Friday, June 21st
Killing Braddock Hayes changed my life—such as it was—forever. Committing murder should change a person, at least a person who still had a conscience, and I sure as hell had mine.
My name's Simone Sweet. My personality obviously doesn't match my name. How could someone who was truly sweet rip open the carotid artery in a man's neck and enjoy that thick, bloody flow of his life onto her lips?
I'm a vampire, and folks may believe that vampires walk around and kill indiscriminately. All right, some do. But not me. Not the ones I lived with in Broken Heart, Oklahoma. We had rules.
The same rules I'd tossed out the proverbial window the minute I sank my fangs into Brady's neck and drank all of his essence.
I knelt before my sacrifice, penitent and yet darkly thrilled by what I'd just done. My gaze drifted up past the pine trees. The moon was out. It shone down through the feathery branches like the bright eye of the goddess, the one the lycanthropes worshipped. She had surely witnessed my act and was passing judgment on me. Could a deity that wasn't mine punish me?
The shitty part was … I'd killed someone before. Before I even knew vampires and werewolves were real. Before I knew that the world in which humans lived was an illusion they created. Paranormal creatures have been with us for a very long time. It's not so much that they're good at hiding. It's more like humans were better at ignoring what they didn't understand, and denying anything that didn't make sense in their reality.
Yes, I'd killed someone when I was human. He deserved it. I have to believe that he deserved it. But as I looked down at the corpse of Braddock Hayes, a man who'd done nothing but try to help me and my family, I couldn't lie to myself anymore.
Nobody deserved killing. Not even the killers.
I stood up, shaking, my body full of blood and that strange, addictive ecstasy. That was the danger of draining a human. Vampires liked it. We enjoyed blood nearly as much as women enjoyed shoe sales or free Godiva samples. That forbidden joy was why vampires who either belonged to the Consortium or followed the rules of the Ancients only took one pint every evening from willing donors.
Blood smelled like rust.
It almost looked like rust, especially when it was drying on clothes and clotting on skin. Staining my outsides, the way my sins stained my soul. It wasn't the same as before … when I killed Jacob. Oh, there was blood then, too. But not like this.
I cocked my head, listening to the sounds of paws thwumping on the marshy ground and crashing through the underbrush. Lycanthropes had exceptional senses. That edge made them superb guardians of the undead.
I was still staring at the moon when black wolf skidded into the clearing. Damian, the leader of the guardians. He sniffed Brady, his big furred face swinging toward me. He barked at me, his jade eyes glittering in accusation.
Then he lifted his snout into the air and howled.
Patrick O'Halloran and his father, Ruadan, sailed into view and landed between me and Brady. They could fly not because they were vampires, but because they were part sidhe, or fairy. They looked like a young Pierce Brosnan with raven-black hair and stormy silver eyes.
They would judge me.
Maybe the paranormal world wasn't so different from the human world after all.
Patrick crouched near Brady, but there was nothing he could do. I'd made sure of it.
I returned my gaze to the sky. A circle formed around the moon, its red glow stained the white orb just like the blood I'd just spilled. It was almost time. I just had to wait a little while longer.
"Why, Simone?" Patrick asked quietly. "Why did you kill him?"
Strangely enough, I had killed Brady and Jacob for the same reason.
Damian put the cuffs on me. Patrick explained that the ornate silver was imbued with fairy magic. I wouldn't be able to get out of them.
Brady was dead. And with Gran and Glory … I shook off the heinous thoughts. I'd already lost everything important to me. I was hollow inside, but at the same time, the power within was an uncurling viper, readying to strike. Brady's blood throbbed inside me, giving me more strength than I'd ever had before.
"Damian, return to the festival and guard the Queen," said Ruadan. "Take her to the hospital, Patrick. Dr. Merrick wants to see her."
"I'm standing here," I pointed out. "You don't have to talk about me in third person."
Ruadan and Patrick ignored me.
My gaze fell on the body of Brady. Ruadan magicked up a sheet to cover Brady. I was grateful for that kindness.
"Simone," said Patrick. His voice was soft with empathy. How could he be nice to me after what I did? "We need to go now."
"To Dr. Merrick."
He nodded. I could see in his gaze he thought I was nuts. Being crazy was an acceptable excuse for all that I'd done. But here's the thing: I wasn't insane.
Patrick wrapped his arms around me, presumably to do the ol' gold-sparkly trick and get me to the hospital. None of them knew it, but I was the least of their worries.
I couldn't stop looking at the man I'd killed, or rather at the sheet that outlined his form. Oh, Brady. My insides quivered and I felt the heaviness of sorrow. I pushed it back.
No, I couldn't afford grief.