Chapter 9

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Bella fumbled with her phone for a few seconds before she had it apart and plucked some part from its insides. After a loud crackling crunch, a glittery dark-colored powder drifted to the floor. “Whew,” she breathed out. “I forgot all about that! There aren’t any cell towers around here, but he might be able to find a way to track the phone.”

The smile she displayed was radiant. “Now he can’t find me!”

Alarmed, McCoy leaned forward. “Are you afraid of him? Has he hurt you?” He didn’t know what he could do, but if Edward had harmed Bella in some form or fashion, McCoy would find a way to teach the bastard a lesson in how to treat ladies.

With a very unladylike snort, Bella started laughing. “Edward? He’d have to touch me to hurt me!”

The laugh grew louder and filled the room with an ethereal music. When her hilarity calmed to throaty chuckles, she took a deep breath and wiped at her eyes. “No, I’m not afraid of him. I guess I was just afraid of myself. Anyway, whenever he went hunting, or shopping with Alice, Jasper taught us how to fight. We had to sneak it in since I wasn’t allowed to do such things. It usually ended up with Jasper and Emmett rolling around in the mud, but I learned a lot.” She raised her head in a proud pose. “Jasper said I ‘could whup Edward’s ass with both hands and one foot tied behind my back.’”

Relieved she hadn’t been abused, at least physically, McCoy returned her smile and scooted to the edge of the cot. He rose stiffly, mug in hand.

“I could get that for you,” Bella offered.

“No. I need to move around. I’m stiff from sleeping so long.” He made slow progress to the little stove, working out the kinks in his legs and back. Dipping a cupful from the dutch oven and taking another drink gave him a few moments to think.

Bella seemed rather unhappy with her non-husband, and McCoy was beginning to get an inkling about why. He didn’t want her to have her own money or be able to defend herself? Even in the twenty-first century in America, that seemed absurdly archaic. But he was assuming she was as young as she looked. He really had no clue how old she may have been.

A quiet cough dragged him from his thoughts, and he gave her his full attention.

“Okay, Leonard-from-the-future, tell me about this vampire that joined Starfleet. Who is he? What does he do? What do you know about him?”

McCoy was taken aback at how Bella seemed to just roll with everything he’d been saying. He didn’t think he’d met a more accepting being anywhere—Vulcan Science Officers excluded. She was so much more pleasant to be around than Spock.

Prettier, too.

To steer his mind away from how pretty, McCoy went to the window in the center of the wall on his way back to his cot and pushed the coarsely woven curtains aside. All he could see was black, except for the occasional swirl of snowflakes drifting by the glass.

“The story I heard was he just sauntered into Starfleet’s front office one day like he owned the place. Alarms were going off because he wasn’t recognized as human or any other known alien race. He planted himself in front of the receptionist, spread his arms wide and said, ‘Take me to your leader.’ Of course, he was surrounded by a force field and several guards pointing ph … uh, weapons at him, but he never even blinked. They say he just grinned at them.” McCoy leaned one hand on the window sill and chuckled. “The Admiral at the time came down from his office and Garrett asked him, ‘Where do I sign up?’ as he was whisked away—with a full contingent of guards. It’s said he’s a real character, though none of that is in his official file. There is a picture of him in my tricorder.”

Dropping the curtain, McCoy limped slightly as he went back to his cot to retrieve the device. “It’s been a while since I read it. He’d said humans weren’t supposed to know about them, and there was a group of vampires in charge who enforced that law. They’re called Vulturoes or something like that, and I think they’re in Spain or Italy. He said he’d let Starfleet study him if they kept him a secret, let him go through the academy, and serve on a star ship. Not many in Starfleet know about him.”

He poked at the tricorder a few times, reading through its display. “I have access to some of his records because I have a high security clearance, and ya never know when I might run across another one.” He gave her a quick smile.  “But I don’t know where he is or what ship he might be on.” With a disgusted grunt, he smacked the side of the box-shaped device. “Confounded thing won’t let me see the file without a retina scan.”

Eyes wide, he grimaced as a line of red light flashed over his face. “Satisfied?” he asked it. Still grumbling, he went back to tapping and reading. “Said his name was Garrett, but he couldn’t remember if that was his first or last name, so he called himself …hmmm, here it is. Garrett Richardson! Born in Massachusetts in 1750. Served in the Revolutionary War and was turned into a vampire in 1780. He was a mere four hundred and sixty-five years old when he joined Starfleet in 2215.”

McCoy took three steps toward Bella to show her the picture on the tricorder and jerked to a stop. She was eerily still and her face was blank. He took another step. She still didn’t move.

Refreshing his memory with a glance at the report, he recalled that vampires could hold a position indefinitely, appearing as unmoving as statues. Or that’s what Garrett had told them. Supposedly, he’d also demonstrated the ability.

Since McCoy had awakened, Bella had been in motion—fetching wood, getting him a drink, fidgeting with nerves. She had blinked and brushed at her hair, crossed her legs—just like any human would, since they were almost never completely motionless. If the tricorder hadn’t let him in on her secret, he doubted he would have figured it out any time soon.

Wide eyes just stared up at him. He didn’t think she was breathing either. Not that they needed to.

How convenient would that be at times?

One more step and he could have reached out and touched her. Watching cautiously, he held the tricorder right in front of her face. “Here’s his picture.”

No reaction.

McCoy was becoming concerned. Had she suddenly taken ill? From what he could remember of the report, vampires didn’t get sick.

“Are you okay? Do you need something?” McCoy leaned closer and peered into her eyes. Was she still in there? “Bella?”

When he decided to try giving her shoulder a little shake, she blinked and her eyes moved to meet his.

She swallowed and blinked again. “Was there a woman … a female vampire with him?”

He let out a relieved breath when she finally spoke, but he was puzzled by the small, flat tone of voice. McCoy cocked his head to the side. “No. He was alone. Or no one ever mentioned a fe … a woman.”

“Huh.” Bella leaned back in her chair. “I know him.”

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