A wordless scream knifed through the silence, and something shivered through the air of the bathroom. The presence was oily and slick and wrong, but the smell was worse: sickly sweet, thick at the back of my throat, cloying, instantly nauseating. It sparked a feeling of primal revulsion deep in my gut, and it didn’t look like I was the only one. The vamps ducked and pulled guns, despite the fact that there was nothing for them to shoot—except for me, and they managed not to do that even when I suddenly dove through the middle of them.

I wasn’t driving, but I didn’t think the entity was, either, because I could feel every inch of hide getting burnt off as I hit the carpet in the dining area face-first. Not helping! I told Billy, just as the remnants of the mirror shot by overhead and embedded themselves in the remaining guards.

I didn’t have time to apologize, because the apartment was going nuts. A decanter set flew up from a nearby cart and slammed into the wall behind me in a wash of booze and expensive glass. The cutlery on the room service cart followed and would have skewered me if a vamp hadn’t thrown himself in the way. And then the light fixture over the dining table ripped out of the ceiling, whirling for me like a crystal tornado.

Billy flung us into the living room and behind the sofa, which didn’t help, and then rolled us under the coffee table, which did. At least for the moment. All I could see through the glass top were a few hundred crystals beating against it like an expensive hailstorm, but the view through the side was less obstructed.

I stared around, as much in disbelief as panic, because I’d never seen anything like it. Ghosts find it very difficult to move even tiny things, like a paperclip or a piece of paper. They don’t rip curtain rods off the walls or toss heavy paintings at people’s heads or throw chairs through plateglass windows.

Except for bleeding walls, it looked like something out of The Amityville Horror.

I blinked, finally making the connection. And then I squeezed Billy so hard he yelped. Cut it out!

We have to get to Pritkin, I told him quickly.

What? Why? What can he—

This isn’t a ghost.

No shit!

So it’s probably some kind of demon.


So he’ll know how to drive it out!

Billy didn’t say anything, maybe because Pritkin was our resident demon expert. Or maybe because the coffee table had just splintered down the middle. He flipped us onto all fours and we scrambled out the other side, just as the chandelier burst like a crystal grenade all over the living room.

It might not have been made for this type of activity, but the dozen or so thick columns of wood flying around looked sturdier. They also looked familiar. I finally recognized one when it slammed through the piano while trying to get at me. I stared at one of the legs off the dining set and wondered why the entity would bother trashing that. We were on the other side of the apartment now, so it didn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

Until I saw one of the guards run past, being pursued by the equivalent of a flying stake. He dodged it— mostly—and it hit his leg instead of his heart. That was lucky, because it punched through flesh and bone as easily as the other pieces did the walls, the furniture and the flimsy sides of the piano.

The vampires who formed my bodyguard were all senior-level masters and, presumably, they’d seen a lot of crazy stuff through the years. But it didn’t look like they’d seen this. Vamps who prided themselves on strength and impassivity were running around wild-eyed, attacking the misbehaving furniture as if they thought it was the problem, or just trying to avoid being vamp shish kebab.

But other than for the sound of the suite imploding, it was weirdly quiet. I couldn’t talk and the vamps didn’t need to—at least not aloud. They could communicate mentally with each other as easily as I talked to Billy, something that usually gave them a hell of an advantage in a fight. Except, apparently, for right now.

But at least one guy had decided that they needed outside help, because he’d whipped out a cell phone. He was on the other side of the room from where I was hunkered down behind the baby grand, and I didn’t have control of my vocal chords, anyway. So I poked the guy who did. Tell him to call Pritkin!

And Billy tried. But between my burning throat and the mortal peril and the deafening noise, nobody paid any attention. These guys are new—I don’t even think they know who he is! Billy said frantically.

Then you’ll have to go get him.

How? We’ll never make it to the door through all that!

I won’t, but you will. It isn’t after you.

Yeah, except if I leave, that thing’ll have its claws back in you!

And if you don’t, it’ll beat me to death! I wasn’t seeing a whole lot of difference, really.

Okay, okay. Billy sounded like he was trying to calm down and wasn’t doing so great. Say I find the mage. Then what? He can’t see me.

Shit. Billy was so solid to me that I had a problem remembering that that wasn’t true for everyone. But Pritkin wouldn’t even know he was there.

It was hard to concentrate over the sound of the piano’s death throes, but I tried. Only the three A’s weren’t doing me a lot of good right now. I knew what the problem was: I needed to get to Pritkin. But I didn’t have any abilities to help me do that.

If I could have shifted, it would have been easy. But his room was five stories down and on the other side of the hotel. And I knew without trying that I couldn’t make it that far. It was hard to shift after Billy had fed, even when I wasn’t already exhausted. As it was, I’d be lucky to get five yards, and that wouldn’t—

I stopped, my thoughts reversing. Get to Pritkin, I told Billy over the sound of the blood pounding in my temples.

I just told you, that won’t—

Listen to me! He has Jonas’s necklace. He used it to pull me back to him today when I tried to shift. You’ve got to get it!

And then what? It works on you only when you use your power, and you can’t—

I only need to shift—it doesn’t matter how far! A couple of inches should be enough to activate it. Now go!

For once, he didn’t argue, maybe because he didn’t know what else to do. I felt him leave, and braced myself for another onslaught. But the entity was having too much fun to notice Billy slipping away, and I didn’t give it time to figure things out. I grabbed the top of the piano bench for a shield and started crawling.

A guard was on top of a tipped-over chair, batting at the flying shards of wood with a bloody table leg like a slugger at a baseball game. He saw me and his eyes went round, as if he assumed I must have been skewered ages ago. “Not dead yet,” I croaked encouragingly, and crawled on.

The dining room had been destroyed, but the room service cart had miraculously survived, wedged in the doorway between the bar and the kitchen. I pushed it the rest of the way inside and peeked under the warming lid. Fried chicken, and it was still hot.

There was a God.

I hunkered down behind the kitchen table and concentrated on regaining enough strength to shift on my own if Billy failed. That basically involved stuffing down as much as possible as fast as possible without throwing up. I was making a serious dent in Marco’s vast quantities when something caused me to look up.

Three vamps stood in the kitchen doorway, staring at me. They looked a little shell-shocked, and a glance at the stainless side of the fridge told me why. I was naked and bloody, with tufts of half-dried hair sticking up everywhere and a chicken leg distorting one side of my mouth. I looked startlingly like a mad cavewoman.

I removed the leg and licked my greasy lips. “Um. Hi?”

They didn’t say anything. For a moment, we all just looked at one another. And then the creature attacked again, and I stopped worrying about the impression I was making and started worrying about getting my brains bashed out against the side of the table. I saw stars and red exploding things that probably came under the

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