“Oh, good,” Jackal remarked, his dangerous gold gaze fixed not on me, but on Zeke. “You’re still alive.”
He leaped from the balcony, making a splash when he landed, and grinned demonically as he rose, fangs gleaming.
“I was hoping you’d be here,” he said, glaring at Zeke. “No one takes what’s mine and gets away with it, not even you, bloodbag. When I’m done, you’re gonna wish you stayed dead the first time.”
A pair of raiders appeared where Jackal had been moments before. Seeing their former king, they leveled automatic machine guns into the pit and fired, spraying the water with lead. Jackal snarled, sounding more irritated than anything, and we ducked behind rubble piles as bullets hissed around us and sparked off the stones.
Abruptly, the gunfire ceased. I peeked out to see another body drop into the crater as Kanin snapped the neck of the other from behind. More shouts echoed behind him, and the Master vampire melted back into the darkness.
Kanin is here, too? I thought as a growl echoed behind me. I whirled just in time to see Jackal lunge behind our section of wall, shoving me aside as he did. I hit the ground and rolled upright as my brother grabbed Zeke by the throat, turned, and slammed him into the broken stones. His face was vicious as he leaned in, smiling.
“You know, I didn’t always hate you,” Jackal said, as Zeke grabbed his wrists, trying to pry him off. “But I think I’d like you better if you were a little shorter. Maybe a head shorter, wha’d’ya say, bloodbag?”
I drew my sword, intending to leap in and force Jackal to back the hell off. But at that moment, Zeke bared his fangs with a savagely inhuman snarl and drove a fist into Jackal’s ribs. I heard the distinct snap of bones, and Jackal jerked, grunting in pain. Before I could respond, Zeke spun and rammed the other vampire into the concrete, slamming his head into the rock with another sickening crack, before shoving him away. Jackal slumped into the water, holding his side, and I grabbed Zeke’s arm.
He turned on me, and his eyes were cold. Merciless. The monster, staring back at me. It sent an icy lance through my insides, and I dropped his arm, resisting the urge to back up.
Zeke’s gaze shifted away as if he’d forgotten me, and I shivered with the sudden realization. For a split second, for the very first time, I had been afraid of him.
On the ground, Jackal started to laugh.
“Oh, yeah,” he wheezed, rolling into a sitting position, one hand still around his ribs. His eyes still glowed as he stared at Zeke, appraising. “I forgot. The little bloodbag joined the undead club a few weeks ago. Now he can throw a proper punch. My mistake.” He rose, shedding water, and gave himself a shake, glaring at Zeke with his fangs out. “I won’t forget again.”
“Jackal, stop it.” Shaking myself out of my daze, I stepped in front of Zeke, my katana between him and my blood brother.
Zeke didn’t move; I could sense him watching us, patient and calculating, the monster barely restrained. I had the sudden, disturbing thought that this Zeke could be worse than the one Sarren had created, and violently shoved it back. “This is stupid. You can see he’s not under the compulsion anymore.”
“I see that,” Jackal agreed, his smile no less ominous. “It’s not going to stop me from tearing him in half. Like I mentioned before, I’m kind of a sore loser.”
He stepped forward, and I did, too, raising my weapon.
Shots still echoed around us, getting closer all the time, but I trusted that Kanin was still out there, taking care of the raiders. I couldn’t worry about them now, not until I was sure Zeke and my blood brother wouldn’t try to kill each other.
“Take your city, if you want it,” Zeke said. “It’s yours, I’ll gladly turn it over.”
“Oh, will you, bloodbag?” Jackal sneered. “That’s awfully generous of you. But you’re missing the point.” He gestured back at the balcony. “I don’t give a shit about this place, or the minions. I can get more if I really need to. They were always just a means to an end.” He narrowed his eyes. “But I’ll be damned if I let any spawn of Sarren’s share space with me.
That kind of crazy sneaks up on you when you least expect it, and everyone around you suddenly has their throats cut.”
“That’s not going to happen,” I argued, and Jackal shot me a disgusted look. “He’s fine, Jackal. He’s not a threat anymore.”
And even if he is, I’m not going to let you kill him now.
“If you believe that, then you’re more gullible than I thought.” Jackal shook his head. “Stop trying to fool yourself, sister. You know what’s happening here. You’re not that stupid.” He jerked his head in Zeke’s direction. “Look at him.
Take a good, long look at your precious Ezekiel and tell me he’s exactly the same. But I bet you can’t stare lovingly into his eyes for two seconds without seeing Sarren looking right back at you.”
I shuddered, and Jackal nodded slowly. “You know I’m right, sister. His mind is broken. It’s only a matter of time before it falls apart. I’m not killing him because he screwed up my city, took my minions, and, frankly, pissed me off.
I’m putting him out of his misery.” He gave an evil, indulgent smile. “Consider this a mercy. Like shooting a threelegged deer.”
“No,” I growled and moved with Jackal as he came forward again, my katana raised. My mind was made up. “You want him, you’ll have to go through me.”
Jackal’s face twisted like he’d swallowed something foul.
“I’m surrounded by bleeding heart idiots,” he muttered. “Sister, you realize you’re protecting Sarren’s progeny. The Grand Lunatic himself? For all we know, this is exactly what the psychopath wants.”
“I don’t believe that,” I retorted, as gunfire nearly drowned out my words, making me wince. The army was almost here.
I didn’t have a lot of time to convince them—both of them, Zeke and Jackal—that Zeke wasn’t like his sire. Even if I was horribly unsure myself.
“Allison.” Zeke finally spoke up from behind me, and his voice was resigned. I knew exactly what he was thinking, and snarled at him without taking my eyes from my brother.
“Zeke, don’t you dare start with that!”
“What if he’s right?”
“I don’t care!” I roared, baring my fangs at them both. “I will not watch you die again. I promised I’d help you fight it, and I swear I’m going to kill Sarren. But you’re going to have to trust me, Zeke! And you,” I said to Jackal, jabbing at him with my sword. “You’re one to talk. You want to Turn your whole army into vampires. If they’re anything like you, you’ll have to watch your back every second of every day. I may not know much about sires and offspring, but I know there’s always a choice. You don’t have to be like your sire. I mean, look at you.” I narrowed my eyes at Jackal, curling my lip in a sneer. “Kanin Turned you, and you still became a bastard.”