By the time he woke up, Sandra had him chained to one of the stout steel chairs that normally sat out on the porch. They were incredibly heavy, and hauling one inside had taken some real effort, but this was exactly why she owned them: they were essentially unbreakable, and extremely difficult to move... especially for someone sitting in them.
Her prisoner came awake without any particular reaction. One moment he was unconscious; the next, he lifted his head and looked at her. She could see the brief surge of movement as he flexed his muscles, looking for a way out of his bonds. None of that showed on his face; his eyes were fixed on her, and his expression was utterly neutral.
"You must be pretty experienced..." Sandra let the word hang, thinking, Old. Powerful. "...to get past the wards. And I don't recall inviting you in."
He looked powerful. Some of it was in his build: broad shouldered and heavily muscled, and utterly lacking in body fat. More of it was in the way he had strained against the chains, and the way he sat as if their weight was barely worth noticing. An ordinary man would have had trouble drawing breath, but of course that wouldn't bother him. "I had to bleed two of them," he admitted. "Drain them until they couldn't hold me or alert you. It wasn't easy."
That was good, if he was telling the truth. Sandra didn't know, and at this point didn't much care. If he had found them, others could; and if others could, they would. "And then shut off the light, and then wait in the dark until I came to the kitchen."
"Yes," he said. "I have to take you away from here."
"No," she said. "You don't."
"If you know what I am..." He strained against the chains again, more -- she thought -- to make the point than to try to escape. "...Then you know I'm here to help."
"I know nothing of the sort," she said.
For a moment, he looked completely blank: the wary, alert lack of expression dissolving into a total slackness that more resembled unconsciousness or death. Then he blinked, and face regained expression if not animation. "But you are to be my bride. You and I are destined to be one. You will marry me, and my clan will protect you, and keep the girl safe from those who hunt her."
Sandra shook her head. "No," she said. "I won't. I'll keep my daughter safe, but I'll do it on my terms." She glanced towards the doorway, and as she'd expected she saw Samantha standing there with the old metal bucket they used for scrubbing.
"This isn't the only way, mommy," said Samantha in her little-girl voice. She was seven, dark-haired and precocious even without her other talents.
Sandra crossed the room and took the bucket from her hands, then bent to kiss the top of her daughter's head. "It will work, though, won't it?"
"Yes, mommy." Samantha looked sad. "It will work. It will change you, but it will work."
"Try not to watch," said Sandra, knowing it was futile. Her daughter couldn't help but see -- from her room, from anywhere in the city, from anywhere on the planet. That was why they wanted her, whoever they were. That was why Sandra had to keep her away from them -- even the ones who wanted to protect her.
She carried the bucket to the sink, hearing the patter of bare feet as Samantha retreated to her room. She filled it halfway with warm water, then lifted it out and carried it back to her prisoner. She set the bucket just in front of his chair. "I know how this works," she told him. "My daughter explained it. I let my blood out, and I take yours in, and I become like you." She pulled the knife from where she had clipped it into the waistband of her pajamas. "I'll be one with you," she said. "I'll be part of your clan. Maybe the part they want to hunt down and kill, but at least I'll be dealing with them on equal terms."
Her prisoner twitched, and for a heartbeat she thought he might actually break the chains. Then he was still again, and still her prisoner. "Please," he said.
She didn't look at him. She was busy focusing on what she had to do. It would take two clean slices, if she was lucky: one along the veins in her wrist, to open them in a way that wouldn't close up; and a deeper one into his inner thigh, where the dark blood would come pouring out. She would leave her arm draining into the bucket while she took the blood from his body. She needed his strength, but not as a protector; she needed it for her own.