Home > The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(17)

The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(17)
Author: L.A. Banks

Carlos noted how the couriers' bulging arms strained, and massive chests within their hooded messenger robes expanded and contracted under the exertion. Red eyes glowed in the faceless dark hollows of their hoods, flickering out and occasionally disappearing as they tried to control pit bulls from level seven.

Just as before, when he'd asked for assistance in Brazil, he'd been given beasts, each with six yellow glowing eyes that ringed the circumference of their huge skulls, standing three feet high at the shoulder, their muscular black chests rippling as they scrabbled against the slippery marble floor to get to Carlos. Their jaws were so packed with fangs that they couldn't fully close their mouths, and foamed, slick saliva dripped from them, leaving acid burns in the floor. They flapped their leathery wings, half flying, as they pulled the couriers along the floor, slashing at them with their spaded, double-blade tails.

The chairman turned to him and chuckled.

"You approve?" he asked. "The last time you declined my offer to adopt Brutus and Bath Sheba. Just look at them... they're beautiful."

Carlos wasn't sure how to respond. "This time I accept," he finally said with a nod of gratitude. "They are truly magnificent creatures." There was only awe in his tone. He'd never seen anything like them.

"Don't worry, turn them loose on your lair grounds, and we're fairly confident that you will have no intruders - day or night."

"Just let them go?" Carlos asked, very unsure.

"Pop the chains," the chairman said with a wicked grin. "Let them get to know their new master."

Before Carlos could object, the dogs had broken from their hold and were making a snarling hurdle toward him. He could feel the chairman silently communicate to stay seated - show fear, and they will not obey, might even attack. Every instinct within him was poised to bulk and do battle.

When the beasts got to the table, they slowed, sniffing each seated entity, passing them by until they spotted Carlos, then they sat back on their haunches, threw their heads back, and howled.

"Give them your fist so they can get the scent of your territory, and transmit who is considered off limits," the chairman said calmly.

Too on guard to speak, Carlos slowly extended his fist to the snarling beasts, projecting images and scents of Damali, her Guardians, the Covenant, his family - even that crazy cop, Berkfield. Immediately one of the dogs opened its jaws, and clamped down on his fist, drawing in his arm all the way up to his elbow - but never bore down. He could feel acid bubbling on his skin, but then the creature whimpered, and licked the ooze off, wagged its savage tail, nuzzled his leg, and dropped to Carlos's feet.

A trickle of sweat rolled down his temple. Had he been less than he was, he would have shit his pants. The second creature loped up to him, wings still flapping, muscles twisting and knotting in its back as it approached. It sniffed the creature that was lying on the floor, then went to Carlos, flicked a long, green forked tongue at him, and licked the sweat from Carlos's cheek, before flopping down with a satisfied grunt.

"Marvelous, aren't they?"

"Un-fucking-believable," Carlos murmured, still shaken. And he'd thought Nuit's panther had been something.

Chapter Five

"Folks, we have us a real situation," Marlene said, but too calmly for the occasion as she sat down at the kitchen table.

"You ain't said a mumblin' word, Mar," Big Mike uttered on a long, tired breath. "You think the bedroom locks will hold?"

"I hope so," Marlene said, letting her head drop into her hands. "I'm just glad that she willingly went in there after she'd fed. I'm not worried about tonight - it's tomorrow night that concerns me."

"Yeah, but if the reinforced equipment that me and Jose installed fails," J.L. said slowly, "then what?"

"I honestly don't know," Marlene whispered.

"You don't think she'd bite anybody in here, do you, Mar? I mean..."

Marlene looked up at Jose, and cast a worried glance around the team. "You heard the man, and saw the transformation with your own eyes. Plus, we don't even know if Carlos's orders will hold up. This wasn't a normal vamp turn. We don't know to what degree she's beholden to follow his instructions. And if she fluxes hard, coming out of this vampiric state with her body chemistry all whacked out only to go into a full ripening - she's not the only one we have to worry about."

"He's coming back for her," Jose said in a quiet voice.

All eyes were on him as he hung his head. "I don't know why, but me and Carlos have a connection. I can feel where he's coming from... I wouldn't leave my woman, either, under the circumstances."

No one spoke for a moment as their thoughts went to the lost Dee Dee.

"Yeah, but Carlos saved a lot of lives, folks. That counts for something."

Marlene sighed as she studied the newest Guardian. "We like him a lot, too, Dan. But we have to also remember what he is."

Dan nodded. "But, Mar, check it out. Remember the old priest said that there had to be faith, hope, and love?"

"If she goes into a turn," Jose said, "I'll stay with her... I've got the faith, hope, and love for D. I'm not afraid of her."

"That was before dude did our little sister, man. Get a grip. Rivera is all vamp, so is Damali at the moment. No heroics, Jose." Rider crossed his arms over his chest and looked at Jose hard. "Don't be the weak link in this chain, brother. That gets us all f**ked up."

"The faith, hope, and love thing was supposed to be between li'l sis and Rivera to keep the bite from going down like it did," Big Mike told Jose gently. "Ain't no percentage in you putting yourself, or anybody in this compound, in harm's way by letting her out till we get her straight."

"I hear you, Big Mike," Dan said calmly. "But aren't we all out on a crazy limb as Guardians, anyway, with nothing to go on but a whole lotta faith, nothing but hope, and love for each other?"

Big Mike nodded and let his breath out hard. The group studied Dan while he spoke, his words of inspiration holding them all for ransom.

"Well," Dan pressed on, "she loved him, too. Still does. Maybe that's enough to keep her bound to her promise?"

"Kinda ironic, though, don't you think?" Rider said, his gaze going toward the sealed compound windows.

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