Read Crave 02 - Sacrifice Online
Authors: Laura J. Burns,Melinda Metz
For our mothers, Grace Burns and Jan Metz
“Always choose love and forgiveness”
NCE UPON A TIME . . .
That is the way my story must begin, because mine is a strange and magical story. Once upon a time, I fell in love. Yes, it begins there, with love, but not a simple, ordinary love, because once upon a time, my beloved revealed a secret to me. He revealed he was a vampire.
And that only made me love him more. I loved him for the compassion and knowledge his hundreds of years of walking the earth had given him. And he loved me for exactly who I was, although he had seen many women more beautiful, more gifted, more
in all those years.
Soon I had a secret to tell him—I was carrying his child. Again, a secret made our love grow deeper. We decided we would begin our happily ever after. We would marry, and our child would bring our two worlds together. Our child wouldn’t be human. Our child wouldn’t be vampire. She—for some reason, we both felt our baby was a girl—would be something new, something special. Throughout history, once in a great while, such children had been born, but none had survived. We were sure ours would be different, because our love was so strong.
We had many dreams for our little girl, my beloved Sam and I. We decided we would call her Shay, because the name means “a gift” and that’s what she would be to us. We hoped she would be a gift to all humans and all vampires as well, a gift that would unite them, that would take them the first step toward living in peace.
Sam gave me a beautiful necklace engraved with two birds flying through a sky that held a sun and a moon both. He said it had belonged to the woman who was his mother in everything but birth. He said that one day we would give the necklace as a gift to our gift, our Shay, and that it would symbolize the two worlds that had been brought together in her. Day and night. Human and vampire.
In that moment, I thought nothing could be more perfect than our love.
And then he abandoned me. I never saw Sam again.
When we think about fairy tales, we think about happily ever afters, forgetting the darkness that stories beginning with “once upon a time” so often contain.
I tried to protect Shay from that darkness. But there was no way to shield her from the truth: Life is not a fairy tale.
. “Gabriel, help!”
He can still hear me. With his vampire senses, he could probably hear me from a mile away,
she thought frantically. But the thick glass doors of the research center had closed between them.
“Why are you doing this?” Shay gasped. “Where are we going?”
The guy on her left didn’t answer, his mouth set in a grim line as he dragged her through the lobby. Shay’s mind whirled, unable to match the ultra-ordinary room—tall, long reception counter; waiting area with magazines just like every other waiting area in the world—with the horror of strong hands on her arms, cold eyes regarding her as if she were some kind of vermin. Two men, just to
keep hold of her? She was small. She was human. She was weak. It didn’t take two vampire men to subdue one sick girl.
“Let go!” she shrieked. Shay dug the heels of her boots into the pale gray carpet and twisted her body, trying to pull away. She still had the strength that Gabriel’s vampire blood had given her, and maybe they wouldn’t expect her to fight. It worked with the guy on the right—he jumped in surprise at her loud cry, and his grip loosened. The one on the left just tightened his fingers around her wrist like a vise.
“Shut up,” he said, and then he jerked her so hard that she would’ve fallen if the other guy didn’t reach out to steady her.
“Where are we putting her?” the second guy asked. “Ernst said the cellar, but there’s only the storeroom, and that lock is wonky.”
“I’ll tie her hands, then.” The first guy, the worse one, kept pulling her forward while he spoke. As if he couldn’t wait to get rid of her. As if he couldn’t stand to be in her presence.
They’re afraid of humans,
Shay reminded herself. She had a fast impression of a lab—stainless-steel tables, glass cabinets filled with vials and beakers, an industrial-size fridge, a centrifuge—then she was yanked through another door and down a long set of metal steps. The temperature dropped and the air took on a metallic tang.
Shay took a deep breath, trying desperately to get her thoughts under control. Gabriel had brought her here, to his family. He’d told her all about the place and about the people she would meet here. She hadn’t expected them to haul her around like a sack of trash, but maybe if she kept herself calm and just talked to them, they’d see she was no threat.
They were taking her down a long corridor now. Through a
half-open door, she spotted a broom closet. It seemed so . . . normal. And normal was weird, in this case. Although she’d known that they didn’t live in some Gothic castle, somehow she hadn’t pictured it being so bland. Gabriel’s family ran this entire research center. They were scientists, all of them, including both of these men. Scientists and vampires.
“You’re Richard, right?” she said to the one dragging her. The mean one.
He didn’t answer, but his gray eyes narrowed.
“And you’re Luis.” She took in the darker skin of the other guy, his thick black hair, his Latino features. There were only two other men in the family besides Gabriel and Ernst, their leader. And Ernst had stayed outside with Gabriel. Shay knew that Richard was serious—that’s how Gabriel had described him. The guy with the death grip on her arm was definitely serious. Hence, Richard.
“Don’t talk to her,” he said.
But Luis was staring at Shay now, and he looked a little spooked. “Luis, I know all about you,” she said in a rush. “I know that you came from Texas and that Sam and Gabriel found you there when your parents were killed. I know you like
even though you can’t eat—”
“Shut. The hell. Up.” Richard jerked her arm up behind her back, and Shay cried out in pain.
“Richard! What’s going on?” A pale, blond woman had come down the stairs behind them and stood staring at them openmouthed. “I thought I smelled Gabriel. I ran back from the caves as fast as I could.”
Shay thought. The only one of the family she hadn’t met
yet. If you could consider being taken captive “meeting.” Shay tried to remember what Gabriel had told her. Tamara was with Richard. She was the only one who hadn’t been brought into the family as a child.
“Gabriel showed up with this human,” Richard said, a sneer in his voice. “Ernst wants her locked away.”
“I’m Sam’s daughter,” Shay cried, her eyes pleading with the woman. Gabriel hadn’t told her many details about Tamara, but Shay wasn’t getting anywhere with the other two. “I’m your family. Gabriel said I’d be safe here.”
Tamara gasped, her eyes widening. “Sam’s daughter? The baby with the human woman?”
“Yes.” Richard’s voice was like a knife.
“She’s an abomination,” Tamara breathed, backing away as if Shay were contagious.
“I’m your family,” Shay repeated desperately. “Gabriel said I would be welcome here, he said—”
But Tamara was already gone, racing back up the metal steps.
“Get the duct tape,” Richard said, pushing open a door. He shoved Shay inside, his eyes searching the room.
Searching for an escape route,
Making sure there isn’t one.
Luis appeared in the doorway with a roll of tape. Richard pushed Shay down on a wooden chair—the only piece of furniture in the small room, which was mostly filled with shelves—and yanked Shay’s arms behind her back. Luis wrapped the tape around her wrists, binding them together.
“That hurts,” Shay said, her voice coming out barely louder than a whisper. Her pulse was pounding in her ears, and her breath came fast. Shock was robbing her body of the strength she’d gotten from
drinking Gabriel’s blood. Five minutes ago she’d been sitting in a car with Gabriel, talking about these people—Richard and Luis and Ernst—as if they were friends. Family. Safety. She’d been looking forward to meeting them.
Luis reached over to loosen the tape, but Richard knocked his hand away. “Let’s get back to Ernst.”
“But I’m one of you,” Shay said, fighting down her fear. “I’m like you. I’m half vampire. I’m not a regular human.”
“You’re a thing that should never have been born,” Richard told her. “And that’s worse than a human.”
“Gabriel said you’d accept me,” Shay stammered. “He said . . . because I’m Sam’s daughter, and Sam was your brother . . .”
“Sam was a traitor,” Richard cut her off. “He betrayed us all.”
He turned and stalked out of the room. Luis followed, not looking at Shay. The door slammed shut, and the lock snapped into place, and Shay was left alone in the dark.
“Gabriel,” she whispered. “Help me.”
I’ve got to get to Shay. I’ve got to get to Shay.
The thought spun through Gabriel’s mind in a frantic loop. Where was she? Had they hurt her, his brothers? He stared at the glass doors to the research center as if he could will them to open and return Shay to him.
She needed their protection. Didn’t they understand that? The human world would be no more accepting of a half vampire than a full one. Humans would be as much a danger to Shay as they were to his family.
“We should go inside,” Millie said softly. But she wasn’t talking to him, she was talking to Ernst.
“Whose car is that?” Ernst asked, his voice sharp and grating. It took Gabriel a moment to realize that the question was directed at him. His gaze strayed to the Escalade ten feet away, but he couldn’t really comprehend what Ernst had said. His mind was filled with a fog of fear.
“We . . . I stole it,” Gabriel said slowly.
I’ve got to get to Shay. Got to.
“We had her stepfather’s car at first, but he had it traced and came after us. When we ran from him, we had to steal another one. There was no choice.”
“How much more trouble have you brought to our door?” Ernst spat.
Gabriel just stared at him, the words making no more sense than the tone of voice. Ernst was his father, the one who had taught him everything about the life they led, everything about being a vampire and about the importance of family. But his voice was that of a stranger.
“Ernst.” Millie’s voice was sharp. “Gabriel’s home, that’s what matters.”
I’ve got to get to Shay.
“I’m sorry,” Gabriel said out loud. “It’s been a difficult time. I . . . did what I thought I had to.” Was that what Ernst wanted to hear? Gabriel would say anything he had to if it would help him get to Shay.