Bloodshifted Page 15

Rex spasmed with surprise and tried to buck Raven off, but Raven had him trussed like a spider. His arms bound Rex down, and the fabric had a growing red stain from the free-flowing blood at his bite site. Every time Rex tried to move he’d growl and bite harder, making the stain spread.

Lars fell to his knees and crawled around and over to where Raven could see him, prostrating himself. “Please. Please.” Why would Lars be begging on Rex’s behalf?

Raven saw him, and squeezed Rex so hard we could hear the sounds of his bones breaking, but then he let him go, sliding him down to the ground, still wound in the purple sheet. “Our fight is over. You have lost. You are forbidden to speak, and you will lie still.”

Then he turned his attention to Lars, lying completely on the ground, and kicked Rex’s ruined body over to him, satin sliding over stone.

“You are mine now, and mine you will always be.”

“Yes!” Lars shouted, his voice fading into an orgasmic hiss.

“Drink up, and I will greet you in three days.”

Lars raised his head, hardly daring to believe, and then he scampered over to Rex’s body, pushing back the sheet. I couldn’t see Rex’s face from here, or hear what if anything was said, but Lars pushed his face into the place where Raven’s had just been tearing, licking blood away. Color came to him as he did so, and the sounds of him sucking and slurping grew louder as his hunger rose. I was repulsed by the sight of it, and by all the sounds, but also so jealous.

Was that … how the change was? I swallowed. My mouth was full of saliva, as if it were me drinking in Rex, not Lars.

Was that how it would be for me? When Anna changed me to take me away from here?

Only if I couldn’t figure my own way out first.

Raven watched Lars feed with apparent satisfaction, breathing heavily, and I could see an erection pressing through his pants. His white tank top was covered in blood. He took it off, and underneath smears of red streaked across his skin like war paint. He threw it down to Lars. “Wring this out. Drink every last drop.”

Lars paused and looked up, face gory with red, and started pushing drops that had gone down his chin into his mouth with such ferocity that I was worried he’d bite his own fingers off. He clutched at Raven’s discarded shirt and set to almost eating it too, before he fell over. I started forward—To help him? To take my turn at Rex’s bloody neck?—and Jackson’s arm flung out, catching me like a seat belt.

Rex began to dust away. His fingertips disappeared just as his shoes tilted and fell to the side. Wolf came up to Raven and looked down at the mess of the dusting vampire and the newly dead Lars.

“That’s one way to stop selling drugs for a while,” Wolf said, and Raven laughed.

The door behind the show opened up and Natasha gasped and ran for Raven’s side. “Are you hurt? Has someone hurt you?” She reached for Rex’s blood on Raven’s chest.

“No, dear one—” He took her hand up to his still red lips and kissed it. “This is what happens when someone challenges me. He insulted you. I could not bear it.”

Natasha looked around, fearful, as though her beloved might still be under assault. But Raven’s presence calmed her, as did his hand around her waist.

When she was sure that none of us was attacking, Natasha leaned up to whisper something in Raven’s ear, and he made a growling sound of satisfaction, releasing her to gesture to our entire group. “I think it’s time for everyone to know my Natasha’s true worth. Follow,” he commanded, and we all obeyed.


Raven led the way down to Natasha’s lab, vampires first, eager to see, and all of us daytimers trailing behind.

Jackson’s eyes asked me what we were walking toward, and all I could do was frown and shrug. While Raven believed in her science, Natasha was smart enough to know that the other vampires wouldn’t understand without a visual component. None of them would be interested in seeing western blots or centrifuged tubes of blood.

I didn’t want to think that the naked woman was already a vampire—she’d only been here for a day—but the second Raven opened the door we could hear her starved howling, as if she were a rabid dog. Jackson’s eyes widened, and we all hurried in.

Natasha stopped everyone but Raven from coming near. The shackles were in full use—the woman was thrashing against them, and leads from her chest and head had been knocked free. Her voice was terrible, lost, and angry—if she got loose she’d try to kill everyone here without a second thought.

“But I just caught her a night ago—” Jackson said, following it up with a hurried, “Master,” even though who knew whom he was speaking to.

“I know,” Natasha said, beaming from ear to ear.

Jackson and I weren’t the only ones who were concerned. Estrella and Wolf looked to each other. Their Master had changed someone they didn’t know, essentially gone behind their backs and cheated on them. How did he have so much blood to go around—and if he had, why hadn’t he shared?

And how had he, with Natasha’s aid, managed to turn this woman overnight?

Raven reached out to touch the center of the woman’s chest. She calmed, sensing him, blood-to-blood. “It would be unfair of me to eat without sharing a meal with you. Drink and through her drink of me.”

Estrella and Wolf again looked at each other. Was this a trap? Poison? Wolf took the risk first, rounding the table to pull out the meat of the woman’s left thigh and bite into her femoral artery, and the woman howled in pain. Estrella watched him carefully and then, worried about missing out, pushed the woman’s head to one side while holding her down to drink from her right carotid.

I pressed my hands to my stomach again. It made sense that vampires could drink from other vampires—after all, blood was blood—but watching it caused a special kind of revulsion. Maybe it was the realization that they could have just as easily been feeding on me.

They were both neater eaters than Raven had been with Rex. The woman kicked and thrashed and it was horrible to watch but there was nothing I could do, even as bile rose in my throat. Her fate had been sealed when Jackson had picked her from the crowd the night before. Her struggles lessened, her eyes went glassy, and she started to pant.

Raven’s arm found Natasha’s waist again and pulled her close. “Would you like to go on a midnight drive?”

Her lips parted and she smiled up at him with complete adoration. “I’ll go get my things.”

He lowered his head to her ear and rumbled, “Meet you in the garage.”

She skipped away. “Jackson, make sure you clean up!” she called before the lab door swung shut.

Jackson stiffened beside me but didn’t say anything.

The blood pressure cuff around the woman’s arm cycled, but didn’t stop inflating, searching for numbers that her body could no longer give. Raven nodded at Wolf, whose eyes were on his Master, even as his face was buried in the strange woman’s thigh. “I’ll be out tonight. You’re in charge. The plan’s still the same. Open as soon as you can.” Wolf nodded, raising his head, drops of blood trapped in his beard. Raven looked to Celine and gave her a chilling smile. “Have a wonderful birthday.”

“Thank you, Master,” Celine stuttered as Raven left the room.

* * *

This was exactly what I’d been afraid of happening this afternoon. How had Natasha done it? How had she managed to shorten the death-to-vampire change by three whole days? Anna could make an infinite number of vampires—but she couldn’t make them change that fast.

At least I wasn’t the only one in the dark—it’d surprised Wolf and Estrella too, and it would have surprised the fuck out of Rex if he’d been alive to see it. He’d bet on Raven not having enough fresh blood to be powerful, when what’d probably happened was that Raven had drunk all the lovely pre-vampired blood out of successful test subject sixty-three.

But how? I wasn’t the only person wondering—all of us daytimers were looking at one another now, waiting patiently for the vampire buffet to end.

Wolf rose up first, but Estrella waited until the woman began to dust. Without clothing, the remaining leads stuck to her skin fell as the flesh that’d been beneath each of them crumbled away.

If I’d had a lighter now I could have blown them both up. Vampire dust was flammable—I’d found that out a very, very long time ago.

Wolf looked to Jackson with clots of blood in his beard. “I’ll go open the front door and let the bouncers, bartenders, and DJs in. We’ll tell them what they need to know and open thirty minutes after that. Estrella, you’ll be a fallen angel tonight and monitor Hell, which’ll mean you’ll have to be on your toes alone in Heaven, Celine. Jackson, you’ll run Purgatory, and Edie, you’ll be cleanup on all floors, after you change for it. Jackson will show you what to do. Go.”

Everyone else exited the room on their assignments, leaving Jackson and me behind with the woman’s remains.

* * *

“So what the fuck just happened?” Jackson asked the second we were sure we were alone. “I brought this woman in less than twenty-four hours ago. There is no possible way this should have worked.”

“But it did,” I said, staring at the table, running through possibilities in my mind. Jackson started pacing in a tight circle. I opened my mouth to tell him not to do that—if he built up a static charge, there was a small chance he could light the very flammable dust. Then I realized I should keep the fact that I knew that to myself.

“It’s not right. It’s just not right,” he went on without noticing me.

“You got her two test subjects last night, didn’t you?” I asked, and Jackson nodded. “Where’s the other one?”

“In the holding chamber. Locked up.”

“And when’s the last time you disposed of a corpse again?”

“A month ago. I figured Natasha was doing it on her own.”

“Or this—whatever this precisely is—started working.” If all the victims turned to dust, that also explained why the prisoner hadn’t been recently fed. “Which was also how Raven was able to heal me and still be strong enough to fight Rex and win—and why he could afford to give the rest of Rex’s blood to Lars. He’s been doing this for a month.”

Without a mask to protect myself, I cupped my hand over my face and went over to the body, looking for answers.

“But vampires frown on eating their own kind,” Jackson said, despite what we’d just seen. “It’s usually a losing proposition. You never get out as much blood as you put in to make them.”

“Maybe he’s not using his own blood.” If Natasha’s father had been searching for human blood substitutes—maybe Natasha had actually found one. Only for vampires.

“But what about entropy? That’s how the world works. You don’t get to make vampires easy-peasy for free. It costs blood to make blood. That’s why we’re us, and they’re them.”

He didn’t know what I knew about Natasha’s lineage, and I didn’t want to share that with House Grey just yet. “Let’s skip the how and get to the why. What’s the point of being able to speed the process up?” I thought I knew the answer, but I wanted to hear someone else say it.

Jackson’s face went dark. “You’d be able to make full vampires who’re beholden to you immediately.”

I reached in and grabbed a pinch of dust. The test subject had looked like a vampire, felt like a vampire, and died like a vampire. “I don’t think Anna has the vampire army market cornered anymore.”

“Fuck me,” Jackson said. He exhaled raggedly and hit the counter nearest him with his fist. “We’ll clean this up later. We need to open the club now.”

* * *

It felt absurd shifting gears to go to work upstairs after Natasha’s spectacle. I wanted time to think and time to plan. Anna needed to know what had happened here—I was afraid that Natasha’s research had changed the game in ways I couldn’t comprehend.

But I couldn’t ditch my “job”—Wolf would know, and I didn’t want to make him angry. I hoped watching over the club would keep him busy and that our paths wouldn’t cross.

Jackson waited outside Celine’s room for me to change. The light was on and my fry bag was where I’d left it, and there wasn’t an ant trail of fries to underneath the bed—I’d figure out what was up with the Shadows later on tonight. I pulled on an all-black outfit: leggings and a dress. The top was low-cut, but I hoped if people were looking at my breasts they wouldn’t be looking at my stomach. I pulled my hair into two quick low ponytails on either side, and pushed my feet into heels. Asher’s necklace at my throat made it look like I’d actually tried.

“Not bad,” Jackson said when I emerged. “You’ll pass for hired help.”

My job was going to be to circulate and pick up glasses and bring them back to the bars on all three floors. Each floor had its own style of glasses so that people on higher floors could come down and mingle while still having something on them that showed that they were special—and Jackson warned me that sometimes people snagged empty glasses and tried to go up. He introduced me to the bouncers, so they’d know me, and so I’d know them if I needed to call for help. They were all big guys, and several of them carried barely concealed knives. “Remember how strong you are. If people get fresh, don’t hurt them, just let the bouncers know.”

I didn’t feel strong in this outfit, but that wasn’t the point—I just needed to not stick out for a few hours. DJs set up their booths, bartenders wiped down their bars, and voilà, the Catacombs were open.

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