Home > Cold Reign (Jane Yellowrock #11)(10)

Cold Reign (Jane Yellowrock #11)(10)
Author: Faith Hunter

Did not want you/us to go back and kill them, Beast said.

That wrenched my attention from the kits, fast. You stopped me? Understanding rolled over me in a tsunami of comprehension. Stopped me from . . . even thinking about killing them. Didn’t you?

Jane needs vampires to survive Europeans. Needs vampires to save littermates. To save Angie Baby and EJ and all witch kits, many more than five.

I could just send Yellowrock Clan into safety. Back to the mountains. Why did you stop me? Secrets. You’re still keeping secrets from me. What do you know? I demanded.

Edmund sucked and sucked, his mouth moving on my wrist without pain, but with a sensation I couldn’t name. Tingly. Cold.

Beast went silent for a long time, as the tingles raced up and down my arm and pulsed into my bloodstream with every beat of my heart. My heart rate was beginning to speed. Racing. My breath came fast. Edmund was taking too much blood. Even with all his control, he was draining me. Beast! I commanded.

She thought, I/we will not die. In the deeps of my mind the kits vanished. Beast rose to her feet. Her lids closed and opened, in the lazy way of cats. She turned and pawpawpaw’d into the dark.

“Dang it,” I snapped aloud, and opened my eyes. And realized that Edmund’s eyes were on mine. Without asking, I knew what he was thinking, feeling. He had experienced the entire conversation with me. Just like when Leo healed me that very first time. “Oh crap,” I said.

But Edmund was still dying. Fast. The pool of blood around us was spreading. My sweatpants were soaked with it.

Edmund released my forearm and reached up toward my face. His fingertips were cold as death, pale and ashen. I reached for him with my skinwalker magics. Felt myself falling into his mind. Into a dream not my own.

The house was dark, lit only by a single oil lantern in the front room and a single candle in one of the back rooms. The four large rooms that comprised the downstairs were fraught with winter chill, the house buffeted by icy blasts, the timbers creaking. Frost in intricate patterns caught the lantern light, sparkling on the precious window glass. Snow piled against the house in deep drifts and fires burning on the hearths could do little but hold the worst at bay. There were no customers on this blizzard night, snow such as Charleston had never seen—perhaps eighteen inches by morning.

Yet even in the cold, Sara’s face was too hot. She was feverish, thrashing in ill dreams. She had taken some disease from one of the gentlemen callers over the summer and had not been given time from her duties to be made well. Instead she had been worked and worked, man after man, used and left sicker each time than before. And oft as not giving the patron the same disease she had contracted. Disease not acquired from the air, or some melancholic of the liver, as many chirurgeons suggested, but from the numbers of men she was forced to service and the abuse she suffered in her chambers.

“Heal me,” she whispered.

He flinched and found her eyes on his in the night. Once they had been a laughing bright blue, a strange tint in her dark-skinned face. Her coloring—half white, half black—had drawn her much attention from the townsmen. “I have given you my blood a dozen times. It is not enough,” he whispered. “Here. Take watered wine. There is opium in the cup I have stolen from the master. It will ease your dreams and your pain.”

She turned her mouth from the cup, her blue eyes holding tight to his. “Make me what you are. I know that you can.”

“No,” he whispered back. “I cannot.” But he had thought of it. He wanted it. But where would he keep her while she wandered in her mind? How would he feed a scion for ten long years of devoveo? “I have no lair to keep you safe. I am but a slave, like you.”

“No,” she whispered, turning her cracked lips to press a kiss to his hand. “You will never be a slave such as I. You will never be used as I have been. You must turn me . . .”

The front door opened.

I was ripped out of the dream. Chest heaving.

Not dream. But memory. A memory of Edmund’s past. This was bad. This was very bad.

The stink of vamps and the smell of Wrassler blew in. Help was here. But that also meant that there wasn’t time to deal with the shared memory or to figure out what it might mean. “This stays between us. That I shared your memories,” I whispered to Edmund. “Between us.” The command pulled through my blood, electric, heated, charged with potency. And it bound him to my demand. His eyes widened, a human reaction of surprise and hunger.

Shock followed through my blood, shock and guilt. Guilt that I had power over him, that I could command him. That I had made him some sort of mental slave. This was what it meant to bind another. This was what Leo had tried to do to me. This was what I had tried to avoid my entire time in New Orleans. And now instead of me being bound, I had bound Edmund. My stomach went sour at the realization and at the knowledge that I couldn’t deal with any of it right now. I needed time to untangle the mess I had made.

Edmund eased his fangs from my flesh. “Yes, my master,” he murmured, his eyes holding mine, the light hickory-hazel brown irises gleaming. “Do not feel guilt. I am yours to command.”

I scuttled across the floor. Vamps poured into the house through the front door. Within seconds of the vamps arriving, I bolted to the backyard, pulling up the Gray Between as I stripped. Not thinking. Not thinking about Edmund and what I had done. Rain slashed me with frozen claws, icy and miserable on bare skin.

It hurt to change fast—it hurt—but I didn’t have time to shift a slower, less painful way, and time was urgent in the storm and rain. The scent of Edmund’s blood and the blood of his wounded attackers would be gone in minutes, the trail lost in the downpour. And I didn’t dare become dog to track waning scent patterns. When I became any form of tracker dog, I got lost in the scents and feared I’d never find myself again.

Beast tore out of me. I fell to the ground as Beast thrust herself through my skin, bending and breaking bones, muscles stretching and tearing.

• • •

Was heaving breaths, cat-gagging. Alex strapped Jane’s waterproof gobag around my neck. Held plastic cup of vampire blood to nose.

Smell good. Smell strong. I/we lapped blood. Licked small cup clean. Was still hungry in belly but strongness raced through body.

Alex slapped Beast on butt.

Snarled at littermate Alex. Pulled paws under belly and stood. Needed food. Needed cow or deer. Needed to hunt and pounce and kill and eat. Growled. Shook pelt like dog. Was wet.

“I can’t leave,” Alex said. “Not with vamps in the house. Be careful.”

Hacked at Alex. Padded to porch, to door where Edmund had come into den. Blood was everywhere. Edmund blood, rich and strong. Licked at blood. Some was good. Some was also silver. Looked up at Alex. Was man now. Held white-man gun in one hand, pointed at floor. Fingers on safe place called slide.

“I’ll clean up the mess,” Alex said.

Sniffed with scree of sound, lips back, sucking air over tongue and scent sacs at top of mouth. Smelled strange vampires, their blood mixed with blood of Edmund. Blood. Silver. Death.

Beast? Jane thought.

Am Beast.

Can you smell him? Oh yeah. There it is. I got it.

Jane nudged Beast brain. You need to stop taking canine scent genes in when we shift to dog. It’s getting crowded in here.

Strange vampire blood smell. Strange vampire ambush-hunted Edmund. Two vampires. Strong vampires. And humans, more than five.

Okay. We’ll talk about it later. For now, use those dog scent genes and track back on Edmund’s trail.

Beast sniffed. Beast wants good nose without being ugly dog. Do not want to be tracking dog, but do want good dog nose. Jane started to think Jane thoughts. To argue. Put paw on Jane and made her silent. Will not talk to Jane about nose.

Muzzle to ground, like dog Beast did not want to be, followed blood trail through rain. Alongside of house. Past Bitsa, covered with cloth. Past Edmund car, fancy car that Alex loved, with top and seats made of dead cow. Car was cold. Edmund had been on paws—on foot. Edmund did not have paws. Stopped at metal gate at end of alleyway. Stuck nose and muzzle through bars and sniffed. Looked. No people in rain. People were smart. Rain was cold and Beast was hungry. Even with vampire blood in belly.

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