As she was closing the book, a word caught her eye, and she flipped back to it.

The last section was labeled Counteragent.

There was a whole chapter, and she skimmed it as fast as pos- sible, raking her gaze down the thick columns of dryly written ex- planations.

The counteragent was designed to halt the process of the cure.

They’d originally developed it so that they could study the effects while in process— part of their live experiments, and Claire really didn’t want to think too hard about that. She found a handwritten notation to the side.

COMB 733118.

It was a combination, so there had to be a safe. Somewhere, there had to be a safe . . .

She spotted it, finally, half hidden beneath the counter— a small gray thing, digital keypad. She crashed to her knees in front of it and jammed in the numbers. 733118.

The pad beeped, and the door clicked open.

But there was nothing inside it. Nothing at all.


“No!” She screamed it out loud and smashed her palm into it with all the anguish inside her. She could hear the cries coming from the vampires on the other beds now, and she could hear Eve calling her name with frantic desperation.

If the counteragent still existed, they’d moved it. There was nothing here. Nothing to reverse the effects of Fallon’s cure. He’d taken it somewhere she couldn’t find it.

Not in time.

For a moment, Claire thought she just couldn’t do it . . . just couldn’t get up. Couldn’t rise to meet another challenge, face more pain. She just wanted to lie down, curl up, put her hands over her ears and hide, just this once. She’d faced it all, as directly as she could. She’d fought and planned and tried.

But that open safe, that was the end of all her plans. All her hopes.

And now there was nothing left but to hold on to Eve, and Mi- chael, while everything fell apart.

I ne d you, she thought. Shane, please, I ne d you, please be here, please . . .

But she knew in her heart that he couldn’t be here. Not this time.

When she turned to focus on Eve and Michael, she realized that Eve hadn’t gone to Michael’s side. She was standing with her back pressed against the far wall . . . watching the vampires with frantic, horrified eyes. Gagging. Doubling over.

She tried to get closer, but she faltered, and backed up again, covering her face.

“Take it out!” Eve yelled to Claire. “Help him!” She pointed to the IV needle, and Claire yanked it free— but she knew, from the chalky glow of his skin, that it was already too late. His eyes were closed, and he wasn’t responding.

Eve was weeping now, and she slammed her palm into the wall hard, over and over. She tried again to come toward him, but what- ever they’d loaded into her blood made her sick, physically sick, the closer she got. “Come on, you’re the brain, you’re the smart one, you can fix everything, do something!” The horror and anguish in her friend threatened to knock down Claire’s shocked numb- ness, and she squeezed her eyes shut to block it out. “Do some- thing, Claire!”

And then Michael screamed. It was a sound that sliced through Claire’s blanket of shock and stabbed her right in the heart, and her eyes flew open of their own accord to fix on his tense, suffering face, his glowing face, on the shimmering, flickering light gliding beneath his skin, tracing veins and arteries, centering in his heart . . .

And regardless of her pain, of the drug, of all that they’d done to make her loathe and fear the sight of a vampire, Eve shoved her- self bodily off the wall and lunged forward to grab his hand in hers. She was gagging and shaking, but she grimly held on, even though every fiber of her body was trying to make her run away.

Michael was breathing in deep, agonizing gulps, and Claire could see his pulse pounding hard in the vein at his throat. His eyes were wide open, so blue, blue as the Texas sky, and he was staring mutely at Eve, shaking and trembling and staring . . .

“Live,” Claire said. She whispered it under her breath, a chant, a prayer, a desperate plea. “Live, live, live!”

And then the light in him went out, and Michael went com- pletely, utterly still.


He’s dead, Claire thought numbly. I kiled him. It was an incoherent thought, and it had a sound to it like ashes falling, a taste like bitter acid at the back of her throat.

I kil ed him. She hadn’t, but it felt that way. She should have been faster. Better. Stronger.

She should have stopped all this from happening. But she hadn’t, and now Michael was dead.

Eve was staring at him as if she hadn’t realized the truth, as if somehow it would all still come out okay. “Michael?” she asked.

His eyes were still open. “Michael?” The horror weighed her voice down, dragged it to a low, uneven whisper. “Please look at me. I love you, please look at me, please . . .”

Claire’s eyes were filling with tears now, and her view of his face became a wash of color— palest possible pink for skin, blue for his eyes, gold for his hair. She blinked, and the tears glided hot down her face, hot as blood. She put her hand on his arm.

It shouldn’t feel like that, she thought, so close to her own skin temperature. So much like he was still alive.

And then her fingertips felt a small whisper of a pulse.

No, I imagined that. I couldn’t have . . . it couldn’t . . .

Another beat. Then another. It wasn’t her pulse.

It was his.

“Michael, you have to look at me,” Eve was saying between tears. She looked pale and sick, facing what was, for her, the end of the world. “You can’t leave me, you can’t, you promised me . . .”

He took a breath.

Eve let out a muffled cry, and fell across his chest to kiss him. It was, Claire thought, maybe a little premature for that, because he seemed too dazed to understand what was happening . . . and then all that changed, and he was kissing her back, really kissing her, and his skin was taking on a skin tone that wasn’t too much darker than before but somehow much more alive. He was gasping for breath when they parted but smiling, and there was color in his cheeks and lips.

It struck Claire that she’d never seen him alive before. Not re- ally one hundred percent alive, anyway. He looked as he had when she’d first met him, but this time . . . this time, he was simply and only human.

It was . . . She didn’t want to call it a miracle, but that’s what it was. A miracle.

It came to her slowly that he was still strapped to the table, and he was straining to break free. Claire wiped her tears, got hold of herself, and quickly sawed through the webbing on his left wrist, and then his left ankle. By the time she’d reached his right hand, she had to gently but firmly force Eve to back up as she freed him completely . . . and then she was the one getting shoved out of the way as Michael lunged for Eve and enveloped her in a hug so complete that it was as if he’d never really hugged her before.

Which, Claire supposed, he hadn’t. Not like this.

“Can you feel it?” he asked Eve. He was crying. Michael was crying, tears flooding his face. He wiped at them, but he couldn’t seem to stem the tide. “My heart. It’s beating.”

“I feel it,” Eve said, and pressed her hand against his chest.

“Oh, God, Michael, I— I should probably say something snarky right now, but I—”

He grabbed her hand, lifted it to his lips, and kissed it. Then he kissed her again, a long and deep kiss that said more than words ever could about how he felt. How they both felt.

Miracle, Fallon had called it. And in Michael’s case he’d been right, because Michael Glass, who’d been various shades of dead ever since Claire had known him, was now himself again. Human.

Vital. Alive.

And, Claire thought with a sudden chill, vulnerable.

She turned away from them, and it hit her with breathtaking horror that most of the vampires struggling against their bonds right now around her, glowing from within as Fallon’s medicine did its work . . . most of them wouldn’t make it.

And there was nothing she could do about it.

Claire channeled her anxious, sick frustration into action. She hustled Michael and Eve out of their own private world and put them to work tying up the lab workers, who were starting to rouse.

She dragged the two police officers off to the side and covered up the dead one that Oliver had shot. Halling was spitting with fury, but Claire didn’t listen to what she was saying. It would only make her angry, and she was feeling bad enough.

When there was nothing left to do, she crouched down next to the lab attendant who was waking the fastest, and helped her along by rubbing knuckles across her breastbone. That hurt, Claire re- membered. And it roused the woman fast.

It didn’t take the woman long to adapt to the new situation.

She realized that she was tied up, and that Claire and Eve and Mi- chael were the only ones standing. Not a stupid woman, either— fear flickered across her face before she concealed it beneath a mask of professional distance. “Untie me,” she ordered.

“Bite me, Miss Mengele,” Eve said. “Not that stupid.”

The woman’s eyes fixed on Michael, and she looked . . . elated.

“You made it,” she said. “I knew you would, Michael.”

“You know me?” Michael asked. He wasn’t smiling.

“Of course I do! I’m a big fan of your music. I’m Amanda. I work at the hospital.”

He blinked. “But you stuck poison in my arm.”

“To save you!”

He opened his mouth, then looked confused and weirdly em- barrassed, and Claire realized he was trying to show fangs he no longer had. Well, that was awkward. “What about them?” He pointed to the others. Some had gone still. Some were still strug- gling.

Her eyes flickered toward them, then came back quickly to fo- cus on him. “Better they die than live on in that hell,” she said.

“We’re saving people. People. Not monsters.”

“The counteragent,” Claire said. “Tell me where it is.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Amanda said, but her round face wasn’t made for lying. “What counteragent?”

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