Blood Bound Chapter 15

I found another vampire's lair in Paseo, but this time I played it smarter. I drove back at noon the next day when the sun was high in the sky and changed into my coyote self because my nose was sharper when I ran on four paws.

I hopped over the fence and cast about, but whatever vampires did to hide their lairs almost worked. I could find no clear scent around the house, but the car smelled of a female vampire, Estelle.

The third menagerie I found a few days later was Andre's.

He lived in a pretty little house mostly hidden behind a huge pole building. It sat on a couple of acres of land next to the wildlife preserve near Hood Park, just outside of Paseo.

I wouldn't have thought to look out that far since vampires, unlike werewolves, are city creatures. It was only luck that had me test-driving a VW Bus out that way. I pulled over to make a few adjustments and as soon as I got out of the car, I knew that people had died inside that house, a lot of people.

I got into the back of the van to change to coyote.

Either Andre was careless, or he wasn't as good as Estelle or Wulfe because I found his scent all over the property. He liked to sit at a picnic table and look out over the preserve. It was a beautiful view. I didn't see any ghosts, but I could feel them, dozens of them, waiting for me to do something.

Instead, I drove back to the shop and went to work.

If I could have killed him the day Marsilia released him, or even the night I killed Littleton it would have been easier. I'd killed animals to eat them, and because it was the coyote nature to prey upon mice and rabbits. Three times I'd killed in self-defense or defense of others. Cold-blooded murder was more difficult.

An hour before closing I left Gabriel in charge of the shop and drove home. Samuel wasn't there again, which was probably just as well. I sat down in my room and wrote a list of the people I knew Littleton and Andre, between them, had killed. I didn't know all the names, but I included Daniel twice, since Andre had killed him once-and Littleton was responsible for his second death. At the end of the list I put down Warren 's name. Then below it, Samuel, Adam, Ben and Stefan. All of them had been damaged by the sorcerer.

Andre intended to create another monster like Littleton. Could I kill him while he was held helpless by the day?

Stefan couldn't touch him because he was oath bound to Marsilia. The wolves couldn't touch him or a lot of people would die.

If I killed Andre, the only person who would suffer was me. Sooner or later, Marsilia would figure out who had killed him even if Wulfe didn't tell her-and I trusted Wulfe about as far as I could throw him. When she knew, she would have me killed. I could only trust she wouldn't be stupid enough to do it in such a way that Samuel or Adam would get involved: she wouldn't want a war either, not with the seethe poised for rebellion.

Was it worth my life to kill Andre?

Deliberately I recalled the maid's face and the sound of her hoarse cries as Littleton killed her slowly in front of me. I remembered the shattered expression that Adam had tried to hide behind anger in the bright lights of the hospital, and the long days following that night before Samuel had strung two words together. Then there was Daniel, broken and starving, at Stefan's trial. Andre had sacrificed him twice, once for revenge and a second time to see how powerful his monster was.

I went to my gun safe and pulled out both of my handguns, the 9mm SIG Sauer and the. 44 Smith & Wesson. I had to put a linen jacket on over my T-shirt so I could wear the SIG in its shoulder harness. The. 44 would have to ride in the backpack with the rest of the vampire-hunting treasures. I was pretty sure the guns wouldn't do me any good against Andre, but they'd take out any of his human sheep-though if Wulfe's menagerie was anything to judge by, I might not have to worry about Andre's blood donors.

I hoped they'd stay out of the way. The thought of killing more people made me sick, especially as Andre's menagerie wasn't guilty of anything except being victims.

Even with the guns, when I got in the Rabbit, I wasn't entirely certain I was going to go after Andre. Impulsively I turned down Adam's street and drove to his house.

Jesse opened the door. "Mercy? Dad's not back from work yet."

"Good," I told her. "I need to see Ben."

She stepped away from the door, inviting me in. "He's still confined," she told me. "Whenever Dad isn't around to stop him, he goes after the nearest wolf."

I followed her down the stairs. Ben was curled up as far from the doorway as he could get with his back to us.

"Ben?" I asked.

His ear twitched and he flattened a little against the floor. I sat down on the floor in front of the bars and put my forehead against the door.

"Are you all right?" Jesse asked.

Ben's misery smelled sour, almost like an illness.

"I'm fine," I told her. "Would you leave us for just a few minutes?"

"Sure thing. I was in the middle of a show anyway." She gave me a quick grin. "I'm watching An American Werewolf in London."

I waited until she was gone and then whispered, so none of the other werewolves I could smell in the house would overhear. "I found Andre," I told him. I wasn't certain how far he'd sunk into the wolf, but at the mention of the vampire's name, he came to his feet, growling.

"No, you can't come with me," I told him. "If Marsilia thinks one of the werewolves is involved in Andre's death, there will be retaliation. I came here... I guess because I'm afraid. I don't know how I can kill Andre while he sleeps and still be me afterwards."

Ben took two slow steps toward me. I reached up and touched the cage with the tips of my fingers. "It doesn't matter. It has to be done and I'm the best one to do it."

Abruptly impatient with myself, I stood up. "Don't let them win, Ben. Don't let them destroy you, too."

He whined, but I didn't stay to talk anymore. I had a vampire to kill.

The weatherman had been predicting a break in the weather for three days, and when I left Adam's house the dark clouds that had been moving in all day had thickened impressively. Hot wind snatched my hair and whipped it across my face.

When I got in my car, I was careful to hold onto the door so the wind couldn't fling it into the shiny new Toyota I'd parked next to.

It still hadn't started to rain when I drove the Rabbit onto the gravel drive that stopped at Andre's house, parking in front of the motor home- sized, garage door side of the pole barn. There were neighboring houses, but they were closer to the highway than Andre's house and the pole barn, along with strategically planted foliage, protected his privacy.

Anyone passing by would be able to see my car, but I wasn't really worried about the neighbors. I'd destroy Andre's body, and the vampires would never allow the human police to find anyone else's remains-including mine.

The grass was knee high and crunched as I walked across it. No one had watered the lawn for a month or more. There were flowers planted around the edge of the house, long dead. I suppose Andre didn't care about how nice his place looked by daylight.

I shouldered my backpack and walked around the pole barn to knock on the door. No one answered and the door was locked tight. I walked around the house and found a patio door on the other side. It was locked, too, but suitable application of a paving stone solved that nicely.

No one came to investigate the sound of breaking glass.

The dining room I walked into was spotlessly clean and reeked of Pine-Sol, the smell making me sneeze as well as disguising any other scent that might be present.

Like the house, the room was small but pretty. The floor was oak, antiqued with a white wash that made the room feel bigger than it was. On one side of the room was a brick fireplace. Family photographs covered most of the surface of the mantelpiece. Curious, I looked at them. Children and grandchildren, I thought, and none of them related to Andre. How long would it be before one of them realized they hadn't heard from their grandparents for too long? How long had he been here to leave so many ghosts?

Maybe the owners of the house were off touring the countryside in the motor home that the pole barn had been built to house. I hoped so.

I started to turn away and something knocked one of the photos off the mantle. Glass shattered on the floor and a chill breeze touched my face.

I left the dining room and walked into the kitchen, which was surprisingly big for the size of the house. Someone had painted the wooden cabinets white, then toll-painted flowers and vines all over. The window over the sink was covered with dark green garbage sacks sealed with duct tape so no light would get through.

There were no vampires in the living room either, though it wasn't as clean as the dining room and kitchen had been. Someone had left a dirty glass on an end table-and there were dark stains on the beige carpet. Blood, I thought, but the Pine-Sol was still crippling my nose.

The bathroom door was open, but the two doors next to it were not. I didn't think Andre was behind either of them, because someone had put shiny new bolts on the outside to keep whoever was inside prisoner.

I opened the first door gingerly and had to take a quick step back, even with my deadened nose, because of the strong smell of human waste.

The man was curled up on a pile of filthy sleeping bags. He curled up tighter when I opened the door and whimpered, muttering, "They're coming for me, Lord. Don't let them. Don't let them."

" Shh," I said. "I'm not going to hurt you."

The smell was appalling, but it would have had to be a lot stronger to keep me out. He cried when I touched his shoulder.

"Come on," I told him. "Let's get you out of here."

He rolled onto his back and grabbed my head in both hands.

"Vampire." Eyes wild, he shook me slowly. "Vampire."

"I know. But it's daylight now. Come outside with me where he can't get you."

He seemed to understand that part and helped me get him to his feet. I pulled his arm over my shoulder and we did a drunken dance out to the living room. I unlocked the door and took him out.

The skies were darker, making it look hours later in the day than it really was. I sat him down on the picnic table with orders to stay there, but I wasn't certain he'd heard me because he was muttering about the dark man. It didn't matter. He wasn't in any shape to get very far.

I left the living room door open and hurried back to the second room. This time the occupant was an older woman. Bite marks trailed up both arms. If the puncture wounds hadn't been in pairs she would have looked like a junkie. She was more alert than the man had been. She didn't smell as bad, and, though she didn't make any more sense than he had, she helped me get her out of the room. I had a harder time getting her to let go of me once I had her at the picnic table.

"Run," she said. "Run."

"I'm going to take care of him." I told her. "It's all right."

"No," she said, though she let me go. "No."

The house protected them from the worst of the wind, and it still hadn't started raining, though I heard the crack of thunder. If it didn't rain soon we'd have some grass fires out of this storm.

The mundane worry steadied me as I went back into the house to hunt for Andre. I left the bedrooms for last. Partially because I was in no hurry to go back into either, but also because I was pretty sure that Andre had to be on the outside of the rooms in order to lock them.

There were no secret passages I could see in the bathroom, and the closet next to it was full of furnace and water heater: there was no room for vampire. I walked back out to the living room and heard another crash from the dining room.

I got there just as the last framed photo fell onto the floor, just in front of a small throw rug. Something shoved me between my shoulder blades and I took another step forward.

"Under the rug?" I said. "How unoriginal." Sarcasm, I've found, makes terror more bearable. I hoped that Andre would be helpless in the daytime even if Wulfe had not been. Andre was the same age as Stefan, and Stefan told me he died during the day.

I moved the rug and there was a trapdoor, complete with an inset iron ring pull. I took out my flashlight before opening the trapdoor.

Here there was nothing so sophisticated as Wulfe's circular stairway. A free standing wooden ladder stood directly beneath the opening. I ducked my head into the hole, hoping the ghost who shoved me once wouldn't do it while I was hanging my head down.

It wasn't a basement so much as a very deep hole dug into the dirt to allow access to the plumbing under the house. There were a few old shelves leaned up against a foundation wall, and some fencing materials. On the other side of the room was a canopy bed straight out of a bodice-ripper romance.

My flashlight picked out an embroidered pattern on dark velvet fabric that enveloped the bed, hiding its occupant, if there was one.

I lowered myself down onto the top of the ladder, and very carefully stepped down two rungs. From there on it was an easy scramble to the ground. I opened my backpack and took out the stake and a mallet I'd taken from the shop: I'd learned it was harder than I'd thought to punch the stake through a vampire's heart,

I left the backpack and its remaining goodies near the foot of the ladder. They wouldn't do me any good until I'd staked Andre, and I had as much as I could carry with the mallet, stake and flashlight.

Above me, lightning struck somewhere nearby, making me jump. If I didn't calm down, I was going to have a heart attack before I killed Andre-and wouldn't that be a waste?

I stood as far from the bed as I could and used the stake to pull open the bed curtains.

Andre was there. When the beam of the flashlight caught him in the face he opened his eyes. Like Wulfe's had been, his eyes were filmed over and blind. I took a step back, ready to run, but he just lay there with his eyes open. He was fully dressed in a pink knit shirt and beige slacks.

Heart in my throat, I forced myself to walk forward and lay the flashlight on the bed where it still gave me some light, but wasn't likely to roll around and blind me. I set the point of the stake down on his chest. It probably would have been smarter to open his shirt, but I couldn't force myself to touch him. The stake had gone through Littleton 's clothing, it ought to go through Andre's as well.

Though I'd been suffocated with qualms all day, finding his prisoners had freed me from my conscience at last. Andre needed to die.

His hands started to move, startling me so that my first hit was off and the stake slid across his ribs instead of going in. He opened his jaws, showing fangs and his hands moved toward his chest.

Quickly I set the stake again and this time I hit the end squarely with the mallet. I felt the wood hit bone and push forward through the softer tissues beneath. I hit it again and the stake buried itself in his chest.

Like Littleton, Andre's body began to spasm. I ran toward my backpack chanting, " knife, knife, knife," and tripped over some unevenness of the dirt floor. I was still on my hands and knees when Andre knocked the flashlight off and it rolled under the bed, enclosing us in shadows.

I scrambled forward, finding the pack with my nose and fingers. Zee's knife in one hand, I walked slowly back into the now silent black corner. The flashlight's muffled light showed me where the bed was, but it made it more difficult to see inside the bed where the curtains shielded the vampire with shadow.

Did you really think it would be so easy?

The toneless voice burned in my head. I tried instinctively to block it out with my hands over my ears, but it was useless.

Did you think I'd be easy prey like my poor Cory, who was just a baby.

I wanted to turn around and run. I wanted to hide as far from the vampire as I could. I was no match for a vampire, especially not this vampire. The old bite on my neck started throbbing, the ache spreading into the shoulder Littleton had damaged.

That was his mistake, because the pain cut through the fear and allowed me to realize that the fear was imposed from outside myself. Once I knew that, it was easier to ignore.

I continued forward, stopping when my knees hit the edge of the bed. My fingers found his chest, then the stake and I moved my hand forward into the blackness until I touched his throat.

He turned his head, quick as a snake and bit into my wrist. Pain blossomed like a mushroom in my head. I moved my hand and his head followed, stretching upward as if the only muscle control he had was in his jaw.

Zee's knife had no trouble cutting his head off. I used it more carefully to pry my wrist free of his bite-I didn't want to slice myself up any more than Andre already had. I had to cut through his jawbone to free my wrist.

When I was through, I took a moment to be sick and then used Zee's knife once more to cut strips off my linen jacket sleeve so I could wrap my wrist. It wasn't as if anything would ever get the jacket clean again anyway.

I was disoriented and shocky, so it took me a while to find the backpack again. The dragon medallion was warmer than my fingers.

It was easier to find the bed this time. My eyes were accustomed to the dark and the flashlight beam, as dim as it was, was the only light in the room.

I set the medallion on his chest.

" Drachen," I said and suddenly there was more light than my eyes could handle.

Blinded, I had to stay where I was for a moment. By the time I could see, the fire had spread from the vampire, to the bedding and smoke filled the room. I couldn't wait and reclaim the medallion or the stake without suffocating from smoke inhalation. So I left them behind and scrambled up the ladder. Zee's knife was still in my hand.

The skies were dark, boiling with energy, and as I stumbled out of the broken patio door, the wind pulled a tree limb off a nearby tree. The wind, or something else tugged and pulled me away from the house. I had to cover my eyes because dirt and plant matter filled the air.

I staggered to the picnic table and touched the man's shoulder. "Come on," I said. "We need to get to the car."

But he fell over, off the bench, and onto the ground. Only then did my brain catch up to what my nose and ears had been trying to tell me. He was dead. The woman was lying forward on the table, as if she'd set her head down and fallen asleep. My heart was the only one beating. She was dead, too.

As I stood dumbfounded, I became aware that there was something missing. The whole time I had been here I could feel the weight of the dead teasing the outer edges of my senses. There were no ghosts here, now.

Which meant that there were vampires nearby.

I spun around, looking, but I would never have seen him if he hadn't wanted me too.

Wulfe was leaning against the wall of the house, looking up at the sky, his head banging rhythmically against the wall of the house in time with my furiously beating heart.

Then he stopped and looked at me. His eyes were fogged, but I had no doubt he could see me.

"It's daytime," I said.

"Some of us aren't as limited as others," he answered me. "Andre's death cries have roused the seethe by now. Marsilia will know he is dead-they have been bound for a long time, she and Andre. It won't have to be much darker before the rest of us are here. You need to get her away."

I stared at him, then realized he wasn't talking to me-because a cold hand wrapped around my upper arm.

"Come on," Stefan said, his voice strained. "You need to get out of here before the rest come."

"You killed them," I said, digging in my heels. I didn't look at him because I didn't want to see him looking the way Wulfe and Andre looked in the daylight. "They were safe and you killed them."

"Not him," Wulfe said. "He told me you would never forgive him if he did. It was a clean death, they weren't frightened-but they had to die. They couldn't be allowed to run free crying, 'vampire. And we need culprits to give to the Mistress." He smiled at me and I took a step closer to Stefan. "I came to find the house on fire," he said, "and two humans, Andre's current menagerie, outside of his house. I always told Andre that the way he kept his sheep would be the death of him someday." He laughed.

"Come on," Stefan said. "If we get you out of here in the next ten minutes or so, no one will know you were ever here."

I let him urge me away from Wulfe, still not looking at him.

"You knew I was hunting Andre."

"I knew. There was nothing else you would have done, being you."

"She'll question you with the chair," I said. "She'll know I did this."

"She won't question me because I've been locked up in the cells under the seethe for the past week because of my 'unfortunate attitude' about the Mistress's plans to create another monster. No one can escape from the cells because Wulfe's magic ensures what is locked there stays locked there."

"What if she questions Wulfe?"

"The chair is Wulfe's creation," said Stefan, opening my door. "He'll tell her that no vampire, werewolf, or walker is responsible for Andre's death and the chair will verify it-because Andre caused his own death."

I looked up at him then, because I couldn't help it. He looked just as he always did, except for a pair of impenetrable black sunglasses that hid his eyes.

He leaned over and kissed me full on the mouth, a quick gentle kiss that told me I hadn't imagined the passionate words he'd murmured as I'd drunk his blood the night I'd killed Littleton. I'd really hoped they had been my imagination.

"I gave you my word of honor you would not take harm," he said. "I was not able to redeem my word completely, but at least you will not suffer to lose your life because I chose to involve you in this." He smiled at me. "Don't fret, Little Wolf," he said, and shut the door.

I started the car and zipped out of Andre's driveway, running from Stefan more than Marsilia's wrath.

Andre's house burned to the ground before the fire department could get to it. The reporter interviewed the fire marshall as rain pounded down. The rain, the fire marshall said, kept the fire from spreading to the dry grass. They'd found two bodies inside the house. The owners of the house had been contacted, they were spending the summer at their cabin in Coeur d'Alene. The bodies probably belonged to vagrants who had discovered the house was empty.

I was watching the special report on the ten o'clock news when someone pounded on my door.

"If you put dents in it," I said, knowing Adam could hear me, despite the closed door, "I'll make you replace it."

I turned off the TV and opened the door.

"I have chocolate chip cookies," I told him. "Or brownies, but they're still pretty hot to eat."

He was shaking with rage, his eyes brilliant yellow wolf's eyes. His cheeks had white marks from the force he was using to clench his jaws.

I took another bite out of my cookie.

"Where have you been?" he asked in a softly menacing voice. The weight of his power enveloped me and compelled me to answer.

So much for his promise not to exert undue influence.

Fortunately, having been terrified and traumatized well beyond my limits, there was nothing left to answer the Alpha's demand. I finished my cookie, licked the warm chocolate off my fingers and waved him inside.

He caught my hand and pulled back my sleeve. I'd doctored myself out of Samuel's first aid kit, which was much better stocked than mine. I'd cleaned the wound Andre had left in my wrist with hydrogen peroxide-I owed Samuel a new bottle. In a fresh, clean bandage the wound didn't look as bad. It felt as though he'd all but chewed my arm off.

"Ben said you found Andre," Adam told me while he looked at my wrist. A muscle vibrated in his cheek. "He was waiting for me in human form. But you didn't tell him where you found him so we went out hunting, Ben and I-until Jesse called to tell me your car was back."

"Andre is gone," I told him. "He won't be coming back."

He held my wrist in one hand and cupped my face in the other, his thumb resting just over the pulse in my throat. "If I killed you, it would at least be quick and clean. The Mistress will take a lot more time if she gets her hands on you."

"Why would she?" I said softly. "Two of Andre's flock burned down the house while he was asleep."

"She'll never believe it," he told me.

"Stefan thinks she will."

He stared at me until I dropped my eyes. Then he pulled me against him and just held me.

I didn't tell him I was still scared-because he knew. I didn't tell him that I'd thrown up four times since I'd gotten home. I didn't tell him that I'd had to turn on every light in the house, that I couldn't get the faces of the two poor souls the Wizard had killed because Stefan wanted to protect me out of my head. I didn't tell him that I kept thinking about how the stake felt as it slid through flesh, or that I was never going to sleep again. I didn't tell him that Stefan had kissed me-Stefan who had killed two people to save me. He'd been right that I wouldn't have forgiven him for doing it-he just hadn't realized that I still held him responsible no matter who had done it. Wulfe didn't care whether I lived or died. If he was at Andre's house, it was some kind of favor exchange with Stefan.

Adam smelled so good. He would never kill an innocent bystander-not even to save me. I buried my nose between his shoulder and his jaw and let the warmth of his body sink into my soul.

Then I fed him cookies and milk until Samuel came home.

I awoke the next morning because someone was pounding on the side of my house. I was pulling on my jeans when I heard the front door open and the pounding stop.

They'd woken up Samuel, too.

Two big red trucks were parked outside my door, hickman construction written in wide white letters on their sides. There were three men in overalls with big grins on their faces chatting with Samuel.

"Damned if I know how they did it," Samuel said. "I wasn't here. My girlfriend scared ' em off with a rifle, but they sure did a number on the house while they were here, didn't they."

We all obediently looked at the trailer.

"Might be cheaper just to buy a new trailer and cart this one off," the oldest of the men said. He wore a hat that said The Boss and his hands had calluses on their calluses.

"The kid's parents are paying for the repairs," I said. "And repairing this trailer is a lot less hassle for us than moving into a new one would be."

The Boss spit a hunk of chewing tobacco on the ground. "That's for darn sure. Okay. We'll have this done in a day or two, depending on the damage to the underlying structure. The work order also says something about holes in the floor? I'm to repair them and replace the carpet."

"In my bedroom," I said. "I didn't want to hurt my neighbors so I shot into the floor."

He grunted. I couldn't tell if he approved or not. "We'll do that tomorrow. Can we get in the house?"

"I can be here," said Samuel. "I work nights this week."


"At the hospital."

"Better than a convenience store, anyway," said the Boss.

"I've done that, too," agreed Samuel. "The pay is better at the hospital, but the Stop and Rob was less stressful."

"My Joni's an RN at Kadlec Hospital," said one of the other men. "She says those doctors are miserable to work with."

"Terrible," agreed Dr. Samuel Cornick.

I looked up from the bus I was working on, and saw Mrs. Hanna pushing her cart. I hadn't seen her since the night she'd helped me find Littleton though I'd caught her scent a time or two. I wiped my hands and went out to meet her.

"Hello," I said. "Beautiful day, isn't it?"

"Hello, Mercedes," she said with her usual warm smile. "I love the smell of the air just after a rain, don't you?"

"Absolutely. I see you're back on schedule today."

Her face went a little blank. "What was that, dear?" Then she smiled again. "I found that picture I was looking for."

"Which one?"

But she was finished talking to me. "I have to go now dear. Be good now."

"Goodbye, Mrs. Hanna," I said.

She disappeared, but I could hear the clatter of her cart and the click of her heels on the pavement for a while after she left.

I finished working on the bus around lunchtime, so I headed back into the office. Gabriel looked up from the computer screen.

"Mail for you on your desk," he said.


I picked up the box. There was no return address, but I'd seen enough of Stefan's handwriting to recognize it. So I waited until Gabriel left to get us some lunch before I opened it.

There were three packages wrapped in Scooby Doo paper: a scorched stake, a small gold medallion with a dragon on it, and a solid, dark chocolate VW Bus.

I gathered the paper and the box and put it in the trash, only then noticing that there was something else on the desk, a pencil sketch of a man's face. I turned it right side up and saw that it was Adam, his eyes watchful but a hint of a smile on his mouth. On the bottom of the page the artist had signed her name, Marjorie Hanna.

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