And if that happened, we could all end up in here, waiting for the scientists to strap us to tables and poke tubes through our veins.
An hour, maybe two, passed in silence. No one came to check on me, and I alternated between sitting on the bench and pacing my cell. I tested the bars and door a couple times, wondering if I could break free if I had to, but the metal was thick and the door firmly locked. I wondered what Zeke and the others were doing, if they had found a way to Eden without me. Or had their secret been discovered and they were in hiding now, trying to avoid capture, or death? Zeke had promised that the Eden scientists wouldn’t use me as a lab rat, but those scientists were no longer around. Growling, I clenched the bars of my cell, feeling my fangs slide free. If it did come to that, I wouldn’t go quietly. A vampire could only be pushed so far. Keeping me locked up was one thing.
If they came anywhere near me with a needle or a scalpel, I hoped they were ready for a hell of a fight.
I had just paced back to the bench to settle in the corner again when a noise on the steps made me look up.
A human stood at the foot of the stairs, watching me from behind his glasses with sharp black eyes. He was tall and slender, with a narrow face, thinning hair, and a pristine gray suit that looked slightly too small for him, showing off bony ankles and wrists. I narrowed my eyes. He reminded me of a Pet, of a boy I once knew, who’d betrayed me to become the aide to the vampire Prince of New Covington. It seemed Eden had their version of Pets, as well.
The man gazed at me, lips pressed into a serious line, then stepped briskly into the room. I tensed as he approached the cell and stopped several feet from the bars, well out of my reach should I decide to lunge at him. I eyed him wearily. I didn’t know what he wanted, but if he was anything like that Pet I used to know, then I didn’t want to talk to him. He was probably here to threaten, or ask questions, or maybe to inform me that I was bound for some kind of secret lab on the island. I wondered if I could get any information out of him regarding Zeke and the others.
I blinked, frowning. I was surprised that he’d used my name; most humans just called me vampire or bloodsucker. But his tone wasn’t condescending, or smug. It almost bordered on…civil. That was different. “Yes?”
He continued to stay well away from the bars, but his voice was serious as he folded his hands before him. “Please, forgive the accommodations,” he said, as if he was soothing an annoyed yet important guest. “Rest assured we are doing everything we can to clear up this misunderstanding. Your friends are speaking with the mayor right now about the situation in Eden. We expect that you will be able to join them soon, if you can be patient just a little longer.”
I stared at him, unable to believe what I was hearing. It had been so long since any human had spoken to me like I was a person, once they knew what I really was. “You…you do realize what I am, right?” I asked. Maybe he didn’t know what he was talking to; maybe his boss hadn’t told him the girl in the cell was really a monster. He blinked, then gave a somber nod.
“Yes. You are a vampire. That has already been established.
But your friends have vouched for you, that you mean no ill to the people of Eden, and we will hold them to that. If you harm or kill anyone while you are here, it will be on their heads.” The man’s voice didn’t change; it was still polite and matter-of-fact, but the warning in it was clear. If I hurt anyone, Zeke and the others would pay for it, too.
“However,” the human went on, “Zeke Crosse has done much for Eden, and we have spoken to the doctors and soldiers who saw you the last time you were here. On their testimony, and the insistence of Mr. Crosse, we have decided to trust you. As soon as the mayor gives the order, you are free to go.”
“He’s letting me go. A vampire.” Suddenly leery that this could be a trap, I narrowed my eyes, searching his face for the truth. “I find that a little hard to believe. What does he really want from me?”
“Only your cooperation, Miss Allison.” The man’s voice didn’t change. “And the promise that you will not harm anyone here. The citizens of Eden do not know about you, nor should they, but the mayor realizes that a vampire could be of great use to us, especially now.”
“If that means he’s going to turn me over to the scientists, I’m afraid we don’t quite see eye to eye,” I said, showing the very tips of my fangs. But the man shook his head.
“No, Miss Allison. Never without your consent.” If he saw my incredulous look, he didn’t mention it. “The scientists you speak of did need vampire blood to continue their research, this is true, but we fear they are all dead now. They never got off the island when the catastrophe hit.”
“I’m afraid you’ll need to hear it from the mayor,” the human said gravely. “He just sent me here to inform you that the situation is being resolved, and ask you to please not attack the citizens of Eden when you leave this place.”
I continued to stare at him. That wasn’t what I’d been expecting. Humans welcoming a vampire into their city? Treating her like she wasn’t a monster, or a thing that could be turned into an experiment? The human outside the cell was being cautious, yes, but he’d spoken to me with respect, like I was a real person. Maybe…I’d been wrong. Maybe Zeke’s version of Eden had been the right one, after all.
Footsteps echoed on the steps, and Zeke came into the room, followed by several soldiers. The lead soldier, the sergeant I had seen before, gave me a businesslike nod as they entered, then jerked his head at another human, who approached the cell door with a key.
Zeke stood back as the soldier unlocked the door and pulled it open with a rusty screech, but quickly stepped forward as I left the cell. His gaze was worried, hesitant, as if afraid that I blamed him for being stuck behind bars for three hours. “I’m sorry, Allie,” he murmured, regret and concern etched into his face, along with a little anger and guilt. “This shouldn’t have happened. I promised you wouldn’t be treated this way—”
“It’s fine,” I assured him, lightly touching his arm. “They had to protect themselves. I get it. Where are Kanin and Jackal?”
“They’re with the mayor right now.” He paused as the sergeant approached, holding my katana out to me. Surprised again, I took it and slipped it onto my back, and the soldier motioned us up the stairs. “He wants to talk to you. Are you ready?”