Home > Lord of Misrule (The Morganville Vampires #5)(14)

Lord of Misrule (The Morganville Vampires #5)(14)
Author: Rachel Caine

Claire looked at the clock. Five a.m. Two hours until dawn, more or less--probably less. It felt like an eternity.

"What are we going to do in the morning?" she asked.

"Good question." Eve wiped down the counter. Claire sipped the sweet, chocolatey comfort of the mocha. "When you think of something, let us know, because right now, I don't think anybody's got a clue."

"You'd be wrong, thankfully," Oliver said. He seemed to come out of nowhere--God, didn't Claire hate that!--as he settled on the stool next to her. He seemed almost back to normal now, but very tired. There was a shadow in his eyes that Claire didn't remember seeing before. "There is a plan in place. Amelie's removal from the field of battle is a blow, but not a defeat. We continue as she would want."

"Yeah? You want to tell us?" Eve asked. That earned her a cool stare. "Yeah, I didn't think so. Vampires really aren't all about the sharing, unless it benefits them first."

"I will tell you what you need to know, when you need to know it," Oliver said. "Get me one of the bags from the walkin refrigerator."

Eve looked down at the top of her apron. "Oh, I'm sorry, where does it say servant on here? Because I'm so very not."

For a second, Claire held her breath, because the expression on Oliver's face was murderous, and she saw a red light, like the embers of a banked fire, glowing in the back of his eyes.

Then he blinked and said, simply, "Please, Eve."

Eve hadn't been expecting that. She blinked, stared back at him for a second, then silently nodded and walked away, behind a curtained doorway.

"You're wondering if that hurt," Oliver said, not looking at Claire at all, but staring after Eve. "It did, most assuredly."

"Good," she said. "I hear suffering's good for the soul, or something."

"Then we shall all be right with our God by morning." Oliver swiveled on the stool to look her full in the face. "I should kill you for what you did."

"Staking Myrnin?" She sighed. "I know. I didn't think I had a choice. He'd have bitten my hand off if I'd tried to give him the medicine, and by the time it took effect, me and Hannah would have been dog food, anyway. It seemed like the quickest, quietest way to get him out."

"Even so," Oliver said, his voice low in his throat, "as an Elder, I have the power to sentence you, right now, to death, for attempted murder of a vampire. You do understand?"

Claire held up her hand and pointed to the gold bracelet on her wrist--the symbol of the Founder. Amelie's symbol. "What about this?"

"I would pay reparations," he said. "I imagine I could afford it. Amelie would be tolerably upset with me, for a while, always assuming she is still alive. We'd reach an accommodation. We always do."

Claire didn't say anything else in her defense, just waited. And after a moment, he nodded. "All right," he said. "You were right to take the action you did. You have been right about a good deal that I was unwilling to admit, including the fact that some of us are"--he cast a quick look around, and dropped his voice so low she could make out the word only from the shape his lips gave it--"unwell."

Unwell. Yeah, that was one way to put it. She resisted an urge to roll her eyes. How about dying? Ever heard the word pandemic?

Oliver continued without waiting for her response. "Myrnin's mind was . . . very disordered," he said. "I didn't think I could get him back. I wouldn't have, without that dose of medication."

"Does that mean you believe us now?" She meant, about the vampire disease, but she couldn't say that out loud. Even the roundabout way they were speaking was dangerous; too many vampire ears with too little to do, and once they knew about the sickness, there was no predicting what they might do. Run, probably. Go off to rampage through the human world, sicken, and die alone, very slowly. It'd take years, maybe decades, but eventually, they'd all fall, one by one. Oliver's case was less advanced than many of the others, but age seemed to slow down the disease's progress; he might last for a long time, losing himself slowly.

Becoming nothing more than a hungry shell.

Oliver said, "It means what it means," and he said it with an impatient edge to it, but Claire wondered if he really did know. "I am talking about Myrnin. Your drugs may not be enough to hold him for long, and that means we will need to take precautions."

Eve emerged from the curtain carrying a plastic blood bag, filled with dark cherry syrup. That was what Claire told herself, anyway. Dark cherry syrup. Eve looked shaken, and she dumped the bag on the counter in front of Oliver like a dead rat. "You've been planning this," she said. "Planning for a siege."

Oliver smiled slowly. "Have I?"

"You've got enough blood in there to feed half the vampires in town for a month, and enough of those heatandeat meals campers use to feed the rest of us even longer. Medicines, too. Pretty much anything we'd need to hold out here, including generators, batteries, bottled water. . . ."

"Let's say I am cautious," he said. "It's a trait many of us have picked up during our travels." He took the blood bag and motioned for a cup; when Eve set it in front of him, he punctured the bag with a fingernail, very neatly, and squeezed part of the contents into the cup. "Save the rest," he said, and handed it back to Eve, who looked even queasier than before. "Don't look so disgusted. Blood in bags means none taken unwillingly from your veins, after all."

Eve held it at arm's length, opened the smaller refrigerator behind the bar, and put it in an empty spot on the door rack inside. "Ugh," she said. "Why am I behind the bar again?"

"Because you put on the apron."

"Oh, you're just loving this, aren't you?"

"Guys," Claire said, drawing both of their stares. "Myrnin. Where are we going to put him?"

Before Oliver could answer, Myrnin pushed through the crowd in the tableandchairs area of Common Grounds and walked toward them. He seemed normal again, or as normal as Myrnin ever got, anyway. He'd begged, borrowed, or outright stolen a long, black velvet coat, and under it he was still wearing the poofy white Pierrot pants from his costume, dark boots, and no shirt. Long, black, glossy hair and decadently shining eyes.

Oliver took in the outfit, and raised a brow. "You look like you escaped from a Victorian brothel," he said. "One that . . . specialized."

In answer, Myrnin skinned up the sleeves of the coat. The wound in his back might have healed--or might be healing, anyway--but the burns on his wrists and hands were still livid red, with an unhealthy silver tint to them. "Not the sort of brothel I'd normally frequent, by choice," he said, "though of course you might be more adventurous, Oliver." Their gazes locked, and Claire resisted the urge to take a step back. She thought, just for a second, that they were going to bare fangs at each other . . . and then Myrnin smiled. "I suppose I should say thank you."

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