About a Vampire (Argeneau #22)(8)

by Lynsay Sands

Justin nodded.

“How?” she asked at once, unable to hide her doubt.

“Well, this is where it gets tricky,” Justin said, looking uncomfortable.

“Oh?” she asked, eyes narrowing.

“Yes. You see . . .” He paused, rubbed one hand over his face, and then said determinedly under his breath, “I am not going to make a pickle of this like Bastien and the other guys did.”

“That’s good,” Holly murmured, not sure what he was talking about.

“I mean seriously, how stupid is starting with, “Have you ever seen An American Werewolf in London?” he asked with disgust.

“Er . . .” Holly paused, growing confused.

“It was just stupid. I mean, we aren’t werewolves, are we?”

“No?” Holly guessed. That seemed a pretty safe bet.

“Exactly,” he said with satisfaction. “So why lead with that? It just confuses the matter further. Right?”

“Right?” she guessed.

He nodded. “Okay, so . . .” Justin paused and frowned and then repeated, “Remember, no matter how crazy this sounds, I’m not crazy. You are safe with me. I would never harm you. Ever. I promise you that.”

“Okay,” Holly murmured. But really, the more he said that, the more worried she got. It was the old, “The lady doth protest too much.” But in this case it was a man doing the protesting. The more he assured her that he wouldn’t harm her, the more anxious she got that he might.

“Right . . . so, you see . . .” He paused again and then warned, “I’m just going to tell you flat out.”

“Okay,” Holly said.

“Right.” He nodded, and then added, “It’s going to sound crazy.”

“Okay,” Holly repeated, not at all surprised. She was already beginning to think there was something wrong with the man.

“So here goes,” he said, and then blurted, “I’m a vampire.”

Holly stared. She’d thought she’d been ready for anything from his weird prefacing, but “ . . . Vampire?”

“Yes. But we’re not really vampires,” he assured her. “I mean, sure we have fangs and used to feed on mortals, and yes we’re strong and all that stuff, but we aren’t dead or soulless.”

“Well that’s . . . good?” She ended the comment on a question because, frankly, Holly wasn’t sure what the right response was here. The poor man was obviously delusional. Vampire? Yeesh. She’d thought the craze for vampires had died out, but apparently Justin Bricker had been affected by its brief outbreak. The poor deluded soul thought he was one. It was sad, really. He was a good-­looking man, personable and seemed smart enough, but he obviously had mental-­health issues.

However, she kind of owed him one. He’d picked her up after she’d taken a tumble and knocked herself out. Holly suspected that part of his story was true. It made sense and explained her headache and memory loss.

The rest of his story, however, that she’d fallen on scissors and stabbed herself and that he’d healed her with his . . . well, she wasn’t sure what he supposedly healed her with. Vampires bit and sucked blood, they didn’t usually go around healing ­people. That was Jesus. Perhaps he was getting religion mixed up with his delusional fantasy, she speculated. She understood religion often played a role with crazy ­people.

“Yes, it is good,” Justin assured her. “Life is much less complicated now that we don’t feed off mortals.”

“I can imagine,” she said, keeping her voice soothing. At least he didn’t take his fantasy to that level and go around trying to bite ­people. If he did, she’d be concerned. This seemed a mostly harmless fantasy though. He didn’t bite, so didn’t do anyone physical harm, which left sleeping in a coffin and avoiding sunlight and garlic as his M.O. and that was fine with her. Live and let live and all that stuff. Although Holly did wonder if she might not be doing him a disser­vice by not calling in some help, like maybe the police, and suggesting a seventy-­two-­hour evaluation in a psych ward.

“In fact, we’re nothing like the television and movie versions of vampires,” Justin assured her.

“Well, no, I guess not. None of them can heal,” Holly murmured, her gaze sliding to the door as she wondered if she dared try to leave. Would he get physical in his effort to stop her leaving? She suspected he would unless she handled him right. She would have to remain calm and talk her way out of this room. She had to get home and . . . well, Holly wasn’t sure what she should do after that. She had no idea what time it was. The bedside clock read 7:34 but was that morning or night? How long had she been here? She’d thought it was morning when she’d first woken, but now that she knew she’d been unconscious, she wasn’t so sure. And the curtains were closed and thick enough to block out sunlight if there was any.

“We can’t heal either as a rule,” he explained, drawing her attention again. “I was only able to heal you by turning you.”

Holly blinked at this and then tilted her head. “Into a vampire?”

“Yes. Well, we prefer the name immortal.”

“Uh hmm.” She hesitated and then stood. “Well, then I’d best get home and take care of things.”

“You can’t go. I have to explain everything,” he said, straightening and positioning himself in her way.

“Can’t you explain later?” Holly suggested, trying not to sound desperate, but wanting to leave. Hoping to use reason he might agree with, she pointed out, “If I’m a vampire now, there are loads of things to take care of. I mean I’ll need to buy a coffin and maybe find some nice Igor type I can get to bring me . . .” She let her words trail away and simply waved a hand vaguely. She’d been going to say ­people to feed on, but recalled at the last moment that his delusion didn’t include biting ­people.

“I think you mean Renfield,” he said with a faint smile.

“Do I?” she asked, turning sideways as casually as she could in the hopes of maneuvering past him toward the door.

“Yes. I wasn’t around when it first came out, but I read Stoker’s work as a teenager. It’s been a while but I have a good memory for names. I’m pretty sure it was Renfield who did Dracula’s bidding.”