Redemption (The Penton Vampire Legacy) (27 page)

BOOK: Redemption (The Penton Vampire Legacy)
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Her own clumsiness had saved her, at least so far. When Aidan jumped up and the first impact of the explosion hit, she’d moved her chair back too quickly and toppled over.

Then the ceiling caved, and she couldn’t see anymore. The smoke and dust clogged her lungs, and every breath set off a spate of coughing. God, how many people had been in there? Could vampires be burned or crushed? Maybe not, but the humans could. She needed to find Aidan and get outside.

She dropped to her knees and scrambled in what she thought was the last direction she’d seen him. Someone tripped over her, and she backed against an overturned table as another chunk of debris fell. She had to get out of here.

She screamed as someone else stumbled over her, his white shirt and black pants barely identifiable beneath a layer of gray ash. The man turned to her and she froze at the pale, silvery brown eyes. She’d met him that first night—Will something.

“Where’s Aidan?” he shouted. She shook her head.

“Shit. Come on.” Will grabbed her arm and jerked her to her feet, hauling her through the scorched beams and falling soot faster than she would have thought possible. She tripped every few steps, and only his grip on her upper arm kept her upright and moving. She couldn’t see a thing as she squinted against the smoke and pulled the neck of her sweater over her nose and mouth as a makeshift air filter.

Finally, they reached the front of the building, or what was left of it. People milled on the sidewalk, coughing, vomiting, lying on the pavement with injuries, sitting dazed and staring in shock.

“Are you all right?” Will still had a strong grip on her upper arm.

She rubbed grit from her eyes with her free hand, trying to clear her vision. “I lost track of Aidan when the ceiling caved in,” she shouted over the din. “You have to find him.”

Mark made his way through the crowd in time to hear her. “Aidan’s still in there?”

“I’m going after him,” Will said. “Maybe you and the doc can get things organized out here.” Without waiting for an answer, he disappeared into the smoke.

Mark pulled out his cell phone and punched a number. “Aidan’s cell is ringing but he isn’t answering.”

Krys looked through the haze at the restaurant. What would happen to them all if Aidan had been killed? She didn’t know much about their organization, but it all seemed to
revolve around him. She felt panic rising at the thought of losing him—not just for all of them but also for herself.

A familiar voice rumbled behind them, and Krys turned to find Mirren with storm clouds on his face.

“What the hell happened?” he bellowed. “Got a mental call from Aidan. Where is he? Where’s Will?”

Mark was still on the phone, so Krys answered. “The restaurant exploded, and the ceiling caved.” She tried to keep the panic out of her voice. “We can’t find Aidan. Will’s gone back in to look for him.”

“Shite. Bloody effing hell.” Mirren stalked through the smoke until she lost sight of him near the entrance.

She felt a hand on her shoulder, squeezing. “Will and Mirren will find him,” Mark said. “Aidan’s probably just trying to track down who did it.”

Krys felt better knowing that Mirren was there. She didn’t know much about Will, but she knew Mirren and Aidan were like family. The only thing she could do was help their people.

She took stock of the injuries, and saw Tim organizing volunteers to go into the building and bring out the injured. Just like triage drill. She could do this.

“We’ve got to get organized,” she told Mark. “Is Melissa at the clinic?”

“She’s at home since—”

“Call her,” Krys interrupted. “Tell her to gather anything she can find that’s easy to bring here. Portable oxygen tanks and masks, portable stretcher if you have one, blankets, sterile wipes, bandages...” She looked back at the building. A light, misty rain was dampening the fire, but she could see Will inside the door, shoving people out, and none too gently. The heavy,
cold air smelled of wood smoke and burned wiring. Where was Aidan?

Mark had been talking to Melissa, but looked up when a flash of light from a snapping electrical line cut through the mist. “Just get here,” he said, and ended the call. “I’ve got to make sure someone cuts power to this block before another fire starts, then I’m going to the old armory to get some generators and portable lights. When Mel gets here, let her know where I am.” Within seconds he’d disappeared into the mist.

Krys shivered in the cold rain, staring after him, then she began wending her way through the dead and injured, pulling a jacket over someone, trying to ease panic, answering questions. All the while, she kept an eye on the entrance to the building.

Aidan had described his brother Owen as brutal. Was he the one behind this? Had he taken Aidan? Killed him? Her heart ached at the idea, and tears threatened to mingle with the rain wetting her cheeks.

Two figures lurched out of the building, and Krys squinted through the smoke and mist. Mirren and—she felt her breath whoosh out of her—Aidan was next to him, covered in soot and carrying someone.

Mirren pointed toward her, and Aidan changed directions, carrying the man she now recognized as Clyde, the owner of the restaurant. Clyde was dead. She could tell by the way his head and arms hung limply in Aidan’s grip.

He laid the old man’s body on a clear spot of ground in front of her, and she knelt and felt for a pulse, knowing there wasn’t one.

“He’s gone,” Aidan said, his tone clipped and angry. “Are you OK?”

She nodded. “Mel is on her way with supplies. We’ll treat whoever we can here and send the rest to the clinic.” They stared
at each other for a moment, just long enough for her to want to wrap her arms around him and calm the anger she felt radiating from his clenched fists and squared shoulders. She thought she saw longing flicker across his face before he looked away, toward the landscape of horror. “Do what you can for them.”

“I will.” She paused. “Aidan, are you OK?”

“No, but it’s nothing a run-in with my brother won’t cure.” His eyes were hard when they turned back to look at her. “Stick with Mark and Mel—they’ll take you back to the clinic. I’ll try to see you before dawn.”

Then he was gone again.

Four hours later Krys sat on the fender of a pickup parked across Main Street from what was left of Clyde’s BBQ. She didn’t remember the last time she’d been so tired. Her brown sweater was coated with equal parts blood and soot, and her hair hung in clumps from the misty rain. She fumbled in her jeans pockets for an elastic band to tie it back, but found only a napkin from the restaurant. She wiped her face with it and stuck it back in her pocket.

The street was empty now, and mostly dark. Only one portable light running on a generator remained, and Mark would be back to take that one away soon.

It was bad, but it could have been worse. She’d bandaged most of the injured and sent them home with minor wounds. Melissa had run a couple over to the clinic, and together they planned to spend the night keeping an eye on them. Fifteen were dead, all human. Three vampires had been badly burned, but Will had them taken to the sub-suites near Krys’s room
and would take care of them. Apparently they’d be in pain but would heal on their own given a little time.

She put her hands on her hips and stretched her back, trying to ease some of the tension. She knew she needed to get out of the damp cold, but she couldn’t seem to drag herself to her feet.

A familiar voice cut through the mist and Krys searched out Mirren. He stood near the front of what was left of the restaurant, along with Aidan and Will. They were deep in conversation and hadn’t spotted her.

Realization struck suddenly. She could leave. She was outside and alone for the first time since she’d been taken. What was she thinking?

Adrenaline energized her limbs. She
should
leave, shouldn’t she? The patients at the hospital weren’t in imminent danger and she was finally on her own. Her hesitation convinced her to go—she shouldn’t
feel
any hesitation. If she got sucked into this place any deeper, came to care about these people any more, she’d never go. She’d never have her life back.
Not that it was such a great life, but it was
hers
. Her choices, her decisions, her control.

Krys kept her eyes on Aidan and his guys as she slowly rose from the truck bumper and circled behind the vehicle. She edged in the opposite direction from them, crouching from shadow to shadow until she hit a side street, when she broke into a run for a few moments before spying the solid mass of the old mill a few blocks in front of her. If she could get behind the building she might find a place to get out of the rain and hide until daylight. It was only a few hours away now. The vampires would be down for the day, and she doubted any of the humans would care enough to look for her, especially after the explosion. She’d find her way to the state highway and hitch a ride. At least the temperature wasn’t so low tonight. Forties, maybe.

Her slick-soled boots skidded on the wet sidewalk, but she managed to stay upright as she ran across the street that fronted the mill. To the left she could see what remained of the burned mill village houses silhouetted in the streetlights.

Aidan’s face kept coming back to her. He’d be upset that she had run after promising to stay with them for a month, but he didn’t understand how easy it would be for her to fall into life here, to be sucked into everything he offered. Or maybe he did understand, and that’s why he wanted her to stay. But it wasn’t right, was it?

As soon as she rounded the side of the mill, a hand clamped over her mouth and jerked her into the shadows against the brick wall. She struggled, but her head was pinned so tightly she couldn’t move it, and the man’s right arm slipped around her waist. Everything above the waist was immobilized. Not man. Vampire. No one else was this strong.

“One of Áodhán’s little lambs has strayed from the fold.” The man’s voice was soft, right in her ear. She couldn’t see his face, but he spoke in a heavy Irish accent. Aidan’s brother, then. Had to be.

He slid his hand away from her mouth and down her neck. Scream or try to talk to him? She didn’t want his hand over her mouth again, so she struggled to keep her voice even. “You’re Owen?”

“I am, and if you know my name, then you do indeed know my brother.” He lowered his mouth to her neck and inhaled, licked the skin below her ear, nuzzling her hair out of the way.

“Maybe not one of Áodhán’s, after all. Could he really have let such a morsel go unbonded?” He laughed softly, and the coldness of it drove icicles of fear up Krys’s back. “My little brother is getting careless. Or are you vaccinated?”

He wouldn’t feed on her if she’d been vaccinated. “Yes,” she whispered. “I got the pandemic vaccine.”

“Yes? Well, let us check it out.” He dipped his head and grazed a fang across the curve between her neck and shoulder, just enough to draw blood. She felt the roughness of his tongue as he licked the cut, then a groan of pleasure. “Such a pretty liar. Your blood is pure.”

He twisted her around to face him, and she gasped at his eyes. Exactly like Aidan’s, only so pale they were almost white. He was really hungry.

She thought of her experience with Renz. Stay calm. “I know you’re angry at Aidan, but you did a lot of damage tonight already, and I’m of no importance to him. It won’t gain you anything to hurt me.” God, she had to keep breathing. Not show fear. How could she, though, when her heart was racing and she knew he could feel it?

Owen chuckled and ran a finger along her cheek, lowering his mouth to hers. “Oh, I wouldn’t say you were unimportant, darlin’. Every unvaccinated human is important.” She let him kiss her. Opened her mouth to his, trying to redirect his hunger. A fang pierced her lower lip and she flinched when he licked the blood.

“It would be a shame, really, not to take you back with me and enjoy your company a while. Our women are all used up.” He smoothed her wet hair away from her face and then gripped her chin in one strong hand. She tried to look away but he caught her gaze. “You want to come with me, don’t you?”

Part of her brain fought, but it was like a moth beating its wings against a gale. “Yes,” she breathed. “I want to go with you. Please take me with you.”

On some level, she knew she should be running from him, screaming—
something
. But she let him lead her along beside the dark mill and into the parking lot. The farther they walked, however, the more her brain broke through her mental fog and was able to send commands to her limbs. She eased a hand in her pocket and pulled out the napkin. One-handed, she ripped off bits of paper and dropped them along the way. If she could leave a trail for Aidan, maybe he’d find her. If he even realized that she was gone.

She struggled again as Owen pulled her into the woods behind the mill. “Coming out of it already? You must have a strong mind, love.”

The beginnings of a scream were cut short when he backhanded her, and she felt her own teeth dig into her lip, drawing blood. He dragged her to her feet and pulled her deeper into the woods and into a clearing.

Fear made her heartbeat stutter and start, and she fought to slow her breathing and pull her panicking thoughts into a plan.

BOOK: Redemption (The Penton Vampire Legacy)
12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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