Under the powerful effect of his gaze, Darryl had no choice except to believe. I had to give it to Vlad; this way was much faster than going through the usual motions of breaking the news, then dealing with a person’s denial, questions, demands for proof, and hysterics, usually in that order.
“What do you want from me?” Darryl asked in a dull voice.
Vlad’s smile disappeared as he leaned forward. “What would you do if I made you what I am tonight, giving you more power and abilities than you could ever imagine?”
“I’d leave this place,” Darryl replied, still in the monotone that said his answers were compelled by Vlad’s gaze.
“Wouldn’t you want to kill everyone who put you here?” Vlad almost purred. “The police, judges, lawyers, witnesses?”
“Bernstein,” Darryl said after thinking for a moment. “Cop knew I didn’t do it, that’s why he planted the evidence in my car. Phillips, too. Guard’s murdered more people than half the inmates in here.”
“Why do you want to know who he’d like to kill?” I asked.
“I want a hardened man, not a mass-murdering, pathologically vengeful one,” Vlad said. “There’s only room for one of those in my line right now, and that’s me.” To Darryl, he asked, “And would you give up your humanity to leave this place, knowing you would never see anyone from your former life again?”
“My family gave up on me a long time ago.” Not even his monotone could remove all of the pain from that single sentence. “To them, I’m already dead. If I don’t get out, I’ll be dead for real in two weeks, so if there’s a way to live, I want it.”
Vlad glanced away from Darryl, gesturing to an upper corner of the room. “See that camera, Leila? Short-circuit it.”
“Are we actually about to attempt a prison break from Death Row?” Would vampire mind control be enough to accomplish that without resorting to violence, too?
Vlad’s instant laughter made my suggestion seem preposterous. “No. That would cause far too much attention.”
Okay, then I didn’t know why short-circuiting the camera was necessary, but I did it. By the time I turned around, Vlad was already behind Darryl, his mouth at the other man’s neck.
“You’re doing it now?” I asked in disbelief.
He paused, fangs mere millimeters from Darryl’s throat. “You really need me to explain why sending one of my men to pick him up later won’t work under these circumstances?”
Vlad didn’t wait for me to ask more questions. He bit deeply and Darryl shuddered, a harsh grunt escaping him as he tried to jerk away, but the restraints and Vlad’s grip kept him immobilized. Only Darryl’s eyes were able to move, and when his gaze landed on me, I couldn’t look away.
I’d seen many people die through my abilities. Lately, the deaths I’d seen had been in person, sometimes with me wielding the killing blow. This was different, maybe because I’d never seen someone being changed over before. I’d been unconscious during my transformation, and Vlad hadn’t drunk me to death as he was now doing with Darryl. I’d bled out from the effects of Cynthiana’s spell and a nasty car accident, so all Vlad had done was refill me with his blood before it was too late.
Or, I’d thought that was all he’d done. After Darryl’s heart stopped beating and Vlad opened his own jugular with a single hard slice, positioning Darryl’s mouth over it, the real work began. I felt it in the surge of energy that seemed to explode from Vlad, sending almost painful vibrations throughout the room. As potent as that was, his dropped shields revealed that the majority of his power was being funneled into Darryl, willing new life into him with far more force than the blood that Vlad forced Darryl to swallow.
Soon, that slack mouth began to seal over Vlad’s neck, until Darryl was biting and sucking with a ferocity that made the knife Vlad had used before unnecessary. He held that dark head to his throat and willed more of his power into Darryl, until, with a violent tremor that snapped his restraints free from the table, Darryl went still.
Vlad wiped the blood from Darryl’s mouth before he let the man slump forward onto the table. Then he wiped his own neck and rebuttoned his shirt, covering the stray red blotches still dotting his skin. That’s it? I almost said, but the answer was obvious. From start to finish, the entire process of life, death, and undead transformation had taken only about five minutes.
Vlad looked at me, his mouth curled into a slight smile. “Did you still have a question, Leila?”
“Yeah,” I said, still processing what I’d seen. “How do we get him out of here before he wakes up and eats everyone?”
Vlad opened the door, gesturing the guard over with a casual swipe. “This man has suffered a fatal heart attack,” he said, his eyes turning green. “Do all of your normal documentation for accidental deaths, but do them quickly. The body will be picked up by the coroner in exactly three hours.”
“Yes, sir,” the guard replied.
“Coroner, huh?” I said, with a knowing look.
He pulled out his cell phone, texting with his usual blinding speed. “Yes, as well as a few extra passengers.”
Vlad mesmerized several more key personnel on our way out, until no one would question his version of Darryl’s death or remember that we’d come, let alone question the video disruption in the room during the inmate’s “heart attack.” By the time he was finished—a mere half hour after leaving Darryl—I was shaking my head in admiration. He was right; a prison break would have been ridiculously splashy by comparison.