Home > The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(18)

The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(18)
Author: L.A. Banks

"How so?" Marlene gave him her full attention.

"She helps Rivera fight his worst enemy, Nuit, who was also her worst enemy. In exchange, her accidental brand saves Rivera's life. Then, he helps her fight the biggest battle of her life over in Brazil, an external force, only to wind up fighting the biggest internal battle she's ever had to deal with. Namely, turning into the same thing she's been fighting, while also trying to stay away from him, which is the other pull she's been fighting ever since she was a kid - just like he's been fighting going to her all these years. It's like one big circle of madness between them."

Rider raked his fingers through his hair. "I'm just a nose, not a tactical sensor, but the electricity was in the air. He wanted her throat real bad, but had respect. I'll give him that. I don't think he meant to turn her - or why else would he have brought her home?"

"Rider, sometimes you can be deep." Marlene smiled at him and covered his hand with her own.

"I try," he said sheepishly.

"You just gave me a wild thought, though." She sat back and then leaned forward on the table, making a tent with her hands. "The planets forecast it, but like all things, we can never truly know what they portend until the action starts."

When everyone looked at her, Marlene tilted her head and shut her eyes. "Mars came the closest it's been to the earth in sixty thousand years this past August. And all these cosmic events seem to happen around our girl's birthday and close to home." She paused, looked at the group, and let her words settle in before continuing. "Mars is the planet of war, and we've seen new and awful wars erupt everywhere on this planet during this transit. Just like before, I thought that only had to do with what we were up against in the Amazon."

"Meaning what, baby?" Shabazz asked quietly.

"I know he's a sore subject, but back in Brazil, Kamal told us that Damali was fighting herself, the other half of who she was. That's an internal battle - close to home for her, for us... for Carlos." She sighed hard and shook her head. "When we get spiritual messages, there are always layers of meaning in them."

"True dat," Shabazz muttered. "Brotherman was right on all counts, 'cause she's definitely fighting herself, and a pull to the male energy that's the opposite of what she is - was."

"Right," Marlene said, her gaze searching each face in the room. "If this Neteru, sent to our charge, is fighting the biggest spiritual battle of her life during this rare war transit - something very different than fighting an external demon... while her soul mate, her almost-lost Guardian, Carlos, is also doing the same, fighting what lies within... then this thing that they're fighting might be the beginning of the real McCoy of biblical proportions. Maybe the universe is spiritually imploding, concentrating everything inward, instead of outward - just like they are... needing to purge internally to bring forth the Light. We have to get to their core before it draws everything down into it."

"The real McCoy?" Big Mike rubbed his palm over his bald scalp, dispersing the beads of nervous sweat in the process.

"The Armageddon," Shabazz said flatly. "Parent against child, husband against wife, internal battles of the most insidious kind. Seas offering up their fishes - an internal purge. Plagues sweeping the land - an internal purge. Even the church is purging itself of terrible secrets and deviant acts. Everything is getting turned out from within - vomited up, so the hidden truths can be known. Ruthless government schemes are being outted. Environmental disasters... earthquakes, tornadoes, floods - nature's internal purge... and the whole world at war. Think about it - everything is purging internally... countries are fighting internal civil wars; families are fighting horrific domestic battles - internal. Major corporations are purging their ranks, finding thieves - internally. The big red planet just came its closest ever to us; Rivera is trying his best to pull away from the dark, while Damali is pulling away from the light, roles are reversing, the signs are everywhere. Implosion, contractions, even time feels like it's speeding up for something big."

"Well, shit," Rider said fast, standing. "Without getting all philosophical, Shabazz, the bottom line is simple: we can't let him bite her again, especially if she's ripening. If she's in some kinda funky mid-turn or Neteru system fluctuation, we'll have to help her purge it, before it goes too far. And we also can't be too hasty to do him, because he might be the tipping weight toward our side, just like he saved our asses twice. Dan is right about remembering that. But if the two of them get together before they make the wise choice - "

"That could be the beginning of the daywalker empire that the Vampire Council was planning to shift the balance once and for all, regardless of Fallon Nuit. That's what we have to purge - from within our own ranks as Guardians." Shabazz closed his eyes.

Jose found a stool in the far corner of the weapons room and sat on it slowly, just staring at the floor.

"Dude, talk to me," Rider said, his voice brittle from worry. "I thought we'd squashed that issue for the time being, after we beat Nuit? Then we just went through this same mess in Brazil, with a near-daylight hijack by the were-demons trying to form an alliance with the vamps. C'mon, y'all, gimme a break."

"Were it that simple," Shabazz said quietly. "We all thought it was done for a while, too. But if it's back again, that makes the third time, a trinity."

Growing more agitated as Shabazz's words sank in, Rider opened his arms, leaning forward, ignoring the ringing telephone. "That's why we got the millennium job?"

Shabazz and Marlene simply nodded.

When the ringing stopped abruptly and then suddenly began again, Marlene stared at the phone. "Pick it up. It's Father Pat."

Damali walked the floor in her room like a junkie, perspiration beading up and running down the center of her back. The soft yellows and greens and cream hues of her bedroom swirled and taunted her, echoing the fact that she was indeed trapped within them.

If this was anything like what Carlos had had to endure in the safe house, all she could do was weep for him like she wanted to weep for herself now. She'd turned. Had actually become a vampire. Had tasted blood. Her hands began to tremble just thinking of that sweet nectar.

How in the hell could something so bizarre happen from loving a good man? And yet the mere thought was laughable. She truly believed a master vampire was good - her, a Neteru. But Carlos wasn't just some master vamp. He was her man, a good man. She sat on the edge of her bed for a moment, trying to still her pulse. It was beating an erratic thud in her ears till they rang. Her clothes clung to her, matted to her body from the hunger sweats. The need to hunt, to be free, almost made her cry out. The need for him, insatiable.

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