Savannah gasped and froze for less than half a second. I was already running down the aisle toward her when she leaped off the stage and met me halfway. Caravass, Michael and the dancers joined us as we all ran up the aisle toward the exit then skidded to a stop in the foyer as the street beyond the glass doors erupted in a geyser of fire. Sirens began to wail throughout the city, and several of the dancers behind us hissed in alarm and took a few steps back.
"What is this?" Caravass asked Michael.
"The Clann," I muttered as Savannah's hand darted to the back of her neck and her gaze collided with mine. "I think they've found your headquarters."
Caravass turned round, icy white eyes toward me.
I held up my free hand in surrender. "No way. I swear we had nothing to do with this."
Savannah thrust out her wrist. "Take our blood as proof. The blood memories will show you. We didn't lead them here or tell them anything about this place."
She was right. The council leader might not be able to read our minds, but he could still read the memories in our blood. I stuck my own wrist out beside hers.
Caravass hesitated, then faster than our eyes could even track, his hand darted out and reappeared at his mouth as two thin slices welled with blood across Savannah's and my wrists. Even as Caravass tasted our blood and read our most recent memories, the cuts began to heal. I had to tear my focus away from the amazing healing process in order to follow his thoughts.
He nodded, his eyes narrowing. "It is as you say."
"It's got to be Mr. Williams," I said. "He must have called an emergency vote already."
"But how could he have set this attack up so fast?" Savannah said, turning to look at the f lames still roaring a good ten feet up into the air. Smoke was quickly filling the street and darkening the skies above. "And how did he know where the headquarters were?"
"He had to have already sent a team to get into position before the vote," Michael said.
"It is what I might have done if I were him," Caravass said.
"If the Clann's here, we need to leave," I told him, bracing for who knew what he might say in return. Would he demand we stay and fight at his side?
He stared at me with narrowed eyes then sighed. "I suppose it is too soon to ask you to join us in this war?"
War, Savannah gasped silently. Oh, God. It's really happening.
I shook my head. "I can't. If Williams has declared war, then we've got to get back to the States to my sister and her mother. They'll be in danger, too."
Caravass scowled. "Fine. Michael, I trust you will remain at their sides at all times?" Silently he added, To ensure they do not act against us at least?
Michael nodded. "Of course. I will call you with any news I have. Will you f lee the city?"
Caravass shook his head, his jawline hardening. "I must try to find any surviving council members so we can discuss our next move. If this Williams truly demands a war, then who are we to refuse him?"
We all pushed through the revolving doors, coughing as soon as we exited the building and the smoke slammed our faces and lungs with the smell of a thousand unknown things on fire. The sirens were a hundred times louder out here, forcing Savannah and me to let go of each other's hand so we could cover our too-sensitive ears before the sound could drive us to our knees.
Michael vamp blurred around the car still parked at the curb, getting into the front passenger seat while Savannah and I dived into the back. Caravass shouted directions to the driver as we slammed the doors shut.
Then we were careening on a madhouse ride through the city's streets, every one of them ablaze with shooting f lames from both the streets' many access points into the maze of sewers and underground tunnels that seemed to match the city's layout of streets exactly. We didn't get too far, however, before traffic jams brought us to a halt.
"We must make a run for it from here," Michael shouted over the wailing sirens and shouting humans as he opened his door. To the driver he said, "Make sure the pilot knows we are on our way so he can ready for immediate takeoff."
The driver nodded.
Savannah gave me one last round-eyed look of terror, then we jumped out of the car on opposite sides and started running, struggling to keep her father in sight as we used every bit of vamp speed available to hide our passage through the city on foot. Mr. Williams's attack team had to still be in the city somewhere. The last thing we needed was for them to spot us before we could get out of Paris.
Finally Michael led us back to the airport and onto the jet. None of us dared sigh with relief until we were actually in the air, though, especially since both Michael and the pilot had to do some serious negotiating to get the locked-down airport to allow us to take off. We were lucky the vamp council apparently knew somebody working in the control tower today.
As the jet circled the city, all three of us stared out the nearest windows at the city below. The City of Lights and Love was filled with a whole new kind of light now, one that f lickered and did its best to devour every building and body in its path.
And the States were probably next.
It was a really, really long f light back. And not just because we were worried about another war starting, or getting back to Mom and Emily and hopefully finding them as safe and sound as we'd left them.
It was because Tristan spent the entire return trip planning different ways to get close enough to Mr. Williams to make him pay for Mrs. Coleman's murder.
Worse, he didn't just want justice for his mother's death. He wanted to see Mr. Williams tortured slowly first, then kill him with his own bare hands. And possibly his fangs, too.
At first, I tried to remember that Tristan was still grieving for his mother, dealing with the shock from her death, and anger was probably part of that process. Anyone would be furious and heartbroken.
But when his fantasizing passed the five-hour mark and got downright bloodthirsty, I discovered I could only take so much. I dug into my pockets, found my trusty MP3 player and earbuds, and put on some music to drown him out inside my head.
When we finally reached our last airport stop, disembarked and headed over to a rental car Dad had arranged midf light to have waiting for us, I got into the backseat, assuming Tristan would join me there. Instead he took the front passenger seat by Dad.
Okay. Maybe Tristan needed a little space to work through his emotions.
I sat behind Dad, which gave me a view of Tristan's profile.
Are you okay? I silently asked him.
Sure. And then came more of the same plotting to kill Mr. Williams.
Ugh. It was like being forced to listen to an all-day horror movie fest, whether you liked horror movies or not, and none of the movies were of your choosing. I stuck my earbuds back in and cranked up the music again until I fell asleep against the car door.
We stopped sometime later at a car rental place, where we waited in the parking lot for another hour till Mom and Emily showed up with the truck and RV trailer. This time their tears were happy ones as they hugged us. Then they retired to the trailer to rest while Dad, Tristan and I all opted to ride in the truck for a few hours. Dad wanted to drive a little farther north.
This time I rode in the front seat of the truck with Dad, letting Tristan have the entire backseat to himself so he could stretch out his long legs. As we headed down the road again, Tristan threw a forearm over his eyes, and I thought he might finally rest. It had been too long since I'd seen him even grab a nap. Not since the attack at his family home, in fact.
But even then he didn't sleep, his thoughts swirling back and forth between his mother's death, Dylan's last words, everything Mr. Williams had said and done that night, and wondering where the new Clann leader might be holed up now with his battalion of descendant bodyguards.
Enough was enough. Do you want to talk about it? I silently asked, turning to look over the front seat at him.
What's there to talk about?
I swallowed, the raw pain and endless rage in his thoughts filling me with a horrible ache I hadn't felt since my own Nanna's death last spring. Look, I know how you feel. When Nanna died-
No, you don't know how I feel, Savannah. You have no clue. You lost your grandma. But at least your parents are still right here. You can talk to them anytime you want.
His words stung. They might have seemed true to him, but he was wrong. I'd only lived with my dad for about a year now. Before that, I'd lived with my mother and grandma, and with Mom always on the road for her sales rep job, Nanna had been my only constant parent for years. So while my parents might be alive, losing Nanna had still felt like losing a parent to me.
But Tristan was too wrapped up in his own thoughts to hear mine. I'm never going to speak to my dad again, never know what Mom might have said... But that line of thought was too painful for him to continue. The knot in his throat worked, his knuckles turning white as he gripped the tops of his thighs. If I'd just been there a few minutes earlier...
We had been late because Charmers practice ran over and I'd had to take a shower, fix my hair and makeup, and try to figure out what to wear that might make his mother hate me less.
He wasn't blaming his mother's death on me, I reminded myself.
Your parents' deaths aren't your fault, I told him. You can't blame yourself.
Silence. Finally, he thought very slowly and way too clearly to misunderstand, I am going to track Mr. Williams down and kill him. If anyone's to blame, he is.
I drew in a sharp breath through my nose, earning a curious glance from Dad before he returned his attention to the road. There's a huge difference between fantasizing about killing someone, accidentally ending someone's life and actually setting out to intentionally hunt someone down like an animal. I know you didn't mean to kill Dylan. And I know you don't really mean to-
I didn't accidentally do anything to Dylan. I meant to kill him, just like I mean to kill his father as soon as I can find a way to get close enough to him.
They killed my mother, would have killed Emily, too, if we hadn't gotten there in time! That whole family is poison, and the only way to stop that poison from spreading is to end them.
It had been a long time since I'd heard Tristan shout, and he'd only ever dared to yell at me once. Even if this time it was from inside his mind, it still startled me, and I had to fight my own rising emotions. He wasn't yelling at me. I couldn't take it personally.
I took a deep breath to steady myself. Dylan didn't kill your mom. He didn't even know his dad was going to do that.
He lied, he thought with zero hesitation or doubt.
I read his memories-
Memories can be faked. Remember the one I showed you of me and Bethany Brookes kissing under the bleachers? Never happened. I just imagined it to make you jealous.
I took a deep breath and tried to hold on to my patience, but it was starting to feel like a losing battle. Dylan didn't fake this memory. He didn't have time to. Besides, he was too busy being scared of you.
A memory, my own, f lashed through my mind...the fear in Dylan's eyes as Tristan grabbed him, then Dylan's body soaring through the air, and the sickening thud and crack as his back slammed into the fireplace before he dropped into a lifeless heap on the hearth like a rag doll instead of someone I'd gone to school with, grown up with. Even though I'd seen Dylan's death with my own eyes, it still felt surreal. I'd never seen anyone my age die, much less someone I'd actually known.
He played you, Savannah, Tristan thought. I can't believe you'd be dumb enough to fall for it.
Okay, now he'd crossed the line. He did not just call me dumb. Obviously you're upset about your mother, and I don't blame you. But I am not your punching bag, so quit taking it out on me. I'm on your side, remember? And how dare you call me dumb! Just because I think you should have tried to control yourself and figure out what really happened before losing it and killing someone doesn't make me an idiot.
You are if you actually fell for Dylan's crap. And I already told you, I didn't lose control again! I knew exactly what I was doing.
I made one last attempt to stay calm. Maybe we should talk about this later, after you've had more time to deal with everything.
"I would calm down a lot faster if you weren't sitting there saying I don't know what I saw! I was there, Savannah! I could see with my own eyes what happened and exactly who was to blame! So stop telling me I'm wrong!" The roar of Tristan's words, shouted within the tiny space of the cab, punched at my ears over and over until I found myself actually leaning away from him.
Dad cleared his throat, but when he spoke, the words still came out in a growl. "That is my daughter you are speaking to. I will thank you to watch your tone, and do not shout at her again."
That was it. I was done trying to talk with Tristan. I faced front again, my whole body shaking with an explosion of fury. And this time, the anger was all mine. My stupid eyes burned then f looded with tears, which only made me angrier. Why couldn't I be more like a guy and punch something instead of bursting into waterworks? More than ever, I wished I could turn off the mind connection between us.
I also really wished I could get away from Tristan physically right now.
Finally I couldn't stand it anymore. "Dad, pull over."
The truck slowed and eased onto the shoulder of the highway.
As soon as we stopped, I muttered, "I'll be in the trailer."
I threw open my door, lurched out, slammed it shut without looking at either of them and stalked along the weedbroken asphalt to the trailer door.
Mom and Emily were sitting at the dinette eating something that smelled truly awful. The stench of it hit my nose like a slap, causing me to stumble just inside the doorway.
But then another scent wafted over to me. Something delicious that made my stomach slowly twist into what felt like one giant knot in my gut.
The ache in my upper gums and a glance at Emily's face were the final clues I needed. Oh, of course. Emily had gotten a small cut on her cheek last night, probably from either the broken window Dad had carried her through or maybe a tree branch in the woods. Mom had clearly cleaned up the wound and dabbed some antiseptic on it. But that didn't stop my nose from still picking up the slight scent of Clann blood.
"I'm going to sleep for a while," I pushed out through clenched teeth.
I ducked into the bunk room off the living room area, fighting my instinct to slam the sliding door shut behind me. Instead, I carefully closed it then stood there for a moment as my pulse pounded. It had been a long time since I'd felt the bloodlust, and it seemed even more intense now. Probably thanks to my anger.
Thankfully the bloodlust faded and I could breathe again. I turned to face the dark room. There were three beds, two upper bunk beds and one f loor-level futon couch on the left side that could be folded down into a bed. Emily would probably need the f loor-level futon since I doubted she'd want to try to climb a ladder all the time while pregnant.
I climbed the ladder up to the bunk bed over the futon, lay down on the mattress, and jammed my hands into the pockets of my jacket, only to find my right fingers tangled up in the wires to my MP3 player's earbuds. Lord, I hated earbuds. My ears were too small and the buds hurt the inside of my ears and fell out a lot. I'd only kept them in my pocket for emergency use. The soft headphones I infinitely preferred stayed in my Charmers bag, which was probably a melted pile of nothing in the wreckage of Dad's and my burned-down home now, along with everything else I'd once owned.
The Clann had probably even destroyed my car while they were there. All I had now were the clothes on my back, my MP3 player that was going to run out of battery life any second, and these stupid earbuds that didn't even fit my ears right.
I stuck the earbuds in anyway.
The bunk room door slid open, f looding the room with light.
I squinted, found Tristan standing there and closed my eyes. I so didn't want to hear another second of the Tristan Kills Mr. Williams channel. "Go away."
"I'm sorry I yelled at you and said you were dumb." His voice seeped right past the earbuds in my ears.
I rolled toward the window to hide my wet face then turned on my MP3 player and cranked up the volume to drown out his thoughts. "I don't want to talk to you right now."
Because if I did, I would say something nasty and mean to hurt him like I was hurting.
Except he'd just lost his mother and was already hurting.
That didn't give him the right to take it out on me.
"Are you...crying?"
Now who was the idiot? "I'm a girl, Tristan. That's what some of us do when we get really ticked off."
Unlike some people who went on homicidal rages instead and killed their former best friends then screamed at their girlfriends.
"Wow." His f lat tone thanked me for that thought.
Crap. I'd forgotten that just because my music drowned out his thoughts didn't mean he couldn't still hear mine.
"I told you now's not a good time to talk." I could control what I said to him, but not what I thought. Not right now. "Let's just...get some space from each other till we both cool down. Okay?"
"I said I was sorry. Can't you just get over it?"
That set off the fury all over again. "Tristan, you might be able to turn your feelings on and off like a switch and want to make up right now. But I don't work like that! You don't get to yell at me and call me names and then decide when I should no longer be ticked off at you about it!"
"Fine." The trailer rocked as he stepped out of the room. But still the door didn't slide shut. "Your dad said to remind you that we should feed. Want me to grab you a bag from the fridge?"
I shook my head. "I'm not hungry right now. Thanks."
"Sav, you need to eat-"
That was it. I rolled over to face him, propping myself up on one elbow. "You have been turned for all of five months. Do you really want to stand there and try to tell me when I should eat?" I could feel my voice rising, but the anger was too far gone now to offer any hope of controlling my tone. Thankfully Mom hadn't had a chance to put a pillow on this bed or I might have been tempted to throw it at him.
His mouth opened. Then he snapped it shut and slid the door closed.
I f lopped back on the mattress, closed my eyes and wrapped my arms around my cramping stomach.
In the kitchen, the refrigerator door popped open, slammed shut, followed by the creak and slam of the trailer door. Outside the trailer, a truck door snicked open then slammed shut, and a second later the trailer rocked as Dad drove us back onto the highway.