“That won’t give us much time.”
“I’ll fill Jean-Claude and Nathaniel in on everything, so we’ll have less to explain.”
“An hour is still not much time to solve the unsolvable,” he said.
“Jean-Claude doesn’t have to die at dawn, if I’m touching him, and you aren’t dying at dawn. That gives us more time,” I said.
He seemed to think about that, then nodded, putting his coat over the back of his chair so his hands were free. He stood there bare from the waist up, except for the blood that was beginning to dry on his back. “A bright side to this cursed sleep, then,” he said.
“Most vampires are a little afraid of that moment when they die each day,” I said.
“I think a part of me would be relieved to finally die for real.”
“Are you thinking suicidal thoughts?” I asked, because you have to ask, or you won’t know.
“No, I was raised to believe a death in battle meant a good afterlife, and I was fighting when She-Who-Made-Me took my life.”
“You mean Valhalla and all that.”
He grinned. “Yes, Valhalla and all that.”
“So you count that moment as your death, and wouldn’t count dying as a vampire now?” I asked, because it was me and I wanted to know.
He shook his head. “She-Who-Made-Me killed me, Anita. Make no mistake about that.”
I wasn’t sure I agreed with his definition of life and death and when he was killed, but if it gave him comfort, who was I to argue with it? I believed in heaven, and wasn’t Valhalla just Damian’s version of that? If it wasn’t, the difference was a question for a priest and I wasn’t one of those, so I let him take his comfort and I kept mine.
“I’ll see you later tonight, then,” I said.
“I can’t go to work like this,” he said. “I smell like fresh blood and sweat. It’s disgusting.”
“I haven’t noticed you smelling bad; maybe just take a bird bath in the bathroom back here,” I suggested.
“You haven’t gotten close enough to smell my skin,” he said.
“You just said you don’t want me closer since you sweated blood from one touch.”
He sighed. “Yes, I did.”
“I’m heading to the Circus of the Damned, then. I’ve got people waiting for me.”
“Can I catch a ride with you? I need a shower and clean clothes.”
“You fly better than almost any vampire I know; you don’t need a car.”
“I don’t feel myself tonight, Anita. I’d rather use a car.”
“How did you get here tonight without one?”
“Cardinale and I carpool. You know that.”
“Sorry. You’re right. I do.”
“Look, if you don’t want to give me a ride, just say so.”
“I’m not sure you and I in a car alone together is a good idea until we know why shaking hands made you bleed.”
He took in a lot of air and let it out slow. Was he breathing more than normal for him, and for most of the vampires I knew, or was I just more aware of it? I almost asked, but then left it alone. I’d ask Jean-Claude later after he’d had time to watch Damian tonight.
“You’re right,” he said.
“Maybe you can drive the car to the Circus, shower, and come back for the big dance number at the end of the evening,” I said.
“Sensible,” he said.
“You sound like you’d rather I not be sensible.”
“The urge to touch you is always there, Anita, even after what just happened.”
Since I wasn’t as drawn to him as he was to me, I kept quiet, because when a man tells you something like that it’s just mean to tell him you don’t feel the same. I did my best not to hurt anyone’s feelings if I could help it.
“You’re shielding so hard, Anita, harder than when you came through the door.”
“We shook hands and you sweated blood, Damian, and I don’t know if I caused it. So yes, I’m shielding as hard as I can from you right now.”
“It’s like you’re not there at all now.”
“You can see me,” I said.
He shook his head. “It’s not the same, Anita.”
“I haven’t cut our ties as master and servant. I know enough not to do that by accident now.”
“You might as well be on the far side of the world for all the energy you’re sharing with me.”
“See my earlier statement, Damian.”
“You’re probably right to do it, but I feel worse, as if a little bit more of my air was cut off and I’m suffocating more quickly.”
“You’re a vampire. You don’t have to breathe except to talk.”
“I tell you how I feel, and you’re going to argue semantics with me?”
It was my turn to take in a lot of air and let it out slow. I wanted to get impatient, maybe even angry, but I tried to do better. “You’re allowed to feel the way you feel, Damian, but vampires can’t suffocate. It was just odd phrasing.”
“There’s a lot odd about me lately, Anita.”
“I’m going for my date now. You tell Cardinale why you’re borrowing the car and missing part of your shift.”
“I’ll talk to Angel about working around me in the dances. We really need another male vampire that can take some of my performances, or hers. She’s a great assistant manager, but we both need someone to take the dance floor for us sometimes so we can manage things.”