Blood Moon Page 7

I jabbed forward with a branch, but he reared back up, snapping it out of my hand. I grabbed another branch but only managed to stab him in the collarbone.

“Shit,” I had time to mutter disgustedly before he went for my throat again. I got him in the knees that time and had to bend backward so he wouldn’t head butt me as he doubled over.

When the others closed in, I leaped up to grab hold of the branch above my head and swung into the tree. I jumped to the next tree and the next, trying to gain ground. Two followed me up the trees like homicidal squirrels, and the other two tracked me from the undergrowth. If they’d had stakes I’d have been dead already. I ran along cedar boughs and oak limbs until the trees thinned out to a meadow. I teetered on the last branch, cursing.

I didn’t have anywhere left to go.

And I was nearly too tired to care.

I propped myself up against the trunk and waited for the Hel-Blar to reach me. The rotten stench of them hung in the cold air. They crashed through the leaves, teeth snapping, jaws cracking. The sound skittered over me like poisonous spiders. I was trying to decide whether to climb higher or take my chances on the ground when a new sound wrapped around us, a soft growl that shivered through the grass.

It was the best sound in the world.


My brother Duncan screeched into view, circling my tree and sliding sideways as the bike dipped. He lifted one hand and shot a miniature crossbow, catching one of the Hel-Blar in the chest. She hissed, grasped at the bolt, and then drifted into ashes, like snow. The Hel-Blar on the branch beside me was momentarily distracted. I didn’t have the energy to grapple with him so I just leaned over and shoved him right out of the tree. He fell, screaming, and by the time he hit the ground, Duncan’s backup had arrived and dispatched him.

Duncan stopped the motorcycle, glancing up at me, his jeans smeared with engine grease as usual. “Okay, little brother?”

I lowered into a crouch. “Connor, Quinn, and Christabel are still back there.” I pointed and the guards behind him took off in that direction. I slid to the ground, wiping ash and dirt off my face. “Thanks.”

Duncan took a plastic water bottle filled with blood out of his bike satchel and tossed it to me. “Don’t thank me yet. Mom and Dad got your message about the ghost town and Saga. They sent me to get you.”

I winced and took a long pull off the bottle. “How mad are they?”

Duncan snorted. “Dad broke a chair.”

“Crap.” Mom broke furniture all the time, but Dad prided himself on his control and even temper. I felt a kind of fear that not even a feral Hel-Blar trying to kill me could engender. I drained the bottle and felt like I could at least make it to the camp on my own two feet, even if what I actually wanted to do was hunker down in a safe house until my parents cooled off.

Duncan and I waited until our brothers and Christabel came toward us through the trees, looking pale but grateful.

Quinn slapped me on the shoulder affectionately, then scowled. “Don’t ever do that again.”

I just snorted. We martyred ourselves for each other all the time. It was genetic.

Duncan gave another bottle to Christabel.

She grimaced. “No way.”

“You’re a vampire, kid,” Duncan told her. “Drink up.”

She looked at the blood through the thin plastic and gagged.

Connor slipped his arm around her shoulder, holding her up. “Uncle G. will come hook you up in the morning,” he said encouragingly. Christabel still couldn’t stomach the idea of drinking blood, even though her body not only craved it but required it for survival. Uncle Geoffrey had to give her a transfusion every time she woke up. Connor took the bottle from her and drained it himself, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

One of the handful of guards Duncan had brought with him nodded a greeting. He wore the mark of the royal house on his shirt. He was old enough that the dawn wasn’t even fazing him. His two companions were human, lean and lethal as swords. “We’ll take rear guard,” he said. “And we’ll leave you two of the bikes.”

“Thanks.” Quinn took the keys from him before I could and climbed on the bike. He glanced at me. “Get on.”

I hopped on behind him, grumbling but too tired to argue who got to drive. Connor helped Christabel up on the bike in front of him and she sat backward, looping her arms around his neck. If she passed out before we got there, he’d have a better chance of catching her so she didn’t fall off completely. We passed another unit of royal guards before we reached the camp.

We left the motorcycles in the narrow field beside Duncan’s minigarage tent. He spent most of his time there with the tools, equipment, and jerricans. The encampment was too crowded for him, and he only joined us at dawn or for family meetings. While Connor might not like crowds, Duncan was downright antisocial. We walked into the torch-lit encampment.

Right into a cluster of belly dancers.

They shimmied around us, wearing tarnished silver coins and tribal tassels. Musicians stood in a half-moon to the side playing drums. All of a sudden it felt as if we were in some kind of ancient desert caravan. I half expected to see a camel.

“Pirates, Huron warriors, and belly dancers in one night,” I muttered. “My head hurts.”

Christabel blinked, her words slurring. “Is that real?”

One of the dancers shimmied her hips.

“Hell, yeah,” Quinn answered reverently.

Vampires gathered along the tents, watching the show. The dancers’ bare feet whispered over the grass-flattened ground. One of them began to whirl, her braided hair falls lifting in the air. She spun and spun until she was a blur of colors and textures. The drumbeat struggled to keep up. The other dancers shimmied on the spot until their coins scattered like shooting stars.

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