Home > The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(28)

The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(28)
Author: L.A. Banks

Uneasy smiles began to slowly dawn on the faces before her. All except on Marlene's. When Jose totally abandoned his weapon and moved to go to Damali, the older woman placed her hand firmly on his shoulder and stopped him.

"He got to you telepathically through my strongest prayer line, and a cleric team's prayers with an entire monastery backing that up. Nothing should have been able to get in or out of here from the dark side."

Monk Lin bowed in Marlene's direction, lowering his samurai sword. "We set the perimeter prayer to let no evil enter this compound, and to let no weapon formed against us or her prosper. We asked that only good things come to her, and that no force that would harm her be allowed to breech this house. We said to keep Damali safe; we called her by name. But we never said not to allow Carlos Rivera to gain entry. Dear Marlene, could that have been the cosmic loophole?"

"He was able to connect with her," Dan said slowly, "because he didn't mean her any harm."

Pure shame burned Damali's cheeks as she dropped her hands away from her face and wrapped her arms around her. "I baited him into that, too," she said quietly. "He didn't mean me any harm. Never did. When the man said there was no intent to turn me, that was the truth."

"I don't believe that that motherfucker might still be on our side," Shabazz said, wiping his face with his free hand, and walking away shaking his head in amazement.

"I told you to have faith," Father Lopez said, as he hung his head back and let out a hard breath of relief.

"Yo, she's standing before us, not trying to run or attack, talking about dying with honor, just like a Neteru," Jose said fast. "It's gotta be cool."

Asula wisely held up his hand, stopping the group from moving toward her. "Rivera said that Damali had been turned by a council-level vamp, making her extremely treacherous. Be advised, this night is not over yet. We need to perform some tests."

Damali nodded. "The man speaks the truth. I don't know how much of this is still in my system, or if I'll have some sort of lapse."

"I don't care, D," Jose said quietly, his gaze holding hers. "I got your back."

Father Patrick let out his breath slowly and motioned for Damali to stand by the cleared-off table, using the Isis blade to direct her. "I hope that we have not lost either of you. We have not removed our prayers and hope for his redemption, but we have barred him entry to the safe house until we know for sure which side he's chosen. The hour is short. He cannot enter this compound until we have certain assurances that you are yourself. My hope is that somehow this new experience and knowledge of the dark side will aid us in reclaiming what has been stolen from our holiest orders."

Nervous glances ricocheted around the team, but Father Patrick shook his head. "Until we know how your condition will evolve, you are not privy to Guardian information." He watched shoulders slump around the group, but drew a shaky breath as Damali thrust her chin up and nodded her understanding.

"Marlene will set up a named barrier to keep him out," the elder cleric said in a weary voice. "Then, we are going to recite the Twenty-third Psalm in unison while I walk around you, making a holy-water ring. Father Lopez will be swinging frankincense and then will read the communion prayer and offer you the sacrament. If your system can bear it, you will then be anointed with blessed oil at your forehead, your temples, your throat, over your heart, inside your wrists, and at the bottoms of your feet."

Asula nodded. "Then, a blood pack will be set before you, along with human sustenance. If you cannot consume real food, then all may be lost... and you know what we'll have to do."

"Each member of the team is going to read a scripture from each of the twelve holy books, from the twelve scattered tribes and twelve major religions, and you will be touched by the symbols of those faiths and if your skin doesn't burn, we will use the lights," Monk Lin said. "You will have to pass through the UV lights."

"Before the lights, though, I'll prepare you a white bath, filled with garlic cloves and myrrh, and holy water," Marlene said, her expression so tormented that it forced Damali to look away.

"It will be painful," Father Patrick warned. "Any residue of vampire abomination within your system will be purged. But the choice is yours. If you cannot submit to the tests, and even if you do, but do not pass any of the tests, we will have to end this quickly so your soul can rest in peace. You know the code of the Neteru, and of the Covenant."

"For the good of all mankind, the Light is my only path, and only the light that casts no shadows. Death with honor before dark disgrace," Damali murmured, her gaze holding Father Patrick's until he nodded and looked away.

Damali fully understood. The choice was simple - she wanted to live and to give Carlos a fighting chance to reclaim his soul. She owed him that much. "Bring it."

Berkfield stood in his darkened garage, clutching the door opener and staring down the driveway behind the disappearing taillights of his family's minivan. He knew he had to punch in the number on the keypad soon, to call the scientist who had changed his life. He had to know, had to bring closure to this whole mystery that had haunted him since that fateful night in the alley when Carlos Rivera made him know there was a whole other universe out there that he didn't understand. But where was this man, this enigma that had shattered his neat world?

"Heard you were looking for me," a deep voice said from behind. Berkfield pulled his revolver and spun to meet the sound. "Your mental calls have been drilling a hole in my brain for a long time now, hombre."

Berkfield watched in horror as Carlos Rivera stepped out of the shadows. Sweat made his grip on his gun unsteady, and he reinforced his hold.

"Put it down," Carlos ordered. "You and I both know that's useless against my kind."

"What do you want? Where did you come from?" Berkfield asked nervously, stepping back without lowering the weapon.

"I came from Hell," Carlos said in a bored voice. "But I also came to call in a marker."

"Stay back!" Berkfield shouted as Carlos casually walked forward. "I have hallowed-earth-packed bullets, holy water, a blessed crucifix, and - "

"Good," Carlos said in a weary tone. "I'm also glad you sent the wife and kids to Father Patrick. Wise move." He smiled. "Don't look so shocked. I always know where everyone under my protection goes."

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