However, this is no ordinary vampire. Seth Sampson was a former guard employed by the vampire Lord Veturious, and ever since his betrayal of the family, he has been held captive and tortured as punishment, and now he's being hunted down until he's returned to his prison.
His very presence endangers Ben's friends, who are also in hiding from the vampires and sun sprites. Should Ben trust that Seth will not give away their secret as a trade-off? Or will becoming close to him prove to be the worst mistake of both their lives?
Ben knelt down, but he didn’t touch the man yet, for now he knew it was a man. Being so close, he could better make out the form that was beneath the melted clothes. Narrow waist, no breasts to speak of, and sharp, angular shoulders and arms.
“I’m sorry this happened to you,” he said. For all his training to handle situations of this nature, to handle dead bodies, and for his help in the battle against the vampires, this was the first time he’d ever had to look at a corpse up close, to study it, and now he was expected to pick it up, roll it in a long sheet of plastic, and carry it away to someplace where it would more convenient to find.
Ben could only pray something that horrible never happened to him.
He reached out to it. He didn’t want to touch the charred flesh, just in case any was to get shredded away in his grip should he not be gentle enough, so he opted to only handle what remained of the clothes.
He reached around the neck to the shoulders, gripped the charred shirt—
The head came alive, jerked to the side, and teeth crunched down on his hand, right in the space of his palm between his thumb and index finger bones. Fangs lengthened and pierced the skin before locking on.
“Jesus fucking Christ!” Ben tried to yank away, but the fangs in his flesh held on and they held on tight.
His feet struggled for balance, to push himself off and away from whatever the fuck this thing was, but he sloshed into the water instead, splashing mud all over his clothes and face and soaking him in rancid-ass water.
It got into his mouth and he nearly puked, only managing to hold that back by the idea of anyone finding anything of himself near this thing, whatever the hell it was.
It creeped him the fuck out. He punched it in the side of the head then pressed his palm down on the black forehead to try and push it off, but its teeth clung to his hand, even when the charred skin began to tear, like Christmas paper, under the pressure of Ben's hand. Total lock-on.
“Get the fuck off me!” he yelled.
The zombie thing didn’t listen, and he felt the distinctive wet lick of a tongue, warmer, much more different than the cool water, lapping up the blood Ben spilled, and he saw the throat working in a desperate swallow.
Oh, God. It was drinking his blood!
Ben clenched his fist and, with a roar, delivered another hard knock to the side of its head. The fangs came loose, freeing Ben, and he scrambled backwards, splashing more filthy, brown, slimy water all over himself, until the hard bank and the prick of branches halted him.
He stared long and hard at the body, which wasn’t a body, for a good minute. It—he—was breathing now, the chest rising and falling, the mouth exhaling deathly wheezes, as though struggling to do just that.
The fucker was alive.
Ben looked at his hand. Judging by the two very distinctive bleeding holes that were alongside the indents of softer teeth in his palm, he was also a vampire.
Ben cradled his hand to his chest, he didn’t dare wash it out in this gross water, and he used his other hand to pull his phone out of his jacket pocket. The leather had kept it dry, but now he was fucked and had to throw away his favorite jacket.
Once again, like the loyal friend he was, Cedric picked up on the first ring.
“We got a bigger problem than I thought.” Ben said.