The Tiny Vampire From Outer Space That's Bitey

 

Shadow forced herself out from the pile of blankets where she’d been sleeping and flopped across the bed on her back.

Good evening, Shadow. The time is now 8 PM. The sun has been down six minutes.”

Shadow groaned and huffed at the talking clock. Why she bought that was beyond her. The voice was far too cheery for this time of night. The sun was barely set, and she was still exhausted. Unfortunately, she had to get up, find something to eat and get to work. She had prisoners to interrogate and bite.

Shadow stumbled out of bed and into the kitchen. She opened the refrigerator door and groaned. Every shelf was empty. She checked the crisper drawers and freezer. Also empty.

She closed the door and sighed. There were two bloodbags in there last night. Now there were none. It was unlikely anyone broke into her house to get them. Anyone who knew, knew she was Jacques Umbra’s childe. That knowledge was enough to keep everyone out of her dwelling. The only plausible solution was that she slept-ate them.

She pressed the button on the screen to see the last 10 times the refrigerator was opened. Since she’d just opened it, she disregarded the last time. The next most recent time was 3 PM. “Damnit.” Shadow didn’t remember getting out of bed, but she obviously had.

Just to be certain, she brought up the information on the front and back doors. No one had opened the back door in a month. The last time the front door was opened was last night at 4 AM. That was when Shadow arrived home, or close enough to it that she didn’t doubt she was the last person to enter or leave the house.

Shadow hoped there was food at the bloodbank. If there wasn’t, she’d be hunting it, which would make her late to the interrogation building. She started to walk out the front door when she realized she was naked.

It was a quick trip upstairs to throw a summer dress on and strap her sandals to her feet. Then, she tossed her cloak over her shoulders and walked out of her two-story house. The bloodbank was down the street, and she could see the line from her house. That wasn’t a good sign, but Shadow walked the block and a half down to the front door anyway.

Is this the line for the food?” Shadow asked the tall vampire standing nearest the door.

And the rumor is that they are rationing. One bloodbag per vampire,” he said.

Shadow huffed. “Are they open?”

Two minutes,” he said as he watched the little female vampire standing just to the side of the line. She had her hood up, but he could see the edges of her red hair.

Shadow looked at the line. More vampires had tacked themselves onto the end. "Oh…"

How old are you?” he asked. Judging by the way she was fidgeting on her feet, she wasn’t very old and starving.

Hundred and fifty-three,” Shadow said.

The vampire frowned and scanned the area, wondering where in Pluto’s name her Sire was. “Stand here.” He motioned to the spot in front of him.

Shadow stepped in front of him. “Why?”

Because I was about to tell you that you should have woken earlier if you wanted to avoid the line, but you are up early,” he said. “For your age.” He paused. “I’m Marcus.” He held out his hand. When she offered hers, he clasped it briefly. Just long enough to let him know she was indeed starving. She was cool, and he could see her veins through her skin.

Shadow,” she said as she marveled at the size of his hand. It was twice as big as hers.

Marcus nodded. “We’ll make sure you get some food.”

You can’t let her ahead of you,” the vampire behind him said. “I’ve been waiting since before sundown.”

So have I, and yes, I can,” Marcus said. The tension in the line rose. Line cutters were highly frowned upon, but Marcus wasn’t going to let this little red-headed vampire starve. When the vampire took a swing at him, he grabbed his hand in a crushing grip. “Attack me, and neither of us will need any food in this building.”

Let go of me,” he said.

Marcus released the vampire’s hand. Then, caught Shadow as she tried to bite it. He expected more solidity in her body, but there was almost nothing there. Half her perceived size was her cloak. However, he managed to get ahold of her before she got ahold of the asshole behind them. “She's a hundred and fifty-three, and your hand is bleeding. Do you want me to let go of her? She’ll bite you a hundred times before she finds a good vein.” When he heard Shadow inhale, he bit the thumb on his other hand and stuck it in her mouth.

The vampire flexed his hand. Two of the bones were out of the skin. He grimaced as they snapped back into place. He was outgunned and knew it. His patience was just thin due to lack of food. “I know she's hungry. I have childer, and I remember when they were her age." He watched Marcus as he forcefully calmed himself. He was third in line, not fiftieth. "I never did that with mine. What does that do?"

"Calms them down," Marcus said. He kissed the top of her head as he felt her relax. "If you can't find food right away, or they get upset, bite your thumb, put it in their mouth. It's not enough blood loss to cause you any harm, but it does wonders for them."

"I'll have to remember that," he said just as the doors to the building were unlocked.

First in line,” the woman said.

That’s you, tiny.” Marcus withdrew his thumb and nudged her toward the door.

Shadow walked through the doors. “Is there food?”

Not a lot,” the woman said. “But follow me.”

Shadow walked with the woman back to a cold storage room and watched as she picked up a bloodbag.

The woman handed it to her. “That’s all we can give. Our shipment is running late.”

By how long?” Shadow asked.

Over a week,” she said.

Shadow sighed and looked at the bag. “Where’s the cup?”

The woman twisted a hinge at the top of the bag and held out the built-in straw. “New type of bag. Just drink.” She motioned to the back door. “You can wait for your Sire out back.”

Shadow blinked. Sire? Then, she remembered the vampire that helped her in the line. She shrugged, not seeing any reason to dissuade the woman from believing she still had a Sire.

Shadow sucked on the bag as she walked out the back door. This was terrible. She’d never gotten only one bag. This wouldn’t be enough for right now, let alone the whole night.

She was halfway through the bag when she heard a voice behind her.

Not enough, is it?”

Shadow turned to see the vampire from the line. “No. Did she tell you I was waiting out back for you?”

She assumed I was your Sire,” Marcus said.

I noticed,” Shadow said. “Why?”

Because only a Sire does what I did,” Marcus said.

It helped,” Shadow said.

Do you feel better now?” he asked.

Not well enough to go to work. I’ll have to hunt for something first.”

I haven’t been able to find any live food in about two weeks,” Marcus said. “Does your work offer food?”

Not officially,” Shadow said. “And it’s better if I’m fed when I walk in the door.”

One bloodbag doesn’t constitute fed for your age. You may want to call off. It could take you all night to find something else,” Marcus said as he walked with her down an alley. The lights looked unusually dim tonight. Of course, they were always dim on Umbra, but it felt like there was a fog rolling it.

When do you think this food shortage will be over?” Shadow asked. “I haven’t heard anything about it.”

We haven’t heard anything official because there’s no solution,” Marcus said.

What?” Shadow questioned.

The planet is running out of food, and they have no idea how to get more food,” Marcus said. “Which is why there’s been no statement from the government or otherwise.”

I heard they were trying to create an army to take over other planets,” Shadow said.

I’ve heard that rumor myself, but I can’t confirm it. The only thing I can confirm is that this planet is running out of food,” Marcus said.

So, we’re all going to go into starvation Torpor?”

That’s about the size of it,” Marcus said.

What point is it to go to work if I’m going to starve either way?”

Not much of one,” Marcus said. “But I may have a solution for you.”

What?”

If you want to get off this planet and try your luck somewhere else, there’s a shuttle about five miles outside of town,” Marcus said.

Shuttle for what?” Shadow asked.

Shuttle full of Earthlings,” Marcus said. “I don’t know their next stop, but I heard they’re leaving later tonight.”

Earth. Isn’t that full of poison?” Shadow asked.

It’s not palatable, but it may be better than nothing,” Marcus said.

Are you going?” Shadow asked.

I’m contemplating it, but I haven’t decided.” He held up his empty bloodbag. “However, this is hardly adequate, not even for me.”

I don’t know what to do,” Shadow said.

Where’s your Sire?” Marcus asked.

I was left to fend for myself after the first year.”

Marcus frowned. “My suggestion is that you find that transport ship and get on it. This food shortage isn’t going to get any better, and you won’t survive very long on one bloodbag a night.”

Shadow looked at her empty bloodbag. “What if others are there trying to get on?”

I don’t think they will be. Very few know,” Marcus said.

How do you know?” Shadow asked.

It’s my job to know,” Marcus said. “Come with me.”

Are you helping me?” Shadow asked.

I just might be,” Marcus said.

Why?” Shadow asked as she followed him.

Nothing better to do tonight,” Marcus said.

That’s not a reason,” Shadow said.

Marcus led her through a series of underused alleys. “I like your hair.”

Shadow laughed.

Only about ten percent of our population have red hair, and even fewer of them have curly hair,” Marcus said, happy that he’d gotten a smile out of this little vampire. “I guess it’s as good a reason as any.” He opened a door. “Inside.”

Shadow walked into the small house. She didn't readily see any technology. This house had to be a thousand years old with minimal upgrades. “Why is this so small?”

Never bothered to move, even after I got a better job,” Marcus said. “I’m not Bonded, and my childer are elsewhere on the planet.” He grabbed a bag and packed it with blankets and clothes. Then, he packed a second bag with more blankets. The second bag, he handed to Shadow.

Marcus grabbed a third bag and packed it with electronics, papers and discs. “Do you have your IDs and documents with you?”

No,” Shadow said as she looked at all the bags. “Are you coming?”

Leaving isn’t exactly a bad idea, now that I think about it.” Marcus realized as he talked to her that he didn’t have much of a reason to stay either. Eternity didn’t matter if there was no future, and he didn’t see a future on a planet with no food. Marcus finished packing the third bag. “Let’s go.”

Shadow walked with him out of the dwelling. She put the bag under her cloak. “Are you sure they’ll still be there?”

I hope so,” Marcus said. “And because they might be getting ready to leave, I’ll have to find you some new documents when we get to where we’re going. I don’t think we have time to stop by your house.”

Probably not.” Her house was blocks away. “When’s the next spaceship visit?” Shadow asked.

Months from now,” Marcus said as they walked. “If ever again. You know these Earthling types…”

I don’t,” Shadow said.

If they didn’t find anything of interest, they won’t be back. Any upcoming trips would depend on if they found any reason for further exploration,” Marcus said.

It’s not very interesting here,” Shadow said.

We don’t find it interesting, especially with the lack of food,” Marcus said.

Shadow walked with Marcus down the road. “Are they on the road?”

They’re in the middle of a forest,” Marcus said.

Why do we not have any ships?” Shadow asked.

We do,” Marcus said. “They’re just not ready.”

You’re part of the Galaxy Exploration Program,” Shadow said.

GEP,” Marcus said. “They’re still years away from perfecting the Interstellar ships, even though, we don’t need the stasis technology the Earthlings use.”

What’s wrong with the ships?” Shadow asked.

We haven’t got the right kind of power source or fuel,” Marcus said. “The hulls and interiors are built.”

What power sources? We live in the dark,” Shadow said.

That’s the problem. We live in the dark and we move through the dark, so there’s been no need to create any advanced engine or fuel sources.”

What power do they need?”

Something with longevity. We’re testing some types of rockets and some new liquid fuel types that may be able to help, but it’s still going to be years before it’s ready,” Marcus said. In fact, he’d been scheduled to do more testing on a potential fuel formula tonight, but after seeing Shadow, he’d realized the full gravity of their situation.

The live food was almost gone. In order to feed the population, they’d have to start using vampire blood. Unfortunately, Marcus could guess the order. They’d start with the homeless and viscous. Prisoners. That would buy them a few months. Then, they’d cannibalize the youngest. Anything under 100 years old. Then, 200. They’d promote it as doing a service for the planet, but as Marcus looked at this tiny red-headed vampire walking with him, he knew he wouldn’t be able to stomach it. She was adorable. Marcus didn’t want to stick around to see the aftermath of those decisions, and he was taking this one with him.

How much farther?” Shadow asked as she looked down the road. From what she could tell, there was nothing in this direction. Although, there had to be another city or town, if there were a road.

Not much.” He paused and looked around. “This way.” He walked off the road and into the dense forest. The fog was getting thicker, but he could still see through it.

Shadow peered behind them as she stepped off the road. They were not being followed, which surprised her. She half expected a trail behind them. “How many people know about this?”

Only those who saw it land or those in the GEP,” Marcus said. "I doubt most care. You only understand cause you're always hungry. I know cause I'm part of GEP, and we were told to speed up the ship development cause the planet was almost out of food."

"Everyone thinks it's temporary," Shadow said.

"Like the lady on the bloodbank. She just thinks the trucks are delayed," Marcus said. "The truth is that there's nothing to put on those trucks. Our area is out of food."

"Is that why you stopped me from biting that vampire?"

"I didn't know if you were going to attack him or sob. It didn't matter to me which one you were going to do. I didn’t want you doing it.”

"I hate that it worked," Shadow said.

Well, I hate to tell you that your Sire should still be in your unlife, and you should be getting infusions from him regularly,” Marcus said.

I should?” Shadow questioned.

He should have hung around until you were at least two-hundred,” Marcus said. “You should have gotten those once a week for the first year. Then, every two weeks. And you should be getting them every one to six months right now. What I gave you earlier wasn’t enough, so when I get properly fed, I’ll do it.”

What does it help with?” Shadow said.

It helps you better control your abilities, and you won’t be starving all the time,” Marcus said as they continued through the forest. “But understand, I’m not promising the next forty-three years.”

Shadow nodded as she peered through the forest and fog. “I think I see it.”

I see it. Hush now,” Marcus said.

Shadow crept along behind Marcus. The shuttle-ship was small. She wasn’t sure how they’d fit unnoticed by the Earthlings.

This way.” Marcus walked to the back of the ship and listened. He didn’t hear anyone.

I saw the entrance. The ramp is down,” Shadow said.

We’re not going in through the front door,” Marcus said. “We’re going through right here.”

We don’t know the layout. We could get hurt,” Shadow said.

The portals we create don’t leave us in anything solid,” Marcus said. He took her hand. “Here we go.” Marcus opened a shadow-portal and walked through it, pulling Shadow along with him. When he stepped through the other side, he saw a small cargo hold.

Shadow glanced around. “It’s clean.” Every wall was white, and what wasn’t white was metal. She couldn’t see a spec of dust anywhere.

Extremely clean,” Marcus said below any volume Earthlings could hear. “We need to find a place to dwell.”

Shadow motioned to a large container. “That might be large enough.”

Marcus walked toward it. He looked at the latches. “Let’s see.” He unlatched the lid and opened it before peering inside. “Mostly empty. This will do.” He hefted Shadow inside with her bag before joining her and closing the lid. He used his powers of shadow-manipulation to relatch the clasps.

Now what?” Shadow asked.

Make yourself comfortable. We have no idea where they are going next,” Marcus said.

Shadow pulled out the blankets and wrapped herself up with them before lounging across the floor of the container.

Marcus laughed. “I knew you’d want those.”

I’m still hungry,” Shadow said. “I wish we had food.”

I know. If I can get ahold of one of those Earthlings, we may sample it,” Marcus said.

I thought you said it was poison,” Shadow said.

It might be. That’s why I said sample,” Marcus said. He pulled her against his body. “Take a nap, tiny.” He wrapped a hand around the back of her head and massaged the base of her skull with his thumb.

But I’m not…” Shadow yawned and snuggled against him.

Yes, you are.” Marcus chuckled quietly as she fell asleep. More than three-thousand years of unlife had made him an expert in determining whether young vampires needed more sleep, and this one was exhausted.

Marcus made himself comfortable and closed his eyes. He had no idea how long it’d be before the humans left the surface of the planet.

He opened his eyes when Shadow jerked in his arms. The ship was moving. "It's okay. They're just taking off."

Shadow looked around as the entire ship shook. "Is it always this shaky?"

"I would assume so," Marcus said. He listened. "I think we made it off Umbra."

"It's smoother," Shadow said.

"I think that was the worst of it," Marcus said as he stroked her hair. It was absolutely stunning. The color was similar to the darkness in distilled blood, and it was as soft as cotton.

"You acted like you didn't want to leave earlier," Shadow said as she laid with her head on his chest.

"I hadn't made up my mind," Marcus said. "When I realized you needed to get off because you needed more food, I realized just because I ate less, didn't mean I had a future on Umbra."

"I see your point," Shadow said.

"What was your job?" Marcus asked.

"Interrogator, " Shadow said.

"Gruesome," Marcus said.

"I didn't find it gruesome," Shadow said. "I liked it."

"You bit them," Marcus said.

Shadow nodded.

"That would make a difference," Marcus said.

"How long are we stuck in here?" Shadow asked.

"I have no idea," Marcus said then held his hand up. "Someone is coming." He listened. It had to be one of the crew members. Marcus heard a hatch opening. "Wait here. Let me see if I can get you something to eat."

Marcus slid through the shadows into the cargo hold. He stayed hidden as he watched the Earthling woman. She was working on something. Marcus came out of the darkness and slammed her head against the wall. She fell to the floor. Marcus checked to see if she was still breathing. She was, but she was unconscious. Marcus leaned down and grabbed her hand. He sunk his fangs into the vein and took one drink. Shadow wasn't wrong about the rumors regarding Earthling blood. It was considered undrinkable, but Marcus sampled it anyway. He swallowed and waited.

His hunger abated slightly. He didn't feel sick. Marcus took another swallow. It wasn't poisonous. It just didn't taste good. They could drink a little bit of it. Marcus extended his abilities and pulled Shadow to him through the darkness.

"Can we drink it?" Shadow asked.

"Two Swallows. It isn't the best blood," Marcus said.

Shadow picked up the woman's wrist and bit into her hand. She took two swallows and let the hand go.

"How do you feel?" Marcus asked.

"I'm okay. It's not good though," Shadow said.

"That'll have to be enough." Marcus took her hand and transported them back into the box.

Shadow rewrapped herself in the blankets. “I don’t think my stomach likes that blood.”

"You want a bite?" Marcus asked and offered his wrist.

"Didn't you drink it?" Shadow asked.

"I was just sampling it to make sure it was safe for you. I'm fine. I can wait until we get to where we are going."

Shadow bit into his wrist and drank.

"Stop when you feel better, " Marcus said.

Shadow took a swallow and stopped.

"Better?" Marcus asked.

Shadow nodded.

Marcus pulled her against his body. It wasn't long before he heard footsteps. "They're going to get their crewmate."

Shadow listened. She didn't understand the words, only that they were concerned she was hurt. "Did you hit her?"

"She'll be fine." He laid a hand against the back of her head as he realized it’d been a thousand years since he’d held another vampire.

Shadow brushed her mouth against his neck.

Marcus inhaled. And it’d been centuries since he’d had a female brush her lips against his neck. It was instantly arousing, and if he’d been his younger self, he wouldn’t have thought twice about plunging his mutto into her. Instead, he maintained his control. Until he could determine if she needed a Sire or a mate, he wasn’t going to touch her like that. "Tiny, you shouldn't do that."

"Why?" Shadow asked.

"Because…" Marcus said and paused while he tried to think of a polite way to turn her down.

"I'm too young for you," Shadow said.

"It's not that. You were full-grown the day you were turned. Some of our kind like having sex with the creatures we consider food because they’re warm, and they’re only in their first lives," Marcus said. "But we're in a cargo box on a shuttle with humans."

Shadow blinked when she felt the shuttle tilt.

Marcus gripped her tighter. "I bet we're landing on the larger ship."

Shadow held onto him as the transport dropped.

Marcus grunted. "Rough landing."

"Now what?" Shadow asked.

"We wait for a minute," Marcus said. He kissed the side of her neck. She smelled good. Really good, he realized as he kissed behind her ear. "Maybe we can find a room they're not using. Get a good day's sleep."

"Did you understand what they were saying?" Shadow asked.

"They were concerned about her head wound, but I didn't understand every word," Marcus said. "It’ll take me a little more time to figure out their language."

"I think we stopped," Shadow said.

"We did. Wait a minute though," Marcus said.

Shadow gasped when the container moved.

"Shhh…" Marcus covered her mouth and listened to the Earthlings. "I need to hear this."

Shadow waited while the Earthlings talked.

Marcus shook his head. "It's close to our language, but I still don't have it." He held Shadow tighter as the container shifted.

They moved for several minutes before the container was dropped on the floor.

"Are you all right?" Marcus asked.

"I am, Shadow said.

Let’s hope this ship is dark.” Marcus pulled her through the shadows out of the container. He kept them partially shrouded as he looked around the cargo hold. “Dark enough.” He looked at her. “Did you get your blanket?”

Shadow looked at the container. “No.”

Marcus grabbed their bags and Shadow’s blankets with his tendrils.

She repacked the bags and picked them up.

Now, we just need to find a crew sleeping room that they aren’t using,” Marcus said.

How big do you think this is?” Shadow asked.

Marcus peered around the room. “We’ll know as soon as I can find a window.” He took a hold of her hand and shifted through the darkness into the corridor just beyond the cargo hold. The hallway was brighter. Marcus cursed. He pulled Shadow’s hood over her head, then pulled up his own.

It’s too bright,” Shadow said.

I know. We’ll have to walk down this one. Keep your eyes open,” Marcus said. “We do not want them to know we’re here.”

They crept down the hallway, keeping their ears and eyes open for any Earthlings.

Marcus stopped them when they approached an intersecting hall. He looked in both directions. “Your guess is as good as mine.”

Right is darker,” Shadow said.

Marcus led them down the right hallway. They were halfway down it when he heard footsteps. He pulled Shadow into the nearest patch of darkness and waited. Two Earthlings passed them.

Window.” Shadow motioned.

Marcus peered out it. “Huge ship. We should be able to find someplace to sleep.”

I don’t think this floor has any rooms,” Shadow said.

Not sleeping chambers,” Marcus said. “I think we need to go up.”

I don’t know,” Shadow said.

I don’t either, but there’s a door at the end of this hall.”

As they approached the doors, they opened, revealing a small room with no exit on the other side.

I don’t want to go in there,” Shadow said.

That may be an elevator,” Marcus said. He started to take a step forward when he realized Shadow had rooted herself in her spot. He lightly tugged on her hand. “It’s okay. I can get us out if we don’t like it.” When she relaxed, he tugged her with him inside and watched as the doors closed.

It’s not moving,” Shadow said as she ducked under his cloak.

You are the most nervous vampire,” Marcus said as he looked for buttons and didn’t see any.

Suddenly, the room started to move.

Shadow jumped and shrieked.

You’re okay.” He laid a hand on her shoulder. “You never rode an elevator, did you?”

Shadow shook her head. “Reminded me of a coffin.”

Marcus stepped back into the corner and shrouded them in darkness.

When the room stopped, two Earthlings stepped on.

Crew quarters,” One of them said.

Are you off?” the other asked.

For the next 12 hours,” she said. “And I plan to sleep.”

Enjoy your rest. I have an eight-hour shift at the command center,” the male said.

Marcus shifted through the darkness into the hall when the doors opened again. He kept them in the shadows until the doors closed and the human was no longer visible.

Is this the right spot?” Shadow asked.

I think so,” Marcus said. “She said sleep. At least, I understood that word.”

None of these doors have windows,” Shadow said.

I’m going to have to look in each one,” Marcus said. “Stay here.”

Shadow watched as Marcus shifted into every room, looking for one that was empty. When he motioned for her at the end of the hall, Shadow walked to him.

This one looks unused. Nothing in it. The bed is barren,” Marcus said. He led her inside. “I think we’ll be alright here.”

Is there a shower?” Shadow asked.

I think so.” Marcus stepped in front of a door and peered inside. “Closet. He stepped in front of another door and looked inside. “Bathroom.”

Shadow stripped off her cloak and dress and tossed them into a chair. She took off her sandals, leaving them on the floor.

Marcus averted his gaze and turned around. “Do you have any humility?”

No.” Shadow walked into the bathroom. She looked around for the water handles and didn’t see any. There was a faucet attached to the sink. Shadow put her hand under it only to jerk it back when the water turned on. She blinked and tested the faucet again.

Shadow stepped into what had to be the shower area and hoped whatever came out of the showerheads was hot. A panel opened in the ceiling, revealing a showerhead and another spigot that Shadow couldn’t identify. Then, she was sprayed with soap. Five seconds later, the showerhead turned on.

Shadow jumped back. “Hotter than that!”

To her surprise, the water started to steam. She stepped back under the showerhead and washed. Then rinsed. She started to get out of the shower and look for a towel when panels opened along the sides and started blowing hot air.

By the time all the panels closed, Shadow was dry. She stepped out of the shower and walked out of the bathroom.

How was it?” Marcus asked as he attempted to avert his gaze. He’d expected her to come out wrapped in towels. Instead, she was just as naked as when she entered.

Like getting steam cleaned,” Shadow said.

Marcus laughed. “No towels?”

None. Some hot air things turn on,” Shadow said.

Interesting. Well, if you’re done, I think I’ll try it. I found some sheets. The bed is made,” Marcus said as he walked into the bathroom.

Shadow crawled into the bed and buried herself under the blankets. It was more comfortable than she anticipated, and she was almost asleep when she felt the bed move.

You’re right. It’s like being put in a steam cleaner,” Marcus said as he joined her. His clothes were on another chair. He’d opted to wear his boxers to bed. “Do you usually sleep in a pile?” He knew some vampires on Umbra slept in piles. Some preferred to sleep alone. Others, like himself, didn’t mind either way.

Pile of blankets,” Shadow said.

Marcus tucked the blankets around her, then rolled over until he was partially atop her. He didn’t have to ask her if the position worked for her. The minute he was settled, she was asleep.

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