Bloodshifted Page 24

His eyebrows rose on his forehead. “Which ones?”

“You can bleed people, but you can’t take life without my permission. You can’t create daytimers without my permission. You can’t coerce me or anyone I love—or even anyone I don’t—to try to get my permission. You will not plot against me or try to injure me or anyone I know.” I inhaled deeply, hoping I’d covered all my bases. “I will be fair with you—but you will limit your interactions with human society to the bare minimum to survive.”

The prisoner stood. He was beautiful—it was hard to superimpose the horrific thing I’d seen inside the well over him—and he was angry.

“A vampire has never been bent to a mortal’s will thus. I would be trading his chains for yours.”

“You’re the one that created a monster, not me. I can’t set you free in good conscience if you’re going to be creating more vampires like him. You’re bad company.”

He stared hard, and I wondered for how many thousands of people his face had been the last thing they’d ever seen. “You are still in chains. You admitted it yourself.”

“Take a chance that I can free you, or don’t. I know where you are. There’s going to be a war soon above, and it’s possible that everyone who knows of you will be wiped out. What happens if the survivors move on and leave you behind? How much longer can you starve then?” I let the implications hang between us for a moment before continuing. “At least I’m going to try to free you. That’s more than you’ll get from anyone else.”

“At the cost of my pride. Even if you do manage to free me, I will be fangless.”

“Be glad I’m not asking you for those too.”

“You’re more like one of us than you know,” he said, and the words stung. “All right. I will be bound by you, as no other vampire has been bound before. I don’t know if I should hope for you to succeed, or be relieved when you fail.”

“Doesn’t matter to me—try to send me back. And keep trying until it works.” I stretched out on the desert plain and willed my mind to go back to my body.


I didn’t know how much time had passed when I woke. I looked at my watch first—it was four o’clock. Still daylight. I sat up, my brain rattling around inside my skull, and patted myself. Half of my skirt had been singed off—it would hang like a sari now—but my stomach and my skin were intact.

Had my skin been as burned as my skirt? I placed a worried hand on my belly. I wished I were far enough along to feel him moving inside me; I would feel better knowing that he was all right. But he wasn’t just my child, he was half Asher’s, and shapeshifters were tenacious and strong. I had to believe that everything was all right. I finished surveying myself while my headache made lights flash. The silver scar on my arm was still there from Celine’s attack. While the time I’d spent passed out had healed the rest of me, the silver wound was still tender and oozing fluid. I blinked the spots out of my eyes and got to my knees to look at Lars.

The blast had broken his foot badly, and had burned his skin. Whatever superpowered healing vampires possessed didn’t work until after you became one, apparently, because I could see bone. Luckily, being dead, he wasn’t possessed of any blood pressure, so while there was a red stain on the ground, he hadn’t exsanguinated.

“Are you finally back among the living?” the Shadows, now hiding inside my cleavage, asked.


“Good, because the bolts holding him to the wall are loose.”

I nodded, grabbed hold of the chain, and pulled.

* * *

It was either hold Lars in a cradle carry or drag him along the hallway behind me. Carrying him like I would a child—my child—felt too intimate and overexposed, his head slumped forward against my breast where I knew he’d bite me without thinking when he woke. The Shadows had slid up my arm to settle behind my ear—hidden by my hair—to whisper to themselves and to me.

“Are you sure this will work?”

I shook my head.

“Then why are we doing it?”

“Because.” I had no idea how many people Anna was bringing with her. If Jackson was right and there were going to be seventy ravenous baby vampires upstairs, loyal only to Raven, then we needed to even the odds. “What would happen if I put him out in the sun?” I asked, hefting Lars up.

“Nothing today. Not until tomorrow, after he’s fully born.” We reached the end of the tunnel, with only darkness stretching ahead of us. “We don’t trust the monster here,” the Shadows admitted.

“Neither do I. But he’s our best bet. Help me find him again, please.”

“Go left,” the Shadows whispered, and I took the turn as I was told.

* * *

Each step was carrying me farther past the point of no return. Blood dribbled out of Lars’s wounds, leaving a trail. There was no point in trying to clean it up—either freeing the prisoner would work, or it wouldn’t. It did smell good, though, a little sweet, like the first blush of decomposition, or like overly sugared wine. I tried to ignore the part of me that thought like that as the Shadows led me into the dark.

“Here. He’s below us. Watch yourself.”

I nodded in the dark and set Lars down beside me. It was tempting to pull the lighter out of my bra to check my watch.

“Can you warn me before the sun goes down?” I asked the Shadows.

“Of course.”

I nodded at their help, and then I swallowed. I was here too early—I had too much time left to think.

This was the only way to free the prisoner. To do what Anna needed me to do, what Asher needed me to do, what my baby needed me to do—to survive.

I’d assumed that’d meant doing what I was told to by Raven. Not doing something of my own accord … like this.

Lars and I hadn’t gotten along. He’d tried to kill me, and I’d blown him partially up, so I figured we were even. But what I was planning to do to him now was the kind of thing there was no going back from. It wasn’t an impulse or an accident; it was the kind of decision I’d have to live with for the rest of my life.

I’d better make our lives worth it.

“Three minutes, girl,” the Shadows whispered by my ear, like a lover. I felt over Lars in the dark for his arm that wasn’t cuffed to me and reached out for the silver grate, finding it when my hands stung. Then I pushed his arm through and listened to the silver burn him as I wedged him in.

“Prisoner,” I whispered, then I realized it was all or nothing. Three minutes until the prisoner woke up—three minutes until Raven woke up—three minutes until Lars woke up.

Three minutes until there were seventy hungry vampires upstairs.

“Prisoner—” I whispered louder. “Prisoner—wake up.”

What if he’d decided dying was preferable to being enslaved to me? I’d never seen a vampire wake up before. Lars stirred beneath me.

I don’t know what I would have done if he’d said something human first. If he’d said Ow, or This hurts, or Get the fuck off of me. But what he did was snarl like an animal, and that’s the only thing that gave me strength to keep pressing him down. Even though he was stronger than I was, I was more desperate.

“Prisoner!” I shouted, and there was a scurrying sound from below, like dry leaves scraping over leather. Then I heard a horrible crunching noise and Lars began to howl.

I am the bad person here. There is no way to deny it—I have chosen to take Lars’s life over mine. I may not be killing him personally, but I am the one who has made it possible for him to die.

Knowing that he wouldn’t have thought twice about killing me feels like it should make it easier, but it doesn’t. Because it’s me who’s sitting on top on him, listening to the sucking and gnawing below, trying to ignore the sound of Lars’s pain. I curl myself down trying to protect my baby from the violence, the awful eating that won’t end and Lars’s whimpering, being born into the life as a vampire that he’d waited for so long to become only to then die, fed to another one.

I couldn’t stand it anymore; I crawled away from Lars on all fours as the prisoner’s hunger trapped him.

The taut chain between Lars and I dropped with sudden slack, and I heard metal hitting metal in the fresh silence.

Lars, who’d been dead for three days, was now dead anew, fallen into dust. I pulled the chain back toward me, and it rattled over the grate. There was nothing in Lars’s cuff anymore, so I wound the loose chain around my silver-injured arm like a shield.

“That was good,” the prisoner said from inside his cage.

It took all my strength not to cry. “Are you—” I began, not sure of what words I should use to finish.

“My name is Gemellus.”

I nodded. He wouldn’t be telling me that if this weren’t all real. “Can you get out now?”

“I think so.”

I reached my hand for my lighter, then realized this entire room was impregnated with vampire dust, courtesy of Lars. If I lit him up, everything would blow.

It was my last chance to keep the prisoner trapped.

“And your promises to me?” I asked, because who knew if the dream promises counted as much as ones said aloud did.

“I will keep them. Back away.”

I stepped backward wildly, hoping I wouldn’t fall off a cliff in the dark. There was a sound of motion from inside the cell and then the noise of impact. Metal groaned but didn’t give, and Gemellus cursed.

I took a step forward.

“I said stay away,” he growled. “This is going to burn.”

I crouched down, and he flung himself up at the silver. I heard the hissing of his flesh and closed my eyes, wincing, and the metal whined before giving up. The whole of the grate came free like the top of a beer bottle. I knew it because I heard it land and I coughed on the dust that it kicked up.

And now instead of being in the dark with a baby vampire, I was in the dark with Gemellus.


I stood slowly. My daytimer senses were aware of movement around me, but nothing I could pinpoint. The Shadows were a cold spot behind my jaw, like the pre-headache feeling of drinking something too cold too fast.

Hands grabbed hold of me, found my shoulders, and I screamed.

“Are you well?” the prisoner asked, releasing me.

“It’s not that—I can’t see.”

“From the injury to your head?” Hands found me again, more carefully, fingers stroking into the tangle of my hair to feel my skull.

“No,” I said, stepping away, hoping again I wasn’t about to go off a cliff. “Because it’s dark,” I said, quietly.

There was a pause between us. And then he laughed for a long time, at me or at himself. It had that manic edge to it, loud because he could be, showing the world that he was finally free.

“The darkness does not bother me.” One of his hands slid down my arm, rubbing over the chains I’d wound there, to find my hand. “Come. Let us leave this place and never return.”

As scared as I was of him, and of what was waiting for us upstairs, I was more scared of being left here in the dark with what I’d done. “Let’s go.”

* * *

For all that Gemellus could see, he’d never been awake during his transport into the Catacombs. So the Shadows guided both of us out, whispering directions in my ear, Gemellus holding on to my hand. His fingers felt firm, different from the skeletal thing I’d seen in his cell before. I had no idea about the rest of him, although my imagination was having a marvelous time making hideous guesses.

“You smell like blood.”

“One of their servants cut me with silver.” The wound Celine had given me ached.

“You’ll scar then.”

We reached the light of the hallway. It made my eyes burn, and Gemellus had to let go of me to shield his eyes from it. I realized he hadn’t seen any light in centuries—and it’d been over a thousand years since he’d seen the sun.

The light finally gave me a chance to look at him. Lars’s blood had filled him out. He wasn’t the resplendent man from my dreams, but he could be, if he were given more blood. He was a little shorter than I was, which made sense—back when he’d been born, he’d probably been considered tall. He was lean and covered in muscles and naked, which would have been awkward except that as a nurse I’d had occasion to see far too many naked men. I was more concerned with his limp. I hadn’t felt it when we’d been walking—he’d hidden it from me—but now that we were going forward, I could see his left foot drag a little with each step.

“The injury is old,” Gemellus said, brushing away my gaze.

“Do you know where Raven is?”

“Somewhere above us. The blood calling is not as precise as we led you to believe.” He looked around the hallway, specifically at the light. I didn’t know if electricity was common yet when he’d been trapped. “Where is Raven likely to hide? Assuming you’ll grant me permission to kill him.”

If the Catacombs were a castle, I’d guess on the battlements. He knew Anna was coming into town—I hoped I still had time to warn her. I needed to get to the computer in Natasha’s lab, though; what was there was more important. “You can kill him on sight—but I need you to get me into somewhere else first.”

He opened his mouth to complain, then remembered his promises. With Gemellus at my side, I raced up the hall.

* * *

The door to Natasha’s lab was open. I’d assumed it’d be locked, but why should it be? Raven’s army was rising above. I was sure if you asked Natasha there was no way he could lose. I walked in, listening, but all the machinery was silent.

Source: www_Novel22_Net

Prev Next