Bloodshifted Page 9

“So why did you rat me out to Raven?” I asked, but as I said it I realized I already knew. “Because you also want me to spy on her for you and House Grey. Great.”

A sly smile lifted his lips, and he glanced at me out of the corner of his eye. “Anna’s not the only one who worries them—and up close you’ll have opportunities I won’t.”

“Even if I do, it won’t mean I’m on your side.”

“Fair enough.” There was another long stretch of silence. “Besides, wouldn’t you prefer working in the lab to being a janitor?”

Yes, if I didn’t have a sinking feeling that she was carrying on her demented father’s research. Nathaniel had been trying to create a synthetic blood replacement so that vampires would no longer need humans to survive. “Maybe,” I admitted. I did need to know what she was up to.

“And she probably won’t kill you if Raven tells her not to. Which is more than I can say for Lars.”

The more I thought about Natasha and Raven, the more wrong it became. Her father’d been willing to kill thousands of people to save her—and she’d been playing house. “She’s in love with him, isn’t she?” I didn’t know why it was so hard to believe it, even though I’d seen it with my own eyes. It just seemed so … unsafe. “Does he control her? Did he do that to her?”

“Nope. She came in that way. I was here the night she arrived.”

“And he didn’t command her to love him?”

“Not that I can tell. You can’t really command emotions, besides. Behaviors, yes. He can tell you to act like you love him, but in your heart you’d know.”

“Does he love her back?”

Jackson made a thoughtful noise. “Do vampires love? Does anyone? Who can say. He doesn’t sleep around on the side, though—it’s why Lars only gives him men, so as not to offend her. I’ve been watching them kiss for seven years now. Maybe it’s close enough.”

Asher’s math was right—we were the same age, only she’d been frozen in time by being stolen away and given enough blood to stay looking perpetually young. And I bet seven years of captivity could earn you an epic case of Stockholm syndrome, regardless of your original feelings.

Jackson took the next few turns in silence as we drove down surface streets, pausing to press a button for the garage door. When he drove us underground I watched the sky disappear and wondered when I would get to see it next.

CHAPTER NINE

We walked to the doors together, and Jackson hung the key back in the valet box on its hook. I followed along meekly, my mind a storm.

Baby, what have we gotten ourselves into?

Raven was waiting for us on the other side of the first set of doors. This startled me—and Jackson, who gave me a worried look, as if I’d somehow summoned Raven to betray his confidence. I didn’t realize until that moment just how much he’d pinned on my secrecy.

“Master, I apologize for taking—” Jackson began.

Raven cut him off. “You may go.”

Jackson bowed. “I’m sorry—”

“You may go,” Raven said, sparing him a dark look.

Without raising his head, Jackson looked from Raven to me and pleaded at me with his eyes before leaving the room. When we were alone, Raven gave all of his attention to me.

“I’m afraid we haven’t had a chance to be properly introduced yet. In private.”

“I was led to believe that nowhere in the Catacombs was private,” I said with a tight smile. I didn’t want to follow him anywhere—at least in the hallway there was a chance someone might hear me scream. Not that they’d necessarily be inclined to come help.

“Jackson taught you well. But come, you wouldn’t want to disappoint me, and I didn’t save you to kill you just yet.” He turned and started walking, and it was clear I was supposed to follow. With no other options, I did.

He led us back to the crossroads and then took one of the hallways Jackson said I shouldn’t go down, walking half a block before opening the door to a private chamber then holding it for me, waiting. Feeling like a fly being invited into a spider’s web, I walked past him.

Raven moved around me to sit on a low bed that occupied one half of the room. Everything was decorated much like his war room—in purple and black satin—but there was only one door, and I had no doubt he would be faster to it than I was. He patted the bed beside himself. I continued to stand, and he lifted his lips to show pointed teeth in an ironic grin.

“It’s going to be like this between us?” His disappointment sounded genuine—and worse yet, caused me pain. “You’re not a prisoner of war, you know. You’re one of us. You’re family.”

I knew Raven was lying—Lars trying to kill me proved it—but part of me desperately wanted to believe him. A thick chill was coming on again, settling like sticky tar over the rational part of my mind. It was hard to look at the bittersweet smile on his face and hold firm, knowing that my resolve was in any way causing him pain.

“I want you to feel safe here, Edie,” he said, stroking the empty space beside him on the bed. I wanted to feel safe too, so badly, more than anything else in the world—and how much more safe would I feel if I just took a step?

“Stop that,” I said, not moving.

“Stop what?” he asked, then closed his eyes and shook his head. “Oh, that,” he said, and gestured between the two of us, as if we were connected by a rope. “I can’t. It’s how we are.”

I kept frowning, concentrating on staying still. “Will it always be like this?”

“It fades as the blood does, but to some degree, yes. I’m a part of you now, no matter how much you wish I weren’t.”

No wonder there were so many vampires scared of Anna, if after sharing blood she had this power over them. “Is there an antidote?”

“My blood is a poison then?” he asked, eyebrows rising. I didn’t respond. “Only the ones I’m sure you’ve already thought of. Your death. Mine. You would find it hard to kill me now, though. Like calls to like, and seeks to keep it safe.”

“I’m nothing like you.”

He tilted his head. “And yet part of you, your very essence now, is me.”

It was as though his attention were a weight, and the longer it was on me, the heavier it became. “Is that what happened with Natasha?” I asked.

He smiled softly. “No. She is mine by her choice. It is different between us.”

How far off the mark had Nathaniel been? My God.

“I don’t think you’ve appreciated the predicament you’re in yet, Edie, so I’ve brought a prop.” He reached into a pocket hidden by his coat and brought out a knife. “Do you know what this is?”

I nodded as my mouth went dry.

“Come here. Hold your hand out. Don’t speak.”

My body did as he commanded without thinking: I crossed the room with my hand out as if I were asking for a train ticket. Raven held the knife like he was going to slice open my belly. Everything in me was divided in two—the wise part of me that wanted to scream and run, and the part of me that was stock-still, forced to obey. Oh baby, oh baby, oh baby—

He reached out and tapped the blade on my palm. It burned like it was on fire. I couldn’t see any blood, but surely he was cutting me, there was no way it could hurt any worse—he lifted the blade just as I thought I couldn’t take anymore, and there was a white stripe across my palm where the blade had been, where I’d already scarred.

“It’s silver. Hold it—gently now.”

My fingers wrapped around the blade, and he let go of the hilt, leaving the weight of the knife in my hand. It burned, it burned, it burned, like fire on top of fire. It was as if the blade were serrated, even though I knew it wasn’t; as if it were covered in spines that were stabbing into each of my nerves individually.

He was watching my reaction, and at some signal placed his hand back on the hilt. The weight transfer dug it in for a second, and I realized my mouth was open because I was trying to scream, even though I couldn’t. He pulled it out of my hands, making it slide against my skin—the blade wasn’t even sharp. It didn’t need to be, not when silver hurt like this.

“Have you learned a lesson, Edie?”

My mouth was still open as the fire left me. I closed it, glaring at him.

“Feel free to speak now,” he added as an afterthought.

“Don’t touch silver,” I said, because I knew it wasn’t what he wanted to hear.

“Edie,” he said, drawing out my name, waggling the weapon between us. Smart-Edie was still trying to make me jump back, but the rest of my body still wasn’t listening.

“You can make me hurt myself. And there’s nothing I can do to stop you.”

“Good. Smart. Know, too, that I am imminently capable of violence,” he said, seeming amused with his own honesty. “I am a vampire, after all.”

“Did you rescue me just to brag?”

“No. I saved you to lure her here. She’ll try to come and save you. I know it—I knew it the second she put out the call for your life. And you know it too, otherwise you’d have been groveling already.” He finally put the knife away. “Do you have any powers or abilities you can use against me?” His voice was casual, but there was still the undertone that I had to answer.

I shook my head. “No. I’m normal.”

“Then why does she want to save you?”

“She and I are friends.”

“Why?”

There was no point in lying to him. “I saved her life.”

There was a pause, and then the sound of Raven’s laughter, cruel and long and harsh from disuse. “You? Saved her life? Please, tell me how.”

I realized then that he didn’t know everything—if he did, he wouldn’t be asking me. And if he didn’t tell me directly to tell him, with his awful-voice, the one I couldn’t disobey, then I could say what I wanted to.

I’d been told once a long time ago that vampires love a loophole—well, so did this daytimer, now.

“There was a big fight. I was there, and I took her side,” I said, as generically as possible.

“You expect me to believe that you were instrumental during the Dark Night? When she lured all of her Throne to one place to slaughter?” That wasn’t quite how it’d gone down, but she hadn’t exactly left any survivors to set the record straight. She’d been the prisoner of her countrymen for a century, tortured at their hands, and in that time anyone would develop a thirst for revenge. Anyone who’d made it out had probably wanted to believe they’d been the victims of a well-executed attack rather than a spectacular case of wrong-time-wrong-place-ness.

“I was there. I helped,” I repeated. “What’ll you do when she gets here?”

“What vampires always do. We’ll have tea, play chess, trade the fascinating stories of our kind.” His grin spread and became positively vulgar. “Or I’ll slaughter her and make her watch while I eat her beating heart.”

I still couldn’t take a step back, but my face gave away my horror.

“What? Would you rather that I lie to you?”

“But you can’t—” I began to protest.

“Who are you to tell me what I can and cannot do?” he said, in that horrible tone that I could not disobey. My mouth slammed shut and the thought of speaking vanished from my mind. “No one has commanded me for three hundred years. You would do well to remember just how much I could command you to do.” He stood without saying another word and walked for the door.

I sagged in his wake. I had been dismissed.

* * *

Someone’s throat cleared behind me, while I was still trying to reassemble the pieces of my mind into a cohesive whole. I whirled and saw Jackson there, looking apologetic.

“I just wanted to make sure you were intact.”

“So far.” He couldn’t ask me out loud what he really wanted to know—if I’d told his secret. All I could do was shake my head when he had a questioning look in his eyes. “But it was awful. Is it always like that?”

“After they’ve freshly fed, yes. Plus it’s worse when you’re alone with them, and all their attention is focused on you.”

Damn. How much night was left tonight? Too much, baby.

“I still have to go get test subjects—I don’t think you want to come with me for that.”

“No.”

“I left a bag of food in Celine’s room for you. You may not feel like you have to eat, but it’s a good idea if you do. Makes the blood last longer in you when you’re not running off it.”

“Thanks.” I’d rather run through the stuff if I could, so that Raven would have less power over me—but then I’d be all the weaker against future attacks. I exhaled roughly.

“You can find your way back?” Jackson asked, giving me a worried look.

“Yeah. Thanks,” I said, nodding. A moment passed between us. Nothing sexual or even friendly, just a tacit acknowledgment that we were both fighters in the same war. In different trenches, but a trench was still a trench.

“See you tomorrow then.” He nodded and left the room.

CHAPTER TEN

I waited for another thirty seconds. I could easily find my way back—but I still needed some time for myself, and it seemed unlikely Raven would immediately return to taunt me.

Without him in it, this room felt hollow. There wasn’t anything here to let on much about him—no posters or furniture, other than the bed. I supposed the people he brought here were already so intoxicated with him that they didn’t find the place a bit on the serial-killer side.

Prev Next