Make me, p.10

Make Me, page 10

 

Make Me
 


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  Carla grabbed for the hellhound and missed.

  A tinny voice came from the mattress beside Micah. “9-1-1, what is your emergency?”

  Damn. Princess must have butt-dialed the last number when she was scrambling away. Micah tried to grab for the phone and muffle it before Carla heard it.

  Too late.

  The fire demon whirled and snatched it out of his hand, saying into the speaker, “I’m sorry, my kid accidentally dialed your number.” She hung up without waiting for a response, then hefted the phone, smiling. “Well, well. What else have you got in your pockets?”

  She came toward him, and Micah’s hands curled into fists. Though his right hand was immobilized by the manacle, his weaker left hand could still deliver a punch.

  Carla paused. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you, bub. For every punch you land on me, the girl and the dog get two just as hard.”

  Micah bit back his anger as Carla roughly rifled through his front pockets. If she’d forgotten to search them, she must not be very good at this. Or maybe this was her first kidnapping. And maybe she’d make another mistake Micah could exploit.

  The fire demon tossed Micah’s keys across the room, but left the coins behind. She turned Micah over and slid his wallet out of his back pocket. Grinning, she opened it. “Nice. Whatever kind of work you do, it must pay real well.” She pocketed the cash, then tossed the wallet and the rest of its contents into the corner.

  Next, she searched Gwen. Since Gwen only had her scrubs on and her purse had been left behind, the only thing Carla found on her was her hospital badge.

  She backed away from them and squinted at it. “Gwen Sullivan. Huh. Guess you were telling the truth about that, anyway.” She dropped the badge to the floor. “Congratulations, chickie, Asmodeus can use you as a bargaining chip.” She turned to grin at Micah. “But you, why would I need you?”

  “Don’t hurt him. He’s Val’s cousin,” Gwen blurted out.

  Not strictly true, though since they had the same type of power, they were probably related somehow. They considered each other family, anyway.

  “Okay,” Carla said. “Two hostages. Even better. Now, tell me where Val took those books, or I’ll kick the dog.”

  NO, Princess cried out.

  Don’t tell her anything, Micah shot at her. Or I’ll kick you.

  Unfortunately, Princess could tell he was lying, so she ignored him. DON’T HURT MY PUPPIES, she cried. SHE WENT TO THAT BIG CITY ABOVE US.

  “Big city above us? What does that mean?” Carla asked.

  Princess, having a smaller percentage of hellhound in her than Fang, wasn’t quite as articulate. She seemed to have problems with grammar and using some proper nouns like the names of cities. Good thing in this case.

  YOU KNOW. THE BIG CITY WHERE PEOPLE MAKE RULES.

  “Rules? You mean laws?” the fire demon asked.

  “Washington, DC,” Micah blurted out.

  Carla looked surprised. “Now why would you give up the name of the city so easily? Could it be you’re trying to throw me off track?” She thought for a moment then smirked. “Tell me, dog. Did she go to the state capital—Austin?”

  YES, YES.

  Micah closed his eyes. If his head didn’t hurt so much, he’d bang it against the wall.

  “Good dog,” the demon said. “For that, I won’t kick you. Especially since their expressions just confirmed it.”

  I’m an idiot, Micah thought. Then again, it wasn’t like he had much practice at being a kidnap victim.

  “New plan,” Carla declared, looking down at Micah’s phone. “Looks like you have Val Shapiro’s number saved. How about I take a picture of the two of you and we send it to her with a little message?” She grinned and tucked the gun into her belt, holding up the phone. “The boss is gonna like this. Say cheese.”

  Micah bared his teeth, and Carla snapped a picture, then laughed and pulled out the dart gun and shot the two of them.

  Everything went fuzzy. Damn. Here we go again…

  Chapter Twelve

  The attack came out of nowhere. Something hit me from the side like a freight train, smashing me up against a tree. I bounced off and whirled to face my assailant, noticing Austin fighting off his own attacker.

  I scrambled for my stakes behind me, but the backpack and the tree were in the way. Fang had hold of the guy’s ankle and was trying to pull him off me.

  “Don’t hurt them,” Austin yelled, still fighting the other guy.

  Don’t hurt them? Was he kidding? The guy slavering over me had his gaze locked on my carotid like it was dessert. No way was I going to let him get his incisors anywhere near me. I managed to push him away a little and slammed my knee into his groin. He let go of me and bent over in pain.

  “They’re… Lisette’s,” Austin panted out, between blocking punches.

  Okay, I hadn’t hurt him permanently. But I couldn’t believe my eyes. The guy who’d attacked me rose up and went for me again. Dang. That should have kept him down longer.

  Austin yelled, “Use—” The other vamp cut off what he was about to say by slugging him in the mouth.

  But I’d already had the same idea. I shoved Lola into the bloodsuckers with all my force. “Stop!” I hadn’t been able to be selective, so I caught Austin in that as well. Fang was still worrying the guy’s ankle. “You can stop, too,” I told him. “Lola has them.” At least I’d remembered to use her a little earlier this time.

  The hellhound let go with a final shake of the guy’s pant leg. YEAH, I KNOW. THEY JUST PISSED ME OFF.

  I grinned. “Thanks for the help.” I reached down to pick up the flashlight, which had been knocked out of my hand during the assault.

  Now, what to do with the others? Lola was chomping at the bit to suck up some of that lovely energy through the invisible tendrils that connected me to them, but I wasn’t so sure I wanted it. It seemed tainted somehow. These guys weren’t normal, that was for sure. Maybe Austin could shed some light on it.

  Slowly, I disentangled Austin’s strand from the others and released him.

  He rubbed his jaw, then leaned down to scoop up his hat. Settling it on his head, he said, “You’ve got to make that an immediate instinct or you’re gonna get killed some day.”

  Yeah, he was right, but there was no way I was going to admit it. “You’re welcome,” I shot back.

  “For what?”

  “For not killing your buddies.” Though one of them was gonna have a real sore crotch for a while. “Is one of them Wes?”

  He nodded at the one who attacked me. “Yes, that’s Wes. And this is Ronald.” He didn’t look at all happy about the fact.

  “Okay, that accounts for the rest of Lisette’s missing vamps. But why did they attack us?”

  He shrugged, his shoulders tight, as if he was trying to hold in some undefined emotion. “I don’t know. Ask them.”

  Easy enough. I shined the light on one of the vamps. “You, Ronald. Why did you attack us?”

  Ronald opened and closed his mouth several times, but no words came out, as if he wanted to obey me but couldn’t figure out how to make his mouth work.

  I turned to the other vamp. “Wes, why did you attack us?”

  Same response.

  UH, I THINK THEY’RE JUST A FEW BRICKS SHY OF A LOAD, Fang said.

  Yeah, I’d come to that conclusion myself. And I remembered where I’d seen that mad look in the eyes before.

  Austin said it. “Demon blood. They drank demon blood.”

  “Afraid so. I guess they didn’t get the memo that demon blood makes vamps go crazy.”

  “They did. Alejandro made sure Lisette was warned about the threat.”

  “Then why would they do such a thing?” I asked. “Maybe Lisette didn’t warn them?”

  “Maybe. Let’s go ask her,” Austin said, sounding pissed off. He turned and headed back toward the clearing, then glanced over his shoulder at me. “You coming?”

  What was I? His servant? “What ab
out your friends?”

  “Bring them, too. We’ll help them,” he said curtly, and kept on walking, sure I’d follow.

  GIVE HIM A BREAK, Fang said. HE’S JUST FOUND HIS PAL HAS ALL THE INTELLIGENCE OF A TURNIP.

  Okay, I could cut him some slack. I told my two lust-struck puppets, “Follow Austin to the car.”

  They did, and I had them get in the backseat and go to sleep.

  Fang refused to go back there with them, so he curled up on the seat between Austin and me. Now that we were closed up in the car, I noticed something else—a distinct aroma coming from the back seat. Apparently, crazy vamps didn’t care that much about personal hygiene. Combine that with spilled blood and dead deer, and the smell was enough to make anyone hurl.

  “Phew,” I said, clamping my fingers over my nose and trying to breathe through my mouth. “Can you open the back windows?”

  YOU THINK YOU HAVE IT BAD, Fang complained. YOU OUGHT TO HAVE MY NOSE.

  Right now I was really glad I didn’t. I rolled my window down as Austin hit the buttons for the others, and we took off. Fang climbed into my lap and stuck his head out the window.

  Better? I asked him.

  MUCH.

  I glanced at Austin. His jaw was clenched and he kept his eyes firmly on the road.

  “Hey, look on the bright side,” I said. “At least we found the so-called chupacabras. Alejandro should be happy.” So was I. I suddenly realized I’d be free of the contract and could do what the heck I wanted.

  Austin made a noncommittal grunt.

  I DON’T THINK HE WANTS TO TALK, Fang said, his eyes squinted against the wind.

  So we didn’t, all the way back to Lisette’s.

  When we arrived back in the parking garage and Austin turned off the engine, I finally spoke. “So, what do you want me to do with these two?”

  “Take them with us.”

  Oookay. Easier said than done. I pushed Lola into their chakras again and had to yell to wake them. Once they were conscious, I was able to easily control them. “Lead on,” I told Austin.

  We went to the elevator, and when the doors opened, we ran smack into the bear-like Jack Grady. “Where the hell have you been?” he asked. “I’ve been worried and was just going to go hunting for you.”

  “Sorry, we went looking for clues.” I gestured at Ronald and Wes. “We found them.”

  Jack dismissed them with a glance. “Didn’t it occur to you to leave a note?”

  I glanced at Austin. No help there. “Uh, no. It’s not like we’re joined at the hip or anything.” And I wasn’t used to having to tell someone where I went or what I did. I wasn’t sure I liked it. “Sorry, I didn’t know I had to keep you informed of my whereabouts.”

  He muttered something under his breath that I didn’t catch.

  I DID, Fang said, sounding amused. WANT TO KNOW WHAT HE SAID?

  I’ll pass. To Jack, I said, “Come on, we’re going upstairs to return Lisette’s lost sheep to the fold.”

  Austin used the intercom to identify us, and the elevator rose smoothly toward the penthouse. There must have been hidden cameras, too, because as the doors opened, I could see a small crowd had gathered, waiting for us. Lisette took center stage, looking gorgeous in a flowy electric blue dress.

  “Austin, how wonderful. You found them.” Lisette moved forward, her arms outstretched in welcome, then she must have gotten a whiff of our odorous friends because she recoiled. “What’s wrong with them?”

  I shot a glance at Alejandro, who was standing beside Lisette. “Maybe we could do this privately?” I suggested. I didn’t know how Lisette or her minions would react to the knowledge that I was controlling these two and that they’d most likely gotten this way by drinking demon blood.

  “Yes, let’s,” Alejandro said.

  Lisette frowned but said, “Very well. Everyone, go away.” She made shooing motions and the other vamps melted away, shooting curious glances over their shoulders and murmuring to each other as they left. Only Alejandro and Lisette remained.

  Jack wandered over to sit down and Fang trotted after him. I’LL JUST WAIT OVER HERE WITH JACK. LET ME KNOW WHEN THE DRAMA’S OVER.

  Lisette gestured at Ronald and Wes. “But where is Etienne? Is he still missing?”

  Austin pressed his lips together. “I’m sorry. We did find Etienne, but…” He pulled the watch from his pocket and handed it to Lisette.

  Her mouth rounded in an O and tears spilled from her eyes as she cradled the watch and gently brushed ash away. She even looked pretty when she cried. “Mais non. How can this be?” She whirled on me, fists clenched. “Did you do this?”

  I held my hands up and backed away a step. “Not me. The sun did that. And there hasn’t been any sun since I left you.”

  “She’s right,” Austin confirmed.

  Lisette must have realized the timing was wrong, because she nodded and looked toward the two I had in my control. “Why do they act so strange?”

  “Because they’re your so-called chupacabras,” I told her.

  “Absurd,” she declared. “They are staunch supporters of the Movement. Why would they drink animal blood when the blood bank has so much to offer?”

  “Because they aren’t exactly in their right minds,” I explained, trying to break it to her gently.

  “What?” Lisette turned to Austin. “What does she mean?”

  Austin tipped his hat to her. “Val is a succubus, Lisette. She is keeping your men under her control because they attacked us in the park.”

  “What? Nonsense. Let them go,” she insisted with an imperious gesture.

  “I don’t think you really want me to do that,” I drawled.

  “She’s right,” Austin told Lisette. Then, to Alejandro, he said, “They seem to have the same problem Lorenzo and Carina did.”

  Alejandro sucked in his breath. “Then please do not release them, Ms. Shapiro, until we have them somewhere safe.”

  Lisette looked back and forth between the two vampires. “What does this mean?”

  Alejandro and Austin seemed reluctant to explain, so I did. “It means they’ve gone insane. They weren’t in their right minds, so they attacked us.” I glanced at them and noted their condition. “It looks like it happened a while ago.”

  Austin spoke up. “Val is keeping them from harming the rest of us. We suspect they drank demon blood.”

  This wouldn’t have happened if they’d known the danger of combining demon and vampire blood. “Didn’t you tell them about the danger of drinking demon blood?” I asked her. “And what happened to the poor demons they drank from?” They must be the ones Dina was worried about.

  Lisette glared at me. “Yes, I told them. I told everyone. And no one in my house would dare drink from another without their permission. You must be mistaken.”

  Austin made a calming gesture. “Lisette, the demon blood came through the blood banks in San Antonio. Are you sure yours aren’t contaminated?”

  Her hand flew to her mouth and her eyes widened. “I don’t know.”

  Alejandro patted her reassuringly on the arm. “If it did, we would have more cases by now. They must have come across it some other way.”

  Yeah, by sipping directly from a vein. But I kept my mouth shut. We were outnumbered here, and I didn’t want to get them pissed off at me.

  “I can’t think how,” Lisette said. “Mon dieu. How could this have happened? Perhaps the demons forced them to drink?”

  I couldn’t help it. “Oh, yeah. I can just see demons grabbing vamps and forcing them to bite their necks and suck out all their lifeblood.”

  “You aren’t helping,” Alejandro said sternly.

  “Okay, okay. I’ll be quiet. But you need to come up with a more likely scenario.”

  Lisette frowned. “We have another who hasn’t checked in yet. You think… ?”

  “It’s possible,” Austin said reluctantly.

  “Then we must check all the supplies, tout suite.” Lisette turned, and w
ith a regal move of her hand, picked up a bell on the side table and tinkled it.

  One of the Tweedles came on the double.

  “Wait,” I said. “What do you want me to do with these two? I can’t hold them forever.”

  Lisette glanced at Alejandro. He bowed smoothly. “With your permission, I will take charge of them. We have had some success in restoring sanity to our afflicted ones. But I’ll need the help of some of your people.”

  Lisette nodded, and as she gave instructions to her minion, I followed Alejandro back into the elevator with the two mindless vamps. Austin, Jack and Fang joined us, and we rode down together, my two charges stinking up the elevator. We stopped at the basement where Alejandro gestured us toward a room that looked like an old-fashioned hospital ward, with neat beds, boasting crisp white sheets, lined up on both walls down the entire length of the room. All of the beds were empty.

  Was this where the vampires slept during the day? Darn. I’d had visions of silk-lined coffins in my head.

  I DOUBT IT, Fang drawled. IT’S PROBABLY JUST WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE—A HOSPITAL.

  Too bad. I really wanted to see where they slept someday.

  Alejandro gestured toward two beds. “If you wouldn’t mind asking them to lie down and go to sleep?”

  “Of course. Wes, Ronald, lie down on the beds.” I went even further. “And do anything Alejandro asks you to.”

  “And Lisette as well,” Alejandro reminded me. “This is her house.”

  “Okay, do whatever Lisette asks you, too. Now, go to sleep.”

  With them taken care of, I said, “So, now that the chupacabras have been caught and identified, how are you going to spin this?”

  “Spin?” Alejandro asked in confusion.

  Austin translated. “She means, what story are you going to tell the press?”

  The vamp leader frowned. “I don’t know yet, but we will think of something. Wild dogs, or coyotes perhaps. Those with mange have been mistakenly identified as chupacabras before.”

  “So, your chupacabras are identified and caught. That means I’m free of the contract,” I said, grinning.

  “Not quite yet,” he said. “There seems to be the possibility of another afflicted one. I would appreciate it if you would help us find him.”

 
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