The Renegades (The Superiors) (25 page)

“You
don’t want me to,” he said.

“Yes,
I do. Why would I ask if I didn’t want to know?”

After
a pause he said, “I can’t. It’s wrong and you will despise me. I should have
let the trackers take you back, but I didn’t, so I think you should go back to
Byron tomorrow. I don’t know what happened to me, but something inside my head
is wrong. I don’t think…straight…anymore, and he would never think of you the
things I’m thinking.”

“I
don’t even know what you’re saying anymore.”

“Nor
do I,” he said, and in the dark he pulled her close. “Those thoughts… I frighten
myself and I’m frightened for you, Cali. I killed two men, two innocent men, to
save a sap’s life. I’m a traitor to my race, and at times I imagine I don’t
much care, just so long as I have you and…” He stopped speaking and began shifting
around. His usually silky voice came out rough when he said, “Put your head in
my hands. If I don’t eat soon, my head will fly to pieces.”

He
cradled her head in both hands before plunging his face into her neck and
biting. He drove in suddenly, without any preparation, and not very gently,
either. Usually after the initial pain when he broke the skin, she liked
feeding him. At first it had scared her, like when any Superior bit her, but
now that she knew he wouldn’t hurt her more than he had to, she could relax.
Now when he fed, lying still and quietly stroking her, it put her in a peaceful
trancelike state. Except that time when his mouth had been warmer than her, it
had been more than peaceful. Almost blissful.

But
this time he moved while he drank, pushing against her neck and pulling back
and pushing until his chin pressed into her neck and she choked. He pulled
back, but pressed forward again with the next breath, sucking at her skin until
it hurt and making these noises like an animal eating. His words flashed
through her mind, about him not being able to stop and being scared for her.
Her hands batted at him, and she began to struggle, but he only pressed his
body harder against hers and let out a growl, the vibration of sound starting
deep inside him and moving up him and through his mouth into her, and all the
way down her body. A sudden fear, a new and nameless fear, charged her like an
electric shock and she cried out.

Draven
jerked his teeth from her vein, flung himself to the other side of the tent and
lay there sucking in big loud breaths that sounded almost like sobs.

Cali
squirmed out of her sleep sack and, holding one cold hand against her throbbing
neck, opened the tent and staggered out. Her legs almost gave way when she stumbled
from the tent. Her whole body shook, and her breath burst out raggedly as she made
her way far from the tent. She stopped to relieve herself when she’d gotten far
enough away that her legs had regained some of their strength. When her heart
stopped hammering and she’d talked herself out of her terror, she looked
around, wondering if she could make a run for it. Daylight had spilled over the
horizon and flooded the land, but she didn’t see any place she could go to
escape the cold, or even any place to hide. Maybe she could find a place by
evening, when Draven woke. She still didn’t know exactly what had happened,
just that Draven had never scared her like that before.

Even
though feeding Superiors had always scared her, at home she’d had some
protection. She knew Superiors were not allowed to kill humans, and that even
the ones who hated her, like her old master, valued humans enough that they’d
keep her alive so they could go on drinking her blood. But Draven was
different. He didn’t answer to any law. He did whatever he wanted, even turn
against his own race. She was out here on her own with him, and if he killed
her, he could just bury her body like he had those two trackers, and no one
would ever know.

If
she stayed, somehow she’d have to find a way to trust a murderer, or at least
trust him not to murder her. What other choice did she have?

Snow
had soaked both pairs of socks she wore, and the ache in her feet had become
unbearable. She’d been foolish to run away like that, blind as panic, without
taking the time to put on her shoes. Without having fully come to a decision,
she started back. If she ran from Draven, she’d have to do it later, when she’d
prepared, not in a moment of fright.

By
the time she made her way back to the tent, the sun on the snow nearly blinded
her. Clumps of snow had stuck to the wet fabric of her socks, and she had to
stop and tear it free before opening the tent. She climbed in quietly, hoping
Draven had already fallen asleep and wouldn’t tell her how foolish she’d been.
He lay on his back with one arm thrown across his eyes. She crawled inside her
sleep sack and leaned up to zip the tent.

She
lay in the dark, waiting for him to reprimand her, but he didn’t say anything.
After a while, she couldn’t stand the silence, not knowing if he was awake or
how mad he’d gotten when she ran away from him. “I need some things,” she whispered.
“For my woman’s days.”

“I’ll
get them tomorrow.”

So
he hadn’t fallen asleep.

She
waited for him to say more. Lying next to him in the agony of anticipation,
hardly daring to breathe, she let the time spin out its silence. Every time she
thought he might speak, her heart rolled over. She would let him speak first,
and stay quiet until he did. But then she’d probably never get to say another
word in her life.

When
she couldn’t stand it a moment longer, she asked the question she really wanted
answered. “Are you going to kill me?” she whispered.

A
shiver went all through her into her deepest roots when he answered softly, “Not
intentionally.”

 

 

 

Chapter 38

 

Draven
lay awake for quite some time after Cali’s breathing had deepened and she
slept. He thought about what he’d said to her, what he’d done to her, what he’d
wanted to do.

He’d
almost told her, spoken words that would terrify her more than anything Byron
would have done to her if she’d lived a hundred years. If he said the words in
such a way as they came into his mind, she would imagine something very
different from his true intentions. He’d not been thinking of
that.
Of
course he hadn’t. He’d been hungry, so hungry, and she sat so near to him with
her tantalizing aroma, and she acted like such a woman, and combined with the
exhaustion and the hunger… He’d simply wanted her without having to weaken her.

It
was natural, the thought that had flitted through his mind. He had wanted to reassure
her, convey that he valued her. But she was so easy to talk to, too easy. What
he’d almost said… Though he’d said it before, the accompanying thought this
time frightened him. That he was even capable of the thought...

It
was only natural, though. Of course it was. He had wanted what any starving man
would want upon savoring food. Nothing more.

Perhaps
he could justify that thought, but he’d hurt her as well, and finding an excuse
for that proved more difficult. When he’d drawn from her, she’d struggled, but
he had been unable to stop while she lay before him, mouthwateringly perfect, sweet
and salty and warm, so full of life and the ability to give life…

He
should have stopped. Now he had terrified her and she would ask to go back. Though
he despised the thought, he recognized its wisdom. He no longer trusted
himself. Since the murders, his mind’s ability to remain as orderly as the
world that created it had deteriorated at an alarming rate.

A
subtle shift had occurred inside him, and he couldn’t quite fit the pieces back
in place as society dictated—stay there, live here, do this, say this, think
this. Now, boundaries blurred. The line between the right thing and the wrong
thing, instead of remaining steadfast and static, wriggled like a snake making
tracks in the sand. Cali had a valid argument in one regard. He did talk to her
about morality. To ensure his own clarity of mind, he must continue to do so—and
often. As he’d found it difficult to maintain boundaries in his mind now that
he’d killed a Superior for a sapien, it seemed of dire importance to speak them
aloud and establish some sort of record.

Her
sap had tasted so good, though. Too good. He wondered if she felt the way he
had when the tracker drew from him. Could she feel her strength flowing out
with every press of his tongue? It must be dreadful for her. But it was so wonderful
for him.

Her
sap satisfied him more completely than anything he’d ever had. And now, after
he’d had his fill, his body had found contentment while his mind twisted in
turmoil. If only a stronger connection linked the two, a direct line from one
to the other, as it once had. But he’d smudged all the lines and cut all his
ties with society, and now he could never go back. He’d betrayed his own kind,
his own race, for a piece of livestock.

But
wasn’t it almost worth it? When her sap leapt into his mouth, the richness and life
and delicious thickness of it sliding down his throat...the warmth of her
throat under his lips and her breathy gasping sounds…her quickening pulse throbbing
against his tongue, the way the sap welled up when he pressed against her veins
again and again…and again. He’d wanted to strive for that memory forever, the vague
impression of containing such vitality, of flowing,
pumping
with hot
blood…

Her
scent clung to him still. Though he’d stopped his breath, he could not escape
it. She was in his nostrils, in his mouth, lingering on his tongue like a word
he could not quite recall, a feeling he could not quite express, a forgotten memory
he could not grasp though he strained until nearly maddened with the effort.
Fresh, pure life throbbed inside her, pressing itself into him at his whim, as
if her sap were more willing than she…if only he could somehow get at it…that
taste, so enchanting… Perhaps she would allow him one more taste, a small one…

Some
time later, he awakened and unzipped his sleep sack. Inside, his body had
retained more heat than he’d expected. The heat of Cali’s sap inside him. Her
scent, strong and insistent, filled the tent until its walls bulged with the
strain to contain it. Instantly ravenous, Draven clawed his way out and escaped
the tent. He stood breathing the cooling air of evening until his head cleared.
Cars buzzed intermittently on the highway, but as of yet, only a few. The sun
had just slipped past the horizon, and the sky beyond the mountains glowed
orange and gold.

Cali
extracted herself from her sleep sack and stepped outside to join Draven. She
yawned and began stretching her body this way and that as if challenging him
not to look, adding an unnecessary amount of moaning and sighing. Her
overwhelming scent leapt onto him, taunting and cruel. Even after last night’s
feast, he wanted more, perhaps more than before he’d eaten. His desire, his craving
for her, overshadowed his physical hunger.

“Can
we find some water?” Cali asked. “I’d like to…you know. Bathe.”

His
mind balked at the thought of losing that heavenly scent, but he knew it was
imperative. His cravings gnawed ceaselessly at his nerves, wearing on his
attention, threatening to overcome reason itself. “Very well,” he said, before
returning to the tent. When Cali returned from relieving herself, he handed her
a bag of water and another filled with dried meat. Their wealth of supplies had
dwindled considerably. “Eat, drink,” Draven said.

Cali
took the bags and settled herself in the doorway of the tent to eat. She
concentrated on her food, avoiding Draven’s eyes. The air between them
stretched thin with tension, and neither spoke while Draven rolled the sleep
sacks and squeezed them into their tiny bags. He cursed himself for frightening
her so, and started to speak several times but stopped himself. Finally, when
it became clear she would not speak first this time, he forced himself to
address her. “Regarding…my actions this morning…I am sorry I drew an inappropriate
amount. You are simply…”

“Simply
what?” she asked when he didn’t go on.

“Oh,
I don’t know,” he said, now careless as he tossed anything on the tent floor
into their bags. The correct words would never find voice on his clumsy tongue.

“What?”
she insisted.

“You’re…ahhhh,
delectable,” he said, stopping to look at her directly for the first time since
they’d awakened. Of course she had not tried to entice him to look at her. How
foolish a notion. She would neither notice nor appreciate his eyes on her.

“What’s
that?
Delectable
.”

“Irresistibly
delicious.”

“Oh.”
She squirmed a bit and studied her food.

“I’ll
not let myself become so hungry again,” Draven said. “It was irresponsible.”

“Okay.”

“Do
you wish to go back? This is perhaps the last chance you’ll have.”

When
she failed to answer, he reminded himself she had every reason to want to leave.
He had failed her. He’d promised something he’d been unable deliver, and she’d
suffered in consequence. He’d struggled for her survival, killed one of his own
defending her, and still she’d suffered more. Worse yet, after he’d killed to
protect her, he’d been the one to hurt her. Byron would never lose himself as
Draven had that morning. Byron kept himself under firm control at all times.

If,
by some unforeseen turn of events, he managed to hold onto Cali, he could never
give her the life he’d dreamed of when he’d decided he would have her. When
he’d decided to buy her, his life had contained nothing of interest, certainly
not the notion that in a few short years, he would become a kill-on-sight criminal.
But he had. He had become a murderer. Never again could he join Superior
society, reclaim his position, exist among his own kind. Once someone
discovered the trackers’ deaths, he would be forever wanted, and hunted, until
the day of his capture and execution. He knew he should tell her all this, but
the words, as usual, formed only in his mind and would not take shape in his
mouth. So he nudged Cali until she let him move past her, where he stood
waiting for her to rise so he could collapse the tent.

“I
guess I’ll stay,” Cali said after a time. Her usually pale skin now had a
sickly grey hue, and a dark cast shadowed her delicate eyelids. He had done
that to her, overdrawn her. Never before had he taken so much from her, or any
sapien. Not a living one. He should not have dared touch her with his mind
raging with need. After he’d drained the dead baby before burial, hunger alone
could not account for his recklessness. He shook his head hard in an attempt to
shine his mind.

“What’s
wrong?” Cali asked, her voice limp and flat.

“Nothing,”
he said. “Strap this on then.” She had to relieve herself first, and when she
returned a short time later, Draven had collected himself some, and he stood to
meet her. He held the pack for her to slip her arms through, then ordered her
onto his back. When she’d mounted, he donned the backpack on his chest and
started towards the highway.

Upon
reaching an intersection a short time later, Draven stopped to let Cali rest.
She slipped from his back and surveyed the busy city before them, the ads shining
from faraway buildings and the glow lighting the night from many lower buildings
they could not yet see. “It looks like home,” she said. “The way it looked from
the Confinement, anyway. Inside the city, it looks different, right?”

“Yes.”

“Are
we going to live here, or what are we doing here?”

“Losing
ourselves.”

“Wow,”
Cali said, hugging herself. “It’s really…pretty.”

Draven
smiled. “I imagine it is.”

“So
where do we start? Where are we, anyway?”

“Wellsville.
The industrial sector, it appears.”

“What’s
that?”

“Where
things are made,” he said. “I don’t imagine anyone will speak to you, but if
someone does, we must have similar answers to their questions. Understand?”

“Of
course. So what’s our story?”

He
smiled. “My car malfunctioned and I’m walking to a charging station. I did not
want to leave you alone in the car.”

“What
about the backpacks?”

“It
would be rude to ask. But if someone does, we shall say that one contains a
battery and the other, my valuables.”

“Battery,
valuables. Got it.”

“Now
let us find you a more comfortable situation.” He reached out and took her hand
to steady her when she slipped on the snow, and held on as they continued, not
wanting her to sustain an injury under such circumstances. Already they were
sure to attract attention. Once the cars began passing at regular intervals, he
slipped his hand around the back of her neck in the customary hold of a master
on his sapien so as to arouse as little suspicion as possible.

By
morning, they had crossed quarter of the city, stealing and salvaging a few supplies
along the way. Though it would once have given him pause, Draven had no qualms
about stealing a bag of necessities for Cali at the sapien supply store. He’d
killed a man for her. The theft of a bag of crackers and some necessary
products hardly seemed consequential.

When
the sky began to lighten and the trickle of cars sliding along the streets began
to resemble a flood, Draven found an alley, deposited the bags, and secured
Cali to his back before ascending to the roof. He had forgotten the rush that
charged him when climbing walls and leaping onto rooftops. He also seemed to
have forgotten much of the strength he needed to perform the feat, and it
proved more difficult than he remembered. But soon his fingers gripped the
indentations between sheets of stiff reflective paneling as if their memory
alone could propel him upwards.

Once
he reached the rooftop of the first building, however, he realized greater
challenges lay ahead. Though they could not make a permanent home on the
rooftops, he had hoped they could stay a few weeks to rest. Even at street
level, the most skillful trackers would have some difficulty finding them in a
city. Each night, thousands of feet crossed any given street. A scent could get
lost in minutes, even seconds. Until someone discovered their method of
roof-travel, nearly every portion of the city would be absent any trace of
their passing.

But
traversing the roofs presented a greater challenge here than in Princeton.
Princeton’s buildings, of nearly uniform design and height within each city
sector, hadn’t posed too great a challenge. Here, adjacent buildings often
varied ten stories or more in height. The taller buildings would afford a view
of their camp during the night, and a curious observer would likely report
them. Therefore, Draven had to scale the tallest building in that sector before
he could make camp. This in itself proved a daunting task with his fingers
locking from the cold every few minutes. Doubt encroached at the mere thought
of attempting the climb with Cali astride.

He
returned to street level, although he knew the dangers of walking through the
city with a sapien in tow. Still, no one knew him here. If he could assume the
attitude of a Second, with every right to possess a sap and not be stopped and
questioned for it, no one would find him overly suspicious. Thus began a few
miserable hours of wandering the city, trying to find the sectors with the
least people outdoors, where Draven could duck behind a building and ascend to
the roof to scout for a building that loomed above the others but which might
be scaled while encumbered with an unwieldy load. It took some time, but
eventually he found an industrial building with steam belching from the mouths
of an assortment of blackened steel pipes. The mass of pipes, along with the
steam, would conceal a small tent for a short time, until he could locate
something more suitable. When he had settled Cali on a rooftop, he leapt to the
alleyway to collect the bags.

Other books

The Bloodforged by Erin Lindsey
The Right Mistake by Mosley, Walter
Unscripted by Jayne Denker
The Witch in the Lake by Fienberg, Anna
A Proper Taming by Overfield, Joan


readsbookonline.com Copyright 2016 - 2022