Suddenly, he winced, sinking down on the deck, the assault rifle clattering beside him. Alarmed, I straightened, reaching out to steady him, but Jackal slumped to his back on the deck, putting an arm over his face. I could see the ugly bite wound on his neck, glimmering and black, turning the skin around it dark.
“Well, isn’t this f**king hilarious.” He sighed as the wind blew over the railing, swirling around three vampires slumped together on deck. “We saved a bunch of bleating meatsacks, killed a psychopath who is older than dirt, stopped another world-destroying plague…and we still don’t have the cure.
God really does hate us, after all.” He sighed again, letting his other arm rest on his stomach, like he was just getting ready to take a nap. “Seeing as this is probably my last hurrah, I don’t suppose I could get you two bleeding hearts to massacre a village with me? For old time’s sake.”
“No,” I said, as Zeke frowned beside me. Though I was starving, and I would have to feed soon, as would Zeke.
Hopefully, Dr. Thomas could spare a real blood bag or two.
“You’re not going to slaughter the humans we worked so hard to save,” I told Jackal, who snorted without looking at me. “Besides, you’re not going to die.”
“Oh?” He lowered his arm, eyeing me with resignation.
“Got the cure up your sleeve, then, sister?”
“Actually, I think I do.”
They both stared at me. I looked at Zeke, and Jackal, and felt that tiny flicker of hope grow steadily into a rising flame.
Kanin had been injected with Zeke’s blood in New Covington, but he wasn’t the only one. Just to be certain, I felt along my neck where the infected rabid had bitten me, finding smooth, unbroken skin, and smiled.
“I’m a Master vampire,” I said, to their stunned expressions. “The cure is inside me, as well.”
I woke up on a table.
Opening my eyes, I winced as an overhead light blazed down on me, making me hiss and turn away, shielding my face. The surface under my back felt hard and smooth, metallic. Confused, I struggled upright, squinting against the brightness, wondering where I was.
“Ah, Miss Allison. You’re awake.”
A man came forward, dressed in a long white coat, the light reflecting off his glasses. His arm hung in a sling, and a bandage covered one side of his head, but I blinked in recognition. “Dr. Richardson?”
He nodded, and the rest of the room came into focus, small and white, with tile floors and shelves full of sharp instruments. The surface I lay on was a metal table, shiny and smelling faintly of chemicals and blood. My stomach gave a jolt as I realized where I was. Somehow, I was back in the lab.
I groped back for my sword and found it missing, as well.
Glaring at the scientist, I growled and bared my fangs. “You should’ve tied me down if you thought you were going to keep me here,” I said as the human’s eyes widened.
“Easy.” Richardson held up his uninjured hand. “Calm down, girl. It’s not what you think.”
“Where are Jackal and Zeke?”
“They’re fine! They’re both fine. Please, calm down.”
“Both of them?”
“Yes.” The scientist gave a firm nod. “Both of them.” He sighed as I relaxed a bit, retracting my fangs. They were okay.
Even Jackal was all right. “And we’re not going to keep you here,” Richardson went on, gesturing to the door, which lay open and unguarded. “You can leave whenever you want.
Just hear me out.”
“Where are we?” I asked, trying to remember the final few minutes of the night before. After the ship had run aground, most of the rabids had fled into the woods or joined the swarm still lingering around the checkpoint gates. Jackal, I discovered later, had taken a small boat out to the crippled barge rather than fight his way through the horde. We’d returned to the checkpoint the same way and found a platoon of soldiers waiting for us, thankfully with an ample supply of blood bags and no citizens around to tempt us. Jackal, apparently, had told them what to prepare for when we returned.
After downing two—just enough to heal and keep the Hunger at bay—I had returned to the hospital with Jackal and Zeke. Hendricks had been waiting for us, but with Jackal in such a bad way, I’d sent Zeke to deal with the mayor while I hunted down Dr. Thomas and forced him to help the sickening vampire. The little human hadn’t said anything when I’d ordered him to draw my blood and inject it into Jackal, clearly terrified now that there were three vampires to con-tend with instead of only one.
After that, with dawn less than an hour away, the rest of the conversation had become somewhat of a blur. I remembered meeting with Mayor Hendricks and Zeke, remembered telling them about the cure, and the mayor had asked if I was willing to offer a bit of my blood for research. After making him swear that they would not be using me for a lab experiment, I’d agreed.
And then I’d woken up here.
“Is this Eden?” I asked in amazement, but Dr. Richardson shook his head.
“No, this is still the checkpoint,” he answered, and offered a wry smile. “Trust me, I was just as confused when I woke up in the hospital and not on the island. After you four vampires left me at the lab, I thought I was going to die. I holed up near the power plant until I passed out from blood loss.”
He shook his head. “But, as it turns out, it wasn’t quite my time. A squad came for me early this morning, said that one of the vampires had told them where to find me, and that Mayor Hendricks had personally ordered my retrieval.”
“Because of you, vampire.” The scientist’s voice was grave.
“Because of what you told them, about Requiem. About the cure. They needed someone who understood the research, who worked firsthand with the virus. I came here with a slight concussion and a broken arm, and they still had me begin work as soon as the painkillers kicked in, and I was lucid enough to stand.” His eyes gleamed behind his glasses as he stared at me. “Of course, if I’d realized what they had, what they wanted me to do, I would’ve started as soon as I woke up, broken arm or no. To think…” He stared at me, appraising. “After all this time, the answer was right in front of us. If we’d only understood vampires a little more.”
“You mean the research,” I guessed. “The failed vampire experiments.”
“Yes.” Richardson nodded. “The key was vampire blood.