“Call Gerard,” he snapped.
“Just don’t kill him.”
Then Beckham smashed a fist into Brian’s face and half-carried, half-dragged him back down the stairs. Reyna watched them leave, her heart in her throat.
But she needed to listen to Beckham’s orders. They needed Gerard. She pulled out her cellphone and held her finger over the number three. He’d come get them just like Katarina and Philippé.
She slid the phone back in her pocket and then tried to channel Beckham’s calm. But it was gone. Completely out of reach. As if her own emotions still roaring in her ears kept her from feeling him. She couldn’t even sense him downstairs. All their hard work and in a time of crisis she felt nothing.
She shook her head and tried to drown out the chaos. There were people here. People who needed her help. One foot in front of the other.
“Okay. Who’s in charge here?” Reyna asked. She stepped forward. No one moved from their positions. “All right. It’s okay. We’re going to get you out of here safe and sound. We have a safe place for you to go to. Other survivors are there.”
Her phone buzzed. She checked her pocket and saw a text from Gerard letting her know he was out back.
“Okay. We need to get moving. The van is here to pick you up.” Reyna counted off the number of people and prayed the van would carry everyone. “It’s going to be a tight fit, so the children will have to sit on laps.” She gestured for them to move forward. “Please, cover the children’s eyes as much as you can. No one should have to see what we’re about to pass, but definitely not children.”
Each adult picked up at least one child in shaking arms and pressed their little heads into their shoulders. Reyna reached for the last little girl. The girl hugged onto Reyna when she scooped her up. Reyna rested her head on the girl’s as she carried her downstairs with the others. She sure hoped that none of them tried to sneak a peek. This wasn’t like seeing presents before Christmas. This was seeing death and destruction that would stay with you a lifetime.
They all hustled out of the house and into the frigid temperatures. Gerard was parked in back. Reyna hurried toward him and deposited the little girl into the backseat.
Reyna smiled sadly at her and then backed up as the rest of the survivors piled into the black van they’d selected from the garage for this very reason. One woman clasped her hand and murmured her thanks before getting inside.
Once the van was full to capacity, Reyna closed the sliding door and came around to the driver’s side. “You know where to take them?”
“Yes. Where’s the boss?”
“Dealing with another issue. Come back for us when you’re done. If we leave before then, I’ll text you.”
Gerard nodded once, taking orders from her as easily as he did from Beckham. Then he left her standing alone in the sludgy brackish water. She swallowed back the lump in her throat and promised herself she wouldn’t cry. She couldn’t lose it. She still had to figure out what the hell they were going to do about this. How they were going to deal with Brian being turned.
Harrington had done this.
And he had done it to her.
Once again, he had outmaneuvered her.
She drew her hands down her face.
With a shuddering breath, she returned to the safe house. Beckham had piled the bodies into a corner. Somehow, they looked even more gruesome that way. As if she and Beckham were moving furniture to clean the carpets. Except the furniture were people and the carpet was covered in a thick layer of blood. That was never coming out.
Brian was unconscious and tied to a chair. His head lolled forward against his chest. His emaciated figure shocked her. He’d always been a broad guy. Both he and Drew were made of packed muscle on wide frames. Even when they’d gone hungry, they’d never really been skinny. And she could see under his baggy clothes that he was wasting away to nothing.
“How is this possible?” she whispered. “It’s been, what, three weeks? Just three weeks since he was captured?”
Beckham nodded. “It’s the virus. Vampirism wreaks havoc on the body. It completely re-forms the body. It has to be able to give us the strength, speed, and hearing. The first week is most important. You have to be fed, and fed regularly, while the body grows and mutates. You are burning energy at such a high rate that, if not fed properly, the body eats away at itself.”
She clutched at her chest. His body was eating away at him. Dear God!
“How long do you think he’s been like this?”
“More than a week at least. He was on his last leg. I’ve seen it before.”