Bleeding Hearts Page 35

Saga sighed. Her hair was just red enough against her blue skin to be distracting, nearly the exact hues of sunset over the ocean. “I’ll see to them.”

She paused long enough for Aidan to kiss her so thoroughly and so hotly that I looked away. Old people making out. Hadn’t I suffered enough?

She stalked away, trailing a ragged hem and the smell of wet earth and crushed leaves under a hint of lavender and rum. Aidan watched her go, smiling a little before turning his attention to me. I was casting wild glances around, trying to figure out how to escape.

“You’ll never outrun us,” Aidan said. “But you don’t believe that, do you? Look around, Christabel. There’s nowhere to go.”

It was an old building, suited to candles and kettles. The walls were gray with age and there was a wooden sign hanging from a broken chain reading “Apothecary.” The road was packed dirt, with more buildings across the way. There was a general store, a saloon, and a few houses with sagging fences around kitchen gardens. A post ran along the porches, to tie up horses. All that was missing was a stagecoach.

I’d been kidnapped, drugged, and dumped in an old western movie?

I grabbed my head. “Where am I?”

“Frontier town, been here for three centuries at least,” Aidan answered. “It was abandoned after the Gold Rush. That was something to see, I don’t mind telling you.” He sounded oddly nostalgic, as if he really had been here over a hundred years ago.

“How long was I out?” I asked.

“Just an hour or so.”

This was the weirdest kidnapping ever. I searched for hidden cameras. “Is this a TV show? Like, some historical practical joke thing?”

“No, Christabel.”

I rubbed my arms for warmth. The rain was turning to snow. “Then what? Because I don’t believe in vampires.”

“You will,” he said calmly. “But until then, take a good look. Nothing but mountains behind those buildings, and everywhere else is forest. If you make a run for it, you’ll be lost for hours—days even. You’re more likely to get eaten by a cougar than you are to find your way back to town.” His lips twitched bleakly. “And there are other monsters out there, worse than us, as you’ve seen. You don’t want to go up against a Hel-Blar alone. So do yourself a favor and stay put.”

“Is that what that thing was?”

He nodded. “Aye, the worst of the worst.”

“I don’t understand,” I said finally. “Are you waiting for a ransom?” I didn’t know if I should tell him that my mother was in rehab and my uncle was far from rich. Unless they wanted a ransom of homemade pickles and free snow removal, Uncle Stuart wasn’t solvent enough for a million dollars in unmarked bills, or whatever it was kidnappers in movies usually demanded.

“No. We don’t want money.”

“Then what?”

“It’s politics. We want a seat on the council. We want to be recognized and buy safety for our kin.”

I had no idea what any of that meant but I nodded anyway. “None of my family is in politics.”

“No, but the Drakes are,” he said. “Royalty, aren’t they?”

If Nicholas was a prince, I guarantee Lucy would have teased him about it mercilessly. And I had a hard time picturing Connor wearing a crown. Carrying a ray gun, sure, but not a crown. But it was probably bad form to correct your abductor. I wondered whether he’d let me go if I threw up on him. I shivered, crossing my arms tighter over my chest. My jacket was barely keeping out the cold, but I felt better out here. Less like a prisoner. I’d take hypothermia over being locked up.

I should probably pretend he wasn’t insane. Keep him talking. Isn’t that what they did in stories? I was so going to have to read more spy novels when I got out of here; historical fiction and poetry just weren’t helping me enough right now.

“Why are you kind of … blue?” I asked. Because obviously it wasn’t a hallucination. Maybe it was some type of gang tattoo.

“Hel-Blar are different from the other vampires,” he explained. He was wearing a beaded leather pouch around his neck. “Any vampire can become one of them, if they’re starved long enough or are infected. The blue is a side effect of too much blood after not enough.”

I swallowed. “Oh.” I didn’t ask about his teeth. Clearly he had an insane dentist in this insane ghost town.

He smiled, even though I hadn’t mentioned it out loud. “The teeth help us feed. The deeper the starvation, the more teeth. Another side effect.”

I so didn’t want the details. I smiled weakly and edged away.

“This would’ve been much easier if you’d been Lucky.”

I froze, narrowing my eyes. “You stay away from her.”

He shrugged pragmatically. “Can’t.” He took a small cheroot cigar out of his pocket and lit the end. The smoke curled lazily into the cold air. He slanted me a glance. “You’re getting nervous again. I can hear your heart flinging itself around in your chest.”

I tried to take a deep breath.

“You’re safe,” he said. “The Drakes will buy you back, and eventually we’ll let them.”

My breath clogged in my throat. The Drakes barely knew me.

“Shame this place was left to rot,” he said conversationally. “It sure was something, even before the gold diggers came and panned the streams. Fool’s gold mostly, and some shiny stones, nothing worth all the fuss. But no one wanted to believe it.” The tip of his cigar glowed red for a moment. “Even before the town, this place was beautiful. Reminds me of home.”

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