Shuddering and making sure their blood isn’t on me, I start sprinting toward the window.
“Why the second floor?” I groan as I look down.
“If you can’t die, just jump!” Anna hisses.
“Bones still break, and it takes a while to mend. My bra is empty. I can’t feel a single vial in it, which means no healing potions. That means an even longer time to heal.”
“They totally felt you up as a corpse,” Anna says, making me wish I’d killed them a little harder.
Maybe seeing the flailing lunatic I am best their vampire selves was enough misery in their final moments.
I jog through the only doorway that doesn’t lead to a closet or balcony, and my eyes drop to a chest that is sitting open, spilling over with very pretty wooden stakes.
Anna and I both simply stare down at it with disbelieving expressions.
“I bet you feel a little silly now, don’t you?” she asks, clearing her throat.
I glare. “I hate you,” I tell her.
Unfortunately, I hear two voices coming our way, so I drop and land like a bad puppet whose strings just got cut, suppressing the groan I want to release when I rupture a kidney or something.
My life sucks so hard sometimes.
“What the hell is the dead chick doing in the hallway?” one guy snaps.
“I’m going to kill those worthless sons of bitches,” another growls.
At least there’s a chest of stakes right beside me this time, as the whirring of threads subtly drifts through the air.
I’m really, really not ready for this to be my life.
“For the record,” Anna says as approaching footsteps vibrate the floor slightly, “you just got severely less boring.”
I almost don’t believe what I’m actually seeing when I spot a familiar missing gypsy on the side of the road…wearing…a lot of awful things. Three and half days of nothingness, and suddenly she’s right in front of me after feeling compelled to turn down just one road?
She glances over her shoulder, and I can tell she doesn’t look quite so thrilled to see me as I pull over. As I lean over and push open the passenger door, I pull my phone out.
My gaze flicks to the rearview mirror where I can see her just glaring at the back of my car like she’s weighing her options.
“Hello?” Damien answers, sounding high with just that one word.
“I’ve found our missing gypsy,” I tell him, brow furrowing as I take in her ridiculous choice of clothing.
“Is she happy to see you spying on her through the window on her impromptu, mental health holiday, you hypocritical fuck?” he quips.
“She’s wearing a floral jumpsuit with a zipper down the front.”
“What?” he asks incredulously.
“The fit is all wrong, and that material looks unnaturally stiff—”
“Why the hell are you calling me?”
“Not to mention the hideous orange scarf that clashes with the yellow backdrop on the fabric with all the loud, bright red and pink florals.”
“Are you seriously calling me to discuss your Portocale girlfriend’s shit taste in clothing right now?” he asks like I’ve lost my mind.
“She’s on Martin’s road,” I tell him more seriously as Anna, the ghost who has been missing this entire time as well, chatters about being Buffy before a spike of some sort killed her.
“Funny. Thought you said Martin swore there was no way a Portocale gypsy was in town,” Damien says quietly. “He pretended to have no knowledge of her existence.”
“Martin wouldn’t be stupid enough to bring her anywhere close to his residence if he knew we were searching her out,” I’m fast to point out. “And Martin is most definitely on the other side of the country right now. There shouldn’t be anyone on his road.”
“Is she hurt?” he asks with something akin to reluctance in his voice.
“I’m not entirely sure, but I can smell too much of her blood from my car. Fill Emit in.”
“Why the hell can’t you do that?” he asks as Violet starts and stops and then starts again, moving toward the passenger’s side with angry strides.
“Because it looks like she’s just made a decision,” I say as I hang up.
A massive, snow-covered boot lands in my floorboard, and snow sprays all over the black interior. Lovely.
She takes a seat, bringing her other snow-covered boot into the car with the same lack of concern.
“Is it my imagination, or have your feet grown three sizes since last we met?” I drawl as she shuts the door and puts on her seatbelt.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she states like she’s experiencing a bit of ire. “But can we please get out of here?”
I put the car in drive, turning around and heading back toward town.
“Nice…outfit,” I manage to say with a completely neutral expression.
“I don’t want to talk about that either,” she says on a huff.
“I suppose the scarf is off limits as well then? Been to Grandma’s house lately?” I muse, flicking at the orange monstrosity when the long tail of it tickles across my hand.
“Grandma is a wolf!” Anna shouts right in my bloody ear, and I damn near forget not to react.
I hate that infernal pest.
“I really, really don’t want to talk about it,” Violet says again, staring out the window.
“Hey, he’s a vampire hunter. Ask him for some tips on being Buffy,” the ever-so-random ghost suggests.
“There’s not much time to adjust to this world I’ve unintentionally stumbled into, is there?” Violet asks almost absently.
“How old are you?” I ask, pretending as though I don’t already know she’s twenty-five.
“I doubt I need to answer that. Care to explain your perverted interest in me?” she volleys.
“I’ve let it be known how intriguing you are,” I state unapologetically. “I feel, given the circumstances, Emit and I were appropriately respectful of boundaries by looking in and seeing what anyone who was looking on from the outside would see,” I add with a reasonable tone.
She exhales very harshly.
“Emit too?” she asks in exhausted exasperation.
I’m never going to hear the end of this. He’ll accuse me of tattling like Damien rushed to do. Fucking infants.
I’m the one to exhale harshly this time, as she groans.
“Damien’s the only one who crossed a line,” I carry on, deciding to give her the right person to focus her anger on. “You’re only so sensitive because you’re too young to know better.”
“He’s usually better with smooth talk than this,” Anna says from behind me, making no sense at all.
I’m not trying to talk her into bed; I’m trying to talk her away from the ledge.
She’s clearly fragile, given the fact she has no clue what’s going on around her, and I’ve forgotten how to fucking be sensitive to the extreme she requires. How do I even handle something that delicate?
“Any chance you want to talk about where you disappeared to after you shredded all your clothing to threads and left us on a wild chase?”
“Why chase me at all?” she fires back immediately, sounding truly tired of all of this.
“You don’t seem to realize just how many enemies you have.”
“Apparently more than I thought, and that has happened since moving to town and becoming fascinating to all of you,” she states a little accusingly.
“What?” I ask as I shift gears, completely confused.
“I said I don’t want to talk about it,” she grumbles.
Infuriating female. This is exactly why I elect to forgo sex. Women are too bloody complicated, and sex grows boringly monotonous and tedious after centuries flit by like years. It’s simply not worth it.
Shifting gears again, I drive us quickly toward town. At least now my restlessness to hunt her down is settled and I can finally sleep again.
“How did you just happen to be driving down that road at that moment?” she asks.
“Let me tell you a little bit about my curse,” I state as I cut down another road, taking a slight detour. “When someone I’ve pledged protection to disappears without a word, I’m compelled to hunt for them. I can’t sleep, eat, or even rest until I’ve recovered them.”
She bristles. “So you’ve been forced to hunt for me this entire time because you’re a Van Helsing and that’s how it works?”
“Far more complicated than that, but sure. We’ll start there,” I say with a bitter smile, my eyes trained on the road. “I drive. I feel compelled or I don’t feel compelled to go places. I felt compelled to finally turn on that road just a few minutes before spotting you. First time I’ve felt anything in days.”
She bristles once more.
“Is it weird that I was kind of hoping for anyone to drive by, since I was freezing and can’t walk in these boots—”
“Why are they so big?” I ask…simply because I can’t help myself.
“Because they were the smallest ones I could find, and I don’t want to talk about it,” she says in exasperation. “Anyway, I had the thought I’d even settle for one of you. Then poof. There you were.”
She gestures at me a little wildly.
“Yet you still deliberated on whether or not to join me for a solid ten minutes,” I remind her.
“Because it was a little freaky.”
“My gift for hunting didn’t work until you conceded you wanted me to find you,” I admit, hoping it’s not a mistake to tell her that, but knowing I have to give a little bit before she breaks off and runs again.
I can’t afford to spend my time chasing her every time she has a fit, no matter how intrigued I am by the curious gypsy girl.
“What’s the point in only hunting for people who want you to find them?” she asks like she’s genuinely intrigued.
“It’s not like that for everyone. Only the Portocale gypsies can be found by a Van Helsing at their behest,” I go on, telling her the safer things she’d normally know under usual circumstances.
“Why?” she says, and then I catch sight of her grinning, like hearing that word come out of her mouth has turned into an amusing game of sorts.
Why is even that action so damn distracting? Why does the curl of her lips always draw my eyes to her mouth? I’ve lived long enough to not be blinded by a pretty smile.
“You’re very easily amused,” I note.
“Apparently the same applies to you. How do you stare at me and still drive perfectly between the lines?” she muses without looking at me.
“Damn. My girl just showed off some of her game. Boom,” Anna chimes in from the backseat, being notably quieter than usual.