The Bitten / Chapter Ten

Chapter Ten


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Chapter Ten

"What's the matter, baby?" Damali murmured, stroking Carlos's chest.

Suddenly he lifted his head from her throat, and braced himself on his arms, listening, eyes scanning the room, every sense keened: After what seemed like an eternity, he kissed the bridge of her nose, then moved down her torso and planted a gentle kiss on her bare belly. "Two lower-level male vamps just tried a lock with me," he said, then rolled off of her and stood.

Instantly, he was dressed. "I'ma take a walk. You stay here," he said, firmly. "The two vamps have a bunch of human helpers with them. It might get ugly, and I haven't fed."

"I don't want to stay in here by myself," she said, studying him hard.

"You hungry?" he asked, glancing at her sideways.

She nodded.

"Get dressed, then. Tonight is as good a night as any for me to teach you how to hunt."

She hesitated, but found herself fully dressed before she could even look down. "You said they had human helpers..."

"Yeah," he replied. He hesitated. "If you're carrying precious cargo, you need to eat right, and learn how to do it without turning one of them."

She touched her belly with shaky fingers. He didn't respond. They both knew what time it was.

"I need to also show you how to control the dogs, if I'm away for a few hours. But I don't want you out too often. I'll bring the feeds to the lair for you. I'll take care of you, baby. Don't worry."

Damali stood there wondering. What had she done?

She could feel herself vacillating between wanting to follow him outside to do the unthinkable, and wanting to run shrieking into the night.

"I don't want to feed like that... Not until I know for sure - "

"Know what? If you've fully turned?" He stared at her hard.

His statement slapped her in the face. She took a deep breath.

"Baby, think about it," she said calmly. "I can't be carrying, if I'm turned."

He rubbed his jaw with his palm.

"And if I am already turned... wouldn't we have bigger problems than some low-level vamps sniffing around? Wouldn't you have to worry about the Vampire Council coming after you for turning their vessel?"

"True dat," he said, thoughtfully. "But, baby, you've definitely ripened." All of a sudden his head tilted and his nostrils flared.

"Will you forget about them, Carlos! They can't get in here. I've got other concerns right now. Look, my name would have burned into their books if I'd turned, you'd thought it yourself." She stared at him. Something wasn't right. Her turning and the Vampire Council's response should have been Carlos's top priority, but it wasn't. He was hiding something from her; she could feel it. What could be more important than the dark side losing its vessel?

She studied him hard and kept pushing him for answers. "If I've completely turned, all Hell would literally be breaking loose right now, and it's not. So, I'm not fully turned."

"Damned sure felt like it," he said and his voice sent a sensual shiver through her.

No, she was not going there with him again. They needed to talk. "This might have been a false ripening."

He shook his head, his gaze penetrating her. "No, baby, that I'm very clear about."

Her hand nervously rested on her abdomen. "If I'd conceived tonight, then wouldn't that register somewhere, too? Wouldn't the presence of a potential daywalker conception show up in the registers of Hell?"

Carlos crossed his arms over his chest. "After what I laid down tonight, you are pregnant as a jaybird, D. It might not have registered, yet, but I'm sure. Till I know otherwise, I'm treating you like you're carrying mine."

She opened her mouth and closed it again. She could not believe the macho bullshit coming out of this man's mouth. Half of her wanted laugh, it was so ludicrous, the other half of her wanted to punch him. She shook her head, but held her peace. Neither option at the moment would have been wise.

"Do me a favor," she said, exasperated. "Do the lower-level vamps - I'll even help you - but the humans, let them go. If you feed on them in my presence I'll - "

"What, D? Never speak to me again? Please," he said, gathering transport clouds about them. "Don't piss me off, woman. I'm not in the mood!"

"What?" She began to circle him, temporarily halting their transport. One hand went to her hip, while the other pointed at him. "Let's get one thing straight, Carlos. Pregnant or not, turned or not, you'd better cut the alpha male crap - now. I am not the one!"

"I hope Jose and Lopez are right," Rider said, checking the magazine in his gun. "Up till now, we've been real lucky - no cops, no public incidents, and now we're talking about running a Hum-V and two Jeeps through a gated community, taking out the south wall with a light shell and C4, and basically setting off what could be misconstrued as a terrorist action upon a private mansion. Anybody feeling me?"

No one in the platoon of warriors answered Rider, except Marlene.

"Blow the wall, Mike. I'm goin' in, with or without y'all, to get my baby girl."

There was nothing to say to this crazy man as she walked the perimeter of the mansion's upper balcony with him. The Hellhounds were baying in the distance and she rubbed her arms to stave off the creeps.

Out of nowhere, six lower-level male vampires appeared on the balcony. Damali braced herself for battle, but was shocked when Carlos walked over to one of them and hugged him.

"Talk to me," Carlos said.

"They got your cop," a tall, light-skinned vampire said. "You told us to watch your back, keep an eye out in the territory for anything shaky - and we did. Man, we heard the abduction, your marked man's energy dipped and his mind was screaming, and got to his house as fast as we could. It was definitely master energy lingering. Only thing left was his crucifix on the garage floor."

"Damn!" Carlos shouted. His gaze swept the bulked vamps.

Damali eyed the transaction. She was sure that she recognized the lead vamp from the drag race that had gone down at Carlos's old club. He was empire building, had made lieutenants. Fear collided with fury within her. This was not the man she thought she knew. She understood that he had territory to control, but somehow she could also feel that it was expanding. She and Carlos definitely needed to talk.

"We're picking up two lower levels with a human team coming toward your lair. Them, we can handle."

Carlos shook his head. "Me and my lady haven't fed yet. Leave them to us. We got this. See if you can find a tracer on which way they took the cop."

Panic coursed through Damali. She looked at Carlos's expression and noted how glassy his eyes looked. The man was obviously high, blitzed on Neteru. He wasn't making logical decisions. She already knew which cop they were probably talking about. He'd turned Berkfield, an innocent, into a vamp helper? When?

The leader of the small group nodded as Carlos flashed molten images of continents in the air with a wave of his hand. "Check the atmosphere. Dust from their lairs would have left a scent marker, Yonnie. I'll school you as we go along." With two snaps, the hounds were at Carlos's side, swooping in to land with a snarling thud. "They ate a coupla sniffers." He stroked one of the beast's head. "Bath Sheba, baby, tell Daddy where your dinner came from."

Again, red flaming continents appeared in the air. Damali watched in total awe as the extent of Carlos's powers, and the new hierarchy surrounding him, was revealed. The dogs sniffed the air, and bleated out agitated barks as their brutish snouts neared the apparition of Australia.

"Want us to take a team there?" the junior vamp asked.

Carlos shook his head. "Reinforce my territory borders here, in South America, and in the Caribbean. If some bullshit came across the water from the Aussie's camp, I will address it myself."

The small squad of vampires all nodded, and then vanished. Oddly, they hadn't reacted to any Neteru scent. Confusion throttled her. Carlos walked in an agitated circle. Damali just stared at him as his hounds also disappeared. Although they hadn't spoken upon it, the issue was burned into their awareness; finding the biblical key was paramount.

Suddenly an explosion rocked the house, and in two seconds Carlos was pure motion. He bound over the edge of the balcony, hovering in the air for a few seconds, before he transformed into a huge, black bat. She stared. Her man had turned into something with large leather wings and moved at a blurring speed, then had vanished. Something rational told her not to just try to leap behind him. The sixty-foot drop, alone, would kill her... maybe; or at the very least would shatter her legs. She had to take the long route—through the house, down the stairs, and out into the garden, running behind what she could no longer see.

"We're in!" Big Mike said.

"Yeah, and just gave the whole neighborhood and Rivera a heads-up that we are," Rider said.

Big Mike glanced over his shoulder. "Look alive, people. There's something growling, and it ain't vamp."

All eleven vampire hunters fanned out and formed a circle.

"It's animal," Shabazz said. "Could be were-demon, but its definitely canine." He glanced up into the trees, his gaze taking in the canopy of foliage. "And it's on the move."

J.L. nodded. "Multiples. I feel it."

"Noses, y'all got a read?" Shabazz asked.

Rider sniffed and said, "Sulfur. Definitely demon, real strong. But that ain't were-demon. Whatever it is, I've never picked it up before."

"Definitely," Jose said, double-checking his crossbow.

"All right," Shabazz said. "Let's move on the house easy. Everybody watch your back."

An overhead branch snapped and suddenly a large black blur dove at the teams, but landed and materialized several feet away. A six-foot wingspan pulled in sharply to a hulking, muscular body, and the creature crouched and waited, then began barking wildly as its eyes blazed gold. Frozen, the teams trained weapons on the snarling beast, as another one stalked out of the underbrush, its head lowered, leathery ears and wings back, slashing its razor tail wildly and brandishing dripping fangs.

"Everybody hold the line," Marlene said. "They haven't attacked."

"No, they haven't," Carlos said, coming out of the darkness, walking between the dogs. With a nod of his head, the animals backed up toward him, growling and snarling, but sat. "They already know you're off-limits. But provoke me tonight, and that can change."

"We just want Damali," Marlene said across the expanse between them.

Carlos studied his nails. "Then that presents a dilemma because so do I."

"For Christ's sake, you can't have her, Rivera!" Father Patrick yelled.

Immediately the dogs began barking, moving forward in a threatening stance. Everyone aimed at the creatures, but no one risked firing during the standoff.

"Watch your language, Father Pat," Carlos said coolly, tsking his tongue and making the dogs heel. He then motioned with his chin toward the distance. "Big Mike. Sirens, right?"

Mike grumbled and nodded.

"You gentlemen are going to have to learn to be more subtle when you want to call a meeting." Carlos smirked. "And your timing sucks."

Carlos sealed the south wall, and the sirens stopped. All he needed now were the cops. There'd be no way to restrain the dogs if a SWAT team, full of foreign scents, crossed over the property perimeter. Disorienting the authorities was more efficient.

"Where's Damali?" Marlene asked. "That's all we came for, that's all we're leaving with."

"She took the long way," Carlos said, sighing. "Stubborn as usual." He could hear her footfalls in the grass, and the dogs turned, making little whimpering noises of submission. "But she's staying here - her choice, not mine." He eyed them with a warning. "And I will back up her choice."

"We'll see," Shabazz said, his weapon still aimed and cocked. "Gotta hear it from her own mouth."

"The last place she's staying is with you, motherfucker," Jose said.

"Here's my problem with that," Carlos said evenly. "She called me when you people botched the purge job. I frankly don't see what the fucking hype is all about, or what's left to talk about, man. She made her choice." He began walking in Damali's direction, issuing a silent command for the dogs to stay. "And you've got some nerve bringing two real low-level vamps with you to track me while I'm with her. Total disrespect, 'Bazz, man... very uncool," he added, dismissing Jose's comment. "I thought we were beyond that."

Confusion wafted through the teams as Carlos's form disappeared.

"What's he talking about, Shabazz?" Big Mike muttered. "Two vamps with us?"

Imam Asula gripped his machete tighter. "This is a ruse to distract us from our mission to recover the huntress. Stand firm. Ignore his demonic trickery."

"Oh, so now I'm a liar," Carlos said loudly, coming back toward them with Damali in tow. "First of all, look for yourself. She's fine," he said, removing his arm from around her waist. "Second of all, how you gonna roll up on my lair with some eighth- or ninth-generation wanna-be vamps?" He shook his head and gazed at Jose and Father Lopez.

Damali remained very still. Whether what he said was true or not, she knew that Carlos was showing much restraint on her behalf, and the only reason that he hadn't wiped her team out was because he'd been temporarily sated, or perhaps because they were under his protective seal. At the moment, she wasn't sure. All she had to do was think back on the Nuit incident... if the team had tried a rescue two hours ago... She couldn't even allow her mind to complete the thought.

But just the brief flicker of the dead master's name in her thoughts made Carlos bristle. "Don't go there," he warned her. "Yeah, I'm being cool, so you can settle this family bullshit once and for all. But don't push me." He eyed her and then returned his attention to the posse in front of them.

"Brothers," Carlos said, his voice filled with disgust, "one hit of this would knock your head back and make your tired asses grow fangs. Do not ever try to mind lock with me when I'm with her!"

Members of the group moved back from Lopez and Jose. Their motions were steady, controlled. Uncertainty was trapped in their glances. Damali's hand rested on Carlos' forearm.

"Don't fuck with them because you're in a shitty mood, Carlos. They're still family, and they only came - "

He whirled on Damali and opened his arms, leaning down at her, as his voice got louder. "Why is it that I can never tell you anything? Huh? Why is that?"

"Because your ass is high," she shouted, pulling away from him. "I told you, watch your tone with me!"

He walked away from her and stood by his dogs, thoroughly outraged. "These brothers got a lock because we share the same freakin' DNA - by blood relatives, waaay back." He pointed at Lopez, and shook his head. "Your great-great-grandma got nicked in the old country, Padre, sorry to be the one to tell you... but back then in the villages," he said, glowering at Father Patrick, "they used natural methods to try to reverse a turn before the bitten died. She finally did die human, true, but the baby didn't—so there's a tracer."

"That is bullshit!" Shabazz said. "Don't let him get in your head, people." Shabazz looked around at the members of the group. "Don't let him divide and conquer us. That's how he got Damali!"

"You need to relax, hombre," Carlos said as he walked with his hands behind his back, satisfied by Jose's stricken expression. "D and I hooked up the old-fashioned way - no fraud necessary." He glanced at her, but couldn't read her expression. That concerned him. He tried to wipe the Neteru haze from his mind.

"All right," Carlos went on. "Then how did the Covenant find me in the desert?"

"Lopez was our tracker," Father Patrick said cautiously, glancing at his brother cleric.

"Right," Carlos spat. "My point exactly." He shook his head, so disgusted he was about to explode. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand. The night was calling him, Neteru was thick in it, and until her family showed up, Damali had been beyond comprehension in his arms... and the only reason he wasn't dropping a body was for this crazy woman! If that would get her back inside, being cool, chilled-out, and sexy mellow, then fine. So be it. But these bastards were burning up time.

He took a deep breath, and spoke to them like they were children. "If a master is at critical blood levels and is about to be extinguished, everything in his line aligned to him will scramble," Carlos said, beyond impatient with their stupidity. "Everything is designed for the preservation of the line - so when I was dying in Lopez's region, he could track and find me faster than anyone. But that's the only reason dude should have done a lock." He glared at the young man. "Fucked you up, too, didn't it, Padre? Just like that first night in the safe house. But I owe you for finding me." Carlos chuckled, thinking of what an eighth-generation must have gone through with a master lock. "And, damn, Jose, man... you're from 'round the way. You know better than to roll up on a man like that. That was a punk-ass move, if ever I saw one. She's mine. Get over it."

Jose's bristle made Carlos walk forward and the dogs growl. "I know you are not standing outside my lair trying to fucking challenge me for her? Are you that crazy?"

"Carlos," Damali said quietly, then raised her voice to also address the warrior teams. "Let's keep to the point. It's not even like that between me and Jose. What is wrong with you?"

She was too through, and Carlos seemed like he was too high to be totally rational. Anything could go down, but it was good that he kept talking, working it out in his head. Maybe the air would help dissipate the scent - that was the hope. She wanted to bring them both back to center, not have something crazy happen. But the sure thing was that if she said she was leaving now, in this state, he'd hurt somebody.

"All right," she told the group. "Let's assume that this generational vamp thing is true for a minute."

"Thank you," Carlos muttered. "Finally, progress."

She took her time to speak, monitoring the horror in Jose and Father Lopez's expressions. "Then, if this is true, Lopez was born with vamp trace elements but like Jose made the choice to be a Guardian. Their spirits are good, Carlos - nobody can be held responsible for what happened in the past before they were even born. And yeah, it might have made them more susceptible to certain leanings. Like I understand why Jose couldn't immediately shake Dee Dee's hold. But in the final analysis, baby, they made the right choice, to be who they are."

"See, Damali, there you go again, always twisting my words." He pointed at her, but he was looking at her teams as he spoke. "You see this? This is female logic, the most treacherous shit in the universe!"

"But she's right," Father Patrick said, his gaze galvanizing the teams. "Whatever Lopez or Jose's distant pasts, they made a choice. And, as you know, we had you marked for Guardian status. The reason we found Lopez so fast, as well as you - is because we, too, have a homing instinct to find our own when felled." His thick white brows knitted with suppressed anger. "And tonight we've come to reclaim at least one of our own!"

"Word," Shabazz said. "So save all the rhetoric, Rivera. We takin' baby girl outta here, and I don't care how Jose or Lopez got made as long as - "

"This is not open for negotiation," Carlos said evenly. He looked at Damali. "She's already made her choice."

"You tricked her," Jose said, pointing toward Carlos. "She would have never chosen - "

"Put your hand down," Carlos said between his teeth, "before I rip it off!"

"Carlos, stop!" Damali yelled, her hands going to his now massive biceps. "You hurt my people, and I'll tell you what my choice will be."

She looked at Carlos hard, and he shrugged away from her, but backed off.

"Fine," he muttered. "So long as you're clear about your choice."

"She's in no position to make a decision like that," Marlene said. "She's under the influence, and her system is in flux! You've polluted her, just like her bites have somehow given you a way to cross our thresholds like a male Neteru! What she gave you was good, what you gave her without her rational awareness or full understanding was - "

"No," Carlos shouted back. "What you people did was flat-line my baby - and she made the choice to survive!" He took two steps toward Marlene, the dogs growling at his heels, but Marlene never backed away. "You're her moms, so I'ma be respectful... but when your daughter came to me, she was code blue." He slapped the center of his chest. "She sucked in the first breath of returned life from my lungs, not yours, sis. I started her heart, made her blood flow, and vowed to never let you all put your hands on her again." He shook his head. "No, Mar. Girlfriend is making wise choices - she's in her full and right mind. I gave her something good - a second shot at the game - but you tried to kill her."

The night was so still, so quiet, that one could almost hear electricity crackle within it. Slowly, cautiously, Damali moved beside Carlos, and he pulled her to him hard, still glaring at Marlene.

"Baby," she said gently, her gaze going between the two drawn combat lines. Marlene's eyes looked so hurt and had such fury in them, she almost didn't know where to begin. Carlos's tight grip didn't help, because she knew he'd be beyond reason if she challenged the union in front of the teams. This was the rock and the hard place.

"Remember in the lair in Rio," Damali said as calmly as she could.

"Yeah," Carlos muttered. "Shoulda stayed in fucking Rio."

"When we sat on the beach and synchronized our breathing, our minds, and finally our hearts," she said tenderly, brushing a stray bit of hair behind his ear, watching him normalize.

"Yeah," he said, his tone low, private, his gaze now focused solely on her.

"And you know how much I don't want anybody in this to get hurt. Be gentle with Marlene, especially... and my brothers."

"All right," he said slowly. "I know. How could I forget? I felt it when your soul entered my empty space and started my heart, when my pulse fused with yours and lingered, baby." He lowered his forehead to hers and shut his eyes, completely relaxed and no longer at battle bulk. "You gave me your heartbeat."

"Damali," Marlene said firmly, not moving, as the team around her remained stone-still.

Carlos lifted his head and looked at Marlene. "Let it go, Mar. Can't you see where she wants to be?"

"Both of you, listen to me," Marlene said, her glances shared with Father Patrick. "You all did a ritual more dangerous than the bite. That's partly why her immune system is off... why she's literally turning and turning back, ripening, then going barren, and conversely, you're flashing male Neteru, then master, or some crazy combination that allows you to walk where you're not supposed to - just like it's making her do what she'd never dream of... your senses are off, Carlos, just like hers are. The mild scent she normally trails is probably enough to - "

"Knock his head back," Rider said, blowing out a long whistle. "His nose ain't no better than mine."

Carlos snarled. "Me and you, any day, motherfucker - but right now, I'm trying to hear some science - so shut up!"

He stepped back from Damali and moved toward Marlene. But his gesture wasn't threatening, just that of a man unnerved and seeking answers. He looked at Father Patrick.

"Carlos, give Marlene the Isis and send Damali home," Father Patrick said, quietly. "No more bites until we can figure this out." He looked at Marlene. "We thought the multiple bites challenged history - but I know this has never happened, much less ever been repaired."

"Her system probably could have handled the bites by itself," Big Mike said on a sigh. "It was the one-two punch, the combo. Shoulda known there was more to it than just that."

Big Mike and Shabazz lowered their weapons, as did the rest of the team.

"Now this is a true turn of events, if ever I saw one." Rider said, lowering his weapon arm, too. "What, we've gotta purge the Light out of this bastard to get him out of her system? Somebody on this team shoot me."

Carlos and Damali exchanged a nervous glance. Something in the team's disposition had clearly changed, just like it had within theirs.

"You had no heartbeat before, right?" Marlene said firmly. "She entered your dark space where your soul was supposed to reside, and took all of that darkness out into hers with it - along with a lot of the powers." Marlene's voice escalated in a slow rise as she spoke. "And her light warmed you from the inside out. I bet you've had a human pulse ever since." Marlene waited for Carlos to slowly nod. "And when you restarted her heart - what did you do?" She pressed on, not waiting for his answer. "You probably hoped her back to life, gave her your breath, and everything you had in you - on a prayer."

His dogs backed away from him, snarling and snapping. Carlos backed away from Marlene to stand beside Damali, his glances at her unsure. If it ever got out that he'd prayed over this woman... and did a soul transfer...

"I could stay half-vamp and have the blood hunger, the lust and still not be dead, or suddenly go into a ripening and start a vamp civil war? I thought I had seven years?" Damali was breathing hard. "I have to stay human with the missing - "

Father Patrick held up his hand at the same time Carlos did, stopping Damali's words.

"Not out here in the open," Carlos warned. Both Marlene and Father Patrick nodded in agreement.

All the issues hit her at once. "Marlene, what if I don't cast an image on stage, or, wake up one day to go out to run an errand, and sun bake!"

"That's what I'm saying, Mar," Carlos said pulling Damali near him. "This shit's gotta be clear cut. She can't be going back and forth, not knowing. My damned nerves can't take it, either. If she shows up in the registers again as a full turn - all Hell will literally break loose. And if she has a false ripening... no, that can't happen. There are four other masters topside, with full regions in Europe, Asia - what-the-fuckeva, and my territory is bled out from the last wars - and all I've got backing me up to protect her is two Hell-dogs and a team of new, remade seconds. That ain't worth shit against four masters and their armies. Plus, this other issue, which we need to speak on under closed circumstances, is going to require both of us to be on top of our game."

He walked away from her, and raked his hair hard. "I mean, for real... I can't be going down to council chambers like that, either - or have my nose, or any other sense off. What if my transport stalls in an emergency situation? Or if I go into a battle and have my power outright fail - not be able to drop fang because I have some punk-ass Guardian shit in my system. Aw, hell no..."

When Damali touched his arm, he shrugged away from her touch.

"Where I have to roll, that's beyond dangerous - and with the kinda forces that eventually could go after her," he said, motioning to Damali, "girlfriend has to be on her toes at all times. Can't have a fluctuating daylight problem. She has to know for sure."

"Now you see our point," Marlene said, drawing out each word. "But before, we old folks couldn't tell you - "

"Mar," Carlos shouted, pointing at her as his nerves snapped.

"I've still got a lotta vamp in me, sis. Don't say it, because all I know is - I knew what my bite would do to her, based on what you all told me... which was supposed to be nothing!" He glanced at Damali, ignoring her hurt expression. It was the truth. "And based on trust, pure trust alone, I let her do something to me that fucked us both up! So don't stand on my property telling me shit, Marlene, but I'm sorry!"

"This is crazy, Marlene," Shabazz said. "I never thought I'd want a vampire to get back his full faculties, but this is - "

"Fix it!" Carlos yelled. "Marlene Stone, you taught her how to do this, now teach her the reverse for the cure!"

"You two are inextricably linked, at the moment. Probably always have been, which is the other part of our problem, but I'll deal with that later." Marlene wiped her face and sighed long and hard.

"Aw'ight," Carlos said after a while, his cool facade totally gone. "So though the exchange had the desired effect, it helped her, right? She's alive. I just need you to break down what else all this means. How bad is it really?"

"Correct, it helped her live," Marlene replied, her gaze narrowing. "But it's bad. Real bad. The purge almost killed her because you are in her system at the heart chakra level - that's why she flat-lined, brother. If she goes into a vampire episode, even though she probably never died as required for that to happen, we can't bring her out of it. The vampire state will have to pass on its own and we'll never know the duration of it."

"Why not? If she hasn't died, there are slow healing methods - "

"No, Carlos. Not an option. When we purge, we're killing, extinguishing the vampire in her and the virus is in her heart. So she'll flat-line, not because we're amateurs! So don't you ever go there again. Got it?"

Fired up, Marlene paused, and when Carlos didn't challenge her, but instead looked off toward the line of trees, she continued. "It means that no matter what you see manifest, it's temporary, most likely. It means that if she bears fangs and blows your mind, brother, she's no fully turned female master. Unless you happen to accidentally kill her one night while y'all are playing too rough! And it means that if you happen to get a whiff of my daughter ready to conceive, it's placebo, and you'd better keep your hands off her and bring her home! She has work to do!"

Marlene walked in a hot circle, her face flushed from fury. She whirled on Damali. "The things I taught you were never supposed to be used under these circumstances. Are you crazy? The vampires have the bite, but we trained seers have something, too, sister-girl, and our Ju Ju is just as deadly, is supposed to be used under very controlled circumstances. Not played with in some house on the beach. I taught you better than that!"

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