Out for Blood Page 14

And it was just rude.

I staked the first one after he swung down from a tree and knocked Kieran off his feet. He howled, jarring his wounded arm. The Hel-Blar burst into a cloud of blue-tinged dust that made us both gag. Kieran rolled to his feet. I was already leaping for another Hel-Blar.

There were four more that I could see, or hear, scuttling through the undergrowth. There was a pop from Kieran’s gun and the bullet capsule of UV-injected water dug into a Hel-Blar chest and exploded. He screamed, smoked as if there was fire burning him from the inside out, and then he disintegrated.

I ducked a stake, then a fist. I kicked my boot into a chin, threw a stake with hard-won accuracy. We trained for years to be able to do that. I was grinning as I came out of a lightning spin. I was covered in ashes—I even had to shake them out of my hair. And the air stank, positively putrid with rot.

But at least this was simple.

I knew who the bad guys were and I knew how to dispatch them. It wasn’t politics or assassination attempts or abductions.

In short, it was the best night I’d had all bloody month.

The fight was short and brutal. One of them got away but since neither Kieran nor I were bitten or dead, I counted it a success.

Kieran cradled his injured arm gingerly. “Bastard nearly broke it again,” he said.

“Bastard’s under your boots now,” I told him cheerfully. I’d learned long ago you had to block out the rush of regrets that followed the adrenaline dip after a fight. Otherwise the loop of thoughts could pull you under. Did you just kill someone? Or was it a monster, plain and simple? Did that make you a monster? Was it murder if you were defending yourself? Was it a war and were we just soldiers trying to survive?

I preferred the adrenaline rush.

Kieran frowned, looking around. Then he checked the GPS on his phone. “We’re near the school.”

“Yeah?” I was grateful for the distraction. “I don’t suppose they wear uniforms? Mini kilts? Knee-high socks?”

Kieran half smiled. “Is that all you think about?”

“If I’m lucky,” I answered grimly as we started to walk. The wind off the mountains was cold and fresh, cleaning out the stench of Hel-Blar from my nostrils. I inhaled deeply. I didn’t breathe exactly. My body didn’t require it, but it was an ingrained habit. And inhaling helped us recognize and catalog scents. I still wasn’t sure how the whole vampirism thing worked. Uncle Geoffrey called it biology, Isabeau called it magic. I just knew I was faster, stronger, and virtually immortal.

It didn’t suck.

Well, so to speak.

Just around the time I could smell the warmth of many human bodies gathered in close quarters, I smelled something else.

The first was seductive and actually made my stomach growl, the way humans might feel after smelling a grilled cheese sandwich. The second made my head spin.

Blood.

So much blood, my fangs elongated past their usual battle-length. My gums ached. My throat ached. My veins ached. Hunger slid through me, weakening me like poison. And there was only one antidote.

Blood.

Kieran grimaced. “Do you smell that?”

I nodded and tried not to drool on myself. I had to clear my throat before I could speak properly. “Animal,” I said. “And … something else.”

“What, like hunters?”

I tracked the aroma, licking my lips only slightly.

Then we saw them.

“Not exactly,” I said, hunger fading. The bloodlust still had my nostrils twitching but I wasn’t thinking about a liquid supper anymore.

Animals hung from the trees and lay in a pool of clotting blood on the edge of the woods, their scent leaking into the field. There were three rabbits, a badger, two raccoons, and a small heap of mice.

“What the hell?” Kieran asked, disgusted and confused. “Who did this? And why? They’re not drained.”

“Not a vampire then,” I said through my clenched teeth. “We don’t waste blood.” Because you never knew when your next meal might be. “Give me those nose plugs.”

He handed a pair over. I shoved them in and waited for the red haze to stop licking at my every sense.

“Whoever did that added human blood to the mix.” The lights of the school were gold, glimmering like honey. “Which means there’ll be more Hel-Blar around here before you know it.”

Kieran went pale, paler than any vampire.

“I have to check on Hunter,” he said, breaking into a run.

I didn’t want to admit how cold I got, or how fast I followed him, until the trees were a blur of green around me and I left him behind altogether.

Chapter 7

Hunter

Jenna found me after dinner. I was crossing the lawn, wondering where Chloe was. She hadn’t been in the dining room and she was already up and out by the time I woke up. She’d also been awake way later than me, tapping away at her computers. She was determined to break the school Web codes that controlled schedules, private files, and surveillance cameras. The latter might be useful actually. But she also wanted to be a martial arts expert, crack shot sniper, and kickboxing queen.

“Wild! Hey, Wild!”

I turned to see Jenna jogging my way, cutting across the grass from the track field. Her red hair was bright as ever, as if she were about to catch fire. We’d been friends since crossbow practice in tenth grade.

“Hey,” I said. “Have a good summer?”

“Yeah, pretty good.” She grinned at me. “Heard you got busted already.”

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