Bleeding Hearts Page 27

“I don’t think I should, Lucy.”

“I have nose plugs.” I kept a stash of them in my glove compartment for Nicholas. I reached over and flipped it open. I stopped. “In my car,” I amended. “I forgot I’m driving Mom’s. And—oh my God,” I muttered when a condom fell out onto the floor mat. “My mother is out of control.”

“Is that a condom?”

“Don’t even ask.” I slammed the glove compartment shut again. “And watch your stuff the next time you come over. She’ll totally sneak them into your coat and your bag.”

She blinked. “She’s doing with condoms what my mom does with stakes?”

“Definitely. Okay, back to the matter at hand.” I grinned. “You could stick your head out the window like the dog.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Come on, Sol. Don’t wimp out on me now—it’s still early. And you owe me.”

“Okay, okay.” She climbed onto the roof of the car and smirked at me through the sunroof. “But I’ll ride up here.”

I shrugged. “You’ll get wet.”

“Better that than bugs up my nose.”

“I doubt the cops will think so. And you’re so paying any reckless driving ticket I get.”

“We’ll stay on the property. Head to the end of the lane by the marshes. We can walk from there. It’s only half an hour or so.”

I started the engine. “Cool. Who are we spying on?”

“What makes you think we’re spying?”

“Please, all of our good slumber parties involve spying of some kind.”

“True.”

“So?”

“You’ll see.”

Gandhi wasn’t too proud to hang his head out the window and try to bite the wind as we rumbled down the dirt road. After about fifteen minutes it narrowed into a lane and then stopped altogether. There was a wall of pine trees in front of us and marshy wetlands on our left. I hopped out, pulling on my jacket and putting up the hood. Solange landed lightly and rose out of her crouch, smiling. She was totally showing off now.

“Yeah, yeah,” I grumbled at her good-naturedly. “Let’s go already.”

Pine needles crunched under my feet. The rain made everything sparkle but it was relatively dry under all the branches. The night glowed green and ferns swayed all around us. Gandhi trotted happily in front, stopping once to stick his entire head in a blackberry bush. Solange sniffed once, then frowned. She could probably smell moss growing now. An owl sang a soft, haunting song above us, brief and as old as the stars. It was a perfect autumn night.

You know, without the rotting severed blue hands dangling from the pines like deranged Christmas tree ornaments.

I gagged on the sudden waft of slimy mushrooms and stagnant pond water. I swallowed. “Okay, gross.”

Solange turned on her heel slowly, peering into the shadows. “I think we’re alone.” She sniffed once. “They don’t smell fresh.”

I tried not to throw up. “Seriously, who does that?” Hel-Blar were nasty, no question about it. They were even nastier dismembered. I backed away a few steps. “Helios-Ra?” I should reconsider my new self-defense classes.

Solange shook her head, decoding whatever it was she could see in the mud and the dried pine needles. “I don’t think so. There are virtually no tracks. Only vampires can move so fast they practically float.”

“Well, crap. Aren’t we on Drake land?”

“Not here, no. I’ll call it in.” She sighed at her phone. “No signal out here. I forgot. They chose the most secluded glade they could for the Blood Moon.”

“The Blood Moon?” I perked up, despite the macabre decorations around us. Humans were rare at a Blood Moon festival, and even then only when approved by a vampire tribe’s ruler. I’d already been told there was no way the Drakes were bringing me. “Are you serious? I didn’t think it was for another week at least.”

“They’ve been prepping since the date was set,” Solange said. “And some of the dignitaries have already begun to arrive from all over the world.”

“Okay, that’s freaking cool,” I confirmed. “You’re definitely forgiven. You can emo all you want.” I grimaced at the hands. “You might want new decorations, though. These aren’t exactly classy.”

“Someone’s killing Hel-Blar. They chop off their hands before they dust them so that everyone else knows about it,” Solange said. “Mom would say they’re a war trophy. And war trophies are a warning, especially when they’re displayed so obviously like this.”

“Also? Not very hygienic.” I couldn’t help but imagine them grabbing at me. “Can we get out of here?”

We hurried away while I tried to figure out how I was going to avoid nightmares tonight. I was really glad Christabel was safe at home, reading some boring book written two hundred years ago and hadn’t gone out on one of her hikes. I did that shudder-dance you do when you think there’s a spider crawling on you. I felt like there were about a hundred of them. Talk about having your Spidey sense tingle.

The rest of the walk was decidedly less picturesque. I couldn’t get my shoulders to untense, and I kept expecting to find more Hel-Blar body parts.

“Lucy, I can hear you grinding your teeth from here,” Solange whispered.

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