A Grave Girls Getaway
A Night Huntress Novella
I was not spying on my daughter. I wasn’t.
Sure, I was flying to the spot in the woods where Katie was, but that wasn’t to avoid her hearing my footsteps. It was just…convenience. If you came from a line of flight-capable Master vamps like I did, would you dirty your shoes by trudging through the dirt and leaves?
And sure, I was avoiding branches that would snap in a telltale way if I got too close, but that didn’t prove anything. Why ruin the natural sounds of the forest?
Okay, fine, my slowing down and ducking behind a tree when I glimpsed Katie was incriminating, but why couldn’t a mother enjoy a few private moments admiring her recently discovered daughter? Katie was lovely, with auburn-colored hair, the same dark gray eyes as mine, skin like sunlight on snow, and an uncommon gracefulness that was on full display as she danced among the trees.
If I still breathed, my breath would have caught as I watched her. I’d had her in my life less than three years, so I didn’t have the memories most parents had of watching their babies coo in the crib, or laugh for the first time, or take their first steps, but I could watch Katie dance now, and it was indescribably beautiful. No prima ballerina had Katie’s grace, precision, or speed.
And that was why we still had to keep her hidden. Those traits would reveal that Katie wasn’t fully human. Mixed species people might be legal now, but Katie’s particular blend of species had almost caused two undead wars before.
I was about to call out to her when she suddenly turned a pirouette into a roundhouse kick that leveled a nearby birch tree. Another spinning combination took out a larger spruce to her left, and then a ferocious roll-and-kick combo felled three evergreens in a row. As the coup de grâce, she ripped the stump of the nearest toppled evergreen out of the ground, and then held it up by its roots as if the stump were a decapitated head.
Dammit! Katie wasn’t out here secretly dancing. She was practicing killing. Again.
I knew something was up with all her recent “walks.” That’s why I was spying on her—and yes, I had known all along that I was spying. Don’t judge; motherhood was still very new and overwhelming to me. Hell, I hadn’t even known I was a mother until a few years ago, when I found out that—while I was unconscious—my eggs had been harvested, fertilized, and implanted into a surrogate. Sound impossible? So does a half-vampire working for a secret branch of Homeland Security that polices murderously misbehaving members of the undead society, but that was my old job. Unbeknownst to me, I’d also been a guinea pig for a shadowy government official who’d been trying to create a paranormal super soldier. He’d succeeded with Katie, and though she was only ten years old, all the growth hormones they’d pumped into her meant that she looked several years older. The worst part, though, was by the time I found her she’d already racked up a body count that would do a hardened mercenary proud.
I’d spent the last few years trying to undo the brutal tutelage Katie had received when she was the government’s secret weapon, hoping that with time, she would forget much of her early years. My husband, Bones, and I had given Katie as normal a life as we could, especially considering that we were both vampires hiding out from the vampire world because of Katie’s unique combination of species.
We thought we’d been making progress with Katie, yet here she was practicing killing people again despite being told that killing was wrong. Did she think I couldn’t protect her? Or did…did she miss killing people?
If she were human, I could read her mind and know the answer, but Katie was inhuman enough for her thoughts to be locked away. That left me guessing, and I couldn’t come up with any innocent reason for what she was doing. Despair pricked me. Maybe I hadn’t given Katie enough normal to help undo the massive psychological damage done to her. Was that why she was reverting back to her old behaviors?
My lips tightened as I shoved my despair aside. If my daughter needed more normal in order to break free from her horrifying past, then fine. I’d deliver an ass-ton of it.
Later, I gripped my knife so hard that my knuckles whitened. I’d been in many battles before, but seldom had my nerves been stretched this tight.
“You’d better be worth it,” I said to my prey.
One hard slice later, my hopes shattered. “Mother…fudger!” I swore, altering the curse just in time.
A stifled laugh behind me increased my ire. I whirled to see my mother turning away with her hand covering her traitorously twitching lips.
“I told you to take the turkey out half an hour ago,” Justina murmured.
Yes, well, the meat thermometer hadn’t registered 165 degrees then, and the recipe said poultry had to be cooked to at least 165 degrees. I gave the meat thermometer an evil look. Either it was broken, or it was possessed by the spirit of a vengeful chef bent on destroying my attempts at a nice family dinner. Hey, stranger things had happened.
“Sorry. Dinner’s going to suck, but on the bright side, no one’s getting salmonella from this burnt offering.”
“You’re all vampires, and I’m not fully human, so salmonella can’t harm any of us,” Katie replied. Her tone was faintly quizzical, as if she was trying to hide her surprise that I hadn’t figured that out for myself.
“I know, honey,” I said gently. “I was making a joke.”
“Ah,” she said. Then, she smiled a little too wide. “Of course. Your joke was very entertaining!”
Now I was the one smiling. Despite Katie’s many skills, she had yet to master lying. It was almost comforting.
“Don’t fret,” Bones replied, getting up and moving into the kitchen. “That bird will do nicely with the right roux. Give me a few minutes, Kitten.”
I left the kitchen, defeated by it once again. No matter how many recipes I tried, I still couldn’t cook to save my life.
Bones began whisking the pan drippings while adding wine, spices, flour, and other ingredients. Soon, the aroma was heavenly. His roux, or gravy, as we Americans called it, was so good that it made even the overcooked turkey delicious.
By the end of dinner, I would have called tonight a success, except for what Katie said after taking her plate to the sink: “I’m going for a walk in the woods.”
Granted, ten o’clock at night might be well past bedtime for a human child, but for a household of vampires, it was barely evening. Also, our nearest neighbor was several acres away in this stretch of forested land in Mission, British Columbia, Canada, so she was safe. Still, I tensed.
Going for a walk, my ass!
I had to handle this. I just wasn’t sure how to do so yet.
“Fine, but don’t be gone too long.”