Blood Cross EPILOGUE

When I left New Orleans for a stint in the mountains, a chance to clear my head and let Beast run and hunt, the vamp world was vastly different.

In a matter of days, the vamp hierarchy had been realigned, with some vamp clan leaderships decimated and their members absorbed by others in a purge that had to set records. The vamp-war-that-might-have-been never made the papers, but I talked with Bruiser and Troll often enough to keep up with the gossip. And I stayed out of Leo's hair. He was a bit too bloodthirsty for me to call on him right now.

When the depths of the rebellion had come to light, Leo killed some of his own scions who had signed on to the wrong side, and then he took over the vamp council, appointing his loyal scions as new clan masters in rival clans. I'd heard that he had forced the blood sharing that cemented their - and his - positions. By all accounts, the bloodbath I'd been expecting had happened in the end but it hadn't quite been war and was over now.

I spent the days between the last battle and my trip north getting to know my new boyfriend, sitting in his hot tub, and riding his horses. Eating a lot of steak. Meeting his family, for pity's sake. And having a lot of . . . well . . . Beast was happy. When I wasn't with Rick, I was getting ready to say good-bye to Molly and Angelina. It was a bittersweet parting, because I knew it would be a while before my life would be back to normal, back living in the mountains. And because a rift had opened between Big Evan and me. He wasn't a forgiving man, and the fact that my lifestyle had placed his children in life-threatening danger was a hard one to pardon. I was having a pretty hard time forgiving it myself, so I wasn't holding it against him.

I hadn't had to report in person to the vamp council, which was a relief, but I did have to write a full report for the ones left alive after the city's blood-master took his vengeance on the rebels. An amended report went to the police, as informational as my contract with the vamp council allowed, which meant a lot was left out. However, since I was sleeping with a cop, NOPD got a lot of info from an "unnamed source" and no one complained.

The cure for vamp insanity had indeed been worth going to war over. If the Rousseaus had succeeded - and it looked as though they had been close - my world would never have been the same. Baldy, Tristan, Renee, Rafael, and Adrianna had been five fingers of a huge fist. Together, they would have pounded Leo. One of them would have taken over as master of the city. Every vamp in the world would have done homage to Leo's successor. The other four would have had their choice of cities anywhere in the world.

So, Rafael had wooed Adrianna away from her master and mind-joined with her, kidnapped Bettina, and made ready to challenge Leo.

I shipped the fifteen paintings detailing the vamp/witch dark magic back to Asheville to Evangelina. I figured she'd burn them, which made a lot of sense to me, but then, Evangelina was big on history and stuff like that, so maybe she would just put them someplace safe.

Settling with Derek was easy - I just deposited his checks. We didn't have a lovey-dovey relationship.

My own payment and a hefty bonus supplied by the new vamp council went a long way to giving me peace of mind. I made a donation to Hicklin's family by dropping a wad of cash in a donation box near the closed casket. I learned his name at the funeral. Corporal Leon Alphonse Hicklin had been home on leave between stints in Afghanistan and was killed trying to stop a robbery, according to the police reports. He was buried with full honors.

The witch children's missing persons reports stored in the woo-woo room at NOPD

were finally getting a conclusion. Jodi and Evangelina told the witch covens what had happened to so many of their young over the years. I wasn't in on the meeting and didn't want to be. It was outside my contract andway outside my comfort zone. Jodi and she were going to try to heal some wounds between NOPD and the witch covens. It was a long time coming.

One afternoon, after a crazy long day of settling accounts and attending a funeral, I received a letter from Leo, hand-delivered by Bruiser. This one was also sealed with wax and Leo's blood.

Bruiser stood on my front porch, his heart in his eyes, and waited as I opened the seal.

Avoiding his gaze, I read part of it aloud to Molly, who blocked the doorway behind me. "Leo officially 'rescinds the death threat against the Rogue Hunter, Jane Yellowrock. She is hereby offered permanent employment with the Council of Mithrans of New Orleans.' " I squinted at Bruiser, outlined against the sunlight. "Sorta like a retainer?"

"Yes." He smiled. "Much like a retainer, for services yet to be rendered."

"Huh. How 'bout that?" I turned and pushed past Molly, shutting the door in Bruiser's face. I could hear him chuck-ling through the door.

I hadn't decided what to do about the job offer yet, but it was good money. Real good money.

A bit over a week after the Battle, on a Friday, Rick and I left New Orleans for a long weekend, our gear strapped to our bikes and no particular destination in mind, except mountain roads and one certain trip along the Tail of the Dragon, the winding, twisty road that draws bikers to its curves as girly mags draw men to their pages. It's a lusty ride and Rick had never taken it.

I wanted him to see my home, in the hopes that . . . Well, some hopes had to be kept undercover for now, but I hoped someday he might meet Beast. And want to stay around for both of us.

Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies