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The Chosen (Chapter 11)

The U-Haul whirred across smooth resonant pavement and Rashel tried to guess where they were. She

had been drawing a map in her mind, trying to imagine each turn they made, each change of the road

underneath them.

Ivan sat slouched, blocking the back doors of the truck. His eyes were small and mean, and they

flickered over the girls constantly. In his right hand he held a taser, a hand-held electrical stun gun, and

Rashel knew he was dying to use it.

But the cargo was being very docile. Daphne was beside Rashel, leaning against her very slightly for

comfort, her dark blue eyes fixed vacantly on the far wall. They were shackled together: although both

Lily and Ivan had been checking Daphne constantly for signs of waking up, they were dearly taking no

chances.

On the opposite side of the truck were the two other girls. One was Juanita, her wavy bronze hair

tangled from two days of lying on it, her bee-stung lips parted, her gaze empty. The second girl was a

towhead, with flyaway hair and Bambi eyes staring blankly. Ivan called her Missy.

She was about twelve.

Rashel allowed herself to daydream about things to do to Ivan.

Then she focused. The van was stopping. Ivan jumped up, and a minute later he was opening the back

doors. Then he and Lily were unshackling the girls and herding them out, telling them to hurry.

Rashel breathed deeply, grateful for the fresh open air. Salty air. Keeping her gaze aimless and glassy,

she looked around. It was twilight and they were on a Charlestown dock.

"Keep moving," Ivan said, a hand on her shoulder.

Ahead, Rashel saw a sleek thirty-foot power cruiser bobbing gently in a slip. A figure with dark hair was

on the deck, doing something with lines. Quinn.

He barely glanced up as Ivan and Lily hustled the girls onto the boat, and he didn't help steady Missy

when she almost lost her balance jumping from the dock. His mood had changed again, Rashel realized.

He seemed withdrawn, turned inward, brooding.

"Move!" Ivan shoved her, and for an instant, Quinn's attention shifted. He stared at Ivan with eyes like

black death, endless and fathomless. He

didn't say a word. Ivan's hand dropped from Rashers back.

Lily led them down a short flight of steps to a cramped but neat little cabin and gestured them to an

L-shaped couch behind a dinette table. "Here. Sit down. You two here. You two there."

Rashel slipped into her seat and stared vacantly across at the sink in the tiny galley.

"You all stay here," Lily said. "Don't move. Stay." She would have made a great

slave overseer, Rashel thought. Or dog trainer.

When Lily had disappeared up the stairs and the door above had banged shut, Rashel and Daphne

simultaneously let out their breath.

"You doing okay?" Rashel whispered.

"Yeah. A little shaky. Where d'you think we're going?"

Rashel just shook her head. Nobody knew where the vampire enclaves were. An idea was beginning to

form in her mind, though. There must be a reason they were traveling by boat-it would have been safer

and easier to keep the prisoners in the U-Haul. Unless they were going to a place you couldn't get to by

U-Haul.

An island. Why shouldn't some of the enclaves be on islands? There were hundreds of them off the

eastern coast.

It was a very unsettling thought.

On an island they would be completely isolated.

Nowhere to escape to if things got bad. No possible hope of help from outside.

Rashel was beginning to regret that she'd brought Daphne into this. And she had the ominous feeling that

when they got to their destination, she was going to regret it even more.

The boat sliced cleanly through the water, heading into darkness. Behind Quinn was the skyline of

Boston, the city lights showing where the ocean ended and the land began. But ahead there was no

horizon, no difference between sky and sea. There was only formless, endless void.

The inky blackness was dotted with an occasional solitary winking light-herring boats. They only seemed

to make the vastness of empty water more lonely.

Quinn ignored Lily and Ivan. He was not in a good mood.

He let the cold air soak into him, permeating his body, mixing with the cold he felt inside. He imagined

himself freezing solid-a rather pleasant thought.

Just get to the enclave, he thought emptily. Get it over with.

This last batch of girls had upset him. He didn't know why, and he didn't want to think about it. They

were vermin. All of them. Even the dark-haired one who was so lovely that it was almost too bad she

was certifiably insane. The little blond one was crazy, too. The one who, having had the luck to fall out of

the frying pan once, had come right back, coated herself with butter and breadcrumbs, and jumped in

again.

Idiot. Someone like that deserved…

Quinn's thought broke off. Somewhere deep inside him was a little voice saying that no one, however

idiotic, deserved what was going to happen to those girls.

You're the idiot. Just get them to the enclave and then you can forget all this.

The enclave… it was Hunter Redfern who had first thought of enclaves on islands. Because of Dove,

he'd said.

"We need a place where the Redferns can live safely, without looking over their shoulders for humans

with stakes. An island would do."

Quinn hadn't objected to the classification of himself as a Redfern-although he had no intention of

marrying Garnet or Lily. Instead he said, practically, "Fishermen visit those islands all the time. Humans

are settling them. We'd have company soon."

"There are spells to guard places humans shouldn't go. I know a witch who'll do it, to protect lily and

Garnet."

"Why?"

Hunter had grinned. "Because she's their mother."

And Quinn had said nothing. Later he'd met Maeve Harman, the witch who had mingled her blood with

the lamia. She didn't seem to like

Hunter much, and she kept their youngest daughter, Roseclear, who was being raised as a witch, away

from him. But she did the spell.

And they'd all moved to the island, where Garnet finally gave up on Quinn and married a boy from a nice

lamia family. Her children were allowed to carry on the Redfern name. And as time went on, other

enclaves had sprung up….

But none quite like the one Quinn was heading for now.

He shifted on his seat in the cockpit. Ahead, there was a horizon again. A luminous silver moon was

rising above the pond-still dark water. It shone like an enchantment, as if to guide Quinn's way.

Scrrrunch.

Rashel winced as the boat docked. Somebody wasn't being careful. But they'd arrived, and it could only

be an island. They'd been heading east for over two hours.

Daphne lifted her head weakly. "I don't care if they eat us the minute we get off, as long as I get to feel

solid ground again."

"This practically is solid ground," Rashel whispered. "It's been dead calm the whole way."

"Tell that to my stomach." Daphne moaned, and Rashel poked her. Someone was coming down the

stairs.

It was Lily. Ivan waited above with the taser. They herded the girls off the boat and up onto a little dock.

Rashel did her vacant-eyed staring around again, blessing the moonlight that allowed her to see.

It wasn't much of a dock. One wharf with a gas pump and a shack. There were three other powerboats

in slips.

And that was all. Rashel couldn't see any sign of life. The boats rode like ghost ships on the water. There

was silence except for the slap of the waves.

Private island, Rashel thought.

Something about the place made the hair on the back of her neck rise.

With Lily in front and Ivan in back, the group was herded to a hiking trail that wound up a cliff.

It's just an island, Rashel told herself. You should be dancing with joy. This is the enclave you wanted to

get to. There's nothing… uncanny… about this place.

And then, as they reached the top of the cliff, she saw the rocks. Big rocks. Monoliths that reminded her

eerily of Stonehenge. It looked as if a giant had scattered them around.

And there were houses built among them, perched on the lonely cliff, looking down on the vast dark sea.

They all seemed deserted, and somehow they reminded Rashel of gargoyles, hunched and waiting.

Lily was headed for the very last house on the sandy unpaved road.

It was one of those huge "summer cottages" that was really a mansion. A massive white frame house,

two and a half stories high, with elaborate ornamentation.

Shock coursed through Rashel.

A frame house. Wood.

This place wasn't built by vampires.

The lamia built out of brick or fieldstone, not out of the wood that was lethal to them. They must have

bought this island from humans.

Rashel was tingling from head to toe. This is definitely not a normal enclave. Where are all the people?

Where's the town? What are we doing here?

"Move, move." Lily marched them around the back of the house and inside. And at last, Rashel heard

the sounds of other life. Voices from somewhere inside the house.

But she didn't get to see who the voices belonged to. Lily was taking them into a big old-fashioned

kitchen, past a pantry with empty shelves.

At the end of the pantry was a heavy wooden door, and on a stool by the door was a boy about

Rashel's age. He had bushy brown hair and was wearing cowboy boots. He was reading a comic book.

"Hey, Rudi," Lily said crisply. "How're our guests?"

"Quiet as little lambs." Rudi's voice was laconic, but he stood up respectfully as Lily went by. His eyes

flickered over Rashel and the other girls.

Werewolf.

Rashel's instincts were screaming it. And the

name… werewolves often had names like Lovell or Felan that meant wolf in their native language.

Rudi meant "famous wolf" in Hungarian.

Best guards in the world, Rashel thought grimly. Going to be hard to get past him.

Rudi was opening the door. With Lily prodding her from behind, Rashel walked down a narrow,

extremely steep staircase. At the base of the stairway was another heavy door. Rudi unlocked it and led

the way.

Rashel stepped into the cellar.

What she saw was something she'd never seen before. A large low-ceilinged room. Dimly lit. With two

rows of twelve iron beds along opposite walls.

There was a girl in each bed.

Teenage girls. All ages, all sizes, but every one beautiful in her own unique way.

It looked like a hospital ward or a prison. As Rashel walked between the rows, she had to fight to keep

her face blank. These girls were chained to the beds, and awake… and scared.

Frightened eyes looked at Rashel from every cot, then darted toward the werewolf. Rudi grinned at

them, waving and nodding to either side. The girls shrank away.

Only a few seemed brave enough to say anything.

"Please…"

"How long do we have to stay here?"

"I want to go home!"

The last two beds in each row were empty. Rashel was put into one. Daphne looked both sick and

frightened as the shackles dosed over her ankles, but she went on gamely staring straight ahead.

"Sleep tight, girlies," Rudi said. "Tomorrow's a big day."

And then he and Lily and Ivan walked out. The heavy wooden door slammed behind them, echoing in

the stone-walled cellar.

Rashel sat up in one motion.

Daphne twisted her head. "Is it safe to talk?" she whispered.

"I think so," Rashel said in a normal voice. She was staring with narrowed eyes down the rows of beds.

Some of the girls were looking at them, some were crying. Some had their eyes shut.

Daphne burst out with the force of a breaking dam, "What are they going to do to us?"

"I don't know," Rashel said. Her voice was hard and flat, her movements disciplined and precise, as she

slid the knife out of her boot. "But I'm going to find out."

"What, you're gonna saw through the chains?"

"No." From a guard on the side of the sheath, Rashel pulled a thin strip of metal. She bared her teeth

slightly in a smile. "I'm going to pick the lock."

"Oh. Okay. Great. But then what? I mean, what's happening here? What kind of place is this? I was

expecting some kind of-of Roman slave auction or something, with, like, everybody dressed in togas and

vampires waving and bidding-"

"You may still see something like that," Rashel

said. "I agree, it's weird. This is not a normal enclave. I don't know, maybe it's some kind of holding

center, and they're going to take us someplace else to sell us…."

"Actually, I'm afraid not," a quiet voice to her left said.

Rashel turned. The girl in the bed beside her was sitting up. She had flaming red hair, wistful eyes, and a

diffident manner. "I'm Fayth," she said.

"Shelly," Rashel said briefly. She didn't trust anyone here yet. "That's Daphne. What do you mean,

you're afraid not?"

"They're not taking us somewhere else to sell us." Fayth looked almost apologetic.

"Well, I'd like to know what they're going to do with us here," Rashel said. She sprung one lock on the

shackles and jabbed the lockpick into the other. "Twenty-four girls on an island with one inhabited

house? It's insane."

"It's a bloodfeast."

Rashel's hand on the lockpick went still.

She looked over at Fayth and said very softly, "What?"

"They're having a bloodfeast. On the spring equinox, I think. Starting tomorrow night at midnight."

Daphne was reaching across the gap for Rashel. "What, what? What's a bloodfeast? Tell me."

"It's…" Rashel dragged her attention from Fayth. "It's a feast for vampires. A big celebration, a

banquet. Three courses, you know." She looked

around the room. "Three girls. And there are twenty-four of us…."

"Enough for eight vampires," Fayth said quietly, looking apologetic.

"So you're saying that they take a little blood from each of three girls." Daphne was leaning anxiously

toward Rashel. "That's what you're saying, right? Right? A little sip here, a little sip there-" She broke off

as Rashel and Fayth both looked at her. "You're not saying that."

"Daphne, I'm sorry I got you into this." Rashel took a breath and opened the second lock on her

shackles, avoiding Daphne's eyes. "The idea of a bloodfeast is that you drink the blood of three people in

one day. All their blood. You drain them."

Daphne opened her mouth, shut it, then at last said pathetically, "And you don't burst?"

Rashel smiled bleakly in spite of herself. "It's supposed to be the ultimate high or something. You get the

power of their blood, the power of their lifeforce, all at once." She looked at Fayth. "But it's been illegal

for a long time."

Fayth nodded. "So's slavery. I think somebody wants it to make a comeback."

"Any idea who?"

"All I know is that somebody very rich has invited seven of the most powerful made vampires here for

the feast. Whoever he is, he really wants to show them a good time."

"To make an alliance," Rashel said slowly.

"Maybe."

"The made vampires ganging up against the lamia."

"Possibly."

"And the spring equinox… they're celebrating the anniversary of the first made vampire. The day Maya

bit Thierry."

"Definitely."

"Just wait a minute," Daphne said. "Just everybody press pause, okay? How come you know about all

this stuff?" She was staring at Fayth. "Made vampires, this vampires, that vampires, Maya… I never

heard of any of these people."

"Maya was the first of the lamia," Rashel said rapidly, glancing back at her. "She's the ancestress of all

the vampires who can grow up and have children-the family vampires. The made vampires are different.

They're humans who get made into vampires by being bitten. They can't grow any older or have kids."

"And Thierry was the first human to get made into a vampire," Fayth said. "Maya bit him on the spring

equinox… thousands of years ago."

Rashel was watching Fayth closely. "So now maybe you'll answer her question," she said. "How do you

know all this? No humans know about Night World history-except vampire hunters and damned

Daybreakers."

Fayth winced, and then Rashel understood why she seemed so apologetic. "I'm a damned Daybreaker."

"Oh, God."

"What's a Daybreaker?" Daphne prompted, poking Rashel.

"Circle Daybreak is a group of witches who're trying to get humans and Night People to… I don't

know, all dance around and drink Coke together," Rashel said, nonplussed. She was confused and

revolted-this girl had seemed so normal, so sensible.

"To live in harmony, actually," Fayth said to Daphne. "To stop hating and killing each other."

Daphne wrinkled her nose. "You're a witch?"

"No. I'm human. But I have friends who're witches. I have friends who're vampires. I know lamia and

humans who're soulmates-"

"Don't be disgusting!" Rashel almost shouted it. It took her a moment to get hold of herself. Then,

breathing carefully, she said, "Look, just watch it, Daybreaker. I need your information, so I'm willing to

work with you-temporarily. But watch the language or I'll leave you here when I get the rest of us out.

Then you can live in harmony with eight vampires on your own."

Despite her effort at control, her voice was shaking. Somehow Fayth's words seemed to keep echoing

in her mind, as if they had some strange arid terrible importance. The word soulmates itself seemed to

ricochet around inside her.

And Fayth was acting oddly, too. Instead of getting mad, she just looked at Rashel long and steadily.

Then she said softly, "I see…" Rashel didn't like the way she said it. She turned toward Daphne, who

was saying eagerly, "So we're going to get out of here? Like a prison break?"

"Of course. And we'll have to do it fast." Rashel narrowed her eyes, trying to think. "I assumed we'd

have more time… and there's that werewolf to get past. And then once we do get out, we're on an

island. That's bad. We can't live long out in the wild-it's too cold and they'd track us. But there has to be

a way…." She glanced at Fayth. "I don't suppose there's any chance of other Daybreakers showing up

to help."

Fayth shook her head. "They don't know I'm here. We'd heard that something was going on in a Boston

club, that somebody was gathering girls for a bloodfeast. I came to check it out-and got nabbed before I

made my first report."

"So we're on our own. That's all right." Rashel's mind was in gear now, humming with ideas. "Okay, first,

we'll have to see what these girls can do-which of them can help us-"

Fayth and Daphne were listening intently, when Rashel was interrupted by the last thing she expected to

hear in a place like this.

The sound of somebody shouting her name.

"Rashel! Rashel the vampire hunter! Rashel the Cat!"

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