Daughters of Darkness (Chapter 9)

Mary-Lynnette's hearing had gone funny. Sheheard Kestrel's words like a character remembering a

phrase In a bad movie. Kill them, kill them, kill them.

Mark laughed In a very strange way.

This is going to be really rotten for him, MaryLynnette thought, curiously dispassionate. I mean, if we

were going tolive through this, which we're not, it would be really rotten for him. He was already afraidof

girls, and sort of pessimistic about life in general

"Why don't we all sit down?" Rowan said with astifled sigh. "We've got to figure this out."

Mark threw back his head and gave another shortbark of a laugh.

"Why not?" he said. "Let's all sit down, why not?"

They're fast as whippets, Mary-Lynnette thought.If we run now, they'll catch us. But If we sit, and they

get comfortable, and I distract them-or hitthem with something…

"Sitl" she ordered Mark briskly. Rowan and Kestrel moved away from the deer and sat. Jade

stood with her hands on her hips for a moment, then sat,too.

Sitting, Mark was still acting punch-drunk. Hewaved the flashlight around. "You girls aresomethingelse.

You girls are really-"

"We're vampires," Jade said sharply.

"Yeah." Mark laughed quietly to himself. "Yeah," he said again.

Mary-Lynnette took the flashlight away from him. She wanted control of it. And it was heavy plastic and

metal. It was a weapon.

And while one layer of her mind was thinking:Shine the light in their eyesat just the rightmoment andthen

hit oneof them; another part was thinking:Shemeans they'repeoplewhothinkthey're vampires;peoplewith

that weird disease that makes them anemic; and one final part was saying:Youmight as well faceit;they're


Mary-Lynnette's world view had been knocked rightout of the ballpark.

"Don't you justhate that," Mark was saying. "You meet a girl and she seems pretty nice and you

tell all your friends and then before you know it she turnsout to be avampire.Don't you just hate it when

that happens?"

Oh. God, he's hysterical, Mary-Lynnette realized. She grabbed his shoulder and hissed in his ear, "Get a

grip, now.",

"I don't see what the point is in talking to them,Rowan," Kestrel was saying. "You know what wehave to


And Rowan was rubbing her forehead. "I was thinkingwe might influence them," she said in an


"You know why that won't work." Kestrel's voice was soft and flat.

"Why?" Jade said sharply.

"They followed us for a reason," Rowan saidtiredly. She nodded toward the hole. "So they've

been suspicious for a while-for how long?" She looked at Mary-Lynnette.

"I saw you dig the hole Tuesday night," MaryLynnette said. She nodded toward the hole. "Is that

your aunt in there?"

There was a brief silence and Rowan looked selfconscious. Then she inclined her head slightly.


"Oh, hell," Mark said. His eyes were shut and his head was rolling on his neck. "Oh,hell. They've

got Mrs. B. in a bag."

"Two days," Rowan said to Jade. "They've suspected for two whole days. And we can't remove

memories that are interlaced with other things for that long. We'd never know if we got them all."

"Well, we could just takeeverything for the last two days," Jade said.

Kestrel snorted. "And have two more people wandering around with lost time?"

Mary-Lynnette's mind went click. "Todd Akers andVic Kimble," she said. "You did something to give

them amnesia.I knew there had to be a connection."

"There's no other choice for us," Kestrel said quietly to Rowan. "And you know it as well as I


She's not being malicious, Mary-Lynnette realized.Just practical. If a lioness or a wolf or a falcon could

talk, it would say the same thing. "We have to either kill or die; it's as simple as that."

Despite herself, Mary-Lynnette felt something like fascination-and respect.

Mark had his eyes open now. And Rowan was looking sad, so sad. It's awful, her expression said, but

somebody here is going to have to get hurt.

Rowan bowed her head, then lifted it to face MaryLynnette directly. Their eyes met, held. After a

moment Rowan's face changed slightly and she nodded.

Mary-Lynnette knew that in that instant they werecommunicating without words. Each recognizing the

other as an alpha female who was willing to fightand die for her kin.

Meaning they were both big sisters.

Yes, somebody's going to get hurt, Mary-Lynnette thought. You threaten myfamily,I fight back.

She knew Rowan understood. Rowan was going to really hate killing her….

"No," a voice said passionately, and MaryLynnette realized it was Jade. And the next second

Jade was on her feet, hands clenched, words erupting like a steam boiler exploding. "No, youcan'tkill

Mark. I won'tletyou."

Rowan said, "Jade, I know this is hard-"Kestrel said, "Jade, don't be a wimp-"

Jade was trembling, body tensed like a cat ready to fight. Her voice was louder than either of them.

"You just can't do itl I think -Ithink-" "Jade-"

"I thinkhe's my soulmate!"

Dead silence.

Then Rowan groaned. "Oh, dear…"

Kestrel said, "Oh,sure."

They were both looking at Jade. Focused on her. Mary-Lynnette thought, now.

She swung the flashlight viciously at Kestrel, wanting to take her out first, betting that Rowan would stay

behind if Kestrel were hurt. But the swing never connected, Mark threw himself in front of her, slamming

into her arm.

"Don't hurt Jade!"

Then everything was just a mad tangle. Arms, legs,grasping fingers, kicking feet. Jade and Mark both

yelling for it to stop. Mary-Lynnette felt the flashlight wrenched out of her hand. She found long hair, got

hold of it, yanked. Someone kicked her, and pain blossomed in her ribs.

Then she felt herself being dragged backward Mark was holding her, pulling her away from thefight.

Jade was lying on top of Kestrel and clutching at Rowan.

Everybody was panting. Mark was almost crying.

"We just can't do this," he said. "This is terrible.This is all wrong."

Meanwhile Jade was snarling, "He's my soulmate,okay?Okay? I can't do anything with himdead!"

"He's not your soulmate, idiot," Kestrel said in a somewhat muffled voice. She was facedown on the

carpet of needles. "When you're soulmates, it hits you like lightning, and you know that's the one person

in the world you were meant to be with. Youdon'tthink you're soulmates; you just know it's your destiny

whether you like it or not."

Somewhere, deep in Mary-Lynnette's brain, something stirred in alarm. But she had more urgentthings

to worry about.

"Mark, get out of here," she said breathlessly. ?Run!?

Mark didn't even ease his grip. "Why do we have to be enemies?"

"Mark, they're killers .You can't justify that. They killed their own aunt."

Three faces turned toward her, startled. A half-fullmoon had risen above the trees, and Mary-Lynnette

could see them clearly.

"We didnot!" Jade said indignantly.

"What made you think that?" Rowan asked.Mary-Lynnette felt her mouth hang open. "Be cause

you buried her, for God's sakel"

"Yes, but we found her dead."

"Somebody staked her," Kestrel said, brushingpine needles out of her golden hair. "Probably a

vampire hunter. I don't suppose you'd know anything

about that."

Mark gulped. "Staked her-with a stake?"

"Well, with a picket from the fence," Kestrel said. "She was already dead?" Mary-Lynnette said

toRowan. "But then why on earth did you bury her

in the backyard?"

"It would have been disrespectful to leave her in the cellar."

'But why didn't you have her taken to a cemetery?"Rowan looked dismayed.

Jade said, "Um, you haven't seen Aunt Opal."

"She's not looking so good," Kestrel said. "Kind ofhard and stiff. You might say mummified."

"It's what happens to us," Rowan said almostapologetically.

Mary-Lynnette slumped back against Mark, trying to get her new world view into place. Everything was


"So… you were just trying to hide her. But … you did do something to Todd Akers and Vic


"Theyattackedus," Jade interrupted. "They were thinking very bad things and they pinched our


"They-?" Mary-Lynnette sat up suddenly. All at once she understood. "Oh, my God. Those jerks!"

Why hadn't she thought of that? Todd and Vielast year there bad been rumors about them jumping some

girl from Westgrove. So they'd tried it on these girls, and …

Mary-Lynnette gasped and then snorted with half inhaled laughter. "Oh, no. Oh, I hope you got them


"We just bit them a little," Rowan said.

"I wish I'd been there tosee it."

She was laughing. Rowan was smiling. Kestrel was grinning barbarically. And suddenly Mary-Lynnette

knew that they weren't going to fight anymore.

Everybody took a deep breath and sat back and looked at one another.

They do look different from normal humans, Mary-Lynnette thought, staring at them in the moonlight. It's

so obvious once you know.

They wereinhumanly beautiful, of course. Rowanwith her soft chestnut hair and sweet face; Kestrelwith

her feral sleekness and golden eyes; Jade with her delicate features and her hair like starshine. Likethe

Three Graces, only fiercer.

"Okay," Rowan said softly. "We seem to have asituation here. Now we've got to figure


"We won't tell on you," Mark said. He and Jadewere gazing at each other.

"We've got Romeo and Juliet on our hands here is what we've got," Mary-Lynnette said to


But Kestrel was speaking to Rowan, too. "No matterwhatthey promise, how do we know we can be

lieve them?"

Rowan considered, eyes roving around the clearing. Then she let out a long breath and nodded.

"There's only one way," she said. "Blood-tie."

Kestrel's eyebrowsflew up. "Oh, really?"

"What is it?" Mary-Lynnette asked.

"A blood-tie?" Rowan looked helpless. "Well, it's akinship ceremony, you know." When

Mary-Lynnette just looked at her, she went on: "It makes our families related. It's like, one of our

ancestors did it with a family of witches.:'

Witches, Mary-Lynnette thought. Oh …gosh. Sowitches are real, too. I wonder how many other things

are real that I don't know about?

"Vampires don't usually get along with witches," Rowan was saying. "And HunterRedfern-that's our

ancestor-had a real blood feud going with themback in the sixteen hundreds."

"But then he couldn't have kids," Jade said gleefully. "And he needed a witch to help or the

wholeRedfern familywould end with him. So he had to apologize and do a kinship ceremony. And then

he had all daughters.Ha ha."

Mary-Lynnette blinked. Ha ha?

"So, you see, we're part witch. All the Redfern are," Rowan was explaining in her gentle teachingvoice.

"Our father used to say that's why we're so disobedient," Jade said. "Because it's in our genes .

Because in witchfamilies, womenare in charge."

Mary-Lynnette began to like witches. "Ha ha," shesaid. Mark gave her a skittish sideways look.

"The point is that we could do a ceremony like that now," Rowan said. "It would make us family

forever. We couldn't betray each other."

"No problem," Mark said, still looking at Jade.

"Fine with me,"Jade said, and gave him a quick, fierce smile.

But Mary-Lynnette was thinking. It was a serious thing Rowan was talking about. You couldn't do

something like this on a whim. It was worse than adopting a puppy; it was more like getting married. It

was a lifetimeresponsibility. And even if these girls didn't kill humans, they killed animals. With their teeth.

But so did people. And not always for food. Wasit worse to drink deer blood than to make baby cows

into boots?

Besides, strange as it seemed, she felt dose to the three sisters already. In the last couple of minutesshe'd

established more of a relationship with Rowanthan she ever had with any girl at school. Fascination and

respect had turned into a weird kind of instinctive trust.

And besidethat, what other real choice was there? Mary-Lynnette looked at mark, and then atRowan.

She nodded slowly.


Rowan turned to Kestrel.

"So I'm supposed to decide, am I?" Kestrel said."We can't do it without you," Rowan said. "You

know that."

Kestrel looked away. Her golden eyes were narrowed. In the moonlight her profile was absolutely

perfect against the darkness of trees. "It would mean we could never go home again. Make ourselves kin

to vermin? That's what they'dsay."

"Who's vermin?" Mark said, jolted out of his communion with Jade.

Nobody answered. Jade said, with odd dignity, "Ican't go home, anyway. I'm in love with an Outsider.

And I'm going to tell him about the Night World. SoI'm dead no matter what." Mark was opening his

mouth-to protest that Jade shouldn't take such arisk forhim,Mary-Lynnette thought-when Jade added

absently, "And so is he, of course."

Mark shut his mouth.

Rowan said "Kestrel, we've come too far to go back."

Kestrel stared at the forest for another minute orso. Then suddenly she turned back to the others,

laughing. There was something wild in her eyes.

"All right, let's go the whole way," she said. "Tell them everything. Break every rule. We might as


Mary-Lynnette felt a twinge. She hoped she wasn'tgoing to regret this. But what she said was "Just how

do we do this-ceremony?"

"Exchange blood. I've never done it before, but it's simple."

"It might be a little bit strange, though," Jade said "because you'll be a little bit vampires


"A little bit what?" Mary-Lynnette said, her voice rising in spite of her.

"Just a little bit." Jade was measuring out tiny bitsof air between her index finger and thumb. "A


Kestrel cast a look skyward. "It'll go away in a few days," she said heavily, which was what

MaryLynnette wanted to know.

"As long as you don't get yourself bitten by a vampire again in the meanwhile," Rowan added.

"Otherwise, it's perfectly safe. Honestly."

Mary-Lynnette and Mark exchanged glances. Not to discuss things, they'd gone beyond that now. Just

to brace themselves. Then Mary-Lynnette took a deep breath and flicked a bit of fern off her knee.

"Okay," she said, feeling lightheaded but determined. "We're ready."