Bloodshifted Page 19

“But it could be. Wouldn’t people rather be daytimers than dead?”

“Have you thought past that? To the part where Raven has a jillion followers?”

“So? Better him than some big pharma corporation, doing endless drug trials, then using their research to wring cash out of the ill,” she said, her voice tinged with spite. I had a feeling her words came from personal experience.

I bit my lips rather than speak again. I knew there’d be no changing her—but she still wanted to change me.

“Heart disease, HIV, cancer, all of it. And people would start to age more slowly, like us. Who wouldn’t want to sign on for that?”

I didn’t have a good answer for her. She waited for me to speak, and then sighed.

“Look, I know you’re upset about the test subjects, I get that. But people die all the time, usually for much less noble reasons. I kill a few people but could possibly save a few million, in the first year alone. It’s going to be worth it.”

Test subjects one through sixty-four, were they present, might disagree.

“Besides, you’re friends with some of them. You don’t believe they’re all evil, do you?”

“Most of them are.” I’d met my fair share of vampires out in the world. I knew Dren had been an indiscriminate killer, probably still was. Even though I cared about Anna, I’d seen her do awful, violent things. She’d had her reasons at the time, but—no one person, or vampire, should rule the world. Absolute power corrupts absolutely—and the thought of Raven with a million daytimers was too much to bear.

“No. They’re misunderstood. But not evil. Not Raven.”

Her voice dropped so we could talk woman-to-woman. “Someone hurt him a lot, a very long time ago. He doesn’t like to talk about it, but he’s not as black-and-white as he seems. I can help him get over it. I know how he truly is. I know what’s deep down in his heart. I love him and he loves me, and together we can change the world for the better. You’ll see.”

Every girl had to have that one stupid relationship. The one where she thought she could change the guy, if not in high school then in college. I knew I’d had two or three bred from all the insecurities that came with growing up and a fear of going into adulthood alone.

I had a sinking feeling this was Natasha’s, but she’d never get a chance to outgrow it. Thanks to the vampire blood surging around inside her, she’d never get the chance to grow again.

“Anyhow,” she went on, giving me a peaceful smile, “I’m going to go out and go shopping to celebrate. You’re not allowed to leave the Catacombs yet, though, sorry.” Her snub was matter-of-fact. “Go tell Jackson to keep you busy today.”

I was both jealous of and mystified by her naïveté, and I left the lab with a millstone of too much knowledge hanging from my neck.

* * *

I went down to the crossroads and waited until Natasha was probably gone—and then I went back and tried the lab door. She’d locked it behind her, dammit. But it wasn’t fancy, it was just a plain lock. I went up into the Catacombs and found Jackson looking out of place scrubbing the floor on his knees in Heaven. “You’re supposed to keep me busy today,” I said, because Natasha had told me to. She hadn’t told me what to say after that, though, so I was on my own. “Do you have duplicates for all the keys?”

“Some of them.” He put down the sponge he was using. “Why?”

“I need the key to the lab. Natasha’s off on a shopping trip, and she kicked me out. I’ll get it back to you right away—she doesn’t have to know.”

He put his hand to the key ring on his belt. “What are you hoping to find?”

If I tell you I might have to kill you. I put my hands impotently at my sides. “I’d tell you if I could, Jackson, but it’s better you don’t know.”

He measured me with his gaze. “Is this because you’re mad that I won’t let you blow things up?”

“I am mad. Going through my things was a dick move. But this is bigger than that. Give me the keys. Please,” I added, belatedly.

His hand sank to his waist as if he were a gunslinger, and he unclipped the set of keys. “Bring these right back. Don’t get caught,” he said, chucking them at me.

I caught them easily. “I’ll meet you in Hell in a little bit.”

* * *

I raced back down with the keys tight in my hand so they wouldn’t jingle, and heard Celine taking a shower. I unlocked the lab door and slipped inside, let it close softly, and then ran back into the autopsy-table computer room.

There was no way I was supposed to be here now—Natasha would know who it’d been if she looked at the keystroke log, and I’d get Jackson and myself busted. But how often would she need to look at it if she was the only person who had access? She was going to turn someone else into a vampire tonight. I couldn’t stand idly by.

Then again, I was pregnant. Maybe now was a great time to be a bystander for fucking once. My hands paused over the keyboard.

The thing about saving the world is that it’s hardly ever the last-minute choice that does it—it’s the infinite number of choices you make on the way there that wind up making you who you want to be.

Did I want to be a person who just let another person die?

The part of me that was infected with Raven’s blood could, easily. But the rest of me, the mom in me, and the fiancée in me, and most especially the nurse in me could not.

If I didn’t disrupt their testing somehow, and buy Anna some time—what kind of world would be left for my baby? If the daytimer and vampire population exploded rapidly—

Before I could change my mind, I typed out four letters.


The screen flickered to life, and a cursor appeared in the corner.

“Still have all your fingers?” Gideon asked. “If so, turn around and hold them up.”

I blinked, but followed instructions—and the motion-sensitive camera for the EEG that’d been focused on the female vampire earlier turned toward me. I held my fingers out and waved.

“Good,” said the screen. “We need fifty-six more hours for our assault. Can you manage to live that long?”

I nodded strongly, but held a finger up for attention.

“Yes?” And I realized we still didn’t have a microphone set up. Gideon and I were going to have to play charades.

I pinched my thumb and fingers together as if I were turning a key in a lock where the camera could see and then looked over my shoulder.

Gideon, being Gideon, instantly listed off fifty things I might mean. They flooded the screen faster than I could read. I waved him down so that they didn’t start to scroll off and pointed at the one I wanted when I saw it. Lock.

“There are five electronically locked doors in this facility, counting the garage. Do you need me to open one of these?”

I nodded emphatically. If I had pen and paper I could draw and hold up a map—and then tear it up into pieces and eat it to hide it afterward.


I shook my head.

“The next nearest door is approximately four hundred feet from here.” That sounded about right. I nodded emphatically.

There was a pause longer than I knew he needed on the other side while he considered options.

“Do not go in there. It is not safe for you, or your child.”

I spread my arms wide, and then slowly brought my two palms together, shortening things up. Could Anna get here any faster?

“No.” The camera’s head shook as though it were him while he typed. “It will take the full fifty-six hours to mobilize and travel. You do not need to save that person’s life.”

But it wasn’t just about saving his life—it was everything. What I’d seen Natasha do last night. Freeing that test subject was the only way I could think of to trip her up.

I gave the camera a jovial thumbs-up and mouthed the words Yes I do. I couldn’t do it without his help, though. As much as I wanted to see my Asher or Anna, I was really glad neither of them was with Gideon right now to give him second opinions on my sanity.

There was a long pause while I thought Gideon might have run off to consult someone, or just started ignoring me for my own good. Then the typing began again.

“Mag locks default to open when there’s no electricity. There’s a utility truck doing scheduled maintenance nearby at six thirty tonight. They will have an accident during their repairs and take the transformer down. You will have a window of approximately five minutes when the power is off before the generators kick in. You will need a light, as with the power out everything will go dark.” The cursor paused in place, blinking.

“The time is now five forty-five plus thirteen seconds,” he said, and I looked down at my cheesy electronic watch. It was fifteen seconds slow; I’d have to account for that in my mind. When I glanced back up at the screen, Gideon had skipped a line.

“Sundown is at six forty-five.”


Which meant that I’d only have a fifteen-minute head start before Raven woke up.

That was long enough. I could get into the room and out again in five minutes, haul the victim to the garage, give him some keys, and set him free. I might not even be seen, and his escape could be passed over as ingenuity and luck. If Raven hadn’t had any of his blood, or given any of his own, he wouldn’t be able to follow him as he could me. If he broke out of here, drove fast, ditched the car, called 911, and went to a hospital—chances were no one would believe his story but he’d be safe, and the whole testing process would be delayed a day, hopefully buying Anna some extra time.

It wasn’t a great plan, but it was a plan, and I felt better for having one. I turned around to draw the outline of a heart in the air with my forefingers at the camera.

“I will let the others know of your affection.”

I pointed at the camera emphatically, including it.

“Thank you,” Gideon typed on the screen, and then it turned off, and the camera went dark.

* * *

I stood up, set the chair exactly back the way it was before I’d first sat down, slunk out of the lab’s annex, and made my way to the hall, relocking the door quietly behind me. I trotted back to meet Jackson with the keys. I turned the corner—into a surprised-looking, fresh-from-the-shower Celine.

My instinct was to freeze, but the keys were too big to hide in my hand, and if I tucked anything behind my back, she’d know.

I couldn’t get Jackson busted—or interrupt my plan. I had half a second to do what I needed to do, so without thinking I grit my teeth, raced up to her like a crazy person, and punched her in the face. The dark part of me that I’d been denying exalted at the sudden violence.

“Don’t think that you’re better than me just because you got blood!” I shouted to cover for myself.

She sagged into the wall, stunned, maybe more by my actions than by my blow. I’d broken her nose and blood poured down her face, spilling onto her clean towel. She was healing slowly. Estrella may have finally been kind to her, but she’d been stingy. The look of hatred on Celine’s face as she held her bleeding nose was so hot it could have burned me. I was still stronger than she was, and now we both knew it. I strode down the hall, keeping my hand with the keys hidden by my stomach.

* * *

As soon as I turned the corner I started jogging. Not that Celine wasn’t already an enemy, but there’d be no redeeming myself now. Good thing Anna was on her way. The second I opened the door to Hell, Jackson was appeared, and I handed his keys back.

“Were you seen?”

“Seen, but not caught.” I looked down and there were flecks of Celine’s blood across the back of my hand. You’re gonna have to do what I say, not what I do, okay, baby?

“Is it still ‘better that I don’t know?’” he said in imitation of me.

I nodded and wiped my hand off on my skirt.

“You realize that only makes me want to know what’s going on more?”

“I know. I’d feel the same if our positions were reversed.” I still wanted to trust Jackson but I didn’t know how much he’d tell House Grey—or what his true loyalties were to Wolf and, through him, to Raven. We could sort everything out fifty-five and a half hours from now.

He frowned deeply, latching his keys onto his belt one-handed. “I’m not an idiot, you know. I’d understand if you’d just tell me. I may be from the past, but I’m not stuck there.”

I was tempted to say, Your mustache disagrees with you, but I kept it to myself. “I’d honestly tell you if I could, but if I’m going to do something stupid, it’s better for you that you don’t know.”

“That, I can believe.” He shook his head, and then himself, as if he were shaking off a dream. Then he nudged the bucket beside his foot with a toe. “Come on. While you’re still alive, you should earn your keep.”

* * *

It was hard not to keep checking the time on my watch or being paranoid about getting it wet. But doing something was better than avoiding Celine in the halls, even if Jackson kept giving me pointed looks.

At six twenty-four P.M. I stood, and so did he. “Please. Stay here. It’s not safe to follow me.”

“What am I supposed to tell Wolf if he asks me?”

“That I went down to the bathroom. The less you know, the less you can be forced to confess.”

“I’m taking a big chance believing in you.”

“I know.” I leaned in and pecked him on the cheek, right where his wide mustache ended, before running back to the bottom of Hell.

Source: www_Novel22_Net

Prev Next