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Tainted Night, Tainted Blood
By E.S. Moore
Kensington Publishing Corp.Copyright © 2012 Eric S. Moore
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe body lay crumpled in the driveway—a heap of cloth that could have been anything if not for the distinctive smell that drifted on the light breeze. If I had simply been driving by, minding my own business, I might not have even noticed it. It was halfway up the paved drive, almost blended in with the darkness.
But I had been looking for it, and the corpse assured me I was in the right place.
Countess Telia was known for her cruelty. She hadn't been active very long, at least as a minor power of her own. She was the head of one of the newest Fledgling Houses and a vampire who tortured dozens of Purebloods to the point of insanity just for the fun of it. Once she was done with her playthings, she would release them, letting her victims return to their families to suffer their final days crippled and mindless.
It appeared this time she had gone too far.
I parked my modified Honda DN-01 just off the road and hid it behind some trees. The motorcycle was completely black, including the piping, so it would be hard for anyone who wasn't expressly looking for it to see it. Even a vampire would have a hard time picking it out of the shadows.
A dog barking in the distance was the only sound as I slipped into the brush. I crouched down, listening and watching for any sign of pursuit. House Telia was deep within vampire-controlled territory, so the chances of someone spotting me were actually pretty good. I wanted to make sure none of the local vamps or wolves decided to follow the girl on the motorcycle in the hopes of having a little fun.
As far as I could tell, no one had followed me. I breathed a sigh of relief and drew my sword. The demon-crafted blade shone in the moonlight, but I was pretty sure it wouldn't matter now. By the time Telia saw me coming, it would be too late.
The gun came next. My modified Glock 17 fit comfortably in my hand. The bullets were made of silver, and thanks to Ethan's modifications, they wouldn't pass all the way through a supe's body. They moved too slowly for that.
I rose from my crouch, careful not to let my leather creak in the all-too-silent night. I was dressed in full-on black. It was my usual work attire. It just wouldn't do to run around fighting vampires wearing a white T-shirt and jeans. I had an image to keep up.
I slipped from the cover of the trees and started up the driveway. The body was just a hump on the paved surface, barely discernible as anything other than a pile of bloody rags. I could smell death on the air and knew this victim had been tortured to the point where there would probably be little left.
I approached, wary nonetheless. Even though I was pretty sure the victim was dead, I nudged her with my foot and touched the silver blade to her flesh to be sure.
The dead girl's shirt was shredded in the front and there was blood everywhere. She had been torn from groin to sternum by what looked to be werewolf claws. It wasn't exactly Telia's style, but I wouldn't put it past her to give a young girl like this to one of her wolves. She had to keep her minions loyal somehow.
Countess Telia was new, a recent break-off from one of the Major Houses. Mikael Engelbrecht, my snitch, hadn't been able to tell me which Major House she had come from, but he implied it was one of the biggies. He would have told me more, but he was in the pay of the House that Countess Telia once belonged to, so he refused to divulge any more than he had to. I didn't like it, but I had to respect his loyalty to his customers, especially since I was one of them.
Still, that didn't stop him from telling me about Telia's exploits, how she had cut the arms and legs off one of her victims and dumped him outside his home, his wounds sewn closed so he wouldn't bleed out. His tongue and eye-lids had been removed, as were his nipples, ears, and any other dangly bits that she could get to with a knife. He survived in body, although his mind was long gone.
Why she hadn't been killed by the Major House she ditched was beyond me. Vampires didn't like it when their underlings defected. A vamp thinking she could leave a Major House to start her own usually turned up dead within an hour of making her claim.
But there Telia was, torturing victims and reveling in their blood just like any other baby vamp, albeit a more violent one. I was there to put a stop to it.
I left the body where I found it and started up the drive, keeping close to the trees so anyone who would happen to glance out a window wouldn't see my approach. I moved in near silence, my vampire-light feet barely making a sound on the pavement. I'd even learned to minimize the sound of leather with my walk. Being a vampire had its advantages at times.
It wasn't until I was halfway up the driveway that I noticed the other bodies. All of the lights in the house were blazing, including the outside light. It spilled out over the corpses, illuminating them like actors on a stage. I could see the dark stain of blood against the black pavement.
I froze and gave the house a good long look. One body, I expected. Three was a bit much.
I hadn't noticed it before because I hadn't really looked, but the front door was torn nearly off its hinges. The window beside it was intact, but the curtains were hanging at an angle, as if someone had tried to tear them down.
And there were no sounds, no moving shadows that told me where Telia or her minions were. Had her little torture party turned into something much more deadly? I had no idea what she did in there most nights. It was entirely possible she had set three Purebloods loose, sicking her wolves on them for pure entertainment.
If so, then where was she? I should have seen a flicker of a shadow, heard the howl of a wolf. She would have wanted to watch the events as they took place.
I approached the two other bodies, keeping my gaze on the house as I went. They could be in there, watching me. The night was still young, so I was sure they hadn't bedded down for the day.
The first corpse turned out to be another Pureblood, this one male. He had been stripped naked and lay in a pool of his own blood. His ribs showed through flesh pulled tight, as if he had been starved before being released. His stomach had been ripped open and his throat slashed.
I nudged him like I had the other corpse to make sure he was really dead. Sometimes it was hard to tell between a Pureblood and a young werewolf or vampire. It was possible this was some sort of initiation rite that Telia cooked up for her newest recruits. Torture them, let them bleed a while, and then take them in.
But this guy was definitely dead. If she had tried to turn him, she had started the process far too late.
The last body was a few paces away, and at first I thought he was wearing a fur coat. As I got closer, I realized that wasn't the case and alarm bells started ringing in my head in earnest.
The werewolf was lying facedown, his head a few inches from his body. The cut was ragged, as if it had taken a few hacks to cut through the wolf's thick neck. There were marks on his arms and shoulder where he had tried to protect himself.
It hadn't helped. The wolf had been hamstrung, making him an easy target for whomever had done this. I wasn't sure if Telia had done it herself or if someone else was involved. Either way, I didn't like it.
I hurried to the front of the house and pressed my back to the wall. The place wasn't large by vampire standards. It was bigger than where I lived, but not by much. Countess Telia still had a ways to go before she could move up to the mansions the other Counts and Countesses preferred.
I crept along the wall to the nearest window and peeked in. Furniture lay strewn across the room. A mirror had been smashed, leaving shards of bloody glass all over the floor. A glass coffee table had been shattered as well, adding to the destruction.
And there was blood everywhere.
My stomach rumbled as my inner demon made itself known. I hadn't fed for over a week and it was starting to get to me. I really should have hunted before coming. Then again, I hadn't expected to find bodies lying around with blood splattered all over the walls.
I fought the urge to feed, pushed it as deep as I could. The blood was probably tainted anyway. To taste it would be to risk contaminating myself further.
I slipped past the window to the door. I still had yet to see any movement from within. It was entirely possible Countess Telia had been attacked by a rogue wolf or two and was out chasing down the last of them. She could return at any time.
Or she could be inside, bathing in the blood of her victims. It was hard to tell with vamps, especially ones like her.
I stepped around the corner and into the house, my gun leading the way.
There was blood on the floor just inside the door, but there were no bodies. One of the dead outside could have been wounded here before staggering out into the driveway to die.
Either that or whoever had been injured here was somewhere farther in the house, wounded and angry.
I worked my way deeper, checking each room as I passed. The living room I had seen from the window was to my left, and I paid it only a casual glance as I passed by. The dining room and kitchen were likewise empty, though I did find what looked to be an ear lying on the kitchen counter. Whomever it belonged to wasn't anywhere to be found.
There were two other rooms on the ground floor, but I had yet to come across any sign that anyone was alive inside. I still had the basement and the upstairs to canvas, yet something told me I wouldn't find anyone in the house. For whatever reason, Countess Telia wasn't home.
Still, I headed for the stairs. I would check over the place first, freeing any Purebloods I found, and then would wait for Telia to return. I couldn't let her continue her torturous ways. Not in my town.
From the bottom of the stairs, I could see what appeared to be a man's boot resting beside a bloody wall. I slowly made my way up the stairs sideways, keeping my gun trained just above the boot in case the guy sat up.
I needn't have bothered. The boot turned out not to be connected to anyone. The hallway behind it was empty of everything but blood. I stepped around the boot and just happened to glance back at it as I passed.
There was a foot inside.
The alarm bells in my head weren't just ringing now. They were clanging so loudly my ears rang with the phantom sound. Something was definitely wrong here.
The first room on my right turned out to be a bathroom. The owner of the foot was inside, lying on the floor, a bloody mess. His head lay in the tub, severed from his body much like the wolf's had been. The job had been sloppy, most likely performed with a dull blade. The dead man's mouth was wide, exposing two extended fangs. Vampires don't turn to dust when killed like they do in the movies.
I looked around the bathroom in the hopes of finding something that would identify the victim. I didn't know what Telia's lone vampire minion looked like. If this was him, then something truly bad had happened here, and by the smell, it hadn't happened too long ago.
I left the bathroom, my body thrumming with excitement. Had the Major House come down on Telia after all? Or was it someone else? Could another House have decided they'd had enough of the Fledgling vamp and her torturous ways? Or another Fledgling House could have come after her, looking to make themselves stronger.
A surge of anger coursed through my body. If Mikael held out on me because he knew Telia's old House was coming after her, I was going to be pissed. What if I had shown up while the killing was going on? I might have been caught in the middle of a fight between vamps and wolves from a Major House and Telia's own. I could have been killed.
I wasn't positive that was what happened. Most vampires didn't fight with swords, let alone dull ones. They would have sent werewolves to finish the job. A few well-placed bullets would have wounded Telia and her minions; then the wolves could have torn them apart at their leisure.
This was different somehow. I wasn't quite sure how, but I knew something else was going on. Had Telia tired of her House? Had she killed everyone in an orgy of blood and torture?
I crept down the hall, checking each room as I passed. There was no one inside and I had yet to hear the slightest sound. I could taste blood where my fangs had started pushing through in my excitement.
The door to the last room of the house was hanging open. As I neared, I could smell the blood coming from inside. Someone was dead in there. More than one someone by the smell of it.
I neared and as the massacre inside came into view, I knew Telia's killing days were over.
The Countess lay sprawled across her bed. At least most of her did. One of her arms was lying on the floor just inside the door, and her head was lying under the window. She was naked and was propped atop the dead Pureblood tied to the bed beneath her.
I stepped over the arm and another body, this one a werewolf, came into view. The wolf was fully shifted, but his body was nothing but a bloody pulp of entrails and muscle. It looked like something had fed on his intestines.
"What the fuck?" I said, scanning the room. Now that I was farther in, I could see what had killed the Pureblood under Telia. His face was gone, having been chewed away by something. I had a feeling he'd been alive when Telia had been riding him.
I slowly approached Telia's headless body. I was pretty sure she had been beheaded by the same weapon that had killed the others. Whoever had done this had somehow snuck up on her and the first blow had severed her spine. With all the dead lying around, I had no idea how that was even possible. She should have heard something, should have known things weren't right within her House.
A strange feeling crept up my gut. I didn't believe this was an inside job. I was almost positive it wasn't done by a Major House either. This looked a lot like something I would have done years ago, before I was changed, before I had silver weapons.
I hurried out of the room and headed for the basement. If anyone was still alive, it would be down there. Vampires usually kept cages there where they held their Pureblood prisoners. If someone was trying to copy my earlier work, then there was a chance they left the Purebloods down there.
I threw open the basement door and ran down the stairs. I almost stepped on another werewolf corpse as I hit the concrete floor. I staggered to the side, bringing my gun to bear, just in case the wolf wasn't dead.
It didn't take more than a glance to know he wasn't getting up again. He didn't have a head.
I took a deep breath and immediately regretted it. My fangs pushed the rest of the way through my gums and I started panting. There was so much blood down here, it was intoxicating.
My gaze roamed the room, and my shock was all that kept me from giving in to my demon.
The Pureblood prisoners were mostly still in their cages. Those who had gotten too close to the bars had been torn apart, pulled through the bars piece by piece. Arms and legs looked gnawed upon, and someone's jawbone lay against the wall.
Those Purebloods who had managed to huddle far back in their cages hadn't been able to escape the hungry jaws of the beast that had fed here. The bars of their cells had been ripped open and they had been killed where they cowered, easy prey to the wolf who had done this.
My hunger warred with my disgust. I couldn't figure out who would have done this. Why would a werewolf need a sword when he had his claws? None of this made any sense.
I turned and fled up the stairs, knowing I was wasting my time here. House Telia was no more, but it hadn't been by my hand.
I slipped in a pool of blood at the top of the stairs and nearly fell. I growled deep in my throat and bolted for the front door. I could feel the urge to feed so strongly it nearly had a hold on me. I couldn't give in. Not now. Not like this.
I hurried out of the house, down the driveway, to my Honda. The fresh air did me some good, cleared my head, but it did nothing to stop the anger that came bubbling forth.
Mikael had to have known this was going to happen. It was the only thing that made sense. Why else wouldn't he have told me everything he knew?
Excerpted from Tainted Night, Tainted Blood by E.S. Moore Copyright © 2012 by Eric S. Moore. Excerpted by permission of Kensington Publishing Corp.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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