Home > Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson #2)(11)

Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson #2)(11)
Author: Patricia Briggs

Stefan broke off his staring contest with Samuel, dropping his eyes to Medea who'd crawled onto his lap and crouched there, purring. If he'd been human, I'd have said he looked tired. If he'd dropped his eyes like that in front of a less civilized werewolf, he might have had problems, but Samuel knew that a vampire dropping his gaze was not admitting submissiveness.

"I have a friend named Daniel," Stefan said after a moment. "He is very young, as our kind go-and you might call him a nice boy. A month ago, when a vampire checked into a local hotel, Daniel was sent to see why he had not contacted us for the usual permissions."

Stefan shrugged. "It is something that we do a lot; it should not have been dangerous or unusual. It was an appropriate assignment for a new vampire." Except there was a hint of disapproval in Stefan's voice that told me that he would not have sent Daniel off to confront an unknown vampire.

"Somehow Daniel was sidetracked-he doesn't remember how. Something aroused his bloodlust. He never made it to the hotel. There was a small group of migrant workers who were camping in the cherry orchard, waiting to begin the harvest." He exchanged a glace with Samuel over my head. "Like tonight, the mess wasn't pretty, but it was containable. We took their trailers and vehicles and got rid of them. The owner of the orchard just thought they'd gotten tired of waiting and moved on. Daniel was... punished. Not too harshly, because he is young and the lust is so very strong. But now, of his own will, he won't eat at all. He is dying from guilt. As I told you, he is a nice boy."

Stefan inhaled, a deep, cleansing breath. Stefan once told me that most vampires breathed because not breathing attracted human attention. I think, though, that some of them do it because their not breathing is as troubling to them as it is to the rest of us. Of course, if they are going to talk, they have to breathe a little bit anyway.

"In the furor," Stefan continued, "no one investigated the visiting vampire who had, after all, spent only one night in town. I didn't even think to question what had happened until I tried to help Daniel a few days ago. He talked to me about what had happened-and something just seemed wrong with his story. I know bloodlust. He could not remember why he'd decided to travel all the way out to Benton City, twenty miles from the hotel where he was supposed to be. Daniel is very obedient, like one of your submissive wolves. He would not have deviated from his orders without provocation. He is not able to travel as I can, he would have had to drive all the way-and driving is not something a vampire in the throes of bloodlust does well.

"I decided to do some investigating of the vampire he was suppose to meet. It wasn't difficult to get his name from the clerk at the hotel where he had stayed. I could find nothing on a vampire named Cory Littleton-but there was a man of that name offering his services in matters magical on the Internet."

Stefan gave the floor a slight smile. "It is forbidden us to turn anyone who is not wholly human. Mostly it wouldn't work anyway, but there are stories..." He shrugged unhappily. "I've seen enough to know that this is a good rule. When I went hunting, I expected to find a witch who'd been turned. It never occurred to me he might be a sorcerer-I haven't seen a sorcerer for centuries. Most people today don't have the belief in evil and the knowledge necessary to make a pact with a demon. So I thought Littleton was a witch. A powerful witch, though, to be able to affect the memory of a vampire-even a fledgling like Daniel."

"Why did you go after him with just Mercy?" asked Samuel. "Couldn't you have gotten another vampire to go with you?'

"Daniel had been punished, the matter was deemed over."

Stefan tapped his knee, impatient with that judgement. "The Mistress wanted to hear no more of it."

I had met Marsilia, the Mistress of Stefan's seethe. She hadn't struck me as the type to be overly concerned about the deaths of a few humans or even a few hundred humans.

"I was considering going over her head, when the vampire returned. I had no proof of my suspicions, you understand. As far as everyone else was concerned, Daniel had fallen victim to his bloodlust. So I volunteered to speak with this stranger myself. I thought I might see if he was someone who could make Daniel remember doing things he had not. I brought Mercy with me as a safety precaution. I really did not expect that he could affect me as he had Daniel."

"So you don't think Daniel killed the people he thought he did?" I asked.

"A witch who was also a vampire might be able to implant memories, but he couldn't have made Daniel kill. A sorcerer..." Stefan spread his hands. "A sorcerer could do many things. I consider myself lucky that he was so eager to make the kill himself that he did not use the bloodlust he'd summoned in me to make me kill the maid-as I was half-convinced he had. I have become arrogant over the years, Mercedes. I hadn't really believed he could do anything to me. Daniel, after all, is very new. You were supposed to be a safeguard, but I didn't expect to need you."

" Littleton was a sorcerer," I said. "And some idiot vampire chose to turn him. Who did it? Was it someone from around here? And if not, why is he here?"

Stefan smiled again. "Those are questions I shall pose to my mistress. The turning might have been a mistake-like our fair Lilly."

I'd met Lilly. She'd been crazy when she'd been human, and being a vampire hadn't changed that. She was also an incredible pianist. Her maker had been so caught up by her music he hadn't taken the time to notice anything else about her. Like the werewolves, vampires tend to rid themselves of someone who might draw unwanted attention to them. Lilly's extraordinary gift had protected her, though her maker had been killed for being so careless.

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