“The only thing I can think of is that her power is finally fading enough that she has lost control of some of her vampires and they are mad with power now,” he said, standing too.
“Why would she suddenly start to lose power after all this time?”
“I do not know. She was very in control of them when I left Ireland five years ago.”
“Could it be vampires from out of the country that she doesn’t control?”
“It is possible, I suppose.”
“But you don’t believe it,” I said.
“No, I don’t. She-Who-Made-Me is very covetous of her power and control. She would not allow some upstart vampires to come as near to her as Dublin and make her existence difficult without making their existence impossible.”
“You mean she’d kill them.”
“Oh yes, but you need to go. I will think upon what I know about my old mistress and her retinue, but this has to be someone or something new in Ireland. Within her fortress she was mad and capricious, but outside it she was very disciplined. Whatever is doing this doesn’t seem very disciplined. In fact, I’d say it was new vampires learning how to control themselves, but she could hunt them down easily and destroy them, or ‘invite’ them to join her kiss.” He made little air quotes around invite.
“Join us or die, huh?”
“Something like that. Jean-Claude cautioned me to make certain you leave by about now,” he said, glancing at the wall clock.
I let the surprise show on my face. “I don’t think he’s ever talked to one of my other people before like that.”
“He didn’t want you to get distracted by me.”
“Fine. I’ll fill Jean-Claude and Nathaniel in on what’s happening with you and we’ll come up with a plan.”
He offered his hand to me, as if it were any other meeting, and I took it the same way. We forgot that weird was where we started. Power jumped between our skin in a wash of heat, as if a sudden fever had gripped us both. The last time I’d touched him there’d been attraction, power, magic, but not like this heat wave.
I let go of his hand, but he held on, until I said, “Let go of me, Damian,” and he had to let go, because I’d ordered him to do it.
Our hands parted, but it was like pulling our hands out of some invisible taffy: sticky, sweet, and trying to hold on to both of us. We stood there staring at each other, both of us breathing fast, chests rising and falling with the need for air as if we’d been running.
“What the hell was that?” I gasped it, because I didn’t have air for anything else. I was even sweating, just a little.
“I don’t know,” he whispered, and there was the faintest dew of sweat on his face. The sweat should have been pinkish with blood, but it was darker than that, more red than pink. One drop of that bloody sweat trailed down his face and took my gaze with it, to find more sweat down the middle of that bare line of chest, so that it looked like he was bleeding from a hundred tiny puncture wounds, except it was the fine pores of his skin. He wasn’t wounded; he wasn’t even truly bleeding; there was always a little blood in a vampire’s sweat, enough to make the clear liquid slightly pink.
I watched Damian bleed down the paper whiteness of his skin, and knew something was wrong, as in call-a-doctor wrong, but who do you call when a vampire gets “sick”? Since they didn’t get sick in any traditional sense, there weren’t a lot of doctors that specialized.
Damian touched his fingers to his skin and stared at the blood on them. “What is happening to me, Anita?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“You’re a necromancer and my master; shouldn’t you know something?”
I felt that little spurt of anger but pushed it down, because he was right. “Yeah, I should, but I don’t. I’m sorry for that.”
He got some Kleenex from his desk drawer and started dabbing at the bloody sweat. The tissues came away soaked. “I woke from the nightmares like this today, Anita, drenched in blood. I ruined the sheets and Cardinale just lay there in the bloody bed like the corpse she was.”
I stared at him, because I’d never heard a vampire describe another vampire like that before. “Damian . . .” I reached out to touch him, comfort him, but stopped myself before I finished the gesture; shaking hands had been exciting enough.
“Whatever is wrong with me is getting worse, Anita.” He threw the bloody Kleenex in the small office wastebasket.
“We’ll talk to Jean-Claude first.”
“And if he doesn’t know what’s wrong with me, what’s second?”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” I said.
“If Jean-Claude doesn’t have an answer for this, Anita, then you and Nathaniel and I have to make our metaphysics work better.”
“Even if it costs you Cardinale?”
He stripped off his coat and held it out by two fingers away from his body. Blood was still beading on the skin between his shoulder blades. Shouldn’t it have soaked into the coat? He turned around and fresh blood was sweating onto his chest and forehead.
“Cardinale said she’d rather I keep having nightmares than have me sleep with someone else.” He wiped at the fresh blood with more Kleenex, until it was all a bloody mess. “I can feel it dripping down my back,” he said with distaste.
“It is, but I’m afraid to touch you again after the handshake,” I said.