By Blood We Live Page 24

“Sorry,” she said, grinning. “Why don’t you tell me all about it?”

“Jesus Christ.”

“Sorry,” she repeated, laughing, retrieving my cigarette from the floor where I’d dropped it. “Should’ve just asked. But for fuck’s sake, Lu, you’ve got to get better at this.”

“I am getting better at it,” I said. “With everyone else. Fuck.”

“Who’s Quinn, anyway?”

There was nothing else for it. I told her. All of it.

“So what’s the cure?” she asked, when I’d finished. We were on the coast road heading south, just passing the Lido di Capo Portiere on our left. On our right the umbrella’d beach and sunlit Mediterranean. Blue and gold. Colours of the Renaissance. She hadn’t sounded particularly interested.

“No idea,” I said. “And I don’t know what it is he wants, either. That’s the whole point. I have to go there to find out. You obviously don’t think it’s for real.”

She was searching in the Chloé Elsie for something. Her hands were white, lovely, quick-moving. I thought of all the men she’d touched, professionally. Jake, foremost, naturally. There was a line in one of his journals: Madeline’s hand, French manicured, was warm, lotioned and even in its moist fingerprints promissory of transactional sex.

“Oh no,” she said (ignoring the sly shared heat Jake in my head had bred between us), “it might be totally genuine for all I know. But I mean, what’s the point?”

I was going in and out of being able to read her—she wasn’t screening—but it was tough to concentrate on driving at the same time. I’d got: WHO WANTS TO BE CURED?—then withdrawn.

“Not me,” she said, knowing I’d picked it up. She’d said it with a brightness that touched the place guilt or shame ought to be. Not wanting to be cured was, after all, wanting to go on killing and eating people once a month. She felt me thinking this and it did hold her still for an honest moment. There were vestiges yet to be burned through. But only by way of formality. The new version of herself was up and running. I could feel wulf at smug athletic ease in her, expansive and secure, at home among the victims babbling in her blood. It drew my own wronged dead up, an icy itch in the flesh, a swelling ache. “I mean there’s no going back for me, now,” she said. “I can’t. The old life. I just can’t.” The reality of which pressed on us: the warm wet weight of future meat, the frantic hearts and fraught faces we’d get to know through the obscene intimacy of murder. You want disgust, but that’s not what the Curse gives you. The Curse gives you the cunning to find room for the Curse. To welcome it. To love it. You contort and manoeuvre but eventually despite your wriggling its dirty truth holds you still: It’s only the best for us if it’s the worst for them.

“Is that what this is really about?” Madeline said, having found the sunglasses she was looking for in her purse, Bulgari wraparounds, gunmetal grey.

“What?”

“Is this what you really want to change?”

Walker, she meant. She saw so far into me I thought for the umpteenth time the sanest thing would just be for her and me to become lovers. It’s the inner life that fucks up relationships: with her I wouldn’t have one. My hands on the Cherokee’s wheel felt heavy and electric and tired.

“There’s something wrong with me,” I said.

“There’s nothing wrong with you.”

“I’ve got everything I want.”

“Wanted. Wanted. It’s not going to stay the same, is it? If it did you might as well drop dead.”

She put her booted foot up on the dash and stretched her arms back over her head. Glimpse through the t-shirt sleeve of nude white armpit, scent of floral deodorant, deeper sweet stink of wulf. Mischievous twinge in my clit. Jake’s ghost pulling up its chair and reaching for the remote. I knew she was feeling it. Mentally I sent: Just ignore me. I’m a fucking mess. She closed her eyes behind the shades. Had put them on, I now realised, to make the Walker conversation easier for me. Kindness was one of the dozens of the things Jake’s skewed portrayal of this woman had missed.

“It’s not even that,” I said. “Or it’s not just that. I love him. I mean I do, I love him.”

“I know you’re still thinking about him,” she said.

Him.

Not Walker.

Remshi.

I released a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding.

“Feel free to laugh,” I said. “I know it’s ridiculous.”

“D’you think this other thing’s connected with him? All this stuff with the book and a cure and all that?” Then she made the predictable leap: “Wait. You think it’s the same person? You think Olek is Remshi?”

“No,” I said. “The voice was different, and I don’t know why he’d bother pretending to be someone else, since I know who he is. But I can’t help thinking there’s a connection. That’s really what this is, if you want the truth. Christ, this is more embarrassing than having a crush on a fucking vampire. Are you ready? Ever since I met him I’ve had this feeling that there’s something going on. That there’s a kind of …”

“What?”

I could barely bring myself to say it. Wished for a moment she was reading me again, so I wouldn’t have to.

“A kind of meaning to it,” I said, feeling slightly sick.

After a few moments Maddy said: “No, you’re right. It’s not.”

Not Madeline’s department, was what I’d been thinking.

“Don’t be offended,” I said. “It’s not mine, either. In fact it’s a sort of retardedness. I thought I was done with all that crap. Jake’s probably turning in his grave. Except he never got one. I don’t even know what happened to his body. What the fuck is wrong with me?” Because suddenly I was on the verge of tears.

“Here,” Madeline said, producing a quarter bottle of Bacardi from her purse, unscrewing the cap and passing it to me. “For God’s sake, have a drink.”

I took a pull. The shock and shudder (last night’s tequila had thought it was being left to rest in peace) did actually help, short-circuited the tears, or at least took the emotion out of them.

Prev Next