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The Chosen (Chapter 17)

Hunter's yacht was bigger than the powerboat Quinn had brought to the island. There was a salon down in the cabin and two separate staterooms. Right now, Timmy was in one of them. Nyala was in another. Quinn had put them both to sleep.

Quinn and Rashel were in the cockpit.

"Do you think any of the vampires got out?" Rashel said softly.

"I don't know. Probably." His voice was as quiet as hers.

He was filthy, covered with sand and soot, burned here and there, and wildly disheveled. He had never looked more beautiful to Rashel.

"You saved Nyala," she whispered. "And I know you did it for me."

He looked at her and some of the tense focus went out of his eyes. The hardness in his face softened. Rashel took his hand.

She didn't know how to say the rest of what she meant. That she knew he had changed, that he was changing every minute. She could almost feel the new parts of his mind opening and growing-or rather, the old parts, the parts he'd deliberately left behind when he stopped being human.

"Thank you, John Quinn," she whispered.

He laughed. It wasn't a savage laugh, or a bitter laugh, or even the charming Mad Hatter laugh. It was just a real laugh. Tired and shaky, but happy.

"What else could I do?"

Then he reached for her and they were holding each other. They might look like two refugees from a disaster movie, but all Rashel felt was the singing joy of their closeness. It was such comfort to be able to hold on to Quinn, and such wonder to feel him holding her back.

A feeling of peace stole over her.

There were still problems ahead. She knew that. Her mind was already clicking through them, forming a dim checklist of things to worry about when she regained the ability to worry.

Hunter and the other vampires. They might still be alive. They might come looking for revenge. But even if they did… Rashel had spent her whole life fighting the Night World alone. Now she had Quinn beside her, and together they could take on anything.

Daphne and the girls. Rashel felt sure they were safe; she trusted Annelise and Keiko. But once they got home, they'd be traumatized. They would need help. And someone would need to figure out what they should tell the rest of the world.

Not that anyone would believe it was real vampires who had kidnapped them if they said so, Rashel thought. The police would pass it off as a cult or something. Still, the girls know the truth. They may be fresh recruits for the fight….

Against what? How could she be a vampire hunter now? How could she try to destroy the Night

World?

Where could a reformed vampire and a burned-out vampire hunter go when they fell in love?

The answer, of course, was obvious. Rashel knew even as she formed the question, and she laughed silently into Quinn's shoulder.

Circle Daybreak. They'd become damned Daybreakers.

Granted, they weren't the type to dance in circles with flowers in their hair, singing about love and harmony and all that. But if Circle Daybreak was going to make any headway, it needed something besides love and harmony.

It needed a fighting arm. Somebody to deal with the vampires who were hopelessly evil and bent on destruction. Somebody to save people like Nyala's sister. Somebody to protect kids like Timmy.

Come to think of it, Circle Daybreak was where Nyala and Timmy belonged, too. Right now they need peace and healing, and people who would understand what they'd been through. I don't know, Rashel thought, maybe witches can help.

She hoped so. She thought Nyala would be all right-there was a kind of inner strength to the girl that kept her fighting. She wasn't so sure about Timmy. Trapped in a four-year-old body, his mind twisted by whatever lies Hunter had told him… what kind of normal life could he ever have?

But he was alive, and there was a chance. And maybe there were parts of his mind that were bright and warm and aching to grow.

Elliot and Vicky and the other vampire hunters. Rashel would have to talk to them, try to explain what she'd learned. She didn't know if they'd listen. But she would have to try.

"All anybody can do is try," she said softly.

Quinn stirred. He leaned back to look into her face. "You're right," he said, and she realized that he'd been thinking about the same things.

Our minds work alike, she thought. She had found her partner, her equal, the one to work and live and love with her. Her soulmate.

"I love you, John Quinn," she said.

And then they were kissing each other and she was finding in him a tenderness that even she hadn't suspected. But it made sense. After all, the opposite of absolute ruthlessness is absolute tenderness-and when you ripped the one away, you were left with the other.

I wonder what else I'll find out about him? She thought, dizzy with discovery. Whatever it is, it's sure to be interesting.

"I love you, Rashel Jordan," he said against her lips.

Not Rashel the Cat. The Cat was dead, and all the old anger and the hate had burned away. It was Rashel Jordan who was starting a new future.

She kissed Quinn again and felt the beauty and the mystery of his thoughts. "Hold me tighter," she whispered. "I'm a little cold."

"You are? I feel so warm. It's spring tomorrow, you know."

And then they both were quiet, lost in each other. The boat sped on through the sparkling ocean and into the promise of the moonlit night..

[The End]

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