Amelie reached up and effortlessly caught his arm as it de- scended toward Jesse’s chest. She turned and looked at him. “No,”

she said. “Not today.” She plucked the stake from his hand and plunged it into the wooden floor of the stage next to her.

Then she let him go. He backed away, clearly not sure what to do with a vampire who didn’t want to hurt him.

It should have been over, but Fallon still had Jesse, and a stake of his own, and although he should have been making his escape, he was moving forward . . . to the edge of the stage, where he grabbed Jesse’s limp body and stood with her clasped against his chest.

“Myrnin!” Even without the microphone, his shout was loud enough to be easily heard over the crowd. “You need to live in the same hell you left me to rot in— and that means you will rot alone.” He raised the stake.

Myrnin was too far away. Too far away to save her.

But Claire wasn’t.

She fired the Taser into Fallon’s back.

He convulsed, slumped, and fell with a heavy thud, still shaking.

Myrnin arrived just a second later, traveling at blurred vampire speed, and vaulted up onto the stage to gather Jesse in his arms.


“Dear lady, dear lady, what’s he done to you . . .” He took her wrist and nipped at it, drawing just a little blood, which he licked. It must have told him what he needed to know. “He’s given her a sleeping drug. It’ll pass soon. She’s all right. Claire, she’s all right.”

He looked up, and there were tears in his eyes as he smiled at her.

She smiled back. Her heart was breaking a little bit, because she felt something changing in Myrnin, and she knew that she would no longer be the center of his gravity. He’d always be there for her, and he’d always be her friend, but there was something in the way he held Jesse, stroked her hair, whispered to her in a way that Claire couldn’t ever see him doing with her.

Shane’s warm weight settled in behind her, and his arms went around her. He’d passed the shotgun over to Eve, who was holding it on the Daylighter guards. Beyond him, Amelie had finally risen to her feet. She looked at the vampires still standing in the sun— a sign of their loyalty to her, Claire thought— and raised the microphone.

“Get under cover, friends,” she told them. “Thank you. Today you’ve shown me, and all of Morganville, what we truly can be. It will always be a struggle for us, but we can learn, and we will. Go.”

As soon as they started moving, heading for the shadows on the porches of the buildings, Amelie turned to Oliver, who was still lying on the ground, shaking. She knelt gracefully next to him and took his hand.

“I’m here,” she said. It was what she’d said to Morley, but where that had been compassion, this was something far stronger.

“Fool,” he managed to whisper. “Never trust a human’s good intentions.”

“Perhaps we’ll both learn to do better,” she said, and bent to place a kiss on his lips. “Over time.”

“Perhaps you shouldn’t trust my intentions.”

“I never do,” she said, and raised her brows just slightly. “Rest.

You can bedevil me later.”

“I will,” he said. “Perhaps you might get me into the shade?”

She laughed and picked him up in her arms— a very odd sight, and one Claire was pretty sure Oliver wouldn’t remember fondly— and carried him away out of the sun.

Michael still guarded Fallon. He stood there with one of the silver stakes, turning it restlessly in his fingers. Fallon was starting to shake off the shock.

The look in his eyes was pure, cold hatred.

“Yo, Mikey,” Shane said. “He ain’t a vampire anymore. If you do that, it’s murder.”

“I know,” Michael said. “I won’t do anything he doesn’t make me do. Please don’t give me an excuse, Fallon. I do owe you for giving me back my life.”

Fallon had recovered enough to say something, but it was faint, and Claire almost missed it. “You were a means to an end, boy,” he whispered. “To hurt her.”

Michael shrugged. “Then I won’t invite you to my wedding.”

“What wedding?” Eve called, from where she was standing.

“They annulled our marriage, remember? You don’t think I’d let you walk away, do you?”

She blew him a kiss. “Never ever, rock star. Leave him. Let’s go home.”

Fallon smirked as Hannah Moses put handcuffs on him. “You think you have a home to return to?”

They all stopped and stared at him— at the hot, bitter triumph in his smile.

“Michael,” Shane said, “wouldn’t we know . . .”

“We were out of town,” Michael said, and looked at Claire for confirmation. “We wouldn’t, would we?”

She searched inside herself for that connection to the Glass House, that little thread of feeling that she’d come to recognize.

It was still there . . . but it was weak. Very weak.

“We have to go,” she said. “Right now.”

They commandeered a police car from Hannah, and Shane hit the lights and sirens while Michael drove, ignoring stoplights and weaving around other cars as if he’d plunged into a real- life video game. Claire and Eve, on the other hand, just clung to their seats in the back. It didn’t take long to spot their house.

And the massive bulldozer that was heading relentlessly for it.

“Oh, God,” Eve said. As they made the turn, the treads of the giant yellow monster mowed down and crushed their mailbox, hit the white picket fence, splintered it, and crushed it into the nice, neat grass. It wasn’t neat for long. The treads chewed the yard into muck as the bulldozer moved forward, raising its bucket. It was aimed right at the corner of the house, and as Michael brought the car to a screeching halt at the curb Claire saw Miranda’s face at the window, eyes wide in terror, staring at the thing that was coming to destroy their home.

And her.

There were no plans made for this contingency, and Claire knew there was no time for any; Shane and Michael bailed out the front, and Shane remembered— barely— to yank open Claire’s door in the back before he dashed after Michael, too.

“Get the driver!” Michael yelled, but it wasn’t going to be that easy, because the driver wasn’t alone— he had a couple of other burly construction- hardened guys with him. Shane veered off and made a running leap for the cab of the bulldozer. It was brand- new, barely dirty yet, and it had an enclosed, probably air- conditioned cab . . . with a locking door.

And the driver, of course, had it locked.

Shane yanked on the door, but that was useless; he tried driv- ing his elbow into the glass, but it was thick, designed to resist flying debris. And then the bulldozer, which had slowed down as the operator assessed the threat Shane represented, sped up again, and the lurch threw him off to roll on the grass.

There wasn’t time for anything too fancy, but Claire stopped, ran back to the police car, and frantically searched around the seats . . . and found an expandable, flexible baton. She raced past Shane, who was rising to head for the bulldozer again.

“Help Michael!” she yelled. He and Eve were in the middle of a scrum with the two other construction men, and Michael still hadn’t realized the limitations of his all- too- human body yet. “I’ve got this!”

He gave her a quick, worried look, but he didn’t argue. Besides, he loved a good fistfight, and this was shaping up to be one he’d remember fondly.

Claire took a deep breath, a running jump, and landed on the rubber- coated step next to the cab. The driver gave her an irri- tated, smug look; he sneered and didn’t bother to put the machine in idle this time.

At least, not until she drew back and smashed the heavy baton into the window glass, cracking it into frost. A second blow rained chunks of safety glass all over him, and he let out a yelp and took his hand off the throttle— which automatically shut the bulldozer down to an idle again, five feet from the corner of the house. He swore at her, loudly, and shoved the door open, which pushed her off and onto the grass, where she hit and rolled to her feet, breathing hard.

She’d been hoping he’d jump out and come after her, but he’d done what he intended to do by brushing her off, and now he slammed the door again and jammed the throttle forward.

“No!” Claire screamed, and leaped back on. She collided with the metal door. He hadn’t locked it properly this time, and she stepped back on the step and yanked it open, holding on for dear life. She’d dropped the baton somewhere, but she didn’t have room to wield it inside the cab anyway.

“Are you crazy? Get the hell out! Don’t make me hurt you!”

the man said, and shoved at her. She clung on, so he let off the throttle to get a better grip on her with both hands . . . and she let him. He had hard, strong hands, and she knew it was going to leave bruises, but that was okay right now. Bruises were fine.

Because she was able to lean over across him and grab the key from the ignition before he threw her out of the cab and off the machine.

The bulldozer coughed and died, locked in its muddy tracks, and Claire shook off the fall and got to her feet, grinning. He didn’t get what had happened for a moment. He kept jamming his thumb on the button to start the engine, but then he must have spotted what was missing, because he leveled a black, furious look at Claire and jumped down from the cab to come after her.

She ran for the messy brawl that was spilling all over the lawn— Michael and Eve were tag- teaming one of the construction guys, who looked furious and frustrated, not to mention a little worried. His fellow neon- vested buddy was throwing punches at Shane, which Shane was easily dancing around while snapping hard, accurate blows to the man’s midsection, and— as Claire dashed past them— a stunning right hook that spun the guy half- way around to spiral limply to the ground.

“Hey, Claire!” Shane called to her, and then spotted the furi- ous bulldozer operator, hard in pursuit. He stepped in the way.

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