Page 14


It was the very last sound she ever voluntarily made.
The heartbeat I felt wasn’t mine, but hers, and it resonated within my head, strong, heady, and I lunged at her bared chest. Her moan died in a liquid curdling sound as her body fell hard to the cobbled ground; I followed her down. Blood, bone, and flesh flashed before my eyes, a vicious carnage that nauseated me. I couldn’t pull away, I couldn’t look away. Yet the need, the hunger—the horror—roared within me. Liquid warmth flowed down my throat, sweet, intoxicating, and my throat constricted as I sucked.
My head snapped, hitting something hard, and my cheek stung as a hand smacked it. My eyes fluttered open, and I stared up—into the widened eyes of Riggs. He was straddling me, I was flat on my back on the donjon mat, and his hand was raised to give me another smack. His hand never reached my skin.
“Don’t do that again, kid,” Eli said, his voice edged with threat, a death grip on Riggs’ hand. “Get off her.”
Riggs moved—fast, and then I was looking into Eli’s eyes as he bent down on one knee and hovered over me. He stared, hard, for several seconds, and I knew he was digging in my brain. With a stern look, his gaze traveled over my body, then searched my face. “Yeah, I am digging. What the hell’s going on, Riley?”
Seth squatted down beside me and leaned over. “Ri? You okay?”
“I’m okay, Seth.” I sat up. “Seriously. No worries.”
Behind my brother stood Phin, Luc, and Josie; behind them, Zetty, Riggs, and the others. They all looked at me as if I’d grown another freaking head. “What?” I asked, glancing at all of them, then back to Eli. I stared silently, frustration and a little anger growing faster by the second. Tucking my foot under my ass, I moved to stand. Eli pushed me back down. In the next second Zetty was standing there, pinching dust from his protective pouch and sprinkling it over me.
He muttered something in Tibetan.
“Zetty, stop it!” I said, waving my hand in front of my face. “What the hell?”
“You got some bad stuff in you, Riley,” he said in his heavy Nepali accent. “It needs to come out.”
I glared at him. “Well thanks, Zet-Man. I’ll see what I can do.”
Zetty glared back, then moved away. Eli was there, doing his share of glaring.
“Tell me,” he said, his frown deepening and his blue eyes growing dark. “Now.”
I frowned back. “Jesus, Eli. Chill.”
He continued to stare, waiting for an answer.
I sighed. “It was another daydream. Very realistic—”
“How realistic?” he asked.
I looked at him, blocking out everyone else from the room. I focused solely on Eli. “Very. I see a kill. Feel it. As if I’m the killer.” With my thumb and forefinger, I rubbed my closed eyes, digging hard into the sockets, trying to erase the images, the feelings. “I … feel his emotions, his desires, and they’re so gross—”
“Is it Victorian Arcos?” Eli asked.
The fury in his face was almost frightening. “No,” I answered. “But he’s male. In the daydream, when I reach out, it’s not my hand but his.” I shook my head and looked at him. “It’s freaky, and I hate it.” I inhaled. “Can I get up now?”
Eli didn’t answer me, but he grasped my hand and pulled me up.
“So what’s causing it, Eli?” asked Phin. He ran a hand over his short blond hair and stared at his brother. “I don’t like it, Bro. Something’s up.”
Eli kept silent, his gaze trained on me. “Yeah.” He inclined his head. “Let’s go.”
“Where?” I asked. “You know I don’t like to be bossed—”
“Now, Riley,” Eli said, his stern expression edgy. “I mean it. To my parents’ study. They’ have to know.”
Phin and Luc were already halfway across the donjon floor. My gaze lit on Seth’, and then on Josie, who stood right next to him. She looked at me, eyes fixed and reading me as though she could see straight through me. She picked up on my apprehension. “It’ll be cool,” she said with encouragement. “Eli’s right. Mother and Papa can help.”
With Eli’s hand on my elbow, I made my way to the Duprés’ study. Phin and Luc had waited. Eli reached around me, caught my gaze and held it, then turned the antique cut-glass knob and pushed open the door. I walked through a mixture of jasmine and the scent of a sweet cigar kicked up by a whirling ceiling fan as I entered the room. In the next second, a breeze grazed my cheek; Phin and Luc were across the room. I hadn’t even seen them move. My gaze lit on Eli’s parents, seated at a large mahogany desk near the window. Elise studied something on the computer’s flat-screen monitor. Gilles leaned over her shoulder, obviously interested.
“Take the bid up to twenty-five pounds, love,” Gilles said to Elise.
“Ah, and then we’ll wait and snipe,” Elise said, typing in her request. Gilles looked up and smiled at me. “On eBay. I’ve a penchant for antique pocket watches.”
“Papa,” Eli said, his slight French accent catching my attention. “Riley has … an issue. We need your counsel.”
Gilles rose and walked to me, stopping no more than a few feet away. His profound stare struck me. “What is the matter, ma chérie?” He cocked his head. “Dreams, I see,” he said, nodding, before I could answer. “Of kills? Tell me.”
I glanced at Eli, and he nodded. I continued. “It’s as if … I’m him. The killer. And it’s not Victorian Arcos. It’s another male, and I’m seeing through his eyes. I can feel him. He attacks and feeds, but I can’t stop what he does.” I shook my head. “I try, but I can’t speak, move, or control his actions. It’s as if I’m … behind his eyelids.” I looked at Eli’s dad. “I recognized the last victim by her tattoo. It was my work.”
Gilles stroked his smoothly shaven chin; clear blue eyes the same shocking color as Eli’s regarded me. “You’ve a vampire’s venom inside you, Riley,” he said. “Yet you say it is not Victorian.” His gaze, curious, sought mine. “How do you know?”
It wasn’t that Gilles frightened me; he didn’t. I trusted him, just as I did Eli. But whenever I was around him, the feeling that I’d snuck and done something wrong and had just been busted overcame me. I’d been caught with Mary Jane stuffed in my locker in eighth grade once, and the school security guard had walked right up and caught me stuffing the plastic baggy in my backpack. He’d dragged me to the principal’s office, and it was that feeling. Gilles Dupré was an extremely profound soul.
Gilles smiled, clearly amused. He truly loved to read my thoughts. “Again, chérie. How do you know that it is not Victorian? It can be no other, oui?”
“I ripped Valerian’s heart out myself,” Eli said quietly.
“I helped Phin burn the rest of his body,” said Luc. “No way can it be him.”
“That leaves Victorian,” said Phin. He moved to stand next to me, folding his arms over his chest. “You have only the venom of the Arcoses. Like Papa said, there can be no other.”
I shook my head and looked first at Phin, then at Gilles. “I’ve seen his hand—it’s … rougher in texture, older skin, leathery. Definitely not Victorian’s young pale skin.”
Gilles glanced at Elise, then directly at Eli. “This concerns me, then. My only other guess is that another is projecting himself into you.” He regarded me closely. “You’ve obviously captured another’s attention.”
“Pissed them off is probably more accurate,” said Luc, and he looked at me. With a flip of his head, his shaggy dark blond hair swept out of his eyes. “Could’ve been any of the newlings,” he said. “Or possibly someone they’ve since turned.”
I closed my eyes, grasped the bridge of my nose, and swore in Romanian under my breath. “So what am I supposed to do? Watch innocent people die? Deal?” It’s what I’d done my whole damn life, right? Why stop now?
The room fell silent for all of five seconds; everyone stared at me. I figured the whole Dupré family had read my inner rant. At this point, I didn’t care anymore. Let’em read.
“We find him,” Eli said, that deadly edge back in his voice, his hand going protectively to the small of my back. I shivered. “And we kill him.”
Part Four
“Everyone knows the phenomenon of trying to hold your breath underwater—how at first it’s all right and you can handle it, and then as it gets closer and closer to the time you must breathe, how urgent the need becomes, the lust and hunger to breathe. And then the panic sets in when you begin to think that you won’t be able to breathe—and finally, when you take in air and the anxiety subsides … that’s what it’s like to be a vampire and need blood.”
—Francis Ford Coppola’s journal in
Bram Stoker’s Dracula:
The Film and the Legend
“I gotta tell ya—I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty tough Betty. A badass in my own right and proud of it. I’m not afraid of much, and if I am scared, I damn sure won’t announce it—to anyone. Unfortunately, my boyfriend and his entire family take privileges inside my private thoughts and know with certainty what scares me, what turns me on—and what pisses me off. All three of those emotions exist in heavy, intoxicating doses where this mystery bloodsucker is concerned, and the biggest fear I have is not that we won’t be able to stop him, but what it’s doing to Eli. He has become crazy-insane about what it’s doing to me. Heads are gonna roll—and I mean that literally.”
—Riley Poe
I thought I’d done a pretty fab job of holding it together after the terrors began. I mean, damn—I’d always fallen out in the throes of the terrors in front of someone, surrounded by, well, everyone. Yeah, they bothered me. Yeah, they were awful. And fuck-yeah, I wanted them to stop. The thing is I don’t sleep as much as I used to. Tendencies, you see. So that means my waking hours, when the terrors hit? There’re more of them—more opportunities for me to experience them. They do weird things to a mortal body, those terrors. I’m starting to feel different in a way I can’t explain. Just … not myself. And when I do sleep, I fall hard, as in coma-sleep. Eli is usually right there. Snooping in my brain.