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Authors: Christine Cody

In blood we trust

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Table of ContentsTitle PageCopyright PageDedicationAcknowledgements Chapter 1Chapter 2 - MariahChapter 3 - MariahChapter 4 - GabrielChapter 5 - StampChapter 6 - MariahChapter 7 - GabrielChapter 8 - The OldsterChapter 9 - GabrielChapter 10 - MariahChapter 11 - MariahChapter 12 - GabrielChapter 13 - StampChapter 14 - MariahChapter 15 - GabrielChapter 16 - The OldsterChapter 17 - StampChapter 18Chapter 19 - MariahChapter 20 - GabrielChapter 21 - MariahChapter 22 - StampChapter 23 - The OldsterChapter 24 - GabrielChapter 25 - MariahChapter 26 - StampChapter 27 - GabrielChapter 28 - MariahChapter 29 - Gabriel Ace Books by Christine CodyPraise forBLOODLANDS“Effectively merges science fiction, horror, and the classic Western . . . [a] spectacular trilogy launch. Ingeniously subverting traditional themes, Cody skillfully builds nearclaustrophobic suspense, finally revealing the true nature of monstrosity.”—Publishers Weekly(starred review) “A world of monsters that takes the reader on many plot twists and turns. Keep[s] you guessing until the very end. This is one to pick up.”—Night Owl Reviews “An excellent novel that touches on a dystop[ian] potential future,Bloodlandsdepicts the gritty nature of survival and secrecy, and sets fire to a fabulous new series.”—Fresh FictionPraise forBLOOD RULES “Developing a well-extrapolated dystopian future of urban hubs surrounded by chaos and a wildly creative collection of preternatural creatures, Cody offers a compelling glimpse into the varying aspirations and potential future of monsters and monstrous people.”—Publishers WeeklyAce Books by Christine CodyBLOODLANDSBLOOD RULESIN BLOOD WE TRUSTTHE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUPPublished by the Penguin GroupPenguin Group (USA) Inc. 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USAPenguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, EnglandPenguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, IndiaPenguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content. IN BLOOD WE TRUST An Ace Book / published by arrangement with the author PRINTING HISTORYAce mass-market edition / October 2011 Copyright © 2011 by Chris Marie Green. All rights reserved.No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014. ISBN : 978-1-101-54437-2 ACEAce Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.ACE and the “A” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.   

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To Morgan—to my funny and clever girl,who never fails to make me happy. Love you!ACKNOWLEDGMENTSTo the team at Ace: Ginjer, Kat, and the art, editorial, marketing, and sales departments! It's been a fun trip to the Bloodlands. To the Knight Agency and my critique partners, Judy and Sheri—you prop me up when I need it the most.To people who are so entwined that they can't imagine life without each other. To people who strive for justice and right, even at the expense of their own safety and sanity. To everyone out there who has read my work and kept me writing!In a work of fiction, there are licenses taken, and you will find many here. I hope you forgive any errors and flights of fancy....1The Witches had captured a monster.They stared down at it as they gathered in the only place they could go now—in a cave tunnel system underneath an urban hub that had been taken over by the beasts.Seven of the Witches had survived the slaughter above. Seven, standing together over a creature that one of them had found while scavenging for food and spying on the monsters in GBVille, where moon-throttled darkness covered the curved buildings and nearly silent streets. Darkness brought on by some sort of energy-sucking bomb the monsters had used.At least it was a positive sign that the Witches hadn't been deactivated yet. And at least they had undergone one last update before the monsters had attacked and the Witches had retreated from the massacre at the asylum site. They had only been trying to keep the monsters away from society—a task that had been programmed into their human bodies when they'd been identified as Special by the CIA.Kids with some psychic talent, recruited, trained, and made over in pale camouflage colors into an elite unit.They were still up and running.The temporary leader of the Witches—the one who had been activated first—bent down to their unfortunate prisoner. It didn't take much study to see that they had captured a Cyclops, with its one eye blinking up at them, its unwieldy, long-legged body restrained by the other six Witches, who held the freak still with their mind powers, limb by limb.The leader's second in command stood next to him. She resembled him, with her light curls, big clear eyes, scentless preteen body clad in white. The General Benefactors Corporation badge that they all shared was branded into her forehead—the sign of peace. The symbol of a new sentinel that had taken over for the old Shredder slayers after the latter had been retired.The second in command used their enhanced mind-link to communicate in Witch shorthand while she inspected the monster.Blood drinker?No,the leader thought as the Cyclops blinked its eye, finally regaining consciousness from the nerve-pincher that had been used on it during capture.Never bring down blood drinkers for study.The creature's eye flickered here and there as it took in the cave. Then that eye scanned the circle of Witches. The monster's thick lips were beginning to form words that weren't quite coming.The second in command thought,Confused, it. Cyclops not love blood?Right. Vampires, were-creatures . . . They love blood. Water robbers, them.But teeth,his second thought, using her mind powers to force open the Cyclops's mouth.Blood-drinker teeth?The thing's teeth were indeed sharpened to points, and it moaned and gnashed them while trying to get free of the second in command's psychic grip. When that didn't work, it started fighting against its invisible restraints, trying to jerk its meaty arms out of the mind holds that the others had on it as the group merely continued staring, their eyes wide, clear, and blank.These Witches hadn't ever seen any Cyclops creatures in their asylum, and the uniqueness of it pulled at their linked curiosity. It had encouraged the Witch who had found it to break protocol and bring it to the rest of them so they could figure out what made it work. When they had initially been programmed with information about monsters, along with all the other infusions the government had given to them, the data hadn'tsaidthat Cyclopses loved blood. Yet common sense told this leader that these teeth had to be used for something, otherwise evolution would have phased out the feature during all the Cyclopses' years of hiding away from society, outside the GBVille hub.Perhaps, after the world had changed, this mutant had begun to creep outside with the rest of the monsters, and it had found a need for teeth then.Using his mind, the leader pulled the Cyclops's mouth open even wider, wishing for a better view of those teeth. But in his curiosity, he overstretched, and when he cracked the monster's jaw, the thing screamed.None of the Witches around him flinched at the agonized sound. At least, they thought it might be agony, since pain wasn't familiar to them. Conditioning had rendered them serene and painless, the better for guarding.They kept their psychic holds on the monster, pinning the thing down as it spazzed on the ground, its jaw unhinged.The leader and his second moved in closer to see those teeth now.Not fangs,the leader said.Civil monster?the second asked.Not a Red?Not a blood monster—not vampire, not were-creature. Not tik-tik, not gremlin. Not love blood, this.But just to be certain of that, the leader knew it would be prudent to see just what the Cyclops's final meal had been. He . . .they. . . wanted to know if this type of monster collected precious water through the taking of blood from humans, or if it was one of the Civil mutants that didn't feed off people—a much less dangerous type.Much less worrisome.The leader finally used his hands, sliding a knife out of a holster at his side. He and the others could move only so much with their minds. Physical blades were always the most efficient when it came time to slaughter a beast.He stuck the knife into the monster's gut, ripping it open.Innards bulged out, the Cyclops's stomach laying itself wide to inspection and, as the thing made more noise, the leader blinked at the stench, then the spill of root matter.Root eater, this?he thought to his group once they had all recovered from the smell together.Not blood drinker, this,his second thought again. One of the other Witches, a male with short light hair that curled around his face, thought,Like us. Human?Not like us.The leader shot his comrade a pointed look.None like us, them.They had been programmed to know that, like other humans, they were the superiors. They had been infused with Special liquids to make it so; it made them run faster, be stronger, and use their minds better, and it was only a matter of time before the monsters that were acting as if they had established a temporary new world order above ground would realize their moment was fleeting.Andthatrealization would come when the Witches made their way outside to find any surviving Witches who might still be in other hubs.Other Witches . . .The leader's mind clicked, then opened to a piece of data that the group had downloaded before the monster attack.An image of a tall young man with dark eyes, dressed in a quaint old Shredder uniform with leathered armor, a bandolier, and elevated FlyShoes. He was holding a chest puncher as he peered into the camera lens of one of the few new Monitor 'bots that had recently been assigned patrol duty out in the New Badlands.Johnson Stamp,the data read.Shredder: retired.The leader felt a tingle of shared awareness travel around his circle of Witches. Besides other sentinels who might still be out there, perhaps there would be old Shredders, even if the government had done away with them after the monsters had been beaten into hiding and near extinction years ago. Even if this particular slayer, Johnson Stamp, was suspected of having gone against his government severance rules and taken up some rogue hunting out in the nowheres.No matter what Shredders used to be and what Witches were now, they would all have a common purpose—to contain monsters. This would be their first directive—survival. Then, afterward, the Witches would revert to their usual priorities, which included replacing all the old Shredders, even if it called for eradication.Do away with the old model in favor of the new for the sake of humanity.The leader glanced down at the Cyclops—its broken mouth working as if to say something to the pale beings it saw around it, its innards bunched around its midsection. Its eye glared as if it, like the dying Monitor 'bot that had captured Johnson Stamp's image, were committing the Witches to memory.The leader grabbed his knife from the Cyclops's gut, yanked it out, and stabbed at that eye, twisting the blade, blinding it.Then, as one, the Witches walked away from the monster, efficiently shutting out its pitiful, fading moans.2MariahIwoke up that night, my arms and legs tangled in the sheets of the bed that I'd been assigned to in our liberated asylum.Even during the fog of post-sleep, I felt him right away, on my bare skin. Or maybe I should saythroughmy skin—on top, under, in.Gabriel.As he lay behind me, still in the throes of vampire rest, he didn't make a sound. That was because none of the vampires I'd met so far needed to breathe to survive. Animation kept them “alive” or “undead” or whatever they chose to call it. But those of us in the monster community who lived under the title ofwere-creaturewere pretty much the opposite of a vampire, what with our strong ties to the humanity that ruled us whenever we weren't in creature form.But just listen to me, claiming myself as a were. Hell, ever since I'd messed up and taken part in a brief exchange with the mysterious monster we'd rescued in this asylum a couple of weeks ago—a cipher named Subject 562 who turned out to be the mother and father of our blood monster line—I couldn't really call myself a normal were-creature anymore.I, the stupid and impulsive Mariah Lyander, was now a curiosity for my community. I was even more of a pariah than ever, although the others—the Red blood-drinking monsters and the Civil non–blood drinkers—seemed to respect me for kicking 562's ass in the end with Gabriel's help.We had psychically joined together and broken 562's sanity, using Gabriel's newfound ability to freeze minds. That full-moon night, when I'd first changed into a form that I could access only once a month, seemed so damned long ago.I didn't like to think of what everyone had described to me: long teeth, a split tongue, flowing hair, four arms, and cravings that went beyond even a normal monster's.Yeah, I'd really done it by allowing 562 to exchange with me. Hell, I wasn't even your garden-variety werewolf anymore when the moonwasn'tfull. I'd been testing myself over these last couple of weeks and, thanks to my origin, I could call up my new nonlunar form at any time, like when I got pissed off. Or when I got too excited.This one featured big teeth in a huge mouth. Claws. Fast and mean.No, in any case, I wasn't quite a werewolf anymore at all.Now, as I lay here next to Gabriel in bed, I didn't move a muscle. I hardly breathed, wondering when he would sense that dusk had fully fallen. I pressed my face into my pillow while his mere presence sent my blood rushing, heating, as if it were waiting for him to put his fingers on my back, where the blood would gather at his touch. His imprint.Our strange link.My instincts told me that I should probably slide off the mattress before he did wake up. But when was the last time I'd listened to my conscience? It sure hadn't been present when I'd been off-guard enough for 562 to bite me in a rapid, willing exchange that I had barely even registered.My heartbeat twisted as I heard Gabriel stir.Awake.I felt his fingertips skim over my spine, and I shivered as the blood rushed there, mocking the shape of his touch.“I can hear your pulse,” he said.He'd told me once that my body's rhythms sounded like musical chaos to him, that it was like no other's. He couldn't resist the volatility in me; it was what drew Gabriel, but there were times I wondered if that could ever be enough in the long run for us. Or if it wastoomuch, and it'd already led us to places we never should've gone together.As I pressed my face into my pillow, he slipped his fingers over my back, to my waist, going even farther, inserting his hand between the mattress and my belly. My stomach muscles jerked. My blood did, too, as it tumbled from one part of my body forward, rolling over itself to get to him.An ache pierced me low, stabbing and swollen. It was almost as if my blood were doing two things at once: trying to get out of me and go to him, as if it couldn't stand to be inside me anymore. Yet it seemed like it was also attempting to bringhimintome.When Gabriel traveled his hand a little lower, my blood jammed to a sharp point between my legs, and I groaned, burying my face in my pillow even more.His thoughts mingled with mine through our link, which had always grown stronger when we did sex.Give in to me, Mariah, just this once . . . give me everything . . .No blood,I thought back.Don't even ask for a taste.His vampire sway should've been enough to get me to surrender, but I was resolute these days. 562's blood had made me stronger than anyone or anything I'd ever known. Even so, I was already damp for him.I resisted Gabriel, not wanting to lose control of my body, becoming that new nonlunar creature.Even though the full moon and my more dangerous shape was twelve nights away, I knew that if my passions got the better of me tonight, I'd still regret it.Got to stop now . . .I thought to Gabriel.You won't change form, Mariah. I'll make sure you don't.He was patient, waiting for my answer. But he wouldn't be that way for much longer if he kept rubbing me like this.I told myself to pull away, but somehow, I wasn't doing it. I kept thinking that whenever we got together, we always managed to tear ourselves from each other before it got lethal, and we'd be able to do it this time, too. Gabriel would just go for his animal blood–filled flask at the side of the bed, drinking down the sustenance while he slid into me, giving me pleasure in that way while I held back my monster. It was a risky game that we'd won so far.One night, though . . .As I started to tremble, my mind kept grabbing at logic, even though it seemed as if emotion and need were eating it right up.Gabriel had changed so much during these last months, just as much as I had, his bloodlust growing and growing as a maturing vampire. What we had wouldn't end up in a good place.I'd first met him in the New Badlands, out in the nowheres, when he'd been able to masquerade as a human well enough. He'd contained his thirst, holding on to his humanity as best as he could back then. He'd even been a hero to our secretive were-community, going up against the Shredder who'd wanted to slay every last one of us.But even as he'd been so noble and honorable, he'd met me, and I'd brought out the worst in him.Maybe that wasn't altogether true, though. Since coming upon other vampires here in the urban hubs, Gabriel had been schooled proper. He'd learned that vampires eventually let go of their humanity, anyway, and his escalating need for blood and the lack of caring about it was only natural.Yet something inside Gabriel was still fighting his instincts—I could feel the push and pull inside him even now through our link as he pulled me backward, closer to him, where I could feel the buzz of his bare skin. His remaining humanity was the only reason he still drank from that flask instead of sinking his fangs into me. Besides, he knew that if he tasted the blood of 562, he might get even nastier than any regular old vampire.Obviously done with all the waiting, he coaxed his fingers between my thighs. I held my breath. Then, even though I should've stopped him, he delved between my folds.Up, into me.I sucked in that breath while my blood flooded and tingled, hurting in such a nice, scary way. He churned his fingers in and out, and my hips moved to meet every stroke.I clung to my logic while I still could, but the heat was taking me over, a pounding that would lead to a burst, an explosion into my new form . . .From the back of me, his stiffness probed between my thighs, and I knew that this was the time to leave that bed, but I didn't. I parted my legs, because I was his already.My blood was his blood.Thudding in every place that his skin touched mine, I started the change I so wanted to hold back.First, there was a blue-tinged wanting . . .Then something that had been building for the past couple of weeks—a bigger hunger that just got redder and redder by the second.A craving unlike any I used to feel, and it split me down the middle in a streak of cruelty, a need to hurt . . . especially those who'd hurt me.But somehow I shut out that hunger, angling my head into Gabriel's arm, where my cheek met his skin.Smooth. Cool. No scent.Vampire.I bit into him, not rough enough to break his harder-thanhuman skin. Just enough to warn him that we were getting to a point of no return.He growled, and if I turned round, I'd see that his eyes had gone from their usual silver to a blazing red, that his fangs had popped, changing him from a seemingly human drifter to a seething devil.He pushed his fingers into me harder, and I groaned, trying to hold back the meanness that was about to come out in me in a series of boiling, stretching, agonizing pulls.His fangs scratched my shoulder.“No,” I said out loud now, my voice low, garbled.God-all, he wanted a bite. I wanted it, too, but I wouldn't be limited to sinking my teeth into one of his veins. My bite would rip, tear, decimate.And I had the feeling it wasn't regular blood I wanted, either. That split of cruelty prying me apart needed a certain sort of blood tonight—hot, violent, brutally earned—and I pushed back at the craving as Gabriel took his fingers out of me, using his hand to spread my legs even wider.He probed at me from the back again, and I winced. At the sound, he teased a little more, slipping against me, sliding until I couldn't take it anymore.“Gabriel.” My voice on the edge, a warning. My vision gone to a pulsing violet.Laughing low in his throat, he thrust into me, and I clutched at the sheets, yanking them off the corners of the bed, rocking my hips back against him, wanting him to go deeper so I would forget everything else.But that was the human side of me, fighting this other . . . thing.He rammed in again, and I moved with him—one drive, two, more, again . . .My blood buffeted me from the inside out, forging toward him, beating against my skin like fists even as I drewhisown blood to my skin.He bent to my neck, fangs scraping my flesh.“No!”I grappled for his blood flask, not really knowing where it was, only knowing it had to be close.But then he drew himself back, in striking position.I tried to move before he could bite, yet he was faster than I was in my mostly human form, and his fangs needled my neck before I dodged out of the way.In a crash of white, our mind connection went blank, like a lightning strike that had wiped out all power. But I didn't need to read his thoughts to sense the anguish in him.He had reared back from me, as if something had jerked him away, and when I got to my knees, one of my hands pressing against my slight neck wound, I saw that he was tearing apart the bedclothes on his way to where he'd stored his flask near the edge of the mattress.
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