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The Chosen (Chapter 5)

Rashel froze. Her sword remained in the air, poised over the vampire's heart.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" the vampire said. "Go on and do it."

Rashel didn't know what she was waiting for. The vampire was in a position to block her sword with his

wooden handcuffs, but he didn't do any such thing. She could tell by his body language that he wasn't

going to, either. Instead he just lay there, looking up at her with eyes that were as dark and empty as the

depths of space.

His hair was tousled on his forehead and his mouth was a bleak line. He didn't seem afraid. He just went

on staring with those fathomless eyes.

All right, Rashel thought. Do it. Even the leech is telling you to. Do it fast-now.

But instead she found herself pivoting and stepping slowly away from him.

"Sorry," she said out loud. "I don't take orders from parasites."

She kept her sword at the ready in case he made any sudden moves. But all he did was glance down at

the wooden handcuffs, wiggle his wrists in them, and then lie back.

"I see," he said with a strange smile. "So it's torture this time, right? Well, that should be amusing for you."

Stake him, dummy, came the little voice in Rashel's head. Don't talk to him. It's dangerous to get in a

conversation with his kind.

But she couldn't refocus herself. In a minute, she told the voice. First I have to get my own control back.

She knelt in her ready-for-action crouch and picked up the flashlight, turning it full on his face. He

blinked and looked away, squinting.

There. Now she could see him, but he couldn't see her. Vampire eyes were hypersensitive to light. And

even if he did manage to get a glimpse of her, she was wearing her scarf. She had all the advantages, and

it made her feel more in command of the situation.

"Why would you think we want to torture you?" she said.

He smiled at the ceiling, not trying to look at her. "Because I'm still alive." He raised the handcuffs. "And

aren't these traditional? A few vampires from

the south shore have turned up mutilated with stocks like these on. It seemed to have been done for fun."

Smile.

Vicky's work, Rashel thought. She wished he would stop smiling. It was such a disturbing smile,

beautiful and a little mad.

"Unless," the vampire was going on, "it's information you want."

Rashel snorted. "Would I be likely to get information from you if I did want it?" "Well." Smile. "Not

likely." "I didn't think so," Rashel said dryly. He laughed out loud. Oh, God, Rashel thought. Stake him.

She didn't know what was wrong with her. Okay, he was charming-in a weird way. But she'd known

other charming vampires-smooth, practiced flatterers who tried to sweet-talk or cajole their way out of

being staked. Some had tried to seduce her. Almost all had tried mind control. It was only because

Rashel had the will to resist telepathy that she was alive today.

But this vampire wasn't doing any of the ordinary things-and when he laughed, it made Rashers heart

thump oddly. His whole face changed when he laughed. A sort of light shone in it. Girl, you are in trouble.

Kill him quick. "Look," she said, and she was surprised to find her voice a little shaky. "This isn't

personal. And you probably don't care, but I'm not the one who was going to torture you. This is

business, and it's what I have to do." She took a deep breath and reached for the sword by her knee.

He turned his face to the light. He wasn't smiling now and there was no amusement in his voice when he

said, "I understand. You've got… honor." Looking back at the ceiling, he added, "And you're right, this

is the way it always has to end when our two races meet. It's kill or be killed. The law of nature."

He was speaking to her as one warrior to another. Suddenly Rashel felt something she'd never felt for a

vampire before. Respect. A strange wish that they weren't on opposite sides in this war. A regret that

they could never be anything but deadly enemies.

He's somebody I could talk to, she thought. An odd loneliness had taken hold of her. She hadn't realized

she cared about having anyone to talk to.

She found herself saying awkwardly, "Is there anybody you want notified-afterward? I mean, do you

have any family? I could make sure the news gets around, so they'd know what had happened to you."

She didn't expect him to actually give her any names. That would be crazy. In this game knowledge was

power, with each side trying to find out who the players on the other side were. If you could identify

someone as a vampire-or a vampire hunter-you knew who to kill.

It was Batman and Catwoman all over. The important thing was to preserve your secret identity.

But this vampire, who was obviously a lunatic, said thoughtfully, "Well, you could send a note to my

adopted father. He's Hunter Redfern. Sorry I can't give you an address, but he should be somewhere

down east." Another smile. "I forgot to tell you my name. It's Quinn."

Rashel felt as if she'd been hit with an oak club.

Quinn.

One of the most dangerous vampires in all the Night World. Maybe the most dangerous of the made

vampires, the ones who'd started out human. She knew him by reputation-every vampire hunter did. He

was supposed to be a deadly fighter and a brilliant strategist; clever, resourceful… and cold as ice. He

despised humans, held them in utter contempt. He wanted the Night World to wipe them out, except for

a few to be used for food.

I was wrong, Rashel thought dazedly. I should have let Vicky torture him. I'm sure he deserves it, if any

of them do. God only knows what he's done in his time.

Quinn had turned his head toward her again, looking straight into the flashlight even though it must be

hurting his eyes.

"So you see, you'd better kill me fast," he said in a voice soft as snow falling. "Because that's certainly

what I'm going to do to you if I get loose."

Rashel gave a strained laugh. "Am I supposed to be scared?"

"Only if you have the brains to know who I am."

Now he sounded tired and scornful. "Which obviously you don't."

"Well, let me see. I seem to remember something about the Redferns…. Aren't they the family who

controls the vampire part of the Night World Council? The most important family of all the lamia, the

born vampires. Descended directly from Maya, the legendary first vampire. And Hunter Redfern is their

leader, the upholder of Night World law, the one who colonized America with vampires back in the

sixteen hundreds. Tell me if I'm getting any of this wrong."

He gave her a cold glance.

"You see, we have our sources. And I seem to remember them mentioning your name, too. You were

made a vampire by Hunter… and since his own children were all daughters, you're also his heir."

Quinn laughed sourly. "Yes, well, that's an on-again, off-again thing. You might say I have a love-hate

relationship with the Redferns. We spend most of the time wishing each other at the bottom of the Atlantic."

"Teh, vampire family infighting," Rashel said. "Why is it always so hard to get along with your folks?"

Despite her light words, she had to focus to keep control of her breathing.

It wasn't fear. She truly wasn't scared of him. It was something like confusion. Clearly, she should be

killing him at this moment instead of chatting

with him. She couldn't understand why she wasn't doing it.

The only excuse she had was that it seemed to make him even more confused and angry than it did her.

"I don't think you've heard enough about me," he said, showing his teeth. "I'm your worst nightmare,

human. I even shock other vampires. Like old Hunter… he has certain ideas about propriety. How you

kill, and who. If he knew some of the things I do, he'd fall down dead himself."

Good old Hunter, Rashel thought. The stiff moral patriarch of the Redfern clan, still caught up in the

seventeenth century. He might be a vampire, but he was definitely a New Englander.

"Maybe I should find a way to tell him," she said whimsically.

Quinn gave her another cold look, this time tempered with respect. "If I thought you could find him, I'd worry."

Rashel was suddenly struck by something. "You know, I don't think I've ever heard anyone say your

first name. I mean, I presume you have one."

He blinked. Then, as if he were surprised himself, he said, "John."

"John Quinn. John."

"I didn't invite you to call me it."

"All right, whatever." She said it absently, deep in thought. John Quinn. Such a normal name, a Boston

name. The name of a real person. It made

her think of him as a person, instead of as Quinn the dreadful.

"Look," Rashel said, and then she asked him something she'd never asked a Night Person before. She

said, "Did you want Hunter Redfern to make you a vampire?"

There was a long pause. Then Quinn said expressionlessly, "As a matter of fact, I wanted to kill him for
it."

"I see." I'd want to do the same, Rashel thought. She didn't mean to ask any more questions, but she

found herself saying, "Then why did he do it? I mean, why pick you?"

Another pause. Just when she was sure he wouldn't answer, he said, "I was-I wanted to marry one of

his daughters. Her name was Dove."

"You wanted to marry a vampire?"

"I didn't know she was a vampire!" This time Quinn's voice was quick and impatient. "Hunter Redfern

was accepted in Charlestown. Granted, a few people said his wife had been a witch, but in those days

people said that if you smiled in church."

"So he just lived there and nobody knew," Rashel said.

"Most people accepted him." A faint mocking smile curved Quinn's lips. "My own father accepted him,

and he was the minister."

Despite herself, Rashel was fascinated. "And you had to be a vampire to marry her? Dove, I mean."

"I didn't get to marry her," Quinn said tonelessly. He seemed as surprised as she was that he was telling

her these things. But he went on, seeming to speak almost to himself. "Hunter wanted me to marry one of

his other daughters. I said I'd rather marry a pig. Garnet-that's the oldest-was about as interesting as a

stick of wood. And Lily, the middle one, was evil. I could see that in her eyes. I only wanted Dove."

"And you told him that?" "Of course. He agreed to it finally-and then he told me his family's secret. Well."

Quinn laughed bitterly. "He didn't tell me, actually. It was more of a demonstration. When I woke up, I

was dead and a vampire. It was quite an experience."

Rashel opened her mouth and then shut it again, trying to imagine the horror of it. Finally she just said, "I bet."

They sat for a moment in silence. Rashel had never felt so… close to a vampire. Instead of disgust and

hatred, she felt pity. "But what happened to Dove?" Quinn seemed to tense all over. "She died," he said

nastily. It was clear that his confidences were over. "How?"

"None of your business!" Rashel tilted her head and looked at him soberly. "How, John Quinn? You

know, there are some things you really ought to tell other people. It might help."

"I don't need a damn psychoanalyst," he spat. He was furious now, and there was a dark light in his

eyes that ought to have frightened Rashel. He looked as wild as she felt sometimes, when she didn't care

who she hurt.

She wasn't frightened. She was strangely calm, the kind of calm she felt when her breathing exercises

made her feel one with the earth and absolutely sure of her path.

"Look, Quinn-"

"I really think you'd better kill me now," he said tightly. "Unless you're too stupid or too scared. This

wood won't hold forever, you know. And when I get out, I'm going to use that sword on you."

Startled, Rashel looked down at Vicky's handcuffs. They were bent. Not the oak, of course-it was the

metal hinges that were coming apart. Soon he'd have enough room to slip them off.

He was very strong, even for a vampire.

And then, with the same odd calm, she realized what she was going to do.

"Yes, that's a good idea," she said. "Keep bending them. I can say that's how you got out."

"What are you talking about?"

Rashel got up and searched for a steel knife to cut the cords on his feet. "I'm letting you go, John Quinn," she said.

He paused in his wrenching of the handcuffs. "You're insane," he said, as if he'd just discovered this.

"You may be right." Rashel found the knife and slit through the bast cords.

He gave the handcuffs a twist. "If," he said deliberately, "you think that because I was a human once, I

have any pity on them, you are very, very wrong. I hate humans more than I hate the Redferns." "Why?"

He bared his teeth. "No, thank you. I don't have to explain anything to you. Just take my word for it."

She believed him. He looked as angry and as dangerous as an animal in a trap. "All right," she said,

stepping back and putting her hand on the hilt of her bokken. "Take your best shot. But remember, I beat

you once. I was the one who knocked you out."

He blinked. Then he shook his head in disbelief. "You little idiot," he said. "I wasn't paying attention. I

thought you were another of those jerks falling over their own feet. And I wasn't even fighting them

seriously." He sat up in one fluid motion that showed the strength he had, and the control of his own body.

"You don't have a chance," he said softly, turning those dark eyes on her. Now that he wasn't looking

into the flashlight, his pupils were huge. "You're dead already."

Rashel had a sinking feeling that was telling her the same thing.

"I'm faster than any human," the soft voice went on. "I'm stronger than any human. I can see better in the

dark. And I'm much, much nastier."

Panic exploded inside Rashel.

All at once, she believed him absolutely. She couldn't seem to get her breath, and a void had opened in

her stomach. She lost any vestige of her previous calm.

He's right-you were an idiot, she told herself wildly. You had every chance to stop him and you blew it.

And why? Because you were sorry for him? Sorry for a deranged monster who's going to tear you limb

from limb now? Anyone as stupid as that deserves what they get.

She felt as if she were falling, unable to get hold of anything….

And then suddenly she did seem to catch something. Something that she clung to desperately, trying to

resist the fear that wanted to suck her into darkness.

You couldn't have done anything else.

It was the little voice in her mind, being helpful for once. And, strangely, Rashel knew it was true. She

couldn't have killed him when he was tied up and helpless, not without becoming a monster herself. And

after hearing his story, she couldn't have ignored the pity she felt.

I'm probably going to die now, she thought. And I'm still scared. But I'd do it over again. It was right.

She hung on to that as she let the last seconds tick away, the last window of opportunity to stake him

while the cuffs still held. She knew they were ticking away, and she knew Quinn knew.

"What a shame to rip your throat out," he said.

Rashel held her ground.

Quinn gave the handcuffs a final wrench, and the metal hinges squealed. Then the stocks clattered onto

the concrete and he stood up, free. Rashel couldn't see his face anymore; it was above the reach of the

flashlight.

"Well," he said evenly.

Rashel whispered, "Well."

They stood facing each other.

Rashel was waiting for the tiny involuntary body movements that would give away which direction he

was going to lunge. But he was more still than any enemy she'd ever seen. He kept his tension inside,

ready to explode only when he directed it. His control seemed to be complete.

He's got zanshin, she thought.

"You're very good," she said softly.

"Thanks. So are you."

"Thanks."

"But it isn't going to matter in the end."

Rashel started to say, "We'll see"-and he lunged.

She had an instant's warning. A barely perceptible movement of his leg told her he was going to spring to

his right, her left. Her body reacted without her direction, moving smoothly… and she didn't realize until

she was doing it that she wasn't using the sword.

She had stepped forward, inside his attack, and deflected it with a mirror palm block, striking the inner

side of his arm with her left arm. Hitting the nerves to try and numb the limb.

But not cutting him. She realized with a dizzy sense of horror that she didn't want to use the sword on him.

"You are going to die, idiot," he told her, and for an instant she wasn't sure if it was him saying it or the

voice in her head.

She tried to push him away. All she could think was that she needed time, time to get her survival

reflexes back. She shoved at him–and then her bare hand brushed his, and something happened that was completely beyond her experience.

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