I could go for help.  I couldn’t transform like others could–never tried, it just weirds me out too much–but with my vampire strength, I could pull her car out, drive to the nearest town–it’s what?  20 miles or so away?  I could find a phone, call it in.  I could–

I couldn’t.  She’d die before help got back.  Besides, I couldn’t leave her alone.

I’d been alone so often.  It stinks, even when you’re alive.  I hadn’t noticed it as much when I was young and first starting out.  I’d loved the long hauls, just me and the road.  Then the nights in hotels or in the sleeper of my cab started getting old.  Then came the day I saw JoAnn, leanin’ against a hot red car.  Hot was the word.  Hot engine spewing steam; hot pants making me steam.  I couldn’t stop fast enough.  I took her the 200 miles to her new job, wasn’t even on my route.  Started finding routes to take me near her, then found a job hauling gas around to local stations.  Bought her a ring, said “I do.”  Little house–even the stupid white picket fence, felt like I was livin’ some romantic country song.  Then, just like a song, job goes bad, things get sour, she changes the locks, and I’m doing scab jobs for UPS to pay alimony.  Then, if that wasn’t enough, some damn vamp decides it’s funny to make a truck-driving vampire.

Now, I’m kneeling on the highway, praying over some stranger-girl who’s going to be dead thanks to this truck-driving vampire, and I don’t even know if God’ll listen to me anymore.

“You can’t die.  Just hold on, honey, I’ll think of something!”

I’ll put her in my cab, drive her to the hospital or a hotel or somewhere they can get her help.  It can’t be any worse than leaving her, right?  Then I’ll just use a little mind-control so they forget me.

Who was I kidding?  I never was very good at that, as my driving record will show, and what if there was more than one person around?  Even if I could make them all forget me, it’d take too long.  Besides, it’s one thing to forget a common garden-variety speeder; it’s another to forget a guy carrying in a girl who’s all hurt and bleeding.  All that blood.

All that blood…

Oh, my teeth hurt.  I was salivatin’, getting really heady.  All that blood…  I’d never bitten a human, but now, oh…

I could turn her.

I could bite her, three times–that myth was true–and save her.

How long did I have?  I remember she had said you had to take your time with turning.  “It’s not like Thanksgiving, where you glut yourself then sit like a bloated whale in front of the TV,” she’d said.  “It’s a feast of the senses, all of them.  You need to feel your victim, smell him, savor his taste, open yourself to him as you take him within you.  After each experience, there must be time for the hunger, the need to build again.  This isn’t a matter of feeding; there’s a synergy, an intertwining of essence.  A turning cannot be rushed.”

I didn’t know if she’d said all that because it was true or to get me hot, to lure me to her hotel room.  How much mind control had she done on me?  It probably wouldn’t have taken much.  She was pretty, in a Gothic sort of way, and I’d been so lonely–

I don’t have time to think about that!  Think back to the turning.  How long had it been between the second and third bites?

The young girl stirred slightly in my arms.  Was it shock?  Fear?  She’d never opened her eyes.  Did she somehow know what I was, anyway?

“It’s o.k., honey.  I’ll take care of you.  I promise.”

I would, too.  No way I’d screw her like she’d screwed me, leaving me with the curtains drawn and that cryptic note on the mirror.  God, what a shock those first weeks had been, until I’d found an all-night truck stop that had computers you could rent time on and I’d found others like me.  No, I’d take care of this little lady from the start, teach her about her new life, take her with me on hauls until she’d learned enough and was ready to go on her own.  Who knows?  I’m an o.k.-lookin’ guy and I won’t get any older.  Maybe she’d stick around awhile.  Maybe….

I’d have to get some dirt from here, put it in the cab for her.  Then I’d take her somewhere, probably someplace isolated.  She’d panic at first.  I did.  I’d make her understand, sure I could.  Then we’d figure out what we’d tell her parents.  If we told her parents.  I haven’t told nobody, just keep makin’ excuses, moving on when someone gets too nosy.  Haven’t been home in five years, even missed grandma’s funeral.  Went to the gravesite by night, but no one knew.  Mom’s still angry.  And JoAnn—she thinks I hate her, the way I keep doin’ stuff through a lawyer, never wantin’ to see her face-to-face.

“Have you got family?  A boyfriend?  Honey, what do you want me to do?”

Her shuddering stopped.  She ain’t going to make it.  God, she ain’t going to make it.

I licked my lips, cut my tongue on my teeth. She wouldn’t be the same, but she’d be alive, in a way.  That was better than dying, wasn’t it?

Wasn’t it?