Deeper than midnight, p.41
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       Deeper Than Midnight, p.41

         Part #9 of Midnight Breed series by Lara Adrian
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Page 41


  needed it more than anything - but he knew if he stood even a rat's ass chance of breaking his dangerous slide, he was going to have to starve the blood thirst out of himself. He could think of no better place for him to try than back here, in the compound, among the only friends he had. Friends he'd given every right to desert him.

  And yet they'd taken him in.

  Strapped him down and locked him up inside the infirmary, but what the hell, he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

  But now, as he peered up at the monitor, his stomach sank as he watched the show being interrupted by a live news report. He reached for the remote on the wheeled tray beside him, only to be reminded of his restraints as the shackles rattled but held fast. He could have yanked them loose, but fuck it. He could handle the sound without it.

  Willing the volume up, he listened in abject dread as real-time footage of a massive explosion somewhere in Boston filled the screen. A female news reporter's voice described what they were broadcasting.

  " - at the UN building downtown. Police are just arriving on scene, and Channel 5 has news crews en route now. Initial reports seem to indicate this was a bomb situation of some sort. We're getting reports of significant damage to the building, and all surrounding streets in a ten- block radius have been sealed off by law enforcement. "

  Holy shit. Chase watched the roiling cloud of smoke and dust and flame billowing up toward the camera of the news helicopter that circled the area overhead. Although it seemed impossible - completely lacking in sense, except for the purpose of creating terror - his gut was telling him this too had Dragos's name all over it.

  "Further reports from sources on the scene tell us there is a vehicle pursuit under way by law enforcement at this time. It is believed the alleged suspect or suspects in this possible terror act are in that vehicle and were spotted by eyewitnesses leaving the scene in the moments before this explosion took place. Channel 5's news copter is reporting to the scene of this pursuit, and we will update you live as we have more information. "

  Chase put his head back down and muttered a ripe curse at the ceiling. If Dragos was involved in this stunt, what the hell was he up to?

  Chase wanted to rip loose from his forced recuperation and head down to the tech lab, where he was certain all the rest of the Order would be watching the same troubling report by now. Gideon constantly monitored human news outlets, and shit like this - terror acts in the middle of the week, rolling toward the holidays - tended to make a big splash. But he didn't belong around that long table in the lab anymore. He'd walked out on the Order, and he didn't deserve to ask them to take him back until he was sure he had his shit together.

  As he kicked himself for the string of failures and fuck-ups that had been the bulk of his recent missions for the Order, the news reporter came back onscreen.

  "We're breaking now to Channel 5's eye-in-the-sky, which is bringing you the latest from just outside the city, where police are currently in pursuit of the vehicle they believe is linked to this terrible incident at the UN building this morning. Again, if you're just tuning in, Channel 5

  was first on the scene, bringing you news of a large explosion, a bomb of some type, that was set off downtown just moments ago . . . "

  While she spoke, Chase watched in astonishment - then in mounting suspicion and abject dread - as a fleet of police cruisers and SWAT vans pursued a late-model red pickup truck from out of the city, toward an area of large, tree-filled estates and sprawling private properties. Right toward the Order's domain.

  Chase tried to sit up and felt his restraints bite into his wrists and ankles. The steelreinforced leather band around his torso groaned as he strained to get a better look at what was happening on the monitor.

  It wasn't good.

  The pursuit turned the last bend, heading right up the sunlit street toward the outer perimeter of the Order's estate. To his horror, not an instant later, the red pickup roared up toward the front gates of the mansion.

  Ah, Christ.

  Mother of fucking God . . .

  Sparks erupted as the vehicle hit the electrified gate and crashed through. Several men poured out of the truck and started pounding up the snow-filled lawn on foot. Running toward the mansion with a dozen or more cops hot on their heels.

  Dragos sent them here.

  He knew it.

  He knew it the same way he knew now that this was an act of retaliation, not merely some bizarre coincidence. This was Dragos taking his revenge for what Chase had done the other night. He brought this on the Order . . . on his friends.

  With an anguished roar, Chase ripped loose from his restraints and fled the infirmary using every ounce of preternatural speed at his command.

  Lucan stood with the rest of the Order, all of them gathered in the tech lab watching the news report incredulously.

  Their disbelief had been nothing compared to the sick sense of dread - the first true sense of fear that Lucan had experienced in a long time - when the red pickup truck carrying the suspected bombers rammed the mansion's gate.

  A silence filled the tech lab in that terrible instant.

  It was full daylight outside. No chance for escape. They were trapped now, with no choice but to watch the skirmish take place above the compound and hope law enforcement left without deciding to nose around the property or question the owners.

  And in the pit of his heavy heart, Lucan understood that this was Dragos's intention all along. This was why he'd planted the tracking device in Kellan Archer. This was how he meant for the Order to go down.

  Not by his hand, but by the humans.

  "Seal all portals to the compound and lock them down," he told Gideon. "If any of those criminal fucks or the cops do something stupid like bring this thing inside the mansion, we don't want them getting curious about what might lie below the house. "

  If they did, the Order would have no choice but to kill them all on sight. And that would be damned hard to sweep under the rug, especially since the whole bloody chase was being captured on live news coverage.

  "Shut it down now," he said, slamming his fist onto the table and sending a big crack running down its center. "This is Dragos's doing. He sent them here. Right to our goddamn doorstep. "

  "Compound portals are sealed," Gideon reported. Then he hissed a curse, something Lucan did not want to hear at that moment. "Ah, Christ. I don't believe this. "

  He pivoted his head toward Lucan and gestured to one of the interior surveillance feeds from inside the mansion.

  "Holy fuck," Nikolai breathed from his place among the others. "It's Harvard. What the hell is he doing up there?"

  "He's saving us," Dante answered, no inflection in the warrior's voice at all. They watched in dumbstruck silence as Chase strode calmly toward the front door of the mansion. He opened it on to the yard full of uniformed cops, SWAT members, and Secret Service agents. As he lifted his hands to his head in a show of surrender, sunlight streamed in all around him, a nimbus that lit him up in silhouette like an avenging angel. The humans rushed up to intercept him, more than one speaking quickly into his radio as they got a good look at Chase, no doubt every man out there recognizing him from the sketch that was circulating in every station and precinct house between Boston and D. C. Lucan watched, humbled and grateful. If not for Chase's sacrifice, those men likely would have torn the estate apart. They might still, but the Order had just been granted a stay from that particular execution. Instead of a potential daylight raid, the Order might have a chance to collect themselves and clear out at nightfall instead.

  All thanks to Sterling Chase.

  "Man, this is fucked up," Brock murmured from beside Lucan. "We can't just let them take him away like this. We have to do something. "

  Lucan gave a grim shake of his head, wishing there was a way to help. "Harvard just took that option out of our hands. He is truly on his own now. "

/>   Chapter Thirty-five

  Darker After Midnight

  Coming from Delacorte Press in Spring 2012

  The charges are set, Lucan. Detonators are ready whenever you say the word. On your go, it all ends right here. "

  Lucan Thorne stood silent in the dusk-filled, snow-covered yard of the Boston estate he had acquired more than a hundred years ago as a base of operation for himself and his small cadre of brothers-in-arms. For more than a hundred years, on countless patrols, they rode out from this very spot to guard the night, maintaining a fragile peace between the unwitting humans who owned the daytime hours and the predators who moved among them secretly, sometimes lethally, in the dark.

  Lucan and his warriors of the Order dealt in swift, deadly justice, and had never known the taste of defeat.

  Tonight it was bitter on his tongue.

  "Dragos will pay for this," he growled around the emerging points of his fangs. Lucan's vision burned amber as he stared at the pale limestone facade of the Gothic mansion across the expansive lawn. A chaos of tire tracks scarred the grounds from the police chase that had crashed the compound's tall iron gates that morning and come to a bullet-riddled halt right at the Order's front door. Blood stained the snow where law enforcement gunfire had mowed down three terrorists who'd bombed Boston's United Nations building then fled the scene with a dozen cops and every news station in the area in close pursuit. All of it - from the attack on a human government facility to the media-covered police chase of the suspects onto the compound's secured grounds - had been orchestrated by the Order's chief adversary, a power-mad vampire called Dragos.

  He wasn't the first of the Breed to dream of a world where humankind lived to serve and served in fear. But where others before him with less commitment had failed, Dragos had demonstrated astonishing patience and initiative. He'd been carefully sowing the seeds of his rebellion for most of his long life, secretly cultivating followers within the Breed and making Minions of any humans he felt could help carry out his twisted goals. For the past year and a half, since their discovery of Dragos's plans, Lucan and his brethren had kept him on the run. They had succeeded in driving him back, thwarting his every move and disrupting his operation.

  Until today.

  Today it was the Order pushed back and on the run, and Lucan didn't like it one damn bit.

  "What's the ETA at the temporary headquarters?"

  The question was aimed toward Gideon, one of the two warriors who'd remained behind with Lucan to wrap things up in Boston while the rest of the compound went ahead to an emergency facility in northern Maine. Gideon glanced away from the small handheld computer in his palm and met Lucan's gaze over the rims of silvery blue shades. "Savannah and the other women have been on the road for nearly five hours, so they should be at the location in about thirty minutes. Niko and the other warriors are just a couple hours behind them. "

  Lucan gave a nod, grim but relieved that the abrupt relocation had come together as well as it had. There were a few loose ends and details yet to be managed, but so far everyone was safe and the damage Dragos had intended to inflict on the Order had been minimized. Movement stirred on the other side of Lucan as Tegan, the other warrior who'd stayed behind, returned from the latest perimeter check. "Any problems?"

  "None. " Tegan's face showed no emotion, only grim purpose. "The two cops in the unmarked stakeout vehicle near the gates are still tranced and sleeping. After the hard memory scrub I gave them earlier today, there's a good chance they won't wake up until next week. And when they do, it'll be with one hellacious hangover. "

  Gideon grunted. "Better a mind scrub on a couple of Boston's finest than a very public bloodbath involving half the city's precincts and the feds combined. "

  "Damn straight," Lucan said, recalling the swarm of cops and news media that had filled the estate grounds that morning. "If the situation had escalated and any of those cops or federal agents had decided to come banging on the mansion door . . . Christ, I'm sure I don't need to tell either of you how fast or how far things would have gone south. "

  Tegan's eyes were grave in the rising darkness. "Guess we've got Chase to thank for that. "

  "Yeah," Lucan replied. He'd lived a long time - nine hundred years and then some - but for however long he'd walk this earth, he knew he would never forget the sight of Sterling Chase strolling out of the mansion and squarely into the aim of a yard full of heavily armed cops and federal agents. He could have died several ways in that moment. If the adrenaline-rife panic of any one of the armed men assembled in the yard hadn't killed him on the spot, spending longer than half an hour under the full blast of morning sunlight would have. But Chase apparently hadn't cared about any of that as he allowed himself to be cuffed and led away by the human authorities. His surrender - his personal sacrifice - had bought the Order precious time. He had diverted attention from the mansion and what it concealed, giving Lucan and the others the chance to secure the subterranean compound and mobilize the evacuation of its residents once the sun set.

  After a string of bad calls and personal fuck-ups, most recently a failed strike against Dragos that had inadvertently landed Chase's face on the national news, he was the last of the warriors Lucan would have turned to for answers. What he had done today was nothing short of astonishing, if not suicidal.

  Then again, Sterling Chase had been on a self-destructive path for some time now. Maybe this was his way of nailing that coffin shut once and for all.

  Gideon raked a hand over the top of his spiky blond hair and exhaled a curse. "Fucking lunatic. I can't believe he actually did it. "

  "It should have been me. " Lucan glanced between Tegan and Gideon, the warrior who'd been with him when he'd first founded the Order in Europe and the one who'd helped him establish the warriors' home base in Boston centuries later. "I'm the Order's leader. If there was a sacrifice to be made to spare everyone else, I should have been the one to step up. "
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