Dragon’s Claw – Karen Chance

“I left a hot guy and a warm bed for this?” I toed over the nearest corpse, which as expected was of the fanged variety. Not surprising; the Vampire Senate, the bastards who had dragged me out of bed at this infernal hour, could give a rat’s ass about anybody else. Mages, weres, humans—they could kill each other with impunity, as far as the Senate was concerned, and more power to them. But vamps were another story. A whole lotta vamps, I thought, glancing around the large basement room. It was dark, with the only light coming from a flickering set of ancient fluorescents full of bug bodies. It was dank, with unfinished brick walls laced with mold, and puddles of water spotting the discolored concrete subfloor. It smelled. My bed had smelled, too. Like warm, silken butterscotch, the scent of my boyfriend’s skin. I sighed. “Well? What do you make of this?” The demand came from the asshole who’d brought me here, and who was crouched on the other side of the body. The dark, curly head was bent, showing off the earring he wore in true Elizabethan style, which was sort of back in again. The clothes weren’t; it looked like he’d been rousted out of bed, too, and had thrown on some 16th century slops and an overlarge linen shirt, which I guess was what he wore around the house. That was weird enough, although it was mostly hidden by a Columbo-esque trench coat.

But the ensemble was also clashing with the rain boots he’d found somewhere, because it was bucketing down outside. They were red and had ladybugs on them. I eyed them worriedly. He looked deranged, and that’s coming from someone who should know. “Well?” Angry brown eyes looked up at me, and the tiniest hint of fang glinted out of an overgrown goatee. Because, believe it or not, Marlowe was a master vamp, and a powerful one, being the Vampire Senate’s chief spy. I guess that’s why nobody had mentioned the boots. “Your boys let you go out like that?” I asked, squatting down and shooting them a look. Vamp #1 upped the oomph on the evil eye he’d been giving me since I came in, but his counterpoint looked vaguely chagrined. Other people’s masters went around in Armani and Dior; theirs looked like an eccentric hobo.

It was embarrassing. “I’m not in the mood tonight,” Marlowe growled me a warning—for what, I didn’t know. Like he was ever in the mood to deal with me. Or vice versa. I yawned and turned my attention to the body. Attractive, Asian, young—and the latter wasn’t just in appearance. The old vamps tended to draw up like desiccated mummies when they died, with all the years their power had staved off suddenly coming home to roost. Some of the really old ones could even puff away like the CGI creations on Buf y, the result of centuries of time smacking into them all at once, pulverizing even their bones. Not this guy. He made a beautiful corpse, and one dressed way too well for the venue.

The silk tie was maybe a couple hundred bucks, and the shoes were at least a thousand. One of the perks of being the daughter of a clothes horse was that I knew men’s fashion, and this guy believed in gilding the lily. Or he had, before fate caught up with him in the form of a bullet through the brain. I frowned and started unbuttoning his shirt. The body had four bullet holes in total, including the one making him look like he had a third eye. A master would have spit out the slug and cussed you before he ended you, but to a young vamp, that sort of thing is no joke. It might have put him out anywhere from a few hours to a few days. What it wouldn’t do was kill him. “Why’s this guy dead?” I asked, looking up at Marlowe. “That’s what you’re here to tell me!” “Spelled?” “No.

” “You’re sure?” “Of course, I’m sure!” He gestured angrily at a small man in a beige off-the-rack who was trying to look invisible in a corner. He wasn’t trying very hard or he’d have likely succeeded, because he was a mage, probably one of those connected to Marlowe’s family. Which meant that he was a good one. A good and chagrined one, because his abilities had turned up squat. Of course, so had mine. The residual stench of magic was nowhere to be found, not that my nose could detect anyway. And since another of Marlowe’s boys was busy snuffling around the corners, I wasn’t likely to pick up anything he’d overlooked. Vamps with his abilities were better than the bloodhounds they were named after. But the fact remained that this guy shouldn’t be dead. He also shouldn’t be glitching like a video game character, I thought, starting slightly when the body began jerking and twitching and hopping the way a dead guy shouldn’t.

And wasn’t, because Marlowe hadn’t so much as blinked, although he was jerking now, too. Like his boys by the door, like the scattered bodies on the floor, and like the crazy fluorescents, which suddenly resembled a nightclub’s strobes. Shit. I didn’t know what was happening, but I was pretty clear on why. Like so many things in my life, it was a legacy from dear old Dad, who had been that rarest of rare vamps: one made by a curse and not a bite. That had caused him a few problems in the early years, since he hadn’t had a master to teach him the ropes or even to make him go beddy-bye while the Change did its thing. No, he’d stayed awake through it all, clueless little princeling that he’d been, too busy dealing with an uprising among his nobles to concentrate on the really strange stuff happening to him. In the meantime, he’d stolen a few moments to visit my mother, because of course he had. Other than for the famous Basarab name, his diplomatic skills, and his position as second in command of the North American Vampire Senate, Mircea is mostly known for being a randy little bugger. Okay, a randy big bugger, since he’s six feet in his socks despite having been born in an age when a lot of guys barely hit my five feet two.

But daddy’s always been luckier than he deserved, like when his half living, half undead sperm engendered bouncing baby me. The fact that I did not come out with a tail, or any of the other legendary attributes of the misbegotten hybrids known as dhampirs, seems to surprise most vamps I meet. I suppose they think they’ll see one of us coming, a slouching monster announcing its penchant for vamp killing by its grotesque appearance and slathering maw. And instead get taken down by a petite, dark-haired, dimple-faced woman in jeans and a stylish leather jacket. That probably explains why the last expression on many a vamp’s face has been outraged disbelief. Kind of like the chief spy was wearing now. “What is wrong with you?” Marlowe demanded. I didn’t answer. My vision had stopped dancing and started flipping through a catalogue of new ways to see, some of which I couldn’t even name, although I recognized ultraviolet, infrared, and something that at first glance appeared to be grayscale. Until I looked up at Marlowe again.

“Woah,” I said originally, staring at the chief spy in what I guess was a less than sane way, because he scowled. “Get a grip!” “I have a grip,” I told him, still blinking in shock. At least, I was pretty sure. Unfortunately, I also had a consciousness split between my sort-ofhuman half and my full-bore vampire side, which had all kinds of abilities I don’t. And which I couldn’t access until very recently, thanks to the mental wall that Mircea had put in my mind when I was just a kid. Most dhampirs can’t reconcile their two natures and quickly go mad. Mircea had helped me avoid that fate by using some of his newly acquired vamp mental skills to separate the two halves of my brain. Namely into a mostly human side with a few bonus points in perception and reaction time, and a mostly vamp side with . well, who the hell knew, I thought, gazing at Marlowe, whose face had turned into what looked a lot like an x-ray. The recent demise of Mircea’s mental barrier, thanks to a psychedelic substance known as fey wine, had left me able to see a lot more than normal.

But this was new. Like, really new, I thought, staring at the bones in Marlowe’s face and neck, which were shining through the now mostly transparent skin. “Woah,” I said again softly, and touched his cheek. Marlowe flinched, which was fair considering the number of times we’d laid into each other over the years, but he didn’t pull away. Even when I ran a thumb over the long-healed crack in his left eye socket, where someone had belted him once, centuries ago, because a vampire would have healed that seamlessly in moments. So, it was from his human days, I thought, and the words had a weird mental echo, like someone else had had the same idea at the same time. That should have freaked me out, but my brain brushed it off, too busy examining the history of the man writ in his bones. The nose had been broken at some point, too; the cartilage was fine now, but the bones underneath told the story. Like several of the teeth spearing up into his gums, which were fake. He must have had them put in during modern times, because Elizabethan dentistry sucked.

The vampire fangs kept trying to push past them, but he pulled them back in, although he didn’t speak. I didn’t, either, but someone else did. “You were Pushed, yes?” Dorina’s voice slithered out of my mouth, lower, silkier, more naturally sibilant than mine. Marlowe twitched. I couldn’t see his eyes—we were still in x-ray mode—so I didn’t know what expression was in them. But the body I’d half crawled onto at this point suddenly got a lot stiffer. “I—what?” The voice sounded weird, too, kind of shrill. “Your master,” Dorina explained patiently—more so than I’d have expected from her. “She Pushed you, did she not?” I blinked, because that was news to me. It also explained a lot.

Most vamps are made the same way: bite, dirt nap, rebirth, baby stage, followed by a slow progression up the power ladder to wherever they eventually stall out, most at a level far below that of master. I’d never thought about it, but I’d always assumed that Marlowe had been created the same way, since there weren’t a lot of alternatives. Even those cursed instead of bitten progressed along the same path, just skipped that first bit. But there was one more possibility, although I’d never known anyone Changed that way. Maybe because most of those who attempt it end up burnt to a crisp. “Wait, you were Pushed?” I asked, and for some reason, Marlowe jerked again. “W-who is speaking?” he demanded. “What?” “Who is speaking to me right now?” “Uh, that last one was me,” I said, but it didn’t seem to help. In fact, it seemed to make things worse, judging from the way he was suddenly trying to crawl out from under us, and trying hard. Dorina stopped that with a hand on his shoulder, slightly pressing down.

“Master?” That was one of the vamps by the door. “Stay back,” Marlowe ordered, although his voice sounded a little strangled. “Are you sure? We can—” “Stay back, damn you!” They stayed back. Dorina traced a finger up Marlowe’s arm, following the line of bone. There were several layers of cloth between digit and skin, but it didn’t matter. Her vision laid everything bare, like one of those dissected bodies where you can see muscle and sinew and bone, all at once. “Yes, I see,” she murmured, and, suddenly, so could I. We leaned closer, fascinated by the craquelure of fractures that mapped the entire surface of his skeleton. They were strangely beautiful, a cobweb design slightly darker than the surrounding bone, etched into the very fabric of his body. They were crystalized now, solidified, set in something many times harder than steel.

But once . Once they’d been a hair’s breadth from shattering into a million pieces. “Your master took you to the brink,” Dorina confirmed, finally touching skin as our questing finger pushed aside the fabric at his collar. “Why?” The Adam’s apple moved up and down, a tell-tale sign of Marlowe’s discomfort. But to my surprise, he answered. “She needed a master.” “So she made one.” Dorina’s voice was thoughtful. “You did not mind?” Marlowe’s sudden laugh was cut off quickly, but it made me jump. He didn’t do a lot of laughing.

“No.” “Why? It could have killed you.” It had almost killed him, I thought, staring at unmistakable evidence of that fact. Not too strange, I guessed—the Push is hardcore. Instead of the small amount of power usually conveyed through the bite, to give the baby vamp something to use as a power source for the Change, in a Push, the floodgates are opened all the way, condensing what should take centuries into a matter of moments. And resulted, not in a baby, but in a brand-new master vampire. Or, at least, that was the theory. In reality, most bodies shatter and combust under that amount of power, which is why I’d never seen a successful Push, and I am considerably older than my twenty-something appearance would suggest. In fact, it’s so dangerous that it’s usually reserved for times of desperation, like a war, when more masters are needed pronto. I wondered why it had been done to Marlowe.

“Why?” Dorina asked again, echoing my thoughts, as she lowered us down to the skull, which abruptly shifted back to normal. Giving me a close up of a face that had always reminded me more of a Spaniard than an Englishman, with a slight golden hue to the skin, curls that were more black than brown, and thick, dark lashes around slightly heavy-lidded eyes that were usually whisky dark, but right now were reddish-brown fire.


PDF | Download

Buy me a coffee (;

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

PDF Kitap İndir | Pdf Libros Gratis

Forum.Pictures © 2018 | Descargar Libros Gratis | Kitap İndir |
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x