"Goddamn it, Zsadist! Don't jump - "
Phury's voice barely carried over the sound of the car crash in front of them. And didn't stop his twin from leaping free of the Escalade while the thing was going fifty miles an hour.
"V, he's out! One-eighty us!"
Phury's shoulder slammed against the window as Vishous sent the SUV into a controlled skid. The headlights swung around and caught Z rolling on the snow-covered asphalt in a ball. Split second later he sprang to his feet and hauled ass, gunning for the steaming, crumpled sedan that now had a pine tree for a hood ornament.
Phury kept an eye on his twin and went for his seat belt. The lessers they'd chased out to Caldwell's rural edges might have just had their ride screwed by the laws of physics, but that didn't mean they were out of commission. Those undead bastards were durable.
As the Escalade heaved to a stop, Phury popped his door while going for his Beretta. No telling how many lessers were in the car or what kind of munitions they had. The vampire race's enemies traveled in packs and were always armed?em>Holy hell! Three of the pale-haired slayers got out, and only the driver looked wobbly.
The goat-fuck odds didn't slow Z down. Suicidal maniac that he was, he headed right for the undead triangle with nothing but a black dagger in his hand.
Phury tore across the road, hearing Vishous pound it out behind him. Except they weren't needed.
As silent flurries swirled in the air, and the sweet smell of pine mingled with leaking gas from the busted car, Z took down all three lessers with just the knife. He sliced the tendons behind their knees so they couldn't run, broke their arms so they couldn't fight back, and dragged them across the ground until they were lined up like gruesome dolls.
Took four and a half minutes tops, including stripping them of their IDs. Then Zsadist paused to catch his breath. As he looked down at the oil spill of black blood smudged across the white snow, steam rose from his shoulders, a curiously gentle mist teased by the cold wind.
Phury holstered the Beretta on his hip and felt nauseous, like he'd hammered a six-pack of bacon grease. Rubbing his sternum, he looked left, then right Route 22 was dead quiet this time of night and this far outside of Caldwell proper. Human witnesses were unlikely. Deer didn't count.
He knew what was coming next. Knew better than to try to stop it.
Zsadist knelt down over one of the lessers, his scarred face distorted with hatred, his ruined upper lip curled back, his fangs long as a tiger's. With his skull-trimmed hair and the hollows under his cheekbones, he looked like the Grim Reaper; and like death, he was comfortable working in the cold. Wearing only a black turtleneck and loose black pants, he was more armed than dressed: The Black Dagger Brotherhood's signature blade holster crisscrossed over his chest, and two more knives were strapped on his thighs. He also sported a gun belt with two SIG Sauers.
Not that he ever used the nine-millimeters, though. He liked to get personal when he killed. Actually, it was the only time he ever got close to anyone.
Z grabbed the lesser by the lapels of its leather jacket and jerked the slayer's torso off the ground, getting mouth-to-mouth tight.
"Where is the female?" When there was no answer other than an evil laugh, Z coldcocked the slayer. The crack echoed through the trees, a stark sound like a branch snapping in half. "Where is the female?"
The slayer's mocking grin jacked Z's rage so high he became his own arctic circle. The air around his body grew magnetically charged and colder than the night. Snowflakes no longer fell anywhere near him, as if they disintegrated in the force of his anger.
Phury heard a soft rasp and glanced over his shoulder. Vishous was lighting up a hand-rolled, the tattoos around his left temple and the goatee around his mouth getting highlighted in the orange glow.
At the sound of another fist pop, V took a deep drag and shifted his diamond eyes over. "You okay there, Phury?"
No, he wasn't. Z's savage nature had always been the stuff of a morality tale, but lately he'd become so violent he was hard to watch in action. The bottomless, soulless pit of him had been on a rampage ever since Bella had been abducted by the lessers.
And still they hadn't found her. The Brothers had no leads, no info, no nothing. Even with Z's hard-core questioning.
Phury was a mess about the abduction. He hadn't known Bella for long, but she'd been so lovely, a female of worth from the highest level of aristocracy within the race. Though to him she'd been more than her lineage. So much more. She'd reached beyond his vow of celibacy to the male beneath the discipline, stirring up something deep. He was as desperate as Zsadist to find her, but after six weeks, he'd lost faith that she'd survived. The lessers were torturing vampires for information on the Brotherhood, and like all civilians, she'd known little about the Brothers. Surely she would have been killed by now.
His only hope was that she hadn't endured days and days of hell before she went unto the Fade.
"What did you do with the female?" Zsadist growled to the next slayer. When all that came back at him was a "Fuck you," Z pulled a Tyson and bit the bastard.
Why Zsadist cared about a missing civilian female, no one in the Brotherhood could understand. He was known for his misogyny... hell, he was feared for it. Why Bella mattered to him was anyone's guess. Then again, no one, not even Phury, as his twin, could predict the male's reactions.
While echoes of Z's brutal work cut through the isolation of the forest, Phury felt himself cracking under the interrogation even as the lessers stayed strong and gave up no information.
"I don't know how much more of this I can take," he said under his breath.
Zsadist was the only thing he had in his life other than the Brotherhood's mission to protect the race against the lessers. Every day Phury slept alone, if he slept at all. Food gave him little pleasure. Females were out because of his celibacy. And every second he was worried about what Zsadist would pull next and who would get hurt in the process. He felt like he was dying from a thousand cuts, slowly bleeding out. A target by proxy for all his twin's murderous intent.
V reached out with a gloved hand and clasped Phury's throat. "Look at me, my man."
Phury glanced over and cringed. The brother's left eye, the one with the tattoos around it, dilated until there was nothing but a black void.
"Vishous, no... I don't..." Shit. He didn't need to hear about the future right now. Didn't know how he would handle the fact that things were only going to get worse.
"The snow falls slowly tonight," V said, rubbing his thumb back and forth over a thick jugular vein.
Phury blinked as an odd calm came over him, his heart slowing to the rhythm of his brother's thumb. "What?"
"The snow... it falls so slowly."
"Yes... yes, it does."
"And we've had a lot of snow this year, haven't we?"
"Yeah... lot of snow, and there's going to be more. Tonight. Tomorrow. Next month. Next year. The stuff comes when it comes and falls where it will."
"That's right," Phury said softly. "There's no stopping it."
"Not unless you're the ground." The thumb stopped. "My brother, you don't look like the earth to me. You're not stopping him. Ever."
A series of pops and flashes broke out as Z stabbed the lessen in the chest and the bodies disintegrated. Then there was only the hiss from the shattered car's radiator and the heavy pump of Z's breathing.
Like a wraith he rose from the blackened ground, the blood of lessers streaking his face and his forearms. His aura was a shimmering haze of violence that warped the scenery behind him, the forest beyond him wavy and indistinct where it bracketed his body.
"I'm going downtown," he said, wiping his blade on his thigh, "to look for more."
Right before Mr. O went back out hunting for vampires, he released the clip from his nine-millimeter Smith & Wesson and eyed the inside of the barrel. The gun was overdue for a cleaning, and so was his Glock. He had other shit he wanted to do, but only an idiot let his heat degrade. Hell, lessers had to be on top of their weapons. The Black Dagger Brotherhood was not the kind of target you wanted to get sloppy with.
He walked across the persuasion center, making a little detour around the autopsy table they used for their work. The one-room layout had no insulation and a dirt floor, but because there were no windows, the wind was mostly kept out. There was a cot that he slept on. A shower. No toilet or kitchen because lessers didn't eat. Place still smelled of fresh boards, because they'd built it only a month and a half ago. Also smelled of the kerosene heater they used to warm it up.