Cat and Mouse | ii

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"The best are always those hidden in plain sight. You would make a good assassin. No one would suspect you."

Nerina did not have to ask why. She would not have suspected her either; she looked like a child. When the man took a step forward, she took two steps back.

He held out his hand to her. "My name is Steele."

She looked down at his hand as if it belonged to a leper.

"I wouldn't bother to introduce myself if I was going to kill you." He kept his hand outstretched.

"Or maybe you don't mind introducing yourself because I'm already dead. Dead men tell no tales."

Steele looked at her from her booted toe to her crown on raven black hair. "You're not a man. You may speak yet."

"Unless you cut out my tongue before you stake me through the heart."

Steele laughed. A genuine laugh. In the silence of the night, the sound boomed. Nerina resisted the urge to look over her shoulder worried he might be attracting unwanted attention.

"A twisted soul you have."

"I don't have a soul," she answered sharply.

"Or a beating heart but we learn to manage." Steele could tell at least two things about this woman whose name he did not know. She hated vampires. She thought of them and by extension herself to be monsters or worse. It was in her voice. The scorn in the lift of her chin. Another fact that was abundantly clear—she was running. Someone wanted her dead.

When Nerina started to make her way west he said, "How long do you think it will take for her to find you? Vampires have nothing but time and are nothing if not persistent."

His words had her step faltering but she kept walking.

"Soon you might run out of places to hide. The human world may be expanding but for us, it's still a small place."

His voice was following her though he kept his distance. Nerina grated her teeth.

"That is my problem." She snapped the words through her teeth holding on to her annoyance. Nerina wanted him to go away. She was in no mood to be friendly and she did not trust him.

"An eternity running," with her back to him she could not see him shake his head, "seems like a good plan.

Driven by her anger, she whirled around so fast she was a blur. "What I do or do not do is none of your concern. Leave me alone."

"Call me old-fashioned," he said before she would move off again, "but I find it hard to leave a lady in distress."

"I am not a lady," Nerina said as she turned on her heel and walked away. "I am a vampire."

Steele did not bother to follow her as she took off at preternatural speed. The woman was running away from something and it was not him. Reluctantly he found himself intrigued with this female vampire. He had met many of his species over his lifetime but none that intrigued him. Steele was interested in finding out why.

At the end of the western entrance of the wall, Nerina looked behind her. She saw no sign of the man who called himself Steele. Even if his purpose was not to kill, her it was best he kept his distance. She did not need another collateral damage on her hand. Her being alone and miserable was what Eve wanted.

She wondered around the country avoiding the people. Avoiding any contact. A misplaced smile could get someone killed. A kind word mistook for friendship. A wayward look mistook for something else. Anything at this point could cause someone to become a target.

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