Oliver's HungerBy: Tina Folsom
Scanguards Vampires #7
Hunger clawed at him. He fought the urge that controlled him, the need that made him shiver like an addict on withdrawal. He’d never imagined it being this painful, this difficult to resist, yet the thought of blood consumed every minute of his waking hours. Even during sleep, he only dreamt of pulsating veins, of warm blood that still contained a human’s life force, of sinking his fangs into a living, breathing being. But worst of all, he dreamt of the power it gave him, the power over life and death.
With a violent shake, Oliver tried to rid himself of the thoughts. But just like most nights, he was unable to shake off his lust for blood, his insatiable appetite for it. Quinn, his sire, had told him it would wane with time, but even after two months as a vampire, he still felt as greedy for fresh blood as on his first night after his rebirth.
As he slipped into his long dark coat and shoved a clean handkerchief into his pocket, he cast a look back over his shoulder. He’d never lived as comfortably as he did now, thanks to his sire. Quinn and his wife Rose had asked him to move in with them after they’d bought a large house in Russian Hill, a neighborhood in San Francisco that reeked of old money.
If he’d had a say in it, he would have chosen the vibrant and young area south of Market Street. It had become his hunting ground over the last two months. When he wanted to feed, he looked for a convenient victim among the partygoers there or in the Mission, but often he didn’t even make it that far.
On those occasions when he allowed his thirst for blood to grow too severe, when he delayed feeding to prove that he was stronger than the invisible foe inside him, he barely made it a few steps from his front door before he attacked an unsuspecting resident.
He’d been hiding his affliction as well as he could from everybody around him, but they knew. Whenever one of his friends or colleagues looked at him, he could see it in their eyes: they thought he wasn’t even trying to resist the urge to take a human’s blood. They believed he was taking the easy route, when in truth, he was fighting with his inner self every night. Nobody saw the turbulent storm that raged in him, the ferocious battles he fought with himself.
Nobody observed him losing those battles and caving in to the relentless demand of the devil inside him. When it happened, he was alone. Lost. Without guidance.
Knowing he couldn’t delay his hunt any longer, Oliver strode down the stairs of the old Edwardian home. Despite the age of the home, it didn’t feel stuffy. Quinn and Rose had taken great pains to furnish the house with a mix of period and contemporary furniture and turned it into a place of welcoming warmth. A true home. Something he’d never had before.
He felt ungrateful now, just thinking that he was going against his sire’s wishes. Quinn had given him everything he could possibly want: a secure home, emotional support, a family. His job at Scanguards, where he’d worked as the owner’s personal assistant for several years, had changed after his turning. And for the better: while he’d loved working directly for Samson, the powerful and ethical vampire who had built Scanguards into a nationwide security company, he preferred his new title—bodyguard.
Even though he’d already been undergoing bodyguard training at Scanguards while he was still human, he’d had to start nearly all over again, because as a vampire, he was thrown into an entirely different division, one that took on the most dangerous jobs. He thrived on it, loved every second of it. Which made the guilt even harder to bear. How could he ever become as good a bodyguard as his colleagues, when he couldn’t even control his own urges? How could he defeat an enemy when he couldn’t even overpower the demon that controlled him?
Disgusted with himself, Oliver turned at the foot of the stairs and cast a long look down the corridor that led to the kitchen. There, a larder full of bottled blood waited for him. Every conceivable blood type was stored there, even the one that was highest priced among their kind, because of its extraordinary sweetness: 0 negative. It would be so easy to walk into the kitchen, open the pantry and take one of the bottles of donated blood which Scanguards procured via a fake medical supply company Samson had set up years ago. So easy to simply unscrew the cap and take a swig. But even the prospect of gorging himself on the tastiest blood type around did nothing to quell the urge to hunt.
He’d rather sink his fangs into the neck of a homeless person, drink blood that tasted as putrid as the man smelled, because it wasn’t about the taste of the blood, it was all about what it did to him. It made him stronger, more powerful, invincible. He’d never felt better in his entire life than after feeding from a living human. Because blood coming straight from a vein still carried a human’s life force, making it ultimately more potent. It was like a drug to him, giving him an incredible high that he’d never experienced before, not even when he’d been human and had experimented with drugs. Blood coming straight from a breathing human was his drug now. A dangerous drug he should stay away from.
He knew the dangers of drugs too well: as a human, he’d been down that road, but thanks to Samson, he’d turned around and made his way out of the hellhole it was leading him toward. He had conquered the demons once. And he was determined to do it again. But it seemed more difficult this time.
Giving up the sensations that went through his body when he fed from a human seemed like an impossible feat. Wasn’t this what it meant to be a vampire? After all, he fed to survive. Generations of vampires before him had done the same. Had they too fought with themselves every night before they went out to hunt for fresh blood?
There were still plenty of vampires who fed off humans every night. Most of the men at Scanguards seemed to be an exception, but did that mean it was wrong that he wanted something different?
“God, why?” he cursed under his breath, knowing that for tonight he’d lost the battle.
He stalked to the entrance door when he heard footsteps coming from the living room.
“Going out?” Blake’s voice cut through the silence in the home.
Oliver didn’t turn to face him even when Blake stepped into the hallway, knowing his eyes had already turned red, indicating that he was about to lose control. He was in no mood to deal with his so-called half-brother.
“What’s it to you?”
“Look at me!” Blake ordered.
“Don’t think just because Quinn and Rose asked you to keep an eye on me, you’re suddenly my keeper.” The two lovebirds had left for a belated honeymoon and traveled to Quinn’s old castle in England, but unfortunately, they had made sure Blake stayed put.
“I’m not blind, Oliver. I can see what’s going on.”
Oliver took another step toward the door. “Don’t get involved in things that you don’t understand!”
“You think I don’t understand? Hell, I’ve been around vampires long enough to know what’s happening.”
He felt Blake approach and tensed. A second later, Blake put his hand on his shoulder, and Oliver whirled around, slamming Blake against the nearest wall in a split-second, then holding him there.
“You think two months with us makes you an expert?”
He had to hand it to him: Blake didn’t flinch, even though he could crush the human with his bare hands if he wanted to.
“No, but we live here as a family. I would be totally dense if I didn’t see what you’re going through.”
Oliver snarled. “I liked you better when you were dense and clueless. Before you found out who we are.”
Blake huffed indignantly. “I was never dense and clueless! So, get your fucking paws off me, because I know you can’t hurt me.”
“Can’t I?” he taunted, even though he knew Blake was right. Quinn would have his hide. It didn’t mean he’d have to advertise that fact to Blake.
“Quinn will punish you.”
“You think you’re closer to him than I am? You think if push came to shove, he’d take your side?”
Truth be told, Oliver doubted that Quinn would take sides at all. During the short time the four had all lived together, Quinn had tried to be impartial and not interfere in the fights he and Blake seemed to have on a regular basis. Even Rose had shrugged it off, claiming there was just entirely too much testosterone in the house, and it was therefore inevitable that quarrels ensued.
Blake narrowed his eyes. “I’m his flesh and blood. As well as Rose’s.”
Oliver let out a bitter laugh. “You’ve barely got any of his blood left in you. You’re his fucking fourth great-grandson! His blood is already so diluted, I can’t even smell it on you anymore. But the blood that runs in my veins, the blood that made me into this, it’s still strong. And he knows it. I’m his son—”
Blake suddenly chuckled. “Fuck, you’re actually competing with me.”
Oliver pulled back, loosening his grip. “It’s no competition when it’s pretty clear who’ll win it.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that, little brother. You might be a vampire. But don’t think you’re stronger than me.”
Oliver couldn’t help himself, but he had to cut Blake down a bit before he got too self confident. “You weren’t talking like that when I bit you.”
Instantly, Blake’s face reddened like a ripe tomato and his chest puffed up. Yes, he could still push the punk’s buttons whenever he wanted to.
With more force than he had expected, Blake pushed him off, freeing himself. Then he jabbed his index finger into Oliver’s chest.
“I swear to you, one of these days, you’re going to pay for that. Your fucking fangs are never gonna get anywhere close to me ever again, or you’re a fucking dead man.”
Blake’s hand moved behind his back, but Oliver snatched it and grabbed what he’d hidden in the back of his waistband.
Inspecting the offending item, he shook his head, then waved pointedly with the stake that he’d taken from Blake. “And you still haven’t learned that I’m faster than you.”
Then he tucked the stake into his coat pocket and addressed him again, “You should be careful what you bring into this house. If Quinn and Rose ever find out that you’re arming yourself, they’ll be pissed.”
“They have stakes in the house too! And other weapons that can kill vampires,” Blake defended himself.
“Yes, but those weapons are locked up. As they should be.”
Oliver let the word roll off his back, noticing that it didn’t have any effect on him. “I suggest you go back to whatever you were doing, and let me be.”
“Or what?” his half-brother challenged, raising his chin in defiance.
If only Blake knew how he was provoking him right now. If only he knew how close he was to snapping.
“I’m very hungry,” Oliver answered between clenched teeth. “Very hungry. And if you give me any more lip, I’m going to forget what I promised Quinn and feed right here. And once I’m done with you, you won’t even remember.”
Blake backed away, his single step echoing in the empty hallway. “You wouldn’t!” But despite the words, his eyes showed that he wasn’t entirely sure about his statement. Doubts had crept into his mind.
The way he felt right now, he’d sink his fangs into anything with a heartbeat. Blake’s stupid attempt at trying to keep him from going out had pushed his need too far. Hunger surged. As it crested, Oliver felt his gums ache. He couldn’t stop his fangs from descending, reaching their full length in the blink of an eye.
A snarl ripped from his throat.
His hands turned into claws, the fingertips now graced with sharp barbs that could rip a human’s throat out in a heartbeat.
Blake retreated farther. “Fuck!”
“Run,” Oliver whispered. But the word was meant for himself, not Blake. “Run!”
Finally, his body reacted. Oliver turned on his heels and charged for the door that led down to the garage. He more fell than ran down the stairs and reached his dark minivan just as another wave of hunger pain ripped through his body.
He had to get away from here. Far away, or he would hurt Blake, and he knew he couldn’t allow himself to sink that low. Despite the fact that he and Blake fought every occasion they got, they were family. And hurting Blake would mean disappointing Quinn. And despite what everybody thought of his inability to control his hunger, one thing he didn’t want to do was to lose Quinn’s support.
Oliver jumped into the car. When the engine howled, he shot out of the garage and raced down the street.
His knuckles clutched the steering wheel so tightly that they went white. Again he’d cut it too close. One of these nights, he would not be able to pull himself back from the brink and would do the inevitable: kill somebody.