Tainted Blood: A Generation V Novel

BOOK: Tainted Blood: A Generation V Novel
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PRAISE FOR THE GENERATION V NOVELS

Iron Night

“A pitch-perfect addition to this imaginative, funny series. . . . Fortitude Scott is an earnest, engaging hero with a heart of gold. Fans will delight to see the return of his sidekick, Suze, in all her wild glory, as well as the rest of this fascinating cast.”


RT Book Reviews

“A funny, refreshing urban fantasy tale. . . . Geek-inspired humor and unexpectedly sympathetic characters (particularly the deadly Madeline) help make this a novel worth reading.”


Publishers Weekly


Iron Night
is freaking awesome. Brennan has made vampires cool again, elves creepy, and urban fantasy feel fresh. In an oversaturated genre this is no small feat. Fortitude Scott is a hero worth cheering for. He’s easy to empathize with, yet stands as a role model for justice (vigilante though it might be). This is truly a series with heart, and I wish it a long run and Brennan many a success.”

—SF Signal


Iron Night
is the perfect sequel to what is quickly becoming one of my favorite series. The vampires can be charming or menacing, yet strangely human when they need to be. The supernatural world is still a bit foggy and has yet to be fully uncovered, which keeps things fresh. . . . It is difficult for an author to stay on top of the game and surpass the last novel but
Iron Night
has found that success. If you haven’t read Brennan yet, you should.”

—Speculative Book Review

Generation V

“I loved M. L. Brennan’s
Generation V
. Engrossing and endearingly quirky, with a creative and original vampire mythos, it’s a treat for any urban fantasy lover!”


New York Times
bestselling author Karen Chance

“Full of vivid characters and terrific world building,
Generation V
is a fun, fast-paced romp of a story that kept me glued to the pages to the very last word. Loved it! Bravo, M. L. Brennan, bravo!”

—National bestselling author Devon Monk

“At last, the millennial generation has a vampire to call its own. Brennan’s debut blends old-world mystique and the brutality of literature’s best vampires to make a sensational coming-of-age story rife with chills and smart one-liners . . . [a] promising series.”


Romantic Times

“A strong debut with a lot of heart, with an interesting take on the vampire mythos . . . unexpectedly awesome.”

—SF Signal

“Brennan’s new, creative take on vampires was a breath of fresh air. Creepy fresh air, but fresh nonetheless.”

—All Things Urban Fantasy

“A quirky, humorous new urban fantasy series . . . rife with mystery, suspense, and a cast of eccentric characters that will have you laughing and rolling your eyes at their antics. A clever mix of dark humor and seriousness.”

—Smexy Books

“A unique, and sometimes very scary, take on the vampire mythos . . . [a] wonderful debut.”

—My Bookish Ways

“A refreshingly unique novel that all urban fantasy enthusiasts should read, and a book capable of encouraging even the most ardent critics of the genre. Very much a page-turner, a story that has a lot of heart and much to offer. With an extremely fun novel full of charm, Brennan has written a winner.”

—Bastard Books and Other Crap


Generation V
is that rare beast: an urban fantasy that managed to both entertain me and surprise me, while also eliciting plenty of chuckles. . . . It’s quickly paced, tightly written, and often funny.”

—Civilian Reader

“Brennan does an excellent job of separating
Generation V
from the run-of-the-mill vampire tale . . . a fresh take on an old saw that benefits from Brennan’s excellent world building and the authenticity of its cast. Fans of urban fantasy who are weary of the same old, same old shouldn’t miss this engaging mix of action, humor, and coming-of-age tale.”

—52 Book Reviews

“Brennan’s vampires are much more complex than your run-of-the-mill vampires. They are the brainchildren of science and fantasy. . . . Extremely well written, the characters were well developed, the comedy was beautiful, and the serious parts made my heart swell.”

—Ladybug Literature

Also by M. L. Brennan

Generation V

Iron Night

ROC

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014

USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China

penguin.com

A Penguin Random House Company

First published by Roc, an imprint of New American Library,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Copyright © R. L. Murphy, 2014

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

REGISTERED TRADEMAR
K—MARCA REGISTRADA

ISBN 978-1-101-61299-6

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

Contents

Praise

Also by M. L. Brennan

Title page

Copyright page

Dedication

Acknowledgments

 

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

 

About the Author

For my mother and my
father.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I remain extremely fortunate and grateful to be working with the amazing people at Roc. Anne Sowards provides editorial brilliance and knows when to rein in my inclination for the gross-out, Rebecca Brewer always has answers to my questions, and Nita Basu is a publicity rock star. There are also endless unmentioned people who put this together—cover artists, typesetters, the copy editor, proofreaders, and many many others. Thank you all! Thanks also go to Colleen Mohyde—without whose efforts this series would likely never have made it off my desk.

Sarah Riley and Karen Peláez are going to eventually get sick of seeing their names in print, but they once again answered the call and read the roughest possible version of this book. Where would I be without your keen eyes and encouragement? Thanks are also due to Joe G., John G., and Steve J. for the googly-eyes prank. The tiny eyes on the dishwashing detergent remain one of my favorite mental pictures. Django Wexler patiently answered frantic questions about Japanese—and then I promptly ignored half of his advice, so any errors on that one rest with me.

My family remains delightful and supportive of my work. Particular thanks to my brother, Devon, for his motivational haikus and daily phone calls during the last push on the manuscript. My husband continues to be an utter champ—particularly when I am in the midst of
authorial despair. The cats were no help at all and will receive no thanks.

How to thank all of the amazing people who have shown support for the Fort Scott books on the Internet, at conventions, and at bookstores? You know who you are, and you are wonderful, fabulous, and your lovely words and actions humble me.

In planning this book I made significant use of information that I found in
Bear
by Robert E. Bieder and
Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures
by Bill Schutt. Schutt’s book deserves particular emphasis, as it not only provided invaluable information about obligate sanguivores, but made me laugh many times. Like the best of research materials, it not only answered questions that I had, but also gave me information that I hadn’t even realized was out there. Many scenes owe their existence to Schutt’s excellent book.

Chapter 1

The sun was low
and weak as I walked with my brother and sister through the Common Burying Ground. It was late afternoon in November, and the gray clouds in the sky seemed uncertain about whether they would wholly commit to a full rainstorm or just continue looking atmospheric. The three of us were dressed completely in black, and we would’ve looked at home in most cemeteries, except that the Common Burying Ground had been declared at capacity before the Nazis invaded Poland. It had been the place of choice for Newport’s dead since the sixteen hundreds, and even after its official closure it continued to attract a small but steady stream of history enthusiasts, armed with cameras and guidebooks. Lacking these signature items, our mournful little trio must’ve looked more than a little creepy.

Since we were vampires, it might’ve been assumed that a cemetery was a natural place for us to visit. In fact, the opposite was true—we visited here only when there was no other option. Today was one of those days. Bhumika, my brother Chivalry’s wife, had died two weeks ago, finally losing her long battle with the illness that had been slowly killing her since the day she and my brother married. I’d spent long, emotionally exhausting days with him, slowly clearing her belongings out of the suite of rooms that they had shared—deciding what would go to
her friends, what would go to charity, and which few items Chivalry couldn’t bear parting with. Those pieces (a half-empty bottle of her shampoo, the embroidered gold sari that she’d worn for their wedding, a forgotten to-do list written in her looping handwriting, and more) had been carefully tucked into an elaborately carved and cedar-lined chest that had been taken into the attic for safekeeping.

We’d held Bhumika’s memorial service yesterday in the grand ballroom of my mother’s mansion—beautifully catered, tastefully decorated, well lubricated with wine, and attended by everyone who had known Bhumika, along with several hundred people who hadn’t. Chivalry had taken his yacht out alone this morning to spread Bhumika’s ashes over Narragansett Bay, and now we were attending to the last sad detail—heading out to view Bhumika’s memento mori.

Chivalry was moving slowly, his expression racked with grief. His usually impeccably groomed dark-brown hair looked like he’d run a hand through it this morning and decided that was good enough, and the shirttail on his frighteningly expensive bespoken suit was untucked. The air was cold enough that I was keeping my hands shoved deeply into my pockets, but Chivalry had left his coat behind in the car and seemed unaware of the temperature.

No one looking at him would believe that Bhumika was the nineteenth wife that he’d buried.

Or that his need for Bhumika’s blood had been what had wrecked her body and finally sent all of her major organs into a cascade of failure that even the best doctors at the finest hospital in our territory couldn’t stop. Both my brother’s complete adoration of his wife and the painful grief he’d experienced since her death were apparent to anyone who looked at him. Bhumika was the fourth wife that I’d watched him bury, but even I couldn’t claim that his feelings weren’t real, though how
he was capable of loving his wives so deeply and totally even while he drank their blood and killed them one drop at a time was utterly beyond my powers of comprehension.

To my left was the other person who couldn’t understand Chivalry, though she came at it from the opposite direction. Prudence was our sister, a full century older than Chivalry. She had gone on record as recently as dinner last night that she was “getting sick of all this fuss over another dead woman.” It had been classic Prudence, and I had expected her to skip out on today’s ritual, yet I’d been the only one surprised when she had appeared at the arranged time, decked out in a black Versace dress and a jet necklace. Even her crutches were made of black fiberglass with matching velvet armrests, which she must’ve had to special-order for the occasion.

With Chivalry moving like a sleepwalker, Prudence was having no trouble keeping up with us, even with her injury. A month ago, she had tried to kill my last remaining host parent, Henry, and push my transition into its conclusion. It would’ve made me a full vampire, with physical repercussions that I was still not completely clear on, but which I’d spent my entire adulthood fighting against. In her murder attempt, she’d broken one of our mother’s direct orders, and the two of them had physically clashed. During the fight, Prudence’s left leg had been horribly broken at the thigh. Vampires are very long in reaching our physical maturity—my sister was more than two centuries old, looked like a healthy professional woman in her early forties, and was only just approaching vampire adulthood. Our abilities mature as we do—if I’d suffered an injury like Prudence’s, my cast would’ve come off a few weeks earlier than a normal human’s. At Prudence’s age, a few days of bed rest, a week of wearing a leg brace and taking it easy, and she would’ve been back to normal. But my mother had felt that punishment had been in order for Prudence’s disobedience, and she had
been rebreaking my sister’s leg in the same spot every three days for the last month.

Now my sister was hopping along beside us on the uneven ground of the Common Burying Ground, her gleaming black crutches looking almost like an extension of her long black wool coat with its luxurious sable-lined collar and cuffs. A dainty black hat concealed her bright red hair—Prudence was a product of an era that would never have dreamed of entering a graveyard without the correct haberdashery. There was a small bit of veiling, but not enough to conceal the ice in her blue eyes every time I looked over and started to ask if she wanted a little help. On multiple attempts, her expression of barely leashed violence had made my throat dry up halfway through each offer.

The dissolution of our brief partnership had left her feeling angry and betrayed, but despite her terrifying glares, I had caught her staring at me a few times over the last several weeks with an expression that I found much more concerning—curiosity. And a terrible sense of patience. She also hadn’t stopped talking to me, which, given recent events, seemed a bit ominous.

It was actually a relief when we reached the mausoleum.

Tucked away in one of the many quiet corners of the Common Burying Ground’s thirty-one acres, it rose up unexpectedly from the surrounding sea of weathered and broken slate gravestones. It was built out of granite blocks, with a tiered roof that had been topped off with a large urn sculpted from bronze that had long since gone green from oxidation. The door to the mausoleum was the same heavy black iron as the incredible front entryway to my mother’s mansion, worked over with the image of an angel kneeling under a willow tree, and our family name of Scott was carved above the doorway. Unlike everything else in the Common Burying Ground, the mausoleum showed the clear signs of constant care
and maintenance, and when Chivalry slid the large iron key into the door’s lock, it opened soundlessly.

We filed inside. There was a single carved marble bench decorated with the repeated pattern of the urn, the willow, and the angel. The floor was an alternating pattern of black and white marble, and the three non-door walls were white marble, with bands of black at the floor and ceiling. Thin, concealed skylights in the roof let bands of the dusk light in, enough to see by without having to resort to flashlights. Workers had been here recently, making everything ready for our visit—the air wasn’t stale, though I did catch a few whiffs of Febreze.

On the walls was what we’d come to see. Nineteen names were carved into the marble—a woman’s first name, then beneath that, the years of her marriage to my brother, then a small border engraving. Chivalry went straight to the newest addition and traced the letters of Bhumika’s name with just the tips of his fingers while Prudence and I hung back. Now that we were no longer moving, I noticed my sister’s subtle movements as she slid her BlackBerry out of her pocket to discreetly check her messages.

I couldn’t help letting my eyes drift around the walls, noting all of the names. There were the women I’d met—Linda, Carmela, and Odette (though my memories of her were very hazy). Then there were all the others, and eventually I traced them back to the first: Mabel, 1886–1890, with a border of ivy and musical notes. The sight of that long-dead woman’s name made me shudder. As the first, had she been unaware of what her fate would be? Had Chivalry? Even with nineteen names, there was a huge amount of white space. How many names had these walls been built to accommodate?

Despite the cold air, I could feel myself starting to sweat. The knowledge that a mausoleum like this might be in my own future made me shudder. Those walls suddenly seemed tighter than they’d been a moment ago,
and I knew that I had to get out. But just as the thought crossed my mind, Prudence’s hand was suddenly wrapped around my left arm and squeezing like a vise. I met her eyes, surprised, and watched as she very slowly and deliberately shook her head. Then she darted her eyes over to the marble bench and lifted her eyebrows.

The message was clear—there was no bailing. Prudence and I settled ourselves awkwardly onto the bench and sat. Chivalry’s attention never shifted from Bhumika’s name, even as the light from the skylights slowly got weaker and weaker, tinged now with the oranges and purples of what must’ve been a very good sunset. An hour passed. Eventually Prudence gave up and pulled her BlackBerry completely out of her pocket. The tapping of the keys as she texted was the only sound in the mausoleum.

Marble is not known for its ergonomic qualities, and November in New England is not conducive to sitting outdoors in one place for a long time. My face was completely numb from the cold, though not quite as numb as my ass, when Chivalry finally turned away from Bhumika’s marker.

Apparently that had been some kind of signal, because Prudence slid the BlackBerry smoothly back into her coat pocket and said, almost concealing her boredom, “The mason did a lovely job, brother.”

Chivalry nodded, an almost spastic jerk of agreement.

My sister’s elbow dug hard into my side, and I jumped slightly. This was my cue. “Everything looks so clean,” I noted.

Again, Chivalry nodded, but just slightly more smoothly. Prudence and I took our places bracketing Chivalry, and we began the slow walk back to the car, the two of us filling the air with banal comments. The sun had completely set, and any starlight was hidden behind the cloud cover. Before my transition began, just a half year ago, I would’ve been unable to navigate my way through the cemetery
without tripping over at least one of the smaller headstones that sometimes hid under patches of longer grass, but my eyesight was much sharper now, and we all made our way smoothly back to the car. Had it not been for Prudence’s crutches, we might even have been described as stately—since I was usually the one who spoiled the family’s more photogenic moments, I couldn’t help but feel a small twinge of vindictive satisfaction in Prudence’s temporary lack of grace.

Halfway to the car, Chivalry began responding to our comments, his voice hoarse and raspy. He and Prudence struck up a conversation about a headstone that we passed—apparently its owner had been known for particularly wild parties back during the Gilded Age, and I knew that Chivalry’s time mourning Bhumika had come to an end. From this point on, he would be searching for a new wife, and before a month was over, we’d be celebrating a wedding.

In all prior instances, I’d had the luxury of distancing myself from the process, physically and emotionally, and in feeling appalled at Chivalry’s callousness. But I’d taken on my brother’s job of policing my mother’s territory during the last month, when everyone knew that Bhumika wouldn’t last much longer, and I’d agreed to continue with those duties for another few months while Chivalry was (to use my mother’s term) “occupied.” There was no way to separate myself from what was happening in my brother’s life, or for me to assure myself that I had no part in his selection of a new bridal victim.

But as we walked (and Prudence hopped), I also noticed something different about Chivalry that had been concealed by his overt grief. Even as he sounded more and more like his old self, there was something about him that was making me edgy. His movements were too quick, his eyes in the darkness too bright, and something in his voice was making the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I’d never forgotten what my brother was, but
he’d always been the most gentle and approachable one in the family, and this was disturbing on a very deep level.

As we neared the car, Chivalry stepped forward to take charge, and I caught Prudence’s sleeve under the pretext of helping her with her crutches. My brother was so thoroughly creeping me out that I was willing to talk to Prudence. It was one of those moments that left me alert for unidentified aerial porcine objects.

“Something’s wrong with Chivalry,” I whispered to her.

She made a low, interested noise in her throat, and suddenly my chin was snagged in her gloved fingers and wrenched low enough that the two of us were eye to eye. “Ah, the wonders of transition,” she murmured, her face filled with an avaricious excitement that made me regret my newly sharpened vision. Her voice dropped further, becoming more intense. “You are seeing more, Fortitude, sensing more.” Her fingers dug in tighter, her nails pricking me through the silk of her gloves. I was starting to regret my question. “Chivalry has not fed since Bhumika’s death, and will not feed until he selects his new bride.” She pulled us even closer, until her wide, disturbing eyes were all I saw, and I felt the heat of her breath on my face. “Watch his actions closely, little brother. Perhaps you will learn to avoid his foolish and sentimental example.” Then her eyes narrowed, and I found myself released so abruptly that I almost staggered. My hand shot up to touch my chin, and I was surprised not to find blood. My sister never broke our eye contact, and gave a low snort. “Or not. Knowing you, you will simply find a way to expand upon our brother’s ridiculousness.”

Chivalry saved me from the awkwardness of lacking a sufficiently withering response by rolling down the window of the car and asking in annoyance why we were still standing out in the cold. The moment was broken, and Prudence returned to her usual state of grumpiness as I helped her maneuver her immobilized leg and crutches into the backseat.

BOOK: Tainted Blood: A Generation V Novel
4.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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