Zeke dodged a rabid that leaped at him, and swung his blade into another’s neck, severing it neatly. His backswing hammered into the first rabid as it lunged at him again, slamming it into a wall. “Where are we?” he growled, casting a quick look at a street sign on the corner. A rabid tried charging at him while he was distracted, but met a katana instead as I ripped my blade through its middle and cut it in half.

“Centre Dyke and Sandpoint,” Zeke muttered, and took a step back. “Okay, I know where we can go. Everyone, follow me!”

He took off down another side street, the rest of us close behind, cutting down rabids that got too close or blocked our path. Zeke and Jackal led the way, the machete and fire ax working in tandem, slicing through bodies or bashing them aside. Kanin hung back with me and covered our escape, his thin, bright dagger lethally accurate as it flashed through the air.

The streets opened up, and right ahead of us, a small stone building sat within a wrought-iron fence at the end of a small grassy lot. As we fought our way toward the gate, headstones became visible through the neatly cut grass, crosses and angels rising into the air, and Jackal gave a snarl of disgust.

“Oh, sure! Of course it would be a damn church. What else was I expecting?”

Zeke, slicing his way through two more rabids that came at us, didn’t slow down. “If you’re worried about bursting into flames if you cross the threshold, feel free to stay outside,” he said without looking at Jackal, who snorted and rammed the hilt of his ax into a rabid’s face, flinging it back.

“Hey, not to rain on your little parade, but I think you’ve forgotten something.” He swung his weapon in a vicious arc, striking an attacker down with bone-crunching force before turning on Zeke. “ You’re a demon now, puppy, same as the rest of us. I wouldn’t be so smug—you’re just as likely to get the lightning bolt when you step through those doors.”

“Then I’ll know where I stand,” Zeke muttered, and hit the cemetery gates, pushing them back with a creak. The rabids followed us across the lawn, between headstones and angel statues, scrabbling over the graves to get to us. We fought our way up the steps of the small church, toward the heavy wooden doors at the top. With the church at our back, the monsters were forced into a bottleneck as they pressed up the stairs, making it easier to deal with them. But there were still a lot of the bastards, and they were stupidly persistent.

While Kanin, Jackal and I blocked the stairs, Zeke turned to open the doors. They rattled when he tried the handle, but didn’t budge.

“Locked,” he growled. “Someone’s already sealed the way in.” He bashed his shoulder into the doors, putting his considerable vampire strength behind the blows. The heavy doors shuddered violently, but didn’t move. “Dammit! It’s blocked off. Something is on the other side. I can’t move it.”

The rabids shrieked and pressed forward, as if sensing blood and knowing we were trapped. Kanin stabbed one through the eye and drew back a step, sheathing his blade. “Hold them off,” he ordered, and whirled around, joining Zeke at the entrance. Jackal snarled a curse and slid toward me, closing the gap. The rabids hissed and clawed at us, surging forward, and we desperately fended them off.

“You know,” Jackal said, kicking a rabid in the face, sending it reeling, “it seems that whenever I’m with you, I’m constantly fighting my way into places I really don’t want to be.

The sewers, the Prince’s tower, a bloody freaking church.” A rabid clawed at him from the side of the stairs, and he slammed its head into the railing. “If I ever need a favor, sister, I hope you’ll remember this shit. All these life-threatening situations?

Not really my thing. I should’ve cleared out a long time ago.”

“Why didn’t you, then?” I snapped back, dodging a rabid’s claws to my face. “No one was stopping you. You could’ve left anytime, just like that time in New Covington. Or are you waiting until you find the cure to jump ship?”

He snarled, whirled around, and smashed the rabid leaping at me to the concrete. “You are so bloody frustrating!”

he roared, back fisting another rabid with the axhead. “Do you really think the cure is worth this? You think I’d be here now if that’s all I wanted?” He turned and sliced his weapon through the air, beheading one rabid and sinking it into another. “Get your damn head out of your ass, sister!”

he seethed. “And give me a little f**king credit. That’s not why I’m here.”

A hollow boom interrupted anything I was going to say.

Kanin and Zeke both hit the doors at the same time, and the added strength of a Master vampire shattered whatever was on the other side. The doors flew open with a crash, the sound of rubble scattering across the floor.

“Go,” Jackal spat at me, and we swiftly backed toward the doors, where Zeke and Kanin stood just inside, ready to slam them shut. I crossed the threshold, and Jackal turned, flinging himself through the opening, his ax thudding against the floor as he rolled.

Screeching, the rabids surged forward. Zeke, Kanin and I slammed the doors, and the blows of the mob vibrated through the wood. But the wood was thick and reinforced with iron bands that could weather the relentless assault. Leaping forward, Jackal grabbed a snapped beam from the floor and shoved it between the handles, barring the doors shut.

They rattled, shaking violently, but held.

Backing away, I looked around the room. Wooden pews filled the interior, some overturned or broken, but most intact.

The windows were high and narrow, and had metal frames that once held stained glass, broken now, but too small for rabids to squeeze through. From the smell of death and the few rabid corpses littering the floor, it looked like people had tried to hole up here, just as we were doing, but hadn’t succeeded. Either someone inside had been bitten and Turned, or the rabids had gotten in another way. Dried blood streaked the walls, benches were in pieces, and bloody bones were scattered here and there. Several pews had been piled in the corner in what looked like a makeshift barricade, but in the end, it hadn’t helped.

“Well,” Jackal muttered, dusting off his hands, “here we are. In a church. Vampires taking refuge in a church—that’s gotta be the most ironic thing of the decade. Puppy, you’d better tell me this place has a back door.”

Zeke had started across the room but suddenly paused near the front, his gaze falling to an overturned pulpit. Bending down, he picked up a book from the wreckage, a small black book with a gold ribbon dangling between pages. The corner was soaked red, and he closed his eyes.


Tags: Julie Kagawa Blood of Eden Book Series
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