"He's not come to trial yet?"

"No," Stefan sipped at his tea, which he had requested. I hadn't known vampires could drink tea. "How's the ankle?"

I made a rude noise. "My ankle is fine." Which wasn't strictly true, but I wasn't going to let him change the subject. "It took them only a day to bring you to trial and it's been two weeks for Andre."

"Weeks that Andre spends in the cells beneath the seethe," Stefan said mildly. "He's not out vacationing. As for how long it is taking, I'm afraid that is my fault. I've been in Chicago to see what I can ferret out about Andre's activities there. To make sure that Littleton was the only person he managed to turn."

"I thought Andre didn't have enough control to turn his people into vampires."

Stefan set his tea on the table and gave me an interested look. "Rachel said you'd been over to visit. I hadn't realized how much you learned."

I rolled my eyes at him. "I grew up with werewolves, Stefan, intimidation isn't going to work. Tell me how Andre managed to turn a sorcerer when he can't turn one of his minions."

His face lit up in one of his generous smiles. "I don't know. I'll tell you what I do know. Cory Littleton has been flirting with evil since he was a very young boy. His apartment in Chicago  -  which Andre has paid for up until next December-had a secret room I sniffed out. It was full of interesting things like black wax candles and books on ancient ceremonies that would have been best left uncatalogued. I burned them, and the notebooks he kept his journals in-written in mirror writing of all things. At least it wasn't in Greek."

"Does Andre know how Littleton became a sorcerer? Could he make more of them?" asked Samuel, his sleep-roughened voice emerging from the hallway.

"Hello, Samuel," Stefan said. Medea came out of the hallway shadows first, meowing sharp little complaints as she trotted across the kitchen floor and hopped onto Stefan's lap.

Samuel followed, half dressed and sporting a day's growth of beard. Samuel hadn't been himself since Littleton captured him-or maybe since that night he told me about the baby his girlfriend had aborted. His temper was shorter and he was too serious-when I tried to bring up the subject of that kiss we'd shared, he wouldn't discuss it. I worried about him.


"Does Andre know how to create a sorcerer?"

Stefan nodded his head slowly. "According to Littleton 's journals he does. Littleton told him."

Samuel pulled out a chair and spun it around so he sat on it backwards. "Was it something about Littleton being a sorcerer that allowed him to survive being turned?"

Medea batted Stefan's hand and instead of picking up his cup, he rubbed her behind her ears. She purred and settled more firmly on his lap.

"I don't know," Stefan answered finally. "I'm not certain even Andre knows. He fed off Littleton for several years before turning him. I don't think that he has any more Littletons waiting in the wings, though. It's not all that easy to find someone willing to sell his soul to the devil."

Samuel relaxed.

"He was a sorcerer before he was a vampire?" I asked.

"Yes." Stefan wiggled his fingers in front of Medea's nose and she batted at them. "He was a sorcerer before he met Andre. He thought that being a vampire would make him more powerful-Andre told him so. Neither he nor the demon was pleased to find out that being a vampire meant that they had to follow Andre's orders."

"He wasn't following Andre's orders that night in the church." Samuel reached over and grabbed a cup and filled it from the teapot on the table.

"No. It is possible to break the bond of control the maker has over his children, just difficult." Stefan sipped his tea and I wondered what his careful expression was hiding.

"Speaking of bonds," I said, finally asking the question that had haunted me since the night I'd killed Littleton, "will there be any permanent effects from your sharing blood with me that night?"

I wanted him to say "no." Instead he shrugged. "Probably not. One blood exchange isn't much of a connection. Any effects from it will fade. Have you noticed anything odd?"

I shook my head-no telekinesis tricks for me.

"Why were you able to call her to you?" asked Samuel. "I thought she was immune to vampire tricks."

"Mostly immune," murmured Stefan. "But you don't have to worry about that. Calling is one of my talents. If Mercy hadn't been mostly unconscious-and willing to come-I couldn't have called her. She's not going to suddenly find herself unable to resist coming to my call or the call of any other vampire."

I didn't ask him about the memory I had of him murmuring loving words into my ears. I hoped it was just something to do with how he'd called me.

"Why did you come here tonight?" I asked instead.

Stefan smiled at me with such power I wasn't sure he was truthful when he said, "I had to strengthen my stomach. Visits with you are always bracing, Mercedes, if not completely comfortable." He glanced down at his watch. "But it's time for me to go while you still are able to get a full night's sleep. The Mistress will expect a full report."

He put the cat down with a final pat and got up to leave. In the open doorway he hesitated, and without looking at me he said, "Don't fret, Mercy. I've learned all I can, and she won't hold back the trial again. Andre will face justice."

I waited until Stefan had left before I asked Samuel, "They have that chair, the one that makes you tell the truth. Why did he go out to investigate?"

Samuel gave me a dark look. "Sometimes I forget how young you are," he said.

I glowered right back at him. "Don't think that ticking me off will get you out of answering. Why did he delay the trial?"

Samuel took a sip of tea, grimaced and set it down. He wasn't a tea drinker. "I think he's worried about what questions will get asked and what questions will not. If he knows enough, he can testify himself."

It sounded fine, but I couldn't see why he'd tried not to tell me that. There must be something more.

He looked at my face and laughed wearily. " Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Go to bed, Mercy. I need to get ready to go to work."

"Dad told me to ask you when you're going to fix that eyesore the sorcerer made of your house," Jesse said levering herself onto a shelf in my shop.

"When I win the lottery," I told her dryly and went back to tightening the belt on the old BMW I was working on. Jesse laughed. "He told me you'd say that." My shoulder was still pretty sore and I limped, but at least I could work now. Zee had taken over the shop for two weeks-he didn't want me to pay him. But he'd saved my life with his vampire kit, I owed him enough. If I was lucky, after paying him I'd still be able to cover the bills, but not much else. It would be a few months before I could afford to even look at replacing the siding on the trailer.

"What are you doing here, anyway?" I asked.

"I'm waiting for Gabriel to get off work."

I looked up at that.

She laughed harder. "If you could see your face. Who are you worried about, him or me?"

"When you break his heart, it'll be me who'll have to live with the moaning." If there was real fear in my voice, it was only because Zee's son Tad, Gabriel's predecessor, had had a very rocky love life.

"When she breaks my heart? If anyone's heart breaks, it'll be hers," Gabriel informed me grandly, from the office doorway. "Unable to resist my charms, she'll be devastated at my callousness when I tell her I must go to college. The loss will cause her to resign herself to a long and lonely life without me."

Jesse giggled. "If my dad stops in, tell him I'll be home around ten."

I gave Gabriel a stern look. "You know who her father is."

He laughed. "A man who will risk nothing for love is not a man." Then he winked. "I'll have her home before ten, though, just in case."

Alone, I buttoned up the BMW and closed down the shop. Stefan hadn't called me this morning before I came to work, so I didn't know if anything had happened with Andre.

There was nothing to worry about. Andre was clearly guilty of creating a monster. Still, there had been a weariness in Stefan's manner last night that made me fret a little. If it was an open and shut case, why had he spent weeks in Chicago investigating?

I had company waiting for me in the parking lot. Warren had lost some weight and still limped, even worse than I did. It hadn't stopped him from wiping the floor with Paul who now cringed whenever Warren walked by. And if there were occasional nightmares, he still looked much happier than he had been.

Much of that was due to the handsome man leaning on the fender of Warren 's battered truck wearing, of all things, a lavender cowboy outfit complete with purple hat. The only good thing that had come out of the Littleton business was that Warren and Kyle were an item again.

"Who ticked you off?" I asked Kyle, who had exquisite taste.

"I was meeting a client's husband and his high-powered Seattle lawyer. The longer they think I'm a lightweight poof, the higher I'll hang them in court."

I laughed and kissed him on the cheek. "It's good to see you."

"We're going to catch a show at my place," Kyle said. "We thought you might like to join in."

"Only if you change clothes," I told him seriously.

The truck rocked a little and Ben stuck his head over the side of the bed where he'd been resting. His red coat was rough and his eyes were dull. He let me touch his face before curling back up in the truck bed.

"When I got in the cab," Warren said, "Adam thought it would do Ben some good to get out. We thought it would do you some good, too."

"He's still not shifting," I asked.

"No. And he wouldn't hunt with us at full moon."

I glanced out the back window, but, although he doubtless could hear us talk about him, Ben didn't raise his head off his front paws.

"Is he eating?"


Which meant that he wasn't likely to lose control and eat me like he'd eaten Daniel-that's what Daniel had been telling me. Vampires, not even vampires possessed by demons, don't eat other vampires.

It surprised me a little that Ben was taking it so hard. He had always seemed to me like the kind of person who could strangle his granny for her pearls then eat a peanut butter sandwich in her kitchen afterwards. Maybe I was wrong-or else eating someone was tougher. Warren had told me that Ben and Daniel had struck up an odd friendship while they were out hunting Littleton. It hadn't been strong enough to save Daniel, but it might be enough to destroy Ben.

We watched Japanese anime, ate take-out Mexican food, and made rude jokes while Ben watched us with empty eyes. Warren drove us both home in the early evening, dropping me at my house first.

There was a note on the fridge from Samuel. He'd been called into work because one of the other physicians was sick. The phone rang while I was still reading Samuel's note.

"Mercedes," said Stefan's voice in my ears. "Sit down."

"What's wrong?" I don't take orders well: I stayed where I was.

"Andre was tried last night," he said. "He confessed to turning Littleton, confessed to everything: the creation of Littleton, the incident with Daniel, setting me up to meet Littleton at that hotel."

"It was about you," I said. "He was jealous of you."

"Yes. It was during a conversation with him that I decided there was something odd about Daniel's experience. He made sure someone told me Littleton had registered at that hotel."

" Littleton was supposed to kill you," I said.

"Yes. He was supposed to kill me-but that was the night he broke Andre's control. Andre thinks that all the killing strengthened the demon so Littleton didn't have to listen to him anymore. Andre couldn't find him after that night. But he wasn't too worried until Littleton started leaving presents on his doorstep."


"Body parts." When I didn't say anything Stefan continued. "Andre was getting pretty desperate, and when Littleton captured Daniel, Warren, Ben and me, he convinced Marsilia that you were the only hope of finding Littleton. He was around when the walkers nearly drove the vampires out of the Western territories. It should please you that he was really shocked when you found Littleton so soon."

"He confessed," I said. "So what is bothering you?"

"There was no permanent harm done to the seethe," he said, biting off the words.

I sat down on the floor of the kitchen. I'd heard those words before.

"She released him." I couldn't believe it. "Did she just let him go?"

Samuel had known it might happen, I thought. Both he and Stefan had known there was a good chance he'd be freed: that's why Stefan had worked so hard to get evidence.

"I told them that by calling you into the hunt, the seethe was responsible for the damage to your trailer and for you missing work for almost two weeks. The seethe has retained the services of a contractor to replace the siding, though that may take a while-this is their busy season. In the next few days, though, our accountants will issue you a check to compensate you for your loss of work."

"They just let him go."

"He sent Littleton here, hoping to destroy those he perceived as Marsilia's enemies. The chair witnessed his truthfulness."

"You aren't Marsilia's enemy."

"No. I just stood between him and what he wanted. Such things are understood in the seethe."

"What about all the people who died?" I asked. "The family of harvest workers, the people in the hotel?" The poor woman whose only crime was working a crummy job at the wrong place and time. What about Warren, screaming in agony, and Ben who refused to be human again?

"The seethe does not consider human life to be of much worth," Stefan said softly. " Marsilia is intrigued by the idea of a sorcerer who is also a vampire. She thinks that such a one might bring the end to her exile here. The Tri-Cities is not the deserted wasteland it was two hundred years ago when she was sent here for trespasses against the Old One who rules in Italy, but neither is it Milan. The Old Master would be intrigued by the power of a creature who can make a vampire as old as I bow to his will. Maybe even intrigued enough to call us home."

"She wants him to make another one," I whispered.


Samuel called me from his work the next morning. Ben had been confined to the cell in Adam's house. He'd attacked another male werewolf without provocation-attempted suicide, werewolf style. He was badly hurt, but expected to recover.

I thought of Ben's dull eyes, of Warren 's limp and the dead woman who haunted my dreams. I thought of the "nearly forty" deaths Uncle Mike laid at Littleton 's feet; many of them were killed while Andre was still in control. I remembered Stefan's admission that the vampires didn't consider human lives to be of much worth.

With the vampire's judgement given, if the wolves did anything to Andre it would be seen as an attack on the seethe and precipitate a war that would cost many more lives on all sides. So, even though Bran and Adam were livid, their hands were tied. If Samuel hadn't been the Marrok's son, he could have done something.

Stefan couldn't do anything, even if he wanted to. He had to obey Marsilia. His hands were tied, too.

But mine weren't.

It was a good thing I hadn't given Zee the vampire-hunting kit back. I was going to need it. The first thing I had to do was find Andre's home, and I had everything I needed to do that-a keen nose and time.

I ran after the ball and caught it, running slowly so the boys who were chasing me would think they might have a chance. They laughed as they ran, which wasn't very efficient of them if they intended to catch me. I sprinted between them, and across the yard, dropping the ball at their father's feet, wagging my tail. Something wild coyotes don't usually do.

"Good girl," he said and pretended to throw it.

I gave him a reproving look, which made him laugh. "Look out you hooligans," he called out to the boys. "I'm sending her your way."

I darted through the trees after the ball, then realized the children's excited cries had died completely. I spun around to see what had happened, but they were both all right. Just staring at the man who'd gotten out of the black SUV.

Adam had that effect on people.

I turned back and looked for the ball, finding it hiding under a rosebush. With it in my mouth I danced back across the yard and dropped it at Adam's feet.

"Thank you," he told me dryly. Then he turned to the man who had called him.

"I really appreciate you letting me know where she was. My daughter took her out to her boyfriend's house and forgot to keep watch."

"No problem."

They shook hands, one of those strong-but-not-painful manly handshakes.

"You need to keep an eye on her, though," the man told Adam. "She looks a lot like a coyote. If she'd gone out a few miles more she might have been shot before anyone noticed the collar."

"I know," Adam gave a rueful laugh. "She's half coyote, we think, though her mother was a German Shepherd."

I jumped in the SUV when Adam opened the door. He got in, gave the little family who'd "found" me a friendly wave. Then he started the car and drove off.

"That's the third time this month I've come to pick you up," he told me. Twice in Richland and today in Benton City. I was costing him a small fortune in gas and rewards. I'd seen him slip money to both boys.

I wagged my tail at him.

"I brought clothes this time," he said. "Hop in the back and change so we can talk."

I wagged my tail at him again.

He raised an eyebrow. "Mercy, you've been avoiding talking to me for long enough. Time to quit running and talk. Please."

Reluctantly, I hopped to the backseat. He was right. If I hadn't been ready to talk, I wouldn't have been running around the Tri-Cities in a collar with his phone number on it. Of course escaping from the Animal Control Shelter might have had something to do with it as well.

He'd brought sweats that smelled like him. They were big, but I could tighten the cord on the pants so they didn't slide off. I rolled up the sleeves and then crawled back over the seat.

He waited until I was buckled in before he spoke. I expected to be grilled about my recent habit of wandering around the city in coyote guise.

"I scare you," he told me, instead.

"Do not." I huffed indignantly.

He glanced at me and then at the road. I noticed he was taking the long way home, the narrow highway that followed the Yakima River and would eventually drop us off in the north side of Richland.

There was a smile on his face.

"Okay. What if I said that your reactions to me scare you?"

My heartbeat picked up. That just wasn't fair, women were supposed to be a mystery to men.

"You're a control freak," I said hotly. "You'll have to excuse me if I don't like being controlled."

"I don't control you," he said in that rich-as-night voice he could use when he wanted to. The rat bastard. Upset as I was it still had an effect on me. "You chose to submit."

"I don't submit to anyone," I snapped, looking out the side window to show him I wanted this conversation over.

"But you want to."

I had no answer for that.

"It's taken me this long to figure out an answer to our problem," he said. "What if I let you take charge?"

I gave him a suspicious look. "What do you mean by that?"

"I mean just what I said. When we go out, you pick where we're going. If we kiss-or anything else-it'll be because you started it. That way, even if you want to submit to me, you can't because I'm not asking anything."

I crossed my arms over my chest and stared hard at the river. "Let me think about it."

"Fair enough. So, do you want to tell me what you were doing in Benton City?"


He sucked in a deep breath. "You won't find him that way."

"Find whom?" I asked innocently.

"The vampire. Andre. You won't find him that way. They have ways of confusing their scent and magic to hide their daytime resting places even from other vampires. That's why Warren and Ben couldn't track Littleton down when they went looking."

"Their magics don't work so well on me," I told him.

"And you can talk to ghosts that the rest of us can't see," he snapped impatiently. " Which is why Marsilia sent you after Littleton. " He was still mad at me for doing that, even if, maybe especially because, it had worked. "How long have you been looking for Andre? Since Marsilia let him go?"

I didn't give him an answer. Didn't want to give him an answer. It occurred to me that this was the first time I'd felt myself in his presence since we'd gone on our first date. Maybe it was the vampire blood.

"What did I do to deserve that look?" he asked.

"Why don't I feel like obeying you now?" I asked.

He smiled at me and turned onto the bypass highway that ran along the outskirts of Richland. It was four thirty and the road was clogged with traffic.

"Being the Alpha is different from just being dominant," he said.

I snorted. "I know that. Remember where I grew up."

"If I'm away from the pack, I can make the Alpha go dormant. Bran can do it whenever he feels like it, but for the rest of us, it takes real effort."

I don't know how he expected me to react to that, but it didn't make me happy. "So it was deliberate, the way you made me feel?"

He shook his head, and I let out the breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding. I don't like being manipulated at all, and being manipulated by paranormal means is worse.

"No. I told you it takes an effort-and the... effect you have on me makes it difficult." He wasn't looking at me now. He was a product of his times. He might look like he was in his late twenties, but he'd been born just after WWII, and a man raised in the 1950's didn't talk about his feelings. It was interesting watching him squirm. I was suddenly feeling much more cheerful.

"I can't help how I'm wired," he said after a moment. "I don't even know how much is being an Alpha werewolf and how much is just me-but being around you brings out the predator in me."

"And so you had to make me want to please you?" I made sure he heard how I felt about that.

"No!" He sucked in a big breath and then said, "Please don't antagonize me right now. You want an explanation. You want me to stop influencing you. I'm trying to do both-but it isn't easy. Please."

It was the "please" that got to me. I leaned my back against the door so I was as far from him as I could get. "Tell me, then."

"Bran can control his Alpha effect until he can fool werewolves who don't know who and what he is. I'm not so talented, but I can stuff it down so it doesn't interfere with my everyday life. When I negotiate contracts, I don't like to exert undue influence on the people I'm dealing with. Even in the pack, I don't use it much. Cooperation is always better than coercion-especially when that coercion only lasts until they're out of my presence. I only bring out the big guns when there's trouble in the pack that can't be solved by talking." He glanced at me and almost hit the car in front of him when traffic stopped unexpectedly.

If my hearing hadn't been so good I wouldn't have heard him when he said, "When I am with you, my control is shot. I think that's what you've been feeling."

So he could command my obedience whenever he wanted to. Only because he chose not to do so was I left with my free will.

"Before you act on that fear I can smell," he said more confidently, "I'd like to point out that you had no trouble turning Samuel down when you were sixteen-and he's more dominant than I am."

"He's not an Alpha and I didn't turn him down to his face. I left without talking to him."

"I've seen you go toe-to-toe with Bran and not back down."

"No, you haven't." I wasn't stupid. No one faced off with Bran.

He laughed. "I've heard you. Remember when Bran told you to be a good little girl and let the wolves deal with the scary stuff and so ensured that you would go out and find the bastard who'd taken Jesse?"

"I didn't argue with him," I pointed out.

"Because you didn't care if you had his permission or not. The only reason you submit to me is because some part of you wants to: I'm willing to admit that my being an Alpha brings that part of you to the forefront, but it is you who relaxes your guard around me."

I didn't talk to him all the rest of the way home. I was fair enough to admit to myself that I was angry because I was pretty sure he was right, but not fair enough to tell him so.

Being a master strategist, he let me stew. He didn't even get out of the car to open my door-which he usually did. I hopped out and stood with the door open for a minute.

"There's supposed to be a good movie coming out," I muttered. "Would you like to come with me Saturday afternoon?" I hadn't intended to ask. The invitation just popped out.

He smiled, that slow smile that started in his eyes and never quite made it to his mouth. I shifted my weight uneasily because that smile had an unsettling effect on me.

"Which theater?"

I swallowed. This was not a good idea. Not at all. "The one behind the mall, I think. I'll check."

"Fine. Call me later with the time."

"I'll drive."

"Okay." His lips were curling up now.

Dumb, I thought, dumb sheep waltzing right into the slaughterhouse. I shut the door without saying anything more and went into the house.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire, I thought, meeting Samuel's gaze.

"Going to the movies?" he asked, having obviously overheard what I'd said to Adam.

"Yes." I jerked my chin up and refused to give in to the tight feeling in my stomach. Samuel wouldn't hurt me. The problem was, I didn't want to hurt him either.

His eyes were half-shut and he breathed in. "You smell like him again."

"He picked me up when I was running in coyote form, so he brought me clothes."

Samuel moved with the speed of a bora predator and put his hand behind my neck. I stood very still when he put his nose under my ear. I couldn't help but smell him also. How could his scent have as powerful an effect on me as Adam's smile? It was wrong.

"When you go with him," he growled, his body trembling with readiness or pain-I couldn't tell which because I could smell both, "I want you to remember this."

He kissed me. It was utterly serious, beautiful-and, given the rage in his eyes when he started, surprisingly gentle.

He backed away and gave me a small, pleased smile. "Don't look so worried, Mercy love."

"I'm not a broodmare," I told him, trying not to hyperventilate.

"No," he agreed. "I won't lie to you about how I feel. The thought of having children who won't die before they are born is powerful. But you should know that the wolf in me doesn't care about such things. He only wants you."

He left while I was still trying to come up with a reply. Not to his room, but all the way out of the house. I heard his car start up and purr away.

I sat down on the couch and hugged one of the pillows. I was trying so hard not to think about Samuel or Adam, that I had to think about something else. Something like hunting down Andre.

Marsilia told me that the reason vampires feared walkers was that we were resistant to vampire magics and could talk to ghosts.

But as Darryl had reminded me, ghosts avoid evil-like vampires. I might not be susceptible to some vampire magics, but evidently the magic that kept me from sniffing their lairs out worked just fine. Maybe the other walkers had been more powerful than me.

Medea jumped on the couch beside me.

Marsilia couldn't have meant something like the way I'd used Mrs. Hanna to find Littleton. That was a special case. Most ghosts aren't capable of communication.

There aren't many ghosts in the Tri- Cities, it is too newly settled for that. There weren't very many people here until WWII, when the efforts to develop a nuclear bomb spawned the Hanford Project. Despite, or maybe because of, the military cause of the cities' growth, the Tri-Cities didn't have a lot of violence in its past-and violent, senseless death was the main cause of ghosts.

Violent, senseless deaths happened at a vampire's menagerie.

I set the pillow down and Medea climbed into my lap.

I wasn't the only person who could see ghosts. There are lots of haunted places in Portland where I'd gone to high school-and normal, everyday people see them. Of course, most humans don't see them as well as I do, and then usually only at night. I never understood that. Ghosts are around in daytime as often as at night, though there are a lot of things that cannot bear the light of day.

Like vampires.

It couldn't be that easy.

The next day, after work, I went out looking for Andre on two feet instead of four. I wasn't sure that looking for ghosts would work. In the first place, ghosts aren't all that common. A thousand people could die in a battle and there might be no ghosts at all. And even if there were ghosts, there was no guarantee I'd see them-or figure out they were ghosts if I did. Some of the dead, like Mrs. Hanna, appeared as they had in life.

I was looking for a needle in a haystack, so I could kill Andre.

I understood it wouldn't be like killing Littleton  -  and that had been bad enough. Andre would be asleep and defenseless. Even if I managed to find him, I didn't know that I could actually execute him.

And if I did kill him, Marsilia's seethe would come after me.

At least then I wouldn't have to make a choice between Adam and Samuel. Every cloud has its silver lining.

I hunted every afternoon and returned just before dark. Samuel was making himself scarce, but he'd started leaving meals in the fridge for me. Sometimes take-out, but usually something he'd cooked. When he was home, he acted as if he'd never kissed me, never told me that he was still interested. I didn't know if that was reassuring or frightening. Samuel was a very patient hunter.

I took Adam to the movies on Saturday. He was very well behaved. Afterwards we drove out to the Hanford Reservation and ran as wolf and coyote through the open terrain. He didn't have Samuel's ability to throw off all his humanity and revel in the joy of being a wild thing. Instead, he played with the same intensity he used for everything else. Which meant that when I chased him, I wasn't really sure I wanted to catch him-and when he chased me, I felt like a rabbit.

We were both tired out when I dropped him off at his home before dinner. He didn't kiss me, but he gave me a look that was almost as good.

I didn't want to go home to Samuel after that look. So I drove back into Kennewick and just cruised around. Watching Adam play tamed beast had been... heart wrenching. Adam wasn't like Bran, who enjoyed role-playing. I didn't like myself very much for making Adam do it. Playing in the Reservation had been better, he hadn't subdued the wolf as well there.

I stopped at a stop sign in one of the plethora of new housing developments that had sprung up over the past few years, and there it was. Hollow eyed and sad, the middle-aged man stood on the porch of a respectable-looking house and stared at me.

I pulled the Rabbit over and parked it, and returned his stare. As I sat there, another one appeared beside him, this one an old woman. When the third ghost appeared, I got out of the car. The house was only a couple of years old: three people were a bit much for a normal household to lose in a couple of years-especially three people who had become ghosts rather than going on to the other side as most dead people do.

I took the backpack that held Zee's vampire-hunting kit and walked across the street. It was only as I started up the porch that I realized he'd have some people here, too. For some reason, I'd forgotten that I'd have to deal with the vampire's menagerie before I killed the vampire.

I rang the doorbell and did my best not to look at the ghosts, of which there were now significantly more than three: I could smell them even if I couldn't see them.

No one answered the door, though I could hear them inside. There was no smell of fear or anger, just unwashed bodies. When I turned the door knob, the door opened.

Inside the smell was bad. If vampires have almost as good a sense of smell as I do, I don't know how any vampire could have stayed here. But then vampires don't have to breathe.

I tried to use my nose to tell me whose house I was in. His scent was partially masked by the sour smell of sweat and death, so I couldn't be certain I had the right vampire, just that he was male.

The ghosts followed me. I could feel them brush up against me, pushing me onward as if they knew what I was here for and were determined to help. They pushed and pulled until I came to a doorway next to the bathroom on the main floor. It was narrower than the other doors, obviously built to be a linen closet. But, at the urging of my guides, I opened the door and was unsurprised to see a set of winding stairs that led down into a dark hole.

I have never been afraid of the dark. Even when I can't see, my nose and ears work pretty well to guide me. I'm not claustrophobic. Still, climbing down that hole was one of the hardest things I've ever done, because, even knowing he would be inactive during the day, the thought of trying to kill a vampire scared me silly.

I hadn't brought a flashlight. Hadn't expected to need one: it was daylight after all. There was a little light from the stairway. I could see that the room wasn't very big, just a little bigger than the average bathroom. And there was something, a bed or couch, stretched across the far side of the room.

I closed my eyes and counted a full minute, when I opened my eyes again, I could see a little better. It was a bed and the vampire on it wasn't Andre. His hair was lighter. The only blond male in the seethe who had his own menagerie was Wulfe, the Wizard. I had no quarrel with him.

I had to fight the ghosts as I climbed back up the stairwell. They knew what I was there for, and they wanted the vampire dead.

"I'm sorry," I told them after I made it back up to the hallway. "I can't just kill for no reason."

"Then why did you come?"

I swallowed my heart and turned around, expecting to see the vampire behind me, but there was only the dark stairway. But I couldn't dismiss the voice as my imagination because all of the ghosts were gone. I touched the sheep on the necklace I'd bought to replace the one Littleton had broken.

He laughed. "Are you after Andre? He doesn't live around here. But you could kill me, instead."

"Should I?" I asked, angry because he'd scared me.

"I know how a sorcerer is made," he said. "But no one has asked me."

"Why haven't you made a sorcerer and turned him then?" I asked, growing more confident. The hallway was dim, but I could see that there was light coming in the house from the windows still. If Wulfe was awake, he'd be confined to the dark room where he was safe.

"Because I'm not a fool. Marsilia knows better, too, but she is obsessed with returning to Milan."

"Then I have no reason to kill you," I told him.

"Then again, maybe you couldn't have killed me," he said, crawling out of the stairway. He moved very slowly, like a lizard who had gotten too cold.

I heard a whimper from behind one of the closed doors next to the bathroom, and sympathized. I wanted to whimper, too.

"I'm not hunting you," I told him firmly, though I stepped backward until I stood in a circle of light at the end of the hallway.

He stopped halfway out of the stairway, his eyes were filmed over like a dead man's.

"Good," he said. "If you kill Andre, I won't tell-and no one will ask."

And he was gone, withdrawing from the hallway and down the stairs so fast that I barely caught the motion, though I was staring right at him.

I walked out of his home because if I'd moved any faster, I'd have run screaming.

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