“That’s all. We plan to help them get better.”

“Yeah,” Eve said. “You’re helping, all right. What is this, Vampire Reeducation Camp? Are you planning on helping them learn to live without blood? Vegan vampires?”

The silence that greeted this was so deep that it made Claire’s already tense muscles ache and tighten. There was something in Hannah’s carefully controlled expression that made her feel sick and scared. “It’s probably time to go now before this gets any messier,” Hannah said. “Wrap it up, kids.”

Eve raised her head from Michael’s shoulder. There were tears in her eyes, but she wasn’t crying. She was too angry to cry. “I’m not leaving him.”

“Eve, she’s right. You can’t stay,” he said in a gentle voice. He brushed his hand across her sleek black hair, let it drift through his fingers, and touched her lips just as softly. “You have to go, Eve. You wouldn’t be safe here.”

“Why not? Aren’t they feeding you?”

“They’re feeding us. I’ll be fine,” he said, and kissed her. “Eve, I’ll be fine. Just go, okay? Claire, take her. Please.”

Claire didn’t want to, but she could see that he was serious; when she hesitated, he fixed her with a calm, steady stare until she moved forward and put her hand under Eve’s arm to get her to her feet.

“No,” Eve said. “No, I’m not going, Claire. I can’t— we can’t just leave him here . . .”

“Maybe not, but we also can’t get him out,” Claire said. The words tasted horrible in her mouth, like ashes and iron, and she had to swallow hard to continue. “Not yet. But we will, Eve. I swear to you, this isn’t over.”


Hannah said, “It is for now. Michael, you move back to the line. Go on.”

He got up and walked back to where Oliver was waiting at the edge of the tiles— exactly opposite from where Amelie was stand- ing in her glowing white suit. Oliver put a hand on Michael’s shoulder. Maybe he meant to just hold him back, but it looked to Claire like . . . comfort? Odd, if so. Oliver wasn’t much on empa- thy. Then again, the look on Michael’s face— that lost, hollow, helpless look— would have moved anybody.

Except Hannah, apparently, who marched them straight to the door. As she opened it, though, Amelie said, without moving from where she stood, “Thank you for allowing Eve to see him, Chief Moses. I will not forget your kindness.” It sounded unmistakably chilling, and Hannah’s shoulders stiffened for a second, then de- liberately relaxed.

“I’m sure you won’t,” Hannah said. “Anybody moves, every- body gets shocked down to the ground. Clear?”

“Yes,” Amelie said. “You have made yourself very clear indeed.”

None of the vamps moved. It was like looking at a room full of pale, silent statues, but the hate in their eyes was like nothing Claire had ever seen before. No wonder Michael hadn’t wanted Eve to stay. That kind of trapped fury didn’t bother with fine distinctions, and there would be some in that mall who didn’t care whom they killed . . . as long as they got to vent that rage on a human.

Just as the door closed, Claire heard Amelie say, soft as a whis- per, “Don’t worry. We will see you very soon.”

The sunlight felt as cold as winter.

Shane was pacing near the cruiser, looking pale and agitated, and he was rubbing his arm as if it hurt him. He stopped and looked at them as Claire walked toward him. “What the hell hap- pened?” He didn’t wait for an answer, though; he grabbed Eve’s other arm and helped to hold her up. “Dammit, Eve—”

“I want to go back,” Eve said. She sounded odd and shaky.

“They’re going to kill all of them, I know they are, they’re going to do something terrible to Michael. I have to go back.” She tried to pull away, but Shane and Claire held on to her. Hannah opened the back door of the cruiser. She still wasn’t looking at them— looking anywhere but at them, in fact. Her face could have been carved from stone. “Please, don’t do this, Shane, please let me go—”

“You can’t even come close to getting in there again and you know it,” Shane said. “Eve. You can’t, and Michael doesn’t want you pulling something crazy like that. Come on.”

He put her into the car and walked around to block her from sliding out the other door; Claire took the space on one side of Eve as he crowded in on the other. She wasn’t fighting them, but she wasn’t helping, either. At least she’s not angry, Claire thought, but she wasn’t sure that was an improvement. No tears, no yelling. Just this . . . silence.

And then there was Shane, still acting twitchy on Eve’s left, frowning and rubbing his forearm and snapping, as Hannah took the driver’s seat, “Can we just get the hell out of here already?”

That made Hannah give him a long glance in the mirror, but she started the engine. Shane’s tense body language seemed to ease up a little as the car pulled away from the blank, brooding exterior of the mall. Bitter Creek was a good name for it, Claire thought.

Definitely not a happy kind of place.

It worried her that she hadn’t seen Myrnin at all.


Hannah took them home to the Glass House.

It looked different. And it wasn’t just the time Claire had spent away from it that had made it that way. Some- one had painted it. Done a good job, too— the exterior was a neat, sparkling white, instead of the faded, peeling mess that had been there before. The trim was a crisp dark blue. It looked almost re- spectable. The lawn was even neatly mowed.

“What the hell?” She blurted it out before she meant to, and sent Shane a disbelieving look. He sent it right back, amplified. So, he hadn’t been on the work crew, then.

Neither had Eve, apparently, because she gulped, sat up straighter, and said, “Um, what is that?”

“The town funded a renewal program for all the remaining Founder Houses,” Hannah said. “To preserve our history. Don’t tell me you’re not pleased. It looks a hell of a lot better than the tumbledown mess it was before.”

It did. The railings were straight, the warped boards had been replaced on the porch, and the windows actually sparkled. At the top of the peaked roof, a new weathervane in the shape of a sunrise (ugh) creaked and turned in the direction of the breeze, and as Hannah opened her car door, Claire heard the thin, whispering sound of wind chimes. Someone had mounted a set of them at the edge of the porch, along with a large potted plant that looked new and healthy.

The place was spiffy and pretty and not theirs.

“Tell me you didn’t touch anything inside the house,” Eve said.

“Because I swear I’ll cut somebody. We liked the house the way we left it! That is our home!” What she didn’t say, but Claire thought she almost heard, was It’s Michael’s home. And her heart ached for him, and for Eve.

“Nobody went inside the house,” Hannah assured them. “This was an exterior renovation project. I thought you’d be pleased.”

“You could have asked first,” Eve said, but after the initial shock, some of her dislike was fading. And yeah, the house did look fantastic— restored to all its old Victorian glory, neat and sound.

Claire realized it only underscored how little they’d taken care of the place . . . but then, they’d had other priorities, like staying alive.

And none of them was much on chores.

“Let’s just get inside,” Shane said. “Hey, Hannah? Tell the Day- lighters not to do us any more favors. I don’t want to owe them.”

Hannah didn’t comment on that. She just opened the back door of the cruiser, and Shane piled out, followed by Eve and last of all, Claire.

Walking up the steps was a whole different experience. The paint was still new enough to make her dizzy, and its smell min- gled with the aroma of fresh- cut grass and new plants in the warm desert air. “Guess we’ll have to start watering the damn lawn now,”

Shane said, and fumbled for his keys. “So much easier to take care of when it was a wreck. Watch the paint on the door. I’m pretty sure it’s still wet.”

As Claire followed them over the threshold, she felt a shiver of power crawl over her . . . the house, waking up from a sleep, com- ing alive, welcoming them home. It felt like a fresh blast of cool air, and also, weirdly, like hands stroking her hair. She shut and double- locked the door— ingrained habit, in Morganville— and leaned against the wood to breathe in deeply.

Inside, it still smelled familiar. Old wood, dust, paper— not a clean smell, but a good one. The interior walls needed painting just as much as those outside had; they were smudged, scratched, and dented from hard use. None of the four of them was much on surface cleaning, and as Claire glanced into the side parlor, she saw that the oval coffee table— replaced relatively recently, after half their furniture had gotten smashed in a fight— had a blurring of dust over its surface. The old Victorian sofa looked as saggy and tired as ever.

Shane and Eve had already wandered off down the hall, Shane heading for the more modern, overstuffed couch in the living room and Eve’s clunky boots echoing on the stairs that led up to their rooms. Claire went a few steps in, and just . . . stopped. She closed her eyes and felt a peculiar, warm kind of peace sink in.


She felt almost as if the house itself were saying it to her: This is where you belong. She remembered leaving here for her brief journey to MIT in the predawn darkness, carrying her bags down and try- ing not to wake up any of the others to let them know she was leav- ing. She remembered the feelings of excitement, of worry, of longing, of fear, of anguish . . . and of devastation.

It felt healing to be back.

It felt right.


She opened her eyes. Shane was standing at the end of the hall, and his dark eyes were full of concern. She smiled at him and saw the tension ease. “I’m home,” she said, and came into his arms.

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