Bleeding Hearts Page 49

I froze, and if my heart still beat, it would have shattered with the violence of the cold inside my chest.

Aidan had infected Christabel and she didn’t know.

He’d kept it a secret.

That’s how Hel-Blar were made—infected through blood or saliva and then left to go wild through the bloodchange. Few survived.

I went for Aidan’s throat.

He was older, stronger, and faster.

I knew it and I didn’t care.

I barely reached him, for all my mother’s training. And I’d broken my dad’s cardinal rule: don’t act out of anger.

I only managed to shove Aidan, since he bent out of my way long before I could put any real force into the movement. Saga whipped one of her knives at me, catching me in the back of my right shoulder. The hit propelled me away from Aidan and face-first into the dirt. Pain flared, the steel slicing through muscle and sinew. I might heal fast, but that didn’t mean wounds didn’t hurt like a son of a bitch. The Hel-Blar howled and one of them laughed.

“Connor!” Christabel scrambled to get to me. She landed hard on her knees. “Connor, shit, don’t die.”

“I’m not dying,” I said, disgusted, blood dripping from my nose. I cracked it back into place with a hiss. “Ow.” My shoulder was on fire. “Damn it. Can you pull the knife out?”

As a gesture to defend Christabel’s honor, my attack clearly left something to be desired.

Saga was there before Christabel could move. She yanked the dagger out and I bit back a scream. Warm blood pooled at the wound and stuck to my shirt. A Hel-Blar actually wept with hunger. I clenched my jaw against the pain.

I would not scream like the sissy comic geek Christabel seemed to think I was. If I was ever going to get out of the friend zone with her, I had to demolish her expectations. I was used to it. People always assumed I was weak and socially awkward because I liked comics and computers. I used it against them all the time.

“That was a warning, princeling. I could have had your heart. And if you ever attack my mate again, I will.”

Aidan looked down at me. “I’m not contagious,” he said. “I’m not Hel-Blar, not like them.”

Hope trickled through me. “But you’re blue, and you have all those fangs.”

“Less blue, fewer fangs. It makes a difference. You know the ones the Hounds save aren’t contagious.” He was right. Logan’s girlfriend had more fangs than us (but still fewer than Solange) and she wasn’t blue or insane, and she should have been Hel-Blar. She’d been left in a coffin for two hundred years or so, after all.

Christabel stared at Aidan. “Your spit could have turned me?” She ran her palms over her jeans until they chafed. The tiny cuts opened up again. “Like that whole licking thing wasn’t gross enough.”

“Don’t do that,” I said tightly. The smell of blood when we were wounded was even sweeter. Even that tiny drop smeared on her knee made me push back a little so she was out of my reach.

“I’m going to throw up,” she added, sounding strangely calm.

“You’re fine,” Saga said nonchalantly.

Christabel eyed her with an impressive glint of steel. “You stabbed him.”

“He’s fine, too.”

I rose to my feet, then helped Christabel up as well. “She’s right,” I said. “I’m fine. It’s already stopped bleeding.”

“She stabbed you.”

“We heal from almost anything, so you’d be surprised how often that kind of thing happens,” I explained wryly. “And I have six brothers,” I added.

“If we’re done with the mollycoddling?” Saga inquired. “We have business to be getting on to, lad.” At least she hadn’t called me “boy” again. It was hard to impress a girl when a crazy vampire pirate kept treating you like a child.

Saga reached for the lock on the gate.

“Shit.” I leaped in front of Christabel, wondering how I was going to get us out of this. The cut on my shoulder would be a beacon. I stepped away from Christabel again. She’d be safest the hell away from me.

Saga poured the blood from the wineskin on the ground and then sprinkled the last drops like rose petals.

She opened the lock and stepped back.

The Hel-Blar bottlenecked at the gate, fighting one another to get through, diving for the blood, eating the dirt it had soaked. Three of them got free before Saga shut the gate again to the frustrated, enraged howls of the rest of the nest. The last one out sniffed the air, clapped his angry red eyes on me, then jumped over his companions, smelling fresher blood. They were the only kind of vampire who drank from other vampires. My blood wouldn’t feed him, wouldn’t help him survive—only human or animal blood did that. Human blood worked best of all. Vampire blood only worked if it was passed from an older vampire onto someone younger in the same lineage.

All that to say he wasn’t after me for survival—just the pleasure of the kill.

He was in midair, fangs flashing, hands curled into claws, when Saga blew her whistle.

The sound stopped him. He paused there, like a cartoon character about to realize he was falling off a cliff, then he hit the ground, screaming.

“I was wrong.” Christabel’s voice was strangled, scared, and pissed off. “I don’t like her at all.”

I might not admit it to her, but my throat was clogged with panic, too. If I breathed, I’d have been gasping. The Hel-Blar writhed on the ground at my feet, alternating between clutching his head and his copper collar. The stench of burned mushrooms and green water made me gag.

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