“No.” Relief shot through me. Lowering my blade, I stepped toward him. “No, Zeke, you’re coming with us. I won’t leave you.” I’m not losing you a second time.

Zeke’s shoulders trembled. I took another step toward his stooped form, intending to draw him away, to take him far from this twisted place so we could both forget. I heard short gasping breaths and thought he might be sobbing… .before I realized it was laughter.

Smiling, he turned back and raised his arm, the deadly curve of a crossbow pointed right at my chest.

“You’re so easy,” he whispered.

There was a sharp, clear snap, and something slammed into my center, hot and blindingly painful. It punched a hole through my chest, a strip of white-hot fire that made my limbs seize up and froze the scream in my throat. I felt myself falling, and the world blacked out for a second.

When my vision came into focus again, I was lying on my back, unable to move. Vaguely, I was aware of what had happened to me, but it seemed unreal—though the throbbing pain radiating from my center was all too real.

I’ve…been shot. Even thought was a struggle now, and I tried desperately to stay conscious . The stake…needs to come out. Have to pull it free.

My limbs felt like stone, but I raised my arm and felt along my ribs to where the strip of fire was lodged in my chest. My fingers brushed a slender wooden dart, only a couple inches protruding from my skin. The rest was inside me, searing and agonizing. I clawed weakly at the quarrel, desperate to get it out, but my fingers felt wooden and numb, and my limbs were losing all feeling.

A shadow fell over me, and Zeke loomed overhead, peering down at my limp body. I couldn’t see his features clearly; his face was blurred, and the rest of the room seemed to be shrinking, vanishing at the end of a long tunnel. I blinked hard to clear my vision, but the blackness returned, hovering around the edges of my sight.

“Don’t go to sleep just yet, vampire girl,” Zeke whispered, and I heard a metallic scrape as he picked up my katana and raised it in front of him. “We’re just getting to the climax.”

He regarded the sword appraisingly, then gave it an expert twirl and held it out, the edge poised right above my throat.

“Any last words, Allie?”

“Why?” I whispered, gritting my teeth against the pain, the woodenness of my body. Blinking away tears, I looked into his face, searching for any hint of the boy I knew, but his face remained cold. “Why…are you doing this, Zeke?”

Zeke’s cruel smile didn’t change. “I died, vampire girl,” he repeated, as if it were obvious. “And Sarren helped me forget.

I forgot the pain of being mortal. The human you knew before…he’s dead. Dead and gone.” He stepped forward, raising the katana above his head, eyes bright with glee and madness.

I could barely see his features through the haze darkening my vision, but his voice rang out, cold and ruthless. “And now, you can join him.”

“Boss!”

There was a sudden, deafening crash. Behind Zeke, the door flew open, and a raider staggered through, reeking of blood and smoke. Zeke lowered the blade and turned as the man lurched toward him, looking panicked.

“They’re coming!” the human blurted, heaving in great gasps. “The bloodsuckers…Jackal and the other one…we couldn’t stop them. They’re on their way—”

Zeke grabbed the man by the throat and lifted him off his feet. “You were supposed to kill them,” Zeke said calmly, as the raider choked and gagged. “That’s all you were required to do. Are you telling me that three hundred armed humans cannot destroy two vampires? What are you all good for?”

“Tell me about it.” A body came hurtling through the air, crashing into the wall in a spatter of blood before slumping, lifeless, to the floor. Zeke dropped the raider and spun, eyes narrowing as a tall figure stepped through the door wearing a vicious smile. “It’s so hard to find good help these days, isn’t it?”

My vision finally went dark. I tried to shake it off again, but teetered on the edge of succumbing to the pressing blackness.

Sound was becoming muffled and dim. The stake throbbed inside me, searing and agonizing, and all I wanted to do was escape the pain burning a hole in my chest. But I forced my eyes to stay open, watching through the fog as Jackal crossed the room, his eyes gleaming as they locked on Zeke. The raider king was covered in blood, clothes tattered and burned, and one eye was blackened and squeezed shut as if something had exploded in his face. Close behind him, Kanin swept into the room amid a flurry of shouts and gunfire.

“Well, look who it is,” Jackal remarked, smiling dangerously as he advanced on Zeke, who stepped away from me to face him. His voice was tight, fangs bared in a painful grimace, and his movements were stiff. “What a surprise. Our little bloodbag is back from the dead, and the new king of Chicago.”

The tunnel across my vision shrank even more. I could barely see Jackal and Zeke facing off in the middle of the room. Zeke might’ve said something in return, but his back was to me, and I couldn’t make it out. The noise around us now seemed to come from a great distance. Then I felt a presence next to me, and someone lifted me off the ground, holding me to his chest.

“Kanin,” I whispered, but my voice must’ve been too soft to hear because he didn’t answer. Gunfire rang out, shattering glass and peppering the walls and floor, as raiders began spilling into the room. Kanin flinched, holding me closer and protecting me with his body. I felt him jerk as a few bullets struck him, but he didn’t run. Whirling, he ducked behind a shelf and peered back into the room.

“James!”

I could just see Jackal, crouched behind a counter, bullets sparking all around him. His gold eyes met ours, and he bared his fangs. “Move, old man,” the raider king snarled through the cacophony, though everything sounded like it was taking place underwater. “Get her out of here! I’ll hold ’em off for a few seconds—”

A crossbow bolt came from nowhere, flying through the shelves, striking Jackal below the collarbone. He fell back with a muffled howl of pain, and Zeke lowered his arm and calmly walked forward, my katana in his other hand.

No! I wanted to scream, but the raiders unleashed another barrage of gunfire, pressing us back. I felt Kanin turn, cutting off my view of the room, Jackal, the raiders and Zeke.

Kanin, no! We can’t leave them. But my voice was gone, and Kanin didn’t slow down. Bullets zipped past us as he rushed forward, toward the wall of broken windows and empty space.


Tags: Julie Kagawa Blood of Eden Book Series
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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