"Those are Darcy's," Austin answered. "She tried to clean you up a bit."
Right. Katya had attacked her. Emma suspected her old clothes were covered with blood. Her stomach rumbled. "I feel so hungry."
"I'm sure you are." Austin eyed her warily.
She looked around the room. It was a nice bedroom. Blue comforter. Full-sized bed. No windows. Only a night light in a wall socket. How could she see so well? Her stomach rumbled louder, then cramped. She pressed a hand to her belly. "Ouch!"
Emma inhaled deeply and let it out slowly. "Where am I?"
"Who?" Another hunger pang rocked Emma. She grimaced. Austin's heart seemed to pound in her ears. She could hardly hear. Hardly think.
"I'm in a vampire's house?" Emma noticed the vein in Austin's neck. It was pulsing. And it smelled so good. Like food. "What's happening to me?" A hunger pain struck her hard. With a cry, she fell back on the bed and curled into a ball.
"Is she all right?" Darcy rushed into the room with a tray and set it down on the bedside table.
Darcy was so close, and she smelled so good, Emma fought an urge to grab her.
"I have your breakfast." Darcy offered her a glass. "Type O. A little bland, but you should start off with a simple diet."
Emma's eyes widened. The glass was filled with blood. "No!" A sudden jab of pain pierced her mouth. She cried out.
Darcy set the glass down. "You poor thing. The same thing happened to me. They always come out the first night."
Emma covered her mouth and whimpered. Her gums were ripping in two. With a scream, she felt them rip. She lowered her hand and saw blood splattered on her palm. It was horrible! And it smelled delicious. The pain in her mouth subsided as another hunger pang struck her.
Darcy plopped a straw into the glass and handed it to Emma. "Here. It's hard to use a glass when the fangs are out."
Fangs? Emma touched her mouth. Her canine teeth were long, pointed, and sharp. "No!" She shook her head. This was another bad dream. It couldn't be true.
"I know it's upsetting." Darcy perched on the bed beside her and pressed the glass into her hand. "You'll feel better once you eat."
Emma's hand shook as she took the glass. She had a terrible desire to throw it away and sink her teeth into Darcy. Oh God, it was true. She was a vampire.
She stared at the glass, stunned. The blood actually smelled good. Was this the sort of agony Angus had endured all night when he'd refused to bite her? She closed her mouth around the straw and sucked. The blood was sweet and warm. It flowed into her, filling her with an energizing sense of strength and power. Too soon, she reached the bottom of the glass.
"I need more." Her gums tingled, and she realized her fangs were retracting.
"I'll be right back." Darcy stood, taking the glass. "It's normal to be very hungry the first night."
"Yes, for four years. But you needn't stay this way for long. Roman can change you back. You'll be all right."
Emma nodded. She watched Darcy leave the room. Austin smiled at his wife as she passed by. A gentle, loving smile. And Emma knew exactly what she needed. "Where is Angus?"
Austin's smile faded. "He's, uh, not here right now."
Emma looked around the room. She still felt strange. Sort of numb. Maybe this was all a dream. She'd had a lot of them lately. Or were they memories? She'd made love with Angus. Katya had dragged her away and attacked her. Good heavens, Katya had killed her.
She lifted a hand to her neck. The skin was smooth and unbroken.
Austin walked toward her. "You healed during your death-sleep. One of the advantages of being undead." He smiled. "You look great, but you'll have to take my word for it. You can't see yourself in a mirror. One of the disadvantages of being undead."
"There are no disadvantages." Giacomo strolled into the room, sipping blood from a wineglass. "Buona sera, signorina. I came to see how you are faring." His brown eyes twinkled. "And to welcome you to the club."
The full extent of her circumstances sank in. She was dead. She pulled the blue comforter up to her chin. Where was Angus? She wanted to see him. She wanted his strong arms around her. She felt her neck where he'd fed from her while making love. The puncture wounds were gone. As if it had never happened.
Robby sauntered into the room. "How are ye, Miss Wallace?"
I'm dead. Emma wrapped her arms around herself underneath the comforter.
"I think she's in shock," Austin whispered, but Emma could hear it.
She could hear everything, even the whir of a microwave across the house. "I want to talk to Angus."
Robby exchanged a worried look with Giacomo. "He's no' here. He went to Paris with Jean-Luc and Ian."
"Then call Paris and ask him to teleport here. Please." Emma shuddered under the blanket. She hated being this needy. She'd always been strong and decisive before. But then, she'd never had to handle being dead before.
"He was going on to New York," Robby continued. "He willna be awake now."
New York? She was going through a crisis, and he was in New York? She gritted her teeth. He needed to be with her. She was dead, dammit. He needed to show respect for the dead. And for the woman he loved. "I need to talk to him."
"I'll send an e-mail," Robby offered. "He'll see it when he wakes."
"I bet you'll see him soon," Austin added. "As soon as you're strong enough, you can go to New York and have Roman change you back."
"Aye." Robby nodded. "Angus left me his T-shirt coated with yer blood."
"Your ticket back to mortality." Giacomo sipped from his wineglass. "Although I cannot imagine why anyone would want to be mortal again."
"Then you have a lousy imagination, Jack." Darcy strode into the room, holding a glass filled with blood. "Here you go." She handed it to Emma.
How could blood taste so good? Emma could drink easily now that her teeth were normal. It was like drinking raw power.
Another man entered the room. He was shorter than Angus, of medium height with dark brown hair and almond-shaped, amber eyes. "How are you, my dear?" He had a slight accent.
"Okay." How come her bedroom was Grand Central Station? Everybody wanted to come and gawk at the brand-new vampire. "I'm not performing any tricks today."
The man chuckled. "I'm glad you're all right. We were worried about you."
Obviously Angus wasn't too worried. He'd gone off to New York and left her alone to adjust to her new undeadness.
"I am Zoltan Czakvar." The man bowed slightly. "You are welcome here as long as you like."
"Thank you." Emma's gaze wandered over Zoltan, Robby, and Giacomo. "You're nice guys. It makes it easier to be... like this when I know how nice some of you are."
Darcy perched on the foot of the bed. "You don't have to stay like this, Emma. You can be mortal again."
But Angus was a vampire. If she stayed a vampire, she could be like him. She could zip around at incredible speed, levitate, and teleport. She'd be stronger than ever. She'd been a good slayer as a mortal, but as a vampire, she'd be a super slayer.
But if she stayed undead, it could be centuries before she saw her parents, or her brother, or Aunt Effie. That was bad.
But then again, that was centuries that she could love Angus. And he could love her. Her reservations about their relationship would be gone, now that they were the same.
"I need to talk to Angus," she repeated. Why couldn't these people understand? Why didn't Angus understand? Why did her leave her? She noticed the worried looks everyone was exchanging. Something was going on.
A sudden thought occurred to her. "Oh no! Was he injured?" She scrambled to her feet. Black dots circled her head.
Darcy reached out to her. "You should stay in bed tonight. It takes time for your body to adjust."
"No! I want the truth. Was Angus injured? Is that why he rushed off to see Roman?"
Robby shifted his weight. "He's fine. I'll send him that e-mail now." He rushed from the room.
"I'll show you the computer." Zoltan hurried after him.
Giacomo shook his head. "He should have stayed. I told him that, but... "
"But what?" Emma asked. "Why did he leave?"
Giacomo looked at her sadly. "He feels guilty."
"He left you a note." Darcy pulled a piece of paper from her pants pocket and set it on the bed.
A note? Emma frowned at it. After all they'd been through, he'd left a note? She gave Giacomo a confused look. "Why would Angus feel guilty?" It suddenly dawned on her. "Oh, he feels bad about Katya attacking me? But we were all under attack. I understand he had to protect himself."
Giacomo sighed. "He feels bad about making you weak."
"It's not his fault Katya killed me."
Emma stared at him. She must have been alive to kill Katya. Then how did she end up a vampire?
"I should go now." Giacomo hurried out the door.
"He had no choice, Emma." Austin left the room, too.
He? There was something terrible the men didn't want to say. She turned to Darcy. "Katya didn't do this to me?"
"No." Darcy's eyes were full of sympathy. "You would have died if he hadn't done it. He really had no choice."
He? God, no. Emma's knees collapsed, and she sat on the bed. Her eyes welled with tears. That was why he'd run away, plagued with guilt.
"I'm so sorry." Darcy touched Emma on the shoulder. "He insisted on doing it himself. He felt... responsible. And he knew you could be changed back."
A tear rolled down Emma's face. She caught it on her finger and saw the pinkish tint. Bloody tears, just like a vampire.
Darcy patted her on the back. "He gave you a second chance at life."
Emma swallowed hard. She'd become the kind of creature that had murdered her parents. To be transformed into a vampire, she'd had to die first. Her stomach cramped. "Angus killed me."
Her stomach heaved, and Emma lost her first meal as a vampire.
"En garde." Giacomo saluted Emma with his foil, then pointed it at her.
She attacked with a flourish of thrusts and lunges. Giacomo defended himself easily enough, but Emma knew she was making progress. Three days ago, during her first fencing lesson, he could have defeated her blindfolded. Now he was fully engaged.
"Remember, the Malcontents do not fight fairly." With a flick of his wrist, Giacomo sent her foil flying through the air. It landed with a clatter across the exercise room.
"How will you handle this?" He charged at her, his sword pointed straight at her heart.
She pushed off the ground as hard as she could, thinking levitate. She soared up so fast, she clonked her head on the ceiling. "Ouch." She hovered, rubbing the crown of her head.
Giacomo grinned up at her. "You're a natural."
Austin stood by the door, chuckling. "I think she's underestimating her strength."
She glared at him. "I pinned you yesterday in forty-five seconds."
He shrugged. "Yeah, but you could whip me when you were a mortal, too."
"And don't you forget it." Emma whipped the dagger from her belt, teleported behind Giacomo, and poked him in the rear.
"Ouch!" He jumped forward, spinning to face her.
She smiled sweetly. "How am I doing, teacher?"
He narrowed his eyes. "Do I detect some latent anger, bellissima?"
Emma sighed as she stuffed her dagger back under her belt. Maybe she was angry. She was certainly frustrated. She'd been at Zoltan's house for one week, and Angus hadn't returned any of her e-mails or phone messages. She'd read his note so many times, she had it memorized.
I do not expect forgiveness for the terrible thing I've done to you. I only hope you can be changed back as soon as possible, so you can reclaim your life. You deserve a happy life, filled with light and peace.
Peace? Did he really think she wanted peace when bad vampires like Casimir roamed the earth? She was a warrior like him. And now she was a vampire like him. Sure it had sickened her at first to think of him draining her dry and transforming her, but after a few nights of serious contemplation, she'd decided she was glad he was the one to induct her into this new life. She was undead because someone she loved had performed an act of mercy. That was so much better than dying the victim of an enemy's act of violence. And it was fitting that Angus had been the one. He'd been the one all along.
He'd taught her the difference between wreaking revenge and seeking justice. She no longer wanted to kill every vampire in her path to relieve the pain of her parents' murder. She wanted to put that pain behind her and move on. She wanted to use her new power to protect the innocent, so others wouldn't suffer as her parents had.
Angus had taught her that love was so powerful, it survived death. She still loved him with all her heart. And she understood now that death couldn't disfigure or corrupt a person's soul. She was surrounded by loving, honorable Vamps.