“Okay,” I gritted out. “Everyone stay calm. We’ll figure this out.”

During this exchange, the vampires watched and waited. Finally, the Count said, “If you’re quite through, we will now kill the mage.”

I jerked toward him. “Over my dead f**king body.”

The Count’s eyebrow rose. “That can be arranged.” Then he nodded to Red Sonja. Sword in hand, she stepped through the circle. I blinked. The circle should have popped when she touched it. Instead, it stayed up. Who the hell were these guys?

Sonja swished the sword side to side like a pendulum, ticking down the seconds on Adam’s life. The mage and I fell back into fighting stances. Adam might not be able to use magic, but he was one hell of a hand-to-hand fighter. Even Giguhl crouched down, ready to pounce at the bitch. Things weren’t looking good for Team Awesome, but at least we’d go down fighting.

“Keep her moving,” Adam whispered. “Lavinia obviously wants you alive. Use that.”

I jerked a nod and kept my eyes on her blade.

Red Sonja’s shoulders tensed a split second before her first swing. Time slowed. I knocked Adam to the side with my hip and rolled forward. Just as the sword began its downward arc, I swept under her legs with my own. Sonja hit the ground like a sack of potatoes.

At the same moment, I heard the Count yell something. My ears popped as the circle exploded and vampires came rushing in from all sides. As I turned to face more attackers, I noticed the vampires beyond the circle were fighting, too. I punched a male vamp and peered around his now-bloody face, trying to get a better look.

“Holy shit!” I yelled as I ducked another punch. Erron Zorn sneaked up behind a female vamp in a Victorian-era dress. He raised his hands and shot a ball of fiery magic at her. Her bustle went up in flames as he turned to zap another vamp with a spell.

Meanwhile, Sonja had risen and was going after Adam again with her sword. “Adam, watch out!”

He elbowed a female in the nose with a loud crunch and spun away just in time to escape the blade. I grabbed him and pushed him toward Erron and the Rockabilly dude who, despite the heavy drug and alcohol use we’d observed, were fighting like a well-trained special ops team.

Unfortunately, the vampires were well trained, too.

Erron saw us and yelled, “Get behind us!”

I grabbed Giguhl and jumped behind the line of mages. Suddenly the power rose. Goose bumps covered Giguhl’s fleshy body as well as my own. Then, just as the Count and his goons turned to rush us, a mighty wind kicked up. The mages’ combined powers coalesced into a typhoon of magic. Vampires scattered like dead leaves down the street.

Erron yelled. “Everyone over the wall!”


For most of my life I’d been a predator. But as I scampered over the cemetery wall I’d never felt more like prey. And I wasn’t enjoying the role reversal.

The eight-foot-tall wall stretched the length of the street. A pair of stately black gates with a metal arch introduced the site as “St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.” Naturally, the gates were chained up tight for the evening. Presumably to keep the living out rather than the dead in. But you never know.

Straddling the wall, I reached a hand back to help Adam.

The look he shot me was a comical mix of disbelief and wounded male pride. Normally he never balked at my help, but I guess the male mage audience made his ego swell. He handed up Giguhl.

“Suit yourself.” I swung my other leg over and landed in a crouch on the other side. A couple of seconds later, Adam, Erron, and the other member of Necrospank 5000— the Rockabilly dude from earlier, who was the drummer, judging from the sticks jutting out of his back pocket— flashed in next to us. One of these days I really needed to have Adam teach me how to flash into places like that.

As we ran through the cemetery Giguhl whispered. “Who the f**k were those guys?” Neither Adam nor I answered. Mostly because we were too busy trying to focus on figuring that out for ourselves.

But Erron Zorn had plenty to say. “They were Caste of Nod vamps. Bad news. Members of the Caste share their powers either through blood letting or elaborate sex rituals.”

Adam and I exchanged a look. How in the hell did the leader of a band know so much about a mysterious cabal? And for that matter, why was he helping us?

I started at the beginning. “How do you know that?”

Erron pointed to the left, and we all ducked between two crypts before he answered. “Twenty years ago, after my first record went platinum, the Caste approached me to join. But I wanted nothing to do with their f**ked-up rituals.”

I frowned. This from a man who just watched a midget riding a gimp? I also noticed he didn’t bother to introduce himself. Like he assumed everyone knew his name.

“So they just accepted no as your answer?” Adam asked.

Erron smiled coldly. “Not really. No.” I sensed there was a long story hidden behind that smile, but we didn’t have time for the Erron Zorn story hour right then.

We ran through a side boulevard separating two rows of crypts. We bobbed and weaved, ducking between two crypts and going deeper into the bowels of the City of the Dead. Finally, we crouched behind a crumbling structure topped with a stone cross and listened. Erron dispatched the drummer to go do a patrol, and then he plopped down on the ground next to us.

The silence here was oppressive, save for the rapid pulse pounding in my ears. Whoever these guys were, they knew better than to let an errant twig snap or heavy breathing give them away. And considering they’d already appeared out of thin air, gods only knew when or where they’d pop up.

“This place is spooky as shit,” Giguhl said, breaking the tension.

Not for the first time, I wondered why fate couldn’t have given me a Vengeance demon for a minion. Giguhl was a great fighter, no doubt about it, and I appreciated him having my back. But sometimes I could do without the color commentary. Like now, when we had psychotic magical vampires hunting our asses through a cemetery.

On second thought, any demon is a good demon when facing a fight with a bunch of killer vampires with wicked magic skills. “Giguhl, switch forms.”

Fortunately, the resulting puff of smoke dispersed quickly on the breeze, which meant it wouldn’t give away our location. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any clothes for Giguhl. But given the situation, I was hardly in a place to complain. After all, a naked demon was better than no demon at all when it came to fighting.

“Gnarly,” Erron said in a bored voice, his eyes on Giguhl’s forked assets.

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