“A horse and cart went through here,” Kanin explained, perhaps seeing my confused expression. “Not long ago. A few hours, perhaps.” He gazed into the trees, and his voice was suddenly grave. “Whoever left these tracks isn’t far.”

“About time,” Jackal growled at my side, and an evil grin crossed his face as his gaze followed Kanin’s into the forest. His eyes glowed dangerously, and his fangs glinted as he smiled. “Let’s just hope there’s more than one. I don’t particularly feel like sharing.”

There are humans nearby. The Hunger surged up with the realization, twisting and painful. I felt my own fangs slide out, poking my bottom lip, and suddenly resented the two vampires nearby—competition for my food.

“Come, then,” Kanin said, sounding weary. He stepped off the road, heading into the forest without looking back.

“Let’s get this over with.”

Chapter 3

The trail didn’t take us far.

We’d followed the tracks about two hundred yards into the forest when the trees thinned and a small field stretched out before us, penned in with crudely cut logs. The ground past the barrier had been trampled to mud, and when I took a breath, I caught the familiar scent of manure and livestock hanging in the frozen air. The pasture, of course, was empty.

No one left domestic animals outside at night, for the same reason no human ever ventured out at night: they’d be ripped to shreds by rabids in short order.

Eagerly, I stared past the field, searching for any signs of where these humans might live. When I had traveled with Jebbadiah’s band, we’d stumbled across the Archer farm one night, an isolated homestead surrounded by a protective fence that kept rabids at bay. The barn and enormous farmhouse both sat within the wall, and the Archer clan had been able to move freely about even at night, so long as they stayed within its boundaries.

But, to my shock, there was no wall out here, not even a small one. Sitting at the edge of the field, smoke curling lazily from a brick chimney, was a house. It was dark, two stories high, and completely unprotected, sitting brazenly in the open with no fires, gates, or anything to shield it from the walking horrors outside.

“Well, that’s interesting,” Jackal murmured, leaning against the fence with his elbows on the railing. “No wall. And there are definitely bloodbags inside, unless the rabids have suddenly discovered they’re not afraid of fire.” He frowned, regarding the house like it was some new curiosity he’d never seen before. “So, I’m guessing these meatsacks are either the luckiest sons of bitches to ever walk the earth, or that house is going to have a few nasty surprises waiting for us.” With a snort, he pushed himself off the railing, shaking his head.

“Course, it’s not going to matter either way. I’m still going to eat them. How much is going to depend on how seriously they piss me off by the time I get in there.”

I growled at him, the monster rearing up in protest. “You’d better not kill them all,” I said coldly, making him raise an eyebrow. “At least not until I’m done. Find your own human to feed on. I’m not sharing this time.”

“Oh, sister,” Jackal mocked, pretending to wipe away a tear. “Listen to you, sounding just like a real vampire. I’m so proud.”

“We are not,” Kanin said in a calm, terrifying voice, “going to kill anyone. Executing men who are shooting at us is one thing. There is no need to massacre a sleeping household.

When we part ways, you both can do as you like. Until then, as I am the oldest and technically the head of this coven, we will do things my way. If you cannot abide this, you are always free to go. I am not stopping you.”

He’d once said those words to Jackal, who’d taken him up on that offer and betrayed us to Sarren, only to switch sides once more at the last minute. But now, Kanin’s dark gaze fixed solely on me, hard and cold. It sent a sudden, sharp pang through my stomach. My sire didn’t trust me; he really had lumped me into the same boat as Jackal, the vampire whom I’d once despised for treating humans as food. Jackal’s own words came back to taunt me. “That’s what I like about you, sister. You and me, we’re exactly the same.”

He was right. My ruthless, murdering blood brother had been right all along.

I met Kanin’s piercing gaze and shrugged. “Fine,” I said, matching my coldness to his. “You’ve made your point. I’ll try not to kill any of the bloodbags.”

A flicker of what might’ve been pain crossed Kanin’s impassive face on that last sentence. That last word, one I’d never used before. Bloodbags.

Jackal snickered then, shooting Kanin a dangerous leer.

“Aw, what’s the matter, old man?” he asked. “Didn’t expect your little spawn to fall so far from grace? Did you really expect her to retain your ridiculous, unfeasible morals?” He gave me a sideways glance. “Open your eyes, Kanin. Your favor-ite hellspawn is a demon, just like the rest of us. Only now, she’s finally realized it.”

Kanin stared at us, his features coolly remote once more, then turned away. “We do this quickly and quietly,” he said, following the cart tracks around the field toward the house up top. “Go in, take what you need, and leave. There might be guards nearby, so let’s be careful.”

As we approached the monstrous house sitting at the edge of the pasture, the reason it wasn’t surrounded by a wall became quite clear. It didn’t need to be.

Up close, the building was a fortress. The walls were brick, reinforced in places with steel bars and plates. A wide trench surrounded the whole house, with sharpened iron poles bristling from the bottom and stabbing up on the other side.

Windows had metal bars running across them, and the heavy double doors, armored and plated with steel, seemed able to withstand the most vicious rabid attack.

But it didn’t account for vampires.

“Creative bastards, aren’t they?” Jackal mused as we silently circled the house, looking for points of entry, potential weak spots we could exploit. There weren’t many; every window was barred, the back door was armored, and spikes bristled around the perimeter and even from the roof. “If I wasn’t planning to eat the little bloodbags, I might be reluctantly impressed. As it is, this is just obnoxious. Hey, Kanin,”

he called in a louder whisper, gazing at the other vampire a few paces away, “you still sold on this ‘enter quietly and leave’ bullshit? Right now I’m thinking a good ‘kick in the door’ approach would work better.”

Tags: Julie Kagawa Blood of Eden Book Series
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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