“As ever,” Oliver said, “I am at your service, Founder.”

“I know.” There was a shadow of a smile in Amelie’s eyes, and no trace of fear. “Michael?”

“I’m okay,” he said, but it was just an automatic response, not true at all. His arm was bloody, and Eve was already beside him and helping to brace him as he staggered. She grabbed a chair and got him safely into it, and quickly stripped off her hoodie to wrap it around his bitten arm.

On the floor a few feet away, Shane was still changing, trig- gered by Amelie’s presence. “He’ll need to be locked away,” Amelie said.

“No, you can’t—,” Claire blurted, and even as she said it she knew Amelie was right. Still, it felt wrong. Sick. Horrible. But Shane was dangerous, obviously; he’d hurt Michael, and Michael wasn’t a vampire anymore; he’d just been in the way. He’d have done the same to anyone.

“I don’t think you’d want me to reconsider,” Amelie said, “since the alternative would be to put the boy down, and neither of us wants that.”

“Speak for yourself,” Oliver grumbled, and had to put a quell- ing hand flat on Shane’s shoulder blades to keep him from pushing up. He was, Claire realized, still changing, his body contorting into a new, horrific shape. “Down, boy. Stay down.”

“Don’t hurt him!”

“Then I need something to tame him,” Oliver said, ignoring her completely. “Quickly, please. He’s strong.”

Mrs. Grant was walking toward them, unsnapping an old- fashioned doctor’s bag— Theo Goldman’s, Claire was surprised to see. She remembered that bag. It even had the vampire doctor’s ini- tials on it in faded gold. “Wait, what are you doing?” Claire said.


She didn’t remember moving, but she was clutching the edge of a table now. “Shane, don’t fight! Please!” Mrs. Grant set the bag down and took out an ancient- looking syringe with a hideously long needle.

She caught her breath as Mrs. Grant, with a decisive thrust, stuck the needle into Shane’s back. He let out a howl— an actual howl, pure and shivery— and Amelie herself bent a knee to help hold Shane down as Mrs. Grant depressed the plunger, emptying the contents of the syringe into him.

“Get back,” Oliver snapped. The librarian capped the syringe and put it in Theo’s bag before she retreated, leaving the two vam- pires to handle Shane as he continued to thrash and struggle for freedom. He was growling now, a low and vicious sound that made Claire feel short of breath.

And then his growling turned to a pained, puzzled whimper, and faded into panting.

Claire gasped and lunged to where Amelie and Oliver were still holding Shane— what Shane had become— down. He didn’t look human at all now. He looked more like a black dog, massive and terrifying, with those eerie inhuman eyes staring blearily up at her.

“Muscle relaxer,” Mrs. Grant said. “It should hold him for a bit, but in my experience, with vampires at least, it doesn’t last long. So we’d better find out what we’re dealing with. From the looks of him, there’s no place we can lock him up here that he won’t break through.”

“Oh, I’ve seen something like this before,” Morley said. He was still sitting on the edge of a table, looking mildly surprised but not alarmed. “Ages ago. An alchemist turned someone into a wolf, one of those elaborate demonstrations so popular back in the day.”

“Did he turn him back?” Claire asked.

“Wolves weren’t terribly popular back then. He didn’t have the chance.” He stared at Shane thoughtfully for a moment, then moved his gaze to Michael as Mrs. Grant moved toward him with the doctor bag and unwrapped his wounded arm. She had him wiggle his fingers, and seemed satisfied when he was able to do so without much pain. “But it would seem to me that it’s a similar thing to what’s happened to him.”

Claire had no idea what he meant, and she couldn’t take it all in; it was too much, too fast, from the warm, romantic moment outside to . . . this. “Michael was healed. Whatever this is— it isn’t being healed!”

“Well, it’s an essential change of state. Vampire to human is just as great a change as what’s happened to your dog boy; per- haps whatever cure Fallon forced down young Michael’s throat might work just as well to change your hound back to his proper form, yes?”

That was . . . crazy. Unscientific. It was the kind of thing Myrnin would think of— but what Claire couldn’t shake was how often Myrnin was right in these situations. “But we don’t have any of the cure,” she said. “And even if we did— it kills most of those who get it.”

“Didn’t kill him,” Morley said, nodding toward Michael. “His blood still smells rank with whatever he was dosed with. And young Shane has just consumed a mouthful of it.”

It struck Claire, finally, what he was saying, just as it also struck Michael, who met her gaze, looking horrified. “No,” he said. “It can’t work that way.”

“Tell that to him,” Morley said, and pointed at Shane . . . who was changing.

It didn’t happen as quickly as the shift he’d experienced in Amelie’s presence, and Claire recognized, with a sick horror, the silvery glow that played on his skin underneath the matted coat of fur. She’d seen that before, in the vampires who’d been given the cure.

She’d seen it kil them.

“Get off him!” she screamed to Oliver, and when he didn’t im- mediately move, she shoved at him. It was about as effective as shoving at a building, but after an eyebrows- raised glance at Ame- lie, he rose and let her kneel next to Shane’s quivering body.

She wasn’t afraid of Shane, even though she supposed she ought to be; he wasn’t himself— the fact that he’d attacked Michael was proof enough of that. But she couldn’t think about that, couldn’t worry about that.

She was so afraid for him.

Within another minute his body had begun to warp back toward human shapes. She watched the claws that had pushed out of his fingers turn glassy and brittle, then break off. The fur that had covered him grayed and fell away, leaving silvery, pulsing skin.

He was whimpering under his breath. She shifted him into her lap. He felt hot and clammy, and she could feel his bones moving and shifting under his skin at utterly wrong, sickening angles . . .

until they were right again.

He opened his eyes, took in a slow, deep breath, and said, in a rough but recognizable voice, “Claire?” His eyes were brown again.

Human. “Sorry.” He swallowed hard, and she saw that the silvery glow was fading from his skin. “Sorry.” His eyes drifted shut again, as if he was too tired to keep them open.

“No,” she said, and shook him. “No, stay awake! Shane, stay awake!”

His eyes opened again, and he blinked and focused on her face.

“Tired,” he said. “Hey, did somebody drug me? I feel drugged.”

He sounded out of it, too, but peaceful. She checked his pulse. It was slow and steady. His skin had taken on its more usual color, an even, smooth tan. “Did I hurt somebody?”

She involuntarily looked to where Michael was having his arm looked at by Mrs. Grant; he was pale, but he gave her a thumbs- up.

“No,” she lied. “No, everything’s okay. You’re okay.”

“Did I turn into a hellhound again? Damn. That’s embar- rassing.”

“Just rest.” She kissed his forehead gently. “Rest.” She was afraid to see his eyes close, but he was too high on muscle relaxers to stay awake. His temperature felt . . . normal. And his pulse strong.

“What the hell was in that shot?” He sounded blurred and sleepy now. “Wow. Party drugs. Got any more? Ow.” He raised his arm and looked at it; the bite mark was almost gone, reduced to twisted scar tissue. “That still hurts. Feels like I burned it.

You’re pretty, did you know that?” He gave Claire a sweet, sloppy smile.

“What was in that shot?” Eve asked. “Because you are high as the space shuttle, dude.” She crouched down next to Shane on the other side and helped Claire get him up to his feet. He felt . . .

boneless. “Okay, he’s going to be pretty much useless for a while.”

“We’ve got a place you can all rest for the night,” Mrs. Grant said.

“Any idea how long— this— will last?” Claire waved helplessly at Shane, who was staring at his fingers and wiggling them. He looked fascinated.

“A few hours, most likely. Let me get the keys to the guest- house,” Mrs. Grant said, and disappeared into an office.

“I have to ask,” Michael said. “Did my blood just . . . cure him?”

“Looks like it,” Claire said. “Morley said he could smell the medicine in you. Maybe it counteracted whatever Shane’s infec- tion was.”

“Let’s be clear about this,” Eve said. “My ex- vampire husband just cured your boyfriend of werewolfism with his blood.”

“Seems about right,” Claire said, and almost laughed. “Typical Morganville, right?”

Eve offered her an upraised fist. “Typical Morganville.” They bumped.

Across the room, Oliver ignored them. He sank to one knee and bent his head to Amelie, the same way some ancient nobleman might have bowed to his queen. She silently offered her hand, and he pressed it to his forehead, then his lips. All weirdly formal.

“I’ve twice failed you,” he said.

“You just stopped the boy.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I know what you meant, Oliver. You count too many things as failures when they are merely setbacks.” She beckoned him up, and he stood, still intimately close to her. She didn’t seem both- ered. “I feel safer with my old enemy beside me.”

“Then you have a plan?”

“We have one,” she said, and cut her gaze toward Morley, who gave a theatrical, fussy little bow that was somehow even more antique than the one Oliver had pulled out. “I trust you’ll help.”

Most Popular