Her face was so gaunt, her lips dark, her eyes burning green as always, though oddly, once again, not with as much intensity as before.
She started idly brushing her hair. The brush was a good salon-quality one; it deserved some use. Sam was unlikely to have guests again anytime soon.
Except for one guest, and he arrived shortly.
A shadow moved outside the doors. Momentarily, the shadow materialized into something more solid, stepping into the light.
Occam was no vision of the classic romantic vampire. He wore jeans, battered sneakers, and a ratty stained T-shirt. He leaned casually against one of the doors, hip jutted out.
She paused brushing, and then resumed.
He gazed at her, silent; finally, he stepped away from the doors and walked across the room toward her.
She placed the brush on the vanity and watched him in the mirror.
He stopped behind her and bent down so his face was next to hers. His gray, pale eyes reminded her of Robbie’s, though somehow more sinister. He gently smoothed her hair over her opposite shoulder, baring her neck. He didn’t smell as repulsive as he usually did. Maybe he’d taken a shower for the occasion.
“You don’t have to invite me in,” he said. “That’s just a fairy tale.”
“Yet you waited.”
He continued stroking her hair. His touch made the back of her neck prickle.
“You’ve been a busy man lately,” she said. “I’m surprised you have the time to watch me.”
“I didn’t kill them all. I am but one drone in the hive.”
“You were the one burning out their eyes. You still have the light.”
He chuckled softly, a flash of fangs peeking out between his cracked lips. “At least Sam knows it’s being put to good use.”
She tilted her head as his fingers dragged through her hair, pulling it.
“I want to ask you something,” she said.
He made a soft sound of assent. His closeness was terrifyingly intimate.
“Can you get me and Sam inside the Institute?”
“Where Robbie is.”
“Yes.” She blinked at their reflection. “Can you get us in there? Get us to him?”
“He’ll kill Sam.”
“Maybe. But can you at least get us in there?”
His eyes glittered. “I can.” He ceased stroking her hair and rested his hand on her shoulder. “We’ve been monitoring his ridiculous antics. He thinks he’s so clever.”
“If he goes through with what he’s planning, his followers will destroy this city.”
“What a pity.” Occam stroked his fingertip up the side of her neck along her jugular.
She pulled away and turned on the stool. “I need to ask two things of you.”
He stood upright and stepped back. He opened his hands. “Ask.”
“I want you to get us inside the Institute.”
He gripped her chin, tilting her face up. “And the other?”
“I want Jason and Diego returned to me. Safely.” She stared up at him.
He rubbed her chin with his thumb. “And what do I get in return?”
She gripped his wrist. He stilled his rubbing. She took his hand, opened his fingers, and pressed her lips to his palm. His skin was rough, and he smelled like something raw and visceral, like—blood?
“Everything you want,” she whispered.
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