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The Immortal Rules, Page 25

Julie Kagawa

Chapter 25


  Blissfully, my sleep was free of nightmares this time. But that didn't quell my sense of urgency as I pushed myself free of the earth the next night, shaking dust from my hair and clothes.

  Kanin was still out there, somewhere. In trouble. Maybe he couldn't be saved. Maybe the eerie silence in my dreams meant he was already dead. But I couldn't leave him. I had to try to find him, at least.


  Picking a clump of clay from my hair, I turned and found Caleb staring up at me.

  His eyes were red and swollen, his face dirty and streaked with old tears, smudges where he'd wiped at his face. But he stood there, watching me with dry, hooded eyes, solemn and unafraid.

  "They put Ruth in the ground," he said at last, as a faint growl of thunder echoed somewhere in the distance. Behind him, lightning f lickered, showing a storm was on its way.

  I nodded, wondering what he was getting at.

  "But you came out," Caleb said, his gaze f licking to the disturbed earth behind me. He padded up, staring into my face, his eyes hopeful. "You came out, so maybe. . . Ruth will come back, too? We could wait. We could wait until she comes back, just like you. "

  "No, Caleb. " I shook my head sadly. "I'm different. I'm a vampire. " I paused, to see if that frightened him. It didn't.

  Kneeling, I took his hand, staring at the grubby fingers.

  "Ruth was human," I whispered. "Just like you. And Zeke.

  And everyone. She isn't coming back. " Caleb's lip trembled. Without warning, he lunged at me, striking me with his small fists, beating on my shoulders.

  "Then make her a vampire!" he sobbed, as tears began well-ing in his eyes again. I f linched, more startled than anything, not knowing what to do. "Make her come back!" he screamed at me. "Bring her back right now!"

  "Hey, hey! Caleb!" And Zeke was there, grabbing the boy's wrist, swinging him into his arms. Caleb wailed and buried his face in Zeke's shoulder, still pounding his chest weakly.

  Zeke held him until the tantrum quieted, then lowered his head and murmured something in his ear. Caleb sniff led.

  "I'm not hungry," he mumbled.

  "You should go eat something," Zeke insisted, brushing back Caleb's hair. His own eyes were red, and dark circles crouched beneath them, as if he hadn't slept at all. Caleb sniff led and shook his head, sticking out his bottom lip. "No?" Zeke asked, smiling faintly. "You know, Teresa found apple jelly in the basement. And peach jam. It's really sweet. " A tiny gleam of interest from Caleb. "What's apple jelly?"

  "Go ask her to give you some," Zeke said, putting him down. "Everyone is in the kitchen. Better hurry, or Matthew might eat it all. "

  Caleb padded off, sullen, but at least his outburst seemed to have run its course. Zeke watched until he vanished around the corner, then sighed, rubbing a hand over his eyes.

  "Have you slept at all?" I asked.

  "Maybe an hour. " Zeke lowered his arm, not looking at me, gazing over the tangled, choked fields beyond the fence.

  "Found some fuel in the garage," he said, "and there's about a dozen cans of preserves in the cellar, so we should be good for another night. " He sighed, bowing his head. "You told Caleb that Ruth wasn't coming back?"

  I stiffened, then nodded. "He needed to hear it. I didn't want to give him false hope, that his sister could still be alive.

  That would just be cruel. "

  "I know. " Zeke finally turned, and the bleakness on his face shocked me. He looked years older, lines and circles around his eyes and mouth that weren't there before. "I was trying to tell him earlier, but. . . " He shrugged. "I guess he needed to hear it from you. "

  "You know this wasn't your fault. "

  "Everyone keeps telling me that. " Zeke hunched his shoulders against the rising wind. "I wish I could believe it. " He raked his hair out of his face, shaking his head. "I wish I could believe. . . that we're going to make it. That Eden is still out there, waiting, after all this time. That there's anywhere on this godforsaken earth that is safe. " He turned and kicked a bottle lying in the weeds, sending it smashing into the side of the house. Green shards exploded, f lying everywhere, and I blinked, watching him sadly.

  Zeke tilted his head back, glaring up at the clouds. "Give me a sign," he whispered, closing his eyes. "A hint. Anything. Anything to tell me I'm doing the right thing. That I shouldn't give up and stop looking for the impossible, before everyone around me is dead!"

  As expected, there was no answer except the wind and the approaching storm. Zeke sighed, dropping his head, and turned to me with eyes that had gone completely blank.

  "Let's go," he muttered, starting forward. "We should get on the road before the storm hits. "

  I glanced back at the wall of clouds rolling in off the lake.

  Something glimmered against the black, a brief f lash of movement, and I squinted, waiting for it to reappear. "Zeke," I whispered, gazing over the fence. "Look. " He turned, narrowing his eyes. For a moment, we stood there, the wind rising around us, forks of lightning slashing across the horizon. Thunder growled threateningly, and the first drops of rain began to fall.

  Then, far in the distance, a beacon cut through the darkness, a beam of light, scuttling across the clouds. It vanished momentarily, only to reappear again a few seconds later, a spotlight turned toward the sky.

  Zeke blinked. "What is that?"

  "I don't know," I murmured, stepping up behind him.

  "But-and I could be wrong-it looks like it's coming from the east. "

  "Where Eden is supposed to be," Zeke finished in a near whisper and took off, jogging around the side of the house without looking back. I heard him calling for the others and joined them, feeling the excitement and nervousness as everyone scrambled to leave. And I hoped, desperately, that at the end of this road, they would find what they were looking for.

  We followed the lake edge, keeping our eyes on the faint beam of light over the trees. No one spoke, but the excitement from several rapidly beating hearts was easy to hear.

  Rain pounded the windows, and Zeke squinted through the glass, his gaze focused and intent. Though it was difficult to see through the storm, the light never stopped, a sliver of hope glimmering through the rain, urging us on.

  The road narrowed, weaving its way through overgrown forest and woods, sometimes vanishing altogether as grass, dirt and brush crowded the edges and broke through the pavement. Dead vehicles began appearing through the trees, scattered on the side of the road or abandoned in the ditch. Uneasiness stirred, and my instincts jangled a warning. It seemed to me that these cars could have belonged to others drawn to that light, following the same promises of hope and safety.

  Only, they never made it. Something had stopped them before they reached their Eden. Something that was probably waiting for us, as well.

  Rabids are always drawn to places that have lots of people. Kanin's voice echoed in my head. That's why the ruins just outside vampire cities are so dangerous. Because the rabids have discovered where their prey is, and though they can't get over the walls, they never stop trying. Of course, they're not intelligent enough to set up complex traps, but they have been known to ambush people or even vehicles, if they know where their prey is going.

  Zeke suddenly slammed on the brakes. Caleb and Bethany cried out as the van skidded a few feet in the road, then came to a lurching halt, still in the center of the pavement. Peering through the glass, my blood ran cold.

  A tree lay across the road, huge and thick and gnarled, much too big to go around, over or through. From the storm and the amount of rain and wind, it might've fallen on its own. It might've been uprooted and had crashed from entirely natural causes.

  And yet. . . I knew it had not.

  Zeke looked at me, his face pale. "They're out there, aren't they?"



  "How long until sunrise?"

  I checked my
internal clock. "It's not even midnight. " He swallowed. "If we sit here. . . "

  "They'll tear the van apart, trying to get at us. " I looked down the road, searching for the light. It shone above the branches, tantalizingly close. "We're going to have to make a run for it. "

  Zeke closed his eyes. I could see he was shaking. Opening them, he stole a quick glance at the back, at Caleb and Bethany, Silas, Teresa, Matthew and Jake. The last of our party. The only ones left. Leaning in close, he lowered his voice. "They'll never make it," he whispered. "Teresa has a bad leg, and the kids. . . they can't outrun those things. I can't leave them. "

  I glanced out the window. Beyond the headlights was only rain and darkness, but I knew they were out there, watching us. Leave them, my survival instincts whispered. They're lost.

  Get Zeke out of there and forget the others; there's no saving them, not this time.

  I growled, deep in my throat. We had come this far. We just had to go a little farther. "Don't worry about the rabids," I muttered, grabbing the door handle. "Just concentrate on the others. Get them to safety as quickly as you can and don't look back. "


  I put my hand over his, feeling him tremble under my fingers. "Trust me. "

  He met my gaze. Then, not caring of our audience or the gasps that echoed from the back, he leaned forward and pressed his lips to mine. It was a desperate kiss, full of longing and sorrow, as if he was saying goodbye. "Be careful," he whispered, pulling away. And I suddenly wished we could've had more time, that the world didn't consume every bit of light and goodness it found, that people like Zeke and I could somehow find our Eden.

  I turned, opened the car door and stepped out into the rain.

  Hopping the tree, I drew my sword, seeing my shadow stretch out before me in the headlights. All right, monsters, I thought, walking forward. I know you're there. Let's get on with it.

  The storm swirled around me, pelting me with rain, whipping at my coat and hair. Lightning f lashed, turning the world white, revealing nothing but empty woods and shadows.

  It f lickered again, and suddenly, the trees were full of them, hundreds of dead white eyes glaring at me as they shuff led forward. There were so many; like ants swarming out of a nest, and the air filled with their eerie wails and cries.

  I gripped my blade and took one deliberate step forward.

  With piercing shrieks, the rabids f lung themselves at me, a pale, chaotic swarm. Howling a battle cry, I lunged to the edge of the road and met the first wave with f lashing steel, cutting through limbs and splitting bodies in two. Claws slashed at me, tearing through my coat, into my skin. Blood misted on the damp air, both mine and the tainted blood of the monsters, but I didn't feel any pain. Roaring, I bared my fangs and surged into the wave, splitting them apart. Everything dissolved into a chaotic blur of blood and fangs and slashing limbs, and I lost myself in complete, savage destruction.

  A scream drew my attention to the van. Zeke was pulling Caleb out the side door, when a rabid clawed its way out of the earth next to the van and slashed at them with curved talons. With one arm, Zeke swung Caleb out of its reach, bringing the machete down with the other. The blade struck the monster's skull, burying deep, and the rabid jerked away, twitching. I started toward them when suddenly, through the trees, the earth roiled, and another wave of monsters erupted from the ground. Eyes blazing, they gave chilling wails and f lung themselves at the van.

  "Zeke!" I screamed, cutting a rabid's head from its neck, even as the claws ripped a gash in my sleeve, "get them out of there now!"

  "Go!" Zeke bellowed, and the tiny group of six humans scrambled over the tree and took off down the road. Silent Jake led them, clutching the ax he'd picked up from our last stop, but the others were either too small or too old to carry weapons. Zeke hovered by the van, waiting until everyone was gone, before turning to f lee, as well.

  A rabid came hurling out of nowhere, slamming into him before he could move, pinning him to the hood of the van.

  Jaws snapping, it lunged for Zeke's throat, but Zeke's hand shot out, clamping around its neck, holding the teeth away.

  The rabid hissed in fury and ripped at him with its claws, tearing at his chest, and for a horrible moment, I f lashed back to that night in the rain, where I had died, holding the monster away from my throat while its claws tore my life away.

  "Zeke!" Breaking away from the horde, I started toward him. But Zeke brought his foot up, kicking the rabid in the chest, hurling it away. His blue eyes met mine through the rain.

  "Help the others!" he spat, as the rabid bounced to its feet with a hiss and sprang at him again. It met the blade of a machete, slashing across its face, and lurched back with a shriek, blood pouring across its eyes. "Allison!" Zeke spared me a split-second glance. "Forget about me-help the others!


  I watched Zeke bring his weapon up, the front of his shirt drenched with blood, watched the rabid close on him, and made my decision.

  Whirling, I sprang after the rest of the group, catching up to them just as a pair of rabids lunged for Bethany, cutting them down before they touched her. But the circle was closing in; everywhere I looked, rabids were coming at us, leaping through the trees and rising out of the ground. Several jumped forward, but I sliced them apart before they reached the rest of the group. Still, it was only a matter of time before numbers overwhelmed us.

  From the corner of my eye, I could see them, huddled together. Teresa and Silas had the kids between them, sobbing, and Jake stood behind me with his ax, silent and grim. Zeke was gone. The rabids were coming, wave upon wave of them.

  There was nowhere left to go.

  Run, my vampire instincts whispered. The rabids don't want you; they want the humans. You can still get out of this alive. Run now!

  The circle of rabids closed in, hissing and snarling. I glanced behind me at the small group of humans, then turned to face the sea of death, edging forward from all sides.

  Zeke, I thought, swinging my blade up one last time, this is for you.

  Baring my fangs, I roared a battle cry and lunged forward.

  Light pierced the darkness, sudden and blinding. The rabids froze, whirling around, as a monstrous vehicle roared through the crowds, crushing bodies and f linging them aside.

  It skidded to a halt a few feet away, and several uniformed humans leaned out over the top and sent a hail of machine-gun fire into the mob.

  Rabids shrieked and howled as the roar of bullets joined the deafening cacophony, tearing through f lesh, shattering concrete and making dirt and trees explode. I cringed back with the others, huddled as close to the truck as I could, hoping a stray bullet wouldn't hit anyone by mistake. Rabids pounced toward the vehicle but were cut down before they reached the massive tires, twitching as they were riddled with holes.

  There was a shout, and something small f lew through the air, thrown by one of the humans. A few seconds later an explosion rocked the ground, sending rabids f lying.

  Snarling, the rest of the pack turned and f led, bounding back into the forest or burying themselves into the earth. In a few seconds, the whole pack had disappeared, and the night was still except for the rain.

  I tensed as a human leaped from the top of the truck and stalked toward us. He was big and muscular, dressed in a uniform of black and green, and held a very, very large gun in both hands.

  "We saw your lights down the road," he said, matter-of-factly. "Sorry we couldn't get here sooner. Is anyone hurt?" Dazed, I stared at him. Other soldiers were springing down from the vehicle now, wrapping the group in blankets, leading them back to the truck. One of them picked Bethany up after throwing a blanket around her, and another helped Teresa hobble over the pavement. The lead soldier watched them a moment, then turned back to me.

  "Is this everyone?" he asked briskly. "Once we leave, we're not coming back if we can help it. Is this your whole party?"

"No!" I gasped and whirled around, scanning the road behind us. "No, there's one more. We left him by the van-he could still be alive. "

  I started forward, but he grabbed my arm.

  "He's dead, girl. " The soldier's eyes were sympathetic, as I turned on him furiously. "If he fell behind with the rabids, he's dead. I'm sorry. But we should get those who are alive to Eden. "

  "I'm not leaving him," I snarled, yanking my arm out of his grip. My throat burned with anger at the unfairness of it all. That Zeke could come so far, get this close, only to fall at the end. I thought of the data he was carrying, the precious information that could save the human race, and backed away from the soldier. "You don't know him-he could still be alive. If he's dead-" I clenched my fists, my voice breaking a little. "I still have to know. But I'm not leaving him behind. We've come too far for that. "

  "I know it's hard-" the soldier began but was interrupted.

  "Sarge?" One of the soldiers peered down from the truck.

  "Sergeant Keller, I think you'd better see this. " I whirled around. A lone figure was walking steadily down the road toward us, one hand holding his shoulder, the other gripping a machete at his side. He was covered in blood, clothes torn, and every step looked painful, but he was alive.

  Relief shot through me. Breaking away from Keller, I ran to him, catching him just as he staggered, dropping his weapon to the pavement. He was shaking, his skin cold, and he reeked of blood, both his own and the rabids'. I felt his heartbeat, thumping frantically in his chest, the most beautiful sound I'd ever heard. One arm snaked around me, holding us together, and he rested his forehead against mine.

  "Zeke," I whispered, feeling his shaky breath on my skin, the tension lining his back and shoulders. He said nothing, only held me tighter, but I pulled back a little to glare at him.

  "Dammit, don't you ever do that to me again. "

  "I'm sorry," he whispered, his voice reedy with pain.

  "But. . . the others? Is everyone okay?" I framed his face with both hands, wanting to laugh and cry and slap him all at once.

  "Everyone is fine," I told him, and felt him relax. "We made it, Zeke. Eden is right around the corner. "

  He blew out a ragged breath, and sagged against me.

  "Thank you," he whispered, just as the soldiers swarmed around us. We were safe now. I released him and stepped back, letting the humans throw a blanket around his shoulders, shine a f lashlight over his wounds and ask him a ton of questions.

  "They're just scratches," I heard Zeke say, as Sergeant Keller peered down at him, frowning. "I'm not bitten. "

  "Get him on the truck," Keller ordered, waving his arm.

  "They can check him out once we're behind the wall. Let's move, people. "

  Moments later, I sat beside Zeke in back of the monstrous truck, both of us wrapped in blankets, his hand clutched tightly in mine. Surrounded by so many humans, the Hunger stirred restlessly as the scratches beneath my coat slowly healed, but I ignored it. Caleb and Bethany clung to the adults they knew, eyeing the soldiers warily, but the rest of them were dazed with relief. As the rain slowly let up, I peered over the top of the truck and saw it approaching a pair of enormous iron gates at the end of the road. A fence stretched out on either side of it, reminding me of the Wall in New Covington, dark and massive and bristling with razor wire on top. The white beam of a spotlight spun slowly around just inside one corner of the wall, piercing the sky.

  There were shouts from inside the fence, and the massive gates slowly swung open, allowing the truck to pass through.

  More armed, uniformed humans lined the path beyond the gate, jogging after the truck as it cruised into a tiny compound with muddy roads and a few long cement buildings in the distance. Watchtowers rose along the wall every hundred feet or so, and the humans here seemed to be all military.

  Caleb peered over the rim with wide eyes. "Is this Eden?" he asked plaintively. One of the soldiers laughed.

  "No, little guy, not yet. Look. " He pointed to where a dock stretched out over the dark waters of the huge lake. "Eden is on an island in the middle of Lake Eerie. There's a boat that will arrive to take you there tomorrow morning. " So Jeb had been right. Eden was on an island. This place was just a checkpoint, the last stop before getting to the city.

  "How far?" Zeke murmured from my shoulder, his voice tight with pain. Sergeant Keller glanced down at him, frowning.

  "Not far. About an hour by boat. But first, we have to make sure you're not infected. You've all been in contact with the rabids. Everyone will get a thorough examination here, before you're allowed into the city. "

  Uh-oh. That didn't sound good for me. And Zeke's hand tightened on mine, showing he felt the same. The truck pulled through the camp and finally stopped at one of the long cement buildings near the edge of the lake.

  A bald man in a long white coat waited for us near the back door and spoke urgently to Sergeant Keller as we piled off the truck. I saw the sergeant point to Zeke and myself, and the bald man glanced over anxiously.

  A bed on wheels was brought out, pushed by two more men in white coats, and Zeke was loaded onto it despite his protests. In the end, he relented but still kept a tight hold of my hand as we swept through the doors into a sterile white room. Cots lined the walls, and men and women in white rushed toward us, ushering the others to different parts of the room. Caleb resisted a little, clinging to Jake, but was won over when the man pulled something tiny and bright out of his coat pocket. It looked like a green button on a white stick, but when Caleb put it in his mouth, his eyes widened, and he crunched down on it with a smile. The man held out a hand, and Caleb allowed him to lead him toward a counter.


  me. "

  I glanced up. We had reached a pair of double doors at the end of the room, and the small bald man was looking at me apologetically.

  "I'm sorry," he said. "But we have to take this one into surgery now. Some of his wounds are quite severe, and we still don't know if he's been bitten. You need to let him go. " I didn't know what "surgery" was, but I didn't want to let Zeke go, suddenly afraid that if he went through those doors without me, I'd never see him again. "I can't be there with him?"

  "I'm sorry," the man said again, blinking behind his glasses.

  "I'm afraid it's not allowed. Too dangerous, you see, both for the patient, and yourself. But I swear we'll do everything we can for him. He'll be in good hands, I assure you. " I looked at Zeke again. He lay there, pale and bloody under the harsh lights, eyes closed. One of the women had stuck his arm with a needle earlier, and it had put him out completely.

  His fingers around mine were limp.

  "You can wait outside the room, if you want. " The bald man gave me a tired, understanding smile. "And we'll let you know how he is as soon as we're done. But you need to let him go now. Let him go. "

  Gently, he took my wrist, easing it away from Zeke's hand.

  I resisted a moment, then let it drop. The bald man smiled again and patted my arm.

  They wheeled Zeke through the doors, and I followed them down a narrow, dimly lit hall until they vanished through another pair of doors with no windows, a bright No Entry painted on the metal in vivid red. I caught a whiff of old blood through the doors as they swung shut, and my stomach turned in both fear and Hunger.

  I stayed in the hallway, staring at the doors, feeling the hours tick away. I wondered how the others were doing. I wondered if Zeke was all right, if he would pull through.

  There had been so much blood. If he had been bitten. . . if he turned into one of those monsters. . .

  I shook my head, abandoning that thought. Leaning back against the wall, I looked up at the ceiling and let my eyes slip shut.

  I don't know if you can hear me, I thought in the general direction of the sky, or if you're even listening. But, if you have any sense of justice at all, you won't let Zeke die in there. Not when he's this close. N
ot when he's sacrificed everything to see the others here alive. I know you're probably anxious to get him home, but he's needed down here a little more. Just let him stay a little longer.

  The hall remained empty, silent. I bowed my head, letting my thoughts drift. I wondered, suddenly, where Kanin was, if he was still alive. If he could sense me, feel where I was, or if he even cared. If he was still sane enough to care. I wondered if he was sorry that one of his offspring had killed the other.

  I felt it then. A f lash of rage and hate so strong, I jerked my head up, bashing my skull into the wall. Wincing, I stared down the corridor, feeling my fangs poking through my gums, growling softly. For a split second, I'd felt him, seen his face. I felt his anger, directed right at me. Not Kanin. Not psycho vamp.

  Jackal. He was alive.

  The doors at the end of the hall swung open. I leaped upright as the bald man emerged looking very tired, smears of blood on his white coat.

  "Your friend is going to be fine," he said, smiling, and I collapsed against the wall in relief. "He's lost a lot of blood, has a slight concussion, and there was an old gunshot wound on his leg, but he isn't infected. I expect him to make a full recovery. "

  "Can I see him?"

  "He's sleeping now. " The bald man gave me a severe look.

  "You can visit him later, but I believe you need stitches, too, young lady. Judging from those rips in your clothes, I'm surprised you're not in worse shape. Has someone examined you? Hold still a moment. " He swung a strange device off his neck and stuck the ends in his ears. "This won't hurt," he promised, holding up the shiny, metallic circle on the end of the tube. "I'm just going to listen to your heart, check your breathing-"

  He moved the device toward my chest. . . and my hand shot out, grabbing his wrist before either of us knew what was happening.

  He jumped, startled by how fast I moved, and looked up at me with huge round eyes behind his glasses. I met his gaze sadly.

  "You won't find anything there," I murmured, and he frowned a moment, confused. Then his face drained of color, and he stared at me, frozen. I heard his heartbeat speed up, and a sheen of sweat glistened on his brow.

  "Oh," he whispered in a tiny, breathy voice. "You're a. . .

  Please don't kill me. "

  I released his wrist, letting mine drop to my side. "Go on," I muttered, turning away. "Do what you have to do. " He hesitated, as if fearing a trick, that I would turn and pounce on him the second his back was turned. Then I heard his footsteps, sprinting off down the hall, running to spread the word about vampires in the hallways. I didn't have a lot of time.

  Hurrying to the surgery doors, I pushed my way inside.

  The room was dark, save for a single bright light that shone down on a bed in the middle of the room, surrounded by beeping machines and shelves of metal instruments. Zeke lay on his back, clean gauze wrapping his chest, one arm in a sling, breathing peacefully. His pale hair gleamed under the lights.

  I approached the bed and leaned close, smoothing the hair from his eyes, listening to the sound of his heart. "Hey," I whispered, knowing he probably couldn't hear me, unconscious as he was. "Listen, Zeke, I have to go. There's something I have to do, someone I have to find. I owe him a lot, and he's in trouble now. I just wanted to say goodbye. " Zeke slept on. I put my hand on his uninjured arm, squeezing gently. My eyes burned, but I ignored them. "You probably won't see me again," I murmured, feeling something hot slide down my cheek. "I got you here, like I promised I would. I wish. . . I wish I could've seen your Eden, but this place isn't for me. It never was. I have to find my own place in the world. "

  Bending down, I brushed my lips to his. "Goodbye, Ezekiel," I whispered. "Take care of the others. They'll be looking to you now. "

  He stirred in his sleep, but didn't wake. Releasing him, I turned and walked away, out of the room and through the doors. As they swung shut behind me, I thought I heard him murmur my name, but I did not look back.

  Walking back through the main hall was a much more hostile journey than when I'd arrived. The men and women in white coats either glared or cringed back from me, huddled along the wall, watching as I strode through the room. No one from our original group was there to say goodbye. Probably better that way. Caleb would make a fuss, and the others might want to know where I was going. But I didn't know where I was going. All I knew was Kanin, and now Jackal, were out there. I had to find my sire, see if I could still help him. I owed him that much. As for my "blood brother," I was pretty sure he would find me, eventually. And I didn't want to be around those I cared about when he did.

  Outside, the storm had moved on, and the stars glimmered brightly through the clouds. A breeze cooled my skin, smelling of sand and fish and lake water, and a new beginning. Just not for me.

  A squad of soldiers came rushing up to me, led by Sergeant Keller. I raised my hands as they surrounded me, leveling their guns at my chest, their faces hard with suspicion and fear.

  The sergeant stepped forward, his previously smiling mouth pulled into a grim line. "Is it true?" he asked, narrowing his eyes. "Are you a bloodsucker, like the doc says?" When I didn't reply, his face hardened. "Answer me, before we start pumping you full of holes to see if you die or not. "

  "I don't want any trouble," I said calmly, keeping my hands where he could see them. "I was just leaving, in fact. Let me walk out of here, and you'll never see me again. " Sergeant Keller hesitated. The other soldiers kept their guns trained on my heart. From the corner of my eye, I saw movement on the waters of the lake; a faded white ferry pulling up to the dock. The boat that would take everyone but me to Eden.

  "Sarge," one of the men growled. "We should kill it. Now, before anyone hears we let a vampire through the gates. If the mayor finds out, there'll be a citywide panic. " I met Keller's eyes, keeping my expression calm, even though I felt my body tense, ready to explode into violence if needed. I didn't want to hurt these men, but if they started firing, I would have no choice but to tear them apart. And hope they didn't shoot me full of holes before I could escape.

  "You'll leave?" Keller asked gravely. "You'll walk away and not come back?"

  "You have my word. "

  He sighed and lowered his gun. "All right," he stated, as a few of his men started to protest. "We'll escort you to the gates. "


  "Enough, Jenkins!" Keller glared at the man who had spoken. "She hasn't hurt anyone here, and I'm not about to start a fight with a vampire if there's no need. Shut up and stand down. "

  The soldiers relented, but I felt their glares on my back as they led me across the muddy yard, back to the huge iron gates guarding the entrance. Keller yelled a command, and one of the gates creaked open, just enough for one person to walk through.

  "All right, vampire," Keller said, nodding to the gate. I heard the click of their weapons behind me, a half dozen barrels leveled in my direction. "There's the door. Get out and don't come back. "

  I didn't say anything. I didn't look back. I walked to the gates and slipped through, feeling them grind shut behind me, sealing me off from humanity, Eden and Zeke.

  We are vampires, Kanin had told me, on one of our last nights together. It makes no difference who we are, where we came from. Princes, Masters and rabids alike, we are monsters, cut off from humanity. They will never trust us. They will never accept us. We hide in their midst and walk among them, but we are forever separate.

  Damned. Alone. You don't understand now, but you will. There will come a time when the road before you splits, and you must decide your path. Will you choose to become a demon with a human face, or will you fight your demon until the end of time, knowing you will forever struggle alone?

  A silent road stretched before me, damp with rain and littered with cars. As I watched, pale figures began to slip through the trees or claw their way out of the earth. Rabids edged onto the pavement, filling the road, their hisses and snarls rising into the air.
Their empty white eyes blazed with madness and Hunger, and they began to sprint forward.

  Reaching back, I drew my blade, feeling it rasp free, gleaming as it came into the light. Looking up at the approaching rabids, I smiled.