To Fear the Dawn: Chapter 24
Heedless, Vidcund rushed toward the vampire that had once been Charity, but stopped in front of her, suddenly concerned. The creature was looking at him with a dazed expression. Did she remember him? Was there anything left of Charity inside her? He vaguely heard the police shouting orders that he ignored as he stared into Charity’s pale face and her blood red eyes... eyes that had once been a beautiful silvery grey.
“Charity...” he whispered finally. “Look what has happened to you!” He hesitantly reached out a gloved hand and traced the ghostly white skin of her cheek. “You’re a... my God...”
“Vidcund?,” Charity choked in a strangled voice. “Vidcund, I’m so sorry... I didn’t mean to run away... I meant to come back, honestly, I did. I... I didn’t want to leave you or the children! Vidcund, please forgive me. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen!”
She caught her breath and began to cry.
It was enough. With daring born from all of his longing for her, he crushed her to him, unthinking, the police still shouting frantically but he didn’t care. Charity was in his arms, her fingers clutching at his SWAT uniform, her face buried in his shoulder, her body shuddering with sobs. She was here, with him, and he felt as though he could hold her forever.
Charity could not explain the fierce joy she felt. She was remembering herself. She held Vidcund close with relief, yet soon she became painfully aware of the stirs of hunger. Due to her revulsion of the act, she had not fed for several days; she was starving, and the bloodlust hit her with a sudden force. Her face was pressed into Vidcund’s shoulder, and as Charity breathed in his scent, she could taste the warmth of blood on the air.
Instinctively, like a newborn baby seeking nourishment, she turned her head inward, toward his neck, and closed her eyes. So close... She lay her cheek against the hollow between his neck and shoulder, her face tucked under his jaw, and inhaled deeply. Vidcund only rested his head on hers, his hand cradling the back of her head, stroking her long hair.
The throbbing... Charity thought frantically as his pulse beat rapidly, so close to her lips... the warmth, I can taste it, so close, so close, the blood-scent is so strong... Her hands found their way slowly up and around his shoulders, beginning to pull him downward...
Then, with a wrenching moan, she shoved him away from her.
“Charity, what is the matter?” Vidcund asked, shocked at the force with which she had pushed him away. Then, he noticed her wide carmine eyes were trained on his throat, she was breathing fast and hard, and her hand was at her mouth. “Oh, Charity...” he said sadly. He had forgotten for just a moment what she was. Nervous had only been able to contain himself for a short time when confronted with them. How long would it take before the vampire in Charity won out?
Never, Vidcund thought with relief. For Charity, it never will. It ends tonight and by the Gods, she’s coming home.
“Charity, I know what you’re going through is hell, but you won’t have to be this way any longer,” Vidcund said joyfully, reaching for Charity’s hands. “You may not believe this, but we’ve developed a cure... a cure for vampirism!”
“Cure?” Charity asked in confusion. “Like medicine? But...”
“The vampirism is a virus!” Vidcund told her excitedly, his words tumbling over themselves. “See... we didn't give up on you, Charity! We knew something must have happened to you and we figured out what it was. To you and so many others! It took a while but we did it and we made a cure for it! Charity, I have some with me. Take it and you will become human again!”
The police were still shouting, Pascal and Lazlo’s frenzied voices now mixed in. Hearing his brothers’ yells, Vidcund finally turned around. “What?” he yelled irritably. “Can’t you see she’s not dangerous? I don’t need to get away from her! She...”
He gasped in shocked surprise as he nearly collided with a second figure that had been standing behind him. The figure of a male, with night-black hair and the same pallid skin and blood-red eyes as Charity. The golden gleam of a wedding ring shone on the creature’s left hand.
Vidcund knew, without being told, that this was Charity’s husband.
This was the Grand Vampire.
He froze, but surprisingly, Vidcund felt no fear. He was filled, instead, with a blistering hate. This is the one... this is the one who is responsible for everything! All the killings, all the grief, all the families torn apart... and Charity. God, what he did to Charity most of all!
“I will thank you for not touching my wife again, blood-filth.” Reginald said to him chillingly, looking at Vidcund with an expression that radiated pure loathing. Vidcund folded his arms and returned the vampire’s ruby-red gaze insolently. Charity might be the vampire’s wife, true, but his claim on her was about to end.
Reginald frowned. That one needs to be put in his place, he thought, running his tongue lightly over his fangs. But now is not the time. Moving swiftly, he took Charity by the arm and pulled her away from Vidcund. “Charity, my wife... What is all this about? Who is this man to you? Why did you leave me and come down here among all this danger?”
“It’s not dangerous, Reginald.” Charity said, barely able to contain her excitement. “They’re here to help us!”
“Help us?” he said. “No, Charity, they mean to destroy us!”
“Not so.” she said, shaking her head. “They have a cure for vampirism with them, Reginald! A cure! Vidcund just developed it! We can be normal again... human! Can you believe it, Reginald? Human again!” She laughed and hugged him tightly in her excitement.
Shocked at her enthusiasm, Reginald held her, feeling her tremble with joy. He’d had no idea...
“My love, do you truly despise what you are so much,” he whispered brokenly. He was amazed at how badly that hurt him.
“Reginald, I love you. I do,” Charity insisted, “but I have never loved this.” She spread her hands and indicated her body. “Deep down, I truly have not, and I very much regret what I did to those poor boys.”
“They are our sons!” Reginald interrupted, scarcely believing what he was hearing. “You regret bearing our sons?”
“They’re not our sons.” Charity reminded him gently. “They are the orphans of Buzz and Lyla Grunt. They were born to them.”
“They are ours!” he shouted, clutching her by the upper arms and squeezing painfully. “I will not hear this, do you understand? Charity... I love you. You are my wife and they are our sons! We will leave this accursed place! We must move on...” He turned away, pulling Charity with him.
“Step away from her.” came an amplified voice from a police megaphone. “Sir, we advise you to let the lady go.”
For the moment, Charity had forgotten all about the police raid and the danger, yet looking around her at all the weapons trained on them, she forcibly remembered. “Reginald,” she said urgently. “They have weapons that will kill you. Please, listen to them.”
“Let them!” he said, half-sobbing. “My wife wants to leave me and take my sons away!” He let go of Charity and crumpled to the ground, defeated.
“Leave you?” Charity cried unbelievingly. “Did I ever say anything about leaving you?”
“You wish to no longer be what we are,” he said hopelessly. “You want to take this ‘cure’ they offer you...”
Charity knelt down beside him, placed her arms around him and pressed her forehead to his. “I want you to take it as well, Reginald,” she said softly.
Vidcund watched Charity and Reginald together and his heart felt as though it was being torn in two. She acts as though she really cares about him... he thought angrily. How can she after what he’s done to her? He walked over to where his brothers were standing and they all watched the vampire couple conferring together. Vidcund was confused and disturbed at the closeness they seemed to share. Surely it was all forced; Vidcund couldn’t believe otherwise...
“What do you suppose she’s saying to him?” Pascal asked, staring at Charity with an edge of jealousy in his voice. “She doesn’t look too unhappy to see him, though, does she... ?” There was a distinct I told you so tone in Pascal’s voice that made Vidcund want to punch him.
Yet there was, unquestionably, love in Charity’s eyes when she looked at the vampire, and Vidcund also could not deny the caring and tenderness he saw in the Grand Vampire’s expression when he looked at her. It bore through him like a blazing hot knife.
All this time I thought she couldn’t...that there was no way...
But she did, damn her! She fell in love with him!
Vidcund was hurt, surprised, and angry, but once again, he found he was blaming himself. He had been too late; said too little; waited too long. His silence had first put her in the arms of his brother, and then, when he had driven her away with his anger over that, she had been taken by the vampire and this was the result. His fault! He realized she still had never heard him say to her, out loud, in words, how he felt! He just always assumed she ought to know, but how could she?
Vidcund found he could not watch Charity with her husband any longer. He walked away and faced the cold red bricks of the wall. Pascal and Lazlo looked warily at each other, not knowing what to say to him and deciding that silence was probably the best thing.
Vidcund heard the police shouting orders at the vampire and his first thought was one of spiteful joy. Good, maybe they’ll kill him and save me the trouble...
“Vid?” Lazlo’s voice came to him over the chilly night air. “Something’s happening...”
Vidcund turned from the wall to see Charity kneeling beside the vampire on the ground some distance away, her arms around him, whispering something, and then they both stood up. Vidcund walked back over to Pascal and Lazlo and the three brothers shared confused looks as Charity beckoned Sargent Mace over to her and spoke with him, her gestures, posture and tone urgent.
The next thing Vidcund knew, Larry Mace was headed toward him. “Curious!” the policeman called, full of excitement. “Get your antidote ready! The lady is going into the house to bring the Grunt boys out, and then all five of them are going to take the cure!”
“All...five?” Vidcund gasped, as he and his brothers stared at each other in shock.
To Be Continued...