I went to the stairs, expecting to see them struggling on the steps, but the stairs stretched empty. I ran down the stairs toward the sound of fighting. Richard had taken the fight out into the living room, so he had room to use his long legs and arms.
He kicked Damian in the face hard enough that the vampire staggered backward. I got a profile glimpse of Damian's face; blood ran from his mouth and the right side of his face. Richard took the extra seconds that the vampire gave him to do a beautiful roundhouse kick to the other side of Damian's face. This one was hard enough that blood flew in a thin arc. Damian staggered, and I think would have gone down, but he bumped into the wall. He hesitated long enough for Richard to get set up for another kick. Back foot set, front foot, set but loose, body partially turned to give that pivoting strength, the way when you land a fist you turn the fist into the skin for that extra little bit of harm.
Looking at Richard with all his attention on the vampire, his body tensed and ready, hands held in loose fists, even though he was setting up for a kick, I was reminded that here was someone with preternatural strength that did know how to fight. There was blood on his left hand, and I couldn't tell if it was Damian's blood or his own.
A small sound jerked my attention to the far side of the living room. A woman I didn't know was standing near the television set. She was pale, dark-haired, and scared. I didn't have time to notice more. I was standing too close to the fighting to sightsee.
If Damian had just been a big bad vamp in my house, I'd have gotten my gun and finished him, but he wasn't a villain. It was Damian, and somehow it was all my fault. I couldn't get a gun and just shoot him. For one of the few times in my life I was frozen, overwhelmed by my choices, or the lack of them.
Damian had been against the wall for so long--fifteen, thirty seconds--that I thought the fight might be over, that Richard might have actually kicked some sense into him; I was wrong. The vampire came off the wall in a white and red blur. Richard met the charge with a kick to Damian's chest. It wasn't a pretty kick, not like the roundhouse, but the sound of its impact was thick and meaty. If he'd been human it would have dropped him, but he wasn't human, and it didn't.
He staggered backward, and I could have almost reached out a hand and touched his back. Damian went very still, like the old vamps can, as if he were some beautiful statue. Then I knew, knew that he was about to move and not toward Richard.
I had an extra few seconds to react, when he turned in a whirl of white skin and red hair, turned so fast that the colors blurred so he looked like a whirlwind of snow and blood.
I threw myself to one side, rolling over the back of the couch. I ended up on the other side of it, on the area rug. I had a heartbeat to stand, and Damian was on me.
I braced for it, but it was like trying to brace for a freight train. There was no stopping it, or fighting it. I was just suddenly falling backward with Damian on top of me. I didn't fight the fall, I used it. When my body met the floor I had one foot in Damian's stomach and two hands on his arms. A tome nage throw is the only throw in judo where you commit your whole body to it. Most throws have variations you can do at the last minute if they don't work, but the tome nage either works or it doesn't. You fail, and your opponent is on top of you in a perfect position to pin you. But I hadn't chosen the throw, it had been the only move Damian's attack left me. I had seconds to do it right or have him eat my face. So when I kicked up with my feet, I gave it all I had. I'd forgotten that all I had was more than it used to be.
Damian flew through the air again, but it wasn't his supernatural powers this time. I rolled over in time to see Damian hit the wall yards away. He hit hard enough to crack the paint and leave a partial imprint of his body on the wall, when he slid to the floor.
I heard someone behind me say, "wow," and it wasn't Richard, because he was nearly up beside me, rounding the couch. I didn't have time to glance behind me to see if it was Nathaniel or Gregory, because two bad things were happening at once.
The first bad thing was that Damian was getting slowly to his feet. Slowly enough that I think I'd hurt him, but he was still getting up, still not unconscious. The second bad thing was the woman had started screaming again, and thanks to me throwing Damian across the room, she was the closest person to him. She'd backed up when he sailed through the air, otherwise she'd have been almost where he landed, but when he turned around, she'd be a yard away. Not good.
Richard made a move toward her, but she was already backing up, and not toward us. She was backing up toward the open front door. There was something about the way she was moving that made both Richard and I say something. Richard had time to say, "Clair, don't..." I had time to say, "Don't run." But it was too late. She ran, just as Damian turned to see her. It was like putting a cat into a room full of mice; they'll chase the running one first.
Richard was moving, but even with his speed there wasn't time to get ahead of Damian and block the door. All Richard had time for was to rush Damian, to crash into him and take them both to the floor.
He had the vampire down but not pinned. Richard screamed. His shoulders blocked my view, and I had to move around to their heads to see Damian's mouth buried into Richard's upper chest.
I knelt to help pry Damian's mouth from his flesh, but Richard made the preternatural rookie mistake. He grabbed Damian by the hair and pulled him off of him. Vampire bites are like snake bites; if the snake has a good grip, you don't just yank it off. Yanking it off causes more damage than letting the snake let go on its own, or prying it loose. I guess the exception would be a venomous snake, if you go on the assumption that the longer it bites you the more poison it pumps in, which may or may not be true, but vampires aren't venomous. It was an impressive show of strength, tearing the vampire's mouth away from his flesh, but impressive shows of strength have their price. Richard's shirt ripped away from that entire side of his body, and a great, bloody hole showed in his upper chest, almost to the shoulder. His hand, which had been pushing against Damian's shoulder, suddenly went limp, and all that kept Damian from sinking teeth into Richard again was Richard's grip on his long red hair.
I put a hand on Damian's shoulder and pressed, and unlike every other time I'd tried to hold down a rampaging vampire, this time it worked, at least a little. Let's hear it for preternatural strength.
A gobbet of flesh fell out of Damian's mouth as he tried to turn and sink fangs into me. Richard yanked on his hair and kept those straining fangs from me. He tried to use his left arm again, and it moved, but he couldn't push with it. Something important had gotten torn up. Super strong or not, he was suddenly fighting with only one arm.
Between the two of us we could keep Damian from sitting up completely, but we couldn't keep him pressed to the floor. He kept straining upward, teeth slashing the air, sounds coming from his throat that were more animal than human. We weren't losing the fight, but we weren't winning either. We needed a different plan of attack.
I moved off of his shoulders enough that he raised up more, and Richard's eyes were wide. "I can't hold him one-handed, not alone."
"I'm going to put an arm around his neck to control his head," I said, "but I need him higher off the ground."
"A choke hold won't work on a vampire. They don't breathe."
That was half true, but I let it go. We could argue later. "I'm just trying to control his head, that's it."
He gave a small nod. He didn't look convinced, but he didn't argue about it, and that was good enough. I slid in behind Damian, and he was so busy straining after Richard, that he didn't seem to notice. I knelt behind the vampire, and for the first time was very aware that I was nude. The fight had sort of made it unimportant. What made it important now, was that Richard's hand was still in Damian's hair, and his hand had to stay there until I had my arm wrapped around the vampire's neck. I needed to have one arm wrapped around Damian's neck and the other arm holding my wrist, and I needed to be squeezing like a son of a bitch, while my face was buried against the back of his head, so he, theoretically, couldn't reach me. Only Richard's grip and the vampire's desire to bite him would keep him from tearing into me during the process. So Richard had to keep his hand there, but now, suddenly, my bare br**sts were going to be pressed into the back of his hand and arm. The fact that that bit of knowledge froze me for a second tells you how badly I behaved around Richard, or how screwed up about him I was. A life and death struggle and I was worried about pressing my br**sts against his hand. Focus, Anita, focus. Survive first, be embarrassed later.