Read The Blood Bargain Online

Authors: Macaela Reeves

The Blood Bargain (17 page)

Perhaps now that the wedding bells were a little far off from the immediate, my stress level was finally dropping.

Lacing up my steel-toed stompers I headed out the door, careful to lock it behind me.

I was thankful Third Street was quiet in the morning hours. No confused looks or whispering neighbors to contend with.

Once I got out of town I was starting to feel like myself again. Same routine I had for years kicking in, overriding my worries about the future. For the next eight hours, I was a huntress for the living. Not a bride, not a daughter, not a spy
wanna
be or a vamp sympathizer; I was just a survivor.

Adam was already up in the tower looking out over the wall. I couldn.t see his eyes for the binoculars but his mouth was a grim line. That was not a good sign for the day to come. Did we have more aftermath from our city excursion to deal with?

“Hey slacker, how’
s it
goin
?” I called up to him.

Adam looked over the ledge at me, his face stretched wide in shock.

“Holy crap
Liv
!
Whatcha
doin
out here?” He fumbled with his binoculars, setting them down haphazardly.

“I

m here for my shift.” I pointed to the heavy crossbow strapped to my back. He whistled appreciatively.

“How

d you manage to pull that one off?”

“My new roommate pulled some strings.”

“You moved in with Zack already?”

“NO!” That was probably too loud. “No, I am ah…staying with a friend.” I didn.t see a reason to mention Dimitri by name, Adam wouldn.t understand and I

d already fought with one dear friend this month. No reason to make it two if I didn.t have to.

“Well girlie, I have bad news. We already got two
slouchers
on the horizon that I can spot.”

“Distance to the first marker?” My voice rang with familiar authority.

“We got a ways, they are
def
slowzies
.”

“On it.” I tested my footing on the first peg of the wall.


Liv
!” I lost my footing and stumbled from the first pegs, a two foot fall the ground and a ten foot fall to my ego.

“What!” I snapped, annoyed that he startled me and I stumbled like a fool. He waved a small black box in the air like a prized trophy.


Walkie
. Couple days out and you forget the basics?” Adam tossed it down to me after I had walked over.

“Crap I

m sorry. Thanks Adam.” He smirked and gave me a one finger solute.

I scaled the wall perfectly, my arms and legs remembering the swings and rotation in synchronized timing. Just like riding a bike.

Landing in the grass on the wild side I immediately brought my bow around. My heart started pounding in my chest. How I had missed lady adrenaline.

I walked forward slowly in the tall grass, listening for anything aside from the wind.

Nada.

Time for the wait. No sense in going to them when they were happy to come to me.

To pass the time I checked my bow, verifying everything was calibrated correctly. Tested my quick draw on my small knives. Not rusty at all.

I don

t know how much time had passed before the first one crested onto the plain. I had allowed my mind to go blissfully empty. I didn.t miss the irony that I found serenity in danger rather than with the wedding planner. Perhaps I was just weird.

The first one was jawless; most of its neck was missing as well. Its head lolled around on its spine like a sucker that someone had bit through the straw on. It limped, obviously suffering from some similar leg damage I couldn

t spot.

The second one broke my heart, he or she was about eleven. The face was too badly decomposed to make out anything other than rough age. Only its left arm hung from the socket. The right had been ripped clean off along with half of its chest muscles.

I set my sight on the adult. It hadn

t spotted me yet and I had a bit until it was in clean strike range. In my scope I
caught a glimpse of his shirt ‘
South Side Sports Extreme

. I knew that place, went to a rock climbing party
there for someone’s thirteenth birthday. I couldn’
t remember who.

I pull the trigger.

My action got the attention of the other one, whose jaw dropped wide in a guttural complaint.

No you don

t.

I reloaded, in a matter of seconds. Setting my sight in half that time.

Sorry kiddo.

He/She
went down like a rock.

Retrieval time.

I huffed on the jog to the line. My arrows broke out without a lot of force. These were a pair of oldies. Frail skinned. Least I was able to deduce that the smaller one was indeed female. Her pants had little dolls on them.

I wondered on the walk back to my route if they would indeed turn to mush eventually. One of the working theories around Junction was as time passed, their tissues would rot out leaving nothing but bone. When they were that far gone, we could simply knock down the

wall and retake our world.

However, the two I just took out. They had been dead for long
time. Long with a capital L. I’
ve never done an autopsy or anything like that, but I.ve seen my share of dead things. Long after the smell is gone their skin turns into a
kinda
beef jerky/paper combination. These two were definitely card carrying members of that jerky club.

How long though, had they been functioning in this brittle existence? Would it really fade? They used to have those mummy shows on the discovery channel where they exhumed Pharaoh

s that died thousands of years ago. Did that mean these would be a threat for thousands of years?

They were still slow, but in a severely urban place like New York…

I shook my head to clear it. That was enough of that nonsense.

Looking over my section I saw nothing but the white clouds against the brilliant blue sky, the reds and oranges beginning to
peek into the fall trees. They’
d start losing their leaves soon.
Focusing on the beauty left in nature, my shift seemed to flash by in a manner of minutes.

I found a few days without my bow and the weight was getting to me. My shoulders ached and my feet were sore. I was headed back for shift change when something snagged on my left boot.

What the hell? Downed branch? Mud?

I flipped my eyes down to the skeletal hand that was pulling a set of rotted jaws to my ankle.

NO!

Turning with my full weight, I kicked it in the face with my right steel toe. The sickening crunch that accompanied the contact told me I had been successful.

But the action also threw me on my back in the grass.

If there was one there could have been more!

Get up
Liv
get up get up get up…

I scrambled to my feet. Breathing hard, my heart

pounding in my chest.

I looked left, right, down. Spinning. My dagger in my hand.

Tall grass. It

s all tall grass. Why wasn

t I going slower? Because you were sore, tired and wanted to be done for today. Shut up! I admonished myself.

I listened, standing still as a statue.

Nothing. Just birds and the wind.

“You okay
Liv
? I saw you go down.” The
walkie
at my hip hissed. I had forgotten about Adam. I picked it up to respond.

“I’
m okay, was a crawler.” I depressed the button.

“Oh my…I’
m sorry. I didn.t see it I didn.t see anything down there.” Even on our rudimentary two way I could hear him beating himself up over this one.

“It’s okay Adam…I’
m on my way in.”

The walk back from this point on was certainly a
hell of a lot less carefree.
Up and over the wall was more difficult, my back ached and my nerves were shot. Still I managed to appear calm and collected vaulti
ng into the safety of Junction.

Cole was waiting for shift change, his black tank top replaced with a long sleeved black muscle shirt to adapt to the cold weather. Double katana, dark jeans and thick boots made him look like the formidable badass I was used to. Walking up to him I reassessed his face, his

handsome features were the same as they
’d always been.

Still, now that we’
d had the fight/makeup friendship drama, I found myself seeing his approach in a more endearing light.

Well that was until he noticed me.

Cole gave me the same holy crap why are you here look I got from Adam.

“How did this happen? You drop a magic eraser into your dad

s eggs this
morning?”
Sarcastic ass. I smirked. “Council saw the error of their ways.” No need to say more than that. Cole gave me a
n
odd look, like I may have ratted our little
super secret
spy order out in exchange for my freedom.

“Don.t even!” I hissed.

Before I could continue lanky arms gave me an awkward hug from the right.

“I am so sorry, that was all my fault I should have
seen it’
s my job for crying out loud.”

“It’
s alright Adam. Really.” I wiggled out of his clutches.

“What’
s alright? Cole chimed in, his brow dipped into an overprotective frown.


Liv
got pulled down by a crawler.”

“Holy crap, are you okay
Liv
?”

“I’
m fine! Really…it

s no big deal.” It was a big deal, I just didn.t want them to continue to point out that it was such. It made it harder for me to keep it together.

“While we’
re all here. Sammie find anything?” I asked quietly while handing him the
walkie
.

“Nada yet. She

s still on it.”

“K. Have a nice shift.”

“Are you going out tonight?” I was just about to answer when a
n
unwanted voice overwrote my attempt.


Liv
!” Oh no…

Zack Graham was jogging up toward me from the right. As he got closer I took inventory that his face looked pretty pained.

“I need to talk to you.”

“Yeah I’
m out…be seeing
ya
.” Cole took the opportunity to get to work, while Adam shrank away with some mumbled excuse. It was no secret the real men of Junction, the ones who weren

t Graham butt kissers, tended to distance their self from Zack as much as possible.

“Hi Zack.” I spoke slowly, if he had run this far out of town, odds were he knew about my new living arrangement.

Next thing I knew I was drenched in water. I wiped at my eyes while something cold and metal was pressed against my arm.

“Zack what the hell?” I looked down to find it was a small silver cross.

“You’
ve been seduced by demonic forces! Please I know the water stings but it

s my duty to save you! Come with me to Father Flannigan

s…” He reached out and grabbed for my hand, but I was faster.

“I am not bra
inwashed!” I growled at him. “I’
m
exactly where I want to be.”

“No. No
no
no
baby t
hat

s not you talking. Oh this is my fault I never should have agreed to this blood thing no matter what my
dad said, now he tells me they’
ve
demanded you live there!” Zack

s babbling took a turn, his face morphing from panic to jealousy. “Are you…are you sleeping with them?”

“No! I have my own room.”

“Please come with me.” He reached for me again, this time I took a full step back.

“You are being ridiculous. Go
home Zack, you’
re starting to piss me off.” I turned around and walked toward town.

“I

m not giving up on you baby!” He called from behind me. I rolled my eyes. Idiot. He really thought I had been brain drained by some vampire? Of course I had, why else would a girl not want to be with the wonderful Zack Graham? The nerve. The ego. The the…I ran out of words. I ran my fingers through my hair, trying to wipe my brain of anything having to do with

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