Still, she couldn’t just stand there and wait. She steeled herself for what she was going to see. Processed it ahead of time and tucked it away safe and sound. She hung on to Beckham’s strong will. Then she walked forward, pulling the door closed behind her.
Bodies lay sprawled on the floor. So many bodies. Piled on top of one another and haphazardly arranged. As if someone had killed them then thrown them aside like trash. In comparison, the other murders had been almost…civil. Throats slit and cryptic messages.
This was grotesque. Deep puncture wounds in their necks and arms and wrists. As if multiple vampires had been let loose in a feeding frenzy.
Reyna covered her mouth. “Oh my God.”
Beckham didn’t say anything. He just strode into the room and observed what had happened. Reyna felt like her feet were buried in cement. Staring at all the dead bodies made her feel queasy. She would never get used to the blood and death. These had been people. Living breathing people and vampires had just mutilated them. They had no care for the lives these people had been living. Humans were just food. Nothing more.
She forced herself to put one foot in front of the other and see what Beckham was seeing. She took in the number of bodies vaguely and the way they were arranged. She focused on the bite marks. The sheer number of bite marks.
“This is either a newborn or starved vampire. Or both,” Beckham said, pointing out a young woman with eight visible bite marks on her.
“How…how can you tell?”
“Most vampires go for the throat. It’s the easiest and most effective spot. Newly made and starved vampires have no conscience whatsoever. They’re merely eating machines. They ravage prey until their system is full of blood. Then they begin to return to themselves.”
A scream pierced the air. Reyna’s head snapped to the back stairs. She darted after Beckham, who moved at vamp super speed. She had just made it to the top stair when she saw Beckham struggling with a stray vampire. How dumb could the thing be to still be here.
She looked beyond it and saw a group of Elle members protecting the children behind them with a human barricade. Her heart went out to them. How long had they been enduring this? Watching the others die one by one and not knowing how long they could hold the vampire off.
“It’s okay. We’re going to get you out of here,” Reyna reassured them.
Whimpers and cries were heard, as relief flooded their systems. A few broke into tears as the fear relented. The children collapsed into waiting arms. A few whispered thank-yous were spoken.
Finally, Beckham restrained the vampire and Reyna reluctantly glanced away from the poor children. Beckham had his hands on either side of the vampire’s face, prepared to snap the neck of the foul beast who had murdered so many, who had clearly been sent here by Harrington to finish off his dirty work.
But when she made eye contact with the vampire, she gasped.
His eyes locked on hers in confusion. The vampire snarled angrily, trying to break Beckham’s hold.
“What?” Beckham demanded.
Reyna’s heart shattered into pieces. Her body felt as if it were going to collapse. She couldn’t seem to process what she was seeing. The worst horror of all horrors before her.
Her oldest brother.
The protector of their small family.
She couldn’t fathom what she was seeing. It was a mirage. She was lost in the desert desperate for a drink and imagining an oasis. Only the oasis was a rattlesnake ready to strike. To wreck her and devour her and kill her.
“No,” she whispered.
She was amazed that words were even possible. When all she felt was despair. Not just that Brian was a vampire. A vampire she could handle. She could understand him becoming a vampire. She’d thought about it enough herself. She was dating one. Hell, she’d been employed by them, kidnapped by them, lived with them, loved them. Vampire wasn’t the problem.
Starved. Newborn. Murderer.
The words circled her conscience. Obliterated all other thought. Her brother was a starved newborn vampire who had murdered all the people downstairs. If she and Beckham hadn’t reached him, he would have killed the rest. Killed the children.
She’d accused Beckham of it before. But this…this was what an uncontrollable monster looked like. Killing without purpose, unable to be reasoned with, or stopped without force. This was the vampires of nightmares she’d always been taught. And now…it was her brother.
Her eyes finally lifted to Beckham’s. He must have said her name multiple times. The look of frustration was clear on his face. She’d been adrift. Unable to process anything. Suddenly it all rushed back. She saw the people cowering in the corner and Beckham still working to restrain Brian and smelled all the blood.