Reason and rationality soon returned to her eyes, and she glanced at us all oddly. “What the f**k?”
“Let her go.” Dubious, the others slowly released her. I curled my arms around her and kissed her hair. “I don’t know what the hell just happened. It was like you flipped or something.”
“You acted much like a newborn vampire,” said Wes. “You were wild.”
She swallowed hard as anxiety and worry flashed on her face, but she quickly blanked her expression. “I’m deteriorating, aren’t I?” It wasn’t really a question.
Antonio patted her back. “Let’s find out, shall we?”
Five minutes later, after Reuben had once again amplified Lena’s gift, she and Sam sat on the bench as Lena studied her. I held Sam’s hand, needing to touch her. Nothing had ever shocked me more than when she leaped at me like that. Nothing. Watching her in pain was awful, but looking at the only woman I’d ever loved and seeing nothing of that woman there…That was ten times worse.
Finally, Lena took a long breath and sat back. After taking a few mouthfuls of the NST that the guards had given her, she began to speak. “Your DNA has changed since I last looked. As last time there were certain equations that didn’t add up, I had expected – after what just happened – to find that those equations made absolutely no sense. But it is not that at all. In fact, those equations almost add up perfectly. What has changed is that these equations have become more complicated.”
I didn’t like the sound of that. “What does that mean?”
“It means that rather than her body going into ‘override’ and fighting the dramatic changes, it is…entering the next stage of the alterations.”
“I don’t get it. How can she enter the next stage without fully completing the first stage?”
“It is similar to the predicament of a caterpillar. If you were to open the cocoon, it would die. It has to be able to have the strength to free itself or it will not have the strength to fly away.” Lena placed her hand over Sam’s. “However, do not take that to mean that you will die – or fly, for that matter. My point is, you don’t yet have the strength to move on to the next stage, but your body has done it anyway. That is what most likely caused you to experience such an attack of bloodlust. Your body feels the need to compensate, it needs to replenish. Perhaps it would be a good idea for you to drink a few more NSTs a day than you would normally do.”
Antonio stopped in his pacing. “Does this mean that she is not deteriorating?”
“My opinion is that, on the contrary, she is strengthening. She is simply not seeing or feeling anything of these changes because the alterations are not yet complete.”
“When will they be complete?” I asked Lena.
“That, I do not know. But it was not all that long ago that I first looked at her DNA, and already there have been big changes. Give it a few days.” She smiled at Sam. “So how do you like your new pet?”
Sam’s smile took over her face. “He’s gorgeous. I’ve named him Dexter.”
Lena chuckled. “I look forward to meeting him. When you take him into the rainforest, take some tropical vine branches back to your apartment and create a jungle set-up. That’s what Wes and I did for Toto.”
I couldn’t believe they were talking about vines and pets in the middle of a conversation like this. Unreal. But sensing that Sam was spooked by having blacked out, I didn’t try bringing the matter up again. She wasn’t the type who liked to talk about stuff until she had sorted things through in her own head, and I knew she needed a little time to do that.
So I pretended that I bought the relaxed act, pretended I didn’t know how scared she was. Even when she wanted to take the damn snake for a walk…well, a slither…in the rainforest, I continued pretending, and I didn’t try coaxing her to open up. But after watching her stare at her office desk for two hours, I couldn’t keep quiet any longer.
She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn’t notice I’d crouched beside her chair until I rested my hand on her thigh. “Baby?”
Turning to look at me, she double-blinked. “Sorry, what?”
I gently moved her hair away from her face. “I know you’re scared, just like I know you’d prefer to pretend you’re not scared, but you have to have faith in Sebastian. That guy could find God if you asked him to. He’ll come through for you, I promise you. And then I’ll get those brothers to put everything right.”
“I have faith in all of you. It’s just…it freaks me out that I lost control like that. Worse, I don’t even remember it. I hurt you.”
“You didn’t hurt me.”
“Jared, I bit you without permission.” For vampires, that was a sort of rape. Cursing, she got to her feet and started pacing.
Feeling a shadow of her guilt, I pointed hard at her as I stood. “You do not have to feel bad about that. You don’t need my permission. I’m yours.”
“That’s not the point.”
No, it wasn’t the point. “Still, I don’t care. Do you hear me? I don’t care.”
“And what if it hadn’t been you? Not only could I have hurt someone else, but I’d have drank from someone else, and don’t tell me you wouldn’t hate that.”
Of course I’d hate that; I wanted her to feed from me, no one else. “But that wasn’t really you, Sam. That wasn’t my Sam. That was bloodlust taking over.”
“That freaks me out as well. But the worst is the ‘not knowing’. If I knew what they had done to me, I could deal with it. I’d probably be pissed and scared, but I could deal. Not knowing is harder.” Looking defeated, she backed into the wall and sighed.
I went to her and slid my hands into her hair. “I hate seeing you like this.”
“I’m entitled to sulk now and then. You do it all the time.”
I smiled at that, kissing her softly, teasingly, making her mouth chase mine. “You do know that even if you grow five heads, I’m keeping you, right?” Her laugh made me relax a little. I licked along the seam of her mouth, wanting entry again. “Let me make you forget for a while. Let me make you feel good.” The second she opened for me, I slipped my tongue inside, seeking hers. Quickly the kiss went from soft to demanding; it sent fire sizzling through us both as it usually did.