They were watching Catia’s fangs again as she spoke. Their gazes drifted down when she opened her mouth, and they met her eyes again on a pause, a little too purposefully. Over and over again. Catia touched one tooth with her tongue and glanced uselessly at the mirror behind their little table. She could guess at how each fang must cut her smile, twist her expression. But she had never seen them.
Before they had sunk in below her other teeth, her reflection had started to smear. In low light, she was nothing but an annoying smudge. The sort of thing that made her want to spit on the glass and scrub it with her cuff. In brighter lights she was a shadow that should not exist. Disconcerting. Stomach-turning, and impossible.
She had avoided daylight for months, just to keep herself believing that she was more than that shade in the glass. And to keep the others from seeing the strange way her skin bent the light even under their eyes.
And yet, the most irritating aspect of coming back from the dead was that no one believed she hadn’t gone evil.
Catia liked breathing. There was something pleasant about the liquid feeling of a breath, pulled gently over her tongue, warmed in her chest, pressed back out. It was soothing, the gentle tug on muscle. It rooted her into the world, with the sweetness, sharpness, spice, sourness hanging in the air.
But she didn’t need to breathe, and just now, it seemed selfish.
The crash and roar of the rockslide had shocked her out of two or three breaths. The sudden darkness and the ringing in her ears made her forget for another long moment. She blinked, and waited, perfectly still. The ringing died down. Her eyes slowly turned the darkness into gray, shifting shadows. Fynn’s breaths began to echo in the newly shortened space.
“Catia?” Fynn called.
She took in air, just to respond. “I’m here.”
They say we came first, and for a little while we drank the blood of the stars. I try to imagine the taste of the sun. It’s been acid on my skin since the beginning of my new memory, and swallowing it down seems like it should feel like sipping on molten steel, tearing lips and tongue throat as it slides. But they say it tasted like honey wine.
Dawn broke over the horizon and set the enemy ships’ sails glowing like embers. The triple masts on all five ships were lit in red and orange cascading colors, so like flame that Duran watched a for a long minute, trying to catch them flicker and bend in the heavy breeze. The canvas remained firm, stretched taut as the ships strained forward, away from the horizon, but the colors deepened as the sun rose.
Red turned to scarlet. Orange turned to bronze. Yellow crept in from the top edge and gleamed gold before long. Any moment, they could have turned blue-black, hot as the fire hearts that hid at the bottom of a blaze, and Duran wouldn’t have done more than lift his eyebrows in surprise.
The colors had clung to the ships too long, he thought. Maybe it wasn’t the sunrise. Maybe those hulls were being hollowed out by fire, and those canvas were strained to get way from the waves of heat rolling off them, not bent on dragging the vessels forward.
Four in the morning and Nat was just starting to get tired. Sitting in front of the dwindling campfire, she yawned, laughed as if that might hide it and checked the time. The light on her cellphone reflected brightly against her face.
“Oh gosh,” she said. “It’s early.”
And as if the bright numbers had given her permission, she laid her head down on Leo’s knee and curled into a sleepy ball. Leo tucked her hair behind her ear. He smoothed it out and ran his fingers down to the ends at her shoulder. When he started to pull his hand away, she caught it and laced her fingers between his.
“I didn’t think you ever got tired,” he said.
There are certain things that I don’t announce to new acquaintances until they know me well enough to wait for an explanation. There are too many things I can say about myself that sound like rubbish when boiled down to an easily spoken sentence, or that invite worry based on expectations of what will come next.
For instance: I like vampires.
Yeah, I’m already uncomfortable. You’re going to give me time to explain, right?
No, I’m not talking about the horror flick monsters Van Helsing dispatches by the dozens. They’re creepy and really need to be taught table manners. I don’t know any other creature that literally cannot eat without spilling its meal down to its toes. No, I’m not talking about the pale members of nobility who try to sell you cold cereal. I’m not sure I like any cartoon character that attempts to sells me things. No, I’m not talking about teenage heartthrobs who lucked out with over-sized canines instead of larger-than-life front teeth and were called mysterious, or entrancing while the rest of us were being called gophers.
Yes, I do happen to be talking about attractive people with superpowers. No, that is not my point, but let’s just get it out of our systems:
Meet Louis (Interview with a Vampire), Claudia (Interview with a Vampire), and Eric (True Blood). Yes, they’re pretty, and any one of them could throw you from your house to the arctic circle in one go.
Meet Spike (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer), Mitchell (Being Human), and Hal (Being Human). Yes, they’re pretty, and any one of them could run the entire equator without having to catch their breath.
When he woke her, Liam told Malorie she wasn’t human anymore. Half-asleep and groggy, it didn’t seem like a statement that encouraged any attention.
She was sick. Her muscles ached. Her head felt too light, packed with shards of cotton and wads of glass. If she moved they jabbed against the inside of her forehead. If she shut her eyes, held still, didn’t even breathe, then sje could forget her body had any weight, or pressure, or pain.
Malorie slept – if one ever sleeps when they’re sick. It felt more like she knocked herself out of the world for a few hours.
When she woke, she was alone. Liam was gone and so was the ache. Malorie’s head was still crowded. The air seemed to hang around her in silence, the way it did in heavy snow. She rolled out of bed, met the floor on her hands and pushed herself upright. In the dark, she moved up the stairs and pushed the basement door open.