I kicked off my shoes and turned the lantern switch. My shoes were bloody again. Oh well, nothing a lot of bleach wouldn't fix.
The tiny flames of feylanterns surged up, bathing the apartment in a comforting soft glow. Crest knelt to examine Derek's leg.
"He needs emergency care," he said. His voice had the brisk, professional, slightly distant tone good physicians adopted under stress.
"No, he doesn't."
He glanced at me. "Kate, the cut's deep and dirty and the artery's probably severed. He'll bleed to death."
Dizziness came, and I swayed a little. I wanted to sit down, but couches and chairs were harder to bleach than shoes. "He isn't bleeding."
Crest opened his mouth and looked back at the wound. "Shit."
"The Lycos Virus in action," I told him and went to the kitchen. There was no ready ice and scraping the freezer walls wasn't in me right that minute, so I put the bag into the sink and pulled off my shredded jacket in a flash of pain. The top underneath was soaked with blood. I tried removing it but it was stuck. I rummaged through the everything drawer for scissors, found some, and tried to cut off the vest.
The scissors got caught in the soggy fabric. I cursed and then Crest was beside me, his hand over the scissors. "I remembered you didn't have the Lyc-V," he said and the vest fell to the floor in a sodden, heavy mass.
He knelt to examine the jagged claw marks on my stomach.
"How bad?" I asked.
"Mostly shallow. Two deep lacerations, here and here." His finger grazed the skin lightly and still I winced.
"I'd imagine. Would you like me to take you to the emergency room?"
"No. There is an r-kit on the table in the living room," I said. With magic this high, a regeneration-kit was almost as good as the spell doc. It cost an arm and a leg, but it was worth it. And its magic healed with very little scarring.
He looked at me. "Are you sure? We'd get it stitched in no time."
He went to get it. The trouble with regeneration-kits was that sometimes, like all things magic, they backfired and ate into the wound instead of healing it.
I shrugged off my pants, my panties, and my bra on the way to the bathroom and stepped into the shower. The water ran bloody. My stomach hurt. When blood no longer swirled around my feet, I shut off the shower and yelled for Crest to come in. He did, carrying the roll of brown paper.
"Do you know how to use one of those?" I asked.
"I am an M.D."
"Some M.D.s want nothing to do with the r-kits."
"You're not giving me a choice about it," he said. "Raise your arms."
I put my arms to my head and chanted the incantation. Crest untied the cord securing the paper and unrolled it. It contained a bandage and a long wide strip, smeared with brown ointment and covered with waxed paper. Crest peeled the paper off and held the strip by its edges. I chanted. The ointment on the strip obeyed, liquefying. A strong smell of nutmeg spread through the room.
Crest pressed the strip against my stomach. It adhered and a soothing coolness spread through my injured muscles, slowly transforming into warmth that suffused my stomach, drowning out pain.
"Better," I murmured. Crest bandaged my waist. After putting in a long day at work this seemingly normal guy would come all this way just to see me. Why? What would it be like to crawl home after a hard day and instead of licking my wounds in solitude in a dark and empty house, find him? On the couch, maybe. Reading a book. Maybe he would put it down and say, "I'm glad you've made it. Would you like some coffee?"
His hand grazed the tattoo on my shoulder. "Why a raven?"
"To honor my father."
The fingers continued to gently slide across my skin. "The writing under it, is that Cyrillic?"
"What does it say?"
"Dar Vorona. Gift of the Raven. I'm my father's gift."
"That, my dear doctor, is a story for another time."
"The raven is holding a bloody sword," Crest said thoughtfully.
"I never said it was a nice gift."
He finished the bandage and was examining it critically. "You know those things are unreliable." His voice held just a touch of reproach.
"Eleven out of twelve work fine. I'd say that's better chances than getting an orgasm with a blind date and women still try."
He blinked and laughed softly. "I never know what you'll say next."
"I don't either."
He rose and put his arms around me. So warm. I resisted the impulse to lean back against him. "Are you hungry?"
"Ravenous," I murmured.
"The food's probably cold by now."
"I don't care."
He kissed my neck. The kiss sent tingling warmth down into my fingertips. I turned and he kissed me again, on the mouth. I was so tired... I wanted to melt against him and let him hold me. "You're trying to take advantage of an injured naked woman."
"I know," he whispered in my ear, drawing me closer. "How awful."
Please don't let go. What am I thinking? Am I this desperate? I took a deep breath and pushed away from him gently. "I have to finish my work. I don't think you want to watch me."
"Do it after," he whispered and kissed me again. Somehow instead of breaking free, I pressed against him. I wanted nothing more than to stay wrapped up in him like this, smelling his scent, feeling his lips on mine... And then the vampire's head would lose the last of its magic and Derek and I would've bled for nothing. Poor Derek. "No," I said, my face a grimace. "By then it'll be too late."
"Work first. I see."
"Tonight. Not always."
"I'll watch," he said.
"You don't want to, trust me."
"It's part of what you do. I want to know."
Why? I shrugged and went to the bedroom to find some clothes. He didn't follow me.
IN THE KITCHEN I SET A LARGE SILVER TRAY IN THE middle of the table. Supported by four legs, it rose above the surface of the table about three inches. Greg had kept an excellent supply of herbs in his apartment. Having combined them in the right proportions, I spread the aromatic mixture on the platter so it covered the metal completely. Crest sat on the chair in a corner and watched me.
I pulled the strings of the bag, took the head out, and placed the monstrosity onto the powder, balancing it on the stump of the neck.
"What the hell is that?"
"A vampire," I said.