He looks at Torsten the same way I probably did last night in the stockroom, as though he’s trying to work out exactly how Torsten just performed this trick.
His expression shifts and he glances to his goons on either side, standing up straighter.
“Fancy little trick,” he says, hiding the fear in his voice. “But it doesn’t change the fact that unless you get the fuck out of my way, I’m going to slice a new smile into your face.”
“It’s been hundreds of years since I smiled, asshole,” Torsten snarls. “I’ve got no desire to put you in the hospital. It’s not a fair fight. I killed the last person who could offer me a fair fight.”
“Ooh, freaky,” the man says, going for sarcastic but sounding unsure. “What, am I supposed to be impressed?”
“I don’t care,” Torsten sighs. “All I care about right now is the woman you’re threatening, which is a big fucking mistake on your part. Walk away and that will be the end of it.”
I clutch Chipper close to me, whispering in his ear, telling him everything is going to be okay. I can feel the anxiety running through him. He’s gone from growling to whimpering quietly now.
“Alright, fuck this,” the man snarls. “I’ve had enough.”
Torsten sighs again, though it sounds different to a regular sigh, hollow, like a wind blowing through the inside of a catacomb.
The man leaps with the knife, slashing with a speed that seems vicious and unstoppable.
But then – so quickly I hardly even have time to register it – the knife is on the floor and the man is lying on his back, gasping up at the night sky, making a choking noise that sounds like he’s on the verge of passing out.
Torsten blinks into existence in front of me, facing down the other men.
“Well?” he snarls.
Several of them let out guttural cries and leap at him.
Blink, blink, blink.
They all end up on the asphalt, clutching their injuries, whirrs of movement so quickly I’d need a special slow-motion camera to see how they got there.
I’m stunned to see that five of the nine men are lying on the ground, with the remaining four slowly creeping away, their mouths agape.
One man was smoking and his cigarette falls to the ground and extinguishes with an oddly loud hiss as he stares.
“Are we done?” Torsten says, sounding bored and utterly in control.
The men turn at the same time and sprint away, their heads ducked as they pump their arms so quickly it’s like they’re trying to dislocate them.
Torsten kneels down next to the leader and grips the back of his neck. He holds him with his thumb and forefinger, but the way the man squirms tells me everything I need know about the power in Torsten’s grip.
If this is a trick, it’s the most well-orchestrated trick in the world, and if that’s the case, how the heck did Torsten know I’d take this particular route? Surely there’d be equipment to fake his speed? Surely there’d be prep?
I feel a swelling inside of me.
Torsten really is a vampire.
“Apologizes,” he snarls. “Now.”
“S-sorry,” the man whimpers. “I’m so sorry. Jesus. Please. Don’t kill me.”
Torsten glances up at me, a glinting question in his eyes.
“It’s fine,” I say quickly. “Let him lie in the dirt where he belongs.”
“Hmm,” Torsten growls, and then stands up with the grace of a jungle cat. He places a hand on Chipper’s head. “Calm, boy. Be calm. You’re safe. You’re protected.”
I feel Chipper’s body relax, his heartbeat no longer pounding as though it’s trying to bust out of his chest.
“Did you …”
“No,” he says. “I wouldn’t use a charm without your permission.”
When we walk out onto the street, into the greater light of the street lamps, I can see that steam is rising from Torsten’s skin. It whirls into the air and then dissipates like smoke.
“I swam here,” he says. “And now, well, just being close to you is burning me up, Tammy.”
“Can I …”
Am I really going to say this?
“Can I feel?”
He nods and, feeling like I’m in some kind of dream, I reach across and place my palm against his neck. I gasp as the heat shoots up my arm and all through my body, infusing me, causing my sex to tighten and heat and my nipples to tingle with longing.
“Jesus,” I whisper.
“Do you believe me yet?” he asks with a wry twist of his mouth.
“I guess I’m still trying to fit it all into my head,” I whisper as we walk back toward my apartment building. “So you were a Viking?”
“And you’re like a thousand years old?”
He nods again.
“And you’ve chosen me? Your magic amulet thingy, it’s chosen me?”
“I chose you, yes,” he growls. “I’ve never scented anyone like you before. It’s like there’s something deep inside of you calling to me, Tammy. I can’t explain it. All I can say is that the amulet confirms it. You’re the woman from my prophecy. You’re the only woman I’ve ever felt like this about. You’re mine. You fucking belong to me. That’s what I’m telling you.”