Bloodshifted Page 27

“Silver?” I whispered as I realized just what Raven had done. Wolf still had his ears, but Raven had poured silver into them. He couldn’t hear Raven anymore to obey—if his ears scarred the way my arm had, he wouldn’t be able to hear anything ever again. He’d be following his last order forever, presumably to kill Gemellus.

They twisted and fell against the floor again; I heard it groan with their weight as they landed. Wolf had his hands latched in a death grip around Gemellus’s throat. Raven looked over their tangling bodies to me.

“So you decided to become a vampire after all?” he said, his voice still low. His face looked strange, pained, eyes red, with smears of scarlet on both of his cheeks.

“Have you been crying?” I asked, scared of him and for him both at once.

He didn’t just sit down on the dais at the far side of Heaven, he collapsed, as if something had hit him. “Natasha’s gone. I felt her go.”

“No—”

“He ate her. The monster of my Master that you freed ate her—” Raven reached into his coat, pulling out his silver knife.

“No! I saw her! She’s fine!”

“Don’t lie to me, Edie,” he commanded. I felt it wash over me and through me and couldn’t have disobeyed him if I’d tried.

“She was worried you would need help. She dosed herself with stem cells, like the others.”

Raven’s face fell anew. “Then my own monster gnaws her now.”

“But she’s alive—sort of.” I looked from him to Gemellus and Wolf’s evenly matched wrestling.

“Not with the life I wanted for her.”

“If you wanted to play Romeo and Juliet you should have gotten her the hell out of here!”

“Where to? Tell me where it would have been safe for us from your Beast?”

“She’s not like that!” I fell to my knees pleading with him as his face went dark.

“All Masters are eventually. I should know.” He watched Gemellus and Wolf’s fight with bleak satisfaction. “Come here, Edie. I’ll show you what she’s like.”

I got up off my knees and crossed the room to him, just as Dren raced up the stairs. Seeing him, I shouted, “Dren, help Gemellus!”

Dren started forward, then stopped. “When our kind fights like that, only cowards want other people to get involved. Is your new friend a coward?”

“Wise words from the Beast’s lapdog,” Raven said. I was walking as slowly as I could, and I could still speak—

“Dren, kill him then. Please.” I didn’t know what Raven was going to do to me—to us, baby—but the implacable look on his white face smeared with red was frightening.

I could see Dren calculate his chances of reaching me before Raven did.

“Wolf and I are well fed on others of our kind. You would have a hard time defeating us.” Raven stood and almost instantly crossed the room to where I was. He placed himself behind me, silver blade drawn and at my neck. “Summon the Beast.”

“It’s still not too late.”

“Tell that to Lars,” he said, setting the blade down on my skin, and I gasped in pain.

“I can make her listen, Master. I swear it.”

“Only because you don’t know how we are. Meant to kill from the moment we are born. We cannot think of others before ourselves, and it is a joke to pretend there’s ever been another way. My Natasha wanted to cure humans, and instead the darkness made her able to kill for me. My blood perverted even her sweet heart. Your Beast cannot back down from this challenge any more than I can rescind it now.”

“I am not a monster,” I whispered, hoping it was true.

“Yes, you are. Just like me, just like I was made.” His hand caught under my jaw and he tilted my head forward, I thought for a horrible second to kiss me. Then his mouth opened and his teeth caught into my hair and tore raggedly against my scalp and I screamed as I felt his fangs grate against my skull. Blood poured out from the wound, covering my eyes as the wound took its time to heal.

“Summon your Beast,” he told Dren with bloody lips, “or next I will suck out her eyes.”

Dren had been trapped at the far side of the room, scythe up, unsure what to do next. He incrementally lowered the scythe. “Anna!” he bellowed. “Get up here!”

There was a sound at the stair and Jorgen emerged with a swollen belly, like a mockery of the child I carried inside, and Anna came up after him.

“Good boy,” she said, petting his massive disfigured furry head. Then she looked over to all of us.

She was a sight. A horrific yet beautiful sight. Her blond hair was tinted gray from all the newborn vampire dust. Her clothing was torn. But she was intact, and there was a sad smile on her face.

“In the tales of the Beast that I’ve heard, the Beast does not have friends. So imagine my surprise when you requested that we save her,” Raven said from behind me.

“Your storytellers are wrong then. I have many friends—and also many enemies. Which are you? Choose carefully.”

“Like you would give me a choice.” What had Gemellus done to turn him into this? There was a wheezing gasp from the wrestling vampires as Wolf gained on Gemellus. I could see where Wolf’s fingers were straining into the meat of Gemellus’s windpipe; if Gemellus gave him even one more half inch of leverage, he would twist it free.

“Just because you were raised without honor does not mean there is none.”

“And all of this?” He twisted us both to look through the glass at the carnage below. “Ignored? Erased?”

“We have ways of making you forget.”

I could feel him weighing his options as he held me. Trust someone he’d never met, who’d just destroyed his livelihood, love, and house, or play his final awful card? The blade hovered, burning me as he considered, and I knew the moment he’d made up his mind. Poor Natasha; Raven never was going to be able to outrun his past.

This is it, baby. I’m sorry. I loved you and your father.

Then he released me. I fell to the ground in limp surprise. The knife clattered beside me, dropped.

Had he—were we?—I twisted to look up at him, but nothing had changed. “Edie, pick it up.”

My hand reached for the knife like it was told.

“Kill her, or kill yourself. You choose.”

The silver blade was a living thing in my hand, twisting in the air like a snake. Either I pointed it at me, or it had to be pointed at Anna.

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

I looked hopelessly at Anna, and at Dren, and at Gemellus, fighting myself. I didn’t want to die. But I didn’t want to kill her. The blade wavered as I tried to make up my mind, picking between two horrible options.

“Help me. Please,” I begged anyone who could listen. I took a staggering step toward Anna, as if pulled by the knife.

If I did try to kill her, would she kill me? What if she somehow changed me now? That would be a way out, but it wouldn’t save the baby. I needed to live—but could I live with myself knowing that I had killed a friend?

“My people have your land surrounded and we’ve already killed everything in this building,” Anna said. “End this, and I swear I’ll let you live until dawn.”

“You heard her. Go to her, Edie.”

I took another stumbling step forward. “I don’t want this. Make it stop. Gemellus—”

“Don’t talk to him,” Raven commanded. Dren stepped forward to intercept me, but Anna put her hand out, denying him.

“It’s going to be okay, Edie,” she said, taking a step toward me. “I promise you it’s going to be okay.”

“No. It’s not. This is the least okay thing in the history of forever.” My resolve flagged, and the weapon spun in my hand, blade aimed straight at my stomach.

I’d been stabbed once by vampires before. Perhaps it was fitting that I stab myself as they had now.

“Don’t do that,” Anna warned.

“I don’t want to—I don’t want any of this!”

“I know.” She took another step toward me. What if she took the knife away? Would I use something else, bound to fulfill Raven’s last terrible command? I had visions of me going at my radial pulses with my own teeth, or trying to bare-handedly twist off Anna’s head.

“Make it stop. Please. Think of something. Fast,” I begged, knife inching closer toward my belly.

I can’t do this to you, baby.

“Don’t,” Anna said, reaching out for me. She was so close now, only three steps away. As my attention went to her, so did the knife. Her arms were still open, so close she could hug me.

“Come here, Edie,” she said, and leaned in—and I did as I was told.

Three things happened at almost the same time:

Anna and I cleared the line of sight between Dren and Raven. Dren raised his scythe and threw it at him.

Wolf spotted the spinning weapon heading for his Master and let go of Gemellus to leap up for it like an eager dog, meeting it halfway, and the scythe spun across his neck like a guillotine blade. Wolf died instantly, midair, spilling ash on the floor like a burst of sudden rain, followed by the sound of two dull silver pieces falling.

And I found myself covered in my best friend’s blood.

“Oh, God, no,” I whispered as we sank together, me holding her, the knife in my right hand piercing through her back, up into her heart. I looked up into her dying eyes—there was no surprise there, just a magnificent sorrow. Raven’s compulsion was gone now, I was in full control again, but it was too late. Blood poured out, as if without end, as her body desperately made more to replace what her silver-pierced heart couldn’t pump, as if she were a fountain and we were both drowning. Then her head sagged back and she went limp in my arms.

“I’m so sorry, Anna, oh my God—”

She didn’t say anything. And she’d lied to me. It wasn’t okay.

I dropped the knife, kneeling in a pool of her blood, put my hands to my face, and wept.

CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

“I invoke!” Raven shouted the second Gemellus was free.

“Accepted,” I heard Gemellus say, but I wasn’t looking. All I could see was Anna’s face, lying in an ever-growing pool of blood.

The sounds of their fight began behind me, as footsteps neared. I looked up and saw Dren.

“I didn’t mean to—”

“I know. It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not!” I screamed up at him. He sank down on his heels beside me, the retrieved scythe across his knees. How was I going to explain this to my child? We got free because your mother killed her friend?

“She’ll only be dead for three days. Assuming all the mythology’s right about living vampires and that sort of thing. Nobody mentioned silver, but we won’t tell anyone else about that. It’ll be our secret, okay?” He reached behind Anna, pulled the knife free, and slid it across the room. I was conscious of Gemellus and Raven behind us, whirling in the dust and bloodstains, but I was too blinded by tears and sorrow to tell who was ahead.

I nodded, willing to clutch desperately to any belief that would undo what I’d just done.

“She had to die, Edie. This is her change. If you think about it, you were the only one she could trust to do it,” he went on.

“Not even you?”

“Oh, no. Especially not me. I’m inherently untrustworthy.” He stood up again. “Jorgen,” he said, and whistled, and the Hound trotted over. “Go tell the others we’re on our way.” Jorgen disappeared down the stairs. “You’re strong enough to carry her, aren’t you?” Dren asked. “There might be a few left. I’d rather be free to fight.”

I nodded again. She hadn’t turned into dust, and we weren’t leaving her behind. Those things were good, right?

Oh, please, baby, please.

I swiped a bloodstained piece of hair away from my face, making an even bigger mess of things. “What about them?” I asked, leaning forward to pick Anna up.

“Not our problem. We need to be on the road by dawn.”

I looked back. Gemellus was still my concern. As much as I wanted to leave him, I didn’t dare set him free. And he had gotten me this far.

“Raven will either die here or be punished in other ways. There’s blood in the water now, and Los Angeles isn’t a very deep pool. Besides, if we’re not here, then Gemellus can start giving Raven commands—if he is who he claims to be.”

No time to ask Dren what he meant by that now, but it gave me an idea—along with Anna’s limp body pressing the contents of my pockets against my thighs. I’d been through so much in the past week. I didn’t go through all this not to be free.

I carefully put Anna back down on the floor and turned to the scene behind us. “I command you to uninvoke him,” I demanded, not knowing if it would work.

Gemellus seemed to momentarily have the upper hand. He tried to finish Raven off, and Raven only barely managed to push him back in time.

“You can’t kill him. I change my mind, I forbid it. So uninvoke him now.”

“It doesn’t work like that,” Dren began.

“It does now.”

Gemellus shoved Raven back. “I forsake your rights and you are mine again to command.”

“But I invoke!” Raven shouted, trapped, wildly looking for someone to help him.

“Tell him to be still. Tell him he can’t move, or say a thing.”

Gemellus looked at me, breathing heavy. “Revenge on him should be mine.”

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