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  • Home > Pamela Palmer > Vamp City > A Blood Seduction (Page 4)     
  • A Blood Seduction(Vamp City #1)(4) by Pamela Palmer
  • "I don't know her mom's number."

    Crap. "Do you know either of her parents' names?"

    "Mr. and Mrs. Wang."

    "Zack. There have to be hundreds of Wangs in D.C."

    "I know."

    "Where are you?"

    "Starbucks on Penn."

    A couple of blocks from their apartment. "Stay there. Inside. I'm on my way."

    Thirty minutes later, after handing off her work to a fellow technician, racing to her car, and flying through more nearly red lights than she cared to admit, she found Zack right where he'd said he'd be, his body rigid with tension as he paced. He looked up and saw her, the devastation in his expression lifting with relief. As if she could fix it. Oh, Zack. His T-shirt was plastered to his body, his face flushed and soaked with sweat. He loved that girl, she could see it in his eyes, even if he didn't know it, yet. If Lily was really gone, her loss was going to slay him.

    And his grief was going to slay Quinn.

    She took his hand, squeezing his damp fist. "Where have you looked?"

    "Around." His eyes misted, his mouth tightening painfully. "She's not here, Quinn."

    "We'll find her."

    But he wasn't buying her optimism any more than she was. The cops hadn't found a single one of the missing people, yet. Not one.

    "Do you know where she was when you last heard from her?"

    "She was close. Within a block or two of our apartment."

    Quinn cocked her head at him. "Doesn't she usually buy coffee on her way to class?"

    "Yeah."

    "Where?"

    He blinked. "Here."

    "Have you asked if they saw her?"

    His face scrunched in embarrassment. "No." He pulled out his cell phone as he walked up to the counter, stepping in front of the line and holding out his phone and, she assumed, Lily's picture, to the barista. "I'm looking for my friend. Did she get coffee here a little while ago?"

    The man peered at the picture. "Yeah. Lily, right? She ordered her usual mocha latte no-whip."

    Zack turned away, and Quinn fell into step beside him as they pushed through the morning-coffee crowd and left the shop. She squinted against the glare of the summer sun. "She went missing between here and the street in front of our apartment. It's just two blocks, Zack." And the chances they'd find her, after Zack had already looked, were slim to none.

    Together, they walked down the busy sidewalk, dodging college kids, locals, and tourists as they searched for any sign of Lily or what might have happened to her. Quinn's chest ached, as much for Lily as it did for Zack. His anguish, thick and palpable, hung in the steamy air.

    When that familiar chill rippled over her skin, it startled her. Oh, hell. Not here. Not now.

    They were nearly to the block their apartment sat on, the street where, just last night, she'd seen an old-fashioned horse and buggy. In the dark. Surely she wouldn't see it in bright daylight.

    Her pulse began to race in both anticipation and dread. What if she saw that strange scene again? What if, as always happened when she peered out the window, she suddenly couldn't see the real world? Would she start running into people? Maybe walk in front of a car?

    She grabbed Zack, curling her fingers around his upper arm.

    His gaze swung to her, hope wreathing his face. "Do you see her?"

    "No. I just . . . I don't feel well."

    His brows drew down, and he pulled her hand off his arm and engulfed it in his larger one, closing his fingers tightly around hers.

    Hand in hand, they crossed the street, pushing through a throng of backpacked college kids, and walked around the construction barricade that was blocking her view of her building. As they cleared the barricade, Quinn swallowed a gasp at the sight that met her gaze. Superimposed upon a small section of her apartment building, to the left of the entrance, was what appeared to be a house of some sort. Or row house. It was set back and partially illuminated as if by a spotlight, surrounded by shadows. A crumbling, haunted-looking house that wasn't really there.

    Holy shit. She pulled up short.

    "You see something."

    Zack's words barely registered, and she answered without thinking. "Yes."

    "What?"

    His excitement penetrated her focus. "I'm not sure." But she started forward, her gaze remaining glued on that impossible sight. The shadows fully blocked the sidewalk, extending almost to the street, as if the vision were three-dimensional, as if a slice had been cut from another world, a square column, and dropped into the middle of hers. But the house didn't appear to actually stand within that column. In fact, the column didn't appear to quite reach the front of her apartment building at all. It was as if the shadows acted as a window into the world where the house sat, alone and abandoned.

    She frowned, trying to make sense of it. Why, when the scene appeared at night, was she able to see what appeared to be the entire landscape of . . . what? Was it another world? Another time? No, it couldn't be another time. Not with a Jeep Wrangler racing across the landscape.

    Why could she see it when no one else could? And, clearly, no one else could. People were walking right through those shadows as if they weren't there.

    She had no intention of doing the same. With her luck, her face and hair would turn purple.

    Zack squeezed her hand. "What do you see, Quinn? Something to do with Lily?"

    "I'm not sure. Probably not," she replied out of habit, not about to admit to her weirdness. If Zack knew about it, he'd never said a word. And if he didn't, if he'd remained happily clueless all these years, well, there was no need for him to find out now. "Just give me a moment, Zack." She let go of his hand. "Wait here."

    Quinn eased forward, dodging a couple of college kids as she neared that strange column of spotlight and shadows. It wasn't a spotlight, she realized, but sunlight illuminating the front stoop of a house that stood only about twelve feet away. Mold and mud splattered the ancient brick; glass, long since broken, left gaping holes for windows; and the front door hung askew, dangling on one hinge. On that door, a tarnished lion's-head doorknocker sat cockeyed and snarling at unwary visitors. Visitors long gone.

    It looked so real.

    The column itself was only about six feet wide, yet the house sat farther back than those six feet. To either side of the spotlighted front stoop, shadows and darkness lingered, like a nightscape cut by a beacon of sunlight. Yet people continued to flow through that shadowy column, oblivious. Unaffected.

    "Lily's pen."

    Quinn hadn't even realized Zack had followed her until she saw him reach for the bright green ballpoint pen lying on the sidewalk just inside the shadows.

    "Zack, no."

    Instinctively, she grabbed his bare forearm just as his arm . . . and her clutching hand . . . dipped into the shadows. Energy leaped at her through the hand that held him, attacking her with an electrical shock that raced over her body like crawling ants, shooting every hair on her arms and head straight up.

    Her breath caught, her eyes widened. Her brain screamed, Let go of him! But her fingers couldn't react in time, and, suddenly, they were both flying forward.

    Into nothingness.

    Chapter Two

    Quinn landed on her hands and knees, scraping her hands on . . . on . . . The pavers beneath her hands were not the sidewalk in front of her apartment. Looking up, the blood rushed from her face.

    "Quinn?" The note of fear and confusion that rang in Zack's voice clanged in her head.

    She didn't answer him. Couldn't answer him through her heart pounding in her throat. She was on her hands and knees beneath a wide, bright spotlight. And all around that single shaft was darkness.

    Just like the column.

    Head thudding, she pushed to her feet to find Zack standing close by, his stunned expression mirroring her own.

    "What the fuck, Quinn?"

    "I don't know."

    The darkness swallowed everything outside the spotlight, but she sensed that far more was there. Turning, her jaw dropped as she stared at the door she'd seen through the shadows. As before, it hung from one hinge, its lion's-head doorknocker hanging cockeyed and abandoned. Stepping forward, she climbed the two brick steps and lifted her hand to touch the cool, pitted metal.

    Real.

    How in the hell did this happen?

    She turned, her gaze fighting to spear the darkness that surrounded them on every other side. Looking up, she squinted into the sun. Okay, not a spotlight. Sunlight. But how . . . ? The sun shone in this spot - and nowhere else.

    Thoughts and questions collided against one another in her head, crashing and tangling as she met Zack's wide-eyed gaze.

    "Where'd everyone go?" he asked.

    "I don't know." The people, the traffic. Her apartment building. All gone. She was starting to shake. Weird stuff was a normal part of her life, but nothing ever like this. God, had she done this? Had she somehow brought them here . . . wherever here was?

    Did I make the whole of Washington, D.C. disappear? Or is it Zack and I who disappeared? Just like the others.

    Just like Lily.

    Without warning, the spotlight . . . sunlight . . . went out as if an angel had turned off the sun with a flick of a switch, throwing them into darkness.

    The bottom of Quinn's stomach fell out. She reached for Zack as he reached for her, their arms colliding, their hands finding and gripping one another's.

    "I don't think we're in D.C. anymore," Zack whispered, as if the darkness were a living thing around them.

    "Then where are we?" The air swirled strangely, with currents both sun-heated and moist-cool, and smelled of mildew and mold and something more pleasant - an exotic spiciness she couldn't place.

    "I don't know. How can the sun just be gone like that?"

    "How could it just shine in one spot?" she countered.

    "We must be inside something with a roof. They must have closed the roof." His words sounded logical, but his voice was beginning to quaver. "Do you think this is where Lily went?"

    "Maybe." She'd dropped her pen in this exact spot. At least, the exact spot where they'd been standing in front of Quinn's apartment. "But where are we?"

    Slowly, her eyes began to adjust to the darkness. A darkness that wasn't quite complete, she realized with bone-melting relief. It was only dusk at the moment, not yet full night. But as her vision cleared, and she could see beyond, she felt no relief. All sign of the world they'd left behind was gone - the people, the cars, the city noises. The only thing familiar was the layout of the streets, the way they intersected, their width. But these roads were dirt, not paved. Buildings lined the roads, though nothing like the modern apartment and office buildings of her own neighborhood. These buildings were old-fashioned-looking and crumbling, as if they hadn't been occupied in decades.

    Across the street . . . what the hell? Her brows drew down as she stared at the same strip of abandoned row houses she'd seen over and over again from her living-room window. So this was it. This was the place she'd been seeing.

    Somehow, they'd walked right into that world. Which meant there were people here. Horses, buggies, yellow Jeep Wranglers. A frisson of excitement leaped within her, warring with a bone-deep need to escape. She'd love to explore this place, to find out what it was. Where it was. But her need to keep her brother out of danger overrode her natural curiosity. And her instincts told her there was danger here.

    "We've got to get out of here." The question was, how? But she thought she knew. The column had pulled them in. If it reappeared - in the form of light, apparently - why couldn't they escape the same way?

    "We can't leave without Lily." Zack's hand spasmed around hers, then let go. "Lily!" His voice echoed over the ruined landscape.

    "Zack, shh! There are people here."

    He gazed around with quick, jerky movements. "Where?"

    "I don't see them, yet. I just . . . I think they're here."

    As if to prove her point, a shout sounded in the distance, a man's shout. Of warning? Of fear? She shivered. Yeah, definitely danger. She needed to get them home. Now. Her stomach was cramping, her chest aching because she kept forgetting to breathe.

    The shout died, and no sound followed. No horses, no car engines, no voices. Not even a bird. Silence blanketed everything.

    "Come on." Zack motioned her with his head. "We need to find Lily."

    "We don't even know if she's here."

    "It makes sense, doesn't it? People keep disappearing. Lily disappeared. We've disappeared, now, too. And I know that was her pen. She stood in that exact spot not thirty minutes before us."

    Thirty minutes was a long time for the vision to linger, in her experience. Though she'd once watched one out her window for nearly twenty. And she couldn't argue with the evidence.

    Quinn swallowed. "We don't even know where we are."

    "It doesn't matter. We'll find Lily, then figure it out."

    She really wanted to argue for staying put until the column of light appeared again. But she knew Zack too well. If he thought there was a chance of finding Lily, she wasn't going to keep him here. And, honestly, a part of her was dying to explore.

    "All right."

    Zack started off, his long strides eating up the sidewalk as she hurried to keep up with him. "You act like you know where you're going."

    "I want to walk down Penn."

    She looked at him askance. "Pennsylvania Avenue?" Penn crossed at an angle just two blocks from their apartment. And, yes, it would be in this direction if they were home. But . . . "We're not in D.C., Zack."

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