“There are still a lot of rabids down there. Even if they’re not infected, if this thing hits the checkpoint, it’ll be a massacre.”
I looked over the barge to where the lights of the checkpoint gleamed straight ahead. There didn’t seem to be enough time, and I was tired, hurt and starving. My sword arm still ached; I could just now flex my fingers, and there was still a shattered bone lodged somewhere in my chest. I wanted to lie motionless until whatever was broken inside me healed. I wanted to find the nearest human and plunge my fangs into their throat. And I wanted to find a quiet place to curl up and mourn my sire. Instead, I nodded and pulled away from Zeke, wiping the last of the blood from my eyes.
“Come on, then,” I told him, making my way around the pilothouse, toward the stairs to the top deck. “The door to the controls is welded shut, but if we can get it open, we might be able to stop this thing.”
I hurried up the steps, ignoring Caleb and Bethany’s small, shivering figures as they huddled together on the second floor, desperately keeping my Hunger under control. The demon screamed at me to attack, to leap down and rip open a child’s throat, knowing it would soothe the pain stabbing me from inside. It took all my willpower to keep going when Caleb called out to me, waving a pale, twiggy arm in my direction.
We reached the door to the pilothouse. I put my shoulder to the metal and slammed into it, ignoring the pain that rocketed through my body. It didn’t budge, and Zeke joined me, slamming into the door, trying to break it open.
“No good,” he muttered after we’d crashed into it a few times to no avail. “It’s not going to open.”
I glared at the door, anger and desperation rising up to dance with each other. I’m a Master vampire, I thought, clenching my fists. Though the notion was still hard to believe—me, a Master vampire like Kanin? Like a Prince? But I trusted my sire, and I knew he would never lie to me. Kanin would be able to get through. And I’m not going to let those people on shore die just because of a damn door. So, open up, you stupid thing!
I bashed into it once more, putting the last of my strength behind the blow. The impact jarred my body, sending a flare of pain through my almost-healed ribs, but the door flew open with a crash, and I stumbled inside.
The moment of triumph soon faded, though, once we were in the pilothouse. The controls, complicated and unfamiliar already, had been smashed and bent beyond repair. The wheel had been ripped off, broken, and was lying in pieces in the corner. Sarren had locked his course in, just as Kanin had guessed, and there’d be no changing direction, not from here, anyway.
“Dammit!” I snapped, gazing around helplessly. Through the window, the lights of the shoreline glimmered frighteningly close. “What now?”
“The anchor,” Zeke said, pointing to a metal box on the wall, with a single button in the center. “Drop anchor—it might be enough to turn this thing so it doesn’t crash into the checkpoint.”
I slammed my thumb into the button. There was a click, but nothing happened. The barge continued to plow toward shore with no signs of slowing down.
“He must’ve cut the chain,” Zeke growled, running both hands through his hair. “And there’s no time to get to the engine room, even if we could get in.” He closed his eyes, pressing his fists to his forehead. “What are we going to do?”
Desperate, I gazed at the barge, past the rabids milling below on the platform, to the back of the ship. I spotted the chain Zeke was referring to, the one that was supposed to be attached to an anchor, lying in a neat coil on the deck.
There was no anchor, obviously, but there were a pair of open metal containers lying close by, identical to the ones the rabids were prowling through below. And the ghost of an idea went through my mind. It was a gamble, and we’d have to get past that huge mob of rabids, but there were no options left. We were out of time.
“Come on,” I told Zeke, backing away from the controls.
“I just thought of something.”
I whirled toward the door, but froze when I saw Caleb in the frame, pale and shivering, gazing up at me with big, dark eyes.
“Allie,” he said, a shaky smile spreading over his face. “I kn-knew it. I knew you’d come back.”
The demon surged up with a roar. Before I could move, Zeke sprang forward and grabbed me around the waist even as my fangs slid out and I tensed to lunge, to pounce and rip open the child’s throat.
“Caleb, get back!” Zeke shouted, and Caleb’s eyes went huge with fear. Zeke held me tight, his arms like steel bands around me, even as I squeezed my eyes shut and turned into him, fighting for control. “Go down to the bottom floor with Bethany and stay there,” Zeke ordered, his voice firm, as I clenched my fist in his shirt and pressed my forehead to his chest. “When we leave, you and Bethany come into this room, bar the door and don’t open it for anyone but me, you hear?”
My demon howled, and the Hunger ripped and tore at my insides, both driving me insane. I heard Caleb sniffle, heard his frightened voice start to protest, and Zeke’s voice hardened. “Now, Caleb!”
The child broke into hiccupping sobs and fled. Zeke didn’t relent until the footsteps on the stairs disappeared, then very carefully loosened his grip, though not enough to let me go.
“I’m okay,” I said through gritted teeth. The Hunger burned through my veins, relentless and terrible, but I forced my fangs to retract and stilled the thoughts of pouncing on a child and sinking my teeth into his throat. “Thanks for catching me.”
“Always, vampire girl.” Zeke pressed his forehead to mine.
“Just promise me you’ll do the same. We’ll catch each other.”
He glanced up, making sure Caleb was gone, then pulled away. “But right now, we have to stop a ship. What were you planning to do?”
Oh, yeah. The ship. “This way,” I said, leading him back down the stairs. I smelled Caleb and Bethany, somewhere close by, but I couldn’t let myself think of them right now.
Back on deck, I gazed across the platform and the maze of shipping containers below, to the other side of the ship. A chill ran up my spine. Rabids screamed and hissed at us from below, and the shoreline was frighteningly near. We had a few minutes at most.
“What’s the plan, Allison?”
I pointed across the chasm. “The chain,” I said, and his gaze fell to the heavy coils by the side of the ship. “The anchor is gone, but if we attached the chain to that container and push it over the side…”