Make me, p.14

Make Me, page 14

 

Make Me
 


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  Why was he so angry? “Already done. But let me touch you so I can see your face.” I reached out to cup his cheek, but he jerked away. He did let me touch his hand, though. I clutched it hard. “I’m so sorry she’s controlling you.”

  “It’s part of my job.” His expression was tight, uncompromising.

  Okay, he was pissed. I got that. But he had to get over it soon. “She can’t maintain control of you twenty-four hours a day. Can’t you stay awake? Leave when she sleeps?”

  “You don’t get it,” Shade said. “I have a job to do and I’m doing it. I don’t need the Slayer’s help or to be rescued by a vampire. I can handle this without you.”

  Was I coming on too strong? Too controlling? Suddenly uncertain, I asked, “Has Dina brainwashed you?”

  “No, I finally came to my senses. Here, I’m treated like I’m somebody. Not just the Slayer’s boyfriend or Micah’s watcher and healer. Here, I matter.”

  “You matter to me,” I said in a small voice.

  “Not enough. You don’t see me, Val. You don’t see what’s right in front of you.”

  I wanted to cry or throw things, but that wouldn’t help. How could I convince him that I didn’t see him as weak? That I needed him? “Shade—”

  He drew away from me. “Enough. You’ve had your say. Now, tell me what Dina wants to know about the kidnapping.”

  “Okay, but you need to know something else.” I swallowed hard, and wished I didn’t have to reveal the rest. “Two others were kidnapped along with Micah.”

  “Who?”

  “Gwen and Princess.”

  “Damn it, Val. You couldn’t even protect my dog?”

  Why was he being so unreasonable? This wasn’t like him. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know—”

  He cut me off with an impatient gesture. “Tell me what you know about the kidnapping.”

  Confused and upset, I let him listen to the voice mail and see the picture. “That’s all I know. I didn’t get the message until it was too late to meet him. But he told us to meet him here, at the club. Doesn’t that imply Dina is involved?”

  “No, why would it? Demons often use Club Purgatory as a meeting place because we all know about it.” He handed back my phone. “What are you going to do about this?”

  “We’re trying to find out more information, to learn where they are. Don’t worry, I’ll bring Princess back to you.”

  “You’d better.” Shade frowned. “The important thing is that Dina doesn’t have to worry. He obviously just wants the books.”

  That was the important thing? I shook my head. This was no longer the Shade I knew. He was different now, had turned into someone I wasn’t sure I liked anymore. I couldn’t even pretend it was thrall. He wasn’t under thrall, he’d just changed. Blinking back tears, I ignored the gaping hole in my heart and went on about the business of saving my real friends.

  Chapter Sixteen

  I stomped out of the club, the guys right behind me.

  “What’s wrong?” Austin asked. “Did you learn anything?”

  I couldn’t answer right now, for fear I’d lose it completely.

  DINA DIDN’T KNOW ANYTHING, Fang told David. TELL HIM TO LEAVE VAL ALONE.

  At least Fang cared about me. I blinked back tears as I reached Austin’s car, jerked open the back door, then got in and waited just long enough for Fang to clear the opening before I slammed it shut.

  David whispered something to Austin. They both got in the front, giving me a wary glance. “What now?” David asked softly.

  I had no freakin’ clue. I was fresh out of ideas and worried to death the kidnapper would hurt my friends. I checked my phone for messages again. Nothing. Crap. Only one thing I could do. “Back to the blood bank,” I snapped. “I’m gonna force those damned books to help me or dump them in a deep, dark hole somewhere.”

  The three of them were wise enough to keep quiet all the way back. I rushed up the stairs to my room and opened the door. No Jack. He must be in his room. I jerked the adjoining door open, but he wasn’t there either. Crap. Where was he when I needed him? If he followed his normal pattern, he’d probably gone to get something to eat.

  “There’s a note,” Austin said, and reached down to pick a piece of paper up off the bed.

  I snatched it from him and read the old-fashioned spidery handwriting quickly.

  Val, I’m sorry, but I can’t sit and do nothing. While you look for Micah, I’ll help Vincent with the vampire problem. Don’t worry, I’ll keep the books safe. Jack.

  I crumpled the note and threw it against the wall. “Jack went with Vincent.” The idiot couldn’t believe Micah would help him find work, he had to go out on his own and prove himself. I turned to Austin. “Can you find out where they are?”

  “Sure. I’ll call Vincent.” Austin called, but it went straight to voice mail. “He must have turned it off. I’ll try Alejandro.”

  He held a short conversation with his boss, then said, “They went back out to the park to look for Lisette’s missing colleague.” He glanced at me apologetically. “Jack thought his ability might come in handy, given they aren’t sure what they’re dealing with. He took the books with him in the backpack.”

  I closed my eyes in disbelief. Sure, his ability to lasso someone with a rope of energy would be useful, but did he have to be so helpful now?

  “Don’t worry,” Austin said. “Vincent will protect him.”

  That was the least of my worries. “Let’s go get him and the books.”

  Austin drove as fast as he could without getting a ticket, but it still wasn’t fast enough for Fang and me. When we got to the park, I saw a car just like the one we were in—Vincent’s. Good. They were still here.

  I opened the car door for Fang. “Do you hear them?” I asked.

  Fang froze, one paw lifted, and sniffed the air. NO, BUT THEY MUST BE IN THE PARK.

  “It’s huge,” David protested. “How will we find them?”

  “Jack probably took Vincent back to where we found the others,” I said.

  Austin handed me the flashlight from out of the trunk and we took off down the dark trail.

  Suddenly, Fang sprang ahead. I HEAR THEM. IT SOUNDS LIKE FIGHTING.

  I just hoped it wasn’t with each other. “They’re fighting,” I yelled at Austin, and we took off after Fang.

  Austin was much faster than the three of us, so he outpaced us swiftly. David and I were handicapped by the brush and the miniscule illumination provided by the flashlight, but Fang didn’t slow down. When I got to the small clearing, it was hard at first to figure out what was going on. Someone was down on the ground and four men were fighting each other wicked fast. Fang was chasing another through the bush.

  A cowboy hat went sailing as a fist plowed into Austin’s face.

  I knew the drill by now. I whipped Lola into all four of them as David went to check out the guy on the ground. “Stop fighting,” I ordered them through the ropes of energy connecting us. They obeyed, and I added, “Turn toward me so I can see you.”

  Austin and Vincent stood alongside two other vamps I’d never seen before. Carefully, I separated their strands and released the two vamps I knew.

  Vincent rubbed his jaw, his face looking battered. “Thanks. They caught us off guard.”

  Austin didn’t say anything. His mouth set, he walked over to me, yanked two stakes out of my back waistband, then before I could do or say anything, he tossed one to Vincent and they slammed the stakes right through the hearts of the other two.

  The tie to Lola snapped as they died and the backlash threw me off balance. Whoa. “Guess neither one was your friend,” I said, startled. So that’s what happened when someone died under Lola’s control. Good to know.

  “Nope,” Austin said. “Don’t know either of these scum.”

  Oookay. “What makes you think they’re scum?”

  Austin answered. “Between us, Vincent and I know all of the members of the New Blood Movement. These two don’t be
long. Ergo, they’re part of the ragged mob randomly killing people and animals.” He stared me in the eyes, his jaw tight. “Scum.”

  That didn’t surprise me as much as his use of the word ergo. Who talked like that?

  AUSTIN WASN’T ALWAYS A COWBOY, YOU KNOW, Fang said as he came trotting back. SORRY, THE OTHER ONE GOT AWAY.

  I glanced at Vincent. “Was the one who got away Lisette’s missing vamp?”

  “No. I’m sorry, they jumped us. I couldn’t—” He broke off, rubbing a hand over his face.

  Us? Where was Jack?

  Oh, crap. I whirled to look at the man on the ground. David stood above him, looking down. “I’m sorry, Val.”

  What was wrong? I stumbled over to Jack’s side and knelt down beside him. Blood covered his face and his neck. “Jack?” I shook his shoulder and his head lolled to the side. “Jack, wake up.”

  Fang rubbed up against me and licked my hand. HE CAN’T, BABE.

  Okay, so he was unconscious. “We have to get him to Shade. Shade will heal him.” Surely he would, no matter how angry he was at me.

  “Shade can’t heal this,” David said softly.

  “What? Of course he can.” Look what he’d done for Erica.

  Austin grasped my arms firmly and pulled me to my feet, holding my shoulders as he stared into my eyes. “He’s gone, Val,” he said simply.

  Gone? I gazed back stupidly. No. It couldn’t be. “You mean… dead?”

  “Yes, I’m afraid so.”

  I pushed Austin away, not needing Lola’s distraction right now. Jack couldn’t be dead. He was one of the good guys. The good guys didn’t die—only the bad ones.

  THAT’S ONLY IN FAIRY TALES, Fang said sadly.

  “He wanted to do this,” Vincent said. “He was proud to be able to help you out. He was a good man.”

  I knew that. And I regretted all the horrible things I’d said to him, how I’d joked about him pigging out all the time. Right now, I wished he was back. I’d stuff him full of food until he couldn’t eat any more.

  HE KNEW YOU DIDN’T MEAN IT, Fang said, trying to console me.

  “There is one thing you can do for him,” David suggested.

  “What?”

  “You can find out who’s causing this. I don’t think those vamps were sane, either.”

  “They weren’t,” Vincent confirmed.

  I nodded slowly and took a deep breath. I couldn’t stand one more thing going wrong today. I just couldn’t. I had to get back to the work at hand. Life was a bitch, but I could be a bigger one.

  “Okay,” I said. “That’s the next order of business, right after we rescue Gwen, Micah and Princess.” I was determined that no one else was going to die on my watch.

  No one.

  “What do you want to do about them?” David asked, nodding toward the dead vamps.

  “Leave ’em,” Austin said. “The morning sun will take care of them.”

  Yeah, but what about poor Jack? I looked down at him, and Vincent said, “Let me.”

  Gently, the short vamp picked up Jack like he weighed nothing. “Lisette will help us take care of him properly.”

  “No,” David said. “The demons will take care of it. We have our own rites and rituals for this.”

  We did? I had no idea. The only other demon I knew who’d died was Shawndra, and I’d been unconscious during her funeral.

  “As you wish,” Vincent said. “We can hold his—hold him at the blood bank until you’re ready for him. We have facilities down in the infirmary.”

  “Okay, good,” David said, and we walked in silence back to the cars.

  Vincent gently laid Jack in the backseat of his car, then handed me the backpack Jack had been wearing—mine, with the books inside. Strangely, I felt more complete with them near me once again.

  The rest of us followed in Austin’s car, in total silence, and Fang cuddled up close to me on the back seat. Even though he must be worried to death about Princess, he still worried about me. I didn’t deserve friends like this.

  DON’T BE STUPID, Fang said, poking me in the side. YOU’LL ALWAYS BE MY BEST FRIEND.

  I buried my hands and face in his fur and the tears flowed then, silent and unseen in the dark recesses of the backseat. I’d take this brief time to mourn, then get back to work.

  We arrived back at the blood bank, and Austin parked while Vincent kept on going. “He’ll take care of Jack for you until David picks him up,” Austin explained.

  I wiped my face and said, “Okay. Thank you both very much, but I can take it from here.”

  Austin and David turned around to stare at me in surprise.

  “Are you crazy?” David asked. “You can’t do this alone.”

  “Sure I can. I don’t want to get anyone else killed, not even Austin.”

  The vamp didn’t even smile at my lame attempt at a joke. “The hell you go it alone,” Austin said. “This concerns us, too. Where do you get off telling us what we can and can’t do? You’re not Superwoman anymore, you know.”

  “Gee, thanks for reminding me of my limitations,” I snarked back.

  “Someone has to,” Austin said.

  FACE IT, BABE, Fang put in. YOU’RE NOT GETTING RID OF ANY OF US. AND YOU DO NEED THE HELP.

  Damn it. I might be able to do this without them, but it would be a whole lot easier with them. “Okay, okay. But if you get yourself killed, don’t blame me.” I grabbed the backpack and got out of the car, ignoring them.

  I checked my phone again. Nothing. Crap. But I did know one thing I could do. I called Tessa and told her about Jack and that we were no closer to finding Micah. She hadn’t learned anything helpful either. “I need a favor,” I said.

  “What is it?” she asked. “Anything to help.”

  “I need to bring the Mem—” I glanced at Austin then changed what I’d planned to say. “I need you to bring the woman in the basement here.”

  Tessa gasped. “You know?”

  “Yes, I know.”

  “You don’t know what you’re asking,” she protested.

  “Yes, I do. We need all the weapons we can get, and she’s a formidable one.”

  “No,” Tessa said. “Micah is the only one who can control her.”

  “Micah’s not the only one,” I said, staring pointedly at David. “David’s an incubus, too, so he can control her. He’ll come by tonight and pick her up. Along with anyone else who wants to help find Micah.”

  I hung up and David sighed and shook his head. “How did you know I’m an incubus?”

  “I figured it out when I tried to control you at Dina’s club. I couldn’t. Just like Micah.”

  “Yes,” he said, “But I don’t like to use my ability. It’s what caused this.” He made a sharp gesture toward the burned half of his face.

  “But you’ll do it to help us.” It was a statement, not a question.

  He closed his eyes. “Don’t make me do this. Can’t you find something in the books?”

  “I tried, believe me, but they were no help.”

  “Try again,” he insisted.

  I sighed. “Okay, I’ll try again. Can we do it in your room?” I asked Austin. I didn’t want to go back to the adjoining rooms I’d shared with Jack.

  “Of course.”

  We rode up to the elegant suite and David looked around appreciatively. “So this is how the other half lives,” he murmured, making me wonder what kind of home he and Pia had. Did they live together? I didn’t even know that much about the two of them.

  THEY DO ALL RIGHT, Fang said. STOP STALLING AND THREATEN THE BOOKS SO WE CAN GET MOVING.

  For some dumb reason, that made me smile. But the smile faded when I swung the backpack up on Austin’s pristine table and saw the stains on the strap. Blood. Jack’s blood.

  Austin whipped it away from me. “I’ll get you another one,” he said and unzipped the bag to dump everything out on the table.

  At once, one of the books vibrated and glowed—my cosmic messaging devi
ce again. Austin and David backed up, looking a little freaked out.

  “It’s okay,” I assured them. “It’s for me.”

  I grabbed the book and glared at it. “If you dare show me that same damned spell, I’ll… I’ll…” I couldn’t think of anything bad enough that wouldn’t take me and half of Texas out with it. “I’ll stake you.” That might hurt it a little anyway.

  I opened the book and watched as it flipped pages until it landed at the glowing one. I leaned down to read it. “Huh.” It was very simple. For some reason, I’d expected it to be more complicated.

  “What is it?” Austin asked as David moved forward eagerly.

  “It’s a spell for exorcising demons.” Now that might come in handy.

  David backed away abruptly. “What does that mean, exorcise a demon? Would it just take out the demon part, leave us as a vegetable, kill us?”

  “I don’t know.” I read through it silently at first. “It doesn’t say, but there are no time limitations listed. Shall I take it?”

  “I don’t know,” David said. “It sounds dangerous.”

  Yeah, it did. Good. “Dangerous for the creep who kidnapped my friends,” I said with satisfaction. I began to read aloud.

  “No,” David said. “Stop. You don’t know what it’ll do to you.”

  “It’s okay, Jack read from the book and it didn’t hurt him.” Someone else had done that. “And it won’t affect my abilities until I actually use the spell.”

  “Leave her be,” Austin said, grasping David’s arm and pulling him away. “Let her do what she has to do.”

  SMART MAN, Fang said approvingly.

  So you think it’s okay to take this spell?

  I THINK IT’S THE ONLY SHOT WE HAVE.

  Yeah. I read the spell aloud, each word making the hairs on my body stand up and tingle, as if tiny ants ran up and down my body. “Demon thou art, demon thou shalt not be. Say it times three, I exorcise thee.”

  I felt a great swell of… something… as the hair on my head lifted and blew wildly in an invisible wind. Then the spell settled somewhere beneath my breastbone. The tension and wind vanished, but the spell burned in my gut like a case of magickal indigestion. Strange. Now all I had to do was say “I exorcise thee” three times, and the spell would work.

 
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