Four was an entirely acceptable time for a young, employed woman to walk into her two-and-three-quarters room apartment on a Saturday. Morning, evening, what was the difference really? The apartment was one of several that the old, dirty house in Boston had been turned into to accommodate the older students and recent graduates wanting to live off-campus. And really, it wasn’t like anyone could mistake the place for the queen’s vacation home—the outside had vines very definitely creeping along the wood, and the original pale yellow of the paint was actually noticeable if you squinted and backed up ten steps and the sun was at exactly that angle. Her specific apartment wasn’t much nicer. It was clean, though, and relatively organized considering only one semi-organized person lived in it. The walls had old, peeling paint, and the kitchenette appliances had thin rust along the edges, and most of the floorboards squeaked and the windows took some coaxing before unsticking themselves. But it worked.
And right now, Cass really couldn’t remember ever wanting anything more than to be there. The street was dark—the weakly buzzing streetlights couldn’t even be half-assed into putting in effort—and there was a chill in the air that didn’t quite agree with her ripped-up, sheer tights and dress that only defied the title of shirt by a few inches. Her hair was already messy though, so she welcomed the pre-dawn’s dewy breeze as it brushed the thick tangles off her neck and sank cool moisture into them. It did bother her make-up though, not because she wanted to preserve it but because it caused the already smeared face-paint to slip and rub at the delicate skin hidden beneath it. But the air seemed clearer than it did during the full day, although it was still city air so it was probably her imagination, but it seemed a bit easier to breathe and it cleared her fuzzy mind. It also tricked her into thinking that if she just took another deep breath she totally wouldn’t wake up in a few hours to a hangover with a vengeance.
Cass let her lip curl into a dissatisfied, uninterested sneer as she thought over yet another unsuccessful night. She’d gotten completely and utterly trashed, then while still drunk achieved the level of stoned, all without puking or any loss of memory. The latter not entirely being to her advantage. The memory of some guy’s—maybe his name was Thomas, or Sean, but there was definitely an ‘s’ in it—tongue clumsily shoved down her throat expecting her to enjoy it wasn’t exactly scrapbook-worthy. The other one she’d run into later—or was it before? No, she’d had a spliff with him, and she never started with those—had an ‘n’ somewhere in his name and hadn’t been much better. He had asked for her name and if she was feeling alright, so Cass supposed he wasn’t too horrible. But he definitely wasn’t worth the time, and if she hadn’t been as out of it as she was she never would have given him the time of day.
The only guy she’d really found bearable and actually had liked spending time with over the last year was Peter, but he’d ended up having a girlfriend—but, of course, not mentioning her unless absolutely necessary. So, that hadn’t gone far, but Cass couldn’t help but compare others to him often.
She wouldn’t give any of them the time of day. None were worth it, no college-age or even slightly-above-college-age guys were interesting or exciting or anything above ordinary. And let’s not forget how they all only wanted one thing.
“You look rather pouty for someone who appears to have had what would be labeled a ‘good night’,” a male’s voice rudely observed. Cass rolled her eyes and kept walking. It was 4:30AM, no one on the streets right now should really be spoken to. They were all drunk, tired, crazy, or all of the above.
“Excuse me, I have something interesting to tell you,” the voice was calm and collected, relaxed even. Cass huffed out a low sigh, the similarity to a growl by coincidence entirely. She whirled on her heel, landing with an impatient, bored expression and tapping her toes against the cracked cement.
“Shock me,” she drawled sarcastically. She doubted it would case any reaction. So few things rarely did.
Her eyes flitted over the man speaking so blatantly, so calmly, to her. Actually, he surprised her. In the early morning, in a part of the city inhabited by college kids who littered it with puke, piss, broken bottles, and cigarette and joint butts on the weekends—and even his shoes seemed new and clean. His hair looked dark mahogany in the silvery light, looking as thought he had gelled enough to stick up from his head in short spikes and then run his hands through it. He must’ve been under thirty, or just about, because though Cass couldn’t see his specific features, his strong jawline was highlighted in either the dying moonlight or early, weak sunlight. The man wore dark, fitted jeans that looked crisp enough Cass wondered how she hadn’t heard them as he walked, and a dark shirt rolled to just below his elbows and with its few buttons at the top open, exposing…quite a few inches of skin. He was too far away for her to really make out any more details. Pity, she cooed mockingly at herself.
“What if I told you, you could cheat death?” He smirked, teeth flashing from between his lips.
Cass arched one dark eyebrow, smudged underneath with her black eye shadow, and her dark painted lips stayed in a straight line. That could have interested anyone else—maybe even Cass some other time—but really, it just seemed rather useless. Why cheat death? The only permanent of life, the one lasting, impressionable action for herself and anyone else who knew her. Plus, this was probably fake and some stupid attempt at a pick up line. At least it was unorthodox. And thus, not even sparing him a response, she turned back on her heel and finished rounding the corner and taking eleven long steps into her apartment.
Didn’t shock her, at all.
Well, until she actually tried to walk all the way up to her home. She only got around the corner before a sneer curled into her ear a second before fingers were snaking around her collarbone, the sharp scratch of nails making her yelp. Adrenaline shot through her as if his fingers had injected it themselves, and Cass twisted out of the man’s grip clumsily, but he was faster. As she was still turning, his other hand snagged her hip, and her resulting flinch made her lose her balance.
On the ground, her forearms between her face and cement while her legs twisted and tried to realign awkwardly half under her body, time finally seemed to slow. Cass glanced up, pushing her arms straight to get up and run, when the shine caught her eye. Her hand shot out, her energized body not even registering the sting as her palm and fingers wrapped around the glass’ jagged edges. She didn’t know if she was really holding it before she was yanked up slightly and onto her back, but Cass answered the pressure on her collarbone and the yanking of her hair with the glass.
The moment she had to assess her sight stretched into hours, or so it seemed. The same man was inches in front of her, and she finally could see his features. His eyes were dark, seeming to just be shadows between his brow and cheekbones. Cass felt her body coil and itch to move, to run like hell, yet at the same time keep completely still as her mind took in the fangs gleaming from his wide open, hissing mouth. He was sneering and growling, the broken pieces of the glass bottle drenched in the blood pouring from the lucky weapon’s lodging in the side of his neck.
Cass stumbled back a few steps, finally, but he didn’t even sway. Closing his lips so that she could see his teeth—and fangs—gritted together, never drifting his focus from her in the slightest, the man reached up and wrapped his fingers around the edges, pulling it slowly from his skin. Something in Cass’ stomach lurched, and a rubber band seemed to be pulled and then snapped against her mind because she slowly back away further. Her steps were measured this time, controlled, curious. He stood, watching her go, teeth still bared but making no move to follow.
She walked backwards, rubbing her toes slightly against the ground before putting each foot down behind the other, the eleven steps to her apartment door. It took twenty steps like this. It was only her fingers wrapped around the old metal handle that she blinked and he had disappeared. She locked the door shut behind her and took the stairs three at a time, locking her apartment door at the landing and then locking her bedroom door before sliding down next to it. Her phone was in her fingers, Peter’s contact information on the screen, but the girl’s face was turned away and she didn’t press anything more.
Cass dragged air into her lungs, the back of her head thudding as she leant all of her weight against the wall. She was well and truly shocked.
Lars watched her go, practically shaking in his attempt to quell the bloodlust shredding his insides and strangling him with his own intestines. He wanted to snarl at her to move faster, she had blood pouring from her hand and it was not helping him in his efforts. The only thought stronger than the haze of the chase and hunger was his intrigue at the girl who was slowly backing away, keeping all of her focus on him. Smart, so very clever never to turn your back on the thing that will rip you apart in seconds.
Lars may not have known her name, but he knew who she was, and that was why he fought so hard and stood still in the street until the drops of her blood had dried and the torturous tang was barely noticeable in the fresh dawn air. As his senses returned and the haze faded, he tilted his head in curiosity, flipping back through the events. The girl had turned her back on him, dismissed him even when she’d thought he was just a human man harassing her. He still could have easily been a threat. Then, he’d smelled the adrenaline and blood and seen her eyes glowing with energy, determination. But not fear. Lars wondered if that was a strength to be proud of, or a stupidity to be immediately corrected.