Reyna nodded. “Please.”
Beckham pressed a kiss into her hair as Genevieve disappeared. “Your heart breaks for him.”
“He never wanted this. I don’t know how…how he’ll live with himself.”
“The strong survive.”
Reyna was surprised to find that her friends and much of Beckham’s inner circle were congregated in the dining room. She and Beckham exchanged a glance.
“What’s going on?” Reyna asked.
Meghan’s eyes were wide with terror. They darted between Reyna and Beckham and back to the computer in front of her. Jodie was chewing her bottom lip. Katarina had been playing with Jodie’s hair, but stopped as soon as Reyna and Beckham entered. Gabe had his arms crossed over his chest. Zoya was seated before the computer. Gerard was across the room, motionless as always, reading a book.
“Uh…guys?” Reyna said.
Meghan rushed forward and threw her arms around Reyna. “You scared the shit out of us.”
“You’re all over the news. The entire city was in uproar looking for you.”
“Oh,” she muttered.
“They’re looking for the mayor’s murderer,” Meghan added. “We saw…saw the video.”
“Video?” Reyna asked, glancing at Beckham. They’d spent so much time in that convenience store, they’d apparently missed everything.
“You don’t want to see it,” Meghan told her. “It shows…her neck twisted. You two running out of the room. It’s being played on repeat despite the sensitive material.”
Beckham shrugged. “We’re safe. We’re here.”
Gabe’s eyes hit the ceiling. “Want to share with the class what happened before or after you, I don’t know, lost your shirt?”
“No,” Beckham told him menacingly.
He tossed the small recording device, which had somehow managed to stay in Reyna’s jacket pocket this whole time, to Zoya. She nodded. That was that.
“Any other questions?” Beckham asked.
The room was silent. Not because no one had questions, but because Beckham was shirtless, still partially covered in blood, and prowling like an animal.
“I have it!” Washington cried.
Reyna whipped around. She’d hadn’t noticed that he wasn’t among the rest of the crowd. He’d been locked up in his laboratory so long that sometimes it was easy to forget he was even there.
“Have what?” she asked.
He held up a tube full of gold liquid and stared at it with fascination and wonder. The look in his eyes said that he’d just changed the world. What was to come next would raze to the ground everything they’d ever known. A cataclysmic event beyond which mere mortals could hardly comprehend.
“Golden Blood,” Washington whispered.
“Come again?” Gabe said.
“Yeah. What exactly is Golden Blood?” Jodie chimed in. “It looks like something I would not want to drink.”
“The more I thought about it. The more I knew. The more you told me,” he said to Reyna and Beckham, “the more I suspected I could do this. How could two perfectly matched people possess such talents? How could the mixing of vampire and human blood like this heal? Or sense? Or produce such evocative shared emotions?”
Reyna shrugged. She had no answer to that. She’d just been rolling with it. “I don’t know.”
“How could he make you a little more vampire?” Washington mused, lost to his own epiphany. “How could she make you a little more human?”
“Impossible,” Reyna whispered.
The stunned silence in the room only echoed her belief.
“Not impossible. Highly improbable,” Washington said. “But I think I’ve done it…”
He passed Reyna the gold liquid, his newly deemed Golden Blood.
“A cure for vampirism.”
Reyna nearly dropped the vial.
“What?” she gasped.
“A cure?” Beckham asked skeptically.
“That’s not…possible,” Meghan whispered, echoing Reyna’s previous comment.
Everyone else just stared at the golden liquid, stunned. Even Gabe didn’t have a witty remark. The room was silent and shocked.
“I assure you it’s quite possible,” Washington said.
“And you discovered this…in the last month?” Reyna asked. “I mean…don’t you need more time than that to make sure it’s for real?”
“The last month?” Washington stared at her in confusion. “Oh heavens, no. I’ve been working on this for the better part of the last two centuries. But it all clicked when I saw how a blood match reacted. How your blood reacted and the healing properties found in your blood. It was a next logical conclusion to assume that you could heal more than just each other.”
“But testing?” she pressed. Even if he’d been working on it this long, there was no way he could know for sure. It just…it wasn’t possible.
“Ah. Well, I’ve tested it on every kind of vampire blood I had on file here. When combined in perfect conditions, the virus that causes the disease was forced into paralysis and eventually killed. Essentially Golden Blood works as white blood cells attacking the foreign properties in the body. In this instance: vampirism.”
Washington hastily took back the small tube from Reyna. “Though…it hasn’t been tested on a vampire yet.”
Reyna’s eyes darted around the room. It was only Beckham who didn’t shrink back from the prospect of having Golden Blood tested on him.
“Well, let’s not all jump up at once,” Gabe said sarcastically.