My heart was pounding harder than it ever had before. The cold air filled my lungs, burning as I inhaled and felt even worse going back out. I tried to keep my breaths even. In, out, in, out. It was nearly impossible when running at this speed for so long, even with my extensive training. But I couldn’t slow down; I couldn’t stop. To stop would mean a fate worse than death. To stop would mean slavery to the foulest beings imaginable.

I had started out the day with two companions, but when we’d been discovered by the slavers, we scattered. I hoped the slavers would follow me more readily than them. I had been evading them for years, but diminishing their ranks anytime the opportunity presented itself. Kylie and Casey had simply been under my temporary protection. A service I was now regretting. Not on my part, but theirs. In the end, it had helped none of us. I was good, but I was a target.

My legs burned from the effort of sprinting for so long, but I knew it would be worse if I tried to rest, even for a moment. I feared if I stopped running, my legs would give out on me and would refuse to start up again.

Finally, my lungs decided for me. They weren’t used to working this hard and they couldn’t take it anymore. I glanced around for a place to hide and ducked into an alley. Slipping behind a dumpster, I dropped to my knees. I knew I could only give my body a temporary reprieve before I would need to run again and hoped that my legs would be up for it.

I tried to breathe silently, but my body didn’t want to cooperate. The slavers could hear my wheezing from a mile away, and I knew for a fact that they were much closer than that. It was times like this that I cursed vampires for their supernatural abilities. I clapped my hand over my mouth and tried to slow my breathing. In, out, in, out. I could almost hear my uncle’s voice in my head. Keller had told me that sometimes it helped to repeat those words that should be common sense, but much too often aren’t.

As I tried to calm my breathing, I repeated another thing Keller had told me. The mantra that he had made me say every night before he would let me sleep.

“Freedom is worth any fight.” I thought, breathing deeply for the time that it took me to mentally say the words. I repeated it again, this time breathing out. Slowly, my breaths returned to a more normal rate.

As I hid, I glanced out from behind the dumpster and saw the three vampires that were pursuing me. They were large, but I’d taken down bigger. I could do this. I reached into the special pocket of my pants that hid the sheathed blade on my leg. I allowed them to come closer, waiting in the shadows. I glanced around once more, taking in everything I could. They were slower than they should have been. They could hear my heart beat, they knew where I was. But they still approached as though they were human. It made me nervous.

No matter. They were vamps, and vamps had to die. Especially slavers like them. I leapt out and attacked. They had been expecting this; it became obvious as they quickly surrounded me. I swung out with my knife, barely missing the one in front of me. I snarled. A scream came from behind me as I felt a hand on my arm. Smirk still on my face, I spun and knocked the burned hand away and sliced through his neck. Had my blade been normal, it wouldn’t have worked, but this was a silver blade and the vampire turned to dust almost instantly.

I spun back around to see the other two looking slightly more cautious. They now knew they couldn’t touch me. My clothing made it impossible. Not only was my shirt inlaid with silver thread, my pants were as well. The only place they could lay a hand on me was my head and hands, and those were the hardest places to grab. Especially with one of those hands holding a silver knife.

Cautious as they were, it didn’t stop them from advancing on me. I grinned. Stupid vamps. They had no sense of mortality. Perhaps because they weren’t as fragile as us humans, but after seeing their friend dusted like that, you’d think they would have run.

Oh well. I preferred it this way. Two more vamps to dust.

I swung and clipped one of their arms, reveling in his scream of pain. As he clenched his arm where I’d cut, I knocked his friend’s arm away with my own and stabbed the now kneeling vamp in the neck. Dust spread around me and I turned on the last vampire. He looked as though he was going to run, but I couldn’t let that happen. One vamp gets away, and they come back with reinforcements. I slid, stabbing his thigh with my knife. He collapsed, but brought his hand to my neck, trying to choke me. It took little for me to pull my knife from his leg and slice through his neck. I coughed as vamp dust entered my mouth. Gross.

I stood, winded, and brushed my shirt clear of dust. I’d need to clean these clothes again. But for now, I needed to head back to my apartment. If Casey and Kylie had made it, they’d head there. I need to know if they were—

Something pierced my neck and my vision went blurry for a second. I reached up and pulled a needle out of my neck. What was this? I pitched forward and blackness surrounded me.

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