Chasing daybreak, p.31
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       Chasing Daybreak, p.31

           Ranae Glass

  The vampires were helping rouse Shane, breaking through the heavy chains like they were made of paper instead of solid steel. Xavier put up his hand, wordlessly demanding silence. That was when I heard it—a small voice, its call echoing down the hallway. The sound made me feel like I had spiders crawling up my bare skin.

  My breath caught in my throat. I put a hand on Xavier’s arm. He frowned and raised his finger to his lips in a signal for me not to speak. Then he jerked his head in a “follow me” gesture. Together, we tracked the soft cries, Xavier in the lead. We stopped outside a door I recognized. Then Xavier moved quietly inside, and I followed close behind.

  Melanie Marlowe was sitting upright in her bed. She’d pulled the tube of blood from her arm, the bag empty. Her cheeks were rosy, her hair the color of spun gold. She looked like a porcelain doll. Only the stillness gave her away.

  No human child was so still.

  Her eyes watched us like a vulture’s, tracking our every movement with frightening intensity. Her gaze swept over me, making me feel like a pig at a barbeque, before settling on Xavier.

  Hands up in a gesture of peace, Xavier moved past me toward Melanie’s bed. When he glanced down at the dead body of Charles Marlowe on the floor, she followed his gaze. Marlowe’s head was turned at an impossible angle, almost backward, his eyes empty.

  Melanie frowned. “Daddy?” she asked in her soft voice, bottom lip trembling.

  Xavier quickly stepped over Marlowe, putting himself between the little girl and her father’s corpse. He reminded me of a lion trainer in the circus. I just hoped he didn’t do something stupid like stick his head in her mouth.

  “It’s okay, small one,” he said in hushed tones as he sat on the bed beside her. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

  As if hypnotized by the child, he reached out to gently touch her hair. Heck, even from the doorway, I was hypnotized by her. It was sort of like watching a train wreck. You didn’t want to look, but you just couldn’t look away. I waited for her to strike out like a cobra and latch her baby fangs into Xavier. But if he was as tense as I was, it didn’t show. He looked positively relaxed.

  “Are you my daddy now?” she asked, smiling sweetly.

  “If you want me to be,” he answered, amused.

  She lunged forward, her vampire speed blurring the motion. Before I could decide whether to make a move to protect him, I heard him laugh. A short, happy sound. I looked closer and saw that she wasn’t attacking him at all. She’d wrapped her slender arms around his neck in a hug.

  “Daddy!” she exclaimed, voice full of joy like the sound of chimes on the breeze.

  Xavier embraced her. I waited, waited for the tiny monster to turn on him, but she didn’t. Xavier stood, taking her with him. Her tiny legs wrapped around his waist, her bare feet locking at the ankles. As he carried her to the door, I got a glimpse of just what Xavier had given up, and I understood for the first time with perfect clarity what it meant for him to find this little girl. A child without a father for a father without a child.

  Xavier moved past without a word. Melanie’s red-rimmed eyes stared back at me over his shoulder as he returned to where Shane had been strapped to the gurney.

  I shivered, goose bumps breaking out along my skin.

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