Home > The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(26)

The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(26)
Author: L.A. Banks

Yonnie accepted the glass and took a shaky sip, his eyes never leaving Carlos's. "They're all dead by now," he admitted quietly. "I was made just before Nuit overthrew my master. A lot has changed in the world since then."

Intrigued, Carlos stared at Yonnie, as the vampire polished off his drink and set the glass down carefully on the edge of Carlos's desk.

"That was in the plantation days," Yonnie said slowly. "You cannot imagine what those days were like."

Carlos nodded. That was the stark truth, if ever he'd heard it. He didn't know much about this kid, but he did know an honest man when he saw one. But the irony of it all was not lost on him. In human terms, Yonnie was most likely two hundred years his senior, but in vampire terms, because he was a third-gen, he was a junior ranking officer now in his camp. Twisted.

"I gotchure back, man," Yonnie said in a quiet voice. His eyes searched Carlos's as he spoke. "I got into this by accident... it was more like a dupe. Had heard your turn went down like that, too. All of us from the old generation were rooting for you in that drag race, brother. We wanted to see one of our own, somebody who'd been played get the upper hand. So, when you came out holdin' aces, it was one of the proudest moments in my vamp life - and that's no bullshit. Go 'head, scan me, test me, but I mean what I'm saying, no matter how this night ends."

Emotion filled Carlos, but he kept that locked within him. He could appreciate where Yonnie was coming from, and didn't need a mental probe to test for authenticity.

Without fear, Yonnie stepped closer to him. His gaze locked with Carlos's, and Carlos could feel the invitation to peer into his mind. He nodded his acceptance of the offer and allowed his hand to again rest on Yonnie's shoulder. Horrible images filled his inner vision. A pretty, ebony-skinned young slave woman raped and brutalized by barbaric overseers. An almond-colored baby born and snatched from her arms, while she was forced to work. A child abused and beaten when it cried for its mother. A tender caress in the dead of night to soothe a frightened little boy... who became a man that ran into the woods one night to find a way to save his momma from her misery.

Tears streamed down Yonnie's face. Carlos closed his eyes.

"They told me that this old woman knew a man with power..."

Carlos stepped away from Yonnie and nodded, not sure that his dead heart could withstand the story he knew too well. "And he promised you power like you'd never imagine."

Yonnie simply nodded, then drew a ragged breath. "I wanted to get them back for what they'd done to us. I wanted to give all my boys the chance to live forever and to be strong. Two of them had tried to run and go north, but Alabama was a long way from the Mason-Dixon. They dragged them back, strung them up, and burned them alive for us all to see. That night I stole away and got made."

"And it wasn't what you thought it would be," Carlos said flatly. "It never is."

Yonnie wiped his face and nodded. "No, brother. It's not."

"Stack's been with you since then?"

"Yeah," Yonnie replied, drained. "All my boys were made by me. That's the tragedy." He quickly looked up, becoming tense. All vampires knew it was forbidden to speak ill of the eternal dark life, and he'd admitted his displeasure to a councilman.

"It's cool, man," Carlos said with a wave of his hand. He sat on the edge of his desk, emotionally spent. "This shit is not what it's cracked up to be, even at my level."

Again, a silent understanding bound them as they stared at each other.

"But it is what it is," Carlos finally said. "We are where we are, and what we are. So, the only option is to make the best of it."

Yonnie nodded and found his empty chair and slumped in it. "After two hundred years, man, there are some nights when it all seems like it was yesterday. Then, there are some nights when it seems like it will never end." He laughed sadly. "And it won't."

Carlos rubbed his jaw, hearing everything Yonnie had said. He was only a year old in his vampire life, and already it had been too long. He could only imagine the boredom and pure agony of hundreds of years of existence... and the master vampires who were very old had that reality as their Achilles' heel.

"You know," Carlos said, his voice a low murmur, "as a councilman, there are some wrongs I can right."

Yonnie stared at him, new tension ebbing back into his body.

"I need men I can depend on, men who died with honorable intent."

Yonnie had stopped breathing. Carlos stood.

"My borders are shaky; another master has come into my territory and poached it." Carlos walked to stand before Yonnie and motioned for him to stand. "If you don't know anything else about me, you know I ain't having that."

"No. I didn't expect you would."

"I have certain rules about how I handle my business." Carlos stared at Yonnie hard. "No women and children. No elderly. No innocents. It's a long story, but it has to do with how I was made and who's still under my mark. It has everything to do with how they half ate my brother when they turned him."

Yonnie nodded. "Nuit's bite was nasty, man. We all hid from him. You ain't got no problem from us. Where we came from, none of us has the stomach for babies and old folks... hate seeing sisters diced up and left on the morgue slabs. What humans have done is worse than what we've ever imagined."

"That's why I want the dead meat out of my freezers. That's why I don't want any more floor shows with underage chicks. I want all my establishments run on the up and up, like we're going legit - so the humans don't swarm us. Top-shelf is siphoned from willing human donors only, already compromised motherfuckers who have lost their souls while still alive - and there's enough of them walking the planet to fill vats."

"Got it. We stay off radar until the heat dies down."

"Correct."

Carlos extended his hand to Yonnie. And when he accepted it, Carlos pulled him in close. He studied the junior vampire's jugular and waited until Yonnie threw his head back in submission. "You ready for a demotion to second-level, man... with the power to deliver this to your boys?"

Tears of admiration filled Yonnie's eyes as he choked out the word, "Yes."

"Make 'em all seconds with you," Carlos whispered as his fangs lowered to a deadly eight inches. "Do it tonight. After that, your bites will make thirds, and unless I sanction the turn, you make none without my permission."

   
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