Home > The Wicked (Vampire Huntress Legend #8)(17)

The Wicked (Vampire Huntress Legend #8)(17)
Author: L.A. Banks

Damali didn't know where to look first. Juanita's eyes had dark rings under them as though she hadn't slept in days. Her neck was pocked by a series of purplish-red bruises, fresh ones that descended into scattered, older mulberry-hued tones that presented significant risks for blood clots. As Juanita did a slow striptease, removing her shirt to reveal a tank top and show skin, Damali slowly brought her hand up to her mouth.

"Father Mother God..."

"Did he ever do this to you?" Juanita asked, her voice just above a murmur.

Damali rushed to Juanita as fast as her sore body would allow, but stopped several feet away in the huge hacienda bathroom as the woman closed her eyes as though begging Damali not to touch her. Scanning Juanita's arms with a horrified gaze, Damali saw every easy vein point bruised. The insides of her elbows, her wrists, her throat.

"Girl, what happened?" Damali whispered through her teeth.

"When Carlos was half-vampire or part-vampire, did he ever do this to you?" Juanita repeated, her eyes opening slowly to stare at Damali without blinking.

"Let me see your throat," Damali said as softly as she could. "I'm a healer and won't hurt you."

"I'm a seer and never saw it coming," Juanita said sadly. "I only see very recent past events. I'm not like Mar or Inez, who see the future events in varying degrees of clarity. Marj can see a little, but is better at conjuring. If I was better, I would have seen it."

"Shushhhh," Damali whispered, allowing her hand to cover the left side of Juanita's throat without actually touching the tender bruise. "It's okay. When was the last time he bit you?"

"Jose bit me until dawn, then collapsed. You understand?"

The wild look in Juanita's eyes made Damali want to hug her. But for the sake of both their bodies, she dared not. The heat emanating from Juanita's skin was the closest human attempt at a vamp mate strike she'd ever seen. Raw passion almost arced a current in her palm as she tried to draw the blunt-edged strike off Juanita's skin.

"Where else?" Damali said quietly, going down Juanita's arms and lessening the pain. But Damali had to back up and breathe after a mo�ment. Taking this on and coping with her own body aches made tears almost fall.

"I'm sorry. I know it hurts, but I couldn't go to Marlene with this... or Berkfield," Juanita said quickly, her voice quiet and panic-stricken. "He's never done anything like this before... It would get intense, and I knew he had vamp way back in his family tree... but I swear to God-"

Damali held up her hand. "I know, I know, and baby, please don't swear to God about something like this." She sighed hard. "Look, I pretty much know where else a male vampire would bite you... and you can show me or not, but if it's bad, a femoral bite that gets a blood clot can be a for-real heart-stopping experience. I know we've had our shit between us, but-"

"It hurts so f**king bad I can't walk, girl," Juanita whispered through her teeth. When she shut her eyes two huge tears streamed down her cheeks. "Jose is the most passionate, caring, careful lover that... this isn't him, and you cannot sayanything to anybody,promise me."

"I know-I mean, I suspect, given his personality," Damali said, quickly correcting herself before anything crazy jumped off in Juanita's mind. For a moment, she wasn't sure what to do and couldn't commit to keeping a secret this huge. The team needed to know about this; Carlos definitely had to know, but she also wanted to pre�serve some of her teammate's privacy. She just prayed that Juanita had enough sense not to tell her something she didn't wanna hear about Carlos, whodid sleep with Juanita for years.

"Can you sit down on the edge of the tub?" Damali finally said. "And tell me you have on underwear because I'm not gonna be able to hang, unless you do."

"Yeah," Juanita said through a painful chuckle. "I was standing in the room by the door, trying to get dressed while he passed out. I knew you'd be coming home and was just trying to figure out how to get to you alone... God is good."

Juanita inched her sweatpants down in agonized degrees, moving slowly not because of modesty, but from the bite welts on her hips, belly, and inner thighs. Damali fought to keep her expression neutral, but Jose and Carlos were definitely from the same old vamp line. Moving with calm authority, Damali sucked in a deep breath and placed her hands gently over each wound, grimacing as the pain shot into her skin and lessened on Juanita's. After a moment, Damali dropped forward on her hands and knees again, panting.

"That's all I can do today, just enough to take away the danger of clotting and make it bearable. I'm too drained right now and really need some other stuff to work with. But if you can keep him off you tonight, by tomorrow I can try another draw with my mini-Marlene version of purifiers."

"Thank you," Juanita whispered. "Bless you." She wept quietly and looked toward the door. "What's wrong with me, D? I'm like a f**king junkie. This shit hurts, and yet..."

"Oh, girl," Damali said, too tired to front as she pushed herself up. "Been there. At least the brother doesn't have fangs."

Juanita stared at her with wide eyes, and Damali could have kicked herself for the admission.

"All I'm saying is, you have to tell him-too rough. Your body won't heal like a Neteru's, and you could get put in the hospital, or worse, behind this craziness."

"I know," Juanita whispered, pulling on her sweatpants with effort. "Last night was the first time he went off on me like that... got this crazy look on his face, and then the outside of his eyes, the brown part, flicked a little silver, then gold, and the next thing I knew-"

"What?" Damali whispered, coming close to Juanita. "Jose's eyes changed?"

"Yeah," Juanita said, standing up with a wince. "What time?" Damali was so close to her she could have grabbed her, but didn't.

"Like about an hour or so after sundown-Damali, he isn't a vampire, is he?" Juanita swung around and went to the mirror. "Please, God, tell me I'm not gonna change into the undead!"

"Keep your voice down. No. I'm trying to get a bead on what mighta happened-that's all." Damali raked her locks with her fin�gers. The coincidence was too eerie and completely unnerving. Both her Guardian brother and her man were linked by very old ties; that they went through some sort of simultaneous flip out was bizarre.

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