“Nothing personal, but I don’t want to bleed more,” he said.
“Maybe Jean-Claude can help us figure out why my touch made you do this,” I said.
“The next time we touch he should be in the room.”
“And Nathaniel,” I said.
“And maybe some security guards,” Damian said, as he threw more bloody tissues into the trash can.
“Why security?” I asked.
“The last time things went wrong with me, Anita, I killed innocent humans, just slaughtered them. I don’t remember doing it, but I believe that I did. I was worse than a freshly risen vampire, more like one of the revenants that never regains its mind.”
“You didn’t have any of these symptoms before last time, did you?”
“No, no nightmares, no bloody sweats, no power jumps, just out of my head with bloodlust.”
“That was different, then, Damian.”
“You said it yourself: The symptoms are different.”
“You just went crazy that time, Damian.”
“No, I didn’t just go crazy, Anita. You had cut me off from my connection to you and instead of dying finally and completely, I was old enough, or powerful enough, to go crazy.”
“Damian . . .”
“I know you haven’t cut me off from your power as my master this time, Anita, but you’ve still distanced yourself from me.”
“Because you and Cardinale asked me to.”
“We did, but I didn’t understand how much I would miss interacting with you and Nathaniel.”
“We were never that close, the three of us.”
“No, but I feel the lack of you both, somehow.”
Since Nathaniel had said almost the same thing about Damian a few months back, I wasn’t sure what to say; I didn’t seem to miss Damian as much as my other fiancé did. “I did what you asked, Damian.”
“Maybe I’m unasking,” he said.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“It means that I’m lonely.”
“You live and work with Cardinale, and you’re in love with her.”
“I know that.”
I wanted to ask, Then how can you be lonely? But I wasn’t sure how to say it. He said it for me. “I thought being in love meant you’d never be lonely again, that it would be like coming home in every sense of the word.”
“It is like that,” I said, and couldn’t help but smile as I said it.
He shook his head. “That smile on your face, that’s what I wanted to feel, but it’s not like that with Cardinale, not anymore.”
I didn’t know what to say to that, so I said, “The bleeding has almost stopped.”
“Oh good, I’ve stopped sweating blood for the second time today.” He threw the last of the bloody Kleenex in the small trash can and turned to me with angry eyes. “Jean-Claude told me if I went mad again he might have to kill me.”
“I remember,” I said.
“You can’t let me hurt innocent people again, Anita.”
“I know,” I said.
“I told Cardinale about the last time something went wrong with me, and I honestly think she’d prefer me dead than with someone else. How can that be love, Anita? How can she prefer me insane and having to be killed like an animal to me sleeping with other people?”
Again, I had no good answer, so I said nothing. I rarely got in trouble saying nothing.
“Answer me, Anita. How is that love?”
Of course, not everyone will let you say nothing; sometimes they demand more than that, even when there’s nothing good to say. “I don’t know, Damian.”
“You don’t know, or you know that isn’t love—it’s obsession?”
“Since I’m the other woman as far as Cardinale is concerned, I’d rather not comment.”
“She-Who-Made-Me didn’t understand love, but she understood being obsessed with someone. She’d find someone among the prisoners or the would-be treasure seekers who would come to the castle; like ordering pizza, the food comes to you.” He laughed, but it was a bad sound, the kind of laughter that made you cringe or want to cry. “She’d pick one special person to tease and torment and maybe fuck. Sometimes they thought she loved them, but it was the kind of obsession that scientists feel for insects, so beautiful until you kill it, stuff it, and put a pin through it.”
I fought not to point out that insects aren’t stuffed, and not to ask if She-Who-Made-Him actually stuffed or pinned her victims. Neither comment would help the pain in his eyes, so I let them both go. I can be taught.
“You can’t equate Cardinale with her,” I said, finally.
“Why not? Maybe after so many centuries with She-Who-Made-Me, obsession is all I understand? What if that’s what I saw in Cardinale? What if years of being tormented have made me mistake someone who wants to possess me for someone who wants to love me?”
“I don’t even know what to say to that, Damian, except it’s probably above my pay grade on the therapy scale and it sounds like a question for a real therapist.”
He nodded. “Maybe it is.”
“When do you get off work tonight?” I asked.
“Two hours before dawn.”
“You and Cardinale live at the Circus, so you’ll be heading that way anyway. We’ll see you an hour before dawn.”