(Author’s note – If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, please do so here)
“I’m sure you’ve heard this from every guy you’ve ever met, Kelila,” Isaac said, “but that’s a pretty name. Where’s it from?”
She smiled. “A long way away. Not a place you’d have heard of.”
He raised an eyebrow. “I find that hard to believe. I’m pretty well-travelled. Try me.”
“Does it matter, Isaac? I’m here now.” She swallowed against the dryness in the back of her throat and realized her skin was itching. Not just one patch, but everywhere. Even her hair was drying out. Everyone smelled of that dark, copper-laced water scent and it was growing stronger by the second. Even Isaac was smelling more of that to her than the usually more noticeable stormy mer-scent. The thought of draining Isaac crossed her mind, and she was horrified to have even considered it. To her surprise, the punishment her father would impose for such an act wasn’t the only reason she felt that way.
“Are you all right?”
He was frowning at her and she knew what he must be seeing. Her whole body was drying up, she could feel it. Her cheeks must be growing more hollow by the second, her lips ready to crack open. And her hair had now moved beyond being parched, becoming fragile and dull. She tried to clear her throat, then almost panicked when she couldn’t. “I’ll be right back.”
She didn’t wait for his response. She couldn’t stay in his presence another minute. Shoving her way through the crowd, she tried to get as far away from him as she could. It wouldn’t do for him to see what she was about to do. She thought about grabbing someone from among the dancers then dismissed the idea. Isaac had sounded so concerned and she was worried he might decide to come after her if she took too long. She’d never been forced into this type of situation before and had no idea how much time she’d need to complete the deed.
She made it through the crowd, then tripped over a step and stumbled into the wall. Before she could straighten, someone was behind her. There were hands on her shoulders, pushing her into the wall. A long, lean body pressed into her back as a voice spoke in her ear, dark and angry. “I don’t like being teased, you know. And whatever you let that overgrown boy scout think, I know you want it. And you’re going to get it too.”
The pale human from before nipped at her neck and she could feel the prick of his fake fangs. Kelila smiled into the wall. Too perfect for him to chose that moment, but she couldn’t drink him there. Isaac might still see, and that would only make her task harder.
Letting her need for this man’s water bleed into her voice, she said, “You’re right. He shouldn’t have stepped in. I want you, but not here where everyone can see. He might try to interfere again.”
His hands squeezed harder on her shoulders, causing a hint of pain, but she could feel his lips curve into a smile against her neck. “I knew it. But then, sometimes I like a slut who plays hard to get at first. Makes catching you more exciting. Come on.”
He dragged her with him to a room with narrow stalls, then shut the door and turned the bolt as she looked around. The scent of water, dank and yet leading eventually to the sea helped her realize what the room was. A bathroom. The pale man grabbed her wrist and pinned her against the wall, her hands above her head. He kissed her neck and nipped again at the skin there. “Oh, I can’t wait to get in you. You’re going to like this. You can tell yourself later that you didn’t, but you all like it when I take you.”
He was grinning at her now, and she knew he was about to make his biggest mistake. She smiled at him and let her thirst rage. Remay had taught her about this too, how to drink a human so she could survive longer on land. He hadn’t been able to explain why their water worked when nothing else did and at that moment, she didn’t care. The fake vampire fastened his lips onto hers. She parted them, still smiling. He followed her cue, but before he could do anything more, she called to the water in his body, tapped and commanded it to flow up and into her.
His body jerked and his hands released her wrists. She grabbed his face before he could try to back away. The water flooded into her mouth and down her throat. Salty, with a heavy metallic tang of copper and other minerals, the liquid flooded across her tongue. Only the sea was more delicious than this. Only that water could have soothed her better than this. She commanded more to flow and it did, a river of soothing moisture filling every bit of her. She felt the itch depart and her skin grow damp and lustrous. Her hair sprung up back into its usual healthy, wet waves. As the flow tapered off, so did the pale human’s struggles. Once she’d gotten the last drop she could hope for, she released him. He fell to the floor with a crack, the husk of skin and bones he’d become breaking on the hard floor.
She took a deep breathe, grateful it was possible again. She turned to the door, unbolted it and left. Moving quickly away from the door, she scanned the crowd for Isaac. She circled the dancing mass of humans trying to find him again with no success. She was about to make another circuit when she saw him come around the edge of the dance floor from the other direction. The instant he saw her, his frown dissolved.
“Where did you go? I couldn’t find you and I was worried,” Isaac said when he reached her. He looked first at one shoulder, then the other. She remembered the way the false vampire had pinned her against the wall. “I knew it. I knew I should have followed you. Was it another creep or the same one? Are you okay?”
She smiled even as she silently cursed. She couldn’t wash away the bruising now that he’d seen it. “Same creep, but I’m fine. I made him go away.”
He glanced around, frowning again and she put a hand on his arm. He looked at her. “Isaac, I’m fine. But I think I’m going to leave now. I don’t think I like it here after all.”
“I’m not that big on this place myself. Maybe we can go for a walk?”
She nodded, trying to keep her urge to smile at her triumph in check as they left the club together. The mist outside was still thick but the rain had stopped. Isaac pulled out his shirt and put it on. Kelila wished he hadn’t. She enjoyed the sight, though she knew she shouldn’t. He was a Mer, whatever his background. It didn’t matter how many of his ancestors had been human. The scent told the real story. His heritage had bred true. He didn’t know, and it was the only reason he could enter the water without changing. She didn’t understand the reason for that, but knew it was true. Before long, she was going to have to change that. He had to know to be of any use to her.
He captured her hand as she turned to lead him back toward the beach. “Before we go far, I have one place I want to take you.
“Why? What’s there,” she asked, trying to keep her tone light.
“It’s a surprise, but, well, I have to. Please?”
She looked into his blue eyes and nodded, letting him lead her further from the beach. They went a few streets over before he took her into a small structure. A shop, she thought as she stared around at the racks of clothing and remembered her brother telling her about them. She turned to Isaac, who was smiling in a shy manner she didn’t understand.
“Anything you like. It’s not fancy, and it’s all second hand, but it was close and I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to walk around in just a shirt like that. It’s all ripped up and it looks like you’re not wearing anything under it. Did you forget to put bottoms on or something? You know, shorts, or, well, anything?”
She opened her mouth to respond, but realized there was no way she could explain without telling him the entire truth. She turned to the closest rack, surprised by the heat in her cheeks. She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked over it at him. He looked dismayed.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean- I was just making a joke, Kelila. It wasn’t supposed to be serious. Anyway, you really should pick something out. They have some nice things.”
She nodded and turned back to the rack, running her fingers over the contents. The wealth of colors amazed her and each item felt different under her fingers. Then she saw something a few feet down the long rack. She raced to it and pulled it out. The feel of the material on her fingers and the colors set off a deep longing in her. It was so like the sea. The sleeves of the shirt were loose and she could only imagine how they’d feel on her skin.
“You can’t just wear that, but it’s a good start. It matches your hair, really,” Isaac said from just behind her.
She turned to argue that she’d wear whatever she liked, but the sweet smile he wore stole the words from her and she smiled back instead. He went over to shelf of more clothes, dug through and handed her a white top with no sleeves. Another shelf yielded black pants, then he ushered her to a small booth. Once inside, she pulled on the clothes, needing a moment to concentrate on not leaking through her skin. The shirt felt as wonderful as she’d expected and she shivered with delight. When she came out, his smile was broader still and he nodded in approval. He handed her small shoes that were similar to what he wore, then handed bits of paper to a woman at the counter. This confused her, but then she remembered Remay warning her that humans didn’t barter and that she wouldn’t be able to acquire anything without something he’d called money.
(To be continued…)