Samael readied to strike again. Verchiel hunkered down, his violet eyes calculating. Katelina could imagine what would happen next. She'd seen Samael explode his enemies' heads before.
With Samael's attention elsewhere, she found a thread of free will and flung herself between them. "Don't!"
"He is your friend," Samael said. With an elegant shrug, he dropped his hand. "If he is not a threat he may live. I have no desire to kill needlessly. He is free to come or go as he pleases."
Verchiel lowered his sword. "That's not what I expected."
"Did you think to find me a blood thirsty monster? I am sorry you have been disappointed." Samael motioned to Katelina. "Come."
She managed a quick glance to Verchiel before she fell into step behind the ancient master.
"They have come to rescue you," Samael said.
Verchiel was suddenly beside her, stashing his sword in his coat. His eyes held guarded caution as he looked from one to the other. "Are you alright, Kately? Everything... as it should be?"
"She is still human," Samael answered. "Though tonight will end the purification ritual. You may watch, if you wish, as may your human."
"Kai?" Verchiel rubbed his neck uncomfortably, and glanced back to the boy. "Right."
Zhilan and Lin waited in Katelina's chambers. Samael motioned, and Katelina understood. They would take her to be prepared.
She glanced back to Verchiel, and beyond him to Kai. Though her memories of both were sketchy, it seemed wrong to see the boy in his company. He belonged to someone else, didn't he?
Belonged. Like a cat or a prized Chihuahua. She had a sense that should make her angry, but the emotion was impossible to find.
The women helped her bathe, then left her with Verchiel and Kai again. The redhead moved quickly to her side. "What in the hell is going on? You're going to let him turn you?"
"I...I don't know." Katelina sat down on a stool and put a hand to her head. "Sometimes it seems so...so logical and other times I know it's wrong but I don't remember why."
"Um, what about Jorick?"
His name was like a talisman and she nodded vigorously. "Yes. When I'm alone, sometimes I can remember him and then..."
"And then Samael's presence overpowers everything?"
"It's hard to hold on to anything when he's around. He said that will stop after..." but she couldn't finish the sentence. "Everything is so confusing." She looked to Kai again. Still human, he appeared about sixteen or seventeen. Shaggy blond hair fell in his face and obscured his eyes. Something still seemed wrong about seeing him there, and she tried to remember what it was. "Are you all right, Kai?"
The boy nodded and tugged at his wrinkled, dirty clothes.
"He needs a bath and some food," Verchiel said. "We've been traveling nearly non-stop for three days."
The boy might be slender, but he had to be heavy. "You carried him for three days?"
"No. He drove in the daytime. I had to stay in the trunk, of course. I'll give Sorino credit for training him, he didn't complain once."
Sorino. Of course. That was it. Kai belonged to Sorino, and usually the vampire kept him on a literal chain.
"Sorino let Kai go with you?"
"Not exactly. We hightailed it out of there before he noticed."
"And he hasn't caught you yet?"
"No, but he will. And I'll bet Jorick's with him, and whatever army he could raise on short notice. Things are likely to get complicated when he gets here."
Katelina rubbed her head. Jorick. Jorick was coming here.
"Of course he is," Verchiel said to her thoughts. "He's not going to let a vampire kidnap you and stay home with his feet up."
She started to comment on the intrusion, then remembered that Verchiel was a mind reader like Samael, only not as powerful. She was surrounded by them and sometimes she wished she was one too.
"If you let him turn you, you will be," Verchiel whispered. "You can't go through with it."
"I don't think I can tell him no." She felt suddenly hopeful. "You said Jorick was coming?" He was strong enough to stand up to the ancient vampire.
"I don't know how far behind Jorick is. He can't have left for at least a day after me, and he'll be slower. His reflexes aren't as good as mine, so he can't drive as fast, and if he has an army they won't be able to travel in the daylight like I did. It could be several days before he gets here."
"But Jorick will have Sorino, and he's a tracker. He'll find us faster than you did."
"Not any faster than Kai." Verchiel jerked his thumb towards the boy. "That whisper shtick isn't the only thing he's gained."
Whisperer? Of course. Katelina remembered how Kai had been able to send thoughts to her, and had even controlled a person once. Though still human, he'd had a lot of Sorino's blood over the years and had inherited weaker versions of Sorino's traits. Apparently that included Sorino's tracking abilities.
The conversation died when Zhilan and Lin bustled back into the room carrying hair brushes and accessories. They quickly twisted Katelina's hair into a complicated updo. When they finished, Samael appeared. He nodded to Verchiel and offered Katelina his arm.
She took it and allowed him to lead her outside. Their feet whispered over the stones as he led her out of the complex of buildings and down a winding path, over bridges, and finally past an island topped with an ornate building. She recognized it from a dream she'd had, though she couldn't remember when.
At last they stopped under a pagoda. An altar had been set up and draped in embroidered cloth. In the center sat a carved bowl and a pair of flickering candles. Ornate braziers burned on either side of it and threw long, misshapen shadows. What had Samael called it? The altar to the night god?
Several of the humans were grouped around. As Katelina approached, one hurried forward to place cushions on the ground. Katelina knelt on one without realizing it, and looked to Samael. He nodded and did the same on the pillow next to her. As he had the last two nights, he opened the ritual with sing-song syllables. The words thrummed in time to the chirp of the crickets, and she closed her eyes and disappeared in them. They spoke of cool evenings, violet shadows, and silvery moonbeams. It was a song to leave the sun behind and she felt as if she knew every word.
He stopped. The sudden silence seemed harsh. She turned her eyes on him. A command was on his face and she held out her arm. One of the men moved forward, a knife in his shaking hand. He gulped as he slid the blade over her skin.
The pain lasted only a moment before it faded into the peaceful oblivion she'd grown used to. The man held a bowl under her arm to collect a few drops of blood, then pressed a rag to the cut and turned to Samael. Katelina absently held the cloth to her wound, her attention riveted as the trembling man did the same to the ancient vampire.
He stirred the drops together with the knife, then deposited the bowl on the altar and stepped away. Samael raised his hands and spoke again in the sing song voice, calling on the night god to bless the ritual.
Katelina felt eyes bore into her head. She looked over her shoulder to see Verchiel. He leaned against one of the pagoda's pillars, his coat open and his hand on the hilt of his sword. There was a message in his hard expression, but she didn't understand it.
The name was forced into her thoughts, and she winced at the empty ache that came with it. Jorick. Yes. She needed to remember. She needed to...
The thoughts fled when Samael turned towards her. She knew without knowing what came next. He would drain her, then he would feed her his blood and she would change. No longer human, but immortal. A god like he was. A vampire.
He leaned close, his lips parted. She could see his fangs glitter in the firelight. She felt the scrape of his teeth on her skin, the tickle of his breath.
Somewhere in the back of her mind a voice screamed. This was wrong. This wasn't the way it was supposed to be. It wasn't supposed to be him!
Samael leaned back and touched her face. A thousand lightning bolts shot through her; not painful, but exquisite. "There is someone else you wish to take the gift from?"
She stared blankly and tried to think. Was there? Was there anyone else in the world besides Samael and his dark gleaming eyes and perfect skin? Could there ever be anyone else?
The name was forced between the sandwich of her confused thoughts. Jorick.
Samael nodded and drew back. Though he didn't look at Verchiel, Katelina knew his next words were directed at him. "You need not take her by force. If that is her desire, so be it. What I offer is a gift, not a prison."
Verchiel slowly released his sword but he didn't relax.
Samael stood in an elegant sweep and offered Katelina his hand. She took it, and even after he'd let go she stared at her fingers.
Samael made a noise in his throat and her eyes snapped to his face. "Go to him if you wish. But remember my warning. A lover will only betray you."
He motioned to the humans and they extinguished the flickering candles. "You may stay or go as you please. Should you choose to return you will always be welcome." Then he turned and seemed to float away into the night.
Katelina stared after him as Verchiel moved to her side. "What happened?"
"We're leaving." The redhead glanced back to Kai. "Sorry, no time for a bath."
She couldn't concentrate on the conversation. She didn't understand why Samael had gone. What about the ceremony? "
Katelina returned to her rooms to find a ziplock baggy of odd items and her old clothes laid out on the bed. The shirt had holes in the shoulder and back, and the jeans had the knee torn out.
"At least they're clean," Verchiel joked as he fingered the denim. His eyes lit up and he snatched the bra up. "Whoo hoo. Black underwear. I knew you were the saucy type."
She jerked the undergarment away from him and tried to focus. She needed to get dressed and then...
"You can change later." Verchiel stuffed the baggie in his pocket, then grabbed the corners of the blanket and tied them to form a sack. "We need to go before he changes his mind."
He pressed the bundle on Kai, then led them out onto the courtyard.
"It's nice here," Katelina said absently. She wondered if she should stay. Though she couldn't remember the world outside, she knew it was hectic and bloody. Did she want to go back to that when she could live surrounded by tranquility and gently lapping lakes?
"There are a lot of other nice places." Verchiel dragged her forward. She stopped again to gaze towards a roofed walkway. With a sigh of impatience, Verchiel scooped her up and carried her to the wall. He hopped up and over it, and deposited her on the other side.
"I'll be right back. Don't move."
He returned in an instant, Kai clinging to his back. He dropped the boy to his feet and motioned them to follow.
A brightly lit town was nestled up nearly to the walls of the complex. Verchiel led them through what might have been a parking lot. They joined the street near a set of gates that led into Samael's domain. On this side, giant metal doors were securely fastened and padlocked. Barricades were covered in brightly colored caution tape and signs. Though most of the languages meant nothing to Katelina, both the English "Warning" and the pictures that hinted at some kind of gas leak sent a clear message.
"I guess they have to tell people something," Verchiel said. "They can't exactly say 'mad, ancient vampire has taken over'. Now come on, let's get you two fed and get as far away as we can before dawn."
Katelina followed, though her eyes were pulled back to the gate and the high wall. She could feel the peace ebbing away with every step. Some part of her didn't want to let it go. She knew what was out there, waiting for her in the world, and didn't want to face it.
Her steps slowed then stopped. Verchiel scooped her up again. She twisted in his arms until his violet eyes met hers. The world fell away in a moment of purple twilight. Soft and sweet like summer and watermelon, Katelina sank into his gaze amid dancing fireflies and promises of adventure. When she resurfaced she was seated at a table in a tightly packed café. People laughed and talked, dishes clinked, and bright lights gave the illusion of a haven from the darkness.
"What...?" She looked across the table to where Kai sat.
"You weren't cooperating," Verchiel said as he took the chair next to her.
"Cooperating?" She rubbed her aching head and tried to remember what was going on.
"Here." Verchiel handed her the Ziplock baggy from her bedroom. She tugged it open to find a full disposable camera, a bottle of nail polish, a compact, a tube of Chap Stick, a toothbrush, and a worn metal cross.
She turned the pendant over in her hand. It was Velnya's cross, the last relic of Jorick's first wife, a vampiress who'd been burned to death by Nebraskan settlers as a witch. A clever manipulation created by Jorick's master Malick to punish him for wanting a life.
The name conjured a tremor of fear that left Katelina gripping the cross like a good luck totem. The final scenes of the battle came back to her. Malick appeared and filled the air with a horrific thrumming, so loud that she thought her eardrums might explode and then-
"And then Jorick cut off his hand," Verchiel said. "And Malick activated the kill switch he put in your mind."
"Kill switch?" She remembered Verchiel telling her about that once.
"It's like brainwashing, where they embed this horrible action and a trigger. Trigger happens and - boom! - the brainwashee goes nuts, kills everyone in sight."
"But I didn't kill everyone."
"Nope. It turned out Malick meant for you to kill yourself. I guess you never can tell with the old geezer. That's when Samael showed up. He's more powerful than Malick, since he has a few thousand years on him, so he removed what Malick had implanted in your mind, then grabbed you and took off."
"To reward me," she murmured.
"If that's what he's calling it." A waiter walked past and Verchiel motioned to him. "I suppose Samael isn't really a bad guy, but he caused a lot of problems with the grand exit."
The waiter bowed and after Verchiel ordered he hurried away. Katelina toyed with a bottle of soy sauce. "I don't understand. When did Malick implant the kill switch?"
"When he broke into the stronghold in Munich, looking for the Heart of the Raven, remember? He buried the switch pretty deep and no one noticed it until after you'd woken Samael up. We just assumed it was Samael's handiwork. I mean, how were we supposed to know that it would look like a door? It's not like I've ever come across one, and I doubt Jorick has either."
"Jorick." His name left an empty ache where her heart belonged. She wanted to hide in the safety of his arms. Then nothing would matter. Not Samael, not Malick, not half forgotten memories of bloody battles.
"He's on his way. Probably with half the world if he can manage it. He's going to be mad when he finds us because I rescued you. Only, I don't suppose it was much of a rescue since Samael let us go. Still you know how Jorick likes to be the hero."
She nodded absently and closed her eyes against the conversations drifting around them. The atmosphere was too loud and too organic. "If we've just escaped, why did we stop for dinner?"
"Because you're hungry, and Kai's hungry." He jerked his thumb at the silent boy across the table. "And I thought you'd enjoy spending time with your own kind for a change."
Katelina looked from person to person, and shook her head. "I don't have anything in common with them."
"I know they're speaking Chinese, but come on, people are people."
"That's not what I mean." Most of them were younger than she was and smelled of alcohol. Though she didn't understand their words she had a vague sense of their meaning. They spoke of dates, cars, houses, children, work, and vacations. They had never seen the gaping, fanged mouth of darkness waiting to swallow them, never counted their last moments on their fingers, never listened to the screams of the dying, or the whimpers of the damned. They'd never seen children burned to death, or lovers commit suicide, or watched as someone's legs and arms were ripped from their body in a spray of crimson. They worked, they shopped, they cooked, laughed, watched TV, and talked of old times and even older wars with the reverence reserved for fairytales. They knew nothing.
She'd been that way once, though it seemed an eternity ago. She'd worked at the newspaper as a glorified gopher. She'd made coffee, fetched things, taken phone calls sometimes. Once in a while she'd accompanied Jim, the photographer, to local sporting events or parades. When she was off work she'd watched TV, hung out at the bar where her best friend's boyfriend worked, visited her crazy mother, and secretly worried about her bizarre love life. Then the vampires had come crashing into her world and everything had changed. She lost her job and her apartment. Her best friend was dead and her mother... God her mother had no idea. She thought Katelina had run away with a hippy bum. As if Jorick even looked like a hippy.
"He has the long hair for it," Verchiel quipped.
Katelina glanced at him sharply. "Wait a minute. Your mind reading is only supposed to work when you're stressed out."
"All this delicious, fresh blood." He motioned around the restaurant. "And here I am, having to behave. If you don't think that's stressful..."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever you say." She dismissed him with a motion and looked back to the diners. When she first met Jorick, he'd told her that finding out about vampires might change her perception of the world. He was wrong. It wasn't her perceptions that had changed, but herself. And thanks to all the vampire blood she'd had, she wasn't sure she was even human anymore. She drank from Jorick when they made love. She'd drained Kateesha's heart when she'd killed her. She'd even drank from Verchiel once during a misunderstanding. Then Samael had given her his blood and things had really changed. It wasn't just the word "tainted" that the Kugsankal in Munich used, she could feel it, and every day she felt it more. Just as she could almost understand what the people in the restaurant said without knowing their language. What was it? A kind of low level mind reading that only worked on weaker minds?
Weaker. As if humans were less than vampires; less than she was. And they were. With a sad sense of finality she realized that she wasn't one of them anymore and it was too late to go back. She was in a place apart from humanity, and from there on she would only drift farther away.
By the time she and Kai finished eating, Samael and her time at the ancient palace seemed like a blurry dream. It was only the musty robe and exotic locale that proved it had been real.
Verchiel led them out of the restaurant, to a tiny pink car that looked more suited to a Barbie doll than a vampire.
"I stole it." He shrugged. "It was the only one with an empty trunk, but you should see the gadgets. The dashboard has everything, even a happy face that gets sad when it's low on gas. Check it out."
With a resigned sigh, she slipped into the tiny passenger seat. She wasn't tall, but she still couldn't straighten her legs, and she wasn't sure what to do with her elbows.
Kai silently crammed his way into the so-called backseat. Verchiel hopped in behind the wheel. The car started with a near silent purr, and the dash glittered with multicolored lights and displays. It was like being in a UFO designed for midgets.
The traffic was as insane as the vehicle. Half the cars didn't bother with headlights. Those that did left their high beams on. Verchiel weaved and bobbed through the other vehicles, and Katelina clutched the door to keep from flying around. Finally, fearing for her life, she put on her bright pink seat belt.
"They all drive like this." Verchiel nodded towards the road. "And the bicyclists should start popping up again soon."
"Great." She punched buttons on the dash in an effort to quiet the Chinese pop music blaring over the radio. "Make this thing shut up!"
"Okay, okay, geeze." With a couple of clicks silence fell.
"Thank you." She shifted and tried to find something to do with her arm. "I thought Jorick was coming. Aren't we going to meet him?"
"That would be ideal. But..."
"He doesn't have a phone. That's why we're heading back to Indonesia. From there we can probably contact him or someone who's with him. Trust me. It will be fine."
Jorick's lack of a phone was an annoyance. Other vampires had them, like Sorino - Sorino! "Just call Sorino! He has a phone. If he's with Jorick we can tell them where we are."
Verchiel hesitated. "We can try, but we'll have to wait until we find a motel. My phone died a long time ago. Plus, I'm not sure I can use it in China."
She nodded her understanding. The silence stretched and Verchiel reached past her to pop open the glove box. "There's a magazine if you're bored."
She fished it out and turned the shiny pages. Crammed with Chinese characters and loud colored pictures, she had no idea what any of it was about. Then she flipped to the middle and stopped. A young woman lay in a dark puddle, her black hair fanned around her head, and her throat gaping open.
Verchiel glanced at the photo. "That's a murder. Her husband slit her throat because he thought she was cheating on him. Here." He turned several pages to a spread of girls in dresses. "The clothes are more up your alley."
"You can read Chinese?"
"Sure, and I can speak a little of it. You pick up a lot of things over the years."
She stuffed the magazine back in the glove box. Kai snored softly in the back and she thought about everything that had happened. The battle was her last reference point, but before that they'd been in the jungle with the Black Vigil, a secret organization of vampires whose sole purpose was to wipe out The Children of Shadows. With the fight over, and the Children of Shadows destroyed, Katelina wondered what the Black Vigil would do now.
"The Children of Shadows aren't destroyed. I imagine most of the survivors were taken prisoner, but some of them probably escaped. "
"If I made it out don't you think they did?"
She nodded absently and wondered who else had made it out.
The in-dash clock said four a.m. when they hit the outskirts of a city. The traffic was thick, and the promised bicyclers appeared in droves. Katelina was relieved when Verchiel finally parked the car and let them walk the six blocks back to the glittering hotel. He paid with his Guild issued credit card, and came back with a single room key.
"We're sharing?" she asked dubiously.
He leaned close and whispered, "In case you forgot we just rescued you from an ancient vampire who might change his mind."
The thought sent a shiver down her spine. "If he does can you stop him?"
"We'll make a good try of it, right, Kai?" Verchiel nudged the boy and grinned.
Kai's only answer was to peer between his shaggy bangs.
The room had two large beds and scattered furniture. Verchiel dropped her makeshift sack of clothes on a stand and motioned Kai to the phone. It took them several tries to dial out, and then Sorino answered on the second ring. Though the receiver was pressed to Kai's ear, Katelina leaned close enough to hear the vampire.
"Master," Kai replied.
There was a pause, then, "You can tell them we're in Bijie, not that it will mean anything."
Kai looked up to deliver the message. Verchiel motioned him to silence and asked, "How far is that?"
Sorino could obviously hear Verchiel as well. "I believe you could manage the trip in twenty hours, if Kai drives most of it. If you stop to rest, then two days or more. The choice is yours on how to proceed. In the meantime, we will wait for you here." His tone became annoyed. "Jorick demands to speak to his human."
Katelina was suddenly nervous. He'd told her that the stuff with Samael didn't matter, but that was before she'd been carted off alone with him for days. Would he still feel that way?
Kai held the phone out. When she didn't take it, Verchiel forced it on her. She licked her suddenly dry lips and found her voice. "Hello?"
The answer was an equal measure of relief and worry. "Katelina! Has anyone...did he...are you all right?"
Warmth spread through her at the sound of his voice. "I'm fine."
"Thank God." He took a deep, ragged breath. "I've been...I was...God, Katelina, I've been scared to death." She imagined him closing his eyes and trying to find his usual calm. "Samael didn't...?"
There were so many meanings to that question, and she tried to answer them all. "No. He didn't lay a hand on me, and he didn't turn me." She decided to keep the rituals to herself for the time being. "He let us go. He said immortality was a gift, not a prison, and if I wanted it from someone else then that was fine."
Jorick took another calming breath. It did little to relieve the agitation in his voice. "I was coming as fast as I could. We left three nights ago. I wanted to leave immediately but the sun-"
"I know. You had to wait for the sun to go down because you didn't have a human to drive. It's all right."
"No, it isn't. I should have gotten there first. I should be there now." He took another shaking breath. When he spoke again his tone was bitter. "The redheaded idiot is there, isn't he?"
"And has he-"
She cut him off. "He hasn't done anything, except get me out of there. I swear, everything's fine."
"Put him on."
She hesitated, then handed the phone over. "Hello!" Verchiel chirped into the receiver. "You're welcome."
She could hear Jorick's deep, growling voice, "Don't. I swear to God, the devil, and everything in heaven, earth, and the nine levels of Hell that if you lay one hand on her I will make you suffer for the rest of eternity, do you understand?"
"Oh, I think that's pretty plain." Verchiel's smile disappeared. He turned away and dropped his voice but Katelina could still hear him. "What do you think I'm going to do to her? Ravage her against the wall?"
Jorick growled. "Among other things."
It took Verchiel a moment to answer. "If I wanted to claim her I would have done it already. I could, but I haven't."
"And you won't, or it will be the last thing you do."
Verchiel's smile was back, and the serious tone disappeared. "You make it sound like a challenge. Luckily I'm not in the market for a human. Having to drag two of them around would curb anyone's enthusiasm."
Before Jorick could reply he shoved the phone at Katelina again. "Better tell your sweet princey-poo nighty-night before his head explodes."
"Jorick?" She watched Verchiel flop on the bed, his hands behind his head and his expression careless.
"I swear Katelina, if he does anything..."
"He isn't going to. I know you don't trust him because you can't read his mind, but he's right. If he was going to do something he'd have already done it. We'll talk about it later. Right now I just miss you."
He grumbled, but the angry tones changed to regret and longing. "I miss you too, little one. As soon as the sun is down we'll head out and meet you halfway."
"I don't think Sorino plans-"
"Then he can stay," Jorick said firmly. "Now that I know where you are I don't need the rest of them. I can travel by myself. It will be faster. I'll see you tomorrow."
Though she knew it would mean an argument among the vampires, the idea of seeing him that soon made her smile. "All right. Tomorrow. I love you."
"I love you, too. Rest well, little one."
Her throat tightened. "Good night."
She hated to hang up, but there was nothing to say that couldn't wait.
Kai was already in the bathroom with the shower running, so she perched on the edge of the bed and watched as Verchiel flipped through television channels. Finally, she cleared her throat. "I'm sorry. About Jorick. He doesn't mean to be an ass."
"I know." He clicked the remote again. "He's just worried about you."
Despite his words the truth hung between them. Jorick was more than worried; Jorick was jealous and had been since she'd first met the redhead.
With nothing else to say, she announced, "I think I'm gonna try to get some sleep. Have a good night."
She slipped under the covers and tried to beat the pillow into something comfortable. As she settled down, she heard Verchiel chirp, "You too. Sweet dreams."
She was sure her dreams would be anything but sweet.
Katelina woke the next evening to the rattle of a news program in Chinese. Verchiel was missing and Kai sat on the other bed, already dressed and watching the TV. She took a quick shower with the tiny provided soap and shampoo packets. When she was dry she realized she had no brush, so she used one of the ornate hair combs to comb her long blonde hair. The results were rough but better than nothing.
She opened the makeshift bag and pulled on her ruined clothes. The holes in her shirt corresponded to the wounds on her shoulder and her back, and the hole in her jeans revealed the darkest of her bruises. Still, the normal clothes made everything seem a little less odd. She started to leave the embroidered blanket and robe crumpled on the floor, but they were pretty, so she snatched them up, and grabbed the hair combs as an afterthought.
She found Verchiel returned and cheerful. "Sorry, I was feeding."
She wrinkled her nose. "Do you guys always have to call it that? Couldn't you just say 'eat'?"
"But we're not eating. Technically we're drinking, but if I say 'sorry, I was out having a drink', I sound like an alcoholic."
"I'm sure you could come up with something less offensive if you tried."
"It's only offensive to you." His grin broadened. "Come on, we better get going before you and Jorick die of separation anxiety."
After a quick meal at the hotel restaurant, they started the six block walk to the parking lot. The night was crisp and smelled like car exhaust. Katelina thought about seeing Jorick and her heart skipped a beat. The dream she'd had at the palace returned and she flushed.
Despite the bustle of the city, the parking lot felt eerily empty. The hair stood up on the back of Katelina's neck. Verchiel slipped his hand in his coat, and she knew he was readying his sword.
Like the vampires always did, she sniffed the air, but found nothing. Verchiel did the same. What he smelled left creases across his forehead. He drew his sword and fell into a stance in front of her. Before she could ask what was going on, a figure seemed to materialize in their path. Blond hair settled on his shoulders, as if he'd just come to a stop. His long black coat fell around his body. In his hand was a sword with a heavily serrated edge and around his neck hung a golden eye medallion. It was Arlen, one of Malick's lackeys.
With a fanged smile he nodded to them. "Thanks for saving me the effort of fighting Samael for the human. If it's all the same to you, I'll take her now."