Chapter 2

Ray is not home when I get there. Our residence is new, obviously, since my original house blew up with Yaksha inside. Our modern mansion in the woods is not far from the old house. It has many electronic conveniences, a view of the ocean, and heavy drapes to block out the midday sun. More than any other vampire I have known, Ray is the most excruciatingly sensitive to the sun. He is made like a Bram Stoker model vampire out of old legends. Many things about his new existence trouble him. He misses his school friends, his old girlfriend, and especially his father. But I can give him none of these things-certainly not his father, since it was I who killed the man. I can only give him my love, which I dreamed would be enough.

I am only in the house two minutes before I am back in my car looking for him. Dawn is an hour away.

I find him sitting on his ex-lover's porch, but Pat McQueen is unaware of his nearness. Along with her parents, she is sleeping inside. I know she thinks Ray perished in the blast that supposedly took my life, too. He sits with his head buried in his knees and doesn't even bother to look up as I approach. I let out a sigh.

"What if I was a cop?" I ask.

He looks up, his melancholy consuming his beauty. Yet my heart aches to see him again; it has ached ever since he entered my life, both the physical heart and the emotional one. Radha, Krishna's friend, once told me that longing is older than love, and that one cannot exist without the other. Her name, in fact, meant longing, and Krishna's meant love. But I never saw how their relationship tortured them the way my passion for Ray does me. I have given him the kingdom of eternal night, and all he wants to do is take a walk under the sun. I note his weakness, his hunger. Six weeks and I am still forcing him to feed, even though we don't harm or kill our meals. He doesn't look happy to see me, and that saddens me more.

"If you were a cop," he says, "I could easily disarm you."

"And create a scene doing it."

He nods to the blood on my top. "It looks as if you have created a scene or two tonight" When I don't respond, he adds, "How was Los Angeles?"

"I'll tell you back at the house." I turn. "Come."

"No."

I stop, glance back over my shoulder. "The sun will be up soon."

"I don't care."

"You will when you see it." He doesn't answer me. I go and sit beside him, put my arm around his shoul?der. "Is it Pat? You can talk to her, you know, if you must. I just think it's a bad idea."

He shakes his head. "I cannot talk to her."

"Then what are you doing here?"

He stares at me. "I come here because I have nowhere else to grieve."

"Ray."

"I mean, I don't know where my father's buried." He turns away and shrugs. "It doesn't matter. It's all gone."

I take his hand; he barely lets me. "I can take you to where I buried your father. But it's just a hole in the ground, covered over. It will not help you."

He looks up at the stars. "Do you think there are vampires on other planets?"

"I don't know. Maybe. In some distant galaxy there might be a whole planet filled with vampires. This planet almost was."

He nods. "Except for Krishna."

"Yes. Except for him."

He continues to stare at the sky. "If there were such a planet, where there were only vampires, it would not survive long. They would destroy one another." He looks at me. "Do I do that to you? Destroy you?"

I shake my head sadly. "No. You give me a great deal. I just wish I knew what to give you in return, to help you forget."

He smiles gently. "I don't want to forget, Sita. And maybe that is my problem." He pauses. "Take me to his grave. We won't stay long."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

I stand, offer him my hand. "Very well."

We drive into the woods. I lead him through the trees. I remember the spot where I buried P.I. Michael Riley, of course-I remember everything. Also, I smell the faint fumes of his decaying body as they seep up from beneath six feet of earth. I fear Ray smells them as well. The life of a vampire is a life of many corpses; they do not invoke in me the strong emotions they do in most humans. Ray drops to his knees as we reach the spot, and I retreat a few dozen feet because I want him to be alone with his emotions-a caldron of sorrows. I am still too weak to let them wash over me. Or else I am too guilty. I hear Ray weep dry tears on a missing tombstone.

My two most recent wounds have completely healed, but my chest continues to burn. I remember the night Ray pulled the stake from my heart while my house burned nearby. Barely conscious, I didn't know if I would live or die, and for the next three days Ray didn't, either. Because even though my wound closed quickly, I remained unconscious. All that time I had die most extraordinary dream.

I was in a starship flying through space. Ray was beside me and our destination was the Pleiades star cluster, the Seven Sisters, as it is often called by astronomers. Outside our forward portals, we could see the blue-white stars growing steadily in size and brilliance, and although our journey was long, we were filled with excitement the whole time. Because we knew we were finally returning home to where we belonged, where we weren't vampires, but angels of light who lived on the radiance of the stars alone. The dream was painful to awaken from, and I still pray each time I lie down to sleep that it will return. The color of the stars reminded me of Krishna's eyes.

Ray spills his grief quickly. We are back in the car and headed for home as the eastern sky begins to lighten. My lover sits silently beside me, staring at nothing, and my own dark thoughts keep my lips closed. My energy is at a low, but I know I mustn't rest, not until I have formulated a plan to stop the black plague spreading six hundred miles south of us. He of the wicked eyes will make more vampires the next night, I know.  Replacements for the ones I destroyed. And they in turn will make their own. Each day, each hour, is crucial. The human race is in danger. Krishna, I pray, give me the strength to destroy this enemy. Give me the strength not to destroy myself.

As Ray lies down to rest, I let him drink from my veins, a little, enough to get him through the day. Even that mouthful drains me more. Yet I do not lie down beside him as he closes his eyes to sleep. Let him dream of his father, I think. I will tell him of Los Angeles later.

I visit my friend Seymour Dorsten. Twice I have seen him since I destroyed the AIDS virus in his blood with a few drops of mine. His health is greatly improved. He has a girlfriend now and I tell him I am jealous, but he doesn't believe me. I climb in his window and wake him by shoving him off his bed and onto the floor. He grins as his head contacts the hard wood with a loud thud. Only my Seymour would welcome such treatment.

"I was dreaming about you," he says, his blankets half covering his face.

"Did I have my clothes on?" I ask.

"Of course not." He sits up and rubs the back of his head. "What the eyes have seen, the mind cannot forget."

"When did you ever see me naked?" I ask, although I know the answer.

He chuckles in response. I do not fool him, Sey?mour the Great, my personal biographer. Knowing our psychic bond, I wonder if he has spent the night writing about my trials, but he shakes his head when I ask. He watched a video with his new girl and went to bed early.

I tell him about Los Angeles, why I am bloody.

"Wow," he says when I am done.

I lean back on his bed, resting my back against the wall. He continues to sit on the floor. "You're going to have to do better than that," I say.

He nods. "You want me to help you figure out where they're coming from."

"They're coming from that monster. I have no doubt about that I want to know where he came from." I shake my head. "I thought about it all the way here, and I have no explanation."

"There is always an explanation. Do you remember the famous Sherlock Holmes quote? 'When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no mat?ter how improbable, must be the truth.'" Seymour thinks, his palms pressed together. "A vampire that strong could only have been created by Yaksha."

"Yaksha is dead. Also, Yaksha would not have created a vampire. He was bound by the vow he made to Krishna. He spent the last five thousand years destroying them."

"How do you know Yaksha is dead? Maybe he survived the blast."

"Highly unlikely."

"But not impossible. That's my point. Yaksha was the only one besides you who could make another vampire. Unless you want to bring in the possibility that another yakshini has been accidentally invoked into the corpse of a pregnant woman."

"Don't remind me of that night," I growl.

"You're in a bad mood. But I suppose being stabbed twice in the same night, with your own knife, would do that to anybody."

I smile thinly. "Are you making fun of me? You know, I'm thirsty. I could open your veins right now and drink my fill and there would be nothing you could do about it."

Seymour is interested. "Sounds kinky. Should I take off my clothes?"

I throw a pillow at him, hard. It almost takes off his head. "Haven't you been able to get that girl of yours into bed? What's wrong with you? With my blood in your veins, you should be able to have who you want when you want."

He rubs his head again, probably thinking it is going to be sore for the rest of the day. "How do you know I haven't slept with her yet?"

"I can spot a male virgin a mile away. They walk like they've been riding a horse too long. Let's return to our problem. Yaksha would not have made this guy. It's out of the question. Yet you are right-Yaksha is the only one who could have made him. A paradox. How do I solve it? And how do I destroy this creature that clearly has at least twice my strength and speed? Tell me, young author, and I might let you live long enough to enjoy carnal pleasure with this silly girl you have foolishly chosen over me."

"I'm sorry, I can't answer your questions. But I can tell you where you must look to find the answers."

"Where?"

"Where you left the trail last. Where you last saw Yaksha. He went up in the blast you set at your house, but even dynamite leaves remains. Find out what became of those remains, and you might find out how your new enemy came to be."

I nod. His reasoning is sound, as always. "But even if I learn how he came to be, I still have to learn how to destroy him."

"You will. Yaksha was a more difficult foe. He knew at least as much as you about what a vampire could or could not do. The way this guy is carrying on, he must be newborn. He is still learning what he is. He doesn't know where he is weak. Find him, strike at that weak point, and he will fall."

I slip down onto the floor and kneel to kiss Seymour on the lips. Gently I toss up his hair. "You are so confident in me," I say. "Why is that?"

He starts to say something funny, but his expression falters. He trembles slightly beneath my touch. "Is he really that bad?" he asks softly.

"Yes. You are wrong when you say Yaksha was a more difficult foe. In his own way, Yaksha was a protector of mankind. This guy is a psychopath. He is bent on destroying all humanity. And he could suc?ceed. If I don't stop him soon, nothing will."

"But you saw him only briefly."

"I looked deep into his eyes. I saw enough. Believe what I tell you."

Seymour touches my face, admiration, and love, in his eyes. "I have confidence in you because when you met me I was as good as dead and you saved me. You're the hero in my story. Find him, Sita, corner him. Then kick his ass. It will make for a great sequel." He adds seriously, "God will help you."

I squeeze his hand carefully, feeling once more my weakness, my pain. It will not leave me, I am certain, until I leave this world. The temptation is there before me for the first time. To just run and hide in oblivion. Yet I know I must not, I cannot. Like Yaksha, I have one last duty to perform before I die and return to the starry heaven of my dream.

Or to a cold hell. But I do not like the cold.

No vampire does. Like snakes, it slows us down.

"I fear the devil will help him," I say. "And I'm not sure who's stronger."

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