Darkness fell too soon for me. I wasn't sure what Brad meant by survival training. Was there some kind of vamp boot camp hidden in the park? Having become a creature of the night, I was both anxious to learn the "rules" so to speak, but also wished to have my old relatively uncomplicated life back. Since that was never going to happen, I resigned myself to trust that whatever Brad was going to throw at me was necessary.
The park trails were treacherous at night and therefore, at dusk closed to the public. This was ideal for Brad's purposes. A vampire's heightened senses and superb night-vision allows them to function at night as easily as a human does in the daylight.
This was a new experience for me-sounds were louder, smells stronger and colors more vivid.
The caressing cool breeze felt like thousands of insects scurrying through my hair and crawling on my skin. I started rubbing my arms and running my fingers through my hair to stop the sensation.
A rodent darted under a log and its footsteps sounded like thunder. I clapped my hands over my ears.
The fragrance of a wild Columbine attacked my sinuses giving me a blinding headache.
These sensations and more hit me at the same time and I collapsed on the ground and rolled up in a fetal position. I wanted to die just to escape the agony.
Brad knew instantly what was happening to me. He picked me up and ran, carrying me for some time and didn't stop until we came to a cave. He carried me inside and then sat and held me. I buried my face in his neck with one ear against his shoulder; his hand covered my other ear.
"I am so sorry," he said.
"What's happening to me?" I asked.
"Sensory overload," he answered. "I thought you would gradually increase in your sensory abilities, but you are far more advanced than I expected."
"I can't live like this," I said.
"I can help you if you will allow me."
"How?" I asked. I had a feeling I wasn't going to like his answer.
"An exchange of blood," said Brad. "You take mine, and I take some of yours."
"I knew you were going to say that."
"Dawn, this isn't an excuse to take your blood," he said. I detected frustration in his voice. "By taking my blood, your genetic makeup will be able to adapt to your new sensory abilities and your brain will be able to handle the changes. By me taking your blood, I'll be able to share in your struggle by sensing what you're feeling and I'll be able to help."
"But you already know what I'm feeling."
"It's kind of like telepathy, only more," said Brad. "Like I told you before, we would be linked by blood. What you're experiencing would be a shared experience because we are a part of each other. I could then share my strength with you."
"But, wouldn't it work the other way too?" I asked. "Couldn't the person who is hurting weaken the other? And what if we're both hurt at the same time?"
"You ask too many questions," said Brad. "This exchange is meant to save your life and enhance it - not drag you down."
"Just answer my question," I said.
"Then, hypothetically speaking," I said, "by you taking my blood, my condition could harm you."
"It will only weaken me for a little while," said Brad. "I'm much older and much stronger than you."
"You might be older," I said, "but you've already been wrong about the advancing stage of my mutation. How do you know I can't seriously hurt you?"
"I'm willing to take that chance."
"Well, I'm not sure I am," I said.
"Do you want to go back out there with all the noises and smells and feelings, just like you are?" Brad asked. "Just what do you propose we do to fix you?"
"Without the blood exchange, how long would it take me to get used to these new sensations?" I asked him.
"I don't know," said Brad. "A day. A year. Never?"
"Are you just saying that to scare me?" I asked.
"No," he answered.
"Then I guess I don't have a whole lot of choice, do I."
"I'm sorry it's got to be this way," he said.
"Give me a break, Brad," I said pulling away from him and looking into his eyes. "You wanted this all along."
Brad stared at me without saying anything for a few seconds. Then he said, "I wanted this exchange to be something special between us-romantic and loving, not out of desperation. But if it has to be this way to keep you from going insane and living the life of a recluse, I will do it gladly."
Maybe it wasn't the most romantic situation in the world, but how many guys would be willing to take the risk Brad was going to take to help me?
A flash of lightening and a clap of thunder was an excruciating reminder that I wasn't in good shape. I buried my face back into Brad's neck with a moan.
Brad bit the inside of his wrist and held it up to me.
"Here," he said. "It will be more difficult for you to extract blood from me this way, but I'll be able to stop you easier if you try to take too much, especially since you find me so irresistible."
"Very funny," I said.
My fangs were out as soon as I smelled his blood. Even though he had already bit his own wrist for my benefit, I sank my teeth into his wrist. His groan of pain reminded me that I had forgotten to prep the site by licking it first. I couldn't help myself; his blood drove me crazy.
Too soon he stopped me.
"Don't you want me to reseal the wound?" I asked.
Brad caught the disappointment in my voice.
"Uh, no," he said. "Your hunger is still too primitive. When you can control yourself enough to remember to prep your subject, then I'll let you seal the wound."
It began to rain. The loud pounding of the raindrops outside the opening of the cave entrance drove me to distraction.
"Does this cave flood?" I asked.
"I don't think so, but we won't be staying long," he said. "We need to finish the exchange."
I took a deep breath and said, "Okay."
Brad moved toward my neck.
"Wait!" I said. "Take it from my wrist...I think I can handle that."
Brad lifted my wrist to his lips and ran his tongue seductively along the inside of my wrist. I could feel my pulse quicken to the caress. I wanted him to bite me. He licked my wrist again, numbing the site and looked up at me just as he bit it. I sucked in my breath and held it as I felt my life force flow out of me. It wasn't an unpleasant sensation, quite the opposite; because I could feel something mixing in with the loss-I was acquiring a sense of another life connected to my own. I was sensing what Brad was feeling.
"I feel you," I whispered.
As soon as I said it, I felt an overwhelming feeling of love and possession. So this was what he felt for me. And then I felt strength and power. It was after I felt the added strength that he pulled away from me and sealed the wound.
"Wow," was all I could say.
Brad leaned back against the cave wall and closed his eyes saying nothing. I leaned up against him and sensed something wasn't quite right.
"Are you okay?" I asked.
"Just give me a few minutes," he said.
Lightening struck a tree not far from the cave. Brad cried out and covered his ears. Surprisingly, I wasn't nearly as affected by the sound. It still hurt me but not as much.
I turned around and pulled his head down to my chest and held him to me. "What have I done to you? How long will you be like this?" I asked him.
After he recovered from the lightening strike he answered, "I'll be alright." He sat back up and leaned back against the cave wall. "Hopefully, the cave won't flood before I recuperate."
I could sense that he was struggling with the onslaught of sounds and sensations in general. I leaned back against him and then realized that leaning against him was giving him pain and arousing him at the same time. I started to sit up and move away from him but he grabbed me and held me tight.
"Don't move," he said into my ear. "I need you close, even though it's painful. I need your strength. I'll heal more quickly."
"Do you need more of my blood?" I asked.
"No. Once your blood becomes more like mine, I'll recover. I just need a little time."
We stayed the way we were. I could feel his heart beat against my back. We breathed in tandem. And as my blood began to change and become like his, he grew stronger...as did I.
I don't know how long we stayed in that position. The rain had stopped long before I sensed Brad was feeling better. He kissed the curve of my neck and worked kisses up the side of my neck and behind my ear. Every place his lips touched my skin felt branded. I turned around and wrapped my arms around his neck. He kissed the front of my neck and began to work his way farther down. I couldn't think straight with what he was doing to me, so I pulled away and captured his lips with my own. Now neither one of us could think straight.
It looked like survival training would have to wait for another night.
To be continued...