Bloodshifted Page 26

There was a chance Jackson didn’t know what he’d done. Raven had ordered Wolf to order Jackson, and it’d been a change from killing people, drilling bone out of a vampire’s dusty daytime corpse. But I could see him putting two and two together as fear lifted his face.

I shook my head, begging him not to say anything—

“It’s you,” Jackson whispered.

“We’ve met before?” Gemellus said, taking two impossibly fast steps closer, while Jackson held the lighter out like a cross. “You…,” he said in recognition, his voice sinking.

“Gemellus, stop!” I shouted, and he did so.

Jackson’s eyes flickered from Gemellus to me. “Don’t let him kill me, Edie. I was just following orders—I didn’t know—she never told me what they were doing—I needed proof to take back to House Grey—”

I swallowed, throat suddenly dry.

He stopped talking and his jaw clenched. “You’re not like this. I know you.”

“You should ask Lars what I’m like.” Cold black tar welled up inside. It would be so easy to sic Gemellus on him now; I wouldn’t even have to bloody my own hands.

Gemellus lifted his lips in anticipation, showing fangs that had taken thousands of lives. The tip of my tongue went to my newly sharp canines involuntarily, and I tried to imagine drinking blood, hot, salty, sweet.

Never, baby. Not if I can help it. “The computer for your life.”

Jackson made a strangled noise. “I have to have something to show for all this—”

“You’ll be alive. That’ll have to be enough.” There was enough dust in the hallway that if Jackson turned the lighter on we’d all go up. He had to see that.

“Then what happens to me?” he shouted. “If I can’t give this to House Grey, and Wolf dies—the past forty years I’ve put into this have been for nothing? I’m just cast back out into the world again? I don’t know what it’s like out there anymore—I can’t just walk back out into it and be human, pretend like none of this ever happened to me.”

“I’m sorry, Jackson. It’s the computer, or your life,” I said. Gemellus growled and leaned in. Jackson’s eyes flickered over Gemellus’s shoulder at me.

“I mean it. I swear. Give me the computer—and the lighter—and I won’t let him kill you.”

Gemellus howled something obscene in a language I didn’t know.

“Hold!” I shouted back at him, and he held. Jackson watched our exchange, and he swallowed.

“You swear it on the life of your child?” Jackson said.

“I do.”

Jackson hesitated, then slunk to the far side of the hallway, coming around Gemellus—who turned as he did so to keep him always in sight.

“Lighter. Then computer. Then you go and take the fastest car you can and get the hell away from here.”

Jackson moved so that he could see both of us. The hallway was still clouded with dust from all the newborns Gemellus had slaughtered.

“No tricks?” he demanded.

“You know me. I’ve never been the liar.”

Jackson nodded, then unshouldered his backpack, setting it on the ground at the same time he pitched the lighter forward in a low arc over my head. Gemellus caught it without taking his eyes off him.

In an instant Gemellus was behind me. “No one was here to see your honor but me, and I will not tell your child of this,” Gemellus said, his breath hot on my neck. Jackson was backing, wide-eyed, down the hall.

“No.”

“But you have no idea what he did to me!”

“He only did what he was told, which is what you’re going to do,” I said, turning on him, my voice flat. “Put on these pants.” I handed them over to him, ignoring the hatred burning in his eyes.

“I still get to kill Raven,” he said.

And as if to answer him, there came an explosion from up above.

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

“What was that?” Gemellus asked as I ducked down.

“I think if you want the chance to kill Raven, you’re going to have to hurry.”

“Artillery?” Gemellus guessed, sounding impressed. “I’m looking forward to meeting this guardian of yours.”

The building rumbled again. When I looked back, Jackson was gone.

“I’m sure she’ll be happy to meet you too.”

He held out Jackson’s lighter. “This is a weapon?”

I nodded.

“Show me.”

“Not here. We’ll light ourselves on fire.” We needed to get out of here—Jackson wasn’t the only person with a lighter in the building. Plus if there were more explosions and we were trapped below—

“He’s above us. I can feel it!” Gemellus shouted. “Tell me the layout of this building.”

“Destroy this utterly, and I’ll talk.” I handed the backpack to him, and with his hands he set to turning it and everything in it into atoms.

I knew enough to make sure Gemellus had crumbled the hard drive before I’d let him stop, and I explained the different floors of the club and the one-way glass as we moved. Each time we turned a corner I expected to find another wave of newborns, but apparently Raven had bigger problems upstairs. Gemellus let me lead, but only barely, maybe worried I’d let my conscience get the better of me again.

We reached Hell in record time—and Anna’s bomb had blown open the entrance to the Garden of Eden, leaving a wide hole in the back of the room. This explained why we’d felt the rumble below: It’d been right on top of us. The thick structural beams holding up the next two floors were in place, but everything else in the room had been blown ten feet to the right, including new vampires—the air here was heavy with dust, too. There was fighting on the deck—a wall of newborns, shrieking hunger and surprise. I thought I saw the swish of a scythe and I both hoped and couldn’t imagine that Dren was here, fighting for me. I saw Jorgen’s head pop up over the crowd—standing, he was taller than any of them. He spotted me and let out a baleful howl. I wanted to howl back at him.

I expected us to go join that throng—I knew Anna was outside there, fighting her way in—but Gemellus grabbed my arm and shook his head. “He’s higher.” He strode out into the center of the room. “Is this the strange glass you told me about?” he asked, pointing up. I nodded as Gemellus looked up at the ceiling.

“Corvus! I come for you!” he yelled with wild abandon. One of the newborns at the back of the garden turned and ran for him. He caught the man and flung him back into the group, bowling three other vampires down, attracting the attention of the outliers. Hungry faces turned toward us—but not as hungry as Gemellus. He looked back at me. “Take me up to him.”

I nodded again. Up seemed safer than staying here.

* * *

We ran up the stairs to Purgatory. A fresh wave of newborns had been held in reserve, or just woken up. They surged mindlessly forward, and Gemellus picked up a nearby table and sent it spinning across the room at chest height. It cleaved through the three nearest and pinned a figure I couldn’t quite see to the back wall. Other newborns crowded in, all looking like they had at the beginning of their night out, dressed to impress—and now dressed to die.

“May I?” he asked again, crouched to run at them.

“Yes. Please!”

“Wait, wait! You owe me!” said a familiar voice. As Gemellus mowed his way through the newborns I circled warily to see Estrella, pinned beneath the table. I hadn’t realized Gemellus had flung it with such force—it’d ground into her like a buzz saw, nearly lopping off her chest and arm, embedding itself into the wall behind her. One of her arms hung limp, and the other couldn’t get ahold of the table’s smooth surface to free herself with.

She looked relived to see me. “Save me,” she commanded, and her voice rumbled with the tone of command. But I wasn’t hers, and Celine was nowhere in sight.

Save her to what, heal and fight more?

“You owe me,” she said. “You promised me a favor.”

“Under duress.”

I’d seen her tuck into test subject sixty-four’s neck. She’d lived long, and she was no stranger to blood.

“A promise is a promise,” she hissed.

I looked back over my shoulder, to where Gemellus was glorying in the violence of his kills, laughing as he went through the newborns like a rabid dog among hens.

“I did.” I grabbed hold of the table’s edge, and her face lit up before I went on. “I’ll kill you. Instead of letting Gemellus do it.” I closed the table on her like I was slamming a door. Darkness swam in my vision, and a horrible part of me was pleased with myself.

Dust spurted over the top edge of the table and spilled like hourglass sand down by my feet. I watched it flow with the angle of the floor, tilting now toward the far side of the room, sliding across the one-way glass.

A snarl behind me warned me just in time, and I leapt away with strange instinct, barely missing a newborn’s attack.

Gemellus was two-deep in newborns, which left this other one free to tangle with me. I held my chain-covered arm up as he led in for a second time with his teeth. Enamel grated on metal so hard a tooth popped off. He was stunned by this—I was too. I needed a weapon, fast—I reached back to rip one of the legs off the table I’d used to smash Estrella. The newborn was twice my size, more wary now, and a full vampire where I was not. I waved him back with the stake, chain-shielded arm out, and felt like a gladiator in a Roman arena given far too little cover. Not engaging wasn’t an option: He was between me and the door, and Gemellus still had his hands full at the other end of the club. I shouldn’t have let myself get separated from him.

He took three steps and pressed me back against the wall. The leg-stake was still in front of me, but I’d just lost the room to use it. The newborn loomed, licking the space where his missing fang should be, and roared before leaning in.

“Gemellus! Save me!” I shouted—just as a scythed blade appeared out of nowhere over the newborn’s shoulder, drawing from his shoulder to his hip, cutting him in two like a tear in reality.

“I hope I’ll do,” Dren said, appearing out of the cloud of newborn dust. He was wearing his trench coat, his hat, and his crookedly evil grin.

“Dren.” I sagged and coughed and grinned. “You almost cut my nose off.”

He waved his scythe at me casually. “You should have stopped sticking your nose in other people’s business a long time ago.”

“Are we winning?” I asked with hope.

“Won’t know until we’re through.”

I saw Gemellus’s attention turn, and he launched himself at Dren. “No!” I shouted at him, as if he were a bad dog, and he drew up short. He was still covered in the dust of others, with a disconcerting concentration of it on his mouth and at his throat.

“I take it we’re on the same side?” Dren asked of me.

“For now,” Gemellus said, as if that might not last long.

I looked through the glass below at the fighting inside Hell. I couldn’t tell who was winning; there was too much chaos.

“He’s higher,” Gemellus prodded.

I looked from Gemellus to Dren. “He’s Raven’s Sire,” I explained. Dren gave me a slightly alarmed look. “If we can get up there, we can make this whole thing stop—”

“It’s not safe—” Dren started just as another wave of newborns came up the stairs, following a baying Jorgen.

“This isn’t either.” Gemellus looked to me.

With the older vampire, there was still a chance.

Dren made a sound of either agreement or disgust, then wiped his scythe blade off on his thigh. “We’ll hold them off here. Do what you will, but hurry.”

I nodded and raced for the stairs.

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

Gemellus mounted the steps two at a time, and together we emerged into Heaven. Raven was nowhere to be seen, but Wolf was waiting for us, and Gemellus growled.

“Corvus!” he shouted.

Wolf leapt for Gemellus, and Gemellus for him.

They ran at each other at full strength and quickly went down to the ground. The sound of bones breaking and reknitting filled the air, along with the grunts of impact, the sound of flesh hitting flesh. They fought like titans, trading blows that would have broken lesser men—or lesser vampires.

I didn’t know what kind of fight Gemellus was anticipating, but I doubted this was it.

“Corvus! Appear! I command it!” Gemellus said after throwing Wolf back fifteen feet. It felt like the room thundered, even though the words weren’t meant for me. Raven was nowhere to be seen—and Wolf didn’t have to listen. I started to get worried Gemellus would die, and then who would stop Raven? Maybe Dren was right, and I would’ve been safer downstairs with him.

“Call off your dog!” Gemellus shouted when Wolf next let him catch his breath.

Raven finally emerged from the back of Heaven, walking as slowly as he could—Gemellus hadn’t told him to move quickly, and so he hadn’t.

“Wolf, stop,” he said quietly, obeying his old Master to the letter of the law. But Wolf didn’t relent—he had Gemellus on the ground now and was clawing at his throat.

This contradicted the way I thought vampires had to act—I thought the entire system was built on blind obedience. Then Wolf and Gemellus traded places quickly in the way fighting dogs sometimes will, and I caught a glimpse of dull metal at the sides of Wolf’s head, as if the younger vampire had gray headphones on.

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