Vampire Games
Page 22

 Tiffany Allee

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Somehow, I knew that Nicolas would win. Luc hadn’t been able to bring his son to heel for more than a century, and taking his son’s life would be a far greater step than that. But Luc’s sense of honor wouldn’t allow him to watch his friend die without at least attempting to stop it either. Luc didn’t plan on surviving.
I closed my eyes, still clinging to my bit of wood. The scuffle continued, far more quietly than I would have guessed. Not much yelling. No cursing or one-liners. No insults. Just the sound of flesh hitting flesh, of knives clattering to the floor. The occasional boom of someone hitting a wall. Amazingly, nothing hit me.
The room was so cold, and I was so fucking tired. Blood loss, part of my brain insisted. A short nap, a little rest, maybe then I could get up.
I forced my eyes open. The hell I was going to let some asshole vampire kill me while I lay unconscious. I struggled to my knees, using my right hand to prop myself up, my small wannabe stake between my hand and the ground. I couldn’t let it go, even though I knew if I tried to use it, I’d face-plant into the ground the second I lifted my hand from where it propped me up.
Blinking at the scene before me, I tried to take it in. Nicolas stood in front of his father, their profiles to me. Pieces of what could only be the other vampires were on the ground. They were both covered in blood and beat the hell up. But when Luc’s gaze slid to me, he moved just enough so I could see his chest. And the long sword that stuck out from where his heart should’ve been.
He mouthed something to me. It might have been, “I’m sorry.”
Then Nic turned around.
Nothing sane dwelt in him—not really. I’d have sworn to it at that moment, staring into those eyes so full of hate.
“It’s my turn now. No one to order me around. No one to try to make me live within the bounds of human law.” His expression twisted into a snarl so fierce he looked inhuman. “We’re better than you! Why did he always try to protect you?”
He lunged toward me, and I couldn’t help but cry out when he bent to take my neck again. He paused for a moment, lips so close to the skin on my neck that I could feel the rush from his mouth when he laughed. I cringed, then with my last bit of strength, I plunged my wannabe stake into his stomach.
He laughed louder and pulled back, wheezing as he chortled. He plucked the wood from his stomach and tossed it. He leaned in again, and I silently prayed that Claude might still be alive. That he might get away. That Eddie might get away with him.
But before Nicolas’s teeth could break my skin, his body stiffened. Something hit my chest—cooler than my skin but warmer than the air around us. A full second passed before I registered the knifepoint sticking out from his chest. And that what had hit me was his blood.
Claude knocked Nicolas to the side, moving him away from me.
Hope surged through me. If Nicolas was dead, we were saved. I was so fucking cold, and Claude was torn up—covered in blood and his body nearly broken by the vampires he’d fought. But if there was no one left to fight, we had a chance.
I blinked against the darkness that crept into the edges of my vision, and movement caught my eye. Nicolas was moving. Slowly, but moving. Headed for the door.
Had Claude missed the heart?
“Get him,” I muttered, but Claude didn’t move from my side. I wasn’t sure it mattered. I wasn’t so cold anymore, but I was so fucking tired.
“I’m not leaving you.”
“You’ve…fought so…long.” Words didn’t seem to want to form in my mouth, and I wondered if one of the vampire hits had knocked my jaw out of whack. But it didn’t hurt.
“He doesn’t matter.” Claude didn’t even glance at Nic, who had struggled to his feet. “I need you to make a choice, mon chou. Will you stay with me?”
His question seemed to have deeper meaning than I could grasp in that moment. But the idea of being with him—trusting him not to hurt me—didn’t scare me anymore. He loved me. I loved him. It all seemed so damned simple now. There was no need to deny it anymore.
“Love…you,” I managed.
Claude was cursing then, and I realized he’d been talking and I missed it. He shoved something against my mouth and I fought him instinctually. But even in his beaten state, the vampire was a good deal stronger than I.
Sweet coppery heat filled my mouth. I gagged and coughed into his arm, but he didn’t move. I managed to swallow, but the liquid kept coming. I thought I passed out for a second, but the blood flow never seemed to stop. My stomach felt horrible, like I desperately needed to vomit. If I could just move. But I couldn’t move. Claude was yelling at me, telling me to drink. Telling me not to die. Not yet.
If he was desperately trying to fill my body with his blood, then I had to be dying. Because vampires weren’t made without human death.
Heat rolled through my stomach and spread to the rest of me. It was painful compared to the cold I’d been feeling, and awakened all the pain from my injuries. I tried to cry out, but I couldn’t put a voice to the agony. I couldn’t find a release for the heat building. Every part of my body throbbed.
Over Claude’s arm, something moved. Luc came into view, his eyes on us and his expression unreadable. With one quick jerk, he pulled the sword from his chest.
The world went blessedly dark.
Chapter Fourteen
The fishy smell of the ocean filled my lungs. Waves rolled, hitting the beach in front of me, then sliding back out. To my ears, it sounded like the roar of a helicopter—close and likely to hit me if I didn’t duck. That part was supposed to get better.
My stomach twisted, and I was hit by a sudden hunger. One that I didn’t have to feed, not yet, but which I craved more than just about anything I could remember. That part was supposed to get better, too, but it would never go away.
Such was the price I had paid.
And I had paid with my gift. Psychometry wasn’t a talent vampires possessed. I had lost my visions. My ability to witness murders after the fact. My occasional ability to glimpse the future. That was something that would have killed me a week ago, would have made me feel entirely worthless. But now, the idea made me almost giddy, if a touch sad, when I let myself dwell on the loss.
“Getting melancholy on me, out here staring at the waves?”
I smiled but didn’t turn around. “Just enjoying the view.”
“You’re not missing the Midwest winter are you? Because I have a cabin in North Dakota that would provide the seclusion we need for you to adjust. It’s not Chicago, but it’ll do if you’d prefer the cold we left behind.”
I shivered. Just the thought of the freezing Chicago wind was enough to make me never want to leave this small island. I wasn’t sure exactly where we were—I hadn’t asked—but it was warm here, humid. The beaches were beautiful. And we were the only people on the island.
That was good enough for me.
“Don’t you dare threaten me with cold, mister.” I turned and poked Claude in the chest. “Them’s fightin’ words. And they’ll get you bit.”
He grinned and pulled me close for a quick kiss, but worry flashed in his eyes. I didn’t bother calling him on it. He’d eventually figure out that I wasn’t going to slip into a great depression because he’d been forced to choose between watching me die or turning me into a so-called creature of the night.
I was glad he’d chosen the way he had. And someday he’d believe it, too. We had plenty of time. It had only been a week, after all.
“Got a call from Lieutenant Vasquez.”
“Your supervisor?”
“Yes. He wasn’t too happy with me leaving him and the rest of the unit with the cleanup. That many dead vampires—well, there’s a lot of paperwork.”
“I’ll bet.” I’d been unconscious for the day after the events had unfolded in my brother’s rural home. And I’d been practically a zombie for days after that—nearly a literal one. Thinking much beyond the hunger for blood had been impossible. And the heat that had roiled through me from Claude’s blood hadn’t faded for several days—after I’d died from my injuries, to be reborn as a vampire.
I tried not to think about that part too closely.
My memories were sketchy, but Claude had filled in the details. He’d let Nic go to save me—I remembered that much. But Luc, after making sure I would live, had found Nic on the front steps. He’d been nearly dead from the blow to his heart that Claude had inflicted with the sword, but Luc had cut off his head, just to be sure.
It seemed that the father had finally run out of patience with his son.
Before the police and paramedics had arrived, Luc and Eddie had left. I hoped that meant my brother still lived. And that somewhere, Luc was looking out for him.
“I might have to fly back to Chicago for a few days, but I told him we needed some time here. OWEA is stepping in to help close out the case. But without Nic—or Luc—burying things, evidence is piling up. Vasquez is willing to interview you over the phone until you’re up to meeting with him.”
I could do that much. Things were getting easier to deal with than they had been, and with each passing day my strange new world was starting to feel more normal, more natural. Surely I could manage a phone call. In fact, I could manage a few. I needed to call my parents and talk to them personally, instead of through Claude.
“Evidence,” I muttered. It was strange. Words felt different coming out of my mouth as a vampire. As if everything had a taste. I turned back to the ocean. “I will get used to this, right?”
He pulled me close, his hard chest against my back, and his arms cradling me. “You will.”
“So what’s the evidence saying?”
“Are you sure you want to talk about this now?” he murmured, mouth close to my ear, his face pressed against my hair.
“I’m still an investigator. Or I will be, once I get a handle on this new B.S.” Like my new overwhelming desire for blood. Shit.