Beyond Twilight (Page 2)
She watched him, waited to see his reaction to her words. She truly believed what she'd told him, that he wouldn't be able to take her into custody. But she didn't think he was fully aware of it. Not yet, anyway. Ramsey Bachman had a thing or two to learn about himself. And Cuyler had decided she was the only one who could teach him.
He was speechless for a long moment. Then he shook his head, staring at her from wary, deep gray eyes. “You're a good liar, Cuyler. But not that good. You haven't had any dreams about me.”
“No? Want me to describe them to you?”
“No.” He said it too quickly.
She smiled. “I get to you, Ramsey. You know I do. It's not a big surprise, really. You get to me, too. I'm not afraid to admit it.”
“Dream on, Cuyler.” Still holding the syringe in one hand, he clasped her arm with the other and turned her toward the door. “Come on, if you're so eager to surrender. My car's out front. You want to pack a bag?”
“Not just yet.” She resisted the urge to pull her arm away yet again. She couldn't do that, couldn't let him think she was up to something. But the big boys from DPI were getting restless waiting for Ramsey to bring her in. Much longer and they'd come for her themselves, and she'd rather take her chances with Ramsey than with them. She had to play her cards fast and well.
The wariness had never left his eyes. It only intensified “You're trying to pull something on me.”
“I have a deal to offer you. Take it or leave it, it's up to you.”
“No deals. You're coming with me. Now.”
“No. I'll come in with you in a few days. Without a peep. No tricks, no struggles, no fuss. I promise.”
“And I'm supposed to believe you?”
“You want me to write it in blood?”
He released her arm, let his own hang loosely at his side, and stared at her so hard she could feel the touch of those eyes. More than that, she could feel the anger behind them, and the pain. And her arm still tingled where he'd held it.
It still baffled her, this awareness between the two of them. This attraction.
She'd felt it before she'd even laid eyes on him.
“What do you want in return?”
“Hmm, a hunk with a brain. You're a rare specimen, Ramsey.”
“What do you want?” he repeated, impatience giving an edge to his voice.
She tilted her head, shrugging delicately, walking in a small circle with a happy bounce in her steps. He was faltering. He wouldn't even have asked unless he was considering giving in. “Nothing much. Just a little bit of your time.
Three nights of it should be enough.”
She stopped, spinning on her heel and pointing at him. “You spend three nights with me. At dusk on the fourth, I'll be ready and willing to head off to Nazi headquarters with you. Okay?”
He shook his head slowly. “Three nights…doing what with you?”
She rolled her eyes, threw her palms up. “Not that, for crying out loud. Crimey, if that was all I wanted from you, I could have had it months ago!”
“The hell you could.”
Forget it, Ramsey. I'm right and you know it. Picture it. You from one of those hot and heavy dreams to find the real thing naked in your arms. You tellin' me you'd roll over and go back to sleep?” She moved closer as she spoke, leaned into him, stood on tiptoe until her nose nearly touched his chin. “I don't think so.”
“I don't give a damn what you think.”
She shrugged, but backed down and resumed her circular pacing.
“So if you don't want me sleeping with you, then what are the three nights for?”
“I sleep during the day.” She ruffled the short layers of her hair with both hands. He was exasperating. She hadn't expected it to be this difficult. She turned away from him, picked a slender white candle from its holder and tilted the flame to an incense dish, igniting the cone in its center. She inhaled the sweet fragrance. Just because she hadn't expected difficulty didn't mean she hadn't prepared for it.
“Look, Ramsey, I need to spend some time with you if I'm going to figure this out, that's all. I just want to get to the bottom of this…this thing.”
She made two fists, held them near her temples and squeezed her eyes tight. She was going to hit him if he didn't stop acting so obtuse. She took a step backward, and he very logically advanced an equal distance. He stood near the incense. A spiral of scented smoke rose around his head.
“You know I could have killed you months ago, or hurt you so badly you would have been off my case for a long time,” she told him. “I could have closed my eyes and given one good mental scream and had half a dozen older, stronger ones here to get rid of you for me.”
“Then why the hell didn't you?”
“I don't know! That's the thing I want to get to the bottom of! I can't even think about hurting you. Hell, I've got this off-the-notion that I ought to be looking out for you, but-“
“You? Looking out for me? That's a laugh.”
“Damn straight, when I know you're planning to haul me off to a death camp.”
“Don't bother, Ramsey. DPI's research techniques are well documented. Look, I made you an offer. What's your answer?”
He shook his head slowly, then pinched the bridge of his nose with two fingers and shook it again. Glancing down at the syringe in his hand, he straightened a little. “Sorry, Cuyler. I've been the butt of too many of your tricks. I don't believe you for a minute, and whether it's three nights from now or not, I'm still taking you in. Why delay the inevitable?”
She lowered her head, looked at the floor. “Well, I'm sorry, too. But I'm afraid you don't have a choice in the matter.”
He lunged toward her, but she'd known he would. She was ready. Before he could blink, she snatched the offensive little hypodermic from his hand. She snapped the needle with her thumb, dropped it on the floor and crushed it under her foot. Facing him, she lifted her palms. “Try again?”
“Damn you…” His voice trailed off. He squeezed his eyes tight, opened them, closed them again.
She stepped closer to him.
“What…what did you…” He swayed backward.
Cuyler gripped his shoulders, held him steady. “You'd better sit down, Ramsey.”
He did. His legs folded and he hit the floor hard, but remained upright, one palm pressed to his right temple. He lifted his head to look at her, the gleam of anger in his eyes dulling. “I knew…I couldn't…trust one of you.”
“You can, Ramsey. I promise, you can.” She knelt beside him as his eyes closed.
His body fell backward, but she caught him and eased his shoulders and head to the floor. She bent close to his ear and whispered, “You'll see.” She stood and snuffed out the drugged incense.
He opened his eyes slowly, warily, and registered surprise that he was still able to do so. The throbbing in his head was enough proof that he was still alive. So she'd only drugged him. But for what purpose?
He struggled to sit up, only to feel her hands on his shoulders pressing him back down. “Lie still for a while. Here, this will help” She laid a hot cloth across his forehead.
He blinked her into focus, then looked beyond her. The room was dim, but he knew with a glance that they weren't in her tumbledown house. He'd been all through it. There'd been no canopy bed surrounded by sheer black curtains. No stone walls. No fireplace snapping and crackling with red-orange heat.
“Where the hell am I?”
She pursed her lips. “My hideaway. I can't tell you where, exactly. Just in case I'm wrong about your inherent sense of decency. I wouldn't want you running back to DPI with directions to my one and only haven.”
He grated his teeth. He'd strangle her as soon as he got his strength back. He didn't think he could stop himself. With an angry snarl he sat up, brushing her hands away. His feet swung to the floor and he got up, swayed a little, caught himself. Then he walked unevenly toward the arched window cut into the thick Stone wall. He braced himself against the cold sill and stared through the thick, tinted glass.
All he saw was snow. Gentle hills and valleys of it, without end, unrolling like a lumpy sheet beneath a starry sky.
He turned toward her again, dazed with disbelief. “Where the hell am I?” he repeated.
“North. You are definitely north.”
“North of what?”
“Just about everything.” She ended with a little laugh, those eyes of hers glittering with mischief.
“Look, all you need to know is that you're miles from another human being. There are no roads, no transportation, and no Phones. Nothing. Just you and me, together for the next three nights. Just like I told you.”
Letting his head fall backward, he stared up at the vaulted ceiling, the gaslights glowing in the chandelier.
“Don't look so upset. I'll take you back when I know what I need to know.”
He shook his head, met her gaze. “If there's no transportation, then how the hell did we get here?”
“That doesn't really matter.”
He pushed one hand through his hair, scanned the room, spotted the open door and left her standing there. She followed him. He heard her steps on the ceramic-tiled floors as he moved quickly through the corridor, glancing into rooms furnished as if for some fairy-tale princess. Satins and ruffles and lace.
Trinkets he didn't take time to examine littered every surface.
He found the stairway, broad and stone with a gleaming hardwood banister, and he hurried down it. Another fireplace. More gaslights, more stone. More expensive-looking antique furniture.
The front doors were huge, and double, with stained-glass panes in starburst patterns centering each of them. And they were unlocked. He flung them wide and stepped out into the biting wind, bitter cold. There was nothing. As far as he could see, there was just nothing. A sense of doom settled on his shoulders like a thousand-pound pillar.
She touched him again. Her small hands closed around his upper arm and tugged at him. “Come back inside, Ramsey. It's going to be all right, I promise you.”
He lowered his head. The wind stung his face, his ears. He let her pull him back inside, but he was shaking his head. “It isn't.”
“It will.” She closed the doors, turned to face him.
“There are things I need…”
“I know. The insulin.”
His head came up fast. “How do you-“
“I brought everything from your hotel room. Your clothes, the medicine, everything. The only thing I didn't bring was that nasty drug you were planning to inject me with.” She closed her eyes, shook her head slowly. “That really disappointed me, Ramsey. I didn't think you'd do it to me, but you were going to.”
“Immoral bastard that I am, right? I notice you didn't hesitate to do the same to me.”
Her brows rose, then she smiled a little and gave a shrug. “Guess you have me on that one. But, honestly, the incense is harmless. It just lasts a few hours and the only side effect is a bad headache.”
He rubbed one throbbing temple with his forefinger. “Tell me about it.”
“You want something for it? Aspirin or-“
“I don't want anything except to get the hell out of here.” He was angry. He hated feeling trapped, forced into a situation he didn't like. And he sure as hell didn't like this. Being locked away in a miniature castle with the object of his most vivid, graphic fantasies. Knowing he couldn't lay a hand on her.
Hell. That's what this was. Hell on earth.
“And you will. Soon. But, Ramsey, there are things I have to know.”
“If you think you can pry any DPI secrets out of me-“
“Not about your precious organization. About you.” She reached out to him, took his hand, drew him into the huge room, and pressed him into a chair near the fire. “Relax, Ramsey. Please, just try to accept that you're going to be here for a few days, so we can get on with this. Think of it as a mini-vacation.”
He looked up into her innocent eyes, marveling that they could hide so much deceit. “A vacation?”
“It's warm and safe. There's plenty of food. I have wine, too. Your favorite kind. You want some?”
“So you can knock me out again?”
“I don't need to knock you out again.”
She turned and walked away from him, fishing a bottle of white zinfandel from an ice bucket on a nearby pedestal table. She poured some into a glittering cut-crystal glass and brought it to him, pressing it into his hand. He'd had time to get up and run, but what was the use? There was nowhere to go.
She knelt down in front of his chair, her hands resting on his knees, and stared up at him with more intensity in her eyes than he'd ever seen. He braced himself against that look. He wasn't going to believe a word that fell from those full, moist lips. And he wasn't going to entertain a single erotic thought about her current position.
“I want to tell you something, and I want you to listen to me. I'm out of tricks and tired of games. Everything I say to you from here on will be nothing but the truth. I'd like for you to return the favor.”
She paused, waiting. He said nothing.
“Ramsey, if you take me to that research lab in White Plains, I'll die. And I won't be the first.”
“That's bull. DPI isn't in the habit of murdering-“
“But they are.”
Ramsey shook his head hard. “They're scientists. They want to learn all about you-“
“They want to eradicate us from the planet.”
“Yes.” He sighed, admitting that much. “Yes, but not by killing you. By finding a cure.”
Her eyes flashed with anger and for just a second he felt the force of her rage.
“A cure. Where do you get this stuff, Ramsey? It's not a disease. We don't need a cure for what we are any more than you need one for being tall or for having gray eyes.”
He was skeptical. “You wouldn't like to be human again, to feel again?”
“I'm as human as you are, dammit. And what makes you think I don't feel?”
She stared up into his eyes, her own brimming with so much emotion he almost wondered if she might somehow be an exception to the rule. But her eyes narrowed and she looked at the floor.
“The good ol' DPI handbook, right, Ramsey? We're all animals. Emotionless, cold-blooded killers.”
He swallowed the lump in his throat. “Aren't you?” He wasn't asking. Not really.
He knew what they were.
She bit her lower lip, blinked fast. “No. But they are. Do you have any idea how many of us have died at their hands, in the name of their so-called research?”
“And yet you promised to go there with me, willingly, after these three nights.”
If he sounded skeptical, then he was. He wasn't as gullible as she apparently thought he was.
“Yes. If you still want to take me there.”
“Because I know that you won't. I'm as sure of that as I am of my own name, Ramsey. I don't know why, but I am.”
He shook his head slowly. “That doesn't make any more sense than dragging me up here.”
“I think it does.” She closed her hand around his, held it there, and he felt the warmth of her flowing into him, through him. A tingling awareness skittered along his nape, up his spine. Something odd happened to him. He felt invaded, as if her very soul was seeping into him, or his into her, or something.
“Do you feel it?” she whispered. “There's something between us, Ramsey. You know there is.”
He shook his head in denial and tugged his hand away from hers. It was no more than another of her tricks.
“It's more powerful than the connection I feel with one of the Chosen.” She said it softly, eyes downcast.
“The Chosen…that's your term for humans with that rare belladonna antigen in their blood?” He sat forward a little, thinking maybe he'd get something out of this forced incarceration, some kernel of knowledge to take back with him. If he ever got back.
She nodded. “They're the only ones who can be transformed. We all had that antigen as mortals. But you don't have it. I'd have known right away if you did.”
She rose, chewing her full lower lip with even, white teeth. “We sense them. I can't explain it, but we always know. We have an instinctive need to watch over them, protect them- “Make them into what you are?”
She shook her head. “No. Never, unless they want it and we're sure they can handle it. Most couldn't deal with it, I think.”
He leaned back in the chair, studying her face for a long time. She was telling him things she didn't have to tell him. And she was being honest. He'd read up on the connections between certain humans and vampires. What she said matched the research DPI had done on the subject. So, was she serious about not lying to him, or was she just trying to gain his confidence?
Stupid to even consider that she was sincere. She was just baiting her trap.
“There's usually one person in particular to whom a vampire feels the strongest connection,” he said, quoting almost verbatim from the studies he'd read. “Is that right?”
She paced away from him, nodding as she went.
“So, who's your pet mortal?”
She stood right in front of the fire, her back to him. “You are.”
Ramsey blinked, then forced the shock into submission and tried to keep a logical, analytical mindset. “That doesn't make any sense, Cuyler. I don't have the antigen.”
“You think I don't know that?” She shouted it as she whirled to face him.
He stood and slowly moved toward her, searching her face for a sign she was lying. He saw only turmoil and frustration in her eyes, as real as if she were honestly experiencing those feelings. She had him completely confused, and he didn't like it.
“Then why do you think-“
“I dream about you, Ramsey. I think about you when I'm awake. I know when you're angry, when you're sick, when you're in pain.”
She grasped his shoulders, and he couldn't believe that there was moisture in her eyes.
“I want you to the point of madness, but it's more than that.”
She wanted him. And that should scare the hell out of him, because he knew that with her kind, sexual desire was so closely entwined with the bloodlust that the two became inseparable. If she wanted him, then she not only wanted him in bed.
She probably wanted to drain him dry, too.
Another reason to keep his mounting desire under control. Hell, if he gave in to it, he'd end up dead.
“You're out to destroy me,” she went on, her voice catching in her throat. “I ought to be running away from you as fast as I can go. But all I feel is this longing to be as close to you as I can get.”
She released him, looked at the floor, and he saw the way her lips trembled.
“My rest is torment. I wake up frustrated and confused instead of rested and strong. It's driving me crazy, Ramsey. All I want to do is figure out why. Can you really blame me for that?”
Ramsey had trouble swallowing when a single tear spilled onto her cheek. Not a manufactured one. She quickly turned away from him, brushing the back of one hand over her face to wipe it away. For some reason he had the urge to wrap his arms around this suffering pixie and make it all right for her. He grated his teeth, stiffened himself against the softening that seemed to be happening inside him. She was the enemy. She was a master of lies. She had murder on her mind; his murder. He had to remember that. He didn't know what she could possibly have to gain by convincing him of all this bull, but there had to be something.
In a private office on the fifth floor of a building in White Plains, N.Y., three men stared at a small, lighted screen, watching the little red blip flash on and off incessantly.
“It has to be a malfunction,” Stiles said.
“No. No, it makes perfect sense. It's dark there eighteen hours straight, this time of year,” Whaley argued. “Perfect for one of them.”
“But why would she take him there?”
The third man hadn't spoken yet. He removed a pipe from his teeth and tapped spent tobacco into a plastic ashtray on his desk. “I knew he'd turn on us. Hell, it was a given. A matter of time. I'm just glad we planted the tracking device in his suitcase.”
“A matter of time?” Stiles frowned, puzzled. “You sound as if you were expecting this.”
“I was,” Fuller said.
“But, Mr. Fuller, I don't-“
“Until you need to know, don't bother asking.”
Stiles sighed hard, but nodded his acceptance. “So, what do we do?”
Wes Fuller paced the room for a moment, his bulk making his steps fall heavily.
Then he calmly began refilling his pipe. “We get some maps, some more information, some equipment, and we go up there. Get ourselves two research subjects for the price of one.”