Home > Venom & Vanilla (The Venom Trilogy #1)(8)

Venom & Vanilla (The Venom Trilogy #1)(8)
Author: Shannon Mayer

“I don’t.”

“That’s the only cheaper option.”

Good God. Understanding hit me like a frying pan to the back of the skull. “You’re going to turn her into a Super Duper?”

Dahlia choked on a laugh as Merlin slowly turned to face me once more. “I’m sorry, what?”

I wasn’t sure I had the blood flow for my face to burn red with embarrassment, but it sure felt like it. “I mean, that’s what . . . we call—”

“You call supernaturals”—he paused, closed his eyes, and pinched the bridge of his nose—“Super . . . Dupers?”

He was going to kill me. I knew it without a shadow of a doubt. He was going to strike me down with his fearsome rage—

Merlin clapped his hands together and let out a laugh that echoed in the room. Not like his earlier laugh; this one was full-bellied, like he couldn’t control himself. Tears streamed down his face as he roared. I looked at Dahlia. Her eyes were wide and she shrugged. “At least he didn’t kill us.”

“He hasn’t left yet,” I pointed out.

She grimaced. “If he kills us, he can’t get paid, now can he?”

Slowly, in tiny increments, he got control of himself. He brushed his hands over his face. “Good goddess, I have not laughed like that in decades.”

Decades? Just how old was he? Not more than thirty by the looks of it.

He pointed a finger at me and I flinched. “Alena, you stay there. We’re going to speak more in a minute.”

Ridiculousness. “Just where am I supposed to go, exactly?”

“Don’t die. We have business, you and I.”

I swallowed hard but didn’t move. Business I understood all too well. That he thought I had any with him was more than a little unnerving. I braced myself; if there was one thing I was good at, it was business. There was no way he could outbusiness me.

Not that there was any way I was doing any such thing with him.

Merlin leaned over Dahlia and handed her a cell phone. “Here. Transfer the money.”

We weren’t allowed cell phones in our ward—too much chance of telling people what the Aegrus virus really did to us, I guess. It made me ache all the more for Tad, that he had been through this alone. I’d snuck away to the ferry and made it to Whidbey Island only once. Tad had been sick when I saw him, but he was nowhere near as bad as I was now.

“Sis, you shouldn’t have come.”

I wore the suit they gave me. I squeezed his hand, clutching it between both of mine as I sobbed, fogging up the plastic of my helmet. “I couldn’t not come. You can’t die, Tad. You can’t.”

“Not really my choice now, is it?” He grinned, his face a mask for what I knew had to be an immense amount of fear. His dark-brown hair was the same color as mine, and his eyes the same brown as well. As close as we were in age, we’d passed for twins more than once. But his eyes didn’t look afraid. They were nothing but calm. He had always been stronger than me, leaving the church when he was only sixteen, living on his own, standing up to Mom and Dad no matter what.

He pushed my hand away. “Go home, little Lena. I’ll be okay here on my own. I promise.”

I fell on him, wrapped my arms around his neck even though the suit kept us apart. “I love you, Tad.”

“Love you too.”

The memory hurt, knowing that if he hadn’t had a roommate like I’d gotten in Dahlia, his last days would have been completely cut off from the world.

I itched to get my fingers on the tiny phone and lose myself in the technology, to pretend I was still a part of the world I knew.

Dahlia gulped. “Okay, give me the phone.”

With trembling hands she took it from Merlin, and her fingers skimmed over the keyboard. The room was bloated with silence between the three of us. Less than a minute later she handed it back to him. “The money’s gone. My parents were taken by someone saying that they had a cure. They were scammed.” A sob hitched in her throat. “I don’t understand. They told me they were going to leave it there until today. That I had until today to use it before—”

I didn’t want to point out that Merlin was scamming them too. Either way, there was no cure. I knew it.

“Well, that’s too bad.” Merlin tucked the phone into his back pocket. “Good luck on the other side, Dahlia.”

He turned and faced me with a wide grin. “Alena. You’re paid for. What would you like to be? Carte blanche for you.”

What was he saying? Paid for? Me? No, that wasn’t possible.

“Roger paid for me to be . . . turned into a Super Duper?”

Merlin shrugged. “No name attached to the cash. Just your name as the recipient.”

There was no way it was Roger; he would have said something. He would have waited for me instead of moving on to his Barbie doll with the bleached blond hair and penchant for dogs. Which of course explained why she liked Roger. I pulled my thoughts away from my husband with some difficulty.

“Well?” Merlin prompted. “What do you want to be?”

“I don’t understand what you’re talking about.” I frowned up at him, putting my best Yaya face on. The one my brother and I had seen when we’d been caught red-handed in her cookie stash.

Merlin smiled. “Ah, let me explain. As a Firstamentalist you wouldn’t know, I suppose. The Aegrus virus can be cured very simply. I will turn you into the . . . Super Duper”—he chuckled, and his eyes sparkled—“of your choice. Vampire. Werewolf. Witch. Whatever you’d like.” He paused. “So what will it be, Alena? Which monster do you want to become?”

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