The Craving (Chapter 18)

There were two hundred blocks between the Richards' mansion and downtown New York City. Just under ten miles. But moving like a vampire isn't like running in a normal sense, especially as I had just drained one of the Richards' goats. If I was a blur to the world, so was the world to me. My head was down as I spent my entire focus on avoiding the obstacles right before me and trying to exhaust myself. Down from the rocky cliffs and heights of Fort Tryon with its cool trees, and through the valley that separated it from the rest of the city. Back into civilization, the unpaved dirt roads that smelled of dust and plants, particularly the tobacco I recognized from my native Virginia.

After enduring a week of waiting and watching and trying to outthink my brother, I just wanted it to all be over.

And now it wasn't.

Damon couldn't kill Winfield until the cash was available, and who knew how long that was going to be. In the meantime I had to stay with Bridget, keep tabs on the Sutherlands, pretend to be happily married, and continue to try and figure out Damon's endgame.

I was caught in a web of guilt; every move of mine stuck another limb deeper. I just wanted to break free.

I wish I could live in solitude. If I had to live out eternity as a vampire, at the very least I could leave no evidence of it. No deaths, no injury, no hurt, no evidence of my unnatural existence at all. I was running from myself, my new self, and could never escape, just as I ran from Damon, my shadow in this endless afterlife.

The scent of nature soon gave way to the reek of sewage and rot that clung to even rich neighborhoods. In the alleyways behind the giant houses, servants dumped slop out into back streets and milk carts left fresh dairy products on back steps. All they would notice was a strange rush of wind, a vacuum that had been created in my passing, a momentary darkening against a brick wall like a cloud had passed over the sun.

In the Garment District my nose was assailed by the harsh tang of chemicals and the singeing of fibers as young women cut, sewed, and dyed cloth in the factories that were beginning to replace the farms in New York City. Leaning against the fire escape with their sleeves pushed up, small clusters of these young women smoked cigarettes on their precious breaks.

As I tore by one girl, cutting it very close, my tail wind snuffed out her match. I looked back to see her staring, confused, at the feather of smoke.

Soon I was overcome by the smell of human flesh and waste. Of horse manure and flickering gas lamps. Of industry, print and ink and black smog, of the river, briny fish, and finally a fresh breeze. These were the only details of the city I took in, all sounds and sights muted to a roaring black and white. Expensive perfume and flowers. Butchered meat and smoky bacon. Lemon and ginger…

I stopped suddenly, in the middle of Washington Square. That was Katherine's perfume.

A hand clasped my shoulder, and I spun around expectantly.

But instead of seeing the dark curls of the woman who had made me, I found myself face-to-face with Damon, who stood there, one eyebrow raised in condescending amusement.

My face fell and I slumped, exhaustion and despair overtaking me. I didn't even bother shaking off his hand. Where was I going to go, really? My brother had followed me all the way up the East Coast. So long as I refused to drink human blood, he would always be stronger, faster than I was. I was only delaying the inevitable by trying to escape whatever he had planned next.

"It's our wedding night, brother. Where are you off to?" Damon's voice was sharp.

Exhausted from my marathon of pain and escape, I just stood there. "I was going to come back."

Damon rolled his eyes. "I'll get us a cab," he said, snapping his fingers. One came over immediately.

"Seventy-third and Fifth," he ordered, through the trap door.

"We're going to the Sutherlands'?" I asked, confused. "Not the Richards'?"

"We're going home," Damon corrected. "And yes, the reception's over. You ran out at the very end."

"What did you tell Bridget?" I couldn't help asking. While I didn't love her, I felt bad about abandoning her at her own wedding. In some ways, it was the worst thing that I could do to a girl like her.

Damon rolled his eyes. "Don't worry. They don't even realize you've gone missing."

"So you haven't killed them yet?"

"Whoever said I was going to kill them?" he asked innocently. "Do you think I'm some kind of monster?"

"Yes," I said.

"Well, I am what you made me," Damon said with a tip of his hat.

"You're not making this any easier," I muttered.

"You must have me mistaken for someone who cares about making your life easier," Damon said, suddenly cold, his eyes flashing.

"You know, you've taken a lot of effort to make sure you stay in my life," I pointed out. "Are you sure it's just to make me miserable?"

He stared at me. "What are you getting at?"

"I think you need me, Damon," I growled. "I think that under your anger, you're scared and horrified of what you've become. I am the last link to your human self, the only person who knows who you are. And I'm the only person for the rest of eternity who will."

Damon narrowed his eyes at me.

"Brother, you don't know anything about me," he hissed.

He threw the door of the cab open and swung himself up and out. A soft thunk indicated he had landed on the roof. I stuck my head out the window and looked up.

I watched with horror as Damon picked up the driver and ripped his neck open, sucking only a mouthful or two before throwing him off the cab and on to the street.

"Damon! Stop!" I yelled, but it was too late. I tried to dive out the door, to go after the injured man, but Damon threw an arm out and pushed me back into the carriage as he sped around a corner.

Perched on top of the cab, mouth covered in blood, Damon whipped the horse into a frothing frenzy. And so we two brothers hurled northward, one driving and one being driven, like Satan compelling the damned.