Dammit, now I had to know. There was no reason either of them should be talking about something without me, not after everything we'd been through. Unless it was about me, of course, which made me even more determined to find out what they were saying. Kanin wouldn't tell me, but I'd bet I could get Zeke to talk. And if he and Kanin were still in the room, they would just have to let me in on the secret, because I wasn't leaving until they did.
There were still a few hours till dawn. Finishing the last of the cold blood, I rose, grabbed my katana from where it lay on a chair and went looking for Zeke.
The hallways were empty of vampires as I made my way to the room where I'd left them. A couple humans scurried around, carrying mops and cleaning supplies. I didn't see anyone else until I neared the room and a furtive movement caught my attention.
It was Stick, without his guards for once. He hovered in the shadows, trying to be inconspicuous, looking like he couldn't decide whether he wanted to walk up and knock on the door.
My suspicion flared. I stalked forward with a growl, but Stick spotted me, went pale and fled down the corridor. Sprinting around a corner, he vanished from sight. I considered going after him, forcing him to talk, but he'd probably run straight to the Prince or his guards, and it wasn't worth the hassle.
Instead, I went to the door and knocked firmly on the wood, listening for familiar voices. If they were still talking, too bad. I wasn't leaving. They would just have to tell me what was going on.
But when Zeke opened the door a few seconds later, there was no sign of Kanin in the room beyond. For a moment, I was disappointed-I wanted to know what they were talking about.
But then, I realized it was just me and Zeke. Alone. And suddenly, I was glad Kanin wasn't around.
"Allie." Zeke seemed surprised to see me, though not unhappy about it. He had showered, too, judging from his damp blond hair and clean clothes. He looked good in black, I thought, noting the way his shirt clung to his chest and biceps. The vest had concealed how muscular he really was. "I didn't expect to see you again tonight," he continued, stepping back to let me in. "Is something wrong?"
I shook my head, moving past him into the room. It was much like mine: a single bed, a bathroom, a small kitchenette. A plate sat on a small round table, the remains of real food scattered around it, vegetables, bread, the skin of a potato. I was amazed. Salazar's luxuries extended even to our sole human.
"No, nothing's wrong," I told him, turning back. "I...just had a question, that's all."
Zeke smiled. "Let me guess." He shut and locked the door behind us, then turned back with a half amused, half resigned look. "You want to know what Kanin and I were talking about earlier, without you."
I shrugged. "Well?" I asked, not bothering to deny it. "What were you talking about?"
Zeke walked across the floor, coming to stand just a few feet away. "And, what would you do if I said I couldn't tell you right now?"
"That's easy." I grinned at him, setting my katana sheath on the table. "I'll just have to beat it out of you."
His eyebrows arched, and a challenging gleam entered his eyes. "Is that so, vampire girl?" he asked, smiling and crossing his arms. "I'd like to see you try."
"Okay, but you asked for it."
I lunged. He caught me around the waist as I crashed into him, wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him fiercely. No barriers anymore, no doubts, no Kanin or Jackal nearby, watching and judging. It was just us, alone, both knowing what we wanted. I slid my hands into his damp hair, pressing myself to him, and he hugged me close, his lips warm on mine. I felt the hard muscles through his shirt as we locked ourselves together, the beat of his heart against my chest. The Hunger roared up, even though it had been fed just minutes before, a now-familiar ache.
His scent and warmth surrounded me, heady and intoxicating. Unable to stop myself, my fangs lengthened, sliding out of my gum, as he bent to kiss my neck, murmuring my name. I wanted him. I wanted to feel that rush of heat and life flowing through my veins. I wanted to taste him again, drink in that essence, stifle the monster raging inside.
Dropping my head, I pressed my lips to the hollow at Zeke's throat, feeling heat and pulse and life beat there, right below the skin. So close. All I'd have to do was part my lips just slightly, bite down just a little, and that warmth would fill me again.
Zeke's arms tightened around my waist, and a shiver went through him. But before I could draw away, before I could feel horrified with myself, he very deliberately tilted his head back, baring his throat. And my world froze.
He would let me, I realized. Zeke would let me bite him, feed from him. Even now, with my fangs so close to his neck, my lips at his throat, he was calm. Waiting. My eyes stung with the understanding. He had truly accepted what being with a vampire meant. Everything.
My fangs slid back, retracting once more, and I gently kissed the pulse at his neck...before reaching up and bringing his face down to mine again. I could feel his surprise as our lips touched. He had been expecting me to bite him, bracing for it. But, as I was slowly discovering, I could be more human around Zeke. He somehow reached that tiny sliver of humanity buried within the monster, and it had reached out for him, as well.
We kissed for several intense minutes, until Zeke drew back, his gaze fervent. I watched him, loving the rings of silver around his pupils when he was this close, the way his hair fell over his forehead. "Come with me to Eden," he whispered, never taking his eyes from my face. I gave him an exasperated smile.
"You're going to keep asking me until I say yes, aren't you?"
"Please," Zeke added quietly, holding me tighter. "Say yes. Kanin and I already talked about it-he's going, as well. That's what we were discussing earlier. He just didn't want his decision to affect yours in any way. But you're coming too, right?" His hand slipped into my hair, running it through his fingers. "I can't... I won't go without you, Allie. Please. Come to Eden with us."
"All right." I sighed, admitting defeat. "Yes. Of course I'm coming to Eden. Was there really any doubt with both you and Kanin going?" I shook my head at him, smirking. "So, yes, Ezekiel. I will come to Eden with you, and hopefully your scientists won't throw me in a cage and stick me full of tubes."
Zeke pressed his lips to mine, quick and sweet. "They won't," he said as he drew back. "I promise. They already know about you, what you did for me and the others. And Kanin..." He shrugged. "I see now what you meant about him. He's not like the other vampires, either." His expression grew teasing. "I can see where you get it from."
"Don't make me bite you, preacher boy." I frowned then, remembering something. "Wait, what about Jackal?"
"Jackal." His eyes went solemn. "That was another reason Kanin and I wanted to talk in private. Tomorrow evening, we're leaving the city, without the Prince's knowledge. Jackal won't be coming with us."
"We're leaving him behind?"
"More like Kanin will make it clear that Jackal is no longer welcome to travel with us," Zeke said. "And that if he follows us or tracks us down, he'll kill him."
I blinked. "That's a little extreme."
"I'm not bringing him to Eden, Allie." Zeke's voice was grave. "Can you imagine someone like Jackal around Caleb? Or Bethany?"
I made a face. "Right. I can see your point."
"I'm taking a huge risk by bringing you and Kanin back," Zeke admitted. "Letting even a single vampire through the gates is one thing, but two?" He shook his head. "If I brought in Jackal, and he hurt someone, I could never forgive myself. Plus, the Eden officials would never trust any vampire again. They'd kill you, and Kanin, and probably me. Jackal could put us all at risk. He has to stay away."
"And if he ignores the warning and tracks us down using our blood tie?"
"Then I'll get the chance to make good on my promise," Zeke said darkly, his eyes going cold for a moment. "But I think Jackal will be smart enough to stay away from us, especially if Kanin warns him to."
I nodded. I didn't really like it, and Jackal wouldn't like it, but we certainly couldn't take him with us. Zeke was right. The raider king was far too volatile to trust in Eden, especially since the cure would be right there. Knowing him, he'd grab it and run as soon as he got the opportunity. "So." I looped my arms around his neck, feeling mischievous and strangely wicked. "When are we putting this daring plan into action?"
"Just after sundown." His eyes half closed as I leaned in and brushed my lips across his jaw. "We'll come get you. Be ready to move fast."
"I can do that." I smiled at him lazily. "Or, I could just stay here tonight."
Zeke's breathing hitched. "Allie," he said, sounding breathless. His heart pounded as if he'd run several miles, fast and frantic. "I...I want you to. But...I want this to be right for us." His palm cupped my cheek, warm and smooth, stroking with his thumb. "We just found each other again. I don't want to do anything we'll regret later. If you stay, I don't think I could... I mean..." He sighed, squeezing his eyes shut. "You have no idea how hard this is for me, but...maybe, this isn't the right time. Not now, in a vampire tower...with them all around." He opened his eyes, giving me a pleading look. "Do you understand...what I'm trying to say?"
I smiled. "You're turning red, did you know that?"
"Allie!" Zeke blew out his breath in a huff. I laughed, released him and stepped back.
"All right," I said, picking up my katana sheath. "I'll go back to my room then, preacher boy." He looked both relieved and disappointed, but oddly enough, I wasn't upset. Kanin was alive. Zeke was alive. We, against all hope, had found a cure for New Covington. Tomorrow, the three of us would leave the city to go to Eden. Zeke and I had time. He wasn't going anywhere, and neither was I.
He followed me to the door, pausing as I unlocked it and stepped into the hall. "Good night, Zeke." But as I started to leave, he reached out and took my wrist, stopping me.
I turned. Zeke stood there, holding my hand, a conflicted look on his face, as if he was trying to find the right words. My skin prickled, blood singing, as he raised his eyes to mine. "I... What I'm trying to say is..."
A movement off to the side made him turn his head. I glanced in that direction and saw Stick once more, watching us from around a corner, his eyes dark.
Zeke faltered, then let me go, drawing back through the frame. "Never mind," he said, smiling to ease the embarrassment. And even though I was furious with Stick for his damned interruption, my skin prickled under that look. "It's not important. Well, it is, but...I'll tell you later. When we're out of New Covington. I promise."
When his door closed, I thought of going to find Kanin, just to confirm the plan. But then I thought I might run into Jackal, Stick or the Prince, all of whom I didn't want to see right then. So I wandered back to my room, flipped through my mom's book for a while and replayed my conversation with Zeke until I had it memorized. I almost went back to his room several times, despite what he'd said, until dawn threatened the horizon and the decision was made for me.