Dark Hunger

Page 43

“You died a human death and came back to life as something else,” she reminded him. “That was the only reason I could.”

He nodded. “Until last week, this man was mortal. Alexandra says he is not Darkyn, but perhaps he underwent a transition like ours.”

“Maybe.” She took the flashlight from Devon. “The blood is a week old anyway, I probably won’t.” Abruptly she stopped speaking and gripped the handle, denting the aluminum surface beneath her fingers as her eyes closed.

She shuddered once, and then froze. The flashlight fell to the ground.

“Samantha.” He rested his hands on her shoulders. When she didn’t respond, he shook her. “Wake up. Damn it, you will not do this to me again. Samantha.”

“No,” she said softly as she looked up at him, her eyes huge. “I won’t. Yellow jackets.”

“What? He is wearing a yellow jacket?”

“They killed him.” She moved past him and went to a spot some yards away. He followed her, and there saw the mounds of dead insects on the ground around a broken nest. “Here.” She pointed to a depression in the ground. “You were right. He did die. Right here.”

“Where is the body?”

“He rose again, the way we did. But he’s not like us. He’s like the insects. On the inside, where you can’t see it.” Her expression twisted as she pressed her hands to the sides of her head. “I can feel him now. He’s in my head. He can feel them, too. Jesus, he’s almost there.”

“Where?” When she didn’t answer, he caught her chin. “Samantha, look at me. Where has Lawson gone?”

“He’s gone to where Jessa Bellamy is,” she said simply. “He’s gone to Savannah.”

Jessa dropped the handle that had broken off the porcelain pitcher, bent, and pressed her fingers to the side of Matthias’s neck. His pulse beat steadily under her fingertips, and the cut on his forehead wasn’t bleeding too much.

“I’m sorry,” she said before she stepped over his motionless form and ran out of the room.

She’d never struck another person in her life, and she felt horribly ashamed of herself. She didn’t want to leave him like this, helpless and alone. But this was her only chance to escape, and whether he was telling the truth or just another elaborate series of lies, she had to get away from him.

She opened the fire door leading to the surface hatch, and went through it to a narrow stairwell. She climbed up two levels, and saw a landing with two different doors. She discovered that neither was locked, and the first one she tried opened to a small, neat garden with a stone path leading out to a street.

Jessa knew the moment she walked outside that she was in Savannah. As cool and damp as the air was, she could smell the river, and the lush scent of growing things. As she made her way to the street, she noticed the flower beds and the neat rows of small green plants laid out in the tiny yard. Then she glanced back and stumbled as she saw the tall, stately house with its elegant lines and the faded but still sparkling outer coat of dark blue paint.

Sapphire House. She’d been kept prisoner under her own home. She was standing in her own backyard.

Jessa shook her head, backing away from the sight before she turned and ran. It was a bad dream—it had to be—but then she saw the square where Darien had died, and the imposing spires of St. John’s, and even the much-hated coffee shop across the street.

Matthias had brought her home.

Pain lanced through her head as she fled down the street, away from the square and toward the river. She didn’t know where she was running, only that she had to run; she had to escape this. And still the questions screeched inside her head: How had he known? Why hadn’t he told her? How could he have built that place under her own house?

She had to stop and catch her breath at the entrance to the riverfront walk, and as she gulped in air she remembered something: Darien had never permitted her to go down into the cellar. He’d frightened her with tales of rats and spiders lurking down in the dark corners, and kept the door latch padlocked.

But more than once during her holiday visits from school Darien had disappeared from the house, only to reappear hours later. None of the servants ever saw him leave. Once, when she asked him about it, he told her he’d found his own little hiding place in the house, and he went there when he wanted some peace. Jessa also recalled some odd references to masons coming to the house to talk to her father in the sporadic letters Geraldine had written to her.

The age of the walls, the odd sizes of the rooms, and the library and the fireplace now made sense. Her father had loved sitting by the fire and reading. Matthias hadn’t built the underground shelter. Darien had, probably using the same tunnels his ancestor had for storing the goods he’d smuggled into the city.

I’ve spent more on Old Blue than likely I should have, Darien had told her when they’d discussed her legacy. Yet Jessa could never remember her father making any major alterations to the house, or buying any high-priced items. They’d lived quietly and modestly, and Darien hadn’t cared to throw parties or waste money on keeping up with Savannah society. The only thing she could remember him purchasing regularly, in fact, were the books he loved.

Jessa climbed down the stairs to the side street leading around to the riverfront. All of the shops, bars, and restaurants were closed, so she had the walkways to herself. As she looked out across the river to the new hotel that had been built on Hutchinson Island, she folded her arms around her waist. Everything she knew had changed now, and everyone she had loved was gone. Darien and Tag couldn’t help her with this; there was no one she could rely on, no one to tell her what to do or where to go.

She was thinking like Minerva. She couldn’t do that. She had to get away from the memories as well as Matthias.

A clock in the window of one of the shops told her it was close to three a.m. In a few hours businesses would begin to open; she’d have to find an Internet café and contact Aphrodite. She could trust Di, and knew that if she asked, her friend would take her in, at least until she could figure out what to do next.

“Jessa,” someone whispered.

She turned around, expecting to see Matthias, but found only the empty stretch of walkway. Quickly she hurried toward the next alley that led up to street level, and when she heard the whisper a second time she broke into a flat run.

Clouds rushed in from the sea, covering the moon and blocking out the starlight. Jessa flinched as lightning flashed over the bridge and thunder boomed, exactly as it had the day Matthias had abducted her from the restaurant.

He was coming for her again. He’d take her back to Sapphire House, back to the ruins of her life, and then she would go crazy.

“Jessa.” A tall, broad shadow appeared in front of her, blocking her only avenue of escape. “I’ve been looking for you.”

She didn’t recognize the voice, but it wasn’t Matthias. Something crawled over her skin, a sense of wrongness, as if the shadow were some sort of nightmare she’d woken to. The man moved closer, and the smell of him struck her like a fist to the belly.

“I knew you’d get away from them,” the voice said. “I could feel you thinking about and planning every little detail. Just the way you did with me.”

Now she knew the voice. “Mr. Lawson?” She backed up a step. “What are you doing here?”

“Waiting for you.” The shadow moved into the light, and it was Lawson, or a man who looked like him, except much bigger, with bulging limbs encased in skintight clothing. Some of his garments had begun tearing in the middle of the seams, as if his body had somehow swelled after he had dressed. He had been very well developed, she remembered from meeting him in the restaurant, but he hadn’t been like this. She would have thought he was wearing some sort of padding under his clothes, except for when she looked into his eyes.

After one glance she couldn’t bear to look at his face again. His eyes had turned as shiny and black as an insect’s, with no visible corneas, irises, or pupils. When he smiled, she saw something long, sharp, and pointed flash.

Fangs, she thought. He has fangs.

“You look surprised,” he said. “Did you think I wouldn’t find you?”

Jessa couldn’t move. “What happened to you? What did that to your eyes?”

“You did,” he said. “You attacked me. You had me crippled.”

“I didn’t do anything—” She stopped as she remembered the attack in the restaurant. “Matthias couldn’t have done this to you. I was there. I saw—”

“It was the transerum,” he told her. “I went to GenHance and stole it. Injecting myself with it was the only way I could repair the damage you did to my body. But I’m not angry with you anymore. You made me very strong.” He lashed out, slamming his fist into the wall beside him, and left a deep crater in it as bits of smashed brick fell to the ground. “You see? I couldn’t do that when I was human. You made me into a god.”

Suddenly she knew everything Matthias had said was the truth. GenHance was experimenting on human beings. Somehow they’d done this. And seeing that Lawson now had fangs, she realized that maybe even the stories about the dark Kyn were true, too.

What could she say to him, now that he was like this? Was there any way to change him back to the way he had been? Her stomach rolled as she sensed that there wasn’t. “Mr. Lawson—Bradford—you should be in the hospital. The doctors can help you.”

“I don’t need help. I’m right where I need to be, with you. I came to thank you in person.” He stretched out his arms in an affectionate gesture. “Come here and I will.”

Chapter 18

Matthias woke up with a throbbing head, blood in his eye, and drenched clothes. He saw the fragments of his water jug on the floor around him, checked the gash on his brow, and pushed himself slowly to his feet. The pain receded as he used his sleeve to clear his eye.

He remembered now. Jessa had pretended to be weak-kneed after the rubdown. He’d helped her to the basin. And she’d bashed him in the head so hard she’d knocked him out. Now she’d fled, and as she knew how to get to the surface, she was probably out on the streets, looking for help.

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