Cassandra towered over the still body, gazing down at her hands with mild surprise: the blood on them was already dry.
She dropped her hands to her sides, allowing her eyes to see the body for the first time since she lost control. Blood had spilled from him, leaving a red pool around his body. It has started to seep through the gaps between the wooden boards. Raising a foot carefully, she hesitated, and then prodded him roughly between the ribs with her big toe. He remained motionless, his lifeless eyes fixed on a painting on the opposite wall.
Cassandra remained standing, shaking, in the pool of blood. She shook her head disbelievingly at the sight of it; did humans contain this much blood? Did they bleed this much from a single wound? It had been a long time since Cassandra had murdered.
Dropping down beside him she could see a wound on his neck. Pulling the neckline of his tee-shirt down, she saw two deep punctures on the vein and teeth marks surrounding the wound – as she had already expected. She knew what she was; she had killed before enough times to know. She studied his face where the ghost of his last desperate scream was still etched upon it. It looked as though she had caused him pain. She hoped she hadn’t, she truly had loved and cared for the dead body that now lay before her.
Cassandra lowered her head so her lips were barely inches from his ear, her golden hair falling into the bloody pool around him. ‘I’m sorry, love.’ She smiled adoringly at her husband. ‘I loved you, but you could never have me,’ she said, speaking softly, gently running fingers through his damp hair. His scalp was still warm. ‘Not really. I think you knew that.’
Ecstasy was coursing through her body, flowing through her veins like adrenaline. A smile played on her face as she gazed down upon his lifeless body. ‘You did taste good, though.’
The backdoor squeaked open and Cassandra’s head snapped up. A blunt tap sounded against the titled floor and echoed throughout the kitchen every half a second or so. Cassandra cocked her head to listen for the intruder, but all she could hear were the police sirens drawing nearer, roaring through the streets. Cassandra closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath, the intruder smelt like stale smoke mixed with Old Spice; he smelt like familiarity. She knew this man and he wasn’t human. It wasn’t the police. Not yet.
She opened her eyes and lifted them to meet the intruder’s calm gaze. He remained in the kitchen doorway studying her for a moment, leaning heavily on an ivory topped cane, before his dark eyes fell to the broken man lying beside her. ‘Cassie –,’
‘I’m not coming with you,’ she told him tersely, placing a hand on the floor, ready to propel herself up in the event of an attack. Cassandra focused her hearing but could not hear the others, his dutiful entourage, in the house.
The stranger looked up from the bloody corpse, his face blank. ‘He won’t be the last, Cassie,’ he said, stepping through the door, his cane clicking on the wooden floor. ‘You can’t control your urges –,’
‘I haven’t killed for the past three years, Reuben. The gaps are becoming longer –,’
‘This isn’t a game,’ snapped Reuben, his hand white knuckled on the cane. ‘You need blood to survive. It’s simple scientific –,’
‘We don’t need human blood, not all the time. I have proven –,’
‘All you are proving is that you can singlehandedly tear down everything we have built,’ barked Reuben, drowning out Cassandra’s argument. ‘There are some humans who already know about us and openly murdering them will only lead them to us – to you.’
‘I’m not doing this on purpose,’ Cassandra whimpered, tears springing to her eyes. ‘I’m not.’
The edges of Reuben’s eyes softened slightly. ‘I know.’
Cassandra titled an ear towards the street. ‘The police are coming.’
Cassandra sniffed. ‘What should we do?'
Reuben cast his eyes over the room once more. ‘Helicia is waiting in the car to clean up but you, Cass, have two choices: you can come home or,’ – Reuben faltered. Cassandra continued to kneel, waiting patiently for instruction, staring up at Reuben. The older vampire closed his eyes and continued, ‘or you can keep pretending to be human.’
Cassandra leapt up from her position beside her wounded husband. ‘Do you mean that?’
‘You have to promise me that you’ll live right, that you’ll feed when necessary.’
‘Of course, I will – I do!’
Rueben watched her eager face intently. ‘There are no more second chances, Cass. The council are running thin on tolerance. You run the risk of exposing us to the humans and the council will execute you if this behaviour continues.’
‘I’m sorry. I promise it won’t.’
Reuben hesitated then reached out for Cassandra’s still bloody hand. ‘I’m worried about you.’
‘I know,’ said Cassandra, taking Reuben’s outstretched hand. ‘Don’t be.’
He squeezed her fingers gently and smiled kindly. ‘You need to go, the police are coming.’
‘Thank you. I promise this is the last one,’ Cassandra said, pushing herself up onto her toes and lightly kissing Reuben’s cheek. ‘I’ll invite you out for golf soon.’
Reuben snorted in spite of himself. ‘Listen, keep your head low and don’t do anything stupid,’ he warned. He took her by shoulders and held her at arm’s length. ‘Lose your clothes as soon as you can, they’re covered in blood. Stay hidden and don’t contact anyone for a while – do not ring the house. Wait until we’ve sorted this out.'
Cassandra nodded. ‘Okay. Thank you.’ Cassandra reached up and threw her arms around Reuben’s neck. ‘Thank you.’
Cassandra uncoiled her arms from the older vampire’s neck and smiled briefly before darting past him and into the garden.
‘This is your last warning.’ Cassandra heard Reuben remind her as she vaulted effortlessly over the fence and disappeared into the city beyond.
Helicia promptly appear at the backdoor. She brushed past Reuben and into the living room, casting her amber eyes over the ruined room and resting finally on the body. She clicked her tongue impatiently and without turning said, ‘She’s more trouble than my grandchildren. You can’t protect her forever.’
Reuben sighed. ‘What else can I do? We brought her into this.’
‘Didn’t you execute kids like her, back in the old days?’
‘Please Helicia,’ Reuben implored, gesturing around, ‘the police are almost here.’
‘She’ll only do it again, you know she will.’ Helicia glanced over her shoulder at Reuben. ‘She’ll be the end of us and I hope, for your sake, the end doesn’t come in my lifetime because I don’t know if I’ll be able to forgive you. The humans will hate us and they will hunt us, you know that. Lua would want you to do the right thing.’
‘And you think she would want me to murder Cassandra.’
‘She would want you to protect your family.’
Reuben pursed his lips and said nothing. The pair watched each other silently, each waiting for the other to continue the debate as the screaming sirens rolled closer.
‘The police will be here shortly,’ said Reuben finally, waving his free hand at the abandoned corpse. 'We don’t have time to discuss this.’
Helicia nodded curtly. ‘If you insist,’ she said, turning to the lifeless human, rolling up her sleeves to begin the ritual.