His hand shook as he raised the beaker to his mouth. He swallowed down several large gulps before setting the beaker back down.
Shanna curled her fingers around the crucifix he'd given her. "Do you even know what a normal dose is?"
"No." He stepped back and swayed on his feet. "I feel.. strange." He collapsed on the floor.
Shanna fell to her knees beside him. "Roman?" She touched his cheek. He was cold. Lifeless. Was this his normal deadish behavior for daytime, or had he actually killed himself with an experimental drug?
"What have you done?" She laid her head against his chest, listening for a heartbeat. Nothing. But then normally he only had a heartbeat at night. What if it never started up again? What if he was gone forever?
"Don't leave me," she whispered. She sat back, pressing her fingers to her face. She'd tried so hard to convince herself their relationship wouldn't work. But now he looked so.. dead. And it was killing her.
"Roman." His name seemed to wrench itself from her soul. She bent over, strained with emotion. She couldn't bear to lose him.
There were people in the cafeteria who needed her help. She needed to go. Now. But she couldn't budge. She couldn't leave him. It had been so hard to lose Karen, but this - this was like her own heart was being crushed. And with the pain came a searing realization.
She could no longer pretend that a relationship with Roman was impossible. It already existed. She was in love with him. She'd trusted him with her life. She'd allowed him inside her head. She'd fought her fear of blood for him. She'd always believed he was a good and honorable man. Because she loved him.
And he was right. She understood his guilt and remorse like no one else. They were connected emotionally and mentally. Cruel twists of fate had hurt them in the past, but now they could rise above the pain and despair by facing the world together.
Something grabbed her wrist.
He was alive! His chest suddenly heaved with an intake of air. His eyes opened. Bright red.
Shanna gasped. She tried to move back, but his grip tightened. Oh God, what if he'd turned into a Mr. Hyde?
He turned his head to look at her. He blinked once, twice, then his eyes slowly returned to their normal golden-brown.
"Roman? Are you okay?"
"I believe so." He released her and sat up. "How long was I out?"
"I - I don't know. It seemed like forever."
He glanced at the clock on the wall. "It's only been a few minutes." He looked at her. "I scared you. I'm sorry."
She scrambled to her feet. "I was afraid you'd done yourself serious harm. That was a crazy thing to do."
"Yes, but it worked. I'm awake with the sun." He stood and headed for the closet. "There should be a medical kit in here." He grabbed a white plastic box. "Let's go."
They rushed down the hallway. The alarm was still blaring. People scurried about with frightened faces. Some stared at Roman, while others did a double-take.
"Do they know who you are?" Shanna asked.
"I guess. My picture's in the employee handbook." Roman looked about curiously. "I've never seen the place so crowded."
They rounded the corner to the corridor that connected the laboratory wing to the cafeteria. It was jammed with people and bright with sunlight from three east-facing windows. As Shanna passed by the first window, she heard Roman wince. An angry, red burn mark had sliced a path across his cheek.
She grabbed his arm. "The sun's burning you."
"Only my face burned. You must have blocked the sun from the rest of me. Stay by my side."
As they rushed through the second shaft of sunlight, Roman lifted the medical kit to the side of his injured face. The sun burned a red streak across his exposed hand.
"Damn." He flexed his burned fingers.
"Let me hold the box." Shanna took the medical kit and perched it on top of her head to give her added height. People looked at them strangely, but they made it through the last shaft of sunlight without Roman receiving more burns.
As they entered the cafeteria, Roman gestured toward a man. "That's Todd Spencer. Vice president of production."
Shanna hardly noticed. She was too shocked by the scene before her. Injured people were lying on the floor. People rushed about. Some were sweeping away debris. Others hunched over the injured, wrapping them with gauze bandages.
A large hole gaped in the wall where concrete columns and glass windows had once stood. Overturned tables, mangled chairs, and food trays were scattered about. The hissing spray of fire extinguishers masked the moans of the injured. And Radinka was nowhere in sight.
"Spencer." Roman approached the vice president. "What's the situation?"
Todd Spencer's eyes widened. "Mr. Draganesti, I didn't know you were here. Uh, we have the fires under control. We're seeing to the injured. Paramedics are on their way. But I don't understand this. Who would do such a thing?"
Roman surveyed the scene. "Is everyone alive?"
Spencer grimaced. "I don't know. We haven't found everyone."
Roman headed to a spot where the walls and ceiling had caved in. "There could be someone under there."
Spencer accompanied him. "We tried lifting that mess, but it's too heavy. I sent for some special equipment."
A concrete column had fallen and crushed a table beneath it. Roman seized a huge hunk of concrete, lifted it over his head, and heaved it into the garden.
"Oh my God," Spencer whispered. "How could he - ?"
Shanna winced. Roman wasn't bothering to conceal his super vampire strength. "Maybe it's trauma-induced. I've heard of people lifting cars after an accident."
"Maybe so." Spencer frowned. "Are you all right, sir?"
Roman was bent over. Slowly he straightened and turned.
Shanna gasped. His proximity to the garden had exposed him to more sunlight. His shirt was smoldering, black and scorched. Smoke drifted from his wounded chest, carrying the smell of roasted flesh.
Spencer winced. "Sir, I didn't realize you were injured, too. You shouldn't be doing this."
"I'm fine." Roman leaned over to grasp another chunk of concrete. "Help me clear this."
Spencer tackled some smaller chunks of concrete. Shanna gathered up ceiling tiles and tossed them in a heap. Soon the crushed table was exposed. Luckily, chairs beneath the table had kept it from being completely flattened. There was a small pocket of air beneath the table. And a body.
Roman seized the table and flipped it over. He shoved the mangled chairs out of the way. "Radinka, can you hear me?"
Her eyelids flickered.
"She's alive," Shanna whispered.
Roman knelt beside Radinka. "We'll need more bandages."
"I'll see to it." Spencer rushed off.
Shanna opened the small medical kit and passed Roman a bandage.
"Radinka, can you hear me?" He pressed the bandage against a cut on her temple.
She moaned and opened her eyes. "Hurts," she whispered.
"I know," Roman replied. "An ambulance is on its way."
"How can you be here? I must be dreaming."
"You're going to be fine. You're too young to die."
She gave a weak snort. "Everyone is young to you."
"Oh God." Shanna's stomach rippled with queasiness.
"What's wrong?" Roman asked.
She pointed. There, stabbed into Radinka's side was a dinner knife. A pool of blood was forming. Shanna covered her mouth and swallowed hard at the bile in her throat.
Roman glanced at her. "You'll be all right. You can do this."
She took a few deep breaths. She had to do this. She would not fail another friend.
A young man came toward them with an armload of linen strips cut from tablecloths. "Mr. Spencer said you needed these."
"Yes." With trembling hands, Shanna set the bandages in her lap. She folded one into a thick pad.
"Ready?" Roman grasped the knife. "As soon as this comes out, press hard." He pulled the knife out.
She pressed the pad against the wound. Blood seeped onto her fingers. Her stomach churned.
Roman grabbed a bandage and made a pad. "My turn." He pressed against the wound. "You're doing fine, Shanna."
She dropped her bloodied pad to the side and folded up a new one. "Are you helping me? Mentally, I mean."