Once every century, a shadow walker is born. Ivan Charna is that shadow walker, and he and his sister Raina are on the run from wizards who want to sacrifice their blood in some crazy rite. They never stay long in one place, and they do their best not to stand out. When Raina loses a bet, Ivan is forced to work off her debt, and they have to stay put. As long as no wizard figures out what they are, Ivan doesn’t mind all that much since he gets to work with his favorite vampire.
Malik lives in a cell in a basement. He’s never allowed to go anywhere without chains around his wrists and ankles, and there is a stake hovering over his heart at all times. Master can trigger the stake with a push of a button. He doesn’t even have to be in the same room to do it. Malik dreams of a different life, a life with Ivan, but he’s a vampire, and vampires have to do what their masters tell them.
Ivan only has to steal one last diamond, then the debt is paid, and he and Raina can leave town. It should be easy, but when Remington Redwood, the man Raina owes money, insists on having Malik shadow his every step, it complicates things. Malik might dream about making Ivan his, but getting him away from Master alive has to be enough. Ivan knows it’s a stupid risk to take, but if he’s stealing a diamond, what’s to say he can’t steal a giant vampire too?
“At all times? You might not be aware, Remi --” He enjoyed the flash of annoyance as he shortened his name. “-- but I crawl through tight spaces.” He gestured at himself. His black clothes clung to his lithe frame. He always dressed in black, so he wouldn’t be easily seen in the dark, and his clothes were always tight fitting so he wouldn’t get caught in things while squeezing through narrow openings. His hair was black, as were his eyes when he wore his contacts. He had one dark, almost black eye, and one startling blue, but he wore contacts to make both of them dark.
Remington hummed and gestured toward the basement door.
“I know, Mr. Snow, but for this mission, you have to rethink your methods. I’ll place a GPS on the vampire in question, and I insist you wear one too.” He held out a tiny round metal button. So they could track him. Of course.
“I have to decline.”
“You will wear it. I have three guards in your sister’s apartment as we speak.”
Motherfucker. He picked his phone from his pocket and dialed Raina’s number. He paced the dim area in front of the cages Remington kept in the basement. The air was cool, and the scent of unwashed people crammed together strong.
“Ivan, how delightful of you to check in.”
Ivan sighed at the cheery tone. “Do you have company?”
“Ah, yes. I don’t think they speak English. I’ve offered them pancakes, but they stare blankly at me.”
Ivan groaned. “Yeah, they’re probably ordered to do that.”
Ivan shook his head and begged her not to provoke them, then he turned to Remington. “Fine. I’ll wear the tracker. My babysitter will wear a tracker, but the first stop I’ll make once we leave here is Raina’s house, and if the guards are still there when I arrive, you’ll never see them again. Understood?”
Remington watched him for several seconds as if to deem if he could kill three vampires, but then he nodded. “Fine.”
“All right, let’s get this freak show on the road.” Ivan scanned the cages and fought the urge to be sick. They might not be human, but they were still people, and slavery was so last millennium. “I want the smallest, slimmest girl you’ve got.”
Remi never let the females out of the cages unless it was to serve at some fancy dinner -- again, so last millennium. “And no fucking chains. We’re to be invisible and quiet.”
“You get Jack, and he’ll be wearing chains.” Remington gestured at Ivan’s favorite vamp in the whole wide world, though today he’d truly hoped he’d get someone else. He always pretended he didn’t recognize him, always suggested someone else first not to appear too eager.
There was something about his Jack that made his heart beat faster, but this was a suicide mission, and he didn’t want Jack to die. He needed stealth and silence, and his Jack was the biggest, baddest vamp in the cage.
“Seriously.” Ivan sighed and popped his hip. “Did I say crawling through ventilation shafts and shit?”
Remington gave him a blank stare. “Solve it.”
“Okay, Charles, you’re with me.” He waved at Jack and turned his back to the vampires and Remington.
“Jack.” His Jack spoke in a gravelly tone which had Ivan suppressing a grin.
“Jack? No, the last one I was with was named Jack, and he looked nothing like you.” He narrowed his eyes and inspected Jack. He was skinnier than when he’d last seen him. Vampires needed blood to survive, but they needed food to sustain their physique. He’d never mistake Jack for anyone else, though, no matter how starved he was.
He had a scar running from the corner of his left eye down his cheek. A beard would only hide part of it. If he was allowed hair and a three-day stubble, he’d blend in among humans okay. His size would work against him, and all vampires were shaved, the females too. Stupid rule. Ivan suspected it was yet another thing used to break them. Humans weren’t superior in any way, so the only way they could control a vampire was by breaking him or her.
“I went with you to the art museum last month.” To steal a painting. It had gone well. Jack had stalled the guards enough to let Ivan sneak away, despite having triggered an alarm he’d missed.
Ivan widened his eyes. “I’ve never been to the art museum. And I’m pretty sure that was John. It was John right, Remi?”
The annoyed twitch by Remington’s eye had Ivan turning around, he gave Jack a wink.
If they died today, he’d at least ticked off Remington Redwood.