Their deaths are on my head."

"Not everyone is gone," I reminded him, struggling to contain the Hunger, which had emerged with a vengeance now that I was healed. I badly wanted to f ly at this human and sink my teeth into his throat, but I shoved down the urge and stomped on it. I had been hungry my entire life, on the brink of starvation many times in the Fringe; it would not control me now. "Zeke is waiting for you, along with the rest of them. You can still save lives, Jeb. You can still get to Eden. We just have to go now. "

"Yes." Jeb nodded, though he still wasn't looking at me.

"Yes, I will make it up to them. Even if I must sell my soul to a demon, I will bring them home."

A slow clapping came from the doorway, and my stomach dropped to my toes.

"Bravo," drawled the tall, smirking form of the vampire raider king, leaning in the doorway. "Bravo. What a touching performance. I think I shed a tear."

Chapter 23

"Well, well," Jackal purred, smiling as he came into the room, shutting the door behind him. "What do we have here? Another vampire has snuck into my little kingdom, I see. I thought I felt something odd tonight. Suddenly, all the craziness outside makes sense." He tsked at me and shook his head. "Did you burn down my theater? That wasn't very civilized of you. Now I'm going to have to find another spot to hold the ritual dismemberments."

He stopped, folding his arms and watching me with a patronizing look, maybe because I had drawn my sword and had sunk into a ready stance, waiting for him to make the first move. That weird feeling of familiarity, of deja vu, crept up again.

"Well, this is awkward," Jackal continued, not looking the slightest bit concerned with the appearance of weapons. "It seems we have different ideas of what's going to happen tonight. You see, I don't want to fight you. I don't get many of my kin through here, especially the beautiful, sword-wielding variety. But I must have pissed you off in the past, because I feel I know you from somewhere, I just can't remember where or how."

"I don't want a fight, either," I said and nodded to Jeb. "I'm just here for him. Let him go, and we'll get out of your city right now."

"Ah, well, that's going to be a problem." Jackal sighed, rubbing his chin. "See, I've been looking for the old man for quite some time now, ever since I heard about the scientists and their project. I need him to develop the cure. He says the information is incomplete, so I've given him everything he needs to finish it. I'm doing a good thing here." The raider king smiled, charming and handsome. "All I want is to end the curse of Rabidism. That's not such a horrible thing, is it?

Wouldn't you do the same, if given the opportunity?" I didn't trust him. That couldn't be the whole reason. "Where did you hear about the cure?" I asked. Jackal shrugged.

"My sire told me about it."

"Sire?" I suddenly felt weak. No, it couldn't be. That feeling of recognition, the instant connection, the sudden knowledge that he wasn't just a random vampire. I knew, beyond a doubt, what he was going to say next, and wanted to scream at him to stop.

"Creator? Father figure?" Jackal made an off hand gesture.

"The one who Turned me. He found me in the desert, dying of exposure after bandits killed my family, and made me what I am. I'll always be grateful to the stuck-up prick, but we never saw eye to eye on a lot of things. A few months after he Turned me you could say we...parted ways. He called himself-"

"Kanin," I whispered.

Jackal narrowed his eyes.

"How did you..." He paused, staring at me, as if seeing me for the first time. Then he threw back his head and laughed.

"Oh, of course! That's the connection! I knew I knew you from somewhere. Kanin, you lying bastard. What happened to that vow that you wouldn't Turn anyone after me?" I stared at Jackal, trying to process it. Kanin was our sire.

He'd Turned Jackal, same as me, so that meant we were...

siblings? Was he my brother? I didn't know how this worked in vampire society. This was the one thing Kanin had ne-glected to teach me.

"What a shock, huh, sister?" Jackal grinned, utterly delighted. I started, unused to hearing that word. Sister implied we were related. Family. "Well, this is too perfect, isn't it? You can't turn on me now, right? Not your dear older brother."

"You are not my brother," I growled, coming to a decision.

Jackal raised his eyebrows in mock surprise. "I want nothing to do with you, not after what you've done." I remembered Darren, pleading and frightened, right before the rabid pulled him down. I remembered Dorothy's sightless gaze, staring up at the sky. "You killed my friends, and I will not forgive you for that."

"Friends?" The raider king snorted, crossing his arms. "Humans aren't friends, sister. Humans are pets. Food. Minions.

Not friends." He gave me an easy smile. "Oh, they have their uses, I suppose. They're entertaining sometimes. But even they realize that we vampires are the superior race. That's why, deep down, they all want to be like us. Take the minions out there." He jerked his thumb at the window. "I give them freedom, let them come and go and kill as they please, but do they stay away?" He shook his head. "No. They always come back, because they hope that someday, if the curse is lifted, I will reward their service and make them just like me."

"And that is why you want the cure, demon," Jebbadiah said, his body a coiled wire as he faced the vampire lord. "You want to turn your own people into vampires, to make more like yourself. An army of demons, with you at the head."

"I might have offered my people immortality." Jackal shrugged, still talking to me. "What of it? It's a gift I would offer gladly. Our race has lost just as much as theirs, perhaps more." He raised his empty hands and took a step toward me, ignoring Jeb. "Come on, sister, why are you so concerned about one human? They're food, bloodbags. We were meant to rule over the human race, that's why we're superior in every way. Stop fighting your instincts. If Kanin truly sired you, then you have the potential to be a Master, same as me.

And I'm not above sharing everything with you. I don't tolerate other vamps in my kingdom, but for you, I'd make an exception." His voice became low, soothing. "Think of what we could create, the two of us. We could have our own little paradise, with our armies and servants and human cattle. We could offer our faithful the gift of immortality, and we would rule this world till the end of time. Our own vampire Eden."

"Never!" Jeb cried and snatched the scalpel from the f loor.

"Never!" he said again, his face wild. "Blasphemy! I will die before I let that happen!" And he f lew at the raider king with the scalpel held high.

Jackal turned as the human lunged, easily grabbing Jeb's wrist and wrenching the blade from his grasp. "Now, now," he growled, baring his fangs as he lifted Jeb off his feet. "You can't die yet. I need you to finish that cure. However, I have no qualms about torturing you a bit to get it." He f lung Jeb backward, and the human crashed into the counter, smashing vials and beakers on his way down. He collapsed amid a rain of glass, and the sweet scent of blood rose up like a geyser.

The Hunger roared. I hurried over to Jeb, who was struggling upright amid the sea of glass, not knowing for sure whether I would help him or attack. Blood trickled down his arms and face, running into his eyes, and he slumped against the counter, his head falling limply to his chest.

"Jeb." I crouched in front of him, desperately trying to ignore the pulse pounding in his throat, the crimson spreading over his shirt. He reached one hand inside his torn coat. Off to the side, I could see Jackal in the same spot, arms folded to his chest, watching us with a smirk on his face.

"Vampire," Jeb whispered through gritted teeth and shoved his hand at me. I caught it, and something small, a tiny strip of dark plastic, dropped from his palm into my hand. I stared at it, frowning. It was about the length of my middle finger, and about as wide.

"For Ezekiel," Jeb murmured, dropping his arm weakly.

"Tell take care of our people."


"Well, that was entertaining," Jackal said, dusting off his hands. "But I believe I've run out of patience for the night.

So now, my dear sister, I need an answer from you. Will you join me? Will you help me find the cure and populate our world again? Think of what the vampire lords would give us for this information. We could rule them all, if we wanted.

What do you say?"

I looked at Jeb, slumped against the counter. I could smell his blood, hear his heart in his chest, feel his cold eyes on me.

Judging, hating. Even now, I was still a demon. He would never see me as anything else.

I faced Jackal again. "No," I said, and his eyebrows shot up. I walked around the counter and stood between him and the human, raising my sword. "I'm taking Jeb out of here, whether you like it or not. So get out of my way." Jackal shook his head sadly. "Pity," he muttered. "We could've had something extraordinary, you know. Two siblings, united by fate, join forces to change their world. What can I say-I'm a romantic at heart, though this story wasn't meant to be." He took a breath and gave a dramatic sigh, smiling at me. "I'm going to have to kill you now."

"Then stop talking," I challenged, sinking into a ready stance, "and get on with it. The sun is going to be up soon." Jackal bared his fangs, and his golden eyes f lashed. "Oh, trust me, sister. This won't take long at all." Reaching into his duster, he drew forth a long wooden stick, one end coming to a deadly point. My stomach twisted in raw, primal fear, and I stumbled back.

"I thought you might appreciate this," he said, smiling evilly as he stalked forward. "Kanin was the one who taught me, you know. To master my fear, to use it to my advan-tage." He twirled the stake between his fingers, grinning.

"What's the matter, sister? Didn't he teach you the same? Or was your education cut short by our kin who want his head on a platter? How much practice did you get with dear old Kanin, anyway? I'm guessing less than me. I've known our sire a long time."

"Did he teach you how to bore your opponents to sleep?

Because I think I missed that lesson." Jackal roared with laughter. "Oh, I like her," he mused, shaking his head. "It's going to be such a shame to kill you.

Are you certain you won't reconsider? These humans can get so dull sometimes."

"No." I glared at him, shaking my head. "I won't let you hurt anyone else."

"Very well." The vampire king shrugged, f lipping the stake in his hand. "I gave you the chance. Are you ready, then, sister? Here I come!"

He lunged forward, covering the room in a blink, moving faster than I could see. I slashed at him wildly, but Jackal ducked and stepped into my guard. His hand shot out, grabbing my throat, lifting me off my feet. Before I could react, he slammed me hard onto the counter. Glass f lew everywhere again, like a crystal blizzard, and the back of my skull struck the marble edge. Stunned, I lay there for a half second, before Jackal raised his fist and slammed the wooden stake through my stomach.

Tags: Julie Kagawa Blood of Eden Book Series
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