“In any way you deem necessary.”

She nodded, stepped even closer, and put her pale hand on his cheek. “Then eat, and rest until morning,” she said. “In the morn- ing, we are taking back our town.”


Mrs. Grant opened up Blacke’s little bed- and- breakfast for them. Basically, it was a four- bedroom house with doors that locked and a self- serve kitchen, located just about a block from the library. Claire’s exhaustion was starting to make the world seem too bright, and when she found herself standing in the kitchen of a strange house, sipping spiced hot chocolate, it seemed a heavenly, strangely unreal experience. Which, she thought as she leaned against the counter, somehow seemed appropriate.

Eve raised her eyebrows as she drained the last of her cocoa.


“I’m just thinking,” Claire said. “Thinking that maybe Shane—”

“Might relapse or something? Oh, honey, don’t borrow trouble.

We’ve got enough here and the interest rates will kill you. Shane’s tough. He’ll be fine.”

“Right,” Claire said softly. “Eve, about what Morley said back there, about the cure . . .”


Eve turned away and rinsed her cup in the sink, but it was more about avoiding eye contact than anything else. “You think there could be side effects? I don’t believe that. I can’t. I got him back, and that’s all I can think about right now, Claire. I’ve got Michael back, the real one, the one I crushed on from the time I was four-teen, the one I fell in love with so hard when I was eighteen. Any- thing else . . . anything else is something for tomorrow.”

Claire nodded. She understood that, the need to just block every thing out and be stil . Feel as if there was still hope in the world, and love, and a future.

“Go on,” she said, and finished her own drink. The cocoa was having its usual effect, and on top of the general exhaustion she felt almost as warm and fuzzy as if she’d had a shot of Shane’s happy juice. “I know you’re dying to tell him that.”

Eve’s smile lit up the room. The world. “Oh, he knows, if he’s got a brain in his head,” she said. “But I’m definitely looking forward to saying it, anyway.” She grabbed Claire into a hard, firm hug. “Love you, Claire Bear. See you in a few hours.”

“Love you, too,” Claire said. It felt so good, being together again. “Go on. Michael’s waiting.”

Eve’s smile was still warmer than the sun, and the warmth lin- gered even after she’d left the room.

Claire rinsed her own mug and put it in the dishwasher, then went to the small central bathroom. There were guest soaps and disposable toothbrushes, and she cleaned up as best she could, then took a deep breath and walked down the hall to the room where they’d put Shane.

She was afraid that he’d be worse somehow, but instead, he was lying curled on his side in the center of the king- sized bed, with blankets piled on top, and he was sound asleep. She pulled off her shoes, pants, and hoodie and climbed into bed next to him. He was warm, but not feverishly hot, and as she snuggled close to him he made a pleased noise in the back of his throat and put his arms around her. He didn’t quite wake up, which was good; she was so tired that she wanted to weep, and the feeling of him, the dreamy gentle warmth— that meant more to her just now than anything else in the world.

She curled against him, pulled up the covers, and was asleep in under a minute.

Claire woke up slowly— not in a panic, for a change, not con- vinced that there were monsters lunging for her from the shadows.

Shane had kept all that at bay. The light creeping through the lace curtains wasn’t yet exactly announcing morning, but it was enough to start her lazy climb up toward it. She was still in the same position in which she’d fallen asleep, she realized, except that Shane’s warmth wasn’t next to her anymore.

She rolled over, and saw that the bed was empty.

That drove the lazy good morning feelings away. She sat up, fast. “Shane?”

The door to the room opened, and Shane came in carrying two coffee mugs. He looked pale and tired, but he definitely wasn’t flying high anymore. He sat on the bed cross- legged next to her and passed her a cup— steady enough to not spill a drop of it.

He’d remembered how she liked it, too. “You’re up early,” she said. “How do you feel?”

“Hungover,” he said, and took a deep swallow of his coffee.

His eyes shut in pleasure. “Oh, thank God. I was about a million percent caffeine- deficient. Did I say anything embarrassing?”

“You went all hellhound and attacked Amelie in the library.”

“No, really, did I say anything embarrassing?”

“You said I was pretty,” she said, and smiled.

“Well, you are, even with your hair sticking up funny.” He put his cup down and reached over to smooth it down. She looked at his forearm. The bite was now a faded scar, not red at all. “Yeah, I know what happened. I remember biting Mikey. He’s okay, right?”

“He’s okay.”

“It felt— it felt like I was burning up inside. That was his blood, right?”

“The best I can tell, the cure was still in his bloodstream, and it attacked what Fallon had put into you to make you— change.

So they kind of canceled each other out.”

“For now,” he said. He picked at a loose thread on the blanket.

“Shane, you’re okay. Really.”

“Sorry. You’re right. Not enough coffee.” He reached for his cup again and took a long gulp, then set it on the bedside table.

“How’s yours?”

“The coffee? It’s great.” She kissed him lightly. “Thank you for bringing it.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, and kissed her back. Oh, that was nice. Real y nice. Claire broke free long enough to put her cup down, before the coffee ended up all over her chest, and leaned into the kiss as if she’d never left it.

“Well,” Shane murmured against her lips, and brushed hair back from her face with warm, lingering touches, “this is nice. I could almost forget we’re about to go to war. Again.”

“Let’s not think about it right now.”

“Okay.” He leaned forward, and she let herself fall back to the soft comfort of the pillows. “Let’s think about something else, like . . . letting the coffee get cold.”

“It’s good coffee.”

“I’ll make more.”

It was a lovely warm hour, sweet and slow and breathtaking, and Claire thought that maybe it was weird how they knew each other so well now, so that every touch was in the right place, the right pressure. It was exciting, but it was also comfortable in ways she could never have imagined, as comfortable as she could have ever been with anyone. No secrets. No shame. Nothing but com- plete, sweet trust.

Right up until the knock came at the bedroom door.

They were lying in each other’s arms, pleasantly drowsy, but Claire’s eyes flew open at the sound, and so did Shane’s. They hes- itated for only a second before they rolled in opposite directions to fish clothes off the floor and start dressing. “Just a sec!” Claire said, and yanked up her pants, then threw on the hoodie over her T- shirt. The tpu vipers logo on it seemed appropriate this morn- ing. She jammed her feet into her shoes, but as fast as she was, Shane was even faster. He was sitting on the bed calmly sipping coffee when the door banged open.

“Good morning,” he said to Morley, who looked full- on Vam- pire Western again in his duster, boots, scarf, and hat. “Kind of rude to come in when the lady asks you to wait, isn’t it?”

“My sincere apology,” Morley said, and did a straight- legged bow, whipping off his hat with a flourish. “But we’re about to go retake the town of Morganville, and manners are not my greatest concern. Might you want to join us, or are you, ah, occupied?”

“Is that a choice? Because if so . . .”

“We’re coming,” Claire said. She downed the rest of her coffee— cold, now— and walked over to Morley. “Come on, Shane. Do you really intend to sit this one out?”

“You’re right. There’s a fight, and I’m not in it? That seems wrong.” Shane made sure to finish his coffee. “Okay, let’s do this thing. Wait, what exactly are we doing?”

“I have no idea what you’re doing,” Morley said, “but Mrs.

Grant is killing Amelie.”

Claire thought it was a flippant, weird thing to say until she saw Amelie lying on the table in the library, not moving, with a silvercoated stake in her heart.

“What are you doing?” she blurted, and pushed forward. Michael and Eve were already there, standing together. “What happened?”

“Don’t touch her,” Mrs. Grant warned. “Trust me, we’ve calcu- lated this very carefully.”

“Stabbing her? With silver?” Because even Amelie couldn’t resist that poison for long, not in her heart. She had more of a resistance than most of the other vampires Claire had ever seen, but this . . .

this was extreme. And extremely dangerous.

Then she saw the symbol on the side of the stake— an etched- in sunrise.

“You’re a Daylighter,” Claire said flatly, and looked around for a weapon. She didn’t see one handy, so she grabbed a chair. It was heavy, but she raised it anyway. “Step away from her.”

“Put that down,” said Oliver, and took the chair from her with one hand. He placed it back at the table, handling it as easily as if it was made out of matchsticks. “It’s an illusion. A carefully crafted one. The stake is silver, stolen from the Daylighters; their weapons come loaded with silver nitrate.” She knew that, because she’d seen one buried in Michael’s chest, back in Cambridge. They were designed to deliver a fatal dose of silver when anyone tried to remove them. “We’ve removed the nitrate from this one, and coated the stake with plastic. It’s not toxic to her, but it’s no doubt ridiculously painful. She’s most convincing in her death.”

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