McCoy let go of the breath he’d been holding when Bella said she wasn’t married. He found he was more than a little thankful for that tidbit of information.
It would be utterly pointless to survive an icy death only to be shot by a jealous husband.
Not that a vampire would need to shoot him. He’d read the file.
Internally, he chastised himself. Bella didn’t look more than twenty. He was old enough to be her father! He couldn’t forget they weren’t even the same species … though she had been human once.
Bella could, potentially, live for several thousand years or more, while being in his current situation without the medical advances of the twenty-third century, he’d probably live only another fifty or sixty years.
If he was lucky.
Then again, from what he’d read in the report, she could be older than him!
McCoy decided his interest in the young woman was merely gratitude for saving his life. The end had been closer than he cared to admit, and he was acting like an old besotted fool. She was just being nice to him—saving him from an early death and all. His current task was to answer her questions. In the meantime, maybe he’d find out more about her former associates.
She was young, vibrant, and pretty. That’s all it was. The fact her eyes, hair, and smooth skin nearly glowed in the low firelight had nothing to do with it.
Nothing at all.
As he opened his mouth to speak, Bella held up her hand.
“Wait a minute. I know this might sound weird, but I have to ask.”
She looked down at her fingers nervously twisting themselves together in her lap. “Do you need to use the facilities? There’s an outhouse out back behind this cabin. While you were sleeping, I cleared a path to it and checked it for, um, toilet tissue.”
Funny, but McCoy had the impression if she could blush she’d have been beet red right about then. He shook his head. “Thank you for thinking of me. I’ll let you know.” He was a little embarrassed himself.
Bella brushed a curling lock of hair behind her ear and picked at her sweater again. “Um, while we’re on the subject of uncomfortable topics, I don’t recognize the material of your clothes. I mean, your shirt is a very nice blue—it matches your eyes—but it isn’t polyester or anything. Not that I’m an authority on fabrics … And the triangle, er, arrow head thing … symbol is, uh, nice.”
She squeezed her eyes closed and blew out a breath. “Okay, so I don’t mean to offend you or anything, but … did you maybe … get away from …?” Her hands flew up to cover her face. “Oh, God, I’m screwing this up!”
Slapping her hands down onto her knees, she squared her shoulders and met his eyes. “Let me try this again. When I was human and met some vampires, if I had told anyone, they’d have thought I was crazy. I’d have been heavily medicated and locked up in a padded cell. You say you know about vampires. Did you tell the wrong person? Were you committed and then escape? Do you feel better now because the drugs wore off? I mean, if they were drugging you that would explain why you don’t know where you are or what day it is.” She frowned. “But that doesn’t explain why you would ask what planet this is. Who asks that?”
Her fingers went back to trying to strangle each other. “I’m sorry. Did I offend you? Your clothes didn’t feel like … Uh, they kinda look like a uniform with the gold thing on the chest and the stripes on the sleeves. So, were you in a hospital?” Bella’s shoulders inched up as her voice rose higher. They slumped and she dropped her head. “I’m sorry. I don’t normally talk so much. It’s just—if you told somebody you saw vampires and they locked you up … Did I hurt your feelings?”
After that machinegun burst of questions, McCoy was struggling to digest it all. Her observation that his shirt matched his eyes led him along a merry path for a while. He rather liked that she noticed.
Finally sorting it all out, he chuckled at the thought he was an escapee from some kind of institution. If he were in her shoes, what would he think? “No, Bella, you didn’t hurt my feelings, and I didn’t escape from a hospital. There’s a vampire in Star Fleet. To familiarize myself with his species, I read his file. I haven’t met him.”
“A vampire in Star Fleet? Is it like the Navy?”
“In a manner of speaking. Being here … now … I’m like a stranger in a strange land.”
“Oh! I’ve read that book. But wait, the guy was a human raised on another—” Bella’s mouth clamped shut and her eyes grew as round as half dollars. “Were you raised by vampires and they lost you? Is that why …? No. If you had been, you would have realized I was one. Holy crap! Was it aliens!?!”