Bloodshifted Page 25

“Who’s here?” a female voice shouted from the back. “Jackson? Come back here!”

Gemellus started forward, but I put a hand out and called, “Natasha?”

“Edie! Come save me!”

Compelled, I ran into the next room.

Natasha was on the table, shackled as test subject sixty-four had been, with a swelling black eye. She looked hopeful when she saw me, less so when she saw Gemellus. “Set me free,” she pleaded—and then remembered she could order me to do so. I saw it cross her face, but my hands were already reaching for the latches of my own accord. They were buckled, but not locked. Her charm bracelet had been bruised into her skin.

“What’s happening upstairs?” she asked me, then looked at Gemellus. “Who’s he?”

“You mean you don’t know?” She shook her head, and I looked back at the naked Roman. “Have you seen her before?”

“I would remember if I had,” he said lecherously.

“I thought you’d tested on him.”

Natasha wiped tears off her face. “No. I didn’t know where my samples came from. Raven told me not to ask, so I didn’t. Jackson’s the one who brought them to me—”

“It was never a woman,” Gemellus said. “Always a man.”

I whirled on him. “Why didn’t you tell me that earlier?”

“Who would trust a woman more than a man?”

“I forgot you came from an incredibly misogynist time.” I had to resist hitting myself. Or him. Jackson made the most sense. Of course Raven wouldn’t risk Natasha, or make her burn herself picking up silver. I just hadn’t wanted to ask him, because I’d wanted to have a friend—

“If your sleeping place is being threatened, you want men fighting on your side,” Gemellus explained.

“Shut up.” I stalked over to a drawer, pulled out a fistful of individually wrapped gauze, and handed them to him. “Open these,” I demanded, and then refocused my attention on Natasha.

“What happened here?”

“Raven locked me in here for my own safety. And then Jackson came in with his keys and said he needed something, and stole my computer. I tried to stop him but—” She was trying to stop herself from crying at the memory. He’d hit her. And then shackled her to the table. Jackson had had blood more recently than she had—because Raven never needed to curry favor with her. “He didn’t even lock the door when he left.”

“How many are there upstairs?”

“I dosed seventy people. I didn’t get to the last five. It should be enough, though. The Beast’s only bringing five vampires, our spies said so—Raven’s going to be fine, right? He’s going to win?”

Natasha was looking to me to support her power-hungry boyfriend. I didn’t know what to say.

“I honestly don’t know.”

“Because the stories are true, aren’t they?” Natasha said, fear growing in her eyes. “If we were going to win, why would Jackson betray us? Maybe he knows something we don’t. The Beast’s a killer. We knew this was dangerous—” She touched her swollen eye, and then hopped off the autopsy table.

I looked over and found Gemellus watching her like a cat, gauze packets unopened in his hand. “Natasha—Raven’s right. You should hide.”

“She is one Raven cares for?” Gemellus said. I could almost read his mind.

“No.” I couldn’t let her get out of here with everything she knew. But I wasn’t going to feed her to Gemellus either. “Just let me think, okay?” I announced to the world at large.

But the world wasn’t into waiting for me. Natasha walked into the next room with purpose. “Wait!”

She had the refrigerator door open in a second, and a syringe in her hand a moment after that. There was no needle on it, but you don’t need a needle if you’re willing to hit yourself hard enough.

“Stop!” I shouted, and Gemellus lunged, but it was too late. She started sinking, three inches of syringe embedded in her thigh, plunger depressed. “Shit—” I ran to her side just as her head hit the ground. Her body went still, and there was no light in her eyes.

“Natasha?” I shook her, and pulled the syringe out. Blood, her own and whatever vampire concoction she’d been using on test subjects, welled sluggishly from of her wound. If I were willing to suck on it like a snakebite, could I get the venom out? She still had her charm bracelet on, and the heart with a C was twinkling under the fluorescent lights. I understood it now—it was a gift from Corvus.

“She’s dead. How?” Gemellus stood over us both, then slowly turned around, placing a hand against the metal of the nearest refrigerator. “What is this place? What happened here? How were these made?”

“I cannot even begin to explain all this to you right now.” I set Natasha down and stood. Looking up, I saw that the camera from the EEG machine had tracked us, and was watching us from inside the autopsy room. Gideon was still on.

Now that there was no computer I didn’t have another way to communicate with him. All I could do was draw a big 7-0 in the air between us. The camera nodded, and then went limp.

Seventy against five. The odds were going to suck.

But if you counted Gemellus and me, that made it seventy against seven.

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

“Give me those,” I said, and snatched the packets of gauze from him, to rip off all their tops at once. I shoved the gauze inside my silver wound with a hiss—it wouldn’t heal it but it might stop me from smelling like blood—then I wound the rest of the chain around it.

“You should have let me kill her,” he said.

From my position on the ground it was easy to see the injury that’d broken his leg and healed wrong. And then his leg lashed out to kick her, sending her body skidding across the room.

“Hey!”

“I made no promises about desecrating the dead,” he reminded me. It occurred to me that there was probably a reason for the scorpion inlay on his silver grate. I hoped the promises I’d had him make were tight enough—no time to think about that now, though. “I need to feed, if I’m to fight him. How did she change herself?” He swept up the syringe she’d held. “What tool is this? Did it once hold blood?”

“Yes—I’ll explain later.” Maybe. The fewer people that knew, the better. We needed to find Jackson—

Gemellus crushed the syringe in his hand. “This is what I will do to him. Can we continue?”

“We can—but we need to destroy everything here first.” This whole room was too dangerous to leave intact. I didn’t know who Anna’d brought with her, or who would survive tonight. Everything in here had to go.

I had no idea if Natasha kept off-site backups. I hoped not, but I couldn’t guarantee it. All I could do was destroy what was here. I started opening up the refrigerators and yanking out the contents, letting petri dishes and Erlenmeyer flasks fall to the floor, spilling sticky contents. I opened up a drawer full of blood draw supplies and stared into it. Test tubes, needles, tourniquets …

“If we may help,” the Shadows at my ear asked.

“Yes?”

“We can destroy all that is in here, if you but turn off the light.”

“Everything? Inside the machines too? I need you to ruin all of it, make it unworkable, unsalvageable.” There wasn’t much of them left; they’d be spread very thin.

As if sensing my worries, they clucked like a mother hen. “You would be surprised how quickly we can move in the dark. Swear to return for us, and we will start.”

“Done.” I stared into the drawer I had open. How many times had I been told that blood was power? I reached in and grabbed a full set of anything I might need to get some extra blood for myself. Then I stepped over Natasha’s form and turned off the light. “Gemellus, get into the hall.”

* * *

The chill of the Shadows rolled down my neck, down my back, buttock, and thigh, like a cold grape; then it fell away from me and I stepped into the dimly lit hallway. I closed the door behind myself so that they could work in complete darkness.

“So you trust them, but you don’t trust me?” Gemellus asked.

“I’ve known them longer.”

Gemellus snorted. Then his face became serious and his hands curled into fists at his side. “I need to feed so that I can fight Raven.”

“I know.” I didn’t want to run upstairs into seventy hungry new vampires—but I didn’t want to stay trapped in the catacombs like a rat, either.

Which way is safest, baby? I wished I knew.

“You will let me feed, won’t you?” Gemellus pressed.

“Yes,” I said, exasperated. Raven knew all the passageways down here. All these rooms could be barricaded or overwhelmed; there were no good defensible places, which was probably the point—and Jackson had already proved the uselessness of locks.

I was considering running to the garage when I heard the sound of footsteps running down the hallway at full speed. Gemellus grabbed me and wrenched me back, putting me against the wall behind him.

It was one of the bouncers Jackson had introduced me to—only it wasn’t him anymore. I’d seen the bloodlust of the newly born before, and he was the textbook definition of it, twice as big as Gemellus and crazy-eyed. He hurled himself at Gemellus, trying to take the older vampire to the ground.

But Gemellus was faster, even with his limp. He feinted back, making the other man overstep himself, and Gemellus caught his hair with his hand and yanked his head down hard against his naked knee. For a second I was worried he was going to rip the man’s scalp off—and then there came the sounds of more footsteps running down the hall.

“May I?” Gemellus asked while the new vampire was concussed. I nodded in wild fear. Gemellus grinned evilly. Fangs came out and he bit into the man’s neck. He didn’t even look for the carotid, he just bit through it, windpipe and all. He spit the cartilage on the ground as the man dusted. The only thing left of him was the dust powdering the bloodstain on Gemellus’s chest. The bouncer had had cargo pants on—pockets galore. I shook them free of dust before pulling them on.

“May I?” Gemellus requested again. I glanced up—another newborn was on the way. Gemellus met this new one head-on, running into him at speed, bowling him down to pull both his arms off.

“Yes!” I jumped into the pants and pulled them up, buckling them around my waist. I shoved needles into one pocket, and the test tubes into the other.

Gemellus shouted, “May I?” from twenty feet farther up the hall.

“Yes!” I called back, and then heard him laugh again, like he’d laughed when he was first freed. I heard the wrenching sound of breaking bone; by the time I looked up again, Gemellus was covered in another vampire’s particulate mist.

A third one ran in, then a fourth—Gemellus had the advantage because the hall was narrow, and their hunger made them too stupid not to get in one another’s way. And a fifth one appeared behind them. Maybe by the time Anna got here there’d only be five vampires left.

Gemellus spun away from one and then pinned him against the wall, reaching in with both his hands underneath his rib cage to pop it out and open like a reluctant DVD case.

“Yes!” I shouted at him before he could ask, and I watched him bury his face into the screaming vampire’s heart. “You can kill everyone in the hallway but me!”

As he worked it was harder to see him move and react. I knelt down to pull a pair of pants off a dusted corpse for him to wear, but he was doing just fine nakedly. I got flashes of the new vampires coming at him. Club clothes, brown or blond hair, tanning-salon skin—and hungry hissing teeth. Each of them burst like an ash-filled balloon as Gemellus struck out with his hands and feet, broke and twisted them, crushed them against the wall, and in one inspired move used one’s torn-off arm to impale another before both fell to dust.

Gemellus had missed out on centuries of bloodlust, and now he seemed to be trying to catch up, all the while biting, feeding, filling up, getting stronger. I found myself becoming profoundly glad he was on my side—and worried that I hadn’t made him swear enough. The carnage was mesmerizing, and the dark part of me wanted to join in. I looked away to ignore it just when I saw a familiar face in the throng.

“Not him!” I raced up, dragging pants along. “Not him!”

Gemellus paused, a few seconds away from killing Jackson—and Jackson was there holding a lighter out.

Gritty dust fell in lazy circles from all the vampires Gemellus had just killed. Ten or eleven—I’d lost count. My eyes wept and I’d inhaled enough vampire dust to practically count as one. The still-naked Gemellus was slicked with the stuff; he looked like a golem.

“Who is he to you?” Gemellus asked.

I looked at Jackson, his hand still out, thumb upon the lighter’s striker. Gemellus didn’t know what it was that Jackson held, but I did.

And if he knew just who Jackson was to him, he’d probably kill him.

Jackson looked from Gemellus to me and grunted. “Where’s Lars?”

“Gone.”

“I didn’t think you were like that,” he said, still holding the lighter up.

“And I didn’t think you were like that. With Natasha.” There was a backpack across his back, I had no doubt the computer was in it.

“Just because I don’t know how it works doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s valuable.”

“May I?” Gemellus asked, leaning in.

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