-Four Hours Later

Bob the medmage, a tall muscular Fae with skin like polished teak and one broken black horn, -- the other curved backward to a lethally sharp point -- led Mateo and I away from the private room where they’d installed Shiloh.

Her condition hadn’t improved.

On our way out, I sent a brief text to Sam, with a promise to explain in further detail on our return. I glanced at the clock on the wall above the nurse’s station. Nearly four in the morning. Sunrise wouldn’t be too much longer.

Time often moved like molasses in January for vamps, and yet this night had passed by in a blink. Consecutive disasters had that effect.

I wasn’t terribly comfortable being back in the hospital, even if I wasn’t the patient this time. I couldn’t stop looking around, taking in the bustling staff of various supernatural and mundane species, the scent of magic and blood creating an itchy sensation in my sinuses. I sniffed, pinching the bridge of my nose to dispel the urge to sneeze.

“Bueno, what’s the situation?” Mateo asked, twisting his hands together. I reached out and softly pried them apart before he started tearing his nails off. Glancing down, his cheeks went ruddy, and he quickly stuffed his hands in his pockets.

“As far as we can tell, whoever she tried to Charm trapped her in one of their memories, essentially dragged her in and locked the door from the inside,” Bob explained, his own massive hands spreading helplessly. “Unfortunately, we can’t extricate her from it because the Charm originates from her. Magic is…”

“Finicky,” I finished for him. “You can’t get her out of it because she has to end her own Charm.”

“Exactly,” he said, nodding. “The only idea we’ve had is that if the person she tried to Charm was supernatural, they may be able to break her out of the memory somehow. Unlock that door.”

I was already shaking my head. “The target was human.”

As far as we could tell, anyway. Short of a blood test -- something no one would dare suggest -- we had to operate under that belief. It shouldn’t have been possible for a ten year old human child to block, let alone reverse, a nearly 500 year old vampire’s Charm to begin with, and yet … here we were.

According to the texts I’d received from Sam, none of which I’d replied to yet, Christine had gotten Frankie back to Dr. Landry, who had successfully helped the kid come down from her panic attack. If I ever got Shiloh out of her head, I was going to shove it back up her ass where it clearly belonged. We had too many damn problems for her to pull this shit and delay everything else.

Entirely on brand for her, though, I thought, shooting a glare at her unconscious form through the doorway. Her pale skin had become nearly translucent from exhaustion beneath the faint red stain her blood had left on her cheeks. Her brows were dark grooves above her scrunched eyes, distressed whimpers hitting my ears like pins dropping. Hardly audible, yet the only thing I could focus on.

I continued to gaze in my sister’s direction, aware and ignoring the Fae’s intense regard. He clearly expected further explanation, but I had nothing for him. Frankie was human, as far as anyone knew, and staring at me wasn’t going to bleed a dry well.

Bob sighed. “Okay, well, that rules that out then. For now, we can keep her sedated -- as a vampire, it won’t work for long, and it won’t break her from the memory. She’s still stuck in it, and unless we find a way to break the Charm externally… To be blunt, you’ll need to make some decisions.”

I shared a glance with Mateo, the white of his eyes obscured by the blood beginning to well. He quickly looked away, surreptitiously hiding his eyes from the medmage.

If she stayed in there too long, there wouldn’t be a Shiloh to save.

“Understood. Take care of her for now,” he said, his voice rough, a little slurred. “Vamos, mije, we need to inform the others.”

Bidding Bob a vague farewell, I followed my sire out of the hospital into the night.

“You know what I’m going to say,” I said, trailing behind him towards the car. The drive from ComRes to the hospital hadn’t been difficult, for once, with my sister’s limp body in my lap distracting me from the experience.

He grunted as we both slipped back into the vehicle. I let the silence stretch as the engine gave a low growl of life. I waited for him to pull out of the parking lot, but he sat still in the driver’s seat, hands at ten and two, gripping hard enough to leave the imprint of his fingers in the wheel.


“I know,” he snapped, lisping. His fangs lengthened, pressing lightly into his lower lip.“I know, Bunny. You do not have to educate me on the consequences of this. I am her sire. She is my child. You think I don’t know what I will be forced to do? You think I didn’t know the second I laid eyes on her that it may be my hand that removes her head?”

I said nothing, watching him.

He snarled, snapping his teeth in the air. He reared back and began slamming his clenched fists on the wheel, roaring his fury as he decimated the controls of his most beloved possession. The airbag didn’t even have a chance to deploy as he shoved his hands into the guts of it, tearing the device apart.

Before any of the debris had a chance to hit me, I got out of the car, closing the door behind me. He continued his seated rampage, his grief hidden by his howling rage. 

A few minutes later, the engine died. I wasn’t sure if he’d turned it off himself, or if he’d reached some part that killed it, but regardless, we’d need another way home.

I reached for my phone.

By the time he wore himself out, I had gotten comfortable with my back against the front right tire, one arm resting on my bent knee, my other leg stretched out. I reclined my head, the curve of cold steel soothing on the back of my neck. Exhaustion dragged at my limbs. My last few nights had been more than eventful, and sunrise was quickly approaching. I still hadn’t fed, and I knew by the ache in my veins that I would wake from my next sleep borderline ravenous.

The car door opened and slammed shut. A moment later, Mateo joined me, leaning against the car beside me with a cigarette in his hands. His shoulders were rounded, tensed up around his ears. I didn’t bother with a lecture -- lung cancer wasn’t exactly a concern when you had already kicked the bucket. And he was having a rough night.

I continued rotating my phone between my hands, waiting.

“Lo siento, mije,” he sighed, running his free hand through his hair. His sincerity rang true in its simplicity. Unnecessary. We both knew his reaction wasn’t unreasonable.

“No hay bronca,” I said easily, waving a lazy hand. “Es lo que es. ¿Te sientes mejor ahora?”

Mateo shrugged, examining his uninjured hands. I’d seen the split skin of them before I’d exited the car. Being a vamp had its benefits.

“I think I’m as good as I’m going to get,” he answered quietly, his eyes drifting shut. I nodded, understanding. The rage in him was tired, but not gone. It wouldn’t be done with him until Shiloh was safe. Until our bone-cleaning monster was vanquished.

And there was no guarantee that we’d succeed at either of these tasks.

Only a narrow, quickly waning hope.

“Ollie’s on her way. I didn’t tell her why we were at the hospital. She’s quite miffed that her promising evening was interrupted, but I figure she’ll get over it.”

“We’ll tell her and Salma together. They’ll want to be here with her.”

“They’ll have to wait until tomorrow night, but the hospital has rooms they can safely use during the day.”

The logistics were an easy topic, something to focus on while his eldest child lay comatose in the nightmare of a child’s traumatic memory. Neither of us really had to contemplate the words we said; we both knew how the next bit would go. And it wasn’t going to be fun.

When she arrived, Ollie took one look at us both, and the complaints ready on her tongue died. As Mateo walked past me to get in her car, she grabbed my hand and stopped me. She was dressed for a night at her kink club, in a black latex bodysuit, strategic slits showing off her belly button, cleavage, and the curve of her hips. Her make-up was all dramatic sharp lines in neon green and pink with matte black lipstick. The platform stilettos on her feet matched, and put her eye-to-eye with me.

“Cottontail?” Her eyes roamed over my face, the concern on hers beginning to edge into panic.

“Not yet, Oll,” I said, shaking my head. “Take us home. We’ll fill you in then.”

Frowning, she nodded. Catching my reflection in the car window, I could understand why she wasn’t willing to push it. I looked fucking haggard.

Vampires, by and large, tend to be well put together. I, meanwhile, had the aesthetic of a feral animal fresh from a rampage, based on the electrocuted style of my hair and the gaunt angles of my face.

“You need to feed,” Ollie murmured, resting her hand on my shoulder as we made eye contact in the reflection. “I can have someone delivered before sunrise. Please let me.”

I sighed. I hated getting my food delivered, but my only other choice would likely lead to hurting someone.


“Any preferences?”

My mouth watered. I imagined a soft body, lush curves, a raspy voice, sweet brown eyes.


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