For Daws To Peck At, Chapter One

Vampire family drama, gruesome prophecies, and the power of choice come together in a crash so wild it will change the world.

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Vampires do not grow old, nor do they sicken. They heal from injuries quickly—at least, when they have something good and red to drink—and never do they simply languish.

This was just one reason why Jonathan was strange.

In no one’s memory had he been well. They’d tried everything to help him—favors called in, deductive spellwork used, and dietary changes enacted—but nothing helped. It was as though Father’s blood fought something inside him, something that didn’t quite manage the transformation to Night Child the way things were supposed to go, and the resulting carnage left Jonathan’s body frail. He was practically the traditional cursed prince, ailing until someone, somewhere, could provide him with a curing kiss.

At least there was nothing wrong with his mind. Whoever educated him had been thorough, and he spoke a dozen languages, and he played a dozen instruments, and he wielded a paintbrush with skill that echoed Bosch or Dong Yuan. He was nice; he was thoughtful; he was also clearly dying, albeit agonizingly slowly, and his adopted family of the Blood didn’t know what to do.


“All I’m saying is, has anybody taken him to a regular doctor, like?” said Liza distractedly, and tossed the black-handled dirk into the air.

“Sure,” said Terrance, sprawled on the sofa like a melting teenager and staring grimly at the ceiling. “Did nothing. They couldn’t tell nobody nothing about us, anyway.”

Liza tossed the dirk again, fascinated by its shine, more fascinated by the way her new sight could follow it and her new hands could catch it every time, every time.

Terrance sighed. “Sorry, love. Didn’t mean to drop this on your head, you being young, and all.”

Liza laughed. “We’re family, right? It’s good to not hide things from me because I’m young, or so said Arabelle.”

Terrance shrugged slightly, his leather jacket creaking with the movement. “You didn’t see ‘Da leave Jonathan’s room this morning. I know him, ‘Da. He was concerned. Real concerned. And now he’s off, and Roderick’s in charge, but he’s not paying attention to the details like a brother who’s always sick and might be getting sicker.”

Liza stopped tossing and stared at him. “Sounds to me like you think Roderick’s botching it.”

“Well, it won’t be the first time I’ve thought that,” said Terrance, his Irish lilt abruptly stronger. Rogue-like, he peeked at her sidelong and winked, green eyes dangerous, thin lips sensual and somehow far from safe. But then his gaze turned inward again, and he looked away.

How bizarre.

Liza knew who Terrance was, of course; Father’s knife, the assassin, the hard hand beneath the silk glove, the only member of Notte’s family to actually kill people on the regular.

Well, tonight, he was apparently killing time, and he’d slunk in here, plopped on the sofa, and started talking.

She didn’t have a role like knife yet. Her Beast was just under control, enough that she was permitted to roam the halls instead of staying safely tucked in the newbie Night Child rooms. All things being logical, she wasn’t sure why Terrance was telling her this.

Maybe because she brought with her a talent these older magical beings often forgot: pragmatism. “So what do you want to do about him, then? Jonathan, I mean,” she said.

Terrance sighed. “There’s nothing.”

“No,” said Liza patiently, and handed him back his dirk. She sat next to him, not bothering to adjust skirt or halter top because intimacy meant new things these days and nip-slips no longer mattered. “You’ve come in here, presented a problem, and now you’re frozen. No good, mate. We have the issue. What are we going to do about it?”

“It’s ‘we’ now, is it?” said Terrance, the rogue’s grin making a return.

“I’m family now, right? Blood,” she said. “It’s already we. And you didn’t answer my question.”

They didn’t look like blood. Terrance was all pale and scattered freckles, lanky and sharp and orange. She was dark and shapely (a word Arabelle had used and she liked very much), her kinky afro bigger than Terrance’s whole body, and there wasn’t a sharp place on her body except for very particular teeth.

But they were blood. It was found family and made family, a strange and glorious weaving, and nothing would change that now.

“Well, I guess we could run him through all the tests again, or drag some member of the Sun in here to see if they could heal him, but that’s been done,” said Terrance. “Nobody even knows what’s wrong. He’s a medical mystery, he is.”

Liza sat back, studying the ceiling beside him. All problems presented a solution eventually when looked at the right way. She held her hands up as though miming some sort of cube, turning it to see different sides.

Eyes lidded, Terrance watched her.

“Well,” said Liza after a moment. “Anybody asked him?”

“Asked who?” said a voice from the doorway, and in came Salome, literally butting her way inside as her hands were occupied with a large tray.

“Jonathan,” said Liza promptly, because she liked Salome, respected Salome, maybe a little bit wanted Salome, which was only to be expected.

“Oh, he’s a mess,” said Salome, and didn’t smile because she never did. If Terrance was aping a 1950s look and Liza liked playing in the 1970s, Salome chose to stay where she’d been made, back in the roaring 20s, and her drop-waist dress and pageboy haircut might as well have been created for her waifish self.

“Said as much,” said Terrance.

“I need you to sniff this,” said Salome, holding up the tray on which she’d balanced a dozen little ramekins with clear liquid. “New scents I’m testing.”

Leaving Terrance spread like miserable peanut butter on the sofa, Liza got up to sample, sniffing delicately over the tray. “This one. I really like this one.”

“Bergamot and wild orange as a base. Never fails,” said Salome. “So you want to ask Jonathan what’s wrong?”

“Well, yeah,” said Liza, leaning on her east London accent. “Has anybody actually tried that yet?”

“Sure,” said Terrance, then frowned. “Probably.”

You didn’t,” said Liza. “I know I didn’t—I barely met him beyond the welcoming ceremony.”

Salome shrugged. “I didn’t, either.”

“Well, that cinches it,” said Liza. “I say we go. I say we go right now and ask the bloke if he has any inkling what’s wrong.”

There was a moment of silence, and then Terrance moved.

He didn’t stand like an ordinary person. He slid like a blade from a sheath, rose like blood in a wound, and his playful tone didn’t fit. “Field trip it is, then.”

“Eh, might as well.” Salome put her tray on the coffee table. “Father’s gone, anyway, so it’s boring. Roderick is boring.”

Terrance smirked, suddenly intense and dangerous as a hunting dog. “That’s why Roddy’s in charge. Boring people don’t rock the boat.”

And then they were going, walking with purpose through the manor as if on mission. Well, that was easy, Liza thought with some surprise. Who knew? Maybe they could actually do some good.

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