Novoro and the rest of Luci’s battalion arrive too late to be of any good in saving their commander. His legs give out and he falls into my arms. I lay him gently on the ground mere moments before they appear out of the darkness and sit down next to him. As he dies, he presses a note into my hand. “Give this to Novoro. He will understand my wishes.” Then he is gone.
The poison acted so fast. In just a few seconds, he is gone. I look up to see Novoro appear. No time to mourn Luci. I must reach Baltimore..
Novoro glares, emotionless, at me. “Cris Juarez, I presume.” It is more of a statement.
I nod. “Yes.”
He looks down at Luci. “Your doing?”
I shake my head. “No. It was Valchance.”
He wrinkles his nose in disgust. “That German virus?”
I smile. “Yes.”
He turns back to me, his expression softened. “Did he leave any instructions?”
I nod, handing him the note. “He said that you would understand his wishes.”
He blinks in surprise. “Really.” Again, more of a statement, but a surprised one.
I nod again. “Yes.”
He unfolds the note, nods, then looks back up at me. “He has ordered that we remain your escorts, no matter what HQ orders. In other words, we are to break our oath in order to ensure you reach wherever it is you’re going safely. First stop is Baltimore. After that, it is wherever you decide to go.”
I look at him. “I need to scout out Savanna and Mobile. Then, I need to head into Louisiana.”
He nods. “I see. Then that will be where we go after we go to Baltimore and report in. But first, we hold Luci’s funeral.” He calls three of his subordinates to him and quietly give them orders.
The funeral took a bit longer than Novoro expected. Still, we seem to be making good time at catching up on our journey toward Baltimore. I travel at Novoro’s side. Though he sees me as precious cargo, I still refuse to hide. Experience has taught me that the more you hide, the less likely you are to remain so. So I travel at his side, not in the center of the group.
He is clearly annoyed. “You always this easy a target?”
I smile. “I am a target no matter where I am in your troop. Kalkolide’s men are not concerned with where I am, but rather, how many stand between them and me. You would all be fodder for their blades if I were where I seem to be more protected. At least here, I can step away from your men and fight. After all, I am a fighter, not someone who needs to be shielded.”
He smiles. “Touche.” He turns to me. “Do you know who we are going to be seeing in Baltimore?”
I shake my head. “No. I assumed it was Fenrir.”
He chuckles. “No. Fenrir is on west. In Texas.”
I blink, unsure. “Then who?”
He smiles at me. “The general’s name is Pride. No one actually knows his full name. Just his first. He is a werewolf.”
I nod. “Does he know who I am?”
He shrugs. “He’ll have to be a bit daft if he doesn’t. Everyone who has been around knows of you.”
I smirk. “I should have asked if he can be trusted. Not if he knows who I am.”
Again, he shrugs. “Who knows? All I know is that his hate for vampires is unparalleled within the Partisan. If it weren’t for our being important to many of his spying ops, he would have us all summarily executed. I suppose that is why he chooses us to spy for him. So the Vampire Nation will execute us if we should be found out.”
I shake my head in disgust. “Not a good leader, is he?”
He shakes his head. “No, but he is the general. We have no choice but to follow his orders.”
We reach the outskirts of Baltimore three days after Luci’s death. We are met by a shape shifter. Novoro brings us to a halt.
The shape shifter seems a bit snooty. “Where is Lucifer?”
Novoro frowns. “He was killed.”
The shape shifter frowns as his gaze comes to me. “And who is this?”
I glare at him and step forward. “I am Cris Juarez. Perhaps you know me better from the rumors you have heard. Or maybe the nickname given to me by the Vampire Nation. Angel Of Death. And who, pray-tell are you?”
He snarls at me. “And why should I tell you my name?”
I smile. “So when I meet with Fenrir again, I can report how rude you were to his allies. Hate has no place in the heart of allies. You are an ally to his cause, aren’t you?”
The shape shifter goes pale. “You know the honorable Fenrir?” the question is hushed.
I nod. “Yes. And I have worked very close with him. He would disapprove of how you treat your fellow Partisan members.”
He is frightened now. “Are you Partisan?”
I shake my head. “No. I am the Angel Of Death. I strike fear in the hearts of the Kalkolides and their allies. I belong to no army. I am a hunter trained by McCall and Truva…and their allies. I have fought battles you would never survive. I have brought the Grigori back from their isolation. And now, I am back.”
As I talk, I see a dark, swarthy man approaching. He is a werewolf. I can tell by the scratches on his arms and face. I can only presume that this is Pride.
He peers at me, his head still down. “Who is holding up the briefing? Must I reprimand you again, Luci?–” he looks up and realizes the object of his ire is not there. “Where is your commander, Novoro?”
Novoro blanches. “He is dead.”
He frowns. “Good riddance.” His gaze falls on me. “And who are you?”
I smile. “Why do you talk down to a representative of the Grigori? Must I report you to Fenrir?”