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Soulmate (Chapter 13)

Don't fight," he panted into her face. "It'll be easier if you just relax."

Hannah was frightened-and furious. "In your dreams!" she gasped and slammed a knee into his groin.

She hadn't survived Maya and come thousands of miles to be killed by some weasel of a vampire.

She could feel him trying to do something to her mind-it reminded her of the way Maya had captured

Ha-nahkt's eyes. Some kind of hypnosis, she supposed. But she'd had enough of hypnosis in the last

week. She fought it.

And she fought with her body, unskillfully maybe, but with utter conviction. She head-butted him on the

nose when he tried to get close to her neck.

"Ow!" The Artful Dodger jerked back. Then he got a better grip on her arm. He pulled the wrist toward

him and Hannah suddenly realized what he was

doing. There were nice accessible veins there. He was going to draw blood from her wrist.

"No, you don't," she gasped. She had no idea what would happen if she lost any more blood to a

vampire. Thierry had said she wasn't in danger as long as she kept away from them for the next week, so

she presumed that if she didn't stay away, she was in danger. And she was already noticing little changes

in herself: her ability to see better in the dark, for instance.

She tried to wrench her arm out of the boy's grip- and then she heard a gasp. Suddenly she realized that

he wasn't holding her as tightly, and he wasn't trying to pull her wrist to him. Instead he was just staring at

her hand.

At her ring.

The expression on his face might have been funny if Hannah hadn't been shaking with adrenaline. He

looked shocked, dismayed, scared, disbelieving, and embarrassed all at once.

"Who-who-who are you?" he spluttered.

Hannah looked at the ring, and then at him. Of course. How could she have been so stupid? She should

have mentioned Thierry right away. If he was a Lord of the Night World, maybe everybody knew him.

Maybe she could skip the witches altogether.

"I told you I was looking for somebody. His name is Thierry Descouedres. He gave me this ring."

The Artful Dodger gave a kind of moan. Then he looked up at her from under his spiky bangs. "I didn't

hurt you, did I?" he said. It wasn't a question, it was a demand for agreement. "I didn't do anything to

you."

"You didn't get the chance," Hannah said. But she was afraid the boy might just take off running, so she

added, "I don't want to get you in trouble. I just want to find Thierry. Can you help me?"

"I … help you. Yeah, yeah. I can be a big help.-" He hesitated, then said, "It's kind of a long walk."

A walk? Thierry was here? Hannah's heart leaped so high that her whole body felt light.

"I'm not tired," she said, and it was true. "I can walk anywhere."

The house was enormous.

Magnificent. Palatial, even. Awe-inspiring.

The Artful Dodger abandoned Hannah at the beginning of the long palm-tree-lined drive, blurting, "That's

it," and then scampering off into the darkness. Hannah looked after him for a moment, then grimly started

up the drive, sincerely hoping that it was it. She was so tired that she was weaving and her feet felt as if

they'd been pounded with stones.

As she walked up to the front door, though, her doubts disappeared. There were black roses

everywhere.

There was an arch-shaped stained-glass window above the double doors, showing a black rose that had

the same intricately knotted stem as the one on Hannah's ring. The same design had been worked into the

crowns over the windows. It was used like a family crest or seal.

Just seeing all those roses made Hannah's heart beat faster.

Okay, then. Ring the doorbell, she told herself. And stop feeling like some Cinderella who's come to see

what's keeping the prince.

She pushed the doorbell button, then held her breath as chimes echoed distantly.

Please. Please answer….

She heard footsteps approaching and her heart really started to pound.

I can't believe it's all been this easy….

But when the door opened, it wasn't Thierry. It was a college-age guy with a suit, brown hair pulled

back into a short ponytail, and dark glasses. He looked vaguely like a young CIA agent, Hannah thought

wildly.

He and Hannah stared at each other.

"Uh, I'm here to … I'm looking for Thierry Des-couedres," Hannah said finally, trying to sound confident.

The CIA guy didn't change expression. When he spoke, it wasn't unkindly, but Hannah's heart

plummeted.

"He's not here. Try again in a few days. And it's better to call one of his secretaries before showing up."

He started to shut the door.

A wave of desperation broke over Hannah. "Wait!" she said, and she actually stuck her foot in the

doorway. She was amazed at herself.

The CIA guy looked down at her foot, then up at her face. "Yes?"

Oh, God, he thinks I'm a nuisance visitor. Hannah suddenly had a vision of swarms of petitioners lined

up at Thierry's house, all wanting him to do something for them. Like supplicants waiting for an audience

with the king.

And I must look like riffraff, she thought. She was wearing Levis and a shirt that was sweaty and

wrinkled after tramping around the Strip all day. Her boots were dusty. Her hair was limp and

disheveled, straggling over her face.

"Yes?" the CIA guy said again, politely urgent. .

"I … nothing." Hannah felt tears spring to her eyes and was furious with herself. She hid them by bending

down to pick up her duffel bag, which by now felt as if it were loaded with rocks.

She had never been so tired. Her mouth was dry and cottony and her muscles were starting to cramp.

She had no idea where to find a safe place to sleep.

But it wasn't the CIA guy's problem.

"Thank you," Hannah said. She took a deep breath and started to turn away.

It was the deep breath that did it. Someone was crossing the grand entrance hall behind the CIA guy

and the breath delayed Hannah long enough that they saw each other.

"Nilsson, wait!" the someone yelled and came bounding over to the door.

It was a girl, thin and tanned, with odd silvery-brown hair and dark amber eyes. She had several

yellowing bruises on her face.

But it was her expression that startled Hannah. Her amber eyes were wide and sparkling in what looked

like recognition, her mouth was open in astonishment and excitement. She was waving her arms.

"That's her!" she yelled at the CIA guy, pointing to Hannah. "It's her! It's her." When he stared at her,

she hit him in the shoulder. "Her!"

They both turned to stare at Hannah. The CIA guy had an expression now. He looked stunned.

Hannah stared back at them, bewildered.

Then, seeming dazed, the CIA guy very slowly

opened the door. "My name is Nilsson, miss," he said. "Please come inside."

Stupid me, Hannah thought. Almost as an afterthought, she pushed straggling hair off her left cheek,

away from her birthmark. I should have told them who I was. But how could I know they would

understand?

Nilsson was talking again as he gently took her bag. "I'm very sorry, miss-I didn't realize … I hope you

won't hold this-"

"Nobody knew you were coming," the girl broke in with refreshing bluntness. "And the worst thing is that

Thierry's gone off somewhere. I don't think anybody knows where or when he'll be back. But meanwhile

you'd better stay put. I don't want to think about what he'd do to us if we lost you." She smiled at

Hannah and added, "I'm Lupe Acevedo."

"Hannah Snow."

"I know." The girl winked. "We met before, but I couldn't exactly introduce myself. Don't you

remember?"

Hannah started to shake her head-and then she blinked. Blinked again. That silvery-brown coloring…

those amber eyes…

"Yeah," Lupe said, looking hugely delighted. "That was me. That's how I got these bruises. The other

wolf got it worse, though. I ripped him a new-"

"Would you like something to drink?" Nilsson interrupted hastily. "Or to eat? Why don't you come in

and sit down?"

Hannah's mind was reeling. That girl is a werewolf, she thought. A werewolf. The last time I saw her she

had big ears and a bushy tail. Werewolves are real.

And this one protected me.

She said dizzily, "I … thank you. I mean, you saved my life, didn't you?"

Lupe shrugged. "Part of the job. Want a Coke?"

Hannah blinked, then laughed. "I'd kill for one."

"I'll take care of it," Nilsson said. "I'll take care of everything. Lupe, why don't you show her upstairs?"

He hurried off and opened a cellular phone. A moment later several other guys dressed like him came

running. The strange thing was that they were all very young-all in their late teens. Hannah caught

snatches of frantic-sounding conversation.

"Well, try that number-"

"What about leaving a message with-"

"Come on," Lupe said, interrupting Hannah's eavesdropping. With that same cheerful bluntness she

added, "You look like you could use a bath."

She led Hannah past a giant white sculpture toward a wide curving staircase. Hannah glimpsed other

rooms opening off the hallway. A living room that looked as big as a football field, decorated with white

couches, geometric furniture, and abstract paintings. A dining room with a mile-long table. An alcove with

a grand piano.

Hannah felt more like Cinderella than ever. Nobody in Medicine Rock had a grand piano.

I didn't know he was so rich. I don't know if I can deal with this.

But when she was installed in a sort of Moorish fantasy bathroom, surrounded by jungly green plants

and exotic tiles and brass globe lights with cut-out star shapes, she decided that she could probably

adjust to living this way. If forced.

It was heaven just to relax in the Jacuzzi tub, drinking a Coke and breathing in the delicious scent

of bath salts. And it was even better to sit up in bed afterward, eating finger sandwiches sent up by

"Chef" and telling Lupe how she came to be in Las Vegas.

When she was done, Lupe said, "Nilsson and everybody are trying to find Thierry. It may take a little

while, though. See, he just stopped off for a few minutes on Saturday, and then he disappeared again.

But meanwhile, this house is pretty well protected. And all of us will fight for you-I mean, fight to the

death, if we have to. So it's safer than most other places."

Hannah felt a roiling in her stomach. She didn't understand. Lupe made it sound as if they were in some

castle getting ready for a siege. "Safe from… ?"

Lupe looked surprised. "From her-Maya," she said, as if it should be obvious.

Hannah had a sinking feeling. I should have known, she thought. But all she said was, "So you think I'm

still in danger from her."

Lupe's eyebrows shot up. She said mildly, "Well, sure. She's going to try to kill you. And she's awfully

good at killing."

Especially me, Hannah thought. But she was too tired to be much afraid. Trusting to Lupe and Nilsson

and the rest of Thierry's household, she fell asleep "that night as soon as her head touched the pillow.

She woke up to see sunshine. It was reflecting off the bedroom walls, which were painted a softly

burnished gold. Weird but beautiful, Hannah thought, looking dreamily around at ebony furniture and

decorative tribal masks. Then she remembered where she was and jumped out of bed.

She found clean clothes-her size-lying on an elaborately carved chest. She had just finished pulling them

on when Lupe knocked on the door.

"Lupe, have they-"

Lupe shook her silvery-brown head. "They haven't found him yet."

Hannah sighed, then smiled, trying not to look too disappointed.

Lupe made a sympathetic face. "I know. While you wait, though, you might like to meet some people."

She grinned. "They're sort of special people, and it's a secret that they're even here. But I talked to them

last night, and they all decided that it would be okay. They all want to meet you."

Hannah was curious. "Special people? Are they humans or… uh… ?"

Lupe grinned even more widely. "They're both. That's why they're special." As she talked, she was

leading Hannah downstairs and through miles of hallway. "They did something for me," she said, not

smiling now, but serious. "They saved my life and my mom's life. See, I'm not a purebred werewolf. My

dad was human."

Hannah looked at her, startled.

"Yeah. And that's against the laws of the Night World. You can't fall in love with a human, much less

marry them. The other werewolves came one night and killed my dad. They would have killed my mom

and me, too, but Thierry got us out of the city and hid us. That's why I'd do anything for him. I wouldn't

be alive if it wasn't for him… and Circle Daybreak."

She had paused by the door of a room located toward the back of the house. Now, she opened the

door, gave Hannah a funny little nod and a wink, and said, "You go meet them. I think you'll like each

other. You're their type."

Hannah wasn't sure what this meant. She felt shy as she stepped over the threshold and looked around

the room.

It was a den, smaller than the front living room, and more cozy, with furniture in warm ochers and burnt

siennas. A breakfast buffet was set out on a long sideboard made of golden pine. It smelled good, but

Hannah didn't have time to look at it. As soon as she came in the room, every head turned and she found

a dozen people staring at her.

Young people. All around her age. Normal-type teenagers, except that a surprising number of them

were extremely good-looking.

Behind her, the door closed firmly. Hannah felt more and more as if she'd just walked out on stage and

forgotten her lines.

Then one of the girls sitting on an ottoman jumped up and ran to her. "You're Hana, aren't you?" she said

warmly. "Hannah. Yes."

"I can't believe I'm really meeting you! This is so exciting. Thierry's told us all about you." She put a

gentle hand on Hannah's arm. "Hannah, this is Circle Daybreak. And my name is Thea Harman."

She was almost as tall as Hannah was, and the yellow hair spilling over her shoulders was a few shades

darker than Hannah's. Her eyes were brown

and soft and somehow wise.

"Hi, Thea." Somehow Hannah felt instinctively at ease with this girl. "Lupe was telling me about Circle

Daybreak, but I didn't exactly understand."

"It started as a sort of witch organization," Thea said. "A witch circle. But it's not just for witches. It's for

humans and vampires and werewolves and shapeshifters… and, well, anybody who wants to help Night

People and humans get along. Come and meet the others and we'll try to explain."

A few minutes later, Hannah was sitting on a couch with a plate of eggs Benedict, being introduced.

"This is James and Poppy," Thea said. "James is a Redfern on his mother's side-which makes him a

descendant of Maya's." She glanced at James with gentle mischief.

"I didn't pick my parents. Believe me, I didn't," James said to Hannah. He had light brown hair and

thoughtful gray eyes. When he smiled it was impossible not to smile back.

"Nobody would have picked your parents, Jamie," Poppy said, elbowing him. She was very small, but

there was a kind of impish wisdom in her face. Her head was a tangle of copper curls and her eyes were

as green as emeralds. Hannah found her elfin beauty just a little scary… just a little inhuman.

"They're both vampires," Thea said, answering Hannah's unspoken question.

"I didn't used to be," Poppy said. "James changed me because I was dying."

"What's a soulmate for?" James said, and Poppy poked him again and then grinned at him. They were

obviously in love.

"You're-soulmates?" Hannah spoke softly, wistfully.

It was Thea who answered. "That's the thing, you see-something is causing Night People to find human

soulmates. We witches think that it's some Power that's waking up again, making it happen. Some Power

that's been asleep for a long time- maybe since the time when Thierry was born."

Now Hannah understood why Lupe had said she was Circle Daybreak's type of people. She was part

of this.

"But-that's wonderful," she said, speaking slowly and trying to gather her thoughts. "I mean…" She

couldn't exactly explain why it was so wonderful, but she had a sense of some immense turning point

being reached in the world, of some cycle that was about to end.

Thea was smiling at her. "I know what you mean. We think so, too." She turned and held out a hand to a

very tall boy with a sweet face, sandy hair, and hazel eyes. "And this is my soulmate, Eric. He's human."

"Just barely," a boy from the other side of the room said. Eric ignored him and smiled at Hannah.

"And this is Gillian and David," Thea said, moving around the circle. "Gillian's a distant cousin of mine, a

witch, and David's human. Soulmates, again."

Gillian was tiny, with white-blond hair that fit her head like a silky cap and deep violet eyes. David had

dark hair, brown eyes, and a lean tanned face. They both smiled at Hannah.

Thea was moving on. "And next comes Rashel and Quinn. Rashel is human-she used to be a vampire

hunter."

"I still am. But now I just hunt bad vampires," Rashel said coolly. Hannah had an instinctive feeling

of respect for her. She was tall and seemed to have perfect control of her body. Her hair was black and

her eyes were a fierce and blazing green.

"And Quinn's a vampire," Thea said.

Quinn was the boy who'd made the barely-human remark. He was very good-looking, with clean

features that were strongly chiseled but almost delicate. His hair was as black as Rashel's, and his eyes

were black, too. He flashed Hannah a smile that, while beautiful, was slightly unnerving.

"Quinn's the only one here who can compete with you as far as the past goes," Thea added. "He was

made into a vampire back in the sixteen hundreds, by Hunter Redfern."

Quinn flashed another smile. "Did you have a life in colonial America? Maybe we've met."

Hannah smiled in return, but she was also studying him with interest. He didn't look older than eighteen.

"Is that why everybody here looks so young?" she asked. "All the staff, I mean-Nilsson and the other

guys in suits. Are they all vampires?"

Thea nodded. "All made vampires. Lamia, like James, can grow up if they want. But once you make a

human into a vampire they stop aging-and you can't make somebody over nineteen into a vampire. Their

bodies can't make the change. They just burn out."

Hannah felt an odd chill, almost of premonition. But before she could say anything, a new voice

interrupted.

"Speaking of the lamia, isn't anybody going to introduce me?"

Thea turned toward the window. "Sorry, Ash-but if you're going to sleep over there, you can't blame

us for forgetting you." She looked at Hannah. "This is another Redfern, a cousin of James's. His name is

Ash."

Ash was gorgeous, lanky and elegant, with ash-blond hair. But what startled Hannah as he got up and

unhurriedly walked to meet her was his eyes.

They were like Maya's eyes, shifting color from moment to moment. The resemblance was so striking

that it was a moment before Hannah could take his hand.

He's got Maya's genes, Hannah thought. He smiled at her, then sprawled on the loveseat.

"We're not all of Circle Daybreak, of course," Thea said. "In fact, we're some of the newest members.

And we're from all over the country-North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, everywhere. But

Thierry called us together specially, to talk about the soulmate principle and the old Powers awakening."

"That was last week, before he found out about you," copper-haired Poppy said. "And before he ran

off. But we've been talking without him, trying to figure out what to do next."

Hannah said, "Whatever it is, I'd like to help you."

They all looked pleased. But Thea said, "You should think about it first. We're dangerous people to

know."

"We're on everybody's hit list," Rashel, the black-haired vampire hunter, said dryly.

"We've got the whole Night World against us," Ash said, rolling his ever-changing eyes.

"Against us. You just said 'us.' " James turned on his cousin triumphantly, as if he'd just won a point in an

argument. "You admit you're a part of us."

"I don't have any

Ash looked at the ceiling, choice."

"But you do, Hannah," Thea interrupted. She smiled at Hannah, but her soft brown eyes were serious.

"You don't have to be in any more danger than you are now."

"I think-" Hannah began. But before she could finish, there was an explosion of noise from somewhere

outside.

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