Night sank into the world around Mallory. She watched it dye the sky in shades of blue, purple, gray, and finally black. She’d been cooped up all day and she wanted out. The reading and planning had been exciting as promised, but she was desperate for activity.
Leigh had assured her they’d hunt and had smirked when he’d used her preferred expression of “going out for drinks.” He thought she was cute and squeamish, but she wasn’t a baby. She’d show him she accepted what they had to do to feed.
Then they could go get her family, she hoped. She was so ready to get them back. Feeling fidgety and wanting to just get on with it, she’d asked Leigh why they couldn’t just go that night. He’d said he needed to see how she reacted to blood of prey. If she couldn’t control herself, chances were she could do more damage than help to her family. He’d told her the Hunters wouldn’t hurt them. They were trying to draw her near. Without their bait, she had no reason to go to them. Mallory hoped he was right.
“You learn to feel the night.” Leigh surprised Mallory by appearing soundlessly beside her at the window. She refrained from making a startled noise, but wondered how he could still sneak up on her when her senses had become so elevated. She could hear cars driving a street over. How had his footsteps right behind her not appeared on her radar?
“I’m just anxious to go,” she explained without really knowing why. She decided not to ask Leigh about his preternatural silence. Apparently, it was a vampire trick, she thought to herself. “What does it feel like?”
“Excitement and the slightest bit of pain.” Leigh knew she was asking about the night, and he gave her the honest answer. “The night is a wild and feral thing.”
“And so are we, right?”
Leigh tipped his head in the slightest agreement. “I am. You are for now.”
Her maker reminding her of their arrangement made Mallory feel uneasy. She shifted from one foot to the other and adjusted her clothing for the thousandth time. She’d wanted to be clothed, but her heightened senses made the tactile overload almost unbearable. The fabric sat on her like the pelt of an animal which had maintained its life after being skinned. Every breath moved it against her skin in a maddening way.
Leigh noticed Mallory’s discomfort. He wanted to offer her advice or comfort, but kept reminding himself that it would only be for a short time. Soon enough, it wouldn’t be a problem for her and he would be gone. The thought saddened him more than he’d expected it to. To distract himself, he announced, “Time to go.”
They entered a world completely changed for Mallory. Every blade of grass gleamed with its own individual reflected sheen of moonlight. The night breathed in a thousand different ways. She heard small prey creatures and nocturnal stalkers. Winds minute as a secret sigh rustled leaves in a symphony of sounds to observe. Starlight and moonlight was adequate for Mallory to see every facet of everything that occupied the night-softened world.
As she stepped forward, Mallory could feel the dirt shift underfoot, even though she was wearing shoes. She glanced down at the ground and wondered how she could ever behave productively with her body experiencing every single thing so fully and to the point of such distraction. She’d get used to it, she told herself. She had to. Otherwise, how did Leigh exist and act so comfortably in any environment?
“Your speed is greatly enhanced, but on your own, you will limit yourself through the shortcomings of your preconceptions.” As Leigh explained to Mallory, he touched the small of her back and urged her forward. “You will run with me, because logic no longer limits my speed.”
“Are you my training wheels, then?” Mallory asked. She felt the electric chill of his fingertips through her thin, filmy tank top and worked to keep her voice from going breathy at the contact.
“I am more like your current,” Leigh suggested. Instead of water, Mallory pictured an electrical current. Then thought filled her with trepidation, not calmness. “Follow where I flow.”
Leigh ran, and Mallory followed. Within the first few seconds, Mallory embraced a wonderful truth. Running was freedom.
As they flew over streets and lawns, woods and gravel, Mallory was not distracted by the multitude of things she could now see more clearly, nor those she could feel more intensely. Running changed the hyper-focused world into a blissful blur. It was a perfect escape.
When they stopped, Mallory felt a shock of pain and disappointment hit her right in the chest. She wanted to run forever.
“Where are we?” Mallory asked as she looked around the unfamiliar area. She wasn’t even breathing hard. It was fantastic!
Leigh had taken her to a small town. It was one of three within fifty miles of Mallory’s hometown in which he hunted.
“One of my hunting grounds.”
Leigh pulled Mallory forward and saw her expression of pain as her enhanced senses fought once more to overwhelm her.
“How do you hunt?” she asked in order to distract herself. “Do you stalk like a wolf? Pounce like a lion? Swoop down like an owl?”
They reached the door of a small, brown house with a lawn full of riotous flowers, a stone flag post display, and well-trimmed bushes. Leigh drew Mallory up to the front steps and raised his hand.
“None of those,” he answered. “I knock.”