Ashes of Midnight (Chapter Thirteen)

Fucking place is dead tonight," Chase muttered as he scanned the crowded dance club and apparently found little to his liking. "Should have hit the north side of the city like I told you, instead of wasting our time in Dorchester." Kade shrugged, slanting a grin at Brock, the third member of their patrol. "You wanna see dead clubs, let me take you to Alaska. It's pathetic, man. We've got more moose per square mile than women." "Is that right?" Chase grunted.

"No wonder you jumped at the chance to get out of there and come to Boston last year. How many months of freezing your nuts off before all those moose start looking like prime pieces of ass?" At Brock's low chuckle, Kade curled his lip back off the points of his fangs and saluted both of the Breed males with double- barreled middle fingers. "Well, this has been fun, but I'm outta here," Chase announced. He scrubbed his hand over his stubbled jaw, his blue eyes looking a bit dodgy and unfocused under the edge of his black knit skullcap. "Got an itch that won't get scratched hanging out in this pe. Good luck with the moose-hunting." Kade gave the ex?Enforcement Agent a nod. "See you back at the compound." "Eventually," Chase replied, already heading for the club's exit. When he was gone, Brock blew out a low sigh and shook his dark head. "That son of a bitch has got a serious problem." "You mean, other than walking around all the time with that Agency-installed stick shoved up his ass?" Kade drawled, looking at the big warrior who'd been recruited into the Order out of Detroit around the same time he'd come in from Alaska. It wasn't that Kade didn't like Sterling Chase–or Harvard, as he was sometimes referred to, on account of his fancy Ivy League pedigree. Chase was a competent enough warrior, one of the best, in fact. He was a crack shot and one hell of a man to have at your back in combat, but on the personal side, he was as cold as a glacier.

"I don't know what his deal is," Brock said. "But he'd better watch his step, is all I'm saying. He strikes me as the kind who's got one foot in the grave and the other one eager to follow. He just doesn't give a shit about anything, and that is dangerous. Not only to himself, but to anyone who needs to count on him." Kade considered that as he glanced out across the bar and dance floor. A couple of young females were heading over from a table nearby. Brock gave them his knockout grin, the one that never failed to net him the hottest woman in any gathering. The guy had moves, no doubt about it.

Not that Kade was any kind of slouch. He eyed the pair of lovelies as they sauntered through the crowd, locked on to the two vampires like laser-guided missiles. "You can have the blonde," he murmured, setting his own sights on the brunette with the legs that went on forever under her short red leather miniskirt. It took all of three seconds for Brock and him to talk the ladies into stepping outside with them. Unfortunately, once they were out in the parking lot, it only took another three for Kade's nose to twitch with the prickling of his Breed senses coming online with a vengeance. He smelled blood. Fresh blood, and a lot of it, coming from somewhere around the rear of the club. A glance to Brock told him that the other vampire hadn't missed the coppery tang of spilled human red cells, either. They broke into a tandem jog, leaving the women complaining in their wake as the two of them hauled ass to the back of the building. Nothing there. The lone working security light mounted to the roof of the place shone down on empty concrete and sparse, weed-choked grass. But the scent of blood permeated the air, particularly strong for Kade and any of his kind. "There," he said, spotting the dark stain in the dirt a few feet away from him. Spatters in close proximity to each other soaked the dry earth near a leaning stretch of ragged chain-link fence. The bleeding human took the worst of his damage over there, and the trail of hemoglobin on the ground made it clear that whatever had happened, the victim wasn't going to get too far before he or she bled out completely. "This isn't only human blood," Brock said, his deep bass voice grim. "The attacker was Breed.

He spilled some of his own blood in the process." Now that the warrior mentioned it, Kade's nose also picked up on something other than basic Homo sapiens cells. "Not a Rogue," he guessed, detecting none of the foul odor left behind by the addicts of their race. "Who else would be idiot enough to feed this carelessly and let his Host stagger off like a stuck pig?" Brock shook his head, but suspicion darkened his steady, obsidian gaze. Although he didn't say it, Kade read the quiet doubt in the big male's eyes. "Chase?" Kade scoffed. "No fucking way." "Something's not right with him, man." "Not this," Kade said. The ex-agent was no Mr. Rogers, but to bleed out a human and break one of the Breed's most essential laws? When he said he had an itch that needed scratching, he sure as hell couldn't have meant something like this …

Brock nodded gravely. "Maybe we'd better go have a look, just to be sure." They took off, following the blood trail across a vacant lot and down a narrow alley. The deeper they went, the more serious the blood spill became. Spatters turned to pools, some of them spread wide and smeared from where the victim had apparently fallen then somehow managed to get up and run some more. The trail led them to the entrance of a junkyard at the end of an industrial area. The place was gated, but the padlock and heavy chain that secured it had been loosened. There was just enough room for someone to squeeze inside. And someone had; the wet crimson stains on the latch and edge of the gate left no question about that. "Come on," Kade said, wrenching the thing open wide enough for Brock and him to slip through. He heard the rush of movement the instant before the big black dogs came barreling around a pile of scrap and rubbish. Two rottweilers, big as tanks and mean as hell. "Holy shit!" Brock's shout was all but drowned out by the savage barks and growls of the oncoming dogs. No animal alive could take a vampire, but that didn't mean the sight of a combined three hundred pounds of seething, furious canine wasn't cause for a little alarm. Kade stood firm, his legs braced wide as the pair of rotties swiftly closed the distance on him. He stared them down, eye to eye. They slowed… then stopped, both of them dropping into a cower at his feet. The hounds whimpered, shifting on their bellies and keeping their big heads low as their dark eyes searched out his favor. "Get out of here." They loped off, as docile as puppies. Brock gaped. "What the hell was that?"

"This way," Kade said, ignoring the question and the astonished stare that followed him as he stalked deeper into the junkyard. They had bigger things to deal with right now. It wasn't hard to find the bloodied victim. The young man had collapsed against a rusted metal crate, one jeans-clad leg stretched out in front of him, the other bent at the knee. He looked boneless and weary, like a puppet whose strings had been severed.

He held his hand up against his throat where the bleeding was the worst. He couldn't stanch the flow. In just a few more minutes, he would be dead. "Jesus Christ," Brock hissed. The warrior's voice was thick and strained, but whether from revulsion or the simple fact that the sight and smell of so much fresh blood made even the most controlled vampire thirst like he was starving, there was no way to tell. Kade's own fangs tore farther out of his gums as he looked at the bleeding human. He tried his best to mask the sharp tips as he edged closer. "What happened to you?" he asked, despite the obvious injuries that could only have come from one of his kind. "Jumped… me," the human wheezed. "My neck… fucker… bit me." When the man removed his hand to show him the injury, the copper punch of his blood hit Kade like a fist to the gut. He'd fed only yesterday, but the urge to drink again pulled at him. His vision sharpened, bathing everything in amber. "Who bit you?" Brock asked the human, smoothly stepping in when Kade had to glance away.

"Can you describe who did this to you?" The man exhaled a slow, shuddering sigh. He didn't have long now. He looked up, eyes listless and glassy in the dark. He lifted his arm, slowly extending his finger to point somewhere past Brock's thick shoulder. "Him," he gasped, the voice thready and airless. "Behind you … that's him …" Kade and Brock swung their heads around in unison–just in time to see a huge Breed male running for the back acre of the junkyard. The vampire wore black fatigues and a long-sleeved black knit shirt. His head was shaved bald, the back of his naked skull covered in an unmistakable pattern of dermaglyphs "Holy hell," Kade muttered. He broke into a run with Brock thundering at his heels. They bolted for the rear of the littered yard, but the Gen One male in front of them was ten times faster. He vaulted up onto a mountain of crushed cars in one swift leap, then he was gone. It wasn't Chase who'd brutalized the human and left him for dead, but another Breed male who was recently familiar to all of the Order. A Gen One who'd joined them only a few weeks ago. "Hunter," Brock growled. "Son of a bitch."