|Home > Pamela Palmer > Vamp City > A Blood Seduction (Page 30)|
|A Blood Seduction(Vamp City #1) by Pamela Palmer|
"Do you have your bearings?" she asked Marcus, who'd waited for her.
Delilah touched her arm. "I know exactly where we are. Where do you want to go?"
"The gladiator camp."
Delilah lifted a brow, but asked no questions. "I can take you there."
"Lead the way."
Jeff scowled, but Quinn ignored him.
They walked through the empty streets as they had before, disappearing into the shadows and the old buildings whenever the sound of a carriage or automobile sounded nearby. Quinn thought she heard Arturo's Jeep, but only in the distance. He couldn't find her. She wouldn't allow that to happen.
"How long have you been a Slava?" Quinn asked the woman, as they walked past a block that consisted now of little more than rubble.
"Oh, I don't know. Close to seventy years, I imagine. I was captured only a few months after the stock market crash of '29."
"A little over eighty, then."
"Is it? It makes so little difference here. Nothing ever changes."
"Do you have someplace to go, Delilah?" Marcus asked. "Where we're going . . ."
The woman waved a hand absently. "You're trying to get home, I know. And, yes, I have someplace. My sister is married and free. If I can find her, she'll take me in."
Quinn frowned. "Is she in a hidden enclave, too?"
"Yes. In a way."
Clearly, she didn't intend to say more, and Quinn couldn't blame her. She'd already run afoul of one enclave. The less anyone knew where she was going, probably the better.
They continued on in silence down a couple of blocks of run-down buildings before once more crossing the street. A movement ahead caught Quinn's attention. All their attentions, it seemed, for they stopped as one.
"Wolves," one of the women whispered, the word radiating fear.
Quinn glanced at Marcus. "I thought the wolves lived in the Crux."
"They do," Delilah replied, "but they often hunt in the Nod - the unclaimed boundary lands."
"What do they eat?" The moment the question was out of her mouth, Quinn wanted to take it back. "Do I want to know?"
"Meat," Delilah said simply. "Human or vampire."
Lovely. Vamp City was definitely not a people-friendly place.
In front of her, two of the slaves pulled switchblades out of their pockets. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Marcus pull one, too.
"One wolf isn't going to take on this many of us," he murmured. "Not when it's obvious we're prepared to fight."
From the building across the street ran another, and another, and still another, until there were ten in all.
"Too bad it's not just one," Quinn muttered.
As the wolves began to circle them, their lips pulled back in hungry snarls, Delilah stepped away from Quinn, into the street, her arms up as if in surrender. None of them called her back. Quinn had a feeling that none of them knew what she was doing.
"I am Delilah," the woman called. "Sister to Nirina, the wife of the alpha of the Herewood pack. I ask that you deliver me to my sister. And I request safe passage for my friends."
One of the wolves, a large gray one, broke from the others and walked to Delilah, sniffing her thoroughly, before backing up several steps. As Quinn watched in amazement, the wolf shifted into a man in a process that was neither fast nor slow, and appeared to cause him little pain. He stood naked, a large man with a hard-boned face and a dark braid that hung halfway down his back.
"You are who you say." He looked at the humans with dispassion. "We'll not take them all, but the price of your passing is two. You may choose which two, if you like."
Delilah shook her head. "They are new to V.C., with wives and husbands and children mourning them in the outside world."
"There is no escape for them."
"There may be. Several of the new ones have managed to escape through the sunbeams." Which was false as far as Quinn knew, but she wasn't about to correct her. "Let these people go, I beg of you. Let them escape this place as we cannot."
The werewolf frowned, eyeing the group of them, then turned back to Delilah. "You will owe me a boon, sister of Nirina." His gaze skimmed the woman's body before slowly, hungrily, returning to her face. "And I will collect."
To Quinn's surprise, Delilah smiled. "Thank you." She turned and ran back to Quinn, throwing her arms around her neck before releasing her. "Godspeed."
"You're going to be okay?" The werewolf was huge. In every way.
A hint of mischief lit Delilah's eyes through the sadness that would remain for some time, Quinn suspected. "I need to forget. And to kick up my heels a bit. He's just what the doctor ordered."
Quinn snorted, then laughed. "Good luck, Delilah."
By the time Delilah turned away, the werewolf had returned to wolf form. He waited for Delilah to join him, brushing against her leg as she ran her hand through his fur. The other wolves followed, and the pack disappeared behind the buildings across the street.
Quinn had been watching for street markings and had seen enough to know they were on G Street, only about five blocks from her rough understanding of the gladiator camp's location. Finally.
She turned to Marcus as she started walking in that direction. "How am I going to free my brother from the camp?"
He gave her a small grimace. "I've been thinking about that. A lot. I know I said I'd help you . . ."
"But you can't be captured, or you'll be enthralled and enslaved again. If I'm captured and can make them think I'm enthralled . . ."
"You might be able to surprise them as you did the vampire in the stables. That's the only chance I see." He gripped her arm. "I know you don't want to hear this, but it's not much of a chance, Quinn. Maybe no chance at all."
"I know. But it doesn't matter. Do you have any siblings?"
"If it were one of them in there?"
He smiled grimly. "No one and nothing would stop me from trying to reach her."
Quinn nodded. But she knew he spoke the truth. Mission impossible, Vamp City style. She was going to need a miracle.
As they reached the corner of the next block, the earth began to shake.
As one, they froze, turning, waiting for the sunbeam. Marcus gripped her shoulder, and she could feel the tense excitement in his touch. This was it.
But when the sun broke through, the closest beam appeared to be at least a block or two away. There was a long line of buildings separating them from it. If it closed quickly, they'd be too late.
"That way!" Quinn said.
Jeff and Marcus both leaped forward. As one, the group took off running to the end of the block, made a quick right turn, and ran down the next block. Quinn had always been a runner, and though she was a little out of shape, she kept up with Marcus and one of the other guys, the others following close behind. She saw no need to wait for anyone. She probably couldn't get them all through at once anyway. And there was no telling how long the light would last. Even if she only got Marcus through, she'd call it a victory.
Quinn rounded the block and finally got a good look at the sunbeam. She groaned. This one didn't conveniently illuminate a spot on the street as the other two had, but spilled its light directly on top of a pile of rubble from a building that had finally lost its fight with time, weather, and gravity. Nothing was ever easy. She darted across the street and onto the dirt, then began picking her way over broken timbers, Marcus at her side.
"This whole pile could collapse, Quinn," Marcus warned. But he wasn't slowing down, not at all, not when his wife and baby lay on the other side of the climb.
Taking her eyes off the timbers for just a moment, she looked into the sunbeam to see what lay on the other side. It appeared to be an office space with cubicles. Huh. Even though it wasn't technically in the sun, it was the part of the real world that occupied this particular space. The office appeared to be empty. If there was anyone there, she couldn't see them, which was a good thing. People dropping in from thin air might raise a few eyebrows.
The boards beneath her feet tilted, nearly dumping her, but she managed to keep her balance and continue climbing. The closer she got, the more the energy crawled along her skin. Finally, balancing upon a mountain of rubble, she was close enough to touch the light. With Zack, the magic had pulled her through, and she couldn't afford for that to happen again, not unless she had time to leap back out again. But perhaps the pull wasn't the same on this side as it had been on the other. She could hope.
She grabbed Marcus's hand. "Give that baby a kiss for me."
The big man pulled her hand to his lips, tears gleaming in his eyes, then swung the pack off his shoulder and onto hers before grabbing her hand again. "Look me up. I want to know that you got out okay."
"I will." When the time was right. When this was over. She grabbed the hand of the man on her other side and told them both, "Walk into the sunbeam."
Carefully, they picked their way forward and stepped directly into the light, gripping Quinn's hands. For a brief moment, she felt the cool rush of air-conditioned air as the two men stumbled into that office, but no pull of magic. The expressions on the men's faces brought tears to her eyes. Euphoria. Boundless joy. Marcus turned in her general direction, unable to see her, and called, "I owe you," before backing away for the next pair to come through.
A moment later, Jeff was at her side, one of the women at her other, and she pushed the two of them through as she had the first pair, smiling as they jumped together in a triumphant hug.
Quinn turned to watch the plump girl and Celeste making their way up the pile of rubble. From this height, she had a good view of the ruined landscape of Vamp City.
Her pulse started to race, her stomach twisting with the knowledge that escape was within her grasp. And she wanted that - to leave this place and never return - with a desperation that nearly made her ill.
She turned back to the sunbeam, staring at the world she belonged in, a world with fluorescent lights and office furniture and air-conditioning. It would be so easy to step through with the others and leave all this behind. God knew, her chances of saving Zack were about as good as winning the lottery. And it wasn't like she hadn't tried. She'd come back for him, hadn't she? And then gotten herself captured again.
Maybe it was time to save herself. She began to shake with the need to do just that. To escape while escape was at hand.
The two women, helping one another, reached her at the same time. Celeste grabbed for Quinn, then lost her balance, nearly tumbling them all. But Quinn righted her, and, a moment later, the pair were close enough to reach the sunbeam.
"Walk into the light," she told them, and handed them through. As desperately as she wanted to follow, her feet refused to move.
Stepping into the air-conditioned office, the girl squealed in delight. But Celeste's eyes went wide as she clutched her chest and slowly crumpled to the ground. Susie had warned her that once a human turned immortal, there was no going home. Grant had seemed to believe Celeste would make it. And perhaps she would, if they got her medical attention in time.
But as the others rushed toward her, the sunbeam disappeared, leaving Quinn in the dark atop the rubble heap, light-blind, shaking, and very, very alone. For a moment, she'd actually considered leaving Zack behind. But though her mind had considered it, her heart remained steadfastly resolute. She refused to leave Vamp City again without her brother. Which probably meant she'd never leave Vamp City at all.
As her sight returned, she slowly picked her way down the rubble pile, each step feeling heavy and stiff. Two of the others had left their packs on the sidewalk, and she went through them, adding their meager contents to the pack Marcus had given her. In all, she scrounged two stale rolls, half a bottle of water, a flashlight, and extra batteries. Not enough to live on for more than a day but more than enough to last her until she reached the gladiator camp.
With a noisy sigh, Quinn reclaimed her bearings, searching for sign of wolves or vampires, then started out again, alone. A chill crawled down her spine as she crossed the street, a feeling that she was being watched. Perhaps it was just one of the wolves making sure she moved on. Just in case, she pulled out her switchblade and a stake and gripped one in each hand as she walked.
Her chest ached. It was foolish to feel abandoned, but she couldn't help it. And the thought of what came next scared her shitless. Was she really going to walk up to the gates of the gladiator camp and ask to be let in? What kind of a fool-ass move was that? She'd wind up raped, tortured, probably dead. She'd never be able to save Zack. Never. She'd just force him to watch her die.
God, she was such a fool for ever thinking she could do this. She should have escaped with the others.
At the gentle sound of Arturo's voice, she closed her eyes, feeling the sting of tears.
You're not alone, cara. I'm here.
Such simple words, and not entirely true, but they calmed her all the same. She swallowed the unshed tears, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly, feeling warmed, even comforted, by his presence. Even if that presence wasn't real. Even if that comfort was a lie.
Quinn hadn't traveled more than two blocks alone when a distant shout carried to her on the wind, followed by a chorus of yells. She slowed, looking around. Was that coming from the gladiator camp?
Her steps quickened, her desperation to reach the camp a thrumming need, though she still had no plan for getting inside short of walking up to the nearest vamp and demanding to be enslaved.