By Blood We Live Page 31

I WANT YOU.

I CAN’T. THE OTHERS.

Go to the others, I meant. Trish. Lucy.

Madeline.

YOU.

IT’S OKAY. I WANT YOU TO.

Lorcan and Zoë were in the room. I hadn’t called them, exactly, but the mental restriction had slackened. They were waiting for permission to feed. When I gave it, neither of them hesitated. Zoë scampered to the wounds in Sue’s midriff, but Lorcan leaped up onto the table and began tearing at Alan’s corpse. We didn’t operate a not-in-front-of-the-children policy (they’d seen what adulthood added to the kill, but they didn’t understand it; it was already a nagging tumour, the question of what I’d do with them when puberty kicked in) but their presence this time confirmed me.

I CAN’T. PLEASE. DON’T.

Pause.

It seemed to last a long time, that pause. In it, I felt him taking it completely into himself that I was leaving him. Had been for months. Maybe years. Maybe two years. Maybe since the night the vampire came to call. It shocked me. As long as Walker hadn’t believed it there was room for a little denial in me. But now he did—and it was like sudden cold air coming up from a sheer drop behind me. Immediately I wanted to undo it, to tell him he was wrong, that we’d stay together, that whatever this was it wasn’t the end of us, that I loved him, of course I did, my God this was us—

But at that moment bullets shattered the kitchen window and I realised we were under attack.

25

WALKER HAD LORCAN safe. Not safe, but out of the kitchen and into the stairwell, walled on both sides. Original walls, two and a half feet thick. I hadn’t been aware of grabbing Zoë, nor of leaping for the stairs after Walker—but there we were. He and Lorcan were already on the first-floor landing. I could hear windows smashing. Searchlights swivelled. I was conscious of some brain department riffling through calculations—two points of attack so far; how many miles to the RV? why hadn’t we arranged a contingency rendezvous?—while the big engines of panic churned blood and haemorrhaged adrenaline and moving was a thing of slow delicious vividness—here’s my enormous leaden leg bending its knee to climb another step … and here’s my giant head lunging through the molasses of emptiness … The chateau breathed its odour of damp plaster and dust, avowed in a sad silent way its harmless existence here for two hundred years; it was like a gentle old person forced to witness some modern obscenity in the street. Sue’s spilled blood and beef and onion casserole brought Cloquet’s death back along with the certainty that these were the same assassins. It irritated me, in the midst of all this physical immediacy, that the world had to interfere with us, that the world couldn’t leave well alone.

But of course as far as the world was concerned we weren’t well, we couldn’t be left alone.

Walker shoo’d Lorcan back down to me as an explosion did big damage to the building’s fabric somewhere on the first floor. Incredibly, a severed human foot flew past Walker’s shoulder, struck the wall beside me and bounced down the stairs. Painted toenails (a colour very close to “Scarlet Vamp,” my disinterested ironist observed); Carmel.

Madeline, snout and hands and arms jewelled with winking gore, appeared in the doorway that led from the kitchen into the hall. A huge shard of glass was sticking out of her back. She didn’t seem to know it was there.

LUCY?

I LOST HER TOO MANY OF THEM SILVER SILVER SILVER—

I could feel it, too, on my tongue, in the roof of my mouth. Lorcan and Zoë had their hands over their ears, not understanding it was too late for that, that the metal’s threat and promise was already in the air, in their heads, their lungs, their blood.

Madeline reached out as if to fend off a negligible invisible blow—then sank to her knees.

At which point I saw the two men behind her.

Both young, trim, fair-haired, giddy with health and taut with training. Light combat fatigues in dull grey, niftily designed to accommodate the silver-delivery gadgetry. One of them held what looked like a scimitar. Not silver (only an idiot would make a sword out of silver) but that wouldn’t matter, since its purpose was to separate werewolf head from werewolf body, werewolf life from the universe.

DON’T MOVE DON’T MOVE WALKER THE KIDS—

Since if I didn’t move myself Madeline would die and the instruction to Walker and the imperative to Zoë and Lorcan were left behind like a bright smudge in my slipstream because I was flying through the air—in slow motion, always in slow motion, with time to feel three, four, five silver bullets cut my aura but not my flesh, leisure to see Sue’s moist guts like something her body had heaved out with the very last of its strength and Alan’s head all but severed, eyes open, tongue trapped between his teeth and the windows shattered and figures moving outside and a female voice screaming Gloria Patri! et Filio! et Spiritui Sancto!—time to take in all this (and to examine from all angles what might be the last shape of my life: besotted with a vampire; hurting my lover; distracted from my kids; infected again with the suspicion of a plot and simultaneously a little sick of myself, my greed, my promiscuous curiosity, my nothing ever being quite enough so perhaps this is what gives you the courage to risk death—time for all this before, with a detonation of blood that speeded time and space back up to normal, I landed hands-first on the guy with the scimitar, the blade of which went with extraordinary ease, with a delight in performing its function, clean through my lower left abdominals and out the back of me with a feeling of ice that I knew within seconds would become fire.

I ignored it. First contact had buried the claws of my right hand in his throat just above the Adam’s apple. I tightened my grip and pulled. Out came the trachea and a fistful of blood vessels. Sufficient damage—but there was no time for self-congratulation. Nor was there time to pull the sword out of my guts. I looked up to see the second guy standing over me. He’d learned a valuable lesson: Don’t fuck around trying to cut heads off when you’ve got a holy .44 Magnum with a chamber full of silver bullets at your disposal. The gun was pointed directly at my head.

26

THE BRAIN’S AN honest organ. It began the avoidance calculations—time, mass, speed, energy, angles, trajectories—but couldn’t disguise their pointlessness. The gunman’s finger already had the trigger halfway through its spring. I was going to die. I felt the future like a vast dark landscape full of huge sharp things and my children being blown and tumbled around in it alone, lost.

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