Home > Aden (Vampires in America #7)

Aden (Vampires in America #7)
Author: D. B. Reynolds



Vampires in America series by D.B. Reynolds
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Prologue

 

Chicago, IL

SIDONIE REID gripped the seatbelt tightly, the nylon digging into her fingers as the ambulance roared through an intersection to the sound of blaring horns and squealing tires. There was so much noise. The siren was a constant assault to her ears. The radio blatted voices—the dispatcher, other drivers, hospitals.

There were no windows, and even if there had been, she couldn’t have made sense of it. She didn’t even try. All of her energy was focused on the pale woman strapped to the gurney, struggling to live. She squeezed Janey’s hand harder, willing her to fight, to know that she wasn’t alone, that there was someone here who cared, who knew the truth of what had happened. Not what it looked like, but what it was.

“Ma’am, I need you to let go of her hand.” The EMT’s voice was brisk and businesslike. Janey was just another patient to him, one more casualty of the war on drugs. Lines in, needles out, pump up the cuff, write something down. He was in constant motion, and even though Sid knew he was working to save Janey’s life, that he had to maintain that one emotional step away in order to do his job, she resented his detachment.

Janey wasn’t just another junkie. She was dying because someone wanted her dead, and no one cared. No one but Sid, and who was she? She’d lied to the police and said she was family, but the truth was Sid didn’t even know if Janey had a family. She didn’t know her birthday, her favorite song, didn’t know if Janey was even her real name. All Sid knew for sure was that someone had done this. Someone had stuck that needle in Janey’s vein, had sent a lethal dose of pure heroin on a straight path to her heart. Someone wanted Janey out of the way, wanted her dead, and that was Sid’s fault. That’s what she had brought to her friend’s life. Nothing but death.

“You have to let go,” the EMT repeated, more strongly this time.

“I’m sorry,” Sid said, letting Janey’s limp fingers fall back to the gurney, bowing forward over her knees, getting as close as she could to her friend without touching. “I’m sorry, Janey,” she whispered. She felt hot tears rolling down her cheeks and didn’t try to stop them.

The EMT glanced up. “Is this her first OD? Do you know what drugs she was taking?”

“No drugs,” Sid insisted.

The EMT gave her a pitying glance. “Look, lady. She’s OD’ing on something, probably heroin, and I need to know if there’s anything else in there. You’re not doing her any good by pretending she’s not a junkie.”

“She’s not. Someone did this.”

Medical alarms blared, drowning out the wail of the siren as they pitched around another curve.

“Stay back,” the EMT ordered tightly, then ripped the sheet off Janey’s chest, baring her small, pale breasts, and oh, how her friend would have hated that. The smell of something burning filled Sid’s nostrils as the EMT tried to jolt Janey’s heart back to life, her back bowing off the gurney. The EMT swore as the monitor continued to show nothing but flat line, and then the ambulance doors banged open, and Janey was gone, whisked through the double doors, surrounded by men and women who probably saw cases like this every night. Just one more junkie overdose.

But Janey wasn’t a junkie. Someone had killed her to send a message. Well, message received. But Sid wasn’t backing off. She was going to find out who had done this, and she was going to make them pay.

 

 

Chapter One

 

Six months later

SID GAZED AROUND the crowded ballroom, fighting against the urge to pinch herself. She’d done it. She was actually standing in the midst of the most powerful vampires on the North American continent while they decided who would be the next Midwestern Vampire Lord.

She’d be the first to admit that she didn’t know precisely what that meant, didn’t know the boundaries of the territory, or what powers such a vampire possessed. But what she did know was enough. The winner of this competition—and she wasn’t entirely clear on what sort of competition it was either—would rule Chicago. That meant he’d also be the one picking up the reins of the white slavery ring the old vampire lord, Klemens, had operated out of this city for nearly twenty years before his death. And that was something Sid did know about. She’d spent all the last year, and especially the six months since Janey’s death, researching and writing the stories about Chicago’s connection to sex trafficking.

Ostensibly, the series was for her hometown newspaper, the only piece of serious journalism in a paper that was better known for covering the high school basketball team’s pancake breakfast. The town was a distant suburb of Chicago, an upscale community that did its best to resemble Mayberry in everything except its property values and fashion sense. Her stories often motivated little old ladies to stop her on the street and chastise her for reporting on the kind of ugliness they’d moved to suburbia to get away from. Couldn’t she find something nice to write about? But Sid didn’t care about nice. She wanted to make a difference, and since her father owned the paper . . . well, she might hate the idea of riding on the coattails of her daddy’s money, but if that was the only way she could get the story told, then that’s what she’d do.

Because Chicago wasn’t simply a convenient marketplace for slaves. When it came to this particular trafficking ring, the city was the transit hub to the rest of the United States. Shut the Chicago operation down, take out the vampires operating it, and you would disrupt the entire supply chain. And that’s what Sid wanted, to shut them down. She wasn’t naïve enough to believe that would end the problem. As long as there was a demand for sex slaves, someone would come up with the supply. But shutting down the Chicago pipeline would deal a major blow to the traffickers, and that was a good first step.

It was also a very dangerous step. The traffickers would do almost anything to stop her from exposing their disgusting, but extremely profitable, business. She’d learned that the hard way, although it was Janey who’d paid the price. Janey had been one of those slaves, but she’d been luckier than most. When her owner had decided he had no more use for her, he’d given her a hundred dollars and dropped her on a corner.

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