I wanted nothing more than for Dawn and Jacqueline to forget I existed, but the next words slipped out of my mouth before I could stop them. The scientist in me was too caught up in a revelation. "He was restored - and it affected him permanently. The spirit magic left some kind of mark, and now he can't be turned again."

Both Strigoi looked at me. I cringed under those red eyes.

"I never believed any of those spirit stories," said Dawn.

Jacqueline, however, was still clearly puzzled by her failure. "There was something wrong with him, though. I can't explain it... but the whole time, he didn't feel right. Didn't taste right."

"Forget him," said Dawn. "He had his chance. He got what he wanted, and now I'm moving on."

I saw my death in her eyes and tried to reach for my cross. "God protect me," I said, just as she lunged forward.

Against all odds, Adrian was there to stop her - or, well, try to stop her. Mostly, he just got in her way. He didn't have the speed or reaction time to effectively block her and was especially clumsy with his cuffed hands. I think he'd just seen what I had, that she was going to attack, and had preemptively moved in front of me in some noble but ill-fated attempt at protection.

And ill-fated it was. With one smooth motion, she shoved him aside in a way that looked effortless but knocked him halfway across the room. My breath caught. He hit the floor, and I started to scream. Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain against my throat. Without a pause, Dawn had promptly grabbed me and nearly lifted me off my feet to get access to my neck. I mustered another frantic prayer as that pain spread, but within seconds, both prayer and pain disappeared from my brain. They were replaced by a sweet, sweet feeling of contentment and bliss and wonder. I had no thoughts, except that I was suddenly existing in the happiest, most exquisite state imaginable. I wanted more. More, more, more. I wanted to drown in it, to forget myself, to forget everything around me -

"Ugh," I cried out as I suddenly and unexpectedly hit the floor. Still in that blissful haze, I felt no pain - yet.

Just as quickly as she'd grabbed me, Dawn had dropped and pushed me away. Instinctively, I reached out an arm to break my fall but failed. I was too weak and disoriented and sprawled ungracefully on the carpet. Dawn's fingers were touching her lips, a look of outrage twisting her already-horrific features.

"What," she demanded, "was that?"

My brain wasn't working properly yet. I'd only had a brief taste of endorphin, but it was still enough to leave me addled. I had no answer for her. "What's wrong?" exclaimed Jacqueline, striding forward. She looked from me to Dawn in confusion.

Dawn scowled and then spit onto the floor. It was red from my blood. Disgusting.

"Her blood... it was terrible. Inedible. Foul." She spit again.

Jacqueline's eyes widened. "Just like the other one. See? I told you."

"No." Dawn shook her head. "There's no way it could be the same. You would never have been able to drink that much of her." She spit again. "It didn't just taste weird or bad... it was like it's tainted." Seeing Jacqueline's skeptical look, Dawn punched her on the arm. "Don't believe me? Try her yourself."

Jacqueline took a step toward me, hesitant. Then Dawn spit again, and I think that somehow convinced the other Strigoi that she wanted no part of me.

"I don't want another mediocre meal. Damn it. This is becoming absurd." Jacqueline glanced at Adrian, who was standing perfectly still. "At least we've still got him."

"If he's not ruined too," Dawn muttered.

My senses were coming back to me, and for half a second, I wondered if there was some insane way we might survive this. Maybe the Strigoi would write us off as bad meals. But no. Even as I allowed myself to hope that, I also knew that even if they didn't feed off of us, we weren't going to leave here alive. They had no reason to simply walk off. They'd kill us for sport before they left.

With that same remarkable speed, Jacqueline sprang toward Adrian. "Time to find out."

I screamed as Jacqueline pinned Adrian against the wall and bit his neck. She only did so for a few seconds, just to get a taste. Jacqueline lifted her head up, pausing and savoring the blood. A slow smile spread over her face, showing her bloody fangs.

"This one's good. Very good. Makes up for the other." She trailed her fingers down his cheek. "Such a shame, though. He's so cute."

Dawn stalked toward them. "Let me try before you take it all!"

Jacqueline ignored her and was leaning back toward Adrian, who had gone all glassy-eyed. Meanwhile, I was free enough of the endorphins that I was thinking clearly again. No one was paying attention to me. I tried to stand and felt the world sway. Staying low, I managed to crawl toward my purse, lying forgotten near the living room's edge. Jacqueline had drunk from Adrian again, but only briefly before Dawn pulled her away and demanded a turn so that she could wash the taste of my blood out of her mouth.

Startling myself with how fast I moved, I rustled through my cavernous purse, looking desperately for anything that might help. Some cold, logical part of me said there was no way we could get out of this, but there was also no way I could just sit there and watch them drain Adrian. I had to fight. I had to try to save him, just as he'd tried for me. It didn't matter if the effort failed or if I died. Somehow, I had to try.

Some Alchemists carried guns, but not me. My purse was huge, full of more stuff than I really needed, but nothing in the contents resembled a weapon.

Even if it did, most weapons were futile against Strigoi. A gun would slow them down but not kill them. Only silver stakes, decapitation, and fire could kill a Strigoi.


My hand closed around the amulet I'd made for Ms. Terwilliger. I'd shoved it in my purse when she gave it to me, unsure what I should do with it. I could only assume blood loss and scattered thoughts made me draw it out now and consider the possibility of using it. Even the idea was ridiculous. You couldn't use something that didn't work! It was a trinket, a worthless bag of rocks and leaves. There was no magic here, and I was a fool to even think along those lines.

And yet, it was a bag of rocks.

Not a heavy one, but surely enough to get someone's attention if it hit her in the head. It was the best I had. The only thing I had to slow Adrian's death. Drawing back my arm, I aimed at Dawn and threw, reciting the foolish incantation like a battle cry: "Into flame, into flame!"

It was a good shot. Miss Carson would have been proud. But I had no chance to admire my athletic skills because I was too distracted by the fact that Dawn had caught on fire.

Tags: Richelle Mead Bloodlines Fantasy
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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