Misguided Angel Page 5

Jack made it out, she told herself. Of course he did. He had to.

A few feet away, Schuyler could see another Jet Ski circling the fiery carcass. But why hadn't that Venator gone after Jack, Schuyler wondered. Unless . . . unless he was already . . .

She couldn't finish the thought.

She wouldn't.

She pushed her head underneath the waves. The Genoa port. She began to swim.

FOUR

Driftwood

Everything around Schuyler was black, as dark above as below. If she swam below the ocean's surface she found she could make better time, and took to swimming deep underwater for longer and longer periods. Schuyler pushed against the current, buffeted by the waves; she felt as insignificant as flotsam, just another piece of ocean rubbish lost in the tide. She had to fight the desire to give in, to stop swimming, to close her eyes and rest and drown.

The storm broke for a moment, and Schuyler, bobbing up, could see the city rising from the water, its cheerful pastel buildings only a few hundred feet away. The midday sun was shining brightly on the pretty waterfront cafes. It was past high season, and the weather was brisk, so the outdoor tables were empty.

Schuyler tread water furiously to keep her head above the waves. God, she was tired. She was so close, but she didn't know if she could make it.

That was the problem with the Velox, Lawrence had warned her. You begin to believe in your superhuman capabilities, but the Velox demands rest, and it will have it whether you liked it or not. He had warned her of vampires who had pushed themselves to the limit, only to collapse at a crucial juncture and be overtaken by the Silver Bloods.

She had no more energy left; she couldn't propel herself the last few tantalizing feet to reach her goal.

She felt as limp as plankton. All the strength had drained from her body. She had covered about twenty-five miles in half an hour, but it wasn't enough to get her onto that nearby beach.

She spit out some salt water and pushed her bangs out of her eyes, dog-paddling listlessly. Her muscles were torn, spent. She couldn't do one more stroke. . . .

An idea came to her. . . . She couldn't push forward anymore, but she could float. . . . She could just lie down, really, and let the waves do the rest. The thought of backstroking the rest of the way struck her as incredibly ironic after the intensity of her escape. Well, she could float or she could drown. Just as she'd hoped, the slow steady movement required only the amount of energy that she could provide.

A few minutes after setting off at a leisurely pace, she felt the water around her vibrate, and she heard the distinctive motor of a Jet Ski. For a moment she was seized with fear; she kicked upright, looking all around, and then she saw it. Approaching quickly was a familiar vehicle branded with the dreaded black-and-silver cross, but that was no Venator at the helm.

Schuyler bounced up and down on the waves. "GHEDI! GHEDI!" She had no idea how the pirate had come to be on the Jet Ski, but right then she didn't care. All she knew was she had to get his attention before he got too far away.

He couldn't hear her, and the Jet Ski was getting farther and farther away.

GHEDI. TURN BACK. I COMMAND YOU.

The Jet Ski swung around, and in a moment, had roared up next to her. " Signorina! There you are!" he said, his bright smile splitting his face.

She pulled herself up next to him, thankful to be out of the water at last. "What are you doing here? Where's Jack?"

Ghedi shook his head. After he had bid them good-bye at the Cinque Terre, he had seen the Venators chase after them. He'd tried to radio them a warning, but the storm had taken out the satellite signals. He'd borrowed a motorboat, and had come upon the wreckage of the pirate ship ("Black, black smoke. Bad.") There had been no sign of Jack, and he'd taken an empty Jet Ski that was most likely left behind by the Venator who had chased Schuyler and who was probably still struggling to swim to the surface.

If Ghedi was here with this Jet Ski, then where was the other Jet Ski with the other Venator, Schuyler wondered. And where was Jack?

* * *

They circled the shoreline for several hours. It would be evening soon. Jack should be here by now, Schuyler thought. It would take a vampire of his speed only minutes to make it.

She had managed, and he was by far a stronger swimmer. Schuyler dropped Ghedi off at the harbor, and she continued on the Jet Ski alone, as her new friend was showing signs of fatigue from their search. It wasn't fair to ask him to accompany her on what was looking more and more like a hopeless endeavor.

The sun slipped below the horizon, and the lights of the city looked festive against the purple sky. Music wafted from the restaurants and cafes by the docks. It was getting colder, and the wind told her the storm would pick up again soon; this was just a momentary calm.

She was going to run out of gas soon, but she made one last round. The night before, she and Jack had made a promise to each other. Whatever happened today, they had agreed they would not wait for the other if they were separated. The journey must continue, regardless of who kept on the path. Whoever remained would carry on Lawrence's legacy.

Okay, Jack, she thought. This is it. You'd better show up or I'm leaving.

She didn't want to think of what it meant, leaving him. She was terrified of being alone, now that she knew what being with Jack was like. He would want her to continue, though. He would want her to leave him, to go ahead without him. She had already wasted enough time.

She would ask Ghedi to help her get to Florence, where Lawrence believed the Gate of Promise was located; she would hike through the mountains as they'd planned. There would be no trains, no little pensiones, no rental cars, nothing that would leave a trail. Jack would be able to meet up with her later . . . maybe. . . .

Schuyler tried not to think about it too much. She felt numb from the cold and from what she would have to do. The enormity of her task felt overwhelming. How could she go on alone without knowing what had happened to him, without knowing if he was dead or alive?

Finally she saw it--it looked like driftwood but something about it caught her eye.

Anxiously, she came up on it and saw that it was indeed just a piece of driftwood. But clinging to the center of it was a white hand, while the rest of the body was submerged underwater. Schuyler pulled up next to it; she recognized those long, thin fingers, and her heart beat against her chest, the cold creeping through her entire body. Fear. Abject fear.

Jack can't die. He can't die, but he can be harmed. He was immortal, but if it was too late to revive his physical shell, she would have to keep his blood for the next cycle. By the time he was reborn she would be at the end of hers. Who knew if he would love her then? If he would even remember her? In any event, where would she even take his blood? They were fugitives from the vampire community.

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