"What do you want from me?" I turned on the Master vampire, narrowing my eyes. "You were the one who told me not to get close, not to form attachments."
"I did," Kanin agreed, not meeting my gaze. "But I also said it was up to you to decide what kind of monster you wanted to become. And what I saw that night in the dungeon, at the refugee camp, facing down Sarren…it gave me something I have not felt in a long time. It gave me hope."
I stared at him. Kanin still didn’t look at me, choosing to face the darkness, gazing toward New Covington. "Those of us who live this long so often become jaded," he murmured. "It is hard to hold on to what made us human. It is easier to simply let go, to become the demon everyone sees in us. I thought I was done being surprised. But you have managed to surprise me at every turn." He paused, his next words quiet, almost hesitant. "I cannot tell you how to live," he said. "But…it would a pity if you became just another monster. If you abandoned everything you’ve fought for until now."
"I can’t," I whispered, shaking my head. "I can’t do it, Kanin. I won’t go through that again. It’s too hard, losing someone like that, hearing Zeke-" My throat threatened to close, but the darkness, the monster, rose up, cold and impassive, shielding me. "I will not do that again," I said calmly. "And if I have to be a monster to survive, then I’ll be what everyone expects. I don’t care about Eden, or the scientists, or their damned cure. Right now, all I care about is finding Sarren and making him pay."
Kanin didn’t answer, and we stood like that in silence, watching the city. A minute later, Jackal prowled out of the darkness from between two houses, smirking at us. "Well, I have good news and bad news," he announced. "The good news is that the jeep is still where we left it, and I got the damned thing working again."
"What’s the bad news?" I asked.
"Something took my fuzzy dice."
I rolled my eyes, and Kanin started forward, brushing past him. "Come," he ordered, not looking back. "Sarren is moving fast, and he has a head start on us. We can’t waste time if we’re going to make it to Eden before him."
My hand rose to my neck, touching the small silver cross beneath my shirt. Zeke, I thought, smelling his blood on the chain, even now. I’ll avenge you, I swear. Sarren will scream for mercy before I’m done; I’ll make sure he remembers your name as he dies. But I will not, ever, get close to anyone again. You were the last. I hope that, wherever you are, you’re happy. And if you can see me now, I’m sorry for what I’ve turned into.
Kanin turned, waiting for me at the edge of the shadows. Jackal watched me, too, his eyes glowing inhumanly yellow in the darkness. Monsters in the night, just like me.
This is what I am, I thought, walking forward to join them. This is where I belong, in the darkness. We’re vampires. That’s all we’ll ever be.
The storm picked up, the snow falling heavily on the road, as the three of us-myself, my sire, and my blood brother- turned an old back jeep toward the northeast and roared off in the direction of Eden.
They are coming.
Leaning against the side of an ancient van, the lean, bony figure with the horribly scarred face smiled.
They were on their way, now. Following his trail, tracking him toward the distant human city that would spell salvation for the entire world. A new beginning. A fresh start to everything. Soon.
He could sense their determination to stop him, their rage and hate. Especially…her. Oh, her anger would be a glorious thing, indeed. His hand slipped to the smooth stub of his left arm, caressing it. He had once thought Kanin a worthy opponent, but the girl, the fierce, relentless, savage little bird, was even more magnificent.
"She is coming," he whispered, a grin stretching his ravaged face. "I cannot wait to see the look on her face when she finds us again. It will be a song for the ages." He chuckled and glanced into the van’s interior, where a dark form lay slumped in the corner. "Don’t you think so…Ezekiel?"