Home > Phantom Shadows (Immortal Guardians #3)

Phantom Shadows (Immortal Guardians #3)
Author: Dianne Duvall

Chapter 1

The desire to commit violence rose up within Bastien, almost irresistible in its intensity. Was this how vampires felt, he wondered, when the virus that infected them wreaked havoc in their brains and eradicated their impulse control? Because right now he would like nothing more than to plant his fist in the face of the immortal who lounged beside him.

“I hope you know what a sickeningly sappy grin you’re wearing,” Bastien muttered, his eyes on the students staggering about in front of the frat house across the street.

“Bite me,” Richart replied as he continued to text away on his cell.

Bastien sighed. The jackass wouldn’t even offer up a good fight. Bastien had been baiting him for a couple of hours now in an attempt to relieve some of the frustration spawned by Seth requiring him to have an escort. A babysitter. A guard.

“Fucking immortals,” he muttered. They all wanted to kill him now that they knew he had slain one of their own almost two centuries ago. All of them but this one apparently.

“You’re an immortal yourself, dumbass,” the Frenchman reminded him.

Sometimes Bastien really missed the company of vampires.

Movement in the shadows north of the frat house caught his eye.

Speaking of which . . .

Bastien watched as two young couples, clearly in their cups, stumbled off the front porch and wove their way down the sidewalk. Pulsing music penetrated the house’s closed windows, rumbling through the neighborhood and piercing Bastien’s ears as silhouettes gyrated on the windows’ curtains. The foursome argued drunkenly over which path to take to the dorm, then chose one and started down it, completely unaware of the dark predators who mirrored their every movement.

Bastien opened his mouth to give Richart the heads-up, then closed it again when he realized Richart was already returning his cell phone to his back pocket. The two stood.

When Richart reached out to touch Bastien’s shoulder, Bastien dodged the contact and stepped off the edge of the roof, dropping three stories to land with only a hint of sound on the sidewalk in front of the building.

Richart appeared out of thin air beside him half a second later. “You risk discovery when you do such,” he commented blandly as they set off in pursuit of the humans and their vampire shadows.

“And you don’t, teleporting?”

Richart shrugged. “If they see me, they’ll think me a figment of their imagination, a trick of the eye or light. If they see you, they’ll think you’re a jumper or some student who’s drunk off his ass and come over to investigate.”

True. The point was moot, however, because humans couldn’t spy them in the darkness. The moon was absent, cloaked in the heavy clouds that had rolled in around sunset. And the streetlights above them had been shattered, either by vampires wanting to escape notice while they observed their prey or by students with too much time on their hands.

Bastien tuned out the human couples’ inane conversation, the frat party’s booming base, and the rumble of the occasional passing automobile, and zeroed in on the conversation of the vampires, inaudible to mortal ears.

The plan seemed to be to drain and dismember the men in front of the women, then torture the women, maybe keep them as toys from which the vampires could feed and extract screams for a few days until the vamps lost interest and sought new victims.

That plan changed when the men parted company from the women after a brief bout of sloppy kisses and ass-grabbing. The men staggered off down one sidewalk. The women tottered up another, their high heels clickety-clacking on the pavement.

The vampires hesitated, then followed the women.

Bastien looked at Richart. “Do you want Beavis or Butthead?”

Richart nodded to the blond vampire. “I’ll take Beavis.”

The women passed in and out of pools of illumination as they walked beneath campus lights, then under the branches of ancient oak trees. They turned toward the brightly lit entrance of one of the dorms.

The vampires drew closer to their backs.

Richart touched Bastien’s shoulder. The world around him went dark. A feeling of weightlessness engulfed him, not unlike that one sometimes experienced in an elevator. Then Bastien found himself standing a foot or so behind the vampires.

He frowned at Richart. Bastien may not have the aversion to teleporting that some immortals did, but he still liked to have a little warning first.

Two figures, moving so swiftly they blurred, suddenly darted around the corner of the building, swept up the women, and sped away.

“What the hell?” the brunet Bastien had labeled Butthead spouted.

“Hey, those chicks are ours!” Beavis shouted.

Bastien met Richart’s glowing amber gaze. “I’ll take the newbies.”

Beavis and Butthead spun around.

Richart nodded. “I’ll get rid of these two.”

The vampires’ eyes began to glow as they bared descending fangs.

Bastien took off after the new vamps and their female victims, running so swiftly that humans would not even be able to follow the movement with their eyes.

The vampires took him from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to neighboring Durham, dodging this direction, then that, providing quite a chase.

Did they know an immortal hunted them? Or did they simply want to avoid a confrontation with the enraged vampires from whom they had snatched the women?

The vamps stopped in the deserted loading zone behind one of Duke University’s buildings. Each clutched a woman. Neither human made a sound.

As Bastien halted a hairsbreadth away, he saw bite marks on both women’s necks. Their hearts still beat, so neither had been drained. But the glands that had formed above the fangs the vampires had grown during their transformation had already delivered the chemical that acted like GHB, leaving the females sluggish and willing to accede to anything the vamps wanted to do to them. Tomorrow morning, if the women lived, they would have no memory of this.

The vampire closest to Bastien started violently when he realized they had company. He dropped the woman he held. “We saw ’em first.”

Bastien caught the woman’s blouse in a fist before she could hit the ground, then plunged his other fist into the vampire’s face.

Blood spurted and bone shattered as the vampire flew backward and hit the building with enough force to crack the brick and produce a cloud of sandy mortar.

Bastien gently lowered the woman to the ground and zipped over to the vampire’s gaping friend. That one tried to lock an arm around his victim and use her as a shield . . . until Bastien broke said arm and sent the screaming vamp flying through the air to form more cracks in the building’s exterior.

Bastien placed the woman beside her friend and charged the vampires, guiding the battle away from the humans.

Both vampires drew weapons: hunting knives with serrated edges and bowies as long as his forearm.

Bastien drew his katanas and faced them without a qualm. He had been born two centuries ago and, at the insistence of his noble British father, had trained with a master swordsman. If that weren’t enough to lend him confidence, the fact that he had trained with Seth and David, the eldest and most powerful immortals in existence, for roughly two years did.

The blond vampire swore, fear filling his glowing blue eyes. “He’s an Immortal Guardian!”

Bastien thought for a moment the other one would cut and run. Then the brunet roared and dove into the fight.

Blades clashed. Wounds opened. Blood flowed.

On the vampires, that is.

Bastien remained relatively unscathed. Disarming the blond, he sheathed a sword and grabbed the blond vampire by the neck. As Bastien continued to battle the brunet, the emotions of the blond flowed into him at the behest of Bastien’s gift. Malice. Chaos. Madness. He couldn’t be saved. The virus that infected both vampires and immortals had been with this one too long.

Shoving the vampire back, Bastien slashed the brunet’s chest, then swiftly decapitated the blond.

The brunet stilled and stared at his fallen comrade.

Bastien used his preternatural speed to disarm the second vamp and took him by the throat as well.

Richart appeared in the distance, perhaps forty yards away, turned in a circle, spotted them, then teleported to Bastien’s side. “The women?” he asked.

Bastien nodded to them. “Alive, but bitten and disoriented.”

Richart motioned to the vampire Bastien held. “And this one?” Richart’s clothing—black pants, black shirt, long black coat (standard garb for immortals)—bore numerous wet patches that would have been obvious bloodstains on material of any other color. “Are you planning to keep him as a souvenir or what?”

Bastien scowled. “I wanted to see if he was salvageable.”

If the vamp were newly turned, the madness that afflicted humans after they transformed may not have infected him yet.

“And?”

Bastien eyed the vamp with disgust. “He isn’t.”

“Then what are you . . . ?” Richart trailed off.

Muffled noises carried to Bastien’s sensitive ears. Boots traversing grass and pavement. Several pair, each bearing a man’s weight. The faint rattle of equipment.

The immortals shared a look.

Facing the corner of the building from around which the sounds approached, they both drew in deep breaths.

No cologne. No scented soap. No deodorant. No lingering hint of clothing detergent or scented fabric softener or dryer sheets. Nothing an immortal would ordinarily detect on an approaching group of humans.

The sole human-oriented scent that reached them was . . . gun oil.

Bastien frowned at Richart. Whoever approached bore the MO of a hunter. What the hell would they be hunting on a college campus? Unless . . .

“Take the women to safety,” Bastien ordered too softly for humans to hear.

Richart reached the women in an instant and tossed one over each shoulder. “I shall return shortly,” he promised, then vanished.

The vampire in Bastien’s grasp began to struggle.

Bastien tightened his hold and waited to see who or what would come around the corner.

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