Blood Moon Page 46

“Better pray they don’t need you and let you die,” another voice said. There was someone else in the cell with her, a man with cuts on his face, crusted with blood and accented with bruises. He was human. He was human, he was locked up, and the vampire hadn’t eaten him, even though she was clearly in dire need of blood.

“You’re … human.”

“Figured that out, did you?” he said, disgusted.

A clatter of iron chains and a thin wailing scream cut us off. We froze.

“Keep your head down,” the man snapped. “Get out of the light.”

I slid closer to the gap, deeper into the dank shadows.

“What the hell is this place?” I asked when no one came to the gates for us.

“Hell,” he shot back. His jaw bristled with gray whiskers. I could smell the sweat on him. “They’ve brought half a dozen vampires here. Some are still chained up, others are dust.”

“But why? What do they want?”

“Who knows? They like pain. They don’t like vampires.”

“But half of them are vampires.”

“Better to serve the devil than burn in hell,” he said, sounding exhausted. “Whatever they’re looking for with all their tests and torturing, they haven’t told me.”

“Why are you here? You’re human.”

“They take our bodies and dump them in town. Took a woman just tonight. I don’t know why. At first I assumed I was just food, though Ianthe here has very politely held back.”

“I wouldn’t eat you, Lee,” the vampire said with weary amusement. “You know that. You smell terrible.”

Lee’s smile was brief. When he looked at me, it died. “I hope you’re stronger than you look.”

“I hope so too.”

There were too many sounds: iron chains, Hunters talking, victims sobbing or trying to claw their way out, rats scurrying, water dripping. I leaned my head back, covering my head with my arms, but the screaming pierced through, was so broken, it was jagged and hot in my ears. I stood up and went to the bars. The woman hanging from the bars was weeping soundlessly through seizures of pain. Frankenstein stood near her with an expression of detached curiosity, a metal device full of spikes in his hand, dripping blood.

“If you pierce around the heart but not quite through it, you get the most interesting reaction,” he was saying to one of the guards.

“Stop it!” I yelled when he lifted the device again and the vampire shivered and begged. “Leave her alone!”

Frankenstein turned slowly toward me. “I’ll stop,” he said pleasantly. “Provided you’re willing to take her place.”

The vampire woman hung like meat. Her eyes were nearly dead. Even if the rest of her survived, she’d go mad. Fear was metallic and bitter in my mouth, like pennies in vinegar.


Chapter 18


Late Monday night

Constantine took me to the Bower. The bats followed us the entire way though their numbers thinned a bit. I stumbled along, Constantine’s hand gripping mine tightly as I tripped over roots and was generally the exact opposite of a graceful vampire with excellent night vision.

I was a little busy freaking out.

One of Lady Natasha’s handmaidens tried to stake me. I’d just been exiled from the Blood Moon where my mother’s right to the throne would be ritualized later this week under the full moon. I was persona non grata, to be staked on sight. I was hearing voices.

And it wasn’t even midnight yet.

I wanted to call Lucy, but this was too dangerous for her. I wanted to call Kieran, but I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to turn the clock back and stay inside the family tent so the Furies never saw me and none of this even happened.

Instead, I sat on a dusty brocade sofa under a wreath of bats. We were alone, snow falling lightly between the branches. I smelled pine and cedar and ice and the burning wicks of candles in tin lanterns. Ice glimmered here and there, dripping off evergreen boughs and iron candelabras. It was haunting and beautiful, but I barely noticed.

“What am I going to do?”

“Whatever you want, love,” Constantine answered, smiling gently as he sprawled in a chair with the carved feet of a lion. He looked utterly comfortable and unconcerned that he’d been marked for Chandramaa execution.

“They just tried to kill you,” I felt compelled to remind him.

He shrugged one shoulder. “We’re safe here.”

“You can’t know that.” I rubbed my palms on my knees. Vampires rarely sweat. Our body temperature didn’t even approach lukewarm unless we’d just drunk a lot of blood and it was running at full tilt through our systems. Still, I was anxious enough that my hands felt damp. A hundred thousand thoughts crowded in the black space of my mind, like stars on a clear night. And they were just as difficult to catch. “I didn’t even know we could be exiled,” I said. Even though the Drakes had been exiled from royal court for centuries, this was different.

“Moon Guard don’t concern themselves with renegades outside the encampment borders. They won’t come after us here. They won’t even bother with us unless we try to go back. It’s as if we don’t exist to them anymore.”

I swallowed. “What about my family?”

“What about them?”

“Will they be punished? For what I did?”

He shook his head. “Doubt it.”

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