring gleaming long canines, Michael sank his teeth into the criminal’s wrist. He heard faintly the whimpers of his victim as he sucked hard on the vein he’d opened. Presently Gavriel stopped his feeding with a hand on his shoulder.

“That’s enough for now. I’ll finish him.”

The victim had ceased to struggle, and Gav made short work of the rest. Michael flopped on the ground, chest heaving with the effort to control the world spinning around him. The blood was even better with the edge of danger and terror added to it. His body relished it even as his mind recoiled at what he’d done.

He’d reasoned while he was with Winni that drinking her blood was not completely damning. It was a sexual thing, the only semblance of it that had gone between them so far, but not the blatant greedy taking that had happened tonight. Michael felt a little more of his humanity slide away into the darkness as the blood restored his strength.

Gavriel took Michael away from the scene to a well lighted path. Sedrien would see his young charge home; it was dangerous on the streets at night. Michael walked in silence.

“I didn’t kill him. Thought you’d like to know.” Gavriel wiped any remaining traces of blood from his mouth with a handkerchief. “You did well back there.”

“I did nothing. I was hungry and I drank. That was all.”

“You heard them before I did. I’ve been a hunter longer than you’ve been alive, and I didn’t hear or sense them until after you alerted me. Your abilities are developing fast.”

“That’s good to know.”

Gavriel found Michael’s attitude annoying, but understood it, and so allowed him to voice his discomfort with the subject. “I am proud of you tonight, brother.”

It was the second time Gavriel had called Michael “brother.” Michael made a note of it. Some time ago he recalled Gavriel saying that he’d rather kill him than train him, and assumed it was an honor that his reserve had softened. But the disgust he felt for himself prevented any satisfaction he might have derived from the admission.

Just before dawn Sedrien came into Michael’s room. Michael sprawled on the bed amongst tangled sheets, feigning sleep.

“I know what you’re feeling, Michael. You are disgusted with yourself for drinking that man’s blood tonight, for taking something that was not offered. Everyone has their own way of surviving, and this is ours. He could have killed that boy and that is what makes your conquest right. We have to help those who can’t defend themselves because we are stronger. It’s what keeps me going. I might have let myself burn if it hadn’t been for the thought that by taking one life I could save many others.” Sedrien sighed and stood. Michael thought he would have left him in peace.

“You surprised me tonight, sensing them before Gavriel or I had a clue. And you carry the scent of the man’s fear on you: you took some of his terror when you drank his blood. Your talents are maturing faster and stronger than I had anticipated.” A brief smile crossed his lips. “I suspect that’s Martine’s doing. She matured early too.” He left and closed the door behind him.

Michael rolled over and turned on a lamp at the bedside. He opened the silver locket on a chain around his neck. Martine smiled at him from the tiny photograph. He stared a long time at her picture until tears blurred his tender coffee brown eyes. He wanted more than anything to hold her, to hear her voice soothing the empty ache where his heart used to be.

Martine had taken his heart with her into a blinding sunrise and left him in the dark. He switched the light off and curled into himself, trying to find a trace of Martine’s perfume in the pillow.

*****

The next night Michael went back to the warehouse looking for Winni. He spotted her from across the room; she saw him when he was halfway to her. One look at his face and she led him to her room at the back of the warehouse.

“I don’t know what I’m doing here.” he rasped.

“I do. You needed a friend. I’m here if you need to talk.” Winni sat on the edge of the papasan, crossing her legs.

Michael paced in the small room until Winni thought she’d go crazy. He had a tremendous amount of energy and the air practically crackled with it. She figured he’d been hunting.

Without warning he stopped before her and laid his head on hers, his arms going around her back. He abraded his cheek on the lager-colored stubble of her hair while she gently held him. She wondered what he was feeling.

“I don’t like what I’m becoming. I want to go back.”

“Baby, you can’t go back. I’m sorry you’re hurting, but there’s nothing you can do.” she crooned, drawing him closer into her embrace.

“I feel like I’m at the mercy of this hunger. That my body isn’t even mine anymore. “ His fingers dug into her lace top. “Nothing makes sense anymore.”

Winni became alarmed at the panicked tone of his voice. “There’s nothing to be frightened of, Baby.”

“I knew he was there. I followed Gavriel as we tracked him. He might have killed that boy, but we stopped him.” Michael felt as if he’d been running, his breathing came fast and hard in his chest. “I wanted to hurt him; I wanted to make him stop; I wanted him to be just as scared as that little boy. I could smell his blood and I wanted that too. I couldn’t see or hear because all I could see and hear was the blood rushing through his veins. I wanted it and when I had it I wanted to spill it all over. I wanted to slash his veins and watch the blood run all over everything. What have I become? What kind of monster am I?”

He pulled back and stared into her wide moss green eyes. She took his face in her hands. “Baby, this happens to everyone. You just have to get used to it, that’s all. It’s too new for you.”

“Not all of it’s new.” His voice took on a dark ominous quality.

She wondered stupidly what he intended when his mouth came down on hers. He kissed her urgently, roughly, and she felt the razor tip of one canine tooth graze her lip, threatening to draw blood. He forced her back onto the chair, pulling at her clothes and she didn’t fight him. She knew that he was still feeling the rush of the hunt, that adrenaline was still coursing through his veins with last night’s meal. He needed to burn it off; he never had to ask for it.

When it was over he seemed calmer. He’d tucked that vulnerable part of his soul away when he’d righted his clothing. He did not help her gather her clothing, nor did he assist her to stand as he had before. In his current state Winni was surprised that he held the door for her before they walked arm in arm back to the main room.

Instead of his usual thanks he simply tossed a wad of cash on the bar in front of her and walked away. Winni felt the sting of tears she didn’t want to shed for the human dying inside the vampire called Michael Darnay.

End of Lesson Two
 


Lesson One
 Lesson Two
 Lesson Three
 Lesson Four
Lesson Five

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