By Blood We Live Page 21

And with that, the stranger walked away and was swallowed by the darkness.

So it was that the races of wolves and men were mixed. In the years that followed many tried to free themselves from the Curse, but it was not until people returned to the banks of Iteru that

I stopped reading. I didn’t have a choice. The remainder of the page had been torn away, along with all the other remaining pages.

… but it was not until people returned to the banks of Iteru that

The implication—Olek’s editorial implication—was clear: someone, eventually, had found a cure.

16

WALKER FINISHED READING and laid the book down on the nightstand. We were in the bedroom. Bed unmade (love unmade, my nasty inner voice said), each of the two big windows full of afternoon sunlight. Across the hall, the twins were trying to wake Cloquet up. Cloquet wasn’t enjoying the experience.

“So?” I said.

I was sitting on the floor by the open door across from him, smoking a Camel filter. Last night’s hangover had talked itself into wanting another drink. My copy of Byron’s Don Juan was open face down on the floor by Walker’s foot. I remembered exactly where I’d stopped reading last night. Before we’d had the sex that had felt like an argument:

There’s doubtless something in domestic doings,/Which forms, in fact, true love’s antithesis.

He shook his head. “What do you want me to say?”

Wait. Count to five. Don’t snap at him.

“Well, do you think it’s genuine, for starters?” I said.

“Do you mean do I think this is really Quinn’s journal, or do I think this story has any basis in fact?”

Count to five again. Pointless, since my irritation contained was just as visible as it would have been let out.

“Okay,” he said, exhaling, seeing it. “I think there’s every chance the journal’s the real deal. As for the story …” he laughed. Shook his head again. No.

“Just like that,” I said. “Amazing.”

“Jesus Christ,” he said. “Lu, are you serious? Gods of the Lower Realm? Are you fucking kidding me?”

“I’m aware of what it sounds like.”

“Apparently not, if you’re taking it seriously. Who knew demons could suck some poor bastard’s soul out of his ass!”

My face was hot. Because of course he was right. Of course. Of course.

“Please,” he said. “Please tell me you’re not …” He couldn’t finish. Incredulity was getting the better of him.

“Doesn’t something resonate?” I asked. “I mean not the details, necessarily. I mean the … I don’t know.”

Across the hall, Cloquet said: “Zoë, mon ange, that is really annoying. I am not well.”

Delighted giggles from the twins. Zoë had a funny little old lady laugh.

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“No,” Walker said, with his own forced calm. “Nothing resonates. It’s a fairy story, for Christ’s sake.”

“What are we, then?” I asked him. “We’re a fucking fairy story.”

Awkward silence. For the two readings of that sentence. I’d meant we, werewolves, are a fairy story. But the opportunist subconscious never sleeps. He’d heard we as in me and him, we were a fairy story. A relationship not to be believed in.

“Mes enfants,” Cloquet groaned. “There is going to be violence here if you keep doing that.”

More fiendish cackling from the twins. I wondered how long we’d have before Lorcan’s next rage, or nightmare, or worrying trick of picking an adult and staring expressionlessly at them until they got mad.

“You know what you’re pissed about?” Walker said. “You’re pissed because it doesn’t resonate. You were expecting some big revelation. Instead you get this horseshit. It’s just another story. I mean why stop here? If a story’s all we need let’s have the little baby Jesus and the Tooth Fairy and fucking Santa Claus.”

I didn’t say anything. Because again, he was right. He got up from the bed, went to the window and looked down into the softly blazing garden, hands in his back pockets. I thought how much I’d loved the shape of him. Lean, economically muscled. The pretty profile. Loved. Past tense. What happened? What happens?

A vampire comes to call.

“Let me ask you one thing,” I said. “If there was a cure, would you take it?”

This, I knew, was also what had vexed him. The suggestion of return. Which brought the absence of anything to return to.

He didn’t answer straight away. His face was calm and golden in the sunlight.

“There’s no going back,” he said. “Not for me.”

At which moment my phone rang. Again.

17

“FORGIVE MY IMPATIENCE,” Olek said, “but I’m on tenterhooks here. Have you read Quinn’s journal?”

I got to my feet and stepped out onto the landing. Walker turned and watched, but didn’t follow. Through the door opposite I could see into Cloquet’s room. The twins had found an assortment of hats and gloves and shoes in the downstairs closet. They were putting them on Cloquet, who was still half asleep. He was currently wearing a bicycle helmet, an oven mitt and a pair of battered dress shoes much too big for him.

“Yes,” I said. “So what?”

“So what, Miss Talulla, is that I know what the people who returned to the banks of Iteru—or the Nile as we now call it—knew. I know the way out of the Curse.”

“I repeat,” I said: “So what?”

If you can hear a smile, I heard his.

“I knew you were going to say that.”

“Who the fuck are you?”

“Who am I? I’ve told you. My name is Olek. I’m a vampire. I have an interest in science. And I repeat: I have a proposition of potential benefit to us both.”

“Not if I don’t want what you’re offering.”

“You might not want it for yourself,” he said. “But you’ll want it for your children. Do you have access to a computer?”

For your children. It sounded like a threat. Then I thought of Lorcan’s problems around full moon. Could the vampire know about that?

“Yes,” I said. I could feel more of what there was between me and Walker tearing. He hadn’t moved from the window. Was letting himself imagine the future without me.

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