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he Vampire watched her as she slept the sleep of the undead. In all of the centuries of his existance, he had passed the Dark Gift to few others. This one time he regretted the most while hoping it would be the most successful. He wouldn't know if he had reached her in time until she awoke--if she awoke. It was well past sunset, but oversleeping wasn't unusual in a fledgeling.

As the last moments of her life slipped away, he had drained her, drop by drop, then slashed his wrist for her to feed on his immortal blood. She had suckled greedily, like the newborn that she was, but she would remember nothing of the transference. She would awaken with a hunger like no other in her experience; yet she wouldn't know what her body craved.

He had brought her to his lair, removed her torn and stained clothing, and tenderly dressed her in the nightgown she had worn the second time he had seen her. He watched over her the rest of the night. When dawn came, he lay beside her and held her close. Even in his sleep, he was aware of her and was comforted by her presence.

He had emerged during twilight, left and returned quickly, having fed on one and bled another into a winebottle. Neither was dead and, enthralled, would remember anything. Long ago he learned he didn't have to kill his prey to survive. Sometimes, such as after his forty-year interment in the Heidecker basement, he couldn't control the hunger; and, sometimes, he sought the thrill of conquest. She would soon discover this exquisite pleasure.

She moaned and stirred and he moved to sit by her side. He would guide her, show her the way. She wouldn't be left alone to find her path as he had been.

"John, no..." she groaned and clutched her abdomen. She relived the moments just before her death, felt again the last remnants of pain. The wound had been healed by his blood circulating through her system, but the memories would remain for a long time.

"Christina, can you hear me?"

When she didn't answer, he probed her mind. She was wracked with pain and fear, completely buried by her emotions. Gently, he led her into consciousness.

Her eyelids fluttered open. "Anton?"

"I'm here."

"Oh, Anton, it hurts."

She also experienced the sweet agony of transformation as his blood seared its way into her cells, changing their basic structure.

"It won't last much longer, I promise," he said and uncorked the bottle. "Drink, Christina. It will help ease the pain."

"Wine?" She shook her head.

"Not wine, but it's what you hunger for."

Her eyes widened, filled with fear. "Am I-- Did you--"

"I had no choice! You were dying--"

"John!" she cried out and closed her eyes.

"He's gone. I couldn't save him." He was glad she hadn't witnessed John's suicide. The bullet in his brain had ensured he couldn't be saved.

She took a deep, shuddering breath and looked at him. "He wouldn't have wanted you to."

"No," he agreed and offered her the bottle. "Drink."

He helped her to sit up and placed the bottle to her lips. She drank of the nectar that would keep her alive an eternity.

"I'll teach you," he said softly. "I'll be with you and show you how. I wish there had been some other way."

She lay a hand over his and nodded. "I do, too. But there's one thing I've learned and that is we have to adjust to what we are dealt in life. I have to admit, I was curious about what it would feel like to live forever. I do look forward to the wonder of it all."

"And the adventure. There will be many adventures," he promised with a smile.





[Prologue]   [Act I]   [Act II]   [Act III]   [Act IV]   Epilogue

[Intro]   [Index]   [Notes]