5 Blood pressure and breath (Julia)

During the day, Leo seldom leaves the room. He has a desk full of papers to deal with and a stern expression on his face.

Sometimes, he scratches some sheets and throws them away in a huff.

His bothered expression is kind of cute.

I don't have anything to do, so I pass my time on the sofa, staring at him. I'm starting to feel hungry, but I don't want to disturb Leo's work.

«You can sleep if you want. We can go to the library later. Do you like books?» he asks, suddenly, and I startle.

«I like books,» I answer fast and lie on the sofa. Sleeping is indeed a good idea.

«The bed is more comfortable,» he continues, without moving his eyes away from his work.

I'm wondering, what is his job here? Surrounded by documents, he looks like a bureaucrat. Still, he doesn't suit that environment. He seems too wild.

«I'm fine here,» I utter and lean my head on the pillow. I can see only his head, like this. So, I turn to the side. Mhm, better...

I can continue to gaze at Leo while resting; this is wonderful. A wrinkle appears on his forehead when he reads something from a paper, and I bite my lower lip, trying to understand if he's really troubled or just annoyed.

«How long have you been on the run?» he asks casually.

He didn't even look at me; has he noticed that I'm staring?

«A week. Today, it's a week from when I left the base. I wandered for four days. And then I arrived here.»

«How did you survive alone, out there?»

«I joined a caravan from St. Paul. When we reached the forest, I proceeded alone. I have a map in my backpack. Fortress is marked there.»

«I'll bring you your things, now that you remind me.»

«There isn't anything important. Just a pair of broken shoes,» I shrug, even though that backpack contains all my belongings. And even that thing. Should I deliver it to Leo?

After all, he has taken care of me. He gave me food and let me use his bathroom.

He allows me to sleep in his bed and stay in his room.

Not to mention that I could have a hot shower after years. I've forgotten how it feels to wash with water that isn't icy. And I like Leo's shampoo. It smells nice.

«I know. I had to check, for security reasons,» he says with a guilty tone. «You didn't even have water.»

What did he check?

Oh, right, the backpack.

«I had a bottle when I ran off.»

«Why are you feeling uncomfortable, now?» he inquires. He analyses me from tip to toe.

«I don't understand,» I say. «I'm fine now.»

I have to pay attention even at this distance. How powerful are his senses? When he interrogated me before, it was so difficult to keep calm for so long. The greater problem is that I don't feel anything when he tries to hypnotise me.

I think I fooled him this time, but he will notice sooner or later. I'll have to give him zero motives to use compelling, or I'll be discovered.

«How are your wounds? Do they hurt?»

I look at the bandage around my right wrist. It's more for show than for need. What can be the source of this discomfort Leo is sensing?

Am I tired, maybe?

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Certainly, it's not the wound.

«No, it's all right.»

«Then why are you on alert?»

«I don't know, I'm not doing it on purpose,» I utter. All of a sudden, I don't want to look at him anymore.

«You humans are so needy,» he murmurs and gets up. «Let's go take a stroll while the sun is up. You like light, right?»

I follow him tiredly. I'm not really in the mood for a walk.

«You were almost fine this morning,» he starts. Is he worried or curious? «But now, your blood pressure is low and your breath shorter.»

How closely is he watching me, exactly?

«Your scent is a bit different, too. You humans are truly interesting,» he continues. «Why are you looking at me like that?»

I blink, confused, and look away.

«Sorry... I'm surprised. I didn't know that you could hear my blood pressure.»

He winces and takes a step back. Maybe, he realised that he's too nosy. Well, now I know why he thinks I'm not feeling well. Which part of my body is feeling bad?

If he sensed it with blood pressure and scent, it could be just anything.

My stomach grumbles, and I blush. So, that was it.

Leo felt that I was hungry.

«How many times a day do you eat?» he asks, tilting his head. «Why didn't you tell me that you were hungry? Wait, was the portion enough this morning?»

«Before running away, I had three meals in a day,» I explain. «After, only when I found food.»

He attentively follows my words.

«How many times have you eaten during the last week?»

«I don't know. Once every two days, I guess?»

«Why did you leave the base, Julia?»

I take a step back and cover my eyes before he starts again to play with his powers.

«I won't do that again,» he says. «I know it's a horrible feeling if you're awake.»

«What do you mean by awake?»

«Humans don't suffer during hypnosis, but hunters are a bit resistant. So, they fight against it.»

«There's no need to hypnotise me,» I start. «I'll answer your questions and obey your orders. Just don't ask anything too personal, okay?»

He moves my hands away from my face and sighs. He doesn't dare to look me directly in the eyes, but he keeps the contact between our hands for a moment more than strictly necessary. His skin is cool but not cold as stone. It's just like my fingers after I've finished washing clothes in the river and haven't warmed my hands yet.

«Okay,» he replies.

I try to smile, but it's not easy, with his hands holding mine. I'm too focused on the contact to take track of his words.

«I didn't do it on purpose. It was natural for me, but I'm sorry.»

I nod, feeling awkward. I haven't imagined that a vampire would apologise so often. Weren't they cruel, overbearing creatures?

The point is that I'm a prisoner. He shouldn't be so gentle with me. He was right to interrogate me by any means. In his place, I would do the same and probably worse.

«You don't need to be afraid,» he whispers and moves my hair away from my neck.

This is the third time in a day; why doesn't he just bite me and get over with this?

«I'm not afraid,» I comfort him and tilt my head slightly, exposing my neck. If I relax my muscles, it won't hurt one bit.

Leo passes his fingers through my hair, and I feel his breath on my skin. I close my eyes and wait in silence while my heartbeat increases once more. I bite my lip and wait, but nothing happens.

I feel Leo's presence for a while, but then he steps back and leaves me without even a little scratch.

When I open my eyes again, Leo offers his hand and smiles reassuringly. I let him hold my hand and guide me through the hallways. I don't even process how this looks, and he doesn't seem bothered either. It's as if holding hands is normal for vampires.

«Let's go find something to eat,» he says.

Now, I feel like a pet that's found a new owner.

These vampires seem less dangerous than I have initially thought. Still, I can't let them know about me. They would kill me on the spot.

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