Home > The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2)(8)

The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2)(8)
Julie Kagawa

"You still haven't answered my question. Or given me any reason to stick around." I narrowed my eyes. "In fact, you have about five seconds to make your case before I walk out that door."

"Oh, trust me. You'll want to hear this." The former raider king crossed his arms, unconcerned. "You know how the rabids were created, don't you?" he asked. "That it was our dear sire, the noble Kanin himself, who sacrificed our own kind to seek a cure to the plague, only to have the humans screw everything up when they changed those vampires into rabids?"

"He told me."

"Good. Saves me the time of explaining everything." Jackal leaned against a bookcase. "Well, they didn't have just the one lab. The government had a few of them, scattered about the country, all frantically working to end the plague. And one of them is somewhere in this city." He grinned at my startled expression. "Yeah, Kanin once mentioned there was a hidden lab in the old capital, and when Sarren came sniffing around, I figured that's what he was looking for."

"Where is this lab?"

"No idea." Jackal shrugged. "Figured I'd talk to Azura, see if she knew anything about it. She thinks that it's underneath the city somewhere, down in the old tunnel systems that run belowground. Problem is, those tunnels are crawling with rabids, making it difficult to search for it. That's when I got the brilliant idea to wait until you showed up. I figured we'd cover more ground if we looked for it together."

It was my turn to snort. "And I'm going to agree to help you...why?"

"Because if you help me find the lab," Jackal returned, "I'll help you save Kanin."

"I don't need your help-"

"Yes, you do." He pushed himself off the bookcase, giving me an intense look. "You don't know Sarren. You don't know what he's capable of. You think you're going to storm his lair, take him out and rescue Kanin, but you're wrong. Sarren's a crazy bastard, and he's older and smarter than either of us. You want to stop him, you're going to need my help. We can always kill each other later, when we catch up to our sire. But if you want to see Kanin again, you're going to have to trust me."

"Because you have such a great track record in that department?"

"Oh, come on," Jackal said, smiling encouragingly. "Just because I staked you and tossed you out a window? Surely we can get past that little misunderstanding."

"No," I growled, feeling my fangs slip through my gums. "It's not what you did to me. You kidnapped and murdered my friends. You fed one of them to a rabid. You tortured a man to get what you wanted, and you are responsible for his death." I remembered the bloodstained arena, the cage in the center and the rabid pulling its victim down with chilling screams. My lip curled back from my fangs. "I should kill you now for what you did to them."

"Is that so?" Jackal regarded me intently. "Then tell me, my dear sister, how many have you killed? How many of my men died when you fled the city with your little 'friends,' hmm? How many throats have you torn out, how many humans have you ripped apart, because you couldn't control the Hunger? Or maybe I'm wrong." He tilted his head with a fake quizzical expression. "Maybe you're the first of our kind who doesn't need human blood to survive. If that's the case, then please, tell me now so I can apologize and be on my way." He looked at me expectantly with his eyebrows raised. I clenched my fists and glared back, and he nodded. "Who are you trying to fool? People are food. You know it as well as I do. So don't expect me to feel terribly guilty about killing your humans, not when you reek of blood and death. You're not any less of a monster then I am."

I growled, half tempted to lunge and cut that smirking head from his body. Zeke's father, Jebbadiah Crosse, deserved that much justice. So did Darren and Ruth and all the others we'd lost because of the raider king. But Azura took a single step forward, placing herself closer to me and Jackal, and I could feel her readiness to jump in if needed.

"Work with me here, sister," Jackal went on, his voice low and cajoling. "I'm not asking for much. I just want you to help me find the lab. Then we can go rescue the old man, but I need to find the lab first."

"That could take time," I argued. "Time I don't have. Time Kanin doesn't have. We have to get to him before-"

"Kanin is already dead," Jackal snapped. "Or as near to it as he can be. Sarren forced him into hibernation, and it's rare for us to come out of that. He isn't going to wake up anytime soon. And if Sarren wanted him truly destroyed, he would've done it by now."

"Why are you so eager to find this place?"

Jackal gave me a look of incredulous contempt. "You really have to ask me that?" He sighed and shook his head. "What have I been after this whole time? What was so important that I searched the country for three years to find that old preacher and his little congregation? What would bring me here, to ask for your help, when I had a whole army of raiders and minions ready to do my bidding? Think hard, sister. It's not that difficult."

I didn't have to think about it. "The cure," I whispered. Jackal smirked and nodded.

"Yeah. The cure. The end of Rabidism. That's a little more important than finding Kanin right now." He held up a hand as I glared. "I still want to find the old man," he told me. "Like I said, we need to have a talk. And I'm going to need your help to get him away from Sarren. So...you help me, and I'll do the same." He bared his fangs in a savage grin. "And then, after all that is out of the way, you can try to kill me, and I'll stick another stake in your gut and leave you for the rabids, what d'ya say?"

"Jackal," Azura said, sounding faintly exasperated, "if you wish this girl's cooperation, I suggest you stop taunting her. She is not one of your simple human thugs whom you can cower with a threat. If I am forced to kill her because of your uncharitable attitude, I will be very annoyed with you. Now..." She turned that dark, intense stare on me. "The sun is up, and I am very tired. If you two wish to continue your verbal sparring, I ask that you wait until evening. For now, I offer my home for as long as you have need of it."

"Um..." I hesitated, not sure what to make of this generosity, if I should trust it. Or her. But she was right. The sun was up, and unless I wanted to venture outside, I would have to take my chances. "Thank you."

Azura blinked slowly. "I would offer you the guest suite across from Jackal's, but I fear I might return to a war zone. So I will have William show you to one of the lower suites. We will continue this conversation tonight. And, girl..." Her dark gaze narrowed, turning ominous and threatening. "I can smell the blood on you. Do not eat my staff, or I will forget my hospitality long enough to remove the head from your neck, is that understood?"

I bit down a smirk. Diplomacy was necessary when dealing with Master vampires, and Princes especially; they did not deal well with sarcasm, I'd discovered. "Yes," I replied simply. "I understand."

Apparently satisfied, Azura turned to the door and raised a hand. One second later, a human in a black-and-white uniform stepped through the frame and bowed to me. "I will show you to your room," he said in a formal voice. "Please, follow me."

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