Bloodshifted Page 29

All that mattered to me was that it was behind us, and that I was here, safe with Asher again. “I made it.” I wasn’t okay, but I was here. It counted for now.

“So you killed that other girl for nothing, eh?” one of the daytimers I didn’t know asked Asher. I felt him stiffen under my arms. Old Edie didn’t generally approve of killing people, and Asher knew that. New Edie couldn’t throw any stones.

“She was wearing your necklace,” Asher explained, pulling my chain out of his pocket. Celine.

“When you were supposed to be holding the line,” the other daytimer pressed.

“The line was fine.” Asher held me roughly. “I needed to know. I saw her racing by with your necklace on and I thought the worst—”

“It’s all right.” I didn’t need to hear the blow-by-blow. No one would be crying for Celine, least of all me.

The female daytimer leaned in to give me a smile. “I wish I had a man that willing to throw down for me. It was stupid—but sort of sexy, in a murderous way.”

“Thanks, I think,” I said. She put her hand out.

“Lilah,” she said.

I couldn’t shake her hand because I was still holding a thimbleful of Shadows. I inhaled to explain this, when they decided to speak.

“Did you kill them too?” Their voices were high and small.

Asher frowned, and the other daytimers stared.

“Shadows,” I explained. “Long story. Some of them were with Celine, the necklace-lady. The rest stayed with me.”

“Not that I know of,” Asher told my hand.

The Shadows didn’t respond again. The door between the RV-like living quarters we were crowding and the driver’s cabin was open. We were headed west, away from the sun, but it was almost light everywhere now.

“Holy fuck,” said the driver. I recognized him, Mr. Galeman. He’d once been a patient of mine.

“What?” Lilah started forward, gun in hand.

He pointed at his sideview mirror. She ducked in, and I could see her disbelieving expression reflected in the windshield. “What the hell is that thing?”

I had a feeling I knew who it was.


“Kill it,” Lilah commanded.

Two of the other daytimers started pulling a panel off the ceiling of the cabin. Asher started pulling me back into the rest of the trailer. It was half living quarters for daytimers during the day; two boxes with unknown occupants were strapped down in back.

“This isn’t your fight anymore, Edie.”

“No—I need to see.” I had to know. The second the ladders were pulled down and the daytimers mounted them, I smashed the Shadows to my chest and felt them dive underneath my left breast, chill against my heart. Then I squeezed in beside the daytimers, grabbing hold of the roof to pull myself up.

Racing up the street behind us was something utterly unreal.

“What is it?”

I grabbed someone else’s binoculars to look. “It’s Natasha.”

She was five times the size she’d been when I saw her last—she must have dosed herself hard, hoping to wake up in time to help Raven fight, but instead the vampire cells had made a monster out of her. She looked like a mutant, bigger in all directions, bubbled with tumors and dotted with spots of ash from where the fabric she’d found to cover herself with hadn’t done a good enough job and light had seeped in. I’d seen vampires manage to be awake during the day. They just didn’t function as well—but Natasha didn’t need to be functioning to kill us, charging down the street at us like a pissed-off water buffalo.

I turned toward the daytimer nearest me. “You have to kill her. And make sure she’s dead. All the way.”

“With pleasure,” he said, setting a sniper rifle into a mount on the roof. It locked into place and he aimed as carefully as he could and shot at her. It looked like he hit her head, but she didn’t stop.

“More,” I encouraged him.

“It’s daylight,” he muttered, re-aiming. I knew what he meant—the vampires weren’t up to divert attention from us. If anyone saw us out on a highway doing this, we’d be pulled over by cops and the coffins would be broken into for sure.

He shot again. This time, it looked like it hit her chest. Still nothing. She was gaining.

“Use silver!” I shouted.

He spared a dark look at me. We were in a caravan of vampires. Of course no silver weapons were allowed—except for the one in my pocket.

With a giant leap forward, Natasha grabbed hold of the back of the truck, making the entire trailer shake. Asher pulled me down as the frequency of the gun reports increased.

“I’m not losing you again—and I’m not letting you go anywhere unarmed.” He pressed a gun at me. I had never shot a gun before—but I could see myself doing it as I felt Natasha come closer, hearing her weight thunk against the trailer’s ceiling as she came for us. The daytimer didn’t care about being seen anymore, it was life or death—gunshots echoed through the cabin and hot casings flew out and ricocheted down. Asher pushed me behind him, toward the cabin, to where we could both sight out the window.

A ballooned hand swatted the gun away, tearing it free from its mounting, as the daytimer dropped inside, barely missing decapitation. “Shoot, shoot!”

Guns rang out in the small space and the hand yanked back.

“Did we get it?” Lilah asked.

“Do you want to go up and find out?” another daytimer asked.

“Natasha!” I shouted up. “Natasha, you felt him die, didn’t you?”

There was no sound except the whistling of the air as the truck picked up speed. I could only pray that the trailer was high enough that no one else could see Natasha clinging to the top of it.

“I was there! He thought you’d died—he was distraught—he told me to tell you something!” I shouted at the top of my lungs. “I’ll tell you what it is. Just let me come up.”

The noises on the top of the trailer ceased, and all the daytimers looked at me.

“Edie, no,” Asher said.

I looked back at him. We weren’t the only ones who knew what being in love was like.

I hauled myself up before he could stop me.

Natasha was crouched there, panting with the effort of staying awake. Her face wasn’t her own; it was too small for her head, hiding behind a curtain of bangs. She looked like she’d had too many steroids and then been hit with radiation like the Hulk. Half of her skin was sloughing away, blisters forming and breaking open with tiny puffs of ash. I realized she’d doped herself so hard that she was healing almost as fast as she burned. Her cells had, for a brief moment in time, actually made her immortal. She’d become the cancer that she once feared.

My hand was over my pocket with the silver knife, like I was a gunslinger—but I had something I wanted to tell her first.

“He said if I ever saw you alive again to tell you that he loved you. And he wished everything had gone differently. You were the only thing that ever mattered to him, and all he wanted in this world was to protect you.”

Natasha hunched forward—I thought, to come for me. If she did, she was so close, there was no point in running; she’d catch me before I fell back down the hole. But her whole body was racked by sobs, and the blisters of skin were rising and popping more frequently, like miniature volcanoes, leaving a smoke trail in the wind.

The exhaustion, the sorrow, the bloodlust, and too much vampire blood—everything swirled, and she set a mighty hand down. Her charm bracelet was cutting into it like a string through dough.

“I’m so sorry, Natasha. He’s gone, and there will never be anyone like him again.”

She threw her arms back and her head up and faced the sun. It eroded her faster as the wind of our speed blew her hair back. And she made a mournful sound. I recognized it for what it was, the sound of true love lost.

The sunlight, now that it had its teeth in her, wouldn’t let go. She was disintegrating before my very eyes. She sobbed and she howled and then she lowered her voice and spoke with her misshapen jaw.

“Tell my dad I love him,” she said.

“I will,” I lied. And the sun finished her off. She exploded into a cloud of dust. Her charm bracelet fell onto the roof of the trailer as the scraps of her clothing did, and I watched it bounce once then fall, glittering to the asphalt below.

I fell to my knees and felt a profound sense of sadness at the waste of her life. Then I crawled back up to the opening of the trailer, and looked down at four separate guns. The daytimers there moved back, let me in, and resealed the hatch.

“What did you say to her?” Lilah asked as my feet touched the ground.

“What any fourteen-year-old girl wants to hear.”

“How did you know?” she pressed.

“Because I was one, once.” I refastened the button over my pocket with the knife. Like Dren had said, silver would be our secret for now. Same for my six test tubes of Raven’s blood.

I’d tell Asher when we were alone, but no one else here needed to know. Raven had said that he’d had spies on Anna, and I knew all I wanted to know about House Grey. No guarantees these other people here were safe.

But for the moment, I was. And Asher was—and our baby. I’d done it.

“Beastkiller indeed,” said the man who’d been manning the sniper rifle.

“Any casualties?” asked Vish on the radio.

“No. We’re fine,” Mr. Galeman answered.

I put a hand across my stomach—and Asher’s met me there. I looked up at him, and he was furious, but he shook his head instead of fighting with me. “I knew what I was getting into when I started dating you.”

He held my necklace up, a question on his face. He had taken it off Celine, which was a little disgusting, but it’d been mine before she’d stolen it—and I wanted it to be mine again. I turned inside his arms and he knotted the chain at the back of my neck.

“Good,” Vish responded. “Keep your wits about you. It isn’t over yet.”

I realized what she meant. Just because Natasha was finished didn’t mean others wouldn’t try. And attacks would be much more likely in daylight, when our trusty team of vampires was asleep—what with us having the added hassle of keeping away from humans who didn’t know what was going on, and the law. Port Cavell was at least two days away, driving straight through—and Anna would be dead for one day after that.

Plenty of time on the road for anyone with a grudge to start a fight. Or a war.

The shorter chain on the necklace made the stone hit at the V of my throat. I had Asher’s strong hands around me still—and now I was strong, too. I knew what I was capable of. I didn’t have to like it, but I was still alive, and so were the people I loved—and hopefully Anna was going to come back to life.

I wasn’t going to let anyone or anything change that.

No matter what.

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