Bleeding Hearts Page 40

“Shit.” Dad jerked the wheel and we skidded sideways. One of the Hel-Blar flew off into the bushes. The other one didn’t. I saw the gleam of his teeth. Gandhi was snarling and barking, spittle hitting the glass. Mom hit the door locks just as another one came at us from the side.

There were too many of them. I’d never seen so many. Usually there were two or three, just as busy snarling at each other as at their prey. Knowing an epidemic existed was different from being inside the maelstrom of it. Even through the thick glass, the car fumes, and dog breath, I smelled faint rot and mildew, like moldy dirt.

One of them had blood on her chin. And they all wore those copper collars.

“They’ve been feeding,” I said slowly, peering into the shadows. Blood and hunger maddened them, turning them even more vicious. Sometimes, bloated with blood, they stayed in the woods and didn’t bother anyone.

These weren’t bloated.

Yet.

I’d thought about becoming a vampire before, of course. It might be cool.

You know, later.

But not a Hel-Blar. I had no intention of spending eternity smelling like that.

Time seemed to slow, and thanks to growing up with Helena and hanging out with Hunter, I found myself making an inventory of the weapons within reach. I had a stake in my coat pocket; there was a wire hanger under Mom’s seat and a pen in the cup holder. The truck, Gandhi, sunrise. We could use any of those if we had to. I wished I had my crossbow. It was in Mom’s car, useless in the Drakes’ driveway. I really had to remember to keep everything in my knapsack from now on.

Mom reached back to grip my hand but I didn’t need the comfort. I needed my hands free to fight.

“It’s okay, Mom,” I said. “We’ll be all right.”

Dad kept backing up and then going forward again, back and forth, back and forth, knocking as many down as he could. Every so often he would swing to one side to throw them off balance. A blue hand slapped the window near my face, then tumbled away. A Hel-Blar landed on the roof. The thump of his boots over our heads made Gandhi bark so loudly my ears rang. I gripped my stake tighter and reached for the sunroof.

Mom’s hold tightened painfully. “Lucky Moon, sit back down.”

“Mom, I can get him,” I argued, balancing on the balls of my feet. “I know how.”

“No! Stay here.”

“Didn’t I say you were grounded?” Dad snapped. “So ground. Sit. Now!”

The Hel-Blar scratched at the roof, making angry, hungry, guttural sounds, like a rabid bear digging for grubs. I had no intention of sitting pale and plump under a rock.

“Dad.”

“No.”

Gandhi tried to bite at the roof. Mom yanked on my arm and I landed back on the seat, glowering. “The Drakes are on their way. Look.”

Behind the blue faces gnashing their sharp teeth at us, in the very thickets of shadows, I saw a pale gleam. If I hadn’t known what to look for, I would have thought it a trick of the light, the moon on water. Only vampires had skin that pale, and only vampires could move so fast, like paint colors smearing across a dark canvas. They were nearly as fast as Bruno and his detail roaring toward us in their trucks.

The Hel-Blar on the roof fell screaming into the road, a crossbow bolt in his chest. He writhed there for a moment before a second bolt joined the first, this one hitting his heart dead center. He went to ashes. The other Hel-Blar stopped, snarled, and backed away. They didn’t flee, just hesitated. We were frozen in a strange, violent dance.

The Drakes only bothered fighting the ones that got in their way. Helena dispatched two with her sword; Quinn whipped a stake at one. The rest slipped between the Hel-Blar like deadly smoke until they ringed our truck protectively. I saw Isabeau with a small pack of dogs racing toward us between the trees. Nicholas landed by my window and shot me a glance, his eyes gray as a mountain storm. I reached for the handle.

“Lucky, if you roll down that window, I am sending you to a boarding school for delinquent girls,” Dad said severely. I didn’t know he could be that threatening—usually he was so laid back people accused him of being stoned.

I was pretty sure boarding school was an empty threat.

Still.

My hand dropped as Solange claimed the now-deserted roof, holding her favorite rapier. I could see her through the sunroof window, as graceful with her drawn sword as a demented ballerina. I envied her. She could fight for her family, next to her family. I was just supposed to sit here and be rescued.

The Hel-Blar with blood on her face licked her chin. Whether it was the smell of blood or something more subtle and intrinsic, it seemed to act as a signal. The rest of them shifted, ready to attack again.

“On the hill,” Solange said suddenly.

On the hilltop, crowned by the last bit of fading moonlight and the truck’s headlights, stood a woman. She was fairly short, her hair glowed red, and she was wearing a breastplate that looked as if it were carved from ice. She was tinted blue, like rare opals. She was utterly alone—no guards, no warriors, and certainly not Christabel or Connor.

She had to be Saga, from the ransom note.

Helena actually hissed, like a cobra kept too long in a basket.

Just as the Hel-Blar made to move toward us again, Saga lifted something to her lips and blew. A sharp, strange whistle shivered through the air. Nicholas and I looked at each other through the glass. It was the same whistle we’d heard on the beach.

And it had the same effect tonight as it had last night. The Hel-Blar jerked, screeching. They covered their ears, gnashed their teeth, and wailed. They didn’t take a single step closer to us. Saga blew again, three short bursts, and they all turned, reluctantly dragging themselves in her direction, leaning as if they were fighting against a winter wind. That whistle was more powerful than Hypnos powder, though it didn’t seem to affect anyone else, aside from being mildly unpleasant. Gandhi tilted his head curiously.

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