“I’m not staying on that third floor. The second she leaves, I’m moving us back down to our old room.”
“I think that’s a good idea.” Mary cracked her neck. “Poor Trez. He’s going to be yo-yoed again.”
“He doesn’t seem to care about much right now.”
And indeed, Mary found herself struggling not to fall into a similar despondency.
“I’m going to go in to work tonight,” she forced herself to say. “I don’t feel like it, but I’m going to do it.”
“Me, too. There’s a meeting at twelve midnight to talk to the class about what went down last night.”
“Did Peyton survive?”
“Yeah, Manny sent out a text to all of us—that bastard is a brilliant surgeon. The brain swelling is down, stats are fine. The kid’s not cleared to work out or fight for a couple more nights, but he’ll be good to go soon enough. Novo saved his life.”
“I’m so glad everyone came through.”
“It was a close call.”
Even though it was time for Mary to leave, she didn’t move. She just sat next to her male—and when he reached out and took her hand, she went back to resting her head against his shoulder.
Being left behind was a special kind of loss.
After Elise drew on her coat and wrapped a scarf around her throat, she opened a window in her bathroom by the tub and dematerialized to where Axe was waiting for her downtown, their blood tie helping her triangulate him in an instant, even though they had agreed on the address.
As she re-formed, he was staring up at the condominium building like he was assessing its structural integrity.
“Allishon was on the fourteenth floor,” Elise explained after they kissed hello. “The front door to the apartment is locked, but maybe the terrace is open?”
“Do you have any idea which side of the building she faced out of? This place has hundreds of units.”
She thought about where the elevator had emptied out in the hall. The direction the hallway had run. Which way she had gone.
“Facing the Hudson. On that side.”
“Let’s go around.”
The two of them walked to the far edge of the high-rise, squeezed through some evergreen bushes, and whispered down its flank until they reached the river-view side.
Craning her neck, she had to hold her hair out of her face as gusts blew against her back. “Almost all the lights are on in the units.” She counted floors. “But see? There are two that are out on the fourteenth level—assuming they started the count with the lobby being the ground floor. One of them has to be it.”
“I don’t care if we have to try fifty of the damn things. If we attract any human attention, I’ll just scrub their memories.”
Elise nodded. “You first?”
“No, you. I want to guard you when you’re on the ground.”
With a nod, she closed her eyes … and went flying in her molecular form, coalescing herself on the terrace of the darkened apartment that was three units in from the end. Axe followed right along, materializing by her side.
There was a sliding glass door and she went over and grasped the handle. Bracing herself to be denied, she—
Yup. “It’s locked.”
Axe cupped his hands and looked inside. “Seems pretty average human stuff. Not a place for a vampire to hide out.”
They proceeded over to the other unit, and her first thought as she leaned into the slider was, No way was this a vampire apartment. Even with the darkness inside, she had the impression the drapery was white and diaphanous—nothing that would keep out the sun.
“There’s a bloody handprint here,” Axe said in a grim voice. “On the outside jamb.”
As she glanced across to where he was pointing, Elise’s heart started to hammer—and then she closed her eyes. After a moment, she reached out, took hold of the handle—
The slider pulled free without any problem at all, as if the glass were almost relieved to be getting out of the way.
“I can smell blood,” Elise said roughly. “It’s faint … and it’s Allishon’s.”
Stepping over the threshold, that first impression of white everything gained traction. Even the carpet was the color of a sheet of paper. And as her eyes adjusted, she focused on the bed across the way. The sheets were gone. So were the pillows. There was nothing but a headboard and a mattress.
“You want me to turn a light on?” Axe asked.
Still, she jumped when illumination flooded the bedroom.
Oh … blessed Virgin Scribe. There were stains on that mattress, most of them at the top of it, by the headboard. And there were footprints that were brown on the carpet. Another brown smudge on the doorjamb.
It was as if the violence had been filtered through the passage of time, drained of most, but not all, of its characteristics.
The remnants were more than enough.
Wrapping her arms around herself even though it wasn’t cold, Elise walked out of the bedroom and down a short hall. The living room was also done in white with those same filmy drapes and a set of all-white furniture. The galley kitchen was unremarkable, the counters clean, nothing really in the cabinets. The refrigerator was empty.
No blood to be seen. But that was no relief, really.
“She came here to do drugs,” Elise said to Axe as he loomed in the hall. “This was her party house, apparently. And one night … she brought back someone.…”