Daughters of Darkness (Chapter 13)

Jade sat in the wing chair, holding Tiggy upsidedown on her lap, petting his stomach. He was purring but

mad. She stared down into indignant, glowing green eyes.

"The other goat," Kestrel announced from the doorway, saying the word as if it were something

not mentioned in polite society, "is just fine. So you can let the cat out."

Jade didn't think so. There was somebody crazy inBriar Creek, and she planned to keep Tiggy safe

where she could see him.

"We're not going to have to feed on the goat, are we?" Kestrel asked Rowan dangerously.

"Of course not. Aunt Opal did because she was tooold to hunt." Rowan looked preoccupied as

she answered.

"I like hunting," Jade said. "It's even better thanI thought it would be." But Rowan wasn't listening

she was biting her lip and staring into the distance. "Rowan, what?"

"I was thinking about the situation we're in. You and Mark, for one thing. I think we need to talk

about that."

Jade felt reflexive alarm. Rowan was in one of herorganizing moods-which meant you could blink and

find that she'd rearranged all your bedroom furnitureor that you were moving to Oregon. "Talk about

what?" she said warily.

"About what you two are going todo. Is he going to stay human?"

"It's illegal to change him," Kestrel put in pointedly.

"Everything we've done this week is illegal,"Rowan said. "And if they exchange blood again well,

it's only going to take a couple of times. Do you want him a vampire?" she asked Jade.

Jade hadn't thought about it. She thought Mark was nice the way he was. But maybehe would wantto be

one. "What are you going to do with yours?" she asked Ash, who was coming slowly downstairs.

"My what?" He looked sleepy and irritable.

"Your soulmate. Is Mary-Lynnette going to stayhuman?"

"That's the other thing I've been worrying about," Rowan said. "Have you thought at all, Ash?"

"I can't think at this hour in the morning. I don'thave a brain yet."

"It's almost noon," Kestrel said scornfully.

"I don't care when it is. I'm still asleep." He wandered toward the kitchen. "And you don't need to

worry," he added, looking back and sounding more awake. "Because I'm not doinganythingwith the girl

and Jade's not doing anything with the brother. Because we're goinghome."He disappeared.

Jade's heart was beating hard. Ash might act frivolous, but she saw the ruthlessness underneath. She

looked at Rowan.

"Is Mary-Lynnettereally his soulmate?"

Rowan leaned back, her brown hair spreading likea waterfall on the green brocade of the couch. "I'm

afraid so."

"But then how can he want to leave?"

"Well …" Rowan hesitated. "Soulmates don't always stay together. Sometimes it's too much-the

fire and lightning and all that. Some people just can'tstand it."

Maybe Mark and I aren't really soulmates, Jade thought. And maybe that's good. It sounds painful.

"Poor Mary-Lynnette," she said.

A dear voice sounded in her mind:Whydoesn'tanybody say "Poor Ash"?

"Poor Mary-Lynnette," Jade said again.

Ash reappeared. "Look," he said and sat down onone of the carved mahogany chairs. "We need to get

things straight. It's not just a matter ofme wanting you to come home. I'm not the only one who knows

you're here."

Jade stiffened.

Kestrelsaid, almost pleasantly,"Youtold somebody?"

"I was staying with somebody when the family called to say you were missing. And he was there

when I realized where you must have gone. He also happens to be an extremely powerful telepath. So

just consider yourself lucky I convinced him to let me try to get you back."

Jade stared at him. She did consider herself lucky. She also considered it strange that Ash would go to

such trouble for her and Rowan and Kestrel-for any bodybesides Ash. Maybe she didn't know her

brother as well as she thought.

Rowan said, very soberly, "Who was it?"

"Oh, nobody." Ash leaned back and looked moodily at the ceiling. "Just Quinn."

Jade flinched. Quinn … that snake .He had a heart like a glacier and he despised humans. He was the

sort to take Night World law into his own hands if he didn't think it was being enforced properly.

"He's coming back on Monday to see if I've takencare of the situation," Ash said. "And if I

haven't,we're all dead-you, me, and your little human buddies."

Rowan said, "So we've got until Monday to figuresomething out."

Kestrel said, "If he tries anything on us, he's in fora fight."

Jade squeezed Tiggy to make him growl.

Mary-Lynnette had been sleeping like a stone-buta stone with unusually vivid dreams. She dreamed

about stars brighter than she'd ever seen and starclouds shimmering in colors like the northern lights. She

dreamed about sending an astronomical telegram to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to register her claim for

discovering a new supernova. About being the firstto see it with her wonderful new eyes, eyes thatshe

saw in a mirror-were all pupil, like an owl's or a cat's….

Then the dream changed and she was an owl, swooping down in a dizzying rush from a hollow Douglas

fir. She seized a squirrel in her talons andfelt a surge of simple joy. Killing felt so natural. All she had to

do was be the best owl she could be, and grab food with her feet.

But then a shadow fell over her from somewhereabove. And in the dream she felt a terrible sick real

ization-that even hunters could be hunted. And that something was after her….

She woke up disoriented-not as towhere shewas, but as to who she was. Mary-Lynnette or a hunter

being chased by something with white teeth in themoonlight? And even when she went downstairs, she

couldn't shake off the sick feeling from her dream.

"Hi," Mark said. "Is that breakfast or lunch?"

"Both," Mary-Lynnette said, sitting down on the family room couch with her two granola bars.

Mark was watching her. "So," he said, "have you been thinking about it, too?"

Mary-Lynnette tore the wrapper off a granola bar with her teeth. "About what?"

" Youknow."

Mary-Lynnette did know. She glanced around to make sure Claudine wasn't in earshot." Don't think

about it."

"Why not?" When she didn't answer, he said,"Don't tell me you haven't been wondering what it

would be like. To see better, hear better, be telepathic…and live forever. I mean, we could see the year

three thousand. You know, the robot wars, colonizing other planets…. Come on, don't tell me you'renot

even a little curious."

All Mary-Lynnette could think of was a line from a Robert Service Poem: Andthe skies of nightw re

alive with light, with a throbbing, thrilling flame… .

"I'm curious," she said. 'But there's no point in wondering. They do things we couldn't do-they


She put down her glass of milk as if she'd lost herappetite. She hadn't, though-and wasn't that the

problem? She ought to be sick to her stomach at just the thought of killing, of drinking blood from a

warm body.

Instead, she was scared. Of what was out there inthe world-and of herself.

"It'sdangerous,"she said aloud to Mark. "Don'tyousee? We've gotten mixed up in this Night

World-and it's a place where bad things can happen. Not just bad like flunking a class. Bad like …"

… white teeth in the moonlight …

"Like getting lolleddead," Mary-Lynnette said. "And that's serious, Mark. It's not like the


Mark was staring at her. "Yeah, but we knew that already." His tone said "What's the big deal?"

And Mary-Lynnette couldn't explain. She stood up abruptly. "If we're going over there, we'd better get

moving," she said. "It's almost one o'clock."

The sisters and Ash were waiting at Burdock Farm.

"You and Mark can sit in the front with me," MaryLynnette told Jade, not looking at Ash. "But I

don't think you'd better bring the cat."

"The cat goes," Jade said firmly, getting in. "OrI don't."

Mary-Lynnette put the car in gear and pulled out.

As they came in sight of the small duster of buildings on Main Street, Mark said, "And there it is,

downtown Briar Creek in all its glory. A typical Friday afternoon, with absolutely nobody on the streets."

He didn't say it with his usual bitterness. MaryLynnette glanced at him and saw that it was Jade he was

talking to. And Jade was looking around with genuine interest, despite the cat's claws embedded in her


"Somebody'son the streets," she said cheerfully. "It's that. boy Vic. And that other one, Todd.

And grown-ups."

Mary-Lynnette slowed as she passed the sheriff'soffice but didn't stop until she reached the gas station at

the opposite corner. Then she got out and looked casually across the street.

Todd Akers was there with his father, the sheriff and Vic Kimble was there with his father. Mr. Kimble

had a farm east of town. They were all getting into the sheriff's car, and they all seemed very excited.

Bunny Marten was standing on the sidewalk watching as they left.

Mary-Lynnette felt a twinge of fear. This is what it's like when you have a terrible secret, she thought.

You worry about everything that happens, and wonder if it's got something to do with you, if it's going to

get you caught.

"Hey, Bunnyl" she called. "What's going on?"

Bunny looked back. "Oh, hi, Mare." She walkedunhurriedly-Bunny never hurried-,acrossthe street.

"How're you doing? They're just going to check out that horse thing."

"What horse thing?"

"Oh. . .didn't you hear?" Bunny was looking behind Mary-Lynnette now, at Mark and the four

strangers who were getting out of the station wagon. Suddenly her blue eyes got rounder and she

reached up to fluff her soft blond hair.

Now, I wonder who she's just seen, Mary-Lynnettethought ironically. Who could it be?

"Hi" Ash said.

"We didn't hear about the horse thing," MaryLynnette said, gently prompting.

"Oh… um, one of Mr. Kimble's horses cut his throat on barbed wire last night. That's what

everybody was sayingthis morning. But just now Mr.Kimble came into town and said that he didn't think

it was barbed wire after all. He thinks … somebody did it on purpose. Slashed its throat and left it todie."

She hunched her shoulders in a tiny shiver.. Theatrically, Mary-Lynnette thought.

"You see?" Jade said. "That's why I'm keeping my eye on Tiggy."

Mary-Lynnette noticed Bunny eyeing Jade. "Thanks,Bun."

"I've got to get back to the store," Bunny said,but she didn't move. Now she was looking at

Kestreland Rowan.

"I'll walk you there," Ash said gallantly. Withwhat, Mary-Lynnette thought, must be his usual

putting-the-moves-on manner. "After all, we don't know what could be lurking around here."

"It's broad daylight," Kestrel said disgustedly, but Ash was already walking Bunny away.

MaryLynnette decided she was glad to get rid of him.

"Who was that girl?" Rowan asked, and something in her voice was odd.

Mary-Lynnette glanced at her in surprise. "Bunny Marten. I know her from school.What's wrong?"

"She was staring at us," Rowan said softly.

"She was staring at Ash. Oh, and probably youthree, too. You're new and you're pretty, so she's

probably wondering which boys you'll take fromher."

"I see."But Rowan still looked preoccupied.

"Rowan, what is it?"

"It's nothing. I'm sure it's nothing. It's just thatshe's gota lamia name."

" Bunny?"

" Well." Rowan smiled. "Lamia are traditionallynamed after natural things–gems andanimalsand

flowers and trees. So Bunny' would be a lamianame-and isn't a marten a kind of weasel?"

Something was tugging at the edges of Mary-Lynnette's consciousness again. Something about Bunny …

about Bunny and … wood …

It was gone. She couldn't remember. To Rowan she said,"But-can you sense something suspiciousabout

her or anything? I mean, does she seemlike one of you? Because otherwise I just can't see Bunny as a

vampire. I'm sorry; I just can't."

Rowan smiled. "No, I don't sense anything. And I'm sure you'reright-humans can have names likeours,

too. Sometimes it gets confusing."

For some bizarre reason Mary-Lynnette's mind wasstill on wood. "You know, I don't see why you

name yourselves after trees. I thought wood was dangerous for you."

"It is-,and that makes it powerful. Tree names are supposed to be some of the most powerful

nameswe have."

Ash was coming out of the general store. Immediately Mary-Lynnette turned around and looked for


She didn't see him in the empty gas station, butshe heard something-something she realized she'dbeen

hearing for several minutes. Hammering.

"Come on, let's go around back," she said, alreadywalking, not waiting for Ash to reach them.

Kestreland Rowan went with her.

Jeremy was around back. He was hammering a long board across a broken window. There wereshards

of thick, greenish-tinted glass all over the ground. Light brown hair wasfalling in his eyes ashe struggled to

hold the board steady.

" What happened?" Mary-Lynnettesaid. She moved automatically to hold the right end of the

board in place for him.

He glanced up at her, making a grimace of reliefas he let go of the board. "Mary-Lynnette-thanks. Hang

on a sec."

He reached into his pocket for nails and began driving them in with quick, sure blows of the hammer.

Then he said, "I don't know what happened.Somebody broke it last night. Made a real mess."

"Last night seems to have been a busy night," Kestrel said dryly.

Jeremy glanced back at the voice. And then … his hands went still, poised with the hammer and nail. He

was looking at Kestrel, and at Rowan beside her,looking a long time. At last he turned to MaryLynnette

and said slowly, "You need more gas already?"

"Oh-no. No." I should have siphoned some out,Mary-Lynnette thought. Nancy Drew would defi

nitely have thought of that. "I justit's been knocking a lotthe engine-and I thought you could lookat

it-under the hood-since you didn't last time."

Incoherent and pathetic, she decided in the silencethat followed. And Jeremy's dear brown eyes were

still searching her face.

"Sure, Mary-Lynnette," he said-not sarcastically, but gently. "As soon as I get finished."

Oh, hecan't be a vampire. And so what am I doing here, lying to him, suspecting him, when he's only

ever been nice to me? He's the type to help old ladies, not kill them.


She started as the feral hiss tore through the silence. It came from behind her, and for one horrible instant

she thought it was Kestrel. Then she saw thatJade and Mark had rounded the comer, and that Tiggy was

fighting like a baby leopard in Jade's arms. The kitten was spitting and clawing, black fur standing on end.

Before Jade could get a better grip, he climbed up her shoulder and leaped, hitting the ground running.

" Tiggy! "Jade shrieked. She took off after him, silvery blond hair flying, agile as a kitten herself.

Markfollowed, ricocheting off Ash who was just comingaround the comer himself. Ash was knocked into

thegas station wall.

"Well, that was fun," Kestrel said.

But Mary-Lynnette wasn't really listening. Jeremywas staring at Ash-and his expression gave Mary

Lynnette coldchills.

And Ash was staring back with eyes as green as glacier ice. Their gazes were locked in something like

instantaneous, instinctive hatred. Mary-Lynnette felt a quiver of fear for Jeremy-but Jeremy didn't seem

afraid for himself. His muscles were tight and he looked ready to defend himself.

Then, deliberately, he turned away. Turned hisback on Ash. He readjusted the board-and MaryLynnette did what she should have done in the beginning. She looked at his hand. The ring on his index

finger glinted gold, and she could just make out the black design on the seal. A tall duster of bell-shaped flowers. Not an iris,not a dahlia, not a rose. No-there was only one flower

Rowan had mentioned that this could possiblybe. It grew wild around here and it was deadly poison.


So now she knew.

Mary-Lynnette felt hot and sick. Her hand began to tremble on the board she was holding. She didn't

want to move, but she couldn't stay here.

"I'm sorry-1 have to get something-" The words came out in a painful gasp. She knew everyone

wasstaring at her. She didn't care. She let go of the board and almost ran away.

She kept going until she was behind the boardedup windows of the Gold Creek Hotel. Then she leaned

against the wall and stared at the place where town ended and the wilderness began. Motes of dust

danced in the sunlight, bright against a dark background of Douglas fir.

I'm so stupid. All the signs were there, right in front of my face. Why didn't I seebefore? I guess because

I didn't want to ….


Mary-Lynnette turned toward the soft voice. She resisted the impulse to throw herself into Rowan's

arms and bawl.

"I'll be okay in just a few minutes. Really. It's just a shock."

"Mary-Lynnette …"

"It's just-it's just that I've known him so long.It's not easy to picture himyou know. But I guess it

just goes to show you. People are never what they seem."

"Mary-Lynnette-" Rowan stopped and shook her head. "Just what are you talking about?"

"Him.Jeremy. Of course." Mary-Lynnette took abreath. The air felt hot and chokingly dusty. "He


it. He really did it."

"Why do you think so?"

"Why?Because he's a werewolf. "

There was a pause and Mary-Lynnette suddenly felt embarrassed. She looked around to make sure

nobody was in earshot, and then said more quietly,"Isn't he?"

Rowan was looking at her curiously. "How did you know?"

"Well-you said black foxglove is for werewolves. And that's foxglove on his ring. How did you


"I just sensed it. Vampire powers are weaker insunlight, but Jeremy isn't trying to hide anything.

He's right out there."

"He sure is," Mary-Lynnette said bitterly. ' I should have sensed it. I mean … he's the only person

in town who was interested in the lunar eclipse. And the way he moves, and his eyes … and he livesat

Mad Dog Creek, for God's sake. I mean, that land's been in his family for generations.And'

-Mary-Lynnette gave a sudden convulsive sniffle-"people say they've seen the Sasquatch around there. A

big hairy monster, half person and half beast. Now, what does that sound like?"

Rowan was standing quietly, her expression grave-but her lips were twitching. Mary-Lynnette's vision

blurred and wetness spilled onto her cheeks.

"I'm sorry." Rowan put a hand on her arm. "I'mnot laughing."

"I thought he was a nice guy," Mary-Lynnettesaid, turning away.

"I still think he is," Rowan said. "And actually,

really, you know, it means he didn'tdo it." "The fact that he's a nice guy?" "The fact that he's a werewolf."

Mary-Lynnette turned back." What?"

"You see," Rowan said, "werewolves are different. They're not like vampires. They can't drink a

little blood from people and then stop without doing anyreal harm. They kill every time they hunt-because

they have to eat."Mary-Lynnette gulped, but Rowanwent on serenely. "Sometimes they eat the whole

animal,but they always eat the internal organs, theheart and liver. They have to do it, the same way that

vampires need to drink blood."

"And that means …"

"He didn't kill Aunt Opal. Or the goat. They wereboth intact." Rowan sighed. "Look.

Werewolves and vampires traditionally hate each other. They've been . rivals forever, and lamia think of

werewolves as sort of-lower class. But actually a lot of them are gentle.They only hunt to eat."

"Oh," Mary-Lynnette said hollowly. Shouldn't shebe happier about this? "So the guy I thought

was nice just has to eat the odd liver occasionally."

"Mary-Lynnette, you can't blame him. How can I explain? It's like this: Werewolves aren't

people whosometimes turn into wolves. They're wolves who sometimes look like people."

"But they still kill," Mary-Lynnette said flatly.

"Yes, but onlyanimals.The law is very strict aboutthat. Otherwise humans catch on in no time.

Vam pires can disguise their work by making it look like a cut throat, but werewolf kills are


"Okay. Great." I should be more enthusiastic, Mary-Lynnette thought. But how could you ever re

ally trust someone who was a wolf behind their eyes?

You might admire them the way you admire a sleek and handsome predator, but trust them …no.

"Before we go back-we may have a problem,"Rowan said. "If he realizes that you recognized his

ring, he may know we've told you about you know." She glanced around and lowered her voice. "The

Night World."

Mary-Lynnette understood. "Oh, God."

"Yes. That means it's his duty to turn us all in. Or kill us himself."

"Oh, God"

"The thing is, I don't think he will. He likes you, Mary-Lynnette. A lot. I don't think he could bring

himself to turn you in."

Mary-Lynnette felt herself flushing. "But then, that would get him in trouble, too, wouldn't it?"

"It could, if anybody ever finds out. We'd better go back and see what's going on. Maybe he

doesn't realize you know. Maybe Kestrel and Ash have managed tobluff him."