Misguided Angel Page 37

"Did you know her well?"

"Vix? As well as anyone did," he said as he bent down to kiss the nape of her neck. She shivered a little from the draft coming in through the window, but Bryce took it as a response to his sensual ministrations and pressed down further. "I mean, she was a friend. Part of the group.

You know," he murmured.

"Do you think anyone might have--I dunno--had something against her? Maybe that was why she had to go away?" she asked.

Bryce crushed his body against hers, but instead of responding in kind, Deming kept her body rigid. "Sometimes when kids have a hard time at school, their parents will send them somewhere else. Maybe Victoria was having a problem with someone--like Piper, maybe?"

He stopped his downward progression and wouldn't meet her eyes. She had chosen Piper's name at random and had not expected Bryce to react like he did. She felt his body turn cold all of a sudden. That was interesting.

"Piper didn't like her?" she asked.

"I didn't say that," he said, rolling off.

Now she knew there was definitely something here. His affectus was a deep shade of vermillion. She could see it all around his body, almost a physical reality. He was agitated, worried. He knew something about Piper and Victoria. Deming felt her heart rate quicken, but her face was a mask. Was she getting somewhere finally?

"Were they fighting? Did Victoria do something to Piper that might have made her mad?"

she pressed.

"Not that I knew," Bryce said, scratching his nose. He seemed to shrink away, and his affectus began to pulse in shades of scarlet and black, shining like a flare in the darkness.

Deming charged into the glom, barreling through the wards that protected his spirit from intrusion. She pushed through the haze of his memory. Then she saw it: the memory that had triggered his agitation. The night of the party: Piper Crandall arguing with Victoria Taylor. She couldn't make out what the girls were saying--Bryce had been too far away to hear--but it was clear that Piper was extremely upset when they left together. Which meant that Piper was the last person who had seen Victoria alive. Victoria had left with Piper, and then Victoria was never seen again.

That was all she needed to see. Deming pulled away and scrambled into her clothes. She had to go over Piper's file again to see what she had missed.

"Where are you going?"

"I'm sorry, I forgot to tell you--I have to get back to the city tomorrow to meet my uncle,"

she said, without looking back.

She left Bryce alone in the bed and crept downstairs. It was past midnight and the party was over. Most of the Blue Bloods had left or retired to one of the numerous bedrooms. A few Red Bloods were slumped on the couch or passed out on the floor, abandoned by their new masters.

"Hey!" she said, coming across Paul Rayburn as he walked out the front door. "Devil boy."

"Oh, hey, what's up," he said, looking surprised to see her. She noticed his neck had no bite marks, which meant he had not been chosen. He was cute enough, but Deming figured most of the vamp chicks at the party didn't go for the smart and sensitive type. "Thin-blooded," they called it. She felt an odd sense of relief at that, which puzzled her. Why would she care if another vampire had marked him as her own?

"Are you taking off ?" she asked. She had planned to run all the way back, at Velox speed, but the journey would tire her. "Are you going into Manhattan? Can you give me a ride?"

"Actually . . ." He looked around. "I was waiting for someone. But it's all right. Yeah, sure. Why not. I've got my brother's car."

"Great." She smiled. "I'm in the Village."

THIRTY-THREE

A Tale of Two Friends

Paul Rayburn drove with his hands on the wheel at two and ten o'clock. He kept glancing at Deming shyly. He cleared his throat. "I thought you were with Bryce."

"I was," Deming yawned. "But not anymore." That was definitely done. She had no more use for Bryce Cutting now that she knew his secret.

"That was quick. . . . What are you, some kind of heartbreaker?" Paul asked.

"Since when are you so concerned with my love life?" she teased.

Paul looked over his shoulder to change lanes, and their eyes met briefly. "Since the beginning."

He had a crush on her. She had thought as much, had read it in his affectus every time he looked at her. Deming felt an odd thrill. She'd left a dark angel panting in a bedroom upstairs, but in a car with a mere mortal she found she was feeling something she hadn't felt just few minutes ago. Interest. Attraction. It turned out, smart and sensitive was her type. She began to wonder what his blood tasted like--she bet those prejudices were wrong.

"I have to warn you, though, you're not going to get rid of me as easily as that," Paul said.

"No?"

"No, I mean--if you were my girlfriend, I'd make sure, for instance, that you didn't leave a party with some other dude."

"What else would you do?" she asked, curious.

"I'm not going to tell you." He blushed.

"Because I can imagine quite a lot." She smiled. This was fun. The conventional wisdom on why certain humans were chosen as familiars was that it was a purely physical response on the vampire's part, submitting to the allure of the blood chemistry. Deming had yet to mark a human as her familiar. While more and more vampires were taking their familiars at a younger age, she didn't plan on doing so until her eighteenth birthday.

When Paul reached over to remove the iPod in the glove compartment, his hand accidentally brushed hers, and Deming felt an electric jolt of energy pass between them. It was as if she was a match that had lit with his touch. Suddenly, she couldn't breathe. Was this what everyone was talking about? Was this the bloodlust? Until now, she had never experienced it--the hunger, the acute, unmistakable desire for a certain human being's blood. It was as if her entire body were calling for a taste of his blood, and she would not be satisfied until she drank from him.

"You all right? You look a little pale."

"I'm okay." Deming looked away. She put a hand up to cover her mouth. Her fangs were protruding; her mouth was watering. She wanted him. She wanted him so badly it took all of her concentration to stop herself from jumping him. Whatever this was, she had no time for it. Even if she wanted Paul and was experiencing bloodlust for the first time, she had to focus. She had a job to do.

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