Misguided Angel Page 44

"Right. But even if we can't find him on this side, we'll find him in the glom. I'm going in. We have a DeathWalk to complete."

* * *

Every vampire experienced the glom in a different way. For Deming, the twilight world manifested as an empty plaza in the middle of the Forbidden City, in Beijing. It had been years since she had seen the Forbidden City this way in real life. Nowadays it was crowded with so many tourists it was hard to comprehend the magnitude of its beauty. But in the glom, the ancient walled city was silent and empty.

She walked past the guardhouse, through the Outer Court to the Inner one, taking the Imperial Way, a path that was only reserved for the Emperor, until she was standing in the steps of the Hall of Mental Cultivation, which meant she was deep in the protoconscious. In the physical world, her heart stopped beating. She walked the line between the worlds, in the thin membrane that separated the living and the dead.

Paul was waiting for her at the steps of the farthest pavilion. In the glom, his soul was even more beautiful than his eyes. He smiled sadly at her. "I knew you would find me."

Deming walked up to him. Her wings beat against her back. She could choose to appear to him in any form, and came to him as the Angel of Mercy. "Why did you kill them?"

"It's a long story," he said, putting her hand against his cheek.

"Does it begin in Florence? In the fifteenth century?"

Paul's face lit up. "Why yes. You were getting there, weren't you?"

"You saw the Repository files in my bag. You knew I would find out. That's why you conjured the illusion that afternoon. The girl in your car who was meant to be Victoria."

"Mmm-hmm."

"So tell me, what happened in Florence?"

"It's simple, really. Stuart and Victoria were part of a sect. They were called the Petruvians. Ghastly group, really. Butchers. Murderers. The worst kind of slayer. They killed in the name of peace, in the name of justice, in the name of God. They killed my mother."

"They must have had good reason," Deming protested. "The Code of the Vampires would never allow--"

"The Code of the Vampires does not protect the innocent!" Paul snapped. "The Code only serves to protect the vampires. No one else matters."

"You're wrong. The Code was created to protect humans. It always has."

Then Deming realized: the symbol of union in the video. Silver Bloods had mated with human women. Paul Rayburn was demon born, Nephilim. The bastard child of Croatan and Red Blood. "You should not exist," she said. "The vampires were not given the gift of creating life."

Even Allegra's daughter was considered Abomination by some of the community. No one knew how Schuyler came into being.

"And yet I do. And I am not the only one. Take heed, vampire. For you are not the only orphans of the Almighty on this earth."

Paul raised his hand, and Deming could see he was carrying a zhanmadao, a two-handed saber that glittered with hellfire. "I am so very sorry, for I did not lie to you about my love, my sweet Venator. But I cannot allow you to live. The Mistress will keep her secrets."

Deming removed the chopsticks from her hair and raised the long sharp blade of Mercy-Killer. "I am sorry as well. My love for you was real."

The demon boy smiled. "Yes, you have made me your familiar. Alas, the Caerimonia will not allow you to harm me. My blood is your own."

He was right, of course. The Sacred Kiss ingrained a loyalty in its vampires so that a Blue Blood would never be able to deliberately harm one's familiar after first bite. The biggest danger was in taking a human to Full Consumption because of bloodlust. After the Sacred Kiss was sealed, the human would forever be safe from their vampire.

Deming stared at Paul. His shirt collar was open, and she saw it again. Right at his neck.

The triglyph with the symbols from the original hostage video. The sword piercing a star: Lucifer's mark. The sign of union. Last, the image of the lamb.

She had seen it first when she had taken him into her arms and pierced him with her fangs. She had chosen him; she had made him hers. She had done it out of love and duty. He had asked her not to--but only so that her resolution to do exactly what he wanted would be even stronger.

"There's only one problem with that rule," Deming said as she raised her sword. "You're not human." So that was why his blood had tasted strange. The bitterness of it came from the taste of coal and the underworld.

Paul tried to block her with his blade, but her sword cleaved his in two. He gasped and fell to his knees, and for the first time, he looked afraid. "Think of your love for me," he begged.

Deming looked down at him pitilessly. "I am," she told him, and with all the strength she

had, she struck her blade deep into his heart.

The Mistress

Florence, 1452

The highest tower in Florence was the unfinished dome, and once again, Tomi and Gio scaled the masonry to the top of the building.

"There's nothing here," Gio said, shaking his head.

Tomi took one more walk around the edge. She looked up at the night sky through the open ceiling. Then she knelt down and tapped on stone floor. It was hollow. The top of the dome might not be finished, but the floor below it was complete.

"Down the stairs," Tomi said. "Follow me."

The topmost landing was an empty hallway, save for one secret door. Tomi pushed against it, and it opened at her bidding.

Inside, there was a human female. One of the greatest beauties in Florence, whose portrait was painted by many of the city's greatest artists, all of whom were in love with her.

"Simonetta!" Tomi cried. Simonetta de Vespucci was married to a nobleman in the Medici circle and was rumored to be no other than the great Lorenzo de Medici's beloved mistress. She had not been seen in the city for a while, and now Tomi knew why.

"Do not come near me!" Simonetta cried, protecting her burgeoning belly. She was nine months pregnant.

When she hugged her stomach, Tomi noticed a mark on her arm. It was the same as the one carried by the man from the Citadel.

Simonetta was no mistress to the Medici.

"Who is your lover?" Gio demanded. "Who is the father of your baby?"

Tomi understood what he was really asking--under whose guise does the Dark Prince walk the earth once again? The Morningstar had returned, it was clear. But in whose form?

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