"All you have to do is nod and I'll end this quickly."
William Pray stared back into Malcolm Crane's harsh blue eyes and made very sure he didn't move a single muscle that could be taken as a sign of agreement. He wasn't going down that easily, no matter how much agony he was in. He couldn't afford to.
Malcolm huffed cold air into William's face, making his eyes water. "You never did know when to cut your losses and surrender graciously, did you, William?"
"Just a part of my charm."
Malcolm grinned and then buried his fangs deep into William's exposed shoulder, sucking blood and life from his opponent, just a little, just enough to weaken him further. As he pulled back, he tore viciously at William's skin, leaving a gaping wound that trickled precious blood onto the tarpaper roof of the abandoned apartment building. The wound showed no signs of healing anytime soon.
He ran a fingertip through the puddle of blood created beside William's battered face, drawing crude symbols on the roof's surface just far enough away that William could see them if he strained his neck and rolled his eyes. Malcolm knew William wouldn't be able to resist looking, and he couldn't. All vampires knew the ancient language. It was part of the conversion, a genetic imprint passed on to the newly converted, innate knowledge all vampires possessed after their awakening.
The symbols leapt from the gritty surface, their meaning searing into William's brain, unlocking his final waning reserves of vampiric strength. He surged up, his one still-functioning hand around Malcolm's thick throat. It was a pathetic attempt, but one William had to make. He managed to catch Malcolm by surprise, enabling him to throw the vampire off enough to roll on top of him, pinning Malcolm to the rooftop.
He tightened his fingers around Malcolm's windpipe before he remembered vampires as old as Malcolm didn't need to breathe. A malicious smile on Malcolm's face chilled William to the bone.
"Poor choice of defense, but I applaud your efforts to fight back." Pale gray-blue eyes studied him thoughtfully, a sudden intimate interest beyond the approaching victory lighting them. It would have made William blush if he'd had the blood to spare.
"You always could surprise me...in so many ways." Malcolm's stare turned colder still, and his lips twisted into a biting smirk. "I hope it's a trait you've passed on to your offspring."
William tried to pull back, but Malcolm held him in place and rolled them over together. A sharp metal roof vent impaled William through the back, and he screamed into the humid, still dawn-tinged air, the sound more an animal than human. With a powerful thrust, Malcolm used his considerable weight to crush William all the way down to the to the tarpaper surface.
Malcolm Crane had been taken in his thirty-second year of life during a bloody, vicious Celtic war. A celebrated, successful leader and brutal warrior, his body had been preserved for all time in its hard, thick-muscled perfection, honed by a human life of battle and grueling physical labor of the ancient times. Malcolm was broad, hard, and chiseled like a statue that paid homage to the perfect male form.
William's body reflected his prior life as a photojournalist. He was medium height, slender of build, with a keen mind and zero fighting skills. The most exercise he had ever done as human was jogging. He was no fighting match for Malcolm and he knew it, but there was more at stake than his undead existence. The blood markings Malcolm scrolled into the rooftop told him as much. But the pain, the pain was unbearable, agonizing, consuming.
Through the haze, William sensed Malcolm staring at him. He blinked to clear the tears of agony away and face his executioner with as much courage as he could gather.
He'd gambled everything he had in this long-awaited battle with Malcolm -- his fortune, his power, his property and his very existence. He hadn't lost easily. Partly because that wasn't what Malcolm would want and partly because William had hoped if he gave the ruthless ancient a glorious win, the old warrior would be merciful and not take everything William's losing would entitle him. He had only been a vampire a few short years, but he had planned wisely, accrued power and wealth trying to make up financially for his sudden absence from his mortal life. He had been a creature of the night covertly arranging to pay college tuition.
William didn't care about his power or even the properties and money that he had hoped would go to his mortal heir, but there was one thing William didn't want Malcolm to claim. One very important thing he had to protect even if it was with his last breath. But he knew now that was lost as well. Knew it as clearly as he knew he was moments away from slipping out of existence.