Bloodshifted Page 28

“I know, and it will be. But I need something from him first. Tell him to stick his arm out.”

Gemellus reached out and punched Raven before commanding him. “Stick out your arm.”

“And clench your fist,” I said.

“You heard her,” Gemellus threatened.

Dren looked torn between guarding Anna’s body and coming over to see what we were up to. “Edie, what the hell are you doing? Dawn comes—”

“Dawn’s always coming. She’s quite the whore,” Gemellus said with a grin. “Do as you’re told.” Raven, as trapped as I had been, obeyed.

Gemellus stepped away, and there was that pull between Raven and me again. If he’d ordered me, I would have had to listen. I could read what he wanted me to do in his eyes, how he begged. But my hands were covered in blood, and that made it easy to look away.

I tore needles out of packages and thought about missing, and a hundred more painful places to poke him than his arm sprang to my mind, but I concentrated on the task at hand. Blood flowed up into the butterfly needle’s hub, and I shoved a test tube onto the tubing’s free end. Raven’s blood twirled down the tubing like it was a straw, then filled the vacuum of the test tube.

I’d grabbed six test tubes earlier, and now I filled them all. Blood was power—hopefully if I ever needed it, these would be enough.

Gemellus chuckled darkly as he returned, realizing what was going on. “I thought you wanted to go back to human.”

“I do. But I also never want to have to rely on anyone else,” I said, still not meeting Raven’s eyes.

“If you drink that without him, you’ll be a rogue without a House.”

“That’s fine.”

“Edie—” Dren said, encouraging us to hurry up. I disengaged the needle, letting the last drops flow into the final test tube. Not even a pint. I wasn’t sure what good they’d do me, but I’d rather have them from a vampire who was going to be dead soon than one who was still alive. I looked over at Gemellus. He’d retrieved the silver-bladed knife.

“I assume you’re done with this?” he asked, turning it in his hand to offer the hilt back to me. His tone and his gesture were sarcastic.

“Very done.” I slid the last slightly warm tube into my pocket. “Kill him fast. We’ll be waiting outside.” I ran for Anna and picked her up.


Dren made a growling sound as I threaded the stairs holding Anna behind him. “No one likes rogues.”

“Do you have a Master?” He didn’t seem like the type who did. And he snorted, but he didn’t answer me.

Purgatory was covered in dust, which, oddly, matched the décor. We were halfway down the stairs to Hell when it felt like I’d just been kicked in the chest by a donkey. “Whoa—” I stumbled down a stair, and Dren whirled to catch me. The squeezing feeling in my chest didn’t stop.

“That’s what it feels like when your Master dies.”

I didn’t ask him how he knew. I put my back against the wall and breathed—my heart was beating wildly, and I didn’t know if it was in freedom or in fear.

“Can you continue?” he asked.

I waited another moment, to see if another attack would hit me. When it didn’t I nodded. “Yeah. Just stay near.”

* * *

Hell looked like it. Whereas before, Raven’s club version of Hell had been cheesy pointed-tail devils and flames, the version we walked out into looked like it’d come from another dimension. There were holes punched in walls, support columns were diagonal, the bar looked like someone had taken a bite out of it, and the stench from broken liquor bottles was strong.

Jorgen was waiting for us there, eager to lead us outside. We went together into the entry hall. I’d never gotten to see what was past the Catacombs’s front door.

“Wait—” If I’d felt Raven dying—

Gemellus thundered down the stairs after us, triumphant. Dren’s eyes narrowed.

“He’s coming with us,” I said.

“So I feared,” Dren said drily.

Gemellus pulled up. “Do you want to know if I killed him with or without honor, first?”

“No. It’s just that we didn’t bring any extra boxes to carry freeloaders back home in.”

“He’s not a freeloader. He’s the only reason I lived this long—he killed at least twenty newborns by himself before you all arrived.”

Dren’s mood changed, ever so slightly, in Gemellus’s favor, and Gemellus looked to me, burdened with Anna. “Would you like me to carry her for you?”

I pulled back. “No.” She was mine. With her in my arms, I stepped outside.

* * *

It was damp out, and the air tasted like wet cement, as it sometimes does in cities when it’s humid but not quite enough to rain. The asphalt was covered in a thin layer of sweat, just like I was.

“Rain,” Dren said, and started cursing loudly.

There was one black trailer truck, the only vehicle in the street, and it was parked in front of the Catacombs, engine idling. A female daytimer I didn’t recognize hopped out of the back of it.

“Don’t worry about it—it’s dry inside, and I’ve got the whole thing rigged to blow. There’s enough dust in there to take this whole block into the ground.” Then she blinked and looked at me, and Anna, and then turned back to Dren. “You let her die?” Her voice arched, and I thought she might slap him.

“Keep your voice down. Vish—may I introduce you to the Beastkiller, also known as Edie. For what it’s worth, Anna went willingly. I suspect she knew.”

The daytimer named Vish gawked at me. “You killed her. Why?”

My mouth opened like a gasping fish. Because I’d been commanded? Because I’d desperately wanted to save my child?

“There’ll be time for stories later—we need to get on the road,” Dren said.

She kept staring at me, but picked up a radio at her waist. “Containment unit, we’re loading up.”

Dren gestured into the belly of the truck that Vish had just dropped from. “The boxes are in there. Hers is the central one.”


Despite being a daytimer, I couldn’t leap up into the back of a truck while holding Anna gracefully. Gemellus did it first, and then reached down to help me.

There were three boxes end-to-end. They looked like human-sized oil drums, made out of sturdy metal with overlapping seals—and I could see that they locked from the inside.

I set Anna down inside hers carefully, arranging her as I had Lars not that long ago. And, like number sixty-four, she looked like a sleeping fairy-tale princess, if you ignored the blood. Had she really known what she was doing all along? I hoped one of us had.

I closed the lid, and found Gemellus frowning. He looked horrified at the idea of going back into any sort of confinement. “Where will you sleep?”

“Not in one of those things. On the ground here is fine.”

“I should warn you it won’t be safe.” Dren mounted up in the back. “If we get run off the road and crash, you could be exposed to light.”

Gemellus nodded. “Better that than to sleep in a cell again.”

“Try to at least fight a few of them off before you fry.” Dren walked over and ratcheted the lid on Anna’s box down with ties. She’d be secure but not trapped—once she woke up, she’d be able to break through canvas ties with no problem.

“You think we’ll be attacked?”

“The greatest killer of our kind is helplessly dead for three days until she becomes reborn. You tell me.” He hopped into the foremost box and started to lie down. I reached for the lid before he could close it.

“Will we at least have a head start?”

He looked to the woman whom I assumed was his daytimer, and she shrugged. “Depends. Were there any survivors? Did anyone escape? Did they have cell phones?”

“I’m not sure. I was a little busy.” I didn’t know what had happened to Jackson—if he’d been killed by someone else, or gotten free. And Natasha—and the Shadows—shit. “What did you all do with bystanders?”

“We did our best to minimalize casualties,” Dren said, growing irritated with me. I wouldn’t let go of his lid, so Vish stepped in.

“This block is industrialized. Mostly we just kept homeless people from sleeping in their stoops—and we’ll blow the building before anyone else can get in in the morning. I’m going to get on that.” She turned and strode toward the back of the truck.

“Wait!” I ran after her.

“For what? You have someone else you need to kill?” she asked, sounding peeved.

“No—just wait. Please.” Anna hadn’t come all this way for Dren to let me die now. I hopped off the truck and went back to the Catacombs’s doors. The building was dark now, the power down.

“Shadows!” They’d said they were fast—and if everything inside was truly dark—“Shadows! We’re leaving! Get up here now!”

I crouched, listening, one hand out into the darkness on the floor. Feeling nothing, I started snapping my fingers. Despite the fact that they would have gladly left me behind—and some of them had, taking their chances with Celine—I’d made a promise.

“Hurry it up, Shadows!” I shouted, hearing the words echo, and feeling the weight of all the wounded building above me as it creaked. I didn’t dare run back downstairs for them now.

“We’re hurrying!”

A chill took my hand, as if I were shaking hands with Death, and then the Shadows forced their way inside to hide against my palm. “We’re here!” they said, muffled. “When she stopped being dead we tried to kill her too. We think we only made her mad.”

“Who?” Then I heard a sound like a raging bull from the depths of the hall.

“Oh, no—” I spun and ran out of the building like it was already on fire.

* * *

I leapt into the back of the truck where Dren’s box lid was already closed, and I beat on it like a drum. Gemellus lay down in the corner like a life-sized statue, closing his eyes. “Dren—there’s one vampire left—”

“Old, or new?” he asked without opening up.

“New—but she’s important. We have to kill her—”

“She’ll go when the building does—” Vish said.

“She’s smarter than that.” What was it Jackson had told me about earthquakes? The vampires would survive and just crawl through the rubble until they extracted themselves? Even if her lab wasn’t intact anymore, if she was—

“We’re running out of time—” Vish pulled me away as Dren opened his own lid.

“We can kill her later,” he said. “That’s the nice thing about vampires, we keep coming back.”

“But—” What if Natasha went underground with what she knew? And built her own army up?

“The sun for her will be just like the sun for us. We have bigger things to worry about—unless she can hurt us in the next three days, we need to go.” Dren closed the lid of his box again with a resounding thud.

“The containment unit’s packed and ready to roll,” said a voice over the radio on Vish’s hip.

“Is she alive?” asked a familiar voice on the radio.


Vish jerked her chin up at me. “Do you want to stay back here all day or not?”

“No.” I wanted to see the sun. I didn’t want to be in the dark ever again in my life.

“Then go get in the containment unit’s cabin. He’s waiting for you there.”

I went to run out, then thought better of it and reached for Gemellus. He’d tucked the silver knife into his belt. I didn’t want to use it, but I put it into one of the pockets of my pants and ran for the back of the truck bed, my hand still clenched around the Shadows.


Dren was right: The sun was on its way. A second truck was idling right behind ours now, the cab so high I couldn’t see in. Vish closed the back of the first truck up behind me with herself inside. I wondered what Gemellus would think of being guarded by a woman come dusk.

I jumped for the door of the second truck, found it locked, and beat at it with my free hand. “Let me in!”

The cabin door didn’t open—but one behind it, to the trailer, did. Four daytimers I didn’t know stood inside, all armed to the teeth.

“Gonna light it up, let’s go let’s go let’s go—” came Vish’s voice on the radio from all of their shoulders—and a familiar arm reached out of the pack and grabbed me.

“Edie.” Asher pulled me inside as the door slammed shut and the truck we were in was rolling. He squeezed all the air out of me, and there were no words between us, just the physicality of making sure that someone else you loved and thought lost was not a ghost.

“I’m just going to assume all that blood is someone else’s,” he whispered hoarsely.

“Mostly.” I pulled back, breathing hard. I’d only left him a week ago but I could read the passage of that time around his eyes. My exploits were aging my shapeshifter.

“I know you can survive anything you put your mind to, but—” he pulled me to him again and kissed my forehead and stroked his fingers through my hair, catching on all the tangles and scabs.

There was the sound of a very large explosion from behind us. It rattled the truck and I could hear crashing glass—and then came a second softer sound, that of the Catacombs collapsing, tons of concrete and lumber falling into the caverns beneath.

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