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“The sun,” he whispered.

“I know,” she answered and tried to shield their exposed skin as they hurried along the rough terrain leading away from the abandoned town. They broke free of the overgrown foliage and into a golden field of grass. She looked behind them and considered trying to hide them in the trees, but she was sure the branches would not provide enough shelter.

Across the field was the dark shape of a structure and she glanced warily toward the rising sun. It burned her eyes. She flinched and looked away. The gray of the morning was fading fast. Adjusting the heavy satin skirt around them, Cian's face tucked into her neck, she pulled him with her across the uneven ground.

“Amaliya,” he said in a soft voice. “We'll burn. ”

“No, we won't,” she answered, and half-dragged, half-carried him.

A soft morning mist flowed around them as they moved and she was grateful for the thick clouds sliding overhead. Maybe the clouds would buy them a bit more time.

“The sun,” Cian mumbled.

Determinedly, she kept moving. As they drew closer to the building, she made out its ramshackle countenance. It was long abandoned and appeared to be an old farm house. Grateful that she had kept her jeans and boots on instead of taking them off like The Summoner had wanted, she kept the skirt over their heads as they half-climbed, half-fell over the old decaying fence that surrounded the house. For a second, the sun caught Cian as he fell to the ground and he cried out in terror. She fell to her knees and quickly covered him. He reached out to her and she hid him in the safety of her dress.

“We're almost there,” she said softly and urged him to his feet.

Clutching her tightly, he struggled to walk with her.

She now understood that The Summoner's power was in her. She had risen during the day before and she was bound and determined to stay awake. Cian was obviously falling asleep despite his attempt not to, but she would keep him moving. She would not lose him to the sun.

Practically carrying him up the splintered steps, she heaved him onto the porch. He was nearly completely asleep. His body was a lead weight in her arms. The door was already partially open and she shoved it aside. The room beyond was full of debris. She dragged Cian inside and shut the door behind them. Sunlight was already beginning to pour through the east windows, filling the house with a soft morning glow. It also cascaded through the big holes in the roof and Amaliya fought back her panic.

Cradling Cian against her, she moved with her head down, keeping the skirt of the dress over their heads and faces. It was in the second room down a narrow hall that she saw their salvation. It was a closet full of darkness. Avoiding the holes in the floor, she managed to maneuver through the room despite Cian's dead weight and shoved him into the closet. He fell into it and crumpled into a heap. She hastily followed him in and fell to the floor in exhaustion. Her hand found the doorknob and drew the door closed.

The fear that The Summoner would send dead servants after them rose inside of her and she looked for a lock. There was none. To her dismay she saw there were cracks in the door that were wide enough to peer through or for the sun to pour through once it hit the West walls. She quickly struggled out of the dress and pulled her t-shirt down over her belly. She had only pretended to change out of her old clothes into the dress. She was glad for it. Sitting down on the floor, she adjusted Cian's body close to her and covered them both with the heavy satin. Then, she raised her hand and closed it over the knob.

One thing she was certain of was that when she slept, her hand would lock into place. Cian had told her about the vampire's ability to protect themselves in sleep. Even holding a coffin shut from within was something their subconscious could instruct their body to do as they slumbered.

Tightening her hand, she willed it to stay firm and locked around the knob. She had to keep it closed at all costs. Sinking against Cian, she could feel sleep coming fast. She was weak and had no choice.

Her head fell onto his shoulder.

She slept.

***

Sergio's massive truck barreled down the county road just as the sun began to make its appearance on the horizon. Innocente sat in the front passenger seat clutching her rosary and a statue of the Virgin Mary. Behind them sat Samantha and Jeff in the roomy backseat. Samantha had nodded off for an hour earlier and her head was snuggled onto Jeff's lap. He had found himself stroking her blond hair gently as he tried to mentally prepare himself for what was to come. He found the act very soothing.

They had swung by his place the night before and he had grabbed a lot of his father's hunting gear. It was packed into a big bag in the bed of the truck along with a lot of stuff Amaliya's grandmother had brought from her home. They looked like religious zealots with all the crosses and religious icons tucked in the back. He had switched out his prosthetic leg to a sturdier one and had left the more cosmetic one at home. There was a good chance he was going to have to run.

“We're almost there,” Sergio said from the front seat as another sign flashed by.

“They'll be falling asleep very soon,” Jeff answered. “Which is good. The last thing we need is an awake vampire. ”

***

The Summoner had almost pursued Amaliya into the gray dawn, but had resisted that urge. He was more susceptible to sunlight than any other vampire he had ever encountered. Ironically, he was now able to be awake during the daylight hours, but was unable to venture forth. Some vampires, he had known over the centuries, were able to survive in sunlight if they were heavily covered. Unfortunately, the sun seemed to pierce straight through his clothing. Perhaps it had something to do with his necromancy. He was not certain.

The day before, he had been carried out of Heather's apartment in a large chest and to the van his minions had secured. He had remained shrouded in darkness until the sun had descended and his powers were fully returned to him. Then he had summoned Amaliya's victims, hacked them apart, and shaped them into new, deadly creatures. It had all been so entertaining to watch, but now he was trapped in the motel and he was seething.

He stood back and watched Amaliya flee as her undead servants fumbled around him, unsure of what to do once her presence left them. Lifting one hand, he drew them securely back under his power. He had felt her power drain out of them the moment she had disappeared from their view. Pulling the dead close around him, he whispered his instructions to them and then they shuffled off to obey.

Turning, he tucked his hands behind him, he stepped over Roberto's dissolving body and walked slowly down the long hallway of the decrepit hotel. Roberto had prepared a haven for them in one of the inner rooms that had no windows. Two of his largest servants walked behind him. Opening the door into his temporary haven he gazed over the makeshift arrangements. Two cots from WalMart were made up for him and Roberto and several camping chairs were set up for the guards.

With a slight shrug, The Summoner walked over to one of the chairs and sat down. He was a patient man. He would wait out the sun, then he would venture back into the night with his servants and destroy Cian and reclaim Amaliya. He would not be foolish again. Her spirit was strong and he would have to break it quickly or he would never be able to use her effectively.

Closing his glowing eyes, he concentrated on his dead minions and sent the fresher ones into the day to do his bidding.

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