Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Choice

After twenty-seven hours of labor, Gabrielle Anderson delivered a tiny baby boy and then collapsed from exhaustion.

Moments later, the nurse returned with the infant. “He’s beautiful,” she said as she handed him over.

Gabrielle cuddled the infant close for a few brief minutes before the nurse came back for him. He was perfect, a replica of his father. “I want to keep him with me.” God, she didn’t want to let them take him.

“He’ll be fine. He needs to be checked out and you need to be taken care of,” the nurse scolded. “You’ll have him back in no time at all.”

Because she had no choice, she relinquished the little bundle.

Her parents waited somewhere outside the delivery room. She had refused to let them in while she gave birth. The idea of her parents watching her deliver a baby went beyond creeping her out. Strangers seeing her splayed wide and vulnerable were bad enough. Family was intolerable. The only one she wanted with her, Kieran, the baby’s father, wasn’t there.

Kieran had failed to show after she’d called his cell and left six frightened messages. She hadn’t planned to give birth at the hospital. Kieran was supposed to take her to a doctor he knew who would deliver the baby, but Kieran hadn’t shown up. Had he abandoned her at the eleventh hour? Or had something even more sinister taken place?

What was going to happen when the hospital staff found out? It didn’t take a genius to know her family would go off the deep end when they learned the truth. But that wasn’t important at the moment.

“Okay, honey,” a young intern said. “We need to finish up here.”
By the time the doctor left, Gabrielle was close to panic.

How long did it take the tests to come back? An hour? A day? She had no idea. And then what? What would they do then? She swallowed hard. She couldn’t just lay there and let things play out.

A light knock interrupted her worries but didn’t push them away.

“Baby,” her mother gushed as she and Gabrielle’s father came into the room. Both wore big smiles despite the way they had treated her during her pregnancy. But then, she had refused to divulge the name of the father. That had resulted in her parents accusing her of being a whore and sleeping with so many boys she didn’t know which of them had sired her bastard child.

“He’s so beautiful. Tiny, but perfect,” her mother said. “Have you decided on a name? He needs a name, darling.”

“I’m naming him Fale.”

“What kind of crazy name is that?” her father asked.

“It’s his grandfather’s name.”

“Ah, so you do know the father. He glanced at her mother. “When is he coming to see his child?”

“I don’t know.” She wished her parents would go home. God, how she wished it.

“That figures,” her mother said. “He has no intention of taking care of his obligations. Does he?”

“Something must have happened. He would have come.” She tried hard to keep her lip from quivering. She was sure he would have come for the birth of his child, though he would have been forced to leave before she delivered.

“Please. Do you think your father and I were born yesterday? That bastard has abandoned you and the baby.”

“No. He wouldn’t do that.” She didn’t know that for an absolute fact but she had to defend him until she knew there was a reason not to. He’d always been good to her. He’d never lied or sugarcoated anything. Why would he do something like that now? He wouldn’t.

“You’re a damn fool if you believe that,” her father said.

“No. I know him better than that.”

Something had almost surely happened to him. With the way things were, his life was in constant danger, even from his own kind. He was young, only twenty years old. Any number of horrible things could have happened.

Oh God. Please let him be okay.

“Sure you do,” he said.

Please go away. “I know him.”

She’d had no idea of the suffering and hardship the vampire community lived under until she’d fallen in love with one. Everything she’d been taught was wrong. Kieran was handsome, kind, and thoughtful. And he loved her.

He tricked you once. A little voice whispered. He had sex with you so many times you lost count when he knew you were fertile.

True. But it had come from the male vampire’s instinctive drive to mate when a female was ready. And she had been ready. Could she blame him for doing what was nothing more than inborn response?

Regardless of how it had happened, he had impregnated her with a half-vampire. And once Fale’s genetics were uncovered, he would be subject to being taken by the government. They had started pressuring mothers to give up newborn halfbreeds three months into her pregnancy with no outcry whatsoever from the human population.

What happened to those babies? She shuddered under the blankets. What happened when an infant was taken away? As if there could be any doubt of the outcome. They sure as hell weren’t taking babies because they had nothing better to do.

They were taking them and killing them. She was sure of it. And once they knew what Fale was, they would kill him, too, because she was exactly one week from her eighteenth birthday. Her parents would be given the choice. Not her. And her parents would not want a half-vampire grandchild.

The door burst open and a flustered looking woman in a suit bustled in. She didn’t even look at Gabrielle. She addressed Gabrielle’s parents instead. “Are you her parents?” she asked with distain in her tone.

“We are,” he father said. To his credit, he at least looked concerned.

Gabrielle’s stomach clenched. Oh, God.

“Are you aware that your daughter has given birth to a half-vampire?”

For a moment, her parents were stunned into silence. Then her mother actually swayed on her feet before her father’s arm shot around her. Their eyes drilled into Gabrielle.

The woman cleared her throat, then ignoring Gabrielle, spoke directly to her father, “As you may be aware, because your daughter is not yet eighteen, you have the legal right to make the decision of whether or not to turn the baby over to the state. It’s highly recommended that halfbreeds not be taken home by human families.”

“We weren’t aware of this,” her father said, he glanced at Gabrielle with steel in his eyes.

“I’m sure you can imagine the trouble this is inviting if you take the child home,” she said. “Do you want the father becoming part of your lives? I feel it’s only right to make you understand how this can hurt you within your community.” She looked down her nose at Gabrielle. “After all, your daughter has been having relations with a vampire. It won’t go unnoticed.”

Her parents looked at each other.

“No!” Gabrielle said. “You’re not taking my baby. He’s mine.”

“Gabby,” her mother said soothingly. “This is for the best. For everyone. You can get on with your life instead of having it ruined.”

“I’m not giving up my baby.”

“Dear,” the social worker said. “This isn’t your decision. You are only seventeen years old. Your parents are your legal guardians and it’s their decision.” She looked expectantly at Gabrielle’s father.

“We don’t want him. Take him and do whatever you do with the little bastards.”
Gabrielle awoke several hours later. After becoming hysterical, two male nurses had come and forcibly sedated her. Now her parents were gone and the room was quiet. Her baby. Her precious little baby. What had they done with him?

Tears leaked from her eyes. God, she needed Kieran. Where was he?

A soft knock at the door preceded a gray head poking in. “Miss, are you hungry? You didn’t fill out a menu for dinner.” An older woman stepped into the room.

“I don’t want anything,” Gabrielle said in a tear filled voice.

“Child, are you the one who gave birth to the halfbreed?” She didn’t look judgmental, only concerned.

Gabrielle nodded.

“Didn’t you want to give up your baby?”

“No. God no. I want my baby more than anything.”

“It’s not too late,” the old woman said. “At least it wasn’t when I came by the holding room.”

“What are you talking about?” Ice formed in Gabrielle’s stomach.

“Turn left out of here. Go to the elevator and get off in the sub-basement. Your baby is down there. Turn right off the elevator. There’s a little room at the end of the hall. Surrendered halfbreeds and kept there until someone comes for them. You need to hurry.”

Heart thudding, she asked, “What happens to them?” She had to know.

“They’re picked up by Wolf Guards.”

Gabrielle moaned and thought she might faint.

“The hospital won’t kill them. So they turn them over to someone who will. Your baby won’t make it out of the building. He’ll be killed and incinerated like a piece of garbage.”

Gabrielle struggled from her bed and reached for her clothes. Lightheadedness settled over her, threatening to take her down. She fought to steady herself. Now was not the time for weakness. She had to save her baby.

The woman closed the door and left Gabrielle alone.

She managed to dress and peeked out into the hall. Would anyone try to stop her? She looked up and down the corridor. A few visitors strolled from a room and went on their way. A doctor studied a chart and an orderly pushed a wheelchair, transporting a woman holding a baby. No nurses were in sight. She found that reassuring. Wouldn’t a nurse be the most likely to question her? Yeah, she was pretty sure of it.

She slipped from the room and hurried as fast as she was able toward the elevators. She made it down the hall without incident and poked the button. The sliver doors slid open silently and she escaped inside.

Please dear, God, let me be in time. They prayer ran through her head in a continuous litany as the car slid to a stop in the subbasement. She homed in on the room where her baby had been taken.

What if someone was in there with him?

She stopped, totally at a loss.

Then with a mother’s determination, she began searching for a weapon. Anything. Three large trash bins sat along the wall. She looked into the first one. Nothing but discarded bedding. The second bin contained more promising contents. After a few moments of fishing, she pulled out a broken mop handle. It wasn’t much of a weapon but she was fairly strong. Perhaps she could use it like a baseball bat and clean someone’s clock with it if necessary. She would do anything she had to. It might not work but she would try.

As she neared the room, her heart almost stopped in her chest. A deep male voice spoke in a one sided, heated conversation. Someone on a phone? As she neared on silent feet, the unseen male bellowed, “As soon as I take care of this brat, I’m coming home for you.”

Oh, Jesus, did he mean her baby? Of course he did.

Mop handle raised, she charged forward and burst through the door.

A huge male vampire stood over a little plastic bassinet. Inside, her son waved tiny arms, his little hands curled into tight fists.

The vampire still had the phone stuck to his ear. He wore the uniform of a Wolf Guard. A government vampire toady, traitor to their own kind, they were despised within the vampire community.

The vampire shoved the phone in his pocket, raked over her with a head to toe stare, then burst out laughing. “You must be momma to this half-bred mongrel. Where’s its father? Leave you high and dry?”

“Get the hell away from my baby,” she hissed and raised the weapon in a threatening manner.

“You don’t really expect me to be afraid of you?” He took two steps, closing the distance between them before she even registered that he had moved. He grasped her pitiful weapon and wrenched it from her grasp.

She lurched around him, dodging as he reached for her, and put herself between him and Fale. “Stay away from him.”

“You had best remove yourself before you get hurt. I’m not into hurting human females, they’re too fragile, but if you don’t cooperate, you may become collateral damage of your own doing.”

She gaped at him, not quite sure she’d heard him correctly. “You don’t want to hurt a female but you’re more than willing to murder an innocent baby?”

“Only the males.”

As if that was supposed to make some kind of difference.

“Females of your species serve a purpose a male vampire can appreciate.” He gave her a big smirk. “I’ve had dozens of human women and found most of them to my liking.”

She shuddered.

“Don’t worry. I’m not interested in a woman in a post-delivery condition. But that brings us back to the job at hand. You want to step aside because I’m taking him.”

“You’re not touching my baby.” She crouched slightly.

“He isn’t wanted in the vampire community. His father doesn’t even want him because of his diluted blood. And he sure as fuck isn’t welcome in the human community. I’ll kill him quickly and I’ll be doing him a favor.”

She screeched and charged the mountain sized killer. A second later she found herself sailing through the air. Her flight came to an abrupt halt when she hit the wall and dropped to the cold tile. Pain shot through her forearm and hip but she didn’t think either was broken. Didn’t matter if they were. She had to get up.

The vampire stood, legs braced, apparently waiting to see if she managed to get on her feet to try again.

She struggled to get her legs under her. Pain sent bright dots winking off and on before her eyes.

The door slammed inward, banging off the wall and ricocheting only to be shoved out of the way as Kieran launched into the room, bellowing with rage.

The Wolf was taken by surprise but only for a second. He leapt forward and plowed into Kieran. They crashed to the floor in a tangled sprawl.

Gabrielle scooped Fale from the tiny bassinet and turned to flee but she couldn’t leave Kieran. With the baby clutched to her chest, instinct urged her to run. She stood poised, ready to take flight as the combatants struggled.

Kieran was years younger, pounds lighter, and much less experienced, but amazingly, he was holding his own against the Wolf. But for how long? Anger had given him an edge but it wasn’t enough to sustain him for long. She knew this without a doubt. Already Kieran’s shirt was soaked with his blood and he was slowing.

The Wolf would kill him and take her baby and maybe kill her, too. Not that it would matter if she lost the baby and Kieran. Not if she saw them murdered right in front of her.

No. She wasn’t going to let it happen. Almost in slow motion she scanned the room, missing nothing. And salvation was right there waiting for her to see it. A heavy doctor’s lamp. She laid Fale back in the bassinet. He sputtered but didn’t burst into wails for which she was thankful.

She grabbed the heavy lamp with both hands and lifted its surprising weight. She turned it over, and with the base, the business end, held upright, she charged the grappling vampires. The Wolf had Kieran pinned down and as she made her move, the Wolf sank his fangs into Kieran’s throat and ripped.

Kieran let out a yelp of pain and struggled furiously under the bigger vampire. Blood gushed from the wound in his throat.

Now! Now. She had to strike or Kieran was done.

Or was he?

Despite the injury, he tore at the Wolf, ripping a great wound in his chest.

The Wolf bellowed.

She lifted the lamp as high as she could. Then brought it down. The sick thud of the base striking the Wolf’s head was loud. He froze. His eyes lifted to hers then rolled up in his head. Then Kieran’s hands locked on him and with a grunt, he flipped the Wolf off him. The big vampire crashed to the floor and lay motionless.

Kieran and Gabrielle stared at the big body. He wasn’t dead, just knocked senseless. Then they looked at each other. Kieran was covered with blood and bruises. He held a hand to the wound at his throat.

“Are you okay?” she whispered.

“Yes. You?”

“Yeah. I’m okay,” she said.

“Come on. Get the baby. We have to get out of here.”

“I can’t go home,” she said even as she scooped up Fale.

“You aren’t going with them. You’re coming with me,” he said. Then he looked uncertain. “I mean, I want you to. Will you come with me? Be my mate? I know I can’t offer you the life a human would, but I love you and I want us to be a family. And I can give you something no human can. I can’t turn you, but I know how to keep you young.”

“Where were you?” She wailed. “I needed you and you weren’t here?”

“I went to see about a place for us to live. I couldn’t make it back before dawn. I’m so sorry. I got here as soon as I could.”

“You were almost too late,” she said.

“I would have been if some old lady hadn’t told me where to find you. I’m so sorry.”

He was here now though. He’d come for her and he wanted them to be a family. She wanted that, too.

“Come on, Kieran. Take me and your son home.”

~ Nickie Asher ~

Copyright © 2011 Nickie Asher

All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.

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