Home > The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(10)

The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(10)
Author: L.A. Banks

When Damali covered her head with her hands and gasped, everyone merely stared.

"It's like that," Carlos said, going to Damali, his palm stroking her soft locks as he stooped beside her. "I don't know why I can take it... hear the sacred names... but, now, she can't. It's f**king me up. I'm the one who's been banished by the Light. Mar, you've gotta make her better. My baby can't go out like this."

He wasn't sure whether it was the simple truth that seemed to galvanize the team, the fact that he didn't care that they saw just how worried he was for her, or if it was the fact that they were finally understanding just how serious this was. But the tension in the room eased, weapons got lowered in earnest, and a few younger Guardians moved toward the huge oak table to sit down again.

"I'm gonna do what I can, Carlos," Marlene said, a promise held in her voice. "She's our baby, too, and we know how you feel."

"Mar, honest to goodness," Carlos said, his tone fervent while double-checking himself not to say any words that would hurt Damali. "At first, things were cool. Just like you said. If things got... intense, and I bit her, it was all good. I had enough discipline not to flat-line her." His gaze swept the group, hoping for understanding, while feeling so stupid for even being in such a predicament. A council-level master, no less. This was beyond embarrassing.

When Rider rolled his eyes, Carlos pressed on, ignoring him. "I knew to siphon less than a pint. I wasn't trying to kill her."

Carlos could feel the tension in the kitchen gathering like a slow storm, but knew an explosive reaction was soon coming. He could hear the energy whining like a turbine. As the thought formed, Jose blew.

"Are you out of your f**king mind? There was no reason to bite her, man! I'll f**king kill you!" Jose spun toward the older armed Guardians at the door for a second and quickly raised his crossbow, holding Carlos in his sight. " 'Bazz, let me put this bastard down once and for all!" He held out his hand toward Damali to come to his side of the room, but she just looked at him.

Only when Shabazz didn't move did Carlos stand and stalk away from Damali's side, far away from the group. From his peripheral vision, he saw Rider touch the young Guardian's arm, and saw how Jose angrily jerked away from his older, wiser comrade, following but not liking the silent message to stand down. He'd misjudged; the young bucks were a problem. A hair-trigger variable. He should have known better. The young ones weren't as effective, but were always shaky, nervous, and too stupid to know they'd die trying. However, if the old boys were holding steady, then he had a chance to explain. But he kept his primary line of vision directly on Marlene - the only reasonable one among them.

"Most of the time, she'd hang out on the beach, dozing during the day, or doing whatever, while I slept. Then at night, we'd go out on the town, chill, listen to some music, check out a festival, get her something to eat, go back to the lair. Everything was peace," Carlos finally said in a controlled tone.

Jose's eyes glittered raw fury, just like Shabazz and Big Mike's did, but...

"Just groovy," Rider muttered, with a scowl. "Okay. So, since everything was copacetic, when did you notice girlfriend had fangs and couldn't do a day at the beach even with sunblock?"

"Last night," Carlos said under his breath. "Everything changed last night."

"Why?" Shabazz asked, his tone so tightly controlled that it made Damali look up.

"I'm not exactly sure," Carlos admitted, glancing at the same spot on the floor Damali had focused on. Marlene's appraisal was also too intense to continue direct eye contact with her at the moment.

"All right," Marlene said, her voice like a schoolteacher dispensing facts. "For twenty-eight days and nights, everything was fine. I take it you bit her multiple times every one of those nights - no need to answer. Fact one." Her gaze went to Damali. "And, during said time, there was no fight, no resistance, correct?"

Damali glanced out the kitchen window. "No."

Jose walked so far away from the group that he was nearly beyond the kitchen entry. Carlos glanced at him, expecting to see worry, but the glare Jose gave him was almost a direct challenge. He could feel himself begin to bulk, but willed away the sensation. The young blood was definitely working his nerves.

"Herein lies the beginning of our problem," Marlene said on a long sigh. Disgusted, she put the reading glasses that dangled from a silver-beaded cord about her neck on the bridge of her nose, and opened the Temt Tchaas hard in the middle of the table. "This is partly my fault."

"How's that?" Shabazz holstered his gun, folded his arms, and stared at Marlene, unconvinced.

"The Neteru physiology is designed to create vampire antibodies under battle conditions. When fully amped, in a bloodlust, in the heat of battle with adrenaline pumping, everything in her whole system works as a unit to seal the wound, kill the attacking virus. But with a serious endorphin rush happening with every bite... no anger, no fear, total open trust and willingly offering her throat..."

"No," Shabazz said, his words seething past his lips. "They would have had a seduction provision in there, knowing that a Neteru could get within intimate proximity to a master vamp while on the hunt and possibly get hypnotized, whatever. It's not your fault; that much I do know." He glared at Carlos. "The bastard wanted her like this all along - you and I both know that, Mar. Subconscious intent was there from the door."

"Shit." Carlos just closed his eyes. "I should have seen this coming."

"Poor choice of words, dude. We're still armed."

He refused to dignify Rider's comment, but it was a direct blow to his ego. The way the muscle in Jose's jaw pulsed grated him. Carlos turned away toward the sink, now unable to look at any of them.

"Then, you mix in the normal fluctuations that happen to a normal female's body chemistry on a monthly basis," Marlene added, her voice pained as she spoke, "and we have a recipe for disaster. A variable. You're the only one she would have allowed to be with her like this, and there's nothing in the Temt Tchaas about a Neteru falling head over heals for a master vampire - ever. This wasn't a vamp seduction or treachery that would have had resistance still lingering in her subconscious; she wanted to be with you, that's the issue. There was no resistance to fire her system up to fight the turn."

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