Chapter Nine

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Ysanne

The carriage and the dead horse were exactly where she had left them, though the horse's corpse was somewhat more gnawed from whatever predators had found it during the night. She averted her eyes from the bodies of hr guards, not wanting to see if they had been gnawed too. Maybe she should have buried them. But then no one would ever find their remains. Their families would never know for sure that they had died.

She left the horse where it was for now, and progressed further into the countryside. Wild fruit trees were all stripped bare, their branches clattering in the bitter wind, but after a few miles, Ysanne stumbled upon a small town that she didn't recognise. With vampire stealth, she slipped past the town's boundaries, and helped herself to bread and potatoes and cheese, and an assortment of vegetables, stuffing it all into a small knapsack. She hadn't thought to take any money or even jewellery that she could have bartered, and though she felt a pang of guilt at stealing from people who didn't have much to begin with, she could return with money later. If Edmond was going to stay with her for the foreseeable future then he'd need more food than this anyway, so the next time she came here, she would pay double.

If she could, she would have returned home now and fetched money, but she'd already been out in the sun a while, and the house was several miles away. She couldn't risk her life.

Once, she wouldn't have needed to do this. Once, the grounds of her house had been home to structured vegetable plots – more than enough food for Edmond. But those plots had all died out, leaving nothing but bare earth and weeds. She had no choice.

Slinging the knapsack of stolen food over her shoulder, Ysanne headed for home.





As soon as the house came into view, rearing up out of the frozen countryside, she knew something was wrong.

The front door hung open and a strange man sprawled in the snow outside, clutching his bloodied face.

For a split-second, Ysanne was rooted in place.

Edmond . . .

Then she was running, her feet flying through the snow, the knapsack bouncing on her shoulder. The man lying in the snow was in her way – she trod on his chest as she leaped over him, and his ribs splintered beneath her foot. She tore into her house like a whirlwind, and when another intruder swung towards her, she smashed his face with a single, devastating punch. He crumpled to the floor. Two more were still standing, and one of them had Edmond pinned against the wall. He turned to her, letting Edmond go, and Edmond slid to the floor, the hilt of a knife sticking out of his side.

Ysanne's world turned red.

She lunged at the nearest man, sinking her teeth into his throat and tearing it open, spraying blood across the walls and floor and the face of his friend, who watched, slack-jawed and wide-eyed.

Ysanne let the body in her hands drop, and turned her blazing red glare on the final intruder. Edmond's blood was all over his hand; she could smell it.

She'd done everything she could to keep him alive, and the second she left him alone, these bastards had stabbed him.

They would get no mercy from her.

She stalked forward, her face sticky and smeared with blood, her fangs jutting over her lips.

Her target was rooted to the spot, too petrified to run.

Ysanne grabbed his throat, pulled him close and bit deep into his jugular vein, swallowing hot mouthfuls of his blood. He shuddered and flopped in her arms, like a fish on a hook, and as his struggles grew weaker, she pulled back and let him drop. He was still alive as he hit the floor, his mouth helplessly working, blood spurting from the wound in his neck. Ysanne could have quickened his death.

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