Home > The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(27)

The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(27)
Author: L.A. Banks

He could feel Yonnie trembling as he held him in a steel embrace. Yonnie swallowed hard, on the verge of weeping as a current passed through them. "I'd always wished... but never dared dream."

"I know," Carlos crooned. "With this bite I give you the flight pattern to my lairs - guard them well. Watch my back. Protect my woman. Protect her family. Honor my strategy. Never question my judgment. Bring me information about which master has been in my yard."

"Done," Yonnie murmured.

The strike was so swift that Yonnie's knees buckled. The shock of energy transfer coursed through the room, toppling chairs, shattering glass, and eliciting a garbled groan of pleasure from the junior vampire. Years of Yonnie's torment entered Carlos and fused with his own, making Carlos's hands tremble as he siphoned away the pain and wrapped it in a pleasure bond. Prisms of dancing lights formed beneath Carlos's lids as he made his first lieutenant.

Winded, he dropped Yonnie to a chair and staggered away from him, torn. Part of him knew that the power transfer was a necessary evil to shore up his territory, but another side of him was deeply troubled. The pleasure that came from such power was nearly maddening. Now that he'd learned what it was like, he wondered if he'd ever be able to give up this new, dark life.

He brought the back of his hand to his mouth and dabbed away the black blood. He stared at Yonnie, who was prone, breathing heavily, eyes closed, as though he'd just been with a lover. The image disturbed Carlos and he crossed the room for much-needed space.

Without turning around he knew the vampire was slowly opening his eyes, which now glowed red. He watched Yonnie stretch out his arms and stare at the blue-black electric current running down them. Instantly, Yonnie stood and walked around in a circle, becoming giddy, almost as though he were high.

"I descended," Yonnie said, laughing. "Oh, shit, you made me, man! I'm your first lieutenant - Carlos Rivera's first lieutenant!"

Carlos poured a drink and downed it, his tone even, his nerves shattered. "Yeah, man. Congratulations. Go celebrate."

Chapter Seven

Finally Marlene opened the bedroom door with Shabazz, Big Mike, and Rider leveling weapons in Damali's direction. It hurt her soul to see her team's expressions, each member meeting her at the front door armed, and prepared to fire. J.L.'s hand hovered over the hallway holy-water emergency levers. Tears were standing in Jose's eyes and he couldn't even hold up his crossbow against her. But it was that look in everyone's eyes that cut more than any weapon ever could.

"Let's do this in the weapons room," she said softly.

Father Patrick nodded, and unsheathed Madame Isis. Her team allowed her to pass slowly, each person watching everyone's backs.

The walk down that hallway felt like the longest road she'd ever taken. When she entered the room, the teams filed in behind her, everyone standing far enough away and taking strategic battle positions.

Damali's gaze settled on Marlene first. She was the only one unarmed, and the two women exchanged a silent understanding. They both knew that the teams had been trying to bring her out through a gentler method to no avail. Now, the options were severe.

"After Raven..." Marlene said quietly. "I can't put down another daughter."

"I know," Damali said, holding her head up high. "Father Pat Imam Asula have to be the ones. Marlene... Mom... just know that I love you, 'kay?"

Rider's shotgun was tilted up, even though his finger was on the trigger. His face appeared so worn and his eyes were so red that she could barely look at him. She saw Big Mike waver, too, his shoulder cannon position was not dead aim like it should have been, but would only slow her down enough just to wound her. Shabazz held the line, but his gun shook as he aimed it at her, his eyes containing so much pain that the tears that glittered in them seemed like crystals. Dan, Jose, and J.L. had crossbows, but their aims were off, too. Only the Covenant held their weapons at full military readiness. That was to be expected. Family could never easily put down their own.

She smiled sadly at them. "I love you, too," she whispered. "I am so sorry, big brothers. God only knows how much."

"What did you say?" Shabazz whispered, lowering his Glock, and stepping out of the battle stance.

"I said," Damali repeated, "that I am so sorry. I never meant for this to happen."

They all continued to stare at each other.

"She said the name of the Almighty," Father Lopez whispered. He closed his eyes and made the sign of the cross over his chest, lowering his battle-ax.

"At a time like this," Damali said, confused, looking at each person in the room, "don't you think that makes sense?" Then eerie awareness entered her. She'd turned, had been in some sort of horrible flux, where she was banished from even the name of the Most High. The nightmarish reality brought hot tears to her eyes. She'd been stripped of her mission. She was no longer the Neteru. She wasn't even sure if she was still human.

When no one spoke, she opened her arms as hysteria began to claim her. "Kill me now, but say a prayer over me - let family do it, not the dark side!"

They were shaking their heads, tears standing in their eyes. Their mute response tore at her, and her voice escalated as hot tears coursed down her face. "I messed up! Not him. I baited Carlos into the bite. But I am not a creature of the undead! I refuse to feed off the living and suck the lifeblood from living things. I want to at least die with honor. That deserves a prayer on the way out, doesn't it?"

"You thinking what I'm thinking, Mar?" Shabazz said, ignoring Damali's impassioned outburst.

"I'm praying what you're thinking, baby," Marlene said in a quiet rush.

"We might still have a chance," Father Patrick said carefully. "Three eves have not passed. The Neteru is strong. And given that the Vatican told us that the holy key is missing, as I said when I arrived and Damali was still confined, the warrior angels may be battling to preserve her for the intended mission." Father Patrick looked at Damali hard. "Child, we need you on our side, but must also do what we must do... if that isn't possible."

For a moment, Damali couldn't answer. She covered her face with her hands and breathed into them slowly. Hope and a host of other emotions had closed her throat, and new tears stung her eyes as a sliver of a chance hung in the balance there in the weapons room. But she sucked up the sob that tried to force its way out, swallowed it away, and stood firm. "Make me whole again. Human," she whispered. "Whatever the mission, I'll always fight for the Light."

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