Home > Lord of Misrule (The Morganville Vampires #5)

Lord of Misrule (The Morganville Vampires #5)
Author: Rachel Caine

Chapter One

It was all going wrong, and Morganville was burning--parts of it, anyway.

Claire stood at the windows of the Glass House and watched the flames paint the glass a dull, flickering orange. She could always see the stars out here in the Middle of Nowhere, Texas--but not tonight. Tonight, there was--

"You're thinking it's the end of the world," a cool, quiet voice said behind her.

Claire blinked out of her trance and turned to look. Amelie--the Founder, and the baddest vampire in town, to hear most of the others tell it--looked fragile and pale, even for a vampire. She'd changed out of the costume she'd worn to Bishop's masked ball--not a bad idea, since it had a stakesized hole in the chest, and she'd bled all over it. If Claire had needed proof that Amelie was tough, she'd certainly gotten it tonight. Surviving an assassination attempt definitely gave you points.

The vampire was wearing gray--a soft gray sweater, and pants. Claire had to stare, because Amelie just didn't do pants. Ever. It was beneath her, or something.

Come to think of it, Claire had never seen her in the color gray, either.

Talk about the end of the world.

"I remember when Chicago burned," Amelie said. "And London. And Rome. The world doesn't end, Claire. In the morning, the survivors start to build again. It's the way of things. The human way."

Claire didn't particularly want a pep talk. She wanted to curl up in her warm bed upstairs, pull pillows over her head, and feel Shane's arms around her None of that was going to happen. Her bed was currently occupied by Miranda, a freakedout teenage psychic with dependency issues, and as for Shane . . .

Shane was about to leave.

"Why?" she blurted. "Why are you sending him out there? You know what could happen--"

"I know a great deal about Shane Collins that you don't," Amelie interrupted. "He's not a child, and he has survived much in his young life. He'll survive this. And he wishes to make a difference."

She was sending Shane into the predawn darkness with a few chosen fighters, both vampire and human, to take possession of the Bloodmobile: the last reliably accessible blood storage in Morganville.

And it was the last thing Shane wanted to do. It was the last thing Claire wanted for him.

"Bishop isn't going to want the Bloodmobile for himself," Claire said. "He wants it destroyed. Morganville's full of walking blood banks, as far as he's concerned. But it'll hurt you if you lose it, so he'll come after it. Right?"

The severe, thin line of Amelie's mouth made it clear that she didn't like being secondguessed. It definitely couldn't be called a smile. "As long as Shane has the book, Bishop will not dare destroy the vehicle for fear of destroying his great treasure along with it."

Translation: Shane was bait. Because of the book. Claire hated that damn book. It had brought her nothing but trouble from the time she'd first heard about it. Amelie and Oliver, the two biggest vamps in town, had both been scrambling to find it, and it had dropped into Claire's hands instead. She wished she had the courage to grab it from Shane right now, run outside, and toss it in the nearest burning house to get rid of it once and for all, because as far as she could tell, it hadn't done anybody any good, ever--including Amelie.

Claire said, "He'll kill Shane to get it." Amelie shrugged. "I gamble that killing Shane is far more difficult than it would appear."

"Yeah, you are gambling. You're betting his life."

Amelie's ice gray eyes were steady on hers. "Be clear on this: I am, in fact, betting all our lives. So be grateful, child, and also be warned. I could concede this fight at any time. My father would allow me to walk away--only me, alone. Defeated. I stay out of duty to you and the others in this town who are loyal to me." Her eyes narrowed. "Don't make me reconsider that."

Claire hoped she didn't look as mutinous as she felt. She pasted on what was supposed to be an agreeable expression, and nodded. Amelie's eyes narrowed even more.

"Get prepared. We leave in ten minutes."

Shane wasn't the only one with a dirty job to do; they were all assigned things they didn't particularly like. Claire was going with Amelie to try to rescue another vampire--Myrnin. And while Claire liked Myrnin, and admired him in a lot of ways, she also wasn't too excited about facing down--again--the vampire holding him prisoner, the dreadful Mr. Bishop.

Eve was off to the coffee shop, Common Grounds, with the justaboutasawful Oliver, her former boss. Michael was about to head out to the university with Richard Morrell, the mayor's son. How he was supposed to protect a few thousand clueless college students, Claire had no idea; she took a moment to marvel at the fact that the vampires really could lock down the town when they wanted. She'd have thought keeping students on campus in this situation would be impossible--kids phoning home, jumping in cars, getting the hell out of Dodge.

Except the vampires controlled the phone lines, cell phones, the Internet, the TV, and the radio, and cars either died or wrecked on the outskirts of town if the vampires didn't want you to leave. Only a few people had ever gotten out of Morganville successfully without permission. Shane had been one. And then he'd come back.

Claire still had no idea what kind of guts that had taken, knowing what was waiting for him.

"Hey," Claire's housemate Eve said. She paused, arms full of clothes--black and red, so they'd almost certainly come out of Eve's own Gothheavy closet--and gave Claire a quick onceover. She'd changed to what in Eve's world were practical fighting clothes--a pair of tight black jeans, a tight black shirt with red skull patterns all over it, and stompy, thicksoled boots. And a spiked black leather collar around her throat that almost dared the vampires, Bite that!

"Hey," Claire said. "Is this really a good time to start laundry?"

Eve rolled her eyes. "Cute. So, some people didn't want to be caught dead in their stupid ball costumes, if you know what I mean. How about you? Ready to take that thing off?"

Claire looked down at herself. She was honestly surprised to realize that she was still wearing the tight, garish bodysuit of her Harlequin costume. "Oh, yes." She sighed. "Got anything without, you know, skulls?"

"What's wrong with skulls? And that would be a no, by the way." Eve dumped the armload of clothing on the floor and rooted through it, pulling out a plain black shirt and a pair of blue jeans. "The jeans are yours. Sorry, but I sort of raided every body's stash. Hope you like the underwear you have on; I didn't go through your drawers."

"Afraid it might get you all turned on?" Shane asked from over her shoulder. "Please say yes." He grabbed a pair of his own jeans from the pile. "And please stay out of my closet."

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