“Is there a point to any of this?”

“Actually, there is.” His smirk faded, and, for a moment, he looked almost serious. “I want to know what you’re going to do after we catch up to Sarren and beat the ever-loving shit out of him,” he said. “I don’t expect the old man will want either of us around much longer, now that you’ve finally accepted the fact that you actually like the taste of blood, and he tends to frown on such things. Where will you go once this is all over? Assuming you survive, of course. And that our dear sire doesn’t decide to off us both for ‘the greater good.’”

“I don’t know,” I said, ignoring that last part. I didn’t think Kanin would try to kill me, but…he had tried to end Jackal’s life once, long ago. Had I fallen so far that Kanin thought Jackal and I were one and the same? Mistakes that he should never have brought into the world?

“I don’t know where I’ll go after this,” I said again, gazing off into the trees. I couldn’t see myself staying in any one place, not among the humans who hated and feared me, and who I would systematically kill, one by one, to feed myself.

Maybe I’d wander from place to place, forever. “I guess it doesn’t matter.”

“Well, I have a suggestion,” Jackal said, the echo of a grin in his voice. “Come back with me to Old Chicago.”

I glanced at him in surprise. He seemed completely serious about the offer. “Why?” I asked warily. “You never struck me as the sharing type.”

“You do have a very selective memory, you know that, right?” Jackal shook his head. “What have I been saying all this time, sister? I’ve made this offer before, several times in fact, but you were too hung up on your precious bloodbags to even consider it. No, I don’t tolerate other bloodsuckers in my city, but you’re not just a random, wandering mongrel vampire. You’re kin.” He smiled widely, showing the tips of his fangs. “And we could do great things, the two of us.

Think about it.”

Still wary, I asked, “And what are these ‘great things’ we would end up doing?”

Jackal chuckled. “For starters,” he said, “once we get that cure from Eden, we could start working on that whole vampire-army thing I’ve been talking about. We could have our own vampire city, and the other Princes would bow to us. We could rule everything, you and me. Wha’d’ya say?”

“And you’d just share all that?” I gave him a skeptical look.

“What’s to stop you from stabbing me in the back the second we have a disagreement?”

“Sister, I’m hurt.” Jackal gave me a mock wounded look.

“You make me sound completely unreasonable. Isn’t it enough that I want to get to know my dear little sister, my only surviving kin besides Kanin?”

“No,” I said, now even more wary. I glared at him, and he gave me a smile that was way too innocent. “Don’t try to feed me any crap about family and blood and kin. You’d throw us to the rabids if you thought you could get something out of it, you said so yourself.” Jackal snorted, but he didn’t deny it, and I narrowed my eyes. “What’s the real reason you want me around?”

“Because, my thick-headed little sister…” Jackal sighed.

“I trust you.”

I nearly tripped over my own feet in shock. I stared at him, not really believing what I’d just heard, and he glared back.

Like this was vastly annoying, and he needed to get it over with quickly. “Because I know that you, at least, won’t turn on me if something better comes along,” he elaborated. “Because you have that disgusting sense of loyalty that keeps getting you into trouble. And because you aren’t half bad in a fight, either.” His expression moved between arrogance and pity. “I figure I can be the smart, practical, logical one and you can be the pretty, hotheaded, overemotional one, and between us, we’ll be ready for anything.”

“So you want me around because I can fight, and I won’t turn on you.” My voice echoed flatly in my head, tinged with bitterness. “That’s a pretty nice deal on your side. I seem to notice you aren’t making those same promises.”

Jackal shrugged. “Look at it this way, sister,” he said, his golden eyes seeing way too much as they gazed down at me.

“At least you won’t be alone.”

His words sent a shiver through my insides. Alone. I would be alone again. After this was all over, even if we beat Sarren, I’d be right back where I started the night Kanin and I had fled New Covington and been separated. I hadn’t been able to return to the city, but I’d had no clue what to do next. With no sire, no friends and no direction, I’d wandered aimlessly through an empty, unforgiving world, not knowing what to do or where I was headed. Not knowing how lonely I was, until I stumbled upon a small group of pilgrims searching for a mythical paradise. They’d given me a goal, a purpose. I’d given everything to get them to Eden…but they were gone now. And once Sarren was killed, it would be like that again.

Kanin would leave and I’d be alone once more, wandering the world by myself. Unless, I accepted Jackal’s offer.

“I don’t know,” I said once more, making him sigh again.

“I’ll…think about it.”

“Think fast,” Jackal said, but at that moment, Kanin stopped in the middle of the pavement, gazing at something at his feet. Curious, we strode over, hopping the trunk of a tree that had fallen into the road. We’d been following a narrow, broken trail through a stretch of forest that was doing its best to smother everything we passed, and the few houses I’d glimpsed through the thick trunks were barely more than rotted beams wrapped in vegetation. Nothing moved out here; even the wildlife seemed to be asleep or in hibernation, and the snow covered everything in a silent blanket, muffling all sound. I hoped Kanin knew what he was doing, leading us so far afield.

Kanin still hadn’t moved when we came up, but his gaze followed something off into the woods. Gazing down at the road, I saw what had stopped him.

A pair of straight, narrow tracks cut through the snow, went across the road, and continued up the bank into the forest on the other side. I blinked. A vehicle of some sort? It would have to be a really small one, to be able to travel through dense woods. And there were animal prints of some kind between the lines. At least, they certainly weren’t human.


Tags: Julie Kagawa Blood of Eden Book Series
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