The Chosen (Chapter 6)

What she felt was a shivering jolt that began in her palm and ran up her arm like electricity. It left tingling

in its wake. But the real shock was in her head.

Her mind exploded. That was the only way she could describe it. A noiseless, heatless explosion that

shattered her completely. All at once, Rashel couldn't support her own weight anymore. She could feel

Quinn's arms supporting her.

She had no sense of the room around her. She was floating in a white light and the only solid thing to

hang on to was Quinn. It was something like the terror she'd felt before… but it wasn't just terror.

Impossibly, what she felt was more like wild elation.

She realized that Quinn was holding her so tightly that it hurt. But even stronger than the sensation of his

arms was the sense she had of his mind.

A direct conduit seemed to have opened between them. She could feel his astonishment, his shock, his

wonder. And she knew he could feel hers.

It's telepathy, some distant part of herself said, trying desperately to get control again. It's some new

vampire trick.

But she knew it wasn't a trick. Quinn was as astounded as she was-she could feel that. Maybe he was

even worse off. He was breathing rapidly and shallowly and a fine trembling seemed to have taken over

his body.

Rashel held on to him, thinking crazy things. She wanted to comfort him. She could sense, probably

better than he could himself, how frighteningly vulnerable he was under that frozen exterior.

Like me, I suppose, Rashel thought giddily. And then she suddenly realized that he was feeling her

vulnerability just as she had felt his. Fear welled up in her so sharply that she panicked.

She tried to find a way to shut him out, to resist the way she resisted mind control-but she knew it was

useless. He had gotten past her guard already. He was inside.

"It's all right," Quinn said, and she realized that he had stopped trembling. His voice was almost

dispassionate, and at the same time madly gentle. Rashel had the feeling that he'd decided that since he

couldn't fight this thing, he might as well be as insane as possible.

Strangest of all, she found his words reassuring.

And there was fire under the ice that seemed to encase him. She could feel that now, and she had the

dizzy sense that she was the first one to discover it.

They had fallen to the floor somehow, and they were sitting just at the edge of the light. Quinn was

holding her by the shoulders, precisely, and Rashel was astonished at her own response to the clinical

grip. It stopped her breath, held her absolutely motionless.

Then, just as precisely, every movement deliberate, Quinn found the end of her scarf and began to unwind it.

He was still filled with that mad gentleness, that lunatic calm. And she wasn't stopping him. He was going

to expose her face, and she wasn't doing a thing about it.

She wanted him to. In spite of her terror, she wanted him to see her, to know who she was. She wanted

to be face to face with him in that strange light that had enveloped both their minds. It didn't seem to

matter what happened afterward.

She said, "John."

He unwound another length of the scarf, preoccupied and intent as if he were making some

archaeological discovery. "You didn't tell me your name." It was a statement. He wasn't pushing her.

She might as well write it out on a death warrant and hand it to him. Quinn could reveal himself to

humans-but then Quinn could disappear completely if he wanted, hole up in some hidden vampire

enclave where no human could search him out.

Rashel couldn't. He knew she was a vampire hunter. If he knew her name and her face, he'd have every

power to destroy her.

And the scariest thing of all was that some part of her didn't care.

He was down to the last turn of the scarf. In a moment her face would be exposed to the air… and to

vampire eyes that could see in this darkness.

I'm Rashel, Rashel thought. She couldn't quite get the words to her lips. She took a deep breath.

And at the same instant a light blazed into her eyes.

Not the ghostly light that had been in her mind. Real light, the beams from several high-power flashlights,

harsh and horribly bright. They cut through the dark cellar and threw Rashel and Quinn into stark illumination.

Rashel gasped. One hand instinctively flew to her scarf to keep it over her face. She felt as if she had

been caught naked.

And she was horrified to realize that she hadn't heard anyone come into the cellar. She had been

completely absorbed, oblivious to her surroundings. What had happened to all her training? What was

wrong with her?

She couldn't see anything beyond the light. Her first thought was that it was Quinn's vampire Mends

come to save him. He seemed to think it might be, too; at least he was standing shoulder to shoulder with

her, even trying to push her back a little.

With an odd pang, Rashel realized she could only guess what he was thinking now. The connection

between them had been cleanly severed.

Then a voice came from beyond the terrible brightness, a sharp voice filled with outrage. "How did he

get loose? What are you two doing?"

Vicky. I'm going insane, Rashel thought. I completely forgot about her and the others coming back. No,

I forgot about their existence.

But there were more than three flashlights on the stairs.

"The Big E sent us some backup," Vicky was saying, and Rashel felt a surge of fear. She counted five

flashlights, and in the edges of beams she caught the figures of a couple of sturdy-looking guys. Lancers.

Rashel tried desperately to gather her wits.

She knew what had to be done, at least. She nudged Quinn with her shoulder and whispered, "Get out

of here. There should be another stairway on the other side of the room. When you run for it, I'll get in

their way." She pitched her voice so low that only vampire ears could hear it. The good thing about

having her face veiled was that nobody could read her lips.

But Quinn wasn't going. He looked as if he'd just been awakened with a bucketful of ice water.

Shocked, angry, and still a little dazed. He stood where he was, staring into all the flashlights like an

animal at bay.

The lights were advancing. Rashel could make out Vicky's figure now at the front. There was going to be

a fight, and people were going to get killed.

Steve's voice said, "What did he do to you?"

"What's she been doing with him, that's the question," Vicky snapped back. Then she said clearly,

"Remember, everybody, we want him alive."

Rashel gave Quinn a harder shove. "Go." When he just glared, she hissed, "Don't you realize what they

want to do to you?"

Quinn turned so that the advancing party couldn't see his face. He snarled, "They're not exactly

overjoyed with you either."

"I can take care of myself." Rashel was shaking with frustration. "Just leave. Go!"

Quinn looked as angry with her as he was with the hunters. He didn't want her help, she realized. He

wasn't used to taking anything from anyone, and to be forced to do it made him furious.

But there wasn't any other choice. And Quinn finally seemed to recognize that. With one last glare at her,

he broke and headed for the darkness at the other side of the cellar.

The flashlights swung in confusion. Rashel, glad to be able to move, sprang between the vampire hunters

and the stairway.

And then there was a lot of fumbling and crashing, with people running into each other and swearing and

yelling. Rashel enjoyed the chance to work off her frustration. She got in everyone's way long enough for

a very fast vampire to disappear.

After which it was just her and the vampire hunters. Five flashlights turned on her and seven amazed and

angry people staring.

Rashel got up and brushed herself off. Time to face the consequences. She stood, head high, looking at

all of them.

"What happened?" Steve said. "Did he hypnotize you?"

Good old Steve. Rashel felt a rush of warmth toward him. But she couldn't use the out he was offering

her. She said, "I don't know what happened."

And that was true. She couldn't even begin to explain to herself what had gone on between her and the

vampire. She'd never heard of anything like it.

"I think you let him get away on purpose," Vicky said. Rashel couldn't see Vicky's pale blue eyes, but

she sensed that they were as hard as marbles. "I think you planned it from the beginning-that's why you

told us to go up to the street."

"Is that true?" One of the flashlights swung down and suddenly Nyala was in front of Rashel, her body

tense, her voice almost pleading. Her eyes were fixed on Rashel's, begging Rashel to say it wasn't so.

"Did you do it on purpose?"

All at once Rashel felt very tired. Nyala was fragile and unstable, and in her own mind she'd made

Rashel into a hero. Now that image was being shattered.

For Nyala's sake, Rashel almost wished she could lie. But that would be worse in the end. She said

expressionlessly, "Yes. I did it on purpose."

Nyala recoiled as if Rashel had slapped her.

I don't blame you, Rashel thought. I think it's crazy, too.

The truth was that the farther away she got from Quinn's presence, the less she could understand what

she'd done. It was beginning to seem like a dream, and not a very clear dream at that.

"But why?" one of the Lancer boys at the back asked. The Lancers knew Rashel, knew her reputation.

They didn't want to think the worst of her. Like Nyala, they desperately wanted an excuse.

"I don't know why," Rashel said, looking away. "But he wasn't controlling my mind."

Nyala exploded.

"I hate you," she burst out. She was trembling with fury, spitting out sentences at Rashel like poison

darts. "That vampire could have been the one who killed my sister. Or he could have known who did it. I

was going to ask him that, but now I'll never get the chance. Because of you. You let him go. We had

him and you let him go!"

"It's more than that," Vicky put in, her voice cold and contemptuous. "We were going to ask him about

those teenage girls getting kidnapped. Now we can't. So it's going to keep happening, and it's all going to

be your fault."

And they were right. Even Nyala was right. How did Rashel know that Quinn hadn't killed Nyala's sister?

"You're a vampire lover," Vicky was saying. "I could tell from the beginning. I don't know, maybe you're

one of those damned Daybreakers who wants us all to get along, but you're not on our side."

A couple of the Lancers started to protest at this, but Nyala's voice cut through them. "She's on their

side?" She stared from Vicky to Rashel, her body rigid. "You just wait. Just wait until I tell people that

Rashel is the Cat and that she's really on the Night World side. You just wait."

She's hysterical, Rashel realized. Even Vicky was looking surprised at this, as if she were uneasy at what

she'd started. "Nyala, listen-" Rashel began.

But Nyala seemed to have reached some peak of fury at which nothing from outside could touch her.

"I'll tell everybody in Boston! You'll see!" She whirled around and plunged toward the stairway as if she

were going to start doing it right now.

Rashel stared after her. Then she said to Vicky, "You'd better send a couple of the guys to catch up to

her. She's not safe alone in this neighborhood."

Vicky gave her a look that was half angry and half shaken. "Yeah. Okay. Everybody but Steve go after

her. You guys take her home."

They left, not without a few backward glances at Rashel.

"We'll drive you back," Vicky said. Her voice wasn't warm, but it wasn't as hostile as it had been.

"I'll walk to my own car," Rashel said flatly.

"Fine." Vicky hesitated, then blurted, "She probably won't do what she said. She's just upset."

Rashel said nothing. Nyala had sounded-and looked-as if she meant to do exactly what she said. And if she did…

Well, it would be an interesting question as to who would kill Rashel first, the vampires or the vampire hunters.

Wednesday morning dawned with gray skies and icy rain. Rashel trudged from class to class at

Wassa-guscus High, lost in thought. At home, her latest foster family left her alone-they were used to her

going her own way. She sat in her small bedroom in the townhouse with the lights dimmed, thinking.

She still couldn't understand what had happened to her, but with every hour the memory of it was fading

steadily. It was too strange to fit into the reality of life, and it became more and more like a dream. One

of those dreams in which you do things you would never ordinarily do, and are ashamed of when you

wake up in the morning.

All that warmth and closeness-she'd felt that for a vampire? She'd been excited by a parasite's touch?

She'd wanted to comfort a leech?

And not just any leech, either. The infamous Quinn. The legendary human hater. How could she have let

him go? How many people would suffer because of her lapse in sanity?

Who knows, she decided finally, maybe it had been some kind of mind control. She certainly couldn't

make any sense of it otherwise.

By Thursday, one thing at least was clear in her mind. Vicky had been right about the consequences of

what she'd done. Rashel hadn't thought about that at the time, but now she had to face it. She had to make it right.

She had to find the kidnapped girls on her own- if girls were getting kidnapped. There was nothing about

missing teenagers in the Globe. But if it was happening, Rashel had to find out about it and stop it… if she could.

Okay. So she'd go back to Mission Hill tonight and start investigating. Check the warehouse area

again-this time, her way.

There was one other thing that was clear to her, that became obvious as she got her priorities straight.

Something she had to do, not for Nyala, or for Vicky, or for the Lancers, but just for herself. For her

own honor, and for everybody who lived in the world of sunlight.

The next time she saw Quinn, she had to kill him.

Rashel moved along the deserted street, keeping to the shadows, moving silently. Not easy when the

ground was wet and strewn with broken glass. There were no sidewalks, no grass, no plant life of any

kind except the dead weeds in the abandoned lots. Just soggy trash and shattered bottles.

A grim place. It fit Rashel's mood as she made her way stealthily toward the abandoned project

building where Vicky had brought them Tuesday night.

From its front door, she surveyed the rest of the street. Lots of warehouses. Several of them were

protected with high chain-link fences topped with barbed wire. All of them had barred windows-or no

windows-and metal freight doors.

The security precautions didn't bother Rashel. She knew how to cut chain-link and pick locks. What

bothered her was that she didn't know where to start.

The Night People could be using any of the warehouses. Even knowing where Steve and Vicky had

fought Quinn didn't help, because he had jumped them. He'd obviously seen them lying in ambush and

deliberately gone after them. Which meant his real destination could have been any of the buildings on this

street-or none of them.

All right. Patience was indicated here. She'd just have to start at one end . .

Rashel lost her thought and leaped back into the shadows before she consciously realized why she was

doing it. Her ears had picked up a sound-a low rumbling coming from somewhere across the street.

She flattened herself against the brick wall behind her, then kept her body absolutely immobile. Her eyes

darted from building to building and she held her breath to hear better.

There. It was coming from inside that warehouse, the one down at the far end of the street. And she

could identify it now-the sound of an engine.

As she watched, the freight door in the front of the warehouse went sliding up. Headlights pierced the

night from behind it. A truck was pulling out onto the street.

Not a very big truck. A U-Haul. It cleared the doors and stopped. A figure was pulling the sliding metal

door down. Now it was making its way to the cab of the U-Haul, climbing in.

Rashel strained her eyes, trying to make out any signs of vampirism in the figure's movements. She

thought she could detect a certain telltale fluidity to the walk, but it was too far away to be sure. And

there was nothing else to give her a clue about what was going on.

It could be a human, she thought. Some warehouse owner going home after a night of balancing books.

But her instinct told her differently. The hair at the back of her neck was standing on end.

And then, as the truck began to cruise off, something happened that settled her doubts and sent her

flying down the street.

The back doors of the U-Haul opened just a bit, and a girl fell out. She was slender, and a streetlight

caught her blond hair. She landed on the rubble-strewn road and lay there for an instant as if dazed. Then

she jumped up, looked around wildly, and started running in Rashel's direction.