Savannah sat near enough to me on the concrete steps that her hair tickled my neck and cheek. “Dove,” she said without looking at me, “You need to eat.”
The skin of my hands clutched tightly to the bones and tendons below. She was right. I was starving. But I didn’t say so.
I breathed in her strawberry shampoo, focusing on the sweet, syrupy, chemical smell. It was better than thinking of her lips.
“Dove. Don’t ignore me, or you can leave.” She touched me on the knee. The first time she touched me voluntarily. I looked at her. “Tell me you’re not hungry.” Her dark eyes were narrow as she studied my face.
“Why haven’t you been eating? You should have eaten Poppy.”
My lips curled away from my teeth. “His blood was vile. Alcohol. Cyanide.”
“I’ll wait, if you need to go find something. Someone.”
I shook my head, no.
“Take me with you. Show me how you hunt.”
“You know how I hunt.” My eyes traced the line of her jaw, down her neck, to the low line of her tank top. I couldn’t help it.
“You want me.”
“Do it, then.”
“No!” I was on my feet, a dozen paces away, staring back at her. My heart beat weakly.
Savannah stood, too, staring at me. “I want you to.”
“You could die.”
“I don’t mind.”
She shrugged. “Come inside and find out, or go away and eat. You look like a corpse, Dove, and it isn’t very pretty.” Savannah turned away, marched up the concrete steps and into the house. She let the screen door slap closed behind her and cocked her eyebrow at me over her shoulder. Then she stripped off her tank top. The orange material floated to the carpet and she vanished into the dark hallway.
I went after her.
Savannah waited in her room, stretched on the bed in jeans and lacy lavender bra. She was so young. So beautiful. I thought of the shift of her muscles under her skin when she ran through the pine forest. Her calves when she’d kicked that tiny bird, when she crouched to dig a grave for her Poppy. The pull of skin between her shoulder blades as she mopped blood off the linoleum. My whole body shook as I knelt beside her bed and caressed my fingers along her ribs.
I stopped. She was watching my face, lips parted. “You look so young,” she said.
“I’m not.” I laughed at how her words mirrored my thoughts.
Savannah scowled. “I’m older than I look, too.”
It was true. When I looked at her, I knew she was older than I’d been when I was her age. But I shook my head. I leaned back to sit on my heels. “Savannah… you don’t know what you’re asking me to do.”
She sat so fast I was unprepared for the hand that struck out, slapping me across the face. “Prick. Asshole.” Her knees thumped on the floor and she grabbed my face. Her nails dug into my scalp. “Stop pretending I don’t know anything about violence.”
I seized her hips and pulled her closer. “I don’t want you to be my food.”
“What do you want, Dove? Do you know?”
“I want you – I want to be with you, like anybody would. It’s just – part of what I am that wanting that makes me want to tear you up and feast on your heart.” My fingers tightened on her hips.
Her jaw clenched and she said through her teeth, “Maybe I’ll tear you up instead.”
I kissed her. It snapped her head back and we fell to the floor. Her hands scratched down my neck and she clutched at my back. I pressed into her and scraped my teeth away from her mouth and to her collar bone. She whispered my name, and I put my mouth between her breasts. It would be hard to drain her blood from a wound over her breast bone. My hands held her hips tight, and she hugged me, hands flat on my back and almost gentle. Holding me. She wrapped her legs around me, too, and let her head fall back. “Dove,” she said again.
“It will hurt.” My lips moved over her skin as I spoke.
“Good.” She drew in a long breath, pushing up against my mouth.
Instead of biting, I turned my face and put my cheek and ear against her chest. I could hear the rapid ticking of her heart.
Savannah sighed and stroked my back. Her body relaxed. “Your face is cold.”
I slid my arms under her waist and closed my eyes to listen.
“What does it sound like?” she asked. “I can never hear it.”
“A dying bird.”
Her laugh shook us both, and drowned out the fluttering of her heart. “Does your heart beat, Dove?”
“Can I listen?”
I rolled onto my back, pulling her with me. She straddled my stomach for a moment and looked down at me. Her dark hair tumbled all around her shoulders and neck, hiding her most delicate skin from me. “Even when you’re starving,” she said, “You’re beautiful. It’s strange to see skin so smooth and colorless. Without veins or blushes of pink. Or a tan. It’s weird and fake. I wonder what you’d look like in the sun.”
“Charred hamburger.” I cringed.
She shook her head and leaned slowly down to press her ear to my chest. I brought up one hand to bury in her hair.
“Do you always breathe?” she asked.
I realized I was. “Only when I’m hunting. Or pretending to be human.”
“You can stop, if you like. I know what you are.”
For a while, her breath and her heart were the only whispering sounds. I couldn’t even hear the world outside her tiny thin-walled bedroom.
“Do you love me, Dove?”
“If your heart doesn’t beat, how do you know?”
“I know.” I stood up with her in my arms. Savannah gasped, but only clutched at me, holding on. I sat us down on her bed.
She kissed the corner of my lips. “Will I be as cold as you are when I’m a vampire?”
I pushed her back and sank my teeth into her neck.