“She got out?” Claire leaned forward and put her hand against his face. He still felt feverishly hot. “I know that was hard for you.

I saw how much it hurt you to let me go when I—”

“Yeah, about that . . . Next time you decide to take a bath in the Founder’s blood when you know there are hellhounds like me out to track her—”

“Wait, what?” Eve interrupted, and twisted, as much as she could, to look at Claire. “What did you do?”

“It worked, didn’t it?” Claire asked, and smiled, just a little. “It gave her a chance to get away.”

And Shane smiled back. “Yes. Yes, it did.”

The car flashed by the billboard. Claire didn’t know how fast they were going, but she was willing to bet it was approaching the speed of sound from the wind buffeting they were taking. She’d had no idea Amanda’s beater of a vehicle could go this fast, and she was fairly sure it had never tried it before, because it was shimmy-ing something awful.

She didn’t even see the police cruiser parked in the shadows be- neath the sign until it came careening out onto the road behind them, trailing an airborne plume of dust. The flashers popped on, and the howl of a siren split the night.

“Hold on!” Michael said, and the car seemed to go even faster.

It hardly mattered, though; the police cruiser was built for inter- cepts, and it was gaining on them. It was another two miles to the next intersection, but all of the roads out here were straight and boring, with nowhere to hide, no traffic to use for cover.


“You’re going to blow the engine on this thing!” Shane yelled over the roar of the wind. Claire felt like her hair was lashing her face raw. “Mike, you can’t outrun him!”

“Can’t outgun him, either!” Michael shot back. “And I’m not bulletproof anymore. Are you?”

“No, but they are,” Shane said, and pointed behind him at the unresponsive forms of Oliver and Ayesha. “Wake them up.”

“How?” Claire yelled back.

“Have you tried blood?”

Crap. She hadn’t even thought about that, but it made sense.

They would be hungry, and maybe, just maybe, they needed a blood catalyst to fight their way out of their comas.

And maybe when they woke up, they wouldn’t stop at just a taste, either. It was risky, but they needed an advantage, fast, and it was the only thing Claire could think of at the moment. “Glove compartment,” she said. “I need something sharp.”

Shane was way ahead of her, pulling a knife from his belt. She hadn’t even known it was there, but of course he was armed. Wasn’t he always? “Be careful,” he said. “Don’t trust them, and use that knife if you have to.”

It was, of course, edged in silver plate. “What about you? Will you be okay? I mean, they’re vampires and you’re . . .”

“A friggin’ werewolf vampire hunter? Yeah, I know. I’m still primed to go after Amelie, not specifically targeted on these two right now, so it should be relatively okay. If it isn’t, I’ll deal with it. Eve has permission to whack me over the head or something.”

“Goody,” Eve said. “Always wanted your permission for that.”

She was not, Claire noticed, looking as bad as she had been, and the nausea seemed to be subsiding. Maybe whatever they’d spiked the blood with was finally starting to dissipate.

They were chattering because they were scared, and Claire knew it because she was scared, too. She was sweating, her heart was hammering, her mouth felt dry, and her tongue scraped like leather. The wind whipping into her face made it hard to focus, and she wished she had glasses to protect her eyes from the blow- ing, ever- present dust.

Just do it already.

She put the knife to the meaty part of the palm of her hand, below the thumb, and sliced. Fresh blood spurted out, and she gasped at the hot bite of pain, then turned to Oliver and pried his mouth open. Inside, it was dry and pale.

She squeezed blood into his mouth.

Nothing happened.

Dammit. “Come on,” she said under her breath, her words lost in the roar of the wind hammering through the car. “Come on, swallow, just swallow . . .” She milked more blood from the wound until there was a shallow pool of it in his mouth, then closed his jaw and tilted his head back.

She felt a muscle move beneath his skin, just a twitch . . . and then she saw his Adam’s apple jerk as he swallowed.

Oliver’s eyes opened. He looked confused and disoriented, and then the red flecks began to swirl in his eyes. He blinked and held up a hand to shield himself from the wind.

His gaze fell on Claire, slipped down and focused on her bleed- ing hand. Without permission, without hesitation, he grabbed it and put it to his mouth. She let out a muffled sound of protest, but he didn’t seem wild or out of control. It was a subtle difference, but one she’d learned to distinguish, with vamps.

And he let go after he’d sucked out two or three more swal- lows.

Oliver licked his lips clean, cleared his throat, and half whis- pered, “Thank you.” She couldn’t hear him over the road noise, but she understood anyway.

“Welcome,” she shouted back. “Need your help!”

“Of course you do.” He looked deeply cranky, which wasn’t at all strange for him, but he raised his voice so she could hear him.

Barely. “It might have escaped your notice, but I very nearly died!”

“That could still happen,” she shot back. “We need to stop the police car behind us. I think they’ve probably got orders to shoot us on sight— and take you back to Fallon so he can to finish what he started!”

Oliver still looked cranky, but now he also looked stronger, and resolved. “Tell Michael to slow down.”


“Do it!”

She turned to Michael and screamed the instruction in his ear.

He didn’t ask any questions; he just hit the brakes, and the sedan decelerated, fast.

Oliver slithered through the broken back window, got to his feet on the trunk lid, and launched himself onto the hood of the onrushing squad car with hardly a pause— but Claire could tell, from the way he moved, that he was weak, and hurting. His lithe grace was gone, leaving a kind of brutally clumsy strength.

He smashed a fist through the windshield and grabbed the driver, and the police car swerved violently, veered off the road into the desert, and was lost in a plume of erupting sand.

Michael stood on the brakes and brought the car to a complete, tire- smoking halt. He and Shane were out in seconds, heading for where the other vehicle had disappeared, and Claire bailed as well, joining Eve at a dead run to catch up. Eve tripped over her too-large men’s boots and almost went down, but Claire caught her arm and kept her upright and moving. She choked and coughed on the drifting sand, and as it cleared she saw Oliver sliding down from the hood of the cruiser. He was scratched and cut from the broken windshield, but he looked otherwise unharmed. Just . . .

really, uncomfortably nearly naked, and Claire wished that she could unsee that.

Shane opened the cruiser’s front driver’s- side door. He crouched and checked the man inside. “He’s alive,” he said. “I’m surprised.”

“I haven’t had time to feed,” Oliver snapped. “Get me some- thing to wear.”

Shane popped the car’s trunk, pulled out a blanket, and tossed it to Oliver without moving any closer. Fighting his instincts, Claire thought. He dived back into the police car and grabbed the keys, which he used to unlock the shotgun behind the seat from its rack; he tossed it to Eve, who caught it with perfect ease. He confiscated the man’s handgun, too. By this time the cop was starting to come around, moaning and shifting in his seat, so Shane took the hand- cuffs from his belt and locked the man’s right hand to the steering wheel, then patted him on the head. “Cheer up, buddy,” he said.

“The good news is, you aren’t dead.”

“You will be,” the cop mumbled. “They’ll hunt you down.

Kill you.”

“Then we’ll be going,” Michael said. “Everybody, come on. In the car.”

Claire and Eve started back, and so did Shane and Michael.

Oliver, on the other hand, didn’t.

“Hey!” Michael said, without stopping. “You’re losing your ride, Oliver, I don’t think you want to be out here by yourself.”

“A moment,” Oliver replied, and stepped over to the cruiser.

Claire turned and ran back as the vampire leaned in, fangs out and gleaming. “Wait!” she shouted. Oliver turned on her, but she’d had plenty of experience with his particular brand of intimidation.

“Please, Oliver. Don’t kill him.”

“Would you rather I take it from you?”

“I didn’t say you couldn’t bite him, just— be careful.”

“Afraid of more blood on your hands?” His fangs were still down, and they made his grin particularly terrifying. “Unhand me, woman, or I’ll unhand you. I’ll decide how much I need.”

“Kill him and you’re walking,” she said.

He stared at her for a long moment, and his anger turned to something oddly like . . . interest. “You know, you are not the mousy little thing I met that morning in Common Grounds,” he said. “You’ve become something else entirely. It’s to your credit, but it’s also extremely inconvenient.”

He raised the policeman’s free arm, ripped the sleeve loose, and pressed the man’s wrist to his mouth. Claire winced at the shriek the cop let out, but it was more surprise than pain. He shut up af- ter that, except for moans of fear, and Oliver ignored him as he continued to draw blood and swallow.

Just when Claire was starting to really worry, he let go of the cop’s arm and stepped back, fastening the blanket around his body. It was one of those soft jersey things, so it looked almost like a toga. She could imagine him back in ancient Rome, presiding over some bloodbath in the Coliseum.

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