The handle slipped out of his hand with such force that it crashed through the thin-screen TV.
Blood from its passage left Rorschach patterns all along the carpet, the dresser, and what was left of the television, but it hadn’t been enough. It would never be enough, because Joshua was still alive.
He looked down at himself, at the hamburger of his own flesh knitting together before his eyes, and started laughing. He couldn’t die. Could not. Nothing he did would end it, the torment, the hunger, the fear. The burning. He’d thought at least the sun might kill him, but no—it just resulted in horrible pain, unconsciousness, and waking up right back in the hotel room where he started.
Using an abdomen just-healed and muscles he’d tried to destroy, he curled in on himself and wept.
Four days passed, and two times more, he woke up with a new body in the room. Some person he’d apparently taken and killed, though he had no idea how, when, or why. When he grew hungry, he just lost it—lost his mind, lost his memories, lost control.
He’d broken his phone. The concerned calls from co-workers and family were too much. He dared go near none of them, because nothing could stop this. Nothing would end it.
The few memories he had of the one who did this, of her furious green eyes and unstoppable will, lay faded under richer and redder ones, under this hunger that had its own ideas, against the inevitability that he would kill again.
He held out as long as he could. Every time, the hunger got too much, and it won. Every time.
There were bodies in here. Bodies he had no idea what to do with. Winter air helped, keeping the room refrigerated, but even the reek of the dead wasn’t enough to turn this hunger off.
His credit card would max out soon. He could only keep this room for so much longer. Even now, the hunger threatened again, burning, blinding—
It was a shock to hear his name, and he flung himself backwards, flipping over the bed like a demented acrobat, terrified of what had to come next. “Get away! I’ll kill you, get away!”
But then he saw who’d come.
The same green eyes as his tormentor, the same monster green, and Joshua panicked. It was time to run, to get out of here before this got worse. He went for the door.
He couldn’t not stop. The man who spoke owned him with one word.
Joshua turned to face him.
“Do not cry out.”
And now he couldn’t do that, either. Silenced, stilled, he stared at the invader.
He couldn’t be more than twenty. His eyes were the same green as the monster who’d done this, but the expression was different; soft brown curls haloed his angelic face, and he wore dark blue suit that looked like velvet.
Whatever power he produced wafted like a gentle kiss of breeze. Joshua swayed on his feet with the sudden strange desire to touch him, though he wasn’t into guys as a rule. He shuddered, afraid, but unable to move; that single word had turned off his ability to flee.
“You are afraid,” said the blue-suited man. “I know. This will help.” He produced a bottle of Chardonnay for no reason Joshua could guess and began—impossibly—to remove the cork with his fingernail. “Drink this. Then we can speak.”
“What the hell am I supposed to do with wine?” was what Joshua wanted to say. What he did instead was moan, a deep, naked sound summoned by the smell of something definitely not born of grapes in that bottle.
Blood. It held blood.
He drained it before he even realized he’d reached for it, and this blood . . . this blood was like nothing he’d known, rich and filling and calming, settling around that hunger in his soul and finally calming it down, and as he lowered the empty bottle from his lips, he realized the shakes had left his limbs. He felt like himself. He felt sane.
“I am Notte, and I have found you,” said the blue-suited man. “Joshua, the self-control you have shown here is extraordinary.”
“Self-control?” Sanity meant consequences, and Joshua knew the score. “I killed people. I killed people!”
“Yes, but not as many as you were meant to kill. You were intended to be madness, uninhibited and unhinged, so that by the time I found you, the dead would be innumerable. Yet you have only killed three.”
“Only?” The room blurred with tears. Joshua blinked them away. “I didn’t mean for any of this to happen.”
“You were meant as a weapon. I will take you as a son.” The blurry blue-suited man held out his hand. “Come to me, Joshua Run. Come. Join my family. I will take care of you, and I will ensure you never kill another innocent again.”
It could be a horrible trap. This was like some B-grade vampire movie, straight to DVD.
But the blood had calmed him, given him his own mind back, and Joshua needed sanity that more than anything else in the world.
“Take my hand.” It was not a command, and it could have been. The blue-suited man who could control him with words was giving him a choice.
Joshua took his hand.
Power blossomed from Notte like dawning spring, and as Notte drew him close, gentle control wrapped around like a blanket on a cold night, tight and safe and warm.
The hunger within him lay calmed, stilled, silenced. It was over. The killing, the murder, it was finally over.
Later, for the first time in days, he slept and did not dream of blood.