“She’s a f**king vampire!”
All guns were leveled in my direction, and I bit down a snarl. Raising my hands, I forced my voice to be calm, steady.
Oh, we did not need this now. Not with Sarren out there, possibly close. Something was definitely up, and I’d bet the deranged vampire was right in the middle of it. The humans might not even know the danger they were in. We had to find him, but getting shot full of lead or inciting a panic was not going to help any of us.
The soldiers glared at me, fear and anger plain on their faces, their fingers tensing around their weapons. The monster within growled, eager for bloodshed. “I didn’t hurt anyone last time I was here, and I’m not going to now,” I told the men, meeting their hostile, accusing stares. “We don’t have to do this.”
Zeke stepped forward and swept me behind him in one smooth motion, facing the soldiers and their guns. “She’s with me,” he said, keeping himself between me and the dozen assault rifles pointed at my chest. “I brought her here. At Dr.
Richardson’s request. She’s not a threat to Eden or the people here, I swear it on my life.” I caught the tremble in his voice, the bridled rage, and swallowed hard. The monster had emerged with the threat of violence, and he was barely holding himself back. I shot a quick glance at Jackal and Kanin.
My sire watched calmly, patient and calculating, waiting to see what would happen, if he needed to intervene. Jackal stood a few feet away, observing the humans with his arms crossed and a rather dangerous smirk on his face, making me groan inwardly. If this got out of hand, these men were as good as dead.
The soldiers stared at Zeke, stunned and outraged. “Fetch Dr. Richardson,” Zeke went on. “Tell him I’m here, and that I have what they sent me for. He’ll know what I’m talking about.”
The lead soldier finally lowered his gun, though his expression wasn’t friendly. “Well, that might be difficult,” he stated in a flat voice. “Richardson is dead.”
Zeke straightened. “He’s dead?” he whispered. “When?
“Eden has been compromised,” the man said grimly, as the soldiers continued to hold their weapons on me. “The island is lost. We cannot give you any more details, but your vampire is going to have to come with us.”
I could sense the snarl rising in Zeke’s throat as several of the men stepped forward, their guns trained on me. I heard the beginnings of a growl rumble through him, and quickly grabbed his arm. If he attacked, if he gave himself away as a vampire, the soldiers would turn on him, on all of us. They might start firing, and then everything would end in disaster. We couldn’t afford that. Not now. Not with Sarren out there, probably within Eden itself.
“Zeke, wait!” He turned, his gaze angry and intense, the hint of fangs peeking through his lips. Dammit, I had to calm him down as well, before he lost it and savaged the humans.
“I’ll go with them,” I whispered, then glanced at the soldiers.
“I’ll go with you!” I called, louder this time, and they relaxed, though not by much.
Turning back to Zeke, who still looked defiant, I leaned close and lowered my voice. “This is the best way,” I told him. “Stay with Kanin and Jackal. Try to figure out what’s going on.”
“I’m not letting them take you.”
“I’ll be fine.” I squeezed his arm, desperate to convince him. “What are they going to do, burn me at the stake?” God, I hope not. “But you have to look for Sarren, Zeke. If they think I’m the only vampire here, they won’t be watching the three of you. We have to find out what’s happened to Eden, and where Sarren could be. That’s more important now.”
Zeke closed his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he murmured, giving me an anguished look. “I didn’t want it to be this way. I thought Dr. Richardson would be here to explain everything.”
“You couldn’t have foreseen what would happen.” The soldiers were giving me impatient looks; I didn’t have a lot of time. “This is the best option, Zeke. We don’t want to start a fight. Better that it’s just me then all four of us.” I leaned in even closer, dropping my voice to a whisper. “You can’t let them discover you’re a vampire, not until you figure out what’s happened to Eden.”
Zeke sighed, looking angry and frustrated, but nodded. “I’ll find you,” he promised, briefly pressing a hand to my cheek.
“I promise. I know the people here, they’re not unreasonable.
We’ll talk to them and sort this out. Just hang on until then.”
“I will,” I said, though I didn’t tell him my true thoughts.
That humans in general were not very reasonable when it came to vampires. That the fear of monsters and predators usually took over any rational thoughts when it came to their own survival. That I didn’t expect much sympathy or understanding, and I was really just buying him and the others time to find Sarren.
And lurking in the darkest part of my mind was the fear that I kept even from myself. The whole reason Zeke had been allowed to leave Eden in the first place was to bring back a vampire. And now, here I was. A vampire, in a city full of frightened, desperate mortals.
Part of me said I was being incredibly stupid, putting faith in these humans, trusting they wouldn’t strap me to a table and dissect me like a rat. Part of me was insisting that I fight my way clear. I was a vampire; who were these mortals to treat me like a prisoner and an animal? We could rip them apart, scatter their limbs in the road, and find Sarren without their help.
I pushed that voice aside. I was not that kind of monster, I told myself. We had come all this way; I wasn’t about to slaughter the people I’d come to help. And Zeke still had family here; if I gave in to the monster, he could fall as well, and it would be even more devastating for him once he came out of it. No, if it meant keeping Zeke grounded and in control, if it meant the others would remain free to look for our real enemy, I would put myself in the humans’ custody and not tear them in half. Even though I had zero faith that they would treat me as anything but a monster.
“Leave that weapon behind,” the lead soldier told me, jabbing his gun at my katana as I walked up. “Bad enough we let a bloodsucker walk through the streets—it’s sure as hell not going to be armed. Take it off.”
I bristled, but calmed my anger, stripped off my weapon, and handed it to Kanin. Our eyes met as his fingers closed around the sheath. Look after him, Kanin, I thought, holding his gaze, hoping he could read my expression. Don’t let him succumb to the monster.