But it was him.

It was Zeke.

“See?” he murmured, smiling at me. “Still here.”

I choked back a sob, and the world pitched into motion again. “You’re alive,” I whispered, running my fingers down his cheek. He closed his eyes and turned his face into my touch, and my heart lurched, blood singing, as it did only when around him. “How?”

Zeke smiled, then bent forward with a shudder, shoulders heaving. “I’ll tell you…everything later,” he panted, looking up again. “Right now…let’s just get out of here. Can you cut me free?”

Still in a daze, I stood, walked around the chair, and began slicing through the ropes tying him to the seat. In the back of my mind, I knew this was wrong. This was too easy, too good to be true. Sarren wouldn’t just let me saunter up, free Zeke, and walk out again. But my arms continued to move, almost by themselves, and I could only stare at the boy I’d thought was dead. Dried blood covered his shoulders and the back of his shirt, but there didn’t seem to be any wounds that I could see. Zeke waited patiently, head bowed, as I cut the bindings at his wrists, arms and waist. “Where are Kanin and Jackal?” he asked as the ropes began falling away.

“I don’t know,” I answered. “They said they would find another way up . ” I hope they’re okay. Tearing my gaze from Zeke, I looked around the room once more, a last-ditch effort to be cautious. “Where’s Sarren?”

“Not here,” Zeke muttered weakly. “Don’t know…where he is now. Think he might’ve gone ahead to Eden… .”

The last ropes parted, and he slumped forward, nearly falling out of the chair. I caught him around the waist and pulled him upright, steadying us both.

Zeke gazed down at me, his face so familiar, his hair falling jaggedly over his forehead. Our eyes met, and he offered a faint, familiar smile, exhausted, pained, but full of hope.

My throat closed, and with a little sob, I collapsed against him, burying my face in his shirt. He murmured my name, and I closed my eyes, feeling him, solid and real, against me.

The last time I’d seen him, held him like this, was in New Covington. Where, in the safety of Prince Salazar’s tower, I’d kissed Zeke and promised I would go back to Eden with him. Before Sarren had returned and stolen him away. Before I was forced to listen to the awful sounds of his torture.

His screams and sobs and pleas for Sarren to kill him, before his wish was finally granted.

Or so I’d thought.

“I can’t believe you’re here,” I whispered, feeling one arm slide around me, the other reach for something at the small of his back. “I thought Sarren killed you.”

“He did.”

His voice sounded strange now, cold and flat. Puzzled, I tried to pull back, but his arm tightened like a steel band, holding me close. He was strong, much stronger than I remembered. Putting both hands on his chest, I started to push him away, but stopped in horror as my nerves prickled a terrified warning.

Zeke…had no heartbeat.

Chilled, I looked up, into his face. I could see myself reflected in his eyes, as he gave me a familiar, too-bright stare— the gaze of a predator—and smiled.

“He told me to say hello,” Zeke whispered, his fangs gleaming inches from my throat.

And he plunged a blade into my chest.

Part II


Chapter 7

I gave a soundless gasp and lurched back from Zeke, my hand going to my chest. He watched impassively, blue eyes cold, the hint of a smile still on his face. I found the hilt of something poking between my br**sts and grasped it, sending a ripple of agony through me. Clenching my jaw, I gathered my will and pulled. The knife slid back through my chest, ripping and slicing, and I screamed as it came free.

Shaking, grasping the hilt with limp fingers, I looked up at the boy who had haunted me every day since before New Covington. The boy who had seen past the monster and the demon to the girl beneath, and hadn’t been afraid to love her.

The boy who’d once begged me never to Turn him, who had made me promise to let him go. To let him die…as a human.

“What’s wrong, vampire girl?” Zeke whispered, stepping forward. He smiled, fangs glinting in the shadows, his voice cold and mocking as he approached. “Aren’t you happy to see me?”

“Z-Zeke.” I staggered away from him, fighting to stay on my feet. Pain blazed through my center, agony making it difficult to move, even as I felt myself healing. The knife dropped to the floor with a clatter, leaving a spray of crimson over the broken glass. “What…happened to you?”

“I died,” Zeke said, in a way that made my skin crawl. Flat and blunt, like he was discussing the weather. “I died, and Sarren brought me back.” His lips twisted in a cruel, mocking grin. “Why, Allie? What did you think happened?”

I was too horrified to answer. This…this was all wrong.

This couldn’t be Zeke. “No,” I whispered, backing away from him. “Zeke, don’t you recognize me?” He cocked his head with a patronizing look, as if I was being ridiculous. Desperate, I stammered on, frantic to fix this, to snap him out of it. “Do you remember…us? Me and Kanin and Jackal, fighting Sarren, trying to stop his new virus? Do you remember being human?”

“I remember pain,” Zeke said softly. “I remember there was blood, and pain, and darkness. And then…nothing.” He blinked, seeming to shake himself from a trance, smiling again as he turned to me. “But we all started out human, didn’t we, vampire girl? I don’t need to remember that life, because that human is dead now.”

“No,” I choked, shaking my head. “No, Zeke, you don’t mean that.”

Walking to a shelf beside the counter, Zeke reached up and pulled out a familiar blade, his machete, then regarded the weapon intently. A tiny furrow creased his brow, as if he was remembering. “I sang for Sarren,” he whispered, and everything inside me went cold. “I sang and I sang, until I died.

And Sarren gave me a new purpose, a new song. But the requiem isn’t over yet.”

Turning his head, he gave me a chilling stare, one that was instantly familiar. Terror lanced through me as I saw Sarren gazing at me through Zeke’s eyes.

“This is your melody, vampire girl,” Zeke said, his quiet, lilting voice making my skin crawl. “Tonight is your final performance.” He smiled, and it turned my blood to ice. “Sing for me, Allie,” he crooned, in a voice that was all too familiar. “Sing for us, and make it a glorious song.”

Tags: Julie Kagawa Blood of Eden Book Series
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