My eyes popped open. I was instantly disoriented for a few moments as the garbled sounds of shouting and traffic, along with unidentified rancid and horrible smells, overwhelmed my senses. My head felt foggy and my right eye seemed to have something wet in it. I lifted my arm to wipe it only to discover there was blood covering my eye. I looked at my hand in shock for a few moments before it all came back to me.
The suitcase bomb.
I had seen it get thrown out of the first Hummer but it hit the ground right in front of the second car. The bomb went off and our vehicle swerved to try to avoid the explosion. I remembered being thrown around as our vehicle skidded out of control, before I lost consciousness.
Now, I was lying on the roof of our car.
We were upside down.
I sat up – happy that I could even do so – and took stock of my surroundings and myself.
My whole body was sore and I had a few cuts and scrapes, but amazingly, nothing seemed to be broken. I had, what felt like, a large cut on my scalp and my head hurt a little, but I was otherwise okay.
Diantha wasn’t in the Hummer and neither was Frannie, but Quinn was still secured with silver to the seat.
So, he was upside down.
And apparently unconscious.
I began to think about loosening his chains, so I could take him out of the Hummer.
However, when I looked towards the rear of our vehicle, all thoughts of Quinn left my mind.
My heart stopped as I realized the back hatch had opened and the coffins had fallen out.
I scrambled quickly out of the opened door beside me and ran to the first coffin I could see, which I knew was Eric’s. The top of the coffin was slightly ajar and I could see smoke starting to rise from the open part.
Before I could even think about what I was doing, I slammed the lid back down. I fought with myself, as I wanted nothing more than to open the coffin and make sure Eric was okay, and to see him with my own two eyes, but the sun was up and he needed protecting.
Knowing that Eric was safe for now, I turned my head to look for Pam. I spotted her coffin about twenty feet away. It had landed in the middle of the road and her foot was hanging out of the bottom where her lid had been crushed slightly, leaving a gaping hole.
I looked both ways on the highway and saw a semi-truck heading in our direction. It wasn’t too far away and I wasn’t sure it would be able to stop before hitting Pam’s coffin. Without thinking about the consequences, I ran towards Pam and used my momentum to start scooting her out of the semi’s path. My heart was racing, and adrenaline was coursing through my veins, as I pushed and pushed until Pam’s coffin was safely beside Eric’s.
I took a deep breath in relief right as I felt a strong gust of wind toss my hair around my face. A shiver ran up my spine as I looked over my shoulder to see the semi-truck passing over the spot where Pam had been laying fifteen seconds before.
Unwilling to consider the alternative outcome of the last few seconds, I turned my attention back to Pam and her busted coffin. Her left foot was still exposed to the sun and was smoldering more and more. The smell of burning flesh was repulsive and the sight was nauseating. I grabbed her foot and shoved it back inside. I couldn’t see anything nearby that I could use to cover the hole in the lid. Therefore, I ran back to the Hummer and frantically searched through the luggage strewn about in the back.
I desperately needed something to cover my friend!
Finally becoming frustrated with the lack of thick clothing, I grabbed one of the pieces of luggage and ran to Pam’s side. I took a couple of handfuls of clothing and shoved it into the whole to try and plug it. Then, for good measure, I opened the suitcase and placed it over the hole, like a tent.
It was the best I could do and I thought it would work.
I took a deep breath, and looked around to try to see the other two Hummers.
Instead, my eyes were drawn to two figures running away into the woods at the side of the highway. When I reached out with my mind, I could feel that it was Frannie and Quinn.
Frannie must have set him free.
I straightened up, intent on chasing them down, when I realized I was no match for a tiger and I didn’t have any weapons.
“DAMN IT!” I yelled to myself and Quinn immediately turned towards me.
Where I was standing alone on the side of a highway.
I started backing up before I consciously made the decision to do so, and my heels hit Pam’s coffin.
I could stake the vampires and take her. He would get her and Louisiana would be even weaker without the Viking. I already took care of her Lieutenant.
Quinn’s thoughts were coming in loud and clear since he was thinking about me, and I was becoming angrier with every word I heard.
But also more afraid.
Why didn’t I keep Diantha’s knife?
I decided I had to make a run for the Hummer and hope there was a weapon for me to use. I didn’t know if Diantha or anyone else had survived, and I had to protect my vampires and myself.
However, just as I was about to start running towards the Hummer, a sword appeared against Quinn’s neck, and I followed its length to the hand, arm, and face of its bearer.
“You okay?” I called to her as she made Quinn kneel in front of her.
“Yes. UnclesguardingQueen.” She said, her words running together, as she turned a gun towards Frannie to make her sit. “Imgonnatakethemaway. Humanscoming.”
I nodded my understanding and she led the two prisoners off into the trees.
At least we didn’t have to explain swords, tigers, and demons to the police.
Once Diantha was gone, I turned back to my original task of surveying the damage to the other vehicles.
The sight that greeted me when I finally saw the second Hummer took my breath away.
It was in flames a hundred yards in front of me.
How had I missed THAT?
I could only blame it on my shock and determination to protect my vampires. However, now that I knew they were safe I could take the time to study the scene.
What I assumed was the second car was engulfed in flames and I could feel some of the heat from where I stood. If they didn’t get out before the fire started, then Jake, Henrik, Gervaise, and Cleo had all met their final deaths, alongside Carla.
I gulped in air and tried not to lose my composure as reality hit me and I had to face the fact that it could have easily have been me.
I shook the thoughts from my mind and continued looking at my surroundings.
There were skid marks behind me on the road and then a pattern of glass. I was guessing that our driver tried to stop when the bomb went off but the Hummer turned over and slid to a stop.
I looked around for the third vehicle but I could barely see it through the smoke and fire of the second one. I could only hope they were okay, since Diantha said Mr. C was guarding the Queen.
I was suddenly brought out of my contemplation of the catastrophe in front of me when I noticed sirens getting closer, and I could see strobe lights reflecting off all the broken glass.
I knew the inquisition was about to begin. I prepared myself to be as vague as possible whilst protecting my lover and his child.
Once we were surrounding by police, paramedics, and fire engines, the questions began: Who was I? Why was I with the vampires? Did I know anything about the bombing at the hotel? Were we at the hotel earlier? Why did we leave?
I played the role of the dumb, uninformed fangbanger.
I didn’t know what answers I should give and which ones I shouldn’t. Therefore, I resigned myself to acting like I didn’t know anything and referring everything to Mr. C. I told them I only knew that we were on our way to the airport and that the lawyer would know everything else.
Most of them believed me, except for one detective named Conway.
He was with the Fellowship and his thoughts had been assaulting me ever since he showed up.
How did they know to leave? We were so careful. This tramp has to know something. She doesn’t look as skanky as the others. I bet she works for them. Why else would she be hiding behind a lawyer?
Speaking of the lawyer, I really hoped Mr. C came along soon to save me from this barrage of questions.
“Do you have any news about the passengers of the first Hummer?” I asked.
“No.” Was Conway’s stiff reply.
“Could you find out for me?” I said sweetly even though I knew what the answer would be.
I huffed. “Well, I’m not answering any more questions until you bring me the lawyer from the first car.”
“Listen here, little girl.” He bowed up on me and grabbed my arm roughly. “You are in a lot of trouble and you will do as you are told.”
I absolutely hate it when people try to intimidate me.
“Michael Conway.” I snapped. “You will let go of my arm and go find the lawyer or I will tell your supervisor, who happens to be standing ten feet away, that you are working with the Fellowship.”
“You crazy fang . . .”
“And that he can find proof by looking into the ten thousand dollars deposited in your savings account last week.”
He froze and I patted his arm condescendingly. “There’s a good boy. Now, go fetch the lawyer for me.”
“Conway!” Another detective shouted in our direction. “You get any info from that girl?”
Conway’s stare was ice cold as he responded lightly over his shoulder. “No. She doesn’t know anything except there’s a lawyer in the first vehicle. I’m going to go get him.”
“Alright.” The other officer responded.
“Thank you Detective Conway.” I said with a fake smile, as he walked away.
As soon as he was out of sight, my shoulders hunched over and I sighed. We needed to get the vampires away from this place and somewhere safe.
I waved over a paramedic.
“Can I help you?” The woman asked.
“We need to move the vampires to a dark location. Can we start loading them into your ambulances and taking them somewhere? I’m nervous about their coffins being in the sunlight.”
“Um. I don’t know.” She seemed uncertain but I read in her mind that it was only because she was new and didn’t know what to do in this kind of situation. “Let me talk to my partner.”
“Ok. Please hurry.” I smiled as she jogged off to find her driver.
“Ms. Stackhouse.” I smiled in relief as I heard the demon lawyer’s voice.
“You are harmed?” He asked and I knew he was referring to the gash on my forehead.
I shook my head. “It’s just a scratch. I’m fine. How are you?”
“I’m perfectly healthy.” He responded with a smile.
“The others?” I asked and his normally cheery face became solemn.
“Detective Conway, please excuse us for a moment.” He said to his escort.
“I need to . . .” I have to find out what happened and they are not getting rid of me.
“Jones. Is that correct, Detective Conway? Your supervisor is named Shawn Jones?”
He growled at me and walked away while Mr. C gave me a questioning look.
“He’s Fellowship and knew about the bombing. We need to keep him away from the vampires. I’ve threatened to expose him if he doesn’t cooperate with us.”
Mr. C smiled slightly in appreciation of my methods before delivering the bad news.
“The bomb went off before we could put enough distance between us and the explosion. The back of our Hummer was damaged and all of our vampires were injured.” He sighed as he wiped his forehead with a small white handkerchief. “Sophie Ann almost lost her legs; they are still attached but badly burned. William has lost an arm, Seigbert is burned but he should heal quickly, and Andre is finally dead.”
“I think Quinn killed him.” I interrupted his update.
“Why?” He seemed surprised by my words.
“Before Diantha caught up to him in the woods, he was thinking that he had taken care of her lieutenant.”
“I see.” His eyes gleamed dangerously. “I will inform the Queen when she rises.”
I nodded in response before he continued his update.
“The second Hummer exploded and everyone was killed except Sheriff Babbitt. Her coffin was somehow thrown from the vehicle. She survived, but has some burns from the sun.”
I shivered as I realized how lucky those in my Hummer had been. We hadn’t lost anyone, but Andre, Jake, Carla, Henrik, and Gervaise were all finally dead.
“And your passengers, Ms. Stackhouse? How did they fare?” He asked.
I swallowed heavily. “We swerved to miss the second Hummer and ended up turning over. Pam and Eric’s coffins were thrown from the vehicle but I was able to cover them. Eric will likely have some burns from the sun over the left side of his body since the lid to his coffin slipped open. Also, Pam’s lid was busted and her foot was exposed. I’ve covered the hole, but she will likely have a very bad burn on her foot. Diantha seemed okay and she took Quinn and Frannie away so we didn’t have to explain about them.”
“That is good news.” He smiled congenially. “With Andre gone and the Queen injured, we will need Northman to be strong to protect the state.”
That sounded ominous.
I turned around to see the female paramedic from earlier returning with another man in uniform whom looked to be about ten years older than her.
“Yes?” I responded.
“This is my partner Mark.” She smiled. “He says we can take your vampires to the basement of one of the buildings downtown, where all the other victims are being taken.”
Mr. C stepped forward. “Would it be possible to take us on to the airport instead? We do not feel safe here after the bombing, and we have a private plane waiting that is safe for our surviving vampires.”
They looked at each other for a moment before shrugging. “I don’t see why not.”
“You cannot leave the city until your interrogation is completed.” Conway chose that moment to rear his ugly head again.
I was about to speak when Mr. C started spouting off lawyer jargon about one thing or another that I didn’t really understand. After all, I read romance novels more often than anything that included legal verbiage.
Whatever he was saying, however, seemed to work because Conway backed off and the paramedics started loading our remaining vampires into the ambulances.
I rode with Eric and Pam.
Luckily, the remaining part of the trip to the airport was uneventful and we were able to get our vampires loaded into the light tight room on the airplane without any problems.
It was only when we took off into the air that Diantha emerged from behind one of the closed doors to join us.
Of course, I had felt her brain along with Quinn and Frannie’s as soon as we neared the plane, but I was operating under the assumption that she didn’t want to be seen until we were away from all the authorities in Rhodes.
I guess I’d been right.
“Nowwhat?” Diantha asked as she sat down across from ‘uncle.’
He wiped his brow again with his handkerchief. “We need to find a different place to land that won’t be suspected, and we need to hide them until they rise.”
“I don’t understand. Why would we need to hide once we are in Louisiana?” I asked.
“If any of the Queen’s enemies know about what happened in Rhodes, or find out that she is injured, then they may meet us when we land in order to kill off what remains of the Louisiana hierarchy.”
Oh shit! Here we go again.