Lao opened his eyes slightly and stared at the door. The doctor entered quietly and approached the bed. Probably believing Lao asleep, he stood staring at him with a thoughtful expression for so long that Lao became annoyed.
"What do you want, human?"
"You speak with contempt, but part of you is human too. It always will be."
Lao raised his eyes to the heavens. "Don't you have anything better to do than stand here irritating me?"
"Since the new reign I usually have a full house, but over the past few months they've lain low."
They hadn't been lying low, but gathering their forces to attack Dark Rhythm. Not only had they destroyed his headquarters, but several of Lao's major bases worldwide.
It was retribution.
A month ago the leader of the new reign had visited Lao. He asked Lao to join him in spreading evil throughout the world. His offer might have been tempting, except Lao had no desire to destroy the world. Contrary to popular belief, he didn't enjoy violence. He had merely learned to accept it as a way of life, at least until he could ensure the safety of his kind.
The leader of the new reign didn't want a partnership. He wanted minions. Lao no longer bowed to anyone. His emperor had banished him ages ago and his Creator had been dead for centuries. Lao was his own master. Others bent to his will, not the other way around.
The good doctor tilted his head slightly to the side, his almond-shaped blue eyes narrowed, and the hint of a smile touched his lips. There was something hauntingly familiar about his expression.
"What do you want?" Lao demanded. Here in Esteban's domain, he had no choice but to refrain from crushing this human pest.
"I've heard so much about you but I never thought I'd --"
"See you here."
"Esteban is one of the few outside of Dark Rhythm who still receive me. The others are too self-righteous or too stupid. You see, they still believe humans are worth protecting."
"I know about your hatred of humans --"
"You know nothing," Lao said, his voice dripping with scorn. How dare this insignificant human so much as hint that he understood a vampire master such as Lao?
"But I don't know why," Tyler continued, completely ignoring Lao's outburst.
"You live among vampires, but haven't taken the Change. Is that because you refused it or because none of your so-called friends have offered it?"
"When the time is right --"
"Will the time ever be right for you, or do you believe we're demons?"
Tyler laughed. "That's ridiculous. I've seen evil in vampires and evil in humans. Evil isn't reserved for a particular species. It's a choice." The doctor stared directly into Lao's eyes and there was no missing the accusation in that look.
This human's impertinence knew no bounds. Had he not been in Esteban's home, Lao would have killed him already.
"Sudsy said you refused to join the new reign. I wonder why, since you and the Evil Creator seem to want the same thing."
"How does he know about my dealings with the Evil Creator?"
"While we were treating you, you drifted in and out of consciousness."
"And Esteban helped himself to my thoughts?" Lao bristled with anger. Not that he blamed Esteban for infiltrating his mind. Had their situation been reversed, he would have done the same to learn about his visitor's intentions.
"Dark Rhythm is nothing like the new reign," Lao said, wondering why he was explaining himself to this human.
"Isn't it?" Tyler asked softly. How could those calm blue eyes look so gentle yet so critical? "You both destroy anyone who gets in your way. You're both brutal in your methods and enjoy seeing others suffer."
Lao knew that's what those who opposed him believed. Yes, Dark Rhythm was brutal, but they had to be. Vampire hunters were a sly, vicious lot. One couldn't be soft when dealing with them. Hunters were human. That made all humans potential killers and the enemy of all vampires.
For thousands of years descendants of the twelve had protected humans, shielding them from the menace of evil blood drinkers. In return humans didn't differentiate between vampires and demonic blood drinkers. They condemned anyone with fangs. Lao had simply grown tired of their ingratitude. He'd seen too many companions destroyed by human ignorance and cruelty.
Turn the other cheek and you'll invariably get slapped twice with no reward in the end but a stake through the heart. Or burning. Or death by silver. Trust a human and you end up punished one way or another.
"Is there anything you need before I go?" Tyler asked.
Lao cast him another scathing look.
With a sigh, the human shook his head and said, "If you do need something, press the button by your bed and the staff member on duty will come."
"No. A vampire nurse is on duty. Also Jeff and Jonah, who head Sudsy's security team, are watching the hospital floor tonight."
Lao smiled wryly. "Esteban must believe that even in my present state I'm quite dangerous."