"Josie, put the knife away."
I had to admit I was still surprised I'd even pulled a knife on Joel. Granted I had to notice that the vampire had blinked but not backed away. The point of my eight-inch chef's knife was in the hollow of his throat and my right hand tightly gripped the handle and thankfully the finely honed steel wasn't quivering with my fears. I wasn't stupid, but still it probably hadn't been the smartest thing I'd ever done, drawing down on Joel. This vampire wasn't ever going to be my friend and I didn't want to be his dinner. As I saw it I didn't have much choice.
"I mean it. You may be able to stab me but unless you know exactly where to slice I'll have that blade out of your hand before you finish and I don't want to kill you," his voice was soft and I could hear the subtle push of power running through his words.
He was trying to use that damn mind trick of theirs on me again. I was finding vampires a bit predictable. Just one day of watching and observing these creatures under my belt and I wasn't going to stop learning just yet. I didn't ask to know about such creatures but now that I did I planned on sticking around a bit longer than sunrise. The damned mind meld he kept trying to do was pissing me off. Babette had sucked at it even more when she'd tried to influence me and read my mind but to have him keep trying was pretty arrogant.
"That's where you are wrong. I know exactly where to cut. I worked in kitchen restaurants for years. One flick of my wrist and I open up your carotid artery, this blade is sharp enough and after all I have nothing to lose." I pushed back with my own anger and frustration. I'd come too far to cave in now.
"It sounds easy enough but it doesn't mean you can actually do it. Cutting into a person isn't the same as a cold piece of meat. Fish or fowl -- they don't argue their fates." He rolled more into his voice and I felt a tug. I sighed.
"And to prove you wrong what is it you want me to do? Should I carve your head off? What purpose would that serve?" I hadn't let up from my stance and he was still a swipe away from that end. I certainly didn't want to kill him, but he wasn't human. He was vampire. That wasn't the same. I was pretty sure. My mind and eyes held his and he read me true. I would open up his neck and pray he didn't open up mine. Either way it would all finish here and now.
"I give." He looked slightly ill as he said, "You win. So what is it that you want?" His voice was steady as he conceded my intentions and purpose. I didn't smirk but inside my head I did a happy dance.
He figured out that I would kill him if I needed to, but I secretly was hoping for just this. I needed him to respect me. He'd already proven to have resources I never dreamt of but they weren't mine. Billy had always taught me to take control of whatever I could and to seize all I could hold. Maybe Billy wasn't the best role model, but I did own more than my fair share using that method.
"Is your word your bond?" I asked him directly. My hand was getting tired of holding the knife but I had to establish my place in his world no matter what it took.
He looked offended then said, "Yes, my word is my bond."
"Can you offer your word to humans or only fellow vampires?" I was looking for loopholes before I dropped the knife. Thinking frantically I ran through a mental list for the right questions to ask.
"I pledge my word to both humans and vampires alike." He looked disconcerted by my line of questioning.
"Then, if I let you free will you pledge my life remains mine? Nobody of yours can kill or drink from me. You are not allowed to touch me without my permission. When I walk away there will be no retribution for my knowing about vampires? And for this I promise that I will also never reveal I know of you by my word or deeds." I was taking a leap.
"Yes. I pledge that to you." He smiled. His fangs were out and he wasn't as calm as he'd like me to think.
I dropped the knife on the countertop and sighed.
"Fair enough. So now what?" I knew we couldn't stay here any longer and I wasn't sure where we were could go. I didn't want to stay here for a minute longer than it took to finish packing my bags, that was for sure. Far too many vampires had stumbled in for my comfort.
"We go to my home." He didn't slap me or do anything as retribution for my drawing a blade on him, so I let out the hiccough of air I didn't realize I'd been holding.
Maybe I'd survive this night. I headed back upstairs to get the bags I'd packed earlier before all the visitors. I didn't look to see if Joel had followed. When I hit the top of the landing I could hear him talking on his cell in the kitchen. Shoving a few things I would miss into my nearly full bags, I glanced around the rooms and shrugged. I was about to head back down when an impulse tickled my fancy. I went back into the office and snagged the porcelain frog that Joel had been fingering. Stupid but somehow it made me feel like I was in control.
Slowly I lugged my baggage down being careful to watch my footing. The way this day had been, I wasn't in any mood to see if I could break my damn neck before I escaped. That would be a topper to the day for sure. I wasn't intentionally trying to be quiet but I could hear Joel talking clearly.
"That's right. I have to bring her in, Ridley. No choice. She's not normal."
A pause and I strained to hear the other man to no avail. He didn't speak loudly like Jason. That 'not normal' part wasn't good. I didn't have to be a mind reader to figure that one out.
"No, that didn't work either. It's like she's immune or already been marked by another Master." Well, a lump in my stomach kept me frozen on the third step from the bottom. I didn't want to risk a single sound alerting him to my presence. I thought vampires had some supernatural hearing but his next comment made me question that.
"She's upstairs packing her bags. She thinks I am bringing her there. I told her I was taking her home. I didn't say which one," he chuckled. I wanted the knife back at his throat. I wouldn't have hesitated to slice him to the bone now.
There was no way I could get to my car without him hearing much less him seeing me. His voice was softer so I knew he was moving. I crept backwards up a few steps then made noise coming down. I heard his, "There she is now. I'll call later." He snapped his cell phone shut and dropped it in his top pocket. With a smile on his face he exited the kitchen.
He met me as I finally hit the bottom step and automatically reached for my bags. I willingly handed him the three bags. Nothing near me could be used as a weapon much less a stake. I feigned relief and said, "Thanks, they were too heavy for me. So do I follow you or what?"
We walked towards my garage and I fished my keys out of my purse.
"About your car," he tried to give me an innocent smile, but I was seeing the coldness in his eyes I hadn't caught earlier in my eagerness to listen. I wasn't as gullible now.
"Yeah, it's great." I shoved past him and unlocked my car with the alarm button on the key fob. I popped open the trunk and snagged the bags from his hands.
He was surprised enough to not resist. He'd figured I was going to simply follow him to his car. Spinning around he said, "I thought we'd leave your car and take mine."
"Don't be silly. Mine's paid for and I do have to go to work." I slammed the trunk and opened the driver's side door. He was still standing by the front of my car.
Hopping in I said, "Where are you parked?"
"Down the street." He admitted.
Slamming myself in I turned the engine over and rolled down the window.
"You need a lift?" I hit the garage opener and he was exposed. The street was quiet but I saw him flinch as the noise from the nearby freeway was bouncing around the fog. I found the fog eerie but the gleam in Joel's eyes even creepier.
"I guess." He was still knocked off balance by my unexpected actions. I indicated the passenger seat with a quick flip of my head and said, "Well, get in already. Let's get on the road."
He edged around the front of the car, obviously not willing to let me run him over by mistakenly backing up, and got in the car. The strident bleating of the seatbelt alarm made me smirk. He pulled down the shoulder strap and belted in silently.
I backed out and shut the garage.
"Okay, which way."
He pointed north and looked at me quizzically. My behavior wasn't meeting his expectations and I planned on keeping him guessing. That was the only possible way for me to keep him off guard. I needed him off guard because I wasn't sure what was going to happen.
Joel found his voice, "I think it best we just take one car in case we get separated."
Ten years ago that would have been a practical reason for using one car and dumping mine. Thank goodness for cell phones, GPS devices and good hearing.
"Silly man. Just give me your cell number and if we get separated I'll just call you. And while you're at it why don't you just pop the address in my GPS just in case your battery isn't fully charged." He indicated with a flip of his hand to a few cars up which one was his while reluctantly putting in an address. I wondered which address he'd used. I doubted the manor from the conversation I'd overheard but still wasn't sure.
I pulled out my cell phone and he rattled off his cell number. I smiled and hit the send button before he'd finished unhooking his seatbelt. I was relieved to hear his cell phone ring. At least one of the numbers was correct. The address was still a crapshoot.
"Just follow me." Was all he said while I ended the call. His cell phone abruptly stopped ringing and his eyes met mine. I could see he was puzzled but still confident I was going to meekly follow him no questions asked.
"Sure, I'll be right behind you." I smiled and fluttered my fingers in a wave while rolling up my window.
Still I had plenty of questions. I just didn't think he was the one to give me a straight answer at this point. I just continued to smile and waved again, then watched him get into the luxury car he'd identified as his. He was parked on the opposite side of the street and once he started the car he spun it hard and headed away from my home. Naturally the car was shiny black and had very pretty chrome accents. The license plate was splattered with mud and two numbers were unreadable. I found that funny. It was obviously a ploy to keep anyone from getting the plate number but a jarring note with how polished and clean the rest of the car was kept.