We walked through the underbrush quietly. We followed the trees that were scratched. The further in we went, the more my skin started to tingle. Now I could sense what Erik had been. Whatever the person or being was, we were getting closer to it. But what could it be?
We reached the second deer and Erik knelt down beside it. He studied the marks and shook his head.
"Identical to yours, Cam-"
"Erik!" I shouted but I was too late.
A male vampire grabbed Erik by the neck and threw him through the forest until he crashed into a trunk with a grunt. Erik got to his feet, his eyes red and fangs extended to his chin. He hissed at the other vampire who was smirking back. He had the same blue eyes but had blond hair.
"What are you doing here?" Erik demanded.
"I've come to visit my brother," the vampire drawled and I frowned.
"Brother?" I repeated.
The vampire looked at me and smirked.
"Touch her and I will rip your fucking head off!" Erik snarled, taking me by surprise.
It was very unlike Erik to swear like that. The vampire just laughed.
"Aw, has my little brother found love?"
"You are not my brother!"
Erik grabbed the vampire and tackled him to the forest floor. The vampire hissed and kicked him into a tree again. Before the vampire could move, Erik grabbed his foot and twisted it, spinning the vampire, then slammed him to the forest floor. He pinned him down, his face pressed into the ground.
"Why are you here?" Erik repeated. "Tell the truth!"
The vampire laughed. "You're a fool, Erik. Haven't you heard? There are rumors that Duke Abbott's daughter is in the province." He laughed again when I gasped. "And it would seem I have found her."
Erik looked at me. The vampire took advantage of his distraction and grabbed Erik's throat again.
"No!" I shouted and ran forward.
Erik was thrown off of the vampire. The vampire grabbed my hair and I aimed a kick to his stomach. He growled in anger.
"Surely he won't mind if you come back a little beat up," he snarled and threw me into a tree trunk.
The wind was knocked out of me as I crashed into it. I felt the wood buckle under me and the tree creaked before falling with a loud thud. I got to my feet and ran for the vampire again. He was frowning.
"Why aren't you dead?" he asked and I grabbed his throat, showing him my fangs. His eyes widened. "Oh shit."
I squeezed until my nails dug into his neck. He coughed and kicked me in the stomach. I grunted and fell on my back, my breath leaving me again.
"Maybe he'll be glad to see you like this," he mused, tilting his head. "Maybe-"
Erik came from the side and rammed his body into the vampire's.
"Enough!" Erik snarled and grabbed the other's head. "How did you find us?"
The vampire smirked at me. "If you kill me, you'll never find out."
He growled at Erik. "Didn't you learn anything from Benjamin? I followed your scent, you bastard. Now get off."
Erik smirked at him this time. "No."
With an abrupt twist of his hands, Erik broke the vampire's neck. He stood up, panting. That's when I noticed how much he was bleeding.
"Erik," I said. "You need to feed."
"No. I am fine," he said but I stopped him and cut into my wrist as I had seen him do.
I didn't know why I was doing it. Any other time and I would use this as my opportunity to escape. He had just saved my life, though, and I watched as he pulled my wrist to his mouth. He closed his lips around it and groaned as he drank my blood. My knees went a little weak as the blood left my body. I fell to the forest floor and started to see stars.
"Erik," I gasped. "Erik, stop. You-You are t-taking too much."
He didn't respond and I pushed on him weakly. I was losing feeling in my legs.
"Erik," I breathed.
He pulled back, seemingly oblivious to my weakness.
"Okay," he panted. "We will burn his body and- Camille!"
"Get me more blood, damn it!"
"Johanna is too weak, Master."
"Then use someone else's blood! She will die, you fools!"
My eyes opened and I hissed.
"You are all incompetent! Close the damn curtains! Now!"
I heard the rasping of the curtains and opened my eyes again. I wanted to rub them but I was too weak to even lift my arms. The world was blurry so I blinked a few times until it came into focus. Erik was bent over me, looking horrified.
"Oh Camille," he breathed. "Oh, thank the stars." A goblet was handed to him. "Come, drink this."
He lifted my upper body so I could drink it. I wasn't sure whose blood it was but, the more I drank, the stronger I felt. When the blood was gone, I fell back on the blankets.
I was in my room and a few people were standing at the foot of the bed, their necks bleeding a little.
"What happened?" I asked, my voice as weak as my body.
"Leave," Roman ordered and everyone filed out. He sat on the bed and held my hand. "I drank too much," he said, his voice pained. "I do not know why I could not pull away. I thought you would be all right. I was wrong." He wiped some blood off the corner of my mouth. "You fainted in the forest. I carried you home and sent two servants out to cut and burn Roman's body." He sighed. "Johanna's blood did a lot but we had to use others."
"Am I going to die?" I murmured.
"No," he said. "You will live."
I shut my eyes wearily. "I tried to get you to stop."
"I am so sorry," he whispered and kissed my fingers, taking me by surprise again. "I cannot stop myself. I do not know why."
"I have not been fair to you, either," I mumbled. "When I am strong enough, I will teach you."
"Teach me what?"
I opened my eyes and let him hold my other hand.
"How to control it," I whispered.
He kissed my fingers again. "For now, just rest. You will need several days."
"Will I still need to feed on the others?"
"No. You will be fine." He shook his head. "If only we had consummated. Then you could have fed from me and this would have been much easier."
"I am sorry," I sighed, a tear falling down my cheek. "I cannot do it."
He groaned, running a hand through his hair.
"I do not understand, Camille," he said. "Surely this has opened your eyes to the danger you and I are in!"
"I am not a slave," I said, not even bothering to stop my tears. "I am not just a thing you can use for your pleasure."
He frowned. "You think that is what I would do? Use you and then leave you to fend for yourself?"
"It is what you have done since you turned me," I accused and he dropped my hands.
"I have?" he whispered.
I sighed. "You have not realized it?"
He continued to stare at me so I closed my eyes again. I was exhausted and this constant pressure to consummate our union was wearing on me. Part of me was ready to tell him just to do it so he would leave me alone. But I couldn't bring myself to just jump into it.
"It has been 15 years, Camille," he said. This time he sounded like he was in pain. "I cannot wait much longer. Each night my body yearns for yours. There will come a night I cannot stop it."
A sob escaped my throat and he tried to kiss me. I rejected it, though, and he sighed. Without saying anything, he left.