Fire and Ash (Immortal Touch) (30 page)

“How do you know this?”

“I saw them! I was…projecting myself again. I entered one of the wolves and - turn left here. Yes, that way. I was by the roadside and they drove past and that…that crazy girl tried to run me down…they were going really fast and she swerved to hit me, she tried to
hit
me, and the car flipped…”

“Oh, bloody hell
!” He could hardly scold Eva for leaving her body. After all, he was the one who’d suggested she practice her newly discovered skill. “What were they doing roaming about at this hour?”

“I don’t know.” Eva was straining
her neck to look around. “I think…turn there. I think it was this road…I’m pretty sure. Yes, this is it.”


Daft kids,” he muttered to himself. “You say the Collier girl was driving?”

“Yes.”

“Is she even old enough?”

“I don’t
know…didn’t Paula say she was fifteen? I know she’s younger than Dane.”

He spotted what was left of the
red Camaro even before she did, and his heart sank at the sight of the mangled, twisted heap in the forest that bordered the deserted road. It was wrapped around a massive Ponderosa pine like some grisly Christmas bow. If either of those two had managed to survive this, it would count as nothing short of a miracle. Next to him, he heard Eva’s breath catch in her throat.

“There it is,” she whispered hoarsely.

He pulled off the road onto the soft shoulder, parking in such a way that the headlights shone on the wreck to provide some illumination. The night was cloudy, the moon covered with an ominously dark veil. Eva was out of the Jeep and running before he even had a chance to turn off the engine, and the thought of what she was about to discover was most unwelcome to him. Not that he cared one whit about those irrelevant kids, but Eva’s compassionate soul had been left undefiled by her transformation. This would hurt her deeply.

Which in turn would hurt him. It was the one thing that could. Her pain was his.

Picking his way through the tall grass and foliage, he followed the familiar cloying aroma of Dane’s diabetic blood to find Eva kneeling over his contorted body, chanting
oh my God oh my God oh my God
like some spiritual incantation. The boy had been thrown from the car - apparently the novelty of a seat belt had never occurred to him. Although judging from the remnants of the smashed vehicle, it probably wouldn’t have made much difference.

“He’s still breathing - look, he’s still breathing…”
There was hope in her voice.

Julian knelt beside her and placed his fingers over the boy’s carotid artery. The pulse was faint and
erratic, and the shallow breaths that he struggled to take were more like desperate gasps that came much too far apart. “I’ll call an ambulance.” Straightening, he pulled the phone from his pocket and dialed, adding gently, “He isn’t going to make it, love. Surely you can see that. There’s nothing to be done. I’m sorry.”

“He can’t die…he’s only seventeen…he’s only seventeen
, he’s just a child...Jules, he can’t die like this…”

“Stay with him - I’ll find the girl.”
Trying to shut out Eva’s heartbreaking sobs, he waded through the weeds in search of Imogen while waiting for the 911 operator to answer. It didn’t take long to locate the corpse - she was on the opposite side of the wreck, half in and half out of what must have once been the driver’s side window. The lower half of her body had been crushed by the steel frame, and fresh blood dripped from a gaping wound in her forehead to fall on the grass that was no longer green.

The emergency dispatcher answered then, and he rattled off the necessary information while checking for
any sign of a pulse on Imogen, though it was a pointless endeavor. There was no question that she was indisputably dead. Foolish girl - what could she have hoped to achieve by trying to run down a defenseless animal? Eva wouldn’t have been injured - she’d have simply returned to her own body, safe at home - but the wolf wouldn’t have fared so well, had he been struck. There were so few of the beautiful creatures left in this area as it was.

Completing his call, he left the unfortunate Imogen to rejoin Eva, who to her credit was handling th
e situation fairly well. She’d been as quiet as a mouse while he was on the phone with the 911 operator. “Darling, are you all right?”

Still hunched over Dane, she didn’t respond. Strands of her flame-red hair
blew unchecked in the night breeze.


Eva? Love?”

On the ground beside her lay a small open case that for a moment bore no meaning to him until he recognized the untouched vial of insulin within it. Her
tearful emerald eyes looked up at him guiltily and he followed her arms down to the small white hands that held - oh, no…
no,
it couldn’t be so - the medical syringe that had already been emptied into Dane’s limp arm. And he knew very well that the needle hadn’t been used for administering insulin.

“Eva…dear God, what have you
done?

~*~*~*~

Dane’s first thought when he opened his eyes to see Eva bending over him was that he was dreaming about her again.

But then his vision strayed to
him
- that way-too-perfect Brit - and he frowned. The fiancé shouldn’t be here. Blondie could damn well go find some other dream to inhabit. This one was his.

“Get him out of here,” the man was saying, his voice edgy.

“And take him where?”

“Take him
back to our house. Just get him the hell out of here before the police show up. I’ll deal with them - just go. Hurry.”

The police? Why
were the police…ohh…now he remembered. They’d stolen Mr. Collier’s car and Imogen was driving and they were arguing and…and then something had happened…

“Where’s Imogen?” He sat up,
trying in vain to brush away the dark wetness on his jeans. What was he covered in?

Eva
peered down at him anxiously. “Dane? Can you walk?”


’Course I can walk.” He leapt up from the damp ground and turned his head in the direction of the mangled red debris on one side of him. The Camaro. Jeez, what a mess. They were really going to get it.

Eva tugged at his arm. “Come with me, sweetie. We have to leave.”

“Where we goin’?” He took a few steps with her, then paused to look behind him again. There was an unfamiliar but savory smell coming from that direction, making his empty stomach growl. “Where’s Imogen? Is she all right?”

“Don’t look back.” The pull on his arm became more insistent.

“She’s fine…go with Eva.” Julian ordered.

Go with Eva…he
sure as hell didn’t have to be asked twice to do that. What was up with them - were they trying to help him? Keep him out of trouble with the law? If that was the case, they had to be the two coolest adults he’d ever come across.

He followed her through the woods, stumbling along clumsily until he suddenly realized the cause of it. “I can’t see very well.”

“Really?” She shot him a puzzled look, as if it was absurd to think that he’d have trouble seeing in the dark woods in the middle of the night.

“Everything’s blurry.”

“Blurry…?” Still walking quickly, Eva pushed the mass of auburn curls away from her face while contemplating his dilemma. Quite unexpectedly, she stopped in her tracks and turned to face him. “Are you wearing your contacts?”

“Yeah.”

“Take them out. You don’t need them anymore.”

“Huh?”

“Just take them out and throw them away. They’re not doing you any good now.”

Could this night get any weirder? But he did as she suggested and popped them out, and
incredibly his vision immediately cleared. “I’ll be a sonofabitch,” he said. “How’d you know…”

The
wail of approaching sirens reached their ears and she urged him forward. “I’ll explain later. Right now we just need to get you home. No one needs to see you like this.”

Good point. Maybe he’d get out of this predicament after all. But what about… “
What’s the deal? Is Imogen gonna take the rap for this?”

“No.”

“Then Mr. Winter’s gonna cover for us?”

“Yes. He’s going to cover for you.”
She sounded impatient.

Huh. Maybe he’d underestimated Blondie. He kept quiet after that, tramping along with
his guide until the trees and brush thinned out and they reached the long dirt drive that led to the chalet. They walked in silence, with Eva occasionally glancing over her shoulder as if she expected someone to appear behind them.

“You gonna give me a ride home?” he eventually asked.

“You can’t go back to your house. Not yet, anyway.”

“I have to. If my parents wake up and find me gone
, they’ll flip.” Funny, but the threat of that didn’t freak him out nearly as much as he would have expected. Maybe it was being in her presence or something, but right now he was feeling pretty calm. Calm, cool and collected…

She turned her feline eyes on him, and the frustration in her voice was evident. “Jesus, honey, don’t you have any comprehension of what’s happened? Any at all?”

“Uh…yeah. We totaled a car.”


Yes, you totaled a car. And have you not stopped to wonder why you don’t have a single scratch on you?”

He didn’t know what to say to that. Okay, so he’d been lucky
.

But then he recalled the way that Camaro had looked. Destroyed. Twisted beyond recognition. And it occurred to him that
nobody
was
that
lucky and a feeling of foreboding began to surface…

“Eva. What happened to Imogen?”

“Imogen’s dead. It was too late. We couldn’t help her.” Her voice was gentle but matter-of-fact.

The revelation should have traumatized him, at least should have made him feel
something
, but the most he could muster was an indifferent shrug. “Huh. Sucks for her, I guess.” As soon as he uttered the words, he realized how heartless they sounded. But he just couldn’t make himself care very much. Imogen got what she deserved. Maybe it was even what she wanted.

Eva gave him an uneasy look. “Do you understand what I just said, Dane?”

“Yeah. But I don’t know what you want me to say.” He kicked a loose pebble and watched it bounce across the road. “This whole thing was her fault to begin with. She’s the one who wanted to take the car out. She’s the one who was driving like a deranged lunatic.”

“Fine
- forget about that. Let’s focus on you. Tell me how you feel right now.”

He shrugged again. “
I’m okay.” Actually, he felt better than okay. He felt awesome - strong and bursting with healthy energy. Their long walk hadn’t tired him out one bit.

“You’re not okay!”

“Yeah, I am…really, I’m fine.”

“Dane…Imogen isn’t the only one who died in that wreck.”

He stopped walking and furrowed his brow, trying to remember. “No. There was nobody else in the car with us.”

“I know that.”

“Did we hit someone?”

“No.”

Then what the hell… “What’re you tryin’ to say, Eva? That
I’m
dead?”

“Yes. I mean, no.
Not exactly.” She seemed agitated. “You were, but now you’re not.”

“I was but now I’m not.” Shit, maybe he really was dreaming. Nothing about this night seemed real. He shook his head with a sigh.

“Dane, I have to tell you something that’s going to sound unbelievable to you. But before I do, I want you to know that I only did what I did because I care about you.”

He grinned broadly, unable to help himself.
“Okay.”

“Your injuries were fatal.”

His smile faltered. “But I wasn’t injured.”

“Look at yourself, Dane! You’re covered in blood
!” She pointed at his clothes, and he looked down at them. Was that what he was covered in? No way. That didn’t make any sense - he wasn’t even hurt…

“It’s not
my
blood,” he argued stubbornly.


You were dying. I had no choice.” She almost seemed to be speaking to herself now, rather than to him.

“Eva…”

“You died, Dane. But just before you did I injected you with some of my blood.”

His mouth dropped open. “Some of your blood.”

“Yes. It brought you back. You see, I’m…I’m not exactly human.”

“Not human.”

“Would you stop repeating everything I say!” Apparently trying to rein in her mounting frustration, she took a deep breath and then released it slowly. “I am not human. I’m an immortal.”

He stared at her blankly.
“An immortal
what?

She paused for a moment. Then very softly she said, “I’m a vampire.”

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