Home > Catalyst (Vampire Apocalypse #2)(5)

Catalyst (Vampire Apocalypse #2)(5)
Author: H.M. Ward

"What's wrong?" she asked after a moment.

"I'm not sure," he admitted. "It doesn't look like a vampire wound. There's something strange about it."

"Can you try to fix it?" she asked, looking back at him. Will nodded once and lowered his gaze to her back.

He pressed the hot water on the spot and washed away the remains of the blood. Kahli's pale flesh was marred by an angry red gash. It was almost as if... Will went still when he realized what it was. He stared in disbelief. How did he miss it before? Cursing, he reached into his pocket and grabbed a knife. Moving swiftly, Will thrust the blade over the flames. The metal heated in his hand, burning him, but Will didn't let go.

This screwed them. Completely.

"What is it?" Kahli asked. She sensed his desperation. She watched the knife being heated by the flames and knew it was for her, to remove whatever was under her skin.

"It looks like a Tracking chip, but I can't be sure until it's out. If it's a chip, we're in trouble. We need to get it out and get out of here. Now. I sterilized the blade. I'll remove it and mend you. Let me." He wasn't asking, Will was telling her that he'd need to heal her. Kahli's stomach felt like she was in a free fall. She nodded and turned away from him.

"Do it." She gritted her teeth, as her body tensed, waiting for the burning knife to touch her back.

Will's knife bit into her skin. Kahli's body remained rigid, her hands balled into fists, as she clenched her teeth. Kahli swallowed the scream building in her throat, but tears sprang from her eyes. She felt the tiny shard come free and before Will tossed it in the fire, she said, "No. Save it."

"Kahli, we don't have time," Will said, but the look she gave him instantly silenced him. Will pocketed the chip, knowing it was leading the palace guard, and possibly the King, directly toward them. Without asking, he cut the palm of his hand on his knife. Cupping his hand, he allowed the blood to pool in the center. He held it out to Kahli, "Drink it."

Fear flashed in her eyes, but she did as he said. Her pink lips were stained crimson as she swallowed a mouthful of his blood. Then Will turned her quickly and examined her back. The skin was pink and tender, but was no longer bleeding. Relieved, Will kissed her on the forehead before realizing what he'd done.

Kahli blinked up at him. Looking down at her, he wished they had more time. There were things to say and he might not get another chance, but if they didn't leave now, they'd die.

"The chip?" he asked, wondering what she wanted to do with it. That chip tracked pulse and location, linking back to an archaic GPS system from before the flood. It was an effective way to keep tabs on humans who were a flight risk.

Kahli's lips pulled into a grin. "The chip will be taking a ride on the wolf express, away from us."

Will couldn't help but smile. Kahli was soft and tough, kind and brutal, cunning and crazy - but those qualities, as conflicted as they seemed, only made him like her more.

Chapter 6

Reginald never caught a break. Ever since he was a child, he was always second to his sister. Sophia was the epitome of the perfect child, even though she was a girl. It angered him to even consider it. He fared nothing but disappointment after disappointment. Bitterness coated his tongue so frequently that it never shocked him. Not anymore.

He was lucky to make it out of the palace before Sophia turned on him. Even with that little bit of blood, she was more powerful than he'd seen her in very long time. Everything came down to blood, blood is power, and Reginald wanted power. He was sick of his life, of trading exotics to maintain his meager status.

The truck he was riding in rumbled on. The driver speed away from the Queen faster than was reasonable in the ice and snow, but Reginald offered him a stipend of blood if the vamp managed to get them away from Sophia alive. That was all the driver needed. The trucked bounced over the poorly constructed roads, until there was no road to follow. The setting sun blinded them, casting a dazzling array of white light in their faces, as they drove westward.

Reginald slumped back into his seat once they were off of Sophia's property, sighing with relief. "Good man," he said to Thomas, the vampire driving the truck. Thomas didn't take his eyes off the road. He just grunted like a pig. Reginald lamented the passing of high society when vampires didn't digress to making livestock noises while driving a truck. Civilized conversation was something only attainable at court. Thomas was a portly vampire with onion colored skin that was far too sheer. The lack of blood did that, made them sickly and weak. Thomas would do just about anything for an extra ration. If Reginald wasn't a Regent, he didn't know what he'd do. That was about the only bit of luck he had from being Sophia's sibling.

"Drive carefully, but quickly. If we get back to the house before the storm sets in, I'll add another drop to your ration."

Thomas' lips twitched, like he was happy, but the man was never happy. No one was. "Thank you, sir."

"Yes, well, you're far too ghastly to look at anymore." Reginald waved his hand while he spoke, "If you don't increase your blood intake, you'll wilt away into nothing."

Thomas didn't reply. There was nothing to say. Human blood was scarce and each vampire only had so much. Many vamps perished from lack of sustenance. Things were not like the old days, although Thomas was too young to remember those days. Perhaps, that was why the man was not bitter, Reginald thought to himself as he studied Thomas' profile.

Reginald settled back into the seat and sifted through the things he'd learned while visiting Sophia. The human's blood was potent enough to cause an issue with consumption. That alone was worth the visit. If Reggie had done as he planned, it would have gone poorly, no doubt. Vampire metabolisms took blood and utilized it swiftly. In the old days, as soon as it touched his lips, Reggie could feel the power from the blood flowing through him. However, Sophia's warning, the reason why she only drank a drop at a time rang in his ears. She was trying to build a tolerance, he was sure of it. Which meant swallowing the wild human's blood was most likely fatal.

He drew in a deep breath and looked at the storm clouds that were finally visible as the sun sank below the horizon. "Better speed things up, Thomas."

"I don't like the look of them clouds. It's like they're too thin, too wide." Thomas leaned forward, pressing his face to the windshield as he spoke. The truck hit a bump and the vamp slammed his head into the glass. He groaned and returned to his proper position.

Reginald ignored the display of incompetence. As long as the lunatic didn't topple the truck, Reginald didn't care about Thomas' intelligence. He was a servant and nothing more. "They're storm clouds with too much wind, from the look of them." He laughed, picturing himself as a meteorologist a couple hundred years ago, when people got their news from an attractive man on a glowing TV screen. Those were good times.

"What's so funny?" Thomas asked, his face turning paler, if that was possible.

"Just drive," Reginald said slouching back into the seat.

But it didn't matter how fast Thomas drove, it was inevitable. They were headed directly into that storm. When the wind blasted the truck, it nearly blew them off the road, or what was left of it. The ice was slick and Reginald felt the truck slip across the smooth surface. He reached for the door, holding on as they slid. Thomas regained control and slowed.

The few animals that fared well in the wild were scattering, running in the opposite direction of the truck. Thomas' gaze watched wolf, rabbit, and fox trying to escape what they were driving into. "Sir, perhaps we should turn around?" Thomas was never so brazen, but he couldn't keep his thoughts to himself. If they spun off the road and died, Reginald would kill him.

"Keep driving," Reginald said, ignoring the man.

Thomas protested, "Them animals are running, sir. Running. That's not like them. Their natural instinct is to hide. The only thing that flushes 'em out anymore is bad. I gotta say - "

"You've said enough," Reginald snapped. "I realize you think that death may lie ahead of us, but I know with utter certainty that it lies behind us, waiting with a fang and scythe." Pressing his fingers to his throat, Reggie thought of the head that rolled across the throne room floor, eyes still wide in shock. "We will not turn back. Sophia will kill the King and anyone who is in her path. I do not intend to be there when it happens. Drive on."

Chapter 7

When they emerged from the cave, Will had the supplies he stripped from the frame of his bike. Although the vehicle he'd taken went down, it was still able to be ridden. But, first things first. They had to find a wolf.

Kahli tucked her bright hair under the white body suit. Will said it didn't need a coat, but she felt exposed. The bodysuit fit her like a second skin, clinging to her frame and revealing every curve. When she finally was dry enough to pull it on, she shimmied the neckline up to her throat where she fastened a plastic clip to hold in her body heat, and turned to Will. She felt his heart jump before she had a chance to look at him. Maybe this bond thing isn't so bad? she thought. At least it gave her a tiny clue as to how he felt about her. He thought she was something to look at, that much she knew for certain.

Will didn't look too bad in his white bodysuit, either. It clung to his slender body, moving with his toned chest and strong arms. Kahli looked away before she had more time to think about what it meant - about the attraction that was there - and the fact that she wanted more. There was something majorly wrong with her brain. Maybe she'd been alone too long, or maybe Will was everything she needed, and it didn't matter what kind of blood ran in his veins.

But he's a vampire, a voice hissed in the back of her mind as she studied the sweeping muscles that defined his broad shoulders. Blood matters. Blood is what separates us from them - it's what makes us human - it's what makes them monsters.

Will felt her gaze, but said nothing. He masked his thoughts so well that it was difficult to tell what he thought about anything. Kahli studied him while they were in the cave and aside from what he revealed, she didn't learn much. The main thing she felt over and over was his eyes sliding over her form, followed by an increase in his pulse. The steady sound beat in her ears, but his attention could have been for any number of reasons. It didn't mean he had feelings for her. He saved her, because the King would kill him if he didn't drag her back. Kahli wasn't a fool. She knew he couldn't tell her everything, and that there was much more to tell.

It didn't matter. Not now. First, they needed to buy more time. Chipping a wolf would lead the vamps in the wrong direction and give them the head start that they had lost. Even though they'd only stopped for a short time, time was everything now and they had none.

Kahli turned to look at Will over her shoulder. The freshly fallen snow was like dust, blowing through the air in a blinding array. The tiny particles whipped into her face, each one feeling like a splinter of glass caught in the wind. There were no tracks to follow. That was good and bad. It made them harder to track, but it made finding the stray wolves harder, too. She wasn't sure where they'd be in this weather. In the past, the pack jumped on her as soon as she emerged, but today there wasn't a single beast.

Kahli's heart sank, as she looked around frantically.

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