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Authors: Dicey Grenor

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Their biology was
of no importance now. Important thing was that if she could prove there really
was a way to break my bond with Max, I needed her around. Whether I believed
she didn’t know about it until recently was of little consequence.

“Can you promise
your son won’t come after me again?” I said.

She shook her
head. “He won’t rest until he feels his family’s deaths are avenged. But if you’re
no longer under Max’s bloodline, you can help Dario find him and kill him. You’ll
survive it.”

“So all you have
to offer is your life in exchange for bond-breaking info?”

“Isn’t that
enough?”

I paced the floor,
thinking. “Okay. But your info is good for one save. I let you live after your
heinous betrayal
one
time. I catch you slipping
again,
you sure as hell better have something else to bargain with. Letting you live
is not a perpetual deal. Got it?”

She nodded and
opened the huge book to a withered page near the back.

Remi
sighed like he was disappointed he wouldn’t witness
Saybree’s
murder. Not yet anyway.

I folded my arms
across my chest, and said, “I’m waiting.”

Saybree
took a deep breath and pointed to the smeared Latin
words. “If you no longer want Max to be your
maistre
vampire, you have to become a
maistress
yourself.”

I looked at her
like she had said I was
Jesus’s
sister. I couldn’t
read a lick of Latin but I read diagrams just fine. There were plenty
illustrating the language, showing she wasn’t making it up. “I just want to be
free of Maximilian. I don’t want to be a
maistress
.
Besides, I’m not old enough.”

“That is the only
way to be free of him. You have to become strong enough to animate yourself.
You have to accumulate power. How long you’ve been a vampire won’t matter then.”

“How do I do that?”

She pointed to the
page. “You first have to get your heart back. Whoever possesses it, rules you.
You possess it, you rule yourself.”

I almost burst out
laughing. There was no way Max was going to give me back my heart. “What else?”

“Then you have to
drain a virgin.”

“You mean kill.”

“Yes. You drink
every drop of the virgin’s blood and you will be purified of Max’s blood for a
short while.”

I did laugh that
time. “You know how hard it is to find a virgin these days?” I’d waited until I
was eighteen but that was because I couldn’t date until I was out of my parents’
house. Then I had to meet a guy who was okay with my disability.

“I didn’t say the
virgin had to be an adult,” she said matter-of-factly.

I stared at her,
horrified. She was telling me to kill a child if I had to. “Unbelievable.”

“I told you
you
wouldn’t want to do it. But that’s not all. After that,
you must turn six willing humans to vampires within the following six full
moons. And it must be done at six o’clock.
Morning or night.”

The 666 pattern
had not gone unnoticed. It made me cringe. It raised the hair on the back of my
neck. I should have been used to that whenever black magic was involved, but I
wasn’t. “You mean kill a child for its innocent blood then kill and take the
souls of six men and bind them to me forever…the way Max bound me to him?” This
bitch had lost her mind and this book was full of Satan.

“I don’t make the
rules, Willow. They’ve been around for millenniums. I’m just the
messenger...and
a witch
who can help you complete the rituals.”

“Yeah,
yeah, yeah.”

“You would be
maistress
of your own clan, powerful enough to animate and
protect them. Powerful enough to govern them with love and understanding
instead of cruelty if you so choose. You will grow in strength with each soul
you take…like your demon boss, so it would be advantageous to keep adding to
your
clan even after you obtain
your freedom.”

“What do you know
about Franco?”

“Lots.
But unlike Franco, who will never die, you will gain supernatural abilities
that will make it harder for you to die the final death. No one knows what
those abilities will be, just like you don’t know the extent of Max’s gifts. He
can do a lot more than turn to mist, I assure you. ’Course you know your clan
will die with you…should the time come.”

This was too much
to comprehend. “Let’s say I manage to steal my heart back, won’t Max discover
it’s
missing and kill me before I emancipate myself?”

“No. He will not
be able to kill you without control over your heart. He will still be connected
to you psychically. There’s no way around that. It will not be easy to keep him
from your mind and dreams, but your day companion can help keep Max at bay.”

“How?”

“By
invading your mind and dreams himself.
As a regular blood donor and
receiver, he would have a strong connection to you. His psychic influence would
interfere with Max’s.”

I looked at
Remi
who looked at me and shrugged. His involvement would
be a commitment for himself, Aaron, and all the others. I couldn’t ask that.

“Where in the hell
would I find six willing humans within six months after I killed a virgin?” I
said.

“Max found you
didn’t
he
?”

“Actually, I found
him.
With your help.
And vampirism didn’t become
illegal until a month after I’d turned. Those were different times. I can’t
exactly post a want ad on
Craigslist
, can
I.

“You’re at Hades.
You know people are still willing to go against the grain. People still want
what you have. They just have to be smarter about getting it.”

I shook my head. I’d
be condemning others to soullessness.
Leading others astray.
For the sake of my independence from Max.
“I can’t
condemn others to my fate. And you’re wrong about
Hades’s
clientele. Just because they’re different doesn’t mean they want this curse.
Remi
doesn’t even want it.”
 

She glanced at him
then back at me. “But the ones who do—you’d be doing them a favor, Willow. They
will know the risks and still want it…just like you did.”

“What about the
risk of exposing myself? I’ve got VET agents on my ass already. Word gets out
that I’m recruiting vampires and they’ll shut down Hades, arrest Franco and all
the employees, and add me to Denny’s breakfast menu as toast.”

“You’re smart. You’re
creative. You’ll figure out how to be discreet.”

“Maybe the laws
could be changed first,”
Remi
said, adding to the
conversation for the first time.

“What do you mean?”
I said.

“Well, that guy
that’s in Hades all the time…the politician always bragging about how he’s been
helping to pass anti-vamp laws?”

He was talking
about Mr. Cash.
“Yeah, what about him?”

“Why don’t you use
your powers of persuasion to get him to vacate the vampire order of
extermination? Make him a sympathizer. Once people are no longer afraid of
being punished for associating with vampires, it should be easier to find
willing folks to turn.”

Weird
way of handling vampire-human politics.
Wasn’t even sure it would work,
especially since my captivations could damage Mr. Cash’s brain.
Buuuut
…it wasn’t an impossible plan. Maybe by the time I’d
figured out how to steal my heart and worked up the nerve to drain a virgin,
legislature would be on my side.

Since it took time
for things to change in the legal arena, I’d better get started on that right
away.

Tomorrow at work,
I’d have a little chat with Mr. Cash about reversing the laws that had killed
off so many of my kind. Then I’d think about how to get my heart back from Max.

 
 
 
 

Chapter 40

 

Felt like it had
been ages since I had been onstage, and it felt good.

After we left
Saybree’s
house in a somber
I-just-found-out-the-witch-I-trusted-told-her-vampire-hunting-son-where-to-find-me
mood, I took
Remi
home. He did the driving since he
was feeling a little better after
Saybree’s
salve. He
felt a lot better once I fed him my blood in exchange for a dose of his and
fucked him one good time. We would have kept going if it had not been for the
damn sunrise.

I literally fell
into a coma once I returned to Hades and
laid
down to
sleep for the day.
Woke up an hour after I was scheduled to
work.
So I dressed in a hurry and went upstairs. Franco was surprised.
He hadn’t expected me to work and suggested I take the night off like Punch.
No need in me doing that.
Punch had Fire to look after him.
I had no one.

Plus, I had
business to tend to.

So, I was onstage.
Dancing with the skeleton I’d borrowed from Dr. Floyd several months ago. I
twirled around in my black full-body leotard as
Lita
Ford’s “Kiss Me Deadly” rocked the house.
Skele
-T, as
I called him, was the only one nude tonight, but that didn’t seem to bother my
audience who sat wide-eyed with rapidly beating hearts. ’Course my wild 80’s
hair and bright red lipstick that I planted all over
Skele
-T’s
bones helped.

Decided
not to let my fans see any of my still-healing injuries.
They probably
would have protested if they had known the black leather gloves hid my maimed
hand. That I was robbing them of the gruesomeness they longed for.

I was a vampire,
dammit
, not a ghoul.

One fan in
particular was more excited than others when my performance concluded because
he’d gotten a personal invite from
moi
. Though he was
more in to
Valentina’s
dominatrix scene than mine, I
had told him I was dedicating the set to him. Hopefully, flattery would get me
everywhere.

Since Mr. Cash
didn’t usually come to Hades on Tuesday nights, I had pleaded with Franco to
give me the patron’s number. Violate club policy again. Of course, I had to
divulge my plan to Franco, which turned out to be a good thing. Once he
realized I intended to persuade Mr. Cash to advocate for vampire rights, he
gave me Cash’s cell, fax, and office numbers as well as an email address and
website. Thankfully, it didn’t take all that. Just one call to Cash’s cell, and
he was meeting me at the club.

Sitting in the VIP
area grinning like he was running for President. He had that politician mug
down pat.

I passed
Valentina
on my way offstage. It was her turn to perform
and she was pulling dog leashes attached to the necks of three of her slaves.
They were clad in black leather, showing nothing but their mouths. She gave me
treats to reward them while they were on their knees panting and wagging their
boodies
. I gave each a pet on the head for good measure.
Sure, I played along. Why not? If they liked it, I loved it.

After hanging
Skele
-T up in the prop closet, I went to the dressing room
where
Cin
was sitting on parchment paper, her naked
body covered in honey and walnuts. She was waiting for me.

Rolling my eyes, I
prepared for what was coming. Prepared for her to threaten me again because
Rafe
had—


Rafe
gave me full custody…and the house,” she said.

My surprise
showed. “Wow.
Rafe
is full of surprises.”

“Tell me about it.
He’s moving in with his…his
boy
friend.”

I didn’t know what
to say. She should be happy right? Was I supposed to comfort or congratulate
her? “Uh…you okay?”

She sighed. “Not
really. He said he never wants to see me or his daughter again.
Ever.”

“Why?” Instinct
told me I wouldn’t like the answer.

“He said he was
remembering things. Something about you and a guy visiting him and he was
scared for his life.”
Uh oh.
“He’ll pay
child support, but he doesn’t want to be in Lucia’s life. He said he’d…”

“He’d what?”

“Go to the cops
with what he knew if I ever tried to contact him again.”

I started pacing.
She sat still. “Do you want me to talk to him again?” I wouldn’t be so nice
this time. He’d have to write a note to the cops after I cut out his tongue.

“Didn’t you just
hear what I said? He’ll go to the cops, Willow. It’s not just you. He’ll
implicate me in your extortion blackmail scheme. I would still end up losing my
daughter.”

She looked like
she was close to crying so I tried to think of something comforting. “Well, at
least you get to keep Lucia and the
house as long as you stay
away from him. You didn’t want to be with him anymore, right? Besides, he’s g—”

“You don’t get it
do you?” She had the hand gestures to go with her incredulousness. “My daughter
cannot have a relationship with her father now. I just wanted us to co-parent.
She needs both of us. I didn’t want things to end like this.”

Credit to her for
holding the tears in, but she lost points for blaming her problems with that
cocksucker on me. “I’m sorry. I wanted to make things better. Guess I made them
worse.”

She looked at me
with sad eyes and said, “It’s not your fault.” She blinked multiple times to
keep unshed tears from falling. “We were already getting divorced. He was being
an ass and you tried to help. I’m upset with him, not you. If he doesn’t want
to be in her life, that’s his loss.”

BOOK: 1 Dicey Grenor
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