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VAELA DENARR (SHE/THEY) & MICAH IANNANDREA (THEY/THEM)
The Gift of Blood (Crimson Tears: Book One)
The Gift of Blood Book Cover by Lexa @rocket_bird
CW: This book contains gore, brief mentions of self-harm, and brief mentions of homophobia.
Ryann relaxed deep in the safe confines of the booth. It was pleasantly cool inside the ice cream shop. The sounds of the Pride party reached her dulled and from far away. Ryann leaned back and hummed softly. She needed some time to think, and after meeting Rachel, she finally felt ready to slow down and do so as she ate her ice cream. She liked the taste. It was… interesting. Creamy and minty. Tasty.
She had gone off wildly just charging ahead ever since she’d come to terms with what she now was. A vampire. A Blood, Carver and Rowan had called them. Ryann still wasn’t sure what to think about Carver. He hadn’t seemed dangerous or like he’d stab her in the back. And if pretending that he was on her side was a ploy to get her to trust him, it was stupid, convoluted, and likely to fail.
But he had mentioned something that gave her pause. The Scorching Dawn, and what they did with those who went against their rules. Ryann had only touched a little bit of sunlight, but she could still feel the burning of it. She viscerally remembered the way it had blistered her skin and sent pain arcing through her.
For one, burning as capital punishment meant that more vampires burned in the sun than she had been led to believe by Rowan. It also meant that the general punishment was death. And that led Ryann to her current dilemma. Once she found her killers… then what? She had just imagined she’d beat them up. Break a couple of bones, knock out some teeth, teach them a lesson that they wouldn’t recover from so quickly.
And then, what? How long until they were right back up on their feet? A couple of weeks? Days, maybe?
What if I let them go and they Turn or kill someone else? Ryann stared at the little remnants of her ice cream cone. They’ve done it before. They kidnapped and killed you. Made you into one of them. No more sunlight. Blood drinking. She clenched her hand and crushed the cone as she imagined what would happen if one of those monsters caught someone like Rachel alone on her way home. She’d been so small, so cute, and she’d smelled delicious. Even now Ryann had that scent in her nose. It lingered as a pleasant memory. And the thought of a Blood stalking that cute girl and tearing into her… She couldn’t let something like that happen.
I guess, she realized as she stared at her hand, I’m gonna have to kill them.
The thought had her much less conflicted than she would have expected. Frankly, they’d killed her first. They had kidnapped her, had faked her death records from what she had been able to suss out, and they’d done something similar to another person already. No, Ryann couldn’t let them roam free. They needed to be gone.
“Hey!” The little voice pulled Ryann from her morbid thoughts. She looked up and saw Rachel standing at her booth. She fiddled with the little golden cross around her neck as she watched Ryann. “Mind if I sit for a bit?”
Ryann looked at her a little surprised. “Uh, sure…” She nodded to the free space next to her and shoved the last of her cone in her mouth. She cleaned her hand off with a tissue. “What’s up?”
Rachel kept fiddling nervously. “I just… I wanted to apologize. For Larissa and Kevin. They’ve gotten worse since they got together.”
“Eh.” Ryann shrugged and rested her arm over the backrest of the booth. “I’m used to idiots. But the apology is appreciated,” she added, “even though you didn’t do anything.”
“Yeah, well, doing nothing is also something I wanna apologize for,” Rachel said softly. She looked at Ryann, at her thick arms with the tattoos, and blushed.
“Did you ditch your friends?” Ryann asked. She was feeling a bit concerned all of a sudden. “You really shouldn’t be out this late alone.” Especially not with monsters around.
“They think I’m going to the bathroom,” Rachel explained. “I think they’re scared of you.”
“Fuckin’ better be,” Ryann joked with a chuckle deep in her throat.
“They were really rude. And I should have spoken up. I’m really sorry…” Rachel insisted again.
Ryann waved it off. “Yeah, maybe… But I don’t want you to get yelled at by your stupid friends. Or have to out yourself.”
Rachel turned super red. “U-um… what?” she squeaked. She was suddenly very flustered. It was adorable.
Ryann hummed softly. She leaned her head on her fist and looked the girl over. She rubbed her neck in thought, then said, “Look, it’s none of my business… But my gaydar is pretty good. And you’re not subtle.”
The little baby gay turned so bright red she could have doubled as a traffic light. “I-I mean…! I’m not, I mean, I don’t… don’t know what you mean,” she finally managed and hid her face.
Ryann couldn’t help but let out a little giggle. “I mean, it really is none of my business,” she said and leaned in a bit more. “But this is a safe space. I’m not gonna tell. So if you wanna talk…” She let the offer hang in the air.
Rachel made a soft whining sound that almost got a little purr out of Ryann. For a few moments she was just a quiet mess, then her voice came all muffled from under her hands. “Am I that obvious?”
“Yeah, you really are,” Ryann chuckled sympathetically.
Rachel looked up at her. “How did you know?” she asked with a little pout. She was so red it was hard for Ryann to keep a straight face.
She gestured to Rachel’s… everything. “As I said. Not subtle.”
Rachel dropped her hands on the table. She wiped the nervous tears from her eyes before folding her hands tight so they’d stop fidgeting. “I looked up lesbian… stereotypes, I guess. Thought that would be a hint. Help me come out if people notice, you know? But nobody else ever said anything. I thought I was doing it wrong.”
Ryann just laughed softly. “You’re doing great,” she said with a soft smile. Her voice had deepened a little with mirth. Rachel blushed deeper at the compliment, and Ryann reached over to pat the smaller girl on the head. “People just don’t see what doesn’t interest them. They don’t see what’s right in front of them. Stupid people still tell me no man is gonna wanna date me, and I’m gay all over! Not dating men is kinda the point.”
“Gay all over, huh?” Rachel smiled a little at her. Ryann’s warm tone and jokes seemed to put her at ease. “I don’t believe it. Show me some proof!”
Ryann raised her eyebrows, giving a little pause. “Are you asking me out?” she then purred and let her voice slip a little deeper. “How forward of you!”
Rachel’s blush returned in full force. “I— what, I mean… No!” she said, almost whining a little again. “I thought you’d have pictures or something!”
“Beauty like mine cannot be contained,” Ryann laughed jokingly. She tossed her hair for effect and found Rachel staring a little when she looked back down at her. “But just take my word for it. I’m as gay as it gets.”
Rachel smiled a bit. The blush was creeping slowly down her neck, which was odd, because Ryann wasn’t actually teasing her anymore. “So, uh…” Rachel bit her lip. “You gonna be at the parade tomorrow?”
Right… I didn’t even know there was one. And it’s supposed to be sunny. The little comment reminded Ryann just how far removed her world was from Rachel’s now. She couldn’t even go out during the day anymore. She sighed. “No,” she muttered. “I have some stuff to do that can’t wait.” She had to find Victor and deal with his posse. Try and take back her life. Try and make the place a little safer for Rachel.
“Oh, okay.” Rachel sounded a little disappointed. She looked down, now fidgeting with the end of her tank top.
Ryann watched her with a soft look. Rachel really did seem sweet, and she felt bad about jumping into her life and then leaving after what seemed like her first gay exposure. And as much as it was not her problem, she just couldn’t take another thing weighing her down.
Then a thought occurred to her. “Say…” she purred in her deep voice. She moved to lean over Rachel a bit. “Have you ever thought about what it’d be like to be bitten by a vampire?”
Rachel coloured darkly at that, having just begun to recover. “I uh… I… maybe,” the cute girl whispered and looked Ryann over. She seemed a tiny bit confused at the question.
Ryann smirked at that and let her gaze wander over Rachel, down her neck and the little freckles visible on her light skin. She stopped just at the collarbone and slid her arm on the backrest a little closer to Rachel.
“Would you like to try it sometime?” she asked. She let her finger trace up Rachel’s neck, to her pulse. Her small claws brushed harmlessly over her soft sin, and she watched Rachel’s pulse quicken at her delicate neck. That soft purr escaped her as she dragged her finger along Rachel’s jaw. She lifted the girl’s chin so she’d meet Ryann’s lidded eyes. “So, how about it?”
Rachel swallowed nervously, staring back like a deer in the headlights. Her breath was quick and light, and she bit her lip. She nodded once, very gently. Her beautiful golden-green eyes didn’t leave Ryann’s for a second.
Ryann gently moved her fingers, continuing to let them play along the girl’s jaw. “Well?” she said. “Give me your phone.”
Rachel blinked and took a moment before she realized what Ryann had said. She fumbled for her phone, pulling away from Ryann’s fingers. Ryann giggled softly and just braced her head on her hand again as she watched the cute girl. She had expected a reaction to the whole vampire thing, but she wasn’t complaining about things going smoothly for once. Rachel finally managed to unlock her phone with shaking hands, and thrust it at Ryann’s chest. She was pretty red, and she kept her eyes averted.
Adorable, Ryann chuckled to herself. If Rachel was half as delicious as she was cute, she’d be like a five-star meal. She took the phone, entered her name and number, and gave Rachel a little poke. “Wanna take a picture together?” she purred. The sound came out involuntarily, and she cleared her throat a little.
Rachel nodded quietly and leaned into her gently. She seemed a bit nervous. Understandably so, Ryann was probably her first ever vampire. And first gay friend. Ryann hummed playfully and put an arm around her to pull her close. She gave the camera her most charming smile, while Rachel had a small gay breakdown. “Almost done!” Ryann said as she went to set the picture for her contact. She stopped, her finger hovering over the screen. Do I even still show up in photos? Well, she already agreed to have her blood sucked. She pressed down and, to her relief, found herself and Rachel looking actually pretty good together. Rachel was wearing a little happy smile that made Ryann want to squish her cheeks gently.
Maybe she can send me this later, she mused. She flipped the phone in her hand and handed it back to Rachel. “Here you go!” She smiled at the cute girl.
Rachel looked up at her, back to the phone, and blushed. Ryann chuckled softly at how cute and gay she was being. She couldn’t quite help looking from Rachel’s eyes to her neck before her gaze snapped back up to those little pools of honey gold. She leaned in, and Rachel held her breath.
“You can call me whenever it’s convenient. I’ll be waiting, cutie,” Ryann purred at Rachel’s ear and pressed the phone into her hand. She was warm and soft, just like when they’d first touched. Ryann couldn’t help wanting to be close to her. She almost didn’t want to pull away… But then she did lean back and gave Rachel some space.
Rachel held the phone tight. She stared down at her feet and mumbled something. Ryann chuckled, feeling almost a little mean. Maybe I laid it on a little thick? But Rachel was smiling. So surely it was fine.
“I-I should g-go…” Rachel muttered.
“Yeah, your friends might get suspicious,” Ryann chuckled, though she was fairly sure she’d scared at least the two idiots too much to come near her ever again. “I’ll see you, Rachel,” she said, adding another little purr to the name as her cute new friend scooted out of the booth.
She watched Rachel quickly make her way outside. She was still bright red and clutching her phone to her chest, and there was a happy little grin on her face. Ryann smiled at seeing her look back once.
She waved until the door fell shut behind Rachel. Then she relaxed into her seat with a deep breath. The smell of food and candy filled her nose, and, ever so faintly, that delicious scent of blood, laced with Rachel’s own, sweet smell. Ryann licked her fangs and bit her bottom lip. Maybe she should have asked her to stay… She could have walked her home…
Wait… What the fuck am I doing? Ryann came abruptly out of her playful mood as Rachel’s smell faded into the distance. She didn’t have time to flirt! She’d just gotten out of a relationship —
“Oh fuck, I just flirted with a girl,” she muttered burying her face in her hands. She groaned loudly and rubbed her face. “What the fuck is wrong with me??”
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