Tainted Night, Tainted Blood - By E. S. Moore

1

The body lay crumpled in the driveway—a heap of cloth that could have been anything if not for the distinctive smell that drifted on the light breeze. If I had simply been driving by, minding my own business, I might not have even noticed it. It was halfway up the paved drive, almost blended in with the darkness.

But I had been looking for it, and the corpse assured me I was in the right place.

Countess Telia was known for her cruelty. She hadn’t been active very long, at least as a minor power of her own. She was the head of one of the newest Fledgling Houses and a vampire who tortured dozens of Purebloods to the point of insanity just for the fun of it. Once she was done with her playthings, she would release them, letting her victims return to their families to suffer their final days crippled and mindless.

It appeared this time she had gone too far.

I parked my modified Honda DN-01 just off the road and hid it behind some trees. The motorcycle was completely black, including the piping, so it would be hard for anyone who wasn’t expressly looking for it to see it. Even a vampire would have a hard time picking it out of the shadows.

A dog barking in the distance was the only sound as I slipped into the brush. I crouched down, listening and watching for any sign of pursuit. House Telia was deep within vampire-controlled territory, so the chances of someone spotting me were actually pretty good. I wanted to make sure none of the local vamps or wolves decided to follow the girl on the motorcycle in the hopes of having a little fun.

As far as I could tell, no one had followed me. I breathed a sigh of relief and drew my sword. The demon-crafted blade shone in the moonlight, but I was pretty sure it wouldn’t matter now. By the time Telia saw me coming, it would be too late.

The gun came next. My modified Glock 17 fit comfortably in my hand. The bullets were made of silver, and thanks to Ethan’s modifications, they wouldn’t pass all the way through a supe’s body. They moved too slowly for that.

I rose from my crouch, careful not to let my leather creak in the all-too-silent night. I was dressed in full-on black. It was my usual work attire. It just wouldn’t do to run around fighting vampires wearing a white T-shirt and jeans. I had an image to keep up.

I slipped from the cover of the trees and started up the driveway. The body was just a hump on the paved surface, barely discernible as anything other than a pile of bloody rags. I could smell death on the air and knew this victim had been tortured to the point where there would probably be little left.

I approached, wary nonetheless. Even though I was pretty sure the victim was dead, I nudged her with my foot and touched the silver blade to her flesh to be sure.

Nothing happened.

The dead girl’s shirt was shredded in the front and there was blood everywhere. She had been torn from groin to sternum by what looked to be werewolf claws. It wasn’t exactly Telia’s style, but I wouldn’t put it past her to give a young girl like this to one of her wolves. She had to keep her minions loyal somehow.

Countess Telia was new, a recent break-off from one of the Major Houses. Mikael Engelbrecht, my snitch, hadn’t been able to tell me which Major House she had come from, but he implied it was one of the biggies. He would have told me more, but he was in the pay of the House that Countess Telia once belonged to, so he refused to divulge any more than he had to. I didn’t like it, but I had to respect his loyalty to his customers, especially since I was one of them.

Still, that didn’t stop him from telling me about Telia’s exploits, how she had cut the arms and legs off one of her victims and dumped him outside his home, his wounds sewn closed so he wouldn’t bleed out. His tongue and eyelids had been removed, as were his nipples, ears, and any other dangly bits that she could get to with a knife. He survived in body, although his mind was long gone.

Why she hadn’t been killed by the Major House she ditched was beyond me. Vampires didn’t like it when

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