Bleeding Hearts Page 63

At least it was distracting me from the terror of not having a heartbeat.

Which didn’t seem to be holding me back, actually.

The revolting taste of blood was more immediate. Nausea flooded me. I made some kind of recognizable gesture, or else I’d turned green instead of blue because a plastic garbage pail was suddenly at hand. I pushed the bottle away and threw up. I didn’t feel like I was dying anymore. I felt worse.

“You need to drink more,” someone insisted.

I threw up again.

I really hoped Connor was somewhere else.

I felt a little stronger; the blood was healing me but I just couldn’t swallow any more. My throat closed up at the thought. I felt sick again. But I was aware of so many other layers to the world. I could hear a dog snuffling at the door, footsteps in the hall. I could smell blood and sweat and the rosemary in the garden outside the window. I heard a mouse in the wall behind my head.

“You haven’t had enough blood,” Liam said.

“Can’t,” I croaked.

“You have to. You’ll starve otherwise. That’s the first step to turning into a Hel-Blar.”

“I’ve got my kit.” Geoffrey burst into the room, carrying his old-fashioned black leather doctor’s case just as I was wondering how blue I’d turned. “If you can’t drink it,” Geoffrey said to me, pulling out a long needle, tubing, and a plastic bag of blood, “you’ll need a transfusion. Several, in fact.”

I turned away as he swabbed my arm at the crease of my elbow. The needle bit into my skin, sudden and sharp and as irritating as a hornet’s sting.

Still better than the alternative.

When I woke up again, the needle was gone and I was alone for the first time in what felt like days. The window was still open, letting in the garden and night-scented air and washing out the miasma of illness. Tree branches scraped the glass, rustling red and yellow leaves. The bed was an antique, piled with quilts and my salt-stained pillowcase. A small fridge hummed quietly, clashing with the faded, elegant decor. The wallpaper was silk; the fringe on the damask chair was threaded with what might have been real pearls.

I sat up tentatively, expecting to feel weak and queasy.

I felt good.

Well, better.

I went to the antique washstand and stood in front of the mirror. I was scared to look. It was an actual test of courage just to open my eyes. Which were now a light hazel, when before they’d been plain old brown. They were nearly the same shade as Saga’s grog. My hair was lank with dust and sweat, and the scratches from the cedar maze were scabbed over, nearly healed. There was mud under my fingernails. I was haggard and gross, traced with prominent veins.

But I wasn’t entirely blue and I didn’t smell like I was rotting from the inside out. I smiled.

And nearly sliced my lip open on my fangs.

I had fangs now.

I was going to kill my mother for naming me after a poem about a girl who falls under the spell of a vampire.

I poked at my teeth, which were as sharp as the needle Geoffrey had stuck in my arm. I poked them harder, trying to get them to retract into my gums, which were swollen and tender. They didn’t move. There must be a trick to it. I’d ask someone, just as soon as I’d had a shower. My stomach grumbled as I went toward the door. I was starving, but I didn’t know for what.

Well, I knew, but I was sure there must be some mistake, despite everything.

I should be craving pizza and ice-cream sundaes and grilled-cheese sandwiches. Normal stuff. But my body insisted on craving blood, even though my brain recoiled and shut down at the idea. Not to mention the empty cavern of my chest. I pressed my hand over my heart, but when I felt nothing I stopped. I could easily give myself a panic attack. How long would it take to get used to this? Would I ever? Had I really ever noticed my heartbeat when I had one?

And what happened now? I couldn’t go to school anymore, obviously. I’d have to take classes online. And did I have to stay here with the Drakes? And did I have to hang out with just vampires now? What about my family? How could I see my mother only at night? Wouldn’t she get suspicious? Especially since no face powder in the world could cover the blue veins. If I told her the truth, would she believe me? Would she start drinking again? My head whirled.

Shower now, deep thoughts later.

The bathroom was next door, with a huge shower tiled in painted ceramic. There were fluffy towels and pretty soaps. I stood under the hot water for nearly half an hour, washing away the dust of the ghost town, the dirt from the maze, the ashes from the fire, the sweat of my bloodchange. The water was brown as it circled the drain. I washed my hair again. My fingertips were wrinkly when I finally stepped out in a cloud of steam, wrapped in a towel.

I eyed the toilet speculatively. Did vampires pee? I didn’t have to go right now, but was that because I’d been dehydrated and feverish for so long?

I shook my head. I had to stop all this thinking or I’d freak myself right out. The point was, I was relatively okay, for a dead girl anyway, and I wasn’t alone. It could have been much, much worse. I could have been left to starve horribly and turned into a Hel-Blar.

When I went back into my room to get dressed, it smelled differently, like licorice. I glanced around for Connor but no one was there. There was a book on the dresser, however, and a note with his handwriting. For you, Christabel. Happy Birthday. Connor.

The book was old and lined with fabric the color of green opals. The pages were as thin as moth wings and full of poetry. I recognized Shelley and Coleridge right away. It smelled like libraries and dust. It was an antique. I sat on the edge of the bed and smiled stupidly at it until my damp towel dried and began to itch.

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