Tess was in the parking lot when we got out there. She closed her phone and slid it into her pocket.
"Kelsey's waiting for a phone call from Europe, but she gave me an address where I can get some Narcan. I'm thinking Kruise and I should go get it while you and Nix take Trey back to her place." She glanced over our shoulders. "Where is Nix anyway?"
Jesse motioned back toward the basement. "She's still down there -- taking care of Shelby." She turned away and opened the back door of her car, helping Kruise to get me inside.
Tess just stared. "You left her there?"
"Why? Fuck, Jesse, she's having enough trouble with the bloodlust, why would you do that?"
She got a shrug in reply. "She asked us to."
"And you listened? Dammit, I'm gonna go get --"
Jesse stepped in front of Tess before she got more than a step or two away.
"No. Leave her be."
"Jesse, you don't under --"
"No, you don't understand. This is something she needs to deal with."
"She's gonna kill her!"
"Then so be it." The two of them stared at each other. "Look, Tess, Nix has been going through this since last Friday. And if she's gonna learn to control it, it's gotta be now."
"And if she can't?"
Jesse shrugged. "Then she'll go off on Shelby and there'll be one less problem in the world."
I don't know if Kruise or Tess was more surprised by Jesse's cool reaction. Both of them just stared at her. Evan was looking off into the distance.
I was too tired to know what the fuck was really going on.
It was very quiet for a couple of minutes. Jesse sighed, and leaned against the car. "Maybe you and Kruise should go ahead. I'll stay with Trey and wait for Nix."
Tess didn't look at her. "And what if she kills her?"
Jesse shrugged. "We'll deal."
"How do you deal with knowing your girlfriend is a killer?" Kruise asked.
Another shrug. "How do you deal with one of your best friends being a killer?"
Kruise flinched and looked away. Tess raised an eyebrow and the thought went through my mind that she hadn't heard that story.
I was just sitting in the car, trying to make sense of the world, when I saw Nix come out of the building. "Ohlook, it sNix." My voice didn't sound quite right; I was slurring my words together.
We watched her cross the street with steady strides. Jesse said later that she could see a little more confidence in Nix's eyes, and she knew something had been worked out.
Nix stopped and tossed something at Evan. He caught it, glancing down at it with shock on his face.
"How much money is in that locker, Evan?"
He looked up at her. "Almost twenty-five grand. In cash."
Nix nodded. "Go get it." Evan looked stunned. "Don't look so happy. You were willing to help Shelby and split the money with her. Now you split it with us." She took a step closer to him. "You have three hours to get the money and be at the club. Lista and Maz will be waiting for you. You will give them exactly ten thousand dollars. Don't be late, and don't try to get out of it. You don't show up, and I'll hunt you down."
Swallowing, Evan nodded.
"After you give them the money, you have forty-eight hours to get out of New York City. If I even think you're still here, I'll find you and rip you to pieces."
The rest of us were silent as he nodded again.
"Get out of here."
With a glance at Jesse, Evan moved to the side walk and took off at a slow jog.
No one said anything. Tess wouldn't look at Nix.
The blonde vampire came over and knelt in front of me. "How you doin', Trey?"
I nodded. "Okay. Gladyerback."
"Yeah? I was just gone a few minutes; did you miss me?"
"Oh, yeah. Now maybe Tess'n'Jess'll stop bitchin'."
She glanced up at both of them. "Yeah, maybe they will." Squeezing my hand, she smiled, then stood up.
Tess folded her arms. "Did you kill her?"
Nix shook her head. "No."
Her friend looked at her, one eyebrow raising. "No?"
"It was close. I wanted to. But -- no, I didn't kill her."
Closing her eyes in relief, Tess stepped up and hugged her. "I'm glad. You all right?"
Nix accepted the hug and nodded. "I'm fine." She bit her lip. "I called the GuardKeepers. They're going to have someone come get Shelby."
Tess lowered her head, but sighed. "Right. That gets her the fuck out of New York at least."
Kruise raised a hand. "Who are the Guardkeeps?"
"GuardKeepers." Tess glanced at her. "They're a group out of Canada. They, um. They still accept slaves."
"Oh." Kruise went quiet.
Jesse cleared her throat. "So, Tess, you wanna take Kruise and go pick up that Narcan? I figure we've got about half an hour before Trey hits the rafters again."
"Sure thing. You ready, Kruise?"
"Yep." Kruise leaned over and hugged me. "You just listen to Jesse, you goof. We'll see you soon."
"Soon." I just leaned against the seat where I was, watching as Tess and Kruise headed across the parking lot. Jesse folded my legs into the car and closed the door. Nix got into the back seat as Jess got into the front.
"All right, Trey. You just relax, we'll have you home soon." Nix buckled my seat belt. "Rest easy, okay? Jess and I are here."
I just looked at her. "You're beautiful, Nix." She smiled. "Why can't I have someone beautiful like you who'll stay with me?" I wasn't thinking very well, and the censor part of my brain had shut down.
NIx touched my face and kissed my cheek. "You will, Trey. I promise."
Smiling back at her, I closed my eyes and passed out.
It was an uncomfortable silence between Kruise and Tess. The idea that Trey's ordeal had been partially her fault kept Tess's mind in turmoil, while Kruise kept telling herself that Tess wasn't the one to blame for anything.
"You want to go ahead and get it over with? I know it's been eating you up since you saw me at Trey's."
Kruise glanced at the vampire. "What are you talking about?"
"You're blaming me." Tess shifted in her seat. "No more than I blame myself, really. If I hadn't left Cam alone, none of this would have happened."
Hesitating for a moment, Kruise nodded. "That's true, in a way. If you hadn't left, Cam wouldn't have gone crazy, Nix and Trey wouldn't have been hurt in the search for her, and Cam and Trey probably wouldn't have gotten together."
"Finish the thought. Trey wouldn't have freaked tonight and gotten herself in so much trouble. So it's my fault."
"No." Kruise sighed. "Oh, sure, maybe it wouldn't have happened tonight. But Trey was heading for problems. We all were. Nix and Jesse had to struggle to get themselves back together, Dayle and I have been skirting disaster, and Cam -- well, Cam had her own problems. If you hadn't left, things might have happened differently, but that doesn't mean it would have been better."
"What are you talking about?" Tess frowned. "I thought you and Dayle were fine."
"We are -- now. But, I couldn't deal with her taking blood from others, and I really couldn't deal with her having sex with them to do it. She, in deference to my feelings, was slowly starving herself. If we hadn't gone out searching for Cam, or at least for the stalker, then I wouldn't have met J.J., and she wouldn't have given me a lesson in reality." She shrugged. "Who knows? If you hadn't left, and Cam hadn't become a stalker, Dayle might have. And that would have been even worse."
After thinking about it, the vampire nodded. "Okay, you have a point. But you have to admit that Trey wouldn't have gone wonkers tonight if it wasn't for me."
Kruise laughed. "Oh, please. Trey was headed downhill weeks ago. None of us wanted to deal with it, but all the signs were there." She sighed. "Maybe part of this could have been avoided. If we had forced Trey to deal with Jace leaving her, then --"
"Wait, wait. Jace left Trey? I knew she was headed to California for a while, but --"
"Yeah. They tried the long distance thing, but Jace finally just cut the cord. She's in L.A. permanently, and -- Trey is here. Alone." Kruise shook her head. "And we've all been so busy with our own problems we couldn't see how much she was hurting." A small smile crossed her lips. "You know, I knew there was going to be trouble when she got together with Cam. But that morning, when she came into the kitchen after sleeping with her, there was -- I don't know, something of the old Trey about her. She was happy. And for just then I really wanted it to work out."
Tess was silent.
Kruise looked up at her. "I'm sorry, Tess. I know you and Cam are -- well, you belong together. But Trey's my best friend and I wanted her to be happy."
"I know." She nodded slightly. "I know."
They drove on in silence for a little while.
"Want to tell me about these KeepGuarders of yours?"
Tess chuckled. "GuardKeepers. They're a small group in Canada. They used to be here in New York as well, but about sixty or seventy years ago there was a backlash against them."
"Well, they still keep slaves." She glanced at Kruise. "Don't get me wrong, they're not like Rita, at all. They don't just choose someone and turn them into a slave. GuardKeepers would do two things: one, they'd make sure that any human who considered breaking silence would never have the opportunity to do so, and two, they would sometimes take humans who were too dangerous to be left on the streets, or even handed over to the police, and make sure they were -- taken care of. That's why they're Guards. But they also would make sure that those they took care of, in effect, turned into slaves, were treated well. Which is why they're also Keepers."
"Ah, I think I see. So -- Nix felt that Shelby was too dangerous to just hand over to the police? Or leave on the streets?"
"Exactly. So, she called the GuardKeepers. Now, according to the rules of the New York council, the GuardKeepers aren't allowed to operate here -- none of their officers are even allowed in the city limits. So, someone friendly with the Keepers will pick Shelby up, keep her under sedation, and take her outside the city limits, where she'll be turned over to the Keepers."
"Why aren't the Keepers allowed to operate in the city? It sounds like they and the council would go hand in hand."
Tess sighed. "Yeah, for a long time they did. New York is such a huge city that the Keepers were kind of like our own police force. But, you know the saying about power corrupting?"
"Well, it does. Several GuardKeepers decided to kidnap some humans and turn them into their personal slaves. Now, most of the time, things like that aren't a problem -- Rita's a prime example. But, these guys chose some fairly well-to-do men and women who were popular at the vampire clubs. When they went missing, searches started. Things got ugly. Eventually, trying to save their own asses, these idiots tried to frame the humans they'd chosen. That fell apart pretty damn quick, and there was an investigation into the Keepers themselves. Turns out, there were several that had successfully framed humans for some serious crime. So, the council tried to ban them, but -- there were good people in the Keepers too. So, they headed north, to Canada. The council laid down the law that they weren't allowed in the city, and the serious Keepers, who had been thoroughly embarrassed by what had happened, agreed. No more GuardKeepers in New York."
"But -- you trust them? You and Nix?"
"Sure. I've met many of them at one point or another, and so has Nix. After the scandal broke, those that took their jobs seriously became very paranoid about others sullying their names. The Keepers have been around for centuries, and to have the organization trashed by wannabes who were using the name for their own fulfillment really pissed the older members off. So, they cleaned house when they moved to Canada. Now you have to have connections to even prove they exist." She sighed. "But they still help when they're needed."
"And they'll just take Shelby off our hands -- just because Nix says so?"
Tess laughed. "Don't you get it, Kruise? Nix is the oldest vampire in North America. There are lots of younger vampires that resent that. Including most of the New York council, and hundreds of others I could mention. But the Keepers? Shit, Nix was a Keeper a couple hundred years ago. Even though she broke ties with them, they're not going to argue with her. She's proved herself many times over."
"Was she there when this big scandal happened?"
"No." Tess grew quiet for a moment. "By that time, we'd all left here and gone back to Europe for the war. Nix and my mother headed into France, and then Austria. I stayed in England with Cam. It wasn't until after the war that we returned to the United States."
Kruise nodded. "I -- I take it that you're -- okay with --"
"With talking about my mom?" She glanced at the human beside her. "Yeah. And yes, in case you were wondering, which I know you were, Nix and I talked. We're okay." She shook her head. "Like I said, I never should have left."
She got a shrug. "And Jesse should have never gone to the Janx that night she met Nix. What's your point?"
Another glance over and Tess started chuckling. Kruise joined her in laughter.
I was still pretty out when Jesse and Nix got me home. I'd come to a few times and said some strange things, but nothing I could really remember later.
Jesse pulled me from the car, and she and Dayle practically carried me up the stairs. Cam, who by now had been informed of what was going on, tucked me in and sat by me. When I woke up with chills, she was the one who held my hand.
"Easy, Trey. Tess just called; she and Kruise are on the way. They have that marcon or whatever Jesse wanted."
I glanced to the door to see Jesse coming into the room. She came a little closer and sat by the bed.
"How long has she been shaking?"
"A couple minutes. I was about to come get you. Her breathing and her pulse have both gotten a lot slower."
"Jess?" It was really hard to breathe, and I was wondering if I'd ever be warm again.
"I'm here, Trey."
"I'm s-sorry, Jess." I struggled to pull in another breath. "Tell K-Kruise, I --"
"Uh-uh. Trey, you stop that. You're gonna be fine, you here me?" Jess glanced at the door where Nix and Dayle were watching. Dayle had her cell phone up to her ear. "Where are they?"
"Passing the light on Fourteenth." Dayle nodded at me. "How's she doing?"
"Not good. Tell Tess I'll fix the fucking ticket, but they need to get here in the next five minutes."
Nix frowned. "Jess, Fourteenth at this hour is still a good ten minutes away."
"I know that, but if it takes them that long to get here, Trey'll die."
Cam was squeezing my hand tightly. "Is there anything we can do?"
"Be prepared to give her mouth to mouth and CPR. If she stops breathing, or if her pulse stops, we'll have to keep her going until Tess can get here." Jesse slapped my cheek a few times, hard. "Stay awake, Trey."
I kept my eyes on Cam, working to pull air into my lungs. Cam frowned, her eyebrows drawing together. "Jess? What if we got her heart rate up? And her breathing? Would that help?"
"Sure, but if we give her too much of anything, it could cause her to go into shock, so I'm not sure I'd risk anything but the Narcan."
Cam looked at the door, but I didn't have the energy to see what she was looking at. Nix and she locked eyes, though, and the blond vampire seemed to read her friend's mind.
"Jesse, what if we gave her a drop of vampire blood?" Nix asked. "Just one drop?"
After that, I don't know what happened, cause I passed out again. Cam told me I stopped breathing.
Jesse slapped me. When that didn't wake me, she started shaking me.
"Is there a pulse at all, Jesse?"
"Yeah, but barely, and she's not breathing, Nix. I need to --"
"No. Move." Nix stepped in pushed her gently away. She held a finger tip to a fang.
Jesse understood. "Do you know what you're doing?"
"No. But we don't have much choice, do we? This will at least get her heart pumping, and probably get her breathing. We can deal with anything else later."
The drop fell before Jesse could say much more than that.
The result, according to Cam, was instantaneous. While the shaking intensified, my pulse rose quickly and I was suddenly gasping large amounts of air. My back arched off the bed and all my muscles tensed. The convulsions were so strong that Jesse and Nix had to practically hold me to the bed.
Then it was over and I was lying still. Jesse felt for a pulse and found one. My breathing was strong. Jesse and Nix just looked at each other and stared.
"They're just pulling up out front. Kruise is going to run the stuff up while Tess parks." Dayle's announcement was made in a quiet voice. No one moved for several long seconds.
The sound of pounding feet on the stairs broke the silence and Dayle headed for the front door while Jesse stood up. Cam was still holding my hand.
Nix leaned over and tapped my cheek. I cracked open my eyes and she smiled. "How do you feel?"
"Exhaus-sed. You?" My voice was very hoarse and scratchy.
I got a soft chuckle from her. "A little better. Can you breathe okay? Are you cold?"
"Chilly." She pulled the covers up over me.
Kruise came bursting in. "Is she okay?"
Jesse put an arm around her and hugged her. "Yeah. She's gonna be fine." Taking the plastic bag from Kruise's hand, she gently steered her closer to Dayle. "Why don't you go and get some coffee? I think all of us can use some after this."
"But -- " Kruise looked confused. "What about --"
Dayle took her partner's hand. "I'll explain. Come on, let's let them work on Trey for a minute, okay?"
Still looking worried, Kruise left.
Nix patted my hand. "I'm gonna let Jesse and Cam make you more comfortable, all right? You just rest. We can talk later." She tweaked my nose. "I'll beat on you later for being stupid."
I nodded, my head moving just a little bit up and down. She smiled at me and kissed my forehead before standing up. That was the last thing I saw before I passed out for the last time that night.
The voice took Tess by surprise and she turned quickly to find Nix leaning back in a chair at the dining room table.
It was near morning, the sun already a sliver on the brightening horizon, but since the night had been a long one, everyone in the apartment was still crashed. Dayle and Kruise had left, since they both had to work the next day. Cam and Tess had curled up on the floor next to my bed, while Jesse and Nix took the couch. The blond vampire had come down with a serious case of insomnia and retreated to the kitchen to avoid waking Jesse, who had to be in court the next day.
Tess, who had slipped out of the bedroom without waking either Cam or myself, nodded. "Figured something warm might help. You know if Trey has any hot chocolate or tea or anything?"
"Cam would know better than me, but I think there're tea bags in that canister." She pointed, but Tess couldn't see in the dark and reached for the light switch. "Hey, don't do that. Jess'll wake up if you turn that on."
"How the hell am I supposed to see to start some tea?"
"There's a smaller light over the stove."
"Right." After fumbling for a minute, the small flourescent bulb lit up. Nix and Tess both covered their eyes for a moment, blinking in the brightness.
"Damn. Sure it wouldn't have been better to just turn on the overhead?"
"Yeah. This one is bright, but I don't think it extends past this immediate area. Won't wake up Jesse."
"Light sleeper, huh?"
They were quiet as Tess found the tea kettle and filled it with water. She put it on the stove and put a tea bag in a cup, then joined Nix at the table. "Do your cravings wake her up?"
Nix made a face in answer. "Yeah. I hate it." She sighed. "I hate this, Tess. It's driving me crazy."
"How long has it been happening?"
"A few days now, but it feels like longer."
"And it's getting worse?"
She got a nod and a sigh. "Yeah. I --" Nix hesitated, swallowing. "I almost did kill Shelby. It was really close, Tess."
Tess shrugged. "I expected you to kill her, really, so I can't say I'm surprised."
Nix looked up in shock. "Why would you expect that? Fuck, Tess, I haven't --"
"Hey." Tess held up a hand. "I know. You haven't killed any human in a long time, and it's been a couple hundred years since you killed one in a feeding frenzy. I know."
"Then how could you --"
"Nix." The blonde vampire stopped and looked at her friend. Tess shifted slightly in her chair, then looked up when the kettle began to make a whistling noise. She jumped up to pull it off the burner, glad to have something else to pay attention to.
"Nix, do you remember what happened to your mom?"
With a frown, Nix nodded. "I remember. Why?"
Tess poured the water over her tea bag and brought the cup back to the table. She played with the tag while waiting for the tea to steep.
"Tess? Why did you ask that?"
"She died of natural causes, didn't she?"
"And, how old was she?"
A shrug. "I don't know. She didn't remember. I guess she was about -- what, fourteen hundred? Pretty old, for a vampire."
"Right. And it's pretty unusual for vampires to die of natural causes, right?"
Tess swallowed, wishing Nix would figure it out with her having to go any further. "How old are you, Nix?"
Nix frowned. "You know how old I am. I'm fifteen hundre --" The vampire stopped.
Her friend looked up at her.
"Tess -- no."
Tess nodded and put a hand over her friend's. "I think so, Nix."
Nix could only stare as Tess stirred her tea.
End Part Twenty-one
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