Focused on pain, walking head down, he plowed into an unyielding bulk. He snapped his head up. Four large Vampire Control and Security Center officers blocked the sidewalk. Julian’s throat constricted, choking off his breath.
“Watch where the hell you’re goin’, asshole.” A man the size of a tank brushed off his olive-colored coat with quick flicks of his hand. He had the look of someone who’d discovered he’d stepped in fresh dog shit.
Julian’s stomach plummeted and he took several steps back. “Sorry,” he muttered.
“What’s wrong with you?” Tank Man eyed him with open disgust.
Most of the swelling and bruises had faded from his face, but enough remained that he stood out.
“I asked you a question, boy.”
“Nothing! Nothing’s wrong.”
The officer’s gaze dropped from Julian’s face to his right hand.
Positive the officer had seen the tips of his fangs, Julian took another step back.
Armed with guns, drugs, and shock devices, the officers were prepared for vampire aggression.
Tank Man’s hand eased toward the pistol at his waist. “Well, well. Look what we have here.”
Julian took the only option he had. He spun and fled.
Curses pelted the air behind him and pounding boots attested to pursuit. But his strength and speed far surpassed theirs.
A pop sounded a second before pain hit his back. He yelped and ran with everything he had. He sprinted across streets, unmindful of oncoming traffic, honking horns, and curses from agitated drivers.
Panting for breath, he slipped into an alley and took cover in the shadows. Were they still looking for him? Hot, sweaty, and shaky, he stumbled forward.
The bastards had drugged him. He clawed at his back until he hit and dislodged the dart that had unloaded a dose of tranq in him.
His steps faltered. The alley spun in dizzying circles. He staggered and collided with a brick wall, sending pain zinging through his shoulder. Reeling, balance lost, he collapsed on the asphalt. He hit hard, shredding skin from his arms and cracking his knees on the unforgiving surface.
He lay still, his mind swimming with a kaleidoscope of nonsensical images. When his thoughts gelled back together, he struggled to get his numb legs under him.
Within minutes, the officers clustered around him like crows at roadkill. His guts roiled. Trapped, he hissed.
One of the men drove a boot into Julian’s side. Groaning, he tried to curl into a ball.
“Want me to hit him?” The officer’s hand settled on a control device clipped on his belt. Except for two short silver prongs at the end, it resembled a little black gift box, the kind fancy pen sets came in. The weapon would put a vampire down, disabled for twenty or thirty minutes.
“No.” Tank Man prodded Julian with a boot. “I nailed him with a dose for a bigger vampire. He’ll be easy to manage in a few minutes.”
Julian’s heart rate went into overdrive. What was going to happen to him?
A black van pulled into the alley and rolled to a stop. One of the officers opened the back doors. Tank Man grabbed Julian’s wrists and a second man gripped his ankles.
Hissing, Julian tried to struggle, but his limbs were no longer taking orders. They carried him to the van, stuffed him in a too-small cage, and fastened a lock on the door.
He twitched with the instinctive drive to fight the cage, not that it would do any good. All vampire containment systems were made with the same material used in M1 Abrams tanks. No vampire was strong enough to get through that.
A second cage held another male. Julian met the stranger’s eyes, but the other vampire found something more interesting on the floor of his cage and ignored him.
The back doors slammed shut and a moment later, the van pulled out of the alley, en route to the Vampire Control and Security Center.
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