I slid my hands down his stomach, my fingers slipping beneath his shirt, and Zeke’s grip tightened, his kisses turning hungry, too. My lips left his mouth and trailed a path down his jaw to his neck, and he moaned, arching his head back. Offering his throat. I paused, my mouth hovering over his skin, fangs throbbing against my gums. I wanted to feel him again, like I had in Old Chicago when the compulsion was finally broken. Not just his blood, but his emotions and thoughts and secrets and fears. I wanted to see him when nothing separated us, when everything was laid bare.
But if I started down that road, I wouldn’t be able to stop.
And we were so close to Eden now, with Jackal and Kanin just a few streets away. The last thing I wanted was for my sire to get impatient and come looking for us. Or worse, Jackal.
Raising my head, I kissed his lips, lingering and soft, taking us back into safe territory. Zeke didn’t fight me, didn’t press forward, letting us both cool down before I pulled back.
Though his eyes still smoldered when I looked down at him, the tips of his fangs visible in the darkness.
“We should go,” I said reluctantly. “Kanin and Jackal…”
“Yeah.” Zeke sighed, sounding as grudging as I felt, and released me. We climbed off the mattress, checked and rebuckled our weapons in place, and left the room together.
Following my blood tie, we found Kanin and Jackal in a small garage a few streets down. Jackal was kneeling on the pavement, holding up the front of a car with one shoulder, his jaw clenched in concentration while he fiddled with the tire. At his back, Kanin watched impassively and turned as we came up.
“Good. You’re here.” The Master vampire nodded to us, his dark gaze lingering on Zeke. “We’re almost ready to leave.
As soon as James finishes, we can get on the road again.”
“You know,” Jackal grunted, gritting his teeth as he screwed the last nut into the hubcap, “this would’ve been a lot easier if I didn’t have to hold up the freaking car and change the tire at the same time. I suppose once you hit Master vamp status, you’re excluded from such ignoble work. Wouldn’t want those special fingers to get greasy, right?” He gave the screw a final twist, then let the vehicle drop and bounce to the pavement. “Then again, I doubt any of you would know the throttle from the gas cap.”
Dusting off his hands, he rose and shot a quizzical stare at Zeke. “Well, look who’s feeling better,” he mocked, raising an eyebrow. “Did you two work through your feelings over a nice slaughtered baby or something?” His grin grew wider, turned into a leer. “Or…did something else happen to take your mind off things?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Zeke answered coolly, before I could kick Jackal in the shin. Jackal blinked, taken aback for just a moment, before barking a harsh laugh.
“Aw, look at that. The puppy is finally showing some teeth.” He snickered, then leaned an elbow against the car, regarding Zeke appraisingly. “Think you can manage to show those fangs when we face your big bad sire, puppy? Or are you going to slink off with your tail between your legs?”
Zeke smiled back, but it was a dangerous, lethal smile, fangs glinting in the shadows as he faced Jackal down. “I haven’t forgotten,” he said in a soft, ominous voice, as the temperature in the garage dropped a few degrees, and Jackal frowned in confusion. “What you did to my family, I haven’t forgotten it. I still intend to keep my promise. One night, you’ll look up, and I’ll be there. So, don’t get too comfortable. I’m still going to kill you when this is all over.”
Jackal stared at him. Silence fell, and I resisted the urge to draw my sword. On the other side of the car, Kanin didn’t move, but I could feel the tension in the room, four vampires waiting to see what the others would do.
Then Jackal chuckled and pushed himself off the door, shaking his head. “Well, you’re welcome to try, puppy,” he said, as the tension diffused somewhat. “It’s going to be a shame to kill you—you have the potential to be a decent bloodsucker. But I’d wait until we find Sarren before you start making your little death threats. That lovely message we found? That means he knows the compulsion is broken.
And I’ll bet he’s not too thrilled with his special minion having free will again. He’ll be looking for any chance to turn you inside out.” Jackal smiled evilly and leaned closer to Zeke, fangs gleaming. “So I’m not the one you need to worry about,” he sneered. “Try me again when we have the psycho’s head on the end of a long spike. I’ll be more than happy to stick yours next to it.”
“Enough.” Kanin’s deep, stern voice broke through the standoff. “Now is not the time to fight among ourselves,”
he lectured, narrowing his eyes at the three of us. “Sarren is very close. And he will use every opportunity to slow us down, turn us against one another.” His gaze went to Zeke, who lowered his eyes. “If we are to stop him, we must put aside vengeance, put aside hatred and doubt and uncertainty, and trust each other. If only for a moment. Can you do that, Ezekiel?”
“Yeah.” Zeke sighed, bowing his head. “I got it.”
“Then let us go. We’re nearly there.”
“Oh, sure,” Jackal remarked, opening the passenger door.
“No, ‘Hey, thanks, Jackal, for fixing the car. We’d all be hoofing it to Eden if you weren’t here.’” He slid into the chair and slammed the door behind him. “Next time we get a flat, you’re on your own. In fact, I think some lazy little f**ks who won’t be named need to learn the basics of changing a tire.”
“Shouldn’t be hard,” I replied, sliding into the back with Zeke. “We’ll just fill it using the hot air shooting out of your mouth.”
“Allison.” Kanin sighed. “Please.” And we fell silent as he started the engine, turned the vehicle around, and cruised off down the road, back toward the highway and the last stretch of our journey.
We drove on as if nothing had happened since the van had died near Old Chicago, with Kanin and Jackal up front pretending to ignore each other, and me and Zeke in the back.
There were subtle differences, though. Zeke was quiet, but it wasn’t the empty, hopeless silence of the nights before. I could sense him thinking, the worry plain on his face. His thoughts were probably with his family: with Caleb and Bethany, Matthew and Jake, old Silas and Theresa, the people he’d left behind. Eden was supposed to be their haven; that’s what was promised, a city free of monsters and vampires. A place where humans were safe. But now, Sarren threatened even that.