Bloodshifted Page 20

With all the vampires asleep, including Lars, Natasha gone, and Celine cowed—unless she had a gun—I was feeling pretty good. I reached the crossroads, went down the forbidden hall, and stationed myself outside the test subject holding room door. I pulled the lighter out of my bra and flicked it on.

At six thirty Gideon, true to his word, turned all the power off.

I heard the door lock disengage and pushed into the room, lighter first. “Hello? Hello?” I didn’t know how big the room would be, or where the test subject was.

The first thing I saw were huge machines with stickers. I recognized the symbols on them with growing horror.

Radiation. Hot pink atom-like shapes on yellow backgrounds. Of course—being a leukemia survivor meant that Natasha knew all about full-body radiation treatments too.

How many test subjects had she irradiated to make the vampire marrow cells take in early testing days?

I drew back, ready to run away. The machines weren’t on now, but in minutes they could be. Oh, baby. We are not going to be here then.

I turned slowly with the lighter, unwilling to walk in. Luckily I saw the man with my daytimer eyes, hiding at the back of his cage.

Hiding, I realized, from me.

“Hey. Are you all right?” I skirted the machines and focused on my goal. The room smelled like puke and excrement, and I had to get him out of here.

“Who are you? Where are we?”

“I’m Edie. I’ve come to save you.” I tested the cage with one hand. Strong, but I was stronger.

His eyes were wild. “Are you one of them?”

“No. I’m like you—I’m going to turn this light off now, but I’m going to get you free.” I took in the lock mechanism of the cage at a glance and set the lighter down. Then I muscled the cage apart, hinges breaking—vampire blood was good for something. I picked the lighter back up with one hand and reached in as I turned it on.

He shrank back. “You are one of them—”

Ripping a metal door off its hinges had probably not been the most trust-inspiring move. “I’m still getting you out of here. Come on—” I reached in for him, and he shrank back even farther.

Then he lunged for me—I couldn’t blame him, I was standing between him and the open door. He ran for me, arms out, to tackle me and escape.

Without thinking twice I swatted him back like I was a cat and he was a toy.

He bounced backward into the cage, his head hitting one of the metal bars, and he went down like a rock.

“Shit,” I hissed. I reached for his ankles, pulled him toward me, and then turned on the lighter again. “Guy—wake up. Wake up!”

He had a pulse, he wasn’t dead, but in my panic—in the moment when I hadn’t controlled my dark side—I’d knocked him out cold. “Fuck fuck fuck,” I whispered.

What was next? If I was going to get him out I had to do it now. I turned the lighter off, ignoring its heat when I shoved it back into my bra, picked up his floppy body, and ran for the door.

I remembered the hallways well enough even in the dark, and my footsteps acted as a kind of sonar for me—I was up to the garage just as the lights started to flicker back on. Carrying him along had probably been faster than trying to coax him down strange hallways would have been.

But I’d assumed I’d just be setting him up with car keys and letting him go—not that he’d need me to drive him off. It was go with him—or give up.

Fuck that.

The valet box of car keys was still unlocked. I pulled out a set with a symbol I recognized—the Honda Civic from the other night. I knew where it was parked, too. I unlocked it and hurled him into the passenger side, and then slid across the front of the car cop-movie-style to get to the driver’s seat.

The engine came to life, I found a garage opener clipped to the visor, and we were out on the streets of LA.

* * *

“Wake up and tell me where to go.” I careened down a side street as other drivers honked at me, distracted by shaking his limp form. “Where do you live? Where’s a hospital? Where the fuck should we go?”

He made a groaning noise.

“Come on. You’re alive, you’re free, bounce back.” I followed signs for the nearest highway—the larger the road, the faster I could drive. The sun was dipping down at the horizon, flickering in between larger buildings. Getting him free had taken too long—soon the sun wouldn’t be up at all. “Come on, come on.” I shook him one-handedly carefully so that I wouldn’t hurt him again.

His head swung up and he blinked to life, looking at his surroundings, and then at me. “I’m free—fuck.” His hand lunged for the door handle, and I was already going sixty. I hit the all-door-lock to my left with lightning speed.

“I’m not one of them—but I can’t just let you fling yourself out the door and die. What’s near here? Where can I drop you off?”

His eyes were wild and he started patting the door and the dashboard in front of him, covering the car with fingerprints on purpose.

“Stop that—help me help you!” I pleaded with him. The only thing I could think of to do right now was get as far away as fast as I could. My reflexes were off the charts; it was easy to gas and brake the car as I wove through traffic like I was in a car commercial on TV.

I glanced over again after a particularly sweet turn, and found his seat belt off as he wedged himself against the door, preparing to kick out at me.

“Calm down!” I shouted at him, realizing that that was the opposite of calming. He kicked his legs at me, and caught me in my shoulder. The car swerved to one side as I dodged his blow, and the person I cut off honked.

I gasped—not in pain, but because the sun went down. The feeling that I’d been holding on to a taut cord someone else had just cut began. “Shit shit shit—” I swung my arm out and lassoed his legs down.

“Stop it—please, stop.”

I started changing lanes back to the left-hand side. I’d slow down and he’d get out and run away. This would have to be far enough, wherever this was. I didn’t even know how to get back to the Catacombs from here—but I had a feeling someone would come and find me. I signaled—like a fool—and swung over one more time.

I’d been so busy trying to figure out how to drop him off without hurting him that I’d stopped looking at my surroundings. A black car split away from the pack behind us and zoomed up. I knew without looking who was behind the wheel, and when its sloped hood went under the Civic’s tail, as we were propelled up and forward, I couldn’t say I was surprised.


The car spun. I hadn’t put my seat belt on so I was loose inside it like a doll in a dryer. I tried to brace off the wheel to protect my stomach, but when the car landed the wheel wasn’t on top anymore. I heard one of my legs crunch, and felt the pain of it breaking, along with the strange sensation of it knitting again. The driver’s-side door was crumpled, and the man I’d been trying to save had been flung out through the now shattered passenger window.

“Fuck.” I checked the rest of myself quickly. All of me was sore for a second, but that was healing too. There were no bruises or scratches anywhere on me. I was intact—and my abdomen was okay. I lay my hands briefly on it. I’m so so so sorry, baby. I reached up for the passenger window to get myself out.

I couldn’t see anyone else—we’d landed on one of the grassy islands between roads. Other cars had slowed down, but once the ones that’d seen our original descent moved on, it was hard to see us in the dark, since the Civic’s one functioning headlight was pointing into the ground.

Not a single Good Samaritan in this town—although I thought I knew why.

“Guy?” I asked quietly. I hadn’t had a chance to even find out his name. I scanned around, hoping he wasn’t impaled on any of the brush or fenders forgotten here. I heard an answering groan, and spotted him, crawling away.

“Hey, guy—” I walked over to him. It was entirely unfair that I was whole and he was not.

There was a hissing noise coming out from him, as if he’d sprung a leak. Since there was no way I was going to convince him I wasn’t evil tonight, I reached down and flipped him over like a bug. He’d landed on a stick, and it’d pierced the space between two of his ribs. With each inhalation air was hissing out around this imperfect seal. His lung was deflating like a pool toy.

“Shit.” I applied pressure at the site. He had a pneumothorax. I needed to seal this wound up, and make another one to let out the air that’d gotten trapped on the wrong side of his pleural cavity.

Even though he was dying, he still swung at me. The magic of life. “Hang on—” I began. I heard the sound of boots on gravel and turned, just in time to see a kick coming. It landed in my jaw and sent me up in the air, reeling back, to land on the remnants of the car.

I bounced off the hood and landed on my stomach on the ground. My jaw had been loose, I’d almost bitten through my tongue, my mouth had had one hot second full of blood before Raven’s blood inside me healed the tear. Same for when I hit the Civic, felt my spine stretch and bend wrong, and then recover the same way my leg had as I sprawled on the ground. I was whole, but poorly used, and no guarantees how long I could keep it up.

“Traitorous girl,” Raven said, crouching down beside me, out of my striking range. I could feel the heat from the Civic’s still-grinding engine and hear fluids leaking out, along with the omnipresent hiss of the man’s fighting lung.

“People saw us. Someone called the police.”

“So? I know this city like the back of my hand. You’re ten minutes from anything here. A lot can happen in ten minutes—as you well seem to know.”

“He’s dying.”

“He was going to die before. You haven’t even accomplished anything.” He lay down almost beside me, as a mockery of me. “Tell me what you know,” he demanded, his voice a wave of power, hitting me harder than his kick had.

I clutched my hands into the dirt, trying to fight the overwhelming compulsion to tell him everything. I bit down hard and found part of my jaw still soft; I whimpered.

“Anna’s coming for me,” I whispered through gritted teeth.

“Oh, I already know that. Tell me something new. Something interesting.” He flipped me over and grabbed my shoulders, pulling me up. He grabbed my chin and pulled it back, and I cried out as new bone ground. “Tell me everything.”

“The computer in the lab isn’t secure. Anna knows what you’ve done. She’ll be here in fifty-three hours.” The bile of betrayal rose up inside me as vast and dark as a nighttime sea.

Raven laughed and let me drop back to the ground. Somewhere behind me, the man’s injured lung was hissing more quietly as the wound worsened. I flung one arm out toward him, and the other toward Raven’s foot.

I’d failed at everything. I sold out Anna, I’d exposed myself—and now I couldn’t even save this one sad man.

“Please,” I whispered. There was no way to abase myself further; I was already prostrate on the ground. All I could do was to seem as pathetic as possible and hope.

Raven stood and for a moment of horror I imagined him kicking me again, and hurting my baby. I’d been trying to play a bigger game, to help protect the world, when I should have just been trying to save myself. I fought curling up, knowing to do so would be to show more weakness, and then he would kick me just because he could. I held my breath and closed my eyes.

What happened instead was that he placed the flat of his boot on my cheek, grinding my opposite cheek into the gravel. I felt the stone of Asher’s necklace press into my sternum, caught between me and the ground, as the stink of melting plastic rose nearby. Raven’s phone rang, and he answered it. I couldn’t hear what they told him, and he didn’t verbally answer; he just put the phone back down and looked at me. The pressure on my face didn’t change.

He knelt nearer my level. “I want you to admit that you’re like us, Edie. You pretend to be innocent, but you plot and you scheme. My blood knows you, from the inside out. You and I—we are the same. Admit it.”

Jagged shards of gravel pressed into my cheek, and his boot pressed down and he could finish his step and squash my head like a bug. “No,” I spat out, tears welling in my eyes.

His lips lifted into a wicked grin. “Admit it—and I’ll let you save him.”

I swallowed dry. What was worth more, one life, or my pride? “We are the same,” I whispered, from underneath his boot.

The pressure eased, and his eyes narrowed to slits like a cat’s. He took a step back. “Good. You may save him now, if you can. But even if you can’t, you and I still know the truth.”

It took me a second to get to my hands and knees, and then I crawled over the gravel and road debris to get back to the man. He’d gotten cut on his way out of the car, but it wasn’t the blood loss that was killing him; I knew on some primal level there wasn’t enough blood in the air for that. It was the extra air in his chest, displacing his heart and squeezing his blood flow.

The median was full of random trash. I scrabbled until I found the two things that I needed, a plastic bag and a straw.

I tore the bag in two then pulled the stick out and shoved the plastic bag over the hole, creating a seal with the man’s own blood. Then I felt down his ribs and lined up the straw with his nipple—if I hadn’t had a daytimer’s strength it wouldn’t have worked, but I plunged it into him about three inches deep. I pulled out the straw, full of material from his chest wall, blew on the end of it to clear it, and then shoved it back in the hole that I’d made. The air that’d been trapped outside his lung started hissing out, along with serosanguineous fluid. I nestled the straw down, then made a dressing out of the other half of the bag, painting it onto the man with his own blood along three sides, leaving the fourth open intentionally. When he inhaled, the dressing would collapse against the straw, creating a seal for his lung. But when he exhaled, the fourth side of the dressing would lift enough to let any new trapped air out.

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