I slipped down the bank, following the shoreline past the dock, to where a lone, tall figure stood at the edge of the water. The breeze tugged at his dark hair, and his duster billowed and flapped behind him as he gazed out over the waves.

A strange prickle ran up my spine. For just a moment, with him standing motionless and silent at the water’s edge, he reminded me, very faintly, of Kanin.

I shook myself, wondering where that had come from, and stepped forward.

“Hey,” I greeted, making him turn. The black wounds were still there, on his cheeks and brow, but they were mere shadows of what they had been, and the dark veins covering his neck were gone completely. “Looks like you survived.”

“Disappointed, sister?” Jackal smirked at me, looking like his old self. “I told you, I always come out on top, no matter what.”

“Like a bad penny.” I looked past him and saw a rowboat a few yards away, ready to be shoved into the water. My heart gave a lurch with the realization, surprising me with its reluctance to see him go. “You’re leaving, I suppose.”

“Yeah.” Jackal glanced behind him, staring over the waters of the lake. “Past time, I think. We killed Sarren, found the cure, and saved the world from another superplague. I’m about to choke on all this goodwill.” He turned back to me, grinning. “Figured I’d leave before I got too bored and started making my own fun. You and the puppy probably wouldn’t like that.”

“You could still stay,” I said. “Help rebuild Eden.”

He snorted a laugh. “Please. Stay and help a bunch of sweaty meatsacks with manual labor? Not my scene, sister.

You should know me better by now.”

“Yeah, silly me, thinking you might not be a complete bastard after all.” I smiled and rolled my eyes. “So, where are you going? You’ve been cured of Rabidism. I suppose you’re off to raise that vampire army.”

“Well… .” Jackal scratched the side of his neck. “I’ve been thinking about that. And I realized, to make it work, I’d have to get a whole new batch of minions. I’m certainly not going to use my former toadies, not when the little shits tried to kill me. I’d have to go back to Old Chicago, kill everyone there, and start over from scratch. And that seems like a hell of a lot of work.” Jackal shook his head. “Ruling a city of murdering, backstabbing humans sounds a lot easier than ruling a city of murdering, backstabbing vampires. And I think I deserve a vacation. Maybe I’ll revisit the idea in a century or two. Right now, I’m going to take a break from all this saving the world shit and relax. Maybe travel awhile, see what’s out there. I always wanted to see Europe. Apparently, the vampires there are the real deal. Some of them can trace their bloodline all the way back to the first bloodsucker himself. It’d be interesting to see what they can do, how they run things.” He grinned at me, showing fangs. “I don’t suppose I could get you to come with me.”

“No.” I shook my head. “I’m staying in Eden with Zeke, until the city is back on its feet, anyway.”

“Ah, well. Can’t say I didn’t try.” Jackal stepped back, raising a hand in a mock salute. “See you around, sister. Have fun with your bloodbags. And tell the puppy that if he ever wants my head, I’m ready for him anytime.”

“Hey,” I called, as he started toward the boat. He turned back, raising an eyebrow: a tall, lean vampire silhouetted against the night, golden eyes shining in the dark. “Thanks,”

I said quietly. “For sticking around.”

My blood brother snorted. “Don’t go soft on me, little sister,” he warned, and his tone was only half teasing. “You’re a Master now. If we ever run into each other again, I won’t go easy on you.”

I smiled. “Looking forward to it.”

Then I turned and walked away, and Jackal stepped up to the rowboat, shoving it into the water. I didn’t stop, continuing up the bank, back to Zeke, the humans, and the light.

Jackal—my blood brother, Kanin’s other prodigy, and the raider king of Old Chicago—continued to glide into the darkness. I felt the pulse through our blood tie drifting farther and farther away, until I could barely sense him anymore.

It took several weeks before people could return to Eden.

Even with Sarren dead and Requiem halted, Eden was still infested with rabids, and none of the humans could return until they were destroyed. Digging them up during the day would take forever, but going after them at night was extremely dangerous. We could have waited for Requiem to run its course; eventually the rabids would have died from the disease, but there were no supplies left at the checkpoint, and the mayor didn’t want to risk a rabid getting off the island now that their fear of deep water was gone. Plus, it seemed to be taking an abnormally long time for the rabids to succumb to the virus, longer than it had taken the bleeders or even the infected vampires to die. Perhaps that was part of Sarren’s design, his plan to spread Requiem as far as he could, but whatever the reason, the mayor wanted the rabids destroyed as soon as possible. So of course, we volunteered.

It had been Zeke’s idea to set a trap; use blood to lure the horde to where we wanted them, then ambush and kill them all. The flames from the burning building stung my skin and could be seen for miles, and the stench of charred rabid flesh lingered on the wind for hours afterward, but it took out a sizable chunk of the horde. After several more forays into the city, hunting down the remaining rabids, making certain we got them all, the mayor finally announced that people could return to their homes.

Even then, it would still be a long time before Eden got back to normal. Many lives had been lost, homes and families torn apart, and devastation left in the wake of the attack.

Zeke and I helped where we could, but it was obvious that the people of Eden were still leery of us, despite the mayor giving us full citizenship, and our presence was often looked upon with fear and anger. For all we’d done for Eden, we were still vampires.

Still, we stayed, through the winter and on into spring.

Sometimes, I thought of Kanin, and wondered what my sire would think if he could see me now. Zeke reconnected with his family and visited Caleb and Bethany when he could, though never alone, and never for long. He was at peace with himself now, content with his new status as a vampire, but he never forgot what he truly was, and what he could do. I made a few friends on Eden, Mayor Hendricks, for one, and Dr. Richardson, who seemed fascinated with vampires and wanted to learn all he could about them. He also provided Zeke and I with blood bags as often as we needed them. And as time passed, the people of Eden began to see us less as monsters and more as curiosities; we were dangerous, yes, and could easily kill a human, but we also guarded and protected the city. Not to mention, we had saved it from a super plague and driven off all the rabids. So, we couldn’t be completely evil. Eventually, Zeke and I were granted a very cautious acceptance and became just another part of the city.

Tags: Julie Kagawa Blood of Eden Book Series
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