“Charmed yet again, I’m sure,” Morley said. He didn’t sound charmed; he sounded utterly impatient. “Weren’t some of you vampires before? Oh, never mind. Boring. To the point, then. You brought Ayesha to us, and I thank you for that, but I notice you’ve not rescued anyone else. Thoughts?”

“Several. None that don’t involve you screaming.”

“Don’t be so limiting, I’m sure you can imagine several that in- volve me begging as well. Did you run away, Oliver? Leave your pride of caged cats behind?”

“Fallon’s got them,” Oliver said.


Silence fell. Morley jumped down from the table and leaned against it, eye to eye with Oliver for a change. He pulled off his hat and dropped it on the table and ran both hands through his wildly messy hair. “Well?” he finally said. “He was never my problem, nor yours, nor even Amelie’s or even her dead father’s. He was your madman’s doing.”

“Myrnin,” Oliver said. “Yes.”

“Wait,” Claire said. “What do you mean, it’s Myrnin’s prob- lem? He had nothing to do with it!”

“Oh, he did, girl, he most certainly did,” Morley said. He sat down on the table and gave her an amused stare. “He’s never told you the story? Ah, well, probably because it isn’t to his credit, I imagine. So poor, sad, unstable Myrnin was all alone after his vampire maker was killed. And he became friends with a clergy- man, a very learned one, who was also a secret student of alchemy.”

“That was Fallon,” Oliver said. “In case you might miss the obvious.”


“Quiet, it’s my story. Yes, it was our dear friend Fallon, who most earnestly wanted to cure Myrnin of his madness . . . and his curse. He found, most horribly, that he only made things worse, and next thing you know, Myrnin’s drained Fallon like a cask of wine. As ever, he immediately regretted it, and decided to resurrect him, within the doors of Fallon’s own church, no less. A thing Fallon most assuredly did not want to do, resurrect— at least not as a vampire. But our dear madman dragged him kicking and shrieking back to life. Broke him most sincerely, I’m afraid . . . and then left him to fend for himself.”

Claire wasn’t sure what was worse, hearing that Myrnin had killed a priest, or that he’d made him a vampire against his will, or that he’d abandoned him like some unwanted pet.

“He was not himself then,” Oliver said. “Myrnin isn’t solely re- sponsible for Fallon’s . . . excesses. Or his equally excessive self-loathing, which led to his crusade against us.”

“Nonsense. In short,” Morley said, “all this is Myrnin’s fault, and it’s his mess, and why I should have to sweep it up is not at all clear.”

“I agree that Myrnin should be the one to eliminate Fallon for us,” Oliver said. “Sadly, he seems more curious than outraged at the moment. Something about the progress that Fallon’s made on his cure. You know how the fool can get when you dangle a shiny bit of science in front of him.”

“I heard a rumor,” Morley said. “Scarcely credited it, frankly.

Is it true Fallon thinks he can cure us back to human?”

“It’s true he thinks it. It’s also true he can do it, at least in a few cases.” Oliver pointed a finger to where Michael and Eve sat at one of the study tables together. “You mentioned it earlier. Remember the boy?”

Morley gave Michael a long look, and his eyes slowly narrowed.

“Ah. Well, that seems a pity,” he said. “Hardly had time to get the taste for it, did he? And now he’s dumped back on the long human road to dust. Ah, well. Not much of a loss to the rest of us, it would seem.”

“You miss my point, mummer. Fallon can do as he says. Not all the time, not with any great certainty, but he has a cure. How many do you think would reach for it if the prize was before them?”

Fallon shrugged. “Not so many as all that. You watch enough friends march to their graves, you lose the taste for ashes. Blood has a flavor so much more compelling.”

“You and I share a faith, if not the particular details of it.

What if he can restore us to a state of grace?”

“I knew that in the end it would come down to religion for you,” Morley said, and rolled his eyes. “Do you feel damned and outcast from God’s love, poor dove? I don’t. I feel quite blessed to be able to wake every day knowing that I’ll see yet another, free of weakness and sickness and pain.”

Michael stood up. His chair screeched loudly on the floor, and both of the vampires looked toward him with identical frowning expressions. “We’re not here to debate how many angels are on the head of a pin, or whatever it is you’re about to get into. Fallon intends to turn vampires loose on humans in Morganville, then use the killing to justify giving them his cure until there’s nobody left.

And when he’s done with Morganville, he’ll come here, Morley.

He’ll come for you. All of you. He has to.”

A quiet, slender, middle- aged lady sitting nearby in an arm- chair said, “He’s right. We knew this couldn’t last if Morganville fell. The draug almost took everything, and now this Fallon’s coming to finish the job. I’m not letting him finish us. We’ve fought too hard.”

That was Mrs. Grant, the librarian— and, along with Morley, the one who ran the town of Blacke. She might look sweet and friendly, but Claire had seen her fighting off vampires and knew that she was nobody to mess with. Even Morley knew that.

He bowed his head slightly in her direction. “We can always run. I only ended up in this hick- town Eden through the misfor- tune that has always dogged my steps. What if we load our vam- pires into a light- proof truck and simply drive away?”

“Those vampires have family here. They’re our sons, daugh- ters, fathers, mothers. They didn’t ask for any of this, and you can’t just make them leave. Most of them will want this cure you’re talking about, you know.”

“ ’Tis exactly what worries me,” he said. “You heard dear Oli- ver. Most won’t survive. And we have no real surety that those who do won’t have their lives cut short by his potion, do we? What if his humanity cure lets you live only a few days, or weeks, or a year? What value does it have then?”

Claire hadn’t thought of that— hadn’t even considered it. And now it struck her with terrible force. Fallon wasn’t really concerned with making sure his “cured” vamps lived long and productive lives, was he? He just wanted them not to be vampires anymore.

He’d probably consider a week of life without drinking blood worth the trade- off.

What if Michael had survived only to get sick and die? It would break Eve. It would just break her in half.

“We’re not running,” Mrs. Grant said.

“But dearie—,” Morley began.

“Don’t you ‘dearie’ me, you wretch. I’m not your wife and I’m not your mother. I’m the head of the human part of this town and you wil pay attention to me. Agreed?”

“Yes,” Morley said. There was a little smile on his lips and a crinkle of amusement around his eyes. “Of course. Very well, then, how do you think we should proceed in our grand quest to liberate Morganville? Descend upon them in a furious horde of fangs? It has a certain theatrical appeal, but—”

“They’d be ready,” Oliver said. “They were ready before they came here. They ignored the vampires at first; they brought good works to the human community, won their trust, fanned the flames of anger. And Amelie was slow to act when there was no threat in sight. If she’d known what we who’d met them before did, she would have taken steps. But she hesitated. If I’d been here, by her side. . . .”

“But you weren’t,” Morley said. “Because you had already failed her.”

Oliver’s body went tense, and his head lowered with unmistak- able menace.

“Luckily,” Morley continued with that strange trace of a smile, “I did not, and neither did your human companions. She’s escaped from Fallon. What, did no one tell you? That chit of a girl with you, the one who looks so inoffensive— she covered herself in Amelie’s blood to distract the hellhounds from her. And that boy, the one who looks so incapable of self- control— despite Fallon’s infection in his blood, he held off from killing both his lady and yours.”

Oliver’s face twisted into a frown, and he cast a sharp look at Claire and Shane, but before he could ask anything at all, a woman dressed in blue jeans and a buttoned shirt stepped out from be- tween the bookshelves. Her white- blond hair fell in a wavy rush across her shoulders and halfway down her back, and her ice gray eyes looked weary. “It’s true,” Amelie said. “Morley exaggerates, but he rarely lies outright. If not for these children, I’d be in Fallon’s hands now, and this . . . this would be over for the vampires of Morganville.”

Shane’s hand crushed Claire’s, a sudden and convulsive reac- tion that made her wince and look at him in alarm. He’d turned pale, and his whole body had gone tense, as if he were fighting an internal battle of epic proportions.

A battle he lost, as it happened.

His eyes took on an eerie golden shine, and he let go of her hand to lunge forward. There was a table in the way, but he vaulted it, heading straight for Amelie, and Claire saw bloody claws pushing out of his fingers.

“No!” she screamed. “Shane, no!”

Michael got in his way. Maybe, in that moment, he was think- ing that he was still a vampire, capable of speed and strength; it must have been hard to shake that off after years of being used to it. But he didn’t have those things, and Shane hit him like a freight train, slamming him backward.

Michael raised his left arm to protect his throat as Shane lunged for it, and Shane’s teeth bit into his flesh in a violent blur.

Oliver was already in motion. He took a standing leap from halfway across the room, landed on the table, and launched him- self like an arrow straight for Shane. He ripped him away from Michael, spun him, and slammed him down. Then he held him there, flat on the floor, as Shane shredded the linoleum with his claws.

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