“Come outside, Joshua Stanton.” The voice was quiet, its low timbre promising release and an end to Josh’s exhausted struggle. “Open the door and step onto the porch. Let me kiss you, taste your blood, compare yours to that of your man’s.”
Josh shuddered awake and staggered to his feet, his hands tight on the barrel of the musket. His eyes were gritty from sleep and he couldn’t focus on where he was for a long, frightening moment. Then, in a rush, it all came back to him: Dex had escaped from Balthazar, and they had taken refuge in the Belkin’s Pass church along with Sergeant Maxwell and his few remaining soldiers. And he had fallen asleep during guard duty.
“Come to me,” the calm, deep voice beckoned. “Step outside, join me.”
Josh peered through the narrow gap in the boards nailed over the window behind him. “Never, you foul monster. Leave us.”
A deep chuckle floated in from the dark night beyond the glass. “You’re running out of time, Joshua. Your man is closer to vampire than human now. One mistake, one careless moment, and he will join me. We can end this now, tonight, and spare all those sleeping around you the pain of day after day of struggle. You are the one I want, not them. Come join me, teach me of this secret power, and live forever by my side. All you need do is open the doors.”
Josh shook his head as he scanned the dark shadows that hung around the empty buildings across the street. Would Belkin’s Pass ever be like it had once been? Filled with people and goods and commerce? He didn’t think so. It would be consumed by the prairie, abandoned and haunted. Right now, in the depth of night, surrounded by evil, Josh felt as if the whole country had forsaken them.
He gathered his courage from the corners of his soul and said, “I will never join you. We’ll come for you, you know.”
A pair of glowing red eyes appeared before him, and Josh stepped back, a gasp slipping from his lips. Before he could be caught by Balthazar’s stare and put under his spell, Josh looked away.
“Oh, I hope you come for me,” Balthazar whispered. “I do, indeed.”