Home > The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(8)

The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(8)
Author: L.A. Banks

Damali headed straight for the kitchen, and he was glad she hadn't gone straight for the weapons room. If he had to make a hasty exit, at least there weren't UV lights in there that could fry him - only harmless fluorescents. But the fact that she wouldn't give off a reflection in any of the stainless-steel appliance surfaces was going to be hard to explain.

"So, how were the islands?" Rider asked cheerfully, taking a backward seat in one of the wooden kitchen chairs.

"Beautiful..." Damali crooned in a distracted tone as she hunted for what the compound cupboards didn't have. "The water there is the prettiest blue, even if I did only see it at night."

Dead silence surrounded them.

Carlos glanced at the large picnic-style butcher-block oak table. Wood. Matching wood chairs. If the big brother got hyped, there were eight chairs that could easily be broken down to make fast stakes. Shit.

Big Mike leaned on the door frame, catching something unspoken in Shabazz's rigid carriage. Marlene hung back, and leaned against the sink, watching Damali begin to root inside the fridge. Jose, Dan, and J.L. took their time finding seats at the table, their glances nervously darting from Carlos to Damali and back to the team. J.L. fidgeted with a set of sharp knives that protruded from a wooden carving-set holder. Jose's eyes were practically welded to Damali, following her every move around the room. Dan's line of vision darted between Jose's and J.L.'s, then kept monitoring Marlene's unreadable expression.

Carlos found the closest spot by a window and vent near the far end of the oak cabinets, then leaned against them. Even the thick bulletproof windows were sealed by steel grates. Yellow designer mini blinds were ludicrous; it was still a prison.

"You only saw the islands at night?" Marlene asked coolly.

This could get ugly. Carlos studied the group's reaction and hoped Damali had enough sense not to just blurt out the truth.

"Well," Damali said, not paying Marlene's tone the attention it deserved, "we mostly stayed in during the day and slept."

"She did the day thing by herself for a while, but something happened down in St. Lucia," Carlos said quietly. "We need some advice, Mar."

All eyes were on Carlos as Damali slammed the refrigerator door and put one hand on her hip. He held up his palm, and begged her with his eyes not to start.

"While you're here, D, I order you to not harm anyone in this compound, or any other human. I don't care how hungry you get - that's nonnegotiable. Got it? Call me if it gets bad."

"Who are you ordering? Have you lost your mind? And why would you try to out me like that in front of my people? Damn, Carlos. Very uncool."

"Oh, shit," Rider muttered, standing slowly and backing away from the table.

Rider's slow withdrawal made the other younger Guardians near him stand and ease back. Only Jose stood his ground. Marlene covered her heart with her hand and remained frozen, centered between Damali and Carlos. Her gaze immediately went toward the stainless-steel stove, then tore back to Damali, and back to where there was no image of Damali to be found. Marlene's eyes then narrowed on Carlos.

Big Mike moved from his leaning position on the door frame with slow caution. Shabazz fingered the holstered weapon at his hip. Jose casually retrieved a crossbow from beneath the kitchen table and held it at his side.

"Talk to me," Shabazz said in a quiet voice. "Fast."

"It wasn't supposed to go down like this," Carlos said in a near whisper, shaking his head.

"Like what, brother? What did you do to li'l sis, man? Speak now, or forever hold your peace." Big Mike had raised the shoulder cannon again, positioning it in Carlos's direction.

Shabazz drew like lightning, the Glock muzzle pointed at the center of Carlos's forehead.

"Put it down, Mike," Marlene ordered. "You wanna hit a gas line and blow up the whole frigging kitchen? Stand down for a second, 'Bazz. Please, gentlemen."

"Something went wrong," Carlos said in a slow, controlled voice, "and I think she's turning."

Carlos had less than a second to duck before Shabazz and Rider emptied half a clip each into the kitchen wall behind him. He was immediately forced to fake right to avoid the crossbow stake released by Jose, who was reloading. Before J.L. could reach for the stashed lights, Carlos sent them crashing to the ground.

"Yo!" Carlos yelled, avoiding the onslaught in the close confines while trying not to hurt anybody. "Chill, I'm on your side, remember!"

"Fuck you!" Shabazz shouted. "Kill this mother dead, now!"

Carlos had taken a crouching position on the ceiling. He could smell the compound being flooded by the holy-water sprinkler systems; the heat of UV lights trapping him from a hallway exit was leaving him limited options; he might have to take a body to get out of there. "It didn't go down like you think and I thought you all said she couldn't turn after twenty-one! Why would I bring her back, if I'd meant to turn her? Think about it!"

"She isn't supposed to turn after twenty-one!" Marlene shrieked. "What type of dark energy did you hit her with? I'll climb up there on the ceiling and stake your ass myself for this!"

"Naw, Mar," Mike said, aiming the shoulder cannon in Carlos's direction. "I got him."

Immediately Carlos vaporized and reappeared on top of the gas range. "If you hit me here, we all go up, Mike. We need to talk."

"This is waaaay out of hand, people." Damali shook her head and suddenly laughed. "Carlos is tripping about nothing worth getting all hype about. You all are bugging." She walked away and flopped down in a kitchen chair, leaned her head back, and blew out a long breath of annoyance. "This shit don't make no sense."

The members of the Guardian team cast nervous glances in each other's direction, their gazes settling on Marlene. Carlos glimpsed the bullet-ridden kitchen wall, destroyed cabinets, and shards of glass and dishes. Damali was right, this didn't make any kinda sense梑ut he could understand it.

"Stand down," Marlene finally said, breaking the standoff and breathing hard. "If we kill him, we won't know what we're up against or how she..." Marlene's voice trailed off. "I can't even say it." Her eyes narrowed on Carlos as her tone became lethal. "What did you do to her?"

"Yeah!" Shabazz yelled. "Talk to us, man."

   
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