Trolling the streets in a car was worthless. Being effective required walking and watching.
Slade glanced over at Julian. He still wasn’t nuts about the guy, but for his sister’s sake, he tried really hard to avoid hostility.
But it didn’t mean he liked Julian one bit better. The bastard was the cause of the rift between him and Saranna. How could he be expected to let that go?
But he didn’t want the situation between him and the newbie vampire to worsen. He didn’t know if he could stand it if Saranna completely severed their relationship.
He’d already lost her. They would never be close like they had been before the blond son of a bitch had come into their lives.
It broke his heart. Not that he would ever admit it. He would never completely heal from the loss of the only person who had loved him unconditionally through the years.
The sounds of a fight filtered through his thoughts. Ashton and Julian stopped, bringing him up with them.
“Vampires going at it,” Ashton said. “Come on, let’s see what’s up.”
Young males were often attacked and killed by older vampires who saw the youngsters as nothing more than competition for food and females. A male wasn’t safe from his own kind until he passed his mid-twenties. More than likely, they were going to interrupt someone from his dinner.
They loped in the direction of the confrontation. It took only minutes to home in and find the source of the ruckus.
Ahead of them, two vampires struggled on the sidewalk. Human pedestrians crossed the street, giving the combatants a wide berth.
“Hold up,” Ashton barked and slowed.
The larger vampire had his opponent pinned. Snake fast, he sank his fangs into the smaller vampire’s throat, but he didn’t drink. He slashed with his teeth and let go, only to bite again, driving his teeth into the vampire’s shoulder.
The smaller male struggled frantically, trying to shove the heavier male off him.
“Hey, you,” Ashton shouted. “Get the hell off him.”
The aggressor looked up.
The vampire snarled.
“Holy shit!” Slade said.
Long strings of saliva dripped from his bared fangs. His eyes were wild, yet blank. He looked at them, but appeared to look right through them. His hair lay in dirty hunks. Filth coated his clothing as if he’d been lying in dirt. He visibly shook, even while his stance was aggressive.
Both males were young, probably still in their teens. But they weren’t engaged in childish squabbling.
“He’s gonna kill him,” Julian said.
“Maybe,” Ashton said. “If we don’t diffuse this. Be careful. We don’t know what’s wrong with him.”
The three of them moved forward.
The vampire snarled and leapt off the blood-covered smaller male. Now the aggressor focused solely on them. His former victim sprang to his feet and tore down the street.
Slade and Julian flanked him.
He whipped his head back and forth, snake-like. He hissed and dropped into a crouch. Then, instead of attacking, he spun and tore off the same way his victim had gone.
“Shit, get him,” Ashton shouted.
They took off after the youngster, who was astonishingly fast. He was already out of sight, but he was bleeding and leaving a path they easily tracked to a vacant building.
Ashton put his shoulder to the pocked and rusted metal door. It gave under his assault and they piled inside.
The stench of mildew and rotting refuse was overwhelming. Even with broken out windows, the place reeked.
They stood in a lobby. It was an apartment building, probably with twenty or so units. The once white walls were scarred and covered with spray paint. The linoleum was torn away in places and scarred in others.
There was no need to break up to search for the youngster. A blood trail dotted the floor to the falling-apart stairs at the opposite end of the room. They followed it to the third floor and down the hall to the last room.
Ashton tried the door. Locked. But it gave to his shoulder same as the outside door had.
The slobbering youngster was backed into a corner. He growled and saliva ran from his mouth in long strings. His coat had bloodstains and blood still ran from under his sleeve from an out-of-sight wound.
Slade dove on him, taking them to the concrete.
Ashton and Julian sprang onto the pile of flailing arms and legs and quickly pinned the vampire on his back. He struggled hard, but he wasn’t strong enough to outdo the three of them, and finally, they subdued the growling, frothing youngster. He snaked his head forward and tried to bite, but he couldn’t reach any of them.
With a curse, Ashton landed a blow to the young male’s temple, knocking him out cold. He picked the youngster up and slung him over his shoulder. “Come on. Jason needs to take a look at him.”
Had Ashton lost his mind as well? “Kill him,” Slade said. “Jason doesn’t need a raving lunatic to deal with. He’s not a fighter, he’s a doctor.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ashton said.
“I don’t think Jason can handle him. We can’t afford to take a killing machine to the only doctor around here.”
“Christ, Slade, he’s a doctor, but he’s also capable of defending himself. Have a little faith in him.”
“Not a good idea.”
“He needs to be gone over by Jason.”
“Jason can examine his corpse.”
“No. And that’s that.”
Slade stifled a growl. What the fuck was Ashton thinking? The doctor wasn’t going to be able to deal with this kid. And if they lost Jason, they’d be in trouble. Not to mention all the others who depended on the doctor.
But the decision wasn’t his to make. Son of a bitch. “And just how do you propose we get him there?” Slade said. “I’m not riding shotgun with him, and I don’t think Julian’s going to go for it either.”
“Uh, no,” Julian said. “I’m not hanging out with Old Yeller.”
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