Now Comes the Night
Children of Night: Book 3
Available at Entangled Publishing.
You can choose your food, but not your family. That's a fact of life that mostly holds true for vampires and humans alike. There are always exceptions, of course; rare instances where you get to decide with whom you will ally yourself; less rare occasions when you find your dietary choices have been reduced to "this or nothing".
But, for the most part, who you are is a given, a fait accompli. Who you eat, on the other hand, that's largely up to you.
An Undisclosed Location,
Somewhere Along The Eastern Seaboard of the United States
New Year's Eve, 1969
According to the clock on the living room mantel, it was almost midnight. Conrad Quintano glared at the offending timepiece. Its measured ticking grated on his nerves, mocking his attempts to ignore the relentless passage of time. He was tempted to pick up the clock and hurl it across the room. In fact, the only thing preventing him from doing so was the lack of a spare hand. As he paced the floors of the small suburban tract home he'd recently purchased, his arms were filled to overflowing with squirming infant vampire--two vampires, twins to be exact--both of whom appeared to be every bit as frustrated and wide-awake as he.
Conrad gazed at the babies with a grudging sense of wonderment. So small and yet still so strong. How was it they were still awake?
He should be able to subdue them, damn it. It was almost inconceivable that he could not. He was both their sire and their creator, albeit at one small remove, not to mention the undisputed head of a large and powerful household. He was also a Lamia Invitus, one of the last and strongest of his kind, with over a millennium of skill, experience and strength to draw upon. The idea that one such as he should be bested by two such tiny creatures was laughable. And yet the pair still resisted all his efforts to compel them back to sleep.
Oh, yes, they may have deigned to yawn a time or two, no doubt in deference to his pride. They might even have allowed their eyes to momentarily fall shut, but it was all just part of a cunning ruse, a transparent attempt to lull him into a false sense of complacency. Conrad wasn't fool enough to fall for such obvious tricks, however--at least not after the first five or six times.
He could see right through their tactics. Were he to make the attempt to lay them down, ever so gently in their crib, their eyes would pop open the instant their backs touched the mattress. Then their little limbs would start to flail and they'd begin once more to cry--those tearful, heart-rending, nerve-wracking sobs that always seemed disproportionately loud for the size of the bodies from which the sounds issued.
He supposed it was not really their fault they refused to be soothed. The baby books Damian had purchased, and insisted they both study, had had a lot to say about the terrifying maladies to which newborns were prone--things like growth spurts, teething pain, food allergies and colic. And even though the books had not been written with baby vampires in mind, Conrad was confident that what he was witnessing now was a reasonable approximation of what he'd read about within their pages. If only that wasn't the only thing about which he felt confident!
The babies were hungry, that fact was indisputable. They needed blood--apparently more frequently now, and in much larger quantities than they'd been used to receiving. That too was a given. But how much did they need? And how soon did they need it? How long did he have before these newest of his children were irreparably damaged by malnutrition? Before starvation set in? Before they expired? Or before even worse things occurred? Only two months old and already their lives were in peril.
If vampire blood would have sufficed, Conrad would have happily opened every one of his veins in order to gain even a half-hour's respite. But, alas, only human blood could supply the twins with the nourishment their bodies craved. Unfortunately, their suddenly ravenous and increased appetites, while understandable, had caught him off-guard. There was no blood left for them in the house.
Damian had gone out several hours earlier on what was supposed to have been a simple enough mission: a quick trip to the local hospital to purchase the needed sustenance from the connection he'd been cultivating, and then straight back home. He should have returned by now. He hadn't.
If he doesn't come back soon... No. He will. He has to.
What options did Conrad even have, if Damian failed to return? He could hardly leave the twins unattended while he went out hunting; nor did he see how he could possibly take them with him--exactly the reason he'd appealed to Damian for his assistance in the first place!
It was his own fault he'd found himself in this situation tonight. When Damian had argued that it made more sense for only one of them to risk getting caught trying to buy blood illegally, Conrad should never have agreed with him. But that was always the danger when dealing with Damian. He had a way of making almost any plan sound reasonable and sensible, even when Conrad knew damn well it was no such thing. It was just so hard to resist succumbing to either his arguments or his charm.
Unless Conrad forcibly stopped him--usually by means of a little judiciously applied violence--Damian would continue to argue, pressing his case until he finally succeeded in wearing Conrad down. But this was an old story and even though they'd been apart for over a hundred years, Conrad ought to have remembered it. He should have known better. Damn it, he did know better!
So then why had he not thought to make his own plans? Why had he not taken the time to cultivate his own hospital contacts, in anticipation of just such an event as this? There was only one answer to that, an answer so screamingly obvious it should have shamed him to admit it--even to himself. He hadn't wanted to accept the fact it might someday prove necessary. He hadn't wanted to even entertain the possibility he might not always be able to count on Damian; that Damian's willingness to assist Conrad might, at some point, come to an end.
Which was why now, if Conrad were forced to go out and find food for the twins himself, he had no one else to blame. What else could he do, if that was the case, other than leave the twins unprotected while he took to the streets; to waylay random strangers and drag them back to the house. And then to kill said strangers, when he was done with them in order to prevent them from talking about what they'd seen