Misguided Angel Page 24

It smelled like blood and misery, like love squandered and spent. The faces of the familiars were hollow and empty, their eyes dead and glassy.

"You'll do," Mimi said, feeling sick in her stomach as she picked one of the youngest girls in the bunch.

"Second room to the right," the madam barked, pointing them to the banister.

They walked down the hallway. The rooms were barely rooms--mostly walls with curtains that shielded the couples inside. They found their assigned space and parked the girl on the bed, which was a mattress on the floor. "You'd think they'd at least spring for a futon from Ikea." Mimi curled her lip.

"Just stay here," Oliver told the girl, helping her lie down. "Sleep." He turned to Mimi.

"They don't let them rest here."

Mimi nodded. She pointed down the opposite hallway. "You take those rooms, I'll do these."


"Be careful," she told him.

"There's nothing to fear here; everyone's so gone, they won't even notice us," Oliver said grimly.

"You've been here before?" Mimi asked.

Oliver didn't answer. "Call me if you find him."

Mimi pulled back the first curtain to find a vampire feeding on two humans at once, the three of them splayed out on the bed in a languid embrace. The vampire, a blond male, looked up from the pale white throat of the nearest human girl. "Join me?" he smiled. "She's lovely."

Mimi frowned and shut the curtain. In the next stall she found a Blue Blood girl lying asleep, curled up next to a human boy. He wasn't Evan, so she left them alone. She was about to open the next curtain--Let's find out what's behind door number three! she thought somewhat hysterically--when she heard Oliver's fierce whisper carry over the sound of moaning and slurping. "He's here."

She ran to the far end of the other hallway. The curtain had been pulled back and Oliver was standing over the limp form of Evan Howe. The boy had been missing less than a week and already he was unrecognizable. Skeletal, with dirty hair, sunken cheeks, and no more dimples.

No more Evan, really, Mimi thought. Not with those dead, unfocused eyes. Too many vampires sucking on a human's blood could result in a milder form of the schizophrenia that afflicted the Corrupted. Mimi remembered the dead gaze of the ram's head, and felt cold.

"He's alive," Oliver said. "Evan, get up."

The boy heaved himself to a sitting position. He leered at Mimi. "Well hello, gorgeous."

"Mimi Force." Mimi shook his hand. "Evan, we want to ask you a few questions about Victoria."

"Who?" He drooled.

"Victoria Taylor? Your . . . girlfriend?" Mimi prodded.

"Oh yeah. Vix. Haven't seen her. She left me." His eyes came alive, alert at the sound of her name.

"When was the last time you saw her?" Oliver asked gently, kneeling down to speak to the boy.

Evan slumped. "Dunno."

"You don't remember Jamie Kip's party? Last weekend?" asked Mimi.

"Who's Jamie Kip? Look, you going to suck me or what?" Evan demanded, annoyed, and began to paw at Mimi's short dress. Mimi rebuffed his efforts and exchanged a strained look with Oliver, who helped her get Evan to lie back down on the mattress, where he promptly fell asleep.

"How many vampires have had him?" Mimi whispered to Oliver.

He crossed his arms and shook his head. "I would guess a lot. . . . He's pretty messed up.

I'm surprised he even remembered Victoria."

"You always remember your first," Mimi said. It was true of the familiars, at least. They never forgot--they didn't have a choice. But for the Blue Bloods? Did she remember the first human boy she'd performed the Caerimonia with? What was his name--Scott something? She shook her head.

"Scan him," Oliver suggested.

Mimi nodded. She prodded Evan's unconscious in the glom. She saw him wake up on Saturday morning on the couch of Jamie Kip's penthouse, alone, groggy and disoriented, but happy. Over the weekend he was still in a daze. Then it wore off. She'd seen that look before: the first flush of love. He dialed his cell phone. He was calling Victoria. He needed her. He loved her more than ever. He went to her apartment, but she wasn't there. Called all her friends. No one knew where she was. A day went by. He started to itch. To shake. The yearning. The Caerimonia had bonded him to her for life. He wanted it again, for her to suck his blood, but she was gone.

Now it was Tuesday. He was feverish. He was losing it. Wednesday. He didn't go home, he didn't go to school. As if in a dream, he found himself at the blood house. He'd been there since.

The Venators were right: he had nothing at all to do with Victoria's disappearance. He was just another victim. Collateral damage.

"Evan, we want to take you home. Your parents are worried about you," she said, shaking him awake.

"I'm not leaving. I'm not leaving here." He shook his head. His eyes were clear again for a moment. "This is home now."

Mimi followed Oliver down the stairs. She got her credit card back, and they went out the door. She found she was shivering. How many familiars had she had? Too many to count. Had some of them ended up here when she was finished with them? Had she consigned many to this fate? Had she done this to people? To boys she had used? She hadn't loved them, but she hadn't wanted them to end up like this either. She knew she was careless and selfish--but she wasn't--she didn't--

"No," Oliver said. "I know what you're thinking, but it's not like that. Sure, some of us succumb to it, but not all of us. You can fight it. It's called self-control. Only the weak ones end up here. Or the unlucky. Evan's vampire disappeared after first blood. That's when the yearning is the strongest. Once you do it a couple of times, you're used to it. To the feeling of being incomplete."

"So--some familiars, they're okay? Even after they never have it again?" she asked hopefully.

"Sure. Not everyone becomes addicted. It becomes this thing you learn to live with, like a sadness that doesn't go away." Oliver shrugged. "At least that's what I've heard."

They stood outside on the dirty sidewalk. Mimi felt like putting a comforting hand on Oliver's shoulder, but she didn't know if he would appreciate the gesture. Instead, she said,

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