Home > Vampires Are Forever (Argeneau #8)(9)

Vampires Are Forever (Argeneau #8)(9)
Author: Lynsay Sands


Hearing the annoyance in her voice, he realized he was just staring at her, unspeaking as his thoughts crowded in his mind. Now, he cleared his throat and said, "Not here. We'll be overheard."

"You said we would be in public all the time so I would feel safe while you explained," she pointed out grimly. "If you can't explain in public, how-"

"All right," Thomas said at once, ending her irritation. He glanced around again, relieved to see that everyone seemed to be paying attention to the men at the back of the plane, and then turned back to her. Thomas hesitated and then reached out and caught her cross in his hand. As she watched wide-eyed, he closed his fingers around it, holding it for a moment, and then opened his hand to reveal the golden pendant lying in his unharmed hand.

"The cross didn't keep me from harming you, Inez. I did. You are safe with me," he said quietly, then smiled wryly and added, "And the Caeser's salad with extra garlic that you ordered at the airport restaurant was completely unnecessary. Garlic does not harm us either."

She flushed at his words, but didn't say anything.

Releasing the cross, Thomas continued, "We aren't dead. We aren't soulless. We aren't cursed."

Her eyes widened with each claim. "Well then, how-"

Thomas held up a hand and she immediately fell silent. Nodding approval, he said, "I'm going to tell you a story."

Inez tsked with irritation. "I don't want to hear a story. I want-"

"Work with me here, Inez," he said with exasperation and gestured to the people around them.

She glanced around, noting that while no one appeared to be glancing their way, they were certainly close enough to hear. Biting her lip, she nodded in understanding. "Tell me the story."

"I was reading this book about Atlantis," he began, peering at her meaningfully.

Her eyes widened, but she remained silent.

"In this book, Atlantis was an isolated civilization that held a much more advanced society than the rest of the world at that time. More advanced than even we are now."

Her eyebrows rose slightly.

"And in Atlantis, scientists discovered a way to combine bioengineering and nano technology to create little nanos that could be shot into a mortal's blood stream and carried through the body where they repaired damage and killed off illness in the individual as well as regenerated new cells where necessary. These nanos were programmed to shut down and disintegrate once the repairs were made."

Inez nodded her understanding, her expression fascinated.

"But what the scientists hadn't taken into account was that the mortal body suffers constant damage from sunlight, the environment and even aging, so the nanos never shut down, but continue to repair and regenerate, even replicating themselves to continue the work they had been programmed to do."

"So you-"

Thomas caught her hand, bringing her to silence so he could continue. "These nanos, however, use more blood than a mortal can produce. In Atlantis, this wasn't a problem. They had blood banks and those mortals in Atlantis who were now immortals, because the nanos kept their bodies at the peak stage between about twenty-five and thirty-two years old, were simply given transfusions every morning."

"Where did they get the blood?" Inez asked.

"From mortals," Thomas answered, and then explained, "Not everyone in Atlantis had these nanos in them. I don't know the exact sequence of events or how many it was tested on before they realized the nanos weren't dying off as expected. All I know is that my father's parents were among those who had the experimental treatment before it was stopped. It's how they met. And then, of course, all their children were infected, the nanos passed into them through their mother."

"I see," Inez murmured. "And these nanos gave them fangs and-"

"No. They had no fangs in Atlantis. As I said, they had blood banks and got transfusions. The fangs weren't necessary...but then the day came when Atlantis fell."

"Fell?" she asked curiously.

Thomas nodded. "It was a combination of earthquake and a volcanic eruption or something. Atlantis fell into the sea, I think. Anyway, most if not all of the mortals were killed in the fall, and even some immortals, but some managed to escape and survive. They spread out over the face of the earth, but what they found was that while their society had been sheltered by the mountains surrounding it and their people had advanced, the rest of the world was way behind them technologically. Primitive even." He cleared his throat, and added, "This was around 1500...BC."

Her eyes widened incredulously. "What?"

When he simply nodded solemnly, Inez frowned in response. "But that means they were worlds ahead of the rest of the world. Why? How?"

Thomas shrugged. "They stuck to their own and didn't share their technology."

"But why?" she repeated. "Why stay so isolated? Why did they never travel beyond the mountains surrounding them? If they were as advanced as that, surely they had the ability."

"I'm sure they did," Thomas agreed and then shrugged. "But I don't know why they remained so isolated. My cousin once said something about an age-old feud with a neighboring clan and a peace treaty guaranteeing that neither people would cross the border of the mountains separating them."

"But they did when Atlantis fell?" she murmured and he nodded.

Inez considered that and then asked, "How did they survive when they suddenly found themselves without the blood banks and so on?"

Thomas saw the realization on her face even as she asked the question, but answered anyway, "At first it was bad. They needed blood, but had no way to get it. There were no blood banks outside Atlantis. But the nano's job was to do what was necessary to repair and regenerate the body and they needed blood to do it." He shrugged. "Their response was to make the teeth come on, I guess. Plus, the survivors also became faster, and stronger, and able to see better in the dark."

"Why the dark?" Inez asked at once. "If you aren't cursed and soulless, why can you not walk in sunlight?"

"They can," Thomas said, as he glanced nervously around to be sure none of their flight mates were paying attention. "They can walk in sunlight, but sunlight does the worst damage to the body, which means they have to consume more blood. They avoid sunlight to avoid the necessity of feeding more often."

When she frowned, he added, "Mortals weren't too happy to be considered cattle by immortals. Many Atlanteans were killed or at least injured horribly when they were discovered feeding on mortals. It was better for them to avoid sunlight as much as possible and live, sleep, and hunt under cover of night. Of course, the other abilities help with that."

"Being faster, stronger, and having night vision?"

"That and the ability to read and control the minds of mortals, as well as erase their memories so that they don't feel the pain of the feeding or recall it afterward. If not for that, it would be impossible to hide their existence. They would be hunted and eventually eradicated," he said quietly and then pointed out, "Mortals could defeat us-I mean, them, by sheer numbers alone."

She frowned, opened her mouth, then closed it and leaned forward to whisper, "But you didn't erase my memory."

"No," Thomas agreed quietly. He could see the question in her eyes, but shook his head. He wasn't explaining that to her here. He wasn't at all sure how she'd take the news that she was his lifemate and he didn't want her freaking out on the plane. Trying to steer her away from that subject, he said, "The older ones prefer being called immortals to vampire, though they aren't completely immortal. They can die, but not from illness, and not even by most injuries."

"How?" she asked.

Thomas hesitated. What she was asking was a dangerous question to answer. If she decided she didn't think mortals should have to suffer immortals living amongst them, she could use this information to hurt them. Unfortunately, he couldn't read her mind, so couldn't gauge how she was accepting this information. She didn't look as afraid as she had. In fact, if anything, Inez appeared more fascinated than anything else.... Still...

"Is it the stake in the heart like the mythological vampire?" she asked abruptly.

"That can stop the heart," he admitted carefully.

Her eyebrows drew together. "But it won't kill them."

"Not if it is removed quickly enough," he admitted.

"Then, how-"

"The only thing you need to know is that now that there are blood banks again, they do not need to hunt to feed," he said quietly.

"But you bit me."

Thomas glanced around again. No one seemed to be paying attention, but as he turned back toward Inez he glimpsed the woman in the seat in front of Inez through the slight gap between the two seats before them. The woman's head was turned sideways, her ear close to the gap. Narrowing his eyes, he focused on her thoughts, relieved to be able to read them until he realized she had indeed been listening avidly. And she suspected it wasn't just a story he was telling Inez. Thomas immediately began erasing her memories, replacing them with the thought that she'd slept through the whole flight. He then took a moment to put her to sleep for the rest of the flight before turning back to Inez.

She was glancing between him and the seats before them with suspicion. "What did you just do?"

"I bit you because the cooler of blood Bastien was having sent to me at the Dorchester hadn't yet arrived," he said in a near whisper, ignoring her question. "I was distracted by my worry for Aunt Marguerite on the flight to England yesterday and only had one bag of blood. Bastien was concerned about my getting on the flight hungry and possibly being tempted to feed from someone at the airport or on the plane and being discovered."

"How much blood do you normally have to have a day?" Inez asked in a whisper, a frown on her face.

"Three or four bags as a rule," he admitted reluctantly.

"Three or four bags?" she asked with amazement. "That's like what? Three or four pints?"

"Something like that," he muttered with a shrug.

"You had one bag yesterday and none today, so you were about seven pints low when you bit me?" she asked.

"Something like that," Thomas repeated uncomfortably.

Inez stared at him for a minute and then said with certainty, "You didn't take that much from me. The human body only holds something like eight pints of blood, doesn't it?"

"No, I didn't take that much from you," he agreed. He had no idea how much blood the average person had in them. It wasn't something he normally considered.

"What happens when you don't get enough blood?"

Thomas hesitated and then admitted, "The nanos will leave the blood stream and go into the organs and skin in search of more blood to fuel them."

"Is it painful?" she asked, her expression solemn.

"Like acid traveling through your body," he muttered, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. Afraid of misjudging and taking too much blood after so long without feeding off the hoof, Thomas hadn't taken much blood from Inez at all...just enough to soothe the worst of the cramps at the time. It hadn't taken long for his body to run through the small amount he'd consumed and the pain and cramps of hunger had quickly returned. They'd grown more unbearable with the passing time, but he'd mostly managed to ignore it by distracting himself with the sights and sounds around them. However, now that they were discussing the subject, he was having trouble ignoring the pain. It would be a great relief when they reached the hotel in Amsterdam and he could raid the cooler of blood Bastien had promised to have waiting there.

Inez worried her lip as she peered at Thomas, her feelings pitched somewhere between relief and worry. She was very relieved to know that he wasn't some soulless, dead, bloodsucker like the fictional Dracula and his cohorts. That would have been a nightmare. She couldn't have accepted that even to keep her job. But the rosy cheeks she'd noted after he'd bitten her had been a temporary state. Staring at him as she had in the taxi, Inez had actually been able to see the pink glow fade from his cheeks during the hour-long ride to Gatwick Airport. By the time they'd arrived and checked in at the terminal, there was no glow left and he'd been terribly pale...unhealthily so.

Inez hadn't been too concerned at the time, but now that she understood just what he was she was beginning to be concerned. From what he'd explained, it seemed obvious that Thomas was really not much different than herself and other mortals...except that he had a certain longevity. He did have some special abilities that most humans didn't have; the added strength and speed he'd spoken of, the ability to see better in the dark, and the fangs of course. But he also had some rather terrible weaknesses, even afflictions. The man couldn't survive long without blood without suffering terrible pain. She could see the lines of pain gathering around his mouth and eyes. The first of those lines had begun to appear shortly after they'd arrived at the airport and had become more obvious by the time they'd boarded the plane.

Much to her shame, they hadn't concerned her overly much at the time. She'd rather thought it served him right since her neck was still a bit tender to the touch, but now that he'd explained how he was the way he was...

Inez stared at him silently, fighting the urge to offer to let him bite her again. Had it been a wholly altruistic urge, she might not have fought it so hard. She did hate to see others in pain, and really now that he'd explained, she wasn't so angry about his biting her. She didn't care for the idea of being "cattle" for an immortal as he'd put it, but it was really no different than donating blood to the blood bank, or for a friend. Except for the delivery of it...and therein lay the problem and the reason she was struggling with the offer. It wasn't wholly altruistic. Inez had enjoyed the experience; his kisses, his touch, his scent, the passion that had flooded her, and part of her was eager to experience it all again.

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