Bloodshifted Page 18

He looked at me like he knew what I was thinking. “If you hate me, then you will soon hate yourself.”

“I’m a girl. I have so much practice at hating myself, you wouldn’t believe.” It was safe to pace in the prisoner’s dreamland, no vampire dust to set on fire. I wanted to ask him a hundred questions—why did holy water work on vampires if they predated Christ? What was it like to live that long? I couldn’t even imagine what the world would look like in the next twenty years, with so much new technology—the thought of being changed and then clinging on for another few hundred years exhausted me, especially if I took the thought to its logical conclusion: once changed, I would outlive Asher, my child, and anyone else I’d ever known.

But I didn’t have time to fall into that rabbit hole just yet. The prisoner stood still, watching me think, scars like tiger stripes across his skin.

“Show me where they hurt you.”

He pointed to his iliac crest, the high point on his pelvis, his voice taut with emotion. “I watched them shove in tools and pull out pieces of meat, the marrow of my bone.”

My brain caught the tail of an idea. “No.” I could only think of one reason why you’d dig around inside someone’s iliac crest. Marrow transplants. Which someone who’d been treated for leukemia would know all about. “No way.”

His eyebrows rose, and the image of his clothing resolved in a heartbeat.

Oh, God. Of course the prisoner wouldn’t know what they were doing—he’d been trapped in here for most of the advent of Western science. But Raven was younger and had younger blood and knew he’d have to change to stay alive. He’d been willing to take big risks—especially when he had a donor who would heal up between tests.


“Hang on.” What had changed? Why weren’t they using the prisoner anymore?

Because Natasha had finally figured out how to make things work. They hadn’t needed the prisoner’s bone marrow because they’d switched over to Raven’s.

Vampires couldn’t make an infinite amount of blood, but they were fast healing. So instead of giving test subjects vampire blood infusions, weakening the vampire that donated each time, Natasha had skipped back a step. Why transfuse blood when you could transplant bone marrow itself, the tissue that generated blood cells?

If the transplant worked, test subjects would immediately start making their own vampire blood.

It was as ingenious as it was awful.

All they needed was a donor, willing or un, as the prisoner proved. And who knew how many bone grafts they could take? I’d seen vampires knit bones together quickly before—Dren had done it; even daytimer Lars had done it when I’d broken his ribs and leg.

“What?” the prisoner asked again, hovering near in concern.

“I don’t even know how to explain it to you.” There must be more to the process—it’d taken Natasha years to perfect it, even with all her opportunities and a world-class lab. But with her help Raven had found a way to be almost as prolific as Anna.

And if any other vampires figured it out—then they could be too. A world full of vampires would be no place to raise a child. Oh, baby.

I looked over at the prisoner. “We don’t just need to kill Raven—we need to burn this place to the ground.”

At this, the prisoner finally smiled. “That is fine with me.”


A sound interrupted us, a distant jingling bell. I sat up with a gasp, dream forgotten, and found Celine coming in.

She was disheveled but looked pleased, and there was a hint of color to her lips that hadn’t been there before she’d put on lipstick. Celine had gotten blood.

She strode over to me, standing tall. “I want my pillows back.”

I didn’t know how much blood she’d gotten. I assumed that I still had more on board than her, but I didn’t want to be wrong. I think the only way we’d really know who’d win would be to fight, and that might be dangerous for my baby. I shrugged as if it didn’t matter to me, and threw all her pillows back onto her bed except one.

Her eyes narrowed at me in superiority. I could see her considering demanding the final pillow; then she thought better of it just in case. I realized she’d bluffed, I’d folded, and neither one of us was really sure who would have come out on top.

I put the remote on the ground and skidded it over to her feet, then lay back down as if I weren’t afraid. “I’m going back to sleep now. Turn the lights off when you’re done.” When I heard her crawl into her own bed, I finally relaxed. By the time I fell asleep, though, the prisoner was gone. I had neither dreams nor nightmares for the rest of the night.

* * *

I got up to the sound of a knock at the door. The room was pitch black, but I had a feeling it was now day.

“Hey sleepyhead,” Jackson said. I was still mad at him for disarming me.

“Yo.” Celine was snoring behind me, secure in her pillow fort. I stepped outside and closed the door behind me.

“Want breakfast?” he asked, holding out a bag. “It’s more of a late lunch—”

Just because I was mad didn’t mean I wasn’t hungry. “Yeah.” Hunger was a new thing. I hadn’t been legitimately hungry before. A sign of pregnancy? Or Raven’s blood wearing off?

I took the bag, and then he held out a watch. “For when you help Natasha.” I set the bag down and latched the watch around my wrist. I’d almost forgotten that I’d have to do that today—and what I’d found out from the prisoner last night.

“You okay? You look green.”

“I’m fine.” I needed to focus. If any information got out of here, if a hundred different Thrones started doing marrow transplants to create twenty new vampires each—the math was bad. And no vampire group would stand idly by while others gained in numbers.

“I’m sorry. About yesterday,” Jackson said, taking my thoughtful silence for reprobation.

You should be, was what I wanted to say. Instead I shrugged. “How many test subjects are left?”

“Just one. Why?”

“Where are they?”

Jackson’s left eyebrow rose. “Why?”

I knew Anna was coming, but not when. I needed to disrupt the cycle somehow to buy her some time.

“I need you to trust me.”

“You know something more, don’t you?” His eyes narrowed.

“Anna’s not the big threat anymore. She’s a genetic freak, a one-in-a-million mutation.” I couldn’t explain the specifics; the fewer people who knew, the better. But Jackson was smart enough to catch on. “However—if what Raven had Natasha do is repeatable, then anyone can, and will, do it. I don’t know how often you get new orders, but your priorities need to change.”

I saw his jaw clench and set. He knew I was right, even if he didn’t want to go off script. “All right. But it’s an electronic lock.”

“Just show me where it is.”

“We’re not even supposed to go,” he began, then paused. “Wait—I have an idea.”

We went back to Raven’s war room where Lars was still passed out, sprawled exactly as I’d left him. “We’ll take him to Rex’s old feeding room. It’s nearby.” And despite the fact that either of us could have picked up Lars alone, we shared the burden so that we would both have an excuse.

Swinging Lars between us, we went through the crossroads and down one of the forbidden halls. “Two doors down from here.” When we got inside the room, I let Lars’s feet fall to the ground and trotted back outside. The doors were metal with no windows; another biometric keypad was set in the door. I darkly considered snapping Natasha’s hand off and going through fingers until I found the right one.

“See? Impossible. She meets me when I bring them down,” Jackson said, meeting me outside.

Just like the prisoner, he was a product of his times. They didn’t have biometric keypads in the 1970s.

“Every lock has a key,” I said. And I had a Gideon.

* * *

Jackson left me outside Natasha’s lab, and I went inside alone. The door was unlocked, just as we’d left it last night when we were done cleaning the woman’s dust. I went back to see if we’d missed anything, but we hadn’t: The table was still gleaming, and there was polish on the tile.

I could destroy things in here—make the computers and electronics short out, open all the refrigerator doors, throw their contents on the floor, or wash them down the sink—but that wouldn’t get at the heart of it all. For that, I’d have to kill Natasha. The sooner the better, too, before word of this got out.

But I wasn’t a killer type, despite the thoughts I’d been having recently. I looked down at my hands. When I was myself I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I only wanted to do what I had to to protect my baby and escape. Now, though, I had to add firebombing here to my ever-growing list of mayhem.

First things first; I needed to tell the few people I did trust what was going on. I was about to sit at the computer and type out a curse word when the door opened and Natasha walked in. She looked glamorous, but tired.

“Long night?” I asked, embarrassed.

“Yeah,” she said with a shy grin. “In a good way.”

“Glad to hear it. Or rather, glad to not actually hear it because that would have been weird.”

Natasha’s eyes went wide, and then she laughed. “Thanks, yeah, moving on, okay?”

“Please,” I encouraged her.

“So what’d I miss last night? Before I got there?” she asked.

It took a second for me to process what she wanted to know. But she hadn’t gotten to see Raven and Rex fight over her, and what was more intoxicating for a high school girl than that? I gave her the blow-by-blow and she listened, rapt.

“He never liked me. It serves him right.”

“Well, no one’s going to make that mistake again.”

“Estrella and Wolf wouldn’t anyhow. They trust Raven. That’s why they’ve lasted so long.”

“How long is long?”

“A century or two, respectively.”

“So … when will he change you? I mean, aren’t you more important to him than Lars?”

She snorted. “Definitely. But it’s going to be a while. There’s rules to follow. You can’t be turned when you still have relatives left. They don’t want you getting ideas about re-creating your own vampire family. I can’t be turned until my dad dies.”

I nodded as if I hadn’t seen her father die myself. Did Raven know, and was he keeping that information from her? It wouldn’t be that long until the manifest from the Maraschino was searchable online, if she bothered to look. Maybe that was why Nathaniel hadn’t changed his name, so that there would always be a way for her to find him.

But why should Raven ever change her? If he did, she could possibly become a free agent. Easier to have her trapped in puppy love as if it were amber.

“Who did you leave behind?” she turned and asked me.

“My fiancé, my brother, and my mom.”

“It’ll be a long time for you then. Who knows, though, after you have your baby you might not want to be turned.”

“Probably not.” Ever. I was still having a hard time figuring Natasha out. She was still double-checking the job Jackson and I had done, making sure everything was cleaned to her specifications. “What’s going to happen to the next subject?”

“I’ll run them through tonight. I want to make sure I’ve got it dialed in now.”

“How on earth did you manage to speed things up?”

“Trade secrets.” She gave me a prideful smile.

“So you’re going to turn them into a vampire? For nothing?”

“No, I’m going to make sure my numbers are good. I know they are, but it never hurts to repeat an experiment.”

I decided to walk as far out on my branch as I could, and hoped I wouldn’t fall off. “I believed you when you said you wanted to cure cancer—but I don’t see how changing people into vampires helps that.”

“Easy. Vampire blood cures everything. If we could get an infinite supply of it—we could wipe all sorts of suffering off the face of the earth.”

“But doesn’t an infinite supply of vampire blood come with an infinite supply of vampires? Who then eat all of the lovely people you’re saving?”

“Not when they’re all controlled by my Raven. And we wouldn’t turn everyone into vampires, we’d just make a lot of daytimers. Imagine if people just got vampire blood instead of going into hospitals—think of all the people with incurable diseases that we’d be able to save.”

It was impossible for my jaw not to drop. “You’re talking about changing the very fabric of society, Natasha. You realize that, right?”

She smiled at me and nodded and did that shrug, as if it were my fault that my mind was too small to understand her vision.

This was what happened when you froze fourteen-year-olds in time. They were ignorant of history and too stupid to know any better.

“Raven’s got everything worked out perfectly. And my research is winding down—or up, really,” she said with a cheerful grin. “Soon we’ll be ready to start.”

I couldn’t turn off whatever horrified face I was currently making, and she laughed at me. “Edie—Raven’s blood saved me. The more people I can give that gift to, the better.”

It was hard to throw stones. I’d been in her position less than a year ago with my mom. Only I’d been old enough and smart enough to realize it was a bad idea. I also hadn’t been in love with a vampire at the time. “Indebting people to vampires isn’t like handing out organ donor cards.”

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