They kept me tied to the bed, but Gabriel slipped the knives back in the wrist sheaths. He held the big knife that went down along my spine up to the light. I thought he wouldn't give it back, but in the end, he swept my hair to one side and slipped it into the sheath.
"Don't cut the ropes until I'm in the shot. I want the camera to know why you're scared. Promise not to spoil it."
"Give me a gun and I'll wait until you're on top of me to pull the trigger."
He smiled and waved a finger in my face like you'd scold a child. "Uh, uh, uh. No rough stuff."
I took a deep breath and let it out. "Can't blame a girl for trying."
Gabriel laughed, high and nervous. "No, can't blame you for trying."
We had lights, camera, all we needed was action. Gabriel had wiped the blood off his chest and put the silver ring back into his flesh. We were starting over for the camera. They'd even cleaned the blood off my mouth and freshened the makeup. It was the young woman, Heidi, the lycanthrope that did the makeup. Her eyes were too wide. Her hands shook when she touched me.
She whispered as she dabbed at my face. "Be careful when he kisses you. He ate a girl's tongue out once."
"Can you get me a gun?"
She shivered, eyes rolling white and panicked. She shook her head. "Raina'd kill me."
"Not if she's dead."
Heidi shook her head over and over and backed off the bed.
Most of the rest of the crew walked out. When the director realized they were going to lose too many people to run things, he offered bonuses. Big bonuses, and a few people stayed. The rest left. They didn't do snuff films. They wouldn't watch Gabriel kill me, but they wouldn't stop it, either. Maybe one of them would call the police. It was a nice thought, but I didn't pin any hopes on it.
Power rushed over me in a skin-prickling wave. It tugged at something low and deep in my body. The sensation was gone almost as soon as it came, but a smell lingered over my skin like I'd walked through somebody's ghost. I smelled Richard's aftershave. Richard was trying to tell me something, either on purpose or because he was being driven by fear. Either way, time was running out. I had to save them. I had to. There was no other choice. Saving them meant bringing Gabriel in close enough to kill him. Close to me. A mixed blessing at best.
"Get on with it," I said.
"You are terribly eager for someone who's about to die a truly horrible death," Raina said.
I smiled. I made the smile everything Gabriel wanted it to be, confident, dangerous, sexual. "I don't plan to die."
Gabriel's breath sighed outward. "Let's do it."
Raina shook her head and stepped back out of the shot. "Fuck her, Gabriel, make her cry out your name before you kill her."
"My pleasure," he whispered. He stalked onto the floor of the fake bedroom.
I unsheathed a wrist knife and cut the rope that held me to the headboard. My wrists were still bound. I watched him while I turned the blade to cut between my hands. He could have jumped me then, but he didn't. He glided around the bed while I cut my hands loose.
He ended on his knees beside the bed, staring at me. I backed away from him, knife in my right hand. I was going to get off the damn bed.
Gabriel crawled up on the bed as I crawled off it. He mimicked my movements but made them graceful and painfully slow. He shimmered with contained energy. He wasn't doing a damn thing but crawling across a bed, but the promise of violence and sex rode the air like lightning.
He was faster than me. His reach was almost twice mine. He was certainly stronger than I was. The only thing I really had going for me was the fact that I planned on killing him as quickly as possible, and he planned on raping me first. It meant I was willing to do things he wasn't. At least at first. If it wasn't over quickly, I was sunk.
I dropped to one knee and braced myself, with a blade in each hand. He wanted to come in close. He even wanted to be hurt, so no feinting, no trying each other's skill. I'd make him come to me, and I'd cut him up.
Power curled inside my stomach. It burst over me in a wave of sensations. The smell of the summer woods was so strong it was choking. For a second, I couldn't see the room. I had a glimpse of somewhere else, chaotic bits and pieces like a jigsaw puzzle thrown across the ground. I came away with three thoughts; fear, helplessness, and need.
My vision cleared to Gabriel frowning down at me. "What is wrong with you, Anita? Did Cassandra hit you a little too hard?"
I shook my head and took a shaky breath. "Are you all talk and no bite, Gabriel?"
He smiled, a slow, lazy grin that showed his fangs. He was suddenly there. I slashed out without thinking, pure reaction, no thought. He leaped away, and blood seeped down his stomach in a thin, crimson line.
He rubbed his fingers in the blood slowly, sensuously, then licked them with long, slow tongue movements. Playing for the camera. He crawled onto the bed and wrapped the white sheets around his body, rolling in them until he was tangled. He leaned over backwards, exposing his neck. Almost within reach of me. "Come play, Anita."
It was tempting, and it was meant to be, but I knew better. I'd seen Richard rip sheets earlier like they were paper. "I'm staying here, Gabriel. You're going to have to come to me."
He rolled onto his stomach. "I thought I'd get to chase you. This isn't any fun."
I smiled. "Come closer, and it'll be a lot of fun."
He rose onto his knees. The sheets were smeared with blood as he crawled out of them. Gabriel was just suddenly there, too fast for me to see it. He was by me and past me before I could react.
I fell back on my butt, trying desperately to keep him in sight. But he stood there, just out of reach. A second later, a sharp pain ran through my right arm. I glanced, and found bleeding claw marks on my upper arm.
He raised one hand in front of his face, and claws sprang out from under his fingernails. "Meow," he said.
I tried to swallow my beating heart and couldn't. This meant that even if he didn't kill me, a month from now I might be sprouting fur.
It wasn't a scream that you could hear with your ears. It wasn't a sound. I had no words for it, but I felt Richard scream inside me. His power poured over me, and down that long line I felt Jean-Claude. Something tight and painful held him down. I tried to get to my feet and stumbled.
"What's wrong, Anita? I didn't hurt you that badly."
I shook my head, and got to my feet. He wasn't going to come to me. Richard was growing desperate. I reached outward with that flare of power and I could feel Dominic's spell. He'd been shielding it somehow, but he couldn't hide from me. The spell was growing. The time of sacrifice was coming. I didn't have time for Gabriel to play with me. "Stop playacting, Gabriel, or don't you want me?"
His eyes narrowed. "You're up to something."
"You bet. Now, fuck me, Gabriel, if you've got the balls for it."
I put my back to the wall and hoped it would be enough, and knew it wouldn't be. I threw a thread of power back to Richard, hoping he'd get the hint and not interrupt for the next few minutes. If he distracted me at the wrong time, it would be all over.
Gabriel stalked in front of me, daring me to come out from the wall and get him. I did what he thought I would do. I tried for him and he just wasn't there. It was like trying to cut air.
He slashed out with one hand and sliced the back of my left hand open. I slashed at him with my right hand, trying to hold onto the left-hand knife. He hit the hand again, not with claws but backhanded. My hand spasmed, and the knife went spinning.
His body hit mine full out, slamming me to the floor. I shoved the right-hand knife into his stomach before my back hit the ground. But shoving the knife in meant I took the full force of the fall. It stunned me for a heartbeat. A heartbeat was all he needed.
He ran his hands under my arms, not trying to pin them, but forcing them up away from the knife in his stomach. He pinned me to the floor with his body. I expected him to draw out the blade, but he didn't. He pressed the hilt against my body and pushed. He shoved the blade into him up to the hilt and kept pressing. The hilt bruised against my stomach and he ground it into both of us.
He shuddered over me. He raised his upper body off me, pinning me with his lower body, snuggling it between my legs so I could feel him, hard and firm. He pulled the blade out in a burst of crimson and plunged it downward so fast my arms were only halfway up to protect my face when the blade bit into the carpet. He drove the blade hilt deep into the plywood floor, so close to my head that it pinned my hair on one side.
He undid the button on my jeans. He wasn't even trying to control my hands, but I only had one knife left. If I lost it, I couldn't kill him. We were about to find out just how good my nerves were.
Richard's power flowed over me again, but it wasn't the same. It was less frantic, more as if he was trying to whisper something to me, offer me something. Then I realized what it was. The first mark. Jean-Claude and Richard, for it was they, couldn't do it now without my permission. I was too powerful to be forced, at least psychically.
Gabriel kept my legs pinned with his hips and grabbed the front of my jeans, fingers pointing outward, away from my body. His claws sprang out through the cloth, and he ripped upward, slicing the cloth nearly to my pubic bone.
I screamed and let Richard do me. Better the monster you know than the monster about to go down your pants. A line of warmth ran through my body. It had been even simpler when Jean-Claude did it on his own, once upon a time. Even knowing what it was, it didn't feel like much.
But I felt better instantly; clearer-headed, more... something. Gabriel hesitated on top of me. "What the hell was that?" The skin of his bare arms was prickled with gooseflesh. He'd gotten a taste of the power.
"Didn't feel a thing," I said. I tugged on the knife in the floor, pulling at it. Gabriel ripped my jeans in both hands, and they split down the middle, leaving nothing between him and me but my panties and his leather pants. I was at a bad angle for the knife and it was only halfway out when he slid his hand down my panties.
I screamed. I screamed, "Richard!"
The power flowed over me. With Jean-Claude, I had watched his burning blue eyes enter me. With Richard as focus, there was nothing to see, but smells, the forest, his skin, Jean-Claude's perfume. I could taste them both in my mouth like drinking two strong wines one mouthful after another.
Gabriel's hand froze down the front of my body. He was staring down at me. "What did you just do?" His voice was a whisper.
"Did you think raping me would be easy?" I laughed, and it unnerved him. I saw something close to fear in his storm grey eyes. He'd moved his hand. Not having him down my underwear was too big an improvement for words. I never wanted him to touch me like that again. Never.
I had two choices. I could bluff and hope I could run, or I could reinitiate sex and kill him. The second mark didn't give me that much more power. In fact, it gave the boys more pull on my power than the other way around. So, sex it was.
"What's wrong?" Raina asked out of camera range.
"Gabriel's getting cold feet," I said. I raised up on my elbows. The knife he'd shoved in the floor held my hair pinned, and I kept raising up, tearing a hunk of my hair out. It was a small pain, but I knew it would appeal to Gabriel. It did.
I was sitting up with my legs on either side of his thighs. He picked me up, hands sliding over my undies, cupping my buttocks. He leaned back on his knees, supporting my weight. He watched me, and I saw something slide through his eyes, felt it tremble through his hands. For the first time, he thought I really might kill him, and it turned him on. Fear was the rush.
He kissed the side of my face gently. "Go for the last knife, Anita. Go for it." He leaned into me while he said it, biting gently down my face. I felt the pressure of his fangs down my jawline, onto my neck. He set his teeth into the side of my neck, bearing down, hard and harder, a slow, building pressure. His tongue licked across the skin.
I didn't go for the knife. I ran my hands through his thick hair, pulled it back from his face. His teeth continued to press into my skin. His hands slid inside my underwear, cupping my bare buttocks. I stiffened, then forced myself to relax. This would work. It had to work.
I traced my fingers along his face. His teeth bit in enough to draw the first faint blood. I gasped, and his claws dug into me. I ran my fingers along either side of his face, tracing his cheeks, his eyebrows. He came up for air, eyes wide and unfocused, lips half-parted. I caressed his face and pulled him in for a kiss. I traced his thick eyebrows. As he kissed me, he closed his eyes, and I put my thumbs over his eyelids. His eyelashes fluttered against my skin. I shoved my thumbs into both eyes, digging, trying to shove my thumbs into his brain and out the other side.
Gabriel reared back, shrieking. His claws ripped up my back. I gasped but didn't have time for screaming. I drew the big knife from the back sheath.
Raina screamed instead.
I shoved the blade under Gabriel's ribs. I shoved it into his heart. He tried to fall backwards, but my weight pinned his knees, so his back bowed backwards, but he didn't fall. I shoved the blade through him. I felt the tip of it burst out the other side.
Raina was suddenly there, grabbing me by the hair, flinging me off him. I flew through the air, smashed into the fake wall, and kept going. The wall splintered. I lay on my stomach, relearning how to breathe. My pulse was so loud in my head, I was deaf for a few seconds. My body stopped being numb in stages, and let me know it was scraped and bruised, but nothing was broken. It should have been. Two marks and I was suddenly Anita the human battering ram. When it happened the first time, I hadn't appreciated it. Now I did. I wasn't hurt badly, hurrah, but I still had to get past Raina. Everybody else would fold and run for cover if she were dead. Question was, how to get her there?
I looked up and realized I was right next to the prop table with my guns on it. Were they loaded? If I went for them and they weren't, Raina was going to kill me. Of course, if I just lay here and bled, she'd kill me anyway.
I heard her high heels coming my way. I pushed to my knees, my feet, and went for the table. She still couldn't see me through the partial wall, but she could hear me. She rushed up her side of the wall in those ridiculous high heels.
I grabbed for the Firestar and rolled over the table as I moved. I ended on my back, staring up as she leapt over the table. I hit the safety with my thumb and pulled the trigger. The gun exploded in my hand and took her in the upper stomach. The bullet seemed to slow her in midmotion, and I had time for another shot, higher up in the chest.
Raina collapsed to her knees, honey brown eyes wide with shock. She reached out one hand, and I scooted backwards, still on my butt and lower back. I watched her eyes go, that light sliding away. She slumped over on her side, her long hair spilling like auburn water across the floor.
The crew had hightailed it. Only Heidi was crouched by the wall, crying, covering her ears as if afraid to leave or stay.
I got to my feet, using the prop table for support. I could see Gabriel's body now. Blood and clear fluid flowed down his face from his eyes. His body still hadn't fallen. It knelt in a strange parody of life, as if he would open his eyes and it would all be pretend.
Edward came in through the covered door. He had a shotgun at his shoulder. Harley followed at his side with a machine gun. He surveyed the room and finally came back to me. "Is Anita in this room?"
"Yes," Edward said.
"I can't recognize her," Harley said.
"Hold your fire. I'll go find her for you." He walked towards me, eyes taking it all in.
"How much of this blood is yours?" he asked.
I shook my head. "How'd you find me?"
"I tried to return your message. Nobody knew where you'd gone. Then nobody knew where Richard had gone, or Jean-Claude, or Raina."
I felt Richard scream through me and I didn't fight it this time, I let the scream come out my mouth. If Edward hadn't caught me, I would have fallen. "We've got to get to Jean-Claude and Richard. Right now!"
"You can't even walk," he said.
I grabbed his shoulders. "Help me, and I'll run."
Edward didn't argue; he simply nodded and slid one arm around my waist.
Harley handed my knives and the Browning to Edward. I was inches away, but he didn't try to touch me. He looked past me as if I wasn't there. Maybe, for him, I wasn't. I cut the legs of my jeans off, which left me in nothing but underwear and Nikes from the waist down, but I could run now, and we needed to run. I could feel it. I could feel the power growing on the summer night. Dominic was preparing the blade. I could taste it. I prayed as we ran. Prayed that we'd be in time.