Home > Lord of Misrule (The Morganville Vampires #5)(4)

Lord of Misrule (The Morganville Vampires #5)(4)
Author: Rachel Caine

Say it, she thought.

But he didn't. He just kissed her hands, turned, and walked away, dragging her red, bleeding heart with him-- metaphorically, anyway.

"I love you," she whispered. She'd said it before, but he'd hung up the phone before she'd gotten it out. Then she'd said it in the hospital, but he'd been doped up on painkillers. And he didn't hear her now, as he walked away from her.

But at least she had the guts to try.

He waved to her from the door, and then he was gone, and she suddenly felt very alone in the world--and very . . . young. Those who were left in the Glass House had jobs of their own, and she was in the way. She found a chair-- Michael's armchair, as it turned out--and pulled her feet up under her as humans and vampires moved around, fortifying windows and doors, distributing weapons, talking in low tones.

She might have become a ghost, for all the attention they paid her.

She didn't have to wait long. In just a few minutes, Amelie came sweeping down the stairs. She had a whole scary bunch of vampires behind her, and a few humans, including two in police uniforms.

They were all armed--knives, clubs, swords. Some had stakes, including the policemen; they had them, instead of riot batons, hanging from their utility belts. Standardissue equipment for Morganville, Claire thought, and had to suppress a manic giggle. Maybe instead of pepper spray, they have garlic spray.

Amelie handed Claire two things: a thin, silver knife, and a wooden stake. "A wooden stake in the heart will put one of us down," she said. "You must use the silver knife to kill us. No steel, unless you plan to take our heads off with it. The stake alone will not do it, unless you're very lucky or sunlight catches us helpless, and even then, we are slower to die the older we are. Do you understand?"

Claire nodded numbly. I'm sixteen, she wanted to say. I'm not ready for this.

But she kind of had to be, now. Amelie's fierce, cold expression seemed to soften, just a touch. "I can't entrust Myrnin to anyone else. When we find him, it will be your responsibility to manage him. He may be--" Amelie paused, as if searching for the right word. "Difficult." That probably wasn't it. "I don't want you to fight, but I need you with us."

Claire lifted the stake and the knife. "Then why did you give me these?"

"Because you might need to defend yourself, or him. If you do, I don't want you to hesitate, child. Defend yourself and Myrnin at all costs. Some of those who come against us may be those you know. Don't let that stop you. We are in this to survive now."

Claire nodded numbly. She'd been pretending that all this was some kind of action/adventure video game, like the zombiefighting one Shane enjoyed so much, but with every one of her friends leaving, she'd lost some of that distance. Now it was right here in front of her: reality. People were dying.

She might be one of them.

"I'll stay close," she said. Amelie's cold fingers touched her chin, very lightly.

"Do that." Amelie turned her attention to the others around them. "Watch for my father, but don't be drawn off to face him. It's what he wants. He will have his own reinforcements, and will be gathering more. Stay together, and watch each other closely. Protect me, and protect the child."

"Um--could you stop calling me that?" Claire asked. Amelie's icy eyes fixed on her in almosthuman puzzlement. "Child, I mean? I'm not a child."

It felt like time stopped for about a hundred years while Amelie stared at her. It probably had been at least a hundred years since the last time anybody had dared correct Amelie like that in public.

Amelie's lips curved, very slightly. "No," she agreed. "You are not a child, and in any case, by your age, I was a bride and ruled a kingdom. I should know better."

Claire felt heat build in her face. Great, she was blushing, as everybody's attention focused on her. Amelie's smile widened.

"I stand corrected," she said to the rest of them. "Protect this young woman."

She really didn't feel like that, either, but Claire wasn't going to push her luck on that one. The other vampires looked mostly annoyed with the distinction, and the humans looked nervous.

"Come," Amelie said, and turned to face the blank far wall of the living room. It shimmered like an asphalt road in the summer, and Claire felt the connection snap open.

Amelie stepped through what looked like blank wall. After a second or two of surprise, the vampires started to follow her.

"Man, I can't believe we're doing this," one of the policemen behind Claire whispered to the other.

"I can," the other whispered back. "My kids are out there. What else is there to do?"

She gripped the wooden stake tight and stepped through the portal, following Amelie.

Myrnin's lab wasn't any more of a wreck than usual. Claire was kind of surprised by that; somehow she'd expected Mr. Bishop to tear through here with torches and clubs, but so far, he'd found better targets. Or maybe--just maybe--he hadn't been able to get in. Yet.

Claire anxiously surveyed the room, which was lit by just a few flickering lamps, both oil and electric. She'd tried cleaning it up a few times, but Myrnin had snapped at her that he liked things the way they were, so she'd left the stacks of leaning books, the piles of glassware on counters, the disordered piles of curling paper. There was a broken iron cage in the corner--broken because Myrnin had decided to escape from it once, and they'd never gotten around to having it repaired once he'd regained his senses.

The vampires were whispering to one another, in sibilant little hisses that didn't carry even a hint of meaning to Claire's ears. They were nervous, too.

Amelie, by contrast, seemed as casual and selfassured as ever. She snapped her fingers, and two of the vampires-- big, strong, strapping men--stepped up, towering over her. She glanced up.

"You will guard the stairs," she said. "You two." She pointed to the uniformed policemen. "I want you here as well. Guard the interior doors. I doubt anything will come through them, but Mr. Bishop has already surprised us. I won't have him surprising us again."

That cut their forces in half. Claire swallowed hard and looked at the two vampires and one human who remained with her and Amelie--she knew the two vampires slightly. They were Amelie's personal bodyguards, and one of them, at least, had treated her kind of decently before.

The remaining human was a toughlooking African American woman with a scar across her face, from her left temple across her nose, and down her right cheek. She saw Claire watching her, and gave her a smile. "Hey," she said, and stuck out a big hand. "Hannah Moses. Moses Garage."

 

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