The fifth book in the Blood Dragon series.
“Arty! Arty, no! Bad kitty! Bad!”
The said feline shot through the house with the piece of relic dangling from its mouth. Jenny was the scolder and also the leader chaser of the fiendish creature. Cate was close on her heels with Sarah, breathing hard, bringing up the rear.
They cornered the feline in the kitchen which had only two exits, that of the back door and the doorway into the dining room. Jenny skidded to a stop in the doorway and Cate slammed into her back. Sarah stumbled into Cate, sandwiching the young girl between them.
Jenny held up a hand as her eyes remained fixed on the cat that was huddled in a corner against the cupboards. “You guys stay here. I’ll get it. If I don’t come back in ten minutes send reinforcements.” Cate nodded. Sarah rolled her eyes.
Jenny crept forward and stretched out one hand. “Here, Arty. Come on, Arty. Give Auntie Jenny the pretty piece of possessed jewelery.”
Arty plopped her tush down on the linoleum floor and stared unblinkingly at Jenny, but the end of her tail twitched in a threatening manner. Jenny crept closer and closer, her arms spread out on either side of her to block the escape routes. She stopped two feet from her target. They stared at each other with baited breaths, each waiting for the other to make their move.
Jenny pounced and stretched out her arms. Arty pounced, too, but upward, so that Jenny crashed head-first into the cabinets. Arty landed on her back and scrambled across her toward the doorway. She lost her footing when Jenny became transparent and fell onto the linoleum with more claw and not enough pad.
There was a lot of running in place before Jenny twisted around and grabbed Arty around the middle. She lifted the pissy pussy in the air and laughed. “Take that, cat!”
“Oh Arty!” Cate scolded the cat as she hurried forward. She pulled the relic from the feline’s mouth and gave the cat a whack on the head. “Naughty kitty! Naughty!”
Arty hung her head and meowed. Cate’s hardened heart melted and she scratched the cat under the chin. “I’m sorry, Arty, but you shouldn’t have taken it.” A purr rumbled from the cat’s throat.
Jenny rolled her eyes and held out the feline to her mistress. “Take her before I throw up.”
“You’re just a curious little kitty, aren’t you, Arty?” Cate cooed as she switched the relic for the cat.
“Curious and evil,” Jenny added as she flipped the relic over in her hand. “Ruthven was supposed to have hidden this thing good.”
“It’s ‘well,’” Sarah scolded her as she stopped her eternal watch of the doorway and joined them in the corner of the kitchen.
Jenny shrugged. “Good. Well. Whatever. I guess it’s none of those things if a cat could find it.”
Sarah took a seat on one of the stools that surrounded the island and leaned her arm over the top. “Maybe he hid it beneath her food bowl.”
Jenny snorted. “Don’t start stealing my lines, Sar. I’m the funny one around here, and-” she paused and scrutinized her friend with a squinted gaze. “You don’t look so good.”
Sarah’s face was pale, and her hand atop the island shook a little. Sarah grasped her hand into a fist and smiled at her. “I’m fine.”
Jenny slipped around Cate and shoved her face into that of her old friend. “You sure you’re okay? You’ve been getting tired a lot lately.”
Sarah leaned back and glared at her. “I’m fine, and stop looking at me like I’m going to sprout fangs at any moment.”
Jenny narrowed her eyes at Sarah. “Maybe you will. Then we’ll have to feed Arty to you.” The cat stood up in its mistress’ arms and hissed at Jenny.
“Jenny!” Cate scolded her.
Jenny glanced over her shoulder at the feline and arched an eyebrow. “I swear that thing can understand what I’m saying.”
“It’s probably the tone you used,” Sarah suggested as she snatched the relic from Jenny in her distraction. She raised it level with her face and studied the two sides. “I wonder what this thing does.”
Jenny snorted. “I just want to know how many pieces we’re going to have to find.”
“Three,” Sarah reminded her.
“And how do you know that, teacher?”
“Because there’s three clues, so we can guess there’s three pieces,” Sarah pointed out.
“What are the other clues again?” Cate spoke up.
Sarah wrinkled her brow in concentration. “Avery said-”
“I can’t believe we’re believing that creep. . .” Jenny muttered.
“We don’t have a choice, now don’t interrupt me,” Sarah scolded her. “Avery said the first one, Joshua, was a park. He said the second name, Jeremiah, was a business, and the third one, Ruth, he didn’t get to find out before-” the memories of that fateful night made Sarah give pause and shudder.
Jenny pursed her lips and wrap an arm around her friend’s shoulders. “Easy there, Sar. That’s in the past.”
Sarah opened her eyes and gave her friend a shaky smile. “Yeah, I guess, but sometimes the memory’s so real that it feels like just yesterday.”
“Well, I’m not going to let anything happen to you, so you just stop worrying,” Jenny assured her.
Sarah set her hand atop that of her friend and gave a nod. “Thanks. Really.”
Arty nestled into Cate’s arm as the young girl stroked her back with a pensive expression on her face. “So I guess the next place we’d have to go to is something with the name Jeremiah in it. That should be easy.”
“Or maybe it’s a shop with an owner by the name of Jeremiah,” Sarah pointed out.
Cate’s face fell. “Then that’ll take forever to find.”
“I’ve got time,” Jenny quipped.
Sarah rolled her eyes. “You might, but I’d rather not go looking through the business book looking for-” She paused and lifted her gaze to the ceiling. A faraway look spread over her eyes as her lips parted in a soft whisper. “Already time. . .”
Jenny leaned back and studied her friend with a frown. “What are you talking about, Sar? Already time for what?”
Sarah turned without reply and walked out of her hold toward the doorway that led into the dining room. Her expression was a mixture of serenity and eagerness.
“Sar-” Jenny reached out her hand to catch her friend’s shoulder, but Cate’s soft voice stopped her.
“Don’t.” Jenny paused and looked over her shoulder at the young girl. Cate’s usually smiling face held a sorrowful expression as her downcast eyes studied the feline that purred contently in her arms. “She needs to go to him.”
Jenny frowned. “Again? Is she going to need to see him every time he gets up from his coffin nap?”
Cate didn’t raise her eyes as she shook her head. “I don’t know, but Adam told me about the bond between a vampire and someone who drank their blood. It’s one of the most powerful bonds in the world. Even most magic bonds aren’t that tight. So you see she can’t really help herself. She needs to go to him. It’s what her blood wants.”
“But does she get a say in it?” Jenny snapped as she waved her hand at where their friend had disappeared. “What if she doesn’t want to be a zombie at every sunset?”
Cate bit her lower lip and hugged Arty tighter against her chest. “I. . .I think it’s what she wants.”
Jenny’s jaw dropped to the floor. “What she wants? To be a zombie every evening?”
Cate looked up and met Jenny’s incredulous gaze. “I don’t think the bond would be this strong to call her to him every sunset if she didn’t want it to go to him.”
Jenny stood frozen for a moment before her face fell. She dropped her arms limp to her sides and hung her head. “You’re right. I haven’t been fair to Sar.”
Cate tilted her head to one side and raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
Jenny slipped backward onto one of the bar stools and sighed. “Sar’s stronger than she puts on. If she didn’t want to be pushed around, I don’t think even a vampire’s blood could get her to lift a finger.”
“But what about that time with the thing that protected the relic?” Cate pointed out.
Jenny raised her head and held up the piece of relic in front of her face to examine the faces. A frown graced her lips as she narrowed her eyes at the object. “I may not have as much know-how about the supernatural world as I should, but my spirit senses are telling me that this thing breaks all the rules.” She pocketed the relic and hopped off the stool. “Well, I guess we’ll go greet those two night-owls, too.”
They strode from the room and rejoined Sarah in the foyer. She stood at the bottom of the steps with her eyes upturned to the top. Footsteps from upstairs told the other two that it was just past sunset, and soon Ruthven and Adam appeared at the top of the steps.
Adam’s gaze fell on Sarah and a soft smile slipped onto his lips. “Good evening,” he greeted her.
She nodded. “Hi.”
Jenny drew the relic from her pocket and waved it above her head. “You need to find a better hiding spot, Ruthy!”
He arched an eyebrow as he descended with Adam at his back. “How did you find it?”
“We didn’t,” Sarah spoke up as she jerked a thumb at the tell-tale tailed creature in Cate’s arms. Arty lifted her chin and gave a self-satisfied meow.
Ruthven studied the feline with a frown. “I must remember to find a spot that will spring a trap of cold water on any intruders.”
“And dry them into a puff ball,” Jenny suggested which earned her a hissing spit from the cat. Her eyes flickered to Sar and she noticed Adam stood a little too close to her old friend. “But anywho, what’s up for the agenda tonight? Another relic to hunt down?”
“We are waiting for the results of Maeve’s tests on the blood supplied by my new tenant,” Ruthven reminded her.
Jenny crossed her arms over her chest and frowned. “Maybe we should’ve handed him over, too. He’s probably more trouble than he’s worth.”
“He’s one less Saint we have to deal with,” Adam pointed out.
Jenny whipped her head around and turned her ire on him. “Yeah, and how many do we have left, huh? A dozen?”
“There’s three others,” a voice spoke up. Everyone’s attention returned to the top of the stairs. Amand stood there with one hand on the banister and a grim look on his face. He joined them at the bottom of the stairs. “There’s only four of us.”
“Then the odds are in our favor,” Ruthven mused.
“Four Saints, and three of their dragon buddies,” Jenny reminded him.
“I don’t count in that group anymore,” Amand argued.
“Maybe you do to me,” she snapped back.
Amand glared at her. “Did you already forget that I lost Gerty? That bastard Michael sent us in there to die, and I’m not going to switch sides back to him any time soon.”
“Maybe we don’t need you around here anymore, either,” Jenny growled.
Adam stepped between them and held up his hands in front of each of them. “Easy there. This isn’t going to help anything.”
“Maybe you’re the one not helping anything!” Jenny snapped.
A quiet voice interceded. “Jenny.” The voice was that of Sarah. She wrapped her arms around one of Jenny’s and drew her chest-heaving friend from the fray. “You need to calm down.”
Jenny spun around and grasped Sarah’s arms. “Calm down? Calm down? When my best friend is slowly turning into a fiend and I’m almost outwitted by a damn cat? And you still want me to calm down?”
Sarah nodded. “Yes.”
Jenny set one hand on her friend’s shoulder and dropped her other hand to her side as she hung her head. “Only for you, Sar, only for you.”
Ruthven cleared his throat. “Back to the subject at hand, I believe Maeve is due any minute with the results of the blood test.”
There came a knock that echoed through the small foyer. Adam walked through the crowd and over to the front door which he opened. The walk was deserted. He furrowed his brow and half-turned to the curious company. “Did you-”
The knock came again, louder and sharper. A smile slipped onto Ruthven’s lips before he chuckled. “I believe you answered the wrong door.”
He strode over to the closet door and opened the portal. On the other side stood Maeve, and behind her was the ever-smiling Avery. At their backs was a dingy alleyway. Maeve stepped through the portal with Avery and smiled at the group.
“Do I have some good news and bad news for you guys.”