Bleeding Hearts Page 28

“I can’t help it. That was totally disgusting.”

“I know, but you’ll alert the—” She stopped as a vampire dropped out of a tree in front of us. “Guards,” she finished drily.

“Princess.” He nodded smartly. There was a row of stakes on his belt and on a strap across his chest. “No humans,” he said kindly to me.

I frowned. “That’s racist. Or species-ist, whatever.”

“No, just safer, little girl.”

His hair was long and white and there were crinkles around his eyes. He looked like somebody’s grandfather out of Braveheart.

Solange stepped close to him, closer than she usually stood near anyone.

“It’s all right,” Solange murmured. “You can rest for a while.”

He suddenly looked sleepy. He struggled not to close his eyes. Even though I was mostly immune to vampire pheromones, I found myself yawning. I plugged my nose. Gandhi whined.

Solange hadn’t been kidding when she said her pheromones were getting stronger. They weren’t supposed to work on other vampires. That was why the new Helios-Ra Hypnos drug was in such hot demand—it offered a temporary hypnotic effect on vampires.

But Solange clearly didn’t need any.

The guard sagged and Solange dragged him into a clump of cedars.

“Sol, doesn’t he work for your family?” I asked, noticing the royal crest on his shirt before the brush swallowed him. My voice came out nasally because I was still pinching my nose closed.

“Yeah, but he never would have let us sneak in. And you wanted to spy, didn’t you?” Solange shrugged. “Now we can.”

I knew he wasn’t hurt, but the way Solange was so cavalier about vamping him made my stomach feel like it were full of acid and insects.

“Let’s go,” she said impatiently.

I followed, trying to ignore the flutter of fear inside my chest.

But I knew she could hear it.

Chapter 11

Christabel

When I woke up, the man was still blue.

Which didn’t make sense at all.

But neither did the way everything was smearing together like a wet oil painting, or the antique gold quality to the light, thick with dust motes. Even the floor underneath my palms was faded wood, like something you’d find in a pioneer cabin, especially with the iron woodstove and kettle in the corner.

Clearly I’d read so much historical fiction I’d made myself crazy.

Except I couldn’t think of a single historical time period, or even a novel for that matter, with blue-skinned people.

And really, instead of running through the index of literary trivia in my head (Jane Eyre, red room; Crime and Punishment, yellow as an unlucky color …), I should have been focusing on the fact that someone had drugged me and kidnapped me. Nothing else explained the hallucinations or the weird white powder. I wondered again, horrified, if it were anthrax. Wasn’t that supposed to be a white powder? But who the hell roamed tiny hick towns dosing unsuspecting girls with anthrax? And didn’t it have something to do with cows?

I recited some of Alfred Noyes’s “The Highwayman” to calm myself. “ ‘They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead, But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed; Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side! There was death at every window—’ ”

Nope, definitely not calming right now.

I fumbled for my cell phone, dialing 911 before my eyes focused enough to see that I didn’t have a signal. Of course.

I would have cried but my head hurt like the very devil. That line sounded vaguely familiar, like it was from an old book. Pride and Prejudice, maybe. That was comforting. Less comforting was that I couldn’t remember which book it was from. I always remembered stuff like that. I was proud of my reserve of literary and historical details, even if it hadn’t proven particularly useful so far. It certainly hadn’t saved me from getting abducted.

I shut my eyes again, hearing movement. Fear made me feel fuzzy and blurry inside, as if I were filled with air instead of blood and bone. I clamped my jaws down on a mew of panic when footsteps sounded. My eyelids fluttered, trying to open even as I forced them to stay closed. It didn’t make the fear any less acidic in my mouth; I hurt all over with the need to see. But I wanted to be left alone even more. I hoped, vainly, that if the blue man thought I was still unconscious, he’d leave. Then I could figure out how to escape.

“You needn’t bother,” he said softly, much closer than I’d thought he was. “I can hear your pulse, child, and I know you’re awake.”

I didn’t know what to do. He might be testing me, just to see if I was conscious yet. I smelled something like wet earth. It was impossible not to think about dank, dark dungeons. My chest burned as I tried not to gasp or scream or give myself away.

“You’ll want to breathe,” he added calmly, as if he were offering me tea and crumpets. “If you don’t want to swoon.”

I opened my eyes, but only because he used the word “swoon.” It was old-fashioned, out of a Victorian novel.

He wasn’t.

He wore a cream-colored linen shirt, old jeans, and a wampum belt that he must have stolen from some museum. His hair was long and brown and tied back with a piece of rawhide. He might have been handsome, if he weren’t a psychopath.

And very faintly blue.

Also, we were in a one-room cabin with wooden walls shrunken with age. There were shelves of old bottles and a layer of dust as thick as icing on a cake. I rubbed my eyes, even though moving my arms felt like lifting bricks and boulders wrapped in wet cement. No amount of retina friction changed the fact that he was blue. And his eyes were really bloodshot.

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