Chapter Five

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Georgia screamed and ran for the counter.

A lanky male vampire broke off from the group and headed for her. She promptly snatched up one of the glass jugs we stored beneath the counter, and hurled it at his head. The jug shattered on impact with his skull, and he crumpled in a bloody heap.

Another vampire ran at Georgia, leaping over his fallen companion as if he wasn't even there. I launched myself forward, sliding along a polished tabletop, and slamming a straightened leg into the vampire's gut. Another one charged me from behind and I jabbed a crooked arm back into his face, feeling cartilage crunch beneath my elbow.

My mop still leaned by the counter where I'd left it, and I snatched it up. At least Arthur had invested in a proper wooden-handled one rather than those flimsy plastic things. I twirled it in my hands like a bo staff, getting accustomed to the weight and balance of it. The soggy bundle of yarn strips flopping on the end reduced its effectiveness as a weapon, but it was all I had.

A female vampire attacked, and I jabbed the end of the mop into her face. I missed her nose but the handle made a satisfying thunk as it hit her jaw. If I aimed a little higher next time, I might be able to knock out a fang or two.

Behind me, Georgia threw another jug – barely missing my head – but the vampires dodged and it smashed against the wall.

I aimed the mop at another vampire, but he grabbed the handle and tried to wrench it away from me. Wood scraped against my palms and splinters needled the soft parts of my fingers. He was stronger than me so unless I found a way to make him let go, I was going to be minus a weapon.

I tried to kick him in the crotch like I had the other vampire, but he twisted his hips to avoid it. I stamped on his foot instead, grinding my heel down with everything I had. He yelped and let go of the mop.

I vaulted across the counter. Georgia was pressed against the door of the closet Arthur liked to call his office. Her face was pale, terror-sweat pasting black strands of hair to her forehead.

"This can't be happening," she whispered.

I faced the vampires, assessing their numbers. Six in total, not counting the one that Georgia had managed to knock out. The bearded vampire who'd tricked me in the first place had climbed to his feet, though one hand still clutched his crotch and his face was a lovely shade of tomato. The vamp whose nose I'd broken hung behind the others, the lower half of his face a mask of blood. His eyes glittered with hatred.

Even if I'd had a decent set of knives, six was more than I could handle.

I pulled up a mental picture of the diner. The front door was blocked by a wall of vampires, but the back door in the kitchen was probably still open. That was where we took the bins out at the end of the evening, and where I'd have emptied the bucket of water after I finished mopping. I doubted Georgia would have been so overly-efficient as to lock that door before we'd finished with it.

I edged closer to her. "Can you run?" I whispered.

Her head whipped in my direction, frightened tears pooling in her eyes. "What?"

"Can you run?" I repeated.

There were too many vampires for me to fight, but running from them would only work if we were actually faster than them. I was confident I was, even without my running shoes, but I wasn't such a bitch that I'd leave Georgia behind if she couldn't keep up. But if the vampires caught up with us outside, we'd be worse off than we were now. At least here we had things we could use as weapons, and space was limited which made it harder for the vampires to surround us. If they cornered us outside, we would be in serious trouble.

Georgia nodded, determination sparking behind the fear.

"Good. Follow me when I tell you to."

I eyed the vampires, knowing that any second one of them was going to attack. Like many vampires before them they had underestimated me due to my small stature, and now they knew I wasn't such an easy target, they were exercising more caution before attacking again.

My hands tightened around the mop handle until the splinters in my fingers ached. Who would attack first? Not the bearded vampire; he was too busy cupping himself. After the kick I'd given him, he'd be taking things easy for the next couple of hours. Maybe it would be the red-haired woman who stood at the front of the group, watching me with calculating eyes. The coldness on her face reminded me of Rachel – hardly surprising since these had to be Rachel's vampires.

But it wasn't the redhead who moved first. Another male vampire broke rank and leaped onto the counter. I tried to smack the mop handle into his knees, but he jumped with cat-like agility and stamped a foot on the wooden pole, pinning it down. With his weight trapping my weapon, I couldn't get the momentum I needed to throw him off. Now would be a really good time for Georgia to intervene with another glass jug, but she seemed frozen in place, staring mutely up at the vampire.

I couldn't blame her. His lips were peeled back from his fangs and his eyes blazed with ugly hatred. This was the view of vampires that hunters drilled into the heads of their children. It was the same view that had been drilled into my head for sixteen years until Luke came along and opened my eyes.

"Georgia," I shouted. "Run."

She squealed and bolted, smacking open the kitchen door with outstretched hands. Abandoning the mop, I raced after her. The vampire gave chase, whooping with savage glee.

I snatched a knife from the rack on the wall, fresh adrenaline flooding through me now I had a familiar weapon in my hands. A meat cleaver would have been even better, but, as far as I knew, the Waffle House didn't have one.

The vampire skidded to a halt when it saw the knife in my hand, and instead went after Georgia, who was struggling to unlock the back door. Apparently she was so overly efficient that she'd locked it even though we weren't done clearing up. Her hands were shaking so hard she couldn't get the key in the lock.

I leaped after the vampire, aiming the knife at his back. He twisted to the side and the knife glanced off his shoulder-blade, opening a long gash sideways across his back. His screamed and swung around, his fist flying at my face. I ducked.

Behind me, the other vampires stalked through the door.

"I'm going to enjoy this," growled the bearded man. He still walked with a limp, I was pleased to see.

Much as I'd have liked to throw the knife at him, and watch it twirl blade over handle until it plunged into his chest like on TV, this was a kitchen knife. It lacked the centre balance of my knives at home. There was more than a good chance I'd miss, and then I'd be empty-handed again.

I cast about for another weapon. If only someone had left the frying pans out – I knew firsthand what good weapons those could be – but the kitchen was spick and span, all utensils neatly packed away.

So I grabbed the next best thing – the nearest microwave. I hefted it in my arms, ripping the plug out of the socket, and threw it at the approaching vampire. It smashed into his chest and he fell back with a howl.

The vampire whose back I'd injured came at me again, but pain and anger made him careless. I pivoted on one foot, and slashed the knife across his face. One eye disappeared in a spray of red. His scream was loud enough to shatter glass.

"Come on," Georgia shrieked, finally getting the door open.

Frankly, I was amazed she'd even waited for me.

We raced out of the kitchen and Georgia slammed the door behind us, locking it again. Fists pounded on it from the inside, one of the vampires shrieking incoherently with rage.

"What the hell is going on?" Georgia screamed, backing away from the door. The terror in her eyes bordered on wildness. She held the keys in front of her like a weapon.

"I –" I didn't get a chance to explain.

Something heavy slammed into me, knocking me to the ground, and the knife spun out of my hand. Digging my fingers into the concrete, I managed to roll over and found myself staring into the snarling face of another vampire.

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