Home > The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(13)

The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(13)
Author: L.A. Banks

"She'll be all right for the next twenty-four hours," Carlos said without emotion. He understood. It was horrifying. And there was no one to blame but him.

His fingers traced Damali's cheek as he watched her begin to normalize - but her family would never be the same. "I'll be back." he told Damali, "and Marlene is going to make this all right. Stay in, and don't fight them when they try to help you - promise me?" She nodded and pressed her fingers to his throat wound, then licked them. That was Big Mike's last straw. When the big brother broke down and cried openly without shame, Carlos was out. He couldn't watch pain like this. They were family.

The ground was pulsing. Clouds of bats filled the night sky, screeching his name. Council had sent out an all-points bulletin for him. He could tell by the look on Father Pat's face that Marlene had already filled in the Covenant. News traveled fast, especially bad news. They all stood on the cabin steps, not speaking, but he knew a new round of prayers now barred him entry to what had been his safe house. Father Lopez, the youngest of the priests, looked away as silent tears slid down his brown cheeks. The Moor, Asula, was practically gray. Monk Lin turned away and swallowed hard.

"But I love her," was all Carlos could say. "No matter what."

"I know," Father Pat said quietly, his tone gentle. "But now we have a situation. It's greater than you can imagine, and the timing..."

"Do whatever you can to get her straight."

The old priest nodded. "We'll do whatever we can. We'll take a blood supply to her. In two days, you won't be able to."

"Thank you." That was all there was left to say before Carlos turned toward the night wind and was gone.

Chapter Four

Carlos's gaze narrowed on the dark blue horizon as he opened his arms, feeling the wind gather about him. Going down to Hell alone was not an issue at this point. One more night of freedom - for what? He was so worried about what might happen within the compound that he just willed himself to council chambers without waiting for the formal VIP escort that was on its way.

As the earth split at his feet, emitting a black cloud that swirled around him, pulling him down, he could sense slippery things reach out for him, then think better of it. Even the demons knew he was not to be messed with right now.

As soon as he landed in the black-stalactite-studded outer council chamber corridors, the messenger bats screeched their confusion, gossiping wildly, stirring their putrid ammonia-ridden stench. Several hooded domestic couriers stepped out of the sulfur fumes, and materialized from behind slick stalagmites, their eyes glowing red.

Two scythes dropped before him, blocking his approach, and the bolder of the two messengers that stopped him hissed its concern.

"Master Rivera, it is customary to be escorted to chambers by VIP escort at your level when the chairman has summoned you. We believe your furlough expires tomorrow night. Then and only then does your full installation as a councilman occur."

The tunnel went silent, all entities waiting for the proper response. From the corner of his eye Carlos could see the narrow path that led to the molten sea of Perpetual Agony that surrounded the main chamber. For a moment, the sight of the howling, begging, lost vampire souls within it gave him pause. Their relentless shrieks always made the hair stand up on his arms, but that would be the last thing he'd have to worry about if the chairman decided he didn't like what he had to say.

"I didn't send for a courier, because the international one I summoned broke protocol and reached for my package." Carlos gave the smaller, domestic couriers a threatening smile. "I had to... fire him. The chairman needs to know about things like that. Besides, I'm responding to a nine-one-one."

At once the corridor erupted with screeches and squeals of delight - juicy gossip always fed the blind. The messengers raised their scythes, and hissed their approval, signaling that Carlos could pass.

"How did you kill him?" a voice echoed behind Carlos.

"Tore his arm off when he reached for my package then ripped his heart out."

A chorus of delighted squeals cheered Carlos as he walked away.

He crossed the bubbling pit on a six-inch band of earth and once at the massive, black marble double doors, Carlos steadied himself before reaching for the golden, fanged door knockers and submitted to the required serpent strike on his hand that would identify his black blood for entry.

The doors slowly opened, and he was once again standing before the ancient power center. His footsteps echoed on the black marble floor veined with blood. Carlos held his head up, his jaw set hard, his eye contact with the chairman never wavering as he approached the pentagram-shaped council table. Dense smoke from the iron wall torches plumed in a spiral upward, joining with the ever-present black transport tornado that circled high above in the ceiling's arch.

Everything seemed to be in order, calm. He nodded at the chairman, who returned the gesture, lacing his long, clawed fingers together under his chin. Carlos then acknowledged the two remaining council members, detecting a level of nervousness.

"Mr. Chairman," Carlos said in his most confident voice. "Gentlemen. It is good to be back at this table."

The chairman stood and issued a sly smile with a raised eyebrow, and put his hands behind his back. He took his time rounding the table, his long onyx-colored robe making a soft swishing sound as he neared Carlos. The blue blood within his veins moved slowly under his paper-thin gray skin. And although that was a good sign that the chairman's mood was calm, even the cloud of transporter bats high above in the arched ceiling fell eerily silent.

"How were the islands?" the chairman asked, his tone cooing, almost amused.

"Fine, sir, but that's not why I'm here, right? You sent a high-priority message for me to..." Carlos's statement died as he watched the chairman continue to move toward him.

The chairman circled him slowly and Carlos knew better than to move. His body temperature dropped to a nervous twenty-eight degrees when the chairman came close enough to rip his heart out.

"You had one more night before your furlough expired." The chairman put a hooked claw to his lips and made a little tsking sound. The other senior members shook their heads, then began filling their golden goblets with blood that oozed from the table's pointed edges.

"Mr. Chairman, we've got major problems topside," Carlos said firmly, his chin still held high, his gaze level with the chairman's.

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