I turned away from my sire and rose, unable to look at him anymore. Despair weighed me down, heavy and suffocating, and I pressed my forehead to the stone wall, trying to keep the awful rage and grief in check. Dammit! What did Kanin want from me? I’d followed his rules. I’d tried to find the balance between human and monster. I’d done everything I could think of to fight the demon, to not give in, to keep some semblance of humanity. Even though it was hard, it hurt like hell, and all I had to show for it was a broken heart.

I’d promised Zeke I would keep fighting the monster. And I would. But now, Kanin was asking me to destroy the one thing that kept me human, the only thing I had ever truly wanted for myself.

But, even through the anger and grief, and the stubborn voice inside me shouting protests, I knew he was right. Zeke had never wanted to be a vampire. And as shocking and confusing as my own Turning had been, I couldn’t imagine what it must be like having Sarren for a sire. I remembered those first few days with Kanin, his careful, patient lessons as he taught me how to be a vampire, and that had still been terrifying even when I’d chosen to Turn. There was no telling what Sarren had done to Zeke, what he’d made him do. Maybe Sarren had twisted his mind beyond repair, and the Zeke I’d known was truly gone, replaced with that cold, ruthless killer I’d seen in the tower. A spawn in Sarren’s own image.

If that was the case, if Zeke really was lost…then he’d be better off dead. I thought of everything I’d had to learn as a vampire: the feeding, the bloodlust, the constant struggle with the Hunger. It had been hard, and there had been many nights when I’d questioned my decision to become a monster, knowing I would struggle with my choice for eternity. I tried to imagine Zeke—gentle, compassionate, selfless Zeke— forcing himself to hunt and kill his once fellow humans…and couldn’t. Kanin was, as always, right. The most merciful thing would be to destroy Zeke now. He would want it that way.

I just didn’t know if I could do it.

Numb, I gazed around for my sword, feeling the empty sheath against my back, light and disconcerting. When I didn’t immediately find it, I panicked for a moment…before I remembered. It had been left behind when Kanin jumped out the window with me. My weapon was still on the top floor of the tower…with Zeke.

And then, I remembered something else.

“Where’s Jackal?” I whispered, spinning toward Kanin as he rose, his shoulders slumped. The last thing I remembered from before I’d blacked out in Kanin’s arms was Jackal, surrounded by raiders, struck down with a crossbow bolt, and Zeke advancing on him. Kanin gave me a look that was full of regret.

“He’s not here, Allison. He didn’t make it out of the city.”

No. I clenched my fists, refusing to believe it. No, not Jackal.

He can’t be dead; he always makes it out.

On impulse, I reached out for Jackal’s presence, searching for him through our blood tie. Suddenly terrified, I braced myself to feel nothing, solid proof that my infuriating, inscrutable blood brother was no longer in the world. That something had finally killed him.

There was a pulse, and I closed my eyes in relief. It was faint and erratic, like the dying heartbeats of a bird, but it was there. Desperately, I followed it, needing to see open sky, to get out of this suffocating tomb. The steps were blocked with decades of rubble and stone, but a hole in the floor led down into an ancient, rusty pipe, which eventually emptied into a storm drain. I crawled from the opening and found myself at the edge of the lake, cold water sloshing at my boots.

From where I stood, I couldn’t see Jackal’s old city, but I could feel him, that faint tug from somewhere over the turbulent waters, telling me he was still out there.

Headlights suddenly pierced the darkness, and I shrank back as three raiders cruised out of the shadows, one after the other, riding along the edge of the lake. They vanished down another street, the growl of their engines fading into the night, but I knew what they were searching for.

“They come by every few hours, searching along the water’s edge,” Kanin said, emerging from the pipe. “There are more in the ruins, going through buildings and empty houses, looking for us. Thankfully, they have not found this place yet, but they know we are still in the city.”

“How?” I asked.

“Because not all of them make it back,” Kanin replied gravely, and looked down at me. “You were badly hurt, Allison. You needed blood, and a lot of it, to have a chance of coming out of hibernation. The lake’s edge was a good spot to take shelter; it allowed for easy disposal of the bodies. But they’ve noticed that their numbers have slowly dwindled, and they now patrol the city in groups of at least three.” His mouth thinned in a humorless smile. “It appears Ezekiel is not about to let us go.”

Zeke. I forced my thoughts away from him, trying to sup-press the horror of the task before me. I would deal with that when I faced him again. I would not think of him now, because then I would fall apart.

“Jackal is still out there,” I muttered. Kanin nodded grimly.

“Yes, he’s still alive,” my sire agreed. “I feel him, too. But he hasn’t moved in two days, and I fear where he might’ve ended up. I believe he is somewhere deep within the flooded city, unable to move or feed himself.” Kanin’s eyes narrowed in the direction the bikes had gone. “It seems they have not found him yet, but he will not be able to hide forever. And there is still the matter of Sarren.” His gaze grew distant and troubled. “This was likely his plan all along, to slow us down, give himself more distance and time. He is likely very close to Eden now, if he has not already arrived.”

I bit my lip. “We…we’re going back for him, right?” I asked, and Kanin glanced down at me, his expression blank.

“We can’t leave him behind, Kanin,” I argued. “I know he’s a bastard, and he’d probably leave us if he were in the same situation, but…” I trailed off with a helpless gesture, unable to explain. I felt empty and defeated, weighed down with despair, the knowledge of what I had to do: destroy the evil thing Zeke had become. I was so tired of it. I didn’t want to lose anyone else, not even Jackal. He was ruthless, infuriating, selfish, and would sell us out without a second thought, but he was my brother, the only family I had left besides Kanin. “I’m going back for him,” I whispered, trying to keep my voice steady under my sire’s steady gaze. “You don’t have to come.

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