Oliver's Hunger
Page 24

 Tina Folsom

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His own reaction wasn’t any different. “I’ve never heard of blood whores.” He turned to Cain to ask for reassurance.
His colleague shook his head. “There’s no such thing. There’s no need for that.”
Ursula pulled her shoulders up and straightened, her lips trembling as she continued, “They used me and the other girls as blood whores. Two, sometimes three times a night they would bring vampires in to drink from us; leeches we called them.” She choked. “Some of the girls didn’t make it. But they always found new ones to replace the ones who died.”
Cain took a step closer. “That’s impossible. There’s no need to keep humans imprisoned for their blood. Even those vampires who don’t drink bottled blood wouldn’t have any need for this. They’ll simply go out and h—”
“Find somebody to drink from,” Oliver interrupted him quickly. Hunt, Cain had wanted to say, and somehow Oliver didn’t think it was the right word to use in Ursula’s presence. “No vampire would go through the trouble of keeping a human imprisoned just to have blood at hand at all times.”
If that were the case, why not drink it from a bottle? At least that’s how he felt: he loved the hunt. The thrill of it was what drove him out there night after night. And he could only imagine that it was the same for those vampires who hadn’t taken to bottled blood. They were in it for the chase. They wouldn’t want the bother of keeping a human in a prison to feed from him like from a caged animal.
“They ran a business,” Ursula insisted. “They charged a high price for our blood. And the leeches paid it without flinching.”
“Why pay for something they can get for free on the street?” Maya threw in, her voice just as skeptical as Cain’s comment had been.
Oliver searched Ursula’s face for any tells that she was lying. Thomas was trying to teach him this skill, but he hadn’t mastered it yet. However, from what he could tell, she wasn’t lying. Unless, she didn’t know she was lying: it was possible that a vampire had wiped her memories and planted fresh ones in her mind. She would never know that she was lying. The only question was, why would another vampire do this? Why concoct such a story? Was somebody trying to lead Scanguards into a trap by appealing to their sense of honor and duty, knowing they would help those in need?
Suspicious of her story, Oliver applied what he’d learned from Thomas: ask questions to see if the person could keep their story straight. Liars had a way of forgetting the small details of their carefully constructed stories and eventually made mistakes.
“You said you went to NYU. Did they bring you to San Francisco upon your kidnapping?”
She shook her head. “We stayed somewhere in New York for a long time. One night they suddenly packed everything up, and we were put in the back of a large truck and driven cross country. I arrived in San Francisco only about three months ago. I didn’t even know what city I was in until tonight.”
“Where did they keep you?”
She shrugged. “A large building, maybe an old apartment building or an old hotel. I’m not sure. It was dark when we arrived and I was never let outside. They kept us locked up, and even when we were led into the rooms where the vampires fed from us, there was always a guard to watch us.”
“Where is the building located?”
Her eyes filled with tears. “I don’t know. Not far from where you found me. I’m not sure about the exact location. I was only concerned with getting away from them.”
Cain cleared his throat. “Yeah, about that. How did you get away, given that there was a guard?”
Ursula shut her eyes for a moment, and when she opened them again, she looked away. “The guard wasn’t careful. He was called to another room when there was an altercation with one of the leeches. He forgot to lock the door. I was able to get out through a fire escape.”
“Was there only one guard?” Cain continued.
She shook her head. “There were many of them. But they were all busy watching the other girls,” she hastened to add.
Oliver gave her a wary glance. Her heartbeat had accelerated and he could sense her glands producing more sweat. Not an unpleasant odor by any stretch, but nevertheless, she was sweating, and this meant she was nervous. Nervous because she was lying? Or simply agitated because she was recalling her ordeal?
If only he knew.
When her face turned fully to him, their gazes collided. Oliver sucked in a breath of air and with it her scent. Hunger instantly surged through him, even though he’d fed only a few short hours earlier. He shouldn’t feel hungry; he shouldn’t lust for blood again so soon. He’d taken plenty from the juvenile he’d met in the Bayview district. More than enough. It should last him for twenty-four hours. Yet a strange craving came over him, and he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to bite or kiss her. Either possibility seemed equally enticing. And equally wrong for the situation.