Probably, Claire thought. He’d been in love with a vampire named Ada who— according to everyone who’d known her in life— had lived to defy the expectations of those around her, even while looking prim and proper. And I might fit that definition, too, she thought. From time to time, Myrnin had looked at her with something that might actually be longing . . . but he’d been pretty definite from the beginning that his fascination was with her mind, not her body.

And Myrnin did take loving a girl for her brain a little too lit- erally. Look what had happened to Ada: he’d saved her by putting her brain in a jar, plugging her into a computer that ran on blood, and pretending it was some kind of genuine life.

She couldn’t imagine Jesse letting him do anything like that.

And maybe that was just what he needed: someone to set limits for him. Limits that Claire, as a human, couldn’t set and keep.

“Jesse— Michael looked bad. Is he going to be all right?”

Jesse cocked her head, and the heavy braid of red hair slid over one shoulder. “I think so. We’re latecomers, so we’re lucky; most of the poor bastards in here have been on the Daylighters formula for more than two weeks, which means that they’re hungry enough to drink cockroach juice and pretend it’s B positive. Michael’s just not as used to being deprived.”

“Why would the Daylight Foundation do a thing like that? Make vampires more hungry? Doesn’t it put their own people in danger?”

“Of course it does,” Jesse replied. “And the most effective way to demonize your enemy is to make them monsters. Most wars just do it through propaganda, but the Daylighters seem to feel it’s more effective if they actually reduce us to fangs and rage. It doesn’t take much to convince the average citizen of Morganville that we’re parasites that need killing. We’ve certainly acted that part often enough.” She looked sad and a little angry as she said it. “It’s why I left this place. Because Amelie was too much in the past, too steeped in tradition, and convinced of the superiority of the vampire. I warned her that things needed to change, but it’s never comfortable between us; we’ve both been rulers, once upon a time, and trust me, two queens can’t ever really be friends. It may be harsh, but in some ways, she’s reaping what she sowed.”

Jesse had left Morganville long before Claire had arrived, and Claire could well imagine that Jesse wouldn’t have been shy about her opinions. Amelie could be open- minded, but she didn’t like direct challenges . . . and probably especially not from a vampire who’d been a queen once, even for a brief time.

“So they plan to let vampires out on a rampage? Then catch them and prove once and for all the vamps are a threat that has to be eliminated? Why not just do it without all the bloodshed? It’s not like there’s anybody much objecting that I can tell.”


“Because Fallon doesn’t like to be the villain,” Jesse said. “He never has, as far as I can tell, and I think he needs the justification.

In his eyes, he’s on the side of right, and there are few out there who’d dispute it, but to be a hero, he needs villains.” The weight of Jesse’s gaze felt oddly intense now, and Claire wondered what she was thinking . . . and if she was being judged for some shortcom- ing as simple as breathing and having a heartbeat. “I have a ques- tion, Claire.”


“What makes you so well disposed toward vampires? I’ve lived here; I know what a pack of hyenas we can be, with very little warning. There’s little about us that ought to compel your pity, not to mention your loyalty.”

“You don’t think much of your own people, do you?”

“Not much,” Jesse agreed with an offhand shrug. “We’re a sad lot, in general, clinging to the past and to our own survival, no matter the cost to the lives of others. If I was in your shoes, I’m not sure I’d stand in the way of our more or less inevitable ugly fate.

My question stands: why do you?”

Claire opened her mouth to tell her why and then . . . couldn’t, at least not at first. All the logical arguments she would have made seemed fake and cheap as old tinsel. She took a breath, and composed her words more carefully. “Because no matter what any of you have done, you haven’t all done it. Because it’s not right to judge a class of people by the actions of one, or a few. That’s not justice.

It’s prejudice, and I don’t like it. Justice means judging each person individually.”

Jesse’s lips slowly curled into a smile, and her eyes warmed as well. “High- minded,” she said. “I’m not sure you’ll find a lot of people living up to your standard.”

Claire shrugged. “Doesn’t matter if they do or not. It’s my opinion; I’m not trying to make anybody else agree. But I don’t want them forcing their opinions on me.”

“And thus begins the war,” said Lady Gray, who’d once been queen. It sounded as though she knew exactly what she was talking about.

The certainty in her voice, and the sadness, made Claire shiver.


“We need to be doing something,” Claire said, pacing the floor. They were back in the room where Myrnin had waited— she still didn’t know if it was his bedroom, or someone else’s, or even if the vamps cared where they slept at all. If they bothered. “If Fallon’s got Oliver, and we should be doing something!”

“Fallon’s quite busy trying to find out what Oliver knows about Amelie’s escape,” Myrnin said. He was sitting on the bed perusing a decades- old water- wrinkled magazine that apparently featured Princess Diana’s wedding on the cover. Probably the only reading material left at the Bitter Creek Mall, Claire guessed. “And what Oliver knows is absolutely nothing. He didn’t even know she’d es- caped. So there’s nothing Fallon will learn from him.”

“He could kill him!”

“She’s right,” Jesse said from where she leaned against the wall, arms folded. “He could.”

“He won’t. He needs Oliver, especially if Amelie’s nowhere to be found. Oliver is the only authority he has left that everyone respects. He’s afraid enough of us now; if there’s no one we all fol- low, then it’s that much harder to keep us in line.” Myrnin shrugged. “And as long as we can hear him screaming, then he’s all right.”

Claire flinched, and looked from him to Jesse, who nodded so- berly. “Best you can’t hear it,” she said.

“Help him!”

Myrnin moved, with that eerie vampire speed and grace, and before she could finish saying the two words, he was kneeling next to her, chin raised. “Then help me,” he said, and pointed to the collar. “Help me take this off!”

“No,” Jesse said, coming off the wall to stand next to Claire.

“Myrnin, you’ll get her killed, and yourself along with her. You’ve seen how deadly these things can be if you tamper with them.”

“Wait,” Claire said. Her thoughts were racing, and she couldn’t understand what she was trying to think of until an image re- solved in her mind, vivid and bloody and sharp. Amelie.

Amelie hadn’t be n wearing a col ar.

“I’m waiting,” Myrnin said, looking just barely patient.

“How did Amelie take hers off?”

“She didn’t,” he said. “I staked her dead so that she would not feel the burns as they activated the shock collar automatically when we went beyond the border. I only woke her up once we were well beyond the effective range, and then I set her loose. But I had no way to take it off without setting off the explosive.”

“She did,” Claire said. “She wasn’t wearing it when I saw her at the Glass House.”

“The Glass—” Myrnin looked utterly astounded. “She was supposed to go straight for the border, leave this town. Why in the world was she at the Glass House?”

“I think the more urgent question is how did she get the collar off by herself?” Jesse asked.

Myrnin nodded. “Claire, take a look at mine. See if there’s something we’ve missed.”

“Okay,” Claire said. He went to one knee, chin upraised and head tilted, and Claire bent over to study the latch. There wasn’t much to study, really. It was featureless, almost seamless, and there was a keyhole lock. The casing of the collar was hard black plastic.

“I . . . don’t see anything that can help. Hold on . . . Do you mind if I . . . ?”

“Not at all,” he said, and rolled his eyes. “Which should be ob- vious to you after all this time, Claire.”

She hesitantly reached out and felt around the collar, looking for any hidden switches, catches, or other weird features that might have given her a clue. It felt smooth and regular, until she found a slightly rougher patch toward the back of the circle. She pressed harder, and felt it give.

A section of the collar’s plastic casing snapped out, exposing wiring and a green circuit board. Claire sucked in her breath and carefully, carefully turned the collar around to expose the rest.

She saw a blinking red light and a gray string of rubbery mate- rial that ran through the middle. She stared hard at it, and realized that the gray stuff was probably the explosive that the Daylighters had built into the collars. The stuff designed to remove a vampire’s head. Being this close to the compound was bad, and the smell of ozone and the faintly oily stench of it made her feel even worse, but she pushed that aside. Focus! The circuitry looked pretty straightforward at least, but as she reached in toward it, she saw the red light blink faster. Some kind of proximity alert, maybe a motion detector . . . She forced herself to freeze but not draw her hand back, then take in deep, even breaths as she watched the light.

It slowed down. Motion detector. Move too quickly, and it would activate. She didn’t know whether it would administer a shock— which, as Myrnin had said, would probably fry her brain— or whether it would just blow up, taking her hand with it.

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