Bleeding Hearts Page 2

“Solange, down!” I yelled, even as the vampire she was talking to knocked her back, covering her with his body. Quinn rushed at them. I grabbed a stake to try to throw the arrow off its trajectory.

There were assassins somewhere on the planet not currently gunning for my mother or my baby sister, but they were probably very lonely.

The arrow thunked into a tree. The paper wrapped around the shaft unraveled, fluttering like moth wings.

It wasn’t meant for Solange, after all.

It didn’t matter.

The woman was dust and ash, with only a thin dress and a yew-wood bow left lying in the grass to show she’d ever existed. Even the odd smell of rich soil was gone, taken by the cold mountain wind. A crossbow bolt, painted the red of all Chandramaa weapons, had pierced her heart even as her messenger’s arrow bit through tree bark. She never had a chance.

There was a moment of silence, followed by the eerie sound of vampires moving too fast, like bat wings. Fangs and swords and even a katana flashed. Solange was pulled to her feet by the black-haired stranger. His hand passed over her shoulder with a familiarity I didn’t like. There was a crowd gathering between us.

“Hey now,” Quinn said darkly, tilting his head to see around a guard built like a bull on steroids. “What’s that about?”

A woman wearing the royal crest snatched the paper off the arrow, skimming the message. “It’s for Helena.”

Quinn and I both froze, then turned slowly to look at her. Solange did the same across the way.

“A tribe wants a seat at the Blood Moon council. It’s signed by Saga.”

“Who the hell’s Saga?” Quinn demanded.

There were a lot of shrugs and curious stares.

“Mom doesn’t choose who sits on the council,” I added. “We didn’t even call the Blood Moon.” No one knew who called them; they just happened every hundred years or so. I held out my hand. “Give me the message. We’ll get it to her.”

I tucked it into the inside pocket of my coat, next to an ebony stake I’d found in a family chest in the attic. The crowd dispersed, muttering and shooting us dark looks. A few hovered, hoping for more drama. Don’t let the emo brooding vampires fool you; most vampires love gossip and melodrama as much as blood. The older they are, they more they seem to crave it. Which only partly explained why my life seemed to resemble a soap opera lately, and not even the sci-fi space opera type, which might have been cool.

The black-haired stranger murmured something in Solange’s ear before walking away. We still hadn’t glimpsed his face, but we knew he was a vampire. He’d moved to block Solange faster than any human could have.

“Who was that, Solange?” Quinn asked as she approached us. For all his wild oats, Quinn has a puritanical streak when it comes to our sister. We all do.

“His name’s Constantine.”

“And?”

“And nothing.”

“What about Kieran?” I demanded.

She rolled her eyes. “I was talking to the guy, not pole dancing for him.”

We both winced. I actually put a hand over my eyes in self-defense. “Don’t ever say that again.”

She just laughed. “Let’s go.”

She had her own bike waiting on the other side of the trees. It took us just over half an hour to get back to the farmhouse and Mom was already on the porch when we got there, fangs out. Dad was on the bench drinking brandy. He drank brandy only when he was trying not to fly into a fit. Mom never bothered to stop herself. They reached us before we’d even gotten off our bikes, the dogs circling, tails wagging.

“We got a call. Someone shot at you?” Mom had Solange by the shoulders, looking her over.

Solange squirmed. “Mom, I’m fine.”

“It was a message arrow,” I added quickly, taking the paper out of my pocket and handing it to Mom. “It was never meant for Solange.”

“Oh,” Mom said.

“Mom?” Solange said.

“Yes, honey?”

“Ouch.”

Mom let her go. “Sorry.” She half smiled. “We were worried.”

Dad ran a hand over Solange’s hair, also smiling. “It’s encouraging to know you can go a whole night without getting shot at.”

She snorted. “Makes for a nice change. You know what else would be nice?”

“What?”

“Since I already have, like, three guards tailing me all the time, not also having my brothers hovering everywhere I go would be a treat.”

Quinn and I gave identical snorts.

“No deal,” Dad added mildly. “Let’s get inside.”

We went to the kitchen, where Uncle Geoffrey and Marcus were helping Bruno unpack a new shipment of blood. The blood was stored in various refrigerators and some of it was transferred to plastic water bottles before being redistributed. The coppery smell permeated the house. My fangs poked out of my gums a little. It was like being inside a bakery while they baked every kind of cake imaginable.

Mom and Dad sat at the table and unfolded the note. Mom frowned. “Who the hell’s Saga?” she demanded.

Uncle Geoffrey glanced at Solange. “How are you feeling?”

“Fine.” She smiled without showing her extra fangs. Her irises were rimmed with red and fanned with veins like rays of sunlight.

“You look a little pale.” He tossed her a bottle of blood. “Drink up.”

She took the bottle with a sigh.

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