Bloodshifted Page 11

“Only in my dreams.” She dusted her hands off and then reached up to draw the curtains of her bed.

I went to set the bell over the door. Then, lying down in my nest of pillows and sheets again, I turned the light off.


I heard a rustling sound from the bag. The Shadows were probably setting themselves free, or they were faking it and would be trying to hitch a ride to the dump with the trash tomorrow, agreement with me forgotten. There’d be no way to talk to them with Celine in the room, but right now they weren’t my first priority. I needed to sleep first, to keep up my strength, and to see if I could find that strange vampire in my dreams.

As an ex-night-shift nurse I was good at operating tired—which would probably be a good thing if I managed to live long enough to be a parent. But the punishment for that was sometimes my body held on far longer than it ought to, as if I were fighting sleep itself. Between worrying about the baby, Asher, and Anna, I could be up for the next forty days straight.

Somehow though, in the abyssal dark of the catacombs, I finally slept.

* * *

Instead of dreaming about my house this time, I was in a land of rolling hills, covered in desert scrub. I spun around making sure I didn’t have any company and muttered, “The hills are alive.” I took another look in all directions. “I guess that’s okay, as long as they don’t have eyes.”

“Why would hills have eyes?”

I jumped, startled anew, and found a man standing behind me. I decided to not honor his question with a discussion of seminal horror films. “Is it you?”

He nodded. He looked like he’d just stepped off a statue, because he was wearing a toga. He was a little shorter than I was, though far more muscular, and his skin was dark tan where it showed.

“What’s your name?”

“It’s not safe to tell you that. Right now, I could merely be a bad dream.”

I grunted. In case Raven interrogated me. Even if I thought my dreams were real, there was currently no proof, and I supposed it was safer for both of us. “Can you really kill him?”

“Do you really want me to?”

Now that I was out of Raven’s presence I had my right mind. “The sooner the better.” Before he could trick me again, or me myself.

“Then yes, I can.”


“Because I am his Sire. If I command, he must obey. I could even command him to kill himself, and he would.”

“I take it that’s why you’re a prisoner here?”


This was sounding too easy. “Are you’re sure you’re not a dream?”

He raised his hand, and our surroundings changed. The desert scrub folded away, replaced by sharp mountain peaks and drifts of snow. Then we were near a river, bridged by stone, and on an ocean shore, standing on rough rocks—“Okay, okay.” I held my hands up. “You can stop shaking the snow globe now.”

The world around us resolved into a pavilion in front of a temple, lined with columns, a statue standing between each pair. Roman—original. The statues were painted, not worn white by time. Each had a face not unlike my mysterious friend’s.

“I have lived for very long and traveled well. These are my dreams, not yours.”

“Agreed.” My dreams would have had a lot more traffic in them, or involved me being back at school and having forgotten my locker combination. “But why are all of them in daylight?”

He looked taken aback, but quickly recovered. “Because you wouldn’t want to see me in the dark.”

Probably true—or even vampires missed the sun. It wasn’t worth calling him on, though. I walked down the steps of the temple to the road outside and started smoothing sand for him to draw on. “Make a map and show me where you are.”

He followed me, more slowly. “I … cannot. I was incapacitated when I was brought here. I do not know where I am.”

Here at last was the much more familiar difficult part. “You’re kidding me, right?” I dusted my hands off on my legs and stood. “You’re aware that there’s an apparently endless system of tunnels where you could be? Do you know anything about where you are?”

“In a hole. In the dark. My walls are stone, and my cell is grated with silver.”

I’d finally found someone who could help me, and I didn’t even know where to begin. I started pacing in a circle.

“But if you find me and free me—” he began.

“You’ll kill him. I get it.” I looked back at the temple behind us. He was like it, in a way. Hugely powerful, currently completely useless. “Why me? Why haven’t you asked someone else for help?”

The temple shimmered like a mirage and we were in the hilly desert again, forcing me to look back at him. His face was serious and drawn. “You’ve already been a servant long enough to know that admitting weakness among our kind is halfway to defeat.” I nodded, and he went on. “When I woke you from your last dream to save your life—did you kill the one who tried to take it?”

I closed my eyes. “No. Which was probably a mistake.”

“Probably,” he agreed. “But it shows that you are ruthless enough to contemplate your Master’s death for freedom, but not ruthless enough to kill without thought.”

So he was willing to help me because I seemed unlikely to kill him. Damned with faint praise, once again. “There are others here who want out. Why not one of them?”

“Because they’re not also with a child they want to keep.”

My baby was just a little extra assurance that I wouldn’t kill him for his blood once I found him. I hugged myself. “Why’re you so weak?”

“I’ve been starved for the better part of three centuries. A servant shoves in pieces of half-drained corpses that I wouldn’t feed a dog, then leaves them here to decay and foul me.”

“A servant? Which one?”

“Different ones over time. This most recent one, I could not say. The scent they leave behind is artificial—your world, not mine. And no one ever visits at night. But they’ve been absent for a month now.”

Was there a way I could ask the others, safely? Jackson, maybe, but none of the rest of them. “How long does it take a vampire to starve to death?” I wouldn’t only have to free an angry vampire—I’d have to figure out how to feed one too.

“Hopefully not as long as it takes for you to find me,” he said, lips pulled thin. “If you value your own life, and that of your child, you must find me quickly.”

There were other things I wanted to know—how his dream powers worked, how he’d originally been trapped, and just how old he was—but for now the final thing I needed be sure of was my safety. “You promise you won’t hurt my child? Or me? Or my friends?”

“Do you have any friends here?” he asked, eyebrows rising.

“Who knows how long it’ll take me to find you. I might by then.” I already knew I didn’t want to kill Jackson. I frowned at myself. Dammit, Edie, dammit.

“Then I promise to not kill you, your child, or anyone you mark as friend. Just find me as soon as possible.”

Easier said than done. But if the Shadows had stuck around overnight, maybe they could be convinced, or threatened, into helping me. “I’ll start looking in the haystacks for you tomorrow.”

A questioning look clouded his face. “There is no hay down here.”

“It’s called an idiom. You’ve missed out on some things. Let me go back to sleep, okay? I might need the rest.”

He looked for a moment like he might refuse me, long enough for me to wonder if even vampires could get lonely, and then acquiesced. I slept.

* * *

I woke up feeling unrested, but at least no one had tried to kill me during the night. Or morning. Whatever it was right now. I hadn’t felt the moment when the night had changed to dawn, but I had a feeling that Raven was asleep—it was as if a subtle weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I found the remote and clicked on the light and heard Celine complain inside her bed-palace.

“I’m going to the restroom. If I’m not back in fifteen minutes, send reinforcements.”

Celine snorted. Her foot had pushed a corner of her curtain out of the way, and I could see her face pressed into a pillow, hiding from the light.

I took the bag of fast food with me, to throw away, or so I could confer with the Shadows in private. The sooner I could set them loose to look for the prisoner, the better.

I moved the bell and stepped out into the hallway—and found a pile of shirt boxes, with a nice note on top.

Now you owe me, it said, and beneath that Estrella, with a flourish, as if she were signing an autograph for a fan.

So that was the female vampire’s name.

The door opened up behind me and I jumped, afraid Celine was coming after me. She held her ground. “What? You’re not the only one with a bladder,” she protested. Then her eyes flicked to the hip-high boxes of clothes, and she saw the note. Her lips, still the color of last night’s lipstick, puckered as if she’d just licked a lime.

“I didn’t mean to—”

Celine held her hand up for silence, and then walked around me, hand still outstretched. After that she sauntered on to the bathroom, and I was afraid to follow her.

* * *

It was probably impossible to piss Celine off more than her Mistress’s actions already had. I opened up the top box. It had a kilted skirt, pleats ironed neatly, and a folded white top below that. The second box held shoes, for the skirt in the next box—a slinky floor-length skirt with a tight black tube top?

Each box was as improbable as the next, and many of them came with suggested shoes or items of jewelry. Was she honestly suggesting I should wear any of these? They did look like they were my size, but they were uniformly hideous—and none of them would look good on me a month from now, or a month after that.

Maybe Natasha would at least give me a lab coat. Hopefully not made out of test subjects’ skin. At that dark thought, I felt queasy for the first time since I’d left the Maraschino and cursed my overactive imagination—then wondered if the safety of Raven’s blood had been breached. It wasn’t only me “wearing” his blood out—it was my wonderfully immune and tenacious half-shapeshifter child too. I paused, trying to find a tickle of morning sickness in myself, not sure if I was hoping it was gone, or back—it would be nice to feel pregnant again, even if it meant throwing up some. Things are going okay in there, right, baby? Nothing in response. But I was only five or six weeks along. I hadn’t had any bleeding or cramps. I’d have to assume the best for now, because I couldn’t afford emotionally to think about anything else.

I opened up the next box from Estrella, expecting another hideous outfit and finding it. A romper, the sort of thing that I wouldn’t have even worn back when I was thirteen. I prepared to toss it aside, and then thought better and checked. It, unlike all the other options so far, had pockets.

Outfit acquired.

I was wearing it by the time Celine came back, but I didn’t dare talk to the Shadows with the chance of her hearing. She took one look at me and snorted before remounting her bed. I was hoping she’d draw the curtains closed and I could turn the light off again, but there was a polite knock at the door and I answered it, knowing no one but Jackson would bother.

His eyebrows rose, taking in my sartorial choice. “You’re wearing that?”


“Well,” he said, surveying the other boxes in the hall, “all right then. I came to get you—Natasha’s up, and she’s already sciencing away.”

“Thanks.” I was torn. Now there was no way to get to the Shadows safely. Even if I took the fast-food bag to the bathroom, Jackson would be right outside, listening in. Despite the fact that he’d trusted me with his secret, I didn’t want to share them—if they managed to find the man in my dreams, they were my ticket out of here, maybe even before Anna got involved. I looked back into the room behind me. “Hey, Celine, I want to save these fries for later.”

“I’ll get more—” Jackson said.

“I like cold ones, and salt.” I gave him an I’m-not-quite-in-control-of-my-hormones smile. He shrugged, and Celine groaned.

“Fine. Leave me the remote.”

I turned off the light and tossed it into her bed.

* * *

After we’d walked down half the hall he turned toward me. “You realize when you get back, those fries’ll be laced with cyanide?”

“I’m okay with that.” I wished I’d been able to set the Shadows loose. At least I’d left them in the dark—assuming they were still in the room.

“So what’s with the boxes?” Jackson asked, leading me back toward the crossroads.

“Estrella wants to be on my good side.”

“Like a lamprey eel,” he said with a snort.

“This is better than spandex.”

“Not by much.”

There was an awkward silence between us when I knew what I wanted to ask, but not how to ask it. “How’d the rest of last night go?”

“Did I find two more test subjects? Yes.”

I twisted my lips to one side without saying anything.

“After a while it gets easy. Until people start coming in here and looking at me like you are.” He turned away from me, as if there were something interesting passing by on the gray stone wall. “You do what you have to do to get by. The ends justify the means, and all that.”

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